Joseph Townsend was my 4th great-grandfather. He was born in Virginia, moved to Overton County, Tennessee where he was granted 320 acres on the Roaring River in 1814. By 1835, he had moved to Carroll County, Tennessee where he died about 1843, aged at least ninety.
This will is interesting in that it mentions that he has “negroes” (presumably several of them) and specifies that they must be kept in the family and that they can choose who their “master or mistress” will be. This was known as “special consideration” and may indicate that the slaves in question were in fact relatives, perhaps his own children and grandchildren.
However, I’ve looked up the slave schedules for Carroll and Benton counties for 1850 and 1860, and none of Joseph Townsend’s heirs are listed. I do not find any black or “mulatto” Townsends in the area on the 1850-1870 censuses either.
Furthermore, all of Joseph Townsend’s grandchildren that I have been able to trace served on the Union side in the Civil War! So, they were presumably against slavery, or at least not willing to practice it themselves. (This was not uncommon in Carroll County, which was heavily divided during the war–many of my other ancestors from that area served with the Union.)
I wonder what happened to all these slaves? Were they sold, against Townsend’s wishes, or were they freed and perhaps went to nearby Kentucky to live? It’s a mystery.
Joseph Townsend Will
State of Tennessee
I Joseph Townsend, being through the blessing of God in a sound state of mind and memory on the 25th day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty three, but calling to mind the frail term of this life and that it is appointed to all men once to die, do make and ordering this my last will and testament, that is to say, principally and first of all I recommend my soul into the hands of almighty God who give it to me, and the disposal of my body I leave to the entire discretion of my friends with respect to my worldly estate I give, bequeath and dispose of it in the matter and proportion here following:
1st I will that all my Just debts be paid out of the effects, goods, chattels, or money.
2nd I will that none of the negroes I now own or their increase shall be sold out of my family or their heirs but shall have the choosing of their master or mistress amongst my lawful heirs and that the negroes should be valued.
3rd I give and bequeath to my son Albert Townsend five dollars in property.
4th I give to my deceased son Stephen Townsend his daughter Candis ten dollars in property.
5th I will to Nathaniel Townsend’s widow, Polly Townsend, ten dollars in property.
Finally, I will and bequeath that all my negroes and all my other effects that afterwards remain shall be equally divided amongst Rachel Hern, to who has been endorsed a one hundred dollar cash note said note to be taken out of her part of the estate, John Townsend, Patsy Bilbrey, Nancy Walker and the heirs of my son Albert Townsend. [Note: the women listed here are all Joseph Townsend’s daughters.]
I do hereby appoint and ordain that John Townsend and Henry Cobles(?) to be appointed joint Executors of my estate and on the removal by death or refusal of one or both of them I do request that the county court of Perry County do appoint a successor of said Executors to carry this my last will and testament into force and virtue agreeable to the request there contained in testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.
Test: W. Daniel
State of Tennessee
Carroll County, January Term, 1846