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Collection Number: 02263

Collection Title: McBee Family Papers, 1754-1937

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.


Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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Size 3.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1,950 items)
Abstract The McBee family of Lincoln County, N.C., and Greenville, S.C., included Vardry McBee (1775-1864), planter, railroad official and promoter, and mill owner of Lincolnton and Greenville; his son, Vardry Alexander McBee (1818-1904), lawyer, planter, and railroad official and promoter, of Lincolnton; and his grandson, Vardry McBee (1860?-1938), Episcopal clergyman and musician in Wilkes County, N.C. The collection consists of family correspondence and business papers including Lincoln County, N.C., deeds; contracts, bills, accounts, promissory notes, and receipts; estate settlements, bankruptcy proceedings, and guardianship papers; records of two Lincoln County clerks of court; and minutes of the Lincoln County Agricultural Society. Family letters written at Greenville, S.C., 1849-1869, give information about the McBees' varied enterprises, building construction, and property there, and activities of members of the family. Other correspondence refers to efforts to establish a college at Lincolnton, college students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and East Tennessee College in Knoxville, plank road plans, slaves, the Civil War, and postwar conditions in Greenville. Papers, 1872-1900, relate chiefly to business, especially railroads and the development of industrial sites in Greenville, including Camperdown Mills. Twentieth century correspondence, largely personal, includes letters from Silas McBee (1853-1924) and other McBees, North Carolina Episcopal Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire (1850-1932), and one from Sumner McBee, giving a first-hand account of the chase of Pancho Villa by United States cavalry. Also included are diaries, 1857-1860, 1878, of Vardry Alexander McBee, with brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, court and railroad activities, and weather, and account books, 1852-1872, and papers relating to his position as the treasurer of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad.
Creator McBee family.
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 McBee Family Papers #2263, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from Mrs. R. M. Carter of Ronda, N.C., in 1940; and from Mary Vardrine McBee and the estate of E. Estelle McBee in 1964.
Additional Descriptive Resources
Original finding aid is filed in folder 1a.
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

Vardry McBee (1775-1864) was the son of Captain McBee, a Virginian who settled in what is now upper South Carolina prior to 1770. Captain McBee was constable of Tryon County in 1770 and later fought on the Whig side in the Revolution. He owned valuable lands in the Spartanburg district, including Limestone Springs, but lost them shortly after the Revolution, apparently as the result of poor management.

When his father lost the land, circa 1777, young Vardry McBee left school and went to work in the manufacture of lime. In 1793, he went to Lincolnton, N.C., apprenticed to his brother-in-law Joseph Morris, to learn the saddler's trade. In 1800, he moved to Charleston, S.C., only to return to Lincolnton, then relocate with his family to Kentucky a short time later. He opened a saddle shop in middle Tennessee in 1801, but the following year he returned to Lincolnton to open a store in partnership with John Campbell of Charleston, S.C. He sold his interests in this store in 1805.

In 1812, McBee became clerk of court of Lincoln County, N.C., a post he held until 1833. In 1815, he bought several thousand acres of land in and around the town of Greenville, S.C. In 1817, he built a flour mill there, and, in 1829, he built a second mill. He later added a woolen mill, a cotton mill, and a paper factory. He was an important delegate to the 1833 North Carolina Convention on Internal Improvements. He moved from Lincolnton to Greenville in 1836 in order to be closer to his many business interests there.

McBee became interested in railroads and served as president of the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston project. He subscribed to $50,000 worth of stock of the Greenville and Columbia railroad, saving the company from extinction and becoming the largest individual subscriber of railroad stock in the United States up to that time. He was also interested in agricultural affairs and was active in the promotion of better agricultural practices. Until his death in 1864, he was a wealthy and influential man in upper South Carolina.

Vardry McBee married Jane Alexander, daughter of Colonel Elias Alexander of Rutherford County, N.C., in 1805. The McBees had nine children: Joseph Gallishaw, Malinda Penelope, Silas L., Luther Martin, Hannah E., Martha ("Patsy") Adeline, Vardry Alexander, William Pinkney, and Alexander.

Their son Vardry Alexander McBee (1818-1904) was educated at Pleasant Retreat Academy in Lincolnton and graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1841. He studied law and passed the bar examination, but was never active in the practice of law. He thrice served as clerk of court of Lincoln County and represented the county in the General Assembly in 1861 when he was elected without opposition to fill the unexpired term of his friend John F. Hoke, who had resigned to enter the Confederate Army.

Vardry Alexander McBee was a successful planter. He owned a large plantation several miles from Lincolnton. In addition, he was active in the construction of plank roads and railroads. He was treasurer of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad Company and had a prominent part in the organization of the Chester and Lenoir Railroad. McBee was active in business, civic, and church affairs of Lincolnton and western North Carolina until his death in 1904.

Vardry Alexander McBee married Mary E. Sumner, whose father was then in charge of the male and female academies of Lincolnton. The McBees had nine children: Jane, Sarah, Mary ("Mamie"), Anne, Martha, Sumner, Silas, Vardry, and Thomas.

Their son Vardry McBee (1860?-1938) was educated at the University of the South at Sewannee, Tenn., and attended a theological seminary in New York. He became an Episcopal priest, but apparently retired from the ministry around 1896, possibly because of ill health. McBee was a gifted musician and was at one time the organist at Trinity Church in New York City. He married Anne Joyce Gwyn, the daughter of James and Mary Lenoir Gwyn of "Green Hill," Ronda, Wilkes County, N.C. Anne Gwyn was an artist and apparently made portraits and tapestries for various people around the state.

Additional information about the McBee family and about some of the people whose letters are present in this collection may be found in William E. Sherrill's Annals of Lincoln County, North Carolina (1937) and in Thomas F. Hickerson's Happy Valley (1940).

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The collection consists of family correspondence and business papers of Vardry McBee (1775-1864), Vardry Alexander McBee (1818-1904), Vardry McBee (1860?-1938), and other members of the McBee family of Lincoln County, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. Papers include Lincoln County, N.C., deeds; contracts, bills, accounts, promissory notes, and receipts; estate settlements, bankruptcy proceedings, and guardianship papers; records of two Lincoln County clerks of court; and minutes of the Lincoln County Agricultural Society. Family letters written at Greenville, S.C., 1849-1869, give information about the McBees' varied enterprises, building construction, and property there, and activities of members of the family. Other correspondence refers to efforts to establish a college at Lincolnton, college students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and East Tennessee College in Knoxville, plank road plans, slaves, the Civil War, and postwar conditions in Greenville. Papers, 1872-1900, relate chiefly to business, especially railroads and the development of industrial sites in Greenville, including Camperdown Mills. Twentieth century correspondence, largely personal, includes letters from Silas McBee (1853-1924) and other McBees with family news, Joseph Blount Cheshire (1850-1932) with news of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and one from Sumner McBee, giving a first-hand account of the chase of Pancho Villa by United States cavalry. Also included are diaries, 1857-1860, 1878, of Vardry Alexander McBee, with brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, court and railroad activities, and the weather, and account books, 1852-1872, and papers relating to his position as the treasurer of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1754-1937.

About 1,950 items.

Folder 1a

Original finding aid #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 1a

Includes names of some correspondents

Folder 1b

1754-1805 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 1b

Folder 2

1806-1815 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 2

Folder 3

1816-1820 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 3

Folder 4

1821-1823 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 4

Folder 5

1824-1826 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 5

Folder 6

1827-1830 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 6

Folder 7

1831 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 7

Folder 8

1832 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 8

Folder 9-10

Folder 9

Folder 10

1833 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 9-10

Folder 11

1834 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 11

Folder 12

1835 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 12

Folder 13

1836 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 13

Folder 14

1837-1840 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 14

Folder 15

1841-1847 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 15

Folder 16

1848-1850 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 16

Folder 17

1851-1853 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 17

Folder 18

1854-1855 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 18

Folder 19

1856-1858 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 19

Folder 20

1859-1860 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 20

Folder 21

1861-1864 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 21

Folder 22

1865-1868 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 22

Folder 23

1869-1871 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 23

Folder 24

1872-1875 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 24

Folder 25

1876-1879 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 25

Folder 26

1880-1886 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 26

Folder 27

1887-1894 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 27

Folder 28

1895-1900 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 28

Folder 29

1901-1906 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 29

Folder 30

1907-1909 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 30

Folder 31

1910-1919 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 31

Folder 32

1920-1931 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 32

Folder 33

1932-1935, 1937 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 33

Folder 34-35

Folder 34

Folder 35

Correspondence, undated #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 34-35

Folder 36

Miscellaneous business papers, undated #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 36

Folder 37

Western College material, 1821 and undated #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 37

Folder 38

John P. Anthony bankruptcy proceedings, 1852-1874 and undated #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 38

Folder 39-41

Folder 39

Folder 40

Folder 41

H. W. Guion bankruptcy proceedings, 1817-1877 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 39-41

Folder 42

Elizabeth Justice guardianship, 1889-1890 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 42

Folder 43

Volume 1: Receipt book of David Reinhardt, 1832-1840 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 43

Folder 44

Volume 2: Account book, 1856-1859 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 44

Relating to the Western Division of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad

Folder 45

Volume 3: Ledger, 1869-1872 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 45

Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad in account with Sumner Stowe Company

Folder 46

Volume 4: Account book, 1869-1870 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 46

Relating to the Western Division of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad

Folder 47

Volume 5: Diary of Vardry Alexander McBee, 1857 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 47

Contains brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, and weather

Folder 48

Volume 6: Diary of Vardry Alexander McBee, 1858 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 48

Contains brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, court and railroad activities, and weather

Folder 49

Volume 7: Diary of Vardry Alexander McBee, 1859 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 49

Contains brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, court and railroad activities, and weather

Folder 50

Volume 8: Diary of Vardry Alexander McBee, 1860 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 50

Contains brief entries concerning plantation and slave work, news of family and friends, court and railroad activities, and weather

Folder 51

Volume 9: Account book, 1865-1867 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 51

Money accepted from the conductors of the Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad

Folder 52

Volume 10: Diary of Vardry Alexander McBee, May-July 1878 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 52

Contains brief entries concerning plantation work, news of family and friends, railroad activities, and weather

Folder 53

Volumes 11a: Account book, 1859-1860 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 53

Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad in account with the Bank of Charlotte

Folder 54

Volume 11b: Account book, 1869-1870 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 54

Wilmington, Charlotte, and Rutherford Railroad in account with Sumner Stowe Company

Folder 55

Volume 11c: Memo book of Vardry Alexander McBee, 15-16 March 1875 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." Folder 55

Oversize Paper Folder OP-2263/1

University of North Carolina diplomas and North Carolina bar examination certificates, 1822-1845 #02263, Series: "Papers, 1754-1937." OP-2263/1

Benjamin Sumner received a diploma in 1822 and a bar certificate in 1823; Vardry Alexander McBee received a diploma in 1841 and a bar certificate in 1843; and Jethro Sumner received a diploma in 1845

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Processing Information

Processed by: E. Ragan, Clyde Pitts, Ellen R. Strong, Anna Brooke Allan, 1963-1970

Encoded by: Nancy Kaiser, October 2005

Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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