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|Size||3.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 3150 items)|
|Abstract||Prominent members of the Branch family included John Branch (1782-1863), governor of North Carolina, U.S. representative and senator, secretary of the Navy, governor of the Florida Territory, and a planter in North Carolina and Florida; his son, William Henry Branch (1823-1910), cotton planter in Florida and merchant and farmer in Georgia; and his grandson, William Horton Branch (1852-1920), also a merchant and farmer in Georgia. The collection includes scattered political papers of John Branch, including some relating to his resignation from Andrew Jackson's cabinet as a result of the Peggy Eaton affair; journals and other documentation of Wood Lawn and Live Oak, John Branch's plantations, presumabley in Leon County, Fla.; and personal and business papers of William Henry Branch, William Horton Branch, and members of their families (especially the women), relating chiefly to life in Baker, Colquitt, and Mitchell counties, Ga., including social activities, small mercantile businesses, education, farming, and local politics.|
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John Branch (1784-1863) was born in Halifax, North Carolina, the third child in the wealthy and prominent family of Colonel John Branch and Mary Bradford Branch. He was educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1801. He studied law, but never actively engaged in practice, preferring the life of a wealthy planter and politician. He became a state senator in 1811, and served again in 1813-1817, 1822, and 1834, acting as speaker of the state senate from 1815 to 1817. He served as governor of North Carolina from 1817 to 1820, United States senator from 1823 to 1829, and secretary of the Navy from 1829 to 1831, when his involvement in the complications and embarrassment resulting from the marriage of John Eaton and Peggy O'Neale forced Branch to resign from the cabinet. He declined appointments to foreign missions and to the territorial governorship of Florida and severed relations with Andrew Jackson, becoming a supporter of John C. Calhoun. As a show of confidence, Branch was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives by unanimous vote, and served until 1833.
About 1833, Branch began acquiring property near Tallahassee, Florida, and was appointed governor of the Florida territory from 1843 to 1845, during which time Florida became a state. Plantations operated by Branch included Wood Lawn, Live Oak, and Whitehead Place, near Tallahassee, Florida, presumably in Leon County. (A description of Live Oak can be found in Series 2.2, Folder 107.) Upon the death of his wife, Elizabeth Foort, Branch returned to North Carolina, where he later married Mary Eliza (Jordan) Bond, with whom he had no children. He died in Enfield 4 January 1863.
Branch and Elizabeth Foort Branch raised nine children. One son, John Richard, died before John Branch, leaving children who were named in Branch's will. A daughter, Mary Eliza, first married Leigh Read and later married William Bailey. She was not named in her father's will and probably died before he did, as did two other children, James Branch and Rebecca Bradford Branch (Mrs. Robert White Williams). The surviving children of John Branch included William Henry Branch of Florida and Georgia, who is the central figure through much of the period covered by these papers; Sarah (Sally), who married Dr. James Hunter of Halifax County, North Carolina; Martha (Mrs. Edward Bradford) of Florida; Susan (Mrs. Arvah Hopkins) of Florida; and Margaret (Mrs. Daniel S. Donelson) of Tennessee. All of the daughters had children who wrote at various times, some frequently, to William Henry Branch and his children.
William Henry Branch was born 9 October 1823 and died 20 October 1910. In 1848, he married Mary Eliza Horton, daughter of R. Horton of Huntsville, Alabama. He was a licensed attorney and planter in Florida until 1866, when he moved to Georgia, where he became a small merchant and farmer. In Georgia, the William Henry Branch family lived in Baker County (Newton, Branchville); in Colquitt County (Felix), where Branch served as county commissioner and postmaster and was involved in local politics; and finally in various places in Mitchell County, including Camilla, Magnolia, Pelham, Pebble City, and Sale City, or on farms near these towns.
Branch was called William H. or W.H.; his son, William Horton Branch, called Horton by the family, signed his name W. Horton Branch and was frequently addressed as W.H. In many of the later Papers, it is difficult to determine which Branch was indicated by W.H. Other children of William Henry and Mary Eliza Branch include Lucie (Mrs. Charles Munnerlyn), among whose children were Genie, Josie Elma, Lucius, and others; and Josie (Mrs. Wimberly W. Cullens), whose children were Wimberly, Jr., Willie Frank, Branch, and Plant. Mary Eliza Branch died in 1871.
William Horton Branch (1852-1920), the focus of the papers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was born at Live Oak, a Branch plantation in Florida. He moved to a location near Felix, Georgia, and married Sallie Thornton of Georgia in 1876. About 1888 Horton moved to a home near Magnolia (later Pelham), Georgia; he served there as overseer of roads, and became a member of the Democratic Executive Committee of Mitchell County in 1904. Children of William Horton Branch and Sallie Thornton Branch included Will [William Henry]; Edward; Elbert; and James A. James A. Branch was educated at Emory University, taught briefly in Leary, Georgia, became a lawyer in Atlanta, and was the donor of most of these papers.Back to Top
The collection includes correspondence and legal and financial material of four generations of the Branch family. The earliest papers are deeds and legal documents relating to property in Halifax County, North Carolina. Other financial and legal material relating to John Branch includes deeds, indentures, sales receipts and other material relating to cotton production. After the 1850s, the financial and legal papers are primarily those of William Henry Branch, and document the inventory and operation of Branch's small farming operation and mercantile businesses. Similar papers of William Horton Branch, a small merchant in various southwestern Georgia towns, become a significant part of the collection by the late 1880s and continue until the end. Scattered throughout the papers of both William Henry and William Horton Branch are items relating to small mercantile businesses, the marketing of cotton and other produce, local government and politics, social life in small Georgia towns, and education at all levels.
Correspondence in the Branch family papers of the 1820s and 1830s relates largely to the political activities of John Branch, but are too sporadic to reveal a full picture, with the partial exception of Branch's involvement in the Eaton affair. There is very little information on Florida politics in the period of Branch's governorship.
After the 1840s, the focus of the correspondence shifts to the family of William Henry Branch. Papers document both family and business concerns of William H. Branch and his children and grandchildren. While there is no evidence in the papers of any participation in the Civil War by Branch men, letters contain both John and William's views on secession, as do two undated essays (see Series 3). Several letters reveal the effect of the war on women. Documentation of William Horton Branch is central to the collection after 1870. Documentation of women increases throughout, and is especially strong in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Correspondence (Series 1) and financial and legal papers (Subseries 2.1) have been arranged chronologically with subseries divided by dates of events that to some degree alter the focus of the material.Back to Top
Correspondence relates to the families, businesses, and political activities of John, William Henry, and William Horton Branch. Correspondence from 1819 until about 1850 largely concerns the political career and business interests of John Branch. Beginning in 1851, letters document William Henry Branch's mercantile concerns and various forays into local politics in southwestern Georgia. The series retains its focus on William Henry Branch until about 1870, after which business and personal correspondence of the family of William Horton Branch dominate. Letters by and among Branch's wives, daughters, and other friends and acquaintances are of particular interest from 1864 to about 1871, with several describing women's postbellum entry into remunerative childcare and education. Much correspondence after 1880 involves women in the Branch family; topics are largely household chores, illnesses, financial concerns, visiting and letter-writing, and general news of children and family members. Occasional references to political and economic developments can also be found in these letters.
Scattered correspondence relating to John Branch's political career, including an 1826 letter from Andrew Jackson regarding the current political climate, and an 1832 letter from James Iredell on his opposition to Van Buren for vice-president, as well as notes and letters regarding Branch's plans and policy as secretary of the Navy, and several letters revealing Branch's role in the "Eaton affair." Material related to this incident includes correspondence with John Eaton, John MacPherson Berrien, Samuel Price Carson, Romulus Mitchell Saunders, and R.H. Bradford, as well as an appeal from a committee of Bertie County citizens encouraging Branch to run for Congress. Of special interest is a letter, 16 December 1834, on horse racing.
Correspondence regarding Branch's political career and move to Florida, including an 1839 letter from Branch outlining his inability to support Martin Van Buren, attempts on the life of Leigh Read, and political appointments, especially Branch's appointment as territorial governor of Florida. Also included are letters from relations in Halifax County, North Carolina.
Business and political correspondence of John Branch, relating to his property and overseers in Florida (presumably in Leon County), and Branch's pro-secession stance. Correspondence includes an 1851 letter from Charles Colcock favoring secession and an 1857 letter from R. B. Rhett, Jr., on the sectional crisis, as well as an April 1862 letter from Margaret Donelson, wife of General Daniel S. Donelson, on her husband's transfer to Corinth, Mississippi, and her intent to follow him. Letters from John Branch to William Henry Branch express a fear of war, and give news of the blockade, and other military developments. Correspondence between women in the family reveals their anxiety over the war. Of interest is an 1866 letter from Amos Whitehead in Florida on reconstruction and race relations. Other family correspondence includes an account of the destruction of Branch's crops by boll-worm and floods, a letter from Branch's wife and mother-in-law following what appears to have been Eliza's miscarriage, letters from William Henry Branch relating to such matters as a small shoe factory he established and salt production, and letters from relatives in Halifax County, North Carolina. Letters from June 1863 begin a long correspondence with lawyer Joseph Batchelor and others regarding the settling of John Branch's estate.
Correspondence describes the post-bellum financial situation of the Branch family, including William Henry Branch's efforts to rent or sell Live Oak Plantation in Florida following his 1866 move to Baker County, Georgia. Other letters relate to Lucy Branch attending Montpelier Institute. Correspondence describes education among other members of the family, including letters from Horton Branch describing his experiences at the business school of R.R. Euston in Macon, Georgia. Other letters concern R.B. Rhett's search for a governess for his daughter Josie, who lived with the Branch family during this period. Correspondence with Joseph Batchelor and others regarding the John Branch estate continues.
Correspondence continues regarding the settling of the John Branch estate. Other correspondence relates to cotton production and speculation, the establishment of a local Grange (for minutes of Grange meetings, see Series 3, Folder 103), and miscellaneous family news.
Largely correspondence of the women in the Branch families, revealing the rhythms of life on Georgia plantations; topics include children, illnesses, visits and letter-writing, and social affairs, with some comment on the business and political affairs of family members. This correspondence includes an 1882 Valentine poem attributed to Josie Branch, and two poems, "Friendship," and "Life's Problems," copied and sent by Josie Branch, probably to her father. Chief correspondents include Martha Branch Bradford, Josie Rhett, Josie Branch, Lucie Branch Munnerlyn and Sallie Thornton Branch. Business correspondence includes discussions of the sale of guano, letters regarding William Henry Branch's appeals to family and friends for loans following a "misfortune in crops," letters relating to Branch's attempt to rent his properties, and continued correspondence with lawyer Joseph Batchelor. After 1890, letters relate to the procurement of goods for William Horton Branch's mercantile business, which he appears to have established at about this time.
Continued family letters, with Josie Branch (now Mrs. Wimberly Cullins) writing frequently from Camilla, Georgia, to her father, who was with Horton at Magnolia (later Pelham). Letters to Horton contain information regarding the taxation of guano in Florida. Between 1894 and 1896, correspondence includes scattered comments on local (Georgia) and national politics.
William Horton Branch moved at this time from Pelham, Georgia, to his farm outside of town; papers include material on roadwork in Mitchell County, for which Horton Branch acted as overseer. In the fall of 1897, James A. Branch began to write from Emory University at Oxford, Georgia; in 1898 these letters and others include comments on local politics and the Spanish-American war, although none of the Branches participated directly in the war. Several letters during 1899 discuss a controversy in the Methodist church in Pelham, and the trial of a church member. Other correspondence to William Henry Branch reveals Branch's attempts to sell various personal items from Live Oak, James A. Branch's experiences teaching at Leary, Georgia, and local political activity in which William Horton Branch was involved. Of special interest is an 1897 inquiry to Horton Branch asking how to conduct a ring-and-lance tournament, and Horton's response.
Business and family correspondence. Business letters relate to the sale of land and crops, acquisitions of merchandise for shops, and maintenance of insurance policies. Family correspondence includes letters from Josie Munnerly to her grandfather, William Henry Branch, and letters from James A. Branch to William Henry and Sarah Branch, with references to law school at the University of Georgia and activities in Athens, Georgia. In 1901, James A. Branch left school and began law practice in the office of Burton Smith in Atlanta. Correspondence during 1902 includes letters describing Wimberly Cullens, Jr.'s move to Jacksonville, Florida to work in a hotel, and fairly detailed letters from Josie Branch Cullens on life in Camilla, Georgia.
Chiefly family letters, especially from Josie Cullens, the granddaughter of William Henry Branch, the latter now in Hartsfield, Georgia. Correspondence contains occasional references to local politics, particularly in 1904 when William Horton Branch was a member of the Democratic Executive Committee of Mitchell County. Also included is some business correspondence of William Horton Branch, who by 1909 was in the mercantile business with his sons. Several items pertain to loans to William Horton Branch.
Items relating to the cotton plantations and small mercantile businesses operated by John, William Henry, and William Horton Branch, as well as material regarding the personal finances of the Branch family. Some scattered items document financial activities of women in the Branch family.
Scattered deeds to land in Halifax County, North Carolina, Mitchell County, Georgia and Leon County, Florida; documents relating to the gift, sale, and purchase of slaves (especially lists of slaves with estimated values in folder 68); and indentures, promissory notes, receipts, bills of sale, and other material relating to the Branch cotton plantation. Items of William Henry Branch begin appearing after 1850, the year Branch seems to have purchased his father's Florida plantation. John Branch's will and legal documents regarding his estate, of which William Henry Branch was executor, are included here also.
Deeds, indentures, tenancy agreements, stock inventories, cotton reports, statements of accounts, numerous sales receipts from various wholesale and retail dealers in Mitchell County, Georgia, and other material related to the purchase of supplies in Newton. Of particular interest are several labor contracts with freed men and women.
Deeds, stock inventories, bills, and receipts with various wholesale and retail dealers in Mitchell County. This subseries marks the appearance of Horton Branch, also a small Georgia merchant.
Statements of accounts from cotton buyers and dealers in plantation supplies, and other material relating to the cotton trade; statements of accounts and sales receipts from various merchants in Pelham, Camilla, and Pebble City; bills relating to the education of Branch's sons; and material relating to the construction of roads in Mitchell County. Material relating to Horton Branch's financial affairs increases steadily and includes notes from banks in Thomasville, Moultrie, Camilla, Pelham, and Sale City. Several memos appear in 1908 from the Office of Clerk, Superior Court of Mitchell County, regarding the estate of A.J. Akridge, for which William Horton Branch was a receiver. (For a record of William Horton Branch's activities as a receiver for the estate, see Subseries 2.2, Folder 121.)
Sales receipts, deeds, and further material revealing William Horton Branch's financial affairs, including memos from the Southern Mortgage Company and a 1916 bank statement from the Farmers Bank of Pelham. Also included is the 1918 draft registration certificate of William Henry Branch, the only item of William Horton Branch's children found in Series 2.
Indentures, receipts, bills of sale and some stock inventories. Of special interest are an arbitration settlement between William Henry Branch and his son-in-law and daughter Arvah Hopkins and Susan Branch Hopkins and a copy of a will written by William Henry Branch before the marriage of his daughter Josie to Wimberly Cullens.
Account books of John Branch and his son, William Henry Branch, relating to the operation of both farming and mercantile concerns, and records of farming activities on Branch plantations. Account books also contain slave lists and records of slave labor, as well as personal memoranda and other miscellaneous notations. Farm journals also contain records of slave activity and maintenance.
Volume 1. John Branch's account book with the Union Bank of Florida, 1835-1857. Also included are a sketch of a bath house, an 1864 slave list, and some miscellaneous records regarding cotton production at Wood Lawn, Whitefield Place, and Live Oak. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.1. Account Books, 1835-1866." Folder 102
Volume 2. Miscellaneous farm and personal accounts, 1852-1865, including accounts for lumber, records of hog killing, and other notes regarding farming operations. Also included are "Memoranda," listing household items related to needlework, cooking, and cosmetics. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.1. Account Books, 1835-1866." Folder 103
Volume 4. Farm journal and handbook for farm management, 1854 and 1865, containing an inventory of the names, ages, and values of slaves; a daily record of farm activity; records of slave births, deaths, and marriages; and a record of physicians visits for William Branch's plantation Wood Lawn. Fairly thorough records were kept in 1854, then none until the spring of 1865, when Branch used the journal to record work absences. Some entries appear to be for Live Oak plantation. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.1. Account Books, 1835-1866." Folder 105
Volume 5. Cotton picking record book, 1856-1858, noting the amount of cotton picked and gleaned by each slave. Also included are notes on total production and some miscellaneous notes relating to other aspects of plantation operations. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.1. Account Books, 1835-1866." Folder 106
Volume 6. Miscellaneous farm and personal accounts, 1856-1866, including records of accounts paid, receipts filed, personal debts, a labor agreement with an overseer, and dealings with the Confederate States of America. About a fourth of the volume was used as a day book. A detailed description of the plantation at Live Oak, possibly a draft of a sales notice, is included near the end. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.1. Account Books, 1835-1866." Folder 107
Volumes 11-19. Nine pocket memoranda and miscellaneous account books of William Henry Branch, 1869-1898, relating both to farming and mercantile operations. Other notes of interest relate to horse racing (Volume 14), local geography (volume 11), and medical remedies (volumes 15 and 16). Volume 17 appears to contain Branch's records as postmaster in 1888. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.2. Account Books, 1867-1916." Folder 112-120
Volume 25. General merchandise accounts with farm labor, 1913-1917. Also included are a number of records relating to the Pebble City School (Sale City, Georgia), including information regarding teachers' salaries, maintenance of the school building, provision of school supplies, and a record of the time individuals spent teaching. #02718, Subseries: "2.2.2. Account Books, 1867-1916." Folder 126
Miscellaneous items relating largely to the public activities of John and William Henry Branch, including several messages and addresses of John Branch relating to his political career and material related to local government in Mitchell and Colquitt Counties. Items relating to the Branch family include school essays of Mary Eliza Horton and a commonplace book, 1867-1890, containing recipes and drafts of essays on various topics.
Miscellaneous items, including two late 1850s discussions of the secession crisis, perhaps drafts of letters to an editor or public addresses; an undated contract for labor with freedmen; a brief biographical note on John Branch; copies of poems; and some school essays of Mary Eliza Horton. #02718, Series: "3. Other Materials, 1819-1899." Folder 134
Commonplace book, 1867-1890. Contents include recipes, an essay on the war with Spain, a letter to the editor regarding territorial expansion, a copy of a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, cotton weights, an essay on humanity, and several poems. #02718, Series: "3. Other Materials, 1819-1899." Folder 135
Acquisitions Information: Acc. 101931
Processed by: Marla Miller, August 1990
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008
Updated because of addition, November 2018Back to Top