Monday, August 8, 2011

Slaves named in Sarah Porter's Will (1833) - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

I am continuing to process the documents acquired during my recent travels. This is a transcription of the will of Sarah Turner Conway Porter (10 Jun 1774 - 9 Jan 1834), my 4th great-grandmother. She was born in Fauquier County, VA and died in Jefferson County, TN.  I found a photocopy of the will at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library. It was part of their Ancestor File for my 4th great-grandfather and Sarah's first husband, Joseph Conway. The will includes bequests of slaves to her heirs.

Though no source information was included in the file regarding the filing date or location of the original will I have been told it was filed in Jefferson County, TN. There was a lawsuit resulting from the will that ended up being heard by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1840.

Sarah Porters Will

The last Will and Testament of Sarah Porter of Jefferson County, East Tennessee. Considering the uncertainty of this mortal life and being of Sound mind and memory ____ __ almighty God for the same, do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in ____ and Terms Following: That is to say, First. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Hogain, the Mahoggany sideboard and one dozen gilt Windsor chairs. Item I give and bequeath all the balance of my property both real and personal, that I die possessed of, ( Consisting of four negroes, Viz., Charlotte, Abraham, Ann and Warner household and kitchen furniture, farming utensils stock of all kind, Waggons gears & Horses and Lands ) to be divided into four equal fourth shares and shares alike. First to my daughter Sarah Hogain and her heirs I give on share. Secondly to my son William Turner Conway and his heirs I give one other share. Thirdly I give one other share to my son James Christopher Conway and his heirs Fourthly, I give to my grandson Joseph Porter Conway ___. the fourth and last shares. But in case my said Granson Joseph Porters Conway should depart this life before he becomes of lawful age or before he has a lawful heir of his own body then and in that case the above devised share to my grandson Joseph Porter Conway should decend to his full blooded sisters and brothers, and lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my esteemed friends Major William Conway and William C. Hogain Esq of Green County and Peters Beckers and Charles T. P Jarnagin of Jefferson County, East Tennessee my lawful executors of this my last Will and Testament ___ing and annulling all former Wills by me made Testifying and Confirming this and none other to be my last Will and Testament. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this the      day of June in the year of our Lord One Thousand eight hundred and thirty three.
                              Sarah Porter {Seal}    
   Signed Sealed published and declared by the above
   hand Sarah Porters to be her last Will and Testament
   in the presence of us who at her request and in her presence
   have subscribed our Names as Witnesses Hereunto
    Eleventh line from the bottom on the first page interlined before signed
John W. Haill
William Haill
Abraham {his X mark} Dawson

Notes - The lawsuit I referred to above states that Sarah Porter died in 1835. The information I've had handed down to me gives a date of 9 January 1834. I have not researched her death date and have no supporting documentation for the date I've used. 

The photocopied will shows no date for Sarah Porter's signature beyond June, 1833. 

Major William Conway was the nephew of Sarah's first husband, Joseph Conway. William Conway Hogain was the husband of Sarah's daughter as well as her first husband's grand-nephew. Charles Jarnigan was Sarah's grandson (through his mother Elizabeth Maree Conway, who died before her mother) and party to the subsequent lawsuit. There is no known relationship to Peter Beckers. 


  1. It is so humbling to see a list of people mixed in with list of furniture, wagons and gears. Coming to terms with the legacy of slavery....

  2. As usual I very much enjoyed your post, but it was the link to the lawsuit that I found fascinating. Maybe coming from a family of lawyers (even if I didn't know them) means I inherited a interest in the law. At any rate, very enjoyable.

  3. I tried to comment a few days ago, but as you know I couldn't. One of the things that really struck me about this post was not only thinking about the slaves as property, but wondering if since they were willed to four different people if the family was split up. I admire your willingess to discuss a topic that evokes so much emotion in all of us.

  4. I would love to know what Porter's owned my Porter's, so when I saw the surname...I became intrigued. My Porter's are from Louisiana, but I only find them in the 1900 Census.


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