William Alexander Smith papers, 1765-1949

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Smith, W. A. (William Alexander), 1843-1934
William Alexander Smith was a textile manufacturer and businessman of Ansonville, North Carolina. Collection includes correspondence, account books, business records, and other papers, relating to Smith's career as a merchant, cotton textile manufacturer, farmer, and investor. Includes material relating to the family's agricultural, mercantile, and milling enterprises during the antebellum period, with references to Smith's interests in education, the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Civil War, and the United Confederate Veterans, and to automobile manufacture, banking, commercial finance, cosmetics, furniture, insurance, lumbering, patent medicine, personal loans, self-propelled railway passenger cars, real estate development, tobacco processing, and the mining of gold in Alaska and Montana, copper in Arizona, and mica in North Carolina. Correspondents include Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire, Francis Johnstone Murdoch, and George Stephens.
20 Linear Feet (51 boxes; 9 separately bound volumes)
Materials in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection contains correspondence, legal and financial papers, volumes, printed material and other items relating to the various activities and interests of William Alexander Smith (1843-1934), businessman and investor.

Records of Smith's general mercantile business, 1866-1886, include store accounts, 1875-1886, and a purchase journal, 1875-1877, listing various expenses.

Records of the operation of a store with Charles A. Smith include a ledger, an invoice book, and inventories and financial reports pertaining to the store and its failure.

The management of Smith's farm on the Pee Dee River is documented by records on the cotton trade, prices, the condition of crops, and marketting, and includes agreements with tenant farmers. Records of the Yadkin Falls Manufacturing Company, Milledgeville, North Carolina, 1883-1896, of which William Smith was president, include a letter book, 1887-1888, and an account book, 1876-1887, listing the expenses for the construction of this cotton mill and an inventory of mercantile goods purchased by the company.

For the Eldorado Cotton Mills, Milledgeville, 1897-1906, of which Smith also was president, there are a letter book, 1899-1902; a time book, 1898-1903, a general store ledger, 1900-1903; bank check, dividend check, and deposit books, 1898-1902; correspondence with Tucker & Carter Rope Company which Eldorado supplied with goods, 1898-1902; and records of a legal and financial controversy, 1914-1919.

Other textile mills in North Carolina and South Carolina are the subject of correspondence with Francis Johnstone Murdoch, Episcopal clergyman and textile executive; with Lee Slater Overman, textile executive and U.S. senator; and with James William Cannon, operator of Cannon Mills.

Correspondence with George Stephens, president of the Stephens Company, developers, and officer of the American Trust Company of Charlotte, North Carolina, concerns real estate ventures, such as the development of Myers Park residential area in Charlotte.

Other records relate to investment in the Southern States Finance Company, 1922-1925.

Mining of gold, copper, and mica is the subject of material on the Eagle River Mining Company in Alaska, 1905-1916, the Montana Consolidated Gold Mining Company, 1905-1918, the Monarch Mining and Smelting Company, Wickenburg, Arizona, 1906-1918, and the Spruce Pine Mica Company, Inc., Spruce Pine, North Carolina, 1924-1933.

Papers concerning the insurance business comprise those of the North State Fire Insurance Company and the Dixie Fire Insurance Company, both of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Relating to the railroad and the automobile industries are papers of the Edwards Railway Motor Car Company of Sanford, North Carolina, 1923-1927; the David Buick Carburetor Corporation, 1922-1932; the Fox Motor Car Company, 1922-1923; and the Winston-Salem Railway through Ansonville, 1910-1911.

Other business records concern lumbering in North Carolina, 1916-1925; the Carolina Remedies Company of Union, South Carolina, 1922-1925; the W. L. Hand Medicine Company of Charlotte, North Carolina, 1923-1925; the John E. Hughes Company, Inc., tobacco processor of Danville, Virginia, 1922-1924; and the Forsyth Furniture Lines, Inc., 1922-1923.

Records of William A. Smith's activities as purchasing agent, banker, and broker include ledgers, 1873-1933; daybook, 1885-1893; letter and letterpress books, 1867-1895 and 1909-1910; and other account books.

Papers relating to Smith's writings include material on the publication of his Anson Guards: Company Fourteenth Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers, 1861-1865 (Charlotte: 1914), including correspondence with the Stone Publishing Company, and reminiscences of several members of the Guards; papers on the causes and historiography of the Civil War, especially correspondence with Samuel A'Court Ashe, 1920s and 1930s, correspondence with Benjamin Franklin Johnson, 1915-1916, concerning a biographical sketch of Smith in Johnson's Makers of America; correspondence about Smith's pamphlet on the designing of the Confederate flag and the raising of the first flag of secession in North Carolina; and correspondence and genealogical notes used in the writing of Smith's Family Tree Book, Genealogical and Biographical (Los Angeles: 1922).

There are papers concerning the United Confederate Veterans, especially while Smith was commander of the North Carolina Division during the 1920s.

Correspondence, bills and receipts, ledgers, and writings concerning educational institutions relate to Carolina Female College, Ansonville, of which Smith's father, William Gaston Smith, was chairman of the board of trustees; sponsorship of the Nona Institute at Ansonville, 1906-1910, oriented toward the Episcopal Church; the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, of which Smith was a trustee; Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, which Smith had attended before the Civil War; the education of Smith's adopted son, Bennett Dunlap Nelme, at textile schools and mills, including comment about New Bedford and Lowell textile schools in Massachusetts, 1902-1907, and about North Carolina State College, Raleigh, 1900-1903; controversy over the content of history textbooks used in the state public schools, 1921; and membership on the board of managers of the Thompson Orphanage, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Correspondence with Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire and Archdeacon Edwin A. Osborne concerns affairs of the Episcopal Church, its missions, local churches, and the diocese.

Relating to the Freemasons are a history of Carolina Lodge No. 141 of Ansonville and the minutes of the lodge, 1906-1925.

Scattered correspondence and other papers pertain to North Carolina elections, especially the Democratic primary of 1912; the courts; the Democratic Party; county government; the good roads movement, especially in 1916; the family life and political career of Edward Hull Crump of Memphis, Tennessee, who was the son of Smith's first cousin; and politics in Mississippi and Tennessee. Other papers include the steam mill account books, 1851-1861, of Smith & Ingram who operated a sawmill in Anson County and correspondence, 1850-1851, concerning the acquisition of the steam machinery to run the mill; diary and notebook, 1765-1789, of James Auld, farmer, clerk of the court, and operator of a store for Joseph Montfort; North Carolina Argus subscription book, 1852-1853; account books, 1840-1857, of blacksmiths; account books, 1835-1858 and 1860-1864, of grist mill operators; ledger, 1835-1845, of William Gaston Smith's mercantile business; account books, 1840s and 1850s, of Joseph Pearson Smith, brother of William Gaston Smith, and operator of a mercantile business; ledger, 1858, of Joseph Pearson Smith, and ledger, 1855-1858, of Eli Freeman, carriage repairman, containing records of the sale and repair of carriages and buggies; deeds and plats; papers relating to the administration of the estates of William Gaston Smith (1802-1879), of John Smith (1772-1854), father of William Gaston Smith, and of Mary (Bellew) Smith (1775-1872), wife of John Smith; cashbook, 1875-1902, of William Alexander Smith; an inventory of notes and accounts receivable; stock dividend ledger, 1931-1934; and the financial reports of Mary (Bennett) Smith, William Alexander Smith's wife, and Bennett Dunlap Nelme, who, after 1926, were the legal guardians of William Alexander Smith.

Description taken from: Davis and Miller, Guide to the Cataloged Collections in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library, Duke University (1980).

Biographical / historical:

William Alexander Smith (1843-1934) was a textile manufacturer and businessman of Ansonville, North Carolina.

Acquisition information:
The William Alexander Smith Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as purchases from 1957 to 1966.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], William Alexander Smith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.