This letter was written by Anna Matilda (Page) King (1798-1859), the wife of Thomas Butler King (1800-1864) who was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1832. He served in that position in 1834, 1835, and again in 1837. In 1838 he was elected to the US House of Representatives (26th US Congress). King, a native of Massachusetts, came to Georgia in 1823 with a brother to open up a law practice. The following year he met and married Anna, the daughter of a wealthy cotton planter who owned Retreat Plantation on St. Simons Island—a barrier island located midway between Savanah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to his wife’s property, King purchased additional plantations and did well until the 1830s when the long-staple cotton economy fell on lean times. He then turned to politics, aligning himself with the Whig party and advocated for internal improvements. [See—1837: William J. C. Kenny to James Brown Sawyer]
The King’s had a number of children, the youngest of whom—Richard “Cuyler” King (1842-1913)—is the subject of this letter. In her letter, Mrs. King informs William LeRoy Brown of her intention to enter her 16 year-old son at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Nicknamed “Tip” or “Hack” by his family, young Cuyler was unable to finish his college course at the University before war intervened and he enlisted as a private in the Glynn Guards, a local company that became Co. A, 26th Georgia. He later served as an officer in the 1st Georgia Sharpshooters.
If one visits St. Simons today, you might encounter a park named “Neptune Park.” This park was named for Neptune Small [see header image] who was a slave of the King family, born in 1831. When Cuyler’s older brother, Henry Lord (“Lordy”) Page King, entered the Confederate service in 1861, he took Neptune with him as a “manservant.” During the Battle of Fredericksburg, “Lordy” was killed and left on the battlefield between enemy lines while carrying a dispatch. When none of Lordy’s comrades would risk enemy fire to retrieve his body, Neptune did and accompanied his remains all the way back to St. Simons Island for burial. As a reward for his faithfulness, Neptune was offered the opportunity to remain on the plantation but instead chose to accompany Cuyler as his personal manservant until the surrender of Confederate forces in 1865. Neptune Park is a part of the property given to Neptune by the King family at war’s end.
St. Simons Island
January 28th 1858
Mr. Grant having been in correspondence with you regarding his son and mine, I have heretofore postponed writing you on the subject. I now beg that you will reserve a place for my son, Cuyler King, who will be with you in the course of a fortnight unless sickness in the family prevent Mr. Grant from leaving as soon as he desires. This gentleman will accompany the young men and has kindly offered to make all arrangements for Cuyler as for his own son.
Your obedient servant, — Anna M. King
If you deem an answer to this letter necessary, please direct to Mrs. T. Butler King, Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia