I came across a letter in my dad’s papers from my paternal great grandfather, Alexander Shaw Pendleton, written to his children and executors. The letter is dated August 11, 1923, about a year and a half before he died in 1925 in Valdosta, Georgia. The letter begins with the following:
I have this day signed my will. In addition, I now wish to give you some advise regarding the management of the Estate, and particularly regarding The A. S. Pendleton Company, the policies of which you will probably control.
The next several paragraphs talk about running the company, etc. While that was interesting, what I read in the first paragraph on page 2 of this letter, sent me to the Internet to research:
I want you to see to it that the old negro Benjamin Franklin, who has been with me many years and who was owned by my family before the War, is not allowed to suffer for the necessities of life in his old age. Let him have the house in which he now lives free of charge. This house is owned by The Pendleton Company [sic], but you can arrange that, probably by letting the Company have use of the lot on the home place.
|Page 2 of the letter Alexander Pendleton wrote to his children (this paragraph transcribed above)|
I wondered if Alexander was saying "give" the house to Benjamin outright or let him live there rent-free, so I began researching online.
I found a Ben F. Franklin, age 68, in the 1920 census at 203 Fry St. in Valdosta. His wife was Laura Jane, age 45, and their daughter was Bula Mae, age 15.
|Ben F. Franklin at 203 Fry Street, Valdosta, Georgia, in|
the 1920 U.S. Census.
I looked up this address in the online Lowndes County Georgia property tax records database. A. R. Pendleton (Alexis Runette, one of Alexender's sons) is listed as grantee. There’s no date noted and no grantor, but the online records give Deed Book/page 3-X 146. Since my great uncle Alexis is listed as grantee on this property, I believe this is the correct Benjamin Franklin in the 1920 census. If the house was given to Benjamin, I wondered if it had reverted back to the Pendleton family for some reason. Maybe Benjamin Franklin had passed away.
There's a death record for a Benjamin Franklin in Valdosta, Georgia, dated November 19, 1928, but I don't know if this is the correct person. He’s not listed in the online Sunset Hill Cemetery database records, so he must be buried elsewhere in the county. Benjamin was still living at least in 1925, as I found him in the Valdosta City Directory (on ancestry.com) for that year at this same address. The notation beside his listing says “h,” which according to http://www.genealogyintime.com/dictionaries/city-directory-abbreviations.html, means “house, householder (owns the house).” But the 1921 and 1923 city directories (on ancestry.com) also say “h.” Benjamin wasn’t the owner at that time, because Alexander was still living. Maybe the “h” means “house” in this instance. I've not found Benjamin in the 1930 census.
I assume when Alexander wrote that Benjamin had been owned by his family, that he was referring to his father, Philip Coleman Pendleton, as the owner. There's an eight-year-old boy listed in the 1860 slave schedule for Philip, which indicates the child was born about 1852, the same year of birth indicated by the 1920 census for Ben F. Franklin (age 68 in 1920).
|The 1860 Ware County Georgia Slave Schedule for Philip Coleman Pendleton. Note the eight-year-old boy. (Click on the image for a larger view.) See Slaves of Philip Coleman Pendleton about my earlier search.|
I wanted to go to the Lowndes County courthouse to look up the property records in person before I wrote this blog post, but the opportunity came with the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge to go ahead and publish this information for the week's topic, Where There's A Will. Plus, with being the primary care-giver of my 92-year-old mother, it’s not easy for me to get away so I can research. But one day, I’ll get to the courthouse!
P.S. I plan to do a follow-up post about Benjamin F. Franklin as I continue my research about him.