Who was Jenny Cook? Part Two 

Lucy Lewis Thom married William Taylor in October, 1834 and relocated immediately following the wedding to his plantation on the Mississippi River in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. According to Thom family history Lucy left her home place in Culpeper County on that “honeymoon” journey with a maid. See Part One published in the Culpeper Star Exponent, January 17 or on Zann Nelson’s Blog site at www.historyinvestigator.net

There was no description of “the maid,” however we do know that the Thom family owned slaves. The terms maid or servant were more commonly used to indicate an enslaved person of color, particularly if their duties were domestic rather than field. Regardless of these arguments, the fact of the matter is that we do not know anything about this individual. At least not yet!

What becomes of “the maid” assuming that she makes the trip to the plantation in Louisiana?

The first clue is found in a diary inscribed from 1838 through 1842 by William Taylor. His entries are no less than fascinating and a researcher’s treasure trove. Taylor writes of many things: some mundane, some poignant, and others intriguing and informative from a record-keeping perspective.

He often notes data and occurrences regarding those he held in bondage. He might write about those who are co-habitating, the birth of a child, a death or an incident that involved one or more of the enslaved, including those that ran away.

On an occasion, Taylor would identify a slave with a surname, though the reason for the designation was not always, or for that matter, ever clear. It does appear that his choices of particular surnames are tied to a geographic location or a specific occupation.

A woman by the name of Jenny is a prime example. Taylor writes, “Jenny Culpeper the cook….” I can hear the round of “Ahas!” That was my reaction, too. Culpeper is not a common name in Louisiana, nor even in Culpeper County, Virginia, however, we do know that Taylor has a direct connection with the County of Culpeper through his wife Lucy and perhaps, her maid. It is only one clue, but there are others.

Excerpt from William Taylor’s Diary with the name of Jenny Culpeper, a cook. Courtesy of the Hill Memorial Library at LSU.
Note: The date on a line above reads 1834 and the date of the “Jenny” entry is July 25th. Wm. and Lucy Taylor were married on October 16, 1834 and did not arrive in LA until Nov. 26, 1834, presumably with Jenny. It is reasonable to suggest that the date of the entry is incorrect and the actual year of her son William’s birth is undetermined.

Throughout the diary a Jenny is mentioned a few more times and in each subsequent entry she is called Jenny Cook. Is this the same person as Jenny Culpeper?

Jenny Cook is named in several lists including one for shoe sizes as well as in the inventory of Taylor’s will.

Fast forwarding to post Emancipation, we find a Jenny Cook in the 1870 and 1880 Census record residing in an African American community near the Briers Plantation formerly owned by William Taylor. In each document her birth year is given as about 1795-1800 and her birthplace is listed as Virginia.

It is not as conclusive as I would like and thus, we are scouring the diary for additional information. In the meantime we are talking with descendants who possess a very interesting connection; continuing to research the enslaved who remained at the Culpeper Plantation and encouraging DNA testing.

Stay tuned and until next week, be well.

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