Dred Peacock – W. T. Farrow Correspondence 23-25 May 1900
Source: J. A. Burgess Papers (#22.1.a)
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: The correspondence between Dred Peacock and W. T. Farrow, seen above, is from the J. A. Burgess Papers in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection. Peacock had been a professor of Latin, German, Physics and Chemistry since 1888, and, since 1894, had been President of Greensboro Female College. His wife, Ella Carr, was the daughter of O. W. Carr, a member of the Trinity College (now Duke University) faculty and a member of Greensboro Female College’s Board of Trustees. During his tenure as President, Peacocks had been struck by a terrible tragedy. Their daughter, Ethel Carr Peacock, died at the age of 6. Subsequently, the Peacocks endowed the Greensboro Female College library in their daughter’s name.
W. T. Farrow was a Washington, NC justice of the peace, school board member, and a local agent for the Norfolk & Southern Railway Company. He was also secretary-treasurer of the Styron Transportation Company, a subsidiary of the Norfolk & Southern, which operated the steamer AURORA in the Washington, NC vicinity. He had sent his daughter, Mamie, to attend Greensboro Female Academy in the sprint of 1899, but Mamie had been forced to withdraw due to illness.
The correspondence is found in the J. A. Burgess Papers (#22) in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection. Burgess was the chief agent of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad Company in Washington, NC, where Farrow worked, but otherwise was unrelated to Farrow.
Greensboro Female College, chartered in 1838 by the Methodist Church, was the first chartered college for women in North Carolina and only the third college for women in the nation. The college had a very good reputation in North Carolina but had a long history of financial instability. In 1912 the school changed its name to Greensboro College for Women; in 1919 it changed its name, again, to Greensboro College, a name it has retained to the present day. Since 1954 it has also admitted male students.
The Peacock — Farrow correspondence — between one man, whose daughter had lost her battle with illness and another, whose sick daughter, Mamie, had been forced to drop out of school — concerns the bill Farrow received for his daughter Mamie’s tuition bill for the spring term in 1899. Farrow had been charged $136.55 for Mamie’s Penmanship, Spelling, Composition, Bible & Piano, Recitation classes, and for room and board, heating, lighting, and washing although she had attended for only 43 days and taken 33 lessons.
In the first, typed, letter above, dated 23 May 1900, Peacock wrote to Farrow, replying to a previous letter from Farrow dated 21 May 1900, in which Farrow had first complained about his tuition bill. President Peacock appears to have been both deeply moved to sympathy and yet rather confused by the situation. In behalf of the college, he returned Farrow’s check, saying “We decidedly prefer to have your good will to any amount of money, and my personal friendship for you and your family would cause me to do anything in my power to have you perfectly satisfied.” He offered to correct any errors in the bill, inquired after Farrow’s health, and hoped that Mamie’s health was improving too.
In the second, handwritten letter, dated 25 May 1900, Farrow responded, saying “I don’t know what your rules are regulating such matters. It just doesn’t look right to me, but I am willing to abide by your decision”, and concluding that it would make no difference to their friendship. He said both he and his daughter were now in better health.
Peacock’s financial generosity may help explain why Greensboro Female Academy very nearly went bankrupt in 1903 and was only saved by a last minute gift of $20,000 from a generous alumna. It may also explain why the Peacocks removed their library from Greensboro Female College and gave it to Trinity College, where it is known today as the Ethel Carr Peacock Memorial Collection. It may also explain why Peacock was replaced as President in the same year by Lucy H. Robertson, who became the first female college president in North Carolina history.