WHO DID THEY THINK THEY WERE? PELINA (CHIPMAN) DAVIS OF HAYWOOD CO., TN / WILLIAM C. CHIPMAN OF ST. FRANCIS CO., AR / A CASE STUDY IN BI-RACIAL ANCESTRY: SAMUEL CHIPMAN OF LAUDERDALE CO., TN

(Text of a query I posted on the Ancestry.com Chipman Message Board.  Queries posted on Ancestry.com also appear on rootsweb.com.  Queries remain online indefinitely.  Click on image to enlarge it.)

This is a moment in time for the family of George Chipman from the 1860 Lauderdale Co., TN Federal Census.  George Chipman was the brother of my 3rd great-grandfather William Chipman.  Mary Ann is Mary Ann (Jones) Chipman, daughter of Allen Jones: George Chipman’s first wife, who he married on 18 Dec 1852 in Madison Co., TN. The 6th line is Mary Eudora Chipman.  The “5/12” means she was 5 months old at the time. Frederick Chipman at the bottom is George Chipman’s brother. Frederick was hiding out from his wife Mary Ann (Prendergrast) Chipman, who he deserted in 1857 in Madison Co., TN.

Now we begin at the beginning of the main subject of this piece:  Samuel Chipman.  The record below is of the 1870 Lauderdale Co., TN Federal Census, household of George Chipman.    Betty (Witt) Chipman was George Chipman’s second wife, who he married in Lauderdale Co. on 24 Aug 1862. 

Of Edward Chipman there is no further record.  “Edward” was actually the census taker’s botched-up entry for Mary Eudora Chipman, who was the same age as shown for “Edward.”  I’ve seen that sort of error occasionally.  Mary Eudora Chipman (b. 9 Sep 1861, d. 4 Jan 1923) was George Chipman’s legitimate daughter, as George’s will makes clear.

Here we find Samuel Chipman, age 6, white, and attending school.  “Anna” was George Chipman’s daughter Anna Paulina Chipman, whose middle name was after George’s sister Paulina. Anna Paulina Chipman was only 2 years older than Samuel.  It appears Samuel Chipman named his own daughter Anna after her.  “Chipman” is the surname the family used for Samuel.  Using that surname wasn’t a requirement:  in censuses from 1850 on you will often find people of different surnames within the same household.

The next record is the 1880 Lauderdale Co., TN Federal Census. George Chipman had died in 1878. Samuel Chipman, age 15, was now “M”, for “Mulatto,” illiterate, and employed as a servant in the household of George Chipman’s daughter, Mary Eudora, who married Renson M. Byrne on 17 Dec 1878.  It was her first marriage:  she married 2nd Millard Fillmore Gray. Also in the household is George Chipman’s widow “E Chipman,” for Elizabeth; she was called “Betty” in the 1870 census. When you see a dash to the left of someone’s name, it means they have the same surname as the person above. Elizabeth wasn’t the mother of any of George’s children. Here she’s shown as “mother in law” of Mary.  At the time, “mother in law” didn’t necessarily mean Elizabeth was Mary’s mother. In this context it meant she was Mary’s step-mother.

One interpretation of Samuel’s change in classification is that while George Chipman was alive, he wanted Samuel treated like everyone else.  That he sent Samuel to school supports that interpretation—that George wasn’t concealing Samuel.  And there were others in the area that knew his family well.  It’s also possible that George Chipman was not the informant in 1870. One thing is certain: the Samuel in 1870 and the Samuel in 1880 are the same person.  In my more than 25 years of genealogical research, this situation is unique

Below is a detail of the 1900 Dyer Co., TN Federal Census for Bettie “Chitman,” widow of Samuel Chipman, and her family.  “Chitman” is a common spelling variant of “Chipman.” The census was taken on 5 Jun 1900.  Bettie was now a widow who had yet to remarry. The census taker had originally indicated that Lula’s surname was “Chitman,” but wrote “Reed” over the dash.  Dyer Co. is the next adjacent county to the north of Lauderdale Co.  At this point we’ve jumped 20 years into the future. As noted in the query, Samuel Chipman had married Betty Nixon on 5 May 1888 in Lauderdale Co.  We don’t know exactly when Samuel Chipman died, the circumstances of his death, or where he was buried.  Possibly he was carried off by one of the communicable diseases chugging up and down the Mississippi River. Many families, white and African-American, buried their dead with just a field stone to mark the grave.

The 1890 census was almost totally lost.  However, we do know that Samuel Chipman was living in Lauderdale Co., TN, District 2, when he appears in a list of voters as “Sam Chipman,” aged 21 and over as of 1 Jan 1891: 

Here he gives his age as 25 and his race as “Colored.”  This establishes that Samuel Chipman was living when his daughter Anna was born in May 1889, and proves Anna’s birthplace was Lauderdale Co.

On 28 Aug 1900, Betty Chipman married J.B. Barlow in Dyer Co.

[ I located seven marriages for Chipmans in Dyer Co., TN in the period after 1900, but the parties were all white:

Bob Chitman to Laura Carnell, 8 Nov 1903

Sam Chipman to Ettie Summers, 28 Nov 1909

Ben Chipman to Susie Walpole, 7 Feb 1914

Linnie V. Chipman to Johnnie Smith, 10 Nov 1934

Atha Chipman to Milded Goodson, 21 Dec 1934

Bob Chipman to Mamie Summers, 5 Apr 1939

Arlene Chipman to Gordon Jones, 1 Sep 1939 ]

Evidently Betty (Nixon) (Chipman) Barlow’s family left Dyer Co. in the early 1900s. Anna took the surname Barlow and married Buster Johnson, with whom she was living in Lauderdale Co. in 1910.  Anna was only 16 when her first child was born.  If we accept Anna’s birthdate in the 1900 census as May 1889, then Anna was 31 in 1920, so she couldn’t be 27 in 1910.  She was employed as a laundress.

In 1920 Anna was still in Lauderdale Co., divorced, and using Barlow as her maiden name. She was living on Sinclair St. in the county seat of Ripley, working as a cook in a private home.  The names of two sons vary from the 1910 Census, but Henry S. Johnson is the same, and there is no doubt that this “Anna Barlow” was Samuel Chipman’s daughter. One persistent problem in Southern genealogy is that people often were known by their middle name, so that sometimes in consecutive censuses they will have different given names. “Sidney” in 1910 is “Albert” in 1920, and George in 1910 is “J.W.” in 1920.  The “J.” in 1920 is probably an error, and this son’s name might actually be “George Washington Johnson.”

ScreenHunter_04 May. 30 07.47

In 1930, Anna was still in Lauderdale Co., using the surname Barlow, divorced, and living as a housekeeper in the home of Dexie Taylor.  Anna was literate.  Instead of using “B” as indicator of race for African-Americans, the census taker used “Neg.”  This census adds a crucial piece of information: age at first marriage, which Anna reported as “16.” Once again, her own age is off:  she was actually 41, not 45.  The nature of Anna’s relationship to Dexie Taylor is hazy.  He reported himself as “married,” but there is no wife in his household.  None of Anna’s sons by Buster Johnson were living with her.  She had no more children. 

We’ve taken this pedigree from Reconstruction into the era of the Great Depression.  Samuel Chipman probably has living descendants.  Any of Anna’s three sons could be someone’s grandfather or great-grandfather. This is a challenging pedigree—rendered difficult because “Johnson” is a common surname—but I think it can be solved. 

There’s a historical backdrop to the story of Samuel Chipman, who was b. ca. 1864.  By the end of 1862, the Union had largely pacified TN.  However, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in states that were in rebellion which didn’t affect TN. Middle and West TN had large slave populations who worked cotton plantations, and Memphis, TN was a center of the slave trade.  It was not until 24 Oct 1864 that then Gov. Andrew Johnson abolished slavery in TN.  Therefore, when Samuel Chipman was conceived, his mother was a slave.

The 1860 Lauderdale Co., TN Slave Schedule, District 2, p. 14, lists George Chipman as the owner of 16 slaves, of whom 7 were female, ages:  37, 22, 13, 11, 6, 2, 1.  The female aged 13 was listed as a “Mulatto,” but was also enumerated as “Fugitive” (meaning she had fled and was not returned), so we can’t assume she was Samuel’s mother.  The term “Mulatto” is offensive.  I’m using it because it appears in the records of the time.  The Civil War began on 12 Apr 1861, so the 1860 Slave Schedules are the last Federal enumeration of slaves.

Using the Sam Alsup transcription I did an impromptu study of all 10 districts of the 1860 Lauderdale Co., TN Slave Schedule and found a remarkable correlation: of the 190 slaves who are listed as “Fugitive,” all of them were “Mulatto.”  There can be only one conclusion: “Mulatto” slaves more easily escaped detection as slaves.  Although this data represents only one county in one census year, it seems to refute the notion that slaves with some white ancestry routinely received better treatment.

Statistics cited by Peter Kolchin show that in 1860 slaves were 24.8% of the population of TN, but free blacks were only 2.6% of the total black population, down from 2.9% in 1840.  Thus it appears that the possibility of freedom in TN had declined as the nation headed toward Civil War.

The most logical theory of Samuel Chipman’s paternity is that he was the son of George Chipman by one of George’s slaves, a slave who may not have been present in 1860.  If you review the 1870 and 1880 census entries above, you can understand why: 6 year olds don’t choose their own surname.  The family gave Samuel the surname of “Chipman,” and that’s how he continued to be known.  It’s not 100% proof of paternity, but a descendant of George told me he believed Samuel was George’s son.  George’s relationship with Samuel’s mother would have occurred after the death of Mary Ann (Jones) Chipman, who was the mother of his acknowledged children. George’s second wife, Elizabeth (Witt) Chipman, may have been unhappy about the liaison, but perhaps was philosophical and looked the other way.  She left Samuel a small bequest in her will.

The evidence for Samuel Chipman’s paternity is compelling.

The births of Pelina (Chipman) Davis and William C. Chipman transpired before George’s marriage to Mary Ann Jones on 18 Dec 1852. I think both were George’s children.  It’s quite an odyssey.  

Roots author Alex Haley had a connection to Lauderdale Co.:  his mother Bertha George Palmer was from Henning.

If anyone knows more of these families, contact me here at the Blog.

Revised Jan. 3, 2016.

~ by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman on December 24, 2015.