It has been mentioned a few times since I’ve started this journey that my enslaved, third great-grandmother was a Morris. I never really confirmed nor denied this possibility, until now. I came across a family tree on Ancestry that linked Lida as a Morris by way of the 1860 Slave Schedule for Henry County, Georgia, and a death certificate. In my opinion, it was an inaccurate lead, so I left it alone.
I decided it was time for me to delve deeper into Lida’s limited paper trail and ask myself, “What facts do I have?”
Fact #1: On 5 October 1844, by order of the Inferior Court, the Estate of the decedent, Josiah Askew was appraised in Henry County, Georgia. The inventory lists one negro woman named Lida, valued at $250.00 (Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990, Henry County, Inventories and Appraisements, Volume C, page 80).
This confirms that Lida was the enslaved property of Josiah Askew at the time of his death in 1844.
Fact #2: 18 June 1860, the U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules document a 60-year-old, black female as the enslaved property of Josiah’s widow, Nancy Askew (1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, Henry County, Georgia, page 7).
Sixteen years after the death of Josiah Askew, Lida is still the enslaved property of the Askews.
Richard Morris is also a documented enslaver on the same page as Nancy Askew which leads me to believe that he lived in the nearby vicinity. Well, as nearby as possible when there’s about 100+ acres of property between one home and the next. Richard Morris was likely one of the wealthier enslavers as he had a total of 20 Black people in his possession, though about six of them were too young to work.
There is a 54-year-old black female listed as being enslaved by Richard Morris, and I think this may be where some researchers obtained the belief that Lida was a Morris. They are close in age and proximity, which can mislead researchers into making an incorrect connection.
Fact #3: On the first Tuesday in January 1864, George and Jack Askew were ordered by the Court of Ordinary to be sold. George was sold to H. J. Maddox for $3,100.00, and Jack was sold to John Bowden for $3,920.00.
This fact left me with more questions.
- Where was Lida? Was she deceased by this time?
- If Lida was indeed a Morris, was it possible that Lida was given or sold back to Richard Morris (assuming he was her original enslaver) after Nancy’s death in 1860?
- How, when, and where was Lida acquired?
To gain more insight and hopefully find an answer to question #3, I had to go back and explore all of Josiah Askew’s census records.
In 1840, Josiah Askew is reported to have five Black people enslaved. One was a female between the ages of 24 and 35, which I believe to be Lida (1840 U.S. Federal Census, Henry County, Georgia, page 13). According to this documentation, I estimate Lida’s year of birth would be between 1805 and 1816. The accuracy of this information is up in the air. It is unknown if the informant was a member of the household, and it was not uncommon for enslavers to not even know the correct ages of those they enslaved. However, I’m going to work with the scraps I’ve been given.
In 1830, Josiah Askew is reported to have two Black children enslaved. One male, and one female, both under the age of 10 (1830 U.S. Federal Census, Henry County, Georgia, page 16). Again, the accuracy is suspect, but it’s all I’ve got, and I’ve asked myself:
- Why does an enslaver only have two black children under the age of 10? How much help could they possibly have been to the family?
- Where is Lida?
- If Lida was a Morris, could she have been on the Morris property at the time of enumeration?
In 1820, Josiah Askew (living in Putnam County, Georgia) is reported to have three Black children enslaved. Two of them are females under the age of 14 (1820 U.S. Federal Census, Putnam County, Georgia, page 3). Estimating the birth years of the two enslaved females puts them at or after 1806.
- Could one of the enslaved females be Lida?
- Is it possible that Lida was acquired when she was a young child?
Since I’m working in reverse chronicle order here, I am going to hypothesize that in the late 1820s, Josiah Askew was traveling between Henry and Putnam Counties, taking two with him to Henry, and leaving Lida behind in Putnam to work on his property. If this was the case, then that would explain the “assumed” absence of Lida on the 1830 census. Reminder to readers: This is just a hypothesis, not a fact!
In 1810, Josiah Askew (living in the Farmers District of Edgecombe County, North Carolina) is reported to have enslaved six Black people (1810 U.S. Federal Census, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, page 2). Unfortunately, the 1810 census does not break the enslaved down by age, only by how many there are.
After reviewing all of the documents, I have come to my own personal conclusion that Lida was never a Morris. I believe Lida was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina between 1800 and 1806. I believe Lida’s parents and their children are the reported six slaves on the 1810 U.S. Federal Census. This would explain the dwindling number and young ages of the enslaved occurring between 1810 and 1830.
I believe the five enslaved reported on the 1840 census are Lida and her children. It is not an impossibility for Lida to have had more than three children with Josiah Askew. The total number of children Lida gave birth to will likely never be known. The span of 10 years can bring 10 lives and 10 deaths. I do know that three of them (George, Jack, and Ailsey) lived.