Wednesday, July 31, 2013

1st Newsletter

In a message dated 8/18/2012 9:34:00 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hello everyone! It was so nice see everyone in Milledgeville in July.  I am also so glad I got to meet a few new cousins.  I have attached a photo of our gathering.  I thought what I would do every few months is send out a family newsletter of my research so far.  If you have already heard the stories sorry I wanted to start at the beginning for those that are new to this. If you have additional information please feel free to contribute or correct.  I will try to keep the email short and hit one or two topics at a time.  

Last year I decided to have my DNA tested.  This gives a clue to the origins of our family.  For those of you who are Bell's and Steele's you will have similar DNA results.  Remember your DNA comes from your mother and your father.  

Here are the results:

52.18% of my DNA is Western European (French and Orcadian) The French and Orcadians migrated to UK and most of the British Isles.  Orkney Island (tip of Scotland) is home base for Orcadians. See links for further information. 

47.18% of my DNA is West African Yoruba, Mandenka(not to be confused by Mandinka) Mandenka means People of Mande. The West African people were the largest group of people transported to the Americas during the slave trade.  If you look at the links you will see that some of their features are very Native American "like". Many have high cheek bones etc.  

As you can see there is no Native American Indian in my DNA make up. 

So with that out of the way. Let's start with William Steele.

William Steele and Sarah (Sallie Keen)

According to the 1850 census of Baldwin County Georgia, William Steele was born in 1804 in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. 

Sara or Sallie Keen is first listed in the 1870 census.  She is listed as mulatto with a birth date of around 1828.  Sara or Sallie had four children by William Steele.  They are Augustus Steele (1847), Frank Pierce Steele (April 1848), Charlie Steele (1850), and Addie Steele (1854).  Sarah had another child in 1865 name Emma Keen, William Steele was not the father. 

It appears that Sarah may have been a slave. She is not listed on the 1850 census as a free person of color.  The 1860 census unfortunately was burned.  Her name does appear on Charlie’s death certificate in 1924.  Her name is listed there as Sallie and it says her birthplace was Virginia.  At the time of Charlie’s death his second wife was named Sallie so I am not sure if there was a mix up or if this is the correct record.

From what I could find William Steele never married. He first appears in the Southern Recorder newspaper in October 1839.  This was an article electing him to a committee on states rights.  From this first record until his death on November 26, 1859 he was involved in the political scene in the budding new capital of Georgia as a Democrat.  Andrew Jackson was the father of the Democratic Party.  The opposing party was the Whigs.  The Whigs were seen as the elitist of rich white farmers and businessmen. The Democratic Party was seen as the party for all white men that held property, not just the wealthy landowners.

Jackson believed he would make a good President and ran for the office for the first time in 1824. The Democratic Party did not exist; it coalesced around the hope of obtaining office by associating with Jackson, and on three major points of agreement. The first was the continued taking of American Indian land, with or without whatever degree of genocide was necessary to carry it off. This plank was popular with both land-speculators and less affluent European-American settlers because it made purchasing land cheap. The second plank was the continuation and extension of slavery, which made life easy and profitable for Jackson and his followers. The third plank was what would now be called an expansionary monetary policy. This allowed white settlers to borrow money to buy stolen Indian land to work with slaves to raise tobacco, cotton, and other profitable crops for market. Source: A Brief History of the Democratic Party by William Meyers.

This means during William Steele’s entire political career he was pushing the agenda for states rights and slavery.  Whether he felt that personally is the untold story.  It does appear that each of the children were Free Person’s of Color.  Records show 311 mulattos lived in Milledgeville before the Civil war.

I do not know much of the previous history at this time of William Steele and his family.  He did have a brother named George that was a printer.  He was born around 1812 and died on June 22, 1843.  There was quite a lengthy and eloquent obituary written about him.  In the obit it also speaks of Mother, Father, and sisters all being deceased and has George born in Hartford, Connecticut.  It also speaks of how they (the Steele family) came to Georgia at a young age.  One of the stories that Daddy told me was that George and William had a boat in Savannah that they used to run rum.  In James Bonner’s book, Milledgeville Georgia’s Antebellum Capital,  it does talk about river barges that ran cotton and rum from Savannah to Milledgeville. Not sure if there is a connection.

During William’s time in Milledgeville, he served as clerk of the Inferior and Superior court, a representative for states rights, Secretary for the Democratic Party, orator, member of the Milledgeville Greys, founder of the Baldwin Blues in 1848, Mayor of Milledgeville in 1851, private Secretary to Governor Howell Cobb and Herschel V. Johnson. He was also a member of the Odd Fellows, which was an organization with its root in Europe but started in the US in 1819 in Baltimore Maryland. The organization’s main goal was to promote Friendship, Love, and Truth regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, rand or station in life.

William Steele died on November 26, 1859 after spending three years debilitated and labeled an imbecile. There was a short obituary written about him that expressed what a great man his was.  It was signed M.  It appeared in the Federal Union November 29, 1859.  William Barnes was appointed guardian with John Hammond removing Barnes by notice in the Daily Federal Union October 26, 1860 (Hammond appears to be a life long friend) taking over and finally settling everything. More research to come on this matter!

Both William and George are buried in Memory Hill cemetery.  The inscription reads: Side by side repose the ashes of two Brothers; they leave no relatives south to mourn their loss. I have attached a photo for those of you who have never had a chance to visit the grave. 

How are the Bell’s and Steele Related?

There has always been a joke in the family about the Bell’s and Steele’s antagonistic relationship.  Daddy always told me that they were related but he could never tell me how.  I always thought it was quite strange since two Bell sisters Annie Laura Bell (my grandmother) and Leo Catherine Bell married two Steele brothers, Frank Pierce Steele Jr. (my grandfather) and George Augustus Steele.  After looking at several records a few things came together.

Warren Charles Bell was married to Mary Louise Reid (Mollie) they had 5 girls Willie, Leo, Ione, Annie Laura, and Eloise (Ella).  Warren C. Bell’s father was also named Warren Bell (not sure of the middle initial) and he was married to a women name Laura Annie Mitchell (my grandmother was name after her).  Laura Mitchell’s mother was named Jane Mitchell.  The first record that I have of her in the census is in 1880 living with Warren and Laura.  It was also noted that she was blind.

There are two articles written about Jane Mitchell which she was also called Old Aunt Jane Brooks.  The first one is was in the Marion County Patriot Friday August 6, 1886 page eight. 

There is a woman living in Milledgeville known as “old Aunt Jane Brooks”,
grandmother of Frank and Wm. Steele, colored carpenters, whose age is anywhere
between 100 and 120 years.  She remembers the revolutionary war distinctly and
when Washington was president.  She is the oldest person living in Baldwin
County.  Her health is good, but she is quite blind.

I believe that the mention of William Steele is a typo and it should read Charles Steele. 

The second article appeared in the Union Recorder of October 18, 1887.  It is written about the death of Jane Mitchell who was 116 at her death. It also mentions that she was the mother of 13 children, 11 grand children, and 44 great grand children. 

What ties this all together is Kathy Lloyd (George Steele’s granddaughter) had a receipt from a coffin purchase by Frank and Charles Steele on credit dated October 12, 1887.  The coffin was purchased for their grandmother.  It cost $38 (with 8 percent interest) and took one year to pay off. Final pay off was November 10, 1888 with a $1 payment. 

If you look at all the evidence that means Jane Mitchell/Brooks was Sara/Sallie Keen's mother also.  Sara Keen and Laura Mitchell were sisters mostly likely with different fathers.  And that is how the Bell’s and Steele’s are related.

I think this is enough for the first email.  If you have any photos please send.  I have compiled several photos already and will send them as they pertain to the person's discussed.  Hope everyone has a great weekend. 

Thanks, T


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