James and Cynthia Graham – Alabama

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. I was looking for one of my enslaved ancestors named William Graham when I found an 1860 estate file for Judge William A. Graham with a list of slaves to be divided between his heirs. I hoped my great grandfather was one of those named. I decided to go through the list of 60 plus and see what I could find out using online records. I still don’t know if the William on the list is mine or not, but it has been interesting to find out what happened to those listed after they were freed in 1865.

list of enslaved pg 1
Estate file of Judge William A. Grahams. Page 1 of several pages of the enslaved with names, ages and values. 1860. Click to enlarge.


I wrote a bit about Emanuel Graham and several generations of his descendants here.  Today I am going to take a closer look at Emanuel’s son James.  James Graham was born into slavery in 1848, probably on Judge William A. Graham’s plantation. His parents were Emanuel and Elsie Graham.  In the 1860 estate file, James appears with his family group as a six year old valued at $700. James, his parents and his two year old sister Clara were in Lot 2, which was to go to to the Judge’s daughter Ellen Graham Strain in Shelby County, Alabama. James older siblings were in separate lots. Ten year old Betsy was in Lot 6 to go to Alfred Graham in Rusk, Texas. Eleven year old Harris was in Lot 9 to go with Sarah Graham Sims in Macon County, Alabama. Thirteen year old Charles was in Lot 7 to go with Lenora Graham in Prattville, Autauga County, Alabama.  The settling of the estate seemed to drag on for several years and I am not sure if they were separated.

In 1870 Harris, 22; Betsy, 20; James, 16 and Clara, 12 were all living with their parents in Prattville.  Clara was the only one attending school. Emanuel was a farmer with $100 worth of personal estate. Elsie was keeping house. Harris and James worked as farm labor on the family farm. Betsy was a domestic servant. Nobody could read or write.

James married Cynthia Gibbons in 1877. They were both about 23. In 1880 they were working for the Northington family.  They had two children, two year old Mary and one year old Christopher.

By 1900 they owned their own farm free of mortgage. James was farming. Cynthia had given birth to ten children and all were still living,  nine in the family home.  Their ages ranged 22 down to four year old Samuel. Nobody had attended school that year. Viola and Elsie were able to read. Manuel and Albert were laborers on the home farm. Cynthia’s brother Robert owned and farmed the land next to them.

In 1910  Five of James and Cynthia’s sons were living at home and working on the farm. They were all literate. One of the children had died.  James does not appear in any other records after 1910.

In 1920 Cynthia and the youngest son, Samuel were working the home farm. Son Manuel and his family owned land and were farming next door. Son Haywood and his family rented and farmed next to Manuel.

Samuel died in 1926. His mother Cynthia does not appear in any more records. I was unable to find death records for James or Cynthia Graham. Of the children that I was able to follow, all remained in Autauga farming except for Haywood who moved with his family to Youngstown Ohio where he worked as a laborer until he died in 1979.