The family history appears to descend from slaves that were taken or sold to west Tennessee to work on cotton plantations in Fayette and Hardeman Counties. Indications are the slaves came from Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama to work on plantations established in the 1820s on the fertile grounds of west Tennessee as the cotton business boomed. After the Civil War, many slaves remained on the property of their former masters and worked as sharecroppers. The video below details the life of a sharecropper and why it would have been hard to gain an economic foothold after slavery. General William Tecumseh Sherman and the U.S. government had promised “40 acres and a mule” to every freedman but that’s a promise African-Americans are still waiting on.
William and Mariah Lambert – Known Family Patriarch and Matriarch
William and Mariah Lambert first show up on the 1870 U.S, Census for District 15 of Fayette County, Tennessee. taken on August 11, 1870. William is listed as age 40 which would make his birth date sometime in 1830 but that is an estimate as records were not exact. Census records indicate that William may have been the son of a slave woman, Margaret (Peggy) and her owner Julius Edmund Lambert of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. It is not known how William Lambert ended up in Tennessee but he was probably sold away by Julius. Maybe his white wife didn’t like looking at all those “mulattos” around the farm as Peggy had a few children.
Mariah is listed as age 33 which would make her birth date sometime in 1837. They are both listed as Mulatto, which at the time meant you had one white parent and one black parent. Their occupation is noted as farm laborers who could neither read nor write. More than likely, the family lived and worked where they had been slaves. This was likely on the land of the Jones family as sharecroppers.
The children are listed as William H., age 10 and indicates he attended school but he is also listed as a farm laborer. Other children were John age 8 (b. 1862), Edward (Adamon) age 6 (b. 1864) and Robert H. age 4 (b. 1866). Neither of the younger boys are listed as attending school. The whole family is listed as born in Tennessee but as we will see later, the federal census takers were not always reliable in recording the right data and sometimes that may have been because our ancestors did not always know the year or day they were born and even sometimes the state. Particularly those that were born in slavery or who could not read nor write.
The picture below is a copy from our family book and is said to be of Mariah Lambert. Also below is a copy of her death certificate. The death certificate list her at age 75 (b. 1843 – see I told you!) when she died on Sep 23, 1918. It says she was widowed and died of “old age”. Her mother was listed as Alice Turner and her father was “unknown” and likely was a white slave owner too. She is listed as born in Virginia not Tennessee like the 1870 Census states.
Mariah was laid to rest in Old Jones Chapel Cemetery on September 25, 1918. I do not currently have any death information for William Lambert.
By the time of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, the remainder of the children of William and Mariah had been born. The census below states that in addition to William H., John C., Edward and Robert H., we now see Alice age 10 (b. 1870), Martha age 8 (b. 1872), Nancy age 3 (b. 1877), Junious 4 months (b. 1880) and there is a nephew listed in the house, W. Anthony but I am not sure whose nephew he is. This time only William Sr., is listed as Mulatto and Mariah is listed as born in Virginia. Every one else is listed as “Black”.
It is from these folks, all of us are descended.