Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Byrd mss., 1794-1881, are papers of Charles Willing Byrd, 1770-1828, a member of the prominent Virginia family of that name. He was born in Virginia, received his academic and legal education in Philadelphia, and, in 1794, went to Kentucky to look after Robert Morris' land interests there. He was appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory by President John Adams in 1799, and served as Acting Governor from 1802 to 1803 following the removal from office of General Arthur St. Clair. He was delegate to the convention which framed the first constitution for Ohio. Soon thereafter President Thomas Jefferson appointed him Judge of the United States District Court for Ohio, which office he held until his death in 1828.

Byrd became deeply interested in the Shaker movement, and one of his sons, William Silonwe Byrd, joined the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. For the years, 1826- 1828, a considerable portion of the collection consists of letters from his son, dealing with the beliefs of the Shakers and the affairs of Pleasant Hill. Included also are letters to Charles Willing Byrd from Francis Voris, principal deacon and business manager at Pleasant Hill, who was managing some business matters for Byrd.

The collection also includes letters to Charles Willing Byrd from members of his family, including his mother, his brothers, and sisters, his children and other relatives in regard to family matters. Letters from an aunt, Elizabeth Powel of Philadelphia, refer to the death of Washington and to conditions in Philadelphia during the War of 1812.

Some light on medical practices of the day is given in letters, 1826-1828, to Byrd from his physicians, prescribing treatment for him. Included also are letters relating to a mail robbery, 1828, during the trial of which Byrd died. Manuscripts for the years following Charles Willing Byrd's death are principally those of one of his sons by his second marriage, Samuel Otway Byrd of Sinking Springs, Ohio. The first folder in the collection contains biographical material on Charles Willing Byrd and some of the other persons represented.

Accompanying the collection is a computer print-out of Letters from a Young Shaker: William S. Byrd at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, edited by Stephen J. Stein.

This collection has been used in the preparation of Gerald J. Geiger's "Charles Willing Byrd." Master's thesis, Indiana University, February 1951.

An inventory is available for this collection.

Acquired: 1948

Collection size: 235 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.