Addition, 1787-1987, to the Papers of the| Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Front Page 2007 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Conway, Black, and Davis Families
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2007
Three hundred forty-eight items, 1787-1987, supplement the South Caroliniana Library's holdings of papers of the interrelated Conway, Black, and Davis families of Laurens County, South Carolina, first acquired in the late 1960s. | Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Among the early items represented here are bills, receipts, promissory notes, and miscellaneous land and legal documents, a number of which date from the late eighteenth century. A school commendation dated 4 August 1810 recognizes the accomplishments of Miss Agatha McDowall in spelling; accounts, 6 and 17 September 1838, relate to Sarah C. Black's business dealings with Dr. James Bivings and the Bivingsville Manufacturing Company; and items relating to the sale and purchase of slaves include a record of "Money paid out by W.E. Black from proceeds of Negro sales 1839" and a 3 January 1850 receipt for the purchase by John H. Davis of "a negro girl…named Marth[a]" from William Bailey for $650.00. Other manuscripts pertain to the estates of N.H. Bailey, John Black, William Dunlap, and Jeremiah Glenn, Sr.
Of particular significance is a letter of 15 December 1836 written by Congressman John K[ing] Griffin from Washington City to his kinsman Dr. John H. Davis. "We have got up a little breeze on a Resolution…for the appointment of a select committee to examine into the frauds &c if any in the different Departments of the Government. I am rather Inclined to think it will be granted but in a way that I anticipate but little good will result from it...unless they proceed to burn up all the rest of the Departments...as was done last night with the Post office Department and the Patent office, both were burnt to the ground. The fire originated in the cellar of the house some say, and others say in the City Post office, which was in a part of the General Post office building, and the Patent office was in the second and third stories of the same building and of course all went together, sweeping off in a very few hours models to the value of more than half a million of Dollars, and not a Book or scratch of a pen in relation to them were saved, most of the Books of the General Post office were saved if not all, but not a letter was saved in the City Post office, all our Letters that had come in that evening and those that were going out for the South were consumed, and every thing is thus thrown into confusion."
"You have no doubt seen," Griffin continued, with reference to the election of Martin Van Buren and his vice president, Richard Mentor Johnson, "that Little Van is elected President quite easy by the election colleges, not so with Old Tecumseh but I suppose the senate will elect him as the choice will be between him and Granger. One an abolitionist and the other (although a slave holder) a practical amalgamationist. It is said and I believe truly, that the old Turk has brought on his second Wife with him. The one that ran off with the Indian and left him carrying some thousands of the spoils with her, which he has since retaken and fully reinstated, and she is now here they say shining and in all her glory, fairly eclipsing the Ladies of the Palace and Cabinet proper…."
There are also antebellum letters from Waddy Thompson, who wrote on 31 December 1860 to Gen. Thomas Foster Jones about a property dispute involving property from estate of Col. [James Henderson] Irby; Columbia newspaper publisher D.E. Sweeny, whose 17 August 1833 letter to John Black concerns the collection of a debt for a subscription to the Columbia Telescope; and Columbia businessman R[ichard] O'Neale, who discussed cotton sales and prices current in his letter of 5 November 1853 to J.H. Davis.
Civil War items of interest include a letter of 1 October 1863, from John B. Black to Dr. John H. Davis, Clinton, asking to buy bushels of wheat since flour was selling in Columbia for $50 per barrel. Black hoped to secure 100-200 bushels. A note on the reverse suggests that Davis was willing to let him have 40-45 bushels of wheat at $5.50 per bushel and 12-14 barrels of flour at $30 per barrel. Black wrote again on 25 November 1863 reporting the sale of Davis' cotton and asking to purchase 50-100 bushels of corn at $2.50 per bushel. The letter notes that daughter Mallie and all the family were mourning the death of Maj. W.M. Gist, killed in action at Knoxville on 18 November 1863. Addi¬tional Civil War letters were addressed to Dr. Davis by W.B. Smith, President, Union Bank of South Carolina at Anderson, 26 July 1862, and Joseph Daniel Pope, State Collector, War Tax Office, 5 December 1864.
Henrietta Byrd, wrote from Salisbury, Maryland, on 24 November 1863, to "Cousin Carry" [Carolina Virginia Davis] concerning efforts to recover the body of Carry's brother, James William Davis, who had been killed at the Battle of Boonsboro in Maryland. Explaining that she had written first to the doctor at Boonsboro, then to the medical director in Baltimore, Byrd noted that she had found "no trace of him" and concluded that she had exhausted all means but one: "to go to the battle field, it may be possible that some friend marked his grave, that is all, all the hope I now can give…."
Noteworthy post-Civil War items include a "Red Shirt Role 1876" identifying John C. Davis as secretary; a 2 December 83 letter from Emma Davis [Nancy Emily Watts Davis] to her husband, John C. Davis, during the time he served in the South Carolina legislature; juvenile maps and drawings executed by fourteen-year-old Washington Watts Davis, ca. 1885; and a printed Catalogue of the Due West Female College, Due West, Abbeville County, South Carolina. 1887-8.
The history of the extended families is further documented through such twentieth-century materials as autobiographical memoirs of Harrison Watts Davis, James Williams Davis, and Emily Watts Phillips McMillian; a description of the Dr. John H. Davis home in the Rock¬bridge community near Clinton, S.C., compiled by Martha Davis Abernethy; and a hand drawn map of the Washington Watts Davis farm, near Clinton, executed retrospectively by his son, Harry W. Davis. Also present among the items generated by succeeding generations of the families are miscellaneous receipts, loans, mortgages, and insurance documents from Washington Watts Davis and his father, John Calhoun Davis, as well as receipts, loans, and papers relating to the farm of Washington Watts Davis near Clinton that was later operated by Washington Glenn Davis.