Tag Archives: Temple Burton
Ever since my cousin, Monique and I returned from our trip down to Ocean Springs, Mississippi to do some ancestry research, I’ve been thinking about all the property my ancestors accumulated and then lost.
It was a source of inspiration to me that my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton who had been a slave and could not read or write purchased an acre of land in Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1887. It never even occurred to us that she had owned her own property. We always assumed that she lived with her former masters, Col. W.R. Stuart and his wife, Elizabeth McCauley Stuart after she was emancipated until she died in 1925 at the age of 104. Indeed, Tempy was listed living with Elizabeth on the 1900 census. But turns out she bought property of her own. The way we found what was known as “Tempy Burton’s Lot” in the Jackson County Archives was as surprising as the fact that she was a homeowner.
Archive Assistant, Linda Cooper was helping me look through the massive deed books for Josephine Ford’s property. (The books are so big, Linda needed another person to hold the book whenever she made a copy of a page). Monique was trying to keep her mind off her hunger (it was about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and we hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet) so she was randomly browsing through indexes, looking for any familiar names. That’s when she yelled to me from across the office. She’d found Tempy Burton in an index for land owners in 1889.
With a trip to the Jackson County Chancery Court office around the corner from the Archives, we found that Tempy paid $60 for her acre of property. (Deed Book 9, p. 395) She would later convey some of this land to my great-grandmother, Josephine and another daughter, Violet Matthews Battle for a dollar each.(Deed Book 45, p. 304 & 305) Not only was Tempy a landowner, but she made sure her daughters were too. As we continued digging through the land rolls in the Jackson County Archives, we found that all of these properties were lost to tax debt decades later. It bummed me out that a later generation of my family had lost something so precious, land acquired by their slave ancestor.
Driving around town earlier in the day, we’d come across a lot owned by Monique’s great-grandmother, Tempy Elizabeth Stuart. The lot was for sale. At the time, we didn’t know about Tempy’s lot and how her younger generations had lost it. Can’t help but wonder if it’s still for sale…
By the time Monday comes around, I’m eager to send my kiddies off to school so I can get down to digging up my roots. But today, I was overwhelmed by the size of the task. It seemed a million different directions beckoned me to, “Look Here!” Today, it felt like I had too many leads to follow.
In order to find out more about my great, great-grandmother, Temple Burton, born a slave around 1820, possibly in Louisiana I could research:
- family histories in Warren County, North Carolina where Hill Jones was born. Jones was Temple’s earliest owner that I’ve been able to find. Family histories might record how Temple entered into the Jones family, perhaps as part of a will or through a marriage.
- track down deeds of sale belonging to Hill Jones which may show who Hill Jones bought her from if she wasn’t passed down to him through his family.
- Burton slave owners, since Temple’s last name is Burton and slaves often took their owners’ last name.
While three directions doesn’t seem like an awful lot, each of them splinters off into many more trails. For example, I’d need to look up Burton slave owners in several different places. Temple’s census records aren’t consistent and list several different states as her parent’s place of birth. That means, I have to consider Burton slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the states listed as her parents’ places of birth.
It’s doable, but not in one school day. By the time I called the Warren County records department in North Carolina, was redirected to their state archives, and abandoned that trail to try my hand at a hail mary search of Burton slave owners in Alabama and Mississippi, it was already time to meet the girls at the bus stop.
I did at least find information about another Burton, Annie who published her memoirs on her childhood in slavery.
But I need to get organized. I know I’m not going to find any specific record in one day, but I probably need to focus on one set of records at a time, lest I get waylaid like I did today.
What do you think is the first trail I should follow on this leg of my journey?
Before I could even print out my handy new postcards (see previous post), I found a Handy relation on ancestry.com with a bunch of familiar names in his tree.
I sent him a nice email, told him about the copy of the letter I have from A. H. Handy to my second great-grandfather, and invited him to reply with hopes that we can help each other out. Who knows…he could have the originals of the Stuart Papers up in his attic! And if he doesn’t know about the Stuart Papers, I hope alerting him to their existence will help illuminate his family history.
Speaking of the Stuart Papers, those 600 sheets of letters, poems, sermons, etc. that belonged to my third great-grandfather William R. Stuart, Sr. and were preserved by a Ms. Lillian Handy, I need to make a correction. I was wrong about the intention of A. H. Handy’s letter to my great great-grandfather. (A. H. stands for Alexander Hamilton by the way). It was definitely a condolence letter but not a marriage proposal. Had I read the letter more closely, I would have realized that at the end, he mentions that Susan sends condolences as well and that the new widow would be very welcome to visit and give Susan some company. Handy was in the midst of trying to move up the career ladder when this letter was written. Indeed he sounded a little guilty that his long hours vying for a judgeship were keeping him away from the misses. Susan was Handy’s wife. Her maiden name was Stuart.
Now, I just need to find out how Susan Stuart Handy was connected to my great great-grandfather. (I’m betting she was his sister). Then, I’ll cross my fingers and hope that my newfound Handy cousins won’t mind searching their family relics for any mention of a Temple Burton, slave woman, date of birth around 1820, parents unknown.