The Sessions Collection is open for research.
Donated by decendants of the Sessions family: Mr. Allie Stuart Povall, Mrs. Patty Povall Lewis, Mr. John Kirkham Povall and
Mrs. Amanda Povall Tailyour.
No further additions are expected to this collection.
In antebellum Natchez the Sessions family was quite prominent. Albert Sessions, probably a graduate of Jefferson College,
moved up to Holmes County around Lexington in 1840. He established Brougham (pronounced "Broom" locally) Plantation.
The scrapbook was kept during the Civil War by Clara Sessions, a daughter of Albert who was about 16 at the time. She had
two brothers Phillip and Joseph. Phillip was killed during the war. At the outbreak of the war, Joseph was about to receive
his diploma of medicine from the St. Louis School of Medicine. He joined the Confederate Army as a foot soldier and was wounded
4 times and captured 4 times. Joseph was captured at Gettysburg, and Clara notes this in the scrapbook. Although he survived
and did receive his diploma (due to the efforts of his uncle on his behalf), he only lived a few more years due to the lingering
effects of his wounds.
The diary was written by Delia Sessions, cousin of Clara, and also about the age of sixteen at the start of the Civil War.
Her family lived near the Yazoo River near Yazoo City. In 1863 with the first sightings of Federal gunboats on the Yazoo,
Delia's father sent his daughter to Albert Sessions plantation in Holmes County. Delia would marry and later live in Jackson.
In or around 1929 she wrote these reminiscences in her diary, and they concern her experiences during the Civil War and the
hardships the family endured.
Clara Sessions would also marry and she is the great-grandmother of the donors. Clara married Cass Oltenburg, a German who
moved to Lexington in 1850. He served in the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and saw terrible fighting.
His company of the 18th Mississippi was primarily made up of families who lived in the Funnegusha Community, located around
the Funnegusha Creek. These families were the Egglestons, Meads, Moneys, Jones, Gwins and Sessions. They all formed a Calvary
In 1865, Cass received a foot wound and had to return to Lexington. Mr. Povall has a document written to Cass from the brother
of William Eggleston. They were asking Cass to bring "Willie's" box and servant home with him as Willie had recently been
captured. This Willie Eggleston was the great grandfather of the well known Mississippi photographer.
Civil War era scrapbook of Celia Sessions, primarily containing newspaper clippings, and recollections of the Civil War from
Delia Sessions' diary, transcribed below.
Sessions Collection, Archives and Special Collections, J.D. Williams Library, The University of Mississippi
The Sessions Collection is open for research.
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|1929 Recollections from Delia Session's Diary (42 pages)
|Note: Full transcription of original document below
||"Just talkin' [sic] to my self & [De] Recollections of the summer of '63 When I hear my grand daughters rave so enthusiastically
over the latest creation of Milliner or dressmaker, discuss among themselves The newest permanent wave, or 'thrilled' with
such genuine joy over the adorable silver slippers, silk stockings & underwear, my mind goes back to the days of my grand
mothers & what I have read & heard of their elegant dressing, the stiff heavy silks costing"
||"a hoghead [sic] of tobacco a yard, Their filmy laces, the jewels of price. The breast [bone] & earrings, necklace & bracelets,
the jeweled or engraved combs of silver or shell, decorating their high coiled perfumed powdered hair, with curls peeping
out bewitchingly here & there. The bodices were very low & short, the sleeves short but bunchy & filled with feathers in
the lining to make them stand out. The skirts were narrow & long & [from]"
||"beneath the hem the point only of the dainty white Rid or satin high heeled slipper was allowed to be seen except by accident
as when stepping from the high swung coach on the three steps quickly unfolded by the little footman who tried his best to
hold down the skirt in front while he stepped aside to let the [ever] present young gentleman help the ladies out of the"
||"carriage. A few years later the footman had all he could do to hold down the full dress while the enormous hoop skirt was
crowded through the narrow carriage door! These slippers now yellow with age are carefully preserved in a box wrapped in
tissue paper, & when exhibited, always excite the comment, 'Could any grown lady have worn these tiny slippers?' And now memory
calls to the [intermediate] generation"
||"what was mine. It was war time, & full of horrors & terrors but I did not realize all these things. I was young when to live
is joy. I am wondering if the girls of the present day would be interested in how I dressed when I was sixteen? May be not.
but I feel like writing it down. It dawned upon my Mother one day, that I had no shoes with out big holes, & none were to
be found [in] the stores. So she sent for Uncle"
||"Porter, the old carriage [driver] from La Vega, My [Uncle's] deserted home across the way, & told him she heard he was making
shoes for ladies. 'Yes Ma'am,' he said, 'I found a dead calf , & skinned it, & cured the hide my self & I can make Missy a
pair o' shoes I see she need 'em-Yes Ma'am.' He spread a piece of brown paper down on the floor, & said , 'Now Missy if you
will pull off your shoe, & stand down hard on'"
||"'dis paper, I'll take your measure.' He [took] the stub of a carpenter's pencil out of his ragged pocket & drew a line around
my stockinged [sic] foot, measured my [instep], & ankle, with a dirty string, & stood up promising to bring my shoes as soon
as possible. He brought them smeared with lamp black & grease, which [rubbed] off on my white petticoats & full of pegs, which
brought the tears to my eyes. Holes were [punched] in"
||"the sides with an awl to lace them up with a yellow buckskin string. My father cut the pegs out, & showed my how to wet the
strings & when [stretched], to roll them between two waiters, making a [round] cord-like lace. Such was my winter supply of
foot wear- & the stockings! Rosina & Rachel, the best [spinners] on the plantation, were entrusted with the task of making
fine soft thread, which"
||"they did with real interest, for Missy to [knit]. My Mother put on the stitches, & with much help I [knit] my own stockings,
& also many socks for the soldiers. Then came the problem of a winter dress. I said I was going to weave my own dress, & so
the thread was dyed what we fondly called purple with Maple bark, set with alum-- No loyal Southern woman would have worn
any thing blue! I did weave a few [inches] on a piece of cloth which Carolina, The weaver finished. & the seamstress Mildred,"
||"made up for my every day dress. My Mother Mildred ripped up a dark brown & purple double wrapper of my Mother's, & made me
two calico dresses, large plaid one only a little uglier than the other, but-not-so hot as my homespun. I had a plaid wool
dress which was very nice, but out grown, & when the large seams were let out, it was too large [&] low in the neck. It was
[pieced] with lining material & black silk fitted over to make it high enough. The sleeves were lenghted [sic] in"
||"the same way, & this was my best dress. With a white ruffle [in] the neck, I wore it on rare occasions to church in town.
We were not living on the home place near Jackson, but on the big plantation on the river far in the country where my father
had to stay to manage the place when the overseer had to go to the war-& so we seldom went to town. When we did go, it was
in the skiff rowed by two black oarsmen, & accompanied by my governess & her little Sister who [were] with us part"
||"of the time. When our gloves wore out, we did without until cold weather came, when Mother [knit] gloves of wool, grown,
[spun] & dyed on the plantation. Mother had silk dresses with long [pointed] bodices, & skirts [flounced] to the waist, but
they were [laid] away in the big dress trunk, unsuitable for any occasion that came to us. We had a better quality of homespun
[later], not so heavy & woven in stripe or plaids, which looked very well when nicely made, & fitted with shoulder straps
facings, & many buttons-for"
||"every thing must be Military, or nothing, & always Confederate grey. We were within fifty miles of Vicksburg when it was
besieged & bombarded, & could distinctly hear each & feel the vibrations from the shots which came thick & fast. It is hard
to believe that we became accustomed to it, though we had a dear brother & cousin, besides my Mother's brother, under those
guns. We are our Christmas dinner with friends, hearing those fearful guns in the distance & the windows in the room rattling
from the vibration. My father walked the floor in helplessness & agitation"
||"We were alone on the plantation-he, my Mother, & myself. Surrounded by 75 or 100 slaves, who were as friendly, affectionate
& obedient as ever. 'I don't understand the meaning of this [cessation] of firing at Snyder's Bluff.' he said in despair,
'[Unless] it means surrender, & I feel that the Yankee boats may come up the [river] now any time! My Mother to reassure him
but he continued his [restless] pace & in a short time he came in from the porch-I will never forget his face, or his appalling
announcement-'Here they come'!"
||"Three boats passed up the river in front of our house to Yazoo City, four miles above, but went down the next day, leaving
all the plantations undisturbed. 'Now we are in the hands of the enemy' My father said, 'There is no talking what may happen,
Nannie must go to Town-She will be safer.' So my Mother packed a small trunk with every thing she had, & two strong oarsmen
took us-Father, Mother, & me-up to town where I was received with open arms by"
||"Mr & Mrs White, dear old friends who cared for my as for their own daughters. I was pleased to make a visit to town, never
realizing the seriousness of my situation, or feeling that harm could come to my father & mother when they told me good bye,
& went home. In about a week, they came up to Mrs White's to see me; Startling news came through the lines, & my cousins stopped
on their way from their home adjoining ours on the river, to tell us good bye"
||"They were going through the country to our Uncle Albert's in the interior, for safety. My father took Mother out into the
hall privately, & I heard him say '[Anna], could Nannie go to my brother's with these girls?' It was quickly arranged-Sarah
[Carrie], & Nannie took me in lovingly as always, as one of themselves. Our governess, Miss Craig was with them, & they gave
me a seat in their carriage making six with 'Rias The driver. They made room for my"
||"things in their baggage wagon with Monroe to drive, & Betty his wife as maid-& so we were off for Uncle Albert's! I cried
a little when I told Father & Mother good bye, & after we were really gone, but [Rufus] Polk, a friend, & [eligible word]
of our family, a [young] soldier in camp in the town who was riding a few miles out with us. rode up close to the carriage
& said-'Now Nannie don't cry, what's the matter? have"
||"you lost your doll?' I rolled my eyes at him, but he only laughed , rode on a few miles, said good bye, & turned back to
tell our folks that he had seen us safely on our way. I was fourteen years old & a half, had commenced to tuck up my hair
& had a dress buttoned up in front-& didn't I have a sweet heart? I did that. Once when I was eleven years old my father &
mother took me to Brownsville, Tennessee to spend"
||"the summer with Mother's people, & there we met-Tom & I. Of course there were others, but Tom was sixteen-seventeen his next
birthday, & he wore long pants. He had flashing black eyes, & dark waving hair which he tossed back from his noble brow with
a [lordly] gesture which impressed me [heartly]. When his older sister-much older-Cousin Ann, at whose home"
||"we were visiting, reproached him severely just because he climbed up the grape vine into the up stairs window of her guest
room with three of his boy friends & played cards-which was against great Uncle Nicholas' commands, until some what late,
Tom came to me with his troubles-he didn't mean any harm- & we discussed Cousin Ann's cruel treatment until it assumed such
proportions that Tom turned on his heel & left in high [dudgeon], vowing that he would never enter the house again. Three
years later, when"
||"I went to my desolate home in the far South, My Godmother from La Vega over the way brought me a little ring made of [guttapercha]
& inlaid with two hearts of silver already united! She told me that Susannah the maid had brought it to her one evening late
saying. '[Mistis] a fine young genl'man come to the door, & asked to stay all night. 'I turned him off like you said [Mistis],
& he got mad, & he say, 'give dis ring to Nannie Sessions & tell her that her cousin Tom Perkins made it for her"
||"when he was in prison, & came to see her to bring it to her.' I say Lord Sir ef you is kin- but he ain' hear me-he done gone.'
Godmother was [covered] with confusion. She had been obliged to give strict orders to her servants to admit no one since one
had gone off in the night with the blankets from his bed, another with [Hams] [from] the [Smoke] house, & another with my
riding horse from the stable. All efforts to [recall] & entertain the [Kinsman] were of"
||"no avail-once more Tom had turned on his heel, & left in high [dudgeon], never to return-and one of my daughters has that
ring now. [I] [not] think what it would mean in these days to have us four girls, our governess, three servants & four horses
[came] upon you without warning in the night! But Uncle Albert had a big plantation, a big home, & a big heart, & he & Aunt
Lucretia & three little grandsons"
||"took us in as their own. Peace & plenty [reigned] at Uncle Albert's & we spent four happy months there in spite of the war
which seemed far away. There were no men in the old neighborhood except elderly men, & from time to time a wounded or sick
soldier, either belonging to one of our [families], or a guest [who] visited to rest or recuperate, & always ready for a game
of cards which eight girls could not hide their delight in [being] beside their sofa or easy chair."
||"Uncle Alberts & Aunt Lucretias hearts & home were open to all, soldiers especially, having sons & nephews in the army. Hospitality
to all was the key note of the home, & it rang clear & true through life. There was plenty to eat, & [oh] so good. In addition
to all breakfast dishes we had roasting ears, great piles of them on flat dishes folded in napkins to keep them hot, & when
breakfast was ready, all were expected to be in their places- all fourteen of us, as well as the"
||"frequent guest. Uncle Albert would help us to the [corn], & show us how to split the grains by running a sharp knife down
each row of [luscious] kernels put butter & salt on it, & eat it from the cob. I can [see] [him] now as dear to me as my own
father. They did many things for our pleasure, never allowing us to mope or grieve over the troubles of the times, though
deeply interested in every thing concerning the war. Mails were irregular & a news [paper] [an]"
||"exciting event. There were two churches in the neighborhood & we went regularly in the carriages [&] the buggy, or walking
to the nearby one. We had no entertainments of course, but we went back & forth to the neighbors, in the great old neighborhood,
as one family staying for dinner or tea. We had horseback rides [eligible word] [&] fish frys with the boys too young to go
to the war, who were only too proud to take the place of the soldiers who were at the front."
||"We learned many things that summer of '63 which will stay with me for good after all these sixty [three] years,- through
life. Our Uncle & Aunt were of strong position & influence in their family, their plantation, their church, & in & beyond
the community in which they made their home for many years. 'Sister' or Cousin Mary' [maintained] her position as the oldest
in the home with dignity & with satisfaction & comfort to every one of us. We all turned to her for help & advice, & were
never sent empty away- Cousin Sally"
||"Cousin Clara & De. It was an ideal country home, & the family were [sufficient] with themselves. They read a great deal &
talked with each other of what they read & discussed the events of the day, the war being uppermost in all minds as that time.
They played & sang in the evenings to the delight of the family, & large circle of friends. There was a [circle] in front
of the house within a low closely clipped hedge, around which the [drive] way led in both directions through [avenues] of
tall evergreens to the great gate of the grove,"
||"so far away that the [ponderous] [latch] [rattling] when the gate slammed, gave us warning if company was coming, in full
time to get ourselves smoothed down to receive them. Aunt Lucretia loved flowers, & so [did] they all, & flowers were many
& [varied], beautiful & well kept in the extensive grounds & flower garden, besides house plants on stands under the cedar
trees near the house for the summer. [Fruit] of all kinds abounded, but the water melon feast from the wagon load"
||"wagon load brought in the early morning, cold & wet with dew, & kept in the big dairy was the feature of our afternoon fun,
however large, they were never cut except in halves, And now comes the event of the summer in our neighborhood, the coming
of Col. [Trusten] Polk's family, exiled from St. Louis since he went into the Southern Army Mrs Polk & her two daughters,
Miss Mary & little Lizzie were put off the boat at my father's landing down the river, & my father & mother sent them as far
as possible in"
||"their carriage on their way to Holmes County, where they hoped to meet the husband & father, & he did come to see them for
a short time, later. They came to Uncle Albert, & found a home for them with his near neighbor Mr Gwin, his own house being
free to overflowing. They were elegant people, & appreciated the hearty welcome they [received] from all. Aunt Lucretia gave
them a [dining], which was quickly followed by others, & they soon entered into the life of the neighborhood, [becoming] real
neighbors. it proved to be a delightful innovation, & we were happy, but we"
||"had our troubles, & now it was [hats] We went to church one Sunday, & there sat Miss Mary under a sky scraper-oh!!! a sky
scraper then was not a building of many stories, but a bonnet, & of the new style which we had never seen or heard of. It
was at least four inches above the top of her head, the space being filled with flowers which required quite a large bunch,
We tried to be calm, & look at, & listen to, Mr Halstead but we were young, & we had not seen the styles for a long time."
||"My only hat was a broad brimmed low crowned, grey straw which had seen [service] & every body, was having turbans! I could
not wear it, so I took the scissors & cut the brim off, & then I didn't know what to do. Good kind Miss [Craig] came to my
[rescue]. She soaked the hat in water, turned the brim up, drew it in with a thread where it was to be drawn up. & stretched
it where it was to be stretched, [bound] the edge & trimmed it new with my old ribbon. & I had a turban & Miss Craig had my
||"She had seen my Mother's distress at sending me away from her so suddenly, & had offered to help me in any way she could,
& when I tore a long jagged [rent] in my pink calico dress, she patiently [basted] a piece under it, & [cat] stitched it as
she called it, until it was as good as ever. I had a purple calico dress too, & one made of a glazed calico window [curtain]
with red, blue, & yellow daisies on grey ground. It was very bright-very bright-& washed well. Later my Mother sent me a pink
& green [checked] silk skin- of her own, & a"
||"thin white waist which were my best, & my delight for a long time. She sent them by one of our negro men in saddle bags [over]
the saddle on a mule which he rode through the country, our only means of transportation through the lines. We were going
to ride in the country that afternoon when Miss Craig [finished] my turban, & I wanted to wear it so bad, but I was in doubt
whether I ought to wear it or save it to wear to church. De had one too. when Cousin Mary called out 'De get ready to ride,
& you & Nan wear your turbans!' Cousin Mary"
||"knew, & it left me nothing to ask for. We learned to make hats of palmetto, digging deep into the soft-black [loam] of the
swamp for the leaves before they grew too old & brittle, [curing] it & splitting it with a pin into straps that eight of an
inch wide, by [keeping] it in a damp [towel] we could make a very [ornamental] braid which I have [vainly] tried to recall.
We sewed the braid into shape taking an old hat for a pattern. We pressed it with a hot iron on a stone jar under a wet cloth
& completed it with a [lining] & [a] [band] of black [silken] ribbon. I made one"
||"for my father & will never forget the pride with which he showed it to his friends as his daughter's work. We made [riding]
hats for our selves in the same way using a band of looped palmetto as trimming, & finished with a rosette. For this we took
[pieces] of palmetto four inches long, split them with a pin to within three quarters of an inch of each end, in very fine
shreds, putting the ends together we sewed a sufficient number of the [lacy] loops around a small piece of [paste] board,
& covered the rough ends with a black velvet button made by covering"
||"a round piece cut from a gourd. We could always find a piece of velvet & however rusty, it would [do]. Aunt Lucretia ripped
up an old hat which was faded & [stained] but good & strong, & sewed it over shaping it into a wonderful imitation of the
new style which came to be some what belated, & made me a hat with high crown & narrow [brim] & sent it to me after I had
gone home in the fall. I rubbed it over with the shoe brush & blacking, & polished it until some thing, I cannot remember
what- which made it stiff & it cracked"
||"when I put it on or off or moved it much, which I was careful not to do. I trimmed it with black velvet which had seen service
before, & a long curling plume made of downy goosefeathers [sic] sewed it together in to a piece of old white silk, & fastined
[sic] with a gilded buckle from an old hat I had a few years before, lined it carefully, & it was my pride & delight for
the winter & longer no doubt, for my new hats & other comforts were becoming more & more rare, & the times more & more [serious]
as The hard days went by."
||"We had moved over to our home near Jackson from the plantation & I wore my new high crowned hat with great pleasure & pride,
the granddaughter name sake of today does not wear the [latest] creation of her [parisian] Milliner with any higher head than
I wore my home made high crowned hat made for me by dear loving hands in the summer of '63."