Neal Family Papers, 1816-1916.

Creator: Neal family.
Collection number: 4370
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Abstract: Members of the Neal family and related Fox and Timberlake families, were planters, businessmen, and farmers in Franklin, N.C.; Fayette and Henderson counties, Tenn.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Hinds County, Miss.; Waxahachie, Tex.; and other areas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among them was Aaron Neal of Franklin County, N.C., who died in 1869. Correspondence and financial, legal, and other papers of Aaron Neal, his siblings, in-laws, and children, and other members of the Neal family. Most of the correspondence is from the antebellum era and consists primarily of letters from family members in the Old Southwest that describe to relatives in North Carolina the everyday problems associated with moving west, buying land and slaves, and establishing profitable cotton plantations. There are also letters from slaves in 1824 and 1834; an 1835 letter about a Mississippi slave uprising; and letters, 1857, to and from Nathan Neal, a student at the University of North Carolina. There are twelve letters from the Civil War years that describe camp life and combat experiences, mainly in the Virginia theater. Most postbellum letters pertain to late 19th-century farm life in North Carolina and to small-town life in Texas. Financial, legal, and other items date from both before and after the Civil War.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: In a letter dated 29 December 1826, written after he had moved to Fayette County, Tenn., James noted that his slaves sent their love to their mother and other family members back home in Franklin County (Folder 3).

An item of note is a letter dated 3 September 1827, from Sim Neal, who came to Tennessee as a slave of James, to his mother, brother, and sisters at the Aaron Neal plantation near Louisburg (Folder 4 ). Also included is a January 1827 letter Mary Timberlake wrote from Henderson County, Tenn., to her relatives in North Carolina about the trip west, the trials of homesteading, the construction of a house and barns, the condition of their family’s slaves, religion and camp meetings (Baptist and Presbyterian), local schools, and planting cotton and other crops (Folder 4) .

In a letter dated 15 April 1829, James told of his experiences while on a trip to New Orleans during the preceding several months; he mentioned observing blacks “much better treated … than I had expected”; selling a slave of “bad character”; and working as a clerk on a Mississippi River steamboat for a few months. James also discussed in his letter courtship among his slaves, unofficial slave marriages and a divorce, and the market prices of cotton and other crops (Folder 5 ).

In a letter dated 25 September 1835, Burrell Fox told of an uprising of slaves in Mississippi that ended with the hanging of five white men and three blacks in the town of Lexington. In other letters, Burrell wrote of flush times in Mississippi where land, slaves, and cotton crops brought premium prices. He also mentioned the effect of the environment in Mississippi on the health of whites and blacks; slave trading; and Texas and Santa Anna (Folder 8 )

An item of interest from this period is a letter dated 22 June 1834, from one of Burrell Fox’s slaves, Foxes Peney, to her ex-North Carolina master (Elizabeth Neal) and relatives. She was happy in Mississippi, but, nonetheless, was homesick for her former master and her relatives (Folder 7)

On 9 September 1857, Aaron wrote in detail about catching a neighbor’s slave stealing watermelons from his patch and punishing him on the spot by whipping him.Also in 1857, Nathan Neal wrote about the murder of one slave by another in Chapel Hill (Folder 13)

Among letters of note is one dated 27 September 1878, in which an African American religious revival in the neighborhood were mentioned (Folder 16 ).

A letter sent on 31 October 1885, briefly mentioned a relative seeking “radical office” who believed that the stock laws were “for nothing, but to oppress the poor whites peoples and negroes” (Folder 18)

In a letter dated 29 April 1889, the activities of a young black female pyromaniac were detailed and the existence of racial antipathies of Indians for blacks was noted (Folder 19).

A letter dated 4 December 1903 mentioned the yield of a African American sharecropper to a landowner and the leasing of farmland (Folder 20).