Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Baker Family of Somerset Plantation

Edwina Burnley Memoirs, written by Edwina Burnley and her sister Bertha, described life on the Somerset Plantation near Hazlehurst, Copiah County, Mississippi.

The owner of Somerset, Edwin Burnley, arrived in Mississippi with his brother Hardin in 1832. Somerset consisted of about 2300 acres of land, 1100 acres were in cultivation, and plenty of slaves to work the plantation. Burnley married his third wife Maria Louisa Baxter of New Jersey in 1852.

Edmund Staten Baker was a slave on the Somerset Plantation. Baker likely knew my people who were on neighboring Lucky Hit and Spring Hill Plantations. The owners of the three plantations were connected through kinship or marriage.

Researching Edmund has also revealed that Overton families, Overton is one of my direct surnames, were slaves on the Somerset Plantation.

Baker was born about 1810 in Virginia. He was the driver of a team of oxen, about six yokes, that he had well trained. His wife was Mary, a woman described as a tall, very black and a very religious. The couple had several children: Elijah, Wilson, Julia, Octavia, and Sylvester.

Elijah was the only child of the couple mentioned in the memoirs. He was born about 1848. Apparently, Elijah was a little sluggish when it came to being a waiter. His regular job was to stand against the wall and pull the rope that kept the fan moving to drive away the flies. One day when there was extra company for dinner, Elijah waited the table. When Burnley asked Elijah to pass a hot potato, he picked it up with his hands, tossing the potato from hand to hand before he asked his master to take the potato because it was burning him. Elijah never appeared in the dinning room again.

Soon after the dinning room incident, the overseer of Somerset was conscripted and Elijah went to the War with the overseer. Per the 1860 Copiah County census, Urban Buffkin was the overseer of Somerset. They both survived the War.

Next: After the War, Baker hires his children out.

Edwina Burnley Memoirs
1860 Copiah County Slave Schedule


  1. Elijah, Elijah, Elijah... My cousin told me some stories of her grandfather when he was a boy and his job was to work the dining room fan. This was after slavery but the circumstances seem similar. His mother was the cook and he was hoping for the last piece of pie if nobody ate it. When someone did he made some exclamation about his piece of pie. I don't know what happened after that though.

  2. I believe Octavia is my great great grandmother. So amazing to find this account!