Two days after Christmas , Ossian ran or was stolen away. Ossian, a slave, was valuable property. Too valuable for his owner Samuel Devereux to give up easily. Determined to recoup Ossian, Devereux advertised and posted a reward.
Samuel Devereux and his wife Anna owned a 700 acre plantation in a community which to this day bears their surname. Devereux , a small, rural village lay about 12 miles from the town of Sparta,Georgia. Some say Samuel Devereux was born in Chiswell's lead mines of Wythe County Virginia on December 7, 1773. Records indicate he married Anna Lloyd January 10, 1820 in Hancock County. That same year he discovered a wild grapevine growing near Sparta. From that vine, he and slaves held by him produced a vineyard. Wine made from the grapes sold as far away as New Orleans.
Samuel Devereux died on October 23, 1840. Seventy seven slaves were named and valued on the inventory and appraisal of his property.
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Devereux left a will signed April 21, 1834. He bequeath to his wife Anna, Henry and his wife Hester, her children Major, Squire, and Maria; Scott, his wife Hannah and her child Wilkin; Rachel and her son George. These slaves he gave to Anna in lieu of her dower slaves. The term dower slaves refers to slaves given as a wedding gift. To his son Samuel he willed Daniel. To his son Crawford he gave Stephen. He willed Ben to his son William Woods. He willed Francis to his daughter Georgia Ann. He bequeath Sarah to his daughter Lobelia Ann. The remainder of his property was to be kept together until the children became of age. At such time the children would receive an equal share of the remaining property.
On December 29, 1845, H.L. Holcombe received from Devereux’s estate, in right of his wife Lobelia Ann, : Ossian, Burwell, Othello, Malinda, Alfred, Mary Ann, Roland, Caroline, Judah, Rosettta, Flora, Hannah and infant child, Angeline, Daniel and girl Sarah ( a special legacy). Apparently, Ossian's attempted escape failed.
When slavery officially ended in 1865, Anna was still alive. The freedmen, former slaves, had heard rumors that they would receive forty acres and a mule from the government. They were jubilant. However their jubilation soon turned to disappointment. The legislation that would have made their dream of land ownership a reality never passed. Farming was what the former slaves knew how to do, but now there was no land of their own to farm.
Hence, many of them were forced into a system called sharecropping and signed a contract. Sharecropping meant working on someone else's farm for a portion of the crops. The farm owner advanced the sharecropper money at the beginning of the year. After the crop was made, the sharecropper had to repay the farm owner using his portion of the crops. A sharecropper paid for his own upkeep; expenses incurred in producing the crop; for feeding and maintaining the livestock; and for the blacksmith's supplies. The harder a sharecropper worked; the deeper he became indebted to the landowner. It was a system equal to or in some instances worse than slavery.
Sharecropping or labor contracts often contain information about family relationships.Scott Devereux signed a sharecropping contract with Fitz W.Berry on. The contract stipulated that Scott and his children were to farm the Town Creek Plantation of Anna Devereux, now deceased. Anna had died October 3, 1866. The value of these contracts is apparent when one realizes that relationships were not recorded in the 1870 United States census. For example, Scott Devereux appeared in the 1870 census as head of this household:
The contract left no doubt about the relationship of Scott to the younger Scott, Laura, Mosley, Adaline and Malvina. He was their father. Hence, the family had retained the surname of their former owners.Three other persons, Hannah, Caleb and Judy, not mentioned in the sharecropping contract shared Scott's household . From Sam Devereux’s will, we learned that Hannah was Scott’s wife.
Laura, Scott’s daughter named in the sharecropping contract, was not enumerated in his 1870 household. Marriage records documented her union with Ransom Taylor February 28, 1869.
The 1880 census taker enumerated Scott Devereux,Sr in Baldwin County living near Scott,Jr. Baldwin County touches and borders Hancock County. His 1880 household included:
Hannah and Caleb, who shared the older Scott's household in 1870, were no longer living with him in 1880. A search for Caleb led to this household:
Caleb, a farmer, still resided in Devereux. He now had a wife Bethany. Marriage records documented his union with Bethany Pinkston. Hannah also lived with the couple and was Caleb's mother.
Twenty years later, 1900, a ninety year old Scott Devereux who is believed to be Scott, Sr. could still be found in Milledgeville. Scott , a carpenter, resided with his wife of eighteen years, Francis. Scott had married Francis around 1872 which explains why Hannah was not in his 1880 household. They owned a house with a mortgage. His age and location near his 1870 neighbor Maria Bruce supports the conclusion that he was the same Scott Devereux found in 1880.