EWD: Heritage III

Joseph William Dabbs 
Older brother to John Quincy Dabbs

Joseph William Dabbs became a successful cotton trader working out of Yazoo City, Mississippi, and kept up a written correspondence with his family in South Carolina, frequently enclosing money to help out with the farm expenses. 

In a series of letters written to his family from 1839 to 1855, Joseph describes the fluctuation of cotton prices as they pertain to what’s happening around the world. He advises his brother on what to plant and when to sell. He suggests that his brother, Richard, is having problems “brought on by drink” and recommends he return home to Darlington, which he does seven years later.

Joseph bemoans the fact that he hasn’t found a wife, despite a number of reference to meeting beautiful women, and he encourages his family to help find a Darlington woman who might put up with an old man of 42. According to Billy Dabbs, the story doesn’t end there. Ultimately, he says he was told that when Joseph died, his family learned, much to their dismay, that he had not only a wife, but also several children whom he’d never mentioned in any of his letters. Reports are that there are numerous individuals in Mississippi today bearing the Dabbs name. We do not know how much Joseph and Richard contributed to that lineage.

A portrait of Joseph William Dabbs hangs at Fern Park in the home of Martha Dabbs Greenway. In one of his letters, Joseph mentions a shawl that he sent as a gift to his sister, Hannah. That shawl was passed down through the family to Sophie McBride Dabbs, and was left in her will to her nephew, Joseph Samuel Dabbs, youngest son of EW Dabbs, Jr.

At the reading of the will, no one could find the shawl, leaving Joe without his inheritance. Whether Joe minds or not is debatable,
but one of his daughters might want to resume the search for a 19th-century shawl.