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Collection Number: 01518

Collection Title: Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston Papers, 1805-1943

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.


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 1.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 900 items)
Abstract Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston was a Virginia genealogist. The collection includes papers of Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston and of other members of the Hairston, Penn, Wilson, and related families, chiefly of Patrick and Henry counties, Va. Included are personal correspondence and genealogical data. Early letters are to and from members of the Penn family, especially Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston's mother, Elizabeth ("Eliza") Penn Hairston (b. 1826), and describe growing and selling tobacco, the settling of new lands in Louisiana and Alabama, and student life at Washington College in Lexington, Va., the University of Virginia, the Greensboro (N.C.) Female Institute, and other institutions for women. Beginning in 1848, most letters are about family life, but a few comment on local and state politics, 1851- 1852, and on the condition of slaves, 1852. Civil War letters describe activities on the home front, the routine of camp life at various locations, chiefly in Virginia, and life in the Union prison at Point Lookout, Md. During Reconstruction, letters discuss family financial hardships and problems with freedmen. Letters in the 1880s and 1890s deal chiefly with family matters, except for a few 1898 letters that relate to George Hairston's military service during the Spanish-American War. Hairston never left Virginia during his enlistment, and his discharge may have been connected with his company's involvement with an affray involving a black man, 14 August 1898. After 1900, the majority of the letters are about Hairston, Penn, and Wilson genealogy, and such organizations as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Colonial Dames. Also included are clippings and scrapbooks, most relating to the Civil War.
Creator Hairston, Elizabeth Seawell Hairston, 1855-1945.
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 Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston Papers #1518, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Mrs. Walter Otey and F. Wellford Hobbie, both of Roanoke, Va., in August 1948.
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

There were many Hairstons, and identifications of individuals in the family is frequently difficult because of the numerous intermarriages of Hairstons with other Hairstons and with their neighbors, the Penns and Wilsons, and because of the repetition of given names in succeeding generations and among contemporaries in different Hairston lines. Elizabeth Seawell Hairston's The Hairstons and Penns and Their Relations (available in the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill), while helpful, should be used with great caution.

Elizabeth Seawell Hairston (1855-1945), genealogist, honorary president of the Virginia United Daughters of the Confederacy and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames, married her first cousin, Judge Nathaniel H. Hairston (b. 1851) on 17 September 1874. Most of the 19th century letters in the collection are to and from Elizabeth's mother Eliza Penn Hairston (b. 1826), who married Samuel William Hairston (fl. 1826-1866) on 21 October 1848. There are, however, many other correspondents, including Eliza Penn Hairston's parents, Thomas Penn (fl. 1818-1866) and Mary Christian Kennerly Penn (fl. 1818-1866); her brother, George Penn (fl. 1840-1861); her sisters, Martha Ann Catherine Penn (fl. 1820 1866), who married John N. Zentmeyer (fl. 1840-1863), and Sarah Ruth Penn (fl. 1829-1847); and her son, John Tyler Hairston (fl. 1850-1861), who was named after her brother. Eliza Penn Hairston's uncle, George Penn (fl. 1818-1826), also appears in the earlier correspondence. A number of Eliza and Samuel's children and grandchildren were named Eliza or Elizabeth, Samuel, George, William, Nicholas, or Ruth.

Amongst the Hairston correspondence, there are letters from Samuel Hairston's mother, Louisa Hardyman Hairston (fl. 1811-1847), and his brother, Nicholas Perkins Hairston (fl. 1791-1846). There are also letters to and from a George Hairston, who may be either Samuel's father (1750-1827), his brother (1784 1863), or Elizabeth Seawell Hairston's son. There were also several George Hairstons in other branches of the family.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection includes papers of genealogist Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston and of other members of the Hairston, Penn, Wilson, and related families, chiefly of Patrick County, Va., and Henry County, Va. Included are personal correspondence and genealogical data. Early letters are to and from members of the Penn family, especially Elizabeth Seawell Hairston Hairston's mother, Elizabeth Penn Hairston ("Eliza") (b. 1826), and describe growing and selling tobacco, the settling of new lands in Louisiana and Alabama, and student life at Washington College in Lexington, Va., the University of Virginia, the Greensboro Female Institute in Greensboro, N.C., and other institutions for women. Beginning in 1848, most letters are about family life, but a few comment on local and state politics, 1851- 1852, and on the condition of slaves, 1852. Civil War letters describe activities on the home front, the routine of camp life at various locations, chiefly in Virginia, and life in the Union prison at Point Lookout, Md. During Reconstruction, letters discuss family financial hardships and problems with freedmen. Letters in the 1880s and 1890s deal chiefly with family matters, except for a few 1898 letters that relate to George Hairston's military service during the Spanish-American War. Hairston never left Virginia during his enlistment, and his discharge may have been connected with his company's involvement with an affray involving a black man, 14 August 1898. After 1900, the majority of the letters are about Hairston, Penn, and Wilson genealogy, and such organizations as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Colonial Dames. Also included are clippings and scrapbooks, most relating to the Civil War.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1805-1949 and undated.

About 475 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1805, 1818-1859.

About 75 items.

The earliest letters are to and from members of the Penn family. They include letters from Thomas Penn to his family written while he was selling tobacco throughout the South and letters from Thomas's brother George describing new lands in Louisiana and Alabama. Most of the 1840s letters are to Eliza Penn from her brother George and others and discuss family matters. During this period, George was attending Washington College. Other letters mention the Greensboro Female Institute where Sarah Penn attended, Memphis Conference Female Institute, Female Collegiate Institute, and the University of Virginia. There are a few letters from Louisa H. Hairston to her son Samuel W. Hairston, who also attended Washington College. These also disucss family matters. After Samuel and Eliza's marriage in 1848, the letters are mainly concerned with family news: births, health, visits, gardens, etc. There is some commentary on local and state politics, 1851-1852, and on the condition of slaves, 17 April 1852. Other items include a copy of a 1 June 1842 letter from W[illia]m Martin to Lyman C. Draper describing the service of General Joseph Martin during the American Revolution and George Hairston's 1805 Princeton diploma.

Folder 1

1805, 1818-1839 #01518, Subseries: "1.1. 1805, 1818-1859." Folder 1

Folder 2

1840-1847 #01518, Subseries: "1.1. 1805, 1818-1859." Folder 2

Folder 3

1848-1852 #01518, Subseries: "1.1. 1805, 1818-1859." Folder 3

Folder 4

1853-1859 and undated antebellum #01518, Subseries: "1.1. 1805, 1818-1859." Folder 4

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1860-April 1865.

About 70 items.

The Hairston family embraced the southern cause with enthusiasm. Early letters describe visits to the Manassas battlefield, volunteer activities on the home front, and the routine of camp life--food, marches, etc. Later letters comment on problems with deserters and Yankee raiders in Patrick and Henry counties; black Union troops, 28 November and 12 December 1864; life on Confederate lines around Petersburg and Richmond; and life in the Union prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout, Md. (possibly from Hairston Watkins). Other items include an 1862 Confederate recruiting broadside and a store account of Samuel H. Hairston, dated 28 November 1863.

Folder 5

1861-1863 #01518, Subseries: "1.2. 1860-April 1865." Folder 5

Folder 6

1864-15 April 1865 and undated Civil War era #01518, Subseries: "1.2. 1860-April 1865." Folder 6

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. 16 April 1865-1877.

About 75 items.

The Hairston and Penn families adjusted to reconstruction with difficulty. Even after Lee's surrender, Mary Penn, in a 16 April 1965 letter, wrote that "... there is still a hope left for ... independence." Several letters from this period mention anxieties over the newly freed slaves. Family members also encountered problems with the growing and marketing crops, and letters show that one of the George Hairstons was reduced to working as a wagoneer, while several young girls in the family took positions as governesses. Other letters include an agreement with Georgia freedmen, 16 August 1865; letters from Thomas Penn describing trade difficulties and a potential murder trial in South Carolina, 17 May and 8 July 1866; an inventory of S. W. Hairston's property sold in Georgia, December 1867; a visa for Dr. Russell McCord from the United States Consulate to Brazil, 22 November 1867; and a genealogy of the Penn family, 15 October 1873.

Folder 7

16 April 1865-1866 #01518, Subseries: "1.3. 16 April 1865-1877." Folder 7

Folder 8

1867-1869 #01518, Subseries: "1.3. 16 April 1865-1877." Folder 8

Folder 9

1870-1872 #01518, Subseries: "1.3. 16 April 1865-1877." Folder 9

Folder 10

1873-1877 #01518, Subseries: "1.3. 16 April 1865-1877." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4. 1878-1949 and undated.

About 75 items.

The letters from this subseries are almost entirely concerned with family news: births, grandchildren, gardens, deaths, etc. There are several letters from Judge Nicholas H. Hairston, but they include only minimal political commentary. There are also several 1898 letters relating to George Hairston's enlistment and subsequent discharge in the Spanish American War. Hairston never left Virginia during his enlistment, and his discharge from the 3rd Regiment may have been connected with his company's involvement in an affray involving a black man, 14 August 1898. After 1900, the majority of the letters are about genealogical matters. Others relate to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, and the unveiling of Confederate monuments. One letter, dated 10 November 1928, bemoans the existence of "Hoover Democrats."

Folder 11

1878-1885 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 11

Folder 12

1886-1889 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 12

Folder 13

1890-1893 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 13

Folder 14

1894-1899 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 14

Folder 15

1900-1919 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 15

Folder 16

1920-1929 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 16

Folder 17

1930-1933 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 17

Folder 18

1934-1939 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 18

Folder 19

1940-1949 #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 19

Folder 20

Undated #01518, Subseries: "1.4. 1878-1949 and undated." Folder 20

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Genealogical Materials, 1898-1929.

About 60 items.

Letters, genealogical materials, and notes relating to the history of the Hairstons, Penns, Wilsons, and related families.

Folder 21-22

Folder 21

Folder 22

Genealogical materials #01518, Series: "2. Genealogical Materials, 1898-1929." Folder 21-22

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Clippings, 1870-1934.

About 200 items.

Chiefly newspaper clippings relating to the Civil War, historic sites in Virginia, and family histories. Some memorial poems are also included.

Folder 23

1870-1889 #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 23

Folder 24

1890-1911 #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 24

Folder 25

1912-1919 #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 25

Folder 26

1920-1933 #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 26

Folder 27

1934 #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 27

Folder 28-32

Folder 28

Folder 29

Folder 30

Folder 31

Folder 32

Undated #01518, Series: "3. Clippings, 1870-1934." Folder 28-32

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Scrapbooks, 1886-1914.

2 items.

Folder 33

V-1518/S-1 #01518, Series: "4. Scrapbooks, 1886-1914." Folder 33

Samuel Hairston's book of clippings, 1886-1899, chiefly about Confederate matters.

Folder 34

V-1518/S-2 #01518, Series: "4. Scrapbooks, 1886-1914." Folder 34

Poems, belles-lettres, and miscellany, 1880-1914.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. Pictures, undated.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Scott Philyaw, January 1992

Encoded by: Roslyn Holdzkom, October 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.

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