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Nancy Primus Lee,  born abt 1774
Home Up William Lee Story Nancy Primus Lee,  born abt 1774 Sinah Lee, born abt 1786 Rose Lee (Carter), born 1788 Thomas Lee, born abt 1790 Joanna Lee, born abt 1804 Kansas Lee, born abt 1805 George Lee, born abt.1805 Penny Lee, born abt. 1806

Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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William (Billy) & Winny Lee, born abt 1814
Kansas Lee, born abt 1815
Moses Lee, abt 1815

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research indicates Nancy Lee was born abt.1774 and likely fathered by William Lee when he was 18 years of age and with George Washington had visitation access to the Carter family owned Shirley plantation where Nancy was born, and apparently freed on or before the 1810 census of free colored persons. The fact that Nancy desired and was able to identify herself as a Lee, rather than Primus in 1810 indicates she had reasons to believe and know that her father was a William Lee.

We can further reason that in said time and place of her birth, she was recorded as Nancy Primus, the only Nancy listed on the Charles Carter will and inventory for Shirley plantation.  Assumptions are that she was freed by him or upon his death, and naturally associated herself with other female Lee's in the Richmond-Petersburg region of Chesterfield County, known to have been enslaved at Mount Vernon and set free upon the death of George Washington.

Primus, Nancy

female

1807

Shirley

Carter, Charles

Information & sources: Inventory and Appraisement of the slaves of Charles Carter at Shirley taken 07 MAR 1807. Charles City County Will Book 1, p. 720. Nancy Primus was valued at $150.

She is listed in the 1809 and 1810 Virginia registries of free persons of color. And, to stay free she had to be employed by a White family or leave the state.  She clearly became a indentured servant to the Carter family, to which she had been born a slave, was a childhood friend of the Carter children, and employed as a indentured servant (Mammy) per below quote.  She gave birth at age 26 years to her son William in 1814 and twins Kansas and Moses in 1815 demonstrating that she had what many White aristocratic families highly valued: so-called "wet nurses" ability to give baby milk to White babies unable to be nursed by natural mothers. 

Many African-American ex-slaves were hired and appreciated to be "mammy's" albeit Hollywood loves to portray older overweight women like Hattie McDaniel who unlikely would have been able to nurse when and where needed.  Samuel A. Storrow, consistent with his letter was apparently born and for awhile lived as a child at the Shirley Plantation in 1814 during the period that Nancy would have been nursing her son she named William as further reason for us to be confident that her father was William Lee.. 

 

We can further assume that her siblings after the death of Charles Carter were sold in 1814 and 1820 by his heirs: as breeding stock to William Byrd and future American President Benjamin Harrison:

Primus, John

male

1814

Westover

Byrd, William

Information & sources: Listed in an Appraisement of slaves belonging to Col. Byrd's Estates at Westover taken in DEC 1814. Charles City County Will Book No. 2, pp 367-68. Primus is valued at $333.33

Primus, Moning

female

1820

Berkeley

Harrison, Benjamin

Information & sources: Member Charles City Baptist Church listed in roll begun ca 1820. The Book of Ye Records of the Baptist Church in Charles City Begun The First Satureday in September 1792, unpublished typescript Jacquelin G. Pomeroy, Charles City County Center for Local History Archives. (Possible transcription error could be Mourning.)

Below information is extracted from a letter written in 1821 by a cousin to the mother of Robert E. Lee regarding the Lee family at Shirley Plantation..  

"Ann's father was Charles Carter, one of Virginia's wealthiest planters. His home called Shirley Plantation was located on the south side of the James River near Richmond, VA. Ann came from a distinguished family. It is probable that she was known personally to all seven Virginian signers of the Declaration of Independence, to all of whom, save one, she was related by ties of consanguinity or marriage.  "My Mammy you know was a beauty & fortune too in her day Nancy Lee & herself were pretty much brought up together Mrs. Lee the eldest by a year.[6]"  (Ann Hill Carter was born in 1773)

                                             Ann Hill Carter

Does anyone know of any writer to have ever described or used the term "mammy" without reference to a non-White woman?  You have to click on link below regarding a letter written in the 1820s about the life of the mother of Robert E. Lee to comprehend the realities of how and why writers in the name of scholarship more than a hundred years later:  will often reinterpret and rewrite the history of women such as Nancy Lee who served as a indentured servant and "mammy" to the author when he was a child and play mate to the mother of Robert E. Lee. 

We have found that it is common practice for too many writers in the worst traditions of Margaret Mitchell to white-wash American history of the ante-bellum era to exclude, not include truth.  It is the exact same mindset of the artist who portrayed William Lee more or less as a head wrapped plantation mammy rather than an outdoors man as an aide to George Washington.  And, to make matters worst, some writers even today describe him in terms less than his documented functions in serving George Washington, such as going to war and wearing uniform attire such as the standard hat, coat and pants worn by horse mounted men.  William Lee was a young man at age 18 who travelled widely with one of America's greatest and most adventuring travelers. 

And, he was normal handsome young man that would have been attractive to a normal attractive young woman like Nancy's mother.  Why not?  The only thing that would have stopped or prevented such romantic encounters common during slavery would have been interference and prevention by the slave owner: Charles Carter, in which case he would have wanted her for himself or anticipated sale as breeding stock or concubine,  a common occurrence among some slave owners.

One of the horrible realties about slavery is that even after a slave was granted freedom, they had to be recertified each year by the State Assembly to live free in Virginia for another year.  And, if they refused to register with the local county court as free each year or caught passing for white, ... they risked being re-enslaved by the courts to pay their fines.

For most, their own resources for gaining or keeping their freedom was their bodies hired out at best, as indentured servants, or worse such as existed among many, ... as concubines to powerful men (which became a deep-set tradition in ante-bellum south wherein places like New Orleans and Richmond actually held debutante balls/coming-out ceremonies where young maidens were presented by their mothers as available to rich and powerful White men dressed in Black tie garb)

Debutante balls were a annual fixture in African-American societal yearnings, so deeply embedded that for at least a hundred years after the Civil War, these "coming out" callings and rituals prevailed long before "gay men" began using the term in places like Harlem.

Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would have frowned upon happenings of morale decay in the new generations of wealth and power; but would have been helpless to prevent the coming of ante-bellum disasters like the King Cotton Civil War.  The greed and ruthless behavior toward human beings like Nancy Lee was made self-evident after the Civil War when the U.S. Census data revealed the horrendous dispersion of family members like Nancy in the holocaust of the slave trade that used people as chattel. 

Though listed as free in the 1810 register, she however ended up in Kentucky during year 1870. Hopefully the below listed Wilkenson Slaughter was her grandson or kin.  We do not known.

 

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Last modified: 12/29/16