THOMASVILLE — A woman who spent childhood summers with her grandparents in the Duncanville area of Grady County has written a book about her family, dating back to Florida's first territorial governor in the early 1800s.
Jean Delaney Hadley, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, resident, spent 14 years gathering information and writing a book about her family — "The Delaneys." The book takes the family from the South Carolina Lowcountry to the tall pines of North Florida during a time span of close to two centuries.
Hadley will present the book to a Thomasville library later this month.
U.S. President James Monroe sent William Pope Duval to Tallahassee to become Florida's first territorial governor in 1822, one year after Tallahassee became a city and the Florida capital.
Duval brought slaves to what is now Leon County, Florida, Hadley said. They came from the Jacksonville area, where Duval was a federal judge.
Hadley's slave ancestors became Duval's household staff at the governor's home near Lake Jackson.
"It was a Spanish territory. Florida was under Spanish control at that time," Hadley said.
Having no interest in agriculture and slave ownership, Duval went to Texas in 1848, Hadley said.
"His thing was politics," Hadley said.
Duval's slaves were turned over to a relative and remained in the area until the Civil War.
When slavery ended, Jean Delaney Hadley's great-grandfather migrated to the Rocky Hill, Duncanville and Beachton area of what is now Grady County.
The Beachton area of Grady County was Thomas County at the time. Grady County was chartered by the Georgia General Assembly in 1906.
"They worked for the Blackshear family as sharecroppers," Hadley said.
Her great-grandfather, Governor Delaney Sr., was born in Leon County, and named for the former Florida governor's title. Her grandfather was Governor Delaney Jr.
Her great-grandmother, Caroline Blackshear, was born in Duncanville on the Blackshear plantation, originally known as Cedar Grove, now known as Susina. She and Governor Delaney Sr. married in 1867 in Thomasville and had eight children, including Hadley's grandfather, Governor Delaney Jr.
Her mother, Vera Bennett, was born in New York City after her parents left Georgia for a better life. Bennett and William Delaney Sr., who had left Thomasville, also for a richer future, married in New York.
When World War II began, women went to work in factories. Delaney's parents sent her to the Beachton area to live with her paternal grandparents during the war. She eventually returned to New York and spent summers with her grandparents in Duncanville.
Retiring after a 30-year banking career in New York, Delaney moved to Fort Lauderdale with her late husband, who died in 1994.
Robert Hadley, who grew up in Thomas County and is a retired teacher, was a widower when he and Jean Delaney reunited after knowing each other in fourth grade at the Duncanville school. They married in 2003.
Always a history buff, Hadley recalled asking her paternal grandmother many questions about slavery in the family. What she learned remained with her.
"It was like a journey. I fell in love with that," Hadley said.
The four-volume work is a research tool, a labor of love for Hadley. She could have continued for an additional 20 years.
"I said, 'No, no, no.' This is enough," Hadley said she told herself.
She considers her work a service of gratitude to her ancestors.
The book will be given to the Thomasville Genealogical Library on the Thomas University campus Monday at 10 a.m.
“What a wonderful experience it is for someone to walk into a library and find a book about their family on the shelf,” said Kathy Mills, Thomasville Genealogical Library director. “This book about the Delaney family will provide such a wealth of history for those family members who want to trace their family's roots. We're honored to have such a treasure here for others to enjoy.”
Hadley enjoys visiting Thomasville.
"It is beautiful and holds many nice memories," she said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820