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Collection Number: 00477

Collection Title: John McRae Papers, 1792-1909, 1966.

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 2.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1450 items)
Abstract John McRae was the postmaster in Fayetteville, N.C., in the 1840s and 1850s, and a private farmer and businessman in Mangum, N.C., from his retirement in 1853 to his death in 1880. Personal and business papers of McRae and his family, and of Joshua A. Wright and James G. Burr, businessmen of Wilmington, N.C. The McRae papers are primarily letters between McRae and his sons Alexander, Duncan K., Thomas, and James Cameron, concerning the men's personal lives and careers. Topics include military service, the Kentucky Shaker community of which Thomas was a part, Duncan's service as consul-general at Paris, and North Carolina politics. Also included is James Cameron MacRae's 1879 diary. The Wright and Burr papers concern their legal and financial businesses in Wilmington. Topics include the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad; the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad; banks in New York, Wilmington, and the Cape Fear region; and dealings with New York merchants. The connections among the Wright, Burr, and McRae families are unclear.
Creator McRae, John, 1793-1880.
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 John McRae Papers #477, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Gifts of Duncan MacRae of Bel Air, Md., beginning October 1968.
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

John McRae (1793-1880) served as postmaster at Fayetteville, N.C., with his father, Duncan, 1801-1853. He then went into private business in Mangum, N.C., where he resided until his death in 1880. He married first Margaret Scott Kirkland in 1814, and second Mary Ann Shackleford in 1826. He had thirteen children, including sons Duncan K., Alexander, Thomas, and James Cameron McRae.

Duncan K. McRae (1820-1888) was appointed United States consul general to Paris in 1853 and served until 1858. He unsuccessfully ran for public office in North Carolina in 1858-1859 and then served as an officer in the Confederate Army. During the Civil War, he commanded the 5th North Carolina Regiment in the Battle of Williamsburg, May 1862, and the Seven Days fighting around Richmond, and Garland's Brigade in fighting at South Mountain and Antietam. Later in life, he was a lawyer in North Carolina and Memphis, Tenn.

Alexander McRae (1829-1862) attended Delaware College and then the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he was graduated in 1851. As a U.S. Army officer, he served at several western posts. He was killed at the Battle of Val Verde in 1862.

Thomas McRae (1831-1896) was a minister at Ocracoke, N.C.; Cairo, S.C.; and other locations in the South. He travelled throughout the South and Midwest, and settled in Pleasant Hill, Ky., a Shaker community.

James Cameron McRae (1838-1909) was first a teacher in Little River, S.C., and then studied law in New Bern, N.C. He became a lawyer in Fayetteville, judge of the Superior and Supreme Courts of N.C.; and dean of the Law School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There is no material in the collection about his career as judge or dean. During the Civil War, he fought in the battles of Big Bethel and Williamsburg. He also served as a major on the staff of General Lawrence Simmons Baker. In 1867, he married Frances Broadfoot Hinsdale and had nine children: Samuel Hinsdale, Elizabeth, Mary Shackleford, John Donald, Cameron Farquhar, James Christopher, Theodore Hinsdale, Frances Wetmore, and Duncan.

James G. Burr was a business man in Wilmington, N.C. He was involved with a number of banks, especially the Bank of Cape Fear, as well as with railroads.

Joshua G. Wright was a lawyer and businessman in Wilmington, N.C., and an Burr's associate. He pursued a legal career, settling debts and claims against estates, and was an officer of the Bank of Cape Fear.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection is divided into three series: correspondence; financial and legal papers; and other papers. The correspondence series is divided into two subseries: John McRae family correspondence; and the James G. Burr and Joshua Wright correspondence The first subseries contains correspondence between John McRae, postmaster of Fayetteville and businessman at Mangum, with his sons and daughters. Most of the material concerns the private and public lives of his sons Alexander, Duncan, James, and Thomas. The second subseries contains the business and other letters of Joshua Wright and James G. Burr of Wilmington, N.C. The Wright material concerns his work in the legal profession. The Burr correspondence concerns his business with a number of banks and railroads.

Series 2 contains financial and legal Papers, relating primarily to Burr and Wright and concerning their business in Wilmington. Series 3 contains other papers that relate mainly to the McRae family and are an assortment of military and political appointments, student notes, orations, clippings, and other items. There appears to be no connection between the McRae family and either Burr or Wright.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1806-1884.

About 850 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844.

About 450 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence between John McRae, postmaster of Fayetteville, N.C., and later businessman in Mangum, N.C., with his sons and daughters. A very small amount of the material relates to his duties as postmaster and to Fayetteville news. The bulk of this series relates to the private and professional lives of McRae's sons. Of particular interest are Alexander McRae's letters from western military posts in which he described relations with Native Americans and Mormons; Duncan McRae's correspondence from Paris and from Raleigh, N.C., concerning North Carolina politics; and Thomas McRae's letters from the Shaker community in Pleasant Hill, Ky., in which he described life with the Shakers in some detail. There are also Civil War letters from Alexander, Duncan, and James McRae (1838-1909), all of whom saw active duty. Postwar correspondence details the lives of the men as they settled upon their careers as lawyers and businessmen. Of note also are a few letters describing Duncan McRae's arrest in 1867 for complicity in the murder of an African American by a mob in Fayetteville. The correspondence for the last ten years contains mostly personal and family news and solicitations for John McRae's health.

Folder 1

1806; 1820; 1827-1828 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 1

Folder 2

1830; 1831; 1835 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 2

Folder 3

1841; 1844-1849 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 3

Of note is a letter dated 20 January 1844 from President John Tyler to John McRae, asking McRae for aid in circulating Alexander G. Abell's Life of the President, a book refuting charges made against Tyler and highlighting the strengths of his personal character. In the letter, President Tyler cautions McRae "to do nothing inconsistent with propriety in your own estimation as to the matter and regard it in a private and not a political light."

Folder 4

1850-1852 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 4

Folder 5

1853 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 5

Folder 6

1854 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 6

Folder 7

1855 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 7

Folder 8

1856 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 8

Folder 9

1857 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 9

Folder 10

1858 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 10

Folder 11

1859 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 11

Folder 12

1860 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 12

Folder 13

1861-1862 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 13

Folder 14

1863-1864 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 14

Folder 15

1865-1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 15

Folder 16

1867 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 16

Folder 17

1868 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 17

Folder 18

1869 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 18

Folder 19

1870 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 19

Folder 20

1871-1872 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 20

Folder 21

1873-1884 #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 21

Folder 22

Alexander McRae, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 22

Folder 23

Duncan McRae from Paris, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 23

Folder 24

Duncan McRae, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 24

Folder 25

Robert S. McRae, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 25

Folder 26

Thomas McRae from Pleasant Hill, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 26

Folder 27

Thomas McRae, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 27

Folder 28

McRae, undated #00477, Subseries: "1.1. John McRae Family Correspondence, 1806-1844." Folder 28

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence of James G. Burr and Joshua Wright of Wilmington, N.C., and their business associates. Frequent correspondents include Thomas Acres of New York City and W. A. Gammell, Burr's cousin. The first part of the correspondence, 1852-1865, is between Wright and other parties concerning the estate of John Dougal of Scotland, whose descendants resided in Wilmington, and claims against the estate by Thomas McTaggart of New York. There are also other business letters related to the collection of debts and to the New York Stock Exchange. The correspondence, 1865-1870, is primarily of Burr, and relates to banking in New York, Wilmington and the Cape Fear region, the Crosby Opera House Art Association, business with various New York merchants, and the Wilmington and Weldon and Wilmington and Manchester railroads. There is also a small amount of personal correspondence from Burr's cousin, Ria Burr.

Folder 29

1852 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 29

Folder 30

1853-1854 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 30

Folder 31

1855-1865 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 31

Folder 32

January-April 1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 32

Folder 33

May-June 1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 33

Folder 34

July-August 1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 34

Folder 35

September-October 1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 35

Folder 36

November-December 1866 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 36

Folder 37

January-March 1867 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 37

Folder 38

April-June 1867 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 38

Folder 39

July-September 1867 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 39

Folder 40

October- December 1867 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 40

Folder 41

1868 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 41

Folder 42

1869-1870 #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 42

Folder 43

Undated #00477, Subseries: "1.2. James G. Burr and Joshua Wright Correspondence, 1852-1870." Folder 43

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

This series includes a small number of McRae legal documents concerning land transfers, the emancipation of two slaves, and estate records, but the bulk of the material consists of the financial and legal papers of James G. Burr and Joshua Wright. These include papers related to the Dougal estate and other estates handled by Wright; bank documents, particularly for the Bank of Cape Fear, of which Burr was an officer; lists of stock prices; accounts; bills; receipts; and lists of expenditures.

Folder 44

1792; 1820s-1830s #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 44

Folder 45

1840-1849 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 45

Folder 46

1850-1853 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 46

Folder 47

1854-1859 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 47

Folder 48

1860-1865 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 48

Folder 49

1866 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 49

Folder 50

1867 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 50

Folder 51

1868 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 51

Folder 52

1869-1877 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 52

Folder 53

Undated #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 53

Folder 54

Bank of Wilmington account with Joshua Wright, 1854-1860 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 54

Folder 55

John McRae accounts, 1831; 1863-1864 #00477, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1792-1877." Folder 55

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966.

About 200 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Miscellaneous other items, mostly relating to the McRae family. Included are military and postmaster appointments; advertisements for schools; orations and sermons; class notes; etc. There are also approximately eighty clippings, 1841-1906 and undated, pertaining to the Spanish American War and other current events from the time period. There is also a diary of James McRae for 1879, and a report on the descendants of James And Frances McRae, prepared in 1966.

Folder 56

1810-1860 #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 56

Folder 57

1863-1909 #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 57

Folder 58

Undated #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 58

Folder 59

Diary of James C. McRae, 1879 #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 59

Folder 60

The Descendants of James Cameron McRae and Frances Broadfoot (Hinsdale) McRae, 1966 #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 60

Folder 61

Untitled volume on the Lord's Prayer, undated #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 61

Folder 62

Clippings, 1841-1906 and undated #00477, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1810-1906; 1966." Folder 62

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Processing Information

Processed by: Tracy E. K'Meyer, June 1992

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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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