Peter Wilson Hairston papers, 1773-1965; 1986.

Creator: Hairston, Peter Wilson, 1819-1886.
Collection number: 299
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Abstract: Peter Wilson Hairston (1819-1886), tobacco planter of southwestern Virginia and north central North Carolina, Confederate soldier, and commission merchant. Other prominent family members include Peter Wilson Hairston’s great- grandfather, Major Peter Hairston (1752-1832); his grandmother, Ruth Stovall Hairston (1784-1869); his stepgrandfather, Robert Hairston (1782-1852); and his second wife, Frances McCoy Caldwell Hairston (1835-1907). Through his first wife, Columbia Stuart Hairston (d. ca. 1858), Hairston was also related to Jeb Stuart (1833-1864), under whom he served in the Civil War. Correspondence, financial and legal papers, plantation ledgers, travel diaries, and miscellaneous items documenting the business and personal affairs of the Hairston family. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence of Peter W. Hairston and financial and legal papers of Major Peter Hairston. Letters and business items also appear for Robert and Ruth Hairston. Only limited information appears on Major Hairston’s personal or family life, and no information is available on his Revolutionary War experiences. The papers of Peter W. Hairston provide mostly financial data on his plantations, but there are also letters relating to the courtship of his second wife and to family life in general. Little information appears, however, on his postwar commission firm. Plantations documented include Sauratown Hill in Stokes County, and Cooleemee Hill in Davie County, N.C., and other plantations in Surry and Davidson counties, N.C.; Henry and Patrick counties, Va.; and in Columbus, Miss. The papers provide particularly rich opportunities for research on slaves. One volume contains accounts, 1815-1836, with a midwife who chiefly attended slave births. Peter Wilson Hairston’s Civil War experiences, including his service, chiefly in Virginia, as aid to Jeb Stuart with the 1st Virginia Cavalry and to Jubal A. Early, are documented in his correspondence and his Civil War diary. There are also volumes documenting European travel in the 1840s and 1850s, life in Chapel Hill around the same period, documents relating to the work of freedmen and tenant farmers, clippings genealogical materials relating to Hairston family members, and other papers.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Papers include letters that discuss the buying and selling of North Carolina slaves (1787-1828); the health of slaves on Virginia plantations (1833-1834, 1837-1840); slave unrest in Virginia (1861-1863); and a tribute written by an African-American minister to Fanny Hairston upon her death (1937). The collection also contains slave bills of sale (1815, 1821- 1826); lists of tobacco and corn picked by slaves in North Carolina (1842-1861); a letter to the Charlotte Observer from an African-American preacher expressing his views on servant-employee relations, organized labor, and the training of domestic workers (1930s); a typed copy of an oral interview of William T. Hairston, great-grandson of Hairston slaves (1865); slave registers and births (1815-1836; 1833-1850; 1850-1868; 1844-1864); copies of letters and legal documents concerning court battles over Robert Hairston’s estate, which he attempted to leave to a slave child he fathered (1844-1864); and ledgers kept by plantation managers with freedmen (1866-1883).