Freeman James Gunn
Freeman James Gunn is the son of James Gunn, Jr and his wife Elizabeth Irby Jordan. Freeman was named
for his maternal grandfather, J. Freeman Jordan, and his father James Gunn, Jr. Freeman was born between
1800 and 1808 in Brunswick County, Virgnia. His age was determined from the 1850 and 1860 where he
was listed as 50 and 52 respectively. He had a younger sister, at least ten years his junior, Elizabeth J. Gunn
who was born in 1818. There is considerable circumstantial evidence to show Freeman also had a brother at
least four years his junior, Henry Garner Gunn, who was born in 1812 or 1813. Another possible sibling is
Burwell Gunn who was born August 29, 1794. Both Elizabeth and Henry were young children when their
parents died about 1828, leaving orphaned, daughter Elizabeth aged 10, and son Henry 16. Elizabeth and
Henry Gunn were raised by their father's widowed half sister, Elizabeth Gunn who first married Burwell
Wilkes, and after his death, married second to Philip Claiborne. Wilkes and Claiborne were both gentleman
of status and wealth. Freeman was at least 20 years old and had been married three years when his parents
died. While other siblings were shown in early census records, they have not been identified.
There is some speculation that Freeman's parents James and Elizabeth, left Brunswick County about 1828,
and did not die. In 1828, James Gunn would have been about 63 years old. It is highly improbable James
and Elizabeth Gunn, would have left Brunswick County to live in another state, leaving behind a young
daughter, and a son who was not quite a man to be raised by a relative. There is no documentation showing
James Gunn, Jr and his wife left the state of Virginia. James Gunn, Jr. did not appear in the 1830 census.
Like his father, Freeman was a farmer. In September 1823, a deed shows that 23 year old, Freeman had
worked for his father as an overseer for two years. In exchange for this labor, he received a deed from his
father, for the slave Hannah, and $120.00. Freeman was a hardworking and mature young man by today's
standards. He was judged responsible enough assume the responsibilty of an overseer: to direct slave labor;
oversee the planting and harvesting of all crops; be responsible for the care, and well-being of the animals;
and upkeep of the farm implements, carriages, wagons, tack, etc. His father, James Gunn, Jr, was about 58
years old, and likely in poor health. As overseer, Freeman acted in behalf of his father and was paid
Records beginning in 1812 and lasting until 1828, reflect that Freeman's father experienced increasing
financial difficulties. James Gunn, Jr., had sold or otherwise indebted most of his property holdings.
Fortunately for Freeman, he purchased 200 acres of land in January 1825. The land bordered the road from
Stephen Jones Bridge to Flat Rock Church in Brunswick County, Virginia. This was land his father James
Gunn, Jr. had indebted to John Rives in 1823.
Ten months after the purchase of this property, Freeman married Maria Bridgeforth, the daughter of John
and Mary Miller Bridgeforth on November 8, 1825. The couple were married by the Reverend John Doyle in
Brunswick County. They lived in the St. Andrew's Parish District. Freeman was a slave owner and planter.
Four children were born to Freeman and Maria Bridgeforth. If there were other children, they did not
survive infancy. Their first child was John Bridgeforth Gunn born in 1827. He was likely named for his
maternal grandfather John Bridgeforth. John's birth was followed by Richard James Gunn born in 1828,
and Samuel Harrison Gunn born in June of 1831. Samuel's birth was followed by daughter Mary S. Gunn
who was born in 1834. Mary never married and died Nov 3, 1873.
On August 21, 1850, when the census for Brunswick County was taken, Freeman listed his occupation as
planter. Freeman and Maria were 50 years old. Also living in the home was Freeman's son Samuel
Harrison Gunn who was 18, and Sam's wife Martha Daniels and their 2 month old infant. The infant of
Samuel and Martha Daniels Gunn did not survive infancy. Mary S. Gunn, Freeman's youngest daughter
was also in the home.
The sons of Freeman and Maria Bridgeforth Gunn married into the Elmore family.
1. In 1851 Richard James Gunn married Mary Augusta Elmore, the daughter of James Elmore, JR. and his
wife Martha Barnes.
2. In 1853, John Bridgeforth Gunn married Lucy Jane Elmore, the daughter of James Elmore, SR and his
wife Mary Pritchett.
3. In 1857, after the death of his first wife, Martha Daniel, Samuel Harrison Gunn married Lucy Ann
Elmore, also a daughter of James Elmore JR and his wife Martha Barnes. Lucy Ann Elmore died in 1874.
In 1876, Samuel Harrison Gunn married Addie Elmore, the daughter of Edward Elmore and his wife
Sometime between 1850 and 1860, Freeman James Gunn moved from Brunswick County, Virginia to the
third district of Nottoway County, Virginia. Freeman was working in Nottoway County as an overseer. The
duties he knew well. Now he worked for a larger plantation owner and his duties were extended to include a
larger number of slaves. Large plantation owners did not grovel in the day-to-day handling of slaves, but
hired overseers like Freeman, to delegate slave labor, and to administer punishment if needed. Overseers ran
the plantations prior to the Civil War, and were accountable only to the "master". Freeman worked for
John Gillam Powell on the plantation "Falkland" located on the Ridge Road, outside of Blacks and Whites,
which is present day Blackstone, Virginia. When the 1860 census was taken, Freeman gave his age as 52.
Perhaps 52 sounded better than 59 or 60 years old, for the position he held. The census did not reflect he
owned real estate in Nottoway County. Freeman's daughter Mary S. Gunn and his grandson, James
Freeman Gunn age 2, who was the son of Samuel Harrison Gunn were living in the home with Freeman.
Samuel Harrison Gunn and his second wife, Lucy Ann Elmore were living in Lunenburg County, in 1860.
Freeman's son John Bridgeforth Gunn was living on his father's farm in Brunswick County, Virginia, and
son Richard James Gunn may have been living in the Totaro District of Brunswick County, but did not
appear on the 1860 census.
Freeman James Gunn's obituary was published in the Richmond Whig on January 12, 1869 (volume 48, page
1) as reads as follows: Freeman J. Gunn died in Nottoway, Virginia on 12th ulto, age 66, formerly of
Brunswick County, Virginia.
By 1870, Freeman's wife, Maria Bridgeforth Gunn had moved from her home on the Powell plantation in
Nottoway County, to the home of her son Samuel Harrison and his wife Lucy Ann Elmore, in Brunswick
County, Virginia. Samuel and Lucy moved between 1860 and 1870 from Lunenburg County, to Brunswick
County, perhaps on the land owned by his father. Maria Bridgeforth Gunn died between 1870-1880. Most
likely both she and her husband Freeman James Gunn are buried on their 200 acre farm near present day
Children of Freeman and Maria Bridgeforth Gunn. Because of the intermarriage of these three sons, I've
written a history for each.
John Burrell Gunn
Richard James Gunn
Samuel Harrison Gunn
My Family History continues with Samuel Harrison Gunn
the father of two of my grandfathers,
Peter Harrison Gunn and James Freeman Gunn