Collection Number: 00768

Collection Title: Matthew Cary Whitaker Papers, 1728-1883

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 1.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 340 items)
Abstract The Matthew Cary Whitaker Papers document a white physician and plantation owner in Enfield, Halifax County, N.C., the related Whitaker and Fort family members, and people who were enslaved by these families. Enslaved people are identified in bills of sale, wills, deeds, and lists, and are sometimes discussed more broadly in correspondence in terms of their labor, which frequently was hired out. There also is family correspondence, including letters received by Whitaker when he was studying medicine in Baltimore, Md., 1823-1824, and bills, receipts, accounts, and business papers related primarily to plantation operations. Letters from Spier Whitaker and other family members discuss family news, Halifax County political news, opinions of presidential candidates, monetary and other changes made by President Andrew Jackson, and the rising price of grain due to scarcity in Europe. Items before 1823 are deeds, accounts, and other papers concerning the related Fort family and the people they enslaved. Of note are letters concerning plantations in Lawrence County, Ala., and speculating in unclaimed lands in Alabama. The Addition of 2006 also documents Whitaker and Fort family members, friends, and the people they enslaved, and contains correspondence and financial and legal records on similar topics. Of note is an 1864 letter from Jefferson Davis to Mrs. Ransom, a Whitaker family friend, discussing the whereabouts of her husband, Major General Robert Ransom Jr. The Addition of 2012 consists of a physician's ledger kept by Matthew Whitaker, 1827-1839, containing details of treatments, charges, payments, and medications prescribed to white people and enslaved people in the Halifax County, N.C., area; and a plantation journal belonging to Hilliard Fort, 1820-1827, that documents the labor of enslaved people and other aspects of plantation operations, including purchases, promissory notes, and debts.
Creator Whitaker, Matthew Cary, 1801-1873.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is 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 Matthew Cary Whitaker Papers #768, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Robert R. William of Asheville, N.C., before 1940; from Meriweather D. Williams in July 2006 (Acc. 100448); and purchased from the Historical Shop at Metairie, La., in January 2012 (Acc. 101552).
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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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

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

Matthew Cary Whitaker (1801-1873) was a white physician and plantation owner of Enfield, Halifax County, N.C.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The Matthew Cary Whitaker Papers document a white physician and plantation owner in Enfield, Halifax County, N.C., the related Whitaker and Fort family members, and people who were enslaved by these families. Enslaved people are identified in bills of sale, wills, deeds, and lists, and are sometimes discussed more broadly in correspondence in terms of their labor, which frequently was hired out. There also is family correspondence, including letters received by Whitaker when he was studying medicine in Baltimore, Md., 1823-1824, and bills, receipts, accounts, and business papers related primarily to plantation operations. Letters to Matthew Whitaker from his brother, Spier Whitaker, and other family members discuss family news, Halifax County political news, opinions of presidential candidates, monetary and other changes made by President Andrew Jackson, and the rising price of grain due to scarcity in Europe.

Items before 1823 are deeds, accounts, and other papers concerning the related Fort family and the people they enslaved. Of note are letters concerning plantations in Lawrence County, Ala. Letters from Fort family members in Alabama to Hilliard Fort of Halifax County, N.C., indicate that Alabama land was more productive than North Carolina land and encourage him to speculate in unclaimed lands in Alabama.

The Addition of 2006 also documents Whitaker and Fort family members, friends, and the people they enslaved, and contains correspondence and financial and legal records. Topics include family news, Halifax County news, plantation matters, and politics. Of note is an 1864 letter from Jefferson Davis to Mrs. Ransom, a Whitaker family friend, discussing the whereabouts of her husband, Major General Robert Ransom Jr.

The Addition of 2012 consists of a physician's ledger kept by Matthew Whitaker, 1827-1839, containing details of treatments, charges, payments, and medications prescribed to white people and enslaved people in the Halifax County, N.C., area; and a plantation journal belonging to Hilliard Fort, 1820-1827, that documents the labor of enslaved people (at least four pages towards the end of the volume) and other aspects of plantation operations, including purchases, promissory notes, and debts.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Original Deposit, 1728-1870.

About 175 items.

Arrangement: chronologically.

Correspondence, bills of sale, receipts, family papers, business papers, newpaper clippings, and other items documenting the buying and selling of enslaved people, the plantation economy based on forced labor, family news, Halifax County news, politics, and other topics.

Folder 1

1728-1797 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 1

Folder 2

1800-1819 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 2

Includes the bill of sale for an enslaved couple (1817).

Folder 3

1820-1823 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 3

Includes documentation of hiring out of enslaved people (1822).

Folder 4

1824-1826 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 4

Folder 5

1827-1830 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 5

Folder 6

1831-1834 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 6

Folder 7

1835-1870 #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 7

Includes the bill of sale for an enslaved girl (1835), and documentation of hiring out of enslaved people (1841).

Folder 8

Undated newspapers #00768, Series: "Original Deposit, 1728-1870." Folder 8

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006).

About 160 items.

Acquisitions Information: Accession 100448

Arrangement: chronological.

The Whitaker and Fort families and the people enslaved by them are documented in correspondence, deeds, bills of sale, receipts, and clippings. Topics include the the buying and selling of enslaved people, found chiefly in bills of sale and deeds; plantation management; family news; Halifax County news; and politics. Included is an 1864 letter from Jefferson Davis to Mrs. Ransom, a Whitaker family friend, discussing the whereabouts of her husband, Major General Robert Ransom Jr.

Folder 9

1728-1819 #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 9

Folder 10

1821-1829 #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 10

Folder 11

1830-1839 #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 11

Folder 12

1840-1883 #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 12

Folder 13

Undated #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 13

Folder 14

Clippings, 1815-1830 and undated #00768, Series: "Whitaker and Fort Family Correspondence, 1728-1883 (Addition of 2006)." Folder 14

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Matthew Cary Whitaker Physicians Ledger and Hilliard Fort Plantation Journal, 1820-1839 (Addition of 2012).

2 items.

Acquisition Information: Accession 101552

Arrangement: chronological.

Two manuscript volumes. One is a plantation journal covering the years 1820-1827, and it is annotated in the back with the note, "Hilliard Fort's Book." The Fort family was related to the Whitakers. The journal consists of about 36 pages of text located at the beginning and end of the volume. The middle of the journal consists of blank pages. Contents include at least four pages towards the end of the volume listing records of enslaved people who were hired out, grouped by the year hired and for what amount. There are also accounts of various plantation operations, including purchases, promissory notes, and debts. The other volume is a physician's ledger kept by Matthew Cary Whitaker covering the period 1827-1839. The volume is indexed by the family names of the various individuals, including enslaved people, seeking his services throughout the Halifax County, N.C., area. It contains details of treatments, charges, payments, and medications prescribed.

Folder 15

Plantation journal, 1820-1827 #00768, Series: "Matthew Cary Whitaker Physicians Ledger and Hilliard Fort Plantation Journal, 1820-1839 (Addition of 2012)." Folder 15

Folder 16

Physician's ledger, 1827-1839 #00768, Series: "Matthew Cary Whitaker Physicians Ledger and Hilliard Fort Plantation Journal, 1820-1839 (Addition of 2012)." Folder 16

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Processing Information

Processed by: SHC Staff,

Encoded by: Kathryn Roth, February 2008

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

Finding aid updated in March 2012 by Armando Suarez because of addition.

Conscious Editing Work by: Nancy Kaiser, July 2020. Updated abstract, subject headings, biographical note, scope and content note, and container list.

Since August 2017, we have added ethnic and racial identities for individuals and families represented in collections. To determine identity, we rely on self-identification; other information supplied to the repository by collection creators or sources; public records, press accounts, and secondary sources; and contextual information in the collection materials. Omissions of ethnic and racial identities in finding aids created or updated after August 2017 are an indication of insufficient information to make an educated guess or an individual's preference for identity information to be excluded from description. When we have misidentified, please let us know at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu.

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