Speculation Land Company Records

New York-based speculator Tench Coxe (1755-1824) came into possession of 400,000 acres of land in North Carolina following the Revolutionary War, much of it purchased from the Rutherford Land Company in North Carolina in 1791, and established the Speculation Land Company to manage and sell the acreages. The Speculation Land Company was one of the largest land owners in southwestern North Carolina from the eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, owning thousands of acres in Buncombe, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford, and Mecklenburg counties. Later owners and trustees included Pierre Etienne DuPonceau and Abraham Kintzig, Isaac Bronson and Goold Hoyt, James J. Hoyt, William G. Ward, John Ward, William Redmond, Jr., Francis Randall, Francis M. Scott, David A. Thompson, George Willett Van Nest and William Redmond Cross. The local agents were based in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Many of the claims were handled by Company Agent Joshua Forman in the nineteenth century and a number of the surveying records were created by the Justice family. By 1910 over 927 deeds had been distributed by the company. In 1913 the descendants of the original Speculation Land Company sued for changes in the distribution of the proceeds. The Speculation Land Company was dissolved in 1930.

Image found in the top corner of map signed "William Prince" within AC.104: Speculation Land Company Records, 1768-1992, undated.

The Gragg House

According to local memory the Gragg House was constructed some time in the mid-19th Century by Burton and Finley Gragg. The house is notable architecturally for its design, as evidenced in A Guide to the Historic Architecture of North Carolina:

"The carefully hewn timbers are of exceptional width and joined tightly with full-dovetailed corner notches so that daubing was unnecessary." (218)

Top image of Leonard Gragg in front of the home, second and third images unidentified. Photographs are within AC.115: Southern Appalachian Historical Association Records.

John Alexander Williams Papers

The recently processed AC.829: John Alexander Williams Papers consists of research materials, publications, and ephemera compiled by Dr. John Alexander Williams. The collection includes copies of materials dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, copies of academic articles and book chapters, course materials, correspondence, and photographs.

John Alexander Williams [born 1938] received his doctorate in history from Yale University in 1966, having studied with the eminent American historian, C. Vann Woodward. He taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago before joining the Department of History at West Virginia University in 1972. He came to Appalachian State University as a Professor of History in 1989. Williams directed the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State for seven years. He is the author of West Virginia and the Captains of Industry, West Virginia: A History, Appalachia: A History, and co-author of Sinking Columbus: Contested History, Cultural Politics, and Mythmaking During the Quincentenary. Many of the research materials for Appalachia: A History are contained within this collection.

Image of the site of Fort Chiswell,  once an important trading and military outpost on the Virginia frontier. Much of the original fort now lies under the junction of Interstates 81 and 77. From AC.829 John Alexander Williams Papers.

Snapshot: Fleetwood School

From an unlabeled newsclipping:

FLEETWOOD HIGH SCHOOL HAD MANY OUTSTANDING GRADUATING CLASSES. Here is the group which graduated in 1921, the members of which many people will know: left to right, Raymond Luther, Earl Johnston and James O. Goodman, teacher; both now deceased. Athel Phillips, Wick Vannoy, Inez Howell, Ethel Moretz, Eugenia Johnston, Ruth Moretz, Hazel Phillips, Mable Blackburn, Lucy Greene, Mae Miller and Gaynell Phillips.

From 861: Blackburn Farms Collection


"I have this day agreed to go to the army..."

These letters confirm Private Richmond Hayes' hiring of a replacement to serve in Company E of the 58th North Carolina Regiment of Infantry. They acknowledge Hayes' promise to pay sixteen hundred dollars to Harrison Edmindston to serve in his stead. Edminston paid dearly for his gamble, as recorded in North Carolina Troops 1861-1865:

"Edminston, William H., Private

Resided in Caldwell County and was by occupation a farmer prior to enlisting in Caldwell County at age 41. Enlistment date reported as October 5, 1862; however he is not listed on company muster roles dated January-June 1863. Wounded at Chicamauga [sic], Georgia, September 20, 1863. Reported absent wounded through August 31, 1864. Hospitalized at Charlotte on December 16, 1864 with a gunshot wound (fracture) of the right arm. Place and date not reported (he was probably still suffering from the wound he received at Chicamauga.) Furloughed on December 27, 1864. No further records."

From AC.858: Jack Wilson Coffey Papers and Deeds

Snapshot: Buster Brown

An advertisement for Buster Brown Shoes once available for purchase at the Stephens Store in Creston, North Carolina. The Buster Brown company advertised in a variety of ways locally within Appalachia, including the sponsorship of regional events such as the 1925 Mountain City Fiddlers Convention. The company also installed X-Ray machines in some retail locations to help children and adults determine the proper shoesize.

Image from a store ledger located in AC.836: Stephens Store Records.

Put It On My Tab


Remember the days of "Put it on my tab"? This was the method of bookkeeping- pencil and a "running tab." Now it's "cash or credit?" "Yes put it on my credit card!" 

Image from a store ledger located in AC.836: Stephens Store Records. Stephens Store was located in Creston, North Carolina. Text contributed by Anita Elliott.

Helen Matthews Lewis Papers

Complete with recent additions, AC.103: Helen Matthews Lewis Papers, 1924-2011, undated are available for research in the Dougherty Reading Room. The collection features materials related to life and career of Helen Matthews Lewis, widely recognized as the "Grandmother of Appalachian Studies." Lewis' lifetime of work focused on social and environmental issues not only within Appalachia but in locations around the world.  Highlights of the Helen Matthews Lewis Papers include hours of documentary film footage capturing the era of the mid-1970s coal mining in Wales and Appalachia, an extensive collection of historical photographs from Ivanhoe, Virginia, Lewis' personal correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, and a quilt made during the 1987 Pittston Coal Strike.

Image of Helen Lewis from AC.103: Helen Matthews Lewis Papers, 1924-2011, undated.