Oni Davis McNeely (1840) 8 November 1837 Letter

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From: DC0120s, McNeely, Oni Davis, 1811-1881 (1840) Letters, 1837-1856 (View Finding Aid)


Davidson College November 8th, 1837 [1]

Dear friends I have not heard anything directly from you for some time indeed I have not heard anything since the meeting of presbytery [2] yet the presumption with me is that you are all well or then I would have heard something from you. My health is good and has been good since I saw you all things get on well and I feel more desirous to finish my education than at any former period: yet I fear it cannot be done for want of friends. This disturbs me more than any thing else at present I am less anxious about home I suppose than you would think for I believe that I concern myself as little about home as any [are] on the hill [3] this is oweing to the length of time I have been from home for we usually see those that go home the oftenest the most desirous of returning again and again. Sometimes I fancy myself that I am at home walking up and down that old red lane. Some times standing in the porch looking at the top of those tall trees in the yard at other times walking pensively through the house. Some nights I can see you all sitting around the fireside, and this would be the case I suppose if I were a thousand times farther removed in person than I now am, and might it not be the case of my immortal part were removed to another-world that the distinct remembrance of each of you would be with me until we should meet again in that world never—more to part.

Thursday morning General health prevails among the students of Davidson College. Mr. Houston [4] is going home this morning and I design sending this letter with him as he will be at church on Saturday. I have nothing verry interesting this morning to tell you. Our meeting last week was not very interesting but one only was connected with the church except by certificate none of Uncle Williams family or grandmother were at our meeting the reason I do not know. I saw in the Salisbury paper [5] an account of Peggy McNeely’s death consort of John McNeely aged 69 years. I also heard the same from another source. I sent a letter to Uncle Sam’s family but have not received any answer as yet—don’t know whether I ever will or not. I suppose you want to know whether I am going home this session [6] or not but this I cannot tell if I do it will be about the last of this month. Tell James Flow’s family that I am well and should like verry much to spend a night with them and see that first born son of theirs and to know what they call its name. Some of you can write and let me know all the particulars about home.

Friday night the 10th I have just returned from debating [7] at a late hour. As Tom Houston went away sooner than was expected I have kept my letter to send with Mr. Morrison [8] as he is going in the morning as he can inform you concerning the college. I shall tell you only of my own concerns and much other things as I think propper. In the first place, I should like to have some information from home and in the second place some pantaloons for winter—and next some candles if I could get of them or all of them. I should be much gratified. If you can send me any candles do so and if not I will go home after them if I should have to stay there when I do go. How I am to get along I know not I wish more and more to graduate with this class [9] but I am affraid my circumstances will not permit it thus to be. Now it may be possible that you can invent some plan for me while I am at study but if not let us trust to providence or had I not better say let us trust to providence any-how. I am daily more and more convinced that ardent piety is necessary for any person in life and especialy for one in my condition. Religion is dou[b]tless the chief concern of mortals here below this gained and all is gained this lost and all is lost. The happy soul that can read its title clear to _______sions in the skies has gained the only price worth having living for; this obtained come misfortune come disease come what will the man is happy & all others although surrounded with all the wealth and all the honour of the world and every thing that the world calls good or great while [destitute] of divine grace and of true religion are but the merest dreamers in life. If you have an opportunity [some abbreviation] Mr. Morrison concerning the state of affairs and concerning the prospects and if you like concerning the writer and send me word again you may not show this to everyone. Give my respects to all inquiring friends please answer this and over look mistakes. I am yours with respect

OD McNeely

John F McNeely & Margaret P McNeely

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[1] Davidson College was founded in 1837, so this letter would have been written during the second semester of Davidson College’s first year (Beaty 18). During the 1837 academic year, the college had 97 students and 3 faculty members (Statistics 1837). During the first semester of the 1837 academic year—from March to July—the college’s original 64 students were not placed in any class level (i.e. freshman, sophomore, etc.). However, for the second session—from September to January—the original students, as well as the students beginning the college that session were tested and determined to be either a freshman, sophomore, or a member of the college’s preparatory class (Beaty 18). As OD McNeely graduated in 1840, he would have been designated a sophomore for the second semester, and would have been studying the works of the philosopher Livy; Greek using the text Græca Majora, which are the works of Theophrastus; Geometry; and Algebra (Davidson College Catalog, 1842-1859, 7).

[2] A Presbytery is a convention involving ministers and church elders from around the area. Families would often travel together to these meetings to listen to and discuss church business. O.D. McNeely hails from Mecklenburg County, which is part of the Concord Presbytery. Presbyteries usually meet once every year. (Stone 4)

[3]: Davidson College fell on the highest point—essentially a hill—between the Catawba and Yadkin Rivers, which was a source of pride for the Presbyterians who founded the college. “On the hill” was a common phrase used to denote the whole of Davidson College. (Beaty 11-12)

[4]: Thomas Davie Houston. Houston came to the college from Pioneer Mills, N.C. in 1837 and graduated in 1840. While at Davidson Houston and McNeely were both members of the Philanthropic society. After graduating from Davidson Houston became a farmer in Mecklenburg County, N.C. and a teacher in Perry County, Alabama until his death in 1846. (Lingle 42)

[5] The Paper McNeely is referring to is most likely the Western Carolinian which was published out of Salisbury, N.C., almost 30 miles from Davidson. The exact issue detailing Peggy McNeely’s death is not known

[6]: The semesters at Davidson were referred to as sessions rather than semesters (Beaty 18). During the 1837 academic year the first session began on March 1st and ended during the last week in July, while the second session began on the 1st of September and Ended in the last week of January. In the letter McNeely is referring to the college’s second session of the year. (Davidson College Catalog, 1842-1859, 7)

[7]: The topic for the debate McNeely would have attended wasShould a Person Be Imprisoned for Debt?” It is not known whether McNeely was actually debating or merely attending. (Philanthropic Society Minute Book, October 27th, 1837.)

[8]: There are three possible Mr. Morrisons to whom this letter could be referring: Rufus William Morrison, class of 1840; Samuel Wilson Morrison, class of 1840; or Reverend Robert Hall Morrison, professor and college president from 1836-1840. There is a strong possibility that McNeely is referring to Reverend Morrison since the letter refers to letting Mr. Morrison talk about college business, but the reason McNeely states “Mr. Morrison” rather than “Reverend Morrison” is unknown. (Lingle 20,42)

Morrison, Robert Hall
Morrison, Robert Hall. Courtesy of Davidson College.

[9]: In order to advance to the next year at Davidson, the students had to be deemed sufficiently advanced. If not they either had to repeat the session the following year or take preparatory class. The preparatory class was for students deemed unfit for study at the college level. In other words, the preparatory class was a kind of remedial level class for students needing extra help before beginning their college education. Even though the preparatory class was taken at the college, did not contribute towards your diploma. (Beaty 18)

OD McNeely: Oni Davis McNeely (1811-1881). OD McNeely came to Davidson from Mecklenburg County, N.C and graduated as a member of the class of 1840. While enrolled in the college, McNeely studied theology and attended the Union Theological Seminary in Virgina after graduation. McNeely completed his studies and became a licensed minister around 1846. McNeely preached for two years at Bethel Church in Anson County, N.C. and for five years in Marengo County, Alabama. After these years McNeely joined the Baptist church and taught at Howell’s Cross-Roads in Alabama. (Lingle, 20, 42, 47)

OD McNeely
Portrait of Oni Davis McNeely (1811-1881). Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives.
McNeely Diploma
A Picture of OD McNeely’s diploma from 1840. Courtesy of the Davidson College Archives.

Works cited
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Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. Davidson, NC: Briarpatch, 1988. Print.

Davidson College Catalog, 1842-1859. Davidson: Davidson College Office of Communications. [1842].

Lingle, Thomas Wilson, William Joseph Martin, and Frederick William Hengeveld, eds. Alumni Catalog of Davidson College, Davidson, N.C. 1837-1924. Charlotte, NC: Presbyterian Standard, 1924. Print.

Statistics and Class Events, 1837-1838. Davidson College Archives and Special Collections. <https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/databases/colhist>

Stone, Robert Hamlin. A History of Orange Presbytery, 1770-1970. Charlotte, NC: Heritage Printers, 1970. Print.

Transcription and annotation author: Luke Boliek.
Date: May 2014.
Cite as: Boliek, Luke, annotator. 8 November 1837 Oni Davis McNeely letter to friends. DC0120s.
Available: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/digital-collections/oni-d-mcneely-letter-8-nov-1837.

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