The Boss Lady: Clara Mabry Part III

After the 1856 situation, Clara was faced with the harsh reality of her agreement to the terms of her deeds of trust with the Benevolent Gentleman.

There are primary source materials that document not only the sale of Clara’s house and lot, but the sale of Clara’s own children.

According to the online catalog of the Library of Virginia, the Daily Democrat newspaper published at least three articles about the business side of the 1856 equation:

“5 mulatto Negroes to be sold under two deeds of trust from Clara Mabry, John R. Chambliss, Trustee” September 16, 1856, page 4, column 1, Daily Democrat

“House and lot near Hicksford” -Mrs. Clara Mabry, August 28, 1856, page 2, column 5, Daily Democrat

“5 likely negroes owned by Mrs. Clara Mabry to be sold by John R. Chambliss, Trustee”, August 28, 1856, page 2, column 5, editorial article, Daily Democrat

These primary source news articles inform us of the terrible costs of Clara’s business dealings.

While the facts are still to be learned about just who the five souls were sold to, Clara proved to be resilient, according to records of the day.

Sometime in August of 1856, which would have been just before or after the attempted escapes of Irvina, Timothy, and the other parties who ran from John W. Potts’ enslavement, Clara renewed her registration as a “free negro” in Greensville County court.

Greensville County Court Order Book No. 11, page 291

In addition to being able to register again as “free,” Clara was allowed to remain in the commonwealth of Virginia. This was not always the case. There are many instances where free persons of color were ordered to leave Virginia within days.

A decade after the annus horribilis, Clara had a new ally in tow. Food, clothing, healthcare, and educational assistance for the ravaged were the main points of focus for the Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress in 1865.

In checking some of the Freedmen’s Bureau records and notes, made available by FamilySearch, I discovered that in 1866, Clara received payments from the Bureau renting office space and such. To repeat, if nothing else, Clara was resilient. In 1867, Clara sought the assistance of the Bureau to help with her liquor license.

Yes, her liquor license.

Here is documentation of Clara receiving $5.00 (the equivalent of $89.68 in 2020 U.S. dollars).

$5.00 to Clara for Rent, August 1866
Clara Mabry Receives Rent Payment from the Freedmen’s Bureau, 1866

The matter of Clara’s liquor license:

Freedmen’s Bureau December 9, 1867 Report on Clara Mabry

Here’s my best attempt to transcribe this document:

Richmond Virginia

Office Military Commission

Lawrenceville Virginia Dec. 9 1867


Referring to the second case allotted to the commission of Peter K Jones (herewith returned) stating that CLARA MABRY colored is being prosecuted by the civil authorities for selling liquor under a license from the Bureau, reports that he (Capt Kimball) has carefully investigated the matter + finds that the said CLARA MABRY has been presented + fined fifty -50- dollars for selling (as the civil authorities claim) liquor contrary to the laws of the state. Finds after the investigation that she had a United States license granted by Simon Stone Int. Rev. Collector Petersburg Va and also a written permit from Capt Stewart Barnes then Supt 2nd Sub Dist Va. to keep a hotel or sell liquor which was given after the county court refused to grant her license, I have informed the civil authorities that I do not consider that they had any right under the circumstances to prosecute this woman whether she had sufficient authority or not, for she …under it in good faith. Consider the prosecution presented only by a spirit to oppress this poor woman to edify the military. The fine not as yet paid advise the said CLARA MABRY not to pay it at present but to inform his (Lt Kimball) at once if they attempt to collect it or disturbs her further in the matter. Regards the case in for military interference if necessity requires.

Here’s a more detailed report, from December 18, 1867, about Clara’s liquor license controversy:

December 18, 1867 Bureau Report on Clara Mabry

Lawrenceville Va Dec 12. 1867
Office A.J. AComm

Reply returned to Brig. Genl O. Brown Asst. Comm. (2nd of Dist Va) inviting attention tot he enclosed report regarding the case of CLARA MABRY, colored, herein mentioned
Sgd, F.M. Kimball
LV + A.J. A.commr

Synopsis of Report—-States that CLARA MABRY (cold) has been presented by the civil authorities of Greensville Co. for selling liquor contrary to the laws of the state, between Feby 1st & Apl 17th 1866, and fined her $50.00. During the time she had a license as a retail liquor dealer granted her by Simon Stone Int. Rev. Col. she claims to have had a permit from Capt Barnes Supt of the Bureau for 2nd Dist Va to keep hotel and sell liquor which was granted her after the County Court had refused to grant license. This permit she cannot produce, as she says it was taken by Civil Authorities and carried into Court. It is acknowledged by some of the civil authorities that they have seen it. He claims that under the circumstances the civil authorities had no right to take the action they did, and he has informed them that they had no right to impose the fine. That the prosecution of the case has every appearance of being done to oppress the woman and defy the Military Authorities. The fine has not yet been paid and he has advised CLARA MABRY not to pay it at present and to inform him if the civil authorities called for it or troubled her in which case unless otherwise advised, he should regard military interference justly called for.

Bureau R F
2nd Sub Dist Va
Petersburg Dec 18th 1867
Reply forwarded to Brig. Genl O. Brown Asst Commr
JR Stone
Dev Major { Sub Asst Commr
Bureau F A

So, in other words, YES, Clara Mabry-against all odds— was a Boss Lady.

Stay tuned for continuing updates on Clara’s story and thanks, as always, for checking into —-

The Genealogy Situation Room

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