The collection comprises four major divisions of material: three of family papers and one of genealogical correspondence and notes. The family divisions are classified as the Newton group (1755-1878), which includes numerous receipts and legal papers; the Pass group (1852-1898), which includes correspondence, numerous receipts, and legal papers; and the Fearrington group (1898-1910), which is largely personal correspondence concerning the Ireland family. As all of the material relates to the donor's family and relations, the researcher is directed to the accompanying genealogical charts for classification and identification.
The Newton group contains, besides correspondence, a number of land grants, patents and deeds, legal papers, receipts, bills, land plats, and other items relating to theNewton, Blount, and Fearrington families in Duplin and New Hanover counties (1755-1878).
The correspondence (1824-1863) centers about the Newton family in Duplin County and their relations who had emigrated to the Mississippi Valley region. Of particular interest are comments on paper money (1824), primitive frontier conditions in Illinois (1836), fatal encounters among political and personal enemies in Mississippi (1852), and prevalent diseases in Louisiana (1853). Letters for the 1860s follow the Confederate military careers of Isaac and Owen Newton, who fought in the battles of Shiloh and Monterey, Tennessee (1862). Isaac Newton also was present at the Union surrender at Montfordville and the battle of Thompson's Station and other smaller skirmishes in Tennessee (1863).
The Civil War letters contain descriptions of camp life and hardships, complaints of poor leadership and class distinction in the Confederate army, military security problems, and removal of officers for military incompetence. Other items of interest pertain to Union desertions at Vicksburg (1863) and their objections to fighting to free Negroes, the abduction of slaves by Union troops, and soldier speculation (1863). The Isaac Newton letters in particular contain numerous shrewd instructions to his wife for the conduct of their farm, advising her to buy meat and to plant food crops instead of cotton. Letters from Newton's wife contain references to life on the Civil War southern homefront, home weaving and manufacturing, benefit performances for soldiers' funds, rising prices and shortages, conscription, and other wartime problems.
Also included in the Newton group are receipts, account notes, bills, and other business and personal records reflecting the activities of Dr. James W. Blount of New Hanover County, N. C., as a trustee and guardian for various estates. Of particular interest are records pertaining to the turpentine and naval stores industry (1857), slaves, school tuition and expenses, taxes, personal and farm expenses, medical bills, general merchandise, legal and other fees, and funeral costs. An unusual item is a wholesale invoice for Dr. Blount's annual supply of medicines (1859).
The Pass correspondence dates from 1852 to 1898, with the bulk of the letters in the 1860s. Although most letters are from James C. Pass to his wife, a variety of letters are included from other members of the Pass and Ireland families and business and political associates. This group is particularly rich in contemporary comments on Civil War North Carolina. J. C. Pass was an itinerant trader and commercial agent who travelled widely. As a result he often provided descriptions of areas visited and events witnessed. He and his brother Edward Pass were associated in business with the firm of Mendenhall and Jones, later to become notorious in Reconstruction years.
Notable pre-war events mentioned include the visit of President James Buchanan to Chapel Hill, N. C. (1859), a "homespun"party in protest against Northern goods, the installation of gas lights in Fayetteville (1859), and local commentaries on Lincoln's election and secession (1860). Of particular interest are letters (1860, 1865) detailing visits to the Siamese twins (Chang and Eng Bunker) in Surry County and describing life in Greensboro.
Items relating to the Civil War describe the organization of volunteer units (1861-1862); military activities in N. C. and at Norfolk and Manassas, Va. (1861); the use of observation balloons by Federal troops (1863); Federal raids in Eastern North Carolina, including a detailed description of one raid in Duplin County, N. C. (1863); Union raids in the Linville Falls area of Western North Carolina (1864); the search for deserters (1864); Federal prisoners at Salisbury (1864); Union occupation of Wilmington (1865); and short Army rations (1865).
Many comments are included on the unpopularity of the draft and substitute measures and examples are given of "treasonable talk"and violence resulting from the same (1862-1863). The unionist activities of W. W. Holden, the Holden election campaign (1864), the suspension of the writ of habeus corpus (1864), and a speech in Greensboro by Governor Vance (1864) are subjects of comments.
Much of the correspondence tells of trade and commercial ventures during the war. Prices and shortages, inflation and speculation, problems of tobacco manufacturing and trade, and attempts at iron making (1863) and its ruin in a Federal raid (1864) are main items of interest. Efforts to turn Confederate currency into goods in the later war years (1864) and comments on financial conditions (1863) are plentiful. One particular item of interest is an undated letter from George W. Swepson, seeking to speculate in liquor.
Slavery and related problems prompted many comments, especially the impressment of slaves for Confederate work (1864-1865). Papers for the examination and drafting of one of J. C. Pass's slaves are in the group (1865). Of particular note are comments on the fear of impressment among the slaves, chasing of runaways (1864), and a description of a "slave catcher"(1862).
Post war letters in this group report on general lawlessness in 1865, a colonization scheme in Mexico for former Confederate men, the economic losses in slaves (1866), the presence of Hinton Rowan Helper in North Carolina, and Helper's writing of a book on colonization (1881). Several letters from Governor Jonathon Worth are present, one giving his confidential views on the constitutional convention in 1867.
The Fearrington correspondence (1898-1910) is largely personal in nature, passing between Mrs. J. C. Pass (nee Ireland) and her daughter Mrs. Mary F. Fearrington. Theletters give numerous instances of tenant farming and agricultural problems, especially in cotton and truck crops. As in the Pass group, much mention is made of the use of home remedies and patent medicine in the treatment of illness. These letters in particular give a portrayal of the relatively affluent rural family in early twentieth century Eastern North Carolina.
The genealogical material is extensive and arranged approximately by family name. The arrangement used by the donor has been maintained, with the usual overlapping of material inherent in genealogical collections. The genealogical material dates from 1887 to approximately 1968 and includes bound volumes, photographs, membership applications for the Daughters of the American Revolution and similar organizations, printed material, legal papers, photocopies, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items in addition to the correspondence and genealogical notes. Several of the letters in this group are from Clarence Poe, editor of the
Progressive Farmer and a well known Southern figure, who was a kinsman of the donor.
The genealogical material contains a wide variety of material on the following and other related families: Blount, Bordeaux, Croom, Fearrington, Herring, Holloway, Ireland, Matchett, Mebane, Moore, Moseley, Newton, Pass, Rivenbark, Robinson, Rudder, and Sheppard. A fairly important portion of the genealogical material is not sorted as to family (#58.16 to #58.19) and must necessarily be referred to when using the collection for genealogical purposes.