Guide to the Joseph Belknap Smith Papers, 1802-1916


Speculator and one of the founders of the Columbia Mining Company in Columbia Co., Ga. Collection (672 items; dated 1802-1872, bulk 1845-1872) includes personal and business letters, letterpress books (1849-1855), scattered diaries (1845-1907), miscellaneous business record books, and other papers of Smith and members of his family, mainly concerning Smith's speculative enterprises in mining, railroads, cotton planting, the Columbia Minining Co., and grain mills in Georgia, Tennessee, and other parts of the nation. The bulk of the material is of the period 1845-1872. Includes information on gold mining in Georgia and Tennessee, business conditions in the South before and after the Civil War, and the development of the railroad system in the South.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Joseph Belknap Smith papers
Smith, Joseph Belknap
5 Linear Feet, 1305 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

Business papers of Joseph Belknap Smith relating to his investments in copper mines in Michigan and Tennessee, gold mines in Georgia, the New York Bay Cemetery Company, a lumber company and a cotton and land company in England, a project to build a railroad and telegraph from Caracas to La Guaira, Venezuela, a grain mill, sawmills, and salt mines and lands in Georgia. Included are contracts; scattered financial reports; schedules of property belonging to the Columbia Mining Company containing lists of slaves and their values; contracts for hiring slaves and freedmen; land deeds; broadsides of a steamboat company in Georgia; advertisement for an apparatus of Edward N. Kent for separating gold from foreign substances; letterpress book, 1849-1855, containing copies of the correspondence of Smith and one of his partners, George Wood, about their copper mines in Tennessee; diaries, 1845-1861, 1863-1864, and 1866; daybook, 1846-1850; and a ledger, 1860-1873, containing valuations of the mine and mill properties of Smith and his partners and the amount of the Confederate soldiers' tax and war taxes for some of the Civil War years. There are also letters, 1857-1860, from Eliza Annie Dunston concerning her experiences as a teacher in Illinois and Mississippi, her travels, and her social life; scattered family correspondence; reports of the Columbia Mine post office in account with both the Federal and Confederate governments; petition of a number of Wilkes County, Georgia, citizens requesting a military exemption for Smith, miller and postmaster; circulars of Alabama Central Female College and Thomson (Georgia) High School; letters from Herschel V. Johnson and Company, agents for those who had cotton tax claims against the United States government; address of Jacob R. Davis to black voters of the 18th district of Georgia; and correspondence, 1860s, containing references to a ball to be given in New York City in honor of the Japanese emissaries, secession sentiment in Georgia, enlistment of volunteers, camp life and rumors in the Confederate Army, marketing of scrap iron, production of salt, raising of hogs for the Confederate government, commodity prices, the siege of Petersburg and the performance of African American troops there, the use of buildings at Emory and Henry College (Emory, Virginia) as army hospitals, Sherman's march to the sea, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the difficulty of securing freedmen to work on the farms in Georgia, and elections in Georgia in 1868.

Unprocessed addition (Boxes 4 and 5) includes correspondence, both business and personal, to either Smith or his wife, Jane Septima Smith; legal and financial papers of the Columbia Mining Company; six volumes of Smith's diary (1867, 1884, 1905, 1907); and his photograph. One of the letters described how life after the Civil War changed for both black and whites.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Joseph Belknap Smith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Letters, 1802-1859
Box 1
Letters, 1860-1866
Box 2
Letters, 1867-1872 and undated
Box 3
Letters, 1863-1914 and undated
Box 4
Legal papers, 1830-1916
Box 4
Financial papers, 1859-1890
Box 4
Box 4
(9 volumes)
Box 5
Volume M:3606
Volume M:3679
Volume L:3838

Historical Note

Speculator and one of the founders of the Columbia Mining Company in Columbia Co., Ga.

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The Joseph Belknap Smith Papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 1950.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, date unknown

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, September 2011

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.