The naval stores file (1860-1909), the main product line through the 1880s, often overlaps with the agricultural and shipping files as well as the general merchandise file. Naval stores were often shipped and insured together with other goods, and the records list them together. Researchers in one section will want to check other series of the collection. Through these files, turpentine, cotton, and other products can be traced from distillery and farms, through sale by the commission merchants as part of the product line. Correspondence from New York factors, commission merchants, and the shippers in Georgetown, S.C., gives market prices, conditions, variations, and changes due to demand and product quality. Correspondence with the Georgetown Chemical Works concerning naval stores discusses silicate of soda, spirits of turpentine and rosin, levels of quality, and the occasional problems in quality.
The Rhems usually retained at least two factors or commission merchants to sell their products. Major New York factors were: Dollner, Potter & Co.; Zopher Mills, Gilbert Potter & Co.; Dollner, Wiggins & Co.; Tolar & Hart; and Bailey & Montgomery (1860-1907). They also usually retained more than one shipper, either H. Kaminski & Co., A. Morgan, or Congdon, Hayard & Co., all of Georgetown, S.C.
Bills of lading, statements, and receipts not only list cargo shipped but the names and dates of the ships, the master of the vessels, the destination, the various types of insurance, and other charges related to shipping, storage, and inspection of cargo.
Weather and the time it took to sail from Georgetown, S.C., to New York City, sometimes via Bermuda, were factors that affected the market. Mention is made (Mar. 1888) of the transition from shipping cargo via schooners to ocean steamers due to the time involved and cheaper insurance rates. References are made to shipping via the Clyde Steamship Line (1900-1907) and their record for settling breakage claims, and the cost of delays in reaching the market caused by the slowness of the schooners.
There is some correspondence with commission merchants concerning the state of world and national affairs and how they affected the market. Some correspondence states the progress Congress made in an attempt to abolish the Internal Revenue Tax on Spirit Turpentine (April 1868). Discussions about cotton (1917) mention the market's remaining firm due to the marked improvement in war conditions.
In the agricultural products file, issues of the
New York Cotton Exchange Market Report (ca. 1880s) detail official prices, market futures, deliveries at New York, foreign markets, and weather reports. Correspondence from James M. Seignious (1899-1917), a cotton factor in Charleston, S.C., discusses holding cotton for better market time, quality of their cotton versus others, and cotton damaged by rain and other elements. Correspondence from the Charleston Cotton Exchange gives information on unsettled financial conditions in America and Europe (1904). Correspondence from the South Carolina Cotton Oil Co. provides estimates of the cotton crop. Farmers & Spinners Cotton Co. correspondence (1906) reports on a poor market for South Carolina cotton due to a big crop in Texas and the Gulf States.
The mercantile stores, beginning in 1841, had six different locations: Rhem Post Office, Morrisville, Gapway, Bloomingvale, Black River, and Benson. Records reflect the sale of general merchandise, dry goods, groceries, fertilizer, livestock, farming equipment, cotton products, liquors, pharmacy articles, tobacco products, meat, fresh fruits, coffins, and ice. The general stores were the main source of "guano" for the area farmers. Other store accounts reflect banking functions, wholesale distribution, tax collection, and a wide variety of other activities. Financial records indicate links between naval stores produced on the Sandridge Turpentine Farm and Home Turpentine Farm, as well as the production of cotton, tobacco, and other agricultural products, and the mercantile business. These same products were purchased from their customers for credit in the Rhem general stores.
Another important part of the Rhem family business was the Black River and Mingo Steamboat Company. Steamers picked up cotton, naval stores, and other products, taking them to Georgetown via the Black River either to be sold there or sent on via schooners or steamships to New York or Charleston. Circulars from the U.S. Treasury Department to "Masters and Owners of Passenger Steam-Vessels" concern the use of dangerous oils on passenger steamers (1882); others from U.S. Customs concern the assignment of an official number to vessels (1884). Also included are statements of cash paid to the crew, receipts for duties and fees, receipts for equipment and repairs on steamers (1879), and lists of fees paid to crew and supplies for steamers, as well as salaries paid to the captain and pilot (1881). Correspondence (1911) from a ship broker in New York regarding the possible sale of steam-lighter,
BRUNSWICK is also included as is correspondence (July 1905) concerning the use of the side-wheel steamer,
WM ELLIOTT, being used for excursions. The Rhems owned at least seven river steamers.
The diversity and extensiveness of the Rhem family business involvement is reflected in their financial records. Included are a financial statement and banking correspondence concerning overdrafts, notes, and stockholder meetings of the various companies and banks on which the Rhems served as board members. There also are various lists of assets, financial statements, a list of mortgages, and lists of holdings for mercantile stores and plantations. Judgements and liens against the Rhems, contracts andpromissory notes for agricultural and chattel mortgages, and insurance policies and certificates listing cargo transported are also located in this file.
Correspondence from attorneys concerns the estate of F. Rhem and includes bonds, claims, land transactions, etc. (1894-1913). Legal correspondence also details the family's estate disputes (1889, 1925, 1927). There are extensive Rhem property tax receipts dating from 1838. Some are listed as receipts for war tax on transportation of persons and property, such as a receipt to Black River & Mingo Steamboat Co. (1919), and others are for poll and road taxes (1913).
The Rhem Real Estate Company bought up vast tracts of land, leasing some of it to lumber companies for the timber and renting out other acreage to tenant farmers. Land records (1814-1900) include titles to property bought at sheriff's sales (1854-1858), indentures, agreements and titles to real estate, a list of mortgages (1904), and financial reports (1925) of the extensive holdings of the Rhem Real Estate Company. Minutes of stockholders/directors meetings (1926) of this real estate company are also included.
Daybooks (1879-1882), general store account books (1878-1882), stock lists (1914, 1919), and inventories (1915, 1923-1930) reveal vendor names and customer lists. Cotton account books (1921-1924), lists of cotton and cotton seed purchases (1925-1926), and a guano book (1914-1926) are among the various types of account books included. Small journals list naval stores notes (1869-1888) and purchases made for the general store (1879-1886). In some cases these are broken down by stores (Gapway Store Stock, Morrisville and Black River Stores, and Rhem Store).
Personal correspondence (1871-1893) discusses various aspects of the business such as the ginning operation, the cotton supply, the production of swamp corn (1887), and the price of tobacco (1904).
Types of sickness found in the area during 1887-1924 are noted as well as some of the medical remedies used. In 1887, whooping cough and fever were rampant. Smallpox was in the River Store area in 1904 and in 1906 a member of the household was listed as being sick with malaria; blood poisoning was reported in 1918; and someone was diagnosed as having diabetes in 1922. Mumps and influenza are mentioned in school correspondence (1918-1920). Quinine and mentholatum were noted in 1920 as being medical treatments for some diseases not specifically named here. A section on medical records (1868-1922) lists receipts for medical services and statements, which give dates of visit, person visited, prescription and medicine given, and amount of charge. A pamphlet on curing dropsy is also included.
World War I is referred to in several places. In 1918, correspondence comments on the use of gas masks while at Camp Jackson, S.C., and the fear of dying overseas.Other correspondence (1917-1918) discusses the war and the draft, Citadel friends who were killed by Germans, and the desire to be released from the Army.
There are various letters to and from Flint Rhem concerning his baseball career, including one from Ty Cobb (1923), and others that mention him and the St. Louis Cardinal team (1918-1936). There also are newspaper clippings discussing Rhem's career as a pitcher.
References to blacks in the collection include receipts for purchases of slaves (1845-1858); correspondence from the Duke-Inness Green Shoe Co. (1905), advertising their shoes as being especially attractive to the Negro trade; and letters referring to security offered by a black for his purchase of guano (1904) and blacks caught hunting illegally in a swamp (1893).
Family correspondence provides insight into courting habits and attitudes (1892-1893), and discusses hunting (1893) and the leasing of land for a hunting reserve (1921-1934), efforts to locate a clay substance known as Fuller's Earth (1955), and family investments in Star Petroleum Co. (1902).
Genealogical material includes information on the Rhem family and the associated families of Beasley, Bell, Durant, Lane, Tucker, and Wadsworth. Included in the miscellaneous materials are tuition receipts (1878-1879) from the Winyah Indigo Society of Georgetown, S.C., and literature on the "Old Willtown" site. There also are three boxes of family photographs.
Miscellaneous pamphlets include the
Little Confectioner, undated,
Pell's Notes, May 1919,
Life along the Santee by P. G. Gourdin, undated,
Ships and Shipping of Old New York, 1915, and the
Asheville Exchange for Woman's Work, 1904 yearbook.
The oversized folder includes land surveys, plans, and maps. The original land grants for land that eventually became property of the Rhems are also included.