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A Guide to the James Thomas O'Neill Papers

Finding aid prepared by Kimberly Burroughs

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
April 2011

Descriptive Summary

Creator: O'Neill, James T.
Title: James Thomas O'Neill Papers
Dates: 1812-1887
Abstract: Account papers, correspondence, and legal documents pertaining to the legal and business practices of James T. O'Neill. Collection offers descriptions of plantation management, legal suits, and estate management.
Extent: 2.5 Linear feet. 6 boxes.
Identification: Ms 77
Language(s): English

Biographical/Historical Note

James T. O'Neill (b. 1803, d. 1890) was a plantation owner, lawyer, and judge in Nassau County, Florida. Throughout his lifetime he owned land in Woodstock; St. Mary's, Georgia; Fernandina, Fla.; and White Springs, Fla. He played a major role in successfully suing the U.S. Government for damages incurred to the estate of his parents, Eber and Mary O'Neill, during the War of 1812. Eber and Mary were forced to flee their estate out of fear for their lives. The family was awarded a sum of $12,000 approximately thirty years after the suit was first filed. O'Neill studied law, eventually becoming a Nassau County Judge in 1832. He held the post until 1861.

O'Neill married Anna Gunby in 1832. They produced eleven children, eight of which survived. During his life in Nassau County, he managed the estates of A. Dunbar, R. Andrew, S. Clarke, E. Fernandez, and I. Barber. During the American Civil War, O'Neill was forced to abandon his family home in Fernandina due to the threat of military invasion. He purchased land in White Springs and established a plantation named "Rebel's Refuge." After the war, O'Neill returned to Fernandina to practice law. He died in 1890.

Scope and Content

Over half of this collection consists of routine accounts and receipts from James T. O'Neill's plantations. A color image of the O'Neill family crest and a layout of New Hope plantation are included in materials contributed for family history by Clay Adams in 2006. Boxes 3 and 4 contain correspondence about plantation maintenance and sales, his legal practice, and other legal documents. These legal documents include deeds, letters of attorney, and sales agreements. The bulk of the correspondence ranges from 1818 to 1865. The correspondence addresses O'Neill's involvement in the Mary O'Neill suit over damages caused by the War of 1812. It also addresses O'Neill's management of the estates of A. Dunbar, R. Andrews, and E. Fernandez.

Boxes 5 and 6 contain papers related to A. Dunbar, R. Andrews, and E. Fernandez. Some correspondence and legal documentation addresses the sale of slaves. Box 6 includes hand drawn maps of Nassau townships.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

Record Group 217, Entry 347, Records of the Accounting Offices of the Department of Treasury, Miscellaneous Division, relating to Claims and Accounts, National Archives and Record Administration, College Park.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], James Thomas O'Neill Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Contents List


Invoices, receipts, and ledger sheets for dry goods, groceries, furniture, taxes, freight charges etc.

1 Index and Family History
1 Transcriptions of misc. documents by Clay Adams (2006)
1 Accounts. March 1821-1827
1 Accounts. 1828-1829
1 Accounts. 1830-1834
1 Accounts. 1835-1839
1 Accounts. 1840-1843
1 Accounts. 1844-1846
1 Accounts. 1847-1849
2 Accounts. 1850-1852
2 Accounts. 1853-1855
2 Accounts. 1856-1857
2 Accounts. 1858-1859
2 Accounts. 1860-1864
2 Accounts. 1867
2 Accounts. 1868-1872
3 Accounts. 1873-1874
3 Accounts. 1875-1879
3 Accounts. 1880-1884
3 Accounts. 1885-1887

Correspondence and Legal Papers

3 Business Correspondence. 1827-1839
3 Correspondence. 1840-1841
4 Correspondence. 1842-1844
4 Correspondence. 1845-1849
4 Correspondence. 1850-1855
4 Correspondence. 1856-1859
4 Correspondence. 1860-1867, 1872, 1877-1878, 1883-1886
4 Legal Documents (Deeds, contracts, sales of land, horses, slaves, etc.). 1815-1839, 1841-1874

Estate Papers

5 Dunbar, Asaph. Papers (Nassau mercantile business). 1839-1859, 1860-1861
5 Dunbar, A. 1850-1859
5 Dunbar, A. 1850-1859
6 Andrew, Robert, estate
6 Clarke, Samuel, estate
6 Fernandez, Eliza L., estate of (guardianship of children: Isobel, Edwin, Evelyn and John)
6 Barber, Israel, estate of - Folder 1 (guardianship of children Elizabeth, Jemima and Virgil)
6 Barber, Israel, estate of - Folder 2


6 Township #1, Range #26
6 Township #2, Range #27
6 Township #3, Range #27
6 Lanceford Creek, Nassau County. (hand-drawn)

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Andrew, Robert.
Barber, Israel.
Cotton farmers -- Florida.
Dunbar, Asaph.
Fernandez, Eliza L.
Fernandina (Fla.) -- History.
Plantation life -- Florida -- Fernandina.
Plantation life -- Florida -- White Springs.
Plantation life -- Georgia -- Saint Marys.
Saint Marys (Ga.) -- History.
White Springs (Fla.) -- History.

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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