Thomas Lenoir papers, 1771-1912

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Lenoir, Thomas, 1780-1861
Army officer, of Caldwell Co., N.C. Correspondence, diary, legal documents, account books, mercantile records, surveying records, and other papers (chiefly 1838-1880) of Lenoir, of his father, William Lenoir, and of his children. The early papers concern horse breeding, legal matters, deism in North Carolina (1790s), and the international situation (1790s). Thomas Lenoir's papers make up the majority of the collection and relate to the settlement of his father's estate, activities of his brother in Tennessee and his sons at the University of North Carolina, and antebellum agriculture in North Carolina. Postwar letters pertain mainly to politics, agriculture, cattle diseases, family matters, student life at the University of North Carolina and at Davis Military School, Winston (now Winston-Salem), N.C., North Carolina militia, and Civil War reminiscences. Correspondents include W. J. Bingham, Calvin J. Cowles, Charles F. Deems, S. F. Patterson, Lewis Williams.
5 Linear Feet
2,007 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection includes 1,977 items and 30 volumes of business and family letters of Colonel Thomas Lenoir (1780-1861), of his father, General William Lenoir (1751-1839), and especially of Colonel Thomas Lenoir's eight children. The earlier papers include legal documents, a stud book, and family letters. Those of John Norwood (1727-1802) contain comments during the late 1790s on the spread and reception of deism in North Carolina and on the political situation in France and England; and one letter of Lewis Williams is concerned with Joseph Seawell Jones's Defense of the Revolutionary History of the State of North Carolina...(Boston and Raleigh, 1834). Other topics include Cherokee Indian murders of whites in Buncombe County, 1794; North Carolina cession of sites for coastal forts, 1794; North Carolina militia; commodity prices; land; overseers; the attitude of Tennessee electors toward Thomas Jefferson, 1804; plans to extinguish the claims of Indians to lands in Tennessee; the coming War of 1812; the attitude of North Carolina electors toward Madison, 1812; criticism of Jackson's stand on the Worcester v. Georgia decision; nullification in South Carolina; emigration to Missouri; David L. Swain; and the conduct of Sam Houston in 1840 on his way to woo Margaret M. Lea of Alabama.

The majority of the collection, connected directly with Colonel Thomas Lenoir, consists of family papers concerning chiefly the settlement of the William Lenoir estate; the activities of the former's brother, William Ballard Lenoir (1781-1855) in Lenoir, Roane County, Tennessee; and the former's sons, Rufus Theodore and Walter Waightstill Lenoir, who were students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The most valuable letters are those concerning the livestock farming operations of Thomas Isaac Lenoir in Haywood County, North Carolina, before the Civil War.

There are but few Civil War letters. During the postwar period there are letters of Walter Waightstill Lenoir from Crab Orchard probably in Haywood County, and Shulls Mills, Watauga County, North Carolina, containing references to North Carolina politics, including the role of W. W. Holden and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in North Carolina politics in 1866. There are also occasional treatises on diseases of cattle. Included in this collection are letters of the Gwynn family and of the Pickens family of South Carolina, both related to the Lenoirs by marriage; of Rufus Theodore Lenoir and his sons at the University of North Carolina, of Julia A. Oertel, wife of a Protestant Episcopal minister and artist who came from Bavaria, Germany, and settled in Caldwell County, North Carolina, of Rufus T. Lenoir, Jr., as a student at Davis Military School, Winston, North Carolina, in 1893; and of Sarah Joyce Lenoir; and memoranda of farming operations, 1878-1901. There is a genealogical table of the Lenoir family and a slave list.

The volumes contain mercantile records; personal diary of Walter Waightstill Lenoir (1823-1890), started while a student at the University of North Carolina, and concerned also with the death of his wife and his career as an attorney; lists of notes payable; survey records of William Lenoir; account books; and a diary of William Avery Lenoir, 1837-1852 (with gaps), which contains biographical information on Waightstill Avery and his family, a description of Henry Clay's plantation, the construction of turnpikes in North Carolina, and a planned railroad to Tennessee. There are unbound pages from account books, receipts for dues paid the Protestant Episcopal Church, surveyor's field notes and plats made in 1885, legal papers of various types, French notes, deeds, warrants, and records of hearings before justices of the peace. Among the correspondents are W. J. Gingham, Calvin J. Cowles, Charles R. Deems, S. F. Patterson, and Lewis Williams.

Acquisition information:
The Thomas Lenoir Papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library in 1944-1950.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff,

Encoded by Jane Metters and Meghan Lyon, September 2011

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Physical location:
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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Preferred citation:

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