Mississippi

The Multinational, Multiethnic Ainsworth Family

Last month, Renegade South posted a query from Lea Worth, an Austrialian Ainsworth seeking to link her international ancestors to the American Ainsworths.  Then, just a few days ago, I received the following email from Glenn McNeil via my Renegade South Website:

Sampson J. Ainsworth is my Third Great-Grandfather. His daughter Arenna Renee married William McNeil who I think was conscripted in the Civil War. He is the Mystery Man my Family has been searching for for years. He lived near Taylorsville, Ms. Help!!

Lea Worth and Glenn McNeil’s questions stimulated me to read further into the history of the Ainsworth family.  Consulting the research of Ainsworth descendants, including Shirley Pieratt of Texas and Gerald Johnson of Mississippi, reveals that the 19th century Ainsworths, who swept across the American Southwestern frontier from South Carolina to Texas, were an integral part of the settlement process. Some mixed their lines with Choctaw Indians and multiracial slaves of Indian, African, and European heritage.  According to Shirley, the frontier Ainsworths were:

“an engaging lot of kinfolk: slaveowning entrepreneurs, hard-scrabble farmers, a country schoolteacher, Choctaws, blacks, put-upon women of all races, two county judges, an accountant  for a race track, Sam Houston’s nemesis, a justice of the peace-sheriff-preacher—and a rogue medicine-show man.”

[Shirley Insall Pieratt, frontispiece, The Ainsworth-Collins Clan in Texas, 1838, 2004.]

I have had the good fortune to meet and correspond with both Shirley Pieratt and Gerald Johnson. Back in 1998, Gerald provided me with my most important insights into the Unionist branch of the Welborn family for my book The Free State of Jones. Although he mentioned his research on the Ainsworths to me, they did not fit into the story I was telling at that time.  Only later did I recognize the Ainsworths’ importance to the history of the Southwestern frontier (as well as to the postwar Knight family, as Yvonne Bivins has shown).

My knowledge of the Ainsworths increased substantially after I contacted Shirley in 2004 on the advice of Gerald. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet this preeminent historian of the Texas branch of the Ainsworth family. Shirley and I shared lunch in the small town of Buda, Texas, midway between her home in Austin and mine in San Marcos. We had a great time together,  eating chicken and dumplings while making connections between the Texas and Mississippi Ainsworths and the Ainsworths and Collinses families (Collinses who were related to none other than Stacy Collins–it’s a small world!)

Knowing that I was working on a new book, Shirley generously gave me several Ainsworth files. So, after hearing from both Lea Worth and Glenn McNeil, I returned to those files. I knew that Shirley’s book included material on Sampson Ainsworth, and I eagerly searched for some mention of William McNeil. Alas, no luck, although the book does list Arenna as one of the many children of Sampson and Ann Ainsworth (p. 110). 

While searching for McNeil, I was delighted to discover that Shirley’s files contained excerpts from broader works on the Ainsworths.  For example, it contained the front page of Francis J. Parker’s  Genealogy of the Ainsworth Family in America, (1894), which refers to the Ainsworths of Lancashire and contains a drawing of the very coat of arms described by Lea.

I also found excerpts from the April 1991 issue of the genealogical newsletter, Ainsworth Trading Post,  which featured an article on the origins of Ainsworths who settled in American and elsewhere. It’s interesting that Lea described her GG grandfather, Thomas Hargreaves Ainsworth, born in Lancashire, as having established a cotton weaving school and factory in the Dutch town of Goor, because this article identified the Lancashire Ainsworths as “engaged in a wide variety of industrial and commercial occupations, predominantly in bleaching and the manufacture of textiles.”  The economic importance of the English Industrial Revolution to the Ainsworths seems clear, then, although the ancestral names provided by Lea don’t appear in this essay. 

How interesting that the American Ainsworths would be so identified with the raw frontier of America, in contrast to their European kin! One wonders if the Americans represent a branch of the family that deliberately rejected the industrializing world, or one that simply failed to make good as entrepreneurs during those tumultuous, insecure economic times of change.

Having gotten this far and failing to find definite answers to Lea and Glenn’s questions, I hope that other Ainsworth researchers will chime in. Perhaps there are non-American researchers who can help link the Ainsworths across the oceans. Or perhaps someone has information on Arenna’s husband, the elusive William O’Neil. If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Vikki Bynum

26 replies »

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH, VIKKI, FOR PROVIDING MORE INFORMATION ON THE SUBJECT OF THE MULTI-RACIAL AINSWORTHS.
    I COULD BE WRONG, BUT I FEEL AS THOUGH I AM ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY.
    AS IS SOMETIMES QUOTED, “I FEEL IT IN MY BONES”. ‘WHY WOULD YOU NOT FEEL YOUR ANCESTORS STIRRING IN YOUR BONES?’ I ASK. AFTER ALL, THEY ARE, FROM WHERE WE CAME.
    I WILL TELL YOU A FEW INTERESTING THINGS THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN MY FAMILY, MAINLY REGARDING DATES. I BELIEVE THESE THINGS ARE SIGNIFICANT, IN THE SCHEME OF FAMILY HISTORY.
    BOTH MY DAUGHTERS IN LAW WERE BORN ON AUGUST 3, WHICH IS THE DATE THAT MY GRANDFATHER AINSWORTH WAS BORN, ON MY AINSWORTH FATHER’S SIDE. IT IS ALSO THE DATE ON WHICH MY G.G.G.GRANDFATHER, THE REVEREND WILLIAM MITCHELL, ON MY KNIGHT MOTHER’S SIDE, WAS DECEASED.
    MY OLDEST SON’S WIFE’S MAIDEN NAME WAS VAN GOOR. HER FAMILY CAME FROM THE TOWN OF GOOR IN HOLLAND, WHERE MY G.G.GRANDFATHER, THOMAS HARGREAVES AINSWORTH, ESTABLISHED THE COTTON WEAVING SCHOOL AND FACTORY. MY SON AND HIS WIFE MET IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA, WHERE WE ALL LIVE. AT THE TIME THAT THEY MET, I KNEW NOTHING OF MY FAMILY HISTORY, EXCEPT WHAT I REMEMBERED OF MY GRANDMOTHER’S AND AUNTIES’ DISCUSSIONS.
    MY YOUNGEST SON’S WIFE’S, FATHER’S FAMILY MIGRATED FROM IRELAND, AS I DISCOVERED, DID MY FIRST AUSTRALIAN ANCESTOR ON MY MOTHER’S SIDE, THE REVEREND WILLIAM MITCHELL, WHO CAME AS A MISSIONARY TO THE SWAN RIVER COLONY, IN THE FIRST PHASE OF BRITISH SETTLEMENT.
    THIS IS PROBABLY NOT AS SIGNIFICANT AS THE VAN GOOR FAMILIES’ ORIGINS, MANY IRISH PEOPLE CAME TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST BRITISH SETTLEMENT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA.

    AS I MENTIONED BEFORE, THE PLACE WHERE I WORK, HELD SOME OF MY FAMILY CONNECTIONS WITHIN IT’S HISTORY.
    THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT THIS, TO ME, IS THAT AFTER MY INTERVIEW, WITH REGARD TO THE POSITION, FOR WHICH I WAS APPLYING, AT ‘THE OLD FARM STRAWBERRY HILL’ I WAS VERY UNDECIDED ABOUT WHETHER TO RETURN TO ALBANY, OR TO STAY IN BUSSELTON, WHERE I WAS LIVING AT THE TIME, AS I HAD ALSO BEEN OFFERED A VERY DIFFERENT TYPE OF WORK THERE WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE LUCRATIVE, AND WAS IN THE LINE OF WORK THAT I HAD FOLLOWED DURING MY WORKING LIFE.
    I RETURNED TO BUSSELTON TO MULL IT OVER IN MY MIND, AND HAD SEVERAL VERY VIVID AND COLOURFUL DREAMS, WHICH I RECORDED, AS IS MY HABIT.
    THE DREAMS WERE ALL SET IN THE CENTURY BEFORE THE ONE IN WHICH WE WERE LIVING.
    ONLY LATER, AFTER BEGINNING WORK IN ALBANY, AT ‘THE OLD FARM’, DID I REALIZE WHY THESE DREAMS WERE SIGNIFICANT. SOME OF THEM CONTAINED KNOWLEDGE OF THE WAY THE PLACE HAD BEEN BACK THEN.
    I DISCOVERED THIS BY HAVING ACCESS TO PEOPLE WHO KNEW OF THE WAY THAT THE HOUSE HAD BEEN, AND ALSO BY BEING ABLE TO READ THE HISTORY OF THE TWO FAMILIES WHO HAD LIVED THERE. SOME OF THE HISTORY HAD BEEN WRITTEN BY THE WIFE OF THE SECOND OWNER, WHO HAD OCCUPIED THE HOUSE.
    I WILL EVEN GO SO FAR AS TO SAY, THAT I BELIEVE MY DREAMS WERE A WAY OF SETTING ME ON THE PATH TO DISCOVERY OF MY ANCESTORS.
    I DID NOT SEEK ANY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE.I HAVE ACQUIRED IT GRADUALLY, OVER THE YEARS, SINCE I HAVE WORKED AT THIS PROPERTY.
    ANOTHER THING OF INTEREST TO ME, WAS THE FACT THAT THE LAST OWNERS OF THE PROPERTY HAD THE SAME CHRISTIAN NAMES- LANCE AND JEAN- AS MY DAD AND MUM.

    THANK YOU, VIKKI, ONCE MORE, FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN MY SEARCH. TAKE CARE. LEA.

  2. Lea,

    Your family “coincidences,” coupled with your vivid dreams, are testimony to the theory of synchronicity, that’s for sure! I do hope that these posts bring together Ainsworths from far and wide.

    Thanks,
    Vikki

  3. Hello Vikki,
    This is so interesting. Did some of your family(Bynums) come from Laurel, Mississippi? The reason I am asking is that My Grandfather Charles (Charlie) Stennett who lived on Route 5 headed west and just beyond the old Calhoun School on hwy 80, had a friend named John Bynum. John Bynum lived atop a hill from my grandfather. I believe his wife was killed by a tornado that hit their home there in the early 1950′s

    Guy Thomas Valentine

    • Hello Guy,

      My Bynum family line was from the Ellisville area. My grandparents were Aden Gallington Bynum and his wife, Naoma Shows. The Calhoun Bynums are a related line–we all go back to William Bynum, born 1763.

      Vikki

      • Vikki:

        My brothers and I are also interested in finding history on the Bynum name from Mississippi. I believe that Aden Bynum and his wife Naoma was our great grandmother and grandfather. I cannot find information on my grandfather, it seems that there is info on his brothers and sister? My grandfathers name was Cerulian Bynum, but had many brothers. My fathers name is Aden Bynum as well. Any info would be greatly appreciated as we have many photo’s. My father Aden was born in 1946 and his grandfather had passed away in the early 1940′s. I knew my grandfather well and some of his brothers? If you have any info to help please let me know.

        Thank you

  4. Hi Cindi,

    It’s nice to hear from you! Your father, Aden, is my first cousin, and I first met him when I was about 10 years old, and again when I was about 25. My father, Oma Stanley, was your grandfather Cerulian’s brother. Cerulian and your grandmother, Grace, were very good to my family when we first moved to California in 1957.

    There were nine children born to Aden Gallington and Naoma Shows Bynum: Oran, Cerulian, Clifton, Wendell, Harry, Conrad, Luree, Merle, and my father, Oma Stanley. My dad was the youngest.

    I’m happy to answer any other questions that I can about this branch of the Bynum family.

    Vikki

    • Vikki:

      Thank you so much for the information, I have passed this on to my brothers. I remember some of my grandfathers family as they came to visit in McCloud, California. My dad is still alive and doing quite well, and believe he has some cousin’s down around Geyserville, Ca. Once again, thank you so much for the info –

      Cindi Bynum Smith

  5. Vikki,

    Yovone had mentioned William McNeil to Ed Payne and then along came Glenn McNeil asking questions. William McNeil married Arrena Renee Ainsworth (daughter of Sampson and Anna “Jones” Ainsworth. McNeil was hanged in Smith County, as a deserter. Shortly after William’s death Arrena married my great great grandfather (Francis M. Jernigan) who also served in the civil war and is buried at Mount Nebo Cemetery in Smith Co. There has been a rumor from one of the son’s left behind by William that Francis turned him in so that Francis could marry Arrena. There is not any dout in my mind that if Francis did turn William in knowing he would be hanged for desertion—the Ainsworths were behind it all. The Ainsworths were considered a (they held their own) mean people, and they usually got their way. They moved into Smith County with quite a bit of money and power that continued to grow. They were a strange kind of people. If Ed can take any of this and find out more about William McNeil I would greatly appreciate it. The McNeils and I have been trying to pull together our family history but, this seems to bother all of us —we would like to put it to bed-if you know what I mean.

  6. Interesting stuff, Ann! The kind that often surfaces only in family stories passed on through the generations, as in this case. If anyone can find some corroborating facts, it’s Ed Payne (keep researching McNeil, et al, Ed!)

    Thanks for sharing . . . .

    Vikki

    • Ann, I received a message from Tom Tramel earlier today. he is the GGGrandson of Willam McNeil and wants to know more about him. I am going to refer him to this post, so perhaps he will be asking questions here.

      Vikki

  7. Vikki,
    I have been trying to wrap my head around the events leading to my GGGrandfather’s death. I have been reading several books about the Free State of Jones and find no mention of William McNeil being connected to Newt Knight. I am very familiar with Smith County, MS as I have spent much time there visiting kinfolks on both sides of my family. Does anyone know the site of his hanging or where he is buried ?

  8. Tom,

    Thanks for your comment. I hope we can get some more information on William McNeill. Ed Payne has been researching deserters and Unionists in this area, but I don’t think he has found additional information on that hanging. As for McNeill’s burial place, that would probably have to come from family members; I doubt there’s a gravestone, although you never know.

    Best of luck,
    Vikki

  9. Tom,
    There was one small mention of William McNeil being hanged for desertion in Smith County. As of now nothing else has been found. I have given Ed as much family history as I have.
    Ann Valentine

  10. Hello, I am relatively new to genealogy but have researched enough to know I am descended through the Asbury AInsworths and the Collins/Hendricks line. Several books are mentioned in the messages I read, Could you give me a list of the best books to read concerning genealogy of the AInsowrth/Collins/Hendricks families? Thank-you! Winona

  11. Can anyone out there advise Winona? The only history of these three families that I’m familiar with is Shirley Pieratt’s study, which I discuss in my post.

    Vikki

  12. Sampson Jefferson Ainsworth is my direct paternal GGGG Grandfather and his son Jefferson Napoleon Ainsworth is my GGG Grandfather.There is a lot of history surrounding the ‘mulatto’ son of JN Ainsworth known as Andrew Buckhalter born in 1869 and died in 1945 that was born to Caroline Duckworth later known as Caroline Buckhalter….My line from Sampson has thousands of black/multiracial/white descendants…Too many of us to count….

    • Thanks for this, Michael. This is a branch of the multiracial Ainsworths that I know almost nothing about. Feel free to tell us more!

      Vikki

      • I have some information on the Ainsworths.I know they lived in Sullivan’s Hollow.I heard they were a very mean people.I’ve heard some stories about Sampson and one of his sons named Emmanuel especially.I have pictures of Sampson’s son named Asberry and his daughter known as “Park”.My GG Grandfather Andrew was the son of Jeffereson Napoleon Ainsworth aka “Jesse” and Caroline Duckworth Buckhalter.She was married to a Wiley Buckhalter at the time that Andrew was born.He was the only ‘mulatto’ in the family.I read Andrew was one of the wealthiest Black men in Mississippi.His descendants are mostly in Chicago and California but they are spread all over the nation…There is mention of him in this link regarding his farming business….

        http://www.archive.org/stream/negroyearbookana00workrich/negroyearbookana00workrich_djvu.txt

  13. Sampson Ainsworth must have been quite a man. God gave him almost Ninty years on this earth in really bad times. I feel that he loved his family, both white and mulatto. I don’t think a man can have that many children by a woman and not love her. He is my ggg grandfather on both my Mother and Father’s side. His neighbor was Jacob Blakeney, who is also my gg grandfather. I own property that Sampson walked on, maybe died on, that was homesteaded by his son, Asberry.

    • Thanks for your comments, Mitchell! And, yes, whatever one might think about Sampson’s behavior, he certainly set some amazing records for both longevity and “productivity.”

      Sampson apparently did acknowledge his descendants through Martha, his slave. It would be interesting to hear any stories that might have been passed down to them. Yvonne Bivins has commented that they were known as “children of the plantation,” and that they always knew who their father was.

      Vikki

  14. I have come to believe that about Sampson Jefferson Ainsworth as well.I know that his son Jefferson Napoleon Ainsworth also acknowledged his son Andrew that he had with Caroline.I have heard the story too about how Andrew went to see him and turned around.I do know that we had passed down the name of Sullivan’s Hollow in our family as the place where J.N. lived at.I researched Sullivan’s Hollow and it is/was a very rough place.I can see why he had second thoughts and turned around.I know through a descendant of J.N.’s through his wife Sophia that they knew him as “Agee”.I have also been told that there was a doctor in the Ainsworth family that tended to Andrew and his family.I’m finalizing a family tree and I hope to have on on ancestry.com very soon. BTW I have heard about the story about Emmanuel and his twin sons.I see that Emmanuel died at a very young age.Does anybody know the story around his early demise?

  15. I have found part of the property that was owned by Sampson J. Ainsworth, my ggg grandfather. It’s about 10 miles north of my place in Smith County. The Leaf River ran through two forties on the east side of this property. The highway, which is now Mississippi Hwy 18 also runs through that property. Hwy 18 connects Raleigh to Bay Springs. The bridge crossing Leaf River on Hwy 18 would be the first main bridge crossing the Leaf from it’s beginning in Scott County. It’s my belief that Sampson’s parents, are buried on this property, unless they are in unmarked graves at the Mt. Nebo cemetery near Bay Springs. I also just discovered that Sampson was an officer of Smith County in 1838. Is there anyone out there that would like to add too or comment?

    • Very interesting, Mitchell. How did you determine that this was Ainsworth property–through court records? It would be great if someone out there could confirm whether or not Sampson’s parents are buried on this property.

      Thanks for the contribution!

      Vikki

  16. To Micheal Allen II >>> Back in the late 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s, there was an Agee family that were sharecroppers on my uncles place. This would have been about 6 miles south of Sampson’s place, between the next two bridges crossing Leaf River, that the locals call the Dan Blakeney bridge and the Bob Blakeney bridge. This was a Black family. Mrs. Agee soon to be 93 still lives on the east side of Leaf River from the Bob Blakeney bridge. Unknown to most, there is a Black cemetery on my uncles place that has some of the Agee relatives.

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