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Irwin Family papers

Identifier: MS0359

Scope and Contents

Most of the items in this collection are letters, and to a large extent family members and friends wrote to each other about matters only relevant to their immediate circle. The date range for this collection spans from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.

Five of the documents in the Irwin family papers are bills of sale for enslaved people (an appendix at the end of this inventory lists those papers chronologically). These papers indicate that between 1806 and 1816, Thomas Henderson and John Robinson had bought or sold six enslaved people named Moses, Jenny, Sally, Rachel, Charlotte, and Milly.

Later in the century, a letter written by J. R. Canon to Batte Irwin on June 10, 1846 provides a glimpse at how the Mexican War influenced the people in the Charlotte area.

Some of Mary Hays Robinson Irwin’s family moved out west to claim cheap land and set up their homesteads in Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri. Their letters provide interesting insights into how white settlers were developing the frontier.

The final papers in the Chronological Files concern the death of Dr. John Robinson Irwin in 1931.


  • Creation: 1775 - 1931


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

The history of the Irwin family is grand and extensive, and genealogical charts in this collection document their lineage over thirty generations. The Irwins (a.k.a. Irvins and Irvines) can trace their genealogy as far back as Alpin, the father of King Kenneth MacAlpine, the first king of Scotland, in the early ninth century. Through the generations, there have been many members of royalty and nobility in their genes. It was William Irwin (1701-1787) who emigrated from Scotland to Pennsylvania in 1729. Whether or not it was he or his son Robert, who migrated southward to North Carolina is not known. Robert Irwin (1740-1800) served as a general in the American Revolution, campaigning in North Carolina and the eastern part of what is now Tennessee.

One of the most prominent members of the Irwin family was Batte Irwin (grandson of General Robert Irwin) who lived in Charlotte, North Carolina from 1809 to 1854. Batte seems to have been a leading member of the Charlotte community and generously supported his church—the Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church. Batte married Mary Hays Robinson in 1846, and there is extensive documentation from her family in this collection, as well (especially from her sisters, Catherine Hays Robinson and Jemima Robinson Crawford). Only about eight months after the birth of his son, John Robinson Irwin, in December of 1853, Batte died suddenly on August 6, 1854.

In addition to the Irwins and the Robinsons, the Henderson family is another that appears frequently in this collection. John Robinson (1769-1845) was originally from Charlotte; and he was educated under the tutelage of Dr. Thomas Henderson and Rev. Robert Archibald, at the Poplar Tent Academy in Cabarrus County. From there, he matriculated at Mount Zion College and the University of North Carolina, where he earned a masters degree in 1810 and a doctor of divinity degree in 1829. John Robinson married Mary Baldwin, the step-daughter of John’s tutor, Thomas Henderson.

John Robinson Irwin (1853-1931) is the most thoroughly documented individual of this collection; and like many of his ancestors, he too rose to prominence. He excelled academically, graduating from Davidson College in 1875, and the University of Maryland Medical School in 1877. Specializing in gynecology and abdominal surgery, he not only practiced medicine for many years, but also taught at a number of medical institutions. This collection concludes in 1931, the year of Dr. Irwin’s death, and letters addressed to his widow indicate that he was highly respected by his family, friends and neighbors. John and Maggie Irwin had seven children, and many of their descendants still reside in Charlotte.


0.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Irwin Family Papers is a small manuscript collection, consisting mostly of letters, bills of sale (including bills of sale for enslaved people), real estate deeds and genealogical notes of a family of Charlotte, North Carolina, primarily during the nineteenth century.


Series I in this collection is The Chronological Files series. Dates in this inventory are recorded beginning with the year, then the month and then the date; i.e., 1811 May 30. Most of the documents in The Chronological Files are letters, but some are bills of sale or receipts (including bills of sale for enslaved people), real estate deeds, receipts for church tithes, promissory notes, business contracts, poems, marriage licenses, college graduation announcements and invitations, admission tickets for medical school lectures and more. The papers in The Chronological Files are stored in folders, divided into 25 year increments. There are several files that do not belong to any series that are listed in chronological order.

Several of the documents in the Irwin Family Papers are too large to be stored in regular archival storage and had to be relocated to oversize storage. Photocopies of those oversize documents are used as “place markers,” and have been inserted in the appropriate chronological location with the rest of the collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from John Roddy.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes, 2005.

Irwin Family papers
Robert A. McInnes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

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