There appears to be some doubt among historians about the parentage and early life of John Lambert, one of Liberty County’s more outstanding citizens of the past. He died in Liberty County on December 28, 1786, and left a unique and enduring will whose provisions were still being implemented in 1984.
Josephine Bacon Martin of Liberty County published a pamphlet she wrote in 1932 titled “Midway, Ga., in History and Legend.” In it she asserted” … an infant was found in a basket on Lambert’s Bridge in South Carolina. Who his parents were no one ever found out, and in his early youth he was cared for by the family who found him. When he was still a child, his foster parents died, leaving him again alone and penniless. The planters of the neighborhood befriended him, each taking the boy into their home for a year at the time .”
Caroline Price Wilson, in her book Annals of Georgia – Vol. 1, published in 1928, said that Lambert’s parents most likely were Jeremiah and Leah Lambert of Saint James Parish, South Carolina. This information was revealed, according to the author, in 1836 when an unsuccessful attempt was made by certain persons to establish a claim to the Lambert estate.
The suit was heard in Liberty County Superior Court, during the course of which Elizabeth Gregory of Leon County, Florida, then 80 years of age, testified that she resided in Sumpter County, South Carolina, until she relocated in Georgia in 1800. She gave the names of Lambert’s parents and said that she had seen him at his home near Wateree, South Carolina. She also testified that she “heard” that Lambert’s mother died when he was born, and that his father died six years after he did. She said that the estate of Lambert’s father was left in the trust of two ministers of the gospel whose surnames were Gourley and Henderson.
Lambert must have had considerable funds when he first came to Liberty County in 1784, because in less than three years he had built a large plantation and owned many slaves. When he died his estate was left in the hands of executors to be used for charitable and religious purposes.
This is the will.
WILL OF JOHN LAMBERT
STATE OF GEORGIA
In the name of God, Amen.
The 29th day of September, in the year of our Lord, 1785, and of the sovereign Independence of America, the tenth, I, John Lambert of Liberty County, and state aforesaid, planter, being infirm in body but (blessed be God) of sound mind and the certainty of death, do hereby make and ordain this my last will and testament and hereby revoke and cancel all former and other wills heretofore made or declared, and do allow of and confirm this and no other, to be my last will and testament.
Principally, I commend my immortal spirit into the hands of God, who gave it, in and through the merits and meditation of Jesus Christ, my blessed Saviour and Redeemer, on whom I rely for the pardon and salvation; and my body at death to be interred in a decent and Christian manner at the discretion of my executors.
First, I will and desire that all my just depts and funeral expenses shall be duly paid and discharged.
Item. I give and bequeath unto the Reverend Mister Gourlay and also to the Reverend Mister Henderson, of South Carolina, the sum of sixty pounds sterling, to be paid to each as soon as it can be conveniently raised, from the income of my estate, to them, and their heirs forever.
I give unto Mister Joseph Dunnom my silver watch.
My will and desire is that Mister Joseph Bee’s bond due me, be given up to him and cancelled and also Mister James O’Hear’s note to me, the same.
Item. I give and bequeath to the church and society of Midway, to be brought, as soon as may be, one silver tankard and two communion cups, for the use of said church.
Item. I give and bequeath unto my friend, the Reverend Archibald Simpson, my two new Negro men, that are in South Carolina, he paying the expense attending the getting of them, having had late advice from Mister Penman respecting them. Also, I give unto the said Archibald Simpson my little stock of cattle I left on his plantation, consisting of six or eight head, more or less, to him and his heirs forever.
My will and desire is that my estate be kept together, and the yearly income be applied to any religious, or good purpose at the discretion of my executors and trustees, either for the support of the gospel in back parts of the state, for the relief of the poor and distressed, or wherever any good pious and good purpose may be answered in the church of Midway, or any other that might be erected, for the carrying on and assisting the intended academy in Sunbury, or promoting of any public schools or Seminary of learning; the bringing up of orphans, and the like. And my estate being in debt, I leave it to the discretion of my executors to sell any part thereof, real or personal, for the clearing of the same, if it cannot be conveniently wrought out.
My will and desire is that the fellow, Toney, be continued driver while he behaves well; may be allowed the priviege of raising a few hogs among the rest, or be found some meat, and something distinguishable in clothes, or a few guineas per ann urn, according to the merit. And the rest of my slaves be treated with as much levity as may be consistent with reasonable service and comfortable living. My will is that as soon as may be, a small stock of cattle be bought and also that if it can be admitted, they may have meat and rice and rum two or three times a year; and besides, good clothing in the winter; that they also have summer clothes or oznaburg or the like. And I recommend that the minister for the time being, may visit them occasionally and give them some spiritual advice.
Lastly, I here nominate, constitute and appoint my friends, the Reverend Abiel Holmes, John Elliott, Gideon Dowse, Thomas Sumner, William Quarterman, and Thomas Baker my executors and trustees, for the purpose within mentioned; and in case of decease or removal of any, so that they cannot or will not act, then it shall be in the power of a majority of them, to elect others; and it is my will that others be elected to fill up such vacancies. And I do hereby grant unto my said executors and trustees full power and authority to act and so as they shall judge will best conduce to answer the end and design of this my will.
In witness whereof I, the said John Lambert, to this my last will and testament, have set my hand and seal the day and year first above written.
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence.
Sworn to before Thomas Baker, Register of Probate, Liberty County, January 22, 1787.