Tag Archives: William A Graham’s plantation

Betsy & John Graham – Autauga County Alabama

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I will be writing about people who were born into slavery and were later free.  In a few cases I will be writing about the descendants of enslaved people who were born free.  They are not related to me.

List of enslaved from the estate file of William A. Graham 1860. Click to enlarge.
List of enslaved from the estate file of William A. Graham 1860. Click to enlarge.

Betsey Graham was born into slavery about 1848 in Alabama. In 1860 she is found on the list, shown above, of Judge William Archibald Graham’s slaves. Her husband John is also listed.  The list appears to be arranged in family groups with parents and their children in descending age together.  Betsey’s parents were Manuel and Elsie Graham. John’s mother was Rose.

Judge Graham’s plantation in Autauga County Alabama was a far cry from James Hardage Lane’s farm in Montgomery County Kentucky that I described yesterday.  Judge Graham’s plantation consisted of 300 improved and 700 unimproved acres.  There were 4 horses; 14 asses and mules; 300 swine; 10 milch cows; 4 working oxen and 56 other cattle.  $800 worth of stock was slaughtered. In 1850 the livestock was valued at $4,400. $1,000 in 1850 money equals about $30,000 of buying power today.

Crops included 30 bushels of rye; 4,000 bushels of Indian corn; 50 bushels of oats; 100 bales of ginned cotton weighing 400 lbs per bale; 400 bushels of peas and beans; 10 bushels of Irish potatoes; 400 bushels of sweet potatoes; 300 lbs of butter and 30 tons of hay.

In the 1860 census Judge Graham was a planter with $29,000 worth of real estate and $64,000 worth of personal property (which included slaves).  His 39 slaves lived in six cabins. When his estate was being valued there were 56 slaves on the plantation.  He was married once and had nine children.  All of them were literate.

The first census taken in Alabama after the Civil War was in 1866.  John and Betsy were married with two children under the age of 10. In 1870 they had three children. Martha was the oldest at eight, Alice was five and Richard was three. John worked as a farm laborer and Betsy worked as a domestic servant. They were both illiterate and remained so for the rest of their lives.

In 1880 John was working as a laborer. Betsy was working as a servant. Richard, was the only child still at home. He was 16, attending school and working as a laborer.  He was literate.  I realize that Richard was three only ten years before in the 1870 census.That’s the way it goes.  You have to take the ages in the census with a grain of salt. He was probably 13. His parents had gained 20 years between 1870 and 1880.

In 1900 John and Betsy were no longer living together. John, 55 lived with his mother, Rose in a rented house. He worked as a laborer. Betsy, also listed as 55 and lived with Eliza Graham Fay, one of Judge Graham’s daughters.  Betsy was the cook. She had given birth to three children and two were living. John and Betsy were listed as widow and widower.  It was not uncommon for separated couples to claim their spouse was dead.

In 1900, of the three children, I could only find the daughter Alice who had married to Brag Green, a laborer. They had been married ten years and had two children ages nine and seven who were both attending school.  They rented their house.

In 1910 John was living alone and working as a laborer on a truck farm. John listed himself as single. Betsy was living with the Booth family as cook.  I did not look to see if the Booth family was related to the Grahams. Betsy listed herself as a widow. Daughter Alice was a widow working as a nurse for a private family and living with her 17 year old daughter, Bula in a rented house. Bula was literate, Alice was not.

The last time I found any of the family was in the 1930 census. Betsy 81, was living with her daughter Alice 62 in a rented house worth $1. Neither was working.  The only death record I found was for Alice.  She died in 1932 in Hayneville, Lowndes County Alabama. She had been working as a cook for a private family and was a widow.


I found the information for this post in various census records; death records; marriage records on Ancestry.com and Family Search.  The Estate file of William Archibald Graham was on Family Search.