Lancasterville, South Carolina: 1849. Envelope or Cover. This three-page stampless folded letter measures 15” x 10” unfolded. It is datelined “Lancasterville March 26th 1849. It was sent from 18-year-old “S A B” (Sarah Amelia Bonner) to her 22-year old aunt in “Rocky Mount [vicinity of Great Falls] So Ca”. It bears a relatively scarce “Lancaster C. H. [Court House]” postmark (see ASCC v.1, p.365). A panel of the stationery—not affecting any text or postal markings—has been removed.
Sarah was the granddaughter of James Barkley, an early Irish settler of Winnsboro, South Carolina. She moved to Lancaster along with mother, Mary Ann Barkley, after her mother married William Robinson following the death of her father, William Bonner, in 1832. Sarah, 18 at the time of this letter, was apparently close to her slightly older 22-year-old Aunt Clara. In this letter, which touches on education, religion, temperance, and community life, Sarah attempts to entice Clara to visit, promising “I know I could make you laugh.”
“You wished me to let you know how I like Lancaster I like it very well indeed but Mother does not she says this year will be enough for her . . . Mother’s school is not very large at present but it is increasing she has no music scholars yet but I think she will after a while. . ..
"You will laugh I know when I tell you about Mag[istrate] Long of Georgia I wish you could have seen him . . . he is all sorts of a mag [i.e., a magpie: an obnoxious, foolish, and loquacious talker] . . . I believe he went to see nearly every young lady in town [and] he does not wait for to be introduced . . . He only paid me one visit [and] said I treated him so badly he could not come again . . . he said he belonged to the Sons of Temperance. He made a humorous speech one night in the Academy [about an old drunkard who was tricked into unwittingly blacking his face after which his wife refused to allow him in their home.] I do hope you will have the pleasure of seeing him if he returns. . ..
There is to be a great party at Mr Ladlers on the 6 of April I suppose you are all invited Mother and myself received tickets on Saturday last. . .. If you are going to attend come in the beginning of the week and stay with us. . ..
"Oh I do wish you could hear the good sermons that Mr. Palmer preaches do try and come over and go to church with me I have no doubt at all but you think of Religion now as I once did that it is a gloomy thing [and] if you become a christian you would have no more pleasure but it is a great mistake. . .. Try and come after they are done planting and when you come stay a little while [and enjoy] such entertainment as we are able to give. . ..". Very good. Item #009839
Perhaps Sarah’s newly-found religious zeal was related to the Reverend Edward Porter Palmer, an eligible, young, recent graduate of Columbia’s Theological Seminary who had just become the pastor of Lancaster’s historic Waxhaw Presbyterian Church. He was also a relative of the now infamous Benjamin Roger Palmer, “the high priest of the Lost Cause,” who encouraged Southern hopes while presiding over the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States, and, after the war, became “pastor” to the entire South. (See Duncan’s Auburn University dissertation, Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Southern Presbyterian Devine.) .