While researching the Kennedy Jones (our) ancestry, I began to
see a strong family bond among our people. We figured out a long time ago that after work is over and you turn old and grey, all that is left is family. This still rings true
today. Our history centers mainly on Dale County Alabama (the southeastern section of Alabama) and includes Newton, Pinckard, Midland City, Sylvan Groove (a northeast suburb
of Midland City), Ozark (the county seat) and Daleville. I traced our roots back to 1820 with the birth of Moses Creech. Don’t know if he was a slave or not. The name Creech
sounds Indian. His mother and father were from South Carolina and probably born around 1799.
A lot of our ancestors were farmers, pre and post 1863
(slavery). The part of our history that continues to be vague is slavery. I know some of our ancestors were slaves, but the records do not list or record slave names, only the
slave owner’s name, slave’s age, sex and job/skill if any. Up until 1900, Americans were categorized on the US Census as black, white, mulatto and sometimes colored if you
were a free black. Most slave jobs were labors and housekeepers in Alabama. Even after slavery, peoples continued to make a life as a laborer or housekeeper. One thing is
obvious from the Census records; laborer after 1863 was code word for ex-slave (field hand). These were the only jobs available to ex-slaves. The occupation for free blacks
was also laborer, housekeeper and farm hand. Very few were farmers. Some of our ancestors were farmers. It appears that to be a farmer you needed to own land, be a relative
of a land owner or be very good friends of land owners. I also noticed that the Kennedy, Creech and Snell families were slave owners in Dale County Alabama.
To get a better understanding of the slave situation, I needed
to research the white side of the family (the slave owners). I wanted to determine who owned whom and who was creeping into whose slave quarters.
From the 1990 booklet, I learned Papa Doug traded “yellow
waxed pole beans for beef” with the white Kennedy family “who managed the only grocery store near Midland”. It was named Mrs. Lizzie Red Shirt Market in Pinckard. Lizzie’s
real name was Elizabeth Kennedy and probably born 1838 (there was a lot people with the name Elizabeth Kennedy in Dale, born anywhere from 1840 to 1880). She was married to
Jesse Kennedy, born 1826 in NC. They had three children, Thomas P. born 1849, Etta F. born 1858 and Ella born 1860. In 1860 (the civil war period), they lived in Newton
(their Post Office is listed as Newton). Jesse’s occupation was Merchant. The value of his real estate was $3000 and the value of his personal property was $3000 (a lot money
in 1860 Alabama).
In 1860, Jesse and Lizzie also owned two slaves (watch-out-now, we
gitten deep); One 24 year old black female and one 12 years old black male. The names of the slaves were not given, but only four persons named Kennedy owned
slaves in Newton, Dale County in 1860:
2) Jesse’s mother Sylvia Kennedy, a Farm laborer (code word
for slave overseer), born about 1807 in NC. She was a widower but there is no record of when the husband died. She owned seven slaves in 1860; a 24 year old black male, a 21
year old black male, a 20 year old black male, a 19 year old black female, a 9 year old black male, a 7 year old mulotta male, and a 4 year old black male. Sylvia’s real
estate value was $1,200 and her personal estate value was $8,140 (with that type of money and real estate, she had been dealing with slaves for awhile). I also have to mention
Jesse’s brother, John L Kennedy. Although John L is not listed as owning slaves, he was a farm laborer (code word for overseeing slaves in the fields while they were picking
cotton). Also in 860, John L lived one house away from his mom Sylvia. And his wife is also named Eliza (Elizabeth).
3) John C Kennedy, a farm laborer born 1829 in Alabama (most
likely a cousin). He owned one slave, a 13 year old black male. His real estate value was $220 and personal estate value was $2000.
4) Lewis W. Kennedy, a farm laborer born 1814 in SC and the
census records show he owned a lot slaves in 1850. He had seven children, one named Eliza. In 1860, he owned two slaves, a 13 year old black male and a 10 year old black
male. His real estate value was $1000 and his personal estate value was $6200 (I think we need to find Lewis and get some reparations).
In 1860, Peter Kennedy was a 12 year old mulatto male. There is one
mulatto male listed on the 1860 census record and that person was seven years old. Although there is no 12 year old mulatto male listed as a slave in Dale County or living
with the white Kennedy family in Dale County, these Kennedys were definitely Peter’s family/owners. The white Kennedy family could have been hiding Peter from the census
people to avoid paying taxes (i.e., all slave owners paid taxes on their slaves). Or, Peter could be the seven year old mulatto listed as Sylvia’s slave.
One link between Peter and Jesse was that Jesse was a merchant (sold
goods like meat and fish). Papa Doug used to trade at Jesse’s store (Mrs. Lizzie Red Shirt Market). The other link is Jesse’s daughter Etta F. Etta is an unusual name and
easy to track. She was twelve years younger than Peter and probably his little sister. In 1880, when Etta was 21, she lived in Sylvan Grove with her cousin James and Isabel
Kelly which was three houses away from where Peter Kennedy (Jesse’s slave-love child) lived. Peter could be the son of Sylvia, she was a widower. In 1880, the latter part of
her life, Sylvia lived with her son John L in Sylvan Grove. Was Peter the son of Sylvia? What was happening in Sylvan Grove? Is Sylvan Grove named after Sylvia Kennedy?
Peter, Papa Doug’s father, was born and died in Sylvan Grove. The white Kennedy family moved from N.C. to Newton, Dale, Alabama. But in their latter days, they resorted to
Stay Tuned, more to come on next page…
P.S. Once I started to dig into the past, I got caught and intrigue with it
all. The more I dug the more questions I had. I am glad I have company in looking for closure. Hopefully people will see holes in my story and add the missing pieces like
why papa Doug didn't use his first name John. I had forgotten all about that. Thanks.