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the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 37473
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Samuel McDowell Tate Papers, 1852-1876. Accession 37473. Personal Papers Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Purchased, 19 July 2000, from Nancy Howell, Sacramento, California.
Samuel McDowell Tate (1830-1897), soldier and railroad president, was born in Morganton, North Carolina, the son of David and Susan Maria Tate. Denied a classical education due to the untimely death of his father, Tate principally attended grammar school in Bedford, Pennsylvania, his mother's home town. In early adulthood Tate was engaged in several commercial pursuits in nearby Philadelphia, but by his early 20's Tate had returned to Morganton where he worked as a merchant. In the latter half of the 1850's, Tate served as Morganton's postmaster and was associated with the construction of the Salisbury-Morganton section of the Western North Carolina Railroad (later owned by the Southern Railway Company). On the outbreak of the Civil War, Tate was commissioned captain of the North Carolina 6th Infantry Regiment, Company D, the first North Carolina unit to fight in Virginia. He participated in numerous battles including the 1st and 2nd Battle of Manassas, Gaines' Mill, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg. After the 2nd Battle of Manassas, Tate was promoted to major and at Gettysburg, where he was in command of the regiment, he led it in a charge which drove the Federal forces from Culp's Hill. For his actions he was promoted again to the position of lieutenant colonel. At the Battle of Rappahannock Bridge in 1863, Tate was wounded and seriously wounded at both the Battle of Cedar Creek and the Battle of Petersburg.
Soon after Lee's surrender, Tate was elected president of the Western North Carolina Railroad. While successful in that capacity, Tate lost his post in 1868 when North Carolina governor William W. Holden removed him from office. Despite his termination Tate remained an integral participant in the construction of the railroad. North Carolina residents elected him to the lower house of the state legilature in 1874. He became chairman of the finance committee and as such drafted and had passed laws which benefitted the Western North Carolina Railroad. He initiated the convict lease system and labored to to provide ways to enlarge and improve the state's eleemosynary institutions. Tate's legislative efforts also helped to establish the Hospital for the Insane in Morganton and pushed for the removal of the North Carolina School for the Deaf from Raleigh to Morganton. Voters reelected Tate in 1880, 1882, and 1884 and upon his resignation from the post in 1886, he was appointed bank examiner for the district extending from West Virginia to Florida. He served in that capacity until 1892. In 1892 the governor appointed him to the state's treasurers post where he served until 1894. Tate was married to Jane Pearson in 1866 and they subsequently had ten children. He died in Morganton on June 25, 1897.
Papers, 1852-1876, of Samuel McDowell Tate (1830-1897 of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, consisting of letters, 1852-1876, to Tate concerning a lawsuit and purchase of land; restitution for a piano burned during shipment; a request for free passage on the Western North Carolina Railroad for children being taught by missionaries from the American Tract Society; a question about "pleasant society" along the Western North Carolina Railroad near or in the mountains; brick buildings for rent in Richmond, Virginia; request for fare reduction on the Western North Carolina Railroad for Southern Republican Association members during an upcoming election; and an application sent to Tate by Fred Fisher of Lexington, Virginia. Papers also include invoices, 1869-1874, for a Smith's No. 2 well fixture and for ten bags of ground plaster and a money order, both purchases made by Tate.