A Tribute to Frances Holloway Wynne

[This blog post is a cross-posting of an article written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist in the Special Collections Section.]

A Tribute to Frances Holloway Wynne (1932-2010) and a Glimpse of Projects Accomplished Through her Legacy Gift.

The State Archives has richly benefited from the support of non-profits including the North Carolina Genealogical Society (NCGS) and the Friends of the Archives. This blog posting is intended to recognize an outstanding past member of both organizations, the late Frances Holloway Wynne (1932-2010). It also highlights her estate’s generous endowment of internships, applied during the last fifteen months in the area of Private Collections. In brief, her estate called for a bequest to the NCGS, and through this the NCGS board has honored her desire that 19th century records in particular be brought to the forefront.  As Frances’s birthday approaches on March 13, followed by the third anniversary of her death on March 19, it seems fitting first to spotlight her life and work.

Born in Wake County, Frances was the daughter of the late Vann and Margaret Brown Holloway.  A graduate of Duke University with an A.B. in English, she taught in North Carolina, Maryland, Connecticut, and at Mark Twain Intermediate School, Fairfax, Virginia, where she retired after a tenure of more than twenty-five years. A member of the Genealogical Society of Fairfax, Frances was also an honorary life member of the African American Genealogical Society of Washington, D.C.  In the course of her teaching career, Frances married Willis Holland Wynne (1916-1993) who shared with her a strong interest in genealogy.

Once retired, the Wynnes moved to Clayton, then later to Wendell. Back in her home state, Frances was active in the NCGS, its Wake County affiliate, and the Friends of the Archives, in which she was honored as a life-time member.  Associates of those organizations and her extended family are well aware that Frances compiled several books focusing on Wake County records and on her various family lines.  Less well known to many, but also dear to her was a work written with Cj Stevens, Genealogy to Enrich the Curricula [middle school] published in 1982; and a Register of Free Negroes and of Dower Slaves, Brunswick County, Virginia, 1803-1850, published in 1983. These latter two works reinforce a strong message that Frances was a teacher at heart, and that she cared deeply about her students, the subjects of English and history, and the availability of a deep and a wide array of primary records from past generations.

The projects listed below were selected as a result of my conversations with members of the NCGS board of the NCGS; my surveys of extant holdings of Private Collections that merited extensive arrangement and/or fuller descriptions; and my collaborations with three outstanding interns: Jennifer Davis, February 2012 to present, Lea Walker, June 2012 to present, and Aaron Cusick, September 2011-January 2012.  In all of these efforts our collective intent has been to honor Frances H. Wynne, and to further our shared commitment of providing outstanding and unique historical resources for present and future generations of students and researchers.

Jennifer Bentley Davis’s projects:  Private Collections, Manuscripts:

  • Barbee Family Papers, 1785-1924. Chatham County. PC.2047
  • Hewitt A. Brown Cumberland and Harnett County [Families] Collection, 1794-1902. PC.2042.
  • Cain and Hinton Family Papers, 1801-1937 (bulk). Orange and Wake Counties. PC.2041.
  • Cuthbertson and McCollum Family Papers, 1811-1898. Anson, Union Counties. PC.1961.
  • Greenlee Family Papers, 1833-1899. Eastern Burke and McDowell Counties. PC.1817.
  • James McNeely Papers, 1838-1870. McDowell County. PC. 1906.
  • Wood and Johnston Family Papers, 1823-1965; 1998. Orange and Alamance Counties.  PC.2001.
  • Eleanor Troy Pippenger Collection, 1753-1853. Bladen County. PC.2060.
  • Zimmerman Family Papers, 1757-1883. Eastern Burke County.  PC.2056.

It should be noted that of the above listings, those with “collections” in the titles include a concentration of land and other public documents; and that these have the likely advantage of supplementing missing official records.  For example, the Pippenger Collection features public records, or their manuscript copies, that were probably destroyed in Bladen County’s court house fires of 1770, 1800, or 1893. Several of the sets of private papers above also include slave records that name individuals–a valuable resource for those researchers seeking clues to and details about African American families before the Civil War.

This group of papers also includes fascinating letters that more than pique curiosity–they provide insight into personalities, issues, family relationships, and migration movements, and other elements of life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, in the Wood and Johnston Family Papers, there are a few letters written home to Julia J. Wood from daughter Elizabeth B. Whitsett–some in-route-to, and some from the final destination of Missouri, 1846-1850. Though one longs for even more details in the letters, it is startling to realize that Elizabeth survived the crossing of mountains, rivers,  streams,  and other hardships while with child. Other examples abound. From the Cain and Hinton Family Papers there are numerous family letters, including nine, 1895-1898, to Dr. James Frederick Cain (1828-1904) from his son William Sterling Cain and from business partner, Thomas Ruffin Gwynn. These were written from Paraguay where the two men had taken up the business of distilling rum, had married local women, and had commenced families. In a different vein, a letter dated Aug. 2, 1920, from Miss Hinton’s cousin, Arrah Belle (Johnson) Cauley, wife of an Episcopal rector, expressed regret over the news that Miss Hinton was a leader of anti-suffrage forces in the state and consequently attempted to correct her views concerning women’s suffrage.

Jennifer Davis’s educational background: University of Georgia, B.A. in history; N.C. Central University, M.L.S. with concentration in archives.

Lea Ravenel Walker’s projects:  Private Collections: Account Books

  • Barnes and Bardin Account Books, 1839-1843. Wayne County, Black Creek area.  AB.129.
  • Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account Book, 1761-1764.Bladen County. AB.76.
  • John Cockton Account Books, 1769-1794.Currituck County. AB.78
  • John M. Patrick Account Book, 1852-1862.Greene County, Hookerton vicinity. AB.65
  • Hardy Whitford Account Book, 1832-1841. Craven County. New Bern. AB.85

Each of the finding aids created by Lea Walker features tables of customer’s names.  One particularly valuable aspect is the inclusion of women’s names in an era before 1850 when women typically were not named in the U.S. Federal Census. Additionally, the Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account book, 1761-1789, though a record of their general merchandise store in Bladen County, also provides a record of slave births (1762-1862). In almost all cases, each account book constitutes a unique window into the communities in which the customers lived; a glimpse of the day-to-day economic life of merchants, farmers, laborers;  and a view of the era through goods and services purchased and bartered.  [See a fuller description in two blog postings for History for All the People, written by Ms. Walker, with the titles “Account Book Yields Slave Records,” November 1, 2012; and “Slave Records on a River Plantation: A Day Book with Bunches of Birthdays,” November 8, 2012.]

Lea Walker’s educational background: Davidson College, B.A., in German; The George Washington University, M.A. in  museum and American studies; N.C. Central University, M.L.S. with concentration in archives and academic libraries.

Aaron Cusick’s Projects: Private Collections, Manuscripts, and Archivist Toolkit Implementation

  • Wood, Wooley, and Clark Family Papers, 1812-1997. Montgomery County. PC.2023

Most of the material in this large collection of 35 boxes relates to the period of the 19th century following the Civil War up to the period of World War II.  Some of the family’s roots in Montgomery County date back to the late eighteenth century. In addition to early land grants (from 1812), other early records are papers and accounts from the Clark Brothers’ turpentine and lumber businesses and their general store. Although the letters and private papers in the collection are primarily concerned with family affairs, they shed light on the rich family and community relationships and provide a strong sense of interconnected families and place, with a wealth of material in the areas of education, economic life and hardships, church and civic involvement, military service, and more.

Aaron’s extensive work with the large collection above gave him valuable experience in Private Collections—an area which has special challenges because of their unique variety and complexity.  Possessing a range of skills, he was hired as an archivist in the State Archive’s Digital Services Section in early 2012. As our staff expert in Archivists Toolkit, Aaron has  implemented that system—an important resource to me, to Jennifer, and to Lea in the ongoing work to encode numerous finding aids in a professional manner for later access via the website of the State Archives.

Aaron Cusick’s educational background: University of N.C., Greensboro. B.A. in French and psychology; N.C. State University. M.A. in public history; University of N.C., Chapel Hill, M.S.L.S. with concentration in archives.

Additional Thoughts:

It has been an exciting privilege to work with exceptional interns. We have uncovered a wide range of historical and genealogical material in a variety of private manuscripts and account books; and we hope that the funding will long be available. As a matter of course, I continue to seek additional donations of 19th and early 20th century material; and new collections from those eras (and others) have indeed come into the custody of the State Archives since the Frances H. Wynne internship program began under my supervision in September of 2011. I am confident that original and authentic primary sources will continue to surface and come to light in a manner that would please Frances H. Holloway. As a former high school history teacher and as a career archivist/historian, I feel a strong connection with Frances as I reread her obituaries online and consider appreciative comments made about her by former students, friends, and members of her family.  I too am grateful to Frances and to the NCGS board members. It is they also who have taken affirmative steps and have used her Frances’s gift  to help bring new documentary sources forward for access–and as Frances had wanted, for a wide range of people seeking greater understanding of their culture’s and  their own family’s past.

Fran Tracy-Walls

Educational background and some career highlights: Converse College. B.A. in history and English; University of N.C., Chapel Hill. M.A. in history; University of S.C., Columbia. M.L.I.S, concentration in archives.  As student awarded a one-year fellowship in Manuscripts Div. of the South Caroliniana Library. Hired at the State Archives of N.C. as Archivist I, 1991; promoted to Archivist III, 1996. Inducted into Society of Certified Archivists, 2000. Private Manuscripts Archivists, since April 2008.