When I read the word of the week I knew at once who I was going to write about. She’s not an ancestor, but a neighbor of one.
Here’s the story –
in 1817 my 4th great-grandfather Robert T. Barlow moved from Hanover County, Virginia to Barren County, Kentucky where he bought 120 acres on the south fork of Beaver Creek. Among his new neighbors were several members of the Eubank family who had arrived in Barren County about ten years earlier.
Primary among those neighbors were Joseph Eubank and his sister Susannah. Joseph first purchased property in Barren County in 1808. Susannah first appeared there in July 1809 when the tax book recorded the amount she owed for several slaves. Joseph, Susannah and Susannah’s two sons Richardson and Pleasant moved to Barren County from Henrico Co, VA. (When Susannah’s death was recorded by the Barren County clerk, it stated that she was born in Henrico County.)
Susannah is a puzzle. She arrived in Barren County with two teen-aged sons, Richardson and Pleasant. Their names showed up in the Barren County tax records when they turned 21, Richardson in 1813 and his brother Pleasant in 1815. The boys had no identifiable father. There have been some suggestions, but no proofs have been made. Richardson’s second wife was my third great-aunt Lucy Fenton Barlow, who had her own mysterious fatherless child.
Susannah functioned as an independent woman in Barren County in a time when most women were identified only as adjuncts of their husbands. She was listed as head of household in all but one census. And when she died – at 85 in 1852 – her will was most remarkable.
It’s believed that her father was James Eubank who died in Henrico in 1799 and left a will with a curious clause. (Ancestry.com – Henrico mixed records, Vol 2-3, 1766 to 1852, pp. 497-498.)
In the will he starts out with the usual phrases, then leaves property to two sons, and follows with this –
“Item: I leave to my two single Daughters Susannah and Frankey so long as they or either of them remain single the remaining part of my land it being the place where I now live and at their death or marriage whichever may first happen my wish and desire is that such part of my lands ?but then? shall be equally divided amongst all my children that are now living to them and their heirs forever.”
James’ will refers to Susannah as single. At that point (1799) she would have had two young sons. After James’ will was read she might have felt she had good reason to continue being single. This is speculation only. The full truth about Susannah is waiting in the Henrico records at the Library of Virginia, still to be explored.
Now – about her will. I’ll preface this information by saying that when she moved to Barren County, she joined the Mount Tabor Baptist Church. At that time it was an integrated church which welcomed both free blacks and household slaves into the congregation if I’m reading the membership roles correctly. I’m sure this had some bearing on her thinking when it came time to write her will.
Here’s the first paragraph of that will:
Barren County, Kentucky Will Book 3, pages 363-364.
I Susannah Eubank of Barren County, Kentucky do hereby make my Last will and Testament in manner and form following, that is to say:
First – I do hereby manumit and set free from slavery my four negro Slaves, towit, Tom about thirty years old, Royal or Rial about twenty seven years old, Joh about 15 years of age, Harrison about thirteen years old. My desire and will is that the said Tom and Rial and John and Harrison be hired out for the term of one year after my decease and that the money arising from said hire be handed over to said negroes to enable them to emigrate to Liberia and that said Tom, Rial, John and Harrison be discharged from servitude and be thenceforth and forever free from and after one year from the time of my death . . .
The year was 1852. Here were four young men gaining independence. Sending them to Liberia was one of the many possibilities that the Abolitionists struggled with. Not perhaps the best solution but many people then felt that former slaves would never be accepted into American society.