In this newspaper ad, a New Orleans merchant proudly boasted that he was selling fruit from John Hebron's orchards at Vicksburg, Mississippi. New Orleans Daily Creole, July 31, 1856
Who was the last slave-owner of my great-great-great-grandmother, Caroline Morris, and her children? Last year, I finally solved that big, long-time mystery. She was born around 1815 in Virginia and brought to Warren County, Mississippi during slavery. To read how that mystery was solved by paying attention to clues, see this blog post, “Boom! The Brick Wall Came Crumbling Down!” This new blog post “A Proverbial Clue?” is a follow-up.
In a nutshell, I had masterfully determined and proven that Grandma Caroline Morris was last enslaved on LaGrange Plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The owner was named John Hebron, who had died in 1862. I then learned that John Hebron and his wife, Julia Sills, had relocated to Warren County, Mississippi from Greensville County, Virginia in 1834. It was very important to know the maiden name of the last slave-owner’s wife.
Additionally, the following statement about John Hebron, which served as another clue, was found in the book entitled The Lost Mansions of Mississippi by Mary C. Miller: Rural Warren County was home to dozens of prosperous antebellum plantations…..John Hebron, using his wife’s inheritance to establish himself in Mississippi in 1834, acquired land east of Vicksburg and cultivated it with the usual cotton.
Well, who was Julia Sills Hebron’s father? What did she and John Hebron inherit from her father? When did they inherit this? Did the inheritance contain slaves? If so, was Grandma Caroline Morris among that inheritance? I immediately pondered these questions. Luckily, I was able to determine from online Sills family trees that Julia was the daughter of John Sills, who had died on August 8, 1827 in Greensville County, Virginia. Grandma Caroline would have been around 12 years old. The 1820 census verified that John Sills owned 10 slaves that year. Were some of them my ancestors?
To answer these questions, I knew that I had to dig into Virginia records. A trip to Richmond, Virginia or Emporia, Virginia, the county seat of Greensville County, may be in order. However, after browsing the Library of Virginia’s website, I opted to order a copy of John Sills’ estate record instead. The service fee was $30.00. Yes, genealogy research can be expensive! The Library of Virginia sent me a copy in a week. Luckily, the following slave inventory was in the estate record:
The slave inventory from the estate of John Sills,
November 17, 1827, Greensville County, Virginia
As you can see, Grandma Caroline was not on the inventory. However, the name of one of the Sills slaves leaped out at me. ANGELINE. This name was given to my great-grandmother, Angeline Bass Belton, who was Grandma Caroline’s granddaughter. In fact, Grandma Caroline was living with her son-in-law and daughter, Jack & Frances Bass (Angeline’s parents), in 1880, the year Angeline was born. Why did they name her “Angeline”?
The other missing part in this research is the name of Frances’ father – the man who fathered some or all of Grandma Caroline’s children. Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine my great-great-great-grandfather’s name. One thing that I know is that he was likely born in Virginia, since Virginia is noted as the birthplace of Frances’ father in the 1880 census. Another thing that I ascertained is that he may have chosen “Morris” as his surname during slavery. In the 1880 census, Grandma Caroline was noted as being widowed, and she was the head of her household in 1870. Could it be that one of the slaves on the Sills inventory above was my great-great-great-grandfather? Perhaps, great-grandma Angeline Bass was named after “Angeline” on the Sill’s inventory? Perhaps, “Angeline” was her paternal relative – aunt or grandmother? Could this be a proverbial clue? Hmmmm…..