Description[Slavery]. Brown Family Archive containing over 100 documents related to their Mississippi and Alabama plantations dated between 1830 and 1860; many documents contain slave information. The documents in this archive are mostly related to Brown family members William and Crawford Brown, who held large landholdings and slaves in the Old Southwest in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s.
Many of these documents include information about their slaves, the earliest being a receipt issued to Crawford Brown of Henry County, Alabama, in 1830 for $550 paid for "a negro girl named Lisa, aged fourteen . . . and child named Eldridge aged five weeks." Many other receipts are included which were issued to Brown family members for the purchase of numerous slaves, most of them with names. Also included are two medical invoices (one is a partial) for fees paid to doctors who tended to slaves in 1837 and 1860. One court document appraises the "annual value or hire of the slaves belonging to the Estate of C. L. Brown, Dec'd. for the year 1857" and includes a list of the names and hire values of six slaves.
Several land deeds are also part of the archive, including a Martin Van Buren land deed (signed by proxy) and dated February 10, 1840, to William Brown of Hinds County, Mississippi, for land in Mount Salus [modern-day Clinton], Mississippi. Also included are numerous other documents which are related to the every-day business of running plantations, such as numerous receipts for tool repairs, clothing, dry goods, bills of lading for cotton bales shipped via railroads, land deeds, tax receipts listing the numbers of slaves, letters, and various legal agreements and other court documents.
Seeking fortunes through cotton production, members of the Brown family took advantage of the vast amounts of land that opened up in the territories of the Old Southwest during the early nineteenth century. William, the wealthiest of the Brown brothers, settled in Mississippi, while Crawford settled in Alabama, serving as the postmaster of Columbia. Both William and Crawford died in the late 1840s. The Browns, along with many other families of wealth, built huge cotton plantations with slave labor that they brought from the older southeastern slave states, such as Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Historians agree that this migration disrupted the lives of over one million slaves, now commonly known as the Second Middle Passage. This Brown family archive offers a fascinating microcosm of this movement.
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