Gertrude Evans Fearing Collection

Manuscript Collection #244
Fearing, Gertrude Evans
Physical description
0.43 Cubic Feet, 274 items , Photocopies, consisting of correspondence (1845-1927, undated), financial papers, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Gertrude Evans Fearing Collection (#244), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Collection (1845-1927, undated) consisting of photocopies, correspondence, financial papers, Civil War correspondence, advertisements, essays.

Biographical/historical information

The Gertrude Evans Fearing Collection consists of the papers of the Fearing and Commander families. These two northeastern North Carolina families were united in 1879 with the marriage of J. Bart Fearing and Mollie Commander. Bart Fearing's first wife (Lizzie) had died in 1875 leaving Bart the sole parent of two sons (Johnny and Woodson). Bart and Mollie Commander also had two sons (George and Pratt).

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of this collection is family-centered, with correspondence between Bart and Mollie the most dominant. Also playing a significant role in the correspondence are Mollie's parents, Joseph and Emily Commander. After Bart's death (1888) the correspondence is centered around Mollie Commander Fearing.

Correspondence preceding the Civil War and during the war is limited. There are, however, brief comments pertaining to pre-Civil War social and religious life in northeastern North Carolina and the high cost of living in the later part of the war.

Correspondence from the post war years is of particular interest. These letters deal with a variety of subjects including problems of northeastern North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia following the war. There are comments on the effect of the abolition of slavery, conduct of tenants, farming conditions, scarcity of labor, weather, and ability to pay taxes. Also of interest is Mollie Commander's attendance at the Seminary for Young Ladies (1871-1872), a private school in Baltimore, Maryland. Her correspondence with her mother reflects the daily routine, course work, and study habits. Other correspondence in this period reflects religious and social attitudes and activities. They comment extensively on family travel, eating habits, children, diseases and possible cures, and death.

The correspondence of the late nineteenth century continues to be family centered with the letters of Bart and Mollie dominating the period. They write each other continuously throughout the period and in one year (1879) they wrote almost daily "love letters." In addition to their personal relationship, they comment on business trips to Baltimore, Maryland (1879); travel on the Dismal Swamp Canal (1879); trips to Nags Head, including a description of a shipwreck (1886); and religious and social activities. Upon Bart's death (1888) Mollie received numerous sympathy letters from relatives and friends. In addition to the Bart-Mollie correspondence, there is also other family correspondence of interest. The two families comment typically on family relations; trips to Nags Head, including a description of the condition and price of hotels; building of the Elizabeth City-Norfolk Railroad; the earthquake of 1886; the death of pets; eating habits and children.

After 1888 the correspondence is primarily related to Mollie's attempts to pay family debts and to act as guardian for her two sons. Of particular interest is the correspondence from these boys while in school (1898-1900). George at Trinity High School and Pratt at Randolph-Macon Academy comment on school life, course work, and debating societies.

The collection also contain family financial papers consisting of saving account books, school receipts, railroad transportation charges, tax receipts, general merchandise receipts, and bonds for land deeds in Elizabeth City.

Miscellaneous items include a brief Civil War diary of George Fearing (June 21, 1861 to February 8, 1862), dealing with the North Carolina State Guard until its surrender on Roanoke Island; Colonel George Fearing's request and grant for discharge from the Confederate Army for medical reasons (January 20, 1862); advertisements of the Seminary for Young Ladies (1871) in Baltimore, Maryland; and a few poems and religious essays.

Administrative information
Custodial History

October 26, 1973, 5 items; Pasquotank County correspondence (1861-1866)

December 7, 1973, 350 items; Papers (1845-1909, undated), including correspondence, financial papers, and miscellaneous. Loaned for copying by Mrs. Doris Fearing, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Source of acquisition

Loaned by Mrs. Doris Fearing

Processing information

Processed by C. Joyner, May 1974

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.

Key terms
Personal Names
Fearing, Gertrude Evans
Corporate Names
Elizabeth City-Norfolk Railroad Company
Charleston Earthquake, S.C., 1886
Private schools--Maryland--Baltimore
Private schools--North Carolina
Railroads--North Carolina--Elizabeth City
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--North Carolina
Baltimore (Md.)--Description and travel
Dismal Swamp (N.C. and Va.)--Description and travel
Nags Head (N.C.)--Description and travel
North Carolina--Social life and customs--19th century
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives

Container list
Box 1 Correspondence, 1845-1879
Box 2 Correspondence (1885-1927) & miscellaneous