Slaves in My Family

Tar River Plantation House and Family, at Tally-Ho, Granville County, North Carolina

Greek Revival Plantation House of James A. Crews, built about 1830 by the famous Antebellum architect Jacob Holt. This is the homeplace as it appeared in a photograph taken before 1917. Pictured in the photo are; standing at gate on right; LeRoy Lafayette Crews, at gate on left; Ellen Hamill, LeRoy’s second wife, African-American child on porch on left is “Cora”, whose parents were born into slavery on the plantation, and on the porch on the right; an unidentified child who is probably a relation of Ellen Hamill.

I was blessed to be born into a family with a rich history and a deep sense of pride derived from the accomplishments of ancestors both remote and near. This family gave me more advantages than I can count. Among them included; along with pride in our heritage, a deeply in-grained sense of self-determination, a natural intellectual curiosity, a profound love of books and learning, and a desire to view the world with honesty, compassion and grace, and live in it accordingly. That last item is a difficult thing to do.

One issue in our history that no one in my family ever honestly acknowledged or dealt with, in my opinion, is the issue of slavery. As a child I was taught that my ancestors were slave owners. I was also taught that “We were good to our people”. When I was a child, I believed this. As I matured and my understanding of this “peculiar institution” became more fully informed, questions began to rise in my mind. How can you be “good” to a person in bondage? A Person who cannot exercise their free will? Slowly, cautiously, I began to seek out answers. I began to look for the truth. The real “Truth” is often a difficult thing to deal with. It often contradicts what we’ve been taught and makes liars out of our most beloved teachers.

Today I think I have a fairly well informed perspective on this notoriously “peculiar institution” which was in effect in Colonial America, later the United States, which led to a brutal Civil War, and which persisted through the Jim Crow era in the former Confederate states (and points northward) until well into the 20th century. This 400 year history was a 400 year long genocide in which families and the entire concept of stable nuclear family structure were destroyed, self-determination was destroyed; cultures, languages, customs, religions, myths, and legends were blotted out; and in which millions of Africans and African Americans – men, women, and children, who toiled anonymously, generation after generation, to make this nation rich beyond all others on the globe – were completely forgotten. Their graves were left unmarked. Their names left unrecorded in the history books, with precious few exceptions.

I have spent years resurrecting the dead among my white ancestors, and recording their life stories, the major and minor details of their lives, with the hope of passing the information along to posterity for the sake of future generations.

The people of African descent associated with my family and its many branches deserve the same respect and attention as my white ancestors. Their names, their families, their stories are difficult to locate and often vague and incomplete – but that won’t stop me from trying. This section of Stumbling in the Shadow of Giants is dedicated to “our people”, known and named, and as well to the many thousands more whose names and life stories are permanently, tragically lost to history.

Follow the links below to learn about the Slaves in My Family.

Crews Family Lore (white family stories passed down to the present generation)

Wyche Family Lore (white family stories passed down to the present generation)

Former Slave Narratives
Sally Parham (of the Asa Parham Plantation, near Tabbs Creek in Granville County, North Carolina)
Ida Adkins (of the Frank Jeffries Plantations in Franklin County, North Carolina)
Rev. J.M. Taylor (of the James A. Crews “Tally Ho at Tar River” Plantation in Granville County, North Carolina)
Isham Crews (of the James A. Crews “Tally Ho at Tar River” Plantation in Granville County, North Carolina)

Identified or Counted Slaves and Free’d Slaves in Family Households (by slave owner surname)

PLEASE CONTACT ME through comments if you are or know of any descendants of any of these individuals. PLEASE CONTACT ME through comments if you can add new individuals, named or un-named, or can contribute any former slave narratives (or anything else) to this collection.

6 responses to “Slaves in My Family

  • zamahria

    hello my last name is wyche and i am African american. It is a posibilty i may be a descendant.

    • CH Jones

      Hi Zamahria,
      Thanks for your post/comment. Yes… It is entirely possible that we are somehow related. There are far more African Americans in the US with the very unusual surname Wyche than there are Caucasians. The Wyche’s of Virginia were large slaveholders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the descendants of those former slaves now vastly outnumber the surviving descendants of the slaveholders — an irony that is not lost on me (the white Wyche family has all-but died out completely.) I’d be happy to discuss the genealogy of the families I know about (black and / or white) and put you in contact with some folks who know far more than I do if you are interested in learning more about your family lineage.
      — G.

  • berthajeffries2015

    I am certain that my family originated from the Frank Jeffries Planation. Is there anyway that I can get information on the names of the slaves that he “owned”. I only know my great grandfather’s name and maybe a brother. His name was Dan or Daniel and brother Chess or Chester. We have no info on the parents or anything else. ANY help would be greatly appreciated and thanks for sharing.

    • CH Jones

      Hi Bertha and thanks for posting. I apologize for the time it took me to approve the comment and respond — lets going on and I have not been online in several days.
      Now… It’s been awhile since I did any deep research into the “Slaves in the Family” work (as you can probably see by the dates on these postings. I need to do some digging to see if I can locate references to the Frank Jeffries plantation. That said, if the properties were located in or around Granville County, NC, the best place to start is the Granville County Libraries Genealogy room, and with its Specialist, Mark Pace. I’ve spent some time there and I know that they have a fantastic selection of archives related to the old families and plantations, and I know that I spent some time pouring through a volume dedicated to the names, dates, and details of slaves held in the region. It’s a whole manuscript just about slaves in Granville County with census counts, court records, and plantation records. Sadly, none of the Ganville Library info is online. You have to visit the library personally to access it.
      There is one more great resource, and that is the Vance, Granville, Warren, and Franklin County Geneology Facebook page. There are a large number of well-informed descendants, as well as professional and semi-prof historians with intimate knowledge of the area that would be thrilled to help you in your research. That page is here:
      Please feel free to contact me via email [jones]DOT[c]DOT[hall]AT[gmail]DOT[com] if you have questions. You can find my address on the Contact page of this site.
      I do wish you the very best and I encourage you to pursue this work. It is incredibly informative and rewarding. It’s been a real eye-opener to me over the years.
      My best — Connie

      • berthajeffries2015

        Thanks so very much as this is extremely important to me. Your information thus far has given me a starting point and for that I’m most grateful. Thanks

        • CH Jones

          I am really glad that I’ve given you something to go on. Again, please don;t hesitate to contact me, and feel free to share anything you find. I’d love to publish any details. This is important history that has been too long neglected/suppressed.


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