1850s

The sale of Sampson at auction.


When Wilson Simpson died in 1854, ownership of an enslaved man named Sampson passed to his heirs as tenants in common. In other words, each owned an equal share of his value. Led by Lovett Atkinson, administrator of the estate of Amanda Simpson (who died after Wilson Simpson), the heirs sought to divide their interests in a petition filed in October Term, 1857, of Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.

Clerk of court T.C. Davis issued an order “to sell said slave to the highest bidder at public auction” and appointed Hardy H. Williamson to carry out the task.

A few months later, Williamson reported that W.W. Barnes had bought “Boy Sampson” for $605.00.

Estate of Amanda Simpson (1857), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, familysearch.org.

Recommended reading, no. 3: the Second Middle Passage.

You cannot understand the men and women who emerged from slavery to appear in the 1870 census of Wilson County without understanding who was not there — the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children sold South in America’s domestic slave trade, known as the Second Middle Passage. 

I have no ancestors from Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana or Texas, but my DNA matches scores of African-Americans who do. They are descended from the close kin of my North Carolina and Virginia ancestors, and the bits of identical chromosome we share is the only evidence of the crime that befell our common forebears.

To understand the depth and breadth of this trade, please study Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

To glimpse how this trade unfolded among our own Wilson County people, see:

To see how buying and selling men, women, and children even locally devastated families:

Hardy Lassiter’s estate sale.

Hardy Lassiter died in Wilson County in the spring of 1853. On 16 August 1855, as the settlement of his estate wound down, administrator William L. Farmer sold off Lassiter’s personal property to two of his children Rachel Lassiter and Green Lassiter. The sale account offers a singular look at a free Black man’s most intimate effects — his clothing.

The sale netted $17.44 for one lot of old clothes; twelve other old clothes; five pairs of pants; a lot of clothes; two coats; a lot of stockings; four handkerchiefs; an overcoat; five more coats; a cravat; two brushes; a knife and razor; a razor strop; two hats; one pair of shoes; one umbrella(?); a satchel; one “pocket & pas”; a watch; and a stick.

Hardy Lassiter, North Carolina, U.S. Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998, http://www.ancestry.com.

The sales of Penelope, Emily, Rose, Caroline, Isham, Harriet, Lewis, Haywood, Eugena, Dicy, Teresa, Guilford, Mary, Judah, and William.

I have undertaken a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the mortgage, sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On 1 January 1856, for love and affection, Thomas Hadley of Wilson County sold to Mary Malvina Hadley, wife of Stephen Woodard, nine enslaved people — Penelope, Emily, Rose, Caroline, Isham, Harriet, Lewis, Haywood, and Eugena. Deed Book 1, page 542, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Stephen Woodard Jr. was a physician in Black Creek township. His and Mary Hadley Woodard’s children included Sidney A. Woodard, Paul L. Woodard, and Frederick A. Woodard.]
  • On 3 February 1859, for $6555, David Taylor of Wilson County sold to R.J. Taylor of Wilson County “all of his the said David Taylors slaves to wit Dicy Teresa Guilford Mary (Moll) Judah & William (Bill),” as well a horse and buggy, furniture, all stock in trade in David Taylor’s liquor establishment, and various farm animals. Deed Book 1, page 392, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [David Taylor lived in Oldfields township, Wilson County, which had formerly been Nash County. In the 1850 Nash County slave schedule, he is listed with six enslaved people — women aged 40, 55, and 48; two boys aged 5 and 6; and a girl aged 2. Despite the statement in the bill of sale that he was selling “all” of his slaves, Taylor reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County two women aged 47 and 50, a 13 year-old boy, and girls aged 8 and 12. Robert Jackson Taylor (1833-1912) was David Taylor’s son.]

The sales of Peggy, Henry, Mourning, Harry, Elvy, Essex, Aaron, and Julia.

I have undertaken a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the mortgage, sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On 10 May 1860, for love and affection, John P. Clark sold Pomeroy P. Clark, in trust for Nancy B. Clark, a woman named Peggy, aged about 25, her children Henry, 7, and Mourning, 3, and a man named Harry, 19. Deed Book 1, page 570, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [John P. Clark is listed in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County as the owner of five enslaved people — a 25 year-old woman (Peggy), a 19 year-old man (Harry), a 7 year-old boy (Henry), a 5 year-old girl, and a 3 year-old girl (Mourning). For more about Peggy Flowers Farmer and Harry Clark, see here and here and here.]
  • On 29 December 1860, for $1, Jennet Holland of Wilson County transferred Needham G. Holland of Wilson County, in trust, property to sell as he thought most advantageous to the benefit of numerous creditors assorted property, including 415 acres on Great Swamp in Wayne and Wilson Counties, farm animals, and enslaved people Elvy, Essex, Aaron, and Julia. Deed Book 1, page 658, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Forty-six year-old Jennet Holland is a head of household in the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County.]

The sales of George, Harry, Anica, Frances, Lorenzo, Easter, Edith, and Albert.

I have undertaken a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the mortgage, sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On 3 February 1859, for $925, J.T. Rountree, acting on behalf of J.T. Bynum of Wilson County, sold Eli Robbins of Wilson County “one negro a boy by the name of George about twelve years & ten months old.” Deed Book 1, page 408, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • Also on 3 February 1859, for $1040, David Webb of Wilson County sold Eli Robbins of Wilson County a man named Harry, aged about 28 years. Deed Book 1, page 409, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Eli Robbins died in 1864. On 23 October of that year, an inventory of his estate recorded “five negroes Keziah, Amos, Harry, George, Jinny.”

  • On 1 April 1859, Sarah A.E. Stephens of Wilson County pledged to James J. Taylor as security for several notes totaling about $1700 a parcel of land on Barnes Street and Anica, Frances, and Lorenzo. Deed Book 1, page 422, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 26 June 1857, for $600, J. William Barnes sold Jesse Haynes a 9 year-old girl named Easter. The sale was not recorded until 26 April 1859. Deed Book 1, page 457, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [In the 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, Jesse Haynes reported owning two enslaved people — a 36 year-old woman and an 11 year-old girl, who was almost surely Easter.]
  • Also on 26 June 1857, for $600, J. William Barnes sold Jonas Lamb a girl named Edith, aged about 11. Deed Book 1, page 510, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Whether or not they were sisters, Easter and Edith had lived in the same small community, and the pain of their separation from their families and each other is unfathomable.]
  • On 1 January 1859, for $575, Bennett Barnes sold Benjamin Parker an 8 year-old boy named Albert. Deed Book 1, page 518, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [In the 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, Benjamin Parker reported owning three enslaved people — a 25 year-old woman and two boys, aged 10 (almost surely Albert) and 1.]

Eli Robbins Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records 1665-1998, ancestry.com.

The sales of Will, Anna, Dilsey, Ned, Dicey, Teresa, Guilford, Moll, Judah, and Bill.

I finally undertook a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On 27 June 1857, for $1200, P.L. Barnes of Wayne County, N.C., sold John Revels of Wilson County “one negro a boy Named Will & aged about twenty two years,” guaranteed “to be sound in mind & body & free from constitutional diseases or defects.” Deed Book 1, page 284, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 28 October 1856, J. Nelson Bone of Nash County conveyed to his daughter Rhoda Mercer [of Oldfields, Wilson County] “a negro woman by the name of Anna which was 16 years old the 7th day of last May.” Deed Book 1, page 227, Wilson Register of Deeds Office. [In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, Rhoda Mercer’s husband Thomas Mercer is listed with two enslaved people — an 18 year-old female and a one year-old male, both described as “black” (i.e. dark-skinned.) This was likely Anna and her child.]
  • On 14 January 1858, for $450, Elisha Barnes of Wilson County sold Cader Rountree of Wilson County “one certain negro girl slave named Delsey about six years old.” Deed Book 1, page 334, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [A month later, on 22 February 1858, Cader Rountree drafted a will leaving his wife Crissy Rountree a life interest in “one Negro girl named Delcy.”

From Will of Cader Rountree, Wilson County, 1858.

  • On 28 April 1858, for $775, David Harrel of Wilson County sold James Barnes of Wilson County “one slave a negro boy named Ned and aged Ten years,” guaranteed “to be of sound mind and body & free from constitutional diseases or defects.” Deed Book 1, page 383, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 3 February 1859, for $6555, David Taylor of Wilson County sold R.J. Taylor of Wilson County slaves Dicey, Teresa, Guilford, Mary (Moll), Judah, and William (Bill),  Deed Book 1, page 392, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

The sales of Lucy, Betty, Mingo, Venus, Phelda, Cathrin, Redeemed, Easter, Sarah, Caesar, Washington, Gatsey, Jerry, Matilda and her children, Eliza, and Cherry.

More evidence from Wilson County’s earliest deed books of the sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people:

  • On 11 December 1855, John Gardner of Wilson County conveyed to Thomas Gardner of Wilson County, in trust, a 206-acre tract of land in Wilson County, various farm animals, a buggy, a wagon, four carts, “two Negro women Lucy and Betty,” furniture, a cotton gin, a man’s saddle, and a double-barrel gun. If John Gardner timely paid William D. Petway a $1000 debt, the conveyance was void. Otherwise, the property listed would be sold at auction. Deed Book 1, Page 100, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 24 July 1854, Thomas Hadley of Wayne County, North Carolina, in consideration for “love & affection,” gave his daughter Martha Amanda Rountree, wife of Willie Rountree of Wilson County, “one negro man by the name of Mingo one negro Woman by the name of Venus one negro girl by the name of Phelda & one negro girl by the name of Cathrin.” Deed Book 1, Page 115, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 7 June 1849, Henry Brinkley of Pitt County, North Carolina, conveyed to Thomas Felton of Edgecombe [later Wilson] County, North Carolina, a 329-acre parcel of land in Edgecombe County on which Brinkley formerly resided, a 65-acre tract Brinkley inherited from Abram Brinkley, “slaves Redeemed, Easter, Sarah, Caesar, Washington, Gatsey and Jerry,” various animals and farm implements, his “interest in the right of his wife in Estate of Ollison Knox,” and other assets to secure a debt. This conveyance was filed in Book 24, Page 661, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds. “Whereas the said Henry Brinkley has paid off and discharged all or a considerable portion of the debt … by the sale of two of the slaves and otherwise,” Felton returned to Brinkley his remaining property on 7 December 1855. Deed Book 1, Page 120, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 19 May 1856, Mary P. Battle of Orange County, North Carolina, for $300 paid by Margaret H. Battle, wife of Amos J. Battle, conveyed to James Davis in trust an enslaved woman named Matilda and all her children except the oldest, Eliza. Matilda and children were in the possession of Margaret H. Battle, and Battle was to retain the right to the “use” during her lifetime and, after her death, such right passed to Margaret Battle’s children. [Matilda was one of several enslaved people Margaret Battle had inherited from her father Weeks Parker of Edgecombe County.] Deed Book 1, Page 184, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 4 June 1856, Jane B. Hamlet of Wilson County conveyed to John Farmer of Wilson County a 27 year-old enslaved woman named Cherry, a wagon, and two horses to secure a debt in the amount of $520. If Hamlet timely repaid Farmer the debt, the conveyance was void. Deed Book 1, Page 185, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

The sales of Jason, Lettice, Martha, Lovet, Ben, Britt, Miranda, Elijah, Amy, and Jane (or James Henry).

I finally undertook a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On 12 May 1855, John Harper of Wilson County conveyed to Joshua Barnes in trust for the sole use and benefit of Harper’s wife Mary Harper “three slaves Jason, Lettice & Martha.” After her death or remarriage, ownership of the three would be divided among Harper’s heirs. Deed Book 1, Page 24, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 9 July 1855, William Liles of Wilson County for $479.85 sold Levi Baily household and kitchen furniture, a cow, a yearling, seventeen hogs, and (this is ambiguous, but what seems to be the hire of) “one Negro boy named Lovet” until 29 December 1855. Deed Book 1, Page 34, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 18 July 1855, Stephen C. Barnes of Wilson County conveyed to William M. Barnes and Jesse Sauls a “certain negro slave named Ben — aged about Ten years.” Ben was in effect security for a debt Stephen Barnes owed to the estate of Bunyan Barnes in the amount of $725. If Stephen Barnes timely paid off the debt, the conveyance of Ben was void. Deed Book 1, Page 37, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 4 July 1855, Grooms H. Barnes of Wilson County conveyed to Etheldred Sauls and John Coley of Wayne County the 370-acre tract of land on which Bunyan Barnes had lived, “one negro boy named Britt,” five horses, all his stock and hogs, and various furniture to secure a debt Barnes owed to Jonathan Barnes and James Barnes, trustees of Bunyan Barnes. If Groom Barnes timely paid off the debt, the conveyance was void. Deed Book 1, Page 37, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 11 October 1855, for $300, Thomas Allen of Wilson County sold Henrietta Sikes of Wilson County “four slaves Miranda, Elijah, Amy, Jane or James Henry,” a horse and buggy, the cattle on the place on which Allen lived, a roan mare, and “my share & interest in the crop of 1855 on the plantation or farm where I now live which was formerly the property of my Wifes mother.” Deed Book 1, Page 75, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

The sale of Westley, who is sound and healthy.

Received of John P. Bardin & Wm. H. Bardin six hundred & twenty Dollars in full payment of a negro boy named Westley The title of said negro I will forever warrant & defend I also warrant him to be sound & healthy, January 25th 1858  Amos Barnes

The execution of the foregoing Deed is proven before me by the acknowledgement of Jas. H. Barnes. Let it be registered Jan 29th 1858  J.C. Davis Clk

Deed Book 1, Page 328, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.