Guide to the Branch Family Papers, 1778-1899 and undated


Collection consists of papers of John Branch (1782-1863), governor of North Carolina, U.S. senator, and secretary of the navy, and of his nephews, Joseph Branch, lawyer, and Lawrence O' Bryan Branch (1820-1862), lawyer and brigadier general in the Confederate Army, concern political appointments in 1829-1830; land speculation, chiefly in Leon County, Florida; the legal practices of Joseph and Lawrence O' Bryan Branch in Florida and North Carolina; and Whig politics and Union sentiment in North Carolina. Volumes include a scrapbook and daybook, account books, a letter book, a notebook on public questions, and a list of political constituents supporting Lawrence O'Bryan Branch.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Branch family papers
1.5 Linear Feet
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The letters of this prominent North Carolina family relate chiefly to business, legal practice, and politics. John Branch (1782-1863), Governor of North Carolina, U.S. Senator, and the Secretary of the Navy, has a few papers relating to appointments in 1829 and 1830. He became Governor of Florida Territory, 1843-1845.

Correspondence between 1840 and 1860 shows Governor Branch and his nephews, Joseph and Lawrence O'Bryan Branch, deeply involved in land speculation, chiefly in Leon County, Florida. Family, business, and political matters are mentioned throughout their correspondence.

Lawrence O'Bryan Branch (1820-1862) graduated from Princeton University and entered legal practice and politics in Tallahassee, Florida in 1841 and in North Carolina in 1848. He began to battle the Whig control of the State, with the result that he was elected to the Congress in 1855, serving until 1861. His correspondence reveals that by 1859 the question of disunion was deeply disturbing to many North Carolinians. Numerous letters show strong feelings of loyalty to the Union. Branch was also initially loyal, until following the fall of Fort Sumter. He joined the Confederacy in April 1861. Civil War correspondence is scant.

Legal papers in the collection center on cases in his law practice. The bulk of the volumes are from Lawrence O'Bryan Branch's political career, recording political questions and constituents in Eastern North Carolina. There are also volumes documenting John Branch's estate, and account books kept by Lawrence O'Bryan Branch's wife, Nannie Blount Branch.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Branch Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence and papers, 1813-1861
(15 folders)
Box 1
Lawrence O'Bryan Branch letterbook, 1862 Mar.
Box 2
Correspondence and papers, 1862-1899 and undated
(4 folders)
Box 2
Legal papers, 1778-1858 and undated
(5 folders)
Box 2
Clippings, undated
Box 2
Account book, 1857 and undated
Box 2
Inventory of John Branch estate, Enfield, N.C., 1863
Box 3
Nannie Branch account books, 1870s-1880
(4 Volumes, 4 volumes in 1 folder)
Box 3
Lawrence O'Bryan Branch notes on public questions, 1851-1858
(1 Volumes)
Box 3
Lawrence O'Bryan Branch day book, 1851-1855
(1 Volumes)
Box 3
Lawrence O'Bryan Branch scrapbook, 1846-1861
(1 Volumes)
Box 3
Lawrence O'Bryan Branch list of political constituents, N.C., approximately 1860
(1 Volumes)
Box 3

Historical Note

Papers largely consist of business and political correspondence from Joseph Branch, Lawrence O'Bryan Branch (1820-1862), and their uncle John Branch (1782-1863).

John Branch was a North Carolina state senator (1811-1817), governor of North Carolina (1817-1820), U.S. Senator from North Carolina (1823-1829), Secretary of the Navy under President Andrew Jackson (1829-1831), U.S. Representative from North Carolina (1831-1833), and the appointed Governor of the Florida Territory (1843-1845).

Lawrence O'Bryan Branch was originally from North Carolina, and attended University of North Carolina and Princeton University. He practiced law in Tallahassee and Raleigh and served as a U.S. Representative from North Carolina (1855-1861). He joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and rose to become a brigadier general. He died at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

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The Branch Family Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library 1935, 1939, and 2016.

Processing Information

Initially cataloged as the John Branch, Lawrence O'Bryan Branch, and Joseph and Lawrence O'Bryan Branch collections. The Branch Family Papers were merged into one collection and recataloged in 1968.

Reprocessed and finding aid encoded by Katrina Martin and Meghan Lyon, December 2016.

Accessions described in this collection guide date from 1935, 1939, and 2016-0300.