Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 75,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Jones, William (fl. 1823-1860) [Plantation Book]

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03703 Author/Creator: Jones, William (fl. 1823-1860) Place Written: Liberty County, Georgia Type: Manuscript document signed Date: 1 January 1839-24 April 1858 Pagination: 1 v. : 324 p. ; 31.7 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Plantation account book of William Jones, the owner of a cotton plantation in the vicinity of Jonesville, Liberty County, Georgia, near Savannah. Also mentions planting rice, but cotton appears to be the main staple of the plantation. Gives a nearly day-by-day account of the operation of his plantation. The book was kept as a record of planting, harvests, weather, preparation of ground, allocation of slave labor, crop yields, prices realized, and other agricultural matters. Provides extremely little on Jones's personal life. No systematic listing of slaves on the plantation is provided, but they are mentioned throughout. They are referred to as "negroes," "men," "women," "my people" and "all hands." There are at least three entries of slave purchases by Jones: 7 April 1840, 5 May 1840, and 17 March 1841. On 30 April 1839 he says he has been planting for 16 years. The plantation appears to be close to self-sufficiency, with large amounts of corn planted to feed the slaves. Also mentions allowing the slaves time to work their own plots of land. Several pages at the end of the book were written during the Civil War, where Jones complains that General Mercer is asking for laborers to help fortify Savannah. Best listing of slaves appears toward back of account book when he details how he rationed out blankets by year from 1842-1860. Also lists how cotton bags were given out in certain years. Provides two lists of hogs he sold for his slaves. Almanac calendar from the year 1843 cut and pasted on the inside front cover. Leatherbound book, appears to be suede. See related Jones family items at GLC01445 and GLC01449.

Background Information:

Full Transcript: Selected Excerpts:
[25 Feb 1839:] "Mingo started to work for me."
[08 Apr 1839:] "Started with all hands to plant cotton."
[02 Sep 1839:] "Cotton opening rapidly. I am planting with al my women."
[10 Jan 1840:] "I ...have got all the hands out the cotton house and finishing Gin[n]ing all my cotton..."
[07 Apr 1840:] "Bought today Sambo and Sary at public sale gave $971.00 for both."
[22 Apr 1840:] "Gave my Negroes today to plant for themselves."
[05 May 1840:] "Bought March for $450 dollars from M.E.W. Quarterman today."
[08 May 1840:] "James Mills a colourd man finished plastering my Jonesville House."
[31 Aug 1840:] "Now making Bricks at Jonesville..."
[26 Feb 1841:] "Bought Fairlawn plantation from Doct. S. Way for nineteen hundred & fifty dollars."
[17 Mar 1841:] "Bought Bill & child from W. Hughes."
[23 Mar 1841:] "We raised our church at Jonesville today."
[13 May 1841:] "Gave my Negroes today to plant for themselves."
[30 Sep 1841:] "...had 11 hands stop[p]ed three days to harvest my rice"
[19 Oct 1842:] "Two of my Negroes picked me today 18 Baskets of pease a peice."
[13 Jan 1843:] "Louis my son started from Savannah...for his way to Franklin College."
[02 Jul 1843:] "had a steer killed with lightning and three negroes of the Est. of Le Conte's killed dead and one other of the Estates nocked down and my old woman Leah who was at the Estates nocked down and seriously hurt."
[13 Oct 1843:] "I am loosing a great deal of work My black people have the prevailing epidemeck called the La Grippe a species of influanza."
[20 Sep 1844:] "I am picking cotton now with 38. hands little and big."
[03 Feb 1845:] "Today was recommended by the Governor of the State to be set aside as a day of thanksgiving. no work done and gave my Negroes the day."
[03 Mar 1845:] "Finished burning 33 thousand bricks for my house."
[02 Apr 1845:] "Went to Savannah with my daughter Rosa on her way to Macon to school"
[undated, but between 1862 and 1865:] "A part of the citizens of Liberty County has been called on by Gen Mercer to furnish hands to fortify Sav[anna]h. my object in the following remarks is to show what injustice has been done to the citizens whose hands have been taken from them by military order..." [He goes on to say that they had patriotically planted grain instead of cotton, as requested. Now their hands, i.e. slaves, are being taken from them.] "If the war continues on another year the mounted troops on the coast will require all the forage...The Confederate Government received the work [slaves building batteries] as a gratuity and because the county saw fit to renumerate her citizens, he impresses their hands...We only ask even-handed justice...."
See More


Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: Enslaved peopleAgriculture and Animal HusbandryCottonFinanceSlaveryAfrican American HistoryWomen's HistorySlave SaleDiet and nutritionCivil WarImpressmentConfederate General or LeaderConfederate States of AmericaHome Furnishings

Sub Era: Slavery & Anti-slavery

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources