Who was Louisa Bradley?
We first find mention of her in the Asheville City Directory for 1883-1884 as working as a housemaid for W.W. McDowell.
By 1883, the McDowell family had sold what is now known as the Smith-McDowell House on the A-B Tech campus to the Garrett family and moved to a new home.
In this City Directory there are two other people listed as working for W.W. McDowell, Demoriah McGimesy, a cook, and John Miller, a handyman. Both are African American, but little else is known about them.
In the 1880 Census, on June 14, a Lou Bradley is living in Buncombe County – in Fairview. She lives with her husband, Jeff (note that a Jeff Bradley is also listed in the City Directory – he is working in an “eating-house” near the depot), and they have seven children – George (18), William (16), Mary (10), Henry (8), Robert (5), Cordelia (3), and Amanda (1).
Jeff is listed as a “Laborer” and Lou as “Keeping House. George and William are also listed as “Laborer.” The entire family was born in North Carolina and, with the exception of George, who can read, all are illiterate.
In 1880, Jeff is 45 and Lou is 42, meaning that she was likely born c1838.
In 1916, Jeff and Louise are listed as the parents of Corrie Wilson. Corrie is likely short for Cordelia, who was about 3 years old in 1880 when the census taker came through. Her death certificate, however, identifies her birth date as March 1880 and her birthplace as Henderson County.
It is possible that the family moved to Fairview in Buncombe County from nearby Henderson County not long before the June 1880 census. Jeff and Louise are listed as being born in Rutherfordton, N.C.
In 1923, Jeff and Louise are listed as their daughter Amanda E. Harris’ death certificate. Amanda’s birth date is not listed, but she is “About 48” when she dies of tuberculosis in Asheville, placing her birth about 1875. However, since she is listed as 1 year old in the 1880 census, she was likely born c1879. Her birth place – as are the birth places of her parents – are only listed as North Carolina.
Amanda is widowed when she dies. The informant in Sam Wilson, likely Corrie’s husband, who is also the informant on Corrie Wilson’s death certificate.
Both women are buried in the West Asheville Cemetery.
Amanda Bradley and Sam Harris get a license to wed in Asheville around April 26, 1901. (The Semi-Weekly Citizen, Asheville)
If both Louisa and Jeff were born in Rutherfordton, N.C., it is likely that they were born enslaved. Based on the age of their oldest son, who was born c1862, they met prior to emancipation.
In 1850 and 1860 there is only one family with the last name “Bradley” in Rutherford County who enslaves people.
Jones Overton Bradley and his wife Elizabeth own eight people in 1850 and 10 people in 1860. As many formerly enslaved people took the last name of their enslaver, it is possible that Jeff is one of the people enslaved by the Bradleys in Rutherfordton in 1850 and 1860. In 1880, Jeff is listed in the census as being 45 years old, placing his birth date around 1835. So in 1850 he would have been around 15 years old and in 1860 he would have been around 25 years old. In 1850, the Bradley family enslaves five males who are 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. In 1860, they enslave six males that are 11, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30. It is possible that Jeff might be one of the males who was 14 or 16 in 1850 and 24 or 26 in 1860.
It is also possible that Louisa could have been the 17-year-old female that the Bradley family enslaved in 1860; however, Louisa reports her age in 1880 as 42, meaning she would be closer to 22 in 1860. (The other women enslaved by the family are 50, 12, and 5 in 1860.)