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Elizabeth Rigsbee Letters


Hannah Elizabeth Rigsbee (1893-1965), known as Elizabeth, was born in Durham County, N.C. to John Vernon Rigsbee (1848-1912), and Mary Whitworth Leigh Rigsbee (1854-1908). The family's youngest child, Elizabeth was only fifteen when her mother died and around nineteen when her father died. By 1914 or earlier, Elizabeth was working with children at the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, N.C.(later the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina). By 1930 or before she was married to Thomas Benton Roberts (1889-1965), a district supervisor of buyers for the American Tobacco Company.Collection includes twenty original letters addressed to Miss Rigsbee, with seventeen written to her as part of cou ... (more below)

Title

Elizabeth Rigsbee Letters

Collection Number

PC.1982

Date(s)

1914 - 1923; undated

Language

English

Physical Description
Box
1 letter size
Cubic feet
1/3
Abstract

Hannah Elizabeth Rigsbee (1893-1965), known as Elizabeth, was born in Durham County, N.C. to John Vernon Rigsbee (1848-1912), and Mary Whitworth Leigh Rigsbee (1854-1908). The family's youngest child, Elizabeth was only fifteen when her mother died and around nineteen when her father died. By 1914 or earlier, Elizabeth was working with children at the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, N.C.(later the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina). By 1930 or before she was married to Thomas Benton Roberts (1889-1965), a district supervisor of buyers for the American Tobacco Company.

Collection includes twenty original letters addressed to Miss Rigsbee, with seventeen written to her as part of courtship initiated by various male friends. Dates of the letters range from 1914 to 1923 with fourteen undated or lacking complete dates. Two of the letters are from a sister, Mary Jessie Rigsbee, known as Jessie, and one from a boy, Annual Wheeler, a resident of the Kennedy Home, a branch of the Baptist Orphanage in Kinston, N.C. Nineteen of the letters are handwritten, while one is typescript. In their entirety the letters include scattered references to activities and entertainments such as ball games, card games, plays, picture shows, church activities, casual gatherings, and going for rides. As a whole, the letters provide a small window into the practice of courtship or dating between a young employed woman and middle class men (at least two employed in the tobacco industry) in small town and rural North Carolina during the early twentieth century. There is one wedding announcement in the collection, dated October 1918.

Physical Location

For current information on the location ofthese materials, please consult the Public Services Branch, State Archives of North Carolina.

Creator

Rigsbee, Elizabeth.

Repository

State Archives of North Carolina


Folders arranged by material type. Series 1: letters and Series; 2: miscellaneous. The letters are arranged individually in folders by correspondent and chronologically by dates when available.


Available for research.


Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.


Processed by Fran Tracy-Walls with assistance from Jennifer Davis, 2009

Encoded by Fran Tracy-Walls, April, 2009


Hannah Elizabeth Rigsbee, known as Elizabeth and sometimes as Lizzie, was born in Durham County, N.C. on October 5, 1893. Her father was John Vernon Rigsbee (1848-1912), a farmer born in Orange County, N.C., and her mother was Mary Whitworth Leigh Rigsbee (1854-1908), probably also born in Orange County, N.C. Elizabeth had a brother, Clarence Dixon Rigsbee, born in 1879, married and the parent of several children born while Elizabeth was an adolescent. Elizabeth also had a sister, Mary Jessie Rigsbee (1891-1963), known as Jessie. As her immediate family's youngest child, Elizabeth was only fifteen when her mother died and around nineteen when her father died in 1912.

By 1914, Elizabeth was caring for children, possibly in the position of matron at the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, N.C.(later the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina). Her position probably was a combination of child care and social work. Several years later, there is one reference to her study at the Conservatory (Music Conservatory of Durham?], but the extent of her education is not clear from this collection. According to the 1920 census, Elizabeth was living with her brother and his family in Durham in 1920. Census and death certificate records show that her sister Jessie, who died in 1963, had been an organist at the First Baptist church and was the wife of Willis Thomas Carpenter, an assistant postmaster. Elizabeth was married by 1930 to Thomas Benton Roberts (1889-1965), born in Orange County, N.C., son of Frances Whitfield and Joseph Calvin Roberts. At retirement he was a district supervisor of buyers for the American Tobacco Company. Elizabeth died on March 30, 1967. The death certificate listed her occupation as post office clerk.


[Identification of item], PC.1982, Elizabeth Rigsbee Letters, 1914-1923 and undated, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C., USA.


Received as a gift from Stephen E. Massengill, Cary, N.C., 2005.


Additional information on topics found in this collection may be found in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System (MARS)  http://mars.archives.ncdcr.gov.


The collection includes twenty letters written to Elizabeth, including two by her sister, Jessie Rigsbee, one by a boy, Annual Wheeler, from the Kennedy Home, a branch of the Baptist Orphanage in Kinston, N.C., and apparently known to Elizabeth through her work at the Baptist home in Thomasville, N.C., and seventeen letters from several young adult males who were interested in a courtship with Elizabeth. There is one wedding announcement of Anna Thomas Newton and Dr. David Thomas Long, October 6, 1918, Durham, N.C. As a young working woman in Thomasville for at least two years, Elizabeth's connection to family, particularly her sister, and friends in Durham remained firm, for she had returned to Durham by 1920 if not before. The correspondence spans the years 1914-1923, and includes fourteen undated or partially dated letters. Correspondents include L.[Luther] Macon Epps; Arthur [?], Sycho [Pickett?], and Tommy, or TBR, mostly likely Thomas Benton Roberts, who eventually became her husband.

The entire collection of letters is written to Miss Rigsbee and as such provide only limited glimpses of this young woman's thoughts, feelings, and her work at the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, N.C. (later the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina). Most of the correspondents express concern for Elizabeth's well being and a clear desire to be in her company. Not filled with detailed descriptions, the letters are generally chatty. In their entirety the letters include references to activities and entertainments such as celebration of Halloween and gift-giving at Christmas; ball games; parlor games, including the card games of rook and setback; Carolina Playmaker performances; picture shows; the Epworth League (Methodist youth organization); Baptist church services; exchanges of pictures; casual gatherings; and going for rides. The courtship letters from the various young men are generally light-hearted, affectionate, and at times romantic. More than one of the suitors attempts to bring the casual nature of the relationship to a more serious level, most likely to marriage. As a whole, the letters provide a small window into the practice of courtship among young middle-class working adults in early twentieth century small-town and rural North Carolina. The courtship letters also offer a sense of the effort expended in making plans to meet when separated by distance, especially without the benefit of telephones, and often without easy access to transportation accept for that afforded by trains.

Folders arranged by material type. Series 1: letters and Series; 2: miscellaneous. The letters are arranged individually in folders by correspondent and chronologically by dates when available.


The collection includes twenty letters written to Elizabeth, including two by her sister, Jessie Rigsbee, one by a boy, Annual Wheeler, from the Kennedy Home, a branch of the Baptist Orphanage in Kinston, N.C., and apparently known to Elizabeth through her work at the Baptist home in Thomasville, N.C., and seventeen letters from several young adult males who were interested in a courtship with Elizabeth. There is one wedding announcement of Anna Thomas Newton and Dr. David Thomas Long, October 6, 1918, Durham, N.C. As a young working woman in Thomasville for at least two years, Elizabeth's connection to family, particularly her sister, and friends in Durham remained firm, for she had returned to Durham by 1920 if not before. The correspondence spans the years 1914-1923, and includes fourteen undated or partially dated letters. Correspondents include L.[Luther] Macon Epps; Arthur [?], Sycho [Pickett?], and Tommy, or TBR, mostly likely Thomas Benton Roberts, who eventually became her husband.

The entire collection of letters is written to Miss Rigsbee and as such provide only limited glimpses of this young woman's thoughts, feelings, and her work at the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, N.C. (later the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina). Most of the correspondents express concern for Elizabeth's well being and a clear desire to be in her company. Not filled with detailed descriptions, the letters are generally chatty. In their entirety the letters include references to activities and entertainments such as celebration of Halloween and gift-giving at Christmas; ball games; parlor games, including the card games of rook and setback; Carolina Playmaker performances; picture shows; the Epworth League (Methodist youth organization); Baptist church services; exchanges of pictures; casual gatherings; and going for rides. The courtship letters from the various young men are generally light-hearted, affectionate, and at times romantic. More than one of the suitors attempts to bring the casual nature of the relationship to a more serious level, most likely to marriage. As a whole, the letters provide a small window into the practice of courtship among young middle-class working adults in early twentieth century small-town and rural North Carolina. The courtship letters also offer a sense of the effort expended in making plans to meet when separated by distance, especially without the benefit of telephones, and often without easy access to transportation accept for that afforded by trains.


  • Rigby family.
  • Rigsbee family.
  • Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina, Inc.
  • Courtship
  • Family--North Carolina--History--20th century.
  • Tobacco industry
  • Tobacco workers.
  • Women--North Carolina--Social life and customs--20th century.
  • Women social workers.
  • Durham (N.C.)
  • Kinston (N.C.)
  • Mount Airy (N.C.)
  • Thomasville (N.C.)
  • Epps, L. Macon.
  • Rigsbee, Elizabeth, 1893-1967.
  • Rigsbee, Mary Jessie, 1891-1963.
  • Roberts, Thomas Benton, 1889-1965.

This series includes twenty letters written to Elizabeth Rigsbee, with seventeen written to her in the course of courtship by male friends, from 1914 to 1923 with the majority undated or partially dated. Two of the letters are from the sister of Elizabeth, Mary Jessie Rigsbee, known as Jessie, and one from a boy, Annual Wheeler, a resident of the Kennedy Home, a branch of the Baptist Orphanage in Kinston, N.C. Nineteen of the letters are handwritten, while one is typescript.

Box: PC.1982  
Folder: 1  
Sister [Mary Jessie Rigsbee] to Elizabeth Rigsbee
October 14, 1914

Scope and Content

Typescript. Written from Durham, NC to Elizabeth at the Baptist Orphanage, Thomasville, NC. References a social visit including an evening of playing the game of rook. Visitors included two young men employed in Durham and who were boarding nearby and several young women.

Folder: 2  
Jessie [sister, Mary Jessie Rigsbee] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Written from Durham, NC to Elizabeth at the Baptist Orphanage, Thomasville, NC. Writes of options for Elizabeth's Christmas present, a short or long cameo, and describes a package she had sent including a toy dog to amuse the sick children, particularly a child named Bruce.

Folder: 3  
From L. Macon Epps to Elizabeth Rigsbee
December 7, 1914

Scope and Content

Written from Statesville, N.C. Mentions travelling to Lexington for a game. Plans to travel by train to Thomasville to spend time with Elizabeth. Stationary shows photographic image of the Hotel Iredell.

Folder: 4  
From L. Macon Epps to Elizabeth Rigsbee
December 13, 1914

Scope and Content

Written from Rutherford College, Burke County, N.C. (The college eventually moved to and merged with Brevard College.) Expressed desire to see her more, including  "Wish I could be with you tonight again. If I were I certainly should not want to go out in the snow and ice to an Epworth League."[a Methodist church youth group of that era]. Says that  "I see you just about enough to make me crazy to see you more."

Folder: 5  
From L. Macon Epps to Elizabeth Rigsbee
July 5, 1915

Scope and Content

Written from Rutherford College, N.C. Wrote of his planned visit to Snow Hill [Chowan or Green County], and upon returning to Rutherford College and apparently planned to get off the train when it came back through Thomasville, and set out to look for Elizabeth. He also asked her to make inquires for him about a school [teaching?] vacancy in Thomasville.

Folder: 6  
From L. Macon Epps to Elizabeth Rigsbee, , no year
September 29

Scope and Content

Written from Rutherford College, N.C.

Folder: 7  
From Annual [?] Wheeler to Elizabeth Rigsbee
November 1, 1916

Scope and Content

Written from Kennedy House [affilated with the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage] Kinston, N.C. Wheeler apparently was an orphan who previously had known Elizabeth at the Thomasville Orphanage. He described the celebration of Halloween at the orphanage and reported on the cotton crop at the orphanage farm.

Folder: 8  
From Arthur [unkown] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, or possibly1913
ca. November 22, 1919 1913

Scope and Content

Appears to be written from Durham, N.C. or from Lynchburg, Va. Refers to Elizabeth's hard study at the conservatory [Southern Conservatory of Music in Durham?].

Folder: 9  
From Sycho [Pickett?] to Lizzie [Elizabeth Rigsbee], undated, but between
1916-1920

Scope and Content

Apparently written from Durham, N.C. to Elizabeth at the Baptist Children's Home. Sycho refers to her work at the Children's Home, and humorously suggests punishing the boys by making them look at his picture. Reports about supply preachers at the Baptist church, including Mr. White [the Reverend Walter Raleigh White] of the Asheboro Street Baptist Church, Greensboro [1916-1920], about whom he was enthusiastic.

Folder: 10  
From Sycho [Pickett?] to My Darling Angel [Elizabeth Rigsbee], undated

Scope and Content

Written in challenging conditions in middle of the lobby of the Blue Ridge Inn, Mount Airy, N.C. where he found  "every body looking and talking at the same time." As a suitor, Sycho referred to a competitor and warned that  "whoever gets My Darling will have to work for I am going to die fighting, for I love you more than everything and everybody else in the whole world." The postscript to the letter revealed that the folks in the lobby wanted him to sit in on a setback [card] game.

Folder: 11  
From Sycho [Pickett?] to Darling My Very Own [Elizabeth Rigsbee], undated

Scope and Content

Two pages written on the separate letterheads of Granite City Realty and Trust Co. and the Hawks-Rothrock Drug Company, both of Mount Airy, N.C. Refers to doing a little business in North Wilkesboro where he sold 26,000 cigarettes and bought a bottle of medicine for his mother's rheumatism.

Folder: 12  
From G. G. [Atkins?] to Dearest Sweetheart [Elizabeth Rigsbee], undated

Scope and Content

Expresses urgent desire to see Elizabeth that afternoon and asks her to call him by telephone.

Folder: 13  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee
ca. April, 1923

Scope and Content

Written on letterhead of Hotel Belvedere, Reidsville, N.C. Refers to the Carolina Playmakers showing that night and to an earlier peformance in Greenville. Expresses his desire to see Elizabeth and asks for news of Durham.

Folder: 14  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee
April 20, 1923

Scope and Content

Written on letterhead of Hotel Belvedere, Reidsville, N.C. to Elizabeth in Durham, N.C.

Folder: 15  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee
April 24, 1923

Scope and Content

Written on letterhead of Hotel Belvedere, Reidsville, N.C. to Elizabeth in Durham, N.C. Inquires if Elizabeth is going to the opening game [baseball?]. Indicates he may attend games at Greensboro when Carolina and Virginia play. Expresses his desire to see Elizabeth and his love for her.

Folder: 16  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Written on letterhead of Hotel Lochmoor, Durham, N.C. but apparently written from elsewhere.

Folder: 17  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Written on letterhead of Hotel Tull, Kinston, N.C. Referred to getting a ride [to Kinston?]with a tobacco man. He has found most of the tobacco already sold. Expresses having had a good time with Elizabeth in Durham but was  "sorry to see your killing yourself at work."

Folder: 18  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Reported that he had purchased a suit of clothes with two pairs of trousers for $24.75. To Elizabeth he urged that she  "go get some clothes too, honey."

Folder: 19  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Expressed his concerns that Elizabeth had sounded blue, and attributed to the temporary situation of having no social life to speak of in Durham. In another part of the letter, he wrote that  "when I come back and get my raise I am perfectly willing to tie the knot. I don't know how it is with you but I will be no good for anything until we are married for I want to be with you all the time."

Folder: 20  
From Tommy [Roberts] to Elizabeth Rigsbee, undated

Scope and Content

Expressed his fear that Elizabeth will  "find someone near that you love better." He rather gently cajoled her with  "your last letter was very short and not much love in it either. Now you must do better. Maybe mine has been too mushy for you."

Consists of one wedding announcement of a Durham, North Carolina couple, with the marriage taking place October 6, 1918. Probably the bride was a friend and not related to Elizabeth Rigsbee. The announcement apparently was delivered by hand.

Folder: 21  
Wedding Announcement of Marriage of Anna Thomas Newton and Dr. David Thomas Long
October 6, 1918

Scope and Content

The wedding announcement apparently was delivered by hand. The announcement was made by the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Newton. An enclosure stated that the Long's home would be at the Watts Hospital [apartment on grounds?] in Durham, N.C.