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Collection Number: 02594

Collection Title: Benjamin C. Yancey Papers, 1800-1931

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.

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 7.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 4800 items)
Abstract Planter, lawyer, antebellum Alabama newspaper editor, Democratic state legislator in South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia; U.S. minister to Argentina; Confederate officer in Virginia, 1861, and Georgia militia officer in the Atlanta Campaign, 1864; publisher of postwar agricultural journals and promoter of agricultural societies, business, and industry in Georgia; and brother of William Lowndes Yancey. Yancey's papers, primarily 1835-1891, include extensive correspondence with public figures and with a large and widespread family connection, which included the Yancey, Bird, Cunningham, Hamilton, Phinizy, and Patterson families; papers relating to plantations in Cherokee County, Ala., and Floyd County, Ga., including correspondence with overseers; papers relating to law practice and politics, especially in the 1840s and 1850s in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina; correspondence and letterpress copy book in Argentina, 1858-1859, including letters to Secretary of State Lewis Cass; and papers relating to military service and varied business, industrial, and agricultural pursuits after the war. Also included are volumes of miscellaneous accounts, 1850-1885, and a woman's diary, 1850, of a seven-week trip from Georgia to New York and New England.
Creator Yancey, Benjamin C. (Benjamin Cudworth), 1817-1891.
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Language English
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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 Benjamin C. Yancey Papers #2594, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy available.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Hamilton Yancey and Claire Yancey Clark of Rome, Ga., in April 1943 and October 1946.
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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Processed by: SHC Staff

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Updated by: Laura Hart, March 2021

This collection was processed with support, in part, from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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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

Benjamin Cudworth Yancey was born in Charleston, S.C., on 27 April 1817, the younger of two sons of Caroline Bird and Benjamin Cudworth Yancey. His father was a prominent South Carolina lawyer and political figure while his mother was the daughter of William Bird of Warren County, Ga. When his father died in 1817, his mother moved to Georgia where Yancey received his education at the Mount Zion Academy in Hancock County, under the tutelage of Reverend Nathan Sidney Smith Beman, later the leader of the New School Presbyterians and an ardent abolitionist. Caroline Bird Yancey married Beman in 1821 and the family moved to Troy, N.Y., where Yancey attended the Academy School. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1836 and from Yale Law School in the winter of 1838.

Yancey began his practice in Cahaba, Ala., edited the local Democrat paper, and, in 1840, joined his brother, William L. Yancey, as co-owner and co-editor of the Wetumpka Argus. In 1841, he moved to Hamburg, S.C., across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga. He married Laura Hines of Hancock County, Ga., in 1842, and they had one daughter, Caroline. Three years after Laura died in 1844, he married Sarah Hamilton, daughter of Thomas N. Hamilton of Athens, Ga., with whom he had Hamilton and Mary Louisa. Yancey practiced law in Hamburg until 1850, serving several times in the South Carolina legislature. In 1850, he left South Carolina for a plantation home in the Coosa River in Cherokee County, Ala.

Yancey was elected to the Alabama legislature and served as presiding officer of that body. In 1858, he accepted an appointment to the post of Minister Resident of the United States to the Argentine Confederation, serving there until the winter of 1859 when he returned to the United States to look after his private affairs following the death of his father-in-law. While serving as United States minister to the Argentine Confederation, he attempted to mediate a dispute between the Confederation and the then independent state of Buenos Aires, but was unable to avert war. Upon his return to the United States, he was offered other diplomatic positions by President Buchanan, but declined them.

During the American Civil War, Yancey served in Virginia as an officer in the Fulton Dragoons of Cobb's Georgia Legion, and also participated actively in the defense of Atlanta in 1864 as a colonel in the Georgia militia. After the war, Yancey resided in Georgia where he practiced law in Athens and undertook various other business interests and planting ventures in several localities. He served in the Georgia legislature, was a trustee of the University of Georgia, edited an agricultural journal, and was president of the Georgia State Agricultural Society. He remained actively interested in business and agricultural affairs until shortly before his death in 1891.

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Personal, business, professional, and official papers of Benjamin C. Yancey in Series 1 are divided into dated and undated material.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Yancey Papers, 1800-1931 and undated.

About 4,775 items.

Personal, business, professional, and official papers of Benjamin C. Yancey together with the correspondence of his wife's Georgia relatives, the Hamiltons, as well as his own more widely scattered relatives.

Personal papers include letters from the Cunningham family in Laurens County, S.C., and picture daily life in South Carolina; the Hamilton family, beginning in 1837, and covering details of business and daily personal life of a Georgia planting family; disputes and the separation of Yancey's mother, Caroline Beman, and her second husband, Reverend Nathan S. S. Beman, 1834-1838; the career and migration to the west of Samuel S. Beman, Yancey's step-brother; and Yancey's education at the University of Georgia and Yale, 1837-1838, with letters from classmates and other friends. There are also letters from his son, Hamilton Yancey, while at University of Georgia and the University of Virginia, 1868-1869, and his daughters, Mary Lou Yancey, at the Virginia Female Institute at Staunton, 1868-1869, and Caro, at the Tuskegee Female College, 1856-1858. After the Civil War, there are letters among Yancey's relatives about Reconstruction and the situation of the South. Other correspondence deals with Mary Lou's marriages to Phinizys and other personal letters of Sarah Hamilton Yancey. Letters, 1916-1931, deal chiefly with family history and genealogy.

Business materials, 1800-1855, include letters discussing management of Yancey's Cherokee County, Ala., plantation; management of Thomas N. Hamilton's Woodville, Ga., plantation (beginning in 1837); correspondence with overseers, relatives, and brokers, chiefly in Augusta, Rome, and Charleston, pertaining to the ordering and delivery of supplies and debt collection; and the river transportation of cotton in Alabama and Georgia. In 1858, Yancey settled the Woodville estate belonging to his father-in-law, Thomas N. Hamilton, from South America.

Yancey's papers as president of the State Agricultural Society in Georgia begin in 1869 and continue through 1878. During this time, he was president of the Plantation Publishing Company, Atlanta, 1870-1873, and editor of The Plantation, an agricultural journal. Much of the correspondence of this period deals with subscriptions, advertisements, binding and printing work, agricultural articles, applications for positions, and news about seeds, fertilizers, and machinery. Yancey maintained both his cotton plantations in Floyd County, Ga., and Cherokee County, Ala., and was interested in experimental farming, insurance matters, and horses.

Political papers relating to local politics in Edgefield County, S.C., and Cherokee County, Ala., are dated, 1840-1851. State legislature papers discuss the struggle for states' rights, 1851-1852, and national issues in the South. Yancey served one legislative term in Alabama in 1856 and served as Minister Resident of the United States to the Argentine Confederation, 1858-1859. Material from this period includes Yancey's official papers and reports in connection with peace negotiations between the Confederation and the state of Buenos Aires; items relating to political and military activities in that connection; correspondence relating to the interests of American merchants, navigation rights, and diplomatic and social matters, especially to Secretary of State Lewis Cass; and Yancey's own business and personal affairs.

Also included is material relating to Yancey's service as captain, later major, in the Fulton Dragoons of Cobb's Georgia Legion stationed near Yorktown, Va., in 1861 and as colonel in the Georgia militia around Atlanta in 1864. There is also materials relating to Yancey's candidacy as judge of the western circuit, 1872-1873; president of the Georgia Chemical Works, Augusta, beginning in 1878; trustee of the University of Georgia; and candidate for legislature in 1878.

Material in connection with his law practice begins in 1838 and includes documentation of cases handled by Yancey; documents pertaining to property involved in the cases; and miscellaneous wills and deeds. There are also materials relating to Yancey's editorship of the Cahaba Democrat in 1838 and law practice in both Cahaba and Wetumpka in 1839, his 1840-1856 law practice in Hamburg, S.C., and editorship of The Crisis, and his Atlanta law practice, beginning in 1856 and continuing until his move to Athens after the war.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. Dated Papers, 1800-1931.

About 4,000 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Folder 1a

Biographical Data

Folder 1b


Folder 2


Folder 3


Folder 4


Folder 5

1839 January-June

Folder 6

1839 July-December

Folder 7


Folder 8


Folder 9


Folder 10


Folder 11


Folder 12


Folder 13a

1849 January-March

Folder 13b

1849 April-December

Folder 14

1850 January-March

Folder 15

1850 April-July

Folder 16

1850 August-December

Folder 17

1851 January-March

Folder 18

1851 April-July

Folder 19

1851 August-December

Folder 20

1852 January-May

Folder 21

1852 June-December

Folder 22

1853 January-May

Folder 23

1853 June-December

Folder 24


Folder 25

1855 January-September

Folder 26

1855 October-December

Folder 27

1856 January-June

Folder 28

1856 July-December

Folder 29

1857 January-May

Folder 30

1857 June-December

Folder 31

1858 January-April

Folder 32

1858 May-June

Folder 33

1858 July-August

Folder 34

1858 September-December

Folder 35

1859 January-March

Folder 36

1859 April-June

Folder 37

1859 July-August 21

Folder 38

1859 August 30

Folder 39

1859 September-December

Folder 40

1859 Undated

Folder 41


Folder 42


Folder 43


Folder 44

1867 January-April

Folder 45

1867 May-December

Folder 46

1868 January-October

Folder 47

1868 November-December

Folder 48

1869 January-February

Folder 49

1869 March-June

Folder 50

1869 July-December

Folder 51

1870 January-March

Folder 52

1870 April

Folder 53

1870 May

Folder 54

1870 June-December

Folder 55a

1871 January-June

Folder 55b

1871 July-October

Folder 56

1871 November-December

Folder 57

1872 January-March

Folder 58a

1872 April-May

Folder 58b

1872 June

Folder 59

1872 July-September

Folder 60

1872 October-November

Folder 61

1872 December

Folder 62a

1873 January

Folder 62b

1873 February

Folder 63

1873 March

Folder 64a

1873 April-May 14

Folder 64b

1873 May 15-June

Folder 65

1873 July

Folder 66

1873 August-October

Folder 67

1873 November-December

Folder 68

1874 January

Folder 69

1874 February

Folder 70

1874 March-April

Folder 71

1874 May-June

Folder 72

1874 July-September

Folder 73

1874 October-December

Folder 74


Folder 75


Folder 76

1877 January-February

Folder 77

1877 March-May

Folder 78

1877 June-August

Folder 79

1877 September-December

Folder 80


Folder 81

1879 January-August

Folder 82

1879 September-December

Folder 83


Folder 84


Folder 85

1882 January-July

Folder 86

1882 August-December

Folder 87

1883 January-April

Folder 88

1883 May-September

Folder 89

1883 October-December

Folder 90

1884 January-March

Folder 91

1884 April-June

Folder 92

1884 July-September

Folder 93

1884 October-December

Folder 94


Folder 95

1886 January-July

Folder 96

1886 August-December

Folder 97


Folder 98


Folder 99

1890 January-July

Folder 100

1890 August-December

Folder 101


Folder 102


Folder 103


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. Undated Papers, Undated.

About 775 items.

Includes undated material arranged by sender, addressee, or type of material.

Folder 104-105

Folder 104

Folder 105

Letters to Ben C. Yancey

Folder 106-107

Folder 106

Folder 107

Letters to Florence Patterson Yancey

Folder 108

Letters to and from Hamilton Yancey

Folder 109-110

Folder 109

Folder 110

Letters to and from Mary Lou Yancey Phinizy

Folder 111-112

Folder 111

Folder 112

Letters to and from Sarah P. Hamilton Yancey

Folder 113

Letters from William L. Yancey

Folder 114

Letters from Lucy Alexander, Saida B. Byrd, and S. E. Byrd

Folder 115

Letters from Caro Yancey Williams and Family

Folder 116

Patterson and Phinizy Family Correspondence

Folder 117

Letters to and from Mamie Lou Phinizy

Folder 118-120

Folder 118

Folder 119

Folder 120

Miscellaneous Personal Letters

Folder 121-124

Folder 121

Folder 122

Folder 123

Folder 124

Business Papers and Miscellaneous Papers

Folder 125-126

Folder 125

Folder 126

Speeches, essays, poems, recipes, cures, notes

Folder 127

Fragments ad short notes

Folder 128

Circulars and broadsides

Folder 129


Folder 130

Invitations, replies and visiting cards

Extra Oversize Paper Folder XOPF-2594/1

Oversize papers

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Volumes, 1847-1885 and undated.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Pictures, undated.

5 items.
Image Folder PF-2594/1


Photograph and pencil sketch by Horace Bradley of Benjamin C. Yancey, undated.

Photograph of William L. Yancey, undated.

Photograph of the clover seed gatherer, a farm machine, undated.

Oversize Image Folder OP-PF-2594/1

Oversize image

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Microfilm copy of collection.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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