Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Asa Dearing was born around 1785 and died suddenly in 1826, only a few years after he’d married a woman named Margaret Pasture or Pasteur on 20 March 1820. Asa was one of several children in a family with great wealth. He had several brothers who owned plantations in Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, and probably more. He himself owned land in both Wilkes County, GA, and in Laurence County, AL.
He and his wife apparently had no children, according to Asa’s will. In this instrument, he gives property to several brothers, including William R. Dearing, who also ran a very successful railroad company, and he bequeaths land and slaves to his nephew, John Thomas Dearing, one of William’s sons. There is no mention of any of his own children in the will. Oddly, though, the 1820 census suggests he and his wife had one older teenage boy in their household. The enslaved "male under 14" could be Robert, while the female 14-25 could be Milley. I have seen potential evidence that Robert had a sister as well as the three brothers, so the young female slave listed could be that girl.
In the 1879 article, Robert said that he and his mother were purchased from Flood by a man named Stovall, who later sold them to Asa. In the 1820 census, right above Asa’s household, one Drury Stovall was listed as a head of household, indicating they likely were neighbors. It’s possible Drury or one of his family members sold Millie and Robert to Asa. In that census, the slaves listed in his household by age don’t match up with the two of them, and of course there is no information on Asa in the 1830 census because he died four years before that was taken.
So, who was William P. Flood, who took on Edward Christian’s debt and, ultimately, sold Millie and her four sons? That’s still a mystery to me, as well. I haven’t found much information on the man Christian owed money to, John Dixon Esq., either.
Because Asa only owned Millie and Robert for a few years before his early death, I haven’t focused on him as much as I have his nephew, John Thomas Dearing, who will be featured in Part 4. But, if I do find more about Asa, I’ll post an update.
That said, researching Robert Jefferson's story has been a solid and eye-opening educational experience regarding the institution of slavery and how it actually worked. I was surprised to learn that many slave-owning families didn’t have just one plantation in one state. They had several. The large extended Dearing family, for example, owned plantations in Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. Asa, himself, died on a plantation he owned in Laurence County, Georgia, even though his primary residence was in Wilkes County, Georgia. Because of this, his will was filed in both states.
Turns out, the war against Mexico to obtain Texas was mostly just a land-grab. Growing King Cotton, so-called because it was a huge and immensely prosperous industry in the early 1800s, exhausted the land after only few years. Planters had to obtain more land, subsequently moving farther west to find soil that could sustain cotton for the next few years. Thus, families like the Dearings owned land throughout the southern states to maintain their wealth.
As the planters moved west, so did their slaves; raising cotton was extremely labor-intensive, thus increasing planters' need for more enslaved laborers. By this time, tobacco was no longer king in the northernmost of Southern states, like Kentucky. So, many plantation owners in that region actually began breeding enslaved people to supply the demand for more labor in the deep South. Disgusting? Yes. Surprising? I wish I could say yes; but, no.
Next up: John Thomas Dearing, the nephew who inherited Robert Jefferson, also died fairly young and quite suddenly, but in life had been very busy and prosperous.
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