1840s

The estate of Henry Flowers.

Henry Flowers, who lived on the south bank of Toisnot Swamp in what was then Nash County, died in February 1845.

Flowers enslaved fourteen people at the time of his death, and all were hired out on 4 March 1845, pending the settlement of his estate, which would involve a protracted battle between two sets of children. Though their ages are not listed, this schedule suggests that Frank, Toney, Jim, Peter, and Jacob were grown men at the time. Merica and Peggy were likely very young girls. Annis was a grown woman with four children, and Nelly is likely an older or disabled woman. Beyond Annis and her children, the family relationships, if any, among the fourteen are not stated. Whatever they were, and even if they involved parental or marital relationships beyond Flowers’ farm, this mass hire was powerfully disruptive, as the group was dispersed to live on eight different farms.

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Another version of this account reveals that Nelly and Annis and her children were labeled “parishners.” A parishioner ordinarily is a member of a church parish, but here seems to designate persons who were unable to work, as the estate paid Britton Bottoms and Kinchen Taylor to take these six people. This account also identifies Annis’ four youngest children, Elic [Alex], Redmond, Harry, and Rose.

New leases began at the first of the year 1846, and the group was further shuffled around. Only Toney remained with his previous lessor, John W. Williams. William Taylor leased three adults, plus three of Annis’ four children. The fourth, Ellick, was now old enough to be leased on his own, and he went to W. Roe at a discount price. Nelly, alas, had died.

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Another new year, another reshuffling. William Taylor, husband of Flowers’ daughter Charity,  continued to consolidate his leases over Henry Flowers’ slaves, hiring Frank, Peter, and Annis and her children, including Ellick. Annis had had another child during the previous year, a girl she named Isabel.

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Here, an undated roster of “the negros belonging to the Estate of Henry Flowers Decd.”

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Finally, in 1850, after years of squabbling, the estate began to pay out. Henry Flowers’ enslaved property was divided into three lots. No. 1 consisted of James ($700), Elix ($500), Annis ($300), Isabel ($200), and Frank “old” ($100). No. 2 was Peter ($600), Merica ($550), Redmon ($450), and Rose ($300). No. 3 was Toney ($345), Jacob ($650), Pegga ($550), and Harry ($475). Lot No. 1 was distributed to William Taylor and his wife Charity Flowers Taylor. The remaining lots would go to Charity’s half-sisters, Nancy and Judith Flowers, when they reached adulthood.

——

  • Frank
  • Toney
  • James/Jim
  • Peter

Possibly: in 1866, Peter Taylor and Clarisy Taylor registered their eleven-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

If so, in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Peter Taylor, 32 [sic]; wife Clarsey, 37; and children Harrit, 8, Haywood, 10, William, 5, and Susan, 8 months.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Peter Taylor, 50; wife Clarcy, 36; children Harriet, 17, William, 15, Susan, 10, Henry, 8, Moretta, 6, and Charlie, 2; and granddaughter Clarcy, 7 months.

Charissy Taylor died 16 September 1932 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 June 1836 in Wilson County to Dempsey Cotton; was the widow of Peter Taylor; and lived at 522 Church Street. Informant was Mark Cotton.

  • Jacob
  • Merica

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer America Flowers, 35, and daughter Anaka, 7.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmworker America Flowers, 55.

  • Peggy

On 22 September 1870, Belford Farmer, son of Ben and Ellen Farmer, married Peggy Flowers, daughter of Henry and Annie Flowers, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed laundress Peggy Farmer, 43, and children Mourning, 23, Alice, 21, Annie, 13, Moses, 16, Ida, 10, Belford, 7, and Mary, 5, and grandsons Willie, 3, and Henry, 1.

  • Annis

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Anniss Taylor, 52; daughter Isabella, 23; and granddaughter Mary J., 4.

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Annis Taylor, 70; daughter Isbel, 30; and granddaughter Mary J., 16.

  • Nelly
  • Ellick

In 1866, Alex Taylor and Laney Locus registered their seven-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Ellis Taylor, 34, and wife Lainey, 45; plus Nathanel Locust, 33, farm laborer, and Malvina, 11, and Duncan Locust, 4. [Note that Alex Taylor was born about 1835. This means that he was about 11 years old when deemed old enough to be hired out separate from his mother.]

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Alex Taylor, 42, farmer; wife Delany, 50; and grandson Jessee D. Locus, 12.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Alex Taylor, 70, widower, and boarder Frank Johnson, 20.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, widower Ellic Taylor, 75, farmer, and sister Isabel Taylor, 65.

Alexander Taylor died 26 June 1923 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 96 years old; was a widower and farmer; and was born in Wilson County to an unknown father and Anicky Taylor. John H. Clark was informant.

  • Isabel

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Anniss Taylor, 52; daughter Isabella, 23; and granddaughter Mary J., 4.

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Annis Taylor, 70; daughter Isbel, 30; and granddaughter Mary J., 16.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Isbel Taylor, 51, laborer.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, widower Ellic Taylor, 75, farmer, and sister Isabel Taylor, 65.

Issabell Taylor, died 26 October 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 84 years old; was single; was born in Wilson County to Harry Taylor and Anicky Taylor; and was a tenant farmer. Informant was John H. Clark. [What was the relationship of John H. Clark to the Taylors?]

  • Redmund
  • Harry
  • Rose

Rose Flowers died 26 January 1919 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; was single; was a farmhand; and was born to Henry Williams and Annis Taylor. Informant was Alex Taylor. [It appears that Annis Flowers’ daughters Peggy, Rose, and Isabel had the same father, named Henry, whose surname is variously attributed as Flowers, Taylor and Williams.]

Nancy Flowers Estate File (1848), Nash County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Henry Flowers Estate File (1845), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

Many thanks to Katherine Elks for alerting me to this rich trove of documents.

Hardy Tabourn seeks a Revolutionary War pension.

State of North Carolina, Nash County  }   On this thirteenth day of August Eighteen hundred and Forty four Personally appeared in open Court Hardiman Tabourn a resident of the County of Nash and maketh the following declaration in order to obtain a pension under the act of Congress passed on the seventh day of June Eighteen hundred and thirty two and after being duly sworn according to law doth declare on his oath that he is the son of Burrell Tabourn who Enlisted in the war of the revolution in the year Seventeen hundred and eighty-one For the term of Twelve months under Capt Lytle and after he had served out that time he was drafted for a twelve month tour in the year of Seventeen hundred and eighty two as he has always heard his said father say who will more fully appear by two certificates which he has procured from the Secretary of the State of North Carolina, which he submits as evidence in Connection with his own of his Said Fathers services.

And further declares that his said Father Burrell Tabourn died leaving no widow and that his said father Burrell Tabourn died on the Ninth day of January Eighteen hundred and fortytwo and that he was Eighty one years old when he died and that he himself is forty nine years old and that he has three Brothers and two Sisters Namely Larkin Tabourn forty seven years old, Caleb Tabourn Thirtyfive years old, Boling Tabourn twentyeight years old, Beady Tabourn who intermarried with one Berry Locust Thirtytwo years old and Elizabeth Tabourn Thirty years old and he Further declares that his said Father was at the time he entered the Service a resident of the County of Nash and remained as Such up to this death and that he himself and all his brothers and sisters are Residents of the County of Nash and State aforesaid

And he Further declares that he has always heard his Father Say that he served the last Tower under the same Capt as he did the first two and he said Hardiman Further declares that he hims [sic] and he in behalf of his Brother and Sisters do hereby relinquish all Right to a pension whatever Except this

Sworn and subscribed to the day and date before written Before me  Francis M. Taylor  Hardiman X Tabourn

——

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Caleb Tayborne, 51, wife Susan, 50, and children Quilly, 20, Jane, 15, Owen, 15, Martha, 12, Larkin, 12, and Sallie, 10.  Also, Larkin Tayborne, 57, wife Rebecca, 68, Ricks, 24, and Levenia, 15.  Also, Berry Locust, 50, wife Beedy, 45, and children Arthur, 25, Eliza, 19, Hepsy A., 16, Ivah, 15, Alsey, 12, Henry, 10, and Leymon, 8.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: Hardy Tabourn, 70, farm laborer, living alone.

From the file of Burrell Tabourn, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives and Records Administration.

The last will and testament of Lewis Rountree.

On 20 September 1849, Lewis Rountree of Edgecombe County penned a will that included these provisions:

  • to wife Elizabeth Rountree, a life interest in “one negro man George and one negro woman by the name of Fanney aged 31 years.” After Elizabeth’s death, their six daughters were to inherit George and  Fanney equally.
  • to Sarah Jordan, wife of Thomas Jordan,”one negro boy by the name of Sam and one negro girl by the name of Phillis
  • to daughters Eliza Daniel, wife of Willie Daniel; Harriet Ellis, wife of I.G. Ellis; Penelope Rountree; Elizabeth Rountree; Treasia Rountree; and Margaret Rountree “the following negroes to wit — Stephen, Braswell, Hillard, Joe, Dave, Warren, Henry, Joiner, Amos, Rafe, Levi, John, Little Gorge, Fed, Gray, Bob, Love, Rebecca, July, Cherry, Milley, Ester, Deborah, Rhoda, Ann and Louisa,” share and share alike.
  • daughters Eliza and Harriet to receive their shares of community property immediately, and the remaining daughters to receive theirs as they reached age 21

After Lewis Rountree’s death, daughters Eliza Daniel and Harriet Ellis (through their husbands) petitioned for the division of their share of their father’s enslaved property. Eliza Daniel received Brass, Amos, Love, George, Rhody and Ann, valued at $2375. Harriet Ellis received Hilliard, Pheriba, Louisa, Adaline, Levi and Julia, valued at $2400.

Hilliard and Pheriba Ellis were a newly married couple at the time of the division. Hilliard Ellis’ brother Warren remained part of the common property and adopted the surname Rountree after emancipation.

Lewis Rountree Will, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

The last will and testament of Moses Farmer Sr.

Moses Farmer Sr. of Edgecombe County [near Toisnot Swamp, later Wilson County] made out his will in 1844. Among its very specific provisions were these:

  • Other then a few items mentioned, all his perishable estate was to be sold “except my negroes,” and the tract of land on which his brother Samuel Farmer lived was to be sold privately if it would bring $250. Otherwise it was to be sold at auction.

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  • If the sale of the perishables and the Samuel Farmer tract did not raise enough cash to settle Moses Farmer’s debts, Farmer directed his executor to sell “enough of my negroes either at public or private sale to the best advantage such as he thinks most suitable”

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  • Farmer’s wife or eldest son Larry D. Farmer were to hire”Negro woman called big Chainny” from the estate “as long as she is hired out at a reasonable price for each year.”

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  • As Samuel Farmer was “verry much indebted” to Moses Farmer, and possibly unable to pay his debts, Moses let his executor decide whether to sell Samuel’s “negroes at private sale if they can agree on the price if not to have them sold at public sale.” Either way, the executor was to buy Samuel’s “negro woman Mariny” for Moses’ estate and hire her out to Samuel for $10 per year as long as he remained in-state. At Samuel’s death, Mariny was “to be disposed of as” Moses’ property. If Samuel tried to move Mariny out of state, however, she was to be sold. [Who was Mariny to Samuel? Why did not Moses take some measures to keep her with Samuel even as he gave permission for the people enslaved with her to be sold off?]

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Moses Farmer Sr. died in 1848. His estate file does not appear to contain an inventory of his enslaved people. However, it does contain the petition filed by Farmer’s heirs at the November 1848 session of court seeking to sell “a certain slave named Rina or Marina” in order to divide her value among them. The petition was granted. On 1 January 1949, Joshua Barnes purchased Marina for $325.

Will of Moses Farmer (1844), North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Moses Farmer (1844), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

 

A marriage in 1848.

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Ed. Powell and Thomas Mercer gave bond for a marriage license for Ed. Powell and Mary Jones on 14 August 1848 in Nash County. The couple likely lived in a section of Nash that would be incorporated into Wilson County in 1855.

Nineteen years later, on 10 October 1867, John Allen Jones, son of Edwin Powell and Mary Jones, married Susan Simpson, daughter of Sallie Simpson, at Margarett Simpson‘s house in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jno. A. Jones, 22; wife Susan, 19;  children Thomas, 2, and Jesse B., 7 months; and Rosett Boykin, 10.

In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Dempsy Powell, 52, farmer; wife Sallie, 46; daughter Susan A. Jones, 27, and her husband John A. Jones, 34; their children Thomas A., 13, Jessee B., 11, James A., 7, Celia C., 5, Sallie C., 4, and John A., 1; and W.D. Lucus, 21, laborer. [Sallie Simpson married Dempsey Powell in Wilson County in 1855. The family appears in the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: turpentine worker Dempsey Powell, 30; wife Sallie, 28; and Susan Simpson, 9.]

Many thanks to Edith Garnett Jones for this copy of the Powell-Jones marriage license.

The estate of Nathan Blackwell.

We examined the will of free man of color Nathan Blackwell here, in which he left his estate to sons Nathan, Exum, and Josiah Blackwell and named Asberry Blackwell as his executor. Nathan directed Asberry, who was probably his brother, to “take Andrew and see to his labor for my children to the best advantage also take my children and take care of them.”

Andrew was an enslaved man.

Nathan Blackwell died sometime in 1846 in a section of eastern Nash County that is now Wilson County. His personal assets were sold on 16 August 1846, and buyers included his relatives Peter Blackwell and Drucilla Blackwell, as well as Stephen and Josiah Powell, who were likely relatives of his deceased wife Jincey Powell Blackwell. Willis Jones was listed among debtors to the estate.

Nathan Blackwell’s orphaned sons were minors. Ordinarily, they would have been placed with a white family via involuntary apprenticeship. However, their father’s estate had assets, and a couple of white men, Jarman Eatman and Mabry H. Hinnant, took turns as their guardian. Exum seems to have died not long after his father

As requested, “negro Andrew” was hired out and his lease fee applied to Blackwell’s estate for the benefit of his boys. Jesse Simpson, for example, hired him for about 54 dollars on credit in the year 1848.

Nathan Blackwell Estate Records (1846), Nash County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Arch Artis, a free man of color.

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In the 30 August 1952 edition of his Daily Times column “Looking Backward,” Hugh B. Johnston transcribed a will executed in 1849 by Arch Artice, a free man of color. The will is not included in Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org databases, and I have found no evidence that it ever entered probate. Artis (the more common spelling) is not to be confused with Archibald Artis Sr. (or Jr.) of Johnston County, who was his rough contemporary, and here’s what we know of him:

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, Arch Artis is listed as a 55 year-old “mulatto free” and described as blind. Elisha Vick, a 48 year-old white laborer, and Elizabeth Woodard, 46, who witnessed his will, were Artis’ close neighbors.

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1850 federal census of Edgecombe County, N.C.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County, Arch Artis, 65, blind, is listed in the household of white farmer Calvin Woodard, a 32 year-old white farmer who reported owning $17,225 in personal property (which would have been mostly in the form of enslaved people. Calvin Woodard was the son of Elizabeth Simms Woodard, above, and William Woodard Sr., who died about 1850.)

On 31 October 1869, Puss Artice, daughter of Arch and Rosa Artice, married George Bynum, son of Thos. Drake and Eliza Bynum, at Arch Artice’s. [“Puss” was the nickname of Tamar Artis Bynum.]

On 6 January 1870, Jessie Woodard, son of Arch and Rosa Artice, married Pennie Bess, daughter of Harry Ellis and Selvey Bess, in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Archabald Artis, 70; wife Rosa, 34; Tamer Bynum, 23, and [her husband] George, 25. Though they did not register their cohabitation, this record strongly suggests that Arch Artis had a relationship spanning several decades with a woman named Rosa, who was enslaved. She, with her and Arch’s children, had belonged to members of  William Woodard Sr.’s family. (Details to come in a later post.)

Arch Artis seems to have died between 1870 and 1880.

John Artist, son of Arch and Rosa Artis, married Hannah Ellis, daughter of Jack and Margaret Ellis, on 29 February 1872 in Wilson County. (This was his second marriage. On 9 April 1867, John Artice married Pricilla Woodard in Wilson County.)

Ned Artis died 21 October 1917 in Falkland township, Pitt County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 1831 in Wilson County to Arch Artis and Rose Artis; was single; was buried in Wilson County; undertaker was Jesse Artis; and informant was Joe Artis, Falkland, N.C.

Gray Artis, 72, of Chicod township, Pitt County, son of Arch and Rosa Artis, married Caroline Howard, 66, of Chicod township, daughter of Emily Nobles, on 22 April 1918 in Chicod township, Pitt County.

Tamar Bynum died 25 February 1923 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 77 years old; was born in Wilson County to Arch and Rosa Artis; was the widow of George Bynum; and had farmed. Rosa Bynum was informant.

Sukey’s journey, part 1.

Recd. of Jas. B. Woodard a negro girl Sucky in his possession as Execr. of Obedience Brownrigg decd., the legacy of Alfred Brownrigg which said girl was sold by Alfred Brownrigg to Edwin Brownrigg in as good health & Condition as he recd. her under the will of Mrs. Brownrigg, and obligates to hold him the sd. Woodard harmless in Event any difficulty should rise from the delivery of sd. negro.    Feby. 14th 1842  Jno. Wright for Edwin Brownrigg

——

Waynesboro, N.C., 15 Feb. 1842

Edwin Barnes, Esq., Tosnot Depot

Dr Sir, You will please hand Mr. Barnes the above receipt for Sucky. If it does not suit him, write out any thing to give him such as will satisfy him. I am under many obligations to you for the trouble I have put you to in this and other matters of mine. I am much in hopes yr health will speedily return.

Yours Truly, Jno. Wright

——

This note and receipt are transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian, republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society in 2003. What is going on here?

Obedience Thomas Tartt Brownrigg died in 1840, likely on her plantation near White Oak Swamp in what was then Edgecombe County. She had drafted a will in April 1839, and among its many bequests were these:

  • to daughter Maria Burden [Borden] — “Tom Penny Dennis & William & Maria & Jim & Ellick
  • to son Alfred Brownrigg — “one negro girl by the name of Susan”
  • to daughter Obedience Wright — “one boy Henry one boy Lonor one negroe woman named Winny one boy Bryant one boy John also one girl named Angy & Anscy
  • also to daughter Obedience Wright — “one negro woman named Cloy one negro man named Joe and all my Table & Tea Spoons it it my Will and desire that the labor of Joe Shall Support the Old Woman Cloy her life time then Joe to Obedience Wright”

Obedience Brownrigg’s first husband was Elnathan Tartt, who died in 1796. As shown here, he bequeathed his wife an enslaved woman named Cloe [Chloe], who is surely the Cloy named above, and man named Ellic, who is probably Ellick.

Obedience’s second husband was George Brownrigg, who died without a will in 1821. An inventory of his estate included enslaved people Ellick, Chloe, Joe, Jem, Tom, Penny, Drury, Tom, Annie, Matilda, Suckey, Clara, Fereba, Sarah, Clarky, Anthony, Rachel, Mary, Nelson, Emily, Julia and Abram, and several others unnamed in a petition for division of negroes filed by his heirs in 1825. Ellick and Chloe surely are the man and woman Obedience brought to the marriage. I have not found evidence of the distribution of George Brownrigg’s enslaved property, but Joe, Tom, Penny and Susan seem to have passed to his wife Obedience. (Suckey, pronounced “Sooky,” was a common nickname for Susan.)

So, back to the receipt.

George Brownrigg bequeathed Susan “Sukey” to his widow Obedience about 1821. Obedience Brownrigg in turn left Sukey to her son Alfred Brownrigg. Alfred Brownrigg quickly sold Sukey to his brother Edwin Barnes Brownrigg. On 15 February 1842, Edwin’s representative John Wright took possession of Sukey from James B. Woodard, Obedience Brownrigg’s executor. Wright was married to Eliza Obedience Brownrigg Wright, daughter to Obedience Brownrigg and sister to Alfred and Edwin.

The note is less clear. Wright, who lived in Waynesborough (once the Wayne County seat, now long defunct) is asking someone (the unnamed “sir”) to deliver the receipt to Edwin Barnes of Toisnot Depot (now Wilson.) There were several Edwin Barneses in southeast Edgecombe (to become Wilson) County at that time.  And Edwin Brownrigg’s middle name was Barnes. Are Edwin Barnes and Edwin Brownrigg the same man, whose name was misgiven in one or the documents? In other words, should the receipt have been made out instead to the Edwin Barnes mentioned in the note? If this were the case, the note would make immediate sense. As to Sukey, I’ll explore a possible twist to her story in another post.]

Estate Records of Obedience Brownrigg, Estate Records of George Brownrigg, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

The fellow ought to hire for $100.

To Jacob S. Barnes, Esq.

Wilson Post Office, Edgecombe County, N. Carolina

State of Alabama, City of Montgomery

My dear Sir,

After my best respects to you & your good lady, Susannah & Caroline, and all my friends, my enemies I need not care for, I wrote to say to you what I wished to say before I left but could not see you. We arrived this day Sunday at 2 o’clock after travelling all night last night in the Stage. I want you to hire out for me at the first day of January next the negro man that you hired last year belonging after I am done with him to the widow of James A. Barnes and Theophilus Bass. Please say to Theophilus & the widow I think though I have not settled the Estate yet the hire of the negro the year 1851 will be sufficient to pay with what is in my hands all the debts of the deceased though the debts are more than I expected. Inclosed you will find some advertisements. Please set them at Tosnot, Stantonsburg & elsewhere. I think the fellow ought to hire for $100 the years 1850. Take a good note & two good securities. We are all tolerable well. We are agoing to rest until tomorrow evening. I shall get (home) Wednesday next if nothing happens.

Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness.  /s/ Wyatt Moye

——

Wyatt Moye was both a founding father of Wilson County and a committed slave trader. With partner Richard Adams, Moye regularly traveled from eastern North Carolina to Mississippi and Louisiana to sell enslaved African-Americans. Moye was executor of James A. Barnes’ estate and — away on business — he sent instructions to Barnes’ brother Jacob S. Barnes hire out an enslaved man again for one hundred dollars to pay down the estate’s debt. In a sobering reminder of the reality of chattel slavery, Moye cautioned Barnes to get a good note, i.e. a promise to pay the cost of hire, and two good securities, i.e. properties promised to Barnes’ estate in the event of non-payment.

Who was the “negro man” repeatedly hired out? James Barnes’ will, drafted in 1848, is explicit:

“Item 4th. It is my will and desire the negro fellow Charles is to be hired out as long as my wife lives and the money arising from said hire to be applied enough of it to pay my debt if it is required for that purpose, and if not one half of his hire to pay to Theophilus Bass and the other half to my wife Sarah Barnes.”

Barnes had owned 24 enslaved people, a group that likely included Charles’ parents or siblings, if not his wife and children. Barnes split the group 11 ways — including a directive to sell one woman immediately. Though Charles was to join three others bequeathed to Barnes’ widow, his repeated hire separated him for years from the comfort and company of those who knew him best.

Letter found in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,” republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.