Ten years ago information about the men of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) was difficult to access. Thanks to the National Archives and an online research company known as Fold 3, a far greater amount of data is now available. Tracing these men through the generations in hopes of finding living descendants can still be challenging. Pension applications, if they exist, can reveal the names of family members as well as places of residence; however, the pension records are not online, but can be accessed with a trip to Washington, D.C. or for a fee a staff member will conduct the research.
An estimated 100 men born in Orange County, VA enlisted in the USCT and methodically each soldier’s file is being reviewed.
Today’s story involves several men who, though born in Orange County, enlisted in the state of Ohio. When reading that piece of information, one immediately asks, "How did these men of color get to Ohio?"
Being sold to Ohio or transported as an enslaved person can be dismissed as an answer due to the free-state status of Ohio. Three probabilities remain: Born as a freeman; a successful refugee from slavery or manumission.
While none of these options were a matter of normal practice, two—the first and third options—were verifiable. Freemen were listed by name and race on all United States Census records and manumission transactions were almost always recorded in the county court records. The challenge to the latter was to know the name of the person with the authority to offer freedom. Otherwise, one must hypothesize and then search an enormous volume of records.
The discovery was initiated by a search for a soldier by the name of Qualls Tibbs, born in Orange County, but enlisted in Ohio. It was our good fortune that descendants of Mr. Tibbs had preserved and published (on Ancestry.com) considerable history of his life and his family members.
Once connected with a living descendant, it was learned that Tibbs had been emancipated at the age of 6 years by someone named Lucille Qualls. Tibbs was born in 1836, making his freedom effective about 1842.
The Orange County records revealed no one by the name mentioned, however, there was a woman by the name of Lucy Quarles, who died a widow in 1841. That was close enough!
The local court records verified that Lucy Quarles’ will, probated in 1842, offered freedom to not only Qualls Tibbs but 59 additional enslaved people—most with first and last names—and also provided the funds for their relocation to Ohio.
There is much more to tell about Lucy Quarles’ will, but that will be the subject of another story.
To date, the following men, born in Orange County and freed by Mrs. Quarles, enlisted in the 27th United States Colored Infantry: Fleming Crump, Thomas Crump, Harrison Fabron, Lewis Green, John Kennedy, Isaac Mail, William Parsons and Qualls Tibbs. (Note: the name spellings are taken from the enlistment papers and are not always 100 percent accurate.)
Listed here (last name, first name) are United States Colored Troops born in Orange County, VA. Anyone with information on these men is encouraged to contact Zann Nelson at (540) 718-3465 or M16439@aol.com.
Posted above are the names in alphabetical order of the first half of the entire Orange County-born list. If anyone has any information regarding any of these men, I would be most grateful for your willingness to share.
Until next week, be well.
Zann Nelson is an award -winning freelance writer specializing in historical investigations and is currently working with the Montpelier Foundation on the African American Descendants’ Project. The past president of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Inc. and current president of History Quest, she resides on a farm in Culpeper. She can be reached through the Orange County Review at M16439@aol.com or www.facebook.com/ZannsPlace.