GREEN BERRY CHANEY FAMILY of Oakchia Plantation
Abstracted by Ann H. Gay 2001,2002,2003
The names G.B. and Peyton Chaney appear in Washington Co. AL records in 1811 and 1817.
Green Berry Chaney and his brother Peyton Cherry Chaney bought land in Sumter County, AL c1830. Previously in 1820 they had bought land in Washington County. There was a Jared Cherry living in Sumter County, and William T. Chaney in Marengo County, family connection if any, unknown.
G.B. was a genius at making and handling money and acquiring land, and was probably the largest slave owner in Choctaw County in 1850. One acquaintance said he would think G.B. to be “somewhat wicked”.
Peyton left his Washington County land to Green Berry, so when G.B. died he had land in Sumter, Choctaw, Marengo and Washington counties, on both sides of the Tombigbee River.
Peyton left his Marengo County land and some slaves to his oldest nephew Emanuel B. Chaney, and the rest of his estate to nephews surviving at the time of Peyton’s death: Emanuel B., William P., James P. and Bailey E. Chaney. The other nephews were not born at this time.
Green Berry and Peyton bought the Horner Reserve (at Mt. Sterling?) land from the mixed blood Indians who had it reserved for them in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. Possibly also the Juzan Reserve where Oakchia was located. (There was a Horner’s old store in Mt. Sterling. Horner owned land on both sides of the river, and John Charles Juzan was said to own and be buried somewhere at Tuscahoma landing)
PEYTON CHERRY CHANEY- no wife or children- died 5 August 1840GREEN BERRY CHANEY m. CAROLINE HAINESWORTH?WILLIAMSON 16 May 1821, in Marengo County, AL; G.B. b. 1794 in GA; died 13 January 1853, Intestate, in Selma, AL Final settlement of Green Berry’s estate Dec. 9, 1859 Caroline b. 1807? in Alabama Caroline Chaney (widow) married William J. ALSTON 31 October 1855 in Marengo County, AL Caroline Alston died outside the US (in Mexico) 21 April 1866 Her will dated 19 November 1858, filed for probate 18 June 1866, proved in Court in Choctaw County, Alabama 9 July 1866.
Caroline and Green Berry’s 13 Children:
EMANUEL BURGESS CHANEY b. April 1823 d. 11 October 1853, Intestate;
“in April of 1844 Emanuel arrived at full age (21)”
When Emanuel reached 21, his father G.B. petitioned the Sumter County
court to divide up Peyton’s land so Emanuel could have his share.
Emanuel married Mary Jane Ashford 1 September 1848; no children
Emanuel’s estate inventory shows personal property in Butler as well as at the James Place or Breckenridge Place.
Mary Jane Chaney (widow) married CHARLES NICHOLSON 15 June 1854
Charles Nicholson was Sheriff of Choctaw County in 1853; Mary Jane
Nicholson was dead by February 1876 (Probate Court Minutes 1874-1877)
SARAH CATO CHANEY b. 1825 married 4 January 1839 in Sumter County Arthur Meriwether LEWIS
married 2nd L. J. MCCORMICK July 25, 1867, Marengo County
JAMES P. CHANEY b. 1826 died 19 October 1841 at about age 15
His share of the inheritance from Uncle Peyton Chaney went to his brother William P. Chaney.
WILLIAM P. CHANEY b. 15 April 1830 married Mary A. ROAN 22 June 1852 in Mobile. Choctaw Co. tradition holds that William Chaney built “Deep South” at Mount Sterling c. 1838, but this William was only 8 years old that year; Deep South must have been built by the adult William Chaney of Marengo County; Choctaw County’s William P. was a 2nd Lt., in Ruffin Dragoons, Co A 3rd AL Cavalry from Mt. Sterling; Moved to Illinois c 1867
CAROLINE VIRGINIA CHANEY b. 1831 married Wiley J. COLEMAN in Jan. 1848; Called Virginia, but signed legal papers C. Virginia, and her husband
testified her name was Caroline Virginia
OCTAVIA O. CHANEY b. 1836 married to Francis Sumner DENSON 12 July 1854Octavia died 1 July 1855 F. S. Denson married 2nd Ellen Kitton DuBrutz of Pushmataha Denson died c.1866 leaving Ellen and 2 daughters, Octavia and Kitty; son Sumner was dead Ellen K. Denson married 2nd Isaac Barton Ulmer in March 1869OLIVIA O. CHANEY b. 1836; On October 19, 1854 married to Dr. Andrew Jackson CURTIS in Mount Sterling (The History of Mount Sterling)
OCTAVIA AND OLIVIA WERE TWINS
The Curtises moved to Meridian, MS sometime around 1870; both buried in Rose Hill cemetery, Meridian
BAILEY E. CHANEY b. 1838 d. April 1857 in school in Nashville TN, a minor,
unmarried, no children; Bailey’s inheritance from his uncle went to William P.
PERCY W. CHANEY- named in 1846 deed to Emanuel’s favorite sister, Virginia, a minor, and brother, Percy W. Chaney, a minor. Also mentioned by 3 of the
witnesses in the law suit Nicholson vs. Lewis, Admin. WHY IS PERCY NOT MENTIONED BY OTHERS IN THE FAMILY?
GREEN BERRY CHANEY (JR.) b. 1840 married Lucy WATTERS
G.B. Jr. b. 1840; died 1909 Lucy b. 1856 died 1925
Lived at Lavaca on the Tombigbee River. Her father A. G. Watters
gave her land and a house for a wedding gift; still standing and occupied
by Flossie Richardson Porter in 2001
ISABELLA CHANEY, called Bel b. 1843; married William J. GILMORE in 1857
Sometime around 1870? a witness said Gilmore was not to be found in
Choctaw County, and was insolvent.
CAROLINE CHANEY, commonly called “Priss”; b. 15 November 1846 died 21 January 1897; buried in Oakchia cemetery behind Oakchia house
married William H. EVINGTON 25 August 1865; lived at Oakchia
ALBERT BONA/BONIE/BONEY CHANEY b. 1849 d. Jan. 1859, a minor, unmarried
PERCY W. CHANEY (on 1846 deed from his brother Emanuel)
BONIE CHANEY - 2 children mentioned by Witnesses in law suit, witnesses said they were both dead. Bonie was Albert Bona/Bonie/Boney? Chaney
The mother Caroline Chaney buried her husband and six of their 13 children
James P. 1841; Green Berry (husband) in 1853; Emanuel in 1853; Octavia Denson in 1855; Bailey E, 1857; Albert Bona, 1859; & Percy W in 18 ?
Green Berry Chaney was Exec. for his brother Peyton Chaney’s Estate
A. M. and Sarah C. Lewis were Administrators of Green Berry Chaney’s Estate
on 19 May 1853
Caroline Chaney (the mother) was named Guardian of the minor children
William J. & Caroline Alston, Admin. Albert B. Chaney’s Estate
Caroline Chaney Alston’s Estate was Admin. by William J. Gilmore and A. J. Curtis;
by W. H. Evington in 1872 after Gilmore & Curtis moved away
William P. Chaney was the Admin. of Bailey E. Chaney’s Estate
Mary Jane Chaney, then M.J. and Charles Nicholson were the Admin. of
Emanuel Chaney’s Estate
F. S. Denson was the Admin. of Octavia Chaney Denson’s Estate
Ellen K. Ulmer, Admin. of the Estate of F. S. Denson
This family filed lawsuit after lawsuit after each death- all the siblings wanted their share of the estate of the ones who died Intestate. They always claimed the Administrator/trix of the estate had mishandled it, was only entitled to 1/2 and not the whole property, etc. They sued the estate of their father, and each other!
Emanuel’s widow and her 2nd husband Charles Nicholson sued everybody.
In 1856 Daniel M. Williamson, Administrator of Vashti Shaw, deceased, sued Arthur M. Lewis, Admin. of G.B. Chaney’s Estate over a boy (slave) named George. Vashti was the mother of Caroline Chaney and D.M. Williamson.
Vashti Williamson married Matthew SHAW 28 November 1827, Washington County
The mother Caroline seems to have been the smartest one in the family- next to Peyton Chaney- SHE LEFT A WILL. Then her second husband, William J. Alston, sued her children saying her will provided for him during his lifetime, and that he was impoverished because they were not giving him enough to live on!
When Emanuel reached age 21, Green Berry petitioned the court in Sumter County to divide up Peyton’s land so Emanuel could have his share. G.B. had managed all that property and slaves until the sons should reach 21.
Green Berry Chaney, Sr. died in 1853 leaving these plantations: the James place, the Breckenridge place, Hickory Flat on the Tombigbee River, Oakchia, Coppasabenah, near Oaktuppa Creek and the Folly place, both in South Choctaw County ; Witness Floyd Earbee listed these also: the Phillips place, the Crane place, Ball ground, all West of the River, the Post Oak, and the Summer place, 8 miles West of the River on Kinterbish Creek. Green B. also had a warehouse and property at James Bluff on the West side of the River, and land in Marengo County.
The Chaneys hired overseers for their numerous plantations, and these men gave depositions in the law suits. Money was made from sales of cotton and corn. Trees, cut to clear the land, were sold as cordwood at James Bluff to the steamboats going up and down the Tombigbee River.GREEN BERRY CHANEY’S ESTATE was evaluated : Total slaves.........$130,353.00 Total other........... 40,113.26 Total land............ 62,205.98 TOTAL...........................................................................$232,672.24 The estate was to be divided thus: Widow’s land......... 7,590.71 Widow’s slaves......26,070.60 Widow’s p.p.......... 5,800.71 Total $39,462.02 Each share slaves.......10,310.21 (9 children) Each share land.......... 4,965.02 Each share p.p............2,109.35 Total $156,461.22 Coleman & Lewis (Admin.)....25,649.16 25,649.16 Audits.....................................11,109.68 11,109.68 TOTAL................................................................................$232,672.08When G.B. died, Emanuel was a living heir, but before G.B.’s Estate could be divided up, Emanuel died making a complicated situation for Emanuel’s widow and a golden opportunity to get rich (he thought) to Mary Jane’s second husband Charles Nicholson.
Mary Jane claimed that G.B. had taken Emanuel’s property to keep him from squandering it, G.B. had managed it, paid Emanuel’s debts, and had given E. a certain part from the sale of cotton and corn, etc. but that G.B. had so mixed his own property with that of Emanuel it was impossible to tell what should belong to Emanuel; so when Emanuel died, she sued the Estate of G.B. for Emanuel’s rightful share. Then Emanuel’s siblings sued her, saying she had sold Emanuel’s property to pay his debts, and she had only been entitled to 1/2 because E. did not leave a will. This suit went all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court.
EMANUEL, THE BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY
EMANUEL was an educated and talented man, but he could not control his drinking. He was liberal, generous, not frugal in managing his property. He bought books as well as whiskey and gin. He had been educated as a physician but only practiced on his family slaves at times.
At one point William C. Coleman testified that he shot Emanuel, but did not kill him. Emanuel would go on binges and stay drunk for a days or weeks, then he would sober up and try to straighten out his life. He was also a spendthrift, and a constant worry to his father. He was always in debt, and more than once lost slaves at a Sheriff’s sale to pay his debtors. Sometimes his father bought the slaves back.
Although the Ashfords did not want their daughter Mary Jane to marry Emanuel, E. B. & Mary Jane were living in the Simeon Ashford household in 1850 census. Several persons testified that there were hard feelings between the families, and there was no “social intercourse” after the wedding. Simeon Ashford, a Baptist minister, lived at Ashford Springs near Williams Cross Roads/Desotoville/ Oakchia. Simeon Ashford was one of the persons who signed the bond Mary Jane had to post to be appointed Administratrix of Emanuel’s estate.
Jonathan R. Gresham, one witness, said he married Mary Jane’s sister and their maiden name was Ashford. The Greshams had moved to Texas. Lawyers had to make two trips to Texas, at $200. per trip, to get depositions in the suit Mary Jane filed, and then at the final settlement the family argued that the legal fees (which totaled $1,000 +) were excessive.
Emanuel got into a “scrape” in Mobile and killed a man called Eiglehart in 1845. Emanuel was arrested and put into jail. Green Berry paid two Mobile lawyers $2,000. each to defend Emanuel at the trial, which they got moved to Clarke County, AL. The attorneys were Percy Walker and John Gayle. (Was Percy W. Chaney named for this man?) In addition, Green Berry paid the expenses for many witnesses to attend the trial and testify for Emanuel. Green Berry, the shrewd business man, had Emanuel deed over to him (G.B.) some of Emanuel’s land and slaves in order to pay the legal bills and court costs, etc. Emanuel was tried, found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder, and fined $1,000. He was released on bail/bond sometime that same year (1845), and died at home in October 1853- of alcoholism, one doctor testified.
Emanuel remarked to one witness that he would have saved money by going to the penitentiary. He told Alex H. Burnham that he had sold his lands to his Father and that he did not own a damn foot in the world! This same witness also said in his deposition that one time when he (Burnham), Green Berry and Emanuel were drinking at Green Berry’s place, Green Berry said to Emanuel that he had $7,000. in notes and accounts against him, and Emanuel said,
Yes, Father, by God, and more!
Emanuel was a constant worry to his father, who told one man he feared Emanuel would never quit drinking.
On May 12, 1846 Emanuel deeded all the land he had inherited from his uncle Peyton for money to “relocate”. He was going to raise a company for the Mexican War, wrote his father a letter begging his forgiveness for all the trouble he had caused, and said he hoped to return from the war a reformed man. He deeded his slaves to his favorite sister Virginia and his brother Percy W., both minors. When he returned after being gone only five or six weeks, he claimed the right to revoke the deed for the slaves, and filed suit in Sumter County Chancery Court to revoke, but his sister Virginia Chaney Coleman and her husband had given a deed of trust for the slaves to C. N. Wilcox as Trustee to hire them out, etc. Later Mary Jane claimed these slaves, and the family entrusted the affair to arbitrators R. H. Smith and W. H. Manning, who settled the dispute, giving some of the slaves to Virginia and some of them to Mary Jane.
Emanuel married Mary Jane Ashford in 1848 against the wishes of her family. Doctor bills listed against Emanuel’s Estate carry charges for visits to the Wife at the Folly place, in labor, and for another trip soon thereafter for the infant, at the Folly Place. The child must have died soon after birth. Was the Folly place near Butler?
Emanuel was said by brother- in- law Wiley J. Coleman to have 51 slaves. The inventory of Emanuel’s Estate listed a violin, bookcase and books, as well as the usual household furishings, farm implements, and a large supply of “spirits”, whiskey and gin.
After the war, family say Caroline and William J. Alston started off to South America where slavery was still legal. They got as far as Mexico, where Caroline died, and was buried. Alston returned to Choctaw County, and said in court that although his wife died outside the United States, Oakchia was her residence at time of death. He tried to get appointed Administrator, but her daughters won out, having their husbands William J. Gilmore and Andrew Jackson Curtis appointed instead.
After 1865, there were statements about certain payments having been made earlier in Confederate money and bonds which were no longer any good.
By 1867, William P. Chaney had gone to Illinois and the rest of his story is a mystery to this compiler. An 1867 legal ad (another family law suit!) listed S. E. Catterlin and W. P. Chaney, both living outside the county, in Illinois.
Dr. A. J. Curtis and William J. Gilmore also left Choctaw County. Gilmore was arrested along with law partners Joshua Morse and Edwin Armfield and accused of murdering the newspaper editor, Newell E. Thomas, in 1868. All three were exonerated. Gilmore was arrested in Sumter County and charged with embezzlement in Choctaw County in 1872.
Free at last
Two of the Chaney servants, after becoming a freedwoman and a freedman, sued for wages. Caroline Alston’s Estate was sued by her cook Mary Chaney for $8.00 per month from Jan. 1, 1866 to Aug. 1, 1866. Taylor, who called himself a servant, also sued for wages. They won their case.
Sources: Estates of Green Berry Chaney (Sr.), Caroline Alston, and Chancery Court loose papers on lawsuits filed by Mary Jane Chaney Nicholson,
A. M. Lewis, Wm. P. Chaney, Wm. J. Gilmore, Wm. J. Alston, etc. filed in Choctaw County, AL Albert B. Chaney- Sumter Co. Orphans Court Book 18 page 578 Green Berry Chaney- Sumter Co. Orphans Court Book 19 page 131 Peyton Chaney will Sumter County Wills Book 1 page 127 and Orphans Court Book 2 page 248; copy filed also in Choctaw County 1850 and 1860 Census Choctaw County, AL Choctaw County Chancery Court Order Book B page 1 and most of the book! Chancery Court Minutes Book B 1853 Tindle. Tombstone Inscriptions of Choctaw County, AL Gay. Choctaw Names and Notes. Chaneys, Oakchia & family chart Taylor, B.M. & Simms, L.M. Early Marriages.. Early deeds, Washington Co. Gloria J. Ivie. Family papers and information on the Williamson family Dianne Blankenstein’s www pages; firstname.lastname@example.org Photos of Oakchia house and carriage from the late Jud Arrington, York, AL