The mystery of Julia Boyette Bailey’s grave.

Julia wife of Moses Bailey Born July 25, 1832 Died May 23, 1869 A tender mother and faithful friend

Brian Grawburg shared this astonishing photograph recently — the headstone of Julia Bailey, who was born enslaved in 1832 and died in 1869, just four years after the Civil War ended. Her grave marker, beautifully and professionally engraved, may mark the earliest African-American burial I have seen in Wilson County, and its discovery was serendipitous. While kayaking on Buckhorn Reservoir, Al Letchworth spotted a broken headstone in the water. Getting out to explore further, he found Julia Bailey’s marker. Letchworth mentioned his discovery to his friend Guy Pittman, who knew of Grawburg’s project documenting obscure and forgotten Wilson County cemeteries. Julia Bailey was almost certainly buried in a family cemetery, and it seems tragically likely that at least part of that cemetery was lost in 1974, when Contentnea Creek was dammed to create the reservoir, or in 1999, when a new dam was constructed downstream.

What do we know about Julia Bailey and her family?

A 1921Β Wilson Daily Times piece about the death of her son Nathan BoyetteΒ offers another fortuitous glimpse of her life:

Nathan Boyette “was born on September 18th, 1850 and was a slave belonging to Jimmy Boyette living about twelve miles from Wilson in the Old Field Township. At the close of the Civil War Uncle Nathan was a husky boy just fifteen years of age. He had seven brothers and three sisters, one sister being older, Nathan being the next oldest child. His mother was name[d] Julie, and evidently had a very strong character. She could read and write, and she taught Nathan and the other children to read and write. …”

The 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, lists James Boyett as the owner of eight enslaved people: a 28 year-old woman, who was likely Julia; six boys aged 19, 12, 9, 7, 4 and 2; and a girl aged 8. The nine year-old boy was probably Nathan. (Or perhaps the 7 year-old, with the 8 year-old girl his older sister.) [Like most people enslaved in small units, Julia’s husband Moses Bailey had a different owner and lived apart from his family.]

On 15 August 1866, Moses Bailey and Julia Boyett registered their 15-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

Per her headstone (which was probably placed long after her death, see Lula Wooten’s similar marker), Julia Bailey died in 1869.

In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Moses Baily, 51, and children Allen, 15, John, 13, Patrick, 10, Yamah, 5, and William, 8. [Next door: white farmer Neeham Bailey, 67, and wife Peninah, 38. The 1860 slave schedule lists Needham Bailey with four slaves, but none of an age to be Moses. However, in 1860 Levi Bailey, Needham’s close neighbor, owned a 40 year-old man among his eleven slaves.]

In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Alfred Rice, 40; wife Amy, 30; and son Thomas, 13, with Gray Baily, 24, all farm laborers. Next door: Violet Baily, 45, and Isabel Baily, 12. [“Emma” Bailey and Alfred Rice also registered a cohabitation in 1866. Gray Bailey was born to Moses Bailey’s earlier relationship with Isabel Bailey, and it is likely that Amy was his sister. Mary Bailey, daughter of Moses Bailey and Hannah Bailey, who married Hilliard Bailey in 1868, may have been their half-sister.]

On 21 April 1870, John Boykin, son of Rose Boykin, married Dicy Baily, daughter of Moses and Julia Baily, in Wilson County.

On 5 January 1871, Moses Bailly, son of Benja Bryant and Juda Jones, married Isabella Renfrow, daughter of Mingo Hinnant and Patsy Deans, at Moses Bailey’s in Wilson County.

On 24 December 1875, Allen Baily, 20, married Harriet Taylor, 16, in Oldfields township. Minister Elisha HortonΒ [early pastor of Rocky Branch Church of Christ] preformed the ceremony in the presence of H. Powell, R. Jones, and Gray Bailey.

On 5 March 1879, Patrick Baily, 21, married Atsey Sanders, 19, of Nash County, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Bailey, about 60; wife Isabel, about 45; and son William, 15.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Allen Baily, 22; wife Harriett, 21; and children Cora A., 4, Lucy A., 4, and Dortch, 1, sharing a household with Randall Hinnant, 33; wife Angeline, 26; and children J. Thomas, 10, James H., 8, Lilly Ann, 6, Roscoe F., 4, and Hugh N., 7 months.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: laborer Patrick Bailey, 19; wife Atsy, 20; and son Arthur M., 6 months.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Boykin, 26; wife Dicey, 25; and children Julian, 8, Rear Ann, 7; John C., 5; W. Brogan, 3; and Sallie A., 9 months.

On 23 February 1882, Nathan Boyett, 31, of Wayne County, son of Moses Bayley and Julia Bayley of Wilson County, married Charity Crow, 27, of Wayne County, daughter of Jorden and Jane Crow of Wayne County, in Mount Olive, Brogden township, Wayne County, North Carolina.

Gray Bailey died 7 July 1914 in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 March 1845 to Moses Bailey and Vilet Bailey; and was buried at New Vester.

Dicy Boykin died 6 October 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 66 years old; was born in Wilson County to William Bailey and Julia [last name unknown]; was married to John Boykin; and worked as a housewife. Daughter Sudie Woodard, Smithfield, was informant.

Nathan Boyett died 2 June 1937 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 February 1850 in Wilson County to Moses Bailey and Julia Boyett; was married to Emma Boyett; lived at 115 West Walnut Street, Wilson; and worked as a laborer.

——

While researching the lives of Julia Boyette Bailey, her husband, and children, I came across this Notice of Intention to Disinter, Remove and Reinter Graves published several times in the spring of 1998 by R. Ward Sutton, a Rocky Mount, N.C., funeral director:

Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 1998.

This notice raises more questions than it answers.

What it tells us:

  • the cemetery was located on property then owned by Sudie Bailey Sullivan, who inherited said property from Levi T. Bailey. (Note, per the referenced deed, in 1974 this property was subject to a condemnation action and is shown on the Buckhorn Reservoir Land Acquisition Map filed in Plat Book 13 at pages 73-76);
  • Levi T. Bailey (1873-1931) was the grandson of the Levi Bailey whom I identified above as the likely owner of Moses Bailey;
  • of approximately 18-20 graves in the cemetery, only two were marked — those of Julia Bailey and Andrew W. Tarell;
  • Andrew W. Terrell was a son of Alonzo and Jane Cooke Terrell, who were both born in Wake County, N.C., and settled in what is now the Buckhorn area before 1880;
  • all of the graves in this cemetery were to be removed and reinterred in Bailey Cemetery, Bailey, Nash County, N.C. (about 5 miles north);
  • a record of the reburials was to be filed in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

What it doesn’t:

  • did this cemetery start as a burial ground for enslaved people that was turned over to the Bailey family as a family cemetery?
  • why was Andrew Terrell buried there in 1905, rather than in New Vester Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery, where his father Alonzo was buried in 1918 and several other Terrells later? (Though New Vester’s roots date to the slavery era, perhaps it did not establish its cemetery until much later. The earliest markers bear 1911 as a death date.)
  • is Andrew Terrell’s marker the broken stone that first drew Al Letchworth’s attention?
  • digital records for Bailey Cemetery show graves for neither Bailey nor Terrell/Tarell, and why was Bailey cemetery chosen at all (rather than, say, New Vester)? Bailey Cemetery was white-only for nearly all of its existence and is in Nash County.
  • the cemetery is on land condemned in 1974 for the first Buckhorn Dam, and disinterment was necessitated by the expansion of Buckhorn Reservoir in 1999, but if Julia Boyette and Andrew Terrell’s graves were removed, why are their headstones still in the woods?

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