In 1867, blacksmith Harry Simpson asked two white neighbors to write a letter on his behalf to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The letter is fascinating in many ways: (1) the glimpse at the independence afforded a skilled enslaved man; (2) his willingness to confront his former master’s father over a matter of equity; (3) the willingness of his neighbors vouch for his integrity and to assist him against a well-known white man.
Wilson County N.C.
To the Freedmen’s Bureau in Goldsboro N.C.
Harry Simpson (colerd) the bearer formerly a slave of J.T. Simpson’s, was a black-smith & worked through the county from shop to shop. Said Harry lived off to himself & for some reason his owner put a portion of his stock in the care of Harry who provided for them & used them as his own & in the early part of the late war said J.T. Simpson died, having no family his property then was his fathers who let it remain with said Harry untill about the first of February 1867. Then Benjamin Simpson the father of the said J.T. Simpson took possession of it, and his pourk. We have known Harry for several years & have no just reason to doubt his character. We state the above to you by his request which are facts.
April 18th 1867 S.D. Boykin, S.J. Winborn
For Capt. Hannibal D. Norton’s response to Simpson, which seems to miss the mark somewhat, see here.
- Harry Simpson — Simpson does not appear in post-Civil War records of Wilson or Nash Counties.
- J.T. Simpson — John T. Simpson (1831-1863), enlisted in Company A, 55th N.C. Infantry in 1862, died in a camp on the Blackwater River, Virginia, on 27 May 1863.
- Benjamin Simpson — Benjamin Simpson (1804-1875), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and blacksmith.
- S.D. Boykin — Stephen Davis Boykin (1833-1910), resident of Oldfields township, farmer, justice of the peace.
- S.J. Winborn — Samuel Jackson Winborn (1840-1901), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and wagoner.
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters received, Jan 1867-1868, http://www.familysearch.org