By Richard Gwynallen
Lucretia “Craty” Blake
1821 – 1896
Relationship to Fawn: 4th great grandmother
In The Blake Family Farm – A Post-Civil War Story, I introduced the Blake Family. We were very fortunate that they farmed an area in Wake County, North Carolina that was included in History of the Polk Prison Property, Blue Ridge Road, a study by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, to explore the historical and archaeological significance of the site in question. That required them to look into the land ownership history, which is where they recorded our Blake ancestors.
Amongst the new information was that my 2rd and 3rd great-grandmothers were mixed-race, and that the latter had owned land during the Civil War. After that discovery, I wondered if that family might have made a claim to the Southern Claims Commission, and, in fact, my great-great-great grandmother, Lucretia “Craty” Blake, had made a claim.
The Southern Claims Commission was set up after the Civil War to allow Union sympathizers in the south to file for compensation for quartermaster stores or supplies officially taken from their property by the Union Army or provided to the Union Army without compensation. It took claims from March 1871 – March 1873.
The claimant had to prove two points for a claim to be paid:
- The person was loyal to the Union during the Civil War.
- The person had quartermaster stores or supplies taken by or furnished without compensation to the Union Army during the rebellion.
Southern Loyalists made 22,298 claims for property losses. However, only 7,092 claims (32%) were approved for settlements.
I found online in the Records of the Commissioner of Claims that Craty Blake made a claim in Wake County, North Carolina. The claim number was 1,849. The amount of the claim was for $700.
An archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives informed me that the claim was allowed in part. She was awarded $325 of the $700 she claimed.
There was a long list of questions those making claims had to answer. I’ve read that these documents are very revealing of their life at that time.
One of the ways they proved they had been Union sympathizers and loyal to the Union (i.e., had not provided support to the Confederacy) was the testimony of other people, including friends, neighbors, family, former slaves, and free Blacks. Most union sympathizers, actively supporting union forces or not, kept a low profile and were careful with whom they shared their sympathies. There were some areas that were concentrations of union support, but through most of the south the Southern Unionist was limited in who they could trust with their sympathies.
I have not yet found any surviving documentation from her claim. The Center for Legislative Archives advised me that “allowed” claims were forwarded to the Treasury Department because Treasury paid out the claims. The Center for Legislative Archives retains only those files for “barred” or “disallowed” claims.
I wrote to the Treasury Department only to find out that Treasury did have all those files but they were long ago sent to the reference unit at the main National Archives building, which is a separate division from the Center for Legislative Archives.
I followed up by writing to that unit, and an archivist from the reference unit got back to me very promptly to say they could not find a file on Craty Blake. However, she didn’t say it didn’t exist. They can only research databases. Intensive research past that they are not permitted to do. So, if the case didn’t get put into the database they can’t find it, but it might be there.
The archivist said that there are gaps in the records. The case files in question never came to the National Archives from Treasury, nor do they know what happened to the case files.
I may well have to go to the National Archives for some onsite research, but lacking the time for that right now, particularly not knowing if there is a chance the effort would be fruitful, I’ve taken a few additional steps.
I wrote back to the main National Archives reference unit to ask if the file might be under the name of Lucretia Blake, The case number is under Craty Blake so I never used the name Lucretia in my communications. Since we know (1) from the Center for Legislative Archives, that the claim was partially paid, and (2) from the History of the Polk Prison Property, Blue Ridge Road, that Craty and Lucretia Blake were one and the same person, perhaps the file name became Lucretia Blake at payment. Small chance, but who knows? As of this writing I have not heard back.
The Records of the Commissioner of Claims shows that another Blake in Wake County, Marinda Blake, also made a claim about the same time of Craty Blake’s claim. We don’t know if she was related, but her claim was in Wake County, North Carolina, and her claim number was only four away from Craty’s number.
Marinda Blake’s claim number was 1,844. The amount of the claim was for $638.
Since the Center for Legislative Archives was the only one so far to give me information I didn’t already know I wrote back to the same archivist who had responded to my originally query. The next day she confirmed that Marinda Blake’s claim had been partially allowed in the amount of $339 and paid in 1873. After learning that, I wrote to the main National Archives reference unit requesting the surviving documentation. I have not yet heard back from that unit.
Since the testimony of friends and relatives was one of the main ways claimants proved that they had been loyalists during the Civil War, my hope is that Marinda might mention Craty, or that Craty might actually have testimony in Marinda’s file. That, too, would give a picture of their times, and, perhaps, clarify the relationship between Marinda and Craty.
What do we know?
I have not given up on locating some surviving documentation, but knowing it might take awhile I thought I would add to the website what we know to date.
If nothing else ever shows up, what we know still tells us something about our Wake County Blake ancestors:
- Craty Blake made a claim in Wake County, North Carolina.
- The claim number was 1,849.
- The amount of the claim was for $700.
- She was awarded $325 of the $700 she claimed. Therefore, she proved the two points that had to be proven for a claim to be allowed: (1) that she was a Unionist/Loyalist during the war, and (2) that she had quartermaster stores or supplies either officially taken by the Union Army or provided to the Union Army without compensation.
In addition, we know that another Blake, Marinda, living in the same county and filing a claim very close to the time Craty filed, was also partially awarded her claim. Therefore, we can assume that she, too, proved the same two points.
Perhaps actual surviving documentation will be found to flesh their story out more, but, at present, it at least seems clear that this part of our family were Union supporters during the Civil War.
Southern Claims Commission documentation might eventually shed some light on the Mooneyhams as well. Lucretia’s daughter, Ann Eliza, married Addison/Adeson Mooneyham. Eliza and Addison sharecropped land next to her mother’s property. Addison definitely knew he was marrying into a mixed-race family because Eliza’s status as a mullato was stated on the 1880 Census, while Addison and their children were listed as “white”, and I assume he knew they were Unionists.
In addition to whatever may come of my search for Southern Claims Commission records, what we know to date gives some context for a smattering of other stories, and some speculations I am pursuing as to the Blake ancestry, which will, hopefully, be the substance of future essays.
For information on the subject of Southern Unionists and the Southern Claims Commission
For anyone interested in filing requests for Southern Claims Commission records, the following St. Louis County Library site is helpful: Research Southern Claims Commission Records.
There are also a number of publications out that discuss Southern white unionists. These are a few, but there are many more.
A Poor Man’s Fight; William Marvel
Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War; David Williams
Voices in the Wilderness: Southerners who Opposed Secession; Virginia Pierce
Lincoln’s Loyalists: Union Soldiers from the Confederacy; Richard Nelson