Collection Number: 03999

Collection Title: William Rutherford Savage Papers, 1826-1953.

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 2.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 2000 items)
Abstract Represented in the collection are William Rutherford Savage, Episcopal priest of Virginia and North Carolina; his parents Thomas Staughton Savage (1804-1880), scientist and Episcopal missionary to Liberia, and Elizabeth Rutherford Savage (1817-1899), also a missionary; his brothers Thomas Rutherford Savage (1851-1918), physician of Kalamazoo, Mich., and New York, N.Y., and Alexander Duncan Savage (1848-1935), curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; and his sister Jessie Duncan Savage, an artist, who in 1884 married Thomas L. Cole, an Episcopal priest. The papers relate primarily to the personal life and professional work of William Rutherford Savage, beginning in the 1860s and continuing through his years at Episcopal High School, the University of Virginia, and the Theological Seminary of Virginia, and while serving his first parish at Virginia Beach, Va. In the early 1900s, Savage went to the Blowing Rock area of North Carolina and worked at missions there, in Valle Cruces, and in Boone. He remained in the area until his death in 1934. Among the early papers are scientific letters, 1840-1860, to Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Savage in Liberia concerning African species, including a species of gorilla he discovered. After his return from Africa, Dr. Savage was an Episcopal priest in Pass Christian, Miss., and Rhinecliff, N.Y. Also documented are the activities of Thomas Rutherford Savage and his brother, Alexander Duncan Savage, both graduates of the University of Virginia in the early 1870s. Thomas then studied medicine in Baltimore, Md., and New York, N.Y., and was employed for 18 years at the Michigan State Insane Asylum in Kalamazoo. He returned to New York City and set up practice in 1892. Duncan continued his studies in Europe in the fields of Comparative Philology and Sanskrit and taught at Johns Hopkins University for a time. Knowledgeable in art and archealogy, he eventually became assistant director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Letters of Jesse Duncan Savage relate to her life in New York City and Baltimore prior to her marriage in 1884 to Thomas L. Cole. There is scattered correspondence from the Cole children, especially Thomas Casilear Cole (1888-1976), portrait painter. Among other correspondents are Bishops Alfred Magill Randolph, Junius Moore Horner, Thomas Campbell Darst, Joseph Blount Cheshire, and Beverley Dandridge Tucker.
Creator Savage, William Rutherford, 1854-1934.
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 William Rutherford Savage papers #3999, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Thomas C. Cole in 1974.
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 Processing Information

Processed by: Suzanne Ruffing, July 1996

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Revised by: Dawne Howard Lucas, July 2021

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

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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

Thomas Staughton Savage (1804-1880) + Elizabeth Rutherford (1817-1899)

Bessie (1847-1860)

Alexander Duncan (1848-1935)

Thomas Rutherford (1851-1918) + Grace ?


William Rutherford (1854-1934)

Jessie Duncan (1859-1940) + Thomas L. Cole

Bessie (1887- ) + Fritz G. Cornell



Thomas Casilear (1888-1976)

Sophie (1889- )

Dorothea + ? Macomber


Dr. Thomas Staughton Savage was an Episcopalian minister stationed at Camp Palmas, Liberia, during the 1830s and 1840s. He returned to the United States in 1848 residing in Natchez, Miss., and Sumterville, Ala., before becoming rector of an Episcopal Church in Pass Christian, Miss., in 1849. He moved to Rhinecliff, N.Y., in 1867-1880, with his family.

William Rutherford Savage was an Episcopal priest and missionary like his parents, Thomas Staughton and Elizabeth Rutherford Savage. He attended Episcopal High School and the Theological Seminary of Virginia in the 1860s and 1870s. Savage's first parish was on the Virginia coast where he built, with Bishop Alfred M. Randolph, the "Chapel by the Sea" at Virginia Beach. During this time, Savage began his association with the Life Saving Stations of Cape Henry, Va., and Nags Head, N.C. He also did missionary work in Tazewell County, Va., traveling from parish to parish.

In the early 1900s, Savage went to the Blowing Rock area of North Carolina under the direction of Junius Horner, Bishop of Western North Carolina. He worked at missions there, in Valle Cruces, and in Boone. Savage remained in this area until his death in 1934, except for a period from 1916 to 1918 when he was in Bloxom, Va., and Nags Head, N.C. After his retirement in 1922, he continued his missionary work in Glendale Springs, N.C.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The papers relate primarily to the personal life and clerical work of William Rutherford Savage. Correspondence is mainly with family members, lifelong friends, and clergy of the Episcopal Church. Other papers include newspaper clippings, financial and genealogical papers, and exhibition information on Thomas Casilear Cole. Among the early papers are scientific letters, 1840-1860, of William Rutherford Savage's father, Thomas Staughton Savage, concerning African species, including the troglodytes gorilla, which he discovered. There are letters between William Rutherford Savage and his parents, brothers, and sister, Jessie Duncan Savage Cole, as well as with her children, especially Thomas C. Cole. There are letters from other family members and lifelong friends, including clergy of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, North Carolina, New York, South Dakota, and elsewhere.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and Related Papers, 1826-1953.

About 1,900 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence of members of the Savage family and related clippings and other items. Correspondence from the 1830s and 1840s consists of letters to Thomas Staughton Savage while stationed as an Episcopal missionary at Cape Palmas, Liberia, from scientists seeking information on, and specimens of, the flora, fauna, shells, and insects of the west coast of Africa. Letters from Alexander Duncan Savage and Thomas Rutherford Savage, 1869-1870, to their parents and siblings discuss student life at the University of Virginia. There are letters, 1871-1873, to Thomas Rutherford Savage at medical school in Baltimore from his brother, Alexander Duncan Savage, in Bonn, Prussia; other family members in Rhinecliff, N.Y.; and some of Tom's friends. There is also business correspondence during this period concerning the publication of a manuscript of Thomas Staughton Savage. More business correspondence appears between 1881 and 1900, when Thomas Rutherford Savage took over the management of the family's Pass Christian, Miss., property. There are letters to other family members from Thomas Rutherford Savage concerning this property in March and April of 1885.

Correspondence, 1879-1880, relates to an inheritance dispute concerning Thomas Staugton Savage's brother, Silas. During this period, letters show that Thomas Rutherford Savage was working at the Michigan State Insane Asylum in Kalamazoo; Alexander Duncan Savage was teaching at Johns Hopkins University; Jessie Duncan Savage was in art school in New York City; and their parents were in Rhinecliff, N.Y.

In 1880, Alexander Duncan Savage was employed under General di Cesnola in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and became involved in the trial of di Cesnola, who was accused of having forgeries among his collection of Greek statues and pottery. Also in that year, Jessie Duncan Savage was employed by John LaFarge, artist and operator of a stained glass studio in New York City. When Thomas Staughton Savage died in 1880, Elizabeth Rutherford Savage moved in with Jessie and remained with her after Jessie's marriage to Thomas L. Cole, a clergyman, in 1883. The family moved to Portland, Ore., in 1889. Elizabeth later moved in with William Rutherford Savage in Virginia, then moved back to Portland in 1895 before moving in with Thomas Rutherford Savage, who was practicing medicine in New York City.

Correspondence, chiefly between William Rutherford Savage and his mother, Elizabeth Rutherford Savage, and brother Alexander Duncan Savage, about William's education at Episcopal High School, various jobs, and attendance at the Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., appears in the 1860s and 1870s. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing though the 1920s, correspondence of William Rutherford Savage concerns his missionary work. Included are many letters from clergymen, such as Bishops Alfred Magill Randolph, Junius M. Horner, Thomas Campbell Darst, Joseph Blount Cheshire, and Beverley Dandridge Tucker. Correspondence about William's work with the U.S. Life-Saving Service on the North Carolina and Virginia coasts begins in the 1880s and continues through the 1910s. Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, corresponded with Savage in 1918 about Navy chaplains. From 1924 until his death, William Rutherford Savage maintained a close connection to Mission House in Glendale Springs, N.C., an interdenominational educational community with a library, machine shop, and spinning and weaving facilities.

In the 1900s, William began a close correspondence with his nephew, Thomas Casilear Cole, who attended Riverview Military Academy in Massachusetts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Thomas Casilear Cole began to make a name for himself as a portrait painter in the 1910s and designed camouflage patterns for the Navy in 1918. Their correspondence continued until William's death in 1934. Included in the papers are several program pamphlets from Cole's painting exhibitions. Some of these pamphlets are filed along with genealogical material, poems, financial papers, and clippings at the end of this series.

Folder 1


Folder 2


Folder 3


Folder 4


Folder 5


Folder 6


Folder 7

1848 January-April

Folder 8

1848 May-December

Folder 9

1849 and undated 1840s

Folder 10


Folder 11


Folder 12


Folder 13

1870 January-April

Folder 14

1870 May-December

Folder 15

1871 January-September

Folder 16

1871 October-December

Folder 17


Folder 18


Folder 19


Folder 20

1875 January-June

Folder 21

1875 July-December

Folder 22

1876 January-June

Folder 23

1876 July-December

Folder 24


Folder 25


Folder 26

1879 January-February

Folder 27

1879 March-October

Folder 28

1879 November-December

Folder 29

Undated 1870s

Folder 30

1880 January-February

Folder 31

1880 March-May

Folder 32

1880 June-October

Folder 33

1880 November-December

Folder 34


Folder 35


Folder 36

1883 January-June

Folder 37

1883 July-December

Folder 38

1884 January-April

Folder 39

1884 May-December

Folder 40

1885 January-April

Folder 41

1885 May-December

Folder 42


Folder 43


Folder 44

1888 January-April

Folder 45

1888 May-December

Folder 46

1889 January-July

Folder 47

1889 August-December

Folder 48

Undated 1880s

Folder 49

1890 January-June

Folder 50

1890 July-December

Folder 51

1891 January-May

Folder 52

1891 June-December

Folder 53


Folder 54


Folder 55


Folder 56


Folder 57


Folder 58


Folder 59


Folder 60

1899 January-July

Folder 61

1899 September-December

Folder 62


Folder 63


Folder 64


Folder 65


Folder 66


Folder 67


Folder 68


Folder 69


Folder 70


Folder 71

Undated 1890-1909

Folder 72


Folder 73

1911 January-July

Folder 74

1911 August-December

Folder 75


Separated Folder SEP-3999/1

Letter from Woodrow Wilson, 21 May 1912, and a letter from John S. Mosby, 10 June 1912

Restriction to Access: The original item is not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact staff at to discuss options.

Folder 76

1913 January-March

Folder 77

1913 April-December

Folder 78


Folder 79


Folder 80


Folder 81


Folder 82

1918 January-May

Folder 83

1918 June-December

Folder 84

1919 January-April

Folder 85

1919 May-December

Folder 86


Folder 87


Folder 88

1922 January-May

Folder 89

1922 June-December

Folder 90


Folder 91


Folder 92


Folder 93


Folder 94


Folder 95


Folder 96

1929 January-April

Folder 97

1929 May-December

Folder 98

1930 January-May

Folder 99

1930 June-December

Folder 100


Folder 101


Folder 102

1933 January-July

Folder 103

1933 August-December

Folder 104

1934 January-July

Folder 105

1934 August

Folder 106

1934 September-December

Folder 107


Folder 108


Folder 109


Folder 110-112

Folder 110

Folder 111

Folder 112


Folder 113


Oversize Paper OP-3999/1-2



Oversize papers

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Pictures, 1825-1960s.

107 items.

Photographs of members of the Savage family; snapshots of William Rutherford Savage and friends around Blowing Rock, N.C.; and postcards of Nags Head, Manteo, and Roanoke Island, N.C.

Image P-3999/1

Cabinet card of a miniature of William Rutherford, Esq., circa 1825.

Image P-3999/2

Photograph of Elizabeth Rutherford Savage, circa 1890.

Image P-3999/3

Cabinet card of Thomas Rutherford Savage, 1899.

Image P-3999/4

Cabinet card of William Rutherford Savage, 1904.

Image P-3999/5

Carte-de-visite of Alexander Duncan Savage, circa 1872.

Image P-3999/6

Carte-de-visite of the George Upfold, Bishop of Indiana, 1872.

Image P-3999/7

Carte-de-visite of William Bacon Stevens, Bishop of Pennsylvania, undated.

Image P-3999/8

Carte-de-visite of Bishop Smith(?), undated.

Image P-3999/9

Tintype of an unidentified young boy, undated.

Image P-3999/10-11



Photographs of Thomas C. Cole and a painting (self-portrait?) of him, 1920s.

Image P-3999/12

Cabinet card of an unidentified clergyman.

Image P-3999/13-21










Snapshots of William Rutherford Savage, 1910-1932.

Image P-3999/22-32












Snapshots of William Rutherford Savage and others at Glenvale Springs, N.C., in October, 1926, 1928, 1932, and undated.

Image P-3999/33

Cabinet card of "Armedale"(?) in Madison County, Miss., where Thomas Staughton Savage's "family united for a long stay during the War," undated.

Image P-3999/34-35



Stereoscope views of rectory and church in Rhinecliff, N.Y., Thomas Staughton Savage's parish from 1867 to 1880, September 1877.

Image P-3999/36-42








Photographs of other family homes and churches, 1850s-1932, and one postcard, 1960s, of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian, Miss., where Thomas Staughton Savage was first rector in 1849.

Image P-3999/43-45




Photographs from Blowing Rock, N.C., and of the New River in Ashe County, N.C., undated

Image Folder PF-3999/3

Thirty postcards of Nags Head, Manteo, and Roanoke Island, N.C., 1910s.

Image Folder PF-3999/4

Thirty-one postcards of Nags Head, Manteo, and Roanoke Island, N.C., 1910s.

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