Dr. Jacobs’ Desk
Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time to take a look at Dr. Jacobs’ desk to discover whether he kept it neat or messy during his lifetime. We can say, however, that it contained numerous pieces of his life in the form of small booklets of notes and lists, travel collectibles, business cards and stationery, and keepsakes not unlike those most of us have in and around our desks. Let’s take a look…
“Today Father gave me the desk that formerly belonged to dear mother. While you were here, Mother, I did not love you as I ought, but I love your memory and will ever love it” (Diary of William Plumer Jacobs, Nov. 15, 1858).
Mary Elizabeth Redbrook Jacobs, the mother of William P. Jacobs, died of pneumonia in 1845, three years after William’s birth. She had been orphaned herself after the deaths of both her parents, two teachers from Richmond, Virginia. She was adopted by the family of Dr. William Swan Plumer, a minister living and serving in Richmond. As her way of honoring her loving adoptive parents, Mary named one of her sons, “William Plumer” after her adoptive father (https://reformedforum.org/william-plumer-jacobs/). At the time of Dr. Jacobs’ birth, the family was living in Yorkville, South Carolina.
It is thought that the story of his mother’s homelessness and adoption fueled his desire to care for orphaned children. One of the earliest memories from Dr. Jacobs’ boyhood in 19th century Charleston was passing by the Orphan Asylum. “The idea of an orphanage haunted him through his early years in Charleston. The way orphans were treated seemed to call for reform. He toyed with the idea of setting up an orphanage and read widely on the subject. He had been impressed in reading about a German, Immanuel Wichern, who had new ideas about orphanage reform. Today they seem to us common sense, but then they were drastic innovations.” [James Lewis MacLeod, faithinwriting.com].
Since some of our readers may not be able to visit the PC Archives in person, we’d like to share images of some of the keepsakes on Dr. Jacobs’ desk:
Later this summer we hope to post links to two new Archives and Special Collections brochures, one with information about our special collections and one about the “Stonewall” Jackson-Arnold Collection housed in the Archives. The special collections brochure will feature the desk of Dr. Jacobs.
These unremarkable items represent a link to the past and to the life of William Plumer Jacobs, a man whose work and vision continue to influence our community today.