1864: Martha Rebecca Elizabeth McElwee to Jonathan Newman McElwee

How Lizzie might have looked in 1864

This letter was written by 16 year-old Martha Rebecca Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) McElwee, the daughter of Jonathan Newman McElwee (1809-1892) and Martha Amelia Orr (1810-1873) of Rock Hill, York county, South Carolina. Lizzy was married in 1870 to J. W. O. Riley.

Lizzie’s father served in the Confederate army early in the war and her two brothers, Jonathan Lewis and Manlius Jerome were still serving in the 1st South Carolina Cavalry late in 1864.

Lizzie may have been attending the Yorkville Female College in Yorkville when she wrote this letter in December 1864.


Addressed to Mr. J. N. McElwee, Taylor’s Creek, South Carolina
Postmarked Yorkville, S. C.

Yorkville, South Carolina
December 31, 1864

My Dear Father,

I received your very kind letter this evening brought by Mr. C. and also 10 dollars. I am very much obliged to you for it as I have been needing some for I was nearly out. I also received the trunk. It came safe—all but the key. He did not send it around with the trunk but if he didn’t bring the key, I can get it open anyway as Aunt Emily has one that will unlock it.

Father, I suppose that you all are very despondent about our country now. I think that almost everyone is so now—at least all of the York people is that I have seen. I have not heard from the boys in three or four weeks until this evening [when] sister sent me one from [brother] Jerome. I am very sorry to hear that they have left Charleston for they were fixed very well for this winter.

If you have not got a supply of salt, you had better get it as salt is selling here at 100 dollars a bushel. Everyone is trying to get all they can as nearly all of the people think that Charleston & W[ilmington] will fall & if so, it will be very hard to get salt at almost any price.

I have just returned from Mrs. Smith’s. She died last night very sudden with apoplexy. She leaves a very helpless family. I will be at home on next Thursday if it does not rain too hard for me to get to the depot as Mr. Muller is going down to tune our piano. I thought I would go down with him as he is a very old man & he asked me to go down with him. Aunt Emily says for me to go that way as the raids is very bad so please send the carriage to Rock Hill for us on that day.

You must excuse this bad written letter as I can hardly write at all with my pen, it is so dull. Aunt Emily joins me in love to you all. Tell sis that I have received two letters from her but will not answer them now as I will be at home in a few days. Write soon. I remain your affectionate daughter, — Lizzie McElwee

P. S. Father, I hope that you will not be displeased at me for coming home on the railroads as I have several friends going down on that day and perhaps Aunt Emily will go with me down to Chester.

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