Last night while transcribing the Roanoke Beacon newspaper, I came upon an entry that was a death notice for a former slave named Prosper Armistead. There were two tributes in this particular issue for him and as the paper identified who his slave owner was, I felt compelled to look up Prosper in the census. I found him sure enough, and then began looking at his family. Looking at this information, I felt a need to get it “out there” for one of his descendants to find one day, so I started entering his tree into Ancestry Family Trees.
As I continue to research further, I am now looking at the information about his slaveownwer, Dr. Robert Armistead. In the 1950 census, Robert has in his household a Thomas S. Armistead, one of the people very often mentioned in these issues of the Beacon that I’m transcribing – he was a lawyer and a very prominent person in the community. According to the UNC Archives, Thomas may not have been his son, but no wonder Prosper got such attention! Dr. Armistead himself appears to have died by 1860 as I find him in the 1950 census, but not 1960. The 1960 Slave Schedule shows that Thomas owned 23 slaves – including a 22 year old male and a 23 year old male – they are about the same age as Prosper. I wonder if one of them is he? I will have to look for the will of Dr. Armistead and see if there are any specific relationships spelled out.
I’m hoping that Prosper’s descendants know about him. I’m hoping that if they don’t, my efforts will one day help them. Though I believe the tone of the article that depicts Prosper “affectionately served” his master may be revisionist history, I do think this article would hold much value for his descendants.
Update: Dr. Robert Armistead is listed in the book published by the Washington County Genealogical Society – “Washington County, NC Cemeteries – Plymouth Township Volume I.” Robert wa s born March 18, 1800 and died August 3, 1857. He died of Typhoid Fever. His wife’s name was Marietta. They are buried in the Grace Episcopal Church cemetery.
This entry is likely going to keep expanding as I find new information. Prosper’s daughter Fannie, married a guy named Prosper Toodle. Their son, Prosper Toodle Jr. is listed as an undertaker in the 1930 census. I have seen the name Toodle Funeral Home since I started working with records from Plymouth – this must be the Toodle!