Lewis was a person of color, who appears to have been a slave in 1830, but purchased his freedom and moved to Illinois by 1838. He is listed in the 1830 census of Brunswick County:He is listed after Elizabeth Lewis which is a household of three women. Census: 1 boy 0-10, 3 men 10-24, 2 men 24-36, and 3 men 36-55 including Lewis; 1 woman 10-24 and 1 woman, Nancy, 24-36 all slaves. After further looking at the 1830 census entry for It is believed that this Elizabeth Lewis is the wife of Benjamin Lewis who is listed in the 1820 Brunswick Co., census with 70 slaves. This Elizabeth is Elizabeth Gray Edmunds Lewis, they were married in 1787. In 1810 Benjamin had 126 slaves! Elizabeth Edmunds Lewis died May 26, 1834 in “Woodstock” Brunswick Co VA. Could he have purchased his freedom during this time of transition?
In Illinois, there is an entry in the Douglas County Atlas that says: “A noted character of this township (Sargent) is Louis James, a colored man from Virginia, owned there by parties who figured high in society and politics in the palmy days of the Old Dominion. About 1844 he purchased the freedom of himself for $300 and odd dollars and that of his wife for about half that sum. Twenty-five or thirty years ago Mr. James was quite the leading man in the community, and had a large and well stocked farm.” Atlas of Illinois, 1875 We know from the 1840 census that Lewis was free then, so the Atlas entry must be off some about when he purchased his freedom. Lewis also had bought land from the government in 1839 in what was then Coles County, Illinois which he could not have done unless he was free.
Can anyone shed some light on the Benjamin & Elizabeth Lewis or Lewis James himself? Is there any way to know when he achieved his freedom? There seems to several free men of color named James in the 1810 Brunswick Co. census and there is a note saying they live in "Freetown". Does anyone know about a free colored community in Meherrin Parish?