Guide to the Harper-Beall Family Papers, 1826-1959, undated (Bulk 1840-1890)

Summary Information

Title: Harper-Beall Family Papers, 1826-1959, undated (Bulk 1840-1890)
Collection: AC.392
Extent: 3.25 linear feet (2 boxes, 1 half-sized manuscript box, 1 leather bag)

The Harper-Beall Family Papers consist of nineteenth-century correspondence, medical advertisements, and financial documents from the Beall and Harper families of Lenoir, North Carolina and Davidson County, North Carolina.

James Harper of Lenoir, North Carolina and his daughter Mary "Mollie" Beall and son-in-law Robert Beall generated the majority of this collection. The collection documents the life of a North Carolina Foothill upper-class family involved in business, medicine, and politics.

Creator: Harper-Beall family

Biographical/Historical Note

The Beall family of Davidson County lived in Beallmont near Linwood, North Carolina. The Beallmont property was originally owned by Robert Moore, who immigrated to Pennsylvania and married Martha Cunningham of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Dr. Burgess Lamar Beall married Moore's granddaughter Eleanor "Ellen" Moore, and they built Beallmont near the Moore home.

Dr. Burgess Beall was a physician. He was descended from Ninian Beall of Scotland. Genealogies contradict each other and list his parents either as James Lamar Beall or Zachariah and Rebecca Beall. He studied medicine under Ellen Moore's uncle, Robert Moore, Jr. In 1830, he married Ellen (1807-1844), the daughter of Ebenezer Moore (1779-1843) and Margaret Jones (1788-1844). He had a medical practice, ran the Beallmont property, and served as Representative for Davidson County from 1838 to 1840. He died in 1852. He had four children by his first wife: Robert Lamar (1831-1891), Mary Elizabeth (1833-1899), Thomas Burgess (1835-1909), James Franklin (1837-1907), and Margaret Ellen (1840-1941). His second wife was named Elizabeth.

Robert Lamar Beall was the oldest son of Burgess and Ellen Beall. His early education was at an academy in Bethany Church. From 1849 to 1852, he attended Davidson College but withdrew after the death of his father to care for the family. On November 3, 1858, he married Mary Elizabeth "Mollie," daughter of James and Caroline Ellen Finley Harper. Mary Harper (1840-1916) graduated from Edgeworth Academy in 1857. She and Robert Beall began their married life in Davidson County, North Carolina. Their children included Lelia (1860-1863), Carrie (1862-1862), Mary Jones "M.J." (Mrs. Columbus M. Weathers), James "Harper" Beall (b. 1868), Annie (b. 1872), Bessie Cornelia (Mrs. Edward F. Reid and Annie's twin), and Roberta "Berta" Lamar (Mrs. Rufus Lenior Gwyn, b. 1878).

Robert worked as the physician of the Silver Hill Mining Company. In 1867, he moved his family to Lenoir to live with Mollie's father at Fairfield. Robert was a representative in 1862 for Davidson County. He also worked on the Caldwell County section of the 1885 North Carolina Exposition.

Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Beall was the eldest daughter of Burgess and Ellen Beall. In the mid-1840s, she attended Salem Academy of Salem, North Carolina, and later studied at an academy in Lexington. In 1854, she married her first cousin Ira Fitzgerald, who studied medicine under her father, against her father's wishes. Fitzgerald died one year later. Her other husbands were Robert Crump and James Samuel McCubbins.

James "Jim" Beall was the fourth Beall child. In 1854, he attended Bingham's Male Academy of Orange County, North Carolina. James organized the 21st N.C. Regiment, Company A of the North Carolina Confederate Army and was promoted to major. After the war, he studied medicine. On December 29, 1869, he married Margaret Cornelia "Neely" Harper, sister of Mary Harper Beall. He and Neely Beall lived at Beallmont. Their children included Franklin Harper (1870-1926), Caroline Moore (1878-1963), and James Lamar (1887-1965). After Robert's relocation to Lenoir, James worked as the physician of the Silver Hill Mining Company.

Mary C. Jones (1797-1858) was the daughter of Isaac and Eleanor Gaither Jones and Ellen Moore Beall's unmarried aunt. She resided with Burgess Beall and regularly visited and corresponded with family members, such as Walter Jones and Frances Jones.

James Harper (1799-1879) was the son of John and Elizabeth Witherow Harper of Scotch descent. His siblings were John, David, Samuel, William, Margaret, and William. In approximately 1827, he left Adams County, Pennsylvania for North Carolina to improve his health. He and William P. Waugh started a store at Fort Grider, which later became the Bernhardt-Seagle Company, the oldest hardware store in western North Carolina. With Waugh, he established a chain of stores in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

In 1833, James married Caroline Ellen Finley, daughter of Samuel and Mary Tate Finley of Augusta County, Virginia. Fairfield in Lenoir, North Carolina was their homestead. Mary's father's siblings, John Finley and Mary Patterson, and her maternal uncle, William Waugh, lived in nearby Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their children included George Washington Finley Harper (1834-1921), Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Harper Beall (1840-1916), John Waugh (1838-1841), Samuel Finley Harper (1843-1929), and Margaret Cornelia "Neely" Harper Beall (1847-1926).

Civic-minded, Harper donated 30 acres of land, including the public square, to the town of Lenoir. He was also active in politics. He founded Davenport College and Finley High School, of Lenoir. He was Lenoir Presbyterian Church's first elder and clerk from 1852 to 1879. Colonel James Harper appears to have been the purchase agent for Waugh-Harper Co.

Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Harper Beall attended Edgeworth Female Seminary in Greensboro, North Carolina. After her marriage to Robert Beall, she maintained a correspondence with her cousins, younger sister Neely, and school friends. She experienced the loss of two young children.

Colonel William P. Waugh (1775-1852) was a native of Adams County, Pennsylvania. In 1803, he migrated to Wilkesboro, North Carolina with his brothers John, James, Andrew, and David. His nephew, Major John Finley, and niece, Mary Finley Patterson (wife of Samuel Patterson), also relocated to Wilkesboro. Carolina Finley Harper was the granddaughter of Waugh's sister, Mary Waugh Finley, and the niece of John Finley and Mary Finley Patterson. Originally the co-owner of a chain of mercantile stores with John Finley, Waugh also owned the mercantile business "Waugh and Harper" with James Harper. He lived in Moravian Falls of Wilkes County. In addition to his business, Waugh owned a tavern and served as a justice. Although he never married, the Waugh family of Wilkes County believe that their ancestor Henderson Waugh, a free man of color, was his son.

Scope and Contents

The Beall and Harper families exemplify nineteenth-century, upper-class families from the Piedmont and Foothills of North Carolina, respectively. Members of both families served in the North Carolina General Assembly and were civic leaders in their communities. As slave-holders, they managed large estates. Education and religion held importance in their lives, and many children attended boarding school. Active members of the Presbyterian Church, they contributed greatly to development of their local congregations.

The business practices of the Waugh and Harper general stores are alluded to within letters between merchants and William P. Waugh and James Harper. Regular trips to northern urban centers acquired desirable goods. An overseas receipt indicates some goods may have regularly arrived in Charleston as well. The tone of the letters between Waugh and Harper is very professional and indicative of a relationship more business than personal.

The courtship correspondence of Robert Beall and his wife Mary Harper is almost complete from Robert's first letter requesting correspondence to their last letter before their wedding. Their jovial and occasionally temperamental natures come through in these letters. They call each other Lamar and Elsie in some letters. Also, Robert calls Mary his "mountain girl."

The Beall family consisted of several doctors, including Dr. Robert Moore, Jr., Dr. Burgess Beall, Burgess' sons Robert and James, and his nephew Ira Fitzgerald. Brochures of various medicines and medical products illustrate that nineteenth-century advertising practices reached rural North Carolina. Included prescriptions and correspondence illustrate the era's medical practices. A leather doctor bag is also included in this collection. "R.L. Gwyn of Lenoir, N.C." is handwritten on its side.

Although neither the Beall or Harper families were large plantation owners, both held slaves and lived in a slave state. Through his association with William P. Waugh and Samuel Patterson, James Harper was involved in the clothing of slaves, returning a runaway slave to his owner Samuel Patterson, and the hiring out of slaves. The health and activities of slaves were occasionally discussed in letters.

The Civil War greatly affected the Beall and Harper families. Prior to secession, Robert Beall originally supported the Union but appears to have supported the Confederacy afterwards. Although Robert remained home, Mary's brothers, George and Finley, and Robert's brothers, James and Thomas, served as officers within the Confederate army. Female family members contributed to the homeside support of soldiers while facing the scarcity of resources. James Beall and Finley Harper wrote descriptions of camp life, strategies, mountain Unionists, health issues, and the need for supplies. Two unknown authors describe Stoneman's Raid in northwestern North Carolina. A hand drawing of the battle ground of the Seven Pines on May 31-June 1, 1862 is included. An intricate hand-drawn Confederate flag was on one of the envelopes.

Reconstruction politics were also important as James Harper and Robert Beall remained active in civic service. Correspondence and speeches relate their non-radical approaches. Family letters describe the freedmen's reactions to emancipation and new working conditions.


The Harper-Beall Family Papers is organized into three series: Series I: Correspondence, Series II: Financial Documents, and Series III: Assorted Documents and Artifacts. Series I is arranged chronologically. Series II and III are arranged alphabetically.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for use in the Dougherty Reading Room. An appointment for research is recommended. The Dougherty Reading Room is located on the 4th floor of Belk Library in Special Collections.

Acquisitions Information

James McCarl donated this collection to the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection on October 1, 2007. Its accession number is AC.2007.020. This collection was opened to the public in May 2008.

Processing Information

Processed by Kathryn Staley, May 2008; Encoded by Kathryn Staley, May 2008; Reprocessed and finding aid revisions by Rose Buchanan, December 2012. This collection was reprocessed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], A.C.392: Harper-Beall Family Papers, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.

Container List

Series I: Correspondence, 1826-1959, undated

Series Description: Early documents from 1827 to 1848 originate primarily from the Harper family. Waugh-Harper business letters describe the purchase and disposal of stock, payment of debts, slave needs, and some neighborhood news. Family letters also discusses hiring of slaves, runaway slaves, and the health of slaves.

Letters after dating 1848 are a mix of Jones, Harper, and Beall correspondence. Many letters during the 1840s and 1850s were written while the Beall and Harper children were away at school. These letters contain descriptions of neighborhood and family news, school activities, current fashions, social events, and parental advice. School friends wrote letters to both Robert Beall and Mary Harper Beall.

Correspondence between Robert and Mary Beall illustrate their relationship from their first meeting until just before their wedding. Their correspondence renewed when Robert served in the legislature in 1872. The courtship letters from 1857 to late 1858 contain colorful descriptions and witty rebukes for slow replies. They called each other as Elsie and Lamar.

Civil War-era correspondence is particularly descriptive of life in Lenoir and Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Mary's witty cousin Eva Bouchelle, who was caring for her grandfather Finley in Wilkesboro, describes women's home side war activities, a woman giving a war address, and soldiers leaving for battle. Mary's brother Finley and their father regularly wrote home with descriptions of camp life and military intrigue.

Post-Reconstruction letters consist of letters from the Beall children. Many discuss family genealogy and family news.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Many letters were incomplete and undated. For a detailed description of contents, link to Correspondence Series Box List.

Letters, 1826-1839  Box 1.1
Letters, 1840-1845  Box 1.2
Letters, 1846-1847 Box 1.3
Letters, 1848-1849 Box 1.4
Letters, 1850-1854 Box 1.5
Letters, 1855-1859 Box 1.6
Letters, 1860-1865 Box 1.7
Letters, 1866-1869 Box 1.8
Letters, 1870-1876  Box 1.9
Letters, 1881-1885 Box 2.1
Letters, 1886  Box 2.2
Letters, 1887 Box 2.3
Letters, 1891-1899  Box 2.4
Letters, 1904-1909  Box 2.5
Letters, 1911-1919  Box 2.6
Letters, 1920-1959 Box 2.7

Letters [1 of 2], undated

Note: Includes undated letters from Robert Beall, Mary "Mollie" Harper Beall, Cornelia "Nealy" Harper Beall, Samuel Finley Paterson, Margaret Abernathy, E.J. Baker, and Stella Cloyd. One letter from Robert Beall describes the Confederates' defenses against Stoneman's raid in Wilkesboro.

Box 2.8

Letters [2 of 2], undated 

Note: Includes letters and letter fragments from various individuals.

Box 2.9

Envelopes [1 of 2] 

Note: Includes pre-printed envelopes from Isbell College, N.C. State Exposition, Worsham House of Memphis, Tennessee, G.W. Templeton Groceries of Mooresville, North Carolina, C.C. Crow of Aetna Life Insurance Co., Henry A. Dreer of Philadelphia, Finley Coat of Arms, United States Internal Revenue, Hotel Hunt of Saint Louis, Missouri. Also included is a Civil War-era envelope with a hand drawn national Confederate flag with eleven or twelve stars.

Box 2.10

Envelopes [2 of 2] 

Note: Includes pre-printed envelopes from Cutler, Foster and Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, McCubrin, Foster and Co, of Salisbury, North Carolina, State of North Carolina's House of Representatives, G.E. Flowers, M.D. of Cedar Valley, North Carolina, "The Occoneechee," State of North Carolina's Senate Chamber, Belmont Hotel of Charlotte, North Carolina, "The New Eclectic," "Youth's Companion," J. and T. Johnson, Wilmington, North Carolina, Subsistence Department, E.S. of Greensborough, North Carolina, Wilson Drug Company of Charlotte, North Carolina. Also included is a copy of a creative address inscription.

Box 2.11

Series II: Financial Documents, 1831-1891, undated

Series Description: This series contains receipts, statements, and other financial documents from Waugh and Harper Company and Robert Beall. Featured items include an itemized list of Harper's purchases during a trip north, Aetna Life Insurance Co. bills, an untitled and undated list related to gold dust, an 1844 shipment statement from New York City to Charleston, and court cases for non-payment. Many Waugh and Harper materials date to 1844, possibly indicating a purchasing trip. Many promissory notes originate from a Philadelphia bank and are signed Waugh and Harper. Materials are arranged alphabetically.

Court cases for non-payment, 1850-1852 Box 3.1
James Harper's Estate Executor Statement for H. Sumter, 1864 Box 3.2

Expenses of indeterminate nature, 1848-1851, undated 

Note: These lists of apparent purchases lack dates and store names. Most reference William P. Waugh and James Harper.

Box 3.3
Medical Statement from Robert Beall to John W. Kirby, 1886  Box 3.4
Promissory notes and checks, 1831-1883  Box 3.5
Received Accounts, 1841-1887, undated  Box 3.6
Statements, 1844-1891  Box 3.7

Series III: Assorted Documents and Ephemera, 1844-1912, undated

Series Description: Series III: Assorted Documents and Artifacts contains addresses, advertisements, genealogical documents, newspaper articles, poetry, prescriptions, ephemera, and other assorted documents. The series also includes a leather bag that has the handwritten message, "R.L. Gwyn of Lenoir, N.C.," on its side. Materials are arranged alphabetically.

Addresses include 1870 Plato Durham's withdrawal from candidacy for General Assemby in favor of Col. James C. Harper. Durham could not be seated due to his participation in the Confederate government. The document lists gentlemen who endorsed Harper. Another address is from James Harper to the residents of the Mountain district in which he discusses his plans to run as a conservative, his anti-Radical attitudes, and his platform. Also included is Zebulon Vance's 1886 speech entitled, "Repeal of Civil Service Law."

Genealogical documents include notes on history of Fairfield (the Harper home), a handwritten biography of James Harper, undated notes on Beall family history (John Gaither and Drucilla Beall), a transcription of Zachariah Beall's 1817 will, and an undated obituary of Mary Jones Beall Weathers (daughter of Robert and Mary Beall).


Note: Includes an address to an unnamed women's club, John Hoyle Chapter (undated), "Citizen--Extra" regarding Plato Durham withdrawing from candidacy in favor of James C. Harper (1870), James C. Harper's Address to the Voters of the Mountain District (1870), and Zebulon Vance's Repeal of Civil Service Law (1886).

Box 3.8
Advertisements - General, circa 1879-1886 Box 3.9

Advertisements - Medical, 1880-1887, undated

Note: These advertisements include a variety of supplies and medications that a country doctor would use, such as syringes, saddlebags, physician's registers, and ferrungous medications. These indicate the international network of medical doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and supply companies. Most ads are undated.

Box 3.10

Assorted documents, 1837-1887, undated

Note: Includes an undated essay on the screech owl, Robert L. Beall's handwritten note forbidding trespassing (1887), an agreement for H.N. Miller and James Harper to purchase John Harshaw's plantation (1837), an undated recipe for pickled tomatoes, and a two-sided document (Side One: Resolution regarding the relocation of Miss M.E. Bouchelle, 1880; Side Two: George W.F. Harper's account of Dr. Beall's Race with his carriage at Fairmont).

Box 3.11

Ephemera, 1853-1883, undated

Note: Includes a Call for the Seventh Annual State Convention of the Y.M.C.A. (1883), a program for exercises at St. Thomas Hall of Holly Springs (1853), an invitation to Davidson College's Eumenean and Philanthropic Anniversary Celebration (1872), Edgeworth Graduating Exercises (1857), and H.F. Hover of Hickory's "Light on the Labor Question, or the Aims and Objects of the Knights of Labor" (undated).

Box 3.12

Genealogical documents, undated 

Note: Includes notes on history of Fairfield (the Harper home), a handwritten biography of James Harper, undated notes on Beall family history (John Gaither and Drucilla Beall), a transcription of Zachariah Beall's 1817 will, and an undated obituary of Mary Jones Beall Weathers (daughter of Robert and Mary Beall).

Box 3.13

Leather Bag, undated 

Note: This bag measures 9" x 9" x 18" and has "R.L. Gwyn Lenoir" written in white on the side.

Box 4
Map of the Battle Ground of the Seven Pines, May 31-June 1, 1862  Box 3.14
Newspaper Articles, undated  Box 3.15
Poetry, 1886-circa 1912, undated  Box 3.16
Prescriptions, 1887, undated  Box 3.17