Edward Butts of Southampton County

Just who was Edward Butts, really? There is certainly more than his being the primary executor of Henry Harrison’s estate. While piecing together information in order to gain a wider perspective of how my Turner ancestors fared after being freed in Harrison’s last will, I recently ran across some really unbelievable facts about who this Edward Butts was.

While the information I just happened across is not “new” to those who have done a deep dive into the events in Southampton in 1831, it gives me pause because these facts reiterate just how intertwined a number of these figures are.

Before we get to the recent discovery of connection, here’s more background:

Edward Butts was born in Southampton County, Virginia in the year 1782 to Thomas Clements Butts and Sarah Ann Butts nee Hunt. He married Rebecca Gurley on November 17, 1830. According to the census of that year, Edward Butts held eighteen souls enslaved. By 1850, he held sixty-one people.

Most of the over 100 Ancestry family trees that have this Edward Butts profiled, have his date of death as October 1, 1857 in Southampton. Whatever the exact date, his Southampton County last will and testament was proved on October 19, 1857.

According to the will of Edward Butts, he asked that all of his just debts be paid and he left everything to his son, James Thomas Butts. Edward Butts also appointed Joseph E Gillette, James D. Bryant and Harrison P. Pope as his securities.

The January 15, 1856 Last Will and Testament of Edward Butts, Southampton County Will Book 16, Page 97 Courtesy: Brantley Association Southampton County Project
The January 15, 1856 Last Will and Testament of Edward Butts, Southampton County Will Book 16, Page 98 Courtesy: Brantley Association Southampton County Project

In terms of Edwards Butts’ activity and life in the legal arena, here are some findings:

Southampton County Court Minute Book 1842-48, Page 140

“The last Will and Testament of Henry Harrison deceased was proved by the oath of John A Person + William L Everitt the subscribing witnesses thereto + ordered to be recorded Littleton R Edwards and Howell Harris two of the Exrs therein named appeared in Court + refused to take upon themselves the burdens of the executors of the said Will on the motion of Edward Butts the other executor therein named who made oath + gave bond + security according to same certificate is granted him for obtaining a probate of the said Will in due form.”

Edward Butts made his first report on his administration of Henry Harrison’s estate on July 20, 1846. See the record below:

Southampton County Court Will Book 13, Page 562 Courtesy: Brantley Association Southampton County Project

Edward Butts stood as security for Burwell Williams, and he was the executor for a number of estates, including Charles Butts, Martha Felts, Benjamin Griffin, Shadrach Futtrell, and John Williamson.

That wasn’t all that Edward Butts did.

On March 21, 1831 he was also appointed a deputy under Sheriff Clements Rochelle:

Southampton County Court Minute Book 1830-35, Page 28 Courtesy: Brantley Association Southampton County Project

This fact brings me to the point of my writing this post, the interconnectedness of people and events in Southampton County, Virginia is stunning. I have learned that the very person who oversaw the livelihoods of the legatees freed in the will of Henry Harrison (my ancestors) was the same person who jailed and executed a certain Nat Turner.

Edward Butts

Receipt for the Capture of Nat Turner Given to Benjamin Phipps by Southampton County Sheriff Edward Butts (Oct. 31, 1831)
Transcription of above receipt Courtesy of Professor Douglas O. Linder’s Famous Trials website
Excerpt from April 24, 1994 Washington Post article by Ken Ringle

It is humbling to be in a time that allows for learning and sharing about all of these historical connections. It is a type of reclamation. There is much to learn, there is much to reclaim.

This is our situation.

The Genealogy Situation Room

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