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|Size||About 3000 items (6.0 linear feet)|
|Abstract||The Avery family of Burke County, N.C., was prominent in western North Carolina, owning extensive tracts of land and actively participating in local and state politics. Family members include Waightstill Avery (1741-1821), who served on the committee that drew up the first North Carolina constitution and was the state's first attorney general; his wife, Leah Probart Franck Avery; their son, Isaac Thomas Avery (1785-1864); his wife, Harriet Erwin Avery; and their children, William Waightstill Avery (1816-1864), Clarke Moulton Avery (1819-1864), Thomas Lenoir Avery (1821-1852), Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863), Alphonso Calhoun Avery (1835-1913), and Willoughby Francis Avery (1843-1876). The collection includes personal and professional correspondence, legal papers, financial materials, and other papers relating to members of the Avery family and related Erwin, Lenoir, and Probert families. Personal correspondence concerns family affairs. Business correspondence concerns land; purchasing and hiring out of slaves; agriculture; politics; and financial, business, and legal affairs. Also included are several Civil War letters of Isaac Thomas Avery and Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863) with the 6th North Carolina Regiment, official war correspondence, letters concerning Isaac Erwin Avery's death at Gettysburg, and notes concerning deserters. Also included are bills; receipts; estate papers and wills; account books documenting the Avery plantation at Swan Ponds and other plantations, including the distribution of goods to slaves and purchase and hiring out of slaves; papers relating to gold purchases at the State Bank of North Carolina and gold mines; and a copy of Andrew Jackson's 1788 challenge to a duel with Waightstill Avery. Also included are biographical materials; genealogical materials; clippings; Civil War materials relating to Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863); publications by Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904); a recipe book and poetry of Harriet Erwin Avery; an undated, four-page dialogue poem, titled "Folly's Dialogue," by the "Colored Bard of North Carolina," the pen name of George Moses Horton, a Chatham County, N.C., slave and poet; and other materials.|
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The Avery family of Burke County, N.C., was one of the most prominent families of western North Carolina, owning large amounts of land, and actively participating in local and state politics. Waightstill Avery (1741-1821) was the first family member to settle in North Carolina. The tenth son of Humphrey Avery and Jerusha Morgan Avery, he was born on 10 May 1741, in Groton, Conn. He attended the Reverend Samuel Seabury's school in Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y., and was graduated from Princeton in 1766. After teaching for a year, he studied law under Lyttleton Dennis of Maryland and then moved to North Carolina in 1769 to start his practice. Waightstill Avery traveled throughout the state and spent a year in Salisbury before moving to Charlotte, where he boarded with Hezekiah Alexander. In 1772, he was elected to the provincial assembly, and he was appointed attorney general for the Crown.
Waightstill Avery became an advocate of independence and was a member of the committee that drafted the Mecklenburg Resolves in May 1775. In August 1775, he was a delegate to the Third Provincial Congress, and, in September of that year, he was appointed to the Provincial Council. He resigned his position as the attorney general for the Crown in May 1776 and was a member of the committee that met in November 1776 to write North Carolina's first constitution, much of which is in his handwriting. In 1777, Avery was elected to the first General Assembly and was named North Carolina's first attorney general.
On 3 October 1778, Waightstill Avery married Leah Probart Francks (d. 1832), daughter of Captain Yelverton Peyton Probart, and the couple moved to Franck's plantation in Jones County. In October 1779, Waightstill Avery became a member of the governor's council, and he resigned as the attorney general to lead the Jones County militia, where he earned the rank of Colonel. During this time, he acquired Swan Ponds plantation in Burke County and sent his family there, but did not join them until 1781. After the Revolution, Avery continued to practice law and was active in politics, representing Burke County in the House of Commons, 1782-1785 and 1793, and in the State Senate, 1796.
In 1788, while trying a case in Jonesboro, Tenn., Waightstill Avery was challenged to a duel by Andrew Jackson, who felt insulted by some of Avery's harsh comments in the courtroom. After meeting at the dueling ground and firing above each other's head, however, the two left as friends. Waightstill Avery's poltical career came to an end in 1801, after a fall from a horse left him paralyzed in the legs, but he continued to practice law until shortly before his death in 1821.
Following his accident, Waightstill Avery spent the majority of his time at Swan Ponds. He acquired vast amounts of land, owning more than 13,000 acres in Burke County alone in 1818. He belonged to the Quaker Meadows Presbyterian Church and continued to wear the colonial style of dress until his death. In 1819, while conversing with Archibald D. Murphey, Waightstill Avery suffered a seizure which paralyzed his right side. He never fully recovered from this attack, and, after an extended illness, Waightstill Avery died on 15 March 1821.
Waightstill Avery and his wife Leah had three daughters and one son. Polly Mira married Caleb Poore, but divorced him in 1813 and married Jacob Summey of Asheville. Elizabeth married William B. Lenoir, son of Waightstill's friend General William Lenoir of Fort Defiance, and they settled in Tennessee. Selina Louisa married Thomas Lenoir, another son of General William Lenoir, and they lived at Fort Defiance. Waightstill's son, Isaac Thomas Avery (1785-1864), married Harriet Eloise Erwin, daughter of William Willoughby and Matilda Sharpe Erwin of Burke County, and they lived at Swan Ponds.
Isaac Thomas Avery, the only son of Waightstill and Leah Probart Francks Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 22 September 1785. He received little formal education, studying briefly under Samuel Doak at Washington College near Jonesboro, Tenn. Following his father's accident in 1801, Isaac returned home to help manage the plantation. He became active in politics, supporting the Democrats and John C. Calhoun. He represented Burke County in the House of Commons, 1809-1811, and then served three times on the Governor's Council.
In 1815, Isaac Thomas Avery married Harriet Eloise Erwin, daughter of William Willoughby Erwin and Matilda Sharpe Erwin of Burke County. He and Harriet had sixteen children, ten of whom lived past childhood. William Waightstill (1816-1864) was the first surviving child, his twin brother dying shortly after birth. Clarke Moulton (1819-1864) was the couple's fourth child, but the second to survive childhood. Thomas Lenoir (1821-1852) was born on the day Waightstill Avery died. Isaac Erwin (1828-1863) was the fourth son to reach adulthood, and Alphonso Calhoun (1835-1913) was the fifth. The youngest son was Willoughby Francis (1843-1867). Four of the couple's sixteen children were daughters: Leah Adelaide (1822-1896), who never married; Mary Ann Martha (1831-1890), who married Joseph F. Chambers of Iredell County; Harriet Justina (b. 1833), who married Major Pinkney B. Chambers of Statesville; and Laura Mira (1837-1912), who also never married.
In 1824 and 1828, Isaac served as a presidential elector for North Carolina. He was appointed head of the Morganton branch of the State Bank of North Carolina in 1829, a position he held for almost thirty years. He advocated internal improvements and served on the Board of Internal Improvements, 1821-1822. He was also the president of the Catawba Navigation Company for many years and a member of the Morganton Agricultural Society. In addition to all of these duties, Isaac continued to manage the plantaion at Swan Ponds, building a new house in 1848. He also acquired over 50,000 acres in Mitchell and Avery counties, where he raised more cattle and horses than anyone else in western North Carolina. By 1850, he owned over 140 slaves, and he operated several gold mines in Burke and Rutherford counties.
A long-time advocate of state's rights, Isaac supported secession as the Civil War drew nearer. Four of his sons fought for the Confederacy, three of them dying during the war, and one dying later from war-related injuries. The injury and death of his sons was too much for the 79-year-old Isaac Thomas Avery, and he died on 31 December 1864.
William Waightstill Avery (1816-1864), the oldest son of Isaac Thomas and Harriet Erwin Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 25 May 1816. He attended the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1837 with highest honors. He then studied law under Judge William Gaston and obtained his law license in 1839. He first entered politics in 1840 and was elected to represent Burke County in the House of Commons in 1842, 1850, and 1852. He was a Democrat who supported state's rights, internal improvements, and education. In 1850, William was appointed as a trustee of the University of North Carolina, a postion that he held until his death in 1864.
In 1846, William Waightstill Avery married Mary Corinna Morehead, daughter of former North Carolina governor John Motley Morehead. Soon after his marriage, William built a residence in Morganton and a summer home in Plumtree, N.C. The couple had two sons, John Morehead and William Waightstill, and three daughters, Annie Harriet, who married Joseph H. Scales of Patrick, Va.; Corinna Iredell, who married George P. Erwin of Morganton, N.C.; and Adelaide Matilda, who married John J. Hemphill of South Carolina.
In the fall of 1851, upon leaving the courthouse in Morganton, William Waightstill Avery was attacked by Samuel Fleming, the opponent of the client he represented in court that day. Two weeks later, insulted by Fleming's behavior, William shot and killed Fleming in Judge William Horn Battle's courtroom. He was tried for murder before Judge Battle and was acquitted on the grounds of extreme provocation resulting in temporary insanity. Despite some criticism from the Whig Party, this affair had little effect on William's political career.
In 1856, William Waightstill Avery led North Carolina's delegation to the National Democratic Convention, and, in the same year, he was elected to the State Senate. In 1858, he ran for a seat in the United States Congress, but lost to the Whig candidate, Zebulon Baird Vance. Again in 1860, he led the state's delegation to the National Democratic Convention in Charleston, S.C., and to the second convention held in Baltimore, Md., where the North Carolina delegation walked out. In 1860, he was again elected to the state senate, where he advocated for secession.
Following North Carolina's secession in May 1861, William Waightstill Avery was selected to represent the state in the provisional Confederate Congress, serving as chair of the committee on military affairs. Later that year, he returned to Burke County, intent on raising a regiment, but his family convinced him to remain at home since his four younger brothers were already serving. However, he did join the local militia and was mortally wounded when he and Colonel T. G. Walton led a company of Burke County militia against a band of Tennessee Unionists led by Colonel George W. Kirk. William Waightstill Avery was brought home to Morganton following the skirmish and died on 3 July 1864.
Clarke Moulton Avery (1819-1864), the second son of Isaac Thomas and Harriet Erwin Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 3 October 1819. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1839, he returned to Burke County to become a planter. On 23 June 1841, he married Elizabeth Tilghman Walton, the daughter of Thomas and Martha McEntire Walton. The couple had four children: Martha Matilda, who married George Phifer; Harriet Eloise, who married the Reverend James Coulton; Isaac Thomas; and Laura Pairo, who was born on 27 May 1864, shortly after Clarke was fatally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, and who married the Reverend John A. Gilmer.
In 1847, Clarke acquired from his father-in-law 915 acres of land and a house called Magnolia located outside of Morganton. He managed this plantation until the outbreak of the Civil War. As tension over slavery increased in the 1850s, Clarke became a firm secessionist. Although he was involved in local politics, he did not seek office. Following North Carolina's secession in 1861, he served as captain in Company G of the First North Carolina Volunteers. When the regiment disbanded in November 1861, Clarke was appointed colonel in the 33rd North Carolina Regiment. He was captured near New Bern, N.C., in February 1862 and was imprisoned for seven months at Johnson's Island, Ohio.
Clarke was released by exchange in the late summer of 1862 and fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. In May 1863, he was wounded at the Battle of the Orange Plank Road and was wounded again at the Battle of Gettysburg, after which he went home to recover. He returned to active duty in time for the Battle of the Wilderness, and, on 6 May 1864, he was shot in the right leg and hit in the body and neck, and then his left arm was shattered by a minie ball. His arm was amputated, and he was moved to the Orange County Courthouse, where he died from infection six weeks later on 18 June 1864. He was buried in Virginia, but his wife later had his body brought to the First Presbyterian Church in Morganton.
Thomas Lenoir Avery (1821-1852), the third son of Isaac Thomas and Harriet Erwin Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 16 March 1821, the same day that Waightstill Avery died. He was graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1841 and became interested in gold mining, having observed his father's mining operations in Rutherford County. Thomas worked several claims in Randolph County, but, in 1851, he went to California to mine gold with his uncle, Alexander Hamilton Erwin. After spending two summers prospecting in the Sierra Nevadas, Thomas was struck with cholera, and he died on 23 September 1852. He was buried at Marysville, Calif.
Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863), the fourth son of Isaac Thomas and Harriet Erwin Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 20 December 1828. He attended the University of North Carolina for one year in 1847, but left to manage a plantation for his father in Yancey County, N.C. He formed a partnership with Charles F. Fisher of Salisbury and Samuel McDowell Tate of Morganton to act as contractors in the building of the Western North Carolina Railroad in the mid 1850s.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Isaac and his brother Alphonso Calhoun Avery raised Company E in Burke County for the 6th North Carolina Regiment. Isaac commanded the company, which fought in the Battle of First Manassas and the Battle of Seven Pines. In the summer of 1862, he was promoted to colonel. He was wounded at Gaines Farm that summer and was out of action until the fall. Following the reorganization of the army after the Battle of Fredericksburg, Isaac's regiment was placed under the command of General Robert F. Hoke, and Isaac took command of Hoke's Brigade when the general was injured at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. On 3 July 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Isaac led two regiments against the Union position at Cemetery Hill and was struck by a bullett at the base of the neck. As he lay dying on the battlefield, he wrote a note for Major Samuel McDowell Tate: "Major, tell my father I died with my face to the enemy. I. E. Avery." He was buried in Williamsport, but, after the war, his body was moved without his family's consent to a Confederate cemetery at an unknown location.
Alphonso Calhoun Avery (1835-1913) was the fifth son of Isaac Thomas Avery. Papers relating to his personal and professional affairs can be found in the Alphonso Calhoun Avery Papers (#3456).
Willoughby Francis Avery (1843-1876), the youngest child of Isaac Thomas and Harriet Erwin Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 7 May 1843. He entered the University of North Carolina in 1860, but left to volunteer for the Confederate Army. He first served as a lieutenant in Company F of the 43rd North Carolina Regiment under his brother, Colonel Clarke Moulton Avery. He then served in Company C and then Company I, where he was promoted to captain. He was wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg and again at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was seriously wounded at Spotsylvania, his life saved by an operation. At the end of the war, he was 22 years old.
Following the war, Willoughby Francis Avery became a journalist, editing newspapers in Charlotte and Asheville, and then returning to Morganton where he established the Blue Ridge Blade. On 7 November 1866, Willoughby married Martha Caroline Jones, but she and their infant daughter died within two years. In February 1875, he married Laura Atkinson of Johnston County, N.C., and the couple had one son, Willoughby Moulton Avery, who married Emma Sharpe of Greensboro, N.C. Willoughby Francis Avery died from complications of his war injuries on 24 November 1876, when his son was only seven months old. He is buried at the First Presbyterian Church in Morganton.
Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904), the second son of Alphonso Calhoun and Susan Morrison Avery, was born at Swan Ponds on 1 December 1871. He studied under the Reverend John A. Gilmer at the academy in Morganton and entered Trinity College, where he edited the Trinity Archive and wrote for several newspapers in the state. During his senior year, he studied law under his father, who was then teaching at Trinity College, and he obtained his law license in September 1893.
Isaac then returned to Morganton where he worked as associate editor for the Morganton Herald. In the spring of 1894, he accepted a post as secretary to the consul general at Shanghai, and, within a year, he was named the vice-consul general at Shanghai, a post he held until 1898. While in China, he often contributed to the North China Daily News. Letters that he wrote to his father describing his experiences and observations of Shianghai can be found in the Alphonso Calhoun Avery Collection (#3456).
Following his return to North Carolina, Isaac reported the proceedings of the 1899 State Senate and then established a news bureau in Greensboro. His reputation as a reporter continued to grow, and, on 1 January 1900, he became city editor for the Charlotte Observer. He is best known for his column "Variety of Idle Comments", which was published as the book, Idle Comments after his death. Isaac Thomas Avery committed suicide on 2 April 1904.
Sources: Edward W. Phifer, "Saga of a Burke County Family," The North Carolina Historical Review 39 (Winter, Spring, and Summer 1962) and William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. I, 1979.Back to Top
Personal and professional correspondence, legal papers, financial materials, and other papers relating to members of the Avery family, including Waightstill Avery, Leah Probart Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, Harriet Erwin Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, Thomas Lenoir Avery, Laura M. Avery, and Isaac Erwin Avery. Other names frequently encountered in the collection include: James Avery, Joseph Dobson, William Willoughby Erwin, William A. Erwin, Adolphus L. Erwin, Alberto Erwin, Joseph Erwin, Sidney B. Erwin, B. S. Gathier, Elizabeth Avery Lenoir, William B. Lenoir, Thomas Lenoir, and Charles McDowell.
Personal correspondence concerns family affairs such as illnesses, births, deaths, and daily happenings. Business correspondence concerns land; the purchasing and hiring out of slaves; agriculture; politics; and financial, business, and legal affairs. Also included are several Civil War letters from Isaac Erwin Avery and Isaac Thomas Avery, official war correspondence, letters concerning I. E. Avery's death at Gettysburg, and notes to Zebulon Baird Vance and Colonel Robert B. Vance concerning deserters.
Legal and financial papers relate to the professional and personal affairs of the Avery family. The legal papers consist of deeds, indentures, land grants, wills, surveyors' reports, land plats, powers of attorney, court briefs, summonses, petitions, notes, and other court documents. Financial papers consist of bills; receipts; purchase lists; notices for the collection of debts; and account books, daybooks, and ledgers documenting operations at Swan Ponds and other family interests. Included in this series are numerous land grants issued to Waightstill Avery and others, 1785-1844; wills of Waightstill Avery and Isaac Thomas Avery; papers relating to the estates of William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, William A. Erwin, and Alberto Erwin; a copy of Andrew Jackson's challenge to a duel with Waightstill Avery; materials concerning the purchase and hiring out of slaves; legal documents about Thomas Lenoir Avery's mining operations at Hoover Hill and the Sawyer gold mines; and papers relating to the operations of Swan Ponds and other plantations.
Other papers include biographical materials on Waightstill Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863), and Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904); genealogical materials on the Avery and Probart families, and various clippings. This series also contains some Civil War materials relating to Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863); several publications by Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904); a recipe book and poetry of Harriet Erwin Avery; an undated, four-page dialogue poem, titled "Folly's Dialogue," by the "Colored Bard of North Carolina," the pen name of George Moses Horton, a Chatham County, N.C., slave and poet; and miscellaneous writings, author unknown.Back to Top
Personal and professional correspondence of Waightstill Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Clark Moulton Avery, and Isaac Erwin Avery. Often personal and buisness-related news are contained in the same letter. Personal news concerns family affairs such as illnesses, births, deaths, and daily happenings. Professional news concerns land; the purchasing and hiring out of slaves; agriculture; local and state politics; and financial, business, and legal affairs. Also included are several Civil War letters from Isaac Erwin Avery and Isaac Thomas Avery discussing the war and the family, official war correspondence, letters concerning I. E. Avery's death at the Battle of Gettysburg, and notes to Zebulon Baird Vance and Colonel Robert B. Vance concerning deserters.
Major correspondents include Waightstill Avery, Leah Probart Franck Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Isaac Erwin Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, Thomas Lenoir Avery, Laura M. Avery, Elizabeth Avery Lenoir (Louisa), William B. Lenoir, Thomas Lenoir, William A. Erwin, Adolphus L. Erwin, and Sidney B. Erwin. Letters of note include a letter, 1777, from William Sharpe to Waightstill Avery concerning Indian affairs; a letter, 1804, from Waightstill Avery to William Cathcart of Philadelphia, Penn., concerning his leg injury; a letter, 1812, from Waightstill Avery to the United States Collector of Import Duties concerning arrangements for receiving a box from the botanist John Fraser of London, England; a statement, 1819, by Archibald D. Murphey concerning Waightstill Avery's seizure; a letter, 1832, to Isaac Thomas Avery about the political and moral evils of slavery; and two letters, 1839, from Thomas Lenoir Avery to his father discussing student life at the University of North Carolina.
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|Oversize Paper Folder OPF-33/1|
Arrangement: by subject, then chronologically.
Legal and financial papers relating to the professional and personal affairs of various members of the Avery family, including Waightstill Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, and Thomas Lenoir Avery. Other frequently mentioned names include James Avery, William A. Erwin, William Willoughby Erwin, Adolphus L. Erwin, Alberto Erwin, Joseph Erwin, Charles McDowell, Joseph Dobson, John Dobson, B. S. Gathier, James Murphy, Daniel Upton, John Ropp, John Harris, and Joesph F. Chambers.
The legal papers consist of deeds, indentures, land grants, wills, surveyors' reports, land plats, powers of attorney, court briefs, summonses, petitions, notes, and other court documents. Financial papers consist of bills, receipts, purchase lists, notices for the collection of debts, account books, daybooks, and ledgers. Included are numerous land grants issued to Waightstill Avery and others, 1785-1844; wills of Waightstill Avery and Isaac Thomas Avery; papers relating to the estates of William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, William A. Erwin, and Alberto Erwin; a copy of Andrew Jackson's challenge to a duel with Waightstill Avery; materials concerning the purchase and hiring out of slaves; legal documents about Thomas Lenoir Avery's gold mining operations at Hoover Hill and the Sawyer gold mines; and papers relating to the operations of Swan Ponds and other plantations.
Account books, daybooks, and ledgers document the various financial transactions of the Avery family, including operations at Swan Ponds, 1814-1864; gold purchases at the Morganton Agency Branch of the State Bank of North Carolina, 1843-1850; a daybook of Waightstill Avery; a bank book of Isaac Thomas Avery; an account book from Hoover Hill; daybooks from Crab Orchard and Woodland Home; an account book for contract work on the Western North Carolina Railroad; and a daybook from Chambers and Avery.
See the Alphonso Calhoun Avery Papers (#3456) for other materials relating to Chambers and Avery and for papers relating to the estate of Isaac Thomas Avery.
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|Oversize Paper Folder OPF-33/4|
|Extra Oversize Paper Folder XOPF-33/14|
|Oversize Volume SV-33/2|
|Oversize Volume SV-33/1|
|Oversize Volume SV-33/3|
Arrangement: by subject.
Various papers relating to members of the Avery family. Included are biographical materials on Waightstill Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, William Waightstill Avery, Clarke Moulton Avery, Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863), and Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904); genealogical materials on the Avery and Probart families; and clippings. This series also contains some Civil War materials relating to Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863); several publications by Isaac Erwin Avery (1871-1904); a recipe book and poetry of Harriet Erwin Avery; an undated, four-page dialogue poem, titled "Folly's Dialogue," by the "Colored Bard of North Carolina," the pen name of George Moses Horton, a Chatham County, N.C., slave and poet; and other writings, author unknown.
Folder 184 contains an undated, four-page dialogue poem, titled "Folly's Dialogue," by the "Colored Bard of North Carolina," the pen name of George Moses Horton, a Chatham County, N.C., slave and poet.
|Image Folder PF-33/1|
Items separated include oversize papers (OPF-33/1-13), extra oversize papers (XOPF-33/14), pictures (PF-33/1), and oversize volumes (SV-33/1-3).Back to Top
Processed by: Laura Knodel, 2002
Encoded by: Laura Knodel, 2002
Updated by: Nancy Kaiser, 2020Back to Top