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Table of Workers

    During our archival research, we uncovered a series of payroll ledgers in the Office of the University Treasurer Records collection dating from January 1927 to June 1930. Each sheet covered one week, from Thursday to Wednesday. For each worker (with one exception discussed below), every ledger listed their daily hours, a sum of that week’s hours, the wage they made per hour, and their total pay for that week. Most ledgers listed the occupation for each worker, but sometimes the spot was left blank.  

    There were always two ledger sheets for every week. One sheet looked like it was for construction workers and laborers employed by the University, while the other was clearly for employees of the Duke Heating Plant. We are unsure whether the plant was fully operational by that point, but we believe it was being finished or mostly operational at the time considering the most common occupations were machine/plant/refrigeration operator, electrician/lineman and plumber. We decided to include these heating plant employees because they were still involved in Duke's construction, and we believed that their stories have as much reason to be brought to light as anybody's.  

Click to view a sample page of the Duke construction payroll ledgers that we transcribed.

    Over the course of several days, we transcribed these ledgers and made sure they were in the same format, including standardizing potentially overlapping names with one set name in order to better analyze the information (e.g. there was a Paul Pratt and Paul Prett in our spreadsheet, so we replaced every Paul Prett with Paul Pratt). Transcribing the ledgers posed several challenges for the researchers.  First, the ledgers were handwritten and in cursive, with the different handwriting every few months. Deciphering names (e.g. “is this an I or a J or a T?”) turned out to be trickier than we imagined and resulted in different transcriptions of the same name. 

    Second, since the handwriting changed every few months, it’s safe to assume that whoever was in charge of the ledgers changed as well and that the documentation and literacy of the workers was not at the level we are accustomed to today. As a result, we had to grapple with Norwood and Norward Mack, H.J. Brim and H.J. Brimm, and Ed Cobb and E.D. Cobb, to name a few examples.  Third, no other identifying information was offered in the ledgers beside name and occupation. Usually those are enough, but not always. Often, names consist of initials and a surname (e.g. G.R. Aldridge, L. Sparrow), and sometimes the nicknames or abbreviated names (e.g. Chas. Slawson, Jas. Davis). Occupations can also be too general or slightly misleading. 


    After transcribing and organizing the ledger data, we utilized to find more information on these workers. Armed with only their names (or fragments of their names) and their occupations, we combed through census records, Durham city directories, death certificates, World War II draft cards, marriage licenses and Duke yearbooks to find anybody who could match the workers listed on the ledgers. Sometimes it was easy: we would type in a name, and immediately find somebody who was obviously involved with Duke construction. Other times, the ledger information and the documentation on Ancestry did not match clearly enough or more than one person fit the criteria. If a worker's demographic description is blank, it is because we could not find information about that person that we could confidently publish.  


    Please recognize that the list of names presented is not a comprehensive list of the construction workers that helped build West Campus and the Chapel. Please also recognize that with our limited time frame, we could not conduct research as thorough as we would have preferred, so we do not have demographic information for every worker. We hope that this research is continued, more workers’ names are found, more data is gathered about the workers’ lives, and the stories of the countless workers who built Duke University are told. 

Scroll to the right to see more demographic information in the table. Use the search bar to find a particular name. If you find incorrect information or have anything to add, don't hesitate to reach out at

Here is a list of the rest of the names we found in the ledgers, all of whom are listed three times or less. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to research biographical information on these workers. We hope others pick up where we left off.

F.J. Waters
R.H. Underwood
W.M. Basworth
Jim Simms
W.D. Seawell
Connie Bullock
Preston Foust
D.K. Fleming
C.H. Gresham
Raiford McCloud
Robert Ratliff
Doc White
Willie Herst
Jasper Holland
McKinley Watson
Clonie McMillan
Henry Hicks
N.A. King
F.G. Saunders
C.M. Watson
W.C. League
Herbert Albright
Jim Barnett
John Rose
D.D. Burns
George Archer
Ben Miller
E.E. Ellsworth
Joe Finch
Oscar Page
W.H. Langston
T.A. Gray
James Ellerson
J.E. Horne
J.B. Nash
Frank OBrient
Chester Freeman
Fred Brown
Ben Scott
W.R. Kerr
A.V. Salterwhite
Dan Montgomery
C.W. Bair
E.M. Cook
Nathan Towns
J.R. Holt
John McPherson
Johnny Stone
James Thompson
Lonnie Tyson
K.A. Bradshaw
John Asbourne
J.C. Stub
Harvey Lyston
C.C. Cross
Jack Lyon
William Daye
Henry Davis
J.R. Shroyer
David McCloud
George Newby
Dock Justice
W.H. Herndon
James Dunham
H.P. Dempt
Randolf Geter
Charlie Jenkins
G.B. Bradshaw
C. Jackson

Saddler Hayes
B.M. Spicer
J.K. Scoggins
P.J. Womack
Ernest Norwood
Ed Covington
Sam Godfry
Arthur Davis
Bob Castor
N.R. West
CW. Morgan
B.F. Andrews
T.D. Royal
Lex Ross
Ralph Shaw
Willie Broome
Sam Stan
West Black
James Gabriel
Floyd Davis
Malichi Duke
Floyd James
Harry Councilor
Perry Sessons
Melvin Johnson
Elliot Green
William Thompson
Lucius Webb
Elbert Yarbrough
John Eddie
Johnnie Harris
Eugene Barbee
L. Jones
Willie Hagler
Edmund Thomas
John Adkins
Fred Casey
Elmer Riber
Pop Werner
W.D. Bradshaw
Fred Crawford
Howard Ervin
Will Lemon
Robert Rustin
Bob Hatcher
Geo. Hatcher
Lester Caple
Will Simon
E.J. Schability
Josh Roland
Oliver Spin
E.F. Gaines
Donnie McNeil
W.P. Budd
Ellis Woods
Harvey Lupton
George Bellamy
J.A. Scronce
C.M. Pearce
Tucker Harrison
J.A. Sronce
C.M. Penne
William Mumford
M.D. Spearman
C.W. Welsh
C.R. Welsh
Tom White
Samuel Dudley
Henry Venter

J.W. Williams

H.F. Hogan
Little John Faulkner
Charlie Roberson
C.S. Durmegan
F.G. Brimmit
T.Y. Brownit
John Chamberlain
Crawford Bauyon
William Ciadock
Herbert Curtis
H.Y. Cook
H.G. Cash
J.L. Williams
George Magett
George Davis
W.C. Crawford
Wiley Porlis
C.B. Lewis
E.C. Wickisser
A.C. Westerhof
J.E. Cole
G.L. Pierce
Walter Graham
Jordan Cook
William Bain
V. Toy
J. Taylor
C.R. Phipps
D.W. Overman
A. Thornhill
A.J. Woodall
Sylvista Harriss
A.R. Young
Graham Jacobs
Mi. Blackmond
Frank Wright
Frank Osborne
Leroy Jackson
Willie Thomas
James Harris
O.L. Buchanan
Ed Brown
Jerry Shropshire
Henry Hartwell
W.F. Dollar
Malone Carver
Daniel Cobb
C.W. Hammond
H.M. Brown
R.G. Dunlop
Eunice Richmond
C.A. Paterson
Jack Meyers

John Preackly

Red Spivey

Rawsom Perry

Richard Freeman

W.T. Carden

John Chambers

Mack Jaison

W.G. Pearson

Thomas White

Jacob Cleiers

Glenn Pearson

Mack Taison

John Harrington

J.W.H. Adams

Silvester Rush

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