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Kenan Family Collection

Identifier: SC-MS-107

Scope and Contents

This collection contains research materials from Mary Bason Broadfoot pertaining to an article she wrote on the Kenan House property in Wilmington, North Carolina for the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Bulletin. Materials include correspondence between Broadfoot and Kenan family descendants, interview notes with the Sarah Graham Kenan's long-time chauffer Denver Clarence Padrick, and drafts of Broadfoot's article.

The collection also documents miscellaneous aspects of Kenan family history. Included are materials pertaining to history, restoration, and preservation of Liberty Hall plantation in Kenansville, Duplin County and of the Flagler Museum, formerly known as the residence, Whitehall. Other items include an opinion piece and miscellaneous notes by North Carolina Attorney General and former Confederate colonel Thomas S. Kenan, a letter from Alvaretta Kenan Register about her research on her family, and a description and illustration of the Kenan Family Coat of Arms.


  • Creation: 1864-1972

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW,copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Stephen Kenan I and Elizabeth Kenan emigrated to the colony of North Carolina from Ireland in the 1730s. They settled in the vicinity of Turkey in Sampson County, building a family home that would later bear the name Liberty Hall. Their son James Kenan (1740-1810) was elected Sheriff of Duplin County at the age of 22. During the American Revolution, James served first as colonel and then as brigadier general in the North Carolina militia. After the Revolution, James Kenan chaired the 1789 Fayetteville Convention where North Carolina ratified the United States Constitution, thereby becoming the twelfth state. Kenan then became one of the first trustees of the University of North Carolina in 1790.

James Kenan married Sarah Love ("Sallie") in 1770 and they had eight children. After the first Liberty Hall burned sometime in the 1790s, their eldest son Thomas Stephen Kenan II (1771-1843) built the second Liberty Hall ca. 1800. After serving three terms in the United States House of Representatives, Thomas S. Kenan II moved to Selma, Alabama in 1811. Owen Rand Kenan (1804-1887), son of Thomas S. Kenan II, then assumed management of Liberty Hall.

Owen Rand Kenan and his wife Sarah Rebecca Graham (1817-1871) had four children, including Thomas S. Kenan III (1838-1911). As Owen Rand Kenan sat in the First Confederate Congress, Thomas S. Kenan III rose to the rank of colonel in the Confederate Army. After the war, Thomas S. Kenan III practiced law, later holding the office of Attorney General of North Carolina from 1877 to 1885.

Another son of Owen Rand Kenan, William Rand Kenan (1845-1903), held the rank of captain with a Confederate militia unit. William Rand Kenan was, after the Civil War, an insurance agent and merchant in Wilmington where he helped lead the white supremacist Coup and Massacre of 1898.

William Rand Kenan had four children with his wife Mary Hargrave (1842-1916). His daughters included Mary Lily Kenan Flagler (1867-1917), who was the second wife and widow of Standard Oil magnate Henry Morrison Flagler; Sarah Graham Kenan (1876-1968); and Jessie Hargrave Kenan Wise (1870-1968).

The Wilmington homes of Jessie Kenan Wise and Sarah Graham Kenan were later donated to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The Kenana House is now home to the University's Chancellor and the Wise House serves as an alumni office.


2 Containers (Contains 1 document box and 1 map case folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into the following series: Kenan House Research Materials, 1968-1971; Kenan Family History, 1864-1972.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Thomas S. Kenan on August 29, 1972.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed by Lencia Beltran in Fall 2021.

Kenan Family Collection
Special Collections Staff
2021 August 12
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository