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Collection Number: 00639-z

Collection Title: Edmund Ruffin Jr. Journal, 1851-1862, 1866-1873.

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.


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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Abstract Edmund Ruffin Jr. was a wheat, tobacco, and cotton planter of Prince George, Hanover, and Amelia counties, Va. Ruffin, the son of Edmund, Sr., and Susan (Travis) Ruffin, owned two James River plantations, Beechwood and Evelynton, in Prince George County, and Redmoor Plantation in Amelia County. After his father's death in 1865, he inherited part of the latter's estate, Marlbourne, in Hanover County. Ruffin had at least three children: George, Thomas, and Nancy (d. 1863). George and Thomas both served as privates in the Confederate Army. Ruffin himself served briefly at Camp Lookout between May 1861 and August 1862, when he was released for poor health. The journal documents activities at Beechwood Plantation, Prince George County, Va., between 1851 and 1862 (with occasional mention of Evelynton Plantation), and at Marlbourne Plantation, Hanover County, Va., between 1866 and 1873 (with occasional mention of Beechwood and Evelynton). Only a few entries, mostly retrospective, appear on Redmoor. The journal gives extensive detail on scientific farming methods used on Ruffin's plantations and on their financial management. Limited information appears on slave health, births, and deaths before the war, and on the political actvities of African Americans in Hanover County during the postwar period. The journal also briefly describes the Ruffin family's experiences during the Union occupation of Virginia.
Creator Ruffin, Edmund, Jr., fl. 1823-1873.
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 Edmund Ruffin Jr. Journal #639-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection available on microfilm.
Additional microfilm: All or part of this collection is also 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
Received from Jane M. Ruffin of Richmond, Va.
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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Edmund Ruffin, Jr. (fl. 1823-1873) was the son of agricultural reformer Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865) of Prince George and Hanover counties, Va., and Susan Travis Ruffin (fl. 1813). He had at least three children, George, Thomas, and Nancy.

Between 1851 and 1862, Ruffin operated two plantations, Beechwood and Evelynton, located on the James River in Prince George County. He and his family lived at Beechwood, where Ruffin planted wheat, corn, oats, tobacco, and vegetables, and maintained a peach orchard and livestock, including hogs, cattle, and sheep. Like his father, he experimented freely with crop rotation and fertilizers, and he frequently invested in newly available farm machinery.

During the Civil War, Thomas and George both served as privates in the Confederate army. Ruffin also himself briefly served in the Confederate army at Camp Lookout between May 1861 and May 1862. Nancy Ruffin died during the war in 1863, while her family was fleeing the Union army.

When Beechwood and Evelynton were taken by Union forces early in 1862, Ruffin moved his family first to Petersburg, then to his father's estate, Marlbourne, in Hanover County, for safety. He also bought a small plantation, Redmoor, in Amelia County, where the family took refuge for the remainder of the war after Northern forces raided Marlbourne in 1863.

At the war's end, Ruffin inherited part of Marlbourne and returned there to plant. He sold Redmoor in 1866 and rented out most of Beechwood and Evelynton to help finance his Marlbourne planting efforts. Ruffin continued to cultivate wheat, corn, and oats at Marlbourne, and supplemented them with cotton in 1866.

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The 361-page journal chiefly documents affairs on Ruffin's plantation, Beechwood, between 1851 and 1862, and on his Hanover County plantation, Marlbourne, between 1866 and 1873. Occasional mentions of Evelynton's management in the antebellum period are brief and cryptic. Only a few entries, mostly retrospective, pertain to affairs at Redmoor. Entries for 1866 describe in detail damage done to Beechwood and Evelynton during the war, but later entries give only limited information on these plantations.

The journal provides detailed information on the weather, crop conditions, crop rotations, fertilizers used, plantation finances, and general farm tasks completed by slaves and hired hands at Beechwood and Marlbourne. The entries provide little insight into Ruffin's family or social life, with the exception of a few pages, dated 1866, which pertain to his family's experiences during the Union occupation of Virginia. In these and later entries, Ruffin freely discussed his feelings on the actions of Union forces during the war and the freedmen's postwar political activities in Hanover County.

Some information can be gleaned from the journal on slaves at Beechwood. Ruffin on occasion remarked on the health of slaves, mentioned births and deaths, and described their wholesale abandonment of his plantations once Union soldiers arrived.

Entries in the journal are fullest for the period January 1851 to May 1861. Later entries lessen considerably in frequency and somewhat in detail.

Plantation journal, 1851-1862 and 1866-1873, of Edmund Ruffin, Jr. Ruffin's entries for January 1851 to May 1861 document work done on his Beechwood plantation. He described in detail the difficulties he encountered in planting, harvesting, storing, and marketing several varieties of wheat--including red, white, and blue stem--and corn, oats, peas, and tobacco. He began growing tobacco in 1859. Frequent mention appears of experiments Ruffin conducted in rotating and fertilizing his crops to maximize production and to control the growth of wiregrass in his fields. He also discussed the draining and grubbing of his land, the construction of farm buildings, planting in his orchards, and the performance of machinery, mostly reapers and thrashers, he purchased. Entries between 1866 and 1873 document similar activities at Marlbourne.

In addition to his regular entries, Ruffin included brief monthly and yearly summaries of work done, fertilizer used, crops produced, income received from crops, the health of slaves, and the condition of his crops and livestock.

Two entries of note are one for 20 July 1854, describing a fire at Beechwood, which destroyed Ruffin's barn and the wheat and corn stored in it, and another for 20 March 1858, mentioning the burning of the barn and stables at Marlbourne by an arsonist. Ruffin speculated that his own barn's burning may also have been arson.

Several entries appearing before the Civil War provide information on slaves at Beechwood. Included are those for 24 November 1855, 8 December 1856, 6 March 1857, 1 July 1858, and 11 March 1861. The 1856 entry mentions the death of "Aunt Polly," a woman who in 1836 had 51 descendants in Virginia and the Southwest. Also mentioned are overseers Ruffin hired at Beechwood, including "Booker" (1851), Mr. West (1852), Mr. Emory (1853), Mr. Biggleston (1855), Mr. Stiles (1858), and Mr. Allen (1861).

The journal was kept only sporadically from May 1861 to May 1862, when Ruffin was in the army. No entries appear in 1861 after May, except for a few in July and one for 23 September, which he made while home on furlough. The first entry for 1862 is 15 February, and no others appear from that date until 15 May 1862, when Ruffin was released from military duty. The 15 February entry includes an assessment of his property at Evelynton for war taxes. The entry for 15 May gives a detailed State of the Farm, describing the condition of his crops and livestock at Beechwood. Scattered entries in May and June concern mostly the escape of a large portion of the slave forces at Beechwood, Evelynton, and Marlbourne. Of note are an entry for 26 May 1862, mentioning slaves being sent to help build fortifications at Richmond, and entries for 9, 24, and 25 June, documenting departures of slaves. On 24 June, he reported that he had sold 29 slaves in Petersburg to avoid having them escape.

Ruffin did not keep the journal after 25 June 1862, when his family left Beechwood and retreated to Marlbourne in Hanover County, or later between 1863 and 1865, when they took refuge at Redmoor in Amelia County. He resumed the book on 1 January 1866, when he wrote, while at Redmoor, a five-page summary of his family's trials during the war. He described the destruction of his plantations by Union soldiers, the death of his daughter Nancy in 1863, while the family was fleeing Marlbourne, the death of his brother Julian in May 1864, during a Confederate attack on General Butler's lines, the death of his father in June 1865, his financial situation, and his decision to rebuild at Marlbourne.

The entries made between January 1866 and December 1873 are less frequent and briefer than those for the earlier period, but contain similar information on crops and farmwork. Those in 1866 discuss Ruffin's sale of Redmoor, his renting out of Beechwood and Evelynton to tenants, the construction of his new home at Marlbourne, and details of his finances. The journal indicates that he began growing cotton in 1866.

Ruffin frequently complained about the freedmen throughout the period 1866 to 1873, charging that they worked slowly, feigned illness, and took holidays without regard to his needs. He also bitterly resented their new political power. Of note are his references in October 1867 to the choosing of delegates to frame a new state constitution as the "nigger election," and his comments on 5 July 1868 concerning the "infamous Yankee regime" and the election of state officers. Other entries of note pertaining to the freedmen are 6 July 1868; 8 July 1872; 2, 5, and 22 July 1873; and 15 November 1873.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill Snider, August 1991

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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