Wade Family Papers, 1847-1851 | Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Front Page 2009 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009
Eleven manuscripts, 30 August 1847–29 December 1851, attest to the close family ties and exchange of letters between the family of James Taylor Wade (ca. 1786–1853), a resident of what is now Lancaster County, S.C., and his nephew, Walter Ross Wade (1810–1862), a physician located near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Both descended from George Wade (1747–1823). Walter Wade was George’s grandson by his first wife, Mary McDonald. James Wade was George’s son by his second wife, Martha Taylor Center. The familial relationship between uncle and nephew was further cemented through Dr. Walter Wade’s marriage to his first cousin, Martha Taylor Wade, eldest daughter of James T. Wade. | Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Among the collection’s earliest missives is that written on 30 August 1847 by Mary Agnes Wade, who signed herself as "Tank," the name by which she was known to her family. Addressed to her sister, Martha Taylor Wade, in Mississippi, it tells of being invited to a ball at Lancasterville and discusses Agnes’ wardrobe and the style in which she wore her hair. "I never spent a more pleasant evening [and] danced the longest kind of reels and was very sore afterward," the writer confided. Agnes also had attended a wedding, that of Mr. Hasseltine and Miss Villines on the 19th of August 1847, and related her impression of the event. "The bride had six attendants," she reported, and "was dressed in satin with some thin material over it." Miss Wade had worn "a white satin body trimmed with lace...and a book muslin skirt trimmed with satin." As she recounted the details of her wardrobe, hair, and accessories, she commented, almost as an aside, "the truth is the people expect more fashion from me as I am from Columbia [S.C.]." An additional remark bespeaks the harsher realities of the era in which the letter was penned: "my hair has come out very much since having measles, and I...try and hide my ugly face with pretty curls...." Agnes was hoping to attend a temperance picnic and camp meeting and confessed, "I am desirous to go as I will then see all the beauty fashion and accomplishments Lancaster affords."
James T. Wade wrote to his nephew on 6 December 1847 telling of the death of "our sister," Charlotte Center, on 22 November 1847, noting that he had received letters from daughters Martha and Charlotte upon his return from Columbia, S.C., and discussing a slave family, expressing delight that "Beck and her family [were] ‘safe and in good condition’...and that you are pleased with them - as I before stated according to the kind of Negroes I never saw a family that I would prefer - they are of true african blood are healthy and as hardy as mules. If a little lazy that can be brought out as has to be done with most of them." The letter also discusses the corn and cotton crop, with comments on the differing yields from red and yellow land.
On 13 March 48 Patrick H. Wade, James T. Wade’s second son, wrote to his cousin promising to visit Dr. Wade that summer and hoping to pursue clinical studies with him. The letter makes several references to homeopathy and Samuel Hahnemann, the German physician who established the alternative form of medicine. In 1848, however, tragedy struck the family when Walter Wade’s wife, Martha, died unexpectedly leaving three young children. James responded to the sad tidings of his daughter’s death on 27 July 1848. It tells of how Dr. Wade’s letter announcing his wife’s passing had been received by Agnes and Patrick’s wife, Martha Darden, while on a shopping trip to Lancaster, S.C., and the entire sequence of events as the shocking news spread throughout the household is chronicled in James’ letter. He prayed that God would "spare us to be to the children of our dear Daughter all that we had been to her" and found consolation in the fact that Dr. Wade "proposed starting on with them to us as soon as you could make the necessary arrangements. I hope you will be able to affect this and that ere long we shall have you all, children and grand children with us and shall look out for the promised letter saying when you would start and what way purpose to travel."
By the time James wrote next, 31 December 1849, the Wade grandchildren were in South Carolina, for their grandfather was discussing their schooling. The letter hints that Walter was en route to Mississippi once more and his uncle was anxious to hear from him due to the many reports of steamboat accidents on the Mississippi River. Walter Wade apparently visited South Carolina again the following year, for a letter that he penned on 7 December 1850 from Augusta, Georgia, tells of his travels westward. "Our time in Columbia was not very pleasant," he wrote to his uncle, "for want of decent accommodations." While there, however, he had "Heard something of the investigation of the Election of Senator - contest between Adams & Black" and had seen other politicians of the day in action, among them John Preston, whom he heard speak on "federal relations." Wade described Preston as a "commanding person" who "had action of muscle and gesture enough" and further noted that he "goes for Secession - and Southern rights...[b]ut advises a prudent delay." Memminger, on the other hand, Wade wrote, "was not what my fancy painted him. All the features of a German and I at once pronounced him a Dutchman." Colonel Hampton and Benjamin Taylor he described as aging and white headed. He had also been present when candidates for admission to the practice of law were examined before Superior Court judges and reported that "Mr. Martin Crawford - who was present, afterwards told me that all were admitted but one: - viz Mr. Price - Editor, Camden journal."
Patrick Wade, who previously had indicated an interest in pursuing medical studies with Dr. Walter Wade, wrote to him on 31 March 1850 conferring about treatments and commenting on recent changes among the faculty in the medical school at Charleston. Excessive rains, he went on to say, had slowed spring planting, and on the 27th of March "we had sleet and snow, enough to cover the ground."
"Yesterday," the letter continues, "was the day set apart by the members of the legislature...to hold meetings in every district throughout the state to elect electors who are to meet at some specified place in each congressional district on the first Monday in May next to elect delegates to the Nashvill[e] convention." He hoped that those who would assemble in Camden on the first of May would "elect some man that will be true to the South and represent the people of the palmetto state in the convention. Mr. Gooch is the most inconsistent man I know of he you may remember would not take a northern paper last year because he was opposed to the abolitionist but is willing to have a northern teacher to instruct his daughters and to be among his negros."