M. A. Curtis papers, 1720-1950.

Creator: Curtis, M. A. (Moses Ashley), 1808-1872.
Collection number: 199
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Abstract: Moses Ashley Curtis was born in Stockbridge, Mass., and educated at Williams College in Massachusetts. After graduating, he became a tutor for the children of former Governor Edward Bishop Dudley in Wilmington, N.C., returning to Massachusetts in 1833 to study theology. He married Mary de Rosset in 1834, was ordained in 1835, and obtained a post to teach at the Episcopal school at Raleigh, N.C. He became rector of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Hillsborough, N.C., in 1841 and in charge of a parish at Society Hill, S.C., in 1847 before returning to the Protestant Episcopal Church at Hillsborough in 1857. He died in Hillsborough, in 1872. Besides his clerical and teaching duties, Curtis was also a noted mycologist. The collection contains the correspondence, papers, journals and notebooks, and scientific materials of M.A. Curtis, along with the correspondence of his wife Mary Jane DeRosset Curtis, their children, and members of the Curtis and DeRosset families, chiefly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Correspondence primarily consists of early DeRosset papers; letters from M.A. Curtis’s parents, Reverend Jared Curtis and Thankful Curtis, and his daughter, Caroline, to M.A. Curtis while at Williams College; correspondence between M.A. Curtis and Mary Jane DeRosset; letters from relatives of Mary Jane DeRosset Curtis of Wilmington, N.C., and Charleston, S.C.; letters from the Curtis childen while they were at school and as adults; letters from John H. Curtis while he was serving in the Confederate army; and scattered letters about activities of the Episcopal Church; letters to Curtis from other botanists, including Henry William Ravenel, Asa Gray, and M.J. Berkeley, primarily regarding fungi and related scientific topics. Topics are generally related to family news and daily life, along with some discussions of news and politics. Some letters mention slavery and particular slaves belonging to Curtis and DeRosset family members. Included is an 1841 letter discussing the trial of a man accused of murdering a slave, and letters, 1859-1860, discussing the dispersal of DeRosset family slaves after the death of Armand DeRosset. Later papers, 1873-1929, are family correspondence, papers relating to the disposition of Curtis’s scientific materials, and letters from Catherine Fullerton describing her travels and teaching experiences in Cuba, 1910-1919. Also included are diaries, botanical notes, school notebooks, sermons, photographs, and church music, as well as Curtis’s diary, 1830-1836 and undated, that contains descriptions of his life in Wilmington, N.C., and his employment as a tutor for the children of former Governor Edward Bishop Dudley.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: The collection includes comments on Dearest family slaves (1841-1842); a receipt for the sale of a slave (1846); letters discussing a Dearest family neighbor charged with murdering a slave and the white community’s outrage at the accused (1811); the acquisition of a preacher to minister to slaves (described as “a godless set”) (1841); and the reception of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in England (1853). Curtis’s personal diary contains entries that describe the panic and activities relating to the Nat Turner insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia, and the threat of an uprising in the vicinity of Wilmington, North Carolina (1831).