Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vousdens and slavery in the US

I have discovered a Ben and Mary Vousden and their five children, in Mississippi in the early years of the nineteenth century. I found the reference to this family (via Google Books) in Statutes of the Mississippi Territory and Such Acts of Congress as Relate to the Mississippi Territory, published in Natchez, Mississippi in 1824.

In 1822 the State of Mississippi revised and consolidated all statutes in force at the time, including laws relating to the slave population, and this book is the revised code. Chapter 24 is a Summary of private and local Acts, and sub-titled Sales of Estate by Executors, Administrators, Guardians, etc.

In a section called Persons Emancipated, on page 578, we find "Mary, late the wife of a free person of color, named Ben alias Ben Vousden of Adams county, deceased whom the said Ben purchased of Major Stephen Minor, she being at the time of said purchase, the wife of said Ben."

An act passed December 10, 1816 emancipated Mary, a negro woman, slave, also the five children of Ben and Mary: Louisa, Rachel, Sandy, Mary Ann and Benjamin.

The same act made the county court of Adams county responsible for the children's education, requiring that they "shall be taught to read, write and cypher as far as the Rule of Three, and to be treated and provided for in all respects as apprentices." Also, it provided that " the said children shall have the surname of Vousden and shall be entitled as heirs to the estate of said Ben, alias Ben Vousden, deceased."

A census of the Inhabitants of Mississippi in 1816 - Adams County includes the Estate of Ben Vousdan.

This act of emancipation and the fact that Ben is "alias Vousden", means that his former owner was a man named Vousden. I think I have identified the slave owner, one William Vousden, described elsewhere as "an Irish gentleman of education and means". He was also a very wealthy man.

His mansion and plantation, known as "Cotton Fields", lay on both sides of St. Catherine Creek, at the crossing from Washington to Natchez, beginning at the Dry or Dewitt's Bayou. He was amongst the first to introduce the cultivation of cotton for export in the area.

The early French settlers in the Grand Village of the Natchez settlement district, from the 1720s onwards, established farmsteads and, in two cases, large tobacco plantations between the bluffs and St. Catherine Creek. One known as the St. Catherine Concession was located on St. Catherine Creek.

Natchez was the state’s most active slave trading city in the decades prior to the American Civil War, where enslaved Africans were bought and sold. Natchez played a significant role in the southward movement of the existing slave population to the waiting cotton plantations of the Deep South. Between 1800 and 1860 more than 750,000 slaves were moved from the upper to the lower South, as tobacco declined and cotton replaced it in the economy.

The 19th century slave trade in Mississippi was linked to the growth of the textile industry in England, which had created a voracious market for cotton by the end of the 18th century. Cotton planters in Mississippi and in neighboring states quickly found that slave labor made their business highly profitable. Many slaves were living on the century-old tobacco plantations.

Slave sales at Natchez were held in a number of locations, but one market place eclipsed the others, the market known as "The Forks of the Road" at the intersection of Liberty Road and Washington Road about one mile east of downtown Natchez. (Today, Washington Road is named “D’Evereux Drive,” which changes to “St. Catherine Street” at the Liberty Road intersection.)

Enslaved people were brought down the Natchez Trace to the Forks via Washington (D’Evereux west) Road. Those walked over from the lower southeastern states were brought to the Forks via Old Courthouse Road. Those shipped around on the Atlantic Ocean and down and up the Mississippi River highway routes were off-loaded at Natchez-Under-the-Hill's wharfs and walked out to the Forks via St. Catherine Street.

The last sales at the Forks happened just months before the Union troops occupied Natchez in July 1863, bringing the Emancipation Proclamation and ending slavery in the area. Freed slaves flocked to town from the surrounding countryside, many settling here at the Forks near an encampment of black, Union soldiers who may have used the buildings as barracks. Thus the Forks of the Road market became a refuge for hundreds of emancipated people.

But back to William Vousden. In the Spanish Census of the Natchez District of the Mississippi Territory of 1792 (heads of households only) he is listed in Santa Catalina district as Guillermo Vousdan. Moreover,'s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s has 4 results for Guillermo or William Vousdan, but at present I don't have access to these records.

That is most of what I have unearthed so far. I wish to trace both William Vousdan and also Ben Vousdan and their families.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Agnes Annie Vousden (1881-1947)

In November 2008 I received an enquiry from a Vousden descendant in New Zealand about her great uncle Hillary Charles Vousden. We sorted him out and I learnt that my enquirer is the grand daughter of his sister Agnes Annie, born in Goudhurst on 28 November 1881 who emigrated to New Zealand with her husband (or husband to be?) Ralph. They had two children in Christchurch, where she died in 1947, three years after Ralph.

Earlier this month I received an enquiry from a Vousden descendant in Australia. She had just discovered her father's birth certificate, upon which his mother is listed as Agnes Annie Vousden. It turns out that my two enquirers are first cousins who had lost touch with each other over the years. I have put them back in contact now.

Our common ancestors are my 5 times great grandparents Thomas Vousden and Sarah Borman, me through their son Thomas, they through their son William and his wife Mercy Hyder, amongst whose children were George Thomas, father of Agnes Annie.

Agnes Annie was one of twelve children of George Thomas (1851-1939) and Martha (née Lovell) (1859-1927) Vousden. In birth order they were: John William, Hillary Charles, Agnes Annie, Winifred Maude, George Thomas, Mabel Victoria, Edith Lucy, Sidney Edward, Gertrude Beatrice, Fred James, Alice Minnie Kathleen and Daisy Rose Violet. They are all my 3rd cousins 3 times removed.

Their great grandfather George was in turn one of the twelve children of John (1817-1895) and Jane (née Dadson) (1820-1870) Vousden. They were Mary Jane, John William, Mary Anne, Samuel Hilary, George Thomas, Edward Alfred, Mary Anne (a second), Anne Elizabeth, Frederick Charles, Sarah Anne, Edwin Pryor and Jack. Jane Dadson's father was Hilary Dadson, hence the name of one of Agnes Annie's brothers and one of her father's too. John was widowed by Jane's death in 1870 and in the same year he re-married to Annie Clouty.

John was one of eight children of William (1777-1857) and Mercy (née Hyder) Vousden: Sarah, William, Thomas, Mary Ann, Richard, Liberty, John and James Hyder. William's brother Thomas was my 4 x great grandfather.

Labels: , ,