Spias Blount and Bettie West Blount are the patriarch and matriarch of the Blount family. They are the last slaves in their family line. Per death certificates, Spias and Bettie originated from Greene County, NC. Spias was born approximately 1849 to Jacob Blount and Rosa Edwards. Bettie West was born approximately March 1856 to Henry West and Anica Swinson, in Bull Head NC (Greene County). Spias and Bettie were married November 1873 by Caleb Forbes. They were married for 46 years, when Spias died in 1919. They had 13 children, but only 8 survived to adulthood. The children include Joseph, Priscilla, Garfield, Edward, Hilliard, Samuel, Jacob, and Haddie. The family was involved in farming and sharecropping, in Greene County, NC.
Above was basic known information shared from my cousin and uncle. It has been a 16 year journey from last slave to slave owner. The computer databases can be thanked for bridging the information gap. I stumbled onto my big break playing with the Freedman’s Bank’s search engine, on Ancestry.com. Spias Blount caught my eye on the record and was my confirmation I had the correct family. My big break was the deposit of money into the Freedman’s Bank by Bettie’s aunt. The bank records give names of the person opening the account, spouse, parents, siblings, and children and sometimes their location (if different person opening the account). From this one record I learn, Bettie’s full name is Elizabeth, her parents are Henry West and Anica Darden, her step father was Stephen Darden, her father was a solider and died in the Civil War, her grandparent were Ella and Willis Darden, her aunts were Semizah, Priscilla, and Jane, and siblings were Virginia and Cain. On the bank record, Spias was identified as Bettie’s husband and this confirmed I had the correct record.
My big break allowed me to locate Bettie on the 1870 census with her mother and step father as Elizabeth Darden. She was there for 16 years waiting for me. Then I was able to locate Henry West’s, her father, service records and pension records. He enlisted in the USCT 2nd Calvary Company I. He died in Sept 1865 from TB, in New Orleans prior to discharge. I went to the National Archive and pulled his pension records.
I was in for the biggest shock of my life and wasn’t ready for what I was to find. Anica and Bettie applied for Henry’s pension. Anica applied as a widow and for her minors. She was denied. As the pension laws changed, Bettie and her sister applied and received a minor’s pension in 1911 of over $1000. Anica died in 1876 and didn’t receive any pension. In the records, they had to prove Anica and Henry were married and he was the father of her children. Slave marriages were hard to prove and weren’t legal. The pension records had several affidavits and showed slave community relationships. There affidavits from Anica’s second husband’s family, slave owner’s children, her son in-laws and other friends from same plantations and community. From the pension records, I learned Henry and Anica were married 1854 by a slave minister (Redding Speight), Henry and Anica were on different plantations, Anica was owned by Henry Swinson, Henry was owned by Drewry Suggs, West surname came from Henry’s father, and Henry’s parents are Kate and Jack West.
The pension and freedman’s bank records started my journey into slave research. I am actively researching slave owner genealogies and probate records, which is hard due to the 1876 courthouse fire. Spias Blount is my new brick wall. I am unable to locate him on the 1870 census, but know he was there from pension records. I am wondering if Spias is a nickname like Bettie was for Elizabeth.
This is my past, present, and future journey. I know so much, but have the strong desire to complete the puzzle.