for more info about this microfilm set go to the upa pubs American studies collections at Lexis-Nexis
Part 7: Phillips and Spencer Family Collections
The creation of history as a scholarly discipline has always depended on
the discovery, preservation, and accessibility of primary sources. Some of the
leading figures in the first generation of academic historians in the United
States spent much of their time and energy on this endeavor and in so doing
made possible the work of their colleagues who wrote monographs and general
histories. The inventions of microfilm and photocopying have vastly improved
access to such sources.
At any given time the prevailing conceptions of what is significant in the past will determine which sources are sought and valued. When politics and diplomacy are the center of historians' concern, government documents, treaties, newspapers, and correspondence of political leaders and diplomats will be collected and made accessible. When intellectual history is ascendant, the works of philosophers and reflective thinkers will be studied, analyzed, and discussed. Economic historians will look for records of trade, evidence of price fluctuations, conditions of labor, and other kinds of data originally collected for business purposes. The propensity of modern governments to collect statistics has made possible whole new fields for historical analysis.
In our own time social historians have flourished, and for them evidence of how people of all kinds have lived, felt, thought, and behaved is a central concern. Private diaries and personal letters are valued for the light they throw on what French historians label the mentalité of a particular time and place. The fact that such documents were usually created only for the writer, or for a friend or relative, gives them an immediacy not often found in other kinds of records. At best the writers tell us--directly or by implication--what they think and feel and do. Even the language and the allusions in such spontaneous expression are useful to the historian, whose inferences might surprise the writer could she know what was being made of her words.
This microfilm series focuses on a particular group (women) in a particular place (the South) in a particular time (the nineteenth century). The fact that many of these documents exist is a tribute to the work of several generations of staff members at the leading archives of the South such as the Southern Historical Collection at Chapel Hill, North Carolina; the William R. Perkins Library at Duke University; the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia; the South Caroliniana Library; the Lower Mississippi Valley Collection, Louisiana State University; the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary, Colonial Williamsburg; and several state historical societies. The legend of Southern Historical Collection founder J. G. DeRoulhac Hamilton who, in his effort to preserve the evidence of the southern past, traveled about in his Model A Ford knocking on doors, asking people to look in their attics and cellars for material, is well known. The result of his labors and those of his counterparts and successors is a vast collection that includes thousands of letters from women of all ages and hundreds of diaries or diary fragments. Only a small part of this material has been studied by professional historians. Some family collections cover decades, even several generations. Others are fragmentary: diaries begun in moments of enthusiasm and shortly abandoned; letters sporadically saved.
The years of the Civil War are particularly well documented, since many women were convinced that they were living through momentous historical events of which they should make a record. After the war ended and the "new South" began to take shape, other women wrote memoirs for their children and grandchildren, hoping to preserve forever their memories of a better time "before the war" or to record the sacrifices and heroism they had witnessed. The United Daughters of the Confederacy made a special effort to persuade women to record their wartime memories. In the best of circumstances--and each collection included in this edition was chosen precisely with this consideration in mind--the collections preserve the voices of one or more women through letters or diaries that cover many years.
Although women's letters to soldiers were often lost in the mud and carnage of battlefields, soldiers' letters were treasured and have survived in abundance. If it is true, as Virginia Woolf once wrote, that in writing a letter one tries to reflect something of the recipient, then these letters, too, may add to our understanding of the lives of women and families.1 Moreover so many of the soldiers' letters respond to women's questions, give hints or instructions on managing property, and allude to family life and routine at home, that they can be used to draw valid inferences about the activities of their female correspondents, even when the woman's side of the correspondence is altogether lost.
Seen through women's eyes, nineteenth-century southern social history takes on new dimensions. Subjects that were of only passing interest when historians depended on documents created by men now move to center stage. Women's letters dwell heavily on illness, pregnancy, and childbirth. From them we can learn what it is like to live in a society in which very few diseases are well understood, in which death is common in all age groups, and in which infant mortality is an accepted fact of life. A woman of forty-three, writing in 1851, observed that her father, mother, four sisters, three brothers, and two infants were all dead, and except for her father, none had reached the age of thirty-six.2
Slavery has been a central concern of southern historians, generally from the white male perspective. Seen through the eyes of plantation mistresses, the peculiar institution becomes even more complex. We can observe a few women searching their souls about the morality of the institution, and many more complaining bitterly about the practical burdens it places upon them. We can find mothers worrying about the temptations slave life offers to husbands and sons--and even occasionally expressing sympathy for the vulnerability of slave women. Some claim to be opposed to the institution but do not take any steps to free their own slaves. Others simply agonize. There is, unfortunately, no countervailing written record to enable us to see the relationship from the slaves' point of view.
Until late in the century the word feminism did not exist, and in the South "women's rights" were often identified with the hated antislavery movement. "Strong-minded woman" was a term of anathema. Even so we find antebellum southern women in their most private moments wondering why men's lives are so much less burdened than their own and why it is always they who must, as one woman wrote, provide the ladder on which a man may climb to heaven. Very early in the nineteenth century women's letters sometimes dwelt on the puzzling questions having to do with women's proper role. After the Civil War a Georgia diarist reflected, apropos the battle over black suffrage, that if anyone, even the Yankees, had given her the right to vote she would not readily give it up.3 As early as the 1860s a handful of southern women presented suffrage arguments to the state constitutional conventions. After 1865 a surprising number of women spoke out in favor of suffrage and a larger number were quiet supporters. There were, of course, equally ardent opponents, and until 1910 or so, organizing suffrage associations was uphill work. As one goes through these records, however, suffragists and advocates of women's rights emerge from the dim corners in which they tended to conceal themselves when they were alive.
The conventional view that southern women eschewed politics will not survive a close reading of these records. In 1808 one letter writer regretted the fact that a male literary society would have no more parties since she enjoyed listening to the men talk politics.4 As early as the 1820s there is evidence for women's participation in political meetings and discussions. Such involvement continued through the secession debates and the difficult days of reconstruction. A South Carolina memoir offers a stirring account of the role of women in the critical election of 1876.5 By the 1870s southern women were already using their church societies to carve out a political role, and by the end of the century they had added secular clubs, many of them focused on civic improvement.
Reading women's documents we can envision the kinds of education available to the most favored among them. Many women kept records of their reading and much of it was demanding: Plutarch's Lives, for example, or Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. A very young woman who recorded reading Humboldt's Kosmos, Milton's Paradise Lost, Madame De Stael's Corinne, and Guizot's History of Civilization was not altogether unique. Others castigated themselves for reading novels and resolved (sometimes over and over) to undertake more serious study. At the very beginning of the nineteenth century a young woman from southwest Virginia had gone to Williamsburg to school, presumably to a female academy or seminary.6 There are many examples of strenuous efforts at self-education, and in the privacy of their diaries some women admitted to a passionate longing for knowledge (reading clubs, for example, were described as "a peace offering to a hungry mind").7 Of course one of the limitations of sources such as these is precisely that they come principally from the minority who had some education. It is up to the perceptive historian to extrapolate from these documents to the poorer women, the slave women, and all those who seldom left a record at all. (There are occasional letters from slaves in these voluminous collections, but they are rare.)
Papers that cover a considerable period provide us with many real-life dramas. Courtship patterns and marriage and family experience emerge. We see the widow left with children to support as she tries various options to earn a living--and in some cases takes to drink to ease her burdens. We see the single woman cast on her own resources as she tries teaching or housekeeping for a widower to keep body and soul together. Single sisters of wives who died young were likely to wind up first taking care of the bereft children and then marrying the widower. Other single women bemoan their fate and reflect that it might be better to be dead than to live single. In the 1880s women of the Carter family took over the running of Shirley Plantation.8 Married or single, rich or poor, many women inadvertently reveal the socialization that has persuaded them that they should never complain, that they must be the burden bearers of family life.
Through the whole century, while the rest of the country was restlessly urbanizing, the South remained predominantly an agricultural society. Women's records allow us to see the boredom of rural life in which almost any bit of news, any adolescent wickedness, any youthful romance is subject for comment. We see also the profound religious faith that supported many women through poverty, childbirth, widowhood, and the other trials that filled their lives. The religious history of the Civil War emerges as we see faith challenged by defeat, and many women beginning to question things they had always believed.
No reader of these documents can any longer doubt that plantation women, in addition to supervising the work of slaves, worked very hard themselves. Depending on their level of affluence, women might take care of livestock and chickens, plant and harvest gardens, card, spin and weave, make quilts, sew clothes, and perform many other specific tasks. The Soldiers' Aid Societies that formed so quickly after secession rested on just these skills developed in the previous years.
One of the most interesting aspects of southern culture that emerges from papers such as these is the views women and men had of each other. No matter how much a woman admired any particular man, she often viewed men in general with extreme skepticism and sometimes with outright bitterness. Men were often described as selfish, authoritarian, profligate, given to drinking too much, and likely to judge women as a class, not in terms of their individual attributes. Many women found their economic dependence galling. In spite of the rather general chafing at the confines of patriarchy, individual women were devoted to and greatly admired their own husbands, sons, and fathers. Women who traveled spoke with admiration of the independence exhibited by northern women (this both before and after the Civil War). Discontent with their own lot included a good deal of private railing against constant childbearing and the burdens of caring for numerous children.
The concept of a woman's culture is borne out by much of what can be read here. Women frequently assume that they say and feel things that only other women can understand.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of this microfilm publication. Historians of women have been making use of many of these collections for three decades or more. Now it is gradually becoming clear that they are useful to the student of almost any aspect of southern culture and society. In a recent example, Clarence Mohr, writing about slavery in Georgia, realized that women's records were virtually his only source for testing the well-established southern myth that all slaves had been docile, helpful workers when men went to war and left their wives and children to supervise plantations. Years earlier Bell Irwin Wiley had suggested that the story was more complicated than that, but it did not occur to him to look for evidence in women's papers. The description of such docility never seemed reasonable, but it was believed by many people, even some who had every reason to know better. In a close examination of women's diaries and letters, Mohr found a quite different picture, one of slaves who, when the master departed, became willful and hard to direct and who gave the mistress many causes for distress. To be sure, they did not often murder families in their beds, but they became lackadaisical about work, took off without permission, talked back, and ran away to the Yankees when opportunity presented itself. They made use of all the thousand and one ways of expressing the frustration bondsmen and women must always feel.9
Wartime documents are revealing in other ways. We can see rumors flying, as victories and defeats were created in the mind, not on the battlefield. We sense the tension of waiting for word from men in the army. We see the women gradually losing faith that God will protect them from the invaders. For some, religion itself is called in question by the experience of invasion and defeat.
As we move into the remaining decades of the nineteenth century, these records allow us to trace some of the dramatic social changes of the postwar world. In one family we see a member of the generation of post-Civil War single women earning her living in a variety of ways and then beginning a full-time career as a teacher at the age of fifty-eight. She continued to teach well into her eighth decade. This particular set of papers is especially valuable since it goes through three generations--a wonderful exposition of social change as revealed in the lives of women.10
We must be struck by the number of men in the immediate postwar years who chose suicide over the challenges of creating a new society without slaves. In records from the second half of the century we can see lynching from the white perspective, observe the universal experience of adolescence, watch the arrival of rural free delivery of mail and the coming of the telephone, and many other evidences of change. Reading these personal documents the historian may be reminded of Tolstoy's dictum that all happy families are alike, while unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way. One may be tempted to revise the aphorism to say that every family is sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy--the balance between the two states makes for a satisfactory or unsatisfactory life. Reading family papers one may also be forcefully reminded of Martha Washington, writing about the difficulties she faced as first lady. She was, she said, "determined to be cheerful and to be happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."11
From the larger perspective of the social historian, records such as these will help us develop a more comprehensive picture of life as it was experienced by the literate part of the southern population over a century. They help us understand the intricate interaction of individual lives and social change. We can see the world through eyes that perceive very differently from our own and understand better the dramatic shifts in values that have occurred in the twentieth century. Like any other historical data these must be used with care, with empathy, with detachment, and with humility. But given those conditions they will add significantly to our understanding of a world that in one sense is dead and gone, and in another sense lives on in the hearts and minds and behavior patterns of many southern people.
Anne Firor Scott
W. K. Boyd Professor of History
1Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmen, eds. The Letters of
Virginia Woolf, Vol. IV: 1929-1931 (New York and London: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1979), p. 98. "It is an interesting question--what one tries to do,
in writing a letter--partly of course to give back a reflection of the other
2Anne Beale Davis Diary, February 16, 1851, Beale-Davis Papers,
Southern Historical Collection.
3Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas Diary, November 2, 1868, William R.
Perkins Library, Duke University.
4Jane C. Charlton to Sarah C. Watts, Sarah C. Watts Papers, Swem
Library, College of William and Mary.
5Sally Elmore Taylor Memoir, Franklin Harper Elmore Papers, Southern
6Sarah C. Watts Papers.
7Hope Summerell Chamberlain, "What's Done and Past," unpublished
autobiography, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University.
8Shirley Plantation Papers, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
9Clarence L. Mohr, On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and
Slaves in Civil War Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986).
10Mary Susan Ker Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
11John P. Riley, "The First Family in New York." Mount Vernon Ladies
Association Annual Report, 1989, p. 23.
Note on Sources
The collections microfilmed in this edition are holdings of the
Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, Academic Affairs
Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North
Carolina 27599. The descriptions of the collections provided in this user guide
are adapted from inventories compiled by the Southern Historical Collection.
The inventories are included among the introductory materials on the
2Anne Beale Davis Diary, February 16, 1851, Beale-Davis Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
3Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas Diary, November 2, 1868, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University.
4Jane C. Charlton to Sarah C. Watts, Sarah C. Watts Papers, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
5Sally Elmore Taylor Memoir, Franklin Harper Elmore Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
6Sarah C. Watts Papers.
7Hope Summerell Chamberlain, "What's Done and Past," unpublished autobiography, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University.
8Shirley Plantation Papers, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
9Clarence L. Mohr, On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986).
10Mary Susan Ker Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
11John P. Riley, "The First Family in New York." Mount Vernon Ladies Association Annual Report, 1989, p. 23.
Historical maps microfilmed among the introductory materials are courtesy of
the Map Collection of the Academic Affairs Library of the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. Maps consulted include:
Andrees Allgemeiner, Handatlas, 1899;
Thomas G. Bradford, Comprehensive Atlas, 1835;
J. H. Colton, General Atlas, 1870; and
S. Augustus Mitchell, "A New Map of Kentucky," 1846.
The reel indexes for this edition provide the user with a
of each collection. Each précis provides information on family history
and many business and personal activities documented in the collection.
Omissions from the microfilm edition are noted in the précis and on the
Following the précis, the reel indexes itemize each file folder and manuscript volume. The four-digit number to the left of each entry indicates the frame number at which a particular document or series of documents begins.
A subject index, which is keyed to the information provided in the reel indexes for Parts 1-3, appears at the end of the user guide.
Researchers should note that significant other papers and diaries of southern women are included in UPA's microfilm edition of Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War and Women's Studies Manuscript Collections from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series 1: Woman Suffrage, Part C: The South. Subsequent parts of Southern Women and Their Families in the 19th Century: Papers and Diaries: Series A, Holdings of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will extend to other regions of the South.
Other Introductory Material
Charles Phillips Papers, 1763-1968,
Orange and Richmond Counties, North Carolina; also New Jersey
Description of the Collection
The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between various members of the related Phillips, Russell, and Vermeule families, and of the writings of Lucy Phillips Russell and her mother, Laura Battle Phillips. Early items, primarily 1841-1861, consist mostly of letters to Laura Battle Phillips from her friends at the Murat school in New Jersey, especially from sisters Caroline Murat and Jane Fraser.
The collection is arranged as follows: Series 1. Correspondence--Subseries 1.1: 1801-1861, Subseries 1.2: 1862-1899, Subseries 1.3: 1900-1962, and Subseries 1.4: Vermeule Family Letters; Series 2. Property Papers; Series 3. Writings--Subseries 3.1: Laura Battle Phillips, Subseries 3.2: Lucy Phillips Russell, and Subseries 3.3: Miscellaneous; Series 4. Other Papers; Series 5. Volumes; and Series 6. Pictures.
Charles Phillips (1822-1889) was the son of James and Julia Vermeule Phillips of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina in 1841; a tutor, 1844-1854; professor of mathematics, 1854-1868 and 1875-1879; and professor emeritus, 1879-1889. He taught at Davidson College from 1868-1874.
Cornelia Phillips (1825-1908), daughter of James and Julia Vermeule Phillips, married James Munroe Spencer in 1855 and went with him to Alabama. At his death in 1861, she and her daughter, Julia James "June" Spencer, came back to Chapel Hill. In the years following the Civil War, Cornelia P. Spencer was instrumental in rallying public support for the University of North Carolina, particularly after its second closing in 1870. During her last years, she lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her daughter and son-in-law.
Laura Caroline Battle Phillips (1824-1919) was born at "the Falls of the Tar River," now Rocky Mount. She was the youngest child of Joel Battle and his wife, Mary "Pretty Polly" Johnston Battle. From 1839 to 1841, she attended a boarding school in Bordentown, New Jersey, conducted by Lucien Murat (son of Joachim Murat and Caroline Bonaparte) with the assistance of his wife, the former Caroline Fraser of Charleston, South Carolina, and her sisters, Eliza, Jane, and Harriet. After Laura left the school, she corresponded with Caroline Murat and Jane Fraser until 1861. Laura Battle was married to Professor Charles Phillips on 8 December 1847 at the Battle home in Chapel Hill. Their children included sons William and Alexander and daughters Mary and Lucy. After Phillips's death in 1889, Laura went to live near her son, William B. Phillips, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Lucy Plummer Phillips Russell (1862-1962) was the daughter of Charles and Laura Battle Phillips. As a school teacher in Rockingham, North Carolina, she met Moses H. Russell, a Rockingham merchant, and they were married in 1883. Their children included son Charles Phillips Russell and daughter Susan Russell Crosland.
Charles Phillips Russell (b. 1884) graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1904. He was a journalist in New York and London throughout the 1920s, an author, and a professor of English and journalism at UNC after 1931.
Series 1. Correspondence, 1801-1962 and Undated
Subseries 1.1: 1801-1861 This subseries consists chiefly of letters, 1839-1841, from Laura Caroline Battle to her mother, Mary "Polly" Johnston Battle, written while she was at the Murats' school in New Jersey; and letters, 1842-1861, to Laura Battle Phillips from friends she made at school, including Jane Fraser and her sister, Caroline Murat, who ran the school. (Typed transcriptions of some of these letters are in subseries 3.1.) There are also a number of letters to Laura B. Phillips from other students at the school, including Antonia Avenu and Zenobia Lucca of Puerto Rico. Letters from Jane Fraser concern the affairs of the school and the Murat and Fraser families in New Jersey and, after 1849, in France.
Also included are a letter, 1801, from Joel Battle to his future father-in-law, Amos Johnston; a letter, 1834, from Christopher Columbus Battle to his mother, Polly Johnston Battle; letters, 1847, from Christopher C. Battle, in Mexico with the U.S. Army, to his sister Laura and to Charles Phillips, regarding the engagement of Laura and Charles; and letters, 1853, to Laura Battle Phillips from her husband, Charles Phillips, who was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Subseries 1.2: 1862-1899 and Undated This series includes correspondence of various members of the Phillips family, including letters, 1870-1899, from Cornelia Phillips Spencer to her sister-in-law, Laura Battle Phillips; letters, 1862-1889, from Charles Phillips to his wife, Laura Battle Phillips and to their daughters, Lucy and Mary, from the Phillips home in Chapel Hill and from the Presbyterian Hospital in New York; letters, 1890-1899, from Alexander and William B. Phillips in Alabama and Tennessee to their mother, Laura Battle Phillips, and to their sister, Lucy Phillips Russell; and correspondence, 1889-1899, between Laura B. Phillips, in Birmingham, Alabama, and her daughter, Lucy P. Russell, in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Also included are a few letters, chiefly 1887-1889, from Reid Russell to his stepmother, Lucy P. Russell, and to his father, M. H. Russell, written while Reid was a student at the Virginia Military Institute.
Subseries 1.3: 1900-1962 and Undated This subseries includes correspondence of various members of the Russell family, consisting primarily of letters from Charles Phillips Russell writing to his mother, Lucy P. Russell. Included are letters, 1900-1904, from Phillips Russell at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was editor of the University Magazine published by the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies; letters, 1906-1908, from Russell in New York, where he was working at McClure's Magazine; and letters, 1914-1925, from Russell in La Haye, Paris, and London, where he was a journalist and an advertising representative for Printer's Ink Publications. Included with these letters are many clippings, mostly reviews of Russell's biographies of Benjamin Franklin and John Paul Jones and of his other works. In one letter in 1925 to his sister, Susan R. Crosland, Russell enclosed a book of his poems, titled Flowings.
Also included are letters, 1920, from Lucy Phillips Russell to her daughter, Susan, and to the Rockingham, North Carolina, Post-Dispatch, describing in detail a trip to Europe with her son, Phillips Russell, and his wife, Phyllis Russell. There are a number of scattered letters from other members of the Russell family, chiefly to Lucy Phillips Russell from her grandchildren, Leon, Claire, and Avery Russell.
Subseries 1.4: Vermeule Family Letters, 1868-1957 This subseries includes family letters to E. C. Vermeulen of Philadelphia and other letters relating to the Vermeule(n) family, relatives of the Phillipses.
Series 2. Property Papers, 1885-1968
This series consists of property papers, 1885, 1887, and 1910, relating to the house and lot at 516 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, transferred in 1887 from Charles and Laura Battle Phillips and many other Phillipses to Joseph A. Holmes; from Holmes to Mrs. Fannie MacRae in June 1907; and from Mrs. MacRae to Charles Herty in June 1910. In 1968, the property was owned by Mrs. C. T. Woollen, who inherited it from her sister, Nellie Roberson.
Series 3. Writings, 1763-1944 and Undated
Subseries 3.1: Laura Battle Phillips, 1841-1909 This subseries includes three drafts of Laura B. Phillips's reminiscences, written when she was eighty-five, about her school days in New Jersey. Included in the reminiscences are information about the Murat and Fraser families in America and in France and typed transcriptions of letters sent to Laura Phillips by Jane Fraser, Caroline Murat, and various students at the school. (Originals of these letters are in subseries 1.1.)
Subseries 3.2: Lucy Phillips Russell, 1915-1944 and Undated This subseries includes various writings of Lucy Phillips Russell, including reminiscences; articles; a short story entitled "Eagle's Feather"; a speech on "How Our Bible Came to Us," given to the North Carolina Branch of the King's Daughters and Sons; and several handwritten drafts and typescripts of her autobiography, A Rare Pattern.
Subseries 3.3: Miscellaneous, 1763-1802 and Undated This subseries includes writings by various authors, including a poem labeled "Verses spoke at Oxford by his grace the Duke of Beaufort, 1763"; two copies of an address, in rhymed couplets, of Captain Cornelius Vermeule of the First Regiment of Somerset Brigade, New Jersey, delivered at his resignation of command in 1802; "Some Revolutionary Incidents in the Raritan Valley," by Cornelius C. Vermeule; and "The Shades of Marie Antoinette," by Hatabel Heyer.
Series 4. Other Papers, 1861-1868 and Undated
This series includes genealogical notes on the Vermeule family and ancestry of Charles Phillips; obituaries for James Spencer, Adrian Vermeule, and Lucy Phillips Russell; a tribute to James Phillips that appeared in Wilson's Presbyterian Almanac of 1868; clippings, mostly of articles by or about Lucy P. Russell or Charles Phillips Russell; and miscellaneous items, including patterns for knitting baby booties, a catalog of the Exhibit of the Prince Achille Murat Collection, and a mailing label from A. Meneely's Sons, Bell Founders.
Series 5. Volumes, 1861-1888 and Undated
This series includes five volumes.
Volume 1: 1879?-1888. Classbook of Professor Charles Phillips, containing names of pupils and mathematics examination grades, and several personal memoranda, 1884-1885, 1888.
Volume 2: Undated. Notebook. Copies of selected Murat letters and Laura B. Phillips reminiscences, as dictated to her daughter, Lucy P. Russell.
Volume 3: Undated. Notebook. Battle genealogy, Murat family information, and poetry in the handwriting of Lucy P. Russell.
Volume 4: Undated. Scrapbook. Clippings of articles by and about Lucy P. Russell.
Volume 5: The pulpit hymn book of James Phillips, given to him in 1861 by his son, Samuel F. Phillips, who inscribed it in the name of his two-year-old son John. The volume contains notes by James Phillips and his daughter, Cornelia Phillips Spencer.
Series 6. Pictures, 1855-1959 and Undated
This series includes ninety-five items numbered sequentially.
Images P-2462/1-8 were numbered previously, probably by Phillips. Brief notes concerning the individuals in P-2462/1-5, 7-8 are filed with the pictures. The previously numbered picture 6 is missing.
N.B. Related collections among the holdings of the Southern Historical Collection include the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Papers, which is included in this microfilm edition, and the Charles Phillips Russell Papers.
Cornelia Phillips Spencer Papers, 1830-1975,
Orange County, North Carolina; also Alabama and Massachusetts
Description of the Collection
Almost half of these papers are letters between Cornelia Phillips Spencer and various relatives and friends. Most of the rest of the items are volumes of Cornelia Phillips Spencer and her father, James Phillips--journals, class lectures, and scrapbooks--and copies of writings by Cornelia Phillips Spencer collected from other manuscript groups in the Southern Historical Collection and other sources.
Writings and correspondence include discussions of daily life in Chapel Hill, 1862-1894, the University of North Carolina's struggles during Reconstruction, and miscellaneous personal and family matters.
There are also pictures of friends and relatives of Cornelia Phillips Spencer.
Cornelia Ann Phillips was born 20 March 1825 in Harlem, New York, the daughter of James Phillips (1792-1867) and Judith Vermeule Phillips (1796-1881). In 1826 Dr. Phillips became professor of mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where he taught until his death in 1867. Cornelia grew up in Chapel Hill, and was educated in Latin, Greek, French, and all forms of literature (of which she was especially fond), as well as music, drawing, and needlework.
On 20 June 1855, Cornelia Phillips Spencer married James Monroe ("Magnus") Spencer (1827-1861), a lawyer and alumnus of the UNC class of 1853. In 1859, four years after the couple had settled in Clinton, Alabama, Cornelia Phillips Spencer gave birth to a daughter Julia ("June") James Spencer.
In June 1861, James Monroe Spencer died after a long illness. Several months later, Cornelia Phillips Spencer yielded to her father's pleas to return to Chapel Hill. Here, shortly after the Civil War, she began to make her mark as a writer. In 1866, at the encouragement of her friend, former Governor and UNC President David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), she published her first work, The Last Ninety Days of the War. In 1869 she wrote Pen and Ink Sketches of the University of North Carolina, and from 1870-1876 wrote a weekly "Young Ladies' Column" for The Presbyterian. Her frequent articles and letters to editors and state leaders played an important role in the reopening of UNC in 1875, and in campaigns for other causes such as the founding of the University Normal School.
In 1894, Cornelia Phillips Spencer moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to live with her daughter, June, whose husband, James Lee Love (1860-1950) was a professor of mathematics at Harvard. One year later she was awarded an honorary degree by UNC, the first such degree given to a woman by the university.
Cornelia Phillips Spencer died 11 March 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Correspondence, 1839-1975 and Undated
This series consists chiefly of personal and family letters to and from Cornelia Phillips Spencer, concerning a variety of topics. Much of the correspondence is with Cornelia Phillips Spencer's daughter, June, and her sister-in-law, Laura Battle Phillips (Mrs. Charles Phillips). Much of the earlier material (1866-1883) concerns friends and neighbors in Chapel Hill and the turbulent affairs of the university during Reconstruction.
From April to October 1884, there are letters to her mother from June Spencer, who was traveling and studying in England and Germany. (See the container list for typescripts of these letters as published in The Presbyterian.)Over one-third of the correspondence is dated 1890-1894 and consists of letters between June Spencer Love, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Cornelia Phillips Spencer. The letters concern various aspects of life in Chapel Hill and Cambridge: activities of friends and relatives, the pregnancy and stillbirth experienced by June in March 1891, faculty members at UNC and Harvard, and the domestic affairs of both families.
Much of the rest of the correspondence consists of routine family and personal letters, many of which were written by Cornelia Phillips Spencer to Laura and Charles Phillips. Other items include letters from Robert Lamar Beall (d.1891), 1866-1867, and from Edward Joseph Hale (1839-1922), 1866. Charles Force Deems (1820-1893) wrote several letters to Cornelia Phillips Spencer in 1866 concerning her book, The Last Ninety Days of the War. Cornelia Phillips Spencer's father, James Phillips (1792-1867), wrote a few letters to his daughter, 1856-1863, and there are also letters from North Carolina Governor Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), 1865-1872.
Finally, there are a few letters not involving Cornelia Phillips Spencer: a brief correspondence between James Phillips and the Reverend Alexander Wilson, 1839-1844, and an exchange of letters (apparently contemporary copies) between Governor Zebulon B. Vance and General William T. Sherman, discussing the surrender of the city of Raleigh.
Financial Material, 1874-1883
This small series consists of three items: a receipt for payment by Cornelia Phillips Spencer to the Chapel Hill post office, personal accounts of Cornelia Phillips Spencer for March 1878, and a bill for art supplies bought by June Spencer.
Writings, 1850-1895 and Undated
Most items are typescripts of June Spencer's "Letters of a Young Lady from the Old World," which were published in 1884 in The Presbyterian. There are also miscellaneous handwritten pieces by Cornelia Phillips Spencer--songs, poems, memorials, essays, and notes. The group includes two fairly long items entitled, "North Carolina: `The Old North State,'" and "South Carolina: `The Palmetto State.'" (See also the series Typed Copies, Volumes and Printed Material.)
Printed Material, 1833-1937 and Undated
Chiefly clippings and photocopies of clippings about, by, or collected by Cornelia Phillips Spencer and her family. There is also an incomplete list of installments of the "Young Ladies' Column," published in The Presbyterian, 1870-1876.
Included too are printed songs written by Cornelia Phillips Spencer in honor of special university occasions, a commencement program, a memorial to Cornelia Phillips Spencer's brother, Samuel Field Phillips, and a copy of "Professor Hedrick's Case."
Other Material, 1844-1912 and Undated
Photocopies of book pages annotated by Cornelia Phillips Spencer, memorials and biographical sketches about Cornelia Phillips Spencer, an obituary of James Phillips, an anonymous work entitled "Notes on Stoneman's Raid," a copy of the will of Rutgers V. Cadmus, notes on Cornelia Phillips Spencer correspondence written by Cornelia Spencer Love, a genealogy of the Vermeule-Phillips-Lucas family, and miscellaneous enclosures.
Volumes, 1830-1942 and Undated
This series consists of eighty-two volumes. Volumes are chiefly journals and personal writings of Cornelia Phillips Spencer and lecture notes of James Phillips, professor of mathematics at UNC. Volumes 1-14 are Cornelia Phillips Spencer Volumes. Volumes 15-70 are James Phillips Volumes. Volumes 71-75 are Scrapbooks. Volumes 76-81 are Other Volumes.
Nine volumes consist partly or entirely of journal entries, 1853-1908. Entries were made almost daily for some periods, notably 1882-1907, and less frequently for others. Few entries are longer than one page. Subjects are chiefly Cornelia Phillips Spencer's daily activities and her commentary on them. Literary quotations and citations are frequent. There are several scrapbooks that contain miscellaneous collected published writings, some of which were written by Cornelia Phillips Spencer.
Volume 81 is actually a bibliographical card index of published (and a few unpublished) writings by Cornelia Phillips Spencer. This index probably is not exhaustive. It was prepared in conjunction with James Lee Love's typing project (see Typed Copies series).
Typed Copies, 1839-1919
This series comprises twenty bound volumes of collected writings of Cornelia Phillips Spencer, gathered from various periodical and manuscript sources and typed in 1949-1950 for James Lee Love, son-in-law of Cornelia Phillips Spencer. These volumes are designated (TC). (Note: Folder citations in the typed copies are no longer accurate.)
Pictures, c. 1850-1918 and Undated
Although chiefly photographs of Cornelia Phillips Spencer and her relatives, including her parents, her daughter, and her grandchildren, James Spencer Love and Cornelia Spencer Love, there are also pictures of friends and acquaintances, mostly cartes-de-visite. Special format photographs, such as daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, are designated (SF).
There are also about one hundred photographs from a dismantled photograph album and several floral and foliage paintings done from life by Cornelia Phillips Spencer. Picture inventory, all under the accession number P-683, was compiled by Linda M. Griggs, July 1983.
Disassembled photograph album
N.B. This album, consisting of about eighty-four images, has been dismantled in order to prevent further deterioration of the photographs due to water damage. The images have been kept in the exact order in which they were placed in the album, and numbered accordingly, i.e., images 1a-1b appeared on page 1 of the album, and so forth.
The photographs (five tintypes, seventy-five cartes-de-visite, one reproduction of original tintype) are chiefly portraits of relatives, friends, and acquaintances of Cornelia Phillips Spencer. Images are cartes-de-visite unless otherwise noted.
A list of omissions from the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Papers, 1833-1975, is provided on Reel 29, Frame 0749, and consists of Folders 102-153, Louis Round Wilson Typed Transcriptions. Descriptions of omitted materials may be found in the original inventory microfilmed among the Introductory Materials to this collection.
N.B. Related collections among the holdings of the Southern Historical Collection include the Cornelia Spencer Love Papers, the James Lee Love Papers, the James Spencer Love Papers, and the Charles Phillips Papers (included in this edition). Another collection of Cornelia Phillips Spencer Papers is among the holdings of the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
For additional information see The Woman Who Rang The Bell, by Charles Phillips Russell (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1949); Old Days in Chapel Hill, by Hope Summerell Chamberlain (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1926); and Selected Papers [of Cornelia Phillips Spencer], edited by Louis Round Wilson (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1953).