Enslaved People of the Vance Family

Jo & Leah's Known Family

Jo (b? - before 1835)

Jo was born in North Carolina and was one of the four oldest Vance slaves in 1813.[6][28] Jo and Leah (I) were married and were probably the parents of "young" Leah, although they likely had other children whose names we do not know.[6][29]

Along with his wife, Jo was willed to Priscilla Vance by David Sr. in 1813. Upon Priscilla's death, Jo and Leah along with Richard and Aggy were to be given "full liberty to go and live with any of my children where their own children live, not as slaves, but as old acquaintances who have labored and spent their strength to raise my children and their own also".[6] Unfortunately, he did not live to be granted this freedom.[7]

Leah (I) (b? - before 1835)

Born in North Carolina, Leah would eventually marry Jo, another Vance slave.[6][28] She is believed to be the mother of "young" Leah.[29] They likely had other children whose names we do not know.

Along with her husband, Leah was willed to Priscilla Vance by David Sr. in 1813. Upon Priscilla's death, Jo and Leah along with Richard and Aggy were to be given "full liberty to go and live with any of my children where their own children live, not as slaves, but as old acquaintances who have labored and spent their strength to raise my children and their own also".[6] Unfortunately, she did not live to be granted this freedom.[7]

Leah (II)/Young Leah/Leah Vance Erwin (circa 1806 - after 1880)

Leah (II) was born around 1800 and is assumed to be the daughter of the Leah (I) as she is referred to as "young Leah".[29][30] Leah was willed to David Vance, Jr. by his mother in 1835, although she is listed as already living with him.[31] She married Sandy Erwin, a Baird family slave, in 1841.[32] Leah had at least four children by 1844, and most likely more who had already reached adulthood. Mira Vance repurchased Leah and her four children at the David Vance, Jr. estate sale.[14] Three of the four children may be the 14-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl, and 6-year-old girl seen in the 1850 slave schedule.[33]

Leah was considered one of the best cooks and housekeepers in the region.[34] She remained with Mira Vance throughout slavery, and seems to have maintained some sort of relationship with her former owner following emancipation.[35] Leah and Sandy attended Mira Baird Vance's funeral in 1878.[36] Leah lived until at least 1880.[37]

Leah is listed as "Leer" and "Lear" in the 1870 and 1880 census records. In the former census, Sandy and Leah are living with Joseph Erwin (age 7) and Jane Erwin (age 5), likely grandchildren, and a white man named John Mathews (age 29).[38] Ten years later, they were living with granddaughters Leah Williams (age 14) and Jennie Williams (age 12).[37]

Sandy Erwin (circa 1807 - after 1880)

Sandy was initially owned by Gov. Vance's great-grandfather, Alexander Erwin, but was given to his daughter Hannah Baird. Hannah's husband, Zebulon Baird, died suddenly in 1827. Although Sandy may have been living with the Bairds at this time, he still belonged to Hannah's father Alexander and so could not be sold in Zebulon's estate sale.[39]

When he died in 1839, Alexander Erwin willed Sandy to his daughter, Hannah Erwin Baird.[39] In her will of 1849, Hannah Baird required that Sandy be retained within the family, stating that she "never intended Selling the property giving me by my Father."[40]

Sandy married Leah Vance in 1841.[32] He supposedly "bought his time" before emancipation, though no record as yet confirms this.[36] Sandy and Leah later lived outside Asheville in Sulphur Springs with various children, possibly grandkids, in their household. Also, in 1870, a white man named John Mathews lived in Sandy's household. Sandy was a farmer who could neither read nor write. He owned $60 worth of personal property in 1870.[38] He attended Mira Vance's funeral in 1878 and lived himself until at least 1880.[36][37]


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