SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
Papers of the Willingham and Lawton familiesThis collection of four hundred ninety-eight manuscripts documents family life in the area of Allendale and Greenville during and after the Civil War, in particular through the interrelated families of Sarah Lawton, eldest child of Dr. Benjamin W. Lawton (1822-1879) and Josephine Barksdale Polhill, and John Calhoun Willingham (1841-1892), son of Thomas Willingham (1798-1873) and Phoebe Sarah Lawton (1802-1862). John C. Willingham was a student at Furman University in Greenville at the outbreak of the Civil War. Without returning home, he enlisted in the First Regiment of South Carolina Cavalry commanded by Gen. M.C. Butler. During the war, Willingham served in Virginia and South Carolina.
The earliest items in the collection are business papers from the 1840s reflecting the confinement of Archibald Calder Baynard (b. 1798) as a patient in the state mental hospital in Columbia. Benjamin T.D. Lawton assumed responsibility for overseeing Baynard's financial affairs during this time. Receipts document the purchase of forty-three pairs of "Negro Brogans" for $38.70 (15 October 1842), the sale of four bales of sea island cotton (23 October 1843), and the payment of wages of $188.00 to the overseer on Baynard's plantation (24 April 1844). On 4 August 1843, Lawton paid $25.00 to R.T. Davant for making out accounts for "A.C. Baynard a lunatic." He also settled an account with Dr. James S. Lawton for medical services administered to Baynard's slaves (1 November 1843). A letter, 20 April 1844, from Dr. J.W. Parker, superintendent of the "Lunatic Asylum," acknowledges receipt of a draft for $300 "for the maintenance of Mr. Archibald Baynard" and advises—"Mr. Baynard is in usual good health, his mind much the same as when I last wrote." A letter, 10 May 1844, from Charleston factor William M. Lawton to Benjamin T.D. Lawton, Robertville, encloses an account of the sale of "15 Bags Sea Island Cotton" and reviews the market.
The collection contains twenty-three letters, 13 June 1864 - 15 February 1865, from Sallie Lawton to John C. Willingham. In the first letter, written from Allendale, Sallie explains that her plans for traveling to Greenville to attend school had been delayed by the threat of a Union raid which she urged Johnnie to forestall—"I fear we will be overrun as it will be very easy for them to make their raids through the country, destroying every thing they wish. But my trust is in One, who is able to protect us; & if they do come here, it is his will." She also addressed his proposal for their engagement, which she was not at the moment eager to accept—"I fear should I get engaged now, you may want to get married much sooner than I desire." She also hoped that "should we get engaged, we will not quarrel, as some of our good friends have done, & which is the only thing I dislike in these long engagements." Although her conditions did not suit Willingham, Sallie discussed his proposal with her parents and "concluded to agree to it & that is, that we consider ourselves engaged, but not to be married until next winter twelve months" (27 June 1864). By August she was attending school in Greenville and enjoying the company of "many of my Limestone friends" (5 August 1864). A week later (12 August), she wrote Johnnie in Allendale and told of her displeasure with one of the teachers that she had at Limestone—"[He is] the one that I thought would be very kind...but somehow he does not like me now."
By January 1865 Sallie Lawton and her family were refugees fleeing to escape the advancing Union army. They left Allendale on 10 December 1864 and traveled first to Columbia, but heavy rains washed out bridges and impeded their travel to the upcountry. While in Columbia, Sallie attended a "great Bazaar" at the State House—"you would never imagine there was a war in our land, could you have seen, the delicacies of every description on the tables, but the prices were very high." The Lawtons eventually found safe haven at the home of John Bratton in Brattonsville, while the Willinghams fled Allendale for Georgia. Writing on 22 January 1865, Sallie lamented—"Our country is indeed covered with sadness & gloom, but as the darkest hour is just before daylight, perhaps our bright hour will soon come." Three weeks later, at secluded Limestone Springs, she received a letter from Johnnie, the first in six weeks. There, she reported, the Lawtons were living in a fine house with six rooms upstairs and three downstairs. Though "we are living much better than hundreds of poor refugees, & have had much cause to be thankful to a kind God, for thus providing for our wants," she acknowledged that "we are just beginning to feel the privations our noble soldiers have been enduring for four years, without a murmur" (15 February 1865).
By the summer of 1865 Sallie Lawton was back at school. A friend living in Allendale expressed pleasure with the appearance of the town and had visited Beaufort but "found it entirely given up to negroes, only a few white officers and some teachers for the adorable little blacks" (4 August 1865). Another friend, Addie, was living in Yorkville, but her family was planning to return to the lowcountry. She contemplated the move with reluctance—"we will leave this delectable spot, for the more delightful pleasures of `niggerdom'....The move is anything but agreeable, such a mixture of nigger & yankee in those regions is to say the least very disgusting." They did consider themselves fortunate, however, that many of their former slaves were contracting for labor (11 December 1865).
Papers for the period from the late 1860s to the 1880s document chiefly the business and agricultural activities of the Lawton and Willingham families. By an agreement dated 1 December 1874 B.W. Lawton sold his interest in the firm of Lawton & Willingham to John Willingham. There are a number of crop lien agreements between J.C. Willingham and tenants (10 and 18 February 1881, 3 February 1882, and 7 February 1883). An agreement, 7 July 1883, between Willingham and L.F. Middleton stipulates the conditions for an additional advance.
Another of J.C. Willingham's business ventures was selling clocks. He apparently employed agents to sell timepieces in several lowcountry counties. Four manuscripts dated ca. December 1883 are receipts for notes and mortgages held by Willingham and collected by J.T. Jaudon. A document, 4 December 1884, contains a list of notes held by Willingham which he turned over to J.T. and R.T. Jaudon for collection, while a letter, 11 December 1884, from R.T. Jaudon, Georgetown, concerns an error made in calculating the amount collected. The agents were not always successful, however, as evidenced by a receipt, 17 December 1884, acknowledging payment of $24 to a trial justice to bring suit against H.R. Hale.
Agent W.L. Webb explained in a letter of 20 January 1885 that he had been unable to make collections and related that the planters were urging him to "wait until the work opened for this year [and] they would hold back the money from the hands that had bought clocks." He inquired of Willingham if he should sell his remaining inventory—"if you are willing for me to hold the clocks for a month or so I think I can get a very fine price for them as work has not begun to open." H.M. Loftis, McClellanville, informed Willingham in a letter of 2 February 1885 that he found it "a hard matter to collect from the people." W.L. Webb, 5 February 1885, Annandale, appreciated Willingham's response to his earlier letter "as all the Planters who owe you for clocks with few exceptions show a willingness to pay you" and reported that he took "some Plantation cards from the People which is the Principal money the Laborers get here." The planters, however, would not redeem them before the middle of the month. Webb assured Willingham—"I am acting in this matter...as I would for myself that is to collect all your money without taking any more clocks and Property mortgaged than I can help because I think all you want is your money for your clocks."
Willingham remained active as a planter in addition to his other business ventures. The collection includes accounts of sales of his cotton by Savannah factor C.L. Montagu & Co., 13 October 1886 - 31 December 1889. A letter, 21 January 1889, of Montagu & Co. encloses a sales account and comments on the cotton market.
The Willinghams experienced tragedy in 1882 when two of their sons died. Although the cause of their deaths is not revealed in the correspondence, they apparently died at the same time. There are twenty-nine sympathy letters, July-September 1882. Three years later, in 1885, Sallie Willingham died suddenly.
Sallie and John Willingham's daughter Josephine attended school in Greenville like her mother. The collection contains fourteen reports, 12 October 1883 - 29 January 1886, issued to Josephine as a student at Greenville Female College; four reports, 15 November 1883 - 1 February 1886, from Greenville Conservatory of Music; and three certificates of proficiency from Greenville Female College, 19 June 1884, 18 June 1885, and 17 June 1886. There are also a number of letters from Sallie Willingham to her daughter. For Josephine's birthday, 1 October 1884, Sallie sent her daughter a "photographic album" with a picture of her father but not one of herself—"I only wish I had a good one...but I am ugly enough anyhow, and my pictures make me look more so." Mrs. Willingham reported in a letter of 1 December 1884 that Josephine's father was visiting his factor in Charleston "to see...about another year," but was considering a move to Atlanta. Maum Phoebe's son, Sallie reported, was planning to take her to Yemassee—"I feel sorry for the poor old woman, she has been a faithful servant to us for two years, but she is failing very rapidly & often the work that she does in a whole day, she could do in two hours, if she was able."
John Willingham's son Thomas Marion enrolled as a student at Glade Spring Military Academy, Glade Spring, Va., in 1891. Included in the papers are forty-seven letters, 2 October 1891 - 7 April 1892, to "Mannie" from his sister Josephine and other family members. Josephine's letters present a detailed portrait of the Willingham and Lawton families and of the town of Allendale. Both families were Baptist, and the church was at the center of their social and religious activities. During much of the time that "Mannie" was attending school his father was ill and Josephine took over active management of planting and harvesting the crops. Her letter of 30 October 1891 related news of uncle T.P. Lawton's move to Augusta, Ga.—"I don't know what we will do without them, I am afraid our church and S.S. will be broken up." In addition to news of family and friends and their father's health, she discussed the yields of corn and cotton and work of the "hands." The fate of the church was still uncertain in her letter of 7 November 1891—"I think very likely Father will join the New Allendale." Josephine was preparing to plant rye in the old groundnut patch, had sold three bales of cotton for 6 3/4 cents a pound, and boasted—"If you and father stay off much longer I will become a first class farmer." Josephine attended Smyrna church and hosted meetings of the "Faithful Workers" at home. In a letter of 9 November 1891 she told of collecting money for the Baptist Association and of a church meeting at which they "decided to call Mr. Hartzog to preach for us another year....we hope to raise enough money to have preaching twice a month." She had been collecting rents and mentioned various hands and their indebtedness.
There are only a few papers for 1892. John C. Willingham died in that year and his daughter Josephine died the following year.
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