State v. William Baker and Patsey Mitchell.

At Fall Term 1856 of Wilson County Superior Court, a grand jury charged William Baker and Patsey Mitchell, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.”  William Felton and Elisha Owens were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman William Ellis returned a true bill to the clerk of court.

William Baker was white; Martha “Patsey” Mitchell was African-American.

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina: Willis Hagins, 50, and Patsy Mitchell, 45, and her children Sally, 20, Rufus, 9, Amanda 6, Wm., 2, and Mary, 1. Next door, laborer Wm. Baker, 26, white, in the household of Joseph Peacock.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Martha Mitchell, 44, and her children William, 13, Franklin, 11, George, 10, Thomas, 9, and Martha, 6. Also in Gardners, William Baker, 30, in the household of John Bynum, 22.

[A note: During my recent visit to North Carolina, I stopped for several hours for a long-overdue visit to the State Archives in Raleigh. I was pressed for time, so I skimmed folders with an eye for names of African-Americans (or indicia like “col.”), then flagged those documents for copies that I could study later. In the Adultery records, I pulled just a few years from 1856-1868 and ultimately copied only six or seven sets of documents. Baker-Mitchell is the fourth of them that involves an interracial relationship. The fact of these relationships does not surprise, but their seeming overrepresentation among prosecutions for adultery does. Perhaps it’s no more than a fluke of my search. I look forward to a return visit to search further.]

Adultery Records-1857, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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