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|Size||1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 280 items)|
|Abstract||Elizabeth Washington Grist Knox was the wife of Dr. Reuben Knox (1801-1851) of St. Louis, Mo., and mother of Franklin R. Grist (b. 1828), a Yale graduate, painter, and diplomat. Her father was cotton planter John Washington (1768-1837) of Kinston, Lenoir County, N.C. Her brother, James Washington (1803-1847), was a doctor in New York City. The collection includes correspondence, chiefly consisting of letters received by Elizabeth Knox in Washington and New Bern, N.C., between 1827 and 1840, and in St. Louis, 1840-1849, many of which are from her brother James. There are also many letters received by Franklin Grist, mostly 1845-1849, chiefly from relatives and school friends. Also included are letters from John Washington to his wife and daughter about running the family's plantation in Lenoir County, N.C., and about his daughter's schooling, and others between various members of the Washington and Knox families. There are also six letters from Elizabeth's friend, reformer Dorothea Dix. Topics include family life in eastern North Carolina, St. Louis, and upstate New York; plantation and household affairs; westward migration, especially passage by steamship and wagon train; encounters with the Nez Perce, Pawnee, and Flathead (Salish) Indian tibes; observations on the Mormon community in Salt Lake City; descriptions of ranching and mining in California; Franklin Grist's travels as a sketch artist with the Stansbury Exploration of the Great Salt Lake region of Utah in 1849-1850; the activities of slaves in Missouri; Franklin's student life at Yale in the late 1840s and as an art student in Paris, 1855-1858; and James Washington's experiences as a medical student in Philadelphia, 1824-1829, and Paris, 1829-1831. There are also a few college compositions, poems, and other papers.|
|Creator||Knox, Elizabeth Washington Grist, 1808-1890.|
|Curatorial Unit||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.|
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Elizabeth Heritage Washington, daughter of planter John Washington (1768-1837) and Elizabeth Heritage Cobb (1780-1858), was born on 10 February 1808 and spent her childhood in Kinston, N.C. Among her siblings were an older brother, James Augustus (1803-1847), who practiced medicine in New York, and a younger sister, Susannah Sarah (1816-1890), who married William A. Graham, governor of North Carolina and United States senator. Elizabeth was educated at Mrs. White's in Raleigh, N.C., between 1822 and 1824. After completing her schooling, she lived with her parents in Kinston until 18 June 1927, when she married Richard Grist of Washington, N.C. Richard and Elizabeth had one surviving child, Franklin R., born 22 December 1828. Richard Grist died on 21 September 1833.
In July 1840, Elizabeth Grist married Reuben Knox (1801-1851), a widower originally from Massachusetts. From his previous marriage to Olivia Kilpatrick, Knox had at least four children: Joseph A., born 11 October 1830; William Augustus Washington, born 8 August 1832; Henry Elijah, born 5 September 1835; and Alexander (1837-1841). He may also have had a son named Thomas. The Knoxes moved their family to St. Louis, Mo., soon after their marriage. At least two children were born to them in St. Louis: Eliza Washington, born 17 November 1846, and James Augustus Washington, born 6 May 1849.
Reuben Knox practiced medicine and conducted various business affairs in St. Louis. He was often not paid for his services, and the cholera epidemic of 1849 increased his patient load beyond what he felt he could handle. To better conditions for himself and his family, Knox decided to move to California. In May 1850, he began his journey accompanied by his sons Joseph and Henry, his nephew Reuben Knox, and a few slaves. Elizabeth, with the couple's two youngest children, went to visit friends and relatives in Massachusetts and North Carolina. She and the children were to join Knox and the older sons in California once a home and business had been established.
In 1849, Franklin Grist, Elizabeth's son by her first marriage, graduated from Yale and joined Harold Stansbury's expedition to explore and survey the Great Salt Lake region of Utah. Grist was an artist who had been hired to make sketches and maps for the expedition. In July 1850, Grist joined the Knoxes' wagon train en route to California.
Knox and his party arrived in Sacramento on 14 September 1850. Knox established a mercantile business and began plans for a store in San Francisco. Along with his son Joseph, he later farmed and raised livestock on the Novato Ranch near San Francisco. On 28 May 1851, Knox drowned in a sailboat accident in San Pablo Bay. After his stepfather's death, Franklin Grist moved to Washington, D.C., where he was a portrait painter, and then sailed to France where, between 1855 and 1858, he studied art in Paris. Grist remained abroad for 35 years, serving in the late 1880s as vice consul for the United States in Venice. He returned to Raleigh upon his mother's death in 1890.
For further information, see A Medic Fortyniner: Life and Letters of Dr. Reuben Knox, 1849-'51 (N.P.: McClure Press, 1974), edited by Charles Turner, which includes an introduction and transcriptions of letters from Knox and his sons, 1850-1856; and references in The Papers of William Alexander Graham, Volumes 1-4, edited by J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1957-1961).Back to Top
Typed transcriptions, prepared by the donor, of most of the pre-1841 letters and some of the other letters, are interfiled with the originals in Series 1. The central figures in the correspondence are Elizabeth Grist Knox and her son, Franklin R. Grist. The bulk of the letters were received by Elizabeth in Washington and New Bern, N.C., between 1827 and 1840, and in St. Louis, between 1840 and 1849. Almost half of the letters to Elizabeth are from her older brother James Augustus Washington. Most of the rest are from her son, Franklin, with scattered items from her father, John Washington; her second husband, Reuben Knox; and others. Letters received by Franklin Grist, mostly 1845-1849, are chiefly from his stepbrothers, his mother, and school friends. Miscellaneous letters are principally from Elizabeth's father to his wife; from family members in New York to Reuben Knox before his marriage to Elizabeth; and between other members of the Washington and Knox families. Six letters appear from reformer Dorothea Dix.
The correspondence is most useful as a source for the study of family life in eastern North Carolina, St. Louis, Missouri, and upstate New York, and includes detailed information on daily activities, the education of children, plantation affairs, and neighborhood and church news. Unusual opportunities also appear in the correspondence for studying westward migration in its peak period between 1849 and 1851, when several family members moved to California. Their letters describe their passage by steamship and wagon train, their experiences with various Indian tribes, observations of the Mormon community in Salt Lake City, the landscape and people of their new homes, and their business affairs. A number of Franklin Grist's letters were written while travelling as a sketch artist with the Stansbury Exploration in 1849-1850. Correspondence also appears for Franklin as a college student at Yale in the late 1840s and as an art student in Paris, 1855-1858. These letters provide mostly details of college social life, city life in Paris, and the French countryside. Letters from James Washington, a medical student in Philadelphia, 1824-1829, and in Paris, 1829-1831, discuss his travels and French politics.
Eleven miscellaneous items found in Series 2 include college compositions, poems, and scattered personal papers of Franklin Grist.Back to Top
Arrangement: By correspondent.
Chiefly letters received by Elizabeth Grist Knox between 1822-1858 from her brother James Washington and her son Franklin Grist, with about fifty letters received by Franklin Grist as a student at Yale between 1845-1849. Elizabeth's correspondents also include her father, John Washington; her second husband, Reuben Knox; and her friend, Dorothea Dix. A few letters that she wrote Reuben and Franklin appear between 1846-1851. There are also miscellaneous letters exchanged by various Knox and Washington family members.
Topics in the letters include family life in Kinston and Washington, N.C., St. Louis, Mo., and upstate New York; college social life; westward migration and exploration; and travel and study in France.
Originals and typed transcriptions of letters from John Washington to his wife Betsy and his daughter, Elizabeth. The earliest items are five letters, 1814-1817, to Betsy, written while Washington was on business trips to Philadelphia, Petersburg, Virginia, and Raleigh, N.C. These letters include mostly instructions for managing the family's plantation near Kinston. Brief letters between 1822 and 1824 from Washington at his home in Kinston to his daughter Elizabeth, a student at Mrs. White's in Raleigh, report illnesses and other family news and give Elizabeth copious advice on her education. Washington's letters in 1828 and 1829 are chiefly to Elizabeth in Washington, N.C., where she moved after her marriage to Richard Grist. They provide news of her brothers and sisters and of plantation affairs. One letter in 1835 from Washington in New York to Betsy in New Bern, N.C., concerns having the cotton on their plantation ginned.
Sixty-eight letters to Elizabeth from her brother James Augustus Washington between 1822 and 1845, most with typed transcriptions. A letter from Washington to his father and one to his brother-in-law appear in 1833.
Three letters in 1822 and 1823 from Chapel Hill, N.C., where Washington was attending the University, discuss student life and give Elizabeth brotherly advice. Six others from Washington in Kinston are addressed to Elizabeth at school in Raleigh. From 1824 to 1829, James wrote from Philadelphia, where he was pursuing medical studies, to Elizabeth in Kinston and later in Washington and New Bern, N.C. The approximately twenty letters from this period are taken up largely with family affairs and express James's tender feelings for Elizabeth. His letters give little attention to his medical studies.
In the spring of 1829, James left Philadelphia to continue his medical training in Paris, France. About sixteen letters from him there, written between 1829 and 1831, are included. Along with references to family affairs, Washington discussed such topics as European political events, especially the Revolution of 1830; night life in Paris, including evenings at the theater; and points of interest, such as the Tuilleries palace and the Louvre. When he returned to the United States, Washington completed his medical training and established a practice in New York City. About nineteen letters to Elizabeth between 1832 and 1845 relate largely to family matters, especially physical problems. In a few letters, particularly those of 21 April 1834, 8 December 1834, and 1 September 1836, Washington recommended treatments for ailments suffered by various family members.
Two additional letters appear in 1833: one, from James in New York to his father in New Bern, discusses the death of Elizabeth's daughter; the other, from James in New Bern to Richard Grist in Washington, discusses a visit he planned to make Richard and Elizabeth.
Acquisitions Information: Accession 103390
Seven letters, 1829-1833, six of which were written by John Augustus Washington to his family while studying medicine in Paris, France, and one written by his father, John, to him after his return. John Augustus Washington's letters include his observations on French government, politics, and social norms. In one letter, 17 December 1830, Washington described meeting James Fenimore Cooper at a dinner honoring General Lafayette and Quaker authoress, Mrs. Opie, at a separate evening at General Lafayette's home. In another letter, 14 March 1831, he expressed concern over his sister's decision to marry a close relative. There are transcriptions for three of the letters.
Originals of six letters to Elizabeth Knox in St. Louis, Raleigh, and New Bern, from Dorothea Dix in 1848, 1849, and 1851, while she was campaigning for reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. She wrote the Knoxes from Washington, D.C., Germantown, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Md., Raleigh, N.C., Fort Chester, N.Y., and Columbia, S.C., to report on her travels, her efforts on behalf of state and national legislation to finance improvements in the care of the insane, and her health.
Letters from Elizabeth Knox, chiefly to her son, Franklin R. Grist, and her husband, Reuben Knox, between 1846 and 1851, with two letters addressed to other relatives. Typed transcriptions appear for eight of the letters.
Elizabeth wrote Franklin from St. Louis between 1845 and 1849, while he was at Yale. She discussed his schoolwork, vacation plans, and drawing; reported on his brothers' activities; and gave news of family illnesses, deaths, and marriages and of the family's household and business affairs. Of note is a letter of 22 January 1846 cautioning Franklin against overrefinement and informing him of her contempt of "Dandyism." Also of interest are letters of 8 June 1846, commenting on the Mexican War; of 31 March 1848, describing a trip to New Orleans; and of 19 December 1847, concerning several slaves working to pay for the freedom, one by opening a barbershop. A few of Elizabeth's letters in 1846 and 1847 contain notes to Franklin from his stepbrother, William A. Knox, and his stepfather, Reuben Knox, which discuss mostly family, school and social life and provide news of mutual friends.
Seven detailed letters from Elizabeth to Reuben, written in 1850 and 1851, while she was visiting family in Hillsboro, New Bern, and Raleigh, N.C., and he was travelling to and settling in California, pertain to the welfare of their children and to the activities of North Carolina relatives and friends. Elizabeth often related stories in her letters that she had heard about other westward migrants and expressed fears for her husband and sons. Her comments on Reuben's activities sometimes offer insight into his life on the trail.
Additional letters include one, dated 9 June 1849, from Elizabeth in St. Louis to "Sister Mary," concerning the birth of Elizabeth's son James, a cholera epidemic in St. Louis, and Franklin's joining the Stansbury expedition. Another, dated 30 October 1863, is from Elizabeth at "La Cabana" in Chatham County to her sister, Susan Graham, in Hillsboro concerning knitting and news of friends.
Twenty-five letters to Elizabeth from Reuben Knox, and about ten letters from Knox to other relatives, especially his son Joseph, and his stepson Franklin Grist. One typed transcription, for a letter dated 20 June 1848, appears.
The letters from Knox to Elizabeth are dated 1840-1841 and 1849-1851. The earlier letters chiefly discuss family affairs, although experiences on a trip from St. Louis to New England also are recounted, including life aboard the riverboat "Ohio," on which Knox travelled. The later letters to Elizabeth were written during Knox's journey west and after he arrived in California. He wrote from Cairo; from aboard the steamers St. Storm, St. Paul, and St. Joseph; from Ft. Kearney; Scott's Bluff; Ft. Laramie; Salt Lake City; Sacramento; San Francisco; and Novato Ranch (outside San Francisco). In those dated before September 1850, Knox described, among other subjects, difficult travelling conditions, encounters with Pawnees and other Indians, and the frustration he experienced as a doctor on the trail as members of the wagon train succumbed to cholera and other diseases. Knox's letters from California relate to personal and business affairs, which included ranching, merchandising, and mining. His letter of 14 October 1850 mentions a "submarine armor," apparently worn to dive in search of metal in deep rivers or old mines filled with water. In his letter of 1 May 1851, Knox mentioned a fire in San Francisco that destroyed many businesses and in which he himself suffered some financial losses. His last letter, begun on 18 May 1851, was completed on 27 May 1851, the day before he died.
Knox's letters to other family members are chiefly dated 1845 and 1848-1850, and most are addressed to his son Joseph between 1848 and 1850 and stepson Franklin in 1845 while they were attending Yale. These letters largely impart fatherly advice, although in the later ones Knox discussed his plans to go to California.
Two letters appear from Knox in St. Louis to his mother-in-law, Mrs. John Washington, in Hillsboro, N.C. Dated 1844 and 9 May 1849, they inform her of the birth of a son and Elizabeth's health, and give news of other family members.
About forty-five letters Franklin Grist wrote to his mother, Elizabeth Knox, with a handful of letters addressed to his stepfather, Reuben Knox, his Aunts Mary and Susan, his stepbrother, William, and his niece, Ethel Hughes. Transcriptions, mostly typed but a few handwritten, appear for about half of the letters. Three letters are available only in transcription.
Grist's earliest letter appears in 1840, when he wrote his mother from school at Mr. Baldwin's in Hillsboro. No letters appear between 1841 and 1846. In 1847 and 1848, Grist wrote to his mother from Yale concerning his painting, his vacation activities, family, and news of his stepbrother Joseph, who was also at Yale. Of note is a letter of April 1848 to his father concerning commencement.
Seven letters appear to his mother and one to his father in May 1849 and June 1850, when Franklin was travelling as an artist with the Stansbury expedition to Utah. These letters describe the men on the expedition, including Howard Stansbury, J. W. Gunnison, George M. Howland, and Dr. James Blake. Also described are a tornado and other storms; a buffalo hunt near Ft. Laramie; and encounters with Indians from various tribes, such as the Flathead and the Nez Perce. Grist also discussed the beliefs, practices, and government of the Mormon community in Salt Lake City. His letter of October 1849 includes a sketch of the survey party's camp in the Salt Lake Valley.
There are six letters, 1850-1851, from Franklin in San Francisco to his mother. In them, he described his arrival in California, the landscape and people around him, local land disputes, and his feelings of failure over his painting and his being an "effeminate--over refined--and useless incumbrance" upon his stepfather (see 21 May 1851). Of note is a letter, dated 21 May 1851, that he wrote to Reuben Knox in San Francisco from Trinidad, concerning their packing business.
A handful of letters appear from Grist to his mother and others while he was working as a portrait painter in Washington, D.C., between 1852 and 1854. These letters discuss mostly family, his deep depression, and his painting.
About twenty letters, 1855-1858, were written to his mother by Grist from Paris, where he apparently had gone as a student. These letters, most of which are quite difficult to decipher, describe city life, including theatrical performances he attended and sidewalk cafes, and his travels into the French countryside, including visits to small towns, ruins, and chateaus, and the local people. Of note is a letter of 11 August 1855, giving a detailed description of the Fete Nationale. Grist also wrote from London and Liverpool in early 1855, describing the bad weather and pollution, and from Dresden and Munich in 1858, discussing his travels there.
Chiefly letters from relatives and friends to Franklin Grist while he was a student at Yale between 1845 and 1849. Scattered letters, also mostly from family and friends, appear addressed to Elizabeth Grist Knox between 1825-1851, to Reuben Knox between 1821-1850, and to other family members.
Franklin Grist received letters from his stepbrothers, Joseph, Henry, and William, and his half-brother, James Knox, and from a number of school and family friends. Topics include Joseph's preparations to enter Yale; hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities; church and school news; vacation plans; college social life, especially the use of alcohol; and news of friends and family. Of note are a letter in 1846 from F. T. Bryan, a student at West Point, describing the dullness of the school, and a letter from Reuben Knox in California in 1851 to Frank in an unknown location describing Reuben's work on Novato Ranch and a law suit concerning the ranch.
Between 1821 and 1830, while practicing medicine in Kinston, N.C., Reuben Knox received five letters from his sisters, Ruth, Mary, and Eleanor, who lived at the family's home, Blandford, in New York. They wrote concerning church affairs and religious devotion; the failing health of their mother; the death of their sister, Almira; Ruth's teaching school; and Reuben's impending marriage to Olivia Kilpatrick in 1829. Reuben also received two letters in 1828 from his brother, Joseph Knox, at Blandford, discussing his plans to take the bar examination and establish himself as a lawyer in Hardwick, their mother's poor health, and politics. There is also an 1850 letter to Reuben from New York minister, Henry M. Field, who wrote giving news of his brother Stephen's sailing for San Francisco and his ministerial activities.
In 1846 and 1847, Elizabeth Knox received two letters from her friend Mary E. Field in New Haven. Mrs. Field wrote giving news of Franklin and Joseph at Yale and discussing her brother Henry's travels abroad. Elizabeth also received single letters from her cousin Mary Ann Washington in Waynesboro (1825); her mother Elizabeth Cobb Washington (1829); her brother, George Washington, in New York (1837?); her sister, Susan Washington (183?); her stepson Joseph in California (1851); and her friend, E. T. Atwood, in St. Louis (1851). These letters mostly discuss family matters. Of note are mention in George's letter of tensions between Northerners and Southerners at Yale, Joseph's descriptions of his work on Novato Ranch, and Mrs. Atwood's detailed news of a cholera epidemic in St. Louis and of former friends and servants of the Knox family there.
Miscellaneous letters include one dated 1818 from Elizabeth Cobb in Granville County to her niece, Susanah Gatlin, in Kinston, discussing preaching and her travels; one dated 1834 from Ann N. Bryan in Beaufort to her sister, Susan Washington, in Norwalk, Conn., concerning family matters; and an undated letter from Louisa H. Washington to Susan Washington Graham in Hillsboro also concerning family matters.
College compositions on philosophical and historical topics, undated humorous and epic poems, and miscellaneous personal items of Franklin Grist. Included are a bill, dated 26 April 1848, from Thomas Pease of New Haven for painting supplies and books; a Vatican museum pass for 1873; and a note from Grist's doctor in Venice in 1890 attesting to his inability to travel to a diplomatic meeting because of illness. Also included is an undated poem on friendship, entitled "Composed By Her Friend Eliza H. Washington And Presented To Sarah Ann Jones."
Processed by: Tim West and Cynthia Crouch, December 1983; Jill Snider and Angela Dickerson, April 1992; Nancy Kaiser, August 2018
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008Back to Top