I’ve been at this a long time, folks. And sometimes it takes a long time to make the dots connect.
In 1986, renowned local historian Hugh B. Johnston Jr. told me he believed (1) Willis Barnes had been enslaved by Joshua Barnes (or some of “that set” north of Toisnot Swamp; (2) he was “suspicious” of Toney and Annie Eatmon as Willis Barnes’ parents; and (3) Cherry Battle Barnes “no doubt” had been enslaved by Amos J. Battle and lived on a farm owned by Battle’s wife.
This week, I made the connection that supports (3). In 1860, as a result of litigation arising from the settlement of the estate of Weeks Parker, a wealthy Edgecombe County planter, a trustee purchased from Alexander Eatmon an enslaved young woman named Cherry, who joined a group of enslaved people bequeathed to Parker’s daughter Margaret H. Parker Battle — Amos J. Battle’s wife. I found the bill of sale in deed books at the Wilson County courthouse.
The jury’s still out on (1), as the only evidence I have at this point is the proximity of Willis Barnes’ household (#180) to Joshua Barnes’ (#188) in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County. As to (2), I have discussed freeborn Toney Eatmon elsewhere, and the strong DNA links I have to descendants of both Theophilus Eatmon, his putative father, and Nelson Eatmon, his putative brother. Annie was an enslaved woman who apparently died before 1870 and about whom I have no additional information.