Finding Roots

Written By: Leo Lawton

The search for ancestry where often few records exist.

A great deal of the research for this article was completed by Jeanette Williams of Florida. The Lawton Ledger, and its readers, is eternally grateful to her for sharing with us.

The information for this article was extremely difficult to research, and may possibly prove to have some inaccuracies, but it is as complete and accurate as can be determined at the present time. One must remember that in pre-Civil War times, slaves were considered property, not people, and thus no family records were kept for them. All of the familiar research records of most families are non-existent including birth, marriage, death, and census records.

William Lawton was in South Carolina by 1735. With his third wife, Mary Stone, he had a son Joseph, born in 1753. Joseph married Sarah Robert in 1773, and before 1800 they had eleven children. They lived on Mulberry Plantation in St Peter’s Parish, Beaufort District, South Carolina, so named because Joseph attempted to culture silkworms there at one time. Their ninth child, born in 1790, was named Alexander James Lawton.

When Joseph died in 1815 his will split the plantation in several parts ceded to his wife and six of his children. At the same time he divided his slaves attempting to keep families together. Sarah continued to own a portion of the plantation while Alexander owned the remainder not given to his siblings. Alexander kept complete records of day to day events on the plantation, including the portion he operated for his mother, as well as his own. It is mentioned, in the book Kith and Kin by Carolyn Harrell, that the labor of a slave named Brister was not counted by Alexander for his mother in 1825, so he was apparently owned by Sarah, but not a field hand.

The next known record of Brister Lawton was in 1849 when he was a Minister of the First Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah. He then was listed in the Savannah, Georgia United States census of 1850 as a free person.

It is thought that Brister was married to Patience, born in 1807. It appears that she remained a slave in 1850 while Brister was free. Between 1850 and 1860 Patience became free, while it is probable Brister died in that period. On the 1860 census of St Luke’s Parish, Beaufort District, SC, Patience is listed as a planter. She had five children of which two were named Calvin and George. Before 1870 Patience remarried to Edward Cook and they lived on her plantation. Brister Lawton, at his death, owned 438 acres of land which had formerly been owned by Alexander James Lawton. This land was left to Patience’s children leading to the belief they were also Brister’s children. Brister Lawton’s son Calvin, a Minister like his father, also owned 400 acres of land next door to his father’s land.

Calvin Lawton married Laura Bing about 1860 and they apparently had 18 children. He then married Ella Stephenson and they had an additional 10 children. Calvin and Laura’s first child was named Julia. She was the grandmother of Jeanette Williams’ father.

When Calvin died in 1903 he divided his land more or less equally between the families of his two wives. Then each half of the land was divided more or less equally among the surviving children at that time. Jeanette Williams has acquired Calvin’s will and plats of the land divisions. From these records the descendants of Calvin can be determined.

Calvin had a brother George, who during his lifetime was also a landowner with 1,000 acres under cultivation.

All reactions:1Joseph Lawton