Chronicle 225

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Early readers' lives emerge in letters

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Much is known about the readers of The Chronicle's first century, because they were also writers. Whether it was to argue the politics of the day, or to complain about the challenges of daily life or even to offer advice in the realms of romance, readers wrote to this newspaper regularly through its first 100 years. These insights offer a look into the lives of those who lived here before us, walking the same streets, sitting in the same Sunday pews and complaining about the things that bothered them -- some that bother us still.

True Love Found?

It was February -- the month of valentines -- in 1787 when a young man wrote to this newspaper.

He did not sign his name, but he closed his letter with the Latin phrase Homo, caret uxorem ("Man desiring wife.")

His plea was straightforward:

"A young gentleman, whose residence in this country has been but short, wishes most ardently to enter into the holy state of matrimony with any lady, either widow or virgin, professing a fortune that will render the remainder of their lives in that respect easy and comfortable.

"Face or figure not absolutely necessary, as the gentleman is not very particular.

"His age being considerably under 30, it would be pleasing to him if the lady, who is so fortunate as to get him, is anywhere between 16 and 60.

"The writer thinks it may not be amiss to give some account of himself; as to person he is passably well made, rather athletic, of an easy and complying kind disposition, a genteel address, and upon the whole a desirable object. His family and connections indisputable ... ."

Naturally, Augusta newspaper advertising being as effective then as it is today, he soon drew a reply from a local woman.

"In perusing your last Saturday's paper, I observed a pretty little smart advertisement, which I suppose, as is generally the case with productions of this kind, no bad emblem of the genius of its author, though his person, it seems, is rather athletic.

"I am what the world calls, but perhaps improperly, an antiquated virgin; and am -- let me see -- about 30 -- yet some elderly ladies, who were my companions when we were children, say -- out of mere spite I think, -- that I am at least 59.

"However, than to my good fate even that is within the limitation prescribed by this kind, complying, young beau, who, I have reason to hope by the tenor of his advertisement, has discernment enough to see my merits, which all the rest of his sex, who have had the honor of my acquaintance, have been stupidly blind to.

"My fortune, if I should be so fortunate as to get this desirable object, I undertake to affirm, will be fully equal to our desserts. With respect to my virginity, suffice it to say, I have never been married; as to my family and connections be they what they may, I can say as much as my beau has done, that they are indisputable.

"Finding that he is not particular as to figure or face, I shall forebear to describe mine. Respecting my place of residence the beau must excuse me if I refuse to inform him thus publicly of it; as there are very few gentlemen in this place but who visit me occasionally, I suppose he cannot long want an introduction."

She signed it Meretrix , which translates as Latin for "deserving woman."

Did they get together on an Augusta Valentine's Day 223 years ago? We don't know that they did. But who's to say they didn't?

Cupid's arrow has found less likely targets.

To Her Credit

Margaret Adair had a problem with her husband, Edward.

She shared those concerns with fellow readers on June 11, 1791, in The Augusta Chronicle and Gazette of the State . Margaret appears to be unhappy with her husband, particularly after he placed a notice in the paper that warned merchants not to give her any credit at local stores.

She responded with this: "Whereas, Edward Adair, to whom I was unfortunately married the 7th day of April, 1784, has thought proper to advertise me in your paper ... that I had left his bed and board without his knowledge, and had taken to live with another man, he therefore forewarned all persons from crediting me on his account ...

"In justice, therefore, to my injured character, and the base disposition of the said Edward Adair, I must beg leave to inform the public that, in three months after my marriage to the said Edward Adair, he run off from Philadelphia, where he left me without the smallest means of support ...

"In that situation, I remained among my relations until 1788, when I received two letters from him, begging I would come to him at Augusta ... that he had acquired a large property, and wishing to settle at Augusta as a merchant, and where, if I would come, he hoped not only to make me happy, but to make me amends for the past injuries done me.

"When I came to Augusta, I was informed he was only an Indian trader, from Col. LeRoy Hammond's at Snow Hill, and possessed of very little property or credit.

"I went to Col. Hammond's where I remained three or four months ... but Mr. Adair not coming to me in the course of that time, though, he knew I was there, induced me to go and stay with Mr. Adair's sister, in Georgia, where I remained two months, when Mr. Adair came, and then he only stayed with me two days ... till he hurried off to the Indian country ... I did not see him again for eight months ...

"Being much distressed under these circumstances, I must beg leave to inform the public, it was impossible for me to leave the bed and board of Mr. Adair, as I don't believe he had ever had either, but a bear skin and hut in the Indian country since he run off from me and mine in Philadelphia."

REVENGE IN RHYME

On May 27, 1818, Susanna Carson let the community know what she thought of her errant husband in rhyme. She wrote:

"To all good people who wants him descripted,

"To running away he has long been addicted.

"He deserted his country, being cared at a ball.

"And ran home the greatest hero of all.

"For such services as this he obtained a pension,

"How well he deserved it, I will not mention. But one thing for all I needs must acknowledge,

"He's the worst husband God ever made to my knowledge."

POLITICAL VOLLEYS

The June 8, 1822, duel between politicians George McDuffie and Thomas Cumming didn't end with an exchange of gunfire. It continued to play out in letters to the newspaper.

June 20: Cumming says he is "vexed" that McDuffie, wounded in the duel, did not stand for a second shot, calling the wound to McDuffie's spine "trifling."

July 4: B.T. Elmore and Dr. Edward Fisher write to say McDuffie could not stand up because of the wound's severity.

July 11: Cumming responds that he is being "vilified" in the newspaper.

Sept. 24: McDuffie (apparently recovered) writes that Cumming "eased his cowardly nerves by artificial stimulants." He calls him an opium addict.

Sept. 28: Cumming writes that he had simply washed his hands in "cologne water" so as to make them more pliable.

Oct. 3: McDuffie writes that Cumming's opium habit is "well known."

Oct. 8: Cumming accused McDuffie of rubbing red oak bark on his back to harden it ... and refers to him as "the paltriest fellow between the Peedee and the Savannah rivers."

All this led up to a duel finale. The Dec. 3, 1822, issue of The Chronicle reports that Cumming and McDuffie met to settle things for good.

After an initial disagreement over the way McDuffie was holding his pistol, gunplay resumed. On the first shot, both men missed. On the second, McDuffie's arm was broken. Honor restored, the newspaper reported that the parties were reconciled.

A HEART FOR ARTS

Writing under the pseudonym "Public Spirit," an Augusta arts patron deplored the community's lack of appreciation for culture during the presidency of Martin Van Buren.

His (or her) letter to the editor in November 1838 urged construction of an Augusta Academy of Fine Arts and laid out the advantages:

- Augusta has prosperity and influence.

- It was the site of the Southern Commercial Convention.

- It is located on a great federal road.

"The South," the letter writer argued, "must be self-sufficient as a prosperous and enlightened country."

There seems to have been a suggestion that Augusta could do for the arts what it was doing for medical instruction with its new medical college.

A wife, if you please

William Durke wrote on Feb. 25, 1851, that he was looking for a wife, or as he put it -- "an alliance of matrimony."

He wrote for "a lady under 30 years of age, a believer in the Lord and Saviour, and in the doctrine of Predestination ..."

He described himself favorably, as a "man over 40 ... who gets drunk when he pleases, goes when he pleases, and comes when he pleases. "

HOLD OFF VENGEANCE

With a civil war looming, there appeared to have been some talk of making things tough for free blacks, but Robert Campbell wrote The Chronicle in 1860 that this would be wrong.

"The disposition that manifests itself in some quarters to banish them en masse, or sell them into bondage, is certainly a kind of summary vengeance," he wrote.

FOR SECESSION

On Jan. 8, 1861, a writer who called himself "Georgian" (but believed to be H.H. Cumming) said the "cooperationists" -- including Chronicle management -- who had urged keeping Georgia in the Union must now join the secessionists.

He mentions an instance in which a gallant soldier, W.H.T. Walker, had declared that if Georgia should submit that he was ready to join in revolution against such a course.

Three days later, Walker (who would die three years later as a Confederate general during the Battle of Atlanta) wrote "in fire and thunder ... I was against fanaticism and not against Georgia."

FOR THE CAUSE

In 1862, "Daughter of Georgia" wrote to complain of the men who stay behind and make money. She wrote that they are "so deeply immersed in the various schemes for money making that they seemingly pay little heed to the emergency of the times."

She urged the building of gunboats in anticipation of a Yankee assault up from the Savannah River, and announced her own money-making effort -- a Ladies Gunboat Fund.

WITH JEB STUART

"B.H.W." with Company B of the Richmond Hussars, wrote from the front, where he was serving with Jeb Stuart's cavalry 25 miles from Richmond. His news was grim: "In the saddle eight days, two horses gave out under him and Armand de Laigle was killed."

POLITE TO PRISONERS

The Chronicle complained in an editorial that Union prisoners of war in Augusta were being allowed too much freedom. They could walk the streets freely and accept gifts from families.

Lt. Col. George Washington Rains, who commanded volunteers in Augusta, agreed. On May 19, he wrote: "As a magnanimous people we should treat prisoners of war kindly ... but not make heroes of them."

FASHIONING A RIOT

On April 11, 1863, The Chronicle reported that violence had come to Augusta's streets -- women were rioting.

To be specific, the War Between the States had driven up the price of goods and the Southern magnolias were showing their steel.

A group began to demonstrate near the Upper Market. The women demanded calico at 50 cents a yard, and footwear for a dollar.

When an alarmed merchant closed his shop, the women went elsewhere.

Mayor Robert May -- who would later coolly direct the city's defenses as Sherman marched nearby -- didn't hesitate to call out the police.

Order was restored and a man (not identified) was arrested for encouraging the women to protest.

BUTCHERS' BONANZA

Wandering livestock was a problem with many American cities of the 1800s, and Augusta was no exception.

A strong agrarian tradition, mostly dirt streets and a tendency to get rid of all sorts of trash and refuse by dumping it into the Savannah River or Augusta Canal, led our town to a rather lax standard of hygiene.

But people began to resent living like pigs.

In 1861, a letter to the editor asked Augusta municipal leadership, "If, among other things done by the 'City Fathers,' they have repealed the ordinance prohibiting hogs running wild on our streets? If not, why is it that our doors must be watched to keep the hogs outside?"

Why indeed?

Well, it looks like the Civil War and Reconstruction delayed the city's efforts to curb the pig problem until 1871, but then action moved swiftly.

According to the Sept. 1, 1871, issue of The Chronicle :

"On Wednesday, Alderman Meyer, acting mayor, issued an order requiring all hogs driven from the city within 24 hours from date of this order.

"The effect ... was to fill the street Wednesday evening and early yesterday morning with grunters on way to the country and butcher pens. No one had any idea there were so many hogs in the city until they saw huge droves passing out of town.

"It is estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 have been carried out of Augusta.

"On the premises of one gentleman were nearly 100 porkers, while another one had $500 worth of fine Kentucky stock taken out into the country.

"It is a remarkable ill wind that blows nobody any good, and so the butchers have found it in this instance."

WHO'S YOUR DADDY?

In April 1876, a correspondent of the Chicago Times came though town and found us lacking. Augustans, he reported to the folks back in Illinois, "had enormous aristocratic pretensions."

He admitted the city was "one of the beautiful on the continent," but he added that "people's affections here seem to be altogether twined around the dead past, and a dead ancestor is more to them than all living men and women, especially if they do not belong to their own particular and exclusive set."

ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS

"J.A.F." wrote a letter to The Chronicle published Nov. 20, 1882. She identified herself as a "young woman," and said she and other young women in the South needed their independence.

"The constant fretting," she wrote, "against restrictions of every hand have carried more misery into the ... multitudes of Southern women."

She went on to say she wanted to earn her own way in life, and she sought the dignity of knowing she was of some use in the world.

The Chronicle responded Dec. 3, saying many women had contacted the newspaper and encouraged it to keep up J.A.F.'s "agitation."

J.A.F. responded again, this time with a criticism of women's education, making the point that "a smattering of Latin or Greek or music is not exactly the qualification for business life."

Women, she said, should be allowed to study bookkeeping and more of the practical and less of the ornamental.

She predicted that in the future a women's movement would grow and women would eventually be the pride and glory of the nation.

"J.A.F." apparently quit sending letters to the editor, but six months later a small account in The Chronicle reported the success of a local woman being published in a New York periodical. Her name, the newspaper said, was Julia A. Flisch.

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pattym35
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pattym35 08/30/10 - 01:04 pm
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How enjoyable to read this

How enjoyable to read this history! More please!

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