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.
Isaac Sims, a Free Man
As seen in the petition drawn up and signed by the residents of Nicholas County, Isaac Sims was considered trustworthy and industrious. He was allowed to reside in Nicholas County where he remained until his death.
Several newspaper articles have been written about Isaac Sims. Some of the information in these articles may have been word of mouth or the storyteller laid it on thick.
Isaac Place On Gauley Settled By Old Slave, a newspaper clipping that was shared with me, does not have a date or name of the newspaper. I believed that it was written before 1951 as it was clipped by Edward Sims (1878-1953), a great-great-grandson of James Sims. Similar information was found in several articles written by Clarence Shirley Donnelly (1895-1982) in his daily column “Yesterday and Today” for the Beckley Post-Herald.
As the wording of the first article was so similar to Mr. Donnelly’s later writings I searched again for the original source of the information. And I found the same article with a slightly different title, History of “Isaac Place” – A Bit of Pioneer History Relating to Slavery. It was contributed (unknown date) to the Nicholas Republican by A. J. Legg and reprinted in the Raleigh Herald on 4 February 1916. The Nicholas Republican was a weekly paper which started up in 1903. I could not find it on the Newspaper Archives or Chronicling America.
Yesterday Amy from Brotmanblog: A Family Journey wrote this comment:
I do wonder how Isaac managed to obtain the money necessary for emancipation. Did James pay him wages?
I haven’t found documentation to prove this but the pioneer history by A. J. Legg gives a good account of how Isaac (may have) earned the money to buy his freedom.
I did find one record that confirms that Isaac, when he was still a slave, was allowed to have business dealings. When the storekeeper Mr. Landcraft died his store inventory and appraisal were received and recorded by the Fayette County court at the September 1834 term. Isaac’s account is included on this list, two years before he was emancipated.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18271-57447-29?cc=1909099&wc=M6DN-5NG:179689901,179689902 : accessed 26 February 2015), Fayette > Will book, v. 001 1832-1866 > image 26 of 292; county courthouses, West Virginia.]
On 20 October 1837 Isaac Sims was granted 17 1/2 acres of land in Nicholas County on both sides of the Gauley River.
By 1850 Isaac was seen on the census in the household of James Sims’ son-in-law Mathew Hughes, widower of Margaret Sims. Next to Isaac’s name in parenthesis is the word Free. His real estate, the 17 1/2 acres he was granted in 1837, are valued at $87.
In 1855 Isaac bought several items at the estate sale of Joseph McNutt. Sadly, also on McNutt’s inventory were Isaac’s children George Addison and Harriett Jane. The estate items sold are found following the inventory however the fate of Isaac’s children is not mentioned. Tradition is (also seen in article above) that they were bought by Robert L. Neil, husband of Jenetta McNutt, a daughter of Joseph McNutt.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18271-57923-52?cc=1909099&wc=M6DN-5NG:179689901,179689902 : accessed 26 February 2015), Fayette > Will book, v. 001 1832-1866 > image 273 of 292; county courthouses, West Virginia.]
In 1860 and in 1870 Isaac Sims was listed on the census in his own household. He did not have anyone living with him. In 1870 he was listed as a mulatto instead of a black person as seen in 1850 and 1860. His real estate was valued at $1000 in 1860 and $500 in 1870; his personal estate was valued at $200 in 1860 and $400 in 1870.
Isaac Sims died before 9 Jun 1875 leaving a last will and testament in which he lists more land that he acquired after the 17 1/2 acres in 1837. He left the land to Robert L. Neil in exchange for his supporting Isaac’s granddaughter Rebecca Jane (Sims) Johnson. He also named Mr. Neil his executor. I have not transcribed or extracted all facts from the will.
[Source: “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18231-22175-57?cc=1909099&wc=M6DN-5MS:179686001,179686002 : accessed 26 February 2015), Nicholas > Will book, v. 001 1820-1899 > image 90 of 158; county courthouses, West Virginia. and
“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18231-22099-66?cc=1909099&wc=M6DN-5MS:179686001,179686002 : accessed 26 February 2015), Nicholas > Will book, v. 001 1820-1899 > image 91 of 158; county courthouses, West Virginia.]
Rebecca Jane Sims, daughter of one of Isaac’s two children, was raised in the Robert L. Neil family. She was listed as a mulatto on the 1870 census in his household. She married David Johnson on 1 May 1874. It is possible that the 5 year old mulatto child named Myrta E. Johnson, living in the Robert L. Neil household in 1880, was the daughter of Rebecca Jane who died in childbirth on 1 November 1878 as reported by her neighbor Robert L. Neil.
I have not been able to locate Rebecca’s husband in 1880 or later. No trace of Myrta E. Johnson, who I believe was Isaac’s great-granddaughter, has been found.
Hopefully, if Tom, Juda, George, Jinncy, Jude, Fanny, July Hulen, Robert and Isaac Sims’ lines did not die out, a descendant will find this and be able to fill in the missing pieces in their family tree.
My blog sister True A. Lewis of NoTe’s To MySeLf… commented on my post:
“It’s Honorable to do… You’re RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day. Every time this Happens they are Rejoicing. They have been in a book or what have you for so long.”
True’s statement about this being honorable may change people’s minds about sharing what they might be ashamed of.
© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey