Toomer, How We Got the Name
By Floyd M. Riley, Family Historian
The name Toomer is believed to be Welsh or Norman. It belonged to a family whose patriarch, John Joshua Toomer migrated to the colony of South Carolina in the late 1600’s. In 1747, a branch of this European Toomer family relocated to North Carolina, where they purchased and farmed large plantations.
During the first half of the 19th century, John DeRosset Toomer, a great-grandson of John Joshua Toomer moved from the Lower Cape Fear region, up the Cape Fear River and eventually settled in Pittsboro, Chatham County, North Carolina.
In 1838, John D. Toomer began purchasing land in Houston County Georgia. Approximately twelve years later, three of his sons: Henry, (called the colonel), Dr. Frederick Armand Toomer and John Swann Toomer took up residence in the town of Perry, Georgia. They established two plantations: Flat Creek and Hog Crawl. Over 129 slaves: men, women and children worked the land and brought these plantations to life. These were the Toomers of color.
On June 22, 1858 a deed was recorded in which fourteen slaves were purchased by Colonel Henry from his brother, John for the sum of $7,000. Five of these individuals are of particular interest to us. The deed reads as follows:
"I John S. Toomer…sell unto the said Henry Toomer…the following property to wit; a Negro woman named Caroline and her four children, Caroline; about 28 years old, of yellow complexion, Alexander, a mustee about 6 years, Frank, a mustee about 4 years, Mary, a mustee about 2, Lucy, a mustee and infant…the above Negroes I warrant to be sound and well in body and mind and to be slaves for life." (Houston County Deed Book L, 124-`125)
After countless hours of research, recording oral histories and documenting events and individuals through birth, death and marriage records, as well as the US Census: Caroline has been identified as the grandmother of our ancestor Henry Toomer (1877 – 1950). Lucy, his mother, was an infant at the time of the slave transaction. Her sister, Mary would later become the matriarch of the Toomer-Lawson family line of which our cousins the Haliburtons descend.
The deed has also revealed Lucy’s brothers, Alexander and Frank, of whom we had no prior knowledge. Using this information we were able to find Caroline, her husband William, children Alexander, Frank, Mary, and Lucy, along with the addition of Sarah and Lurelia, in the 1870 US Census record; making a family unit of eight.
This same research has led us to some of the descendants of Frank, Caroline’s son. We are pleased that Dorothy Davis, Frank’s granddaughter from Chicago, Illinois and her family attended our last reunion in 1998.