The correspondence in the collection consists primarly of photocopies of original documents. The letters were written primarily from Young-Spicer family members in De Soto, Louisiana and Bolivar County, Mississippi to relatives who had remained in Virginia.
The letters written from Mississippi and Louisiana give valuable insight into pioneering life in the Deep South. Correspondence from Mississippi deals with the hardships in farming. Among the problems discussed are flooding of the river (1858), need for levees (1866), effects of the Franco-German War on cotton, bad business, and the suffering of the merchants (1871). Other letters deal more specifically with the price of land (1858, 1867, 1871), drainage, methods of burning off land (1858), and crops planted (1876).
Social life is illustrated in letters from Louisiana. A woman writes of the loneliness and distances between neighbors (1868). In one letter the difficulty in finding help and the unreliability of Negro laborers is noted (1868). Hardships which are enumerated (1894) include sickness, low price of cotton, the inability of people to get what they need, seizure of homes for debts, trade by credit, and the pricing of cotton by merchants. Correspondence also contains information on the coal oil boom in De Soto, Louisiana. The location of the oil well in an old cemetery and the reaction of the people in the community is discussed. Many of the letters from Mississippi and Louisiana reveal the sicknesses at that time. Especially in the early 1870's letters mention cold winters followed by extremely hot summers. Widespread fever is cited in correspondence (1871). Mention is made of smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and diphtheria resulting in deaths (1873). Concern is expressed in 1874 when cholera killed most of the fowl. Much illness was caused by "La Grippe" which was fatal in some localities (1891).
Correspondence also includes information about politics and party sympathies of the people in Mississippi and Louisiana. Charles E. Yeamans, a candidate for sheriff in 1858, writes from Vicksburg, Mississippi, describing local elections. He provides valuable information on the pay and office of sheriff and discusses corruption in local politics, electioneering, and betting on elections (1858). The conveying of the legislature and U.S. court in Jackson, Mississippi is also mentioned. Yeamans did not win the election, but in his capacity as deputy sheriff he provides valuable insight into dishonesty in the Post Office (1846). Further information on the Post Office is obtained with references to trouble with mails, carelessness of agents, and slowness of the different mail boats (1871). Additional irregularity of the mail boats is caused by ice in the river making navigation almost impossible (1873). Other correspondence from De Soto, Louisiana deals with hope of a Democratic victory in 1868. The removal of the county seat of Bolivar County, Mississippi to Pride's Point is discussed in two letters. One letter mentions the growth of Pride's Point as a consequence of the move (1871). Another letter discusses the new buildings and businesses (1872).
The inauguration of Civil War Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's statue (1875) is also cited. Political philosophy and speculation about a presidential appointment is noted in a letter of 1877. One person writes of the fear of a revolution as a result of Jacob Coxey's so-called Army and their march on Washington, DC. Mention is made of a third political party gaining ground in the west (1894). A letter from De Soto, Louisiana discusses the troubles of the county such as the lack of money in circulation, the failure of the bank, and the selling out by merchants at auction (1894). The collection includes two Civil War letters. One describes the route taken in bringing a wounded soldier home (1862) and the other comments on the smuggling in of scarce medicines from Memphis (1864). This letter also mentions the food supply, greenbacks, and clothes.
Some interesting letters of the Reconstruction period portray the need of levees and the tax by the government on lands and cotton to rebuild the levees (1866). Another letter deals with the difficulty of keeping help and the wandering of the Negroes (1868). The hope for a Democratic win in the next election to bring about "prosperous times" is expounded in the same letter (1868). One letter comments on a man giving up the position of clerk of court due to the "iron clad oath" (1868). A letter (1894) from De Soto, Louisiana mentions the death of General Pierre G. Beauregard and the high regard held for him. According to the same letter, a celebration in Richmond is to take place when Jefferson Davis' remains are removed.
Many of the letters concern education. Correspondence gives information on schools for children (1870), subjects offered (1871), attempts to find a teacher for the home (1873), distance to school, and length of school year (1889). In the relationship of women to education, letters comment on the uselessness of further education for women (1872), the value of learning French (1872), separate schools for girls and boys (1892), and the profession of teaching for women (1877). Several letters from De Soto, Louisiana tell of the establishment of the first Catholic school for that area. Details on the size and staff is given (1890).
Finally, one letter of particular interest is written by a Virginia woman teaching in Creedmoor, North Carolina (1894). It illustrates well the attitude of some Virginians toward North Carolinians. The lady comments on the wealth, mentality, language, and specific customs of N.C. women.
A genealogy and history of the Spicer-Young families (1973) is also included in the collection. The collection also includes a revised edition (2010). Both versions contain information to help in identifying the authors and recipients of the letters held in the collection.
The collection also contains a journal by Margaret Thompson Yeamans (ca. 1830-ca. 1870) containing genealogical material, poetry, recipes, home remedies, notes from family and friends, general thoughts and obituaries. A duplicate copy of this journal, on permalife paper, is held in #279.3.a. Access to this copy is restricted.
In addition the collection also holds miscellaneous documents (1864-1910, undated) related to the career of Garland H. Spicer, Sr., as a Railway Post Office clerk on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway between Richmond and Charlottesville, VA. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway was begun in 1836 as the Louisa Railroad of Louisa County, VA. The railroad expanded east to Richmond and west to Charlottesville and was then renamed the Virginia Central Railroad. The Virginia Central was one of the most heavily used railroads during the Civil War and one of the Confederacy’s most important. The line was used for many reasons including shipping troops and supplies and transporting troops directly to the battlefield. During the war, the Virginia Central had a vast amount of damages done to the tracks and other infrastructure. After the war, it needed to be rebuilt, and sought new investors. Collis P. Huntington of New York took an interest in the line. Huntington supplied the Virginia Central with the money needed to complete the line to the Ohio River. This turned the Virginia Central into the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.
Finally, there are a small number of photographic prints (ca. 1902) of “Locust Grove” the Young – Spicer family home at Frederick’s Hall, in Louisa County, Virginia. These give an insight into the family’s lifestyle.