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Collection Number: 01520

Collection Title: Ralph Gorrell Papers, 1797-1884.

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 processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 2.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1475 items)
Abstract Greensboro, N.C., lawyer, businessman, and Whig state legislator. The papers include family correspondence and scattered letters from prominent North Carolinians on public affairs, but by far the major portion are concerned with legal cases and legal business. There is a series, 1830-1835, relating to the mercantile firm of William Kerr and Company, Greensboro and Morganton, N.C., in which Ralph Gorrell was an inactive partner. Gorrell was a lawyer for the North Carolina Railroad Company, and scattered letters and papers relate to railroad business of that and other companies. There are also scattered papers of several gold mining companies with property near Greensboro and in nearby counties. Family correspondence includes letters to and from Henry C. Gorrell (d. 1862), a Confederate officer serving in Virginia.
Creator Gorrell, Ralph, 1803-1875.
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.
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 Ralph Gorrell papers #1520, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Henry Fariss of Winston-Salem, N.C., in August 1948 and purchased from Earl Weatherley, dealer, of Greensboro, N.C., in 1959.
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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Processed by: Carolyn Hamby, Suzanne Ruffing, February 1996

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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

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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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Ralph Gorrell (12 May 1803-14 August 1875), lawyer, was the eldest son of David (1770-1848) and Euphemia Stewart Gorrell (1770-1850) of Guilford County, N.C. His grandfather, Ralph Gorrell, Jr. (1735-1816), was a member of the Halifax Provincial Congress of April and December 1776, of the North Carolina House of Commons in 1784, and of the state Senate in 1777-1778. In 1808, he sold, for $98, the forty-two acres of land on which the town of Greensboro was laid out.

Like his grandfather, Ralph Gorrell developed an interest in politics. After graduation from Greensboro Academy in 1820 and the University of North Carolina in 1825, he started a law practice in Greensboro. Gorrell served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1834 and 1835, in the North Carolina Senate in 1856 and 1858, and in the Convention of 1861. Like other Whig leaders of the time, Gorrell supported public education, state aid to railroads, and ad valorem taxation on slaves. Although a Unionist, Gorrell cast his vote for secession in the Convention of 1861.

During the Civil War, the Confederate Treasury Department appointed him a depositary at Greensboro. Gorrell served for many years as Guilford County clerk and master in equity. Other appointments he held were commissioner of the Fayetteville and Western Railroad and director of the North Carolina Railroad.

As a lawyer and a businessman, Gorrell achieved a good reputation and moderate wealth. From 1830 to 1835, he was in partnership with William Kerr and Calvin J. Chisholm to operate mercantile houses in Greensboro and Morganton. In 1851, he became the first president of the Greensboro Mutual Life Insurance and Trust Company. Gorrell also owned a plantation and had a flourishing law practice. In the 1850s, he drafted the construction contract for the North Carolina Railroad, in addition to his regular law practice. His most notable legal case involved the defense of the abolitionist Daniel Worth on charges of distributing incendiary literature in 1860. Although Worth was convicted, Gorrell obtained for Worth a reasonable bail that allowed the abolitionist to escape to the North.

Gorrell married Mary Jenning Chisholm of Richmond County. The couple had ten children, seven of whom did not survive them. Two of Gorrell's surviving children were: Julius L. Gorrell, graduate of the University of North Carolina, lawyer, and member of the House of Commons in 1860; and Henry C. Gorrell, Confederate captain, who died near Richmond in 1862.

[Source: William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 2 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1986): 322-323.]

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The papers include family correspondence and scattered letters from prominent North Carolinians on public affairs, but by far the major portion are concerned with legal cases and legal business. There is a series, 1830-1835, relating to the mercantile firm of William Kerr and Company, Greensboro and Morganton, N.C., in which Ralph Gorrell was an inactive partner. Gorrell was a lawyer for the North Carolina Railroad Company, and scattered letters and papers relate to railroad business of that and other companies. There are also scattered papers of several gold mining companies with property near Greensboro and in nearby counties. Family correspondence includes letters to and from Henry C. Gorrell (d. 1862), a Confederate officer serving in Virginia.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and legal Papers, 1797-1884.

1,473 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Family and business correspondence, political and business papers, deeds, and legal documents of Ralph Gorrell. Most papers in this series are concerned with legal cases and legal business. There is also a group of materials, 1830-1835, relating to the mercantile business in Greensboro and Morganton of William Kerr and Company, in which Gorrell was an inactive partner. Other items include letters relating to the North Carolina Railroad Company, several mining companies near Greensboro, and property transactions.

Letters on political matters include discussions about political figures, such as Andrew Jackson; Unionist sentiment in Greensboro and Morganton; and Reconstruction politics in North Carolina.

Family papers include letters to Ralph Gorrell from his parents while a student at the University of North Carolina; letters from Henry C. Gorrell to his father, Ralph, during the Civil War; and other material.

Folder 1

1797-1828

Folder 2

1829

Folder 3

1830-1831

Folder 4

1832 January-March

Folder 5

1832 April-October

Folder 6

1832 November-December

Folder 7

1833

Folder 8

1834

Folder 9

1835-1836

Folder 10

1837-1838

Folder 11

1839

Folder 12

1840

Folder 13

1841

Folder 14

1842 January-June

Folder 15

1842 July-December

Folder 16

1843 January-May

Folder 17

1843 June-December

Folder 18

1844

Folder 19

1845 January-April

Folder 20

1845 May-August

Folder 21

1845 September-December

Folder 22

1846 January-April

Folder 23

1846 May-December

Folder 24

1847

Folder 25

1848

Folder 26

1849

Folder 27

1850

Folder 28

1851

Folder 29

1852

Folder 30

1853

Folder 31

1854

Folder 32

1855

Folder 33

1856

Folder 34

1857

Folder 35

1858

Folder 36

1859

Folder 37

1860 January-April

Folder 38

1860 May-December

Folder 39

1861

Folder 40

1862-1863

Folder 41a

1864-1865

Folder 41b

1866-1867

Folder 42

1868

Folder 43

1869

Folder 44

1870

Folder 45

1871 January-May

Folder 46

1871 June-December

Folder 47

1872-1873

Folder 48

1874; 1884

Folder 49

Undated letters

Folder 50

Miscellaneous undated

Oversize Paper Folder OPF-1520/1

Oversize papers

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Volumes, 1843-1858.

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