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Elizabeth Coit


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At a Glance

Elizabeth Coit of South Carolina was one of two girls at the Burwell School to die in the terrible summer epidemic of 1852. She died at age fifteen at the school [1].


Elizabeth's name does not appear in the Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51 [2]. Elizabeth likely entered the Burwell School in the January 1852 session and only studied there for five months. Several letters reveal that Elizabeth was the daughter of David) Coi and Maria Coit of Marlborough District, SC. However, Elizabeth Coit was an orphan living on the bounty of her Uncle John Coit of Rose Hill, SC. Elizabeth's cousin, Sarah C. Ray , had also been a student at the Burwell School. Elizabeth was once described as  "not very pretty"  and  "very much like the old gentleman." 

Little Elizabeth Coit may have felt solitary and alone at the Burwell School since her cousin was no longer in attendance. Moreover, Mary Huske Pearce , Burwell student from Fayetteville, NC and friend to Elizabeth, remained in Louisburg for the winter.

Two of Elizabeth's letters from the Burwell School to her unknown sister survive. Her second letter showed a marked improvement in composition and proved the success of Mrs. Burwell's methods. They date from April 10 and 29 May 29, 1852, only six days before her death. While she made no mention of feeling ill in the second letter, she did note that student Mary Bailey Easley  had been ill. This second letter was probably the last one to her sister. It was during this time that Elizabeth was left alone at the school as both her roommates and her special friends, the Gilchrists of Fayetteville, NC, were leaving for the long six-weeks summer vacation. Elizabeth herself was going to stay on at the Burwell School probably because no one from Rose Hill, SC had planned to come for her.

It is probable that none of her family actually attended her funeral, undoubtedly officiated by Reverend Robert Burwell, since internment occurred so quickly due to the summer heat. Her uncle most likely erected her tombstone. She was buried to the west of the walkway in the Old Town Cemetery in Hillsborough, NC in the area that has come to be known as the Students' Walkway [1].

Biographical Data

Important Dates

Elizabeth Coit was born in 1837. She died on June 4, 1852, of disease.

Places of Residence

Schools Attended



  1. Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).
  2. Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51.