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Torrance and Banks families papers

Identifier: MS0087

Part 1: Scope and Contents

Part 1 of the Torrance and Banks Families Papers constitutes the initial effort of a two-part microfilming project to ensure the permanent preservation of the collection. The original records were the property of Richard Torrance Banks, grandson of Richard A. Torrance and current owner and resident of the Cedar Grove estate near Huntersville, N.C. The papers in pt.1, which were filmed on three reels of microfilm (January, 1983), are primarily from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Torrance and Banks family papers were acquired from Richard Banks, descendant of Hugh Torance and current owner and resident of Cedar Grove. The bulk of the material in Part 1 is from the eighteenth century and from the early nineteenth century. The records focus on Hugh Torance and his son James Galbraith Torrance. The papers are arranged alphabetically by subject, which were designated by the donor, Richard Banks. Folder titles have been retained verbatim except for the addition of inclusive dates or other pertinent data. Originally, items within folders were arranged serially following a folder-item system devised by Banks. These folder-item numbers are pencilled onto most of the documents; the first number refers to the folder in which the item is located; the following number refers to the document number. All items have been left in the subject folders as Banks arranged them and are chronological therein. Many of the folders include Banks's typescript synopses of the documents. It is an invaluable aid to research and can be used despite the rearrangement of the documents, since most of the documents have the corresponding key numbers pencilled onto them and since original folder number have been retained.

Part 2: Scope and Contents

Part 2 of the Torrance and Banks Families Papers constitutes the final effort of a two-part microfilming project to ensure the permanent preservation of the collection. The papers in pt.2, which were filmed on eleven reels of microfilm (May-July, 1983), are primarily nineteenth century, but they extend into the mid-1920s. The records of Richard A. Torrance, his wife, Eliza Gaston Torrance, and his younger brother, John Andrew Torrance, predominate, although most of the Richard Torrance children are represented. The papers came to Special Collections in considerable disarray, especially since Banks, who had organized the records of Part 1, had not worked with the papers of Part 2. As such, the Special Collections staff decided to arrange most of part 2 according to the individuals who generated or received specific items, with publications and other material not clearly identified with one person making up the remainder of this part of the Torrance and Banks Family Papers.

Part 3: Scope and Contents

Part 3 of the Torrance and Banks Families Papers is comprised of original material donated outright by Richard Torrance Banks. These items were not microfilmed. This part of the collection documents Richard Allison Torrance's service as Mecklenburg County Tax Collector (1889-96) and as Census Enumerator for Lemley's Township in northern Mecklenburg County (1880).


  • Creation: 1765 - 1982
  • Creation: 1800 - 1900


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Mr. Banks has relinquished to the public all rights associated with ownership of copyright and literary property rights that he, as a Torrance descendant, may have in the papers. Researchers should be aware, however, that copyright restrictions may apply to papers in the collection for which Mr. Banks does not own the copyright. 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. The photographic images of Cedar Grove and the Hugh Torance House and Store (1938) may be reproduced. Credit line should read: Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer. Reproduction of originals in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Biographical Note

Hugh Torance (1743-1816) hailed from Five-Mile-Town, Parish of Clogher, County Tyrone, Ireland (Ulster). He is buried in the Hopewell Presbyterian Church cemetery in northern Mecklenburg County, N.C. Torance and his brother Albert immigrated to America around 1763. (According to Richard Banks, direct descendant of Hugh Torance and donor of this collection, Torance probably indentured himself during the years 1763-69 to pay for his passage overseas.) Hugh Torance purchased a 319-acre farm in Tyberne Township, Cumberland County, Pa., about 1770. In 1811 he deeded this property to his brother, James, who had also immigrated from Ireland. Torance migrated from Pennsylvania to Rowan County, N.C. about 1773. He had extensive mercantile interests in Rowan County prior to 1774. (Richard Banks surmised that his ancestor initially peddled goods on consignment to southbound immigrants, then traveled down the Great Wagon Road to sell to the settlers of Rowan and Mecklenburg counties.) During the period 1774-75 his mercantile activities centered around Sherrill's Ford and Davidson Creek in western Rowan County and extended as far as present-day Statesville. Albert Torrence (m. Elizabeth Hackett, 10/27/1791; d. 1825), perhaps the youngest of the Torrances, settled in Rowan County. He owned a plantation at Trading Ford on the Yadkin River and a store in Salisbury. From 1778 through about 1784 Torance resided in Rowan County. By 1787 he took up residence in Mecklenburg County, although financial dealings continued between him and his brother Albert in Salisbury. In 1780, Torance suspended his mercantile activities to join Capt. Galbraith Falls's militia company, a light cavalry company called the Partisan Rangers. Torance served as disbursing agent and participated in the siege of Charleston, S.C. Wage certificates show that he made payments to members of his company until 1792. (Because of the devaluation of American paper money, patriot soldiers often accepted certificates of service to be redeemed at a later time, when paper money would be more stable.) According to family tradition, Torance fought in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill, Lincoln County, N.C. (6/20/1780), a decisive battle in which Falls was killed. Although no records exist, Torance probably continued to fight through the fall of 1781. His business records do not resume until 1782. Torance married (5/28/1783) Isabella Kerr Falls, widow of Capt. Galbraith Falls. James Galbraith Torrance (b. 11/19/1784) was their only child. [Hugh spelled his name "Torance" to distinguish himself from Albert's son Hugh Torence, a Salisbury merchant, while Albert used "Torrence". James Galbraith changed from "Torrence" to "Torrance" after his marriage to Margaret Allison to distinguish himself from his cousin James Torrence, a Charlotte merchant.] Isabella's children from her previous marriage were William (b. 8/9/1763); John; Anne (m. Robert Young); Margaret (m. Thomas McKnight); Martha (m. James Stewart); Isabella; Resonna (m. George Davidson); and Jane (m. John Simonton). Torance bought from John McDowell and his son of Burke County 667 acres on McDowell Creek in northern Mecklenburg County, near what is now Huntersville, in 1779. The deed states that the McDowells had acquired this land in three tracts: two from Henry Eustace McCollough and one from Thomas Irwin(?). In 1796, Torance acquired from the trustees of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill an additional 480 acres on McDowell Creek. This property had also belonged to McCollough, but was confiscated by the state as a penalty for his Tory affiliations during the Revolutionary War. By 1796 Torance had acquired 1300 acres. In 1799 he received grants of 50, 70, and 60 acres of land on McDowell Creek apparently as reward for his war service. Torance began building a two-story brick house on his land in 1794. By 1796 he had nearly completed the structure, which stood exactly where the Cedar Grove plantation, a local historic property, now stands. Purchases for the house are well documented in the papers. Hugh Torance died on February 14, 1816; Isabella died only two weeks before him at seventy-six years. At the time of their deaths, they owned 1,400 acres in Mecklenburg County, 3,800 acres in Tennessee, and 33 enslaved people. James Galbraith Torrance (1784-1847) was three years old when his father, Hugh Torance, moved to the McDowell Creek property in Mecklenburg County. He spent many of his early years at the home of his uncle Albert in Salisbury, probably because of the superiority of educational opportunities there. After completing his education in 1805, he set up an extensive store at Cedar Grove with some $4,000 worth of goods purchased from Philadelphia [see part 1, folder 15, item 21 (Banks's notation) hereinafter cited as 1-15-21]. In 1825, James Galbraith sold his mercantile business to Samuel McCombs of Charlotte [see part 1, series 2, daybook ledger]. Banks speculates that Torance's daughters persuaded their father to sell the business because they considered mercantile activities unrefined for a planter. By 1810, Torrance had surpassed his father in agricultural, mercantile, and community activities. He purchased 386 acres in 1810. Governor William Hawkins appointed him a justice of the peace in 1812 [1-1-9]. In 1818 he became treasurer of Hopewell Presbyterian Church [see part 1, series 2, Hopewell Church account book]. After about 1818, Torrance turned to a more extensive cultivation of cotton, although he had been selling cotton as early as 1805 [1-8-1, 16]. He sometimes sold cotton in Fayetteville, N.C., but more often freighted it by wagon to Camden or Cheraw, S.C., then to Charleston, S.C. Debtors sometimes reduced their accounts by freighting cotton for him (1-8-6). Torrance was married three times. His first wife was Nancy Davidson (m. 2/9/1809; d. 11/11/1818), daughter of General Ephraim Davidson (son of George and Penelope Reece Davidson) and Jane Brevard Davidson (daughter of John and Jane McWhorter Brevard), from Mount Mourne, present-day Iredell County, N.C. Their five children were: 1) Jane Adeline (1811-3/1820); 2) Catherine Camilla (b. 1814) married William A. Latta of York County, S.C. (6/24/1834). She attended Salem Female Boarding School (11/10/1825-12/6/1827, with her sister Isabella Malvina) in Salem, N.C., and Lucretia Sarazen's school in Philadelphia (9/18/1830-5/28/1831). Children were Willie and Margaret; 3) Isabella Malvina (1818-12/22/1893) married Franklin L. Smith (9/9/1835), a planter in Mississippi. One daughter, Jane Camilla (1835-1901), married Rufus Reid (d. 7/15/1854). A son, James Rufus Reid, who died at Manassas, Va. (11/1/1861); and son Franklin S. Reid (d. 11/27/1862); 4) Hugh Torrence Jr. married Jane Powell; one daughter, Isabella; 5) James Franklin (1816-69). Hugh Jr. and James were planters in Coffeeville, Miss. On April 14, 1821, Torrance married Mary Latta (12/29/1799-11/26/1824), daughter of James Latta, emigrant planter of the Hopewell community. They had two children: 1) William Latta (1/20/1822-5/26/1852) was one of the first students of Davidson College and later attended the University of Pennsylvania medical school; 2) Jane Elizabeth (1823-12/3/1844) married William S. M. Davidson (1817-73). She attended Salem Boarding School. One son: James Torrence (1843-74). In 1827 Torrance married his third wife, Margaret Allison (1798-1880), daughter of Richard and Letitia Neil Allison from near Statesville. Their children were: 1) Letitia A. (b. 1828) married Dr. Ed. S. Bratton (9/7/1847). They lived in Yorkville, S.C.; 2) Mary A. (b. 1829) married Robert M. Bratton (4/23/1849), secondly, Dr. Sidney Witherspoon; 3) Delia (b. 1831) married John R. Johnston of Zuela plantation in Gaston County, N.C. (6/17/1856); 4) Richard Allison (1833-1927) [see expanded biographical note below]; 5) Sarah Jane (b. 1836) married Dr. John Brown Gaston Jr. of Montgomery, Ala. (10/11/1857), where they resided; 6) John Andrew (1/28/1839-12/21/1904) did not marry. He attended Hillsborough Military Academy, 1860-61. At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in the 7th North Carolina infantry. In March, 1862, the 7th participated in the defense of New Bern, N.C. In May, 1862, the regiment (along with the 28th, 33rd, and 37th N.C. regiments) joined the newly formed Branch (Second) Brigade in Virginia, commanded by Brig. Gen. Lawrence O'B. Branch. The brigade fought in most of the major engagements of the war, including Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg (including Pickett's charge). On April 28, 1863, Torrance received a promotion to second lieutenant in the 37th N.C. (Lane's Brigade after Branch's death). John Torrance fought with Lee's army until its surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the war he resided near the Cedar Grove plantation, where he operated the Torrance mill until his death. For his wife Margaret, Torrance built Cedar Grove, their elegant plantation home, which still stands on the site on which the Hugh Torance house formerly stood. Master carpenters David Hampton and Jacob Shuman began building the house in 1831; the house was completed in 1833 (1-19-45A). Probably designed by an architect, the 5,000 square feet house is a Greek Revival style featuring stepped gables, ornate moldings, and a Quaker staircase. Bricks for the house were manufactured on the site. Education was well respected in the Torrance household. A charter member of the Davidson College Board of Trustees (1836), Torrance paid $100 on a $500 subscription to the "Manual Labour School," as Davidson College was first known. He continued payments on his subscription until 1839. He was a member of the Davidson College building committee and also served on a financial committee. During the period 1841-44, he paid $60 annual interest on a pledge to endow a professorship at the college. He fulfilled his endowment pledge in 1845 by giving a certificate for ten shares of stock in the Bank of North Carolina [see part 1, folder 37, Davidson College receipt book]. School teachers in the northern Mecklenburg area included Alexander Garden (1826), John Manchette (1827), Benjamin and Thomas Cottrell (1828), John Little (1829), S. D. Wharton (1847), Robert A. Sadler (1821) [1-24-5] and Peter Stuart Ney, under whom Richard Torrance studied (1840-45). His daughters attended Salem Female Boarding School operated by John C. Jacobson and Benjamin Reichel. The records show that in 1830, Torrance advertised a Hopewell Academy in the Catawba Journal, although details of the academy are not known. In 1824 Torrance extended his business activities by building a water-powered mill for grinding flour and lumber [1-18-26, 30]. Andrew Killion constructed the original mill at the confluence of McDowell and Torrence creeks [1-21-34]. Completed in 1825, the mill received an extensive gear repair in 1830 [1-19-8]. It was rebuilt in 1844-46 [1-21-108]. At the time of Torrance's death (1847), he owned 3,273 acres and 71 enslaved people. Margaret Allison Torrance managed the Cedar Grove plantation until her son Richard Allison Torrance took over after the Civil War. Richard Allison Torrance (12/7/1833-5/22/1927) was the eldest son of James Galbraith and Margaret Allison Torrance. As a young boy, Torrance studied under schoolmaster Peter Stuart Ney--whom some scholars believe to have been the famous Marshal Ney, one of Napoleon's field commanders from 1840 to 1845 [1-24]. From 1851 to 1855 he attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Seeking greater economic opportunity, Torrance ventured to Texas in 1856, where he purchased 640 acres on the Brazos River in Fort Bend County. In 1860 he had acquired nineteen enslaved people; by 1868 he paid tax on 678 acres. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined Terry's 8th Texas Rangers, a cavalry company that fought under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Torrance was wounded at Murfreesboro, and he lost a leg due to a gunshot wound suffered at Mossy Creek in 1863. After the amputation of his leg, he was discharged with the rank of captain. He convalesced at Cedar Grove following his discharge from the Confederate Army, then returned to his plantation in Texas. In 1866, he was elected a county commissioner in Fort Bend County. Severe economic conditions, aggravated by the shortage of agricultural laborers, forced him to sell his plantation and return to Mecklenburg County in either 1868 or 1869. He and his family lived with his mother at Cedar Grove. After her death, he inherited the property and continued to farm it until his death in 1927. In 1877 he was elected a justice of the peace in Lemley's Township in northern Mecklenburg County and in 1879 served as Mecklenburg County commissioner. In early May, 1880, Torrance applied for a position as census enumerator for Lemley's Township. He was appointed on May 13, 1880, as the enumerator for the 114th Census Division of the 3rd Supervisor's District. He also served as Mecklenburg County Tax Collector from 1889 to 1896. Torrance suffered the loss of an arm in a cotton gin accident in 1883. According to family legend, a former enslaved person ripped a drive belt off the gin with his bare hands, thus saving Torrance's life. He married Bettie E. Reid (1836-61), daughter of Rufus L. Reid of Mount Mourne, on November 26, 1856. (Rufus, a successful merchant and planter, built Mount Mourne in northern Mecklenburg County, considered one of the finest frame houses of the period.) In 1861 Bettie contracted "coast fever" and died suddenly, leaving Torrance with two young daughters: Minna Eugenia (b. 1857) and Margaret Elizabeth (b. 1858). He then married Patience Eliza Gaston (1/20/1843-6/10/1916), daughter of Dr. John Brown and Polly Buford Gaston of Chester County, S.C., on October 3, 1865. She stayed at Cedar Grove with her mother-in-law while Torrance returned to Texas until his permanent resettlement in North Carolina in the late 1860s. They had nine children: 1) Richard Allison Jr. (8/21/1866-12/31/1943) married Lititia Nance. They settled in Lincoln, Neb., where he established himself in "throwaway advertising"; 2) Gaston (b. 9/30/1868) lived much of his early life with his aunt Mary Buford Gaston, who probably reared him. He attended the University of Virginia medical school (1896); and studied at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane in Philadelphia (1898) and at the Philadelphia Polyclinic and College for Graduates in Medicine. Around 1900, he relocated to Birmingham, Ala., where he established a surgical practice. He married Anne Wilkerson; 3) Mary Buford (b. 1869) married Lynford Lardner Moore. He studied at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (1893). From 1895 to the early 1900s, they worked in Japan and China as Presbyterian missionaries. After returning to the United States, Moore continued as a minister and apparently did not pursue a medical practice; 4) Delia Isabel (12/27/1871-8/31/1962) married (1903) Howard A. Banks [editor, Asheville Gazette-News (1904), Hickory Democrat (1911-15), and the Sunday School Times (1923); and city editor, The Charlotte News (1907); in 1915, became private secretary to the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and represented the department at the San Francisco Pan American Exhibition]. In 1900, Delia worked for the Charlotte firm of Clarkson and Duls as a stenographer. She also worked as an assistant teacher in the public schools before she married. Their son, Richard T. Banks, is the present owner of Cedar Grove and donor of this collection; 5) Susan Camilla (b. 12/26/1874) married Charlotte banker and entrepreneur John W. Zimmerman; 6) James Galbraith (b. 11/26/1876) married Sophia Dunlap. He worked as a salesperson for Southern Mill Supply Company; 7) Kate (b. 12/24/1878) married Harry L. Sanders, a Charlotte entrepreneur; 8) Hugh (9/16/1881-3/11/1966) married Louise Levi (8/16/1888-2/26/1977). They lived in Florida, where he grew vegetables; and 9) William A. (5/16/1884-5/22/1940) did not marry. He attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and worked as an automobile salesperson. Richard Allison Torrance died on May 22, 1927 and was buried in the Hopewell Presbyterian Church cemetery. At the time of his death, the Cedar Grove land holdings numbered 1,200 acres, which were divided into eleven plots for his eleven children. Delia Torrance Banks received Cedar Grove.


13.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Papers of Hugh Torance (1743-1816) and his descendants, including, and especially, his son, James Galbraith Torrance (sic) (1784-1847), and his grandson Richard Allison Torrance (1833-1927), concerning their extensive mercantile, planting, and milling operations at Cedar Grove plantation in northern Mecklenburg County, N.C. Includes account books, Revolutionary War service records, family correspondence, land and estate records, information on enslaved people, contracts with overseers, two acrostics by George Moses Horton ("the slave poet of Chapel Hill"), and poems and notes by area schoolmaster Peter Stuart Ney, whom some believe to have been Marshall Michael Ney, one of Napoleon's generals. Also includes correspondence with family members who operated plantations in Coffeeville and Yalabusha counties, Miss. (1830s-40s) and Fort Bend County, Tex. (1850s-60s) and relatives who served as Presbyterian missionaries in Japan and China (ca. 1900); James Torrance's records as treasurer (1818-47) of Hopewell Presbyterian Church and as a trustee (1836-39) of Davidson College; Richard Torrance's records as census enumerator (1880) for Lemley's Township and as Mecklenburg County tax collector (1889-96); papers of Richard's daughter, Delia, and her husband, Howard A. Banks; evangelistic tracts; pamphlets and ephemera relating primarily to agriculture; and a microfilm copy of the papers.


The series is arranged into the following series and subseries:

Part 1: Subject Files and Account Books/Journals, 1765-1982 (subseries: Subject Files, 1765-1982 and Account Books and Journals, 1805-1870); Part 2: Subject Files and Photographs, 1832-1927 (subseries: Subject Files, 1832-1927 and Photographs and Negatives) and Part 3: Tax Collector and Census Enumerator Records, 1879-1896 (subseries: Tax Collector Records, 1889-1896 and Census Enumerator's Records, 1879-1880)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Richard Banks, 1983 and 1989; Lettie Ferrer, 1991.

Available Online

A portion of the Torrance and Banks families papers have been digitized and can be found online:

Related Materials

Banks Family Papers (Mss 164). Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Reports (Mss 77): Cedar Grove and Hugh Torance House and Store; and Torrance Mill. Davidson Family Papers (Mss 188). Hugh Torance House and Store, Inc. Records (Mss 157). Copies of the microfilm are also deposited in the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the libraries of Davidson and Queens colleges.

Physical Description

16,200 items + 28 microfilm reels

Processing Information

Additions processed by James Kusik and David Rhoton, 2002.

Torrance and Banks families papers
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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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