While there is some correspondence and a number of ledgers from the era of the elder S. R. Fowle, the major portion of the collection focuses on the business activities and family of S. R. Fowle II.
The major portion of the collection is concerned with the Fowle family business interests. An early ledger (1797-1801) for an antecedent firm indicates the beginning of a long-time interest in general merchandise and timber. Flour, clothing, farm supplies, tobacco, pork, rails, material, and tools were regularly bought and sold through the general store (1797-1942). Business correspondence from the 1900s through the 1930s indicates a continuing expansion and development of the inventory. By the 1920s, the Fowle logo advertised "sash, doors, blinds, and building materials." Fowle and Son Company served as a comprehensive retail outlet in that they marketed their own timber and farm products through the store and at the same time sold food, clothing, equipment, and other merchandise purchased from various companies.
Timber was a major concern throughout the Fowle business activities. Timber deeds exist for the period 1886-1920. An early daybook records timber inspections (1850-1854) and notes tree type, sizes, amounts, number of stocks, price, and seller. A shipping invoice book shows that logs were transported during 1880. Prices are given in both invoice books and ledgers as well as rate sheets from a number of lumber companies. The family also owned a sawmill in the county. Mill and timber ledgers (1878-1915) provide the name of the schooner, destination, date, load, cost, and the name of the purchaser. Some ledgers include mill accounts with the Fowle store while others note contracts with an estimate of standing timber, payroll, supplies, log sizes, amount rafted, stump size, and summaries (1896-1898) of expenses for cutting, hauling, and rafting. One ledger (1900) notes logs and planks bought for the Blounts Creek Road and another (1910-1917) lists activity involving the Bear Creek Road. A considerable amount of the business correspondence is concerned with all aspects of the lumber trade. Mill equipment and engines (1914), rights of way (1914), loading of barges with lumber from the mill, a claim of illegal cutting (1909), prices and market conditions, the difficulty of securing barges (1916), the use of locomotives at the mill (1911-1913), a reciprocity treaty with Canada (1911), the purchase of land for timber rights, and timber disputes are all areas of concern. The production and marketing of naval stores, i.e., tar and turpentine, are noted in financial records from 1840 through 1901.
From the mid 1830s through the end of the century, the Fowle businesses in Beaufort County were engaged in a shipping enterprise with the major market areas along the East Coast and in the West Indies. Schooners were the main vessel used in the early period and ledgers reflect their provisioning between 1835 and 1887. A logbook (1849-1850) for the brig
EDWARD TILLETT gives weather, latitude and longitude, remarks, and destination for trips between Washington, N.C., and the West Indies, New York, Barbados, Martinique, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, Boston, and Guadeloupe. Towards the end of the century, steamers and barges are noted much more frequently.
Most of the timber coming from the mill at the end of the century was shipped by tug, barge, or steamer. Towing records for 1915-1916 provide the name of the tug and the amount towed. The location of Washington, N.C., and the relationship of water transportation to the development of commerce there led to an interest in the creation and improvement of canals. Monthly statistics are given for 1910 and 1911 for the Lake Drummond Canal (Dismal Swamp), which connects the Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, noting the number of vessels through the canal and the time they took to make the trip. Destinations north and south are also indicated. Maps on the verso side of the correspondence from the canal and water company show the progress on the development of this route.
Agriculture was also a major focus for the Fowles who owned farmland in Beaufort County and rented land to tenants. Land records exist for 1783 through 1947.Cotton and tobacco were the primary crops. Correspondence with commission merchants (1912-1920) discusses the cotton situation. Tobacco warehouse sales are included from the early 1930s through the 1940s. Warehouses were discussed in 1913 and tobacco is a regular daybook entry. Agriculture financial records detail the basic expenses and the operation of Clifton Farm (1935-1939), Wildwood Farm (1920-1925), and Morgan Farm (1924-1925). Other farm records note tenant purchases, crop allowances (1946), insurance for tenant dwellings (1940), soil conservation (1937), miscellaneous tenant expenses (1920s), and acres per crop (undated drawing). Farm ledgers provide information from 1830 through 1947.
Economic conditions in Beaufort County (1913-1934) were discussed in correspondence and are inferred through price lists and sales records of the Fowle store. Among the economic issues discussed are the decline in timber prices (1914-1915), bank failures (1934), family finances (1934), and family rental properties.
W. M. Orr, son-in-law of S. R. Fowle II, was a distributor for the Indian Refining Company during 1920-1922. Records reflect his marketing of petroleum products in the eastern part of the state, distribution of these products to mills, and the sale of gas, kerosene, lubricating oil, and grease. The records also indicate a difficult relationship between Orr and the parent company due to wide differences in accounting practices and discrepancies in the accounts at both ends.
Storms and fires were a fairly regular problem for the farms and the mill (1913, 1914, 1916). References in the collection concern storm damage (1913) including uprooted trees, an overturned windmill, houses blown apart, flattened crops, a flooded store, substantial damage to merchandise in the warehouse, and lost lumber at the mill. Other disasters reported in the records include the sinking of the
ORION (1914) with a full cargo, and the burning of standing timber (1913). A damage estimate by L. E. Everett and correspondence with Ward and Grimes indicate the cause of the fire was connected to railroad cars in the mill area. Correspondence with the locomotive companies discusses anthracite as a safer engine fuel than wood or soft coal. Crops were not immune from damage either and it was noted that a worm damaged an alfalfa crop in 1920.
Land was central to the Fowle farming and timber interests. The firm of Ward and Grimes conducted much of the family's legal business and materials in the collection pertain to the preparation of timber deeds, negotiation of rights of way to clear timber, and the problems of illegal or wrongful cutting (1909).
James L. Fowle, son of S. R. Fowle II, attended Randolph Macon Academy in 1911 and then Davidson College. Robert Fowle and S. R. Fowle III also attended Davidson. Correspondence from college concerns the Glee Club, Kappa Alpha Fraternitypledges, the YMCA (1914-1918), the Student Friendship War Fund (1917-1918), race relations in the South (1918), and missionary preparation at Vanderbilt University (1918). A notebook on Y activities includes mention of the Y's purpose, an article on prisoners of war, information on war fund campaigns, and a portion of a debate on internment of German nationals (1917). Davidson material also includes a church census with map for an area near Cornelius, N.C., and a list of KA alumnae in World War I and a history of the Sigma chapter.
After graduation, James attended Union Theological Seminary in Richmond and writes home about his participation in church activities in Huntington, West Virginia (1920), and Sinks Grove and Milton, West Virginia (1922). As pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri (1923-1932), and later the First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1933-), he describes his life and pastoral duties in letters to his family. He also discusses the reasons for changing churches in terms of religious growth and awareness to issues.
World War I is discussed in the letters of S. R. Fowle III to his family. At an Army base in South Carolina (1918) he describes epidemics of measles and scarlet fever, joining the Military Police, the battle readiness of the camp, and studying for a commission.
Both of the sons (Mac, Jr., and Lewis) of W. M. and Ethel Fowle Orr were in the Navy during World War II. Mac Orr, Jr., was in Washington, D.C., in an administrative capacity in 1942 and assigned in 1943 to the USS
RAVEN. Letters from both brothers comment on the Canal Zone, the American settlement on the west side of the canal, and the possibility of a prisoner of war labor camp to help farmers in Fairfax, Virginia.
Other family papers contain a variety of references to business, crime, politics, and education. Mining for feldspar in Lexington, N.C., is discussed (1916), as is the election for mayor in Washington (1909, 1911). Letters written in 1916 request support of the Wilson-Marshall presidential campaign and seek subscriptions for the construction of a three-room graded school in the county. A second school-related request (1920) seeks a subscription for playground equipment.
Commentary on crime in the area concerns timber theft and/or illegal removal (1909), gun duels involving and the eventual death of one Baxter Shemwell (1922), a murder/suicide in Washington, and the sentence of young men for stealing tires (1922).
A variety of papers belonging to Mary Payne Fowle, S. R. Fowle II's wife, reflects the life style and activities of an affluent wife and mother during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A ledger volume converted into a journal (1892-1918) recordsthe impressions of a young mother in dealing with her children and the horror and emotional turmoil resulting from the drowning (1896) of her thirteen-year old son. Also recorded is the family's birth and death information. Correspondence (1904) documents her travels in western North Carolina seeking a healthier climate and hot springs treatment for another son. In 1921 she undertook a cruise to the Holy Land and her letters home describe her visits to Jerusalem, Calvary, Beirut, and Cairo. In addition, there are longer diary notes about the places on her tour and a number of photographs of the trip. Mrs. Fowle's activities in the Washington community are also documented. Speeches, writings, and correspondence document her leadership in women's clubs, the Presbyterian church, and various civic organizations. Her notebook (1881-1904) for the Ladies Benevolent Society details money paid to help the needy with rent, wood, provisions, and medicine. Also, materials on the United Daughters of the Confederacy document their support of needy veterans of the Civil War.
An undated list of slaves owned by the Payne family in Virginia is included as is a description of a colored baptism (1909). A receipt and indenture for a black Missionary Baptist church (1894-1895) and correspondence with an AME church (1906-1908) concerning their balance of payments toward the Capehart Chapel in Washington reflect activities within the black community.
Family and genealogical information is provided for both the Paine-Payne family of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia, and the Fowle family. A clipping notes important people and events in the history of the Paine-Payne family. Estate records (1913-1919) for W. T. Payne of Lexington, N.C., reflect property owned by the family and its eventual disposal. Membership records for the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy contain genealogical information for the Fowle family. Correspondence notes more recent portions of family history. Family correspondence (1902-1910) reflects family illnesses, medical expenses, trips to resorts and hot springs for treatment, and a visit to the mountain community around Turnpike, N.C. (Buncombe County). Family photographs also are included.
An undated mimeographed letter describes opportunities in Sanford, N.C., and gives a street plan of the town on the verso side of the letter. Publications include a pamphlet on Washington, N.C., with photographs and city statistics (1941) and a
Preliminary Report on Land Use in Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula (1938). Other publications include a booklet on the Jamestown Exposition (1907), a booklet on camping in the Rockies and Yellowstone Park (1911), an issue of
Confederate Veteran (1909), and a report on
Adult Illiteracy in North Carolina and Plans for Its Elimination (1915).
Oversize items include land plats, a photograph, blueprints of a single saw edger and a saw slab slasher (1904), deeds, and issues of
The Davidsonian (1916-1918).
For related material see Fowle Family Papers, Collection #MF. 29.