A long road to freedom: Part 2


Beth Mitchell - Contributing columnist



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

Part 2

Perhaps some of the information for this article should be about the Bray individuals marrying in existing records for Clinton County. Usually, a notation is made in the record for individuals of color. Some of these records have notations and some do not.

The following marriages were recorded in the 1830s and 1840s: Amy Bray and Samuel Peak 06 May 1841, Dinah Bray and John Vick 03 July 1834, Jane Bray and Paul Fowles 15 September 1841, Joseph Bray and Jane Richardson 30 December 1846, Mary Bray and William Fowles 14 June 1832, Matthew Bray and Sinai Walker 17 August 1837, Milly Bray and Winston Fowles 27 December 1832, Molly A. Bray and Washington Williams 30 September 1847, Nancy Bray and Benjamin Wagonet 12 November 1835, Richard Bray and Lucy Taylor 06 February 1834, Susan Bray and Allen Fowlis 17 March 1847, Susan Bray and Charles Dimery 18 January 1849, and Venus Bray and Joseph Winslow 22 September 1836.

I felt it could be relevant to take a look at the first several land sales by those persons with the Bray name.

In Clinton County Deed Book H in the master index, I found the name of John Bray with the notation “will”. I had not had a reference to any John Bray so went to the reference and found it was that part of the will for James Bray [owner], deceased, of Chesterfield County, Virginia which proved the right of one Armstreat Bruce to purchase land to be used for the relocation of the newly freed Bray individuals.

The name had been improperly recorded in the master index. The will had been presented in Chesterfield County 11 March 1829. Those persons presenting it were Winter Bray, Charles Bray, Charles Pilcher and wife Elizabeth. It is probably a fair assumption to assume that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Bray. We do not have proofs of relationships of those persons to the deceased James Bray.

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

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

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

In the 1850 census in Wayne Township one Jane Bray, age 85, female, black, born in Virginia is shown. That means Jane was born 1765/1766 prior to the Revolutionary War. Also, named is one Benjamin Bray, age 85, male, black, born in Virginia.

Could he have participated in some way in the Revolutionary War?

This family has the potential to perhaps prove more than 250 years of their history; from America’s founding to African-American enslavement and eventually toward freedom as land owners in Clinton County!

Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for its quarterly newsletter about a variety of past Clinton Countians and genealogy subjects.

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Beth Mitchell

Contributing columnist