Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Aggy, Nancy, and Sampson

This is the third installment on the slaves owned by the Johnston family of Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia.

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Giles, Litt, Eby, Sampson, Bridgett, and Levill featured slaves named in the 1802 last will and testament of William Johnston of Greenbrier County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia).

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Aggy and her daughter Nancy featured slaves named in the 1825 last will and testament of  Jane Johnston of Greenbrier County, widow of above William.

The last will and testament documents of William Johnston and his wife Jane included the names of eight slaves. To find out if any of them could be followed I searched for wills of the children of William and Jane.

Following Jane’s death, her sons George and William remained bachelors, lived together, and cared for their sister’s orphaned Terry children as can be seen in the will of William Johnston written in 1849.

1849 Last Will and Testament of William Johnston

“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 October 2017), Greenbrier > Will book, v. 002 1825-1853 > image 212 of 337; county courthouses, West Virginia.

I William Johnston of the County of Greenbrier State of Virginia do make this my last will & Tesament as follows. Viz.
I give and bequeath to my brother George Johnston the whole of my estate of every kind & description whatever, commanding to his care & kindness my nieces, Rebecca, Martha & Sally Tyree.
I appoint my said brother George executor of this my last will & Testament.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this 29th day of October 1842.
……………………………………………………………………..William Johnston *Seal*
Signed sealed & delivered by
Wm Johnston as for his last
will & Testament in our
John A. North
Samuel Price
Johnson Reynolds

Greenbrier County Court
September Term 1849
This paper perporting to be the last will & Testament of William Johnston decd was produced in Court and proved by the oaths of Samuel Price & Johnson Reynolds two of the subscribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be recorded and on the motion of George Johnston the Executor therein made who made oath and together with James Withrow & John A. North his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of $ 14,000 conditioned as the law requires. Certificate is granteed the said Geo. Johnston for obtaining probate of said will.
……………………………………………………………………A copy Test
………………………………………………………………………………..John A. North (Clerk)

William’s entire estate went to his brother George who wrote his will in 1859 when slavery was still practiced.

1859 Last Will and Testament of George Johnston, proven 1866

“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 October 2017), Greenbrier > Will book, v. 004 1863-1877 > image 122 of 373; county courthouses, West Virginia.

I, George Johnston, of Greenbrier County, Virginia, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore.
1st It is my will that all my funeral expences (sic) and just debts be paid as soon as my executors hereinafter appointed shall be able to collect money enough from others due me to do so.
2nd I give and bequeath to Marth (sic) Wills (former Marthe Tyree) one hundred dollars to her and her heirs forever.
3rd I give and bequeath to George Tyree my three slaves Aggy, Nancy, and Sampson, with this understanding, that he take good care of them so long as they live, and farther that the said George Tyree pay to Samuel Tyree the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars.
4th I give and bequeath to my brother, Andrew D. Johnston all the residue of my estate, personal, real or mixed, or of whatever kind it may be, to him and his heirs forever.
5th I hereby appoint my said brother, Andrew D. Johnston and his son, James William Johnston, executors of this my last will and testament, and hereby request the court not to require of them surety.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal, this 27th of May, 1859.
…………………………………………George Johnston *Seal*
Signed by us as
witnesses in the presence of
each other, and in the pres-
ence of the testator and at
his request.
……………James Withrow
……………Mark S. Spotts

Recorder’s Office of Greenbrier County, July 9th, 1866:
A paper purporting to be the last will and testament of George Johnston, decd, was produced to the Recorder in his office, and proved by the oaths of James Withrow and Mark S. Spotts, subscribing witnesses thereto, and admitted to record.
…………………………………………Joel McPherson

George Johnston lived until after the end of the Civil War and the will presented to the court in July 1866, after slavery was abolished, included the names of Aggy, Nancy, and Sampson. The same names seen in the last will and testament of his father William Johnston (Sampson) and of his mother Jane Johnston (Aggy and Nancy).

The same names but were they also the same persons?

The information on the number, gender, and ages of slaves owned by George and William Johnston on the 1820 through 1860 census records did not help to identify Sampson, Aggy, or Nancy in their household. Hopefully, a descendant will recognize their ancestor and be able to answer this question.


True's statementFollowing my three part series on the slaves of my 5th great grandfather James Sims during Black History Month in February 2015 I made a commitment to write a post on a monthly basis until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors or owned by persons I’ve researched who were relatives or neighbors of my ancestors.

These posts are part of the Slave Name Roll Project (About the Project) administered by Schalene Jennings Dagutis who also blogs at Tangled Roots and Trees.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

10 thoughts on “Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Aggy, Nancy, and Sampson”

  1. Well, at least he wanted his slaves taken care of after he died—that’s something. And what happened to the nieces? Did only William care about them? Always fascinating and disturbing to read these wills, Cathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From the census listings in 1860 and 1850 George Johnston was living with his older sister Mary who married John Feamster. In 1860 Mary was widowed and head of household with George, a farmer, was living with her. In 1850, when John was still living and the head of household, George was listed as “Man of Pleasure”. I wonder who gave the occupation.
      I’m still looking into the Tyree children who were orphaned in the 1830s and other Johnston siblings. Not to learn what happened to them (as this is not my Johnson family of a neighboring county) but to find out what happened to the slaves.
      Thank you, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I realize your focus here was on the slaves. I just always get drawn to things that are somewhat off-topic. And thus I go down all those crazy rabbit holes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. By the time this will was proven is was no longer legal to own slaves. However when George Johnston wrote the will in 1859 it was common practice to either sell the slaves or give them to heirs.
      I have seen wills in which slaves who have been with the family for many years were set free (rarely done as there were legal procedures) or given to an heir with the stipulation that they be cared for in their old age. They made it sound like they were part of the family but they were still enslaved.
      Unfortunately these people were considered property like livestock and were treated the same way. Just like you can’t believe you are asking the question, I cannot believe I am trying to write a reply without feeling shame. Thank you, Luanne.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s that stipulation that seems really unenforceable, doesn’t it? I mean, what if someone inherited a slave and then went bankrupt and couldn’t even feed his own family. He couldn’t set free the enslaved person and couldn’t sell him either. The whole thing is such an abyss of shame and you can see how at every step it infected the culture with its disgustingness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I haven’t looked into documents for large plantations so I don’t know if they made similar stipulations. It seems that the small land owners (in comparison to plantations) may have thought through the consequences of dividing property each generation and probably took this into consideration, thus making the stipulation.

        Liked by 1 person

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