Finding Aid of Cuthbertson and McCollum Family Papers, PC.1961


Finding Aid of Cuthbertson and McCollum Family Papers, PC.1961


Moses W. Cuthbertson (1795-1865) of southern Union County, his wife, Margaret McCollum (1798-1880) had no children, and operation of the plantation (2,400-acres, with half under cultivation) was with the assistance of 11 male slaves ranging in age from 12 to 58, and 7 female slaves ranging in age from 12 to 48. The farm journal begins on January 15, 1858, and continues to February 15, 1865. Entries report on the annual agricultural cycle, production of various goods, births and marriages, and the movements of local soldiers during the war years. Addition of 2012 consists of letters, deeds, land records, promissory notes, bonds summons, writs, estates papers, powers of attorney, receipts, miscellaneous papers.

Descriptive Summary

Cuthbertson and McCollum Family Papers
Call Number
Cuthbertson family
0.800 cubic feet, 8.200 gigabytes
State Archives of North Carolina

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Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], PC.1961, Cuthbertson and McCollum Family Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.

Collection Overview

The Cuthbertson farm journal begins on January 15, 1858, and continues to February 15, 1865, a month before the death of Moses Cuthbertson. Entries report on the annual agricultural cycle, production of various goods, births and marriages, and the movements of local soldiers during the war years. Sometime after the death of Mrs. Cuthbertson in 1880, the farm journal fell into other hands. The blank leaves at the end of the journal were used as a waste book by a Monroe firm (possibly J. Shute and Son) to make temporary records of transactions, dating from the years from 1885 to 1889. An addition of 2012 consists of letters, deeds, land records, promissory notes, bonds summons, writs, estates papers, powers of attorney, receipts, legal documents, settlements, agreements. There is one slave bill of sale from 1826. The correspondence to Moses Cuthbertson dates as early as 1820.

As noted, some entries in the farm journal report the annual agricultural cycle of manuring, harrowing, plowing, planting and sowing, cultivating, and harvesting the principal crops raised on the plantation: corn, oats, wheat, peas, and cotton. Other entries record sheep shearings, hog killings, the tanning of leather, and the making of wine, molasses, and syrup. Several notations of local marriages and deaths are recorded in the journal, and during the war years, the movement of local soldiers between home and the army are noted.

Moses Cuthbertson had been one of the commissioners appointed to lay off Union County when it was erected in 1842. He served as chairman of the Union County Superintendents of Common Schools from 1851 to 1864, and was particularly active in affairs of the Methodist church in his neighborhood. Consequently his journal sometimes records his activities as a surveyor. A great many more entries relate to his work with the common schools. But the greatest number of entries of this sort has to do with attendance at church, at camp meetings, and conferences, and with appointments of Methodist pastors. He records the progress of a Sunday school that commenced at Liberty Chapel Methodist Church on May 2, 1858, and a Bible class that was begun there subsequently.

A few entries in the journal record noteworthy events. An entry of October 1858 describes the appearance of Donati's comet as observed in southern Union County during the period from September 20 to October 20, 1858. In the following year on September 1, 1859, he describes the effect of the solar superflare of that date that produced a remarkable display of the Aurora Borealis. He describes it as a reddish colored light moving from east to west, of so great a brightness that one could read common print by it at midnight. Local outrages are sometimes recorded: the shooting death of Joseph F. Hough by Jim Richards and the public outcry when Richards was admitted to bail (June 24 and July 4, 1861); the murder of Mrs. John E. Austen by her slaves on August 25, 1864 (and the hanging of the slaves on Nov. 25, 1864); the murder of William Blakney by four of his slaves on September 14, 1864 (of whom three were hanged and one burnt to death).

The secession crisis and the opening days of the war are remarked on frequently in 1861, but subsequent war news seldom makes it into the journal. Cuthbertson was anti-secessionist, but once secession was a fact and the war was begun, he did his duty. He cooperated with the raising of a volunteer company, made a subscription of clothing and provisions for soldiers, and, as the local justice of the peace, oversaw the distribution of salt and meat to the families of volunteer soldiers and the getting of winter fuel for them. On the other hand, he resented the impressment of his slaves to work on the fortifications at Wilmington, and he records unflattering remarks about the probable effectiveness of the detachment of the Mecklenburg County Home Guard that was sent into Union County to round up deserters (see entry of September 1, 1864). Earlier he had recorded activities of the local Home Guard in which they had skirmished with a handful of deserters (killing one and capturing two) without making reflections similar to his remarks on the men from Mecklenburg County (see entries of Jan. 29 and March 26, 1864).

Occasionally Cuthbertson makes entries in the journal in which the names of his slaves are recorded. Some entries in the spring of 1861 refer to the final illness of Mary Ann, and the entry for April 4 of that year reports her death in the presence of her father and her husband-Daniel (Hagler). Entries of June 12 and 16 report the death of the boy named Green and his interment at Liberty Chapel Methodist Church, Alex the Shepherd is mentioned in a summary entry concerning the lambing made at the end of February 1862. The sickness of Hugh, for whom Bob was sent for a doctor, is recorded on March 8, 1862; the illness of Maria is recorded on June 21, 1863; Hampton's sickness on February 9, 29, and March 10, 1864, and Sam's pleurisy on March 2 and 10, 1864. The death of Amanda (who was buried at Liberty Chapel) is recorded on November 7, 1864, and the death of her baby, Tommy, aged 2 months, on November 16.

Apart from the natural resentment of having a slave commandeered by Confederate authorities and sent off to work on the fortifications at Wilmington, Cuthbertson's views on this subject might well have been influenced by the fate of Calvin who was sent to Wilmington on September 26, 1863, and died there on December 27. Another slave, Hampton, returned home from Wilmington on January 29, 1864. Cuthbertson was unable to prevent the impressment of his man Jacob for the work at Wilmington on November 1, 1864, though he tried to do so. Later that month, on the 28th, Cuthbertson received a letter from Jacob complaining of the lack of food for the impressed workers. Cuthbertson responded by sending to him ten pounds of bacon, three pecks of meal, forty biscuits; eight tarts, and similar provisions. After three months and seven days at that vile place, as Cuthbertson labels it, Jacob was sent home from Wilmington to Union County on foot, arriving home on February 2, 1865.

Cuthbertson, who appears to have suffered from congestive heart failure, made no entries in the farm journal after February 15, 1865. He died on March 12, 1865.

Sometime after the death of Mrs. Cuthbertson in 1880, the farm journal fell into other hands. The blank leaves at the end of the journal were used as a waste book by a Monroe firm to make temporary records of transactions, dating from the years from 1885 to 1889, with several African-American heads of family. Internal evidence suggests that it was the Monroe firm of J. Shute and Son for whose benefit the entries were made. This firm commenced business in the merchandising line in 1866, but eventually branched into ginning and milling. In 1885 the firm started up a brick-making enterprise as a small mud mill. It seems probable that these 1885-1889 accounts were those of employees of the firm, possibly workers at the brick manufactory. Some of the workers appear to have been Cuthbertson freedmen, including Alex the Shepherd: Dennis Haley, Burgwin Stegall, and Alex, Henry M., Edwin, and Samuel W. Cuthbertson. Entries record the purchase of clothing, shoes, salt, meat, flour, molasses, tobacco, corn, oats, and fodder by the workers.

Correspondence begins in 1827 and continues until 1854. Many of the letters are from unknown relations in Mississippi regarding the settlement of property back in North Carolina. Cuthbertson corresponds with several circuit-riding Methodist ministers, who were once assigned to the Mecklenburg district, which includes Anson and Union Counties. In one such letter written in May 1845 the Rev. Zacheus Dowling references a historical conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church held in Louisville, Kentucky, resulting in the separation of slaveholding states to form the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In another letter the corresponding clergyman, C. L. King, is assigned to a mission in St. Matthews, S.C., where he is teaching both slave children and adults.

Later correspondence is primarily from Margaret Cuthbertson's family (McCollum) who had moved into southwestern Georgia, including several of her brothers and their children. Most of the letters describe the journey southward, establishing new farms, and other neighbors from Union County who migrated to the region. In 1852 Moses Cutherbertson traveled to Georgia to visit family members. There are several letters to him from his wife and the Phifer children back in Union County. Later, in 1852 Thomas McCollum details the events of surviving what was a hurricane just before reaching their destination.

Other papers of Moses Cuthbertson include deeds and indentures, all from the early to mid-1800. The earliest document in the collection is an 1811 land grant for two hundred acres in Anson County to Susannah Roberts. Court records consist of power of attorney, warrants, and judgments. Additionally, there are a sundry of other records such as guardianship and settlement records, as well as a large number of receipts. Of particular interest is a slave bill of sale for a young woman named Frenchy sold to Moses Cuthbertson. Another noteworthy item is a document appointing a vigilance committee by the Richardson Creek Guards with the purpose of arresting any man (white or black) who may be prowling about the county with business unknown or seen holding a conversation with a slave or free person of color. Finally there are agreements belonging to Margaret Cutherbertson after the death of her husband. Several agreements are between her and a former slave named, Sam Cuthbertson.

Arrangement Note

This collection is organized by record type and is generally in chronological order. As noted some records are maintained in orginal order as bundled by Cuthbertson.

Three series: Cuthbertson Farm Journal; Correspondence; and Land, Court Records and Receipts

Biographical/Historical note

Moses W. Cuthbertson (1795-1865) was born, bred, and died in southern Union County. He and his wife, Margaret McCollum (1798-1880) were childless. In their household, however, were two young relatives to whom Cuthbertson acted as guardian: one was a student at Trinity College, David Baxter Phifer (died September 16, 1860); and the other was a student at Carolina Female College in Anson County, Mary M. Phifer. (She later married John David Cuthbertson, and died in January 1865 along with a young son named Daniel).

Of Cuthbertson's 2,400-acre plantation, half was under cultivation. He operated the plantation with the assistance of eleven male slaves ranging in age from 12 to 58, and seven female slaves ranging in age from 12 to 48. (Three additional slaves in 1860 were small children.) Cuthbertson served in the North Carolina General Assembly during the 1832-1833 term. Additionally, he was an active public servant in Union county, serving as justice of the peace, and chairman and superintendent of common schools from 1851 to 1864, and was an active member of the Methodist church in his community.

Contents of the Collection

Container Count
2 Boxes, 1 Container, 51 Folders

Subject Headings

  • Austen, Lavinia
  • Blakeney, William
  • Cuthbertson, Margaret McCollum, 1798-1880
  • Cuthbertson, Mary M. Phifer
  • Cuthbertson, Moses W., 1795-1865
  • Dowling, Zacheous
  • Green, William
  • Hough, Joseph F.
  • McCollum, D.W.
  • McCollum, Thomas
  • Phifer, David Baxter
  • Richards, James
  • Roberts, Susannah
  • Cuthbertson Family
  • McCollum family
  • Blakeney, William
  • David Baxter, d. 1862 Phifer
  • Richards, James
  • McCollum family
  • J. Shute and Son (Monroe, N.C.).
  • North Carolina. Home Guard
  • Methodist Episcopal Church
  • African Americans--History--19th century
  • Agriculture--North Carolina
  • Agriculture--North Carolina--Union County
  • Donati comet
  • Estates--North Carolina
  • Guardianship
  • Land grants
  • Methodist Church
  • Plantation life--North Carolina--Union County
  • Secession--Southern States
  • Slaves--North Carolina--Union County
  • Agriculture--North Carolina--History--19th century
  • Diaries
  • Secession--Southern States
  • Anson County (N.C.)
  • Baker County (Georgia)
  • Copiah County (Mississppi)
  • Monroe (N.C.)
  • Union County (N.C.)
  • Wilmington (N.C.)
  • Georgia
  • Albany (Ga.)
  • Indentures
  • Acquisitions Information

    Gift of the Cuthbertson Farm Journal by Ken Neese, Monroe, North Carolina, 2007. Additonal material in the collection donated by Ken Neese, October 2012.

    Processing Information

    Processed by George Stevenson (Farm Journal), 2007; Fran Tracy-Walls, and Jennifer Davis, 2012.
    Finding Aid by Jennifer Davis, N.C. Genealogical Society Intern, 2012. Additional description by Fran Tracy-Walls, 2013.