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Collection Number: 00518

Collection Title: Elisha Mitchell Papers, 1816-1905

This collection has access 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 section for more information.


Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 150 items)
Abstract Elisha Mitchell was a native of Connecticut, student and tutor at Yale College, Presbyterian minister, and professor of geology and chemistry and bursar at the University of North Carolina, 1818-1857. The collection includes family correspondence, scientific notes, manuscript articles, and sermons of Elisha Mitchell, for many years connected with the University of North Carolina. Mitchell's correspondence pertains to his varied religious, academic, and scientific activities, including mountain exploration in North Carolina. Among the correspondents are George E. Badger, William Gaston, Francis L. Hawkes, N. M. Hentz, William Hooper, Levi Silliman Ives, Archibald D. Murphy, James H. Otey, John Stark Ravenscroft, and David L. Swain. Included is correspondence with the North family of Mitchell's wife, Maria North Mitchell, in New Haven, Conn., and from the Mitchell children after they had married and moved to Salisbury, N.C., California, and Texas. Volumes include Mitchell's diary, 1813-1816, begun at Yale and kept irregularly while he was teaching at various places in the North, containing mainly religious reflections and slight personal comment; his private notebook, 1818-1847, containing miscellaneous comments on mathematics, musicology, electricity, the natural sciences, and history, and personal accounts and notes on reading and letters received; the diary, 1878, of Mitchell's grandson, J. N. Howard Summerell, on a voyage to Scotland; Mitchell's journal, letter book, and account book, 1818-1842; and Diary of a Geological Tour by Professor Elisha Mitchell in 1827 and 1828 with Introduction and Notes by Kemp P. Battle, published as part of the James Sprunt Historical Monograph Series by the University of North Carolina in 1905.
Creator Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
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 Elisha Mitchell Papers #518, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Gifts, 1903-1962
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

Elisha Mitchell (19 August 1793-27 June 1857) of Connecticut was a graduate of Yale who taught at Jamaica, Long Island, N.Y. and at New London, Conn., and was a tutor at Yale before becoming a professor at the University of North Carolina in January 1818. Before leaving Connecticut, he was licensed to preach by the Congregational Church, and, in 1821, he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He married Maria Sybil North of New London, Conn., in November 1819.

At the University of North Carolina, Mitchell first taught mathematics and natural philosophy, but later shifted to chemistry, geology, and mineralogy. He continued the geological survey of North Carolina begun by Denison Olmstead and made botanical and geological excursions through all of North Carolina, publishing the results in pamphlets and periodicals. He measured the height of the mountain now known as Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, but his claim to priority in the measurement of the peak was disputed by Thomas Lanier Clingman, who declared that he and not Mitchell had found the highest point in the range. To settle the controversy, Mitchell went again to the mountains in 1857, andm in the course of this activity, fell down a steep bank into a creek and was drowned. He was buried in Asheville, N.C., and later reinterred on Mount Mitchell.

Mitchell had four daughters: Ellen, who married Joseph John Summerell; Mary, who married Richard Ashe; Eliza, who married Richard Grant; and Margaret, who never married; and one son, Charles, who died in Mississippi without issue. The Summerells lived in Salisbury, N.C., where J.J. Summerell practiced medicine; the Ashes lived in California; and the Grants lived in Texas.

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The collection includes family correspondence, scientific notes, manuscript articles, and sermons of Elisha Mitchell, for many years connected with the University of North Carolina. Mitchell's correspondence pertains to his varied religious, academic, and scientific activities, including mountain exploration in North Carolina. Among the correspondents are George E. Badger, William Gaston, Francis L. Hawkes, N. M. Hentz, William Hooper, Levi Silliman Ives, Archibald D. Murphy, James H. Otey, John Stark Ravenscroft, and David L. Swain. Included is correspondence with the North family of Mitchell's wife, Maria North Mitchell, in New Haven, Conn., and from the Mitchell children after they had married and moved to Salisbury, N.C., California, and Texas. Volumes include Mitchell's diary, 1813-1816, begun at Yale and kept irregularly while he was teaching at various places in the North, containing mainly religious reflections and slight personal comment; his private notebook, 1818-1847, containing miscellaneous comments on mathematics, musicology, electricity, the natural sciences, and history, and personal accounts and notes on reading and letters received; the diary, 1878, of Mitchell's grandson, J. N. Howard Summerell, on a voyage to Scotland; Mitchell's journal, letter book, and account book, 1818-1842; and Diary of a Geological Tour by Professor Elisha Mitchell in 1827 and 1828 with Introduction and Notes by Kemp P. Battle, published as part of the James Sprunt Historical Monograph Series by the University of North Carolina in 1905.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated.

About 145 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Family correspondence, scientific notes, manuscript articles, and sermons of Elisha Mitchell, for many years connected with the University of North Carolina. Mitchell's correspondence pertains to his varied religious, academic, and scientific activities, including mountain exploration in North Carolina. Among the correspondents are George E. Badger, William Gaston, Francis L. Hawkes, N. M. Hentz, William Hooper, Levi Silliman Ives, Archibald D. Murphy, James H. Otey, John Stark Ravenscroft, and David L. Swain. Includes correspondence with the family of Maria (North) Mitchell in New Haven, Conn., and from the Mitchell children after they had married and moved to Salisbury, N.C., California, and Texas.

Folder 1

1816-1821 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 1

Digital version: Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Maria North, 11 February 1818

Documenting the American South

Folder 2

1822-1827 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 2

Digital version: Letter from Abraham Rencher to Elisha Mitchell, 20 March 1823

Documenting the American South

Folder 3

1828-1835 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 3

Folder 4

1836-1842 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 4

Folder 5

1843-1846 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 5

Folder 6

1847-1855 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 6

Folder 7

1856-1857 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 7

Folder 8

1858-1877 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 8

Folder 9

1878-1905 #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 9

Folder 10

Undated #00518, Series: "1. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1816-1905 and undated." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905.

5 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Folder 11

V-518/1, 1813-1816 #00518, Series: "2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905." Folder 11

Diary, kept by Elisha Mitchell, begun at Yale in the spring of 1813 and kept very irregularly thereafter while he was teaching at Jamaica, Long Island, N.Y.; New London, Conn.; and back at Yale as a tutor, ending there on 28 July 1816. Mainly religious reflections with slight comments on personal activity.

Folder 12

V-518/2, 1818-1847 #00518, Series: "2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905." Folder 12

Elisha Mitchell's private notebook: a large volume in which he entered his study notes and thoughts unconnected with his classes. The contents include notes on mathematics, musicology, electricity, botany and other natural sciences, optics, and history; a list of books sent to New York to be bound and a list of books to be purchased; a description of boundaries of a lot; personal accounts; and notes on reading and on letters received.

Folder 13

V-518/3, August 1878 #00518, Series: "2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905." Folder 13

Diary kept by Elisha Mitchell's grandson, J. N. Howard Summerell, of his voyage on the Anchoria (Anchor Line) from New York to Glasgow, Scotland, containing details about the other passengers, daily activities, and thoughts. J. N. Howard Summerell was the son of Joseph John Summerell and Ellen Mitchell Summerell and studied for the Presbyterian ministry at Davidson College and Edinburgh University, Scotland.

Folder 14

V-518/4, 1818-1842 #00518, Series: "2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905." Folder 14

Journal, letter book, and account book of Elisha Mitchell with entries both personal and related to the University of North Carolina. The entries connected with UNC relate to the students, the debating societies, the professors, the library, the laboratories, the building program, and other aspects of University life.

Folder 15

V-518/5, 1905 #00518, Series: "2. Volumes, 1813-1848, 1878, 1905." Folder 15

Paperback monograph in the James Sprunt Historical Monograph series titled Diary of a Geological Tour by Professor Elisha Mitchell in 1827 and 1828 with Introduction and Notes by Kemp P. Battle, published by the University of North Carolina, 1905.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Staff, 1993

Encoded by: Peter Hymas, December 2004

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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