Pettigrew family papers, 1685-circa 1939.

Creator: Pettigrew family.
Collection number: 592
View finding aid.

Abstract: Represented are four generations of the Pettigrew family of Washington and Tyrrell counties, N.C. Prominent family members included James Pettigrew (d. 1784), who emigrated from Scotland, eventually settling in Charleston, S.C., where the family name was changed to Petigru; James’s son, Charles Pettigrew (1744-1807), Anglican minister, and Charles’s son, Ebenezer Pettigrew (1783-1848), state legislator, who established plantations in eastern North Carolina; and Ebenezer’s children, including Charles Lockhart Pettigrew (1816-1873), planter; William S. Pettigrew (1818-1900), politician and Episcopal minister; and James Johnston Pettigrew (1828-1863), lawyer and Confederate Army officer; and James Louis Petigru, lawyer of Charleston, S.C. Business and personal correspondence reflecting the varied interests and activities of Pettigrew family members, including the involvement of Charles and his grandson William in the Anglican and Episcopal churches; the development and management of Bonarva, Belgrade, and Magnolia plantations by Ebenezer Pettigrew, sometimes in cooperation with family friend James Cathcart Johnston of Edenton, N.C., including unsuccessful efforts by the family to hold onto the plantations after the Civil War; slavery, especially William’s use of slaves as overseers (some letters from slaves are included); Charles’s involvement in the founding of the University of North Carolina and his sons’ attendance there; family life, including the education of children at the University of North Carolina and elsewhere; the evacuation of the plantations after the capture of Roanoke Island in 1862; James Johnston Pettigrew’s travels to Charleston, Spain and elsewhere in Europe, and Cuba; reestablishment of ties with the Charleston Petigrus that was formalized with the marriage of Charles Lockhart Pettigrew and his cousin Jane Caroline North; and the general decline of family fortunes after the Civil War despite the efforts of Jane Caroline North Pettigrew to hold onto land and other assets. Included are letters of Henry Clay, 1841-1842. Financial records document purchases for family and plantation use and educational expenses and include slave lists. Writings consist mainly of travel diaries, especially of James Johnston Pettigrew; some religious works; poems and acrostics by slave poet George Moses Horton; and other items. School materials consist of notebooks and other items. Commonplace books concern women’s activities and current events. William’s Episcopal Church materials relate to his service at various North Carolina churches and include journals of parochial visits; registers of salary, offerings, baptisms, burials, etc.; records of sermons delivered; and records of church-related expenses. Genealogical materials include information

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights:  The correspondence series contains information on the slave trade from the late 1700s and throughout the mid-1800s. This includes Charles Pettigrew’s attitude towards slavery as well as the sale of enslaved people (1802-1804; see Folder 8 ) and views on using slaves as overseers  in a 9 January 1849 letter (Folder 131). William Pettigrew also wrote letters on behalf of enslaved individuals, including one such letter from 31 October 1850.

Some of the material in this collection has been digitized and is available online. Click here to  link to the finding aid for the collection and to access the digitized content.

There are several letters beginning in 4 November 1852 that relate to the selling of a rebellious slave, as well other general letters  (Folders 152-159). There are also letters from enslaved overseers to William Pettigrew during the late 1850s, discussing conditions on the plantation, as well as a letter from June 1858 describing conditions in Liberia.

During the Civil War, there are numerous letters dealing with the Pettigrews moving their slaves from Chatham County into central North Carolina. There are also letters written or  dictated from enslaved individuals about being hired out as laborers in Raleigh during this time (Folders 238-273).

There are also legal and financial papers concerning the purchase of slaves, slave lists and accounts with slaves, and writings by slaves and on the topic of the slave trade. See Subseries 2.1.1 for information on the purchases of enslaved individuals, as well as 2.1.2.

Folders 474, 475, 479, 481-484, and 486 contains volumes that include lists of enslaved individuals as well as provisions. Subseries 2.2.2 also contains several volumes with slaves lists as well.

Folder 529 also contains a Minority report to the South Carolina General Assembly on the slave trade, 1857 (47 pp.), and includes a summary of arguments against the resumption of the foreign slave trade.

Folders 3 and 4 also contain discussion’s of Charles Pettigrew’s journey to Haiti to purchase enslaved individuals.

There are several letters that relate to Peter, an enslaved man owned by Charles Pettigrew. In October 1861, Peter was sent to serve Charle’s brother, Brigadier General James Johnson Pettigrew, in the Confederate Army. Letters from 1 October and 2 October 1861 describe Peter as being “well acquainted with horses, is a capable servant in many respects; he can make clothes and is a first rate nurse” (Folders 238-249).

For additional information on Peter see the online exhibition

“North Carolina and the Civil War: They Were There”:

The letters from October 1 and 2 have been digitized and are available on the Southern Historical Collection’s “Civil War Day by Day” blog: