William Ruffin Smith papers, 1772-1959.

Creator: Smith, William Ruffin, 1803-1872.
Collection number: 678
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Abstract: William Ruffin Smith lived in Halifax County, N.C. His father was William Ruffin Smith (1779-1846); his father-in-law, Peter Evans (1781-1852); and his granddaughter, Lena Smith. The collection is chiefly business papers pertaining to debts and estates, especially the estate of Charles Shields, which included a plantation in Lowndes County, Miss., that was managed by William Ruffin Smith through an overseer. Account books deal with miscellaneous accounts of members of the Smith family relating to their property and various estate settlements. There are also estate materials relating to the Spruill and other families with which the Ruffins were connected. There are also materials relating to William Ruffin Smith’s business affairs, including a list of birthdates of his slaves from 1775 to 1849, and the accounts of Vine Hill Academy, for which Smith served as treasurer. Also included are newspaper articles written by Lena Smith about Halifax County and family history; items about the construction and destruction of the Confederate ironclad ship “Albemarle”; an 1868 marriage certificate for two freedmen; and two brief essays by Claiborne Smith (1893- ), one about freedmen and the other about his grandmother, Adelaide Maria Evans Smith (1819-1909), who lived in Halifax County.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: The collection contains a list of slave dates of birth from1775-1849 (Folder 11); a certificate of marriage for free blacks Richard Smith and Tracey Laurence in1868 (Folder 4); and an undated brief essay by Claiborne Smith entitled “The Post Emancipation Negro” (Folder 6).

The correspondence also contain mentions of enslaved individuals. A note dated 30 December 1838, from James Ellum to Benjamin J. Spruill, concerning the hiring of a slave for extra work. In a letter, dated 22 December 1839, Peter Evans wrote to William Ruffin Smith at Scotland Neck, N. C., about the estate of Margaret S. Spruill and other topics. He also wrote: “My family & self are all well, except a negro man badly bitten by a Dog of one of the neighbors.” There is also In a letter, dated 6 February 1840, from  James Gordon to William Ruffin Smith  about his temporary inability to pay a debt he owed Smith, and his willingness, if absolutely necessary, to sell his slaves in order to pay off the debt. (Folder 1).