Author Archives: Francesca

Help Preserve and Protect N.C. Military History

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina has launched, through the institution’s nonprofit support organization, the “Preserve N.C. Military History” fundraising effort. The goal is to raise $9,500 to hire a contract archivist for 6 months or longer to help the Military Collection Archivist process, organize, describe, and make available a selection of over 75 feet of original military records and papers documenting North Carolina’s military history. 

The materials selected for this work document the home front in every North Carolina county during WWI and WWII, and cover a range of enlisted military personnel from the state in all military branches for multiple wars. These are the records needing the most archival work, and containing valuable historical information touching everyone in North Carolina.

Only the most basic descriptions exist for some collections, and in many cases no descriptions exist yet at all for new collections awaiting to be used by the public. The papers have not yet been indexed in any detail. The collections hold artwork, letters, home front materials, photographs, and posters—all created by or documenting North Carolinians from all over the state. Children’s WWII home front posters, photographs of Red Cross activities, and letters from a U.S. Navy sailor in the Pacific Theater, are just a sampling of what is included. The work will benefit the general public, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and anyone interested in the state’s military history.

We need your help to ensure that this work can be completed. Getting someone who has the training and experience needed to do this type of work is difficult unless he or she can be financially compensated, and we need the funds in order to do so. All of the money raised will go to pay for this contract archivist position.

Selected materials from this project will be digitized and made available to the public online in the North Carolina Digital Collections. Photographs from the collections will be put online through the State Archives’ Flickr page. Updates on the work will be posted regularly to the State Archives’ social media.

To support this fundraising effort, we ask you to spread the word about this through your social media, sharing it with anyone you think would be interested in supporting this significant work. You can donate money to the “Preserve N.C. Military History” GoFundMe page. Every little bit helps! Invest in the state’s proud military heritage, and ensure that future generations will learn of the sacrifices of its citizens in times of war.


Did everyone have a goat cart in the 1930s?

[This blog post was written by Kim Andersen, Audio Visual Materials Archivist in the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937

These two photos initially presented a bit of a quandary to my colleague, Ian Dunn, and I when processing the C. H. Jordan Photograph Collection here at the State Archives of

North Carolina.  Evidence within the collection suggests these children are related, and the goat appears as if he might be the same individual goat in both pictures, yet the carts are different and bear these different numbers.  We asked ourselves “What do these numbers mean?”  And “Why are these children in these goat carts in the first place?”  We looked for evidence in the other photos in the Jordan material, but no more goats or carts or related photos were there.  Reluctantly we put down this small mystery and Ian completed the arrangement and description of the collection.

Not long after the Jordan Collection was finished, though, it seemed to us as if goat cart pictures were popping up everywhere we looked, and despite our best efforts to stay on task and proceed with our prescribed work, we simply had to take a brief detour down the goat cart rabbit hole!  And what a fascinating little journey it has been.  In short order simply through Internet research, we learned not only what the seemingly strange numbers mean but also quite a bit about a relatively short-lived but wildly popular fad of itinerate photographers using the cuteness and novelty of a goat and a little cart to boost their business.

Itinerant photographers were common in the US in the early 20th century.  They traveled from town to town in rural and urban America and for the most part took informal photographs.  Some specialized in portraits and set up temporary studios in tents or at local fairs, some documented businesses and churches in the towns they visited, some took “man on the street” type photos, and some employed props like goat carts or “billy carts” as they were also known.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

A goat cart was typically like a magnet to children in any town, and at the instigation of the photographer, the curious children would be invited to approach the spectacle coming down the street and pose in the little cart – with or without parental permission or oversight.  And the photographer would snap picture after picture as delighted children took turns in the cart, squealing with delight, and drawing the attention of more and more children and adults.  The carts were often colorfully decorated, and many were numbered on their sides as if they were part of a fleet.  Each cart usually had a plaque on the front as well with the year and often the name of the town painted on it, thus making a photo of a child in such a cart an instant precious keepsake.  The simple genius of appealing to the universal instincts of children to love cute furry animals and rides, and preying on the sentimentality of parents to indulge their children and want pictures of their children, especially when they are doing something adorable, guaranteed the goat cart racket to be a nearly fool-proof revenue generator for photographers through the 1930s.

Even as the Great Depression raged, photos of children in goat carts continued to be popular throughout the country, bringing much needed levity to otherwise dreary lives.  With the advent of the Second World War, however, itinerate photographers became less prevalent.  Everyday people began having cameras of their own and became accustomed to taking their own informal pictures, and the era of the goat cart as ubiquitous photographic prop came to an end.

Fortunately, the State Archives of North Carolina has a number of these strangely common yet not-widely-understood photographs of happy children in tiny goat carts.  If any of our readers here can help us identify these children, this goat (!) and/or the location where these photos were made, we welcome your input.  If any of you have photos depicting goat carts like this in North Carolina or by North Carolina photographers, we would very much like to know about them, too.  The State Archives of North Carolina is always interested in learning what is out there and how we can best serve our public both as a source of information and as a repository for the long-term preservation of records documenting the history of the state.


Images from the C. H. Jordan Photograph Collection, PhC.24, State Archives of North Carolina; Raleigh, NC.

PhC.24.21 An unidentified boy is seen in a goat cart c. 1937.

PhC.24.22 An unidentified girl is seen in a goat cart c. 1939.

Jordan, C. H., Photograph Collection, 1870-1940 – Collection of 25 photographs and two greeting cards. The photographic material consists of tintypes, card photographs, cabinet cards, silver gelatin prints and photo postcards. The photographs are mainly portraits and are purportedly of the Ruffin family of the Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson County area of North Carolina.

National Personal Training Institute of North Carolina

[This blog post was written by Gwen Thomas Mays, Organization Records Archivist.]

The student records from the National Personal Training Institute of North Carolina are now in the custody of the State Archives.  Former students may request copies of their transcripts, please refer to the instructions on the archives website:

Academic Transcripts of Defunct Colleges


PC2124: Slave Deed of Gift of Sam


Front side of deed of gift of Sam, age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to his daughter, Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847.

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Collections Archivist, of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Private Collections (PCs) are an important source for researchers seeking not only genealogical information, but also important context for understanding family, social, and economic history. Likewise, PCs are an especially valuable resource for those tracing slave ancestry and a sense of the broader historical context and personal details. In honor of Black History Month, February 2017, this post shines a light on rich aspects of the life of Samuel (Sam) Ritter (ca. 1822-1892). Such focus places Samuel in a position of respect far above the offensive fact that he was born into slavery and given as a man of 25 to a girl of 12, the eldest daughter of the slave master.

Realities conveyed in bare facts, such as the foregoing, can bring pain and offend our humanity and sense of human dignity. Difficult as it is to view papers documenting unsavory facts, we must continue to seek and to make available all that offer clues, especially in the difficult challenge of slave ancestry. Such is true of the donation in 2016 to Private Collections of a single item titled: “Slave Deed of Gift of Sam, Age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847.” PC.2124.

In the course of a recent day’s work, I set out to discover and document the usual background facts expected in the writing of a finding aid. Additionally, I wanted to make meaningful sense of this unusually troubling deed of gift and to provide some basis for investigations by future researchers. The bare facts of this 1847 deed of gift were especially provocative, and I was vexed enough to raise the obvious questions, and a few more. For starters, I wanted to know: Did Sam survive ownership by young Jane? If she married during the next decade or so, did Sam become part of her husband’s estate, and what was his name and locale? Did Sam escape to the North? Or if he survived in North Carolina past the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, what surname did he assume? Where did he live? Did he ever reach position of dignity as a head of a household? Did he have a vocation, and a family of his own? And finally, who were Sam’s parents and siblings?

Though a seasoned archivist and historian, I admit to being somewhat daunted thinking of the span of time and the proverbial brick walls that I might hit in researching Sam from the year 1847 to the year 1870—when black individuals and families were first named on the U.S. Federal Census. There was the realistic possibility of no clear answers to any of my questions. Still, I proceeded to build into my finding aid’s biographical and historical note a basic chronological framework. With many other projects awaiting attention, I strove to find as much factual information as I could find in a reasonable length of time. Yet even the essential clue of finding Jane’s future married name in the North Carolina Marriage Bonds and the Marriage Index was denied. Consequently, I resorted to a wide assortment of Internet searches. The end result was a mix of unproven clues about the Ritter family, scattered about the Internet, and facts derived from the standard sources, mainly census records. I offer the following as an approach that others might consider when seeking to trace and to highlight the life of a particular individual.


Excerpt from deed of gift identifying a “negro man Slave named Sam aged about twenty five years.”

In this case, it was necessary to begin with the first-named slave owner conveying the “gift” of Sam’s person. Research revealed him to be John Richardson Ritter (ca. 1793–1860), a son of John (ca. 1760–1828) and Elizabeth H. Richardson Ritter (ca. 1760–1842). The younger John was married around 1813 to Mary Kennedy (1802–1865 or before), Moore County. The couple is shown on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Census residing with three sons and five daughters, with birth dates ranging from around 1829 to 1850.

An essential character in my query was the said Jane Ritter, born in 1835, and the oldest daughter of the Ritter couple. As stated, she was 12 years of age when her father deeded to her the “gift” of “ownership” of Sam, age 25, born around 1822. The 1850 U.S. Federal Census slave schedule does not list Jane Ritter as a slave owner, but shows that her father, John R. Ritter, claimed two females, ages 30 and 12, mulatto; and eight males, with three of the four children therein described as mulatto. The two adult males included one listed as 35, and the

other as 30 years of age. The latter man was probably Sam, named in the 1847 deed of gift. It should be noted that John R. Ritter is not listed as a slave owner in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census slave schedules. That was probably the year of his death, and it is uncertain what happened to the ten slaves, ascribed to him in 1850.

Jane Ritter, also known as Dicie Jane (1835–1891), was still living in her parents’ household during the census enumeration of 1860. Family reports, lacking documentation, indicate that Jane Ritter was married in late 1861 to Nelson J. Hunsucker (1833–1875). The 1870 census does verify that Nelson Hunsucker was recorded by the census taker as a farmer, with a full household. Family named include Hunsucker’s wife, Dicie Jane, his mother, four young Hunsucker children, plus a boy of 10, possibly a relative, and one Samuel Ritter, black, age 22, with an approximate birth year of 1848. The Hunsucker household and farm were located in Ritters Township, Moore County. These welcomed pieces of information, made me suspect that the young Samuel Ritter (SRJr) might well be the son of the elder Samuel Ritter (SRSr)

It is more than coincidental that on the 1870 census another Samuel Ritter, black, is listed as a farmer in Ritters Township, and located in fairly close proximity to the Hunsucker farm. If the age this older Samuel Ritter gave to the census taker is correct, his birth year was around 1819. This is within three years and remarkably close to the projected birth year of the slave, Sam (described as age 25 in the said Ritter family deed of gift of 1847). Signs surely point to the high probability that Samuel and Sam were indeed the same, and I will hereafter designate him as SRSr.

There are several other pieces of additional interest in the 1870 census record. First, the household of SRSr includes Elisabeth/Elizabeth, age 28, a mulatto, and six children, ranging in ages from ten years to infancy. Secondly, there is additional information in the census form’s “Personal estate” category, column 9. The enumerator entered 100 (dollars) for SRSr’s personal property (defined generally as including all bonds, stocks, mortgages, notes, livestock, plate, jewels, or furniture). The practice was to leave the column blank if the valuation was less than $100.

This category of “Personal estate” was, in fact, left blank for the neighboring Hunsucker family, and some of the other white families in the area. Additionally, it is assumed that the elder Samuel Ritter had title to the land that he farmed, and was not in the category of sharecropper that described so many men during the 19th and on into the 20th century. Finally, Elisabeth Ritter was entered on the form as being able to read, though not write. Samuel Ritter, on the other hand, like so many of that era, could neither read nor write.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census also suggests a possibly cooperative relationship between the white Hunsucker family and the two black Samuel Ritters (SRSr and SRJr) and their families. By 1880 Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker is now a widow and listed as a farmer/head of household. The older SRSr, now 60 years old, is again registered as a farmer, and his name has the actual designation of “Senior.” Notably, there is only one residence separating his farm from that of the Hunsucker farm. The young Samuel Ritter (SRJr) who previously lived with the Hunsucker family, is now married, and listed as a farmer, with several young children. Significantly, he and his family are residing in a residence adjacent to the senior Samuel Ritter, most certainly his father, SRSr. Furthermore, SRSr lives in the second residence down, and SRJr lives in the third residence down from the Hunsucker homestead.

Following these families gives rises to even more unanswered questions, and surely the


Excerpt from reverse side of deed of gift, with title and partial court endorsement.

loss of the 1890 U.S. Federal Census compounds the problem. Since SRSr does not appear on the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, we can assume that he died sometime between the 1880 and 1900 enumerations. One unproven family record on the Internet indicates that he died in 1892. If true, then SRSr lived well past the average life expectancy for men of that era. We know with fair amount of certainty that Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker died in 1891 because of the existence of her gravestone at the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery, close to Ritters Township, in the town of Carthage.

Overall, discovering several positive connections to SRSr and his family has indeed been gratifying. Though I did not answer all questions, the results exceeded what I could reasonably anticipate when I first initiated my inquiries. For other researchers who have a family and/or a historical interest in SRSr and family, further in-depth research can take myriads of other directions. Thanks to the starting point presented through a single 1847 deed of gift, we have a better understanding of SRSr’s life and the legacy that he represents. We can never know the exact and undoubtedly complex nature of the relationships between the white Ritter family/Hunsucker family and the black Ritter family. It is certain, however, that their lives intersected in significant ways. It can probably be safely surmised that the relationship between Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker (d. ca. 1891) and Sam Ritter (d. ca. 1892), was at least cooperative on some levels and peaceful enough so that they could live almost side-by-side on their farms until the end of their days.

See also in honor of Black History Month, February 2017, a blog post written by Elizabeth Crowder, about the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection. PC.2130.

Collection Overview:

PC. 2124. Slave Deed of Gift, of Sam, age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to his daughter, Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847. This document was proven and duly registered in the January court session of 1848, by the oath of Benjamin P. Person. 1 item.


McCormick, Green, and Shaw Private Collection

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder with the Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Under the supervision of Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina, I have arranged and described the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection (PC.2130). This work was made possible through generous funding bequeathed to the North Carolina Genealogical Society by the estate of the late Frances Holloway Wynne.


Bill of sale for Daniel McCormick’s purchase of Nelly McCormick, Sarah (mother), and Sally (daughter). [1828]

Private collections can be a valuable source of information for researchers tracing slave ancestry. In honor of Black History Month, this post examines the life of Nelly McCormick (born ca. 1799) as revealed in the contents of the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection. The earliest reference to Nelly McCormick is found in the collection’s “Miscellaneous” series. An 1821 bill of sale indicates that Archibald Smith sold his current and future interest in Nelly and her offspring to a James Campbell. Nelly is identified as the daughter of Sarah. She is also referred to as the property of John Smith, Archibald’s father. Nelly passed to John Smith’s wife, Catherine (perhaps Archibald’s stepmother—he never refers to her as his mother), for Catherine’s lifetime. All the parties involved were likely residents of Cumberland County, NC. Though no record of John Smith’s death and/or estate has been found, the 1830 federal census lists a Catharine Smith as a resident of Cumberland County and the owner of three slaves.

According to the McCormick papers in PC.2130, Nelly was sold to Daniel McCormick of Cumberland County in April 1828. McCormick purchased her, her mother Sarah, and her daughter Sally from John E. Smith, likely a son of the John Smith mentioned above. Sarah’s age is given as “between sixty and seventy years,” making her birth year between 1758 and 1768. Nelly’s age is given as “about twenty-three years,” making her birth year approximately 1805. Sally is identified as six months old, meaning that she was born in late 1827.


John Smith’s 1864 letter demanding Nelly, Sally, and Rachel from Daniel McCormick.

After 1828, no details of Nelly McCormick’s life emerge for more than thirty years. But in 1864, John E. Smith’s son demanded Nelly, Sally, and Rachel (presumably another daughter of Nelly’s) back from Daniel McCormick. Whatever the result of the lawsuit Smith threatened, Nelly remained tied to the McCormick family. The ledgers of John McCormick, Daniel McCormick’s son, contain an 1866 account for Nelly McCormick, who either purchased food items from him or received pay for her labor in those same items.

While Nelly’s life cannot be traced beyond 1866, census and marriage records may provide insight into the lives of one of her children and two of her grandchildren. The 1880 federal census lists a twenty-year-old Nelly McCormick as a servant and farmhand in the household of John McCormick and his wife, Grissella. A Cumberland County marriage license dated June 3 of that same year records the union of Robert Allen and twenty-six-year-old Sarah McCormick, daughter of Sally McCormick and Porter Williams. The aforementioned Nelly and Sarah McCormick may well have been sisters. Both of them could have been the daughters of Sally McCormick, Nelly’s daughter born around 1827.


Nelly McCormick’s 1866 purchases recorded in John McCormick’s account book.

For additional slave records in the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection, see PC.2130.1, folder 2; PC.2130.4, folder 4; and PC.2130.5, folder 5. The accounts, bills of sale, and wills therein identify many slaves’ names and owners. A search of census, marriage, birth, and death records may well provide insight into their lives after emancipation and the Civil War.

Troop Returns Digital Collection Complete

[This blog post comes from Olivia Carlisle, Digitization Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Troop Returns Digital Collection is now complete via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War North Carolina Continental Line. Records dated after the Revolutionary War primarily deal with the county and state militia troops.


“Return of the North Carolina Brigade of Foot commanded by Brigadier General Hogun.” Troop Returns. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina.

Unique Items included in the latest upload:

  • The commission of William Darlet as 1st Lieutenant of the 1st Regiment of the North Carolina militia in 1815
  • Documents include Militia Regulations from 1808
  • An accounting of militia troops in the United States versus the state/territory

For more information on how the Troop Returns are organized and what may be included please see the first blog post on the collection, or consult the digital collection landing page. To view the items in the collection in a list format, please see the Troop Returns finding aid.

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition


Women’s Equality Day Proclamation, 2012

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of July our theme is elections.

I can’t believe we are at the end of July and this will be our last blog post with the theme of elections. Last week, Olivia posted about the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. It comes full circle with a proclamation from the Governor. Each year, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th because of the passing of 19th amendment. In 2012, Governor Beverly Perdue produced a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day. Please visit NCPedia for more information about the Women’s Suffrage movement in North Carolina.