Collection Number: 02227

Collection Title: Caffery Family Papers, 1838-1925

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Size 1 foot of linear shelf space (approximately 350 items)
Abstract The Caffery and Richardson families of Iberia Parish, La. Prominent family members include Bethia Liddell Richardson (d. 1852); her husband, Francis DuBose Richardson (b. 1812), sugar planter at Bayside Plantation on Bayou Teche and state legislator; their daughter, Bethia (Richardson) Caffery (fl. 1866-1907); and her husband, Donelson Caffery (1835-1906), son of Donelson Caffery (fl. 1830s) and Lydia Murphy Caffery McKerall (fl. 1835-1881), lawyer of Franklin, La., sugar planter, Confederate soldier, state legislator, and U.S. senator, 1892-1901. Chiefly personal correspondence among Caffery and Richardson family members. Most of the Richardson family papers are dated 1838-1852 and cover topics such as sugar planting, purchases and settlement of land, and family activities. The bulk of the Caffery family papers fall between 1866 and 1906. Their letters are chiefly about family activities, but also include Donelson Caffery letters about politics in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. There are a number of letters written to Donelson while he was a U.S. senator that congratulate him for his stand on the gold standard, two letters from Grover Cleveland, and letters concerning Democratic Party matters. Letters from later years deal chiefly with Donelson's efforts in the face of financial difficulties, including work on his sugar plantations and attempts at establishing oil wells.
Creator Caffery (Family : Iberia Parish, La.)
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact Research and Instructional Service staff at to discuss options for consulting these materials.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Caffery Family Papers #2227, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy available.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Bethia Caffery and Colonel Charles S. Caffery of St. Petersburg, Florida, and John Caffery of Franklin, Louisiana, in 1925 and 1940. Addition received from Don T. Caffery of Franklin, Louisiana, in December 1957. Later additions received from Bethia L. Caffery (Acc. 92061, Acc. 92152).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

The major figures in these papers are Donelson Caffery (1835-1906), and his wife, Bethia Richardson Caffery (fl. 1866-1907).

Bethia was the daughter of Francis DuBose Richardson (b. 1812) and Bethia Liddell Richardson (d. 1852). The Richardsons lived first near New Iberia and later at Bayside Plantation on the Bayou Teche near Jeanerette in Iberia Parish. Francis was a sugar planter and also served in the Louisiana state legislature during the early 1850s.

The Richardsons' daughter, Bethia, married Donelson Caffery in 1869. Caffery was the son of Donelson Caffery (fl. 1830s) and Lydia Murphy Caffery (fl. 1835-1881). After the death of his father, his mother married Watson McKerall. Donelson Caffery attended school in Franklin, Louisiana, and St. Mary's College in Baltimore. He later studied law in the office of Joseph W. Walker and at Louisiana University in New Orleans. After completing school he apparently began sugar planting on Bayou Cypremont near the Gulf of Mexico.

Caffery joined the Crescent Rifles in New Orleans in January 1862. He was transferred to the 13th Louisiana Regiment and fought in the battle of Shiloh. Later he was made lieutenant on the staff of Brigadier General W.W. Walker and remained in that position until the end of the war.

After the war Caffery began to practice law and continued in sugar planting. He became involved in Louisiana politics and in 1879 was elected to the Louisiana state constitutional convention. In 1892 he was elected to the state Senate and that same year was appointed to the U.S. Senate when Randall L. Gibson died. Two years later he was reelected and served until the expiration of his term in 1901. As a senator, Caffery opposed free silver and the war with Spain. He was active in the formation of the National or "Gold" Democratic party and was nominated as that party's candidate for president in 1900; he declined in order to return home and resume the practise of law and cultivation of his sugar plantation. He died in 1906.

The exact location and number of plantations owned by Donelson Caffery is not known. However, it is believed he owned at least two, Haifleigh and Bethia Plantation, both of which were located in St. Mary's Parish near Franklin, Louisiana.

Genealogical information follows.

Judge Moses Liddellof Elmslie, near Woodville in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. His children were

A.C. (Nancy) Griffin, widow, lived at home with her father.

Jane (Mrs. J.H.) Randolph, lived at Baywood, on Bayou Goula, near Plaquemine.

Martha Gibson, lived at "Forest Home".

John, married Mary in 1841, lived when first married on the Black River.

Bethia (d. 1852), married Francis D. Richardson (b. 1812), lived near New Iberia and then near Jeanerette. Among her children was Bethia, who married Donelson Caffery in 1869.

Lydia Murphy married Donelson Caffery and later married Watson McKerall. Her children were:

Louisa Lou Chambers

Maria Drew, who lived at New Orleans.

Emma Caffery Thomson, who married Patrick Hardiman Thomson and lived in Tennessee and many other places.

Donelson Caffery (1835-1906), who married Bethia Richardson in 1869.

The children of Donelson Caffery and Bethia Richardson Caffery were:

Donelson, lawyer, Franklin, Louisiana.


Gertrude (Mrs. Henry H.) Glassie, Washington, N.C.

John, in U.S. Navy, then oil business in Louisiana.

Frank, sugar planter in Louisiana.

Earl, sugar planter in Louisiana.

"Tide" or "Lide", a daughter.

Charles, Colonel, U.S. Army.

Edward, chiefly at school in this collection.

Liddell (Del), died young in 1901.

(See the sketch on Donelson Caffery by Eugene M. Violette in the Dictionary of American Biography, pp. 402-403).

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection is divided into two series, papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, and papers of the Caffery family. The first series is the smaller of the two and consists chiefly of correspondence on personal and family affairs to Bethia Richardson from her sisters, her father, and her husband.

The second series consists chiefly of personal correspondence of Donelson Caffery, his wife, Bethia Richardson Caffery, and their children between 1866 and 1906. Other prominent correspondents during this period include Bethia's father, Francis DuBose Richardson, and Donelson's sister, Emma Caffery Thomson. A small amount of professional correspondence relating to Donelson Caffery's term in the United States Senate is also included.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852.

About 75 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly letters to Bethia Liddell Richardson, after her marriage to Francis DuBose Richardson, from members of her family about family activities and other personal matters. Bethia's father, Judge Moses Liddell, lived at Elmslie, near Woodville, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, with his children. A few letters to Francis Richardson, chiefly from Bethia, are also included. Some of the correspondence deals with the management of the Richardsons' sugar plantation. A chronological listing of some of the letters follows below.

1838: 28 November, to Bethia Liddell, in Woodville, Mississippi, from Cousin Laura Ivor, postmarked Vicksburg, mentioning several members of the family, their children, and various affairs.

1839: 27 June, to Bethia at New Iberia, Attakapas, from her sister, Nancy C. Griffin, about a duel in Woodville, Mississippi, which led to a second duel and the death of two men.

22 July, to Bethia at New Iberia, from her sister, Jane Randolph, at Baywood, about the possibility of settling on the Black River.

29 November, to Bethia at Woodville, Mississippi, from her husband, telling of business affairs and a hard freeze which injured the sugar.

1840: 9 February, to Bethia from her sister, Nancy C. Griffin, at Elmslie, and her father, Moses Liddell. Moses wrote of farm affairs, articles for the Richardson place, shipping supplies on the river, and finances.

During this period, Francis DuBose Richardson frequently mentioned in his letters handling the property of the Weeks estate, and going to "The Island" on business connected with it.

1841; 12 May, to Bethia from Moses Liddell about helping the Richardsons purchase land on the Grand River or elsewhere.

1 September, to Bethia from her sister, Jane Randolph, about their brother John's marriage.

12 December, to Mary E. Bowman in Clinton, Louisiana from Bethia. Mrs. Bowman was Bethia's sister-in-law.

14 March, to Bethia from her father about financial affairs, crops, land purchases, and the advantages of raising sugar instead of cotton.

21 July, to Mary C. Bowman from Bethia telling of a new church in New Iberia and a visiting minister, the Reverend E. Porter, and his great popularity. She also mentioned her difficulties with her French neighbors.

Numerous other letters are about the settlement of land, crops, sugar growing, climate, slaves, and children.

1850: 3 February, to Bethia who was visiting her sister, Jane Randolph, on the Bayou Goula, from her husband at the Louisiana state legislature. He mentioned he was enclosing a letter from her father who was looking after their affairs at Jeanerette during their absence.

22 February, to Bethia from her father who was still at her home in Jeanerette, giving a schedule of the Attakapas packets on which she could return home.

1852: Correspondence between Francis, who was in Baton Rouge at the state legislature, and Bethia at Bayside Plantation, near Jeanerette, about the children, the plantation, his public life, and her father.

14 April, an account of the death of Bethia Richardson.

Folder 1

1838-1839 #02227, Series: "1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852." Folder 1

Folder 2

1840 #02227, Series: "1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852." Folder 2

Folder 3

1841-1842 #02227, Series: "1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852." Folder 3

Folder 4

1843-1847 #02227, Series: "1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852." Folder 4

Folder 5

1850-1852 #02227, Series: "1. Papers of Francis and Bethia Richardson, 1838-1852." Folder 5

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Papers of the Caffery Family, 1855-1925 and undated.

About 275 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Papers chiefly centering around Donelson Caffery, his wife, Bethia Richardson Caffery, and their children. Donelson Caffery frequently wrote to his family when he was away in Franklin, Louisiana, where he practiced law, and when he was away in Washington, D.C., as a senator from Louisiana from 1892 to 1901. His letters are chiefly personal and refer to finances, the family, crops, plans for raising cattle, prospects for finding oil on his lands, and selling his lands. There are a few letters dealing with his professional life while he was in the U.S. Senate. Other frequent correspondents in this series are Francis DuBose Richardson, father of Bethia Richardson Caffery, and Emma Caffery Thomson, sister of Donelson Caffery. Typed transcriptions of some letters are filed following corresponding originals.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1 1855-1859.

12 items.

One letter, 1855, from E.[Emma?] Caffery, and eleven letters, most undated but probably from the late 1850s, from Lydia Murphy McKerall, usually in Franklin, La., to her daughter, Emma Caffery Thomson. Topics are chiefly news of family members, including Donelson, illnesses, and activities in the area. Lydia also described the final illness and the death of her husband (14 August 57?), and complained about "indifferent Negroes" (13 September 1857) and about Mr. McKerall, her second husband, with whom, she wrote, she would soon "urge a final settlement" (11 November 57?).

Folder 6

1855-1859 #02227, Subseries: "2.1 1855-1859." Folder 6

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2 1866-1891.

About 60 items.

Chiefly correspondence between Bethia and Donelson Caffery before and after their marriage in 1869 about family matters and personal activities. Some correspondence from Donelson Caffery mentions political affairs in Louisiana. A chronological listing of some of the letters follows.

1868: A letter, dated 23 August, to Bethia from her fiance, Donelson, who was in Franklin, Louisiana. He mentioned his activities in politics, and his efforts to prevent freed slaves from gaining control of affairs.

1869: A letter, dated 30 January, to Frank Liddell Richardson from his father, Francis DuBose Richardson, discussing Bethia's approaching marriage on 18 February, requesting supplies for refreshments be sent to him, and discussing financial affairs.

A letter, dated 4 February, to Bethia from Donelson, about their approaching wedding, people to be invited, etc. He mentioned receiving her father's written permission for the marriage.

1870: A letter, dated 28 May, to Emma Caffery Thomson from her mother, Lydia McKerall, about Maria Caffery's marriage to Judge Drew of New Orleans, a widower with three children. She also mentioned Bethia and Donelson's new baby, Donelson (III).

1875-1879: Frequent letters to Bethia from her father who was living with several of his other daughters in various places in Missouri and Louisiana.

1881: A letter, dated 18 October, to Bethia from her husband who was writing from Franklin, and described the very critical condition of his ill mother.

1888: A letter to Bethia from her husband who was in Franklin. He spoke of organizing a branch of the "Law and Order Association" at Pattersonville.

Folder 7

1866-1869 #02227, Subseries: "2.2 1866-1891." Folder 7

Folder 8

1870-1877 #02227, Subseries: "2.2 1866-1891." Folder 8

Folder 9

1879-1888 #02227, Subseries: "2.2 1866-1891." Folder 9

Folder 10

1890-1891 #02227, Subseries: "2.2 1866-1891." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.3 1894-1900.

About 70 items.

During these years Donelson Caffery was a U. S. senator from Louisiana. He frequently spent time away from his family in Washington and wrote letters to them. Some professional correspondence is included, chiefly congratulatory letters to Donelson on his stand in support of the gold standard. A chronological discussion of some items follows.

1894-1895: Letters from Donelson in Washington, D.C., to his family at home in Louisiana, and some written to him on business and political matters by various persons.

1895: A letter, dated 19 April, to Donelson from a friend in Houston, Texas, inviting him to be his guest at a Confederate reunion.

1896: Congratulatory and other letters to Donelson about his stand in favor of the gold standard. Other letters to Donelson are about business and political matters. Included are two letters written by Grover Cleveland while he was president. One, dated 23 August, is to Donelson describing a launch which Cleveland was using over the summer. A second, dated 13 December, is to J.A. McCall of New York City, asking for an introduction for Donelson, and rating his character highly. There is some correspondence about a rumor that Caffery had resigned from the Democratic party and a demand by the Executive Committee of the Democratic party, Parish of Natchitoches, that he resign, with a copy of Donelson's reply.

1897: Letters to Gertrude Caffery from her aunt, Emma Caffery Thomson.

1898: Letters about the death of Donelson's sister, Maria Caffery Drew. Letters from Donelson in Washington to his children in Louisiana

1899: Letters from Donelson in Washington to his daughter in Louisiana telling her something of the political situation in Washington and Louisiana, and mentioning his hopes for selling out and leaving Louisiana. He also wrote news of various children, cane crops, freezes, and general weather. In another letter to his children, Donelson told them he planned to retire from public life and return to his law office, D. Caffery & Son, in Franklin, Louisiana, and to his plantation, "Bethia". He wrote of his home, finances, future hopes and plans, and the political situation, especially in Louisiana. He mentioned "Cow Island" frequently, as a possible place for raising cattle. It is believed that "Cow Island" was a section of marsh land south of Franklin.

Also included are letters from Francis D. Richardson, Franklin, Louisiana, to his daughter, Bethia, and letters from Emma Caffery Thomson to Bethia and her daughters. A letter, dated 5 October, to Donelson from Edward Atkinson of Boston, is about a mortgage sought by Donelson, and the possible aid of Andrew Carnegie. Atkinson also mentioned the possibility of Donelson finding oil on his land.

Folder 11

1894-1895 #02227, Subseries: "2.3 1894-1900." Folder 11

Folder 12

1896 #02227, Subseries: "2.3 1894-1900." Folder 12

Folder 13

1897-1898 #02227, Subseries: "2.3 1894-1900." Folder 13

Folder 14

1899 #02227, Subseries: "2.3 1894-1900." Folder 14

Folder 15

1900 #02227, Subseries: "2.3 1894-1900." Folder 15

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.4 1901-1906.

About 70 items.

Chiefly letters written by Bethia, Donelson, and other members of their family after Donelson had left the Senate and returned to Louisiana. The letters frequently deal with Donelson's attempts to improve his financial affairs, and particularly with the oil wells he was attempting to establish. The series ends with the death of Donelson on 30 December 1906. A chronological discussion of some of the documents follows.

1901: Letters from Donelson at home in Franklin, Louisiana, out of the Senate, and planning to take up law practice. Sugar prices were low, finances gloomy, and there was danger of losing Bethia Plantation.

Also included are letters from Emma Caffery Thomson, Charles, one of the Caffery sons who was at West Point, and John, another Caffery son in the U.S. Navy. Some letters mentioned Frank and Earl planting sugar, Bethia and "Lide" (or "Tide") in and out of the home, and Gertrude in Washington.

1904-1905: Included are letters about the possibilities of oil wells succeeding. Donelson wrote of his desire to sell the sugar plantation and business and leave Louisiana. He spoke of the "Nona" mines as hopeful - apparently phosphate beds, and his constant hopes of the oil wells producing. A letter, dated 7 August 1905, expressed great alarm over yellow fever in a nearby town. A letter, dated 21 September 1905, from Donelson to his son, Charles, is about Donelson's work on the Plaquemine Lock, influencing drainage in Louisiana, and President Theodore Roosevelt and his attitude towards the idea. Also included are letters showing Bethia to be a Christian Scientist.

1906: During this year several different letterheads for oil companies such as "Caffery and Martel, Dealers in Fuel Oil," and "The Houssiere-Latreille Oil Company," were used by Donelson when writing. In July there is a letter from Donelson to his daughters telling them of a big purchase in lands where his sons and Martel were buying out others including the plantation "Bethia". In December, there are letters, chiefly to Charles, in the Philippines with the U.S. Army, from Donelson about plans for property, improvements on the house, a new boat being built, and a camp on Cow's Island. Donelson also wrote about Gertrude's approaching marriage to Henry H. Glassie of Washington, D.C., on 28 January 1907. The final item in this subseries is a clipping from the Daily Picayune, New Orleans, telling of the death of Senator Donelson Caffery on 30 December.

Folder 16

1901-1902 #02227, Subseries: "2.4 1901-1906." Folder 16

Folder 17

1903 #02227, Subseries: "2.4 1901-1906." Folder 17

Folder 18

1904 #02227, Subseries: "2.4 1901-1906." Folder 18

Folder 19

1905 #02227, Subseries: "2.4 1901-1906." Folder 19

Folder 20

1906 #02227, Subseries: "2.4 1901-1906." Folder 20

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.5 1907-1925.

About 30 items.

This subseries contains continuing family letters between Bethia and her children, and Emma Caffery Thomson, after the death of Donelson Caffery. A chronological listing of some of the items follows.

1907: Letters from Bethia Caffery to her sons and daughters telling of home and family news.

1913-1919: Letters from Emma Caffery Thomson to her niece, Gertrude Caffery Glassie, about family and neighborhood happenings.

1924: A typed letter, dated 24 June, to Gertrude giving the Civil War record of her father, Donelson Caffery.

Folder 21

1907-1914 #02227, Subseries: "2.5 1907-1925." Folder 21

Folder 22

1916-1925 #02227, Subseries: "2.5 1907-1925." Folder 22

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.6 Undated.

About 30 items.

Undated letters and letter fragments of the Caffery family. They are chiefly letters from Bethia Richardson Caffery to her children, particularly to her son Charles.

Folder 23-24

Folder 23

Folder 24

Undated #02227, Subseries: "2.6 Undated." Folder 23-24

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of May 1992 (Acc. 92061), 1990s.

About 30 items.

Typed transcriptions of Caffery family letters, 1882-1912 and 1961. Most letters were written by Charles S. Caffery when he was a student at West Point.

Transcriptions are being prepared by the donor, who intends to add most of the original letters to the Caffery Family Papers upon completion of her project.

Folder 25

Addition of May 1992 #02227, Series: "Addition of May 1992 (Acc. 92061), 1990s." Folder 25

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of September 1992 (Acc. 92152), 1880s-1990s.

About 300items.

Original Caffery family letters, some with typed transcriptions, and typed transcriptions of Caffery family letters that may already be filed in the collection or are in private hands, 1880s-1990s. Also included are a few clippings, notes, and writings all relating to family history.


Box 2

Addition of September 1992 #02227, Series: "Addition of September 1992 (Acc. 92152), 1880s-1990s." Box 2

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of February 2014 (Acc. 101999), 1895

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Processing Information

Processed by: Shonra Newman, September 1990

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This inventory was adapted from an original inventory prepared sometime prior to 1963, and from a cover sheet prepared by E. Ragan in March 1963.

Updated because of addition, November 2018

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