As a young child, I was fascinated with the uncommon use of our family’s last name of “Nicholas”. It was normally used as a first name, at least in all of my encounters. I’ve rarely met anyone, with our last name, who was of African descent.
For the last 15 years, I’ve been on a constant search for the origin and meaning of this surname. With the advancement in our technology, and a book of family names, written by my grandmother, Carlie Anne Allen, (born 1898), of Shipman, Virginia, combined with a list of slave names, written by Nathaniel Francis Cabell, the great grandson of Dr. William Cabell of Lovingston, Nelson, Virginia, I’ve been able to delve deep into our family history.
William Cabell was the first Englishman to settle in Nelson County, and establish the first colony called Midway, at Warminster. This old town was located at the mouth of the Swan Creek, in an area along the James River in Wingina, VA.
An important note: Midway Mills was the first Colony established, by Dr. William Cabell, in Nelson County, June 6, 1774. This was the meeting place, where all other counties were created. This area, then was known as “Swan Creek Estates”, and afterwards, “Liberty Hall”. An ordinance was raised for providing the colony with a sufficient force for defense. The colony was then divided into sixteen districts, and required to organized a battalion of minute-men, who were to prepare themselves for regular service. These new counties were Albemarle, Amherst, Buckingham, and East Augusta, which is located not too far from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate, and the famous “Walton’s Mountain”.
In search of my family history, I stopped at the “Special Collections Library”, at the “University of Virginia in Charlottesville”, that was designed by Thomas Jefferson, built by the Cabell Family, his associates, and their slaves, (my ancestors). After reading through over 800 hand written documents by the Cabell family, I was able to find many articles, pertaining to slaves. Many documents that I held in my hands, were older than the “CONSTITUTION” itself. I’ve even read letters that Dr. William Cabell wrote to the King of England. William Cabell had lots of business dealings with his associates, who were all major landowners too. They sold and exchanged slaves, as if they were currency.
These slaves, were used by the slave owners, to satisfy debts to one another, like “Shillings, pence, and pounds”.
I’ve read and recorded many documents concerning business deals, between William H. Cabell and William Mayo. There were also deals with Cole Diggs, William Loving, Nicholas Cabole Early, William C. Scott, William Venable, William Diggs, George Nicholas, John Diggs, John Dillard, Robert Rives, Alexander Rose, William Horsley, John Hartwell Cocke, Joseph Loving, Charles Kidd, H. Carrington, Mary F. Allen, Thomas Lockett, Joseph Shelton, William Ligon, and many more.
In the diary of Nathaniel Francis Cabell, and other documents, he specifically listed the full names of the slaves that they’ve owned, along with stories of their lives at Union Hill, Liberty Hall, and Edgewood in Warminster. The names were Susan “Sukey” Diggs, Emily Early, and Sophy Diggs, (wife of my 3rd great grandfather, Washington Nicholas), along with Polly, Clarissa, Lizzie, Jennie, Betsy, Fredrick, Eliza, and the names of most of my ancestors living at “Cabell Farms”, on the “Swan Creek Plantation” at Warminster, in Wingina, Virginia.
Since we weren’t considered blood relatives to white slave owners, I had to create the term “RBS”, which simply means, “Related By Slavery”. We are still part of these historic families.
All of my original ancestors were slaves of the Cabell family, and their associates. This is how our families got their surnames, such as Nicholas, Allen, Diggs, Mayo, Woodson, Early, Rives, Rose, Venable, Terrell, Bolden, Bowling, Horsley, Shipman, Miller, Shelton, and Brown.
The oldest ancestor that I’ve been able to find, is Lewis Nicholas, born in 1785.
according to the 1870 United States Federal Census – Lovingston, Township, Nelson, Virginia – page 8.
Lewis was the father of John Nicholas, my 4th great grandfather, and was owned by Robert N. Kidd, of Buckingham, Virginia.
It appears that Lewis Nicholas, was a slave tithable of the Nicholas family, which owned the Seven Islands plantation, in Buckingham, Virginia. Without documented proof, that I have yet to locate, I can only assume that Lewis was sold to Robert N. Kidd, by one of the “Nicholas Brothers”, either John or Robert Carter Nicholas, sometime during the late 1700’s to early 1800’s.
I believe Nathaniel F. Cabell intended for the descendants of his familes of slaves to discovery this facinating history of our Country.
I believe, we’ve been here for hundreds of years, since our nation was in its infancy, but never appeared in any history books. We’ve built the universities, bridges, roads, railroads, historical buildings, and monuments. My ancestors has fought along side the Cabells, during the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the war of 1812, and the Civil War.
But now, I can put names to these faces, along with hand written proof of ownership, by the slave owners themselves. Along with the direct ancestrial connection, from our Mulatto family members of Scotch-Irish descent, the locations of my family’s burial grounds, which were my great-great-great-great- grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Obtaining this information was well worth the effort, I believe, and has changed my entire life, knowing who I am, and where I came from.
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