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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Capell family. Papers, 1816-1931 (bulk 1840-1880). 1 linear ft.; 30 volumes. Location: U:299; F:11; OS:C; MSS.MF:C, VAULT:1, VAULT MRDF 6. Planters and merchants of Amite and Wilkinson Counties in Mississippi. Eli Jackson Capell was a planter of Pleasant Hill Plantation in Amite County and operated a store near Rose Hill, Mississippi. His son Henry Clay was an attorney in Centerville. Business and plantation papers and legal documents comprise the bulk of this collection. These include land deeds; invoices and correspondence regarding shipping cotton; slave bills of sale; diaries, ledgers, and scrapbooks that document daily activities of Pleasant Hill Plantation; and a daybook from the Rose Hill store. Personal correspondence includes two letters from Jefferson Davis and letters of recommendation written for Henry Clay Capell when he was seeking employment with the federal government. Available (with some omissions) on microfilm: University Publications of America Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration, Series B, Part 4, Reel 2. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 56, 257, 1751, 2501, 2597.

Capell, Eli J. (Eli Jackson), 1814-1888. Family Papers, 1840-1932 (bulk 1886-1900). 1.3 linear ft., 16 v. Location: E:47-48, F:11, OS:C, Mss.Mf:C. Planter of Pleasant Hill Plantation, Amite County, Mississippi. Capell also operated a store near Rose Hill, Mississippi. Correspondence and business records of the Capell family and related Crawford family. Business, plantation, and legal papers include letters, accounts, and invoices with cotton factors and memorandum books of cotton and merchandise sold; labor contracts and laborersÆ record book; land deeds; and records from the Rose Hill store. Family correspondence from Crawford relatives (1880-1899) relates geographic, economic, race relations, health, and social conditions in parts of Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Montana, and letters to Capell daughters concern news of friends, personal relationships, and social activities (1865-1879). Available (with some omissions) on microfilm: University Publications of America Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration, Series B, Part 4, Reels 3-5. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 674.

Carson, William Waller. Letter, 1923. 1 item. Location: 32:81. Sergeant-major in the 4th Louisiana Cavalry in the Civil War. Letter recounts his Civil War experiences, including an unsuccessful operation to capture the U.S. gunboat RATTLER at Natchez, Mississippi. Unprocessed collections list. Mss. 4068.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, Natchez, Mississippi

Carson, William Waller. Letter, 1923 Dec. 13. 1 item. Location: Misc.: C. Sergeant-major in the 4th Louisiana Cavalry in the Civil War. Letter recounts his Civil War experiences in northeastern Louisiana, the capture of Louis Dent, the brother-in-law of General Ulysses S. Grant, insubordination and discipline in the army, and the remedies used to prevent scurvy. Carson also describes a failed attempt to capture the United States gunboat, RATTLER, at Natchez, Miss., and he discusses the philosophy of slavery, particularly the fiscal aspect. A typed transcript (undated) accompanies the letter. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 4068.

Referenced in Guides: Civil War, Natchez, Mississippi

Cartwright, Samuel A. (Samuel Adolphus) and family. Papers, 1826-1864. 67 items, 2 manuscript volumes. Location: U:109, Vault. Physician of Natchez, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Cartwright was a Confederate army physician, and at one time a professor of diseases of the African American in the Medical Department of the University of Louisiana. Papers include correspondence, photoprints, and a European travel diary. Correspondence relates to politics, slavery, and education in the South, including letters from Jefferson Davis and other prominent individuals. Included is a treatise on 'camp dysentery' written by Cartwright. For further information, see online catalog. Filed under Cartwright, Samuel Adolphus. Papers in Archives USA. Mss. 2471, 2499.

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