The mother does not wish him to have them.

A man named Abram sought the Freedman’s Bureau’s help in removing his children from John Bailey Batts’ indenture, and Batts wanted to set the record straight. With hubris typical of the times, Batts claimed to have raised the children (by virtue of having held them in slavery from their birth). Abram had once been married to an unnamed woman, but he had left her for Penny. Several children later, Abram left Penny, but was now claiming custody of their children. According to Batts, neither he nor Penny wanted the father to have them.


Joyners N.C. Jany 12th 1866

Agent of Freedmen Goldsborough N.C.

Sir, I write to inform you of the condition of colored children born with and so far raised by me the man Abram that claims them had wife and she is still living but he left her and took up with Penny at my home she has several children by him but he has left her (Penny) but now claims her children the mother does not wish him to have them and those you bound to me I wish to retain. Penny can give her statement and I wish to hear from you please write to me and send by the woman Penny or by mail to Joyners Depot N.C. Your favorable consideration will much oblige

Yours verry truly, John B. Batts


In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer John B. Batts, 32; wife Margaret, 23; children Mary A.F., 4, and Nancy H., 1; Eveline Morris, 21; and farm laborer Elba Lassiter, 16. [Lassiter was a free person of color who probably had been apprenticed to Batts.] Batts reported $1600 in real property and $7740 in personal property [which would mostly have been in the form of enslaved people.]

Batts is not listed in the 1870 census, though he likely remained in Wilson or Nash Counties. I have not been able to identify Abram or Penny.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868,


  1. Could these children be: Alexander Batts (c. 1854), Joshua Batts (c. 1853), Gandy Batts (c. 1854), Amanda Batts (c. 1857) and Peter Batts or Batchelor. All these children list their parents as Abram Sharp and Penny Hines when they married in the 1870s.

    1. Fantastic! Thanks so much, Isabelle. I am certain that these are Abram and Penny and their children. And here’s another interesting example of the complicated ways people chose surnames after Emancipation. I’ll update the post.

      1. Thank you! I had no idea of what might have happened before I saw your post.
        It seems Penny married a man named Red Hines after the end of slavery. In 1880 Red and Penny Hines were living in Rocky Mount Township, Nash County NC; and one of the children at least, Alex Batts, was married in the house of Red Hines. That would explain the different name of the mother.

      2. Yes! I noted that. The one thing that threw me a bit was that Penny is also listed in a single household adjacent to son Red Batts in 1880. Is this your family?

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