Belcher Family Papers

Manuscript Collection #67
Belcher family
Physical description
0.073 Cubic Feet, 192 items , consisting of correspondence, financial papers, accounts, receipts, and printed material.
Preferred Citation
Belcher Family Papers (#67), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1850-1868, undated) including estate papers, correspondence, accounts, receipt, financial papers, expenses of "genteel" education for young women, prices current in 1864, agricultural fertilizer.

Biographical/historical information

The Belcher Family Papers are concerned with the administration of the estate of Willie Belcher, a wealthy planter of Edgecombe County, N.C. His wife, Martha Belcher, and two daughters, Mary Jane (Mollie) Belcher and Martha Ann Belcher, were the heirs to the estate. After the death of Mrs. Belcher, Dr. John R. Mercer was appointed guardian for the two daughters.

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of the papers are statements and receipts for the expenses involved in clothing, educating, and providing for the Belcher girls. A number of papers relate to their guardian, Dr. Mercer, and to medical and other expenses involved in caring for the estate, which included a number of slaves.

Of particular interest is the large number of items showing the expenses of a "genteel"education for young women of the antebellum period. The Belcher girls were privately educated, both by local teachers in Edgecombe County and at the Wilson (N.C.) Institute and the Wayne Female College at Goldsboro, N.C. Both the expenses involved and subjects taught are well represented.

A relatively large number of medical bills are in the papers, and represent several years of medical and dental care for the estate's slaves and also some similar items for the Belcher family. Drug prices and a bill for vaccinations are also reflected in various medical statements.

General retail prices for a variety of store items are well represented, especially for dress goods and clothing items, as the Belcher girls apparently spent relatively large sums in attiring themselves appropriately for their station in pre-Civil War southern society. An interesting contrast is shown by a single item showing the inflated prices current in 1864.

Of interest in the papers relating to Dr. Mercer are a labor contract (1867), a patent license for a portable fence (1860), and two items of business correspondence.

Printed material includes a circular for an early type of agricultural fertilizer and partial copies of The Christian Advocate (Raleigh, N.C.) newspaper for October 18, 1855, and The American Farmer magazine for December 1855.

For related material, see the Van S. Watson Papers #69.1 and the Andrew B. Benedict Papers #68.1.

Administrative information
Custodial History

November 18, 1968, 192 items; Estate papers (1850-1868) of Willie Belcher, including correspondence, accounts, receipts, and other financial papers. 192 items. Deposited by Mrs. F. B. Everett, Palmyra, N.C. [Mrs. Everett is a granddaughter of Martha Ann Belcher.]

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. F. B. Everett

Processing information

Processed by T. Sloan, December 1968

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
Belcher family
Medicine--Practice--North Carolina--History--19th century
Slaves--Medical care--United States
Women--Education--Southern States--History--19th century
Edgecombe County (N.C.)--Social life and customs--19th century