Dr. Peter Bryce Letter to his Wife, 1866

Bryce Letter page 1 001.jpg


Dr. Peter Bryce Letter to his Wife, 1866


Bryce, Peter, 1834-1892
Bryce, Ellen Peter, 1841-1929


The letter, written on February 18, 1866, by Dr. Peter Bryce (1834-1892), first superintendent of what is now Bryce Hospital, to his wife, Ellen Bryce, who was in Columbia, S.C.

The letter, which is written over the course of three days, is eight pages long and expresses Bryce's growing concern about his wife's safety on her trip home to Tuscaloosa.

Some words were unreadable in the text and have been replaced with XXX.

Only page one is shown though the text includes all eight pages.


Dr. Peter Bryce


Personal Collection of Victor Morris Friedman


February 18-20, 1866


Betty Slowe (Description)






Tuscaloosa (AL)


No. 8 Sunday afternoon 18th Feby 1866

My dear Nellie –

I received your letter No. 4, dated 7th Feby, from Columbia, post marked 8th Feby, on Friday the 16th – just taking 9 days to make the trip. Your letter No. 3, written the day you arrived, has not yet come to hand and as your No. 4 gives no local news, I am still ignorant of many things which I would like to know. I would like to know how you got on after leaving Augusta, how much staying you made, and between what points, who you stayed with in the absence of your father &C&C&C. I wrote you that I had received your letters from Atlanta & Augusta; and no letter before the last I sent by parties who were going xxxx with the request that they would post at Atlanta. I will send this by Mr. Turner, who leaves here on the “Jewess,” which is expected in a day or two, asking him to post at Atlanta. You will leave Columbia, I presume, on Monday the 5th of March, & reach Augusta, Georgia, in time to take the cam from Atlanta, which latter you will reach Tuesday night. Staying over there all night, you will take the cam Wednesday morning & reach Montgomery 9 o’clock that same (Wednesday) night. Taking the boat that same night (the boat usually waits for the cam) you will reach Selma on Thursday morning about 7 o’clock. As the cams for Marion leave Selma three times, only in the week, viz. on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You will lay over at Dr. Mabry’s and get home Saturday afternoon about 2 o’clock.

Should you conclude however to come home by way of Randolph (which I do not advise unless you get a good escort) you will leave Selma at about 7 o’clock Thursday Morning for Randolph, & get home one day sooner.

When you get to Selma, should you stop at the Gee House, you must ask if Col. Roth is stopping there, and get all the information you desire. He may still be there and will be very glad to render you all the assistance you need. If you have to stay a day in Selma, however, you had better go at once to Dr. Mabry’s, where you know that you will be welcome. Should you be detained in Marion, go at once to Judge King’s as he says he will certainly expect you if you have time to stop. I shall look for you a little on Friday, and certainly on Saturday. Should anything seriously happen to you on the way home between Columbia and Selma, telegraph to Dr. Mabry and beg him to send a special messenger to me, and if xxx. xxx of Selma, send a messenger yourself. And just here let me give you a little advice to be remembered all your life. Should you ever have occasion to send a telegraphic message to my person, don’t try to say everything you desire in ten words; and , as many do, bungle the sense, but use as many words as are necessary to explain intelligibly what you mean.

Well, Nellie, this has been another stormy rainy day. It has been flowing down in torrents all day & again I have not been able to attend church. Yesterday afternoon late, I took a horseback ride, and it was the first time I had been out since I wrote you last. I met Dr. Easter in the street, and he told me that he was glad that the indications were for a pleasant day today, as he has not been able to get a congregation on a/c of the inclemency of the weather, since he came. It seems that he has made several appointments during the week for services and it has never failed to rain every time.

I hauled a load of coal for Dr. Easter yesterday. He has at last got into his house (Mrs. Fair’s) & when I met him yesterday he was going xxx here to try and buy a cooking stove. Dr. Beatty told me the other day that he was perfectly charmed both with Dr. Easter and his wife, and that they were in every respect the right persons for the parish. My previous criticisms of Dr. and Mrs. Easter, in a previous letter, were rather on the esthetical order, and not intended to reflect on their usefulness, which latter, it seems is fully established in the opinion of the parish.

There is no news to tell you, not having seen anyone or been out the house for several days. I mentioned in one of my first letters that old Mr. and Mrs. Freeman want to spend the summer in the Valley of the French Broad, and I promised to get you to inquire if they could be put in communication with Patton or Thomas of those parts. They want to know 1st if they can get there? 2nd. Is the country safe? 3rd Can they get board with either Patton or Thomas? Please find out these facts if you can.

Massey wants to find out what sort of a chance there is in Columbia for a first rate bricklayer and plasterer. He wants to live in S Ca and thinks Columbia a good place for his craft. Make some inquiries about it if you can. He says if I will buy a lot in Columbia, he will put up “our house,” I furnishing the capital, and will rent it for himself and mother. I wonder if the Brevard’s lot could be purchased low. I think it the most desirable lot in Columbia and will eventually be very valuable. In the event of dying before you, I would like you to have a house of your own.

I will hardly get this letter off before the 20th of the month, as the Jewess will hardly arrive before Tuesday, and I presume this will be my last letter to you, unless something happens worth writing about.
You will be home in just 3 weeks, and I long to see you, my darling wife. The days will seem long till then, but I must endure it. I hope your letters on the way for me will give some local news, at least the most important matters, about which I might naturally be supposed to be interested.
If you know how I despised to be “lectured,” you would certainly not attempt it. Much love to all. Tell Jimmy Bryce I got his letter if he is in Columbia. Believe me, my precious darling wife, your affectionate and devoted Husband.

Monday Morning – I received through the mail a little book describing the “Turkish or Eastern Baths” and accompanying, a letter from one Dr. Wood, proposing to come here and construct one for the use of the Hospital. This bath is described in the most glowing language, and I presume, is a very great luxury to those who have the facilities of construction one. The directions in the pamphlet are very clear, and I understand thoroughly the principle of it, so I intend to have one ready for you on your return. I have already selected the apartments, and have all the materials at hand, and can fix the whole thing in a week without any expense to the Institution. The effects of this bath are described as truly marvelous. It restores the health, under many circumstances; imparts vigor to the whole system, and beautifies the skin, making it as “soft as velvet and sleek as satin.” It is becoming very popular all over Europe and in this country it has been widely introduced both in public and private. You may expect something grand – really “gorgeous”!

I have engaged a very nice quiet woman - she is intelligent and refined, too – on trial as matron. She will take her meals with Massey downstairs, and the cooking will be done in the large kitchen. She will have nothing in common with us.

Col. Munfer has not yet returned, but we are looking for him every day.

I am sorry for the trouble of South Carolina. The Yankees are still in Tuskaloosa, though they are as civil and orderly as our own people. You would never know they were present. They don’t interfere with us in the management of Negroes; when they do elsewhere, their decisions, as far as I can learn, are just, and if anything lean in favor of the whites. The Negroes engaged on the plantations are working very well I learned and, with propitious seasons there will doubtless be large crops realized. Friday and Saturday last - 16th and 17th- were the coldest days we have had during the winter. Many of our pipes were bursted in consequence of the freezing of the water in them. Your birds are singing now with all their might. I had to buy some turnip seed for them as there was no canary seed in town. The patients are all well and comfortable and we are getting on very well in every respect. I have not yet succeeded in hiring such a woman as I want for cook; but as I haven’t tried very hard, I flatter myself I can get one whenever I feel disposed to exert myself in that direction…If nothing prevents, I intend spending the evening at the Garlands…I will fill up the balance xxx sheet tomorrow.

Tuesday Morning, 20 Feb.

I am just in receipt, darling Nelly, of your letter No. 3, written immediately on your arrival in Columbia. This letter gives me relief on many subjects in which I was interested, but I am startled at what you say about the dangers of your travelling alone. Dr. Garland told me last night that he would be in Montgomery between the 1st and tenth of next month, but did not know exactly when he would be summoned to meet the trustees. If he gets to Montgomery before the 5th of March, the day appointed for your return, he will telegraph you to meet him in Montgomery on the day he intends to return to Tuskaloosa and you must fix your day of starting from Columbia so as to meet him in Montgomery and come on here in his care. If he should not telegraph you, however, before the 5th of March, you need not wait on him. I hardly know what to advise you to do but it seems to me if you can hear of anyone coming this way, you had better wait even a week longer rather than risk it alone. Should you come alone, beg the Hotel Proprietor to let a chamber maid sleep in your room if you think best. I hardly know what advice to give you, my precious darling. I can only pray God to direct you aright and bring you safely back.

If I knew positively when you would reach Marion, I would bring you home in a buggy. About travelling alone, you know better than I do what the dangers are and if, when consultation with your father, you think it unsafe, write me word, and will come or send Massey for you. Be sure and do as I tell you. If there is any danger I would spend my last cent than you should be exposed. I can easily send Massey and you can wait until he comes fi you think there is any risk – Yours in Love

Tuesday afternoon –

I think that it would be safest to come on as far as Atlanta or Montgomery in company, even if you have to wait some time longer for the opportunity, unless you may deem it advisable to write to me to send Massey for you. Should you find an opportunity, however, of coming on in company with friends and have had to delay beyond the 5th of March, you had better, if you have time, inquire in Montgomery if Dr. Garland is there, and come on back with him. He will stop at some private house, but Gov. Patton can tell you if he is there. You must bear in mind that Dr. Garland will only telegraph provided he reaches Montgomery before the 5th of March. I can hardly understand and believe that there is really any danger in travelling between Augusta and Montgomery, and the only difficulty I see is the change of cams and checking of baggage. If you could come on from Columbia in charge of some person going to Augusta, it seems to me that that person could introduce you to the conductors on the RR to Atlanta, and this conductor would introduce you to the Hotel in Atlanta. If you will only make yourself known – who you are and the circumstances under which you travel – to the hotel proprietors and conductors along the road, I know you will received much kind attention. When you get to Montgomery, you will have friends at every intermediate point between there and Tuskaloosa and will get on very well. I cannot believe that you will meet with even the slightest incivilities on the road, because you understand too well how to treat the overtures of the vulgar and to put it down, in its incipiency. I don’t know any woman living as attractive as you are, who so well understand this; and if you have nothing else to protect you, your very simplicity of deportment would repel the first unholy advance even in a barbarian.

You must write to Mr. xxx and get your father to do so, and express to him our everlasting gratitude for his kindness.

After all, my darling, you are in the hands of One mightier to protect than all your friends, and it is to Him we must look and pray and he will answer one petitions. This is the most comforting thought I have.

I have only one more suggestion to make and I leave it to you to act upon it or not, as your see best. Should you determine to leave home on a fixed day (say the 5th), telegraph Dr. Mabry on the evening previous and get him to send it to me by mail, and I will then meet you in Marion with a buggy and two horses, and thus save you a long, dark or disagreeable stage ride. In the case you would not engage your seat on the stage from the agent in Selma, but as soon as you got to Marion would go to Judge King’s, if I did not meet you at the depot, and wait until I come to Marion for you. Let your telegram name thus – To Dr. A. G. Mabry, Selma Ala., ”I will leave Columbia on the ____. Send this to Dr. Bryce at Tuskaloosa immediately by mail, or by hand if you have opportunity. – Mrs. E. Bryce.”

The probability is I would get the letter in time to meet you in Marion.

I make this suggestion and you may act upon it or not as you see best.

Praying and hoping, my precious wife, for a safe and pleasant journey home and with much love to all your and my family, believe me, as ever, your constant, faithful and devoted Husband.

Tuesday Night –

I find that there will be no boat up for several days, so I must send this by some other hand, maybe Mr. Turner. I hear that Dr. Beatty will leave for Greensboro tomorrow and I will ride in town tonight and leave this letter with him to send on to you.
Upon reflection and inquiries of Mr. Beard, the stable keeper, I learn that it will be hard to get a buggy, though it may be done. At any rate, I can get a hack if necessary; but he says that the accommodation on the stages between Marion and Tuskaloosa is now very good, and that it is as safe to come that way as in private conveyance. Such being the case, you will hardly think it necessary to telegraph me from Columbia, but come on as I first proposed in the regular stage. However, you may exercise your discretion.

I send you enclosed a Valentine received xxx the office today.

And now my Darling, in a little sly way, on this little sly scrap, I must tell you how much I love you & how much I miss you. The house has lost its chief charm, & nothing can fill the blank your absence has created. I never go upstairs unless for meals & retiring, then this, as we sit around the table, there is a sense of something wanting which we all feel in common.
We have every comfort &
even luxury, but there is one thing wanting. The young men & your friends everywhere inquire about you, & send messages often.
As much as I want to see you, I prefer you to have a good time at New Springs. I am unselfish in this, in all that concerns you. I wish I was as much so in every thing else. When I get to be a decrepit, disagreeable old man, you will bear with me for what I have done in the past. May God bless you my precious wife.
I am as ever your faithful & true Husband

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