William Benjamin Cothran Papers, 1927-1937
| Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Front Page 2007 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2007
Two hundred twenty manuscripts, 1927-1928 and 1932-1937, of Greenwood County, South Carolina, native William Benjamin Cothran (1881-1940), one of thirteen children of Wade Elephare Cothran (1837-1899) and Sarah Elizabeth Chiles (1840-1892), consist in large part of correspondence from William's brother Frank Harrison Cothran (1878-1948) and of carbon copies of the letters that William wrote to Frank. | Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
William Cothran, an engineer in the U.S. Navy, retired in 1926 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and returned to Greenwood with his wife and four children. He oversaw his brother Frank's affairs in Greenwood County, superintending Frank's real estate in the county, including a farm at Bradley. Frank Cothran was a civil engineer and an executive of several companies including Beauharnois Construction Co., Duke-Price Power Co., and the Alma and Jonquire Railway. Although he traveled extensively throughout North America for work, Frank's family was based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Major themes of this Great Depression-era collection include the discussion of Cothran family affairs, Frank's farm at Bradley, crop prices, and the economy. William wrote to Frank often concerning the death of their sister Annie Lee Cothran Durst (1865-1933) during the confusing months before her will was located. Other correspondence between the brothers was generated as William attempted, at Frank's request and expense, to either procure a house or have a house built for their two remaining sisters, Elizabeth Perrin Cothran Hood (1863-1934) and Sarah Elizabeth Cothran Rudd Imboden (1872-1944). These letters reveal much about Greenwood real estate in 1933 and 1934. William also gave Frank information about the family's commitment to an institution of their niece, Annie Lee Cothran, daughter of their brother Wade Rushton Cothran (1866-1919). Annie Lee was moved from a sanitarium in Asheville, N.C., to the Waverly Sanitarium in Columbia, S.C., and later to the State Hospital, where "Dr. Williams, the Superintendant, told me that he felt certain that this was a hopeless case," William wrote to Frank on 24 November 1936.
Much of the correspondence deals with Frank's Greenwood County farm. Until 1935, it was rented to Thomas Steifle, but when ninety-six panes of glass were found to be broken in February of that year, his contract was not renewed. William wrote to Frank on 14 February 1935, suggesting that he could get more money from the government by letting the farm lay idle. William and Frank routinely discussed the price of cotton and other crops. In 1935 and 1936, they corresponded about terracing the farm and having soil conservation work performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). On 1 July 1936, William reported to Frank that "Roy Barksdale called me on the phone last night and asked me, as agent for you of your farm property, if I would agree to have the farm house wired in connection with the Rural Electrification project….Do as you like about it but I hate to see you put so much money into this farm. I estimate that it would cost about $75.00 to install wiring, switches and about 8 outlets."
Several interesting political observations also passed between the brothers. On 5 May 1933, William wrote to Frank: "Many of the people thought that as soon as poor old Herbert Hoover was out of the White House Prosperity would be on it's way; I never did take any stock in any such dope and believe it will be a long time before the majority of the people will find employment, and as for any such prosperity as around 1928, well it is foolish to mention any hopes in this line." William concluded with an observation on the unemployed men of Greenwood: "In…Greenwood…you will find a variety, such as sitting on the depot platform, barber shops, etc., but as for ‘horseshoes' you might have to go to Bradley to find this sport." Later that year, William wrote that he hoped Roosevelt's recovery program would be successful, but that thus far it was working very slowly. By 6 January 1936, his opinion was markedly changed. "Candidate Roosevelt made some political speech to Congress under the name of ‘Annual Message', which was, in my opinion, most unbecoming of the President of the U.S. Really I think that it was a great mistake that the bullet which was aimed at this Bird did not hit its mark when the Ma[y]or of Chicago [Anton Cermak] was killed."
On 6 July 1936, younger brother Perrin Chiles Cothran (1885-1959) wrote to Frank that, "While we denounce Roosevelt, the fact remains that he could not have accomplished any of these cockeyed proceedings without the approval of Congress. A handful of southern Senators could have blocked the whole damn thing. Not a single one of them were willing to make the sacrifice."