Sills Family Papers

1792-1969, undated
Manuscript Collection #201
Sills family
Physical description
1.8 Cubic Feet, 4 boxes, copies, including correspondence, financial papers, a cipher book, newspaper clippings, and a family history.
Preferred Citation
Sills Family Papers (#201), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
Box 4 is restricted from use. Use photocopies in box 3 instead.

Papers (1792-1969) including correspondence, financial papers, a cipher book, newspaper clipping, and a family history references to school, comments on Democratic Party, genealogical material, etc.

Biographical/historical information

The Sills family came to North Carolina from Southern Virginia late in the 18th Century. David Sills, Jr. settled on a tract of land in Nash County, N.C., which he named Belford, after an ancestral home in England. Belford eventually grew to over six thousand acres in Nash, Franklin, and Warren counties and at one time operated its own post office and school.

Scope and arrangement

Prior to the Civil War, the Sills family was a wealthy, slaveholding family. An inventory of property dated 1833 indicated that David Sills, Jr., owned 133 slaves. There are also bills of sale for slaves (1792), references to the death of slaves (1852), and a list of slaves emancipated by the Federal government in 1865.

Antebellum correspondence covers a wide range of topics, much of it related to activities of the Sills, Jelks, and Boddie families. Letters (1818-1866) from Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi comment on life and activities in these states, particularly in reference to crops, prices, smallpox, and emigration of families from North Carolina into these and other western states.

Throughout the collection there are numerous references to schools and educational developments. The school at Belford, which was intended to educate the family and neighboring children, is mentioned and tuition at this school is recorded (1850, 1868). Other letters are written from schools in Warrenton (1822), La Grange Female Academy (1852), Warrenton Female Seminary (1857), and at Louisburg and Greensboro. Also included are announcements (1852) on Franklin Institute (Franklin County) and Castalia Female Institute (Nash County) and a cipher book containing mathematical problems. Letters, diary entries, and advertisement reflect the operation of these schools and tell of life while attending them. Also of interest are letters from two of the Sills boys who attended medical schools in Philadelphia and Baltimore. A letter (1857) comments on life at the University of Pennsylvania, Christmas Day spent at school, and experiences while walking around Philadelphia.

Other correspondence comments on a Democratic Party rally at Franklinton (1852), baseball as a sport (1866), church meetings (1868), and life in Key West, Florida (1833).

A diary (1858-1866) reflects the hardships and emotions felt by the Sills family during the Civil War era. The writer expresses strong anti-Union sentiment prior to secession and reflects the view of women left at home, illnesses of soldiers, and thoughts of the war. Passing references are made to the battles at Roanoke Island and Fort Donelson, the repulse of Union troops by Hoke's Division near Wilmington, the Confederate invasion of the North and the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate hospitals in N.C., and service by Nash County troops.

Other material pertains to a distant relative of the Sills through the Boddie family who was involved in the Cuban Civil War of the 1890s. Ramon Alpuente, a Spaniard living in Cuba, had been married to Mary Boddie, but she had died. A daughter was sent to live in Spain while Ramon became involved with the Cuban Underground Movement. Outlawed, he fled to England with a small fortune, and then tried to enter Spain to see his daughter. He was captured, tried, and imprisoned by the military and eventually died of maltreatment. Letters to N. W. Boddie tell of his exploits and seek Boddie's aid in looking after the daughter.

The bulk of the collection is family oriented, with considerable genealogical material on the Sills, Arrington, Battle, Jelks, Nicholson, and Dameron families. Of significance are the investigations conducted by Louise Jelks Sills into her family's past. There are letters from the DAR and other sources which provide genealogical information.

Administrative information
Custodial History

June 27, 1972, 110 items; copies, Papers (1800-1969) including correspondence, financial papers, a ledger, a cipher book, clippings, genealogical material, and miscellaneous. Loaned for copying by Miss Louise Sills, Nashville, N.C.

November 11, 1982 (addition 1), 2 items; Original letter G. Sills to Louisa Jelks (undated) and copy G.S. to Louisa (Sept. 16, 1834). Donor: Mrs. Charlotte Perry. Donated in memory of Martha Long Nicholson Sills King Boone.

March 21, 2000 (addition 2), 110 items; Papers (1800-1969) including correspondence, financial papers, a ledger/scrapbook, a cipher book, clippings, genealogical material, and miscellaneous, originals of copies acquisitioned 6/27/72. Donor: Mr. Bill Dameron, Dr. Thomas Dameron & Mrs. Isad D. Barton.

Source of acquisition

Loaned by Miss Louise Sills

Gift of Mrs. Charlotte Perry

Gift of Mr. Bill Dameron

Gift of Mrs. Isad D. Barton

Processing information

Processed by D. Lennon, February 1997

Cheryl Funderburk July 2008

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Box 4 is restricted from use. Use photocopies in box 3 instead.

Key terms
Family Names
Arrington family
Battle family
Dameron family
Jelks family
Nicholson family
Sill family
Plantations--North Carolina--Nash County
Private schools--North Carolina
Slavery--North Carolina--Nash County
Cuba--History--Revolution, 1895-1898
Nash County (N.C.)--Genealogy
North Carolina--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care
North Carolina--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Social aspects
Southern States--Emigration and immigration
Southern States--Social life and customs--19th century

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Correspondence, 1801-1822
Box 1 Folder b Correspondence, 1833-1839
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence, 1842-1848
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence, 1850-1859
Box 1 Folder f Correspondence, 1876-1889
Box 1 Folder g Correspondence, 1892-1899
Box 1 Folder h Correspondence, 1910-1921
Box 1 Folder i Undated Correspondence
Box 1 Folder j Copy of D.N. Sills Diary, 1864-1859
Box 1 Folder k Financial Records, 1786-1901
Box 1 Folder l Newspaper Clippings, 1878-1962, n.d
Box 1 Folder m Miscellaneous, 1852-1977, n.d
Box 2 Folder a Veteran's Records of David Nicholson Sills, 1863-1864
Box 2 Folder b Veteran's Records of James Gray Sills, 1863-1864
Box 2 Folder c Veteran's Records of Joseph Henry Dameron, 1861
Box 2 Folder d Photographs
Box 2 Folder e D.A.R. Records
Box 2 Folder f "Sketch of Sills Family" by Louise Jelks Sils (1969)
Box 2 Folder g History of Sills and Related Families
Box 2 Folder h History of Belford Plantation
Box 2 Folder i Sills Family (11/7/1973)
Box 2 Folder j Sills Family Trees
Box 2 Folder k Will of David Sills (1783)
Box 2 Folder l Wills of Sills and Related Families
Box 2 Folder m List of Negroes owned by Gray Sills at Emancipation (4/27/1865)
Box 2 Folder n Louise J. Sills Estate (8/17/1977)
Box 2 Folder o Genealogical Letters, 1927-1994, n.d
Box 2 Folder p Genealogical Notes (Sills Family)
Box 2 Folder q Boddie Family
Box 2 Folder r Dameron Family
Box 2 Folder s Dandridge Family
Box 2 Folder t Hilliard Family
Box 2 Folder u Jelks Family, 1800, 1928-1929, n.d
Box 2 Folder v Nicholson Family
Box 2 Folder w Scott Family
Box 2 Folder x Thompson Family
Box 2 Folder y Wyatt Family
Box 2 Folder z Nash County History, 1965, n.d
Box 3 Folder a Copy of David Sills Cipher Book, 1780s
Box 3 Folder b Copy of Mary S. Hilliard's "Albion" Album, 1833
Box 3 Folder c Copy of Scrapbook (Part 1), 1860s
Box 3 Folder d Copy of Scrapbook (Part 2), 1860s
Box 3 Folder e Isa Sills Dameron Wedding Notebook
Box 3 Folder f Cassette Tapes, 1972, 1983
Box 4 Folder a David Sills Cipher Book, 1780s
Box 4 Folder b Scrapbook, 1860s