Skip to main content

Barden Family Private Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-127

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of the Barden family, who were planters in Sampson and Duplin Counties during the 19th century. Contained within are mercantile records, receipts for the purchase of enslaved persons, land indentures, correspondence, photographs and other documents that illustrate the economic activities of the family. All items are photocopies of originals authorized by the donor of the materials.


  • Creation: 1790-1922 (photocopies/reprints)

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 1996 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 Note

The Barden [Bardin] family were planters who farmed in the Sampson and Duplin County area of Southeastern North Carolina before and after the Civil War. While this collection contains few items of correspondence, the contents provide a wealth of economic information. The many receipts for mercantile transactions, medical bills, blacksmith jobs, hire and sale of enslaved persons, land sales, tax payments, as well as wills and estate papers provide a clear picture of the varied and comprehensive economic activities of the family.

According to the Federal Census of 1790[1], Ephraim Barden was the head of a household consisting of himself and an unidentified white female, possibly his wife, Phoebe, who died in 1827. However, by his death in l837 Barden owned a sizeable estate of over three hundred acres, ten slaves, plus livestock and household furnishings. When his widow Nancy, his second wife, died the following year, she too left a substantial estate.

John Barden (1797-1855) continued the family's prosperous course; he administered his parents' estates and served as guardian of the minor heirs of his older brother Sherwood. In 1840 Everett G. Barden, son of Ephraim and Nancy, was obliged contemplate a suit to compel his brother John, executor of the estate to release his rightful share. Upon John Barden's death in 1856, he owned twenty-two slaves and, aside from substantial bequests to his sons, bequeathed his two daughters five slaves and $1175 each.[2]

Zilpha Barden ( 1803-1871 )[3], John's widow, who though unable to write, appears to have managed the Barden plantation through the Civil War years and after until shortly before her death.

John and Zilphia's son, George Buchanan Columbus "Buck" Barden (1848-1929), enlisted in the Confederate Army at age eighteen, served in the ranks of the 41st North Carolina Regiment as a private[4], and returned unharmed to pursue agricultural and commercial interests. It is unclear whether he achieved the level of wealth attained by the Barden family in the pre-war years. Of particular interest are his purchases of orchard and small fruit stocks which appear to indicate an attempt to move beyond the traditional southeastern North Carolina crops of cotton and tobacco. Although little is known of Barden's war experience, he actively maintained links to his service in the Confederate Army.

Patricia B. McGee, Special Collections Librarian, November 21, 1996

1. Register, Alvaretta Kenan. The First Census of the United States 1790, Sampson County, North Carolina. Norfolk, VA: Register. 1966. p.1.

2. Murphy, William L. Genealogical Abstracts, Duplin County Wills 1730-1860. Rose Hill, NC: Duplin County Historical Society p. 3.

3. McEachern, Leora H. Duplin Country Gravestone Records. Duplin County, NC: Duplin County Historical Society and Christine Williams Register of Deeds of Duplin County Kenansville. 1978. vol 8, p. 8.

4. Mararin, Louis H. comp. North Carolina Troops 1861-1865 A Roster. Vol. 1 Artillery Raleigh: NC. State Dept of Archives and History, 1966. p 376.


0.4 Linear Feet (Contains 1 document box.)

Language of Materials



These records are arranged at the folder level by document type/function.

Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Mrs. Maude Smith in 1996. Smith was a direct lineal descendant of the Barden family.

Barden Family Private Papers
Tess Will
2022 November 02
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository