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LaCoste Family Papers, 1838-1846

Twenty letters, 1838-1846, of the LaCoste family of Cheraw consist primarily of missives addressed to schoolgirl Ann Eliza LaCoste (1824-1902), care of the Misses Ramsays, Broad Street, Charleston, from her father, A[ugustus] P[hilip] LaCoste (1803-1862), and mother, Margaret Dawson Fort LaCoste (1797-1853).

A.P. LaCoste's letter of 27 November 1838 to Ann Eliza sends greetings from the family and servants, advises her on matters of courtesy, and mentions the male and female academies at Cheraw. A month later, 18 December 1838, Ann Eliza's mother wrote giving more parental advice to her teenage daughter—"I hope you will be very particular who you make your bosom friends, trust no one with any thing that you think is a secret, never speak of any ones faults, behind their back, but If you can say any thing good, that you can do; and then you will always have a conscience void of offence toward all your fellow creatures; and if my dear Ann Eliza will walk in that straight and narrow road which our Blessed Saviour has marked out for us, She will have a conscience void of offence toward the great God that made her, and hath kept her this fourteen years...."

Margaret LaCoste's letter of 12 January 1839 notes that "the Methodist Conference is in Session, and we have four to stay with us...they have preaching in their own church day and night, and in the Baptist at night, I suppose there are more than 100 ministers present." Three days later Ann Eliza's father wrote giving her more news of home—"The male academy has been thoroughly repaired painted &c and now looks quite fine....There are 28 scholars at our female academy; among the rest, Miss McCleary from Charleston! I have settled my farm with my own negroes and some that I have hired, and they are getting along quite smooth so far. The overseer seems to keep every thing moving."

A 26 January 1839 letter from Mrs. LaCoste reported—"Your father has sold out his store again, Mr. B McIntosh has bought him out and rented his store, your father thinks to Buy cotton and have more leisure time, but so far he has been very busy." And A.P. LaCoste wrote on 31 January 1839 of weddings and parties, including one "given by Nicholas Williams to his daughter who is now on a visit to her fathers. I believe you know, she lives with her Grandfather, Col. Chesnut, at Camden." "While you citizens are enjoying the exquisite pleasure of listening to the lectures of Mr. Brockingham," LaCoste went on to say, "we, in Cheraw, have the invitation to attend the lectures of Dr. Hopson! On Chemistry. So you see that we are not as small folks as you might suppose."

Other letters discuss the irregularity of the mails and indicate that Ann Eliza's family was receiving her letters from Charleston more regularly than she received theirs from Cheraw. In addition to parental advice, their letters often corrected the spelling, grammar, and substance of her letters and were critical of more personal matters, as evidenced by her mother's letter of 19 March 1839 complaining that "your aunt Sarah says you are very fat indeed, she almost frightened me about you, she says you are so large, I am afraid you indulge your self in eating too many nice things...." Rather than give in to her feelings of homesickness, her father urged that she apply herself to her studies and avail herself of the opportunities afforded. In a letter of 20 March 1839 he wrote—"As the time draws nearer for our meeting...the interest which we have always felt at the reception of your letters, increases. The separation to us has been painful, and I am fearful you have allowed it to prey to[o] much upon your own mind—the sacrifice was made for your benefit, and I am satisfied, although you may not realize it now, that hereafter, the things which you have both seen and heard, will be of great advantage to you. Cheer up my dear girl and apply yourself, the time now that you will be absent from that home, which it is natural and praiseworthy that you should love, is short."

Later letters include a December 1841 letter to Ann Eliza's younger sister, Harriet Fort LaCoste (1826-1903), also a boarding student in Charleston; a letter of 25 January 1842 from Margaret LaCoste noting that R[ichard] Furman had written P.A. LaCoste accepting a call as pastor; and a 10 July 1846 letter from Ja[me]s H. Norwood, Hartsville, to "My Dear Cousin Ann Eliza," Chesterfield C[ourt] H[ouse], relating news of his engagement.

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