William Doyle Morgan Papers,
1870-1938

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The papers of William Doyle Morgan (1853-1938) reflect the life of a South Carolina resident, influential businessman, mayor of Georgetown (1891-1906), and founder and president of the Bank of Georgetown (1891-1927) and The Bank of Georgetown (1927-1929).

Extent: 27.5 linear ft. (22 cartons)
Location: Annex
Materials stored offsite; advance notification required.


Chronology
1853 (Feb. 5) Born in New York City to John and Mary Morgan, recent Irish immigrants
1865 (Sept. 13) John Morgan died, leaving William to support his mother and three sisters, Mary Cecilia, Katherine, and Agnes
1869 Hired by Dr. James Anderson, a local Georgetown druggist, to keep the books
1870 (Sept.) First official position--Assistant Postmaster
1878 (Nov.) Lost left hand as the result of shooting accident
1880 Became a notary public
1883 Became chief of fire department; was a founding member of the Palmetto Club
1885 Appointed commissioner of pilotage and port warden
1886 Helped establish the Georgetown Building and Loan Association
1889 Accepted into the prestigious Winyah Indigo Society
1891 Elected Intendant; organized the Bank of Georgetown and became its president
1894 Elected first mayor of Georgetown
1898 Mary Morgan died
1903 Elected treasurer of the League of American Municipalities
1905 Honored at the centennial of Georgetown's incorporation for his service to the town
1906 Left mayorship; President of South Carolina Bankers Association; President of the South Carolina Industrial and Commercial Association
1927 (Jan.) Bank of Georgetown failed
1927 (Feb.) Founded The Bank of Georgetown (not to be confused with the Bank of Georgetown that failed the previous month) and became its president
1929 The Bank of Georgetown became a branch of the People's State Bank with Morgan as executive vice-president of the Georgetown office
1932 (Jan.) People's State Bank system failed
1938 (Aug. 25) Died of a heart attack in the hospital after falling and breaking his hip


Biographical Sketch

William Doyle Morgan (1853-1938) epitomized the New South. His community and civic efforts led Georgetown into a period of progressive development. He helped to usher Georgetown out of the economic devastation produced as a result of the Civil War and the decimation of the rice culture and into the economic expansion and diversification of the New South.

Shortly after Morgan's birth in February 1853 to Irish immigrants John and Mary Morgan, his family left New York City to join his uncle Arthur Morgan, a prosperous merchant and ship owner, in Georgetown, South Carolina. During the Civil War, John Morgan, who could not serve in the armed forces for medical reasons, worked as a clerk in a Georgetown store. William attended local schools, but the majority of his education came from his father, who had been well-educated.

On 13 September 1865, John Morgan died, leaving William to care for his mother and three sisters. His father's death represented the end of Morgan's youth. He went to work to support the family and studied accounting in his spare time. In 1869 Dr. James Anderson, a local druggist, hired him as a bookkeeper. Anderson's son was postmaster; and in September 1870, Morgan became assistant postmaster, his first official position. Morgan continued to work as a bookkeeper for ten years, earning the respect of his fellow citizens and a reputation as a careful and conscientious worker. Morgan also made a point of making friends with older Georgetown residents, seeking their advice about business and learning about Georgetown history, a topic that interested him throughout his life.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1878, Morgan went on a duck shooting expedition that had terrible consequences. Morgan's gun accidentally discharged, hitting him in the left hand. The hand was so badly mangled that it could not be saved, and it was amputated just above the wrist. Morgan learned to use an artificial hand, and the loss of this appendage did not keep him from accomplishing perhaps the greatest achievements of his career.

Morgan eventually resigned from his bookkeeping job at the drugstore and went to work for Heiman Kaminski, a Georgetown wholesale merchant and Clyde Ship agent. He began to take on a greater role in civic affairs. He became a notary public in 1880, chief of the fire department in 1883, and commissioner of pilotage and port warden in 1885. Commissioners of pilotage were responsible for judging the qualifications of people applying for pilot's licenses and supervising pilots' activities, while the port warden was responsible for assessing damage to vessels and their cargo for insurance purposes. It was his achievements while in the latter offices that won him the support of many Georgetown residents. Morgan worked tirelessly to try to win federal appropriations for creating a deeper channel through the Winyah Bay Bar and for improvements to Georgetown Harbor. He was also insistent on improving other modes of transportation, especially the railroad. He was a promoter of the Georgetown and Western Rail Road, which was later absorbed by the Seaboard Air Line Railway Company. He wrote to congressmen, organized petition campaigns, and even traveled to Washington to gain support for his improvements.

Morgan's tireless efforts to improve Georgetown's transportation system were recognized by the town's residents. They elected Morgan Intendant in 1891. Morgan organized the Bank of Georgetown, popularly known as the “Morgan Bank,” in 1891 and became its president. Morgan began working to secure a state charter for Georgetown, which would make it a city rather than a town. When Georgetown officially became a city, Morgan was elected its first mayor in January 1894. Because of Morgan's efforts and improvements, both Georgetown's population and economic activity increased.

While Mayor, Morgan shamelessly promoted Georgetown in every way and every place imaginable. He worked to bring in new industries and new settlers. He was instrumental in bringing lumber companies into the area, including the Atlantic Coast Lumber Company. He was involved with various building and loan and land development associations. During his seven terms as mayor, he brought all manner of improvements to the city, including a water and sewage system, electric lights, and telephone and telegraph service. In 1905, he was a driving force behind Georgetown's celebration of the centennial of its incorporation. He served three terms as treasurer of the League of American Municipalities, and he served as president of the South Carolina Bankers Association. He was active in the Georgetown Board of Trade, which he had helped to found, and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Morgan stepped down from the mayorship in 1906 after facing his first real opponent, Dr. Olin Sawyer, in the previous election.

After leaving the mayorship, Morgan by no means retired. From 1906 to 1907 he served as president of the South Carolina Industrial and Commercial Association, a statewide promotional organization. He continued in his capacity as agent for the Equitable Life Assurance Society. He also continued to serve as the Bank of Georgetown's president until it failed in January 1927 because of the criminal activities of a teller and two bookkeepers. Morgan suffered great financial losses as a result of the bank's failure; however, his business acumen led him to new pursuits. In February 1927 he gathered the support of stockholders like Bernard Mannes Baruch (1870-1965), established The Bank of Georgetown, and became its president. The Bank of Georgetown became a branch of the People's State Bank in 1929 as the result of a merger, and Morgan served as the executive vice-president of the Georgetown Office. The People's Bank system failed in 1932 as a result of the collapse of the national banking system.

Morgan's papers present different insights into Morgan as a businessman and his views on race relations. In a letter dated 25 September 1922, S. S. Bruington, an African-American physician and surgeon, wrote to Morgan from New Jersey, “I have yet to find a man fairer than you in business transactions.” While Morgan seems to have been generally thought an honest and successful businessman, not all of those who dealt with him thought so. A letter dated 3 November 1924 claims that Morgan, acting on behalf of the Georgetown Farm Lands and Homeseekers Company, misrepresented the land he sold to the letter's author. Morgan knew before the sale that the land was actually worthless, and he admitted this a few days before the letter was written. Bruington's letter also sheds light on Morgan's views on race relations, portraying him as a proponant of fair treatment towards African Americans. Bruington wrote, “As long as you live I know the Negroes in Georgetown have a very, very good friend, they have a friend that they can approach at all times...They tell me lots of things about the North and the fairness of the White people to the Colored, but I have yet to see any condition or any man that equals you.” Morgan presents a completely different side of his views in a letter he wrote to the Georgetown Times dated 10 November 1903. This letter, included in the collection as a newspaper clipping, expressed Morgan's feelings upon the acceptance of his candidacy for Mayor:

As a consistent member of the White Supremacy Club, I stand pledged to abide the result of the primary, which will be held under its auspices. As a white man by birth, as a white man's man by association and heredity, as a warm and unflinching advocate of the right of dominancy by the Anglo-Saxon, I again pledge myself to abide the result of said primary. . . . But, no matter who wins or who loses, let the white men not only stand together, but keep together.
In addition to his business concerns, Morgan was also active in the social and religious life of Georgetown. In 1883 he was a founding member of the Palmetto Club, a group of Georgetown's progressive young businessmen. In 1889 Morgan was accepted into Georgetown's most prestigious local organization, the Winyah Indigo Society, which began in the 18th century as a social organization for local planters and evolved into a philanthropic organization whose main object was the education of Georgetown County's children. Morgan had an interest in local history and wrote several historical pieces, including articles for the newspaper and a history of the Palmetto Club. He was very involved with the Knights of Columbus and the Elks, where he served as Exalted Ruler. He joined Georgetown's Monday Evening Dancing Club in 1924. Morgan was also a deeply religious man, a devout Roman Catholic, and was responsible for founding the Catholic Church in Georgetown. When his family first came to Georgetown, there was no Catholic church, and mass was held in his Uncle Arthur's house. After Arthur Morgan's death, William Morgan opened his home for mass until the erection of St. Mary of Ransom, dedicated on 5 January 1902, for which he provided significant support. Morgan remained a bachelor his entire life. Two of his sisters, Mary Cecilia and Katherine, never married and lived with him. His third sister, Agnes Wasdin, who had married a doctor, also came to live with him when her husband died.

On 25 August 1938, Morgan fell and broke his hip. While in the hospital, he suffered a fatal heart attack. The city which he had loved and brought into the New South eulogized him in its newspaper:

His love for Georgetown knew no bounds.
He was always progressive and public
spirited and ready to respond to any
call for the benefit of Georgetown.
The Georgetown Times, 2 September 1938

Sources:

Bridwell, Ronald. The Gem of the Atlantic Seaboard. Georgetown: n.p., n.d.

Lawson, Dennis T. Georgetown: The Morgan Years. Georgetown: Rice Museum, 1973.

Rogers, Jr., George C. The History of Georgetown County, South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970.

A Short History of the Winyah Indigo Society of Georgetown, South Carolina 1755-1958 with Lists of Deceased and Living Members. Georgetown: Winyah Indigo Society, 1958.

A View of Our Past: The Morgan Photographic Collection Depicting Georgetown South Carolina c. 1890-1915. Georgetown: Georgetown County Library System, 1993.


Scope and Content Notes

The papers of William Doyle Morgan (1853-1938) consist of approximately 28.5 linear feet of materials that serve to document his involvement in New South politics and businesses in Georgetown and the Lowcountry region. The papers span from 1870 to 1938. The collection is divided into three series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Georgetown History Materials, and (3) Miscellaneous Materials.

Series I: Correspondence

Series I includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence and any enclosures or attachments. There is little personal or biographical information included. Most of the correspondence consists of business-related and political issues. The correspondence reflects Morgan's promotion of Georgetown, his banking-related endeavors, and his tireless quest for improvements to Georgetown Harbor and Winyah Bay. Correspondents include various bankers across South Carolina and the United States; Congressmen, such as Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918), Wyatt Aiken (1863-1923), Ellison Durant Smith (1866-1944), Asbury Churchwell Latimer (1851-1908), James Willard Ragsdale (1872-1919), David Edward Finley (1861-1917), George Swinton Legare (1870-1913), Asbury Francis Lever (1875-1940), Allard Henry Gasque (1873-1938), and James Francis Byrnes (1879-1972). The series also includes correspondence from several governors of South Carolina, including Richard Irving Manning (1859-1931) and Martin Frederick Ansel (1850-1945). Other correspondents include the Equitable Life Assurance Society, Bank of Georgetown patrons, and people across the United States and the world asking for information about land in Georgetown.

Series II: Georgetown History Materials

Series II consists of eight sub-series: newspaper clippings, reports and pamphlets/booklets, shipping and commerce, Georgetown financial statements, petitions and subscriptions, Georgetown vital statistics, general Georgetown history, and maps. The newspaper clippings sub-series includes clippings about William Doyle Morgan and his service to Georgetown, Georgetown history, agriculture, and transportation issues. Included in the reports and pamphlets/booklets sub-series are various reports, booklets, and pamphlets dealing with improvements to several Georgetown waterways, Georgetown history, and efforts to attract immigrants to settle in Georgetown. The shipping and commerce sub-series primarily consists of yearly tables depicting the shipping and commerce activities occurring in the Georgetown area. Information contained in this sub-series includes listings of vessels and their cargoes, dates of arrival, and commerce statistics. The Georgetown financial statements sub-series primarily consists of financial information about the income and expenditures of the city of Georgetown. The petitions and subscriptions sub-series consists of various petitions and subscriptions for waterway improvements and raising funds for various organizations and events. The vital statistics sub-series consists of birth, death, voter, and taxpayer statistics. The general Georgetown history sub-series consists of miscellaneous materials relating to Georgetown history, including the original draft of Georgetown's charter and Morgan's notes for a historical sketch of the town. The maps sub-series consists of maps of Winyah Bay and the Coastal Highway.

Series III: Miscellaneous

Series III consists of materials collected by Morgan not necessarily related to his career in Georgetown, such as legal documents, information about various organizations, general miscellaneous, resolutions, miscellaneous lists, insurance-related materials, War Savings Stamps material, proclamations, Elks-related material, membership lists, Abstracts of Disbursements, bills, certificates, and financial statements.


Description of Series

Correspondence, Sept. 16, 1870-Aug. 12, 1938 (Boxes 1-22, oversize flat file 1)

Business correspondence arranged chronologically includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence along with any attachments or enclosures.

Georgetown History Materials, July 1, 1882-1932 (Boxes 18-19, oversize flat files 2-4, 10)

Arranged topically by sub-series: Newspaper Clippings, Reports and Pamphlets/Booklets, Shipping and Commerce, Georgetown Financial Statements, Petitions and Subscriptions, Georgetown Vital Statistics, General Georgetown History, and Maps; arranged chronologically within sub-series.

Miscellaneous, Apr. 3, 1880-1929 (Boxes 18-19, oversize flat files 5-10)

Arranged topically by sub-series: Legal Documents, Organizations, General Miscellaneous, Resolutions, Miscellaneous Lists, Insurance, Georgetown Exhibit, War Savings Stamps, Proclamations, Elks, Membership Lists, Abstracts of Disbursements, Bills, Certificates, and Financial Statements, arranged chronologically within sub-series.


Container List

The container list for the William Doyle Morgan Papers consists of a four page file available in

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Microsoft Word formatMS Word

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