George W. Burwell papers, 1786, 1800-1884.

Creator: Burwell, George W., d. 1873.
Collection number: 4291
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Abstract: George W. Burwell was a physician, planter, and businessman of Mecklenburg County, Va. He had family and business connections to Henderson, Granville County, N.C., and other locations along the North Carolina-Virginia border, largely through his brothers H. H., Louis, William, and Armistead R., and the family of his wife Elizabeth Gayle Burwell, particulary her parents Thomas Gayle (d. 1855?) and Elizabeth Gayle (d. 1868?). Correspondence, 1849-1883; financial and legal materials, 1786 and 1800-1884; and other papers relating to the Burwells, Gayles, and members of related families. Business letters chiefly document lending money and collecting debts, purchasing and selling land, managing tobacco plantations, and selling tobacco and other crops through commission merchants in Richmond and Petersburg, Va. Some letters document plantation life, including buying and selling slaves, work performed by slaves and others, and hiring out of slaves.Scattered throughout is a small number of family letters, chiefly dealing with health and other routine matters. During the Civil War, there are a few letters relating to slaves forced from their homes by Union soldiers during a raid and a letter probably dictated by a slave who was sent to work at a Confederate camp near Richmond. Financial and legal materials include agricultural records–overseers’ accounts, slave bills of sale, contracts with freedmen and other laborers, and household bills and accounts.Other financial and legal items relate to money lending and debt collection. Also included are deeds, wills, and papers relating to the estates of Thomas and Elizabeth Gayle and of John S. and Frances Gregory. There are also a few printed advertisements and related items, 1860s- 1870s; documents relating to Burwell’s exemption from conscription during the Civil War; and a few medical notes and accounts.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Several letters in series 1 discuss buying, selling, and hiring slaves. There is a 8 January 1852 letter from brothers H. H. Burwell and Armistead R. Burwell to George about hiring out a slave in Raleigh, N.C. ┬áDuring the Civil War, there’s a 10 May 1864 letter from James Burwell, apparently one of George’s slaves, from a camp near Richmond, Va. The letter, probably dictated by James has two parts: the first part is addressed to “Mr. Master” and requests food and other supplies; the second part is addressed to James’s wife Mary and sends his love and respect.