Collection Number: 04370

Collection Title: Neal Family Papers, 1816-1916

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Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 500 items)
Abstract The Neal Family Papers document Black and white life in Franklin, N.C.; Fayette and Henderson counties, Tenn.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Hinds County, Miss.; Waxahachie, Tex.; and other areas of the old Southwest in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are two letters written by enslaved people about life after being trafficked away from home and family. Letters from white enslavers in the Neal family and related Fox and Timberlake families describe an act of resistance planned by enslaved people in Mississippi and the subsequent murders by hanging in Lexington, Miss.; the murder of an enslaved person by another enslaved person; attitudes toward and treatment of enslaved people, including corporal punishment; health of enslaved people; courtship, marriage, and divorce among enslaved people; and Black musicians. Most of the antebellum correspondence concerns the problems associated with trafficking in forced labor, moving west, buying land, and establishing profitable cotton plantations. There are also a few letters concerning religious life in the old Southwest and student life at the University of North Carolina. There are twelve letters from the American Civil War years that describe camp life and combat experiences, mainly in the Virginia theater. Letters from after the war describe a Black religious revival; a 12 year old Black girl who was jailed for starting fires; the perception of antagonistic relations between Black people and indigenous people of North America; the oppressive impact of stock laws on Black and white farmers; home remedies; and more broadly, late 19th-century farm life in North Carolina and small-town life in Texas. Financial, legal, and other items date from both before and after the American Civil War.
Creator Neal (Family : Franklin County, N.C.)
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 Neal Family Papers #4370, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received by transfer from the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, with the approval of and an addition from the donor, Edith B. Sakell, in November 1983 and January 1984.
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

The Neals, Foxes, and Timberlakes were all white families of at least moderate wealth that was dependent upon the forced labor of enslaved people. The Neal family owned a plantation in Louisburg, Franklin County, N.C. Family members who went west all trafficked enslaved people with them and had the cash to buy good farm land.

The two generations of the white Neal family in these papers lived between 1816 and 1915. Principal figures in the earlier generation included Moses (d. 1853), James, John, Aaron (d. 1869), and Mary (Timberlake), all of whom were the children of Moses Neal (d. before 1830), a plantation owner of Franklin County, N.C. Other individuals who figure in the earlier portion of these papers are Aaron's wife, Elizabeth Fox; her relatives (probably siblings) Burrell, Robert, Richard, Martha, and William Fox; Richard Timberlake (Mary Neal's husband); Sim Neal, who originally was enslaved in Louisburg, N.C., but by 1827 had been trafficked to Fayette County, Tenn., probably by James Neal; and Foxes Peney, who originally was enslaved in Louisburg, N.C., but by 1834 had been trafficked to Meridian Springs, Hinds County, Miss., probably by Burrell Fox.

In the 1820s, James and John Neal moved west, first to Alabama, then to Tennessee, to buy land and establish cotton plantations. Their sister Mary Neal Timberlake and her family soon followed. By the 1830s, Burrell, Richard, Robert, and William Fox were in Mississippi setting up plantations, and their sister Martha and her family were homesteading in Tennessee.

Aaron Neal remained on the family plantation with his mother and his wife Elizabeth Fox. The Population and Slave Schedules of the Federal Census for Franklin County indicate that Aaron Neal in 1860 enslaved 18 people and had real estate worth $15,210 and personal property worth $20,402.

Moses Neal was unmarried and a merchant in Williamsboro, Granville County, N.C.

Members of the second generation of Neals represented in these papers are the children of Aaron Neal, their spouses, and a few friends. The 1860 Federal Census for Franklin County listed Aaron's children as Transbry C., Temperance B., Mary E., Lavinia, Moses, Charles I., and Mit. Aaron had two older sons living away from home in 1860, Nathan and James. Nathan Neal was a student at the University of North Carolina in 1857 and, during the American Civil War, worked in Alabama as a railroad construction engineer. His brother Transbry served in the Confederate Army in Virginia.

After the war, Transbry returned to the family farm near Louisburg, but Nathan went west and settled in Waxahachie, Tex., about 30 miles south of Dallas, where he remained until his death. Nathan eventually married and raised a son, Garrett, who joined his father in the land surveying business.

Aaron Neal died in 1869, and Elizabeth Fox Neal apparently had died earlier, leaving Transbry Neal as head of household with significantly less wealth than before the war: the 1870 federal census listed Transbry's real estate as worth $5000, and his personal estate $300.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The Neal Family Papers document Black and white life in Franklin, N.C.; Fayette and Henderson counties, Tenn.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Hinds County, Miss.; Waxahachie, Tex.; and other areas of the old Southwest in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There are two letters written by enslaved people about life after being trafficked away from home and family. Letters from white enslavers in the Neal family and related Fox and Timberlake families describe an act of resistance planned by enslaved people in Mississippi and the subsequent murders by hanging in Lexington, Miss.; the murder of an enslaved person by another enslaved person; attitudes toward and treatment of enslaved people, including corporal punishment; health of enslaved people; courtship, marriage, and divorce among enslaved people; and Black musicians. Most of the antebellum correspondence concerns the problems associated with trafficking in forced labor, moving west, buying land, and establishing profitable cotton plantations. There are also a few letters concerning religious life in the old Southwest and student life at the University of North Carolina.

There are twelve letters from the American Civil War years that describe camp life and combat experiences, mainly in the Virginia theater.

Letters from after the war describe a Black religious revival; a 12 year old Black girl who was jailed for starting fires; the perception of antagonistic relations between Black people and indigenous people of North America; the oppressive impact of stock laws on Black and white farmers; home remedies; and more broadly, late 19th-century farm life in North Carolina and small-town life in Texas.

Financial, legal, and other items date from both before and after the American Civil War.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1816-1931.

About 287 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

The description of the letters has been divided into three time periods: the antebellum (up until 1860), the American Civil War (1861-1865), and Reconstruction (after 1865).

The Antebellum Period

The pre-war period includes two letters written by people who were enslaved, or recently emancipated. Sim Neal apparently came to Tennessee while still enslaved by James Neal, but may have been a free person at the time of writing a letter, 3 September 1827, to his mother, brother, and sisters at the Aaron Neal plantation near Louisburg, N.C. Sim Neal mentioned purchasing a tract of land, an act that would have been inconsistent with his legal status as an enslaved person. Foxes Peney, who was enslaved by Burrell Fox, wrote a letter, 22 June 1834, to her mother and brother, who were enslaved by Aaron Neal. She wrote that she was homesick for her family and passed messages from others at Meridian Springs, Miss., back to their families in Louisburg.

Most of the antebellum letters were written to Aaron Neal, a white plantation owner in Louisburg, Franklin County, N.C., from Neal, Timberlake, and Fox family members who had moved west. Some of these letters provide insight into the experiences of enslaved people from the perspective of white enslavers, as well as describing the problems associated with moving west, trafficking in forced labor, buying land, and establishing profitable cotton plantations.

James Neal wrote a letter, 29 December 1826, after he had moved to Fayette County, Tenn., in which he noted that the enslaved people sent their love to their mother and other family members back home in Franklin County, N.C. In a letter dated 15 April 1829, James described his experiences while on a trip to New Orleans during the preceding several months. He mentioned the treatment of Black people; his trafficking of an enslaved person; and courtship, marriage, and divorce among the enslaved people. He also mentioned working as a clerk on a Mississippi River steamboat for a few months and the market prices of cotton and other crops. James Neal's letters more regularly described life in early Tuscaloosa, Ala., and discussed such topics as land speculation, farming, local politics, dancing and public entertainment (including Black musicians), law and order, and business opportunities.

John Neal wrote from Tuscumbia, Ala., where he looked for land and a wife, and later from Fayette County, Tenn., where he moved in with his brother James Neal. In letters to his brother Aaron, John detailed the crude housing and living conditions he had to endure and described the planting and cultivation of his first season of crops.

Mary Timberlake wrote from Henderson County, Tenn., in January 1827, to her relatives in North Carolina about the condition of the people enslaved by her family, the trip west, the trials of homesteading, the construction of a house and barns, religion and camp meetings (Baptist and Presbyterian), local schools, and planting cotton and other crops.

Burrell Fox wrote a letter, 25 September 1835, in which he told of an uprising led by enslaved people in Mississippi that ended with the hanging of five white men and three Black people in the town of Lexington. In other letters, Burrell, writing from Hinds County, Miss., described flush times in Mississippi where the trafficking of enslaved people, land, and cotton crops brought premium prices. He also mentioned the effect of the environment in Mississippi on the health of whites and Blacks.

Richard Fox mentioned in his letters how Mississippi society differed from society in North Carolina and commented on dancing and popular entertainment. Like his brother Burrell, Richard was elated over the prospects of making large profits in the Mississippi cotton market.

Moses Neal wrote to his brother Aaron Neal from Williamsboro, Granville County, N.C., about business problems, state and national politics (he was a Whig), slavery, courtship, and matters of community and family interest.

Aaron Neal wrote his son Nathan several letters relating news from home about Black people. In letters dated 13 and 21 August and 26 October 1857, Aaron discussed the case of a theft supposedly committed by free Black people. On 9 September 1857, Aaron wrote in detail about the whipping he administered to a person enslaved by his neighbor whom he had caught stealing watermelons from his patch. Aaron's letters to his son also dealt with crops, deaths and disease, religion (including "protracted meetings" and revivals), and included fatherly advice on how to be successful in his studies at the University of North Carolina.

Nathan Neal wrote to his father about the murder of one enslaved person by another enslaved person in Chapel Hill. His two letters also discussed his lessons, course work, and professors; and complained that his bed was full of "chincks" and his food "filthy."

The American Civil War Period

There are twelve letters from the American Civil War years: one each from soldiers serving in the Yorktown and Petersburg, Va., areas in 1861; one from the North Carolina homefront in 1863; two from Nathan Neal in Alabama in 1864; and seven from soldiers in the Virginia theater (mainly Petersburg) in late 1864. Most of the letters were written by soldiers, mostly friends and relatives of the Neals, at the front who detailed camp life and combat experiences.

The Postbellum Years

There are about 15 letters from 1870 to 1915, from Nathan Neal, in Waxahachie, Tex., to his brothers and sisters in North Carolina. Nathan frequently exhorted his siblings and their children to move to Texas where economic opportunities abounded. He wrote of Texas weather, crops, livestock, land prices, births and deaths, diseases, weddings, and other matters. On 28 January 1905, Nathan detailed his being assaulted and stabbed in the neck by an angry tenant.

Most of the postbellum letters from North Carolina were written by Moses Neal (son of Aaron Neal), Lavinia Neal, and Tempie Neal to each other. They lived in Franklin or nearby counties. Their letters reflected the daily routine of farm life. Common topics included crops (especially cotton), cooking, quilting, marriage, death, religion, mule and horse trading, rural crime, and other matters.

Folder 1

Correspondence, 1770, 1816-1819 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 1

Folder 2

Correspondence, 1820-1823 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 2

Folder 3

Correspondence, 1824-1826 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 3

In a letter dated 29 December 1826, written after he had moved to Fayette County, Tenn., James noted that the enslaved people sent their love to their mother and other family members back home in Franklin County, N.C.

Folder 4

Correspondence, 1827 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 4

Sim Neal, who apparently came to Tennessee because he was enslaved by James Neal but may have been a free person at the writing of this letter, wrote on 3 September 1827 to his mother, brother, and sisters at the plantation of Aaron Neal near Louisburg, N.C. Sim Neal mentioned purchasing a tract of land, an act that seems inconsistent with his legal status as an enslaved person.

In January 1827, Mary Timberlake wrote from Henderson County, Tenn., to her relatives in North Carolina about the condition of the people enslaved by her family, the trip west, the trials of homesteading, the construction of a house and barns, religion and camp meetings (Baptist and Presbyterian), local schools, and planting cotton and other crops.

Folder 5

Correspondence, 1828-1829 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 5

In a letter dated 15 April 1829, James Neal told of his experiences while on a trip to New Orleans during the preceding several months. He mentioned the treatment of Black people; trafficking an enslaved person; courtship, marriages, and a divorce among enslaved people; the market prices of cotton and other crops; and working as a clerk on a Mississippi River steamboat for a few months.

Folder 6

Correspondence, 1830-1832 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 6

Folder 7

Correspondence, 1833-1834 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 7

Foxes Peney, who was enslaved by Burrell Fox, wrote a letter, 22 June 1834, to her mother and brother in Louisburg, N.C. She wrote that she was homesick for her family and mentioned Elizabeth Neal, to whom she had been enslaved in Louisburg.

Folder 8

Correspondence, 1835-1836 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 8

In a letter dated 25 September 1835, Burrell Fox told of an uprising led by enslaved people in Mississippi that ended with the murder by hanging of five white men and three Black people in the town of Lexington. In other letters, Burrell wrote of flush times in Mississippi where the trafficking of enslaved people, land, and cotton crops brought premium prices. He also mentioned the effect of the environment in Mississippi on the health of whites and Blacks.

Folder 9

Correspondence, 1837-1839 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 9

Folder 10

Correspondence, 1840-1844 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 10

Folder 11

Correspondence, 1845-1849 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 11

Folder 12

Correspondence, 1850-1854 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 12

Folder 13

Correspondence, 1855-1860 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 13

Aaron Neal wrote his son Nathan several letters relating news from home about Black people. In letters dated 13 and 21 August and 26 October 1857, Aaron discussed the case of a theft supposedly committed by free Black people. On 9 September 1857, Aaron wrote in detail about the whipping he administered to a person enslaved by his neighbor whom he had caught stealing watermelons from his patch. Aaron's letters to his son also described crops, deaths and disease, religion (including "protracted meetings" and revivals), and included fatherly advice on how to be successful in his studies at the University of North Carolina.

Digital version: Letter from Nathan P. Neal to Aaron and Elizabeth Neal, 2 September 1857

Documenting the American South

Folder 14

Correspondence, 1861-1865 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 14

Folder 15

Correspondence, 1866-1873 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 15

Folder 16

Correspondence, 1874-1880 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 16

Included is a letter dated 27 September 1878, in which a suicide and a Black religious revival in the neighborhood were mentioned. On 17 April 1879, Tempie offered to a friend some home remedies for the croup and for chills. In 1879, people were said to have died of "yellow chills" and typhoid fever.

Folder 17

Correspondence, 1881-1883 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 17

Folder 18

Correspondence, 1884-1889 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 18

A letter sent on 31 October 1885, briefly mentioned a relative seeking "radical office" who believed that the stock laws, which required livestock owners to fence in their livestock, were intended to oppress poor white and Black people. The letter also mentions a store either owned by or catering to Jewish people in Louisburg.

A letter, 29 April 1889, described a 12 year old Black girl who had been jailed for starting fires and the perception of antagonistic relations between Black people and indigenous people of North America.

Folder 19

Correspondence, 1890-1899 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 19

Folder 20

Correspondence, 1900-1931 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 20

A letter dated 4 December 1903 mentioned the yield of a Black sharecropper to a landowner and the leasing of farmland.

Folder 21

Correspondence, Undated #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 21

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial Material, 1823-1941.

About 145 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Mostly bills and receipts pertaining to the operation of Aaron Neal's cotton plantation before the American Civil War and to Moses Neal's cotton farm after the war. Included are many tax receipts, mostly of Moses Neal in the Reconstruction era. Items of special note are two Confederate tax-in-kind receipts.

Folder 22

Account book, 1865-1867 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 22

Folder 23

Bills and receipts, 1832-1859 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 23

Folder 24

Bills and receipts, 1860-1938 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 24

Folder 25

Promissory notes and miscellaneous items, 1862-1896 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 25

Folder 26

Tax receipts, 1823-1941 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 26

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Estate papers of Aaron and James Neal, land surveys, land grants, indentures, deeds, a marriage certificate (1806), a crop lien contract (1892), and other legal documents pertaining to members of the Neal family.

Folder 27

Estate records, 1833, 1870 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 27

Folder 28

Land grants, deeds, and indentures, 1779-1848 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 28

Oversize Paper OP-4370/2

Indenture, 19 May 1801, William Bowers to Moses Neal #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." OP-4370/2

Folder 29

Other legal items, 1806-1892 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 29

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Miscellaneous Material, circa 1820-1900.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Cures and recipes, printed items, poems, speeches, and other material. Of note is a printed map of military bounty lands in Arkansas Territory, circa 1821, by John Gardiner, chief clerk of the General Land Office, Washington, D.C.

Folder 30

Cures and recipes, circa1860-1890 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material, circa 1820-1900." Folder 30

Folder 31

Printed items, circa1850-1890 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material, circa 1820-1900." Folder 31

Folder 32

Miscellaneous items, circa1821-1870 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material, circa 1820-1900." Folder 32

Oversize Paper OP-4370/1

Printed map of military bounty lands in Arkansas Territory by John Gardiner, circa 1821 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material, circa 1820-1900." OP-4370/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

J. B. Gambrell, A View of the Negro Question. (Transferred to the Rare Book Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill)

Oversized papers (OP-4370/1-2)

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Processing Information

Processed by: William T. Auman and Enola Guthrie, 1984

Encoded by: Mara Dabrishus, October 2004

Updated by: Amanda Loeb, March 2012

Conscious Editing by Nancy Kaiser, December 2020: Updated collection overview, subject headings, biographical note, scope and content note, and contents list.

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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