From Slave to Freeman to Successful Farmer

Written by Tim Hudson

These biographies describe the lives of men and women of African ancestry who managed to make the incredible transition from the status of slave to successful farmer in Union Parish, Louisiana following the abolition of slavery and prior to the implementation of the Jim Crows laws of the 1890s.

 

Samuel & Rose Everett

Rose was born about 1827, the daughter of Judy and her husband (probably Jim), a slave couple who belonged to George Everett. Born in 1798 in North Carolina into a rather well-to-do family for that era. Everett settled his family and slaves on a plantation in Perry County near Oakmulgee Creek, and he joined the Oakmulgee Baptist Church nearby in April 1827. In 1830, the church licensed Everett to preach, followed by his ordination as a Baptist minister in 1831. Rev. Everett became a widely-respected preacher, a contributor to religious periodicals, as well as a successful plantation owner and local benefactor of orphaned children. Many of Rev. Everett’s adult slaves joined his church, including Rose’s mother, Judy, and Patience, both of whom joined in 1828, followed by Jim (Rose’s father), Milly and Cloa, all of whom joined in the early 1840s.

Rev. Everett enforced a strict moral code on his plantation among both his children and slaves. His slaves retained their own sums of money, for in 1834, Patience charged Peter, another slave member of Oakmulgee Church, with stealing her money. Unable to produce evidence at a church trial, the church censured Patience, requiring her to apologize. In March 1838, Rev. Everett charged Patience with adultery, and after a trail, the church excommunicated her. Patience apologized to the church in October 1839, causing Oakmulgee to restore her to their fellowship. In this era, the church held a firm grip on its members, both white and black, and frequently charged members for behavior against Baptist teachings, including swearing, drinking to excess, participating in horse races and dances, and adultery.

Rose grew up on Everett’s plantation, undoubtedly helping to cultivate cotton and corn along with her parents and Everett’s children by the time she was a young girl. She joined the Oakmulgee Church in November 1843. About 1845 when she was eighteen, Rose married Samuel, a slave born in Virginia about 1822. It is not known how Rose and Sam met, but undoubtedly Rev. Everett performed their marriage. The next year, Rose gave birth to their eldest child, Henrietta.

In 1847, Rev. Everett’s wife dies, and the severe drought that had plagued Alabama for the past few years prompted him to sell his plantation and move west to start a new life. Everett and his family received letters of dismissal from the Oakmulgee Church in November 1847, and that winter, they moved to Union Parish, Louisiana. The Cahaba Baptist Association in Alabama issued a resolution of “good wishes” to Everett upon his decision to “emigrate and enter distant fields of labor in the vineyard of the Lord.” Everett settled near what was then the Union Cross Roads community, now Oakland, near the Arkansas line. He founded the Spring Hill Baptist Church the next year, and it likely that Rose joined the church along with her parents., Jim and Judy. Soon after their arrival in north Louisiana, Rose became pregnant, giving birth to their son, Allen Everett, on 9 December 1848. Sons William and Joshua were born in 1851 and 1853.

Sam and Rose’s life in Union Parish strongly resembled that in Alabama, with Rev. Everett traveling widely to preach yet still maintaining his large plantation operation, worked primarily by his sons Thomas, John, and George and his slaves. Within a few years, the Everett plantation consisted of 175 acres of improved land. In 1849, they produced 1200 bushels of corn, 25 bales of ginned cotton, 150 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 150 pounds of butter.

Rev. Everett died on June 1855, leaving a vast estate of land, slaves, livestock, and other property. Such events frequently reveal one of the horrors of chattel slavery: the division of the plantation’s slaves. Everett’s sons divided their father’s slaves along family lines, and Sam, Rose, and their children all became the property of Everett’s daughter, Elizabeth Brown. They moved across the state line to Pigeon Hill, Arkansas with their new owners and near Rose’s father, Jim, who also moved to Arkansas with his new owner, on of the Everett sons. Within a few years, Elizabeth Brown and her family moved to Texas with Rev. Everett’s other daughters. Upon their departure, Sam and Rose and their children returned to Rev. Everett’s old plantation in Oakland, now owned by his son, Rev. John P. Everett.

After the abolition of slavery in 1866, Sam and Rose took the surname of their former owners and continued to live in Oakland for the rest of their lives. By 1870, they had acquired a small farm, apparently a portion of the old Everett plantation, and despite their meager beginnings as slaves they managed to eke out a decent living as farmers. They had many more children, including Mary (born 1860), Green (1862), Ellen (1864), Colonel (1867), and George (1869). By the 1880s, Sam and Rose’s farm had grown to 350 acres, on which they and some of their grown children lived. Sam died between 1881 and 1886, and Rose died sometime after 1880.

Their son, Allen, obtained his own farm adjacent to theirs in the 1870s and became a successful farmer during the difficult beginnings of the Jim Crow era. About 1867, Allen married Ellen, born on 15 December 1851 in Georgia. Allen and Ellen raised their family of thirteen children and some of their grandchildren on their farm near Oakland.

Allen Everett died of pneumonia on 13 December 1924. Ellen lived another year, succumbing to cancer of the stomach on 2 December 1925. Both were buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery near the graves of Sam and Rose’s former owner, Rev. George Everett.

Randall Beaird

Randall was a man of African descent born into slavery in 1840 in the Mulberry Creek community of Bibb County, Alabama. Randall was the son of Ginney, born in 1820, but his father’s identity is unknown. Ginney and her children belonged to Stephen Dunn, a widower in his 80s at the time of Randall’s birth. By 1843, Dunn’s health had declined, and to prevent the courts from determining the disposition of his slaves, he took legal steps to distribute his seven slaves among his daughters. he left Ginney and her children Randall, Lizar (born in 1841), and David (born in 1842) to his grandson John Washington Beaird to hold in trust for Dunn’s daughter, Zilpha Dunn Beaird. Following Dunn’s death, Zilpha and her husband, William Beaird, moved with their family, including Ginney and her children, to the Zion Hill Community of Union Parish, Louisiana, a few miles northwest of Farmerville. The Beairds and their slaves settled on a farm there, with Ginney having several additional children after their arrival in Louisiana.

We do not know what became of Ginney of her other children after the abolition of slavery, but Randall took the surname of his former owners and continued to live in the same area. He registered to vote in 1867, and in 1870, Randall worked the farm of William Beaird’s nephew, Francis Marion Tucker.

Randall Beaird proved an industrious man, acquiring his own farm of 80 acres adjoining that of William Beaird’s during the 1870s. In 1882, Randall purchased an additional 240 acres, paying $200 in cash for this property. By January 1884, at the age of only 44, Beaird’s health had declined, and he sold 120 acres of his farm to his neighbor. These records show that he could not sign his own name. He died a few week later, leaving a widow, Ellen, and children Willis, Jane, and Richard Beaird. His property included a farm of 280 acres, plus livestock and tools valued at over $900. His estate was far more than that of most middle-class white farmers of this era, an indication of the hard work he put into making his farming operation a success. Sadly, Ellen failed to properly manage her husband’s farm following his death, resulting in the sheriff seizing it to pay back taxes in 1886. Ellen remarried in 1887 to Lewis Jones, and Randall’s children all married a few years later. It appears they all moved away by 1900 in search of a better life elsewhere.

Edmund Generals/Jennings

Edmund Generals (or Jennings, as he went by both names) was born about 1810 in Tennessee. Born into slavery, Edmund was owned by Matilda A. Masterson of Union Cross Roads (now Oakland). It appears that Edmund’s wife was a few years older than he, and she died between 1860 and 1870. Edmund and his wife had a number of children, including sons Charles and John.

Generals must have been rather industrious, for in the early 1870s he acquired the means to purchase a farm of 240 acres near what is now Oakland. He lived on this farm in 1870 with his sons and grandchildren. When Generals died in March 1873, he owned a team of oxen, four head of hogs, one gray mule, a wagon and plow, and various kitchen and farm tools. Sadly, after Edmund’s death his sons could not manage to maintain the farm, so it was sold to pay creditors. Afterwards, Edmund’s sons moved their families out of Union Parish.

 

Andrew Jack Barron

The family Bible of Henry Barron records the 2 May 1840 birth of Andrew Jack Barron, a slave. As Henry then lived in Barbour County, Alabama, Jack was undoubtedly born there as well. His mother was the female slave presumable given to Henry’s wife, Sarah Callaway Barron, by her parents (Henry’s parents did not own slaves). It is not known what became of Jack’s mother, but she apparently died between 1840 and 1850 when Jack was still a young boy. Jack followed the migrations of Henry and his large family from Barbour County into Macon and Tallapoosa Counties in the 1840s. In the spring of 1852, the Barrons moved to Union Parish, Louisiana, settling a few miles south of Spearsville on Corney Bayou, where Henry purchased a 640 acre farm.

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, Jack chose the surname of his former owners, registering to vote under the name of “Jack Barron” in 1867. For the next thirty years, he continued to work the Barron family farm, now owned by Henry’s sons and son-in-law, Henry C. and James D. Barron and Alexander Wilson Upshaw.

In 1864, Jack Barron married Frances, a woman of African ancestry born in Louisiana around 1845. Frances and Jack had a total of twenty children born between 1865 and 1898. In the 1890s, Jack decided to move to the newly-formed Junction City, a booming but very rough railroad village. Through shrewdly managing his money while working the Barron farm over the years, he had saved enough to purchase a home and small farm just outside of Junction. In 1900, Jack worked as a day laborer, but by 1910, when he was 70 years of age, he again farmed.

Although Jack and Frances Barron died in obscurity, apparently between 1910 and 1920 on their farm near Junction City their legacy continued in the lives of their numerous children. Son Frank became a successful farmer near Bernice, Joseph worked in a wholesale store in Junction City, and Charles worked as a railroad fireman and then engineer based out of Bernice, and later in an oil refinery in El Dorado. Although neither Jack or Frances could read or write, their granddaughter, Pinkie Barron, worked as a school teacher in the 1910s and 1920s.

 

Hampton/Hamilton Futch

Hampton Futch was born about 1811 in either Virginia or Kentucky, the son of parents born in Virginia. Nothing is known of his early years, but by the 1840s, he belonged to James A. McHatton. On 24 March 1845, McHatton sold Hamilton to Oliver P. H. Windes (1824 -1847) for the sum of $575. Windes died just two years later, so ownership of Hamilton passed to his brother, Edward B. Windes (1824 – 1861). Edward had married Sarah Carr in 1845, and at his death, Sarah and her children inherited Hampton. Sarah remarried in the 1860s to Robert W. Futch, an attorney from Mississippi who served as a State Senator from Union Parish in the early 1870s. At the end of chattel slavery, Hampton chose the surname of his last owner, Senator Futch.

Although Hampton Futch never acquired ownership of his own farm, he exhibited a strong work ethic and clearly provided a decent living for his family during a difficult era for former slaves. He registered to vote in 1867 as a resident of Farmerville. In 1870, he worked the Futch farm as a sharecropper, living with his wife, Ellen, born about 1835, and their six children. Hampton and his family remained on the Futch farm just outside Farmerville long after Senator Futch’s death in 1873. In 1880, at the age of 70, he worked as a mail carrier, while his sons lived nearby and still worked as farmers. Hampton Futch died in Farmerville on 24 May 1894 at the age of 83. His legacy lived on into the twentieth century, with his children moving to nearby towns in search of a more lucrative life than sharecropping. His son, Guy Futch, moved to Monroe and worked as a porter at a hotel, while another moved to Junction City and worked in construction.

Tell Us What You Think About It

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s