Old Wills

1826 Will of John Meaux and Emancipation of His Slaves

You will enjoy this will – most interesting!  John Meaux names two grandsons and two sons – no wife or daughters in this will.  But the biggest part of the will is given to the emancipation of sixty-one of his Negro slaves.  Not only does he give them their freedom, but some of his land and personal estate is sold, in part to give money to his former slaves, but he directs his Executors to purchase land in a free state for the Negroes.  His crop and plantation tools and utensils are to be given to the slaves.  John Meaux did give fourteen slaves to his son, but the majority he gave their freedom.  It would be interesting to know where land was purchased and where the slaves lived after they were free. 

Will of John Meaux

Will Book 1, Pages 272-274, Mercer County, Kentucky

I John Meaux of Mercer County, Kentucky, do hereby make this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills by me made.  First, I will and direct that all the slaves of which I am possessed as the owner be and they are hereby forever emancipated and set free, being sixty one in number and now in my possession, and the increase of the females also hereafter to be born.  I wish the young Negroes to be bonded out to trades, at the direction of my Executors.  I give unto my two

grandsons, John W. Meaux and Richard Meaux, each two cows and two ewes, the whole of stock except what is otherwise devised; and all my crop and plantation tools and utensils I direct to be divided among my Negroes hereby emancipated in such way and proportions as my Executors shall think right.  I direct the land I purchased of Edwards and which I have not conveyed away to be sold, as soon as the title is settled, and also all my household and kitchen furniture to be sold and the proceeds to be applied by my Executors to the use of my slaves hereby emancipated in such way and portions as my Executors shall think proper.  I give unto my son, Nathaniel B. Meaux, the tract of land in Mercer and Franklin, near Lillards, on which I settled him and also all the stock and Negroes which I have put into his possession, being Miller, Pompey, Charlotte, Armistead, four of Charlotte’s children now with her, Nelly and her five children, Washington, and two ewes.  If I should leave any money on hand I direct it shall be laid out at the discretion of my Executors for the benefit of my Negroes.  I direct that my Executors, out of the personal estate proceeds of the land which is to be sold and money in hand, if any, and all of which is herein division, for the benefit of my Negroes, in the first instance paying all the expenses of having the slaves emancipated and a fair compensation to themselves for all their expense and trouble in attending to the due execution of my will I hereby nominate and appoint my sons John G. Meaux and Nathaniel B. Meaux, also my friend John B. Thompson, Executors of this my last will and empower them or either of them to do all things herein directed to be done.  Witness my hand and seal this 23rd day of October 1826.

John Meaux

Test – Lanty Holman, Richard Holman

In addition to the foregoing will I now put into the hand of my Executor John B. Thompson five hundred and twenty-nine dollars 50 cents to be used by him in defraying all expenses and charges necessary to the freedom of my Negroes and authorize him to lay out all money deposited with him after paying the expenses and charges and also the money arising from the sale of my estate before directed in this will, in lands in Indiana, Ohio or some other free state for the use and benefit of my slaves in such proportions to each family as in his discretion he may deem right and proper, witness my hand and seal this 9th June 1828.

John Meaux

Eleven pieces of gold in the foregoing money supposed to be $70.00.

Test. – Lanty Holman, Vance Wilson

State of Kentucky Court of Appeals January 7, 1830

The foregoing last will and testament of John Meaux, deceased, and the codicil attached thereto were produced in this court and fully proved by the subscribing witnesses thereto and admitted to record in the office of said County and ordered to be certified to the Mercer County Court for record also.  Test.  J. Swigert, Clerk

Mercer County February County Court 1830.

The foregoing last will and testament of John Meaux, deceased, was this day produced into Court which together with the certificates of the Clerk of the court of Appeals I have made of record.

Attest.  Thomas Allin, County Clerk

11 replies »

  1. Thanks for your work! I got excited when I saw this will was from Mercer County since my family would have been slaves in this area. Too bad all of the slaves weren’t named!

  2. That was a wonderful story and made me very happy to read.

    I recently came across a will in a Lincoln Co. will book, 1865, that stated “my slaves refuse to accept their freedom and wish to stay with me and my family”. He directed his executors to provide for them for the rest of their lives, to give them parts of his land if they wish to sustain themselves by farming, or if they wished to work in town the executors were to facilitate and they were to keep all monies earned while his estate would furnish food, clothing and shelter. If they wished to do neither, his estate was to provided everything they needed. If they desired their own house, the estate was to build one on his property. Lastly, when his wife became too old to help care for them, the estate was to provide everything they needed in their old age.

  3. Thank you for this sharing this post of an admirable man! His honorable intentions have remained in my thoughts, so when I was watching ‘Finding Your Roots’ with Louis Gates last night, as soon as Mercer County & John Meaux was mentioned, I immediately remembered this will! Maya Rudolph was being featured and she is a descendant of one of the slaves. Sadly, things did not go as dictated in the ‘will’, but not all of the details were given so there is hope that there was a somewhat happier ending. It seems they may have worked for at least a couple of years without compensation for their services. Hopefully, they were working as free people! Maya’s ancestor did challenge one of Meaux’s descendants in court for some of his given rights and was awarded 100 acres. Wouldn’t we all love to know if John Meaux’s wishes were fulfilled!

    I hope it’s ok to post this should anyone want to see the excerpt…I just found it so interesting since seeing your post! You can google for you tube: Finding Your Roots, Season Three: Maya Rudolph Clip 2 (again…this is info from the tv show…I haven’t validated with any research)

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