Monday, March 22, 2010

Madness Monday – Slave Owners

The Hunt Continues

I think I’ve determined why there was no clustering of African-American Ewell families around a former Ewell slave owner on the 1870 and 1880 censuses. He was dead and his son, who also owned slaves, had moved on.

Last week, I looked at the 1860 slave schedules but forgot to check the 1850 slave schedule as well as the regular censuses for 1850 and 1860. So, going back and examining these documents, here is what I discovered.

1. J M Ewell is Jesse M. Ewell.

2. The enumeration for Jesse M. Ewell on the 1860 census is as follows:

  • The enumeration for Jesse Ewell, age 63, contains a J. L. Ewell, male, age 29. I would venture to say that J. L. Ewell is Jesse’s son. J. L. Ewell is married. Could it be that Jesse gave his son some of his slaves as a wedding present?

3. The 1850 census shows a Joshua Euell, age 19, in the household of Jesse Euell. This points toward J. L. Ewell being Joshua Ewell.

4. Where as the 1860 slave schedule shows Joshua, then 29, and Jesse being the owners of the slaves, the 1850 slave schedule shows Jesse Euell owning 19 slaves and a Randol Euell, who lives next door, owing 6 slaves.

  • As Randol is 28, I believe he may also be one of Jesse’s children. But what happened to Randol and his family between 1850 and 1860? Did he die? And if so did his brother inherit his slaves?

The Carolina Ewells

Remember that wonderful website, Ewell Family Genealogy and Historical Society, I came across about a moth ago. I decided now was as good a time as any to poke around on it some more and low and behold, I found some of the history of Jesse Ewell’s family, which dates back into the 1700s in my North Carolina research area. You know, that was just too easy.

So here is a brief synopsis of this family. Jesse Ewell was born in neighboring Pitt County in 1798. His father was James Ewell, b 1750 in Pitt County. Jesse had five children, Randall, Jesse James, Joshua Lawrence, Parthenia Olivia and Lillitha.

Randall Ewell was alive in 1855 but has not been able to be traced beyond that. To date, no further information is available on Randall.

Jesse M. Ewell died in 1869. Although his death occurred after emancipation, I still plan to check any available probate records. Maybe he had his will drawn prior to the end of slavery and never changed it. I can hope can’t I?

Joshua Lawrence Ewell died in 1905. It appears that perhaps after the Civil War, Joshua never returned to the life of a farmer. In 1880, he was Clerk of Court and at the time of his death, he was the Justice of the Peace in Williamston, NC and this appears to be what he is best known for. Surely there is more?

My gut tells me that I’ve found my slave owning family but I tread lightly as things may not appear as they seem to be. So, where do I go from here?

• Obtain a copy of Jesse M. Ewell’s probate records.

• Tax Records, if available?

• Deeds? – So wishing that the Register of Deeds was open on the weekend as I would just hop in my car and drive to the eastern part of my home state.

• Other suggestions gladly accepted.

To Be Continued


  1. Reading with bated breath and interest. OOO, cannot wait to read the next installment! Good luck!!

  2. Mavis,
    It surely sounds as though you are making progress. I can't wait for the day when you break down these walls because I know that somehow you will!

  3. I was presented the "Ancestors Approved" award by Lori Hellmund of Genealogy and Me Blog. As a recipient of this award I’m supposed to list ten things I have learned about any of my ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened me and pass along the award to ten other bloggers who I feel are doing their ancestors proud.

    I have chosen to present you with the award. You can pick up the picture of the award on my blog post at

    Keep up the great work of sharing the stories of your ancestors!

  4. Coupla suggestions for you: Find out the names of who the daughters married (if they were of age). Look for deeds between those men and the father Jesse.

    Get the probate records for James Ewell in Pitt County. Check *original probate files* if they exist--they tend to contain lots of info that didn't make it into the actual bound books.

    Check the court records for any of these Ewells..check chancery court, county court minutes especially.

  5. Hi. Randall Ewell passed in 1860. You can find his probate files in Pitt County. There are two. One under R. M. Ewell. The other under Randol Huel. I was going to link them here but wasn't sure that could be done.

    This last name has many variants, such as Ewel, Ewell, Huel, and Hewell to name a few. As far as former slaves, you may find that some changed there name to Smith or some other names. Many times slaves were sold, hired, transferred, willed to another person or even that person's husband. By the time emancipation came, a former slave's surname could have changed numerous times or not. Also, some of the females would have married and took her husband's last name. So when you are looking for clusters, remember they could have been owned by the family but the last names won't indicate that. Hope this helps!


Comments posted on Conversations with My Ancestors are moderated and will be approved only if they are on-topic and not abusive.