Collection Number: 05249-z

Collection Title: Mary Tunstall Letter on Enslaved Child Betsy, 1850

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.


expand/collapse Expand/collapse Collection Overview

Size 1 item
Abstract The collection is a letter dated 25 January 1850 about Betsy an enslaved African American child. In the letter to her husband white Virginia politician and railroad executive Whitmell P. Tunstall (1810-1854), in Richmond, Va., white Virginian Mary M. Tunstall (1821-1888) in Danville, Va., acknowledges the arrival of her husband's "present" of an enslaved child named Betsy. Tunstall comments on Betsy having the "right color" skin and sewing skills and on Betsy's suitability for working in the home from the perspective of her enslaver. In the letter, Tunstall also mentions Betsy's previous enslaver, Betty Mead, and another enslaved women named Chloe with whom Betsy will work in the Tunstall house.
Creator Tunstall, Mary.
Language English
Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Information For Users

Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
No usage restrictions.
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 Mary Tunstall Letter on Enslaved Child Betsy #5249-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from Historical Collectible Auctions of Burlington, N.C., in November 2005 (Acc. 100281).
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.
Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

According to the letter, Betsy was enslaved by Whitmell P. Tunstall and Mary M. Tunstall of Danville, Va., in January 1850. At that time, an enslaved woman named Chloe was in the Tunstall household. Betsy's previous enslaver was named Betty Mead, who was likely a resident of Pittsylvania County, Va., or the surrounding area. In the 1850 Federal Census Slave Schedule for Pittsylvania County, Va., enumerated on 10 November 1850, Whitmell P. Tunstall is listed as the owner of four people.

Whitmell P. (Pugh) Tunstall was born in Pittsylvania County, Va. He was educated at Danville Academy and the University of North Carolina. Tunstall served in the Virginia General Assembly in both houses. He was a delegate in the House of Delegates from 1836 to 1841, a senator in the State Senate in 1841 and 1842, and a delegate again from 1845 to 1848. Tunstall was a proponent of railroads and in 1838 introduced a bill to charter the Richmond and Danville (R&D) Railroad. A charter was granted for the R&D Railroad in 1847. He was married to Mary Tunstall, and they had a daughter, Mary Ellen. Whitmell P. Tunstall died in 1854 of typhoid fever, two years prior to the railroad's completion.

Back to Top

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection is a letter dated 25 January 1850 about Betsy an enslaved African American child. In the letter to her husband white Virginia politician and railroad executive Whitmell P. Tunstall (1810-1854), in Richmond, Va., white Virginian Mary M. Tunstall (1821-1888) in Danville, Va., acknowledges the arrival of her husband's "present" of an enslaved child named Betsy. Tunstall comments on Betsy having the "right color" skin and sewing skills and on Betsy's suitability for working in the home from the perspective of her enslaver. In the letter, Tunstall also mentions Betsy's previous enslaver, Betty Mead, and another enslaved women named Chloe with whom Betsy will work in the Tunstall house.

Back to Top

Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Mary Tunstall Letter on Enslaved Child Betsy, 25 January 1850.

Back to Top

Processing Information

Processed by: Jodi Berkowitz, January 2006

Encoded by: Jodi Berkowitz, January 2006

Updated by: Jodi Berkowitz, December 2015

Edited by: Laura Hart, September 2019

This collection was originally mistitled "Turnstall Family Letter" and later titled "Tunstall Family Letter."

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.

Back to Top