Cornelia Hancock Correspondence
Scope and Contents
Cornelia Hancock (1840-1927) was a Civil War nurse, Reconstruction-era teacher in South Carolina, and, later, Philadelphia social worker. The papers consist primarily of her letters written in the post-Civil War years, 1865-1879, when she was teaching the children of formerly enslaved people in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The bulk of the letters are written to her mother, Rachel Hancock, and her sister, Ellen Child. The collection also contains letters received by Hancock, 1864-1875, most from her mother, sister, and niece Sarah, arranged alphabetically by author. There also are a small number of letters from veterans or their families and other family members and friends including Emily Howland and Laura M. Towne. The collection includes reference material used by the donor, Henrietta Stratton Jaquette, in preparation for her book South after Gettysburg built on Hancock's letters and commentary. The letters likely were collected by Hancock to write an autobiography and history of the Laing School, and many are incomplete.
- 1861 - 1937
- Majority of material found within 1865-1880
- Hancock, Cornelia, 1840-1927 (Author, Person)
Limitations on Accessing the Collection
The collection is open for research.
Biographical / Historical
Cornelia Hancock was born in Hancock's Bridge on Alloways Creek, South Jersey, on February 8, 1840. She was the daughter of Thomas Yorke and Rachel Nicholson Hancock. Her father was a fisherman, and her mother(1803-1882) was a birthright member of the Society of Friends. Rachel Hancock was disowned in 1826 from Greenwich Monthly Meeting when she married a non-member but was restored to membership and remained an active Friend. Cornelia Hancock's sister Ellen (1829-1907) married in 1854 Henry Teas Child (1816-1890), a prominent Philadelphia Quaker physician and social reformer. Their brother William (1832-1911) served in the Union Army in the 24th Regiment, New Jersey Infantry, and the 37th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteer, and married Beulah Fowser. With the assistance of her brother-in-law, Cornelia Hancock volunteered to serve as a nurse after the battle at Gettysburg. She was initially rejected by Dorothea Dix because she was only twenty-three, but she persisted in staying with the volunteers and arrived in Gettysburg on July 6, 1863. She served throughout the remainder of the War, working the winter of 1863-1864 in Washington, D.C., in the Contraband Hospital for formerly enslaved people.
When the War ended, Hancock was eager to continue to work with the formerly enslaved people and applied for teaching positions. In January 1866, she traveled south with Laura Towne who had started a school at St. Helena, Beauford County, South Carolina. With the help of Philadelphia Friends, Hancock established a school for African Americans in Mount Pleasant outside Charleston. With support from the Freedman's Bureau and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the school succeeded as the Laing School for Negroes, named in honor of Henry M Laing.
In July 1876, Hancock resigned from heading the Laing School. Abby Munro and Henry M. Laing assumed the two funded positions. Hancock spent 1877 and part of 1878 in Florida and New Jersey, assisting in the management of the Sanford Hotel, returning to Mount Pleasant to help at the School before moving to Philadelphia.
A visit to England had led Cornelia Hancock to turn her attention north, to the plight of the poor in Philadelphia. She worked with her brother-in-law Henry T. Child to found the Society for Organizing Charity (later, the Family Society of Philadelphia). She also was a founder of the Children's Aid Society. Inspired by English social reformer Octavia Hill and the Octavia Hill Association founded in Philadelphia in 1896, she worked with Edith Wright in the experimental management of housing in Wrightsville, a dilapidated section of the Point Breeze neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Cornelia Hancock resigned in 1914 from social work and retired to Atlantic City where she lived with her nephew's widow, Isabel Pierce Child. She died on December 31, 1927.
.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Cornelia Hancock (1840-1927) was a Civil War nurse, Reconstruction-era teacher in South Carolina, and, later, Philadelphia social worker. The papers consist primarily of her letters written in the post-Civil War years, 1865-1879, when she was teaching the children of formerly enslaved people in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The collection includes reference material used by the donor, Henrietta Stratton Jaquette, in preparation for her book South after Gettysburg which was based on Hancock's letters. The letters provide insight into the conditions and attitudes of formerly enslaved people and their former enslavers.
Arranged in four series: Series 1 - Correspondence sent; Series 2 - Family correspondence; Series 3 - Correspondence received; Series 4 - Miscellaneous
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Henrietta Stratton Jaquette, 1956 and 1963
Cornelia Hancock never married but she was close to her nieces and younger cousins. She lived her last years in Atlantic City with Isabel Child, her niece. From internal evidence, the correspondence with commentary by Hancock may have been collected by her in preparation for a proposed autobiography and history of the Laing School. Many of the letters are incomplete, probably because only the most pertinent parts were saved. After Hancock's death in 1927, Isabel Child gave the Civil War and South Carolina correspondence to Henrietta Stratton Jaquette, the granddaughter of a cousin. Jaquette came from a long line of Quaker Strattons of New Jersey and Ohio. According to the donor, the Strattons vacationed in Maine with Howland relations, and Cornelia Hancock was a frequent guest. Henrietta Stratton, a graduate of the University of Michigan, married William Jaquette in 1907, and they joined Swarthmore Monthly Meeting with their family in 1921. Most of Hancock's edited Civil War letters were published by the University of Pennsylvania Press (South After Gettysburg, 1937) and she donated the original letters to the University of Michigan William L. Clement Library in 1937. In 1956, a new addition of the letters edited by Jaquette with a forward by Bruce Catton included Part II, "School Teacher in the South," which included edited letters in the present collection. The majority of these letters were donated by Henrietta Stratton Jaquette to Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College in 1956.
The papers originally were cataloged as a Manuscript Collection, assigned call number MSS 028 with a brief description of the contents. In 1963, additional letters donated by Jaquette were added to the collection. In July 2017, the collection was reprocessed and described in detail.
- African Americans -- Education -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century
- Cat Island (Fla.)
- Freedmen -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century
- Freedmen -- Southern States -- Social conditions -- 19th century
- Friends' Association of Philadelphia for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen
- Laing School (Mount Pleasant, S.C.)
- Private schools -- South Carolina -- Mount Pleasant
- Quakers -- New Jersey
- Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
- Sanford House (Sanford, Fla.)
- Schools -- Quakers
- letters (correspondence)
- Susanna K. Morikawa
- July 2017
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2020: Updated outdated, harmful terminology related to enslavement, except where it appears in a title, quotation, or subject heading.
Find It at the Library
Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA