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Hemphill family papers

One hundred thirty-one manuscripts, 1765-1975 and undated, of the Hemphill family of Chester County relate chiefly to the family of James Hemphill (1813-1902) whose father, John, immigrated from Derry County, Ireland, and became minister of Hopewell Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on Rocky Creek. James married Rachel Elizabeth Brawley in 1843 and became a prominent lawyer in Chester as well as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Much of the early material includes land plats and deeds for property on Bull Run in Chester District owned by the Rev. John Hemphill and the Douglas family.

Most notable in the collection are freedman papers for a free mulatto named Horace Henderson. The document, dated 1851 and inscribed on thick parchment, is signed by North Carolina governor David S. Reid and affixed with the state seal. Attached is an affidavit signed by several men of the community, each of whom could vouch for Henderson's character. The papers indicate that Henderson, a barber and hairdresser in Greensboro, N.C., was "about forty years old, slender frame, nose rather acqeline, a bright mulatto, with a very interesting face." There are also several bills of sale for named slaves bought by the Douglas family in Chester District, 1810-1858.

Civil War letters written by James Hemphill's son David (1845-1898) while stationed at Camp Wilderness near McPhersonville describe camp life, request clothing, and tell of his experiences around the Port Royal, Broad River, area. Although most of David's time was spent on picket duty, he did engage in some skirmishes. On 3 October 1863, he tells of finding a group of Union soldiers and Negroes crossing the Broad River. His regiment captured "over fifty chickens and ducks, some cooking utensils, tubs, jugs, some cane bottom chairs, two small parlor tables, a rug, some greenbacks and a little silver money etc. etc." Two months later, 14 December 1863, David relates to his sister that "Beauregard has advised all civilians to leave this part of the country. I would not be surprised if we have a fight here soon."

After Maj. Micah Jenkins took command, David Hemphill tells his father on 31 August 1864 that Jenkins "has the reputation of being a good officer in every respect. I hope he is for we have had enough of fools down this way....Gen. McLaws has issued several nonsensical orders lately." Writing from Coosawhatchie on 10 December 1864, David noted—"We are having a pretty rough time of it now, we came from Grahamville last Tuesday I think, for I have lost all account of days and found that the Yanks had thrashed our reserves and gained a foothold. We had a hot fight here yesterday for the railroad...we drove them back, it was pretty tight times."

Other Civil War period materials include an unsigned poem dated 25 December 1861 and titled "Three cheers for the `stars and bars'" that begins "Oh! The South is the gem of the ocean, the land of the noble and free; The shrine of Secession's devotion, Our hearts bow in homage to thee." An essay titled "Patriotism and Money," 11 November 1863, scolds those whose only concern during the war is their own material wellbeing and attempts to bolster enthusiasm among the Southern people.

The collection also includes papers relating to the life and political career of John J. Hemphill (1849-1912) and legal and business papers of the Hemphill family up to 1944. One interesting letter dated 19 June 1870 and signed by J.J. Hemphill and R. Davis was written in Tomales, Ca., and describes these two men's experiences traveling in that state and their meeting with John LeConte. In 1931 Ina Strobel Hemphill kept a diary of her trip with the Gold Star Mothers to visit the grave of her son, James Hemphill (1897-1918), in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery; also present are programs for such a trip in 1930. James was the youngest son of David, whose Civil War letters are in the collection. Several obituaries and memorials and a copy of James Hemphill's (1813-1902) autobiography are included as well.

Papers relating to the Bratton family of York County are also found in the collection. Of special interest are an invitation to Samuel Rainey from D.F. Jamison to attend the Meeting of the Convention of the People of South Carolina in Charleston (13 March 1861) and several letters from John Rufus Bratton. As a brother of Gen. John Bratton and member of the Fifth Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, John Rufus described the battle of Ball's Bluff near Leesburg, Va. Although Bratton's regiment missed the fighting, it was a sound victory for Gen. Nathan G. ("Shanks") Evans (1 November 1861). After the war, John Rufus moved to London, Ontario, Canada, and wrote several letters to his brother in the 1870s discussing, among other things, treatments for gangrene and pain in the bladder. On 25 June 1874, he advised his brother the only way to repair damage done by the Reconstruction government was to introduce southern Irish Presbyterians to purchase land in North and South Carolina. "It is worse than folly to expect reform out of the present material riding the state, or to attempt to utilize the same for prosperity and happiness of the country—this is a moral impossibility," he wrote and urged his brother to assist Dr. Cross in the venture and to begin to raise money to import Irish settlers.

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