John Steele papers, 1716-1846.

Creator: Steele, John, 1764-1815.
Collection number: 689
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Abstract: John Steele of Rowan County, N.C., was a merchant; planter; banker; influential Federalist; U.S. representative, 1790-1792; state and federal Indian commissioner; U.S. comptroller of the currency, 1796-1802; major general of the militia; and member of the N.C.-S.C. boundary commission. He married Mary Nessfield of Fayetteville, N.C., and they had three daughters: Ann Nessfield Steele (d. 1804), Margaret Steele Ferrand (d. 1830), and Eliza Steele Macnamara (d. 1836). Mary managed family business interests after her husband’s death and cared for her granddaughters after their mother Margaret’s death. Included is considerable correspondence pertaining to politics and to the various North Carolina and national offices Steele held, including letters from William Blount, William Polk, William R. Davie, John Haywood, Wade Hampton, and Nathaniel Macon. Also well documented are soured relations between the U.S. and Great Britain leading to the War of 1812; Steele’s resignation as comptroller of the currency under Jefferson and problems within the Treasury Department; social life in Phildelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.; the N.C.-S.C. boundary survey; and horse breeding and racing. There are also papers pertaining to Steele’s activities as Salisbury, N.C., agent of the Bank of Cape Fear and to the building of his home there, books of accounts as Indian commisioner, and papers relating to merchandising. Prior to 1785, there are deeds, letters, business papers, and account books of Steele’s parents. After Steele’s death, there are family and business papers of his wife, children, and other relations, including members of the Ferrand and Macnamara families of Columbia, S.C. These relate primarily to female family members, and letters and school work of Steele’s daughters and granddaughters illuminate female education over two generations. There is also an 1835 letter written to Mary Steele by a family slave.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Correspondence includes information on Cressa, an enslaved woman hired out to a South Carolina man and subsequently returned because of her “misconduct” with the agent who hired her (1835) and the request of an enslaved man, Alfred Steele, to live in Raleigh so he might be close to his wife (1835). See Folder 71.

Also included are slave bills of sale (1716-1780) and tax papers listing Steele slaves by age and gender (1814). See Folders 82-95 and 140-141.