Bettie Stokes Papers, PC.5352


Bettie Stokes Papers, PC.5352


The materials in this collection focus on the family of William G. Gaither of Elizabeth City. Gaither was one of the developers of the Wright Memorial Bridge Company, and his wife Helen Robinson's family owned a vacation cottage in Nags Head. This collection contains papers primarily related to the Sumner-Robinson Gaither Cottage of Nags Head in the 1920s-1960s and the sale of the Wright Memorial Bridge to the State of North Carolina in the 1930s-1940s.

Descriptive Summary

Bettie Stokes Papers
Call Number
Stokes, Elizabeth, b. 1925
1912-2003 and undated
0.200 cubic feet
Outer Banks History Center

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Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

Available for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by the 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 these materials.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], PC.5352, Bettie Stokes Papers, Outer Banks History Center, Manteo, NC, U.S.A.

Collection Overview

The Bettie Stokes Papers, 1912-2003 and undated, consists of four folders of material primarily related to the Gaither/Robinson/Stokes family of Nags Head and Elizabeth City, including correspondence, photographs, printed material, and scrapbook pages.

The correspondence folder includes a packet of letters related to the business operations and sale of the Wright Memorial Bridge in the 1930s and 1940s, together with a note from William G. Gaither describing how the sale was, in his words, "one of the greatest underhand jobs I have ever known." Gaither believed his company was forced to sell the bridge significantly less money than it was worth and describes how the sale left him financially bereft. Also included is a letter from David Etheridge of the H.M.S. Raleigh inquiring about copyright for a performance of The Lost Colony aboard his ship and an undated poem written for William Gaither by Dora Dogwood thanking him for letting her family stay in his cottage.

Photographs, 1912-2003, primarily focus on the Sumner-Robinson-Gaither cottage and the people who vacationed there. Included are several photos of Bettie, Bill, and Mary Leigh Gaither as young children, Eloise Robinson, and other unidentified vacationers at the cottage in the 1920s; an unidentified white man talking to an unidentified Black man in a jail cell; Bettie and her friends and extended family at the cottage in the 1940s, including an image of a group of people pointing a gun at a beached porpoise; a group of women at a party at the F.E. Winslow cottage in 1945; scenes around Nags Head Beach Cottage Row after Hurricane Donna in 1960; Bettie Stokes on the porch of the Gaither cottage in 1984; storm damage to the cottage's steps in 1998; and aerial photographs of the Duck area (including the Duck Research Pier) taken from a blimp in 2003.

Printed material consists of two circa 1940s clippings related to the Wright Memorial Bridge company, a circa 1960 edition of the H.M.S. Raleigh's "Raleigh Journal," and a ticket for a 1998 tour of Nags Head Beach Cottage Row.

The scrapbook pages in the collection depict groups of people vacationing in Nags Head around the 1920s, including several young women in bathing caps and dresses swimming in the ocean, people sitting in horse-drawn carts, and an unidentified woman and baby (possibly Helen Robinson Gaither and one of her children).

Arrangement Note

Folders arranged alphabetically. Material within folders arranged chronologically.


Elizabeth "Bettie" Stokes was born 28 July 1925 in Pasquotank County. Her parents were Helen Robinson Gaither (1892-1981) and William Gassaway Gaither (1887-1979). Bettie had two siblings: Mary Leigh Gaither Overton (1919-2006) and William Gassaway Gaither, Jr. (1923-1991). She attended St. Mary's School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and married Henry Clay Stokes of Perquimans County.

Bettie's father, William Gaither, was one of the founders of the Wright Memorial Bridge Company, who built and operated the Wright Memorial Bridge as a toll bridge in the 1930s. Bettie's grandfather, C.H. Robinson, owned the Sumner-Robinson-Gaither cottage in Nags Head, which Bettie's family eventually inherited and where they spent their summers. The cottage was built in 1868 and was one of the original 13 cottages that created Old Nags Head's Beach Cottage Row.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1935-1960 and undated
Box 1
Photographs, 1912-2003
Box 1
Printed Material, 1940s-1998
Box 1
Scrapbook Pages, 1920s
Box 1

Subject Headings

  • Robinson family
  • Gaither Family
  • Wright Memorial Bridge Company
  • Bridges--North Carolina--Outer Banks
  • Family vacations--North Carolina--20th century
  • Vacation homes--North Carolina--Nags Head--20th century
  • Nags Head (N.C.)--History--20th century
  • Beach Cottage Row Historic District (Nags Head, N.C.)
  • Acquisitions Information

    Donated by Bettie Stokes.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Samantha Crisp, July 2022.