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Collection Number: 01608

Collection Title: Wyche and Otey Family Papers, 1824-1936

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.


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. Additional support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust in 1996.

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Size 2.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 765 items)
Abstract The Otey family of Meridianville, Ala., and Yazoo County, Miss., included William Madison Otey (1818-1865), merchant and cotton planter; his wife, Octavia Wyche Otey (fl. 1841-1891); and their children, Imogene Otey Fields, Mollie Otey Hampton; William Walter Otey; Lucille Otey Walker; Matt Otey, and Elliese Otey. The collection includes family and business correspondence, financial and legal papers and volumes, and personal items. Family correspondence is with members of the Wyche, Horton, Kirkland, Pruit, Landidge, and Robinson families in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee. A few letters from Confederate soldiers in the field appear as do some letters relating to difficulties on the homefront. There is also a letter dated 27 February 1863 from a slave in Mount Shell, Tenn., to his master about building a stockade. Business papers pertain mostly to William Madison Otey's merchant activities in Meridianville, Ala., especially with Chickasaw Indians in the 1830s, and to the Oteys' cotton plantations in Madison County, Ala., and Yazoo County, Miss. Others concern the financial affairs of the Wyche, Horton, and Kirkland families. Included are accounts with cotton factors and merchants, estate papers, deeds, loan notes, summonses, receipts, agreements for hiring out slaves, and work contracts with freedmen. Volumes include account books, plantation daybooks, a receipt book, and a diary of Octavia Wyche Otey that covers the years 1849-1888. The diary and other papers offer detailed descriptions of women's lives, especially in nineteenth-century Alabama.
Creator Wyche family.



Otey family
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 Wyche and Otey Family Papers #1608, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy (UPA Series J.7/9-12) available.
Also one reel with Volume S-1608/1): Diary, 10 September 1864-1 August 1868, 1874
Acquisitions Information
Received from Imogen Walker Cummins of Huntsville, Ala., in June 1949. Mrs. Cummins was the daughter of John Beale Walker and Lucy Horton Otey Walker, and the granddaughter, through her mother, of William Madison Otey and Octavia Aurelia Wyche Otey.
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

William Madison Otey (1818 1865), the son of John Walter Otey and Mary Walton Otey, was a general merchant in Meridianville, Alabama, during the 1830s, and later, a cotton planter in Madison County, Ala., and Yazoo County, Miss. He was married to Octavia Aurelia James Wyche in 1849. Octavia was the daughter of Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche and Dr. William H. Wyche (d. 1835) of Yazoo County, Mississippi, and Madison County, Ala. Most of the land William Madison Otey cultivated in both Alabama and Mississippi between 1849 and his death had been bequeathed to his wife by her parents. Otey also inherited the bulk of his mother's estate, located near Meridianville, in 1854. In the 1840s, before his marriage, he had lived with his mother on her small plantation and worked the land with a handful of slaves belonging to her.

Octavia Wyche's family resided mostly in northern Alabama and Mississippi, and included her uncles Thomas P. Wyche, a planter in Yazoo City; G. A. Wyche and A. A. Wyche, both physicians in Meridianville; John F. Wyche, a commission merchant in New Orleans; Middleton Wyche; Nathaniel Wyche; and her aunt, Elizabeth Wyche.

Octavia was her parents' only child, but had a half sister, Ella Kirkland, and a half brother, William Kirkland, who were the children of her mother and her stepfather, John Kirkland. Kirkland was a storeowner in Meridianville, and later worked in a store in Attalaville, Miss. Ella Kirkland lived with William and Octavia from the early 1850s until her marriage to Dr. James P. Burke in 1861. Ella had a son named Matt Otey Burke. William (Will) Kirkland also lived with the Oteys for a time in the early 1860s, until his death in 1866.

William Madison Otey had at least two brothers, C. C. (possibly Christopher) and A. H., and two sisters, Lucy Ann and Maria. Sometime before 1830, Lucy Ann Otey married Rodah Horton (fl. 1830 185?), a planter and member of the Alabama legislature in 1837 and 1838. They had a son, William, and three daughters, Mary Eliza, Josie, and Fanny (Colcock).

After their marriage in 1849, William and Octavia resided on their plantation, Green Lawn, outside Meridianville in Madison County. They had six children: Imogene (b. 1850), the oldest, who married William Fields in 1884; Mollie (b. 1854), who married John M. Hampton in 1881; William Walter (Buddy, b. 1853), who married Sophia [?] in 1887; Lucille (Lucy) Horton Otey, who married John Beale Walker in the early 1890s; Matt (b. 1858); and Elliese.

After her husband died in June 1865, Octavia Otey continued to live outside Meridianville, and to operate their plantation there.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The bulk of the materials in the collection pertain to the family and plantation affairs of Octavia Wyche Otey and William Madison Otey and their children between 1851 and 1888.

Series 1 contains family and business correspondence, mostly of William and Octavia Otey and their children. Only a small number of letters appear for Octavia's parents, William H. Wyche and Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche, and William's sister, Lucy Otey Horton, and her husband, Rodah Horton. The small number of letters for the Pruit family, appearing in 1860, are the only items in the papers concerning them, though Octavia Otey's diary does mention John Pruit frequently. There is also a letter dated 27 February 1863 from a slave in Mount Shell, Tenn., to his master about building a stockade.

The bulk of the financial and legal papers in Series 2 document the operation of William Madison Otey's cotton plantation in Yazoo County, Miss., and his plantation, Green Lawn, in Meridianville, Ala., before the Civil War. A few postwar papers pertain to Octavia Otey's management of Green Lawn. Additional antebellum items are estate papers and accounts for the Wyche family. Only a few papers appear for the Kirkland family.

Series 3 consists of the 17 volumes of Octavia Otey's diary, covering the years 1849, 1852 1853, 1857 1858, 1862, 1864 1871, 1876 1884, and 1888. Only three entries appear for 1857 and 1858, and entries made in 1888 are sporadic. The 1862 entries appear in a plantation daybook Octavia kept. The diary addresses mostly Octavia's daily work and social routines, the raising of her family, and her financial affairs.

The volumes appearing in Series 4 give some insight into William Madison Otey's early career as a general merchant, but document mostly the operation of his cotton plantations.

The miscellaneous items in Series 5 relate primarily to the education and personal lives of Wyche and Otey family members.

Only two photographs, both related to railroad construction, appear in Series 6.

The papers offer an excellent opportunity for the study of antebellum and postwar race relations; Octavia Otey's diary and correspondence frequently discuss her personal and business relationships with her slaves and with the freedmen after the war. The papers also provide considerable information on daily plantation affairs and family life, and some information on wartime hardships.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1894-1898 and undated.

About 550 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly the family and business correspondence of Octavia Wyche Otey, and her husband, William Madison Otey, of Meridianville, Alabama, between 1850 and 1865. Earlier correspondence is that of Octavia's parents, William H. and Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche, her stepfather, John W. Kirkland, and William's sister and brother in law, Lucy and Rodah Horton. Post Civil War correspondence consists primarily of Octavia's and her childrens' letters with each other and with relatives in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Principal topics are plantation affairs, family, school, antebellum and postwar race relations, wartime hardships, and travel.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. 1824-1840 and undated.

30 items.

Correspondence of the Wyche family of Yazoo County, Miss., and Madison County, Ala., and the Horton family of Madison County. About an equal number of letters appear for each family, and all focus primarily on plantation affairs and family news.

Wyche family correspondence is chiefly that of Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche (called Rebecca) and her husband, William H. Wyche, for the years 1830 to 1840. During the 1820s, the couple lived in Yazoo County, but, by 1830, had come to reside on a plantation outside Meridianville, Ala. They continued, however, to plant their Yazoo County lands. William wrote his wife while on a trip to Mississippi in April, mentioning his ideas for trying to sell at least part of the Yazoo property and slaves. He wrote later that year to J. E. Wyche concerning similar plans. A final letter from William in 1831 is to Sarah Wilburn, and discusses family matters, including speculation on their brother Thomas's possible marriage.

Rebecca's first letter appears in 1832, by which time the Wyches had returned to live again in Yazoo County. She wrote Sarah Wilburn in January describing her deep loneliness on the plantation. After her husband's death in 1835, Rebecca left Yazoo County for good and moved back to Meridianville. Most of her correspondence after this year is with her brother in law, Thomas P. Wyche, who was executor of William's estate. The letters concern management of the Yazoo plantation, estate debts, and attempts to sell land and slaves. John Kirkland, whom Rebecca married in 1837 or 1838, assumed control of the plantation, and two letters concerning its affairs appear for him, one in 1838 and another in 1840.

Horton family letters belong mostly to Lucy and Rodah Horton, who corresponded between 1826 and 1837, while Rodah travelled on business and attended the Alabama legislature and Lucy remained at China Grove, their plantation outside Meridianville. Rodah wrote from the "Chickesaw Counsil" in 1830 concerning Chickasaw and Choctaw lands; from Columbus, Miss., in 1832, mentioning buying cattle and selling slaves; from Memphis, Tenn., in 1834, reporting his ill health; and from Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1836 and 1837, reporting votes in the legislature. He frequently advised Lucy about farm affairs.

Lucy's letters, written in 1826 and 1830, discuss neighborhood and family news, her unhappiness about a possible move to Choctaw territory, conflicts between their slaves and overseer, and local election results. Other Horton family items consist of a note from their son William, written while away at school in 1833, a letter from Rodah Horton to his daughter in 1836, written while he attended the legislature, and a fragment of an 1824 letter from Lucy Horton in Bolingreen to Eliza. All of these are brief and contain little information.

Three undated letters that were probably written in the 1830s are from Rebecca Wyche to Lucy Thornton, from C. P. Wing to Lucy Thornton, and from Lucy Thornton to Rebecca Wyche. These letters concern borrowed household items and Lucy's joining C. P. Wing's church.

Folder 1

1824-1834 #01608, Subseries: "1.1. 1824-1840 and undated." Folder 1

Folder 2

1835-1840 and undated #01608, Subseries: "1.1. 1824-1840 and undated." Folder 2

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1843-1849 and undated.

32 items.

Mostly letters received by Octavia Wyche at school in Huntsville from her mother in Meridianville, and letters she received after her return to Meridianville from cousins and friends in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Single items appear for Lucy Horton and G. A. Wyche.

Octavia's mother, Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche Kirkland, wrote her in 1843 and early 1844 about family news and illnesses, Christian ideals, and the consequences of misbehavior at school. Of note are a letter for 16 April 1843, in which Mrs. Kirkland described her desires to be a Christian; a letter for 22 January 1843, in which she scolded Octavia for her misdeeds at school; and a letter for 26 February 1843, in which she gave Octavia advice about a young lady's social deportment. Mrs. Kirkland frequently mentioned her children, William and Ella, and Octavia's aunt, Lucinda Wyche. Other individuals appearing in the letters are Uncle Thomas, probably Thomas P. Wyche; Uncle John, probably John F. Wyche; and Uncle Alphonso.

Octavia received one letter from her stepfather, John Kirkland, in 1846, addressed to her in care of Mrs. Thomas Bass of Athens, Ala. He mentioned mostly news of her Aunt Lucinda's illness and the health of her grandmother and of William and Ella.

After 1846, most of Octavia's letters are from her cousins, H. C. Wyche, E. B. Landidge, L. E. Sledge, Molley, Olivia, Carrie M., Mary Lou W., and Lucilla, and her friends, Fanny Harris and Caroline Atwood. H. C. Wyche, a schoolteacher, wrote from Walnut Hill in Arkansas in 1847 and early 1848, and from Red Land, La., in late 1848, describing hunting, horseback riding, and fishing in those areas, and wishing that Octavia could join him on his hunts. He also mentioned his teaching positions in passing. Of note is a letter of 29 April 1848, in which he discussed his father's severe depression. A letter of 17 November 1847 from Octavia's cousin, Olivia, also concerns hunting, and demonstrates clearly that it was a sport enjoyed by some planters' daughters as well as sons in frontier areas.

Letters from other cousins mention mostly personal news, news of family and friends, and Octavia's wedding. E. B. Landidge, writing from Pineville, La., in 1848, described having two of his teeth pulled. Writing in that same year, L. E. Sledge proposed to visit Octavia, and Lucilla described an illness she had suffered. Carrie M., Caroline Atwood, Lucilla, and Fannie Horton (later Colcock) wrote in 1849 about Octavia's wedding, and Mary Lou W. wrote in that same year giving news of mutual friends.

Two letters appear from Octavia's friend, Fannie Harris, while Harris attended the Columbia Female Institute in Columbia, Tenn. She wrote on 17 January 1848, urging Octavia to enroll there and giving news of her family and friends. Of special interest is a letter she wrote on 21 March 1848, in which she described in detail the daily routine of the Institute, talked about her close friend Phoebe, and related a dream she had had about Octavia's Uncle John.

The remaining items consist of a letter from William Horton to his mother, Lucy Horton, in 1843, informing her that he had won first prize for Latin translation at Yale; an 1847 letter from Octavia to her Aunt Lucinda in New Orleans, discussing a trip by John Kirkland to Nashville, her cousin Chambers, and fishing; and a letter in 1848 from E. B. Landidge in Pineville, La., to G. A. Wyche in Meridianville, describing the damage to cotton from heavy rains in Pineville and his concerns over his father's poor mental state. Two undated letters appear from Octavia Wyche to her grandmother and give family news. Another undated letter is from her friend, Caroline, and concerns a trip to Cincinnati they were planning.

Folder 3

#01608, Subseries: "1.2. 1843-1849 and undated." Folder 3

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. 1850-1865 and undated.

About 300 items.

Principally the family and business correspondence of Octavia Wyche Otey and William Madison Otey of Meridianville, after their marriage. Letters were exchanged with and between members of the Wyche, Otey, Horton, Kirkland, Landidge, and Pruit families, who were scattered across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Business correspondence concerns mostly the Otey's Yazoo County plantation. A number of letters also appear for the Pruit family in 1860.

A little over half the family correspondence is that of Octavia Wyche Otey with her Wyche and Horton relatives, the Kirkland family, her husband, William, and her daughter, Imogene. Most of the letters she received before 1858 were from her husband; her nephew, J. Edwin Horton; her niece, Fanny Horton Colcock; and several cousins, including John F. Wyche, Jr. (Fletcher), James E. Wyche (Jimmy), and Robert E. Wyche. Scattered letters appear from her cousin Lucilla Johnstone, her aunt Lucy Horton, her uncle G. A. Wyche, and her half sister, Ella Kirkland.

William Madison Otey wrote Octavia frequently when he made yearly trips to Yazoo County, Miss. He described the travel conditions he encountered, local events in Yazoo County, and their plantation's operations, including crop conditions, overseers, and the welfare of their slaves.

J. Edwin Horton wrote from Lebanon, Tenn., most often concerning family. Of interest is a letter he wrote Octavia on 29 May 1852, in which he mentioned the suicide of Robert Pruit, the illness of William Otey's mother, to whom Octavia was very close, and his views on women as "idols, companions, nurses, friends." Fanny Colcock also often discussed family in her letters. She frequently mentioned her son, Charles, family Christmas celebrations, her plantation, "The Camp" (location unknown), and visits to and from relatives.

Letters from Wyche cousins discuss John F. Wyche's cotton factoring business in New Orleans, for which both John, Jr., and James E. worked; their social lives and courtships; and their views on work, education, marriage, and other topics. Robert Wyche, writing from Bossier Parish, Louisiana, often mentioned his marriage prospects, financial arrangements, and hopes of becoming a successful cotton planter.

Letters Ella Kirkland exchanged with Octavia (and with her father) in 1854 while she attended school in Winchester focus primarily on her health and school needs and activities.

William Madison Otey's family correspondence before 1858 is primarily with his brothers, C. C. (possibly Christopher) of Whitesburg, Ala., and A. H. of Marengo County, Ala., and his wife, Octavia. The Otey brothers wrote concerning finances, family illnesses and hardships, deaths, and farming activities. C. C. Otey died in 1856. Of particular interest in William's correspondence is a letter to him from his sister, Lucy Horton, dated 21 January 1854, in which she expressed her feelings on how their mother's estate should be divided. Octavia's letters to William, written while he was visiting Yazoo County, discussed mostly her loneliness with him gone and the activities of their children.

Family correspondence after 1858 consists largely of letters exchanged between the Oteys and the Kirklands, and between Kirkland family members. John Kirkland wrote both Octavia and William Madison Otey frequently after he moved to Attalaville, Miss., sometime in the late 1850s. He discussed lands in the area, farming prospects there for his son William, and family news. William Kirkland wrote from Attalaville and Batchelor's Hall (possibly a plantation name) in Mississippi, after he joined his father in 1858 to take up farming. Letters appearing from him between 1858 and 1861 describe his crops, local religious scandals, camp meetings, murders and feuds, and family.

Kirkland family letters for late 1860 and early 1861 focus on Ella's marriage to Dr. James P. Burke. Neither John nor William Kirkland approved of the marriage, and they expressed their feelings freely in their letters to Ella and to William and Octavia. Their correspondence for these two years also sometimes comments on politics, mentioning events and local loyalties around Attalaville during the election of 1860.

In addition to Otey and Kirkland correspondence, a set of letters appears in 1860 related to the Pruit family, cousins of the Oteys. Their place of residence does not appear, but they may have lived within the vicinity of Meridianville, Ala. Most of the letters are from R. W. and W. G. Pruit at LaGrange Military Academy in Arkansas, to their father, J. W. Pruit, and discuss family and school life. Two letters, dated 15 and 16 July 1860, are from the overseer on Pruit's Arkansas plantation. J. W. Pruit may be the J. or John Pruit Octavia often mentioned in her diary (see Series 3).

Scattered family letters during the Civil War discuss the activities of various relatives in the army and civilian hardships. Letters from soldiers include a few from William Kirkland, who was briefly stationed at Camp Clark in Corinth, Mississippi, before falling ill and being mustered out of the army. Kirkland continued to write Octavia and his sister Ella frequently from Attalaville about his farming affairs, friends, and family. Other soldiers who wrote were W. A. Robinson, Octavia's nephew, who was stationed at Camp Hardee near Warrington; E. A. Otey, stationed at Camp Law in Virginia; and Armpie Otey, stationed at Harper's Ferry, Va. Their letters describe mostly camp life and family news.

Among the Otey's most frequent correspondents was Ella Kirkland Burke, who wrote while travelling in Tallahassee, Fla., and Fayetteville, Tenn., about family news and her husband's relatives, and from her home in Edgehill, Ala., about her baby Occie and high prices. A letter for March 1861 from Ella to Octavia suggests that William Madison Otey had joined a Confederate company, but it does not specify which one or where he served. He was at home ill throughout most of the war and died in June 1865. Of interest are two letters of 1864 from Octavia to Ella explaining why she had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States and telling of the hard times of her family during the Federal occupation of northern Alabama.

Other items of interest in the correspondence for this period include a letter, dated 13 February 1862, to Octavia from her friend L. A. Johnson, mentioning her husband's escape through the Federal blockade; a letter dated 16 February 1863 to Octavia from her cousin Mary in Collinsburg, La., telling of her family's Christmas celebration, of learning to spin, and of the activities of the men of the family in the army and in the salt business; and a letter dated 27 February 1863 from a slave, Thomas, in Mount Shell, Tenn., to his master, J. M. Oaty, asking him to get a substitute for him in the building of a stockade.

Several letters also appear from Octavia to her daughter, Imogene, while Imogene was visiting and in school in Huntsville. Octavia frequently gave her daughter news of the family and advice on her behavior. Ella Burke also occasionally wrote Imogene, mostly about family news.

Undated correspondence for the early 1860s includes four letters to William Madison Otey from his niece Mary concerning her finances, the difficulty of obtaining supplies, and restrictions on travel enforced by the Union army; two letters from Imogene to her mother; and a letter from John F. Wyche, Jr., to Octavia concerning William Otey's health and family news.

Business correspondence for the 1850s through the Civil War pertains mostly to the Otey's Yazoo County plantation. Letters appear on a fairly regular basis from cotton factors Pope & Devlin (later Jennings & Devlin, then simply J. M. Devlin) of Yazoo City, Miss., and Bradley, Wilson & Co. of New Orleans concerning cotton sales and accounts. Letters also appear from J. R. York and J. W. Bell, overseers on the Yazoo plantation. They described crop and weather conditions, the welfare of slaves on the plantation, farm improvements, and news of their families.

Few business letters appear in the 1860s. Of note are three received by Octavia from her lawyer Jim Robinson concerning the settlement of William Otey's estate after his death in 1865, and one, dated 8 December 1865, from her cousin W. Wyche Wilburn, of Yazoo County, concerning her giving him power of attorney for handling her property in Mississippi.

Folder 4

1850-1851 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 4

Folder 5

1852 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 5

Folder 6

1853 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 6

Folder 7

1854 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 7

Folder 8

1855-1856 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 8

Folder 9-10

Folder 9

Folder 10

1857-1858 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 9-10

Folder 11-12

Folder 11

Folder 12

1859 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 11-12

Folder 13-14

Folder 13

Folder 14

1860 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 13-14

Folder 15-16

Folder 15

Folder 16

1861 #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 15-16

Folder 17

1862-1865 and undated #01608, Subseries: "1.3. 1850-1865 and undated." Folder 17

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4. 1866-1898 and undated.

About 190 items.

Principally the family correspondence of Octavia Wyche and her children, Imogene, William Walter, Mollie, Lucy, and Elliese. Included are letters family members exchanged with each other and letters they received from Wilburn relatives in Mississippi, and Otey and Landidge relatives in Tennessee. The bulk of the letters are addressed to Octavia Otey. During this period the Otey family continued to reside at Green Lawn, their farm outside Meridianville, and most of Octavia's letters are written from there. A few business letters, which are interspersed with family items, concern her financial problems.

Only two letters appear for 1866. One is to Octavia from an unidentified friend in Titus County, Tex., who wrote on 25 August, to express sympathy over William Madison Otey's death, and another is to Octavia from her cousin, W. Wyche Wilburn, who wrote on 9 December in reference to her plantation and property in Yazoo County. Octavia received letters from Wilburn about the plantation's management and attempts to sell it throughout the 1870s and in 1880. She received one letter from her cousin R. E. Wilburn of Pickens, Miss., concerning selling the plantation in 1882.

Correspondence between 1867 and the mid 1870s consists mostly of letters Octavia exchanged with her Otey relatives living in Beechwood, Tennessee, including her nephew William S. Otey, his wife Lou, and her cousins Fannie Lou, J. S. Landidge, and Mary. Letters of note include one from J. S. Landidge, who wrote Octavia in 1868, to recommend a tenant farmer, Mr. Phillips, to her; another from Lou Otey, written in 1875, concerning her desire to move to Huntsville and the possibility of her husband's going into law partnership with Jim Robinson; and several from her nephew Meck Robinson in 1869, written while Robinson attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, concerning his studies and family news. Another letter, dated 21 September 1869, is from Carlos G. Smith, and concerns the schooling of her son, William Walter, at Huntsville Grammar School. The letter is accompanied by a printed circular about the school.

Octavia, Imogene, and Mollie visited Beechwood regularly in this period and corresponded with each other and other family members while there. Their letters are filled with news of family and friends, as well as discussion of finances, farm affairs, local events, and travel plans.

In the late 1860s through the mid 1870s, Octavia also received a number of letters from her nephew John J. Robinson of Bartons, Arkansas; her cousin Ellen of Sunnyside, Alabama; her cousin Mary of Collinsburg, Louisiana; and E. A. Wyche of Red Land, La. These letters relate mostly family news with some discussion of postwar difficulties and relationships with the freedmen.

Correspondence for the late 1870s consists primarily of letters Octavia exchanged with her daughters and other relatives, and letters Imogene and Mollie received from friends and beaux. Most of Octavia's letters are to Imogene, and concern her travels in Tennessee and Virginia and Imogene's management of the daily affairs at Green Lawn. Other correspondents include Lucy C. Crisman and G. W. Mitchell. Octavia wrote Mrs. Crisman on 15 March 1876 about a misunderstanding between them on family finances. A letter from Lucy to A. G. Newlin of Meridianville discusses this misunderstanding. G. W. Mitchell wrote on 16 March 1877 from Athens, Ala., concerning a book he had written.

Imogene and Mollie's correspondents included Mollie's fiance, John Hampton, and Imogene's friend Frank Morrison. Hampton wrote Mollie in 1876 from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa describing college life, and Morrison wrote Imogene on 13 July 1877 from Fort Couche, Texas, describing the people and land in the vicinity of the Rio Grande. One letter appears for William Walter Otey in 1879. On 14 March, he wrote Rev. G. M. Mitchell of Huntsville to tell him of money he had raised to pay him for his services after his church had been unable to pay his salary.

Most of the letters from the early to late 1880s were received by the Otey children from relatives. Matt Otey Burke wrote Lucy and Elliese several times from the University of Alabama in 1884 and 1885, and discussed his studies and exams and his interests in various girls. In a letter he wrote Lucy on 6 December 1882, he described a visit he made to the school's observatory to view Venus. Other items include a letter from John Hampton at Spring Creek, Ala., to Mollie, whom he married in 1881, while she visited her mother at Green Lawn. Hampton described his work on his plantation.

Imogene, who after marrying in 1884 moved to Russell County, Virginia, near Castlewood, received a number of letters there from her mother. She also wrote several letters, addressed from "Locust Hill" and "Brickley's Mill," probably the names of plantations she and her husband owned, to her mother, her sister Mollie, and her brother William Walter. She discussed her husband's affairs, trips she made in and around where she lived, her home life, and her husband's relatives. Letters to her from Green Lawn give mostly news of family illnesses and events and of friends, including John Pruit.

Of interest in the 1880s is a letter Imogene's husband, William Fields, wrote John Hampton on 29 July 1884, in which he discussed attending the Democratic Convention at Marion to nominate a Congressional candidate. He also discussed his family and crops. Also of note is a letter Octavia received from Rebecca Scruggs, written 20 March 1888, in which Scruggs described the city of Woodville, Miss., where she was visiting, and mentioned a Women's Christian Temperance Union convention she had witnessed in Nashville.

Undated family correspondence for the postwar period is mostly that of Octavia Otey, with scattered letters appearing for her children Imogene, Mollie, William Walter, Matt, and Elliese. Most of Octavia's letters are addressed from Green Lawn. Frequent correspondents include her half sister, Ella; her nephew, Meck Robinson in Liberty, Virginia, and unidentified locations; and her cousin, Ellen, of Sunnyside. Letters exchanged with Ella discuss mostly domestic affairs, including Ella's trials over her husband's alcoholism. Meck Robinson wrote concerning his travels and his health. Ellen wrote most often about her children, her health, and her plans for visiting. Other correspondents of note are M. O. Pruit; William S. Otey, writing from Meridianville; Armpey Otey, and C. A. Robinson.

William Walter received a letter from his cousin Hattie W. Rhett. Imogene received several letters from her mother and wrote several replies. She also wrote her sister Lucy. Mollie wrote her mother and received letters from her. Of interest is a letter Matt Otey wrote as a child to "Santy Close," telling him what he wanted for Christmas.

Other individuals from whom letters appear are Marian Shelby of Dixie Hill; Margaret A. Otey of Marshall Court, Alabama; Helen Pickens; Walter Kelley; R. K. Williams; J. W. Levers; Octavia's cousins, R. M. Wilburn and J. D. Vance; cousin Jarvis; cousin Lee; and cousin Will.

The undated letters are similar to the dated items for the postwar period, and discuss mostly family news, illnesses, travels, and finances. They have been inserted within the most likely decades of their appearance.

Business letters appear for Octavia beginning in the late 1870s. Most of these pertain to her growing debts, and include letters of collection and legal correspondence. A letter of 24 October 1878 from Hereford & Timberlake of Huntsville concerns her failure to pay the mortgage on her plantation. Other firms and individuals trying to collect from Octavia included Brooks, Peace, & Conner of Huntsville; W. McCalley of Meridianville; and attorney, John J. McDavis of Huntsville.

Folder 18

1866 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 18

Folder 19

1867 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 19

Folder 20

1868 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 20

Folder 21

1869-1870 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 21

Folder 22

1871-1875 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 22

Folder 23

1876-1879 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 23

Folder 24

1880-1883 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 24

Folder 25

1884-1887 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 25

Folder 26

1888-1892, 1898 #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 26

Folder 27-29

Folder 27

Folder 28

Folder 29

Undated Postwar Letters #01608, Subseries: "1.4. 1866-1898 and undated." Folder 27-29

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial and Legal Papers, 1829-1888 and undated.

About 140 items.

Arrangement: chronological by family.

Financial and legal papers pertaining primarily to William Madison Otey's plantation affairs, with scattered accounts appearing for the Wyche family and papers related to Octavia Wyche Otey's finances and farm affairs after the war. A few items appear for John Kirkland and his daughter, Ella, and for William Walter Otey. Papers include accounts with cotton factors, merchants, and doctors, estate papers, deeds, loan notes, summonses, agreements for the hiring out of slaves, and work contracts with freedmen.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Wyche and Horton Papers, 1829-1856.

24 items.

Chiefly financial and legal papers of William H. Wyche of Meridianville, with scattered items appearing for Rodah and Lucy Horton and John F. Wyche, also of Meridianville.

William Wyche's papers for 1829 consist of accounts with Otey Kinkle; a power of attorney given him by his brothers Middleton and John F. Wyche; and an agreement he and his father, William H. Wyche, Sr., made with Muse & Greenleaf of Lafourche Parish, La., concerning hiring out their slaves to the firm.

The remainder of William Wyche's papers pertain to the estates of his brother, Nathaniel Wyche, and sister, Elizabeth Wyche. Appearing in 1830 and between 1832 and 1834, they include receipts, an article of agreement concerning Nathaniel's property, and miscellaneous items.

Papers relevant to William Wyche's own estate were kept by his brother and executor, Thomas P. Wyche. They consist of two deeds, both dated 1840, and a loan note, 1837, for William's widow, Mary Ann Rebecca Wyche.

Horton family items are an account for 1836 for L. A. M. Horton with Pruit & Jones of Huntsville, for books and clothing, and a land rental agreement between Rodah Horton and William H. Glascock, dated 1839.

Miscellaneous items comprise an order issued in 1838 for the delivery of a slave woman, Eliza, who had belonged to Dr. A. A. Wyche, deceased, to Joseph Leeman; a receipt for Eliza signed by Leeman in 1838; a loan note, dated 7 June 1839, for G. A. Wyche; and an agreement dated 1849 for the hire of a slave woman and three children belonging to the estate of Jackston Lightfoot. John F. Wyche was Lightfoot's executor. One other item, a receipt of 17 May 1856, appears for Lightfoot's estate.

Folder 30

1829-1836 #01608, Subseries: "2.1. Wyche and Horton Papers, 1829-1856." Folder 30

Folder 31

1837-1856 #01608, Subseries: "2.1. Wyche and Horton Papers, 1829-1856." Folder 31

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863.

About 95 items.

Predominantly William Madison Otey's accounts with cotton factors in the 1850s through 1861. A few items appear for his wife's stepfather, John Kirkland, and John Kirkland's daughter, Ella, and for Mary Otey.

Cotton factors with whom Otey dealt most frequently were Bradley, Wilson & Co. of Huntsville and Pope and Devlin (later Jennings & Devlin, then J. M. Devlin) of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Reports of cotton sold and accounts for hardware items, foodstuffs, farm supplies and medicinal drugs bought of these firms comprise over eighty percent of Otey's papers.

Most of the remaining accounts relating to Otey are with hardware merchants, W. P. Thompson, William M. Rozell, John M. Humphrey, and John S. Dickson of Huntsville; dry goods merchants, John Kirkland of Meridianville and Thomas S. McCalley of Huntsville; blacksmith, James T. McClean; druggists, James L. Cooper of Huntsville and Newman & Harrison; doctors, G. A. Wyche of Meridianville and F. H. Newman; and book dealers, Collant & Sons.

Otey's account in 1842 with tailor John Shanor lists a charge for "cutting a coat for a free [N]egro," suggesting that Otey may have served as a go between for free blacks and local merchants.

Legal papers for Otey consist of a certificate, dated 8 April 1847, appointing him paymaster of the 2nd Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Division of the Alabama state militia; a deed, dated 16 Oct. 1850, transferring land in Madison County from William H. and Eliza Branch to John Robinson and William Madison Otey; and a certificate, dated 1 March 1861, issued by the Alabama Commissioners' Court of Roads and Revenue, naming Otey overseer of the Meridianville Road. Only a handful of items, mostly accounts, appear in the Civil War period.

Early items in the antebellum papers are financial materials related to Mary Otey. Notes appear in 1837 and 1846 for loans made to and by her with John Robinson, and in 1838 for money she owed Pruit & Jones of Huntsville. Accounts comprise one, dated 11 January 1841, with Patton & Bros. of Huntsville, for clothes and sewing goods, and another, dated 17 November 1844, with Wyche Landidge, for medical services.

Legal items appearing for John Kirkland imply that he experienced financial difficulties in the early 1850s. The court issued an "order for payment of debt" to Kirkland in 1850 in relation to the case Edith Shotwell vs. Kirkland and Strother, and George R. Wharton filed a public instrument of protest against Kirkland in 1852 when a bill of exchange Kirkland had given him was rejected for payment because of insufficient funds. Miscellaneous items relating to Kirkland are an account, dated 31 August 1855, he held along with William Madison Otey at Bradley, Wilson & Co., and an account he had with "Mrs. Webster" in 1858 for clothing. Two items, dry goods accounts with M. A. Easley in 1858 and Thomas S. McCalley in 1861, are for Ella Kirkland.

Folder 32

1836-1848 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 32

Folder 33

1850-1852 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 33

Folder 34

1853 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 34

Folder 35

1854-1855 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 35

Folder 36

1856-1859 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 36

Folder 37

1860-1861, 1863 #01608, Subseries: "2.2. Antebellum and Wartime Otey and Kirkland Papers, 1836-1863." Folder 37

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.3. Postwar Otey Papers, 1865-1888 and undated.

19 items.

Chiefly accounts and legal documents of Octavia Otey, with scattered items appearing for her son, William Walter Otey. Most of Octavia's accounts appear between 1865 and 1878 and are with dry goods merchants, grocers, and cotton factors. Firms named include Friedlander & Galinger of Yazoo City, Mississippi, Darwin & Tully, location unknown, and B. Altman of New York. Cotton factors are Mastin & Donegan of Memphis, Tennessee, and Sam Pleasants of New York. Single accounts appear in 1868 for doctor's visits by James Burke, and in 1870 for the reimbursement of travel expenses paid for Octavia by John Robinson. A list of the accounts of William Otey's estate appears in 1866.

Legal documents relating to Octavia Otey consist of a work contract she signed in 1866 with Maria, a freedwoman who worked as a cook and laundress (see Subseries 3.2 for similar contracts copied in Octavia Otey's diary); loan notes presented for payment; and a summons, dated 2 July 1888, for Octavia Otey, William Walter Otey, Laura E. Otey, and Lucy H. Otey in the case of McColley & Co. vs. Octavia A. Otey et al.

Scattered accounts for William Walter Otey are with Huntsville druggist T. E. Williford and coal suppliers Matthews & Morrison. Of note is a work contract he made with Albert Otie on 18 March 1888.

One final item is an account for 1883 listed in the name of Mrs. W. F. Robinson with Huntsville druggist L. H. Wilson.

For additional information on the legal and financial affairs of the Otey family, see account and plantation books in Series 4.

Folder 38

Postwar Otey Papers #01608, Subseries: "2.3. Postwar Otey Papers, 1865-1888 and undated." Folder 38

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Diary of Octavia Wyche Otey, 1849-1888.

17 volumes.

Arrangement: chronological by bulk dates.

Diary of Octavia Aurelia James Wyche Otey, kept irregularly between 6 March 1849 and February 1889. In the original arrangement scheme, the diary was labelled as Volumes 2 through 5, 9 through 11, 14 through 15, and 17 through 24. Volumes here are ordered chronologically by bulk dates rather than by volume number. The diary is fullest for the years 1852 1853, 1864 1871, and 1876 1881.

Octavia made most of her entries while at home on her plantation, Green Lawn, outside Meridianville, Ala. Many of the entries for the 1880s were made in Castlewood, Va., where she frequently stayed with her daughter, Imogene, and in Spring Creek, Ala., where she stayed with her daughter, Mollie.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.1. Antebellum Years, 1849-1858.

4 volumes.

Octavia Wyche started the diary she was to keep off and on for 51 years on 6 March 1849, upon the occasion of William Otey's marriage proposal. Entries in the first volume (formerly Volume 2), made between 6 March and 23 April, express both her reluctance to marry a man older than she, whom she did not love, and her attempts to reconcile herself to that fate. Also appearing in the diary are items related to her sewing activities, including accounts for sewing materials (two are for 26 Sept. and 21 Nov. 1849, the latest dates appearing in the volume); a list of friends and relatives (probably wedding guests); a number of poems, lists of household items, and a draft of a letter to her childhood friend, Lou, reminiscing about their girlhood happiness together. Seventy three of the small, leatherbound diary's 97 pages are used; most entries are poems, whose authorship is unclear. Only 15 pages contain actual diary entries.

After her initial effort in 1849, Octavia did not write in her diary again until 1852. The second volume (originally Volume 3) contains entries made between 25 February and 22 July 1852, and describes her day to day activities as a mother and as mistress of the family's plantation. Octavia often appeared depressed, complaining of severe headaches, heart trouble, and other illnesses. She frequently mentioned the difficulties of raising her daughter Imogene and her half sister Ella, who lived with her, and of managing her slaves. Detailed descriptions appear of her relationships with her house servants, Parthenia, Maria, and Lina. She mentions the tasks she set for them, their behavior, and punishments she meted out when they displeased her. Other topics in the diary are visits to and from family and friends, illnesses among the family and slaves, her sewing, and her reading.

Of particular interest in this 93 page volume are entries, dated 1 March 1852, in which Octavia describes her reaction upon seeing Hiram Powers' Greek Slave; 15 March 1852 and 11 April 1852, in which she mentions slaves being whipped; and May 1852, in which she describes Imogene's near death from a long illness. Individuals of note are William Madison Otey (her husband), Lucy Horton (her sister in law), Uncle Alphonso (more often called Phon or Fon), brother John Otey, and her sister in law, Maria Otey. Miscellaneous entries consist of a few pages of notes on her sewing, one page of accounts for William Otey with Trotman Warren, dated 1850, and a draft of a letter to her cousin Emma. The letter discusses the uproar within the family over her Uncle Phon's marriage to Betsy Caldwell, of whom the family disapproved.

The third volume of the diary (formerly Volume 4) contains 173 pages and is dated between 27 November 1852 and 12 May 1853. The topics that dominate the narrative are Uncle Phon's marriage to Betsy Caldwell and the ongoing antagonisms between family members and Betsy; Octavia's management of her children and her slaves, which frequently included corporal punishment; her garden and farm animals; and her family's health. Miscellaneous entries contain two and one half pages of accounts for William Otey with Irwin & McClelland for 1850, a few poems, and lists of household goods. Individuals mentioned include Mary Otey, Cousins Mary and Beverley Walton, John Pruit, and John Robinson.

A small 22 page volume kept between 20 September 1853 and 13 October 1853 (formerly Volume 5) discusses mostly family. Of note is an entry for 20 September 1853 mentioning the birth of her son, William Walter, on 17 August. Subsequent entries describe him as a baby. Ella Kirkland, John Pruit, and Uncle Phon are mentioned with some frequency. One loose leaf, found with this volume, has entries dated 22 23 December 1857 and 1 November 1858. They concern a visit from Margaret Otey; William M. Otey's buying land; and items Octavia had given William Kirkland.

Folder 39

6 March 1849-23 April 1849 (with accounts for 26 September and 21 November 1849) #01608, Subseries: "3.1. Antebellum Years, 1849-1858." Folder 39

Folder 40

25 February-22 July 1852 (with accounts for 1850) #01608, Subseries: "3.1. Antebellum Years, 1849-1858." Folder 40

Folder 41

27 November 1852-12 May 1853 (with accounts for 1850) #01608, Subseries: "3.1. Antebellum Years, 1849-1858." Folder 41

Folder 42

20 September-13 October 1853, 22-23 December 1857, 1 November 1858 #01608, Subseries: "3.1. Antebellum Years, 1849-1858." Folder 42

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888.

13 volumes.

After October 1853, Octavia did not keep a regular diary for eleven years. Only a handful of additional entries besides those for December 1857 and Novemer 1858 appear during this hiatus; these are contained in her plantation daybooks and are described in Subseries 4.3. Octavia took up her pen again with some consistency during her husband's long illness and death in 1864; however, large gaps continue to appear in the diary, especially during 1865 and 1866. No entries appear between November 1871 and 4 February 1876.

Between 1864 and 1868, Octavia wrote in a large, 214 page volume (formerly Volume 9), expressing deep grief over her husband's and her brother Will Kirkland's deaths; describing the activities of Northern soldiers and freedmen in the area; complaining of the difficulties of managing the affairs of Green Lawn and of interacting with the freed slaves on her plantation; and documenting the rearing and education of her children. Miscellaneous items appearing in the diary volume are recipes, poems, drafts of letters, and copies of work contracts for 1866 with Maria, Nina, and Anderson, all of whom had formerly been slaves at Green Lawn. Draft letters are to her cousins Robert, James, and Fletch; Will; sister Frances; and Jim Matt, and concern her husband's and Will Kirkland's deaths and miscellaneous family matters. One entry, a recipe for muffins, is dated 1874.

From the spring of 1868 until the spring of 1869, Octavia kept her journal in a 142 page notebook (formerly Volume 11). She frequently appeared depressed and unhappy with her responsibilities in managing Green Lawn. Extensive information appears on her children; her financial and legal affairs; and her relationship with her tenants. She also mentioned her gardening, reading, and the comings and goings of friends and family. Of particular interest in the diary are descriptions, dated 29 November and 6 December 1868 and 19 January and 1 February 1869, of visits to Green Lawn by the Ku Klux Klan. Individuals mentioned regularly in this volume are William Walter, Mollie, and Elliese Otey; Ella and James Burke; and John Pruit, John Ford, and cousin Meck. Octavia made no entries in the diary for the period between August and November 1868. She jotted a handful of entries at the back of the volume for late 1869 and early 1870. Less personal in nature, these entries include notes on her crops and farm affairs; a list of medical symptoms she suffered between October 1869 and January 1870; an undated description of the "Wyche of a hundred years ago"; and a 10 page description of the process of making the parlor ornament known as "The Phantom Bouquet." A list of books she lent to others appears for 27 October 1869.

Octavia's diary for the period from January 1871 to November 1871 (formerly Volume 13) contains 62 pages. She worried constantly about her growing financial woes in these pages. Most entries concern financial arrangements and disputes, debts, and her childrens' education. No entries appear between April and November. Those for November describe Octavia's distress over James Burke's abuse of his wife, Ella, while she lay bedridden.

Octavia did not keep a diary between November 1871 and February 1876. When she resumed writing, she wrote consistently again until October 1884, when she put her pen down for almost four years until June 1888. Her entries for 1888 were her last.

A 96 page volume (formerly Volume 14) contains Octavia's entries for 4 February through 25 October 1876. In this volume, she discussed her desperation over her mounting debts, her children and their prospects, and her business dealings with local merchants and bankers. Individuals of note in the diary are her daughter Mollie's fiance, John Hampton, and a friend of Hampton's, Johnny Russell. Octavia's uneasy feelings about Hampton's character, her intense distrust of Russell, and her fears for her daughter's future are frequently the focus of her writing. She also often expressed the perception that her financial distress was resulting in a drop in her social standing among her friends and neighbors. Miscellaneous items in this volume are eight pages of unidentified poems, which appear at the back of the volume.

Between 16 January and 13 May 1877, Octavia kept a 42 page diary (formerly Volume 15), in which she discussed mostly her debts, her relationship with her workers, and conflicts with her Otey relatives. Entries of interest include one for 27 January, in which she describes her relief over Johnny Russell's and Otey Pruit's departure to take up residence in Mississippi, and another for 7 February, in which she mentions the trial of a black man for burning a white man's barn. Miscellaneous items in this volume include copies of literary passages, lists of items bought, recipes, and a draft letter to Mr. Tinney, concerning money Octavia owed him.

Entries for the period between 19 July 1877 and 4 April 1878 appear in a 132 page volume (formerly Volume 17). During this time Octavia continued to express dismay over her financial difficulties, her unhappiness over increasing family quarrels, and her uneasiness over John Hampton's courtship of Mollie. She also discussed her daily routine on the farm; parties in the neighborhood; local theater productions; and church activities. Entries concern a number of her Robinson, Pruit, and Otey relatives. Miscellaneous items include a few accounts, poems, a list of jewelry, and a passage titled "Receipt for Happiness."

Similar topics dominate Octavia's diary for the next several years. Between 30 April 1878 and 2 November 1879, she wrote in a 176 page volume (formerly Volume 18) about her deepening depression, her conflicts with John Hampton, her mortification over her daughter Imogene's courtship by J. J. McCorkle, a farm hand, and her attempts to raise cash by selling off her Mississippi lands. An entry for 19 May 1878 describes her outrage at John Hampton for his support of Darwin's theories, and an entry for 12 September 1879 mentions a law suit being brought against her for nonpayment of her debts. Other topics in this volume are her daily routine on the farm, local social events, her tenants, and her son William Walter's financial woes. Individuals appearing with some frequency are J. Pruit, Ellen Robinson, and Van Horton. Miscellaneous items include recipes, a list of monies paid out, and passages copied from literary works. One enclosure of note is a lottery ticket bought of the Kentucky Cash Distribution Company.

Forty-six pages of entries appear between 20 December 1879 and 6 February 1880. These entries, contained in the former Volume 19, focus almost entirely on Octavia's debts and her feelings of humiliation over them. Mention of Otey Robinson, who seems to have handled at least some of her business affairs, appears frequently.

Entries for the period between 22 November 1880 and 24 June 1881 are contained in a 102 page volume (formerly Volume 20). They focus heavily on Octavia's debts, her relationship with her tenants, and her daughters' courtships. Of note are an entry for 22 November describing wedding preparations for the daughter of a former slave, Maria, and another for 12 January 1880, in which Octavia complains that local blacks "will not work for white people if they can help it." Other entries discuss the on again, off again engagement of Mollie and John, Octavia's hatred of J. J. McCorkle, and her sending of her son Matt off to school. Miscellaneous items in the volume are a list of monies spent, copies of literary passages, and a list of books lent out on 6 June 1881.

Octavia's entries after 1880 are less frequent, and tend to concern mostly her immediate family. No entries appear between 24 June and 1 September 1881. Thirty nine pages of entries, contained in a paperback notebook (formerly Volume 21) appear between 1 September 1881 and 14 December 1881. Seventy six pages of entries, contained in the former Volume 22, appear for 18 December 1881 through 4 July 1882. The first of these two volumes describes Mollie's marriage to John Hampton, the couple's apparent happiness together, and their move to a farm Hampton owned in Spring Creek (near Courtland), Alabama. Several of Octavia's entries in the second volume were made while she stayed with John and Mollie in Spring Creek. Entries of note appear for 21 January 1882, when Octavia wrote concerning a Dr. Watts's meddling between John and Mollie (Watts was evidently a spurned suitor), and for 18-20 December 1881, when she reflected on the events leading up to John and Mollie's wedding. John Robinson and John Pruit appear frequently in this volume. Miscellaneous undated entries are a list of items purchased and one page of notes on the management of her farm.

Only 32 pages of very sporadic entries appear between 12 July 1882 and 4 October 1884. Topics in this volume (formerly Volume 23) include family illnesses, the birth of Mollie's baby in November 1883, and John Hampton's taking over of Octavia's business affairs for her. The last entry, 4 October 1884, was made at Castlewood, Va., where Octavia was visiting her daughter, Imogene, and son in law, William Fields.

The final volume of the diary (formerly Volume 24) contains only 24 pages, and is dated between 2 June 1888 and 28 October 1888. Octavia wrote concerning her poor health, her new Fields relatives, and her treatment of Imogene's illness. Four undated drafts of letters appear, one to John thanking him for a Christmas present, one to Cousin Amanda concerning sending her some meal, one to "Miss Bessie" concerning a misunderstanding between them, and one to Charles McCalley about her accounts with him. One other item of note is a list of "Questions from Ward" about her financial affairs and her responses.

Folder 43

Diary, 10 September 1864-1 August 1868, 1874 (Volume S-1608/1) #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 43

Available on microlfilm

Folder 44

Enclosures to Diary for 1864-1868, 1874 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 44

Folder 45

Diary, 17 April 1868-29 March 1869, 20 and 31 December 1869-4 January 1870 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 45

Folder 46

Enclosures to Diary for 1868-1870 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 46

Folder 47

Diary, 15 January 1871-4 April 1871, ? November 1871 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 47

Folder 48

Diary, 4 February 1876-25 October 1876 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 48

Folder 49

Enclosures to Diary for 1876 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 49

Folder 50

Diary, 16 January 1877-13 May 1877 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 50

Folder 51

Enclosures to Diary for January-May 1877 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 51

Folder 52

Diary, 19 July 1877 to 4 April 1878 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 52

Folder 53

Enclosures to Diary for 1877-1878 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 53

Folder 54

Diary, 30 April 1878-2 November 1879 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 54

Folder 55

Enclosures to Diary for 1878-1879 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 55

Folder 56

Diary, 20 December 1879-6 February 1880 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 56

Folder 57

Diary, 22 November 1880-24 June 1880 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 57

Folder 58

Enclosures to Diary for 1880-1881 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 58

Folder 59

Diary, 1 September 1881-14 December 1881 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 59

Folder 60

Diary, 18 December 1881-4 July 1882 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 60

Folder 61

Diary, 12 July 1882-4 October 1884 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 61

Folder 62

Diary, 2 June 1888-28 October 1888 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 62

Folder 63

Enclosures to Diary for 1888 #01608, Subseries: "3.2. Civil War and Postwar Years, 1864-1888." Folder 63

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Other Volumes, 1838-1900, 1935-1936.

10 volumes

Arrangement: chronological by type.

Mostly plantation books containing farm accounts, notes on crops and activities, and receipts, for the plantations of William M. and Octavia Otey. One merchant's account book appears for William Otey, and miscellaneous personal volumes relate to their daughter, Imogene, and granddaughter, Mattie W. Walker. Volumes are arranged chronologically by last date appearing in the volume.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.1. Merchant's Account Book, 1838, 1840, 1843.

1 volume.

One hundred and sixteen pages of accounts for groceries, clothing, dry goods, and housewares, sold by William Madison Otey of Meridianville during the years 1838, 1840, and 1843. Besides cash, Otey often accepted other goods (e.g., cattle, cowhides, deerskins, jewelry, and honey) as well as services for payment. Almost all of the accounts appear in 1838, and three quarters of them are with local Chickasaw Indians. A few accounts (about 30) appear for local farmers having Anglo names, but who may have been members of the tribe as well. Among the most frequently recurring surnames are Brown, Colbert, and Sealy. At least one customer, Sally Shochoty, is listed as a Negro; the spelling of her name as Shock.ho.ty at one point suggests that she may have intermarried with the Chickasaws.

Scattered accounts for 1840 and 1843 are mostly with friends, relatives, and business associates in Meridianville and Huntsville, including Otey's brother in law Rodah Horton, John Kirkland, John Robinson, and Pruit & Jones.

Folder 64

Merchant's Account Book #01608, Subseries: "4.1. Merchant's Account Book, 1838, 1840, 1843." Folder 64

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.2. Antebellum Plantation Books, 1857-1858.

2 volumes

Two volumes related to William M. Otey's plantation affairs. The location(s) to which these volumes belong is unclear. The first volume, dated 1857, is a 28 page record kept by Otey of cotton picked by slaves from September through November. Slaves are listed by first name. This volume was originally labelled Volume 27.

The second volume, with entries for the months January to June 1858, contains accounts, probably for Otey's Meridianville plantation. Most of the accounts are with relatives and friends in the area, including Van Horton, Rodah Horton, J. E. Horton, Hugh Otey, H. S. Otey, J. W. Pruit, V. G. Pruit, and John Robinson. This 24 page account book was formerly Volume 6.

Folder 65

Daybook, 1857 #01608, Subseries: "4.2. Antebellum Plantation Books, 1857-1858." Folder 65

Folder 66

Account Book, 1858 #01608, Subseries: "4.2. Antebellum Plantation Books, 1857-1858." Folder 66

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.3. Civil War Plantation Daybooks, 1861-1863 and 1861, 1863-1865.

2 volumes.

Two plantation daybooks, kept by Octavia Otey, with scattered accounts in William Madison Otey's handwriting.

A daybook for the years 1861 to 1863 contains livestock records; lists of clothing and food distributed to slaves; accounts of time lost by her slave, Maria; notes on the progress and treatment of William Madison Otey's illness; and extensive lists of foodstuffs on the plantation. Also mentioned are novels Octavia loaned to others, toys she gave her children, and items stolen from her. Toward the end of the daybook are several diary entries made between February and April 1862 (see pp. 29 31). In these, Octavia discussed feeding and housing Confederate soldiers in the area. Of note is an entry for 11 April, stating that the Yankees had marched into Hunstville. On 12 April, she claimed that her husband and brother in law, Dr. Burke, had been detained in Huntsville by the Northern army. This 34 page volume was formerly Volume 8.

While the title on the cover of a daybook for 1861 and 1863 1865 reads "Col. Wm. M. Otey with White Scruggs R., No. 1, Commercial, 1861," the volume (formerly Volume 7) actually contains only four pages of accounts. These are dated between January and March 1861, and are for books and stationery supplies, dry goods, and clothing. The remaining 44 pages pertain to Octavia Otey, and include notes to herself on finances; legal matters, especially concerning her rights of ownership after William Madison Otey's death in 1865; and plantation business. Entries include lists of things to do and buy, amounts owed, amounts of corn and wheat sent to be milled, and amounts paid out to her house slaves. Octavia also kept a record of her treatment of Otey's illness.

Folder 67

Daybook, 1861-1863 #01608, Subseries: "4.3. Civil War Plantation Daybooks, 1861-1863 and 1861, 1863-1865." Folder 67

Folder 68

Daybook, 1861, 1863-1865 #01608, Subseries: "4.3. Civil War Plantation Daybooks, 1861-1863 and 1861, 1863-1865." Folder 68

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.4. Postwar Plantation Books, 1865-1870.

2 volumes.

A plantation daybook and a receipt book of Octavia Otey in the years just after the Civil War, kept for her Green Lawn plantation.

Entries in the daybook are almost all for the period 1865 1868; only three entries appear for 1870. This 108 page volume (formerly Volume S-10) provides extensive information on Octavia's financial situation, including accounts for clothing and food with local merchants, notes on financial arrangements with black and white farm workers, and lists of amounts owed various individuals. Also appearing are livestock records. In this volume, Octavia spelled out the major means of her family's support, mentioning "The rent of the stores, Working the thrasher. Stock in the railroad. Renting the blacksmith shop, Rent Masonic Lodge." Octavia supplemented real estate rentals, thrasher proceeds, and stock dividends with land rentals to tenant farmers. Frequent notes appear concerning her interactions with workers and tenants. These interactions dominate several diary entries that appear on pages 79 and 81 83. At least one diary entry is for 1870. Other 1870 items in the volume are household accounts.

A 32 page receipt book (formerly Volume 12) appears for 1868 1870. Receipts document payment for goods and services to merchants in Huntsville and Madison County. Receipts are signed by, among others, M. E. Elliot, seamstress; A. J. Bentley, M. C. Muller, L. K. Fletcher, and Darwin & Riley, merchants; Daves & Dyer, blacksmiths; and H. A. McDaniel, dentist. One receipt of note, dated 4 November 1868, verifies Octavia's payment for land belonging to William M. Otey's estate, sold to her by Morris K. Taylor, the estate's administrator.

Folder 69

Daybook, 1865-1868, 1870 #01608, Subseries: "4.4. Postwar Plantation Books, 1865-1870." Folder 69

Folder 70

Receipt Book, 1868-1870 #01608, Subseries: "4.4. Postwar Plantation Books, 1865-1870." Folder 70

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.5. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1877-1900 and 1935-1936.

3 volumes.

Personal notebook and diary of Imogene W. Otey (Mrs. William Fields), and notebook of home remedies collected by Mattie W. Walker.

Imogene Otey's notebook, kept in 1877, contains 22 pages of her thoughts on love, true womanhood and manhood, and the loss of the Confederacy. Miscellaneous items are poems and her New Year's resolutions. Of particular interest are fragments of letters she wrote to an unidentified friend and an unidentified politician, both expressing her deep sense of loss over the Confederacy's failure and her feelings of betrayal over the Compromise of 1877. This volume was originally Volume 16.

Imogene Otey Fields kept a fairly regular diary between February and May 1891, with very occasional entries appearing for the period between 1892 and 1900. The diary discusses the activities of her husband, her servants, and her children. She also mentions farm affairs and gardening. Individuals of note are her aunt, Ellen, John Dickinson, and Matt Burke. This volume, formerly Volume 25, also contains Imogene's accounts for household items and accounts with servants for 1891, 1895, and 1897 1898. Most are for 1895.

Mattie Walker, of Luray, Virginia, kept a notebook of home remedies for human and livestock ailments in 1935. Entries include cures for chest colds, constipation, swelling, and colic in horses. Other items are lists of furniture and jewelry taken from Green Lawn, a recipe for Elder Blossom Wine, and an account, dated 2 August 1936, of Mattie Walker's expenditures. This 25 page volume was formerly Volume 26.

Folder 71

Personal Notebook, Imogene Otey, 1877 #01608, Subseries: "4.5. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1877-1900 and 1935-1936." Folder 71

Folder 72

Diary, Imogene Otey Fields, 1891-1900 #01608, Subseries: "4.5. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1877-1900 and 1935-1936." Folder 72

Folder 73

Notebook of Remedies, Mattie W. Walker, 1935-1936 #01608, Subseries: "4.5. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1877-1900 and 1935-1936." Folder 73

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. Miscellaneous Items, 1830-1870 and undated.

46 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Poems, certificates, grade reports, and miscellaneous items relating to the Wyche and Otey families. Eleven handwritten poems appear; most are unidentified and undated. Two poems address the topic of death. Samuel L. Robertson wrote "Lines on the Death of W. W. Kirkland," for Octavia Otey in 1866, and an unidentified man penned "Silence, Absence, Death," "in memory of Mrs. Mattie Pruit and her sweet little innocent," who appear to have been his wife and child. Other poems include "Mother," by H. C. Wyche; "To My Husband," probably by Octavia Otey; and an untitled poem written in 1857 by Octavia Otey. Part of this poem is written on the back of a brief note concerning pledges to build a church in Meridianville (the actual pledge sheet is not attached).

Grade reports appear for Octavia Wyche from P. J. Eckles in 1841; for William Walter Otey in 1870 at Huntsville Grammar School; and for Mollie R. Otey in 1870 at Huntsville Female Seminary.

Two certificates, dated 1830 and 1832, document W. H. Wyche's membership in the Lexington Medical Society at the University of Transylvania in Lexington, Ky. His diploma shows that he graduated from the University in 1832. One other item that probably belonged to Wyche is a cloth sash, bearing the name "Hippocrates" and the Greek letters for Kappa Lambda.

Of particular interest among the remaining items are an undated speech, probably by Imogene Otey (see similar material in her notebook in Subseries 4.5), concerning the civilizing influence of woman over man, and a handwritten transcription of an untitled song, having the first line, "I once did love a yallow gal, I tell you her name, she come from old Virginia once, They call her Mary Blanc." Other items are an 1849 clipping on "Blind Tom," a slave who was considered an idiot but who had a great memory for sounds; a recipe for "Mrs. Scrugg's Ladycake"; a cure for inverterate cancer; a phosphate of soda prescription; an historical note on the parlor ornament known as "The Phantom Bouquet"; a printed play by T. W. Robertson entitled Not A Bit Jealous; and several invitations and calling cards.

Folder 74

Miscellaneous Items #01608, Series: "5. Miscellaneous Items, 1830-1870 and undated." Folder 74

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 6. Pictures, undated.

2 items.

Two photographs related to construction by N. & W. Railroad sometime between 1880 and 1920.

Image P-1608/1

Surveyors #01608, Series: "6. Pictures, undated." P-1608/1

Cyanotype of four surveyors standing with their dogs and equipment outside a clapboard building, labelled "10th Residency." The men are identified as Walker, Butler, Vawter, and Counts. "Office of 10th Residency - C. V. Div. N. & W. R. R." is written on the back of the photograph.

Image P-1608/2

East Portal Kiser tunnel #01608, Series: "6. Pictures, undated." P-1608/2

Cyanotype labelled "East Portal Kiser Tunnel C. V. Div. N. and W. R. R."

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill Snider and Suzanne Ruffing, 1991 and 1996

Encoded by: Margaret Dickson, February 2006

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.

Additional support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust in 1996.

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