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Josiah and Amelia Gorgas family papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS-0580

Scope and Contents note

The papers include materials from the Gorgas and Gayle families, predominantly the papers of Josiah Gorgas, his wife Amelia Gayle Gorgas, her parents John Gayle and Sarah Haynsworth Gayle, her brother Richard Haynsworth Gayle, and the Gorgas's children Jessie, Mary Gayle, Christine Amelia ("Minnie"), Maria Bayne, and Richard Haynsworth.

The papers of Josiah Gorgas include his personal correspondence to his wife Amelia Gayle Gorgas (1853-1880), to their son William Crawford Gorgas (1868-1880), to others (1842-1875), from Jefferson Davis (1868-1879), and from others (1839-1878); his diary, scrapbook, and sketches from his European travels (1845-1846) and from his military service during the Mexican War (1846); his 1857-1878 diary; his correspondence and writings concerning his work as Chief of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau (1861-1865); a few items pertaining to his presidency of the Brierfield Iron Works (1867); and materials relating to his vice-chancellorship of the University of the South (1868-1878).

The papers of Amelia Gayle Gorgas include her personal correspondence to her husband Josiah Gorgas (1858-1876), to their son William Crawford Gorgas (1868-1907), to their daughter-in-law Marie (Mrs. William Crawford) Gorgas (1900-1906), to others (1841-1907), from various individuals expressing condolence at the death of Josiah Gorgas (1883), and from various individuals (1862-1907); her account of the evacuation of Richmond during the Civil War; three scrapbooks; and memorials to her. John Gayle's papers include his correspondence (1832-1838), a typescript of state papers relating to Creek Indian affairs (1832-1834) while he was Governor of Alabama, and pictures of himself and Francis Scott Key, who visited the Gayles in 1833.

Sarah Haynsworth Gayle's papers include her personal correspondence to her husband John Gayle (1819-1835), to her relatives in South Carolina (1823-1833), and to her friend Mrs. Mary Peck in Greensboro, Alabama (1833-1834); and her journal (1827-1835) describing her family's life in frontier Alabama. There are also correspondence and materials pertaining to other Gayle and Gorgas family members, including a Richard Haynsworth Gayle's diary (1856-1865), which describes his voyage from Mobile around Cape Horn to Genoa, Italy; a copy of the diary (1876-1888) of Josiah Gorgas' brother Solomon Atkinson Gorgas; Maria Bayne Gorgas's letters to family members from Europe (1892-1905) where she was nurse-companion to Mary Leroy King of Newport, Rhode Island; the Gorgas family Bible and the Gayle family Bible; and genealogical materials concerning the Gorgas, Gayle, Atkinson, and Rittenhouse families.

The papers are arranged into the following series and subseries: Josiah Gorgas: Outgoing Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, Early Diaries, Diaries, 1857-1878, Military Matters, Other Writings, Pertaining to, About Amelia Gayle Gorgas: Outgoing Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, About, Writings, Pertaining to Gorgas and Gayle Families: Bibles And Scrapbook; John Gayle; Sarah Haynsworth Gayle: Outgoing Correspondence, Journal, Pertaining to Richard Haynsworth Gayle; Jessie Gorgas; Mary Gayle Gorgas; Maria Bayne Gorgas; Richard Haynsworth Gorgas; Other Family Member; Gorgas Family, Pertaining to; Genealogy; Miscellaneous.

The papers of the Gorgas's eldest son William Crawford Gorgas, famous for his work in combating yellow fever in Cuba and Panama, are held in a separate collection, the William Crawford Gorgas Papers. There is also a separate collection of material relating to the Brierfield Iron Works, of which Josiah Gorgas was the president immediately after the Civil War. A related collection is the Sarah Gayle Crawford and William B. Crawford papers.

Dates

  • 1820-1920

Creator

Biographical/Historical note

Josiah Gorgas (1818-83) was born in Running Pumps, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of Joseph Gorgas and Sophia Atkinson Gorgas. From 1835 to 1841 he attended West Point, graduating sixth in a class of fifty-two. From 1841 to 1844 Gorgas served in the Ordnance Corps, U.S. Army at a variety of posts, then spent 1845 through 1846 in Europe on leave from the Army, before serving as chief ordnance officer in the Mexico City expedition of General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. He was stationed primarily in Vera Cruz, Mexico. He returned to peacetime appointments in 1848 and served in numerous places until he resigned his commission in 1861. During this period he met his wife, Amelia Gayle, while stationed at Mount Vernon, Alabama. They were married in 1853.

From 1861 to 1865 he served as Chief of Ordnance, Confederate States of America, first at Montgomery, Alabama then at Richmond. Immediately following the war Josiah investigated business opportunities in Greensboro, Alabama, before becoming president of the Brierfield Iron Works, near Ashby, Alabama. The business was unsuccessful, and in 1869 Gorgas was appointed headmaster of the Junior Department, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, later becoming vice-chancellor. He remained at Sewanee until 1878, when he was appointed President of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a post which he held for only a year before he was stricken with paralysis. He was then named Librarian and resided on campus, first in the President's Mansion, then in the Gorgas House. He died in Tuscaloosa.

Amelia Ross Gayle Gorgas (1826-1913) was born in Greensboro, Alabama, the third child of John Gayle, judge on the Third Judicial Circuit Court, and Sarah Ann Haynsworth Gayle. In 1833 the family moved to the state capital, Tuscaloosa, upon John Gayle's election as Governor. In 1835 her mother died in Tuscaloosa. The children were entrusted to family members and friends, Amelia going to her mother's friend, Mrs. Alva Woods, and her husband, the president of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In 1837 Amelia moved to Toulminville, north of Mobile, Alabama, to join her father and her reunited family, her father having married Clarissa Stedman Peck of Greensboro, Alabama.

In 1841 Amelia attended Columbia Female Institute in Columbia, Tennessee. In 1842 she returned to Mobile. From 1847 to 1848 she accompanied her father, who had been elected U.S. Representative, to Washington, D.C. In 1849 she assumed care of three of her sister's children so that Sarah Gayle Crawford could accompany her husband William B. Crawford on travels to improve his health. In 1853 she again cared for the Crawford children by removing them from yellow fever exposure in Mobile to Mount Vernon, Alabama, where she met Josiah Gorgas. From 1856 to 1861 she and her children accompanied her husband to his successive appointments. During the Civil War, Amelia and the children remained with Josiah in Richmond except for part of 1862. Upon the fall of the Confederacy, she went with her children to Baltimore and then to Cambridge, Maryland, rejoining Josiah in 1866. In 1880 she assumed Josiah's duties as librarian of the University of Alabama, temporarily during his final illness, and permanently after his death in 1883. In 1886 she was also appointed postmistress of the University of Alabama. In 1905 she received a loving cup from the University of Alabama in recognition of her years of service. In 1907 Amelia retired with a pension from the Carnegie Foundation. She died in Tuscaloosa.

John Gayle (1792-1859) was born in Sumter County, South Carolina. In 1813 he graduated from South Carolina College. In 1818 he began a law practice in Claiborne (Monroe County), Alabama, and the following year he married Sarah Ann Haynsworth. In 1822 he was elected representative from Monroe County to the state legislature. The following year he was elected Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Alabama and moved with family to Greensboro, near the state capital, Tuscaloosa. In 1828 he resigned his judgeship and returned to law practice in Greensboro. In 1829 he was elected representative from Greene County to state legislature and was subsequently chosen as Speaker of the House. He moved to Tuscaloosa and in 1831 was elected governor of Alabama. In 1833 his family joined him in Tuscaloosa and he was re-elected governor, but his wife died two years later and the children were sent to live with family members and friends. John Gayle moved to Mobile, where, in 1837, he married Clarissa Stedman Peck ("Clara") of Greensboro, Alabama, and reunited his family in Toulminville, north of Mobile. In 1847 he was elected representative from Alabama to U.S. House of Representatives and the following year he was appointed judge of U.S. District Court for Alabama. He died at Mobile.

Sarah Ann Haynsworth Gayle (1804-1835) was born in Sumter County, South Carolina. She married John Gayle in 1819 and they resided in Claiborne (Monroe County), Alabama, before moving to Greensboro, Alabama (1823), and Tuscaloosa (1833), where Sara, 7, died two years laters.

Richard Haynsworth Gayle (1832-1873) was born in Greensboro, Alabama, the fifth child and second son of John Gayle and Sarah Haynsworth Gayle. Upon death of his mother, he was entrusted to the care of John Gayle's cousin Billups Gayle and his wife. In 1848 Richard entered the U.S. Naval Academy. He became a blockade runner during the Civil War and was captured by U.S. Navy forces in 1863 while in charge of the blockade runner Cornubia. He was subsequently imprisoned for a year at the Fort Warren federal prison in Boston Harbor. In 1864 he was released from prison and became commander of Confederate ship Stagg [Stag?], before again being captured and imprisoned. He was released after the end of the Civil War. In 1866 he married Flora Levy of New Orleans, where he died.

Jessie Gorgas (1856-1925) was born in Mount Vernon, Alabama, the second child and first daughter of Josiah Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas. During her early life she accompanied her parents as Josiah was posted to a succession of appointments, and like them she spent most of the Civil War in Richmond. Upon the fall of the Confederacy, she went with her mother and the other children to Cambridge, Maryland before joining her father in 1866. In 1871 she enrolled in the Columbia Female Institute in Columbia, Tennessee. In 1873 she went to school in Monteagle, near Sewanee. Upon the death of her father (1883) and in light of her mother's increasing responsibilities at the University of Alabama, Jessie assumed more household duties and assisted her mother as hospital matron. She continued to reside in the Gorgas House on the University campus until her death.

Mary Gayle (Mamie) Gorgas (1857-1944) was born at Kennebec Arsenal, Maine, the third child and second daughter of Josiah Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas. Her early years were spent in the same fashion as her sister Jessie. In 1873 she also attended Monteagle School. In 1878 she entered Columbia Female Institute in Columbia, Tennessee, and subsequently taught at Talladega, Alabama. Upon the death of her father and due to her mother's increasing responsibilities at the University of Alabama, Mamie returned to Tuscaloosa, where she assisted her mother as librarian. Upon her mother's retirement as librarian of the University of Alabama, Mamie continued on the library staff, and resided in the Gorgas House until her death.

Christine Amelia "Minnie" Gorgas Palfrey (1859-1953) was born in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1877, Minnie became reacquainted with a friend from the Gorgas' Sewanee years, George deClouet Palfrey of St. Mary's Parish, Louisiana. They were married in 1881 and lived in Franklin Louisiana until George Palfrey's death in 1930. The Palfreys had three children: Jessie Gorgas Palfrey (1883-1971), William Taylor Palfrey (1885-1957), and Amelia Gayle ("Minnie") Palfrey (1888-1971). After her husband's death, Minnie moved to Tuscaloosa and lived with her younger sister, Ria, in the Gorgas home until her death in 1953.

Maria Bayne (Ria) Gorgas (1861-1953) was born at Charleston, S.C., the fifth child and fourth daughter of Josiah Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas. In 1877 she attended boarding school [Columbia Female Institute in Columbia, Tennessee?], and in 1880 studied in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1886 she taught at Fairmont Female College in Monteagle, Tennessee, before entering nursing school in New York. After graduation she remained in New York to care for Amelia Lyon, a daughter of Josiah Gorgas's friend Francis Strother Lyon. She then became nurse-companion to Mary Leroy King of Newport, Rhode Island, whom she accompanied to Europe and remained with until Miss King's death in 1904. That year she retired and moved to the Gorgas House at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to live with her mother and her sisters Jessie, Mary Gayle (Mamie), and Christine Amelia (Minnie). She continued to live in the Gorgas House until her death.

Richard Haynsworth Gorgas (1864-1935) was born in Richmond, the youngest child and second son of Josiah Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas. In 1870 he attended grammar school at Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1884 he graduated from the University of Alabama. He received his law degree in 1890 and worked in New York prior to World War One, in which he served as Captain. He continued in government service until his retirement in 1931. He died at Birmingham.

Extent

36 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Correspondence, diaries, journals, speeches, scrapbooks, and other papers of Josiah Gorgas, chief of the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and president of the University of Alabama, and his wife Amelia Gayle Gorgas, librarian at the University of Alabama and daughter of Alabama governor John Gayle.

Provenance

Gift of members of the Gorgas and Palfrey families in 1947-48; by Mrs. Jessie Palfrey Leake of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Mrs. Minna Palfrey Tait of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1958; by Vernon C. Grosse of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1970; by Miss Mary Adam Hughes of Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1975; by Mrs. G. Burke Johnston of Blacksburg, Virginia, in 1975; and by Edward H. Haynsworth, Jr., of Columbia, South Carolina, in 2005.

Related Materials

The papers of the Gorgas's eldest son William Crawford Gorgas, famous for his work in combating yellow fever in Cuba and Panama, are held in a separate collection, the William Crawford Gorgas Papers. There is also a separate collection of material relating to the Brierfield Iron Works, of which Josiah Gorgas was the president immediately after the Civil War. A related collection is the Sarah Gayle Crawford and William B. Crawford papers.

All of these collections are housed at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library.
Title
Guide to the Josiah and Amelia Gorgas family Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Donnelly Lancaster Walton
Date
October 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266
205.348.0500