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McDonald-Howe Family Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-034

Scope and Contents

The McDonald-Howe Family Papers contains materials pertaining to the Alfred Howe family and the children of his daughter, Rebecca Howe McDonald. Included are documents pertaining to the life of Alfred Howe, who was the son of Anthony Walker, a formerly enslaved person, and his wife, Tenah Howe, a member of the Tuscarora. Howe was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and became a successful builder, in addition to holding a number of elected positions.

Additional materials in the collection pertain to the grandchildren of Alfred Howe and his wife, Mary Walker Moore, through his daughter, Rebecca Howe McDonald. In particular, these documents emphasize the distribution of assets from the estate of Alfred Howe to his descendants, as well as their involvement as educators in the Black community in Wilmington.

Finally, of note in this collection is a typescript written by Nada McDonald Cotton, granddaughter of Alfred Howe, regarding the experience of her family during the 1898 coup d'├ętat and massacre in Wilmington. Cotton was a young child during the massacre, and her family was the only Black family living in a white neighborhood.


  • Creation: 1861-1966

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Alfred Augustus Howe was born on December 29, 1817 to Anthony Walker and Tenah Howe in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father was formerly enslaved to Colonel Robert Howe, who upon his death, left instructions for the manumittance of Walker so that his children would be free and would bear the name Howe. Following in the path of his father and brothers, Alfred was a successful builder in Wilmington. He was also a member of the Wilmington Board of Aldermen (1869), was elected to the School Committee of Wilmington Township, and served in various roles including City Assessor, Director of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Bank, and President of the Board of Directors of Pine Forest Cemetery.

Howe married Mary Moore Walker in 1840 and the couple had six children. In 1887, he built a home at the corner of Third and Queen streets (where he was born), and his descendants occupied this home until 1984. Howe was involved in an incident in Wilmington on July 31, 1892 in which he became engaged in a conflict with a motorman on the street railway, J. M. Kelly, who struck him over the head with a brass motor crank. As an elderly man in ill health, he was unable to survive the attack and died on October 6, 1892. Howe is buried in Pine Forest Cemetery. Kelly was acquitted when tried for manslaughter in the case, however he was involved in subsequent violent attacks on other whites. In 1896, he was convicted of first degree murder in Jacksonville, Florida and was later hung.

Howe's youngest daughter, Rebecca Jane (b. September 2, 1863), married Robert McDonald, and the couple had four children: Nada McDonald Cotton (b. April 13, 1895), Alfreda McDonald Blake (b. July 29, 1896), Edna McDonald Goodman (b. January 29, 1898), and Crummell Howe McDonald (b. October 13, 1899). All of the McDonald children became educators. Crummell was a longtime Principal in Wilmington schools, including Williston Primary School, Peabody School, and Gregory School.


2 Containers (Contains 1 document box and 1 oversize folder.)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Mr. Ernest A. Swain, executor of the McDonald estate, on May 12, 1988.

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and/or are born-digital. These items are identified by a black icon beside the item title when browsing via the collection organization hierarchy (to the right in desktop view; on the bottom in mobile view).

To view or access all of the digitized and/or born-digital materials in the collection directly, please select "View Digital Material" in the blue header above, just below the collection title.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Lana Taylor and later updated by Rebecca Baugnon.

McDonald-Howe Family Papers
Special Collections Staff
2022 September 27
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository