Cook vs Keeling | Gilliams of Virginia

Rhody Cook vs. Edward Keeling
Updated March 28, 2016

Background
Robert Gilliam, the son of James Gilliam and Martha Isbell on 24 Dec 1786 in Charlotte County, VA married Priscilla Mosby. James bequeaths to Robert in 1792: “I give & bequath (sic) to my son Robert GILLIAM one hundred acres of my land lying on the Southside of Twitties creek adjoining the lines of Joseph Friend and Edward Keeling to be closed by one strait (sic) line also one negro man by the name of Dennis and also one feather bed which he has now in possession to thim his heirs and assigns forever.” Edward came into possession of his land on Twitty’s in 1772 when Andrew Lea of Charlotte & Elizabeth Lea sold to Edward Keeling, 275 acres both sides branch of Twittys Creek called Reeses Fork adj James GUILLIAM, Manard GUILLIAM, orphan of William GUILLIAM [dec'd], Lodwick FARMER & Edward KEELING.
Robert appears in the Personal Property taxes of Charlotte County until his death on 2 Jan 1803. His estate was appraised on 12 Feb 1803.

In the years prior to 1797 Robert is listed with several blacks. However, in the years afterward Robert is listed with either one or no blacks. Apparently Nancy wins her suit and John wins his freedom. The Inventories and Appraisement of the Estate of Robert dated 1803 show that Robert owned no negroes at the time of his death.



Overview
Nancy Cook, the elder, was born free in the County of King and Queen and partly raised in this Charlotte County. Nancy was bound to a certain John Gale to serve a limited time; however, the said John Gale sold her time of servitude to a certain Edward Keeling of Charlotte. For a while Keeling, however, kept Nancy in his possession as a slave. Eventually he released her, but retained Rhody Cook, Charlotte Cook, Delphy Cook, Jenny Cook, John Cook, Nancy Cook and George Cook in his possession and used them as his slaves. John was later sold to Robert Gilliam.

Nancy sues for her children and grandchildren’s freedom.

From Charlotte Court Orders we learn that on 7 October 1793, Edward Keeling emancipates Nancy a negro woman. After that time Nancy appears lists of free negroes & Mulattoes.

From other records we learn that Nancy Cook, born about 1762, was the "mulatto" mother of Rhoda, Charlotte and John Cook who were bound out by the Charlotte County court on 6 August 1793. Nancy registered in Petersburg on 15 August 1800 as a light brown Mulatto woman, five feet one and a half inches high, thirty-eight years old, bushy head of hair, and appears from the certificate produced to have been born free in the County of King & Queen & partly raised in Charlotte County
[Register of Free Negroes 1794-1819, no. 181]. She was head of a Petersburg Town household of 3 "other free" in 1810.
Nancy was the mother of:
  • Rhoda, born about 1784.
  • Charlotte, born about 1784, registered in Petersburg on 1 November 1802: a dark brown Mulatto woman, five feet four inches high, eighteen years old, short knotty hair, born free & raised in Charlotte County [Register of Free Negroes 1794-1819, no. 245]. She was head of a Petersburg Town household of 2 "other free" in 1810
  • Delphy
  • Jenny
  • John

Rhoda Cook, born about 1784, registered in Petersburg on 7 June 1810: a light brown free woman of Colour, five feet five inches high, twenty-six years old, born free & raised in Charlotte County
[Register of Free Negroes 1794-1819, no. 513].
She was the mother of:
  • Nancy, the younger
  • George, born about 1799, registered in Petersburg on 6 January 1818: a free lad of Colour, nineteen and a half years old, five feet seven 3/4 inches high, dark brown Complection, son of Rhoda Cook, a free woman [Register of Free Negroes 1794-1819, no. 892].
  • John, born about 1802, registered in Petersburg on 6 January 1818: sixteen years old, five feet seven inches high, dark brown Complection, son of Rhoda Cook, a free woman [Register of Free Negroes 1794-1819, no. 893].


1801
To the worshipful court of Charlotte County
The petition
of Rhody Cook, Charlotte Cook, Delphy Cook, Jenny Cook, John Cook, Nancy Cook and George Cook the two last of who are children of the said Rhody, all infants under the age of twenty-one years by Nancy Cook the elder their natural guardian, humbly sheweth.
That the said Rhody, Charlotte, Delphy, Jenny and John are children of the said Nancy Cook, the elder, that the said Nancy the younger and George are children of the said Rhody, that the said Nancy the elder was born free in the County of King and Queen and partly raised in this County, that the said Nancy the elder was bound as she is informed to a certain John Gale to serve a limited time, that the said John Gale sold her time of servitude to a certain Edwards Keeling of this county, that the said Keeling has ever since until about four years part kept the said Nancy the elder in his possession as a slave, that about four years ago he dismissed her from his service, but retained your petitioners in his possession and sued them as his slaves, that but a very short time past he has sold one of your petitioners to wit John to a certain Robert GUILLIAM also of this County and that the said John is by him now detained in slavery, that the rest of your petitioners are still kept as slaves by the aid Keeling and that all of them have been born and raised to their present ages in this county. Your petitioners therefore pray that they may be permitted to commence suit in this court for their freedom of which they are most wrongfully deprived against the said Keeling and Guilliam, that they may have counsel assigned them for prosecuting the said suit and that the said Keeling & GUILLIAM may be compelled to give bond and sufficient security to have your petitioners forthcoming to ______ the final judgment of your worships and such other order to make as is consistent with law and justice and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.

Sig: Nancy [her X mark] Cook, Senr., guardian as aforesaid.

Teste
W. M. Watkins
Saml W. Venable

Being appointed counsel for the petitioners, I have read the within stated case and am of the opinion that the said petitioners are entitled to their freedom should the said case be true and that they ought to be permitted to commence their suit for freedom.

Sig: W. M. Watkins


Decr 25, 1795
1801 Novem



Sources
  • Library of Virginia. Chancery Files. Charlotte County. Rhody Cook, etc., vs. Edward Keeling. 1801-012