George William Warfield

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Henderson County Kentucky

Sale and Separation of George William Warfield

By Carolyn L. Warfield


    The complexity of heritage lets me construct my ancestor’s identity even though his name varied across time as an imposition of a condition. This case concerns a transfer of ownership for my paternal great-grandfather, George William Warfield, of Henderson County, Kentucky in the early 1850s, and the characteristics of building this case by pulling out consistent clues offered in the primary sources. Prior to the late 1840s, the sale of slaves was a personal business transaction which was not tracked or announced to the public except through public auction.1 Slaves sold to settle an estate were generally sold at the county court house.


    George Warfield was sold about age 12, after farmer Richard Warfield (1773-1838) perished by death.  Richard Warfield’s farm was in Henderson County near the Uniontown Road in Walnut Bottom. In 1838, Warfield died intestate, 2 leaving his next of kin to administer his estate, which placed my relatives in uncertainty and unstable circumstances. George was born to Anna Warfield the previous year and successfully reached adolescence before his life forever changed.3


    Richard Warfield’s youngest son and namesake, was orphaned as a minor when his father expired, and placed under the guardianship of an older brother who administered the family estate until Richard Nicholas was 21 years old.  As a 30-year old farmer in Henderson County in 1850, Richard Nicholas Warfield (1820-1896) enslaved three Negroes: one female, age 26, one male, age 12, and one female, age 4.4 The 1850 Federal Census for District 1 of Henderson County found Richard Nicholas Warfield living next door to his nephew, Samuel R. Hopkins, age 6, in the household of his parents, Arthur J. and Elizabeth L. (Warfield) Hopkins. Later in 1908, Samuel R. Hopkins, age 63, declared he had known George since childhood. “He belonged to my uncle Richard N. Warfield and was sold to William Beverley,” according to Hopkins’ general affidavit.5  The 1851 and 1852 Agricultural Schedules of Richard Nicholas Warfield recorded his ownership of four slaves in both years. Richard N. Warfield settled his father’s estate in between his marriage to Anne Eliza Church and their removal to Saline County, Illinois in 1852, where she passed in 1853.6


    As a point of clarification, William Posey Beverley (1818-1906), son of William and Sarah Anne (Posey) Beverley, was George’s second enslaver. Beverley and his father migrated from Virginia to Henderson County in 1832.7 Thus William P. Warfield inherited the fertile farmland his father owned after he died, about 1837. William Beverley had no will. William P. Beverley’s life followed the occupation of farming, living upon his farm but in later years resided in the city.8 As local planters the Beverley’s produced tobacco and other staples. Over time they cultivated 525 acres of land lying on the Canoe Creek water course and owned property situated on the Lick Creek, Ohio River, and Green River water ways.9 In 1880, a map of the Beverley’s larger farm near Spottsville Road (Parcel 42, District 5, of Lower Henderson) appeared in An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Henderson County Kentucky.10 The 1850 Federal Census for District 1 of Henderson County listed William P. Beverley, age 31, living with his family, wife Catherine, age 23, and infant daughter Cornelia, in a home valued at $6,300. Among the 14 anonymous enslaved workers under Beverley’s control in 1850, one was a 12 year-old male.11 In a 2 January , 1903 deposition, my ancestor George appeared for a special examination of the Bureau of Pensions and asserted “prior to the war I was a slave and belonged to William Beverley who lived three or four miles east of Henderson. He now lives in Henderson.”12


    To further substantiate my ancestor’s transfer of ownership, reference is made to a portion of the 1851 Will of Mrs. Sarah Anne Beverley (William Posey Beverley’s mother), where she stated “any other slaves or property of any description that I may die possessed of, or not mentioned, or otherwise disposed of by this will, I give to my three sons Robert [Gaines], William [Posey] and Henry [M] to be equally divided among them.”13 Although these bondspeople were anonymous, in the 15 August 1853 Deed of Bequest from Henry M. Beverley to Frances C. Beverley (his wife), Henry acknowledged a boy in his possession named George, about 15 years old, whom he granted and conveyed to his wife Frances.14 William Posey’s younger brother Henry sometimes managed the smaller Beverley farm situated on the Green River water course.


    Subsequently, on 19 September 1864, George enlisted in the Union Army as a private in the 118th U.S Colored Infantry at Owensboro (Daviess) County, Kentucky, 15  and said, “when I enlisted I was required to enlist under my master’s name, therefore enlisted and served under the name of Beverly.” He knew he was being victimized, but empowered himself by exercising an agency he felt was his birthright when he confronted the institution of slavery.


End Notes:

1. Notable Kentucky African American website.

2. An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Henderson County Kentucky, Philadelphia, PA: D. J. Lake and Co., 1880, 6.

3. Appraisable Property, 1838 Will of Richard Warfield, Henderson County KY: Book B, p 483;   December 24, 1838 County Court, Henderson County KY Court Order: Book D, p 382. Warfield’s land was located on the Ohio River above the mouth of the Green River.

4. Ancestry Library Edition, 1850 Slave Schedule for Richard N. Warfield, Dist. 1, Henderson Co., KY.

5. Ancestry Library Edition, 1850 Federal Census, Richard N. Warfield, Dist 1, Henderson County, KY: Line 11, Dwelling #220, Family #230; Arthur J, Elizabeth L. and Samuel Hopkins, Lines 6-8, Dwelling #219, Family 229; George William Warfield Pension Certificate #679671, Washington D.C: National Archives Records and Administration.

6. Richard N. Warfield Family Group Sheet; communication with James Pearce, living descendant of Warfield family in 2008.

7. Edmund Starling, History of Henderson Kentucky, 814; January 1837 Henderson County KY Court Order: Book D, 298.

8. Edmund Starling, History of Henderson Kentucky, 814, 815.

9. Beverly Family Tax Lists, Henderson County Kentucky: 1840-1850, Beverly Family Agricultural Schedules: 1849-1852, Henderson County Kentucky.

10. An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Henderson County Kentucky, 16.

11. Ancestry Library Edition, 1850 Federal Census for William P. Beverley, Dist 1, Henderson County, KY: Lines 36-38, Dwelling #201, Family #210; 1850    Slave Schedule for William P. Beverley, Dist 1, Henderson County, KY; An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Henderson County, Kentucky, Philadelphia, PA:  D. L. Lake and Co., 1880, 16.

12. George William Warfield Pension Certificate #679671, Washington, D. C.: National Archives Records and Administration.

13. 1851 Will for Sarah A. Beverley, Henderson County Kentucky: Book C, 108.

14. 1853 Deed of Bequest from Henry M. to Frances C. Beverley, Henderson County Kentucky, Book P, 27, 28.

15. George William Warfield Pension Certificate #679671, Washington, D.C.: National Archives Records and Administration.