Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge: write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.
This week I’m breaking from my usual plan which has been to report on the oldest names in my various lines (and to update my own research along the way). But a recent discovery has pushed me a decade further in tracing the whereabouts of one particular family whose collective stories have been interesting to say the least – at least to me. I'm excited to share that story.
Over the years, I have from time to time come across references to The Freedmen’s Bureau (formally known as Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands). I knew its purpose was to aid freed slaves at the conclusion of the Civil War. So it never occurred to me to search for my ancestors through any records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
Wikimedia Commons - public domain
It must have been in a moment of boredom, I suppose, that I clicked on the link to the Freedmen’s Bureau records at FamilySearch and typed “Jollett” into the Search box. Surprisingly – Amazingly – four hits appeared, all leading to Elizabeth Jollett.
The details in a series of letters and reports convinced me that at long last I had found Ann Elizabeth Breeden/Breeding JOLLETT, the widow of my half second great-granduncle Emanuel Jollett. I lost her after 1860 when she was last enumerated in Page County, Virginia, along with four daughters and two sons. In 1870, they were nowhere to be found, save son William who was in jail in Richmond for stealing a horse. I theorized that Ann Elizabeth and her daughters had married, and perhaps the other son Andrew had died.
While Ann Elizabeth’s story seemed to have ended in 1860, William’s story was just getting started. In fact, I wrote a series about William’s life of crime and new identity. One part of the story in particular always puzzled me: after William was released from prison in 1874, he went to Shenandoah County to visit family. That confused me because I knew of no family there, but evidently it was William’s mother and sisters. How do I know that now for sure? Because Ann Elizabeth asked the Freedmen’s Bureau in Shenandoah County for help.
What I’ve learned is that the Union soldiers who manned the various posts did more than help former slaves get an education and find work. In addition to aiding in the transition from slavery to freedom, the Freedmen’s Bureau kept good records of bounty payments, pensions, and records related to property restoration and homesteads. The Bureau helped reestablish order by investigating instances of violence, mediating labor disputes, and issuing rations to both freed slaves and refugees.
In one of the letters, Ann Elizabeth Jollett was determined to be a refugee. When I was in school, “refugee” was not a term that came up in our study of the Civil War. Come to find out, the term can refer to former slaves, Southern Unionists, and Confederates. Most often “refugee” means Confederates who had fled their home to escape advancing Union troops. One of the problems the Bureau faced was that such refugees frequently had trouble finding work or a place to live. Towns and cities often lacked resources to feed and house refugees, many of whom finding themselves victims of extortion and price-gauging as a result.
Apparently Ann Elizabeth Jollett and her daughters moved from Page County sometime between 1860 and 1866 to the town of Woodstock in Shenandoah County. Her situation as a refugee is all the more puzzling because there was plenty of family back in Page County, so if she actually fled for her life, I wonder why. After all, her father-in-law and two brothers-in-law stayed put. Maybe she had other reasons to move.
So what brought Ann Elizabeth Jollett to the Bureau office? Fear! She asked for military protection because the safety of her family was threatened by a gang of men from nearby Edinburg.
Report of Lt Hall Asst. Supt. (dated Woodstock, Va July 28, 1866) in which he states that a family of women have applied to him for military protection agst. the depredation of a gang of young men lead by an ex-Rebel Captain. That the [ possibly abbreviations for particular ranks in the army] are afraid to interfere ask instructions.
Bu. R. Fr. & A. L.
H. Qrs. Shen. Div.
[Headquarters Shenandoah Division]
Winchester Va Augt.1/66
Respectfully referred to Col. J. V.
Bumford, Comdr Post at Winchester
with the request that the protection
asked for be affirmed
J. H. Remington
Capt. Of Battalion 6
Supt. Shen. Div.
August 1, 1866
Elizabeth Jollett widow
Complains that a gang of young men of Edinburg broke into her house & made indecent proposals also that a magistrate to whom she complained introduced to her house a man under the name of Lt. Hall who tried to compromise the affair. This same magistrate has since then threatened to burn her house.
B. R. F. & A. L. Asst. Supt. Sub Dist. “D”
Woodstock Va Aug. 1/66
Respectfully referred to Bat.Maj. J. H. Remington Supt. & c with the request that as the affair seems to have assumed increased disagreeable proportions a small detachment of troops be stationed at this Post.
J. W. Hall
Lt. [?] & Asst. Supt.
Lt. Hall forwards complaint of Elizabeth Jollett, widow, that a party of young men from Edinburg broke into her house & made indecent proposals. Desires military protection.
Bur. R. F. & A. L.
Hd. Qrs. Shen. Div.
Winchester, Va Aug 3/66
Respectfully returned / Lt. Hall, Asst. Supt. for report as to whether this woman is a Refugee or freedwoman.
J. H. Remington
Capt. Bureau [?]
B. R. F. & A. L. Asst. Sup. Sub Div D
Woodstock, Va Aug 4/66
Respectfully returned to Maj. J. H. Remington Supt. & C. The sons of the woman are Refugees still.
Your Obt. Servt.
J. W. Hall
Lt. [?] & Asst. Supt.
I’m unsure about the mention of “sons” since the first report mentioned a widow and three daughters. Possibly this was a mental slip or a response to another inquiry as to whether there were any men in the house. Andrew would have been only 10, so he should have been there unless he was already dead or he was staying with relatives elsewhere. William, a Confederate soldier, might have been a refugee in Shenandoah County or another location.
Head Quarters 8th US Infantry
Winchester Va July 7th 1866 [I don’t understand this date as it predates the initial report. Maybe he meant to write August.]
In accordance with S.O. No. 111 Dated Hd. Qrs. Post of Winchester August 5th 1866. I proceeded to Woodstock and have the honor to submit the following as the result of my investigation. Upon arriving at Woodstock, I called on Lieut. Hall of B. R. F. & A. L. and learned from him that a family named Jollett had complained to him of threats made against them by some gang of men from Edinburg. This family consisted of a widow and three daughters. I afterwards called on the family (who having moved since the complaint was made – and they all agreed that there is no necessity at present for any other protection than they now have. They anticipated no further interference. Deeming the matter settled for the present I returned to this post.
I am Sir very Respectfully
(signed) Saml. J. Ferris
1st Lieut. 8th US Infantry
Ann Elizabeth had four daughters: Susan or Susannah, Margaret, Nancy, and Sarah. However, the reports reference only three. Nancy most assuredly was one since she supplied a horse for her brother William (Part 2 of the Man on the Run series). Sarah was only 14, so she was likely one of the three. Susan was already married but widowed thanks to the Civil War. She could have been living with her mother or she might have remarried – I have not found her either. And that leaves Margaret, age 21. She or Susan – but which one, I don’t know.
While how the story of Ann Elizabeth and her daughters ended is still a mystery, I am convinced they were in Shenandoah County as late as 1876 when William Jollett passed through on his way to obscurity and rebirth as William Boyd. A lot could have happened between 1866 and 1876, but if I’ve found this much, I can surely find more.