Mary Richardson, Born Free of Indian Parents

From Lisa Henderson’s blog, we find the following record about Mary Richardson.

Headquarters Bureau Refugee Freedmen and Abandoned Lands SC

Charleston SC Aug. 11th 1866

Major General O. O. Howard



I have the honor to present the case of Mary Richardson an aged half breed now living in Manningsville this state.

She states that when she was about thirteen years of age and living with her parents in a village in North Carolina the name of which she has forgotten she was sent to a slave for articles and while there a stranger named Jacob Whitehead immediately caught her and placing her on a saddle with him carried her away against her will, riding all day and night crossing into SC, sleeping in the woods days and riding nights, in this manner until they arrived at his home in Manningsville SC. That Jacob Whitehead kept her as a servant in his house until she arrived at the age of puberty when he kept her as his mistress with the knowledge of his wife. After living with him for about seven years, she had a son born of him and the wife took charge of the child.

About ten years after the child was born the father Whitehead tried to sell her at auction in Charleston City SC but was unable to do so, she being free born of Indian parents and Whitehead being unable to show title.

Eight or ten years after this went the wife of Whitehead died and she (Mary) and Mr. W. were quarreling continually, and by some arrangement she was transferred to a Mr. John Reams of Manningsville, with whom she lived as a slave until Gen. Sherman went through.

She orates that her son is still living a man grown on the Santee River this state, but she has not seen him for many years nor has she heard anything of her parents since she was kidnapped. All of her repeated effort to learn of them and to tell them of her fate being intercepted before she began to grow old, by the post masters and others who were relatives and friends of Mr. Whitehead. After Mr. Whitehead sold or transferred her to Reams he married a second wife: Mr. W. died during the war and his widow now lives on the estate at Manningsville as does Nath’ Whitehead the son of the first wife of Jacob Whitehead.

She now asks that some measures may be taken to secure to her from Jacob Whitehead’s estate means of support in her old age as also to the son she had by Whitehead his just position and standing among his people.

I am General, very respectfully, your Obd. Servant

Brevet Major General, Asst. Com. SC

Records of Assistant Commissioner of the State of South Carolina; Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands; National Archives Microfilm Publication M869.

<End of record>

Manningsville is located near Sumpter and Mechanicsville in Sumter County, SC.  It is a historical location and I found it mentioned in testimony about the Civil War.

The 1870 census does not show an elderly Mary Richardson or even a Mary Richardson who is a person of color.  She may have passed away by then, used a different name or moved.  The 1860 slave census in Sumpter County shows several Reems that do in fact own slaves.  John C. Reems owns a young slave family, it appears, with both the male and female age 28.  The oldest female owned by any Reems family member is a 40 year old mulatto owned by Elizabeth Reems.  This does not seem to correspond to the testimony given in 1866 by Mary Richardson.

From age 13, Mary moved forward a few years to bearing a son, then 10 years later Whitehead tried to sell Mary, then 8-10 years later, his wife died, then she was sold to Reams where she lived until the Civil War.  So she had to be over age 40 and from the description of “aged,” I would think more like over 60.

It’s unfortunate that Mary didn’t remember the name of the village where she lived in NC nor did she give her son’s name nor did she state how she came by the surname of Richardson.  I wonder if the Freedmen’s Bureau has any additional information or if Jacob Whitehead’s estate would hold clues or evidence of some type of settlement.  I also wonder if Jacob sold his (and Mary’s) son or how the son was classified.  Generally, the child takes the status of the mother, so he was likely enslaved as well.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Captive, North Carolina, South Carolina. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mary Richardson, Born Free of Indian Parents

  1. blzlovr says:

    The Major says Mary Richardson is an aged “half-breed”, I think it is likely that both her parents might have been half Indian and half white and that is how she got the Richardson name. My own ancestors were half French and half Indian and it was common for half Indians to marry each other.

    • TD Hill says:

      I think if she had been half White it would have been much harder to pass her off as a slave during a period when not even full blood Indians could be legally held as slaves. That was well into the African slave period. Likely she would have been part Black if anything. Maybe 1/4 or 1/2. There were many African/Indian slaves kidnapped and enslaved during those times such as Rachel Findley’s family in Wythe Va. There were many instances such as this.

      • Blue Ridge Blue says:

        speaking of which…….. I have been trying to sort this puzzle out with my family as well.

        Name: Elizabeth Findley
        Age: 25
        Birth Year: abt 1825
        Birthplace: Virginia
        Home in 1850: District 68, Wythe, Virginia
        Race: Mulatto
        Gender: Female
        Family Number: 826
        Household Members:
        Name Age
        Giden Hill 27
        Elizabeth Findley 25
        Thomas J Hill 0
        Powel H Hill 0
        George Hill 5
        Wesley Richardson 24
        Josiah Richardson 6

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