The earliest letters (1829-1857) are directed to John Herritage Bryan and primarily concern legal matters. Topics discussed include land boundary disputes, a suit relating to the ownership of slaves, stock in the Bank of New Bern (1833), trespass cases, assault indictments, estate settlements, a guardianship trial (May 1839), and a power of attorney (1863). The strength of the Whig candidate in the upcoming election (August 1854) is also noted.
Letter abstracts (1836-1838) concerning the firm of Tannahill & Lavender near Washington, N.C., document arrangements with John Myer of Washington for shipping large quantities of turpentine and tar. The abstracts likely are related to a deed (April 1837) between Tannahill & Lavender and Bryan Grimes and others in which Tannahill & Lavender relinquished control of its turpentine distillery and other properties.
A major topic of correspondence in the Grimes-Bryan Papers concerns the Civil War. Among Martha Conrad's frequent correspondents were her two brothers, Leander Gwinn Hunt and William "Bud" Hunt, and another relative, P. L. Hunt. William died in the fighting around Richmond (June 1864). P. L. Hunt, a private in the 42nd Regiment, North Carolina Troops, tells of guard duty, attempts to find deserters and an attempt to raise a company of boys under eighteen years of age for the defense of N.C. (March 1864). L. G. Hunt, a graduate of medical school in Philadelphia, was assistant surgeon for the 27th Regiment N.C. Troops. War news is his principal topic and he mentions a stabbing at Fort Macon and the readiness for war of the soldiers there (May 1861). The movement of government stores from Richmond by train and withdrawal of the civilian population from the area was noted by several relatives (May 1862). Other topics discussed are fighting around Richmond and provisions for treating the wounded (June 1862, June 1864); the Burnside Expedition in Beaufort Co. and the defense of Washington, N.C. (1862); the Army of the Potomac falling back from Manassas (March 1862); the battle of New Bern (April 1862); the Union capture of New Orleans (April1862); camp life of the 21st N.C. Infantry Regiment at Camp Hill including betting on horse races in Danville, Va. (July 1861); typhoid fever at Camp Lee, Va. (August 1862); victory at Fredericksburg (December 1862); a battle at Goldsboro (January 1863); duty in eastern North Carolina and Virginia (1861-1864); the anticipated attack on Richmond (June 1863); and A. P. Hill's responsibility for Confederate losses at Bristol Station, Va. (November 1863). The death of William Hunt in the battle of Richmond (June 1864); the number of Yankee prisoners and wagons taken at Decatur, Ga., and hopes of Gen. Hood winning over Sherman in Atlanta (July 1864); the necessity of Gen. Early's falling back from Fisher's Hill to New Market, Va. (September 1864); the scarcity of food in the Confederacy and the high prices of local goods (1862-1864); speeches given to the troops by N.C. Gov. Vance (April 1862); the troops not being paid for six months (July 1864); and a request to have a Confederate flag made for Co. A of Martin Co. Volunteers by the ladies of Williamston (May 1861) are also mentioned.
Annie Sparrow Lewis, daughter of Captain Thomas Sparrow of Washington, N.C., discusses in her "Recollections of the Civil War" Captain Sparrow's service and capture at Fort Hatteras, his imprisonment at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, and his service in North Carolina after his release from prison. Mrs. Lewis also describes life in Union-held Washington, N.C., Confederate attempts to regain the town, and her family's eventual flight to the Confederate lines.
Slavery- and Civil War-related topics discussed in the correspondence include the purchase of land and slaves (July 1853); the easiness of slave labor compared to the workload of "hired girls" (November 1853); a Guilford Co., N.C., Negro who sold himself into slavery (March 1861); a northern schoolteacher living in Stokes Co. who married a slave owner and detested abolitionists (September 1860); the whipping of a slave (November 1863); Congressman Wood's (NY) peace plan (December 1863); the scarcity of cloth (June, July 1861, November 1864), prices for bunch cotton and having wool spun (October 1862), and the acquisition of leather for shoes (October 1862); and John Wheeler Moore's preparation of the
Roster of North Carolina Troops in the War Between the States (February, July 1880).
Education is a recurrent topic throughout the collection. L. G. Hunt, while a student at Wake Forest College (1856-1857), wrote home about the cold weather, the need to purchase wood for a fire in the room, preaching, and ice-skating. The following year, Hunt moved to Philadelphia to begin the study of medicine and describes both his boarding house and Christmas parties (1858). Finishing his studies in New Orleans, La., he describes prices there (1859). Other correspondence mentions a Bethel, Ga., schoolteacher's salary and amount of vacation (1858), and student life and behavioral problems at Salem Female Academy in Forsyth Co., N.C. (1863, 1868, 1870). A letter (1906) written to Hon. John Humphrey Small of Washington, N.C., concerns Small's interest in improving the local public school system and lists publications related to public education in the South. The nature of the Washington Public Schools is reflected in the system's annual reports (1897-1898 through 1923-1924) that had been in the possession of John Humphrey Small at one time.
A series of letters from Marlin, Texas (1873), describes the settlement of the state, the price of improved land, planting, the heat and the dry season, labor and wages, and the necessity of shipping building lumber from east Texas. In later correspondence he discusses a campaign in Marlin (1876). Joel Hill describes his stay in Washington, D.C., and its environs (1876, 1878) including his boarding arrangements, the meeting room of the Committee on Indian Affairs and various government buildings, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Botanical Gardens. He also mentions the cost of living there in terms of salary and expenses. In 1877 he elaborates on corrupt politics and a dispute over the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Much of the correspondence of General Bryan Grimes (1867-1880, undated) reflects the nature of his farming enterprises. Letters to and from Robinson, McLeod & Co. and Dancy, Hyman and Co. of New York City, concern the cotton market (1871, May 1880) and Grimes's sales of cotton. Other letters concern the peanut market (November-December 1871), Grimes's order of lumber from Martinique (February 1879), insurance coverage for cotton destroyed by fire (April 1879), a North Carolina Supreme Court case affecting Grimes, which involved a bridge and a free ferry (1879), the need for a mail route in the vicinity of Gardners Crossroads in Pitt Co. (February 1880), and the whereabouts and work of artist William Garl Browne (February, July 1880). The contest between Daniel G. Fowle and Thomas J. Jarvis for the Democratic N.C. gubernatorial nomination is described in some detail (1879-1880), and a letter from Henry R. Bryan to Grimes concerns Grimes's wife Charlotte's portion of her father's legacy (August 1871).
Social activities and events are noted throughout the correspondence including invitations to a July Fourth party (1843); a marriage proposal (1851); a trip to White Sulpher Springs resort (1855); holiday parties and preparations (1859, 1873-1874); fashions in Jefferson Springs, Tennessee (1867), Philadelphia (1853), and New Orleans (1860); weddings and births; candy pulling (1863); and picnics (1866, 1874).
Illnesses noted in the correspondence include cholera and bilious colic (1855), yellow fever (1855, 1859), typhoic fever (1859, 1861-1862), alcoholism (1861), cancer (1861, 1873), diphtheria (1862), asthma (1873), whooping cough and measles (undated), and a yellow fever quarantine between Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana (1873).
Other Conrad correspondence concerns Greenwood Cemetery, omnibus travel, wickedness, filth, and the theatre in New York City (November 1853); the application process for officers in a new cavalry unit (December 1853); the Company Shops community of the North Carolina Railroad (February 1859); theaters, wickedness, yellow fever, and women in New Orleans (December 1859-January 1860); instances of babies being found dead in Haw River and in a gold mine (April 1862); poor tobacco prices, scarcity of corn, bad roads, and friendly people in Burnsville, N.C. (July 1876); building a bridge in Washington, N.C., and eliminating a free ferry (1866); Reconstruction effects on the economy (1866, 1868); Negro voting preferences and the prevalence of Radicalism in Davidson Co. (May 1868); complaints of oppressive taxation in the South (1868); and flower gardening practices at Oakville, N.C. (April 1889, November 1899).
Papers relating to the legal career of John H. Bryan (1823-1861) include legal briefs, notes, bills of complaint, Beaufort County trial dockets (1832), receipts for Craven County court cases, testimony of witnesses, and reports. Cases pertain to a variety of civil and criminal proceedings in Onslow, Craven and Beaufort counties and include divorce proceedings, settlements of estates, land disputes, slave ownership disputes, and trespass, assault and murder cases.
The collection also contains transcripts of testimony given in the case of
William Parker concerning the assassination of General Bryan Grimes (December 7, 1880). A clipping (1990) contains an article on Grimes.
Biographical and genealogical sketches pertain to the Grimes and Sparrow families and the Washington, N.C., area. The sketch of Charlotte E. Grimes, widow of General Grimes, tells of her childhood in Raleigh, the Civil War years, her marriage, and life at Grimesland after the Civil War. Also included is a genealogical essay on the Shepard family of North Carolina, a speech by Dr. D. T. Tayloe of Washington containing his reflections on his life as a country doctor (1930), essays (1860s) primarily written by Albert C. Wharton perhaps while at Davidson College, and a report card (1868) from Davidson College.
A separate file of Bryan Grimes material contains correspondence (1867-1880) already described, financial accounts (1871-1880), tenant farmer indentures (1874), and miscellaneous items.
Volumes in the collection relate to finances. The account book of a Pitt Co., N.C., doctor (March-October 1860) lists persons visited and charges made. A ledger (1808-1810) belonging to W. Shaw, probably of Beaufort County, constitutes a record of sales of foodstuffs, liquor, cloth, paper, shoes, and other goods. General Grimes's cashbook (1872) lists cash transactions for various purchases through the year. An unidentified ledger contains pages pertaining to the household and farm purchases of Bryan Grimes and Bryan Grimes & Co. (1872). Included are prices paid for tar and turpentine as well as purchases and payments to employees and others. Loose financial papers (1836-1880, undated) include receipts, accounts for Washington and Clemmonsville, N.C., stores, and shipping receipts for steamers and schooners.
Legal papers in the Grimes-Bryan Papers include Georgia deeds for land owned by the Stovall and Adams families (1830, 1832); a bill of sale for Negroes in Jones County (1830); the will of Portia (Bonner) Smallwood and related Beaufort County court papers (1831); and legal records of the Wharton family of Davidson County (1868, 1874). The oversize folder contains a plat of John Herritage Bryan's Millbrook Plantation (1861), and a pamphlet (1888) by J. Bryan Grimes concerning the division of opinion about the candidacy of Judge James E. Shepherd for the state Supreme Court with allegations going back to 1882 concerning Shepherd's conduct as defense attorney in the trial of William Parker for the murder of General Grimes.
Typed transcripts are available for Civil War-era letters in the collection. For related material, see collections #54, #147, and #267 in this repository and the Bryan Grimes Papers and the John Herritage Bryan Collection at the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.