William E. Clarke Papers

1796, 1820-1919
Manuscript Collection #269
Clarke, William E., 1850-1901
Physical description
0.975 Cubic Feet, consisting of correspondence, legal files and briefs, financial papers, accounts, estate papers, wills, receipts, land book, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
William E. Clarke Papers (#269), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1830-1919) of a prominent New Bern, NC attorney, state representative, 1876-1880, and state senator, 1881-1883, consisting of correspondence, legal briefs, financial papers, accounts, estate papers, land book and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

William E. Clarke (1850-1901) was a prominent New Bern, N.C. attorney who served in the State House of Representatives (1876-1880) and the State Senate (1881-1883). He was the son of Mary Bayard Clarke, the state's most famous poetess of the nineteenth century, and William J. Clarke who served as state comptroller and as a Republican legislator and superior court judge during Reconstruction.

Scope and arrangement

The collection is overwhelmingly concerned with the practice of law in Eastern North Carolina. Included are briefs covering a wide range of topics such as usury, property rights for women, malicious prosecution, forgery, and malfeasance in office.

Specific cases of interest are the suing of A.M.E. Zion Church by Emilene Tucker, a former teacher (1897); a suit against the owners of the steamship SNOW HILL by D. Styron for back wages (1898); an arson case, State v. Hunter (1880), and the subsequent warrant for his arrest for the burning of the office of Register of Deeds; and cases involving the blocking of a highway from New Bern to Pollocksville (1882). Other legal items include a bill of sale for three Negroes (1830); correspondence relating to the sale of, power of attorney papers, and abstracts of the deed for the Carraway Gold Mine in Randolph County, North Carolina (1881); tenant farming contracts which include crops to be cultivated, items to be furnished, and final dividing of the yield; an affidavit to examine an insane person (1889); the will of Jesse Moore setting slaves free; and arguments and precedents relating to the validity of slaves' marriage. The remainder of the legal portion of this collection pertains to the collection of debts; land transactions in Jones, Onslow, and Craven counties; and other legal documents such as summonses, mortgages, promissory notes, and power of attorney papers.

Correspondence in the collection also reflects the nature of Clarke's law practice. Of particular interest are the efforts of Miss Jennie Bell, a Northern missionary, to establish a school for poor whites on Harker's Island (1867). Included in this particular group is correspondence dealing with the possibilities of combining this school with Graham Academy in Marshallberg, North Carolina, upon Miss Bell's death (1894). Significant legal correspondence consists of material related to the case of Crabtree v. Sheelky (1895), which includes a complete description and inventory for the Sheelky Planing Mill Plant in New Bern; efforts to establish the legality of French spoliation claims (1884); and testimonials, complaints, and possibilities of a suit involving the manufacturing of a new type of plow (1887). There is also some correspondence concerning the efforts of Clarke to set up a receivership for a Negro woman in Tarboro, North Carolina, who was being cheated out of her share of a business by a group of Negroes (1887).

Correspondence of a political nature comprises another portion of this collection. Republican chances in Eastern North Carolina in 1878 are discussed in connection with possible damage caused by the "Tarboro Affair" as well as the organization of the Independents in Craven County. Another letter describes the situation in Morehead City, North Carolina, where Democrats and Populists have joined together to secure a Postmaster position in the district (1897).

Other correspondence includes a description of Craven County before and after the Civil War and its effect on land values (1886); pension claims for the services of Captain William J. Clarke in the Mexican War; a description of life at Guilford College; and the observing of a comet (1910). There is also considerable correspondence dealing with land speculation and the possible profitability of the marl trade in Eastern North Carolina in the 1880's.

Financial papers include the receipts and outlay for a cotton farm (1886) and the records for the Croatan Farm of L. H. Banks (1888). Also included are tax receipts, a listing of traveling expenses to and from New York by schooner (1846-1847), freight charges for the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad company (1876), and general accounts from various stores and companies.

The miscellaneous group is comprised of newspaper clippings of a temperance speech by William Kitchen (1908), and various papers involving lodge activities.

Administrative information
Custodial History

August 1, 1974, ca. 1000 items; Papers (1830-1919) of New Bern, N.C. lawyer, including correspondence, legal briefs, financial papers, accounts, estate papers, and miscellaneous. Gift of Mr. Elmer E. Long, III, New Bern, N.C.

March 29, 1978, ca. 850 items; Papers (1820-1919), including correspondence (1868-1919), legal briefs, notes, and miscellaneous, anonymous gift

February 20, 1997 (unprocessed addition 1), 1 volume; U.S. Commissioner's Trial Docket (1888-1897). Donor: Mrs. Mary Barden.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Elmer E. Long, III

Gift of Mrs. Mary Barden

Processing information

Processed by B. Frye; M. Elmore, November 1979

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
Clarke, William E., 1850-1901
Corporate Names
North Carolina. General Assembly. House of Representatives
North Carolina. General Assembly. Senate
Lawyers--North Carolina--Craven County
Politicians--North Carolina--Craven County
Practice of law--North Carolina--Craven County

Container list
Box 1 Legal files, slave records, estate records (1830-1875)
Box 2 Legal files (1876-1879)
Box 3 Legal files (1880-1883)
Box 4 Legal files (1883-1884)
Box 5 Legal files (1885-1886)
Box 6 Legal files, farm records (1887-1889)
Box 7 Legal files (1889-1894)
Box 8 Legal files (1895-1919)
Box 9 Legal files (undated)
Box 10 Correspondence (1867-1886)
Box 11 Correspondence, financial papers, miscellaneous (1887-1919)
Box 12 General correspondence (1863-1919); Correspondence file B
Box 13 Correspondence files B-W; Undated correspondence
Box 14 General legal files (1796, 1820-1901)
Box 15 Wills (1857, 1890); Legal files B-G
Box 16 Legal files G-W; Undated legal files
Box 17 Legal files (undated); Land book (1875); Personal receipts, miscellaneous