Wednesday, April 20, 2011

62. Priscilla Elizabeth Brownrigg Bailey (1800-1874)

Well, this is a student I already know a good deal about. She became a significant part of an article I published a few years ago (Penny L. Richards, "'Could I But Mark Out My Own Map of Life': Educated Women Embracing Cartography in the Nineteenth-Century American South," Cartographica 39 (3)(Fall 2004): 1-17). Her husband's papers, mostly letters between Priscilla and her husband and their sons, are at the Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill, a rich collection that includes her granddaughters' drawings while at school in Raleigh. (No surprise it's there, by the way: their great-granddaughter Bessie Henderson Cotten was one of the early organizers of the Southern.)

Priscilla Elizabeth Brownrigg (1800-1874) was from Edenton NC. Her family had a commercial fishing operation on the Chowan River. Her mother was Ruth Baker (1768-1802)--from the dates you can see that Priscilla hardly had a chance to know her mother; her father Thomas Brownrigg remarried and had three children younger than Priscilla. Priscilla was probably named for her mother's sister Priscilla Baker Graham. Priscilla's older sisters Mary Ann and Sarah had also attended school in Warrenton, before the Mordecai school opened. Priscilla was nearly sixteen when she arrived at the Mordecai school, and she stayed through three sessions, to the end of 1817. In 1821, she married John Lancaster Bailey, a young lawyer. They stayed around Edenton for a while, long enough for their first child to be born and, sadly, die as a small girl. Their three other children were also born there, but they grew up in Hillsborough, where the Baileys lived while John was working as a traveling judge. Priscilla loved Hillsborough, a walkable, sociable town. John tried to start a law school in Hillsborough. In 1858, John bought a farm at Swannanoa, in western North Carolina. Priscilla didn't want to leave her friends and familiar places, but she moved anyway. Within a year, she was permanently injured by a fall from a mule. She was bedridden for more than a year, and used crutches afterwards.

She moved to Asheville to stay with her daughter Sarah Jane Cain during the war years; after the war, her son tried to persuade the family to move to Brazil (where slavery was still legal), but they didn't go. Priscilla died in 1874, following a stroke, after 53 years of marriage. She was 74. Her daughter Sarah Jane lived almost a century, 1828-1927.

I keep waiting for the first entry I can put here with a photograph of the subject; but I'll have to keep waiting! When I was preparing the Cartographica article, I looked everywhere in the Bailey papers, and couldn't find any images of Priscilla.

UPDATE (11/15): An anonymous commenter alerted me to the existence of a portrait of Priscilla Brownrigg Bailey at FindaGrave. Here it is:


  1. There is a portrait of Priscilla on Find a Grave site with her headstone.

  2. Aha! Excellent! Thank you for letting me know.