1852: Caroline (Powers) Bryce to Robert Bryce

Robert & Caroline (Powers) Bryce

Robert & Caroline (Powers) Bryce

This letter was written by Caroline Louisa (Powers) Bryce (1817-1859), the second wife of Robert Bryce (1798-1874). Robert was born in Scotland and came to the United States in 1802 with his parents who settled in Columbia, South Carolina. Robert married Caroline Powers in March 1842 in Columbia. Four of their boys are mentioned in this letter: Robert (“Robbie”) Powers Bryce (1842-1863), killed at the Battle of Chickamauga while serving in Co. C, 2nd S. Carolina Infantry; John Edward Bryce (1846-1932); Samuel Bryce (1847-1872); and Peter Campbell Bryce (1849-1933).

Robert Bryce was a plantation owner and merchant in Columbia. He was also a Methodist layman.

In her letter, Caroline describes a freshet in the Congaree that threatened the Columbia Bridge and devastated the crops above the town.

1852 Letter

1852 Letter

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Mr. Robert Bryce, New York City, New York

Columbia [South Carolina]
Monday night [30 August 1852]

My dearest husband,

I had intended writing you a day or two ago but was waiting to receive the one of yours dated 25 which has just come to hand 8 o’clock. I regret much to hear you did not receive my first letter — not for its contents but because of your disappointment — but cannot account for its detention or miscarriage for it was sent to the [post] office by Lewis after ten o’clock & he surely must have carried it as it ought to have been.

Since I last wrote you we have all been well & have heard through Carrie of the Camden folks. Her letters are not very finely got up but I am so delighted to get them that I overlook all mistakes & she writes all are well and she is enjoying herself finely but says nothing of coming home. And now since the heavy rains & freshets, do not know what they will say or do.

I suppose you will have heard ere this reaches you of the calamity of the freshets. I will not begin to describe the losses, but to have been at the river side yesterday (Sunday) would have filled you with consternation. I never saw Uncle John so much excited. He seemed very sure our bridge must go, but it stands yet firmly.

We have had several deaths lately of our old citizens — Mr. [Robert] Latta — Mr. John Bell (who suffered extremely) — old Mrs. McGee — and tonight I learn Mr. McLaughlin is dead. Old Mr. Edgar still lives but cannot say there is a change for the better. yet I hope he may be brought through.

Yesterday afternoon we had but six or eight males at church altho the day was a most delightful one but the excitement caused by the freshet carried nearly the town to the river. Today it is distressing to hear of the distress around the neighboring plantations — the houses of the negroes being nearly overflowed — some obliged to resort to the lofts & the tops of them. Yesterday the river had floating pumpkins &c., bedding &c, and one or two mules came. Dr. Tresvant has just left me having called to know whether I had heard anything of his place for he said some one told him one of my servants said she had been told that four were drowned. He said 7,000 dollars would not cover losses and he cannot get to his place save by a boat and the tops of his houses must have been covered that the crop & cattle are gone and if the negroes are not it is more than he anticipates. Besides, his eldest son is there & he cannot learn anything. The old man is quite distressed.

I cannot tell when you will get this letter but look at the date and then you will know how long I have written it. The railroad and bridges are in such a state that they cannot be crossed. You will learn better than I can describe. I fear we shall have much sickness. Last night I dreamed we all went in the sand hills on account of sickness. I trust it may not be the case. I do wish the time was here for you to come but I must wait, I suppose, till it does.

Tuesday afternoon [31 August 1852]

I did not send my letter last evening not knowing if it could go but intend to send it this afternoon hoping we may be able to get it through. I suppose Aunt Young and the Camden folks feel pretty bad for they must wait for stages or for the railroad. The sizes of the boys heads I send to you but really they are so large and so much of a size that it seems incredible but I suppose if they do not get them they will be much disappointed. John & Campbell’s are the same size. Robert & Sam’s the same, so you have them all. They are measured full. I do not think of anything else to ask you to get for me save the spoons which are always useful & the oil carpet if you are advised that it wears well.

Robby commenced a letter but did not get through with it to send this afternoon so you must look for it in my next. I am beginning to count the days now for you to be tending homewards. How we poor mortals cling to Earth, but it is pretty lonely at night now for Aunt Jane has not returned yet. I have dreamed two or three nights in succession of you and one night dreamed there was so much sickness here that we had to go in the sand hills, but I trust it may not be the case.

We are all well. Campbell’s finger still improves and the nail begins to look quite like the other and a very different looking finger from what the Dr. showed me it would be, for he said a lump would be on the top but I think the lump was the nail coming for after it was poulticed & cleansed off, that very spot showed the coming of a new nail.

I got a letter from Sam a few days ago. he said the City was very dull save the excitement for the election of Mayor which was very great for the Office of Mayor. he said father has lost some two or three thousand dollars by a f___ that had broke so I suppose the old man is quite distressed.

Now my dear husband adieu. The little ones send a great deal of love and a kiss for you. Accept the same & a greater measure from your own dear, — Caroline

Charleston Courier

Charleston Courier

Portrait said to be of Robert ("Robbie") Powers Bruce as a young man with unknown woman (his mother?) Courtesy of Jane Plexico Lentz.

Portrait said to be of Robert (“Robbie”) Powers Bryce (1842-1863) as a child with unknown woman (his mother?) Courtesy of Jane Plexico Lentz.

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14 responses to “1852: Caroline (Powers) Bryce to Robert Bryce

  • linda Jahraus

    I was so excited to see this letter. Robert Bryce was my 2nd great grandfather.

    • Griff

      I’m thrilled that you found the letter and I hope it was useful to you in some way. Please feel free to add any family information that might help other Bryce family descendants. — Griff

      • Linda Jahraus

        I am just on my way for a weekend adventure but will add some info. I have that original photo. Would you be willing to sell the letter? Linda

  • Griff

    It was sold on e-bay several weeks ago by an acquaintance who let me transcribe it before he sold it.

  • Charles

    I am a decendent of Robert Bryce’s first marriage to Jane Johnson Shand who died in 1835 and is buried beneath the Washington Street Methodist Church in Columbia, SC. Our family has a copy of a portrait of the young man who was killed at Chickamauga along with the two women. One who I guess is Caroline Powers. The original may have been done by Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.

  • Linda Jahraus

    Would love a copy of the photo.

    • Charles

      I will see if I can’t get my first cousin who now has the portrait to take a picture of it. Is there any way it can be posted on this site? Robert Bryce was “mayor” of Columbia before the office really had been created. Here is the link to all the mayors of Columbia; notice that the office was not officially created until 1855: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayor_of_Columbia,_SC His official title wasn’t mayor, but something else. I have a book around here that I can’t find. It lists his official title. He was also a trustee of Wofford College. The best I can determine is that his house was either burned in February 1865 or later torn down. His brother Campbell’s house is still standing. Robert Bryce ended up living in Spartanburg with his daughter Margaret, who had married a Wofford professor, James H. Carlisle. James H. Carlisle was one of the signers of the Ordinance of Secession. In our family lore, it is said that Carlisle believed it was the worst mistake he ever made. Carlisle also later became president of Wofford College. The first dormitory at Wofford was named in his honor. I roomed in it when I went off to college way back in 1969. Here is link to Carlisle’s interesting life: https://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/carlisle-bio.aspx
      When Carlisle died in 1909, five thousand people attended his funeral.

  • Charles

    Griff, I am working on getting my cousin to take a good picture of the portrait which is in her house in North Carolina. I hope that she will get back to me soon with a good photograph. We would like to know who has the original portrait. The portrait has only one old woman and Robert (Robbie) Power Bryce (1842-1863). Originally, I said that there were two. Robbie was killed at Chickamauga. There is no grave that anyone has ever found for him.

  • Jane Plexico Lentz

    Griff, I am Charles’ first cousin who has the portrait Charles referenced on this site. The portrait is a copy of an original, and I hope by posting the portrait here we might find out who has the original. My great aunt, Lille Haynes McMullen, who was an accomplished portrait artist, copied a portrait owned by a Bryce relative living in the Columbia area. I know she did the copy prior to 1917. We also want to figure out who the two people in the portrait were. The portrait is of a little boy and an old lady we affectionately call “the old grandmother.” The information passed down through the family is the little boy was Robert Power Bryce, 1842-1863, killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in north Georgia. The old grandmother was said to be his grandmother, Jane Johnson Shand. However, having recently done some research on my Bryce and Shand ancestors, this story doesn’t add up. Jane Johnson Shand would have been his step grandmother and died in 1838, four years before the little boy was born! Assuming the little boy was Robert Power Bryce, who, then, was the old grandmother?

    • Griff

      Jane, I’m no expert on the family, but why wouldn’t this be a portrait of Robbie and his mother, Caroline Louisa (Powers) Bryce (1817-1859)? She does not look to me like an “old grandmother.” Rather, she looks age appropriate to be Robbie’s mother.

  • Jane Plexico Lentz

    Certainly the woman in the portrait could be Robbie’s mother, and the more I look at the photograph of the portrait, the more credence that thought has. The woman looks younger in the photo than she does in the portrait, oddly enough!

    I am descended from Robert Bryce’s first wife, Jane Johnson Shand (Bryce), and of course Robbie was the first son of Robert Bryce’s second wife. I have wondered why my aunt would have chosen this portrait to copy if we were not directly related to the two people in it? I guess I will never know the answer to that, but I cannot help but wonder. Maybe she just liked the portrait. And then there are all the family stories that have been passed along with the portrait, mainly that the woman was the little boy’s grandmother.

    I would love to find the original! I think that is the only way to conclusively answer the burning question.

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