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A Hartage Family History: From Slavery to the 1950s

An Account of Webster Joshua Hartage (c.1851-1887) and Manerva Mathis-Butts Hartage (c.1853-1927) and of Their Descendants

Introduction and First Chapter


By Clarence D. White


Presented to the Sixteenth Hartage Family Reunion

June 28-30, 2019

Orlando, Florida




This paper marks the start of an integrated family history in which I update, correct, synthesize and supplement the various writings that I have done since 1986, when I prepared a family history and reunion program booklet for the second reunion in Jacksonville, Florida. Having ready access to demographic data such as census records, death certificates and marriage certificates on and its free—enables, indeed facilitates, this work. Both websites are sponsored by the Mormons’s The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Research that took countless hours loading, viewing and copying from microfilm of US Census records (also published by the LDS denomination) at the downtown Atlanta public library 25 or 30 years ago can now be accomplished online in a small fraction of the time. My plan is to complete this work over the next few years and to publish it on the Marion County history website at


Chapter One--Family Origins in Slavery and Reconstruction


The history of the African Hartages in Marion County, Georgia during slavery is easy to trace because there was only one: Webster Joshua, who was the only slave belonging to Zachariah Hardage and Delilah Peebles Hardage. (This is the usual spelling of this old English surname, Hardage. When George, oldest son of Webster Joshua, learned to read and write, he changed the spelling, whether deliberately or in error is not clear.) The slave schedule of 1860 for Marion County lists a nine-year- old black male slave living in the household of this couple at Red Bone (now Brantley) along with their three children aged 4, 3 and 1. The slave censuses did not list the slaves by name, only the name of their owner, their sex, color, and age, and the number of slave houses. We can be sure, however, of Webster’s identity because the 1870 census lists him by name, age 18, as living in the household of his former owners at Red Bone along with their five children. The rock chimney of the house on the old Hardage homestead still stands on the east side of present-day Hartage Ford Road at Brantley. One wonders if Webster Joshua was an orphan or if he had been separated from his family through a sale. Zack and Delilah Hardage may have been able to afford only him. They were of modest means, owning 300-400 acres of land, according to the valuation in the 1860 census.

In 2002 at the Ninth Hartage Family Reunion the author read a paper on the origins of the African Hartage, Battle and Shipp families during slavery and Reconstruction which was posted on the Marion County History website at Subsequently several readers who were descendants of the slaveholders replied to him, including Charles Marlin Hardage of Buena Vista, Georgia, great grandson of Zachariah White Hardage and Delilah Peebles Hardage. Mr. Hardage had no knowledge or records of slaves owned by his ancestors. Therefore, he was unable to shed light on whether Webster Hartage was an orphan or whether he had been separated from his family through a sale or perhaps a division of slaves among heirs pursuant to a will or inheritance laws. Nevertheless, he disclosed that the Hardage genealogy goes back to Derbyshire, England in the late 1500s, that the first immigrants to America settled in Maryland and Westmoreland County, Virginia, that some of them relocated to Edgefield County, South Carolina near the Georgia border and Augusta, that some then relocated to Upson County (Thomaston), and some moved from there to Marion County soon after it was formed in 1827. Later, some family members left Marion County and moved to Mississippi. As the slaveholders moved, they would have taken their slaves with them. It’s not difficult to imagine a network of undiscovered kinship across several states among persons named Hardage or Hartage or whose ancestors had marriage or other union with them. Over time DNA tests results could provide clues.

The first written record of the union of Manerva Mathis Butts Hartage (c.1853-1927) and Webster Joshua Hartage (c.1851-1887) is the census of 1880. No marriage license was recorded. In 1880, Webster, aged 28, and Manerva, 24, were enumerated as husband and wife at Tazewell along with children Brister 8, George (mistakenly recorded as Georgia, a female) 7, Martha 3 and Richard (aka Robert and Dink) 8 months. There were several slaveholders In Marion County named Mathis in 1850 and 1860 who could have owned Manerva and her family. Lewis Mathis of Fort Perry, north of Red Bone, had a daughter named Minerva, born 1841, who might have been Manerva’s namesake. Manerva’s death certificate of 1927, in which her son Dink Hartage is informant, names Issac Mathis as her father but the mother’s maiden name is “unknown.” For years the assertion that Manerva had native American—Creek—ancestry has circulated in the Hartage family, but this claim is belied by the fact that several Ancestry DNA tests among her descendants show no such genetic result. Many family members, including Rev. George Hartage, were thought to look like Indians, with broad noses, the right facial and lip color and shape, and other facial features common to the Creeks. One can find on the Internet images of Creeks currently living in Oklahoma that look like some Hartages, but the Hartage look derives from West Africa, not from the Creek Nation, according to several results for several Hartages.

This author has for years been unable to locate a Manerva Mathis in the 1870 census when she would have been around 17 years old. After intense scrutiny, the only Manerva he located in Marion County was one Manerva living in a Johnsin or Johnson household at Tazewell, and the penmanship was virtually unreadable. Because he was looking for Mathis, not Johnsin or Johnson, the information was simply put away. Yet the family knew from received oral reports that before she married Webster, Manerva had two children by a man named Butts. No one knew if she was married to Mr. Butts. Her first child Jonas Butts was raised by the Butts family and took their surname while the second child named Bris or Brister or Briseo lived with her and Webster Hartage and was surnamed Hartage. Only now in 2019 after examining census data for 1870 and 1880 together did the truth emerge in an aha! moment. The census of 1870 shows one Manerva Johnson, 13, living at Tazewell with one Nelson Johnson, 33, and a Mary Johnson, 30, Isiah 10 and Hoke 8. The 1870 census did not ask what relationship individuals in a household had to the household head, whether wife, son, daughter, or other. Some African-American families named Butt or Butts live in the neighborhood. A white family headed by Samuel and Eady Johnson reside in the same neighborhood. In 1880, Nelson Butt 38 and Mary Ann Butt 38 were counted at Tazewell with Jonas Butt 5, listed as son, along with son Stokes 15, daughter Roxy Ann 5 months, and niece Mary Ann 5. Between 1870 and 1880, Nelson and Mary Ann changed their surname from Johnson to Butt. Looking back, it seems clear that Manerva Mathis at a young age was living in 1870 in a ménage à trois relationship with a much older man and his common law wife amid the upheaval and displacement of Reconstruction, and that she bore two children for him before marrying Webster Hardage around 1872. Perhaps the ménage was considered shameful and scandalous, which might explain the change in surname between 1870 and 1880. The name change also raises the question of how much kinship Nelson felt or knew he had to other blacks named Butt who lived in the neighborhood. In any case, the question of whether Manerva was married to Mr. Butts is settled: Manerva could not have been considered married to Nelson Butts since he already had a wife—Mary Ann.

Beyond the information in her death certificate, there is considerable circumstantial support of the proposition that Manerva was a Mathis and that her father was Issac Mathis. She lived most of her life at Doyle and Tazewell proximate to Mose Mathis, presumably her brother, and his wife Mary. In fact, many family members of her generation and the next two lived and worked in the same communities. Most were members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. We should, based on oral reports, shared religious preference, and living patterns, accept that Mose Mathis (born 1875), Issac Mathis II (1873-1948, those dates according to his daughter Morris Mathis Hawkins), and Ike Mathis (born 1874) were her siblings. Mose Mathis, born 1834 in Georgia, would seem to have been her uncle. His wife and her presumed aunt Harriett--who was born in 1843 in North Carolina, according to her death certificate--is buried in an unmarked grave at Mahalia Chapel AME Church Cemetery, as is Manerva. Only their general locations are known. The burial place of Webster Hartage is unknown.


A Hartage Family History: From Slavery to the 1950s

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