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Marshall County Mississippi Slave Owners in the 1864 Register of Freedmen (under construction)

William Finley


William Finley was born in 1810 to Samuel Tate and Mary Tate- Finley in Augusta County, Greenville, Virginia; he was the ninth of ten children. In 1829, at the age of nineteen, he lost his mother, and his father died twenty years later in 1849 when Finley was thirty-nine.( Ancestry.com, Virginia Census and Death Records) William Finley was an attorney, who graduated in 1832 from what is now Washington and Lee University. Washington University, as it was known then, was an institution for higher learning for young people from some of Virginia’s leading families, so one can conclude that the Finleys were, without a doubt, members of polite society.( Washington and Lee University) The Finley family was also intertwined with the Davis family, formerly of North Carolina and, like the Finleys, transplants to Mississippi. William Finley was brother to John Tate Finley, who would marry into the Davis Family, particularly that of Ebenezer Nelms Davis, William Finley married Mary Greer of Paris, Tennessee on February 29, 1824 in Paris, Tennessee. Mrs. Finley died an untimely death in 1888 which left the three children born to their union motherless and William a widow. The couple had produced three children: Mary Rachel, Samuel and Melton Finley. In 1850, the family owned nine slaves, and ten years later in1860 they owned twelve slaves (Slave Census, 1850, 1860). Though financially stable, Finley did not join the ranks of the largest slave owners in the county. He died in 1871 at the age of sixty-one and is buried in Holly Springs, Mississippi.( Find A Grave).

Only one of William Finley's former slaves, ten-year-old Ruben Finley, appears in the Register of Freedmen.

Ebenezer (Eben) Davis


Ebenezer Davis[1] , also known as Eben Nelms Davis, was owner of the 4,000 acre Strawberry Plains Plantation, owned today by the Audubon Society. The plantation, now a bird sanctuary, is located in Township 3, Range 3 in Marshall County, just a few miles north of the city of Holly Springs. The beautiful home that graced Strawberry was burned during the war, but a second house was built at the site. Davis married into the Finley Family, the eventual owners of the plantation, the descendants of which would gift the land and its buildings to the Audubon Society.
In 1860, Davis was one of the largest slave owners in Marshall County, holding 114 slaves.[2] In this same year, he contracted with one Booker Flipplin(g) to serve as overseer of his plantation for twelve months. In the contract, Davis described recommended treatment of his slaves. Flipping was "to treat the slaves as humanely & kind as their conduct [would] allow."[3] The language of the contract would seem to confirm Davis's reputation as a benevolent master, a character offered by his niece by marriage, Emma Finley.[4] (Finley's younger brother married into the Hull Family--see William Hull--as he united with Betsey Hull.) In her diary, Emma details visits with her aunt and includes in the stories the death of two of the couple's children. Davis built a school at Strawberry, a facility believed by some to have been erected not just for his own children but for slaves as well. Ironically, Davis was cousin to President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and Jefferson's brother Joseph, whose Brierfield Plantation was an experiment in slave self-management.[5] Seven of Davis's former slaves are found in the Register of Freedmen: Pasala (40), Lydia (13), Joseph (11), Easter (9), Solenia (6), Rena (6), and Mandy (4). This family of freedwomen and children took Davis as their surname. According to Hugh McAlexander, Davis went to Memphis to retrieve his slaves. Apparently, he also had a plantation in Alabama and appears to have "refugeed" some of his slaves there during the war.

Thomas Gatewood

Thomas G. Gatewood's plantation appears to have been located in Township 2, Ranges 1 and 2W, the same as that of William Hull. Thomas G. Gatewood was born around 1795 or 1796 in North Carolina, in Anson County according to family history researcher Patricia Max.[6] Thomas J. Gatewood, son of Thomas G, was born in 1838 in Mississippi according to the 1860 Census. A Hudsonville (Marshall County) residence is listed for Thomas Gatewood, born 1864, to L. Gatewood and Mary Gatewood. This younger Gatewood's father would appear to be Lafayette Gatewood, b. 1840, also a child of Thomas G.

Thomas B. Gatewood was born between 1817 and 1819 in North Carolina. This second generation Gatewood had a plantation in Township 2, Range 4 in 1860. From the birth of Thomas J. Gatewood in 1838 in Marshall County, it is clear that the Gatewoods were an early Marshall County family, and like other white, migrating families, that they may have brought one or two slaves with them, in this case, from North Carolina.

In the 1850 Census, Thomas B. Gatewood is recorded as having five slaves (one thirty-year-old male (mulatto), a twenty-one-year-old female (mulatto), a seventeen-year-old male, a forty-year-old female, and a seven-year-old male (mulatto). The three mulatto slaves, considered along with the life of a black or mulatto Lafayette Gatewood (born between 1902 and 1904), may indicate mixing of blood between slave and owner in this family. In some cases, however, former slaves simply named children after their former masters and other members of the slave-owning family. Thomas G. Gatewood in 1850 held thirty-two slaves according to the census, and, in 1860, forty-seven.[7]

In 1954, former slave Toby Gatewood was interviewed by The Commercial Appeal. A 113-year-old Mr. Gatewood stated that the Gatewood Plantation, on which his father appears to have been held, was three or four miles from The Stevens Place, where his mother, along with him, was enslaved. The Stevens Place, according to him, was about three miles from Holly Springs. Gatewood remembers the Union army coming to Stevens's place. He says they took food, leaving the "middlings" for the slaves, and they also gave them what amounted to five bales of cotton, which the blacks quickly took to Memphis and sold for a dollar a pound (which would amount to just about five-hundred dollars). The writer of the piece on Mr. Gatewood concludes that the former slave and others didn't know that the war was over until about a year after it had ended since Gatewood told him that the workers on both the Stevens and Gatewood plantations continued working through the war. That lack of knowledge of the war's end was their reason for continuing to work is questionable. Some slaves simply preferred to stay put for one reason or another, and Toby Gatewood's narrative about returning from Memphis after selling the cotton is suggestive of the slaves' intentions. With so many troops coming and going, and Mr. Gatewood remembering Union troops at The Stevens Place it seems doubtful that blacks at the site had no idea which way the war was going. Two of Thomas G. Gatewood's former slaves, Thomas and Lucy Gatewood, appear in the Register of Freedmen. If Toby's Gatewood's story is accurate, Thomas and Lucy would have had an opportunity to leave Thomas G's place when the troops occupied it, very likely in the spring of 1863, the same time that they occupied the plantation of William Hull.

There is reason to believe that some descendants of slaves of these North Carolina-to-Mississippi Gatewoods still reside in the general area since a Lafayette Gatewood of Memphis has been found in an 1867 Rust College yearbook. It is also known that there is a large reunion of African American Gatewoods held periodically in Memphis. It is likely that these Gatewoods descend from this Marshall County group including those once owned by Patrick Henry Gatewood, another of Thomas G.'s sons.



William Hull


William Hull is the fourth son of Elizabeth Herndon Hull and Brodie Strachan Hull, after John, Dabney, and Isaac. William was born in 1825 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He was about twelve years old when the family migrated to Marshall County, Mississippi following the Chickasaw Cession. Brodie Strachan Hull died before the family's move, and his wife Elizabeth arrived in Mississippi with a team of slaves, some young, some old. She purchased 964 acres of land in an area near the extinct town of Salem, Mississippi. (The plantation, located at Township 2, Range 1& 2W, is sometimes said to have been in Tippah County, but most records have it in Marshall.) In 1844, William and his siblings inherited 78 slaves; William himself inherited ten (Africa, Joe, Daniel, Albert, Emma, Tim Buckner, Susan, Abel, Henrietta & Pharma*). Only six years later, in the 1850 Census, William is shown to have 52 slaves, and in 1860 he is said to own 72, making him one of the largest slave owners and one of the most prosperous planters in the county.

William married Mary Walker Clayton, daughter of Judge Alexander M. Clayton, also of Salem. They wed at Clayton's home November 29th of 1850. (While William may have come to hold an additional number of slaves due to the marriage, those represented in the 1850 census were likely purchased prior to the wedding. Some of the increase would have been due to births on the plantation.)

Hull, an attorney, attended Washington College, now Washington and Lee, an achievement that connects him to William Finley, of the well-known Finley Family of Marshall County, relatives of both the Hulls (through William's niece Betsy) and to the Davises, Ebenezer (a.k.a. Eben) Nelms Davis of Strawberry Plains (Marshall County), cousin to Jefferson and Joseph Davis of Davis Bend, Mississippi.

In The Register (1864), nineteen of Hull's slaves are to be found. Of that number, only three adopt their master's surname. Emma Poaly is in fact Emma Bailey. The relatively large number of slaves in The Register, belonging to Hull, is due to the seeming fact that the Union occupied the Hull Plantation for at least one evening (March 3, 1863) and perhaps encouraged or at least made it possible for those enslaved to leave with the troops.

Other slaves of Hull include two sisters of slave Mattie, mother of Patsy Moore (who was owned by Dabney Hull). According to Moore, her mother was purchased by Dabney in Richmond, Virginia. Former bondsman John Hull, who returned to Williams's plantation following the war, reported that he was raised in Holly Springs, brought there at a young age from Kentucky. Several of the Hulls including Dabney kept town homes in Holly Springs, so it is unclear that he was owned by Hull though it seems likely. He was acquainted with Africa Bailey, one of the slaves bequeathed to William in 1844; this further augments the case.

Freedmen who reported William Hull as their former owner include: Katie and Peggy Banks, Eliza Brooks, Arthur, Edward, and George Hull, Louisa Jennings, Susan Martin, Lydia and Charles Mason, Emma Poaly (Bailey), and Nancy, Sam, Robert, Mary, and Walker Williams.

*Africa, who took the surname Bailey during the Civil War, was husband to Emma and father of Susan, Abel, and Henrietta. None of these children lived to see the end of the war, and Henrietta's three children also perished. Bailey himself became a major organizer of blacks in Memphis during Reconstruction. At Fort Pickering, he founded Second Baptist Church, which later came to be named Salem Baptist.


Robert Wall

Robert H. Wall and wife Margaret Pegues Wall lived in the prosperous community of Sylvestria on the Cloverland Plantation.

William Wall

The Sunnyside Plantation, located in the community of Sylvestria, was the early home of William Wall and his sister Susan Wall McPherson, according to one source. According to a different source, the "town" of Wall Hill was named for William Wall. The Sunnyside Plantation, which sat on 1200 acres, (Township 3, Ranges 1 & 2 W) was constructed in 1846.










  1. ^ This slave owner's name is spelled Ebinezar in the Register of Freedmen.
  2. ^ See http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ajac/msmarshall.htm
  3. ^ From the Davis Papers, Strawberry Plains Audubon Collection, Special Collections, J.D. Williams Library, University of Mississippi.
  4. ^ See Our Pen is Our Time: the Diary of Emma Finley.
  5. ^ See Janet Sharp Hermann's Pursuit of a Dream.
  6. ^ http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GATEWOOD/2007-03/1173197441
  7. ^ http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ajac/msmarshall.htm