Ealy Family History

This 1870 Leake County, Mississippi census record is the first official record of Bob Ealy and his family. On July 8, 1870, the census-taker for the Lena community recorded the Ealy household, headed by Bob. In the house were his wife Jane and children, Annie, Andy, Robert, Paul, Augustus, Anderson (Haywood), Martha, Penny, and a 4-month baby who was unnamed. Nicholson was born the following year. Older children, John and Adeline, were married in their own households. Will was omitted for unknown reasons.

I.  Robert "Big Bob" & Jane Ealy

The Ealy Family’s presence in the state of Mississippi began in about 1835.  That was the approximate year when an enslaved young man from North Carolina was brought to Mississippi, leaving behind family members he would never see anymore.  This man became Robert Ealy, but he was mostly called “Big Bob.”  Big Bob was among over 400,000 enslaved people from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee who were brought to Mississippi during the early 1800's.  Mississippi had become a state with fertile, cotton-producing farmlands.  Many enslaved African Americans were sold away from their families to slave-owners who were already in Mississippi.  Like Big Bob, many other enslaved African Americans came with their enslavers who moved to Mississippi to take advantage of the profitable cotton crop.  

Research has found that “Big Bob” Ealy was originally from Nash County, North Carolina.  There, he was born into slavery around 1814, according to census records.  Research findings also indicate that he grew up on the farm of Jesse Bass near Spring Hope, North Carolina.  Big Bob remained on the Bass farm throughout his childhood years with his mother Annie and siblings.   However, in 1822, Jesse Bass wrote his will and left to his youngest daughter Frances Bass two young slaves named John & Bob.  There’s a preponderance of evidence that this “Bob” was in fact our “Big Bob.” He was about 8 years old at that time.  

In the mid 1830’s, Frances Bass married William W. Eley, also known as Billy Eley, from Franklin County, North Carolina.  During that time, a woman’s inheritance became the legal property of her husband.  Therefore, Big Bob then became the "property" of Billy Eley when he married Frances. Shortly after their marriage, Billy & Frances Eley moved to Mississippi around 1835 with her brothers, Isaac, Gideon, Edwin, & Council Bass, and her older sister, Elizabeth, who settled in Hinds County.  They transported the enslaved people they inherited from their father Jesse Bass with them from North Carolina.  Some of those enslaved people, who became Basses after the Civil War, were probably related to Big Bob.  However, Billy & Frances Eley chose to settle in southern Leake County and thus Big Bob was brought to Leake County.

The white Eleys were not a wealthy family, and they operated a small farm near Lena.  On that small farm, Big Bob had a specific task, according to family lore.  Oral history disclosed that Billy Eley used Big Bob as a breeder because he was big and strong.  Big Bob was housed alone in an one-room log house for the purpose of reproducing children by other enslaved women.  Family lore disclosed that he fathered over 50 children; however, he never laid his eyes on many of those children.

Despite the inhumane task he was forced to perform, Big Bob’s heart was a young girl named Jane, who was enslaved on the nearby Parrott farm owned by William Parrott, a neighbor to Billy Eley.   In about 1845, Big Bob was allowed to marry, and he “jumped the broom” with Jane Parrott.  During slavery, marriages between slaves on different and nearby farms and plantations were common.  Big Bob was allowed to visit with Jane, likely on the weekends.  However, because the Parrott farm was adjacent to the Eley farm, he likely made secret visits at night to spend time with his beautiful wife, who bore him a number of children.

Grandma Jane had been born into slavery around 1829 on William Parrott’s farm in Lunenburg County, Virginia. During that time, William Parrott and his wife Betsy Johnson lived on a 300-acre farm near Lunenburg, Virginia.  Based on census records, William Parrott moved to Leake County shortly before 1840 with around ten slaves.  Those enslaved people included Grandma Jane, and possibly her mother, several siblings, and possibly her father as well.  They all were transported to Mississippi in wagons, but there is evidence that William Parrott may have stopped in Georgia and stayed there for awhile before making Leake County his final destination.  Family lore places our presence in the Macon, Georgia area at one time.  William Parrott had a number of family members who migrated to Georgia.

II. The First Generation: The children of Big Bob Ealy

Big Bob Ealy had a number of children.  Most of them (1 to 12) were born to his wife Jane on the Parrott farm.  The following seventeen children were found in the Leake & Scott County census records:  

1 - John Ealy
2 - Adeline Ealy Robertson-Devlin Orman
3 - Annie Ealy Beamon
4 - Andrew (Andy) Ealy
5 - Robert (Bob) Ealy

6 - Paul Ealy
7 - Augustus (Gus) Ealy
8 - Haywood Ealy
9 - Will Ealy
10 - Martha (Sissie) Ealy Kennedy
11 - Penny Ealy Ragsdale
- Nicholson (or Nicholas) "Boot" Ealy  

Additional Children of Robert “Big Bob” Ealy

13 - Nathan Stiles
14 - Mary “Angeline” (Sis) Ealy York
15 - Tempa Ealy Allen
16 - Emaline Ealy Kidd Gordon
17 - Ephraim Ealy

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which was to free enslaved African Americans in the South on January 1, 1863.  However, most enslaved African Americans did not become free until the Civil War ended in 1865.  Slavery was officially abolished on December 18, 1865.  During that year, Big Bob, Jane, and their children became free people and were able to live together as a family.  They lived in southern Leake County, near Lena, Mississippi.  Big Bob became a landowner and farmer after the Civil War.  According to the 1870 Leake County Census, Big Bob’s real estate property was valued at $550.  He died after 1900 at an old age.  In the 1900 Scott County census, he was found living with his daughter, Adeline Orman, who was taking care of him.