Late in the winter of 1906, Henderson Bagley closed his eyes in death. Born a slave, perhaps in Nash County, he had defied odds to accumulate a sizeable estate in western Wilson County. Despite his advanced age, however, he died without a will, and his family stepped forward to ask the County Superior Court to appoint Samuel H. Vick as the estate’s administrator. Bagley’s widow, second wife Lenora, marked the petition with an X, but sons Nestus and Ruffin Bagley penned confident signatures. Notes at the bottom identified more heirs — Zilla Bagley Renfrow, Ida Jones, Etta Bagley and Allen Bagley‘s children Willie, Hattie, Sarah and Gertrude — and estimated the value of his property.
On 7 March 1906, Vick filed an inventory of Bagley’s personal estate: a mule, a cart, a wagon, nine hogs, 17 geese, 25 chickens, about five barrels of corn, one and a half stacks of fodder, four feather beds, and some furniture, valued in total at $150; $458.35 received from the sale of timber; and $220.66 paid into the estate by son Ruffin. Vick noted that the heirs had decided that their stepmother should receive Bagley’s personal property as the year’s allowance due her as a widow.
Two months later, three commissioners and a surveyor paced the irregular outlines of Bagley’s nearly 180 acres, dividing it into parcels of equal value for distribution to Bagley’s heirs. Here is their report:
NORTH CAROLINA, Wilson County } In the Superior Court, Before the Clerk.
Leno Bagley, widow, Zillia Rentfrow, Nestus Bagley and others, Ex Parte. }
Report of Commissioners.
To S.G. Mewborn, Clerk of the Superior Court of Wilson County:
Obedient to a summons of the sheriff of Wilson County, we, the undersigned commissioners appointed to divide and allot in severalty the lands of the petitioners, containing 178 3/5 acres, assembled on the premises in Old Fields Township, Wilson Co. on the 5th, day of June, 1906, and after being duly sworn, and proceeded to partition the lands among the said tenants in common, according to their prospective rights and interests therein, after first laying off and allotting to Leno Bagley, widow, her dower and thirds in the lands of Henderson Bagley, deceased, the metes and bounds of dower and of each share, being as follows (as will appear by reference to plat of same, filed herewith):
To Leno Bagley, widow of Henderson Bagley, deceased we allot the following tract of land, as her dower:
Beginning at a stake at (B), Wiley Pearson’s corner, thence to said Pearson’s line S. 85; 20 E. 20 chains and 44 links to a stake on the north side of a certain ditch, at (C) on plat; thence S. 4, 9 W. 14 chains and 37 links to a large black gum on a branch, at (D) on plat; thence S. 87; 30′ E. 6 chains and 19 links to a large pine, Wiley Pearson’s corer thence along an agreed line, with said Pearson, S. 4; 53′ E. 7 chains to a stake, at (E) on plat, corner of Lot No. 1, thence with the line of Lot No. 1, S. 87; 30′ W. 25 chains and 75 links to a stake, at (A), thence North 24 chains and 82 links to the first station, containing 40 8/10 acres.
Lot No. 1, assigned to Ruffin Bagley, consisting of two shares, 1st share in his own right and 2nd share in the right of his sister, Zilla Rentfrow, as per her deed to Ruffin Bagley, is described as follows:
Beginning at a stake, in Morgan’s line, at the intersection of said Morgan’s line and the Center of Avenue, thence with the center of said Avenue N. 87; 30′ E. 40 chains and 25 links to a stake on Wiley Pearson’s agreed line; thence along said agreed line, this day marked, S. 4; 53′ E. 10 chains and 50 links to a Bay, on the run of Juniper Swamp, then up the run of said swamp to the mouth of a ditch, Morgan’s corner; thence along Morgan’s line, N. 2 E. 18 chains and 25 links to the first station, containing 64 acres, and valued at $400.00.
Lot No. 2, assigned to Willie, Hattie, Sarah and Gertrude Bagley is composed of two tracts (2 and 5 on the map), first tract, being lot no. 2. is described as follows:
Beginning at a stake at intersection of Morgan’s line and the Avenue the beginning corner of Lot No. 1, thence along said Morgan’s line N. 2 E 34 chains and 25 links to a stake, said Morgan’s corner; thence S. 85; 50′ E 5 chains and 50 links to three pines, an old corner same course continued, 2 chains and 59 links to a stake, thence south 33 chains and 24 links to a stake, on the line of Lot No. 1, thence along said line S. 87; 30′ W. 8 chains and 30 links to the first station, containing 33 9/10 acres; 2nd Tract, marked on plat No. 5, being in widow’s dower, is described as follows, Beginning at a large pine, Wiley Pearson’s corner, thence along said Pearson’s line S. 4; 53′ E. to a stake, corner of Lot No. 1, thence along line of Lot No. 1 S. 87; 30 W. 15 chains and 50 links to a stake S. 85 E. 10 chains and 19 links to a stake on the south side of a ditch, thence S. 4; 9′ W. 14 chains and 37 links to a large Black Gum, in a branch, thence S. 87; 30′ E. 6 chains and 19 links to the beginning, containing 23 4/10 acres, valued at $200.
Lot No. 3, assigned to Nestus Bagley, is composed of two tracts marked on plat no. 3 and 4, 1st tract is described as follows:
Beginning at three pines, thence N. 4; 30′ E. 9 chains and 71 links to a stake, thence S. 85 E, 8 chains and 50 links to a stake, thence S. 17 chains and 47 links to a stake, Pearson’s and the Dower corner, same course continued 24 chains and 82 links to a stake on line of Lot No. 1, thence along line of Lot No. 1. S. 87; 30′ W. 6 chains and 30 links to a stake, corner of Lot No. 2, thence along line of Lot No. 2, 33 chains and 24 links to a stake, thence N. 85; 50′ W. 2 chains and 59 links to the first station, containing 33 9/10 acres; 2nd tract, being on the Dower, and marked no. 4 on plat, is described as follows, Beginning at a stake at (B) on plat, Pearson’s corner, thence along Pearson’s line a stake, in line of Lot No. 1. thence along line of Lot No. 1, S. 87; 30’W 10 chains and 35 links to a stake, thence North 24 chains and 82 links to the beginning, containing 23 4/10 acres, valued at $200.00
The Plat, showing the above division, dated June 14, 1906, made by James W. Taylor Surveyor, is hereto attached and made a part of this report.
Respectfully submitted, W.N. Glover, A.R. Taylor, N.W. Williams, Commissioners
This 20th day of June, 1906. A correct copy. S.G. Mewborn, C.S.C.
On 22 August 1866, Henderson Bagley and Thana Williams registered their 12-year cohabitation in Wilson County, thereby legitimating a marriage made during slavery.
In the 1870 census of Chesterfield, Nash County: Henderson Bagley, 40, and children Catherine, 15, Allen, 10, Zillie, 8, Nestus, 6, and Thomas R., 4.
In the 1880 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: farmer Henderson Bagley, 53, and children Allen, 21, Zillah, 18, Genestus, 17, and Ruffin, 14.
On 4 July 1880, Henderson Bagley, 50, married Lenora Jones, 25, in Wilson County. J.W. Smith, Cena Smith and D.J. Scott witnesses the ceremony, which was performed by a justice of the peace.
On 7 October 1880, Allen Bagley, 22, married Mary Rountree, 20, at Alfred Woodard‘s in Wilson County. [Mary Rountree and her sister Louisa, who married Allen’s younger brother Ruffin, were Alfred Woodard’s stepdaughters. They are listed in the household of their father Warren Rountree in the 1870 census of Wilson township with mother Sarah, and siblings Florence, Rhebecca, Howell, Sallie and Warren Jr. Alfred Woodard, his first wife Harriet and their children are listed next door. Alfred Woodard married Sarah Rountree on 13 February 1873.]
On 18 December 1884, Nestus Bagley, 22, married Margarett Coleman, 20, at Washington Farmer‘s with J.W. Turner, Oscar Jones and James Locus witnessing.
On 27 November 1889, Ruffin Bagley, 22, son of Henderson and Bethany Bagley, married Louisa Rountree, 20, daughter of Warren Rountree and Sarah Woodard, at Alfred Woodard’s in Wilson County. Witnesses were W.W. Rountree, Sam Winstead and Henry Deans.
In the 1900 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: farmer Henderson Bagley, 70, wife Lenora, 48, daughter Etta, 18, and grandchildren Lonna Locus, 8, Earnest Locus, 6, and Percy Locus, 2. Next door: Ruffin Bagley, 32, wife Luesah, 25, and son Arthar, 6.
Ruffin Bagley, age 50, died 30 December 1915 in Old Fields township, Wilson County, of gastritis. His death certificate lists his parents as Henderson Bagley and Fannie Williamson. Nestus Bagley was informant.
On 12 March 1933, Ida Jones, daughter of Henderson Bagley and Lena Jones, both of Wilson County, died of uterine cancer. Her death certificate reports that she was married to Thomas Jones.
North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Commissioners’ Report at Plat Book 1, page 4, and plat at Plat Book 1, page 5, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.