Letter About Judge William Gaston

Contributed by Florence Fulford Moore

From the Elizabeth Moore Papers Collection no. 322, East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. For research and study only; not for deposit in other repositories. Most manuscripts are protected by copyright laws, permission to publish must be requested. NOTE: Florence Fulford Moore has received permission to publish this information, which is in the form of a letter.

“Pinehaven
Plainfield, NH
Nov. 18, 1972

The Secretary
New Bern Historical Society
New Bern, NC

Dear Sir or Madam: -

I have a story to tell. In the September last copy of “Antiques” magazine there was a full-page reproduction in color of a painted portrait of a Mrs. Robert Donaldson. I happen to have pages torn out of a Bible that had belonged to a Mrs. Robert Donaldson on which she had written the family vital records. So I wrote to the Brooklyn Museum (owners of the painting) and ascertained that their lady was the same one as Miss Susan Jane Gaston Donaldson (daughter of William Gaston).

In the Bible, she has written: “My beloved and now sainted father was born in Newbern, the 19th Sept. 1778. He was the second son of Doc’t. Alex Gaston and Margaret – (whose maiden name was Sharpe) his wife. The oldest son, Alexander died when an infant. The only other child, Jane, was born 1780, was married to Judge (information blurred).

On 6 Oct. 1805 Will’m. Gaston was married to Hannah McClure the only child of General Wm. McClure. Their children were Alexander, born 19 Jan’ry. 1807, Susan Jane – born 4 June 1808, Hannah Margaret – 18 March 1811.

My mother died 12 July 1813, a pious Catholic and a crown of glory to her husband.  On the __ (left blank in the letter) August 1816 my father married Eliza Worthington of Georgetown, District of Columbia. Their children were: Eliza born Sep’r. 1817; Catherine Jane born Jan. 7 1819.

Using the above information I went up to the Baker Library at Dartmouth College, and found your William Gaston in “Who Was Who,” Vol. I.  ‘William Gaston, Congressman, jurist, b. New Bern, N.C., Sept. 19, 1778, son of Alexander & Margaret Sharpe. Graduated from College of N. J. (Princeton), m. Susan Hay. M. (2) Hannah McClure. M. (3) Eliza Worthington. 5 children, including Alexander. Admitted to N. C. Bar 1798.

Member of N. C. House of Commons 1807-1809, 1824, 27-29, 31. N. Carolina Senate 1800, 1812, 1818, 1819. Helped write Act which established North Carolina Supreme Court, 1818.

Member U. S. House of Representatives. The 13th Congress & 14th, 1813-1817. Chief Justice N. C. Supreme Court 1833-4, Member N. C. Constitutional Convention 18__, Trustee, University of N. C. 1802-1818, 1844. Buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, New Bern, NC. Died Raleigh NC.  Jan. 23, 1844.’

Of course I know that you knew all this, but I did not. Then I got out a little pamphlet that I once got in New Bern, with a map of its historic buildings. I find on it a William Gaston house (54), William Gaston office (5-), and another Gaston House hotel. This William Gaston is mentioned as the composer of the State Anthem.

Now, after all of this written material, which, of course, you knew, I want to ask of the William Gaston of which I have written is the same one listed on your map, who wrote the State Anthem? Is the house furnished and open to visitors, or is it privately owned?

I am not related in any way to the Gastons. The bible-records I think I got at a New York City second-hand book shop. I think Susan Jane (Gaston) Donaldson lived at Edgewater, N.J., but I have not researched the Donaldsons.

Very truly yours,

Clare S. Boyd.”