Francis Warrington Dawson family papers, 1386-1963, bulk 1859-1950

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Dawson, Francis Warrington, 1840-1889
Journalist, of Charleston, S.C., and Versailles, France. The collection contains the papers of Francis Warrington Dawson, who was born Austin John Reeks; his wife, Sarah Ida Fowler Morgan Dawson; and their son, Francis Warrington Dawson II, better known as Warrington Dawson. The papers are primarily literary in character but also include many letters. Francis's papers are primarily autobiographical with information about his Civil War service, travels, courtship, and career. Also present are Morgan family papers describing social life in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., in the second half of the 19th century, especially during Reconstruction. Warrington Dawson materials document his work with the American Embassy in Paris and describes French life and politics. Also present is material from his work as director of French Research for Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., including copies (made from the originals at Colonial Williamsburg) of original documents pertaining to French participation in the American Revolution. Also included are copies of 18th century maps of North America, Williamsburg, Va., and positions of the French and American armies in New York and Virginia during the Revolutionary War.
30 Linear Feet
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection comprises the papers of Francis Warrington (Frank) Dawson (1840-1889), whose original name was Austin John Reeks; his wife, Sarah Ida Fowler (Morgan) Dawson; and of their son, Francis Warrington Dawson II, known as Warrington Dawson (1878-1962). The papers are primarily literary in character, with many editorials, newspaper writings, short stories, novels, articles, scrapbooks, diaries, reminiscences, and letters.

There are several series in the collection: Correspondence, Photographs, Scrapbooks, Writings, and Printed Materials document the family's activities in the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. Warrington Dawson's research interests in French manuscripts, early American history, and family genealogy are also documented in the French Manuscripts and Research Files series.

Biographical / historical:

Francis Warrington (Frank or F.W.) Dawson was born as Austin John Reeks in London in 1841. He changed his name when he left England for the Confederacy in 1862. During the Civil War he served in the Confederate navy and the cavalry, fighting at Gettysburg and eventually earning a promotion to captain under General James Longstreet. Following the end of the Civil War, Frank Dawson settled in Charleston, South Carolina, and became the editor of the News and Courier.

Frank married Sarah Fowler Morgan in 1874. Sarah Morgan was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and moved with her family to Baton Rouge as a child. She kept a diary of her Civil War experiences from 1862 through April 1865, which was later edited into A Confederate Girl's Diary and published by her children in 1913. Following her marriage to Frank Dawson, the couple had three children, including Francis Warrington Dawson II, known as Warrington, born in 1878. Warrington Dawson was a newsman, novelist, editor, special assistant to the American Embassy in Paris, and director of French research for Colonial Williamsburg. Warrington befriended several notable persons, including Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Conrad. He accompanied Roosevelt on his African safari in 1909.

Frank Dawson the elder was murdered by Charleston doctor Thomas McDow in 1889 while the two argued over a French-Swiss maid employed by the Dawsons. Once widowed, Sarah Dawson moved to live with her son, Warrington, in France. She died in 1909.

Warrington Dawson's letters with Joseph Conrad became the focus of a book by Duke University professor Dale B.J. Randall, which led Dawson to give the family's papers to the university's special collections in the 1950s.

Acquisition information:
The Francis Warrington Dawson Family Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift between 1950 and 1988.
Processing information:

Processed by AJ Meyer, Kathleen Monahan, and Janice Hansen in 2014. Encoded by Janice Hansen and Meghan Lyon in October 2014.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Terms of access:

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.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Francis Warrington Dawson Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.