GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL GLEANINGS FROM THE
FREEDMEN'S BUREAU RECORDS WEST TENNESSEE
Compiled by Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K.T. Smith, 2003
NATIONAL ARCHIVES MICROFILM T-142, ROLL 17, LETTERS SENT BY THE MEMPHIS DISTRICT OFFICES OF THE SUPERINTENDENT, THE RENTAL AGENT AND THE SUBASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, JUNE 30, 1865-MARCH 21, 1868
A child named HARDIN WHITESIDE, aged about 10 years, son of HENDERSON WHITESIDE, Haywood County, Tennessee, had been apprenticed without his father's permission. Captain MICHAEL WALSH of the Memphis Bureau instructed R. C. SCOTT, Haywood County Bureau superintendent to see to it that the child was restored to his father.
Captain F. M. H. KENDRICK, Memphis Bureau, wrote to J. W. JONES, superintendent of the Gibson County Bureau, telling him that FRANCIS HORTON, a freedwoman and mother of VICTORIA HORTON, aged 18 years, was eager to locate this daughter who when last heard of was living in Trenton, Tennessee; he wanted JONES to locate VICTORIA. [HENDRICK followed up on July 27 with a letter informing JONES that when last heard of VICTORIA was living with a STRICKLAND family.]
FRED S. PALMER reported to S. W. GROESBECK, Bureau official, Nashville, why he had relieved GALEN E. GREEN as superintendent of Madison County. "I believe him to be an impractical man. He is too outspoken and bitter in his denunciation of the rebels in the section in which he lives." PALMER noted that GREEN was supposed to have commented recently that only three people in Jackson, Tennessee were really loyalists — GILES HAWKINS, JAMES McCREA and himself. (Palmer had become superintendent of Shelby County Bureau, July 9, 1866.) He had appointed ALVIN ALLEN in GREEN'S place as superintendent.
MARY ANN JONES was separated from her children, ALFRED, aged about 17 years; ROBERT, aged about 15 years; MARGARET, aged about 12 years; CHARLES, aged about 9 years; shortly before the Civil War and when last she knew of their whereabouts they were living in or near Coldwater, DeSoto Co., Miss. In May 1867 she wanted to be reunited with her children. [Records reveal that they were returned to her.]
A riot occurred between freedmen and whites in Brownsville, Tennessee on May 13, 1867 and a squad of U.S. soldiers were sent there to help "settle the dust." The local Republicans, mostly freedmen, had gathered at the courthouse and its grounds to nominate a candidate for state senate from their district and a state representative from Madison County. Freedmen H. C. CARTER and J. F. HARRIS and J. W. SMITH had spoken to the assemblage and used such language to stir the people up, angering many whites, among whom were former "rebel soldiers," W. J. SHAW, EMMET WEAVER, J. M. CHAPMAN, MIKE McGRATH, THOMAS GRANT, CHARLES A. TALIAFERRO, FRANK BLOOM, ROBERT R. DAVIS and THOMAS MORES, who had led in fighting the freedmen.
Freedman JOSHUA SHELTON had died May 20, 1867.
In September 1867 a freedman, ALIN WINSTON, aged 86 years old, asked to be permitted to live in the Shelby County poorhouse as he was destitute and too old to work.
GEORGE SHELTON, Memphis, formerly a private in Company C, 61st U.S. Cavalry, died of cholera, September 19, 1866 leaving a widow, LUCY, who stated that she and Shelton had been married August 16, 1863; they had two children who died.
RICHARD HALL, formerly a private, Company F, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, died of cholera, in Memphis, July 14, 1867, leaving a daughter, MARIA.
SAMUEL SLOCUM, Memphis, went to the place of. J. J. SLOCUM, four miles from Hernando, Miss., in December 1867 to get and to be reunited with his children, ANNE, aged 16 years and JARVIS, aged 11 years.
DAVIS TILLMAN, Brigadier-General Volunteers, Superintendent of Memphis Sub-District, wrote to Captain W. T. CLARKE, A. A. S. Bureau, R F ABD LDS [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands], from Memphis, July 10, 1865. "Upon arriving here, I called upon
General Smith & Chetlain and received assurances of their hearty cooperation in the duty to which I am assigned. I proceeded to inspect the Contraband camp on President's Island [an island in the Mississippi River "at" Memphis] — the refugee camp [of freedmen] — the Refugee hospital & called together and consulted with the representatives of the different benevolent societies engaged in caring for & teaching the freed people. . . . The huts on President's Island have been located without the slightest regard to regularity, convenience or neatness. The streets, where there are any, are crooked and narrow and yards and fences are so placed as to render any respectable system of policing impractical. All this must be changed. It will be found impossible to educate the race to habits of neatness, thrift and industry amid such surroundings. The refugee camp in the suburbs of this city, at a place called "Chelsea" is in a filty and disgraceful condition. The Contraband hospital is a well conducted institution and does honor to Mr. WATERS and his assistants, agents of the Western Sanitary Commission who have charge of it." [A census taken by the military authorities in Memphis determined that 6093 males and 9735 female freedmen were living "in and about Memphis," and children under 12 years of age (201) incapable of supporting themselves. Also, 262 male and 419 female freedmen and 249 children were living on President's Island in the summer of 1865.]
In the July 23, 1865 issue of the Memphis ARGUS, it was announced that General TILLSON "is taking every possible precaution to protect employers of freedmen as well as make the freedmen secure in having justice done them. . . . A [freedmen's] court has been established in this city for the purpose of trying cases arising among the colored people."
DAVIS TILLSON, officer as noted above, wrote to the Chief Engineer of the District of West Tennessee, summer 1865. "The act of Congress approved July 2nd 1864 states that property real or personal shall be regarded as abandoned when the Lawful owner thereof shall be voluntarily absent therefrom and engaged either in arms or otherwise in aiding or encouraging the rebellion. Please inform your assistants that all property of persons who have been absent aiding the rebellion as stated and who have returned but not taken the oath of amnesty described in the proclamation of the President [ANDREW JOHNSON] of the U.S., made on the 29th of May of this year, must be held as abandoned property and should be so reported."
On July 27, 1865, Captain W. W. DEANE in General TILLSON'S office, Memphis, informed P. REED, agent for THOMAS PETERS, Somerville, Tenn., that, "The Brick building known as the "Eagle Hotel" in Somerville, Fayette County, is the property of the United States government. You will not assume to put any tenants in it. You will remove any tenants that you may have put in said building Out of it and will in future exercise no control over these premises under pain of arrest and imprisonment."
It was reported in August 1865 that Captain DE GRAFF, a Confederate killed a Murfreesboro, Tenn. during the war, left HARRY DE GRAFF (colored) and twenty other blacks on his place six miles from Somerville, Tenn., on the Brownsville road, when he went into service and these freedmen had remained there, raised a crop and were to be allowed to remain on the place for the time being as the government had taken over the "DE GRAFF" property. Later that month, Mr. SPRINGFIELD, legal administrator of the estate of HENRY DE GRAFFENREID, Fayette County, was allowed to "gin, bale and bring" in Memphis the cotton raised on this man's property (650 acres), to await his portion of the money resulting from the sale of the crop. The blacks who had labored on the place were to be awarded their share of the sale of the cotton crop too.
BILLY GAFFENEY, a freedman, had registered the 100 acre place known as the TILLMAN ~lantation, four miles north of Raleigh in Shelby County, on the Covington road, on March 13, 1865 with the federal authorities. He was allowed to remain there as the government had confiscated the farm and was being held by the Freedman's Bureau.
Office Supt. R. F. & A. L. Subdist., Memphis
Memphis, Tenn. Aug. 9, 1865
Colonel SAMUEL L. TAGGART
Assistant Adjutant General
Bureau R. F. & A. L. [Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands]
I have the honor to state that in compliance with general [O. O.] HOPWARD'S letter to me of the 21st ult. [July 21, 1865] which reads as follows:
Bureau Refugees, Freedmen & Abd. Lands
Washington, July 21st 1865
Brig. Genl. DAVIS TILLSON
The petition of MRS. ELIZABETH E. A. MERRIWETHER [MERIWETHER] for the restoration of her property seems to imply that it was not abandoned and that she was never disloyal. If this statement is corroborated or established to your satisfaction, please deliver up the property if in your possession. If not in your possession please state that the property is not needed or will not be required by you, that the agent in charge may deliver up.
O. O. HOWARD
I have carefully investigated the case & ascertained to my satisfaction the following facts.
1. The property claimed in MRS. MERRIWETHER'S petition was consigned to her by her husband, MINOR MERRIWETHER, by his deed of gift dated march 10th 1862 and recorded in records of deeds, Shelby County, Tenn., March 11th 1862.
2. ELIZABETH MERRIWETHER remained within the federal lines and did not abandon the property, but held and occupied the same until deprived of its possession by the government of the United States, which took it as the property of said MINOR MERRIWETHER. MRS. ELIZABETH MERRIWETHER not having her deed in her possession and the record of deeds for said county having been removed by the confederate authorities,
3. I cannot ascertain that MRS. MERRIWETHER committed any act of treason against the government of the United States or aided or abetted the rebellion, but am led to believe the contrary by careful private enquiring among reliable union men in this city.
4. MINOR MERRIWETHER entered the confederate army in dec. 1861. He made his deed to MRS. ELIZABETH MERRIWETHER march 10th 1862, after he had committed acts of treason against the government of the United States. Whether an act of treason, prior to the passage of the act of Congress, approved July 17, 1862 would deprive the guilty party of the right to make a conveyance of property, subsequent to said act of treason and before the passage of said act of congress, is a question I do not feel competent to decide and therefore make the enclosed order subject to the approval of the Chief of the Bureau.
5. MINOR MERRIWETHER states under oath that the conveyance was made for the considerations set forth in his deed and not for the purpose of evading confiscation and there is strong corroborative testimy to the truth of his statement.
In this case i respectfully recommend that the enclosed order be approved, believing it to be an act of justice.
But I beg leave to call your attention to my endorsement on the 28th ult. [July 28, 1865] on the communication of WALKER & ATANTON, attorneys for MRS. SARAH E. HUNT, Memphis, Tenn. and to urge that in all other cases, claims of the restoration of property in this dist. [district] be referred to the United States District Court or court of claims.
I am, colonel,
Very respectfully your obt. servt.
[ELIZABETH AVERY MERIWETHER, wife of MINOR MERIWETHER of the Confederate army, was dispossessed and ordered Out of Memphis by General William T. Sherman when he was commanding in the city, late in 1862; she then lived in Mississippi and Alabama until the end of the war. Through the intercession of a friend of hers who had befriended the Federals during their occupation of the city, her property was returned to her. She wrote of her experiences in a book later published entitled, RECOLLECTIONS OF 92 YEARS, 1824-1916 (Nashville, 1958).]
Lt.-Colonel WILLIAM T. AVERY of the Confederate Army had been pardoned by President ANDREW JOHNSON so that his property was restored to him in Shelby County.
Late in December 1865 MARGARET NEELY and her two children, destitute freedmen, were given the means for transportation to Nashville, Tennessee.
RICHARD MASSEY, Shelby County (?), had a labor contract dated Jan. 3, 1866, with PANCH RIVERS, EMMA JANE RIVERS, MARY ANN RIVERS, MADISON RIVERS, GEORGE AND NANCY RIVERS, freedmen; they left his employ and agreed to work for ZEPHANIAH DAVIS in Fayette County; this was contrary to contractural policy and the RIVERSES were ordered back to the MASSEY farm.
WILLIAM HOWLETT, living in Madison Co., Tenn., was ordered in March 1866 to "deliver up to WARRINER BROWNING his child ELIZABETH aged about 5 years."
A little freedman named JOHN PHILLIPS had been picked up in Germantown, Tennessee in April 1866; his parents were unknown.
The colored cemetery (in Memphis), where "all" freedmen were buried was located at the corner of Jackson and Lauderdale streets; called the Beauregard Cemetery.
ANN and FRANK WRIGHT, children of ADELINE MANAY, formerly belonging to WILLIAM WRIGHT, Franklin, Tenn., were being sought in June 1866.
In June 1866 ANN CARTHELL complained that she and her child had been maltreated by her employer, PINKNEY GORDON in Haywood County.
In July 1866, ROBERT SCOTT, superintendent of the Haywood County Bureau, queried several respectable freedmen and whites as to whether they thought justice could be better attained through civil courts or through freedmen's courts (which had been suspended). Of the whites, W. P. BOND, judge of the circuit court, Haywood County, would only approve of the freedmen's court if the proceedings did not conflict with the civil courts. Dr. E. A. TAYLOR, plantation owner, four miles SW of Brownsville, employing twenty "hands" favored the freedmen's court. THOMAS BOND, whose plantation was located five miles NW of Brownsville, employing 60-70 "hands" thought that the freedmen's court should be re-instated. JOHN SHERMAN, a J. P., nine miles east of Brownsville, was also of the same opinion as was W. H. OWENS who lived ten miles south of Brownsville. Of the freedmen, SAMUEL WILLIAMS, a Methodist "exhorter" and boot and shoemaker, favored the civil courts. JOSEPH TURNER opined that since conditions were better between the races the civil court would be better.
It was reported that freedmen, GEORGE DUNCAN, STEPHEN HILL and JACOB THOMPSON, all residents of Memphis, were hired on July 23, 1866 by a white man named JACOB WOLSEY and were taken by him about a dozen miles from the city on Pigeon Roost road to the plantation of JOHN SCHWEIZER. There, about dark that day, they were "most cruelly flogged" by an overseer. They reported this offense to the Bureau.
VINA HELDEN, aged 10 years and CAROLINE HELDEN, aged 8 years, orphans, were taken to the Bureau office in Memphis by SUSAN BROOKS who told the authorities there that the girls' mother was deceased. March 1867.
In April 1867, JOHN MILLER, freedman, Memphis, visited the vicinity of Bolivar to bring his sister, HARRIET TAYLOR and her family to Shelby County.
HARRIET ANN ALEXANDER, formerly a slave of ELI ALEXANDER, four miles south of Ripley, Miss., ran away from her master in December 1863 leaving a 5/6 year old daughter, ANN. Now, in the spring of 1867, she wanted to know the whereabouts of this daughter.
In October 1867, PETER FOOT, Murfreesboro, Tenn., notified the Memphis Bureau about his two children, HENRY, aged 5 years and DIXIE, aged 4 years; their mother was MANERVA McGANLEN; he had heard they were presently in the vicinity of Memphis and wanted to know if this was true.
In December 1867, ABRAM MENNIESS, freedman, Memphis, authorized CHARLES HARRIS to bring his wife, MARTHA and their children, WILLIAM, BURRELL, CULBEN and MARY to Memphis, from the farm of ANDREW J. DONALDSON near Bolivar, Miss., to whom they had been bound during slavery.
In January 1868, MELISSA SHEPARD, freedman, widow of ALEXANDER SHEPARD, formerly a private in Company B, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, applied for his bounty allowance of $200.71. Memphis, Tenn.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES MICROFILM T-142, ROLL 15, LETTERS SENT BY THE DISTRICT OFFICES OF BROWNSVILLE, ETC., MARCH 7, 1866-MARCH 25, 1871
Bureau R. F. A. Land
Supt. of Haywood, Tipton & Lauderdale Counties
Brownsville, Tenn. Sept. 11, 1867
F. M. H. KENDRICK
Captain, Memphis, Tenn.
I have the honor to enclose herewith the following papers, applications &c. for pay and bounty for PENNY BOND wife of WM. H. BOND; application pay & bounty for CELIA, wife of JOS. BOND; application for pay & bounty with discharge of PETER PARKER; application for pay & bounty with discharge of HAYWOOD BOND; application & bounty, with discharge of JACOB BOND; application for pay & bounty, with discharge of MACK WILLS.
Please forward to J. B. COON, Gen'l. Claims Agt [agent] for State of Tennessee at Nashville, for collection. These claims were in Capt. SCOTTS hands & I do not know whether they are right or not but we wish to make a start in some way.
I am Captain
Your obt. servt.
J. L. POSTON
Asst. Sub Assit. Com.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES MICROFILM T-142, ROLL 18, LETTERS SENT BY THE MEMPHIS DISTRICT OFFICE TO THE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER AND THE DISBURSING OFFICER OF CLAIMS, MARCH 1868-DEC. 1869
The Memphis Bureau turned down the request of Mrs. C. F. TREAT, acting matron of the Canfield Colored Orphan Asylum, Memphis, for the means to pay for transportation from that city to Hays City, Kansas. March 1868.
FRED S. PALMER, Bureau official, Memphis, wrote to MATHEW MERRIWETHER, Madison Co., Tenn., April 8, 1868, asking if he had in his custody, any time in the past six months, ANNA, aged about 8 years, daughter of BELL MERRIWETHER, freedwoman; if so, were there any legal reasons [such as apprenticeship] why she should not be returned to her mother.
In April 1868, W. W. BROWN, an agent in the Memphis Bureau office, visited Bartlett Station, Shelby County vicinity, and found the freedmen thereabout "fully employed, "under agreeable terms generally, with the men working for $100 to $150 a year and females from $5 to $8 a month and their boarding. He found the Pleasant Ridge school, taught by T. S. Stewart, from Oberlin, Ohio, in order. On April 12, in the Galloway vicinity, Fayette County, he found country merchants refusing to sell meat to freedmen except for cash. The latter planned to buy their meat from the city merchants. If they failed in that, "they say they do not know what they will do, for the freedmen cannot and will not work without meat."
It was reported that SHARP TAYLOR, formerly a private in Company E, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, died in Tipton Co., Tenn., April 9, 1868, leaving his mother, MILLY TAYLOR.
In June 1868, JACK KENNEDY, freedman, Somerville, Tenn., reported to FRED S. PALMER, Memphis Bureau, that the previous Christmas he had "hired" out his fourteen year old daughter, JANE, to ABNER HARVEY of Hardeman County who lived ten miles from Bolivar; that HARVEY "had criminal intercourse at three several time's with said girl, using force each time to accomplish his purpose. KENNEDY stated that HARVEY could be made "to pay the girl smartly for the damage he has done her." [In historic hindsight, one can't help but think that KENNEDY was singularly ill-advised to expose his daughter to such a situation in the first place.]
A freedwoman, EMILY SCALES stated that she was married to JOHN SCALES, on a Sunday in January 1863 in a Methodist church fifteen miles from Holly Springs, Miss., before a preacher named SCRUGGS. She claimed to be Scales' widow, seeking his bounty money. FRED S. PALMER, Memphis Bureau, refused to allow her to be so paid as she couldn't produce sufficient proof of her marriage to JOHN SCALES.
FRED S. PALMER, Memphis Bureau, wrote to Brig. -General GEORGE W. BALLOCH, Washington, D. C., from Memphis, January 7, 1869.
I have the honor to call your attention to the claim for bounty of JOHN HORTON, brother of ROBERT HORTON, late Pvt. Co. B, 61st U.S.C. [cavalry], the money to pay which amounting to $384.83 was forwarded by you on the 9th of December 1868, being included in your check #35 on the 1st Nat. Bank of this city.
JOHN HORTON presented himself at this office for the purpose of receiving said money and brought with him two of his former fellow servants or slaves, WILLIAM HORTON & ALLEN HORTON, to establish his identity. JOHN HORTON states that he and his family were at one time the slaves of BROOKS HARRIS who lives one mile from "the gulf" in Chatham Co., North Carolina. That about fifteen years ago he was taken by Harris' son-in-law, EDWARD HORTON, to a plantation two miles from Okalona, Mississippi. That his father and mother both died in Chatham Co., N.C. while he was the slave of BROOKS HARRIS and before he was taken to Miss. and that he never had any other brother than ROBERT.
WILLIAM HORTON stated that in the second year of the war EDWARD HORTON took himself, JOHN HORTON, ROBERT HORTON, ALLEN HORTON and his other slaves to Brooks Harris
in Chatham Co., N.C. to prevent them from being freed by the Federal Army. That while he was in Chatham Co. he saw the reputed father and mother of JOHN and ROBERT HORTON on the Brooks Harris plantation and that John & Robert acknowledged them to be their father & mother. That EDWARD HORTON kept his slaves one year in Chatham Co. and then brought them back to Miss. That at the time they all returned to Miss. JOHN & ROBERT HORTON'S father and mother were alive and the slaves of BROOKS HARRIS.
ALLEN HORTON stated that he was taken to Chatham Co., N.C. with EDWARD HORTON'S other slaves in the second year of the war. That he remembered seeing a colored man there by the name of NED whom JOHN & ROBERT acknowledged to be their brother. That NED was alive and living on Brooks Harris place when HORTON took his slaves back to Miss.
Will you please inform me if under the circumstances I should pay the money to said JOHN HORTON?
NATIONAL ARCHIVES MICROFILM T-142, ROLL 38, REPORTS FROM OFFICERS AND AGENTS, ETC., 1865-1868
FRED S. PALMER, Memphis Bureau, wrote on May 13, 1866 in a report addressed to Captain H. S. BROWN, Assistant Adjutant General, "A freedman by the name of NATHAN PATE who was killed on the 20th of April 1866 at DUNDAS [a place now a part of McKenzie, Tennessee] by a white man by the name of JOHN McKENZIE, formerly of the rebel army and now a merchant selling goods, at Dundas. It appears that NATHAN PATE came from Memphis & went to the house of JAMES McKENZIE (father of JOHN) for the purpose of getting his wife & children who had been working there. While at the house a dispute arose between JAMES McKENZIE and NATHAN PATE, with McKENZIE claiming that PATE owed him for the subsistence furnished his family & PATE claiming that McKENZIE owed him for the services performed by them. JOHN McKENZIE came up & took sides with his father and during the quarrel shot PATE twice causing his death." JOHN McKENZIE then went to the local J. P., F. W. TURNER, to swear that he acted in self-defense. It is evident that McKenzie got off scot-free for this homicide.
In May 1866 SAMUEL HOWARD, superintendent of the Henderson County Bureau reported that he had issued twenty-one marriage licenses to freedmen in his county.
In the spring of 1866 J. J. HOLLOWAY, Fayette County Bureau superintendent, reported that he had completed 837 labor contracts among the whites and freedmen.
James Monroe McKenzie (1818-1873) was an early settler (about 1828) of Carroll County, Tenn.; he was a large landowner who owned a farm and a hotel at McKenzie Station (incorporated in 1869 as McKenzie, Tenn.) and his oldest'son, JOHN DAVID McKENZIE (1844-1922) eventually studied medicine at Vanderbilt University; he practiced medicine in Bradford, Tenn. for four decades but late in life returned to McKenzie where he died and was buried among other members of his family in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
(Courtesy of the Browning Library, McKenzie, Tenn.)
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