There was one peculiar clause inserted into the last will and testament of Job Tison of Glynn County, Georgia. After designating what was to become of all his property—as well as all his slaves, since he was a plantation owner—specifying how it should be divided up among his widow and their seven remaining children, plus the two grandchildren from his by-then deceased daughter, Job Tison added one final note. Based on the research experiences which have occurred since I began delving into my southern roots earlier this year at SLIG, seeing a note like this could only serve to make me wonder.
You see, the one slave—Hester—who went with Job's daughter Sidney as she, a newlywed as of September 25 of 1830, followed her husband George Edmund "McClelland" to a new residence in Wellborn, Florida, was apparently of a mixed race heritage. So was Hester's son, King Stockton, according to the 1870 census. Where did the "white" come from?
That very question was what propelled me, earlier this year, to seek out stories of similar situations, starting with what is perhaps the best-known of such histories, the saga of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. I am still in pursuit of the answer to my question about how widespread such tacit agreements actually were in the antebellum south. To be specific, I am wondering just whom Hester might have fingered as her father.
And here in Job Tison's will is a line which causes me to wonder once again. Of course, in this case, both Hester and Mary Ann, whoever she was, were by then adults, and there is no way to determine whether the two women were related to each other. But it was plain to see from the McClellan family's treatment of Hester that she held a privileged position within the ranks of that household's slaves. And now we see it was likewise, in the Tison family, for Mary Ann.
The wording in Job Tison's will put it thus:
My Negro Woman named Mary Ann and her future increase I wish left undivided until my youngest Child shall become of age.
Job's youngest child was Theresa Elizabeth Tison, born in September of 1820, less than four years before her father died. Waiting until Theresa became "of age" meant Mary Ann "and her increase" would remain as a family unit until at least late in the year 1841.
Indeed, the Tison family seemed intent upon keeping their father's will as the distributions were made from Job's estate. When oldest son Aaron received his portion in October, 1828, he signed a statement indicating he had received from his mother, executrix of the estate,
the sum of ten dollars in full of all demands against [the] estate of Job Tison Excepting of Mary Ann and her increase from eighteen hundred and twenty four.
Again, when his sister Melinda received her "full share" on May 25, 1830, her note likewise included that same wording "excepting" the required stipulation of "Mary an [sic] and her increase from the year of eighteen hundred and twenty four."
And so it went. Further on in the probate file for Job Tison came another such note, this time from the next daughter, Susan—by this point, a widow with an infant son of her own—dated October 17, 1830. Her receipt acknowledging her "full proportion" also included those same obligatory words about "Mary Ann and her increase."
As I work my way through each document filed in Job Tison's probate file, I'll likely uncover similarly-worded receipts from the rest of his children. And yet, as careful as each heir was to note the specific stipulation for Mary Ann and her "increase," not a word of explanation is provided for this unusual directive.
Or, to restate that more realistically, just as in Jefferson's case with Sally Hemings, there probably was a word of explanation going around among his neighbors and associates. It's just that no one was likely to write down such local gossip for the benefit of outsiders six generations later.