Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wilkinson County Chancery and Circuit Clerk Offices

After heading to the cemeteries, the very next locations I went to was the Circuit and Chancery Clerk's office in Woodville, MS. The county had their Independence Day holiday on Monday following so the offices were closed. I had to turn my lemons into lemonade. Fortunately for me, the Wilkinson County Museum was just around the corner and even more fortunate although they were 'closed', the curator was in doing some work and welcomed me in to her museum. She gave me quite a bit of information about the local plantation, Jefferson Davis (Former Confederate President) who had his home in Wilkinson County, and about genealogical information that was being collected by local researchers and compiled into a series of books entitled "The Journal of Wilkinson County History". I left her a business card and I plan on visiting there again later this year.
The next day I was able to get into the County Clerk's offices and found some interesting information, cleared up a mystery and looked into possible leads on Washington family members. The marriage license books at the Wilkinson county Circuit Court are meticulously maintained covered in cloth book protectors labeled clearly with the and the records were in nearly mint condition. It was clearly obvious that they cared about their records. As did many southern states, Mississippi kept seperate records on 'colored' marriages and 'white' marriages. Colored couples in Mississippi were required to complete a Marriage Bond in which the requirements were a bond of $100 by the prospective groom that had to be co-signed by another man, they had to find a reputable minister to marry them and return to the courthouse to document their completed marriage. I would imagine that those couples truly loved one another because $100 in the late 19th century was quite a sum of money! I located the marriage licenses of my great-great grandparents Scott Washington(Eliza McLain) and Roxana McFarland(John Earls), pictured below.

The bondsman for Scott Washington was Jack Westrope. It appears as if Scott Washington may have signed his own paperwork, which means he may have been literate.
The bondsman for John Earls was James M. Griffin. It also appears as if John Earls signed his own paperwork. Its worth noting at this point, both of these men are listed in the Mississippi census records as mulattoes. Which could mean that they were children of privilege who were able to learn to read and write.

The Marriage Bond reads as follows:

The State of Mississippi, Wilkinson County
Know all Men by these Presents this
That we [groom and bondsman] of the county of Wilkinson and the state of Mississippi, are held and firmly bound unto the state of Mississippi aforesaid, in the sum of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, lawful money of said state, for which payment, well and truly to be made and peformed, we each of us do bind ourselves, our heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, jointly, severally and firmly by these presents.
Sealed with our seals, and dated this [day] of [month] 18[yr]
The condition of this Obligation is such that whereas a marriage is shortly to be celebrated between the above bound [groom's name] and [brides name]. Now, if there is no lawful reason to obstruct said marriage, then this obligation to be void, otherwise, to remain in full force and virtue.
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of us [circuit clerk signature]
Signature of Groom and Bondsman