George Gage and Sarah M. Ely papers, 1864-1903

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Collection is open for research.
More about accessing and using these materials...


Gage, George, 1831-1904 and Ely, Sarah M., 1834-1909
George Gage (1831-1903) and his wife Sarah Marshall Ely (1834-1909) lived in Beaufort, S.C. during the Reconstruction Era. George was a civil engineer who held various positions for the town of Beaufort. Sarah worked as a teacher in the Freedmen's Bureau schools. This collection consists of a journal written by Sarah and three letterbooks of outgoing correspondence by George.
1.0 Linear Foot
Materials in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection consists of three letterbooks of outgoing correspondence by George Gage, as well as Sarah Ely's journal and two loose letters. There is a preservation photocopy of the journal.

Sarah Ely's journal, 1864-1866 is a bound manuscript volume that contains the constitution and meeting minutes of the Freedmen's and Home Relief Association of Lambertville, N.J. [22 p.], for which Sarah was the secretary in 1864. She also writes [54 p.] of her travels from Philadelphia to Beaufort, S.C. in 1866 to work as a teacher in the newly established segregated Freedmen's Bureau schools. Included are comments on her social life, the work of the Freedmen's Bureau, and her desire to improve the living conditions of Black people in the South. There is detailed description of the country between Norfolk, V.A. and Beaufort in the spring of 1866 and of the conditions surrounding Beaufort later that year.

The first letterbook, dated 1873-1876, concerns George Gage's positions as collector of customs and superintendent of lights, including references to trade at Beaufort and Port Royal, the South Carolina Free School Fund, and teachers' salaries and attendance statistics of Black and white children at St. Helena's and St. Luke's parishes. It also contains correspondence with treasury and customs officials in Washington D.C., Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, G.A. A second letterbook, dated 1884-1890, deals principally with Gage's business operating a sawmill, but also contains information on local politics and racism against Black citizens. There is correspondence with congressmen Thomas E. Miller and Robert Smalls, two of the first Black congressmen elected from the South. There is information on politics, elections, and election fraud in Beaufort from 1885-1895. It also contains letters to Clara Barton, president of the American Red Cross. A third letterbook, 1894-1903, pertains chiefly to family finances, but also has references to construction carried on by the United States government in the Beaufort harbor.

Biographical / historical:

George Gage (1831-1904) was a white civil engineer born in McConnelsville, Ohio who moved to Beaufort, S.C. to work as a U.S. surveyor. He worked on the railroad construction project from Augusta, G.A. to Beaufort. While there, he developed an interest in vocational training for the formerly enslaved. Gage later worked for the town of Beaufort in various capacities including clerk, treasurer, port customs collector, and superindendent of the lighthouse. He was involved in the political, social, and economic deveopment of Beaufort and its harbor during the Reconstruction Era.

Sarah Marshall Ely (1834-1909) was a white abolitionist and social activist who moved from her native New Jersey to South Carolina to teach in the newly established segregated Freedmen's Bureau schools. She wrote in her journal of her desire to improve the condition of the recently enslaved during Reconstruction. The Gages were married in 1868 in Lambertville, N.J. before settling permanently in Beaufort.

Biographical information adapated from the website FamilyWeSearch: (accessed 20 January, 2022)

Processing information:

Processed by Megan Lewis, January, 2022

Collection rehoused and finding aid updated by Tracy M. Jackson, March 2023.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the Rubenstein Library's Citations, Permissions, and Copyright guide.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], George Gage and Sarah M. Ely papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.