In the early 1990s, when I first found Robert & Jane Ealy, my great-great-grandparents, in the 1870 and 1880 censuses, I immediately discovered that Robert, who was known as “Big Bob,” was born in North Carolina about 1817, and Jane was born in Virginia about 1829. Like many Deep South researchers who often discover that a number of their enslaved ancestors were originally from the Upper South, I pondered, “Where in those states were they born? How did they get to Leake County, Mississippi?”
After 1793, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin propelled a great economic boom in the Deep South. This resulted in the displacement of around one million enslaved African Americans in the Upper South to points southward. Free enslaved labor was desired for the booming cotton industry, and thus, the Second Middle Passage began. More family separations occurred when they were sold away or their enslavers took them “down south” to work laboriously on the new cotton farms and plantations all over the Deep South. This is how Big Bob and Jane Ealy ended up in central Mississippi.
One of her sons’ death certificate and oral history identified Parrott as being Jane’s maiden name. I soon ascertained that she and her children had likely been enslaved by Rev. William S. Parrott (1789-1867), a circuit rider preacher. Per the 1840 census and the 1850 & 1860 slave schedules, his was the only white Parrott family in Leake County, and he was a slave-owner.
Also, he lived very near Big Bob’s last enslaver, William W. Eley. On FamilySearch.org, I found the property deeds of Parrott and Eley’s farms, plotted the land descriptions (townships, ranges, sections) on a Leake County map, and discovered that Eley and Parrott lived about a mile and a half away from each other. A descendant of Rev. Parrott confirmed that he had moved to Mississippi from Lunenburg County, Virginia shortly before 1840. Grandma Jane was around 10 years old at the time.
A major feat was achieved. I now knew the name of Grandma Jane’s last enslaver and the county in Virginia where she and at least two of her younger brothers had likely come from. Additional research ensued, and I soon discovered the area in Lunenburg County where Rev. William Parrott had lived. See map below. Four deeds in the Lunenburg County Deed Records, 1746-1869 and my findings in the county probate records revealed quite an interesting story and more discoveries!
In a nutshell, Rev. Parrott’s childless uncle, also named William Parrott, gifted him 15 enslaved people and several hundred acres of his farm located on Reedy Creek and adjacent to Henry H. Love’s farm in 1822 (Deed Book 25, p. 500, 10 December 1822). By 1824, Rev. Parrott and his uncle apparently had a huge disagreement, and William Parrott Sr. voided the 1822 deed, reclaimed 13 of the 15 enslaved people, but allowed Rev. Parrott to keep the land where he had been residing (Deed Book 26, p. 273, 17 April 1824). In 1829, Rev. Parrott sold a portion of this land located on “the waters of Reedy Creek” (Deed Book 28, p. 308, 7 March 1829). Apparently, Rev. Parrott had financial issues, and in 1830, he used three enslaved people named “Tom, Minerva and her child JANE” as collateral on a loan (Deed Book 29, p. 65, 21 April 1830).
There’s a preponderance of circumstantial evidence that this was Grandma Jane, so I surmised that he was able to pay off the loan. I discovered that Rev. Parrott had inherited Minerva and Tom from the estate of his wife’s father, Julius Johnson, in 1824 (Lunenburg Co. Probate Records, Estate of Julius Johnson deceased, 1824).
Recently, a lady named Annie and her daughter, Brenda, appeared as DNA matches to my father, his first cousin, and at least 10 other descendants of Big Bob and Jane. Cousin Annie’s family tree revealed that her parents were from Lunenburg County, Virginia! Because she and my father share 43 cM over 2 segments of DNA, AncestryDNA predicts a 4th-6th cousin relationship.
I soon discovered that my family is also sharing up to 49 cM of DNA with Cousin Annie’s father’s great-nephew (her 1C1R), so our family connection is via one of her paternal grandparents, Anderson Jefferson Sr., born c. 1867, or Nellie Hatchett Jefferson, born c. 1869. Interestingly, the 1930 census revealed that Anderson & Nellie Jefferson lived on Reedy Creek Road! I almost fell out of my chair when Cousin Brenda wrote, “My mom still lives on Reedy Creek Road in Lunenburg County!”
See the short video clip above of my recent trip to Lunenburg County to not only tour the area where Grandma Jane Parrott Ealy was born, but to meet cousins who still live there, less than a mile where Rev. William Parrott’s farm was located.