I finally undertook a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.
- On 12 May 1855, John Harper of Wilson County conveyed to Joshua Barnes in trust for the sole use and benefit of Harper’s wife Mary Harper “three slaves Jason, Lettice & Martha.” After her death or remarriage, ownership of the three would be divided among Harper’s heirs. Deed Book 1, Page 24, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
- On 9 July 1855, William Liles of Wilson County for $479.85 sold Levi Baily household and kitchen furniture, a cow, a yearling, seventeen hogs, and (this is ambiguous, but what seems to be the hire of) “one Negro boy named Lovet” until 29 December 1855. Deed Book 1, Page 34, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
- On 18 July 1855, Stephen C. Barnes of Wilson County conveyed to William M. Barnes and Jesse Sauls a “certain negro slave named Ben — aged about Ten years.” Ben was in effect security for a debt Stephen Barnes owed to the estate of Bunyan Barnes in the amount of $725. If Stephen Barnes timely paid off the debt, the conveyance of Ben was void. Deed Book 1, Page 37, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
- On 4 July 1855, Grooms H. Barnes of Wilson County conveyed to Etheldred Sauls and John Coley of Wayne County the 370-acre tract of land on which Bunyan Barnes had lived, “one negro boy named Britt,” five horses, all his stock and hogs, and various furniture to secure a debt Barnes owed to Jonathan Barnes and James Barnes, trustees of Bunyan Barnes. If Groom Barnes timely paid off the debt, the conveyance was void. Deed Book 1, Page 37, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
- On 11 October 1855, for $300, Thomas Allen of Wilson County sold Henrietta Sikes of Wilson County “four slaves Miranda, Elijah, Amy, Jane or James Henry,” a horse and buggy, the cattle on the place on which Allen lived, a roan mare, and “my share & interest in the crop of 1855 on the plantation or farm where I now live which was formerly the property of my Wifes mother.” Deed Book 1, Page 75, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.