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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sally Gillespie: Born in Africa, Died in Williamson County, Tennessee 1787-1860

Sally Gillespie was born in Africa in 1787 and died in Williamson County in June 1860 - just one year before the Civil War - from burns.

At the time of her death, she was 74-years-old. The slave trade from Africa was outlawed in 1808 so she probably was not older than 21 when she was brought to this country as an enslaved person.

Nothing is known about Sally's early life in Africa, or how she was kidnapped and brought to America where she was sold into bondage. However, we know that by the 1820s, when Sally was in her 40s she was the property of the family of Isaac Gillespie in Williamson County, Tennessee.  They had arrived in Williamson County in the mid-1810s and may have brought Sally with them from Rowan County, North Carolina. 

In 1826, Isaac Gillespie died, and in his will, he bequeathed Sally to his wife Mary Ann McGuire Gillespie. 

A portion of Isaac Gillespie's will: "I further give and bequeath my beloved the negro woman named Sally. . .."

Isaac Gillespie's Will, 1826

Mary Ann Gillespie died in 1845, and by 1850 I believe that Sally was enslaved by the family of David Gillespie, Isaac and Mary Ann's 46-year-old son.  In the Census that year, David was enslaving one person in the 22nd District of Williamson County - a 60-year-old black female. I believe this was Sally.
1850 Slave Census - David Gillespie was enslaving a 60-year-old black female.
District 22, Williamson County, Tennessee
District 22 is in the far southeastern corner of Williamson County.  In this portion of an 1878 map of the County, you can see where David's son Robert Gillespie was living (circled in red). I believe this may be the same property where Sally was living in 1850.
A portion of 1878 Map of Williamson County
Showing District 22 where Sally Gillespie was enslaved and died
Little is known about the circumstances of Sally's death except that she died of burns on June 8th, 1860 in Williamson County. The Mortality Index noted that she was born in Africa and was 74 years old.
Portion of the 1860 Mortality Index, Williamson County, Tennessee
I believe she was still enslaved by David Gillespie's family. Several weeks later when the Slave Census was taken, it appears as though David Gillespie may have compensated for the loss of Sally's labor by hiring a 25-year-old black female from the estate of their neighbors, the Flemings.

1860 Slave Census - David Gillespie was hiring a 25-year-old black female from the Flemming estate.
Williamson County, Tennessee
No grave for Sally Gillespie has been located and it is not known if she had any children or left any descendants. Her life from Africa to America and ultimately to her death in Williamson County was an extraordinary one, worth remembering.

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