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Collection Number: 01504-z

Collection Title: William Sample Alexander Diary, 1770-1778

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Abstract William Sample Alexander was the son of Hezekiah Alexander (1728-1801), a prominent early settler of Mecklenburg County, N.C. The collection is a diary, 1770-1778, kept by William Sample Alexander of Mecklenburg County, N.C. The diary provides a partial description of wagon train trips Alexander made between Mecklenburg County and Chester County, Pa., selling furs and other back country products and buying coffee and other items, a record of accounts he maintained with friends and family members, descriptions of a few "home remedies," and instructions for trapping beavers.
Creator Alexander, William Sample, d. 1826.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the William Sample Alexander Diary #1504-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mr. Bugs Barringer of Rocky Mount, N.C., in 1980.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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Joseph Alexander, William Sample Alexander's great-grandfather, emigrated to America from Scotland in the late 17th century, and he and his family first settled in Chester Co., Pa., and in the Maryland counties of Somerset and Cecil. Joseph's son, James (William's grandfather), purchased land in Mecklenburg Co., N.C., and his son Hezekiah (William's father) moved to Mecklenburg County sometime before 1760. William Alexander's birthplace is not known, and only scanty details about his life are available in published sources. He was married three times, his first wife Elizabeth, being an early Mecklenburg County settler.

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The collection consists of one volume, a diary of about 130 small pages, kept by William Sample Alexander. Alexander operated a wagon train between Mecklenburg County and Chester County, Pa. The diary provides a partial description of his wagon train journeys and includes a record of accounts that he maintained with friends and family members, as well as descriptions of a few "home remedies."

The first substantive entries in Alexander's diary are from 1774, when he left Mecklenburg County on a trip northward. Philadelphia and Charleston served as Mecklenburg County's main trading centers, and traders like Alexander traveled to these centers quite frequently by wagon train. Alexander operated a wagon train to the Philadelphia area, and one author reported that he "would haul the pelts and produce of the farms and forests to Philadelphia and would bring back all sorts of goods ordered by the ladies and men of the community." (Victor C. King, Comp. and Ed., Lives and Times of the 27 Signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May 20, 1775: Pioneers Extraordinary (Charlotte: Anderson Press, 1956).)

The bulk of the diary describes Alexander's transaction (the earliest of which was in 1770) with those who ordered goods in Mecklenburg County, merchants along the way, and friends, relatives, and merchants upon his arrival in Chester County. The diary gives a good idea of prices for "luxury" items, ranging from furs (primarily fox, raccoon, mink, and beaver) to coffee, calico, and silk handkerchiefs.

The diary also gives a complete account of the route taken by Alexander's wagon train and of the special problems encountered by itinerant traders, especially sickness, lame horses, and broken spokes. There is a less complete account of Alexander's penchant for "pleasuring" with his friends and relatives in Pennsylvania. Alexander also described a number of remedies and recounted in some detail techniques he used for trapping beaver. The frequent references to "James" are most likely to his younger broker, James Rankin Alexander.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: SHC Staff, 1997

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, April 2011

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