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Richard Manning Bucktrout Daybook and Ledger

Identifier: Mss. Acc. 1997.15

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Scope and Contents

The following description is from the preface to the digital version of the book and was written by Terry Meyers.

Daybook; 1850-1866; of Richard M. Bucktrout, merchant and mortician at Williamsburg, Va. Richard Manning Bucktrout's meticulous entries in his Daybook and Ledger form a diary, a detailed account of daily life and death in a small, but historically important, Virginia town for sixteen years before, during, and briefly after the Civil War. Though weak on spelling (his accent can often be inferred from his spellings), Bucktrout commanded the precision of not only the businessman, but of the writer.

Social historians will find useful information, such as the names and wage rates in Bucktrout's seemingly mundane lists of firewood sold and delivered, and the number of days he hires out his slave (William Waller), to work on the city's streets or for local farmers. Even the accounts of rents he Bucktrout received and the barter sometimes involved will be of interest. A number of entries detail the upkeep and repairs of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, where Bucktrout for some years had a maintenance contract.

But perhaps most fascinating are the funeral records. Here Bucktrout's precision is especially captivating as he records services and costs and identifies the families involved, noting their race (if they are not white) and their status (if they are free blacks). In addition to mentions of disease, if there is anything unusual about a death, Bucktrout puts it down. He tells of the landowner who announces he is "going home" before he walks to his barn and hangs himself. We hear as well about throat-slitting suicide, murder, and the hunter whose rifle discharges into his back as he drags the gun through brush. Though Bucktrout sometimes records where the body is buried, many of the locations can not be found today (one exception may be the burials of the Debress family [also spelled by Bucktrout Debriss]; those may have taken place at their family cemetery, located just steps north of the Williamsburg Inn Bathhouse).

As the Civil War engulfed Williamsburg, soldiers from all over the Confederacy died in the city's many hospitals. Bucktrout's invoices for the burials, each carefully addressed to the Confederate States of America, will be of particular interest to genealogists. He almost always records the name, rank, and military unit of the soldier and sometimes adds the circumstances of the man's death. And he tells precisely which grave the body lies in at Cedar Grove. the Williamsburg municipal cemetery. These burial invoices in some instances may be the only proof of the soldier's service; the Confederacy had not yet fully organized its record keeping. Bucktrout's careful accounting disproves the local tradition that the fallen Confederates lay in a common grave.

Since the 1920s, extraordinary resources and effort have gone to the exploration and reconstruction of 18th century Williamsburg, the Colonial Capital, but the 19th century is largely missing. Bucktrout's Daybook and Ledger may well be to 19th century Williamsburg what the Frenchman's Map is to the 18th.

The above description is from the preface to the digital version of the book and was written by Terry Meyers.


  • Creation: 1850-1866

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers, but researchers should first consult the SCRC staff. The daybook has been digitized and is available via the web. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections Research Center staff, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Photocopies are not allowed.

Biographical Information:

Like his father (Benjamin Bucktrout, an emigrant from England who died in 1812), Richard Manning Bucktrout (1805 - 1866) of Williamsburg, Va. was an entrepreneur. He did just about anything to bring a buck or a shilling. He made keys, repaired furniture, mounted curtains, sold lumber and other goods, and rented out anything he owned, from land and houses to his carriage, horses, and his slave. Following in his father's footsteps, Richard was also the town's undertaker, responsible for providing coffins and burial for virtually everyone in Williamsburg and the surrounding countryside. Further information about this individual or organization may be available in the Special Collections Research Center Wiki: .


2.50 Linear Feet

Physical Characteristics or Technical Requirements:

When available, microfilm, photocopies, digital surrogates, or other reproductions must be used in place of original documents.

Acquisition Information:

Deposited in 1997, made a gift in 2002.

Related Materials:

See also; Bucktrout-Smith Papers; Bucktrout-Braithwaite Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Twentieth-century Bucktrout Records (1916-1945) re at Swem Library.

DVDs from this collection have been moved to the Manuscripts Audiovisual Collection.

Separated Materials:

All audiovisual material from this collection has been moved to the Manuscripts Audiovisual Collection.

Processing Information:

Processed and described by Ellen Strong; corrections made by Steve Bookman, April 2009.

Guide to the Richard Manning Bucktrout Daybook and Ledger
Finding Aid Authors: Ellen Strong, SCRC Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • May 12th, 2017: updated

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository