After horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and “stock of every description…wagons and tools of every kind,” Hill Jones bequeathed to his wife, Judith Jones the following negroes: Tiller, Vincent, William, Tempy, Marian, Phil, Reuben and Susan “which personal property it is my wish for her to make any disposition of she may think proper.”
It’s maddening to see my great, great-grandmother, Temple “Tempy” Burton listed as personal property after the cattle and farm equipment no less. It took me a few weeks after receiving this will from a genealogy buddy to even get into the right frame of mind to read it closely. But it had to be done and doing so revealed that some of the other slaves Jones bequethed were treated as humanely as the inhumane institution would allow. Some were married with children and were given away as a family unit. If Jones was considerate in this way with his other slaves, maybe Tempy was on her own when Jones bought her, separated from her parents by another slave owner, or by their death. Maybe the person who owned Tempy before Jones did had some compassion too and bought her with her family as well.
Whatever the case may be, this will documents how Tempy found herself enslaved by and having babies with my second great-grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart. In 1846, Jones bequeathed Tempy to his wife, Judith Jones who left Tempy to her daughter, Martha McCauley in 1857. Martha allegedly gave Tempy to her daughter, Elizabeth as a wedding present in 1858 when the young woman married my second great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart making Temple his property.
It puts a knot in my stomach how fragile Temple’s life was and that she was passed on like cattle among the family that owned her, but at least they wrote the information down. I know it’s a long shot that I will ever find Tempy’s parents and reunite them in our family history, but I’m still crossing my fingers that this will brings me a little closer to filling out our family tree.