Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Mary and her child Esther

While researching my families who lived in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia) I found the following record which names two enslaved persons.

This indenture names female slave Mary & her child Esther, together with all and singular the natural increase of both said slaves.1

1846 Hix to J. B. Cobbs Indenture

In the margin:

Hix to J.D. Cobbs final

Tax paid J.A.N.

Delivered to
Jno. Clowes for ____
his mother.

This Indenture made and entered into this 22nd day of September 1845 by and between William Hicks of Amherst County of the first part. Emma Clowes the wife of Sidney B. Clowes and James M. Cobbs of the Town of Lynchburg of the second and third parts. Witnesseth: that whereas the said William Hicks is desirous to settle upon and secure to the sole & separate use of the said Emma Clowes, one female slave named Mary and her child Esther, together with the increase of both said slaves, to be held and enjoyed by the said Emma for and during her natural life, and at her death to go to & belong to the child or children of said Emma, share & share alike or the survivors of them by the present or any future husband, and the descendants of any who may die before the mother, such descendants taking such share or shares as their parents or parents would have taken, had he she or they survived the said Emma. Now therefore in considerations of the premises, and the further consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand paid to the said William Hicks, at & before the enscaling and delivery of these presents, the receipts of which is hereby fully acknowledged, he the said Hicks hath bargained & sold & delivered and by these presents do bargain sell and deliver unto the said James M. Cobbs, the said female slave Mary & her child Esther, together with all and singular the natural increase of both said slaves. To have & to hold the said slaves together with their increase, the said William Hicks for himself his Exors & admins doth hereby warrant & defend a good lawful and sufficient right & titles as against himself his executors & admrs. & as against all & every person or persons, claiming by through or under him and not otherwise. In trust nevertheless that it shall be the duty of the said James M. Cobbs to permit the said Emma Clowes to have take & enjoy the hires use & profits of the said slaves & their increase for and during her natural life as a sole and separate estate free from the actual contracts or liabilities of her said husband or of any future husband. And at her death shall cause the said slaves together with all & singular their future increase to be equally divided amongst the children or child of said Emma who may survive her, and amongst the descendants of any child who may have died before her, giving to such descendant or descendants only such share as their parent or parents would have taken had he or she survived her or her mother. In testimony of all which the parties hereto have signed their names sealed with their seals the day & year above written.
Witness
J. J. Watson

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Hix
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Emma Clowes
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James M. Cobbs
In the Clerks Office of the Lynchburg Hustings? Court, March 10th 1846.
. . . . . . This deed from William Hix to James M. Cobbs for the benefit of Emma Clowes, which was acknowledged by all the parties before the clerk on the 15th January 1846, was this day admitted to record, the tax thereon being paid.
. . . . . . . Teste
. . . . . . . . . James Benagh clk

Clerks Office of Greenbrier
County Court October 13th 1847
. . . . . . . . This deed was this day presented in the office and with the above certificates of the acknowledgments, is admitted to record.
. . . . . . . Teste
. . . . . . . . . John A. North D.C

About the persons in the indenture

William Hicks was found in Amherst County in 1840 as William Hix with 12 slaves.2

Emma Clowes was born Emma Handley, daughter of Alexander Handley. She married Sydney Bailey Clowes in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1833.3 Both of her parents were deceased when the indenture was drawn up.

In 1850 S. B. Clowes was on the Slave Schedule of Greenbrier County, Virginia, with one 25 years old female black and one 7 years old female black.4

By 1860 the Clowes family had moved to Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia. S. B. Clowes was on the Slave Schedule with four black females ages: 35, 18, 9, and 6.5 Could they be Mary and her daughter Esther as well as two daughters born to Mary after 1850?

Sydney B. Clowes was listed on the 18506, 18607, and 18708 census as a Stage Agent.

As the slave schedule does not give names of the enslaved persons it is a guess on my part that Mary may have been born about 1825 and Esther may have been born about 1843 and seen on the 1850 schedule. Mary was the mother of Esther per the indenture. Mary may have also been the mother of the two younger girls born about 1851 and 1854 and seen on the 1860 schedule.

It has been a while since I’ve been able to release the names found in records as I am only now getting back to doing US research. In hopes that Mary and Esther will be recognized by descendants and this will help them to break through their brick wall.

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 every month 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.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Greenbrier County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Deeds (Greenbrier County, West Virginia), 1780-1901” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg, West Virginia), Film 593555, DGS #8152881, Deeds, v. 17-18 1843-1851, image 174+175 of 612, page 333-334. Hix to J. D. Cobb Indenture. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSKV-J7MX-8?i=173&cat=98577 : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  2. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Sixth Census of the United States, 1840 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, Roll: 550, Family History Library Film: 0029683, Virginia, Amherst, Page: 209, line 3, William Hix. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  3.   “Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940” (index), Ancestry, citing FamilySearch, Index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City., FHL Film Number: 30734, page 366. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  4. 1850 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry, citing Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Slave Schedule, Virginia, Greenbrier, image 2 of 7, line 1-2, S. B. Clews. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  5. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Eighth Census of the United States, 1860 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls, Slave Schedule, Virginia, Rockbridge, Lexington, page 6, line 14-17, S. B. Clowes. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  6. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Greenbrier, District 18, image 252, page 283A, S. B. Clows household. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  7. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Rockbridge, Lexington, page 24, Sidney B. Clowes household. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  8. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Ninth Census of the United States, 1870 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls, Roll: M593_1675, Family History Library Film: 553174, Virginia, Rockbridge, Lexington, page 477B, Sydnor Clows household. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 

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: Mary and her child Esther”

  1. Slavery has been much on my mind these days as I am reading a book that is partially about slavery in the US and our inability/failure to come to terms with the evil that was inflicted and the consequences even today of slavery on the descendants of slaves. Also, having watched several episodes of Finding Your Roots where Gates reveals information to his guests about their ancestors who were slaves, I have watched the horrified reactions of their descendants and felt great empathy. I so admire you for your work on this project. I wonder if Gates’s researchers know about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Books which educate people about slavery should be required reading material for young people in school.
      I remember watching “Roots” with my grandmother when I lived with her while in college. I was shocked when I first learned an ancestor owned slaves. In one case earlier family historians had exaggerated the number of slaves my ancestor had and I haven’t been able to find records to prove the number. I have always wondered if they were proud of the fact.
      I hope by sharing the documents I find I might be able to give back to the descendants. We aren’t responsible for our ancestors but we can show empathy for the descendants of the people our ancestors may have worked like animals.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely. I have been amazed by the way Gates can trace back a family to their slave ancestors. I hope your work also enables some descendant to find their ancestors.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello,
    Unfortunately my ancestors owned people. They owned them, because the color of their skin, if it weren’t for the darker skin color they wouldn’t have owned them, but I am looking for a slave named Ned, owned by The Smith family of Putnam county Virginia now West Virginia. The only thing that I have is that his name was Ned. I know that these smiths are from Augustus county Virginia.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Cathy,
        Let me start with my and my husbands 7th great grandfather Captain John Smith born in 1698 in England or Ulster Ireland and him and his wife Margaret moved to the states and lived in Augustus county Virginia, their son Col. Daniel Smith is my 6th great grandfather, he fought with his father and brothers in the french and Indian war alongside Maj. Andrew Lewis, (which we are also related to as well.) Daniel Smith married Margaret Harrison, their son Jonathan Smith is my 5th great grandfather, he was born on July 12, 1768 in Augustus county Virginia and married Elizabeth Wood and they moved from Augustus county to Kanawha county West Virginia and their son Robert M. Smith married Belinda Goode, they are my and my husbands 4th great grandfather, all of these smiths owned slaves, I will have to look for the information on these smiths to send to you. I want to know if the slaves owned by our 7th great grandfather if they put their slaves in wills to give to their sons and grandsons and granddaughters. I know that Captain John Smith and his sons built a house along with slaves quarters so that the slaves live on site with them. The house is still there in Augustus county, there is a story that the slaves tried to poison the smiths with a poisonous cake, needless to say they were punished and beaten, I think I saw a will of my 6th great grandfather and it listed slaves, I will have to send that to you as well, but the story about Ned is most interesting because before the civil war broke out one of the younger smith boys was out taking a quick dip in the pond and then realized he couldn’t swim and the slave named Ned with a broken limb jumped in and saved George and when the civil war broke out George wanted to fight for the union and his brothers John, (my 3rd great grandfather ) William, and Columbus Smith (my husbands 3rd great grandfather ) fought with the confederate, it tore the family apart. If I can send you what I have I would be thrilled to send you what I have so far, I would really appreciate any help that you can give us, I can also send you an invite to my family tree. Mrs Terri L. Wiseman Smith

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Terri, I am not a professional genealogist. I only do research on my own families. I can point you to where you can look for wills in Virginia ($ Ancestry) and West Virginia (free on FamilySearch). There are also Chancery Records on the Library of Virginia site which are free to use. They are only for the Virginia counties and not for West Virginia. Augusta being an older county and Smith being common, you would have to probably spend a lot of time looking at the images. But the Chancery Records are a good place to find names of slaves. Let me know if you are interested in the links and I will post them.

        Like

      3. Kathy,
        I have access to ancestry and also family search, but not the chancery records. I would appreciate the chance dry records, I think I might know where they are not real sure.

        Liked by 1 person

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