It’s a good, casual, snowy day topic… and actually, I’ve been giving it some thought for a couple of days.
Since late last summer, I’ve been collecting (among other literary journals from the early 19th century) copies of the Southern Literary Messenger. I’m not one of those “no price is too high” kinda guys, but rather, one who looks for great deals. So far, I’ve added about a half dozen copies of monthlies (ranging from 1840 to 1857), and one complete bound volume (Volume 8, 1842). In some ways, sure… it’s about having some of these originals “in-hand”, but it’s even better knowing who originally owned them. I suspect it’s part of my fascination with not only what works people were reading, but who was reading the works.
Out of the copies that I have, there are four different names inscribed on different copies.
The bound volume belonged to George B. Neal.
I haven’t done a great deal of research on him yet, but, because of where he had this bound, I’m thinking he may have been from Ohio, or somewhere close by.
Another signature (or owners name inscribed by someone else) that I’ve identified is that of Richmond Terrell Lacy, Sr.
Born in 1800, Lacy was the only son of Benjamin and Jane Terrell Lacy. Apparently a life-long resident of New Kent County, Lacy graduated from the College of William & Mary, in 1825. After this, he’s known for his service as a representative to the Virginia General Assembly and as Commonwealth’s attorney for New Kent County. As an aside (pardon my distraction)… it also appears, in addition to reading the works of Southern writers, he, not unlike myself, had an interest in fruit trees. The following was from a Richmond paper, from September, 1854:
I see, also, from the US House of Representatives, in 1870, that Lacy was doing what he could to unravel himself from his former leanings, apparently, as a former Virginian loyal to the Confederacy. A petition was before the US House “praying for the removal of his political disabilities, to the Committee on Reconstruction.” In 1877, Richmond T. Lacy, Sr., died at his estate “Burleigh,” and was buried at St. Peter’s Church in New Kent County Virginia. Off-hand, I know that two of his sons served in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry.
The third piece identified by name is that which belonged to a “Miller” of Smith’s Crossroads, in Powhatan County, Virginia. I haven’t made a great deal of progress on this yet, though it appears there are really very few persons by the name of Miller in the county, between the 1840s and 1850s.
If what I’m thinking is correct, this belonged to Maurice Miller… aka, John Maurice Miller (1816-1858), who, like Lacy, was also a lawyer. Furthermore, As both Maurice and his wife died by 1858, this would be the same Miller family who left their orphan son, Thomas, to be brought up by his uncle, Willis J. Dance (also a lawyer)… the same Willis J. Dance who later commanded the Powhatan Artillery, and later a battalion of artillery, in the Army of Northern Virginia. Thomas M. Miller also served in the Powhatan Artillery. Both Dance and Miller were prominent in Powhatan County’s circle of politicians.
The last piece (Vol. 24, #5… which dates to May, 1857) that I have identified to a person is this…
As I acquired this piece from a person in Alabama, I’m inclined to think that this may well have belonged to William Henry Sims… who may be one in the same as the person, whose diary and papers are maintained at the Southern Historical Collection, at UNC, Chapel Hill. It’s difficult to be sure, just yet (though I think I know how I can figure it out), but the location does seem to suggest that it’s possible.
Also, if this is the same person as the man in the Southern Historical Collection papers, though this copy of SLM tells us little about the man (other than the fact that he must have subscribed to the SLM for some intellectual value), the connection to the papers at UNC could be interesting. In 1857, Sims passed along directions to his overseer, in Alabama, on the handling of his slaves. Among the different “Overseer Rules” set forth by Sims were his beliefs that slaves be corrected “in a humane manner” and that after corrected, they not be “taunted”. Furthermore, Sims had various rules regarding the ability of slaves to care for themselves and their children. In addition to seeing that nursing mothers be kept closer to the house, he was also of the opinion that slave couples have a viable means of sustenance. Slave couples were to be “provided a rooster and several hens”. When their children were “large enough to go to the field,” the family would have their stock increased by one hen. Subsequently, when children reached fifteen years of age, they could have their own stock. (see Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth Century America, where I saw these references to Sims).
I’m also curious to know if this Sims is the same man who later became lieutenant governor of Mississippi, and later, in the latter 1800s, moved to Alabama. Who knows… maybe no connection after all.
Trivial to some, perhaps… but fascinating to think whose hands these passed through, and whose eyes once glimpsed the pages.