Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.
When all was seen and done by Nancy Lee Banister Watson who passed over in year 1912, she had been a bright, attractive, industrious and faithful believer in her inherited faith in a Living Christ during most years of her life. She had sought the spirit of goodness as a daughter, sister, niece, grand-daughter, mother to many, indentured servant (functional slave house) to the family of General Robert E. Lee, wife to David Watson; and grand-mother to my father and his siblings who knew and loved her.
Death had no victory over her faith. And, we do honor her and her mother as our generational mothers as Christ urged that we do. Her life has helped us remember who "we many Lee offspring functional believers" are!
My father, aunts, uncles and grand-parents who lived in the Bloomingburg, Ohio house on right image, personally knew and lived with or close-by Nancy Lee Banister Watson (image on above left, and was told by her that she was the daughter of James A. Banister and grand-daughter of William Lee via his daughter Rose Carter Lee,... attested by my grandfather Thomas Findley Lee who told me that he knew her as "Grandma Rose." These sources are our principle approaches to seeking links to people related to Nancy Lee Banister Watson, both known and unknown to her descendents. We have learned that she had a twin brother named George Lee Banister buried near her, and that has helped us better understand how and why she relocated to Bloomingburg, Ohio in the 1880s.
Nancy Lee Banister was technically born free in 1825 via her mother Rose Lee (Carter) freed by Robert Carter in 1806. It appears likely from all that we have been able to gather in reviewing census and other records that Nancy Lee Banister was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia and consistent with her story that her father was James Banister, a free man in a marriage of several years to Rose (Carter) Lee a free woman, who was the daughter of William Lee, born abt 1756.
Her mother, born in 1788, was likely a head of household listed in the Alexandria Registry, 1809 a the daughter of William Lee via a enslaved mother owned by Robert Carter III, America's second great emancipator: For William Lee and women like his daughter Rose Lee, they had reason to wonder and believe the spirit of a Living Christ was moving among them. They had witnessed George Washington as the first great emancipator liberate his slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, and then the widely publicized emancipation of slaves by Robert Carter beginning a year or so later.
Emancipation of Rose Carter Lee .
The same Alexandria registry in 1809-1810 listed Nancy Lee Banister's Aunt Nancy Primus Lee, born abt 1774 who was a child-hood playmate to Ann Carter Lee (mother of General Robert E. Lee) and wet-nurse to the family of Charles Carter who owned the Shirley Plantation near Richmond. She too was possibly a daughter of William Lee who with George Washington had opportunities and reasons to travel there about.
1810 Virginia Census related to Nancy via her birth ancestry and offspring.
1810 Virginia Statewide Census including free Lee, Banister and Findley residents
James A Banister, born 1792 , Nancy's father, died in Botetourt County, Va. during 1757. Buried in Poor House Cemetery.
Rose Lee (Carter), born 1788 , Nancy's mother, died in Alexandria/Arlington, Va. during 1864. Buried in Freedmen's Cemetery.
So far as we are able determine Nancy Lee Banister was raised among both Banister/Bannister and Lee relatives in the Petersburg-Richmond area. Nancy Harriet Lee, born August 1904 who as a child living near her in Bloomingburg, Ohio before death in year 1912: attested that her grandmother Nancy Banister Lee Watson was able to read and write with clarity suggesting to us that she had learned at an early age in The Formative Years.
The book is applicable to Nancy Lee, though about the African missionary pioneer Lott Carey who taught himself how to read and write, word by word, deciphering the bible and seeking understanding among other believers, including White men who mattered most to them. We dare speculate that thousands used that method of coaching and learning before teaching techniques and schools existed for even great minds like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Motherhood mattered most for even the best and brightest minds, beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ that believers still believe was born of a mother, not made by make-believe reasoning.
In year 1846, Nancy Lee Banister at 21 years of age gave birth to her daughter Kansas Lee, born 1846, who may have been fathered by Thomas Findley who fathered her other offspring. We believe that she was apparently employed as a indentured servant and wet-nurse during this period of lactating with Kansas. Nancy Lee Banister was apparently selected and hired by Mrs. Robert E. Lee evidenced by the below personal will executed by him prior to outbreak of the Mexican-American War. The Lee family apparently assumed or expected that Nancy to be the mother of additional infants.
The youngest child (Mildred Lee) was born in 1846, the same time line as Nancy's daughter Kansas. Biographers are not certain as to where Mildred Lee was born, which adds to our speculation that birth and nursing may have occurred at her mother Mary Custis Lee's birth location: the Shirley Plantation wherein Nancy Banister Lee's Aunt Nancy Lee, born abt 1799 had been a wet-nurse, and was likely indentured as a servant. The ante-bellum aristocracy of Virginia knew each other and who they believed to be trusted and obedient servants.
Lee and his wife obviously perceived that Nancy's nephews William and Patrick were her children also, making it more likely that she would prove to be a good wet-nurse. Wet nursing by slave women were common for children of all social ranks in the Southern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Wet nurses have also been used when a mother cannot produce sufficient breast milk, i.e., the mother feels incapable of adequately nursing her child, especially following multiple births.
Wet nurses tend to be more common in places where maternal mortality is high. Mary Custis Lee suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which became increasingly debilitating with advancing age. By 1861, she was using a wheelchair, and we assume that helping her move about was one of Nancy's duties.
The family of Robert E. Lee that Nancy knew were not cruel but neither were they in pursuit of goodness perceived by his wife's distant relative Robert Carter in portrait above. Nancy was a indentured servant and thus not listed in his deed of manumission for Custis slaves. We doubt that Lee ever issued a cancellation of her indentured service contract to his family.
General Robert E. Lee's Deed of Manumission
Nancy Banister Lee from her viewpoint within the Arlington White House and the Lee home in Richmond: saw the family and friends of Robert and Mary Lee. She never said or told her descendents that she saw or heard goodness among them. Clearly, by her attitudes and behaviors from what we have been able to learn: Nancy Lee Banister likely was coached by her mother Rose who had been uniquely exposed to Christian thought and principles adopted by Robert Carter III, a Episcopalian slave owner who became a born-again Baptist.
Carter decided to enlighten and free his slaves in a deliberate and planned process spanning several years and multi-generations reflected in the listing that included Rose Lee, her mother and siblings. Standard coaching for free and enslaved persons prior to the post-Civil War established schools was the tedious tasks of: learning word by word bible reading and writing, as was common before any churches or schools existed.
Motherhood including grandmothers mattered first and most inspiring children, then and now, the desire to read and write in the pursuit of goodness: not obedience to slave owners such as Mary Custiss Lee (wife of Robert E. Lee) who modern biographers choose to imagine as having taught her Arlington mansion servants/slaves (like Nancy) to read and write. Such writings suggest to us that some biographers may have misunderstandings as to how and why Nancy was literate. Ante-bellum realties were rare, if ever, that powerful slave owners with public visibility like Mary Custis Lee violate customs and laws: against teaching slaves to read and write. Certainly not the wife of Robert E. Lee who followed the rules and believed it was his duty to do so. The mother-hood attitudes and behaviors of Rose Lee was a critical matter in the lives of Nancy Lee Banister and her offspring such as my grand-father who always referred to her as his loving "Grandma Rose."
We do know that throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the functions of wet-nurse for women to frail or unable to breast feed their offspring was a common calling for many mothers of other children in past centuries. They were called "Mammies" by most beneficiaries and well treated if not well paid; and derisively called "cows" by many enslaved and free men of color. Most of these "chosen women" gained and mastered other skills in addition to wet-nursing but we do not know what additional duties Nancy Lee performed in the Lee household. We do know that by 1861, Mary Custiss Lee was confined to a wheelchair, and Nancy likely was required for cooking and other household tasks that Mrs. Lee did not perform. Robert E. Lee had deliberately married "up" into a class of wealth and privilege.
An Introduction to Black Laws of Virginia
The make-believe 21st century notions that Mary Custiss Lee and other ante-bellum wives dared to violate the laws and taught their household (mansion) slaves how to read and write is pure apologist propaganda. It is based upon learning by modern writers that women like Nancy Banister Lee and her daughter (who was indentured, not a slave) were able to do so: despite the laws that her class of families had written and were sure to enforce. Indeed, Mary and Robert E. Lee were devout Episcopalians who very much believed in and enforced the institution of slavery as they believed mandated by the laws of the State of Virginia. Aristocratic women like Mary Custiss Lee were public advocates and members of American Colonization Society to send non-slaves like Nancy to Liberia.
New writers should be clear to understand that it was not illegal for slaves to learn how to read and write; but rather slave owners were legally forbidden to teach them how. There is no evidence to the contrary, albeit many freemen such as preachers were amazed and pleased when slaves such as Lott Carey displayed abilities to read and write. For Nancy, mother Rose and other relatives coached her to learn to read and write, and she did so with her children. Reading and writing mattered to them, as a function of motherhood, not fatherhood.
Virginia laws forbid slaves and indentured servants of any color or sex traveling unaccompanied or without permission of registered White household owners. Though born free by virtue of her mother being a legally free Negro, Nancy was raised up in the household estates of the extensive Carter family that included Robert E. Lee whose mother was a Carter heir, and the likely benefits of having Rose Lee (Carter) and Nancy Lee Banister bound to her service as indentured servants.
For all practical purposes, Nancy and her mother were deemed to be household slaves to the mother and relatives of Robert E. Lee though better treated than chattel slaves in the fields. And, there is little doubt they appreciated the opportunity to be employed; rather than unemployed and unable to pay the annual head tax imposed on non-slaves of color for which failure to pay and register could result in their being arrested, sentenced and re-enslaved.
The unintended consequences of ante-bellum make-believers was that many thousands of the colored ex-slaves had sons like Nancy's brother James Lee Bannister, born abt 1824 who helped generate the Union momentum that ended aristocratic lifestyles "Gone With The Wind." Mary Custiss Lee likely never contemplated or understood that men like James, freeborn and slave-born, in sufficient numbers to aid the Union cause: would have the courage or desire to rebel against her way of life.
Her husband, General Lee in his surrender meeting with General Grant at Appomattox Court House did understand the confederate rebels against the United States had been beaten by the preponderance of force generated in part by the U.S. Colored Troops who for their own personal reasons and pay ($10 p/mo. more money, food and clothing than earned as slaves) were "born again" rebels in the spirit of a Living Christ against the peculiar institution of slavery. Nancy was not well-educated as was Mary Custiss Lee but she held a very different faith about Christ, not restrained in the heavenly kingdom.
We have learned through our research that Nancy's father James Banister died in 1857, and we can only wonder if and when she knew. Our reasoning is that her father had returned to Botetourt County some time before Rose and daughter Nancy moved from Chesterfield County (Richmond) to Arlington/Alexandria area indentured services with the Carter/Custiss/Lee families of Robert E. Lee. Pursuant Virginia's laws she would have required written permission from Robert E. Lee to leave and visit her father or anyone else away from the Custiss estate or residence of the Lee family. Indeed, indentured servants like her, descended from slaves, were viewed and treated as slaves however benevolent.
The Carter and Lee households essentially complied with the draconian laws of Virginia in which freedom did not mean free; and General Robert E. Lee in his famed emancipation for Custiss-Lee slaves under his control was issued the day following Lincoln's Jan 1, 1863 Emancipation Order: that freed over 4 million slaves in the rebel states that included Virginia. Lee, so far as we could determine, did not include Nancy and her children in his emancipation papers often cited by modern apologists. Indeed, according to Virginia Law they were born free and registered as indentured servants, even though functionally treated as slaves, and viewed as such even by modern day biographers about Robert E. Lee.
The will that Lee wrote in 1846 reflects that Nancy was viewed as his property at the Arlington White House and he desired to emancipate "Nancy and her children" as soon economically feasible. Nancy's daughter Kansas was born in 1846; and so far as family records are able to determine, Nancy did not have another child until the birth of Viney Findley Lee, born abt 1856 followed by the birth of Thomas Findley Lee, born 1859 and Mariah Findley Lee, born 1860 all fathered by Thomas Findley II, born abt 1800 who was a freeman and apparently engaged or employed in the transport of lead shot from Wythe County production sources to customers throughout Virginia. We do not know how long she lived in Arlington-Alexandria but believe it was a considerable amount of time ranging from at least 1846 until the Lee family evacuated the great estate in 1861 for their move to Richmond. Nancy gave birth in Richmond to her son George Findley Lee, born abt 1862 also fathered by Thomas Findley.
With the secession of Virginia from the United States and emergence of the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee and sons volunteered for service in the rebellious state of Virginia. Mary Custis Lee delayed evacuating Arlington House until May 15, 1861. Early that month, Robert wrote to his wife Mary saying:
"War is inevitable, and there is no telling when it will burst around you . . . You have to move and make arrangements to go to some point of safety which you must select. The Mount Vernon plate and pictures ought to be secured. Keep quiet while you remain, and in your preparations . . . May God keep and preserve you and have mercy on all our people."
Mary Custiss Lee and her daughters along with Nancy Lee Banister initially moved among the several Carter-Custiss-Lee family plantations in ante-bellum Virginia's expansive and growing slave owner aristocracy. In May 1862, she was caught at her son Rooney's White House Plantation in New Kent County behind the Federal lines, as Union forces moved up the York and the Pamunkey rivers toward Richmond. The Union commander, George B. McClellan, allowed her passage through the lines in order to take up residence in Richmond—the city which was also McClellan's campaign goal. Lee and her daughters settled at 707 East Franklin Street in Richmond.
We do not know where Nancy and her children had residence during her years of service to the Lee family in Richmond during the war years; but, she was present there and witnessed the fall of the confederate capital at hands of Union forces that included many soldiers and sailors successfully passing for White such as Madison Hemings son Thomas Eston Hemings, born 1838 and his first cousin John Wayles Hemings Jefferson, 1835-1902 plus over a hundred U. S. Colored Troop Regiments. Their combined rebellion against slavery was not so much due to love of colored folks but rather because its existence represented a personal threat to each and everyone knowing they too, regardless of which state they lived in, could be kidnapped and hauled into or returned to the peculiar institution protected by laws. And many like Thomas died for their beliefs and faith; as did those young men who fought as confederate rebels led to their deaths by men like Robert E. Lee.
Civil War Service by Population
We have to wonder and imagine that Mary Custiss Lee in those years of confinement to a wheelchair in the besieged wartime cities of the south after her husband's defeat at Gettysburg, must have said something to Nancy about the war possibly coming to Richmond. Her husband and sons were fighting their best in a war that at its best in ante-bellum best circles of opinion and prayers needed to be won for continuation of their way of life: that clearly included slavery. We are inclined to think the spirit of the Living Christ that Nancy believed in did not compel her to tell Mrs. Lee that she and her relatives like James Lee and Jefferson Findley were fighting against the ante-bellum cause.
Her view of Jesus did not necessitate courage, just faith, hope and love even for those who held her in bondage. Mrs. Robert E. Lee was a well-educated woman had to have been curious enough about Nancy to know that she was not godless or without a heritage in goodness, uncaring about the world around her. By time that Richmond was evacuated and fell to the Union Army in April 1865, with its colored troop regiments, it is doubtful that Mrs. Lee was there to see the fallacy of ante-bellum reasoning championed by her husband. In end, for sure, women like her, as with Miss Charlotte in Margaret Mitchell's great epic, likely felt betrayed by their former slaves and servants like Nancy, knowing they were not hated but simply disdained by people now made disobedient by personal liberty.
We have no reason to doubt that Nancy's Lee relatives in the Union forces would have known or sought to find her whereabouts and that of other Lee family members in Chesterfield County. We emphasize this point because the Lee descendents of William and Frank Lee in Virginia had apparent unique family values, not unlike the White Lee heritage of caring to know and love one another, including whereabouts.
Home of General Robert E. Lee. While in Virginia, General Lee had as his residence the house at 707 East Franklin Street. It was built about 1845 by a Mr. Stuart, a wealthy Scotch merchant, and was given by the Stuart family to the Virginia Historical Society by whom it is now occupied.
The size of the house on Franklin Street indicates that it did not likely have adjacent slave quarters such as existed at Arlington, making it quite likely that Nancy daily walked to and from another location in the City of Richmond. And since Richmond after the first two war years was plagued by vandalism and street gangs, we believe she would not have lived more than a few minutes away from the Franklin Street residence or her children.
We are relatively certain that she and her children lived in the Manchester City neighborhood of Richmond because that was also the location of a relative of her children born just before, during and after her stay in Richmond. Also, she named my grand-father Thomas to honor him and for certain, he would have been the principal source of support she depended upon during those years of wartime tensions.
Thomas Findley II, born abt 1800
It is a strange tale indeed that so many writers about the ante-bellum years leading to the disastrous Civil War that killed over 600,000 African-American, Native American and White American young men: still seem unable to understand: how goodness comes into existence beginning with conception and birth. We dare not forget Nancy's son Thomas Findley Lee, born 1859, possibly in the Arlington White House slave quarters on day John Brown was hanged: albeit census records indicating mother and children born in Chesterfield County. Nancy was perhaps the first of my ancestral Lee family, before me, to read the daily newspapers, page to page as I knew my grandfather and father to do. The Lee love of reading began long before I was born and my Aunt Nancy Lee assured me that family reading even during the Civil War was always a search for knowledge.
Old News - Richmond
|5/14/1864; description of the funeral of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart and interment in Hollywood Cemetery; gives list of pall-bearers, including Pres. Davis, many generals, and members of Congress
It matters as to who determines what sources of information to believe about Nancy and her children and the lives they lived seeing and hearing the events occurring among and around them. They were not ignorant beings/creatures as many writers consistently conjecture about ante-bellum lives based on tales of the deep south by writers like Margaret Mitchell, and imitators often graduates of the best American schools of English literature.
TV and movie screen writers have followed suit with characterizations of men like "Charlotte O'Hara's" beloved "Ashley" as kind and gentlemen heroic in the cause of goodness only coincidental in the death of 600,000 American young men. The denigrating portrayal of young Black men as attackers of White women rescued by men like Ashley was an amazing distortion of realties wherein there is no evidence the Union Army troops in the south ever allowed such to occur. Again, Hollywood extracted that theme from the movie "Birth of A Nation" filmed in year 1915.
Walking each day to and from her residence in Manchester to the Robert E. Lee residence in Richmond, Nancy was able to witness the many "Gone With The Wind" "Ashley types" of family loving gentlemen who daily auctioned and sold away the husbands and children of moaning and crying slave mothers. Richmond, for many decades was the hub of ante-bellum beliefs that fostered not only domestic slave breeding and trading but also the Civil War that would eventually end it.
She lived inside the world of make-believers who dared to imagine slavery and selling children was somehow good, godly in theory, because devoutly religious Judeo-Christian leaders like Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin and Robert E. Lee reasoned and articulated, even debated, such to be true. She saw the first-hand hypocrisy of such men who allowed an African Church to be created in 1846 for worship but legally not allowed to have a non-White pastor until two years after the Civil War ended. With the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it became legal in Virginia for White residents to teach Black preachers and others to read and write. Newspapers like the Richmond Times found great humor for their subscribers about uneducated slaves pretending to be knowledgeable preachers.
Nancy Lee's story has never been researched or written about by mass media artists because most writers cannot conceive that ante-bellum lifestyles were as they were, including the Robert Lumpkin's Jail and Slave Trade Center in Richmond (the infamous Half-Acre of Hell). It would not be kindly accepted that fondly remembered Robert E. Lee sent at least two slaves from the Custis Estate in Arlington because they challenged him about their promised freedom in the Custiss will.
Few writers dare imagine and portray Robert E. Lee as able and willing to send enslaved men to their likely torture and even death: albeit as a soldier he did even more, fighting wars, betraying his oath of service to the U.S. Government and continuing to fight for two long years after he knew the confederate cause was lost after the battle of Gettysburg. Nancy Lee was a bright woman and certainly must have observed this stub-born pride and character fault that existed among Virginia's best and brightest, long before the evacuation and fall of Richmond. R.E. Lee was her employer, not her hero.
RICHMOND is Fallen
Nancy most likely had left the household employment by the Robert E. Lee family as the Confederate forces evacuated Richmond and the household of Robert E. Lee who by beginning of 1865 was aware the war was lost, and the family certainly had no useable money to pay Nancy for her housekeeping services.
We believe that Nancy's brother James Lee Bannister, born abt 1824 who was a Union soldier mustered out around May 1866 was the likely source of her acquiring money to obtain or build a suitable family residence in Hallsboro area of Midlothian (about 5 miles outside Richmond) after the hostilities ended.
They both also had Lee relatives George Lee, born abt.1805 apparently living and working as a coal miner in Midlothian. He and his family would certainly have been available to aid Nancy in her relocation from the Manchester area of Richmond.
After the Civil War, coal production in Chesterfield fell off sharply and the Midlothian coal mines never again became a truly successful business enterprise. In 1882, when an explosion at Grove Shaft led to the loss of 32 lives (a tragedy that was followed by an embezzlement scandal involving the company’s superintendent), the last large scale mining operation in Midlothian was shut down. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, efforts were made to revive Chesterfield’s mining industry, but they never attained success. During the 1880’s the population of Midlothian declined significantly. A map of Chesterfield County that was produced by J. E. LaPrade (1888) reveals that a sizeable number of structures were then present on the Mid-Lothian Coal Mining Company’s property.
Our research has concluded that Nancy's brother James Lee who was mustered out of the Union forces in May 1866 with the (standard mustering out bonus plus his saved pay for upwards of 48 months x $10 p/mo could have amounted to several hundred dollars) and was likely the source of money Nancy needed to rent/purchase a house in the Hallsboro area of Midlothian about five miles west of Richmond. We make this point to emphasize that in the period immediately before ending of hostilities in and around Richmond, the White population had already conducted food riots. By time of the confederate evacuation of the City in the week before Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House there was literally nothing to eat in the City by Black or White residents.
Many did not know how to grow food and depended on charities and Union army donations. Nutritious meals were scarce even for city-dwelling poor White families. Such folks owned no slaves and had survived the Union Army bombardments: unable to leave like Lee's Army and the political/economic leaders who launched the war: sending many Richmond poor White mothers' sons to their graves. As the Union Army tightened its grip around the city and closed down food supplies from the great Shenandoah Valley, thousands of free White women panicked and rioted for food. Most Black women, as slaves, did not have mobility to participate in a rebellion of any kind. Whether true or not, such were the type anti-rebellion images posted by newspapers in places like Pittsburgh and other pro-union bastions.
President Lincoln, before being assassinated had suggested that perhaps veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops could be offered special bonus payments, like 40 acres and a mule, such as occurred with veterans of the Revolutionary and War of 1812 who received upwards of 400 acres in Kentucky and Ohio. President Andrew Johnson did not agree and rejected the suggestion of confiscating and redistributing former slave owner estates to veterans or any other former slaves. Neither Douglass or Lincoln never suggested giving non-veterans land; and, Douglass went so far as to tell the freed millions that "personal liberty is an end in itself."
Functional realties were that of the 4 million enslaved persons in the 1860 census, not more than 10 percent (400,000) were military age young men; and by ending of December 1862 about 50 percent of the 200,000 to be enlisted as U.S. Colored Troops and Navy pursuant the Emancipation Proclamation Order were recruited from among the 500,000 free colored population in Union states like Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
As the Union forces conquered areas such as the Mississippi Delta they were able in the course of events to enlist an additional 100,000 from among the potential 400,000. Note: Most of the young men who did not escape to serve in the Union forces were duly pressed into slave labor services for the rebel military and industrial works. Most slaves during course of the war were women, children and men too old or feeble for military services.
With war's end the challenge was overcome by industrious women like Nancy Banister Lee who with dependent children walked out of the surrendered city into the Hallsboro Road area where she could pick berries and cherries; plant, grow and harvest food for her family to eat. By June of war's end, Nancy was able to harvest some of the garden vegetables like string beans and potatoes, and shortly afterwards the corn and tomatoes ready for preservation.
Nancy and her family of Lee-Banister and Lee-Findley gathering together in the Midlothian suburbs of Richmond labored and learned to farm the land to feed themselves and others who hungered for nutrition. And, she had a lot of help and guidance from her coal miner relatives who also knew how to farm, and lend a Christian hand. They did not have a lot of time or patience for pretentious gatherings, though well-intended such as sewing circles taught by young White women from Philadelphia.
Their church was down in the coal mines where Christian caring mattered more than Sunday worship albeit many did that also. Nancy Lee, like most of the women of color in Midlothian was careful to make certain that she and her children attended and participated in the rituals and routines of the First African Baptist Church nearby where they lived; and, attended all the funeral services for departed souls, known and unknown. In the language of African-American Virginians: her children were properly "churched." For many years after the Civil War, being churched in Virginia was all about being involved in functional activities to learn and earn a living. Schools mattered and the Freedmen's Bureau initiated some, but Virginia is a huge state and it was not until 1877 that Virginia's state legislature authorized and provided for public schools to be established to provide mandatory teaching to children of ex-slaves.
The most telling tale about the character of my great grandmother Nancy is that when poverty and hunger was throughout the Richmond area following end of the Civil War, she functioned in her Christian faith in order to find and give comfort, food and shelter to "the least of us." There was no Freedmen's Bureau food supplies or rescue aid by churches in the winter of 1866 when thousands pained and starved from lack of clothing, shelter, food and medical care. It was a year that challenged the free-born and emancipated men, women and children; and the born again flocks of churches to care enough to at least do as the Mormons have done, and conduct a census of who, where and when that matters in Christ.
The 1870 U.S. census record below identifies my grandfather Thomas Lee and his other known siblings via Nancy Lee Banister: excepting Henry and Candus Lee and Rebecca Allen. Nancy Lee obviously used her freedom and privilege as a woman to give the census taker a birth year of 1834, rather than 1825. Or it is possible her brother James gave wrong information when census maker visited household.
Household ID: 412 , Line Number: 9 , Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) , Affiliate Publication Number: M593 , GS Film number: 000553139 , Digital Folder Number: 004268493 , Image Number: 00541
Nancy, her brother and nephew Thomas Findley III, born abt 1845 to her children's father most likely would have advised her to avoid providing census or other information that might enable the family of Robert E. Lee to find and hold her liable to the indenture contracts that she had signed committing herself to bonded servitude before General Lee surrendered to General Grant on April 9, 1865. And, Lee was a family man very much devoted to the health and welfare of his wife Mary Custis Lee and their children. And he valued servants.
"Six days later, a shabby group of horsemen riding in the rain crossed a pontoon bridge over the James River into Richmond. The entourage was headed by Lee, who was going to his temporary home on Franklin Street. (His estate in Arlington, Virginia, had been seized by the Union Army.)" excerpt: RICHMOND is Fallen
Nancy was well aware that after the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Robert E. Lee had travelled back to his former residence on Franklin Street in Richmond, likely expecting to find and collect her as his legally entitled property even after the 13th amendment: to continue care-giving to his family. Whatever the case Nancy obviously had no desire to continue as an indentured servant to the Lee family and good moral reasons to avoid being detected or confronted as to contractual obligations under the laws and judges still in effect.
The 13th amendment by Congress did not free Nancy from contracts signed before, during or after the war. One of the earliest new laws by Virginia after readmission to the Union was that effecting servitude obligations by women like Nancy Lee. The 14th Amendment passed by Congress in 1878 made indentured servitude illegal, binding on all states and superseding laws such as the Virginia law below passed in 1866.
Black Laws Summary
1866. "Chapter 15. No contract between a white and a colored person for the labor or service of the latter for a longer period than two months shall be binding on such colored person, unless in writing, signed by the white person and the colored person before a justice, notary, clerk of the court, or overseer of the poor, or two or more credible witnesses. It shall be the duty of the justice, notary, clerk, overseers, or witnesses to read and explain the contract to the colored person."
Nancy was very much inspired and strengthened to take care of those who needed her most including her brother James, her children, his children and two adopted children: Charlotte and Sallie who had no mother other than her. It was sometime between the 1870 and 1880 census that Nancy's daughter Kansas moved from Patrick, Virginia to Midlothian, Virginia to live with her. We have no further information as what had occurred with Jackson Lee the husband to Kansas excepting our speculation that he may have been one of the 32 miners killed in the 1882 Grove Shaft mine explosion in Midlothian that apparently motivated Lee clan and family migrations to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Special Note: Functional follow-the-money type research is required per insurance companies and other sources like descendents of mine owners to identify African-American coal miners, including other Lee family members, in Midlothian before, during and after the Civil War in which many enslaved miners and mill workers were dispersed to confederate coal mines and industrial works in places like Birmingham, Alabama with interconnected generations spread across 20th century mill and mine towns in many states.
Kansas Lee, born 1846; Viney Findley Lee, born abt 1856; Thomas Findley Lee, born 1859; Mariah Findley Lee, born 1860; George Findley Lee, born abt.1862
Sally Findley Lee, born abt 1871 (post war adoption by Nancy) Charlotte Findley Lee, born 1873 (post war adoption by Nancy)
By time of the 1882 coal mine disaster in Midlothian, Nancy Lee had more or less stabilized her family and clan with her daughter Kansas available to continue raising Sally and Charlotte to adult-hood. The men in her family and clan that were employed in the coal industry as miners, mule drivers and other skills were permanently out of employment with no prospects the mines would soon reopen. To find work, It is likely that her son Thomas went to Fayette County Ohio wherein lived the family of their cousin George Lee, born abt 1805.
When Thomas secured work as a independent livery operator for farm and other goods in the area, he sent for his mother and brother George who relocated to Fayette County about late 1882. It is significant to understand there was a small established community of several hundred African-Americans in Fayette County, including Mary Elizabeth Hemings Butler, born 1863 who was the daughter of Madison Hemings Jefferson also living therein. It is assumed that Nancy and her son George also obtained employment in Fayette County.
Nancy Lee Banister married David Watson (Civil War veteran) in December 1887 after relocating from Virginia to Ohio where she died in year 1912. I have visited her grave in Ohio; and interviewed virtually all persons knowledgeable of her life, and confirming that she did indeed exist as described herein less some writers imagine her as another fictional "Mammy".
122nd Regiment, Ohio Infantry
Organized at Zanesville, Ohio, September 30, 1862. Company "C" October 3, Company "G" October 5, Company "F" October 6 and Companies "I" and "K" October 8, 1862. Left State for Parkersburg, W. Va., October 23; thence moved to Clarksburg and to New Creek November 15. Attached to Railroad Division, West Virginia, to January, 1863. Milroy's Command, Winchester, Va., 8th Army Corps, Middle Department, to February, 1863. 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 8th Army Corps. to June, 1863. Elliott's Command, 8th Army Corps, to July, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 6th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, and Army of the Shenandoah, Middle Military Division, to June, 1865.
Duty at New Creek, Va., November 15 to December 28, 1862. Expedition up the south branch of Potomac River December 28, 1862, to January 1, 1863. Moved to Romney, W. Va., and duty there till March 17, 1863. Skirmish near Romney February 16. Moved to Winchester March 17, and duty in that vicinity till June. Reconnaissance toward Wardensville and Strasburg April 20. Battle of Winchester June 13-15. Retreat to Harper's Ferry June 15-17. Garrison, Maryland Heights, till July 1. Guard stores to Georgetown, thence moved to Frederick, Md., July 1-5. Pursuit of Lee to Manassas Gap, Va., July 5-24. Action at Wapping Heights, Va., July 23. Duty at New York City during draft disturbances August 17-September 5. Bristoe Campaign October 9-22. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Kelly's Ford November 7. Brandy Station November 8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. Payne's Farm November 27. Demonstrations on the Rapidan February 6-7, 1864. Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River May 3-June 15. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Spottsylvania May 8-12; Spottsylvania Court House May 12-21. Assault on the Salient, "Bloody Angle," May 12. North Anna River May 23-26. On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Before Petersburg June 17-July 6. Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23. Moved to Baltimore, Md., July 6; thence to Monocacy July 8. Battle of Monocacy Junction, Md., July 9. (Cover retreat.) Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign August 7-November 29. Charlestown August 21, 22 and 29. Battle of Opequan, Winchester, September 19. Fisher's Hill September 22. Battle of Cedar Creek October 19. Duty at Kernstown till December. Skirmish at Kernstown November 10. Moved to Washington, D. C., December 3; thence to Petersburg, Va. Siege of Petersburg, Va., December 6, 1864, to April 2, 1865. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9, 1865. Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Sailor's Creek April 6. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. March to Danville April 17-27, and duty there till May. Moved to Richmond Va., May 16; thence to Washington, D. C., May 24-June 1. Corps Review June 9. Mustered out June 26, 1865.
Regiment lost during service 7 Officers and 86 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 137 Enlisted men by disease. Total 230.
Nancy outlived her husband David Watson, and in the 1900 census as a widow either she or the census taker incorrectly listed her birthday as Oct 1831. Once again, her Christian character shines through in that she apparently took into her home two boys: Jamie and Clarence Pritchard likely after their mother had passed away leaving them as orphans. More research is needed as to what occurred afterwards.
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|ED 49 Paint Township Bloomingburg village, Fayette, Ohio, United States
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"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MMZG-DX3 : accessed 09 Sep 2012), Nancy Watson, ED 49 Paint Township Bloomingburg village, Fayette, Ohio, United States; citing sheet 2B, family 467, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241266.
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|03 Dec 1912
|Paint Twp, Fayette, Ohio
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|05 Dec 1912
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"Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X667-NBS : accessed 04 Sep 2012), Nancy Watson, 1912; citing reference fn 65137, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio.