Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina: 1845–1858. Envelope or Cover. These fourteen letters (mostly stampless folded letters, some in envelopes with 3-cent stamps, Scott Types A10 or A21) were written by or to the Miller-Furman family over 14 years in the mid-19th century. Postmarks include Georgia (Augusta, Milledgeville, and Scottsborough), Pennsylvania (Bethlehem), and South Carolina (Privateer, Providence, and Society Hill). Addresses include Georgia (Coosawattee and Scottsborough), Pennsylvania (Bethleham), South Carolina (Privateer and Stateburgh). Everything is in nice shape; some letters have splits along their mailing folds. Transcripts will be provided. Very good. Item #009358
Susan Miller, born in 1832, was the daughter of Colonel John Blount Miller, a prominent South Carolina lawyer who owned the Cornhill Plantation, near the town of Privateer just south of Sumterville. In 1853, at the age of 23, she married a widower, Dr. John H. Furman, the grandson of Richard Furman for whom Furman University is named. At the time, Furman was a prominent Georgia physician. The early letters begin in 1845, when Susan, then age 12 was attending the Bethlehem Female Seminary (now Moravian College) in Pennsylvania, the first American boarding academy for girls and one of the best schools in the nation. It was also a favorite of wealthy Southern planters who enrolled their daughters not just for the academics but also for spiritual and moral guidance, intellectual and cultural pursuits, vocational training, physical education, and social cultivation. Susan’s letters report that “I have been promoted in all my classes except Arithmatict and Reading. I am in the third Geography and History and in the second Grammar class. I have left off French . . . I could not learn it for I did not like it.. . . I should like to see you at home for it will be two years next month that I came here.” For the most part her headmaster agreed, but not without concern for her spiritual development. “I am glad that I can render to you . . . a favorable report of Susan’s . . . studies. . . . In answer to my inquiries about her deportment. . ., the teachers have informed me that it is good with some exceptions. Her health is vigorous & she develops herself well. . . . Susan shows less dislike to music since she knows that you & we require her to cultivate it. . . . Your daughter will I hope . . . be sufficiently advanced in order to enter the select class.. . . And above all it is our wish & prayer that she may soon lay down herself, & all her knowledge, & talents & gifts at the feet of the crucified Savior, and in the exercise of true repentance, a living faith, find & obtain everlasting life.” Susan also nonchalantly recounts that illness and death were present among her friends at the school. “Miss Jones has had the rheumatism very bad, but she is better now. . . . One of my little companions . . . died Monday. . . . She had a disease of the lung which ended with a Spasmodic Croup, and her parents were sent for, they left yesterday with her corpse. . . .” And, her rather immature comments provide evidence of the school’s popularity with Southern planters. “I hope that if Father sells his plantation and leaves South Carolina, that he will go to Louisiana for I think it is so nice to live in a sugar plantation, and in a very pretty house. Tell Father . . .that he will get a plantation near Col Dancy, because he has two granddaughters here at school and they live hear him, and I would like to live near them.” The early letters to John Furman begin in 1846, just before his first marriage and contain several references to his and his fiancée’s families’ plantations. His future mother-in-law, Eliza Carter, writes “Mr. Carter requested me to write and inquire whether yourself or your brother know anyone that you thought would suit him as an Overseer for Coosawatchie . . . and the price which one could be obtained. [Also,] he requests that you would procure in Augusta as you come on, two pessarys for two of his plantation patients. [We] would be glad for you to make Coosawattee your home and become part of our family. . . . [Mr. Carter] will soon as he can make his arrangements [to] settle a Cotton plantation in which he will give you a liberal interest. . . .” And his John’s father relates: “William (a brother) seems to be going spiritedly on with his planting. . . . When I last heard from him, he was on his way to Orangeburgh to take from the jail there the Boy William who had absconded. . . . Your boy Osman whom you sold . . . has called on me and requested me to write you in his behalf. He says his master who is a wealthy man is willing to buy his wife and two children if you will sell them, and he begs that you will let [his owner] have them. He regrets very much that he ever gave you cause to sell him and would gladly have you purchase him back, but supposes that to be out of the question.” When Susan informs her family in February of 1853 that she plans to marry John (two years after his first wife’s death), her sister, Miranda, expresses her family’s displeasure. “When I was reading that portion [of your last letter] which related to the many unpleasant circumstances . . . I was much grieved . . . what am I to infer. . . when you say that it is Mother’s expressed wish that you should leave and that this parting will likely be the last . . . and I of course infer that there had been something unpleasant between Mother and the Dr. to cause her to say such words . . . she must have been very much provoked to say you [should] go off from home and all your friend [and live] among strangers . . . let not you your infatuation lead you to that which you may have to repent all your life. . . . When those who are acquainted think it best for you to postpone your wedding . . . it would be nothing but prudent for you do do so . . . the Dr’s manners would never suit the family. . . . Just consider how much more pleasant it would be to have Mother . . . reconciled before your marriage. Is not worth even a year’s delay. . . . I do not think you should regard all those your enemies who happen to advise contrary to your inclination.” Regardless, the couple married three months later and soon reconciled with her family as they (along with John’s children from his first marriage) took up residence at Cornhill Plantation. In the last letter, written by Susan to John in 1858, the love within their blended family is clearly discernable. “Our little darling is quite well and is very good. She talked about you a long time last night and quarreled a great deal when I told her you were not coming home for some time. . . . Johnnie is quite well, he does not complain of being lonely. He went fishing yesterday but did not catch anything. . . . I do very little except nurse Katie. . . . Jimmie and Charley sleep in the boys’ room and one of the girls with me every night. . . . Johnnie wishes with me in love to you. Kiss Farish and . . . also kiss Maggie. I send sweet kisses from Katie. Good night darling. . . . Ever your devoted wife.” An incredible grouping of first-hand accounts of ante-bellum plantation life with emphasis upon a Southern belle’s coming of age.