Abram Swanson, Malachi Swanson, Pleas Swanson, Sr., Pleas Swanson, Jr.

 Note:  The information appearing in this section was compiled from a variety of primary and secondary sources.  Primary Sources include:  Alabama Death Certificates, 1880 U.S. Census Non-Population Schedule – Agriculture, 1866 Alabama State Census for Macon County, the Macon County Marriage Book 2 – Colored -1887-1897. Secondary sources include: various internet U.S. Federal Census record sources (Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, family tree, marriage and death records; oral histories provided by family members and descendants of allied families from The Ridge.  The bio of Pleas Swanson, Sr. contains references to the novel Ollie Miss, by George Wylie Henderson, Jr., published in 1937, Frederick A. Stokes Company.  Submission of information and documentation from site visitors to correct and/or expand on the information appearing in this section is requested.  Click here to submit corrections and/or additional information.

 Swanson, Abram/Abrom/Abe/Ab – Enslaved Settler and Freedman – born about 1815 in North Carolina or Georgia

His parents are unknown. He was married to Mariah.  Mariah’s maiden name and the date of marriage are unknown. He is found on U.S. census records 1870-1880.  The exact year of his death is unknown, but he does not appear on the census after 1880.  Mariah was born 1835 in Georgia or Alabama.  Her parents are unknown.  Mariah’s date of death is also unknown. 

 It is believed that Abram Swanson was enslaved by John Swanson, Sr., of Morgan County, Georgia, based on an 1848 inventory of enslaved persons in John Swanson, Sr.’s estate.  The enslaved persons were divided into lots and were sold to new owners.  Abram was sold to W.G. (William) Swanson, who was the son of John Swanson, Sr.  According to the census, by 1850, W.G. had relocated to Macon County, Alabama.  

Abram was listed on the 1880 Agriculture Census as the renter of 100 acres of land.

 Children of Abram and Mariah:  


Abram - age 55

Mariah - age 35

Abram - age 63

Mariah - age 45

Mary - age 4Mary - age 13
Sally - age 2Sarah (Sally) - age 11

Malachi - age 7

Conny (Connie) - age 2

Dick - age 3

Infant - age 0

Malichi/Malachi/Mally Swanson – born about 1875 in Alabama

He was the son of Abram and Mariah Swanson.  Some records list his approximate date of birth as 1875 and others list it as 1856.  He was married to Paralee/Parrie Lee/Parrilee, February 15, 1895, in Alabama.  Paralee was born about 1875 in Alabama.  Her maiden name was Lee. She could have been the daughter of Robert and Rachel Lee, although one record identifies her father as Jimmy Lee.  Based on census information, it appears that Malachi and Paralee Swanson lived their entire lives in Macon County. Their children were:

Malachi –Age 26; Paralee – Age 25

Malachi - age 35

Paralee - age 29

Malachi - age 50

Paralee - age 45

No records foundParalee - age 72
Boyen - age 6Boisy - age 13Will - age 23 (and wife Luvinia - age 20)
Emmett Reid - grandson - age 11
Ozzie - age 3Osly - age 12Mary - age 18 

Leon - age 3Leon - age 10Oscar - age 17

Mary - 8Pollard - age 16

Pollard - age 6Osburn - age 13

Oska - age 5Rachel - age 12

Osly - age 5James - age 8

Odis - age 0 Kid - age 5

It appears that the census recorders in various years, recorded names inaccurately.  For example, in 1910, there were two children enumerated who carried the same first name of Osley.

Malachi died in 1929 in Macon County.  Parrie Lee died in 1971 in Tuskegee, Macon County.

Swanson, Ben – Enslaved Settler and Freedman – born about 1833 in Georgia

Ben Swanson, Sr. was born about 1833 in Georgia, according the U.S. Census record.  It appears that he also, was likely owned by John Swanson, Sr., of Morgan County, Georgia.  An enslaved person named Ben was sold to John Swanson, Jr., who lived in Morgan County in 1847 at the time of the documentation of the estate of his late father, John Swanson, Sr.  According to the 1850 census record, John Swanson, Jr. was living in Macon County, Alabama.  The 1880 census record lists the birthplace of Ben’s mother to be Virginia.  John Swanson, Sr. was originally from Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  Some U.S. Census records list Ben’s birthplace as Virginia.

Ben Swanson was married to Martha.  Martha was also listed as Matt or Mattie on census records.  Martha’s maiden name is unknown.

The households of Ben and Martha Swanson were:


1870 – Warrior Stand, Macon, Alabama
1880 – Warrior Stand, Macon, Alabama
1900 – Enon, Bullock County, Alabama
1910 – Precinct 45, Jefferson County, Alabama – Martha is the head of household.  Apparently, Ben had died.
1920 – Homestead, Allegheny, Pennsylvania – Leanna is living with her brother Rufus; a record for Martha, Laura and Ben Swanson has not been found
1930 – Homestead, Allegheny, Pennsylvania – 
1940 – Homestead, Allegheny, Pennsylvania 
Susan - age 8Savannah - age 18Leanna - age 20Leanna - age 20Rufus Swanson - age 30 (head)Pleas Owens - age 28 (head)Leanna Swanson - age 79 (head)
Pleasants - age 6Pleas - age 16Laura - 18Laurah - age 22Mary Swanson - age 29 (wife)Frank Owens - age 29 (brother)Pleas Owens - age 25 (nephew)
Ralph - age 4Fannie - age 14Rufus - age 10Benjamin - age 18 Theodore Swanson - age 10 (son)Leanna Swanson - age 45 (aunt)Frank Owens - age 25 (nephew)
Ida - age 3Charlie - age 12

Oscar Thrate (?) - age 29 (boarder)William Smith - age 27 - (boarder) 
Babe - age 2Leanna - age 10 

Frank Owens - age 24 (boarder)

Laura - age 8 

Plaze Owens - age 22 (boarder)

Ben - 2 

Leanna Swanson - age 47 (boarder) 

George Blukten - age 23 (boarder) 

*Pleas and Frank Owens are believed to be the sons of Frank Owens and Fannie Swanson, the older sister of Leanna.  There was a Fannie Swanson who married a Reuben Owens 9/16/1891 in Bullock County, AL.  A Fannie Swanson also married a Frank Owens on 9/28/1897 in Ensley City, Jefferson, AL.

 Swanson, Sr., Pleas/Pleasant – Enslaved Settler and Freedman – born about 1849 in Alabama

 For his book entitled Ollie Miss, a novel about black folk life in rural south Macon County in the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance writer George Wylie Henderson created characters that were based on real people.  These were individuals who actually lived in the communities that formed the setting for the story such as Warrior Stand, Crossroads (aka Roba), Hannon, Hurtsboro, Tan Yard Hill, Cotton Valley, Little Texas, Swanson, Magnolia, Creek Stand, Gerrington (Guerryton) and Fort Davis.  Henderson chose not to the fictionalize names of these communities, or the names of certain characters.  The Ollie Miss character called Plez Swanson, is an example of an actual person from one of these communities.

 Pleas Swanson, Sr. lived in the community of Warrior Stand, the location that was a primary setting for Ollie Miss.  According to the U.S. Census, Pleas Swanson, Sr. was born about 1864 in Alabama.  He was the son of Ben and Martha (Mattie) Swanson.  He was married to Nellie Marshall in 1898.  He died in 1950 in Roba, Alabama.

 In 1910, Pleas, at *age 45, was enumerated, along with his wife Nellie, as a servant (or employee), in the household of Alex and Caroline Henderson.  Alex and Caroline were the paternal grandparents of the author George Wylie Henderson, Jr.  *(Note: the Census transcription found on Ancestry.com lists his age as 25 in 1910.  However, that appears to be a transcription error.  This is also evidenced by the fact that the 1910 census indicates that Pleas Swanson was married.  Pleas, Jr. appears in the same 1910 census record as “Pick” Swanson, age 14.  The 1920 Census age recorded for Pleas Swanson is 55 and Pleas Swanson, Jr. is 23 years of age in 1920, according to the Census.).

 Here is an excerpt about Plez Swanson from Ollie Miss: 

“Plez Swanson’s old shack, where Ollie was quartered, sat off to the right of Alex’s house in the direction of the Stand.”

 Apparently, Swanson was actually a sharecropper or employee on the property of Alex Henderson.  However, by 1920, according to the Census, Pleas Swanson was farming on his own account, and he was not someone else’s employee. 

 According to the census, the households of Pleas & Nellie Swanson were:


1900 – census record not found
1910 – Ancestry.com has two citations for this family.  This citation was documented within the household of Alex Henderson.  The age of Pleas Swanson is listed in error as 25.  It should be age 45. Nellie’s age was listed as 50. This information was recorded on May 3, 1910 – sheet 16B
1910 – Ancestry.com.  These names were documented on April 22, 1910 – sheet 6B
1920 – Warrior Stand, Macon, Alabama

1930 – Warrior Stand, Macon, Alabama – census record not found

1940 – Precinct 4 (Warrior Stand), Macon, Alabama

(Pleas, Sr. is living in household with Pleas, Jr.)

Alex HendersonNellie Swaons -age 60 (head)Pleas Swanson, Jr. - age 23 (son)
Plase Swanson - age 46 (head)

Caroline HendersonGabe Swanson Will Swanson - age 25 (nephew)
Anna Liza Swanson - age 34 (wife)

Sadie K. HarveyMinnie Swanson

Leitta Mae Swanson - age 14 (daughter)

Nellie HarveyPleas Swanson, Jr.

Leola Swanson - age 12 (daughter)

Harris HarveyAnnie Pace

Jimmy Lee Swanson - age 0 (son)

Mary PoterNellie Pace

Plase Swanson - age 78 (father)

Pleas Swanson - age 45 (transcribed in error as age 25)Callie Pace

Nellie Swanson - age 50Willie Pace

Win - age 22Tonie Pace

Sahi - age 21

Beatrice - age 20

Ann - age 18

Sevin - age 15

Pick - age 14

Nell -age 12

Swanson, Jr., Pleasant/Pleas – born about 1896 in Alabama

 He was the son of Pleas Swanson, Sr., and Nellie Marshall.  He was married to Annie/Anna Liza Echols, Feb. 8, 1925 in Hannon, Alabama.  It is believed that Pleas Swanson, Jr. died in Alabama on April 7, 1976.