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I’ve just found the will of my 5th great grandfather, Frederick Goss (1766-1833) and the estate inventory of his widow, Sarah (Elston) Goss (1772-1837) in Davidson County, North Carolina. Frederick’s 1833 will includes the following:

“I give & bequeath unto my beloved wife Sarah my negro slaves namely James Catharine & Lett, to her use and benefit during her life time & then the said James & Catherine [no mention of Lett] to be sold by my executors and their proceeds to be divided among my lawful heirs.”

The inventory of Sarah’s estate includes “A list of the sale of the property of Sarah Goss deceased sold the 9th day of June 1837.”

Interspersed between the sale prices of such items as “one stone jug 30 cents,” “candlemold and scissors 5 cents,” and “1 side saddle 9 dollars and 50 cents,” the list also includes:

James a negro boy purchased for $601 by James Lee. (Lee also bought one “coverlid,” two quilts, one “needleworked counterpin,” and one “bed cord” for a total of $8.33.)

Catharine a negro girl purchased for $402 by Julian Leach.

Irena a negro girl purchased for $300.25 by William Harris.

The 1830 Census lists Goss enslaving 12 people: one boy under age 10, two male youths between 10 and 23, one young man between 24 and 35, and one man between 36 and 54. There were also four girls under age 10, two girls/young women between 10 and 24, and one woman between 36 and 54. Which of these twelve were the four individuals listed in the estate documents? And what happened to the others?

I wish I knew James, Catharine, Lett and Irena’s ages. What were their relationships to each other? I don’t know if Lett (listed in Frederick’s will) is the same person as Irena in Sarah’s estate inventory. The three enslavers who purchased these three people at the sale aren’t names I recognize from my family research and I don’t know if they were local. Did these four people remain in the area or were they uprooted and sent far away? So many unanswered questions, but I hope this little bit of information is helpful to someone.

I have many ancestors who were enslavers. Most were on my maternal grandmother’s side, but some, like Frederick and Sarah Goss, were ancestors of my paternal grandmother, and at least one was an on my paternal grandfather’s side. It’s a daunting task, but this post is a very small first step to share information on the souls who were held in bondage by my ancestors. There will be more.


Wills (Davidson County, North Carolina), 1823-1969; Index to Wills, 1823-1955; p. 239. Author: North Carolina. Superior Court (Davidson County); Probate Place: Davidson, North Carolina

Wills and Estate Papers (Davidson County), 1663-1978; Author: North Carolina. Division of Archives and History (Raleigh, North Carolina); Probate Place: Davidson, North Carolina


Frederick (1766-1833) and Sarah (Elston) Goss (1772-1837) 5th great grandparents

Fernita “Neatty” (Goss) Bodenhamer (1795-1863) 4th great grandmother

John Bodenhamer (about 1837-1863?) 3rd great grandfather

Clementine “Clemmie” Esther (Bodenhamer) Owen (1854-1925) 2nd great grandmother

Stella Lee (Owen) Miller (1881-1942) great grandmother

Esther Jane (Miller) (Stephenson) Hare (1914-1975) grandmother

William Edward Stephenson Hare (1933-1961) father