February 1859

Transcribed by Ellen Spearing and annotated by Spearing and Scott Stegall

Agnes is sitting by me, writing a letter to Verina Moore.1 She makes very strange hyeroglyphics, which no one can decipher but herself. She says she “wants you & write her a letter too.”

I think you said you had $2.75 in your hands to buy that silk neck handkerchief for your Father. I will send you the additional fifty cts. Please get the largest you can, anything over a yard would do, two inches perhaps, still better an eighth. The young men bought the coffee. It is your box is it not? I will return. Mrs Reid brought the green blanket & the cod liver oil. Ben was so much better of his cough & it was such a bad dose to take.2 I have not begun with him yet. He still has very little appetite. The examination is going on now. Tinsley Penick is staying with us, he is one of the examining committee.3


Mr Banks is also here.4 They always seem in a great bustle and excitement at this time. Some almost always fail. Something happens here once in a while. Last Sunday, when we were all at Monthly Concert, one of the students rooms was entered through the window, his clothes hanging round the room, trunks, all his money, everything in it stolen. The whole college went out on Monday to try to track the thief & they succeeded in doing so for two miles nearly, but lost it. A negro of Mrs White’s was whipped, whose shoe exactly fitted the track with some peculiarities of half soling, pegs etc. but he confessed nothing.5 Another was whipped for having a pistol. Poor Barry never got back his things. Our Society made him six shirts & six collars.6

Yesterday they caught a wagoner hanging about the woods to sell liquor to the students & some bought of him, so they sent him down to jail at Charlotte. You have no idea what a lawless com-


-munity this is, every man doing what seems right in his own eyes. We are much in hopes these two events will strike terror into the negroes & the whiskey sellers.

We have some of your Charlotte Jews up here, & I am glad of it for Withers does charge exhorbitantly for example, lead coloured twilled jeans, such as you sent me beautiful too for 12 ½ cts per yd, Withers asks twenty.7 Now the Jews have opened a store may be I can do more of my shopping here. Can you get me, for Mrs Junkin a hank of crochet cotton, coarse, such as will do for table mats?8 Mark the prices on it. Please get that & the handk. & have them ready for the first oppor-tunity.

Laura Morrison9 & Dr McLean,10 Burwell11 & Scales12 took tea with us Monday evening. Laura is staying with Mrs Hill [13]. Mrs H has had a right bad time, her breast rose & had to be lanced. She took cold from leaving her room too soon.13


Tell Mrs Burwell14 I have been hoping she would not let this session pass without coming up. Ask her when she is coming? I had a letter from Mrs Brown by the last mail. She tells me that Mrs McPheeters had just heard of the death of her Sister Mrs Neil.15 Did any of your elders go down to the Convention? I hear Mr Ben Davidson is again in Charlotte, did he fail in getting the situation he wished? How is Mr William D. getting on?

We hear from Dru every week, do write to him.16 I am afraid he will fall in love with Miss Murphy & as he says, “What a pity she is older than I am.” Sing writes very seldom.17 He had not written to me this session so I wrote him rather a reproachful letter & he sent me a pitiful one in reply, that almost made me cry. How I wish we could keep him at home. He talks about “meeting his two Mothers in Heaven.” Are you tired out with my long letter?

Yrs affect. M.R.L.


  1. Mae Agnes Lacy, daughter of Drury Lacy, Jr. and Mary Lacy, would have been about six years old when this letter was written.
  2. Benjamin Rice Lacy (1854-1929) was the eldest child of Drury and Mary Lacy. He was four years old at the time this letter was penned. Lacy served as the state Commissioner of Labor and Printing. In 1901, he was elected state treasurer of North Carolina and served in that capacity until 1928. For more information, see Holt McPherson, “Benjamin Rice Lacy,” NCPediahttps://www.ncpedia.org/biography/lacy-benjamin-rice (accessed October 19, 2017.)
  3. Peter Tinsley Penick (1826-1886) was born in Powhatan County, Virginia and studied at Hampden-Sydney College, Davidson College, and Union Theological Seminary. Penick became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Concord, North Carolina in 1853. He was elected trustee of Davidson College the same year and stayed in both positions until 1860, when he returned to Virginia to preach at another church. As the Civil War began, Penick commissioned as a first lieutenant and chaplain of the Peaksville, Virginia Home Guard. He survived the war and returned to Mooresville, North Carolina where he ministered until his death in 1886. For more information, see The First Presbyterian Church, Mooresville, North Carolina: One Hundred Years, November 13, 1875-November 13, 1975 (Mooresville, 1975).
  4. William Banks (1814-1875) was born in Fairfield, County, South Carolina and studied theology at the Theological Seminary at Columbia. He ministered several churches in both his home county and those surrounding Charlotte and eventually established a home in Fort Mill. In 1845, he became a trustee of Davidson College and served in that role for nearly thirty years. He became president of the Board of Trustees in 1874, just a year before his death on 17 March 1875. Banks also served as a chaplain for Confederate forces during the Civil War. For more information, see “Rev William Banks,” Find a Grave https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=30169035&ref=acom (accessed October 26, 2017).
  5. Amelia K. White, born in 1793, owned thirty-nine slaves. Her worth was substantial, with her real and personal estate valued at over $40,000 in the 1860 census. This document reveals that she lived with a young girl, Margaret A. Steele, in 1860, and no men are recorded as living with her. Where her farm was located is unknown, but it is likely that it was 5 miles east of Davidson, close to the Cabarrus County border.
  6. Alexander Marion Barry (1830-1859) was senior at Davidson College in 1859 and thus, the student who had his possessions stolen. Faculty minutes from February 8, 1859 read, “Mr. Rockwell moved that Mrs. White’s negroes be prohibited from coming on the College grounds between sun-set and sun-rise. CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.” Barry died on June 14, 1859, shortly after passing his senior examinations. He is buried in Davidson.
  7. Samuel Meacham Withers (1824-1864) was a prominent merchant in Davidson during the 1850s. In 1851, he was appointed postmaster of the town. According to a series of documents found in one of the Withers’s family bibles, Samuel owned 32 slaves. He died in the service of Confederate forces in 1864. For more information, see Mary Beaty, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937 (Davidson: Briarpatch Press, 1979); “Samuel Meachum Withers,” Find a Gravehttps://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=24755866&ref=acom (accessed October 26, 2017).
  8. Agnes Penick Junkin (1838-1911) was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. In 1858, she married Ebenezer Dickey Junkin, minister of the Concord Synod.  For more information, see “Dr. Ebenezer Dickey Junkin,” Frontier Familieshttp://www.frontierfamilies.net/family/junkin/family/D6EDJ.htm (accessed October 17, 2017); “Agnes Penick Junkin,” Find A Grave,   https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=36885547 (accessed October 26, 2017).
  9. Laura Morrison (1840-1920) was the ninth child of Davidson College’s first president, Robert Hall Morrison, and his wife, Mary Graham Morrison. She married Confederate Colonel John Edmunds Brown. The couple had three children together. For more information, see Charlotte Observer, April 17, 1920; “Laura Morrison Brown,” Find a Gravehttps://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=59550635&ref=acom (accessed October 29, 2017).
  10. W.L.D. McLean is listed as a physician living in 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.
  11. 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 Virginian, Margaret Anna Robertson. 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. This 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, https://www.ncpedia.org/keckly-keckley-elizabeth-hobbs (accessed October 20, 2017); Ansley Wegner, “Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly (Keckley),” NCPedia, https://www.ncpedia.org/keckly-keckley-elizabeth-hobbs (accessed October 20, 2017).
  12. Edmond Martin Scales (1840-1865) graduated third in his class from Davidson College in 1859. He went on to study law in Texas from 1859-1861, then joining the 15th Texas Infantry on April 16, 1862 in the Confederate Army. Scales died on October 4, 1865, at the age of 25, from disease contracted in service and is now buried in Raleigh, Navarro County, Texas. For more information, see “Edmond Martin Scales,” Find a Gravehttps://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi/http%2522/http/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=42943180 (accessed October 29, 2017); Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Davidson College (Salisbury: Carolina Watchman Office, 1859), 7.
  13. Isabella Morrison Hill (1825-1904) was the daughter of Davidson College’s first president, Robert Morrison. She married Davidson professor and Confederate general, Daniel Harvey Hill. The couple had nine children together. For more information, see “Isabella Morrison Hill,” Find a Gravehttps://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27395411 (accessed October 26, 2017).
  14. Margaret Anna Robertson Burwell (1810-1871) was born in Richmond, Virginia and raised in Petersburg, Virginia. She was the great-great-granddaughter of Alexander Spotswood, colonial governor of Virginia. She married Robert Armistead Burwell in 1831. 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. The Burwells had eight children together. For more information, see Mary Claire Engstrom, “Robert Armistead Burwell,” NCPedia, https://www.ncpedia.org/keckly-keckley-elizabeth-hobbs (accessed October 26, 2017).
  15. Margaret Ann McDaniel McPheeters (1794-1862) was the daughter of William and Parthenia McDaniel, of Beaufort County, North Carolina. She was the third wife of Presbyterian minister William McPheeters. William McPheeter organized the First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh, North Carolina in 1816. For more information, see John S. Grastt, Memoir of Samuel B. McPheeters (St. Louis: Southwestern Book and Publishing Company, 1871), 28.
  16. Drury Lacy III was born in 1839 to Drury Lacy, Jr. and his first wife, Williana Wilkinson. He was 19 when Mary Lacy penned this letter.
  17. Sing refers to Singleton Wilson Lacy, Drury Lacy’s fifth child by his first marriage. He was approximately twelve years old at this time..