Mar 24, 2022 - Sale 2598

Sale 2598 - Lot 17

Price Realized: $ 4,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
(SLAVERY & ABOLITION.) Memorandum book tracking many dozens of enslaved people at a Mississippi plantation. 23 manuscript pages. 4to, original 1/4 calf, worn with front board and first leaf detached, with original title on front board "Memorandum Book for Estate of Wm. R. Smith, 1825"; minor wear and foxing to contents. [Near Natchez, MS], 1824-1838

Additional Details

This volume was kept by an unknown manager for the estates of William Rufus Smith (1796-1824) and his father Philander Smith (1765-1824) near Natchez, Mississippi. Green Horse Plantation and Mantua Plantation are named, but they may have held additional properties. The volume is divided into two basic sections. First is a memorandum book in diary form which runs from 22 November 1824 to April 1828, pages 1-8. This is followed by lists of the enslaved people on the estate, begun in 1824 and updated through 1837, on pages 13-17 and 23-32.

The diary portion begins: "Took charge of the plantation belonging to the estate of Wm. R. Smith & Phil'r Smith dec'd. Not pleased with the overseer Mr. Day" (22 November 1824). Day was quickly replaced, and on 15 December, 97 bales of cotton were hauled into town for transport to New Orleans. In 1825 the manager transcribed an old list of 25 enslaved people and their values from 1822, and settled the values of 10 named enslaved people for the estate. In 1826 he notes "gin ready to run 1st September, built by Ashford." His final narrative entry was in 1828: "Girl named Polly purch'd . . . had a child 20th April."

The later entries record the enslaved population more systematically--and, unusually for the time, they are arranged by family. The record was drafted in 1825, and updated regularly. One family started with just Spencer aged 37, Big Harriet aged 27, and Amos aged 5. Over the years from 1826 to 1832, 4 more children were added to the family, with their birthdates, with one dying as an infant. Several marriages and re-marriages are recorded. A woman named Fanny aged 55 is listed as "died May 1827, fell in the fire in a fit." Several others were purchased on behalf of Smith's minor children and added to the estate in 1828, and the volume concludes with an 8-page "list of Negroes on Mantua Plantation, 1834, belonging to the heirs of W.R. Smith dec'd as divided March 31st 1834." This final list is updated through a girl born in 1838. More than 200 enslaved people are listed in this section in total, although some of them may be duplicated. At the very least, it is an extremely valuable genealogical resource.