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Collection Number: 00246

Collection Title: George Phifer Erwin Papers (#246) 1779-1931

This collection has use restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

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 FAQ section for more information.


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Size About 1040 items (1.5 linear feet)
Abstract George Phifer Erwin, son of Edward Jones (1806-1871) and Elizabeth Ann Phifer Erwin (1814-1890) of Morganton, N.C., was a Confederate officer, accountant, and bank president of Burke County, N.C. Family letters; promissory notes; bills and receipts; deeds for land and slaves; wills; and business, legal, and estate papers of George Phifer Erwin and other members of the Erwin and Avery families of Burke County. Family correspondence consists of several letters to Erwin's father-in-law William Waightstill Avery (1816-1864), including a few from Isaac Thomas Avery, William's father, concerning the use of slave labor in North Carolina and California gold mines, 1852. There are also letters in the 1850s to Erwin while a student at Davidson College from his parents and other relatives and friends with family, local, and political news, 1857-1861. There are also Civil War letters of Erwin describing his experiences as a Confederate staff officer in Virginia and North Carolina, 1861-1863, and in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, 1863-1865, particularly at the battles of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Later items include records of relatives' estates, including that of Erwin's mother.
Creator Erwin, George Phifer, 1840-1911.
Language English.
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Access Restrictions
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], George Phifer Erwin Papers (#246), Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Provenance
Received from Hamilton Erwin in 1943; Mrs. EdwardJ. Erwin in 1957; and Mrs. William E. White in 1943, 1959, and 1960.
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

George Phifer Erwin (1840-1911), son of Elizabeth Ann Phifer (1814-1890) and Edward Jones Erwin (1806-1871), was born and raised at Belvidere, the family plantation in Burke County, N.C. He attended Davidson College and received his degree as valedictorian of the class of 1861. After graduation, he entered into service in the Confederate Army. He served almost continuously from 1861 until the end of the war as a sergeant with the 7th and 11th North Carolina regiments and as assistant quartermaster to the 60th North Carolina Regiment. After the war, he returned to Burke County, studied law under Burgess S. Gaither, and was admitted to the bar in 1867. After a brief career as a lawyer, George Phifer Erwin became an accountant and served as treasurer and director of the Western North Carolina Railroad and president of the Piedmont Bank, located in Morganton, Burke County, N.C. He also served several terms as county commissioner. He married Corrinna Iredell Avery, and they had five children: Annie Phifer, Corrinna Morehead, Adelaide Avery, Edward Jones, and Eloise McCurdy.

William Waightstill Avery (1816-1864), George Phifer Erwin's father-in-law, was the oldest son of Isaac Thomas and Harriett Eloise Erwin Avery, George Phifer Erwin's aunt. He served as a Confederate congressman and army officer. William Waightstill Avery also represented Burke County for several terms in the North Carolina House of Commons. He and his father were two of the largest slaveholders in Burke County and used slave labor to work hundreds of acres of land and to mine gold fields in which the Averys had interests. William Waightstill Avery, a Democrat, supported secession in 1860 and represented North Carolina as chair of the state's delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Charleston, S.C. He was among those representatives who were refused seats later at the Baltimore convention. He died in 1864 from wounds received while leading Burke County volunteers against a party of Tennessee Unionists.

(Sources: Edward William Phifer, Jr., Burke: The History of a North Carolina County, 1777-1920, rev. ed., 1982; and William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. I, 1979.)

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Family letters; promissory notes; bills and receipts; deeds for land and slaves; wills; and business, legal, and estate papers of George Phifer Erwin and other members of the Erwin and Avery families of Burke County, N.C. Family correspondence consists of several letters to Erwin's father-in-law William Waightstill Avery (1816-1864), including a few from Isaac Thomas Avery, William's father, concerning the use of slave labor in North Carolina and California gold mines, 1852.

There are also letters in the 1850s to Erwin while a student at Davidson College from his parents and other relatives and friends with family, local, and political news, 1857-1861. There are also Civil War letters of Erwin describing his experiences as a Confederate staff officer in Virginia and North Carolina, 1861-1863, and in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, 1863-1865, particularly at the battles of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Later items include records of relatives' estates, including that of Erwin's mother.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Ante-Bellum and Civil War Correspondence and Other Papers, 1779-1865.

About 620 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1779-1856.

About 300 items.

Estate and other papers primarily of members of the Erwin, Avery, McDowell, Gaither, and Welcher families of Burke County, N.C., and other western North Carolina counties. Included are grants, deeds, and plats chiefly of Burke County lands. Also included are bonds for county officials, promissory notes, deeds of sale for slaves, deeds of trust, papers concerning the settlement of estates, lists of notes receivable, indentures, and miscellaneous business papers.

Among the names appearing on deeds and other business papers are John Franklin, James McKenney, Waightstill Avery, William Penny, William Laurence, John McDowell, Joseph McDowell, Thomas Bouchelle, Thomas Welcher, David Tate, Hugh Tate, Andrew Baird, Joseph Dobson, James Sherrill, William Sherrill, Jonathan Franklin, John Franklin, Jr., Thomas Wilson, John Cooper, John Hughes, William Locke Baird, B. S. Gaither, William C. Butler, John H. Pearson, James McDowell, and various members of the Erwin family.

Also included are several letters to Corrinna Morehead of Raleigh, N.C., and William Waightstill Avery of Burke County. These include two letters, 1844 and 1846, to Corrinna Morehead from James Iredell, the second of which contains reference to her imminent marriage to William Waightstill Avery, which took place in May 1846. William Waightstill Avery's correspondents included S. S. Erwin; James M. Morehead, his father-in-law; James Iredell; Isaac T. Avery, his father; and E. J. Erwin. Most letters contain reports on business and politics and some family information. Items include several 1852 letters from Isaac T. Avery in which he refered to the health of slaves in Burke County, concerns about slaves sent to California for gold mining, and election-day strategies by local politicians.

Folder 1

1779-1782 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 1

Folder 2

1783-1796 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 2

Folder 3

1797-1799 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 3

Folder 4

1800-1803 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 4

Folder 5

1804-1809 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 5

Folder 6

1810-1818 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 6

Folder 7

1819-1836 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 7

Folder 8

1837-1841 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 8

Folder 9

1842-1844 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 9

Folder 10

1845-1849 #00246, Subseries: "1.1. 1779-1856." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1857-1865.

About 320 items.

Chiefly letters of George Phifer Erwin of Burke County, N.C., while he was a student at Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., and a soldier during the Civil War in the Confederate army. Correspondents include his father, Edward Jones Erwin; his mother, Elizabeth Ann Phifer Erwin; his sister, Mary Jones Erwin; and several friends from North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Other papers include receipts, deeds, several versions of Mary E. Erwin's will, and other items.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2.1. 1857-May 1861.

Chiefly letters received by George Phifer Erwin while he was a college student at Davidson College, Davidson, N.C. Most of the letters were written by his parents, Edward Jones Erwin and Elizabeth Ann Phifer Erwin, and relate information of home and family, political events of Burke County, concerns about a possible slave uprising, discussions of secession, and other issues.

Also included are letters from George Phifer Erwin's sister, Mary Jones Erwin, in Morganton and Charlotte and from friends and relatives. Correspondents include Willy Hardy, J. H. Ferrer, E. F. Lilly, Tom Sloan, B. F. Boyd, Samuel Snow, Ed Scales, G. F. Bason, Ed Strudwick, J. K. Brown, James P. Jenkins, Stephen Winstead, H. W. Tate, and others in North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, New York, and Atlanta, Ga. Also included are several letters, 1860-1861, from representatives of Chi Phi Fraternity at the University of North Carolina regarding the establishment of a new chapter at Davidson College.

Miscellaneous papers include advertisements and solicitations for the Georgia State Lottery, April 1860; information from A. W. Spies and Co., New York, about purchasing firearms, December 1860; two receipts of William Waightstill Avery, and a deed from E. J. Warren to A. H. Warren.

Folder 13

1857 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 13

Folder 14-15

Folder 14

Folder 15

1858 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 14-15

Folder 16-17

Folder 16

Folder 17

1859 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 16-17

Folder 18-19

Folder 18

Folder 19

1860 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 18-19

Folder 20

January-May 1861 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 20

Folder 21

Undated, 1857-May 1861 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.1. 1857-May 1861." Folder 21

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2.2. June 1861-1865.

Chiefly letters written by George Erwin Phifer during his service during the Civil War in the Confederate Army. Typescripts of most of these letters have been microfilmed (see Series 3). Letters describe many phases of Erwin's army experience in detail--troop movements, military life, neighborhoods located near camps, weather conditions, army rations, food obtained locally, health, condition of clothing, and requests for clothing to be sent from home.

Letters also give accounts of encounters with northern troops, outpost activities, picket duty, news received from other sectors, and speculations on military matters. Also included are inquiries of news from home and reports about Erwin's body-servant Ed, cousins, and neighbors in the army.

1861 Chiefly letters from Yorktown, Va. Erwin commented on measles and other illnesses, skirmishes in the area, the taking of prisoners, reports of Confederate success at Manassas, and his evaluations of reports from Richmond papers.
January-July 1862 Letters from several locations in North Carolina detail selection of regimental officers; the camp at Confederate Point; his service as clerk of court martial at Wilmington, N.C.; requests for soap, tobacco, and shoes; monotony and boredom of camp life; and typhoid fever and other illnesses among the troops.
October-November 1862 Letters from Franklin, Va., in Southampton County tell of picketing and other outpost activities; need of a piano-cover made of India rubber to protect him from wet weather; reactions to enemy artillery fire; and his health and that of others.
December 1862-May 1863 Letters from Goldsboro, N.C., and Weldon, N.C., areas of eastern North Carolina describe troop movements; picketing and outpost duties at bridges, railroad tracks, and river banks; and encounters with the enemy.
May-July 1863 Letters written while on the march to Gettysburg, Pa., and one, 3 July, written during the battle of Gettysburg. Included in the 3 July letter are comments about the battle, reactions to the appalling casualties, and enclosures listing wounded and dead from his regiment.
October 1863 Letter from camp near Chattanooga, Tenn., after Erwin's transfer out of the Army of Northern Virginia and a short visit home. He commented on military operations related to the siege of Chattanooga and expressed desire to return home, stating he was sick of war but under the circumstances would not be out of the army under any consideration.
March-May 1864 Letters from camp near Dalton, Ga., detail drills; reviews; inspections; paper work required for his new position as assistant quartermaster; his views of military strategy; and Congressional measures.
July 1864-June 1865 Letters from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi contain comments on news from western North Carolina; raids in the neighborhood; what Hood would do after leaving Atlanta; the presidential election in the United States; arrangements at winter camp near Aberdeen, Miss.; and social life in the neighborhood for army officers.

(Note: The microfilm copy of a typescript of Erwin's wartime letters includes two letters, 5 May 1864 from Dalton, Ga., and 23 August 1864 from Atlanta, Ga., that are not included in the manuscripts described above (see Series 3).

Miscellaneous items include Confederate Army orders, commissions, and payment certificates of George Phifer Erwin; a letter, 21 July 1861, from Willy H. Hardy at Bull Run to his mother; a letter, 21 February 1865, from George Phifer Erwin's sister, Mary Jones Erwin, while she was a teacher; a deed, 1863, from Edward Jones Erwin to A. H. Erwin; and several versions of Mary E. Erwin's will, filed 1864, and items related to her estate (executor, William Waightstill Avery).

Folder 22-23

Folder 22

Folder 23

June 1861-1862 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.2. June 1861-1865." Folder 22-23

Folder 24

1863 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.2. June 1861-1865." Folder 24

Folder 25-26

Folder 25

Folder 26

1864-1865 #00246, Subseries: "1.2.2. June 1861-1865." Folder 25-26

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated.

About 420 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly business papers of George Phifer Erwin, who served as trustee, executor, administrator, and agent for a number of his relatives and their estates. Papers include deeds and other legal papers relating to land titles, bills and receipts, notes, bankruptcy notices, stock certificates, and copies of wills and estate settlements, and other business papers. Most of the papers are related to lots and lands, railroad interests, and business enterprises located in or near Burke County, N.C.

Items include estate records of Elizabeth Ann Phifer Erwin, her will, probated 1890, and the inheritance records of her daughters Sally and Mary; the estate papers of William Waightstill Avery in the 1860s and estate papers of Mary Corinna Avery, will probated 1897; the business and estate records of Julia Gaither, a copy of her will made in 1882, and a few business papers of B. S. Gaither; estate records of E. J. Erwin (d. 1871); estate papers of Alexander Hamilton Erwin (d. 1877), including record of sale of his Glen Alpin property, 1884; business papers of Delia Erwin Pearson; and papers of George Phifer Erwin's own land and railroad interests.

Miscellaneous business items include receipts, bills of sale, notes, and other papers of members of the Erwin, Avery, and Gaither families, and detail their connections with local merchants and other businesses.

Also included are several personal letters to members of the Erwin and Avery families. Correspondents of George Phifer Erwin include H. A. Chambers of Tennessee, 1867, and Thomas Sloan of Greensboro, N.C., 1867-1868. Other personal papers include a letter, 10 December 1874, from Henry M. Earle, Greenville, S.C., to Jones Erwin at Morganton, N.C.; a note, 18 March 1875, to Cora Avery from her "sweetheart"; and a letter, 5 February 1884, from Kemp P. Battle to A. C. Avery concerning a memorial for Waightstill Avery at the University of North Carolina.

Folder 27

1866-1869 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 27

Folder 28

1870-1873 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 28

Folder 29

1874-1876 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 29

Folder 30

1877-1879 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 30

Folder 31

1880-1883 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 31

Folder 32

1884-1886 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 32

Folder 33

1887-1889 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 33

Folder 34

1890-1891 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 34

Folder 35

1892-1897 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 35

Folder 36

1898-1915; 1931 #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 36

Folder 37

Undated #00246, Series: "2. Post-Bellum Correspondence and Other Papers, 1866-1915, 1931, and undated." Folder 37

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Microfilm of Typed Transcriptions of Civil War Letters.

1 reel.

Microfilm of typed transcriptions of George Phifer Erwin's Civil War letters, including two letters not included in Subseries 1.2.2.: 5 May 1864, Dalton, Ga.; and 23 August 1864, Atlanta, Ga. Series 1.2.2. includes one letter, 10 July 1862, and lists of casualties incurred at Gettysburg, that were not included in the typed transcriptions. Letters identified as having been written on 20 April 1863 and 30 April 1864 in the typed transcriptions should be dated 3 April 1863 and 3 April 1864 respectively.

M-246/1 #00246, Series: "3. Microfilm of Typed Transcriptions of Civil War Letters." Folder 37

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

Oversize papers (OP-246/1-9); microfilm (M-246/1).

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Processing Information

Processed by Timothy A. Long, Ellen Strong, Brooke Allen

Completed February 1993

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