William Hamby’s Estate in Rabun County’s Writs

While compiling Rabun County’s earliest writs and petitions for publication (available soon), I came across an 1843 court case between the heirs of the estate of William Hamby and the administrator of the estate, James Hamby. Naturally, the petition named all the heirs “to the second degree”: Ezekiel Hamby; Jonothan Roach and his wife, Huldah (Hamby) Roach; Benjamin Shelton and his wife, Keziah (Hamby) Shelton; Daniel Inman and his wife, Rebecca (Hamby) Inman; Martha Hamby; Sophia Hamby; Martha Hamby, the mother of William Hamby, the decedent; Amos Forrister and his wife Elizabeth (Hamby) Forester; James Hamby, the estate’s administrator; and Thomas K. Forrister and his wife, Polly (Hamby) Forrister.

The initial petition provides excellent information on the dynamics of this Hamby family, but there are many other documents attached to this suit, including an inventory of the estate, the sale of personal property from the estate, and the deceased’s account books,1 all of which were written into the record.2 The latter two items should be of particular interest to area researchers, even those uninterested in the Hamby family per se, because they can be used to reconstruct William Hamby’s neighborhood.

This is important for a couple of reasons. As best I can tell, the Hambys lived in Moccasin District, which is shown in this modern map (courtesy of the GAGenWeb Archives) by its number, 1014. The boundaries have likely changed at least a little over time, but the point here is Moccasin District’s location. At the time of William Hamby’s death, Moccasin was bounded on the east by then-Pickens District, South Carolina (modern Oconee County), and to the north by Macon County, North Carolina (incorrectly labeled in the map as being part of Tennessee). Two other Rabun County militia districts bounded Moccasin to the west, Valley (556) and Warwoman (452). A third district, Chechero (436), was not far away.3

So, because of his location, William’s community likely included people who lived in other states. When looking at the list of people who bought personal property from William’s estate, for instance, I recognize several who lived at that time in North or South Carolina. But this is not something we have to guess at. William died at some point before 8 August 1839, the date of his estate’s sale at auction. Conveniently, this falls close enough to the enumeration of the 1840 U. S. census that we can correlate these estate records and censuses with extant land records to map where those buyers probably lived. Doing this could help determine which families were related to one another, and which would likely have provided friends, neighbors, business associations, and even marriage partners.

That last item is one in which I’m particularly interested, because among the individuals named were two men who might, maybe, possibly have been the husbands (not at the same time) of….

*drum roll*

Jemima Kell, if she is whom I suspect her to be. Yes, the very same one who has been keeping me up at nights.

But that is only speculation and nothing more, and not my point anyway. My point is that these records can be useful ultimately for determining identity, etc., by placing individuals in the same time and place as one another.

There are also a number of women who either bought items from William Hamby’s estate, aside from known family members, or who had accounts with him. The latter included Tempa Abbit, Peggy Brooks, Sarah Darnel, Nancy Pinson, Anny Lowry, Charlotte Water, Malinda Scruggs, Lucinda Scruggs, Rebecca Thomas, Polly Wadkins, Elizabeth Gouch, and Sereldy Moss. And those weren’t the only women mentioned. It’s not a lot, but considering that the area in question was not too far in time from being a frontier, it’s better than a sack of beans.4

Finally, consider what can be learned simply from the context of the records: that they were written into a Superior Court volume rather than into the “normal” estate records; that William Hamby was well-known, well-connected, and apparently well-off for the time, and by correlation, his family may have been as well; and that the many items inventoried and sold provide a good idea of not only how people were spending their money in 1839, but of what they could purchase and what they considered necessary.

Looking beyond the face value of a record can yield some surprising treasures, particularly if we’re willing to apply a creative mindset to the problem at hand.

* * * * *

1. From the items sold as “personal property,” it’s fairly clear that William owned a well-stocked general store.

2. Rabun County, Georgia, Record of Writs B, 1836 – 1844: 205 – 232; Clerk of the Superior Court, Clayton. None of the writ volumes have been microfilmed or digitized.

3. In 1956, Alex M. Hitz published an article in the Georgia Bar Journal about the history of Georgia’s militia districts, which was reprinted by the Georgia Archives and published online here

4. i.e. Better than nothing. This is one of those Southernisms that makes sense only in the South. Kinda like “neater’n socks on a rooster.” I mean, really, who would put socks on a rooster, let alone how? And why would you do that anyway? Honestly.

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