This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge. I am writing about people who were born into slavery and lived to be free and their descendants. Today I am going to write about Mary Jane Timberlake. Note: ages given are what was reported on the census form that year. They aren’t always accurate or true.
Mary Jane Timberlake was born into slavery in 1825 in Boone County Kentucky. Her parents were Adelia Yager and Anthony Parker, who were both owned by different slaveholders. While enslaved, Mary Jane was a house girl for the Timberlakes and later the Stevensons. Both the Timberlakes and the Stevensons were part of the same family and lived in the same house.
Mary Jane’s brother Gabriel Timberlake was born in 1828. He made a daring escape from slavery as part of group in the spring of 1847. After many weeks of travel and a fight and a trial in Cassopolis, Michigan, between Kentucky slave catchers, the escaped slaves and local citizens, Gabriel ended up free in Essex Canada where he changed his name to John Johnson, farmed and raised a family. Some of his descendants still live there. Click this link for more information 1847 Kentucky Raid. I chose to tell his sister Mary Jane’s less dramatic story.
Mary Jane married John French while still enslaved, in 1846. They lived on different plantations. When Gabriel escaped in 1847, Mary Jane, her husband and her mother stayed behind. When Mary Jane found out she was free after the Civil War, she was wary about leaving the life she knew with the Stevensons when she had no money. She overcame her fears and left Kentucky with her children and mother. I do not know what happened to her husband John.
In 1870 she lived in College Hill Ohio, a few houses from Margaret Lane Alley, who also left Kentucky for Ohio after freedom. Mary Jane was 41 years old, keeping house and unable to read or write. Her eight year old daughters, Emma and Ida were attending school. Six year old Albert was too young for school. Also living in the household was Agnes Gaines who was literate. Relationships are not given in the 1870 census and i do not know who Agnes Gaines was.
Mary Jane was able to visit her brother once in Canada, about 1871. She afterwards returned to Ohio.
By 1880, Adelia Yager, 76 years old, had joined her daughter Mary Jane in College Hill. Two of her children, Emma and Albert were home. Ida was living away. Both Emma and Ida were in service. Albert was 16 and at home. Five year old nephew James Yaeger was living there too. I noticed that there were two cases of consumption on that census page, one of them was Margaret Lane Alley’s 30 year old brother Thomas. Right next door to the French household was a bedridden 17 year old laborer with consumption. On the other side lived a 48 year old man bedridden with rheumatism.
In the 1900 census Mary Jane Timberlake French was 74 years old. She owned her own home free from mortgage. She said she had birthed three children and one was still living. A 62 year old woman identified as her daughter, Anna Warren, lived there. She worked as a washerwoman. One year old Mary Warren lived with them. Neither of the other women was literate.
In 1910 Mary Jane was 84 years old living in the same house. She stated that she had given birth to eight children and one was still alive. Her daughter Emma’s husband, Charles Morris is identified as the head of the home, which is owned free and clear. He worked as a houseman for a private family. Emma worked as a cook for a private family. Mary Warren who was one year old in the 1900 census, was eleven and attended school. Both Charles and Emma were literate. Emma had borne no children.
Mary Jane Timberlake French died of a cerebral hemorrhage March 8th, 1917. She was buried two days later in Mt. Healthy Cemetery. Her daughter Emma was the informant on the death certificate.
I found the information in Census records on ancestry.com and her death certificate on familysearch.com. Special thanks Lisa Schumann for sharing her Power Point Presentation about Gabriel and Mary Jane Timberlake with me.