Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Working on Wednesday: Jesse Warren, Sr. (About 1747 - 1827), Planter and Distillery Owner

It's clear from records that this paternal fourth great grandfather was doing quite well financially in Hancock County, Georgia, having moved there from his birthplace in Prince George County (now Dinwiddie) in Virginia in about 1791.

Property tax lists for 1812 show that Jesse owned a total of 575 acres in Hancock County and two additional plots of 202-1.2 acres in Putnam and Baldwin Counties. 
[ Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Georgia Tax Digests [1890]. 140 volumes. Morrow, Georgia: Georgia Archives.]

By the 1820 U.S. Census, Jesse's household had expanded to 35 persons, including 29 slaves. Sixteen persons (almost certainly all slaves) were engaged in agriculture. His son Jesse Jr., my third great grandfather, is probably enumerated as the sole individual in the column titled "Free White Persons - Males - 26 thru 44" as he didn't marry until 1824.

[ 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Fourth Census of the United States, 1820. (NARA microfilm publication M33, 142 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.]

In his will, written just ten days after the death of Jesse Jr., Jesse Sr. left one of his sons (Robert) one dollar as his entire inheritance, gave Jesse Jr.'s widow Timley* five dollars, and after making provision for his wife Elizabeth, his surviving children and several orphaned grandchildren, and naming his oldest son Jeremiah and son-in-law Lott Harton as his executors, in his final bequest he left one thousand dollars to Jesse Jr.'s infant son if he should survive to twenty-one.**
["Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990," images, FamilySearch (,267796201 : accessed 16 April 2015), Hancock > Wills and administration records 1827-1830 vol M > image 56 of 394; county probate courthouses, Georgia.]

Jesse Sr. died one year and four days after Jesse Jr. His obituary was published in The Southern Recorder of February 26, 1827.***
"Died at his residence, in Hancock county, Geo., MR. JESSE WARREN, SEN., in the 79th year of his age. After spending forty-four years of his life in Dinwiddie county, Va., he moved to this State, and by industry and economy accumulated a handsome property. For the last twenty years of his life he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. As an honest, upright, virtuous, benevolent man, he was surpassed by few; as a husband he was kind and affectionate; as a father tender and lenient; as a master, possessing command, yet his suavity of manners ensured obedience from his servants; and as a neighbor, his death was lamented by all--He has left an aged, affectionate companion with seven children, all of whom have for many years enjoyed his company and conversation, with a numerous acquaintance, to lament their irreparable loss--but he is gone! his eyes were closed to everything beneath the sun on Wednesday evening, the 10th inst., at about 5 o'clock, without the least appearance of dread. 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'"
He is buried in the Harper Cemetery in Hancock County, Georgia. We hope to visit his grave later this year.
[Find A Grave Memorial# 13410051; Photo: Jack Johnson (#46814495) ]

An extensive inventory and appraisal of his estate took place the following month and was property was valued (not counting land or buildings) at $13,676.77 and included a list of 39 enslaved persons.

I hadn't paid much attention to what Jesse Sr.'s belongings were until I found this notice of the executors' planned sale in which, among "other articles too tedious to mention," were "a first rate still worm for the purpose of stilling by steam, and two stills, a pair of mill-stones and a quantity of slaves**** well seasoned for the purpose of still tubs." 
[Hancock County, Georgia, newspaper abstracts, : Hancock Advertiser, 1826-1860]

Going back to the probate records I found that the stills***** were there, along with barrels and even some bottles.

 ["Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990," images, FamilySearch (,267796201 : accessed 16 April 2015), Hancock > Wills and administration records 1827-1830 vol M > image 57 of 394; county probate courthouses, Georgia.]

So part of this great great great great grandfather's industry was distilling alcohol (probably whiskey), not that he was doing it personally of course. But I don't think it's accurate to label him as a moonshiner because the stills and worms were officially counted as part of his property in court records and their sale was publicized in the local newspaper so this wasn't a secret enterprise at the time.

As for what the liquor was for? Everybody, if there's any truth in the following passage taken from a temperance tract written by Daniel Dorchester and copyrighted in 1884 titled "The Liquor Problem in All Ages."******

*That's how Timney Watts' name is spelled in this document.
**I haven't been able to discover whether his grandson Jesse T.S. Warren ever got his inheritance.
***Source; Digital Library of Georgia, Milledgeville Historic Newspapers Archive
****I wish we could figure out which of the enslaved persons listed in Jesse's inventory are referred to here.
*****General information on distilling whiskey and other spirits here and here and here.
******Available as a free Google book here.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I got a hangover just reading about it, going back to bed now to sleep it off.