Peter Evans Smith papers, 1738-1944.

Creator: Smith, Peter Evans, 1829-1905.
Collection number: 677
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Abstract: Peter Evans Smith of Halifax County, N.c., civil and mechanical engineer, inventor, surveyor, cotton planter, and railroad employee. The collection includes personal and business correspondence, business papers, and various other records of Smith and his relatives. Much of the correspondence is about family matters, but many items relate to Smith’s inventions and patents, most of which, such as his electric buoy, were related to navigation, agriculture, and railroads. Other items concern Smith’s work on the Confederate ironclad “Albemarle”; navigation on the Roanoke River; planting and lumbering before, during, and after the Civil War; relations with African Americans as slaves, tenant farmers, and laborers; his work with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; his interests in Vine Hill Academy and the Episcopal Church in Scotland Neck, N.C.; and many other matters. There is also material relating to Smith’s daughter Lena, a schoolteacher who established the Cottage Home School in Scotland Neck after her deafness caused her to lose her teaching job. The collection also includes scrapbooks and commonplace books, photographs, clippings, bills, receipts, genealogical notes, and historical sketches, mostly of Civil War incidents and including regimental histories of the 1st and 3rd North Carolina Cavalry, by Smith and others. Also of note is a series of letters written during World War II from a woman missionary in China.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: The collection documents slaves, tenant farmers, and laborers. Antebellum correspondence mention runaway slaves, the hiring of slaves between 1822-1849, and information on the skills of particular slaves (See Folders 1 – 5)

The collection also contains slave lists, slave bills of sale, accounts for the hire of slaves, slave medical bills, and deeds of gift transferring ownership of slaves (1739-1865); accounts for items purchased for slaves (1865); labor contracts for freedmen (1866-1868); account books with information on slave hiring (1823-1831); and slave lists between 1858-1866 (See Folders 38-49; 59-62).

Included is a document presumably recording payment to a female slave “healer” for her medical services (16 January 1830) and two photographs of African Americans in Edwards Ferry, 1888, and at the Jamestown Exposition (See Folders 41 and Image Folders P-677/5 and 7).