Correspondence & Financial Records (ca. 1845 - 1917, undated) of merchants, shipbuilders and mercantile family from Elizabeth City and Weeksville, Pasquotank County, NC. Individuals include Woodson Bradford Fearing, Enoch Pratt Fearing, Lizzie Parker Fearing, George Fearing, Pratt Fearing, Woodruff Fearing, Emily Fearing, Emily Ramsay Commander, M. E. Fearing, Joseph Commander and Walter J. Rhode.
The Fearing, Ramsay, and Commander families were united in 1879 with the marriage of John Bartlett Fearing and Mollie Commander. Fearing's first wife, Lizzie Ramsay, died in 1875, leaving John Bartlett the sole parent of two sons, Johnny and Woodson. John Bartlett and Mollie Commander had two sons of their own, George and Pratt.
The bulk of the correspondence consists of inter-family, personal letters, many of which are to Mollie Commander Fearing. There are also many letters between Mollie and her mother, Emily Carolyn Ramsay Commander, her father, Joseph Commander and her husband, Bart.
Correspondence preceding the Civil War and during the war is limited. There are, however, brief comments pertaining to pre-Civil War social and religious life in northeastern North Carolina and the high cost of living in the latter part of the war. Of particular interest is an undated letter to Emily Fearing from John Bartlett Fearing (Captain, Company L, 17th Regiment, NC Volunteers) about Federal attacks on Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark in North Carolina. This letter is accompanied by a typed transcription.
Postwar correspondence is of particular interest. These letters deal with a variety of subjects including problems of northeastern North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia following the war. There are comments on the effect of the abolition of slavery, conduct of tenants, farming conditions, scarcity of labor, weather, and ability to pay taxes. Also of interest is Mollie Commander's attendance at the Seminary for Young Ladies (1871-1872), a private school in Baltimore, Maryland. Her correspondence with her mother, Emily Carolyn Ramsay Commander, reflects her daily routine, course work, and study habits. Other correspondence in this period reflects religious and social attitudes and activities. They comment extensively on family travel, eating habits, children, diseases and possible cures, and death.
The correspondence of the late nineteenth century continues to be family centered with the letters of Bart and Mollie dominating the period. They write each other continuously throughout the period and in one year (1879) they wrote almost daily "love letters." In addition to their personal relationship, they comment on business trips to Baltimore, Maryland (1879); travel on the Dismal Swamp Canal (1879); trips to Nags Head, including a description of a shipwreck (1886); and religious and social activities. Upon Bart's death (1888) Mollie received numerous sympathy letters from relatives and friends. In addition to the Bart-Mollie correspondence, there is also other family correspondence of interest. The two families comment typically on family relations; trips to Nags Head, including a description of the condition and price of hotels; building of the Elizabeth City-Norfolk Railroad; the earthquake of 1886; the death of pets; eating habits and children.
After 1888 the correspondence is primarily related to Mollie's attempts to pay family debts and to act as guardian for her two sons. Of particular interest is the correspondence from these boys while in school (1898-1900). George at Trinity High School (Trinity, NC) and Pratt at Randolph-Macon Academy (Bedford City, Virginia) comment on school life, course work, and debating societies. The latest correspondence is between Fearing family members discussing their genealogy.
The collection also consists of the families' financial records between 1855 and 1910. Included in the financial records are receipts from various consumer goods companies, including many from the dry goods company, McCabe and Grice. Other receipts document medical bills, taxes paid, various banking transactions and tuition payments made to Randolph-Macon College. Also present is a ledger book from 1919 that documents activities of the D.P. White [Lumber] Company in Elizabeth City.
Other printed materials consist of notes, recipes and various ephemera. Also included in this series are two unidentified portrait photographs of young women. The back of one photograph reads "Howlett" (handwritten above 'Charles W. Hearn' which has been scratched out), "Photographer, No. 168 Main Street, Norfolk, VA" (printed).
Source:Finding aid of Gertrude Evans Fearing Collection (#244), Special Collections Department, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA. By C. Joyner.
Gift of Gertrude Fearing White
Processed by Lyle Lentz, May 5, 2004
Encoded by Mark Custer, March 26, 2008
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
Note to Researchers: The related collection consists of photocopies that were made from loaned originals. Some of these copies are identical to original documents in the Fearing-Ramsay-Commander Family Collection, but it does not appear both collections are totally identical.