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Collection Number: 05516

Collection Title: George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908

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 100 items)
Abstract George W. Robertson (fl. 1807-1855) of Caswell County, N.C., was a physician who also operated a tobacco warehouse and bought and sold slaves. He married Sarah Allen (1803-1871) and together they had eight children, including Willie P.M. Robertson, who enlisted with the Yanceyville Greys, Company A, 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and died at the Battle of Gaines' Mill in Virginia. The collection documents the slave and tobacco dealings of George W. Robertson and his business partners in Yanceyville, Caswell County, N.C., as well as the Civil War and Reconstruction experiences of other Robertson family members and friends. Financial papers consist of records with the names, ages, and prices of enslaved people purchased and sold by Robertson and his partners. The slave and tobacco ledger chiefly contains a record of purchase and sale of tobacco, but there are also numerous references to buying and selling slaves in North Carolina and Virginia and evidence of three separate trips to Alabama to sell slaves. Letters describe two of the slave sales trips; anticipation of the Civil War; courtship; the Yanceyville homefront during the war; the concerns of Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway, a newlywed bride in Clinton, Miss., in 1860 and later in the aftermath of the fall of Vicksburg when her slaves departed and Union soldiers encamped on her land; and Mary Royal Robertson Alexander's everyday concerns in 1870, including her fear of and frustration with African Americans. Other materials include clippings of recipes, housekeeping advice, and home remedies for illnesses and pests; a tintype of Willie P.M. Robertson in Confederate Army uniform; and several copies of the Bible and other volumes, some with marginal notes recording births, deaths, marriages, and thoughts of their owners. There is also a file of background information on curing yellow or bright leaf tobacco; family history; Willie P.M. Robertson's death and the Battle of Gaines' Mill; and transcriptions from the slave and tobacco ledger and of the marginal notes in Sallie Robertson's Bible.
Creator Robertson, George W., fl.1807-1855.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
No usage restrictions.
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 George W. Robertson Papers #5516, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from Karen Avants in February 2012 (Acc. 101560).
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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George W. Robertson (fl. 1807-1855) was born to Joab Robertson (1780-circa 1871) and Sarah Boswell Robertson (d. Bef 1831) in Person County, N.C. In 1826, he married Sarah Allen (1803-1871) and together they resided in Caswell County, N.C. Robertson was a physician by trade, but also operated a tobacco warehouse and prizery and bought and sold slaves on speculation. Robertson and his partners, Wooding, Willis, Ware, and Gwynn, acquired funds for slave trading from New York, the Bank of Raleigh, the Bank of Danville, and the Bank of North Carolina at Milton. They bought slaves in Hillsborough, Oxford, Raleigh, Salem, Fayetteville, Chatham County, and Surry County in North Carolina, and in Danville, Clarksville, Halifax, and Norfolk in Virginia. Slaves were transported as far south as Alabama to be sold for profit, often by his son, Joab Robertson, and Robert Gwynn.

George and Sarah Allen Robertson had eight children: Joab (1828-1863); Mary Royal (1830-1896); Sarah A. ("Sallie") (1833-1923); Isabelle G. ("Belle") (1836-1922); Eliza Ann (1838-1909); Lucy Della Park (1841-1919); Willie Person Mangum (1842-1862); Georgia (1847-1917). Mary Royal Robertson married Wallace Alexander and with him had three children that survived childhood: George, Ella, and Frank. Willie P.M. Robertson enlisted with the Yanceyville Greys, Company A, 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and died 27 June 1862 at the Battle of Gaines' Mill in Virginia.

Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway, a friend of Eliza Ann Robertson, married Veston Carraway of Clinton, Miss. He was killed at Mumsford, Ky., in September 1862, and two of their children also died during the war. Union soldiers encamped at Eliza Carraway's place after the fall of Vicksburg, Miss.

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The collection documents the slave and tobacco dealings of George W. Robertson and his business partners in Yanceyville, Caswell County, N.C., as well as the Civil War and Reconstruction experiences of other Robertson family members and friends. Financial papers consist of records with the names, ages, and prices of enslaved people purchased and sold by Robertson and his partners. The slave and tobacco ledger chiefly contains a record of purchase and sale of tobacco, but there are also numerous references to buying and selling slaves in North Carolina and Virginia and evidence of three separate trips to Alabama to sell slaves. Letters describe two of the slave sales trips; anticipation of the Civil War; courtship; the Yanceyville homefront during the war; the concerns of Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway, a newlywed bride in Clinton, Miss., in 1860 and later in the aftermath of the fall of Vicksburg when her slaves departed and Union soldiers encamped on her land; and Mary Royal Robertson Alexander's everyday concerns in 1870, including her fear of and frustration with African Americans. Other materials include clippings of recipes, housekeeping advice, and home remedies for illnesses and pests; a tintype of Willie P.M. Robertson in Confederate Army uniform; and several copies of the Bible and other volumes, some with marginal notes recording births, deaths, marriages, and thoughts of their owners. There is also a file of background information on curing yellow or bright leaf tobacco; family history; Willie P.M. Robertson's death and the Battle of Gaines' Mill; and transcriptions from the slave and tobacco ledger and of the marginal notes in Sallie Robertson's Bible.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908.

About 100 items.

Folder 1

Background information #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 1

Supplementary research on curing yellow or bright leaf tobacco, a process discovered by Stephen, an enslaved person on Abisha Slade's farm in Caswell County, N.C.; family history, including printouts from ancestry.com and from the 1880 and 1890 censuses showing records of former Robertson slaves, Nicey Robertson and her sons; Willie P.M. Robertson's death and the Battle of Gaines' Mill; and transcriptions from the slave and tobacco ledger and of the marginal notes in Sallie Robertson's bible.

Folder 2

Clippings #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 2

Recipes, housekeeping advice, home remedies for illnesses such as croup, chilblains, and asthma, as well as for dealing with pests such as bed bugs.

Folder 3

Financial papers, 1837-1865 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 3

Chiefly bills of sale with the names, ages, and prices of enslaved people purchased by James Miles and George W. Robertson and his partners Willis, Gwynn, and Wooding. Most of the slaves on the bills of sale are noted in the ledger (see folder 4). There is also a list of names and ages of 45 enslaved people who were freed in 1865 with the notation: "All were good looking sound & healthy"; receipts for shoes and other supplies in account with N/W Lyon & Company; a receipt for Willie P.M. Robertson's 1858 tuition; and a war-time note that indicates pork was selling at $6.00 per pound.

Image Folder PF-5516/1

Images, circa 1861 and circa 1890 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." PF-5516/1

Tintype of Willie P.M. Robertson in Confederate Army uniform (SF-P-5516/1) and photograph of three grey-haired men in hats and suits

Folder 4

Ledger, 1837-1845 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 4

Record of purchase and sale of George W. Robertson's goods, including notes and figures on the weight and sometimes the location of tobacco sold. There are several references to bright and yellow tobacco being sold and to expenses for transporting the tobacco to larger markets, by boat to Danville and Lynchburg or by wagon to Clarkesville, Petersburg, and Richmond. Most of the slaves on the bills of sale (see folder 3) are noted in the ledger. In some cases, the slaves are given the surname of the seller (e.g., Mary, who was bought of J.H. Hill, is recorded as Mary Hill). Other expenses noted in the ledger include three separate trips to Alabama to sell slaves; "catching runaways"; and "jail fees." There is also an 1899 recipe for preserving meat with borax.

Folder 5

Letters and other papers, 1850-1870 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 5

There are letters from Joab Robertson in Monterey, Butler County, Ala., and Athens, Ala., reporting on his trip to sell slaves; from Sam West to Eliza Ann Robertson, anticipating war and courting; from Belle and Lucy Robertson to their brother, Willie P.M. Robertson, with news of comings and goings of Yanceyville friends; from Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway to Cruso, who was connected to the Robertson family, about her recent marriage to Veston A. Carraway and setting up housekeeping in Clinton, Miss.; from Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway to Eliza Ann Robertson describing the death of her two children and her troubles and the aftermath of the fall of Vicksburg when her slaves departed and Union soldiers encamped on her land and "robbed me of everything I had"; and from Mary Royal Robertson Alexander to her mother Sarah Allen Robertson, about everyday concerns, as well as her fear of and frustration with African Americans, and looking for advice on whether to risk travelling alone with a toddler to see her older daughter at school in Greensboro. There is also an 1863 obituary for Willie Kerr and a family history for Elias Alexander.

Folder 6

Volume 1: Sallie Robertson Bible, 1860-1896 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 6

A gift from her friend Harriet Graves in 1860. In the margins, Sallie recorded Civil War events and their impact on her family and community, as well as births, deaths, marriages, and other events for over three decades. Of note are her jottings on the death of her brother Willie and the fates of other young soldiers she knew and an 1864 outbreak of small pox among the slaves and other instances of sickness, such as typhoid fever, consumption, and congestion of the brain.

Volume 2: Willie P.M. Robertson Bible, 1860-1888 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 6

A birthday gift to Willie P.M. Robertson from his mother, 4 September 1860. Notes on front pages record death of other family members. There are a few marginal notes scattered throughout the volume and a hair sample.

Volume 3: Willie P.M. Robertson Bible, 1862 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 6

A gift to Willie P.M. Robertson from B. Lounes.

Folder 7

Volume 4: Mary Kerr Bible, 1885-1890 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 7

A present to Mary Kerr from her grandmother Mary G. Yancey, 25 December 1885. Occasional notes appear on the pages, chiefly identifying the owner of hair samples, though occasionally mentioning other news, such as "Feb. 9, 1889-will never be erased from my memory. no never!!!!"

Volume 5: Mary Royall Motz Bible, 1905-1908 #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 7

Includes notes on front pages and in margins throughout the volume, among them: "Must never forget Easter as long as I live My Geo came to see me. yes-- he did--He was so handsome--" and "I am so mean. Mother so good." Other notes suggest that Mary was a student at Salem Academy.

Volume 6: George Alexander Book of Common Prayer, undated #05516, Series: "George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908." Folder 7

Family names are noted on several pages.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Nancy Kaiser, March 2012

Encoded by: Nancy Kaiser, March 2012

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