Tag Archives: letter

A freshman stands up to being hazed

In our second installment of our “welcome back” series, we feature a letter from Neil A. Sinclair (a freshman) to his mother, 9 September 1882, in which he recounts his experiences with being hazed by the older boys at Carolina. Hazing was frequent during the early years of the University.  In Kemp Plummer Battle’s “History of the University of North Carolina. Volume II: From 1868 to 1912,” available online through DocSouth, you’ll find a lot of description about these hazing practices (starts around page 294 of the electronic version), including descriptions of the “blacking parties” mentioned in Sinclair’s letter below:

There has been [a] good deal of “freshing,” but I’ve been troubled but very little.  The first of the week, while going to supper one evening, a fellow thought he would be smart & stepped up in my path & drew his fist as if he were going to knock me down.  He came meeting me, but I deliberately walked on till we met & ran up against each other, but instead of backing off I stood firm & looked him square in the eyes.  He seemed rather disappointed & after a while asked what I was looking at him so hard for, thinking he would create a laugh, but I said, “I was just going to keel you about 10 ft. out there on the grass if you had touched me,” & I would have done it too.  He saw I was in earnest & he got mighty small & slunk around to one side of me & passed on leaving me in possession of the field.  Then I started on without even looking back & the crowd first yelled at the Sophomore about allowing a Freshman to bully him.  I was not troubled any more till Wednesday night.  About 25 boys came around & told me I had to make them a bow, but I told them I would do nothing of the kind.  They also tried to make me get on the table & speak & to dance but I would not. They said they would black me then.  Ransom & 2 others about drunk were going to do the blacking.  I told them that was one thing I did not propose to allow & that I would not be blacked alive & that the first man that attempted to black me would get that. I told them there was but one thing they could make me do & that was to trot[?], that I would not think of fighting a man for such a thing as that, & I knew they could carry me by force.  So they gave out their blacking notion & we started out & just as we got to the door, Pres. Battle met us & said, “Gentlemen, this devilment has got to stop.”  In five minutes the whole campus was quiet, & for 3 hours before you could have heard the noise for 5 miles….

October 13,… 1863

Letter: 13 October 1863, from Rhoda Casey to her husband.

Letter: 13 October 1863, from Rhoda Casey to her husband.

Here is a portion of a letter that was written 145 years ago today (October 13, 1863).  Due to time constraints, we provide here only a partial transcript. We welcome you to visit us in order to read the entire letter in person. The letter comes from our collection of “Confederate Papers”, from Unit #23 and is labeled as “Letter, 13 October 1863, from Rhoda Casey in Pendleton, S.C., to her husband noting a wagon accident and other news.”

[Note: Punctuation and capitalization have been added for the sake of the reader. Other mistakes appear here as they occur in the original letter.]

Pendleton So. Ca.

Oct. the 13th. 1863

Dear Rowland,

I’ve again seat myself to write you a few lines but then I can not say that we are all well. Walter has got his foot hurt very bad. He was at Mrs. Burnes’[?] last Thursday and Friday a helping to haul in corn and just [?] as he was going in with a load, the oxins scard and turned and threw the wagon againts a tree and his foot was smash up betwixt the tree and wagon and was hurt right bad. He has not walked after since – only on chruches. But it is a great deal better now and I think he will be walking again soon.

Then I have had no letter this week. I must know. There come one last night but it has bin raining all day so that I could not go to the office and daddy went to Pickens last Sunday and has not come back yet I think maby he will come by the time I git done writing and if he does he will will come by the office.

Then I went to Anderson last Saturday and took some things and left with Mr. Dobbins for Capt. Moore to take to you. I did not take so much for I could not git them ready. I took your one shirt and pair of drawers and two pairs of socks and some thread and two twist of tobackco and then I sent your old yellow vest that you sent home. I thought it would do you a little good maby. I did not think of sending it till a few minits before I started or I would have washed it. Then I don’t know that the clothes will suit. The drawers are very coarse, I did not make it for that, but I thout it would be very warm and would last a little while. I intend to make you some more clothes just as soon as I can. [...]

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other?”

Mrs. Charles W. Bain Letter, 1917 (Collection #1327-z)

Mrs. Charles W. Bain Letter, 1917 (Collection #1327-z)

Individual collections of manuscript material preserved in the Southern Historical Collection range in size from giant collections of more than half a million items all the way down to single-item collections. Our smaller collections, due to the way that they have been cataloged over the years, are referred to as “z-collections” (or simply “z’s”). Often, these z-collections contain items with extremely rich content – lots of bang for the buck. Some researchers enjoy these collections because they are so digestible, especially if your time in the SHC is limited. In fact, they’re great for student projects too! However, because of their small size, our lil’ z’s often get the short shrift. So, through this blog, we intend to highlight some of these great z’s from time to time so that others may enjoy them as much as we do.

It may not be the most representative of the z’s, but here’s one that jumped out at me today – as z’s are wont to do sometimes (“Pick me, pick me!”). It’s cataloged as “The Mrs. Charles W. Bain Letter, 1917″ (Collection #1327-z). A note dated July 1947 written by SHC staff gives this endearing description of the letter:

“September 17, 1917, A letter to Mrs. Bain from Mrs. Elizabeth W. Blackwell, whom she met in 1917 at Atlantic City. Mrs. Blackwell was a young Northern woman living in Chapel Hill during the War between the states. She left in 1862, through the kindness of Southern friends, to join her relatives in the North. In the intervening years she had longed to meet someone from Chapel Hill, which she had always loved and hoped to see once more. Mrs. Bain was the first person she had ever met from Chapel Hill since. This letter gives a brief account of her sojourn and departure. At that time she was Mrs. Fry.”

Transcript of the letter:

September 17, 1917.

My dear Mrs. Bain

Your picture postals of the University Buildings, gave me a great deal of pleasure; and I thank you sincerely for remembering me so kindly.

I received also a synopsis of ‘Battle’s History of the University,’ which I have read repeatedly; and each time with interest; seeing always some reminiscence of that long ago; I think I told you, that I left here in July 1862.

My son, Mr. James Woods Fry, was born in December 1862. I was then, just twenty-three years old; so, you can imagine how deplorable my situation would have been, to have been down there among strangers; in, at that time, a hostile country.

I owe my restoration to my home and family, to Mr. John Pool who lived on the Chowan River, Mrs. Joseph Pool, whose home was in Elizabeth City, was a refugee resident of Chapel Hill. Mrs. Pool had a daughter in the North, from whom she could not hear; this fact, made her sympathize with me, separated from my home.

She loaned me her horse and buggy, with which we drove through the state; leaving the team at Mr. John Pool’s handsome home.

In all these years, I have met with very few connecting links with Chapel Hill, although in my travels I have always scanned the registers in the hotels thinking I might see some familiar name. This time, at Atlantic City, I neglected to do so; but, my niece, knowing my interest, told me of your name, for which I was very glad.

Some years ago, I spent six weeks at Palm Beach. I thought then, I might possibly meet some one from North Carolina, or, see the name of some student on the Register: I have the Catalogue of the period I tell you of; but as usual, I was disappointed.

My niece sends her regards to you; and I wish to present mine to your sister. Thanking you again for your kindness, I am, yours most cordially,

Elizabeth W. Blackwell

…[additional sheet inserted]…

I inferred from some remark you made, that Mr. Samuel Phillips’s mother was still living; if that be the case, she must be a very old lady. I, myself am in my seventy-ninth year.

When I was seventy-six, I was as active as a much younger woman; but unfortunately a paralytic stroke made me, as you saw me; is affected my speech, and also my left foot; but I am thankful that I still have the use of my hands; otherwise I would not be writing this.

If I was sure, Mrs. Phillips was living, I would certainly write to her.

Gratefully yours,

Elizabeth W. Blackwell.

In July 1888, I was married to Mr. John G. Blackwell, after being a widow for many years.