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Preston Family Resources: Manuscript Collections

This LibGuide features information about locating Preston Family resources at Virginia Tech Special Collections. We house published materials, as well as original family documents and research about branches of the Preston Family.

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Manuscript Collections with Original Preston Family Materials

Special Collections and University Archives is home to many collections relating to branches of the Preston family that lived in Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina from the 18th century onward. Papers may also come from families related to the Prestons by blood or marriage (i.e. Pattons, McDowells, Smiths, and more). The list below includes short descriptions of collections that contain predominantly Preston-created documents. Collections with full finding aids include a link to the guide online. Collections are listed in chronological order by the earliest dated material.

Please note: We have other collections that may include documents and materials created by the Prestons and other families. If you have questions, contact us!

Pioneer Montgomery, Botetourt, and Washington County, Virginia, family. Papers include business transactions, land surveys, and general store accounts (1745-89) relating to William and Susannah Smith Preston; correspondence, business transactions, and notes on farm affairs (1782-1828) relating to their son, John Preston; correspondence and land surveys (1840-82) relating to John, William A., and Alfred G. Preston; correspondence (1848-61) relating to William Ballard Preston; and a day book (1789-1820) of the Prestons of Washington County. 

The Didier Collection of Preston Family Papers includes papers of James Patton, Patton's grandson William Preston, and Preston's eldest son, John Preston, all of Montgomery County, Virginia. The Preston family was important in the surveying, settlement, military affairs, and government of Southwest Virginia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their papers consist of business and legal documents, surveys, and correspondence. Much of the collection relates to John Preston (1764-1827), treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1810 to 1819. For further information on the Preston family, see John F. Dorman, The Prestons of Smithfield and Greenfield in Virginia (1982).

The records largely document the recent history of Smithfield Plantation, ancestral home of the Preston family, focusing particularly on its restoration beginning in 1962. While much of the renovation occurred in the 1960s, many of the records detail other renovation projects done in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection also includes historical and other related documents dating from before the original Preston family's residence at Smithfield.

Surveyor and militiaman. Born in Ireland, came to the American colonies in 1738. Settled in area of Virginia that is now Montgomery County. Established the plantation "Smithfield" in 1773, which is now near the Virginia Tech campus and run by the Montgomery County branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Land grant is for 2175 acres in Botetourt County, Virginia (now the land that is Smithfield), purchased by Preston, signed by Virginia colonial Governor John Murray Dunmore.

The Smithfield Preston Foundation collection consists of 200 letters written almost exclusively by two generations of members of the Preston family of southwest Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina, to James and Sarah Preston McDowell of Rockbridge County, Virginia. The collection also includes a will of William Campbell Preston, an obituary of John Smith Preston and his photograph, and a circular asking for funds for a memorial in honor of John Smith Preston. Note: Selected letters are from this collection are available online (most with text transcripts). See the Smithfield Preston Foundation Papers digital collection.

The collection includes a receipt issued to Francis Preston of an amount totaling 9 pounds paid to Robert McGee on behalf of Michael Drake in 1791.

This collection contains documents regarding John Preston's business affairs; including promissory notes, loan agreements, and personal correspondence. Many of the documents appear to be draft versions which were at one point bound together, perhaps in Preston's own letter-book.

The Henry Edmundson Letters contain nine letters, eight of which were written to Edmundson and one, the earliest of the nine, written by Edmundson in 1814 to General John Preston. The senders of the various letters include William Ballard Preston; Francis H. Smith, superintendent of Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.); Bernard Peyton; Isaac White; and Joseph Robert Woods.

 Handwritten deed and bargain of sale between Henry Edmunson as trustee of John Preston of the County of Montgomery of the one part and John Walters and George Kester of the County of Montgomery of the other part for a 130-acre tract of land on the headwaters of Strubles [Stroubles] Creek and the English's Mill Creek. Indenture was made on March 30, 1826 and brought to the office of the Montgomery County Court Clerk on April 5, 1826. Born at Greenfield (the Preston family home prior to Smithfield), John Preston served in the Virginia militia and the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate throughout his life. Treasurer of Virginia from 1810 to 1819.

Born in Smyth County, Virginia; died in Abingdon, Virginia. Manuscript copy of a land transfer indenture statement for lands in Russell, Tazewell, and Scott counties, Virginia. Sold by Preston to John and Edward Fulton of Washington County, Virginia. 

The collection consists of 218 letters, military orders, notes, certificates of military appointments, and other items, collected or created by Preston between 1849 and 1871, with the majority from the period between May 1861 and December 1862. This collection has been digitized in its entirety and is available online. See the Robert Taylor Preston digital collection.

Letter from Campbell County, Virginia resident Thomas L. Preston to John M. Preston of Smyth County, Virginia. Discusses personal matters and health, ending with a note about the political climate and the possibility of impending war between the North and South.

This collection consists of two letters. The first is written by James Francis Preston to his wife, Sarah Caperton Preston; he details the events of and his involvement in the First Battle of Bull Run. The second letter is written by Sarah to Colonel Grabowski and discusses her son’s (Hugh Caperton Preston) failure to follow an order at VMI. Note: This collection has been digitized and is available online. See the Preston Family Correspondence digital collection

This collection contains three handwritten genealogies of the Preston Family, dating back to the 17 th century. The letter to Charles Aschmann from Willard Preston was written on June 19, 1998. In the letter, Preston briefly discusses the life and deeds of certain members of the Preston Family, such as Colonel William Preston.