OLIVER, SHELTON, 1801-1870.
Shelton Oliver family papers,1791-1913

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zqp4

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Oliver, Shelton, 1801-1870.
Title: Shelton Oliver family papers,1791-1913
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 724
Extent: 5.25 linear feet (11 boxes) and 1 oversized papers box (OP)
Abstract:Papers of the Oliver family of Elbert, Oglethorpe, and Wilkes counties, Georgia which include correspondence, financial and legal records, personal writings and memorabilia, and collected printed material.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Due to preservation concerns, researchers must use photocopies of some of the originals.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction. Special restrictions also apply.


Gift, 1991 with subsequent additions.


[after identification of item(s)], Shelton Oliver family papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Sarah E. Gardner, student processing assistant, August 1992.

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Collection Description

Biographical Note

The Olivers were a slaveholding and planter family from Elbert, Oglethorpe, and Wilkes counties, Georgia. The first record of the family residing in Georgia dates back to 1779 when Dionysius Oliver, son of Thomas and Mary [McCarthy] Oliver of Petersburg, Virginia, moved to Wilkes County where he accumulated 5,000 acres of land, owned slaves, and built a warehouse for the inspection and storage of tobacco. Dionysius and his first wife, Mary Ann [Winfrey] Oliver had ten children.

The fifth child, James (1767-1848), was a large planter from Elbert County, Georgia. James and his first wife, Mary [Thompson] Oliver had one child, Simeon, who migrated to De Soto County, Mississippi. James and his second wife, Lucy [Clark] Oliver had eleven children.

Their fifth child was Shelton Oliver, (July 9, 1801 - September 12, 1870) who like other members of the Oliver family, was a planter and slave owner. In 1844 he purchased "Woodlawn," located in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, the former 1,200-acre estate of William H. Crawford (February 24, 1772 - September 15, 1834), who launched an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 1824, losing to John Quincy Adams. Shelton and his wife Martha [Williams] had at least three daughters.

Biographical source: Early Records of Georgia, Volumes I-II, Wilkes County, History Elbert County, Georgia, 1790-1935, and History of Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Scope and Content Note

The Shelton Oliver family papers document the life of a Georgia planting and slaveholding family during the nineteenth century. The papers consist of correspondence, financial and legal records, personal writings and memorabilia, and collected printed material. The entire collection spans the years from 1791 to 1913 but the bulk of the material covers the thirty years between 1840 and 1870.

This collection is arranged in five series. The first series, (1836-1907) divided into subseries organized around family members, friends and associates, contains personal correspondence. Series 2, (1805-1913) contains financial records. Series 3, (1791-1880) is comprised of legal records. Series 4, (1853-1859, no date) contains personal writings and memorabilia of the Oliver family. Series 5, (1830-1902) contains collected printed material.

Those records dated before the Civil War include the correspondence of Shelton Oliver and his overseer while Oliver was an absentee planter, bills of sale and appraisements of slaves, cotton transactions, speeches pertaining to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of the 1850s, and correspondence from Shelton's brother Simeon, describing the westward migration into Mississippi. In addition, land deeds from the early nineteenth century document the buying and selling of land that would eventually become the Oliver family plantation, "Woodlawn," in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

While a portion of the Civil War correspondence includes descriptions of battles, raids, and camp life, the majority of these letters detail the conditions of home and plantation life during wartime. Correspondence between Shelton Oliver and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands testifies to the general level of confusion that plagued the planter and slaveholder in the immediate wake of the war. The vast majority of the postbellum materials is comprised of personal correspondence largely centering around Lizzie Oliver, Shelton and Martha Oliver's daughter, and details her life in female academies, her friendships with other young girls and her relatives, her courting, and her marriage to Dr. W. Marcellus Willingham.

The collection's strength rests in the series of correspondence to the Olivers from certain individuals, such as the letters to Shelton from his brother Simeon, Shelton and Martha Oliver to their daughter, Lizzie, and the letters to Lizzie from her friend Annie, all of which detail life in the antebellum South. The collection's weakness also lies in the correspondence. While these series of letters are informative, they are one-sided, for the collection does not contain letters from the Olivers in response.

Arrangement Note

Organized into five series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Financial records, (3) Legal records, (4) Personal writings and memorabilia, (5) Collected printed materials, and (6) Restricted material.

Finding Aid Note

A genealogical chart of the Oliver family is available in the collection file.

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