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Collection Number: 03973

Collection Title: Robert Burton Papers, 1775-1866

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

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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Size 1.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 85 items)
Abstract Robert Burton, Revolutionary War officer, delegate to the Continental Congress, lawyer, and politician, owned a large plantation near Williamsboro in Granville County (now Vance County), N.C., as well as much land in what eventually became Tennessee. The collection includes correspondence; deeds, receipts, ledgers, and other financial and legal materials; and miscellaneous items of Robert Burton and his son, Horace A. Burton. Letters to Robert Burton include a letter, 1775, from Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816) concerning the American cause; eight letters from John Williams (1731-1799), five of them, August-October 1778, from Philadelphia, where he was serving a delegate to the Continental Congress, with military news and other war-related information, and one February 1776, from Harrodsburg, Transylvania (now Kentucky), about his situation there and other matters; and two letters, 1779-1780, from Richard Henderson (1735-1785) in Holston, Tenn., and Boonesborough, Ky., about the Transylvania Colony and other matters. Letters to Horace A. Burton include one from Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857) concerning Mitchell's testing of mineral water that Burton had sent him. Many of the legal papers are late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century items relating to land in Kentucky and the Powell River valley in Tennessee. Two ledgers of Robert Burton consist of general accounts, 1777-1785, including a record, 1780, of a sale of a horse to Daniel Boone and tables of depreciation and coinage for North Carolina and Virginia; and accounts of whiskey distilled, 1784-1789.
Creator Burton, Robert, 1747-1825.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
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 Robert Burton Papers #3973, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from the estate of Archibald Henderson, March 1973; and purchased from the Captain's Bookshelf, Asheville, N.C., in 1986.
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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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

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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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Robert Burton (20 October 1747 - 31 May 1825), member of the Continental Congress, Revolutionary War officer, and planter, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the son of Tabitha Minge and Hutchings Burton. Around 1775, Burton moved to Granville (now Vance) County, North Carolina; married Agatha Williams (died 1807), daughter of Judge John Williams; and began to practice law.

During the Revolution, Burton was a lieutenant in the continental artillery and, later, quartermaster general of North Carolina with the rank of colonel. He was a member of the governor's council, 1783-1785, 1800-1807, and 1813-1815, and president of that body in 1807, 1813, and 1815. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1785 but not seated until 1786; he was re-elected in 1787, but there is no record that he attended. In 1813, Burton served on the commission to establish the southern border of North Carolina. He also held several offices in Granville County and Edenton, including his appointment as sheriff in 1795. In 1790, he presented a bust of John Paul Jones, by the artist Jean Antoine Houdon, to the state of North Carolina.

Burton was a successful farmer and planter. Granville County records for 1790 indicate that he owned fourteen slaves and 2,405 acres there, as well as nearly 6,000 acres in what would become Tennessee.

Burton was survived by nine children, including two sons, Alfred M. and Robert H., who attended the University of North Carolina. He also raised his nephew, Hutchins G. Burton, who became governor of North Carolina, 1824-1827. Robert Burton was buried on his plantation, Montpelier, at Williamsboro. Montpelier was the home of his father-in-law, John Williams. Burton presumably inherited Montpelier upon Williams's death in 1799.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection includes correspondence; deeds, receipts, ledgers, and other financial and legal materials; and miscellaneous items of Robert Burton and his son, Horace A. Burton. Letters to Robert Burton include a letter, 1775, from Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816) concerning the American cause; eight letters from John Williams (1731-1799), five of them, August-October 1778, from Philadelphia, where he was serving a delegate to the Continental Congress, with military news and other war-related information, and one February 1776, from Harrodsburg, Transylvania (now Kentucky), about his situation there and other matters; and two letters, 1779-1780, from Richard Henderson (1735-1785) in Holston, Tenn., and Boonesborough, Ky., about the Transylvania Colony and other matters. Letters to Horace A. Burton include one from Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857) concerning Mitchell's testing of mineral water that Burton had sent him. Many of the legal papers are late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century items relating to land in Kentucky and the Powell River valley in Tennessee. Two ledgers of Robert Burton consist of general accounts, 1777-1785, including a record, 1780, of a sale of a horse to Daniel Boone and tables of depreciation and coinage for North Carolina and Virginia; and accounts of whiskey distilled, 1784-1789.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1775-1863.

30 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Twenty-one letters, 1775-1822, from friends, relatives, and business associates to Robert Burton, six letters, 1830-1843, to Burton's son, Horace A. Burton, chiefly from relatives, and a few miscellaneous items.

The letters to Robert Burton include a letter, April 1775, from Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816) concerning the American cause; eight letters from John Williams (1731-1799), five of them, August-October 1778, from Philadelphia, where he was serving a delegate to the Continental Congress, with military news and other war-related information, one, February 1776, from Harrodsburg, Transylvania (now Kentucky), about his situation there and other matters; one from New Bern, N.C., April 1778, about raising troops; and one, 1780, from Hillsborough, N.C., about military matters. Other letters to Burton include two letters, 1779-1780, from Richard Henderson (1735-1785) in Holston, Tenn., and Boonesborough, Ky., about the Transylvania Colony and other matters; and letters from others about land purchases in Kentucky and Tennessee.

The letters to Horace A. Burton are chiefly from a sister, Fanny, who wrote from Spring Hill, Tenn., and from brothers; they deal with family and neighborhood matters, especially personal religious concerns, and land dealings. One letter, 1832, from Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857), concerns Mitchell's testing of mineral water that Burton had sent him.

Folder 1

1775-1778 #03973, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1775-1863." Folder 1

Folder 2

1779-1794 #03973, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1775-1863." Folder 2

Folder 3

1808-1829 #03973, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1775-1863." Folder 3

Folder 4

1830-1863 #03973, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1775-1863." Folder 4

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Items

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866.

About 45 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly indentures, deeds, and surveys relating to land in Kentucky and in the Powell River valley in Tennessee. Also included are copies of land grants to Robert Burton from the state of North Carolina, copies of court records concerning law suits involving Robert Burton, receipts to Robert Burton and Horace A. Burton, Robert Burton's will, and a tax assessment of property of Horace A. Burton.

Folder 5

1761-1784 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 5

Folder 6

1785-1799 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 6

Folder 7

1800-1804 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 7

Folder 8

1806-1819 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 8

Folder 9

1820-1822 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 9

Folder 10

1832-1866 #03973, Subseries: "2.1. Loose Items, 1761-1866." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. Ledgers, 1777-1797.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Materials, 1863 and undated.

About 10 items.

Lists of men capable of serving in the Confederate Army, notes and a certificate concerning slaves working on projects in Henderson, N.C., an essay by Horace A, Burton, and a few other items.

Folder 13

Other materials, 1863 and undated. #03973, Series: "3. Other Materials, 1863 and undated." Folder 13

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Processing Information

Processed by: Scott Turbyfill, January 1982; Tim West, January 1992

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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