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The Ficklen Family Private Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-010

Scope and Contents

The papers begin with an 1803 indenture of sale of land from Elizabeth and John Hamilton, Sr., to John Hamilton Jr. An 1834 document awards a $53.33 annual pension to a Kentucky veteran of the Revolutionary War. Also included is a will written in 1844 by John Hamilton, dividing his estate and declaring at what age which of his slaves are to be awarded their freedom.

August 16, 1852, is the date of the first letter from Joseph Burwell Ficklen to his wife, Anna Eliza Churchill Fitzhugh Ficklen. Their home was Belmont at Falmouth, VA, near Fredericksburg. J.B. Ficklen owned Bridgewater Mills and frequently mentioned the mill, the price of wheat, and other business problems.

Frequently, Joseph or Anna traveled, either to visit relatives or to stay at various springs for their health. J.B. Ficklen frequently had his children with him, either on his travels or at home while his wife journeyed. He wrote affectionate letters to his wife and to his children, assuring them of his love and his loneliness for them. Included also is a notebook Anna Ficklin used occasionally to record her travels and those of her family, as well as listing the deaths of friends and close relatives.

Joseph B. Ficklin’s letters were written between 1852 and 1873. There appears, however, a conspicuous gap in the dates of these letters. As can be noted in the inventory, there are no letters here that were written during the Civil War years. A 1959 letter from Julian B. Ficklen to Conway Ficklen, informs the latter that Julian Ficklen had deposited five of Joseph Burwell Ficklen’s letters – written from 1857 to 1867 – in the Manuscripts Room of the Alderman Library, University of Virginia.

A helpful guide is a family tree compiled by Fitzhugh Ficklen in 1933 (with later additions penciled in). This record begins with William Fitzhugh and Sarah Tucker of the 1600s and continues through Fitzhugh Conway Ficklen, born in 1957. Only in this tree is a connection between the Hamilton and Ficklen families made: in the middle names of two Ficklens of the 1900s.


  • Creation: 1803-1960

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical and Historical Note

Joseph Burwell Ficklen lived in Virginia from 1800 to 1874. He married Anna Eliza Churchill Fitzhugh (1816- ), to whom he wrote several affectionate letters whenever they were parted. They lived at Belmont at Falmouth, VA, near Fredericksburg, where he owned Bridgewater Mills, which manufactured and sold flour.

From the letters in this group of papers one discerns they had several children: Edmo, Nannie, Joe, John, and Willie; possibly others. They were a comfortably wealthy family, speaking casually of servants and traveling frequently to various springs for their health, staying as long as they felt was necessary to regain their energy. Edmo and Nannie were sent off to school in Baltimore, and one letter is from John at the University of Virginia.

John was born December 14, 1858, and after graduation from the University of Virginia, spent two years studying abroad at the universities of Paris and Berlin, before serving as professor of history and political science at Tulane University of New Orleans, LA.[1] Immersed in the history of his adopted state, John Rose Ficklen wrote histories of Louisiana and the Reconstruction period of that state. He died in 1907.[2]

Willie was William Fitzhugh Ficklen, 1853-1920, who married Julia Belle Stansbury of Baltimore, MD. She lived from 1853-1921. A letter from JuBelle to her mother-in-law is in this group. It is Willie’s branch of the Joseph Burwell Ficklen family that is followed on the Ficklen family tree, which is a part of these papers.

Documents of the John Hamilton family of Bracken County, Kentucky, are also in these papers. An 1803 indenture records a land sale from Elizabeth and John Hamilton, Sr., to John Hamilton Jr. In 1832 another indenture was made between Deborah and John Hamilton, Sr., and several other Hamiltons. Later (in 1844), presumably the same John Hamilton made a will awarding “Debrah” one third of his estate, and made his son, John O. Hamilton, his executor.

In 1883 the name John O. Hamilton appears on an army voucher as a pensioner. A 1927 newspaper clipping concerning the death of Confederate veteran, John Carroll Hamilton, notes his parents were Grace and John O. Hamilton.

A connection between these two families seems to appear in the Ficklen family tree – compiled by Fitzhugh Ficklen in 1933 and with later additions penciled in – in the names of Conway Hamilton Ficklen and John Hamilton Ficklen.

[1] Who Was Who In America.  Vol. 1, 1897-1942.  Chicago, IL: A.N. Marquis Co., 1943. p.394.

[2] Ficklen, John Rose.  History of Reconstruction in Louisiana.  Johns Hopkins Press 1910, Reprinted 1966 by Peter Smith, Gloucester, MA. P.vii.

Note written by Judith H. Davis and Deborah A. Edwards


4.00 folders (Contains 4 folders)

Language of Materials



This group of papers contains letters between Ficklen family members, primarily in Virginia, and documents of the Hamilton family of Kentucky. In addition, there is also an ad in the The Weekly Independent, Fredericksburg, VA placed by J.B. Ficklen & Sons of Fredericksburg, VA. Other items include indentures of sale of land and a will regarding the estate of John Hamilton, Sr. and a family tree compiled by Fitzhugh Ficklen in 1933 (with later additions penciled in).

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Dr. Conway H. Ficklen in 1972. An addition was made to the collection in 1977.


A group of five Ficklen Family letters dating from the Civil War period were deposited with the Manuscript Collection, Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. Dr. Conway H. Ficklen of Wrightsville Beach, NC, authorized their release to this repository in January 1977, effecting the consolidation of the Ficklen Family Papers.

These five letters were written during the decade 1857 – 1867 by Joseph Burwell Ficklen, of Falmouth, VA, to his wife, Anna Eliza Chruchill Fitzhugh Ficklen. The first and last are letters sent home while he was vacationing at Virginia Springs. The remainder, written at Falmouth, give instructions to his wife, who was in Baltimore, MD. These are dated January 2, 1862, December 29, 1862, and December 30, 1862. But the January 2, 1862 letter is inventoried with the date (1863) because its content indicates it was written subsequent to the December 1862 letters.

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and/or are born-digital. For access to these digital materials, please browse the finding aid via the "Collection Organization" tab and select an individual file or item to see if it contains a linked digital record.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Judith H. Davis. In 2014, this manuscript collection was re-foldered and re-housed with current archival standard materials by Christine Hockaday.


The Ficklen Family Private Papers
Partially Processed
Judith H. Davis and Deborah A. Edwards
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository