About Janny Rowsey
Was the liberated slave of Mary Stith.
The will of Mary Stith was made in 1813. Her dwelling house and lot were devised to a former slave, Jenny; the tin shop to Jenny's granddaughters, Jenny and Patty Gillett; and the "Woods shop" on the main street to the Bolling sisters. All the devisees were slaves of Mary Stith, which she had liberated. To quote from her will: "my estate ... I dispose of in manner and form following, to wit: All the Coloured people in my family being born my slaves, but now liberated, I think it my duty not to leave them destitute nor leave them unrecompensed for past services rendered to me..." In the will Mary Stith requested burial in the southeast corner of her garden. According to the Architectural Department of Colonial Williamsburg, every part of the lot has been uncovered (except a small area, 15 by 15 feet) and no grave or skeleton was found therein.
In 1815, the personal property list for Williamsburg denotes Mary Styth as owner of the following personal property: "calico curtains, 5 bedsteads, 5 chests of drawers, 1 cloathes press, 2 tables, Pianoforte under $300, 2 looking glasses of 28 underwt, 1 secretary." (Microfilm, Department of Research.)
Williamsburg Land Tax Records following the death of Mary Stith, show that her property was held by the slave Janny Rowsey, and her relatives:
1820 Janny Rowsey 1 lot devised via Mary Styth 1820 Nelly Bolling 1 lot formerly charged to Mary Styth 1820 Patsey Rowsey 1 lot devised via Mary Styth 1825 Beverley Rowsey 1 lot via Jane Laurance alias Jenny Rowsey 1843 Beverley Rowsey's Est. 1 lot buildings totally destroyed by fire in April 1842 1843 Patsey Rowsey 1 lot buildings totally destroyed by fire in April 1842 1843 Nelly Bolling 1 lot buildings totally destroyed by fire in 1842
- Stith, Mary
- Anderson, Ro., Account Books, etc., 1808-1812.
- Virginia Historical Society. p. 44.
- In the name of God, Amen, I Mary Stith of the City of Williamsburg being weak in body but in perfect sense and memory, do make and ordain this writing as and for my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all wills by me heretofore made. There being a sufficiency of my estate for payment of all just debts due from me, it is my desire that there be no appraisement of my property. It is my will and desire that all my just debts be paid. My estate which consists of my houses and lot in Williamsburg, and of two debts which are due to me, the one from Richard Randolph and the other from Robert Greenhow, I dispose of in manner and form following to wit: All the coloured people in my family being born my slaves, but now liberated, I think it my duty not to leave them destitute nor leave them recompensed for part services rendered to me. As in the cause of humanity I can do but little for so many, and that little my conscience requires me to do, therefore I subject the whole of my estate to the payment of my just debts, and to the provision which I herein make for them. I give and bequeath my dwelling house and lot to Jenny the mother of the family, together with all the furniture as it now stands in the room below stairs, and one third part of all the other goods and chattels and wearing apparel as they stand in my dwelling at my decease, the whole thereof to her and to her heirs and assigns forever. Moreover I give and bequeath unto said Jenny, out of the interest accruing upon the debts due to me, the sum of twenty pounds per year, until my executor shall pay to her the sum of one hundred pounds. I recommend to the said Jenny to take her two grand daughters Jenny Gillett and Patty Gillett under her protection in consideration of which I bequeath to her five pounds more per year for each of them during her lifetime. I give and bequeath to the said Jenny Gillett and Patty Gillett jointly, my house in the yard called the tin shop, together with the other two-thirds of my wearing apparel before mentioned to be divided between them as they shall agree with themselves, to them and their heirs and assigns forever. To the said Patty Gillett I give and bequeath my bed and bedding, together with my chairs, press and dressing table. I give to the said Jenny Gillett twenty-five pounds, and to the said Patty Gillett twenty five pounds, to be paid them by my executor when he can conveniently do so. I give to Peter Gillett the sum of ten pounds to help him in his trade. I give and bequeath to Nelly Bolling and her two sisters Eve and Sally, my house on the main street called Woods shop, with the use of the yard to be held by them in fee simple and by their heirs and assigns forever. I give to the said Nelly Bolling Fifty pounds-to the said Eve and Sally twenty five pounds each, and I give to the three the sume of five pounds each per year until they shall receive from my executor the aforesaid sum, which he will pay them when it is convenient to him to do so. I give to Benjamin White Thirty pounds, and to Beverley Rowsay Forty pounds. I give to Rachel White Twenty pounds, and to her sister Meade Randolph my diamond locket that she now has in possession. I give and bequeath to Mrs. Tucker wife to St. George Tucker, my watch. I give to my good friend Robert Greenhow a ring of the value of six pounds. I give to my friend Miss Sally Anderson a gold watch of one hundred dollars value. I give to my Rt. Reverend friend John Bracken the sum of twenty pounds. It being necessary that some person should be empowered to perform the act of my burial, which I desire may be done agreeably to the common custom. I do hereby authorize such person or persons to call on my executor to discharge all debts contracted on that account. As I have outlived all those persons whose duty it would have been to perform this indispensable act, I hereby authorize and appoint my kind friends Sally Anderson and Rachel Anderson to perform that act: And for that purpose I give and bequeath to them the sum of one hundred pounds to be equally divided between them. It is my desire to be buried in the Southeast corner of my garden, and in a mahogany coffin without any ornaments thereon . . . In Witness whereof I the said Mary Stith have hereto set my hand and affixed my seal this 15th day of december 1813 . . .