The Neptune Small Family of Retreat Plantation, St. Simons Island, Glynn Co., Georgia

Neptune Small Family
data and materials compiled by Amy Hedrick

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 former slaves 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 as a slave of privilege. 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.

Neptune 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.

Neptune Sr. 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.

Neptune Sr. was a carpenter at Retreat plantation, his bride, Sukey, was a trusted nurse to the slaves 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.

Abner 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.

Abner 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.

Abner 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.

Lydia 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, Jr.

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 found.

Sanders 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 family.

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.

Emiline 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.

Linda 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 Liddy Armstrong.

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.

Neptune Small 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 former slaves.

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.

Lordy 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 wrong.

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 slaves 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 effects.

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.]

Charlotte Galery was a former slave 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."

Neptune's 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 slaves], and when he pronounced his name it came out sounding like BAHNZ. Which easily could have been misunderstood to sound like Bonds.

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.

Creola 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 theory though.

Cornelia married Cassius Murphy on 10 August 1903, and according to census records, had at least one child, Charlotte [born about 1904].

Clarence 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 plantation days at the Retreat slave cemetery. 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 Retreat Plantation.
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 master and
brought it home to rest in the family burying ground at Christ Church, Frederica, St. Simons Island.


Neptune's 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.



Descendants Photos Documents
"Faithful Neptune Small" GEDCOM
Family Group Sheet style.


King, Anna Matilda (Page), edited by Melanie Pavich-Lindsay, Anna, The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859; The University of Georgia Press, Athens & London 2002; 453 pages [includes appendices and index]; The personal correspondence of Anna Matilda (Page) King between herself and her family and friends.  This book is comprised of actual letters written, mainly by Anna, from Retreat Plantation on St. Simons Island, to friends and relatives of the King family.  Appendices includes lists of slaves, with birth and death dates, plus their family units.

Mueller, Pamela Bauer, Neptune's Honor; Piñata Publishing 2005; 189 pages; Historical-fiction, story of real characters from Retreat Plantation, Neptune Small and Henry Lord King were childhood playmates who grew into manhood together on St. Simons Island.  During the War Between the States, Neptune followed Lord King into battle as his body servant, never forgetting his promise to always bring Lordy home.

Much of the family data was compiled by using the above publications and matching that data with other public records researched by Amy Lyn Hedrick.


***Special thanks to William Barnes, Jr. of Austin, Texas, a great-great grandson of Neptune SmallMr. Barnes unselfishly handed over his family research to a stranger and took a chance that she would do something good with it. 

These pages are dedicated to him, and all of the descendants, wherever they may be.




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