The Long Branch Letter

The Archive & Collections at Long Branch


The word “archives” usually brings up images of boxes of secret documents stored away in a locked vault, only to be seen by authorized eyes. In reality, archives are an integral part of the way in we interpret history. The archives here at Long Branch contain letters, blueprints, ledgers, and other documents from the original and subsequent owners of the house. The documents have allowed us to get a glimpse of the lives of this house’ inhabitants  over the span of 200 years. Letters between Robert Carter Burwell and Benjamin Latrobe give us some insight into the original construction of the house. A farm ledger and the 1860s census records reveal how what instruments and manpower was needed to keep a wheat plantation functioning.

Unfortunately, the records that survive time often paint an incomplete picture of the past. Consider your own life: do you keep every receipt, every birthday card, every note you’ve ever written? Probably not, and people in the centuries before were no different. Sometimes documents were lost due to negligence, and sometimes they were simply deemed unimportant and thrown away. It is a historian’s job to sort through what remains, piecing together as whole of a picture of history as they can. They can do so by placing the remaining evidence in a position in time. Historical context can help flesh out an incomplete historical record. Looking at archives which contain evidence from the same time period or location can also be helpful. The 1860 Census information I mentioned earlier, for example, was found in the Clarke County Historical Association archives. Piecing that information together with what we had- Hugh Nelson’s ledger- gave us a more solid idea of how the Nelsons ran their plantation. Archives may also include objects in what is called a “collection.” The collections are usually composed of mundane items, but these, too, contribute to completing the picture of history. (A blog post which includes the history of one of the more exciting collection items, the Marquis de Lafayette saucepan, can be read here). Archives aren’t exclusively made up of primary documents. For example, a large part of Long Branch’s history was passed to us orally through Sally Page Nelson.

If you have any records, stories, or tall tales about Long Branch, please let us know! Contact the Historic Site Administrator, Kris Allen, at [email protected], or call at 540-837-1856. We would love to hear from you.

-Casey Marion, Long Branch Plantation Intern


  1. John DeMilly McKendrick
    October 5, 2015 at 2:01pm

    Greetings to the Long Branch Staff

    I am researching my family history goes back to Rouen, France in the late 1700s. My great great great great grandfather Jacques Morris and his “relation” John Holker (1719-1786) were engaged in the textile industry in Rouen. Both were originally from the vicinity of Manchester, England. They both fought on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden (1745).

    Following the loss of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces, they were forced to flee from England. Each of these men had sons: John Holker (1745-1822) and James Michael Morris (1756-1831). My great great great grandfather was James Michael Morris (1756-1831), who like his cousin, Jean Holker (1745-1822), left France in the 1780s.

    Family information that I have mentions that James Michael Morris was in the streets Philadelphia at some point during the period 1770s-1780s. I am searching for factual information which might substantiate that point and other documentation 9references, correspondence, etc). Documents that I do have show him living in London in the early 1800s (from about 1800 until 1826). He had a shipping business (Morris & Renny) located in the South Sea Chambers building on Threadneedle Street, London.

    He did, later, return to France in the late 1820s. After loosing money in several French bank failures, he was engaged by Lafayette/his organization to serve as the Consul General to a group of French immigrants heading to settle on the Lafayette Land Grant at Tallahassee. In 1831 he sailed with his family from Le Havre, France via New York, Charleston and then by cart, eventually arriving in Tallahassee in the fall of 1831. Being in poor health and having endured such a strenuous journey, he and his wife died within several months of their arrival in Tallahassee. However, several Morris children survived. I am a descendent of one of his daughters, Marie Louise Morris who went on to have a long life in Tallahassee and a large family.

    My wife and I plan to visit Long Branch November 5th/6th and would very much like to learn more about the Long Branch and its archives.

    As an aside, I have recently learned of Long Branch’s Carter connection and hasten so say that my wife’s niece is married to a direct Carter descendent in England.

    • historiclongbranch
      October 5, 2015 at 7:51pm

      Hello John,
      We would love to have you and your wife here for a visit of Long Branch. In regards to your research our archive is very small, but it does contain letters written by and to Anna Marie Adelaide Holker during the later part of the 1850s. You would be more than welcome to look over them when you visit. If you could call a few days in advance when you know the exact date you will be stopping by and I will make sure to be here to show you what we have.


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