Contents and Arrangement

Papers relating to J. O. Simmons' time as a merchant and farmer in Mississippi and Louisiana, 1864-1871

31 folders

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The most notable portion of the collection relates to J. O. Simmons' time on the Mississippi River, with materials providing a detailed account of the Southern and Trans-Mississippi economy during the American Civil War and Reconstruction, including river commerce, the employment of African American and immigrant laborers, and political tensions between locals and economic opportunists who came down from Northern states.

Documents in this series specifically relate to J. O. Simmons' mercantile and agricultural business. Materials include correspondence, account books, bills of lading, bills of sale, invoices, receipts, permits, licenses, and various legal documents, such as money and land transfers, lease agreements, contracts, affidavits, and a lawsuit. These documents specifically relate to Simmons' enterprises in cotton farming, storekeeping, and provisioning businesses along the Mississippi River. It was in the course of these businesses that Simmons employed or sold goods to African American laborers, and these interactions are documented in agreements, account books, and legal documents.

For example, there are agreements between African American farm workers, various white property owners, and J. O. Simmons. In these documents, after crop payment was made for use of farmland, payment was also made to J. O. Simmons for "as much as becomes necessary to pay all of [the] store account," which refers to the nearby store that Simmons owned and operated. There are also agreements between Simmons and African American farm workers for use of his land at Amy Plantation.

There are papers which document a dispute between Gary Hood, the owner of the Black Bayou Plantation, and four African American farm workers to whom he had leased his land. In exchange for the cost of farming supplies and interest incurred, J. O. Simmons acted as the attorney for Phelon Dyer (sometimes referred to as Fielding or Dyer), Anthony Owens, Paul Jones, and William Gaiter who sought a settlement over this dispute. The dispute was over crops of cotton and corn the four men had farmed in 1865 and 1866 that they were never paid for, either by Gary Hood or the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.


Materials are arranged in the order in which they were received.

Collection History


Dealer-supplied research materials were removed from the collection during 2021 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Amy C. Vo in 2021. The dealer had a folder of materials that was added to the collection in 2017, which had not yet been added to the dealer's arrangement. During processing in 2021, these materials were incorporated according to the dealer's arrangement. Item count noted on each folder may not coincide with the actual count.

Finding aid written by Amy C. Vo in 2021, incorporating description written by the dealer, and retaining dealer-supplied folder titles.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to Special Collections Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Papers relating to J. O. Simmons' time as a merchant and farmer in Mississippi and Louisiana; J. O. Simmons Papers, C1665, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (mss): Boxes B-001642 to B-001643