Moving south: Historical and financial clues to John Ellerbee’s migration

My husband’s ancestor, John E. Ellerbee, married twice. The identity of his first wife remains elusive. Wife #1 gave birth to 4 children between 1830 and 1840.  John’s marriage to Martha Love in September 1842 suggests that Wife #1 died about 1841 or 1842.  John sired 12 children with Martha Love. 

First, I reported on John E. Ellerbee and his two wives. Then, I described the family’s southwards migration pattern from eastern Georgia to western Florida.  I posed a question: “Why did John move south?”  Now, I continue the saga with clues found in historical and financial records.

 John E. Ellerbee was born about 1808 in Burke county, Georgia. [1] Burke county resides on Georgia’s eastern border with South Carolina. From there, John moved west and south to Houston county, then south to Randolph, Baker and Calhoun counties.  His southern migration continued to Florida, first to Jackson county in the Panhandle then to Hillsborough county on Florida’s west coast.

Why did John move south?  After my last post, I found a privately published, typewritten manuscript[2] that appears to be the precursor to the printed Ellerbe family history. [3]  Morris “Buck” Ellerbee commented on John’s south-westerly moves:

South-western Georgia was the West of the day
and that is where new and cheap land was to be found. . . 
and it appears that John Ellerbee kept moving Westward 
as new lands became available. . . . [and] 
(1) the family is larger, and (2) the family fortune is larger. 
The 1860 census lists John Ellerbee’s property as follows: 
real estate valued at $3000; and personal property valued 
at $4500. Three thousand dollars of “cheap land” could have 
been considerable acres. And since his personal property was
surely made up largely of mules and slaves. . . 
there must have been quite a number of them.  [4]

The “cheap land” in southwestern Georgia originally belonged to the Creek Indians. [5]  Review the formation of relevant Georgia counties:

  • Houston county (John’s location in 1830 and 1840), formed 1821 from Indian land cession.
  • Randolph county (location of John and Martha’s marriage in 1842), created 1828 from Lee county. Lee county formed 1827 from Indian land cession. 
  • Baker county (John’s location in 1850 and 1860) formed 1824 from Early county. Early county created 1818 from Creek Indian land cession.
  • Calhoun county (John’s location in 1860) formed 1854 from Early county.  

This discovery adds a sad historical perspective to John’s story.  Our ancestor benefitted from the removal of the Creek Indians from Georgia to Alabama (about 1826) and their eventual removal to Oklahoma Territory in 1836.[6]  The Cherokee Indians, who lived in northwestern Georgia, experienced similar forced removals, known as the “Trail of Tears”.  Our ancestor gained while others were forcibly moved from ancestral homelands.

The map illustrates Indian Land Cessions in Georgia and the dates of those cessions. The original map is titled ‘Indian Land Cessions in the United States.” Georgia Map 15, United States Digital Map Library.  http://usgwarchives.net/maps/cessions/ilcmap15.htm . Map with dates downloaded from Don & Diane Wells, “The loss of the remaining Creek Indian Territory,”  Smoke Signals: News and views from Big Canoe and around North Georgia, digital edition (https://www.bigcanoenews.com/news/news-col1/columns/6447-the-loss-of-the-remaining-creek-indian-territory

I do not dispute that both the family and the family fortunes increased.[7]  Census records are clear on those issues. The number of children in the household increased from 4 in 1840[8] to 8 in 1850[9] and 12 in 1860[10].  John’s real estate was valued at $2500 in 1850[11] . Mr. Ellerbee reversed the numbers for the 1860 census:  $4500 in real estate and $3000 in personal property.[12]  Family tradition says that “John Ellerbee was considered a wealthy man before the Civil War.” [13]

One of John’s sons kept “a trunkful of worthless Confederate money” inherited from his father.[14]  In my last post, I asserted that the family moved circa 1863-1866 from Calhoun county, Georgia in 1860 to Jackson county, Florida by 1870, based on reported birth and marriage dates for children.  Buck Ellerbee suggested that “he [John] made the move during the Civil War when it was still possible for him to convert his holdings to cash- even though it was Confederate cash.”[15]  This makes sense and likely answers when and why they moved to Florida.

John was a slave owner.  Pre-Civil war census records show that he owned 1 or 2 slaves at any given time:  1840[16] – 2 slaves; 1850[17]:  1 slave; 1860[18]:  2 slaves.  These numbers dispute Buck Ellerbee’s claim that “there must have been quite a number of them [mules and slaves].” What effect did emancipation of the slaves have on John and his family? Unknown but possibly minimal. 

Personal note:  The concept of equating mules with slaves is repulsive to me. We accept the fact that my husband’s ancestors owned slaves. However, that doesn’t negate my gut reaction.  

How many acres of land did John own?  In 1883, John Ellerbee bought 159 acres “east of Tallahassee Meridian in Florida.” [19] How much land did he buy and sell in Georgia? How much livestock did John own? How productive was the land?  That, my friends, will be subject for next post after I locate and review the agriculture census records.

SUMMARY. Why did John choose to move south rather than west? I believe the question has been answered. During the decades before the Civil War, the lure of cheap land was likely a definite factor. The cost to the Indian tribes may not even have concerned John.  The reason for moving to Florida is less clear. Did John foresee the defeat of the Confederacy?  Did he attempt to minimize his losses by moving to Florida before the end of the Civil War?  Buck Ellerbee’s belief—that John used Confederate money for his initial purchase of land in Florida- suggests that the answer to both questions is “Yes.”   

For more information about Creek and Cherokee Indians in Georgia:

Brian Hicks. Toward the setting sun:  John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011.

Claudi Saunt. “Creek Indians.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, (https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/creek-indians  :  accessed 30 August 2019);  original 20 July 2018.

Don & Diane Wells, “The loss of the remaining Creek Indian Territory,”  Smoke Signals: News and views from Big Canoe and around North Georgia, digital edition (https://www.bigcanoenews.com/news/news-col1/columns/6447-the-loss-of-the-remaining-creek-indian-territory;  accessed 30 August 2019); originally published 30 November 2001; created online 14 October 2014.

REFLECTION:

I am constantly amazed about what is available on the internet. The typewritten LRB manuscript, dated 1963, is new to me. Digitized in 2018, it popped up on a Google search.  Some information clearly made its way to Ronald William Ellerbe’s 1986 print book. The 1963 manuscript contains more details about John Ellerbee and his family.  The “Ellerbee’s of early Georgia” section expanded my knowledge and led me to new insights.  The Ellerbee family apparently owned land near the Pee Dee River in South Carolina.   😔– another lead to follow!

Each post starts short and focused but seems to expand as if it has a life of its own. My goal of about 1500 words is often tested (1462 words in this post). I foresee a journal article about John E. Ellerbee??

What I learned:  Buck Ellerbee talked with elderly descendants of John Ellerbee, some of whom were  John’s grandchildren. These persons are now deceased. Buck’s insights paralleled some of my own and provided some new ones.

What helped:  Finding LRB manuscript.  Thank you, Internet Archive!!

What didn’t help:  Feeling overwhelmed.  Clean-up of records for Ellerbee family tree has stalled.  I have been sick with bronchitis for a week and didn’t get to state history center library.

TO-DO:   Locate and read books/ articles about removal of Creek and Cherokee Indians from Georgia. Found one book at local library—still reading.  Review source citations in LRB manuscript. Library at Oklahoma History Center has some potentially useful books and other sources. Explore BLM land records. Locate agriculture census schedules for John Ellerbee. Locate and read information about Pee Dee River settlers.


SOURCES:

[1] 1850 census. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49 B (penned), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[2] LRB typewritten manuscript; digitized by Internet Archive 2018. Ronald W. Ellerbe & Morris B. Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee. (privately printed, 1963). Digital copy, The  Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/lrbellerbyellerb00elle  : accessed and printed, 27 August 2019). Sections ‘The Ellerbee’s of early Georgia’ and ‘John Ellerbee (1808-1885) probably written by Morris B. (Buck) Ellerbee, a descendant of John.  Source citations minimal but records can be found. 

[3] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986), p. 14-41.

[4] LRB bio p. 31. Ellerbe & Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee, 31.

[5] “Georgia county creation and parent counties,” Family Search Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Georgia_County_Creation_Dates_and_Parent_Counties :  accessed 25 August 2019).

[6]. Don and Diane Wells. “The loss of the remaining Creek Indian territory,” Smoke Signals: News and views from Big Canoe and around North Georgia, front page; digital edition (https://www.bigcanoenews.com/news/news-col1/columns/6447-the-loss-of-the-remaining-creek-indian-territory;  accessed 30 August 2019). Originally published 30 November 2001; created online 14 October 2014.  

[7] According to Buck Ellerbee, “Tradition also says that John Ellerbee was married three times, and fathered 24 children. . 17 living to maturity” (Ellerbe & Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee, 31). “The spread in years between Edward [born 1831] and Elizabeth (born 1836] [per 1850 census]” is given as evidence. I may need to re-write earlier post!

[8] Abstracted by Lorraine H. Robinson, “1840 Federal Census Houston County, Georgia (file 2 of 5),” database, US Gen Web (http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/houston/census/1840/pg373.txt : downloaded & printed 29 August 2011), page 10 sheet no. 376, line 21, John Ellerbee; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microflim publication M704, reel 43.

[9] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49B (ink pen), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee.

[10] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289, John E Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M654_113.

[11] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49B (ink pen), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee.

[12] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 42 (ink pen), dwelling 289, family 289, John E Ellerbee.

[13] Ellerbe & Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee, 31-32.

[14] Ellerbe & Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee, 30. 32. Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, 14-41.

[15] Ellerbe & Ellerbee, LRB, Ellerby, Ellerbe, Ellerbee, 32.

[16] Abstracted by Lorraine H. Robinson, “1840 Federal Census Houston County, Georgia (file 2 of 5),” database page 10 sheet no. 376, line 21, John Ellerbee.

[17] 1850 U.S. Census, Baker county, Georgia, slave schedule, District 3, no page number, John Ellerbee, owner; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   : printed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M432.

[18] 1860 U.S. Census, Calhoun county, Georgia, slave schedule, 3rd District, p. 265 (stamp), John Elerbee, owner; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : printed & downloaded 3 May 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, microfilm publication M653.

[19] Certificate of the Register of Land to John Ellerbee; United States Bureau of Land Management “U.S. General Land Office Records, 1716 – 2015,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 6 September 2019); citing Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes, Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019

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