Finding Aid: Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account Book, 1761-1864, PC.AB.76


Finding Aid: Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account Book, 1761-1864, PC.AB.76


Matthew and Margaret Kelley Byrne operated a general store and wayside tavern in Bladen County from approximately 1761 to 1789. The Byrne family kept a record of slave births on their plantation from 1762 to 1862.

This volume is a ledger and day book which lists transactions of Matthew and Margaret Byrne's general store and tavern. Merchandise included food, herbs, clothing, and hardware. Moving and delivery services were supplied also. Attached to this finding aid in the State Archives Search Room is a partial index of customers and a record of slaves born on the Byrne plantation.

A record of slaves born on the Byrne plantation from 1762 to 1862 is available in the Search Room of the State Archives. A sampling of customers' names from 1761 to 1789 is available in the Search Room of the State Archives

Descriptive Summary

Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account Book, 1761-1864
Call Number
Byrne family
1.00 volumes
State Archives of North Carolina

Series Quick Links

  1. Collection Contents

Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

Available for research

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Private Collections: Account Books, PC.AB.76, Matthew and Margaret Byrne Account Book, 1761-1864, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.

Collection Overview

This volume represents daily transactions of a store located in Bladen County. The business is known as Matthew and Margaret Byrne. Merchandise included foodstuffs, herbal remedies, cloth, apparel, and hardware. Individual entries listed leather, hailed flax, spencers, shoes, stockings, plumes, blue mohair buttons, paper pins, spirits, sugar, tea, coffee in the husks, rice, corn, Joshua's bark, broad axes, weeding hoes, ammunition, and bed cords. Barter items such as hogs, horses, corn, leather, and cotton were accepted for payment. The Byrnes also accepted cash, South Carolina currency, doubloons, and other pieces of gold.

The establishment appears to have operated as a wayside tavern with lodging, meals, refreshments, and pasturage for horses available. In addition, moving and delivery services were offered. Both boats and horses were used for conveying goods.

The Byrnes made notations in the account book whenever they made their slaves available for hire. In some cases, this was for a short term, such as for cutting logs or moving a boatload of goods. Male slaves were sent to nearby Captain Robeson's Landing (Bladen County), Rockfish (Cumberland County), and Cross Creek (Cumberland County) to deliver supplies. In other cases, slaves were hired for a period of three months to a year, particularly in the case of skilled female slaves who could card or spin thread. In some of these transactions, the name of the individual slave was recorded. A sale of an unidentified female slave was recorded at £90.00 on December 20, 1763. In addition, the family recorded the births of ninety-five slaves from 1762 to 1862.

The account book records the maiden name of Margaret Byrne as Kelley. The births of the couple's three children are noted as follows: Mary Byrne, named for Matthew's aunt Deerfield (July 26, 1763), Alexander Byrne (November 12, 1764), and Matthew Byrne (August 6, 1766). One account record shows that the parents hired Robert Council to school their young sons. The book appears to have been used as a school copybook and herbal remedy book occasionally. Later, it became a place to record popular love poetry. Excerpts from Robert Burns'(1791), Sir Walter Scott's (1808), George, Lord Byron's (1806), (1807) and (1808) all appear within its pages. In at least one memorandum, the book offers a glimpse of colonial unrest by noting that the Byrnes provided a horse for their neighbor, Jonathan King, to ride for 1.5 days for the purpose of hunting Tories, by order of Captain Robeson and Captain Council.

Arrangement Note

Store transactions are arranged by date, then name. The accounts are entered in somewhat chronological order from front to back. The slave births are entered by date, then name. The earliest slave births are entered near the back of the book, with later entries continuing towards the front.

Biographical/Historical note

The Matthew and Margaret Byrne general store operated in Bladen County in colonial and Revolutionary times. The account book records the maiden name of Margaret Byrne as Kelley. The couple had three children: Mary, Alexander, and Mathew Byrne.Matthew Byrne's name appears in the 1763 tax list of Bladen County. Beginning with the earliest Census in 1790, the Byrne family appears in federal Census data for Bladen County. According to a document dated 1773 in the State Archives, Margaret Byrne deeded plantation land on the southwest side of the Northwest Branch of the Cape Fear River to her young sons, Alexander and Mathew. Later that year she gave a parcel of land in Elizabethtown to her son, Alexander. Other place names mentioned in Byrne family deeds and letters included Goodman Swamp and the nineteenth-century towns of Prospect Hall and Maysville, which were all located in the northwest corner of Bladen County. In 1850, the Census enumerator identified Alexander J. Byrn, John M. Byrn, and Mary Byrn as slaveholders living on the southwest side of the Northwest Cape Fear River in Bladen County. The 1860 slave schedule identifies Mathew Burn and A. J. Burn as Bladen County slaveholders.

Contents of the Collection

Collection Contents
Day Book and Ledger, 1761-1864

This single homemade volume combines a day book and ledger. It is bound with wooden boards that are covered in paper, inside and out. Holes were punctured in the two covers to allow them to be tied together with string. Much of the paper cover and most of the string have disintegrated. A vertical rectangle in ink decorates the front. The words "day book" and the capital letter "L" appear near the rectangular decoration.

The book has a total of 130 legible or partly legible pages remaining, less pages overwritten and cut. The first and last pages adhere to the inside covers. The numbering starts with page 6 and continues to page 70. Generally, the pages are enumerated at the top left of each verso (LH) and top right of each recto (RH). The numbering schemes vary and include a haphazard mix of both Roman and Arabic numerals. Measurement of the volume in inches is: 8 1/4 x 13 1/2 x 1.

Subject Headings

  • Byrne, Matthew
  • Bryne, Margaret
  • Byrne Family
  • Matthew and Margaret Byrne
  • Account books
  • African Americans--History--18th century
  • African Americans--History--19th century
  • English poetry
  • General stores--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Grocery trade--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Registers of births, etc.--North Carolina
  • Retail trade--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Scottish poetry
  • Slave records--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Slaveholders--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Slave labor
  • Slavery--Economic aspects--North Carolina
  • Merchandise
  • Consumer Goods
  • Love Poetry
  • Slave Patrols
  • Slaves
  • African Americans
  • Merchants
  • Births (Vital Statistics)
  • Bladen County (N.C.)
  • Cape Fear River (N.C.)
  • Bladen County (N.C.)
  • Grocers--North Carolina--Bladen County
  • Acquisitions Information


    Processing Information

  • Finding aid prepared by Lea Walker, September 2012