Creator: Hayes Plantation (Edenton, N.C.).
Collection number: 324
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Abstract: Johnston family of Edenton, N.C., including Gabriel Johnston (1699-1752), colonial governor; his brother, Samuel Johnston, Sr., merchant; Samuel Johnston, Jr. (1733-1816), lawyer, member of the Continental Congress, governor, Federalist, and United States senator; and James Cathcart Johnston (1782-1865), planter. Personal, legal, and business papers of three generations of the Johnston family of Edenton, N.C., reflecting more than a century of North Carolina and national history. Included are the papers of Gabriel Johnston; his brother, Samuel Johnston, Sr.; Samuel Johnston , Jr.; and James Cathcart Johnston. Topics include politics and plantation and family affairs. Among the correspondents are many prominent men, especially North Carolinians, of the colonial, revolutionary, Federalist and Civil War periods. The volumes include merchants’ ledgers, plantation account books, diaries, memoranda, and the records, 1842-1874, of the Greenfield Fisheries at Edenton, N.C., run by Edward Wood. Wood was a close friend of James C. Johnston and inherited the Hayes Plantation from him.
Repository: Southern Historical Collection
Collection Highlights: Subseries 1.1.2, the Johnston series, includes numerous letters with references to slaves and free blacks (1740-1865). In 1772, Penelope Johnston Dawson wrote her cousin Samuel Johnston several letters criticizing an overseer’s ill treatment of slaves and asked Johnston to intercede. Also, beginning in the early 1780s there are annual statements of taxable property for Johnston’s land holdings, which often include lists of enslaved men and women. (See particularly Oversize Paper Folder OPF-324/2).
Financial materials in Subseries 1.1.3 include bills of sale and receipts for medical treatment. Materials also document the health and discipline of slaves and give some insights into slave life. Johnston’s slaves, for example, were allowed to raise and sell crops from their own garden plots and some were entrusted with positions of leadership and left with little or no supervision while Johnston was on vacation or trips to his other plantations. Records also document the provision of shoes, hats, blankets, and medical care. There are also some letters and bills concerning run away slaves that were caught and held in local jails. Included in this series is correspondence from Peter, an enslaved man who served as an overseer’s assistant on the plantation.
Civil War correspondence in this subseries (Folder 1.659-689) includes letters from Johnston’s various plantations, discussing runaway slaves and slaves’ unwillingness to work. Later correspondence mentions the drafting of slaves to fight in the Confederate States Army. Johnston’s letters to Henry Futrell and C. W. Hollowell give his opinions on slavery and the war.
In Subseries 2, the Wood series, there is correspondence (1865-1875) about African Americans during Reconstruction, as well as the transition for a slavery-based economy after the war. An “Appeal to the North,” dated 8 December 1862, discusses the economy of free labor, defends the institution of slavery, and calls for an end to the war. Materials also document slave activities during this period and include a 22 April 1862 order to intercept and capture a group of runaway slaves and a 23 April 1862 letter warning Wood to “watch his boats” since other boats in the area had been used to assist slaves to escape (Folder 2.39)
Volume 8 (J) in Subseries 3.1. contains brief notes on slaves belonging to William Cathcart (Folder 3.73).
Volume 16 (J) includes drafts of letters to William’s son Gabriel on the management of slaves.
Volume 26 (J) includes an account of slaves hired out in 1768 (Folder 3.91).
Volume 30 (J) includes memorandum of enslaved labor in tobacco picking in 1770, as well as a distribution of blankets for slaves (Folder 3.95).
Volume 35 and 36 (J) contains slave lists (Folder 3.100 and 101).