Was Harry Flowers a Slave?



Harry Flowers, the father of Rachel, was born in 1846 in Putnam County, Florida. According to Census documents (link below), there were a total of 2,487,355 slaves in 1840, 3,204,313 slaves in 1850, and 3,953,760 in 1860.In Florida, there were 25,717 in 1840, 39,310 in 1850, and 61,745 in 1860. I decided to use the information provided by the Census due to differences in statistics in books.

Now Harry could have been a free man, I will never know for sure until I receive his pension records from the Veterans Office which I sent in a month ago. Short story: My professor for my Civil War America class graciously traveled to D.C. to see if he could retrieve Harry Flowers’ Pension record. Turns out, his files are still at the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, this means someone has continued to pull funds out of Harry’s pension. Well, that is fine, but it means that if you are doing research you have to submit a letter in due to privacy acts in order to have records mailed to you. I am still waiting on the files.

Now Harry could have been a free man (I know I repeated myself), but I highly doubt it. Around the 1850s, there were only 932 freed blacks, 804 in 1855, and 932 again in 1860 in Florida most being Black Seminoles. 

Okay let’s go back well…actually forward in time. In the 1920 Census of the Flowers family, it states that Harry’s father was born in Georgia.

1920 United States Federal Census-1


In this book entitled, Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia (Vol 2), states, “The Western Africans who were deported to the United States during the 18th and 19th Century were normally given a new single, simple, name.” The author goes on to state, “ Another naming practice used was to name the slave after the birthplace or the place where the slave was brought. A third naming principle used by the slave-owners was to bestow upon him or her name from the classical world…A fourth case was to give the slave a biblical name…” Well, the name Harry is simple, not after a certain location, and is not biblical at least I do not recall learning about a biblical man named Harry. His first name is no help, but his last name is valuable.

Once they became free blacks, most former slaves took surnames and it was a common practice to assume the surname of one’s former owner. Tobias, the slave of Nehemiah Curtis, therefore becomes Tobias or Tobe Curtis and Zephaniah, the slave of Daniel Booth, becomes Zephaniah Booth.”

The Slaves of Central Fairfield County: The Journey from Slave to Freeman in 19th Century Connecticut

In the slave schedules of 1850 and 1860, there were no plantation owners with the last name Flowers living in Florida; however, there were a number of Flowers slave owners in Georgia, the birthplace of Harry’s father.


The image above is from the book The 1850 Census of Georgia Slaveowners by Jack F. Cox. You will notice three Flowers—James, James M., and William. James M. Flowers owned 41 slaves while James owned 9 and William only 1. According to his Civil War enlistment papers, Harry was born in Putnam County, Florida about 60 miles south of Jacksonville both located near the Georgia border. His father could have been sold to a plantation in East Florida and met his “wife” for Harry’s mother’s birthplace is listed as Florida.

US Colored Troops Military Service Records 186118-1

Harry’s occupation at the time of his enlistment was listed as a farmer, yet I found most former slaves enlisted held the occupation of farmer or laborer in the 21st USCT. All the men within this regiment were also said to be former slaves from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Was Harry a slave? I am positive that he was, but I cannot be certain of this until those records come in. I hope they come soon…my paper is due in a month.

Until the next post.

Harry F. Flowers 1846-1928





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