Tammy Thomas Garnes

The Strength of “Old Ellen”

In genealogy on October 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm

In addition to all the other “stuff” I do each day, I currently work as a contractor for Ancestry.com.  Well last week I came across one of the most interesting documents I’ve ever seen.  Often times in wills and records from the Civil War you’ll find lists of slaves.  Their names haunt me.  I touch them, I look at them, I fantasize about who they were and what their desires in life were.

But last week, I met “Old Ellen.”  She was a slave on the Burke County, GA plantation of William M Davies in 1862.  In his will, she is listed as age 100.  Can you believe that?  A slave woman who lived to be 100.  When I read it, I couldn’t help but get excited…but then….I looked again at the year.  It is doubtful she lived much longer, which means that she never experienced her own emancipation.  But before I could cry over that I noticed another little nugget.  Her worth was listed as $1.

That fact took me completely over the edge.  I tried to hide the tears from my co-workers, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about “Old Ellen” all week long.  To live for so long, to see so much, then to die right before she experienced what it felt like to walk the earth as a free woman.  Oh the lessons we could all learn from “Old Ellen”……..I hope she experiences the freedom in heaven that she never felt on earth.

"Old Ellen" aged 100, Value $1

  1. From @mamacooldog This isn’t the post @asoutherngirl wanted me to check out on her blog today, but it gave me the chills /tears combo http://bit.ly/b3O6KM (Thanks for the shout out!)

  2. I had to respond as I see you had a similar reaction that I had to a 90 year old slave of the Choctaw slaveowner Robert Jones, who owned many African slaves. (Yes, Indians owned slaves especially those in what became Oklahoma.)

    On my blog post of November 2, I posted an article about the slaves from an old Choctaw plantation. One group of slaves on the estate or Robert Jones, was 90 years old, and I could not hep but wonder what work could she have done for Robert Jones? I then came across an article about a slave called Lindy and was interested in seeing if I could find Lindy’s son and any traces of her life after freedom. Sometimes we have to do this research, it gives a human touch for those who lived in an inhuman system.

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