Aug 18, 2009, 7:07 PM |

David Lawson wrote the more or less definitive, and almost impeccable, biography of Paul Morphy. On Page 399, he gives the following letter addressed to a "J.E. Orchard."  Only recently did I come across another reference to Orchard and I was curiously surprised to learn that his name is more likely "I. E. Orchard" and that he was a remarkably, though relatively unknown, talented chess player. I can't determine who "D" might have been.

Letter to J. E. Orchard from "D" 

Mr. J. E. Orchard
Columbia S. C.
                                                            New Orleans, December 5, 1875

Dear sir -- Your letter asking for information as to the mental condition of Mr. Morphy is just at hand. I am sorry to say that reports concerning him have some foundation in fact, but they have been grossly exaggerated in the newspapers. He is not in any sense a lunatic though his mind is affected somewhat. The statement that he is hopelessly insane is far from the truth, for we all have confidence that in time he will be alright again. The fact that his mind was not right was observed by his intimate friends some months ago when he was labouring under the delusion that unknown persons were circulating calumnies about him, and imagined that he was the victim of petty persecutions, the aim of which was to drive him from the country. This idea constantly haunted him and drove him at last to the point where he publicly accused several individuals with being concerned with persecuting him. The thing grew upon him until finally he challenged the supposed authors of the imaginary calumnies to mortal combat with deadly weapons. After this, of course, the whole matter was made public. This is all there was to it.
     On all other subjects his mind is apparently sound, and when in company with persons of his liking he converses as rationally as anyone. He is not in a lunatic asylum, but walks the streets of our city without restraint and his behavior is as gentlemanly there as it is everywhere else.
It is true that his relatives tried to prevail on him to enter an asylum for the insane, for treatment; and it is also true that he did visit such an institution with some friends, but as he positively objected to staying there and coolly expounded the law governing his case to the Nuns who conduct the institution and so clearly demonstrated that they had no right to deprive him his liberty without going through certain legal formalities, which he detailed, that his mother intervened, and he was permitted to depart.
     On his return from Europe in 1868, and for a long time previous, he had abandoned chess, and rather disliked to converse about it, as he had been bored to death on the subject by indiscreet persons who acted on the supposition that he knew nothing but chess, and wanted to talk of nothing but chess. But notwithstanding the constant boring to which he was subjected, we never found him loath to chat about a game at the proper time and under proper circumstances. If he attended an opera and somebody should be continually dinging chess into his ears, we presume he might show his dislike to talk on the subject and that is about all there is to it. The last games he ever played, so far as the writer knows, was with the well known chess player of this city, C. A. Maurian, Esq. to whom Morphy gave odds of Knight (not Springer), in the latter part of December, 1866. The story about his being a drunkard is absurd, as he has never taken liquor in his life. His habits and conduct are eminently refined and gentlemanly, and his bearing and ideas rather border on the aristocratic. We believe the foregoing covers the entire ground, and you may rely upon its being strictly true.

Mr. D                                             

(Published in the Hartford Times, December 1875)

 from The Salt Lake Herald, May 17, 1891

I. E. Orchard of Atlanta is said to be the ablest chess player in the south.  One critic even asserts that he is the legitimate successor from that section of the great Paul Morphy.  He is at present chess champion of the south having defeated Professor A. F. Wurm,  a well known player who had defended the championship for five years.  Young Orchard was born thirty us ago at Columbia S. C. He Showed a wonderful aptitude for chess early in life and when only fifteen years of age could blindfold himself and play a number of games simultaneously.  He entered a great tournament conducted by McKenzie in 1876 and creditably acquitted himself, although very young, by defeating a number of experts including Bird, Easor, Delmar andothers. Orchard is a newspaper man.


I. E. Orchard is also mentioned in this blub from an 1881 issue of the Chess Player's Chronicle :
   The Sunday Call states that a movement is on foot to arrange a tourney in New Orleans this coming winter. This city has some strong players, among them James McConnell and Charles A Maurian, both of whom have contested games with Paul Morphy, and when Captain Mackenzie visited New Orleans last spring Mr Maurian won several games from him. Mr I. E. Orchard writes that he believes a tourney held in New Orleans would have the effect of bringing Paul Morphy out of his retirement. We are afraid that Mr Orchard is too sanguine ; but if there is the slightest hope of such a consummation, no Chess player should spare any effort to make such a tourney a success. We are of the opinion that thero ought to be held every year at least one tournament, and we hope that the organization of the long-named Chess Association would have this result. That hope, it appears, is futile, and it depends on the players of each State to get up their own tonrneys. Let the New Orleans players do their duty, and put their northern brethren to the blush.