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Cochran family papers

Identifier: MS0423

Scope and Contents

Most of the papers in the Cochran collection concern real estate transactions (there are nineteen land indentures and three land surveys), and money lending. The land in question is located in eastern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, most of which is described as being “on the waters of…” either Rocky River, Stony Creek, or Milky Run, according to the legal descriptions of these indentures. This land is either where the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is now located, or very close to it. Of the nineteen land indentures, only two of them involve members of the Cochran family—one in 1861, when W.B. Cochran bought land from L.T. Hunter; and another dated 1874, when he bought land from John Kirk. The papers concerning money lending are chattel mortgages, promissory notes, and court orders or court summons for those who could not or would not repay their loans.

In the days before the proliferation of banks and credit cards, people who needed to borrow small amounts of money usually borrowed from their friends or family members. For small loans the borrower usually wrote out a promissory note, saying something to the effect, “I promise to pay the creditor the balance of the loan within six months.” When someone needed to borrow a significant amount of money for something such as planting a crop or purchasing a plot of land, the borrower would go to a money lending company (such as Gibson & Henderson, or R.M. White & Co.) fill out a chattel mortgage—a financial instrument requiring collateral. If the debtor could not or would not pay off the loan, the creditor often had to file a lawsuit to force payment or to seize the collateral.

This collection includes several documents concerning loans of various sizes, as well as the failure to pay off loans. These include court orders and summons for debtors to appear in court to face their creditors. In some cases the debtor lost his land. The earliest indenture in this collection concerns the land of Ransom Gray, who lost his land as the result of an unpaid lien that the county government had placed on the property. Soon after the county seized the land, Nathan Orr purchased it in 1823. If a borrower or lender died before the loan was paid off, the administrator of the estate would have to make arrangements to either sell the deceased person’s goods or property to pay off the loan; or if the creditor died, to receive payments from debtors to the estate. In some cases, if someone who had borrowed from one person and lent to another died, the estate administrator would make arrangements to receive money from debtors and make payments to creditors at the same time. Estate administrators (also known as executors) also charged a fee to the estate for their services. There are documents in this collection concerning W.B. Cochran’s administration of the estate of Nancy Galloway in 1874 (see file 8 and the receipt dated November 14, 1874 in file 10).

Other than real estate and money lending papers, most of the remaining series of loose papers consist of receipts for consumer goods in the late nineteenth century. Records such as these indicate what people bought and what their standard of living was like. Another item in this collection (Series II) is a scrapbook, whose provenance is rather obscure, as the connection of this item cannot be directly linked to the loose papers in Series I. The names written in the scrapbook are members of the Abernathy family (Becky, Bernie, Bessie, Ellen, Henry, and Lee), Clyde Fox, Lloyd Queen, and Daisy Robinson. The dates recorded therein are from the early twentieth century, but the location of this family is unknown. Several of the photos in this book were loose at the time it was accessioned, and these photos have been removed from the scrapbook and mounted on acid-free paper. As the collection name suggests, the most frequently mentioned name in this collection is “Cochran”, especially William B. , and other members of the Cochran family identified as “J.R.”, “”R.J.”, “J.R.J.”, “John R.” and “J.B.” Cochran. The Cochran name appears mostly among the chattel mortgages, promissory notes and receipts.


  • Creation: 1823-circa 1930
  • Creation: 1823 - 1889


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

Though the papers in this collection concern primarily the Cochran family of eastern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, we do not know a great deal about this family. We do know that W.B. Cochran purchased land from L.T. Hunter on Stony Creek in 1861 and another parcel from John Kirk on Rocky River in 1874. Other members of the Cochran family are J.R. Cochran, R.J. Cochran, J.R.J. Cochran, John R. Cochran, and J.B. Cochran. Because of the nature of the records in this collection, we cannot be certain what the relationships were between them, though they must have been closely related. Collection 299 (the J.R.J. Cochran Papers) indicate that J.R.J. was actually James R.J. Cochran. The chattel mortgages indicate that the Cochrans were farmers and that they raised cotton, corn and wheat.


1.3 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection consists mostly of land indentures, promissory notes, chattel mortgages and receipts for consumer goods concerning primarily the Cochran family in eastern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, dating from 1823 to 1889. The collection also includes a scrapbook of photographs of an obscure provenance, dating to the early twentieth century.


The collection is arranged into one series: Papers and Photographs. There is also an Abernathy Family Scrapbook (1900-1930) that does not belong to any series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Tony Crumbley, in December 2009.

Related Materials

James R.J. Cochran Papers, 1818-1908, Mss 299.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes.

Cochran Family papers
Robert A. McInnis
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

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