Letter, 7 Jan. 1864, from Eliza "Leila” Villard to| Manuscripts Gifts 2008 | Front Page 2008 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
John Wesley Heidt
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2008
Letter, 7 January 1864, penned by a correspondent who identifies herself only as Leila constitutes the South Caroliniana Library’s second accession of correspondence between Eliza Agnes Villard, daughter of Dr. William Benjamin Villard and Harriet Elizabeth McKenzie, and her future husband, John Wesley Heidt. | Manuscripts Gifts 2008 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Written from Robertville in Beaufort District, S.C. to Heidt in Savannah, Georgia, the letter relates in detail the preparations for the burial of Robert E. “Robbie” Chovin, son of R. Henry Chovin and Adelaid M. Oswald. Leila’s Uncle Henry, as she refers to him, was the brother of Alexander E. Chovin, first husband of Harriet Elizabeth McKenzie.
The letter reflects the somberness of the occasion - the unceasing rainfall; the inconsolable mourning of the young boy’s mother, whose pale, haggard, almost deathlike appearance stunned the writer; the curious neighbors who crowded the home of the deceased; and the resigned, almost surrealistic, way in which Henry Chovin interacted with the grieving mother of his dead child and was forced by exigencies to help lower his own son’s coffin into the grave, only to return immediately to his military encampment.
“On our way we stopped at the old Grave Yard to select a spot for the poor little fellows grave and give directions about having it dug,” Leila wrote. Reaching Uncle Henry’s by late afternoon, they had found Robbie’s body “laid on a marble table with a sheet spread over him” in the parlor. “Aunt Adelaide was lying on a sofa close to the table, moaning as if her heart would break.” Uncle Henry, however, did not arrive until late that night, and family members kept watch throughout the night, even after Robbie’s body had been placed in a coffin. Both parents accompanied the body to the church and graveyard, presumably the same Robert family cemetery where Adelaid Oswald Chovin was laid to rest some six months later.
John W. Heidt is identified in the 1860 census as a resident of Savannah working as a school teacher and living in the household of Emanuel and Rebecca Heidt. By 1870, he is identified as a preacher residing in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, married to Leila V. Heidt, with two small children.