Sinai Cox

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.

ancestry.com
ancestry.com
ancestry.com

Robert Walker Ragland passed on in 1849 and left this will:

ancestry.com
ancestry.com

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.

ancestry.com

The 1850 census slave schedule shows “Sinal Raglin” in Warren County enslaved eighteen individuals:

ancestry.com

Sinai passed on in 1850.

ancestry.com
ancestry.com

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)
  • the un-numbered enslaved people in Louisiana
  • the 22 year old woman in Larue
  • males ages 95, 32, 24, 21, 11, 10, 7, 5, and 3 (Warren Co.)
  • females ages 75, 55, 40, 29, 28, 22, 15, 14, and 7 (Warren Co.)

yrmama the Medium

yrmama is busy taking names and wrestling with an appropriate voice to use in outing her ancestors as slave holders. I usually come off pretty snarky but these ancestors were real people despite the logs in their eyes and people are complicated. I need to treat them respectfully, to an extent, and the enslaved individuals I am naming deserve to be talked about in a respectful context too.

Black lives matter. That’s such a low bar; to matter.

I think when people pass on they have the opportunity to become perfect versions of themselves. My enslaving ancestors want to set things straight and they need my help to do it because I am still here and they are not. I also believe some of then are still assholes on the other side so I don’t give all of them equal voice.

Where I come from bad things can be disappeared if they are ignored long enough. “It was bad, but it’s in the past now and no one needs to know anything about it.” The enslaved population recedes into the corners of the room and melts into the wallpaper. “Well I’ll be, look at all this money. We sure do work hard around her, now don’t we.” yrmama is soooo upper-midwestern, it is disorienting having all these old-timey southern ghosts hanging around, clamoring for attention. Not that there is anything wrong with being southern. Some of yrmama’s best friends are southern.

While yrmama cultivates her family trees you can read this: The Half Has Never Been Told; Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist. It is an excruciatingly (for a non-academic anyway) detailed account of history, economics and politics, woven together with downright lyrical passages that he composed from the content of slave narratives. It’s pretty readable, really, for something that would have made me sigh and power-skim in college. It has taken me an unprecedented amount of time to finish it due to the real world backdrop of children being teargassed for saying Black Lives Matter and that bitch Coco V. (yrmama is not sick anymore, but goddam it, put on a fucking mask. If you can wear pants in public to shield our eyeballs from that horror you can learn to wear a mask too.) Plus there is a limit to the amount of horribleness I can read about and assimilate in a day.

so yes, read this book. – thank you Amazon, for this easily found and copied image

A few friendly reminders as I send you on your way: Don’t say all lives matter, or that you don’t see color or that your ancestors were too poor to own slaves or that you are probably part Cherokee and do not ask your black friend how they are doing with “all this” or to explain it to you. That’s why God made Google.

What To Read: Slavery in the Clover Bottoms by John McCline

The Hoggatt plantation at Clover Bottom, in Nashville, Tennessee was home to one of my slave-owning cousins, Anthony Clopton and his family, and to John McCline. John McCline was born there as part of the enslaved workforce. You should read his book even if he never met your long-ago cousin.

This memoir covers John’s earliest memories of life at Clover Bottoms and his years as a young teenager in the Union army. I’ve never read anything like it before.

One day young John was on horseback, watching the Union army march past the plantation on Lebanon Pike, admiring the men, their uniforms, the horses and vehicles, the whole spectacle. One of the soldiers called out to him, “Come on, Johnny, and go with us up North, and we will set you free.” He was amazed that the Yankee soldier knew his name (he didn’t know they called all southern boys Johnny, like Johnny Rebel). He slid off his horse and into the crowd of soldiers. He travelled and worked with that regiment from Michigan for the rest of the war and they took good care of him. He returned to Michigan with them after the war, got a couple of years of schooling in, worked in fancy hotels in St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis and eventually ran the household of the governor of New Mexico, Herbert Hagerman, in Santa Fe. He got married for the first time when he was 85. Never once does John expect the reader to feel sorry for him or his plight. He’s very matter of fact about everything and eager to recount his memories of a remarkable period in his life. John McCline reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder with his engaging, detailed, visual descriptions of how otherwise mundane things worked which in turn reminds me of my own grandfather, except for the slavery part.

Now that I’ve compared John McCline favorably to Laura Ingalls Wilder you might veer into the tempting weeds and say, “Gee, yrmama, American slavery wasn’t so bad then, was it. And if it was so easy for him to run away why didn’t they all just walk off into the sunset?”

To which I would say, “Shut the fuck up up and read the book. Mr. McCline is very clear and detailed about the vast evil he was raised to endure, the traumas he and everyone he loved faced, beatings, murders, deprivation, cruelty and outright theft of monstrous amounts of human labor. yrmama is grappling with the knowledge that her ancestors on both sides were slave owners and trying to acknowledge the ill-gotten privileges she has certainly inherited. I may say the wrong thing from time to time, inadvertently, but we are certainly not going to move through this as a society if we don’t talk about it openly. So there.”

https://nikolehannahjones.com/
  • If you have not yet begun listening to 1619, a podcast from the New York Times, you need to get busy with it immediately. It is hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones who grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where I lived as an infant, and we both are very smart.