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UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2001
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Henry DeSaussure Fraser Papers, 1851-1852
Twenty-three manuscripts, 1851-1852, of Henry DeSaussure Fraser (1828-1895) include twenty letters written to Fraser while he was in Paris pursuing medical studies. Three documents written in French relate to financial matters. The letters were written by family members: parents, siblings, an aunt and uncle, and a cousin. The correspondents relate family and community news, and comment on crops and weather. Six of the letters discuss the illness and subsequent death of Frederick Grimke Fraser, Henry D. Fraser's father, which occurred 29 January 1852 in Charleston.

Henry DeSaussure Fraser, known as "Hal," was born 4 April 1828, the son of Frederick Grimke Fraser and his wife, Isabel Elliott Screven. He studied at South Carolina College, graduated in 1848, and received his M.D. degree from the South Carolina Medical College in Charleston in March 1851. The next eighteen months Fraser spent in Paris and Germany attending medical lectures and visiting hospitals before returning to Charleston late in 1852. There he practiced medicine until 1861 when he joined the Confederate service as assistant surgeon. For much of the war, he was the surgeon in charge of the Third Army Corps field hospital, Army of Northern Virginia. Captured at Gettysburg, he was held prisoner for five months. At war's end, Fraser returned to Charleston and resumed his medical practice. In 1859, he married his cousin, Jane E. Ladson, daughter of James H. Ladson of Charleston.

In the post-war years, Dr. Fraser practiced medicine in Charleston. In 1873, he was elected secretary of the South Carolina Medical Association and became the secretary of the State Board of Health when the agency was organized in 1878. He continued in that position until poor health forced his resignation in January 1895. Fraser died on 8 February 1895 in Charleston and was interred in Magnolia Cemetery.

The fourteen letters written in 1851, beginning soon after Fraser's departure for Europe, contain family and local news. Fraser's Aunt Jane wrote on 21 May with an account of the Medical Convention held in Charles-ton beginning on the second Tuesday of that month. At the same time, the States Rights Convention was also in session. "Our city was crowded, and many found difficulty in obtaining nights lodgings," she wrote. "The medical gentlemen were well received and hospitably entertained. On Wednesday night, they supped at St. Andrews Hall, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of that week there were two balls or parties on each night, so as to divide the number being too great to be pleasantly accommodated at one house," she continued. On 11 August, Hal's father wrote from Beaufort with the news that Nat Heyward would be in Paris and had promised to "hunt you out." "He will no doubt talk big about secession, but I think the matter is doubtful," Mr. Fraser wrote. "I think the cause is loosing ground & well may it for I think it a mad scheme," he concluded. From Baltimore where members of the family had gone for a wedding, Hal's sister Jane wrote on 20 September with advice to her brother on matters of the heart-"It is very wrong to fall in love away from home for who knows but what the person may be a shop keeper or something of the kind." Hal's Aunt Jane wrote from Charleston, 2-4 December-"Your father was here the week of the Institute Fair, when he had the pleasure of seeing Powers' Eve which was exhibited there, and which had arrived from Italy as a present to Mr. Preston, who had befriended him in early life. It is a most perfect and beautiful work of art. I thought before I saw it, that I should not much admire statuary, but Eve is fascinating." Jane also mentioned two cameos cut from "Conch Shells of our Beach" which secured for the artist, a Miss Withers, a gold medal. "You may suppose they were really specimens of a fine talent, as Uncle Charles admired them much." "Uncle Charles" was Charles Fraser, the noted Charleston artist who was the youngest brother of Frederick Fraser, Hal's grandfather.

The six letters dated from January to March 1852 are concerned with Frederick Grimke Fraser's illness and death. Alice Fraser wrote from Belle Vue, the family's plantation near Beaufort, on 16 January and on the same sheet added a note on 24 January from Charleston informing her brother of their father's illness. James H. Ladson, Hal's uncle, wrote him from Charleston on 30 January with news of the elder Fraser's death and a detailed account of his last moments. "His family were summoned a little before he breathed his last & an affectionate kiss given to each. You were not present to receive his blessing, but he bid Frederick [Hal's brother] say to you 'not to forget Jesus'…, twice repeated….The funeral service was read this morning by Mr. Spear at Grace Ch. And the body accompanied by Fred & Rd. Screven was sent by land to the plantation to be buried at Stoney Creek Church along side of his Fathers remains." A letter from his Aunt Jane written on 7 February gave more details of the death scene-"Uncle Charles [Fraser] seemed to be struck with it [Frederick's calmness] and said to us afterwards, 'a man can never be said to have died too soon whose end was like his.'" Jane wrote again on 28 February with assurances that she would be able to send Hal $500 after the crop was sold and his grandmother would also send him funds. She then offered her nephew this advice: "Leave off flirting and when you come home look out for a fine woman, with some property and seriously set about establishing yourself in matrimony." The last letter in the series, this from his brother Frederick, contained a draft for 1250 francs and an expression that "…with economy I do not doubt that you will be able to remain in Paris until the fall and complete your medical studies."


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