AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
Re: Tosspot in KY
In Response To: Tosspot in KY ()
Hi, thanks for this information.
the original family was in Winchester, and then sons of Timothy and Sarah moved to: (1) OH; (2) PA; (3) NY. Their children spread to KY, etc. A Jacob Tosspot was an officer's servant in the War of 1812, and ended up in New Orleans. I have the information on Timothy Sr.'s emancipation, but don't have my notes at hand here and don't want to post from memory.
I do believe I've puzzled out the origin of the surname, Tosspot. It is pejorative, from English literature, meaning something like "drunken lout." "Timothy Tosspot" or "Tim Tosspot" was also used in British popular culture in the 19th century around discussions of alcohol, along with "John Barleycorn." Back in the 1690s, there was a slave someone had named "Tosspot," listed on the headwright land grant of Bartholomew Fowler, Isle of Wight. I guess the name "Tosspot" and the circumstances of its being assigned, give us an idea of how "Tosspot" was responding to the ordeal of being forcibly brought to Virginia.
The family kept the name, deliberately I'd say, and it is unique in that there are no white families in the US or UK with this surname. It allowed all in that family to find each other, and to record for posterity the progenitor of their family on this continent. I'm sure they knew quite well by 1800 that "Tosspot" was pejorative. But, for them, it worked. White writers could not help themselves when coming it across it, seeing the joke, and very often wrote about whatever Tosspot group they had come across in much more detail than an African American family would ordinarily have gotten in newspapers etc.
The name seems to have gotten blurry by 1900, having served its purposes.
I look forward to posting the completed essay.
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