Benton County, Alabama, Records 1836-1844
A letter written on 11 May 1885 by S.M. Smythe of Baldwin, Mississippi, and published in the newspaper Jacksonville Republican on 23 May states that Benjamin Hollingsworth was one of the first merchants of Jacksonville, Alabama, which was the county seat of Benton and then Calhoun County until Anniston became the county seat in the 20thcentury.
The estate file of James M. Mitchell in Benton County, Alabama, shows Benjamin Hollingsworth owing Mitchell’s estate $7.37 on an open store account dated 1 January 1837. This debt is noted in the appraisal of Mitchell’s estate returned to county court on 21 September 1838 by appraisers M.M. Houston, John T. Pope, and Jacob (Hoss?) filed in Mitchell’s loose-papers estate file.
The estate file of John Gay of Benton County, Alabama, shows Benjamin Hollingsworth administering Gay’s estate from 18 May 1839 forward. On that date, Benjamin gave bond for administration of the estate with C.A. Green and Jesse Harris.
The estate file of Jesse McBee in Benton County, Alabama, shows Benjamin Hollingsworth giving bond on 4 August 1840 for Henry McBee’s administration of the estate. The other bondsmen were Isham McBee and Benjamin Selman.
On 24 November 1840, Benjamin Hollingsworth received a certificate for 160.30 acres at the Coosa District land office in Alabama. The land was in Benton County in township 13, section 36, range 8 east. Tracking Benjamin Hollingsworth’s land records and other records in Benton/Calhoun County, Alabama, is made difficult, unfortunately, by the county’s loss of almost all of its early records in courthouse fires in 1861, 1865, and 1932.
Benjamin Hollingsworth is found on the 1840 federal census in Benton County, Alabama. His household has one male 50-60, 1 male 30-40, 2 males 10-15, 2 males under 5, one female 40-50, one female 15-20, and 17 enslaved persons.
The 4 February 1840 will of George Box in Benton (now Calhoun) County, Alabama, names George’s wife Salina (Hollingsworth) and her father Benjamin Hollingsworth as co-executors. As noted above, George Box married Benjamin Hollingsworth’s sister-in-law Salina Jones. When Salina proved George’s will at court on 25 April 1840 and gave security for her execution, Benjamin Hollingsworth was one of those giving bond with her.
On 5 November 1840, Benjamin gave bond with Warren Harris for administration of the estate of his son Wiley B. Hollingsworth in Benton County, Alabama. The original bond is in Wiley’s loose-papers estate file in Calhoun County.
Benjamin Hollingsworth was evidently one of the trustees of an academy in Benton County, Alabama, in October 1841. On 27 October 1814, the Jacksonville Republican published an ad for Walnut Spring Academy, noting that it was under the charge of Benjamin Bigelow, taught reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, and “higher branches,” and afforded boarding opportunities. The ad has appended the names of four men who appear to be trustees; they include Benjamin Hollingsworth. Benjamin’s will states that he was living at Walnut Spring when he made the will. I don’t find Walnut Spring on any map, but Hosea Holcombe’s A History of the Rise and Progress of Baptists in Alabama states that it was near Jacksonville and that the church of the same name, which evidently sponsored this academy, was founded in 1833 as part of Mount Zion Baptist Association. As we’ll see in a moment, when Benjamin’s widow Joicy Hollingsworth advertised his estate sale in the newspaper Jacksonville Republican on 23 October 1844, her ad stated that Benjamin lived two miles north of Jacksonville.
State of Alabama
Benton County at home
Walnut Spring 1st May 1841
I Benjamin Hollingsworth having a Long Journey in View and Expect to start on the second Inst., feel it right to make constitute and ordain this my will and Testament, being concious [sic] that I must go the way of all the Earth and I feel to say Amen, believing in the Immortality of the soul and that God governs all things in heaven and Earth after the Council [sic] of his own will,
And believing it is my provin(c)e to Dispose of my Earthly goods as I may think right, I therefore Leave all my Earthly affairs in the hands and power of my wife Joicy Hollingsworth and I do not require her by any means to be compelld to give security
1st I request her to pay all my Debts
2nd to see that Benjamin[,] Benton[,] and Orlando, out of our Effects receive as much Education as any of our Children has had, then if there is any thing to be Divided Let it be Done in the following manner Arseneth and Doctor Allen have had a full Share of my Estate
Stephen and Wyly in his Life time both have had about seven hundred Dollars a piece that is what I have paid for them inclu(d)ed
Now when Mary An(n) Kelly[,] Hannah Belzora[,] Benjamin[,] Benton[,] & Orlando shall have received the amount of seven hundred Dollars a share, then the ballance to be Equally Divided between Stephen[,] Mary[,] Belzora[,] Benjamin[,] Benton[,] Orlando[,] and my grandson Thomas Hollingsworth son of Wyly B. Hollingsworth and in case of his Death before he becomes of age his portion if any De(s)cends to Benjamin[,] Benton[,] & Orlando
I know that Arseneth Allen has had more than her proportioneable part to wit one Negro girl and seven hundred Dollars in land[,] one horse[,] Bridle[,] and saddle[,] two cows etc. but I wish it Distinctly understood that the younger children are not to be chargeable for their Schooling and raising I further Declare and will that my wife is Sole Executor and is to remain undisturbed after the Debts are paid in full possession of all my Estate so Long as she may Live only what part she may think proper to give to Each Legatee
In witness with my own hand I have hereunto Set my hand and seal the Day and year above written
Salina Box Benjamin Hollingsworth
William Davis his mark
As has been noted, Benjamin’s original will (or so it appears to me) is on file in a loose-papers will file in Calhoun County, Alabama. The file also has an inventory and appraisement of Benjamin’s property at the time of his death, compiled by William O’Rear (?) and William Scott and presented to the court by Joicy Hollingsworth on 1 October 1844. The following day, Joicy placed an ad in the local newspaper Jacksonville Republican, which the Republican printed on 23 October, advertising an estate sale at Benjamin and Joicy’s home (at Walnut Spring, it seems clear) two miles north of Jacksonville on 1 November.
The inventory shows that Benjamin was a prosperous merchant-planter who held twelve people in bondage at the time of his death. Their names are listed first in the inventory: Hannah, Feby and child, Caroline, Henry, Edmon(d), Jack, Joe, Fanny, Betsy, Harriet, and Anderson. Livestock included sheep, cattle, hogs, and horses. The inventory indicates that Benjamin grew wheat, rye, oats, and cotton (and the advertisement for the estate sale also mentions corn).
Rusk County, Texas, Records 1844-1859
As has been noted, following Benjamin Hollingsworth’s death in Benton County, Alabama, on 18 August 1844, his widow Joicy moved to Rusk County, Texas, with a number of her children. As Sadie Greening Sparks explains, Benjamin and Joicy’s children Stephen and Asenath Louisa, with her husband Dr. Elijah Allen, had moved to Texas between March 1836 and October 1837. After Benjamin’s death, Stephen Perrry Hollingsworth, the oldest living son, then returned to Alabama to assist his mother with managing the family’s business affairs and married Martha A. Elston in Benton County in 1845. In December 1845, he returned to Texas, bringing his mother Joicy and other family members with him, leaving in Alabama only his nephew, Thomas, son of his deceased brother Wiley S. B. Hollingsworth.
As also noted in the posting linked at the start of the previous paragraph, since Joicy Jones Hollingsworth died in Rusk County, Texas, on 6 August 1858, documents regarding the estate of her husband Benjamin are filed in that county. Benjamin’s will had specified, as we’ve seen, that all his earthly affairs were to be left in Joicy’s hands, and that she was to remain in full possession of his estate up to her death, with the provision that she saw to the schooling of the last three sons Benjamin, Benton, and Orlando. These stipulations of Benjamin Hollingsworth’s will account for the estate documents filed in Rusk County, Texas, dividing up Benjamin’s estate among the surviving heirs following Joicy’s death.
I haven’t seen this probate file or read its contents. In her article about this family, Sadie Greening Sparks provides a valuable guide to Benjamin and Joicy’s probate documents in Rusk County, to which I’ll refer readers who want the information she makes available. She indicates that a petition for probate was filed by William Clark Kelly, husband of Benjamin and Joicy’s daughter Mary Ann, in December 1858. The probate file has a copy of Benjamin’s Benton County, Alabama, will filed in Rusk County on 2 November 1858, noting that the original was in Calhoun County, the name Benton had acquired in January 1858.
Sparks transcribes William Clark Kelly’s appeal for probate, which states that Benjamin Hollingsworth died testate in Benton County, Alabama, on or about 18 August 1844, leaving wife Joicy his executrix in full and entire control of his property up to her death. Joicy then died on 6 August 1858 in Rusk County, Texas, having brought all of Benjamin’s movable property to Texas with her. The court approved Kelly’s appeal for probate in December 1858, and on 27 December, he gave bond for the administration with securities Stephen Perry Hollingsworth and J.W. Flangan.
An inventory and appraisement filed in January 1859 shows that Joicy had brought to Texas a number of the enslaved persons named in the inventory in Benton County, Alabama, in October 1844: the 1859 inventory names Henry, age 28, Caroline, age 25, Joe, age 24, and Harriet, age 22. Hannah, Feby/Phoebe, Edmond, Jack, Fanny, Betsy, and Anderson, who had appeared in the 1844 inventory, are missing from the list of enslaved persons in 1859. Had they been sold at the estate sale in Alabama? The 1859 inventory adds two new names: Hugh, age 5, and Diley, who is listed as crippled and without a value. The inventory shows that Benjamin’s estate had bought, per Joicy, 620 acres of land in Texas.
Sadie Greening Sparks’s summary of the probate documents states that when the inventory was presented to court, the court determined that the estate could not be divided according to the terms of the will without too much damage to the estate, so the estate should be sold. The family then decided to divide the estate among themselves, and presented the division to court in February 1859. The estate division shows Stephen receiving enslaved man Henry, Benton receiving Harriet, Orlando receiving Caroline and her child (evidently Hugh), and Mary Ann receiving Joe. The total amount distributed by the estate was $11,340.
For those seeking to trace African-American families back to the period prior to Emancipation, with scarce records assisting in such searches, the combined estate records of Benjamin Hollingsworth and wife Joicy in Benton County, Alabama, and Rusk County, Texas, provide valuable information about a number of enslaved people brought from Benton (now Calhoun) County, Alabama, to Rusk County, Texas, in 1845, and then distributed as property to Hollingsworth family members in Rusk County in 1859. Since the 1859 documents provide ages for some of those named in these documents, it might be possible to match African Americans living in Rusk County, Texas, when the 1870 federal census was taken with people named in these 1844 and 1859 inventories (and in the 1859 distribution document) and in this way connect these people back to Alabama in the 1840s.
As a start at such matching/tracing: it appears that Caroline and her son Hugh are the Cornelia and Hugh Carter listed on the 1870 federal census in the household of Alec Carter in Henderson, Rusk County, Texas. This document suggests that Cornelia/Caroline was born about 1838 in Virginia, and Hugh about 1854 in Texas.
In my next posting, I’ll share the information I have about the children of Benjamin Hollingsworth and Joicy Jones.
 Sadie Greening Sparks, “The Family of Jacob Hollingsworth & Wife Mary Brooks of North Carolina & Georgia; and “The Family of Col. Benjamin Benton Hollingsworth & Wife Joicey Jones of Franklin Co., Georgia, Franklin Co., Tennessee, Benton Co, Alabama, & Rusk Co, Texas,” online at Loy Sparks’s website dedicated to the memory of Sadie Greening Sparks.
 [Resolutions] of the citizens of Benton County, 1836 June 6, Jacksonville, [Alabama to Clement C.] Clay, Governor of Alabama, Montgomery / [signed by] W[illia]m Wood … [et al.], a manuscript held by the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Felix Hargrett Papers, box 01, folder 01, document 01; online at the website of the Digital Library of Georgia of University of Georgia Libraries.
 S.M. Smythe, “Letter from Mississippi: Recollections of One of the Earliest Settlers of This County,” Jacksonville [Alabama] Republican (23 May 1885), p. 1, col. 4.
 Calhoun County, Alabama, loose-papers estate files, box 7, folder 31, estate of James M. Mitchell. Benjamin Hollingsworth’s sons Stephen and Wiley Hollingsworth also appear as buyers at the estate sale of William Goddard in Benton County on 1 February 1836: see ibid., box 4, folder 50, estate of William Goddard.
 Calhoun County, Alabama, loose-papers estate files, box 4, folder 29, estate of John Gay.
 Calhoun County, Alabama, loose-papers estate files, box 6, folder 64, estate of Jesse McBee.
 Alabama Patent Bk. 5020, p. 131.
 1840 federal census, Benton County, Alabama, p. 22.
 Calhoun County, Alabama, Will Bk. Bk. B, pp. 85-6. The original will is on file in loose-papers wills of Calhoun County, digitized and available at the Family Search website.
 Calhoun County, Alabama, loose-papers estate files, box 5, folder 22, estate of Wiley B. Hollingsworth.
 “The Walnut Spring Academy,” Jacksonville [Alabama] Republican (27 October 1841), p. 4, col 5.
 Hosea Holcombe, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama (Philadelphia: King and Baird, 1840), p. 283.
 A loose-papers will file for Benjamin Hollingsworth in Calhoun County, Alabama, contains Benjamin’s will: see loose-papers will file of Benjamin Hollingsworth, Calhoun County, Alabama, box 2, folder #55. The will in this probate file appears to be the original will with Benjamin’s signature, though the file also has a letter by Harry Hollingsworth of Inglewood, California, dated 15 April 1986, to the Calhoun County clerk, which states that the original will was held by the Alabama Archives and was a “floating will,” of which he was donating a copy to Calhoun County. I think perhaps the copy Harry Hollingsworth was donating was his transcript of the original will — and the original may now be in the Calhoun County file.
 See ibid.
 Notice of Benjamin Hollingsworth’s estate sale, Jacksonville [Alabama] Republican (23 October 1844), p. 4, col. 6.
 See loose-papers probate file of Benjamin Hollingsworth, Rusk County, Texas, #563. Sadie Greening Sparks’s notes also indicate that there’s a record of these probate documents in Rusk County, Texas, Probate Record Bk. F, pp. 669-677. Digital copies of Rusk County probate record books are under lock and key at the Family Search website, and I have not been able to read the original records.