Natchez-Area Manuscript Collections

The Mississippi River is one of the predominant geographical features of the United States. It simultaneously divides and links the country, demarcating the east from the west while serving as the artery of communication through which has passed the enterprise and the soul of the nation. The Mississippi River has defined the contours of the lands it drains and given shape to the culture, the economy, and the politics of the communities that draw sustenance from it.

For this reason, when LSU history professor Edwin Adams Davis began in 1935 systematically to collect the papers of the families that settled and prospered in the region and the records of the plantations and businesses they built and maintained, he gave no thought to distinguishing among those who were divided by the almost artificial political boundaries of the states. His interest was in documenting and preserving the rich history and culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Over the years, the department he founded at LSU has developed into one of the premier repositories for such materials in the nation.

In 1985, Louisiana State University renovated the original library building on its Baton Rouge campus specifically to house its growing collections of manuscripts and rare books. The Department of Archives and Manuscripts was renamed the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections (LLMVC), highlighting the scope of its mission to collect and preserve. It was combined administratively with the collection of printed materials related to the history and culture of the region, creating an integrated center for research.

Preserved in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections at LSU are more than 5,000 manuscript groups, totaling 25,000 linear feet in extent. The collections include the papers of individuals and families; the records of plantations, merchants, and financial institutions; and the records of political, social, and labor organizations. The most important of these collections relate specifically to the families and enterprises in the Lower Mississippi Valley, from Memphis to New Orleans, and are especially strong in the Natchez, St. Francisville, and Baton Rouge areas. This guide concentrates on collections relating to Natchez and Adams County, Mississippi, as well as to the four Mississippi counties surrounding Adams County: Amite, Franklin, Jefferson, and Wilkinson. All were part of the original Natchez District of the Spanish period, and together they form the southwestern corner of the state, bordering Louisiana on two sides of a triangular geographical area.

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United States. Army. African American enlistment registrations, 1863 October-December. 3 items. Location: E:74. Three official enlistment agreements completed at Fort Smith, Arkansas, for Joel Stout of Marshall County, Miss., Amos Phillips of Yazoo, Miss., and Harrison Herreld of Liberty, Amite County, Miss. Part of the United States Army Collection. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3682.

Ventress Brothers account books, 1900-1901. 2 ms. Vols. Location: J:12. Residents of Woodville, Wilkinson County, Mississippi. James Alexander Ventress married Sallie Mathews of Greenwood plantation, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, where these account books were found.. Ledgers contain accounts for Caledonia, Lake Home, and Longwood plantations of Pointe Coupee Parish. The flyleaves of both volumes bear the inscription "Ventress Brothers, Pointe Coupee Property, Ventress and Fordeche Post Office, "Caledonia," "Lake Home," "Longwood," Interior of Island, etc., Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana." Mss. 910.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, Business, Natchez, Mississippi

Vidal, Joseph. Family Papers, 1797-1936 (bulk 1797-1869). 1.4 linear ft. (666 items, 3 ms. Vols.). Location: A:68-69, Vault. Vidal was secretary to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Spanish Governor of the Natchez District (1792-1997). Samuel Davis, Vidal's son-in-law, and Francis Surget were planters and land speculators in Louisiana. Collection consists of Vidal's legal documents related to land grants and conveyances in Louisiana, Davis' land speculation documents, and Surget's papers related to his estate. Available on microfilm 5322: University Publications of America Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations Series I, Part 3, Reels 11-12. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 432.

Referenced in Guides: Natchez, Mississippi

Viener, R. and Company. Account books, 1880-1936 (bulk 1893-1930). 27 linear ft. (494 m.s.volumes and 9 printed volumes). Location: K:1-33. R. Viener and Company was a wholesale grocery, feed, flour, and paper firm of Natchez, Mississippi. Viener was the treasurer of the B'nai Israel Congregation of Natchez. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 518.

Waddill, George D. (George Daniel). Papers, 1841-1892 (bulk 1861-1865). 21 items. Location: Misc:W. Confederate soldier in the Civil War and Baton Rouge druggist. Waddill served in the 3rd Louisiana Infantry Regiment. In 1863 he was appointed as a hospital steward. Civil War papers include military furlough and travel passes; Confederate bonds; military orders assigning Waddill to hospitals in Mississippi; an 1865 document granting parole to G. D. Waddill; and Waddill's 1865 Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Collection includes a letter from L. B. LeCand written from Corinth, Mississippi, to Joanna Fox of Natchez giving an account of the Battle of Shiloh. Available on microfilm 5735: University Publications of America Confederate Military Manuscripts Series B, Reel 3. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 891, 893.

Wade, B. Account sheet, 1870. 1 item. Location: Misc.:W. Merchant of Natchez, Miss. Statement showing account of T. C. Reddy of Cottage Grove Plantation with B. Wade. For more information, see online catalog. Mss. 896.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, Business, Natchez, Mississippi

Wade, B. Account sheet, 1870. 1 item. Location: Misc.:W. Merchant of Natchez, Mississippi. Statement of account from Wade for T. C. Reddy, Cottage Grove Plantation. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 896.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, Business, Natchez, Mississippi

Wailes, Benjamin L. C. (Benjamin Leonard Covington). Bill, April 3, 1843. 1 item. Location: MISC:W. Scientist and planter of Adams County, Mississippi. Bill from Wiley and Putnam, New York, addressed to B. L. C. Wailes, giving titles and subscription prices of periodicals and journals being sent to the library of Jefferson College, Washington, Mississippi. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2114.

Referenced in Guides: Education, Natchez, Mississippi

Wailes, Benjamin L. C. (Benjamin Leonard Covington). Notebook, 1849. 1 vol. Location: M:20. Scientist and planter, chiefly remembered for his interest in soil, rocks, fossils, plants and animal life. Wailes assisted in building collections at Jefferson College, the University of Mississippi, and the Mississippi state capital. List of minerals in the cabinet of Benjamin Wailes. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 186.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, Natchez, Mississippi

Walker, Zachariah. Papers, 1805-1859. 177 items. Location: C:18. Resident of Woodville, Wilkinson County, Mississippi. Personal papers include correspondence, accounts, and legal documents. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 275.

Referenced in Guides: Natchez, Mississippi

Wall, Evans. Papers, 1924-1990 (bulk 1927-1963). 12 linear ft. Location: 91:30-35. Louisiana author, resident of Baton Rouge, and native of Woodville, Wilkinson County, Mississippi. Papers include correspondence, legal documents, printed items, typescripts, and manuscript drafts of Wall's literary works. Other papers include personal correspondence and photographic prints, negatives, and tintypes. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4411.

Wall-Pettibone Family Papers, 1795-1889. 15 items. Location: A:122. John Wall, an early settler in the Spanish district of Natchez, received land granted by the Spanish in 1795. This land became Richland Plantation in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, later owned by Chauncey Pettibone. The papers document the land ownership of the Wall and Pettibone families. Included is the marriage license of Evans S. Wall and Mary L. Pettibone. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3344.

Referenced in Guides: Spanish, Plantations, Natchez, Mississippi

Wallace, James Burns, 1813-1836. Diary, 1835-1836. 1 bound vol. Location: H:23, Misc.:W. Native of Canaan, New Hampshire, printer, and merchant. Diary of travels by horseback through northwest Louisiana, then by steamboat down the Red River to New Orleans. Wallace's diary then recounts his travel homeward by Mississippi River steamer, via Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi; Louisville, Kentucky; and Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. Typewritten transcription of the text is available. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3476.

Walworth, Douglas. Family Papers, 1806-1881 (bulk 1850- 1881). 189 items; 10 ms. vols. Location: U:234. 99:W, Misc.: W, O:21. Planter, attorney and Confederate Army captain from Natchez, Mississippi. Alexander Gordon was a Scottish immigrant to New Orleans, Louisiana. Correspondence includes letters from Walworth's parents while he was at Harvard University. His diaries describe his childhood, study and student life, and Confederate military experiences. Civil War papers concern Confederate military administration. Gordon family papers include documents on the estates of James Gordon and his wife, family correspondence, the American naturalization certificate of Alexander Gordon, and Alexander's diary. Available (with some omissions) on microfilm 5735: University Publications of America Confederate Military Manuscripts Series B, Reels 20-21. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2471, 2499.

Ware, Eleanor Percy and Catharine Ann Warfield papers, 1835-1876 (bulk 1835-1849). 19 items, 8 volumes. Location: E:51, H:16. Eleanor Percy Lee (nee Ware), poet and novelist of Natchez, Mississippi. Her sister, father, and daughter were also authors. Writings and correspondence of Eleanor Lee include six manuscript volumes of novels, prose, and poems. Collection also includes loose poems, family photographs, and sheet music. Available on microfilm 5750: University Publications of America Southern Women and Their Families in the 19th Century: Papers and Diaries Series E, Reels 31-32. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1416, 1576, 1971.

West, William Hansberry. Document, circa 1945-1955..1 item [photostat]. Location: Misc.:W. Notarized document signed by William Hansberry West's daughter, Lydia Ann West, aged 83. In it she testifies that her father was the pilot of the steamboat Robert E. Lee during its much-publicized race with the steamboat Natchez from St. Louis, Mo., to New Orleans, La., in 1870. The document includes a photograph of a medal presented in 1871 in New Orleans, La., to West by "Daily" Roper (possibly Daniel J. Roper, a steamboat mate) in honor of his service as pilot of the steamer. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1615.

Wilkerson, Helen C. Papers, 1920-1958. 706 items. Location: X:92-93, OS:W. Assistant dean of women at LSU. Papers contain professional papers and correspondence related to Wilkerson's tenure as dean. Material also reflects her involvement in Baton Rouge women's organizations, balls, and festivals. Also included is a program for 75th annual commencement of the Natchez Institute in Natchez, Mississippi (1920); addresses delivered by Charles W. Pipkin (1931-1936); and an address entitled "The strange case of Louisiana and Huey P. Long," presented by Harry Gamble of New Orleans to the Louisiana Legislature. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1606.

Wilkinson County account book, 1875-1876. 1 vol. Location: J:7. Cashbook of the tax collector and sherriff of Woodville, Wilkinson County, Miss., records names of taxpayers and payments of taxes. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 527.

Referenced in Guides: Natchez, Mississippi

Wilkinson County (Miss.) circular, circa 1860. 2 items. Location: E:Imprints. Printed circular consisting of editorials by anonymous persons advocating a convention of Southern states and opposing Dr. Alfred C. Holt, candidate from Wilkinson County to the Mississippi Secession Convention. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 893.

Referenced in Guides: Natchez, Mississippi

Wilkinson, Micajah. Papers, 1853-1935 (bulk 1855-1880). .3 linear ft. (116 items, 33 printed vols.). Location: E:39. Farmer of Liberty, Amite County, Mississippi. Personal correspondence of Wilkinson and his wife. Letters from Nancy Willard and her granddaughter provide information about religion, the temperance movement, agriculture, race relations, and community events in Collinsburg, Bossier Parish, Louisiana. Civil War correspondence describes camp life in Mississippi, Confederate conscription, the battle at Shiloh, hardships on women, and the siege of Vicksburg. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 707.

William Death Voucher, 1865 June 19. Location: W. A voucher issued for wages paid to William Death, the cook of the Natchez, Miss., prison. A. S. Mitchell signed the voucher. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 5056.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, Natchez, Mississippi

Witherell, W. Frank. Papers, 1839-1958 (bulk 1860-1889). 6 linear ft. Location W:129-135, F:19, OS:W. Native of New York, West Point graduate, businessman and entrepreneur, in business with his uncle, W. H. H. Witherell, a New Orleans commission merchant and dealer. Correspondence related to the wholesale trade in hides and mining ventures in the West comprises the majority of this collection. Early papers relate to W. H. H. Witherell's dealings in Natchez and offer insight into the attitudes of West Point cadets towards the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1860-1865). Items associated with the hide trade include, shipping records, invoices, bills of lading, bank drafts, and receipts. Additional papers pertaining to mining enterprises contain assay certificates, invoices, contracts, deeds and reports on mines. Also included is material related to extending telephone service west of the Mississippi River and a plantation journal recording daily work activities, and sugarcane production for Magnolia Plantation, Plaquemine Parish, La. (1877-1880). Mss. 1498, 1503, 1555, 1776.