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John Hamilton Cornish diaries

Identifier: MS0371

Scope and Contents

The diaries that John H. Cornish kept from 1833 to 1877 provide a revealing look, not only at his own life, but of society (both secular and spiritual) in the areas where he lived. This is particularly true for the region of the Carolina Low country and the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina from the 1840s to 1877. Among his observations and writings are those concerning church activities, plantation life, local society and slavery. Some of his writings in 1843 include records of African-American members of an Episcopal church in the North Santee River. Concerning the usage of the term “volume” in this collection, the researcher should note that the original collection consists of bound volumes in which Cornish recorded his diaries. One of John’s descendants, Joseph Jenkins Cornish, donated the diaries to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1948, and staff at the Wilson Library made typed transcriptions from the originals. The usage of the term “volume” in the container list below refers to the volumes of the typed transcripts, rather than Cornish’s original diaries. The first bound, typed volume in this collection is comprised of typescripts of diaries four and five of Cornish’s original writings. Also, this collection contains not only typed transcriptions, but also photocopies of the originals, which are bound in hard covers. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has the originals on microfilm, also.


  • Creation: 1833 - 1877


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

John Hamilton Cornish was born on March 6, 1815 in Lanesborough, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Andrew Hiram and Rhoda Bradley Cornish. When John was still a child, the family moved to the Michigan Territory, and it was from there that John left home in 1833 to attend Washington College in Hartford, Connecticut (Washington College changed its name to Trinity College in 1845). It was from there that he graduated in 1839 and later enrolled at the General Theological Seminary, though he never graduated from that institution. He moved to Edisto Island, off the South Carolina coast in January of 1840 and began tutoring the children of E. Mikell Seabrook. By 1843 he became a minister, ordained in the Episcopal Church, serving a number of different churches in the Sea Island and Carolina Low-country. By 1846, he had settled down at the St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church in Aiken, South Carolina. He married Martha Jenkins and with her had six children—Rhoda, Mattie, Mary, Sadie, Ernest, and Joseph Cornish. John Cornish died in 1878. [Sources: The Inventory of the John Hamilton Cornish Papers (Mss 01461), Wilson Library, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.]


1.8 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Typed transcriptions of the diaries of John Hamilton Cornish, an Episcopal minister in Aiken, South Carolina, from 1833 to 1877. The original diaries are located in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


This collection is divided into three series. Series one contains photocopies of John Hamilton Cornish’s original diaries, dating from 1833 to 1877, bound into four hard-cover volumes. Series two contains ten volumes of typed transcriptions of the original Cornish diaries. There is also a folder containing a transcription (made by Nancy Peeples in 1997) of the Cornish diaries, dated January 1860 and February 1866 through April of 1877. Series three consists of a single item: John Hamilton Cornish’s diploma from Washington College, dated 1839.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston, of Charlotte, NC in 2006.

Related Materials

The original John Hamilton Cornish Papers, 1833-1966 (Coll. 01461), are located at Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes

John Hamilton Cornish diaries
Finding aid written by Robert A. McInnes
April, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

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