Monday, July 4, 2011

The Gift of Freedom - Gallatin County, Illinois Emancipation Records

As many readers know, I am a director for the Illinois State Genealogical Society as well as its Webmaster. In addition, I am setting up an indexing program so that ISGS can provide valuable content for genealogy researchers on its website.  Right now, I am working to set up a viable Indexing Committee which will not only procure Illinois-related genealogy content from various venues but also transcribe it and make it available online.

Today, I realized that one project was almost complete and needed just a little push to get it to that point. So, I settled in for a few hours and decided to transcribe the last section and then format it for the website. The content is a series of articles about slave registers and emancipation of slaves in Gallatin County, Illinois.

The articles were written by Mr. and Mrs. H. Obert Anderson and published in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1978. While I won't go into details (besides, how to set up an indexing project for a genealogy society is an upcoming topic at FGS Webinars!), I had to transcribe about seven pages of text today in order to complete the project.  I wanted to do this, especially today - Independence Day - in order to truly liberate these records which until now were only available in print.

While I was transcribing, I was struck by one long entry concerning the Will of John McAllister whose slaves were brought from Tennessee to Gallatin County, Illinois. In his will, McAllister emancipates all 62 of his former slaves:
THE WILL OF JOHN McALLISTER. (Because of its interest, the entire will has been included. It shows the concern of the master for his slaves and their ability to care for themselves. Due to Tennessee law, the slaves were unable to remain in Tennessee, and 62 persons were brought at one time to Gallatin County, Illinois. The 1830 Federal Census of Gallatin County, Illinois, lists a free Negro, Ponso McCALLISTER with 21 in the family. Others listed are p. 267, line 6, Rebecca McCALISTER, 7 blacks; p. 269, line 16, Betsy McCALISTER, 5 blacks; p. 270, line 23, William McCALISTER, 8 blacks. So we see that 41 of the 62 were still in the county in 1830.)
Know all men by these present that I, John McALLISTER, late of Greenwood Mills in Frederick County and State of Virginia, but now in Montgomery County and State of Tennessee, knowing the certainty of death and the uncertainty when it will happen to me hath thought proper to make my will and do make this my last will and testament as follows Viz:
1st first I leave all my estate both real and personal Except my slaves subject to my just debts which is now not great.
2nd Second my will is that all my slaves except Dick who I bought of John SOWERS now living in Staunton, Virginia, for their faithfull servitude and fidelity to me and my family are Emancipated and Set Free trusting there is no law in my Country to make a slave of a free man and to prevent me from freeing my slaves which is my will and intention and I now do freely will and devise Emancipation and set free all my slaves except Dick aforesaid to be free forever Slavery being a bitter cup let who will taste it. I therefore hope and trust none of my slaves except Dick, aforesaid who run away, will be keeped in Bondage after the term I wish them free which is all my slaves in the State of Tennessee to be free the first day of January after my decease and to be well clothed and each a good new Blanket. Negro Ponso the carpenter to have all my carpenter tools in Tennessee and negro Bill the shoe maker to have all my shoe making tools in Tennessee and negro Blackwell the Blacksmith to have all my Blacksmith tools in Tennessee. All my slaves in Virginia to be free as aforesaid on the first day of January after my decease and to be well clothed. My will is that my Executors in Virginia pay negro Robert in Cash one Hundred Dollars and to negro John in Cash One Hundred Dollars to enable, if they think proper, to get horses and bear their expenses to the land appropriated for them in Tennessee and the money to be paid them as soon as my Executors, hereafter named, can do it with my Estate.
And my will is if any of my slaves at the time of their freedom as aforesaid be unable to make subsistence for themselves, they are to be supported out of my estate as long as they are under such inability and it is further my will that my Executors will appropriate and lay off out of my tract of land in Montgomery County and State of Tennessee, which tract of land I bought of the Heirs of Genr. Francis S. NASH containing twelve thousand Acres, any quantity not exceeding One Thousand Acres of land, my Executors may think necessary for the use of my said slaves to live upon when free and to cultivate for their subsistence, beginning for the same at the North East corner of said tract of land near William CARBON'S plantation clear of rent during the life of said slaves he or she may think proper to live on and cultivate and my Executors is required to furnish said slaves or negroes with provisions necessary for their subsistence for the first year also stock and farming utensils necessary to help said negroes to open land, build cabbins & etc. So as they may make a living for themselves thereafter, and I give to my negro Women my cotton hand gin for them to clean their cotton and my will for them is that my Executors give or cause to be give to each of my slaves set free as aforesaid at the time of their freedom a copy of this part of my will respecting them, that they may know my will about themselves and my will is that the plantation that I have leased to Thomas BATSON and wife during their lives they are to have free of rent on condition Mr. BATSON have my slaves setted free and in case he cannot have my will Executed toward them in Tennessee, that he will have them all removed over the Ohio River into some free State. The unavoidable expense to be paid out of my Estate.
3rd Third my will is that having entered into an article of agreement with Thomas YEATMAN of Nashville, dated 7th day of January 1825 to build a furnace on my said tract of land my Executors in Tennessee will Execute a Deed from me to said YEATMAN for his half of said Furnace, whenever he complies with said articles of agreement.
4th Fourth my will is that the said remaining ballance of said tract of land of 12,000 Acres be divided as follows (to wit) One third part there of to my Granddaughter, Eliza Ann McALLISTER the child of my late Son John. One other third to my sister Mary CHAMBERS in Kentucky, with the exception that her husband Robert CHAMBERS has no part of my Estate as my will is this devise is for the benefit of my sister and her children Only. The remaining third I give my Sister Eliza BUSH of Allabama and her heirs, except her son James BUSH, who I do not wish to have any of my Estate. And my will is that whatever part of my personal estate remains in Tennessee undisposed of before and I give my said grand daughter Eliza Ann McALLISTER.
5th Fifth my will is that the plantation I live upon Called Greenwood Mills in Frederick County, Virginia with all Household furniture, stock, horses, Carriages and farming utensils with Interest on money lent and dividends on Bank stock and all my rents now due or coming to me from the interest I have in my landed Estate in the State of Virginia, I give to be for the use and benefit of my wife Allice during her life with this reservation that she sell no green timbers or suffer it to be cut and destroyed unnecessarily. And after her death to be my child or children I may have by her, but in case I have not such child or children by her Then and in that case after the death of my said wife the said plantation called Greenwood Mills with all other estates I may have in Virginia Except what is here after mentioned I leave to my said Sister BUSH her life time to enjoy the same as fully and in extent as my said wife may. And if my sister BUSH be alive at the death of my wife My sister BUSH I wish to take immediate possession of that estate called Greenwood Mills. And after the death of my said Sister BUSH to be equally between my said Sister CHAMBERS, Sister BUSH and Eliza Ann McALLISTER and their heirs forever except as before excepted.
6th Sixth After the death of my wife Alice I give Robert and John all my carpenter tools with the chest they are in in the shop.
7th Seventh My will is my interest in a small tract of land in Alleganah County State of Maryland Patented to my late brother James and myself I give and bequeath to his only child now Louisa WARD and also her husband's note of One Hundred and ninety nine Dollars and seventy cents on interest from the 12th November 1821 dated 13th March 1822 to her and her heirs forever.
8th Eighth I give and bequeath to my nephew Richard McALLISTER son of Jesse McALLISTER of Pennsylvania my light horse sword and Belt and holster with the pair of silver mounted pistols at the death of my said wife with the picture of his Uncle Abduel McALLISTER forever.
9th Ninth My will is that my Executors sell my lott in the Town of Winchester, Virginia if they think it necessary and first pay my debts and legacies and the remainder of my Estate not disposed of be divided between my said Sisters Mary CHAMBERS, Eliza BUSH and my grand daughter, Eliza Ann McALLISTER. And my Gold watch patent lever capt and jewelled made in Liverpool by P.I. Tobias & Co. No. 335.7 I give my said Grand daughter if she lives to be twenty one years of age, but in case she die before arriving to 21 years of age then and in that case said watch I give and bequeath to said Richard McALLISTER, son of Jesse McALLISTER in Pennsylvania. And I give my hand cotton gin to the negro women to clean their cotton they may raise.
10th Tenth I nominate constitute and appoint my friends John JOLLIFF, William JOLLIFF of Frederick County, Virginia. Alexander ROBINSON of Baltimore and John LOHARD of Philadelphia to be Executors of my Estate in Virginia. And Thomas BATSON, James ELDER and James McCLURE all of Montgomery County and State of Tennessee to by my executors of my Estate in Tennessee and further my will is that no security be required of either of my Executors by any Court when they grant them letters of administration as I have full confidence in their honesty and integrity. Revoking all former wills made. Written with my own hand and on one sheet of paper at my Cabbin Row Plantation in Montgomery County State of Tennessee the second day of January one thousand eight Hundred and twenty six 1826 given under my hand and seal the above day acknowledged before me. 
John McALLISTER (seal)
Not only was I able to liberate these records and help make them available online, I feel that finally some of these ancestors can now truly be free and have their story told. I just hope that someone will be able to use these and other records at the ISGS website to give voice to their ancestors' struggle for freedom.

Source Citation: Mr. and Mrs. H. Obert Anderson, "Emancipation of Slaves and Affidavits, Gallatin County, Illinois - Part 2," Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 2 (Summer 1978), 110.

© 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

No comments: