The bulk of the collection is comprised of personal correspondence (1841-1979) of the Whitehurst family. However, pre-Civil War correspondence and other materials pertain to their progenitor's business affairs, particularly Jacob Gooding's position asexecutor of slave-owner Peter Harget's estate. Records concern doctors' visits to slaves (1841-1846); receipts (with slaves' names listed) for clothing, food, and maintenance of slaves (1841-1847); and the hiring out of slaves as laborers to neighbors and as midwives to other slaves (1842-1844). Ernul family correspondence mentions the possibility of rising prices in the Richmond slave market due to the lack of slaves brought for sale (1857).
Later letters of Harold Whitehurst constitute a large portion of the correspondence and detail his studies at Wake Forest College (1898-1899). Subjects noted include a debate in Raleigh, NC, with Trinity College students (1898) and complaints about a merchant tax and student reaction to it (1899). Details of life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill include descriptions of the city, campus, and a reception for new students. Other topics include dormitory life and problems with dormitory mates, a visit by William Jennings Bryan (February 1900), and acceptable hazing activities (October 1901). Correspondence (1912-1913) makes note of extracurricular programs at Columbia University including descriptions of a meeting with Josephus Daniels (August 1912), a contest between freshmen and sophomores (October 1912), and a speech given by Booker T. Washington (December 1912). Further letters pertain to community and school activities in Latta, SC (1910-1912); Valdosta, GA (1910); Danville, VA (1915-1916); and Oak Ridge, NC (1918-1920). Miscellaneous educational topics include a housing shortage at East Carolina Teacher's Training School and meetings with the school's president, Robert Wright (April 1913), duties of the Dean of the Christian Normal Institute in Kentucky (1934), teacher salaries and retirement benefits (1953), and class rosters for New Bern High School.
Throughout much of the correspondence, letters mention conflicts from the Civil War to World War II. Civil War era material includes a letter from ladies in Beaufort, NC, to four prisoners of war with money for their expenses while in prison (
ca. November 1863). Another mentions news of certain soldiers making visits home (February 1864). Post Civil War letters that discuss the war are included and one describes an interview (August 1910) with an eyewitness to the New York draft riots in July 1863, while another (1956) concerns an essay on the Battle of New Bern. A letter from Camp Wheeler, in Huntsville, AL, during the Spanish-American War (September 16, 1898), notes the Army daily routine, meals, malaria and typhoid outbreaks, descriptions of tents, and payday activities.
World War I correspondence is concerned primarily with homefront activities with reference made to the large student/soldier body at Wake Forest College along with their living conditions (October 1918). Also included are descriptions of the war train from New Bern and victory celebrations (April-May 1919). World War II letters take note of homefront activities and sentiments. Issues discussed include Hitler's possiblemovements and disgust with the Japanese over Pearl Harbor (1941); the rise in housing costs at Cherry Point and mention of a hydroplane base there (1942); the arrival of torpedoed ships at Morehead City, NC; attempts to burn a railroad track near La Grange, NC (February 4, 1942); and complaints about gas rationing (December 1942). War-torn Europe is described, particularly London (January 1945), while an essay (May 1945) gives information about a journey through France and Germany. Descriptions of the French countryside of LeMans and Verdun are given as are the cities of Trier and Koblenz in Germany. An American POW camp for German prisoners near Koblenz, and treatment of the prisoners there, is also described. Also noted are post-war fears concerning the atom bomb and the cold war (1947-1949).
Monetary issues and the economy are mentioned throughout the correspondence and in other financial records. Land records include deeds, indentures, and plats for lands located on the north side of the Neuse River in Craven County and for lands in and around New Bern (1736-1841). Many of the deeds are for Whitehurst and Gooding lands. Other financial records include promissory notes, receipts and accounts for food, chicken feed, and funeral expenses (1928, 1948). The economy is generally mentioned in the context of other situations. Letters note that country merchants were hard pressed to make collections from farmers (1876); the number of unemployed people in Charlotte, NC, along with a significant crime wave (1930); statewide North Carolina salary cuts (1931); the difficulty of renting housing in New Bern (1931-1934); and the increase in Florida taxes and graft (1933).
Politics are discussed throughout much of the correspondence. Issues noted include an action pending in the North Carolina House of Commons on a railroad bill and mentions the election of John D. Whitford as director of the Central Railroad (November 1852); alleged personal attacks by Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis on George A. Latham (May 1884); an election in New Bern, NC (January 1906); reconstruction voting habits in Latta, SC (March 1912); a report on the inauguration of Warren G. Harding (March 1921); and the need for support in upcoming judicial elections (May, 1930). Miscellaneous items include a list of reasons to support H. C. Whitehurst for the legislature (
ca. 1898) and comments on his nomination (July 1906).
The correspondence also contains information on numerous social issues, particularly pertaining to Negroes and discrimination. Letters and songs (July-August 1900) discuss a White Supremacy rally and parade in Kinston, NC, including Sadie Whitehurst's place in the White Supremacy choir. Also noted was a Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington, DC (September 1926). Race relations are discussed in many letters and Harold Whitehurst's views on northern attitudes (March 1903, August 1910, July 1911) and southern attitudes (February 1911, December 1917) toward Negroes are expressed. Other racial topics covered include the enrollment of Negro children in southern whiteschools; the station of Asians and Italians on the West Coast as equal to that of Negroes in the South (1911); and Eleanor Roosevelt's acceptance of Negroes and the Marian Anderson controversy (1939). Other social issues discussed include the poor begging for wood (November 1872); substance abuse, including morphine addiction (1898) and alcoholism (February 1904); and divorce, abortion, and the role of women in society (December 1908).
Religion was often discussed in letters and subjects include accounts of Negro baptisms (
ca. 1861, October 1915); reasons why a woman is leaving a Baptist church to join the Methodists (1876); descriptions of a Sunday school near Chapel Hill (November 1902); the Latta, SC, Baptist Church (January 1910); difficulties of a church in Greenville, NC (January 1914); evangelist Billy Sunday speaking in Greensboro, NC (1919); and an Episcopal ordination ceremony (July 1933). Christ Episcopal Church in New Bern is the subject of several letters (April 1903, July 1943) while numerous bulletins and newsletters discuss parish activities of this church.
Diseases and various cures are referred to throughout the correspondence including malaria (1898, September 1915), typhoid fever (1898, November 1901), smallpox (January 1900, February 1911), diphtheria (December 1900), cancer (August 1902), and flu epidemics in New Bern (October 1918). Cures include those for the common cold (October 1898) and headache (August 1906). Recipes for Elix Peptenzyme (1904) and a tar jacket (undated) are included while a pamphlet details information about Vacagen Oral Cold Vaccine tablets. Animal cures include those for bovine hollowtail (April 1916) and distemper (April 1918). Care of a stroke victim is described (1892), while knee problems, skin cancer, and cataracts are discussed (April 1912, March 1936). Some family members turned to springs or health resorts to cure their ailments (September 1872, July 1900, August 1922) while another visited a chiropractor (November 1922). In 1952, Butner Psychiatric Hospital in Butner, NC, was noted to have four resident psychiatrists of foreign citizenship.
Disasters are written about frequently and reports of major fires in Kinston (March 1895) and New Bern (April 1918) are included, as is a brief description of a building fire in New York City (July 1910). Floods are mentioned in Roanoke (1896) while letters from Cleburne, TX (1909) note the effects of drought. A San Francisco earthquake is described (1911) as are the devastating effects of hurricanes in Mobile, AL (1916), and New Bern (1933). Snow and the freezing of the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey are frequently noted throughout the mid-1910s while water pollution is documented in the vicinity of New Bern (1922).
Forms of entertainment popular in the early twentieth century are regularly commented upon in the correspondence. Such activities as opossum hunting (October1900); parties and dances (January 1904, May 1916); children's games played at a Valentine's Day party (1907); moving pictures such as
Birth of a Nation (November 4, 1915); a county fair (1915); theaters in the vicinity of Danville, VA (1916); a visit to the circus (1926); and activities and events which took place at the Texas Centennial Celebration in Dallas, TX (1936) are noted. Parade attendance was also an entertainment commonly enjoyed. Eyewitness accounts of a New Year's Day parade in Philadelphia (1894); a naval parade and review of battleships in New York by President Wilson (October 1912); a New York suffragette parade (1913); an Easter parade in Humphries, VA (1921); and a parade float sheet for New Bern's First in Freedom parade (1974) are included. Mention of holiday celebrations include descriptions of New Year celebrations and church services in Philadelphia (1894), Christmas decorations and celebrations (1896, 1937), an account of Baptist Easter services (1899?), and a portrayal of Washington's birthday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1900).
Records of the New Bern Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy include correspondence about Confederate grave markers (1903), crosses of military service (1929), and the loan of a silver service set to the North Carolina Museum of Art (1975-1976). Other items include chapter reports, grave marker information, minutes and membership lists, rituals and songs, a memorial to Maria Whitehurst, and the script for a radio program about Sidney Lanier. Pamphlets and brochures include programs, calendars of events, convention brochures, and New Bern Chapter yearbooks. Applications include those for entry into the Children of the Confederacy, a branch of the UDC for children under eighteen years old. Applications by Confederate veterans for the Southern Cross of Honor generally lists the soldier's place of residence, date of entry into service and discharge, as well as reasons for discharge. Also included is a scrapbook that among much memorabilia contains a speech on "The Civil War, or as it most impressed a child." Included in the speech are descriptions of troop musters in April 1861, buying shoes, making starch, children's toys, and a description of Jefferson Davis.
Miscellaneous topics mentioned in the correspondence include comments on women's fashions (April 1903, July 1910, November 1915); dating (March 1904); weddings and receptions (1911, 1917-1918); the number of hogs available for killing in Cove City, NC, and the preparation and sale of smoked sausage (February 1924); and some negative comments about the ability of WPA workers at Fort Belvoir, VA (1938). Miscellaneous items include songs and poems, essays, insurance policies (1848, 1853), an application for retirement (1945), and Greek and Latin exercises. Handbills contain information relative to performances at the Masonic Theater in New Bern, and performances by the Community Concert Association (1951, 1953) and the North Carolina Symphony (1947). Newsletters from the Girls Friendly Society (1909-1910), the New Bern Women's Club, the New Bern Garden Club, and the North Carolina ChessAssociation. are included, as are numerous photographs and negatives of family members and friends.
Genealogical correspondence and notes concern the Bryan, Custis, Dunn, Ernul, Forbes, Gatlin, Gooding, Green, Justice, Purefoy (Purifoy), Searles, Street, Tisdale, Tripp, Whitehurst, Whitford, and Williams families of Craven County, NC.
Oversized items relating to the Civil War include a Confederate loan certificate, a UDC scrapbook containing a drawing of a Confederate ironclad, a drawing (
ca. 1862) of the North Carolina flag during the Confederacy, and a clipping from
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper depicting the Battle of New Bern. Also located here are large sized deeds and plats.
For related material see Collections #3.1 (Jacob Gooding Papers) and #265 (William L. Horner Collection--Gooding Family Papers).