Craven-Pegram Family papers, 1785-1966

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Craven-Pegram family
11.4 Linear Feet
Approximately 6,565 items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Craven-Pegram Family Papers span the period 1785 to 1966, with the bulk dating from 1892 to 1958. The collection chiefly consists of correspondence among various family members and friends, and photographs. Included are legal and financial papers, writings and speeches, genealogical material, newsclippings, and printed material. While the principal focus of the collection is Sallie Kate Craven (Kate) and her sister, Emma L. (Craven) Pegram and her family, information about earlier generations of the Craven, Pegram, and Leach families is included in the legal and genealogical material.

The major strength of the collection is the information on the descendents of the first president of Trinity College, Braxton Craven. The letters document the lifestyles and roles of young girls and women in the late 19th and early 20th century and the socialization process of girls. Additionally, single career women, married women who raised a family at home, and a widow supporting a family are represented in the collection.

Other topics in the Correspondence Series include: the impact of Trinity College on the development of a community and the effects of the loss of the institution, Columbia University's Physics Department, the economic depression of the 1930s and how it impacted upon Pegram family members, high school and college education in North Carolina, and the process by which young men obtained jobs and established themselves in their occupation. Some of George B. Pegram's letters describe his attendance at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and describe social occasions he went to that were attended by Dwight David Eisenhower (1949, Jan. 30 and Dec. 31), then president of Columbia. Annie M. Pegram's letters home (1904-1948) recount her many activities at Greensboro College and her involvement in community life in Greensboro. A few letters dating from the turn of the century into the 1940s provide a glimpse at hiring domestic help, particularly cooks. Through the collection, one is able to study the functions of the family both as an economic and social unit.

Of particular interest to those studying the history of Trinity College are the weekly letters of Kate Craven to Emma L. Pegram (1892- 1903) after she and her family moved to Durham in 1892. In addition to news about family and friends in Trinity, N.C., Kate also discussed her bitterness over the movement of Trinity College to Durham and its effect upon the Trinity community. The correspondence series also contains an unsigned, undated letter (probably written in the 1880s), relating to a contract Braxton Craven had signed with the U.S. government about the education of Cherokee boys at the Cherokee Industrial School.

Emma Pegram's letters, written chiefly to her son George from the mid-1890s to 1903, contain many comments about the administrators and faculty of Trinity College and Trinity Park School in Durham. Scattered references are made to John Carlisle Kilgo, president of Trinity College, and his family. There is also a letter from George, dated November 24, 1902 that describes a Columbia University student who was possibly gender nonconforming and/or transgender.

A letterbook primarily containing letters which Nannie (Bulla) Craven wrote to her son, Harvey Bernard Craven, details the financial hardships faced by the widowed parent of five sons. She wrote the majority of the letters, 1893 and 1896, from Trinity, N.C. while Harvey was a student at Trinity College. Her letters also provide a glimpse of the Trinity community after Trinity College moved to Durham. There are scattered references to Trinity High School, a tuition based school in Trinity that remained after the college was relocated, and its faculty. The narrow parameters within which women of the period lived are clearly illustrated.

Correspondents other than family members include: M. H. Lockwood (1897), who taught in the Department of Physics at Trinity College; Thomas Arthur Smoot (1898-1900), who was the headmaster at Trinity (N.C.) High School, 1895-1896, professor of physics and chemistry at Greensboro (N.C.) Female College, 1898-1900, and later a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and Jerome Dowd (1941-1945) who wrote a book about Braxton Craven, entitled The Life of Braxton Craven.

Biographical / historical:

The children and grandchildren of Braxton Craven (1822-1882), first president of Trinity College in Randolph County, N.C., and his wife, Irene (Leach) Craven, are the principals in the Craven-Pegram Family Papers. The children of Braxton Craven most prominently represented are Sallie Kate (Kate) and Emma Lenora Craven, who married William Howell (W. H.) Pegram. The grandchildren primarily featured are those of Emma L. and W. H. Pegram, George Braxton, Annie McKinnie, Irene Craven, John Edward, and William Howell Pegram, Jr.

Kate Craven, who attended Greensboro College, returned to her family's home in Trinity, N.C. to live until 1928, when she moved to Durham. Kate lived with two of Emma and W. H. Pegram's children, Irene and John Edward (Edward or Ned) Pegram, until her death in 1945.

Emma L. Craven (d. 1904) and W. H. Pegram (d. 1928) married in 1875 and lived in Trinity, N.C. until 1892, when they moved to Durham, N.C. W. H. Pegram was a professor in Trinity College from 1873 to 1919 and professor emeritus from 1919 to 1928. He taught chemistry and for many years was secretary to the faculty.

Annie M. Craven (d. 1966) graduated from Trinity College and began teaching German and mathematics at Greensboro Female College in 1901. She was involved with the social and religious life on the campus and also taught Sunday school at the Greensboro jail for several years. During the 1920s, the N.C. Board of Charities and Public Welfare appointed her to the Guilford Board of Public Welfare. In 1938, she became a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With only a brief interruption in her tenure at Greensboro Female College, after a fire in 1904, she retired from the College in 1948. After her retirement, she lived in Durham with her sister Irene and her brother John Edward.

William H. Pegram, Jr. worked in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. In 1916 he married Rosalie Pitzlin of Houston, and they settled there.

John Edward Pegram (d. 1951) tried several different occupations including school principal, lawyer, businessman, and farmer.

Irene Craven Pegram (d. 1958) taught for several years at West Durham High School and in the Durham city school system into the 1920s. After a period of ill health, she retired to manage the Pegram family home. Irene and John Edward, both of whom never married, continued to live in the home.

George Braxton Pegram (1876-1958) graduated from Trinity College and served as a school administrator in Trinity and Roxboro, N.C. In the fall of 1899, he went to Columbia University where, during his fifty seven years of association with the school, he was a student, professor of physics, dean of graduate studies, vice-president, and adviser to the president. He was a pioneer in the field of atomic energy research, became one of the country's leading physicists. During the 1950s, he was an educational consultant at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies in Tennessee. He married Florence Bement in 1909, and they had two children William Braxton and John Bement Pegram. The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1970-1971 describes a collection of about 35,000 items of his professional and personal papers located at Columbia University.

The daughter-in-law of Braxton and Irene (Leach) Craven, Nannie (Bulla) Craven (d. 1937), married James Lucius Craven, a physician. He died in 1885 at the age of thirty-five, leaving her with five sons to rear. She supported herself and the children by teaching at Archdale and then at Trinity High School in Trinity, N.C.

Acquisition information:
The Craven-Pegram Family Papers were given to Duke University Library in 1968 through the settlement of the Annie McKinnie Pegram estate. Copyright interests in these papers have not been transferred to the University.
Processing information:

Processed by Janie C. Morris

Completed October 31, 1990

Encoded by Alvin Pollock, Electronic Text Unit, UC Berkeley Library

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Craven-Pegram Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.