The Oleanders Quartette performs.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 December 1937.

This was probably the Oleander Quartet, comprised of George Boyd, Cecil Murray, Howard Scott, George Hall, and pianist Elijah Lamar, which performed blues and spirituals on radio, mostly as a backup to Leadbelly, the legendary folk and blues singer. (Notably, the group backed him on a recording of “Pick a Bale of Cotton” circa 1935.)

The will and estates of William and Unity Ellis.

Per Powell and Powell, Wilson County Founding Families (2009), published by Wilson County Genealogical Society, William Ellis was born about 1740 in what was then Chowan County, North Carolina. He married Unity Dixon and settled in an area of Edgecombe County that is now Wilson County. His and Unity Ellis’ children were Willie, William, Coffield, Dixon, John, Gray, Jonathan and Spicy Ellis.

William Ellis made out his will on Christmas Eve 1812 in Edgecombe County:

  • to wife Unity Ellis, a life interest in the plantation on which lived lying at the fork of Mill or Panthers Branch and Toisnot Swamp, to revert to son Willie Ellis at her death. Also, Unity received life interests in enslaved people Arthur, Jonas, Isham, Belford, Lisle, Pat, Mimah, Treasy and Hester.
  • to son Coffield Ellis, a grist mill and land lying on the south side of Mill Branch, as well as slaves Sam and Harry, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Coffield turned 21
  • to son Dixon Ellis, the plantation on which William formerly lived on White Oak Swamp and a second parcel of land, as well as slave Giddeon
  • to son John Ellis, the plantation on which John lived on the main road from Tarboro to Stanton’s Bridge [roughly modern N.C. Highways 111 and 222], containing 149 acres, as well as a second one-hundred-acre tract and an enslaved man named Jack
  • to son Gray Ellis, if he had heirs, a plantation near Tarboro containing 125 acres (to go to son Jonathan Ellis if Gray had no lawful children) and an enslaved man named Bob
  • to son Jonathan Ellis, a plantation on the south side of the main road from Tarboro to Greenville, containing 100 acres, and an enslaved man named Guilford
  • to daughter Spicey Ellis, a plantation on the south side of Toisnot Swamp on the main road from Stanton’s Bridge to Tarboro, containing 100 acres, and slaves Hannah, Byhuel, Chaney and Beedy
  • to son William, an enslaved man named Jim; and
  • to son Willie, slaves Anthony and Mol, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Willie turned 21

Unity Ellis died in 1817, before the settlement of William Ellis’ estate. Her share of William’s enslaved estate was divided thus: to son John, Arthur ($525) and Pat ($5); to son Dixon, Jonas ($712); to son Coffield, Belfour ($712); for son Willie, Isham ($636); for son Jonathan, Mima, Sary and Clary ($888); and to son William, Trease ($600) and Hester ($350). Lisle, presumably, died between 1812 and 1818, and Sarah and Clara were born to Mima during the same period.

——

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isom Ellis, 67; wife Patience, 62; and son (grandson?) Jacob, 18, farm laborer.

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40, farm laborer; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4.

Will of William Ellis (1812); Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Why should not the girl be returned to her mother?

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No. 55        Bureau of Ref. Freedman & Abd. Lands, Office Asst. Supt. Goldsboro, N.C. March 27 1867

Mr. Organ, Stantonsburg N.C.

Sir,

Complaint has been made, that you keep Betsey Homes, aged 15 years & daughter of Julia Homes, without the consent of said Julia & after you promised the mother to bring the girl to Petersburg, Va. — You will please report to this office without delay, if Betsey is bound to you by any offices of the Bureau or if any other objection exists, why the girl should not be returned to her mother.

Very Respectfully, Your obd servant,

Hannibal D. Norton, [illegible], Asst. Supt. Bur. of R.F.& A. Lds.

——

“Mr. Organ” was almost surely John Organ, 38, the Virginia-born bookkeeper who appears with wife Anna and children in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County. Only the youngest child, four-month-old Ellen, had been born in North Carolina, indicating that the Organs were recent transplants to Wilson County — apparently having dragged Betsey Holmes with them. Incredibly, her mother Julia had managed to track her across state lines and demand that the Freedmen’s Bureau intervene to secure her return to her family.

See also the Fisher brothers, likewise kidnapped from Virginia.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org.

The Borden “brothers” enlist.

On 25 April 1864, four Wilson County men — Dennis, Edward, Henry and Jerry Borden — presented themselves in New Bern, North Carolina, to enlist in Company C, 1st Regiment, North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery of the United States Colored Troops (which was later known as Company C, 14th Regiment, Heavy Artillery). All bore the same surname, which was likely a mishearing of “Bardin” or “Barden,” and may have escaped from the same owner, but they were not brothers.

Here is Jerry Bardin‘s volunteer enlistment record:

And a muster record for Dennis Borden:

In 1872, Lydia Borden opened an account with the Freedmen’s Bank branch in New Bern. Per her account card, her husband was “Edward Borden (soldier) — d. of smallpox (1865?)” If this is the same Edward, freedom was short-lived.

Henry Borden was admitted to a military hospital in Hampton, Virginia, in April 1911. He was described as 85 years old; a resident of Bertie County, N.C.; and married to Cora Borden. He died 19 August 1911 in Windsor, Bertie County.

14th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Service Records Who served with the United States Colored Troops, http://www.fold3.com; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865, http://www.ancestry.com; Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871, http://www.ancestry.com; Register no. 19392-20891, Hampton, Virginia, United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938, http://www.familysearch.org.

Coffield Ellis house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

The house as photographed for Ohno’s book.

“Cofield Ellis was the son of William Ellis and Unity Dixon. He was born in 1797 and married Pennina Bartee before 1821. In 1813 William Ellis and Cofield inherited a grist mill and land on Toisnot Swamp. It may be that it was on this property that he built his house in 1839. Ellis died in 1854, and the plantation house passed to his son, William Cofield Ellis, William C. Ellis was born in 1821 and in 1853 married Sallie M. Peacock. Sallie Peacock Ellis died in 1865 and Ellis married Rebecca Frances Bridgers. … [T]he Ellis family has maintained continuous ownership of the plantation to date. The house is a substantial two-story structure with a gable roof, engaged porch and rear ell. Double should chimneys with tumbling [sic] are located in the gable ends. The interior has been altered.”

In 1817, Cofield Ellis inherited an enslaved man named Belfour, valued at $712, from the estate of his father William Ellis.

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farmer Coffield Ellis, 53, and wife Penelope, 52, with daughter Unity Ellis, 16; Cintha Ellis, 30; Muroe Cobb, 14; Thos. Evans, 16; Penny Johnson, 16; and Jno. Pittman, 16.

In the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County, Coffield Ellis reported owning 20 enslaved people — 12 men and boys aged 2 to 29, and 8 women and girls aged 2 to 60.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga district, Wilson County: farmer William C. Ellis, 38, and wife Sallie, 25. William reported owning $20,900 in personal property, which would have consisted primarily of enslaved people. [Note: Dempsey Ethridge, 47, and family were listed next door. Ethridge’s occupation was “manager of farm.” Was he William C. Ellis’ overseer?]

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga district, Wilson County, William C. Ellis reported owning 13 enslaved people — six men and boys aged 4 to 29, and seven women and girls aged 9 to 38.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: William Ellis, 48, farmer; wife Rebecca F., 33; and three young children; plus farmer’s apprentice John Ellis, 14.

The extended Ellis family were prolific slaveowners whose holdings will be examined in detail elsewhere in this blog.

Please state by what authority they are apprenticed to you.

Bureau R F & A Lands, Office Asst Sub Asst Comr, Goldsboro N.C. July 15th 1867

Barnes William Esq., near Blk Creek NC

Sir:

it is reported at the Head Quarters that you have in your possession three Colored Children named Blaney Barnes, Leonard Barnes and Perry Barnes: which you claim to have apprenticed to you. It is farther represented that these children if apprenticed at all were bound in violation of existing Laws.

In view of these facts you are hereby directed to Report in writing to these Hd. Quarters of your earliest convenience the Authority by which you hold these children in your possession. If they are apprenticed to you please state by what Authority, and if the consent of Parents or next nearest of kin was obtained previous to such Apprenticeship.

Yours Respectfully, J.F. Allison [illegible]

——

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 20, farm laborer.

Blany Barnes married Rachel Cooper on 10 August 1873 at J. Barden’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Blany Barnes, 27; wife Rachel, 25; and children Larry, 6, Mary An, 4, and William Anderson, 2.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: railroad laborer Blaney Barnes, 47; wife Rachel, 44; and children Anderson W., 22, Lanettie, 16, and Charlie, 11; plus boarder Dorch Wade, 25.

On 22 September 1903, Blaney Barnes, 50, married Diana Ricks, 45, in Spring Hill township.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 55, log hauler for saw mill; wife Dianna, 44, farm laborer; daughters-in-law Louvenia Furgerson, 21, and Jane Barnes, 19; grandsons Hiliard, 7, and Joseph N. Barnes, 5, and Willie Furgerson, 4; granddaughter Martha G. Barnes, 12; and boarder Troy Barnes, 23.

Blaney Barnes died 26 April 1915 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1844 in Wilson County to Sip Barnes of Wayne County and an unknown mother; was married; and was buried in Barnes graveyard. Informant was Wiley H. Johnson of Lucama.

Roll 17, Letters sent, July-Sep 1867, Goldsboro Assistant Subassistant Commissioner’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

Mother Mary P. Wright.

“Trust in God to meet again.” (A Clarence B. Best production.)

Mary P. Wright‘s family was among hundreds who migrated North from Wilson County in the first half of the 20th century. However, her links to home remained strong enough that her children chose to bury her there, in Rest Haven cemetery.

Wright died 28 October 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 October 1886 (not 22 May 1860 as her headstone states) in North Carolina; was the widow of Emit Wright; and lived at 621 Dudley Street, Philadelphia. Informant was Henretta Farmer, 621 Dudley Street.

On 13 November 1921, Jessie Farmer, 28, married Henrietta Wright, 20, in Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1112 Carolina Street, rented for $16/month, Jessey Farmer, 34, tobacco factory laborer; wife Henerator, 26, laundress; and children Jessey Jr., 8, Ervin, 4, and Trumiller, 3.

On 30 December 1930, Raleigh Rae Farmer died in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 August 1930 to Jessie Farmer of Wilson, N.C., and Henrietta Wright of Zeblin [Zebulon], N.C. in Wilson. The infant died of bronchitis.

Jesse Farmer Sr. died 26 September 1931 in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Veterans Hospital at Oteen. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 October 1937 in Wilson to Jeff Farmer and Blanche Gay; was married to Henrietta Farmer; his regular residence was in Wilson; and he did factory work.

Though it is not clear when the Wright-Farmer family moved to Philadelphia, the Farmers, at least, were there by 1942, when Jesse Farmer Jr. registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 22 July 1922 in Wilson, North Carolina; his contact was Mrs. Henrietta Farmer, 621 Dudley Street; and he worked for Benjamin Cohen, 1140 North American Street, Philadelphia.

Jesse Farmer Jr., son of Jesse and Henrietta Farmer, married Virginia Atherine Darden, 24, daughter of William Sr. and Florence Darden, on 29 March 1947 at Crucifixion Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

In the 1950 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, city directory: Farmer Henrietta 621 Dudley HOwrd5-8655.

Wright’s daughter Henretta Farmer died just four years after her mother, on 5 June 1966. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 July 1909 in North Carolina to Emmett Wright and Mary Pullet; was a widow; and lived at 621 Dudley Street. Jesse Farmer was informant.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2019.