Ibby Jane Smith was born in January 1864 in Northampton County, Virginia, the daughter of Leah Smith, also called Leah Jacob, and Seth Smith, also known as Seth Scott. Ibby Jane’s father had served in Company C, 10th Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Ibby received a pension from the United States government for her father’s service during the Civil War. The information about Ibby Jane Smith, her parents, her grandparents, uncles and aunts is found in Northampton County Chancery Cause Harry Fitchett & wife, etc. VS admr. of Ibby Jane Smith (alias Ibbie Jane Smith) etc.1886-003.
The deposition of Jacob Fitchett, the acting Sergeant in charge of the Freedman’s Bureau at Town Fields (near present day Cheriton in Northampton County), tells how Ibby Jane’s mother, Leah, brought her to Town Fields in January 1864 when Ibby Jane was about two weeks old. Leah registered Ibby Jane as the legitimate child of Seth Smith, alias Seth Scott. Leah claimed Seth as her husband because they had lived together as husband and wife.
The deposition of John A. Nottingham, the son of James B. Nottingham, Leah’s former owner, stated that Leah and Seth began cohabiting in 1861 at Dr. George W. Smith’s farm. Dr. Smith, the son-in-law of James B. Nottingham, was the owner of Seth. While living at the Smith farm, Seth went off to join the Union army.
Another deposition from James C. White, the agent “who had prosecuted Ibby’s claim against the United States Government for pension money,” stated that Seth Smith was a private in Company C, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops. Seth died of disease at Point of Rocks in Chesterfield County on 22 May1865. Mr. White succeeded in obtaining a pension of $1550 for Ibby Jane.
The deposition of Thomas Scott, Seth’s brother, gave information about their parents and sisters. He also verified that his brother claimed Leah as his wife.
In his deposition, James Spady stated that he served at Fortress Monroe and that Seth Scott was stationed at Camp Hampton near the Fort. James visited Seth at Camp Hampton in February 1864, at which time Seth asked James to look after Leah and the child. He also said that Seth declared his intention to marry Leah when he returned home. James returned to Northampton County in March 1864.
Ibby Jane died in July 1880. Both of her parents were dead and she did not have any brothers or sisters. Her mother’s family brought suit in Northampton County to obtain their shares of her estate. They did not want Seth Scott’s family to receive a share of Ibby Jane’s estate. Jacob Nottingham, a former slave of James B. Nottingham, made a petition for his share of Ibby Jane’s estate because he claimed to be her maternal grandfather [See images 6-18].
Jacob Nottingham’s petition, filed 19 June 1884, provides a summary of the depositions given by witnesses in 1880. However, in Nottingham’s version of events Seth Scott joined the U. S. Army in November 1863 and died at Point Lookout.
According to the depositions of John A. Nottingham and Dr. George W. Smith, the slaves in Northampton County were freed in 1863 as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The chancery court ultimately decided in favor of both sets of heirs and divided Ibby Jane Smith’s estate accordingly. Thanks to the nature of the suit, researchers have information on several generations of the Smith (Scott) and Jacob families in Northampton County.
–Louise Jones, Local Records Archivist