Blanding served the Sumter community

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 12/9/18

The ensuing issue of Reflections provides a brief sketch of the life of Col. James D. Blanding. According to a publication titled "Men of the Times," Blanding was one of Sumter's most respected law professionals, and he died more than a century ago; …

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Blanding served the Sumter community

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The ensuing issue of Reflections provides a brief sketch of the life of Col. James D. Blanding. According to a publication titled "Men of the Times," Blanding was one of Sumter's most respected law professionals, and he died more than a century ago; however, his impact on the community continues to be evident. Originally published in 1902 and 1907 and sourced from The Sumter Item archives, these articles will be reprinted with minimal modifications; further enlightenment was derived from the writings of Cassie Nicholes and Anne King Gregorie. This article will be presented in two segments.

Part 1:

COL. JAMES D. BLANDING

James Douglas Blanding was born in Columbia, S.C., on June 26, 1821, to Abram Blanding and Mary C. DeSaussure Blanding. He enrolled in The Academy and after graduation entered South Carolina College where he studied law. He graduated from college in 1841 "with distinction" and began reading law under the guidance of his uncle, William F. DeSaussure. He was admitted to the Bar in December of 1842 and accepted a position in Camden. Blanding moved to Sumter in December of 1843, where he took a position in the law firm of Blanding & DeSaussure.

In February of 1849, he married Lenora A. McFaddin, the daughter of James D. McFaddin, a native of Sumter County. This marriage produced 15 children with 13 reaching adulthood. This large family needed ample space which they obtained when, for $3,500, James D. McFaddin purchased a home on Hampton Avenue from the estate of W. E. Dick. The house was placed in trust by McFaddin for his daughter Lenora. The newly married Blandings had lost their plantation home, Millgrove, which was located about "three miles from Sumter on the Wedgefield Road." Built in the Jordan community, the house had been destroyed by a devastating fire.

According to Cassie Nicholes, one of the Blanding children wrote the following description of the home they had received from their grandfather: "On this spot in days gone by there stood a home, a monument to a devoted life, and a happy family. Here in this beautiful municipal park once stood a spacious Southern home, and while sufficiently expansive to shelter a large family - and all friends who came that way - its spaciousness was more fittingly reflected in the hearts of its host and hostesses than in the physical dimensions of the house itself. Here on this spot stood the homestead of the Blandings. Their children happily played among these very trees, children who in future generations should play their part in molding the destinies of the nation, children whose progeny were destined to inhabit the nation; children whose children were to walk the Earth permeated with sound Christian principles, illuminated by those glorious old family traditions, strengthened by the memory of that remarkable old family life emanating from this very spot." Who built this lovely antebellum home and the date of construction remains uncertain; however, research indicates that the earliest property transfer probably occurred in 1860 when Leonard W. and Lenora Ida Colclough Dick sold the home to W. E. Dick.

While the Blanding family grew, so did the list of achievements for this young lawyer. He was selected to serve as secretary of the Board of Trustees of South Carolina College from 1843 to 1852. During his tenure in this position, he "compiled the catalogue of all trustees, officers and students of the college from its beginning to 1853 was made by a part of the appendix to his history of the college." Prior to his participation in the Mexican War, he was selected to serve as a trustee for the Sumter Academical Society.

THE MEXICAN WAR

Blanding was mustered into service in 1846 and held the rank of second lieutenant in Company A (which became known in the community as the "Sumters") of the South Carolina Palmetto Regiment. According to Anne King Gregorie, these men "enlisted for the duration of the war; the original company numbered about 40, among them were boys from 16 to 18 years of age, several having left college to volunteer." He served at the siege of Vera Cruz and was promoted to captain following the death of Col. Butler. Later a young Capt. Blanding would lead the "Sumters" into Mexico City "where the Palmetto flag became the first to be planted along its walls." It was later reported in the writings of Gregorie that Blanding "had been in all the battles and had even been knocked down by a bullet which struck his coin purse, but he had come out unscathed, one of the few survivors to live to old age without some form of permanent injury." Among the mementos the captain brought home was a Mexican gold coin which he had made into a wedding ring for his young sweetheart, Lenora McFaddin, to whom he was soon happily married. When South Carolina awarded medals to members of the Palmetto Regiment, Capt. Blanding was honored to make the presentations.

After his return home from the war, Blanding was soon engaged in a number of public and government activities. He was appointed as a trustee to the board of Davidson College and also accepted a position on the board of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina. He served during this school's reorganization in 1879 to 1892. Blanding was elected to serve as mayor of Sumter from 1852 to 1856 while also serving as member of the Legislature from Sumter County from 1852 to 1858. Blanding was selected to serve as chairman of the committee on education and the judiciary committee. In 1856 as a representative, he "presented a petition of the Sumter Fire Engine Company for incorporation," and in the spring a fire engine was delivered to Sumter. The volunteer firefighters paraded in full uniform to celebrate the occasion.