Multiracial Families/Communities

“Free Negroes” and “Mulattoes” of Gloucester County and the Tidewater Area of Virginia Prior to 1800

The following guest essay by Wayne K. Driver expands upon my own research on the Morris Family of Gloucester County, Virginia.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

By Wayne K. Driver

Throughout my years of researching my family from Gloucester County and the Tidewater Area of Virginia, I have noted that several families, including my own, were listed as “free Negroes” or “mulattoes” prior to 1800. This discovery ignited my interest; I wanted to know more about these families and how they fit into a society in which most people of African descent were slaves and where those of European descent dominated. I wondered if these free people of color had any rights, if they owned property or had the freedom to move about without being harassed.  Since my focus was on the years prior to 1800, I also wondered how they felt about the Revolutionary War.  Which side did they support? Which side promised a better future for them?

Families with the names ALLMOND/ALLMAN, BLUFORD, DRIVER, FREEMAN, GOWEN/ GOING, HEARN, KING, LEMON, MEGGS, MONOGGIN, and MORRIS are identified in various documents as living free from slavery.  “Free” did not necessarily mean, however, that they were as free as those of full European ancestry.  These “free” people did not have slave masters, but they did have limitations place upon them and hardships that would not be understood by my generation.

The above families of color, as well as others not cited in this essay, contributed to America by serving in wars, participating in religious movements, and working in many trades. At the same time, they strove for greater freedom of access to education, property ownership, and social equality.  Too often, these pioneers are forgotten in the history books; rarely are they recognized for their work in shaping the counties in which they lived.  When I drive through Gloucester, to my knowledge there is no physical memorial that bears witness to their service in the Revolutionary War, or their contributions to their communities.  I can find all types of negative propaganda concerning “free Negroes,” such as recommendations for their forced removal from the county, or punishment for not paying taxes. My hope is that someday the leaders of these communities will recognize free families of color and teach generations to come about their positive contributions.

Society and Labels

Societies are often divided into historical eras.  I am particularly interested in the colonial, revolutionary, and antebellum periods of the United States, and how “free people of color” fared during each of them.  My research has taken me to different states and localities, where I have noticed varying attitudes displayed by white officials toward people of color. For example, Virginia law prohibited interracial marriages, yet I found such marriages listed in some court records.  I also noticed how inconsistently people in power recorded a person’s skin color or race.  In some cases, the description was diligent and descriptive; in others, it was not.  For example, members of the DRIVER family were described in some records as “white” and in others as “mulatto” or “colored”.  I found these records interesting and disturbing at the same time, and therefore decided to explore these subjects and share my observations about them.


Samuel “Squire” Driver, 1815-1872, and Sarah “Sally” Driver (maiden name unknown), 1815-1872

As I browsed through various historical documents, I noticed that court clerks paid close attention to describing the person(s) being listed.  By law, in 1705, a mulatto was a person deemed to have one-eighth or more African blood. By 1866, one-quarter African blood meant one was “colored,” whereas one-quarter Indian blood meant one was Indian.

In some records, persons defined as “mulatto” were further defined by their shade of complexion. A mulatto might be described as “Yellow/Yellowish,” “Tawney,” “Light”, or “Brown/Dark Mulatto,”—the list goes on.  When I first saw the term “Tawney,” I had to research its meaning. After consulting FreeDictionary.Com, I concluded that this complexion color included several shades of brown ranging from light to brownish orange.

The mulatto MEGGS Family of Middlesex and Gloucester County was described as “Yellow” and “Tawney” in various records. For example, “free negro” James Meggs, born around 1752, was listed as a “yellow” tithable in Middlesex County in 1787, and as a “mulatto” tithable in 1788.

For genealogical information on the Meggs household, see Heinegg, Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware at

It was also customary for a clerk to state a person’s status of birth when it occurred outside of marriage.  Terms like “illegitimate” and “bastard” where often used.  At first I could not understand why such births occurred so frequently in the Bible Belt, but I soon learned that slaves were prohibited by law from marrying, and that interracial marriages became illegal in Virginia in 1691. Thus, free people of color could legally marry only one another.

Although the law stated that an interracial couple would be banished from the Dominion forever, I did not find evidence of this happening.  In 1792 another law was enacted stating that

he or she shall be committed to prison for six months and pay $30.00 for use of the parish.  The penalty for a minister marrying Negroes and whites is set at $250 for every such marriage.

Many such laws seem to have been ignored, however, in Gloucester County. During the late 1700’s, Susanna DRIVER (Caucasian) gave birth to a mulatto bastard child. Susanna is cited several times in the vestry books in regard to her mulatto children. It appears that she was white and her spouse was of African ancestry. Prior to her husband’s death she gave birth to another child, but no reference to race was indicated in the vestry books.

The oldest free family of color that I have been able to identify in Gloucester County is the GOWEN/GOWINGS/GOINGS family.  They were the children of Michael GOWEN, born about 1635, who was the “negro” servant of Christopher STAFFORD.  STAFFORD gave him his freedom on January 18, 1654, in York County, Virginia, after four years of service. This is a fascinating family that is well documented by Paul Heinegg in his book, Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina, at  Throughout this article, I draw heavily on Heinegg’s research, and I encourage you to visit this site to learn more about the genealogical history of the above families.

The ALLMOND/ALLMAN/ALMAN family is another unique family that I have encountered during my research.  Orally, I was once told that they were Native American.  The oldest members of the family that I was able to identify were Sally, Jenny, Edward, James (born about 1769), and Zachariah (born about 1775). Most records identify this family as mulatto, but they have also been described as descended from the Pamunkey Tribe of King William County, VA.

I also noticed during my research that some people of color, both slave and free, challenged their legal status in the courts. The BLUFORT/BLUEFOOT family matriarch, free woman Sarah BLUFORT, did so when she complained to the Lancaster County, VA, court that she had been sold by Matthew Green to Rawleigh Hazard.  Court records described Sarah as having been “bound” (apprenticed) to Matthew Green until the age of thirty-one. Green had sold her apprenticeship to Mr. Hazard, much as one might sell a slave. The court seems to have allowed the sale, but forbade Hazard from removing Sarah from the county, which was forbidden by law in regard to apprentices.  (Heinegg,

The American Revolution

Years ago, I took a cruise to Nova Scotia, Canada.  We had several tour options as we docked and departed the ship.  I chose the option of visiting the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia (BCCNS). During this visit, I learned about “Black Loyalists,” (people of color who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution) who were issued “certificates of freedom” after the Americans won the war and the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783. People identified as black were given the option to relocate to Nova Scotia, the West Indies, Quebec, England, Germany and Belgium.  According to the BCCNS web site, an estimated 5,000 people of African descent chose to relocate.

Over 3,000 loyalists were recorded in Canada’s Book of Negroes, including Joseph Elliott, 30, former property of John Elliott of Gloucester County, and George Glocester, a 15-year-old boy who also escaped slavery. Three women from Gloucester County, all described by the derogatory term “stout wench,” commonly applied to slave women, were also relocated and freed: Polly Carey, 26, formerly the property of Humphrey Gwin, Elizabeth White, 25, formerly the property of John Perrin; and Sukey Smith, 25, formerly the property of Major Smith.

As I learned this history for the first time in my life, I had to ask the question, “Why did these blacks choose the British side of the war?”  Although slavery was on the wane in Canada, it was still legal there until the 1830s.  According to our tour guide, social conditions were no better for blacks than in the United States.  So why would they choose the British side?  The short answer is FREEDOM.  In November of 1775, five months after the battle of Bunker Hill, the British offered American slaves their freedom if they would support the British.  They did not make this offer because they wanted to end slavery; the British Empire itself did not abolish slavery until 1833. The British offer of freedom to American slaves was a tactical move designed to disrupt the economy of its slaveholding colonies.

If the British enticed slaves to join their cause by offering the prospect of freedom, why did other people of African descent fight for the American colonies?  At first, the Continental army did not want to enlist people of color. Eventually, however, blacks comprised an estimated 5% of Americans who fought at Bunker Hill.  In January, 1776, President George Washington allowed the enlistment of free blacks who had prior military experience.  In 1777, in desperation, the Continental army allowed both free blacks and slaves to enlist. In need of manpower, the colonists promised slaves their freedom in exchange for service. Those who fought on the Patriot side, then, also fought for African American FREEDOM.

For more on the subject of African Americans and the Revolution, see

Free people of color from Gloucester County, Virginia, served the Revolutionary cause on land and sea.  Gloucester County is a peninsula that touches the Chesapeake Bay, and many free men already made their living from the water. Some became navy seaman, while others served on land.

The DRIVER, HEARN, and MONOGGIN families appear in various Revolutionary records. These men are American heroes.  They fought in battles, and then had to fight for their pensions and other benefits long after the war was over. An example was Ephraim HEARN, a weaver who served in the Revolutionary War. Born about 1745, in 1829 Ephraim lived with his wife, Molly, and his three children, Peter, Jane, and Betsy, in Gloucester County. That year, he successfully petitioned to collect his pension from the government. As the court clerk noted on 12 August 1829:

I, Arthur S. Davies, clerk of the court of Gloucester county do hereby certify that it appears to the satisfaction of the court that the said Ephraim Hearn did serve in the Revolutionary War as stated in the preceding declaration against the common enemy for the term therein stated under one engagement on the continental establishment.

To read the entire text of Ephraim Hearn’s pension application, see

Religious Faith

Religion, particularly Christianity, was the glue that sustained the African American community throughout its early struggles in America.  I remember traveling with my grandfather from Philadelphia to Gloucester County to attend the family church’s “Homecoming” celebrations or week-long revivals.  My grandfather, a Baptist preacher, would sometimes be invited to preach at a local church.  During those summer visits, I observed the strong convictions my relatives held about worship and fellowship.  The only time my grandmother threatened me with the switch was when I announced that I wasn’t going to church one night.  My older brother obtained the switch for her and I am still mad at him for that.  Seriously, I discovered over the years that faith has played a major role in the life of African Americans in this country.  Today, faith is what guides me daily in my life.

The noted black historian, Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D, recognized this in Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830, where he wrote that,

Negroes were not easily stirred by the doctrines of the Quakers and Presbyterians, but they flocked into the folds of the Methodists and Baptists, who won them by successfully socializing the Gospel, by popularizing the appeal with emotional preaching designed to move the illiterate to repentance.

Dr. Woodson also noted that “William Lemmon was called by a white congregation to serve at the Pettsworth or Gloucester church in Virginia.” Lemon was described by white and black contemporaries as a “lively and affecting” preacher.

Members of the LEMON family (variously spelled Lemmon, Lemmond or LeMond) have been documented as “free” since the birth of Ambrose Lemon around 1725.  William Lemon, born about 1845 in Gloucester County, was the brother or son of Ambrose.  Today, this family still maintains a strong presence in Gloucester County.  According to oral tradition, there was an area in Gloucester known as LEMON Town.  The LEMON family has a rich tradition in religion, education and business.

For more on the Lemon family’s genealogy, see Paul Heinegg’s Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina:

Land Ownership

Land was difficult to obtain during this time by poor people of any color.  I can only imagine the obstacles that stood in the way of free people of color.  Those who managed to do so were extraordinary to say the least.

Being considered “free” during a time when slavery was the norm did not always mean independence.  Owning land gave these free people of color some independence.  In his book, The Honey-pod Tree, the famous black Gloucester County lawyer Thomas Calhoun Walker, born into slavery, dedicated a chapter to his quest to educate blacks about owning land.  T. C. Walker founded a company, “The Gloucester Land and Brick Company” solely to create opportunities for blacks to own land.  He traveled from church to church and school to school to discuss the benefits of owning land and a home.  As Walker wrote:

The most effective inducement to buying a piece of land, I found, was to continue to stress the Emancipation argument: to tell the Negroes that they could never be really free until they owned their own homes.  Finally, after that conviction got well established, and the people were really awake to a sense of their duties to themselves and their families, we just let the company die.  Its purpose had been accomplished.

In 1944, historian Charles Purdue noted Thomas Calhoun Walker’s efforts in his book, The Negro in Virginia:

A consistent campaign for home and land ownership has been waged among the State’s rural Negroes for the past half century by Thomas C. Walker of Gloucester County, lawyer and former advisor to the Work Projects Administration of Virginia.  The success of his efforts is testified by the fact that, in Gloucester County, 881 of its 995 Negro families own their homes.  Of the 574 farms operated by Negroes in the county, 494 are owned by Negroes themselves.  In no county in the state, or in the Nation, is there a higher ratio of Negro farm ownership. (Virginia Writers Project, 1944, p. 365)  

When I first noticed that numerous people of color owned land in the late 18th and early 19th century, I wondered how it was possible.  I still don’t have the answer to this question, but I do admire those who were able to acquire land during this time.  The FREEMAN family clearly saw a future for their family by owning land in 1787.  The “List of the Land Tax within the District of Richard Gregory Commissioner of Gloucester County  the year 1787” noted that James FREEMAN owned 34 acres.  This land seems to have remained in the FREEMAN family throughout the next generation.  As I researched this family, it was hard to discern their race.  Some records identify this family as white, while others identity them as mulattoes.

To learn more about the genealogy of the Freeman family, see

The DRIVER, LEMON and MORRIS families are also recorded as land owners as far back as the 1782 Tax Records for Gloucester County, VA.  The MORRIS family is well documented here on Renegade South by Victoria Bynum’s “Free People of Color” in Old Virginia: The Morris Family of Gloucester County.”  My paternal great grandmother, Margaret MORRIS Driver was the daughter of Elijah MORRIS, who owned a great deal of land.  As of today, this land is still in my family.  Thank you Great Grand (2X) for this gift; I know you worked very hard to maintain our land.

Margaret Morris Driver, daughter of Elijah Morris, wife of John Driver.

Margaret Morris Driver, daughter of Elijah Morris, wife of John Driver.

Children of Margaret Ann Morris and John Driver

Children of Margaret Ann Morris and John Driver

Professional Trades

During my years of my research, I found many free people of color who worked as skilled artisans, including as carpenters, bricklayers, blacksmiths, and shoemakers. Some excelled in their professions: the DRIVER Brothers made quality furniture.  My ancestors, Sam DRIVER and Robert DRIVER, were blacksmiths.  Matthew T. DRIVER (see photo below), one of the earliest instructors at Tuskegee University, taught wheelwrighting.  The majority of black male heads of households in Gloucester County were listed as farmers, oysterman and farm laborers, but they all knew how use their hands in one way or another.  The occupations listed for women of color included spinners, weavers, cake sellers, and one seamstress.

Matthew T. Driver

Matthew T. Driver

As a child I spent many summers with my uncle Bill DRIVER in Connecticut.  By day he was a tool maker and in his free time he dabbled in art and wood.  One summer I helped him build a coffee table.  As a person largely confined to a desk managing technology projects, I admire those who are gifted in working with their hands; they must feel a great sense of accomplishment.  The founder of Tuskegee Institute, Booker T Washington, believed that blacks should not only pursue and education, but should also know a trade—words of wisdom for all times.

For more on the lives of free families of color, see “Free People of Colour in Gloucester County, Virginia,” by Edwin B. Washington, Jr., and L. Roane Hunt.  The article can be obtained from the Gloucester Genealogical Society of Virginia at


My research has been very educational for me and I hope the same for you.  As you can see, I am not a professional writer and I only publish articles to share information with family and others.  As I conduct my research, I get a tiny glimpse into the past and I am encouraged by ancestors who have done remarkable things when the odds were against them.  This gives me perspective for any situation that I may come across in life.  I can only read about and imagine the hardships my ancestors incurred during their lives.  When I think about complaining, I go and do some research to get over what ails me.

There are many good sources for research, but take some time to read all the references that I have provided.  These dedicated researchers and writers have so much to share with you.

God Bless,

Wayne K Driver

49 replies »

  1. Mr. Wayne K Driver,

    You have succeeded in penning an excellent piece of valuable history about your family and also other families intertwined with your direct ancestors. And your ability to tell a compelling story is very impressive. A supreme labor intensive compling of records is truly evident. Indeed, you are to be highly commended for your ability to put together a family history filled with intriguing connections to many people whose lives were anything but easy and have also been long forgotten. Perhaps I can sum this up simply by saying, CONGRATULATIONS on a very successful family history project. One of the very best to come along in a very long time.

    Warmest regards,

    Vikky (Wilburn) Anders in San Diego


    • In reply to Karen Meggs: Are you kidding? Just because they were Free Mulattoes does not mean that they were not of African origin. I’m seeing a lot of this far fetched Black Indigenous American claim all over the internet. Black people are not indigenous to the Americas as so many are claiming now, and nothing in this piece supports that. My entire family maternal and paternal were FPOC, but I will never use that to deny my African heritage. We are also documented Native American, and Irish, but I cherish each and every component of my ancestry equally with PRIDE

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have three lines of mullatto, Carys, Jackson, and Fosters. Heck, there could be more. I’ll never deny any race that made me who I am physically today regardless of how it happened, my own parents made me out of love, that’s what counts. All races go back to Africa, no matter what race, or ethnic background a person claims, it’s scientifically proven. I found African ancestry in the caucasion Cary’s of Warwick line of my tree dated prior to the 1600’s.


  2. Thanks for writing such a great post. I agree your a great writer. I am going to research my family through the links you posted. I think there may be a connection to Polly Carey.


  3. Thank you, Rose, for taking time to comment. I hope this article does indeed help you to find a connection to your own ancestors!

    Vikki Bynum, Moderator


  4. I would be very interested in learning more about your Allmond family research. As a direct descendant, I can confirm the connection to Native American heritage as my relatives had houses on nearby reservations, up until about 15 years ago. One interesting thing about birth / vital records for Native Americans in VA, is that many of their “official” government documentation was destroyed or permanently altered by Walter Plecker. He ordered state agencies to reclassify most citizens who claimed American Indian identity. As a result, Plecker’s policies destroyed and altered records that individuals and families now need to show cultural continuity as Native Americans.


  5. Just read this blog, and it does give one an odd feeling when you see an ancestor listed as white, another time mulatto and then colored, the endurance of our ancestors is truly one of strength.


    • My mother (our family’s historian and genealogist) informs that our earliest documented Williams ancestor (Alexander) has been so described by three racial terms.


  6. My Jackson family member Lucy Jackson (descendant of slaves;after Civil War) married Miles Cary Allman son of Cary and Courtney Allman (from Gloucester)free people of color listed
    on the 1850 census.


    • Hello Ms. Carey. A quick question: are you certain that Lucy Jackson, born about 1856, in Westville, Mathews, Virginia had been enslaved? To the best of my knowledge, and I might be wrong, but I’ve thought that her father was Henry Jackson, born about 1802 in Charlotte, Virginia. And he in turn was a son of Peter Jackson, born in 1763, in Charlotte. Peter Jackson’s family had been free for generations.

      Molly Jackson, born 1825, the likely mother of Lucy Jackson may have been a slave; that’s pretty likely.

      Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks


      • How did you find his parents? Wow I am stunned. Yes you are right. I do not word sentences too well. Lucy wasn’t enslaved that I know of. Some of her sibblings were. Can you tell me if they were AA or ?


      • Also I thought that the status of a child was based on the mother’s status in Virginia. Molly’s other child was a former slave with Henry listed as the dad in a death register book.


      • My apology; I meant to say in the Mathews County Marriage book Not Death Register book.


      • Well, if you have an ancestry account, or are willing to access the site, I have this set of Jackson’s and many of the Cary’s on my tree there. The tree is called the “Paynes of Gloucester/Crowell family tree.” Perhaps, if you have the opportunity, you could take a look.

        Also, if you do review the tree, it would be great if you could add any insights that you have about the family. For example, you mention, a death register entry for one of the children of Molly Jackson.

        Further, pretty much all of the Jackson’s on the tree I have are black. They descend from a free black Jackson who lived in Amelia in the 1600’s. It’s a large, and old family too, so, there are many of them noted in the tree.

        And you’re correct: as a rule, the mother’s political status did determine that of her children. But, slaves could secure their own freedom. As well, slaves could have their freedom purchased by someone else. And then, sometimes a parent would obtain his or her freedom, but not be able to do so for his or her children. In the end, many families were something of a patchwork, with some members being free, while others, remaining enslaved.


  7. Wayne,
    I keep track of the cemeteries in Gloucester, Co and two days ago went looking for the Morris family cemetery. With the help of a local surveyor we were able to find it along with the headstone of Capt.Elijah Morris which was fallen over and covered with debris, but otherwise, was in excellent shape. Unfortunately, the county has the cemetery located about 500 ft. south of it’s true location. I am in the process of trying to get that rectified. If you have any questions you can email me at the address I’ve given.
    Nice article,
    Bill Lawrence


    • I wonder is this the same family cemetery that was noted on the death certificates of several Morrises in Middlesex county.


  8. mr driver
    I would like you to contact me via email, as soon as possible, i would like to discuss
    the photos featured on this page.
    thank you very much.
    march 22, 2015


  9. My Family is the Cary’s from Westville Mathews Virginia, the oldest person that we could fine was Dick” Richard Cary my Great grandfather, maybe someone can help me fine out who his mother and father was, my great grand father was his son Charles Edward Cary.


  10. Hello I enjoyed the interesting pieces in this article, I am from the Allman family and this article is the only thing that I have found before 1814 James alman of rockingham county. It says you had found them in your research and I was curious what else you Had came across, thank you for your time


  11. My mother was one of the Catlett family who lived in Gloucester County Virginia. Her father was known as Captain Johnny because he owned a small fishing boat. The minister who married my parents was from the Lemon family.


  12. I retrieved my latest copy of Smithsonian magazine from the mailbox a few days ago. This particular issue is dedicated to African American culture and history and includes an article by Richard Grant, Hell and High Water, about runaway slaves, or “maroons”, in the Dismal Swamp. There they joined Native Americans who were escaping the colonial frontier, and whites who were running from the law for whatever reasons. The story revolves around the research of Dan Sayers, an historical archaeologist and his passion for uncovering the secrets of these lost populations.
    My primary interest in this subject is my ancestry. Sampson Shoemake was my 4th great grandfather. The 1790, 1800 and 1810 Federal Census list Sampson and his family as “All other Free Persons”. It wasn’t until the 1820 and 1830 census that they were listed as “Free White Persons”. The 1790, and 1800 census list Sampson’s father James and members of his household as “All Other Free”. Sampson’s brother Solomon and members of his household are listed as “All Other Free” in the 1790, 1800 and 1810 census and “Free Colored Persons” in the 1820 and 1830 census. A second brother James is also listed in 1790 and 1800 as “All Other Free”. Through these years they resided in the swamps of northeast South Carolina. I have documentation that shows Sampson purchased property in Cat Fish Swamp near the Pee Dee River. The signatures, or marks, of all three are on The Petition of the people of colour of the state aforesaid who are under the act entitled an “Act for imposing a pole tax on all free Negroes, Mustees, and Mulatoes,”
    I’ve have a copy of Our Shoemake Roots written by Jeanne Waters Strong that traces her roots back to Jean de la Chaumette, a French Huguenot who settled in northern Virginia in the late 1600s. Jeanne’s ancestors also migrated south into the Carolinas and into Tennessee before taking a more northern route to the west coast. In corresponding with Jeanne she admits she knew of the pocket of Shoemake’s, my ancestors, in northeast South Carolina but was never able to connect them to her line. Another family historian, H. D. Shuemake, has included research on James Shoemake of Marion South Carolina and prepared by Dusty Williams in his own works. But again he has not been able to connect them to his line which also goes back to Jean de la Chaumette.
    So I believe somewhere between my 5th great grandfather James and Jean de la Chaumette is a story. I’ve purchased Slavery’s Exiles by Sylviane A. Diouf and have ordered the works of Dan Sayers. Maybe I can make the connection in the swamp.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really would like to find out more. I saw the comments and went to to see that the names of Crowell, Driver, Webb, Redman and Smith just happen to be my relatives. I wish I could email the writer or person’s who wrote these articles. Paynes of Gloucester Crowell of Halifax and Driver\Webb on Ancestry are truly fascinating. I hope you will contact me about this. Carla


    • Carroll,

      It’s certainly possible that there are cases of “Morrison” evolving from Morris, but I’ve not encountered any specific instances where this is suspected or known for certain to have happened.



  14. Possibly you can point me in the right direction. My great grandfather John Nelson (some say John Lemon Nelson) was born in Alexandria, VA around 1829. His mother was Patsy Haley Nelson. I have found no father’s name for him. His son and grandson were named John Lemon Nelson. I looked at the Lemon family as see there were John Lemons. I feel that is a strong clue. I can’t make sense of the surname Nelson. Patty Nelson and 2 children Cecelia Nelson and George Nelson) were emancipated along with her mother Tillah from Benjamin Dulaney.


  15. My family were also mulattoes in Virginia who evenly settled in Northampton County. They were not slaves and last names were Ames. I am desperately trying to find history of my family. Please help.


  16. My grandparents, John and Ada Culley are from Gloucester. Grandma’s maiden name is Stubbs. Her brother, Sam Stubbs apparently married a daughter of Michael and Susie Driver. It appears that Michael and Susie were raising their grandchildren, Jesse and Lucille Stubbs in 1930 according to the 1930 census. I met Cousin Lucille and Cousin Jesse in ’98 when I visited with them briefly in Gloucester at my father’s request.
    My grandfather, John Culley is the son of John Culley and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Morris. Elisabeth Morris is the daughter of George and Susan Morris. Indications are that Susan Morris raised my Great Aunts, Nellie and Julia. I have been unable to find gradpa and Great Uncle Levi until they were living in Brooklyn, NY.
    In 2006 I attended a family reunion in Gloucester. Some of the last names that I recall meeting were Culley, Cook, Lemon, Morris and Holmes. My father told me that both of my grand parents had some Native American ancestry, I overheard that the same holds true for the Lemons and the Morris’.
    It seemed commonly thought that the Indian ancestry as Cherokee. Research indicates that the Cherokee were more to the west and indigenous to West Virginia, Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Kentucky and parts of Alabama. So I research the Indians indigenous to the Gloucester area and their history and found some information about the Kiskiack – tribe, of the Powhatan Confederacy. There were located near the south bank of the York River on the Virginia Peninsula. The village was a few miles west of what became present-day Yorktown.
    The Kiskiack were one of the original six tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy. Kiskiack was only about 15 miles (24 km) from Jamestown, but it was across the Peninsula and along the York River. In 1612, John Smith estimated the Kiskiack population included about 40-50 warriors.
    By 1649 the Kiskiack had settled along the Piankatank River, when the English “granted” a reservation of 5,000 acres (20 km2). In 1651, the Kiskiack exchanged this land for another 5,000-acre (20 km2) tract farther upriver. Soon the English began to encroach on the reservation in Gloucester County as well. In 1669 the Kiskiack had only 15 bowmen. They last appeared in historical records during Bacon’s Rebellion. They seem then to have merged with other groups, probably the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, or Rappahannock.

    In ’06 while talking to one of the Morris cousins he mentioned that our great- great grandmother, Susan Morris had lived in and died not far from where we were in 1955 and that he had known her. She described her as a full blooded Indian. He mentioned Cherokee but when I asked if it was possible that it was Kiskiacki, he recalled the name. There are some writings that indicate that the “settlers” referred to the Kiskiack as the “Cheesecake Indians”. Other articles indicate that many African Americans from the Matthews County and Gloucester County areas claim Kiskiack ancestry since many of the Africans mixed with the indigenous tribes were eventually sold into slavery. There is some support for this is William Katz’s book; “Black Indians.”


    • Hi Cousin

      My great grandfather is Levi Culley from Gloucester County. They moved to Brooklyn at the turn of the century. No coincidence my GGG Grandfather was George Morris noted as Mulatto, he was an Oysterman and his wife’s name was Susan Ann Berry, I was able to find her maiden name on a marriage record and children’s death certificates.

      Concerning this branch of our family tree, there is no indication of any Native American DNA in our bloodline. I asked my mom (Culley) to take a DNA test two years ago. Her DNA is fairly easy to sort because her maternal line are Russian Jews who emigrated to Brooklyn. And the remainder is through her fathers deep Gloucester Co line of Culley and Morris. A little West Side Story-ish.

      I’ve found all this incredibly enlightening because I have been able to find George Morris as a free man but have been looking at plantations this whole time as the reason he was mixed because it never occurred to me that my family (paternal or maternal) would be living free.


  17. Great article! My ancestors were from Gloucester/Mathews/York Virginia. Your references allow me to explore additional history on Gloucester. Job well done! Will share this story on the Gloucester FB page.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “By law, in 1705, a mulatto was a person deemed to have one-eighth or more African blood” it wasn’t just African, it was also Native American.


  19. Thank you! This article helped lead me to family in York County, VA. They were oystermen / mariners in Staten Island, NY 1830-1870. The name I had been looking for was “Eaton”. I found them listed in the “York County Register of Free Negroes 1798-1831” with the last name “Wade”. The whole family !! Their appearance is described in detail. The mother was emancipated by deed from John Eaton in 1807 and they were all “liberated in 1830”. I did find a death record from the oldest child that listed John Eaton as her father. She was 99 when she died.


  20. I have quite a few pieces of Driver Brothers, Irving and John, furniture that they made for my parents in the 1970s/80s. We loved their work. They refinished pieces for them also. People use to say that they saw vans and trucks at their shop with the White House seal on them.

    Liked by 1 person

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