Papers (1705-1983, undated) including correspondence, diaries, genealogical records, legal and financial records, club records, photographs, clippings, surveys, and miscellaneous.
Tabitha Marie DeVisconti (1891-1983), a descendant of Revolutionary War hero Major Benjamin May, was a leading citizen of Farmville, N.C., for many years. She was the daughter of Adeline Gertrude May, of Pitt County, N.C., and John Augustus Lorenzo DeVisconti, an Italian count who had property in Texas and Mexico. The DeViscontis married in 1890 in Texas, where their daughter Tabitha was born, and, after living there briefly, moved to Farmville in 1891. The parents separated shortly before the birth of their second daughter, Sue May, in 1893. Lorenzo returned to Texas while Adeline remained in Farmville taking care of her lands and managing a branch office of Victor Associates, Chemists (1894-1896). After the divorce was finalized early in 1901, Adeline remarried her first husband, Francis Dupree. Later that same year she entered the state hospital, and subsequently died. Tabitha and Sue May were then raised by their aunt, Sue May Albritton. They had a half brother, Paul Clifford Dupree, an issue of their mother's first marriage to Francis Dupree, and a half sister, Virginia Salter, issue of an earlier marriage of their father.
Tabitha DeVisconti attended the Women's College in Richmond, Va. (1913-1914) and then returned to Farmville to begin a very active civic life. She was a member and later president of the Major Benjamin May chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and belonged to numerous other clubs and organizations, serving as an officer in most of them. Her memberships included the Farmville Literary Club, the Women's Club, the Pitt County Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Colonists, the Queen Anne Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Miss DeVisconti was town librarian in Farmville for several years and active in the construction of a library building. She also organized a Bird Club for Farmville youth and as an active member of the U.S.O., she opened a servicemen's center in Farmville during World War II. Miss DeVisconti served on the Pitt County Public Welfare Committee (1927-1943), sold war bonds and Easter seals, was active in the Red Cross, and was a member of the Pitt County Tuberculosis Committee. She also served as genealogist for the Tyson-May Renuion Association for many years.
Sue May DeVisconti (1893-1946) attended St. Mary's College in Raleigh, N.C. (1911-1912), and then married Benjamin Streeter Sheppard, Jr., in 1912. They moved to Florida where Sheppard was employed as an insurance agent. In 1920 they purchased the Wright Hotel in Raleigh, which they operated and then sold in 1924. They travelled through the Midwest and West, reaching California in 1926, and then returned to Raleigh to start a real estate business. In 1934, the Sheppards moved back to Farmville.
Lorenzo DeVisconti (1836-1918) was born in northern Italy, raised in Italy and Austria, served in the Austrian Army, and arrived in Mexico in 1863. He travelled to New Orleans where he was impressed into service in the Union Army, and then he fled to New York City for the duration of the Civil War. He spent several years in the Midwest before returning to Texas. A teacher after 1870, he taught and farmed for the remainder of his life.
(For a more detailed description of his life, see obituary [#480.18.e].)
The collection is divided into several series. These include family correspondence; personal correspondence of Tabitha DeVisconti; diaries of Lorenzo DeVisconti and Tabitha DeVisconti, and materials concerning Sue May DeVisconti Sheppard; items concerning the Tyson-May Family, including correspondence, records of the Tyson-May Reunion Association, and genealogical notes on the Tyson-May, Dupree, DeVisconti, and other related families; Daughters of the American Revolution items; material concerning clubs and civic activities; miscellaneous items; family legal and financial papers relating to the May, Albritton, Bynum, DeVisconti, Dupree, Joyner, and Sheppard families; pamphlets and clippings; and photographs.
An early reminiscence (1861), found in the diary notes (#480.17.h), details Lorenzo DeVisconti's life in the Austrian Army and membership in the Comitato Veneziano in an effort to overthrow Austrian rule in the Italian provinces. Later he recounts (#480.17.h) meeting his wife, Adeline, and their early life in Texas (1889-1891), their move to North Carolina and life in Farmville (1891-1892), and his return to Texas (1892).
A reminiscence written in a 1910 diary and an undated diary (#480.18.b) details his arrival (1863) in Matamores, Mexico, and his travels through the countryside along the Mexican/Texas border. He subsequently describes a steamer trip to New Orleans and his impressment into Union service, a series of escapes and captures, and his trip to New York City on the steamer GEORGE WASHINGTON, disguised as an assistant cook. For the post Civil War period, he describes localities in the Midwest- Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa- where he farmed, hunted, and taught English and German before returning to Texas.
Texas and Mexico are major early topics of interest. Lorenzo DeVisconti's diaries and diary notes for the 1890s and early 1900s describe teaching school and farming near San Antonio, Texas, and the surrounding areas of New Braunfels, Floresville, and Cuero. He also taught and farmed near Wharton, Alice, San Diego, Sabine, Bellville and Fredericksburg, Texas. Entries repeatedly note the number of German settlers in the area and the weather, including "northers," droughts (1897, 1901), and storms (1900, 1902). There are particularly fine descriptions of Texan and Mexican buildings, towns, and countryside throughout the diaries, especially Mission Espada (1901) and San Antonio, in Texas, and the caves nearby (1904-1905), as well as a trip to Queretaro, Acambaro, and San Luis Potosi, Mexico (1906). Concerning his years in Texas he describes visits to churches including Methodist (1897, 1906), Baptist (1901), Presbyterian (1901), and Catholic (1861, 1863[1910 diary], 1901), and the uselessness of religion (1906); excursions with his school children to the caves around San Antonio (1904, 1905); holidays (1901-1902, 1905, 1909), which included a trip to Galveston (1902) where he watched a circus set up at the Auditorium; taking and developing photographs (1901-1905); and listening to a graphophone (1905-1906). Teaching classes, meeting with school patrons (1902-1906), and attending Teacher Institutes (1897, 1902, 1905-1906); the difficulty of growing cotton (1897, 1900, 1902) and pecans (1897-1898); gardening (1904-1905); raising poultry (1902-1905); travel by horse, donkey, rig, and train; prices for supplies, meals and transportation (1897, 1903, 1905); and occasionally hunting (1897-1898) are all noted. Diary entries also indicate that DeVisconti was averse to the use of tobacco (1897-1898, 1902) and wrote letters and signed a petition against alcohol (1901). He also comments on raising silkworms in Texas (1905); travels in Mexico (1863[1910 diary], 1901, 1903, 1917); and a brick factory, and an earthen pipe factory in Calvares (1901).
Other Texas-related topics covered in Lorenzo DeVisconti's diaries and diary notes include contests and festivities (1902, 1905); school preparations for President Roosevelt's trip to Texas (1905); experiences with a travelling opera company (1901); tenant farmers (1897); fishing at the town of Aransas (1901); social problems of incest (undated), drunkenness (1902, 1905), theft (1903), and the segregation of Mexicans in the schools (1902); the salary of teachers (1902-1906); early automobile accidents (1906, 1917); activities of the Salvation Army (1902-1903, 1905, 1909); and the satanical influence of women (1901).
International events mentioned in Lorenzo DeVisconti's diaries and diary notes include the Russo-Japanese War (1905), the Spanish-American War (1897-1898), the Boer War (1901), and the Dreyfus Affair (1899). Difficulties of and with the Mexican government and its revolutionary factions (1896-1918) were a constant concern. In correspondence and diary entries, Lorenzo describes his capture by rebels at Hacienda Espirito Santo and his near hanging (1901), his travels back and forth across the border, the necessity of leaving his farm along the Valles River to escape Pancho (1913-1918), and his strong opinions about President Wilson's handling of Villa (1915).
Family correspondence largely concerns the immediate DeVisconti family and close relatives. Adeline discusses the harshness of living conditions in Cedar, Texas (1891), the number of murders and suicides in the area, and the fact that the majority of the women in the area speak only German. The divorce of Lorenzo and Adeline DeVisconti is discussed (1896-1899) in their correspondence; and letters (1911-1912) written by Sue May DeVisconti to her family discuss her school expenses for St. Mary's School in Raleigh, N.C. Other family correspondence (1915-1924) concerns the move of Tabitha's half sister, Virginia Salter, and her family from Texas to New Mexico. Weather, the frequency of sandstorms, land descriptions and prices, farming, the towns of Delphos and Portales, New Mexico, and the Salter family's new social life are all discussed. Later correspondence notes floods in Kentucky (1937) and Montana (1948, 1964), and the Montana Centennial Celebration (1964).
Tabitha DeVisconti's personal correspondence also includes many letters from friends, suitors and acquaintances. Letters from Robert Roy Meador (1914-1926), a tobacco salesman in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky, discuss the opening (1915) of the tobacco market in Robersonville, N.C., prices, and the day's sales. One post card gives an interior view of the Farmer's Loose Leaf Tobacco Warehouse in Carlisle, Ky. (1914). He also mentions the preparations for the festivities in Charlotte, N.C., (1916) in honor of the Mecklenburg Declaration, which Governor Craig and President Wilson were expected to attend. Other commentators (1918) describe a trip across eastern North Carolina and the conditions of the inhabitants met along the way, while others comment on labor conditions at a mill in Charleston, S.C. (1913).
Illness and death are recurring topics throughout all the correspondence. Adeline DeVisconti Dupree's entrance into a state hospital is mentioned in 1901 correspondence as is the cost of morphine addiction treatment at Broadoaks Sanatorium in Morganton, N.C. Several family members' deaths are noted (1908, 1912, 1920) in the correspondence and there are many condolence letters received at the time of Sue May DeVisconti Sheppard's death (1946). There is also a file of condolences written to Rev. and Mrs. H. L. Hendricks on the death of their child (1922). B. S. Sheppard, Sr., wrote to his wife in 1896 about a yellow fever epidemic in Belize, Honduras. In his 1897 diary notes Lorenzo DeVisconti relates how he was unable to enter Galveston, Texas, because of a yellow fever quarantine. He wrote frequently of being ill while teaching school and farming in Texas. In his 1910diary reminiscence, he recalls an early scarlet fever epidemic in Iowa (ca. late 1860s) and the necessity of burying two of his pupils, while later he describes his own illnesses as well as epidemics of dengue fever (1897), smallpox (1902), and measles (1904). Typhoid in Florence, Italy, and the resulting sanitation ordinances (1917) are mentioned in correspondence as are the influenza epidemics in Tarboro, N.C., (1920) and at the National Guard Camp at Fort Monroe, Va., (1918). The use of cocaine as a medication and its effects are described (1918). Ben Sheppard wrote of the unsanitary conditions, the prevalence of venereal disease, and the treatment for alcoholism at the N.C. State Hospital (1920s). Tabitha DeVisconti's operation at Duke University Hospital and the resulting x-ray treatment are also noted (1930). Letters (1916-1917) between Associated Charities of San Antonio (Texas) and Tabitha DeVisconti concern Lorenzo DeVisconti's welfare.
Entertainments are occasionally mentioned in the correspondence. Correspondents describe vaudeville shows and boat rides in Charleston, S.C. (1913), a showing of Birth of a Nation in Kentucky (1916), and a vacation in the Japanese "Alps" (1962).
Correspondence from the early twentieth century along a military theme includes notes and cards from Camp Connell, Philippine Islands (1907), and from aboard the USAT SHERMAN (1908). A series of post cards from aboard the USS VERMONT (1913) during a tour in the Caribbean detail ship activities in log form from February through April giving an informal commentary on crew activities, ship locations, and the political upheaval in Mexico. Other correspondents discuss pay, a tour of duty, social life, and recreation in Panama; working conditions during the building of the Panama Canal; and living conditions in Balboa (1916). World War I is seen from several viewpoints. Letters contain comments concerning Black enlistment to fight in France (May 1917); problems with the draft board (Jan. 1918); and a visit to Greensboro, N.C., by Charlie Chaplin to encourage people to buy liberty bonds (April 1918).
A number of letters from Donald Baucom, representative of a shipping company in Southeast Asia, are concerned with several topics. Clothing prices in Hong Kong (1960), the merging of Malaya and Singapore, and Malaya's agricultural economy are discussed (1962). Long descriptions of activities in Vietnam during the early war period are given including a description of the police state and the presidency of Ngo Dinh Diem (1963), social life in Saigon (1965), the Chinese communists crossing the Hong Kong border, and war rationing in Hong Kong (1967). Bascom also mentions the purchase of Chinese porcelain in Japan (1962), extremely high duty taxes in Hong Kong (1978), and a trip to the Forbidden City (1979).
Several diaries (1920s-1982) kept by Tabitha DeVisconti reflect daily activities, family visits and events, trips, and funerals, as well as the many club activities in which she participated.
Separate files concerning Sue May DeVisconti consist of essays and papers, and materials referring to St. Mary's School in Raleigh, N.C., such as bills for tuition, school songs, and a letter to parents (1911). A file on the Women's College in Richmond (1913-1914), which Tabitha DeVisconti attended, includes a graduation program, a brochure describing the college, and some miscellaneous papers. A file on home nursing (1918, 1942) includes notes Tabitha DeVisconti took in connection with her war work and Red Cross activities.
One of Tabitha DeVisconti's principle interests was genealogy. She was a member and frequent officer of the Benjamin May Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1925-1982). She was active in the building of their chapter house (1930) and participated in their many programs. Information included in the collection concerns activities of the national organization as well as the local chapter. Information about the Tyson monument (1927) and photographs of the Tyson and the May monuments' dedications are included. The Tyson-May Reunion Association file (1906-1981) includes minutes, programs, speeches, and correspondence followed by files of Tyson and May genealogy, related Pitt County family genealogies, and miscellaneous genealogies (see genealogy card listing for specific family names). Also found in this collection are correspondence, minutes, reports, and a yearbook concerning her membership in the Queen Anne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Colonists (1953-1973).
There are numerous files containing correspondence, minutes, programs, and reports concerning the Farmville, N.C., chapters of the Women's Club, the Garden Club, and the Bird Club for the 1920s through the 1970s. Miss DeVisconti's club activities were frequently interwoven. Some of the Garden Club, Women's Club, and Bird Club materials along with her agricultural correspondence file reflect a basic interest in conservation. Correspondence concerning her farm land notes soil building (1930s), while Garden Club files note reforestation demonstrations in the schools (1928), a forest fire on her land (1928), her concerns about a roadside control and development bill (1938), her successful application to have a wildlife sanctuary established on her land under the Cooperative Farm Game Program (1940), and her concern about billboards on highways (1963). Contacts with the N. C. Department of Forestry concerning plans to plant trees and shrubs along the edge of the highway (1928) are found in the Garden Club files, and the Women's Club files (1926) note a similar idea in correspondence with Frank Page, Chairman of the N. C. Highway Commission. Other Women's Club material includes a letter from Ilka Chase (1940) promoting her radio program, "Luncheon at the Waldorf," to clubwomen. The Bird Club was begun in 1940 to teach children about wildlife and there is a small amount of correspondence, minutes, and miscellaneous items (1940s) concerning it found in this collection.
Active in the Red Cross and the U.S.O. during both World Wars, Miss DeVisconti worked with families of servicemen verifying Home Service Care needs, supported the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and took a home nursing course (1918-1919).She also corresponded with the servicemen she knew through her U.S.O. and Red Cross work, receiving letters mentioning influenza at Fort Monroe, Va. (1918), and describing the area surrounding Labanac, France, and officers' quarters in a large country home. A clipping (oversize file) concerns the U.S. Training Corps Camp at Asheville, N.C., and a women's war effort started during World War I and continuing afterwards. During World War II, she was chairman of the Christmas Seals program (1942), active in the Bloodmobile program, and established a servicemen's center in Farmville where the men could relax and have a good meal. Occasionally, she would put them up overnight in her own home. Once they were overseas, she maintained contact and also kept in touch with their families. Their letters to her mention fighter squadrons protecting the New York City area, a sand storm at a desert training center (1942), U.S.O. camp shows in the Pacific, activities of the Red Cross Grey Ladies at Camp LeJeune, descriptions of New Caledonia (1944) and a jungle near Assam, India (1945), the importance of the island Ie Shima, and the attack on Okinawa (1945). A map and description of the 1944 route to the Philippines is included and notes the importance of Manus, Admiralty Islands (1945). A commissioning program for the USS JOHN C. BUTLER gives a military history of Butler and a drawing of the ship. Homefront materials include registers and other materials concerning the servicemen's center at Farmville (1943-1945), a Ground Observer's Guide put out by the Air Force, Pitt County ration books, and a Pitt County poster concerned with saving scrap aluminum. Postwar correspondence with these servicemen and their families largely concerns their settling into civilian life and the activities of the men and their families, though one discussed racial riots in New York City (1964).
Miss DeVisconti served as librarian for the Farmville public library in the 1930s and was involved with the building of a new library in the early 1940s. A file on the library notes book circulation, rental books, fines, and orders (1930-1932). She was also active in the Farmville Literary Club as evidenced by her files of correspondence, minutes, programs, and clippings (1919-1973).
As a member of the Board of Pitt County Public Welfare Committee (1927-1931), Miss DeVisconti was concerned with mother's aid, tuberculosis cases, and general unemployment and relief. This file includes financial reports for the department (1928-1929), information about a county home (1926-1927), and a report on Poor Relief (1928). A file on Crossnore School in Avery County, N.C., includes monthly reports and pamphlets that describe the school's welfare work program and activities.
Farmville Christian Church material (1947-1948) details a controversy surrounding the removal of cemetery tombstones by the minister and their eventual replacement. Bulletins from various Farmville churches are also included.
A file on Farmville contains a premium list from the Farmville Community Fair (1917), commencement programs from the Farmville public schools (1943-1953), an undated pamphlet, "Facts about Farmville," which includes pictures, and materialsconcerning the May Museum and Park opening (1991). A similar file for Pitt County contains a history of Greenville, gives Greenville community data, and notes Pitt County conservation practices (1947). A file of North Carolina historical material includes a map of early homes in Edgecombe County and Tarboro and a pamphlet on Greensboro (1920s) that includes pictures.
Miscellaneous items include post office accounts for Speight's Bridge in Greene County, (1836, 1839-1840), a Farmville cider license (1905), and a detailed character evaluation and phrenological description done in Hyde County (undated). Also found is a 1925 publication about Howey, Fla, and the W. J. Howey orange groves; a Trinity College calendar (1911) containing photographs; and a diary (1931-1932, 1935) kept by Mrs. Annie Louise Mashburn of Farmville in which she records her religious thoughts.
Of general military interest is an Army Soldier's Handbook (1891 revised edition) containing Francis Dupree's entries for clothing (1892-1894) as a member of the 4th Regiment Artillery. A file of legal and financial records includes the pension application (1879) of Mildred Little, wife of Bryant Little of Pitt County, N.C., who was a soldier in the War of 1812. A file of May family legal and financial records includes an Oath of Allegiance (1865) for James W. May. A guide to battlefields around the city of Richmond, Va. (1914), is included in a publications file.
Legal and financial papers for the Albritton family (1883-1908), Joyner family (1799-1902), and the Bynum family (1841-1888) contain promissory notes, receipts, land records, and slave records (1841, 1853) concerning mainly Pitt County, N.C. Legal and financial files of the May and Dupree families of Pitt County, N.C., contain agreements for the sale of slaves, some of them children (1787, 1795, 1810, 1817, 1823, 1831), as well as receipts, promissory notes, account books, and land records. Also found are estate records concerning James W. May and J. E. B. May (1880s), Addie G. Dupree (1902), and Sue May Albritton (1908-1910). An account book contains the records (1901-1907) for Sue May Albritton as guardian for Tabitha and Sue May DeVisconti and their half brother Paul Dupree. A file of wills concerns William Bryant of Dobbs County, Fanny Hines of Wilson County, and Tabitha May and F. M. Dupree of Pitt County, all of North Carolina, and Robert Carr of Nansemond County, Virginia.
Family deeds and indentures are primarily concerned with lands in Dobbs, Pitt, and Greene counties, N.C. (1762-1879), though the Albrittons and DeViscontis also owned land in the Tampa, Florida, area. One deed concerns the sale of Hookerton Female Institute in Greene Co., N.C., to Elias Carr in 1866. There is also an extensive survey of the lands belonging to the DeVisconti heirs in the Farmville area. R. L. Davis and Lorenzo DeVisconti corresponded (1892) about their mutual interest in keeping the Florida land. An undated diary note makes reference to Adeline DeVisconti recovering her lots through a lawsuit. According to a title abstract chart, the families still held the land in 1916 and by 1940, B.S. Sheppard was developng real estate in that area.
As an owner of farm land in Pitt County, Miss DeVisconti was concerned with the local Farm Bureau program (1938), acreage allotments (1930s-1950s), soil building (1939-1940), the possibility of cotton marketing quotas (1939), and the sale of pine (1967). A file of cotton sales records indicates sales (1925-1959). A file of tobacco materials includes sketches of Sheppard land (1935), information on a referendum to determine tobacco quotas (1952), and instructions on the use of a tobacco marketing card (1969). A file of tobacco sales receipts is included for occasional years of the first quarter of the twentieth century. Income and expenditures (1959-1960) list tenants while diaries occasionally make reference to her own farm work (1930s-1940s).
Tabitha DeVisconti's legal and financial file (1915-1980) includes financial records, testimony concerning the settling of Addie Dupree's estate after F. M. Dupree died, and a brief for Dupree et al v. Bridgers et al (1915). This latter brief involved contracts with the East Carolina Railway made by a guardian for Tabitha and Sue May DeVisconti.
Files of Sheppard legal and financial papers (1876-1932) contain many deeds and mortgages, a survey of B. S. Sheppard's land (1897) as well as one for Sue May Sheppard's own land in Farmville (1931), and deeds (1913) concerning the aforementioned East Carolina Railway contracts.
Travel pamphlets include one of "Souvenir Views of Lorain (Ohio) Tornado" (1924), as well as travel guides to Richmond, Va. (1914, 1916), and the Eagle's Nest Hotel in Eagle's Nest, N.C.
A file of political material includes correspondence from Alton Lennon (1954) about his upcoming term and from William B. Umstead (1952) about a recent speech. Also included are pamphlets and broadsides for Samuel J. Everett (1926), Allen J. Maxwell (1931, 1940), W. Kerr Scott (1948), and Frank Porter Graham (undated).
Photographs are predominantly family photographs although there are some of buildings in the Farmville area.
Oversize folders include land records and surveys, Lorenzo DeVisconti diary pages, slave sale records (1795-1810), a 1923 map of the N.C. State Highway system, a survey of the Farmville "colored cemetery" (1945), surveys for a Tampa, Florida, land development (1940), Albritton and DeVisconti land holdings in Florida (1916), photographs, genealogy, Speight's Bridge Post Office accounts (1839-1840), and issues of the Farmville Spotlight (1933-1934), a supplement to the Farmville Enterprise newspaper.
Gift of May Museum and Park Commission
Processed by J. Layne; M. Boccaccio, November 1990
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.