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Collection Number: 02104

Collection Title: Nicholas Philip Trist Papers, 1765-1903

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.

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Size 6.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 6000 items)
Abstract Nicholas Philip Trist, student at West Point, 1818-1821; Louisiana planter, 1821-1824; United States State Department clerk, 1828-1834; consul to Havana, Cuba, 1834-1840; State Dept. chief clerk, 1845-1847; and chief negotiator of treaty ending Mexican War, 1847. Trist was also a lawyer and worked as paymaster for the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, and postmaster at Alexandria, Va. He married Virginia Jefferson Randolph (fl. 1818-1875), Thomas Jefferson's granddaughter, in 1824 and lived at Monticello. Other Trist family members were his grandmother, Elizabeth House Trist (d. 1828); his brother, Hore Browse Trist (1802-1856), sugar planter of Lafourche Parish, La.; Virginia's mother, Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836); and Nicholas and Virginia's children, Martha Jefferson Trist Burke (Pattie) of Alexandria, Va.; Thomas Jefferson Trist of Philadelphia, Pa., who was deaf; and Hore Browse Trist, physician of Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C. The collection contains chiefly family correspondence of the Trist and Randolph families. Especially prominent among the correspondents are Elizabeth Trist and the Randolph women, Martha Jefferson and her daughters and her granddaughter, Martha Jefferson Trist Burke. Most letters relate to family life, but Nicholas Trist's career as a West Point cadet; the functioning of the family plantations in Lafourche Parish, La.; the education of the Trist children, including that of Jefferson, who attended the Philadelphia Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, and Nicholas's various professional activities are covered to varying degrees. Also included are letters between Virginia's sister Cornelia and her literary agent, Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867). Correspondence also documents life in the various locations where the Trists lived: from 1765 to 1828 in Louisiana and Charlottesville, Va., including Nicholas and Virginia's early married life at Monticello; from 1828 to 1833 in Washington, D.C.; from 1834 to 1845 in Havana, Cuba; and, in later years, in New York, Philadelphia, and Alexandria, Va. There are also some letters addressed to Thomas Jefferson. In addition to correspondence, the collection contains small numbers of financial and legal papers, school materials, genealogical information, and other items.
Creator Trist, Nicholas Philip, 1800-1874.
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Information For Users

Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Nicholas Philip Trist Papers #2104, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Harry Randolph Burke of Alexandria, Va., in 1939 and subsequent purchase in 1968.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Processing Information

Processed by: Lisa Tolbert, Scott Philyaw, Rebecca Hollingsworth, October 1991

Encoded by: T. Mike Childs, April 2008

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Thomas Jefferson became acquainted with the Trist family during the Continental Congress in Philadelphia while boarding at the home of Mary House. Her daughter, Elizabeth Trist, assumed the role of a surrogate mother to Jefferson's daughter Martha on their visits to Philadelphia. After the death of Elizabeth Trist's husband, she and her son, Hore Browse Trist, moved to Charlottesville, Va. There he practiced law and married Mary Brown. Nicholas Philip Trist was born in Charlottesville in 1800.

In 1802, Jefferson appointed Hore Browse Trist to be customs collector at Natchez in the Louisiana territory. Mary Brown Trist remained in Charlottesville with her young sons Nicholas and Hore Browse while their father moved to the Louisiana territory to assume his post and establish a plantation. The Trists were reunited early in 1803, but Hore Browse died of yellow fever a few months later. Mary Brown Trist remarried two more times. Her second husband, Philip Livingston Jones, was a prominent lawyer from New Orleans who enrolled Nicholas and his brother in school there. When Nicholas was about ten years old, Jones died and his mother married a wealthy cotton and sugar planter named Tournillon.

Nicholas graduated from the College of Orleans in 1817, and, at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson, moved to Monticello to study law. There he became reacquainted with Jefferson's daughter Martha, who had married Thomas Mann Randolph. Nicholas fell in love with the Randolphs' daughter, Virginia Jefferson Randolph, and, at the age of eighteen, he proposed marriage. The family urged him to postpone the marriage because of his youth and financial instability.

Nicholas entered West Point in 1818, but chafed at the military lifestyle. In 1821, he left West Point and returned to Louisiana to earn enough money to marry. He helped his brother Hore Browse manage the family plantation and resumed his law studies. From Louisiana, Nicholas continued his courtship of Virginia Randolph, who refused to leave her home in Virginia. Nicholas finally returned to Monticello in 1824 to marry her and finish his studies with Jefferson. During this time, he worked closely with the aging statesman, who appointed Nicholas an executor of his estate. When Thomas Jefferson died, Nicholas Trist found himself in charge of a heavily indebted Monticello and was forced to sell the estate piecemeal.

In 1828, Henry Clay offered Nicholas a clerkship in the State Department to relieve the financial difficulties of Jefferson's daughter, the recently widowed Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was dependent on Nicholas for support. Nicholas worked in the State Department from 1828 to 1833. The Trist household in Washington included the three Trist children--Martha Jefferson (Pattie); Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson), who was deaf; and Hore Browse (Browse)--as well as Martha Jefferson Randolph, whose unmarried daughters, Mary and Cornelia, paid extended visits.

In 1834, the family was separated when Nicholas moved to Havana, Cuba, to begin his duties as Consul. Virginia spent the first two years of her husband's tenure at Edgehill in Albemarle County, Va. Jefferson Trist was enrolled in the Philadelphia Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Martha Randolph died in 1837, soon after her daughter moved to Cuba. From 1839 to 1841, while Nicholas continued his work in Cuba, Virginia took Pattie and Browse to school in France. Trist was removed from office by the Whigs in 1840, but the family decided to make their home in Havana, where they stayed until 1845, living on a small farm overlooking the harbor, taking in boarders, and receiving a small income from Hore Browse Trist, who managed the family sugar plantation in Louisiana.

In 1845, Nicholas returned to Washington to work in the Polk administration as chief clerk of the State Department under James Buchanan. It was in this role that, in 1847, he received the fateful commission to negotiate the treaty to end the war with Mexico. During that mission, Nicholas defied a presidential recall, thereby ending his political career and condemning the Trists to a nomadic, debt-ridden life.

After 1848, Nicholas worked as an attorney in the firm of Fowler & Wells in New York City and made several unsuccessful business investments. The family achieved a semblance of stability when they moved to Philadelphia in 1854. Nicholas went to work for the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Company, and Virginia contributed to the family income by taking in boarders and attempting to open a school for girls. During the Civil War, the Trists were Unionists, although they maintained ties with Randolph relatives who served the Confederacy, and Browse worked briefly as a surgeon in the Confederate army. After the war, Browse became a doctor in Washington, D.C.

In 1870, Nicholas received an appointment as postmaster at Alexandria, Va., where his daughter Pattie lived with her husband John Burke and their children. This appointment helped to relieve the desperate financial conditions Nicholas and Virginia had long endured and seemed to Trist a kind of vindication of his actions in Mexico. Nicholas died in 1874.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection consists chiefly of family correspondence of the Trist and Randolph families. Especially prominent among the correspondents are Elizabeth Trist (grandmother of Nicholas Philip Trist) and the Randolph women: Martha Jefferson and her daughters--Virginia, Cornelia, Mary, and Ellen--and her granddaughter, Pattie Trist Burke. Family members typically wrote long, detailed letters about their lives, experiences, and opinions. Nicholas Trist's letters are equally long and informative, but usually contain only brief references to his professional activities in the United States State Department. There are very few business letters in the collection.

The correspondence has been arranged chronologically, and the chronology has been broken into subseries corresponding to the geographical movements of the Trist family. Thus, correspondence from 1765 to 1827 concerns life in Charlottesville, Va., and Monticello, as well as in Louisiana; letters from 1828 to 1833 contain much information about the new city of Washington, D.C.; those from 1834 to 1845 concern life in Havana, Cuba; and much of the correspondence thereafter deals with life in New York, N.Y., Philadelphia, Pa., and Alexandria, Va. In addition to correspondence, the collection contains financial and legal papers, school materials, genealogical materials, and other items.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1765-1903.

About 5,000 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. 1765-1818, 1765-1818.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

There are three major streams of correspondence for this period: early Randolph family correspondence, including letters from Governor Thomas Mann Randolph at Tuckahoe and members of the family living at Monticello; letters of Elizabeth Trist, Nicholas's grandmother, to various family members including Thomas Jefferson; and Louisiana correspondence from Nicholas's parents Hore Browse and Mary Brown Trist.

Randolph family letters contain a variety of information about life at Monticello and in Charlottesville, Va.

The Elizabeth Trist letters show her as a powerful force in the family. In addition to dispensing frequent advice to Randolph and Trist kin, she wrote several times to Thomas Jefferson during his presidency, offering political advice and requesting political favors. Her influence is further attested to by the letters of introduction she wrote during this period for various people.

Nicholas's father, Hore Browse Trist, spent several months in England during 1796 apparently visiting kin and conducting business. Trist seems to have owned a dry goods store in Virginia, but, in 1802, he moved from Charlottesville to Louisiana. He bought a plantation near Natchez in Adams Parish and was appointed "Collector of the Mississippi District and Inspector of the Revenue of Port Adams." From Louisiana, Hore Browse Trist wrote frequently to his family in Virginia, where they remained until he could afford to move them west. His letters home are full of political opinion and reveal his strong anti-Federalist position. He died in 1804, but the Louisiana correspondence continues from Nicholas Trist at school in New Orleans and grandmother Elizabeth, who had moved to Louisiana. Her letters from 1811 reveal her efforts to clear title to the Trist plantation near Natchez.

There is little information about Mary Brown Trist's second marriage to Philip Livingston Jones, a prominent New Orleans lawyer. However, many letters (some written in French) document her third marriage to a sugar planter named Tournillon, who owned a plantation near Donaldsonville in Lafourche Parish, La. In 1817, letters show that Nicholas returned to Charlottesville, Va., and fell in love with Virginia Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's granddaughter. At the age of eighteen, he expressed his intention to marry her, but the family thought him too young and impecunious to seal the bond. Nicholas entered West Point in 1818.

Folder 1


Folder 2


Folder 3


Folder 4


Folder 5

1803 January-June

Folder 6

1803 July-September

Folder 7

1803 October-December

Folder 8


Folder 9


Folder 10


Folder 11


Folder 12


Folder 13


Folder 14


Folder 15

1818 January-July

Folder 16

1818 August-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. Correspondence, 1819-1827.

About 500 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Letters documenting Nicholas Trist's education at West Point, his courtship of Virginia Jefferson Randolph, and his early married years. Letters exchanged between Nicholas and his relatives reveal anxiety over the conflict between cadets and faculty at West Point. According to her letter dated 2 January 1819, Elizabeth Trist, once again in Virginia, worried that her grandson might even be expelled. In May 1821, Trist assured Thomas Mann Randolph that he was more interested in a legal career than in a military commission. Trist also received letters from his mother and stepfather (in French), documenting the financial straits of the family still in Louisiana. Also in Louisiana, Hore Browse Trist began what became a lifelong correspondence with his brother.

Virginia Randolph appears as a recipient of correspondence rather than a correspondent herself during this period. She received scattered letters from Randolph kin at Monticello, Charlottesville, and the Randolph plantation, Edgehill. There are no letters here Virginia to Nicholas during this period, but there is much correspondence between her suitor and her mother. On 9 July 1821, Nicholas again requested Virginia's hand in marriage. The family, including Virginia, seems to have been reluctant because of his financial difficulties and her desire to stay in Albemarle rather than move to Louisiana. The Randolphs had financial worries of their own, as shown in letters that discuss selling Monticello.

In 1822, Nicholas returned to Louisiana with the idea of making enough money to marry Virginia. His letters to her reveal the difficulties he and his brother experienced in their attempt to make the family plantation at Donaldsonville, in Lafourche Parish, profitable. In 1823, correspondence chiefly concerns Nicholas's unsuccessful attempts to sell the plantation in order to return to Virginia. Finally, in 1824, Nicholas left the plantation under his brother's management and returned to Monticello to marry Virginia. They lived at Monticello for the first few years of their marriage. Letters from Hore Browse Trist continue to document activities in Louisiana at the family sugar plantation.

Folder 17

1819 January-May

Folder 18

1819 June-December

Folder 19

1820 January-April

Folder 20

1820 May-August

Folder 21

1820 September-December

Folder 22

1821 January-April

Folder 23

1821 May-July

Folder 24

1821 August-December

Folder 25

1822 January

Folder 26

1822 February

Folder 27

1822 March-June

Folder 28

1822 July-August

Folder 29

1822 September-December

Folder 30

1823 January-March

Folder 31

1823 April-May

Folder 32

1823 June-August

Folder 33

1823 September-December

Folder 34

1824 January-June

Folder 35

1824 July-December

Folder 36

1825 January-June

Folder 37

1825 July-December

Folder 38

1826 January-June

Folder 39

1826 July-December

Folder 40

1827 January-May

Folder 41

1827 June-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.3. Correspondence, 1828-1833.

About 600 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

There are three major streams of correspondence during this time period: letters of Nicholas and Virginia Randolph Trist; letters of Nicholas and his brother, Hore Browse Trist, in Louisiana; and letters of Virginia and her Randolph relatives. The latter chiefly involves Virginia's mother, Martha Jefferson Randolph, who, after the family sold Monticello, lived for most of the year in Boston with the Coolidges, family of her married daughter, Ellen, who was also a significant family correspondent, and Virginia's sister Cornelia, who often lived with the Trists. The voluminous correspondence of Elizabeth Trist ended with her death in 1828.

At the beginning of 1828, letters show that Nicholas was managing the Randolph farming interests in Virginia and studying law in hopes of becoming a professor. He even bought an interest in the Charlottesville Press. However, his life took an unexpected turn before the year was out, when Nicholas moved to Washington to work for the United States State Department. Virginia remained at Edgehill, the Randolph family plantation in Albemarle County, Va. Detailed correspondence between them documents the birth of their second child and Nicholas's life in the boarding houses of Washington, D.C. During this period, the Trists had three children: Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson), who was deaf; Martha Jefferson (Pattie), and Hore Browse (Browse).

Virginia and the children joined Nicholas in Washington in 1829. Her letters home to the Randolphs document the family's life in the capital. Although Nicholas's duties in the State Department required him to work closely with President Andrew Jackson, correspondence contains only fleeting references to his official duties. Instead, Trist and Randolph correspondents wrote long, detailed letters ranging through a wide variety of topics including health (for example, Nicholas took his daughter to Philadelphia in July 1830 to have her tonsils removed and described the procedure in a letter to Virginia), opinions of various cultural events, reading habits, social routines, scenes of the capital (including a detailed floor plan of the Trist residence near the White House, 8 May 1829), and other topics of family interest. In 1833, Nicholas was appointed consul to Havana and the family made plans to move to Cuba.

Folder 42

1828 January-March

Folder 43

1828 April-September

Folder 44

1828 October-December

Folder 45

1829 January

Folder 46

1829 February

Folder 47

1829 March

Folder 48

1829 April

Folder 49

1829 May

Folder 50

1829 June-July

Folder 51

1829 August

Folder 52

1829 September

Folder 53

1829 October

Folder 54

1829 November-December

Folder 55

1830 January-June

Folder 56

1830 July-December

Folder 57

1831 January-May

Folder 58

1831 June-July

Folder 59

1831 August-September

Folder 60

1831 October-December

Folder 61

1832 January-April

Folder 62

1832 May-August

Folder 63

1832 September-December

Folder 64

1833 January-April

Folder 65

1833 May-June

Folder 66

1833 July-August

Folder 67

1833 September-November

Folder 68

1833 December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.4. Correspondence, 1834-1845.

About 850 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Letters relating to the life of the Trist family in Cuba and the early education of the Trist children. The Trists enrolled Jefferson in the Philadelphia Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, and family correspondence shows that Virginia, Pattie, and Browse lived at Edgehill for the first two years of Nicholas's tenure as United States consul in Havana. They joined him in Cuba in 1836. In March 1839, Virginia took Pattie and Browse to school in France. They stayed until 1841, and extensive correspondence to Nicholas documents their activities. Scattered correspondence from Philadelphia also documents Jefferson's progress. In 1841, the Whigs removed Nicholas from office, but the family continued to live in Cuba until 1845. According to family letters, they bought a farm on a hill overlooking Havana harbor. By mid-1845, the political winds had shifted, and Nicholas returned to Washington to work for the State Department. Virginia joined him after a visit to Edgehill and a shopping spree in New York to establish her new household in the capital.

Also included in correspondence from this period are letters from Hore Browse Trist containing much information about the family sugar plantation in Louisiana and letters from Randolphs in Virginia and Coolidges in Boston, chiefly about family matters.

Folder 69

1834 January-February

Folder 70

1834 March

Folder 71

1834 April

Folder 72

1834 May

Folder 73

1834 June-September

Folder 74

1834 October-December

Folder 75

1835 January-February

Folder 76

1835 March

Folder 77

1835 April

Folder 78

1835 May

Folder 79

1835 June-July

Folder 80

1835 August-November

Folder 81

1835 December

Folder 82

1836 January-February

Folder 83

1836 March

Folder 84

1836 April

Folder 85

1836 May

Folder 86

1836 June-July

Folder 87

1836 August-October

Folder 88

1836 November-December

Folder 89

1837 January-February

Folder 90

1837 March-April

Folder 91

1837 May-June

Folder 92

1837 July-October

Folder 93

1837 November-December

Folder 94

1838 January-February

Folder 95

1838 March-April

Folder 96

1838 May-June

Folder 97

1838 July

Folder 98

1838 August-September

Folder 99

1838 October-December

Folder 100

1839 January-March

Folder 101

1839 April-May

Folder 102

1839 June-July

Folder 103

1839 August-September

Folder 104

1839 October-December

Folder 105

1840 January-February

Folder 106

1840 March-April

Folder 107

1840 May-June

Folder 108

1840 July-August

Folder 109

1840 September-December

Folder 110

1841 January-March

Folder 111

1841 April-May

Folder 112

1841 June-August

Folder 113

1841 September-December

Folder 114


Folder 115

1843 January-June

Folder 116

1843 July-December

Folder 117

1844 January-April

Folder 118

1844 May-July

Folder 119

1844 August-September

Folder 120

1844 October

Folder 121

1844 November-December

Folder 122

1845 January-June

Folder 123

1845 July-October

Folder 124

1845 November-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.5. Correspondence, 1846-1854.

About 800 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly letters documenting a nomadic period in the life of the Trist family. Soon after returning to Washington, Nicholas was commissioned by the Treasury Department to conclude a peace treaty with Mexico. Except for instructions from the Treasury Department and a letter of introduction from the Secretary of State James Buchanan, there is little information about his official activities; there are no letters written from Mexico in this collection. However, letters of sympathy to the family demonstrate support for Nicholas's unauthorized actions that not only succeeded in ending hostilities, but also ended Nicholas's political career. He returned from Mexico in the spring of 1848. With the loss of his government position, family finances deteriorated dramatically. Letters reveal that family members were often separated from each other, living at various times in Pennsylvania or New York. Scattered business correspondence documents Nicholas's investment in risky projects, such as the Maryland Mining Company in 1848 and a washing machine business in England in the early 1850s. These ventures further undermined the financial stability of the family. Nicholas was also an apparently unsuccessful as an attorney with the firm of Fowler & Wells of New York City.

Correspondence during this period is chiefly between daughter Pattie and her parents and friends. Nicholas's letters show his attempts to help his children make an independent income. On 19 May 1849, he wrote a long letter to Major General Winfield Scott requesting a clerkship for Jefferson and describing his deaf son's training as an artist. At the same time Nicholas declared to Scott his own intention never to hold public office again. Jefferson's letters show that, instead of a Washington appointment, he was apprenticed to an artist named Cropsey and worked at the Philadelphia Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Nicholas also assisted his brother, Hore Browse, in Louisiana in his attempts to educate his sons.

In 1850, the Trists moved to New York and Browse matriculated at the University of Virginia. The Trist's reestablished their connections to England when Nicholas visited his Pendarves cousins in Cornwall. In 1853, Virginia and Pattie wrote often from Bowden plantation in Louisiana where they lived much of the year.

Family correspondence in this period includes a letter in which Virginia diagrammed four floors of their house in New York, 3 March 1850; one from Virginia in New York voicing her opinion of a lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 17 January 1852; and a letter from Nicholas about a pamphlet entitled "Woman and Her Wishes" that he had previously sent to female relatives, 5 November 1853. In the latter, Nicholas declared, "I am most decidedly a Woman's Rights man... ."

Nicholas's failure to provide for the family and the family's mounting debt compelled Virginia to take matters into her own hands. In 1854, she moved permanently to Philadelphia and opened a boarding school for girls. She wrote on 14 July of the family's desperate financial situation, having only a small income from Bowdon, the Trist plantation in Louisiana. "Our means were gradually melting away, and I thought while we yet had something left it was better to enter upon some plan of supporting ourselves. The school seemed to me the best, and that which pleased my friends most." Nicholas found work as a clerk at the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Company.

Folder 125

1846 January-February

Folder 126

1846 March

Folder 127

1846 April

Folder 128

1846 May

Folder 129

1846 June

Folder 130

1846 July

Folder 131

1846 August

Folder 132

1846 September

Folder 133

1846 October

Folder 134

1846 November

Folder 135

1846 December

Folder 136

1847 January-March

Folder 137

1847 April-July

Folder 138

1847 August-December

Folder 139

1848 January-April

Folder 140

1848 May-June

Folder 141

1848 July-August

Folder 142

1848 September-October

Folder 143

1848 November-December

Folder 144

1849 January-April

Folder 145

1849 May-July

Folder 146

1849 August-December

Folder 147

1850 January-May

Folder 148

1850 June-October

Folder 149

1850 November-December

Folder 150

1851 January-May

Folder 151

1851 June-August

Folder 152

1851 September-December

Folder 153

1852 January-February

Folder 154

1852 March-April

Folder 155

1852 May

Folder 156

1852 June

Folder 157

1852 July

Folder 158

1852 August-September

Folder 159

1852 October-December

Folder 160

1853 January-April

Folder 161

1853 May-June

Folder 162

1853 July-August

Folder 163

1853 September

Folder 164

1853 October-December

Folder 165

1854 January-April

Folder 166

1854 May-June

Folder 167

1854 July

Folder 168

1854 August-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.6. Correspondence, 1855-1859.

About 500 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly letters to Pattie Trist documenting Virginia Trist's attempts to establish a boarding school for girls in Philadelphia, the continuing economic decline of the family, and the young adult lives of the Trist children.

Virginia wrote to her daughter often of the difficulties related to opening a boarding school, especially such problems as advertising and housekeeping. At the same time, Nicholas wrote of the hopeless indebtedness of the family; in a 11 November 1856 letter to William B. Randolph (Beverly), Nicholas declared that the family was in debt for "all of the common necessaries of life," including coal, bread, and "everything that we consume." Apparently, the difficulties of opening a school combined with the family debt compelled the Trists to take in boarders.

Letters from the Trist children indicate that Pattie had married John W. Burke and moved to Alexandria, Va., by 1859. Before settling in Alexandria, Pattie visited Bowden Plantation in Louisiana and reported to her father the death of his brother, Hore Browse Trist, in November 1856. Son Browse earned a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in March 1857 and joined the Navy, writing many letters from Latin American ports about the local culture and his experiences on the sea. Nicholas's letters to William B. Randolph, a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, indicate continuing attempts to secure a clerkship for Jefferson, and contain accounts of various disastrous business investments that Nicholas had made on Randolph's advice. Letters also document Nicholas's partnership with Thomas Briggs Smith, inventor of a new kind of rail for railroads. Nicholas eventually became paymaster of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company.

Also of note during this period are several long letters that Virginia wrote defending her husband's actions during his mission to Mexico in 1847. Correspondence about family matters continued from Ellen Coolidge in Boston and from Cornelia, who sometimes lived at Edgehill. Family letters contain little discussion of events leading up to the Civil War.

Folder 169

1855 January-May

Folder 170

1855 June-July

Folder 171

1855 August-September

Folder 172

1855 October-December

Folder 173

1856 January

Folder 174

1856 February

Folder 175

1856 March-May

Folder 176

1856 June-August

Folder 177

1856 September-October

Folder 178

1856 November

Folder 179

1856 December

Folder 180

1857 January

Folder 181

1857 February

Folder 182

1857 March

Folder 183

1857 April-May

Folder 184

1857 June-July

Folder 185

1857 August

Folder 186

1857 September-October

Folder 187

1857 November-December

Folder 188

1858 January-May

Folder 189

1858 June-July

Folder 190

1858 August

Folder 191

1858 September-October

Folder 192

1858 November-December

Folder 193

1859 January-February

Folder 194

1859 March-April

Folder 195

1859 May-June

Folder 196

1859 July-August

Folder 197

1859 September-October

Folder 198

1859 November-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.7. Correspondence, 1860-1865.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Letters documenting family life and the home front during the Civil War. With the exception of the Battles of Bull Run (21 July 1861) and Gettysburg (July 1863), there is little direct reference to the war or to sectional animosities. Letters contain detailed information about the Trist family, their social life, domestic concerns, personal health, and financial difficulties. The majority of the letters were written by the women of the family--Virginia, Cornelia, Ellen, and Pattie.

According to family correspondence, Browse married a Miss Waring of Savannah, Ga., in the spring of 1861 and moved with his wife to that state. He briefly enlisted in the Confederate army as a surgeon, but soon resigned his commission. There is no correspondence from him during the remainder of the war. Other members of the immediate Trist family were unionists, though many of their Virginia relations sympathized with the South. There appears to have been a tacit agreement not to discuss the divisive politics of the period in correspondence.

Included are descriptions of the northern homefront during the war. Letters were regularly exchanged between Philadelphia, Alexandria, Virginia, Boston, and, occasionally, New York. In addition to the usual family news, correspondents often commented on the economic well-being of their communities, the effects of the war, and the general mood of the times.

Letters show that Cornelia translated and, in 1861, published Parlour Gardens, a book about house plants. Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867) served as her agent in this venture. The work was modestly successful. Cornelia also wrote several short stories and sought advice on their publication from Bulfinch and author Anne Brewster.

Folder 199

1860 January

Folder 200

1860 February

Folder 201

1860 March

Folder 202

1860 April

Folder 203

1860 May

Folder 204

1860 June-July

Folder 205

1860 August

Folder 206

1860 September

Folder 207

1860 October

Folder 208

1860 November-December

Folder 209

1861 January-March

Folder 210

1861 April

Folder 211

1861 May-June

Folder 212

1861 July-December

Folder 213

1862 January-February

Folder 214

1862 March-April

Folder 215

1862 May-June

Folder 216

1862 July-August

Folder 217

1862 September-October

Folder 218

1862 November-December

Folder 219

1863 January-March

Folder 220

1863 April-June

Folder 221

1863 July

Folder 222

1863 August-December

Folder 223

1864 January-March

Folder 224

1864 April-June

Folder 225

1864 July-December

Folder 226

1865 January

Folder 227

1865 February

Folder 228

1865 March-April

Folder 229

1865 May-June

Folder 230

1865 July-August

Folder 231

1865 September-October

Folder 232

1865 November-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.8. Correspondence, 1866-1869.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chief correspondents during this period include Virginia Trist, Pattie Trist Burke (who signed her letters M. J. Burke), Cornelia Randolph, Nicholas Trist, and, occasionally, Browse Trist and Pattie's husband, John Burke. Correspondence shows that Nicholas's job as paymaster of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company required a great deal of travel. Letters from Pattie in Alexandria, Va., to her parents in Philadelphia contain comments on the growth of the Burke family, Pattie's onerous housekeeping duties, and her complaints about servants. Pattie employed Irish servants when possible, and her letters reveal dramatic changes in racial relationships brought about by the end of slavery. Indeed, the effects of Reconstruction in Alexandria are interpreted primarily through Pattie's letters. For example, on 21 February 1868, she wrote, "There are an immense number of idlers supported by the [Freedman's] 'bureau.' I think it a bad institution unless this abuse of it could be obviated."

During this period Browse started a medical practice in Washington, D.C. His brief letters to family members suggest some of the difficulties he encountered and the time-consuming nature of his profession. Correspondence between Cornelia and Thomas Bulfinch continues through about 1866. Family letters also continue to defend Nicholas Trist's activities in Mexico in 1847. Of particular interest during this period, is correspondence between Nicholas and James Cloke documenting Nicholas's investment in a cattle ranch in Illinois that was managed by Cloke. In 1869, Nicholas turned 69 and wrote to his children of his desire to relocate Cloke and his cattle operation to Florida. Concerns about his own and Virginia's health also prompted him to suggest they might move. By the end of the year, Nicholas and Virginia had moved to Alexandria.

Folder 233

1866 January-May

Folder 234

1866 June-September

Folder 235

1866 October-December

Folder 236

1867 January-February

Folder 237

1867 March

Folder 238

1867 April-May

Folder 239

1867 June-August

Folder 240

1867 September-October

Folder 241

1867 November-December

Folder 242

1868 January-February

Folder 243

1868 March-April

Folder 244

1868 May

Folder 245

1868 June

Folder 246

1868 July

Folder 247

1868 August

Folder 248

1868 September

Folder 249

1868 October-December

Folder 250

1869 January-May

Folder 251

1869 June-August

Folder 252

1869 September-December

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.9. Correspondence, 1870-1891 and undated.

About 300 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chief correspondents for this period include Browse in Washington and Baltimore and Jefferson Trist in Philadelphia. Jefferson, who was an infrequent correspondent while his parents lived in Philadelphia, wrote many letters to them in Alexandria about his activities in Philadelphia and yearly vacations in Bar Harbor, Me. His wife, Ellen, experienced some kind of mental disease and, by 1873, Jefferson was living again at the Deaf and Dumb Institute in Philadelphia. Browse also had marital trouble during this period when his wife went blind in 1870, possibly because of a brain tumor.

There are letters of Virginia and Nicholas when they visited Rawley Springs in the Virginia mountains near Harrisonburg in 1870 and when Virginia briefly visited Philadelphia and Edgehill in 1872. Nicholas died in 1874. Thereafter, letters are chiefly to Virginia from Jefferson and Browse. Also among the correspondents during this period are Ellen Coolidge, Mary Randolph (Virginia's sister at Edgehill), and a cousin, Alice Mickleham. In 1884, Pattie's cousin, H. B. Trist, wrote from New Orleans about his attempts to reconstruct the family genealogy. (See Subseries 2.3 for information he apparently collected between 1884 and 1903).

Folder 253

1870 January-April

Folder 254

1870 May-July

Folder 255

1870 August-December

Folder 256

1871 January-August

Folder 257

1871 September-December

Folder 258


Folder 259


Folder 260


Folder 261


Folder 262


Folder 263


Folder 264


Folder 265


Folder 266


Folder 267


Folder 268


Folder 269


Folder 270


Folder 271


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Other Papers, 1784-1903.

About 500 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Financial and Legal Items, 1784-1882.

About 260 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Financial and legal papers of Nicholas Trist and members of his family from 1784 to 1882. Included are accounts and legal papers pertaining to the administration of the Trist plantations in Louisiana; bills, receipts, and promissory notes (including many in Spanish and some in French) dating from Nicholas's years as consul to Cuba; and other items chiefly concerning Trist's business and personal finances. (Note that although most items relating to the Louisiana plantations are in folder 272, some items in folders 274-278 may also relate to these plantations.)

Also included are the wills of Nicholas and Virginia Trist, which were written in Cuba; the will of Nicholas's grandfather, Nicholas Trist, written in Louisiana in 1784; and Nicholas's diplomatic commission to negotiate terms for peace with Mexico in 1847. A marital agreement of 1824 shows that Nicholas and Virginia were entitled to one fourth of the profits from the Louisiana plantations.

Folder 272

Louisiana plantations, 1826-1848

Folder 273

Havana, Cuba, 1833-1841

Folder 274

Miscellaneous financial and legal items, 1784-1827

Folder 275

Miscellaneous financial and legal items, 1828-1836

Folder 276

Miscellaneous financial and legal items, 1837-1845

Folder 277

Miscellaneous financial and legal items, 1847-1849

Folder 278

Miscellaneous financial and legal items, 1852-1882 and undated

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. School Materials, 1838-1852.

About 25 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Scholastic records of the children of Nicholas and Virginia Trist from 1838 to 1852. Included are certificates (in French) for their daughter, Pattie; progress reports (also in French) for their son Browse from the Pensionnat de M. Alphonse Briquet in Geneva; and class standing and attendance reports for Browse, from the University of Virginia.

Folder 279

School materials

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.3. Genealogical Materials, 1884-1903.

About 50 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Information relating to the history of the Trist family, chiefly collected from 1884 to about 1903 by H. B. Trist of New Orleans, Nicholas Trist's nephew. Included are narratives of genealogical research in England, genealogical charts, extracts from legal documents, copies of correspondence, and other items.

Folder 280

Genealogical materials

Folder 281

Genealogical materials

Folder 282

Genealogical materials

Folder 283

Genealogical materials

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.4. Miscellaneous Items.

About 200 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Included are writings of Nicholas and Virginia Trist. Especially significant among these are their writings about Nicholas's mission to Mexico in 1847. Also included are poems, medical writings, remedies and recipes, a library inventory, newspaper clippings, and other items.

Folder 284

Miscellaneous items

Separated Folder SEP-2104/1

Letter introducing Nicholas P. Trist, from Secretary of State James Buchanan to the minister of foreign relations of the Mexican Republic, 15 April 1847

Restriction to Access: The original item is not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact staff at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu to discuss options.

Folder 285

Miscellaneous items

Folder 286

Miscellaneous items

Folder 287

Miscellaneous items

Folder 288

Miscellaneous items

Reel M-2104/1-17



















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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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