Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

William Nelson ledger and daybook, 1767-1784

Dublin Core


Nelson, William, 1711-1772
Thomas Nelson, Jun. and Company


William Nelson ledger and daybook, 1767-1784




2 volumes bound as 3


Ledger and daybook of William Nelson, merchant and colonial leader of Yorktown, Virginia. The collection contains one ledger from a family business which spanned three generations. A number of the accounts are for large purchases totaling in the hundreds of pounds. There are numerous accounts for individuals in Yorktown and its vicinity including accounts with several Yorktown doctors. There are also a number of accounts for ship's captains as Yorktown was an important port in the eighteenth century. There are entries for several merchants. Prominent among these are John Hatley Norton who represented John Norton and Sons in Yorktown, the Scots merchant, David Jameson of Yorktown who served as Lt. Governor under Thomas Nelson, Jr., the firm of Messr's Lamer, Hill & Bisett located on the island of Madiera, Cornelius Calvert of Norfolk, and Colonel Humphrey Hill of King and Queen County. There are entries for a number of estates including those of Carter Burwell, Governor Francis Fauquier, Philip Grymes, William Lightfoot, and the London merchant Edward Athawes. There are accounts for a number of Williamsburg residents including William Biers, Edward Charlton, Thomas Craig, John Ferguson, Humphrey Harwood, Anthony Hay, Robert Carter Nicholas, John Prentis, Samuel Spurr, Jane Vobe, Benjamin Waller, and Mary Wray. Other prominent individuals include Jaqueline Ambler, the Reverend Robert Barret, Burwell Bassett, Nathaniel Burwell, Robert Burwell, William Byrd III, Reverend Joseph Davenport, Richard Henry Lee, Augustine Moore, William Nelson, Jr., the Reverend Charles Mynn Thruston, the Reverend Thomas Warrington, and Ralph Wormeley. There is also an account with the Dismal Swamp Company and the William and Thomas Nelson House in Williamsburg.

William Nelson was the son of Thomas Nelson who arrived in Yorktown, Va., from England in 1705. Thomas was a successful merchant whose business concerns passed to his son William upon his death. William operated a sizeable business both retail and wholesale. His main store was located on Main Street in Yorktown. Others were located on the waterfront. In addition to being a successful merchant, William was a prominent leader in Virginia politics. As President of the Governor's Council, Nelson served as acting governor following the death of Lord Botetourt and until the arrival of Lord Dunmore. He was active in efforts to drain the Great Dismal Swamp. Together with his brother Thomas, he owned a house on Francis Street in Williamsburg. Upon William's death in 1772 the mercantile business passed to his sons Thomas and Hugh. Thomas and Hugh took Augustine Moore into the partnership which became Thomas Nelson, Junr. and Company. Moore had been in the business since 1746 when he apprenticed to William Nelson. The Revolutionary War led to the demise of the company and in 1777, Moore placed an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette announcing the dissolution of the company.