Sometimes a document raises as many questions as it answers. The letter below was found in a file that otherwise contained Samuel Williston’s business receipts from several years surrounding 1870. We are not even sure of the writer’s name. My best guess is F. A. Cannon, but it could also be Gannon. As can be seen in the facsimiles at the bottom of the page, the C or G in the author’s signature is drawn differently than any other capital C or G in the document. If any reader is expert at handwriting analysis, please feel free to jump in.
One surmises that the writer might be a former slave. He is a railroad worker in Georgia; he has had some education, until the “Legislature countermanded the order.” In the post-Reconstruction period, many Southern States, including Georgia, actively sought to end the federally mandated programs benefiting African Americans that were imposed following the Civil War. But we don’t know for sure. A small number of African Americans enrolled at Williston Seminary as early as the 1870s (see The Center of All Days). We do not have Principal Marshall Henshaw’s response to the letter. The fact that it was saved with some of Samuel Williston’s financial records suggests that Henshaw might have referred the request to Williston, who sometimes assisted needy students out of his own pocket. Continue reading