Header image  
line decor
line decor


Dearest Hugh
The Courtship Letters of Gabrielle Drake and Hugh McColl, 1900–1901

Edited by Suzanne Cameron Linder Hurley

A glimpse into what romance and marriage meant for a Southern couple at the dawn of the modern age

Dearest Hugh offers a glimpse into what romance and marriage meant for a southern couple at the dawn of our modern age through a collection of some three hundred love letters exchanged between Gabrielle Drake and Hugh McColl from 1900 to 1901. Edited by Suzanne Cameron Linder Hurley, this correspondence illustrates the hopes and sacrifices of an upper-class couple forging a marriage in the small town of Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Hugh McColl was a cashier at the Bank of Marlboro, of which his father was president, when he began courting Gabrielle Drake, a schoolteacher and daughter of the clerk of court for Marlboro County. Most of their visits were chaperoned, but Hugh and Gabrielle could speak more freely in their correspondence and they exchanged notes—often two or three a day—detailing their private emotions, desires, and anxieties. The letters address equality within the relationship, Gabrielle's career, choosing and furnishing a home, and allocation of household chores. Hugh's letters are earnest, sincere, affectionate, and sometimes suggestive. His devotion to business and community is clear, as is his concern over being able to provide for a family. Gabrielle's writings are coquettish and playful, but she also anguishes over choosing between a career and a spouse. The attitudes expressed by both Hugh and Gabrielle also speak to the ambitious drive and community-minded dedication the McColls would later instill in their family, including grandson Hugh McColl, the former president and CEO of Bank of America.

Hurley's insightful introduction places the correspondence into the broader context of recent scholarship on courtship rituals and the changing educational and social status for women during this time in American life.

A Marlboro County native, Suzanne Cameron Linder Hurley is the author of seven previous books, including A River in Time and The Historical Atlas of the Rice Plantations of Georgetown County and the Santee River. She earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina, where she has been a research fellow in the Institute for Southern Studies. Hurley lives in Davidson, North Carolina.

"Dearest Hugh provides a unique window into the social life and courtship practices of southern gentry during the opening years of the twentieth century. . . . Hurley masterfully crafted a pleasantly readable account. . . . The sincerity of this couple's mutual affection, together with the readability of their correspondence, makes the love letters of Gabrielle Drake and Hugh McColl a singular discovery sure to find a wide audience."—South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Hundreds of letters written over a year and a half of growing passion [reveal] fears, hopes for the future, views of life and of each other. . . . This remarkable record charts the ups and downs of the couple's relationship, with both sides represented."—Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

"…they remind the modern audience that while the formalities of establishing a romantic relationship may have changed over times, the emotions, pitfalls, and triumphs of a working on a lifelong bond have not. A reader searching for a rare look into the makings of a happy marriage—or perhaps wondering how to impress a significant other who despises e-mails and phone messages—will find Dearest Hugh to be a delightful journey into real romance."—H-Net Reviews 



Book jacket for Dearest Hugh


(2011) 6 x 9
224 pages
25 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-972-0
paperback, $18.95s

ISBN 978-1-57003-714-6
hardcover, $34.95s
Women's Diaries and Letters
of the South


    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press