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Collection Number: 00153

Collection Title: William J. Clarke Papers, 1838-1881

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 section for more information.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 800 items including 5 volumes items)
Abstract William J. Clarke of New Bern and Raleigh, N.C., was a businessman, Confederate officer, and postwar Republican leader. Clarke married poet and novelist Mary Bayard (Devereux) Clarke (1827-1886). The collection consists chiefly of scattered bills, receipts, slave bills of sale, accounts, correspondence (including some with Zebulon Vance), and legal papers, 1850-1880, related to personal expenses and a variety of business interests including lumber, railroads, and an iron works associated with William J. Clarke of Raleigh, N.C. There is also Civil War military and personal correspondence of Clarke while a colonel with the 24th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Political material is slight except for a diary, 1868, describing Clarke's efforts on behalf of the Republican Party at New Bern, N.C. The diary also includes entries relating to Clarke's family, especially his children.
Creator Clarke, William J. (William John), 1819-1886.
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 J. Clarke Papers #153, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Bayard Wooten and George Moulton, before 1940.
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

William J. Clarke was born in Raleigh, N.C., the only child of Ann Maria Robadeau and William F. Clarke. In 1841, Clarke graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina. He went on to be one of the organizing members of the alumni society in 1843, and he received a M.A. degree in 1844. In addition, Clarke also read law. On 9 April 1847, he was commissioned captain of Company I of the 12th United States Infantry, and he served in Mexico during the war with Mexico. Clarke was severely wounded at the Battle of National Bridge and later promoted to major for his gallantry. His unit was disbanded 25 July 1848. After the war on 6 April 1848, Clarke married Mary Bayard Devereux of Raleigh, who was living on a sugar plantation for the benefit of her health. They became the parents of two sons and a daughter.

Clarke practiced law in Raleigh and in 1849 was a candidate for a seat in Congress from the Sixth District, which he lost to John R. J. Daniel. From 1850 to 1855, Clarke was state comptroller. In 1857, Clarke moved his family to San Antonio, Tex., because of his wife's health. There he became president of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad. When the Civil War began, Clarke was made colonel of the 14th North Carolina Regiment (later redesignated the 24th) and served in that rank throughout the war. Clarke was highly acclaimed as an officer, and at one time he was recommended for promotion to brigadier general. A petition submitted by his commanding officer, M. W. Ransom, and signed by many others was placed before Jefferson Davis. Davis never made the appointment, however, and Clarke is said to have been bitterly disappointed. During the battle at Drewry's Bluff in Virginia on 15 May 1864, Clarke's shoulder was shattered by a shell fragment, and he never returned to his regiment. On his way home from Virginia, Clarke was ambushed, captured, and kept prisoner at Fort Delaware from January to July 1865.

After the war, Clarke and his family lived at Boon Hill (now Princeton) in Johnston County, N.C., where he managed his interests in a lumber mill, the Selma Iron Works, and a mine in Greensboro. Clark shortly moved his family to New Bern where he became a trustee and later principal of New Bern Academy, serving there from 1868 to 1870.

Now a Republican, Clarke was elected to the state senate from Craven County, but resigned before taking his seat a few days before Governor William Holden appointed him judge of the superior court. Clarke continued to support the Republican Party, and in Raleigh on 24 December 1879 he began publishing The Signal, a weekly newspaper that supported that Party's candidates. His wife contributed materials of interest to women as well as some of her own poetry. However, he published the newspaper for only a brief time when the Republican State Committee of North Carolina took control of the paper in July 1880. Afterwards, Clark devoted himself to his law practice with his son in New Bern.

William Clarke died in New Bern on the 23 January 1886 and was buried there in Cedar Grove Cemetery.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection consists chiefly of scattered bills, receipts, accounts, correspondence, and legal papers, 1850-1880, related to personal expenses and a variety of business interests including lumber, railroads, and an iron works associated with William J. Clarke of Raleigh, N.C. There is also Civil War military and personal correspondence of Clarke while a colonel with the 24th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Material on politics is slight except for a diary, 1868, describing Clarke's efforts on behalf of the Republican Party at New Bern, N.C.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated.

About 800 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence consists chiefly of business papers, including bills, receipts, and reports on Clarke's Neuse River lumber mill business, railroad interests, and iron works interest, 1850-1880. There are also a few legal papers and some correspondence of his children. The Civil War items consist of letters to Clarke when he was a colonel with the 24th North Carolina Regiment in North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. The material includes letters from the front, soldiers' letters from home, letters to officers, orders, muster rolls, and material on Reconstruction politics. Also included is correspondence with Zebulan Vance. Other material includes warrants, deeds, bills of sale of slaves, political party material (1868), and a W. H. Mary Bayard Clarke poem. Among the correspondents are Rufus Barringer, Will H. Battle, Henry T. Clarke, William E. Clark, W. J. Clarke, Graham Daves, J. Devereux, W. B. Green, William H. Harrison, D. H. Hill, Thomas D. Hogg, F. F. Hoke, W. W. Holden, C. E. Johnson, Willie H. Maverick, Charles Phillips, George G. Water, and Jonathan Worth.

Folder 1

1838-1844 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 1

Folder 2

1845-1849 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 2

Folder 3

February 1850-May 1853 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 3

Folder 4

June 1853-June 1859 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 4

Folder 5

July 1859-November 1861 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 5

Folder 6

November 1861-December 1862 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 6

Folder 7

January 1863-December 1863 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 7

Folder 8

January 1864-July 1865 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 8

Folder 9

July 1865-July 1866 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 9

Folder 10

August 1866-September 1866 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 10

Folder 11

October 1866-May 1867 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 11

Folder 12

June 1867-January 1868 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 12

Folder 13

February 1868-April 1868 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 13

Folder 14

May 1868-July 1868 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 14

Folder 15

August 1868-December 1868 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 15

Folder 16

January 1869-1 June 1869 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 16

Folder 17

17 June 1869-1 July 1869 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 17

Folder 18

2 July 1869-December 1869 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 18

Folder 19

January 1870-May 1871 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 19

Folder 20

January 1872-May 1874 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 20

Folder 21

June 1874-September 1877 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 21

Folder 22

March 1878-December 1879 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 22

Folder 23

2 January 1880-21 January 1880 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 23

Folder 24

30 January 1880-7 March 1881 #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 24

Folder 25

Undated #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 25

Folder 26

Undated #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 26

Folder 27

Undated #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 27

Folder 28

Undated #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 28

Folder 29

Undated #00153, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1838-1881 and undated." Folder 29

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Volumes, 1862-1868.

5 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Volumes consist of account books and a diary (1868) of Clarke in New Bern, N.C. There are scattered references to his wife and to her poetry.

Folder 30

June-August 1862 #00153, Series: "2. Volumes, 1862-1868." Folder 30

Volume includes military notes with record of absences and casualties.

Folder 31

Account book, 1866 #00153, Series: "2. Volumes, 1862-1868." Folder 31

Consists of labor records and accounts of supplies and cash furnished to workers.

Folder 32

Account book, 1866-1868 #00153, Series: "2. Volumes, 1862-1868." Folder 32

Another volume documenting labor records and accounts of supplies and cash furnished to workers.

Folder 33

1868 #00153, Series: "2. Volumes, 1862-1868." Folder 33

Accounts of F. D. Clarke.

Folder 34

Diary, 1868-1876 #00153, Series: "2. Volumes, 1862-1868." Folder 34

A pocket diary of William J. Clarke, recorded chiefly at New Bern, N.C., where he opened a law office. He wrote of hard times on all sides, politics and campaigning for Grant and Colfax and making speeches for the Republican Party. He mentioned a paper published by his wife, Mary Bayard Clarke, and someone named Crutchfield, in Raleigh, called The Literary Pastime, and his own contributions to it. He also mentioned his desire to edit a Republican paper. Late in the year, Clarke mentioned his wife joining him in New Bern, his taking charge of the Academy at New Bern, his dealings with the scholars, and his being made criminal judge of New Bern. He wrote a great deal in his diary about his children.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Library Staff, 1964

Encoded by: Bari Helms, February 2005

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, October 2009

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