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Sarah E. Nunn

(b. 1838)

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At a Glance

Sarah E. Nunn's family, on both her mother's and father's sides, were well known in Orange County, NC. Little is known of her adult life, except that for many years her husband had a dental practice in Hillsborough, NC [1].


Sarah E. Nunn was the granddaughter of the well known Orange County, NC pioneer settler William Nunn, Esq. originally from Dobbs County, NC who took out an early land grant north of Hillsborough, owned a tavern (Nunn's Tavern) on Lot 26, opposite the first courthouse, and served as one of Hillsborough's first Town Commissioners. His first wife was Elizabeth Loftin; his second was Elizabeth Copeland of Hawfields, NC, who later became the famous, long-lived  "Betsy Nunn"  of Chapel Hill, NC tavern fame. William Nunn's children by his second wife included David H, Hugh, Ilai W., Sally, and Edith.

Sarah E. Nunn was the eldest child of Ilai W. Nunn and Emily Stuart Barbee, who was the daughter of William Barbee and Shastria Barbee, and granddaughter of early settler Christopher Barbee. Sally Nunn, therefore was descended from two of Orange County, NC's best-known pioneer figures.

Ilai W. Nunn was known about the countryside as a violinist and something of a dancing-master. The Nunns lived north of Chapel Hill, NC near Nunn Mountain, NC. The United States Census of 1850 [2] lists the Ilai W. Nunn family thus:

Ilai W. Nunn - age 57, farmer, $3,075.00. property, born Orange Co.

Emily Nunn - age 35

Sarah Nunn - age 12

William Nunn - age 10

Willis Nunn - age 8

Laura Nunn - age 5

All of the Orange County, NC Nunns have traditionally been Presbyterians, and the Burwell School would have for various family reasons have been the logical place for Ilai W. Nunn to have sent his daughter. Sally was probably a student there c. 1850 or 1851. Her name appears in the Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51 [3] as  "Sally Nunn...Orange."

On October 26, 1857 (when Sally was nineteen years old), a marriage bond was recorded for Sally E. Nunn and dentist David A. Robertson. On November 10, 1865, David A. Robertson undertook to purchase, for $3,000, Lot 78 and two portions of Lot 77 on E. Queen Street together with the one-story dwelling-house long known as  "Old Yaller,"  which the Robertsons briefly occupied. Paul Carrington Cameron came to the Robertsons' rescue when they found they could not meet their obligations, and in 1868 they deeded the property to Cameron, who renovated it thoroughly and then advertised it in the The Hillsborough Recorder [4] of November 18, 1874:

For Sale

In the Town of Hillsboro, a neat well-built Cottage of 6 rooms with fireplaces, Kitchen, Servants' House, Stables, Garden, and Well. The health and high grade of Schools make this a most desirable location to a person desirous of educating sons or daughters.

The house was later markedly enlarged to become known as the James A. Cheek or Houston J. Walker House.

The Hillsborough Recorder [4] carried notices of Dr. David Robertson's dental practice for many years. Descendants still live in Hillsborough [1].

Biographical Data

Sarah was called Sally.

Important Dates

Sarah E. Nunn was born c. 1838.

Places of Residence

Schools Attended



  1. Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).
  2. United States Census of 1850.
  3. Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51.
  4. The Hillsborough Recorder was published from 1820 to 1879 by Dennis Heartt. It was a weekly newspaper.