Actually there was another priest of African American descent who was ordained the same year that Fr. Tolton was born.
James Healy was the eldest of 10 siblings born near Macon, Georgia
, in 1839
to Michael Morris Healy, an Irish immigrant
planter, and his common-law
wife Eliza Smith (sometimes recorded as Clark), a mixed-race
. Born in 1795, the senior Healy immigrated from County Roscommon
in 1818. He eventually acquired 1,500–1,600 acres (6.1–6.5 km2
) of land in Jones County, Georgia
, across the Ocmulgee River
from the market town of Macon, Georgia
. He became among the more prominent and successful planters
of the area, and eventually owned 49-60 slaves for his cotton plantation, which was labor-intensive.
Among these was a young slave woman named Mary Eliza Smith, whom he took as his wife in 1829.
Various accounts have described Mary Eliza as "slave" or "former slave," and as mulatto
or African American (the latter term includes people of mixed ancestry). The common-law marriage of Michael and Mary Healy was not unusual among immigrants; but state law prohibited interracial marriage. Most of their ten children, all but one of whom survived to adulthood, achieved noteworthy success as adults, helped by Healy's financial success and the educations he gained for them in the North