STILES, WILLIAM H. (WILLIAM HENRY), 1809-1865.
William H. Stiles papers, 1749-1892 (bulk 1835-1865)

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322

404-727-6887

rose.library@emory.edu

Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zxch


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Stiles, William H. (William Henry), 1809-1865.
Title: William H. Stiles papers, 1749-1892 (bulk 1835-1865)
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 229
Extent: 5 linear feet (6 boxes, 2 oversized papers boxes and 2 oversized papers folders (OP), and 3 microfilm reels (MF))
Abstract:Papers of Georgia lawyer and politician, William Henry Stiles, consisting of correspondence, diaries, writings, business records, and collected clippings
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access for research use in this department. Loan of microfilm materials in this collection, Series 6: Collected Materials on Microfilm, RESTRICTED as this department does not normally loan reproductions for which it does not hold the original material.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction. Reproduction from Series 6, Collected Materials on Microfilm, RESTRICTED, as this department does not normally reproduce from reproductions for which it does not hold the original material.

Additional Physical Form

Christopher Lee Harwell, "William Henry Stiles: Georgia Gentleman Politician" (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1959). NUCMC

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Mackay-Stiles family papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Source

Purchase, 1938, with subsequent additions.

Citation

[after identification of item(s)], William H. Stiles papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Processing

Processed by Lee Sayrs, September 1986.


Collection Description

Biographical Note

William Henry Stiles (January 1, 1809-December 20, 1865), son of Joseph Stiles and his wife, Catherine Clay Stiles, was born in Savannah, Georgia. He studied at Yale for three years but returned to Savannah in 1828 without finishing his college degree. He read law and began his practice in Savannah in 1832. On 7 January of that year he married Elizabeth [Eliza] Ann Mackay, the daughter of Robert Mackay and Eliza McQueen. William Henry and Eliza Mackay Stiles had three children: Mary Cowper (d. 1863), William Henry, Jr., and Robert Mackay.

In addition to practicing law, Stiles usually farmed more than one plantation at a time and owned a brick yard in Savannah. Politics occupied a great deal of his time beginning with offices in Savannah city government in the late 1820's. From 1833 to 1836 he served as solicitor general of the eastern judicial district of Georgia. In 1840 the federal government sent him to pay the Cherokee Indians for lands in north Georgia that they had deeded to the government. Impressed by the soil and climate in north Georgia, Stiles bought some of the newly-acquired lands and settled on the banks of the Etowah River in Cass (now Bartow) County. After moving to north Georgia, Stiles divided his time between his Cass County estate, known as Etowah Cliffs, and his business and agricultural interests in the coastal region around Savannah.

Stiles's political activities frequently took him away from Georgia, making it necessary that he leave family members in charge of his business affairs. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 1843-1845 term. On April 19, 1845 President Polk appointed him charge d'affaires to Austria where he served until October 1849. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1855 and during that term served as speaker. In 1858 he won a seat in the Georgia Senate. Several times Democrats considered him as a candidate for the gubernatorial nomination, but they never put him on the ticket. Nor was he able to regain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Throughout his life Stiles took a lively interest in various areas of public debate in Georgia, particularly internal improvements, education, and the increasingly strained relations between the north and the south. A staunch Democrat, he argued for party unity through the 1850's and later for Southern rights and the Confederacy. When war came he organized a unit of five companies into the Fourth Battalion, Georgia Infantry which later became the Sixtieth Georgia Regiment. With the rank of colonel, Stiles led the Sixtieth when it joined the First Brigade of Ewell's Division of the Second Army Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

His health failing, Stiles returned to Savannah in 1863. He did not return to the front before his death on December 20, 1865, but spent his time attending to business affairs and organizing home defense troops to guard against Union raids in north Georgia. (Some sources cite December 21, 1865 as his death date.) He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah. His wife survived him by less than a year, dying at Etowah Cliffs on December 12, 1866. The village of Stilesboro in Bartow County was named for him. Biographical information drawn from Christopher Lee Harwell, "William Henry Stiles: Georgia Gentleman-Politician" (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1959) and from William F. Northen, ed., Men of Mark in Georgia, vol. 2 (Atlanta, 1910), pp. 256-8.

William Henry Stiles (January 1, 1809-December 20, 1865), son of Joseph Stiles and his wife, Catherine Clay Stiles, was born in Savannah, Georgia. He studied at Yale for three years but returned to Savannah in 1828 without finishing his college degree. He read law and began his practice in Savannah in 1832. On 7 January of that year he married Elizabeth [Eliza] Ann Mackay, the daughter of Robert Mackay and Eliza McQueen. William Henry and Eliza Mackay Stiles had three children: Mary Cowper (d. 1863), William Henry, Jr., and Robert Mackay.

In addition to practicing law, Stiles usually farmed more than one plantation at a time and owned a brick yard in Savannah. Politics occupied a great deal of his time beginning with offices in Savannah city government in the late 1820's. From 1833 to 1836 he served as solicitor general of the eastern judicial district of Georgia. In 1840 the federal government sent him to pay the Cherokee Indians for lands in north Georgia that they had deeded to the government. Impressed by the soil and climate in north Georgia, Stiles bought some of the newly-acquired lands and settled on the banks of the Etowah River in Cass (now Bartow) County. After moving to north Georgia, Stiles divided his time between his Cass County estate, known as Etowah Cliffs, and his business and agricultural interests in the coastal region around Savannah.

Stiles's political activities frequently took him away from Georgia, making it necessary that he leave family members in charge of his business affairs. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 1843-1845 term. On April 19, 1845 President Polk appointed him charge d'affaires to Austria where he served until October 1849. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1855 and during that term served as speaker. In 1858 he won a seat in the Georgia Senate. Several times Democrats considered him as a candidate for the gubernatorial nomination, but they never put him on the ticket. Nor was he able to regain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Throughout his life Stiles took a lively interest in various areas of public debate in Georgia, particularly internal improvements, education, and the increasingly strained relations between the north and the south. A staunch Democrat, he argued for party unity through the 1850's and later for Southern rights and the Confederacy. When war came he organized a unit of five companies into the Fourth Battalion, Georgia Infantry which later became the Sixtieth Georgia Regiment. With the rank of colonel, Stiles led the Sixtieth when it joined the First Brigade of Ewell's Division of the Second Army Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

His health failing, Stiles returned to Savannah in 1863. He did not return to the front before his death on December 20, 1865, but spent his time attending to business affairs and organizing home defense troops to guard against Union raids in north Georgia. (Some sources cite December 21, 1865 as his death date.) He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah. His wife survived him by less than a year, dying at Etowah Cliffs on December 12, 1866. The village of Stilesboro in Bartow County was named for him. Biographical information drawn from Christopher Lee Harwell, "William Henry Stiles: Georgia Gentleman-Politician" (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1959) and from William F. Northen, ed., Men of Mark in Georgia, vol. 2 (Atlanta, 1910), pp. 256-8.

Scope and Content Note

The William Henry Stiles papers consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, business records, and collected clippings. The dates range from 1749 to 1892, but most of the papers pertain to the period 1835 to 1865. The collection is arranged in six series, some of which are organized chronologically while others are grouped topically or by type of document. The collection came to the department from separate sources and with an unidentified, prior, artificial arrangement which made any original order difficult to discern.

Most of the material in Series 1, Correspondence (1749-1892), relates to Stiles's business and political interests, although there are some family letters included. A few eighteenth century letters concern the colonial and revolutionary affairs of members of the Malbone family who were paternal ancestors of Eliza Mackay Stiles. Many of the more substantive letters came from William Henry Stiles's brother, B.E. [Benjamin Edward] Stiles, who was intimately involved in his brother's business affairs, particularly during the latter's frequent absences from his Etowah Cliffs plantation, from his Savannah brick yard, or from the state during his time in Congress and in Austria. The correspondence contains information about the financial difficulties the Stiles brothers faced in their own affairs as well as in administering their father's estate. Politics is another topic featured in the brothers' correspondence. Also contained in this series but arranged in a separate sequence are twenty-two diplomatic dispatches Stiles made to Secretary of State James Buchanan from Austria.

Series 2, Diaries (1845-1849, 1863), includes four journals written by William Henry Stiles and five journals kept by his wife, Eliza, during their Austrian years, 1845-1849. The series also holds a fragment of an unidentified soldier's Civil War diary.

Series 3, Writings (undated), contains both handwritten and printed items authored by William Henry Stiles concerning a wide range of topics including slavery, north/south relations, education, internal improvements, and European politics. Included in this series are two lengthy reviews of his most substantive work, a two-volume history, Austria in 1848-1849, (New York: Harper and Bros., 1852), based on his experiences as charge d'affaires. A few items written by other individuals are located at the end of the series and include a poem by E.A. Stiles (presumably Eliza Mackay Stiles), an unidentified prayer, a Civil war reminiscence, and an account (with copies of correspondence) of Eliza Mackay Stiles's relationship with Robert E. Lee.

Series 4, Business Records (1786-1887), contains accounts, receipts, legal and tax papers, and indentures that relate to William Henry Stiles's complicated financial arrangements. These records reveal that the Stiles family, including William Henry Stiles's father, Joseph, and brother, Benjamin, invested heavily in land in the Savannah area as well as in north Georgia. Litigation frequently played a part in their business affairs. Some of these records pertain to William Henry Stiles, Jr. Also included in the series are a 1825 manuscript census of Savannah, a farm journal and a few slave lists.

Series 5, Collected Material, contains printed material, mostly newspaper articles, concerning a variety of topics that interested Stiles. In this series are a small number of other items collected by the Stiles family that have to do with the Civil War and the family estate.

Series 6, Collected Materials on Microfilm, contains microfilm copies of selected correspondence from the William Henry Stiles Papers, the Mackay-Stiles Papers, and the Orr-Patterson Papers held by the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Selected pages from the Savannah Daily Republican, 1831 May 20-24, are included, as well as copies of Civil War and diplomatic correspondence held by the National Archives. Christopher Lee Harwell, assisted by his Emory dissertation director Professor Bell I. Wiley, obtained these microfilm copies while researching his biography of William Henry Stiles and gave them to the library upon its completion.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Diaries, (3) Writings, (4) Business records, (5) Collected material, and (6) Collected material on microfilm.


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