1860s

The colored brethren of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church.

In 1946, the Wilson Daily Times published an article by Hugh B. Johnston commemorating the history of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church. I’ve excerpted below the sections that mention the church’s African-American members.

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Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, Asheville Post Card Co., undated.

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“On April 24, 1920, the Church agreed to begin construction as soon as possible and to include a baptismal pool, memorial windows for a number of outstanding members, and a balcony for the convenience of remaining colored brethren.”

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“A gallery for colored members ran entirely around the second story of the [1859] church, excepting the end above the tall, broad pulpit.”

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At a conference held at the Tosneot Baptist Church on Sept. 23, 1865, “a proposition was made and agreed to that all colored members that had ‘left their owners before the proclamation of freedom was made, and gone to the Yankees should be dealt with and excluded if they could not give satisfaction of their disorder.’ … [N]one of the offending members appeared … [and when they failed to appear at a postponed date,] motion was made to expel them: on which motion servants Thomas Farmer and Redic Barnes were expelled from all rights of the church.”

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“As a result of the formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings by Elder London Woodard, a conference was held at the Tosneot church on May 21, 1870, and “the following resolution was adopted by unanimous consent of the members, white and colored, that in the future, as before, the white members of the church shall have the entire control of the discipline and government of the church as this place. [This understanding was entered into the minutes] so as in after days there could not be any misunderstanding between the white and colored members of this church.”

Wilson Daily Times, 19 November 1946.

——

Some thoughts:

  • The balcony in the back of the 1920 church is visible starting at 1:29 of this Youtube video.
  • What African-Americans were members of Wilson Primitive Baptist as late as 1920? Do the church’s records exist?
  • I have been unable to identify specifically Thomas Farmer and Reddick Barnes, the members who audaciously took their freedom into their own hands.
  • “The formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings” by London Woodard sounds like more like a recognition of a new reality: Toisnot’s black members had left to worship among themselves under a charismatic black preacher. It’s not surprising that those who remained unanimously agreed that white people would control the church.

Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, 1859-1920. The gallery for black members ran along three interior walls. Marion Monk Moore Collection, Images of North Carolina, http://www.digitalnc.org.

 

The estate of Patrick H. Simms.

On 8 March 1860, Benjamin E. Simms of Wilson County wrote out a will in which, in part, he left his brother Patrick H. Simms “my Negro woman Harriet & child.” (The Simms brothers were sons of Theophilus T. Simms.)

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When the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County was enumerated, P.H. Simms claimed three enslaved people — a 35 year-old woman, an 8 year-old girl, and a one year-old boy.

Excerpt from 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek district, Wilson County, showing listings for Patrick H. Simms, his mother Abigail Holland Simms, and sister Mary Abigail Simms.

When Patrick Simms died in 1864, an inventory of his personal property named “three negroes named Harriet, Frank and Ellen.” With the rest of his property, they passed to his mother Abigail Simms. (Who was forced to free them the following year.)

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Benjamin Simms Will (1860), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; P.H. Simms Estate Records (1864), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

The Clarks and Taylors: reconnecting an enslaved family.

While researching for the Henry Flowers estate piece, I noticed that John H. Clark was informant on the death certificates of Isabel Taylor and Alex Taylor, children of Annis Taylor and Henry (last name uncertain). What was Clark’s connection to this family?

Detail from death certificate of Isabel Taylor, who died 26 October 1929 in Wilson. 

The crucial clue: Katherine Elks mentioned that Henry Flowers’ youngest daughters married brothers John P. Clark and Sidney P. Clark. Their father, Phineas P. Clark, had brought his family from Connecticut to Nash County to set up as a buggy maker. (His employee Willis N. Hackney went on to found the carriage-making company that became Hackney Brothers Body Company.)

P.P. Clark does not appear to have been a slaveholder. However, John P. Clark is listed in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County as the owner of five enslaved people. One was a 19 year-old male, the correct age and sex to have been Harry Clark, John H. Clark’s father. John P. Clark was a 21 year-old newlywed at the time of the census. Where he had obtained five slaves? Had his wife Nancy Flowers brought them into the marriage?

Detail from the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson district, Wilson County.

Recall the distribution of Henry Flowers’ enslaved property. In 1850, the group was divided into three lots. Lot number 3 included a boy named Harry. Though existing estate records do not specify, it’s reasonable to assume that Lot 3 went to Nancy Flowers when she achieved majority some years later. When Nancy married John P. Clark, he assumed legal control over her property, which included Harry. (The 25 year-old woman was likely Peggy, who was also in Lot 3, and the children were probably hers. They were born after the 1850 division of Henry’s property and thus were not named.)

Harry was one of the children of Annis, as were Isabel and Alex. Harry adopted the surname Clark after Emancipation, while his siblings adopted Taylor, the surname of their last owners, William and Charity Flowers Taylor. So, what was John H. Clark’s connection to Isabel and Alex Taylor? He was their nephew.

Many thanks to Katherine Elks.

The last will and testament of James B. Woodard.

I James B. Woodard of the County of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind but advanced in years, & aware of the uncertainty of life, do make, constitute & declare this to be my last will & testament in manner & form as follows.

Second. I give & devise to my Eldest daughter Elizabeth Ann Stancil wife of Thomas Stancil the land on which she now lives, known as the Atkinson land containing about two hundred & twenty acres …, the following Slaves, negro man Elvin, woman Feriba & girl Dellah and their increase ….

I also give & bequeath to my son John B. Woodard negro man London to have & to hold ….

Fifth. I give & devise to my son George W. Woodard the balance of my home tract of land on which my dwelling and improvements are bounded …. I also give & bequeath … the following slaves Howell & Jesse ….

Sixth. I give & bequeath to my daughter Margaret P. Batts wife of W.W. Batts the following slaves Sarah, Florence, Phebe, Mary & young Sarah and their increase ….

Seventh. I give & bequeath to my daughter Mary J. Edwards wife of W.H. Edwards the following slaves Harriett, Debba, Ben, Ned, Rose & Fanny and their increase ….

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this the 22 day of June A.D. 1863.       /s/ Jas. B. Woodard

—–

James B. Woodard’s will — drafted six months after the Emancipation Proclamation — included bequests of 17 enslaved people. Most were descendants of London Woodard (whom he had sold to Penny Lassiter in 1856) and his first wife Venus, including their children Elvin, Feriba, London Jr., Howell, Sarah, Harriet, and Rose, and daughter Feriba’s children Ben, Debba, young Sarah, and, possibly, Mary.

State v. Dave.

Asael Farmer’s estate file contains a cluster of documents related to the prosecution of State vs. Dave. The outcome of the case is not clear.

In February 1863, a Wilson County justice of the peace issued a warrant for Dave’s arrest for breaking into Martha Ann Edwards’ home and stealing her clothes.

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… This day complained on oath one Marthaan Edwards of [Wilson County] that a Slave by the Name of Dave Belonging to the estate of Asahel Farmer Dec’d on the Night of 24th December 1862 Broke into Hur dwelling House and Stoled therefrom & carried of one Spotted Blanket two dresses ready made & two dresses not made 3 yards pant cloth & some shoes [illegible] the said Martha An is fully convinced threw every Circumstance connected that the said slave Dave stold the things or was accessory there too These are therefore in the Name of the State commanding you to apprehend the said slave  & him have before me or some other Justice of sd. County to be Delt With as the law directs Given under my hands & seal in said County the 15 February 1863 M.G. Williams J.P.

Summons for the state Martha An Edwards, Dilly Ellis, W.B. Batts, John B. Batts, Hines a slave of Thomas Taylor, for the Boy Langleys man Farmers Belfor & Haywood Stricklands Abram

Asael Farmer’s administratorJohn Farmer filed an apologetic statement with the court explaining his failure to produce Haywood, an enslaved man and critical witness, in court.

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State vs. Dave slave of John Farmer Admr of Asahel Farmer

John Farmer the owner of the defendant maketh oath that Haywood slave Jessee Mercer and Jere Batts, are material witnesses for the defendant, without the benefit of whose testimony he cannot safely come to trial, that the subpoena for the said slave Haywood was served upon one W.W. Batts in whose possession the slave was supposed to be but that said slave had without the knowledge of this affiant passed into the possession of the said Jesse Mercer, that a subpoena has been issued for the said Jere Batts but has not been served on account of his absence from this County that he expects to have said witnesses present at the next term of this Court, that this affidavit is not made for delay but truly for the cause here in set forth           John Farmer 

The clerk of court issued a subpoena for W.W. Batts; William Winstead; Elijah Williams; William Crumpler; Belford and Abram, slaves of the E. Strickland estate; Haywood, slave of William W. Batts; “Mose works at Harris Winstead’s”; and Jerry Batts, son of W.B. Batts, to appear in court on the fourth Monday in September, 1863.

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Another subpoena called for the appearance of Martha Edwards, Dilly Ellis, W.B. Batts, John B. Batts, and Horace, a slave of Thomas Taylor, to appear the same day.

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  • Dave
  • Haywood

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haywood Batts, 34; wife Rodah, 27; and children Lucy, 17, and Alice, 4.

  • Belford

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Belford Farmer, 46, farm laborer; wife Rebeca, 36; and children Morning, 17, Benj’m, 10, Alice, 13, Moses, 8, Anna, 5, and Ida, 1; and Allen Battle, 21.

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.

  • Abram

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Abram Strickland, 66, and wife Julia, 50, both farm laborers.

  • Mose
  • Horace

Asael Farmer Estate Records, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Tell them I want to see them.

Camp Near Orange Court House VA., November the 16, 1863

Mrs. Mary J. Edwards, Wilson P.O., Wilson County, N.C.

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at this time and hoping you the same.  Bunyan, I want to hear from you. Let me hear from you, and let me know how you are getting along. Bunyan, I want you to let me know how everything is getting along, and write me all the news. I heard that you have been having chills. I want to know whether it was you who shot your thumb, or not.  Tell Mary Gray to write to me every time she can. Tell Sister Betty to write to me, for I want to hear from her. Tell Nanney also to write to me.  Tell Aunt Penny I want to see her. Tell Uncle London I want to  see him very badly. I have nothing to write, only very hard times here.  We are expecting to have to march every minute. I must come to a close by saying I remain your dear brother until death.  Excuse my bad writing.       George Woodard

——

George Washington Woodard, son of James Bullock Woodard and wife Sallie Peele, enlisted in April 1862 as a private in Company A, 55th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. Debilitated by chronic diarrhea, Woodard died 23 March 1864, at a military hospital in Gordonsville, Virginia. On 2 September 1950, in the column “Looking Backward,” the Wilson Daily Times published Hugh B. Johnston’s transcription and notes about letters George W. Woodard sent home from war, including the one above.

“Aunt Penny” and “Uncle London” were, of course, Penny Lassiter Woodard, a free woman of color, and London Woodard, her enslaved husband. Penny Lassiter had reared George W. Woodard after his mother’s death. George’s father J.B Woodard had purchased London Woodard from another Woodard family member and sold him to Penny Lassiter in 1856.

Update: James Woodard’s father, Amos.

A few days ago, the blog of the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center posted an article on James Woodard, whose Wilson County connection I shared here. This article explores the identity of James Woodard’s father Amos, who is recorded in family lore as having been sold away. Identifying two Amos Woodards from Wilson County who enlisted in regiments of the United States Colored Troops, researcher Cheri Todd Molter speculates that Amos’ sudden departure was due to his having run away to join the Army, rather than being sold away.

The records below offer descriptions of both men. Further research is required to determine which, if either, was James Woodard’s father, and if either were related to London Woodard.

Amos Woodard enlisted in Company M, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 24 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black eyes, hair and complexion. He deserted on 13 July 1865 at Fort Macon, N.C.

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Amos Woodard enlisted in Company I, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 4 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with black eyes and hair and yellow complexion. He deserted on 10 June 1865 at Morehead City, N.C., and returned to duty in August.

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Cohabitation register, part 1.

In March 1866, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an act establishing a means for formerly enslaved people to ratify their marriages.  Such persons were to appear before justices of the peace, who would collect certain details of their cohabitation during slavery and record them in the County Clerk’s office. Freedmen faced misdemeanor charges if they failed to record their marriage by September, 1866, a deadline later extended to January 1, 1868.

Wilson County’s original cohabitation register is said to be held in the Register of Deeds office, but I have not found it there. Brooke Bissette, Director of Exhibits at Wilson’s Imagination Station, recently found that East Carolina University’s Joyner Library has a copy of the cohabitation register on microfilm and is creating a print volume to be shelved in the Local History and Genealogy Room at Wilson County Public Library’s main branch.

I present the register in series, with transcription:

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Free people of color, 1860: Wilson district.

Free people of color enumerated in Wilson County’s first federal census, taken in 1860.

Wilson district (outside town limits)

#430. Silas Lassiter, 38, farmer; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delphia Simpson, 14. Silas reported $490 in real estate and $155 in personal property.

#436. Susan Mitchel, 26, washing, and children James, 10, Annie, 7, and George, 2. Susan claimed $257 in real estate and $60 in personal property.

#442. Henry Booth, 15, in the household of white farmer James Tomlinson.

#443. Green Lassiter, 36, farmer; Mary Lassiter, 24; Matthew Lassiter, 37; and Rachel Lassiter, 30, farm laborer. Green reported $750 in real estate.

#450. Louisa Artis, 17, in the household of white farmer William T. Taylor.

#501. Elijah Powell, 23, and Josiah Blackwell, 21, laborers in steam mill, both black, in the household of white engineer John Valentine.

#544. Lucinda Jones, 8, black, in the household of white brickmason Joseph E. Beamon.

#546. John T. Farmer, mulatto, 4, in the household of white farmer John Farmer.

#592. Mahaly Artis, 30, washing, black, and daughter Sarah, 8, mulatto.

#596. Jonas Barnes, 14, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Joseph S. Barnes.

#599. Turpentine laborer Joseph Jones, 40, black; wife Zillah, 34; and children Milly, 17, Jesse, 10, Nathan, 8, and twins Frances and Lenora, 6, all mulatto.

State vs. Felix Godwin.

In January 1867, a Wilson County justice of the peace examined Linda Barnes (colored), who was unmarried, and determined that she had delivered a child whose father was Felix Godwin of Johnston County.

I have not found Linda Barnes in Wilson County records.

However, on 23 January 1867 — 11 days after this warrant issued — Phelix Godwin married Aurelia Smith in Boon Hill township, Johnston County. In the 1880 census of Boon Hill township, Johnston County: farmer Felix Godwin, 52; wife Arena, 28; and children Jane E., 11, and Preston, 8.

Bastardy Bonds-1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.