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Henry and Mary Smith Met on the Plantation of John Skinner Smith in Laurens, SC

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster

After I had discovered that Henry Smith was the brother of Jane Smith Johnson McCoy from the letter of my grandfather, Emory Wallace Vance, Sr., grandson of Jane, I decided to look into the descendants of Henry and Mary Smith and the enslaver of Henry Smith, John Skinner Smith of Laurens County, SC. When working with African American genealogy, I knew I was so fortunate to have been given more clues with yet another interview.

Reverend Ulysses Rice lived in Washington, DC, and I lived in Hopkins, SC at the time I interviewed him. We were introduced by James Martin Wall, a double Johnson-Vance cousin. Rev. Rice sent me an interview conducted by Pat Whitehead, granddaughter of Howard Smith, son of Henry and Mary Smith. Rev. Rice is a grandson of Minnie Smith Young Summers, daughter of Henry and Mary Smith.

Interview with Rev. Ulysses Rice, Washington, DC, by Pat Whitehead. Copy held by Robin Foster in 2019 (1441 Ireland Dr. #B, Fayetteville, NC). Rev. Rice has since deceased.
Interview with Rev. Ulysses Rice, Washington, DC, by Pat Whitehead. Copy held by Robin Foster in 2019 (1441 Ireland Dr. #B, Fayetteville, NC). Rev. Rice has since deceased.

The “History of ‘Smith’ Family Name” was a portion of an interview of Rev. Ulysses Rice conducted by Pat Whitehead. The plantation, located in Laurens, SC, known as the Smith Plantation. Henry, a Cherokee Indian, was enslaved. He was known at the time as a “houseboy.” The Smith’s paid for Mary Bosch (spelling maybe incorrect), an Irish woman, to come to the United States and work at the plantation until the debt was paid.

The plantation owner vowed to lynch Henry after it was discovered that he and Mary were involved and had fallen in love. Henry ran away and hid in the woods for weeks. The plantation owner, John Skinner Smith, sent word to Henry that if he would come in and only be involved with Mary, he would let him live.

Henry return and married Mary. They gave birth to sixteen children. Mary brought two children of her own into this marriage.

Looking for Historical Documentation on Henry, Mary, and John Skinner Smith

I was able to find John Skinner Smith with his wife, Mary, and family in 1850:

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D4BH-1G?cc=1401638&wc=95RZ-J4P%3A1031338001%2C1031956301%2C1031956302 : 9 April 2016), South Carolina > Laurens > Laurens county > image 69 of 274; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).” class=”wp-image-211728″/><figcaption>“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D4BH-1G?cc=1401638&wc=95RZ-J4P%3A1031338001%2C1031956301%2C1031956302 : 9 April 2016), South Carolina > Laurens > Laurens county > image 69 of 274; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).</figcaption></figure>



<p>I was also able to find the Smith family in 1860:</p>



<figure class="United States Census, 1860," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9BSD-JPH?cc=1473181&wc=7QMS-CV8%3A1589435701%2C1589424899%2C1589422206 : 24 March 2017), South Carolina > Laurens > Not Stated > image 46 of 254; from "1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population," database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). ” class=”wp-image-211730″/><figcaption>“United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9BSD-JPH?cc=1473181&wc=7QMS-CV8%3A1589435701%2C1589424899%2C1589422206 : 24 March 2017), South Carolina > Laurens > Not Stated > image 46 of 254; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). </figcaption></figure>



<p>In 1870, Basil Smith, the youngest son of John Skinner Smith, was the only man at home. Three doors down from him lived Henry Smith, a black, and Mary Smith, a white. This is Henry and Mary Smith. </p>



<figure class="United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6Q39-5FN?cc=1438024&wc=92K7-YWY%3A518655201%2C519281601%2C519293701 : 22 May 2014), South Carolina > Laurens > Laurens County > image 113 of 168; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).” class=”wp-image-211732″><figcaption>“United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6Q39-5FN?cc=1438024&wc=92K7-YWY%3A518655201%2C519281601%2C519293701 : 22 May 2014), South Carolina > Laurens > Laurens County > image 113 of 168; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).</figcaption></figure>
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John Skinner Smith Was from What Would Be Greenwood County Today

I started to make my mental list of all the place I would need to search next to find Henry, Mary, and my great great grandmother, Jane within this family. I went to bed and woke up Sunday thinking about this. I mentioned it in my prayers. A voice told me to look down at the side of my bed. “Greenwood County Sketches: Old Roads and Early Families,” by Margaret Watson was laying there.

I was told to pick it up and look for Skinner Smith. I thought back to when I received this book last October at the Charleston, SC Family History Center. Delsa Biorn had invited me to take a look at books that were duplicate copies in the center. I browsed through and was elated to find this book. It is no longer being published, but I have used it to put together my family and others. I expressed a heartfelt thanks to her.

Now, I was again about to open the book.  John Skinner Smith was the fifth child born to William and Lucy Wright Smith and first to be born at Stony Point in what is now Greenwood County in 1795. I found two generations of ancestors and two marriages of Skinner Smith, one to Jane Franklin and the other to Mary Ann Hallum. With the genealogy of his children also given, hopefully I can find more on my family.

Sharpen the Saw

I will make a list of the family members of John Skinner Smith who may have had dealings with Henry or my great great grandmother, Jane, using “Greenwood County Sketches: Old Roads and Early Families,” by Margaret Watson. Have you ever been fortunate enough to make the same sort of list? Let us know on the Facebook Group.

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