The correspondence within the French papers consists of two series: the correspondence of the French family and that of their relatives, the Montforts. Much of the early correspondence consists of letters between Mary French of Waynesboro, N.C., and her sons William, Henry, and Joseph French. Numerous letters were written by William French, who resided on an unnamed Craven County plantation, and Joseph French, Postmaster of the French Mill Post Office in Onslow County. Topics of discussion center upon family matters, schooling, health, sale of land, and the westward migration of friends and relatives.
Of particular interest are letters from family friends who had taken up residence in various mid-western states. A letter (April 1, 1838) from and Arkansas farmer describes in detail the geography and personal impressions of the area and the attractions that drew him to it. Letters describe the hazards of overland travel between Philadelphia and Baltimore (July, 1837), labor shortages and high prices in Illinois, and the health advantages of that state (February, 1841). Also discussed is the quality of Mississippi River water, the high price and difficulty of procuring labor, slave labor rates, the quality of soil in Missouri, and the prices of beef and pork. Louisiana residents write of a flood (1849), the advantages and problems of living in Louisiana (1849) and the unhealthiness of the state (1848). The attitudes of Georgians toward land, the fertility of the soil, land prices, and its desirability are subjects discussed in a letter written during August, 1844.
In the later correspondence, the Montforts wrote primarily of family-related matters and local eastern North Carolina news. Two letters in this group are particularly noteworthy. A letter from Bolden [Baldwin] County, Alabama (May 13, 1873) mentions the opening of a school, refers to the low literacy rate, and comments on the attitudes of Bolden [Baldwin] County residents toward education. The second letter (August ) speaks of the Conservative Democratic Party Redemption and the reactions of Negroes.
The collection also contains land and mortgage deeds and financial records, consisting basically of receipts.