Slaves Held by Thomas Bembry

Thomas Bembry was my 4th great-grandfather, and an unlucky man. The slaves that he held were also unlucky, as they were all eventually sold off to settle debts.

The first mention of slaves held by Thomas Bembry that I have found occurs in 1821, when his wife, Patsy Dicken, inherited slaves from her grandfather, Nathan Harris of Edgecombe County, North Carolina. A probate court record dated 26 February 1821 mentions the following people.

Isaac, Jerry, Allen, Norfleet + Edie valued to fourteen hundred and fifty dollars, for which lott of Negroes the sd Thomas Bembry must pay forty three dollars + twenty five cents, being the sum over the averidge value of sd Negroes.

In August of 1829, court records show approval of two “bills of sale” from Thomas to Kenneth Bembry, his brother. Since Kenneth was always buying and selling slaves, and since Thomas later sold several named slaves to Kenneth, it is likely that these earlier transactions were also for slaves. However, I have been unable to locate the original documents which would name the individuals.

Next, Thomas is found on the 1830 census in Edgecombe County with the following slaves listed.

1 M 10-24
1 M 25-35
1 F 10-25
1 F 24-54
1 F 55-99

Around 1831, Thomas Bembry departed Edgecombe County for Pulaski County, Georgia. Whatever slaves he held at that time presumably went with him.

In 1839, Thomas became administrator of his father, Miles Bembry’s, estate. This led to a series of lawsuits and his eventual financial ruin.

On 18 July 1840, Thomas is found in Captain Baldwin’s district of Pulaski County, GA with the following slaves. Some of them are probably individuals from the 1830 census: the woman aged 24-54 may be the woman aged 36-54 in 1840, and so on.

1 M -10
2 M 10-23
2 M 36-54
2 F 10-23
1 F 36-54

Later that same month, in a deed dated 29, July 1840, Thomas sold all but one of these people to his brother, Kenneth, who lived in Tallahassee, FL, for $3,500. Note that all the ages below match up except for the woman aged 36-54 who was apparently not sold.

Frank a man about the age of forty one Years old. Toney a man about thirty six years old. Brister a man about twenty. Demcy (Dempsey) a boy about nineteen years old. Charlotte a Woman about Twenty two years old. Emaline a Girl about fourteen Years old. Alfred a boy about Seven years old.

It seems that at least some of these people stayed in Georgia, because three of them were auctioned off by Thomas in 1843. They may have been collateral for a loan that was either repaid or written off by Kenneth, who was much wealthier than his brother.

Will be sold on the first Tuesday in the March next, before the Court House door, in the town of Hawkinsville, Pulaski county, within the legal hours of sale, the following property, to wit:

Also, Frank, 45 years old, Brister, 29 years old, and Dempsey, 18 years old; levied on as the property of Thomas Bembry to satisfy sundry fi fas from Pulaski Superior Court.

The unfortunate Frank was auctioned off yet again on 14 March 1843. it is unclear whether he didn’t sell the first time, or if Thomas managed to buy him back in the interim.

Will be sold on the first Tuesday in April next before the Court House door, in the town of Hawkinsville, Pulaski County, within the legal hours of sale, the following property, to wit:

A negro man named Frank, 40 years old, levied on as the property of Thomas Bembry, to satisfy sundry fi fas from Pulaski Superior Court, Thos. M. Gatlin vs. Thomas Bembry, Ker Boyce vs. Thomas Bembry, property pointed out by R.F. Brantley.

By 1844, Thomas’ land and the remainder of his personal property was auctioned off to pay debts. He pulled up stakes and moved to Gadsden County, FL and is not found on the 1850 slave schedule there.

I’ve searched for the people listed above on the 1870 census, and may have found one of them. A Dempsey Bembry, born 1822 in North Carolina is found on the 1870 census in Scotland Neck, NC, where Miles Bembry lived before moving to Georgia. He matches closely with the Dempsey aged 19 who was sold in 1840. It seems likely that Dempsey was passed from Miles to Thomas, moved to Georgia with one of them, and decided to return to Scotland Neck after emancipation.

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