Issaquena Genealogy and History Project: The Balfour Family

The Balfour Family

William S. Balfour, living in Issaquena County during the 1860 US Federal Census, was the son of William Lovett Balfour of Madison County. William Lovett Balfour was one of Mississippi’s most prominent planters during antebellum times. He developed and operated several large plantations in the fertile soil region of the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta. His plantations included Homestead in Madison County, Woodside in Yazoo County, Fall Back in Washington County, and others including a large estate in Issaquena County. William Lovett Balfour was born on March 2,1802 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina (the son of William Balfour and Elizabeth Lovett Suggs) and died in Clinton, Madison County on May 8, 1857. While in West Feliciana Parish Louisiana he married Elizabeth Davis Gartley on June 23, 1823. After his death his sons, Charles, William and James were in charge of his vast land holdings in the Mississippi Delta. Henry Tillinghast Ireys, an early resident of Washington County wrote of the Balfours: “Following Egypt Ridge south, the next plantation I knew was developed by a wealthy gentleman from Madison County, Mississippi, Colonel Balfour. This plantation was known then as now as Fall Back. I never knew the founder of this estate, which was a large one, but I knew quite intimately three of his sons, Charles, William and James, who had charge of the property in those days. It was never a home for the family, but received the overflow of slaves from his Madison County home estate…”

William Lovett Balfour was also a well known philanthropist and was a founder of Mississippi College at Clinton. He was a generous contributor to other religious and educational entities.

Based upon the 1850 Madison County, Mississippi Federal Census and other records, children of William Lovett and Elizabeth Davis Gartley Balfour included:

Mary Jane: born 1827 in Madison County
William S.: born ca. 1828 in Madison County
John W.: born ca. 1830 in Madison County
Charles: born ca. 1834 in Madison County
James: born ca. 1838 in Madison County
Joseph D.: born ca. 1840 in Madison County
Lewis: born ca. 1843 in Madison County
Horace: born ca. 1845 in Madison County


Charles Balfour (born ca. 1834 in Madison County), son of William Lovett Balfour is found in the 1860 Issaquena County census living not far from his brother, William S. Charles is listed with his wife Rosa and daughter Rosa. Charles’ wife was the former Rosa Davis, daughter of Fielding and Lucinda Newman Davis of Natchez. Rosa B. Davis had married a Mr. Mayson, who was Secretary of State of Mississippi. He died shortly after their marriage. Charles Balfour and Rosa B. Davis Mayson married in Issaquena County at the residence of her father, Fielding, on November 24, 1856. The wedding was performed by the Rev. D. S. Snodgrass. Charles' wife Rosa died ca. 1865 and he married Jenet ___. Charles and Jenet are found in the 1870 Madison County (Vernon Post Office) Federal Census along with their children Rosa, age 13; Charles, age 3; and Jenet, age 1. According to the 1880 US Federal Census Charles moved his family to New Orleans between 1873 and 1876 where he is listed as a Grocery Clerk. Listed in his household are his wife, Mary (age 34) and children: Charles, age 13; Jeanette, age 11; Sally, age 7; William, age 4; and James, age 3.


John W. Balfour (born ca. 1830 in Madison County), son of William Lovett Balfour is found in the 1860 Madison County census. He married Mary Coburn Humphreys on June 11, 1854 in Claiborne County. Mary was the daughter of David George and Mary Coburn Humphreys of Claiborne County. Her father was born on the Hermitage Plantation, situated on the banks of Bayou Pierre in Claiborne County on May 17, 1794. According to the book The Humphreys Family in America, "he was a Southern planter of the highest type, without pride or pretention and a gentleman by nature and by practice". John W. and Mary Coburn Humphreys Balfour, according to the 1860 Federal census, were the parents of the following children: George (born 1855) and William Suggs (born 1858). John W. was commissioned a Colonel in the Confederate infantry during the Civil War and by 1864 was living in Tuskegee, Alabama with his family. Frances Woolfolk Wallace wrote in her diary, dated Montgomery, Friday, July 15, 1864: "Feel very badly, did not sleep much, mosquitoes so bad. I really am afraid I cannot stand the trip if I travel all day and sleep none at night. Went this morning to ride, went to the cemetery and saw little Georgie Balfour's tomb. The inscription was two verses of the little hymn "I Want to be an Angel," the same my own sweet Georgie often repeats. I thought Oh, shall he too sleep in an unknown tomb in a strange land and among strange people. Little Georgie Balfour was the son of our kind friends and died in Montgomery with dyptheria as they were moving from Mississippi to Tuskegee as refugees. My own little boy reminded them so much of their lost one."


William S., son of William Lovett Balfour was born ca. 1827 in Madison County. He married Catherine Hunt, the daughter of David Hunt of Jefferson County and Natchez on June 4, 1850 at Woodlawn Plantation, seven miles from Rodney. Woodlawn was the family residence of the David Hunt family. The wedding ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Chamberlain. David Hunt was a wealthy planter and businessman of Jefferson County and Natchez in nearby Adams County. As a wedding gift to his daughter and son-in-law, Hunt built them a palatial home in Natchez named Homewood. Building the structure began in 1855 and was not completed until Homewood1860, although many expert craftsmen and an army of slaves labored constantly. As the home was being built, William S. and his new wife moved to his Issaquena County plantation where they lived during the 1860 US Federal Census. The Homewood estate, which no longer stands, was described in the book In Old Natchez by Catharine Van Court as follows: “There are four entrances to the main corridor, each entrance facing one of the four points on the compass. These open into lofty hallways which for a perfect Maltese cross and are connected by a series of elliptical arches. The front entrance has fluted columns and a wide portico; here a balcony with wrought-iron banisters projects from the second story directly over the doorway. On each side of this doorway there are graceful Corinthian pilasters. The side lights of the door are delicate pink glass imported from Belgium. The house, exclusive of a basement, is three stories high; in the basement there are a number of rooms, all of which have large fireplaces.” During Homewood’s Balfour ownership, the estate was celebrated for its fox hunts. These together with balls and grand parties made it a popular place with antebellum Natchez society.

From researching the various census records from 1860 through 1880, the children of William S. and Catherine Hunt Balfour included:

Ann Hunt.: born October 18, 1851
William Lovett: born June 13, 1853
L.: born 1854 (female)
Elizabeth B.: born 1856
D.H.: 1857 (male)
Jane Martin: born 1859
Josephine : born 1861
George Pendleton: born June 28, 1867
Charlotte Hunt: born 1869
Catherine H.: born 1871

Catherine Hunt Balfour died on July 4, 1871 (buried Natchez City Cemetery). Afterwards William S. married Lucy Stone. Issue of William S. and Lucy Stone Balfour was:

Mary S.: born 1875

William S. Balfour died during 1902 and a year later, Lucy Stone Balfour died during 1903. Both are buried in the Natchez City Cemetery.


From researching census and military records, Joseph Davis, son of William Lovett, died at the Battle of Davis Bridge, a part of the Corinth campaign during the Civil War. In the 1860 Federal Census Joseph D. (age 20) is enumerated as living on his late father's expansive estate near Mississippi City, Harrison County on the Mississippi gulf coast. Living in the same household was the Horace Golden (married 18 June 1845 in Madison County) and Mary J. Balfour Blackman family, planters (Mary J. Blackman was Joseph's older sister, and is found on the 1850 Yazoo County Federal Census) along with his younger brothers, Lewis G. and Horace B. They are listed as students.

While living on the gulf coast Joseph met and later married Estelle Musson (born July 16, 1843) of New Orleans on January 24, 1862 in the city of New Orleans. Joseph Davis Balfour served as a Major under Van Dorn's command during the war. The following account of his death on Sunday, October 5, 1862 at Davis Bridge near Corinth, Mississippi on the Hatchie River is taken from the November 30, 1862 edition of the New York Times: "At Davis' Bridge, on Sunday, the accomplished and gallant Balfour, of Gen. Van Dorn's Staff, was fatally wounded. He was observed to suddently turn deathly pale, and dismounted cautiously from his horse. He was asked if he was injured and replied in the negative. He then walked to the shady side of a house, fell in a reclining position, and drew his revolver. He had been mortally wounded, a Minnie ball passing through his bowels; but, with full sense of his injury, he coolly resigned himself to his fate, endeavoring to attract as little attention as possible. He died a few hours after receiving his wound, with unsurpassed coolness and resignation. Major Balfour was a member of one of the most wealthy and influential Portrait of Estelle Musson by Degasfamilies of this State, was the nephew of President Davis, and the pride and hope of his family. He was a gentleman of excellent education, high polish, and was an encyclopedia of general information, obtained by study and travel." Joseph's wife gave birth to their only child, Estelle Josephine, on October 27, 1862 in New Orleans only 22 days after her young husband's untimely death. Joseph's wife, Estelle Musson was the daughter of Michel Musson (born January 13, 1812 in New Orleans) and Genevive Odile Longer. The patriarch of the New Orleans Musson family was Germain Musson. Germain fled to New Orleans during 1809 from Haiti following the revolution led by Toussaint. It was in New Orleans that he married into one of the city's oldest Creole families, the Rillieux. He married Marie Celeste Vincent Rillieux (daughter of Vincent Rillieux and Marie Antoinette Tronquet). During June of 1863, in order to escape the misery of New Orleans during Union occupation, Odile Longer Musson accompanied two of her daughters, Desiree and the widowed Estelle Balfour, as well as Estelle's baby daughter, Estelle Josephine Balfour, on an extended visit to France.

It was in Paris that the young widow of Joseph Balfour fell in love with, and consequently married Jean Baptiste Rene Degas, her first cousin, and the younger brother of the French impressionist artist, Edgar Degas. Their marriage took place on June 15, 1869 in New Orleans. The Musson women had returned to New Orleans immediately after the war ended. On his visit to New Orleans, Edgar Degas was particularly drawn to the tragic figure of Estelle (who was going blind at the time of the artist's visit to the city) and used her often as a subject for his drawings and paintings. Issue of the widow Balfour and Jean Baptiste Rene Degas were: Michel Auguste Pierre (born April 6, 1870), Odile Genevieve (born August 27, 1871), Jeanne Georgine Antoinette Clarie Julie (born December 20, 1872), Edgar Achille Gaston (born February 23, 1875) and Rene Henri (born September 2, 1876). During 1878, the family was rocked by the scandal of Jean Baptiste Rene Degas leaving his wife Estelle and their five children for a married woman who lived nearby and consequently Estelle's children were adopted by Estelle's parents and took the surname Degas-Musson. Estelle and her children lived in her father's household on Esplanade Avenue. Estelle Musson Balfour Degas died on October 18, 1909 and was buried in the Musson tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. Estelle Josephine Balfour, the only issue of Joseph Davis and Estelle Musson Balfour, preceeded her mother in death by twenty eight years, having died in New Orleans on April 18, 1881, at the age of eighteen.

A special thanks to Balfour family descendant William A. Hays, Jr. for sharing these Balfour family portraits with researchers.

Click Thumbnail Image for Full Size Archival Image

Elizabeth Davis Gartley Balfour and Horace (Holly) Balfour
William Lovett Balfour
Joseph Davis Balfour
John Balfour
Mary Jane Balfour Blackman


1850 Madison County Federal Census
Page 373
William L. Balfour: age 48, Planter, North Carolina
Elizabeth D. Balfour: age 42, Louisiana
William S. Balfour: age 22, Mississippi
John Balfour: age 20, Mississippi
Charles Balfour: age 16, Mississippi
James Balfour: age 12, Mississippi
Joseph Balfour: age 10, Mississippi
Lewis Balfour: age 7, Mississippi
Horace Balfour: age 5, Mississippi
Eliza A. Balfour: age 26, Louisiana

1860 Issaquena County Federal Census
Page 875
W.S. Balfour: age 32, male, Planter, Mississippi
C. Balfour: age 30, female, Mississippi
A.H. Balfour: age 9, female, Mississippi
W.L. Balfour: age 7, male, Mississippi
L. Balfour: age 6, female, Mississippi
C. Balfour: age 4, female, Mississippi
D.H. Balfour: age 3, male, Mississippi
M. Balfour: age 1, female, Mississippi
G.W. Murfee, overseer, family living in household

1860 Issaquena County Federal Census
Page 862
Chas. E. Balfour: age 26, male, Planter, Mississippi
Rosa Balfour: age 26, female, Mississippi
Rosa Balfour Jr.: age 3, female, Mississippi

1860 Madison County Federal Census
Page 907
Jno. W. Balfour: age 31, Planter, $125,000, $150,000, Mississippi
Mary C.: age 29, Mississippi
Geo.: age 5, Mississippi
Wm. S.: age 2 6/12, Mississippi
E.J. Halpin: age 34, Gardener, Ireland

1860 Harrison County Federal Census
Page 415
H.G. Blackman: age 42, Planter, $200,000, $230,000, Ohio
Mary J.: age 33, Miss.
Elizabeth: 14, Miss.
Isabella: 12, Miss.
Susan: 10, Miss.
Mary: 8, Miss.
Black: 5, Miss.
Kate: 3, Miss.
Horace: 1, Miss
Estate of W.L. Balfour: $625,000, $340,000
Jos. D. Balfour: 20, Student, Miss.
Lewis G.: 17, Miss.
Horace B.: 15, Miss.

1870 Orleans Parish Federal Census
Page 284
Michael Musson: 59, Cotton Factor, Louisiana
Odille: 50, Keeping House, Louisiana
Desirez: 30, Seamstress, Louisiana
Mathilda: 29, Seamstress, Louisiana
Estelle: 27, At Home, Louisiana
Josephine Balfour: 7, Louisiana
Carrie Bell: 3, Louisiana
Pierre Degas: 4/12, Louisiana
Rene Degas: 25, Commission Merchant, France
William Bell: 33, Commission Merchant, Kentucky
Joseph Merrimack: 35, Mulatto, Waiter, Louisiana
Mariane Patingue: Mulatto, Domestic Servant, Louisiana
Virginie Taylor: 30, Mulatto, Domestic Servant, Louisiana
Mary Mack: 18, Domestis Servant, Louisiana
Johanna O'Conner: 20, Domestic Servant, Louisiana
Craziy Gardener: 70, Gardener, Germany

1870 Adams County Federal Census
Page 142B
Wm. S. Balfour: age 42, Farmer, Mississippi
Catherine Balfour: age 40, Mississippi
Ann H.: age 18, Mississippi
William L.: age 17, Mississippi
Elizabeth: age 14, Mississippi
Josephine: age 9, Mississippi
George P.: age 3, Mississippi
Charlotte: age 1, Mississippi

1880 Adams County Federal Census
Page 182B
Jefferson Hotel, Adams County
Wm. S. Balfour: age 52, Farmer, Mississippi
Lucy S. Balfour: age 42, Mississippi
Josephine Balfour: age 19, Mississippi
Charlotte Balfour: age 11, Mississippi
Catharine H. Balfour: age 9, Mississippi
George Balfour: age 12, Mississippi
Mary S. Balfour: age 5, Mississippi
Sallie McGrew: age 27, House Servant, Mississippi
Jane Henderson: age 45, Cook in Family, Kentucky
Lizzie Washington: age 64, Washing, Virginia

1880 Orleans Parish Federal Census
City of New Orleans, Rampart Street
Michel Musson: W,M, Widowed, 68, None, LA,LA,LA
Desire Musson: W,F, 48, Sister, Single, At Home, LA,LA,LA
Estelle Musson: W,F, 38, Daughter, Divorced, At Home, LA,LA,LA
Jos. Palfoure: W,M, 17, Cousin, Single, Clerk, LA,LA,LA
Pierre Degas: W,M, 8, Grandson, Single, LA,LA,LA
Adile Degas: W,F, 10, Granddaughter, Single, At School, LA,LA,LA
Gaston Degas: W,M, 5, Grandson, Single, LA,LA,LA
Mary Bernard: 60, Servant, Single, Ireland, Ireland, Ireland

A special thanks to Kathy Storm and the generous researchers subscribed to the LAORLEAN Rootsweb mail list for their information supplied about Estelle Balfour's life after the death of her first husband, Joseph Davis Balfour.


Van Court, Catharine. In old Natchez, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1937, pp. 92-93

Memoirs of Henry Tillinghast Ireys : papers of the Washington County Historical Society, 1910-1915 Jackson, Miss.: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History and Mississippi Historical Society, 1954, page 235

Degas In New Orleans.(New Orleans Museum of Art), USA Today (Magazine), July, 1999, by Gail Feigenbaum

Betty Couch Wiltshire. Marriages and Deaths from Mississippi Newspapers, Volume 4: 1850-1861, Heritage Books, Inc., 1990, pp. 167, 179, 215

Humphreys, F. The Humphreys family in America, New York: Humphreys Print, 1883, pp. 1035-1036

Back to the Issaquena Genealogy and History Project

Entire Contents Copyright © 2014 Bob Franks.
Some of the photographs on this page are courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division and William A. Hays, Jr.