Processed by: Staff

Date completed: 31 October 2005

Descriptive Summary

Title: Guide to the Bruce Family Papers

Collection number: M1981-1010

Creator: Various

Extent: 8 boxes, 270 folders

Administrative Information

Access: Open to researchers

Use restrictions: None known

Scope and Contents

The Bruce Family Papers comprise a collection of family letters and documents beginning in 1816 and dating through several generations into the 1840s. The collection includes antebellum and Civil War letters of a slaveholding and Confederate family, as well as early drawings by the famed American painter Mary Bruce Sharon.

Biographical Information

Henry Bruce, Sr.
Born October 30, 1777, in Stafford County, Virginia, to George Bruce and Mary (Stubblefield) Bruce. His father, George Bruce, died in 1778, and he and his mother took residence with her family. In 1781, Mary Bruce remarried. Henry, Sr., was sent in 1781 to live with his great uncle, Charles Bruce. In 1789, Henry, Sr., leaves Charles to move in with his grandfather, William Bruce. William died in 1792, leaving Henry, Sr., to move back to his mother and step-father and brother George Bruce. Henry, Sr., ran away from home to Fleming County, Kentucky, in 1793. Between 1794 and 1797, Henry, Sr., worked various farm labor jobs in Fleming County. In 1797, he purchased his first 50 acres on Johnson Creek. On January 11, 1798, he married Eleanor Threlkeld. Their first son, George S. Bruce, was born in 1800. Between 1801 and 1810, four daughters were born. In 1811, Henry, Jr., was born. James Bruce was born in 1814, and three other daughters followed. By 1830, Henry Bruce, Sr., had a total of ten children, supported by three maiden aunts, he owned a number of slaves, and had a farm of more than 1,000 acres. Henry Bruce, Sr. died in 1855, and was buried on his farm in Fleming County, Kentucky.
Henry Bruce, Jr.
Born in 1811, in Fleming County, Kentucky, to Henry Bruce, Sr., and Eleanor (Threlkeld) Bruce. In 1830, he accompanied his father on one of his many hog drives through the South, ending in Sparta, Georgia, where his uncle George S. Bruce, Sr., lived. That same year Henry, Jr., was sent on to Florida to conduct more trading on his own. Henry, Sr., sent his son on a 2,000 mile business trading trip in 1831, that was highly successful. Henry Bruce, Jr., married Mary Bruce, his first cousin (daughter of George S. Bruce, Sr.). George, Sr., and his family moved into Henry, Jr.’s, home in Covington, Kentucky, in 1848. Henry, Jr., purchased a home (Rugby) on Sandford Street in Covington in 1853.
Eli Metcalfe Bruce
Born on a farm near Flemingsburg, Kentucky, on February 22, 1828, to George S. and Sabina Metcalfe Bruce. He attended local schools until 1847, when he began working at a dry goods store in Maysville. Shortly thereafter, he moved to northern Kentucky and worked with his uncle, John S. Morgan, who was owner of a pork packing plant in Cincinnati. Married Elizabeth Sally Withers in 1853. Children included George, Mattie, and Charles. Eli and Henry Bruce, Jr. (his uncle), started an iron furnace business near Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1854. Five years later he sold his interest in the business and opened up several pork packing houses along the Mississippi, Missouri, and Wabash rivers. Near the outbreak of the Civil War, Eli closed his northern businesses and moved them into the South. Eli was present for the first meeting of the provisional Confederate government of Kentucky and attended a secession convention in Russellville in 1861. He was one of ten men chosen for an executive committee to see Kentucky admitted as a Confederate state on December 18, 1861. Although Kentucky never officially left the Union, it was given ten seats in the Rebel congress and Eli was elected to one and was reelected in 1864. Eli’s main business dealings with the Confederate government concerned supplies and blockade running ships. In 1863, his family was forced to flee Chattanooga when the city came under siege. Sallie (then pregnant) took her children to Covington, Kentucky, via Nassau, Montreal and southward through "enemy" territory. In the meantime, Eli became greatly involved with meeting the supply demands of the famed "Orphan Brigade." His work with prisoner exchanges for the "Orphan Brigade" led to his efforts for prisoner exchanges for the entire Confederacy. It was estimated that during the war he gave $400,000 of his own fortune for the relief of Confederate soldiers. Sallie made two pleas in person to Abraham Lincoln to return to her husband in the South. Lincoln gave her a pass and Sallie eventually ended up in Richmond, Virginia, where Eli was then living (their home was located across the street from Lee’s). Eli fled Richmond with Jefferson Davis and was captured in Georgia by Federal troops. With the war over, Eli established an office in Augusta, Georgia, to help former Rebel Kentucky soldiers return home. On May 10, 1865?, he published a newspaper article offering to pay the educational tuition of former Rebel Kentucky soldiers who had lost an arm or leg in battle. Soon thereafter, Eli met with President Andrew Johnson, who granted him a full pardon. Eli then moved to New York City were he became a cotton broker. He purchased a five-story hotel on Broadway Street and opened it up to Confederate veterans (paying or non-paying). His assets during the war had been wisely invested and an abandoned gold mine in South Carolina hit a new vein shortly after the war. On December 15, 1866, Eli Bruce died at age 38 in New York City, a victim of heart disease. His body was returned to Covington, Kentucky, on December 19th and buried in Linden Grove Cemetery. In 1917, his remains were removed to Highland Cemetery and placed next to those of Sallie (who died in 1915) and his daughter Mattie, who died in 1916. The Northern Kentucky chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in his honor.
(Source: Jim Reis, "Eli Bruce's wealth aided penniless soldiers" The Kentucky Post, July 2, 1984, p. 10K.)
Mary Bruce (Green) Sharon
Born in 1877 in Northern Kentucky to Richard Lashbrook Green and Henrietta (Bruce) Green, the young Mary spent much of her childhood among her mother's relatives in Covington, Kentucky. Following her father's death in 1878, Mary and her mother moved in with her grandfather, Henry Bruce, Jr., then living in Kansas City, Missouri. At the turn of the century she married Frederick C. Sharon, a Kansas City businessman. In 1948, at the age of 71 Mary Bruce Sharon began her painting career. A modern primitive, Sharon painted scenes from her Kentucky childhood. She produced 150 paintings before her death in 1961.