Jacob, age 65, $450. Abraham, age 45, $1100. Charles, age 25, $1500. George, age 24, $1500. Douglas, age 21, $1500. John, age 2, $150. Cephas, age 1, $100. Edwin, age 1, $100. Willy, infant, $100. Hagar, age 70, age $100. Margaret, age 42, $850. Caroline, age 23, $1200. Lucianna, age 20, $1200. Eliza, age 17, $1200. Mary Ann, age 13, $1000. Grace, age 10, $500. Martha, age 7, $350. Angeline, age 7, $350. Mag, age 3, $200.
These are the enslaved people — total value, $13,450 — that John M. McConnaughey reported to a Confederate tax assessor canvassing Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1863. Who were these 19 people? What were their links to one another?
Let’s start with the women. Hagar, at age 70, could have been the mother (or grandmother) of any or all of the McConnaughey slaves except Jacob. She was enumerated with McConnaughey in the 1850 slave schedule — 58 year-old mulatto female — and 1860 federal slave schedule — 68 year-old mulatto female. However, as detailed below, the composition of McConnaughey’s slaves changed extensively in the 1850s, and her relationship to others cannot be determined. In 1866, Hagar McConnaughey and David Litaker registered their 13-year cohabitation at the Rowan County courthouse, but she is not found in the 1870 census. Litaker appears as a single man, living in a household of white Litakers, and we can safely assume that Hagar had passed away. In 1867, when Benjamin McConnaughey married Adaline Gilliam, he listed his parents as March and Hagar McConnaughey. Here, perhaps, was Hagar’s first husband. Was he also owned by John M. McConnaughey?
Margaret was the mother or grandmother of at least six of McConnaughey’s slaves — George, Caroline, Mary Ann, Grace, Martha, Angeline and John — comprising a single extended family. Where was her husband? Among the small units of slaves like John McConnaughey’s (and the majority of other North Carolina slaveholders), husbands and wives rarely belonged to the same master or lived on the same farm. Death certificates and marriage records for several of Margaret’s children name Edward Miller as their father. (John’s father, however, is reputed to have been John McConnaughey himself.) The couple did not file their cohabitation, and Edward may have died before Emancipation. He probably had belonged to and lived on one of several neighboring farms owned by white Millers.
There are two other young women, “Lucianna” and Eliza, who were of an age to have been Margaret’s children. Were they? When Louisiana McConnaughey and Hezekiah Mitchell registered their six-year cohabitation in Rowan County in 1866, Louisiana noted that John McConnaughey had been her master. Three year-old Mag may have been Louisiana and Hezekiah’s child. If so, was she named for Margaret, possibly her grandmother? I haven’t found Louisiana, Hezekiah or Mag in the 1870 census or elsewhere, and have no evidence of their kinship to Margaret.
An Eliza McConnaughey appears in 1870 in the crazy-quilt household of John McConnaughey. McConnaughey never married and the only other white person reported under his roof was his nephew, Dr. Joseph L. McConnaughey, 34. The remainder of the household consisted of Peggy Ferran, 70 and blind; domestic servant/cook Eliza McConnaughey, 25, with her probable daughters, Alice, 7, and Rena, 4; 14 year-old Henry Ellis, a schoolboy; farm laborer Ed McConnaughey, 45; Dallas McConnaughey, 14; Harriet Barr, 40, also a domestic servant; and farm laborer-cum-schoolgirl (and my great-great-grandmother), Martha Miller, 14. Nearly all, it appears, were the former slaves of John McConnaughey (Martha and possibly Eliza) or of Joseph, who inherited them after his father James C. McConnaughey’s death in 1864 (Ed, Dallas, possibly Harriet, and possibly Eliza and her daughter Alice.)
Jacob did not register a cohabitation in Rowan County and does not appear under the surname McConnaughey in the 1870 census of the county.
In 1866 in Rowan County, Abram McConnaughey (the “Abraham” above) registered his six-year cohabitation with Eliza Barger. The family appears in the 1870 census of Mount Ulla, Rowan County: A. McConnaughey, 57, Eliza, 45, Peggy, 30, Francis, 14, Mitchel, 10, George, 4, and Charlotte McConnaughey, 1. (They are listed next door to Margaret McConnaughey, her granddaughter Angeline and son John.) In 1872, Abram married Phillis Cowan in Rowan County, and the license lists his parents as James Kerr and Esther McConnaughey. In 1893, he married again, to Jennie Rosebro, and gave his parents as James Kerr and Hester Ann Robinson. It is not clear who the parents are of the children listed in the household, and it seems possible that both Eliza and Peggy were, if not Abram’s wives, women by whom he had children. Two of Abram’s sons married in Rowan. William Giles McConnaughey, who married in 1867, listed his parents as Abram and Vina McConnaughey. The following year, James McConnaughey listed his parents as Abram and Phillis Lavina McConnaughey. In 1889, when Charlotte McConnaughey married Charles Brown in Rowan County, she listed her parents as Abram McConnaughey and Peggy Barber. (Is this the Peggy above?)
There are two Charles McConnaugheys in the 1870 census of Rowan County. One is a 36 year-old listed in the household of John Barger. Abram and Eliza McConnaughey’s cohabitation registration reveals that Eliza have been owned by John Barger (and her children with her.) If the Charles in Barger’s household was a son of Abraham and Eliza, he would not have been the Charles listed above. The other is a Charles McConnaughey, 40, listed with wife Phillis and ten children in Atwell township. This Charles is a little old to be the same as the one listed in 1863 and may instead have been the Charles owned by James C. McConnaughey.
Margaret McConnaughey’s son George is found in all post-Emancipation records as “George Miller,” having adopted his father’s surname. I have assumed that his wife, Eliza Kerr, and oldest child, Baldy Alexander Miller, born 1858, had a different owner. However, the cohabitation registration for George Washington Miller and Eliza Catherine Kerr seems to indicate that both were the former slaves of John M. McConnaughey. There was in Eliza of the right age in the 1863 list, but no young Baldy or Alex.
In 1870, the McDowell County censustaker enumerated a railroad laborer named Douglas McConaughy in a camp in Old Fort township. [He appears to have been working on the Mountain Division of the Western Railroad, a project that extended the railroad over the continental divide and connected both ends of the state.] Though his age is off by about six years, this may have been the Douglas listed among John M. McConnaughey’s slaves. Was Douglas also Margaret’s son? By age he could have been, but there is no evidence to prove so. (Of note, however: Mary Ann McConnaughey Miller named one of her sons James Douglas. For his uncle, perhaps?)
John McConnaughey was Margaret’s youngest son and is supposed to have been the son of John M. McConnaughey. He appears twice in the 1870 census, once with his mother and again in his sister Mary Ann Miller’s household.
Cephas, Edwin and Willy have not been found post-Emancipation.
Margaret McConnaughey’s six known children were born in 1835, 1840, 1847, 1853, 1855 and 1861. Given the gaps in their birth years, it is reasonable to assume that she bore additional children, perhaps Douglas (1842), Louisiana (1843) and Eliza (1846). (Though, of course, if Eliza were George Miller’s wife, she would not have been his sister.) Unfortunately, the available evidence is insufficient to establish these relationships or others among McConnaughey’s slaves.