When the Haile family moved to Alachua County from Camden, South Carolina in 1854, they brought with them a large contingent of
enslaved people. Among them were Billy Watts, Johnson Chestnut, Edmund Kelley, his young son, Bennet, and many others whose
names are lost to time. But through the oral family histories passed down through generations of their descendants we now have
a clearer picture of who they were and what their contributions were to the building and running of the Kanapaha plantation.
The 1860 Slave Schedules show Thomas Evans Haile as having 66 enslaved people who inhabited 18 dwellings. The Haile Homestead,
completed in 1856, was built in 18 months’ time. The house stands today over 150 years later as a testament to the skills of
the craftsmen who built it: a silent tribute to the enslaved people who labored to build and maintain it.
|BILLY WATTS was a carpenter whose leadership abilities and skills allowed the Hailes to entrust the
building of the homestead into his care and oversight. Billy was married to Louisa Kendrick (1845 – 1910), daughter of Claybourne
Kendrick and his wife Eliza Chisholm Kendrick (Eliza was the daughter of Ned Chisholm). “Uncle Billy” was born in 1838 in South
Carolina and died in 1910. He is buried alongside his wife Louisa in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Gainesville, Florida. Billy worked
for the Hailes all his life, first as a slave and then as a hired hand. After Freedom he lived in a log cabin nearby on acres of
his own property. Billy and Louisa had many children: William Jr., Louisa (Lucy) Watts Rochelle, Daniel, Judith P. Watts Rainey,
Richard, James, Bessie Watts Brown, Edward and Clarence. Both Bessie and Judith attended college and became teachers. James
had a daughter named Juliette Watts McCoy. Richard (1875– ~ 1892), who worked alongside Bennet Kelley as a hired hand, was
killed tragically and buried near a sinkhole on the Haile property. Richard was no longer mentioned in Serena Haile’s journal
after March 25, 1892. Clarence became a blacksmith.
|JOHNSON CHESTNUT, born in Camden South Carolina ~ 1828, was a gifted carpenter and furniture maker
who was possibly enslaved at one time by Serena Haile’s father, Capt. John Chesnut. Johnson Chestnut built some of the furniture
used by the Hailes and, according to oral tradition, carved his initials somewhere on the pieces. After Freedom Johnson served
on the Gainesville City Commission from 1868 - 1869. He also was employed by the Hailes from time to time to fix the roof as
evidenced by entries in Serena Haile’s journal:
|1893, Jul 19 … “Johnson” Chesnut Carpenter came to see about house
1893, Jul 25 … “Johnson” commenced to work on house – Front piazza
1893, Jul 27 … Johnson & Jim W. shingling Front Piazza
1893, Jul 28 …“Johnson & Jim W.” worked steadily all day on house. got up to Front Room
|Johnson Chestnut and his wife Maria (born ~1832) had three sons, John, Lawrence and James. It was passed down that, as a
young boy, Lawrence worked closely with his father. He later worked in a printing office (source: 1870 census), a census taker,
a trustee for the Union Academy, the first school for African-American children in Gainesville, and was active in politics.
Lawrence (born ~1853) married Lula Kendrick, daughter of Claybourne and Eliza Chisholm Kendrick, and a sister of Billy Watts’
wife, Louisa. Lula was 13 years old when she came to this area from Chester, SC. Originally called “Lula” she later changed
her name to “Louise.” Known to the community as “Aunt Lou,” she died at the age of 100 in 1952. She and Lawrence had several
children: Maria (b. 1874), Hattie (b. 1878), Johnson Jr. (b. 1880), Charles (b. 1886), McKinley (b. 1887), Thomas (b. 1894)
and Ed (b. 1901). Charles Chestnut, Sr. founded Hughes & Chestnut Funeral Home in 1914. He and his wife Hattie (Ware) had
one son, Charles Jr. Charles Jr. had two children: Charles Chestnut III and Gloria Chestnut Duncan. Gloria married Colin Duncan,
who worked at the Hughes & Chestnut Funeral Home. He later started his own business, Duncan Brothers Funeral Home, which is
still in business today. Charles III carries on the family business today, now known as the Chestnut Funeral Home. The Chestnut
family has been and continues to be very active in local and state-wide politics.
|HENRY GAINES was the enslaved stone mason from the Stringfellow plantation who built the fireplaces, chimneys and support
piers on the plantation. Born in South Carolina ~ 1830 (source: 1880 census), he was married to Jane Gaines (born in Chester, SC ~ 1832)
who was also enslaved on the Stringfellow Plantation, six miles west of Gainesville at Fort Clarke, which adjoined the Haile property.
The 1880 census showed they had four children: Isabella Certain, a step-daughter (age 15), Henry Jr. (age 14), Frank (age 10)
and Isaiah (age 7). Oral history tells us that the smoothing iron and stand embedded in the base of the fireplace in the Nursery
Room of the Historic Haile Homestead was Henry’s way of signing his work. It has also been passed down that Henry put his initials
in the fireplaces he built.
|NED CHISHOLM (b. 1822), enslaved by the Stringfellows nearby, was loaned to the Hailes to put the cypress-shingled roof on the homestead.
His son Thomas also helped. Ned Chisholm served on the Gainesville City Commission and helped build the First Baptist Church in Gainesville.
Ned Chisholm’s daughter Eliza married Claybourne Kendrick. Among their children were Louisa Kendrick Watts (wife of Billy Watts),
Lula Kendrick Chestnut (wife of Lawrence Chestnut), Susie Kendrick, Kitty Kendrick and Jefferson Kendrick. Susie was married three times:
to Alexander Caldwell, Frank Jackson (twice), John Taylor, and to Henry Gaines, Jr. Susie’s marriage to Alexander Caldwell resulted in
the birth of Lillie Caldwell. Lillie first married William Brooks, then James Gines. Edith Gines McKnight was their daughter.
Lillie’s first marriage to William Brooks produced Dillie, Estella and Willie Brooks. Dillie married Daniel Wooden and had ten children.
Among them was Marietta who married Jackson Branton. Marietta and Jackson also had ten children: Jack Jr., Eloise, Henrietta, George,
Elijah, Martha, David, Rachel, Isaiah and Charles.
|THE KELLEY FAMILY:
Among those making the journey from Camden, South Carolina to Alachua County in 1854 were Edmund Kelley, born ~ 1820, and his wife Charity.
Edmund was loaned to the Confederate Army in 1864 to help with a building project. The Kelley’s had several children; among them were
Bennet who was only 10 years old at the time of the move to Florida and his little sister Flora. Flora, born ~1860, often worked for
the Hailes as a cook. She married Napolean Jackson on June 6, 1892. Another brother was Edmund Jr.
Born in 1849, Bennet was a young boy when he was moved to Florida. Bennet’s grave marker has the birthdate as 1844, but census data
indicates year was probably 1849. He served as the “houseboy” for the Hailes. Bennet married Mary Hodison on February 16, 1876.
Bennet worked for the Hailes in various capacities on a regular basis after Freedom. He is mentioned almost daily in Serena Haile’s
journal beginning in the 1880’s. On December 10, 1884, a small house was built in the backyard for Bennet and his family.
When Flora, the Hailes’ cook and Bennet’s sister, didn’t come to work, Bennet would go out and bring back a new cook. He often ended
up cooking breakfast himself. Mary Hodison Kelley died of the grippe (flu) at 4 PM on February 20, 1892. She was buried “in the field”
the next day. On June 4, 1892, Bennet remarried. His new wife, Daphne DeBose, also worked for the Hailes. According the Haile family
tradition, Bennet was so loved by Serena Haile she said that when died, he was to be buried in the Haile family plot. Indeed, when
Bennet died on February 16, 1933, he was buried in the Haile family plot in the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church cemetery. Interestingly
enough, oral tradition of descendants of Bennet’s brother Edmund hold that it was Thomas Haile who insisted that Bennet be buried in
the family plot. In any event, the Hailes, be it Serena or Thomas, had their wish granted even though the deed of the Kanapaha Church
cemetery land states that the cemetery was for the burial of whites. To this date, we have been unable to trace Daphne Kelley, or
any children Bennet may have had with either of his wives. Several pictures of Bennet and Daphne Kelley are on display at the
Historic Haile Homestead.
|EDMUND KELLEY JR.
In the Arredondo area, east of Kanapaha Plantation is the Patterson Community Cemetery. The cemetery is found at
the end of SW 49th Street, an unpaved road scarred by deep ruts that runs past at least three old cottages (one of which is remarkable
for its squares of different colored tar paper nailed to the siding). The cemetery has several unusual markers, one of which is
shaped like a duck’s head. While the lives and relationships of the people buried there deserve more research, we discovered the
grave of one Edmund Kelley Jr., his wife Lizzie and their daughter Mathilda. Census data show that Edmund Kelley Jr. was the son of
Edmund and Charity Kelley who were enslaved at the Kanapaha plantation of Thomas and Serena Haile. Edmund Jr. was born a free man in
1869. There is a five acre piece of land immediately to the east of the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church property and fronting present
day Archer Road that remains in the Kelley family to this day. Still owned by Edmund Kelley Jr.’s grandchildren Theodore Kelley,
Josephine Kelley and Flora Bailey, the family refused to sell when approached by developers. The Kelleys’ father, Edmund, is also
buried with their mother in the Patterson Cemetery. The property came into the possession of the family through Oliver Stinson in 1907.
Mr. Stinson, who purchased the land for $150 from T.J. Swearingen in 1907, was married to Mathilda Kelley, a daughter of Edmund
Kelley Jr. By the 1910 census, Mathilda was listed as a widow, living with her parents, and employed by a local family as a cook.
In September of 1910 Mathilda sold the five acre piece to her father for $20.
|THOSE MENTIONED IN SERENA HAILE’S JOURNAL (1874 – 1893)
Bennet Kelley, Edmund Kelley, Mary Kelley, Daphne Debose Kelley
Flora Kelley Jackson
|(Researched and written by Karen Kirkman, Historian, Historic Haile Homestead, 2004, with major contributions by Isaiah Branton descendant
of Ned Chisholm. All rights reserved. No part of this piece – text or pictures – may be reproduced without permission of the Historic Haile
|© 2012 Historic Haile Homestead, Inc.
Last Updated: January 16, 2012