Jane Jackson-Thompson

Little in the description of Jane Thompson in the Book of Negroes is correct. There is no evidence to support the claim that she was born free; she is not listed as free in the Norfolk tithables and her children were enslaved. A woman we know to be Jane Thompson is consistently listed in Tucker’s tithable slave lists till his death in 1767, when she is listed in his inventory as “Old Jenny”. Nor is she as old as 70. From the tithable data it seems likely that she is closer to 60 which is the age given in the Birchtown muster.


Given that Jane is recorded to be the grandmother of Hannah Jackson's children the presumption is that Hannah must be her daughter, especially since Hannah was owned by Tucker’s close friend Thomas Newton, whose son married Tucker’s daughter. But since Hannah has children named Jackson. The almost universal rule in this cohort is that children and mothers carry the father’s name, so Hannah was married to someone called Jackson.

The most likely scenario is that her husband was deceased. There are two possible contenders, either a black seaman named Edward Jackson, or Francis Jackson a recruit in Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment. The names of these two men are contained in fragments of musters from Dunmore’s fleet found in May 1776. Both a Ned and a Frank are consistently listed in Tucker’s tithables and his inventory. In late 1775 Frank ran away from Robert Tucker Jr and Ned ran away from Maximillian Calvert who had acquired some of Tucker's slave property. Frank is too old to be Hannah's husband so the man is most likley to be Edward or Ned Jackson who probabaly died in the smallpox epidemic of 1776. Frank/ Francis Jackson would be his father.


 There was no reason to presume a connection to Hannah Jackson and Jane Thompson to the another Jackson to John Jackson, owned by Anthony Walke, who defected in 1780 who is also travelling on the L’Abondance, because he has a wife named Nancy. This appears to be the woman named Nelly Jackson who travels on an earlier ship with  James Jackson, who was owned by Robert Tucker, and was one of the black pilots on Dunmore fleet, his wife and daughter, and  is London Jackson, another pilot who defected to General Leslie early in 1780. London also has a wife and these two families settle on a land grant on Nutt Island in Nova Scotia. The circumstantial evidence of the connections between their owners, their occupation, and times at which they defected, lead me to conclude that James and John Jackson are  brothers and that London Jackson is James's son. It also looks as if James Jackson [Sweepston] is also his son. This seems unlikely at first since his owner is Richard Swepston from Mecklenberg County, but he could easily have come into that ownership through the marriage of Richard Swepston with the widow of John Tabb who was a close associate of William Ballard.

The chance discovery of a land transfer deed for the Nutt Island grant in the Nova Scotia land records revealed that Jane Thompson was the mother of James Jackson, which would also make her the mother of John Jackson and the grandmother of London Jackson and James Jackson [Swepston]. After laborious searching and cross-referencing of the Norfolk tithable lists between 1750 and 1780 I have concluded that she was most likely also the mother of John Jackson and Edward Jackson, and her was her husband was probably the deceased man Francis Jackson.

But who was her  second husband named Thompson? Her claim to be a free woman drew my  attention to a free black sail-maker in Norfolk named Talbot Thompson  and a search of the Virginia records indicates that Thompson’s bought his own freedom from his owner in James City County, and this was formalized by his petition on 3 Nov 1761:

The Petition of Talbot Thompson a Slave of Alexander McKensie Gentleman now residing in Great Britain, setting forth his long, faithful and extraordinary services; that his Master directed Benjamin Waller Gentleman whom he impower'd to transact his business in this Colony, to sell him according to his the Petitioners own liking, that encouraged by Gentlemen who knew his services and promis'd to assist him to bargain for his freedom, he applied in 1758 to the said Benjamin Waller who agreed to set him free upon his paying Sixty Pounds in five years, and that he has paid the Money, and praying License from this Board for his Freedom: and the said Benj: Waller having certified on the back of the Petition that he believes the Allegations thereof to be true, and has no objections to it; It is ordered that he be permitted and authorized to manumit and set free the Petitioner according to his prayer.

 Was Jane Thompson the wife of this enterprising man? Talbot Thompson’s second petition makes it clear that Jane Thompson was indeed his wife and that she was living with him as his wife for many years although she was still enslaved to Robert Tucker. On Tucker’s death Thompson purchased her from Tuckers estate and on 14 June 1769 Thompson sought to manumit his wife in a petition which read:

Talbot Thompson a free Negro, setting forth that for many years last past he has lived with Jenny a Negro Woman slave, formerly belonging to Col: Robert Tucker of Norfolk deceas'd, as Man and Wife, that he purchas'd his said Wife at the sale of the said Tucker's Estate, and is desirous of releasing her from Slavery in consideration of her affectionate and faithful behaviour to him; and a Certificate annexed of Robert Tucker the Son confirming the truth of the said Allegations, and her fidelity, extraordinary Services, and constant Obedience; the Board being satisfied therein, were of opinion, that She was deserving of her freedom, and it was accordingly order'd, that the said Thompson be permitted to manumit and set her free.

Thompson had a thriving sail-making business in Norfolk and was remarkably successful for a free black; he was the owner of 4 houses, as well as two apprentices and several one or two workers. However by 1775 he must have felt uneasy with the emerging new order since he and his wife defected to Lord Dunmore. This happened after January 1776 when all his property was destroyed when the patriot militia set fire to Norfolk. His losses from that event were assessed as worth 4000 pounds. In a claim to the Loyalist Claims Commission in England Jane Thompson put Talbot Thompson loss at 649 pounds including the value of a slave man, also a sailmaker, who was killed at Great Bridge. Talbot Thompson died in New York in 1782. It is seems that he and Jane had at least two children: Samuel and James

Samuel Thompson born around 1753. In the 1774 tithable list in the same list as Talbot Thompson there is "Samuel Thompson, a free Negro". I assume this is Talbot Thompson's son and that he has bought his freedom. There is no record of his formal manumission this must have been an informal arrangement which was not legal and that he would still legally be the property of his owner. In the Tucker estate of 1768 there are two adult males named Sam: the older one was a miller inherited by Robert Tucker Jr and was still enslaved when he joined Dunmore in 1776. The younger Sam was a sawyer at Deep Creek who appears to have been purchased by Cornelius Calvert  although he is not listed in Calvert's tithables, he was claimed as a runaway in 1776. Samuel Thompson appears to be to be the husband of Grace Thompson who was owned by Cornelius Calvert in 1776.  Grace was originally owned by Edward Thruston  but in 1768 she  was listed with Sam in Robert Tucker tithables. She was then owned by Cornelius Calvert who married Edward Thruston's daughter.  Grace Thompson is recorded with Jane and Talbot Thompson at Tucker’s Point in May 1776. Her name is on a fragment of muster of women embarked on the Dunluce on 21 May 1776. However she must have returned to her owner when her husband died before Dunmore left Norfolk. She and her girls finally ran away in 1779.Grace travels with daughters Isabella and Lydia  on the L’Abondance with Jane Thompson.

James Thompson travels with his wife on the same ship as Jane Thompson. I believe he was the James listed with Robert Tucker Junior later sold to the pilot Edward Cooper in Hampton who had close connections to William Ballard, owner of London Jackson and possible hirer of James Jackson. He has a strong link to the snowball family through Grace Thompson (the wife of his smaule Thompson) who brother is Timothy Snowball.  According to Cornelius Calvert’s claim for loses to the British, Timothy Snowball ran away in 1779 with a group of five adults and six year old child named Parthina. In the Birchtown muster James Thompson and his wife Jane have living with them a child of eight, named Maria Snowball. This must be the child of Timothy Snowball who was working away from Birchtown when the muster was taken.

The extensive Tucker estate undoubtedly included wider network of kin of Jane Thompson. Where it is possible to track individuals originally the property of Robert Tucker, it is apparent that nearly every one of Tucker’s original slaves defected to the British at different times. Most ran between November 1775 and January 1776, which raises questions about Dunmore’s decision to seize and occupy the land and mill at Tucker’s Point between February and May 1776. Nine men, two women and a boy ran from Robert Tucker Jr in 1775/1776, according to the claim for losses lodged by his wife, in addition to the known loss of James Jackson. Among the enslaved men and women lost by the Calvert Brothers, Thomas Nelson and Phillip Carberry were slaves they had acquired from the Tucker estate.

Unfortunately epidemic disease killed off about 70% of the slave defectors to Dunmore, but it is possible to identify at least three survivors: Betty Tucker 28, who is immediately next to Jane Thompson in the Birchtown muster. This is  believed to be her daughter Betty who was marrid to James Tucker aged 50, enslaved ferryman John Phrip, a close friend of Tucker, who travels with King Tucker in the Royal Artillery Department is probably his brother and is presumed dead. James Tucker is presumed to be the brother of  King Tucker, a maritime worker aged 50 enslaved to Robert Tucker who also travelled who travels with the Royal Artillery Department. He is listed dead at Birchtown.Betty James and King Tucker ran raway at the same time in 1776. 

Jane Thompson lodged an extensive claim with the Loyalist Claims Commission in London that ran to nine pages but was not successful.  She did not leave for Sierra Leone in 1791 even though most of the other member of her extended family did. Jane Thompson appears in a list of destitute and distressed persons in Nova Scotia 1792.