William L. Spoon Papers

Manuscript Collection #170
Spoon, William L., 1862-1942
Physical description
0.65 Cubic Feet, 400 items , consists of papers (1705-1928), including correspondence, a diary, pamphlets, almanacs, maps, photos, land records, and newspapers.
Preferred Citation
William L. Spoon Papers (#170), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1705-1928) of Alamance County, North Carolina, native William L. Spoon (1862-1942) consisting of correspondence, a diary, pamphlets, almanacs, maps, photos, reports on weather, tax receipts, and land records. Spoon was a surveyor who was supervisor of public roads in Alamance County and worked as an agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as a teacher, inventor, and traveling salesman.

Biographical/historical information

William Luther Spoon (1862-1942) was the son of George Monroe and Nancy (nee Stafford) Spoon of Alamance County, N.C. Spoon attended the University of North Carolina where he was a member of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society. In 1891 he graduated with B.S. and B.E. degrees and subsequently worked as a surveyor, teacher, inventor, map maker, and traveling salesman. In 1897 he married Addie Vernon Neville and made his home in Burlington, N.C. After his marriage, Spoon was appointed supervisor of public roads in Alamance County and worked for a time as an agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence. Early letters concern Spoon's interest in establishing an ice-making plant in Burlington, N.C., his desire to work as a surveyor, and his employment by the North Carolina Geological Survey and the Alamance County Superior Court. Other letters pertain to Spoon's life in Texas where he taught school and worked on a press to revolutionize the cotton industry. Included in this correspondence (1895-1896) are comments on the climate in Texas, on farm machinery used to harvest crops, and corn prices. Of particular interest is the observation that people were burning their corn as fuel since prices on it were too low to warrant shipping it to market. Later correspondence pertains to Spoon's travels to sell a coat rack which he had invented. During his stay in Baltimore, Maryland, he wrote on the climate, his concern over the measles and influenza epidemics in North Carolina, and the loading of flour, cotton, and lumber aboard a ship bound for Liverpool, England. The remainder of the correspondence pertains to Spoon's appointment as supervisor of roads in Alamance County (1897), crop prospects (1897, 1907), a flood of the Arkansas River (1908), and the weather in Washington, D.C., in April 1919. Correspondence between Addie Spoon and her sister deals with family affairs and daily life (1880-1882).

A small notebook entitled The Methodist Recorder contains a description of the Methodist Christian Endeavor Rallies (1894) held in Cleveland, Ohio, and some notes on sermons and speeches heard there. One copy each of the Friends' Review (1859) and The Epistle From the Yearly Meeting (1833) contain information on Quaker groups in Great Britain and Pennsylvania.

A diary recording Spoon's activities from July 2, 1926, to January 11, 1927, is also included in the collection. It recounts the building of a house in Burlington, Spoon's travels to Virginia and North Dakota on assignment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and his work on Alamance County roads. Of particular interest are reports on the weather and scenery in the Midwest, a bridge being built over the Missouri River, and rail travel in 1926.

Several different farmers' almanacs from the period of 1838-1842 deal with general agricultural topics and the production of sugar beets and silk worms. Blums Farmer's & Planter's Almanac for 1856, 1864, 1865, 1867, 1869, and 1915 lists the state government officers and their salaries. The Arator for 1856 and 1857 has articles on turpentine production in N.C. and The Farmer's Advocate for June 1, 1840, has an article on cinch bug control in N.C.

Another item of interest is a North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey for June 6 to July 21, 1924, which records soil surveys in various N.C. counties primarily to determine which records soil surveys in various N.C. counties primarily to determine which soils made the best roads. There is also a handwritten report entitled "Historical, Statistical and Geological Information for Alamance County."

Two maps of Alamance County included in the collection were drawn by William L. Spoon. One shows the county as it was in 1893 and the other as it was in 1928. Two photographs show road crews and steam-powered equipment working on road construction (undated).

There is a group of promissory notes and other financial papers from the estate of Eli Moser of Orange County, N.C., (1820s). George M. Spoon was the executor of Moser's estate.

Enrollment of the Conscripts of the 68th Regiment, North Carolina Militia, Guilford County, 8th day of July, 1862 is also included.

Miscellaneous material includes various financial papers such as tax receipts and summonses to court for nonpayment of debts; a genealogy for the Isley family (1836-1878); a cure for cancer (1881); and three pamphlets written by Spoon: The Art of Soldering, Building Sand-Clay Roads in Southern States (1903), and The Construction of Sand-Clay and Burnt-Clay Roads. Other items of interest include two illustrated catalogs and price lists of the John W. Douglas Co. of New York; a copy of Pierce's Memorandum and Account Book; a copy of the Oakdate Student of Alamance County, N.C., for March, 1886; a catalog for Littleton Female College, Littleton, N.C. (1910); a catalog for Trinity School, Chocowinity, N.C. (1893-1894); and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (1839).

A folder of land records includes deeds and indentures from Person, Guilford, and Orange counties, N.C., (1705-1828).

Oversize folders contain N.C. newspapers from the 1800s and early 1900s and three deeds from Orange County, 1769-1796.

Administrative information
Custodial History

May 6, 1971, 90 items; Papers (1885-1928), including correspondence, a diary, pamphlets, and a map.

April 4, 1972, 1 item; An Alamance County map (1893).

June 6, 1974, ca. 150 items; Papers (1796-1894), including Eli Moser estate papers, nineteenth century newspapers, farm publications, etc.

December 19, 1975, ca. 100 items; Newspapers (1885-1905) published in Greensboro, Burlington, Graham, and other North Carolina cities.

May 9, 1977, 65 items; Papers (1769-1918), consisting of correspondence, land records, financial papers, photographs, essays, poetry, pamphlets, and miscellaneous. Deposited by Mrs. T. Collins Cooper, Windsor, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. T. Collins Cooper

Processing information

Processed by L. Hardy; C. Bentley, November 1985

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
Spoon, Addie Neville
Spoon, William L. (William Luther), 1862-1942
Corporate Names
North Carolina Geological Survey (1883-1905)
University of North Carolina (1793-1962)--Alumni and alumnae
University of North Carolina (1793-1962). Dialectic Society
Agricultural inventions--Texas--Moody (Tex.)
Corn--Prices--Texas--History--19th century
Cotton machinery--Texas--Moody (Tex.)
Deeds--North Carolina
Influenza--North Carolina
Measles--North Carolina
Methodists--Ohio--Cleveland (Ohio)
Roads--North Carolina--Alamance County
Soil surveys--North Carolina
Surveyors--North Carolina--Burlington
Teachers--Texas--Moody (Tex.)
Alamance County (N.C.)--Maps
Baltimore (Md.)--Description and travel
Burlington (N.C.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Middle West--Description and travel
North Dakota--Description and travel
Virginia--Description and travel

Container list
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence, January 8, 1897, May 18, 1899
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence, 1901-1919; undated
Box 1 Folder e Miscellany
Box 1 Folder f Conscripts, 68th Regiment, N.C. Militia, July 8, 1862
Box 1 Folder g Financial Records, 1877-1899
Box 1 Folder h Land Records, 1700s-1800s
Box 2 Diary; N.C. Geological & Economic Survey; Farmers' Almanacs
Box 3 Farmers' Almanacs
Box m1 Maps of Alamance County, N.C. (1893, 1928)
Folder os1 Deeds, 1769-1796; Newspapers, Albemarle-Graham, NC; Burlington, NC; Photographs, undated
Folder os2 Newspapers, Greensboro, N.C
Folder os3 Newspapers, Hickory-Snow Camp, N.C