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Collection Number: 04370

Collection Title: Neal Family Papers, 1816-1916

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 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 500 items)
Abstract Members of the Neal family and related Fox and Timberlake families, were planters, businessmen, and farmers in Franklin, N.C.; Fayette and Henderson counties, Tenn.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Hinds County, Miss.; Waxahachie, Tex.; and other areas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among them was Aaron Neal of Franklin County, N.C., who died in 1869. The collection includes correspondence and financial, legal, and other papers of Aaron Neal, his siblings, in-laws, and children, and other members of the Neal family. Most of the correspondence is from the antebellum era and consists primarily of letters from family members in the Old Southwest that describe to relatives in North Carolina the everyday problems associated with moving west, buying land and slaves, and establishing profitable cotton plantations. There are also letters from slaves in 1824 and 1834; an 1835 letter about a Mississippi slave uprising; and letters, 1857, to and from Nathan Neal, a student at the University of North Carolina. There are twelve letters from the Civil War years that describe camp life and combat experiences, mainly in the Virginia theater. Most postbellum letters pertain to late 19th-century farm life in North Carolina and to small-town life in Texas. Financial, legal, and other items date from both before and after the Civil War.
Creator Neal 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 Neal Family Papers #4370, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received by transfer from the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, with the approval of and an addition from the donor, Edith B. Sakell, in November 1983 and January 1984.
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

The two generations of the Neal family prominent in these papers lived between 1816 and 1915. Principal figures in the earlier generation included Moses, James, John, Aaron, and Mary (Timberlake), children of Moses Neal (d. before 1830), planter of Franklin County, N.C. Other individuals who figure in the earlier portion of these papers are Aaron's wife, Elizabeth Fox; her relatives (probably siblings) Burrell, Robert, Richard, Martha, and William Fox; Richard Timberlake (Mary Neal's husband); and the slaves Sim Neal and Foxes Peney.

In the 1820s, James and John Neal moved west, first to Alabama, then to Tennessee, to buy land and establish cotton plantations. Their sister Mary Timberlake and her family soon followed. By the 1830s, Burrell, Richard, Robert, and William Fox were in Mississippi setting up plantations, and their sister Martha and her family were homesteading in Tennessee.

Aaron Neal (d. 1869) remained on the family plantation with his mother. He later married Elizabeth Fox. Moses Neal was a merchant (and a bachelor) in Williamsboro, Granville County, N.C., until his death in 1853.

The Neals, Foxes, and Timberlakes were all slave-owning planter families of at least moderate wealth. Those who went west all took slaves with them and had the cash to buy good farm land. A check of the Population and Slave Schedules of the Federal Census for Franklin County revealed that Aaron Neal in 1860 had real estate worth $15,210 and personal property worth $20,402, and was the owner of 18 slaves.

Members of the second generation of Neals represented in these papers are the children of Aaron Neal, their spouses, and a few friends. The 1860 Federal Census for Franklin County listed Aaron's children as Transbry C. (20, male), Temperance B. (17), Mary E. (14), Lavinia (11), Moses (8), Charles I. (5), and Mit (2, female). Aaron had two older sons living away from home in 1860, Nathan (24), and James (26). Nathan was a student at the University of North Carolina in 1857 and, during the Civil War, worked in Alabama as a railroad construction engineer. His brother Transbry served in the Confederate Army in Virginia.

After the war, Transbry returned to the family farm near Louisburg, but Nathan went west and settled in Waxahachie, Tex., about 30 miles south of Dallas, where he remained until his death. Nathan eventually married and raised a son, Garrett, who joined his father in the land surveying business.

Aaron Neal died in 1869, and his wife apparently died earlier. The 1870 Federal Census for Franklin County listed Transbry Neal, age 30, as head of household with the following family members (all his siblings): Temperance (26), Lavinia (21), Moses (17), Charles (15), and Stilla (10). The Civil War had nearly impoverished the Neal family: the 1870 census listed Transbry's real estate as worth $5000, and his personal estate $300.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection includes correspondence and financial, legal, and other papers of Aaron Neal, his siblings, in-laws, and children, and other members of the Neal and related Fox and Timberlake families. Most of the correspondence is from the antebellum era and consists primarily of letters from family members in the Old Southwest that describe to relatives in North Carolina the everyday problems associated with moving west, buying land and slaves, and establishing profitable cotton plantations. There are also letters from slaves in 1824 and 1834; an 1835 letter about a Mississippi slave uprising; and letters, 1857, to and from Nathan Neal, a student at the University of North Carolina. There are twelve letters from the Civil War years that describe military life and combat experiences, mainly in the Virginia theater. Most postbellum letters pertain to late 19th-century farm life in North Carolina and to small-town life in Texas. Financial, legal, and other items date from both before and after the Civil War.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1816-1931.

About 287 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

The description of the letters has been divided into three parts: the antebellum, the Civil War, and the postbellum periods.

The Antebellum Period

Most of the antebellum letters were written to Aaron Neal in North Carolina from Neal, Timberlake, and Fox family members who had gone west.

James Neal described life in early Tuscaloosa, Ala., and discussed such topics as land speculation, farming, local politics, dancing and public entertainment (including black musicians), law and order, and business opportunities. In a letter dated 29 December 1826, written after he had moved to Fayette County, Tenn., James noted that his slaves sent their love to their mother and other family members back home in Franklin County, N.C.

After a two-year stay in Tuscumbia, Ala., where he looked for land and a wife, John Neal moved in with his brother James in Tennessee. In letters to his brother Aaron, John detailed the crude housing and living conditions he had to endure and described the planting and cultivation of his first season of crops.

An item of note is a letter dated 3 September 1827, from Sim Neal, who came to Tennessee as a slave of James, to his mother, brother, and sisters at the Aaron Neal plantation near Louisburg, N.C. Sim mentioned purchasing a tract of land, an act that seems inconsistent with his legal status as a slave.

In January 1827, Mary Timberlake wrote from Henderson County, Tenn., to her relatives in North Carolina about the trip west, the trials of homesteading, the construction of a house and barns, the condition of their family's slaves, religion and camp meetings (Baptist and Presbyterian), local schools, and planting cotton and other crops.

In a letter dated 15 April 1829, James told of his experiences while on a trip to New Orleans during the preceding several months; he mentioned observing blacks "much better treated ... than I had expected"; selling a slave of "bad character"; and working as a clerk on a Mississippi River steamboat for a few months. James also discussed in his letter courtship among his slaves, unofficial slave marriages and a divorce, and the market prices of cotton and other crops.

In July 1834, Burrell Fox wrote from Hindes County, Miss., of the area's rich soil, bountiful cotton yields, and generous prices for cotton. In a letter dated 25 September 1835, he told of an uprising of slaves in Mississippi that ended with the hanging of five white men and three blacks in the town of Lexington. In other letters, Burrell wrote of flush times in Mississippi where land, slaves, and cotton crops brought premium prices. He also mentioned the effect of the environment in Mississippi on the health of whites and blacks; slave trading; and Texas and Santa Anna.

An item of interest from this period is a letter dated 22 June 1834, from one of Burrell Fox's slaves, Foxes Peney, to her ex-North Carolina master (Elizabeth Neal) and relatives. She was happy in Mississippi, but, nonetheless, was homesick for her former master and her relatives.

Richard Fox mentioned in his letters how Mississippi society differed from society in North Carolina and commented on dancing and popular entertainment. Like his brother Burrell, Richard was elated over the prospects of making large profits in the Mississippi cotton market.

Until his death in 1853, Moses Neal corresponded with his brother Aaron. Moses wrote from Williamsboro (Granville County), N.C., about business problems, state and national politics (he was a Whig), slavery, courtship, and matters of community and family interest.

In 1857, Aaron Neal wrote his son Nathan several letters giving him fatherly advice on how to be successful in his studies at the University of North Carolina and relating news from home. In letters dated 13 and 21 August and 26 October 1857, Aaron discussed the case of a theft supposedly committed by free blacks. On 9 September 1857, Aaron wrote in detail about catching a neighbor's slave stealing watermelons from his patch and punishing him on the spot by whipping him. Aaron's letters to his son also dealt with crops, deaths and disease, slaves, and religion (including "protracted meetings" and revivals).

Nathan wrote two letters to his father in which he discussed his lessons, course work, and professors; complained that his bed was full of "chincks" and his food "filthy"; and told of the murder of one slave by another in Chapel Hill.

The Civil War Period

There are twelve letters from the Civil War years: one each from soldiers serving in the Yorktown and Petersburg, Va., areas in 1861; one from the North Carolina homefront in 1863; two from Nathan Neal in Alabama in 1864; and seven from soldiers in the Virginia theater (mainly Petersburg) in late 1864. Most of the letters were written by soldiers (mostly friends and relatives of the Neals) at the front who detailed camp life and combat experiences.

The Postbellum Years

There are about 15 letters from 1870 to 1915, from Nathan Neal, in Waxahachie, Tex., to his brothers and sisters in North Carolina. Nathan frequently exhorted his siblings and their children to move to Texas where economic opportunities abounded. He wrote of Texas weather, crops, livestock, land prices, births and deaths, diseases, weddings, and other matters. On 28 January 1905, Nathan detailed his being assaulted and stabbed in the neck by an angry tenant.

Most of the postbellum letters from North Carolina were written by Moses (son of Aaron), Lavinia, and Tempie Neal to each other. They lived in Franklin or nearby counties. Their letters reflected the daily routine of farm life. Common topics included crops (especially cotton), cooking, quilting, marriage, death, religion, mule and horse trading, rural crime, and other matters.

Among letters of note is one dated 27 September 1878, in which a suicide and a black religious revival in the neighborhood were mentioned. On 17 April 1879, Tempie offered to a friend some home remedies for the croup and for chills. In 1879, people were said to have died of "yellow chills" and typhoid fever.

A letter sent on 31 October 1885, briefly mentioned a relative seeking "radical office" who believed that the stock laws were "for nothing, but to oppress the poor whites peoples and negroes." A reference was made to "the Jews store in L.[Louisburg]."

In a letter dated 29 April 1889, the activities of a young black female pyromaniac were detailed and the existence of racial antipathies of Indians for blacks was noted.

A letter dated 4 December 1903 mentioned the yield of a black sharecropper to a landowner and the leasing of farmland.

Folder 1

1770, 1816-1819 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 1

Folder 2

1820-1823 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 2

Folder 3

1824-1826 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 3

Folder 4

1827 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 4

Folder 5

1828-1829 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 5

Folder 6

1830-1832 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 6

Folder 7

1833-1834 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 7

Folder 8

1835-1836 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 8

Folder 9

1837-1839 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 9

Folder 10

1840-1844 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 10

Folder 11

1845-1849 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 11

Folder 12

1850-1854 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 12

Folder 13

1855-1860 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 13

Digital version: Letter from Nathan P. Neal to Aaron and Elizabeth Neal, 2 September 1857

Documenting the American South

Folder 14

1861-1865 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 14

Folder 15

1866-1873 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 15

Folder 16

1874-1880 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 16

Folder 17

1881-1883 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 17

Folder 18

1884-1889 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 18

Folder 19

1890-1899 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 19

Folder 20

1900-1931 #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 20

Folder 21

Undated #04370, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1816-1931." Folder 21

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial Material, 1823-1941.

About 145 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Mostly bills and receipts pertaining to the operation of Aaron Neal's cotton plantation before the Civil War and to Moses Neal's cotton farm after the war. Included are many tax receipts, mostly of Moses Neal in the postbellum era. Items of special note are two Confederate tax-in-kind receipts.

Folder 22

Account book, 1865-1867 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 22

Folder 23

Bills and receipts, 1832-1859 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 23

Folder 24

Bills and receipts, 1860-1938 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 24

Folder 25

Promisory notes and miscellaneous items, 1862-1896 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 25

Folder 26

Tax receipts, 1823-1941 #04370, Series: "2. Financial Material, 1823-1941." Folder 26

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Estate papers of Aaron and James Neal, land surveys, land grants, indentures, deeds, a marriage certificate (1806), a crop lien contract (1892), and other legal documents pertaining to members of the Neal family.

Folder 27

Estate records, 1833, 1870 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 27

Folder 28

Land grants, deeds, and indentures, 1779-1848 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 28

Folder 29

Other legal items, 1806-1892 #04370, Series: "3. Legal Material,circa 1779-1892." Folder 29

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Miscellaneous Material,circa 1820-1900.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Cures and recipes, printed items, poems, speeches, and other material. A noteworthy item is a printed map of military bounty lands in Arkansas Territory,circa 1821, by John Gardiner, chief clerk of the General Land Office, Washington, D.C.

Folder 30

Cures and recipes,circa1860-1890 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material,circa 1820-1900." Folder 30

Folder 31

Printed items,circa1850-1890 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material,circa 1820-1900." Folder 31

Folder 32

Miscellaneous items,circa1821-1870 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material,circa 1820-1900." Folder 32

Oversize Paper OP-4370/1

Printed map of military bounty lands in Arkansas Territory by John Gardiner, circa 1821 #04370, Series: "4. Miscellaneous Material,circa 1820-1900." OP-4370/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

J. B. Gambrell, A View of the Negro Question. (Transferred to the Rare Book Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill)

Oversized papers (OP-4370/1)

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Processing Information

Processed by: William T. Auman and Enola Guthrie, 1984

Encoded by: Mara Dabrishus, October 2004

Updated by: Amanda Loeb, March 2012

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

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