Old Sumter District, S. C. Letters Home Page

Old Sumter District Letters Home

Sumter, Clarendon, and Lee Counties

This page is dedicated to letters home for Old Sumter District, South Carolina.

If you have the transcription of an old letter that you would like to share here, please send me,

 the transcription via e-mail.

Many thanks to Marcia Bowen-Astley for the wonderful idea and
for donating the transcription of the first letter home to the SCGenWeb pages of Old Sumter District



I am hoping the following will be of interest to other Bowen folk--especially those with ties to Sumter, SC. Below is a letter from Frances (Fannie) Farmer Bowen (daughter of William Henry [1794-?] and Eliza Kimbrough Brockington Bowen) who was born in Sumter, SC, c 1830. Eliza's mother was Penelope Benton Brockington Bishop [Feb 1800-?], the wife of Dr Jacques Bishop after whom Bishopville, SC. was named. Fannie sent the letter to her cousin Penelope "Neppie" Vermelle Bowen (1836-1918). Neppie lived all of her life in and married Clinton Larkin Freeman in Sumter. I will put my notes in brackets in the text. The original of this letter is in the possession of Mrs Nancy Parks of Augusta, GA. Please get in touch if you too are researching any of these surnames. Marcia F. Bowen-Astley

Union Church, March 15, 1857

"My Dear Cousin:

"As James has just received a letter from Albert [Possibly the son of her sister Penelope Bowen Dixon (Mrs John Dixon). If so, Albert was killed in the second Battle of Manassas. His mother three years later in 1868] and he said that you wished me to write to you, there has been a great change in our family since I saw you last, and I expect that there has been the same with yours. I have enjoyed myself finely in some respects and in others I have not; in losing my sister was a great trial of my life. [Henrietta Bowen Hurst, wife of Wm Hurst, was Fannie's younger sister, who died in 1851 at the age of 17 in the Mississippi home of Dr C.C. Campbell. Campbell also came from Sumter and was married to Fannie's deceased eldest sister, Louisa.] I do not think that I have been as happy as before still I know that she is a great deal better off. We have her babe and he is a good sized child now. His Pa has married again, he speaks of taking his child away from us, but Papa says that he will not give him up now....Ma [Eliza K.B. Bowen] has gone with John [Fannie's brother?] on one of his appointments today, they may not return tonight. Ma has been in bad health for a long time, but I believe that she has improved within the last two weeks. She suffers a great deal from headache and rising in her head. The Dr. advised her to blister her neck and she did it and I think it has helped her. Papa's health has not been very good for some time, he too is getting old and infirm, so can't expect them to be well all the time. They will soon be gone. It makes me feel so bad to think that they can't live many more years at best although they may out live us. The young die as well as the old. When I think of my bye gone days how happy I have been among my relatives. I almost take the blues to think that I never will see all my kindred again and those happy moments are gone forever. I almost wish that I was a child again. I think now how different I would live. I never would leave my happy old home and kindred for all the gold in California. I wish that I was back in Carolina. I think that I would stay there, that is if Ma, Pa & brothers would go too. I don't believe that I could be content without them. I shall try to stay with Ma & Pa while they live. After their deaths I know that we will all be scattered. This is a subject that I do not like to dwell on, so I shall leave it. Jimmy is grown, you would not know him if you were to see him; Addy is very tall, he is 6 feet and a very handsome man. Henry is not quite as tall as I am. He will be before many years, you would not know any of us. Oh Neppy how I do wish to see you all. I hope I shall see you all again. I wish that you would send me your likeness, I have almost forgotten how you look. You must answer this as soon as you get it and tell me all the news, as I like to hear any and every thing that happens in my native land. Tell me who is married and who you are going to marry and when; and when I find the young man that I like I will let you know and invited you and Eliza to wait on me, so you may hold yourself in readiness. Tell me how many children Aunt Charlotte [Neppie's mother was Charlotte Crosswell Bowen who married Howell Stuckey sometime after the 1840 death of her first husband, James Spearman Bowen.] has and the new of her health and such, and how Cousin John [John Henry Bowen 1827-1892] is and Cousin Dud (William Dudley Bowen 1828-1915] and if they are married and what they are doing; and Cousin Sisuing [name unclear] if he is grown; now when you answer this be sure to answer all my questions. When you write to your brothers [in addition to John and William, there was James Frierson Bowen who was born in 1838] or see them tell them that I wish them to write to me and I will be sure to answer them. I have just received a letter from Cousin Rebecca Brockington [Rebecca, Caroline, and Mary Jane are probably the children of William Brockington, her Mother's brother,] which I must answer before many days. Uncle Edward's family were all well the last that I heard from them. Also Uncle Jack's family, his girls are all married and have families except Emada. She is single yet. Caroline [M.B. Brockington?] and Mary Jane [Brockington] are in Austin, Texas. Francis Spruce, his daughter and Emma are in Monticello. Caroline married a man named George Grey and Mary Jane a Hamilton. Uncle Ed has had two married. Frances married Hubert and died & he is married again, & Dr Bowen and ...[name illegible] they have had two children. Bob is grown he is studying law. Ed is nearly grown & Martha is also.... I believe that I have given you all the news that is worth relating, so I believe that I shall close for the present. My fingers are cold and I can hardly write, so no more at present. Give my respects to Aunt Charlotte and sister [Penelope Bowen Dixon] and her family when you see them; also to your brothers and my brothers [as far as we know, Fannie's brothers were William B., John, Jacques B., and James L.] when you see them or write to them. I remain as ever your loving Cousin until death.


Write to me soon,

Frances Bowen


P.S. When you write direct your letter to Union Church Jefferson County, Mississippi. Ma & Pa wishes to be remembered to Aunt C. & the rest, also the boys all join with me in love to you and all no more but your cousin,

Fannie Bowen"


The following letter was written to my great-great grandfather, Peter Edward Ridgeway, by his cousin, Lydia Timmons. I hope to find out very soon who Lydia Timmons was. From reading between the lines and knowing that Peter Ridgeway applied for and received a Civil War Veteran's pension, one must assume that Lydia is asking for help with getting her widow's pension. The Charity mentioned is my great-great grandmother, Charity Ridgeway Haley. Peter and Charity were brother and sister; I descend from them both. They lived in Clarendon County, South Carolina If you have any ideas about this letter, please get in touch with Cindy Ridgeway Parker. The spelling and punctuation in this transcription are as they appear in the original letter.


Macon, Ga

March 18, 1909


Dear Cousin,

I received your letter and was gald to hear from you again. This leaves us all well at this time hope it will find you all the same. Well cousin Peter you say you will be glad to help me get my pension as you know about my marriage. Will you go to the ordinary and be qualified and send it to me an a slip of paper you know the date Oct 11th 1857 and I will be much oblige to you all. I am sorry to hear that so many of our people are dead. Is Aunt Teese still living nad what is the matter with her as you said she would not walk. Well as the times are dull only we have some warm weather for the time of year it has been very cold this winter. So I will close all send regards to you all. Please answer soon excuse bad writing and mistakes. I remain as ever your cousin.

Lydia Timmons


P.S. Well I was glad to hear from Charity. Tell her she must write I will be glad to hear from her at any time.




This is a transcript of a letter written by James M. Gamble from Sullivan's Island in November of 1863 during the Civil War. Spelling and puncuation in this transcription are as they appear in the orginal document. This letter and the graphics of the original and envelope were donated for posting to this Palmetto State Roots Web Site by Bobby Thigpen.


Nov. 17th 1863

Julia I will drop you a line or two and let you know I am as well as common I hope this will find you all well I have no nuse to write they keep up a Regular Shooting at Moultrie and Sumter they haven't shell this part of the Island but once since we bin here and then they didn't throw but 4 shells one of them fell short and the other one went over us done no damage we have a good deal of sickness in the Regt since we came to this Island I don't like this place at all it is nothing but a sand bank not a tree on th island I think it has bin some as cold weather as I have ever seen it is warm in the day and cold at night Buck is as well as common I havent got but one letter from you since I been to camp you must write soon and give me all the nuse nothing more Silivanses Island November 17th 1863 James M Gamble

Return Address: James M Gamble Silivanses Island S C Co I 23rd S C Vol.

The letter was mailed to: Mrs. J M Gamble Manning Po SC

The envelope was postmarked Charleston SC Nov 18 1863.

To see a graphic image of the actual letter - Click Here

To see a graphic image of the acutal envelope - Click Here

The following is a letter written in 1924 by Rob Cooper of Wisacky, Lee County. The letter is about a tornado that tore through his farm some 75+ years ago. The transcription of this letter was donated by Robert Cooper Manning, Jr., great nephew of Rob Cooper.


The transcription which follows is a letter written May 5, 1924 from Robert Muldrow Cooper, Jr. in Wisacky, Lee County, SC to his sister Rosie Isabel Cooper Manning who was then living in South Orange, N.J. The letter was witten in the aftermath of a tornado on April 30, 1924. "Harvie" in the letter is Harvie Hull Cooper, wife of Robert M. Cooper. "Alice" is their young daughter and the only surviving child. "Marion" was the horse of Robert M. Cooper, Sr. (1853-1919), who had died 5 years previously. Spelling and punctuation remain as in the original. Some language may offend, but considering the context, the speaker and the historical significance, I have left the original complete and intact.---Robert Cooper Manning, Jr., 11 February 2000 rcmjr@aol.com

Wisacky, S.C.

May 5/24


Dear Rosie-

There was nothing in the dawning of April 30th to suggest anything but sunshine and tranquility. The sun shown brightly - the air was cool - almost crisp, with greater warmth as the noon hour approached. In fact, the day was rather conspicuous for its beauty and spring like appearance. A striking contrast to the extremely variable weather which has characterised our spring from its very inception. Each week has been almost a systematic complete cycle of first - a nice warm day, suddenly a change to cloudy cool weather and this followed by rain.


Wednesday was so attractive, Harvie and I went to Myrtlemore. Various unexpected interruptions, a stop at Brick Church to admire its ever present peacefulness and serenity and, just at this time, the unparaelled gorgeousness of the azaleas, a talk with Joshua Cooper, the sexton, combined to make our return delayed and as a consequence reach home an hour after the storm, which was but a moment in duration but which will live forever in the memory of this generation. In reality, we were but fifteen minutes or possibly less behind the storm as our course was almost directly in line with that of the storm. We first heard what appeared to be boiling thunder, continuous, gruesome, heavy black clouds above with lighter, dirty looking ones below, here and there a yellowish cast - a wonderful, spectacular, gruesome sight to have behind you.


Coming from the Woodrow section devasting the Colclough, Richardson and Dick houses - beheading young Edward Dick in the sight of his mother, Mrs. Ted Dick, passing over the Josey country raising every home in its wake it reached our place coming diagonally over a corner of Aunt Min's and Hamilton's farms - there demolishing seven negro homes where all their inmates had sought shelter with a certain degree of comfort and safety. The woods - looking south and south west from our home was the entering gateway. I am sure it resembles Bellan Woods, which I never saw.


Seven trees in an around the yard are down and others are tattered and torn - how it left the two houses entirely intact I shall never know. Believe anything you hear about a tornado and do not try to account for any of its freaks or eccentricities. A corner of a house gone, cut clean. A chimney top carried away. A young tender Mimosa with its frail branches, set out by Harvie last fall apparently never blown, and, ten feet away turmoil and chaos beyond description, this latter the account of my big cattle barn, 40' x 100', housing at the moment 22 cows, Marion, Colie Hawkins, Carrigan Davis and a negro visitor - old Daniel Scott, a former slave. The latter's description would make Mark Twain want to come back to hear -"Mas Rob, I jest was laid flat" (Pointing to a knot on his head) "Couldn't move me head, look heh nigger you gotta come out if your foot aint brake, den I plowed trew that dut and cement. Scott was a free nigger once more." The escape of the two white men is not only miraculous but simply unaccountable. The cow Colie was milking had her back broken and had to be killed. She evidentil saved his life. He was struck in the side and back, most likely by the same piece of timber. A few days we hope, will restore him to "normalcy". ( I apologize for the word.) Marion [margin note: Papa's horse] had to be shot - probably the most trying ordeal of the entire disaster. We looked upon old Marion as a living memory of Papa, and as you well know, we loved her so dearly for what she had done and meant that we treated her more like a human than an animal. She had been carried to the barn to receive especial care and to have full freedom to the pastures and fields. She was nearly 25 years old. Every cow had to be cut out. Most everyone was bruised, some seriously. Flying glass cut udders and falling timbers pinned them down. Today, I am expecting another, my best cow, to die. Tuesday I had removed about 15 younger animals from the barn. The stanchion barn is so badly disturbed I will have to tear it down. Colie Hawkins' house, (the old DesChamps house, moved down on Dog Island Road) had one "L" of 3 rooms carried away. Mrs. Hawkins, the cook and five children had just left this part of the house. Bill Thomas' house directly in front of Cooterboro Church is a memory only. Janie, Bill's wife, was in bed with a temperature of 102. Dr. McLure had just been to see her. Seven children and two visitors were also in the house. A noise a shake and all was gone. The mattress and Janie were found in the cotton field - every one was spared, some with minor bruises, hogs all killed, not a sign scarcely of the house and barns. This is an illustration of the freaks. I like to think of it as Providence, which I know it is. But why? Clint Jackson's farm with its building gone, five negroes killed. Florence, where the sorm was much lighter 6 killed. Cooterboro is a total wreck. My ginnery, the best built building in Lee county, is absolutely indescribable. Big pieces of machinery, with steel foundations, torn asunder and hurled some distance. My seed house, opposite the gin, a building 40' x 70' and containing several thousand feet of lumber, has vanished - parts have been located near Lynch's river. The little shacks, including Steve's store, the "chamber of commerce" and "city hall" are piles of debris. Here the storm was greatest. The thick woods adjacent to the station are no more. A few trees rung off half way up with tin roofing wrapped around limbs is awe inspiring. The station collapsed. Three box cars on the freight, which had just arrived, were carried off the tracks and turned over.


Dr. Alford's grove probably lends the greatest change - not an oak left - limbs whipped clean of their leaves stand a wounded sentinels of the disaster. Dr. Alford himself was painfully cut and injured. His home is not wrecked but damaged badly. It was just to the side of the main course of the tornado. Alexander's suffered likewise. Edgar Scott has a large oak thru the middle of his house. He was in one end his wife the other of the house - the children at school. Hammond, my overseer lost every tree save two small ones, and a large barn. The two outside brick chimneys were carried away with the house otherwise untouched. Close, I claim. The cook, Elias (Friday) Muldrow's house was wrecked. That's just back behind our yard nearest to Lawton's.


Now just a moment as to our return. Seeing and hearing the clouds had not intimated any danger. Our first knowledge was when we came upon the devastation at the old DesChamps Settlement, at the cross roads. The curtains were up. Getting out to survey the field, desolation met my view in every direction especially toward home. There was no sign of life. We feared the worse. Could picture the school house, Alice and all gone. Life seemed a bottomless pit. Plowing through trees, over poles, tree tops and every conceivable kind of debris we reached the station only to find our passage barred. Here fortunately came our first relief as we met cousin George McCutchen who told us Alice was safe and there was no loss of life. We reached home after the storm to find neighbors with their hands had come over to help - and this they did. The cattle were taken out by them. The negroes were demoralized. Acts of heroism are numerous. Edwards, the bookkeeper received and ugly gash across the forehead in liberating cattle, and had to be taken to Bishopville for first aid. He is all right now.


I failed to mention the utter destruction of my biggest barn, just opposite old Lawton's house, midway between our house and the depot.


Our burden seemed hopeless, heavy. I kept asking myself why? Then the reports commenced to come in of deaths in great numbers throughout the state and then our trials seemed trivial. We have everything to be grateful for. Life seems sweeter.


Our loss is monetary and sentimental. It is hard to determine either. The first will range from $25,000.00 to $40,000.00. Saw mill, tenant houses, large barns including cattle barns, ginnery, cotton wharehouse, Colie's house, seed house, injury to Brigman's house, machinery stored in warehouse, and an indeterminable amount of timber.


Expressions of sympathy are innumerable. Concert of action for restoration and raising of funds for sufferers is gladdening as well as remarkable. The Red Cross is on the field and actively in charge. My insurance does not include tornado destruction.


The homes, water works and lights are unhurt. No time for more.



This is a collection of letters written by Orlando Wheeler to his Brother, Richard Miles Wheeler, Sumterville, Sumter District SC. The letters were written between 1835 and 1836. They are a part of the files of Earnest H.Scarborough, Left to him by Ernest H.Scarborough Sr.


Orlando Wheeler and Richard Miles Wheeler and Oliver were sons of Henry Wheeler and Mary Keziah Watkins (Wadkins), They were the Uncles of Martha Jane (Patty) Wheeler who Married Hanford Augustus Scarborough. (Earnest H Scarboroughs Grandfather. The family name of Wheeler is spelled several ways, Wheler is chosen for parts of the family.

To Mr. Richard M.Wheler


Sumterville, Sum.Dist. So.Ca.


May 31st 1835 City of Mobile


Dear Brother


I have written two letters to you and has never got an answer to either of them, and so I may judge by you not writing that you do not think enough of me to give me an answer or have forgotten me or some thing like that & c. I am in better health now than Ive been sinceIve been in Mobile. I have more work than I can possibly do. This town is improving almost as rapidly as a town can, and if it continues to improve for ten years as fast as it do now, the whole township, which is five miles square, will be thickly inhabited. I heard that Oliver has got to be both Doctor and Lawyer and intends coming to Mobile, but tell him if he comes here he must quit drinking spirits and getting drunk or he wont be allowed to go in decent company. Give my respects to all my relations and acquaintances and receive the same yourself from


Your Affectionate brother


Orlando Wheler


NB. Escuse my short letter as I have no more to write.


To Mr. Richard M. Wheler


Sumterville, Smtr. Dist. So.Ca.


Mobile, Sept. 19 1835


Dear Brother.


I suppose it is not customary to write two letters in succession before receiving any answer to the first, but you must excuse me for being so hasty in writing again before receiving an answet to my other lett as writing is all that I am able to do at presant, and scarcely able to do that, I was taken sick with the billious fever about the first of august last and was very ill for some length of time, ans as soon as I got about again I was taken with a relapse which has kept me confined to my bed, and to the house together until now, I can just walk about a little now but I am as weak as a chile, and am reduced to a mere skeleton, my weight has got down to 100 pounds. I was also taken with the ague three days ago and that combined with the fever has put a great check on my recovery, I do not calculate on recovering as long as I stay in Mobile. I intend to go up the country as soon as a steamboat goes up the Gombigher river, and there remain until I recover my health if it is Gods will that I recover. It is very sickly here and a great many died in the course of the summer, and is still dying every day more or less. Being sick so long has thrown me back very much, it will take very near all that I have made since Ive been there to pay my board and doctors bill, for they do charge the most enormous prices that you ever heard of. I had a loansome and desolate time of it while sick, not an individual (except the gentleman and lady with whom I am boarding and the physician) came near me, but that is common here, people cares no more for each other in this place than the wild beasts of the forests and a stranger might as well be in the dominions of old Satan at once as to be sick here, though my landlord and lady has been very kind and attentive to me. There has been more rain in this part of the world since last winter than you ever heard of, I have heard that the cotton crops throughout the state is materially injured by the immense quantity of rain that has fallen. I cannot give you any description of the country yet, as I have never been out of Mobile but once since Ive been here, and then I just crossed the bay to Blakeley and did not go out of that town.


As soon as ever the note of Mrs. Browns becomes due I wish yu to collect it and send it on to me as I may stand in need of it for I dont know how long I may remain sick and unable to work, and be sure and send United States money, as none other will pass here except Alabama money.


Give my respects to relations and friends and receive the same your self from


Your affectionate brother


Orlando Wheler

Letter to Richard Miles Wheler


Sumterville, Sumter Dist. So.Ca.


Movile. Oct. 5, 1835


Dear Brother:


I received your letter yesterday dated August 28 which gave me great pleasure to hear that you were well, and I hope this may find you in the same state of health. I wrote to you a short time since informing you that I was and had been vry sick. I am now very near well and have commenced work again but I am still very weak and am not able to do much yet. My sickness has been a great drawback to me; I am of the opinion that I shall not spend another summer in Mobile. If nothing happens to prevent me, I intend paying a visit to South Carolina and next year and spend that sickly season there, if it is any healthier there at tht time than here. It is still very sickly here and deaths dayly.


I have never heard from Sylvesters family since the first of last spring, and I have not seen nor heard of Oliver since you wrote to me tht he was in this state. Tell Tyre if he will come here with horse and dray he can git as much hauling as he can do all the winter if he will keep sober.


Give my respects to all the girls, and tell them that I intend, when I come to South Carolina next summer, and try and get one of them to come back with me to Mobile if they are not too muleish, and kick too hard, but tell them not to be too ready to kick for I have learnt how to spur since Ive been here. There is not a girl in Mobile that is fit for Tyre Jennings to have. Give me the South Carolina girls yet for beauty, industry and virtue.


Give my respects and love to all my relations and friends and receive the same yourself from


Your affectionate brother


Orlando Wheler


N.B. Do try and collect that note of Mrs. Browns as soon as you can and send it on here.



Letter to Mr. Richard Wheler


Sumterville,Sumter Dist. So.Ca.


Garrison of Labahier, Texas, Feb 23 1836


My Dear Brother.


I hope you will not think hard of me for not writing to you before now for this is the first opportunity that I have had to send a leter ot the United States since Ive been here in Texas.


I am quite hearty at present, and have enjoyed better health here than I ever did in my life , although I was in a wretched state of health when I left Mobile.


Tesas is the most beautiful country that I ever beheld and the richest lands in the world. If we prove successful in this way, and God willing that I live until it is over, I intend to live here as I will have nearly 2,000 acres of land coming to me as a bounty for my services besides twenty dollars a month.


We have been victorious so far and have beaten the Mexicans in every battle. We will leave this place in the course of two or three days for the town of San Antonio de Bexar as Santa Anna is on his march to that place at the head of a powerful army and designs to attatck the place as soon as possible but he will meeet with a warm reception for our amy is in high spirits and eager for battle and the Mexicans cannot stand our rifles.. I am hily pleased with a soldiers life, although it is very toilsome and dangerous, and I have become a first rate cook and washer.


Tell the girls that I am coming back to South Carolina when this war is over and get a wife if I dont get killed and whichever one will come here with memust be in readiness for I dont want to stay there courting them for a year or two.


I am very anxious to see you all but I will not return till the storm of war is over here. You must excuse my short letter as I am in great haste. Give my respects to all my relations and friends, and to Mrs Sledge and Mrs Black and their families and tell them that I have not forgotten them and am also very anxious to see them all.


I remain your affectionate brother


Orlando Wheler


N.B. I cannot inform you where to direct a letter to me as we are continuously marching from one station to another and for that reason I may not get your letter, There is no postoffice inthis part of the country. If we beat Santa Anna in Texas I expect we will march against Matmoros inthe state of Tamulipas and try to reduce that state




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