Samuel B. Wilson 26 April 1841 Letter

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From: DC0144s, Wilson, Samuel Blain, 1783-1869. Letters, 1841 (View Finding Aid)


Fredericksburg April 26th, 1841 [1]

My Dear Sir, (Reverend Robert S Bell)

Your letter of the 21st [2] was seen on Saturday evening and I hasten to reply as your request, but I fear I am too late to meet you at Moorefield. [3]

Situated as I am, I cannot promise to be with you at Rappahannock [4] in June for several reasons; my health, recent attacks of rheumatism; and the state of Mrs. Wilsons [5] health, which for some weeks past has become very feeble, and even alarming, being not the least.

On the subject of assistance from my congregation [6] in aiding your people finish your house of worship, I can promise nothing. It is not proper for us to say much of our good deeds, but when I tell you that this church and its friends in the last eight years have actually expanded, in erecting our church and asylum [7], and supporting the latter, and in contributions to the cause of education and the pious, a sum exceeding thirty-thousand dollars. Thou from removals and deaths and failures can with great difficulty make safe my salary and support our own benevolent institutions, you can judge for yourself what is right. From the liberality of this people, they are believed to be rich. It is not so. They are really poor. They have been overworked and we now feel its sad effects.

The call to accept the presidency of Davidson College, NC is urged upon with such importunity that I know not what to do. [8] Since I visited Carolina in March $20,000 have been subscribed to endow a professorship, the interest payable from the first of January 1841. To leave an affectionate people with whom I have lived for more than thirty five years, and to leave them in a time of unexampled pecuniary distress: and to take leave of ministerial brethren with whom I have spent many years in sweet bonds of Christ and affection, is a hard matter. On the other hand to reject to an interesting institution [9], urged again and again with great unanimity, makes me hesitant, lest I should decline a duty to which God calls because it is arduous and requires the sundering the ties of affection greatly endeared to my heart. Never did I more heed the prayers of my brethren for wisdom from above to make that decision that god will approve and that will promote most effectually the cause of our lord and savior

In great Haste

Most truly yours,

Sam B. Wilson [10]

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[1] In July of 1840 after the end of the first session of the year, Reverend Robert Hall Morrison resigned as first president. The next president Samuel Williamson did not become president until 1841. At this time the college was still looking for a president and had been for two semesters (Lingle 20). The college had three faculty members and 63 enrolled students at the time; tuition was $30 dollars (statistics and class events).

[2] Most likely a letter previously sent from Robert S. Bell to Mr. Wilson.

[3] A town in the east of West Virginia.

[4] A small county in the north-east region of Virginia.

[5] Elizabeth Hanna Wilson was married to Samuel B. Wilsons around 1807 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She was born March 25th, 1783 and died December 29th, 1852 (Wilson, Samuel Blaine Wilson).

[6] At the time of the letter, Wilson was the pastor at the first Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg (Wilson, Samuel Blaine Wilson).

[7] There were only three members of the Presbyterian Church 1806. Wilson preached in the house of two of the members, and began to attract attention (Wilson, Samuel Blaine Wilson). The Presbyterian Church was then officially organized in 1808, attracting 400-500 new Presbyterians (Wilson, A Brief Biographical Sketch of Samuel B Wilson).

Text of the Presbytery electing Samuel. B Wilson to be the first President of the College
Text of the Presbytery electing Samuel. B Wilson to be the first President of the College

[8] During his lifetime, Concord Presbytery elected him to president in June 1836 and again in January of 1841; additionally he received a doctorate from Princeton in 1837 (Beaty 16, 32).






[9] Davidson College was established in hopes of being “a college in the Western part there-of, to educate youth of all classes without any regard to the distinction of religious denominations and thereby promote the more general diffusion of knowledge and virtue” (Charter By-Laws 37). The College instituted a manual labor system in which students would work three hours a day for the college. In return for the work that they did, students were given up to “a fifteen-dollar reduction in board each term.” However the system was hated by the students and was not worth the money made or work done by both the students and the school; thus leading to the end of the system in 1841 (Beaty 21,22).

[10] Wilson was born March 17th, 1783 in Lincoln County, North Carolina. He attended Washington College in Virginia studying private theological studies, and then went on to Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, becoming licensed in 1805. He was then Ordained August, 1806 by the Lexington Presbytery. Afterwards he was a home missionary from 1805-1806, then a pastor in Fredericksburg from 1806-1841, and finally a professor of theology at the Union Theological Seminary, Virginia from 1841-1869 until his death on August 1st, 1869 (Union Theological Seminary).

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

Charter, By-Laws & First Charter Board of Trustees Davidson College. September 1, 1966.

Concord Presbytery. Presbytery Minutes-June 1836-Transcript.

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.

Scott, E. C. Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. Austin, TX: Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1942. Print.

Statistics and Class Events, 1841-1842. Davidson College Archives and Special Collections. <>

Union Theological Seminary [catalog]. Samuel B. Wilson Entry. Samuel Blain Wilson and Wilson background file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Wilson, Frank D. “Samuel Blaine Wilson.” [Type script]. Samuel Blain Wilson and Wilson background file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Wilson, Samuel B. “A Brief Biographical Sketch of Samuel B Wilson.” [Type script]. Samuel Blain Wilson and Wilson background file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Transcription and annotation author: Michael Schroeder.
Date: May 2014.
Cite as: Schroeder, Michael, annotator. 26 April 1841 Samuel B. Wilson letter to My Dear Sir [Reverend Robert S. Bell]. DC0144s.

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