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|Abstract||William Sample Alexander was the son of Hezekiah Alexander (1728-1801), a prominent early settler of Mecklenburg County, N.C. The collection is a diary, 1770-1778, kept by William Sample Alexander of Mecklenburg County, N.C. The diary provides a partial description of wagon train trips Alexander made between Mecklenburg County and Chester County, Pa., selling furs and other back country products and buying coffee and other items, a record of accounts he maintained with friends and family members, descriptions of a few "home remedies," and instructions for trapping beavers.|
|Creator||Alexander, William Sample, d. 1826.|
|Curatorial Unit||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.|
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Joseph Alexander, William Sample Alexander's great-grandfather, emigrated to America from Scotland in the late 17th century, and he and his family first settled in Chester Co., Pa., and in the Maryland counties of Somerset and Cecil. Joseph's son, James (William's grandfather), purchased land in Mecklenburg Co., N.C., and his son Hezekiah (William's father) moved to Mecklenburg County sometime before 1760. William Alexander's birthplace is not known, and only scanty details about his life are available in published sources. He was married three times, his first wife Elizabeth, being an early Mecklenburg County settler.Back to Top
The collection consists of one volume, a diary of about 130 small pages, kept by William Sample Alexander. Alexander operated a wagon train between Mecklenburg County and Chester County, Pa. The diary provides a partial description of his wagon train journeys and includes a record of accounts that he maintained with friends and family members, as well as descriptions of a few "home remedies."
The first substantive entries in Alexander's diary are from 1774, when he left Mecklenburg County on a trip northward. Philadelphia and Charleston served as Mecklenburg County's main trading centers, and traders like Alexander traveled to these centers quite frequently by wagon train. Alexander operated a wagon train to the Philadelphia area, and one author reported that he "would haul the pelts and produce of the farms and forests to Philadelphia and would bring back all sorts of goods ordered by the ladies and men of the community." (Victor C. King, Comp. and Ed., Lives and Times of the 27 Signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May 20, 1775: Pioneers Extraordinary (Charlotte: Anderson Press, 1956).)
The bulk of the diary describes Alexander's transaction (the earliest of which was in 1770) with those who ordered goods in Mecklenburg County, merchants along the way, and friends, relatives, and merchants upon his arrival in Chester County. The diary gives a good idea of prices for "luxury" items, ranging from furs (primarily fox, raccoon, mink, and beaver) to coffee, calico, and silk handkerchiefs.
The diary also gives a complete account of the route taken by Alexander's wagon train and of the special problems encountered by itinerant traders, especially sickness, lame horses, and broken spokes. There is a less complete account of Alexander's penchant for "pleasuring" with his friends and relatives in Pennsylvania. Alexander also described a number of remedies and recounted in some detail techniques he used for trapping beaver. The frequent references to "James" are most likely to his younger broker, James Rankin Alexander.Back to Top
Processed by: SHC Staff, 1997
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008
Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, April 2011Back to Top