Friday, September 24, 2010

A Friend of Friends Friday: African American Slaves Named in the 1721 Lancaster Co VA Will of RANDOLPH MILLER, Plus the Mystery of ELIZABETH JONES

Note: "A Friend of Friends" was a password used on the Underground Railroad.

RANDOLPH MILLER of Lancaster Co VA was the earliest known ancestor of my great grandmother ALICE MILLER born 1858 Livingston Co MO who married CHARLES ALBERT MARTINE.

Over the years I have collected several records for RANDOLPH and his family in Lancaster Co VA. Recently, a fellow researcher sent me a copy of RANDOLPH's original 1721 will (but sadly, not the entire inventory), as I had only an abstract of the will that simply named his children & grandchildren.

I transcribed the will in its entirety on my Betty's Boneyard website. Here is a copy of the transcription, with African American slave names highlighted in red:

WILL OF RANDOLPH MILLER 1721 LANCASTER CO VA Will Book 10 page 347 transcribed by me from a copy of the original

"In the name of God, Amen. I, RANDOLPH MILLER, of the county of Lancaster in the Colony of Virginia being (illegible) in years and indisposed in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks to Almighty God, do make this my last will and testament, dated the 31st day of Jany, Anno Dom: 1720/21, that is to say first of all I bequeath my soul to God and my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian manner after the directions of my Exors after named and my estate disposed of in manner following:

Viz: I will and bequeath all that parsol of land and the appurtenances that lyeth between the line of land that was my son JOHN MILLER's when alive, and EDWIN CONWAYs, and the great road to EDWIN CONWAY and his heirs forever, provided he give up or causes to be give up a bond that my son WM MILLER passed to him when alive.

Item: I give and bequeath to my grandson JOHN MILLER, son of WILLIAM MILLER, a Negro boy named BOB which I now have,  to him and his heirs forever after the death of my wife.

Item: I give and bequeath the plantation whereon I now live with appurtances & after the death of my wife....

Item: I give and bequeath the plantation whereon I now live with appurtenances, etc, after the death of my wife one moiety to WILLIAM MILLER the son of JOHN MILLER, and the heirs of his body and if any of them dies without issue then the survivor shall have his moiety to him and all to his heirs of his body....and if both die without issue then one moiety shall go to HENRY MILLER the son of JOHN MILLER and his heirs forever and the other to another grandson, viz: RANDOLPH MOTT, the son of my daughter KATHERINE. My will is also this: THOS. CHATTIN & JOHN MOTT my two sons in law, to have the care of the aforesaid plantation & my two grandsons aforesaid to whom the land is first given and the Negro boy given to JOHN after the death of my wife, my wish is RANDOLPH MOTT shall have his land to him and his heirs forever as the other hath his moiety just before him.

Item: I give and bequeath to my grandson PETER MILLER, the son of PETER MILLER a Negro boy named ANTHONY, to him and his heirs forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to his brothers STEPHEN & GEO MILLER each of them five hundred lbs of Tob (tobacco?) apiece, when of age.

Item I give and bequeath to my daughter in law MARGARET MILLER a Negro man named KITT during the term of one year from the date hereof and after to her daughter JEAN MILLER for the term of two years, that is to say she shall have the tobacco he makes and her mother aforesaid the corn and other like priviledges, and my will is that afterward her brother JOHN MILLER shall have him & his heirs forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my grandaughter ANNE MILLER a bed and furniture at the death of my wife or the day of marriage of sd. ANNE.

Item: I give and bequeath to my daughter KATHERINE MOTT a Negro lad called DICK to her and her heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath to my daughter MARGARET CHATTON a Negro girl called HAGAR to her and her heirs forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my two granddaughters KATHERINE and MARY MILLER, daughters of JOHN MILLER, an Negro girl named .... (illegible) to them and their heirs forever and they shall equal profit in the ...... of said negro. My will is also that their brother HENRY MILLER and their sister SARAH MILLER have both of them two hundred lbs of Tob. at the death of my wife.

Item : I give and bequeath the use and occupation of all the rest of my personal estate & also three Negroes a man called ROBIN and another called POMPEY  & a woman AMBO  to KATHERINE my well beloved wife during her life and afterward to be appraised and their value as well as the rest of my estate to be divided between my children and the issue of my other children and that of the children belonging to same parents have but one share among them all and I do hereby (constitute?) my beloved wife aforesaid and my afore'sd sons in law JNO MOTT and THO CHATTON joint excrs. of this my last will and testament hereby ratifying, etc, this and revoking all others. In testimony whereof I hereunto affix my seal the day and year above written.
Signed RANDOLPH --R M-- MILLER (seal)

These words (aford'sd to who land is first given) underlined (?) before publication, and the word (afordsaid) a little below--
Test: Geo Murdock
Jno (X) Hogan
Eliz (X) Jones (see below)

The Estate Inventory of RANDOLPH MILLER is several pages long, and lists hundred of bolts of various types of cloth, suggesting that he may have been a cloth merchant.

ELIZABETH JONES, who witnessed the 1721 will of RANDOLPH MILLER, is something of a mystery. I found the following information on the website
Items in parentheses are my notes:

--ELIZABETH JONES, (English or Welsh indentured servant ? Mulatto? free African American? who witnessed the above will of RANDOLPH MILLER) born say 1788 (must be 1688, she couldn't be born after her children), was the servant of RANDOLPH MILLER when she confessed to the Lancaster County court that she had an illegitimate "mulatoe" child in April 1716. She was ordered to pay 15 pounds currency or be sold for five years. 

On 10 March 1719/20 she confessed to having another "Mullatto" child in Saint Mary's Whitechapel Parish. 

She was the servant of JOHN MOTT (son in law of RANDOLPH MILLER) of Lancaster County when she confessed to having a third "Molotto" child about 1 May 1721 [Lancaster County VA Orders 1713-21, 140, 311, 346, 354; 1721-9, 2]. i.

While it is difficult to know without further records, I am guessing that ELIZABETH JONES may have been an English or Welsh indentured servant who married a free African American or was the consort of a slave from the household of RANDOLPH MILLER. 

According to Paul Heinnegg in his excellent book, "Free African Americans of North Carolina & Virginia": 

  • Most (Melungeon) families were the descendants of white servant women who had children by slaves or free African Americans.

  • Families like GowenCumbo, and Driggers who were free in the mid-seventeenth century had several hundred members before the end of the colonial period. They were descended from slaves who were freed before the 1723 Virginia Law which required legislative approval for manumissions.

  • Very few families descended from white slave owners who had children by their slaves, perhaps as low as 1% of the total.

  • Many free African American families in colonial North Carolina and Virginia were landowners.

  • The light-skinned descendants of these families formed the tri-racial isolate communities of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Louisiana.

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2010

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