A very respectable woman and a worthy one.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Elsie Drake filed claim #15804 with the Southern Claims Commission.  She was 79 years old and lived near Fayetteville.  “I lived on my own land.  I have 3 acres all cultivated.  Nursing was my occupation.”

“I had one grandson in the Confederate Army as a drummer.  His name is Warren Drake.  He is living in Montgomery Al. I did not furnish him with anything while in the Rebel servace.  He was carried off against my wish.  He ran away from the Army and came home.  He was a boy of about 14 years old.”

“My feeling was with the union.  My language was for the union.”

“I am a widow.  My husband has been dead about 15 years. I have 3 children living Thos. Drake … Robt. Drake … Warren Drake.  Neither of them was in the confederate servace.  They were slaves.”

“I was free at the beginning of the war.  My husband was a free man.  He bought me about 20 years ago. …  I bought some of my property  and raised some.  Got the money to pay for it by cooking and nursing.  John H. Cook was my former owner.  I am not and have not been in his employ since my husband bought me.”

Though Elsie Drake appears in neither the 1850 nor 1860 census of Cumberland County, in 1870 she is listed as “Elsey Drake,” age 77, in the household of her son Thomas in Cross Creek township.

Union soldiers took bacon, hogs, corn, flour, coffee, cooking utensils, soap, turkeys, geese, water buckets, bed quilts, tubs, blankets, a shawl and some sugar from her. Witnesses to the theft were Jenette Smith, Mollie Stephens and Ellen Simmons.

Special Commissioner John J. Minor noted: “Her husband … was always free and his wife lived with [him] since I first knew them up to his death.  She was a slave belonged to John H. Cook.  I presume her husband hired her time up to the time he bought her — She is a very respectable woman and a very worthy one … Her witnesses are all very respectable col’d people.”

Though she appears in neither the 1850 nor 1860 censuses, in 1870, 70 year-old “Elsey” Drake is listed in her son Thomas’ household in Cross Creek township, Cumberland County.