George W. Robertson Papers, 1837-1908

Creator name:
Collection number: 5516
View finding aid. 

Abstract: George W. Robertson (fl. 1807-1855) of Caswell County, N.C., was a physician who also operated a tobacco warehouse and bought and sold slaves. He married Sarah Allen (1803-1871) and together they had eight children, including Willie P.M. Robertson, who enlisted with the Yanceyville Greys, Company A, 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and died at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill in Virginia. The collection documents the slave and tobacco dealings of George W. Robertson and his business partners in Yanceyville, Caswell County, N.C., as well as the Civil War and Reconstruction experiences of other Robertson family members and friends. Financial papers consist of records with the names, ages, and prices of enslaved people purchased and sold by Robertson and his partners. The slave and tobacco ledger chiefly contains a record of purchase and sale of tobacco, but there are also numerous references to buying and selling slaves in North Carolina and Virginia and evidence of three separate trips to Alabama to sell slaves. Letters describe two of the slave sales trips; anticipation of the Civil War; courtship; the Yanceyville homefront during the war; the concerns of Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway, a newlywed bride in Clinton, Miss., in 1860 and later in the aftermath of the fall of Vicksburg when her slaves departed and Union soldiers encamped on her land; and Mary Royal Robertson Alexander’s everyday concerns in 1870, including her fear of and frustration with African Americans. Other materials include clippings of recipes, housekeeping advice, and home remedies for illnesses and pests; a tintype of Willie P.M. Robertson in Confederate Army uniform; and several copies of the Bible and other volumes, some with marginal notes recording births, deaths, marriages, and thoughts of their owners. There is also a file of background information on curing yellow or bright leaf tobacco; family history; Willie P.M. Robertson’s death and the Battle of Gaines’ Mill; and transcriptions from the slave and tobacco ledger and of the marginal notes in Sallie Robertson’s Bible.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: This collection contains numerous materials related to Robertson’s slave trading and tobacco enterprises. Of particular interest in Folder 1 in background information on the process of curing yellow leaf tobacco, discovered by an enslaved man named Stephen. Folder 3 contains bills of sale for enslaved men and women (which are noted in the ledger in Folder 4), as well as list of 45 free people of color in 1865 with notations about their health.

Correspondence in Folder 5 contains letters from Eliza Baldwin Skidmore Carraway to Eliza Ann Robertson describing the aftermath of the fall of Vicksburg when her slaves departed and Union soldiers encamped on her land, and from Mary Royal Robertson Alexander to her mother Sarah Allen Robertson, about everyday concerns, as well as her fear of and frustration with African Americans (1870).