Finding Aid of the Jonathan Worth Papers, 1831 - 1889, PC.49


Finding Aid of the Jonathan Worth Papers, 1831 - 1889, PC.49


Governor Jonathan Worth was born in 1802 in Guilford County, son of Eunice Gardner and Dr. David Worth, a descendent of Nantucket Quakers. Worth served as governor of North Carolina from 1865-1868 and supported President Andrew Johnson's reconstruction policies.
The collection consists of copies of outgoing correspondence (13 letter press books) between 1850 and 1869, incoming correspondence from 1831 until after his death in 1869, and the printed inaugural address of Governor Worth upon his inauguration on December 22, 1866.

Descriptive Summary

Jonathan Worth Papers
Call Number
Worth, Jonathan, 1802-1869
1831 - 1889
5300.00 items, 5318.00 letters
State Archives of North Carolina

Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

Available for research. However, several letter press books are in a delicate condition with shattered bindings and fragile paper. Readability runs the gamut from illegible, partly legible, to completely legible. Occasionally a letter can only be read by holding a mirror to the reverse side of the tissue.

Use Restrictions

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.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], PC.49, Jonathan Worth Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.

Collection Overview

Correspondence of Worth, Quaker, lawyer, Whig legislator, state treasurer (1862-1865), and governor (1865-1868). Most of the letters refer to current events and personalities, with frequent references to Quakers and to politics and elections, including his own campaigns (1841-1868). Antebellum letters concern his business ventures (sawmills, turpentine, gold and copper mines, debt collection, a plank road); UNC lands; Trinity College; common schools in Randolph Co.; and management of the North Carolina Railroad by Charles Fisher. Wartime letters concern the Wilmington saltworks, conscriptions and exemptions, impressment of free Negroes and horses, deteriorating state finances, relations with the Confederate government, blockade-running profits, the Literary Fund, a peace petition by Worth, General Lee's letters on arming and freeing the slaves, and evacuation of the state archives to Greensboro. Postwar problems include state rosin and cotton in England and the West Indies; the war debt and repudiation; finances of the Literary Fund and UNC; Negro suffrage and education; equal justice; return of the archives; civil and military jurisdiction in courts under military Reconstruction; and sectional hatred. There were also comments on the Republican party in North Carolina, Union Leagues, "Red Strings"; German immigration and Quaker emigration; first North Carolian synagogue; the penitentiary and insane asylum; railroads; and relief for the destitute. Political views were traded with such men as Thomas Bragg, David F. Caldwell, John A. Gilmer, William A. Graham, Benjamin S. Hedrick, Walter F. Leak, A. S. Merrimon, R. M. Pearson, Thomas Ruffin, D. L. Swain, Josiah Turner, Z. B. Vance, and Patrick H. Winston. Correspondence after his death relates especially to Worth's son-in-law and private secretary, William Bagley. Many of the letters in this collection have been published in J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton (ed.), The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, 2 vols. (Raleigh, 1909).
Additional collection description from the original finding aid: The correspondence contains political discussion and relates to Whigs, nominations, campaigns, elections, and conventions--national, state, and county. Other frequent topics are the administration of his daughter Roxana McNeill's plantations; business enterprises with his brothers and son; legal business with his sons-in-law; secession; salt works at Wilmington; state and personal finances; peace movement; William W. Holden; evacuation of archives; Reconstruction; military occupation; Generals Thomas H. Ruger, Daniel B. Sickles, and E. R. S. Canby; federal and state appointments; taxes; conflict of civil and military justice; pardons; railroad matters; literary board; swamp lands; freedmen; 14th amendment; radicals in Congress and in North Carolina; Albion W. Tourgee; the U. S. Supreme Court. Worth relied on the advice of Josiah Turner, Patrick H. Winston, John A. Gilmer, and Governors William A. Graham, David L. Swain, and Zebulon B. Vance. He also, sought opinions from Judges R. M. Pearson and A. S. Merrimon. Worth's formal political views are most fully set forth in letters to Andrew Johnson, David F. Caldwell of Greensboro (an ardent, honest, and eccentric man), and Quakers Cyrus and Nerus Mendenhall, Darius H. Starbuck, Allen M. Tomlinson, J. M. Coffin, Joseph Newlin, etc. His more informal political views are found in c. 85 letters to Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick, the state's unpaid, unofficial agent in Washington during Reconstruction, and to his many relatives including brother-in-law William Clark of Indiana, son David of Wilmington, brothers Milton of Asheboro, Barzillai of Wilmington and New York, Addison of Fayetteville (Clarkson died in the 1862 epidemic in Wilmington), and his sons-in-law S. S. Jackson of Asheboro and J. J. Jackson of Pittsboro.
An addition to the collection was donated in December 1994 and accessioned in January 1995, consisting of a seven-page pamphlet entitled, Inaugural Address of Jonathan Worth, Governor of North Carolina, Delivered at his Inauguration in Presence of Both Houses of the General Assembly, on the 22d of December 1866, printed by William E. Pell, state printer, in the year 1866.

Arrangement Note

Divided into outgoing and incoming correspondence and arranged chronologically. A check in the upper right hand corner of the page indicates the letter has been published. The volumes for 1865-1869 have considerable overlapping of dates. Each letter press book has an index in the front.

Biographical Note

Jonathan Worth, born 1802, Guilford County, son of Eunice Gardner and Dr. David Worth, a descendent of Nantucket Quakers. Educated at Caldwell Institute, Greensboro; studied law with Archibald DeBow Murphey, whose niece Martitia Daniel he married in 1824, the year he began a law practice in Asheboro. State representative from Randolph County, 1830-1832, opposed to nullification; clerk and master in equity, Randolph County court; business partner with brothers John Milton, Joseph Addison, Barzillai Gardner, and Thomas Clarkson, and son David Gaston; legal partner with sons-in-law, the brothers Joseph John Jackson and Samuel Spencer Jackson; state senator, 1858-1862, opposed secession; state treasurer, 1862-1865; governor, 1865-1868, supported President Johnson's reconstruction policies; died, Raleigh, 1869. For further biographical information see Samuel A. Ashe (ed.), , III, 435-454. This biographical history also contains articles on his brothers Milton, Addison, Barzillai; his son David; and his daughter Elvira.

Contents of the Collection

1. Incoming Correspondence,1831-1869


Approximately 1,500 original letters to Worth.

1831-1865, 1831-1865
Box PC.49.14
1866, 1866
Box PC.49.15-17
1867, 1867
Box PC.49.18-19
1868, 1868
Box PC.49.20-21
1869, [1869-1889], 1869, [1869-1889]
Box PC.49.22

2. Letter Press Books (Outgoing Correspondence),1850-1869


The letter press books contain c. 3,800 copies of letters written by Jonathan Worth. The earlier letter press books (1850-1862) cover Worth's Asheboro days and are concerned with his business, legal, and political interests.

The outgoing letters of his years as state treasurer (1862-1865) concern both private and public matters. [Related correspondence is in the Treasurer's and Comptroller's Papers (Correspondence #8 and #9).]

Letter press books kept during his years as governor (1865-1868) also have private and public correspondence; some of these letters are also in the Governor's Letter Books (GLB 53-54) of incoming and outgoing correspondence. [Related material is also in the Governor's Papers (GP 192-209).]

1850-1853, 1850-1853
Box PC.49.1
1853-1856, 1853-1856
Box PC.49.2
1857-1859, 1857-1859
Box PC.49.3
1859-1860, 1859-1860
Box PC.49.4
, Part I, 1860-1861
Box PC.49.5
, Part II, 1864-1865
1861-1864, 1861-1864
Box PC.49.6
July 1865-July 1866, July 1865-July 1866
Box PC.49.7
December 1865-April 1866, December 1865-April 1866
Box PC.49.8
January 1866, January 1866
Box PC.49.9
April 1866-July 1867, April 1866-July 1867
Box PC.49.10
July 1866-November 1867, July 1866-November 1867
Box PC.49.11
July 1867-October 15, 1868, July 1867-October 15, 1868
Box PC.49.12
December 1867-September 1869, December 1867-September 1869
Box PC.49.13

Subject Headings

  • Gilmer, John A. (John Adams), 1805-1868
  • Caldwell, David F.
  • Canby, Edward Richard Sprigg, 1817-1873
  • Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875
  • Hedrick, Benjamin Sherwood, 1827-1886
  • Holden, W. W. (William Woods), 1818-1892
  • Johnson, Andrew, 1808-1875
  • McNeill, Roxana
  • Mendenhall, C. P. (Cyrus P.)
  • Mendenhall, Nereus, 1810-1893
  • Merrimon, Augustus Summerfield
  • Newlin, Joseph
  • Pearson, Richmond Mumford, 1805-1878
  • Ruger, Thomas Howard, 1833-1907
  • Sickles, Daniel Edgar, 1819-1914
  • Starbuck, Darius H.
  • Swain, David L. (David Lowry), 1801-1868
  • Tomlinson, Allen M.
  • Tourgee, Albion Winegar, 1838-1905
  • Turner, Josiah, 1821-1901
  • Vance, Zebulon Baird, 1830-1894
  • Worth, Jonathan, 1802-1869
  • Fisher, Charles
  • Bragg, Thomas
  • Hedrick, Benjamin S.
  • Walter F. Leak
  • Pearson, R. M.
  • Ruffin, Thomas
  • Turner, Josiah
  • Vance, Zebulon Baird, 1830-1894
  • Winston, Patrick H.
  • Bagley, William
  • Hamilton, J. G. de Roulhac
  • Whig Party (U.S.)
  • Trinity College
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • North Carolina Railroad
  • Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )
  • Union League
  • Red String League
  • Governors--North Carolina
  • Lawyers--North Carolina
  • North Carolina--Politics and government--1775-1865
  • North Carolina--Politics and government--1861-1865
  • North Carolina--Politics and government--1865-1950
  • Peace movements--United States--History--19th century
  • Plantations--North Carolina--History--19th century
  • Quakers--North Carolina
  • Railroads--North Carolina
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--North Carolina
  • Salt industry and trade--North Carolina--Wilmington
  • Secession--Southern States
  • United States--Constitution--14th Amendment
  • Quakers
  • Political Parties
  • Salt mines and mining
  • Turpentine Distillation
  • Sawmills
  • Lawyers
  • Legislators
  • Land
  • Poor
  • Poverty
  • Gold mines and mining
  • Mines
  • Copper Mines and Mining
  • Blockades
  • Finance
  • Synagogues
  • Prisons
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Politics
  • War, Cost of
  • Gums and Resins
  • Slavery
  • Liberty
  • Cotton trade
  • African Americans
  • Suffrage
  • Peace
  • Education
  • Equality Before the Law
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
  • Courts
  • Military
  • Justice, Administration of
  • Politicians
  • Finance, Public
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Germans
  • Governors
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Correspondence
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Economic aspects
  • Wilmington (N.C.)
  • Correspondence
  • Acquisitions Information

    Letters of Jonathan Worth "secured and placed among the collections" by the North Carolina Historical Commission and reported in its second biennial report, 1906-1908. Additionally, letters and private letter press books of Jonathan Worth (1,307 items) presented by Mrs. Adelaide Worth Bagley and Mrs. Elvira Worth Moffitt, daughters of Governor Worth; 1916-1918, papers (1862-1865) of John Milton Worth, brother of Jonathan and state salt commissioner during the Civil War, presented by Charles W. Worth of Wilmington; 1930-1932, letters to and from Jonathan Worth, also presented by Charles W. Worth. Transferred from State Treasurer's Papers, April 4, 1961 - 13 items; and from Governor's Letter Books, January 26, 1967, 5 letter press books which were part of the above collection presented by Worth's two daughters. At some earlier date two other letter press books transferred back to private collections. On 19 December, 1994, Harold M. Hyman, Houston, Tex. donated an addition to the papers consisting of a seven-page pamphlet entitled, Inaugural Address of Jonathan Worth, Governor of North Carolina, Delivered at his Inauguration in Presence of Both Houses of the General Assembly, on the 22d of December 1866, printed by William E. Pell, state printer, in the year 1866.

    Processing Information

  • Processed by Betty H. Carter, June, 1967. Encoded by Lee Todd, February, 2008. Updated and edited by Fran Tracy-Walls, November 2019, for publication in Discover Online Catalog (DOC).