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Hugh Davis Papers

Identifier: MSS-1611

Scope and Contents

The collection is organized into six series: Correspondence, Farm Operations, Law Practice, Estate of Hugh Davis, Other Family Papers, and Miscellaneous. Series descriptions: Correspondence, 1848-1860: Incoming correspondence includes two letters from Nathaniel Bowe Davis and two pieces of business correspondence. Outgoing correspondence includes a letter to his brother Nat, his son Hugh Davis, Jr., a letter to the editor of the Alabama State Sentinel from Civis, and a letter revealing Hugh Davis as Civis.

Farm operations, 1848-1880: Farm journals consist of six ledgers covering the years 1848-1854, 1854-1856, 1856-1858, 1859-1862, 1862-1866, and 1880). The first five ledgers contain daily entries concerning plantation activities and crop production written by Hugh Davis and his overseers. Also included in the first five books are records of births, sick lists, amounts of cotton picked by slaves, amount of clothing purchased for each slave, records of profits, weather notations, rules for life on the plantation, and other information. The 1856-1858 book includes a list of newspapers taken by Hugh Davis in 1858. The 1862-1866 ledger begins with a detailed explanation of the system of farming at Beaver Bend. The 1880 book, maintained by N.J. Davis, includes notes of purchases made for the plantation, records of cash accounts, and information on individual accounts for workers. Also included is an 1849-1852 large pocket diary containing lists of purchases, lists of accounts, memorandums, and other information and an 1853-1858 large pocket diary that includes daily activities, lists of slaves, lists of purchases, notes on crop production, and records of family births. Also included are bills of sale for slaves and a copy of the 1845 Catechism of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology by James F.W. Johnson.

Law Practice, 1836-1858: Consists of three case books kept by Hugh Davis for cases he handled personally and with James Byers and a legal diary. Case books include names of defendants and plaintiffs, judgments, and a financial record of fees received, owed, or paid. Includes cases handled in Circuit Court, County Court, and the Orphans Court of Marion County. The case books cover the years 1836-1845, 1844-1851, and 1845-1858. The legal diary covers the years 1838 to 1847 and includes information on accounts (received and paid), legal activities, the weather, and other information. Also included is an 1837 partnership agreement with James Byers, forming Davis and Byers.

Estate of Hugh Davis, 1862-1898: Includes an 1863 appraisal of the inventory of the estate, an 1867 letters of administration document, an 1865 agreement engaging H. Gates to serve as overseer, and the 1868 discharge in bankruptcy of Hugh Davis. Also included is a list of law books loaned to Lockett and Bragg in 1865 and an 1898 list of books returned; receipts, some with docket numbers, for the estate and for Mrs. Hugh Davis; and one piece of 1862 correspondence written by Stephen Davis to the executor, Mr. Tutt; the discharge in bankruptcy of Mrs. Hugh Davis; and one 1866 letter written to Sarah R. Davis from her brother-in-law James R. Davis discussing a debt he owes to the estate (additional correspondence written to Sarah R. Davis concerns the division of the estates of Nathaniel and Martha Davis and has been placed under Other Family Papers).

Other Family Papers, 1825-1876: Documents concerning the estates of Nathaniel and Martha Davis include two 1873 inventories of papers belonging to Martha Davis, a copy of an 1873 partition deed, and correspondence concerning the division of the estates of Nathaniel and Martha Davis. Also included is a typed copy of an 1825 letter written by H. Davis of Henrico County, Virginia, to Nicholas Davis in Huntsville, Alabama, (the original is in possession of family), an 1876 letter from Felix Davis to his nephews Hugh and A.F. Davis concerning unpaid land taxes, and receipts for A.F. Davis for the years 1872-1833.

Miscellaneous: Consists of an 1848 deed and an 1850 notary commission for Hugh Davis, genealogical information provided by Kathy Davis Morgan, a reprint of a photograph of the Davis home, and a photocopy of a photograph of Hugh and Sarah R. Davis.


  • 1820 - 1898


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. 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. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Hugh Davis, the son of Nathaniel and Martha Davis, was born November 22, 1811, in Fayette County, Kentucky. He moved to Marion, Alabama, in 1834 and began a successful career as an attorney. Davis married Sarah Rachel Jones in 1839, and the couple had seven children. In 1848, Davis assumed the management of the Beaver Bend plantation along the Cahaba River. Upon his death in 1862, his sons took over his faming activities.


1.8 Linear Feet (includes 6 ledgers)

Language of Materials



Extensive correspondence, business records, and receipts of this Marion, Alabama, plantation owner and attorney, and his family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Kenneth S. Barton, Mrs. Leon Boatner, and Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel J. Davis, Jr.

Processing Information

Processed by Merrily Harris, 2000; updated by Donnelly Lancaster, 2006


Guide to Hugh Davis Papers
Merrily Harris, 2000; updated Donnelly Lancaster, 2006; updated Martha Bace, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266