Manuscript Resources on Plantation Society and Economy

This guide describes manuscript collections documenting plantation society and economy in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections (LLMVC) at LSU. The plantation records and personal papers of planters, factors, merchants, and others whose livelihood came from plantations provide a wealth of documentation supporting research in plantation economy, slavery, and the social history of Southern landholding elites.

The collections described below touch upon all facets of plantation life. They include the papers of tutors, preachers, lawyers, and doctors who provided services to planters. They include the letters of Northerners who visited plantations in the antebellum period and wrote home about them, and those of Union soldiers who marched past plantations and sometimes plundered them. While the majority of collections are from the prewar years, there are substantial holdings on postbellum plantations as well. The sugar and cotton plantation records in LLMVC are among its most noteworthy and famed collections, and among the earliest collections that LSU acquired.

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Wilton Plantation sugarhouse plan, circa 1830-1870. 1 item. Location: OS:W. Sugar plantation owned by the Bruce, Seddon, and Wilkins Company near Convent, St. James Parish, Louisiana. Floor plan of a sugarhouse shows the location and dimensions of rooms and equipment. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2763.

Referenced in Guides: Sugar, Plantations

Wilton Plantation letter, 1863 April 1. 1 item. Location: Misc.:W. Cotton plantation apparently located in Louisiana and apparently owned by W. C. Wagley of Lake Providence. Letter from the plantation manager to Wagley reports on progress of picking and ginning operations under federal government contract and contraband labor. Information is provided about disposition of abandoned plantations and relations with freedmen. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 2983.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, Civil War, African Americans

Wise, James Calvert. Papers, 1860-1917. 1.75 linear ft., 2 volumes. Locations: UU:154-155, K:37, OS:W, Vault:1. Native of Maryland who settled in Rapides Parish, Louisiana. During the Civil War he organized the Red River Rebels, which became part of the First Louisiana Regiment. Wise owned Grand Bend Plantation on the Red River. Collection contains Wise's personal, political, business, and military papers. Printed items include Confederate tax forms, currency, a notice to planters and freedmen from the U.S. Army, and papers related to the Republican party. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 3239.

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.

Wood, William W. Account books, 1835-1866, 1886. 2 vols. Location: H:23. Purvis, Wood, and Company were cotton commission merchants of New Orleans. Fragmentary ledger of Purvis, Wood and Company containing accounts and a list of planters and their addresses in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas; and a cashbook of Silas and W. W. Wood containing records of personal and business expenditures. Included in the cashbook are work sheets for laborers showing location and amount of timber cut and statements of account for supplies with James Dunning and Solomon Johnston. For further information, see online catalog. Mss. 1103.

Referenced in Guides: Plantations, New Orleans 1866-, Business