Robert HAIRSTON

HAIRSTON.org 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 
Marriage*Robert HAIRSTON married Ruth Stovall HAIRSTON, daughter of Major 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 3.5,3 
Census 1820*Robert HAIRSTON appeared on the census of 1820 in Pittsylvanaia County, Virginia, Males 26-44 1 (Robert), Females 26-44 1 (wife Ruth), Slaves 45.6

WillIn Gen. George Stovall HAIRSTON's will dated 7 March 1820 in Henry County, Virginia, Robert HAIRSTON was named as an heir.7 
Census 1830*He appeared on the census of 1830 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Males: 40-49 1, Females: 40-49 1, Slaves: 65.8

WillHe was mentioned in the will of Major Peter HAIRSTON on 20 February 1832 in Stokes County, North Carolina; Will Vol 1-3, pages 241-242.9
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 17.10 
Event-Misc*He went to Europe in 1839 and had a Daguerreotype photograph of himself taken.11,3 
Census 1840*He appeared on the census of 1840 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Males: 50-59 1, Females; 40-49 1, Slaves 72.12

Will*He left a will on 22 September 1841 in Henry County, Virginia
Census 1850*He appeared on the census of 23 November 1850 in Lowndes County, Mississippi.

Death*He died on 7 March 1852 at 3:55 PM in Lowndes County, Mississippi, at age 68.2,3 
WillHe left a will on 7 March 1852 in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Lowndes County, Probate Book G, Page 456.13
Burial*He was buried in Hairston Cemetery, Lowndes County, Mississippi.2

 
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. 
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.

GEORGE F. MAYNARD
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA.11,14,15
 

Family

Ruth Stovall HAIRSTON b. 13 Jul 1783, d. 22 Apr 1869
ChartsDescendant Chart (#1)
Descendant Chart (#2)
Descendant Chart Box (#1)
Descendant Chart Box (#2)

Sources (www.HAIRSTON.org)

  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, Richmond, Virginia.
  2. [S17] Hairston Cemetery, Lowndes County, Mississippi.
  3. [S24] Hall, Wm. Kearney 1918-. Descendants of Nicholas Perkins of Virginia. 1957 Ann Arbor, Michigan.
    https://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89069618338, 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 History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  5. [S22] Hairston, Elizabeth Seawell, The Hairstons and the Penns and Their Relations, Roanoke, Virginia 1940 https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=13164, Ancestry.com.
  6. [S1820] 1820 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  7. [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, Richmond, Virginia.
  8. [S1830] 1830 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  9. [S3065] Will of Peter Hairston - 20 Feb 1832, Stokes County, North Carolina, Wills Vol, 1-2, pages 241-242.
  10. [S1837] 1837 Mississippi Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  11. [S118] Research and Papers of Judge Peter W. Hairston.
  12. [S1840] 1840 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  13. [S96] Lowndes County Mississippi Will Book.
  14. [S261] The Daily Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia.
  15. [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.
Last Edited16 Dec 2019