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Charleston County, 1845: A New York Teacher at Adams Run, "Where Pine Trees Forever Grew
Nineteenth century travelers viewing a new locale for the first time often penned vivid descriptive accounts of and commentary on institutions, climate, food, customs, language, and architecture. The South Caroliniana Library is the repository for hundreds of personal narratives of travelers who included South Carolina in their itineraries. Travel accounts are found among correspondence as South Carolinians visited other areas of the country (especially New England and the Middle Atlantic states), Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by ship, stage, rail, and wagon.
The letter transcribed and excerpted below is a recent acquisition written by C. Scott (b.1822), a young teacher from the Northeast who sailed from New York to work as a tutor in the South Carolina lowcountry. Scott marked his twenty-second birthday on 18 Dec. 1844, the same day that his ship arrived in Charleston, S.C.
Several weeks later, Scott assessed his new home in the village of Adams Run (S.C.), a small community in Charleston County, located twenty-five miles southwest of Charleston (S.C.) In this four-page letter to his uncle, Charles Buchanan in New Vernon (Orange County, N.Y.), Scott offers today's readers a detailed portrait of a nineteenth-century village, including its buildings, residents, the surrounding countryside, and his daily diet.
(Editor's note: Spelling, punctuation, and grammar inconsistencies are those of the original writer and have not been changed.)
Adams Run S. Carolina Jan. 13th 1845
My Dear Uncle,
I promised you a letter after my arrival in the South and as I can now write with some degree of certainty, I deem it my duty to perform my promise. . . . You will perceive by the date of my letter that I am in Adams Run, South Carolina, which is a small pine-land village, situated about 25 miles to the South West of the city of Charleston. These villages are scattered throughout the low-land country and are the summer resorts of the neighboring planters. It is very dangerous to reside throughout the warm months on the rice and cotton plantations, in consequence of a poisonous malaria which rises from the swamps and decomposing matter of various kinds which abound throughout the entire Eastern part of the State and which if inhaled by the whites produces fevers of the most malignant and fatal kind.
Consequently, in the month of May, nearly all the planters leave their estates and take up their residences for a few months in more healthy localities. Most of them seek some favourable pine ridge, which is quite elevated, dry, sandy and sterile and which is sufficiently near their plantations to enable them to ride thither once or twice a week, to see that all is right with the work and negroes. A few trees are cleared away affording just sufficient room for a house from ten to twenty of which constitute a village - a pine land village. These houses are usually whitewashed and together with the palings, also whitewashed, contrast very prettily with the dark hue of the pine trees which surround them. I am told that Adams Run is a very good specimen of the sort. It contains twenty dwellings beside negro houses, all of them elevated from 6 to 10 feet above the ground and supported by wooden props, and some of them are two stories high and look very neatly indeed on the outside. But they are simply enclosed and partitioned into rooms and have no ceilings within, either of lime & plaster or of boards. Most of the chimnies too are on the outside and built of clay, for bricks are very expensive and little fire is necessary. So you perceive that the houses are in reality only calculated for summer residences. Still we have some 5 or 6 families living here among whom are the 2 families by whom I am at present employed. Consequently it has a very dull and unanimated appearance, looking only like a deserted village in the midst of a forest. It is all monotony and answers very well to the following poetic description
Where to the north - pine trees in prospect rise
Where to the South - pine trees assail the skies
Where to the East - pine trees obstruct the view
Where to the West - pine trees forever grew.
Such then is my present place of residence, as it now appears but in the summer it becomes more pleasant and lively for the planters come in on the 1st of May and remain until after frost. . . .
I landed in the Palmetto City on the 18th of Dec. which, if you remember, was my 22nd birthday. Remained there just two weeks when I came to this place to teach in the family of Mrs. King, a widow lady, where I had been offered $300 and board, with the privilege of receiving whatever other children I could get. But on coming here I made a somewhat different arrangement. I agreed to board with . . . Mr. Walter, a brother of Mrs. King, and teach his children as an equivalent, while on the other hand I receive $350 or $50 more than first agreed upon. My school consists of 4 from Mrs. Kings -3 from Mr. Walters and one other boy whose father pays me $12 per qr. Through the summer will have several more, probably at the same price so that I will likely receive at least $600 for my years work, while my expenses will be quite light.
But there is a possibility that I may not remain here all summer. Though quite healthy for the natives, I entertain some fear as to the effect of the climate upon my bilious constitution. In June will take the advice of some physician on the subject and follow his directions. Bilious Fevers are very prevalent.
Though I take my meals at Mr. Walters, I live by myself and keep bachelors hall. A cousin of Mrs. Kings has kindly offered me the use of his house which is standing empty at present and here have they fitted me . . . in the best style which the place affords. The house is one of the best in the villiage, double with a hall through the middle, two stories in higth with brick chimnies (one of two that have them) and all neatly whitewashed. I have the range of the whole house and feel like a prince, when I sit down of an evening before a cheerful fire, surrounded by Mr. Kings elegant Library, furniture, pictures, and paintings and though solitary and alone, I feel cheerful and happy.
By the by (speaking of fire) I have scarcely known what cold weather is in this mild climate. To be shure a fire feels pleasant but it has not been necessary. Have seen ice only once since my arrival in South Carolina. The weather has been very much like our April or May. But they call it a very mild winter and besides although not cold yet the temperature often changes several degrees in the course of a few hours and thus seems to chill the system so that our feelings are sometimes very unpleasant. I am told that it is not uncommon for the thermometer to change 20 or 25 degrees in a single day and back again perhaps during the night. Have several times wished myself at the North enjoying a good sleigh ride over the snowy track with my friends and companions in Orange County.
Thus have I given you some particulars of my present situation. Have not been in the county long enough to hazard any opinion concerning the manners and customs of the people - or to tell you how I shall like my present location. Thus far my intercourse with them has been very pleasant and I trust that it will continue so. At least no efforts of mine shall be spared to render myself useful respected and beloved. The Southern people are noted for their generosity and hospitality and although somewhat reserved at first they soon welcome the stranger and make him feel as if a stranger no longer. Already have I received several invitations to visit planters in the neighborhood and as I am free every Saturday, I think that I will soon become acquainted and be able to tell more of the Southern character. . . .
I here eat sweet potatoes and hominy every day in all their perfection and am much more fond of both than I supposed I should be. Have not seen a piece of bread in a week and will not perhaps in a month more. . . .
May I not expect a letter from you, dear Uncle? Direct to Adams Run, Parish of St. Pauls, S.C. for we have a Post Office here. Perhaps I will soon become lonely and then how pleasant will be communications from my friends. I am now started on the course of active life. I know not what may be my destiny - but whether success or misfortune attend my effort, I feel comforted with the assurance that your well wishes and prayers are with me.
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