Collection Number: 00689

Collection Title: John Steele Papers, 1716-1846

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.

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Size 6.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 2640 items)
Abstract John Steele of Rowan County, N.C., was a merchant; planter; banker; influential Federalist; U.S. representative, 1790-1792; state and federal Indian commissioner; U.S. comptroller of the currency, 1796-1802; major general of the militia; and member of the N.C.-S.C. boundary commission. He married Mary Nessfield of Fayetteville, N.C., and they had three daughters: Ann Nessfield Steele (died 1804), Margaret Steele Ferrand (died 1830), and Eliza Steele Macnamara (died 1836). Mary managed family business interests after her husband's death and cared for her granddaughters after their mother Margaret's death. Included is considerable correspondence pertaining to politics and to the various North Carolina and national offices Steele held, including letters from William Blount, William Polk, William R. Davie, John Haywood, Wade Hampton, and Nathaniel Macon. Also well documented are soured relations between the U.S. and Great Britain leading to the War of 1812; Steele's resignation as comptroller of the currency under Jefferson and problems within the Treasury Department; social life in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.; the N.C.-S.C. boundary survey; and horse breeding and racing. There are also papers pertaining to Steele's activities as Salisbury, N.C., agent of the Bank of Cape Fear and to the building of his home there, books of accounts as Indian commissioner, and papers relating to merchandising. Prior to 1785, there are deeds, letters, business papers, and account books of Steele's parents. After Steele's death, there are family and business papers of his wife, children, and other relations, including members of the Ferrand and Macnamara families of Columbia, S.C. These relate primarily to female family members, and letters and school work of Steele's daughters and granddaughters illuminate female education over two generations. There is also an 1835 letter written to Mary Steele by a family slave.
Creator Steele, John, 1764-1815.
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Steele Papers #689, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of antebellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mary F. Henderson and Mimie Lord Scales Henderson of Salisbury, N.C., in December 1935; from the North Carolina Historical Society before 1940; and from Lucille K. Henderson of Chapel Hill, N.C., in January 1966.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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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.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

John Steele (1764-1815), son of William (died 1773) and Elizabeth Maxwell Gillespie Steele (died 1790), was born in Salisbury, N.C., where his parents operated a tavern. John Steele received his education in Salisbury and engaged in an early career as a local merchant. By 1783, Steele had extended his business connections to link himself with the mercantile concern of Robert Cochran in Fayetteville. He solidified the partnership when he married Cochran's daughter-in-law, Mary Nessfield. They had three daughters who lived to adulthood: Ann Nessfield Steele (died 1804), Margaret Steele Ferrand (died 1830), and Eliza Steele Macnamara (died 1836).

John Steele demonstrated an early interest in politics, and his burgeoning career in public service followed the course of the new nation. He began on the local level, in 1784, as assessor of the town of Salisbury. He became a town commissioner in 1787, and, in that same year, he was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons, where he served two terms. During that time, the legislature appointed him to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokees and Chickasaws. In 1789, he was a delegate to the Fayetteville convention which finally brought North Carolina into the Union. Steele was immediately elected to the House of Representatives of the first Congress, serving two terms. His campaign for a Senate seat failed in 1792. Returning to North Carolina, Steele again became a member of the House of Commons, serving from 1794 to 1795.

Although he was a plantation owner, Steele was never enchanted with farming. On 15 December 1796, he wrote his wife that his plantations "...have been to me hitherto a plague, without either gain, or satisfaction." Thus, in 1796, he eagerly accepted when George Washington appointed him comptroller of the Treasury, serving in that office until 1802, when he resigned. Following his retirement from politics, Steele devoted much time to diverse business interests, including his cotton plantations in Rowan County, mercantile interests in Salisbury, horse breeding and racing. From 1807 to 1811, he was the agent in Salisbury for the Bank of Cape Fear. Steele was once again elected to the state House of Commons in 1815, but died before taking his seat.

Mary Nessfield Steele managed family business interests after her husband's death. When her daughter, Margaret Steele Ferrand died in 1830, Mary raised her two orphaned granddaughters, Mary Steele Ferrand and Ann Nessfield Steele Ferrand.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Correspondence, financial and legal materials, and other items of John Steele and the Steele family. Before Steele's death in 1815, papers relate chiefly to his political career, family life, and business activities. After 1815, the collection relates primarily to female family members, especially to Mary Nessfield Steele, her daughters Margaret and Eliza, and her granddaughters Mary Steele Ferrand and Ann Nessfield Steele Ferrand.

The collection is significant for its noteworthy political correspondents, especially from North Carolina, and for its documentation of early national politics. John Steele received regular and substantive communications from such powerful North Carolina leaders as William Blount, William Polk, William R. Davie, John Haywood, and Nathaniel Macon. Also well documented in letters and financial papers is the construction of the Steele family house in Salisbury during the last decade of the eighteenth century.

Letters and surviving school work of Steele's daughters and granddaughters document female education over two generations of Steele family women. Family correspondence is also full of information about social life and customs in Philadelphia and New York during the time each city served as national capitol and in the new city of Washington. The Steeles also corresponded with friends and family in Fayetteville, N.C., and Columbia, S.C.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1765-1846 and undated.

About 930 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

There are two fundamental groups of correspondence: letters from 1785 to 1815 relate chiefly to the concerns and activities of John Steele; correspondence from 1816 to 1846 is primarily of women, including Mary Nessfield Steele, her daughters Margaret and Eliza, and her granddaughters Mary Steele Ferrand and Ann Nessfield Steele Ferrand.

John Steele's correspondence is especially significant for its noteworthy political correspondents, especially from North Carolina, and for its documentation of early national politics. He received regular and substantive communications from such powerful North Carolina leaders as William Blount, William Polk, William R. Davie, John Haywood, and Nathaniel Macon. Steele family women also wrote substantive letters about education, household management, travel, and a wide variety of interests.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1765-1787.

About 30 items.

Letters of William and Eliza Steele and from John Steele's days as a young merchant. Correspondence begins soon after the marriage of William (died 1773) and Elizabeth Maxwell Steele (died 1790). Letters from this period reveal little about the relationship between William and Elizabeth however. Instead they represent two separate streams of correspondence. Letters before 1773 relate chiefly to business matters of William. Letters after 1773 are chiefly from Elizabeth to her brother Ephraim in Charlestown. (Note that many of Elizabeth's letters included in this collection are photocopies of original material in the Steele Papers at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History.)

These letters document a family connection with Samuel McCorkle, Elizabeth's son-in-law, who helped manage family business after William's death. In addition to family news and her closeness to her brother, Elizabeth expressed her opinions about the Revolutionary War, as did McCorkle, who wrote to Ephraim on 30 July 1778, about the success of American forces: "Our Tories tremble, about a dozen are in Salisbury." Elizabeth generally supported the American cause, but hoped "the war will not long continue." She recorded events of the war along the coast from Charleston to Florida, but her letters contain scant information about local conditions in wartime Salisbury.

After 1785, John Steele became a significant recipient of correspondence. In a letter dated 18 March 1786, Sam McCorkle described him to Ephraim as "a husband--parent--and merchant." John married Mary Nessfield, daughter-in-law of Robert Cochran, a wealthy merchant of Fayetteville, N.C., and business partner of John Steele, in February 1783. After Cochran's death in 1786, Steele "conducted the business alone with tolerable success," according to a letter dated 24 April 1787. John Steele's correspondence from this early period mainly concerns his mercantile interests.

Folder 1

1765-1779 #00689, Subseries: "1.1. 1765-1787." Folder 1

Folder 2

1780 #00689, Subseries: "1.1. 1765-1787." Folder 2

Folder 3

1785-1787 #00689, Subseries: "1.1. 1765-1787." Folder 3

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1788-1802.

About 300 items.

Correspondence related to John's government service. Beginning in 1789, copies of letters he wrote as a state commissioner document his treaty negotiations with the Creeks and Cherokees. Steele received several long letters from William Blount, who offered advice based on his own experience negotiating with the Indians. Correspondence also documents his election to the first Congress as a member of the House of Representatives in 1789. Few letters relate to his tenure, 1794-1796, as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons. His appointment as Comptroller of the Currency in the United States Treasury Department, however, produced much family correspondence.

Copies of Steele's letters to prominent North Carolina politicos express his concerns about the powers Congress was giving George Washington and the implications of other congressional action for North Carolina. Political letters from this period also contain significant information about an emerging national foreign policy (e.g., Steele's letter to Alexander Hamilton of 30 April 1793 in which he discussed his uneasiness about political connections with France, commerce with Great Britain, and the Genet mission).

The service as Comptroller is well documented during this period. John's letters to his wife from New York, 1790-1791; Philadelphia, 1791-1793 and 1796-1799; and from Washington, 1800-1802, are typically long and substantive, full of his feelings toward his family, his reliance on Mary's management skills, detailed instructions about plantation work, and race horse matters. In addition, he often wrote about his own work routines and the expense of living in Philadelphia. Many of his letters contain interesting comments about women's fashion in the city and his concern that his family should compare favorably when they visited him.

Also, from about 1792 through 1801, while John was absorbed with his government duties, the Steele's were building a new house in Salisbury--a project which Mary was obliged to superintend, but in which John took a great interest. His letters document his particular vision not only for the house, but for overall development of the grounds. A Salisbury neighbor assured John in a letter dated 17 March 1801 that "Mrs. Steele is indefatigable in carrying on the improvements." There are few letters from Mary to her husband. John Steele resigned as Comptroller in 1802, and returned to Salisbury, where he would remain until his death in 1815.

Of particular interest during this period are the letters of John Steele's daughter, Ann Nessfield Steele, who wrote several letters from boarding school in Bethlehem, Pa. When she accompanied her father to Washington, 1801-1802, they boarded in Georgetown, and she wrote long letters home about social life in the city. There is also scattered correspondence from the Steele's extended family, especially the Cochrans and Mary's sister Ann Nessfield in Fayetteville.

Folder 4

1788-1789 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 4

Folder 5

1790 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 5

Folder 6

1791 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 6

Folder 7

1792 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 7

Folder 8

1793 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 8

Folder 9

1794 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 9

Folder 10

1795 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 10

Folder 11

1796 July-September #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 11

Folder 12

1796 October-December #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 12

Folder 13

1797 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 13

Folder 14

1798 #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 14

Folder 15

1799 March-July #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 15

Folder 16

1799 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 16

Folder 17

1800 January-October #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 17

Folder 18

1800 November-December #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 18

Folder 19

1801 January-February #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 19

Folder 20

1801 March-April #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 20

Folder 21

1801 May-September #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 21

Folder 22

1801 October-December #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 22

Folder 23

1802 January #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 23

Folder 24

1802 February-March #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 24

Folder 25

1802 April-May #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 25

Folder 26

1802 June #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 26

Folder 27

1802 July-August #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 27

Folder 28

1802 September-October #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 28

Folder 29

1802 November-December #00689, Subseries: "1.2. 1788-1802." Folder 29

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. 1803-1815.

About 350 items.

Although he was back in Salisbury and ostensibly retired from public office, Steele received much correspondence during this period about state and national politics. Many long and substantive letters from John Haywood, Nathaniel Macon, and William R. Davie discuss a wide variety of state and national issues, and show that Steele bridged the political gap between Federalist and Anti-Federalist. These letters record impressions and experiences related to many of the major political events during this period--tensions between Britain and the United States leading up to the War of 1812, the death of Alexander Hamilton, the election of James Madison, and many issues concerning political leaders in North Carolina.

Letters show that John Steele reestablished his business connections to the Cochran family of Fayetteville. From 1807 to 1811, correspondence, including scattered copies of letters by John Steele, documents his tenure as agent of the Bank of Cape Fear in Salisbury. Also documented is Steele's involvement in settling a boundary dispute between North and South Carolina. His correspondence with Wade Hampton and others contains much information about his avid interest in horse racing. Correspondence indicates that John Steele owned plantations in Rowan County near Salisbury and sold cotton to Petersburg commission merchants.

Steele's business interests were diverse. He was not a large slaveholder, and his correspondence contains only limited information about family slaves or plantation operations.

Of particular interest during this period are letters of John Steele's daughters. Ann received scattered letters from friends in Washington describing social life in the new capitol. For example, in a letter dated 20 February 1803, one friend discussed visits to Congress by ladies. Letters Ann wrote to her family document her marriage to Jesse Pearson. In September 1804, Ann wrote to her Aunt Ann Nessfield that she had "been confined to my bed." Two months later she was dead. Occasional letters from Jesse Pearson, including those from Washington while he was a congressman, 1810-1812, show that he maintained a relationship with the Steele family after his wife's death and earnestly sought the counsel of his politically experienced father-in-law.

In 1807, Margaret Steele visited the Brown family of Bladen County, near Wilmington, N.C., and wrote diary-like letters describing her activities. Mary Brown and Margaret Steele continued to correspond after this visit. Eliza Steele wrote a few letters as a schoolgirl, but much correspondence relates to her marriage to South Carolina merchant Robert Macnamara. She moved with her new husband and accompanied by her sister Margaret to Columbia, S.C., in 1814. The sisters wrote substantive letters to their parents about setting up housekeeping and social life in that town. They became increasingly disenchanted with the place and, within a year, they were making plans to return to Salisbury. In September 1815, Mary Steele informed the Petersburg cotton factors that the "sudden death of my husband [has] left me sole manager of his Estate."

Folder 30

1803 January-March #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 30

Folder 31

1803 April-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 31

Folder 32

1803 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 32

Folder 33

1804 January-June #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 33

Folder 34

1804 July-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 34

Folder 35

1805 #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 35

Folder 36

1806 January-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 36

Folder 37

1806 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 37

Folder 38

1807 January-March #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 38

Folder 39

1807 April-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 39

Folder 40

1807 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 40

Folder 41

1808 January-June #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 41

Folder 42

1808 July-August #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 42

Folder 43

1808 September-October #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 43

Folder 44

1808 November-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 44

Folder 45

1809 January-April #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 45

Folder 46

1809 May-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 46

Folder 47

1809 August-October #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 47

Folder 48

1809 November-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 48

Folder 49

1810 January-April #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 49

Folder 50

1810 May-September #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 50

Folder 51

1810 October-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 51

Folder 52

1811 January-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 52

Folder 53

1811 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 53

Folder 54

1812 January-June #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 54

Folder 55

1812 July-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 55

Folder 56

1813 January-July #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 56

Folder 57

1813 August-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 57

Folder 58

1814 January-October #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 58

Folder 59

1814 November-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 59

Folder 60

1815 January-March #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 60

Folder 61

1815 April-December #00689, Subseries: "1.3. 1803-1815." Folder 61

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4. 1816-1830.

About 50 items.

Letters of Mary Steele and her daughters. In a series of letters with commission merchants in Petersburg, Va., Mary Steele made it clear that she was managing business in her husband's stead. In November 1815, she wrote, "I hope soon to receive an account of sales, and have no doubt, you have taken advantage, of the high price of cotton, about the time of its arrival in your market." Previously, she made known her concerns that a load of cotton had not been accurately weighed and that too much had been deducted for damage. Correspondence documents more business activity than personal family information, since Mary's daughters had moved back to Salisbury about the time of John Steele's death. Occasional separations, such as a trip to the Catawba Springs in 1818 produced scattered family correspondence during this period.

The first correspondence relating to the Ferrand family appears in 1819, soon after the marriage of Stephen Lee Ferrand to Margaret Steele. The Ferrands had two daughters before both parents died in 1830.

Folder 62

1816 #00689, Subseries: "1.4. 1816-1830." Folder 62

Folder 63

1817 #00689, Subseries: "1.4. 1816-1830." Folder 63

Folder 64

1818 #00689, Subseries: "1.4. 1816-1830." Folder 64

Folder 65

1819 #00689, Subseries: "1.4. 1816-1830." Folder 65

Folder 66

1820-1830 #00689, Subseries: "1.4. 1816-1830." Folder 66

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated

About 200 items.

Correspondence of Mary Steele and Ann Nessfield Steele Ferrand, granddaughters of Mary Steele. The girls wrote their grandmother from various schools in Hillsboro, Pittsboro, and Raleigh, N.C. Their letters are often accompanied by grade reports and contain information about the subjects they studied and their relationships with other students. In 1835, the girls were separated when Mary travelled to Philadelphia and Washington with the Polk family, while Ann stayed at school in Salisbury. Mary's letters home contain much information about her activities, such as her description, dated 20 December 1835, of a fire on Wall Street, which is "more particular than you will get from the papers." During this period Robert Cochran assisted Mary Steele in business matters.

By 1837, Mary Steele Ferrand was a chief recipient of correspondence, receiving letters from her friend Zelda Polk in Tennessee, the Cochrans and the Nessfields of Fayetteville, her uncle William P. Ferrand at Swansboro, N.C., and friends in South Carolina. Correspondence documents Ann Ferrand's marriage to John B. Lord in 1838. Mary subsequently moved to Columbia, S.C., to help her sister set up housekeeping. Before returning to Salisbury in 1839, Mary visited her uncle, William P. Ferrand. He wrote to her grandmother on 25 May 1839 to inform her that she had raised the girls to his "entire satisfaction and further to add my pleasant reflections at giving the children to you as I am well satisfied you have brought them up better than I could have done." By August, Mary Ferrand was engaged to Archibald Henderson, whom she eventually married. There is little documentation of the Henderson marriage.

Also among the correspondents are Eliza Steele Macnamara and her children, who lived at Poplar Grove near Salisbury. In 1836, Eliza died, and her daughters Mary and Eliza wrote their grandmother. There are several letters about their school work at Salem Academy and their feelings about their mother's death. Scattered letters throughout the period offer a glimpse of this Macnamara branch of the Steele family.

Two letters contain interesting information about family slaves. On 2 September 1835, Mary Steele was informed that Cressa, a slave hired to a man in Yorkville, S.C., was being returned because of her "misconduct" with the agent who hired her. On 17 November 1835, there is a letter written to Mary Steele by a family slave, Alfred Steele, containing his request to "live in Raleigh so that I can be clost [sic] to my wife."

Also of note are two travel letters. A long, journal-like letter, dated 29 March 1837, from a friend describes her steamboat trip down the Congaree River from Columbia to Charleston. The woman "saw alligators on the banks of the river" and her first rice plantation, which she found "quite a curiosity." A-29 November 1837 letter from a woman who had settled nine miles from Columbus, Miss., describes her month long trip from North Carolina to Mississippi.

Folder 67

1831 July-September #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 67

Folder 68

1831 October-December #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 68

Folder 69

1832-1834 #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 69

Folder 70

1835 January-September #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 70

Folder 71

1835 October-December #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 71

Folder 72

1836 January #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 72

Folder 73

1836 February-March #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 73

Folder 74

1836 April-December #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 74

Folder 75

1837 January-June #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 75

Folder 76

1837 July-December #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 76

Folder 77

1838 January-April #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 77

Folder 78

1838 May-December #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 78

Folder 79

1839 #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 79

Folder 80

1840-1846 #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 80

Folder 81

Undated #00689, Subseries: "1.5. 1831-1846 and Undated" Folder 81

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Materials, 1716-1847 and undated.

About 800 items.

Papers and account books relating to William and Elizabeth Steele, John and Mary Steele, and the Ferrand family.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Financial and Legal Papers, 1716-1847 and undated.

About 785 items.

Bills, receipts, work agreements, tax lists, deeds, and a variety of other papers documenting Steele family business interests, household expenses, and production.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.1. 1716-1780.

About 150 items.

Papers relating to William and Elizabeth Steele and others. The earliest papers relate to land in Johnston, Granville, and Rowan counties, N.C., accumulated chiefly by Robert Gillespie, first husband of Elizabeth Maxwell Gillespie Steele. Papers relating to William Steele document his property holdings, business interests, and leadership role in Salisbury and include deeds, indentures, rent receipts, slave bills of sale, store accounts, tax receipts, and receipts for household expenses. Papers show that Elizabeth Steele managed her husband's estate after his death in 1773.

Folder 82

1716-1759 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 82

Folder 83

1760-1763 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 83

Folder 84

1764 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 84

Folder 85

1765-1766 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 85

Folder 86

1767-1768 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 86

Folder 87

1769 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 87

Folder 88

1770 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 88

Folder 89

1771 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 89

Folder 90

1772 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 90

Folder 91

1773-1774 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 91

Folder 92

1775 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 92

Folder 93

1776-1777 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 93

Folder 94

1778 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 94

Folder 95

1779-1780 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.1. 1716-1780." Folder 95

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.2. 1782-1788.

About 100 items.

Chiefly papers related to John Steele's mercantile interests. Accounts show that John Steele bought a town lot in Fayetteville after his marriage to Mary Nessfield and established a business relationship with her former father-in-law Robert Cochran. Estate papers, circa 1786, of Robert Cochran include a series of store inventories that are especially informative. Bills of sale show that Steele invested some of his store earnings in race horses--a life long interest well-documented in the following subseries. Sometime around 1788, John Steele redirected his professional energies. Drafts of an Indian Affairs Treaty and accounts documenting the expenses of the negotiating team led by John Steele in 1788 signal this shift toward an extended involvement in politics at a state and national level.

Folder 96

1782-1784 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 96

Folder 97

1785 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 97

Folder 98

1786 January-July #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 98

Folder 99

1786 August #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 99

Folder 100

1786 September-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 100

Folder 101

1787 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 101

Folder 102

1788 January-May #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 102

Folder 103

1788 June-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.2. 1782-1788." Folder 103

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.3. 1789-1802.

About 250 items.

Papers documenting John Steele's political career and government service. Accounts relate primarily to Steele's personal expenses while living in New York and Philadelphia, first as a congressman and later as Comptroller of the Treasury. Included are bills and receipts for boarding, groceries, tailoring, washing, and luxury items such as a saddle "with scarlet cloth" and "plated nails," 10 February 1791.

Papers for this period also show that Steele continued to develop business interests in Salisbury. In January 1791, he bought 213 acres on the Yadkin River in Rowan County. Although accounts show that he bought and sold land and slaves, there is little documentation of large scale plantation agriculture. In fact, several leases show that Steele rented out much of his property in Rowan County, including his plantation house and distillery, while he was Comptroller of the Treasury. Papers also show that horse breeding became a significant business interest during this period, and that John Steele was actively developing racing stock of his own.

Of particular interest are many bills, work agreements, specifications, and detailed memoranda relating to the construction of John Steele's house in Salisbury. In March 1800, Steele concluded an agreement with a Philadelphia "house carpenter," "to do the inside work [in his new frame house] in a genteel and decent manner." While living in Philadelphia, Steele also took the opportunity to buy furniture for his new home.

Also included are tuition bills and expenses of Ann Steele, who attended school in Bethlehem, Pa., 1799-1800. In 1802, John Steele resigned as Comptroller and moved back to Salisbury.

Folder 104

1789 January-June #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 104

Folder 105

1789 July-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 105

Folder 106

1790 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 106

Folder 107

1791 January-August #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 107

Folder 108

1791 September-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 108

Folder 109

1792 January-July #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 109

Folder 110

1792 August-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 110

Folder 111

1793 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 111

Folder 112

1794 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 112

Folder 113

1795 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 113

Folder 114

1796 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 114

Folder 115

1797 January-May #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 115

Folder 116

1797 June-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 116

Folder 117

1798 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 117

Folder 118

1799 January-June #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 118

Folder 119

1799 July-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 119

Folder 120

1800 January-April #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 120

Folder 121

1800 May-June #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 121

Folder 122

1800 July-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 122

Folder 123

1801 January-May #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 123

Folder 124

1801 June-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 124

Folder 125

1802 January-July #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 125

Folder 126

1802 August-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.3. 1789-1802." Folder 126

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.4. 1803-1815.

About 160 items.

Papers during this period document some plantation production and development and, in addition, suggest that Steele engaged in a legal practice after his retirement from government service. Lists of taxable property in 1806 and 1814 provide particularly informative summaries of Steele's wealth, which consisted of town lots in Fayetteville, Charlotte, and Salisbury, several plantations, and at least 16 slaves. The 1814 tax list includes descriptions of his property detailing buildings and other improvements and lists slaves by age and gender. Receipts show that Steele was selling cotton to Petersburg merchants in 1813. Steele displayed an avid interest in horse racing throughout this period.

Between 1807 and 1811, John Steele served as an agent in Salisbury for the Bank of Cape Fear. His weekly reports of bank transactions comprise the bulk of financial and legal materials for those years. Also of interest are documents related to Steele's work to resolve a boundary dispute between North and South Carolina. An August 1815 bill for making his coffin documents the death of John Steele.

Folder 127

1803 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 127

Folder 128

1804 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 128

Folder 129

1805-1807 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 129

Folder 130

1808 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 130

Folder 131

1809 January-May #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 131

Folder 132

1809 June-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 132

Folder 133

1810 January-May #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 133

Folder 134

1810 June-September #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 134

Folder 135

1810 October-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 135

Folder 136

1811 January-September #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 136

Folder 137

1811 October-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 137

Folder 138

1812 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 138

Folder 139

1813 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 139

Folder 140

1814 January-October #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 140

Folder 141

1814 November-December #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 141

Folder 142

1815 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.4. 1803-1815." Folder 142

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.5. 1816-1847.

About 75 items.

Financial and legal papers show that Mary Steele managed the plantation, with the help of an overseer, after her husband's death. Receipts with cotton factors in Petersburg document farm production. Bills for goods like groceries, farm implements, jewelry, and services of doctors, carpenters, and painters provide much information about household expenses. Scattered papers after 1820 relate to the Ferrand family.

Folder 143

1816 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 143

Folder 144

1817 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 144

Folder 145

1818-1819 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 145

Folder 146

1820-1824 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 146

Folder 147

1825-1829 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 147

Folder 148

1830-1847 #00689, Subseries: "2.1.5. 1816-1847." Folder 148

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1.6. Undated

About 50 items.

Undated financial and legal papers of John Steele and others.

Folder 149

John Steele #00689, Subseries: "2.1.6. Undated" Folder 149

Folder 150-151

Folder 150

Folder 151

Others #00689, Subseries: "2.1.6. Undated" Folder 150-151

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. Financial and Legal Volumes

12 items.

Daybooks, ledgers, bank books, and miscellaneous other volumes documenting mercantile interests of William Steele and various business interests of his son John. These volumes contain the clearest evidence of John Steele's legal practice in various county courts of Piedmont North Carolina.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2.1. William Steele

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2.2. John Steele

10 items.
Folder 154

1772-1773; 1777-1780. "Memorandum for Salisbury Supr. Co." Contains notes about business conducted at courts in Hillsborough, Halifax County, and Chatham County, N.C. Also contains a variety of receipts, accounts, and notes about business matters apparently related to Steele's mercantile interests and an "Account of Cash Expended at Congress." 20 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 154

Folder 155

1774-1780. Contains entries related to military expenses for the state of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War, and accounts documenting Steele's travel and living expenses while at Congress in Philadelphia. 41 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 155

Folder 156

Folder number omitted #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 156

Oversize Volume SV-689/1

1768-1788 (Volume S-1). Daybook for Steele's store in Salisbury. Entries show names of customers and goods and services exchanged. This volume also contains a holograph dictionary with definitions of legal terms such as "abatement," "appeal," and "bailment." 214 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" SV-689/1

Folder 157

1789-1790. Fee book documenting Steele's tenure as Clerk and Master in Equity in Rowan County Court. Entries show expenses for each case for such services as sheriff's fees, legal fees, charges for injunctions and affidavits. This book shows that Steele resigned before all the recorded cases were settled. 67 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 157

Oversize Volume SV-689/2

1785-1797 (Volume S-2). "Ledger A." Accounts with individuals in Salisbury showing purchases of merchandise and charges for services such as horse breeding and legal fees. Steele recorded notes about some accounts (e.g., on page 15 there is a debt listed as uncollectable because the man "runaway to Kentucky & poor"). 142 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" SV-689/2

Folder 158

Folder number omitted #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 158

Folder 159

1794-1797. "A memorandum of debts due to John Steele, and left in the hands of Maxwell Chambers Esqr. to be collected." Entries show the names of debtors and amounts owed. Also contains information about litigation of disputed debts involving John Steele. A variety of other entries include accounts of travel expenses and inventories of livestock, farming utensils, furniture, and household items. Much of the latter information seems related to rental property owned by Steele. 68 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 159

Folder 160

1789-1799. Contains a variety of entries chiefly documenting debts owed Steele. Many entries seem related to court cases. Includes a list of "Notes of hand due to John Steele," 1797. 36 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 160

Folder 161

1796-1800. Contains account titled, "Bank of the U. States with John Steele" and a list of debts. 16 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 161

Folder 162

1800. Plantation and household account possibly kept by Mary Steele. Entries show income and expenses for household products such as chickens, corn, cattle; services for hauling lumber and hay. Chiefly documents small scale production within a local market. 13 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 162

Folder 163

1785-1804. Book of debts owed John Steele. Most accounts are itemized showing goods bought on credit from John Steele. 84 pages. #00689, Subseries: "2.2.2. John Steele" Folder 163

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Items

About 100 items.
Folder 164

Geography notebook of Anne Steele, 1799. Contains information about European countries. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 164

Folder 165

Autograph album of Mary Steele Ferrand, 1837-1838; 1894. The autograph album, a blank book interspersed with engravings of American landscapes such as the Catskill Mountains, was given to Mary Ferrand by her grandmother. Entries, 1837-1838, consist chiefly of signed poetry composed by friends of Mary Ferrand in Columbia, S.C., and Salisbury. In 1894, Ferrand pencilled in her memories of these people--one poem was written by "a suitor of my beautiful sister," another by "one of my classmates--a sad fate, she became deranged." #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 165

Folder 166

School notebook of Mary Steele Ferrand. Contains exercises for handwriting practice. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 166

Folder 167

Scrapbook and copybook of Mary Steele Ferrand. Consists of newspaper clippings--chiefly poetry, but also instructional items such as cures and recipes--and a few holograph copies of poetry. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 167

Folder 168

Enclosures, chiefly loose clippings, from Ferrand scrapbook (folder 167). #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 168

Folder 169

Genealogical notes and other materials. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 169

Folder 170-171

Folder 170

Folder 171

Clippings, many relating to John Steele's interest in horse breeding and racing. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 170-171

Folder 172

Miscellaneous, including a few printed materials and writings. #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" Folder 172

Oversize Paper Folder OPF-689/1

Oversize papers #00689, Series: "3. Other Items" OPF-689/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Lisa Tolbert with the assistance of David Stickney and Doug Stenberg, August 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.

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