Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

19th Century Primary Sources

A listing of 19th century primary sources about local people and events found in Archives & Special Collections, supplemented by the library's extensive e-resources.

Nineteenth Century Manuscripts

Sometimes referred to as "small manuscripts," these materials are primarily contained within single folders rather than multiple boxes. The majority of these "single manuscripts" are individual letters, diaries, receipts, ledgers, and notebooks. The following list is a selection of these items. For more information, search the catalogs listed to the left.

If you would like to view any of the materials listed below, please email to make an appointment.


John Chambers Rankin Cannon Speeches (DC0019s)

Description: The collection consists of 3 speeches presented to the Philanthropic Society and his Philanthropic Society and college diplomas. There are two manuscript copies of "The West - A Field for Enterprise" (1851), and one copy each of "Ex Parvis Magna Orientur (1852), and "Unaided Genius" (undated).

Joseph Lenoir Chambers Collection (DC0020s)

Description: The collection consists of Chamber's graduation oration "The Teacher as the Hope of the Country" and a letter written in 1920 about the history of the college in relation to the Chambers family, specifically the bequest of Maxwell Chambers.

Albert Allison James Papers (DC0046s)

Description: Albert Allison James was salutatorian of the Davidson College class of 1848. He attended Columbia Theological Seminary and served in the Civil War as a chaplain. The collection consists of a handwritten copy of James’ valedictory address and the response given by R.H. Johnston, James' diary kept from 5 April 1847 to 18 December 1847, and a typescript of his 50th anniversary sermon given in July 1901.

James Hardy Morrison Speeches (DC0069s)

Description: The collection consists of Morrison's Representative Oration, "Rights," delivered June 24, 1874 and his Inaugural Address as president of the Philanthropic Society in 1875.

Richard Ellis Sherrill Collection (DC0077s)

Description: The collection consists of Sherrill's Valedictory Address given in 1841 and a photocopy of his diary from September 1837 to January 1852. 

Robert Gordon Sparrow Collection (DC0084s) 

Description:  A resident of the town of Davidson, his maternal grandfather was John Kirkpatrick, (president of Davidson College (1860-1866) and great-uncle was Patrick Sparrow, one of college's first professors. Before attending Davidson College, Sparrow produced a local newspaper for 2 years. This collection consists of six issues of the newspaper and a speech on Charles Egbert Craddock.

Mary Erwin Young Papers (DC0136s)

Description: Mary Erwin Young was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina and moved to Davidson in 1905, living there until her death. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, she was interested in art and music. She bequeathed her one million dollar estate to agencies of the Presbyterian Church. The collection consists of correspondence, 1864-1930 and printed materials, 1907-1967. The correspondence is mainly personal letters describing Young's social life and family. 

Houston Ballard Collection (DC0170s)

Description: The collection consists of miscellaneous manuscript items including: a slave pass signed by Thomas Allison (1859), a receipt from H. P. Helper (1873), a letter from Fannie Dobbins to Rev. W.W Wood concerning church membership (1871), and a warrant to the Sheriff of Rowan County for George Love, David Caldwell, and Samuel Love (1824).

Sparrow Family Papers (DC0204s)

Description: Patrick Sparrow was one of the original faculty members of Davidson College. He taught Latin and Greek from 1837 to 1840. His brother, Thomas, owned a store in Davidson. The collection consists of correspondence. The letters from 1847 to 1857 discuss family life. The letters from 1956 to 1981 were written to Dr. Chalmers Davidson about the family history and property

Robert Hall Morrison Collection (DC0225s)

Description: Robert Hall Morrison was the first President of Davidson College serving from 1836 to 1840.The collection contains correspondence, deeds, receipts, and certificates. The correspondence is primarily related to family matters and includes letters from Morrison's granddaughter Julia Jackson. 

Catawba Springs Hotel Collection (DC0232s)

Description: The Catawba Springs Hotel was located in Lincoln County, North Carolina, about twenty-four miles from Charlotte. As early as the 1790's, visitors were frequenting this popular mineral springs resort. The files contain the guest ledgers from 1838-1851 and 1852-1854. These ledgers contain the names, residences and destinations of the guests. The files also contain letters and poetry. 

Charles Harris Ledger (DC0234s)

Description: The files contain a letter from Mrs. Jane Harris Nierenberg, a medical ledger (1796-1807), and a typescript of portions of the ledger entries. 

Spanish-American War Scrapbook (DC0295s)

Description: The majority of the cartoons in the scrapbook were done by Charles Nelan, 1859-1904. Nelan worked for the New York Herald beginning in 1897. 

Eulalia Cornelius Program (DC0324s)

Description: In 1896, two music classes were organized in the town of Davidson, NC. The vocal class was taught by Miss Eulalia Cornelius, of Statesville, NC. She had studied music in Boston and Germany and taught for at least 2 years in Davidson. The collection consists of one program from a 1898 performance.

These materials are typically stored across multiple boxes. The majority of items found within these collections are letters, diaries, ledgers, varied correspondence, meeting minutes, and notebooks. The following list is a selection of these items. For more information, search the catalogs listed to the left.

If you would like to view any of the materials listed below, please email to make an appointment.


E.H. Little Papers (DC003)

Description: The biographical materials include marriage records and family information. The addresses include several speeches given as president of Colgate-Palmolive, his Commencement address at Davidson College in 1953, an introduction of Mr. Williams Sims II at the American Newcomen Society in 1956, and comments from the dedication of Davidson College's E.H. Little Library. Some files are restricted.

Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Women of the Church, Collection (DC023)

Description: The bulk of the collection consists of minutes and financial reports from 1880 to 1980, and 2005 to the present.
The collection is organized as follows: 1) General; 2) Constitution; 3) Minutes; 4) Reports; 5) Financial; 6) Membership Book; 7) Annual "History of Presbyterian Women" Reports 8) Scrapbook.

Dr. William Joseph Martin Collection (DC028)

Description: William Joseph Martin Jr. was born in Tennessee in 1868, but he and his family moved to Davidson early in his youth when his father accepted a faculty appointment at the college. He graduated from Davidson College in 1888. In 1896, he returned to Davidson as Chambers Professor of Chemistry, a position which he held until 1912, when he became president of the college. The collection is organized into the following series: 1) Biographical Materials; 2) Correspondence; 3) Literary Materials; 4) Genealogical Materials; 5) Printed Materials; 6) Photographs; 7) Financial Materials; 8) Cookbook; 9) Scrapbook Materials. 

Sallie Stirewalt Paisley Collection (DC054) 

Description: Sallie managed a boarding house on North Main Street, Davidson. In the 1920s her boarding house was closely associated with the Kappa Alpha fraternity. She was choir director and organist for the Presbyterian Church. She also had several real estate investments. The collection consists primarily of correspondence relating to her real estate and business investments from 1898 to 1934. While the correspondence is fairly routine, it does reflect economic changes during World War I and the Depression. There are also letters from Davidson College students written during World War I. 

Chalmers Gaston Davidson Plantation Files (DC058)

Description: Davidson published several books including The Plantation World Around Davidson. This book focuses on several families and their respective plantations in Mecklenburg, Catawba, Iredell and Gaston Counties. These files contain the research materials collected by Dr. Davidson for his research in writing The Plantation World Around Davidson. Davidson was assisted by Mary Boyer in collecting information on the properties and her name appears throughout the files. Some of the materials have been digitized.

Helper and Sloan Collection (DC063)

Description: Helper and Sloan operated a dry goods shop in Davidson, N.C. The collection contains the following: 1) invoices from 1867-1873, 2) Letters, 3) Helper Store Ledger, 1852-1854, 4) Helper Store Ledger, 1854-1855, and 5) Helper Store Ledger, 1896-1897.

Town Commission, Davidson, N.C., Minutes and Committees (DC074)

Description: The Davidson Town Commission was established in 1879 at the time of the town's incorporation. The collection consists of photocopies of minutes beginning February 17, 1879. There is also a copy of the Ordinances of the Town of Davidson, 1912, and minutes for the Bicentennial Committee, 1975-76 and the Parks and Recreation Committee, 1972-1973. The general minutes for 2007 are primarily Planning Board minutes.

Rhyne Family Collection (DC081)

Description: Abel Peterson Rhyne (1844-1932) was a Civil War veteran and pioneer cotton manufacturer who played a major role in shaping Gaston County. The collection focuses on Rhyne family history, the history of the Mount Holly community, and the cotton mills owned and operated by the Rhyne family. 

Davidson Family Correspondence (DC089)

Description: This collection includes 174 folders of correspondence between members of the Davidson family and their respective communities ranging from March 6, 1836 to June 20, 1913. 

North Carolina Medical College Collection, 1889 - 1912 (DC090)

Description: Incorporated in 1893, the North Carolina Medical College was the first chartered medical college in North Carolina and had its roots in Davidson's pre-medical program. The collection consists of enrollment cards for students, published catalogs, and the 1914 commencement program. 

Questions? Need help? Ask Us
Davidson College Library, Box 7200, 209 Ridge Rd., Davidson, NC 28035-7200
Creative Commons license logo for CC by-sa 4.0
This Davidson College Library Research Guides are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
All box-title icons from Entypo pictograms by Daniel Bruce —