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Charles Vincent

Allain was born on October 1, 1846, on a plantation in the Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A wealthy white man, Sosthene Allain, owned the plantation. Like some other slaveholders, he made one of his slaves, “a pretty brown woman,” his mistress. They had a son, Théophile, who bore the improbable nickname of Soulouque, after the self-proclaimed black dictator of Haiti, Faustin Élie Soulouque. Théophile accompanied his father on trips to the North and to Europe. In 1856 Sosthene Allain sent for his son to join him in France, where he witnessed the christening of the prince imperial at Notre Dame. They journeyed also to Spain and England. Returning to the United States in 1859, young Allain entered school under a Professor Abadie in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1868 he was enrolled in a private school in New Brunswick New Jersey He owned ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

businessman and politician, was born a slave in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Sosthene Allain, a wealthy white planter, and one of Allain's slave mistresses, whose name is not recorded. Sosthene Allain appears to have favored his son, to whom he gave the nickname “Solougue,” after a Haitian dictator of the 1840s and 1850s. In 1856, when Théophile was ten, his father called him to France to attend the christening of the son of Louis Napoleon III in Paris and also to travel with him to Spain and Britain. Théophile returned to the United States in 1859, where he studied with private tutors in New Orleans and at a private college in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Although Allain had been born a slave his education and foreign travel prepared him well for a leadership position in Louisiana business and politics after the Civil War So too did ...

Article

John Gilmore

Politician, born in Jamaica into a family of wealthy plantation owners. Sent to England in 1723, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He later studied medicine at Leiden in Holland, but broke off his course there when the death of his father obliged him to return to Jamaica in 1735. When his elder brother died in 1737, he inherited most of the family properties and continued to add to them by inheritance and purchase over the next 30 years. At the time of his death he was sole owner of thirteen sugar plantations in Jamaica, together with other real estate and about 3,000 slaves.

In 1737William Beckford became a member of the Jamaican House of Assembly, but by 1744 he had left Jamaica for Britain where he settled in London as a West India merchant selling the produce of his own estates ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, agriculturalist, and head of a dynasty, was probably born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, near what was then the border between Spanish Texas and French Louisiana, although it is possible that she was born in Africa and came to Louisiana as a young child. Her name definitely originated in Africa, but no convincing argument has been made that traces it to one particular location. She was baptized in 1742 as the slave of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the founder of Natchitoches which was the first permanent settlement in Louisiana. In 1756 she was inherited by the widow of St. Denis, and then became the property of the widow's son, Pierre Antoine de St. Denis Jr., in 1758, ending up the slave of the de Soto family. Between 1761 and 1766 she had three black children—Marie Thérèze Don Manuel, Françoise, and Jean Joseph In ...

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Fiona J. L. Handley

freed slave and successful landowner, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the very earliest days of the French colony, or he arrived there as an enslaved young adult. Because his name, Doclas (sometimes spelled Docla) is not French, it is presumed to have an African origin.

Doclas was baptized into the Catholic Church as an adult slave of the white French Derbanne family on 26 September 1737. Three days later, he married Judith, another slave owned by the family. Little is known of Doclas's years as a slave, although he probably served the Derbannes in many capacities. When the Spanish acquired Louisiana from France in 1763 the Derbannes s prominence in trade and local government disappeared with their connections to colonial authorities so they switched to agriculture Nicholas probably worked in the tobacco fields for which the area was famous The Derbannes eventually rewarded Doclas s ...

Article

Michael P. Johnson

cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the biracial child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight's gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills, as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison's owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816 ...

Article

Michael P. Johnson

Ellison, William (1790–05 December 1861), cotton-gin maker and planter was born a slave in Fairfield District South Carolina His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown Originally named April the mulatto child received exceptional treatment His master apprenticed him to William McCreight a white cotton gin maker in Winnsboro From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight s gin shop learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman During his training he learned reading writing arithmetic and basic bookkeeping skills He also became well versed in interracial social skills as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts Ellison s owner William Ellison allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to ...

Article

John Howard Smith

a planter on Virginia's eastern shore, arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James along with a handful of other Africans or Afro-Caribbeans listed as “servants.” His place and date of birth are not known, though it is supposed that he was born a free man in Africa. He worked his way out of slavery, became a farmer in Northampton County, and later a slaveholding planter in neighboring Accomack County, Virginia. Between his arrival and 1635, he belonged to Richard Bennett of Warresquioake County, on the south side of the James River, at which time he apparently won his freedom and that of his wife, Mary, who was also a slave of the Bennetts. Anthony and Mary Johnson produced at least four children and were married until Anthony's death.

Known in 1621 simply as “Antonio,” Johnson was listed in a 1625 census as a servant though whether ...

Article

David Mark Silver

Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father's prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis's personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, granted Montgomery full access to all the books, newspapers, and periodicals within his home, enabling Montgomery to continue the education begun first by his father and later continued by another slave. Following the Civil War, in November 1866 Davis sold his two plantations to the Montgomery family During the next fifteen years the Montgomerys struggled and ultimately failed to make the plantations profitable yet they still succeeded in ...

Article

David Mark Silver

planter and founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father's prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis's personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, granted Montgomery full access to all the books, newspapers, and periodicals within his home, enabling Montgomery to continue the education begun first by his father and later continued by another slave. Following the Civil War, in November 1866 Davis sold his two plantations to the Montgomery family During the next fifteen years the Montgomerys struggled and ultimately failed to make the plantations profitable yet ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

former slave and wealthy North Carolina planter, was born a slave in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of an African Ibo woman who had been brought to America on a vessel owned by the merchant-shipper John Wright Stanly in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Described as a “dark-skinned mulatto,” he was almost certainly the son of John Wright Stanly, although his apparent father did not acknowledge paternity. As a young boy he was turned over to Alexander Stewart, who captained the ship that brought his mother from Africa, and Stewart's wife, Lydia Carruthers Stewart, who taught Stanly to read and write and arranged for him to open a barbershop in New Bern as a teenager. Intelligent, gracious, and personable, Stanly quickly became a success, and as New Bern expanded commercially, he earned a good livelihood, even as a slave. In 1795 the Stewarts petitioned ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Beninese trader and political leader, was born in the mid-nineteenth century in the kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin). His father Padounou Houénou was a leading adviser to Gele, king of Dahomey from 1858 to 1887. His son eventually would follow his father’s career in trade, since Padounou’s main task was to watch over European and Afro-Brazilian traders in the southern port city of Porto-Novo, a vassal of Dahomey. Unfortunately, Tovalou-Quenum’s father backed a rival heir of Glélè to Kondo, the future king of Dahomey. Kondo (later known as Behanzin) had Padounou jailed as a result, and he died in prison in 1887 Tovalou Quenum first chose to settle in Ouidah in part to avoid the court intrigues that had brought so much adversity to his father By the late 1880s Tovalou Quenum had become one of the most wealthy and innovative businessmen in the city Later he moved ...