John Berkley Grimball diaries, 1832-1883.

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Creator: Grimball, John Berkley, 1800-1892.
Collection number: 970
View finding aid.

Abstract: John Berkeley Grimball was a rice planter of Charleston and the Colleton District, S.C. Married Margaret Ann (“Meta”) Morris. Grimball’s diary discusses plantation management and cultivation of crops, especially rice; slavery and free blacks; plantation finances; social and cultural life in Charleston, S. C.; travel, especially to the Virginia springs and to New York, and the modes of transportation he used in his travels; the suffering of the civilian population during the Civil War and Reconstruction; the Episcopal church to which Grimball’s wife and children belonged and the Presbyterian church where he worshipped; the education of his children, including a son who studied law, another who studied medicine, a third who went to the United States Naval Academy, and a daughter who attended Montpellier Institute in Macon, Ga.; and his own and his family’s health problems, including struggles during various epidemics. The diary also contains entries about members of families to which Grimball was related, largely through his wife, including the Manigault and Lowndes families of Charleston and the Morris family of Morrisania, N.Y. There is also mention of an 1834 hot air balloon ascension and of a duel in 1856.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Entries discuss, among other topics, slavery and free blacks. Diary entries document that, prior to the Civil War, Grimball owned 70 or 80 slaves himself and controlled the activities of others on his mother’s lands. During this period, most entries relate in some fashion to slaves: the management and care of slaves; their requirements in terms of clothing and punishments; their illnesses; their purchase and sale. Grimball also, apparently employed Mary, a free black woman, as a nurse. In October 1832, Grimball wrote of an appeal from a free black tailor for assistance in moving himself and his family to Liberia. In August 1835, there is a description of an incident at Salt Sulphur Springs, Western Virginia, where a black man sang love songs in a show, prompting guests from South Carolina to leave the room in protest. In 1867 and 1868, he recorded his sharecropping arrangements with a white man and with one of his former slaves. Microfilm available.

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