Early correspondence (1835-1873) is primarily of a financial nature and is concerned with both the Gooding family and their business affairs. Some letters describe the spread of influenza (1842) and whooping cough (1845). Letters (1846) from Nathan Gooding and others describe the Episcopal Seminary of Valle Crucis in western North Carolina, including the location and community surrounding the school, its physical structure, and the daily routine. A hand-drawn diagram of its physical layout is also included.
The bulk of the correspondence concerns the Confederacy and troop maneuvers in western Virginia, eastern North Carolina, and Georgia. Letters from western Virginia (1861) comment on the movement of Confederate and Union armies in the Shenandoah Valley area of western Virginia. Other letters reveal the disillusionment of soldiers over hardships and bad weather, the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley, the receipt of provisions from home, various camp life experiences, and the death of the correspondent.
Letters from eastern North Carolina describe the movement of Confederate troops in the eastern section of the state, as well as the occupation and administration of New Bern by Union forces. Letters from Edward Stanley reflect his dealings with Gooding. One Confederate letter (1863) describes the New Bern Campaign of 1863, while others (1864) reflect the movement of Confederate troops around New Bern and Craven County. Other letters (1863-1864) concern the desertion of Confederate soldiers; duty at Fort Holmes on the Cape Fear, Plymouth, and Kinston; visits to Wilmington; the Union attack on a blockade runner and the capture of its crew; and the administration of the region under Union occupation. Additional comments (1864) reflect interest in the Holden-Vance N.C. gubernatorial election, the McClellan-Lincoln presidential contest, and the prospects of a Confederate victory at Richmond.
Letters (1864-1865) from Georgia concern the advance of Union forces under General William T. Sherman during his famous "March to the Sea" .These letters mention the Union Army's attack on Atlanta and the desperate condition of the Confederacy as it attempted to replenish the ranks of the Confederate Army. Other letters describe Sherman's progress across Georgia. Later letters mention the retreat of Confederate troops to Charleston and the demoralization of the civilian population of Savannah as the Confederate troops passed through the city.
Other letters (1865) describe the final days of the Confederate heartland as Sherman began his Carolina Campaign of 1865. These letters testify to the scarcity of goods in Wilmington, the landing of more Union troops at New Bern, the advancement of Union forces toward Charlotte, and the expected attack on Confederate positions at Kinston and Goldsboro.
The remaining correspondence chiefly concerns the family business in New Bern and the beginning of their pharmaceutical business. One letter (1891) describes the spread of typhoid in New Bern.
A file of Civil War records includes a list of colored men on board the U.S. steamer
COSSACK, a safeguard granted to Jacob Gooding by the military government at New Bern, a travel permit for H. Whitehurst, a list of soldiers issued supplies (1864), and a copy of "The Proclamation made by the Union Government at New Bern" sometime after the U.S. occupation of the city.
A file of legal records (1800-1893, undated) includes documents concerning marriage, runaway slaves, R. J. Gooding's will, and the Gooding business. Land records (1833-1888) describe the purchase and sale of land by the Gooding family.
The remaining material is composed almost entirely of financial records (1799-1894), including promissory notes, account ledgers, sale inventories, a list of taxable property, and purchase receipts. Financial records indicate that R. J. Gooding, from his base in New Bern, was able to import goods from the North and sell them in the Union occupied section of North Carolina. A legal record (Feb. 2, 1863) suggests that Gooding was sympathetic to the Confederate cause and that he materially contributed to the Confederacy by trading with them.
Oversize materials include financial records (1832-1837, 1893), advertisements, drug labels, and a sign language chart.