Category Archives: The Slave Name Roll Project

Will of Levin Denwood, 1725, Somerset County, MD: Releasing 16 Enslaved People

Levin Denwood, a member of the Quakers in Accomack County, Virginia, was one of those affected by the 1660s law passed in Virginia requiring Quakers to join the Anglican Church.

When the opportunity arose to settle in Somerset County, Maryland in the 1670s, he took it and moved his young family from Virginia to their new home.

Levin Denwood’s name and will caught my attention for two reasons. I’ve spent hours reading the tax lists of Somerset County and Levin Denwood’s name is at the top of the Monie Hundred list, followed by the names of 14 enslaved people:

Source: Archives of Maryland Online

Next door to Levin Denwood is his widowed daughter, Betty Gale, and grandson, George Gale.

The second thing that caught my eye when I happened upon the will of Levin Denwood is the way it began. The standard format of the era for wills is In the name of God Amen, I, so and so. of (place) being in sound mind, but weak of body. . . ., then thanking Almighty God for his/her soul and earthly possessions it hath pleased God to give them.

Levin Denwood’s will doesn’t begin that way and my first thought was that he either was non-religious or perhaps a Quaker. Being a Quaker was just a passing thought because I was aware that Quakers opposed all forms of slavery and this man had 14 slaves!

Digging a bit, I learned that from the late 1600s into the early 1700s, Quakers were somewhat divided in their beliefs about the institution of slavery. It wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century that, as a group, Quakers came to oppose slavery and speak out against its practice.

Levin Denwood was apparently of the portion of Quakers who at least accepted slavery as an economic need. He was a very wealthy man and many hands were needed to tend to his plantation.

Will of Levin Denwood
Somerset County, Maryland WB EB9:102-104
Source: FamilySearch

I Levin Denwood of Somerset County in the Province of maryland being of a sound mind and memory do make this my last Will and Testament in manner & form following. Viz Imprimis I Give and bequeath unto my Daughter Betty Gale  & her heirs & assigns for ever my now Dwelling Plantation called (Black?) Land on Monney Creek Containing eleven hundred Acres & one Tract of Land called Stony Ridge being adjacent to the afsd Tract of Land together with all my other Lands adjacent to either of the other afsd Tracts –

Item I Give & bequeath all my Lands & Marshes Lying on or near the upon Straights in Dorchester County to be Equally Divided into two parts the one Half I give to my Daughter Betty Gale and her heirs & assigns for Ever & the other Half I give to my Grandsons Thomas & George Denwood & their heirs & Assigns for ever –

Item I give & bequeath unto my Sister Sarah Hicks one Guinea

Item I give & bequeath unto my Sister Rebeccah Covington one Guiney

Item I Give and bequeath unto my Daughters Betty Gale & Eliz Waters Fifteen pounds to be by them disposed off among Friends commonly called Quakers. I also give to the Betty & Eliz & their heirs & Assigns for ever one Acre of Land Lying between Wiccocomico & Money whereupon there now is a Quaker Meeting House & the said Meeting House to be kept for that purpose.

Item I give and bequeath unto Martha & Mary Woolford the two Daughters of my cousin Levin Woolford & their heirs & Assigns for ever the Right title Interest & Estate which I leave in or to two parcells of Land Lying between Rock Creek & the Devils Island Throughfare with my Late Brother in Law Woolford & I purchased between (ly?)

Item whereas James Hill late of this county hath purchased of me one moiety of my sd. tract wch the sd Thos hath in possession

Item I Give &  bequeath one Hundred pounds Sterling to be equally divided between my Grand Children Thos Denwood George Denwood Betty Denwood Mary Denwood Esther King & Priscilla Gillis & Levin Denwood if he Should live to be Eighteen years of Age- – – – – – – – – – – – –

Item I Give and bequeath unto my Grand Sons Thomas & George Denwood and their Heirs and Assigns for Ever my Plantation Manocan whereon my Son Arthur Denwood Lives and to either with all other my Lands lying on Manocan or Contiguous to the sd Tract & the Moiety of my Forest Land not before disposed of

Item I Give & bequeath one third part of ye Remaining part of my Estate be it of what nature so ever unto my Daughter Betty Gale & her Heirs & Assigns forever —

Item I Give the other third of my Estate to be equally divided between my Grand Children Thos Denwood George Denwood Betty Denwood Mary Denwood Esther King Priscilla Gillis and my Great Grand Child Levin Denwood if he Sahll arrive to ye age of Eighteen years & their Heirs & Assigns for ever. And And where as one of my Daughters lives at a Great Distance from me as its Possible She may Die some Small time before me & I have no notice of it by wch means her Children will not be intituled to any part of my Estate for (?) whereof & also the trouble of making Wills hereafter In case Either of my Daughters Shall happen to die before me then I do give & bequeath such part of my Estate as I have herein Given to (Such?) Daughter to to Such Person or Persons & their heirs  & Assigns for Ever as would have possessed & enjoyed it in case Such Daughter should have survived me

(this my will being made) & died Intestate Lastly I Nominate & apoint my Daughter Betty Gale & my Grandson Levin Gale Exrs of this my Last Will & Testament hereby revoking all form or Wills & Testament (illegible words lined out) heretofore by me made in Testimony whereof I have Hereto Set my hand & Seal ye Twenty first day of April 1725

Levin Denwood (Seal)

At the request of the Testator did in his presence Subscribe the Same as Witnesses – Richard Waters, John Bacon, Mark (his N mark) Noble, Abigail Waters

Be it remembered that upon the sd Twenty first day of April Seventeen Hundred & twenty five tis further declared by me the sd Levin Denwood within mentioned that if any of the Legatees within Shall commence any unjust Lawsuit for or abt my Estate and (?) to Hinder this my Will to take effect according to the here Intent & meaning of it that then Such person Shall Lose what is Left him or her & not be Entituled to any part or Interest whatsoever in my Estate but intirely Barred from having any of it In Testimony whereof I have hereunto Set my Jand and Seal the day & year within.

Levin Denwood (Seal)

Signed Sealed Published in Presence of us who did at the request of the Testator in presence Subscribe the Same as Witnesses
Richd Waters, John Bacon, Mark (his N mark) Noble, Abigail Waters

May ye 9th 1726 Then Came Richard Water John Bacon & Abigail Waters Subscribing Evidence to ye within Will who made Oath upon the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God yt they Sae ye within named Levin Denwood ye Testator Sign & Seal ye written Instrument as his last Will & Testament that they heard him publish and declare ye same so to be and that at ye time of his So doing he was of sound disposing mind & memory to ye best of their knowledge Sworn before me ye day & year above written –

John Tunstall Depty comr of Somerset County
Recorded in Lib W3 no1 Foll 507 by Geo: (Plater?) Regr.
Recorded in Liber EB No 9 folios 103 & 104

Test (Esme?) Bayly Reg W. S.E.

I wonder if being Quaker was the reason for omitting the names of his enslaved people and what would happen to him after he died?

Those for whom he was taxed both in 1723, 1724 and 1725include: Hercules, Bussa, Joe, Samson, Ceasar, Munday, Peter, Robin, Jacob, Jenny, Pallina, Merando, Penelopy and Holiday.

The 1726 list isn’t extant. By 1727, Betty Gale is taxed for 16 enslaved people, as follows:

However, the only names that match up are Jacob, Caesar, Paulina, Peter and Jenny.

Instead, we have: Jo, Jenny, Steven, Dublin, Messenger, Rose, Bendah, Bess, Phebie, Grace and Mall.

It appears that Betty either sold most of the enslaved people owned by her father or else she gave them different names. I wouldn’t think that renaming them would be a very common practice, though, and it’s much more likely that some went on to other plantations and she then bought more enslaved people.



Releasing Rebecca, Tobias, Betsey & Lucy, Caswell Co. NC 1860

While browsing through probate records of Caswell County, North Carolina, I came across this deed of conveyance, dated 30 March 1860, which mentioned enslaved persons Rebecca, Tobias, Betsey and Lucy. The estate of Benjamin C. West was also mentioned. Sarah E. Watlington, wife of James M. Watlington, was to have sole use and benefit of these people.

As this conveyance was filed just before the start of the Civil War, I dug a bit deeper to learn more about the family. Sarah Elizabeth West, born 1831 and died 1896, was the daughter of Benjamin C. West. She married James Monroe Watlington on 1 March 1850 in Caswell County, but lived nearby in Guilford County, North Carolina.

Benjamin C. West wrote his will on 11 September 1849 and died very soon afterwards as the will was presented in court at the October 1849 term.

Other enslaved persons are mentioned in Benjamin’s will, so I have transcribed both the deed of conveyance and the will, which might help descendants piece together the families of their enslaved ancestors.

Deed of Conveyance
Caswell County, North Carolina
DB JJ:7 (right side of image)
30 March 1860
Source: FamilySearch

This indenture made and entered into this the 30th day of March 1860 Between Romulus S. Boswell William Y Stokes and sarah E Watlington Witnesseth that where as a conveyance was executed on 4th Septr 1856 Between James m waltington and Romulus S Boswell; wherein the said watlington of the one part aliened & transfered his interest right and title to certain slaves vix Rebecca Tobias Betsey and Lucy to Romulus S Boswell of the second part in the special trust and confidence that he the said Boswell should hold and keep the same for the following purposes and none other. that is to say that sarah E Watlington wife of said James m Watlington is to have the sold and separate use and benifit of all the aforesaid property during her life and after her death it is to be equally divided Between the children of the said James m waltington and sarah E his wife And the said Watlington did also convey in the same conveyance his interest in the Estate of Benjamin C. West. to the said Boswell in the special trust & confidence that the said Sarah E. the wife of said James M Wattington should have the sole use & benefit of said property as above described Now therefore in consideration of the promises and also in consideration of one dollar paid by the said William Y. Stokes to the said Romulus S Boswell the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged before the signing & sealing of this Indenture the said Romulus S. Boswell doth bargain and sell alien & transfer his right interest & title of the aforesaid property viz Rebeca Tobias Betsey & Lucy Also his interest in the Estate of Benjamin C. West to William Y Stokes in the special trust and confidence that he shall so manage the said property that Sarah E Watlington wife of James M Watlington shall have the separate & sole benifit during her life & afterwards her children that the said William Y Stokes shall buy the property her in convenyed on the same terms as the said Romulus Boswell held it to be subject to the same charges & encumbrances as it was in the hand of said Boswell
the said Sarah E Watlington doth hereby signify her assent to
said sale by her seal & hand In witness wereof we have hereto set
our hands & seal the date aforesaid.

R.S Boswell (seal)
William Y stokes (seal)
Sarah E Watlington (seal)

John W. Graves
E.O. Jones
This conveyance was duly proven before me by the oath
of John W. Graves one of the subscribing witnesses on the 30th
of March 1860.
ThoW Graves Clk
By Allin Harralson D.C.

N. Carolina
county of Caswell The foregoing deed of conveyance was
duly registered March 30th 1860
A. McAlpin P.R

Benjamin C. West’s will:

Will of Benjamin C. West
Caswell County Probate Records Q:281-282
Source: FamilySearch

In the name of God amen. I Benjamin C. West of the County of
Caswell in the State of North Carolina being of sound mind and disposing memory; do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and form as follows to wit.
Item It is my will and desire that my funeral expenses, and all of my just debts, be paid out of my money on hand at the time of my death
or such amount as may arise from the Sale of my personal Estate not being specifically devised.
Item I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Mary C. West, two Cows and Calves one Feather bed, Bedstead and Furniture, one Walnut chest one bureau, one horse worth at least fifty dollars and provisions sufficient for her and her family one year.
Item I give to my Said wife the following Slaves to wit Creasy and her youngest Child (space with no name entered. . .then) Rebecca, Ned, Henry, Margaret, (Byers?), Huldy, Archer, Decia and her children, William, John, Betty, Lucy, Nancy and all the future increase of the females thereof, to be held by her with the (?) and profits arising from said Slaves, during her natural life

Item I also loan to my Said Wife one hundred acres of land including
the Mansion house, to be laid off, in Such manner as shall be most
Convenient for her, and Shall least affect the value of the other (function?)of Said tract of land, to be held by her during her natural life and provided my Executors Shall thereafter Consider and believe that the Sale of the whole Tract would be promoted by effecting a compromise with my Said wife for that purpose — Then in that event they Shall be at liberty to effect (?) Same with her Consent and if in their judgment it will be best and most
advantageous in selling the intire tract either in whole or in later to suit purchasers, that the Said Executors shall have full power to make such Sale and pay over to my Said wife and equivalent for Said dower, which amount when paid to her, Shall be at her own disposal. . .But if She Shall be unwilling to dispose of the Said one hundred acres of land as aforesaid and shall prefer to claim it as her home, then my will and desire is that her wishes be regarded in that respect and agreed to by my executors.
Item. I give and bequeath to my three Children namely Robert J. West, Sarah E. West and Louisa J. West one Feather bed stead & furniture each, and it is my will and desire for them to receive at the death of my wife an equal proportion of the Salves and increase of the females thereof which I have loaned to my Said wife But in view of her surviving me, and she shall afterwards contemplate a second marriage, in any such event I desire that She Shall first divide the negroes loaned to her and assign one fourth part thereof to each of her Said Children last above mentioned, and retain one fourth part thereof for her own use, which past mentioned portion at her death Shall be divided equally between the Said Children as above named . . . .
Item. all the remaining portion of my Said Estate Costs real and funeral including the lot & house in the Town of Danville lying on the
east Side of (Wilson Street?) I will that my Executors shall
have power at their discretion to Sell (?) at public or private Sale.
dividing the Tract of land in Caswell into lots or parcels if they Shall
think best to do or Sell the whole or intire tract with the (Dane?) of
one hundred acres if Consented to by Mrs. West, and if Consented to by her and She Shall have received he Dower money. Then the proceeds of Said Sale with any money in hand or left after paying my
just debts and all proper Expenses of the Said Estate. . .I will to be divided in the following manner to wit. I give to my Son Benjamin C. West one seventh part of the Same— I give to Cary W. West and Thomas H.  Hatchett in trust for the benefit of Mahala J. Overby and Judith T. Rohr, one Seventh each of the Said Estate to be held by them for their Seperate use, and benefit, to be paid unto them as their Situation and circumstances Shall require from time to time, so that the best possible advantage Shall accrue to them for a Support etc. and should they or either of them die without issue leaving no heir of their body, then their Said portion or either of them of whatever Shall be remaining Shall be divided as devised among their own brothers and sisters, and Children of my first wife. —Cary’s portion being intended to be held by Thomas H. Hatchett as in his part devised for his Children—

I give to Thomas H. Hatchett in Trust for the benefit of Martha Ann
Mary Jane William, Judith, and all other Children of my Son Cary W. West, born and hereafter to be born—one Seventh part of my Said Estate to be divided with Benjamin C. West, –and others of my Children and grand Children.

I give to my three daughters Martha T. Harris, Ann Pickerings, and Mary B. Travis,  each of them one Seventh part of the said Estate remaining and arising from the Sale of lands Lots etc. to be divided between Benjamin C. West & others.
Lastly I appoint my Son Cary W. West and my friend Thomas H.
Hatchett my Executor to this my last Will and Testament hereby revoking all others heretofore made by me. Requiring them to give bond and  Security to the Court for their faithful performance etc.
And for the purpose of making an equal distribution between my
Children and the Children and heirs of Cary W West, I have
account of advancements to them, and require that my Said Executors have reference thereto, before making the division intended between them and during in the latter Clause of this will—
In Testimony whereof I have hereunto Set my land and seal
this 11th day of September 1849.

B.C. West (seal)

Obadiah Woodson
James G. Rainey

The (intertinention?) of the word each received timely
notice by the Testator, and was acknowledged by him before us the Subscribing
Obadiah Woodson
James G. Rainey

Benjamin C. West appears in the 1850 mortality schedule for Caswell County. He was much older than his wife (if his age is correct), as it is given as 77 years, born in Virginia. Cause of death just says “Suden” as several other entries state. His year of birth then would be 1773.

He may be the Benjamin C. West who married Judith Burnett on 11 or 14 December 1797 in Goochland County, Virginia, as Benjamin was born in Virginia.

Source: FamilySearch

The 1850 slave schedules of Caswell County included a listing for Mary C. West, widow of Benjamin C. West:

Mary C. West, 1850 Slave Schedule of Caswell County, NC
Source: FamilySearch

On the 1850 schedule:

Female, 39
Female, 26
Male, 10
Female, 8
Male, 6
Male, 3
Female, 1

Male, 9
Male, 8
Female, 3
Female, 2
Female, 3/12

By the way they are listed, an educated guess is that the two adult women were listed first, followed by the five children of the elder female (aged 39) and then the five children of the younger female (26).

NOTE: The following is a working hypothesis, not proven fact!

If Benjamin named the enslaved people in his will with the eldest female first, then Creasy would be the 39 year old female in 1850. Her children named in the will don’t directly match up by male and female in the census schedule, but her children living in 1849 would be Rebecca, Henry, Ned, Margaret, Byers?, Huldy and Archer.

Decia then would be the 26 year old female and her children, in terms of sons and daughters, would align with the list in the slave schedule. We then would have William 9, John 8, Betty 3, Lucy 2 and Nancy, 3 months old in 1850 (assuming Nancy was born just before Benjamin C. West died.)

Note, too, that Tobias,  named in the deed of conveyance in March 1860, was not named in Benjamin West’s 1849 will, so he was born sometime in the intervening 11 years.

Caswell County marriage records include:

Ann West married John D. Stratton, 4 December 1829
Benjamin C. West married Mary C. Hatchett, 21 February 1824
Martha T. West married James O. Harris, 10 September 1825
Mahala J. West married Thomas Overby, 5 February 1833
Cary W. West married Mary Hodges, 10 May 1834
Judith J. West married William M. Rohr, 26 May 1830
Mary B. West married John Travis, 26 June 1843

It isn’t known whether Ann who married John D. Stratton is Benjamin’s daughter who might then have later married a second time. No marriage to a Pickering has been found.

More work needs to be done in post-Civil War records, but this is a start towards piecing together descendants of Creasy and Decia.


William Dungee vs. Charles Williams, 1799, Cumberland Co., VA: Releasing David & Mourning

I am always on the search for details to fill in the lives of my husband’s Williams ancestors in the pre-1800 time period, especially as they lived in Virginia and migrated to eastern Tennessee about 1805.

The Virginia Memory Chancery Court records are a huge favorite of mine. More and more files are being digitized and added to the online collection of the Library of Virginia.

Recently, I came across a new record – Charles Williams was sued by William Dungee in Cumberland County Chancery Court in 1799. It’s interesting because I think Charles knew he was wrong (whatever the circumstances were) because it is noted that he didn’t bother to show up for court in spite of the fact that the sheriff had served him notice.

William Dungee vs. Charles Williams, 1799, Cumberland County, VA
Virginia Memory: Chancery Court Records, File 1799-003

Cumberland July Term 1799

William Dungee Pltff
Charles Williams Deft. In Chancery

On hearing the Pltfs bill, the defendant having failed to answer the same altho duly served with process – the Court are of opinion and the (?) is accordingly decreed and ordered that the defendant be forever foreclosed of all equity of redemption to two negroes viz: a boy named David & a girl named Mourning which said negroes were mortgaged to the plaintiff by the said deft. to secure the payment of £96 with its Interest. unless the Defendant makes payment thereof or unless he answers the plaintiff’s bill on or before the 4th Monday in October next.

A Copy
J. Woodson D.C.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the Williams clan had spread far and wide in Virginia with ties not only to Cumberland County, but to Amelia, Buckingham, Bedford and Campbell Counties. I’m familiar with many of the surnames in the Williams FAN club, but Dungee is not a name I’ve ever come across until now.

Apparently, Charles Williams owed £96 to William Dungee. Since there are no further papers decreeing an alternate outcome to this case, it appears Charles must have accepted the court’s decision.