This couple was born into slavery and considered property, but died as free persons in the 20th century. While we do not know Isaac and Eliza’s favorite colors, their specific hopes and dreams or the exact year and location they were born, we do know that they beget a legacy that is woven into the fabric of this country, and we should be thankful that they had a vision for their future and the future of their children.
At some point in time between 1822 and 1830, Isaac and Eliza were born in South Carolina. Isaac’s parents were born in North Carolina. Eliza’s father was born in South Carolina and her mother in Africa. Oral history has Isaac and Eliza living as enslaved persons on the Clemmon’s Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. Although enslaved persons could not legally marry, this did not deter Isaac and Eliza from considering themselves husband and wife. Their first two children, Charles and Peter, were born in South Carolina. By the mid 1850’s the entire family was living in Florida. The third child and first daughter, Hannah was born in 1856.
The Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865. With the end of the Civil War, each state that had permitted slavery now had to enact laws permitting people of color to marry. Thus on September 23, 1866, Isaac and Eliser (Eliza) Tompkins were married in Madison County, Florida by John F. McCullough, Justice of Peace. When their marriage certificate was issued, Isaac and Eliza had seven living children (Charles, Peter, Hannah, Fannie , Henry, Mary and John). Six additional children were born after 1866 (Simon, Rockey a.k.a Roxie, Relia a.k.a Reala, twins Arvenia and Lujenna a.k.a Luvenia, and Hattie). Two children, Simon and Hattie, did not survive.
From the 1880’s to he early 1900’s, the major industry in this country was farming, and Isaac and Eliza, like the majority of citizens in this country, were farmers. They had to have a vision and work very hard to earn money to purchase land on January 22, 1878 and June 13, 1878 from James B. Finch. Eleven years later on December 12, 1889, Charles Thompkins purchased land from his parents. On that very same day Isaac and Eliza purchased additional land from William and Sarah Prosser. As Isaac and Eliza became older, Charles purchased additional land from his parents. John also purchased land from his parents. Isaac died between 1907 and 1910, and Eliza died between 1910 and 1920. They continue to live however, in their children and their descendants. All their children, except Hannah had families of their own. We are now into our possibly 10th generation of direct descendants of Isaac and Eliza Thompkins.
Where did our name come from?
We have traced our roots back to Western Ghana. The name is recorded using a variety of spellings. One must remember that during the 1800’s the average citizen of the United States did not read or write. Making an “X” was one’s signature. Information was recorded by those few individuals who could read and write. Most of these people wrote phonetically. Therefore you will see our name written as Thompson in the 1870 census, Tompkins, Tomkins, and Thompkins. As with most names, the spelling evolved over time. But however we spell our name, it is important to remember that we are all descendants of Isaac and Eliza.
What has become of Isaac and Eliza’s many descendants?
Many have dispersed throughout Florida and across the country with descendants living in Georiga, Louisiana, Texas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virgina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina New York, Delaware, Tennessee and Canada. Many have served in the military during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. Several descendants continue to serve our country through military service today. Others have graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the Navel Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Other descendants have become bricklayers, carpenters, business owners, nurses, paramedics, dentists, physicians, farmers, teachers, ministers, administrators, politicians, scientists, accountants, computer experts and many more. Some 183 years ago, our first known forebearer was born. Today, we are celebrating our family, our accomplishments and our love for each other. Isaac and Eliza are looking down on us with happiness in their hearts for they now know that their survival of the Holocaust, know as American Slavery, was not in vain. Therefore we, their descendants must always strive to honor them and all others who have come before us, in our daily thoughts, words, and deeds. We must continue to strive toward the future, proudly remembering that we have a long line of ancestors who have contributed to the great history of these United States of America.