This letter was written by either William W. Sims (1821-1850) or his partner, William W. Cheever (1822-1863) of the cotton broker firm, Sims & Cheever, & Co. of Augusta, Georgia. They had offices in Albany—a major town on the Flint river in Georgia, and in Apalachicola—a major shipping port on the Gulf coast of Florida. The letter was addressed to a wealthy merchant named William Bostwick (1796-1863) of New Haven, Connecticut, who married in 1829 with Elizabeth Adeline Howard (1808-1855) of Augusta, Georgia, thereby inheriting land and slaves from the Howards.
In this letter, Sims & Cheever—acting as factors to Georgian planters—offer to pay William Bostwick for the use of his slaves as boatmen to transport cotton/goods on barges down the Flint river to the gulf coast where it could be loaded on ships bound for New England or European markets.
Both Sims and Cheever died relatively young. Cheever—a native of Massachusetts—died at age 42 of delirium tremens in Savannah, Georgia, in July 1863. He was elected mayor of Albany, Georgia in 1849. Sims, a native of Augusta, died tragically at age 29 in November 1850 when he fell out of a buggy that careened out of control by a runaway horse.
It’s curious that the terms offered by Sims & Cheever stipulated that the payment of the slave labor would only be “at any point South,” the firm not wishing to send money North. Not sure if this was due to the rising sectional tension or due to the differences in currency.
August, 24, 1849
Wm. Bostwick, Esqr., New Haven [Connecticut]
One of your negroes called on us today and informed us that you have a humber of good boat hands in this place, of which we are in want and have advertised for.
We would be glad to hire yours to pole barges on the Flint river from Albany in this state to Apalachicola, Florida, and would pay you one hundred & twenty-five dollars per annum each for them—payments to be made at your option either monthly, quarterly, or annually, at any point South, which you choose to name. The boy who called this morning (we forget his name) stated that they would all like to go with us. Of course we would not like any to be compelled to go who might be unwilling.
Dr. Walker promised to write to you concerning one of them sometime since, but being absent from the city, we cannot learn whether he has done so or not. Should we hire them, they will be in charge of good and humane men/masters of the barges while running the river and under the immediate superintendence of Mr. Cheever and Mr. Sims at Albany & Apalachicola.
Please favor us with a reply at your earliest convenience directing & oblige to us at this place. Respectfully &c. — Sims & Cheever of Apalachicola