1829: Charles Dewey to Dolphin Alston Davis

Charles Dewey (1798-1880) was born in New Bern, N.C., the son of John Dewey (1767-1830), born in Stonington, Conn., an architect who built the Masonic temple and theater in New Bern. Charles Dewey’s mother was Mary Mitchell Dewey, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who died in 1839 at the age of 67.

Virtually nothing is known about Dewey’s early life. He began his career in 1820 as a clerk with the New Bern branch of the State Bank of North Carolina. In 1826, he was appointed cashier of the Fayetteville branch of the bank. The following year, he was elected cashier of the main branch in Raleigh. In Raleigh, Dewey served as cashier of the Bank of North Carolina and its successor, the Bank of the State of North Carolina. After the Civil War, when the Bank of the State of North Carolina was closed, he was elected cashier and later president of the Raleigh National Bank. He served as president until his death.

Dewey married three times. In 1822, he married Catherine M. Hall of New Bern. His second wife, Ann Letitia Webber, was born in New Bern in 1803 and died in Raleigh in 1835; the date of their marriage is not known. On 5 January 1837, Dewey married Julia Ann Haylander (1804-1886), a native of Philadelphia, who had moved to Raleigh at an early age. Charles Dewey was survived by four children. One son was Charles Francis Dewey (b. 1825), an 1844 graduate of the University of North Carolina who became a physician in Goldsboro, N.C. Another son, Thomas W. Dewey, married Bessie Lacy, daughter of Drury Lacy, pastor of Raleigh’s First Presbyterian Church. Charles Dewey was a faithful member of that church for over 50 years, serving as superintendent of its Sunday school and as a ruling elder.

Although he owned a few slaves and a moderate amount of property, Dewey never accumulated great wealth. He left a house and lot in Charlotte, N.C., to Anna Maria Dewey, wife of his son Frank H. Dewey, who resided there. Bonds, notes, stocks, and other property were willed to his wife and his daughters Mary Ann and Rachel D. Wilder. (Adapted from the entry by Memory F. Mitchell in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, volume 2, 1986.)

Dewey wrote the letter to his friend, Dolphin Alston Davis (1802-1881) of Fayetteville. In 1835, Davis relocated to Salisbury, North Carolina to become branch cashier of the State Bank of North Carolina.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to D. A. Davis, Esq., Fayetteville, North Carolina

Raleigh [North Carolina]
10th April 1829

My dear friend,

I have received your kind favor of the 8th inst. and assure you it afforded me great pleasure to hear from you and more from under your own hand tho’ I must confess I was not entitled to any thing from you, having neglected you so long, but I know you will believe me when I say it was not because I have been in the midst of more important personages! No! for none are so important to me as these whom I can in deed & in truth call my friend. Tho’ I have been silent, my warm desires & affections have often wandered towards you & had you received a letter for every time, you would have had rather to charge me with loquaciousness those of having forgotten you. However, I believe you to be still the same and I humbly trust I may never be found otherwise than regarding you as my most particular friend & brother in Christ.

I can well sympathize with you in the bereavement of your friend & associate in business. I was much surprised when I heard of his death, never having heard of his being indisposed. But this is but another to the already numerous instances of the verifications of the word of him “who spoke as never man spake” or “That in the midst of life we are in death” and again a loud warning to us who remain not to set our affections upon things of time and sense. Oh this world how often it cheats the soul of all that is worth desiring!

It is indeed a better day in the reflecting that when we see those with whom we have convened & spent many pleasant days, when summoned to give an account of their stewardship, like the foolish virgins saying (by their acting) “give us of your oil for our lamps have gone out,” totally unprepared for that great and awful change — awful thought ___ expresses it —

“The soul ascends to God not then to dwell
But hears her doom & sinks to _____”

but let us endeavor to hope better things, tho’ it were hope against hope. Let us, my friend, wrestle mightily at a throne of grace and ever be found upon our watch tower that we may not deceive ourselves and be found wanting when the summons shall come to us. The time has come in some degree & mi___ing every day when it behooves Christians to take a decided stand, yea, more than they have ever done before that the line of demarcation should be more fully set forth between them and the world. And let this be the burthen of our prayers that the spirit of our God may descend upon us and all who are of the household of faith, that ere may be more & more spiritually minded, and let me have an interest in your prayers for my growth in grace and a closer walk with God.

Ho (1794-1876)

Rev. Thomas P. Hunt (1794-1876) served as a Chaplain with the 2d Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery during the Civil War

I have heard of Mr. [James Garland] Hamner‘s conclusion to leave Fayetteville and also of his severe afflictions which I trust may be sanctified to his spiritual welfare. I humbly pray the Great head of the church may give you a pastor “after his own heart” and that shall be the honored instrument in his hands of turning many souls from darkness to light. Have you any person in mind or have you written to any one yet? I have heard that Mr. [Colin] McIver was to succeed Mr. Hamner but only mere rumor. We have a preacher with us — Mr. [Thomas Poage] Hunt — who I understand intends being installed over this church shortly, but I do not think he is the man calculated for this place. Raleigh requires a man of great firmness and at the same time one who can collect many together as the citizens and something like the Athenians always wishing to hear some new thing, and not a very church going people.

I have had the pleasure of our friend Hardin’s company for a short time, who is about carrying his brother to his Father’s from whence his brother wishes to go South for the benefit of his health but from appearances I think his time is short and I would hope he is endeavoring to make his peace with Him before whom he must shortly stand and give an account.

Since living in Raleigh, my family and myself have enjoyed very good health with the exception of the first few months. I have been promising myself that I would visit Fayetteville but I believe I shall have to abandon every idea of it. Do you never think of coming this way? It would afford me great pleasure to see you here.

With respect to the balance due to you, I ought to hide my face when I mention it for I have trespassed upon your goodness and paid others before you who ought to have been paid long ‘ere this. You will please draw on me for the balance payable the 1st of May making it to nett the required sum to you, principal & interest an my Bro. Duncan will cash it, & it shall be promptly met by your much obliged friend.

Preset my respects to our old acquaintances. particularly to David Ray & Capt. Latham. And accept to yourself my warmest affections & desires for your happiness & prosperity.

As ever, yours truly, — Chas. Dewey

P.S. Write me soon. Excuse this scratch.


3 responses to “1829: Charles Dewey to Dolphin Alston Davis

  • Rev. Richard I. Kepler

    Hello Griff!

    Is this letter available? Charles Francis Dewey was my great-great-great-great grandfather.

    Thank you, Rev. Richard I. Kepler

  • Griff

    Richard: Sorry. That letter was probably sold on e-bay @ June 2013. Most of these letters (including this one) were never owned by me. As a service to a friend, I transcribe letters he buys and later sells on e-bay. In exchange he authorizes me to publish the letters on one of my blog sites for the benefit of historians and/or family researchers. — Griff

  • stephen w sherwood

    Charles Dewey was my third great grandfather. I have several letters that he wrote to his daughter my 2nd great grandmother. Sara Dewey Sherwood. He was certainly an eloquent writer. I should transcribe them.

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