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Cain Family Papers

The one hundred forty-six manuscripts and one photograph that comprise this collection relate to the family of William Cain (1776-1840) of Sumter District. The lands of John Holiday, Isaac Giddons, Thomas Jones, and John Odil are traced through land papers from the time that they were granted to their acquisition by the Cain family.

Although the collection's largest component relates to land ownership, the papers are rich in slavery-related materials. Thirteen bills of sale, each listing slaves by name, document purchases by William Cain, 1812-1836, and his wife, Mary, 1841. Cain used a male slave, identified by name, as collateral for a mortgage from Richard and John Ioor Moore, 5 April 1830. An 1825 will of William Bracey, Lawrence County, Miss., indicates the disposition of his lands in South Carolina and of his named slaves. Another item of significance is a "Freedmens Contract for 1866" between R.B. Cain and his freed persons, with the signature mark of eighteen former slaves (12 January 1866). The contract stipulates how the freedmen were to live, behave, and work and what they were to expect from Cain in return. The freedmen were "to conduct themselves faithfully, honestly, civily, and diligently, to perform all and any labor required of them." In exchange, Cain agreed to "treat his employees, with justice and kindness" and provide them with housing, food, clothing, a garden plot, and access to tools and work animals.

Chief in importance among the collection's letters is that of John R. Moffet, who wrote from Charleston on 10 April 1861 to R.B. Cain, Manchester, describing the atmosphere as the city prepared for the attack on Ft. Sumter--"The latest accounts are that the whole Fleet are destined for this place....The Floating Battery was removed yesterday. I think to the cove of Sullivans Island". Moffet also tells of meeting Senator Wigfall, special aide to General Beauregard, who stood ready, with "Sword in hand."

Most of the family correspondence is to Ida Dwight Cain (1857-1927) from her mother, Sarah Ann Dwight, and her husband, William Odil Cain (1844-1929). Sarah Dwight's letters send personal news and discuss sewing and other household projects. A number of W.O. Cain's letters were written while he served in the General Assembly. One such letter, dated 9 December 1886, notes--"`Free Tuition' got a Black Eye in the Senate" and promises--"We will have a whack at it in a day or two."

Ida Dwight Cain corresponded with her daughter, Ruth Cain Thomas (1893-1989), sending mainly personal, family and local news at the time when Ruth was teaching in Edgefield, 1909-1912, and then in Greenwood, 1925-1926. Of particular interest among this correspondence are three pictorial postcards. One depicts an old cotton press in Orangeburg (postmarked 20 October 1909). The other two are views of Sumter--Hampton School for Girls (postmarked 13 November 1911) and Sumter Telephone Manufacturing Company's Works (postmarked 23 November 1911). Accompanying this collection is a composite photograph of the men on the state's 1892 Conservative Ticket. The photograph was presented to W.O. Cain by D.W. Hiott, who is pictured in the group.

By request of the donors, this collection has been designated in memory of Ruth Cain Thomas and in recognition of her life of learning and teaching.

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