7- Henry Clay
Jacob C. Beckley (Jr.)
9- Lewis Beckley
Patsy Beckley Saddler
Susie Beckley Sheegog
William (Bill) Reed, my great-grandfather, was born into slavery in 1846 on the Barr farm in Abbeville County, South Carolina. He is the ancestor of the Reed Family of Tate County, Mississippi. After being told that Mississippi was the "Land of Milk and Honey," he and others migrated to Como in 1866. Family members expressed that he often talked about members of his family he had when he was enslaved in South Carolina.
His grandson, Isaac Deberry, 93 years old, of Senatobia, Mississippi, recalled the following, "Grandpa Bill talked about someone named Cannon a whole lot. I always thought that Cannon was his brother because he talked about him so much. He would tell me about the day Cannon and some others were taken away in a wagon. He told me that he waved goodbye to them. It must have been hard to see Cannon go because they were close. He would tell me about some of the things they used to do together on the place (Barr Place). I don't remember him talking about the others (Cannon's other brothers), but he kept Cannon close to his heart." Cannon's name was indeed listed on Dr. William H. Barr's slave inventory, taken in 1843, along with Grandpa Bill's parents, grandparents, and other family members. What happened to them? What became of Grandpa Bill's family members?
After nine years of research, I'd finally found the answers to my questions. When Grandpa Bill Reed was around 13 years old, a number of his family members were taken as slaves from Abbeville, South Carolina to Pontotoc County, Mississippi. He never saw them again. Genealogy research has found that William Barr, Jr. took them there in 1859. Wm Jr. was the son of the late Dr. William H. Barr, a Presbyterian minister, and Rebecca Reid Barr. Research findings confirmed that they were the enslavers of Grandpa Bill's father, Pleasant (Pleas) Barr, mother, paternal grandparents, Lewis & Fanny Barr, and other family members. According to oral history passed down in the Reed Family, the white Barr Family sold Grandpa Bill to a Reed. Research has found that around 1859, Grandpa Bill was sold to Lemuel Reid, who was a nephew of Rebecca Barr. When slavery ended, Grandpa Bill decided to keep the Reid name, and it was eventually spelled with two e's.
Per Dr. William Barr's will that he wrote in 1843, shortly before he died, Pleasant was bequeathed to William Barr, Jr. However, William Jr. later sold Pleasant, and he was taken away from South Carolina in 1859. According to family oral history, Grandpa Bill never saw his father anymore after he was sold. He relayed to his children how he watched the wagon leaving the farm with his father on it, never to see him anymore. He told his children and grandchildren that he never found out where his father was taken. Unbeknownst to Grandpa Bill, James Giles of Abbeville purchased Pleasant and took him to Ripley, Mississippi. Pleas remained in Ripley after the Civil War, kept the Barr name, and remarried to Amanda Young.
Researching the 1870 & 1880 Mississippi census records led me to Grandpa Bill's family members. In 1880, Fanny Barr, his paternal grandmother, was living with Jacob Beckley in Pontotoc County. She was reported as being Jacob's grandmother as well. Her age was reported as 100. A myriad of evidence points to a Barr slave called Isabella as likely being Grandpa Bill's mother. Isabella Barr was living with Henry Clay Beckley in 1880. The census reported her as being Clay's aunt.
After finding Isabella and Fanny Barr living with Jacob & Clay Beckley in Pontotoc County, I asked myself, "Who in the world are these Beckleys?" After much diggin', I discovered that Jacob and Clay Beckley, as well as Edmond, Cannon, and Lewis Beckley, who were living nearby, were the sons of Fanny Barr's daughter and Pleas Barr's sister, Sue. Grandpa Bill's beloved companion and brother-like first cousin, Cannon, was found, as well as Edmond. But they all had taken the Beckley surname instead of Barr. Edmond and Cannon were both recorded as "property" in the 1843-slave inventory of Dr. William H. Barr's estate right after Pleasant. Edmond and Cannon were recorded on the same line with their mother, Sue, and their sister, Louvenia, who were all given a combined "value" of $800.
Aunt Sue and her children were among the 17 slaves that William Barr, Jr. kept and took with him to Mississippi in 1859. Old church records of the Upper Long Cane Presbyterian Church, where Dr. William H. Barr was the minister (1809-1843), show that Sue's husband was a mulatto slave named Jacob who was living adjacent to the Barr farm on John Watt Lesley's farm. (See Note 7.) Church records show that William Barr, Jr. purchased Jacob from the Lesleys shortly before he took them all to Mississippi. From a letter that Rebecca Barr wrote to her sister, Margery Reid Miller in Pontotoc, it was her desire that Sue and her family not be separated. However, she expressed that the slaves would be divided with some of them remaining in Abbeville, while others will be taken to Mississippi, and that is what happened! After the Civil War, Jacob, Sue and their children took the Beckley surname. Jacob probably had a connection to the white Beckley/Bickley Family of Abbeville County, South Carolina.
Grandpa Bill Reed, his younger sister, Mrs. Mary Pratt, their niece, Mrs. Fanny McKee, and a group of other recently-emancipated African Americans left Abbeville, South Carolina on a wagon train pulled by mules after the Civil War in 1866. Sadly, when they arrived in Como, Mississippi, he and his sister had no idea that their displaced family members were just 100 miles away in Pontotoc, Mississippi. Even more heart-breaking, they never found out that their father was just 60 miles away in Ripley. Grandpa Bill never forgot them. His sister Mary also never forgot them, as she named her only two daughters Sue and Louvenia. Edmond, Cannon, Clay, Jacob Jr., & Lewis Beckley of Pontotoc County, Mississippi became known as "The Beckley Five."
First photo: Melvin J. Collier (great-great grandson of Pleasant Barr) and Maurice Beckley (great-great grandson of Sue Barr Beckley). Melvin & Dr. Leroy Frazier attended the Beckley Family Reunion on July 3, 2004, Tupelo, MS, meeting the descendants of their ancestor's sister for the first time after the research discovery.
Second photo: Dr. Leroy Frazier (great-great-great-grandson of Pleasant Barr) and Dr. David Beckley (great-great-great-grandson of Sue Barr Beckley), Pres. of Rust College. Dr. Frazier and Dr. Beckley had known each other for over 20 years and were school mates at Rust College, never knowing until 2002 that their ancestors, Pleas & Sue, were brother & sister who were separated during slavery in 1859.
At the 2004 Reed-Puryear Family Reunion, from left to right, Mark Reed, Ouida Howard, and LaWanda Reed Clayton. Mark & Lawanda are the grandchildren of Pleasant (Pleas) Reed, the great grandchildren of Bill Reed, & the great-great grandchildren of Pleasant & Isabella Barr. Ouida is the great granddaughter of Lemuel Beckley, and the great-great granddaughter of Henry Clay Beckley. In 1880, Henry Clay Beckley was taking care of his Aunt Isabella Barr, believed to be the first wife of Pleasant Barr. What a reunion!
Note 2: Dr. William Barr's estate file confirms that Aunt Sue had a son named John. He was found living in Hugh A. Barr's household in 1880. John was single. Hugh A. Barr was the older brother of William Barr Jr. Hugh was a lawyer in the town of Oxford.
Note 3: Dr. William Barr's estate file confirms that Aunt Sue had a son named Luther. No other info can be found on Luther. He may have died at a young age.
Note 4: Ms. Vikki D. Jenkins, great-great granddaughter of Cannon Beckley, provided a crucial document from the research efforts of Mrs. Florence Bolden in 1977 proving the Beckley's link to William Barr, Jr. This document was the pension application of Edmond Beckley, who tried to get a pension for his service during the Civil War. Two questions asked on the application were: (1) What was the name of the party whom you served? Edmond's answer was William Barr. (2) What was the name or designation of the company and regiment or vessel in which your owner served? Edmond's answer was Pontotoc Minute Men 42nd Mississippi Regiment. William Barr had first served with the 2nd Mississippi Regiment and then the Pontotoc Minute Men. William Barr evidently took Edmond with him to the War.
Note 5: Joseph may have died sometime before 1870. He was never found in the census records. However, church records of the Upper Long Cane Presbyterian Church of Abbeville, SC show that he was born to Jacob & Sue in 1852.
Note 6: Two sources indicate that Aunt Sue Barr Beckley gave birth to another son, who was born about 1844. However, the name of that son has not been determined. That son may have died at a young age.
Note 7: Jacob Jr., Sina, and Lewis Beckley's death certificates verified that their mother's name was Susan (Sue/Susie). Jacob (Jr.) Beckley's death certificate verified that the father's name was Jacob Beckley.
Note 8: All birth years are estimated and based on census records.
Note 9: The written history of the "Beckley Five" that was printed in the Beckley Family Reunion book reports that a "slave-owner by the name of Beckley" transported his nine black children - five sons (Edmond, Cannon, Jacob, Clay, & Lewis), four daughters, and their mother to Barrtown, MS (the College Hill area of Pontotoc County) shortly before the end of the Civil War to protect them. It was reported that the eldest brother killed a night rider defending his family members. However, genealogy research can prove without a shadow of doubt that William Barr, Jr. transported seven brothers (John, Edmond, Cannon, Clay, Jacob, Lewis, Joseph), three of their four sisters (Louvenia, Patsy, and Susie), as well as their father (a mulatto) and mother, Jacob & Sue, and the rest of the Barr slaves, including Sue's mother, Fanny Barr, to Pontotoc County, MS from 1859 to 1860.
E-mail Melvin J. Collier for any questions or comments concerning this history.