SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
Eldred James Simkins college notebookManuscript volume, ca. 1857-1859, college notebook of Eldred James Simkins (1839-1903), native of Edgefield District and future Texas legislator and judge. Simkins graduated from South Carolina College in 1859. After serving in the Confederate army, he and his brother William Stewart Simkins moved to Monticello, Fla., where they organized the Florida Ku Klux Klan. In 1871, they relocated to Corsicana, Tx., and opened a law practice. Eldred's political career took him to the state senate and a seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals. He played a prominent role in establishing the University of Texas and the Texas Railroad Commission.
During Simkins' student days in Columbia, he encountered the prominent educator and scientist Joseph LeConte (1823-1901). His detailed notes on LeConte's geology lectures illustrate both his own orderly study habits as a future jurist and his instructor's scientific thought as an articulate scholar who would shortly interpret the ideas of Charles Darwin for the American public. Like many college instructors before and since, LeConte slanted his lectures in the direction of his personal research interests. In 1856, he had delivered a series of lectures on "Coal" and "Coral" at the Smithsonian Institution. Similarly, his classroom lectures, ca. 1859, tended to dwell on these topics.
The Simkins acquisition makes it possible to compare his notebook with that of Joseph E. Nettles, also held by the South Caroliniana Library. In January 1859, Nettles, a student from Darlington, also took LeConte's course. Nettles's notes concern glacial and volcanic activity; Simkins's notes concern earthquakes, rock formation, and the fossil record. The marginal illustrations in both books hint that LeConte used elaborate blackboard diagrams as instructional tools; his symbol for a city was a miniature chapel perched atop a geologic formation.
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