The Ties That Bind: Finding a Link to
"The Beckley Five" of Pontotoc County, Mississippi

Researched and written by Melvin J. Collier

Sketch courtesy of Mrs. Susie Rutherford, descendant of Cannon Beckley, via the Beckley Family Reunion Book. Counterclockwise from the top: Edmond, Cannon, Jacob, Lewis, & Clay Beckley, known as The Beckley 5.

**  A Special "Coming Together Reunion" 2009 - 150 Years After the Separation! -- Click Here **

The Beckleys

The 12 children & the grandchildren of Sue Beckley (Pleasant Barr's sister)

Sue Barr Beckley
Born to Lewis & Fanny Barr
Spouse: Jacob Beckley

1- Sina Beckley Williamson
Married: Sam Williamson
Sina lived in Oxford, MS.

8 Children
James Williamson, 1853
Eliza W. Payne, 1858
Jacob Williamson, 1860
William Williamson, 1861
Joseph Williamson, 1866
Charles Williamson, 1870
Susan Williamson, 1872
Edward Williamson, 1876

(See Note 1.)

2- John Beckley
He lived in Oxford, MS.

(See Note 2.)

3- Luther Beckley
1836 -
(See Note 3.)

4- Edmond Beckley 
(One of "The Beckley 5")

Wife in 1870 was Jane.
Married Jane Dillard in 1881.

13 Children:

Hannah Beckley, 1863
Lucia B. Brandon, 1865
Lawrence Beckley, 1870
Florence Beckley, 1871
William Beckley, 1873
Samuel Beckley, 1875
Patsy Jane Beckley, 1876
Charlie Beckley, 1883
Minnie Beckley, 1885
Ester Beckley, 1888
Jacob Beckley, 1890
Arthur Beckley, 1893
Nathaniel Beckley, 189-

(See Note 4.)

5- Cannon Beckley 
(One of "The Beckley 5")

Wife in 1870 was Lucy Black. Wife in 1900 was Eliza Weatherall

20 Children:

Henry Beckley, 1865
Jim Beckley, 1866
Eckford (Eck) Beckley, 1867
Alexander Beckley, 1869
Annie Beckley Dillard, 1870
Susie Beckley Thomas, 1872
Eliza Beckley Floyd, 1873
Samantha B. Hereford, 1875
Irene Beckley Blount, 1876
Della B. Harden, 1878
Arcum Beckley, 1879
Edward Beckley, 1881
Emma Beckley, 1884
Florence B. Jones, 1892
Mollie Beckley, 1893
Lizzie Beckley, 1895
Flora Beckley, 1897
Louis Beckley, 1898
Lillian Beckley Wheeler, 1900
Eugenia Beckley, 1902

6- Louvenia Beckley
One daughter

Hattie Beckley, 1865
It should be noted that Hattie's children were:
Lucy Beckley, 1883
Oscar Beckley, 1885
John Louis Beckley, 1888
Bessie Beckley, 1892
Geneva Beckley, 1894
Estelle Beckley, 1901

7- Henry Clay Beckley
(One of "The Beckley 5")

Wives: Martha Brooks & Lena Franklin

14 Children:

William Beckley, 1866
Mary Beckley, 1868
Lou Ella Beckley, 1870
Lemuel (Lem) Beckley, 1871
Valley Givens, 1873
Onzie Beckley, 1882
Estella Witherspoon, 1883
Sylvesta Beckley, 1889)
Henry Beckley, 1890
Arthur Beckley, 1894
Clarence Beckley, 1896
Maurice Beckley, 1899
Jenny Beckley, 1901
Ethel Lee Beckley, 1903

8- Rev. Jacob C. Beckley (Jr.)
(One of "The Beckley 5")

Wives: Samantha Floyd, Susan --, Fannie --.  

Two daughters found
Annie Beckley, 1893
Helen Beckley, 1901

9- Lewis Beckley 
(One of "The Beckley 5")

Wife: Alberta Wells

7 Children:

Cornelia Beckley Sykes, 1870
Phillip Beckley, 1872
Sina B. Franklin, 1875
Luelza Beckley, 1881
Joseph Beckley, 1883
Mary Beckley, 1888
Nathaniel Beckley, 1890

10- Joseph Beckley
1852 -
(See Note 5.)

11- Patsy Beckley Saddler
Married John Saddler in Oxford, MS in 1876.

7 Children

Robert Saddler, 1878
Mattie Saddler, 1880
Ulysses Saddler, 1882
Kate Saddler, 1885
Jerome Sadder,1887
Florence Saddler, 1889
William Saddler, 1891

12- Susie Beckley Sheegog
Married Simon Sheegog in Oxford, MS in 1876. They moved to Memphis by 1920.  Susie died in Memphis but was buried in Oxford, MS.

2 Children:
Minnie S. House, 1878
Annie Sheegog, 1883

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."

Melvin and Maurice

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.

Leroy and David

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.

Mark, Ouida, and LaWanda

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 1
:  In 1843, Dr. William H. Barr left in his will that Sue's oldest child, Sina, to go to his daughter, Margaret Reid Barr.  Margaret Barr later married Rev. Edwin Cater in 1859.  In 1860, Rev. Edwin & Margaret Cater moved to Somerville, Tennessee, where he was called to be the minister of a Presbyterian Church there.  They took Sina and her husband, Sam, and their children with them.  Sam & Sina Williamson left Somerville, Tennessee around 1871 and moved to Lafayette County, MS (near Oxford), where her mother, her oldest brother, John, and her baby sisters, Patsy & Susie, were living.  It is not known when Aunt Sue and three of her children left Pontotoc, MS and went to Oxford, MS.

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.