Skip to main content

Crutchfield Family papers

Identifier: CHC-2011-036

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, financial records, receipts, legal agreements, and other personal papers created by or received by members of the Crutchfield family and extended family living in East Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Materials in the collection date from 1815 to 1957, with the majority of materials created between 1840 and 1849, and primarily document the family’s business enterprises in brickmaking, construction, and milling, as well as their discussions of national politics. Notable persons in the collection include Thomas Crutchfield Sr. (1801-1850), his sons William Crutchfield (1824-1890) and Thomas Crutchfield Jr. (1830-1886), and son-in-law John H. Lumpkin (1812-1860). Thomas Crutchfield Sr. and his family enslaved Black people, and materials include references to enslaved people by name in correspondence, financial records recording the lease and purchase of enslaved people, and a list of names of enslaved people and their families.


  • Creation: 1815-1970
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1840-1849


Language of Materials

This collection contains materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright status of this collection has not been evaluated.

Biographical / Historical

Very few personal details are known about the people enslaved by the Crutchfields, and what is known derives from a small number of letters and records from the 1840s that provide first names, some occupations, and the names of family members. The list of people enslaved by Thomas Crutchfield Sr. from this collection (undated, circa 1840s) is by no means a comprehensive list of the people Crutchfield enslaved throughout his life, but it provides some identifying information for these particular individuals in this snapshot of time, from approximately 1840 to 1849. The following are summaries of extant information about the individuals whose names appear multiple times in the Crutchfield Family papers.

Abe was a laborer and brickmaker, who appeared in a letter from Thomas Crutchfield Sr. to William Crutchfield on September 24, 1846. In his letter, Thomas Sr. sent instructions that Abe should make enough bricks to construct William’s house and smoke house, and to use any leftover to build cabins for the enslaved people on William’s farm. Among the documents in the Crutchfield Family papers, there is a small paper booklet labeled “Abe’s Book,” which contains information regarding deliveries made in 1848 and notations about wood, corn, and other goods. While this booklet suggests some agency in his work and ability to read, it is more probable that Abe was enslaved by the Crutchfields rather than the possibility that he was a paid laborer. When referring to paid laborers and enslaved laborers in his records and correspondence, Thomas Sr. only used last names for free, white men, and Abe was only mentioned by his first name. On the list of people enslaved by Thomas Sr. was a man named Abram, who may have been the same person, who had a wife named Creasy.

Britton and Milly were married, and together they had seven children: Violet, Matilda, Caroline, Morgan, Dalilah, [C?], and Samson. Britton was described in two letters performing various kinds of labor on Thomas Crutchfield Sr. and William Crutchfield’s farms. In a letter from Thomas Crutchfield Sr. to William on September 24, 1846, he said of Britton that he “talks & sings two [sic] much is apt to draw the attention of the other hands from their work.” Milly presumably performed housework in the Crutchfield home, and was mentioned in a letter from Thomas Crutchfield Sr. to William on December 18, 1848, in which Thomas Sr. described taking her to another household in Chattanooga for her to receive medical care. Britton and Milly’s daughter Matilda was also mentioned in three letters, where she was mentioned cooking and performing housework for the Crutchfields.

Caleb and Sophy were married and together had five children: [P?], Macdonald, Mahaly, Jane, and Ellen. Caleb appeared in two letters, the first sent from John H. Lumpkin to William Crutchfield on 1845 November 16, in which Lumpkin requested that William send Caleb to fetch a horse and buggy that Lumpkin had left in Rome, Georgia. In addition to presumably running errands, Caleb also worked as a bricklayer for the Crutchfields. On 1847 September 2, Thomas Sr. wrote to William to tell him that he was sending Caleb and a man named West, along with several other enslaved laborers, to work on building his mill in Jacksonville, Alabama. Meanwhile, Caleb’s wife Sophy and their daughter Mahaly, performed housework and cooked for the Crutchfields, as described in a letter from Thomas Sr. to William on October 11, 1846. Mahaly also appeared in a letter a month earlier on September 24, 1846 from Thomas Sr. to William, in which she was mentioned as someone who also picked cotton on the Crutchfield farm.

Charles was born in 1806. At the age of 23, he was at the time enslaved by Alexander Williams Seal of Greene County, Tennessee. Charles was who sold to Thomas Crutchfield Sr. on January 3, 1829. It is possible that this Charles is the same Charles listed in a record of work completed at the Crutchfield mill circa 1840s, where he was listed alongside David and Jacob, two other enslaved laborers.

Roy was an enslaved blacksmith who manufactured tools and farming implements. He appeared in several documents from December 1848 and 1849, which chart a complex transfer of the title and ownership of Roy between three families over a short period of time. At some point prior to December 1848, Roy had been enslaved by David Ramsour in North Carolina. Detailed in a lease agreement dated December 21, 1848, Ramsour borrowed money from his relative, Ann Ramsour Fullenwider, and as collateral placed certain property, including Roy, in trust to Ann’s brother-in-law, Caleb Phifer. According to a letter from Thomas Crutchfield Sr. to William Crutchfield on December 18, 1848, it appears that in practice, this arrangement meant that Roy was laboring in Jacksonville, Alabama for the Fullenwiders, tenants of the Crutchfields. The lease agreement gave Thomas Sr. permission to lease Roy for the whole year of 1849 and to remove him from Alabama and bring him to work on his properties in Tennessee. A final statement from Henry Fullenwider on December 28, 1849 indicated that Fullenwider would give Thomas Sr. a discount on his lease of Roy if he agreed to purchase him at year’s end.

Miles, Jerry, and Caesar were unmarried men who labored on Crutchfield farms in Tennessee and Alabama in the 1840s. In letter to William Crutchfield on July 7, 1846, his brother Thomas Crutchfield Jr. reported that Miles and Jerry “both looked very sulky for a while but they have come right again the cause of them looking so sour was that, Miles had some notion of marrying Jack's wife belonging to Humphreys.” In a letter from Thomas Crutchfield Sr. to his son William on December 13, 1845, Crutchfield wrote that he could not spare sending Miles, Jerry, and Caesar to William in Alabama because “those hands make the farm support the family, & they have as much as they can attend to” already.

Entry for Caleb Phifer and M. A. Ramsour, 1838 January 10. Lincoln County Marriage Bonds, Vol. P-Q, Years 1779-1868, Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State Department of Archives and History, 1976. Microfilm, p. 139. Accessed January 10, 2024.

Entry for Henry Fulenwider and Ann Ramsour, 1827 June 7. Lincoln County Marriage Bonds, Vol. F, Years 1779-1868. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State Department of Archives and History, 1976. Microfilm, p. 427. Accessed January 10, 2024.


1.42 Linear Feet (2 containers)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Tom Crutchfield donated this collection to the Chattanooga History Center on 2011 November 10. The Chattanooga History Center donated this accession to the Chattanooga Public Library and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on 2017 June 12.

Processing Information

Processing of this collection is complete.

Crutchfield Family papers
In Progress
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collection Area Details

Part of the Chattanooga History Collections Collection Area

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library
c/o Special Collections
600 Douglas Street
Chattanooga Tennessee 37403 United States