finding your roots

The Bass who sits on the Wall

Vickie M Bass May 30, 2012

Why did my great great grandfather adopt the Bass surname? In the 1870 census of Union Parish Louisiana, Marion township Alfred Bass born 1845 is head of household of a family of one other adult my great great grandmother Silva Lee born 1845, and one infant Wiley Bass born 1869. In the small rural village of Marion there were only two other conspicuous families with the surname. A family enumerated as White whose head of household was Uriah Bass born in North Carolina in 1806 and his wife Mary Calwerwood and their children. Also, another family enumerated as Black whose head of household Jacob was born 1810 in South Carolina. Were they related to Alfred Bass? Had Uriah Bass or his family ever owned Alfred Bass and my family as slaves? In the slaves schedules of 1860 and 1850 Uriah Bass had indeed been a slaveowner.

Growing up as a child in Southern California I rarely met others with the surname Bass and truly thought the name rare. It has only been within the last three years that I have learned differently. The story of Nathaniel Basse who sailed to Virginia in the late 1600′s was unknown to me until two years ago. Nathaniel Basse, was the son of a French immigrant to England Humphrey Bass, and Nathaniel came to America as a hostage negotiator to secure the freedom of the new settlers who had been taken captive by the indegenous natives of America, who had kidnapped a few of them after several intrusions between both sides infringing upon the other.

Before I read this story I was not aware that my surname had much relevance in history. I didn’t think there were even many others alive with the Bass surname. I’d been researching family history for four years before I learned this story. Nathaniel Basse had childen one John Bass married a Native woman from the Powhattan nation whose name was Kesiah and some of their children married African Americans. When I learned this immediately I sought to find any connections between my Bass who had been slaves prior to 1860 and this family. I learned that Uriah Bass and his siblings were the children of John Bass and Julia Ann Holleman of Wayne North Carolina. John Bass moved the family to Alabama where he died in the 1820′s leaving Julia Ann a widow with Uriah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary Jane, Molsey Ann, Keziah and Richard Bass to care for. Julia Ann later remarried Jetson Green and the family left Alabama with their slaves and a caravan of other planters and moved to Union Louisiana. Richard Bass would become a postmaster in Marion. He married Mary Ann Powell but before 1870 he and his wife would move to Walker, Texas, where he died in 1881. Elizabeth Bass married Claud T. Barton, Sarah married John Johnson but remained in Alabama, Mary Jane married Reverend Samuel Larkin a large slave holder, Keziah married James Traylor, and Molsey Ann married the Reverend Elias George a former baptist minister of Ocmulgee Baptist Church in Perry Alabama. The possibility that my family was once owned by this Bass family is great.

In the sucession records of S. David Mims and Mary W Ross my great great grandfather’s name is mentioned. The Ross family were closely tied to this Bass family. James Ross who married Sarah Rochelle was a close friend of Elias George who married Molsey Ann Bass. In 1850 after an outbreak of cholera Molsey Ann Bass-George succunbed leaving Reverend Elias George a widow Sarah Rochelle-Ross had also become recently widowed after the death of her husband and Elias George’s close friend James Ross died. Elias George married Sarah Rochelle Ross and moved her and her sister Mary Bryant to Union Parish. Mary W, Ross was the daughter of Sarah Rochelle-Ross and her husband James.

In the 1880 census my great-great grandfather reported that his father was from Alabama and his mother was from Georgia which confirms for me that his family were with the migrating Bass planters who left Perry Alabama and a small town called Marion there and came to Union Parish and founded the small rural village they named Marion after the one that they’d left, Alfred Bass also reported that his mother was from Georgia and so were the Powell and Ross families originally.

On 23 and me I have many 4th and 5th cousin matches from North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina I also match family whose surnames are Powell and who claim descendancy from the Powell slaves who were owned by Native Americans of the same name. In the 1870 census Alfred Bass was a neighbor of Agnes Moore and Ollie Ross born about 1820. Could either of these women been his mother? Could Jacob Bass born 1810 been either his father or grandfather? Is “the negro Alfred” mentioned in the sucession records of S David Mims who is being hired out by James Hart my great-great grandfather and if so then why did he adopt the Bass surname

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  • Tom Bass

    August 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    How can I contact Vickie M. Bass? I have an account of the caravan trip and life in Marion, La.
    I know of Uriah Bass and Mary Calderwood; Concord Cemetery is only a few miles from my family’s home in Union County, Ar.

  • Vickie Bass

    September 21, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Hi Tom Bass,

    You can contact me at

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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