SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2002
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Papers of the Janney-Leaphart Families, 1859-1897 [Addition]
"[Y]ou are a good girl, & I love you very much, you are one of my favorites, you are substantial, really sensible & good, not trifling as many young girls are," Elizabeth Frances [McCall] Perry (1818-1891), wife of Governor Benjamin F. Perry (1805-1886), remarked in a letter written from Greenville, 27 April 1867, to Ellen C. Janney (fl. ca. 1850-1920) in Columbia. Twenty-three years later, writing on black-bordered stationery a year before her death, Mrs. Perry, by then a widow, would reiterate strong feelings for the Janneys - - "Your family have no truer friends than our family." The further story of the relationship between the Perry and the Janney families is told in this addition of one hundred ninety-five manuscripts, 1859-1897, to the Library's Janney-Leaphart collection. They are especially rich and important for the details they add to the record of the social and domestic lives of Governor Perry's family, especially those of his wife and his daughter Frances (1847-1936). For "Lizzie" and "Fanny" - - with forty nine (1866-1890) and forty-eight (1865-1897) letters to Ellen, respectively - - are at the center of these papers.
The Perrys and the family of James C. Janney (1811?-1869), well known in Columbia as the proprietor of Janney's Hotel, no doubt had gotten to know each other well between 1836 and 1865, when Perry had spent much of his time in the capital city as a state representative or senator from the Upcountry, and finally as provisional governor of South Carolina immediately following the Civil War. The letters here reveal that whenever Governor Perry and members of his family were in Columbia, they either stayed with the Janneys or tried to visit them, and Ellen Janney was constantly being invited to visit the Perrys in Greenville or at Sans Souci, their palatial residence in the country three miles above the "village." In 1868 Perry had tried to salvage J.C. Janney's position with the Post Office by writing him a letter - - "which I hope will be sufficient to prevent his removal," Lizzie wrote Ellen on 11 September. She supposed "the radicals,...Yankees & Negroes" wished to remove him. Ellen was asked to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of Fanny to William Beattie (1839-1882) which took place in Greenville on 24 June 1869. Exactly two months later J.C. Janney wrote asking his friend Perry to receive his ailing son, Charles F. Janney (d. 1885), into "your very kind and hospitable home, during this hot weather." "The advantages of your able counsel, together, with allowing him the use of your fine professional library, and adding to this the quiet, and happy home, of yourself & wife, with a well directed family," Janney added, "will give him advantages in both, health, and improvement, in his profession, that could not be obtained but through yourself and estimable wife." And when J.C. Janney died suddenly later that year, Lizzie wrote Ellen, 3 December 1869 - - "Mr. Perry & your father have been old & sincere friends, & our loss is great, for a real friend is a rare thing." And Fanny told Ellen, 8 December 1869 - - "From my early childhood I remember your dear Father, & always regarded him as one of our best & truest friends. Papa shed tears when he heard the sad news & mourns for his friend."
Furthermore, one of Ellen's sisters, Martha, named her son "Perry." The intent to do so was indicated in a letter to Ellen from Fanny, 23 January 1868 - - "Your Father mentioned that perhaps the baby would be named after Papa. Should you do so, Papa will esteem it quite a compliment, & all of us will be much pleased." After congratulating "all of you, but especially the happy Mother, on the advent of the little stranger," Fanny goes on to say - - "I am so glad it is a boy. The times are so hard, & girls are so troublesome & expensive...that I think it much better they should be dispensed with for the present. As I am a girl I feel at liberty to speak in this outrageous manner." And Lizzie commented to Ellen in a letter of 28 March - - "[W]e feel the name a great compliment, & will always take a great interest in the little boy. I hope you will call him Perry, which I think a very pretty Christian name; more so than as a surname; & the name is respected & honored now, all over the U. States & even in South Carolina, which in former days ignored it, to her now great regret. A Col[.] Roberts of Abbeville, told Mr. Perry lately that for 30 years he had hated his principles, & now he knew he had always been right."
Much of the thirty-year correspondence is taken up with the news of births, schooling, church happenings (especially concerning Christ Episcopal Church, to which the Perrys belonged), engagements, marriages, deaths, the particular social lives and the general health and well being of members of the respective families and of mutual friends and colleagues. "Do write all you know of Lula LeConte," Lizzie wrote on 28 March 1868, "we are truly sorry to hear of her death, & sympathize deeply with her family." "When will the LeContes go to California?" Fanny inquired of Ellen on 9 January 1869. Family travels and removals are much discussed: Fanny's trips to Columbia, Charleston, Anderson, Aiken, Palatka and Madison (Fla.), New York, and later to Europe; Lizzie's to Philadelphia (where her son Hext [1851-1912] was a physician), Washington, D.C., and especially an exclusive cruise made down to Yorktown, Va., in October 1881, amid the political celebrities of the day. "I hope to travel some every year," Lizzie remarked in a letter of 25 October 1881. "Home is enjoyed more for an absence. Travelling enlarges the mind, gives something to think of."
The letters of both Perrys, mother and daughter, are filled with gossip as well as with constant requests to Ellen for her to send them needed domestic supplies of a kind or style, or for a price, that were unobtainable in Greenville. They ranged in everything from foodstuffs, wine and candles to piece goods (small fabric samples accompany several of the letters), sewing supplies, clothing and prayer books. "Little commissions," Fanny called these requests in a letter to Ellen of 18 August 1867. "[Y]ou must really excuse us if we impose on your great kindness," she wrote, "for there is very little to be got in Greenville now & besides things are so much cheaper in Columbia." In a letter of 1 August 1867 Fanny told Ellen - - "I hear that in Col. you can get this silver dust which is used for sprinkling on the hair," and then requested her to "please send me a box of it as soon as possible." Her mother was more interested in books. In the same letter Fanny conveyed this message - - "Mama begs you will inquire at the book store the price of 'Mr. Wynyan's Ward,' by the Author of Sylvan Hill's Daughter; also 'Raymond's Heroine.'" "I am always reading & can get nothing to read here," Lizzie wrote Ellen on 8 August 1868. "Ask for 'Romola' & 'Rita.' Silas Marner. Barren Honor. Border & Bastil[l]e. Maurice Deering. Lost & Saved. Charles O Malley & others....If the books are very cheap I will be a good customer to the booksellers; tell them so. [H]aving so many uses for money now, & those who owe, not willing to pay. Books are a luxury, I must not indulge in, unless they are reasonable." "Our Library Society meets 2d Jan'y to renew subscriptions & select books, do you know any pretty ones?" she asked on 26 December 1870, and added - - "If you can conveniently, will you, or your mother, get at the Book stores a list of new books, improving & entertaining, & send me to assist in selecting for our Library by next Monday."
Lizzie, in particular, remarks at times upon political matters, thereby providing some valuable commentary on the public state of affairs in post-bellum South Carolina. "How sad the times are," she wrote Ellen on 8 April 1867. "I am not surprised at any thing mean now done, by Southern Radicals Yankees & Negroes; particularly in the Post Offices, they wish spies & enemies of the South," she said at the conclusion of a letter of 25 September 1868. On 5 October 1874 she would reveal surprising sentiments concerning that season's gubernatorial politics - - "Of course we would prefer a Democratic Gov. but as that is impossible, it is wise to choose the most honest Republican we can get, & try for it, even if we fail." She then goes on to allude to what she perceived to be fraudulent voting practices in elections held two years earlier, when her husband ran for Congress - - "I just heard today, that one of the Commissioners of elections in Spartanburg County, said he had destroyed 1100 votes for Mr. Perry when he was a candidate for member of Congress, 2 years ago. I dare say this cheating will be done again, but nevertheless, let all honest men vote for the most available honest Republican they can, & leave the result to Providence, & times may be better."
The collection includes a few letters from Ellen's sisters Mary, Lucy, and Martha, as well as from several friends - - among them, Hext Perry and Laura Jones. Among the most interesting letters is one sent to Ellen's brother Charles from his friend Julian LeConte, who had left South Carolina College in 1862 to enter the Confederate army (ultimately joining Hampton's Cavalry in 1865), returned to the College for a year (1867-1868), and then moved to California. On 9 May 1869, writing from Camp at Pachico Pass, Santa Clara, LeConte reveals - - "I am now with a party surveying through the mountains of the above valley in order to find a suitable route for the Southern Pacific R. Road to cross the San Diablo range. The country is magnificent in the extreme & when I read your letter of the 11th inst. my heart bled for poor Carolina in her state of degradation. I little thought as I left poor dear old Columbia on that ever memorable day how much I would miss her - - how much I would brood over by day & dream by night of the many friends & dear old associations left behind for years to come & perhaps forever." He goes on to say - - "I like Cal. dearly & if I could induce my friends to come out here Carolina would not be a drop in the bucket in comparison. I see Cal's superiority more & more every day & in every respect, but the fact is I feel lonely out here now & have to go through the trial of making & testing friends again which is no enviable task. How I wish you were all out here & fixed; everything is so prosperous full of life & energy & you are paid so well for what little you do, that you feel embarrassed at the offer which they make you." Near the end of his lengthy letter he writes - - "Tell Miss Mary & your sister Ellen that I long for the day when I can pass such pleasant evenings together again & that in course of geological & perhaps during the present epoch I will be seen coming back to Old Columbia on a summer's visit."
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