The Ellis family’s community of enslaved people.

William and Unity Dixon Ellis and their descendants claimed ownership of many dozens of enslaved African Americans. Undoubtedly, these men and women constituted generations of many families, and I have listed them below (in family groups where known) with their identified owners in parentheses. I have had little success in tracing them forward into freedom, but have inserted that information that I am reasonably sure is accurate.

First, an Ellis family genealogy. William Ellis left a wife, Unity, and eight children at his death in 1812 — William, Gray, Coffield, Dixon, John, Jonathan, Willie and Spicey Ellis. Several were minors — which made for a lengthy estate administration — and Gray and Spicey died within months of their father. Without wills. Spicey died possessed of an unnamed “negro woman and three children,” and her administrator petitioned for their sale, with distribution of the proceeds between her mother and siblings. Widow Unity Dixon died 1817. Dixon Ellis died in 1818, leaving a wife Jemima (who pretty quickly married Hardy F. Barnes) and five children Willie, Unity, Gray, Hickman and Cynthia Ann Ellis. His estate included 17 to 18 unnamed enslaved people. William Ellis (Jr.) died in 1831 and Willie in 1836. Willie left a wife, Queen Esther Sharpe Ellis, and daughter Martha Ann, who later married Jonathan Dew. Esther Ellis then married her husband’s cousin Hickman Ellis, Martha Ann’s guardian. In 1854, Jonathan Dew sued to recover his wife’s assets from Hickman. Coffield Ellis, the last remaining child, died in 1854. Jonathan Ellis died about 1857, and his wife Elizabeth Ward Ellis about 1858. Their heirs were their granddaughters Susan Bynum Bynum, Louisa Bynum Best, Elizabeth Bynum, Sarah Bynum and Virginia Bynum, whose mother Spicy Ellis had married Reuben Bynum. Dixon Ellis’ son Hickman Ellis Sr. died about 1860, leaving children Spicey, Unity and Hickman Ellis Jr.

The Ellis estate files are difficult to decipher, with multiple petitions to divide unnamed groups of slaves, but often no reports filed after the divisions. Conflicts between guardians (often close family members) and minor heirs were common, with intervenors claiming that guardians had held and hired out enslaved people for years without benefit to their underage owners. Inventories of enslaved people occasionally list small children with their mothers, but more often do not. No married couples are identified as such.

Nonetheless, here is what I’ve gleaned. Each person’s name is followed by parentheses containing the names of Ellis family members to whom they are linked in wills or estate records. [Where possible, I have distinguished individuals bearing the same first names. Where not possible, I have listed them as if they are different people, though they not be in fact. It is likely that this multi-generational community of enslaved people passed down names within family lines, but the record is too thin to make absolute identifications.]

  • Aaron (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Alley (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Amanda (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Annah (Coffield Ellis)
  • Anthony (William Ellis > Willie Ellis)
  • Amos (Elizabeth Ellis)

Amos was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see below.

Amos Ellis and Mary Edmundson registered their 18-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace on 2 July 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: next door to Isom and Patience Ellis, farm laborer Amos P. Ellis, 47; wife Mary 40; and children Adeline, 23, Authur, 19, Learh, 17, Mary, 15, Jane, 11, and Lewis, 10; plus Authur, 65, and Betsey Barnes, 60.

  • Arthur (William Ellis > Unity Dixon Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Beckey (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Beedy (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Belfour (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis)
  • Ben (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Blount (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa Bynum Best)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Della Applewhite, 34, domestic servant; Haywood, 19, Sarah, 14, Alice, 2, Anna, 2, and Clara Applewhite, 7; Hyman Bynum, 21; Blount Best, 21; Abraham Bynum, 17; Moses Bynum, 20; and William Pittman, 21 (the last five all farm laborers.)

Blount Best married Sarah Applewhite on 29 July 1872 in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Blunt J. Bess, 32, laborer; wife Sarah, 23; children William L., 9, Nellie J., 6, Joseph H., 4, and Ivory, 8 months; plus sister-in-law Annie Barnes, 11.

On 26 March 1914, Blount Best, 69, of Saratoga, married Hagar Bynum, 56, of Gardners, at Liberty Webb‘s in Saratoga township. Primitive Baptist minister Elder Robert Edwards performed the ceremony in the presence of Isaac Bynum, S.H. Best and John Farmer, and Jesse Artis applied for the license.

Blount Best died 28 March 1928 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 88 years old; was born in Greene County to Friday Best and Marie Best; was married to Haggar Best; and was a farmer for Mrs. Mattie Williams and preacher. Informant was Joe Henry Best. [Was Blount’s mother the Maria below?]

  • Bob (William Ellis > Gray Ellis) and Bob (Jonathan Ellis)

See Robert, below.

  • Bright (Coffield Ellis)

See Robbin, below.

  • Bryant (Coffield Ellis)
  • Byhuel (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Calvin (Coffield Ellis)

Calvin Ellis died 18 October 1933 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; a widower formerly married to Mary Ellis; a farmer; and was born in Wilson County to Jacob Ellis and Charlotte Ellis. Informant was General Ellis.

  • Caroline (Coffield Ellis > Louisa E. Barnes)
  • Chaney (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis) and Chaney (Coffield Ellis)
  • Chaney and son Isaac (Hickman Ellis)
  • Old Chaney (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Charlotte (Coffield Ellis)

See Calvin, above.

  • Cherry (Coffield Ellis)
  • Clara (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Ellen (Coffield Ellis) and Ellen (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Eliza [and two unnamed children] (Hickman Ellis)
  • Elvy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Ephraim (Jonathan Ellis)

Possibly, in the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: Ephraim Ellis, 37, farmhand.

Possibly, in the 1880 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: Ephram Ellis, 35, farmhand, and wife Rildy, 30.

On 13 August 1885, Ephraim Ellis, 47, married Amanda Crudass, 26, in Wilson County at the courthouse.

On 20 February 1897, Ephraim Ellis, 52, married Mary Edmundson, 25, in Wilson County.

  • Faroby (Coffield Ellis)
  • Frances (Coffield Ellis)
  • Gideon (William Ellis > Dixon Ellis)
  • Gilford (William Ellis > Jonathan Ellis) and Guilford (Elizabeth Ellis > William and Louise E. Best)

Guilford was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see below.

Guilford Bynum and Pleasant Bynum registered their cohabitation in Wilson County on 7 April 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40, farm laborer; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4. [Note: per his death certificate (and a marriage license), Ned Ellis was born about 1855 to Gilford Ellis and Becky Riffin (Ruffin).]

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 55, common laborer; wife Penny, 55; and children Sarah E., 16, Mary E., 10, and Lafayette, 8.

See also Norfleet, below.

  • Gilly (Coffield Ellis > Sally E. Barnes)
  • George (Coffield Ellis)
  • Gray (Hickman Ellis)
  • Green (Coffield Ellis)
  • Hannah (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis) and Hannah (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Hannah (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jackson Ellis, 45; wife Margaret, 36; and children Hannah, 17, and Hewell, 11; Hannah Ellis, 90; and Lucy, 2, and Mary Simms, 1.

Hannah Ellis, daughter of Jack and Margaret Ellis, married John Artist, son of Arch and Rose Artist, on 29 February 1872.

  • Hardy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Harriet and children Adeline, Lucy and Manerva (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Harriet (Elizabeth Ellis) and Harriet (Hickman Ellis)
  • Harry (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis)
  • Hester (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > William Ellis) and Hester (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Hewell (Elizabeth Ellis) and Hewell (Hickman Ellis)

See Hannah, above.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jack Ellis, 55, and son Hewel, 21.

  • Isaac (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Isham (Willie Ellis)
  • Isham (William Ellis > Willie Ellis), wife Patience (Jonathan Ellis) and Jacob (Jonathan Ellis)

Isham Bynum and Pacience Bynum registered their 40-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace on

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isom Ellis, 67; wife Patience, 62; and son (grandson?) Jacob, 18, farm laborer.

Jacob Ellis, 24, married Milly Forbes, 35, in Wilson County in 28 February 1874.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 27, farm laborer; wife Milly, 33; and sons Thaddus, 5, and Rufus, 2.

  • Jack (William Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Jack (Hickman Ellis) and wife Margaret (Hickman Ellis)

See Hannah and Hewell, above.

Jack Ellis and Margaret Ellis registered their 18-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

  • Jane (Coffield Ellis)
  • Jenny (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Jesse (Elizabeth Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Jim (William Ellis > William Ellis), Jim (Elizabeth Ellis > Joseph and Susan Ellis Bynum), and Jim (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)

See Jim Ellis Dew.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer James Ellis, 48; wife Zana, 38; and children/grandchildren Eliza, 14, James, 5 months, Cora, 13, Macoid, 10, Oscar, 6, and Anna, 1.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Ellis, 59, farm laborer; wife Zany, 49; and children/grandchildren Mccoid, 18, Oscar, 17, Anna, 11, James, 10, Johnathan C., 8, and Benjiman S., 5.

  • Job (Jonathan Ellis)
  • John (Hickman Ellis)
  • Jonas (Dixon Ellis) and Jonas (Coffield Ellis)
  • Laurence (Coffield Ellis)
  • Lettice (Elizabeth Ellis) and Lettice (Elizabeth Ellis)

See Norfleet, below.

  • Lewis (Coffield Ellis > Penninah Ellis)

Lewis was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see above.

Lewis Bynum and Milly Thompson registered their cohabitation on 20 April 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lewis Ellis, 36; wife Milly, 35; and children John, 17, Daniel, 10, Adeline, 5, Mary, 3, and Martha, 1.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Ellis, 49; wife Milly, 48; children Daniel, 20, Addie, 16, Mary, 14, Marthey, 12, Cora, 10, and James, 6; nephew Jackson, 9; mother Patience, 70; and Jacob Barnes, 32, farm laborer.

  • Littleton (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Littleton Ellis, 30, wife Judah, 21, and children Bryant, 4, and Martha, 3.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 45; wife Judah, 30; and children Bryant, 14, Martha, 12, Patsey, 10, Mary, 8, Bud, 6, Thomas, 4, Rose, 2, and James, 1.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 73; wife Judy, 55; and children Lucy, 21, Littleton, 18, Sarah, 16, Maggie, 14, Nettie, 12, and Minnie, 10.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Wiggins Mill Road, farmer Littleton Ellis, 27; his mother Judie, 62; and sisters Lucy, 30, Sarah, 24, Maggie, 23, and Lettie, 21.

  • Lisle (William > Unity), died 1812-1818
  • Lucy (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Mark (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Maria (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Mary (Coffield Ellis) and Mary (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Milbry (Hickman Ellis) and daughter Betsey (Hickman Ellis)
  • Mimah and daughters Sary and Clary (William Ellis > Jonathan Ellis)
  • Old Minny [Miney?] (Coffield Ellis)
  • Young Minny [Miney?] (Coffield Ellis)
  • Moll (William Ellis > Willie Ellis)
  • Nancy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Netty [and unnamed child] (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Norfleet (Jonathan Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Norfleet Ellis, 25; wife Charlotte, 22; and children Willie, 2, and Elizabeth, 2 months; Jordan Taylor, 19; and Albert Barnes, 21.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Norfleet Ellis, 33; wife Charlotte, 26; and children Mack, 12, Lizzie, 8, Redmond, 6, Floyd, 2, and Marion, 3 months.

On 26 September 1891, Norfleet Ellis, 52, son of Guilford Ellis and Lettice Ellis, married Eva Rice, 18, daughter of John Rice and Laura Hudson, in Wilson County.

  • Pat (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Peter (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew) and Peter (Hickman Ellis)
  • Old Peter (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Rachael (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Reuben (Jonathan Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Reuben Ellis, 34, farm laborer; wife Clarkey, 22; and daughter Jane Grant, 1.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Rubin Ellis, 54; wife Clarky, 36; and children Jane, 10, Jonah, 8, Sherard, 7, William, 6, Rubin, 5, George, 4, and Cansy, 4 months.

  • Robbin (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robbin Ellis, 23, farm laborer, and wife Hannah, 24, and children Emma, 5, Mahala, 2, and an infant girl, 1 month, plus Bright Ellis, 20, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Ellis, 34, farmer; wife Hannah, 35; children Emma, 15, Jane, 11, Alice, 8, Winnie, 6, and Cora, 3; and Mandy Barnes, 24, laborer, and William T.C. Barnes, 1.

  • Robert (Coffield Ellis)

Robert was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see above.

Robert Bynum and Caroline Barnes registered their cohabitation on 31 March 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 39, farm laborer; wife Caroline, 38; and children Amos, 9, Louisa, 3, and infant boy, 2 weeks.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 50, farmer; wife Caroline, 49; and children Amos, 19, Louisa, 12, William, 10, and Susan, 5.

However, also:

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 34, farmer; wife Hannah, 35; daughters Emma, 15, Jane, 11, Allice, 8, Winnie, 6, and Corah, 3; plus Quandie Barnes, 24, and her son William T.C. Barnes, 1.

And:

Robert Ellis and Anica Ellis registered their 8-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 45, farm laborer; wife Anaka, 50; and Mary Bynum, 12.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 55, laborer, and wife Anakey, 58.

And:

Robert Ellis, 54, of Saratoga, married Mima Mitchell, 30, of Saratoga, on 4 July 1892 in Saratoga township.

Robert Ellis died 25 January 1934 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 105 years old; was born in Wilson County to unknown parents; was married to Vester Ellis; and had been a farmer. Robert Barnes was informant.

  • Rose (Elizabeth Ellis > Joseph and Susan B. Bynum) and Rose (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Sam (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis) and Sam (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Tempy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Tiller (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Tom (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Treasy (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > William Ellis)
  • Turner (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborers Turner Ellis, 27, and Aaron Bynum, 18.

On 26 July 1878, Turner Ellis, 31, married Jane Williamson, 35, at the residence of justice of the peace Elbert Felton in Wilson County.

  • Willie [or Wiley] (Cynthia Ann Ellis)

Willie/Wiley ran away in 1853 and 1856. Ads noted that his owner was Cynthia A. Ellis, that he was likely hiding near the farms of William Ellis or Jonathan Ellis, where he had relatives, and that he had a wife in Georgetown, South Carolina.

  • Violet (Jonathan Ellis)

 

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