I assure you: it is infinitely easier to research the history of a man, once you know his name, than it is before you've learned his identity. Now that I have found a possible identity for the man of my family's story—the one who supposedly wrote his life story and gave a copy of the book to my grandmother's family—I can begin testing that name as my first hypothesis.
So, whether King Stockton becomes the man who, though enslaved on my third great-grandfather's property became somehow amicably connected to our family after the Civil War as well, I can't yet say. That will become the quest of our research adventure. And in order to learn whether that is a correct conjecture, in the process, we'll learn who King Stockton is, no matter whether he is the answer to my research quandary. Hopefully, at the end, we'll discover where his mysterious book may be found—if at all, so many years after his lifetime.
So, while I and my undaunted companion—remember, he's the one who carries the bags—drive up north to Suwannee County today, let's explore what can be found about the man once called King on the McClellan plantation near Wellborn, Florida.
When I first began perusing all the names of African American families in the neighborhood of my second great-grandfather in the 1870 census, I did remember seeing the name King—in fact, more than once. Going back now to double check my memory, there was, indeed, one man named King who had the surname Stockton. He was a man born in 1830, if his age given in the 1870 census was correct.
Along with King Stockton was his thirty-eight year old wife, Lovenia, and likely children Manda, King, Catherine, Ella, Robert and Sweeter. An earlier July 4, 1866, document verified their marriage in Suwannee County.
On the same page in that 1870 census could also be found the households of two other Stockton households: that of Albert and Francis. They likely were relatives.
The search was on for more information on this King Stockton. I'm still very far from verifying that King Stockton was the man of my family's legend. No matter; I still wanted to explore everything I could find about the man.
There wasn't much to find. A newspaper article in the local newspaper, the Suwannee Democrat, in the terminology of that era mentioned on September 17, 1909, that
Uncle King Stockton, age 80, an old time darkie, was in town Saturday. Uncle King works every day and makes a crop every year which is remarkable for one of his age.
While it sounded promising for my quest—the mystery man in my family's story would come into town to visit periodically—a visit every now and then wouldn't be that extraordinary for anyone who had moved away from his hometown.
Thanks to Google Books, though, I did locate another indicator that I might be on the right track. King Stockton was mentioned by name in the proceedings of the 1878 Florida Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a "traveling deacon."
While I was able to find a few mentions of that name—thankfully, mentioned in connection with Wellborn and in relation to church activities, two clues consistent with the story I remembered from my childhood—that still wasn't enough to confirm this was the name which would lead me to the life story I was seeking.
Thankfully, I had a few more search options.
Above: The excerpt from the 1870 census courtesy Ancestry.com; letter certifying the marriage of King Stockton and Lovenia courtesy FamilySearch.org.