About one-half of the material is correspondence and the great bulk of it was written to Miss Lou M. Elmore at Seven Springs in Wayne Co., N.C. The letters date from 1881-1952 with the 1880's and 1890's being represented heavily. There is also correspondence written during World War I between two brothers in the Armed Forces and their family in Seven Springs. One brother, John R. Ivey, worked in a field hospital on the front in France. In a letter written by John R. Ivey's wife, Lottie, the conditions of war and sickness in France are provided and information about the flu epidemic of 1918 in N.C. is related. There are also letters dating from World War II written by soldiers. On the back of an envelope is written the code used by one soldier to let his family know where he was flying on his missions.
Most of the correspondence was written by women who lived on farms and wrote about the farm, visitors and visiting, outside activities, and bad health. The younger correspondents commented on school, girlfriends and boyfriends; and they exchanged pictures and poems. Church activities, picnics, fairs, and an occasional circus were their main opportunities for outside entertainment. Musical instruments were important to the people as is illustrated by the frequent mention of fiddles, accordions, and banjos in the letters. Also found throughout this collection are popular song ballads that were exchanged between friends.
Of the letters mentioning trips, fairs, circuses, and church revivals, there are several which provide some detail. These include discussions of a circus and a church revival (November 4, 1884), the Raleigh fair and the city of Raleigh (November 3, 1889), and a trip to Goldsboro (November 29, 1890). As for clothing there is one letter (September 11, 1892) describing a fancy dress possibly to be used for a wedding. Two undated letters written by Winnie Southerland and Sarah A. Glisson tell of food likes and dislikes.
Many letters refer to everyday activities, especially work on the farm. A letter dated October, 1883, illustrates how farm life makes no allowance for illness, and another one (July 1, 1886) speaks of the farm activities and the home entertainments that the family participated in during the summer. A majority of the letters make some reference to farming. In a letter dated September 21, 1886 a young woman comments on the quantity of cotton picked that day and mentions a recent earthquake and its aftershocks. C. W. Wertherington in an undated letter states the number of animals he owned and the amount of acreage he was planting that year. Two excellent letters, dated March 16, 1893 and March 13, 1900, mirror the many aspects and concerns of everyday life in the country.
In a letter of particular interest dated February 15, 1888, a young woman describes her desire to enter the new Farmer's Club and the trouble she had encountered in her attempts to join.
Some of the correspondence came from young people in school; and a letter dated November 27, 1886, gives the cost of schooling in Tuscarora, N.C. An excellent letter (October 10, 1912) written by a N.C. boy who had just arrived in Poughkeepsie, N. Y. to attend college, mentions modes of travel he used to reach Poughkeepsie, the amount of time it required to reach various destinations, and the boarding and tuition costs. There are other school related letters including one which tells of life at James Sprunt Institute in Kenansville, N.C. (February 22, 1908).
Bad health seemed prevalent among farming families; and their letters are full of references to flu, tuberculosis, smallpox, and diphtheria as well as headaches and long-lasting colds. Some of the more detailed letters dealing with ill health are dated (February 15, 1888, April 8, 1889, November 3, 1889, March 23, and September 22, 1890 and undated, 1918). Although there are few references to the use of alcohol, one letter (June 7, 1886) does mention voting on the use of liquor in Winston, N.C.; and another letter from Winston, N.C. (January 27, 1892) relates the sad effects of alcoholism on a couple.
As for prices and living conditions off the farm there is little material to be found in these letters. There is mention of wages paid for the upkeep of a fruit grove in Altoona, Florida (February 25, 1889); and the living conditions in Winston and La Grange are compared in another letter (December 14, 1890).
The collection contains a few items pertaining to the 1860's. They are primarily concerned with Richard Elmore of Wayne County, N.C. who helped construct the Ram Neuse for the Confederate Navy. Included are a note exempting Richard Elmore from duty in the Confederate Army because of health reasons; a letter from Wilmington, N.C. in care of the Confederate States Navy which mentions a month's rations; and a pass and a parole both issued to Richard Elmore on April 11, 1865.
Genealogical information is voluminous and includes copies of Bible Records which give birth, marriage, and death records as far back as 1801 for the Elmores of Saulston and Seven Springs in Wayne Co., N.C., the Elmores of Lenoir Co., N.C., and the Fields of La Grange, N.C. Several pages of compiled genealogical material pertain to the Elmore, Parks, Hinson, Smith, Summerlin, Ivey, Best and Rouse Families of Wayne and Lenoir counties, N.C. Complementing the genealogical material are pictures of members of the Elmore and Ivey families of Wayne and Lenoir counties, N.C.
There is also a variety of religious and medicinal pamphlets from the early 1900's. The religious tracts deal with cards, books, and pledges printed by the Temperance Revolution Publishing House in Chicago. One of the books advertised is
Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There by T. S. Arthur. Medicinal products advertised include Dr. Kilmer's Swamp-Root Catopa, and the American Medical Institute's medicine to cure the "harmful effects of masturbation.
The collection contains a large number of receipts, for payment of taxes, rent, and debts owed to stores. Tax receipts (1826-1910) includes those of Richard Elmore of Wayne Co., N.C. for 1853-1906. They give a good indication of the differences in tax rates from year to year. Some of the businesses mentioned in the other receipts are the Carolina Messenger; the Transcript and Messenger; Gregory, Galloway and Company in Goldsboro; Clover Orchard Factory in Craham, N.C.; Goldsboro Mail; Goldsboro Bulletin; Wilmington and Weldon Railroad; Edgerton and Parks; Henry Lee and Co.; Smith and Yelverton (Hardware and Agricultural Implements); Seven Springs Supply Co., John H. Rouse, manufacturer of buggies, in La Grange; Simeon Wooten in La Grange; and L. Harvey and Son (Cotton, Insurance, and Fertilizer). The most interesting receipts are those from general stores (1832-1877) with the items and prices listed for cloth, molasses, rum, brandy, whiskey, coffee, shoes, sugar, buttons, shot and powder, lace, salt, snuff, hats, cotton, cigars, tobacco, socks, boots, axes, flour, coats, pork, dishes, potatoes, and shawls.
The final segment of material contains promissory notes, summonses, and chattel mortgages. The most interesting promissory notes date from the 1800's when fertilizer could be paid for with cotton at a certain price per pound. Two other notes pertain to buying a buggy (1902) and buying a bay mare and colt (1909). The chattel mortgages provide insight into the type of collateral accepted and into the use of the crop lien. The holders of the mortgages were usually individuals, or H. Weil and Brothers Store from which Richard Elmore was borrowing money or was given advances in supplies.
One item that is not related in any way to the families covered by this collection is a travel journal kept by Mrs. John F. Nichols of Hampton, Va. while on a trip to Europe around 1928 or shortly thereafter. The diary lists the books she carried with her and describes the weather, the activities in which she participated, and people she met on the trip across the ocean. Mrs. Edith Bolling Wilson was also on the ship and her dress and manner are described in the journal. Mrs. Nichol's itinerary included Glasgow, Scotland, and several cities in Germany and Switzerland. She kept a thorough journal and in it recorded the places she visited and shopped, the hotels where she stayed and her impressions of them, the items she bought and their prices, and the theatre plays she attended. She also comments on people and customs in England, Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland.