Oteen Diaries shed light on a Patient’s Stay

Contributed by Sarah Downing

A new acquisition at the Western Regional Archives (WRA) provides poignant insight into the life of a young patient at the Oteen Veteran’s Hospital near Asheville during the 1920s. The William Conway Morris Oteen Diaries were recently donated by a relative of the Virginia student and soldier. Morris contracted tuberculosis after enlisting in the U.S. Army at the start of World War I. He returned to college at Hampden Sydney in Virginia but soon took up residence at Catawba Sanitarium near Salem, Virginia. In late 1925, he arrived at the Oteen Hospital where he began his diary.

picture of Conway MorrisIn his daily accounts, Morris records visitors, goings on in the hospital, and often mentions his disposition, especially recurring bouts of loneliness. Bedridden for a number of years, Morris attempts to maintain hope for recovery. He is especially motivated by visits from a petite young woman named Ursula, who visits him frequently.

In addition to regular entries, also included are lists of nurses (Morris had a penchant for the ladies and was always glad when a new gal came on staff) and fellow patients on his ward.

Bob Kaplan, a volunteer at the WRA, has been creating a transcription of Morris’s handwritten accounts. “It’s fascinating,” he said. “Transcribing his diary is like gaining a personal peek into history. I am reading a person’s thoughts from 90 years ago.”

The diaries are also colorful with Morris’s use of slang popular during the 1920s. For example, he calls a visitor a “good skate.” Another visitor is described as a “sheik,” a term made popular by the 1921 silent movie The Sheik, starring Rudy Valentino.

After two years at Oteen with no improvement to his condition, William Conway Morris returned to his home in Darlington Heights, Prince Edward County, Virginia, where he died in May of 1928.

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Archival voids: Early attendees of NC A&T State

James Stewart, the Archives and Special Collections Librarian at North Carolina A&T State University, has provided a great suggestion for a recurring series on our blog.  As you'll read below, his institution has been seeking out information about some of its earliest attendees -- please respond to the email address listed in the article if you can provide any information or other leads.  And I wonder how many more of us have voids in our collections and would love to gather information from any and all other relevant parties.  Please send your requests to me for future inclusion on the blog.

Contributed by James Stewart

1899 classIn 1899, W. T. C. Cheek, I. S. Cunningham, A. W. Curtis, E. L. Falkener, J. M. Joyner, P. E. Robinson and A. Watson were the very first graduating class of the Agricultural & Mechanical College for the Colored Race, now North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. They were a part of the Agricultural and Mechanical era that coined the phrase “No Steps Backwards” that can be found on a majority of the university’s earliest publications and bulletins. Next year will be the 120th anniversary of this class, and very little was known in our university's history about them.

Austin Wingate Curtis Sr., of West Raleigh, NC (1872 – 1950) is the most famous member of the class. He became the agricultural director at West Virginia State College and was an active alumnus for 50 years. The Curtis Hall dormitory on the campus was named in his honor. His son A. W. Curtis Jr., (1911 – 2003) became George W. Carver's laboratory assistant and a successful Detroit businessman.

The other six men required extra investigative work to figure out their full names and more details about their lives.

William Thomas Cain Cheek of Warrenton, N.C. (c. 1875 - ????) was an instructor in the early 1910s at what is now Winston-Salem State University. He also taught carpentry and physics at vocational schools and colleges in West Virginia. In the 1920s and 1930s, he worked as an architect and builder in Washington D.C. He is known to have lived in the D.C. area in the late 1940s.

Dr. Isaac Sommerville Cunningham of Hillsboro, N.C. (1877 – 1932) earned a medical degree from Meharry Medical College in 1908. He practiced medicine in Owensboro, Kentucky, before relocating to Winston-Salem, N.C., around 1920. He worked as a physician and pharmacist in the Camel City until his death in 1932, at the age of 55. Descendants of Dr. Cunningham may still be living in the Winston-Salem area.

Dr. Peter Edward Robinson of Raleigh, N.C., was an assistant professor of agriculture and chemistry at A&T beginning in 1902. He attended the Northwestern University Dental School of Chicago, graduating with the highest honors in 1911. He had a dental practice in Durham, NC, for a brief time before he died in 1912.

Adam Watson of Warren County, N.C. was noted at the 1899 commencement for being an exceptional mechanic. He became the Head of the Mechanics Department and Professor of Mechanics and Agriculture at A&T. He is listed as deceased in the college bulletin as early as 1909.

Very little is known about E. L. Falkener, who was a school principal in Warrenton, N.C., and J. M. Joyner, a native of Tarboro, N.C., who became a postal worker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The F. D. Bluford Library Archives hopes to offer complete biographies of each member of this class along with the first three female graduates (classes of 1901, 1902) by May 2019. Please contact the F. D. Bluford Library Archives at libraryarchives@ncat.edu if you have any information, or if you would like to know more about other topics in N.C. A&T history.


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Meet your Archives Month Chair: Colin Reeve

Today I begin a new series of posts that will allow us to get to know our Executive Board leadership.  I've asked each Board member to answer a few questions and provide a photo.  Our first contestant is Colin Reeve, the current Archives Month Chair.

What job have you had in the archival realm?
The job I have now, which is in Special Collections / University Archives at UNC Asheville, but it has morphed over time, as most jobs do. I had almost completed my MLIS at UNC Greensboro, when I started to volunteer in Special Collections, doing basic manuscript processing and creating finding aids, which at the time were created in Microsoft Front Page! The volunteer role became a part-time role, and at the end of 2013, I was lucky enough to land a full-time job. Since Gene Hyde and I are the only employees in Special Collections, although we do have a steady supply of great interns and student workers, we essentially do anything and everything: accessioning and processing collections, digitizing materials, providing reference services to students and other researchers, and teaching classes covering use of our collections and primary sources in general. I also have responsibility for the university archives and spent many months going through literally every document to assemble the archives into a logical order and produce finding aids.

What is your educational background?
I got my MLIS from UNC Greensboro. My undergraduate degree is in Quantity Surveying, a quaintly British and Commonwealth job that, in simple terms, covers the management of construction material quantities and costs. I spent many years doing that, which interestingly, did give me my first experience of working with a records retention and disposition schedule, years before I worked in an archive.

What’s your favorite part of your job, and what do you consider to be the most important?
The favorite part is “finding stuff out.” By that I mean learning things myself through helping others find what they are looking for. Most of what I know about Asheville and Western North Carolina was learned through questions asked by other people. The most important part is the other side of that equation: connecting people to the information they’re looking for.

Tell us something you’re particularly proud of from your job or institution.
It’s probably making the university archives accessible. They are a rich resource, not just of the school’s history but also Asheville’s history, that historically (pun intended) were not used because they were essentially hidden. The increased accessibility also coincided with the university’s 90th anniversary, so we were able to use the archives not only for blogs and exhibits that we did but also to support the entire campus in the anniversary celebrations.

What advice would you give to someone pursing a similar career?
Be prepared to go where the work is. I may get criticized for saying this, but library schools are creating more graduates than there are libraries and archives jobs, so there’s too many people chasing too few jobs. Also, many of the archives in NC are operated by a small number of people on tight budgets, so vacancies come about through people leaving rather than new positions being created. At least, that’s my take on things.

Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?
Firstly, there’s my colleague Gene Hyde, but, and this is really left field, also a playwright called Stephen Poliakoff. He wrote a drama called Shooting the Past for the BBC that was set in a photo library and covers such things as the need to preserve the past, the importance of understanding your collections, and how collections can tell seemingly ordinary, but at the same time, important stories. Plus, there’s an evil American, who is ‘reformed’ by the Brits!

What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?
Not to leave things in a worse state than they were before I got involved! There’s been some great work done by previous Archives Month chairs, and there is a fear of tarnishing their legacy, so my first hope is have a successful Archives Month. This year's theme is “water,” so I’m hoping that archivists across the state will participate and encourage people to discover what exciting materials there are to be found in our archives. Then SNCA needs to be told all about it so we can publicize the archives, the collections used, and make more people aware of the important stories.

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Tileston School in Wilmington

Contributed by Travis Souther

The North Carolina Room at the New Hanover County Public Library has some important items in its collection that document the history of education in Wilmington.  Education was always an important aspect in the life of Amy Morris Bradley.  Born on 12 September 1823, Bradley had become a teacher in the country schools of Maine by the time she was 17.  Four years later, she was a principal of a grammar school in Maine.  After several more years in education, she was forced to give up her educational duties a following a bout of pneumonia.  She spent the winter of 1850-1851 in Charleston, South Carolina, at the home of a brother but was unable to find much relief from her ailments.  For two years after returning to Maine she was virtually an invalid.

A physician advised her that she should seek a climate that was free of frost to improve her health.  Taking the doctor’s advice, she moved to Costa Rica where she established the first English school in Central America.  Quickly mastering the Spanish language, she began to teach her students English.  A master teacher, Bradley’s pupils were rapid learners.  Bradley returned to the United States only upon the death of her father in 1858.

During the American Civil War, Bradley offered her services as a nurse initially with the Third Maine Infantry, then the Fifth Maine, and was eventually placed in charge of the Seventeenth Brigade Hospital.  Heeding a call from the United States Sanitary Commission, she volunteered along with Dorothea Dix at Fort Monroe in Virginia.  After laboring through the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, she was assigned to Alexandria, Virginia, and remained there throughout the rest of the war.

After the Civil War, she traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina, under the direction of the American Unitarian Association as educator for poor white children.  Being an outsider, and a Northerner to boot, Bradley was initially met with much skepticism.  However, the number of students enrolled in her school began to rapidly increase, prompting her to open not just one school but three.  In October 1872, the Tileston Normal School opened under Bradley’s administration.  Wealthy New York philanthropist Mary Porter Tileston Hemenway, who had been interested in Bradley’s educational work from the start, made an annual contribution of $5,000 (the equivalent of over $100,000 in 2018) to aid in the management of the school, until Bradley’s resignation due to failing health in 1891.  Bradley died in 1904 but left a legacy of over 30 years of service to improving education in Wilmington and the surrounding countryside.  To this day, the Amy Bradley Award is given to the high school graduate from New Hanover County with the highest academic grade point average.

Tileston School

Courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, North Carolina Room

The stereoscopic image of the Tileston School circa 1885 shows many of the children who attended the school.  Further additions were made to the complex in 1910, 1919, and 1937.  The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.  The nearby St. Mary Parish acquired the property from the City of Wilmington in 1989 for use as a social, cultural, and educational center.  Though alterations to the property have been made over the years, the original 1872 school building still stands, a testament and memorial to Bradley’s enduring vision.

Tileston School diploma

Courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, North Carolina Room

Also in the collection in the North Carolina Room is a Tileston Normal School Diploma for Ms. Alice J. Yarborough, one of the first students to enter Tileston in October 1872.  Bradley’s signature can be seen on the lower right hand side.

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Upcoming Exhibit at ECU’s Joyner Library

Leading the Way exhibitContributed by Sarah McLusky

Female Abolitionists: Leading the Way is an exhibit of abolitionist pamphlets, novels, and slave narratives. It was curated by Ralph Scott, Curator of Rare Books and Maps, and will be on view from July 9 through October 1, 2018, on the first floor of East Carolina University’s Joyner Library.

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Robert Morgan Papers open to researchers

Contributed by Sarah McLusky

J. Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University is pleased to announce the completion of its yearlong Robert Morgan Papers Processing Project and the opening of the Robert Morgan Papers (#268) to researchers.  The collection documents the life and times of North Carolina attorney, clerk of courts, legislator, State Attorney General, State Bureau of Investigation Director, and US Senator, Robert Burren Morgan (1925 -2016), of Lillington, North Carolina.  The Robert Morgan Papers, consisting of 1,075 archival boxes and 39 oversized archival folders and containing more than 540 cubic feet of manuscript and other materials, is the largest in the repository.

Robert Morgan papersSenator Morgan and his wife, Katie, were both ECU graduates and lifelong supporters of the University.  The Library is grateful for their many generous contributions to the University.  The Library also extends its thanks to the Morgan family and to Senator Morgan’s many friends, colleagues, former aides, and supporters who made this project possible.  Responsible for the mammoth task were Project Director Jonathan Dembo and Project Archivist Sherry L. Cortes, together with a small group of graduate students and volunteers.

The online collection guide and container list may be browsed or searched through the J. Y. Joyner Library webpage at https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/special/ead/findingaids/0268.

The complete Senator Robert Burren Morgan digital collection may be browsed or searched at https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/collection/robertmorgan.aspx.

An exhibit of Morgan’s life and career, based on the Morgan Papers, will be on display in Joyner’s fourth floor search room through November 2018.  A blog post provides illustrations of the exhibit and opening event and also describes the student research award that Joyner Library has established in Robert Morgan’s name.

Please direct any questions or comments to:

Jonathan Dembo, Ph.D., Professor & Special Collections Curator

(252) 328-2661


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Guilford College’s Quaker Archives: Creating educational opportunities through Quaker and College documentary resources

Contributed by Gwen Gosney Erickson

After 28 years, the Friends Historical Collection name is retiring this summer as they rebrand the unit as Quaker Archives. Guilford College's Quaker Archives serves as a research center for Quaker Studies and archives for the Society of Friends in the southeastern United States as well as the college's institutional archives.

Quaker Archives

Quaker Archives

They’ve noticed that many already refer to the repository as the "Quaker Archives" informally. The new name more readily distinguishes it from other campus units and also non-Guilford related organizations with names similar to their former one. More importantly, the name change signals they are a dynamic learning environment providing opportunities to engage in innovative work and nurturing inclusive contextualizing of history through rich Quaker primary resources. Their collections encompass a wide variety of interests in multiple disciplines and subject areas from the 1680s to present day.

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Preservation Week at Laupus Health Sciences Library

Contributed by Layne Carpenter

Laupus Health Sciences Library at ECU offered a series of demonstrations during the week of April 16th to celebrate Preservation Week.  Members of the library’s History Collections department set-up a table near the main entrance of the library and spoke with visitors about preserving cultural heritage.

Preservation Week at ECU

Preservation Week at ECU

Each day featured a different theme, including book preservation, photographs and digital file preservation, artifacts and archives, and packing and storing family heirlooms.  A number of faculty, staff, students, and community members dropped by to learn more about how to store and preserve their own family relics.

Some visitors brought in their own relics for the department to view and offer preservation advice.  Items included ledgers, scrapbooks, a doll, photographs, Civil War era letters, and a pipe.  History Collections hopes to offer these sessions again in the future and enjoyed working with the campus and Pitt County community.

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Unique opportunity for SNCA member

SNCA member Ron Stafford has earned an opportunity that doesn't come along every day.  He has been chosen by the family of American artist Robert Henri to arrange and describe and rehouse his collection.  It includes letters, photographs, diaries, and a large collection of paintings.

(For a photo, check out the Facebook post by the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science.)

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New and updated collection finding aids from UNC Charlotte

Contributed by Tyler Cline

The following collections have either new or drastically updated finding aids available:

Swann Fellowship Records

Swann Fellowship was formed in 1997 by members of several Charlotte religious congregations. The Fellowship focuses on being a witness to the value of diversity and educating the public on public school issues as they relate to this and allied subjects. The collection includes organizational print and electronic records including board minutes, reports, donor and fundraising records, marketing and membership materials, as well as the Educate! newsletter.

Arts and Science Council Public Arts Program records

Collection comprised of artist process renderings for public art projects commissioned by the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Inc. for the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

Harvey L. Woodruff papers

Collection consists of correspondence, performance programs, and audio recordings from Harvey Woodruff's career as choral director for UNC Greensboro and UNC Charlotte.

Ann C. Carver papers

Dr. Carver was a UNC Charlotte English professor. She was the first Coordinator of UNC Charlotte’s Women’s Studies Program, previously serving as chair for the Black Studies Committee. Collection consists of materials for courses in women's studies. Also included are poems, lectures, and articles.

King-Henry-Brockington LGBTQ+ collections:

  • Josh Burford papers concerning the Charlotte LGBTQ+ CommunityCollection includes materials related to the Charlotte LGBTQ+ community, including Burford's work with the King-Henry-Brockington LGBTQ+ Archive and his personal research.
  • Beverly Penninger papers concerning Tonda TaylorBeverly Penninger is a local videographer who put footage together about Tonda Taylor and Time Out Youth in the early 1990s. Taylor is the founder of Time Out Youth.
  • Sandra Bailey papersSandra Bailey is active in the Charlotte LGBTQ community, longtime member of One Voice Chorus, and co-chair of First Tuesday. Collection consists of materials donated during Bailey's oral history interview (conducted by Tina Wright). Materials are materials primarily from 1991-1995 but also include a copy of Bailey's 2008 book.
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