The Tangled Roots of Champ Franklin Untangled

Happy New Year!

It’s been a year to the day since I’ve posted on my Franklin ancestors, it has taken me just that long to locate Champ Franklin, my great-great-grandfather!

Champ Franklin was born in either 1849, 1850, 1853 or 1870  in April or December in Mississippi. You may wonder why the confusion of years and months; there could be several reasons. As you may know the majority of information gathered comes from census takers and they may not have gotten the information directly from the subject in question or that person may not have known themselves what year or month they were born in. This could very well have been the case when one was born into slavery, as was Champ.

I believe Champ was born in Marshall County, Holly Springs, Mississippi in April 1849, I also believe he was owned by Bernard Franklin.

The Franklin family were what might be considered moderate slave owners in Marshall County Mississippi. In 1850, Gideon Franklin, cousin to Bernard Franklin owned 25 slaves, Bernard owned 34 slaves and Hardin, brother to Bernard owned 24 slaves, for a total of 83 slaves. By 1860 Gideon had 46 slaves, Bernard 45, Hardin Franklin died in September of 1851.

This begs the question, why do I think Bernard Franklin was Champ’s owner and not Gideon or Hardin?

The 1900 census is the only record I have found to date that list the MONTH and YEAR that Champ was born.

1900 Census Crittenden, Ark.

Let’s go back a little while I make my case. On the 1850 Slave Schedule for Bernard Franklin, enumerated 30 Sept., he has a total of 34 slaves, one of which is a 6 month old male. If that child were born in the beginning of April by Sept. he would be about 6 months old.
Bernard Franklin
6 month old






The 1860 Slave Schedule taken 5 Aug., for Bernard shows him with 1 10-year-old male. If, as I suspect, Champ were in fact born in April then he is likely to be this slave.

1860 Slave Schedule
10 year old






The 1860 Slave Schedule would be the last time Blacks were enumerated by sex and age and who owned them.

April 12, 1861 Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter. The Civil War began.

When the Union army marched into Holly Springs, Mississippi in November of 1862, I think Champ became one of the many slaves who fled to and with the Union forces seeking freedom. With thousands of slaves fleeing their owners and flocking to Union Camps provisions and accommodations were sorely needed. Contraband Camps became the solutions.

America’s Civil War Contraband Camps
Most Americans have never heard of Civil War contraband camps, and a lack of knowledge concerning the role the camps played in shaping the African American transition to freedom is unfortunate as it oversimplifies our understanding of emancipation–especially the active role blacks played in gaining their own freedom. Literally hundreds of thousands of the four million African Americans still enslaved in 1860 came into contact with Union lines or forces. While many blacks remained on farms and plantations in areas occupied by federal forces, many other blacks either took flight, searching for Union lines, or departed from their former homes as the Union moved out. Camps for fugitives ranged from makeshift cover just outside military encampments to abandoned barracks to small “neighborhoods” envisioned by superintendents, army officers placed in charge of fugitives. These wartime and postwar communities were built by the fugitives themselves. Thousands of freedom seekers also boarded Navy vessels on the Potomac, Mississippi, and other of the nation’s southern rivers and other waterways. Camps existed in most areas where the Union gained a foothold. Such areas mostly included towns and cities. In all cases, especially after 1862, the freedom-seekers were put to work in various capacities, making the camps the first places of wage employment for former slaves. While in some areas strict systems of registration and passes were required of blacks seeking to remain in a city, contraband camps should not be confused with concentration camps or internment camps of the World War II era. For the most part, blacks were not forced to stay in contraband camps.
For most African American bondsmen and women, the Civil War years were the best and worst of times. It is true, as Jim Downs, author of Sick from Freedom, reminds us that whole families perished together and apart, literally thousands of blacks trying desperately to transition from slavery. Yet, the war also opened a new space for freedom, and, as complicated as the many stories of freedpeople are, thousands also either by their own ingenuity or by the assistance of the federal military found employments and created homes for themselves. That their descendants are alive today gives evidence of their survival. Of the importance of remembering the death toll and the reason for it there can be no doubt, but stories of fortitude and success must be told as well.” Source:

Thanks to the fantastic work of Dr. Alisea Williams McLeod in transcribing the Register of Freedmen, I located Champ Franklin in Camp Shiloh. He was 15 years old. The last place he stayed was listed as LaGrange, TN. and his owner is listed as Franklin Franklin. The Register was created between 1863 and 1864. If Champ were born in 1849 he would be 15 years old.
Last Road to Freedom




Camp Shiloh was located on the south border of Memphis, TN. on the Mississippi River a few miles north of the Mississippi border.

Here’s the last piece of my puzzle in regard to who Champ’s owner was. In the 1870 Census he has come full circle, back to Holly Springs Mississippi and he’s living 3 doors away from Bernard Franklin! He is now 20 years old with a wife and son. A free man!

There’s much more to come on my great-great grandfather Champ Franklin!


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