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Atkinson and Murchison Family Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-336

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of the Atkinson and Murchison families of Wilmington, North Carolina. A significant portion pertains to Reverend Thomas Atkinson and his son-in-law Reverend David Hillhouse Buel, both North Carolina leaders in the Episcopal church. Additional content relates to various members of the Atkinson and Murchison families, particularly Rev. Atkinson's son--Colonel John Wilder Atkinson, John Wilder's daughter--Loulie Atkinson Murchison, her husband Joel Williams Murchison, Joel's father--John Reid Murchison, John Reid's brother--David Reid Murchison, and David's daughter--Lucille Wright Murchison Marvin.

The bulk of material is correspondence, often among members of the family checking in on each other, as well as regarding their professions or military service. Additional material includes estate and insurance documents, photographs, planners, newspaper articles, publications, and genealogy information for part of the Murchison and Wright sides of the family.


  • Creation: 1816-1968


Conditions Governing Access

Access to some materials in this collection has been restricted by Special Collections in order to preserve the original materials. Contact staff at the Center for Southeast North Carolina Archives & History ( for information on access to this collection.

Copyright Statement

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

Biographical Note

Reverend Thomas Atkinson (1807-1881) was born on August 06, 1807 in Virginia. He attended Yale University and Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, before becoming an ordained Episcopal priest in 1837. He served at churches in Virginia and Maryland, incuding at St. Paul's Church in Norfolk and Lynchurbug, Virginia, before he was elected the third Bishop of North Carolina in 1853. As bishop, Atkinson founded the Ravenscroft Theology Training School in Asheville, North Carolina and a boys church school in Raleigh. He accepted the rectorship of St. James Parish in Wilmington in 1862 and served until 1864. Though he grew up on a plantation and later enslaved people of his own, after the Civil War, he opened an Episcopal school for newly freed Black students near Raleigh that would go on to become St. Augustine's College, a historically Black and Christian college still in existence today. Rev. Atkinson died on January 4, 1881 and was buried in the church at St. James Parish in Wilmington.

Rev. Atkinson married Josepha Gwynn Wilder Atkinson (1807-1887) in 1828. They had three children, John Wilder "J.W." Atkinson (1830-1910), Robert Atkinson (1831-1911), and Mary Mayo Atkinson Buel (182?-1891). Mary married Reverend David Hillhouse Buel (1817-1893), who was also an Episocpal priest. Rev. Buel was born in Tory, NY on May 26, 1817. He went to Bristol College in Pennsylvania and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1843. He worked in churches throughout the Northeast and Maryland, including Cumberland, where his church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1872, he joined Atkinson's Ravenscroft School as principal and became head of the Ravenscroft Missions in Asheville. He died in Maryland on January 13, 1893 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York.

J.W. Atkinson was born in Virginia in 1830 and worked as a tobacco merchant in Richmond before serving as a colonel during the Civil War. After the war, he moved to Wilmington and married Elizabeth Bland Fulton Mayo Atkinson (1832-1880), with whom he had daughter Loulie Atkinson Murchison (1860-1922). J.W. died in 1910 and is buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington. Loulie married Joel Williams "J.W." Murchison of Wilmington in 1880, joining the Atkinson and Murchison families. They had several children, notably David Reid "D.R." Murchison (1891-1983) and John Reid "J.R." Murchison (1890-1945). Loulie died in Wilmington in 1922, followed by Joel W. a few years later in 1926. Both are buried at Oakdale Cemetery.

Joel W.'s father, also John Reid Murchison (1827-1864), was brother to the elder David Reid Murchison (1837-1882), a captain in the Civil War. David married Lucy Wooster Wright (1850-1913) in 1872 and they had one daughter together, Lucille Wright Murchison Marvin (1880-1968). In 1889, Lucy married Clayton Giles (1844-1917) after the death of David in 1882. Clayton had previously been married to Lucy's cousin, Mary Augustus Wright, who died from typhoid fever in 1883.

In 1873, Clayton Giles and Joel W. Murchison became business partners in their hardware and agricultural tool company, Giles and Murchison, in Wilmington. When their partnership later dissolved, Joel W. continued the hardware business alone as J. W. Murchison and Co, which was one of the biggest in North Carolina at the time. It was Murchison and his hardware store that supplied most of the guns to white citizens in the weeks and days prior to the Wilmington Coup of 1898.


2 Containers (Contains 1 bankers box and 1 misc. box folder)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by John R. Murchison, Jr. on November 4, 2013.

Atkinson and Murchison Family Papers
Nicole Yatsonsky
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository