Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 1

Celebrating Black History Month – I did not want February to end without giving recognition to African-Americans in the United States. I hope that by sharing this information I may help someone open the door to their African-American brick wall.

My 5th great-grandfather James Sims (1754-1845) of Nicholas County, (West) Virginia was a former slaveholder at the time of his death. Over a dozen years ago I had the privilege to work with several other researchers who shared their information and documentation that I used to write a detailed biography for James SIMS in 2002.

James, born in Culpeper County, reportedly brought eighteen slaves with him to Nicholas County (then Kanawha County) when he moved there from Bath County, Virginia, sometime around 1798-1800. The number may be exaggerated as he had 5 slaves in 1810, 9 slaves in 1820, 5 slaves in 1830, and 1 in 1840.

The known names of nine slaves owned by James SIMS are:

Tom, Juda and George

Jeremiah SIMS, the father of James SIMS, wrote his will on 4 March 1768, it was probated on 18 August 1768 in Culpeper County, Virginia. In his will he left one half of his estate to his wife Agatha and the other half to his son James. There was no mention of slaves in the will however the inventory returned to the court on 19 October 1769 listed:

One Negro man Tom £60. One negro Woman Juda & her child George £70

The slaves were valued at £130. The entire inventory totaled £195 making Tom, Juda, and George the most valuable part of Jeremiah’s estate.

Jinncy

John Nalle, the maternal grandfather of James Sims, wrote his will on 16 September 1780. It was probated in Culpeper County, Virginia, on 19 August 1782, and mentions amongst his legatees his daughter Agatha Hill, wife of Russell Hill and widow of Jeremiah Sims, and mother of James Sims.

“Item. I Lend to my daughter Agatha Hill half the Service of a Negro Woman named Jinncy During my Daughters life the other half of the said Negroes Service to my Grandson James Sims from the time of My Daughters marriage to Russel Hill, and after My Daughters Descease I give the Said Negro Woman Jinncy and her Increase to my Grandson James Sims to him and his Heirs for Ever also Ten Shillings to my Daughter Agatha Hill and her Heirs for Ever.”
[Source: Culpeper County, Virginia Will Book B, pg. 519.]

Jude and Fanny

William Griffee Brown in his History of Nicholas County, West Virginia (Dietz Press, 1954, 425 pages) mentions on pgs. 165-166 while discussing the Bethel Methodist church that he owned an old class-book dated 1821 which includes the names of members of the class in 1821 including black Jude and black Fanny, slaves of the Sims family. James Sims “brought the first negro slaves to Nicholas County” according to Mr. Brown on pg. 30. Note: Jude and Fanny were “slaves belonging to William Simms,” a son of James Sims.

July Hulen and her mother

Lawrence M. Huddleston, author of The Huddlestons My Kin had in his possession the original bill of sale from James Sims to John Huddleston for the slave July Hulen when June Settle Ciocca visited him at home in 1990. At the time she did not realize her relationship to James Sims. On 9 February 2002 in an e-mail in which she shared the photo of this bill of sale, she wrote: “Larry told me that James Sims had previously sold July Helen’s mother to the Huddlestons and that both mother and daughter were so heart-broken, he agreed to sell them the child also. Larry had no children and my understanding is that his immense genealogical collection was donated to the archives in Charleston. I would assume that is where this document can now be found.”

MRIN02312 1833 Sims bill of sale for slave

Robert Sims

Clarence Shirley Donnelly (1895-1982) wrote in his column “Yesterday and Today” in the Beckley-Post Herald:

“Isaac’s brother, Robert Simms, ‘flew the coop,’ as a saying of that day had it. Keeping his eye on the north star as he traveled at night, he reached Canada and freedom.”

Isaac Sims, a Slave

continued in Part 2….

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

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Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

As a military brat I've lived in Georgia, France, Idaho, West Virginia, Spain, South Carolina, Texas, and Luxembourg. Married 36 years with two grown children. When I’m not doing genealogy, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful countryside in Luxembourg and surrounding countries.

19 thoughts on “Black History Month: The Slaves of James SIMS, Part 1”

  1. Hi Cathy, This was a great post about how you can learn the names of slaves held by our ancestors, which can be valuable information for the descendants of those slaves. I was wondering if you would be interested in submitting this post (and part 2?) as an article in our local genealogical society journal called The Trading Path? I am doing a special section on African American Research and I would like to include your post because it illustrates the various resources used in learning the names of slaves. Unfortunately we don’t compensate for articles, but we could submit your article for our 2015 Writing contest which awards two lucky writers with either a gift certificate to Fold3 or Newspapers.com. If you are interested, please email me at tradingpath@dogsnc.org. I would love to hear from you. Ginger R. Smith

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cathy, I am delighted to read this post, as it is very helpful information for my family tree and also a book I am writing! My ancestors, the Grose family of Panther Mountain, Nicholas County, were among the founders of the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church. I understand that the Sims (or Simms, as sometimes listed) family were also a founding family, and there is a historical marker in front of the present-day Bethel Church naming Fanny and Jude as worshippers there. I have also found out about Isaac Sims in my research — I hope you’ll be writing about him in Part Two! I wonder if the Juda mentioned in Jeremiah’s will is actually Jude? I am also trying to figure out whether the Simses remained part of the “northern church” when Bethel split, along with other ME churches nationwide, in 1844 over the issue of slavery. The ME South and original congregation apparently continued to share the sanctuary after the split, but held separate worship services. I would be happy to share my information on all that with you if you are interested. Thanks again for posting this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christy, and I am delighted that you read this post and hope that it will help with your writing. Isaac Sims will be discussed next.
      Hearing your speculation about Jude and Juda possibly being the same person has brought my attention to something that needs to be checked into. I may have incorrectly assumed that being in a senior class meant that Jude and Fanny were young adults. I see that I failed to check into the other persons listed with them in the class book. You may know more about them than I do since you must have looked into the history of the Bethel Church.
      I would appreciate your sharing any information with me. Thank you and you’re welcome!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cathy, actually some of your research listed on rootsweb does list the others in the class book. Your information (http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=meder-dempsey&id=I2350), along with what I’ve found elsewhere on rootsweb and through documents from the West Virginia University’s West Virginia and Regional History Center (https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/), reveals the following: David Nutter was senior class leader at Bethel in 1821. Others in the class listed are John Dorsey, Arie (Arah) Dorsey (his wife), Cornelius Dorsey (their son), Nancy Dorsey (their daughter), Black Jude and Black Fanny, slaves of the Simms Family. William Griffee Brown’s book, which is really a monograph titled “Bethel Church,” published in 1952, states that Jude and Fanny were “slaves belonging to William Simms.” I assume William is James’ son. The WV RH Center also has West Virginia Methodist Church information on microfilm, which contains information on Bethel as well as the Dotson Church, which is what the ME South became known as at some point after the split. I am going to Morgantown to do more research in early March and would be happy to look up information for you if you have any requests. You may already know that there is also information about Bethel in A.J. Legg’s “History of Panther Mountain Community,” which is part of the WV Archives and History website: http://www.wvculture.org/history/agrext/panther.html .

        I feel certain that our ancestors’ lives intersected back then, so the Sims family work you have collected is quite valuable to me as I write my historical fiction novel. Your info about the Landcraft store debit book was especially interesting because I have wondered who may have been the local merchant. Because county lines have changed over the years, and the will book is from Fayette County, it will be interesting to find out why Nicholas County folks shopped there. Maybe it was closer to their area. I had previously just assumed that my family shopped in Summersville, that being the nearest town in Nicholas County.

        In any event, please feel free to email me and thanks again for your wonderful research!
        christyperrytuohey@gmail.com

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Christy, I especially had someone look up the short passage about the class book for me a couple of days ago as it was being paraphrased by someone else. I am always trying to find the origin of things. I am glad that you mentioned History of Panther Mountain Community by A. J. Legg because I saw him mentioned in a newspaper article and didn’t have any idea right off who he may have been.
        As soon as I found the Landcraft info I posted it to the Fayette County WV genealogy group. So happy to hear that it was useful.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. These documents make the reality of slavery so clear—the idea of owning and selling human beings is so reprehensible yet there it is, open and “legal” for all to see. Thanks for sharing these documents.

    Like

    1. Amy, most of my ancestors were not very well off which I can be thankful for as they did not own slaves. James Sims discussed here is the one that stands out the most as will be more clear in the next part. As I mentioned above, I hope that by sharing this information I may help someone open the door to their African-American brick wall.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post. This will help so many descendants of these slaves. I hope through your post that others follow suit. Slavery is a very difficult topic, but these documents will help so many so hopefully others will follow your lead and share their documents. Descendants of slaves (such as myself) should have the same opportunity to find their Ancestors as anyone. This post and sharing the information you shared is a great start. Thank you for sharing these documents. .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wow! I can hardly wait to read part 2, and am anxious to share this post with an African American friend of mine who I think will like it and all the ideas for research offered! What a great service Cathy, thank you so much.
    I have some family who married some Sims, so then have cousin Sims in Virginia. I am going to have to check and see if they are related! Helen

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cathy, what a noble effort to list the slaves you’ve found in your research. This is such a heart-warming read. When I first came across this post, I knew I’d follow your series. I’ve finally been able to pre-read (yes, I’m coming back) all three posts. I’m sure the descendants of the slaves you bring forth will welcome your effort as well. This is truly awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miss Donna. I knew that I wanted to do this but what I did not know was that it would be so well received by the blogging community.

      I hope that one day a descendant will come across the information and leave a comment. That would be truly awesome!!

      Like

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