RELEASING: One old Negro woman, 1 Negro woman named Letty, one Negro boy named Cyrus, one Negro boy named Nelson, and a child born to Letty.
In Nicholas County, (West) Virginia, William Bell died before 10 August 1825. He did not leave a will. An appraisement and inventory of his estate were ordered on 10 August 1825 and a list was made on 24 August 1825 by four commissioners.
On the second page of the inventory and appraisement are four slaves who were held by William Bell.
1 old Negro woman valued at nothing from old age
1 Negro woman aged 30 named Letty valued at 250
1 Negro boy named Syrus 150
1 Negro boy named Nelson. Deformed (value blank)
The estate sale took place on 17 November 1825.
The enslaved people of William Bell were not sold at the estate sale and the estate was not settled until 1833.
On the second page of the 1833 settlement of the estate two slaves named in the inventory, Letty and Cyrus, were found.
By the sale of Letty and her child under a Trust deed 100.-
By sale of Cyrus under Trust deed 100.-
I checked the 1820 census and found William Bell was over 45 years old, with a woman who was also over 45 years old (wife), and seven other persons (2 females under 10, 1 female 10 thru 15, and 4 females 16 thru 25. Slaves in the household were: 2 males under 14, 1 male 14 thru 25, and 1 female 14 thru 25 (Letty).
By 1830, after William Bell had died, there were 2 females 15 thru 19 and 3 females 20 thru 29 in the household of Mary Bell who was 60 thru 69. I assumed Mary was the wife of William Bell. Further research shows this to be the correct household. In her household were five slaves: 2 males under 10 (Cyrus age 9), 1 male 10 thru 23, 1 female 24 thru 35 (Letty), and 1 female 55 thru 99 (old unnamed woman).
In 1840 Mary Bell was found in the newly formed Braxton County. She had 2 females 30 thru 39 in her household and she was seen as 60 thru 69. She still owned slaves: 2 males under 10, 1 male 10 thru 23 (Cyrus age 19), 1 males 36 thru 54, 1 female 10 thru 23, and 1 female 24 thru 35 (Letty).
In 1842 Elizabeth Bell, a daughter of William Bell, married William Hutchison. He was previously married and had children. In 1850 the Hutchison household included Jane T. Bell ge 53, Hutchison’s wife Elizabeth age 50, and his children from the first marriage. On the slave schedule, William Hutchison and Jane Bell are listed one after the other. Jane Bell appears to have Cyrus age 33 and Letty age 52 as well as another male age 54, likely the male seen in her mother’s household in 1840.
In 1860 Jane Bell was still living in the household of her brother-in-law William and her sister Elizabeth. Although there was an entry for William Hutchison, there was no entry for Jane Bell on the 1860 Slave Schedule. The possible names of the slaves of William Hutchison will be shared in a later post.
In 1866 Hannah J. Hutchison was the informant on the death of her step-mother Elizabeth on 28 February, for Jane T. Bell on 21 March, and for her father William on 16 May.
The last will and testament of Jane T. Bell was located in Braxton County, West Virginia. She mentions Letty and Cyrus.
Jane T. Bell’s Will I, Jane T. Bell of Braxton County, Virginia being of sound mind do make this my last will & testatment. First. I give and bequeath unto my two slaves Letty and Cyrus their freedom if they will accept of it according to the laws of Virginia. And if the said slaves do no make choice of Emancipation my will and desire is that they may have the right to make choice of their masters. 2nd. I give and bequeath unto my sister Elizabeth Hutchison all the real and personal property of every kind that I may have at the time of my decease & all money or bonds that is due me at that time except the two above named slaves. Signed and sealed this first day of November 1858. In the presence of Jane T. Bell *Seal* Nathan Hutchison her + mark Felix Hutchison Braxton County SS. Recorders Office October 9th 1866. A writing purporting to be the last will and testament of Jane T. Bell decd was this day proven before the undersigned Recorder of Braxton County by the oaths of Nathan Hutchison & Felix Hutchison the subscribing witnesses thereto who declared on oath that the testator acknowledged this will in their presence and that each of said witnesses subscribed the said will in the presence of the testator. And thereupon the said will is admitted to record. Teste. M. H. Morrison Recorder
By 1870, Cyrus and Letty were free persons and using the Bell surname. Although not free at the time Jane wrote her will, they became free people with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 when slavery was abolished. In 1870 Cyrus was seen with Sarah E. 34 and children Eliza A. 15, Mary J. 12, Margaret E. 6, and Cora 2. Also in his household were John Alexander age 68 and Letty B. Bell age 70.
Letty‘s 1876 death record shows she died at the age of 84 years 4 months in October 1876. Her parents were unknown and she was born in Augusta County, Virginia. She was a farmer and died of old age. Cyrus Bell was the informant and his relationship is seen as son of the deceased.
By 1880 the family of Cyrus Bell had increased by four with the births of William 1871, Ruskia 1874, Julia 1877, and Alison 1880. Sarah and Cyrus were not legally married until 11 May 1877. Sarah died 6 October 1887. Marriages were found for several daughters, three married men with the surname Johnson. I was not able to find them in 1900 or later. No death record was found for Cyrus who died after the 1900 census.
I began this post, intending to share only the transcription of the documents with the names of the slaves. However, I could not leave it there. The genealogist wanted to follow the people. And because I did, I learned Letty was Cyrus’ mother. And this in turn makes me wonder if the older woman mentioned in the inventory and appraisement may have been Letty’s mother.
I’d apologize for the long title but I couldn’t resist! Thank you, Amy Johnson Crow, for a wonderful journey. To all my readers, thank you for coming back time and time again. After reading the last entry for this year, I’d appreciate it if you would please leave a comment letting me know what you liked, disliked, loved or even hated about this challenge. Thank you and Happy New Year!
52 Ancestors: #52 Levina DOSS – Another Unmarried Mother and
How She Helped Me Bring This Challenge Finale to an End with a Bang!
One unmarried mother in my family tree would be easy to take. But two is a bit harder especially since they were mother and daughter. In July I wrote about my 3rd great-grandmother Mary E. “Polly” DOSS being a single mother. Her mother, my 4th great-grandmother, Levina DOSS was also a single mother.
The Doss family had strong roots in Halifax and Pittsylvania County, Virginia. In 1755 Levina’s grandfather James DOSS Sr. received a land grant for 272 acres in Halifax County, an area soon to become part of the newly created Pittsylvania County in 1767. This land grant was located adjacent to Beechtree Creek and Staunton River.
Pittsylvania County lies in south midland Virginia, bordering on the North Carolina line. Bordering counties are Bedford (northwest), Campbell (northeast), Halifax (east), Caswell in North Carolina (southeast), Rockingham in North Carolina (southwest), Henry (west/southwest), and Franklin (west/northwest).
Parents and Siblings of Levina DOSS
My 4th great-grandmother Levina DOSS was born between 1771-1775 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to James DOSS Jr. and his wife Elizabeth. James was born about 1742 in Amelia County, he married Elizabeth about 1771 and died 1812 in Pittsylvania. Levina had 5 known siblings:
Sib 1: Elizabeth DOSS (1772-1830) born about 1772. Elizabeth DOSS married Ebenezer ANGEL (1769-1850) on 15 December 1794 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. She died between 1830-1840. Sib 2: Phillip Valorius DOSS (1775-1814) born about 1775. Phillip married Rhoda Elizabeth THURMAN (1787-1850) about 1804 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He died before 14 June 1814 (date that his widow Rhoda was mentioned in court records). Descendants of this line might be interested in some old photos that Vickie Beard Thompson posted on her blog I Dig My Roots and Branches. Sib 3: Mary Ann DOSS (1780- ) born about 1780 [I am not very comfortable with this estimate considering her marriage in 1811]. She married(1) Preston DUDLEY (1773-1816) on 2 January 1811 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. She may have married(2) James BELL about 1820. Sib 4: William DOSS (1785-1820) born about 1785. William married Martha CREWS (1789- ) on 29 April 1812 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He died before 1820. Sib 5: Edward DOSS (1795-1850) born about 1795. Edward married Nancy MITCHELL (1803-1860) on 19 December 1822 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He died before 1850.
The 1790, 1800, and 1810 census of Pittsylvania County are lost but a substitute is available. The loss is unfortunate and the substitute is wonderful but doesn’t do for me what the 1810 census would have done. I was hoping to see what the household of James DOSS looked like in 1810 and if his daughter Levina had her own household or was living in her father’s home with her three children.
Levina’s father James DOSS Jr. died about 1812 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Levina’s Life as a Mother
In 1820 Levina DOSS was living in Pittsylvania County most likely on or near the land granted to her grandfather in 1755. She was an unmarried mother and the head of a household that included her four sons, two daughters, and most likely her mother Elizabeth who was widowed about 1812.
1820 U.S. Federal Census
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2 (William b. abt. 1811 & Phillip b. abt. 1814)
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1 (unknown son b. bet. 1804-1810)
Note: no males 16-18 yo (therefore Thomas was 19 & under 26 yo)
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1 (Thomas b. abt. 1801)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 1 (Mary E. b. abt. 1816)
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 1 (unknown daughter born bet. 1795-1804)
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1 (Levina b. abt. 1775)
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1 (poss. mother Elizabeth b. abt. 1750)
Number of Persons – Engaged in Agriculture: 2
Free White Persons – Under 16: 4
Free White Persons – Over 25: 2
Total Free White Persons: 8
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 8
By 1830 Levina had given birth to another daughter she named after her mother. Young Elizabeth and my 3rd great-grandmother Mary E. were the only children still living at home. Next door was Levina’s son William with his wife and young son. Also next door was her brother-in-law Eben ANGEL, a Baptist minister, with his wife, Levina’s sister Elizabeth and their children.
1830 U.S. Federal Census
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Page No. 348
Free White Persons – Females – 5 thru 9: 1 (Elizabeth bet. 1821-1825)
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 14: 1 (Mary E. b. abt. 1816)
Free White Persons – Females – 50 thru 59: 1 (Levina, b. 1771-1775)
Free White Persons – Under 20: 2
Total Free White Persons: 3
Total – All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored): 3
As can be seen in the above listing Levina’s mother, or the older woman who had been seen in her household in 1820, was no longer with her. Let’s take a look at another person who was very close to Levina on this census.
1830 United States Federal Census
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Name: Bettsy Doss
Free White Persons – Females – Under 5: 2 (unknown)
Free White Persons – Females – 30 thru 39: 1 (unknown)
Free White Persons – Females – 70 thru 79: 1 (“Bettsy” widow of James DOSS)
Free White Persons – Under 20: 2
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 1
Total Free White Persons: 4
If the lady who was the head of household was also the older female then her age was 70 and under 80 years and could have been Levina’s widowed mother. Who was the younger lady living with Elizabeth in 1830? Was she a granddaughter with two small children? She couldn’t have been a daughter-in-law with such young children as Phillip and William died before 1820 and Edward was living in Campbell County.
Levina DOSS and her mother Elizabeth both died between 1830 and 1840.
In the 1830s Levina’s children Thomas, William, Polly, and Elizabeth moved to Mason County in what would later become West Virginia. The DOSS siblings were a tight bunch. It is not known if their mother Levina was still living and made the move with the group or if she had died before the children moved. Only her son Phillip remained in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Child 1: Thomas DOSS (abt.1801-1881) born about 1801 in Pittsylvania County. He married(1) Elizabeth EADS (abt.1802-bet.1860-1867) on 6 March 1827 in Caswell County, North Carolina. He married(2) Martha Forbes GORDON (1824-1881) on 28 April 1867* in Chariton County, Missouri. Thomas died on 1 April 1881 in Chariton County and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in same county. *The index of the marriage record at ancestry.com and at familysearch.org both have 8 February 1867 as the date of marriage. Ancestry.com has the image of the pages of the marriage record. These clearly show that they married on 28 April 1867.
The only documentation I have found for Levina are the two census listings in which she was named head of household. None of her children’s marriage records have the name of their mother listed. No death records were found for her children. All of her known children died after 1880 and before 1900.
Credits and a New Cousin
While preparing to write this last blogpost for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge I learned that Libbie Griffin started up the Doss Family Association in 1994 for the purpose of sharing information among all Doss descendants. She should be credited for researching and compiling genealogical information that was published in their newsletter The Doss Connection. In our world of social media today it is so easy to find other researchers but what do you do when the person has “retired” her hobby? If I can find my ancestors shouldn’t I be able to find Libbie? In the days prior to Facebook, Twitter, etc. we used the messages boards and mailing lists. I searched through them until I found the most recent email address.
A Christmas Present and the Grand Finale
Saturday before Christmas I got an early present. Libbie replied to my email and told me about a bundle she found that included depositions that proved many connections in the Virginia Doss families.
“On one trip to Richmond for research I discovered that the information I needed to find the original papers was in Lynchburg, more than 100 miles away. I went there and obtained the detailed title of the case and case number. When I returned to Richmond the next day with that information I was handed a bundle of papers that had not been opened since a string was tied around them nearly 200 years earlier….I can’t tell you how excited I was!”
Reading this gave me goosebumps. Isn’t it the dream of all genealogists to find the mother lode? She told me that she had written an entire issue of The Doss Connection about the find with transcripts of the important documents. She offered to scan and email it to me. YES! Thank you very much! She also wrote, “It felt wonderful to be reminded of that ‘find’.”
What Libbie found was a bundle that has not been scanned and therefore is not available in the Library of Virginia‘s collection of Chancery Records that are online. The case details of the bundle are indexed online here. In the issue of the newsletter Libbie sent to me, pages 2-12, 17-18, and 22 were filled with information on the case and the families involved. A plat drawing of the land in question was included:
Although I would love to share all of the information found in this issue of The Doss Connection I have chosen to only share excerpts, with Libbie’s permission, concerning my 4th great-grandmother Levina Doss. First, the deposition given by Levina, spelled Lavina in this excerpt, and second, the deposition of her mother Elizabeth. Words in brackets are Libbie’s and some punctuation and spelling corrections were made for easier reading but doesn’t change the meaning:
The Testimony of Lavina Doss
“Deposition taken in Pittsylvania Co., Va., 7 May 1817: Lavina Doss … deposeth and sayeth that in the last sickness of her Grandfather, James Doss Senr. & but a Short time before his death, he sent for her Father James Doss Junr to come & see him, accordingly he went & this deponant went with him & we both went together, into the room where my Grandfather lay alone. He spoke to my father & said I am glad to see you Jamey, I have been uneasy & have sent for you to have some talk with you about our affairs. I am about soon to leave you my son & want you to have your rite. I know that I am owing you money that ought to have been paid before now but it was not in my power to do it, but I have now directed my Ext [Executor] to pay you without putting you to any trouble about it. As to the land, it is yours. It was gave to you & I wish you to have it for you have an undoubted rite to it & cannot be kept out of it after my death, your uncle Edward Nicks, gave you the land by Deed of Gift & I have no Claim to it any longer than I live; altho I have directed the land to [defer?, unclear] other ways than I ought to have done, it is not intended to keep you out of your Rite, but only to try to keep peace a little longer over my old head, for I wish to leave my family in peace & I know you will get the land after my death — altho it may put you to the trouble of goin’ or sending for the deed of gift, which I did no want you to have the trouble of. But for the sake of peace in my family, I could not help doing as I have, you know when I agreed to give you up the land below the Shop branch, what an oneasiness [uneasiness] & interruptions it made in my family, till you consented for the business to rest as it was till my death.
This deponent further sayeth that in the life time of the said James Doss Senr. he frequently said that the land belonged to his son James Doss Junr. after his death, that it was gave to him by uncle Edward Nicks and that he held no claim to it any longer than life. This deponent further states that her grandfather James Doss senr. dec’d., put her father James Doss Junr. into possession of the said land below the Shope branch, as above mentioned, & her father began to run a fence on the said land, but was stopped at the request of his father, on account of the disturbance & uneasiness it made in his family, but told my father, James Doss Junr. he would get the whole of the said land after his death. [signed: Lavina (X) Doss, her mark]
Notes (by Libbie): We should keep in mind that Lavina had something of a vested interest in the outcome of this case, and might have stressed her father’s right in the land a bit overmuch. In addition to providing us with an account of James Sr.’s last day, and his love for and concern for his family, Lavina’s testimony also tells what we had previously suspected: that although Lavina had 5 or 6 children, she never married. More on her family appears later in this issue.”
The Testimony of Elizabeth Doss “Pittsylvania County, 27 September, 1816 [omitting the beginning]…. the tract of land in the bill mentioned was in the possession of my husband James Doss Junr. at the time of his death but was afterward sold (sometime in the year of 1812) at publick sale to the hightest bidder, subject to my dower, by the defendant Samuel Pannill, under a deed of trust executed by my said husband James Doss Junr. to the said Samuel Pannill to secure the payment of a debt due from my husband….to David Pannill’s Estate … neither the said complainant [Nathan Thurman] nor any other person forbid the sale, but since the sale the said Complainant Nathan Thurmon [sic] hath applied to this Respondent to purchase the dower land she holds in her possession & having thus fully answered this Respondant prayes to be hence dismissed with her Costs. [signed: Elizabeth (X) Doss, her mark]
Note (by Libbie): Elizabeth was taxed for 56 acres until 1827, when this land was taken by the county (see Pittsylvania Co. Deed Bk. 28, p. 121). She and her children and grandchildren may have continued to live there afterward.”
This post was ready for publication before I heard from Libbie. I did not want to change what was written and have added some remarks concerning things that I numbered.
 The wife of James DOSS Jr. is seen in many family trees as Elizabeth LESTER. Libbie Griffin gives strong evidence that she was the daughter of Thomas LESTER, however stressed that the maiden name is unproved. “Thomas LESTER purchased the land of George Wilcocks, adjacent to James Doss Sr., in 1779 (Pittsylvania Deed Bk. 5, p. 137). Lester was dead by March 1789 when his widow Lithe (probably Elizabeth’s step-mother) married John Ballinger. In 1824 Elizabeth Doss and John and Anna Lester sold what appears to be the same land to Asa Craddock (Pitts. Co. Deed Bk. 26, p. 224). This suggests that she was the sister of either John Lester or his wife Ann Minter Lester. Lester’s lived near (adjoining?) James Doss Jr.” [Source: Libbie Griffin, The Doss Connection, Vol. 2. No. 1, page 8]
 The death record of William DOSS’s daughter Sarah Jane NEVILLE shows that her mother was Elizabeth HENRY. Therefore all children seen with William and Elizabeth in 1850 were from his 2nd marriage except for sons John 22 and William 14.
 According to Libbie’s article, William DOSS died 21 November 1888. His death record names “Lavina” as his mother, father unknown, and indicates that he was born in 1812. [Source: Libbie Griffin, The Doss Connection, Vol. 2. No. 1, page 17]
 Libbie believed that Levina’s youngest daughter seen in the 1830 census may have died young. She may not have had all the information on marriages of DOSS individuals in Mason County, West Virginia, and Gallia County, Ohio, where many residents of Mason married. It is my belief that Elizabeth was this young daughter, named after her grandmother, and that she came to Mason County with her brothers and sister in the 1830s, most likely before December 1837 when brother William married Elizabeth HENRY.
I’m going to let Libbie have the final word.
“I’m sure you can imagine it how hard it was for me to keep from cheering loudly in the hushed halls of the Virginia State Library when I cut that string and read those old documents! A similar experience led me to the answers I needed about my own Doss family. It’s amazing what’s there to find if we look long enough.”
Name:Levina DOSS Parents:James DOSS Jr. and his wife Elizabeth Spouse:not applicable Children: Thomas, William, Phillip Valorius, Mary E. “Polly”, and Elizabeth “Betty” Surnames: Doss, Clonch, Roop, Dempsey, Eads, Rodman, Barber, Bailess, Steed
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 4th Great-grandmother