Miles Bembry II’s Plantation

William Bembry I, son of Miles I, died deeply in debt. His estate file (once I found bits and pieces of it in three different places) contains almost 200 pages, mostly documents regarding payment of debts. Only a few enslaved people are listed on the inventory. They are:

1 Negro Woman Crean (?) and her Children 6 years old $1,000

“ “ “ Sale (Sally?) and her three children “

Guilford and Rose $1,750 *

1 Negro woman Maria and Child Viny $950.00

1 Negro Woman Penny $800.00

1 Negro Woman Barbery $800.00

1 Negro Man Hampton $800.00

1 Negro Man Wright $1,000.00

1 Negro Man Nelson $1,000

*Guilford must have been purchased by Kenneth, who turned around and sold him a few months later. However, that may have been a good thing for Guilford, since it allowed him to stay in Pulaski County. (He may have even asked to be sold in order to stay near family.)

The names Rose and Hampton also appear in later documents: more on that in a later post.

Miles Bembry II was administrator of William’s estate. According to Biographies of Pulaski County, which is admittedly a flawed source,

Miles showed his pluck and determination when, at age fifteen, he assumed control of the remains of his father’s estate, most of which had been lost by mismanagement, and, with his mother’s help, reared the younger children, winning by this sacrifice the high respect of all. He accumulated a valuable estate, cleared and developed thousands of acres of land, built homes, operated his own sawmill, grist mill, cotton gins, first with water power, later with steam, first of this type in the county. 

What this doesn’t mention is that Miles II, from 1839 to 1860, turned his father’s farm into a substantial cotton plantation–on the backs of slaves. From the 15 or so people listed above (presuming not all of them were sold), the plantation grew to 45 slaves on the 1850 slave schedule, and a whopping 91 in 1860. That is by far the highest count of any slave holder I have researched; three times as many people as his uncle Kenneth held in Florida.

While Miles II is not my ancestor, it is still odd and unsettling to think that someone in the family actually owned a “Tara.”

Not Miles’ plantation, but it might have looked like this.


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