Sunday, January 27, 2013

Calvin Russell Lewis

The main reason I went to the Georgia Archives yesterday was to see Calvin Russell Lewis’ probate file.  These records were transferred to the Georgia Archives from the Columbia County courthouse in the 1980s and they were never microfilmed.  I was hoping that Calvin’s alleged father John Lewis had been made administrator but no such luck.  I did find something interesting/puzzling though.

Calvin Russell Lewis was born 23 Feb 1824 in North Carolina (Wayne County, most likely). 1  He died on 26 Jan 1851 in Columbia County, Georgia2.  He was only 26 when he died so it was no surprise that he died intestate.  Calvin was married and had 2 small children, ages one and two.3  Calvin did not own any land (negative search through the Columbia County deed books) and on the 1850 census he was listed as “overseer for Burt” which would be Moody Burt listed as a planter on the same page.4  Calvin’s wife Emily (Miles) Lewis was named administratrix of the estate.5  The inventory of his possessions amounted to $142.87.6  You would think that this would have been a very thin probate packet but that wasn’t the case.  His probate case drug out for 12 years and I am not sure why.  One of the odd things found was there were several people that paid IN to the estate. Emily collected over $2300.7  These people apparently owed Calvin money.  After reading the probate file I am beginning to think he was a loan shark or something.  The Archivist that pulled the documents looked through them with me and he agreed that Calvin must have been the county loan shark.  I will continue to analyze the documents. 

1 John Lewis Bible Records, 1801-1890, The Holy Bible (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828), Family Pages; privately held by Lou Ann Penland, (Martinez, Georgia); Ms. Penland inherited the Bible from her grandmother Annie (Lewis) Lewis who was John Lewis' granddaughter.  There appears to be 3 different handwritings.  One is assumed to be John Lewis and another is most assuredly granddaughter Annie Lewis as she made a notation in the front "Written by Annie Lewis daughter of Ellis Lewis."  The third handwriting could be that of John's wife Mary Aycock as he married her shortly before the publication of this Bible; 1850 U.S. census, Columbia County, Georgia, population schedule, p. 263 (stamped), dwelling 436, family 436, Calvin Lewis household; digital images,  ( : accessed 15 June 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 66. 

2 Columbia County, Georgia Court of Ordinary, Probate Case Files, Calvin R. Lewis estate; Georgia State Archives, Atlanta; RG 136, unit 99-1401A, box 1904-07.

3 1850 U.S. census, Columbia County, Georgia, pop. sch., p. 263 (stamped), dwell. 436, fam. 436, Calvin Lewis household. 

4 Ibid.

5 Columbia County, Georgia Court of Ordinary, Probate Case Files, Calvin R. Lewis estate.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Interesting, huh? I, too, have a couple of relatives who apparently walked on the shady side of the street. Certainly more entertaining than the more "good citizen" relatives, I think.

  2. My best guess is that he did lend money to the people in the community as these people were paying interest on notes. It is interesting to me because he was obviously making money but his net worth wasn't that much and he didn't own any land. We was living on a plantation and working as an overseer. I wonder what he did with the money he was making from these loans and where he got the money for the loans in the first place.