Papers of the Lide, Charles, Bacot, and| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Dargan Families, 1729-1944
Three hundred seven items, including legal documents, personal correspondence, newspaper clippings, and genealogical information, provide a glimpse into the lives of members of the Lide, Charles, Bacot, and Dargan families from the middle of the eighteenth century through the second decade of the twentieth. This collection contains a variety of items covering many aspects of life, ranging from private thoughts recorded in journals and letters to the public forums of business and politics. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The collection is centered on the families of sisters Caroline Bacot Charles (1830-1911) and Serena Bacot Dargan (1833-1910), the daughters of Samuel Bacot and his second wife, Emelie Leslie. Caroline’s marriage to Hugh Lide Charles (1830-1911) established a connection with both the Lide and Charles families, while Serena was married to Charles A. Dargan (1825-1861).
The earliest materials date from the eighteenth century and consist largely of legal documents establishing land claims as well as surveyor’s sketches marking out property boundaries. Among the early settlers of the Darlington district whose land claims are set forth in these signed and sealed legal papers are John Kimbrough and Lemuel Benton, relations of the Lide family, as well as Ann Dargan, aunt of Charles Dargan.
With the passage of decades, the volume of material increases and becomes more varied. Among the items of note from the nineteenth century are documents relating to the retail business of Hugh Charles and his father, Edgar Wells Charles, chiefly documenting their court actions against debtors from 1839 to 1857 and post-Civil War receipts for payment of taxes to the United States Internal Revenue.
The national political debates about nullification and slavery taking place during this era are also echoed here. In a paper, probably the text of a speech, dated August 1828, the anonymous author explains his belief that “the late tariff laws of Congress are unconstitutional.” Likewise, the text of an oration made in honor of the Fourth of July in 1848 expresses a Southern perspective on the bitter sectional disputes which were beginning to split the nation in the wake of the Mexican-American War. The author grimly warns, “There are dark clouds arising in the southwest and the chilly North which are obscuring the whole political heavens and awaiting only the impetus of another northern blast to cause them to meet and burst with unremitting fury over the head of the Southerner.”
When the storm that was the Civil War did break, it was an event which left a mark on the life of every Southerner. The profound repercussions of that event on a personal level are visible in several items in this collection. The confidence with which South Carolina and the rest of the South greeted the commencement of hostilities appears in a letter to E.W. Charles from a military friend. “South Carolina,” he wrote, “can’t be conquered. Fort Sumter will be ours before long - cost what it may.”
Within a few years, though, South Carolinians discovered that their state could indeed taste the bitterness of conquest, and the distress and tumult of those days is the subject of a journal kept by Serena Dargan. She began writing her thoughts in the blank pages of an old account book during the waning days of the war and made periodic entries between 1864 and 1867. These words reveal a deeply religious woman struggling to understand the collapse of her familiar world. Among the significant entries in this journal is one from March 1865 describing the passage of portions of Sherman’s army through Darlington, South Carolina, and her conveying gratitude that the town was spared worse destruction. She also spends considerable time trying to understand the reason for the South’s suffering in defeat, coming to the conclusion that “We have sinned, we have deserved every thing God has brought upon us. But God will not forsake His people forever. I hope He will enable us to forgive our enemies.” The changes in the social realities of economic life brought about by the war and the freeing of the slaves are clear in several letters to Serena Dargan in 1866 and 1867. These letters deal with the day-to-day details of managing her nearby plantation, in which the difficulties of procuring scarce supplies and meeting the demands of newly-freed black workers are major concerns.
A large portion of the remainder of the collection consists of genealogical data on the Bacot family, testifying to the interest of Caroline Charles in documenting her family history. Among these sources of genealogical information is a volume, originally compiled by Mrs. Charles in the late nineteenth century, tracing the lineage of the Bacots from sixteenth-century ancestors in France to her own time. Also preserved are several letters from her distant cousin Thomas Wright Bacot sharing information which he derived from his own genealogical searches. It was T.W. Bacot who sent her a copy of the 1702 will of Pierre Bacot, the first of the family to emigrate to South Carolina. Found here also are two letters from Bacot relatives living in France. One of these survives in a late nineteenth-century copy of an 1866 letter from V.C. de Montivault, written on behalf of his grandfather Cesar Bacot to inquire about the fate of their American relatives in the Civil War. The second letter, bearing date 15 May 1901, is from Celine Bacot to Caroline Charles and gives news of the various branches of the family in France while asking about relatives in America.
Chronologically, the final items in the collection are a series of short messages between Edgar Haynsworth and Sarah and Emelie Charles, daughters of Hugh and Caroline Charles. Most of these are in the form of brief letters, written by Haynsworth in his capacity as lawyer for the sisters and dealing with the management of their various properties. However, since Haynsworth was their cousin as well as legal representative, there is frequent mention of family news in addition to business.