In May 1839, a boy named Aaron, along with his mother and siblings become part of an inheritance to Loverd Bryan, a wealthy planter whose father died from wounds he sustained during the Creek Indian War. They leave Randolph County, Ga., and go further south, into neighboring Stewart County, Ga., where their new owner had built a lavish home overlooking the sprawling cotton fields where they would work.
Loverd Bryan was at least the second generation of the Bryan family that once owned my ancestors. Researching the maternal side of my family, I discovered that my Bryant relatives were once Bryan. Today I discovered it was a surname they adopted from their owners, Irish immigrants who had settled in North Carolina before relocating to southwest Georgia.
I had been researching Bryans in Stewart County, Georgia and found myself coming back to a particular person, Loverd Bryan. I found out that he was an early pioneer of Stewart County, and also the owner of a large plantation. Here’s a picture of his house:
The migration patterns of this family were too similar to my ancestors for there not to be a connection; they had lived in southwest Georgia counties for years, and more specifically Stewart and Terrell counties, which is where my family had lived. I thought that I might be able to find a will so I could confirm my suspicion that Loverd Bryan owned my third great-grandfather Aaron Bryant, but Loverd died after Emancipation.
So I set out to look for his family. I found out that Loverd was the son of Clement Bryan, and happened upon a book that mentioned Clement by name. The book, Slavery in Southwest Georgia, noted that Clement Bryan went through great pains not to break up the family units among his slaves, and listed a quote from his will that mentioned “Matthew and his wife Violet…”
“A-ha!” I thought. “Maybe Matthew and Violet are Aaron’s parents!”
Not quite. I was able to find Clement Bryan’s will on familysearch.org. I read through it and found out he was quite a wealthy man. He had a wife, six children and dozens of slaves– who were divided among his heirs. Among his instructions– that “twelve negroes, Alfred and his wife Anarky, and her children Jack, Tom, Rose, Aaron, Louisa, Henry, Jim, young Betty Green, Prince and Charles” be given to his eldest son Loverd.
There, scrawled before me, was an entire generation of my family I hadn’t known before, listed right before a yellow Bay filly, blacksmith tools and a road wagon.