July 1, 1860
Warm & sultry. Went to church. Never suffered so much from the heat in my life. We went to Mr. A[rvah] Hopkins’ store [and] had some claret. Came back, received a letter from Lucy Stratton, [and] stopped at the gate with Miss Mag Brown after Sunday school a long time. Evening, went over to Major Ward’s – staid till eleven.
July 2, 1860
Warm day. Got along very well today. Sallie Ward nor Annie know as much of Latin as I thought. Gave it to them today. The trustees are coming tomorrow & I have been working industriously.
July 3, 1860
Today has been a hard one for me. The trustees came: Major [George T.] Ward, Mr. [Green] Chaires, Mr. Tom Whitner, [and] J. Stephen Maxwell. The [scholars] recited miserably. They asked questions & quizzed me & I quizzed the trustees. Major [Ward] and I had some difficulty about a word. He corrected me on the pronunciation of a word, but at noon, I told Sallie Ward to show him the word in the dictionary. I was right. They staid till nearly 12 o’clock. Mr. [William J.] Ellis called here to see me. Staid some time.
Evening, tired out. Went to church. Major Ward and family appear colder and colder to me every day. Walked down from church with him. After seeing the school, he said he felt disposed to continue the experiment longer. Made arrangements to go to Tallahassee tomorrow. Was to send over if I decided to go. I cannot stay here long, I fear, after today’s work. I have no hope of giving satisfaction.
July 4, 1860
The sun rose bright and warm, a betokening a pleasant day for the celebration of our national jubilee. I decided to go [to Tallahassee] and sent over [to Major Ward’s] for the horse. Major sent [me back] a note (which by the way was in bad grammar) saying that he thought from what I said that I did not wish to go & that he had disposed of all his horses. I felt vexed that he should misunderstand so woefully. If this be not neglect to a person in my situation, I do not know what else it can be. Major Ward is not what he has been. He is provoked at something, I believe, that I have done. I care not so long as I am doing something.
Studied in the morning & about eleven went over to Governor [Thomas] Brown’s [and] staid to dinner, and till nearly 5 o’clock. He treated [me] to good whiskey [and] talked about everything. He has been to England. Told some of his exploits [and] about the courts in England. He was in the War of 1812, was born in 1785 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He likes Virginia the best of all the states. Says they are kind and hospitable & would oftentimes force a stranger to stop with them & is in some places so now. Said in the South and eastern portions, on the James River, the old aristocracy has no young, promising talents. It is running out.
Says that Tallahassee is a fine place for a lawyer of the first class; poor business for poor ones. A person is admitted by getting a certificate from two lawyers. If I stay here long enough to review my studies & get admitted here, I think it a capital plan. I think sometimes I must travel in Virginia.
July 5, 1860
Very warm in school. Felt sick & can hardly sit up. Been reading some [law from] Blackstone. Received a letter from [cousin] Lucy Fiddis. It is hard work to teach school.
July 6, 1860
Warm. Very few in school today. Mr. [John W.] Adams came home today. He is not such a man as I expected to see. The party that was to be here is broken up. I was to give up my room for a dressing room for the ladies. I am sorry that it is broken up.
The boys are very good horse riders. I never saw better. I wish I was as good on horses as some. I would like to visit the coast sometime. Mr. Adams seems to be a pleasant man & has I should think more manners than the rest of his family.
July 7, 1860
Rather warm. Went out in the country this morning to Lake May about two miles from Bel Air. Saw a cormorant on the water, black, long neck dive. Saw a big white crane, taller than a goose, [with] long legs & neck. Made a sketch of the lake. It is about a mile [long] & ¾ wide, shore lined with rank vegetation. Quite a pretty lake. The trees round low damp places are covered with long hairy moss, which in some places give a dismal look to the scenery. The land is covered with woods, undulating [and] sometimes rising to a considerable height, here and there a low place in which are sometimes sinks or lakes, the outside of which are bordered with thick undergrowth and bay, gum, oak, elm, & magnolia. I walked about a mile farther, came home very tired.
Afternoon, we had a severe shower. The rain fell in torrents. The wind was high. It seemed as if the windows of heaven were opened. Vivid flashes of lightning & such, & short claps of thunder. I like to observe a high storm when the wind & rain are strong and abundant. Made a bet with Carrie [Adams] that Billy Denham would come here tonight. Bet an album. He came & Carrie feels down in the mouth. Read Law some & wrote a letter to [cousin] Lucy Fiddis.
July 8, 1860
Sunday. Did not go to church today. Read Bible & [Sir Walter] Scott & work of manners at Sunday school. Had quite a talk with Miss Mag Brown.
Received a letter from home, which contained some reproof, and one from [cousin] Ed Stratton. I am bound to do something now. If I fail, I shall make a bold strike for someplace – where I do not know. I shall try to make something to learn more of the world, to rely less on mankind, and to treat the ladies respectfully but cautiously and suspiciously.
The letter from home was too unfeeling to be at all pleasing. When I am doing the best I can & then to be told I had better be at home doing nothing or working on the farm is little too much [to bear]. Yet with the help of God, I hope to be able to make something [of myself] by and by. I shall continue to put my trust in God & pray for His help and guidance.
Attended prayer meeting, did not stay long. Felt badly. Major Ward treats me shamefully, I think. I feel angry tonight and decidedly blue. There is but one good gentleman here & that is Governor Brown. Miss Mag [Brown] is the only lady. The rest of the females are wayward and foolish. I must devise some way by which I can strengthen my judgment & understanding.
[Editor’s Note: Goodrich wrote of his conversations with Ex-Governor Thomas Brown and his daughter Mag in a piece that he wrote for a Northern newspaper in 1861. It read:]
A short distance from where I was staying lived the old ex governor of the state – a Virginian by birth, a hero in the War of 1812, and no mean actor in the Florida Indian wars. His conversation is enriched by anecdote and story, which more than three quarters of a century have brought him. When speaking of the old Virginia hospitality, of the vicissitudes of war in the old Dominion and of the savage warfare of the Seminole, his cold gray eyes sparkle with unwonted fire and his imagination receives a rapturous exaltation – a privileged splendor. Many a pleasant hour I spent with him surrounded with his flowers and plants.
His daughter [Mag] is an intelligent and accomplished lady. I have sat an attentive and instructed listener to her prattle of Key West, its salubrious air, its wealth of sea shells, of Cuba and its sugar plantations, of the wild adventurers who have time to time figured conspicuously here.
Her father took part in the battle of New Orleans and he related to me a singular instance in reference to the battlefield. He visited it eight or ten years after and where the dead were buried – a space of a few acres – the grass was growing rank. The grass around it had been closely cropped by cattle but this spot remained untouched and thus remained for years after. From him I received accounts concerning the northern portion of the state and the waste of the everglades. It is covered with water, with her and there an island covered with luxuriant vegetation. Near Lake Ochiechobie some Seminoles still linger.
July 9, 1860
Very warm today. Got along miserably in school today. I have been too cross altogether. [Major] Ward brought me my watch. I have not seen him to speak to him for nearly a week. I have been studying hard today. Read some law. Quite a party here tonight — the Chaires and others. Was not invited into the parlor.
Sallie Ward does not know as much as I thought, nor does [her sister] Annie. I shall feel abundantly competent to teach her the French if I only have the time. I think I will go over to Major Ward’s tomorrow night & see about the school. I must make some arrangement about securing another place somewhere. I shall write to Manget & ask his aid, & Handerson’s [too].
July 10, 1860
Very warm. Had to work hard today. Got along quite well. Major Ward came to the school house in the morning. In evening, George Ward came to me and asked if caper meant a he-goat at which the girls & Annie laughed immoderately. Got to bed about half past eleven.
July 11, 1860
Warm today. Felt unwell. Very miserable in the [morning].
July 12, 1860
Very sick though I kept the school. I have a severe attack of diarrhea. Received a letter [from] Austin & a book (Charles XII) from home.
July 13, 1860
In school. Feel somewhat better than I did yesterday, but I am quite miserable. Nothing new. Today had some good compositions. [The Adams’s are having a] party here tonight. I was asked to go in [to the parlor] but I do not feel well enough. I do not know who are here but I suppose nearly the whole of Bel Air. Sallie Ward is [here], I should think. Whether any other of the Wards [are], I can’t tell.
July 14, 1860
Cool today. Felt sick all day. Studied some. Wrote a letter to [my cousin] Lucy Fiddis and one home [See Letter below].
Evening, went over to Major Ward’s [and] talked of things generally. He is a well informed person. About the same state in regard to the school matters. Some fellows came to see the [Ward] girls – two Crooms, [William Duval] Randolph, & two others [named] Buford. It is decided that I cannot stay; at least I have so decided. Major Ward seems willing to assist me [find another situation], but how I am unable to say. I was not designed for a school teacher, that is evident & I will never succeed. Oh God, help me, counsel me what to do in this life. Guide me into that pursuit for which I am fitted & in which I may be able to do good.
July 15, 1860
Rather cool. Did not go to church. Took a walk down the track about two miles to a pond & got some crawfish – something like a little lobster. Feel better today than I have. At Sunday school, one of the negro boys being asked of when the coming of Christ was told (meaning John the Baptist) said John the Barber.
July 16, 1860
In school. Major [Ward] came for my letters. I have had some figs. They smell like the pith of the Elder, shaped something like a torpedo & outside something like a mandrake.
July 17, 1860
In school. Warm, tired, & sleepy today. In those studies that I hear, Annie & Sallie Ward are by no means as good as I supposed. In school till half past seven. It was dark before I left.
Went over to Governor Brown’s to tell Mag about the polar star. She & I went into the Governor’s office & staid until nearly eleven. [The] Governor told stories & what had befallen him & what he had known to have taken place. Our conversation was about ghosts, apparitions, &c. & was in fact very ghostly. When he was in Richmond [Virginia] many years ago, there was to be a benefit play for one of the actors, I think, at the theatre. One young lieutenant in the Navy was there & a young lady he loved. The scenery of the play was made of thin boards varnished & painted [with] branches of trees sticking out to represent forests. The after piece was translated by a French teacher in Richmond from [The] Monk, [by Matthew] Lewis called, I think, the “Wood Cutter” – a horrid piece. The night before the play the young officer dreamed that he was walking out in the evening with his mistress in the woods and in a sudden, a great light blowed up and a horned spectre like a man with an owl on his shoulder rushed out & they could not escape. They were consumed by the blaze. He related his dream & felt loathe to go [to the theatre] but was persuaded to go [regardless]. At the last when this play was to take place, the lights were to be put out except those on the stage so as to give the appearance of a night & a light in the wood. Just as the light on the stage was raised, it caught in the branches & blazed up. At that moment, the wood cutter rushed out. The young officer caught the lady in his arms & said, “My lady that is the image I saw [in my dream] last night.” The building was consumed in five minutes. 120 perished. This happened to him when studying law in Richmond.
[Governor Brown also told us about a time when] he was boarding [at] a tavern where a noted lawyer died & it was said the room was haunted by his ghost. He exchanged rooms with another & saw nothing for a month. But one moonlight night, he awoke and saw this lawyer bending over him. At first [he was] almost stunned with fear [but] he gradually got courage and made an effort to grasp him by the head – and at the effort he thought his hand & arm was nothing but a skeleton. He concentrated all his power into a grasp & took hold of his own coat which was on a chair & reputed somewhat the image which his lively imagination had pictured.
July 18, 1860
Warm. In school. Had a call from Mr. [G. K.] Walker, a new man in the place. Wanted to send two or three [of his children] to school. Then had [a visit] from Major Ward & Mr. [Green] Chaires. Stopped me some time [from teaching, which] amounted to nothing, but Major Ward said he would have [his daughter] Annie stop [reading] her Virgil – the only class I ever had any pleasure in hearing. I have an arithmetic class in preparation & there are some difficult sums I have great times with. None of them have any idea of the first fundamental principles of arithmetic & Annie Ward is just as bad as any.
Had some good peaches today. Evening, called on Mr. Walker. Studying. Mrs. Adams said today that some [folks] asked her what I received as salary & [when] she [told them] the amount, they said it was small. I have nearly made an hundred dollars & I hope considerably more.
July 19, 1860
Took a short walk before breakfast. In school. Major Ward called. Hear that quite a number are coming tomorrow to hear the compositions & speaking. Took a walk in the evening. Wrote a composition for Carrie [Adams] on a trip to the moon. Wrote about 3 pages [on] fool’s cap. Received a letter from [cousin] Anna Fiddis.
July 20, 1860
Very warm. I have felt miserable today. Though I have learned something [here in the] South, yet I may be sorry that I came here – but I hope not. I hope and pray that it may be advantageous to me. Speaking & composition day passed off pleasantly. Annie Ward had a good one on music. Some boys & girls [came] as visitors.
I feel vexed at Major Ward – still I like him. I love emphatically his children, especially Sallie & Annie. And still I am not satisfied. I am as envious or selfish as the devil. It is a part of my nature nor can I help myself. If I knew that Annie had one spark of feeling or affection for me, it would make me indescribably happy. But she would look with contempt on such a poor, ugly looking man as I. Took a walk this evening on the railroad. My future is dark & uncertain before me. I know not what the next month will bring forth.
Annie Ward is something over fifteen, rather tall, red hair, high forehead, white clear complexion but sadly freckled, gray eyes, but pretty, light eyebrows, a small sweet mouth, and a graceful nose. Her bust is well developed [and she has a] rather noble carriage. Sallie [Ward is] about thirteen, is of a dark sallow complexion, dark hair, and eyes, and will probably make a beautiful lady.
Major Ward is maybe about [five foot, eight inches tall, about] four inches taller than I. [He is] pretty well formed, [has a] large head, high and retreating forehead & retreating chin. He wears a chin beard.
July 21, 1860
Rather warm. Studied and wrote all day. Took a short walk on the railroad. Evening, wrote a letter to [cousin] Lucy Stratton. Went over to Major Ward’s. He was going away. Sat with him awhile & he went. Staid the rest of the evening. Tom Footman was there, Annie Chaires & Drucilla [Adams] came over. We played cards until nearly eleven. Came home.
Little Mary Ward is a wild girl, ungoverned & unrestrained when away from her father. When she was sleepy & desired to go to bed, she came in & wanted [her] “shinny” put on. The girls laughed immoderately. Got two [new] boys [in my school] today. Had all the peaches & watermelons I wanted today. Major Ward wants me to go over there tomorrow morning after breakfast. Got paper from home today. One year ago today I commenced my diary in Owego – that day [my sister] Augusta came home [on a visit from Kansas Territory]. Where will I be next year?
July 22, 1860
Very warm today. Dressed & went over to Major Ward’s. He was at breakfast. Talked over the school matters till church time. Said that I had better continue on in the school until October. He may change his advice before a week is out. Did not ask me to church. He had on no collar or coat & one of the lower buttons on his pants in front was open. Came home [and] finished a letter to [cousin] Lucy Stratton. Took a walk down to the sink. Made a sketch of it.
Came home. Wrote some on the translation of Virgil. Had watermelons & peaches today. At Sunday school, Miss Mag Brown has my class of girls, and Annie Ward went into it today. She left it because I was teacher. She is not a lady. In coming out from the church, she appeared to be going my way & she had quite a load of books. I offered to carry them for her, but she said she was not going that way, at which she stuck up her nose & grinned at the others. Mrs. [Arthur M.] Randolph was there. Evening attended prayer meeting.
July 23, 1860
In school. Afternoon rained. Called on Mr. [Andrew] Denham. Staid to tea. Sent by him my letters – one to [cousin] Annie Fiddis, and one to [cousin] Lucy Stratton. Got $0.50 of stamps. Staid till nearly eleven. Said there was a kind of snake here called the double snake. Cut it in two and each part will run in opposite directions. [Editor’s Note: This “double snake” is not a snake, but a lizard — sometimes called a “glass snake” or a “glass lizard.” See the genus Ophisaurus.]
July 24, 1860
Warm today. Heard Annie Ward’s Latin in the morning. Rainy most of the day. Did not let out at twelve for the rain. Kept [school] till about two & then closed. Billy Denham came & brought a gun & we went a hunting to the lakes. Shot ducks, marsh hens & doves. I shot twice and came within half a mile [of hitting something]. Wet and muddy. This is my first trial at hunting here. Evening attended church.
July 25, 1860
Rather warm. Today I sent home Wesley Adams, and also Drucilla [Adams] for impudence. Felt ugly today and vexed.
Took a walk to six-mile point with Billy Denham tonight. He is about my size, dark complexion, rather good looking & quite a fine boy [of 16 years]. Frank Maxwell [though a year younger] is somewhat taller, slimmer, good looking and [has] very bright, black eyes. They are now my oldest boy scholars & the best. They are good & gentlemanly to[wards] me & I think like me.
Wesley [Adams] is [about ten years old] — a short stubbed, block-headed fellow. [His sister] Drucilla [is] rather tall, [will soon be] about 13, stoops & has a she-devil look. She got in a fight with Tom Chaires once at school when Dr. Ald was teaching. Caroline [or “Carrie” Adams] is somewhat better looking but she has the look of stupidity. Jane, the oldest, [is a] tall, stooping, Chinese-eyed specimen [and] deaf. None have any refinement. [Eleven year-old] Tom Archer is a little fellow, yet bright-eyed & smart if made to study. I hope [he] will make a smart man.
July 26, 1860
In school. Got up rather late this morning. Sallie Ward sick & went home. Annie had a bad Virgil lesson. Felt very bad & tired today. Afternoon Billy Denham came as he went to school & brought me a large plate of a kind of pudding. It was nice. I have not had any such in a long time. Billy is good, clever & for his own sake I wish I was going to stay longer than I am. Took a walk down the railroad tonight. I cannot think of anything in regard to the family here but ill manners.
After tea, went over to Governor [Thomas] Brown’s. Told Governor all my troubles & told him I was going to leave. The conditions on which I came &c. &c. He seems to agree with me & said I acted the part of an honorable person in offering to resign as I did. He said he would help me to get a place at Tallahassee & also he would write to his relations in Virginia to see if they knew of a situation as a private tutor. I wish he would & be successful. Staid quite late. I wished him not to mention what I had said. He is a clever man. I like him. I hope he thinks well of me. Studying tonight.
July 27, 1860
In school. Sallie Ward brought me a bunch of grapes. Major Ward called and wanted me to close [the school] at two or half past two today, and henceforth have but one session. Hurried them through terribly fast today.
After school went with Billy Denham & Tom Archer to hunt. We traveled about 5 miles. I shot several times & made nothing but a few feathers fly. We went after wild turkeys [but] saw none. Killed one what they call doves.
After tea, dressed as scarcely a dry thread was on me, and went over to Major Ward’s to see if he could let me have a horse to go to [Tallahassee]. I am sorry I told Governor Brown what I did last night. My feelings & what I hear I ought to keep to myself. We talked about politics. I wish I was sufficiently informed to converse with [Major George T. Ward] on the subject. He thinks the Union will be dissolved if Lincoln is elected. He says the popular opinion at the North is made up by the mass[es] – the lower & middle class of people – and the intelligent & the leaders are led & guided by them. At the South, there is no such low element to any great extent and popular opinion is governed by the more intelligent. [He used] the example of Kossuth. This incorporating [of] foreign elements into the North is the cause of all hostility toward the South, he thinks. He says the [circumstances in the] North are not much better than in France just preceding the reign of terror. He says the Irish & the transcendental Germans are completely destroying the society & bringing it down to its own level, desecrating the Sabbath, &c. There must be a revolution, he thinks.
Thinks the elective judiciary a nuisance. He thinks there is an adaptation of slave labor in the South [superior] to free labor at the North. Thinks if Lincoln is elected, the Union will go into pieces, though it is a consummation he does not wish.
The society of Virginia is changing. The old aristocracy is dying out & the overseers in many cases are coming. The old, jovial aristocrats, living on their baronial estates are gradually disappearing. The lands [give] out & the children migrate to other states, & a Yankee population come in on the old worn out estate & by a sterner, a more careful cultivation, the lands are renewed. The society in South Carolina & North Carolina is almost the same as in the time of the [America] revolution, & it is so generally in all the South Atlantic States – this kind of society I like. He says formerly New York reports on law were referred to him & at scarcely anywhere are they now. They think nothing of the present New York decisions. In Georgia, he says that some men who have a case will get it put off until the term of the present judge expires which is two years, & then by electioneering & money will get such a person elected who is in favor of him who has been a counsel & who will certainly decide for him.
[Editor’s Note: Goodrich mentioned the content of this conversation with Major George T. Ward in a piece that he wrote a year later for a Northern newspaper. It probably captures Ward’s views pretty accurately, being consistent with his diary. It reads:]
If there is an aristocracy here, as many believe, it is one of intellect and not one of wealth. Popular opinion at the North is made up by the masses – the lower classes of the people – and the intelligent and leaders are led and guided by them. At the South, there is no such rabble element, and popular opinion is the judgment of intelligent men. No one comes here in the garb of the hypocrite and creates such divine adoration as was rendered to Kossuth in the North. They look upon the North not far from that political and moral state which plunged France into the bloody wars that followed in the reign of terror. The Irish and transcendental German are completely destroying your society, by defying and trampling upon the forms and the rights of religion.
They look upon the elective judiciary system as a nuisance. Formerly, New York Reports were quoted here and referred to as decisive, but now they think nothing of the present decisions. In Georgia this is the present system and the chicanery and fraud is carried even beyond that of the most dissolute North. Some men who have a suit which involves much property and if justice should be done, the cause would go against them, contrive to put it off until the term of the present judge expires and by electioneering and money will get such a one elected who will be in their favor.
In some states great change in society is taking place. The society of Virginia is undergoing a sad change. The old jovial aristocrats living on their baronial estates are gradually disappearing and the overseers are rising, thus introducing less hospitality ad more avarice. The lands run out and the children migrate to other states, or a Yankee population come in on the old worn out estates and by a sterner and a more careful cultivation reverse the lands.
The society of South Carolina, and North Carolina, is nearly the same as in the time of the Revolution. In passing from the northern Yankee land, you seem to come into the country of cavaliers and ladies, so different are the manners. The sway of the red man continued here until long after he had ceased to cause us trouble on our western border. There are places alike memorable for his actions and of the reckless buccaneers and pirates.
Some boys there [at Major Ward’s] last night. Eb. Burroughs asked [4 year-old] Mary [Ward] to ask me into the parlor. Major [Ward] told her to say that I am engaged. He said I could have a horse. Came home, wrote some & went to bed.
July 28, 1860
Major Ward sent over this morning & said he could not let me have a horse to go to [Tallahassee] this morning, but in afternoon if that would do as well. I feel provoked. The horse he was to let me have, Annie rode out to the plantation [instead]. Said he could let me have a horse about ten or eleven. It is now nearly twelve and no horse yet. Wrote a letter to the Bishop of Alabama to ask his assistance in securing a [teaching] situation. I feel that I am slighted all around. I will be glad when I get out of this old hole.
Horse came about half past one, went up [to Tallahassee] & called at Mr. [William J.] Ellis’s. Stayed about two hours. Got some alcohol, tobacco, paper & envelopes. Got home about six. Sent the letter to Bishop Nicholas H. Cobb, Montgomery, Alabama. Party over to Mr. [Green] Chaires. Was not invited. Billy Denham was not there [and] I think was not invited. Wrote three letters – one home, one to Manget, one to [cousin] Ed Stratton.
July 29, 1860
Rainy. Did not go to church. Studying and writing. At Sunday school, Annie Ward is getting colder & colder everyday, and in fact impolite. I am not aware that I have done anything to offend her. Major Ward is more formal & stately than before. [They] say Willie Randolph is coming to school on Tuesday. Evening, went to church. Studying.
July 30, 1860
In school. Mr. Walker came with 3 of his children [– John, Meda, and Bel Walker]. Went there in evening. Had a long talk with Annie Ward after school.
July 31, 1860
[16 year-old] Willie Randolph came [to school] today. Scholars lazy today. Feel rather sick. Received a letter from Mr. Randolph to go over there in the evening. Went over [and] had a fine talk with him. The Ralph Ringwood of E. Irving is his father-in-law. His name was William H. Duval. He died several years ago. He has two sons in Texas. Mr. Randolph seems to be a fine gentleman & pleasant.
Arvah Hopkins was a 46 year-old planter and merchant who lived in Leon County, Florida with his wife Susan and five children.
Stephen Maxwell was a 48 year-old planter who lived in Leon County, Florida.
The note from Major George T. Ward read:
My Dear Sir. From what you said last night, I thought you were indisposed to go, and this morning lent a horse to Mr. Burroughs and am obliged to use the poney myself. I regret it as I am obliged to send the carriage horses to the plantation after corn, and am obliged to disappoint you. Your truly, Geo. T. W.
[Box 1, Item 224, The Ralph L. Goodrich Collection, Arkansas History Commission.]
The Richmond Theatre Fire of December 26, 1811 killed 72 patrons, mostly women and children. Goodrich got most of the information from Ex-Governor Thomas Brown correct. The production was a benefit to honor Mr. Alexander Placide (1750-1812), an actor and manager of his own theatrical company. The fire occurred when a raised chandelier on the stage tipped and ignited lacquer-backed scenery canvases as the curtain went up in the second act of a pantomime entitled “Agnes and Raymond, or the Bleeding Nun.” The “horrid piece” was translated by the Richmond scholar Louis H. Girardin from Lewis’ The Monk. The betrothed couple who died in the fire was USN Lieutenant James Gibbon and Miss Sallie Conyers.
Ralph Goodrich wrote a composition entitled A Visit to the Moon on 4 November 1854 while a student at Hobart Free College.
Eben W. Burroughs would later serve under Major Ward in the 2d Florida Infantry during the Civil War. He helped rescue Ward’s body from between enemy lines at the Battle of Williamsburg. He was later wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines near Richmond.
The letter from Dr. Arthur M. Randolph to Ralph Goodrich dated 30 July 1860 read:
Dear Sir. My son Willie wishes to attend your school for the months of August and September, and if the academy is not properly organized by the [end of this] period, for a longer time. Respectfully, A. M. Randolph
[Box 1, Item 44, Ralph L. Goodrich Collection, Arkansas History Commission]
Part of letter, Ralph Leland Goodrich to his Mother, dated July 14, 1860:
…and have been hardly able to sit up a lot, but I kept on with my school. The Capitol at Tallahassee is a large pink building, quite pretty, but not august In Tallahassee there are some Mulberry trees 20 or 30 feet in height. They look something like the soft Maple. The berries are sweet & good and are like a black berry. They were brought here to cultivate the silk worm but the climate was found to be unfit for them. There re a few bananas growing here, but are small & sickly. They have a long broad, ribbed leaf, [&] grow up something like a corn stalk. We have ripe peaches now almost the only fruit we have this year on account of the dry weather. There are several kinds of jasmines here. I will send you a flower of the Crepe Jasmine. There are cactus several feet high [with] long peaked leaves like this. I will send you a leaf of what they call the Mimosa or _________ tree. It is a large tree, has pink flowers like a dandelion though they are all gone now. There is nothing growing here but pine trees, a scrub oak, & to see or to get anything, I must go out into the country. This is a sand hill, & in the roads the sand is so deep that it is almost impossible to walk. The country is dotted with little lakes and some of them have alligators near here. I shall go out sometime & see. I walked out one day about 5 miles but I did not see anything. I did not get out of the pine woods.
At Camden [SC], there was no lime in the land & the well water was as soft as rain water, but this is a lime region [and] the water is hard and very unhealthy. It is hardly ever got clear in the summer being mixed with sand. There is not so much of the red clay here as in Va. The ground is covered with white sand & in the middle of the day, it is very bad for the eyes.
Cotton and corn is almost the only products they raise here. A little sugar cane is cultivated [and] some rice in the Eastern portions. I do not think this climate will agree with me though I have had very good health until lately. The average heat is 92 or 96 [degrees] for 5 or 6 months of the year [and] is terribly taxing. With proper exercise I could get along well, but I do not have time to take it. The trustees are perfectly willing to have me do all I can do & more too. I am in the school house eight hours of the day. When the engagement was made, I was to have only 15 or 18 scholars, & if there were any more, I was to have an assistant & an increased amount of salary. But it appears that the lady that was teaching here is to teach music. I have now 23 or 24 [students] & shall soon have more. They want me to teach French to some that know more than I stated I was competent to teach. Mr. McCandless said that if I had a Board of Trustees here, I would find trouble & if that was the case, he would hire me. There are 6 or 8 persons who call themselves the trustees [but] none of them agree. If I do one thing, it will displease some, so I scarcely know what to do. I can’t do to please [them] all when they hold such contrary opinions. I want to put the [scholars] in classes so I can get along better, but they are opposed to getting new books & want me to hear each one separately. Some want me to teach French privately after school hours though nothing is said of compensation. If I whip a scholar for disobedience, his parents will take it out until a consultation is had whether it was right or wrong. The trustees come into the school during recitation time, quizzing the scholars, and dispute with me bout the correctness of the books they are studying.
Now this is the state of things which I did not know until lately. Major Ward said he would take me into his family as a private tutor & let the other trustees go to grass, but he prefers to send them to a school where they can have some inducement to study by emulation. I can’t stay in such a situation even if I am working to pay off my debt. You can judge of the manners of the family they shuffled me off on to board with in this. They frequently have little parties about the village & whenever there is one here, they are not polite enough even to see if I would walk into the parlor. They haven’t any more care in my comfort than a hog. [They are] careless about my washing. Half the time I have not water to wash with & then that stinking with herd dung.
This letter was commenced when I felt worse than I do now & if there is any spleen in it, you must excuse it for you know what I am. I was going to work until I can pay off all my debts – where, I don’t care. If it be in many places, so much the more I will learn. Write soon. I cannot possibly have time to write oftener than once in two weeks. I have received the book, but not the papers. I would not send two at a time under one stamp for it will make trouble here.
Love to all. I am affectionately, — R. L. Goodrich