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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Courtship and relationship patterns

Here, Dabbs describes the romantic relationships of her husband's father, James McBride. Her description of his initial heartbreak when one woman's parents wouldn't let him court her because of his social status to his marriage and romance with another woman, back to his marriage to his original sweetheart following the death of his first wife, is revealing of courtship and relationship patterns around the turn of the twentieth century.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
So then, which one of her children was James' mother?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, she had a little boy and girl. The son died, lived to be sixty odd. He finished at the university in Columbia and was invited to come back to teach math, to head the math department. I understand he was quite a musician, he was a brilliant mathematician, but he had that old southern feeling that he had to go home and take care of his mother and the womenfolk and no one was expected to stand up to handling a whole darm, and it was a different proposition too, not as organized as it had been and since the war was over, there were no automatic slaves, I mean automatic servants to do the work as they had in slavery days. It was a whole life choice that he decided to come back here. He never did a lot of things that he might have done and would have enjoyed doing very much, because he was devoted to his family and But he never married and his sister, his sister was a couple years older than he, his sister married Eugene Dabbs, my James' mother Maude, married Eugene Dabbs. Now, Gene came down here to this community from around Cheraw and the Darlington district, it was a district before it was a county. He came down from Darlington district in … oh, when would that have been? It was late enough that Maude was a young lady, I suppose a teenager. He did not come directly to this community. He went first over to Privateer, I guess it was, on the other side of Sumter, in the Richard Furman settlement over there, and got a job as overseer of the Furman plantation. He fell in love with a Furman girl, Susan Furman, Sudy, they called her. Sudy was a nurse and she was a very religious sort of person, rather straitlaced but very attractive, too. Her father didn't think too highly of her being so fond of this young fellow who came from nobody knew where, way up in the Darlington district. He was the man of the house by the time that he was seventeen, I think. He had lost his father and so, his mother decided that she would leave the whole place and go off and make a new start. He had come down with his mother and her brother, the mother and an uncle, in a couple of wagonloads of furniture to start all over again. Dr. Furman didn't think too much of him as a son-in-law because he didn't know enough about him. He wasn't sure that he had enough columns on the piazzas in his background and that sort of thing. He discouraged this. Sudy couldn't be sure that there was in his background. But Sudy was sort of frustrated over the whole thing. You didn't talk back to your parents in those days, you learned to , but she decided to go away as a missionary, a medical missionary to Cuba and she went.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Her father let her do that?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. That at least, was respectable, it was doing the work of the Lord. So, she went to Cuba and was gone for some years, I don't know how long. That broke up the romance and when she left, Father left, Eugene left that job, too. He came over here to this community and got a job as overseer of the next plantation to this one, the Witherspoon plantation. But he was still just a very young man, very young, you see, barely twenty. He made a good job of it. They were devoted to him and he was one of the members of the family. That was nothing degrading about at all, about being the manager of a plantation, and he had quite an important job in that period. Anyhow, after he had been here a little while, he began to fall in love with a little girl from this house, Mother Maude. So, he and Maude McBride were married and they set up and later on built their own house. They lived together to have a family of six children and when the youngest, McBride, was two years old, Mother Maude died of typhoid. They had just gotten into their new house a short time, because James was eight years older than McBride and he was ten when his mother died.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
McBride was the baby?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. He remembers that his father and mother decided to build a new house, their own house and they packed up everything and moved to where they were going to live. They set up a camp in the woods, they built a house camp, you know, which is still standing. It was used for years as a double garage later on and it is still standing and sort of a little storehouse out there, we still call it the camp, in the backyard of McBride's house. The house he is living in now is the one that they built. They moved only two miles from where they had been and yet it is so totally … they camped out for about a year before they ever got that house built.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Well, this house was still filled with people.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Well, some of them. By that time, though, the next generation didn't live here. You see, James' aunts and uncles that were all growing up with his mother and uncle, too. The generations were kind of half spaced. But they all grew up about the same time, so when his mother moved out, his aunts and uncles were moving out, too. The interesting thing was, when Mother Maude died and left the baby of two and then five older children …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And James was the oldest?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
James was next to the oldest, Eugene was the oldest. An aunt who had grown up in this house, Aunt Alice, one of the little sisters who came here … there was Aunt Harriet, Aunt Alice, Aunt Louisa and there was another one …Aunt Julia. Louisa got married but the other three aunts were living at the summer house here, about two miles away and Aunt Alice went over to stay with James' father and took care of the children after Mother Maude died. She was a teacher, taught him and and she was a housekeeper for her brother-in-law and … wait a minute. No. She was Maude's aunt and James' great-aunt, but they had grown up like sisters and felt like sisters and when Maude died, she came over to take care of Maude's children. She stayed for I don't know how long, a year or something, and then Father married a second time, this time to Mother Sudy, Sudy Furman. She had come back from Cuba and was nursing in the hospital in Sumter and had settled back in her old home. So, he married his other sweetheart and the children's stepmother was Mother Sudy. It is rather an unusual tale about how they circled around and came back again. That circle may have been a straight line.