Following my three part series on the slaves of my 5th grand-father James Sims I’ve 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. Today I’m RELEASING Cate, Jenney, Tom, Fanney, and Anthony.
In 1981 Paul H. Arnot compiled 76 pages on the Sims of Hanover and Louisa Counties in Virginia. The initial objectives of Mr. Arnot’s research project was to develop the parents of Edward Sims, who died about 1790 in Warren County, North Carolina, and the parents of his wife Elizabeth. During his research he discovered errors in a 1940 publication by Henry Upson Sims, The Genealogy of the Sims Family of Virginia, the Carolinas and the Gulf States.
The errors Mr. Arnot found in H. U. Sims’ book were developed with logically presented circumstantial evidence however the conclusions made were wrong as he did not have a key legal document which established John, Matthew, Edward and George Sims of Hanover County Virginia, as sons of William Symes of James City County, Virginia, as well as William, Robert and James Sims.
Cate and the Key Legal Document
Mr. Arnot found an unindexed document as the last item in Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Book A & B, 1742-1759. Later he also found an abstract of the document in the book Louisa County, Virginia Deed Books A & B, 1742-1759 by Rosalie Edith Davis, 1976.
Arnot “abridged” the important court document as follows:
Sims versus Sims, Detinue
Please before the Court of Louisa County on the 24 December, 1745 John Sims, Matthew Sims, Edward Sims and John Sims (the son of George Sims) with their lawyer William Waller brought into the court their bill against James Sims being in the custody of the sheriff a plea of Detinue to wit: John Sims, Matthew Sims, Edward Sims and John Sims (son of George Sims) complains of James Sims a plea that he renders them of four negroes named (viz.) Jenney, Tom, Fanney, and Anthony of the value of two hundred pounds current money and that on the fifth day of December, 1745 that the plaintiffs were possessd of the said negroes out of their hands.
On the 10 Jan., 1746 the said plaintiffs by their attorney and the said James Sims by his attorney Zackery Lewis, and defends the force and injury and that he doth not detain ye slaves and puts himself upon the Country; and the plaintiff did likewise. A jury was authorized, but the formation was delayed until the 20 August, 1746, when the said plaintiffs and their attorney and the defendant and his attorney appeared before the court and a jury was formed to wit: John Moss, Robert Anderson, John Hall, Thomas Kembrow, Thomas Paulet, Alexander Freeman, James Watson, Richard Brooks, Richard Palmer, Richard Yancey, Benjamin Arnold and (Lewis ), who being duly elected tried sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined, upon their oaths do say; that William Sims was seized and possessed of an estate consisting in lands and tenements, slaves, and personal estate and being seized and possessed made his last will and testament bearing the date of eighteenth day of December in the year of our Lord MDCCX (1710) and thereby among other things did bequeath to his four eldest sons (viz.) John, Matthew, Edward and George the offspring of his negro girl Cate and their heirs and by a latter clause did give and bequeath the rest of his personal property to his three youngest sons (viz.) William, Robert and James to be equally divided among them three when they come of age and appointed his son William Sims sole executor of the said will in these words In the Name of God Amen, I Wm. Sims of James City County being very sick and weak but of perfect sense and memory . . . (usual will introduction omitted) . . . I give and bequeath as followeth (viz.) I give and bequeath to my son William and his heirs of his body male or female lawfully begotten my mannor (manor) plantation that I now live upon (viz.) from the White meadows to Domar’s line to Dismun along a deep bottom called Cooks Springs branch down to Wolf’s swamp: up thence to the South line so away Easterly it comes to road to Phillips path. 2ndly I give and bequeath to my son Robert and his heirs of his body male or female lawfully begotten all the land that is within the bounds of the following (viz.) beginning at the White meadows and so running . . . (balance illegible).
William Symes’ will was made on 18 December 1710. John, Matthew, Edward and John (son of George Sims, dec’d) did not institute the law suit against James Sims for the recovery of the four specific slaves until 35 years later. The death of George Sims before 12 June 1740 may have been a factor. Arnot read the court minutes for the year 1746 but the results of the trial were not recorded.
The rest of the will of William Symes was illegible. As only the offspring of Cate were bequeathed to John, Matthew, Edward and George it is possible that Cate was given to William, Robert or James. James mentioned in the plea of detinue is most likely the one who became her owner and had to assume responsibility for the raising of her offspring to a certain age although they were supposedly owned by the four older brothers.
Cate and the 1774 Will of James Sims of York County, Virginia
The disposition of the slave girl Cate and her offspring were covered by the 1774 will of James Sims presented in detail as follows:
York Co., Va., Will Book No. 22, page 243, James Sims’s will. County of York, Virginia and Parish of Bruton – (the opening phrase omitted) – I give and dispose in the following manner: item, I give and bequeath to Francis Booth of the County of James City and Elizabther Pierce daughter of John Pierce twenty pound each, item, I give to Mickings Green, William Sims son of Bruster Sims and Mary Green the sum of twenty five pounds each. My further desire that my negro woman Cate and all her children shall be left to her free choice to be sold on my plantation to the person she shall choose to be her master or go up country and be sold there and I do earnestly request my executor which I have after named that he will truely and faithfully fulfill this part of my will and I desire further that my lands and the rest of my slaves with all the rest of my estate may be sold to the best advantage and the money arising from the sale after the above mentioned legacies are paid I give and bequeath to my beloved John Hawkins of Hanover County. Lastly, I do consitute my beloved friend John Hawkins my whole and sole executor . . . signed 16 Sept., 1774 by James Sims. Signed and sealed in the presence of William Eaton, Thomas Bates and Henry Brown. Probated 21 Nov., 1774, York County, Va.
James Sims of York County, Virginia, had possession of a slave named Cate and her children. His special compassion for the future of Cate and her children as clearly expressed in his will as well as his plea that his desires for their future be faithfully fulfilled. Arnot believed that this was unusual treatment for Cate who must have been an old woman by 1774.
Paul H. Arnot, compiler, Notes on the Sims of Hanover-Louisa Counties Virginia, 1981. Mr. Arnot donated a copy of the compilation to the North Carolina State Library in Raleigh to assist Sims researchers.
© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey