Hinsdale Family papers, 1712-1973

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Hinsdale family
This collection centers around John Wetmore Hinsdale (1843-1921), a successful lawyer and businessman who served in the Confederate army. His son, John Wetmore Hinsdale, Jr., was also a lawyer and politician in North Carolina. Correspondence, Civil War diaries, newspapers clippings, C.S.A. War Dept. records book, and other papers, of a family of lawyers, of Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C. Includes material on Confederate generals Theophilus Hunter Holmes, William Dorsey Pender, and James Johnston Pettigrew; schools, education, railroad taxation, and legislation, government and politics in North Carolina, particularly during the 1930s; and medical practice in Virginia ca. 1900. Persons represented include Ellen Devereux Hinsdale, John Wetmore Hinsdale, and John Wetmore Hinsdale, Jr.
16 Linear Feet
2557 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection is arranged as follows: Correspondence (1819-1971); Political correspondence (1930-1935); Financial papers (1864-1961); Legal papers (1712-1926); Miscellany; Clippings (1856-1973); Writings (1784-1950); Printed material (1915-1970); Genealogy; Pictures; Volumes; and Oversize folders.

Papers of John Wetmore Hinsdale (1843-1921), lawyer and businessman, relate to his education, courtship, military service, and other activities. The collection contains letters and a diary, 1860-1864, concerning his education at a boarding school in Yonkers, New York, and at the University of North Carolina, 1858-1861; his service in the Confederate Army as aide-de-camp to his uncle, General Theophilus Hunter Holmes, and adjutant to General James Johnston Pettigrew and General William Dorsey Pender, including descriptions of troop movements, comments on many Confederate officers, and accounts of the battle of Seven Pines, the Seven Days' battle, and the battle of Helena; the effects of the Civil War on Southerners at home; and events during Reconstruction. The diary includes excellent descriptions of the battles in which he participated, as well as descriptions of men like Generals Holmes, Pender, Pettigrew, P.G.T. Beauregard, A.P. Hill, Benjamin Hunter, Stonewall Jackson, J.E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, J.B. Magruder, Sterling Price, G.W. Smith, and others.

Other sources of information in the collection on the Civil War include the C.S.A. War Department Records Book, a partially indexed, bound collection of orders, circulars, and letters from the War Department and Bureau of Conscription to General Holmes during the period 1863-1865. It is useful for learning Confederate policies about conscription, court-martials, impressment of slaves and freedmen for work on Confederate fortifications, and the Invalid Corps.

Letters between 1861 and 1865 contain information about civilian life during the war, particularly in Fayetteville, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark.; what women did for the war effort; and the fears and morale of civilians. Information about Reconstruction appears in the letters during the period 1865-1870.

Several notebooks from Hinsdale's years in law school are contained in the Volumes series. The collection also includes 25 letterpress books, most of which are indexed, covering the years 1886-1892, with a few breaks in the run (Hinsdale numbered them consecutively, and this run contains volumes 69-101, with volumes 77, 79, 87, 88, 93, 95, and 96 missing). The letterpress books, besides containing entries of an ordinary legal nature, contain information on N.C. government and politics, taxation, roads, railroads, and finances. Volumes 99-101 of the letterpress books deal exclusively with the Carolina Brownstone company, in which Hinsdale was part-owner and president. The company either did not last very long, or it changed hands, because it does not appear in the N.C. list of corporations for 1902-1904. There are also a volume of claim records, 1889-1890, and a collection book, 1870-1876, both concerning Hinsdale's legal practice, and a ledger, 1873-1875, from the Diamond Cotton Chopper and Cultivator Company of Fayetteville, North Carolina, containing accounts for customers and agents, many of which are annotated with remarks about the individual's occupation, character, reliability, and financial circumstances.

The papers of Ellen (Devereux) Hinsdale, wife of John W. Hinsdale, contain material pertaining to the General Pettigrew Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; the Daughters of the American Revolution; and the Ladies' Hospital Aid Association of Rex Hospital, Raleigh, North Carolina, including minute books for that organization, 1896-1902, which record the activities of the ladies in fund-raising drives, social events, and sewing bees.

During the 1890s, the focus of the collection switches from John W. Hinsdale and Ellen D. Hinsdale to their children. Papers include the courtship letters, 1903-1904, of Elizabeth Christophers Hinsdale and Jack Metauer Winfree, a physician and instructor at the Medical College of Virginia, including comments by Winfree on his work; courtship letters, 1908, of Annie Devereux Hinsdale and Harold Vincent Joslin, and letters concerning World War I, including an account of Ellen D. Hinsdale's decision to join the American Red Cross in France and descriptions of working conditions in a war industry. The courtship letters of Elizabeth C. Hinsdale and Dr. Jack Metauer Winfree in 1903-1904 and of Annie D. Hinsdale and Harold Vincent Joslin in 1908 form a large bulk for this period. Dr. Winfree was a prominent physician and instructor at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, and his letters give an interesting view of a medical practice at the turn of the century.

The papers, 1930-1935, of John W. Hinsdale, Jr., pertain mainly to his political career as a state senator from Wake County, North Carolina, and as a candidate for governor of North Carolina, 1932, and contain material reflecting his interest in changing the state tax structure, organizing the North Carolina State Board of Health and the North Carolina Board of Examiners, and establishing state control over maintenance of country roads. Also includes material on the conflicts with the R.J. Reynolds Company.

The collection contains a series of legal papers, 1712-1926, and a series of financial papers, 1864-1961. Miscellaneous items include clippings of Civil War reminiscences, weddings and deaths, and the legal career of John W. Hinsdale, Sr.; an oversize 1847 map of Raleigh showing locations of buildings and ownership of land; family photographs and family writings; genealogical material on the Hinsdale, Devereux, Lane, and Pollock families of North Carolina, the Livingston and Bayard families of New York, and the Johnson and Edwards families of Connecticut; and a volume containing diary entries; school notes on different subjects; and autograph books from John Hinsdale, Sr.'s, years at the University of North Carolina

One volume of interest is the "Liverpool Memorandum-Book," which contains a diary, memoranda, and accounts for 1755 (which a few scattered entries for other years). The anonymous author of this volume lived near Hertford in Perquimons County, N.C. Entries record travel in Bertie, Chowan, Perquimans, and Pasquotank counties. The diarist frequently went to "town," and several references indicate that his residence was close to it. The "town" was apparently Hertford. The volume may have belonged to a member of the Pollack family, since Mrs. Ellen Hinsdale was a descendent through the Devereux line and since they resided in Perquimans during the 1750s.

Biographical / historical:

This collection centers around John Wetmore Hinsdale (1843-1921), a successful lawyer and businessman, but other major figures include: his mother, Elizabeth Christophers (Wetmore) Hinsdale (d. 1885); his father, Samuel Johnson Hinsdale (1817-1894), a pharmacist and amateur scientist of Fayetteville; his wife, Ellen (Devereux) Hinsdale, daughter of the wealthy planter, John Devereux, of Raleigh; and their six children: Margaret Devereux (Hinsdale) Englehard (b. 1872); Samuel Johnson Hinsdale (b. 1875); Elizabeth Christophers (Hinsdale) Winfree (b. 1877); John Wetmore Hinsdale, Jr. (1879-1971); Ellen Devereux Hinsdale (b. 1881); and Annie Devereux (Hinsdale) Joslin (b. 1883). The Hinsdales, in tracing their ancestry, accumulated genealogy on the following families: the Lanes, Pollocks, and Devereux of North Carolina; the Livingstons and Bayards of New York; and the Johnsons and Edwardses of Connecticut.

John Wetmore Hinsdale was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but was raised in Fayetteville, N.C. He received his education at a boarding school in Yonkers, N.Y. (graduated in 1858) and the University of North Carolina (1858-1861). His education was interrupted by the Civil War. At age 18 he joined the Confederate Army as an aid-de-camp to his uncle, General Theophilus Hunter Holmes. He served as adjutant general under General James Johnston Pettigrew, whom he admired greatly, and under General William Dorsey Pender, whom he disliked. He later rejoined his uncle's staff. Serving first in Virginia, Hinsdale participated in the Battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Days' Battle around Richmond. Transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department with his uncle, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Helena. During the last year of the war, he was colonel of the Third Regiment of Junior Reserves, also known as the N.C. 72nd Regiment.

Immediately following the Civil War, Hinsdale attended law school at Columbia College in New York City. Admitted to the bars of both New York and North Carolina in 1866, and later to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hinsdale returned to Fayetteville to practice his profession. He married Ellen Devereux in 1869 and moved his growing family and law practice to Raleigh in 1875.

Hinsdale became an expert on insurance, corporation, and railroad law. He was a lobbyist for railroad interests both within and without the state, number among his clients Enoch Pratt and John Mitchell Robinson, both prominent businessmen of Baltimore, Md.

In the late 1890s, Ellen Devereux Hinsdale became active in various women's clubs. She was a founder of the General Pettigrew Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy in Raleigh, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a charter member and officer of the Ladies' Hospital Aid Association of Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

John Wetmore Hinsdale, Jr., followed his father's footsteps, attending the University of North Carolina in 1896-1899, and then joining the law profession. He does not appear often in the collection until 1928 when, as president of the Capital Club of Raleigh, he became involved with plans to construct a new club and office building. He served two terms as state senator from Wake County in the 1930s. His pet projects included a reorganization of the tax structure by the introduction of a luxury tax, the reorganization of the N.C. State Board of Health and the N.C. Board of Examiners, and a proposal for the state to take over the maintenance of country roads. John Wetmore Hinsdale, Jr., died in 1971.

Acquisition information:
The Hinsdale Family Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1971.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, 1989

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, March 2011

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