Robert HAIRSTON ID#38, b. 1 April 1783, d. 7 March 1852
Father*Gen. George Stovall HAIRSTON1 b. 20 Sep 1750, d. 5 Mar 1827
Mother*Elizabeth PERKINS1 b. 13 May 1759, d. 26 Jan 1819
Birth*Robert HAIRSTON was born on 1 April 1783 in Henry County, Virginia.2,3,1,4 
He was the son of Gen. George Stovall HAIRSTON and Elizabeth PERKINS.1 
Elected*Robert HAIRSTON was Elected between 1813 and 1814 in Henry County, Virginia; Robert Hairstone and John Dillard, Jr. were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates representing Henry County for the December 6, 1813 - February 16, 1814 session.5 
ElectedHe was Elected between 1814 and 1815 in Henry County, Virginia; Robert Hairstone and Robert Allen were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates representing Henry County for the October 10, 1814 - January 19, 1815 session.5 
Marriage*He married Ruth Stovall HAIRSTON, daughter of Peter HAIRSTON and Alcey (Elsie) PERKINS, on 15 February 1816 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; Marriage Notice:

Weekly Raliegh Register, Raliegh, North Carolina, March 15, 1816, Page 3.6,3 
Census 1820*Robert HAIRSTON appeared on the census of 1820 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Males 26-44 1 (Robert), Females 26-44 1 (wife Ruth), Slaves 45.7

WillIn Gen. George Stovall HAIRSTON's will dated 7 March 1820 in Henry County, Virginia, Robert HAIRSTON was named as an heir.8 
Census 1830*He appeared on the census of 1830 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Males: 40-49 1, Females: 40-49 1, Slaves: 65.9

Tax Rolls1830 - Samuel, Robert and Peter Hairston (NC) pay taxes in Pittsylvania County. - Family Search Library Film #8151590, image 510.
Tax RollsPaid taxes in Beaver Island District of Stokes County in 1831 on 1,200 acres valued at $30,216, white polls 25cts, black polls 141. Family Search Library Film #007834314, Image 1190.
WillHe was mentioned in the will of Peter HAIRSTON on 20 February 1832 in Stokes County, North Carolina; Will Vol 1-3, pages 241-242. The will was also filed in Henry County, Virginia in December Term of 1832, Will Book 4, page 167. Inventory accounting is also filed in Henry County.10
Tax RollsRobert Harston paid tax in Sauratown, Stokes County in 1834 on 12,000 acres, $30,216 and 126 black polls. He is listed because his wife, Ruth, inherited most of this land from her father Peter. It all ends up in court when Robert dies in 1852. Family Search Library Film #007834314, image 1327.
Census 1837 Miss*Robert HAIRSTON appeared on the census of 1837 in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 1837 Mississippi Census - Robert Hairston - 1 male 21-45, 1 female over 16, 35 male slaves, 35 female slaves, 300 cultivated acres in 1836, 6 bales cotton in 1836 - page 22, line 17.11 
TravelRobert went to Europe in 1839 and had a Daguerreotype photograph of himself taken.12,3 
Tax RollsRobert Hariston paid 1840 taxes in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 2,162 acres valued at $4,324, no white polls, 90 slaves between 5 and 60, taxes $67.06. Lowndes County Tax 1840, page 14. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 281.
Census 1840*He appeared on the census of 1840 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Males: 50-59 1, Females; 40-49 1, Slaves 72.13
Tax RollsRobert Hariston paid 1841 taxes in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 2,162 acres valued at $10,810, 20 cattle, no white polls, 95 slaves between 5 and 60, taxes $98.47. Lowndes County Tax 1841, page 15. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 323.
Travel*Robert Hairston "In 1841, unpleasant relations sprung up between hinself and Mrs. Hairston, and being a whinsical and capricious man, in a sudden fit of passionhe, left Virginia, where he owned several plantations, but without any intention of changing his domicil. After having left the State of Virginia he visited Europe, whence he returned to this State (Mississippi) in 1842, where he remained attending to his business down to the time of his death, which occurred in 1852."14 
Tax RollsRobert Hariston paid 1842 taxes in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 20 cattle, no white polls, 108 slaves between 5 and 60, taxes $81.20. Lowndes County Tax 1842, page 24. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 381.
Census 1850*He appeared on the census of 23 November 1850 in Lowndes County, Mississippi.

Tax RollsRobert Hariston paid 1851 taxes in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 134 cattle, 1 horse of $100, no white polls, 188 slaves between 5 and 60, state tax $59.57. county tax $59.57. Lowndes County Tax 1851, page 17. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 437.
Tax RollsRobt Hairston Est. paid 1852 taxes in Lowndes County, Mississippi; 1 watch $5, 200 cattle, 1 bridge/ferry $300, no white polls, 184 slaves between 5 and 60, state tax $56.60, county tax $56.60. Lowndes County Tax 1852, page 14. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 483.
Will*He left a will on 7 March 1852 in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Robert Hairston left 3 different wills that were contested in several court cases in Mississippi and Virginia.

1. Will #1, dated 22 September 1841, Henry Co. VA Will Book 5, page 226 FSL 7645135-407
2. Will #2, dated 6 March 1852, Lowndes
3. Will #3, dated 7 March 1852, Lowndes Co. Probate Book K, page 456. FSL 5835946-600
4. Appraisel of Estate, Lowndes Co. Probate Book K, page 532. FSL 5835946-643
5. Petition by Ruth S. Hairston, Lowndes Co. Probate Book K, page 637. FSL 5835946-698
6. Complaint by Robert and George Hairston, Lowndes Co. Probate Book K, page 690. FSL 5835946-729.15
Death*He died on 7 March 1852 at 3:55 PM in Lowndes County, Mississippi, at age 68.2,3 
Burial*He was buried in Hairston Cemetery, Lowndes County, Mississippi.2

ProbateAn inventory of the estate of Robert Hairston was performed on 12 May 1852 by John W. Adams, John M. Witherspoon, John C. Cox, Jr. and E. Falgham. Recorded in Lowndes County Probate Book K, pages 532-540. FSL 5835946-643.
ProbateAdministrator's Notice published in the Columbus Democrat, Columbus, Mississippi, page 3, on 18 September 1852 for the estate of Major Robert Hairston, the estate administor George Hairston. 
ProbateOn 16 November 1852, 43 pages were recorded in the Lowndes County Probate Records Book K, pages 637 to 679. These documents were regarding the court case relating to the will and property of the estate of Robert Hairston. The Black Flat Plantation (1,721 acres), Pepper Plantation (773 acres), Bend Plantation, Nashville Plantation, Moores Bluff (500 and 865 acres), Choctaw Springs (310 acres), River Lands (1,830 and 275 acres), Township No. 20 (2,430 and 90 acres) and the McGowan Lands (1,120 acres) are mentioned. Slave names are included in the documents. FSL 5835946-698 - The 43 pages are attached in a PDF file, it is 52MB.
Tax Rolls*The 1853 Lowndes County tax records show the following for R. Harston (estate): $2,400 loaned to others, 80 cattle, 1 toll bridge/ferry $300, 88 slaves under 60, no white polls, $38.47 state tax, $19.23 county tax and $105.79 rail road tax. Lowndes County Tax 1853, page 18. Family History Library Film #008610738, image 529.
ProbateHis estate inventory was finished on 22 January 1853. Lowndes County Probate Records, Book L, page 51-56. FSL 5835947-55.
Court RecordGeorge H. CALLAWAY; 1888 - George H. Calloway, by next friend (guardian) vs N. E. Hairston, Marshall Hairston, Samuel Hairston, George Hairston, Hardin Hairston, John A. Hairston, Ruth S. Hairston, America Hairston and Mrs. Bethania Pannill. The complaint is that George H. Callaway, who is a lunatic, is claiming he should be an heir to the estate of Robert Hairston (1783-1852). - Lowndes County Chancery Court Case File #782. FSL 8631779-18. 
NOTE*It was said that Robert tried to use his will to give property and free one of his slaves named Cristallis or Chrillis and that it was challegened in court by Hairston family members. In his will he did not leave anything for his wife Ruth who he left in Virginia, which was not allowed under the laws of Mississippi or Virginia. Also, three of the four witnesses to Robert signing his will said he was not of sound mind. His will ended up in the High Court of Mississippi where it was determined that it was against the law to free a slave in a will, it was against the law for a slave to own property and that Robert could not divorce his wife Ruth by moving to Misssissippi. The Superior Court of Henry County, Virginia came to a similar decision. Therefore his wife Ruth inherited at least one half of his estate.

The following article appeared under Book Reviews, "The Journal of Mississippi History", Volume LXII, Spring 2001

The Hairstons: An American Family Black and White. By Henry Wiencek. (New York: St. Martin's Press.1999. Genealogical tables, maps" photographs. notes and index. pp. xx, 361. $24.95.)

This book is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature on the complex relationships between American slaveholders and the enslaved and the effects of those relationships after emancipation, up to the present time. It will inevitably be compared to Edward Balls recent bestseller, Slaves in the Family, though with important differences: Ball writes as a southerner troubled by guilt: Wiencek describes himself as "a Northerner adrift in the heart of the old Confederacy" (3). Researching his 1991 book. Old Houses. Wiencek became fascinated by the southern people he encountered -- white families seemingly mired in Faulknerian decay: black ones, by contrast, proud and confident. "As I interviewed the occupants of these venerable places, I heard history not as a historian would write it but as a novelist would imagine it" (5). For better or worse, a novelistic tendency runs throughout The Hairstons, shaping the author's conclusions.

Weincek discovered the Hairston family while visiting Cooleemee Plantation, in Davie County, North Carolina. In 1861 the white Hairstons owned forty-five plantations in three states (including Mississippi) and as many as 10,000 slaves. Not only the descendants of the white Hairstons but also those of their slaves (some of whom are descendants of white Hairstons as well) have maintained their collective memory of slavery, and, as the media have frequently reported, many descendants of Hairston slaves are members of a black Hairston family association. In the course of his research, Weincek immersed himself in the immense Hairston plantation archives (some 25,000 items) and scoured public records in many states. In addition, he identified and interviewed many descendants of Hairston slaves to obtain their oral histories, an essential undertaking in view of the paucity of records of the African American victims of slavery.

At the heart of the book lies the dramatic story of Chrillis, a slave girl who was the daughter of Robert Hairston (1785-1852). a wealthy planter of Lowndes County, Mississippi. Robert attempted, by his deathbed will to free Chrillis and to leave all his property to her. Weincek: concludes that the white Hairstons conspired to defeat the girl's legitimate interests in court, partly by claiming that she had died, when in fact she had been spirited away to another plantation under a different name. After emancipation she reappeared, to become the mistress of Robert's nephew ("Major George, by whom she bore several children. After his death, she attempted to recover from his estate property that he had promised to her, but she again met defeat in the courts at the hands of the white Hairstons. By the use of Chrillis's story -- which is more than a little reminiscent of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! -- the author frames an engrossing morality tale wherein the slaveholders are doomed by their sin of holding even their own children in bondage. Their fate is ultimate economic destruction in the whirlwind of war and Reconstruction. In contrast, their freed slaves endure and even thrive.

It is a compelling narrative, one currently being adapted as a CBS miniseries. Judged as history, however, there are serious errors in fact and interpretation. In particular, the central legal drama surrounding Chrillis is seriously weakened when one realizes that, under Mississippi law, Robert's will was ineffective either to free Chrillis or to leave property to her. The legislature had determined that an attempt to emancipate a slave in the manner provided in Robert's will was invalid, and Mississippi case law held that a devise of property to a slave by will was void. Thus the white Hairstons had no need to defeat Chrillis's claims under Robert's will - the legislature and courts had already done it for them. This fact fatally undermines the author's conclusion that - "Major George" by offering Robert's deathbed will for probate, acted as the girl's "protector'" (96). In fact, the deathbed will was offered for probate for the sole purpose of revoking an 1841 will in which Robert preferred certain of his white relatives over others.

As this example suggests, strict historical accuracy and accountability are not the emphasis here: oral history is weighed about equally with documentary, and the endnotes are loosely keyed to whole pages rather than to sentences or paragraphs. Taken on its own terms, however, The Hairstons offers a powerful narrative that has already moved many readers with its message of hope that the descendants of slaveholders and enslaved can, by sharing their common heritage openly, contribute to the closing of our nation's racial divide.

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA.12,16,17,14,18


Ruth Stovall HAIRSTON b. 13 Jul 1783, d. 22 Apr 1869

Sources (

  1. [S249] George Hairston Family Bible - 1750-1916, Peter Hairston Bible - 1750-1928, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Translated Out of the Original Greek: and with the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised. Cooperstown, (N.Y.) Sterotyped, Printed and Published by H. & E. Phinney, 1829., Library of Virginia -
  2. [S17] Hairston Cemetery, Lowndes County, Mississippi, Information and photographs gathered from personal visits.
  3. [S24] Hall, Wm. Kearney 1918-. Descendants of Nicholas Perkins of Virginia. 1957 Ann Arbor, Michigan., Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  4. [S3500] Bible - Marshall Hairston 1750, owned by Mrs. Anne Covington of "Beavercreek" transcribed by Mrs. Lillian Schwertz and printed in "Local History & Genealogical Society" Volume VII, March 1961, Number 1. (NOTE: There are several errors in this transcription.), Family Search Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  5. [S3579] Fourteenth Annual Report of the Library Board of the Virginia State Library 1916 - 1917 , Richmond: Virginia State Library, Division of Purchase and Printing, 1917, Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  6. [S22] Hairston, Elizabeth Seawell, The Hairstons and the Penns and Their Relations, Roanoke, Virginia 1940,
  7. [S1820] 1820 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - and
  8. [S3296] Will of George Stovall Hairston -1820 - copy of will recorded in case #1833-008, Amos A. Atkinson & Wife vs. Exrs. of George Hairston, Chancery Records, Library of Virginia, Library of Virginia -
  9. [S1830] 1830 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - and
  10. [S3065] Will of Peter Hairston - 20 Feb 1832, Stokes County, North Carolina, Wills Vol, 1-2, pages 241-242.
  11. [S1837] 1837 Mississippi Census - National Archives and Records Administration - and
  12. [S118] Research and Papers of Judge Peter W. Hairston.
  13. [S1840] 1840 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - and
  14. [S3799] Mississippi. High Court of Errors and Appeals, et al.. Cases Argued And Decided In the Supreme Court of Mississippi ... Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1855., Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  15. [S96] Lowndes County Mississippi Will Book.
  16. [S261] The Daily Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia.
  17. [S3498] Book review of Henry Wiencek's "The Hairstons: An American Family Black and White" by George F. Maynard and published in "The Journal of Mississippi History", Volume LXII, Spring 2001. page 84., Personal Collection - copy.
  18. [S3801] Mississippi. High Court of Errors and Appeals, Vol. XXX, by James Z. George, Vol. 1, December Term 1855 and a part of the April Term, 1856. Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1857., Hathi Trust Digital Library.
Last Edited18 Sep 2023