On 12 October 1844, Lemon P. Stanton of the Stantonsburg area drafted a will that, among other things, bequeathed a man named Larry to his nephew George W. Stanton and an enslaved family to his niece and nephew, Louisa and Lemuel DeBerry.
The will entered probate in February 1846, and six years later, the court received this petition to partition Negroes:
- Stanton’s will left the DeBerry siblings an enslaved woman named Phillis, her children Alford and Curtis, and any future children.
- As the time of the petition in early 1852, Phillis had four children — Alford, Curtis, Romulus, and Laura. Another child, Haywood, had died.
- Phillis and her children were in the care of Lemuel DeBerry Senior, guardian of Louisa and Lemuel DeBerry.
- In November 1850, Louisa DeBerry had married Ferdinand H. Whitaker, the petitioner.
- Whitaker sought the partition of Phillis and her children so that his wife could get the half owed her under her uncle’s will.
- Lemuel DeBerry chimed in that he was “equally desirous” of partition. However, he later filed a memorandum with the court explaining that he was not certain, but Stanton’s will might have directed payout to the DeBerrys only when they reached age 21 — Louisa was 20 and Lemuel Jr., 18.
The digitized file contains no order in response to Whitaker’s petition. Inevitably, though, dividing the group in half would have meant that Phillis and one or more of her children were separated.
Will Book F, page 334, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina; Estate of Leeman P. Stanton, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files, http://www.familysearch.org.