Finding Foster

As many of you know, I’m currently researching a book about a man, William Macon Waller, who took about 20 of his slaves to Mississippi in 1847-48. His plan was to sell the slaves in Mississippi to cover debts he had at home in Amherst County, Va.

Part of my research has involved finding out what happened to the individual slaves. I haven’t had much luck yet. After all, the men Waller sold the people to were mostly large landholders with hundreds of slaves. Finding evidence of one, among all the others (some of which had the same names) is, not surprisingly, difficult.

So, I decided to focus on one for now: Foster.

On the off chance that someone else out there, possibly a descendant, also is looking for Foster, here’s what I know about him:

Foster was probably not an old man in 1847, when Waller and his slaves left Amherst, Va., bound for Mississippi, via the overland route through Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. He had to be able to walk 25 miles a day.

So, I’m guessing he was born sometime between 1810 and 1830.

Also, when Foster was eventually sold, he sold for $1,200, two or three times more than anyone else sold by Waller on that trip. In fact, Waller took Foster to New Orleans, where he would bring a better price. So, it’s my assumption that Foster was a skilled worker of some kind, maybe a carpenter or something like that.

Waller and Foster left Vicksburg, Miss., on a steamship called the Mount Vernon sometime in the first week of January 1848. The ship took them down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Waller left Foster in New Orleans, where he was sold, sometime around the first week of February.

And that’s all I know, except that it’s likely Foster was born in Virginia.

Maybe you’re looking for an ancestor, named Foster, who was black or mulatto, and a slave born in Virginia. While he was sold in New Orleans, based on shipping manifests that I’ve seen online, he could have ended up in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, or some other slave state. And if he survived to Emancipation, he could have returned to Virginia or ended up someplace else.

If this rings a bell with anyone out there in Cyberspace, please let me know. I’d like to know more about your ancestor and talk to you, too.


4 thoughts on “Finding Foster

    1. Thanks! I spent a few hours today, finding possible Fosters online, but it’ll be a lot of work to run down whether or not there’s a connection. One, for instance, was born in Virginia in about 1805 (which works) and was a carpenter and cooper (barrel maker) in Louisiana, which was where I can last place Foster. He had children, so I’ll need to follow them forward in history. It will take lots of luck!


    1. Thanks for reading. I’ve never found anything connecting Waller to Indian slaves. You might be referring to a story that ran in Smithsonian magazine a while back where the author mistakenly refers to the enslaved child India, who belonged to Waller, as “Indian.” Having transcribed and researched all of the Waller letters pertaining to his journey to Natchez in 1847, there are several references to a child named “India.” In one reference, perhaps the one the author got his spelling of the name from, the name could be read as “Indian.” The “a” seems to trail off at the end to look almost like an “n.” However, in the other 2 or 3 references to India, there is clearly no “n” at the end. India was not an uncommon name, at the time, either. But in short, I have never found anything relating to Waller and Indian slaves.


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