Perhaps he ticked them off on his fingers: “One female, aged 24 to 36. … One female, under ten years of age. … Three males, all under ten….” The enumerator for the 1840 federal census of Rowan County dutifully recorded the information that Samuel McNeely provided, inking in small numerals in the appropriate column under “SLAVES.” The adult female was Lucinda. The female child was her daughter Alice, and two of the males were her sons John and Julius. It is likely that the third boy was also Lucinda’s, as Samuel was not likely to have purchased a small child and Alice was too young to bear children.
Samuel died in 1843 and, under the terms of his will, son John W. McNeely inherited slaves Lucinda and her offspring. In the 1850 slave schedule, John reported owning eight slaves: a 34 year-old black female [Lucinda]; a 19 year-old black female [Alice]; a 17 year-old black male [John]; a 14 year-old black male [the third boy above, name unknown]; a 12 year-old black male [Julius]; a 9 year-old mulatto male [Henry, Lucinda’s son by John W. McNeely]; a 2 year-old mulatto male [Joseph Archy, Alice’s son]; and a 1 year-old black female [probably Alice’s daughter Mary].
In 1860, John W. McNeely reported only seven slaves: a 44 year-old black female [Lucinda]; an 11 year-old black female [Mary]; a 22 year-old black male [Julius]; a 19 year-old mulatto male [Henry]; a 12 year-old mulatto male [Archy]; a 9 year-old black male [Alexander “Sandy,” who was probably Alice’s son]; and a 7 year-old black male [John Stanhope, who was probably Alice’s son.] The same seven appear, by name finally, in the 1863 Confederate tax valuation. [A vexatious question: Where was John Rufus in 1860 and 1863? When he married in 1866, he reported John W. McNeely as his former owner. Had he in fact spent his final years of servitude under a different master?]
And then came freedom. In the 1870 census of Atwell township, Rowan County, at household #294: Lucinda McNeely, age 54, domestic servant; Henry McNeely, 29, school teacher; Joseph A. McNeely, 22, farm laborer; and Elizabeth McNeely, 13, “attends school.” [According to my grandmother, this Elizabeth was Henry’s daughter, abandoned by her mother at his doorstep.] At #295: Julius McNeely, 32, farm laborer; wife Mary McNeely, 25, “keeps house”; and nephews Alex’r McNeely, 17, farm laborer; and John S. McNeely, 18, farm laborer. [On the other side, at #292: John W. McNeely, 63, and wife Mary, 63, and at #293: Henry W. McNeely, 35; wife Nancy E., 24; and children Margaret, 3, and John W., 1. This Henry W. McNeely, son of James H. McNeely, was John W.’s cousin, though the exact relationship is unclear.]