Harris and Faust Family Papers

Creator: Harris family. Foust family.
Collection: 5482
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Abstract: Members of the Harris and Foust families lived in Orange, Alamance, Chatham, Guilford, and Randolph counties, N.C. Thomas West Harris was graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1859. During the Civil War, he served in the 5th North Carolina Cavalry Regiment, after which he studied medicine in Paris and New York and then opened medical practices, first in eastern North Carolina, then in Chatham County, and later in Chapel Hill. He also served as the first dean and professor of anatomy, 1879-1885, of the University of North Carolina’s medical school. He married Sallie Maria Foust in 1865, and with her had five children, including Elizabeth who married Thomas R. Foust, superintendent of Guilford County schools, 1904-1941. The collection consists of correspondence, other papers, and photographs chiefly documenting the Harris and Foust families. Antebellum correspondence is largely between Isaac Holt Foust and daughter Sallie Maria Foust about routine matters and offering fatherly advice to Sallie at school. Post Civil War letters report daily happenings among Foust and Harris family members and include information about student life at the University of North Carolina. Some antebellum letters mention slaves, including buying and selling; after the war, some letters discuss African Americans. There is also a series of love letters exchanged by Thomas West Harris and Sallie Maria Foust Harris while he studied medicine in Paris and New York. Other papers (some photocopies and digital surrogates of materials not included in this collection) provide information about members of the Harris, Foust, Holt, and Steele families. Original documents include school materials from the 1850s; receipts from Paris; the Harris’s 1865 marriage license and related papers; an 1874 estate inventory; a scrapbook documenting the family history and career of Thomas R. Foust; and postcards and genealogical correspondence. Copied materials include letters with descriptions of camp life at Fort Fisher and Camp Lee; slave sales; mountain living near Asheville; attempted horse thievery by soldiers returning home in spring 1865; raising a regiment of black soldiers; and an 1899 Civil War reminiscence. Other copied materials concern Thomas West Harris’s military service and medical career and Reverend Robert J. Graves, a Presbyterian minister who was accused of spying for the Union. Also included are photocopies of cartes de visite, chiefly of Confederate generals and other public figures, and photographs, including daguerreotypes, tintypes, and cartes de visite, of Foust and Harris family members.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Some antebellum letters mention slaves, including buying and selling; after the war, some letters discuss African Americans.

An 1856 letter from Nancy Harris describes the accidental death of a female slave (Folder 2). In February 1859, Isaac Holt Foust wrote two letters in which he mentioned the death of a slave and the subsequent decision to adjust his workforce through buying and selling slaves (Folder 2).

In a 4 September 1865 letter, Thomas West Harris mentioned the possibility of relocating to northwest Texas, in part to be “removed from the intolerable presence of the negros,” but at the same time he feared that “Indians and the Jay hawkers seem to have things too much their own way out there just now.” (Folder 2). In a A 20 December 1866 letter, Sallie Maria Foust Harris described how her mother, Maria Foust, assisted with the birth of a baby by an African American woman (Folder 3).