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Collection Number: 00130

Collection Title: John Ewing Colhoun Papers, 1774-1961

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 FAQ section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 265 items)
Abstract John Ewing Colhoun was a planter, lawyer, South Carolina legislator, and U.S. Senator. The collection is mostly papers and correspondence related to Colhoun's law practice and to his plantations, including Santee, Bonneau's Ferry, Pimlico, 12 Mile, Keowee, and Mount Prospect, in the St. Stephen's and St. John's parishes and the Charleston and Pendleton districts, S.C. There are also limited records, 1830s-1850s, for Midway and Millwood plantations in Abbeville District, owned by son James Edward Calhoun (who changed the spelling of his surname), and several letters, 1816-1820, addressed to William Moultrie Reid of Charleston (relation to Colhoun unknown). Financial and legal papers include plantation accounts, slave lists, overseer contracts, warrants, bonds, indentures, affidavits, deeds, estate papers, clippings, and miscellaneous items.
Creator Colhoun, John Ewing, 1750-1802.
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 John Ewing Colhoun Papers #130, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Gift of Mary G. Stevenson of Clemson College, Clemson, S.C., in June 1961. James Edward Calhoun diary purchased from Charles Apfelbaum of Valley Stream, N.Y., in February 1993 (Acc. 93026).
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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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

John Ewing Colhoun (1750-1802) was a planter, lawyer, South Carolina legislator, and United States senator. Born in Staunton, Virginia, he attended Princeton College, and graduated in 1774. After studying law and being admitted to the bar in 1783, he set up practice in Charleston, South Carolina, working mostly in estate settlements and personal injury suits. Colhoun later acquired several plantations across the state, including his Santee Plantation in St. Stephen's Parish, his Keowee and 12 Mile Plantations in the Pendleton District, and his Pimlico and Bonneau's Ferry Plantations in St. John's Parish. Another plantation he owned, the location of which is unclear, was called Mount Prospect. Colhoun grew mostly indigo, rice, oats, and vegetables on his plantations, as well as raising cattle, and breeding horses.

From 1778 to 1800 Colhoun served in the South Carolina House of Representatives; in 1801 he served in the state Senate; and from 4 March 1801 until his death on 26 October 1802, he served as a Democrat in the United States Senate.

Colhoun married Floride Bonneau, a member of a prominent South Carolina Huguenot family, and they had at least three children. John Ewing Colhoun, Jr., was a planter in Pendleton, South Carolina, and another son, James Edward Calhoun (he changed the spelling of the surname), served as an officer in the U.S. Navy in the 1820s, and later became a planter as well. He owned the Midway and Millwood Plantations located in the Abbeville District. Their daughter, Floride, married John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) in 1811. (John C. Calhoun's father, Patrick Calhoun, was a cousin of John Ewing Colhoun.) After John Ewing Colhoun's death, his wife Floride seems to have had little to do with managing his properties. She spent her summers in Newport, Rhode Island, staying in South Carolina only during the winter months.

William Moultrie Reid, for whom several letters appear in the collection, lived in Charleston from 1816 to 1820, and served as a member of the Charleston Riflemen in 1819, but nothing beyond that is known about him. Letters written to him address him as William Moultrie Reid, Esq., so he may have been a lawyer.

(Information for this biographical sketch was taken from the Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929, Volume III, p. 412), the Biographical Dictionary of the American Congress, 1774-1961 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1961, p. 721), and the papers themselves.)

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence and financial and legal papers pertaining to the plantations of John Ewing Colhoun, with scattered papers and correspondence also appearing on Colhoun's law business. The papers do not provide any information on Colhoun's political career. The collection also includes a few papers related to plantations owned by James Edward Calhoun, several letters addressed to William Moultrie Reid, and a few miscellaneous items.

Letters received by John Ewing Colhoun and three he wrote to others are all contained in Subseries 1.1, and comprise the largest part of the correspondence. Most of the letters were written by overseers Colhoun hired to manage his plantations, and concern crops, weather conditions, slaves, livestock, and accounts. The letters are a particularly rich source of information on slave conditions, frequently mentioning runaways, their reasons for leaving, and their punishments, as well as tasks assigned to individual slaves. The financial and legal papers contained in Series 2 also provide significant information on slaves, with several slave lists and work task lists appearing.

The correspondence in Subseries 1.1 and 1.2, and the papers in Series 2, also provide some insight into Colhoun's law business, although information on individual cases is incomplete. Subseries 1.2 consists mostly of the correspondence of Colhoun's executors concerning his estate, but also contains two letters pertaining to an estate case on which Colhoun had been working before his death.

Series 2 contains a few plantation papers for James Edward Calhoun, consisting mostly of a plantation journal kept between 1830 and 1834, discussing his "scientific" approach to farming, and receipts. Other items of note in the collection are ten letters received by William Moultrie Reid of Charleston from friends and family, which comprise most of Subseries 1.3; clippings on various topics, including the burning of Columbia by Sherman and the breeding of silkworms (Subseries 3.1), and a hand-drawn map of two of John Ewing Colhoun's plantations (Subseries 3.2). Also included is a diary, 116 pages, kept by James Edward Calhoun, April 1825-April 1826 (Subseries 3.2.). Series 4 consists of an engraving of Colhoun's Keowee Plantation and several photographs of the site it once occupied.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1789-1824 and undated.

About 100 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Mostly business correspondence of John Ewing Colhoun, with scattered personal letters of Floride Bonneau Colhoun, James Edward Calhoun, and William Moultrie Reid.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1789-1802.

About 70 items.

Almost entirely correspondence of John Ewing Colhoun concerning the operation of his plantations and his law business. Correspondence appears with several overseers at Colhoun's Santee, Bonneau's Ferry, 12 Mile, and Pimlico Plantations. Letters frequently discuss planting and harvesting, crop conditions, livestock, financial arrangements, and slaves. A significant number of the letters mention runaways, including their reasons for leaving and their punishments. Overseers include Jesse M. Connico, John Christian Greninger, John Couturier, Thomas Graverstock, Benjamin Walling, William Boineau, and David Maybank. Several of Colhoun's letters also discuss the breeding of horses.

Correspondence pertaining to Colhoun's law business discusses the progress of individual cases, the recovery of monies after judgments, requests for witnesses to appear, and estate disputes and settlements. Of note are two letters in 1801 concerning the settlement of the Bonneau estate for Colhoun's client Samuel Bonneau Jermain. Several letters appear from Charles Goodwin, who seems to have been another lawyer with whom Colhoun worked.

Two letters by Floride Colhoun to John Ewing Colhoun appear in 1800, both of which she wrote while away from home taking care of her ill sister. Both express concern for her sister's health and sadness over being away from her husband.

Only one letter was received by Colhoun when he was serving as a United States senator in Washington. Written by Ben Green on 24 February 1802, the letter gives news of Colhoun's family and plantations.

Folder 1

1789-1792 #00130, Subseries: "1.1. 1789-1802." Folder 1

Folder 2

1793-1797 #00130, Subseries: "1.1. 1789-1802." Folder 2

Folder 3

1798-1802 #00130, Subseries: "1.1. 1789-1802." Folder 3

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1803-1810.

14 items.

Primarily letters received by Ezekiel Pickens and William DeSaussure, executors, concerning John Ewing Colhoun's estate, and discussing estate accounts and land sales. Pickens also received letters pertaining to the Bonneau estate, the settlement of which Colhoun had been involved in before his death.

A 15 July 1804 letter to Floride Colhoun from her cousin, Mrs. E. Righton, mentions Mrs. Colhoun's boat trip to Newport, Rhode Island, and gives news of family and friends. A 21 June 1807 letter written from Newark, New Jersey, by Joseph LeCheur Hardy to his father, Joseph Hardy, in New York, concerns his schoolwork, the purchase of clothes, and trips he wishes to take. (It is unclear whether Hardy is a relative of the Colhoun or Bonneau families, but, as later letters show, he was a friend of William Moultrie Reid of Charleston.)

Folder 4

Correspondence, 1803-1810 #00130, Subseries: "1.2. 1803-1810." Folder 4

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. 1816-1824, 1816-1820, 1824.

12 items.

Mostly letters written by John Haslett, Jr., while attending Harvard, to his friend William Moultrie Reid of South Carolina. The letters comment on Boston social life and theatre, novels, school events, politics, and friends. Reid received three additional letters: an 1816 letter from his friend Daniel Cannon Edwards of Union describes Edwards' Fisher Hill plantation, and two other letters, dated 1819 and 1820, from Joseph LeCheur Hardy mention Hardy's naval service, his friends, and his plans to marry.

Two letters written by John Ewing Colhoun, Jr., to his brother, James Edward Calhoun, in 1824, discuss the latter's service in the U.S. Navy and his financial affairs.

Folder 5

Correspondence, 1816-1820, 1824 #00130, Subseries: "1.3. 1816-1824, 1816-1820, 1824." Folder 5

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4. Undated, (circa 1792-1824).

2 items.

One letter from a traveling minister, T. Reese, to John Ewing Colhoun, apologizing for not being able to visit him, and a letter to Mr. Reid, probably William Moultrie Reid, giving him directions to Columbia, South Carolina.

Folder 6

Correspondence, undated (circa 1792-1824) #00130, Subseries: "1.4. Undated, (circa 1792-1824)." Folder 6

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated.

About 160 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Primarily plantation accounts and other papers related to the operation of John Ewing Colhoun's plantations, and legal papers related to his law business. Records appear for the Santee, Bonneau's Ferry, Pimlico, 12 Mile, Keowee, and Mount Prospect plantations, and include contracts with overseers; accounts with merchants, cotton factors, and overseers; receipts (including a 1792 receipt for the sale of a slave woman); slave lists; task lists for slaves; and notes on livestock and land use. Legal papers include warrants, bonds, indentures, affidavits, court judgments, case lists, and other related items. Estate papers also appear for several of Colhoun's clients, as well as for Colhoun's own estate. Of note in the legal papers are several deeds, dated 1774, and a Declaration of Ejectment, 1786, related to the expulsion of a squatter from Thomas Wade's land, situated on the northern border of South Carolina.

Plantation records for James Edward Calhoun consist of a plantation journal, 1830-1834, which provides detailed information on the daily operation of his Midway and Millwood Plantations in the Abbeville District, several receipts, a land rental agreement, 1836, and two loan notes (1838 and 1854). The plantation journal comments on the planting, harvesting, and marketing of his cotton, corn, and other crops. Calhoun considered himself a rational or scientific farmer. He frequently referred to what he called his "new plan of agriculture," and reflected upon the farming practices of his neighbors. The journal also reveals the process whereby he acquired the land tracts that ultimately comprised the Millwood Plantation.

Three final items are a 1819 muster call for William Moultrie Reid by the Charleston Riflemen, a court opinion (1831) concerning Micah Jenkins's will, and a receipt (1830) made out to Micah Jenkins by the Charleston Office of Discount and Deposit.

Folder 7

1774, 1780-1790 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 7

Oversize Paper OP-130/1-4

OP-130/1

OP-130/2

OP-130/3

OP-130/4

Deed transferring land from John Wade to Thomas Wade (document is in 4 pieces), 25 January 1774 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." OP-130/1-4

Oversize Paper OP-130/5

Deed transferring land from Samuel Stens and Robert Vardel to John Croskey, October 1783 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." OP-130/5

Oversize Paper OP-130/6

Declaration of ejectment from land owned by Thomas Wade, 1786 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." OP-130/6

Folder 8

1792-1793 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 8

Folder 9

1794-1797 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 9

Folder 10

1798-1805, 1808-1811 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 10

Oversize Paper OP-130/7

Deed transferring land from Catherine Anne Banks to Langdon Cheves, 1810 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." OP-130/7

Folder 11

1819, 1830-1831, 1833, 1835-1836, 1843-1844, 1853-1854 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 11

Oversize Paper OP-130/8

Leasing out of land by Langdon Cheves to Lionel H. Kennedy, 1 August 1833 #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." OP-130/8

Folder 12

Undated (circa 1780-1854) #00130, Series: "2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1774-1854 and undated." Folder 12

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Papers, 1840-1841, 1843, 1873, 1887, and undated.

15 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical by type.

Miscellaneous newspaper clippings, directions for breeding silkworms, a hand-drawn map, and James Edward Calhoun diary.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.1. Clippings, 1840-1841,1843, 1873, 1887, and undated.

13 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Clippings, mostly from Charleston Papers, concerning a fire at the Charleston Observer, Sherman's burning of Columbia, historic St. Michael's, and the breeding of silkworms. Miscellaneous undated clippings pertain to planting, recipes, and household hints.

Folder 13

Clippings, 1840-1841, 1843, 1873, 1887, and undated #00130, Subseries: "3.1. Clippings, 1840-1841,1843, 1873, 1887, and undated." Folder 13

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.2. Miscellaneous Items, undated.

2 items.

Handwritten copy of directions for breeding silkworms, a hand-drawn map of Colhoun's Keowee and 12 Mile Plantations, and James Edward Calhoun's diary.

The diary of James Edward Calhoun, 116 pages, contains entries, April 1825-April 1826, in which he described travel in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and social life in Charleston and Washington, D.C., where he attended balls with John C. Calhoun and met, among others, John Randolph and General William Clark. Besides describing the social life and agriculture of the regions through which he traveled, Calhoun discussed the capture of runaway slaves, the execution of two slaves for poisoning their master, and economic conditions in Kentucky. He was also extremely interested in the exploration of Indian mounds, which he described in great detail, and in Indian artifacts, which he collected. A typed transcription of the diary is included. Caution should be exercised when using this transcription, since it appears to have many minor inaccuracies.

Folder 14

Miscellaneous items #00130, Subseries: "3.2. Miscellaneous Items, undated." Folder 14

Folder 15

Diary #00130, Subseries: "3.2. Miscellaneous Items, undated." Folder 15

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Pictures, 1961 and undated.

About 10 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

One copy of an engraving, which appeared on "Keowee Waltzes, by a Lady of South Carolina," by Martha Colhoun, daughter of John Ewing Colhoun, Jr., and two sheets containing nine mounted black and white snapshots taken at the site of the Keowee Plantation in 1961. These include snapshots of a cemetery and an old stone gateway.

Image Folder PF-130/1

Pictures, 1961 and undated #00130, Series: "4. Pictures, 1961 and undated." PF-130/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill Snider, August 1990, Roslyn Holdzkom, March 1993

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, December 2009

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