Mistress of Evergreen Plantation
Rachel O'Connor's Legacy of Letters, 1823-1845
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These 157 never-before-published letters were written by Rachel O'Connor of Evergreen Plantation in the Feliciana country of Louisiana to her brother David Weeks and his family at their home, Shadows-on-the-Teche, in the bayou country. They span a period of twenty-two years, providing valuable information on early plantation life, society, and economics.
Rachel was born in 1774 at a time of great change in America. The customs of the French and Spanish frontier were being replaced by the lifestyle of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who quickly established the grand manner characteristic of the antebellum South. Rachel had ties to both worlds, the pioneer log cabins and the columned mansions. A woman planter in a man's world, she allows her readers to share her view of slavery in all its ramifications without a hint of later controversy. Rachel discusses frankly the immorality of overseers, slave concubinage, and slave discipline, revealing her own paternalistic attitude toward slaveholding. Her letters also discuss epidemics, the weather, her neighbors, her crops and gardens, and always her struggle against lawsuits and debts.
The book contains a historical introduction to the period, a genealogical chart of Rachel's family, and a "Who's Who" of important persons mentioned in the letters. Explanatory annotations and editorial notes provide information relative to persons and events. Maps and sketches orient the setting of Rachel's world. A concluding summary traces the descendants of her relatives and friends, and describes the site of Evergreen Plantation as it exists today.
Allie Bayne Windham Webb is a Louisiana native and a lifetime resident of the state. Now retired, she was professor of history and a charter member of the faculty of Nicholls State University, located on Bayou Lafourche at Thibodaux, Louisiana.