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the Gibson Indians

Jane Gibson of Charles City County was born about 1640 according to the testimony of Robert Wills in a case held in Richmond City District Court in which Jane's great-great-great-great grandson Thomas Gibson, alias Mingo Jackson, sued David Ross for his freedom. Wills testified that he lived in the same neighborhood as Jane and knew her and her children personally when he was about ten or eleven years old. Although he was about eighty-one years old when he testified on 25 June 1791, he showed excellent recall of events, both in his deposition and in the cross-questioning that followed two weeks later. He stated that Jane's children Jane and George Gibson were free "dark mulattoes" and that many of Jane's descendants, "black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes," were still living and "enjoying their freedom." In his lengthy deposition and cross-examination, the subject of Jane's race was never raised, only that Jane and her two children were free. (Legally, the freedom of the mother determined the freedom of the child, so the question of her race did not matter). The attorney for the defendant asked Wills if he knew of any "free mulattoes or blacks" who descended from her, and Wills identified the Scott, Bradby, Smith, Redcross alias Evans, and Morris alias Evans families in Charles City County and identified the Bowman family of Henrico County.

There was also a deposition from John Meriwether, Gentleman, who was sixty-nine on 13 November 1790 when he testified that his father often told him he had purchased a "mulatto wench" named Frank Evans and her brother from Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent County, that Frances Evans had a child named Sarah Colley by a white servant named James Colley, and that Sarah went to live with her husband who was the slave of Colonel Edward Carter of Albemarle County.

Ann Meriwether also made a deposition in 1790, but this was for a case brought in Brunswick County District Court by another group of Evans family descendants held in slavery by David Ross. These papers were lost, so she made a second deposition in Hanover County on 15 December 1803 in which she stated that Frances Evans died in the possession of Colonel William Meriwether, that Sarah Collins was the daughter of Frances Evans, that Amey, Hannah Beck, Cate, Milly, Mica and Franky were daughters of the said Sarah Collins, and that she was well acquainted with Sarah's daughter Amey.

The Richmond District Court ruled in favor of Thomas Gibson, alias Mingo Jackson, on 5 April 1792. Mingo Jackson was a "FN" taxable in Richmond City in 1794, 1806 and from 1814 to 1816; taxable on a slave over the age of 12 years in 1794 and 1816, and Thomas Gibson (Blacksmith) was a "fn" taxable in Richmond City in 1796, 1797, 1799, and from 1812 to 1814 [Personal Property Tax Lists, 1787-99; 1799-18, Library of Virginia]. A later case file included a deposition from Abraham Dugard that he had met Thomas Gibson, alias Mingo Jackson, in Richmond in December 1803 [Lynchburg City Chancery file 1821-033].

On 4 April 1795 the Richmond District Court also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs Milley, Sally, Harry, Nancy, Nelly, Rachel, Benjamin, Archy, Mary, James, Robin and Milah Evans against David Ross based on the same evidence as was presented for Mingo Jackson.

On 5 March 1804, twelve years after the court ruled in Mingo Jackson's favor, court attorney Edmund Randolph filed a petition for a fourth group of Jane's descendants (Charles, Amey, Sukey, Sinar, Solomon, Frankey, Sally, Milley, Adam and Hannah Evans) to sue David Ross's executor Lewis Allen for their freedom in forma pauperis. The court approved their petition and appointed Edmund Randolph as their counsel. Randolph apparently thought the case was one for freedom based on descent from an Indian woman because he stated in the petition to the court that the Evans family descended from Jane Gibson, a "free Indian woman," and that he had documents in his possession to prove it. There were several such cases determined about that time which freed slaves based on proof of descent from an Indian woman [see the Coleman, Jumper, Venah/ Venie and Worsham families on]. However, after Randolph was appointed their attorney, he submitted his argument to the court that these members of the Evans family were "children of a free woman of colour named Amey; who was the daughter of another free woman of colour, named Sarah Colley, who was the daughter of another free woman of colour named Frances Evans; who was the daughter of another free woman of colour named Jane Gibson." And that attached depositions had already recovered the freedom of Thomas Gibson, alias Mingo Jackson, the nephew of one of the plaintiffs Amey Evans. There was no testimony by any of the deponents as to the race of Jane Gibson, only that her children were "dark mulattoes" [Lynchburg City Chancery case, 1821-033, LVA].

Note that Deloris Williams has posted an abstract of these cases on rootsweb, Joan R. Gibson has posted photos of the chancery papers, the Library of Virginia will provide copies of the file (Lynchburg City chancery file 1821-033, case no. 236), and there's a brief abstract of the case in Schweninger, The Southern Debate Over Slavery, vol. 2, pages 78-80.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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