Fearing - Ramsay - Commander Family Collection

1845-1939, undated
Manuscript Collection #912
Commander family; Fearing family; Ramsay family
Physical description
0.25 Cubic Feet, 3 archival boxes
Preferred Citation
Fearing - Ramsay - Commander Family Collection (#912), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

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.

Biographical/historical information

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.

Scope and arrangement

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.

Administrative information
Custodial History

April 25, 2003, 0.25 cubic feet; Correspondence & Financial Records (ca. 1845 - 1917, undated) of John Bartlett (1) Fearing, Mollie Commander Fearing, Miscellaneous Fearing - Commander; John Bartlett (2) Fearing; George Fearing; Submit Woodruff Fearing; Emily Ramsay Commander; Joseph (8) Commander; General Correspondence; Financial records 1897-1926, undated, merchants, shipbuilders and mercantile family from Elizabeth City and Weeksville, Pasquotank County, NC. Donor: Gertrude Fearing White

Source of acquisition

Gift of Gertrude Fearing White

Processing information

Processed by Lyle Lentz, May 5, 2004

Encoded by Mark Custer, March 26, 2008

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

Gertrude Evans Fearing Collection (Manuscript Collection #244)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.

Key terms
Personal Names
Commander family
Fearing family
Ramsey family
Elizabeth City (N.C.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Elizabeth City (N.C.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Pasquotank County (N.C.)--Genealogy

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Letters to Woodson Bradford Fearing from his father. Includes comments on current wages in Chicago. (1877); Letters to Enoch Pratt Fearing (1898, 1915); Letters to Lizzie Parker Fearing (1872, 1874) 11 items
Box 1 Folder b Letter to George Fearing from his father (1881); Letters to Mrs. Submit Woodruff Fearing from son Bart. Include comments on Thanksgiving dinner, health, members of the clergy(1875-1876, 1879); Letter to Submit Woodruff Fearing from Grand Delaware State Lottery (1860) 7 items
Box 1 Folder c Letter to Emily Fearing from John Bartlett Fearing about attack on Forts Hatteras and Clark in North Carolina (ca. 1860's); Letter to John Bartlett Fearing from George Fearing (1881); Letter to Johnny from John Bartlett Fearing (1881); Letter to Johnny from Father (1876); Letter to Johnny from M. E. Fearing (1881); Letters to Emily Ramsay Commander from daughter Mollie. Includes comments on dentist visit, school activities, the Catholic Church, male and female friends, request for money and a street procession by The Knights Templar (1871); Letter to Emily Ramsay Commander from sister (1866); Letter to Emily Ramsay Commander from sister Mary E. Jones in Baltimore (1871); Letter to Emily Ramsay Commander commenting on daughter Mollie's improvement in her studies (1871) 14 items
Box 1 Folder d Personal letters of Joseph Commander. Includes letters of affection with "Matilda," one with a lock of her hair. Other topics include business, relationship with daughter Mollie, smallpox and news from his sister in Jackson, Tennessee. There are also many letters between Commander (in Elizabeth City, North Carolina) and Sally Dayle (in Brunswick County, Virginia). Topics include marriage, children and property. (1845, 1870-1874, 1881, 1884); Postcards to Joseph Commander from his mother (1877) 35 items
Box 1 Folder e Personal letters to Mollie Commander Fearing from mother and sister. Topics include daily activities, crops, family and health (1872-1874, 1878-1884); Letters to Mollie Commander Fearing from her aunt (with a lock of Mollie's mother's hair), cousin, friend Betty Johnson and sister. Later letters concern Mollie's deteriorating health (1872) 42 items
Box 1 Folder f Personal letters to Mollie Commander Fearing (1887-1888, 1891-1893) 30 items
Box 1 Folder g Personal letters to Mollie Commander Fearing (1894-1898) 23 items
Box 1 Folder h Personal letters to Mollie Commander Fearing. This correspondence relates to finances, a request for money from a man in prison and one letter from a member of the East Carolina Chapter of The United Daughters of the Confederacy. (1900-1904, 1908-1912, 1920-1921, 1923, 1927) 26 items
Box 1 Folder i Personal Letters to Mollie Commander Fearing from John Bartlett Fearing (1876-1887) 77 items
Box 1 Folder j Personal Letters to John Bartlett Fearing from family and friends (1871-1888) 83 items
Box 2 Folder a Miscellaneous letters of Fearing-Commander-Ramsay family (1860, 1867, 1871, 1873-1874, 1876-1877, 1887-1888, 1897-1898, undated); Postcards to Walter J. Rhode (1908); Correspondence between Fearing family members about their genealogy (1919, 1932, 1937, 1939) 36 items
Box 2 Folder b Envelopes of the personal letters of the Fearing, Commander, Ramsay family (1872-1874, 1883, 1888, 1891-1894, 1898, 1907-1910, 1917, 1926, undated) 71 items
Box 2 Folder d McCabe & Grice Dry Goods Co. receipts (1891-1897, 1899, 1901, 1908); Miscellaneous checks(1881, 1890-1891, 1893-1896, 1899-1901, 1910); Receipts for goods (1855, 1859, 1871, 1880-1881, 1888, 1891, 1893-1901, 1900-1910); Miscellaneous receipts (1858, 1890-1891, 1895-1897, 1902, 1907); 138 items
Box 2 Folder e Bank account balances (1853, 1860-1861, 1869); Empty check book (1876) 5 items
Box 2 Folder f Account book for George Fearing, 2 pages used (1900); Account book for Pratt Fearing, 3 pages used (1899); Bank book for Mollie Fearing, First National Bank, Elizabeth City, N.C., 2 pages used (1900); Bankbook for Mollie Fearing, Citizens Bank of Elizabeth City, N.C., 4 pages used (undated); Bankbook for Mollie Fearing, The Savings Bank and Trust Co., Elizabeth City, N.C., 3 pages used (1905) 5 items
Box 2 Folder g Power company receipts (1900, 1909); Insurance receipts (1902, 1905); Attorney Receipt (1899); Bankruptcy receipt for Mollie Fearing (undated); Stock receipt for Old Dominion Steam Co. (1902); Virginia Steamboat receipt (1892) 9 items
Box 2 Folder h D.P. White [Lumber] Co. Elizabeth City log book, 102 pages used (1919) 1 item. 217 p
Box 3 Folder a Newspaper clippings; 2 songs (1883, 1892) Pruden Library at Edenton article (1921); Horoscope (undated); Handwritten songs (undated); Invitations to wedding (1891), birthday (1894), graduation (undated); Photographs of unknown females (undated); Miscellaneous Advertisements (undated); Postcards (undated); Miscellaneous handwritten notes (undated); Award of merit to Molly Commander (undated); First class boarding ticket (undated); Cough medicine recipe (undated) 29 items
Box 3 Folder b Daily [work] reports for The Frontier Press Co. (1909); Photocopy negatives of 1860 census records including the name Fearing (1860) 4 items
Box 3 Folder c Second Division of Naval Reserve roll book, 4 pages used (1894) 1 item
Box 3 Folder d Cards with poems and sayings, no names or inscriptions, 2 (1918) 6 (undated) 8 items