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Wilson, Barbary, d. ca. 1822


Parallel Names

  • Wilson, Barbara, d. ca. 1822

Biographical Note

Enslaver Barbary (also Barbara) Wilson freed fourteen people, including "Henry" (this may be the "Harry" in the deed of emancipation), in Bath County, Virginia, in January 1822. The following month, Wilson's family filed a case claiming that she was mentally insane and of unsound mind when manumitting the people. The family initially failed, but seized Wilson's estate upon appeal. The enslaved people filed a suit, called "Henry and Others, Paupers, v. Ballar and Others", against the family members, claiming to be white and therefore not legally enslaved, while the family claimed they were of mixed race and legally enslaved. The family also stated that Wilson had been attacked by Native peoples while a child, which they claim led to her mental incapacity during her lifetime.

In the course of the case, Wilson died, leaving an 1819 will that also emancipated the enslaved people. (She was believed to be in her eighties at her death.) In 1836, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled that the people were entitled to their freedom, and that Wilson was of sound mind when she freed the people she enslaved. They also ruled the freed persons were entitled to profits made during their enslavement after their original emancipation.

In addition to Henry or Harry, the individuals freed in the will were Cathy and her children Peggy and Andrew; Lucy and her children Sally, Benjamine [sic], Strother, Patsy, and Nancy; and Sally and her children Jane, Betsy, and Washington. The will also deeded many of them land and goods Wilson owned.

External Sources:

U.S. Federal Census Records, 1810-1820

Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Report of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals, and in the General Court, of Virginia, Vol. 5, 1903. Pages 552-553.,+paupers,+v.+bollar+and+others&pg=PA541&printsec=frontcover, accessed September 26, 2023.

Barbara Wilson in the Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1900,,, accessed September 26, 2023.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Barbary Wilson Deed of Emancipation for Harry

Identifier: Ms-2022-077

This collection contains a deed of emancipation signed by enslaver Barbary Wilson of Bath County, Virginia, freeing Harry, identified as a Black man, on January 5, 1822. Harry was one of 14 people that Wilson had enslaved and manumitted in 1822.

Dates: 1822