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James Franklin Carwile Papers

Thirty-one items, 1840-1991, that comprise the personal archives of James Franklin Carwile (1863-1960), include eleven letters, written to his grandnieces Roberta Marsh and Dorothy Marsh Hucks, 1956-1959. The letters reveal a dramatic and personal dimension that supplements the remaining genealogical material, principally in the form of a reproduced scrapbook compiled by Mrs. Hucks in 1985, covering these South Carolina family names: Carwile, Griffin, McClintock, Vardell, Hucks, Marsh, LaFitte, and Woolston. Born in Edgefield in 1863, Carwile witnessed firsthand the turbulence of Reconstruction in South Carolina, the booming "Wild West" of Wyoming, Arizona, and South Dakota through the turn of the century, twenty Presidential elections, the threat of Communism and atomic bombs, and the roots of the Civil Rights movement. When he died in Los Angeles in 1960 at the age of ninety- seven, a singular source of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Southern and Western history died as well.

Carwile moved to Wyoming in the 1880s to live near his brother Nathan, who worked as county clerk for Johnson County. Life in the West left a lasting impression on the young South Carolinian. He notes in his typed recollections his brother's initial advice—"Frank, you are in a strange and new world `Keep your mouth shut and ears open.'" He may have kept his mouth shut, but he did indeed keep his eyes and ears open. His letters include short poems and stories of such Western legends as Calamity Jane and the OK Corral.

Carwile's letters also candidly state his moral and political views, as this excerpt from a 15 April 1956 letter to Roberta Marsh indicates—"The white race and the Black race were getting along peacefully, helping one another, doing the best they could, all was well until the interference by the Supreme Court, which if the truth was known, has the high approval of communists and also of the United Nations, who wants to create out of this Republic (which is democratic in form) a pure Democracy which Plato found unworkable 2500 years ago and today it is still humanly impossible."

The collection's only nineteenth-century item is a letter of 19 January 1840 written by Carwile's grandfather, Col. Richard Griffin, to Griffin's son-in-law, Zachariah W. Carwile, in which the colonel defends his decision to deed his estate to his daughter and grandchildren, rather than to Carwile. "I hope Mr Carwile you will not think I have not Confidence in your Judgment in managing the property I shall give to your wife," he writes. "No Sir, it is not that, I have long since, thought that Property aught to be Secured on the wife in Order to guard against Surcomstances unforseen."

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