Leroy Taylor of Coffee County, Alabama

Michael A. Ports*

The following material is the first installment in an anticipated series of articles concerning the many descendants of Ward Taylor (ca1728-ca1793) of Edgefield District, South Carolina. Each article focuses on the family of one particular descendant, his or her spouse, and their children. For this installment, the focus is on the family of Leroy Taylor. Unfortunately, because the research is not complete, a comprehensive and consistent numbering system for the entire Taylor family is not possible at this time. Instead, a standard numbering system will be confined to each proposed article. Future articles will focus upon other branches of the Ward Taylor family tree having Alabama connections, as the research for those branches progresses. Of course, it is hoped that others will step forward with new information, corrections, or even suggestions for further research.

Origin in Edgefield District, South Carolina
1. Leroy Taylor, who was born circa 1795 in Edgefield District, South Carolina. Both Leroy and his younger brother Richard, who was born circa 1799, are thought to be sons of Leroy and Jemima Taylor of Edgefield District. That Richard and Leroy were brothers is certain. Both first appear as neighbors in Edgefield District, then later both appear as neighbors in Coffee County, Alabama. One of Richard’s grand daughters married one of Leroy’s sons and descendants of the couple remember that they were first cousins. This fact was recorded in family letters and handed down by oral tradition.

It is presumed that the young Leroy received at least some education in the local schools such as they were during that period. He evidently learned the art of farming. No record has been found to indicate that he ever pursued any other occupation. In November 1818, Leroy Taylor purchased a tract of land from John Holsonback. The 119-acre tract of land was located in Edgefield District along Middle Creek, a branch of the Savannah River. Rather than recording the purchase price, the deeds states, “for valuable consideration received.” Whether that euphemism indicates that John Holsonback gave that land to Leroy as a wedding gift is pure speculation. Based upon the ages of their children, Leroy and his wife Jane were married circa 1818. Thus, the unusual wording and the date of the deed support the presumption that Jane was the daughter of John Holsonback. Unfortunately, no record of their marriage has been found. The State of South Carolina did not see fit to require marriage licenses until much later. Further, no record has been found of Leroy and Jane Taylor selling or otherwise disposing of that tract.

In 1820, Leroy was living next door to his uncle, Moses Taylor. Leroy is listed as between the ages of 26 and 45. Also in his household were one male under 10 years of age and one female between 16 and 26. He owned no slaves. Of course, it is presumed that the young male was his eldest son John and the female was his wife Jane.

It is presumed that he continued to farm his land on Middle Creek. In 1830, Leroy was living near his relations Sarah, Moses, and Lewis Taylor. Listed in the household were:
Two, between 30 and 40
One, between 10 and 15
Two, between 5 and 10
Two, under 5
One, between 30 and 40

Perhaps a brother or brother-in-law was living with them. Later records demonstrate that Leroy and Jane had at least four sons born before 1830. The spacing of the births of their four known sons lends credence to the presumption that another son between 5 and 10 years old died young. Sometime before 1840, Leroy moved to the adjacent Abbeville District. Listed in their household were:
One, between 40 and 50
One, between 20 and 30
Three, between 15 and 20
Two, between 10 and 15
Two, under 5
One, between 40 and 50
One, between 5 and 10

Also in their household were two slaves. The age categories for Leroy and Jane are consistent with the two previous census records, as is that for their eldest son. But, at least one of the three boys listed between 15 and 20 probably was not their own son. Otherwise, the listings for the children are consistent with what is known from later records. No further record of the family has been found in Abbeville District records, except the following item. John Leroy Taylor, Benjamin Taylor, and William Holsonback signed the will of George Palmer as witnesses on January 2, 1847. John Leroy and Benjamin were the two eldest sons of Leroy and Jane Taylor. Perhaps William Holsonback was a cousin or uncle. Their witnessing of the Palmer will marks the last record of the family in South Carolina.

Moving to Coffee County
Leroy Taylor moved his family to Coffee County, Alabama before the end of 1847. That same year, he and his sons began the laborious process of acquiring land, then clearing and preparing it for crops and livestock, and constructing a cabin and other farm structures. Named for General John Coffee of Lauderdale, Coffee County was form in 1841 from Dale County. Many of the earliest county records have been lost due to both fire and flood. The first deed book is missing or destroyed. The earliest marriage records, all of the tax records, and many of the early probate records have not survived. Most of the early records that have survived were damaged severely by the flood of 1929 and now are difficult to read.

On December 8, 1847, Leroy Taylor purchased a grant from the federal government for 80.06 acres of land. He paid just $1.25 per acre in cash at the Land Office in Cahaba. The tract of land consisted of the NE¼ of the NW¼ and the NW¼ of the NE¼ of Section 32, Township 6, Range 19. That property is located just southwest of the small village of Pine Level on the waters of Patrick Creek. The economic times were favorable and his hard work paid dividends. In 1850, Leroy valued his real estate at $120, fifty percent more than the purchase price. Leroy is listed in the census schedules as 55 years old and born in South Carolina. No age is listed for his wife Jane, but her place of birth also is South Carolina. Living with them were their son Wright, twin daughters Matilda and Jane, son Louis, and daughter-in-law Malinda. Leroy owned one 53-year-old black female slave.

The census also indicates that Leroy had 50 acres of improved land and 74 acres of unimproved land. The extant records reveal only that he had purchased one 80-acre tract. Perhaps he leased 44 acres from someone else or farmed it on shares. If he had purchaed that 44 acres, then the record of the purchase was lost with the first deed book. In any event, the 124 acres were valued at $500 and his farm implements were valued at $50. His livestock, consisting of two horses, four cows, two oxen, seven cattle, ten sheep, and twenty-six swine, was valued at $325. That year his farm produced thirty bushels of wheat, five hundred bushels of corn, twenty bushels of oats, one bale of cotton, eight pounds of wool, five bushels of peas and beans, ten bushels of irish potatoes, one hundred bushels of sweet potatoes, $5 worth of orchard products, one hundred pounds of butter, $100 worth of home manufactured goods, and $97 worth of slaughtered products.

By 1850, four of his five living sons had married. Of course, his eldest son John had married in South Carolina. But Benjamin, Richard, and Wright had found brides after coming to Coffee County. Unfortunately, because the early marriage records are lost, their marriage dates and the maiden names of their brides are not known. On January 6, 1851, Leroy purchased another 80.06 acres of land adjacent to his first tract in Section No. 32. He paid the government $100.08. The land consisted of the NE¼ of the NE¼ and the NW¼ of the NW¼ of Section 32. Ever mindful of his desire to enlarge and improve his homestead, Leroy purchased a third grant for 40.02 acres of land. Again he traveled to the Government Land Office at Cahaba to pay $50.03 in cash. The tract consisted of the NW¼ of the SW¼ of Section No. 29 just to the north of his other lands.

On January 5, 1854, Leroy purchased his fourth and last land grant from the government. He paid the same cash price for the 40.02 acre tract consisting of the SW¼ of the SW¼ of Section No. 29. His five parcels, each a quarter of a quarter section of land, formed a large L-shaped tract slightly more than 200 acres in size. However, previously on January 1, 1853, Leroy sold one of his parcels to his neighbor Amos P. Neal. His neighbor paid $125 for the NW¼ of the NE¼ of Section 32, part of Leroy’s first land grant purchase. Jane Taylor released her dower rights. Both Leroy and Jane signed the deed with their marks. The sale reduced his total land holdings to 160acres.

The origin and terms of the debt were not recorded. However, John S. Hamilton was indebted to Leroy Taylor for $40, a not insignificant sum in those days. In order to ensure payment, Hamilton used his cotton gin to secure the debt and recorded the mortgage on January 7, 1859. Because the debt was satisfied on December 30, 1859, Leroy never was able to take full possession of the cotton gin. In 1860, Leroy valued his real estate at $480 and his personal property at $1,200. He reported that he was 65 years old and that his wife Jane was 63 years old. Both are listed as born in South Carolina. Their twin daughters Matilda and Jane and son Lewis still were living at home. Also in the household were David Manning aged 20 and George Prescott aged 5. Who these two were and their relationship to Leroy and Jane, if any, is not known. They may have been kin, employees, apprentices, or boarders.

The census indicates that Leroy owneed 60 acres of improved land and 100 acres of unimproved land valued at $480. That value represents a rather significant increase over the total purchase price of approximately $200. His livestock consisted of three horses, five milk cows, two working oxen, three cattle, fifteen sheep, and thirty swine together valued at $800. With farm implements worth $100, he produced four hundred bushels of corn, two bales of cotton, fifty bushels of peas and beans, seven hundred bushels of sweet potatoes, one hundred pounds of butter, home manufactured goods worth $50, slaughtered products worth $250.

Leroy Taylor was too old to see any military service during the Civil War. As a slave owner, his sympathies no doubt supported the Confederacy. He died July 4, 1868. On November 26th, his son R. I. Taylor filed an application with the County Court to administer the estate. Leroy left property valued at approximately $450. Jane, his widow, declined to administer the estate. Thus, R. M. Taylor and L. H. Taylor signed a surety bond for their elder brother. The administrator also filed a petition to sell certain personal property in order to pay the debts of the estate. The property consisted of a bay mare, yoke of oxen, cross cut saw and cradle, some farming implements, and one bale of cotton.

On January 6, 1869, R. I. Taylor filed a petition to resign as administrator. The County Court accepted his resignation and appointed Jeremiah Warren to complete the administration of the estate. Evidently R. I. Taylor, as administrator, changed his mind as he filed his request for a final settlement of the estate just twelve days later. The Court granted his request and appointed G. P. Roberts as guardian to represent the interests of the minor children of John L. Taylor, deceased. The Court required that the notice of the final settlement be posted at the court house and three other public places as no newspaper then was published in the county. On February 15, 1869, R. I. Taylor filed the final settlement with the Court. A total of just $222.80 was recived from the sale of the personal property. The debts and administration costs amounted to $65.15, leaving the estate with a balance of $157.75 for distribution to the heirs. Unfortunately, no distribution was made because additional debts overwhelmed the estate.

On September 28, 1870, Jeremiah Warren filed a statement with the Court that the estate was insolvent. The widow Jinsey Taylor filed her petition November 18, 1872, requesting the Court to authorize her to sell her late husband’s real estate excepting her homestead portion. On January 6, 1873, she filed her report requesting the Court approve her selection of her widow’s homestead portion. Unfortunately, no record has been found of her or her heirs selling any of the subject real estate.

The children of Leroy and Jane Taylor were:
+ 2. i. John Leroy, born circa 1819, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
+ 3. ii. Benjamin Washington, born August 25, 1820, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
+ 4. iii. unknown male, born circa 1824, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
+ 5. iv. Richard Ivey, born circa 1826, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
+ 6. v. Wright M., born circa 1829, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
+ 7. vi. Mary Ann L., born June 5, 1831, Edgefield District, South Carolina.
8. vii. Matilda, born circa 1836 probably in Abbeville District, South Carolina.
9. viii. Jane, born circa 1836 probably in Abbeville District, South Carolina. Matilda and Jane were twins. Both were living with their parents in 1850 and 1860. No further record of them has been found.
+ 10. ix. Lewis Harrison, born January 9, 1841, Abbeville District, South Carolina.

The widow Jane Taylor has not been located in the 1870 Census. However, in 1880 Ginney Taylor was living with her son-in-law Archable Rials over in adjacent Covington County. She is listed as 73 years old. Also South Carolina is listed as the birth place of her and her parents. On August 20, 1883, Jinsey Taylor widow of Leroy Taylor “for and in consideration of my daughter Mary A. L. Rials of said County and State taking care of me and for supporting me during my natural life...grant all of my property consisting of bed, bed steads, bed clothing, waring apparel, side board,, and money on hand, notes, and accounts for her exclusive use in fee simple.” She signed the deed with her mark. It is presumed that she died in Covington County sometime prior to June 17, 1896 on which date the deed was recorded. No further record of her death or burial has been found.

Unfortunately, not much is known about Jane. She was born circa 1797, probably in Edgefield District. She likely could neither read nor write. But she had nine children and reared eight of them into adulthood.

The foregoing presents all of the public and private records that the author has found concerning Leroy and Jane Taylor. The author is indebted to the many archivists, librarians, and staff of many public and private institutions for their patience, cooperation, and assistance in seeking the material for this article. Special mention should be given to the helpful staff at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Edgefield County Courthouse, Alabama Department of Archives and History, and the very kind ladies at the Coffee County Courthouse. As with all genealogical research efforts, the foregoing summary represents a work in progress. The author is hopeful that others will step forward with new information.

* 5427 Mission Road, Fairway, Kansas 66205; mports@kc.rr.com.

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