December 12, 1858

Transcribed by Kate Donahoo and annotated by Donahoo and Scott Stegall

Davidson College Dec. 12

I got the shoes & the little note by Mr Fishburne1; they answer very well this time, are a little large but as they are Johnie’s Sunday shoes, so much better. You must excuse the haste with which we usually send for things, we had to seize such opportunities as occur. Minna Smith & Miss Molly Gibbon were here this afternoon. Minna & Emma2 will accompany Miss Molly to Charlotte, go on to Salisbury & then return home from Charlotte, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get those things I sent for, for Xmas. The cravat for your Father. must be 1 1/4 yd square or it will not do. The last one he had was a full yard squared was too small. If you see cheap little toys, get them for us for the children, but I would rather have something useful for them, such as a work box for Agnes & knife for Ben. Any thing will do for Johnie. I sent for Dr Leland this evening to see Ben.3 He has been very complaining for several days, & yesterday & today I feared had a chill. All the rest of us are as well as ever. I have not felt as much depressed by this bad spell of weather as usual. Mr Junkin came last Monday week and has been with4


us until today. They intended moving down to Mr Fishburne’s last week, but the weather was so bad that the wagon could not come with their furniture. They went down however to day. I lent them a bed, all the rest of their things are here & they are to live at the Mr Fishburnes.  I do not think we will have any body next year, I am tired of boarders. Shepherd is not sure that he will come back & if he does we wont take him.5 The measles has been brought here by some of the workmen & I have another cause of uneasiness about my children. There have been three cases – all grown people, but I think it cannot fail to spread. I was sorry to hear of Amanda’s accident.6 Will you keep her next year? We mean to keep Priscilla, but are disappointed about the little girl we expected to get. We shall have another hunt for one, I reckon in another year Susan will be large enough to do without hiring.7 I do want to see you very much & feel almost disposed to grumble that a whole year should pass & you not come twenty miles to see us. It seems however to have been a providential hindrance and that stops my mouth, When you do come I hope you will stay a long time. I have a long talk for you about our affairs up here, but I wont put


it on paper. It is a great comfort in every hour that there is a God who ruled over the affairs of men and who has said, “all thing work together for good to those who love God,” so I am becoming resigned to some things I was once very restless under. I think there is less temptation here to worldliness, fashion or any thing of that sort, than any place I ever saw. By the way, if your furs are of no use to you, I should be very glad to have them for the very cold weather. I have a very pretty purple silk scarf, I got from New York, (the exact shade of my bonnet strings) which I can wear when I am dressed and that is not very often. I wonder how Mrs Hill will do when she goes to Charlotte, she has got into such ways of doing things here.8 She is expecting to be confined every day. Dr Leland is going away the first of next week finally, and then we shall be bad off for a Doctor. Your Father has written to young Doctor McLean about coming here, but has had no answer.9 You have so many Doctors in Charlotte you had better send us up one. The student who was so ill is getting slowly better. Dr. L, hopes he will be able to leave him this week. What is the matter with you, is it only cold? You have mentioned in more than one letter


that you were not well. I am suffering for want of exercise, since we have had so much rain & mud. The roads are in an awful condition. I was disappointed that Mr and Mrs Burwell did not come up.10 I even had the bed made up & was all ready for them. If you think of it, tell Mrs Burwell how much I was pleased with her pickles, she sent me a jar by Mrs Leland they are delicious.11 I wrote to Mrs B. a note about coming up & did not mention them, for I wrote in a hurry & had not then tasted the peaches. I am expecting Singleton home next Saturday. The children are looking for him with great interest, even Johnie asks about Sing. Johnie is the fattest thing you ever saw. Willie says he looks like Joe Holden. Do you hear any news from Raleigh these days? How is Mary Dewey’s health? Give my love to her, & tell her we will be glad at any time to see her up here. Agnes talks a great deal about Mary & Bessie.12 Your Father sends love to you & Mr Dewey. Minna will be coming home next Tuesday please have a bundle & a letter for her & be sure & send the price of things. I have just finished making my dress. It looks very well. I never thanked you for the clothes you sent up. It was a nice parcel but some things were too good to cut up. I am going to give to William & Willie is going to take one pair of pants. I reckon you wont object.

Yrs affect













  1. Clement Daniel Fishburne (1832-1907) was a professor of natural philosophy at Davidson College. He was a close friend of Confederate generals T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson and D.H. Hill, and he served in the Confederate Artillery during the Civil War. His first wife, Sarah Waddell, was 26 years old at the time this letter was written. She died the next year. For more information, see “History of Physics at Davidson,” Davidson College, (accessed October 17, 2017); Mary Roy Dawson Edwards, “Recently Discovered Memoir about Gen. T. J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Historynet, (accessed October 17, 2017).
  2. According to the 1900 census, Minna Smith resided in the Coddle Creek community in Iredell County. Minna was born in North Carolina and was possibly a member of the large Smith family that lived in Iredell County during the 1850 census. Molly might be a nickname or middle name of either Maggie or Mary Gibbon, daughters of John Gibbon, who worked as an assayer in the U.S. Bank. Emma Smith was the younger sister of Minna Smith. She was 16 years old at the time this letter was written.
  3. John Adams Leland (1817-1892) was born in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina and studied at Williams College and South Carolina College. He later taught at schools in Spartanburg, South Carolina before being admitted to the bar in 1842. Leland served as the South Carolina State Superintendent of Public Works from 1842-1846. He also taught various subjects including mathematics, astronomy, and natural philosophy at the South Carolina Military Academy and Davidson College. Leland served as President of Mount Zion College before the Civil War. During the war, Leland commanded infantry units and was promoted to Major. Following the conflict, Leland served as President of Laurens Female College. For more information, see W.A. Withers, The Semi-Centennial Catalogue of Davidson College (Raleigh: R. M. Uzzell, 1891), 16.
  4. Ebenezer Dickey Junkin (1829-1891) was a Presbyterian minister who pastored the Concord Synod. He was the brother in law of Stonewall Jackson. In September 1858, Junkin married Agnes Anne Penick from Cabarrus County, North Carolina. For more information, see “Dr. Ebenezer Dickey Junkin,” Frontier Families (accessed October 17, 2017).
  5. Although Shepherd is clearly a boarder staying with the Lacys, his identity is unclear. While there are a number of Shepherds listed in the 1860 census, all have households and real estate of their own, making them unlikely candidates. Additionally, there is no record of anyone named Shepherd working at Davidson College at this time.
  6. Amanda could refer to a slave or a free child bonded to the Dewey family. They engaged in multiple coercive labor systems.
  7. Susan refers to one of the family’s slaves. She would have been approximately five years old when this letter was written.
  8. Isabella Morrison Hill was the daughter of Davidson College’s first president, Robert Morrison. She married Davidson professor and Confederate general, Daniel Harvey Hill. For more information, see “Isabella Morrison Hill,” Find a Grave (accessed October 20, 2017).
  9. W.L.D. McLean is listed as a physician within the household of E.D. Junkin in the 1860 census. At the time the census was taken he was 25, meaning he was likely only 23 years old when Mary Lacy wrote this letter. He was born in North Carolina, but no further information is listed in the census.
  10. Robert Armistead Burwell (1802-1895) was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia and studied at Hampden-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary. In 1831, he married Margaret Anna Robertson, a direct descendant of Virginia’s colonial governor, Alexander Spotswood. In 1835, the couple moved to Hillsborough, North Carolina where Robert pastored the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, and his wife operated a boarding school for women. The Burwell School became a model for future female academies and colleges throughout the South. In 1857, the Burwells moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. There, Robert served as the pastor of Paw Creek Presbyterian Church and presided as principal of the Carolina Female Institute. In 1860, he became a member of the Davidson College Board of Trustees. After the death of his wife, Robert accepted a joint principalship of Peace Institute. In her memoir, Elizabeth Keckley, one of Robert Burwell’s former slaves, described Robert’s brutal and abusive treatment of her. During her time with the Burwells, Keckley was raped by a Hillsborough resident. That assault resulted in the birth of her son, George. Keckley bought her own freedom and became a prominent dress maker in Washington, D.C. for the wives of notable politicians including Varina Davis and Mary Lincoln. For more information, see Mary Claire Engstrom, “Robert Armistead Burwell,” NCPedia, (accessed October 20, 2017); Ansley Wegner, “Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly (Keckley),” NCPedia, (accessed October 20, 2017).
  11. Ann Allston Leland (1824-1903) was the wife of Davidson College professor, John Adams Leland. For more information, see “Ann Allston DuPre Leland,” Find a Grave, (accessed on October 20, 2017).
  12. Bessie was the second child of Thomas and Bess Dewey.