The Dabbs-McBride Marriage

Eugene Whitefield Dabbs and Alice Maude McBride married at Rip Raps Plantation on February 7, 1893.  It is said that he asked her to marry him three times. Twice she turned him down and on the third time she accepted a written proposal that came in the mail dated September 1892.   In an effort to put aside some money Eugene had gone to Anniston, Alabama, to work in the Woodstock Iron Company for a year.  His adventure was a dismal failure.  When he returned to South Carolina he had been sick for six months with typhoid fever and had been nursed back to health by an unknown family who moved him into their home.   He was in worse shape than when he left. Supposedly, Maude wrote him at one point during his absence and told him that if there was to be a wedding at all he needed to return immediately.  He returned.
 At the time of the Dabbs-McBride marriage, the McBride land was divided by her mother, Sophronia Warren McBride. Maude received the northern portion of the family land while her brother, Guy, received the southern portion.  (Present day Highway 378 now runs along the divide line that marked the division.)   Sophronia McBride retained the wooded property known as Jacque Woods on the other side of what is now I-95.
 Over the course of the next 10 years Eugene and Maude had six children (one born every two years): Eugene Whitefield Dabbs, Jr., (1894);  James McBride Dabbs, (1896);   Elizabeth Gertrude Dabbs, (1898); Sophie McBride Dabbs, (1900); Thomas Hoole Dabbs, (1902); and Guy McBride Dabbs, (1904).  James McBride Dabbs in his book, The Road Home states that while they were driven by their father, they revolved around their mother. Described as a silent woman, Maude juggled the challenges in her home of her six children, her husband’s mother, Euphrasia Hoole Dabbs, and his mother’s youngest brother, T.S. Hoole, known to all as Uncle Stin.  Her own mother, Sophronia, and brother, Guy, lived up the road at Rip Raps and her aunts lived in the Summer Home.  Her grandmother, Martha Ruberry McBride Mayes, who had been living in Mayesville, had just recently died. This could hardly be a lonely existence.
The business end of the farm was left to her husband, Eugene Whitefield Dabbs. They moved into a one story house on Highway 527 north of the Crossroads.
                           Whitfield as it looked when Eugene & Maude first lived there.
                          In 1937 it was remodeled and a second floor & six columns were added.

That home eventually was remodeled to include a second floor by their eldest son, EW Dabbs, Jr., and was bought by his daughter, Louise Dabbs Bevan in 1986.   But in 1906 Eugene Whitefield Dabbs moved his entire family one mile further back into the woods where, for 18 months, they lived in pioneer fashion as they built a second house to get away from the summer fever.  This rustic lodging was referred to as the Camp, and in 2007 it is still standing, although covered in vines.  It is with puzzlement and wonder that future generations have tried to understand what Eugene Whitefield Dabbs was thinking when he asked his wife and children to exchange their home on Highway 527 for a shed in the woods. But mosquitoes had not yet been associated with malaria and a doctor had forewarned Mr. Dabbs that his children would not survive the malady of the swamp in their dwelling on Highway 527. The disease name comes from the Italian mal aria (bad air), and it was believed that the swamp fumes produced the illness.  According to the National Geographic, a million Union Army casualties in the Civil War were attributed to malaria and it was particularly devastating to children under five. The U.S. was recording millions of malaria cases in 1930.   Interestingly enough, it is true that mosquitoes will not travel further than one mile from their water source and malaria mosquitoes needed the swamp to survive.  Thus, even though the two homes were no more than a mile apart the move was made.   They would not be able to evade illness, however, and Maude would die at the age of 47 of typhoid fever in 1908, after 15 years of marriage, and a year before their new home was finished.  Her son, James McBride Dabbs remembers his father whispering at his mother’s funeral, “My God, I killed her.”

                                      Fern Park two miles back in the woods from Whitfield.
While there is little written about Mother Maude other than what her son, James McBride Dabbs, describes of her in The Road Home, insights into her personality can be gleaned from letters that were sent to her husband following her death.  Many state that she was a “sweet, dainty woman, noble, pure, devoted parent, duty loving and duty performing Christian mother.”  A Hoole cousin writes, “I do hope Alice will be able to take care of the house as Auntie (referring to Euphrasia Hoole Dabbs) is too old and feeble now.”  “Auntie” lived on for 11 more years, feeble or not.  Aunt Louisa writes from Sumter,  Maude was “the twin sister of  my heart.”  She loved the Sabbath days and the hymns ….. Beneath the Cross of Jesus was her favorite hymn and she used to sing it around the house.  Ruth Lawrence wrote from Darlington“Dear Cousin Eugene, I used to wonder how one woman could accomplish so much in her quick way and never get upset.  Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Maude McBride Dabbs died on December 31, 1908, leaving 1/3 of her land to her husband, Eugene Whitefield Dabbs, and dividing the remainder among her children.  It was Maude’s belief that if the land should be sold for taxes, the courts would be more lenient on her children than her husband.  Her brother, Guy McBride, was quite fond of his nephew, James McBride Dabbs, the second son to Eugene Whitefield Dabbs and Maude McBride.  Guy wanted Rip Raps to be left to James, perhaps because he bore the name of Guy’s father, or perhaps because he, like Guy, was more of a poet/philosopher than a farmer.

                          (L-R) Eugene W. Dabbs, Jr., Eugene Whitefield Dabbs holding
                           Sophie McBride Dabbs, James McBride Dabbs, Elizabeth
                    Gertrude Dabbs, Maude McBride Dabbs holding Thomas Hoole Dabbs.
                Below left is Thomas Hoole holding their sixth child, Guy McBride Dabbs.

Maude's brother, Guy, would live only six years after his sister’s death. His obituary begins, “On Saturday there was buried at Brick
Church the mortal remains of perhaps the best loved man who ever lived in the Salem Black River Country – Guy Warren McBride.”   Guy’s mother, Sophronia McBride, would outlive both of her children by one year dying on July 4, 1915.  In her will she honored her son’s wishes concerning Rip Raps but then chose not to leave any of the Jacque Woods land to her grandson, James, in an attempt to even-out things among her grandchildren.  As Guy had requested, she also gave $3,000 to the library at Brick Church and many of the books from the original library of Samuel McBride.
 At the death of Maude McBride (1908), Guy McBride (1914), and shortly thereafter their mother, Sophronia (1915), the estate was more than $37,000 in debt. The property and homes were in great threat of being completely lost and it was ultimately Eugene Whitefield Dabbs, widowed husband of Maude McBride Dabbs, who was appointed by the court to manage the estate and piece together the negotiations to pay the back taxes and farm debts. This he did with labored thought through a process that extended almost seven years.   All debts were listed along side all assets.  Lenders holding notes on the plantation were asked to either forgive or reduce the charges.   There is a record at Salem Black River Church of his asking to be forgiven a financial pledge of $250.00 to the church due to lack of funds. His request was acknowledged and the pledge excused.   It is significant to note that obligations made to the church were calculated with the same seriousness as obligations made to banks and other lenders.  In the end timber was sold in addition to 1,000 acres of land.  Supposedly, Sudie Furman, Eugene Dabbs’ second wife, also contributed $5,000 of her own money to pay off the debt.  At a time when it had been speculated that all might be lost, Eugene Whitefield Dabbs was able to maintain almost 7,000 acres of the original 10,000 acre estate.