The William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard house.

Wilson Times, 10 January 1950.

We have studied the cluster of plantations owned by the Woodard family near White Oak Swamp here, as well as the disposition of enslaved people held by William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard. The photos above and below depict the Woodards’ house, built in 1832.

Though the house seems to have been in fine form in the early 1980s, when the second photograph was taken, it has since been demolished.

Lower photo courtesy of Woodard Family Rural Historic District nomination form.


$20 reward for Miles, who was “quite intelligent.”

Tarboro Free Press, 5 December 1834.

$20 Reward.

RAN AWAY from the Subscriber, about four weeks ago, a mulatto fellow by the name of


He is tolerable well built, full round face, when interrogated generally frowns and looks down — his father belongs to Major Whitmel K. Bulluck, and he has some relation at Charles Wilkinson, Esq’s. He is about 21 or 22 years old. It is probable he may attempt to pass as a free fellow, being quite intelligent. I will give the above reward to any person who will deliver him to me, or secure him in jail so that I can get him again, and pay all reasonable expences. W.D. PETWAY.

Town Creek, Edgecombe County, N.C.

Sept. 12, 1834.


A year and-a-half after advertising the sale of a dozen enslaved people, William D. Petway posted an ad seeking the return of an enslaved young man named Miles, whose intelligence was acknowledged and sense of self-worth implied in the wording of the notice.

Both Whitmel K. Bullock, who enslaved Miles’ father, and Charles Wilkinson, who held additional relatives, were farmers in the Town Creek area of what is now southwestern Edgecombe County.

A love story.

Samuel Farmer stayed chasing runaways. Two weeks after disappearing into the inky darkness of a winter night, Davy slipped back into Farmer’s quarters to steal away his wife Malvina.

Tarboro Free Press, 19 February 1833.

$60 Reward.

RAN AWAY from the Subscriber, on Tuesday night, 22d January last, negro man


Aged about 27 or 28 years, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, well built, dark complexion, has a scar about an inch and a half in length on the forehead near the hair, and several scars on his head. Davy came home clandestinely on Tuesday, 5th Feb. and took off with him his wife MALVINA, aged about 21 or 22 years, dark complexion and well grown. A reward of $50 will be given for Davy, and $10 for Malvina, if both or either of them be delivered to me, or secured in any jail so that I get them again. All persons are forewarned harboring, employing, or carrying off said negroes under penalty of the law. SAMUEL FARMER.

Edgecombe Co. Feb. 12, 1833

10 or 12 likely Negroes for sale.

Tarboro’ Press, 29 January 1833.

William Davis Petway’s plantation was well east of Elm City just inside what is now the boundary of Wilson and Edgecombe Counties. His father Micajah Petway lived nearby. In the winter of 1833, as trustee for a loan that his father, presumably, had failed to pay off, W.D. Petway advertised the sale of 10 or 12 enslaved people to satisfy the debt.

Will trade land for young Negroes.

Tarboro Free Press, 2 August 1831.

In 1831, William Knight prepared to join the exodus of white farmers from the tired soil of North Carolina to the newly opened lands of the Deep South. He offered his 800-acre plantation on White Oak, in what is now eastern Wilson County, for sale for cash, credit, or “young Negroes.”

Levied on one negro girl, Barbara.

Tarboro’ Press, 13 July 1833.

By time this public notice was published, Levi Daniel had migrated to Harris County, Georgia, from the Black Creek area of what is now Wilson County. He left behind an enslaved woman, Barbara, with his kinswoman Judith Daniel. Other than it involved levying of property to satisfy a debt, the nature of the civil action is not clear, but Judith Daniel claimed ownership of both Barbara and 165 acres of land Levi Daniel also left behind.

I don’t know the outcome of the suit, but when Judith Daniel made out her will in 1837, she did not mention Barbara. Rather, to her daughter Sarah Barnes, she left “negro boy Amos“; to daughter Temperance Jordan, “negro woman Rhody“; and to daughter Eliza Bass, “negro girl Ginna.”

“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!    

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

Everett is given as a gift.

State of N.C. Edgecombe County }  Know that I Jesse Barnes of the County and State aforesaid do give unto my son in law Orren Bulluck of the County and State aforesaid one negroe boy by the name of Evarett about Eighteen years old. The above named negroe I give for the natural Love and affection that I Bare unto my son in law Orren Bulluck. July 27th day 1835 In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal. Joshua Barnes  Jesse Barnes


In July 1835, after daughter Edith Barnes Bulluck’s death, Jesse Barnes gave his son-in-law Orren Bulluck an enslaved man named Everett. Jesse Barnes’ son Joshua Barnes wrote out the deed of gift and signed it as a witness. The Barneses lived in what is now Wilson County; Bulluck, on Cokey Swamp in Edgecombe County.

Perhaps: in the 1880 census of Lower Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County, farm laborer Everett Bullock, 65, and wife Venus, 60.

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

Daniel, freedom seeker.

Daniel, a tall, handsome, dark-skinned man, left William Barnes’ plantation near Oak Grove [Saratoga] on the night of 20 September 1834. Eleven months later, Barnes began running ads in the Tarboro Press, offering a $50 reward for Daniel’s capture. Despite specific details about Daniel’s physique, his mother and siblings (from whom he had been separated when sold by Asahel Farmer), and even his father (a blacksmith who worked nearly independently in Nash County), Daniel was still on the lam in May 1936 when this ad ran, and as late as April 1837, when the Press re-printed it.

Tarboro’ Press, 7 May 1836.

Four years later, Abner Tison, another Saratoga-area planter, offered a reward for a Daniel whose physical description closely matched the Daniel above. He’d been missing a year. Though the ages are off, this Daniel had some notable scars, and was said to have been raised in Pitt County, this is surely the same knock-kneed man, bound and determined to take his freedom.

Tarboro’ Press, 24 July 1841.