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Wills May Determine Slavery in the Family

By Robin Foster

In Finding Evidence of Slavery in the Family, we discussed how oral history and census records can give clues about slavery in the family. We discovered Anderson Chick with his mother in 1880 and in 1870. On both census years they were living near the Chick family (Pettus and Sarah who never had children together). I promised to share the resource I used next: Wills

It makes sense that if Pettus owned the Anderson and his family or anyone else, there may be a will naming them. Actually two wills were discovered for Pettus. He submitted the first will in 1876 where he gave land to Eliza and two of her children, Anderson and Pettus:

“The share herein given to Eliza, commonly called little Eliza (my cook) for her life shall at her death vest in fee simple in her two children, Anderson and Pettus…”

Pettus also included a clause that if any particular family members challenged this will in the court, they would forfeit any right to an inheritance he provided for them. In 1878, Pettus submitted an updated will.

"South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977," images, FamilySearch

(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-19419-19601-51?cc=1919417&wc=9385910 :

accessed 02 Dec 2013), Union > Wills book, 1868-1911, Vol. D > image 93 of 332

At least I knew now that there was some relationship bewteen Pettus and Anderson and a brother named Pettus that I did not know about before. Pettus lived past the time slavery ended, so there would be no documentation of slaves at his death. I was fortunate to see he had included my ancestors in his will.

I began to wonder if Eliza could have been owned by the father of Pettus because of her age. I knew the father of Pettus was Burwell Chick. I found the will of Burwell Chick online at the South Carolina archives website. It did document slaves left by Burwell to Pettus, his son:

S108093: South Carolina Will Transcripts (Microcopy No 9) CHICK, BURWELL OF GREENVILLE, WILL TYPESCRIPT, GREENVILLE COUNTY (5 FRAMES) (MSS WILL: WILL BOOK C, PAGES 234-240; ESTATE PACKET: APT 11, FILE 73). http://www.archivesindex.sc.gov/onlinearchives/ViewImage.aspx?imageNumber=S108093001300578000a.jpg&recordId=304876

It mentioned an Elisa. She served two generations of Chicks. Because of these wills, I was able to find more documentation. Eliza was mentioned in a book called "Our Fathers' Fields: A Southern Story," By James Everett Kibler. She used to go to work at a popular resort called Chick Springs in the Greenville area that the Chick family owned while she was a slave. I found the book by searching Burwell Chick on Amazon! I paid less than three dollars for the hard bound copy. We will go anywhere to discover, right?

On Amazon.com

So now I knew I had some good information, but I did not really know where to look next. I decided to create a timeline of the facts that I had found so far. It helped me to discover the time periods for which I had not documented Eliza and more great information about her. I will discuss it with you in the next post in this series.

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