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Collection Number: 00158

Collection Title: Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin Clitherall Diaries, 1751-1860

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.


This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 24 items)
Abstract Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin Clitherall was a plantation owner's wife and school teacher who lived in Belleville and Walterboro, S.C., at Thornbury Plantation in North Carolina, and in Greensboro, Tuscaloosa, and Mobile, Ala. Her husband George Campbell Clitherall (d. 1829) was a planter and physician. Her children Eliza Inglis Clitherall Moore (1802-1886), Harriet A. Clitherall Spotts (1808-1834), George Bush Burgwin Clitherall (1814-1889), Frances King Clitherall Battle (1817-1849), Madeleine Clitherall Battle (b. 1818), and Alexander Baron Clitherall (1820-1869). She was the daughter of John Burgwin (fl. 1751-1800) and Eliza Bush Burgwin (d. 1787) of the Hermitage near Wilmington, N.C. The collection includes diaries containing narratives on family history and daily diary entries of Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin Clitherall, in which she wrote about events in her life and the lives of her friends and family. In the first eight volumes, she described her father's arrival in America from Wales in 1751, his marriage to her mother, a Quaker from Bristol, England; her own childhood with her Quaker relatives in England, including her attendance at Belmont House school; and her eventual return to the United States. The next nine volumes cover her marriage to George Campbell Clitherall; their children; orphans and abused children they adopted; plantation life in North and South Carolina; their summer home in Walterboro, S.C.; relations with slaves; and financial difficulties. To earn money, Caroline began to teach school and George became a physician attached to an army garrison near Smithville, N.C. There are frequent references to North Carolina governor Gen. Benjamin Smith and his wife, who were her neighbors. The later volumes contain daily entries written when Caroline lived in Mobile and Montgomery, Ala., to be with her children. Among other topics, she wrote about the devastation wrought by the yellow fever epidemics in Alabama.
Creator Clitherall, Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin, 1784-1863.
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 Caroline Eliza Burgwin Clitherall Diaries #158, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Judge Walter B. Jones of Montgomery, Ala., in 1937.
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

Caroline Eliza Burgwin Clitherall (1784-1863) was the daughter of John Burgwin (fl. 1751-1800) and Eliza Bush Burgwin (d. 1787). Born in the United States, she was raised in England, but returned to the United States around 1800. She married Dr. George Campbell Clitherall (d. 1829) in 1802, and had eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood:

Eliza Inglis (1802-1886) m. Junius Alexander Moore;

Harriet A. (1809-1834) m. Major Samuel Spotts;

George Bush Burgwin (1814-1889) m. Sallie Ann Forbes;

Frances King (1817-1849) m. John Adam Moore Battle;

Madaleine (b. 1818) m. (1) George Lovick Jones; (2) John Adam Moore Battle;

Alexander Baron (1820-1869) m. Kate Hayes.

Caroline taught school at various places starting in 1814, when she opened a school on her plantation to help with family finances. After her husband's death, Caroline moved to New Bern, North Carolina, and opened a school that eventually failed. She continued to try various enterprises, including schools in Greensboro and Tuscaloosa, where she later moved to be close to several of her children. Caroline died in 1863.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection consists almost entirely of Caroline Elizabeth Burgwin Clitherall's diaries, which include both family history and daily entries, in seventeen volumes covering the period from 1751, when her father first arrived in America, to 1860. She chiefly wrote about personal events in her life and the lives of her friends and family, including information on the births, marriages, illnesses, and deaths of people she knew or was related to in Bristol, England, and in North Carolina and South Carolina, and Alabama. The first eight volumes are narratives on family history rather than daily diaries. These pages include stories about her parents that had been told to her by relatives. She also included copies of correspondence between her parents and from other people. Volumes 9 through 17 are daily diaries in which she kept a record of her chores, visits, and activities. Typescripts have been made of all the diaries. Also included in this collection is a photograph of Caroline.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Family History, 1751-1851.

8 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Eight volumes written by Caroline Eliza Clitherall containing a description of her life prior to 1850. These volumes were intended for her oldest daughter, Eliza, and her other children. Caroline wrote in a narrative style describing important events in her life and events in the lives of people with whom she came in contact. There is much information about the marriages, illnesses, and deaths of her associates in England, North Carolina, and elsewhere. Volume 1 describes her father's early history, how he met her mother, and their years of marriage. Volumes 2, 3, and part of 4 cover Caroline's life growing up in England with her maternal relatives. The second half of Volume 4 and Volumes 5 through 8 describe Caroline's life after she returned to America and married George Campbell Clitherall.

The first volume begins with a description of John Burgywn's (her father) move to South Carolina from Wales in 1751. She wrote about his early efforts to earn his living and friends who assisted him. He moved to North Carolina, and, in 1753, married his first wife, Margaret Haynes, of Wilmington, North Carolina. They settled at Castle Haynes, about eight miles from Wilmington. His wife died of consumption soon after their marriage, and Burgwin moved to another house nearby, which he called the Hermitage. About the time of the Revolutionary War, he was forced to return England to have a broken leg reset. He had to leave his property in the hands of caretakers during very uncertain times.

Caroline described how her parents met in England. Her mother, Eliza Bush, was quite a bit younger than her father. She was part of a Quaker family, and Caroline frequently referred to some of the Quaker practices of her maternal relatives. Caroline copied into this diary some of the correspondence between Eliza and John during their courtship. Eliza Bush and John Burgwin were married in February 1782. They remained for a year in England before returning to the Carolinas; their first son, John Fanning, was born during this time.

In 1784, the Burgwins set sail for America. Eliza's sister, Priscilla, accompanied them because Eliza was pregnant again. Caroline Eliza Burgwin was born, according to the diary, on 9 April 1784, the day their ship landed. The baby was not healthy, and, in May, the family took a trip to Rhode Island for the baby's health. Caroline wrote about a story that was told to her: on the return voyage, she apparently died, but was revived when the captain spilled a bottle of liquor on her face.

On their return, the family went to the Hermitage, and Caroline described the reception of her mother by the family slaves. In 1787, her brother, George William Bush Burgwin was born. Her mother, whose health had declined since her arrival in the United States, became ill and was carried to Wilmington on a bed by shifts of four slaves each. She died in Wilmington on 19 October 1787.

Caroline's aunt Priscilla took her back to England following her mother's death. Volumes 2, 3, and part of 4 describe Caroline's childhood growing up among her maternal relatives in England. She lived part of the time at Alveston, a family home near Bristol. Aunt Priscilla died and other relatives took her in. Caroline described a very happy childhood, in spite of frequent deaths of relatives, surrounded by warm and loving relations. Her mother's family were Quakers, and she described some of their practices. She was sent to several schools, one of them a Quaker school, and eventually went to Belmont House, where she finished her education. Caroline described the routine of school and her life there, the friends she made, and some unusual stories about her friends. She referred to school as a happy time and seemed to like and respect her teachers, Mrs. and Miss Cooke. Among others, she befriended a girl named Eliza Bayly, who later married Henri Barree Beresford.

Caroline spent four years at Belmont House. Towards the end of that time, she described a long vacation at Weymouth. While there, she went to her first ball and saw the royal family.

In the beginning of Volume 4, Caroline wrote about her first love affair with the brother of her friend Eliza Bayly. She decided not to marry him because he was an army officer and did not live a settled life. She had also promised her father that she would return to America.

Caroline described packing up to return to her father. She went to London first and saw some of the sights, including a play at Drury Lane Theatre where Mrs. Siddons and Charles Kemble acted. Her brother John, who had also remained in England, travelled with her on the ship. They arrived in Wilmington and went to the Hermitage.

Caroline described her social life at the Hermitage and meeting George Campbell Clitherall. There were few visitors, and she spent time talking and reminiscing about the past with some of the older slaves.

In Volume 5, Caroline described her marriage to George Campbell Clitherall, overcoming her father's opposition after he received a slanderous letter about Clitherall. She described the first few months of her married life during which there was a yellow fever epidemic in Charleston. For the first eight years, the Clitheralls lived in Belleville, South Carolina. They spent the summers in Walterborough, South Carolina, where they were the neighbors of William Lowndes and his wife. Caroline wrote about her early married life and her husband's medical practice. During this time, they had several children, and also took into their home two abused children. One of the children had been thrown out by her father, and the other had been beaten by his mother. After eight years they moved to a new home, Thornbury, a rice plantation on the Cape Fear River near Smithville, North Carolina.

In Volume 6, Caroline wrote about the illnesses and deaths of two of her children. The family took in several more orphans. The most important event described in this volume was the loss of most of the slaves and property owned by the Clitheralls. To earn money, Caroline opened a school on 1 January 1814 with fourteen pupils. Through the efforts of William Lowndes, Dr. Clitherall was appointed surgeon for an army post at Smithville. Caroline mentioned a number of the military personnel there. In 1817, she wrote frequently of General Benjamin and Mrs. Smith of Wilmington, who lived at Orton in the winter time. Benjamin Smith was the governor of North Carolina, 1810-1811.

In Volume 7, Dr. Clitherall's death on 9 November 1829 is described. Caroline's financial situation steadily worsened after that. She moved to New Bern, North Carolina, near her brother, to start a school, which eventually failed.

In Volume 8, Caroline wrote of opening a boarding house in the residence of the deceased John Stanly. Her daughter, Madaleine, was sent to Hillsboro, North Carolina, to the Lochiel school kept by William Anderson. In 1836, Madaleine married George Lovick Jones, and Caroline moved to the Devereux building and began taking boarders from the stage. She then moved to Alabama to be close to several of her children. In 1838, Caroline took charge of a school in Greensboro, Alabama. In 1840, she opened a school at Tuscaloosa, but was cheated out of her property and forced to give up her home and schoolhouse.

Folder 1

Volume 1 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 1

Folder 2

Volume 2 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 2

Folder 3

Volume 3 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 3

Folder 4

Volume 4 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 4

Folder 5

Volume 5 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 5

Folder 6

Volume 6 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 6

Folder 7

Volume 7 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 7

Folder 8

Volume 8 #00158, Series: "1. Family History, 1751-1851." Folder 8

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860.

9 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Volumes 9 through 17 are diaries containing daily entries for the years 1850 through 1860. Caroline Burgwin Clitherall was living in Alabama during this period. In her daily entries, she wrote about visits and dining with friends, church attendance, and events in her life and the lives of her children and grandchildren. She also wrote extensively about the illnesses and deaths of her friends and relatives. In many of the entries she expressed her religious thoughts.

In Volume 9, January 1850 to May 1851, Caroline wrote of her daughter Madaleine marrying her sister's widower, John Adam Moore Battle. Madaleine went with him to Mobile, and, from this time, on Caroline spent most of her time living with the Battles. In the beginning of Volume 10, December 1851 to April 1852, she wrote a description of her Christmases from 1800 to the present. She spent most of her time that year at Spring Hill in Mobile, living with her daughter Madaleine. She was also, however, at Carrollton with her son, Alexander, and at Montgomery, Alabama.

In Volume 11, May 1852 to February 1853, Caroline wrote in a depressed mood. She worried about her family and particularly about her orphaned grandson, Sam Spotts. In August 1852, she recorded a terrible storm. In Volume 12, February 1853 to December 1853, she wrote many of her entries in Montgomery, Alabama, where she was visiting her daughter, Eliza. While there, she mentioned that she had acquired a maid, probably a slave, and was trying to instill in her religious beliefs. In August, 1853, she described a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans and Mobile, and, on 5 September, provided a table of deaths from yellow fever.

In Volume 13, January 1854 to August 1855, Caroline's time is divided between Mobile and Montgomery. In 1855, she mentioned the arrangement of a supper for the slaves. In Volume 14, September 1855 to December 1856, she described an epidemic of yellow fever in Norfolk, Virginia, and in Alabama. The family spent most of the summers of 1856 and 1857 at Point Clar, in a seaside resort atmosphere that was relatively free of sickness.

Volume 15, January 1857 to April 1858, Volume 16, April 1858 to May 1859, and Volume 17, dated June 1859 to December 1860, were written in a depressed mood, dwelling on deaths, loneliness, and the infirmities of old age. She continued to describe daily events, visitors, letters, church attendance, anniversaries, and memories of past events. The last entry is dated 19 December 1860.

Folder 9

Volume 9: January 1850-May 1851 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 9

Folder 10

Volume 10: December 1851-April 1852 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 10

Folder 11

Volume 11: May 1852-February 1853 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 11

Folder 12

Volume 12: February 1853-December 1853 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 12

Folder 13

Volume 13: January 1854-August 1855 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 13

Folder 14

Volume 14: September 1855-December 1856 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 14

Folder 15

Volume 15: January 1857-April 1858 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 15

Folder 16

Volume 16: April 1858-May 1859 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 16

Folder 17

Volume 17: June 1859-December 1860 #00158, Series: "2. Daily Diaries, 1850-1860." Folder 17

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Typescripts, 1751-1860.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Picture, undated.

1 item.

Undated photograph of Caroline Burgwin Clitherall, probably taken in her later years.

Image P-158/1

#00158, Series: "4. Picture, undated." P-158/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. Microfilm

3 items.
Reel M-158/1

#00158, Series: "5. Microfilm" Reel M-158/1

Positive microfilm copy of the original diaries and reminiscences.

Reel M-158/2-3

M-158/2

M-158/3

#00158, Series: "5. Microfilm" Reel M-158/2-3

Positive and negative microfilm copies of the typescripts.

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P-158/1

M-158/1-3

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Processing Information

Processed by: Shonra Newman, May 1991

Encoded by: Joseph Nicholson, February 2006

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

This inventory is based in part on an inventory previously compiled by a member of the Southern Historical Collection processing staff. Original diaries, typed transcriptions, and microfilm copies are available.

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