Matthew Smart Davis papers, 1851-1914.

Creator: Davis, Matthew Smart, 1830-1906.
Collection number: 4125
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Abstract: Matthew Smart Davis was born in Warren County, N.C., in 1830. He was graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1855 and married Sarah Louis Hill in 1856. He was principal of the Louisburg Male Academy, 1856-1881, and, for a number of years prior to 1880, he was also Franklin County superintendent to schools. From 1880 to 1896, he was chiefly involved in farming and serving as Franklin County treasurer. In 1896, he reorganized the Louisburg Female Academy (later Louisburg College) and served as its president until his death in 1906. School, financial, legal, and other materials relating to Davis and his school and farming career. School materials include items relating to Louisburg College (the former Louisburg Female Academy and College) and to the Louisburg Male Academy. Louisburg College materials include fire insurance policies, 1897-1906; an art teacher’s application for employment with recommendations attached, 1913; and a financial statement, 1914. Louisburg Male Academy materials include bills and receipts from bookstores, printers, and other merchants; a copy of the boarding house rules; a copy of the “Rules of Government of the Pupils”; closing exercises from the 1870s; and various grade books and assignment sheets. Financial materials relate chiefly to Davis’s farming and family activities. Legal materials relate to the 1879 Orange County libel suit between H. A. Foote and Blair Burwell for which Davis appears to have served as mediator, and to various estates that Davis administered, particularly that of W. H. Spencer. The Spencer materials are deeds and other financial items generated by Spencer during his lifetime and materials relating to the settlement of his estate as well as materials relating to Spencer’s duties as Franklin County superior court clerk, including many bills for court charges and other services. Also included are letters, report cards, and other items relating to Davis’s days at UNC and to his family in Warrenton, N.C., 1852- 1856; Davis’s appointment as principal, 1855, and exemption for military service, 1863; and his certificate of appointment as Franklin County justice of the peace, 1887.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: The bulk of the collection consists of letters written to Davis while he was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These discuss, among other topics, sicknesses among Davis slaves (1853) and neighborhood suspicion of a black woman who was accused of arson (1854). Folder 7 contains information on slave hires, 1861 – 1862. Folder 28 contains papers written by UNC Students in the 1850s and 1860s on various topics, including slavery.