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Allston family papersSeven letters, 1858-1874, of the Allston family focus upon Robert Francis Withers Allston (1801-1864) and his immediate family. The letters are closely related to the correspondence printed in The South Carolina Rice Plantation As Revealed In The Papers of Robert F.W. Allston edited by J.H. Easterby and published by the University of Chicago Press in 1945. R.F.W. Allston was a graduate of West Point, Class of 1821. After a brief stint in the military, he resigned his commission in 1822 and returned to South Carolina, where he devoted his energy to rice planting, a career that made him one of the wealthiest men in the state. When he died in 1864, his estate included over thirteen thousand acres of land and five hundred ninety slaves. Frequently elected to the South Carolina General Assembly, he also served as governor, 1856-1858. He married in 1832 Adele Petigru, the sister of James L. Petigru. Five children from this marriage grew to adulthood: Benjamin (1833-1900); Adele (1842-1915), who married Arnoldus Vanderhorst; Elizabeth Waities (1845-1921), who married Julius Pringle; Charles Petigru (1848-1922); and Jane Louise (1850-1937), who married Charles Albert Hill.
The earliest letter, 13 December 1858, from Mme. R. Acélie Togno to "My dear Friend," apparently R.F.W. Allston, seeks assistance in selling her property at 46 Meeting St., Charleston, which had become a burden because of the "heavy interest on my debt for the house...." Mme. Togno operated a school for young ladies in Charleston near the house at 51 Meeting St., known now as the Nathaniel Russell house, which Allston purchased in 1857. A letter, 30 May 1862, from Allston's factor Alex[ander] McKenzie, Florence, concerns shipments of rice.
Post Civil War correspondence between other family members includes a letter from Adele Petigru Allston, 11 May 1869, requesting that her son Charles locate and send his father's "memoir of rice" which Dr. Peyre Porcher, who "is writing something for publication," had asked for on several occasions. A 23 May 1869 letter from Ben, Elizabeth, N.J., transmits instructions for rice planting on one of the family plantations. That from Ben to Charles, 26 May 1869, describes the reaction of the former's wife to New York and comments on her state of health. It gives further instructions for the rice crop at Guendalos plantation.
The final letter, 16 September 1874, is from Elihu Benjamin Washburne to Jane Pringle, the mother of John Julius Pringle, who had married Elizabeth Allston. A former member of Congress, Washburne was a leading Radical and an advisor to Lincoln. In 1861 he had been responsible for granting a brigadier's commission to U.S. Grant. He served briefly as Grant's Secretary of State in 1869 before resigning to take the appointment as U.S. Minister to France. In this letter, written from Carlsbad, Bohemia, where he was "seeking health and recreation," Washburne comments on political and social conditions in the South, parts of which were still under Republican control. "I earnestly desire to see peace, harmony and prosperity prevail over the entire South," he assured Mrs. Pringle. However, he faulted white Southerners for not joining with the "colored people" to "rule the state honestly and faithfully, to the exclusion of the vagabonds and thieves who have brought such disgraces upon the commonwealth."
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