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Collection Number: 02615

Collection Title: Matt W. Ransom Papers, 1845-1914 (bulk 1868-1904)

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.


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Size About 26,000 items (32.5 linear feet).
Abstract Matt W. Ransom (1826-1904) was a lawyer; planter; state official; Confederate general; Redeemer; Democratic United States senator from North Carolina, 1872-1895; and United States minister to Mexico, 1895-1897. The collection includes materials, chiefly post-Civil War, relating to Matt W. Ransom. Correspondence, chiefly 1868-1904, relates to the political, economic, and racial aspects of Reconstruction in North Carolina, particularly the railroad industry machinations of George William Swepson; to Ransom's plantations in northeastern North Carolina, particularly in regard to cotton marketing and labor; to national and state party politics, 1868-1904; and to Ransom's diplomatic service in Mexico. Much of the collection consists of Ransom's papers as a senator, including correspondence with politicians and constituents covering most of the major issues of the time: race relations; federal actions affecting southern agriculture and industry, including the tariff, the debate over silver-backed currency, and agrarian unrest; women's suffrage; and many others. Correspondents include Susan B. Anthony, Sallie Clay Bennett, Grover Cleveland, Sallie Southall Cotten, F. M. Simmons, George William Swepson, Zebulon B. Vance, Garland H. White, and H. G. Williams. Also included are papers relating to a variety of family and business concerns. Material on Ransom's Civil War career and the first three years of Reconstruction is relatively slight, and there is no material related to his pre-war political career.
Creator Ransom, Matt W. (Matt Whitaker), 1826-1904.
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 Matt W. Ransom Papers, #2615, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Angus A. McKellar of Chapel Hill, N.C., 1951.
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.

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

Matthew Whitaker Ransom (1826-1904) was a lawyer, planter, state official, Confederate general, Redeemer, Democratic United States senator from North Carolina, and minister to Mexico. Born on 8 October 1826 in Warren County, N.C., to Robert and Priscilla Whitaker Ransom, Ransom was brother to General Robert Ransom and cousin to fellow Confederate officer Wharton J. Green. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1847, Ransom went on to serve as the North Carolina Attorney General and as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly. He married Martha "Pattie" Anne Exum in 1853 and moved to her family's plantation, Verona, on the Roanoke River near Weldon, N.C. In 1861, he served as one of the three commissioners selected by the North Carolina state legislature to visit the Confederate convention at Montgomery, Ala. Ransom was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 1st North Carolina Infantry, later served as colonel of the 35th North Carolina Infantry, and was ultimately promoted to brigadier general in 1863. Ransom fought in the battles of Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Antietam, Fredricksburg, Plymouth, Weldon, Suffolk, and the siege of Petersburg, finally surrendering at Appomattox. In 1866, Ransom moved back to Weldon, N.C., and resumed work as a planter and lawyer. He was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1872, succeeding Zebulon B. Vance, and served until 1895. He was then appointed United States Ambassador to Mexico and served from 1895-1897. Ransom retired in 1897 and returned to private life and farming at his estate, where he died on 8 October 1904.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection includes materials, chiefly post-Civil War, relating to Matt W. Ransom. Correspondence, chiefly 1868-1904, relates to the political, economic, and racial aspects of Reconstruction in North Carolina, particularly the railroad industry machinations of George William Swepson; to Ransom's plantations in northeastern North Carolina, particularly in regard to cotton marketing and labor; to national and state party politics, 1868-1904; and to Ransom's diplomatic service in Mexico. Much of the collection consists of Ransom's papers as a senator, including correspondence with politicians and constituents covering most of the major issues of the time: race relations; federal actions affecting southern agriculture and industry, including the tariff, the debate over silver-backed currency, and agrarian unrest; women's suffrage; and many others. Correspondents include Susan B. Anthony, Sallie Clay Bennett, Grover Cleveland, Sallie Southall Cotten, F. M. Simmons, George William Swepson, Zebulon B. Vance, Garland H. White, and H. G. Williams. Also included are papers relating to a variety of family and business concerns. Material on Ransom's Civil War career and the first three years of Reconstruction is relatively slight, and there is no material related to his pre-war political career.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1845-1914.

About 26,000 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Folder 1-4

Folder 1

Folder 2

Folder 3

Folder 4

Correspondence and related materials, 1845-1869 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 1-4

Early materials include deeds; Civil War letters from Matt W. Ransom to his wife, Martha "Pattie" Exum Ransom; and other items. Later letters relate to farming and business, with a few 1869 letters from George William Swepson.

Folder 5-13b

Folder 5

Correspondence, 1870-1875 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 5-13b

Topics include plantation news, senate bills, and railroad business. There are letters from Matt W. Ransom to his wife and children while in the Senate that describe feelings between the North and the South, letters of congratulations to Matt Ransom on his speech in defense of the South, and letters from Matt Ransom Jr. while in college at Lexington, Va., describing college life there. A number of the 1870-1871 letters relate to railroad fraud committed by George William Swepson, treasurer of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad and president of the western division of the Western North Carolina Railroad. Of note are a letter of 3 December 1873 from Jennie [last name not included] of Asheville, N.C., commenting on local politics, especially Asheville's Republican representation and local officials who were advocating for another war; a letter of 29 June 1874 from William Cawthorne in Philadelphia, Pa., commenting on differences between his reception as an African American at all-white Good Templar lodges in Philadelphia and in North Carolina; and a 10 December 1975 letter from former slave and former Union Army Chaplain Garland H. White, requesting that Pierce Lafayette, an African American Democratic preacher, be appointed police officer in Washington, D.C.

Folder 14a-19

Correspondence, 1876-1877 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 14a-19

Includes letters from family and friends on political events, plantation news, and the price of cotton. There are also some June 1876 letters from Zebulon B. Vance regarding criticisms of Vance.

Folder 20-51

Folder 20

Folder 21

Folder 22

Folder 23

Folder 24

Folder 25

Folder 26

Folder 27

Folder 28

Folder 29

Folder 30

Folder 31

Folder 32

Folder 33

Folder 34

Folder 35

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Folder 37

Folder 38

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Folder 40

Folder 41

Folder 42

Folder 43

Folder 44

Folder 45

Folder 46

Folder 47

Folder 48

Folder 49

Folder 50

Folder 51

Correspondence, 1878-1879 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 20-51

Topics include depression in business, the tariff question, pension bills, railroad business, and Senate reports. There are also letters from Robert Ransom on college life at the University of North Carolina and from Matt Ransom Jr. on crop conditions.

Folder 52-151

Folder 52

Folder 53

Folder 54

Folder 55

Folder 56

Folder 57

Folder 58

Folder 59

Folder 60

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Folder 62

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Folder 134

Folder 135

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Folder 139

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Folder 141

Folder 142

Folder 143

Folder 144

Folder 145

Folder 146

Folder 147

Folder 148

Folder 149

Folder 150

Folder 151

Correspondence, 1880-1885 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 52-151

Includes family letters, petitions to Congress, and topics such as river and harbor bills, the condition of state education, the dedication of the New Oxford Orphan Home, the success of the Democratic Party, and Ransom's re-election to the Senate. There are also letters from Matt W. Ransom to his son advising on managing the farm. 1884-1885 correspondence also includes family letters on plantation news, price and sales of cotton, the election of Grover Cleveland, the oyster industry in North Carolina, the death of Ulysses S. Grant, the rice industry, improving the lower Mississippi River, and tobacco and brandy taxes.

Folder 152-175

Folder 152

Folder 153

Folder 154

Folder 155

Folder 156

Folder 157

Folder 158

Folder 159

Folder 160

Folder 161

Folder 162

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Folder 166

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Folder 168

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Folder 170

Folder 171

Folder 172

Folder 173

Folder 174

Folder 175

Correspondence, 1886 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 152-175

Topics include the debate over silver-backed currency, an act to incorporate an American college for the blind, and bills regarding the sale of artificial butter.

Folder 176-196

Folder 176

Folder 177

Folder 178

Folder 179

Folder 180

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Folder 196

Correspondence, 1887 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 176-196

Topics include abuse of the Internal Revenue System, an appeal for women's suffrage in America by Sallie Clay Bennett, a bill to remove the tax upon trade and commerce between the United States and Canada, a visit to North Carolina by President Grover Cleveland, and political discord among various North Carolina counties. Also included are many requests to Matt W. Ransom for political influence. Includes a letter of 16 May from A. M. Noble of Johnston County, N.C., expressing outrage that the Democratic administration had not removed an African American mail agent serving on the Greensboro to Goldsboro route.

Folder 197-234

Folder 197

Folder 198

Folder 199

Folder 200

Folder 201

Folder 202

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Folder 231

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Folder 233

Folder 234

Correspondence, 1888 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 197-234

Topics include the value and condition of the mica industry in North Carolina, the building up of North Carolina ports, pension cases, state election, the crash of the State National Bank, the tariff question, prohibition, stock law, labor, the Farmer's Alliance and Industrial Union, and Grover Cleveland's defeat in the presidential race. There are also requests for Matt W. Ransom to make political speeches and a letter from W. M. Grant describing life in Alaska.

Folder 235-250

Folder 235

Folder 236

Folder 237

Folder 238

Folder 239

Folder 240

Folder 241

Folder 242

Folder 243

Folder 244

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Folder 246

Folder 247

Folder 248

Folder 249

Folder 250

Correspondence, 1889 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 235-250

There are many letters congratulating Ransom on his re-election to United States Senate and requests for favors, as well as letters that discuss changes under the Benjamin Harrison administration and the struggling money market.

Folder 251-292

Folder 251

Folder 252

Folder 253

Folder 254

Folder 255

Folder 256

Folder 257

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Folder 292

Correspondence, 1890-1892 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 251-292

Topics include the plantation life, references to Leonidas Polk and the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, the early history of the Democratic Party, references to the life and character of North Carolina Governor D. S. Reid, the struggles of cotton growers, a formula for making guano, the death of General Robert Ransom, and the debate regarding women's suffrage and its effect upon the North and the South. There is also a letter of 3 February 1892 from Susan B. Anthony, sending a questionnaire to get Matt W. Ransom's opinion on women's suffrage, and a 4 June 1891 letter from F. S. Faison of Garysburg, N.C., notifying Ransom that "the opposition" would be holding a meeting, at which several African Americans were going to speak, and asking if Ransom would join them in "capturing the meeting."

Folder 293-402

Folder 293

Folder 294

Folder 295

Folder 296

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Folder 402

Correspondence, 1893 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 293-402

Topics include the presidential re-election of Grover Cleveland (including a letter from Cleveland, 26 February 1893), the value and growth of cotton mills in North Carolina, Egyptian cotton seeds, farm activities, the cotton market, complaints about African American postmasters, the value of income tax, the debate over silver-backed currency, comments from J. S. Carr on the desperate financial situation in North Carolina, fears that Farmers' Alliance members would vote for the People's Party, and the beet sugar industry in America. Of note is a 3 November letter from Garland H. White of Alexandria, Va., a former slave and former Union Army chaplain, describing his work with the Democratic Party and requesting to confer with Matt W. Ransom on organizing local African American Democrats following the next election.

Folder 403-472

Folder 403

Folder 404

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Folder 472

Correspondence, 1894-1895 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 403-472

Includes an appeal from Sallie Southall Cotten to Matt W. Ransom to aid the Virginia Dare Association in establishing a national school for girls in Raleigh, N.C.; an account of the death of Senator Zebulon B. Vance; Ransom's Senate race and defeat; the political tide among African Americans in North Carolina; and Ransom's appointment as minister to Mexico.

Folder 675

Correspondence, 1895 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 675

Includes several letters (some photostat copies) regarding Matt W. Ransom's salary as minister to Mexico.

Folder 473-480

Folder 473

Folder 474

Folder 475

Folder 476

Folder 477

Folder 478

Folder 479

Folder 480

Correspondence, 1896 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 473-480

Topics include Matt W. Ransom's work as minister to Mexico; the Ransom family's mortgages, debts, and sales of land; and the death of Tom Ransom.

Folder 481-485

Folder 481

Folder 482

Folder 483

Folder 484

Folder 485

Correspondence, 1897-1898 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 481-485

Topics include the conduct of African Americans on the plantation and references to issues between the United States and Spain. There are also letters from Matt Ransom Jr. from Hot Springs, Ark.

Folder 486-496

Folder 486

Folder 487

Folder 488

Folder 489

Folder 490

Folder 491

Folder 492

Folder 493

Folder 494

Folder 495

Folder 496

Correspondence, 1899-1900 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 486-496

Includes reports on the cotton market and requests for Ransom's support for J. S. Carr in his race for United States Senate.

Folder 497-508

Folder 497

Folder 498

Folder 499

Folder 500

Folder 501

Folder 502

Folder 503

Folder 504

Folder 505

Folder 506

Folder 507

Folder 508

Correspondence, 1901-1905 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 497-508

Topics include claim settlements, finances, Whitaker family genealogy, Matt Ransom Jr.'s appointment as delegate to the Farmer's National Congress in Niagara Falls, and Theodore Roosevelt's presidential nomination. There are also comments on politics, especially in North Carolina, from F. M. Simmons and H. G. Williams. 1904 correspondence also relates to Matt W. Ransom's death.

Folder 509-510

Folder 509

Folder 510

Correspondence, 1906-1914 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 509-510

Includes letters from Matt W. Ransom's wife, Martha "Pattie" Exum Ransom, to their children and other materials regarding the settlement of debts and Ransom's estate.

Folder 511-549b

Folder 511

Correspondence and related items: Undated #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 511-549b

Folder 550-586

Folder 550

Folder 551

Folder 552

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Folder 555

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Folder 563

Folder 564

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Folder 570

Folder 571

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Folder 577

Folder 578

Folder 579

Folder 580

Folder 581

Folder 582

Folder 583

Folder 584

Folder 585

Folder 586

Printed matter #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 550-586

Folder 587-662

Folder 587

Folder 588

Folder 589

Folder 590

Folder 591

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Folder 593

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Folder 650

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Folder 656

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Folder 660

Folder 661

Folder 662

Bills and receipts #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 587-662

Oversize Paper Folder OPF-2615/1

Matt W. Ransom's presidential pardon for his involvement in the Confederate Army signed by Andrew Johnson, 13 December 1866 #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." OPF-2615/1

Folder 663-674, 676

Folder 663

Other papers #02615, Series: "Papers, 1845-1914." Folder 663-674, 676

Includes newspaper clippings; congressional records, 1879-1886; a small notebook of scattered notes; an 1880 plantation ledger; and an article by C. A. Upchurch regarding Matt W. Ransom's appointment as minister to Mexico. The contents of folder 673, which is labeled "1895 Addition," are missing.

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Processing Information

Processed by: SHC Staff

Reprocessed by: Jessica Sedgwick, May 2009

Encoded by: Noah Huffman, December 2007; updated by Jessica Sedgwick, May 2009

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