Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Woods Clan: Mixing with the Busters

William Sr. had two of his sons marry into the Woods clan: William Jr. Buster, his oldest, married Jane Woods, and John, his third son, married Elizabeth Woods. William's grandson, Claudius Woods Buster- son of John- married his first cousin, Isabella Woods.

The Woods had altered their name from du Bois, whose ancestors came over from France sometime during the late 16th century, to the Anglican version of the name, which translates to "Woods". They were a family who came from a long line of nobility which gave them access to land grants and marrying into other noble families from England and Scotland during the two centuries prior to their last journey to the New World. Historically, the Woods WERE NOT IRISH NOR FULLY SCOTTISH despite living in Ireland, much like the Buster Clan. The Woods originated from France, to Yorkshire, England and then had immigrated to Meath, Ireland. Before the Woods made this migration, a significant attempt to establish English control in Ireland began by Henry VII in 1494. When the English king dismissed the earl of Kildare from his post as lord deputy, and Henry VII sent Sir Edward Poynings in his place with a full contingent of English administrators. Poynings summoned a parliament at Drogheda in December 1494 which passed legislation to assert English supremacy, including the forbiddance of marriage between English colonists and the Irish. These acts, subsequently known as the Statutes of Drogheda (or more informally as Poyning's Law), remained in force until 1782.

So, John Woods Sr. (1628-1710) married Isabella Bruce (1628-1686), who was of Scottish decent, and which the Bruce clan can trace their roots, back to Edward the Bruce, former high King of Ireland, brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. The Woods family members, who married in Ireland, only wedded others who were also of English, as well as Scottish, heritages, including the Campbells. Immigrating to Meath just before the mid 17th Century, they only produced two generations prior to leaving to the New World. They, like the Busters, WERE NOT SCOT-IRISH, nor hereditarily Irish despite living in a community with this mixture such as Ulster, because of their English roots as forbade by the English laws. Culturally, however, no doubt they picked up some Irish habits which included the language, the dialect, food, and music, which made their American descendants come to the conclusion that the Woods and Busters were of Irish decent. But based on Woods' Presbyterian and nobility status, one could envision the division still among the Gaelic and Celtic populace.

When politics infringed on them finically, with taxes that were increased in the early 18th century during a series of droughts that harbored little profit, and infringed religiously, especially being surrounded by the Anglican and Catholic churches, the pragmatic Woods migrated to America, first arriving in Pennsylvania, then to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. It was in America that the Woods finally could marry outside of the English laws. Because of their background, the Woods were a prominent family who had dinned with Thomas Jefferson's family in Albemarle, County. But don't be fooled by their privileged background into presuming that were not a hardy group. Living on the American frontier they toiled to survive and fought for their beliefs. And although they were not the typical Scot-Irish, but their migration in America followed the trails of the Scot-Irish and even German migrations.

He came to Albemarle County about 1734 and settled near Woods Gap, now called Jarman's Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He received land patents for 1,300 acres near Lickinghole, Mechum's River and Beaver Creek, embracing the present Mechum's Depot and Blair Park. At the same time he also purchased 2,000 acres from Charles Hudson on Ivy Creek. The first Presbyterian Church as built at Mountain Plains and named for Michael's home. His remains were buried about 100 yards from his home; however, during the Civil War the stone was broken. A chip was found which confirms his birth date.

His will mentions 3 sons and 3 daughters: Archibald, John, William, Sarah (wife of Joseph Lapsley of Rockbridge), Hannah (wife of William Wallace) and Margaret (wife of Andrew Wallace). Sons Archibald and John were the executors.


Five miles east is Jarman's Gap, formerly known as Woods' Gap. Through this pass Michael Woods, his three sons, and three sons in law (Andrew, Peter, William Wallace), coming from Pennsylvania via Shenandoah Valley, crossed into Albemarle County in 1734; pioneers in settling this section. In 1780 to 1781 British prisoners taken at Saratoga went through the gap en route to Winchester. In June, 1862 part of Stonewall Jackson's Confederate army, moving to join Lee at Richmond, crossed the mountain here. (Route 340, 1.2 miles north of Waynesboro).

From a book "Pioneer Strength, etc" page 26 is an account of the early Woods Family.

"The Woods family of Ireland in early 18th century became involved in a time of great movement. The family being dissenters and Presbyterians like many in the same place and time, longed to escape persecution and the religious bigotry of England. To make a new life in the American colonies became the dream in so many minds because it was a promise of freedom. This particular family named Woods are thought to be of pure English or Anglo-Scotch blood who, prior to 1650 were connected with the English Established Church. Life for them in Ireland was eventually unbearable. So it was that in 1742 did Michael Woods along with his brothers and sister set sail for the New World."

From "The Daily Progress" Charlottesville, Virginia, 1762-1962.
Michael Woods Led a Band of Settlers
Most of Albemarle's first settlers followed a gradual westward movement from the Tidewater.  Mighty Michael Woods did not.

Jarman's Gap

In 1734 this ancestor of countless local residents and scores of western pioneers brought a band across the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Valley of Virginia.  They had come from Pennsylvania traveling over 200 miles and are believed to have been the first whites to come through Woods' Gap - now Jarman's Gap - by the old Indian trail. There were 25 or 30 of them. Michael's wife, Mary Campbell, his sons and his sons-in-law and their families. They took up large holdings from Greenwood to Ivy. In 1737 Woods entered a claim for 1,300 acres on Mechum River and Lickinghole Creek. He also purchased 2,000 acres on the head waters of Ivy Creek.  Woods was born in the north of Ireland in 1684 and came to this country "sometime in the decade of 1720. Landing on the banks of the Delaware, he spent some years in Lancaster County, Pa., thence ascended the Valley of Virginia and crossed the Blue Ridge"  His home was near the mouth of Woods Gap and there he was buried in 1762 in the family burying ground a short distance from the dwelling. His will mentioned six children, three sons and three daughters. Historians say there is evidence that there were four other children, two sons and two daughters.

Miss Mary Rawlings, in her books "Ante-Bellum Albemarle," wrote that the family was Scotch or Scotch-Irish, a family of education and refinement.  One of Michael's daughters, Hannah, was married to William Wallace who settled on the Piedmont plantation in the Greenwood neighborhood. This land remains in the hands of the Wallace family. While many of the family descendants remained here, many more joined the westward movement. They went to the other areas of Virginia then being settled, and they went west and south-to Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio-where they were prominent in the early affairs and government of those areas. Of Michael Woods Home, Miss Rawlings wrote "the original name of the plantation was Mountain Plains, the Mountain Plains Church having been built on a part of the land and named in commemoration. "With the passing of the property to Chief Justice John Blair prior to 1788, the name of the home was changed and it has since been known as Blair Park."

page 304
Samuel Smith vs. Beaty.--Mr. Michael Woods, formerly of Paxtunk, Pennsylvania. Account dated 1733. Thomas Renich, on 1st September, 1750, deposed: About 8 years ago, at his own house, he saw and spoke with said Smith and Robert Buchanan, the then Sheriff of Lancaster County. He heard Smith (then merchant at Connoy) say, &c., several accounts: Smith vs. James Cathey, 1737; Smith vs. Adam Thomson, 1736-7-8; Smith vs. William Robinson, 1739; Smith vs. Richard Woods, 1738; Smith vs. Mrs. Margaret McDowell, 1737; Smith vs. Mrs. Mary McDowell, 1737; Smith vs. Michael Woods, 1738-9; Smith vs. John Maxwell; Smith vs. Samuel Woods, 1734-5-8; Smith vs. Francis Beaty, 1735-6; Smith vs. John Christian, 1737; Smith vs. Robert Christian, 1733-4-5-6; Smith vs. Randell McDaniel; Smith vs. William Hutchinson; Smith vs. George Hutchinson. All sworn to by Samuel Smith, late of County of Lancaster, before a Justice, in Philadelphia, 13th October, 1743.

Census: Bet. 1725 - 1726, Listed as paying tax in Donegal Twp., Lancaster Co., PA; tax rate of 2 shillings
Christening: 1684, Ulster, Ireland
Immigration: 1724, To Pennsyvania
Movement: 1732, To Virginia
Probate: Jun 1762, Albemarle Co., VA
Will: 24 Nov 1761, Albemarle Co., VA
Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine about Michael Capt "of Botetourt" Woods

Alt. Name: Margaret
Cause of Death (Facts Pg): Killed by Indians; the first white woman killed in the Shenandoah Valley
Christening: Cannongate, Edinburgh
Title (Facts Pg): Lady

Dunbarton Castle

Sir James Campbell, the 3rd Baron of Auchinbreck, died in 1752, imprisoned in Dunbarton Castle for his part in the 1745 rising to restore the Stuarts. His will named daughters Elizabeth Woods and Mary Woods, as well as a Stuart daughter, and sons, including Gilbert Campbell. At least 6 of his children emigrated--for good reasons. The only reason the Baron didn't lose his head along with a large part of his lands in 1745/6, was because of his great age and thus because it could be claimed his mind had gone a little. However, he did forfeit the baronial seat--at Inveraray in Argyllshire, which is why these Campbells were sometimes referred to in their day as "of Argyll--meaning the location." Since it had originally come to the Auchinbreck line by grant of their superior lord the REAL "Argyll (Lords of Lochawe who became Earls of Argyll), it was forfeited back to the by then Duke of Argyll.

For about 300 years, however, Inveraray had been the property of the lairds, then baronets, then Barons of Auchinbreck and the last three generations of that line were closer to Cawdor than to Argyll. Peter Wallace's mother was Elizabeth Woods married to SAMUEL Wallace--not Peter Wallace Sr.--there was NO earlier Peter Wallace who was a father of the Peter Wallace of Rockbridge County. He is NEVER listed as "Jr." in either the Maryland, Pennsylvania or Virginia records. He and his brother Adam, were living in Cecil County, Maryland when Capt. Samuel Wallace, sea captain and merchant made his last voyage between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Irish ports--and Glasgow (he made several voyages among these places in the 1720's) in 1725.

Peter Wallace and others were living with the "widowed Elizabeth Wallace" mother of Adam, when Adam died and left a widow and baby daughter and named his mother executor. Adam Wallace was a seaman who did serve in "Admiral Vernon's War" and apparently did die as a result of service in the "Battle of Cartagena." This is from Cecil County, Maryland and Lancaster County, PA records (this was the area of the Mason-Dixon line fight between Pennsylvania and Maryland and raiding parties carried off records back and forth with the ultimate result that some records have copies, now in both counties and states).

Dunshaughlin Castle in Meath, Ireland

There is a record for Martha Woods being married in 1739 in Lancaster County, PA but no record for younger sister Sarah, which supports an Augusta County record in which it is implied that Sarah married Joseph Lapsley in Virginia in about 1741. Since Augusta County was not formed until 1745, and Albemarle was formed only the year before that, the marriage probably was in the early Orange County or Goochland County records. To carry this all a bit further. Michael, Samuel and Elizabeth Woods--and several other brothers and one more sister, were all children of Sir John Woods and his cousin--Elizabeth WOODS, of Dunshaughlin (note the spelling--the parish still exists in County Meath) Castle in County Meath. It was Elizabeth Woods who inherited the castle--from her parents Sir Thomas Woods and Elizabeth PARSONS. 

Marriage: 1704, Scotland

19. i. MAGDALENA6 WOODS, b. 1706, Castle Dunshauglin, Ireland; d. 1810, McDowell Family Cemetery, Timber Ridge, Albemarle Co., VA.
20. ii. ARCHIBALD WOODS, SR., b. 11 May 1706, Castle Dunshauglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 1783, Roanoke Co., VA.
21. iii. MICHAEL WOODS, JR., b. Bet. 1709 - 1719, Dunshauglin Castle, Meath, Ireland; d. 11 Mar 1777, Buchanan, Botetourt Co., VA.
22. iv. HANNAH WOODS, b. 1710, Castle Dunshauglin, Meath, Ireland; d. Greenbrier, Albemarle Co., VA.
23. v. JOHN WOODS, b. 19 Feb 1711/12, Castle Dunshauglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 14 Oct 1791, Albemarle Co., VA.
vi. GEORGE WOODS, b. 1713, Dunshauglin Castle, Ireland.
24. vii. MARGARET WOODS, b. Bet. 1714 - 1720, Dunshauglin Castle, Meath, Ireland; d. Bet. 1756 - 1761, Thornhill, Albemarle Co., VA.
25. viii. WILLIAM WOODS, b. 02 Nov 1715, Castle Dunshanglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 12 Apr 1783, Greenbrier Co., VA.
26. ix. SAMUEL WOODS, b. 1718, Castle Dunshanglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 11 Mar 1777, Buchanan, Botetourt Co., VA.
27. x. CHARLES WOODS, b. Abt. 1719, Ireland; d. Bef. May 1761, Rockbridge Co., VA.
xi. ROBERT WOODS, b. 1719, Castle Dunshanglin, Ireland; d. 1779, Buffalo Creek, Augusta, GA.
28. xii. MARTHA WOODS, b. 1720, Dunshaughlin Castle, Meath, Ireland; d. 1790, Thornhill, Rockbridge Co., VA.
29. xiii. RICHARD WOODS, b. 1721, Meath, Ireland; d. Bet. Mar - Apr 1778, Buffalo Creek, Augusta Co., VA.
30. xiv. ANDREW WOODS, b. 1722, Castle Dunshauglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 1781, Botetourt Co., VA.
31. xv. SARAH WOODS, b. 1724, Castle Dunshanglin, Meath, Ireland; d. 1792, Greenbrier Co., VA.

Notes for WILLIAM WOODS:Took an active part in the Colonial wars, holding the rank of Colonel. (Mary Kinney research notes, 8/04/99)

Served a a private in Capt. George Gibson's company, Albemarle Co., Virginia troops. (From DAR ID No. 117679)

He received military land grants in Greenbrier Co., VA, Madison Co., KY and some in Scioto, OH. Five of his sons were commissioned in the Revolutionary War. (Source: "Wallace", by George Selden Wallace, Michie Co., Charlottesville, VA 1927)

Alt. Birthdate: 1705
Movement: In 1758 moved from Albemarle Co., VA
Occupation: Lieutenant in the frontier Indian wars
Probate: 16 Apr 1782, Greenbrier Co., VA

Marriage: 1732, Lancaster Co., PA

i. SUSANNAH7 WOODS, d. Died in childhood.
40. ii. ADAM C. WOODS, SR., b. 12 Aug 1742, Greenbrier Co., WV; d. 04 Aug 1826, Howard Co., MO.
41. iii. MARY WOODS, b. 14 Apr 1744, Albemarle Co., VA; d. 1810, Lincoln Co., KY.
42. iv. WILLIAM WOODS, b. 31 Dec 1744, Albemarle Co., VA; d. 1837, Albemarle Co., VA.
43. v. MICHAEL WOODS, b. 1746, Greenbrier Co., WV; d. 03 Jul 1809, Madison Co., Kentucky.
44. vi. JOHN WOODS, b. 1751, Albemarle Co., VA; d. 16 Oct 1815, Franklin Co., TN.
vii. ANDREW WOODS, b. 1753, Blair Park, Albemarle Co., VA; d. 1813, Franklin Co., Tennessee26; m. HANNAH REID27, Kentucky; b. 1754, Virginia; d. 10 Jul 1835, Franklin Co., TN28.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Looking Back: Garret Buster purchased his freedom in 1845

For nearly a year, I [Michael J. Denis] have been working with an African American researcher, extracting the facts out of an historical novel written about the Buster family.
Brighter Sun was published in 1954 by Greene B. Buster, the grandson of the enslaved Garret Buster of Monticello, Wayne County, KY to Boyle County, KY, then on to Xenia, Greene County, OH.
The family’s story is not that unusual – Garret purchased his freedom, then his wife, then all his children but one, who managed to escape. Two sons enlisted in the Union Army, many children and grandchildren attended college, etc.
What IS unusual is that this family has a novel written about it – facts are off, dates are off, names, especially of whites, have been changed. YET, we have managed to reconstruct a very detailed history of the family from about 1810 to the present.
Current descendants now hope to be able to contact white descendants to either prove or disprove the family legend of white ancestry.

CONTACT: Michael J Denis

President, Boyle County Genealogical Association, Inc


*Sidenote: Because Garret was racial mixed, and there are a couple of speculations of who his father might have been.

I hope this information below can help shed some light for Garret's descendants:  

Who was Garret’s biological father? Unfortunately this is a difficult question to answer, and often answers are lost in the highly dysfunctional relationships between people intertwined in an inhumane system. To start, we need to go through the process of elimination. According to Garret’s obituary, he was born in 1804 in Monticello, Kentucky.  In Greene’s book, although fiction yet inspired by his family’s true story, Garret was the son of a Colonel Jim Warring and his wife Sarah, implying that Gen. Joshua A. Buster or perhaps his father, Charles, could have been Garret’s real life father. The timeline doesn’t add up even though by 1830 Gen. Joshua owned four people. If Garret was indeed born in 1804, Charles had been dead for two years and Joshua would have been only eleven years old. And Charles did not actually inherit any land or enslaved people from his father, William Jr., because all of it went to Charles' mother, Jane, who outlived him by ten years. Also, during the time of Garret's birth in Monticello, the only other Buster who moved to Wayne County was Charles' sister, Mary Buster Jones. Now his brother, William Woods Buster, had moved to neighboring county, Pulaski, according to the 1810 census, but it’s uncertain whether William W. had lived in Monticello prior and had not included his nephew, Gen. Joshua into his will, so it’s likely that Garret's Anglo genes may not have come from the Busters. Meanwhile in 1804, Joshua’s mother, Sarah, married John Sanders whom all continued to live in Wayne County.  Now to imply that Sanders may have fathered Garret would almost work, however, in 1810 he did not own enslaved people, not until the 1820-1830’s before Garret’s birth, and he was engaged in a land deed lawsuit to which he was unable to pass along his inheritance to any of his children, let alone step-children.  

The last possibility, if we were to assume that Gen. Joshua had purchased Garret from a family member, is to look at an uncle who lived in the same town: James Jones. Although Grandfather Jones had nine children, three of his six sons owned enslaved servants. James, unlike his two brothers who only seem to have use for one domestic, owned four in 1820, and three by 1830 with three free people of color, two of which were children, according to the U.S. Census.  Now it could be possible that the one “free” male could have been the father of the two children, as parents tried to purchase their children’s freedom, or the children could have been fathered by James.  The complexity of social order in a culture mandated by slavery is a difficult one to dissect, because many layers of deceit make it near impossible to find biological family members. The reason James may be a suspect for Garret’s biological father is the fact that he had a mixture of enslaved people and free people on his property. And he had several. The next conclusion one may interpret is the connection between Gen. Joshua and his uncle, who became a colonel during the War of 1812, hence forth the implication of Colonel Warring in the book as really Colonel Jones. One could tie in the liability that Gen. Joshua may have purchased his enslaved cousin as a means to keep family close by, and later, allowed Garret to purchase his own freedom, and later, may have helped Garret to purchase his immediate family from his son-in-law, James Cecil, by gentle persuasion. White masters were more inclined to allow enslaved people their freedom if they were their descendants.  Again, this is all hypothetical, otherwise, Gen. Joshua simply had purchased Garret from someone else in Wayne County, Kentucky.

Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 9:19 am
By BRENDA S. EDWARDS Contributing writer |

Research on the family of Garret Buster, a slave in the early 1800s, began in Wayne County, continued in Boyle County, and into Ohio and Illinois. Mike Denis, a local genealogist and president of the Boyle County Genealogical Association, did the research for Kelli Weaver-Miner of Champaign, Ill, who was looking for her ancestor. Kelli had information on the Busters and a copy of a historical novel, Brighter Sun, written by Garret's grandson, Greene Berry (“G.B.”) Buster after he visited Danville in the 1940s or 1950s. He published the fictionalized novel in 1954 about his grandparents, their children, and their escape from enslavement and move to Xenia, Ohio. After reading the book, Denis began to separate fact from fiction by searching court records in Wayne and Boyle counties.

Garret was a slave who belonged to Gen. Joshua Buster of Monticello. The general's daughter, Sarah Buster, married James Granville Cecil of Wayne County. Cecil was a successful businessman in Wayne County before he moved about 1848 to land on Salt River Road, west of Danville. Cecil became one of the largest landowners in the county, and with his sons, raised champion race horses and other farm animals.

Melrose and Cambus Kenneth farms on U.S. 127 North also were owned by Cecil descendants. Denis said the description of the Elijah Harlan house and an old stone house on Salt River Road fit the plantation described in the novel, but he could not connect the places with the Waring and Benson families mentioned in the novel. His research shows “the old stone house” was built in 1785 by James Harlan at the end of Salt River Road. His grandson, John Marshall Harlan, a Supreme Court Justice,was born there in 1833. The Elijah Harlan House was built about 1828. Elijah, a son of James, built a brick house, painted white, and a two-story stone slave house.

Freedom Paper
Gen. Buster apparently remained in Wayne County. He died there in 1861. In 1845, Garret paid $500 to Gen. Buster for his freedom. A deed of emancipation from Gen. Buster to Garret was recorded Dec. 6, 1845, in the Wayne County Court, releasing Garret “from the obligations of slavery and servitude forever.” Garret worked in a tannery near Danville and later bought the business.

In 1855, he bought the freedom of his son, Greene, who attended school in Danville. Son Lewis escaped to Canada in 1857 after his father was unable to purchase him. After purchasing his wife Sophia and other children from James G. Cecil in March 1853, Garret moved the family prior to 1860 to Boyle County. They had eight children, Greene Berry, Lewis, Nancy, Clark, Sarah, James, Mary and Milton. Busters listed in 1860 Boyle Census are: Garret, 52, and his wife, Sophia, 42, and their children, Greene, 20; Nancy, 14; Sarah, 7; Clark, 9; and James, 3.

The 1860 Slave Schedule lists him as owner of one female mulatto, 42; and five mulattos the same age as his children listed in the census. Lewis was not listed as he was apparently was still owned by James G. Cecil before he escaped in 1862, and Greene was serving in the Civil War. Greene and Lewis Buster enlisted in 1864 in the Ohio Colored Infantry, and later were in the 101st Ohio Volunteer Colored Troops. Greene was a member of the “Black Brigade” in Cincinnati, formed to defend the city against a Confederate attack. The soldiers built fortifications all over northern Kentucky over a three-week period. A memorial was recently erected in Cincinnati to honor the Black Brigade.

In 1865, Greene married Mildred Johnson in Clarksville, Tenn. They moved to Xenia, Ohio. Garret made a will in 1854 saying that he had purchased Sophia and two of their children from Cecil, but it was never probated as he lived another 49 years. He willed his wife, Sophia, all that he owned, and at her death, it would go to the children. He also set his wife and all their children and any slave he owned free and “released from bondage” and entitled to the rights of a free person of color, according to a Boyle County deed recorded in 1862.

Garret was born in 1808, in Kentucky, and his wife, Sophia Sisten, born in 1821, apparently stayed in Ohio. He died in 1903, leaving many descendants in Ohio and Illinois. Sophia died in 1894 in Xenia. Lewis, who was married to Sarah Conrad, died in 1918, according to a death certificate in Chicago. The death certificate showed his mother's maiden name as Sisten.

Jay hawk Blvd, May 1925
G.B. Buster author of the Brighter Sun, graduated at Wilberforce University in 1902 and earned a master's degree in 1925 at University of Kansas. He was founder in 1931 and longtime principal of Sumner High School, the first high school in Kansas for black students. He died in 1965 in Los Angeles, Calif. The Buster descendants were nurses, ministers and members of other learned professions. Education apparently was vital to the Buster family's future and continues to be.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 20, 1955
Garret Buster was a slave owned by Gen. Joshua Buster, of Monticello, Ky, and was apparently the son of “Jim” and “Sarah, slaves owned by “Colonel Waring”, in reality, General Joshua Buster or his father, Charles Buster.  Though Garret and his family were never as wealthy or famous as the Harlans and the Cecils, theirs is a story of common people striving to better themselves despite all the odds being against them, and as such, is a story that needs to be told.

Sophia Cecil was also enslaved, and owned by James Granville Cecil, originally of Monticello, but of Boyle County by 1848.  The Buster story is not as well-known as either the Harlan or even the Cecil story, but it is a story of family, faith, hard work, and a longing for freedom at any cost.

When I responded to Kelli’s request for the name “Buster” on the Beers 1876 map of Boyle and Mercer Counties,[24] I began the search.  I found Nimrod Buster on the map, but Kelli told me that the person she was looking for was Garret Buster, a slave, who apparently lived in Boyle County, and Nimrod was white.  She sent me information describing the house where Garret and his family lived, on the Salt River Road.

In 1937, after visiting the Salt River Road in 1935,[25] Greene Berry Buster (G. B.) wrote a fictionalized novel, Brighter Sun,[26] (published in 1954) about his grandparents’ years as enslaved African Americans, and their long, difficult struggle to end that enslavement.  The novel contained bits of truth, though the names of nearly all the Whites were changed.  It took a great deal of solid research, speculation, testing, and writing back and forth between me and Kelli Weaver-Miner, a descendant of the family, to strip away the 95% which was fiction, and to replace it with what we believe is fact.  We started out with an hypothesis that G. B.’s slave ancestors were owned by the Harlans, but the pieces didn’t fit.  However, the connection with James Granville Cecil and General Joshua Buster of Monticello, Wayne Co, Ky, did fit the puzzle nearly perfectly.  “The Old Stone House” and the Elijah Harlan house were the keys.

The Old Stone house, c. 1967- before the 1974 tornado
My friend, Barry Sanborn, and I believed the house to be the “Old Stone House,” built by the Harlan family.  At the Mercer County Public Library, we were looking for any records of the slaves belonging to the Harlans, when Barry just picked up David Sheet’s,Slave genealogy – a research guide with case studies (Bowie, Md: Heritage Books, 1986) and began browsing.  Totally by accident, he came across our first breakthrough on page 80,[27] a transcript of a document showing that Garret Buster was emancipated by his owner, General Joshua Buster, of Monticello, Wayne County.

Now that we knew Garret’s owner until 1845[28] we had our first clue.  The novel intimated that Garret’s father, “Jim,” was the son of “Colonel Waring” whom we believe to be General Buster, but this is not possible, though the general’s father or an uncle may be Jim’s father.

We found Garret Buster’s wife’s supposed surname through the death certificate of her son, Lewis.  General Buster’s son-in-law, James Granville Cecil, we speculated, was her owner.  The “Cecil” surname is listed (though the spelling is horribly mangled) on Lewis’s death certificate in Chicago in 1918.[29]  The connection became apparent when we proved G. B.’s story about HIS father, also Greene Berry Buster, visiting the “old place” on Salt River Road in 1865.  G. B.’s descriptions in the novel, as well as his own visit in 1937, fit the Elijah Harlan house perfectly; his description of the spring house fits the description of the “Old Stone House,” and the fact that these houses were used as hospitals following the Battle of Perryville also fits.

Our hypothesis became a theory — Garret was owned by Gen. Joshua Buster, though Gen. Buster allowed Garret to buy himself, partly for cash, partly on credit,[30] and Sophia was owned by James Granville Cecil, first in Monticello, then possibly in Boyle County.  We believe that when the Cecils moved to Boyle County in 1848, they took Sophia and her children (all slaves) with them, and that Garret went as well, having “married” Sophia about 1836.  An unprobated will found in the William Crenshaw Kennedy, Jr. Memorial Museum in Monticello, Wayne County, mentions that Garret had purchased Sophia and two of their children in 1853 from Cecil,[31] though Cecil had probably moved to Boyle County by then.  Another mystery?

Enslaved people at Monticello
Though there is documentary evidence of Garret Buster in Monticello as late as 1854, we believe he may have, as a freeman, simply gone back to Monticello from Boyle County to “clean up” some loose ends.  Interestingly however, he does not show up in the 1850 census as far as we can find. First by working as hired labor in a tannery, and ultimately purchasing the tannery from its former owner (according to Brighter Sun), Garret Buster was emancipated 27 February 1845 in Monticello, Wayne County.  Sophia’s owner, James Granville Cecil, sold her and two of her children to Garret Buster[32].  Brighter Sun describes in detail, Garret’s unceasing efforts to purchase their children who were still slaves, probably Greene Berry (father of Greene B., the author of Brighter Sun) and Lewis.  We find there are other children, though we have found no record yet that these children were born free, with the exception of Sarah, born after 1853, and James, who was born 11 Dec 1857 to father Garret Buster, “f.m.c.) or “free man of color”.[33]  On page 193, the novel quotes an emancipation document for Greene in 1855, though we have yet to find an actual document stating such:

“Wiliam Hodson to Garret Buster, State of Kentucky, Boyle County

“Know all men by these presents that I, William Hodson, fo the county and state aforesaid, in consideration of the sum of five hundred dollars paid to me cash in hand, do set free Greene, the son of Garret Buster.  The said Greene is to enjoy and possess now, henceforth and forever, the full exercise of all rights, benefits and privileges of a free man of color, free of all or any claim to servitude, slavery, or service of the said William Hodson, his heirs, executors, and assigns forver.

“Signed:  William Hodson

“Given under my hand and seal this twenty-fifth day of November, 1855

“Boyle County Recorder’s office, James C. Lyle, Recorder”[34]

The 1850 Boyle County Slave Census [35], prior to Garret’s purchase of Sophia, Nancy and Clark, has James Granville Cecil, with twelve slaves, including one male 13 (Greene?); one male 11 (Lewis?); one female 4 (Sarah?); and one female 2 (Eizabeth?).  Garret’s children in 1850 would have been one male, 12 years old, one male 11 years old, and one female, 4 years old.  Cecil owned no slaves matching the age and gender of Sophia, however, and we can not find Garret anywhere in any 1850 record.

The 1860 Boyle County Slave Census[36] shows Garret Buster, mulatto, as the owner of one female, age forty-two (probably Sophia), three males (probably Greene Berry, Clark and James) and two females (Nancy and Sarah) — all these children are the right gender and approximately the right age as given in the Census.  Strangely enough, Garret and his family are also shown as “free blacks” in Boyle County, Perryville P.O., in the 1860 Census (1860, p147); the list includes wife Sophia, and children Green, Nancy, Sarah, Clark and James, that is, all his children except Lewis, which may indicate these family members were commonly considered to be free by 1860, yet at the same time, they are Garret’s slaves.  Why is his family is listed as “free” in one census, and as “slaves” in the same year?

In a deed in the Boyle County courthouse[37], Garret Buster “emancipated” his wife and children as of December 1862 (coincidentally, the same month that Sarah (Buster) Cecil died), though we have some sources that say he was in Ohio before that time, probably moving in 1861.  Did he come back to Danville to tie up loose ends and guarantee his family’s freedom?  There are still many facts to uncover about this family, and some may well never be found.  After leaving Boyle County, the family settled in Xenia, Greene Co, OH (1870, Xenia, p1, and 1880, Ward 4, Xenia, p13A) and Garret, a widower, resided with his son, Greene Berry Buster, in Clark Twp; Clinton Co, OH (1900 Census, Clark Twp; p6A).

The family of Garret and Sophia (Cecil) Buster, as best we can assemble, includes children Greene Berry (1838-1925), Lewis (1839-1918), Nancy Virginia (1846-1876), Clark (1851-?), Sarah Jane (1853-?), James Robert (1857-1907), Mary Alice (1860-1879) and Milton (1862-?).  Brighter Sun refers to another daughter, Elizabeth who died prior to the Buster family leaving Boyle County for Ohio, but other than that reference, nothing has been found.  Also, one Charles Buster, b 1849, who died in Xenia, Greene Co, Ohio 20 May 1869, may have been the child of Garret and Sophia.

Lewis Buster, according to Brighter Sun, escaped enslavement through Maysville, and on to
Xenixa, OH
Ohio, where he was once again forced to leave for safety in Canada.  Eventually, he returned to his family in Xenia, Greene Co., OH, where his father and at least one brother had purchased land, becoming credits to the community.  Lewis must have escaped from Kentucky before the end of the Civil War because he and his brother Greene both served in the 101
st Ohio volunteer “colored” infantry, enlisting in September 1864.[38]

Greene Berry Buster, in his manuscript for Brighter Sun, page iv, describes seeing the “plantation” where his family lived.  For the longest while, we were confused, trying to make sense of his description of a brick house, when we were assuming we should be looking for a stone house.  But having the manuscript, not just the final book, may clear that up.  He writes, “Leaving the main highway, we turned into what proved to be a semi-private road which crossed Salt creek three times on the way up to the “mansion” seated at the crest of the hill.  As we approached the ancient ‘pile’, we saw evidence of a ‘glory that had departed’.  Built of red brick more than a century ago, it had since been painted white…”  It may well be that the “ancient pile” was the stone house, which was in great disrepair by that time, and that the “evidence of a glory that had departed” was the Elijah Harlan house, which was still standing and still occupied at the time.[39]

Garret Buster must have wondered at times if he could ever work hard enough to accomplish his goals, which often changed, as the value of his children as slaves increased.  When the family left for Ohio, the only regret he apparently had was that he could not earn enough money to free Lewis. However, the family never lost faith in God and the idea of freedom, no matter how hard the situation was, no matter what they had to go through, no matter what obstacles stood in their way. Their children were educated, and their grandchildren became ministers, teachers and pursued other educated professions.  Education was, and still is, vitally important to the descendants of Garret Buster.

Again, coincidentally, the historic “Great Tornado Outbreak” of 3 April 1974 which spawned a tornado that nearly destroyed “The Old Stone House” also spawned, about four hours earlier,[40] an F-5 tornado which virtually began at the Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia, Ohio, killing 36, and destroying the gravestones of Garret and Sophia Buster, 170 miles away.[41]


  1. Sarah Buster (b.1848 KY) 1880 Census: Baxter Springs, KS
  2. Nelson Buster (1830) 1870 Census Kansas City, MO
  3. Mary Ellen Buster (1834) 1870 census Somerset, KY
  4. Lewis Buster (1837 KY) 1910 census Chicago, IL, listed as literare
  5. Louis Buster (1860 KY) 1910 census, Wayne, MI
  6. Jirn C Buster (1863 KY) 1940 census Russell, KY
  7. W.W. Buster (female 1820) 1860 slave roll census Washington, TX

1850 Slave Schedule for the Busters