Twenty-three manuscripts, 1855, 1865-1899 and undated, added to the South Caroliniana Library’s holdings relating to Frederick A. Porcher (1809-1888), a Yale graduate who served in the South Carolina legislature and was Professor of History and and Belles Lettres at the College of Charleston, provide a glimpse of life for Porcher, his wife Caroline, and other family members during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The family’s affiliation with the Episcopal church is discussed in two of the letters, one of which, 7 April 1868, was written by F.A. Porcher to the vestry of the Church of the Holy Communion following the dismissal of his wife as organist. Caroline Porcher, in turn, wrote on 23 October 1870 to tell her daughter that the family was attending church services at St. Paul’s, even though it entailed a twenty-minute walk. “Mr. Elliott,” she reported, “gave a spirited discourse on the church service, and is anxious that the congregation should carry out the intention of the compilers of the prayer book by entering heartily into the responses, and chants, which latter ought to be such as they could join in. I agree with him perfectly[.] Our service as now conducted is a dead, lifeless one instead of being one burst of gratitude and thanksgiving.”
The health of the family and the low country environs was another frequent topic, with several letters speaking of the prevalence of fever in the Charleston area and one, 5 September 1880, reporting an outbreak of “Broken bone fever.” Porcher’s letter of 19 September 1875 letter comments on the death of Episcopal priest James Warley Miles and gives his estimation of Warley’s character and contributions. It also notes that Mr. Burckmyer had been sent to the Pennsylvania asylum and attributes his condition to financial reverses.
A 24 August 1875 letter from Porcher to his wife notes that former Governor Aiken had forwarded a letter from Mr. Corcoran concerning the purchase of a portrait owned by Caroline Porcher for the Corcoran Washington Gallery. Corcoran, it suggests, was offering liberal prices to Southerners willing to sell privately owned works of art to his gallery.
Several letter dating from 1876 mention public events in Charleston relating to “laying the corner stone of the Fort Moultrie Monument” (31 May and 9 June) and the centennial of the Declaration of Independence (28 June). The latter also tells of a tragedy on the Ashley River when two boats collided and comments on the needs of “the suffering poor of Beaufort” and Charleston and the shortage of the corn crop.
Among other items of interest is genealogical information from the family Bible of Thomas Rhett Smith, “he having copied the same from the Bible of his Father Mr. Roger Smith”; an undated memorial ribbon with printed inscription, “In Memory of Doll Wilcox,” composed by “L.P., A School Mate”; and 1899 correspondence with Judge T.W. Snagge, of London, concerning a 1786 portrait of Mrs. Roger Smith painted by George Romney.