Saturday, August 16, 2014

137. Elvira W. Dupuy Eggleston (1805-1878)

There's a student named Elvira W. Dupuy in the list of Mordecai school students, compiled by me in about twenty years ago.  I'm seeing her listed as a resident of Virginia, at the school for its last three sessions (mid-1817 to the end of 1818), and with Captain James Dupuy as the adult on the account, appearing in the school ledger in June 1817, November 1817, January 1818, and June 1818.  That seems like a lot to go on!  And Elvira is an unusual enough name, there should be more to find.

And there is.  Elvira Dupuy was born in Nottoway County, Virginia, in October 1805, the youngest child born to Captain James Dupuy (1753-1828) and Mary Purnell Dupuy (1758-1828).   Her father's military rank came from his service during the American Revolution. Her mother was 47 when Elvira was born, and Elvira's only sister Elizabeth (b. 1803) died young--so a girls' school might have seemed like a good idea for a lot of reasons when Elvira was twelve years old.  At age 22, Elvira married fellow Virginian Richard Beverly Eggleston (1797-1853) as his second wife, and the following year both her parents died.  The Egglestons had six children. Her last child was born in 1839, when Elvira was 34; and all of them were born in Virginia.  She was widowed in 1853, age 48; she lived through the Civil War and died in 1878, a few weeks before her 73rd birthday.

Her grandson Joseph Dupuy Eggleston (1867-1953) was a noted educator, president of Virginia Tech and Hampden-Sydney College, as well as Virginia's state superintendent of public schools (1906-1912).

The Eggleston papers at the Virginia Historical Society Library may have more about Elvira and her family.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

135. and 136. Edwin and Joseph Drake

I've mentioned already that sometimes, especially early in the school's era, local boys were enrolled at the Mordecai school.  Two boys, Edwin and Joseph Drake, were there a little later:  Edwin was a student at the school from 1813 to mid-1815, five sessions; Joseph was there for all of 1815.  Caswell Drake might be an adult associated with their account in the school ledger.  Caroline Mordecai Plunkett mentions "Joe Drake" in a list of Warrenton friends in an 1829 letter (Caroline to Ellen, 5 April 1829, Jacob Mordecai Papers, Duke).

Drake's a common name, of course, but Caswell stands out as a first name, and we know the family will be Warren County residents (because boys didn't board at the school).  That makes it fairly easy to find this pair of students:  Edwin and Joseph Drake were two of the sons of Rev. Caswell Drake (1776-1860), a Methodist minister in town, who also served as Warren County Clerk of Court (1819-1833).  Their mother was Mourning Drake (1772-1841) (she was a Drake by birth and by marriage); their older brother Matthew Mann Drake married another Mordecai student, Winnifred Fitts (more on her when we get to the Fs).

Joseph J. Drake was born around 1805. Looks like he might have become a physician and married Harriott (Harriet) Eliza Sessums (born around 1815).  They don't seem to have had children together, but in middle age, the couple raised a niece, Lucy Sills Sessums (aka Lucy Drake), whose mother died soon after her birth in Mississippi.  They turn up in the 1850 census living with her father, Dr. Isaac Sessums, in Nash County--maybe Joseph and Isaac practiced medicine together?

Edwin D. Drake (not that Edwin Drake) was apparently also born around 1805, and married Rebecca Edwards (1797-1869), and stayed in Warren County, where he was also Clerk of Court, after his father. They had sons Joseph and Francis born in the 1830s.   He may have been a North Carolina state senator during the Civil War.

Both men kept their names, kept local, and were fairly prominent--but I can't find a death date or gravestone for either one.  They must be out there; if you know, leave a comment.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

134. Sarah Eppes Doswell Cabell (1802-1874)

I have a student called Sarah Doswell in the appendix if my dissertation.  It says she was at the Mordecai school for four sessions, 1813 and 1814, and that a Mrs. Doswell was the adult on her account.  Indeed Mrs. Doswell appears in the August 1813 ledger page, paying board, tuition and "musick."  And again on January 1814, paying for "Sally" (aka Sarah).  She's mentioned as "S Doswell" once in a Mordecai letter, on 2 January 1814, Rachel mentions to Ellen that "I will go & see A Young & S Doswell, who have just arrived."  So our Sally Doswell may travel with an A. Young (Ann Young was a student at the school in the same sessions as Sally Doswell, precisely). 

Not a lot to go on, but Doswell isn't a super-common name (though there is a town named Doswell, Virginia).  And we know she'll be born around 1800.

Sarah Doswell Cabell (1802-1874),
from the University of Virginia Library
Here's a very likely candidate:  Sarah Eppes Doswell (1802-1874) of Danville, Virginia, daughter of Major John Doswell (1744-1820) and Mary Poythress Eppes (1767-1823; the Eppes is also spelled Epps and Epes).  That puts her at the Mordecai school when she was ages 10-12.  She married Benjamin William Sheridan Cabell (1793-1862) in 1816, at age 14.  (Benjamin's sister, Mary Pocahontas Rebecca Cabell, married a lawyer named Peyton Doswell, presumably a relation of Sarah's).  They had eleven children together, and lived in Danville.  Benjamin was in the US Army, and served in the Virginia state assembly.  Six of their sons fought in the Civil War, on the Confederate side, and two died in the war.   She died in 1874, age 72.  Here's her gravesite.

The descendants of Sallie Doswell included some prominent folks.  Her son William Lewis Cabell (1827-1911) was a West Point graduate, a Confederate general, and after the war was mayor of Dallas, Texas, and a railroad executive.  His son was also mayor of Dallas.  His grandson was also mayor of Dallas.  Another of Sally's sons, George Craighead Cabell (1836-1906) was a six-term Congressman from Virginia. (She died at his house.)  Her great-grandson Charles Pearre Cabell (1903-1971) was Deputy Director of the CIA at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

No solid mention of this woman attending the Mordecai school, but I haven't run across any other Sarah Doswells that would fit the profile for a Mordecai student, and this one does, perfectly.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

133. Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Dortch Bullock (1803-1832)

I have a student named Betty Dortch in my list of Mordecai students.  She's only at the school one session (first half of 1816), and the adult attached to her account might be Major John R. Eaton.  It looks like a "Maj. J. R. Eaton" paid for "Miss Dortch" in the school ledger, January 1816; there's another mention of the two names together in the May 1817 ledger page, along with the name "R. Bullock."  Other than that and the school rosters, she doesn't seem to have been mentioned by the Mordecais.  Not much to go on, but it's an unusual enough name, let's have a look around.

It's definitely the name of a prominent North Carolina family in the nineteenth century.  William T. Dortch (1824-1889) was a North Carolina legislator, born in Nash County near Rocky Mount; he once owned the historic house named the "Dortch-Weil-Bizzell House" in Goldsboro (for sale, and it's accessible!).  Another North Carolina Dortch moved to Tennessee, and his son (another William Dortch) moved to Arkansas, where he owned Marlsgate Plantation.  Anyway, plenty of Dortches.

Let's try the Major Eaton angle.  John Rust Eaton (1772-1830) was a planter, horse breeder, and state legislator from Granville County, NC.   He mentioned a "Mr. Dortch" recovering from smallpox in a 1794 letter, but that's it for the name's appearance in his published correspondence.  In 1816 he would have been a father to some of his eleven kids (he married Susan Somerville in 1801).  And his sister Betty Eaton married.... Noah Dortch.  Bingo.  Another of Eaton's sisters, Mary, married William Baskerville--we've already run into him, because Eaton had Baskerville nieces at the Mordecai school as well.

So here's the story.  Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Dortch was born in January 1803, first child of Elizabeth "Betty" Eaton (1787-1810) and Noah Dortch (1781-1811).  As the dates show, Betty (and four younger siblings) lost both mother and father by 1811--which might explain why uncle John Rust Eaton was taking care of her school tuition five years later.  At 21, she married James Bullock Jr. (1798-1880), whose sister Catherine Bullock also attended the Mordecai School.  (His sister Fanny Bullock married Macon Green, who was one of the Mordecai's male students in their early years.)  Betty and James had five children together; two died in infancy. Betty Dortch was destined to follow her parents to an early grave--she died in 1832, age 29.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

130., 131., 132. The Donaldsons (Eliza, Isabella, and Joanna)

Three Donaldson sisters attended the Mordecai school from Fayetteville, all three the daughters of Robert Donaldson, but John McMillan is listed as paying their tuition:

Eliza Donaldson (1803-1825) was at the school for seven sessions total--1812-1813, and again 1816-1817; the first time with her older sister Isabella, the second time with her sister Joanna.  She was ill with tuberculosis when she married Thomas Hooper in 1825, and died a few months later, age 22.  Eliza's sister-in-law, briefly, was another Mordecai alumna, Margaret Broadfoot Hooper.

Isabella Donaldson (1797-1887) was at the school for two sessions in 1812.

Joanna Donaldson (1806-1876) was at the school for three sessions, 1816-1817.

As the details already given suggest, even in 1996 I had found a lot of information about these girls.  Eliza Donaldson Hooper stayed with her former teacher Rachel Mordecai Lazarus in Wilmington during her final illness.  Isabella Donaldson (the eldest sister to attend the school) was a lifelong friend to the Mordecais, especially to Julia Judith Mordecai. Caroline mentions Isabella Donaldson in an 1842 letter to the writer Maria Edgeworth, and Isabella wrote to inquire if Ellen was interested in a governess job with a neighboring family that same year.  Joanna Donaldson enjoyed a visit from the Mordecai women in 1842, when her husband Oliver Bronson was unwell.  It's clear that the Mordecais considered the Donaldsons admirable, unlike a lot of their students' families:
[Julia] is happy to be with me, but she cannot find anything in the society of Wilmington to compensate for the delightfully rational hours spent with the Donaldson family.  I wish they resided here, such intercourse is enviable, & preferring it as we do, how seldom has it been our lot to taste the enjoyment. (Rachel to Ellen, 18 January 1824, in the Mordecai Family Papers, SHC)

I may say with truth whenever I have visited Mr. Donaldson's family I have left it with the most delightful sensation of calm tranquility I ever experienced in any society.  I believe you know Mr & Mrs. D were from home but Isabella & James were there... (Ellen to Caroline, 18 July 1832, Jacob Mordecai Papers, Duke)
So there were letters and visits, long after the school years.   Their brother Robert Jr. was a prominent banker and arts patron in New York, which offers another window into their later lives.

Isabella Donaldson's gravesite
in Duchess County, New York
via FindaGrave

Robert Donaldson Sr. was a wealthy Scottish merchant, part of a community of prosperous Scots in Fayetteville.  He died in July 1808, and his wife Sarah Henderson soon followed. 

Joanna Donaldson Bronson was only two when her father died; she was ten when she went to the Mordecai school with her older sister Eliza (who was thirteen at the time).  Joanna moved to New York with her brother Robert.  In 1833 she married Dr. Oliver Bronson, from a wealthy family in banking and insurance.  They had a sons Isaac (1835-1872) (who was with the Union Army during the Civil War), Oliver Jr. (1837-1918), Willett, and Robert.  A niece described Joanna as "a beauty in her youth---Black waving hair, beautiful grey eyes and much color of complexion --- very gay and very entertaining. She became very deaf (in her old age) but was so agreeable that everyone sought her society."  Dr. Bronson stopped practicing medicine and became superintendent of schools, eventually moving to Reconstruction-era St. Augustine, Florida as a school administrator.  The Bronsons were benefactors of a missionary society, a girls' school, the American Tract Society, and an "Asylum for Respectable Aged Indigent Females."  Their house in the Hudson Valley is now a national historic landmark.  Joanna was widowed in summer 1875 and died in early 1876, age 69.


129. M. Dickinson

Placeholder post--I'll come back to this.  This student is in the appendix of my diss as having been at the school for one term, the last term of the Mordecai school in 1818.  No other information. I want to look at the sources and see where this listing came from.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

128. Catherine Gabrielle DeRosset Kennedy (1800-1889)

There was a student named Catherine DeRosset at the Mordecai school, enrolled for two sessions, in 1811; Dr. A. J. DeRosset was the adult on her account.  As it happens, Catherine DeRosset was from a prominent Wilmington family, and became a friend to Rachel Mordecai after the school years.  Rachel Mordecai even named one of her daughters partly for Catherine (her daughter Mary Catherine Lazarus, born 1828; naming story from a letter, from Mary Orme to Ellen Mordecai, 26 September 1828, Mordecai Family Papers, SHC).  So we know a good deal about her family and how her life turned out. 

(Note:  For a very long time, I remember that she was listed as Catherine Prosser in my draft versions of the school rolls, even while the name DeRosset was familiar in other Mordecai-related contexts.  So there's a reminder that handwriting can be a major cause of error.)

Armand John DeRosset (1767-1859) was a doctor of Huguenot ancestry, like his father and grandfather before him.  Catherine Gabrielle DeRosset was the eldest child of her father's second marriage, to Catherine Fullerton (1773-1737).  Catherine had three younger sisters, and a younger brother Armand Jr., as well as an older half-brother (who was also her cousin--their mothers were sisters), named Moses.  Catherine was ten years old when she went to the Mordecai school (turned 11 there).  She may well have attended school with cousins; her paternal aunt was Mrs. Henry Toomer, her maternal grandmother's maiden name was Toomer, and there was a Sarah Toomer at the school during the same sessions as Catherine was there.

Catherine married a Methodist pastor, Rev. William Magee Kennedy (1783-1840) in 1835, becoming stepmother to his children; they moved to Columbia, South Carolina.  Catherine was forty the year she was widowed, after just five years wed; she and her ten-year-old stepdaughter Cattie moved back to Wilmington at that juncture.  Catherine and Cattie were close; here's one of Cattie's letters to Catherine, from during the Civil War.  (Many years later, Cattie would marry Catherine's younger brother, Armand Jr.)  In Wilmington as a youngish widow, Catherine was a co-founder and first president of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, and founder of a home for elderly women, opened as Old Ladies' Rest.   She also worked briefly as a nurse at a wartime hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1861 (letter, Cate Kennedy to her sister Liz, 1 November 1861, DeRosset Family Papers, SHC).


Catherine DeRosset Kennedy died on Christmas Eve, 1889, age 89.  Old Ladies' Rest was renamed the Catherine Kennedy Home in her memory, and retained that name until it closed in 2000, considered at the time the oldest "home for the aged" in the USThe Catherine Kennedy Home Foundation remains a granting entity, supporting causes that help senior citizens.

(Image:  State historical marker for the Catherine Kennedy Home in Wilmington.  Reads:  "Catherine Kennedy Home / For the elderly.  Grew from Ladies Benevolent Society. founded 1845.  First home, 1879, stood four blocks east.")

One website calls Catherine DeRosset Kennedy a "driving force"; compared to most of her Mordecai classmates, she certainly took a more public role in pursuing her interests.  She's even the subject of a recent master's thesis, "Catherine Kennedy DeRosset's Independence:  A Modern Historian's Analysis of a Nineteenth-Century Southern Woman" (MA, Georgia State University 2003) by Angela H. Gilleland