Caddo Parish Genealogy, Louisiana Genealogy

The Mother of Rodessa: Louisa “Mama Louie” (Dunn)

Broken headstone of Louisa Gipson (Gibson)

Broken headstone for Louisa Gipson/Gibson

Welcome to The Tyson Family Roots Blog

Transcription from Louisa’s headstone: Born in the year 1831 – Died November 8, 1901 – In memory of our dear mother who has gone to rest

I remember while growing up, I would hear that my Tyson name was a slave name and that the slave’s name was Dunn, known as “Mama Louie”. This is the story of my 2g-grandmother Louisa “Mama Louie” (Dunn) – I’ve heard her called “The Mother of Rodessa”

Louisa “Mama Louie” (Dunn) was a slave that was born around 1830 in North Carolina. I don’t know what area of North Carolina she was from. It’s possibly in the Pitt County area where the Tyson family came from. Louisa is the grandmother of my grandfather Dave “Pawpaw” Tyson.

Family lore says that Louisa was part Cherokee and she is described by my grandfather as; short, brown skinned, and with long hair. Pawpaw also said that Louisa spoke with an unusual accent that he wasn’t familiar with. I’ve also heard that her mother was pure African. Family lore says that Louisa’s last name was Dunn. I’ve yet to verify that name but it is consistent with every descendant I’ve spoken with. There is also lore that she may be part Irish. Dunn is an Irish name so maybe she was a descendant of a Dunn slave owner.

One hint I have for a Dunn family origin is a Joshua Dunn listed in the Pitt, North Carolina 1820 census in Capt. Noah Tison’s District (both spellings were used). There was a few Noah Tyson’s in Pitt County at this point, this Noah Tison is a cousin of Louisa’s owner Noah Samuel Tyson, my 2g-grandfather. I know there was a large plantation in Wake County, North Carolina called The Purefoy-Dunn Plantation. Many Tyson’s lived in Wake County also but I still haven’t found any connections of this plantation and the Tyson family, it is a hint.

At some unknown point Louisa relocated to Alabama where she was sold sometime around 1845 to Noah Samuel Tyson Sr. There was three Tyson brothers in Lowndes County, Alabama at this time; Noah and his two brothers Archibald and John Adams Tyson. Archibald was the older brother and John was the younger brother. I’ve been told by a few relatives that Noah was a overseer for his brother Archibald, I don’t know if this is true.

According to the family history book “The Tyson and May Genealogy of Pitt County” by Roger Kammerer, Tyson family lore says that these Tyson brothers moved from Pitt County, North Carolina to Alabama in the early 1830’s. The story says that they journeyed for 5 weeks with 12 negroes and 10 mules to get to Alabama. So if this story is true, I think it’s possible that Louisa and some of her family was among these 12 negroes, whom I assume were slaves.

I have no information on any parents or siblings of Louisa. I have her succession records and they state that at the time of her death in 1901 she had no known relatives other than her children and grandchildren. This succession was filed in 1936 by her only living child, Robert “Sambo” Tyson and included all the Tyson heirs of Louisa. The case name was:

Succession of Louis Tyson Gibson & Richard Gibson – Filed Jan. 7, 1936, D.D. Pyburn: DY. Clerk, REC: OLJ

Excerpts from Succession of Louisa Tyson (Appeal) – Jan 4, 1937-Shreveport, LA

“The record discloses that Noah Tyson purchased, in Alabama, the slave Louisa, who was about sixteen years old, and her infant son, Richard, and brought them first to Mississippi and subsequently to his plantation in the northern part of Louisiana. Prior to the Civil War, Louisa gave birth to four more children, Mollie, Jeff, Catherine, and Robert. According to the custom of the time, she assumed the surname of her master (Tyson) and gave the same name to her children, including the first born, Richard….

The evidence is barren of any private writings in which Noah Tyson Sr., acknowledged any of Louisa’s first five children, or called them his children, or that he ever, in public or in private, acknowledged them as his children or called them his children in conversation or that he helped to educate them as his own children. The trial judge excluded all evidence to establish by reputation that Noah Tyson, Sr., was the father of the first five children, but allowed, over plaintiffs’ objection, first, parol evidence of statements made by Louisa Gibson that the father of these children was Noah Tyson, Sr., and, second, statements and declarations made by the children themselves as declaration against interest made at unsuspicious times…

Sometime during the year 1860, Richard Gibson, a slave owned by Aaron Gibson, who lived in the southern part of Arkansas, began to visit Louisa in her slave quarters on the Tyson place and continued to do so at comparatively regular intervals on week-ends, and by him she gave birth to five more children, viz., Chesley, Gus, Hannah, Narcisse, and Loudella. It appears that Richard continued to live on the Gibson plantation immediately following the Civil War until about the fall of 1866, when he moved to the lower portion of the Tyson place and there built a cabin, taking Louisa Tyson and her children, including the first five, to live with them. On August 7, 1870, Louisa Tyson and Richard Gibson were formally married, in order that they might join the church, and Richard became a preacher in the church. During the existence of the community, Louisa and Richard acquired 211 1/2 acres, situated in the parish of Caddo in what is now known as the “Rodessa Oil Field.” Richard died about the year 1897, and Louisa died on November 9, 1901. Prior to Louisa’s death, three of her children predeceased her, viz., Loudella Gibson, Narcisse Gibson, and Mollie Tyson.”

You can see from this succession record that Noah purchased Louisa in Alabama when Richard (my great grandfather) was a baby and she was about 16 yrs old. Richard was born in September of 1844, so I put the event at around 1845. The record also shows that Louisa and her children claimed that Noah Samuel Tyson Sr. was the father. This case was concerning Gibson land in Rodessa and NOT to prove if Noah Tyson was the father of these five Tyson children of Louisa; Richard “Dick”, Mollie, Jefferson, Catherine, and Robert “Sambo” Tyson.

This case was to establish that the five Tyson children were heirs of Louisa and Richard Gibson’s 211 acres in Rodessa. When Richard Gibson died in 1897 (intestate-no Will) the land went into Louisa’s possession as they were legally married in 1870. Then when Louisa died intestate in 1901 all ten of her children were heirs to the land in Rodessa. Since ALL of Louisa’s children were born out of wedlock they were all heirs to this land.

This is why the succession was finally filed in 1936. Many years had gone by with her land never being legally dealt with. Prior to the Rodessa oil boom that land was used by the Gibson family for farming and timber and some land was leased/sold to some Spearman cousins. The succession was in conjunction with a lawsuit my Tyson family filed against their Gibson and Spearman cousins along with United Gas Company. United Gas had leased the land and was making millions of dollars from the oil wells. I have these case files and this case was pretty nasty. The case is “Tyson v. Spearman” 190 La. 871. The Tyson heirs were labeled as:

“illegitimate white bastards”… “adulterous bastards, the issue of an illicit union with her master, Noah Tyson, Sr., a white married man, and were therefore incapable of being acknowledged by or of inheriting from their mother.” From Succession Of Louisa Tyson

To this day the term “white bastard” is still used in a joking way with the Tyson & Gibson cousins. I’ve heard it myself a few times. We know that our grandparents fought it out in court over this land and luckily we still get along and can joke about it. We had nothing to do with it. I’m sure Louisa never thought her children and grandchildren would fight in court over her land.

The Tyson family won this lawsuit in 1938, it settled for 2 million dollars which was one of the largest cases recorded in the area to that date. The case was handled by the law firm Cook & Cook which today is one of Northern Louisiana’s top law firms. This is a very large Tyson family so there was many heirs to divide up what was left after the attorney fees. My family still owns a few acres of this land in Rodessa that was recovered through this law suit. There was actually numerous law suits concerning different family land in different locations. This will be a future post on inherited land. My mother is an attorney so I love studying these cases, it’s in the blood.

I have yet to find the document where Noah bought Louisa in Alabama but I have a possible record. A Bill of Sale from 1845 in Alabama shows that Archibald Tyson gifted for $1 a 16 year old female slave named Lonie to Amanda Tyson. There was also a 20 yr. old male slave Abram included in this transaction (no future info for Abram). Noah S. Tyson’s wife was Amanda (Brinkley) and I believe these gifted slaves were to Noah’s wife because I haven’t found another Amanda Tyson in the family tree at that time. This Bill of Sale is recorded in the Caddo Parish deed and conveyance records which seems to me to verify that it was a record of Noah and Amanda Tyson. The brothers Archibald and John stayed in Alabama and it makes sense that Noah and Amanda’s slaves would be on record in Caddo Parish. Noah Tyson settled in Caddo Parish around 1847 and became one of the founders of the town Frog Level which was renamed Rodessa in 1898.

Louisa was known as Mama Louie and I think it’s possible that this Bill of Sale which is found in a book of transcribed slave records “No Land Only Slaves Vol. 3-Caddo Parish” could be a mis-spelling of Louie. So I think it’s possible that this Bill of Sale could be for Louisa, but can’t say for certain. On my next trip to Shreveport I will be finding out if I can get a copy of the original document. The 1850 Caddo Parish Slave Schedules for Noah Tyson show a female that matches Louisa and one 6 yr. old male that matches Richard who was born in 1844. Another 2 yr. old female is listed that matches the age for Louisa’s second child Mollie, born in 1848. Noah Tyson was never a large slave owner like his brother Archibald, who at the end of the Civil War is said to have had 300 slaves. This 1850 Caddo slave schedule shows Noah with 6 slaves.

The 1860 Caddo Parish slave schedules show Noah Tyson owning 13 slaves and 3 slave houses. There are three females listed as 30 yrs. old, so one of them could be Louisa. None of her five Tyson children seem to be listed, so this supports the family lore that Noah didn’t treat her children as slaves.

A theory I have is that Louisa was owned by Archibald and that Noah was Archibald’s overseer. The 1840 Lowndes census shows Archibald owning 41 slaves and Noah didn’t own any slaves on record. I think it’s possible that Noah got Louisa pregnant while he was her overseer and that Archibald gifted her to Noah’s wife Amanda. Just a theory……

The 1870 Caddo Parish ward 7 census shows Louisa living with her husband Richard Gibson, who was listed as a farmer. I’m not sure what crop Richard was growing but Caddo was cotton country so I would assume he was growing cotton. Living with them are most of the Tyson children and her Gibson children. Living next door was Richard Tyson and his first wife Josephine. The census listed her as, black, 40 yrs old so born around 1830. By the 1880 census Louisa and Richard Gibson were now on their own land in Rodessa. Louisa is listed in the census as 45 yrs old so born in 1835. The 1900 census shows Louisa widowed, living alone. Her neighbors were mostly her Tyson and Gibson children and their families. This census listed her as 75 yrs. old and born in 1825. The 1880 & 1900 census listed both of Louisa’s parents as born in North Carolina.

Louisa’s succession said that all of her children other than Richard were born on Noah Tyson’s plantation. All but the last few Gibson children were born before emancipation. I have the marriage certificate for Richard & Louisa which shows that they were married in Caddo Parish by Rev. Anthony Beasley. Too bad these marriage certificates from Caddo at this time didn’t list the parents. The witnesses listed were; John Aaron, William Stewart, and Charles Dillard. John Aaron and William Stewart were whites from the area, both listed in the Caddo 1870 census. I’m unsure who Charles Dillard was or any connection of either witnesses to Louisa.

Marriage certificate for Richard Gibson & Louisa Tyson

Marriage certificate for Richard Gibson &  Louisa Tyson

Louisa’s son Robert “Sambo” Tyson lived to 92 years old and my uncle David talked family history with him often. Sambo said that they lived in Noah’s slave quarters and that Noah treated them kindly. Noah would feed them out of a big trough; Louisa would fill the trough up with cornbread and pour buttermilk over it. They also made their own spoons and forks from hickory and cypress wood. Sambo said that Noah’s slave children played and ate with Noah’s white children also.

Our family lore of Louisa being part Cherokee has never been verified. I gave an autosomal DNA test to my uncle Tyrone Tyson a few years ago. The main reason I purchased this test for him was to see if any Native American DNA would show. Louisa is one of four ancestors in my tree that are said to be mixed with Native American and I still can’t find any proof of that lore. His test showed zero Native American or Asian DNA, just Sub-Saharan African & European. I know that autosomal DNA tests will vary between siblings so it is possible that we carry Native American DNA but from that one test I still can’t verify. My father has 13 siblings (most still alive) and I’ve wondered what another sibling’s test would show. I’ve learned that the DNA from all of our ancestors gets passed down through a series of re-combinations and some DNA gets lost. If our Native American ancestors go back 6 or 7 generations or more it may not show up in a test taken now. Tyrone’s test was done by Africandna.com.

I’ve looked into the owner of Louisa’s husband, Richard Gibson. Aaron Gibson from Miller County Arkansas was born in 1829 in North Carolina; in 1853 there is an Aaron Gibson who married Jane Freeman in Richmond, North Carolina. The 1850 Richmond census shows an Aaron Gibson with his mother Mary and siblings. In the 1860 census Aaron Gibson is found in Sulphur Fork, Lafayette, Arkansas, married to Jane with their oldest child born in 1855, so it is a possible match.

This area of Sulphur Fork borders Miller County. Aaron Gibson bought land in Miller, Arkansas in 1860 which places him right where Richard Gibson was living when he started his relationship with Louisa. If this is the same Aaron Gibson, then Richard Gibson may come from the Richmond, North Carolina area. Richard Gibson’s parents are unknown and the succession for Louisa says that when Richard Gibson died he had no known relatives other than his five children with Louisa. The area that Aaron Gibson lived in was very close to the Arkansas-Louisiana border and Rodessa is only a few miles from that border. So it wouldn’t have been that hard for Richard Gibson to get to Rodessa to visit Louisa. It’s possible that Noah Tyson and Aaron Gibson knew each other to let Richard travel back and forth over the years.

Louisa’s headstone says she was born in 1831, which if is true means that her first child Richard was born when she was only 13 yrs. old. Richard has his birth date listed on his headstone of Sept 7, 1844. The 1900 census asked your birth month and Louisa has listed that she was born in May, the record also says that she was the mother of 11 children with 10 living. Since no other child is known of it is possible an unknown child died as an infant.

Louisa died on November 8, 1901 in Rodessa. No death certificates were issued in Caddo Parish before 1911 so she has no known record of her death. She was the mother of 10 known children – 5 Tyson and 5 Gibson, and 95 known grandchildren – 61 Tyson and 34 Gipson/Gibson, which is the most grandchildren for any woman I’ve documented so far. Louisa is buried in our Tyson family cemetery known as Sugar Hill in Rodessa. A plan that my uncle David and I have talked about is to restore her headstone with all the Tyson & Gibson children listed. View the Gipson/Gibson and Tyson pedigree charts here: http://caddotrees.com/Gipson_lineage.html

Well that’s all I know about Mama Louie for now……..

“The Mother of Rodessa”

Thanks for reading

Love & Blessings

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26 thoughts on “The Mother of Rodessa: Louisa “Mama Louie” (Dunn)

  1. wow, you’ve done a fantastic amount of research, and provided great details. any family researcher who discovers your blog post should give you lots of hugs! very nice work!

  2. L. Kimbrough says:

    Once again, I enjoyed reading your post. I enjoy the detail you provide, and glean clues as to possible research avenues for my research–thank you 🙂 .

  3. Bernita says:

    Mark,
    I really enjoyed reading about your ancestors. Your research is to be admired. Great job on telling Louisa’s story.

  4. MyLuckieGroove says:

    Amazing piece of recorded family genealogy! Just this one post alone provides a wealth of family knowledge & valuable leads to follow. So glad to have you among us, just blogging away!:)

  5. This was an AWESOME read Mark . . . WOW! I believe restoring Mama Louie’s headstone listing all of her children is an excellent idea and the perfect way to honor her legacy.

    Mark, I’m so glad you’re blogging. And I’m sure that your website has served you well over the years. But I can tell you from experience that your blogging over time will surpass what your static html webpages have done for your family research. Not to mention those who find you online will now have a place to instantly connect and interact with you than before.

    Kudos to you and your continued family research!!

    • Hey Marlive, thanks. Headstone restoration is top of the list for a few old graves.

      I do like extending my reach via blogging. I am a believer in using ALL known resources in my research. The more I make contact with other genealogist like yourself the more I learn (-:

  6. Lolita Walker says:

    This is very interesting information. I am searching for more information. I am the great granddaughter of Robert Sambo Tyson and Louella Herndon. I had my DNA test over a year ago. Testing shows that I am predominately Hispanic American, American Indian and European American. African American and African and Northern European shows in the secondary category then Hispanic again, Middle Eastern and Central Asian. I wonder where the Latin comes from within the family especially since it is so dominant in me. Possibly Louella Herndon side?

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