Manuscripts

G. Will Armfield Family Papers

1784-1993 [bulk 1880-1930]. 6 boxes (128 folders), ca. 650 items.MSS. COLL. #112

NOTE:  The numbers cited in parentheses, e.g. 1:5, refer the researcher to the Series#:Folder# in which that name/topic will be found.

INTRODUCTION

This collection consists primarily of correspondence, financial and legal documents, photographs, and printed materials relating to G. Will Armfield, his children, and his dry goods business. G. Will Armfield was born near Jamestown in 1848 and spent the majority of his professional life as an architect. However, this collection provides more substantive documentation of his mercantile and other business ventures. Also included are many items created or owned by his seven children, and materials that represent Armfield relatives, acquaintances, prominent Greensboro citizens, and local businesses. Researchers interested in Armfield family genealogy, the mercantile business, or Greensboro around the turn of the twentieth century will find useful materials.

Arrangement: This collection is organized into ten series by document type and/or subject. The series are: Blueprints, 1938; Business, 1878-1925; Correspondence, 1827-1951; Financial, 1793-1965; Genealogy, ca. 1880s-1900s; Legal, 1784-1938; Literary, ca. 1825-1901; Miscellaneous, ca. 1805-1940s; Photographs, ca. 1860-ca. 1940; and Printed Materials, 1817-1993.

Provenance: This collection was donated by Beverly and Robert Moore Armfield in January 1994 and assigned the accession number 1993.122.1. Subsequent additions were assigned accession numbers 1996.37.1 and 2001.63.1. Robert Moore Armfield (1927-2017) was the son of Hugh Gardner Armfield and grandson of G. Will Armfield.

Processing: This collection was organized and the finding aid was completed by intern Della Owens in September 2016.


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

George Williamson Armfield, better known as G. Will Armfield, was born on January 23, 1848, near Jamestown, in Guilford County, to Eleanor “Nellie” Iddings (1820-1879) and Joseph S. Armfield (1823-1887). His only sibling was a sister, Melvina Letitia Armfield (1850-1925). She eventually married Franklin G. Frazier, who was a farmer in Randolph County.

Educated at Flint Hill Academy, Jamestown, in Civil Engineering and Architecture under Dr. Brack Craven, G. Will Armfield was an architect and builder for most of his life. However, he also spent some time as merchant, first in Friendship, NC, before going to Greensboro in 1875 to join the wholesale grocery house of Houston and Causey. On March 4, 1878, G. Will entered into a partnership with S.S. Brown in a dry goods business under the name Brown and Armfield. After this firm dissolved in 1883, Armfield constructed “G. Will Armfield, Clothing & Dry Goods” at 236-238 S. Elm St., where he was a wholesale and retail dealer. This building was sold in 1893 and became the location of the Vanstory Clothing Co. by 1910 (known by then as the Vernon building). He later joined the dry goods firm of Armfield, Ridge, and Vickory at 214 S. Elm St., which burned in 1896. Armfield then devoted the remainder of his life to architecture and made a significant contribution to the city of Greensboro, the “plan[ing] and erect[ing] of over 100 houses in Greensboro” being attributed to him between 1886 and 1910.

G. Will was also a member of the Hall of Greensboro Lodge No. 76. As a “Master Mason” of the Lodge “in good standing and clear of the books,” he was commended to the “fraternal regard of all true Ancient Free and Accepted Masons” on December 14, 1899. On December 22, 1875, he married Esther Wakefield (1857-1942), who was originally from Grey in Ontario, Canada. Together they had seven children: Joseph Henry, Minnie Myrtle, Lucian Clay, Hazel Ethel, Roy Hanes, George Williamson Jr., and Hugh Gardner. He died of heart disease at age 79 on March 29, 1927, and was buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

G. Will’s eldest son, Joseph H. Armfield (1876-1949), attended Guilford College and was a member of Asheboro Street Friends Church. Two hobbies defined him: stamp collecting and bird watching. He was a member of the American Philatelic Club located in Winston-Salem. Joseph married to Vivian Pegram and spent forty-five years with the Greensboro Post Office, twenty-seven of those years as the Assistant Postmaster until he retired on December 1, 1947.

G. Will’s eldest daughter, Minnie Myrtle Armfield (1880-1973), called Myrtle, graduated from Guilford College in 1901. She was a member of the West Market Street United Methodist Church, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Myrtle worked as a bookkeeper at Armfield & Bros. (also known as Ideal Candy Co. and Armfield & Co.) from 1926 until around 1931. One of the founders of the Greensboro Historical Museum (later the Greensboro History Museum), she volunteered at the museum for 12 years until she became secretary, treasurer, and then finally curator until her retirement in 1966. She was a lifelong resident of Greensboro and lived at 1715 Wright Ave. from 1929 until her death.

Lucian Clay Armfield (1881-1949), who went by Clay, received his education at Miss Lina Porter’s School and Greensboro High School. He was an operator and inspector for the Greensboro Telephone Exchange for several years before briefly working as hotel clerk and then an electrician. In 1906, he went to Mexico City to install underground telephone lines, and in 1907 he joined the Pullman Car Company in San Antonio, Texas. The main Pullman Company was located in Pullman, a community in Chicago, Illinois, where he made his home for 22 years until his death. He was married to Frances Delhaunty of Clinton, Iowa, and apparently did not have children.

G. Will’s youngest daughter, Hazel Ethel Armfield, was born on August 13, 1885. A member of the Smith Literary Society, likely associated with her school, she died on August 26, 1901, at the age of 16 due to accidental strychnine poisoning.

Roy Hanes Armfield Sr. (1890-1957) was the owner of Armfield & Co., a confectionery located at 318 Armfield Pl. in Greensboro. He was a member of the West Market Street Methodist Church, and married Bessie Lee Joyner on January 24, 1917.

Named after his father, George Williamson Armfield Jr. (1892-1944) worked for the Greensboro Daily News before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1908, eventually serving in World War I. He married Grace Cutchin in 1921 and around 1933 moved to Leaksville, NC, where he opened a bakery.

G. Will’s youngest child was Hugh Gardner Armfield (1898-1992). He was the owner and president of Armfield Motors, which was once located at 316 Armfield Pl. in Greensboro. He married Mary Helen Moore, and the couple had two children: Robert Moore and Richard Locke.

Biographical Sources: The sources for this biographical note include the Guilford County Register of Deeds database, the Greensboro city directories, and Ancestry.com. Obituaries provided further information about the following family members: G. Will Armfield (Greensboro Daily Record, March 29, 1927), Esther Armfield (The Greensboro Record, October 14, 1942), George Williamson Armfield Jr. (The Greensboro Record, May 6, 1944), Joseph H. Armfield (Greensboro Daily News, February, 15, 1949), Lucian Clay Armfield (Greensboro Daily News, October 31, 1949), Roy Armfield Sr. (The Greensboro Record, October 18, 1957), Myrtle Armfield (The Greensboro Record, March 23, 1973), and Hugh Armfield (Greensboro News & Record, June 13, 1992). “Death from Strychnine” (The Greensboro Patriot, August 28, 1901) reports on the death of Hazel Armfield. Copies of all these items can be found in the folder at the beginning of the collection. Additional details about G. Will Armfield were obtained from the Album of Greensboro N.C. (Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, 1892: p. 29) and “The Gate City.” Greensboro. Commercial, Financial, Manufacturing (J.M. Reece & Co., 1910: p. 62). The article “Visiting with Mrs. ‘G’” (Methodist Life, Vol. 4, No. 28, August 4, 1967; 10:12) provided information about Myrtle Armfield’s affiliation with the Greensboro Historical Museum.


SCOPE & CONTENT NOTE

This collection focuses on G. Will Armfield, his dry goods business, and his children. Types of materials include blueprints, correspondence, financial and legal documents, genealogical material, photographs, and printed materials.

G. Will Armfield’s dry goods business is documented through a ledger (2:10), a license to practice “Merchandise” (2:2), and numerous bills and receipts on store letterhead. Materials created or owned by G. Will’s children consist primarily of correspondence, photographs, and printed materials relating to their personal lives. Other materials relate to Armfield friends and relatives; prominent Greensboro citizens, such as McDaniel Lewis and Robert P. Dick; and local businesses, including the Greensboro National Bank, Guilford Lumber Manufacturing Company, Hotel Guilford and Southern Real Estate Co.

Researchers interested in the mercantile business, the Armfield family in the late 19th and early 20th century, and Greensboro during this time will find materials of interest in this collection.


SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

1. Blueprints. 1 folder (3 items).  1938.

This series contains survey blueprints from three different properties owned by Joseph H. Armfield in 1938: 606 Simpson St., 610 Simpson St., and 124 Wilson St.

2. Business. 15 folders (ca. 75 items).  1878-1925.

This series centers around G. Will Armfield’s business ventures, particularly his dry goods store and work as executor for several estates. He spent most of his career as an architect, but this series only represents that profession with a 1915 “Certificate to practice Architecture” (2:2).

Materials relating to G. Will Armfield’s dry goods business include his 1884 license to practice “Merchandise” (2:15), an agreement to go into co-partnership with S.S. Brown, and a draft of an agreement made by S.S. Brown to dissolve the partnership (2:14). Bills and receipts from “G. Will Armfield, Dry Good, Notions, Boots, Shoes, …” (2:10) and one unfinished letter (2:8) are on business letterhead. Also of interest is an accounting ledger from this store (2:12).

The financial documents consist of many items relating to G. Will Armfield’s service as executor for the estates of Jesse, Charlotte and Mary Gardner (2:9). Two broadsides advertise his sale of a 100-acre farm on Reddick’s Creek as executor for the will of Charlotte Gardner (2:1), while some business correspondence relates to his own purchase of property from J.P. Scales through the Southern Real Estate Co. (2:6-7).

Also contained in this series are an agreement made by W.A. Fields to lease the second floor of the Gate City Laundry building to the Armfield Manufacturing Company (2:14). Additional financial documents include an unidentified ledger that G. Will may have owned (2:13), checks (primarily Greensboro National Bank), tax receipts, and bills and receipts from local businesses such as Guilford Lumber Manufacturing Company and Wm. Collins, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker (2:11).

3. Correspondence. 55 folders (ca. 165 items). 1827-1951.

Most of the correspondence is personal and concerns members of the Armfield family. Some of the senders represented are Myrtle Armfield (3:6), Ora Armfield (3:7), and Melvina Armfield Frazier (3:23). Many letters were sent to Melvina Armfield Frazier and Hazel Armfield from friends and family. Myrtle Armfield, her brother Hugh, and his wife received letters and some and some V-Mail from their nephew Roy H. Armfield Jr. when he was in training in the U.S. and later serving in the 158th Army Postal Unit in England and France during World War II.

Also included in this series are letters from businesses and organizations, such as the Department of Justice (3:17), the N.C. Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (3:46), and the Richmond and Danville Railroad Co. (3:40). Of interest may be a letter containing receipts from The Square Deal Store in Greensboro (3:43) and two from the Masons (3:32) that include G. Will’s certificate and information about Masonic law. Postcards depict places in Greensboro, such as Greensboro Female College, Southern Railway Station, and White Oak Mills (3:37).

4. Financial. 5 folders (37 items). 1793-1965.

Within this series are financial documents, such as bills and receipts, relating to members of the Armfield family and others of unknown relation. Items of interest may be an insurance policy taken out with The Phoenix Insurance Company in 1867 (4:4), a gasoline purchase permit dating from 1945, medical bills from Piedmont Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Community Hospital, and two dog licenses (4:1).

5. Genealogy. 2 folders (5 items). 1880-1900.

This series contains Armfield and Wakefield family history and genealogy. A typed paper titled “History of the Wakefield Family” (5:1) reviews the lives of Henry Wakefield, born February 21, 1828, and his relatives; another titled “Mrs. Hannah Armfield” (5:1), born Hannah Iddings, reviews her life and marriage to Julian Armfield. A handwritten history of the Armfield family (5:2) begins with the “Original John Armfield” and has the earliest date of 1695. Lastly, a hand drawn family tree shows the descendants of the “Original John Armfield” (5:1).

6. Legal. 3 folders (6 items). 1784-1938.

Legal documents of interest may be the Last Will and Testament of Melvina Armfield Frazier, dated 1924 (6:3); the property title for 1715 Wright Ave., signed by Esther and Myrtle Armfield and dated 1928 (6:1); and a deed to land in Guilford County dated 1784 and signed by Jonathan Howel (6:2).

7. Literary. 2 folders (3 items). ca. 1825; 1900-1901.

The literary series contains unpublished, handwritten materials, such as Hazel Armfield’s diary (7:1). Of historical note is a booklet that describes a conflict prior to 1825 between the “overbearing gentry” and the Sanhedrin of Guilford County (7:2).

8. Miscellaneous. 9 folders (ca. 35 items). ca. 1805-1940s.

Included in this series are an art print (8:2) of a young girl titled “Carolina” and published by Currier and Ives, a ledger of unknown use (8:6), the minutes of the Smith Literary Society (8:7), and some Myrtle Armfield’s schoolwork (8:8).

9. Photographs. 17 folders (ca. 215 items). ca. 1860-ca. 1940.

The majority of the photographs are individual or group portraits. Included are multiple images taken by the following Greensboro photographers or studios: Sidney L. Alderman, L.W. Andrews, L. Francis Hanes, J.A. Leonard, and Wharton’s Art Gallery. The series also contains images by studios in Baltimore, Charlotte, Danville, and Reidsville.

The portraits of Armfield family members and their relatives are arranged by family name and include the Armfield (9:1-5, 9:7), Frazier (9:7), Iddings (9:9), and Wakefield (9:17) families. Notable photos show G. Will and Esther Armfield (9:2), Joseph and Vivian Armfield (9:3), Myrtle Armfield (9:5), and “Grandpa and Grandma Wakefield” (9:17).

Other identified people include Rutherford B. Hayes, Mary Townsend, Carlyle Holmes Weatherly, and children from the Knight family (9:12). Two photos show the children in the first and second grades at Lindsay Street School (9:11). A group photo of post office employees includes Ed Tate, M.C. Stewart, Tom Tate, Judge Michael S. Schenck, Ben Hilton, Sam Wiley, J.D. Burch, and J.W. Forbis (9:12).

The landscape photos include one of the Liberty Oak, but the locations of most others are not identified (9:10). Some photos of houses are labeled with addresses, such as 350 S. Ashe St. and 1715 Wright Ave., both of which were built and owned by members of the Armfield family. Other houses include 220 Fisher Ave. and 606, 610, and 620 Simpson St. in Greensboro (9:8).

10. Printed Materials. 19 folders (ca. 115 items). 1817-1993.

The printed materials include advertisements, almanacs, books, booklets, maps, newspaper clippings and programs. Some items that represent local schools and colleges are a copy of Clay Armfield’s report card from Miss Lina Porter’s School (ca. 1880; 10:18); the Greensboro High School magazine entitled The Sage (1913-1919; 10:8); and an Alumnae Association booklet that lists alumnae, college songs, and the creed of Greensboro College (1944-1945; 10:7).

Of interest to Armfield family researchers would be an article about a neglected cemetery in Greensboro that is the resting place of Ithamer Armfield, an uncle of G. Will Armfield. The article provides a brief account of Armfield history and a picture of G. Will’s father, J.S. Armfield (10:16). A West Market Street Methodist Church newsletter contains an article about Myrtle Armfield (10:12). Funeral materials relate to G. Will Armfield, Hazel Armfield, Joseph S. Armfield, and Mary E. Gardiner, and also include a handout for the third annual Community Memorial Service, held in 1929 (10:6).

The almanacs (10:2) found in this series are Henderson’s Almanack (1817), Gales’ North Carolina Almanac (1818), Jayne’s Medical Almanac and Guide to Health (1852; 1854; 1859; 1860), The People’s Almanac (1857) and The Home Almanac (1858). The books entitled Aircraft Mechanics Handbook (1918) and Brookes Automobile Hand Book (1911) were owned by Hugh Armfield, who was a motor dealer. Navigation Laws of the United States (1895) was likely owned by George Williamson Jr., since he spent several years in the U.S. Navy. Lastly, Lucian Clay Armfield owned National Council of Women of the U.S. 1891 and Doctor Ellen (10:4).

Three newspaper articles describe the trip that the McNairy house took to reach its destination in the park behind the Greensboro Historical Museum, and one on the Isley house, also located on Museum property, describes the raising of the house’s chimney as a memorial to Dolley Madison (10:16).

Other materials of interest may be a 1911-1912 Boy Scout handbook (10:5) and a 1917 City of Greensboro driver’s license (10:15), both of which belonged to Hugh Armfield. Also of note are advertisements for the Hotel Clegg and Gate City Roofing Co. (10:1) and a program for memorial services for Warren G. Harding at the National Theatre in 1923 (10:17).

FOLDER LISTING

SeriesFolderContents 
11Blueprints-- Houses (1938)
21Business-- Broadsides (Land Sale; 1903)
2-- "Certificate to practice Architecture" (1915)
3-- Correspondence -- Barringer, John A. (1888)
4-- Correspondence -- Hotel Guilford (1923)
5Business-- Correspondence -- Knight & Roach (1904)
6-- Correspondence -- Scales, J.P. (1923-1924)
7-- Correspondence -- Southern Real Estate Company (1924)
8-- Correspondence -- Unidentified (1887)
9Business-- Financial -- Estates (Gardner family; 1887-1908)
10-- Financial -- G. Will Armfield, Dry Goods... (ca. 1881-1892)
11-- Financial -- Miscellaneous (1887-1925)
12-- Ledger, Dry Goods (1883-1891)
13Business-- Ledger, Unidentified with paper dolls
14-- Legal (1878-1905)
15-- License ("Mchdse"; 1884)
31Correspondence-- Armfield, George to Esther Armfield (1912)
2-- Armfield, H.G. to Ralph Gorrell (1827)
3-- Armfield, J.S. to Melvina L. Armfield (1885-1888)
4-- Armfield, Joseph S. to Mr. McCauley (1877)
5Correspondence-- Armfield, L.J. to Melvina L. Armfield (1884)
6-- Armfield, Myrtle to Hazel Armfield (1899)
7-- Armfield, Ora to Hazel Armfield (1901)
8-- Armfield, Roy H. Jr. to Myrtle Armfield (1942-1944)
9Correspondence-- Barnes, C. to J.H. Armfield (1943)
10-- Broadhurst, Edgar to Hazel Armfield (1900)
11-- Cartland, H.H. to Melvina L. Armfield (1884)
12-- Clapp, Clara to Hazel Armfield (1901)
13Correspondence-- Coltrane, Mabel to Hazel Armfield (1897)
14-- Commonwealth Coal Company to Esther Armfield (1930)
15-- Cutchen, Lt. E.M. to Myrtle Armfield (1944)
16-- Daughters of the American Revolution to Myrtle Armfield (1950)
17Correspondence-- Department of Justice to G. Will Armfield (1897)
18-- Douglas, Martin to Hazel Armfield (n.d.)
19-- E., Joel to Melvina L. Armfield and Nora Fowler (1886)
320-- Envelopes (ca. 1880s-1951)
21Correspondence-- Eu--, Katie to Melvina L. Armfield (1886)
22-- Fragment (n.d.)
23-- Frazier, Melvina L. Armfield to Hazel Armfield (1900)
24-- Flint Hill Academy to Melvina L. Armfield (1876)
25Correspondence-- Hoskins, Susan L. to G. Will Armfield (1891)
26-- Huffines, Minnie E. to Hazel Armfield (1899-1901)
27-- Jenning, Joseph to George Magee (1857)
28-- Kamp? to J.H. Armfield (1939)
29Correspondence-- Lauder, W. to Robert P. Dick (1866)
30-- Lee, George E. to Melvina L. Armfield (1886-1888)
31-- Lewis, McDaniel to Myrtle Armfield (1940)
32-- Masons to G. Will Armfield (1890, 1899)
33Correspondence-- McAdams, Letitia J. to "Aunt Susan" (1871)
34-- "Mother" to Mrs. George K. Tate (1874)
35-- Pdeling, Doris to Elisabeth Pdeling (1836)
36-- Pell, S.H.P. to Myrtle Armfield (1932)
37Correspondence-- Postcards (ca. 1900-1920)
38-- Potter, Henry to Melvina L. Armfield (1886)
39-- Rann?, Jacob & Co. to Robert P. Dick (1861)
340-- Richmond and Danville Railroad Co. (1886)
41Correspondence-- Scott, W.A. to Melvina L. Armfield (1885)
42-- Singer Sewing Machine Company (1938)
43-- Square Deal Store to Myrtle Armfield (1927)
44-- Stewart, Albert to Hazel Armfield (1900-1901)
45Correspondence-- Tate, George K. to Mrs. George K. Tate (1874-189?)
46-- United Daughters of the Confederacy, N.C. Division (1901-1903)
47-- Welborn, F.E. to G. Will Armfield (1911)
48-- Williams, Brander to S.A. Douglas (1849)
49Correspondence-- ?, Belle to Melvina L. Armfield Frazier (1886)
50-- ?, Cousin Jesse to Melvina L. Armfield Frazier (1886-1888)
51-- ?, Fannie to Melvina L. Armfield Frazier (1886-1888)
52-- ?, George to his wife (1874)
53Correspondence-- ? to Hazel Armfield (1900-1901)
54-- ? to Melvina L. Armfield (1886-1888)
55-- ? to Elizabeth Iddings (1859-1868)
41Financial-- Armfield family (1856-1965)
2-- Byrd, Jesse (1793-1827)
3-- Iddings, Mark (1823-1840)
44Financial-- Miscellaneous (ca. 1816-1903)
5-- Scott, William L. (1867-1868)
51Genealogy-- Armfield (ca. 1880s)
2-- Armfield-Wakefield (ca. 1900s)
61Legal-- Deeds -- Armfield family (1916-1938)
2-- Deeds -- Miscellaneous ((1784-1889)
3-- Will -- Frazier, Melvina L. Armfield (1924)
71Literary-- Diary (Hazel Armfield; 1900-1901)
2-- Miscellaneous (ca. 1825)
81Miscellaneous-- (n.d.)
2-- Artwork and images
3-- Autograph book (Myrtle Armfield; ca. 1897-1900)
4Miscellaneous-- Currency (1864, 1866)
5-- Fragments (ca. 1805-1935)
6-- Ledger, Unidentified
7Miscellaneous-- Minutes -- Smith Literary Society (ca. 1900-1901)
8-- Schoolwork (Myrtle Armfield; ca. 1893-1897)
9-- Stamps (ca. 1940s)
91Photographs-- Armfield family (ca. 1880-ca.1930)
2 -- Armfield, G. Will and family (ca. 1870-ca. 1930)
3 -- Armfield, Joseph H. & Vivian (ca. 1880-ca.1915)
4Photographs -- Armfield, Lucian Clay (ca. 1885-ca. 1920)
5 -- Armfield, Myrtle (ca. 1885-ca. 1915)
6-- Cone Athletic Park (ca. 1910)
7Photographs -- Frazier, Melvina & Franklin (ca. 1870-ca. 1925)
8-- Houses (ca. 1880-ca. 1930)
9-- Iddings family (ca. 1860s-ca. 1880s)
10Photographs-- Landscapes (ca. 1890-ca. 1910)
11-- Lindsay Street School (1903-1904)
12-- Miscellaneous identified people (ca. 1860-ca. 1940)
13Photographs-- Unidentified children (ca. 1880-ca. 1940)
14-- Unidentified groups (ca. 1870-ca. 1940)
15-- Unidentified individuals (ca. 1860-ca. 1910)
16Photographs-- Unidentified individuals (ca. 1860-ca. 1930)
17-- Wakefield family (ca. 1880-ca.1910)
101Printed Materials-- Advertisements (1885-1948)
2-- Almanacs (1817-1860)
3-- Booklets (ca. 1900-ca. 1930)
4-- Books (1838-1918)
5Printed Materials-- Boy Scouts (1911-1912)
6-- Funeral (1887-1929)
7-- Greensboro College (1944-1945)
8-- Greensboro High School -- The Sage (1913-1919)
9Printed Materials-- L.C. Armfield Electric Company (ca. 1905)
10-- Magazine -- The American Boy (1913-1914)
11-- Maps (ca. 1941-1951)
12-- "Methodist LIFE" (West Market Street Methodist Church; August 4, 1967)
13Printed Materials-- Military (n.d.)
14-- Miscellaneous (1825-1970)
15-- Motor vehicle (1914-1919)
16-- Newspaper clippings (1968-1993)
17Printed Materials-- Programs (1899-1936)
18-- Schools (1880s-1939)
19-- World War II (ca. 1942)