Thursday, November 24, 2011

Masters in my Southern Closet

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Photo from Library of Congress

Southern Slaves in 1862
I'll just come right out and say it. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. For obvious reasons, the whole topic of the War of Northern Aggression (some people really do still call it that) can generate a host of passionate responses, which is why the Civil War is still such a popular topic among historians and consumers of everything from books (rest in peace Shelby Foote) and magazines to tourism and television.

Of course, none of us today would condone any sort of slavery and most of us grasp just what a horrible institution it was but, if you are a hardcore southerner like myself, there are likely a few masters in your closet.

I do, however, have one slave-owning ancestor, Charles Randall Johnson, that I just discovered was likely also a "Union sympathizer."

While I am sure this made him very unpopular with his Confederate Haywood County neighbors at the time, it possibly created a bounty of testimonies and documents regarding his life that I can use to determine a great deal more about him.

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l to r: Thomas Jefferson "Tom" Castellaw, Nancy Marianna Johnson,
Bob Castellaw, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, and Bob Williams
Charles Randall Johnson is my third great grandfather. His daughter was Nancy Marianna Johnson. She married Thomas Jefferson Castellaw and their son was Robert Edward "Bob" Castellaw who was the father of my grandmother, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, who was the mother of my father, Bob Williams.

Charles was born about 1803 somewhere in North Carolina. By the 1830 US Census he had moved to Haywood County, TN (specifically in an area that would later become Alamo, TN and Crockett County), married Margaret Louisa Woods and set up a household that included:
One male 20 – 30 (himself)
One female 20 – 30 (his wife Louisa)
One female under five (his oldest daughter, Ann Elizabeth)
One male slave 10 – 24
One female slave 10 – 24
From his will, we know that Charles donated the land for the Johnson Grove Church in Alamo, TN.

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Photo from Kim Raines

Headstone of Charles Randall Johnson and Louisa Woods Johnson
in the Castellaw Family Cemetery in Crockett County, TN

Louisa died 28 March 1862 and Charles died 14 April 1864. They are both buried in the Castellaw Family Cemetery which is located south of Johnson's Grove on the west side of Castellaw Rd. in Crockett County.

Charles' estate provided for the following children:
William R. Johnson
Charles R. Johnson Jr.
Ann E. Johnson who married L. D. Whitaker
Peggy Johnson who married John Castellaw
Sallie Johnson who married John Sanders who died
Adeline Johnson who married Milton Midyett
Nancy Johnson (my direct ancestor)
Zach T. Johnson - minor
Louisa Johnson - minor
His will also included which of his slaves went to which of his children and their "value:"
Lot #1--C. R. Johnson, Jr. received negro woman Martha and boy Jerry valued at $925. 00.
Lot #2--Nancy Johnson received negro woman Manda & Cherry valued at $675. 00.
Lot #3--Sarah Sanders received negro woman Margaret and child Georgianna valued at $75. 00.
Lot #4--Louisa Johnson received negro woman Mary and her child Willie, also a boy John valued at $975. 00.
Lot #5--Z. T. Johnson received negro woman Priscilla & boy Silvester valued at $950. 00.
Lot #6--W. R. Johnson received negro man Nelson valued at $700. 00.
Lot #7--M. B. Midyett received negro man Peter valued at $700. 00
Lot #8--John E. Castellaw received negro girl Amanda & negro man Matthew valued at $807. 00.
Lot #9--L. D. Whitaker received negro girl _______ and boy Joe valued at $825. 00.
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I spent several hours this week trying to track down the name of Charles' parents which led me to a rare find and possible treasure trove of information: a book from the 47th Congress in which he was included in an act that provided his estate with payment of $250.

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Charles was one of the "the several persons in this act named" who were being paid "under the provisions of the act of July fourth, eighteen hundred and sixty-four." This referred to the Southern Claims Commission.

The purpose of the SCC was to allow Union sympathizers who had lived in the Southern states during the Civil War to apply for reimbursements for property losses due to U.S. Army confiscations during the war. Following the closing of the offices of the SCC, several claims were still pending or had not yet been submitted. To clear up these loose ends, a bill was introduced to make the necessary payments and settle any remaining claims.

Those who applied for funds had to prove they:
1. were loyal to the United States during the Civil War
2. had supplies officially taken by or furnished to the U.S. Army in the war
Eventually, there were 22,298 claims of which only 32 percent of the claims were approved for payment. The process was not easy and those who applied used everything they could to get a little cash from Uncle Sam. Many of the applications include answers to questions mentioning personal descriptions, and accounts of events during the war, military records of claimants, or their relatives, letters, diaries, and family Bible records and legal documents like wills, property inventories, and probate records.

So you can see why I was so excited to find out Charles was included in that process and began immediately trying to track down his application file.

However, if it were that easy, it wouldn't be fun.

Although, several sites including and have begun uploading the information, so far, Charles R. Johnson has not been included in any of the actual lists of people with application information available. This could be because his claim was settled long after many of the original claims from the SCC.

Next step will be to try and figure out where all the mirofilm of the original files are stored and if its possible for them to search for his application.

As part of my search, I'll send a link to this blog that contains the information I am looking for so if you happen to be reading this and are a librarian with access to those files or a researcher who knows how to find them, please let me know and I'll owe you.

If you researching your genealogy and have southern ancestors, you'll want to see if you have relatives included in the U.S. Southern Claims Commission Master Index.

Visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

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