Jesse W. Grainger Papers

Manuscript Collection #352
Grainger, Jesse W., 1845-1910
Physical description
6.38 Cubic Feet, 2650 items, including correspondence, legal materials, financial records, ledgers, estate papers, real estate records, political materials, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Jesse W. Grainger Papers (#352), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1891-1918) including correspondence, legal materials, financial records, ledgers, estate papers, real estate records, political material, letters and miscellaneous concerning Jesse W. Grainger of Kinston, North Carolina, a very successful truck farmer, owner of the first tobacco warehouse in Kinston, and very active in civic affairs.

Biographical/historical information

Jesse Willis Grainger (1845-1910) was educated at Hookerton Academy and Trinity College. In 1864 he entered the Reserves of the Confederate States Army and rose to the rank of Captain. He married Sallie Lucretia Coward in 1868 in Greene County and remained there until he moved to Kinston in 1879. Grainger's first wife died in 1883 and he later married Clara Albritton Dixon. A member of the Methodist church and a leader in the economic and political life of Kinston, Grainger was a very successful truck farmer, Vernon Farm being his principal holding. He was also a moving force in developing the tobacco market in Kinston, giving local farmers the first seed and opening the first warehouse, the Kinston-Carolina Warehouse, in the fall of 1885. Interested in education, Grainger donated half the cost of the first high school site in Kinston. Involved in real estate in Lenoir and Guilford counties as well as Norfolk County, Virginia, Grainger laid out a new section of Kinston that hastened its growth. As a man of many interests, he was at various times a member of the Lenoir County Finance Committee, president of the Kinston Board of Trade, president of the Chamber of Commerce, vice president of two Kinston banks and one New Bern bank, president of the State Mutual Life Insurance Company, president of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, and owner of the Kinston Free Press. Grainger was also the Lenoir County representative to the General Assembly in 1885, chairman of the Lenoir County Democratic Executive Committee, and a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee.

Scope and arrangement

The major portion of the collection relates to Grainger's activities as a truck farmer in Lenoir County and as an agent for various agricultural products and equipment companies, including Baugh and Sons, Thornhill Wagon Company, Griffith and Turner Disc Cultivators, and International Harvester. In the late 1890s, Grainger entered into a partnership with David V. Dixon to form Grainger & Dixon, a Kinston firm dealing in buggies, wagons, machinery, and fertilizer.

Correspondence largely concerns Grainger's orders, sales, and accounts. From 1896 through early 1910 he ordered bulk quantities of potato, cabbage, and tobacco guano, crates for various truck farm products, engines, wagons, buggies, saws, cotton seed meal, potato seed, lime, and cotton presses. Correspondence for 1901 with Baugh and Sons concerns a federal inspection of a shipment of cabbage guano. Other correspondence concerns territorial conflicts between Grainger and other guano agents (1901, 1904), the impact of cotton prices on the wagon business (1905), and the status of cotton crops across the South (1906). A letter (1899) from A. F. Leighton, writing for stockholder Jesse Grainger, concerns looking for "a northern man" to be superintendent of the Kinston Furniture Company.

Grainger's correspondence reflects his dealings with a variety of commission merchants to sell his truck products including Scheur Brothers of Cleveland, Ohio (fruits and vegetables), Wm. Gamble and Company of New York (Irish potatoes), John H. Short of Scranton, Pennsylvania (cabbage), E. B. Redfield and Company of Philadelphia (cantaloupes), Chapin Brothers of Boston (fruit and southern truck), and C. E. Snyder of Richmond (southern fruit and vegetables).

Ledgers give corresponding daybook pages and list accounts for Vernon Farm, Grainger's purchases from the various companies he dealt with as an agent, sales of these goods as well as his truck farm sales, lumber accounts, accounts for houses and buildings he built, salaries, and Grainger's personal and business expenses.

Other aspects of Grainger's personal life are highlighted in the correspondence. A 1907 letter and resolution from the Knights of Harmony concern a lodge donation for the hospital, a letter from L. J. Mewborne includes a resolution of thanks for a piece of land Grainger donated for a town park, and a copy of a letter (June 1907) from M. J. Westbrook to Gov. Robert B. Glenn urges that the East Carolina Teachers' Training School be located in Kinston.

Correspondence with P. M. Pearsall (1908-1909), lawyer for the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, concerns a claim against the government, Pearsall's fees for litigation, the leasing of the A. and N. C., coupons on bonds, and the move of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad into Goldsboro station.

Correspondence after Grainger's death reflects on his vice presidency of the Norfolk and Southern Realty Company and his purchase of several lots in Virginia. Other letters (1910-1913) concern the settlement of the estate and efforts to sell lots in Greensboro as well as the Virginia property. Estate records contain a valuation of land holdings and list insurance on property and equipment from 1908 through January 1910. Tax records show holdings in Onslow County in 1905 and the Norfolk County property beginning in 1906. A file of real estate records shows Grainger selling lots in Kinston from 1892 on.

Other files contain records of the bankruptcy of Gay Lumber Company (1904), a political broadside concerning a school board of trustees election controversy (1909), a merchant's license (1902), and contribution records for the St. Louis Exposition (1903) and the Methodist Orphanage (1904).

Source for information on Grainger & Dixon: A Journey Through Faith and Service, Queen Street United Methodist Church, Kinston, N.C., 2011, p. 28.

Administrative information
Custodial History

January 19, 1978, ca. 2,500 items; Papers (1891-1918) of Lenoir County, N.C., tobacconist and businessman, including correspondence, ledgers, financial papers, legal records, and miscellaneous. Deposited by Miss Pat Crawford, Kinston, N.C.

August 6, 2018, (addition 1), 0.001 cu. ft.; Letter (September 16, 1899) from A. F. Leighton, Kinston, North Carolina, to J. F. Farling & Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Leighton is writing for Jesse W. Grainger of Grainger & Dixon who was a stockholder in the Kinston Furniture Company and was looking for a Northern man to be superintendent of the furniture factory. Donor: Dale Sauter.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Miss Pat Crawford

Gift of Dale Sauter

Processing information

Processed by M. Boccaccio, June 1987

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
Grainger, Jesse W., 1845-1910
Corporate Names
Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad Company
East Carolina Teachers Training School--History
Agriculture--North Carolina--Lenoir County
Commission merchants--North Carolina--Lenoir County
Cotton trade--Southern States
Guano industry--North Carolina--Lenoir County
Railroads--North Carolina
Real property--North Carolina--Greensboro
Real property--North Carolina--Kinston
Real property--Virginia--Norfolk County
Truck farmers--North Carolina--Lenoir County

Container list
Box 1 Folder b Correspondence 1905-1906
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence 1907
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence 1908-1909
Box 1 Folder e Correspondence 1910-1918
Box 1 Folder f Legal Materials 1892-1915
Box 1 Folder g Gay Lumber Company 1903-1906
Box 1 Folder h Politics
Box 1 Folder i Real Estate 1892-1911
Box 1 Folder j J. W. Grainger Estate 1910
Box 2 Folder a Financial records 1892-1902
Box 2 Folder b Financial records 1903
Box 2 Folder c Financial records 1903
Box 2 Folder d Financial records 1904
Box 2 Folder e Financial records 1904
Box 2 Folder f Financial records 1904
Box 2 Folder g Financial records 1904
Box 2 Folder h Financial records 1905
Box 3 Folder a Financial records 1905
Box 3 Folder b Financial records 1905
Box 3 Folder c Financial records 1905
Box 3 Folder d Financial records 1906
Box 3 Folder e Financial records 1906
Box 3 Folder f Financial records 1906
Box 3 Folder g Financial records 1907
Box 4 Folder a Financial records 1907
Box 4 Folder b Financial records 1907
Box 4 Folder c Financial records 1908
Box 4 Folder d Financial records 1908
Box 4 Folder e Financial records 1908
Box 4 Folder f Financial records 1909
Box 4 Folder g Financial records 1909
Box 5 Folder a Financial records 1909
Box 5 Folder b Financial records 1910
Box 5 Folder c Financial records 1911-1915
Box 5 Folder d Taxes
Box 5 Folder e Memberships 1902-1910
Box 5 Folder f Miscellaneous
Box 6 Ledger, 1891-1896
Box 7 Ledger, 1897-1903
Box 8 Ledger, 1898-1900
Box 9 Ledger, 1903-1905
Box 10 Delivery ledger, 1903-1905, Dixon and Hooker account records, 1906, D. V. Dixon account records, 1907-1909
Box 11 Delivery ledger, 1906-1910
Box 12 Daybook, 1899-1900
Box 13 Daybook, 1900-1902
Box 14 Daybook, 1902-1903
Box 15 Daybook, 1904-1905
Box 16 Daybook, 1905-1907
Box 17 Daybook, 1907-1909