Guide to the John Emory Bryant Papers, 1851-1955 and undated
Born in Union, Maine, John Emory Bryant (1836-1900) was an abolitionist, teacher, Union officer with the 8th Maine Volunteers, agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, newspaper editor and publisher, lawyer, and Republican politician in Georgia. The collection includes letters, journals, scrapbooks, writings, speeches, and printed materials related to the lives of John Emory Bryant (JEB), his wife Emma Spaulding Bryant, their daughter Emma Alice Zeller and her husband Julius Zeller and their descendants, and William Anderson Pledger who was a Republican contemporary of JEB. The bulk of the collection falls into four main divisions: the early years in Maine (1851-1860), during the American-Civil War (1861-1865), during Reconstruction in Georgia, and the later years in New York (1888-1900). Some of the materials are not original and are copies or typescripts. Of note are materials regarding Georgian Republican politics; conditions for Radical Republicans and African-Americans during Reconstruction, including correspondence with Henry McNeal Turner; historical views about the differences between the North and the South; Ku Klux Klan activity in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama; and a particularly passionate exchange between Emma Spaulding Bryant and her husband regarding her visits to a doctor about "uterine difficulties" (these 10 letters from Emma Bryant have been digitized and are available online).
- Collection Number
- John Emory Bryant papers
- 1851-1955 and undated
- Bryant, John Emory, 1836-1900
- 11 Linear Feet
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The collection includes letters, journals, scrapbooks, writings, speeches, and printed materials related to the lives of John Emory Bryant (JEB), his wife Emma Spaulding Bryant, their daughter Emma Alice Zeller and her husband Julius Zeller and their descendants, and William Anderson Pledger who was a Republican contemporary of JEB. The bulk of the collection falls into four main divisions: the early years in Maine (1851-1860), during the American-Civil War (1861-1865), during Reconstruction in Georgia and after (1865-1887), and the later years in New York (1888-1900). Some of the materials are not original and are copies or typescripts. Of note are materials regarding Georgian Republican politics; conditions for Radical Republicans and African-Americans during Reconstruction, including correspondence with Henry McNeal Turner; historical views about the differences between the North and the South; Ku Klux Klan activity in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama; and a particularly passionate exchange between Emma Spaulding Bryant and her husband regarding her visits to a doctor about "uterine difficulties." These 10 letters from Emma Bryant have been digitized and are available online at: https://library.duke.edu/specialcollections/scriptorium/bryant/
Arranged according to the following series: Correspondence; Legal and Financial; Writings, Journals, and Scrapbooks; Printed Materials and Ephemera; William Anderson Pledger.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], John Emory Bryant Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The bulk of the letters cover the years before the American Civil War when John Emory Bryant (JEB) and Emma Spaulding were in Maine, during the Civil War when JEB was at Port Royal and Hilton Head, S.C., during Reconstruction in Georgia (1865-1887), and the remaining years in New York (1888-1900). The letters document JEB's life as a soldier, his courtship and relationship with his wife Emma Spaulding, his involvement in the Republican Party, temperance organizations, the Freedman's Bureau, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as his relationships with other politicians such as President Ulysses S. Grant, James Atkins, Governor Rufus Bullock, and Foster Blodgett, including prominent African-American politicians of the time such as Henry McNeal Turner and William Anderson Pledger.
Most of the letters during the Civil War were written between JEB and Emma Spaulding, whom he knew before the war when she was his student at Kent's Hill. The letters describe their courtship, their social lives, and also the conditions during the war. Some of the letters during this period are official orders from officers in the Union Army, including General Rufus Saxton, with whom JEB would continue to work after the war in the Freedman's Bureau.
There are also three volumes from the Confederate Army in Georgia that include official correspondence of the Camps of Instruction for Conscripts in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts of Georgia and correspondence from the headquarters of Brigadier General Raleigh Edward Colston's Brigade at Fort Bartow, Georgia. It is unclear how these Confederate volumes ended up with Bryant, though it is speculated that they were found by Christopher C. Richardson of the 11th Maine Volunteers who was stationed at Griffin, Georgia, for a short time in 1865. These volumes also include added notes, correspondence, and clippings from John Emory Bryant, Captain Christopher C. Richardson (business partner of Bryant who was later killed by a political opponent), and a Black clerk named G. B. Snowden who worked at Bryant and Richardson's law firm. These volumes cover the years 1863-1868 and include information about the Freedmen's Bureau at Augusta, conditions for Black people in Augusta following the Civil War, and the Republican Club of Augusta. Bryant also pasted in letters from General Rufus Saxton, 1865.
There are a series of letters from Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) during April, 1866. Turner was a Black Republican leader, legislator, preacher, and Post Master of Augusta, Georgia. Turner became a bishop in the African Methodist Church, 1880-1892. His letters to Bryant describe his political activity and aspirations. On April 6th, amidst the grave illness of his wife and the death of one of his children, he writes, "Please let me have the last law passed by the Georgia legislature, granting the colored people all the protection given to the white. They claim here that Georgia has granted every right, except voting."
There are several letters throughout the collection that document conditions for Black people in Georgia. While serving picket duty on a plantation in Beaufort, S. C., on September 8th, 1862, Bryant describes attending a prayer meeting, where he heard the sermon and the call and response singing. In one letter written in 1869, African-American minister Charles R. Edwardes introduces the Colored Men of the Mechanics and Laboring Men Association to JEB. Edwardes explains how the organization wanted to help freed people buy land and homes. In 1868, Mr. P. Joiner writes to JEB reporting the shooting of a Black man by White democrats near Albany, Georgia. The White mob then continued on a rampage through the countryside, warning African Americans that it was "their country and they was going to rule it."
Much of the correspondence after the Civil War pertains to JEB's political career, aspirations, and struggles. He was a strong proponent of civil rights for African-American men, a cause that he fought for throughout his life, to the chagrin of many of his political opponents. Over the years he was embroiled in several conflicts, and at least three times charges were brought against him for corruption, charges that were eventually dropped. The letters document the different political cliques that he belonged to and fell out of favor with, his participation in the downfall of Governor Rufus Bullock, the jockeying for governmental jobs, and his attempts and failures to maintain financially viable Republican newspapers.
The correspondence between JEB and his wife Emma Spaulding Bryant documents their personal, professional, and political lives, much of which was spent living apart due to the instability of JEB's employment and the hostile living conditions for Radical Republicans in the South. Emma Bryant describes family life, financial hardship and her efforts to support herself, her interest in painting and drawing, education, and her religious and political beliefs. A particularly difficult moment between Emma and John is captured in Emma's letters from July and August of 1873. These letters shed light on women's health in the 19th century and the relationships between spouses when making medical decisions. The letters recount Emma's activities during that summer when she and her daughter Alice, were visiting relatives in Illinois and Ohio while JEB tended to his political affairs in Georgia. Emma visited a doctor for "uterine difficulties." In response to "insane" and "mad" telegrams sent by her husband, she defends her choice to see a doctor. She describes the treatment that she receives from the doctor, how she wishes to be treated with equality from her husband, and how insulted she is by the accusations of infidelity being sent to her by JEB. On August 7 she describes her husband's behavior and her response, "taunts me with leaving my baby for a few days in care of her Grandma and aunty! Morally raises the lash over me and says 'now will you obey? Will you be my inferior, my obedient child?' To him I answer Never – I will be your true loving wife, your companion and equal in every and the fullest sense – the mother of your children – nothing less and nothing else…" She also writes that she had no choice but to see a male doctor, "His manner of treatment was perfectly delicate and such as all women afflicted with such disease and wishing to recover must receive at the hands of some male physician until there are sufficient educated female physicians to supersede the males." The Bryants soon overcame this dispute. This portion of the Bryants' letters have been digitized and transcribed and can be found here: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/scriptorium/bryant/
Correspondence of JEB and his assistant Volney Spalding. It begins with the campaign of Bryant for Congress in 1876 and his fight with James Atkins. Covers the founding of the Georgia Republican in Atlanta and the fight against the ratification of the new state constitiution in 1877. Refernece is also made to the location of the state capitol at Atlanta and the Homestead Act of 1868.
A record of JEB's business ventures in New York City, as well as a number of letters on the "Southern Problem."
Contains copies of official correspondence of the Camps of Instruction for Conscripts in the 8th Congressional District of Georgia. The volume contains details on conscript organization, exemptions, substitutes, health, and personnel. Macon and Decatur, Georgia, contained, respectively, Camps Cooper and Randolph for receiving these troops. Also in this letter book, one year later, JEB began his own letter book for the Freedmen's Bureau at Augusta, where he was serving under General Saxton. The correspondence, largely telegraphic describes conditions for foremerly enslaved Black people who were arriving in Augusta. Also documents JEB's attempt to establish a branch bureau at Hamburg, S.C., under command of Black officers and men from the 33rd U.S. Volunteers.
Letter book of the commandant of conscription in the 7th Congressional District of Georgia, centering in Macon and Griffin, Georgia. In this book JEB pasted the letters of General Rufus Saxton, 1865, and clippings from the Loyal Georgian, 1866.
From the headquarters of Brigadier General Raleigh Edward Colston's Brigade at Fort Bartow, Georgia, where he held a command in the defense of the Savannah River. The correspondence noted is official. JEB's friend and business partner, Captain Christopher C. Richardson of the 12th Maine Volunteers, added to this volume lists of Confederates taking the amnesty oath in 1865 in Brooks, Valdosta, Echols, and Lowndes counties, Georgia. These are followed by memoranda from the law office of Richardson and Bryant in Augusta. A Black clerk who work in the law office named G. B. Snowden kept minutes in this book of the Republican Club of Augusta, Georgia, March 25-September 11, 1868.
Papers relating to John Emory Bryant's roles as lawyer, politician, publisher, and real estate agent. Includes fundraising records for organizations such as the Southern Advance Association, Marietta Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta, and Grant Memorial University. Also includes an incomplete deposition describing violent and murderous Ku Klux Klan activity in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia during the early 1870s. Named African-American victims of the KKK are: Edward Thompson and his wife in Florida; Boss Fullard, Gamble Wright, and John Askie in Dublin, Georgia; and George Daymond in Montgomery County, Georgia. Leaders and members of the Klan are named as well as their relationships to elected and governmental officials.
Various personal and professional writings, clippings, pamphlets, and speeches created and collected by the Bryants and Zellers. Includes early speeches made by JEB at the Wesleyan Seminary at Kent's Hill, Maine, showing his early thoughts on temperance, slavery, and women. The series also includes writings and clippings pertaining to political conventions (including the Freedmen's convention of Georgia in 1866), historical views of the differences between the North and South that were being shaped during Reconstruction, and JEB's shift in focus from educating Black people to educating the Southern White working-class people. There are also diaries by Emma Spaulding Bryant, scrapbooks by Alice Zeller and her husband Julius Zeller, and a biography written by Alice Zeller about her parents (John and Emma). Some of the materials are not original and are typescripts and photocopies.
Copied by Raymond Bryant Zeller in the 1950s and compiled by Josephine Zeller Megehee in 1982. Includes biography of JEB from "Leslies History of the Republican Party," excerpts from "Maine in the War for the Union," letter from Miriam Zeller Gross to RBZ (her brother), letters written to Gen. O. O. Howard, "Facts concerned with the Ballot for the Negro" as told to John Emory Bryant's daughter, Emma, speeches given at Proceedings of the Freedmans Convention of Georgia, speech at Georgia Convention of Equal Rights, minutes of the Republican Club, letters from letter book (1876), letters to Savannah, Georgia, excerpts from the "History of the State of Georgia."
Copied by Raymond Bryant Zeller in the 1950s
Typed by Raymond Bryant Zeller in the 1950s
Typed by Raymond Bryant Zeller in the 1950s
Chiefly written at the Wesleyan Seminary at Kent's Hill, Maine; the 1864 papers at Buckfield, Maine. Speeches and reports written about various topics including intemperance, slavery, war, patriotism, and the influence of women, perhaps meant to present at debates.
Includes two typed copies of "Proceedings of the Freedmen's Convention of Georgia Assembled at Augusta, January 10th, 1866," handwritten transcript of a speech given to the Georgia Equal Rights Association on January 13, 1866, two typed copies of "Proceeding of the Council of the Georgia Equal Rights Association Assembled at Augusta, Georgia, April 5th, 1866."
Includes two copies of the "Constitution of the State Association of the National Union Association," "The Georgia Educational Movement," signed pledge (perhaps for the Union League of America), speech fragment regarding the governors ability to appoint election managers, and a speech given to the chairman and members of the Republican State Central Committee in which Bryant says that he is resigning from the committee and explains his involvement in politics in Georgia.
Includes meeting minutes, fragment of handwritten copy Georgia constitution of 1868 regarding voting rights, "Resolution calling on Supreme Court for decision on question of eligibility of colored men," "Names of those who pledge to defeat Foster Blodgett in General Assembly, Georgia, 1868," fragment of resolution passed in 1869, list of subscribers for The Southern Advance Association 1885, Republican appointment announcements, and election statistics.
Includes fragment reporting on Democratic convention in which labor laws were discussed. The fragment ends by saying, "Your memoriolist therefore feel warrented in saying that the evident object of the Governor in refusing to organize and arm companies composed of colored men is to enable our former masters the more easily to control our labor." Also includes, "Plan for managing the Macon convention, May 8, 1892," minutes from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, February 12, 1870, regarding Governor Bullock, and "Speech Delivered in McEntire Hall, Savannah, Georgia, August 20th." This speech was given "in reply to charges made against the Honorable John E. Bryant by Honorable T. G. Campbell previous to his nomination to Congress." T.G. Campbell could be Tunis Campbell.
Mainly documents related to Bryant's run for Congress in 1874. Including a document concerning voting laws addressed to JEB, 1872; notification by JEB of contested election for the first congressional district of Georgia, 1874; document supporting Bryant as the nominee for Congress; testimony of Stanley Young, Supervisor of Elections at Waynesboro Georgia; precinct voting statistics; voting demographics for Georgia; fragment describing election fraud.
Includes brief biography of J. G. Clarke, list of speeches given by defenders of slavery, racism, and the Confederacy, report of speech given by Captain William Hughes to the Confederate Survivors' Association, proceeding of the Southern Historical Society at Richmond, Virginia, October 1873, including an address by General Wade Hampton, and the University of Virginia Anniversary Oration of General John S. Preston, Charlottesville, July 1, 1875.
Includes Southern Advance Association appeals for aid, clippings about the Southern Historical Society including ideas about the "two peoples" of the North and the South, clipping about Alexander H. Stephens "Corner Stone" speech in support of slavery and White supremacy, summary of remarks made by Reverend Dr. Palmer about the "lost cause" and the principles for which the Confederacy fought.
Includes miscellaneous notes about Puritans, short essays entitled "God's Providence," "America," "Anxious Thoughts," "The Armada." The essays and notes are written on the back of letter head, some of which is addressed to Rev. Julius Zeller. Also includes "Death of Mrs. Judson."
Includes report of Benjamin H. Hill's speech in Athens, May 8th 1875, meeting notes "of the Committee appointed to consider the Southern questions, as presented by Col. J. E. Bryant," Providence, Rhode Island, 1879, "Laboring Mans Association of Burke County [Georgia]" founding document, "The Southern Advance Association. The South. The Condition. The Cause. The remedy," , "The Anti-Bourbon Movement," , "The Southern Advance Association. It's History," .
Includes day-to-day notes about church attendance, reading, sewing, health and illness, letter writing, missing her husband. There is some mention of drawing and painting.
Includes notes from the Georgia conference November 27th, 1884, clippings about the church and the divisions based on slavery, "Our White Work in Georgia and Alabama" clipping, "Dr. Fuller's position, Atlanta, Georgia, March 23, 1883: Equal Rights to both races. Each race must rise largely by it's own efforts," "Organization of Holston Conference," "Schools among the destitute whites at the South: The schools in North Carolina, our school at Atlanta," notes from a missionary meeting in New York, 1883, resolutions made at the educational convention, June 20th, 1883, list of money raised for schools in southern states, and demographics of black and white members of M.E. church in Georgia.
Includes "Address to the People by a Committee of the National Union League on the Political Situation of the Country," 1883, "The Southern Question: the Conflict between the two civilizations," draft of speech about the "Bourbon element" in the Democratic party, "The Two Civilizations: the conflict between them not ended," "The Education of the Middle Class at the South," description of the National Union Association .
Includes "The South. The Opportunities for Christian Work," , documents supporting the Southern Advance Association, report about the revival work of the Marietta Street Methodist Episcopal Church at Atlanta, Georgia, , presentation to the Woman's Home Missionary Society, Baltimore Conference, on the "Home missionary work among the illiterate and destitute white people at the South," 1886, clipping from the Boston Watchman on "The Intentions of the Southern Bourbon Leaders," 1886.
Includes Southern Advance Association list of subscribers, draft of speech addressing the Republicans of Georgia regarding a defamatory pamphlet targeting Bryant.
Includes "Missionary work among the destitute whites of Atlanta," "Our White work in the Southern States," and other writings and clippings about Bryant's views on white working-class southerners.
Includes "The Southern Problem" and other rebuttals and criticisms of the Southern Historical Society and education in the South
Includes orders received by Bryant during the Civil War and information regarding the Freedmen's Bureau investigation in 1866
Clippings, programs, some which document Alice Bryant's involvement with the Young Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Westchester County
Clippings, programs from events and organizations in Athens, Tennessee
Clippings related to social and church activities in Mount Vernon
Mostly newspaper clippings regarding Republican politics from 1863-1906. Includes some original and preservation copies of broadsides. Other original broadsides were removed from the collection and individually cataloged. There are five black and white reproduction copies of photographs of the Bryants as well as a book of photographs of Union Army Officers.
William Anderson Pledger (1852-1904) was an editor of the Atlanta Blade, teacher, and prominent Black Republican politician. In 1880 Pledger was elected chairman of the Republican state committee in Georgia, the first Black man to serve in that office. He and Bryant worked together and were political allies. The letter press copybook in this series includes faint copies of letters written by Pledger to various Georgian politicians and Republicans including John Emory Bryant, Henry McNeal Turner, E. R. Belcher, Benjamin Conly, Henry Farrow, M.T. Ackerman, and others. Also included in this series is a typescript of the letter press copybook by Raymond Zeller and a scrapbook created by Pledger about Georgian Republican politics and Black leadership and participation.
Two typescript copies created by Raymond Zeller. The typescript is incomplete in many places and includes corrections written in pencil.
The original letter book is difficult to read due to fading, faint ink. The notes written here were gleaned from the typescript made by Raymond Zeller and should be verified in the letter book if possible. Includes letters written to various politicians and Republicans including John Emory Bryant, Henry McNeal Turner, E. R. Belcher, Benjamin Conley, Henry Farrow, M.T. Ackerman, and others. Many of the letters are about seeking employment from Republicans. Pledger states that "The schools of this county being in the hands of the Democrats and they having such an avowed hatred to me till it is become impossible for me to obtain employment" (page 23). He writes recommendation letters and comes to the defense of others. He makes repeated arguments as to why African-Americans should be appointed to government positions. He also mentions threats against him, the Ku Klux Klan, and his unwillingness to abandon his principles and Republican ideals (page 104 and page 145). Some of his letters attend to the business of the Grand Fountain of Georgia (also referred to as the "colored Good Templars") a Black temperance organization. On page 206 he mentions relations between the White and Black templars of Georgia, and a schism between the American and English orders. In a letter to O. P. Morton, Pledger describes injustices faced by African-Americans in Georgia and argues as to why it is important that the Republican party remain in power (pages 157-163). Pledger writes a letter to the editor critiquing plans for emigration to Liberia, "We were born in America, our fore fathers and mothers for generations back are buried here, and when we leave for another land let us leave as men, not chattel..." (page 213).
Mainly clippings about Georgian Republican politics and black leadership and participation. Some of the articles mention Pledger's involvement and opinions.
Born in Union, Maine, John Emory Bryant (1836-1900) was an abolitionist, teacher, Union officer with the 8th Maine Volunteers, agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, newspaper editor and publisher, lawyer, and Republican politician in Georgia. During the American Civil War Bryant served in the Department of the South, in the Sea Island of Georgia and South Carolina. There he worked with General Rufus Saxton and commanded African-American troops, leading raids to free slaves from nearby plantations. In 1864 Bryant married Emma Frances Spaulding (1844-1901), who was born in Buckfield, Maine. They had two children together, a son who died in infancy and a daughter Alice. After the war, Bryant returned to Georgia and was heavily involved in Georgian Republican politics, serving as a congressman for one term and as state party chairman from 1876-1880. Bryant was involved in many organizations including the Georgia Equal Rights Association, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Advance Association, and the Sons of Temperance.
William Anderson Pledger (1852-1904) was an editor of the Atlanta Blade newspaper, teacher, prominent Black Republican politician in Georgia, and friend of John Emory Bryant. In 1880 Pledger was elected chairman of the Republican state committee in Georgia, the first Black man to serve in that office. Pledger helped organize the Afro-American League (which later became the Afro-American Council) in 1890 in Chicago and served as vice president in 1898.
Biographical note adapted from American National Biography:
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Bryant family
- Bryant, John Emory, 1836-1900
- Bryant, Emma Spaulding, 1844-1901
- Georgia Equal Rights and Educational Association
- Ku Klux Klan (19th cent.)
- Methodist Episcopal Church -- Georgia
- Pledger, William Anderson
- Republican Party (Ga.)
- Saxton, Rufus, 1824-1908
- Turner, Henry McNeal, 1834-1915
- United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
- United States. Army. Maine Infantry Regiment, 8th (1861-1866)
- African Americans -- Georgia
- African Americans -- Politics and government -- Georgia
- American Civil War (1861-1865)
- Freedmen -- Georgia
- Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- Georgia
- Temperance -- United States
- Temperance -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Women's Health -- 19th century
The John Emory Bryant Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1968 and 2002.
Processed by Rubenstein Library staff; Joshua A. Kaiser
Completed November 7, 2002
Encoded by Joshua A. Kaiser
Reprocessed by Laurin Penland, June 2019.