Wilson and Hairston family papers, 1751-1928.

Creator: Wilson and Hairston family papers, 1751-1928.
Collection number: 4134
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Abstract: Members of the Wilson and Hairston families were planters and merchants of Henry and Pittsylvania counties, Va., and Davie, Rockingham, and Stokes counties, N.C. Peter Hairston (1752-1832), of Pittsylvania, later Henry County, Va., was a merchant of Stokes and Rockingham counties, N.C., and owner of several plantations, including Royal Oak, Sauratown Hill, and Cooleemee Hill. His son-in-law, Peter Wilson (1770-1813), husband of Ruth Stoval Hairston (1783-1852), was a planter of Berry Hill, Brierfield, and Goose Pond, all in Pittsylvania County, Va., and partner in his father-in-law’s mercantile business. Ruth Stoval (Hairston) Wilson married second Robert Hairston (1783-1852), of Leatherwood Plantation in Henry County and who, circa 1837, moved to Mississippi to manage his properties there, leaving Ruth in Virginia. Robert’s brother, Samuel Hairston (1788-1875), of Oak Hill Plantation, Pittsylvania County, was one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, owning plantations there and in North Carolina and approximately 1700 slaves. His eldest son, Peter Wilson Hairston (1819-1886), lived his adult life at Cooleemee Hill in Davie County, N.C. Peter Wilson Hairston’s niece, Ruth Hairston (1863-1936) married Alfred Varley Sims (1864-1944), civil engineer who worked for several railroads, taught engineering, and worked for the Knickerbocker Trust Company as general manager and chief engineer of the Cuba Eastern Railroad Company based in Guantanamo, Cuba, 1905-1908. Business correspondence, financial and legal papers and scattered personal correspondence of six generations of the Wilson and Hairston families. Among the activities represented are the sale of tobacco through Virginia commission merchants; the service of Peter Hairston (1752-1832) as a deputy sheriff in Henry County, Va., mainly 1751-1788; the manumission of six Hairston slaves in 1832 through the American Colonization Society; purchase of supplies for plantation and household use; and activities of the Sandy Creek, Mayo, County Line, and Staunton River Baptist associations, 1833-1868. Civil War materials are few and consist of scattered family letters and some receipts for foodstuffs sold to the Confederate Army. Throughout the collection there is material concerning the management of the various family plantations. Approximately one-fourth of the collection consists of the personal and professional correspondence of Alfred Varley Sims as a professor at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), 1895-1904, and as a civil engineer, and includes materials related to his time in Cuba, 1905-1908, and to his connections with various southern and Cuban railroads and other businesses in Cuba and elsewhere.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: The papers include bills of sale for an enslaved individual between 1751-1788 (Folders 1b-8); receipts for hiring out enslaved persons between 1789-1813 (Folders 8-75); jailors’ bills for keeping runaway enslaved persons; and doctors’ bills for attending enslaved people between 1814-1832 (Folders 76-128).

The collection also contains five letters  from 1832 about the American Colonization Society and the manumission of six formerly enslaved people who were sent to Liberia ; lists of clothing for slaves; work agreements with former slaves between 1833-1860; slave lists; an order to return a enslaved individual (1780- 1799).

There are letters discussing the legality of a will designating a “young mulatto child” sole heir to an estate and discussing arrangements for moving slaves from one plantation to another  between 1830-1860, and a letter written by a white man describing a fight with a African American man in 1892.

Several volumes (Volume 63 in Folder 458;  Volume 103 in Folder 508; con’t) contain information on the sale and purchase of enslaved individuals, as well as slaves lists  and lists of clothes and other items given out to slaves. A memorandum book also mentions runaway slaves  in 1800 (Volume 83 in Folder 479).

Volume 169 in Folder 58 also contains an accounting of money or goods paid to formerly enslaved individuals.