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Trip to Aiken S.C. with sister Wilder

Anonymous travel journal, "Trip to Aiken S.C. with sister Wilder in the spring of 1849," chronicles the travels of two women from Massachusetts to Charleston and Aiken, beginning with their departure from Massachusetts and journey from New York to Charleston via steamer. After arriving in Charleston on 27 March, the women took accommodations at Mrs. Davis' "Mansion House." Then, on 4 April, they journeyed by rail to Aiken, where they boarded with Mrs. Schwartz until 14 June. They returned to Charleston and on 16 June sailed northward en route home.

Although the identity of the journalist remains anonymous, her traveling companion is identified as Abigail Baker Wilder (1810-1854), the second wife of Medford, Mass., merchant and agriculturalist Marshall Pinckney Wilder (1798-1886).

The trip was arranged for the benefit of Abigail Wilder's health. A journal entry dated 1 April records a consultation with Charleston physician Thomas Ogier—"Dr. Ogier called to see sister this evening. She inquired respecting the state of her lungs and he told her there was a cavity on the right side. This alarmed her very much. Altho she received the announcement without any apparent emotion yet as soon as the doctor withdrew she told me, she was never so shocked in her life, and bursting into tears, she added there can be no hope in my case. I tried to comfort her in every possible way telling her that doctors were sometimes mistaken, and I thought Dr. O quite as likely to be, as her own physician who had always attended her and never found any such thing."

Particularly noteworthy are the Northern traveler's observations on Aiken and its environs. The women traveled by rail from Charleston to Aiken. "The country through which we passed" the journal describes as "barren and desolate, principally covered with pine forest," further noting—"We passed no pleasant village in a distance of one hundred and twenty miles. Reached Aiken about six in the afternoon, after a fatiguing ride." Other boarders at Mrs. Schwartz's included William Peronneau Finley, Col. & Mrs. William Campbell Preston, Judge Andrew Pickens Butler, a number of vacationing Northerners, and a ninety-one- year-old veteran of the Revolutionary War.

Notes on fellow boarders are also compelling. Writing on 19 April, the diarist confided—"I had anticipated much pleasure, hearing Col. Preston converse, having read his speeches in Congress and knowing him to be a distinguished individual. But in this respect, I was disappointed. His health is very feeble and he seems disinclined to engage in conversation." Concerning Major Lovell of Boston, she wrote on 10 May—"He told me today that his grandfather [James Lovell] kept a Latin school more than forty years in Court Street—that he fitted Adams, Monroe and Jefferson for College. And so large a number of young men were fitted by him and sent to Cambridge, that the College had his portrait painted and hung up in its halls by the side of other distinguished patrons of the institution."

During the ladies' visit to Aiken, a spring snowstorm blanketed the ground and damaged the peach and strawberry crops. And while there, they journeyed to Augusta, Ga., by rail for a one-day excursion and made similar jaunts to Hamburg and Graniteville. Mrs. Wilder's health apparently improved while vacationing in South Carolina, for a journal entry dated 7 May makes note—"Rode with sister in the Barouche with daddy Tom for a driver. He says to Abby, You look a heap better, Missa, a heap better. When you come here you look so pale, it make me feel too pitiful. Now, the blood come up in your face, missa, you look a heap better, a heap ."

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