Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Pearson Family - Their Lives and Legacy Lives On

I wanted to share how elated I was when I discovered the document that freed my 5x Great-Grandfather on my father's side, Richard Pearson. After finding this record, it opened a Pandora's box of information about my family including several more surnames that I added to my tree. In this branch, I can go back 10 generations and 350 years to the mid 1600s. It also confimed that several of my ancestors were free way before Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Not only that, I found how recent Pearson family members are doing positive things for the community in South Carolina through the legacy of Levi Pearson (pictured above).

Richard "Dick" Pearson was born in 1784 Sumter District, Clarendon County, SC. Dick was the son of Black Jamey and an unverified wife. So far I have narrowed it down to either Phoebe/Thebe (also may be known as Judy). Black Jamey purchased his son Dick, age 15, from slave owner James Pearson for 68 pounds sterling on September 14, 1799 in Sumter. Today, that would be equivalent to $112.02 US dollars. Black Jamey freed his son Dick, age 28, on March 4, 1813 from slavery and bondage in Sumter. It was proved on March 19, 1813. Dick was employed as a planter in Sumter District and eventually purchased his own land there to farm on. The net value of the land was $750 in 1860. Richard was married to Eliza (maiden name unknown) b. 1785. Dick was head of a household of 12 in 1840 Clarendon, SC census. So far I know of 12 known offspring including my 4x Great-Grandmother Eliza Pearson-Jackson born in 1818. He and his family continued to be considered Free Persons of Color in the 1850 Sumter and 1860 Clarendon censuses.  

I found this on the Afrigeneas website:

Pearson-SC-1813 Deed of James Pearson of Sumter buying and freeing his son 1813 Sumter County SC deed book D, p. 160- 163 State of South Carolina Clarendon County Know all men by these presesnts that I James PEARSON of the State and County aforesaid, have bargained and sold any there presents do bargain and sell unto BLACK FREE JAMEY of the State and County aforesaid, a certain likely negro boy named DICK, aged fifteen years for and in consideration of the sum of sixty eight pounds sterling to me in hand paid before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt where of is herby acknowledged, which Negro boy DICK , I the said James Pearson do foreever warrant and defend from the just claims of all manner of Person or Persons unto the said FREE JAMEY his Heirs, Exors, or Administrators or Assigns forever. In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourteenth day of September on thousand seven hundred and ninety nine, and of the Independence of the United States of North America the twenty fourth. Signed Sealed adn Delivered JAMES PEARSON in the Presence of Issac Conner Robert Dingle Originally recorded Nov 25th 1799, now 19 March 1813 South Carolina Sumter District To all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting Know ye that I JAMES PEARSON otherwise called FREE JEMMY, of Clarendon county, in the District and State aforesdaid, for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar to me in hand paid at and before the sealing and delivery of these presents, and for divers other good causes and considerations me thereunto moving, have emancipated, manumitted, and set free, a certain negro man slave (being my son) named DICK about twenty eight years of age and from all manner of bondage and slavery, whatsoever. To have and to hold the said manumission and freedom unto the said DICK forever, in as ample a manner to all intents and purposes as any other slave heretofore set free and discharged from the bonds of slavery may or can have, hold or enjoy, so that I the said JAMES PEARSON my executors, administrators or assigns, nor any other person for me or in my name, or to my or their use, shall or may herafter, claim challenge, or demand in any manner of right, title, claim or demand of, in and to the said DICK, or any service from him the said DICK during his natural life. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourth day March in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and thirteen, and in the thrity seventh year of the Independence of the United States of America. Signed, sealed and delivered James (his X mark) Pearson in the presence of Samuel Richbourg South Carolina Sumter District Personally appeared Samuel Richbourg who being duly sworn desposeth that he saw James Pearson (by making his mark) sign the above instrument or writing, and deliver the same as his act and deed for the uses, intents, and purposes therein mentioned Sworn to before me this 4th March 1813 Claudius Richbourg J.Q. Samuel Richbourh South Carolina Sumter District We do hereby certify that upon the examination of oath of James Pearson the owner of a certain negro man slave named DICK, satisfactory proof had been given to us that the said DICK is not of bad character, and is capable of gaining a livelihood by honest means Claudius Richbourg J.Q. John H. Ragin Michl Wilder James Ragin Henry Bradham Nathl Richbourg recorded 19 March 1813

I also noted that one of Dick's daughters, Adrianna b. 1841 married Moses Dingle Jr. b. 1841. The Dingle family were freed Blacks formerly the property of Robert Dingle. He was a witness in the sale of Dick to his father Free Jemmy back in 1799. After 13 years, the father emancipated his son. Free Jemmy and his offspring take the surname Pearson. In the mid 1800s, A community of freed Blacks grew in the Sumter District that included the Pearson, Jackson, Canty, Montgomery, Dingle, Carter and Durant families.

Now lets talk about my 6x Great-Grandfather Black Jamey (Free Jemmy) aka James Pearson

James Pearson, born 1759 Bertie County, NC was the son of Mary James and Jim (see Free African Americans website). James was bound to John Pearson in the 1761 Bertie court. In the October 6, 1783 will of William Pearson, Camden District, SumterCo., SC, he frees Jem (aka James “Black Jamey” Pearson) from North Carolina and gives him 20 acres of land. Two Negro wenches with children remained slaves. Thebe (Phebe) and her two children Doll and Moses along with Moriah and her three children Prince, Manser and Lucretia became slaves of widow Darcas (Dorcas) Pearson-Coe, sister of William Pearson. David Shorter, esq., was named legal guardian of Jamey. Jamey then set out to free his family. On January 1, 1790 Sumter, SC Black Jamey (Jim or Free Jemmy) purchased a Negro woman named Judy and her child Phoebe. Judy might be the same person as Phebe/Thebe. Another child was Albert Pearson b. 1808 who lived with his brother Richard in 1850. In 1800, David also helped Jamey purchase 200 acres of land in Clarendon, Sumter Co., SC from William and Mary Dreggars. The Dreggars were also free persons of color that also went by Driggers. 

The following was taken from

My 7x Great-Grandparents:
Mary “Poll” James, born 1741 Norfolk County, VA was the daughter of Andrew and Ann James. She was taxable in Andrew James' Bertie County, North Carolina household in the 1763 list of John Hill. In the undated (1772?) list of Humphrey Hardy she was a "Mulatto" head of her own household, taxed on herself and "husband Jim." This Jim might have been James Brumagen Jr. Mary and Jim’s children were:
·         Andrew James, born about 1756, "son of Poll James (and Base Born)," ordered bound to John Pearson by the July 1761 Bertie court [Haun, Bertie County Court Minutes, II:538]. He was taxable in Ephraim Weston's household in the 1768 list of Humphrey Nichols as "Andrew J____ free." He married Janey Drury on February 24, 1784 Bertie County bond with his uncle Benjamin James as  bondsman. Andrew was head of a Bertie County household of 4 "other free" in 1790 [NC:13], 6 in 1800 [NC:56], and 6 in 1810 [NC:166].
·         James Pearson, born 1759 Bertie County, NC. This is Black Jamey.
·         Dorcas James, born about 1760, "3 year old orphan of Mary," was bound to Arthur Williams (William Pearson married Elizabeth Williams) in 1763. The February 1777 Bertie court ordered her bound to Mrs. Pearson, she having had a child while in servitude [Haun, Bertie County Court Minutes, IV:241]. That child was Sarah/ Sall, born about 1777, bound to Sarah Clark on August 21, 1786 [Haun, Bertie County Court Minutes, V:598].
·         Elizabeth/ Bett James, born about 1762, "Mulattoe ... of Mary," ordered bound to John Pearson by the May 1764 Bertie court. She was fifteen years old when she was bound to Mrs. Pearson in August 1777 [Haun, Bertie County Court Minutes, III:668; IV:241].

More of my ancestors were on
My 8x Great-Grandparents were Andrew James b. 1710 and Ann Punch-James b. 1715. Andrew was born in Pitt County, NC.
My 9x Great-Grandfather was Absolom James b. 1680 from Bertie County, NC. Absolom owned land in Pitt Co. NC. His wife’s name is unknown.
My 10x Great-Grandparents were Andrew James b. 1650 and Elizabeth Langston b. 1660. Both Andrew and Elizabeth received their freedom in the wills of their former masters. Both were probably born in Africa but no records as of where have been found.

Thanks to Paul Heinegg's website I was able to get more information on the James, Punch, Brumagen and Langston branches of my family.

While doing my Pearson research I stumbled upon a scholarship foundation from the Pearson family of Clarendon County. The Levi Pearson Scholarship Fund is committed to help shape and mold Clarendon County youths into sound citizens, people of good moral character and high integrity by means of higher education. The pictures in this blog include Levi Pearson (1892-1970) and his sister Lucille Pearson, who were instrumental in the Pearson vs Clarendon County 1947 case to provide bus transportation to Black students in the county. We even have a highway interchange named after the Pearsons. View photos by clicking here.

It makes me proud to be a part of a family that worked hard to ensure that their family was free years before emancipation and continues to be a positive force in the community. 


  1. Wayne this is great! I am so happy for you! I also have found Paul Heinegg a useful source for African American research.

  2. Thank you so much for this very valuable information!!!
    Dorothy Guest Richardson

  3. Great blog! So many names that you mention (& looking at Dorothy Guest Ruchardson) that are in my Clarendon Adger tree & showing up in my DNA matches! New names to search!!! =)

  4. That was fantastic WORK! now you got me worried about Black Jamey and Phoebe! Robin Foster tweeted this. And I had to RT! I'll be coming back! You better check the Punch-Bunch from Obama lines out too! One of the best pieces.

    1. I have some really old Punch/Bunch information.I havent gone further up in the generations. I normally stop when my branch marries into another branch. I had thought i was related to Ralph Bunche the Civil Rights Icon but I havent really followed up on that yet.

  5. You have been so blessed to find out all this information! Way to go!!

  6. Hello I have been doing my family reach search for some time we are from greenville,sc and moved to ca. Does anyone know of Moses Alferd , eskew howard Thelma thanks

    1. sorry these names do not ring a bell.

  7. I have other names but do not remember them off hand