Virginia Pou Doughton Papers, housed in the North Carolina State Archives’ Private Collections, contain dozens of letters written by an African-American man named Johnnie Farmer, who had worked as butler and cook for Doughton’s grandparents, Floyd S. and Elizabeth Barnes Davis. (Farmer’s mother, Bettie Farmer, and sister, Emma Farmer, also worked as servants for the Davises.) Farmer, a World War I veteran, had been hospitalized at the Veterans Administration hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia, apparently for complications from diabetes.
Farmer’s letters make reference to several Davis family members, including Miss Lizzie (Elizabeth B. Davis), Miss Helen (Virginia Doughton’s aunt by marriage, Helen Patterson Davis), Mr. Frank (her uncle, Frank Barnes Davis), and Sammy Pou (Doughton, herself, by a childhood nickname.) Miss Harris was likely Alice Barnes Wright Harriss, who lived next door to the Davises at 701 West Nash Street and was Lizzie B. Davis’ sister.
In this letter to an unknown recipient, written in October 1941, Farmer speaks briefly of how he is faring, mentions two unknown men, and expresses sympathy for “Teance,” who has to wear glasses. He finishes by giving, I think, instructions for care of a boxwood.
Wed Oct 8 1941
Rec your Letter Monday after noon and sunday is the First day the Doc would Let me set up Eanny and then in bed at that saw you all can see that i have time to see them about Enny Like that it was some, Whair around 11 oclock in i got hear did not see but one Doc and one nuce they ak a Lots of Qustions and gave me some cind of a Little white Pill and when I went to bed I did not know nothen untill the next morning I am in the man part of the hospital and Howard and John B. is just a bout a half mile from me and you see it is hard to see them so glad you all wend dow to hope she is getting along all Right and the same thing We are only arlied to see out three Letters a week unless you have your own stampe and then you can seend as miney as you wont so sorry teance has got to wair glases hope she wont have to wair then all the time I am still in bid yet so I am going to write you all Just as often as I can my ankles and Leges has gone down still they wont Let me be op Except in bet the stuff I pout the Box Wood is in the gareige is true and you dont have mix Enny thing with it tharr is a Little sprain in the aket but it may not be Long Enuff to do Enny good so Just Pour the stuff in a Pan and take that bug Brush and Just sprankly it on Like that
Hospital at Veterans’ Administration Facility, Hampton, Va., 1940s. “C.T. Art-Colortone” Postcard, Curt Teich Company.