This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.
This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.
|Size||3.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 3450 items)|
|Abstract||Represented are members of the Branner, Atkins, and Gilmer families, including merchant and educator Joseph A. Branner of western North Carolina and Tennessee; his wife, Mary Josephine "Mollie" Love Branner; their daughters, Love Branner Gilmer and Ella Branner Atkins; Love's husband, Robert D. Gilmer (1859-1925), lawyer and legislator of Waynesville, N.C.; opera singer Josephine Gilmer, daughter of Love Branner Gilmer and Robert D. Gilmer; and Ella's husband, James Atkins, Jr. (1850-1923), president of the Asheville (N.C.) Female College and later of Emory and Henry College in Virginia. Correspondence and other materials primarily concern Joseph A. Branner's mercantile business in western North Carolina and Tennessee; the Branner Institute in Mossy Creek, Tenn.; the Asheville Female College; the "Love Speculation Lands," for which Robert D. Gilmer was trustee; Gilmer's legal and political careers; and Josephine Gilmer's musical career and trip to Milan, Italy. After Love Branner Gilmer acquired the Suyeta Park Hotel in Waynesville in 1916, there is correspondence about the hotel and restaurant business. The financial and legal papers mirror the concentration on these subjects, especially the school and the Love Estate lands.|
|Creator||Gilmer, Robert D., 1858-1925.|
The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.
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Joseph A. Branner was a merchant and educator of western North Carolina and Tennessee. He was a merchant in Mossy Creek, Tenn., in the early 1870s. In 1876, with the help of Reverend H. P. Myers, he founded the Branner Institute in Mossy Creek. About 1880, he moved to Asheville, N.C., and operated the Asheville Female College with James Atkins, Jr. Branner married Mary Josephine "Mollie" Love Branner (d. 1914), and with her had two daughters, Love Branner and Ella M. Branner. Love Branner married Robert D. Gilmer. Ella M. Branner married James Atkins, Jr.
James Atkins, Jr., (1850-1923) was born in Knoxville, Tenn., the son of a Methodist preacher. He became a Methodist minister and served in Morristown and Mossy Creek, Tenn. In 1879, he became president of the Asheville Female College in Asheville, N.C. In 1889, he moved to Virginia to become president of Emory and Henry College. He married Ella M. Branner in 1876 and together they had four children, including Love Branner Atkins. After the death of Ella M. Branner Atkins, James married Eva Rhodes.
Robert D. Gilmer (1859-1925) was the son of Samuel L. Gilmer and Matilda C. Moore of Mount Airy, N.C. His mother was the granddaughter of Jesse Franklin, governor of North Carolina and a United States senator. Gilmer attended Emory and Henry College in Virginia, 1879-1881, and the Dick and Dillards Law School in Greensboro, N.C., from which he was graduated in 1882. He was a member of the North Carolina state legislature, 1890 and 1892, and attorney general in 1898 and 1904. He was also the author of The Trial of the Sparrow for Killing Cock Robin (1898). He married Love Branner in 1884. The Gilmers had two children: Joseph "Branner" Gilmer (d. 1919) and Josephine Gilmer. In the 1910s and 1920s, Love Branner Gilmer owned and operated the Suyeta Park Hotel in Waynesville, N.C.
Josephine Gilmer, daughter of Robert D. Gilmer and Love Branner Gilmer, was educated at Peace Institute and Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, N.C. She studied in New York under Madame Ziegler of the Metropolitan Opera House for three years, and then travelled with her mother to Italy, 1912-1913, where Josephine studied voice in Milan under Emilio Metellio. Upon her return to the United States, Josephine performed several concerts as a prima donna soprano. She later married Jordan P. Chase.Back to Top
The collection is divided into three series. Series 1. Correspondence includes family and business letters that detail the lives and careers of members of the Atkins, Branner, and Gilmer families. The bulk of the collection is contained in Series 2. Financial and Legal Material, and relates primarily to the business, legal, and educational careers of family members, especially Robert D. Gilmer's work as trustee of the Love Speculation Lands. Series 3. Other Papers includes calling and greeting cards, printed material, clippings, etc.Back to Top
The early part of the correspondence, 1796-1878, is primarily related to Joseph A. Branner and his mercantile business and school at Mossy Creek, Tenn. A few very early letters establish the relationship between the Love and Branner family. James R. Love, whose estate was handled by Robert D. Gilmer, was Mary Josephine Love Branner's cousin. There are a few letters about Love and Branner family business relationships. For the most part, however, the letters concern the mercantile business and Branner Institute.
Correspondence, 1879-1891, primarily concerns the Asheville Female College, Asheville, N.C. Included is correspondence exchanged with with the United States Department of the Interior about arrangements to have Cherokee girls educated at the school; letters from parents; corres- pondence regarding furnishing the school with books and other supplies; and scattered letters from or about students. In 1887, there is a great deal of correspondence between Allen L. Melton, superintendent of the College, and others about constructing a new building on the grounds. The school was closed permanently in 1901.
Also included is material concerning Joseph A. Branner's other business interests in Mossy Creek, including his real estate investments, relationship with his lawyer, George P. Yoe, and lumber sales. Other topics include Ella Atkins's role in the Women's Missionary Society of the Methodist Church; James Atkins's decision to move to Emory and Henry College in 1889; and the marriage of Love Branner to Robert Gilmer.
In the later years, 1892-1906, the focus of the correspondence shifts to the career of Robert D. Gilmer. A small portion of the letters concern his legal business in Waynesville, N.C. More of the material is related to his campaign for attorney general and includes letters from W. T. Crawford (1856-1913), F. M. Simmons (1854-1940), and Charles D. McIver (1860-1906); letters of support from fellow attorneys; information about campaign travel; congratulations on success; and a small amount of attorney general business. There are also letters detailing his work as a trustee for the heirs of James R. Love and the "Love Speculation lands." Topics include protecting the interests of the heirs, surveying the land, settling suits, and selling off portions of the estate.
Towards the end of the period, the focus shifts to the Gilmer family women. There are many letters from Love Branner Gilmer and Josephine Gilmer during their trip to Italy in 1912-1913, which include descriptions of their travel experiences and especially of Milan. There is also general correspondence between the women in the family and their friends about family and social news. After Love Branner Gilmer acquired the Suyeta Park Hotel in 1916, there is correspondence about the hotel and restaurant business.
Arrangement: roughly chronological by decade.
Most of the financial and legal papers pertain to Joseph A. Branner's business; the Holston Academy, a school at which James Atkins briefly served, Branner Institute, and Asheville Female College; and to real estate speculation related to the Love Estate. The material includes bills, receipts, deeds, wills, indentures, certificates of investment in the various schools, insurance policies for school buildings, payrolls of the schools, plats, and survey records. There is also some financial and legal material of the families, including bills, receipts, and personal legal papers. In the last few years, there are a great number of canceled checks. There are also four volumes containing accounts, expense lists, and notes.
Arrangement: by type of material.
Other papers include cards and invitations; miscellaneous printed materials and clippings; handwritten notes and fragments; and miscellaneous volumes. The printed material includes advertisements, brochures for hotels and restaurants, programs, and a speech on Robert E. Lee by Samuel A. Ashe. The notes and fragments include school materials, recipes, lists, and notes on a meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Mossy Creek, Tenn., in 1875 or 1876. Miscellaneous volumes include two opera house programs and one libretto. Photographs are of various family members.
Processed by: Tracy E. K'Meyer, June 1992
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008
This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.Back to Top