|Date(s):||October 1846 to December 1847|
|Location(s):||GREENE, North Carolina|
|Tag(s):||Slavery, Cameron family, Medicine/Health|
|Course:||“Contemporary Issues in Social Studies Education,” North Carolina State University|
The good health of a slave was essential to a plantation owner. Without healthy slaves, there would be no successful plantation, and in turn no successful owner. This idea was only further confirmed after continued research into the Cameron family letters. From the information gathered it seems that the Cameron family genuinely wished for their slaves to remain healthy. The jury is out on whether this is for selfish reasons, such as maintenance of a successful estate, or for more selfless reasons, such as truly wishing that they remain in the best conditions.
The information provided to historians by way of the Cameron family personal letters has proved to be very enlightening in this debate. There are numerous references to a Dr. Ring attending to the slaves on different accounts. The first mention of this is in a letter from Dr. Ring himself to Mr. Cameron. In this letter Ring relays his work on a hearty slave named Limon. Mr. Charles Lewellyn, overseer of the Cameron plantation, sent for Ring to come and care for Limon after he fell very ill. Ring tells Cameron that he found Limon dying but that he could not attribute the reason to anything Lewellyn had done. We can speculate that perhaps Ring was checking up on Lewellyn’s work as the overseer as well as checking up on the ill slaves. As the letter continues the reader learns that Lewellyn may have served as a temporary physician to the slaves when a doctor could not, or would not, come to the estate. Ring tells Cameron that Lewellyn administered aid to Limon and had seemed to heal him before Limon took a turn for the worst. Ring was at the plantation less than 24 hours when Limon died.
The death of a reputable slave was cause for concern for Cameron and it seems that more letters were exchanged as Mr. Cameron searched for the real reason of Limon’s untimely death since it occurred at the end of cotton season when a strong slave would certainly be useful in harvesting cotton. In the next few letters between Lewellyn and Cameron, Lewellyn reports on Dr. Ring’s whereabouts and his role in helping the slaves. There are also mentions of other doctors treating slaves in letters between Mr. Cameron and Thomas Bennehan. There is a reference to a Dr. Haywood, who resides in Raleigh, as he is concerned that his care for a very ill slave, Mildred, was perceived as unprofessional since Mildred is later taken to Philadelphia for better care. More doctors are mentioned in later letters as other sources of medical information for the vast amount of slaves who fell ill in the years of 1846 and 1847.
As we can infer from multiple letters, the Cameron family did genuinely wish for the best care for their slaves. The letters tell the readers that not all care served its purpose, such as Dr. Ring’s work with Limon or Dr. Haywood’s attention to Mildred, which in turn led the Camerons to seek aid elsewhere. Although we cannot officially confirm the motive behind their kind treatment of their ill slaves but we can infer that the Cameron family wished for the best in these instances.