a tree-rific journey into family history

Phillip Clinkscales: the uncomfortable reality of plantation genealogy

Phillip Clinkscales was born April 27, 1826 and died January 22, 1892. He married Claracy Thompson Bobo (1829-1895) and had eleven known children. He and his wife are buried at Shiloh Baptist Church in Anderson County, South Carolina.  Because few records exist for African-Americans born in the South before the Civil War, Phillip’s parents were a dead end to me. My wife descends from Phillip’s oldest son, Steward Clinkscale, who moved to Arkansas in the 1880s and apparently lost all contact with his parents and siblings. Although he dropped the S in his surname, he did name two of his 11 children after his parents. For a long time, his father Phillip was a brick wall until I found my wife’s fourth cousin online. A fourth cousin means they share a great-great-great grandparent. He also told me that the descendants of Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales have a reunion and have worked to document much of their family history.  In fact, their reunion is this weekend in Detroit, Michigan. They had no idea that Steward made his way to  Arkansas and now had a multitude of offspring who knew nothing of their South Carolina roots.

My wife’s 3x great-grandmother. I didn’t put that text over the image, but I was so excited to get this picture. She was the daughter of Olive Bobo (born 1808 in South Carolina).

When I asked the cousin about the parents of Phillip Clinkscales, he told me they suspected Phillip was the mulatto son of a slave-owner and a slave. Oral tradition states that the white Clinkscales looked out for Phillip as family, and census records show he was a literate mulatto who owned substantial property shortly after emancipation. He may have never actually lived as a slave. The cousin put me in touch with a Caucasian Clinkscales from Texas who was doing a DNA project to link the white and black Clinkscales families of Anderson County, South Carolina. I found a local third cousin of my wife’s who qualified for the DNA test (a direct male-only lineage from Phillip), and we met up at a restaurant. As I ate a free steak, the Caucasian Clinkscales swabbed this man’s mouth for a sample. He also told us that several Clinkscales had participated in the study, and the results confirmed they had all come from a common ancestor. He assumes the ancestor is Levi Clinkscales (1782-1845) although it could feasibly be his father, son, or brother. Because of the uncertainty of which white Clinkscales my wife comes from, I have not added them to my family tree yet. Perhaps I hesitate to add this branch because I do not want to admit what we all know was commonplace on the plantation- white slave owners made babies with their black slave women.

Slavery is a harsh part of many family histories, and both the descendants of slaves and slave-owners often deal with some emotional baggage regarding the world their ancestors lived in.  There were different degrees of brutality and humanity allowed to slaves in various situations, but even in the best-case scenario, people were still property. Although some people attempt to romanticize the sexual relationships between slave-owners and their black mates, it is hard to imagine the situation as anything nicer than rape. Even if the enslaved woman was attracted to the man, she was still his property and could legally never be anything more to him. While the owners may have had motives such as increasing their workforce and property value, this certainly does not justify sexual assault. In fact, many abolitionists used these sexual relationships as a reason to end slavery. Perhaps they were sympathetic to the slave families or just afraid of miscegenation. Interracial marriages did not become fully legal in many Southern states until a century after the Civil War, and some stigma still exists today. The mulatto children born to slave owners may have enjoyed some preferential treatment compared to fellow slaves, but legally they were considered black. Many state laws defined blacks as anyone with “one drop of blood.” Even if freed, they lived as second-class citizens at best.

A likely part of my wife’s family history is that one of her 4x great-grandmothers was a slave who was taken advantage of by her married, white master, but another part of the story is the strength of that mulatto son who no doubt overcame numerous obstacles. Records indicate that he was literate, owned a substantial farm, married a beautiful woman, and raised eleven known children.  Many of his descendants are gathering together right now in Detroit for a weekend of celebration to honor of the legacy of Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales. So, I guess it all worked out in the end.

Phillip Clinkscales is interred at Shiloh Baptist Church, southeast of Anderson, South Carolina. Originally founded as Parker Baptist Church in 1861, it is easy to imagine that Phillip was an early or founding member.

My wife’s grandmother is named Classie. Unbeknownst to her, this is a variation of her great-grandmother’s name. On the death certificate of one of Claracy’s children, her name is given as Classie.

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38 thoughts on “Phillip Clinkscales: the uncomfortable reality of plantation genealogy

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and searching post on a such a troublesome aspect of our country’s history. So wonderful that his legacy lives on.

  2. Jackie on said:

    I really appreciate your statements about “slavery is a harsh part of many family histories.” I have been uncomfortable several times in relating some events or attitudes from the past. I try to portray them as accurately as I can; I feel like they deserve the dignity of “truth” whatever it might be.

    • I think as a researcher, we have to just tell it how it happened. The slavery experience came in different shapes and forms, but it was always a bad deal.

      • Tim Stowers on said:

        I am a direct descendant of Philip and Clarrisa (Claracy) Clinkscales. I am responsible for pulling the information together for my Clinkscales family reunion. I have access to Philip’s white brother (Levi Newton) information (to include an actual photo) where I was able to confirm their joint father, Levi Clinkscales (discovered via the SC Archives located in Columbia, SC). Much of your reported information is exactly in line with my research findings. I would like to speak with you and further share information from both of our findings. My grandmother is Philip’s great granddaughter. I am a member of Shiloh Baptist Church.

        • Hi Tim,
          I am a descendant of the Grandville Branch of the Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales family tree, which branch are you a member of?

          • Hi Jim,
            I am a descendant of the Granville branch. His son, James is my great-grandfather. James’ daughter, Isabelle is my grandmother.

          • That’s great! I’m happy to share information with you anytime. I still have much to learn about this line.

        • My name is David Clinkscales. My father Thomas Patrick Clinkscales was born in the Carolina’s but went to school (Admiral King) in Lorain, OH. I have one brother Michael Anthony Clinkscales, who has 3 daughters : Taylor, Kamry, and Kayla and 2 sons: Anthony and Micah. I have one daughter and one son: Cailyn (Salas) and Michael. We have extensive family connections on our Facebook pages but I do not know if we tie into the family tree stated in this research. I can be contacted via FB or email:

  3. Reblogged this on Clinkscales Family in America and commented:
    A very well written post/article about tracing family connections from Plantation-Era southern CLINKSCALES; and the reality that was in their lifetime(s). — CAA

  4. Robert Huff on said:

    This is a very interesting and poignant discourse on one of my ancestors.
    Thank you for your contribution.

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  7. rebecca on said:


    I am a descendant of Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales. I would love to chat with person responsible for doing the research on the family genealogy. Your wife has more family than she could ever imagine. I currently reside in Florida, however I am from Pendleton Sc. I have 15 first cousins and just about each of them have at least two a piece. I just currently found out about this line of ancestry. I can be emailed at

  8. I was doing research on the Clinkscales for my uncle and came across this info., thank you. I am a GG-grandson of Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales. I too would like to communicate with you since I do most of the research for our branch.

  9. Jim,

    Thank you for contacting me. I may be of some help to you or be able to put you in touch with people who are (depending which branch you come through). If you will leave your e-mail address, I will write you and then delete it from the site (so you don’t get spammed).

  10. Thanks for sharing this! I have family from Laurens, Newberry, and Union South Carolina, and a cousin whose dad was a Clinkscale. I wonder if we could be related?

    • If your Clinkscales trace back to the Anderson County area before the Civil War. There were other families with that name in the state then too.

      • Diane Clinkscale on said:

        Please help with trying to determine what Clinkscales sect/division my fathers forefathers belong to? My grandfathers name was Luther Clinkscales and he had 2 sisters America Clinkscales and Ella Clinkscales in Anderson S.C.

        • james hicks on said:

          Diane, I need a little more information about Luther. I have found my records on America and Ella but not on Luther. Could he have gone by any other name? According to my records America married into the family and Ella is a Clinkscales by birth, but I do not have a record on a Luther. I am not saying he is not a member especially since Ella and America are in there, but I do not have a record for the name Luther. As soon as you get back in touch with me I will send you my Family Group Records on the other two and how they are related to Phillip and Claracy Clinkscales. Please provide your email address because I will not send family records on public blogs. Jim

          Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 07:54:54 +0000 To:

  11. Diane Clinkscale on said:

    Hi just found the family site, tried to sign up and join but there was a security question that I did not have the answer for, pls. help. Trying to determine if Phillip Clinkscales was a great-great-great grandfather to my grandfather Luther Clinkscales from Anderson S.C. My name is Diane Clinkscale (we dropped the s) but originally Clinkscales. Please email me the security answer to sign up to Clinkscales

  12. Ashley Clinkscales on said:

    I am a Clinkscales but we know very very little about our family. My father is Larry Clinkscales and I believe his father was Miller Clinkscales. We are in Northwest Arkansas. I would love any information in regards to my family

  13. Polly Clinkscales of Anderson County, SC is my 3rd Great Grandmother she was Married Zackariah J “Zack” Clinkscales they had a Son name Phillip !

  14. Do you know who Ruben Clinkscales was?

  15. in 1870 he owned over 2000+ acers of land in Anderson county, Land that was share cropped by my Relaitves

    • What a great resource! If only all churches had such s detailed history.

      • Hi Matthews,

        It’s been a while since we last corresponded. In the process of putting together a ‘first class’ album on my Clinkscales genealogy discoveries, which will include SC archival data that links Philip to Levi Clinkscales (via his brother Levi Newton). You probably recall that I sent you a picture of Phillip’s younger brother Levi Newton. Levi Newton is the that unlocks the Clinkscales’ family roots, tracing to Maryland USA…all the way to Glasgow, Scotland…going back as far as 1685 (Adam Clinkscales…born Mar 8, 1685).

        Reviewed your family recap discoveries, where a birth date / death of Levi Clinkscales was in the 1782 birth range, 1845 death period. Actual dates are Oct 4, 1785 (birth); death August 13, 1843 according to the SC State Archives, so pretty darn close.

        Trust all is well with you and the family. Take care / the family appreciates your dedicated time in helping us all appreciate our Clinkscales roots.

  16. Are you on gedmatch or 23andme – Just found out that on my mother’s side (Pratt was married to a Clinkscales in Anderson SC. I would like to talk further to see if you are a relative of mine.

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