1843-1848: Jane Witherspoon Dunlap to George McCottry Witherspoon

Painting of Jane Witherspoon Dunlap, Circa 1836. Images courtesy of descendants R. Hyman & P. Lyles.

These six letters were all written by Jane Witherspoon Dunlap (1826-1861), the orphaned daughter of Samuel Ferguson Dunlap (1799-1834) and Sarah Crawford Witherspoon (1806-1832). Both of her parents died when Jane was young and she was raised by her Witherspoon relatives.

All of the letters were written to Jane’s Uncle, a planter and slaveholder named George McCottry Witherspoon (1812-1898) of Lancaster, South Carolina. George was a younger brother of Jane’s mother.  It appears that Jane was living with her Aunt Nancy in Columbia at the time the 1843 letter was written. Nancy White Witherspoon (1808-1891) was married in 1835 to James Henley Thornwell (1812-1862) who was an American Presbyterian preacher, occasional President of the Univ. of South Carolina, and a religious writer who supported slavery. By 1843 when this letter was written, the Thornwell’s had four children.

Charles Pierce Pelham

It is clear that Jane attended school in Columbia when she wrote the first letter in 1843. Since the University of South Carolina did not admit female students until the 1890’s, Jane must have been attending the Columbia Female Academy, established in 1833. It later became Stephens College. Jane mentions the opportunity to travel from Columbia to Abbeville with Judge David Lewis Wardlaw, a prominent circuit judge and Politician in South Carolina.

Jane married Charles Pearce Pelham — a professor of classical languages at the University of South Carolina and was also a newspaper publisher in Columbia.

University of South Carolina in 1850


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Addressed to Mr. George Witherspoon, Lancasterville, South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
May 20, 1843

Dear Uncle,

No doubt you will reprimand me for not writing to you oftener but the truth is, I have been so much engaged in studying and reading that I have found very little time for any thing else. You are also aware of what a task it is for me to write. On condition of your forgiveness, I shall try to do better for the future.

Rev. James Henry Thornwell

Uncle [James], Aunt [Nancy], and the children are all quite well although it is true that Aunt has had a great deal of sickness in the family – so much so that Uncle will not consent for her to remain in Columbia any longer. She intends, therefore, to move her and her little flock to Abbeville & will go with Judge Wardlaw, which will be on Monday or Tuesday week. Aunt Mary has written for me to be sure and go to spend the summer with her. Aunt Nancy thinks it best that I should go with Judge Wardlaw as Jack does not care about going to Abbeville, and I shall have no other way of going unless I accompany the judge. I shall lose only two weeks from school by going with him; which short period will be of no value to me as the teachers are commencing to leave already. I intend to improve my time this summer by reading all I can. I find the more I read, the more I am fond of it. Is not this your experience? Tell cousin Eliza that Sally Taylor and I intend writing to her soon. We have been speaking of it for some time, but have never been able to accomplish it.

College appears to have been much afflicted this winter with a great deal of sickness. One of the students is a corpse this morning. He had been sick only for a week. His name was Waller and was from Abbeville.

I am under the necessity of again writing to you for money. You must not think me extravagant for I have spent that you last sent me in the most profitable way I could. It is really a case of necessity as I wish to pay expenses to Abbeville – there and back again in the fall. Aunt says she or Uncle would let me have it, but really have not it, as it will take all the money they can get to carry them to Abbeville. Aunt says she thinks 20$ will be sufficient. I shall have no store accounts in Abbeville as I did in York, but yet all that I shall need for the summer and fall with my pocket money. Do, Uncle, send it by the first stage in a letter. There is no danger of its losing as the girls at school get theirs in that way. Now do not disappoint me as Judge Wardlaw expects to start on Monday week and I cannot go with him without you send it to me, and that by the first mail. Now do not disappoint me. I dislike very much sending for money and never do it unless I positively cannot do without it.

Do you intend sending me to school again next winter and where to? Do let me know as I am anxious to hear. I am truly glad to hear that you are improving so rapidly and hope that soon you may be entirely restored. How is Cousin ___’s health; also Aunt Ann’s? I hear that Jonny is getting as fleshy as possible. How much I want to see the dear little creature. Tell Aunt Ann that cousin Martin is well and in fine spirits. Aunt and Uncle join with me in sending much love to you, Cousin Eliza, and Aunt Ann, & kiss for Jonny for me.

Your affectionate niece, — Jane [Witherspoon Dunlap]

P. S. Please hear my petition and grant it.


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Addressed to George Witherspoon, Lancasterville, South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
March 10, 1847

My dear uncle,

I am sorry to again trouble you with a letter – particularly with one on so important and so unwelcome a subject as this is. Yet, I must again beg forgiveness for laying before you my absolutely needy circumstances. I have looked most anxiously for a reply to my last letter but all in vain. So do, my dear uncle, have compassion and send me some ways and means. I want to pay honest debts, I assure you.

Aunt has been quite sick since cousin Robert was here – though has entirely recovered. The rest of the family are all well.

I expect to be in Camden the 21st April to act as bridesmaid to my friend Miss [Emma Sarah] Cantey. She wrote me she had been in Lancaster & seemed highly pleased with her visit.

Do, my dear uncle, grant me the above request very soon. All unite with me in love to you and each one of our family.

Your affectionate niece, — Jane. W. Dunlap.

P.S. I put on the back of the letter “in haste” in hopes it would reach you sooner than it otherwise would as I am mighty hard off for cash so send me as much as you can, if you please my uncle.


From this letter we learn that Jane Dunlap was a bridesmaid in the wedding of Miss Emma Sarah Cantey (1826-1908) and Patrick Henry Nelson (1824-1864) that occurred on 21 April 1847 in Camden, South Carolina. Emma was the daughter of James Willis Cantey (1794-1860) and Camilla Floride Richardson (1798-1866). Emma and Patrick had four children before the Civil War but Patrick would not live to see his kids grow up. See below:

“Patrick Henry Nelson, a Major General in the South Carolina Militia, commanded the 2nd Brigade of South Carolina Volunteers as a Brigadier General during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. On February 24, 1864, he was made Major of the five company 7th SC Battalion. After its increase to seven companies, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on July 10, 1862. He was in command of a 400-man skirmish line that preceded three regiments of Hagood’s Brigade in an attack on the extreme right of the Union lines in front of Petersburg, between the Appomattox River and the City Point road, on June 24, 1864. When the supporting units failed to follow-up the initial attack, these three regiments (which did not include Nelson’s Battalion) suffered heavily and Lieutenant Colonel Nelson was never seen again. Rumors reached General Hagood several days later through prisoners that he had been murdered by negro troops after he had been taken prisoner.”


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Addressed to Mr. George Mc Witherspoon, Lancaster, South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
December 29, 1847

My dear Uncle,

I have lately been thinking much of the unsettled state of my father’s estate and the more I reflect, the more I feel that in justice – particularly to you – as well as to myself, that the affairs should be brought to a final, and definite settlement. The estate is indebted to you, I suppose, between two and three thousand dollars, the interest of which is increasing the amount every year. Taking into consideration the uncertainty of the crops, there is no telling – were you to wait for payment in money – when the debt would be paid to you. Besides, there is no telling how soon I may take a notion to marry (this is the great source of my anxiety about settlement) – and were I to marry before an adjustment of things, you might (thro’ some misunderstand) lose that which is justly due you, or there is no telling what difficulty you might encounter. It would indeed distress me were I to think that after your exceeding kindness, that I would be the means of your losing even one dollar.

I wish first your debt to be paid. Would it not suit you as well to receive payment in negroes rather than wait for the money? You offered me $450 (four hundred and fifty dollars) for the boy Henry (the one I have in Columbia with Aunt T). You could have him and offer with him his mother (Martha) and her family consisting, I think, of two or three children besides Henry. I offer you also the choice of any of her family or families of negroes – the price of the negroes to be left to you, or to any person or persons you may select. There are three I would not wish to leave me – Fansey, Lucinda (the weaver) and Maum Nelly. Of the rest you have your choice. As painful a thing as it would be, I would sell a few at any rate to pay the debt to you. Were I to feel assured that they would find so good a master as you, my conscience would be at rest.

If you do not wish the negroes, would you be willing to take Uncle Washington’s note? If not, would you be so kind as to write to him that you wish to settle up the estate & urge the payment of the debt at any rate by the Spring – say the 1st of May? I proposed at one time that you would receive as part in payment Grandma’s plantation – the one next to mine. I hope you have not as yet mentioned that to him. The lands are much worn, and so long as my interest is in Lancaster, would rather not add to my possessions of worn out land. I hope some day to make a better arrangement of things. Perhaps Dr. Wylie would buy the house & lot in Lancaster? Do offer it to him at $1200. I would be glad to sell it at that price.

I think Uncle Washington would gladly get Grandma’s lands off his hands, so if unhappily you have written to propose it to him, do write again to the contrary. I do hope, my dear uncle, that very soon – at any rate by the Spring – that we may come to a perfect understanding and final settlement of the estate. It is to the interest of both of us. I shall feel anxious to hear from you and would be glad if you would write as soon as convenient. I do hope you can send me $150 by Uncle Thornwell. Again, I assure you, I shall ever feel grateful for the interest you have manifested in me — for your many acts of kindness to me. Do write very soon. If you take Henry, shall I send him up? What shall I do?

Aunt Nancy unites with me in much love to you. Aunt Eliza [obliterated]… to cousin Martha and each of the children.

I sympathize with you & your misfortune to lose the fine horse you lately bought. You really have been unfortunate. It is late and I must close my letter – particularly so troublesome an one as this. Ever your attached niece, — Jane W. Dunlap

If necessary, I will go up to Lancaster any time you may appoint provided I would meet with an opportunity of getting from Camden to Lancaster as I can get to Camden at almost any time. When it is convenient, do pay Uncle Donnor $8 as I owe it to him.


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Addressed to Mr. George McCottry Witherspoon, Lancaster C. H., South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
January 24, 1848

My dear uncle,

Your kind letter reached me some few days ago to which I intended relying before now, but circumstances have been such as to render it impossible for me to do so.

I am much gratified that my letter proposing a settlement of my father’s estate met your wishes. I at first felt a delicacy in making the proposal but after a deliberate consideration of the matter, thought it proper on my part to do so, as you perhaps might feel it not to be your place to make a proposition of the kind. At any rate, it is pleasant to know that it is agreeable to both.

I cannot say positively when I will be able to be in Lancaster – I think not till Aunt Mary passes thro’ on her way from Alabama, which I suppose will be in a month or six weeks as Jack says he will not return till then. He is anxious to look at the lands in the West as well as visit his relations.

I am glad you sold Bob inasmuch he was likely to be separated from his wife and was anxious to go with her. You spoke of Darkey & her family. I am very willing you should have them – particularly as you own her husband. I have a perfect horror of separating families. If it suit you, you can take her & the children. I am willing that you should taker her — not that I have any idea of moving the negroes from the plantation — but that I might lessen my debt to you.

Jack will leave for Alabama day after tomorrow (Wednesday). He says if you will write to him directly to Mobile to the care of cousin Thomas Witherspoon & commission him to collect the money Uncle Washington owes to the estate, that he will attend to it for you. I think Jack’s offer very kind and would be very glad if you would write to him to Mobile. Please write immediately as he will be in Mobile but a short time. He expects to go immediately from Montgomery to Green County to see Uncle John Witherspoon & from there to Mobile. He says he would have gone to see you before he left Lancaster but that he did not know that he was going to Alabama till 9 o’clock the night before he left the village.

You are indeed kind to promise to do all you can to raise the amount of money I desired, tho’ you made a mistake and wrote $150 instead of $250 – the latter being the amount I desired. I would indeed feel grateful if you could let me have it as early in February as you can. And if before then, you can conveniently send me $10, I should be greatly obliged.

Cousin Nancy is with me and I hope will remain till Jack returns from Alabama.

I sincerely hope you have entirely recovered from your indisposition. Altho’ I was glad to receive your letter, yet I grieved that you exerted yourself so much as to write whilst you were feeling so unwell. I have gotten into a careless way of writing and my letters are anything but neat. Yet I hope my dear uncle will overlook all imperfections.

Aunt, Uncle T, & Jack, & cousin Nancy unite with me in much love to you, Aunts Eliza & Ann, and family.

Ever your attached niece, — Jane W. Dunlap


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Addressed to George Witherspoon, Lancasterville, South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
February 15, 1848

My dear Uncle,

I send you by Uncle James some accounts which have been paid and which I have not had an opportunity of sending you before now. There is still another account which is still unpaid and as it is of course not receipted, shall keep in my possession. The amount is $242 which, if you possibly can, do send me the amount. I hope in a few weeks to meet you in Lancaster and then we can have an understanding of things. I have before assured you of an anxiety on my part to repay you in any way possible & agreeable to you, for your kindness in advancing money, and in other respects. I think perhaps I shall be able to be in Lancaster in March or April. Cousin Nannie will be returning home about that time. Aunt Mary begs cousin Nan and me to make her a visit and Aunt Nancy think we had better leave the last of this week or the first of next for Abbeville and from there to Charleston, for which trip I shall beg for $30 (thirty dollars). Do send by the next mail. If your letter does not reach me before we leave, I expect I can borrow enough from cousin Nan to get to Abbeville with and your letter can be forwarded to me. Yet I hope not to be put to that necessity as I hope to get your letter before I leave. I would write more but have company. Aunt Mary and Uncle James will give you the news.

Aunt and cousin Nannie unite with me in much love to you, Aunts Anne & Eliza.

Ever from attached niece, – Jane Dunlap.


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Addressed to Mr. George Witherspoon, Lancaster C.H., South Carolina

Columbia [South Carolina]
April 29, 1848

My dear Uncle,

As I had received no reply to my last two letters, my hope was that you were waiting favorable news by Uncle Jack from the West. He has arrived and the result of his visit to Uncle Washington (although I too wrote to him) is just as I had expected, and the probability is that you will never find him prepared to settle with the estate. I am greatly perplexed and desire most anxiously to have a settlement of the estate – particularly a settlement of accounts against me here. I wish that I could persuade you to sell a negro or family of negroes of the least value to me. Try Mr. Carlton if he is a good master, or Mr. Massey. They would be good pay and no doubt let me have three or five hundred dollars now, which you know is a consideration to me. I write this not from the impulse of the moment but from calm deliberation and let me beg that you will be so kind as to attend to the matter as soon as possible. I have a debt here of $250 which I am crazed to be paid is one reason I urge the sale of the negro or negroes, and if you can get the amount of money, please send me as soon as possible. And I would beg that you would kindly send me $25 to pay my mantua maker who needs the money. I give her my work – not that she is the most fashionable & extravagant, but cheaper and more needy than the others, having several little children to support by her needle. I would be greatly interested if you would send me $25 by the next mail.

Do you think Dr. Wylie would buy the house & lot in the village? If he or any one else will give $1000, please not hesitate to take it.

Uncle will leave home for Baltimore about the 5th of May. Not later than at that time. Aunt expects to go with him [and] will take the babe with her and leave the other children at home with an excellent white nurse. They wish me to go with them and, of course, I would be delighted to go if you think you can let me have the necessary amount for travelling ($100) before they leave home. So do write to let me know by return mail. After the Asembly will have adjourned, they will go as far North as Boston and return home by sea. Unless you reply as soon as you will have rec’d this, I will not have time to hear from you before Aunt & Uncle will have left for the North.

I hope you will, my dear uncle, forgive the liberty I have taken in again troubling you, and believe me your affectionate niece, — Jane W. Dunlap

The Pelham Family Plot in Elmwood Cemetery, Columbia, South Carolina

The Head Stone of Samuel F. Dunlap, Jane’s father, in Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Riverside, Lancaster County, SC

4 responses to “1843-1848: Jane Witherspoon Dunlap to George McCottry Witherspoon

  • Pelham

    I have a portrait of Jane W. Dunlo(a)p Pelham and her husband Charles Pearce Pelham, also photos of their tombstones in Elmwood Cemetery, Columbia, SC. They are my great great grandparents.

    • Griff

      Thank you for your comment. I hope that you can benefit from the information in these letters. I would be delighted to add the portraits of your ancestors on this blogsite if you would allow me by sending me their images. Please advise me as to the correct spelling of Jane’s last name and please correct any family information I may have wrong or to add more family history as a comment on this blogsite. Thanks again.

      • Sandra Cooley

        My name is Sandra Cooley. I am from Durham, North Carolina. My third grandfather, David Christopher Dudley who was probably born in Wake County, NC on 25 December 1813 to Charles Christopher Dudley and his wife Nancy Pearce of Marlboro County, SC. Charles died and his wife Nancy Pearce Dudley returned to SC where she died when David and his half brother, Unknown Pelham. Nancy had remarried and had this son. She died before 1830 and David returned to Wake County, to live with his grandmother Mary Unknown Dudley. David C. Dudley, Sr. died 19 October 1888. He was a printer and book binder for the State and made his home in Raleigh. He outlived 4 wives and no. 5 outlived him. At his funeral was as follows:

        ” He was the son of Mr. Charles Dudley, and his father died when he was about two months old. His mother then removed to South Carolina, where she married a Mr. Pelham, by whom she became the mother of another son, who achieved and enviable reputation in that State as journalist. Mr. Pelham died some years since, and Mr. Dudley often spoke of his half-brother in terms of affectionate remembrance.
        Mr. Dudley’s mother, Mrs. Pelham, died when he was but a few years old, when he was again brought to Raleigh, and committed to the care of his grandmother, Mrs. Mary Dudley, a woman of sterling integrity, and who faithfully reared him to become the worhty citizens that he was.”

        He had at least five children. An only daughter was Mary Jane Dudley born about 1833 in Wake County, NC. She was my 2nd. great grandmother. I know the names of David’s wives except Mary Jane and her brother, Charles Benton Dudley. That is the one that I need to complete my Dudley line. I would contribute with what I know. I believe that this Charles Pearce Pelham is most likely David C. Dudley, Sr. half brother. My email is SNackab@aol.com. I would like to hear from anyone who might help and maybe I may be of some help. Sandy in NC

  • Pelham Lyles

    Sandy, Thanks for sending your email address. I will be writing you very soon after I clear some things from my plate at work. I will forward the notice to another Pelham researcher who may also want to contact you. This is wonderful news as CP Pelham’s childhood days in Marlboro have always seemed such a mystery to me. -Pelham Lyles

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