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Collection Number: 03979

Collection Title: Polk, Badger, and McGehee Family Papers, 1790-1898

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.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 300 items)
Abstract George Edmund Badger of New Bern, N.C., was a lawyer; politician; North Carolina legislator; superior court judge; Secretary of the Navy; United States senator; member of the North Carolina Convention of 1861-1862; and trustee of the University of North Carolina, 1818-1844. He and his second wife, Mary Brown Polk, had two daughters, Catherine and Sarah (Sally). Sally Badger married Montford McGehee, a lawyer; planter; member of the General Assembly from Caswell County in 1864 and from Person County in 1872, 1876, and 1879; trustee of the University of North Carolina, 1864-1868; delegate to the constitutional convention of 1865; and Commissioner of Agriculture, 1880-1887. They had four sons, including Thomas McGehee, George Badger McGehee, and Lucius Polk McGehee. The collection contains original documents and microfilm. Original documents consist letters written by members of the Polk, Badger, and McGehee families, particularly those of George Edmund Badger (1795-1866); his second wife, Mary Brown Polk Badger (1808-1835); their younger daughter, Sarah Polk Badger McGehee (1833-1903), also known as Sally; and Sally's husband, Montford McGehee (1822-1895). Polk materials consist of letters and poems by George Badger to Mary Polk Badger, beginning in 1825 during their courtship and married life, particularly when he was traveling for court business. Also included is a memorandum by Mary Badger written shortly before her death in 1835, giving instructions for the disposition of her keepsakes and heirlooms. Letters to Sally Badger begin in 1841 with letters primarily from her father. Beginning in 1859, there are letters to Sally from Montford McGehee. There is only one letter from 1863, and no papers for the years 1861-1862 or 1864-1869. The remainder of the material consists of a few scattered letters to and from friends, a poem titled "In Memoriam of Gen'l Leonidas Polk," a quotation from F. W. Robertson, and the envelopes that originally housed the correspondence. The microfilm includes other letters and two scrapbooks containing a number of newspaper obituaries. Among the microfilm-only materials are letters of Mary Brown Polk while at school in Philadelphia and of Sally Badger at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh. There are also 1862 letters of Montford McGehee during the Civil War when he served as aid to General James Johnson Pettigrew. He wrote from Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the Virginia Peninsula and during the retreat following the evacuation of Yorktown.
Creator Polk family.



Badger family.



McGehee 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 Polk, Badger, and McGehee Family Papers #3979, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy (filmed 1970s) available.
  • Reel 1: Materials described in Series 2
Acquisitions Information
In the 1970s, Polk, Badger, and McGehee family papers were lent to the Southern Historical Collection to be microfilmed, after which the originals were returned. In July 2007, William Polk Cheshire donated a portion of the papers represented in the microfilm (Acc. 100733).
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 Edmund Badger (17 April 1795-11 May 1866) of New Bern, N.C., was the son of Thomas Badger and Lydia Cogdell Badger. He moved to Warrenton, N.C., in 1820 and to Raleigh about 1825. His first wife was Rebecca Turner of Warrenton, his second Mary Brown Polk, and his third Delia Harwood Williams. Badger was a lawyer, politician, North Carolina legislator, superior court judge, Secretary of the Navy, United States senator, member of the North Carolina Convention of 1861-1862, and trustee of the University of North Carolina from 1818 to 1844. He was nominated to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court by Millard Fillmore, but his confirmation was denied. In politics, he was successively a Federalist, a Jacksonian Democrat, and a Whig.

Mary Brown Polk (1808-1835) was the daughter of Colonel William Polk (1758-1834), Revolutionary War veteran of Mecklenburg County, N.C.; prominent resident of Raleigh; and land owner in Tennessee, where he frequently traveled on business. Mary's mother was Polk's second wife, Sarah Hawkins; there was a large family of brothers and sisters and two elder half-brothers. George and Mary Badger were married in 1826 and had two daughters: Catherine (b. 1827) and Sarah (b. 1833), called Sally.

Montford McGehee (4 December 1822-31 March 1895) was the youngest child of Thomas McGehee (1784-1867) and Elizabeth M. Jeffreys McGehee (1795-1825). McGehee received his A.B. in 1841 and his M.A. in 1844 from the University of North Carolina, attended Harvard Law School, and began his law practice in Milton, Caswell County, N.C. He served briefly in April and May 1862 as an aide to General James Johnston Pettigrew in the Confederate Army. Upon his father's death in 1867, he moved back home to Woodburn, Person County, where he remained until 1879 or 1880. McGehee was a lawyer; planter; member of the General Assembly from Caswell County in 1864 and from Person County in 1872, 1876, and 1879; trustee of the University of North Carolina from 1864 to 1868l delegate to the constitutional convention of 1865; and Commissioner of Agriculture from 1880 to 1887. McGehee's wife was Sarah Polk Badger McGehee (1833-1903), better known as Sally, the daughter of George Edmund Badger and his second wife, Mary Brown Polk Badger. They had four sons, including Thomas McGehee, George Badger McGehee, and Lucius Polk McGehee.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection contains original documents and microfilm. Original documents consist letters written by members of the Polk, Badger, and McGehee families chiefly of Caswell County, N.C., and Person, N.C., particularly those of lawyer, judge, and legislator George Edmund Badger (1795-1866); his second wife, Mary Brown Polk Badger (1808-1835); their younger daughter, Sarah Polk Badger McGehee (1833-1903) (Sally McGehee); and Sally's husband, lawyer, planter, and legislator Montford McGehee (1822-1895). Polk materials consist of letters and poems by George Badger to Mary Polk Badger, beginning in 1825 during their courtship and married life, particularly when he was traveling for court business. Also included is a memorandum by Mary Badger written shortly before her death in 1835, giving instructions for the disposition of her keepsakes and heirlooms. Letters to Sally Badger begin in 1841 with letters primarily from her father. Beginning in 1859, there are letters to Sally from Montford McGehee. There is only one letter from 1863, and no papers for the years 1861-1862 or 1864-1869. The remainder of the original material consists of a few scattered letters to and from friends, a poem titled "In Memoriam of Gen'l Leonidas Polk," a quotation from F. W. Robertson, and the envelopes that originally housed the correspondence. The microfilm includes other letters and two scrapbooks containing a number of newspaper obituaries. Among the microfilm-only materials are letters of Mary Brown Polk while at school in Philadelphia and of Sally Badger at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh. There are also 1862 letters of Montford McGehee during the Civil War when he served as aid to General James Johnson Pettigrew. He wrote from Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the Virginia Peninsula and during the retreat following the evacuation of Yorktown.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Original Papers, 1825-1881.

About 170 original items.

This series is a portion of the collection lent to the Southern Historical Collection in the 1970s to be microfilmed; the microfilm is described in Series 2.

Polk materials consist of letters and poems written by George Edmund Badger to Mary Brown Polk during their courtship and marriage, until Mary's death in 1835. Most of these letters, 1827-1834, were written by Badger to Mary when he was away from home attending court in the counties northeast of Raleigh. Also included in the collection is a memorandum by Mary Badger written shortly before her death, giving instructions for the disposition of her keepsakes and heirlooms. After Mary's death, there is a consolation letter from Emily M. Smith and a letter from George Badger to his third wife, Delia Haywood Williams Badger.

Letters to Sarah (Sally) Badger begin in 1841 and are primarily from her father, George Badger, in Washington while she was with her Polk relatives or in school in Raleigh at Saint Mary's. After her marriage in 1854, there are a few letters from her father and one from her brother, Dick. Beginning in 1859, there are letters to Sally from Montford McGehee. These are generally letters from him in Milton to her while she was visiting in Raleigh. There is only one letter from 1863 and no papers for the years 1861-1862 or 1864-1869. The remainder of the material consists of a few scattered letters from friends, a poem titled "In Memoriam of Gen'l Leonidas Polk," a quotation from F. W. Robertson, and the envelopes that originally housed the correspondence.

Folder 1

Poems by George Badger for Mary Polk, circa 1825-1826 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 1

Folder 2-3

Folder 2

Folder 3

Letters from George Badger to Mary Polk, 1826 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 2-3

Folder 4-6

Folder 4

Folder 5

Folder 6

Letters from George Badger to Mary Polk Badger, 1827-1834 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 4-6

Folder 7

Letter from George Badger to Mary Polk Badger, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 7

Folder 8

Letter from Mary Polk Badger to George Badger, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 8

Folder 9

Memo written by Mary Polk Badger, circa 1835 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 9

Folder 10

Letter from Emily M. Smith to George Badger, 1835 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 10

Folder 11

Letter from George Badger to Delia Haywood Williams Bader, 1839 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 11

Folder 12-14

Folder 12

Folder 13

Folder 14

Letters from George Badger to Sally Badger McGehee, 1841-1861 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 12-14

Folder 15

Letter and fragment from George Badger to Montford McGehee, 1857, 1862 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 15

Folder 16

Letter from Richard Badger to Sally Badger McGehee, 1858 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 16

Folder 17-18

Folder 17

Folder 18

Letters from Montford McGehee to Sally Badger McGehee, 1859-1860, 1863 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 17-18

Folder 19

Letters from Montford McGehee to Sally Badger McGehee, 1879-1881 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 19

Folder 20

Letters from Montford McGehee to Sally Badger McGehee, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 20

Folder 21

Letter from [Paul.] C. Cameron to Sally Badger McGehee, 1879 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 21

Folder 22

Letter of introduction from George M. Klein, 1888 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 22

Folder 23

Other letters to Montford McGehee, 1879-1886 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 23

Folder 24

Other letters from Montford McGehee, 1838-1839, 1858 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 24

Folder 25

Other letters fro Montford McGehee, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 25

Folder 26

F. W. Robertson quotation, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 26

Folder 27

Poem: "In Memoriam of Gen'l Leonidas Polk" by Viola, undated #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 27

Folder 28

Envelopes, circa 1825-1881 #03979, Series: "1. Original Papers, 1825-1881." Folder 28

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Microfilm, 1790-1898.

About 300 items on microfilm.

There is a single item from 1790, a deed from Hearndon (Herndon) Haralson to Archibald Murphey for 100 acres in Caswell County, N.C.

Polk correspondence, 1822-1826, includes Mary Brown Polk's letters to and from her family while she was at Mrs. Mallon's School in Philadelphia, and her letters after her return home, chiefly to her brother Lucius in Tennessee. Beginning in 1826, there are letters and poems written to her by George Edmund Badger, whom she married in November of that year.

Most of the letters, 1827-1835, were written by Badger to Mary when he was away from home attending court in the counties northeast of Raleigh. There are also a few letters to and from other members of the Polk family. After Mary's death in 1835, letters are chiefly from Badger to his sister-in-law, Susan Polk (later Mrs. Kenneth Rayner), and to his third wife, Delia Haywood Williams Badger.

Letters to Sally Badger begin in 1841 and are primarily from her father, George Badger, in Washington while she was with her Polk relatives or at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh. After her marriage in 1854, there are a few letters from her father and from her brother. Beginning in 1859, there are letters to Sally from Montford McGehee. These are generally letters from him in Milton to her while she was visiting in Raleigh.

In April and May 1862, McGehee was briefly in the Confederate Army as aide to General James Johnston Pettigrew. He wrote from Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the Virginia Peninsula and during the retreat following the evacuation of Yorktown. There are only a few scattered letters in 1863 and no papers for the years 1864 to 1869, except for one letter that was perhaps written 17 January 1865.

Correspondence, 1870-1879, includes scattered business letters or letters from friends while the McGehees lived in Person County, N.C. In 1880, McGehee became Commissioner of Agriculture and moved to Raleigh. In November 1881, McGehee visited their son Tom, who was then working in a bank in Vicksburg. The remainder of the material consists of a few scattered letters from friends. The last dated item is an 1898 letter from Sally to her sons telling how she wished to be buried.

Undated letters are grouped after the other letters.

Also included are poems of George E. Badger to Mary Brown Polk, 1825-1926; a memorandum by Mary Badger shortly before her death giving instructions for the disposition of her keepsakes and heirlooms; and a copy of a quotation from F. W. Robertson.

There are two scrapbooks chiefly containing clippings of newspaper obituaries. The first volume, 1837-1903, includes obituaries of Thomas Jeffreys, Thomas McGehee, Montford McGehee, and Julia Leslie Covert (Mrs. Lucius P.) McGehee. The second volume, 1875-1892 and undated, includes more obtiuaries and clippings about members of the family in a notebook originally begun by Thomas McGehee when he was a student at Davidson College. Included are clippings relating to Thomas McGehee, Leonidas Polk, the Polk family, George W. Polk, Lucius J. Polk, Emily Polk Williams, Caroline A. Scoot, William S. Plumer, H. M. Heiskell, Campbell Brown, and Old Saint John's Episcopal Church in Ashwood, Tenn.

Reel 1

Papers #03979, Series: "2. Microfilm, 1790-1898." Reel 1

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Processing Information

Processed by: Suzanne Ruffing, 1996; Amy Johnson, September 2007

Encoded by: Amy Johnson, September 2007

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