Sinai Cox (1802-1850) was the longtime companion of Robert Walker Ragland (1779-1849) in Warren County, Kentucky. Her first marriage to John H Wheeler (1767-1819) was made when she was sixteen and ended when he died a short time later. At age seventeen, in1820, she married Jefferson Taylor. I don’t what became of him but beginning about 1821 she began living with Robert Ragland, raised about ten children with him and remained with him until he died in 1849. She appears as the head of her own household and lists farmer as her occupation in the 1830 and 1850 censuses. I have found documentation so far that seven of their children were slaveholders and would have been at the time of the Civil War.
Robert Walker Ragland passed on in 1849 and left this will:
He specifies that Sinai inherit her selection of “five choice negroes,” but does not give any names. He also intends that the people he enslaves on property in Louisiana be moved to Kentucky and hired out until the heirs work out the division. I don’t see anything in his name in Louisiana yet but who knows what kind of loopholes/alternate titles might have been employed.
The 1850 Federal Census indicates that he owned one twenty two year old female in Larue County.
The 1850 census slave schedule shows “Sinal Raglin” in Warren County enslaved eighteen individuals:
Sinai passed on in 1850.
She specifically bequeathes Milly, Silvy, Silvy’s children George Sam and Ervin and all the future increase to her son Robert E Ragland.
In summary, as of 1849-1850 this couple enslaved well over 29 people.
Milly, Silvy, George, Sam and Ervin (Warren Co.) (The next step is to try to cross-reference these people with those enslaved by Robert E. Ragland.)
“five choice negroes” (Warren Co.) (conceivably the five named above)
I was a little nervous when I decided to start publishing identifying information about my slave-owning ancestors. I considered giving my brother a heads up to see if he had any feelings about me outing our forebears. Then I thought, f*$%$ that. The dead, especially the ancient dead, are fair game. I know their abhorrent behavior does not reflect on me. I also know that by being white I have massive privilege, and that the black people whose labor was stolen to build this country are to be held up and regarded with awe. Their value was so immense that the 100 year old nation had a horrible, bloody protracted war over control of it. And their power was so feared that Jim Crow was invented. I could go on.
For a time I dug into the ugliness of the past just because I felt compelled to, but it remained mostly a matter of, “omg can you believe this garbage?” Recently I stumbled onto the concept of Reparational Genealogy through this podcast. Carolyn ni Lochlainn lays the idea out with a thoroughness I won’t attempt here. Basically, because researching enslaved ancestors is difficult to say the least (white privilege again) we descendants of enslavers can contribute the information we have. The pre-Civil War record keeping that genealogists use was invented for white people and is about white people – censuses, wills, taxes, plantation records, runaway slave notices from newspapers etc.. Identifying enslavers and their exact locations along with whatever records there are of the enslaved – first names, or even just the tally marks made to count up males and females in each age group – can help people make vital connections. Descendants of enslaved people are just as entitled to know their family history as anyone else and I might have access to part of the information someone needs to put their puzzle together.
Downton Abbey taught us that “family” is not just the folks living upstairs. When we allow historical narratives to continue to stubbornly ignore with a wink the team of people that grew the tobacco, built those doggone big houses and had to stand quietly in the corner pulling the rope that worked the dining room ceiling fan, it is dishonest and brutal. I like digging into the nasty business of my slaveowners, domestic abusers and bootleggers simply because I’m not meant to see it. I don’t mean to do anything that would hurt anyone still alive, but when a historical narrative doesn’t match up with the facts or I find a pocket of time and place that is very, very silent I want to investigate. Everyone deserves the opportunity to see the whole picture and put together a meaningful narrative.