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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Wilkes, Jane Renwick Smedberg

by Eva Burbank Murphy, 1996

22 Nov. 1827–19 Jan. 1913

Jane Renwick Smedberg Wilkes. Image courtesy of The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story.Jane Renwick Smedberg Wilkes, Charlotte civic leader, was born in New York City, the daughter of Carl Gustave (1781–1845), a Swedish merchant, and Isabella Renwick (1797–1862) Smedberg. Her parents owned an estate in the Catskill Mountains. Shortly after Jane married former New Yorker John Wilkes (31 Mar. 1827–6 July 1908) on 20 Apr. 1854, the couple took up residence for about four years near St. Catharine's Mills in Mecklenburg County. By the mid-1870s they had moved to West Trade Street in Charlotte.

Although Mrs. Wilkes was brought up in the Presbyterian church, after her marriage the family belonged at one time to St. John's Episcopal Church in High Shoals (Gaston County) and later to St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Charlotte. She and her husband had nine children, several of whom died very young: Charles (d. 6 Aug. 1873), Jeanie Jeffrey (d. 5 Nov. 1868), Rosalie (September 1860–9 Oct. 1925, m. Lockwood Jones), Agnes (m. A. G. Rankin), John Frank (May 1864–4 Feb. 1953), Paul (d. 5 May 1894), Eliza Isabella (d. 19 Aug. 1868), James Renwick (July 1871–13 Jan. 1939), and Isabella Wilkes, whose tombstone in the family plot indicates the death date of 1 Sept. 1857.

Mrs. Wilkes's civic efforts centered around two institutions that she helped establish in Charlotte: St. Peter's Hospital and the Good Samaritan Hospital. She was on the board of managers of St. Peter's and nurtured the cause from suggestion to beginnings in the Church Aid Society and at last to a two-room building on East 7th Street in 1876. She served as president, secretary, and treasurer at various times during its growth. In the 1880s she also assisted in the establishment of the Good Samaritan Hospital for blacks.

Her other affiliations in Charlotte were with the Ladies Memorial Association, the Stonewall Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Woman's Auxiliary to the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Churchwomen. She helped place the United Daughters of the Confederacy tablet marking the Confederate Navy Yard on 3 June 1910. Mrs. Wilkes was the executive secretary of the Woman's Auxiliary in the Diocese of North Carolina for the terms 1882–95. In 1906 she was appointed "permanent president," having been a "President of former years." In the records of the diocesan Episcopal Churchwomen, she was listed as having been appointed honorary secretary of that organization in 1897 and president for the years 1904–9.

She died at her home on West Trade Street. The funeral, conducted by the Right Reverend Joseph Blount Cheshire, bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, took place on 20 Jan. 1913 at St. Peter's. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte.


Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 5 (1906).

Marion Frances Alston Bourne, "Seventy-five Years of Service," Woman's Auxiliary to the National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church: Seventy-fifth Annual Report and Handbook (1957).

Charlotte Daily Observer, 20–21 Jan. 1913.

Charlotte Evening Chronicle, 6 July 1908, 20 Jan. 1913.

Charlotte News, 20–21 Jan. 1913.

Charlotte Observer, 21 Apr. 1904, 3 Apr. 1910, 15 Apr. 1978.

Charlotte Western Democrat, 25 Aug., 10 Nov. 1868.

Rev. Norvin C. Duncan, Pictorial History of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina, 1701–1964 (1965).

Protestant Episcopal Church, Diocese of North Carolina, Journal of the Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of North Carolina (1887–1906), and Episcopal Church-women, Annual Report and Handbook of Information (1882–1912).

James B. Sill, Historical Sketches of Churches in the Diocese of Western North Carolina, Episcopal Church (1955).

Charles L. Van Noppen Papers (Manuscript Department, Duke University Library, Durham).

Jane Renwick Wilkes, History of St. Peter's Hospital, Charlotte, N.C., for Thirty Years (1906).

Additional Resources:

Jane Renwick Smedberg Wilkes.The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story: (accessed July 1, 2013)

Wilkes-Smedberg Papers. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story:   (accessed July 1, 2013)

Image Credits:

Jane Renwick Smedberg Wilkes. Image courtesy of The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story. 

Origin - location: