Updated: Apr 6
So, by renewing my subscription to GenealogyBank, another site that offers searchable content from old newspapers, I was amazed to find two things.
First, I found a death notice that answers at least one of the questions I have regarding Edward Christian. This clip was published on Friday, 20 December 1811, in the Farmer's Repository, an early Charles Town newspaper. (Reminder: Charles Town was the county seat of Jefferson County, Virginia, at this point. Jefferson and surrounding counties became part of the new state of West Virginia during the Civil War.)
Now I know her first name and where she was buried. I hope, soon, to finally discover her maiden name.
I also found the following advertisement:
The 26-year-old negro woman must have been Milley; the 11-year-old boy, Robert. Robert was told he was born in 1803; the fact that Milley was well-known in the community gives credence to Robert's claim to the Indianapolis reporter that he had many maternal relatives in Charles Town. I feel pretty confident that his birth-year information is accurate.
There are important inferences in the subtext of this advertisement. First, Edward's name isn't mentioned at all; only Harriet's children are to be the beneficiaries of any money made from this transaction, and later would be the beneficiaries of any profit when Milley and her four sons were sold in 1818. Milley was not Edward's "property"; she was Harriet's, either through inheritance or, as was common, as a gift to Harriet when she and Edward married.
This lends further evidence that, for whatever reason, Edward was having some heavy financial problems after the death of his wife. If she was the one with family money, I think it's possible Edward had squardered whatever money she brought to the marriage, as well as his own.
If you believe what "conventional wisdom" says about women in that time period – that they had no rights and could own no property – think again. And while you're at it, read the book, "They Were Her property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South" by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (Yale University Press). It can be difficult to read because of the brutality, but it is an important work that dispells the myth of the "Southern Belle," by showing that women from prominent Southern families were not petites fleurs but were active participants in the economic machinations of slavery, itself. They reaped the economic rewards and often were as brutal to enslaved blacks than men, if not more so.
Currently, I am reading "The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America." Also an eye-opening book that shatters the myth that slavery played only a small role in America's history and economy, long before the United States were created.
It's so important for us, as Americans – regardless of race, social status, or anything – to realize and acknowledge that our country was built by the hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans and their descendants and that so much blood has been spilled to ensure blacks remained enslaved and powerless.
Everything we are now, all the social ills and problems we are facing today, have roots in the fact that our country, which touts itself as "The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave," really was anything but for at least 250 years. And, despite Emancipation in 1863, the Jim Crow laws established in the early 20th century were specifically intended to further deny the rights of wealth and power to people of color in America.