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Lacy Family Papers

Identifier: DC0147s

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of nine handwritten, double-sided correspondence letters (1851-1859) from Mrs. Mary Lacy to her stepdaughter Elizabeth 'Bess' Dewey, typed transcripts of the letters, copied pages of a ledger, reproductions of a Reverend Dr. Drury Lacy photograph (possibly from a book or catalog), seven of Mr. Lacy's hand-bound sermons (1855-1860), one handwritten invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Lacy, and a copy of an article about the letters (1980).

This collection of letters offers a window into the daily life and concerns of an upper-class (white) woman in the mid-19th century, particularly within the sphere of Davidson College and its local community. Through her correspondence with her step-daughter, Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Dewey, who lived in Charlotte,NC, a much bigger city than Davidson, NC, Mary discusses a variety of topics. This includes interactions with college trustees, her disappointment over Mr. Lacy not receiving a pay raise, details of a dorm room break-in, and a local merchant accused of selling alcohol to college students, as well as struggles acquiring commodities such as sugar and fabric while living in a rural location. Mary also writes about negotiating prices of goods, social engagements, gardening, the health of relatives and friends, gossip about other women, the management of enslaved persons owned by the Lacy family, the health of enslaved women owned by the Lacy family, as well as the abuse an enslaved man suffered from a nearby family.

The August 6, 1856 letter describes the health of "Aunt" Amy and "Aunt" Maria, two women enslaved by the Lacy Family. The "Ceesey" may also reference an enslaved woman in this August 6, 1856 letter, though it is less clear. The January 2, 1857 letter discusses the purchase or rent of enslaved labor, including a young girl named Lizzie that was "bound" by Mary Lacy's step daughter, Bess. The December 12, 1858 letter also discusses potentially "bound" young women, Priscilla, Amanda, and Susan.


  • Creation: 1851-1860, 1980


Biographical / Historical

Reverend Dr. Drury Lacy (1802-1884) was president of Davidson College from 1855 to 1860. He had four children by his first wife: Elizabeth, Drury, William, and Singleton. He married Mary Ritchie Rice in 1849 and had three more children: Agnes, Benjamin Rice, and John Holt. During Lacy's tenure at Davidson College, the college received the Maxwell Chambers bequest, and the building known as Old Chambers was constructed.

The names of most of the enslaved persons referenced in Mary Lacy's letters are typed out at the bottom of the transcript pages. This includes "Aunt" Amy and "Aunt" Maria--presumably two older women who labored as enslaved women for the Lacys in the 1850s. The 1850 slave schedule states the Lacys owned a 48 year old enslaved woman, a 15 year old enslaved girl (listed as "mulatto"), and a 44 year old enslaved man.


3 folders (3 folders)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elizabeth Lacy Chambers Holt, Mr. Lenoir Chambers, Mrs. Anne Dewey Chambers Keesler, 1964

Processing Information

Processed on Aug-94

Edits made to the scope and content note, biographical note, subjects and agents in April and May 2024 by intern Colby Katz.

Lacy Family Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections Repository