The Helen K. Peel Collection is comprised of a wide range of materials relating to the Peel and Keel families of Martin County, North Carolina. A large portion of the collection consists of letters, photographs, academic and military records, scrapbooks, and various personal and legal documents of Helen Peel (neé Keel) and her husband J. Woolard Peel. Mrs. Peel’s correspondence consists mainly of letters from the early 1930’s from her mother, Ida Keel, and her grandmother, Willie Speight Peal, relaying the local news of Everetts, North Carolina. Additional letters from friends and former beaux discuss dances, movies, and how they are faring in their new adult lives. Several of her scrapbooks are present as well. They mainly consist of local newspaper clippings regarding marriages and deaths of acquaintances and local human interest stories. Helen K. Peel wrote the History of Everetts Baptist Church, 1877-1974, published in 1974 by Enterprise Publishing Company of Williamston, North Carolina. The manuscript and collected research, which contains early twentieth century photographs of the Everetts schoolhouse, are contained within the collection.
J. Woolard Peel’s academic career at North Carolina State College and his U.S. Army service in World War II are well documented, consisting of reports, service records, and discharge materials. Mr. Peel had been a member of ROTC during his college years and was a member of the Army Reserves. He was called to service in February of 1942. He attended officers advanced training at Fort Benning and attained the rank of Captain by the time of his honorable discharge in December of 1945. Though he was primarily based stateside he did serve overseas, from April 1944 to December 1944, as an Administrative Officer with the 411th Infantry Regiment during their campaigns in Normandy, Rhineland, and Northern France. Two letters from his time in Belgium and England are included in the collection. He was also a member of the Masonic Order of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and his certificate of ascension to the rank of Master of the Royal Secret is included as well as two aprons made by the Ihling Bros. Everard Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
An unusual addition to this collection are the detailed and copious amounts of deeds relating to the large property holdings of both the Peel and Keel families in Martin County. These records include: property deeds, plats, timber sales dating from 1884 to 2005 on the homesteads of Barnhill and Forbes, the Whitehurst Farm, and the procurement of adjacent parcels of land for expansion.
Other family records within the collection are the Last Will and Testaments of Gertrude Peel, Ida Keel, and Helen K. Peel. Of note, is an 1836 Bible that has family birth, marriage and death records covering the years from 1808 to 1851 for members of the Peel, Woolard, Ward, Martin and Barnhill families of Martin County. Photographs of J. Woolard and Helen K. Peel are predominately post-1950, but there are some photographs of their youth in Martin County, the earliest of which dates to 1917. Additionally, there are photographs of the family farm showing damage to buildings from a tornado in 1955.
Woolard Peel’s father, James Stephen Peel, owned and operated J.S. Peel’s General Merchandise Store in Everetts, North Carolina, and his ledgers from 1908 to 1944 are also included. Oversize materials include a photograph of the 1919 Scottish Rite members of the New Bern, North Carolina, chapter, and land plats (1913-2005) of Peel family properties in Martin County, N.C.