Much of the collection consists of correspondence from Paul Vann Randolph to Miss Annie Howell, during the three years prior to their marriage. Randolph regularly wrote from Tillery and Oxford, NC, to Howell, who was in Everetts, Rehoboth, Spring Hill, Scotland Neck, Tillery, and other North Carolina towns. Randolph's letters focus on Howell's irregular correspondence and he regularly professes his love for her. He also mentions drunkenness in town (September 18, December 22, 1893); his work as a salesman with his family's business (October 17, 1893); and his attempts to stop smoking (July 25, 1894, July 13, 1896, nd).
The travel journal (November 1819-April 1820), titled "Capt. V. M. Randolph, Journal" on the cover, was actually written almost entirely by A. J. Burnbry. The diary describes the "pedestrian excursion from Norfolk in Virginia to the State of Alabama" of Randolph and Burnbry. Over the course of six weeks (November-December), they walked about 20 to 30 miles per day to Benlamon, an estate near Russellville, AL. They generally spent their nights in the homes of friends or in taverns. After visiting Russellville for several weeks, Randolph took a boat to New Orleans. Burnbry left several weeks later and sailed from Big Spring (Tuscumbia), AL, via the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. Burnbry describes the setting and sites along the way, and the work he did steering the boat. He arrived in New Orleans and sought out Randolph, only to learn he had already left. The journal closes with Burnbry ready to sail for New York, but prevented from doing so because of contrary winds (April 6).
The journal contains details of the hardships they endured and descriptions of people they encountered. These include difficulties in finding food and lodging; people drinking brandy and grog; attacks of fever throughout Virginia and attempts at treating the fevers (November 7); comparisons of hospitality (November 9); violence against slaves (November 11); constraints of etiquette and the need for chaperones (November 11, 27); women's education in North Carolina and Virginia and social visits with the families of former North Carolina Governor James Turner (November 12) and Judge Duncan Cameron (November 15); the qualities of the young women they encountered, including a Moravian women's seminary, their clothing, and religious beliefs (November 21); sleeping in the same bed as General Jackson had a few weeks earlier (December 6); and opinions regarding the Alabama (December 12) and Tennessee (December 3) state legislators.
Also described are the houses and towns they saw, and North Carolina sites are often mentioned. Of particular note are Murfreesboro (November 7), Warrenton (November 13), Williamsboro (November 13), Oxford (November 14), Hillsboro (November 16), Greensboro (November 18), Salem (November 20), and Pilot Mountain (November 22). An interesting feature mentioned is the Roanoke Canal in Halifax County, NC. The canal was seen when Randolph and Burnbry visited the president of the Roanoke Canal Company, Cadwallader [Cadwalder] Jones (November 9-10). Also noted was the condition of a battlefield near Greensboro, where General Green fought Cornwallis in 1787 (November 18). Other states and towns mentioned include Suffolk (November 5), the Wythe (Wytheville) Court House (November 26), and Abingdon (November 28) in Virginia; Rossville (November 29), Knoxville (December 2), Kingston (December 4), and Fort Pickering, just south of Memphis (March 14), in Tennessee; Huntsville (December 12) in Alabama; Natchez in Mississippi (March 21); and New Orleans in Louisiana (March 28-April 4).
Specific details of the sailing trip down the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers (February 21-March 27) concern steamboats on the rivers (February 2, March 12, 18, and 21) and in New Orleans harbor (March 30); purchasing venison from Indians (February 29); notes concerning the natural environment along the rivers; references to the Mississippi's size, banks, hazards to navigation, and origin of its name (March 3); a "Mississippi Squall" (March 5); damage from a violent earthquake (March 9); alligators inthe rivers (March 18-19) and attempts at hunting them (March 24); and homes of Louisiana slave families with whipping posts nearby (March 26). In New Orleans (March 31-April 4) Burnbry describes the homes, streets, gambling dens, people, harbor, and gardens of the city (March 30); various aspects of social life and courting (March 28, 29, 31, and April 4); churches and their preachers (April 2); a dramatic New Orleans ballroom (April 3); and theater productions (April 4). Other rivers were noted during the trip and include the Arkansas (March 17), Yazoo (March 19), and Red (March 22) Rivers.
Other volumes include an autograph book that belonged to Annie Howell (1893-1894) with various verses from friends, and a treasurer's book contains attendance reports from Mrs. Randolph's Sunday school classes (1906-07?). The back part of the book contains records of coffin sales (December 23, 1903-December 7, 1905). Miscellaneous items include various papers such as grade sheets from the Vine Hill Female Academy of Scotland Neck, NC, regarding Annie Howell (1887-1890); tobacco receipts (1899-1905); and a sheet containing "Resolutions of the Baptist S[unday] School" regarding the deaths of two young students that includes genealogical information (June and December, 1912). A group of postcards to assorted people in Enfield, NC, and a mounted photograph of the Howell House in Tillery, NC, completes the collection.