Anthony Toomer Porter.

Led on! Step by step, scenes from clerical, military, educational, and plantation life in the South, 1828-1898; online

. (page 1 of 34)
Online LibraryAnthony Toomer PorterLed on! Step by step, scenes from clerical, military, educational, and plantation life in the South, 1828-1898; → online text (page 1 of 34)
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Charleston, S. C, October s, i8g6.

The Rev. Chari,es Frederick Hoffman, D.D., L,Iv.D.,
D.C.Iy., President of the Association for Promoting
the Interests of Church Schools, Colleges, and Semi-
naries in the United States :
At your kind and sympathetic suggestion, I have writ-
ten some reminiscences of my life. You seemed to think
some of the incidents of that life, which I have from time
to time related to you, were of interest and might do
some good. Appreciating your judgment and opinion,
I have endeavored to make this sketch of my life,
neither sparing my faults nor magnifying my virtues, but
have tried to show how the Divine Love and Hand have
led me all these years. I have brought out how all one's
life is often turned by some incident which, perhaps, at
the time, seemed trifling, but was fraught with marked

I ask the favor to inscribe these pages to your honored
self, wishing that the record of my life were more worthy
of your acceptance. But you will receive it, I trust, as a
small token of the warm attachment I have for you.
With my love, I am

A. TooMER Porter.

The above dedication was written before the decease of
my lamented friend ; I now therefore gratefully dedicate
my autobiography to his memory.

A. T. P.




I. — The Porter Pedigree i

My pedigree — John Porter of England, and his
descenda7its — My grandfather and his estate — Cotton
and potatoes, an incident of boyish travel — Ge?i-
eral IVaddy Thompson — From Georgetown to New
Haven, Conn. — Yale students — Return to George-
town — A strange presentiment comes true — My
sister Charlotte's fate — My mother asserts her
authority — / suffer from bad teaching.

II. — Religious Beginnings ii

I visit my father'' s grave and vow to follow his good
example — My life is saved by a negro — My brother" s
death — I seek comfort in the Bible for my mother' s
absence — The good begin^iing of a life-long habit —
I am catechised by Bishop Gadsden in my fotcr-
teenth year and am cojifirmed.

III. — First School Experience . . . .18

Threatened disaster averted — Mr. Blank' s school —
/ leave it shattered in health — Country leisure
restores me — Good influences — / determine to be-
come a communicayit.

vi Contents.


IV.— A WisB Schoolmaster 28

I go to Mount Zion College — Happy and profitable
days under a zvise schoolmaster — T^irkey stealing
— My success as an actor — I forswear gambling —
RIy opinion and practice until regard to lotteries and
raffles — Boyisli t>rantcs — Tlie power of confidoice.

V. — First Love and its Consequences . . 42

Hozv I made good use of my time — First love —
The course never riuis smooth — / enter zipon a
business career — Worlz without pay — My fij'st com-
viunion — / j-ebu/ce ribaldry — / 7'enew my suit and
am rebuffed — A snatte in the grass — / show my-
self a member of the Churcli militant — TJie perils
of conviviality — The Jiorrors of a slave sale.

VI. — My lyiFE AS A Southern Planter . . 59

A question of Georgiayi civilization — / engage in
a dispute where bloodshed is Just averted — / retire
from business — The life of a Souther?i planter —
Advantages of a business training — Loots not
7pon the ivine — A negro Iiypocrite — T/ie slaves'
view of marital responsibility.

VII. — End of My Plantation Life . . -70

The institution of slavery — Its missionary results —
An inherited responsibility — Tlie good side of the
African — Emancipation — / begin to feel that I had
missed my vocation — / determine to enter the min-
istry — My friends encourage me — A time of study
— The episcopal examination — The end of playita-
tion life for me — A painful ordeal.

Contents. vil


Vni. — A Plantation Rector 8i

/ begin my theological studies — The Rev. Alex.
Gtenjiie — The plantatio7i rector — / become a lay-
reader — / successfully pass a canonical examina-
tion — In the meantime I meet jny fate on the trip
to Georgetown — Love aiid marriage — My mission-
ary zeal is severely tested — My weddi^ig trip.

IX. — Brighter Prospects in My Work . . 88
The Episcopal fund of South Carolina — A recal-
citrant Standing Committee causes me to store my
carpets — / am appointed as lay-reader to a strug-
gling mission — A beggarly upper 7vom — Mean-
while I am made a happy father — Brighter pros-
pects for the Church of the Holy Coynmunion —
The a7igel of my life's work — Incident in my
pa?vchial success.

X. — A Hard Apprenticeship . . . .96
I take permanent abode with my family in Charles-
ton — Am ordained deacon and preach my first ser-
mon — / begin to thiyik of building a church — My
appeal for help offends some conservatives — The
liberality of others — The "'amende honorable'''' —
Yellozv fever, a7id my experience of it.

XI. — Hard Work and Foreign Travel . . 104
I am ordained priest — A second so7i is borji to me —
The Church of the Holy Communion finished ajid
consecrated — The growth of the zvork — My wife's
health begins to fail — Otir voyage to Europe — /
foinid a successful Indzistrial School — Its history
and ivork — / become an army contractor — A laugh-
able incident.

vili Contents.


XII. — Secession Thunder- Clouds . . .112
Good works of Mr. Wagner and Mr. Trenholm —
I experience the power of faiihful prayer — Secession
in the air — I witness the signing of the ordinance oj
secession, but do not sign it — The ratification rnass-
meeting — The firiyig of Fort Motdtrie — Capture by
secessiojiists of United States arsenal in Charleston.

XIII. — War in Earnest 121

My chaplaiiicy hi the Washi^igton Light Infantry

— The delusio7i of secessionists as to peace — Fort
Sumter is fired on — The siirrender of Major A?i-
derson — Some difificnlties of recruiting — Some yotmg
Confederate heroes — Bull Run.

XIV. — My War Experiences .... 130
The plague of measles in the Cojifederate camp —
I go to the front — The work of an army chaplain —
A grateful " Yayik'' — Red tape and ragged uni-
forms — " Confederate mistnanagement " — The
Christiaft General — Search for a dead soldier —
Pipes and piety.

XV.— The Bloody " Cul-de-Sac " . . .138
Tent worship — The Federals in the bloody '^^ ad- de-
sac'' — / a7n under fire — Scenes of slaughter — A
strange incident — Church plans at Charleston — A
fiyiancial bhuider, for which I am scarcely account-
able — What might have been had I followed my
business instincts.

XVI. — Some op the Horrors of War . . . 146

The shelling of Charleston — / am in the thick of it
— A work of mercy — " ManiJfia, I saw him die ! "

— Yellow fever — The death of my frst borti — ' ' O

Contents. ix

Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine heritage " —
Grief and patiejice.

XVII. — Burning of Columbia . . . .152
Noji-conibatants driven from Charlesto7i — My lost
sennons — Adventures of some port wine — Burning
of Cohimbia — Drunkenness and robbery enter with
General Sherman — A panic-stricken people.

XVIII. — Lieutenant McQueen . . . .163
We leave our home and flee for refuge — I confro7it
General Sherman — At my expostulation he stops
pillage and debauchery — / am robbed of my shawl
— Restitution and repoitance — A noble Yankee —
My first fiery meeting with Lieutenant McQueen
— / apologize.

XIX.— McQueen's Escape 172

We bid farewell to Lieidenant McQueen — I provide
him with a letter which afterwards saves him from
Southern bullets — Hearing of his further peril I
hurry to his assistance — He is finally restored to the
army of General Sherman — Story of my adventures.

XX. —The Last Chapter of the War . . 181

A touching story of General fohnstone~The last
scenes of the war — My blank despair — My wife's
distress over my defection — / read the piwidential
workiyig of God iii history — Light through the
clouds — I resolve to do 7ny best for home and country.

XXI. — Home Again 191

/ returU home — The darkey iyi uniform yields to
a bluff— The i7iiquities of the Freedmen' s Bureau
• — " Give us this day oiir daily bread'''' — The

X Contents.


prayet is answered — Confiscation or robbery ? —
The good George Shrewsb^iry — / open the Church
of the Holy Communion once more — My sermon on
'' Set your house in order,'" and how it was re-

XXII. — A Destitute Bishop 201

1 7nake a business venture which is highly S2iccess-
ful — My home is again furnished — / dissipate the
despair of Bishop Davis, and see that his wants
are provided for — ''Porter, have you Aladdin's

XXIII. ^Warm Northern Friends . . . 209
Bishop Davis at the Diocesa?i Conventio7i of 1866
— Churches and parochial schools for the coloj'ed
people — Good resolutions are no 7ise without practical
performance — / take steps toward the carrying out
of certahi good resolutions passed by the convention
— The Bishop sends me North to collect funds for
the Theological Seminaiy and colored school — I ajn
kiyidly received in Nczv York by Dr. Twing, and
in Brooklyn by Dr. Littlejoh7i — Mimificence of Mr.
A. A. Loiv.

XXIV.— My School 220

/ plead the cause of South Carolina before the
General Board of Missions, Nezv York — " The
most eloq7ie)it appeal ever presented to the Board " —
/ am very successful — / ope7i in Charleston a school
for colored children — President fohnson assists me
and I obtain the Marine Hospital for my school.

XXV. — A Kind President 226

How I obtained Mr. Trenhohn' s pardo7i

Contents. xi


XXVI. — Educational Needs of the South . 236
The ravages of the war in Southern States affected
the cause of education — This was especially the case
among the npper classes — My work was to remedy
this condition of things — I open a day school for ^2^
boys and 125 girls — My boarding school accepts jj
boys — I advise my boarders how they should behave
— A good remedy for coarseness and obscenity — Mr.
Wilkins Glenn of Baltimore assists inc.

XXVII.— " The I^ord's Box " . . . .243
My method of appealing to the hoyior of boys —
An incident testifying to its success — " The Lord s
box'''' — fewels amo7ig the lowly — My public work
outside of the school — My ' ' Romish ' ' tendeyicies —
A very practical rebuke.

XXVIII. — The Work of My Life is Recognized

and Helped ....... 253

/ enlarge the home — Neiv and old friends still help
me — / fijid a friend of my childhood in Governor
Ligon — '^^ Cast thy bread upoii the waters^'' — A
reminiscence of my mother' s New Haven days — Mr.
Charles O' Connor recog?iizes the statesmanlike char-
acter of my work — The class of the refined and edu-
cated was to be saved to the So2cth throicgh my efforts
— Hence the support of outsiders.

XXIX.— Calumny and Rebuff Meet Me . . 260
A calumny stops the flow of beneficence in Balti-
more — The vicissitudes of my financial life — Re-
flecfions on God' s providential care— I am roughly
rebuffed by afrioid of Dr. Muhlenberg — / give
him a sharp lecture — He proves his repentance by
a small gift.

xii Co7ttents.


XXX. — School and Church Flourish . .270
The good health of the school — / escape being made
Bishop of Africa —I find the needs of the work met
by ma7iy providential ijiterpositions — The Church
of the Holy Communion is at length eiilarged and
beautified— I i^itroduce a surpiiced choir— Not an
innovation, but merely a revival of a past practice
in Charleston.

XXXI. — Unexpected Help in Trouble . . 280
Our school feels the panic of i8yj — " Master,
carest Thou not that we perish f " — An tinfeelijig
bank preside7it zvho finds m me his match — Afy
congregation sympathize and assist — Seven drays
full of groceries unexpectedly drive into m.y yard —
An unjust appropriation to the Romayi Catholic
orphanage becomes the occasion of assistafice for me.

XXXII. — Special Providence .... 290
God' s special providence is apparent i7i the way my
work was supported — The iyicidents of this chapter
will appeal to the most downcast or disheartened.

XXXIII. — Service with the. Angels . . . 297
/ am inopportunely seized with sudden sickness —
A time of rest in which I hold service with the
angels — My confidence in God is justified by con-
valescence — My financial troubles — Frie7idly help —
The far-reaching results of my pamphlet.

XXXIV. — More Travels Abroad . . . 307
The admission of colored parishes into the Dio-
cesan Convention — A burning question, on zvhich
I espouse the cause of the blacks — A ^nal compro-

Contents. xiii


mise — / succu?nb to the foils and anxieties oj my
work — / seek for renewed health in a voyage to
England — Thence I t?'avel over the continent of
Europe — The khidness of English friends.

XXXV. — Generous Helpers . . . .318
Account of my wartn reception in England.

XXXVI. — A Church for Colored People . . 330
The school is fill — The colored question in the
Church — The Bishop piles another burden on 7ny
willing shoulders — How I went to work to build up
St. Mark' s — I found the House of Rest.

XXXVII. — I Apply for the Arsenal . . . 340

Vague thoughts of obtaining the arsenal buildings

for the Institute — latn well supported by frie?ids in

my application — General Sherman ejidorses it —

Help in England for my school.

XXXVIII. — Our New Home in the Arsenal . 351
My efforts to obtain the Charleston arsenal as a
home for m.y school — Obstructio?is and oppositions
— The military comm-ittee treats me generously —
The kindness of President Hayes — The arsenal is
duly transferred to 7ne — Newspaper reflectiofis on
the transfer — Warm, support of my Philadelphia

XXXIX. — School Opens in the Arsenal . . 363
Ceremonies atte^iding the opening of the arsenal
as our new ho?ne — Points of my parochial %aork —
Mr. E. R. Mudge of Boston — His soldier son —
Progress of our school.

xlv Contents.


Xly. — Important Additions to Our Curriculum, 374
Death amongst my teachers — / ajn enabled to
build a gymnasium — / 7nake an important addi-
tion to the curriculum in the shape of linear draw-
ing fof machine shops — The powder magazine is
flooded for a reason — Typewriting and stenog-
raphy added to our course — The beginning of an
endowment .

XLI. — The Porter Academy .... 382
" My grace is sufficient for thee " — Honor amotig
boys — Improvements in the building — General
Lee's most dangerous antagonist - A risky bridge
— / see McQueen at his home — Death of a wise
and good physician — A strange dream — The In-
stitute becomes the Porter Academy — Friends hi

XLI I. — The Charleston Earthquake . -391
/ introdiice a department of carpentering into the
Institute — The Charleston earthquake — Strange
and terrible scenes — The ludicrous side of the


Travels in the East

XlylV. — Modern Jerusalem in Holy Week . 407
/ visit the far East — Palestine, Egypt, Dam,ascus,
all pass before me— My emotions at ferusalem in
Holy Week — / return safe home.

XlyV. — End of a Beautiful IvIFE .... 424
/ suffer a sad bereavement in the deatJi of my wife
— Her great potver in helping and guidhig my
lifes work — Sum^nary of soyne years' toil.

Contents. xv


XIvVI.— The Late Rev. Dr. Frederick

Hoffman 430

The inauguration of McKinley — / tneet an old
friend at Washington — Death of my dear friend
and be7iefactor, the Rev. Charles Frederick Hoff-
man — His life and character, ayid an account of
his obsequies.

XLVII. — Testimonies to My Life's Work . . 439
This chapter contains letters from ex-Gover7ior
Chamberlai?i and Mr. Charles Cowley, testifying
to the value of my life' s work — / receive also a
kind 7iote containing an invitatio7i from McQueen
— / hear also from his daughter.

XLVIII. — The Academy's Thirty-First Year . 445

Twenty-five of our cadets graduated— I am stricken

with sickness — A parish rectorship of forty-four

years is closed — This book intetided to vtagnify the

grace of God — Fareivcll.

Appendix A 449

Appendix B 453

Appendix C 454

Appendix D 455

Appendix E 460

Appendix F 461

Appendix G 461

Appendix H 462



A. TooMER Porter .... Frontispiece

A. TooMER Porter, ^tat 19 . . . .58

Church of the Holy Communion, Charleston. 274

Machine Shop of the Porter Military

Academy 374

Manual Department, Porter Military

Academy 382




My pedigree — John Porter of E?igland, and his descendants
— My grandfather a7id his estate — Cotton and potatoes,
an inciderit of boyish travel — General Waddy Thompsofi
— From Georgetown to New Haven, Conn. — Yale students
— Return to Georgetown — A strange preseyitiment comes
true — My sister Charlotte' s fate — My mother asserts her
authority — / suffer fron bad teachhig.

IN compliance with the freqvient suggestion of my friend,
the late Rev. Charles Frederick Hoffman, D.D.,
LIv.D., D.C.I.., of New York, Ibegan, Oct. 5,1896, to write
some reminiscences of my life. All of the older members of
my family having died while I was very young, my knowl-
edge of my progenitors I derived from my mother, and
from an aged grand-aunt on my mother's side. The fol-
lowing is my family tree, as far as known : —

My grandfather, John Porter, was born in 1759, in
Connecticut, and was descended from John Porter of
England, the founder of the American family, who settled

2 Led On !

in Dorchester, Massachusetts, some time in the seven-
teenth century. To him is to be traced the ancestry of A.
A. lyow. Bishop Huntington, of Western New York, and
other men of note.

When quite a youth, fifteen or sixteen years old, my
grandfather, with two brothers, took horse and travelled
South. There is a tradition, for which I cannot vouch,
that on their journey the three young men came across the
persons who had begun the Dismal Swamp Canal. My
grandfather, after watching the methods of the construc-
tors, remarked that it could not be dug in that way. He
was approached to know if he had a better plan to sug-
gest. An agreement was entered into, and he undertook
the work. He remained long enough to make twenty
thousand dollars. He then resumed his journe}' South,
and settled in Georgetown District, South Carolina. Be
this as it may, he had sufiicient money when he reached
Georgetown to purchase a quantity of land, and began
the cultivation of indigo. He continued at this until rice
was introduced, and he then undertook the cultivation of
rice. He purchased two plantations on Sampit River and
was successful, amassing what was a fortune in those days.
He died in April, 1829, aged seventy, just six months after
the death of my father. He left, by will, his estate to my
brother, three sisters, and myself; my father having be-
queathed his estate to my mother at the request of my
grandfather, who had told my father that he would pro-
vide for his children. The estate consisted of rice planta-
tions and negro slaves, some of whom he purchased from
slave-ships, which were owned in Newport, Rhode Island.
In 1849, I came into possession of five of these Africans,
then ver>' old. Thej^ had been, in fact, supported for many
years on the plantation without earning a dollar. The
five were tattooed, and I never could understand their
language, and could only communicate with them through

The Porter Pedigree. 3

some of their race who had become familiar with their
speech. They were all dead by the year 1851. The bill
of sale of some of these people was in my possession, and
was lost with other valuable papers at the burning of
Columbia by General Sherman's army, in 1865. Some
time in 1866, I told Mr. Peter Cooper of New York of these
facts, and suggested that our Northern friends should not
hold up their hands in holy horror on the slavery question.
If we got the slaves those who owned the ships received
the money and incurred by far the least trouble in the

When I was a boy I often heard that my grandfather
was a Tory, and this charge was a source of great annoy-
ance to me. For those days were not so far from the
Revolutionary War that the hatred of England had all
passed away. As, however, grandfather was only seven-
teen years old in 1776, he could not have been a very
dangerous Tory, though I remember one of the stories
told about him was that he had set fire to Georgetown ;
and a certain corner where a house belonging to one of
the Alstons had been burned, was tauntingly pointed out
to me as the house he had fired. I was too young then
to put two and two together. It did not occur to me that
as he was then only a boy there could have been no truth
in these fables. Nevertheless, I had many a good cry
over my grandfather's supposed iniquity. Many good
deeds and charitable acts that the old gentleman did were
kept in memory by the family. One of these deeds was the
education of a deserving lad named Thomas House Taylor,
who afterwards became the distinguished Reverend Doctor
Taylor, Rector of Grace Church, New York, who was my

My father, John Porter, was born in 1795. He gradu-
ated with distinction from the South Carolina College and
studied law. On the i6th of December, 18 19, he married

4 Led On !

Esther Ann Toomer, daughter of Anthony Toomer, and
from them were born two sons and three daughters —
Charlotte, who died February 15, 1835 ; John, who died
September 9, 1841 ; EHza Cheesborough, who married Dr.
E. B. Brown, and afterwards Robert E. Eraser, and died
in 1861 ; Hannah, who married Dr. John F. Lessesne ;
and myself, whom God has spared to outlive them
all. I was only nine months old when my father died.
His death occurred on October 25, 1828, at the early age
of thirty-three j^ears. My father was a man of very
marked character. He was elected a member of the
Legislature of South Carolina, at the age of twenty-one,
and served for several years. He was a member of the
Episcopal Diocesan Convention at the time of his death.

Fourteen years after my father's death, while travelling
to Columbia by the railroad, we came to the section of
country where cotton is grown, and I mistook the cotton
for fields of Irish potatoes. Being surprised at the extent
of the planting, I obser\^ed that someone seemed to be-
lieve in potatoes. I was then a boy in my fifteenth year.
A gentleman on the seat before me turned and said :

" My young friend, where were ^'ou brought up ? "

Perceiving ni}' mistake, I replied, " Had you, sir, never
seen a rice field, and mistook the first you ever saw for
oats, I should correct your error. I see now that this is
cotton, not Irish potatoes."

" May I ask your name ? "

" Certainly ; my name is Anthonj^ Toomer Porter."

' ' And where is your home ? " he asked.

" Georgetown, South Carolina."

" Are you any relation to Col. John Porter, who died in

" His son, sir," I replied.

Rising from his seat, and taking ofi" his hat, he extended
his hand, saying, "I am Gen. Waddy Thompson " [at
one time Minister to Mexico] ' ' let me take the hand of the

The Porter Pedigree. 5

son of John Porter. To your father I am indebted more
than to any other man ; we were in the South CaroHna
College together, and to his interposition and influence I
owe all I have ever been."

He then told me much of my father's college life, and
of the influence he exercised in college. He was the
referee and umpire in every dispute and difiiculty, and
the beloved of every student and professor.

This conversation and others like it, which I had with
many persons, have had a great deal to do with the make-
up of my life.

My ancestors on my mother's side came from Wales and

Online LibraryAnthony Toomer PorterLed on! Step by step, scenes from clerical, military, educational, and plantation life in the South, 1828-1898; → online text (page 1 of 34)