In 1828, the North American Medical and Surgical Journal published an account of Stantonsburg doctor Josiah R. Horn’s treatment of an undiagnosed bone disease in an enslaved man’s leg. The man is unnamed, and his suffering is unspeakable, despite Dr. Horn’s best efforts. Ultimately, his leg was amputated at the thigh, and he recovered.
In January 1828, Barbara Jones of Wayne County “in consideration of the natural love and affection which I do bear towards my daughter” transferred to Bethany Jones 100 acres in Nash County bounded by the lands of Jethro Harrison on the north and east, Cuzzy [Keziah] Williamson on the south, and John Grice on the west (minus two acres sold to Mary Hobbs).
Deed book 12, page 190, Nash County Register of Deeds Office, Nashville, N.C.
I have long identified Bethana Jones as a the matriarch of a large free family of color rooted in what is now southwestern Wilson County. However, if this is the same Bethana Jones, this astounding document advances the Jones family genealogy back a generation to Bethana Jones’ mother, Barbara Jones.
The evidence is limited, but suggestive. The time period is correct. Most critically, the named neighbors place Barbara and Bethana Jones’ land in Old Field township in the neighborhood in which Bethana Jones was known to live. Jethro Harrison’s son and grandson were among the men and women who purchased items from Bethana Jones’ 1852 estate sale. Keziah Williamson was the mother of Isaac Williamson, who showed up at Jones’ estate sale. (It seems less likely that this was a reference to Kesiah Williamson, wife of Thomas Williamson, as ownership of property in a married woman’s own name during her husband’s lifetime would have been unusual.)
Barbary Jones appears in a 1782 tax list of Nash County, but no census records, which was not unusual for free women of color. The earliest certain reference to Bethany Jones (other than this deed) is in the 1830 census of Eatmon’s district, Nash County, North Carolina, in which Bethany Jones is head of a household of free people of color that included three males under age 10; one aged 10-23; and one aged 24-35; one female under 10; one aged 10-23; and two aged 36-54. (Were the latter two Bethana and her mother Barbara Jones?)
On 11 July 1821, Hardy Williamson prepared an inventory of the property “lent” to his mother Ann Williamson under the terms of the will of his father Joseph Williamson. (“Lent” indicates that Ann Williamson received a life estate in the property. In other words, it was hers during her lifetime, but once she died, it reverted to Joseph Williamson’s estate, to be distributed under additional terms of his will.)
The first line item is astonishing: 1 Negro Man Sesor 75 years old
Caesar was born in 1746. He may have been born in Africa, though not necessarily, as there were tens of thousands of enslaved people in America at the time of his birth. What is certain, however, is that for now he is the oldest African-American documented by name in what is now Wilson County.
Estate of Ann Williamson (1822), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
I had the great fortune recently of reuniting — after more than 20 years — with Gregory D. Cosby, who descends from and has extensively researched the Williamson and Shaw families of the Lucama area. Flipping through Cosby’s Eight Generations: The Williamson Family of Lucama, North Carolina, An African-American Legacy (1998) has spurred me to take a closer look at documents related to these families.
There were a number of white Williamson families living in the areas of Wilson County that were once parts of Johnston and Nash Counties in the early 19th century. For now, I am looking at records documenting the enslaved men and women — which included members of Gregory Cosby’s family — of the family of Hardy Williamson (1761-1833), son of Joseph and Ann Williamson. (See here for details of Ann Williamson’s estate.) The children of Hardy Williamson and his wife Sarah (Nichols, or Newsome, researchers disagree) were Martha, Joseph, John, James E., Patience, Stephen, Nancy, Raiford, Elizabeth, Hardy H., Zilpha, and Bethana Williamson.
Hardy Williamson wrote out his will in Johnston County in 1829. The will entered probate in 1833, but I have not found a copy of the estate file.
In the Name of God Amen I Hardy Williamson of the County of Johnston and State of North Carolina being in Pefect mind and memory thanks be given unto God Calling to mind the mortality of my body and Knowing that it is appointed for all men once to Die Do make and ordain this my Last will and Testament that is to say Principally and first of all I give and Recommend my soul unto the Almighty God who gave it and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be Buried in Decent and Christian manner at the Descretion of my Executors and as Touching such Worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this Life I give Demise and Despose of the same in the manner following that is to say I Lend unto Sarah William[son] my beloved wife all my Land Lying in Johnston County during her natural Life and after her Decease I give and Bequeath all the said Land unto my beloved son Hardy H. Williamson to him and his heirs forever I likewise Lend unto my wife Six Negroes Jane Silvy Sampson trion Aid Daniel During her natural Life after her Decease I give and bequeath Jane and Sampson to my beloved Daughter Martha Peelle to her and her heirs forever Likewise after my wife Decease I give to my beloved son Joseph Williamson trion I Likewise give him one Negro girl by the name of Fonne and all her increase to him and all his heirs forever Likewise after my wife Decease I give and bequeath unto my beloved son Hardy H. Williamson three Negroes viz Silvy aid and Daniel they and there increase to him and his heirs forever I Likewise give and bequeath unto my beloved son Raford Williamson two negros viz Cater and Simon I Likwis give to him one hundread and twenty Acres of Land Lying in Nash County one horse and one feather bed and furniture to him and his heirs forever I Likwis give and bequeath unto my beloved son James Williamson two Negroes Viz Jacob and Nice one horse one feather bed and furniture to him and his heirs forever I Likewise give and bqueath unto my beloved Daughter bethhana Williamson two negro girls Viz mary & Chany Likewise one bed and furniture to her and her heirs forever I have given to my son Stephen williamson the part of my Property alotted for him So I give him Nothing in this will I Likewise have given to my son John Williamson and Patience Watson the Parts of my Property alotted for them so I give them Nothing in their will I likewise give and bequeath unto my beloved Daughter Nancy Barnes two negroes viz Rhode and Sherod they and there increase to her and her heirs forever I Likewise Give and bequeath unto my beloved Daughter Elizabeth Whitley two negroes Viz tabitha and Simon to her and her heirs forever I likewise give unto my Beloved Daughter Zilpha Whitley one Negro Girl Named Selah to her and her heirs forever I Likewise give unto my wife Sarah Williamson all the Property belonging to me which is not mentioned in this will to Do as She thinks best for her children I Do Likewise Constitute make and ordain Matthew Peelle and Raford Williamson the Sole Executors of this my Last will and Testament Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last will and Testament in Witness whereof I have hereunto Set my hand this 12th Day of November one thousand Eight hundred and twentynine /s/ Hardy Williamson
Signed sealed and Delivered in Presence of us John Peelle, William Peelle, James Williamson
The enslaved people named in Hardy Williamson’s will, whose lives, if possible, will be explored in detail elsewhere:
Trion — Probably, Trial Williamson.
Daniel — This is possibly Daniel Williamson, but if so, he was a young boy at the time.
Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from their homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Involuntary apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.
Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify a few free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and part of Crossroads township.
Stephen Woodard was born about 1790 and died in 1864. He was a wealthy farmer whose last will and testament named 75 enslaved people. In the 1850 census of North of the Neuse River district, Wayne County, Woodard’s household included 40 year-old farmhand Sollomon Woodard, who was a free man of color. In the 1860 census of Woodard’s household, then in Black Creek township, Wilson County, the same man, now known as Solomon Andrews, 50, carpenter, is listed.
The Black Creek Rural Historic District was nominated as a National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and listed in 1986. The nomination form described the residences in the district, including Stephen Woodard’s, as “a rare survivor of antebellum architecture and … excellent examples of early farmsteads in Wilson County.” Per the nomination form, Woodard built a “modest coastal cottage” between 1810 and 1820. In 1821, he inherited additional land from his father John Woodard.
Stephen Woodard Sr.’s coastal cottage, at left, attached by breezeway to a two-story, frame I-house later built for his son, Dr. Stephen Woodard Jr., possibly by carpenter Solomon Andrews. Photo courtesy of the nomination form for Black Creek Rural Historic District.
Over the span of 1820 to 1831, as he began to expand his wealth, Stephen Woodard indentured at least eight children of color:
Welthy [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 15, and Ned [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 4, in 1820.
Kinnard Samson, age 7, Liza Samson, age 12, and Jere Samson, age 2, in 1820.
Possibly, in the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Jesse Sampson, 35, day laborer, with wife Mary, 30, and children Caswell, 10, Martha, 8, Elizabeth, 6, Temda, 4, and Gabriel, 6 months.
William Artis, age 7, in 1822.
David Artist, age 15, as a farmer in 1829.
In the 1840 census of Boswells district, Wayne County, David Artis is listed as head of household consisting of two free people of color. In 1850, North Side of Neuse district, Wayne County: David Artis, 40, day laborer, wife Siry, 40, and Lafayet Artis, 3. In 1860, Nahunta, Wayne County: David Artis, 50, turpentine hand, and wife Elizabeth, 35.
Willie Hagans, age 9, in 1831.
The indenture of four year-old Ned.
Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.
Among the men whose debts to deceased Theophilus Grice were listed in an inventory of his assets were these free men of color — Lewis Artis, Thomas Ayers, Richard Artis and Jacob Artis. (Actually, Thomas Ayers’ ethnicity is ambiguous. He may have been white, but appears to have been closely related to free colored Ayerses in the county.) All likely were close neighbors of Grice in the area around Bloomery Swamp in western Wilson (then Nash) County.
Lewis Artis owed for two loans — $17.00 incurred in 1806, and $13.05 incurred in 1808. Thomas Ayers had owed $29.79 since 1818. Richard Artis owed $15.84 since 1819. Jacob Artis had owed $14.56 since 1810. All the debts were described as “desperate” and were unlikely to be recovered.
Images of estate documents available atNorth Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
Theophilus Grice made out his will on 18 April 1823; he died six months later. Per Elton Cooke, who contributed a transcription of the will to http://www.ncgenweb.us, “The Grices, Deans and Cooks owned large tracts of land along Contentnea Creek, Hwy. 42 W and the Old Raleigh Road west of Wilson and east of I 95. References to Poplar Spring branch and Shepard’s branch are frequently seen in Cook and Grice deeds of the period. The area, known as the Old Fields (various spellings) district was taken from Nash County in 1856 [sic] to form a part of the new County of Wilson.”
“In the name of God Amen. I Theophilus Grice of the County of Nash and State of North Carolina Being Weake in body but Sound in Mind and Memmory blesed be God for his goodness do this Eighteenth day of April in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and twenty three Ordain and Make this My Last Will and Testament in Manner following to wit
“After My death and being buried and all My just debts is paid I lend to My Wife Polley Grice doring hur lifetime or Widowhood the home plantation and the Jacob Row field and after inclooding the said Row field thence two and along the Grass fence below the orched to the ford of the Contenney Creake at My old place all the lands adjoining above the said ford of the Creake is allotted for hur I also lend My negro Man Sesar to hur during hur natrel life or widowhood I allso give to hur one negro Man named Hardy and it is My desier that he be Hired out and the Money arising from His hire to be aplied to the seport of My Wife and hur Children that lives With hur I give hur three Cows and Calves and twenty hed of hogs Such As She Chooses out of My Stock and five hed of Sheep and one bay mare Called pidgin One plow frame two Cutting hoes one ax one grubing hoe I lend to My Wife one pot one Dutchoven one gridiron one boilar during of hur natrel life or Widowhood I give hur one bed and furniture one Whele and Cards One lume and gun one bridle and Saddle one burch table one pine table & Six Chiers one pale one pigin two tubs one Case of knifes and forks one meal sifter one bred tray I lend to My Wife during hur natrel life or Widowhood two puter basons one dish six plates and six table spoons and one Chest to hur and hur ares forever
Item I give to My Sun John Grice the blumery land that is to say the lots bought of Dred Deberry and his Wife and Irvin Ricks lying on both sides of the blumery pond also another tract of land lying in the afore said County Beginning at the ford of the Creake about one Hundred and fifty yards from the house at My old place on the Johnston line thence down the Manders of Said Creake to the Row Corner on Said Creake thence with the Row line & Grice line between Theopolis Grice and Christen Row unto the Raley Rode to a corner pine thence West With the Rode to Nichols line thence South With Nichols line to Theopolis Grices line thence East With his line until they get below the Jacob Row feld and down the Branch to the fork thence up the other branch nearly West to the head of said branch thence nearly South to the first beginning at the ford of Contenney Creake to him and his ares forever
Item I give to My Sun Thomas Grice all of My land lying in Johnston County Except three Akers lying at the Mill Called the Cobb Mill also I give him another tract of land lying in Nash County Called the boykin land adjoining Jesse Simpson to him and His ares forever also all the ballance of My land that is not Willed away I leave to be Sold at a twelve Month Credit
Item I give to My daughter Salley Cook two negros garls and their Children that is now is their puseson also one bed and furniture two Cows and yearlins one desk one Chest to Hur and hur ares forever.
Item I give to My Suns and daughters that is to Say John Thomas Rodey and Tempey fifteen negros to be Eakeley divided between them that is to Say Pris and hur three Children and Sal and hur fore Children and Darkis and hur fore Children and all of their increase that Shal Come hereafter and one Small garl named Morning to be divided at the time that My Sun John think proper to take his part of them to them and their ares forever and it is My desier that all the Rest of My Negros be Sold at a twelve Month Credit Namely Phillis Phareby Rode Anddy Patianc Fortin and Child Joe Nance and hur Child Art Jes Mill Zil
… I also nominate and apoint Bartley Deans and My Sun John Grice My Hole Sole Executor to this My Last Will and testament Whereof I Theopolis Grice have herunto Set My hand and afixed My Seal the day and year first above Written /s/ Theophilus Grice
Signed in the presence of us and Sealed in the presence of us /s/ John L. Lyons James Deans
In a nutshell, Theophilus Grice left his wife Mary “Polly” Harrison Grice a life interest in Caesar and directed that Hardy be hired out to support Polly and their children. He left his daughter Sarah “Sally” Grice Cook two unnamed young women and their children, who were already in her possession. For his four remaining children — John, Temperance Ann, Rhoda and Thomas Grice, who were all minors — he directed that 15 enslaved people be divided equally among them. The fifteen were Pris [Priscilla?] and her three children; Sal [Sally or Sarah] and her four children; Darcus and her four children; and Mourning, “a small girl” (who, presumably, was orphaned.) To equally distribute 15 people among four heirs likely required that one or more mothers be separated from their children. Grice further directed that Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, Andy, Patience, Fortune and her child, Joe, Nancy and her child, Art, Jess, Mill, and Zil be sold.
On several days in over the year after his death, Grice’s executors held sales to liquidate his property per the terms of his will. On 4 December 1923, they sold Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, and Fortune and her child Bedy to Polly Grice; Andrew, Jess and Ace, Zill and Milly to John Grice; Joe, Arthur and Nancy and her child Piety to John Cook; and Patience to Harris Horn.
At February 1824 term of court, Grice’s executors filed an inventory that listed all 37 of his slaves, including those sold above:
Philis, Phareby, Rody, Andrew, Patience, Fortune and child Beedy, Joe, Nance and child Piety, Arthur, Jes, Mill and Zill (twins?), Sarah, Ace, David, Chaney, Henry, Eliza, Priss, Richmon, Daniel, Ann, Darcus, Litha, Wiley, Charity, Dempsey, Mourning, Caesor, Hardy, Beed, Cussey and her three children.
In December 1828, the guardians appointed to oversee minor Thomas Grice’s inheritance filed an income and expense report with the court showing, among other things, that they had paid Mary Grice thirty-seven dollars for “the expense” of feeding and clothing the enslaved people Thomas had inherited, and Josiah Horn seven dollars and fifty cents for “doctoring his Negro woman.”
On 7 February 1829, Polly Grice sold some of the property she had inherited, including Caesar, whom her son John Grice purchased. (Note the credit to the account of seven dollars for the balance of the six-month period Caesar had been hired out to Peter C. Davis.)
In this December 1838 account of Rhoda Grice’s inheritance, Bartley Deans reported income from the hire of enslaved people Wiley, Charity, Jim, Caroline and Elbert.
Estate of Theophilus Grice, images available atNorth Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
London Woodard was born in 1808. In 1827, James Bullock Woodard purchased him for $500 from the estate of Julan Woodard.
In 1828, London Woodard was baptized at Toisnot Primitive Baptist.
In 1866, he sought permission to preach among his people.
In 1870, he was “dismissed” from Toisnot so that he could pastor the church he founded. He died lass than a month later.
London Church appears to have become disorganized after Woodard’s death, but in 1895, Toisnot P.B. dismissed several “colored brethren and sisters” who wanted to reestablish worship at London’s. The same year Union (now Upper Town Creek) P.B. released Haywood Pender, George Braswell, Dublin Barnes, and couple Charles and Rebeckah Barnes for the same purpose.
London Woodard married Pennie Lassiter, born free about 1810 and possessed of considerable property, including 29 acres purchased from James B. Woodard in 1859. [Penelope Lassiter was his second wife. His first, Venus, was enslaved.]
London and Pennie Woodard’s children were Priscilla (1846), Theresa (1848), Hardy (1850), Haywood (1852), William (1854), and Penina (1858). “Another child was probably named Elba, born in 1844; she was working for the John Batts family in 1860.” [London and Venus Woodard had nine children; Elba was not among either set.]
Many “old-time colored Christians” remained members of the churches they attended during slavery. Their children and grandchildren, however, gradually formed separate congregations.
Haywood Pender — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Haywood Pender, 50, farmer; wife Feraby, 45; children Mollie, 39, and Ann, 8; and grandchildren Gold, 5, Nancy, 3, and Willie, 16. Haywood Pender died 15 July 1942 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 October 1852 in Wilson County to Abram Sharp and Sookie Pender; was a farmer; was a widower; and was buried in Piney Grove cemetery, Elm City.
Dublin Barnes — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Doublin Barnes, 25; wife Eliza, 21; daughter Sattena, 2; and Jane Thomas, 12, farmhand.
Charles and Rebecca Barnes — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57; and children John, 26, William, 23, Annie, 17, Tom, 18, and Corah, 12.
Documents in the 1822 estate files of Ann Williamson of Nash (now Wilson) County include several references to the sale or “hier” of enslaved people. Williamson was the widow of Joseph Williamson, and Bartley Deans was her executor.
Williamson executed a will in 1807, fifteen years before her death. The will included three enslaved people — women named Pat and Rachel and a boy named Arch.
A partial inventory in Williamson’s estate records also lists Arch, Rachel and Pat. Rachel and Pat are listed together at one place in the documents and may have been mother and daughter. (Note that, as she was only ten years old in 1822, the Pat in Williamson’s estate could not have been the Pat in her 1807 will.)
Here, the record of the sale of “Negro gal Pat” to Eatman Flowers for $353.88; the hire of Arch, first to Jesse Sillivant, then to Thomas Williamson; and the hire of Rachel to Ford Taylor. Arch and Rachel were hired out repeatedly.
Williamson’s estate also included a man named Jack. Below, a receipt for partial proceeds from the sale of Jack to John Watson, executor of Luke Collins:
In addition, Ann Williamson’s inventory showed that she possessed an elderly enslaved man named Sesor [Caesar] that she had inherited from her husband Thomas Williamson.
Estate of Ann Williamson (1822), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
On 30 September 1825, Britton Simms of the Black Creek area (then in Wayne County, now in southeast Wilson County), “being in a low state of health but in perfect disposing mind and memory,” penned a will whose provisions included:
to daughter Mary Chance “two Negroes one by the name of Harper and Lot his wife”
to daughter Sally Daniel “three Negroes by the name of Ollif, Arch and George“
to Britton Daniel “one Negro girl by the name of little Haner“
to granddaughter Kiziah Bardin “one Negro girl by the name of Selah“
to granddaughter Polly Bardin “one Negro girl by the name of Hanah“
to grandson James Daniel “one Negro boy by the name of Pompy“
to grandson Robert Aycock “one Negro boy by the name of J[illegible]”
to grandson Jesse Aycock “one Negro boy by the name of Tom“
to grandson James Bardin “one Negro boy by the name of Abram“
to grandson Moses Daniel “one Negro girl by the name of Lany“