Maury family papers  1782-1931 (bulk 1820-1872)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Maury family papers (2 linear feet) contain the letters and documents of the extended family of Abram P. Maury, Whig congress member from Franklin, Tennessee. The collection documents politics, travel, business, agriculture, and family life in the antebellum South, and includes contributions from the Harris, Claiborne, and Reid families of Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, and Alabama.

The Chronological Correspondence and Documents series (approximately 1,000 items) consists of letters between the parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles, in-laws, friends, business colleagues and political colleagues of the Maury, Harris, Claiborne, and Reid families. The bulk of these items span 1820 to 1872.

The family was heavily involved in national and state politics, and they frequently discuss happenings in congress and the dramas of presidential elections. Topics discussed include the workings of the Whig party in Tennessee in the 1830s; the presidential runs of Andrew Jackson in 1826 and William Henry Harrison in 1836; Santa Anna and the Mexican War (1837-1838); Abram P. Maury's experiences in the United States Congress; Meredith Poindexter Gentry's activities representing Tennessee in Congress, and Carey A. Harris's time in politics as commissioner of Indian affairs (1836). Present are items from several prominent politicians, including Lewis Cass, Thomas Hart Benton, and James K. Polk. Of note are the letters from Macajah G. L. Claiborne, in which he discussed his extensive travels around the world as part of the United States Navy, and a few letters from Confederate soldiers on the front lines of the Civil War.

The collection also documents business, social, and domestic matters, such as clothes and fashion, social engagements (balls and parties), courting, offers and rejections of marriage, family business and finance, and the purchase, use, rental, and sale of land in the deep South. Various family members described their experiences settling in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1820s, in Mississippi in the 1820s and 1830s, and in Arkansas in the 1830s and 1840s. They frequently discussed the use of slaves in daily life and at times expressed feelings of moral conflict over slavery and the slave trade.

Below is a list of notable items:

  • June 18, 1818: Thomas Hart Benton to Abram Maury, Jr., encouraging Maury to move to Missouri and to speculate in land
  • February 12, 1819: Thomas Hart Benton to Abram Maury, Jr., confirming the signing of a Chickasaw treaty that makes it easier for him to travel to Tennessee
  • August 14, 1819: James K. Polk's introduction to Abram Maury, Jr., while running for a clerkship in the state legislature
  • August 13, 1820: A. P. Maury to his father Abram Maury, Jr., describing a visit to Staten Island, New York, and his stay with Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins
  • January 20, 1822: Abram Maury, Jr., to Daniel W. Maury discussing Thomas Hart Benton’s inability to pay off his debts for lack of money and offering land in Missouri instead
  • February 23, 1824: John Henry Easton to Mary Claiborne concerning marriage prospects and a warning to use caution when selecting a husband
  • July 7, 1824: Thomas Crutcher to Malvina Crutcher and Mary Claiborne describing a large dinner party held in honor of Andrew Jackson, with the general in attendance
  • January 1, 1825: Abram Maury, Jr., to Abram P. Maury concerning the destruction of Aunt White's cotton gin, which they suspect was burned by a slave named Tom
  • January 17, 1825: Isaac L. Baker to Mary Eliza Claiborne noting that all are pleased to hear that Andrew Jackson has "bright prospects for the Presidency," and that if he does succeed, Baker will run for Congress
  • July 3, 1825: John F. H. Claiborne to Mary Eliza Claiborne teasing Mary about her courtship with an Irishman
  • October 17, 1831: Mac Claiborne to Mary Eliza Maury describing his voyage to Brazil with the navy
  • October 27, 1832: Mac Claiborne to Mary Eliza Maury discussing his long voyage in the Pacific and "China Sea," death aboard his ship, the detention of American whaling ships, and visits to Tahiti and Honolulu, Hawaii, including a feast with the Hawaiian royal family and a description of King Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III)
  • December 28, 1832, February 13 and April 13, 1833: Mac Claiborne to Mary Eliza Maury discussing his time in Valparaiso, Chile, with comments on the government, social conditions, politics, and religious tolerance
  • February 18, 1834: James P. Maury to Abram P. Maury commenting on the oration styles of congressmen McDuffie, Webster, Calhoun, and Van Buren
  • November 17, 1837: Document from Letitia, Alfred, Nancy, Jesse, and Mary Ann to Abram P. Maury concerning a judicial decision in favor of a suit brought by five "free persons of color" against Maury for trespass and false imprisonment (Maury had claimed they were his slaves)
  • February 9, 1838: Chickasaw women named Tim-e-shu-ho-ra and Ish-tim-ma-hi-zea to Carey A. Harris transferring a deed of land
  • March 18, 1838: Nathan Reid to Francis Reid discussing the state of the slave trade and his antislavery views
  • March 25, 1838: S.C. Cannon to Abram P. Maury, Jr., concerning the "disorderly conduct" of Pink, a man owned by the Maurys: "I think Pink richly deserves to be sold without the least hesitation of delay…I think you need feel no scruples about it on account of him & his wife, as she is free, it is as convenient for her to be near him one place as another."
  • February 5, 1841: Carey A. Harris to James P Maury discussing selling slaves named Lucy, Betsey, and a child for $1,550 Arkansas money
  • March 4, 1841: Mac Claiborne to Abram P. Maury discussing his stay in Rio de Janeiro, his thoughts on traveling to China, piracy near Java and Sumatra, and the British Opium War
  • December 19, 1841: Nathan Reid to Francis Reid, discussing the "cut-throut spirit" in the west, "The laws, in my view, afford no protection to person, property, or character…Every man who considers himself aggrieved assures the right of avenging his own wrongs, in his own ways; and of judging not only of the mode but the measure of redress. The consequence is that human life is held but in little esteem, and is placed upon every insecure and precarious footing, as shewn by the innumerable bloody frays that take place daily in your midst."

This series also has 29 undated letters, 10 miscellaneous items (newspaper clippings and receipts), and nine empty envelops. The item dated September 28, 1838, contains a drawing of the profile of a man; the letter from February 15, 1840, contains a sketch of tracts of land in Pontotoc, Mississippi; and the item from October 14, 1847, contains a diagram of a plot of land in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Bundled Correspondence and Documents series (188 items) is grouped into seven bundles:

Bundle 1 , c.1810s-1930s (6 letters, 1 document) contains items relating to the military service and death of Major John Reid, the son of Nathan Reid. Also present are letters from the early 1930s related to erecting markers to honor Reid and other relatives, and a genealogical document.

Bundle 2 , c.1830s-1850s (35 letters) consists of letters related to Harris family members. Highlights include a letter from Martha F. Harris, daughter of Martha Maury, in which she described the relative handsomeness of various senators: "Webster has almost the finest looking face I ever saw & is decidedly the greatest looking man in the Senate." She also commented on physical features of Clay and Van Buren (February 15, 1834). Other topics covered are family and health news, and land dealings with the Choctaw (September 28, 1838), and land dealings in Missouri (August 26, 1849). A series of letters written by Carey A. Harris, Jr., in the early 1850s describe student life at the University of Virginia, including exams, conflict between students and residents of Charlottesville (November 25, 1853), and other activities. Also of note are letters by James Harris concerning settling in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and teaching at the newly opened Port Gibson Male Academy (1853).

Bundle 3 , 1830s-1860s (10 letters) is comprised of various letters, including an item from "F.J.H." [Fanny Reid Harris] that describes excitement over the secession of Virginia and the reinforcement of "Old Point" by "free negro volunteers," whom she claimed were "strutting about and boasting that they had come to liberate the slaves--such an insult, has maddened all the people…" (April 20, 1861). Also present is a letter from John Reid of Nashville, Tennessee, to Sally, expressing Reid's hope that Tennessee will stay in the Union (January 24, 1861).

Bundle 4 , 1850s-1860s (18 letters and documents) includes a telegraph notice of the death of James M. Harris from yellow fever at Port Gibson (October 6, 1853), Carey A. Harris, Jr.'s, oath of allegiance to the Union taken at the mouth of the White River in Arkansas (May 26, 1865), and other miscellaneous Civil War-era documents, most of which relate to the logistics of feeding and paying Confederate soldiers.

Bundle 5 , c.1810s-early 20th century (54 documents) contains miscellaneous letters, documents, and genealogical material. Many of the items pertain to political career of Abram Maury, including a printed speech, a newspaper clipping, and his manuscript notes on various political topics. Document types include land indentures, accounts, and a map of land lots owned by Reid. The 20th-century material largely relates to Maury family genealogical research, including letters to Maury T. Reid.

Bundle 6 , 1830-1860s (29 letters) contains letters concerning land sales and purchases, many written by Carey A. Harris, Sr. Present is Harris' resignation letter from an official post (October 28, 1838), comments by James Walker on New Orleans and the lead up to the Panic of 1837 (April 14, 1837), and estate papers of Carey Harris, Sr., settled by his wife, Martha (November 16, 1842). Also of note is a set of letters from Martha F. Harris concerning claims on the government for the destruction of her house and property during the Civil War (1865-1866).

Bundle 7 , 1819-1940s (35 letters) contains a series of miscellaneous letters, many by William S. Reid, which note his travels around Tennessee. Also present are later family letters that contain details on genealogy (1880s, and 1940s). Highlights include a letter from Allen Hall to Abram P. Maury concerning politics and the national presidential convention (May 2, 1848), and a detailed letter about the birth of a daughter to Martha Harris (May 28, 1833).

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