State of North Carolina }
Wilson County }
I B.F. Briggs
The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions hereby Certify that at October Term A.D. 1865 the Court apprenticed to Mrs Elizabeth Whitley seven children to wit – Drury age 10 years, George 16 years, Easter 14 years Turner 18 yrs Sophia 14 yrs Robert 12 yrs Adelade 16 years of age &c
Given under my hand and seal of office at office the 6th day of April A.D. 1867
B.F. Briggs, Clerk
Stantonsburg N.C. April 6th/67
[illegible] H.G. Norton
Yours of the 2 Int to hand contents noticed you stated that Dick Whitley (col) complains that I keep his sisters children without his consent & refuses to let the same return to him. I have not got the children nor have not had nothing to doe with them at all. My wife had the children bound to her at the time they were bound. We did not know whire Dick Whitley was and think that he had not been in the county for Several months, the children has in the neighbourhood, two uncles & grand mother & none of them has not complained at all in reguard to the children. Dick has not made any application for the children, nor does nothing for the support of his old helpless Mother, We are willing to doe any thing that is legal or right: in regard to them we send now a copy of the indentures, if you desire that I should come down inform me
Very Respectfully /s/ Gray Whitley
Stantonsburg NC, Apr 22nd, 1867
Maj. N.D. Norton
Yours of April 20th is to hand regarding five children who are at present working with my wife. In reply I would State that your letter of April 2nd came duly to hand makeing inquiries about said children, and I wrote to you at one, acknowledgeing the receipt of said letter, but failed to address it to you officially in the envelope and suppose from this cause you have not received it. The children alluded to, are as you have been informed, orphans, having lost both parents. Their mother during her lifetime and while a slave belonged to my wife, and after the close of the war, they having no protector, my wife made application to the county court of Wilson and had them bound to her. In my former reply to your letter of April 2nd I give you a correct statement concerning the children and enclosed also the certificate of the county court clerk of Wilson to the effect that the said children had been bound to my wife, I regret that the letter and certificate have not reached you. If you desire it, I will obtain and forward to you another certificate from the clerk of the county; the children have been brought up by my wife from infancy and have living near them two uncles and two aunts, who seem to be willing that I should retain them, and theas I imagine should have some voice in the matter. They have never raised any objections to my keeping the children, and the children seem to be willing to remain with me. I think that as a majority of the living relatives of the children are willing that they should stay with my wife she having raised them and the children seems to be well contented thus far and I really think that we should be allowed to keep them. Dick has not been seen in this vicinity for 12 months which he has living near us an Old Mother almost helpless he does nothing for her nor seems to care nothing for her so I think if he had the children but little assistance they would get from [illegible] Hopeing to hear from you soon and also hope that the above explanation may be satisfactory I am
Yours truly, Gray Whitley
Farmer Gray Whitley, 55, and wife Bettie appear in the 1870 federal census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County. No black children are listed in their household, nor are any elsewhere with the names listed above.
Update: As reader Tiffany Watson points out: in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Levi Barnes, 45, farm laborer; wife Olive, 50, domestic servant; presumed children Samuel, 19, Charles, 10, Rachel, 18, and Celia Barnes, 15; plus Adeline, 23, Dinah, 10, Dewry, 12, and Richard Whitley, 42, farm laborer. This is surely Dick Whitley and at least two — Drury and Adelaide — of the children in dispute above. On 17 November 1874, Adeline Whitly, 20, married Stephen Barnes, 23, in Wilson County.
Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database online], http://www.ancestry.com.