Robert Wilkerson Black
Leander & Nancy Epperson
Written in 1853

The following letters which were written by our forefather, Robert Wilkerson Black, as he traveled from Pine Bluff, Ark., to Sonora Calif., are reprinted to commemorate him at the Epperson family reunion, held at Bragg Lake, Ouachita County, Camden, Ark., August 19, 1951.

These letters were written to Mr. Black's daughter, Nancy (Black) Epperson, and her husband, Leander Epperson.

P. S. - After my father, Thomas Wilkinson, grew up he changed his name to that of his father, Robert Wilkerson Black, who never returned from California.

Fort Smith

23rd March /53

Leander & Nancy Epperson.

Dear Children - I sit me down to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am physically well tho not mentally well.

I am this far on my route to California. I shall leave here in 10 days for the plains, a long & a heavy trip for a man of my age. I started from Pine Bluff the 13th inst that day made me 55 years of age I am still a stout old man & should it be the will of Omnipotent God to bless me with health, I will return in June or July /56.

Children I would of went to see you & in fact was on my horse to start to see you & considered the matter over & came to the conclusion the parting would over balance the meeting, therefore just left any so. I hope you ,vill forgive me under such circumstances.

I am sanguine in the object before me (viz) gold. If all reports be true & I have it from men of veracity the prospect is good. Some of my neighbors from Saline County is with me, standing friends, therefore if I am taken sick on the route I will be well taken care of, consequently suffer no uneasiness about me for the same God Rools the plains as well as Woodlawn & the sparrow that hops over the plantation of Mr. Hatly.

I left a beautiful boy in Saline, little Thomas Wilkinson, he is precisely like Christopher was at his age. Nancy you would know him to be a South Carolina Black the moment you placed your eyes on him. Should I be fortunate to return from California & he is living you shall see him. Your uncle Jo & Eliza will write to you shortly it not already. They will give some news.

If you can make it convenient send to Mr. Adams & Get a Little Rock paper you will see scrape of the busting of the Govenor Meis at the Red Bluffs. You will also see my name signed to a certificate.

You recollect of my telling you about losing a raft of lumber at the Red Bluffs in /52 1 had just been telling some of my friends in relation as to my misfortune at that Bluff and also that I hated to see this Bluff & the word was scarcely out of my mouth till spang the boat busted. In all my life I never seen such a bustle among people. Fortunately only one man & one horse blown over board & they still alive. If I had been 3 feet from the spot I was in I never would have known what killed me but thank God Thank God it was not his will.

R. W. Black,

N. B.

1000 tears I wrote this letter.

Leander, Nancy, Robert James

Mary Ellen, Christopher C.

Joanah Jane

God bless you, kiss little Billy

for me. Bless his little heart.

    My love for Marshal Purifoy wife & baby. Write to Fort Smith per chance I may get it. My respects to everbody who bear the name of Gully not forgetting my two friends Leroy & Betsy Purifoy and all the children & hounds. I will write to you all as soon as I reach California. My love to old Ralph & family and the Jones.

Good by.


My respects to Dr. Marlow & Charley. My love to Harry & wife & baby. Fort Smith is in a fine county better than Ouachita. Christopher & Joanah kiss sweet little Billy for papy & then Aunt Betsy baby and Uncle Johns if he has ary one.

(Address on letter, which had 5c postage on it)

Fort Smith Mar. 26 Ark. 
Mr. Leander Epperson
Ouachita Co., Ark.

Gazette                                       Democrat
   14                                                 No. 45

Little Rock,
Friday A. M.
March 18, 1853

Editors Gazette and Democrat:

Gentlemen-The undersigned, passengers on board steamboat Gov. Meigs, from Napoleon to this place, ask leave to express, through the columns of your papers, their sincere regret at the accident which happened to said steamer, on the 13th inst., to wit: the bursting of her steam pipe; but are happy to say there was no other damage done the boat or passengers. We also wish to return our sincere thanks & regards to Capt. Thurston & Mr. Powers, clerk, for their kind courtesies & hospitalities & would recommend said officers as gentlemen of the first order, & said boat both as a fast & safe steamer, to the traveling public respt.

  • C. E. Shattuch, Napoleon, Ark.
  • Alex Aird, Steuberville, O.
  • George Foster, Ft. Smith, Ark.
  • W. F. Allen, Miss.
  • J. M. Tench Rising Sun, Ind.
  • B. F. Boone, Boone's Grove, Ark.
  • S. G. Sisk, Winchester, Tenn.
  • John C. Shores, Fayetteville, Ark.
  • W. F. Harp, Clarksville.
  • Samuel Brooks, of California.
  • Thomas Boyd, Memphis, Tenn.
  • F. A. Reynolds, Van Buren, Ark.
  • T. F. Burnham, Clarksville, Ark.
  • B. H. Campbell, New Orleans.
  • C. A. Davis, Van Buren.
  • R. W. Black, Saline Co. Ark.
  • Dayton Bennett, Conway Co. Ark.

Sonora California
23 Oct/53

Mr. Leander & Nancy Epperson.

My respects children - I in hast drop you a few lines. I got to Sonora on the 10th Inst after a long tedious trip & am in as good health as I could expect considering my age & the hardships of so long a journey. We suffered for want of provisions-snow begin to fall on the mountains before we crossed, had fell 18 inches deep. We were fearful of being stopped East of the Sierre Nevada mountains & left our wagons & packed through. I seen a great many curious things. I could not be hired to take the trip back again by land. I will take the Ocean when I start home. I find times much harder in California than I expected. I was very much disheartened when I first got here but the longer I stay & look about the better I like. Wages is worth from $3-5 per day & will get better when rain comes. They cant wash gold (part of letter torn here) of water I am chopping (letter torn) $3 per day and will start digging as soon as rains comes & they expect rain shortly. I want you to write soon for I feel very lonesome -direct to Sonora Post Office California.

I want to see you all very bad but expect to stay here 3 or 5years. A man cant make money without time. 1 think a man will do best that will stay at home make corn & hog & eat it but I have nearly killed myself to get here & am determined to make some money before I return or die in Callfornia.

Meat c25 Flour c20 to 30-Cows $70 per head other things in proportion. Wagon & team 15-1800 Dollars. I will write to Calvin Gully before long & let you all know more about the Country. Tell all my sweet children that if the Lord spares them & me I will come home some time. I think about them often. I am now 3000 miles from Camden.

Now children write to me once a month at least & more if you can. My respect to all inquiring friends. Tell Wm. Gully to write to me. So farewell

R. W. Black

To L & N Epperson

I am cutting wood at $3 per day & found I can get 5 dollars when we get water.

I must make money enough to buy 100 cows to put in Texas among the South Carolina Blacks. So you see I have not quit my cow calculations,

Tell Robt. James to write me

R. W. Black


(Address on letter, with 10c postage)

Jamestown Cal.
Oct. 26

Mr. Leander Epperson
Ouachita Co., Ark.