The fellow ought to hire for $100.

To Jacob S. Barnes, Esq.

Wilson Post Office, Edgecombe County, N. Carolina

State of Alabama, City of Montgomery

My dear Sir,

After my best respects to you & your good lady, Susannah & Caroline, and all my friends, my enemies I need not care for, I wrote to say to you what I wished to say before I left but could not see you. We arrived this day Sunday at 2 o’clock after travelling all night last night in the Stage. I want you to hire out for me at the first day of January next the negro man that you hired last year belonging after I am done with him to the widow of James A. Barnes and Theophilus Bass. Please say to Theophilus & the widow I think though I have not settled the Estate yet the hire of the negro the year 1851 will be sufficient to pay with what is in my hands all the debts of the deceased though the debts are more than I expected. Inclosed you will find some advertisements. Please set them at Tosnot, Stantonsburg & elsewhere. I think the fellow ought to hire for $100 the years 1850. Take a good note & two good securities. We are all tolerable well. We are agoing to rest until tomorrow evening. I shall get (home) Wednesday next if nothing happens.

Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness.  /s/ Wyatt Moye

——

Wyatt Moye was both a founding father of Wilson County and a committed slave trader. With partner Richard Adams, Moye regularly traveled from eastern North Carolina to Mississippi and Louisiana to sell enslaved African-Americans. Moye was executor of James A. Barnes’ estate and — away on business — he sent instructions to Barnes’ brother Jacob S. Barnes hire out an enslaved man again for one hundred dollars to pay down the estate’s debt. In a sobering reminder of the reality of chattel slavery, Moye cautioned Barnes to get a good note, i.e. a promise to pay the cost of hire, and two good securities, i.e. properties promised to Barnes’ estate in the event of non-payment.

Who was the “negro man” repeatedly hired out? Barnes’ will, drafted in 1848, is explicit:

“Item 4th. It is my will and desire the negro fellow Charles is to be hired out as long as my wife lives and the money arising from said hire to be applied enough of it to pay my debt if it is required for that purpose, and if not one half of his hire to pay to Theophilus Bass and the other half to my wife Sarah Barnes.”

Barnes had owned 24 enslaved people, a group that likely included Charles’ parents or siblings, if not his wife and children. Barnes split the group 11 ways — including a directive to sell one woman immediately. Though Charles was to join three others bequeathed to Barnes’ widow, his repeated hire separated him for years from the comfort and company of those who knew him best.

Letter found in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,” republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.

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