Reward for George, who may be headed home.

Tarboro Free Press, 22 September 1827.

$25 Reward.

RANAWAY from the Subscriber, on the 23d of July last, a Negro boy named GEORGE; he is about 17 or 18 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches in height, dark color, a pert lively look, and in speaking is apt to stutter a little; he has lost most of his fore teeth, and has two or three distinct scars on his throat, occasioned by a rising some time since. Said boy was purchased about eighteen months since, from Mr. Matthew Cluff, of Norfolk, at which place he was raised, but has frequently been to Elizabeth-City, in this State, and the boy said that he had been several times at sea. I expect that he will attempt to get either to Elizabeth-City or Norfolk. A reward of Twenty-Five Dollars will be given to any person who will apprehend said boy and lodge him in any jail, so that I can get him again. Masters of vessels and all other persons are hereby forbid harboring, employing, or carrying off said boy, under the penalty of the law. SAMUEL FARMER.

Edgecombe County, N.C.  Septem. 4, 1827.

The Norfolk Herald and Elizabeth-City Star will please give the above three insertions, and forward the account to this office for collection.


In September 1827, Samuel Farmer, who lived in the area between Hominy and Toisnot Swamps, placed this ad seeking the return of an enslaved teenager who had run away in July. George was believed to trying to make his way back to Norfolk, Virginia, where he had grown up, or Elizabeth City, North Carolina, which he had often visited. (Four and a half years later, Farmer was chasing another young man, John.)

Lewis Artis sells 100 acres in 1825.

This Indenture made the 7 day of August one Thousand Eight hundred and Twenty five Between Lewis Artice of the State of North Carolina and County of Edgecombe of the one part and William Woodard of the other part of County and State aforesaid Witnesseth that I the sd. Lewis Artice for an in consideration of the sum of Four Hundred and three Dollars to me in hand paid at or before the sealing or Delivery of these presents the receipt whereof I hereby acknowledge that I have Bargaind, Sold and Conveyed unto the sd. William Woodard and his Heirs a Certain tract or parcel of land situate in the County above Written and on the South side of Little Contentney Creek and Boundered as follows to Wit Beginning at a white oak in the Creek then a line of Mark’d trees to a corner pine then to red oak which is a Dividing Corner Between the sd. tract and Wilie Ellis land then a line of mark’d trees to a Corner Sweetgum in the Creek then up the various Courses of sd. Creek to this first Station Containing one hundred and 3/4 Acres be the sum more or less the sd. Lewis Artice do warranted forever defend the rite title and Claim unto the sd. Wm. Woodard and his Heirs forever in witness whereof I have hereinto set my hand and seal the day and date ante written Signed and Sealed in presents of us. Jas. B. Woodard   Lewis X Article


Little Contentnea Creek arises just east of Saratoga in what is now Wilson County (but was Edgecombe County in Lewis Artis‘ day) and flows a short distance into Pitt County on the Greene-Pitt County line.

The relationship between Lewis Artis and John Artis Jr. is unknown.

Deed Book 18, page 433, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

“Gatsey’s children”: a register of births of enslaved children, part 1.

The North Carolina State Archives’ Private Collections holds a remarkable and exceedingly rare document within the Virginia Pou Davis Doughton Papers. A small booklet, comprised of thirteen hand-sewn pages, holds list after list of the birthdates of enslaved women and the children they bore.

The provenance of the manuscript is unclear. The finding aid describes it as “Slaves of Bynum or Farmer Family in Edgecombe or Wilson Counties, 1825-1865.” The women’s and children’s names appear in a tight, neat script easily distinguished from other bold strokes penning lists of staples like tobacco, molasses, and whiskey. There are no fathers named. For most part, the lists of women and children appear to have been made in a single sitting, perhaps as a copy of older records. Above several names, “dead” is lightly penciled in. Some of these notations suggest updates after the end of slavery. The number of children attributed to each woman, and the frequency of their births, is startling. These women were, as enslavers so matter-of-factly described them, “good breeders.” In 1792, Thomas Jefferson himself calculated that he was making a four per cent annual profit on the birth of enslaved children. Is that what was happening here?

The front of the booklet displays at least three handwritings.

The left page, below: “this is Mr Bynum this is Mr Bynum Book” Who was Mr. Bynum? The enslaver of the women and children detailed in this volume? The enslaver’s overseer? Virginia Pou Davis Doughton’s maternal great-grandmother was Matilda Bynum Barnes (1848-1925). Had this diary belonged to her father, Robert Bynum (1817-1868), or grandfather, Turner Bynum (1787-1867)? The 1850 federal slave schedule of Edgecombe County lists Robert Bynum with 19 enslaved people; Turner Bynum claimed 44. Obviously, they are strong candidates.

At right: Gatsey‘s Children. Maria was born in May 1843. John was born in April 1849. Adeline dead was born in April 1852. Annice dead was born in July 1853. Albert was born in March 1855. Amos dead was born in March 1855. Lucinda was born Dec. the 6 1857. [Illegible] was born Jan. 1860. Penny was born Jan. 1860. Betty dead was born the 12 Sept. 1861. Hansel was born Nov. 1862. Mary was born [illegible.]

In 1866, Allen Bynum and Gatsey Bynum registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

On 26 December 1868, Mariah Bynum, daughter of Allen and Gatsey Bynum, married Cezar Pitt, son of Stephen Barnes and Bunna Pitt, in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Allen Bynum, 30; wife Gatsey, 45; and children Adeline, 18, Ann, 16, Lucy, 12, Ethelbert, 15, Ranson, 7, and Harbert, 2.

In the 1870 census of Coney township, Edgecombe County: Caesar Pitt, 21; wife Maria, 28; Lucy, 11; Patrick, 17; and William Haskins, 8.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alen Bynum, 60; wife Gatsey, 40; and children Lucy, 18, and Horbord, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Conetoe township, Edgecombe County: Ceasar Pitt, 28; wife Mariah, 30; stepdaughter Martha, 18; grandson John, 1; Frank Staton, 21; and Febia Jenkins, 8, nurse.

Lucinda Bynum died 29 November 1933 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 85 years old; was single; and was born in Wilson County to Allen Bynum and Gatsey Bynum. Lydie Ricks was informant.


Cherry was born the 8 Sept 1820. Preston was born the 3 June 1836. Harry was born the 11 June 1838. Americus was born the 26 Jan. 1840. Patience dead was born the 12 Feb. 1842. Austine was born the 22 Feb. 1842. Harbord was born in Sept. 1848. Scott was born in Sept. 1849. Hilliard was born in Aug. 1850. Daniel was born in  Feb. 1852. Irvin was born in June 1854. Abbie was born in August 1856. Silva was born in May 1859. Bunny was born June 1862. Jack was born in Dec. 1865.

  • Preston Bynum

In 1866, Preston Bynum and Violet Bynum registered their 13-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Preston Bynum, 34; wife Violet, 30; and children Wilson, 12, George, 4, and Hugh, 2.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Preston Bynum, 48; wife Violet, 39; children Wilson, 18, George, 17, Major, 12, Phariba, 7, Debby, 6, Patience, 4, and Silvia, 2.

In the 1900 census of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana: Preston Bynum, 69; wife Violet, 49; daughter Patience, 29; and grandchildren Preston, 11, Martha, 8, Irvin, 4, Major, 2, and Wilson Bynum, 1, and Edgar, 9, and James Mosley, 3. All the children were born in Louisiana.

In the 1910 census of Melton township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: Preston Bynum, 78; wife Vinie, 76; and grandchildren Janie, 14, and James Jones, 13, and Harvest Wiley, 8. Next door: Wilson Bynum, 50; wife Louvena, 41; and children Calvin, 16, Charley, 10, Minnie, 7, Celia, 6, Florence, 4, and Lucinda, 11 months.

Violet S. Bynum died 24 December 1916. Her grave marker cites her date of birth as 22 June 1841.

  • Harry Bynum

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Osborn Buck, 23, farm laborer; Harry Bynum, 31, and Mary Bynum, 26; and John Barron, 28.

  • Hilliard Bynum

Hilliard Bynum, 22, married Cloe Jones, 23, on 9 November 1873 in Wilson County. In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Hilliard Bynum, 27; wife Cloah, 28; and sons Charles, 6, and Richard, 1.

  • Irvin Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Earvin Bynum, 24; wife Lettice, 23; and children Joeseph, 7, Canny, 5, Cherry, 4, and Robert, 3.

  • Bunny Bynum and Cherry Bynum

Bunny Bynum married Ned Hussey 16 October 1878 in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Ned Hussey, 23, laborer; wife Bunny, 17; children Marguert, 3, and Ned, 6 months; and [mother-in-law] Chery Bynum, 58, midwife.


Vinie was born in 1837. Her children. Rosa was born August 1854. Lewis dead was born April 1856. Zilphia dead was born July 1857. Wilson was born June 1860. Beauregard dead was born 1862. Calvin was born 3rd wk. in Dec. 1863.

I have not been able to identify definitively Vinie or her children.

Slaves — Bynum or Farmer Families, Edgecombe, Wilson Counties, 1825-1865, P.C. 1981.3; Virginia Pou Doughton Family Papers, Private Collections, State Archives of North Carolina. Thanks to Jennifer Johnson for bringing this collection to my attention. Librarians rock!    

The estate of Isaac Scarborough, part 1.

We met James Scarborough and the people he enslaved here and here and here. His son Isaac Scarborough, born in 1780, came into possession of Scarborough House just before his death and passed it on to his younger daughter, Susan Scarborough Bryant.

Isaac Scarborough made out his first will in Edgecombe County on 21 August 1826. In it, he left twelve enslaved people to his wife Nancy Scarborough — Sooky, Harry, Agnes, David, Austin, Elsy, Jinny, Amy, Abel, Orange, Caswell, and Charlotte. [N.B.: Isaac Scarborough married two women named Nancy. The maiden name of his first wife is not known. Nor is her death date.]

In 1848, Scarborough married Nancy Barnes Tyson. In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, Isaac Scarborough’s household included himself, his wife, their infant daughter, and Nancy Tyson’s children by her first marriage to Abner Tyson, and Scarborough reported 33 enslaved people.

Isaac Scarborough made out his will in October 1853. To his wife Nancy, he left a life interest in the tract of land on which they lived near present-day Saratoga, which he had purchased from Joab Horne in 1841, as well as the adjoining tract purchased from Louis Dilda in 1847. [These purchases totaled more than 1400 acres on White Oak Swamp.] Isaac also left Nancy outright “the following slaves (viz) Mary, Edith, Harriet, John, Himbrick, Abraham, and Gray Hilliard ….” and a life interest in Harry, Orrin, Rose, and Austin, who were to pass to their daughters Victoria and Isaac Susan after Nancy’s death. Isaac’s remaining enslaved people, who were not named, were also to pass to their daughters in equal shares.

Isaac Scarborough died in early 1857, and his estate entered a lengthy probate. The file is rich with references to the enslaved people whose lives were upended by his death.

In this post, we examine documents from 1858 through 1860, including hire lists and a receipt for the care of “a n*gger woman.”

First things first, to keep the plantation going and income flowing, some of Scarborough’s land was rented and enslaved people were hired out. (Those belonging to the estate, that is. The men and women bequeathed directly to widow Nancy Scarborough were not subjected to these transactions.)

For the period 6 March 1857 to 1 January 1858, widow Nancy Scarborough hired David and Ned for ten dollars each, a price that suggests their old age or disability. She was also paid by the estate for the care of four women with small children — Charlotte with three, Jinny with three, Debby with three, and Chaney with two. Joseph Payne hired Daniel ($139) and Lucy and her child ($40). Jacob Byrum hired Abel ($160) and Bill ($110), and James J. Taylor, Jesse ($95, Toney ($40.50), and  Mary ($70); John Felton, Hannah ($13.50); and Rufus W. Edmundson, Milly ($2.75).

At the end of 1858, the cycle started all over again, with people from Isaac Scarborough’s shifted around to spend a year with the highest bidder. Bill went to David Webb for $73. David went to Jonathan Weaver for $137.25. James Barnes took Abel for $175.25. Lewis S. Dilda took Daniel for $175.00. Jonathan Bulluck took Jesse ($127) and Milly ($12). Ned remained with Nancy Scarborough, who also took Augustin for $2.50. (Augustin’s absence from the previous year’s hire and his low lease rate suggests he was a young child, perhaps 6 or 7 years old.) Lucy and her child remained with Joseph Pane ($25), and Hannah with John Felton ($25.25).

Curiously, there’s a second account that appears to have been filed for the same year. The heading is somewhat ambiguous — is this account for the year that ended 31 December 1858? Patrick Bynum hired Bill ($140), Hannah ($42), and Milly ($43); Nancy Scarborough hired David ($141); James Barnes hired Abel ($178) and Daniel ($190); Hiram Webb, Jesse ($167); Jonathan Bulluck, Toney ($99.75) and Ned ($112); James J. Taylor, Mary ($85); and Isaac C. Moore, Augustin ($34.50). David Webb took in Jinny and her three children, and Nancy Scarborough took in Charlotte and her three children, Debby and her four children, Lucy and her two children, and Chaney and one child.

On an unspecified date in 1859, the estate paid Anna Walston two dollars “for A visit to A n*gger woman.”

For the year following 30 December 1859: Bill ($125) and Jinny and two children went to David Webb; David ($50), Hannah ($50), and Milly ($50) to Nancy Scarborough; Abel ($179) to James Barnes; Daniel ($170) to William Gardner; Jesse to Hiram Webb ($180); Tony ($111), Ned ($139), and Ashley ($25) to Jonathan H. Bulluck; Augustin ($62) to William Woodard; and Mary and a child ($60) and Lucy and two children ($30) to John Harper. Nancy Scarborough agreed to payment for the care of Charlotte and three children, Debby and five children, and Chaney and one child.

On 9 January 1860, James J. Taylor received a ten-dollar credit from James Barnes, guardian of Isaac Scarborough’s minor heirs. Why? The unnamed woman he had hired the previous year had had a child, thereby diminishing her usefulness.

On 2 June 1860, Joshua Walston received two dollars for “Services rendered by my wife in attending to negro woman in 1859.”

A receipt for care of women with children during 1859 and 1860:

In December 1860, again, the community is picked over and divided up for the next year. David Webb hired Bill ($120) and Jinna and two children ($10); Nancy Scarborough hired David ($50) and Ashley ($46); James Barnes hired Abel ($175); William Felton hired Daniel ($170); Hiram Webb hired Jesse ($150); Elbert Felton hired Toney ($111) and Ned ($135); Isaac Moore hired Augustin ($64); Garry Bargeron hired Hannah ($55) and Charlotte and her two children ($45); and David Amason hired Milly ($37). Nancy Scarborough agreed to take payment for care for Debbie and her five children, Lucy and her two children, and Mary and her two children.

As seen, members of Isaac Scarborough’s enslaved community were moved from year to year as their hire arrangements began and ended. Given Saratoga’s proximity to the county line, it is not surprising that several of the men who bid for their services lived beyond Wilson County in Pitt and Edgecombe Counties. Thus, we see that, even when a community was not broken up by sales, the death of an enslaver profoundly destabilized communities.

Estate of Isaac Scarborough (1859), North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

A guide to the wills and estate records of Wilson County enslavers.

Wills and estate records contain some of the most useful material for researchers of enslaved people. Here, a running list of enslavers’ wills and estate records featured in Black Wide-Awake.


Detail from 1860 federal slave schedule of Wilson County, North Carolina.

Estate records

The sale of Teresea, aged 16 or 17.

On 17 February 1821, Jonathan Ellis sold John Farmer “one negro girl about Sixteen or Seventeen years of age by the name of Teresea ….”

Recall that in 1853 John Farmer’s widow Nancy inherited a woman named Treasy from her husband’s estate. The Treasy named in John Farmer’s estate is likely the Teresea above, documented at the time of her purchase.

Dempsey and Jesse Barnes Papers, Hugh Johnston Collection, North Carolina Memory, lib.digitalnc.org.

Hardy Lassiter buys 200 acres in 1829.

This Indenture made this twenty third day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine Between Moses Farmer of the County of Edgecombe and State of North Carolina of the one part and Hardy Lasiter of the County and state aforesaid of the second part. Witnesseth that I the said Moses Farmer for and in consideration of the sum of Two Hundred Dollars to me in hand paid the said Hardy Lasiter the receipt where of I do hereby acknowledge do bargain sell and Deliver unto said Hardy Lasiter a certain tract or parcel of Land lying and being in County and State afor said and bounded as follows. Beginning at a pine formally Robert Colemans Corner thence along his line south two hundred & fourteen poles to a hickory in said line Joseph Sims Corner thence along his line East one Hundred and twenty poles to that Corner a stake thence along said line to Isaac Farmers Corner thence south to the first station Containing two Hundred Acres more or less. To have and to hold the above Lands and premises free and Clear unto him the said Hardy Lasiter for ever and I the aforesd. Moses Farmer for myself my heirs Exers. Admrs. and assigns do warrant and defend the said Lands and premises free and Clear unto the said Hardy Lassiter his heirs Exers. Admrs. and assigns forever. In Witness where of I the said Moses Farmer have hereunto set my hand & seal the day and date above written  — Moses Farmer {seal}

signed sealed and acknowledged in presents of Jesse F. Wood, Samuel Farmer


This was Hardy Lassiter’s first recorded land purchase in what is now Wilson County. Samuel Farmer, who witnessed the transaction, owned Lassiter’s son John.

Deed book 19, pages 374-375, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

Commemoration and celebration at Scarborough House.

Black Wide-Awake has featured several of Wilson County’s remaining antebellum plantation houses, including the James Scarborough house, built circa 1821, just outside Saratoga.

Now an event space and bed-and-breakfast, “Scarborough House Resort is committed to a long-term and ongoing effort to more deeply understand and respond to the historic role this property contributed to the injustice of slavery, as well as the legacies of enslavement on the Scarborough Plantation. Through engagement with the members of the Preservation of Wilson, collaborative projects with our surrounding community, and continued initiatives of learning and research, the Scarborough House Resort resolves to memorialize and reconcile with the wrongs of the past. We aim to follow a path of love and respect for all humanity, creating an inclusive environment, where all people will feel welcomed.” The site goes on to request that anyone with information, photographs, documents or other artifacts pertaining to Scarborough Plantation or its residents, enslaved or free, to contact PreserveOldWilson@gmail.com or reach out to the Scarborough staff.

I am thrilled and honored that Scarborough House has engaged me to research the property’s African-American past, a first step toward respect and reconciliation. On 22 April 2023 Scarborough House Resort is hosting a tea party to benefit Preservation of Wilson. Guests will enjoy a tree-planting in honor of Earth Day, learn the history of the house and its original inhabitants, and join in the dedication of a bench memorializing the lives of enslaved people who worked its land.

Photo collage courtesy of Scarborough House Resort.

The estates of Ephraim Daniel and Zilpha Fort Daniel.

The second in a series documenting enslaved people held by the Daniel family, who lived in the Black Creek area in what was once Wayne County.


Though Ephraim Daniel named only four enslaved people — Simon, Temperance, Robbin and May —  in his will, estate documents reveal that he claimed 26 at the time of his death in 1822. On December 16 of that year, 22 enslaved people were sold to 16 different buyers in the liquidation of Daniel’s estate.

The men, women, and children dispersed from their homes were James (purchased by Hardy Horn and maybe the Jim referred to in Horn’s will and estate file); Jacob; Bob; Oen; Burden; Peter; Enos; Levi; Sarah; Fan; Hester; Jury and child Amy; Silviar; old man Bob; Lany and her three children George, Sintha, and Moses; old man Ned; old man Dick; and Isaac Hoods “the use of him reserved to the old Widow Hood her life time.”

Zilpha Daniel died just two years after her husband Ephraim. An inventory of her estate listed six enslaved people among her property. On 2 January 1826, her belongings went on the block. Her son Rufus hired out Hester; Simon, his wife, and children; and Oen [Owen], who was described as “very sick,” until March 1. On 11 March 1826, all were offered for sale. Rufus Daniel bought Simon, Temperance, and their children Robert and May, whom his father had specifically passed to Zilpha under the terms of his 1822 will.

Estate Files of Ephraim Daniel (1822) and Zilpha Daniel (1824), Wayne County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

African-American members of Lower Black Creek P.B. Church, part 8.

Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1783, was the second church organized in what is now Wilson County. (It closed its doors in 2010.) The church’s nineteenth and early twentieth-century records includes names of enslaved and freed African-American members, who worshipped with the congregation as second-class Christians even after Emancipation.

This page is entitled “A list of Names & members belonging to the church at Black Creek Meeting House Wayne County.” It is not dated, but the left margin contains baptism dates (and suggests the page was compile from earlier data.) Additional info appears for a few members in the right-hand column. Four “servants,” i.e., enslaved people, appear in the list.

  • Choe, a servant of John Barnes, baptized in 1827
  • Joe, a [servant of] of William Horne, baptized in 1828, “dead”
  • Jim, a servant of John Hooks, baptized in 1828
  • Mary, a [servant] belonging [to] T. Wasson, baptized in August 1852