The last will and testament of Zealous Howard Sr.

We have read here, here, and here of Zealous “Deal” Howard Sr., who was born a free person of color in what was then Nash County, N.C., and developed relative wealth as a farmer and landowner in Taylor township, Wilson County. Howard died in 1911, leaving a detailed last will and testament executed in 1905. Some of the land he owned still remains in the hands of his descendants.

After directing payment of his debts and funeral expenses, Howard bequeathed:

  • to son Ira Howard, five dollars, noting that Ira had already received 37 acres of land;
  • to son Dock Howard, five dollars and nothing more (though he noted that Dock had previously received “advances”);
  • to daughter Anner Blackwell, a lifetime interest in a 4 1/4 acre tract of land, with the remainder to Anna’s daughter Lydia Blackwell and any other children;

  • to son Zelius Howard, a lifetime interest in a 38 3/4-acre parcel of land on Cabin Branch, with the remainder to his children;
  • to son Kenyon Howard, his “home tract” containing 50 7/8 acres on Cabin Branch, with the remainder to his children if he had any, and if not, to be divided equally among Anner Blackwell, Zelius Howard, Jesse Howard, and Mary Taylor (or their children, if they are deceased);

  • to son Jesse Howard, a lifetime interest in a 42 1/2-acre tract, with the remainder to his children;
  • to son Allison Howard, a lifetime interest in a 42 1/2-acre tract, with the remainder to his children if he had any, but if not to daughter Mary Taylor (or her children if she were dead);

  • to son James Gilbert Howard, a lifetime interest in the rest of his property, consisting of the 27 1/2-acre “Nelson Eatmon tract” on Big Branch and the 25 1/2-acre “Wood Eatmon land,” with the remainder to his children;
  • all his personal property to daughter Mary Taylor or her children.

Lastly, Zealous Howard appointed Devit Moore executor of his will.

About five weeks after executing this will, Howard executed a codicil that added a provision for his son George Howard, leaving him one dollar in addition to property he had already given him.

The will was not well-received. Kenyon Howard, Anna Howard Blackwell, and Allison Howard filed a caveat in order to challenge the validity of the document.

Receipt filed for publication of notice re estate action.The caveat filed to contest Zealous Howard’s will.

A jury heard In re Will of Zelius Howard during Wilson County Superior Court’s February Term, 1915, and Judge George W. Connor issued a judgment finding the will valid.

Will Book 4, page 406, Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson; Estate of Zelius Howard (1911), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files,


  1. This is fantastic! Zealous Howard Sr is my great great grandfather. Zealous “Deal” Howard is my great grandfather. Tiner Mae Howard is my grandmother. Tiner Mae Howard married Benjamin Ellis, descendant of Hilliard Ellis of Nash County, and former slave.

    1. Hope you’ve seen the posts about the Hilliard Ellis family! (You and I are likely related, by the way, via the Eatmans. I DNA match several descendants of Benjamin and Tinner Ellis.)

    2. Hey cousin!!
      It would be interesting to meet you!
      I’m thinking of doing a story about Zelius and would like to gather more information about his early years.
      We’re planning a Howard reunion in July where descendants of Zelius Howard and Rhoda Eatmon gather.
      That would be awesome.
      I’ve searched for 57 years for my connection to my Howard roots, and to find out that I come from Wilson Royalty is a great thing!

    3. Just Ran across ur post Zealous Howard SR is my great feat gran father also and Gibb Howard is my feat gran father witch is one of Zealous’s sons and I still carry the last name Howard

  2. This is a new post!
    It clears up some of the confusion and questions about the land distribution in the will.
    My GreatGreat Grandfather is Ira Howard.
    His Sons were William and James Howard.
    Ira was the 1st born son of Zelius.
    Ira died in 1907.
    William is My GreatGrandFather.
    Zelius( The King) died in 1911.
    In Ira’s will, he left William and James control of his assets, and will.
    Interesting to say the least… William I. Howard died by blunt force trauma to his head.
    His brother James was killed a few years later.
    It’s very interesting that money, greed, jealousy and power has always produced murder and division.
    It’s an interesting story…just happens to be my family history!
    Documentary and story coming soon!

    1. I’m Alisha Cordell (Blackmon/Blackwell family).

      I’m looking for a direct descendant of Albert Howard (son of Deal Howard and Nancy Blackwell). I think Deal might also be Zealous. Albert Howard was Oscar Howard’s brother. Albert Howard’s son was Tommie Howard.

      I recently was granted access to visit the Howard Cemetery (where many of my Blackwell, Lucas, and Lyles family are buried). Albert Howard was a WWI Vet. We want to honor him and have a member of his direct descendant receive his plaque. Albert Howard is my 4th cousin–via his mother, Nancy Blackwell.

      Please text me at (919) 599-2399 or email me at

      1. Hi, Alisha. Yes, Deal is Zealous. I’m likely your distant cousin — related via Deal Jr.’s mother Rhoda Eatmon’s family. I am descended from Toney Eatmon, who likely was Nelson Eatmon’s brother. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the cemetery yet, but hope to do so during winter, when it is more accessible.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    Yes, we are likely cousins. Did Albert Howard (born at 1890) or Alvin Howard (born at 1903) have children, grand children, great-grandchildren? I’m trying to find a member, who is a direct descent.

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