|A quick side note
before we go much further. Surnames are being used loosely, no
documentation has been found, other than census records, to determine the
last names of formerly enslaved persons covered in this essay. The surname of Small
is being attributed to Neptune Jr.’s parents and siblings only
because his is the only recorded instance of a surname. Marriage dates are
also just an assumption since the family were in bondage, they were not
legally married until emancipation, when they were told to chose a wife,
especially if they had more than one. The only early marriage record found
was that of Neptune Jr. to Ila.
Born with just the name of Neptune
to parents Neptune Sr. and Sukey, young Neptune grew
up with privileges the other enslaved people did not have. He was chosen to be the playmate of the
King children, especially since he was born just months after his soon
to be best friend, Henry Lord “Lordy” King.
was born and raised on St. Simons Island in Glynn County, Georgia at the
King plantation named Retreat. Thanks to
Anna Matilda (Page)
King’s avid record keeping, a family portrait can be devised from her
records of many, if not all, of the bonds people in her charge.
was born 4 August 1796, quite possibly on Retreat Plantation, but not
likely, as the plantation did not come into ownership of the Page
family until 1804. It could be assumed that he was born at Pages Point,
South Carolina. William Page’s father, Tom Page, had a
plantation in Prince William Parish near Beaufort, South Carolina, without
further records research, it would be hard to place an exact birth place,
but South Carolina seems likely.
Another possible birth place for
Neptune Sr. could be in Georgia along the Ogeechee River. After the
Revolutionary War, Maj. William Page and family moved into Georgia,
their plantation may have been called Ottosee, then later New Hope.
was a carpenter at Retreat plantation, his bride, Sukey, was a
trusted nurse to the enslaved in the hospital built by Anna King.
Together they had seven documented children. According to family history
and the book “Neptune’s Honor”, one other child was born to them named
Walter, making a total of 8 known children.
However, no record has been found
by me, of Walter, or any other children than the following seven:
Abner, Lydia, Sanders, Neptune, Emiline, Mily, and Linda.
To build a clear picture of this
family, we will touch on each of the siblings, before we get to the topic
of this essay, Neptune Small.
was born 1 October 1820 on Retreat Plantation according to Anna’s
records. Along with his brother Neptune, he chose the last name of
Small after emancipation. According to family history, Neptune
chose the surname of Small because he himself was small in stature.
can be traced through the census, starting in 1870 Glynn County, living
with a supposed wife and children. Since this census does not give
relationships, we are only assuming that his wife was named Hester, or
Hettie. In this census were supposed children: Duncan [born about
1853], Neptune [born about 1860], Richard [born about 1865],
and Betsey [born about 1867].
The 1880 Glynn Census clears
relationships up for us and confirms that Hester is in fact
Abner’s wife. And we can assume, through Duncan’s birth, that
they were married sometime before 1853. Children Richard and
Betsey are living with them. A quick census search for first names
does not turn up Neptune or Duncan, which can mean one of
three things. One, they changed their last name. Two, they moved away from
Glynn County. Three, they died before 1880.
may have died before the 1900 census, and his wife could have remarried or
passed away as well. No further information has been found by me on
Abner and family.
was born 15 April 1823 at Retreat Plantation, daughter of Neptune Sr.
and Sukey. According to family records she married a man by the
name of Alfred. By tracing them in the census we find that
Alfred’s last name is Armstrong. They are living right next to
her brother Neptune Small,
Four known children were born to
Alfred and Liddy, those being: Frederick [born 3
February 1843], Adelete [born 26 September 1847], Peter
[born about October 1863], and Malinda [born about 1865]. From
searching Anna King’s records, two other children could have been
born to them and died in infancy, one of them a girl [born and died about
March 1857], the other of unknown sex [born and died about 1859].
By the 1900 census, Alfred
and Liddy do not show up, suggesting that they may have passed
away. With a quick search of the census, the other children were not
was born 4 September 1827 at Retreat Plantation to Neptune Sr. and
Sukey. I could not find a Sanders Small in the census, and
the only Sanders that was indexed was that of Sanders Gambol
who is the same age as Neptune Small’s brother Sanders. He
could very well have chosen a different surname from the rest of the
Living with this Sanders in
the 1870 Glynn Census is a woman named Rachael Wright who was 70
years old. This may be the only clue to tell us that this is the right
Sanders since his sister Linda married James Wright.
Maybe this Rachael is a relative.
Also listed were Eve [female
30 yrs.], Amy Paterson [female 58 yrs.], Perry Patterson
[male 19 yrs.], Albert Boom [male 16 yrs.], Henry Boom [male
1 yr.], and Rachael Wright [female 70 yrs.].
In the 1880 Glynn Census, only one
Sanders of eligible age is listed, a Sanders Washington. So,
either Sanders Gambol died, or he changed his name yet again, or
maybe Sanders did not live long enough to marry and have children.
No further records have been found by me on this family.
and Mily were both born on
Retreat Plantation to Neptune Sr. and Sukey. Emiline
was born 3 August 1833, and Mily was born about 1836. Mily
was only about 17 years old when she died on 23 April 1853. Emiline
was but only a teenager as well when she died around 1852.
Together, with her mother Sukey,
Mily was a nurse in the Retreat Hospital before her death. A death
which hit her mother quite hard because a mere two months later on 1 June
1852, Sukey passed away. According to Anna King’s letters,
Sukey was inconsolable after the loss of Mily. She seemed to
have born the death of Emiline quite well, but after Mily
died, she succumbed to sickness and fever, never to overcome her grief.
was born 29 April 1838 on Retreat Plantation to Neptune Sr. and
Sukey. Around the year 1860 she married James “Jimper” Wright.
The 1870 Glynn Census gives us Jimper’s last name, they are living
but a few houses down from her brother Neptune Small and sister
Four known children were born to
this union: James [born about December 1861], Rosa [born
about 1863], Casina [born about April 1864], and Christiana
[born about 1867]. A quick search of the 1880 Glynn Census does not find
this family, a more in depth search would probably find them.
was born 15 September 1831 at Retreat Plantation to parents Neptune Sr.
and Sukey, he was immediately chosen as a playmate to the King
boys, William Page, Thomas Butler Jr., Henry Lord, Mallery Page, John
Floyd, and Richard Cuyler. However, a fast bond soon emerged
between Henry Lord “Lordy” and Neptune that could not be
broken, even after death.
When hostilities broke out between
the states culminating in the Civil War, the King boys were quick
to sign up, Lordy joined in 1861, and as was the custom of the
aristocratic plantation elite, a body servant accompanied him, Neptune
Small. Did Neptune freely volunteer, or was he required to go
as part of his indentured service to the King family? After all,
Neptune was newly married to Ila, his true love, and she had
just given birth to a daughter, Leanora. What man of any stature
would want to leave their new family, especially if they didn’t have too?
Many stories have been written
about the following account, and some are hard to believe because they are
being told by white people whose opinions may be biased on the situation.
As was custom, it was more polite to say that everyone was a willing
participant in their life, including the formerly enslaved.
So it is unclear how Neptune
really felt about the situation. We do know that the outcome could not be
anything than what it was, no matter what our ideals or beliefs about the
institution of slavery, Neptune could have easily come home. Alone.
Henry Lord Page King
was a lawyer in Savannah several years before the outbreak of war. In 1860
he was admitted to the bar, the next year he was admitted into service. He
was a participant in battles at the Peninsula in Richmond and Sharpsburg,
even witnessing the fall of Harper’s Ferry. Unscathed and feeling a sense
of a higher purpose, Lordy volunteered for a dangerous mission that
would prove fatal.
was the aide-de-camp of Maj.-Gen. Lafayette McLaws, who commanded a
division of C.S.A. soldiers. During the heat of battle at Fredericksburg,
orders had to be carried to Brigadier Gen. Cobb. No one wanted to
volunteer, for obvious reasons, no one that is, except for Lordy.
Always noble and loyal to the cause, Lordy was willing to face the
challenge of crossing a dangerous battlefield to deliver those orders. The
date was 13 December 1862.
Stories vary on what happened next,
many say that Neptune was with him, others say that Neptune
was told to wait for Lordy’s return, the latter rings true. In
Neptune’s own words, he was waiting at the camp for Lordy, and
when night fell, he knew, deep in his heart, that something was terribly
In the pitch of night, Neptune
crawled across the battlefield in an agonizing and heart wrenching search
for his friend, hoping against hope he wasn’t one of the dead. Coming
across one body, a soldier stopped him and asked him what he was doing,
Neptune told him who he was looking for, the soldier told him, “That’s
him.” Neptune didn’t want to believe it so he kept on.
Thinking back to days on the
plantation, he remembered Anna crooning over Lordy’s thick
head of hair that was so soft and smooth. Neptune remembered that
he too was always fond of Lordy’s hair. So he went back to that
fallen soldier to feel his hair, but couldn’t for all of the blood. The
soldier was laying face down, so Neptune slowly and lovingly turned
him over, only to be greeted by tragedy, the still face of Lordy.
No amount of shelling or bullets
flying past Neptune’s head could shatter his resolve to get his
friend, and lifetime companion off of that battlefield, and on his way
home, to their family at Retreat. The other soldiers put Lordy in a
pine box and sent him to Richmond, where Neptune promptly found the
best pine coffin money could buy.
He then brought Henry Lord Page
King home to Georgia, where he was buried in Savannah, until the
family could give him a proper burial at Christ Church Cemetery on St.
Simons, after the war had ended.
For his bravery, courage, and
severe loyalty, Neptune was told that he could stay home for the
duration of the war. Supposedly, he refused, as young Richard Cuyler
King was off in battle, and Neptune was to be his body servant
as well. One wonders if Neptune really wanted to go this second
time, as Richard was not the only child off in battle, and he had
been enlisted for some time prior to Lordy’s death. We know that
Neptune had a sense of duty to the King family, but how much
was done under his own honor, over gentle persuasion?
At war’s end, Neptune
returned home, with Richard in tact, to face another battle, that
of survival. Retreat Plantation had been ruined by recent occupation of
Union Soldiers and the Freedman’s Bureau, so much so that nothing was
recognizable. All of Anna’s prize flowers were gone, family history
has it that they were placed in pots and shipped north.
Many of the newly freed persons,
came back to their former lands under the assumption that they now owned
this property outright. They were sadly misinformed by General
Sherman’s order to give all of the islands and land up to thirty miles
inland to the emancipated people for their years of bondage.
However, homes could still be found
at the former plantations, as everyone was in the same boat now. There was
no food, or money to help with anything. Neptune was granted a
parcel of land for his services to the King family and his fidelity
during the war for bringing home Lordy’s body, horse, and personal
Life moved on, Neptune’s
family started to grow with the addition of two more children, Louturia
[born about 1869] and Clementine, and quite possibly another child,
Eleanora who died 25 October 1859. Sometime before 1876, Ila
may have passed away, Neptune remarried on 14 December 1876 to
Charlotte Galery. To this union two more children were born:
Cornelia [born about September 1879 and Clarence [born about
June 1882]. [Information is based on census records.]
was a former enslaved on Retreat Plantation as well. Her father was
originally named Alick Boyd, most likely to differentiate him from
other Alicks. Charlotte’s mother was named Ellen, she too
was born on Retreat Plantation. This family can be found in the personal
papers of Anna Matilda King.
In the 1870 Glynn County census, we
find Charlotte, her father, and three of her siblings living only a
few houses away from Neptune Small, and the other members of his
family: James & Linda Wright, Alfred & Lydia
Armstrong, and, if we read into Anna King’s notes a little
further, we find that Alfred had two brothers, Pete and
William, who are living right alongside of everyone else.
Also in this census we see where
Alick Boyd has taken on the name of Alex Galery [spelling
varies]. Alex’s birth date could not be found, but a record stating
he was either born, or purchased in 1812, is listed in the book “Anna, The
Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859.”
first child, from his first marriage to Ila, was born about 1858 on
Retreat Plantation, her name was Leanora, or Nora for short.
Before 1879 she married George Morrison and together they had one
child, Creola Morrison, who was born about October 1879.
On 11 October 1898, Creola
married James Eugene Barnes. One peculiarity has been noticed with
James though, his last name on the marriage license, and in the
1900 census was Bonds not Barnes. Many conclusions could be
drawn from this, but two spring to mind. One, he simply changed his name,
by the 1920 census his surname is Barnes. The second idea is that
when he pronounced his name, he may have had a strong Gullah dialect
[native to the enslaved], and when he pronounced his name it came out sounding
like BAHNZ. Which easily could have been misunderstood to sound like
Whatever the case, the descendants
spell their name Barnes today. And thanks to their grandson,
William Barnes, Jr., this essay had a great jump start, as he provided
many of the names and dates to get me on the right path.
and James had eight children: George [born about 1899],
Arimenta [born about 1904], James Jr. [born about 1906],
Leanora [born about 1910], Jasper [born about 1913],
Morrison [born about 1916], Creola [born about 1920], and
William Barnes, Sr. [born about 1925].
In the 1900 census George
Morrison is living with his daughter Creola and her family. But
one more person is listed, a Sylvester Morrison and he is listed as
a son to George. As far as the family knew, there was only the one
child, Creola. So who is this Sylvester? He was born about
August of 1879, only two months before Creola, so he couldn’t very
well be a biological brother, was he adopted?
I have not found any further
information on Neptune and Ila Small’s children.
According to census records, and
the marriage date of Neptune and Charlotte I have attributed
children Cornelia [born about September 1879] and Clarence
[born about June 1882] to them. No evidence has been found to support this
married Cassius Murphy on 10 August 1903, and according to census
records, had at least one child, Charlotte [born about 1904].
married Bettie Baker on 5 August 1901 and according to census
records, had two children, Edwin [born about 1901] and Neptune
[born about 1910].
As of this date, 19 October 2004, I
have as yet to discover further generations, so this essay will be
updated, I’m sure.
On 10 August 1907, on his beloved
St. Simons Island, Neptune Small passed away. He was laid to rest
with his family and other friends from enslavement at Retreat Plantation
in the cemetery for those enslaved by the King family. A tabby marker and bronze plaque mark his grave:
September 15, 1831
August 10, 1907
Neptune belonged to Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Butler King of
When their son Capt. H.L.P. King enlisted in the Confederate Army
Neptune accompanied him to war as his body-servant. Capt. King was killed
At the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862.
When night fell Neptune went out on the battlefield, found the body of his
brought it home to rest in the family burying ground at Christ Church,
Frederica, St. Simons Island.
home place on St. Simons Island was eventually turned into a park, aptly
named Neptune Park. The streets surrounding bear the names of the King
children, Mallery, Georgia, Virginia, Lord, Butler, Floyd, Cuyler,
and Florence. The family lives on.