James Ballard and Mary Kelsey, in Equity in Kershaw County, South Carolina (1827).

Continuing our survey of the Kershaw County, South Carolina Equity Rolls, we came across a suit brought by James Ballard and Mary his wife against her mother, Sarah in 1826 (who subsequently married David A. Moore in 1827). Sarah’s late husband William Kelsey died “last April or early in May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty five;” Sarah was named administratrix and disposed of the estate, but apparently kept all the proceeds, for she failed to convey funds owed Mary and her brother and sisters William, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Jane and Suckey (who married Thomas Gardner). By law, since William died intestate (that is, without a will), Sarah would have been entitled to 1/3 of the estate, and the remainder belonged to William’s children.

In 1791, South Carolina revised its intestacy law. As noted by John E. Crowley, in “Family Relations and Inheritance in Early South Carolina” (Histoire sociale — Social History, Vol. XVII, No. 33, May 1984, pp. 35-57):

Relative to other states, South Carolina’s reform of inheritance law was distinctly liberal. South Carolina differed from virtually all the other states in the thoroughness of its reassessment of traditional attitudes toward the relations of property and family. After the Revolution, the new state went furthest in giving family members equal property rights. Its reformed inheritance law had the least patrimonial and patrilineal definition of kinship and it made the fullest break with English conceptions of the intergenerational relations of family and property. The revision of its intestacy law in 1791 made little distinction in the distribution of real and personal property: sons and daughters shared equally, and, far more striking, widows received outright ownership of one-third of the estate’s real property rather than just lifetime use of it. A widow could still claim dower in lieu of any legacy by testament, but in doing so she would be giving up new possibilities of independence with property.

John E. Crowley, “Family Relations and Inheritance in Early South Carolina” (Histoire social — Social History, Vol. XVII, No. 33, May 1984, pp.38-39 (citations omitted).

While the outcome of the case doesn’t really concern us, the record does contain a wealth of genealogical information — it recites that William was a posthumous child, born eight months after the death of his father in April or May of 1825; that sisters Elizabeth and Rebecca had married and moved to another part of the state, but the complainants do not know the names of their husbands or where in the state they could be found. Not knowing such vital information about Elizabeth and Rebecca suggest that James and Mary were residing some distance away, likely in Georgia, where so many Southern families settled to take advantage of the land lotteries that arose following the termination of Indian rights there — and where their eldest children were born (Elizabeth, c. 1820 and Isaac, c. 1822), according to census records.

An excerpt of the initial complaint is transcribed at the end of this post.

Knowing Mary’s maiden name is Kelsey provides a link to (and confirmation of) a family enumerated in the 1850 census in Clarke County, Mississippi. Due to an indexing quirk on Ancestry, James Ballard and Mary Ballard, both age 46, both born in South Carolina c. 1804 appear at the bottom of one page, numbered 313 in the upper right corner, and their children Samuel (age 19, born in South Carolina), Elizabeth (age 16, born in South Carolina), William (age 12, born in Alabama) and Reuben (age 27, born in Alabama) appear on the following page (numbered 314 in the upper left corner). We probably have an error here by the enumerator; in the subsequent 1860 and 1870 federal census, Reuben’s place of birth is given as South Carolina. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the full name of the youngest son is “William Kelsey (or Kelsie) Ballard”, so we are informed by a researcher studying this branch of the Ballard family (Ancestry records show only that his middle initial is “K”). We were informed of William’s full name before finding equity suit.

Where do these two “fit?” We’ve established that the James Ballard who married Jincey and died in 1820 in Kershaw was the son of Thomas Ballard (1751-1843) who married Elizabeth Graham (c. 1755-c. 1798). At one time we believed that this James (born c. 1804) was the son of James Ballard (c. 1778-c. 1853) and Martha Brady (c. 1787-c.1860), but we now believe that he was the son of John Ballard (c. 1765-1838) who left a will recorded in Union County, South Carolina, and that James who married Martha Brady is the son of John Ballard and Elizabeth James of Tennessee. Diverse records point to the family spending time in Georgia before settling in Alabama, then Mississippi. More on that later, as more sources are developed.

The State of South Carolina, Camden District }  In Equity

To the Honorable Waddy Thompson and Henry W. Dessafanes (?) Esquires Chancellors of the State of South Carolina.

Humbly complaining shew unto your Honors your Orator and Oratrix James Ballard and Mary his wife and your Orator William Kelsey; that William Kelsey formerly of Kershaw District and state aforesaid departed this life intestate about the last of April or early in May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty five possessed at the time of his death of some valuable real and personal estate in the said District of Kershaw and state aforesaid, and leaving his wife Sarah Kelsey and his children your Oratrix then Mary Kelsey, Elizabeth Kelsey, Rebecca Kelsey, Jane Kelsey, Suckey Kelsey now intermarried with Thomas Gardner; that the said Elizabeth Kelsey and Rebecca Kelsey are married and reside in the lower part of this state but where they live with certainty or what in the name of their respective husbands your orator and oratrix do not know.  That your orator William Kelsey is a posthumous child of the intestate and was born within eight months after the death of the intestate father.  Your orator and oratrix further sheweth unto your Honors that the said Sarah Kelsey soon after the death of her husband the intestate obtained from the Court of Ordinary of Kershaw District in the said state, Letters of Administration of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits which were of and belonging to the said William Kelsey took possession of the whole personal of the Intestate that the notes and accounts due to the intestate and which came into the hands of the said Sarah Kelsey to be administered amounted to two hundred and twenty nine Dollars and upwards as appears by a return filed in the office of the Court of Ordinary of Kershaw District by the said Sarah Kelsey, a copy of which is herewith filed as Exhibit A.  That it appears by said return that the said Sarah as administratrix was in possession of said notes and accounts before the twenty ninth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five.  That on the twenty seventh day of July in the same year the said Sarah Kelsey as administratrix as aforesaid sold the personal estate of the said William Kelsey deceased goods, chattels, negroes and effects to the account of at least twelve hundred and eighty in Dollars and Twenty nine cents but your orator and oratrix believe that they will be able to shew that said sale amounts to thirteen hundred and five Dollars and seventy eight cents a return of which said sale was afterwards filed by the said administratrix in the Ordinary’s Office of Kershaw District of copy of which said return is contained in Exhibit A herewith filed, which said Exhibit as your orator and oratrix pray leave to have reference to as often as they may deem necessary in this case.  Your orator and oratrix further sheweth unto your Honor that they are informed and believe that the notes and accounts due to the said William Kelsey at the time of his death were good debts and the persons owing them were solvent and this they expect to  prove if as this court should deem this proof necessary on their part; and the said debts they believe have been collected and such of them as have got they charge to believe to have been lost by the neglect of the said administratrix and no charges the part to be that the said Sarah Kelsey the administratrix about the latter part of the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven intermarried with David A. Moore.  That from the time of the death of the intestate the said Sarah occupied the bed the full possession thereof, and by grant and profits of the real estate of the intestate …

Kershaw County, South Carolina Equity Rolls, Roll No. 258

2 thoughts on “James Ballard and Mary Kelsey, in Equity in Kershaw County, South Carolina (1827).

  1. I appreciate receiving and reading these updates. Thank you. Is there any chance that the Rebecca Ballard you noted married Dr John Henry Woodcock (from Pennsylvania) in Huntsville and eventually lived in Mobile Alabama? The dates seem to make sense in terms of Rebecca Ballard Woodcock passing away at age 65 in Mobile in 1865. I am a descendant of their youngest son, Andrew Ballard Woodcock 1840 – 1879. I have information from Andrew forward. I seem to be a descendent of the Cloptons and Dukes through Rebecca Ballard Woodcock. New information emerges all the time. I live in Ottawa Ontario Canada! I saw an article in a Toronto Newspaper years back that Brock University (near Niagara Falls) was clearing out some drawers of materials and came across an animal skin with some writing one it. An expert in Medieval Languages was called in and it was a land transfer having to do with the Clopton family. How it ended up at Brock University hundreds of years later is indeed a mystery! Again thank you for keeping me on your email list. Wishing you a nice Autumn and Thanksgiving from Canada. Gloria Johnson

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