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Collection Number: 00313

Collection Title: G. W. F. Harper Papers, 1838-1921

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 6.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 2,400 items)
Abstract George Washington Finley Harper (1834-1921) of Lenoir, N.C., was a merchant, Confederate officer, railroad builder, banker, and entrepreneur. The collection includes personal and business papers and diaries of G. W. F. Harper. Correspondence, much of it to and from his wife, Ella A. Rankin Harper, concerns politics, varied business and agricultural interests, and his Civil War career as an officer in the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., serving in the Army of Tennessee. The collection also includes Harper's diaries from many of the years between 1846 and 1921; diaries of his sister-in-law, Emma L. Rankin, 1906-1908; and records of a Lenoir, N.C., literary society, 1873-1879.
Creator Harper, G. W. F. (George Washington Finley), 1834-1921.
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], G. W. F. Harper Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy of diaries available (M-313/1-7).
Typed copies of some diaries available.
Provenance
Received from various sources, 1936-2002.
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 Washington Finley Harper (1834-1921), merchant, Confederate officer, railroad builder, banker, and entrepreneur, was born at Fairfield Plantation in Wilkes County, N.C. One of three children of James and Caroline Finley Harper, he received classical school training near his home and, in 1855, enrolled at Davidson College, graduating four years later. After college, he entered the general merchandise business with his father, a founder of the town of Lenoir in 1841 when Caldwell County was formed.

In 1862, Harper enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private in Company H, 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to first lieutenant in July 1862, to captain the following September, and to major in the fall of 1863. He fought in skirmishes with Union forces near Cumberland Gap in Tennessee and participated in raids in Kentucky. In the summer of 1863, the 58th North Carolina Regiment joined the Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the following September Captain Harper led his troops in the Battle of Chickamauga, where more than half of their regiment was killed or wounded. The Union Army pushed the Confederate forces into Georgia for the winter; during its follow-up invasion of the state in the spring of 1864, Harper received a leg wound at the Battle of Resaca and was sent home to convalesce.

By the time Harper rejoined his regiment in the fall of 1864, Atlanta had fallen and the regiment was stationed at Columbia, Tenn. Following his participation in the Battle of Franklin in November, the major was put in charge of captured Union prisoners, transporting 1,700 of them to Corinth, Miss., in December. By February 1865, Union forces had pushed the Army of Tennessee into North Carolina, and, in March, Harper fought at the Battle of Bentonville.

After the war, Harper rejoined his father in business in the firm of H. Harper & Son. He also became involved in railroad expansion. In 1873, Harper began rail construction from Lenoir to Hickory for the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad Company. He was elected chair of the company in 1884, and, from 1893 to 1900, served as president and general manager of the reorganized line, Carolina and Northwestern Railway Company (using standard gauge rails).

In addition to retail merchandising and railroad building, Harper found time for other business and community endeavors. He was a commissioner for the town of Lenoir; director of Lenoir's Fire and Hose Company (organized in 1876), of a local building and loan association, and of the Lenoir Furniture Factory (reorganized in 1899 as the Harper Furniture Company); trustee of the North Carolina Hospital for the Insane at Morganton and of Davidson College; organizer of the Lenoir Board of Trade; president of the Green Park Improvement Compnay, holding a controlling interest in the summer resort at Blowing Rock; and vice-president of the Lenoir Cotton Mill. In 1893, Harper founded the Bank of Lenoir, and, from 1894 until his death, served as its president.

Harper's numerous activities did not prevent his pursuit of political and literary interests. He won election as state representative during the 1880-1881 legislative session, as mayor of Lenoir in 1886, and as a delegate to the Democratic Convention of 1888 in St. Louis. In addition to financially supporting the establishment of a local library, he contributed some works of his own: "Sketch of the Fifty-Eighth Regiment North Carolina Troops" (1901); Emma Lydia Rankin (1908); Reminiscences of Caldwell County, North Carolina, in the Great War, 1861-1865 (1913).

In 1859, Harper married Ella A. Rankin, daughter of the Reverend Jessie and Ann Delight Rankin. They had two children, George Finley Harper and Ellen D. Harper Bernhardt. An active Presbyterian layman, Harper was buried in Belleview Cemetery, Lenoir, N.C.

From the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.

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The collection includes personal and business papers and diaries of G. W. F. Harper. Correspondence, much of it to and from his wife, Ella A. Rankin Harper, concerns North Carolina politics before and after the Civil War, varied business and agricultural interests, and his Civil War career as an officer in the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., serving in the Army of Tennessee. The collection also includes Harper's diaries from many of the years between 1846 and 1921; diaries of his sister-in-law, Emma L. Rankin, 1906-1908; and records of a Lenoir, N.C., literary society, 1873-1879.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1838-1921.

About 2400 items.

Personal and business papers and diaries of G. W. F. Finley Harper. Correspondence, much of it to and from his wife, Ella A. Rankin Harper, concerns politics before and after the Civil War, varied business and agricultural interests, and his Civil War career as an officer in the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., serving in the Army of Tennessee. Several letters, 1884, from J. B. Wheeler at West Point describe events at the United States Military Academy. The collection also includes Harper's diaries from many of the years between 1846 and 1921; diaries of his sister-in-law, Emma L. Rankin, 1906-1908; and records of a Lenoir, N.C., literary society, 1873-1879.

Box 1

Papers, 1838-1886 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 1

Box 2

Papers, 1890-1917 and undated #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 2

Bills and receipts #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 2

Clippings #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 2

Box 3

Volume 1: 1815-1818 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 2: 1846 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 3: 1850-1851 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 4: 1851 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 5: 1855-1856 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 6: 1857-1859 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 7: 1859 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 8: 1860 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volume 9: 1861 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Volumes 10-12: 1862 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 3

Box 4

Volume 13: 1859-1862 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 14: 1862-1863 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 15: 1863-1865 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 16: 1864 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 17: 1866-1867 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 18: 1867 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 19: 1868-1869 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 20: 1869 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Volume 21: 1870 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 4

Box 5

Volume 22: 1871 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 23: 1872 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 24: 1873 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 25: 1874 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 26: 1875-1876 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 27: 1877 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 28: 1879-1880 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 29: 1881 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Volume 30: 1883 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 5

Box 6

Volume 31: 1906 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 6

Volume 32: 1907 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 6

Volume 33: 1908 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 6

Volume 34: 1909 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 6

Volume 35: 1910 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 6

Box 7

Volume 36: 1911 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 7

Volume 37: 1912 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 7

Volume 38: 1913 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 7

Volume 39: 1914 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 7

Volume 40: 1915 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 7

Box 8

Volume 41: 1916 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 8

Volume 42: 1917 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 8

Volume 43: 1918 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 8

Volume 44: 1919 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 8

Box 9

Volume 45: 1920 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 9

Volume 46: 1921 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 9

Addition Volume 1: 1873-1876 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 9

Addition Volume 2: 1876-1878 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 9

Box 10

Typed copy of diary, 1846-1871 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 10

Box 11

Typed copy of diary, 1872-1913 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 11

Box 12

Typed copy of diary, 1914-1921 #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 12

Clippings #00313, Series: "Papers, 1838-1921." Box 12

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Processing 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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