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Inventory of the Wilkinson and Keith Family Papers, 1785-1920

Descriptive Summary

Abstract: The Wilkinson and Keith family papers consist of correspondence and other documents among the Wilkinson, Keith, Siegling, Haskell, and Marshall families and their friends dating from 1785 to 1920. The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1820 to 1890, a large portion of which chronicles Willis Keith's experiences as a Confederate soldier in 1862-1863.
Title: Wilkinson and Keith family papers
Creator: Wilkinson family;
Keith family
Date(s): 1785-1920  (bulk 1820-1890)  
Extent: 1.25 linear feet
(2 document boxes, 1 slim document box)
Repository: Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston, SC 29424
Phone: (843) 953-8016
Fax: (843) 953-6319
Call Number: Mss 0111
Language of Material: Materials in English

Biographical Note

The Wilkinson and Keith families merged in 1831 when Rev. Paul Trapier Keith (b. 1801) married Anna Bella Wilkinson (1809-1884). The Trapier (from his mother's side) and Keith families had been living in the Georgetown area since well before the Revolutionary War. The antebellum correspondence in this collection consists mostly of Anna Bella's correspondence with her parents, Eleanora Withers Wilkinson and Dr. Willis Wilkinson (b. ca. 1780), and her brothers and sisters, William, Sarah, Mary Wilkinson Memminger, and Virginia Wilkinson Belin. Later correspondence includes letters from her sons and daughters, Willis Wilkinson Keith (1839-1885), who served in the Confederate Army, Dr. John Alexander Wilkinson (1849-1901), Magdalen Elizabeth Wilkinson ("Maddie," 1845-1919), Mary Pauline Wilkinson ("Mimmie"), and Paul Trapier Keith.

In 1868, Magdalen Elizabeth Keith married Alexander Washington Marshall (1845-1906). Most of the post-Civil War correspondence is between this couple, and some later letters are from their young children.

Collection Overview

The Wilkinson-Keith Family Papers consist of correspondence and other documents among the Wilkinson, Keith, Siegling, Haskell, and Marshall families and their friends dating from 1785 to 1920. The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1820 to 1890, a large portion of which chronicles Willis Keith's experiences as a Confederate soldier in 1862-1863.

Antebellum correspondence discusses Charleston fires, great details of family illnesses and their cures, plantation life (more specifically, destruction/endurance of crops and treatment of slaves), and general details about everyday life. Civil War-era correspondence is largely concerned with battles and rumors of battles, descriptions of military preparations and blockades, the value of Confederate currency, debt, and family illnesses. Willis Keith's correspondence discusses his experiences in specific battles, loss of troops, impressions of the war from his accompanying slave, Paris, and his comrades' slaves, inquiries about life back home, and some political reflections and opinions on the Confederacy.

Post-Civil War correspondence consists mostly of communication between Alexander Marshall and his wife Magdalen Elizabeth Keith. This correspondence discusses many trips up and down the east coast, various problems with traveling, financial matters, and the 1886 Charleston earthquake.

In addition to correspondence, the Wilkinson-Keith Family Papers contain a number of diaries and other miscellaneous documents. There is a notebook (undated) used for "cookery" belonging to Elizabeth M. Marshall, wife of Reverend Alex W. Marshall, an album of colorful storybook pictures likely belonging to Aunt Nan Keith [Marshall] dated 1964, a printed diary of Rev. Isaac Chanler (1700-1749) with additional notes from 1920, Anna B. Wilkinson's diary (1834), two diaries of Magdalen E. Keith (1865-1869 and 1868), and a pamphlet entitled "The Confederate Medical Officer in the Field."

Other miscellaneous documents in the collection include telegraphs, legal documents, and genealogical information with a family tree of the Wilkinson, Keith, Siegling, Haskell, and Marshall families.

Collection Arrangement

Materials arranged at the folder level.

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index this collection in the Library's online catalog. They are grouped by name of person, family, or organization, by topical subject, by place, and by types of material.


    • Wilkinson family
    • Keith family
    • Marshall family
    • Siegling family
    • Haskell family


    • Soldiers--South Carolina--Correspondence


    • South Carolina--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives, Confederate
    • South Carolina--Genealogy

    Types of Material

    • Correspondence
    • Diaries


    Miscellaneous correspondence of unidentified persons   box 1 | folder 1

    Letter to Paul Trapier from Sam Baldwin extolling the virtues of Trapier's granddaughter, 1785   box 1 | folder 2

    Wilkinson family correspondence, either to or from Anna Wilkinson, describing everyday activities, a fire in Charleston and the destruction of the Methodist Church (1828 May 12), 1820-1830   box 1 | folder 3

    Wilkinson family correspondence, describes the hiring of a nurse, destruction of crops by a "gale," a cholera epidemic, and the fact that "Uncle Jessy" now commands the United States Frigate New York, used for commercial purposes, 1831-1840   box 1 | folder 4

    Wilkinson family correspondence, tells about escaped slaves due to ill treatment by an overseer (1845 February 4), everyday activities, the effects of laudanum, deaths of friends, 1841-1851   box 1 | folder 5

    Wilkinson family correspondence, about everyday activities, childbirth, letter from Emma describes a child's sickness in great detail, undated   box 1 | folder 6

    Keith family correspondence, description of leeching a child, a trip to the mountains, everyday activities, 1830-1850   box 1 | folder 7

    Keith family correspondence, trip to Georgetown, Sept. 29, 1862 mentions apprehension of Yankees, rumors of an early attack, descriptions of boats readying, blockades, Aug. 18, 1864 discusses the value of Confederate currency, debts, necessary items around the house, Numerous family sicknesses, 1851-1884   box 1 | folder 8

    Keith family correspondence, miscellaneous, undated   box 1 | folder 9

    Willis Keith Civil War correspondence, description of Jackson's Campaigns in Virginia, James Island, shelling in camp, difficulty of getting food, 1862, undated   box 1 | folder 10

    Willis Keith Civil War correspondence, shelling at Fredericksburg, marching to Pennsylvania, aftermath of Gettysburg, numerous mentions of the effects of the march on his slave, Paris. Political thoughts on the Confederacy, 1863   box 1 | folder 11

    Willis Keith Civil War correspondence, everyday activities and appeals for letters from "the girls," undated   box 1 | folder 12

    Johnnie Keith Civil War correspondence, recounts fishing at Fort Pemberton and the filling of Stones River with torpedoes, undated   box 1 | folder 13

    Telegram to Trapier Keith, Willis not injured in battle, 1863 July 7   box 1 | folder 14

    Alex Marshall and wife Magdalen Elizabeth Keith, description of several train trips, payment of pews in church, descriptions of problems in the banking industry, etc., 1870-1880   box 2 | folder 1

    Magdalen Keith and Alexander Marshall correspondence, trip up North to New York, Connecticut, Chicago, down to Atlanta, Birmingham, problems with seasickness while traveling, quick mention of a baseball game in Charleston, children's letters, 1881-1897   box 2 | folder 2

    Marshall family correspondence, humorous letter about the difficulties of traveling by stage coach, and the intrusion of a dog into a hotel room, others about financial matters, the earthquake in Charleston in 1886, 1861-1886   box 2 | folder 3

    Marshall family correspondence, miscellaneous, problems with the children, undated   box 2 | folder 4

    Reverend Alex W. Marshall notebook, labeled at Yale College, but used for "cookery" by his wife, Elizabeth M. Marshall, undated   box 2 | folder 5

    Album, probably belonged to Aunt Nan Keith [Marshall], full of colorful storybook pictures, 1864   box 2 | folder 6

    Haskell family miscellaneous, includes license of Edward C. Haskell to practice law in the State of Alabama, 1890, a typed essay labeled "My First Deer" by J.C.H., research on "The Name and Family of Haskell," and a handwritten chronicle of the military service of E.R.C. Haskell, a Representative of South Carolina, 1890   box 3 | folder 1

    Gerald Siegling, Western Union Telegraph Company about military organization from Hugh S. Thompson, 1879   box 3 | folder 2

    Diary of Rev. Isaac Chanler (1700-1749), printed, handwritten notes from 1920, 1920   box 3 | folder 3

    Anna B. Wilkinson diary, 1834   box 3 | folder 4

    Woman's diary, Keith family, by P.J. Keith?, 1862   box 3 | folder 5

    Diary of Magdalen E. Keith, poor condition, 1865-1869   box 3 | folder 6

    Diary of Magdalen E. Keith, 1868   box 3 | folder 7

    Various invitations/announcements, includes St. Cecilia Society, various events at St. Michael's Church in Charleston, 1860-1870   box 3 | folder 8

    Loose envelopes, 1862, 1883, undated   box 3 | folder 9

    Keith family miscellaneous, includes handmade paper dolls, "West End Club" promissory note of young ladies arranging a meeting five years from the date to celebrate friendship (1867), journal entry with pressed flower of Magdalen Keith, age 11, 1862, undated   box 3 | folder 10

    Miscellaneous, includes family tree, military record of Capt. J. C. Haskell, who served under General E. Porter, with a short description of his time in a balloon used for reconnaissance over Richmond during the Civil War, pamphlet "The Confederate Medical Officer in the Field," 1929, 1944, undated   box 3 | folder 11

    Miscellaneous, various newspaper articles about Hurricane Hugo, comparing to other historic disasters in Charleston, a paper fan from Cuba, business cards, notes, and other ephemera, 1956, 1989, undated   box 3 | folder 12

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    This collection is open for research.

    Copyright Notice

    The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

    The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Wilkinson and Keith family papers, College of Charleston Libraries, Charleston, SC, USA.

    Acquisitions Information

    Materials were donated in 2008 by Nancy Alston Siegling Fortiere.

    Alternate Form of Materials

    Digital reproduction available online in the Lowcountry Digital Library.

    Processing Information

    Processed by John White, October 2010.

    Encoded by John White and Martha McTear, November 2010.

    EAD updated by Joshua Minor, July 2016.

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