While researching another post for the Slave Name Roll Project I thought I would check and see if William Miles Bembry, the older brother of Thomas Bembry, had left a will in Georgia naming slaves. I didn’t find the will, but I did find a 120-page probate file. And, Thomas Bembry was the administrator of the estate! So, there was quite a bit of information there relevant to my direct ancestor, Thomas. It may even explain his bankruptcy and departure to Florida in 1845. Win-win.
This anecdote illustrates how connected all this history is. We can’t understand our slave-owning ancestors without learning something about their slave transactions—and about the people that lived right there on the farm with them, after all. African-Americans with slave roots cannot research their own ancestors without researching their white owners. The two histories are intertwined, and cannot be separated, in my opinion. We can all help each other figure it out!
But first, an earlier transaction.
Before William Miles Bembry (usually referred to as “Miles”) moved to Pulaski County, Georgia, with his wife, Marina Mayo, she inherited slaves from her father, a very wealthy plantation owner of Edgecombe County, North Carolina. They were given to her in a conveyance which I have not yet located. However they were also named in a much later court case regarding the division of her father’s estate. John Williams Mayo died in 1825. In 1844, his heirs were still arguing over his money and property!
Here’s the language from the case, naming Rick, Saby, Nelson, Blount, and a woman whose name is unclear. It may be Panna or Diana.
“That in the lifetime of the said John W. Mayo he advanced to the said William Bembry and his wife, and their descendants, one Negro Boy Rick, then about fourteen years old, one girl Saby about nine years old, one boy Nelson about seven years old, one boy Blount about three years old, and one Negro woman Panna (Diana?) about thirty years old (which died in the year 1818 or 1819). One very inferior horse, one bed stead and furniture, some few stock together with a few articles of trifling value which property altogether the said John W. Mayo estimated to be then worth two thousand dollars and at his death he gave us (said William Bembry and Marina) by his will twenty five dollars in money all of which one of the defendants, Marina Bembry, believes would require an exorbitant valuation to have covered their said sum of two thousand dollars.”
It it didn’t refer to human beings, all this poor-mouthing would be funny.
At least some of these individuals presumably went with Miles and Marina to Pulaski County, Georgia around 1822.
When Miles died in 1838, his estate was a mess. The probate file includes receipts for many debts, various complaints, and a prolonged court case involving one particular enslaved woman named Rose who resided with David Scarborough, a Bembry in-law. Several slaves were not only named, but appraised for sale.
Appraisal 22 May 1839
Gilford (man) $1,500
Ben (man) $800
Ned (man) $1,000
Hannah (woman) $150 (she is not valued highly and therefore may be very old—could this be the Hannah that Ann Bryan Bembry received as a dowry before 1790?)
Dorcas (woman) $200
Lish (girl) $700
the “interest” of a woman named Rose not in possession (value crossed out)
Jane (girl) $700
Clarry (girl) $600
Lovey (girl) $450
Finally, the sale of most of these individuals is recorded, along with the names of their new owners.
Sold on first Tuesday of January 1840
Hannah to J. Coney $115
Ned to P? Collie? $1,050
Ben to Jacob Watson $520
Clarissa (Clarry) to Kenneth Bembry $820
Jane to ? Jelks $640
Dorcas to E. S.? George $192
I have downloaded the entire probate file for William Miles Bembry of Pulaski County, Georgia, and converted the images to a PDF. It is too large to post on this site, but if anyone researching this Bembry line or their slaves would like a copy, just email me.