The bulk of the early letters (1853-1868) deal primarily with family affairs and agriculture, although there is one interesting letter which discusses the issue of slavery and the Missouri Compromise (1856).
The correspondence from 1868-1885 is concerned with the family's involvement with steamboats and shipping, primarily in the sounds of eastern North Carolina. Several particularly interesting letters describe the design for a new steam engine and the construction of the vessel in which is to be placed (1871). There are descriptions of excursions on steamboats, the types of cargo carried (such as guano), the routes taken and the important granting of mail contracts. Of a related nature is a broadside (1874) for an excursion on the steamboat
Bertie to Murfreesboro to visit Wesleyan Female College. References to fishing are frequent, as are requests for Zephaniah's services as surveyor. Much family news is included as well as references to the practice of boarding young boys so that they could attend school or work. Note is taken of an epidemic of smallpox in Windsor (1872) and several robberies which occurred in Plymouth (1873). Mention is made of the 1876 Centennial celebration in Philadelphia.
The letters from 1885-1893 record Zephaniah Askew's move to Windsor. The majority of the correspondence deals with financial transactions over his Harrellsville property; agriculture, timber, and the renting or sale of land. Of particular interest is a cryptic message from New York City, which includes a "Pass Word" and sign for the recipient.
Other interesting correspondence concerns Henry Askew Mowbray's (Iredell County, North Carolina) request (1877) for genealogical information, which includes his own family history; and a letter from Dr. S.S. Fitch and Son, Broadway, New York which offers Zephaniah Askew a medical diagnosis by mail and includes a check list of symptoms.
The financial papers include account books, records of prices of farm goods, and papers delineating the boundaries of several farms.
Miscellaneous materials include E.S. Askew's diary and account book which records the words to two ballads, his own personal dictionary, and a "language of flowers" : a list of the policyholders in the Widows and Orphans Benefit Life Insurance Company of New York containing addresses and occupations of stockholders; several North Carolina almanacs; the General Orders of the Headquarters of the Second Military District, Charleston, South Carolina which concerns the ratification of the North Carolina constitution (May 12, 1868); an announcement by Henry Riddick of the opening of a school in Harrellsville (1872); and a pamphlet
Ann of the Ku Klux Klan by Tom Henderson.