A long road to freedom: part 2

This two-part column — in recognition of Black History Month (February) — is by Beth Mitchell, a Clinton County History Center volunteer who writes a periodic column for the News Journal.

Part 2

Perhaps some of the information in this article should pertain to Bray individuals who marry in existing Clinton County records. Usually, a notation is made in the record for people of color. Some of these recordings have notations and some do not.

The following marriages were registered in the 1830s and 1840s: Amy Bray and Samuel Peak on May 6, 1841, Dinah Bray and John Vick on July 3, 1834, Jane Bray and Paul Fowles on September 15, 1841, Joseph Bray and Jane Richardson on 30 December 1846, Mary Bray and William Fowles June 14, 1832, Matthew Bray and Sinai Walker August 17, 1837, Milly Bray and Winston Fowles December 27, 1832, Molly A. Bray and Washington Williams September 30, 1847, Nancy Bray and Benjamin Wagonet November 12, 1835, Richard Bray and Lucy Taylor February 6, 1834, Susan Bray and Allen Fowlis March 17, 1847, Susan Bray and Charles Dimery January 18, 1849 and Venus Bray and Joseph Winslow September 22, 1836.

I thought it might be relevant to take a look at the early land sales by these people with the Bray name.

In the Clinton County Deed Book H in the main index I found John Bray’s name with the notation “will”. I hadn’t had a reference to a John Bray so I went to the reference and found it was this part of James Bray’s will [owner], deceased, of Chesterfield County, Va., who proved the right of an Armstreat Bruce to purchase land to be used for the resettlement of newly released Bray individuals.

The name had been incorrectly recorded in the main index. The will had been presented in Chesterfield County on March 11, 1829. Those presenting it were Winter Bray, Charles Bray, Charles Pilcher and his wife Elizabeth. It’s probably a fair guess to assume that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Bray. We have no evidence of any relationship of these individuals to the late James Bray.

The first recorded land sale for Bray is found in Book I of the Deed, page 240. The sale is of a Nancy Bray to a certain Jacob Grove. Mr. Grove paid $18 for six acres. The deed was registered on December 12, 1834.

In the margin was additional information in which Nancy Bray referred to herself as Nancy Wagonett whose husband was Benjamin Wagonett.

References to other deeds are found in the Clinton County Genealogical Society research records. I also found many names and “marriage names” of women in the 1850 census.

In the 1850 census in Wayne Township, an 85-year-old Jane Bray, female, black, born in Virginia, is depicted. This means that Jane was born in 1765/1766 before the Revolutionary War. Also named is Benjamin Bray, 85, male, black, born in Virginia.

Could he have participated in one way or another in the War of Independence?

This family has the potential to prove perhaps over 250 years of its history; from the founding of America to the enslavement of African Americans and ultimately to freedom as landowners in Clinton County!

Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for her quarterly newsletter on a variety of former Clinton Earls and genealogy topics.

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