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Collection Number: 04262

Collection Title: David Franklin Thorpe Papers, 1854-1944

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 processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 1.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 570 items)
Abstract David Franklin Thorpe was plantation superintendent on Saint Helena Island, 1861-1869, and later Rhode Island businessman and state representative. The collection includes correspondence, legal and financial material, subject files, diaries, and account books relating principally to cotton production and trade, to affairs in the Sea Islands and in the North, and to family matters. Most of the papers are letters to David Thorpe from William G. Weld, his Boston business partner, from friends and relatives in the North, and from plantation superintendents, military officials, and other Sea Island residents. Correspondence between Weld and Thorpe concerns management of plantations they jointly owned and leased. Topics discussed include cultivation, preparation for shipping, and marketing of cotton; gold prices; labor; land sales; and the general store Thorpe ran. Letters from family and northern friends, many of whom were abolitionists, concern political, intellectual, and social life, particularly in Rhode Island and Boston during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Twentieth-century correspondence consists of letters from Penn School Principal Rossa B. Cooley and other Saint Helena residents to Thorpe's son and daughter-in-law. There are volumes of Thorpe's diaries, 1861-1869, noting his daily activities and data on planting and African American laborers; two other diary volumes, 1865-1866, probably of Thorpe's sister, Mary Thorpe; Saint Helena Island plantation account books, 1854-1868, that include records of payments to free blacks and freedmen; a record book each for the Planters Association, 1866-1867, and the Rifle and Sporting Club, 1866-1868, both of Saint Helena Island; a booklet of slave songs, presumably from the 1860s; magistrates' records of Beaufort County, S.C., 1868-1869; and other volumes.
Creator Thorpe, David Franklin, 1836-1909.
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 David Franklin Thorpe Papers #4262, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Edith Mitchell Dabbs of Mayesville, S.C., in March 1973.
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

David Franklin Thorpe:

1836 May, born in Providence, Rhode Island.
1858-1861 Attended Brown University.
1862 3 March, sailed to Port Royal, S.C., under the auspices of the Massachusetts Humane Society.
1862 Fall, appointed superintendent of the Thomas J. Fripp plantation.
1863 March, bought Village Farm with William G. Weld.
1864 February-March, bought the Marion Chaplin plantation with William G. Geld and leased School Farm.
1865 24 August, married Mary Helen Mooney.
1866 9 November, birth of son Allston E. Thorpe.
1867 12 August, Mary Mooney Thorpe died.
1869 Moved back to Providence and went into business.
1875 Married Susan Emily Anthony.
1885-1886 Served as Rhode Island state representative.
1909 9 March, died.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The David Franklin Thorpe papers include correspondence, legal and financial material, subject files, diaries, and account books relating principally to cotton production and trade, to affairs in the Sea Islands and in the North, and to family matters. Most of the papers are letters to David Thorpe from William G. Weld, his Boston business partner, from friends and relatives in the North, and from plantation superintendents, military officials, and other Sea Island residents. Correspondence between Weld and Thorpe concerns management of plantations they jointly owned and leased. Topics discussed include cultivation, preparation for shipping, and marketing of cotton; gold prices; labor; land sales; and the general store Thorpe ran. Letters from family and northern friends, many of whom were abolitionists, concern political, intellectual, and social life, particularly in Rhode Island and Boston during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Twentieth-century correspondence consists of letters from Penn School Principal Rossa B. Cooley and other Saint Helena Island, S.C., residents to Thorpe's son and daughter-in-law. There are volumes of Thorpe's diaries, 1861-1869, noting his daily activities and data on planting and African American laborers; two other diary volumes, 1865-1866, probably of Thorpe's sister, Mary Thorpe; Saint Helena Island, S.C., plantation account books, 1854-1868, that include records of payments to free blacks and freedmen; a record book each for the Planters Association, 1866-1867, and the Rifle and Sporting Club, 1866-1868, both of Saint Helena Island; a booklet of slave songs, presumably from the 1860s; magistrates' records of Beaufort County, S.C., 1868-1869; and other volumes.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated.

About 440 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence between Weld and Thorpe concerns the management of plantations they jointly owned and leased: Village Farm, School Farm, the Thomas J. Fripp plantation, and the Marion Chaplin plantation. Topics discussed include the cultivation, preparation for shipping, and marketing of cotton; cotton taken on consignment; gold prices; labor; land sales by the federal Tax Commission; finances; and the general store Thorpe ran. Many of Thorpe's letters are rough drafts or copies of those he sent.

Letters from family and northern friends, many of whom were abolitionists, concern political, intellectual, and social life, particularly in Rhode Island and Boston, during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. Other topics discussed include patent medicines, house furnishings, military campaigns in Virginia, and news of friends. Letters written by Thorpe, his wife Mary Mooney Thorpe, and his sister Mary Thorpe from Saint Helena Island relate to religious practices of the freedmen, labor, hunting, daily activities, and family matters. The 20th-century correspondence consists of letters from Penn School Principal Rossa B. Cooley and other Saint Helena residents to Thorpe's son and daughter-in-law. Some family information was enclosed with letters and is filed with this material.

Many of the communications from military officials, superintendents, and other Sea Island residents are brief notes requesting provisions, supplies, draft animals, means of transport, loans of tools, or social events. Some of the longer notes and official circulars concern the blockade, rations, payment of laborers, conscription, and housing for refugees.

Note that a few letters are included in the Planters Association subject file.

Folder 1

1855; 1862 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 1

Folder 2-3

Folder 2

Folder 3

1863 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 2-3

Folder 4-5

Folder 4

Folder 5

1864 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 4-5

Folder 6-7

Folder 6

Folder 7

1865 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 6-7

Folder 8-9

Folder 8

Folder 9

1866 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 8-9

Folder 10-11

Folder 10

Folder 11

1867 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 10-11

Folder 12

1868 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 12

Folder 13

1869-1870; 1936-1944 #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 13

Folder 14

Undated #04262, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855, 1861-1870, 1936-1944 and undated." Folder 14

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Material, 1862-1869.

About 55 items.

Arrangement: by type.

Principally accounts, deeds and indentures, and magistrate's papers. Accounts include crop records, expenditures for supplies, labor, shipping costs, cash advances, cotton sales, and Thorpe's accounts with Weld (see also the account and plantation books in the volume series). Among the deeds and indentures are certificates for land purchases on Saint Helena Island by Weld and Thorpe and a legal agreement between them. The magistrate's records include arrest and search warrants, affidavits, summonses, records of cases, and testimony in hearings before David Thorpe during his tenure as magistrate in Beaufort County, S.C., 1868-1869. Cases deal primarily with petty theft, although one case involves wife beating.

Folder 15

Accounts #04262, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Material, 1862-1869." Folder 15

Folder 16

Deeds and Indentures #04262, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Material, 1862-1869." Folder 16

Folder 17

Magistrate's Records #04262, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Material, 1862-1869." Folder 17

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Subject Files, 1866-1869.

About 55 items.

Primarily material relating to local organizations in which Thorpe participated. Organization material and correspondence constitute the bulk of the file for the Planters Association of Saint Helena and Ladies Islands, for which Thorpe served as secretary. Correspondents include various South Carolina newspaper editors and government officials. Among the records of the Rifle and Sporting Club, for which Thorpe was also secretary, are organizational materials, lists of officials and members with notes as to their states of origin and islands of residence, minutes, accounts, a target code, and what appears to be the text of a speech. Note that some of the volumes also pertain to the Planters Association and the Rifle and Sporting Club.

Other subject files include a draft of resolutions to be presented at a Republican Party meeting on Saint Helena, written by David Thorpe; a booklet of slave songs; and mathematics, Latin, and Greek exercises, probably from Thorpe's studies at Brown University. The miscellaneous file includes a hand-drawn map of properties owned and leased by Thorpe and Weld, possibly enclosed in a letter from Thorpe to Weld in December 1863, and printed material.

Folder 18

Planters Association #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 18

Folder 19

Republican Party #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 19

Folder 20

Rifle and Sporting Party #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 20

Folder 21

School Exercises #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 21

Folder 22

Slave Songs #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 22

Folder 23

Miscellaneous #04262, Series: "3. Subject Files, 1866-1869." Folder 23

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Volumes, 1854-1869.

17 items.

Diaries and account books of David Thorpe, diaries probably written by one of Thorpe's sisters, and records of the Planters Association and the Rifle and Sporting Club. Thorpe's diaries and account books include notes on daily life, records of planting and yields, and indications of payments to laborers. One account book, Volume 9, was begun by William M. Murray in 1854 as a record of slaves on his Edisto and Fenwick Island plantations and was later used to list what appear to be names, occupations, and other details of freedmen.

Folder 24

V-4262/1: 1861-1862, 165 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 24

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 25

V-4262/2: 1863, 175 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 25

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 26

V-4262/3: 1863-1864, 160 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 26

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 27

V-4262/4: 1865, 180 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 27

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 28

V-4262/5: 1866, 185 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 28

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 29

V-4262/6: 1868-1869, 175 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 29

Pocket diary of David Thorpe.

Folder 30

V-4262/7: 1865-1866, 24 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 30

Diary, probably of Thorpe's sister Mary.

V-4262/8: 1866, 24 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 30

Diary, probably of Thorpe's sister Mary.

Folder 31

V-4262/9: 1854-1860, 200 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 31

Account and plantation book of William M. Murray, Fenwick Island.

Folder 32

V-4262/10: 1862-1863, 150 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 32

Account and plantation book with records of crops and pay to free black.

Folder 33

V-4262/11: 1862-1863, 45 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 33

Account and plantation book with cotton accounts.

Folder 34

V-4262/12: 1863, 80 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 34

Pocket account and plantation book.

Folder 35

V-4262/13: 1865-1866, 100 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 35

Pocket account and plantation book with record of pay to freedmen field hands.

Folder 36

V-4262/14: 1866, 100 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 36

Pocket account and plantation book with record of pay to freedmen hands.

Folder 37

V-4262/15: 1867, 100 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 37

Pocket account and plantation book with accounts of cotton and pay to freedmen.

Folder 38

V-4262/16: 1868, 70 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 38

Account and plantation book with record of cotton planted and pay to freedmen.

Folder 39

V-4262/17: 1866-1867, 300 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 39

Minutes of the Planters Association.

Folder 40

V-4262/18: 1866-1868, 300 pages #04262, Series: "4. Volumes, 1854-1869." Folder 40

Minutes of the Rifle and Sporting Club.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Pictures, undated.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Rebecca McCoy; Suzanne Ruffing, September 1996

Encoded by: Eben Lehman, January 2007

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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