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My 3rd Gr-Grandmother’s Slave Owner / Father’s Will

After my last post about having created a map of the landowners in Yazoo County, Mississippi in the 1800s that have the surnames in my family (http://blackgenealogyblog.com/2017/09/12/my-mississippi-slave-owner-family-surname-map), my next research step was to look through wills and probate records.  So I spent some time combing through some Yazoo County Chancery Court books to see if I could find something about these specific landowners that have our family names…and I FOUND A COPY OF THE WILL OF THE PERSON THAT WAS THE WHITE OWNER (AND FATHER) OF MY 3RD GREAT GRANDMOTHER MARIAH BERRY (mother of my 2nd gr-grandfather Jim Berry)!

This landowner’s name was Ephraim Guice.  Ephraim was born about 1798 in Mississippi.  On the 1830 U.S. Federal Census I found that he was living in Warren, Mississippi along with a white female between the ages of 20-29 and two white females under the age of 5.  The 1830 census also shows him owning 1 male slave age 55-99, 1 female slave age 36-54, 1 male slave age 24-35, and 1 male slave under age 10.  I had already searched the land ownership maps and found that Ephraim Guice purchased a great deal of land in Yazoo County, Mississippi on 21 September 1835.  The large plots of land he purchased were just to the south of the huge plantations owned by Young Berry (who patented his land on the same day as Ephraim Guice in 1835).

By 1840, the U.S. Federal Census shows Ephraim Guice living with a white female between the ages of 30-39 (assuming the same female, probably his wife, that was living with him in 1830), a white male age 30-39, a white male age 20-29, a white female age 20-29, two white females ages 10-14 (assuming the same two little girls, probably his daughters, that were living with him in 1830), a white female age 5-9, and a white female under age 5. The 1840 census also shows him owning 3 male slaves age 24-35, 1 male slave age 10-23, 6 female slaves age 10-23, 2 male slaves under age 10, and 2 female slaves under age 10.  The census shows that 11 of the residents were employed in agriculture (I did then search the Federal Non-Population Agricultural Schedules but didn’t find anything for Ephraim).

My 3rd great grandmother’s name was Mariah Guice (her birth name was Aida and it was changed to Mariah).  Mariah (my 2nd gr-grandfather Jim Berry’s mother) was born in about 1841.

By 1850, the U.S. Federal Census shows Ephraim Guice (now age 52) living with Augusta Guice (age 12) and Alexander J. Guice (age 10) in Yazoo County, Mississippi.  Ephraim’s occupation was planter.  On this census taken on 12 October 1850, Ephraim’s dwelling number was 295.  I scrolled through a few more pages of the census and found that Charles Brumfield (my 3rd gr-grandmother Coya Alice Brumfield’s possible father) was living at dwelling number 303 (only 8 dwellings away).  I also found that William Gartley (the possible owner of my 3rd gr-grandmother Coya Alice Brumfield’s husband Wallace Walter Gartley) was at dwelling number 305.

Ephraim’s will that I found in the Mississippi Wills & Probate records was dated 19 August 1854 and read as follows…”In the name of ‘God Amen’ I Ephraim Guice of Yazoo County State of Mississippi, considering the uncertainty of life, and being sound in mind and memory, do make publish and ordain this my last Will & Testament revoking all and any other testamentary provisions or depositions by me heretofore made.  It is my will that all my property, both real and personal, (except such personal property as shall be named in the following bequests) shall be sold as follows Viz, the personal property on a credit of twelve months and the real estate on equal payments of one and two years and that all my legal debts be paid out of the proceeds of said sale and the proceeds arising from the sale of my personal growing crop.  I give and bequeath unto my daughter Margaret Elizabeth Russell, my negro boy named George, about 13 or 14 years of age and my negro girl named Jane about 4 or 5 years of age.  I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Cynthia Amanda Ferris MY NEGRO GIRL NAMED MARIAH ABOUT 13 YEARS OF AGE and my negro boy named Robert or Bob about six years of age.  I give and bequeath unto my daughter Augusta Marian Amelia Guice, a certain mulatto girl named Betty, said about 11 years, and a certain boy named Henry aged about 9 years; and I do further give her the sum of one thousand dollars to be paid from the sale of my property as here in before stated, after the payment of all my debts.  I give and bequeath unto my son Alexander James Guice, a certain mullatto boy named Jim or James, aged about 17 years; and I do further give him a negro girl named Lucy aged about 13 years, and one thousand dollars to be paid him from the sale of property herein before mentioned.  Should such sum remain after the payment of my debts, it is further my will that the profits arising from the labour or hire of the said Negroes bequeathed to the said Augusta Marion Amanda & Alexander James Guice, be shared between them, share and share alike, for and during the period of five years from the date of this will, and that each of said last named children shall have a Bedslead, Bed & Mattrass together with all the bed clothing in the house, already marked and claimed by them, the Bedsleads to be the best in the House.  It is further my Will, that should there be a surplus remaining from the sale of property as herein before stated after the payment of my debts & the bequests mentioned, that such residue or surplus be divided amongst my said four children, share and share alike.  It is further my will, that a certain Note executed by me and held by the Estate of Sion Mobley due a shall be paid not withstanding it may now be barred by the statute of limitation.  I nominate and appoint my son in law William D. Ferris sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament.  And lastly, now that my temporal concerns are settled I resign my body to the ground and my soul to God who gave it.  Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live.  In testimony, whereof I hereto set my name and seal the 19th day of August A D 1854.  Ephraim Guice…Signed sealed and published by the Testator as & for his last Will & Testament, in our presence, at his request, and in the presence of each other, and so by us witnessed, on this day of the date thereof.  R. F. Johnson, B. L. Flowers, E. Winecoff?, E. Wasson…The State of Mississippi…Personally appeared in open court Yazoo County…R. F. Johnson and B. L. Flowers […] being witnesses to the annexed instrument of writing, who being first duly sworn depose and say that tho said Ephraim Guice signed, published and declared the said instrument of writing to be his last Will and Testament on the day of tho date of said instrument in the presence of these deponants & in the presence of E. Wincoff & Eli […] Wasson the other subscribing witnesses to said instrument, that said Testator was then of sound and disposing mind and memory and more than twenty one years of age, that these deponants subscribed said instrument as witnesses to the signature and publication thereof, at the bequest and in the presence of said Testator, and in the presence of each other, and in the presence of the other subscribing witnesses…Sworn to & Subscribed in open Court this the 25 day of Sept 1854, Wm H. Bell Clk, By Jm Hollingsworth DC…[signatures R F Johnson, B L Flowers]…The State of Mississippi…Yazoo County…Personally appeared in open Court Elihu Wasson? one of the subscribing witnesses to the annexed instrument of writing, who being first duly sworn deposeth and saith, that tho said Ephraim Guice signed published and declared the said instrument to be his last Will and Testament, on the day of the date of said instrument in the presence of deponant and in the presence of the other subscribing witnesses to said instrument, that said Testator was then of sound and disposing mind and memory and more than twenty one years of age, that this deponant subscribed said instrument as a witness to the signature publication whereof, at the request and in the presence of said Testator and in the presence of each other and in the presence of the other subscribing witnesses thereto.  …Sworn to & Subscribed in open Court this 26th Sept 1854, WH Bell Clr, By Jm Hollingsworth DC…[signature E. Wasson]

IN SUMMARY, by starting with plotting a surname map of the last names in my family for landowners in Yazoo County, Mississippi, this led me to searching Mississippi Homestead and Cash Entry Patents, Federal Census Records, State and Territorial Census Records, Non-Population Agricultural Schedules, Land Patents, and ultimately Wills and Probate Records.  And after scouring through hundreds and hundreds of hand-written wills, I found a copy of the will of Ephraim Guice, which named my 3rd great grandmother Mariah Guice as his slave that he left upon his death to his daughter Cynthia Amanda Ferris.  NEXT STEP…finding Cynthia and figuring out what happened to grandma Mariah!  Her son Jim Berry (my 2nd gr-grandfather) was born around 1864, so I’m hoping this will help me figure out specifically when and where.  By 1870 (as reflected in the U.S. Federal Census) Jim was living with his mother Mariah and with a man (believed to be his father) named Peter Berry, along with three other children.  On the 1870 census, it says that his mother Mariah was actually born in Florida.  The Peter Berry living with her was said to have been born in South Carolina.  So I’ll be working backward to try and figure out exactly how Mariah got from Florida to Yazoo County (where she was owned by Ephraim Guice), and moving forward to figure out where she went when she was left to Ephraim’s daughter Cynthia, then hopefully learning exactly where my 2nd gr-grandpa Jim was born.  Another note on 2nd gr-grandpa Jim is that historically the law stated that children born inherited the slave status of the MOTHER, regardless of whether or not the father was free.  So it will be interesting also to learn whether Mariah was still a slave of Cynthia when Jim was born.  If so, this would indicate that he was in fact born into slavery.  Family stories indicate that Mariah may have been taken for a time to North Carolina.  So I think I’ll start my search there.  Wish me luck!

 

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