A Guide to the

Charles Triplett O’Ferrall Papers, 1870-1893

SC 0086

Compiled by: Don Lambert, February 1987
Revised by: Victoria M. Edwards, September 2009

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Title: Charles Triplett O'Ferrall Papers, 1870-1893

Collection No.: SC 0086

Creator: Charles Triplett O’Ferrall

Extent:  ½ Hollinger box; .209 linear feet

Language: English

Abstract: The Charles Triplett O’Ferrall Papers, 1870-1893, consist of 273 items in a ½ Hollinger box and one item in one flat box (.209 linear feet) of correspondence to O’Ferrall when he resided in Harrisonburg, Virginia, as well as a small amount of assorted legal, financial, and miscellaneous documents which are apparently unconnected with O'Ferrall or his family, but do illustrate some common financial and legal practices of the day.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Collection is open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.
Use Restrictions:
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).
Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], [box #, folder #], Charles Triplett O’Ferrall Papers, 1870-1893, SC 0086, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, on deposit from Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Dayton, VA, housed in Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.
Acquisition Information: The bulk of the collection was placed on deposit according to a contract with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society. Three items are the property of Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. These items are housed in folder 8 and are clearly marked as property of Special Collections. Their descriptions and titles are as follows: Editorial - "To the Last Card of Col. Chas. T. O'Ferrall" by William Alexander, Booklet - "Remarks of Hon. Chas. T. O'Ferrall on the Life and Character of Hon. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, of Virginia, Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 6, 1892," and Booklet - "Address to the Democrats of Virginia. The Record of Hon. Charles T. O' Ferrall, and His Claims Upon the Democratic Gubernatorial Nomination."
Other Formats Available: Also available on microfilm, Reel #1489, at Special Collections of James Madison University and at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Processing Information: In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in the spring of 2017. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 2015.

Biographical/Historical Note

Charles Triplett O'Ferrall (October 21, 1840-September 22, 1905) was born in Frederick County, Virginia, and spent much of his youth residing in Morgan County, Virginia (now West Virginia). After his father's death when O'Ferrall was fifteen, he took over his father's position as clerk pro tempore of the circuit court in Morgan County. Two years later he was elected clerk of the county circuit court there, a position he held until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  O'Ferrall joined the 12th Virginia Cavalry (CSA), Winchester in 1861 as a private.  By 1865, he was an acting colonel managing forces in the Shenandoah Valley and saw action at Second Manassas (1862) and Upperville (1863). He sustained eight injuries over the course of service. During his recuperation in Enterprise, Mississippi, he met Anna E. McLean, and they were married February 8, 1865.

After the war O'Ferrall and his wife briefly ran an inn in Staunton, Virginia. In 1868, O'Ferrall entered Washington College (now Washington and Lee) under Robert E. Lee and graduated with a law degree in August 1869. After moving to Harrisonburg, O'Ferrall was elected as a Democrat to the House of Delegates for two terms, 1871-1873.  In 1874, he became judge of the Rockingham County Circuit Court, a position he held until 1880.  In 1882, he won the Rockingham County Congressional election, and served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In 1893, Democratic Congressman O'Ferrall was elected Governor. He ran on a bimetallic currency ticket, one which would later ruin his political career.  His first two years in office were notable for his liberal stance against lynching and his favorable economic policies.  O'Ferrall's downfall came, however, in 1896, when he refused to endorse the free silver platform of fellow Democrat William Jennings Bryan.  O'Ferrall retired to Chesterfield County after two more years in office, where he wrote his book Forty Years of Active Service in 1904. Charles O'Ferrall died a year later in Richmond.

Scope and Content

The Charles Triplett O’Ferrall Papers, 1870-1893, consist of ½ Hollinger box (.209 linear feet) and one item in one flat box, and is arranged in three series: Correspondence (1870-1893), Legal and Financial (1873-1877), and Other (1874-1879). The items therein cover O’Ferrall’s post-war life and career until the decade leading up to his death. 


Correspondence, 1870-1893, includes letters and postcards to and from O’Ferrall related to his business matters and personal affairs. Many letters express sympathy for his wife's death in 1879. Also present is correspondence relating to the State Conservative Executive Committee, a group that supported O'Ferrall's bid for the House of Delegates and a group from which O'Ferrall elicited support in his gubernatorial campaign.  Other items of note include letters from E. I. Armstrong, J. W. Bassore, Benjamin Milnes, Mrs. Charles O’Ferrall, Secretary of the Commonwealth James McDonald, Gilmore & Company with an enclosed advertisement and from Charles O’Ferrall to Fred W. M. Holliday. 

Legal and Financial, 1873-1877, includes legal documents related to Mr. O’Ferrall’s various positions in law and government. Some items of note include bankruptcy notices, deeds, and the undated will of Mary Parrot.


Other, 1874-1879, includes miscellaneous documents, newspaper clippings and an oversized broadside.  Items of note include the report card of O’Ferrall’s son Charles, an announcement about Dr. Moffett, a July 4, 1877 article from the Staunton Spectator entitled "The Public Debt--General Mahone's Views" and also one from a Washington, D.C. paper discussing the Democratic policy in Virginia with "An Early Convention, Payne and Lee, and an Aggressive Fight."  Other documents include "Mr. Alexander's reply to the last card of Col. Chas. T. O'Ferrall," 15 June, 1893 (original encapsulated, with xeroxed copy), "Remarks of Hon. Chas. T. O'Ferrall of Virginia on the life and character of Hon. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, delivered in the House of Representatives," 6 February 1892, Washington, and an "Address to the Democrats of Virginia: The Record of Hon. Charles T. O'Ferrall, and his claims upon the Democratic Gubernatorial Nomination."


The collection is arranged chronologically within three series:

1. Correspondence, 1870-1893
2. Legal and Financial, 1873-1877
3. Miscellaneous, 1874-1879, n.d.


Malone, Dumas, editor.  Dictionary of American Biography.  New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934, pp. 633-634.  Ref. E176.D56

Younger, Edward, editor.  The Governors of Virginia 1860-1978. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1982, pp. 135-141.  F225.G77 1982

O’Ferrall, Charles T.  Forty Years of Active Service.  New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1904. 

Related Material/Collections

Margaret Reed Papers, 1902–1914, SC 0093, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA. 


The Virginia State Library houses three collections dealing with O’Ferrall.  The Executive papers of Governor Charles T. O’Ferrall, 1894-1897 contains documents mainly dealing with O’Ferrall’s one term as governor from January 1894 to December 1897.  The microform collection Records, 1873-1899 contains items again related to O’Ferrall’s term as governor, including state borders, fishing rights and clemency.  The record Proclamations, 1892-1898 contains Thanksgiving Day proclamations by O’Ferrall as well as other governors. 


The College of William & Mary Special Collections Research Center houses the Charles Triplett O'Ferrall Papers, 1856-1904 that contains material related to his hotel as well as legal papers and personal letters. 


There are many O'Ferrall letters and references to him in books at the Virginia Historical Society. His photographic portrait can be found at the Library of Congress.


Series 1: Correspondence, 1870-1893  


Folder 1


Folder 2


Folder 3

     1876-1881 (postcards)

Folder 4


Folder 5
Series 2: Legal and Financial, 1873-1877  

     Legal Documents

Folder 6

     Financial Documents

Folder 7
Series 3: Other, 1874-1879  

     Miscellaneous Documents

Folder 8

     Newspaper Clippings J

Folder 9

     Oversize, 1874

Flat Box