Friend of Friend Friday: Slaves of Alexander Stirling

I found the above will in the Lewis Stirling Family Papers, archived at the Louisiana State University.  The Stirling family, wealthy Louisiana planters, owned my third great-grandmother, Eliza Burton.  I’ve been scrolling through the microfilmed documents hoping that they will include some information about her.   The Stirlings kept receipts for everything  from purchases at their favorite New Orleans clothing store to  ferry trips across the bayou. So far, Eliza hasn’t turned up in their voluminous records but scores of other enslaved people have.  Here are slave names included in Alexander Stirling’s 1808 will:

Lucy, 15

Nan, 7

Old Kitty



Betsy, mulatto child of my negro woman Sarah

Lucy and Nan were to be left to Alexander’s daughter, Anne.  Old Kitty was to be freed upon Alexander’s death and Hercules and Tennance would be freed when Alexander’s son, John turned 21.  For “(his) own reasons,” Alexander puts the mulatto child, Betsy and her mother, Sarah under his son, Henry’s care. (Sarah could also be under her son John’s care if she wants, but her daughter, Betsey will have to be under John’s will).  I can’t help but wonder what that’s all about.  But more importantly, I can’t help but hope that this information can be helfpful to someone searching for their ancestors.

I’ll keep posting any slave names I come across as I go.

The Slaves of Hill Jones

List of slaves bequeathed in the 1846 will of Hill Jones

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a will that listed my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton as part of Hill Jones’s property also listed many other slaves as well.  His will was notarized on September 8, 1846 in Madison County, Mississippi. Jones didn’t have hundreds of slaves, but he did have at least two dozen and I’ll list them and their owners below in hopes of helping one of my fellow researchers trace their family tree:

To his wife, Judith Jones:  Tiller, Vincent, William, Tempy, Marian, Phil, Reuben and Susan.

To son, Willis B. Jones:  Edmund, Philip, Martha (sp.), Austen or Auster and Rose, his wife, Alford, Rene or Remy (sp.?), Richard & Chaney (sp.?) his wife and their three youngest children Cornelius, Catherine & Eliza, also George and “my two blind boys Isaac and Britten.”

To daughter, Mary M. Whitehead:  Mose, David and Solomon.

To daughter, Martha McCauley:  John, Louisa, Grace or Green? and Jack

To daughter, Elizabeth Howcott: Essex and Huldy

To daughter Rebecca, Charles, Handy and Collier (sp.?)

Thanks, Liz for helping me decipher this challenging text!

One Will, Many Lives

Part of the will where Hill Jones bequeathed my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton to his wife, Judith Jones.

After horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and “stock of every description…wagons and tools of every kind,” Hill Jones bequeathed to his wife, Judith Jones the following negroes:  Tiller, Vincent, William, Tempy, Marian, Phil, Reuben and Susan “which personal property it is my wish for her to make any disposition of she may think proper.”

It’s maddening to see my great, great-grandmother, Temple “Tempy” Burton listed as personal property after the cattle and farm equipment no less. It took me a few weeks after receiving this will from a genealogy buddy to even get into the right frame of mind to  read it closely. But it had to be done and doing so revealed that some of the other slaves Jones bequethed were treated as humanely as the inhumane institution would allow. Some were married with children and were given away as a family unit.   If Jones was considerate in this way with his other slaves, maybe Tempy was on her own when  Jones bought her, separated from her parents by another slave owner, or  by their death.  Maybe the person who owned Tempy before Jones did had some compassion too and bought her with her family as well.

Whatever the case may be, this will documents how Tempy found herself enslaved by and having babies with my second great-grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart.  In 1846, Jones bequeathed  Tempy to his wife, Judith Jones who left Tempy to her daughter, Martha McCauley in 1857. Martha allegedly gave Tempy to her daughter, Elizabeth as a wedding present in 1858 when the young woman married my second great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart making Temple his property.

It puts a knot in my stomach how fragile Temple’s life was and that she was passed on like cattle among the family that owned her, but at least they wrote the information down. I know it’s a long shot that I will ever find Tempy’s parents and reunite them in our family history,  but I’m still crossing my fingers that this will brings me a little closer to filling out our family tree.

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