New from Old Natchez - the Collections

Robert H. Stewart Family Account Books, 1822-1826, 1858-1891
Addition of 6 manuscript volumes

Robert Stewart and his son, Robert H. Stewart, were morticians and furniture dealers of Natchez. Robert Stewart (the elder) was married to Susan Marschalk, the daughter of Andrew Marschalk, a prominent, early 19th-century editor and printer of Natchez. The younger Stewart owned Elder Grove Plantation at Bunch's Bend, Carroll Parish, Louisiana.

The accretion includes cashbooks, which record daily sales and accounts payable; and ledgers, which document sales of caskets, list charges for grave-digging and hearse services, and give the names of the deceased and the customer. Of note are entries during the yellow fever epidemic of 1825 and the Civil War.

Previously held volumes list expenses such as rent, wages, freight, and funeral equipment; amounts received for merchandise; and cost of funerals for both whites and blacks including caskets, digging of graves, and charges for hearse use and special equipment. Robert Stewart's ledgers contain accounts for making and repairing furniture; for the management of the estate of Andrew Marschalk, 1834-1851; and accounts with journeymen, 1834-1857.

A plantation diary gives information for 1857-1858, and a cotton record book for Elder Grove Plantation covers 1859-1866. A memorandum book, 1884-1895, contains entries about the organizing of an association of funeral directors of Mississippi. Personal and household expenses of W.L. Stewart are recorded in a cashbook, 1887-1904, and two daybooks, 1859-1861 document activities of William H. Stewart, a furniture dealer of New Orleans. Other documents list the names of members of African-American benevolent societies; and expenses for the City of Natchez, including teachers salaries and building repairs, 1855-1856.

Notes from the images:

1. Pages from a mortuary ledger for September 18 to October 9, 1825 show an increase in the number of deaths and funerals from previous pages. This rise can be attributed to the yellow fever epidemic of 1825. Yellow fever hit the town almost yearly during the late summer and early fall months, reaching epidemic proportions in 1823, 1826, 1837, 1839, and 1853 (James, p. 267). According to the Natchez Ariel, September 29, 1825, reports of “Yellow Jack” at the landing in 1825 resulted in an almost complete exodus, and weeds grew ten feet high on the town's main streets.
Images: 1.1-1.2-1.3-1.4

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