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OLD 1857-61 SLAVE OWNERS LEDGER FROM CHARLOTTESVILLE VA AREA

This unusual item is a rare and detailed slave master’s manuscript ledger / journal / diary, completely filled with legible writing (in ink) over more than 140 PAGES (with at least 5 daily entries per page). Written entries fill the entire book, which measures about 8 x 13” and is covered with marble-paper covered boards.

This is a true Virginia Plantation (or rather moderately-sized farm) Journal meticulously kept during the final years of the institution of slavery and the beginning of the Civil War. In his daily entries, the writer includes the weather, the work he has accomplished that day, and often lists THE SPECIFIC WORK HE HAS ASSIGNED TO HIS VARIOUS SLAVES. He also describes buying & selling slaves, births of slave children, various illnesses, treatment, and other trouble he has with his slaves, and even describes the ACCIDENTAL DEATH (AND BURIAL) OF A WOMAN SLAVE.

Of course, the writer also includes much information about his family: wife, children, parents, in-laws, visiting neighbors & relations, etc. He records his trips to nearby towns like PALMYRA IN FLUVANNA COUNTY AND CHARLOTTESVILLE IN ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VIRGINIA. He records items purchased, sold, & traded. There is a great deal of agricultural information, especially concerning tobacco, oats, wheat, & corn (troubled with wheat rust & chinch bug damage). Many other farm-related chores described & always with a description of WHICH SLAVES ARE ASSIGNED TO WHAT WORK; killing hogs, hauling stable manure, splitting wood & shingles, plowing, shelling corn, milling, cutting ice & much, much more.

This journal was kept by WILLIAM JAMES PAYNE of his farm / plantation “PLEASANT VIEW” located in Fluvanna County, Virginia. His name and the date of 7 October 1857 is written on the flyleaf of the Journal. William James Payne (1827-1901) was the son of William Payne (1782-1858) and Maria Calais Allegre (1797-1846) of Fluvanna. William James married Elizabeth Virginia Jones (1832-1864) on 28 Feb 1854. Their children were:
Mary Ella Payne (1855-1878), Sarah Maria Payne (1857-1862), Frank Watson Payne (1861-1862), and Willie Walter Payne (1863-1864).

The ledger opens with the following entry:

Pleasant View, Wednesday 7 October 1857
Sold Dr. Boston yoke young oxen for $60 & paid him for visit to Judy [a slave woman who had recently given birth to a slave child named Sarah].
Getting together and hauling and stacking top fodder. Started Pleasant & John [slaves] with two double plows for wheat in afternoon. Pleasant, with NW [winds]. Covered meeting(?) house.


A few days later, Payne writes:

Saturday 10th
Finished sowing wheat on Tobacco lot and all hands hung tobacco. Also hauled in some corn. Partly cloudy, with NW.
Bettie [Payne’s pregnant wife, Elizabeth Virginia Jones (1832-1864)] suffering very much with toothache.
Cynthia [a woman slave] laid up with sore hand.
Sent for Mrs. Walker [Midwife] again this evening.

Sunday 11st , CHILDBIRTH
Bettie gave birth this morning to a fine daughter after much pain (about ½ past 12 a.m.). Dr. Daniel came to see her this morning. [The child was Sarah Maria Payne (1857-1862)]
Quite cool and cloudy with NW.
Sent Mrs. Walker home this morning. Paid her 12 dollars.


Fourteen pages later in the journal one finds the following interesting entry:

Monday, 25th January, 1858
Unusually heavy fog this morning which cleared up about noon when sun came out. Quite warm with SW.
Falton [a slave] hauled rails to repair fence. Pleasant plowed part of the day. Balance [the rest of the slaves] in new ground.
SOLD NEGROES D, L, G, E.(?) AT COURT. VERY HIGH FROM 600 TO $1500.


About 2 weeks later the accidental death of a slave in dryly noted:

Tuesday 9 February 1858
Falton hauled to mill then hauled wood & rail.
Billy laid up. Balance [the rest of the slaves] repairing wood fence around fresh field.
Pleasant but high SW.
CYNTHIA GOT KILLED VERY SUDDENLY TODAY BY THE FALLING OF A TREE. SHE MUST HAVE BEEN ASLEEP OR IN ENDEAVORING THE SHUN THE FALL OF THE TREE RAN DIRECTLY UNDER IT.

Wednesday 10 February 1858
Falton and John DUG GRAVE. Balance finished repairing back fence and put up fence around fresh ground. Quite a high NW & cooler.
INTERRED CYNTHIA’S REAMINS this (?)


On April 3rd , Payne notes that his slave Albert was “quite sick” with measles, and Payne himself begins to feel badly on the 10th of April. Three days later he writes:

Tuesday 13 April 1858
Hands getting wood & ground is very wet. Sun came out part the day with SWW. B. J. Flannagan got load corn. MEASLES BREAKING OUT AND FEEL VERY BADLY.

Wednesday 14 April 1858
Measles out in profusion & very large. Hands doing little or nothing . . .


Payne gets better but the measles epidemic spreads through his slave quarters:

Sunday 25 April 1858
Snowing rapidly all the morning with NW it soon slipped(?) off.
Pleasant, Billy and Andrew [all slaves] LAID UP WITH MEASLES, Jim and Mary also. Balance still clear of it . . .

Friday 30 April 1858
Billy, Pleasant, & Andrew getting better. Tom quite sick. Judy & Susan down also.
Quite warm with SWW and partly cloudy. Balance in planting corn on low grounds.


There are many more related entries, and a great deal more. Just a few details of the content includes:
On June 30th Payne describes the death of his father age 76 years.
On October 11th Payne makes a detailed entry as to the amounts and cost of clothing bought to garb his slaves for the next year.
On 16th October Payne has the property appraised [apparently most of the plantation & slaves belonged to his deceased father].
In November the farm & slaves are auctioned off:

Tuesday 16 November 1858
Sale took place today. Bought Falton at $310 and upper part of farm at 14(?) Everything sold low. Cold high NWW & mountains white with snow.
VERY DISTRESSING TO SEE THE SLAVES GO TO TRADERS &c . . .
Thursday 18 November 1858
Dr. Daniel got 7 lbs of corn this morning. Fanan(?) got his hog also.
Falton getting some wood & put up cabbage.
CONCLUDED TO TAKE MARY OF BARNETT AT WHAT HE GAVE FOR HER $300


The brief summation above of a few highlights from this journal has covered only about ONE THIRD of the 140+ hand-written pages. Here are a few even-more sketchy highlights (excerpted from complete entries) from the remaining two thirds of the book:

30 November 1858
. . . Bette suffering again & called in Dr. Daniel to see her. Cupped and gave quinine.

31 January 1859
. . . Rode over on Cunningham and hired a free girl at $20.

23 March 1859
. . . Rode out to get a cook & will I presume get a woman & children of John Clark [on the 28th Payne hires a slave woman named Becky from her master John Clark].

5 June 1859
. . . Union Mills Store burned last night. Walked up and saw the ruins.

26 December 1859
. . . Hired a girl of Chas Perkins at $50, $5 TO BE DEDUCTED SHOULD SHE HAVE AN INCREASE.

19 April 1860
CHILDBIRTH: Bettie taken in labor early after breakfast & gave birth to a daughter which suffocated during labor. Had a very critical time of it indeed. Thought at one time would have to use surgical means to give relief but thanks to a kind providence, she delivered it after much suffering at ½ past 10 p.m. Dr. Daniel in attendance. Damp, drizzly day SWW.

20 April 1860
Bettie as well as can be expected. Making arrangements to put away the little innocent. Dr. left after breakfast. Child interred this evening at Mr. Jones. Got A. J. Gillespie to make coffin.

27 August 1860
. . . Quite EXCITING TIMES IN POLITICS.

6 November 1860
. . . Went up to O Store and VOTED FOR BELL & EVERETT. TODAY DECIDES THE FATE OF THIS MIGHTY UNION.

14 December 1860
. . . Went to Charlottesville and swapped Bettie’s watch for a silver (?).

23 December 1860
. . . A GLOOM HAS OVERSPREAD THE WHOLE COUNTRY. May the Ruler of Men & Nations so guide the wisdom of our land as that the present agitated state of our county may eventuate to our good.

26 December 1860
. . . SOUTH CAROLINA OUT TODAY.

28 December 1860
Partly cloudy & cool NSW. Walked to P. Office & learned that FORT MOULTRE HAD BEEN EVACUATED & SET ON FIRE by Federal Troops. (?) & intense excitement . FEAR THE DEATH KNELL OF THE UNION HAS ALREADY SOUNDED.

4 February 1861
. . . Went to O Store & voted for Strange for Member of Convention [the Virginia Secession Convention]. Bettie & children at S. Hill.

5 February 1861
Still cloudy & sprinkle snow but thawing. Hauled up some wood. VERY EXCITING TIMES -- THINK THE NEGROES HAVE SOME STELTHIUM IN VIEW.

9 February 1861
. . . No hope I fear for OUR UNHAPPY COUNTRY.

28th February 1861
. . . Been 7 years Married today.

William J. Payne’s entries ends just about one month later on 27 March as the pages of this old journal ran out. His wife Bettie (Elizabeth Virginia Jones) died just 3 years later in 1864, soon after the death of their daughter Sarah and two small sons Frank & Willie.]


William J. Payne’s detailed day-to-day descriptions of working the Pleasant View farm constitutes a great record of the hardships of agrarian life in Virginia around the Civil War. This old-bound manuscript journal itself is like a time machine set down in an important place and time in American History—Fluvanna County, in the center of Virginia, during the years just before and into the beginning of the American Civil War.

With a full transcription and a little study, it should be quite possible to sort out a great deal of information concerning the life-experiences (and relationships between) Payne’s SLAVES whose lives are tersely recorded in the pages of this remarkable journal (their lives may be recorded nowhere else). It would also be quite possible to explore the relationships between Payne’s own family, relations, friends & business associates who are often named throughout the pages of this book.

There is looseness & some damage at the top and bottom of the spine (see scan) but the ledger is otherwise in quite good condition.

Price= $4,500.00 plus $50.00 shipping and postal insurance.



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