Month: May 2019

The last will and testament of Theophilus Grice.

Theophilus Grice made out his will on 18 April 1823; he died six months later. Per Elton Cooke, who contributed a transcription of the will to http://www.ncgenweb.us, “The Grices, Deans and Cooks owned large tracts of land along Contentnea Creek, Hwy. 42 W and the Old Raleigh Road west of Wilson and east of I 95. References to Poplar Spring branch and Shepard’s branch are frequently seen in Cook and Grice deeds of the period. The area, known as the Old Fields (various spellings) district was taken from Nash County in 1856 [sic] to form a part of the new County of Wilson.”

——

“In the name of God Amen. I Theophilus Grice of the County of Nash and State of North Carolina Being Weake in body but Sound in Mind and Memmory blesed be God for his goodness do this Eighteenth day of April in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and twenty three Ordain and Make this My Last Will and Testament in Manner following to wit

“After My death and being buried and all My just debts is paid I lend to My Wife Polley Grice doring hur lifetime or Widowhood the home plantation and the Jacob Row field and after inclooding the said Row field thence two and along the Grass fence below the orched to the ford of the Contenney Creake at My old place all the lands adjoining above the said ford of the Creake is allotted for hur I also lend My negro Man Sesar to hur during hur natrel life or widowhood I allso give to hur one negro Man named Hardy and it is My desier that he be Hired out and the Money arising from His hire to be aplied to the seport of My Wife and hur Children that lives With hur I give hur three Cows and Calves and twenty hed of hogs Such As She Chooses out of My Stock and five hed of Sheep and one bay mare Called pidgin One plow frame two Cutting hoes one ax one grubing hoe I lend to My Wife one pot one Dutchoven one gridiron one boilar during of hur natrel life or Widowhood I give hur one bed and furniture one Whele and Cards One lume and gun one bridle and Saddle one burch table one pine table & Six Chiers one pale one pigin two tubs one Case of knifes and forks one meal sifter one bred tray I lend to My Wife during hur natrel life or Widowhood two puter basons one dish six plates and six table spoons and one Chest to hur and hur ares forever

Item I give to My Sun John Grice the blumery land that is to say the lots bought of Dred Deberry and his Wife and Irvin Ricks lying on both sides of the blumery pond also another tract of land lying in the afore said County Beginning at the ford of the Creake about one Hundred and fifty yards from the house at My old place on the Johnston line thence down the Manders of Said Creake to the Row Corner on Said Creake thence with the Row line & Grice line between Theopolis Grice and Christen Row unto the Raley Rode to a corner pine thence West With the Rode to Nichols line thence South With Nichols line to Theopolis Grices line thence East With his line until they get below the Jacob Row feld and down the Branch to the fork thence up the other branch nearly West to the head of said branch thence nearly South to the first beginning at the ford of Contenney Creake to him and his ares forever

Item I give to My Sun Thomas Grice all of My land lying in Johnston County Except three Akers lying at the Mill Called the Cobb Mill also I give him another tract of land lying in Nash County Called the boykin land adjoining Jesse Simpson to him and His ares forever also all the ballance of My land that is not Willed away I leave to be Sold at a twelve Month Credit

Item I give to My daughter Salley Cook two negros garls and their Children that is now is their puseson also one bed and furniture two Cows and yearlins one desk one Chest to Hur and hur ares forever.

Item I give to My Suns and daughters that is to Say John Thomas Rodey and Tempey fifteen negros to be Eakeley divided between them that is to Say Pris and hur three Children and Sal and hur fore Children and Darkis and hur fore Children and all of their increase that Shal Come hereafter and one Small garl named Morning to be divided at the time that My Sun John think proper to take his part of them to them and their ares forever and it is My desier that all the Rest of My Negros be Sold at a twelve Month Credit Namely Phillis Phareby Rode Anddy Patianc Fortin and Child Joe Nance and hur Child Art Jes Mill Zil

… I also nominate and apoint Bartley Deans and My Sun John Grice My Hole Sole Executor to this My Last Will and testament Whereof I Theopolis Grice have herunto Set My hand and afixed My Seal the day and year first above Written   /s/ Theophilus Grice

Signed in the presence of us and Sealed in the presence of us  /s/ John L. Lyons  James Deans

——

In a nutshell, Theophilus Grice left his wife Mary “Polly” Harrison Grice a life interest in Caesar and directed that Hardy be hired out to support Polly and their children. He left his daughter Sarah “Sally” Grice Cook two unnamed young women and their children, who were already in her possession. For his four remaining children — John, Temperance Ann, Rhoda and Thomas Grice, who were all minors — he directed that 15 enslaved people be divided equally among them. The fifteen were Pris [Priscilla?] and her three children; Sal [Sally or Sarah] and her four children; Darcus and her four children; and Mourning, “a small girl” (who, presumably, was orphaned.) To equally distribute 15 people among four heirs likely required that one or more mothers be separated from their children. Grice further directed that Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, Andy, Patience, Fortune and her child, Joe, Nancy and her child, Art, Jess, Mill, and Zil be sold.

On several days in over the year after his death, Grice’s executors held sales to liquidate his property per the terms of his will. On 4 December 1923, they sold Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, and Fortune and her child Bedy to Polly Grice; Andrew, Jess and Ace, Zill and Milly to John Grice; Joe, Arthur and Nancy and her child Piety to John Cook; and Patience to Harris Horn.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 10.25.17 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 10.26.43 PM.png

At February 1824 term of court, Grice’s executors filed an inventory that listed all 37 of his slaves, including those sold above:

Philis, Phareby, Rody, Andrew, Patience, Fortune and child Beedy, Joe, Nance and child Piety, Arthur, Jes, Mill and Zill (twins?), Sarah, Ace, David, Chaney, Henry, Eliza, Priss, Richmon, Daniel, Ann, Darcus, Litha, Wiley, Charity, Dempsey, Mourning, Caesor, Hardy, Beed, Cussey and her three children.

In December 1828, the guardians appointed to oversee minor Thomas Grice’s inheritance filed an income and expense report with the court showing, among other things, that they had paid Mary Grice thirty-seven dollars for “the expense” of feeding and clothing the enslaved people Thomas had inherited, and Josiah Horn seven dollars and fifty cents for “doctoring his Negro woman.”

007384023_00986

On 7 February 1829, Polly Grice sold some of the property she had inherited, including Caesar, whom her son John Grice purchased. (Note the credit to the account of seven dollars for the balance of the six-month period Caesar had been hired out to Peter C. Davis.)

007384023_00983

In this December 1838 account of Rhoda Grice’s inheritance, Bartley Deans reported income from the hire of enslaved people Wiley, Charity, Jim, Caroline and Elbert.

007384023_00981

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

P.S.A.: “Investigating African American Family History”

The Community Histories Workshop at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (my alma mater!) will present “Investigating African American Family History” Tuesday, 11 June 2019, 6:00-8:00 PM at The Power House, Rocky Mount Mills, 1151 Falls Road, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, which is 20 miles north of Wilson.

I can’t be there, but wish I could. Y’all let me know what you learn.

2019-06-chw-workshop-3

Snaps, no. 52: Jessie Ruffin Hill.

15!lCTMVvX9Ee3zxEgjE9vWxk3KCvcmR2d0DNoiWfo8weF2cKK35XTiSWS0PWiMl

Jessie Beatrice Ruffin Hill (1908-1990).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 East Nash Street, transfer man Garfield Ruffin, 39; wife Thennie, 28; and children Jessie, 12, Emma, 8, Mary, 7, Cora, 5, Naomi, 3, Kernice, 1, and Thennie, 7 months.

On 23 May 1929, William Hill, 21, of Durham, married Jessie Hill, 23, of Durham, daughter of Pres Binn (dead) and Thenie Ruffin of Washington, D.C., in Durham, North Carolina.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County: at 504 Fowler Avenue, rented for $8/month, and shared with another family, factory worker William Hill, 24, wife Jessie, 22, and son William Jr., 2 months.

[In the 1930 census of Washington, D.C.: at 728 – 12th Street, barber James G. Ruffin, 45; wife Parthenia, 36; and children Emma, 19, Mary E., 18, Cora, 16, Naomi, 15, Kernice, 12, Parthenia, 11, James B., 9, Linwood, 7, Izah, 6, Calvin C., 4, and Canlice, 2.]

William Hill registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1906 in Roxobel, Bertie County; lived at 704 Pickett Street, Durham; worked for Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company; and his contact was wife Jessie Beatrice Hill.

Jessie R. Hill died 29 July 1990 in Durham. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1908 in Wilson to Henry G. Ruffin and an unnamed mother; was a widow; and had been a tobacco worker. George Hill of Albany, Georgia, was informant.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user jfount6081.

The business of shoes.

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 5.57.51 PM.png

Shoeshine box, shoe horn, brush and polish. Oliver N. Freeman Round House and Museum, photograph at digitalnc.com.

Until recent decades, most people owned only one or two pairs of shoes, and keeping them clean and in good condition required the regular services of shoemakers, repairmen and bootblacks. Here are some of the many men who plied this trade in Wilson.

  • Henry Adkinson — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Adkinson is listed as the proprietor of H. Adkinson & Son, shoemakers and watchmakers, at 524 East Nash. He lived at 640 East Green. Later directories list Adkinson’s business at 521 and 522 East Nash. By 1925, Henry and Mary Adkinson lived at 115 Narroway.
  • Baltimore Shoe Repair Shop — as listed in the 1925 city directory, this business was at 420 East Nash and Cutt Davis and James Mack were its proprietors.
  • Barefoot, Herbert — in the 1925 city directory, Barefoot is listed as a shoe polisher at 512 East Nash, residing at Smith near Pettigrew.
  • Barnes, Douglass — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1013 East Nash Street, owned and valued at $3000, taxi chauffeur Jake Barnes, 56; wife Effie, 32; and children Douglass, 20, shoeshop cobbler, Waylone, 19, taxi chauffeur, Eva, 16, Mattie, 13, and Nellie, 10.
  • Barnes, Redmond, Jr. — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1116 East Nash Street, Mary Barnes, 33, who taught at Healthy Plains Grade School; her widowed mother Jenettie Barnes, 62; brothers Redman, 22, a shoe repairer at Rex Shoe Shop [a white-owned shop downtown], and John, 19, a tobacco factory laborer; brother-in-law Doll Speight, 26, apartment elevator operator; sister Lula, 23, and their daughters Letrice, 2, and Bettie, 8 months.
  • Battle, George — in the 1925 city directory, Battle is listed as a shoe polisher at 513 East Nash, residing at East Green near Pender.
  • Blue Ribbon Electric Repair Shop — in the 1920 city directory, Henry Adkinson was proprietor of this shoe repair shop at 522 East Nash.
  • Brooks, Leslie — Leslie Brooks died 12 October 1918 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1881 in Wilson County to Dave Brooks and Henrietta Peacock; worked as a shoemaker; was single; and was buried in Brooks cemetery. Jno. Williams was informant.
  • Bullard, John — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Bullard is listed as the proprietor of the Hub Shoe Shine Parlor at 503 East Nash. Bullard lived at 703 East Vance.
  • Burnette, William E. — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Burnette is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s].
  • Bynum, Curley B. — proprietor of Master Shoe Shine Parlor, 1946.
  • Cox, Elijah — in the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: shoemaker Elijah Cox, 66; wife Patience, 65; and children (or grandchildren) Jerry, 11, Clara, 5, and Patience Cox, 3. Cox claimed $150 real estate.
  • Davis, Cutt — see Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Farmer, George, Jr. — in the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Geo jr. (c) shoe shiner h 1200 Queen.
  • Floyd, Ambrose — In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1214 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1800, shoe shop and taxi owner Ambrose Floyd, 39; wife Mattie, 39, cleaner; and children Mattelene, 17, James, 18, Ernest, 15, and Hattie, 12.
  • Fogg, Joseph –– in the 1860 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County, listed as a 50 year-old shoemaker in the household of Edwin Eatmon, bootmaker.
  • Gaddy, John — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe repairer at 400 Stantonsburg Street.
  • Haskins, Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Hill, Moses — shoemaker, 1890. See also.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 6.21.59 PM.png

Wilson Mirror, 14 October 1891.

  • Hines, Shady — in the 1916 directory, Hines is listed as a bootblack at 416 East Nash Street.
  • Holley, Clarence V. — Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.
  • Johnson, Jake — in the 1922 city directory, listed as proprietor of the Busy Bee Shoe Shine Parlor at 513 East Nash.
  • Johnson, Leander A. — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Johnson is listed as a shoemaker working at 512 East Nash Street and living at 606 Robinson [Roberson] Street. In the 1920 city directory, he is a shoemaker at 518 East Nash and lived on East near Nash Street. In the 1922 directory, “Lee” Johnson is listed as working at 517 East Nash and living at 209 South East.
  • Jones, A. Wilson — in the 1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Wilson Jones, 22, shoemaker.
  • Jones, Henry — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Henry Jones, 55; wife Milly, 50; and sons Morris, 19, a bakery worker, and Wilson, 11.
  • Joyner, George H. — listed in the 1920 Wilson city directory as the proprietor of Southern Shoe Repair Shop at 532 East Nash.
  • Leach, Patrick — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Patrick Henry Leach, 61, and wife Lavinea, 56. Leach reported that he was born in Mississippi to North Carolina-born parents.
  • Lupe, Peter
  • Mack, James — See Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Merritt, Lee

Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1921.

  • Moses, Oliver — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe shiner at 515 East Nash. He lived at 524 East Nash, rear.
  • Moore, John H. — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s]. In the 1916 city directory, he is working at 513 East Nash and loving at 1007 East Nash. In the 1922 city directory, his business address was 511 East Nash.
  • Moore, Ozzie — In 1944, Ozzie Moore registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 1 September 1926 in Wilson; resided at 1113 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was his father, J.H. Moore; and was employed by J.H. Moore at 517 East Nash Street, Wilson.
  • Moore, Starlon — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 526 East Nash Street and living at 701 South Spring Street.
  • Moore, Wade M. — in the 1947 city directory, Moore Wade M (c; Eliz O; Wade’s Shoe Shop) h 1001 Faison
  • Perry, Ruffin — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Perry is listed as a shoemaker at Stantonsburg Road near Rountree Avenue.
  • Reaves, Mack — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Reaves is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Rountree, Peter — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Peter Rountree, 76, wife Lucinda, 53, daughter Sarah Bowser, 32, son-in-law Burt L. Bowser, 36, grandsons Russell, 9, Astor B., 3, and Thomas F., 1, stepdaughters (?) Manda L., 18, and Rosa E. Rountree, 14.
  • Simms, Eddie B. — Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.
  • Tabron, William — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 700 East Vance Street, rented for $16/month, barber Henry Tabron, 37; wife Mattie B., 39, laundress; and children William, 15, shoe shop laborer, Edmonia, 14, Bill S., 11, Berkly, 9, and Donald, 7.
  • Thompson, Edwin — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Thompson is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Wiley, Bud — in the 1912 city directory, Wiley is listed as a bootblack at 407 East Nash.
  • Word, Fleming — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Word (Ward?) is listed as a shoemaker working at 407 East Nash Street and living at 108 Wiggins.

Hugh T. Ransom Sr. and John A. Gaston were briefly partners in a Nash Street barbershop that catered to a white clientele. Barbershops often offered shoeshine services. Wilson Advance, 30 January 1890.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 9.47.31 PM.png

Shoe shops at 515, 519, 521 and 529 East Nash Street, as shown on the 1922 Sanborn insurance map of Wilson. City directories for the same year show cobblers at 511 and 513 East Nash Street as well.

Studio shots, nos. 108, 109 and 110: the Evans family.

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.29.00 PM.png

Roscoe M. Evans (1913-1993), during his Wilson years.

Roscoe Michael Evans was born 11 March 1913 in Wilson to Erastus Marion Evans of Johnston County, North Carolina, and Mamie Britt Coles Evans of Sampson County, North Carolina. His parents were married in Wilson on 25 December 1911 by Baptist minister Fred M. Davis in the presence of James Crockett and Effie Pittman of Wilson and Jery Evans of Fremont, N.C., and Joe Evans applied for the license.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory Erastus M. Evans, laborer, is listed at 635 East Vance Street, as was John Evans.

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 8.17.13 PM.png

Erastus M. Evans (1891-1945).

In 1917, Erastus Marion Evans registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 1 June 1891 in Johnston County; lived on East Nash Street; worked as an electric lineman for the Town of Wilson; and supported a wife and child.

On 22 January 1918, the “Infant of Mamie Rastus Evans,” a boy, died in Wilson at age four days, probably of “la grippe” [influenza.] Per his death certificate, he was buried in Wilson County by C.H. Darden & Sons.

On 1 August 1919, a stillborn male infant was born to Rastus M. Evans and Mamie Cole. Per his death certificate, he was born in Wilson by C.H. Darden & Sons.

In the 1930 census of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland: Rastus Evans, 39, ship stevedore, described as a widower, headed a household of roomers at 807 Franklin Street. However, at 1502 Pennsylvania Avenue, also described as a widow, was Mamie E. Ivans, 34, lunch room manager; her son Roscoe, 17; brother Owen Pope, 30; and sister-in-law Leonie, 24. [Widowhood was a euphemism for divorce.]

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 8.12.34 PM.png

Mamie Britt Cole Evans (1892-1979), probably in her early Baltimore days.

Erastus M. Evans died 4 April 1945, Mamie C. Evans died June 1979, and Roscoe M. Evans died 25 February 1993, all in Baltimore.

Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.24.33 PM.png

Photographs of the Evans family courtesy of Ancestry.com user TheresaSandra.

A pardon.

Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 9.44.08 PM.png

Wilson Advance, 5 May 1882.

  • Simon Dildy
  • Charles Gay — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Gay, 35, wife Emma, 25, children Charles, 5, and Mary, 1, and two farm laborers Rich’d Harper, 20, and Haywood Watson, 17. Though the article above states that Gay was murdered in 1875, Emma Gay was appointed administratrix of his estate in early 1874. Gay had been a shopkeeper, and his wife took over his “old stand.”

Ruffin’s negroes, part 1.

Lemon Ruffin executed his will shortly before leaving for war as a Confederate soldier. He did not return. He died as a prisoner of war in Illinois in 1864, age 32. (His brothers Etheldred, George W. and Thomas Ruffin also died in the war.) As set forth in more detail below, Ruffin received the bulk of his enslaved property as an inheritance from his exceedingly wealthy father Henry J.G. Ruffin, who died in 1854. An inventory of the elder Ruffin’s estate listed 138 enslaved people held on plantations in Franklin, Greene, Wayne and Edgecombe Counties.

——

I Lemon Ruffin of the county of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainly of my existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

First: That my executors shall pay my debts out of the money that may first come into their hands on part or parcel of my estate.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister S.B. Ruffin my tract of land situated in Wilson Co NC adjoining the lands of Warner Woodard & others on Tosnot — to have and to hold to her and her heirs in fee simple  forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister M.H. Fugitt the proceeds of the sale of the Negro slaves Amos, Sallie and Henderson. Amos to be sold in Alabama. My will and desire is that Sallie and Henderson be brought to N.C. and sold in Wilson County.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister, Nina W. Ruffin, the Negro slaves Crockett and Harriet to her and her personal representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin of Misourah the Negro Slaves Isse(?)  the first and her three children and grandchildren, viz; Eliza, Esther, Elizabeth and Haywood.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Thomas Ruffin, the Negro slaves Patience and her children named Isaac, Lettuce & Jerre and the youngest child to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Etheldred Ruffin, Beck and all her children named Ned, Elving(?), Arabella and Thom to him and his personal  representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew, Samuel Ruffin, Jr. of Mississippi, the Negro slaves Isse(?) the 2nd commonly called Son[illegible] to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Mary L. Ruffin the negro slave Creasy to her and her personal representative forever.

I do whereof I the said Lemon Ruffin do hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th day of June 1862.

——

In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Ruffin is listed as a 28 year-old farmer living alone, with $5000 in real property and $21,600 in personal property.

These are the relatives listed in his will:

  • sister S.B. Ruffin — Sarah Blount Ruffin.
  • sister M.H. Fugitt — Mary Haywood Ruffin Williams Fugett.
  • sister Nina W. Ruffin — Penina Watson Ruffin Ruffin of Franklin County.
  • brother Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin — William Haywood Ruffin, who migrated to Lexington, Missouri (and later Choctaw County, Alabama.)
  • brother Thomas Ruffin
  • brother Etheldred Ruffin — Etheldred F. Ruffin, Greene County.
  • nephew Samuel Ruffin Jr. — son of W. Haywood Ruffin, but migrated to Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama, to join his uncle Samuel R. Ruffin. Samuel R. Ruffin was the largest slaveholder in that county at Emancipation, and a list of his slaves reveals a number of first names common among Henry’s slaves. See below.
  • niece Mary L. Ruffin

Henry John Gray Ruffin, father of the above and husband of Mary Tartt Ruffin, died in 1854 in Franklin County, North Carolina. He had accumulated immense wealth and prudently executed a precise will, which entered probate in Franklin County. Among the provisions to son Lemon Ruffin were one-half interest in a plantation on Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe [now Wilson] County (son George W. Ruffin received the other half) and “twenty negro slaves of average value.” (In addition, Mary Tartt Ruffin was to receive  “my old negro man servant Bryant now living at my Tossnot plantation.”) The inventory of Ruffin’s property listed 51 people enslaved on his Franklin County plantation, 50 enslaved on a plantation in Greene and Wayne Counties, and 37 in Edgecombe. (Other enslaved people were distributed among his children prior to his death.)

When distribution was made in September 1854, Lemon Ruffin received Beck, age 23, and her children Wyatt, 3, and Ned, 1; Patience, 32, and her children Isaac, 5, Lettuce, 3, and Jerry, 1; Maria, 45, and her children Eliza, 7, Hester, 5, and Elizabeth, 1; Isaac, 44; Reuben, 43; Crockett, 21; Isaac, 9; Arthur, 9; Sally, 19; Charlotte, 50; Harriet, 12; and Henry, 13. Per the inventories of Ruffin’s plantations, most had been enslaved on the Greene/Wayne County farm previously.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County, Lemon Taylor is listed with 21 slaves living in three dwellings. He enslaved eight males aged 6, 11, 15, 20, 25, 25, 51 and 52, and 13 females aged 1, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 18, 18, 20, 25, 40 and 50. (Above him on the list was his brother G.W. Ruffin and his 22 slaves, aged 3 to 43.)

Two years later, Lemon Ruffin’s will showed that he retained ownership of 14 of the 20 enslaved people he had inherited from his father. Beck’s son Wyatt was likely dead, but she had had three more children, Elvin, Arabella and Tom, in the interim. Maria was dead or sold away; her children Eliza, Hester/Esther and Elizabeth were listed with their grandmother Isse (who seems to have been the “old” Isaac of the inventory, though Isaac is generally a masculine name). Reuben, Charlotte, Arthur and Henry do not appear in Lemon Ruffin’s will, but Crockett, young Isaac, Sallie and Harriet do. Lemon had also purchased or otherwise come into possession of Amos, Henderson and Creasy. (There are an Amos and Creasy listed in the “residue” of Henry Ruffin’s slaves after distribution. Perhaps Lemon had purchased them from the estate.) Per Lemon Ruffin’s will, Amos, Henderson and Sallie were in Alabama (on lease? on loan?) Sallie and Henderson were to be brought back to Wilson for sale, but Amos was to be put on the block In Alabama. None of it came to pass, as Ruffin’s estate did not enter probate until 1866, when his formerly enslaved property was beyond reach.

A North Carolina-born Amos Ruffin, age 35, appears in the 1870 census of Township 13, Choctaw County, Alabama, with his wife and children. Was this the Amos who was targeted for sale in Lemon Ruffin’s will?

In 1866, Patience Ruffin and Michel Ward appeared before a Wilson County justice of the peace to register their 16-year cohabitation. In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmworker Patience Ward, 50, and daughter Lettuce, 20, with Mitchell Ward listed next door.

None of other men, women and children Lemon Ruffin possessed at his death are clearly identifiable in post-Emancipation records.

Sidenotes:

  • Children up to about age 7 were usually grouped with their mothers for purposes of sale or distribution. It is almost certain that the children listed with Patience and Maria in Henry Ruffin’s distribution were merely their youngest and that their older children were separated from them.
  • Though enslaved people sometimes married men or women with whom they shared an owner, more often they married outside the farm or plantation on which they lived. Patience Ruffin and Mitchell Ward are an example.
  • Wealthy planters often owned multiple plantations and moved enslaved people among them at will. Henry Ruffin divided his Edgecombe (Wilson) County plantation into halves. However, the people who had lived on that plantation during his lifetime did not necessarily remain in place after his death. In fact, it appears that the 20 people with whom Lemon Ruffin stocked his half of Toisnot plantation came primarily from his father’s Greene/Wayne plantation. The former Toisnot slaves were shifted to plantations elsewhere. This kind of movement resulted in the further splintering of families as parents owned by neighboring enslavers were left behind.
  • White eastern North Carolina slaveowners were among the earliest settlers of Alabama in the early 1800s, taking North Carolina-born enslaved people with them. Slaveowners who did not leave North Carolina often sold their “excess” enslaved property to meet the ravenous labor needs of Alabama’s booming cotton economy.
  • Herbert G. Gutman argued in his exhaustively researched The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750-1825 that enslaved African-Americans strove to maintain and transmit ties of kinship by repeating first names among generations of a family. Though we do not know the relationships among all the Ruffin slaves, this pattern can be observed among them. More on this later.

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.