Mrs. Eddy's Southern Experience

April 19, 2017

As we shared in our recent article, Caitlin Carpenter (a friend of Longyear) will be visiting Charleston, South Carolina, this month. During her trip, she will visit the home Mary Baker Eddy lived in as a young newlywed, plus a few other historic sites. Through posts on Longyear’s website, Facebook page, and Instagram, Caitlin will be sharing updates and discoveries from her trip.

To prepare, Caitlin delved into the archives at Longyear to learn more about Mrs. Eddy’s experience in the South. What brought her there? What was the South like at the time? And ultimately, how significant was this experience in the broader context of her life?

One background resource that Caitlin found to be particularly informative is a six-part series titled “The Carolina Glovers” by Jewel Spangler Smaus. Longyear members may read this series in our online Newsletter Archive, starting with Part I here. Below, Caitlin provides a historical overview that sets the stage for her visit.

George W. Glover, LMDB-11561,
Longyear Museum collection.

A family connection

What brought Mrs. Eddy to the South begins with romance. As is commonly known, Mary Baker was born and raised in New England, the youngest of six. One of her older brother George’s close friends was a man by the name of George Washington Glover, who grew up attending the same church in Concord as the Bakers.

In 1832, the Baker and Glover families united through the marriage of Mary’s oldest brother Samuel to George Washington Glover’s sister Eliza. At the wedding, as family tradition holds, George teased Mary, just ten years old at the time, that he would return one day to marry her; Mary fled in embarrassment![1]

Mr. Glover eventually started his career in Boston as a building contractor. However, after a massive fire damaged Charleston, South Carolina, in 1838, Glover moved there to meet the great demand for reconstruction.

He returned to New Hampshire briefly in 1841, and became reacquainted with Mary, who had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. A courtship ensued, and on December 10, 1843, Mary and George were married in the Baker family’s parlor. On Christmas Day, the newlyweds departed for South Carolina. After brief stops in Boston and New York City, husband and wife made the journey to Charleston by ship.

“Our beautiful home in Charleston”

Mrs. Eddy’s new home was starkly different from the rural hills of New Hampshire she had known her entire life. The city of Charleston was one of the nation’s major urban centers, and though it was not quite as industrialized as cities in the North, it was still a bustling port town. A subtropical climate and distinctive palmetto trees certainly would have added to the novelty for her, too.

Perhaps most striking would have been the open practice of slavery. Although the importation of slaves had been banned in 1808, ownership and domestic trading was still legal, and Charleston was a major hub for this practice. In fact, more than 50% of Charleston’s population was comprised of slaves, the only antebellum city where this was the case.[2] Although slavery was starting to become a contentious issue in the national discourse — a foreshadowing of the Civil War — in Charleston, the practice was fiercely defended and pervaded every aspect of daily life.

A more pleasant aspect of Mrs. Eddy’s new environment would have been where she was to live. The newlyweds moved into a house built by George — Mrs. Eddy would later refer to it as “our beautiful home in Charleston.”[3] It was located in a neighborhood that had previously been destroyed by the 1838 fire, but by now was surely for the most part rebuilt.

Jewel Spangler Smaus describes the Glovers’ house as follows:

It was, indeed, a beautiful home, built by George Glover in the style of the popular "single house," unique to this city. Glover had constructed it only three years before, so it was fresh and new.... The windows were shuttered…[and] there were piazzas along the entire south side of the house off the first and second floors.... The doorway to the interior of the Glovers' single house was then approached from the piazza, leading into the entry hall and the graceful stairway to the second and third floors.... There were fire-places in all rooms and there was probably a pantry, but the kitchen and slave quarters were in back, as was usual. The single house comes in all sizes, from the modest to the grand, depending on the size of rooms and number of floors. The Glovers' house would be classified as of the more modest variety, just the right size for young marrieds. The glossy leaf Magnolia trees and the stately Palmetto palms added to the Southern charm.[4]

The Glover’s home in Charleston, 51 Hasell St, P2069-1, Longyear Museum collection.

Mrs. Eddy would have socialized with the circle of friends already cultivated by her husband. Amongst them were several women who regularly contributed to literary journals and periodicals. Soon, Mrs. Eddy joined them, publishing several short pieces, including her poem “The Old Man of the Mountain,” which would later be reprinted in her own collected Poems.[5]

Mrs. Eddy also kept in touch with her family members in New England. Her first letter arrived several weeks after departing on Christmas Day, quelling some concern on her family’s part. As they feared, she had taken ill — a common occurrence as she was growing up — but by the end of January, she had mostly recovered. The Bakers made note that they would watch and pray for her from a distance.[6]

During this time, Glover continued to expand his business, working on construction projects in Wilmington, North Carolina, which had experienced its own devastating fire in 1843. In the end, the Glovers’ time in Charleston was short-lived. After just over a month in Charleston, the couple moved to Wilmington to support Glover’s work there. And even this was not to last: before the end of the year, Mrs. Eddy would find herself back in her home state of New Hampshire.

Stay tuned for our next article to learn why.

Watch for Caitlin’s posts on our Facebook page and Instagram!

[1] Jewel Spangler Smaus, Mary Baker Eddy: The Golden Days (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966), 54-55.

Maurie D. McInnis, The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 28 (also accessible online).

Mary Baker Eddy: Speaking for Herself (Boston: The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 2002), 84.

Jewel Spangler Smaus, "The Carolina Glovers, Part 5," Longyear Quarterly News, Vol. 27, no. 1 & 2 (1990), 409.

Ibid., 411. Mrs. Eddy was published in at least four issues of The Floral Wreath.

Mark, Abigail, and Abigail Baker to Mary Baker Eddy, Feb. 6, 1844, Longyear Museum collection, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.