Edward A. Small Family Papers

1841-1937 [bulk 1854-1908]. 1 box (35 folders), ca. 385 items.MSS. COLL. #67

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


The Edward A. Small Family Papers primarily document the financial dealings of Mary Small as executor for the estate of her father, Isaac Thacker. A merchant in Greensboro in the 1880s, Edward A. Small served in the 11th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry during the Civil War and, after being captured at Gettysburg, was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island, OH. The final three months of his imprisonment are documented in his Civil War diary, while two speeches that he gave in Edenton, NC, reflect his passion for temperance. Also included in the collection are carte de visites of Union officers, postcards of the 1908 Greensboro centennial celebrations, a 1911 promotional publication about the city, and a 1937 city map.

Arrangement:  This collection is arranged into seven series by document type. The series are: Correspondence, 1868-1906; Financial, 1854-1908; Legal, 1841-1908; Literary, 1851-1865; Miscellaneous, 1849-1869; Photographs, ca. 1850-1923; and Printed Material, 1873-1937.

Provenance:  The financial documents relating to the estate of Isaac Thacker were donated by Edward and Mary Small’s grandson, William H. White Sr., in 1974 and assigned accession number 1974.98.1. The Civil War diary was loaned and the rest of the collection donated by his wife in 1976 and assigned accession numbers under 1976.168. The loaned diary was converted to a gift by William H. White Jr. in 2016.

Processing:  This collection was organized and the finding aid was prepared by Robert M. Browning in March 1996. A new folder listing and an index were prepared by Francis D. Pitts III in March 1997. Additional materials previously filed in the Miscellaneous Collection were incorporated and the folders were re-organized by volunteer Kim Lanham in April 2016.


Edward A. Small (1835-1890), originally from Edenton, NC, was a merchant in Greensboro during the 1880s. Little is known about him prior to the Civil War, in which he served as a Captain of Company F, 11th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry and saw action at Gettysburg, where he was captured by Union forces on July 3, 1863. He was imprisoned at Fort Delaware until July 18, 1863, when he was transferred to Johnson’s Island, a prison near Sandusky, OH. After being paroled on March 14, 1865, he returned to Richmond, VA, and eventually settled in Baltimore, MD, before coming to Greensboro.

Small married Mary E. Thacker (1850-1947), daughter of Mary F. and Isaac Thacker (ca. 1807-1883) of Guilford County, and had three children: Alice, Mary, and Lillian. It is possible that he and Isaac Thacker were business partners before Thacker’s death. Small died on March 10, 1890, three days shy of his fifty-fifth birthday, and was buried in Green Hill Cemetery. His daughter Alice married William O. White, a clerk for the Cone Export and Commission Company.

Biographical Sources: Information about Small’s military career can be obtained from Weymouth T. Jordan’s North Carolina Troops 1861-1865, A Roster, Vol. V (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1975: p. 57). Additional biographical and genealogical information was found in the Guilford Country Register of Deeds database, on and, and in the collection in the correspondence and some of the legal documents.


Types of materials in this collection include correspondence; financial documents, such as  bills, receipts, and bonds; legal documents, including deeds, wills, agreements, contracts, indentures, and leases; a diary; speeches; photographs; and printed material, including a booklet, a broadside, programs, a map, and some news clippings.

The bulk of items relating to Greensboro are contained in the correspondence, photographs, and printed material. Photographic postcards show the 1908 Centennial celebrations in downtown Greensboro and employees of the Cone Export and Commission Company (6:1). A promotional booklet published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1911 provides interesting facts about Greensboro, and a pocket map shows the city in 1937 (7:3).

Edward Small’s Civil War diary (4:1) is an excellent primary source of information about conditions inside a Union Army prison during the final stages of the war. A small collection of Civil War era financial documents (2:1) show what Small was paid during his service in the Confederate Army. Two speeches (4:2) given by Small on the steps of the Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton, NC, in the 1850s call for temperance, and a return to the ways of God. Researchers studying social movements prior to the Civil War, particularly the temperance movement, will find these items useful.


1. Correspondence.  13 folders (ca. 30 items).  1868-1906.

The correspondence is mostly between various members of Edward Small’s family. Several letters are between Mary Small and her sister Georgia, while others are from Small’s daughters to their mother. It appears that some members of the family relocated to California. Other letters are financial in nature. One interesting item is an undated letter from Edward Small to his wife that speaks of their separation and his longing to be reunited with her. In it, he mentions temperance, which was clearly a passion. There is no evidence, however, that he wrote this letter while in prison. This series also contains a folder (1:13) with items from unidentified sources.

2. Financial.  12 folders (ca. 278 items).  1854-1908.

The bulk of this material is bills, receipts, and bonds relating to the estate of Isaac Thacker (2:3-12), Edward Small’s father-in-law. A few documents show some of the dealings of Edward and Mary Small (2:2), and appear to have no connection with the Thacker estate. The documents relating to Small’s service in the Confederate Army (2:1) include receipts of pay from the Confederate Quartermaster’s Department, and others regarding his stay at Johnson’s Island as a prisoner of war.

3. Legal.  1 folder (20 items).  1841-1908.

These materials relate to the business and legal dealings of Edward Small, Isaac Thacker and Mary Small. They include deeds, wills, agreements, contracts, and indentures. They are useful for establishing connections between various members of the Small and Thacker families.

4. Literary.  2 folders (3 items).  1851-1865.

These items include some of the most fascinating, and useful material in the collection. The diary (4:1) covers the final three months of Edward Small’s imprisonment at Johnson’s Island, OH, as a prisoner of war during the Civil War. In it he details camp life, weather, and the escapes of several prisoners from January to March 1865. After his parole in March, he seldom wrote in the diary. The notes he did make refer to travel and social engagements that he attended.

The speeches (4:2) were given by Small in Edenton, NC, in the 1850s and advocate temperance. They were given before a group named the Cadets of Temperance, and the general public.

5. Miscellaneous.  3 folders (15 items).  1849-1869.

This series contains an undated hand drawn floor plan of a house on the back of an envelope (5:1) and a school report from Edenton Academy showing Edward Small’s grades in 1849 (5:2). Also in this series are documents relating to his time in the military (5:3), including an oath of enlistment in “Small’s Relief Guard,” a company report, three coupons from the Quartermaster’s Department for train passage from Greensboro to Danville, and six checkout slips for “Small’s Circulating Library” at Johnson’s Island prison.

6. Photographs. 1 folder (23 items). ca. 1850-1923.

The photographs in this series include six carte de visites of officers in the Union Army and eleven photographic postcards of the 1908 centennial celebrations in Greensboro. Another photographic postcard shows employees of the Cone Export and Commission Co. on the steps of their offices at 111 W. Washington St. A sketch depicts the Small family home, and a 1923 portrait shows William Hale White at age 10. Finally, the series contains three cased images of unknown relation to the Small family: an ambrotype of Hugh Hirshell Davenport Hackney, a daguerreotype of an unknown woman, and a tintype of an unknown young man.

7. Printed Material.  3 folders (16 items).  1873-1937.

This series contains a broadside (7:1) announcing the sale of land previously owned by Isaac Thacker by his daughter, Mary Small, the executor of his estate. A short typed piece (7:2) titled “An Interesting Occurrence in Greensboro during the War Between the States,” written by Bettie Sue Beaman, tells of gold reportedly removed from Richmond, VA, during the Civil War and buried near Greensboro. Also contained in this series are a few miscellaneous news clippings and blank deposit slips for The National Bank of Greensboro (7:2). Lastly, this series holds printed material collected by William O. White, including the programs of several Presbyterian Church rallies and meetings in various locales throughout the country. A promotional pamphlet about Greensboro, published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1911, and a 1937 pocket map of the city of Greensboro are also of interest (7:3).


11Correspondence-- Acree, Coleman and Co. (1884)
2-- Chilcutt, B.G. (1885-1887)
3-- Moore, Georgia E. (1886-1901)
4Correspondence-- Richardson, R.P. (1871-1873)
5-- Rowe, W.D. (1902)
6-- Small, Alice (n.d.)           
7Correspondence-- Small, Edward A. (n.d.)
8-- Small, Mary E. (1886-1887)
9-- Spilman, Jas. D. (1868)
10Correspondence-- Thacker, Bettie J. (1886-1906)
11-- Thacker, Mrs. S.M. (1883-1886)
12-- Thacker, S.M. (1883-1885)
13-- Unidentified (1891-1901)
21Financial-- Small, Edward -- Civil War (1862-1865)
2-- Small, Edward & Small, Mary (1867-1892)
3-12-- Small, Mary & Thacker, Isaac (1854-1908)
31Legal (1841-1908)
41Literary-- Civil War Diary of Small, Edward (1865)
2-- Speeches given by Small, Edward (1851)
51Miscellaneous (n.d.)
2-- Edenton Academy (1849)
3-- Military (1862-ca. 1865)
61Photographs (ca. 1850-1923)
71Printed material-- Broadside (1884)
2-- Miscellaneous (1873-1934)
3-- White, William O. (1906-1937)

Index to the Edward A. Small Family Papers

Note:  The numbers following the name/subject entry — e.g., 1:1 — Series#:Folder# (or, if  no “:”, Series only) that name/topic can found. Dates of the items are given in parentheses for an individual Series/Folder or, if at the end, for the entire entry.

Acree, Coleman and Co.: 1:1 (1884)
Anderson, J.M.: 6:1 (ca. 1863-1864)

Beaman, Bettie Sue: 7:2 (n.d.)

Cadets of Temperance: 4:2 (ca. 1850s)
California: 1:9-12 (1883-1906)
Chamber of Commerce (Greensboro): 7:3 (1911)
Chilcutt, B.G.: 1:2 (1885-1887)
Civil War: 2:1, 4:1, 5:3 (1862-1865); prisons, 2:1, 4:1 (1863-1865); 7:2 (n.d.)
Cone Export and Commission Company: 6:1 (1908)
Confederate Army: 2:1 (1862-1865)

Edenton, NC: 4:2, 5:2 (ca. 1849-1851)

Goddard, Elias: 6:1 (ca. 1863-1865)
Greensboro, NC: 1 (1868-1906); 6:1 (1908); 7:3 (1906-1937); map, 7:3 (1937)

Johnson’s Island Prison (OH): 2:1, 4:1, 5:3 (1863-1865)

Meade, George: 6:1 (ca. 1861-1865)
Moore, Georgia E.: 1:3 (1886-1901)

National Bank of Greensboro: 7:2 (1880s)

Richardson, R.P.: 1:4 (1871-1873)
Rowe, W.D.: 1:5 (1902)

Small, Alice: 1:6 (n.d.)
Small, Edward A.: 1:7, 2:1-2, 3:1, 4:1-2, 5:1-2 (1841-1908)
Small, Mary E.: 1:8, 2:2-12, 3:1, 7:1 (1841-1908)
Spilman, Jas. D.: 1:9 (1868)

Temperance: 1:7, 4:2 (ca. 1850s)
Thacker, Bettie J.: 1:10 (1886-1906)
Thacker, Isaac: 2:3-12, 3:1, 7:1 (1841-1908)
Thacker, Mrs. S.M.: 1:11 (1883-1886)
Thacker, S.M.: 1:12 (1883-1885)
Thornburgh, Duff G.: 6:1 (ca. 1862-1865)

White, William H.: 6:1 (1923)
White, William O: 7:3 (1906-1937)