The estate of Jesse S. Barnes.

The children and grandchildren of Jesse and Edith Jordan Barnes were among Wilson County’s wealthiest planters. Elias Barnes’ estate records are especially rich sources of information about enslaved people, but it is not unique.

Barnes’ son Jesse Sharpe Barnes was, perhaps, family’s golden child. Born in 1838, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and established a prosperous law practice in Wilson. Jesse S. Barnes enlisted in a South Carolina militia company in 1860 and in the spring of 1861 recruited his friends and neighbors into the Wilson Light Infantry. In a few months, he mustered into Company F, 4th North Carolina State Troops as a captain. In April 1862, while enlisted, Barnes drafted his will, leaving all his property to his mother Mahala Sharpe Barnes. A little over a month later, he was killed at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia.

This portrait of Jesse S. Barnes is in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In “an inventory of the property of Jesse S. Barnes deceased which came into my hands as Executor this __ day of ___ A.D. 1863,” William Barnes Jr. itemized the eight enslaved people Jesse Barnes had possessed: “negro man Cooper Caroline negro woman Clarky negro woman, Wash negro boy Celia negro child John 1 year old Charles 8 months old Celia.” He also noted receipt of fifty-six dollars from John Oats for “the hire of a negro.”


At the time of his death, Jesse Barnes still owned three of the enslaved people he had inherited from his father — Cooper, Clarky and Celia. Hardy was gone, and he had added an adult woman named Caroline and two small children, Charles and Celia. All returned to the community at Mahala Barnes’ plantation on what is now Stancil Town Road, a couple of miles east of Stantonsburg.

Will and Estate Records of Jesse S. Barnes, images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates 1665-1998 [database on-line],

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