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.
|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.|
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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.]Back to Top
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.Back to Top
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.
|Oversize Paper Folder OPF-1520/1|
Accounts books of Ralph Gorrell.
Processed by: Carolyn Hamby, Suzanne Ruffing, February 1996
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008
This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.Back to Top