Not much is known about our ancestors prior to 1870. We can guess based on where they lived and the U.S. Census records that like many African Americans living in Southwestern Tennessee, they were former slaves who were working on their former plantations as tenant farmers or sharecroppers.
The Planter Class
We know that Southwestern Tennessee was originally the territory of the Chickasaw tribe of Native Americans. Beginning around 1818, future U.S. president Andrew Jackson negotiated a treaty that moved the tribe out its ancestral territory and relocated the tribe to the west of the Mississippi River. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 eliminated any remaining native tribes and the resulting Trail of Tears moved natives to Indian Territories in what is now Oklahoma. This forced displacement of the indigenous people opened the land for speculators and settlement by families from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Andrew Jackson made sure he got a big chunk of land for himself. These families knew the land was perfect for farming cotton. Cotton had replaced Tobacco as the cash crop of the South.
John Walker Jones
In 1826, John Walker Jones settled the a substantial portions of Fayette and Hardeman county for what would become the Cedar Grove Plantation. Cedar Grove became one of the largest cotton plantations in the region. By the 1850s, over 3,000 people had settled Fayette County with many large farming plantations. Along with people and plantations came three times as many slaves including our ancestors. By 1860 John Walker Jones and his family had over 5,000 acres and around 300 slaves making him one of the largest slaveholders in the United States. No doubt our enslaved ancestors help build the Cedar Grove manor house that still sits on the land now known as the Ames Plantation . It was at this location our family was first documented as free people.