Court Actions

Tony Robbins’ side: “Please send me a paper so as I can get them.”

In August 1867, John J. Pender complained to the Freedmen’s Bureau that Toney Robbins was harassing him about Pender’s apprenticeship of three children who Robbins claimed were his grandchildren. Pender asserted that Robbins had no children, much less grandchildren. The Bureau apparently sided with Pender, as the children were with him in 1870 when the census taker passed through.

Here is one of Robbins’ letters pleading for the Bureau to intercede on his behalf.

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Joyners Depot Wilison Co NC   August 5th 1867

Freedmen Bureau

I ha [written] 2 or 3 letter to Maj Crompto a Bout 3 of my grand Children nor [illegible] Eny Anser then wrote to General Every at Raleigh he said go to the Freedmen Bureau at Rockey Mount in Edgecone County the children is in Wilison County he told me to write to you it was out of his Power as it was in Wilison County

Thy or not Bound By law, So Plese Send me a Paper So as I can get them thy ar living With John J. Pender of Wilison Co

I wait an Anser [illegible] with Respets Tony Robins

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner), Roll 17, Letters received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

Hagans did not have a license to carry a pistol.

At October term of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury indicted free man of color David Hagans for carrying a pistol without a license. Stephen Powell was among the witnesses called to testify.

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  • David Hagans — in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Eli Hagins, 47, day laborer, and sons Sherrard, 13, David, 11, Mary, 9, and Ezekiel, 5, all described as mulatto.
  • Stephen Powell — in the 1850 census of Nash County: 47 year-old turpentine laborer Stephen Powell; wife Synthia, 36; and children Gray, 9, Queen Anne, 8, Dolly, 7, Crockett, 3, and Moab, 1. In the 1860 census of Winsteads township, Nash County: 50 year-old Stephen Powell; wife Cyntha, 45; and children Gray, 21, Dollerson, 17, Queenanah, 13, Crocket, 12, Matchum, 10, and Frances, 8. In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: 60 year-old farmer Stephen Powell; wife Cinthia, 53; and children Dolison, 27, and Washington, 20; plus Julia Amerson, 15; Mary Taylor, 21; Louisa Powell, 5; and Charles Powell, 1. In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Stephen Powell, 80; wife Cynthia, 60; sons Dollison, 37, Washington, 26, and [grandson?] Charles T., 10,; plus boarder Wilson Hagans, 65.

Carrying Gun 1856, Criminal Action Papers, Records of Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

Fred Davis buys a bicycle.

I, Fred M. Davis of Wilson, Wilson County State of North Carolina for value received hereby sell and mortgage unto Rouse Hazard & Co of Peoria, Ill. the following goods and chattels, to wit:

One #3 Overland safety bicycle with Morgan & Wright pneumatic tires provided that if the said Mortgagor shall pay the sum of Forty six and 66/100 dollars with interest [illegible] and collection charges according to the terms of Nine certain promissory notes  signed by said Mortgagor Payable to Rouse Hazard & Co on order as follows to wit:

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Sept 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Oct 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Nov 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Decr 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Jany 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Feby 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Mar 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Apl 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due May 10th 1893 for $6.66

Mortgage Book 35, page 24, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

State v. William Stephens and Fereby Barnes.

At Fall Term 1868 of Wilson County Superior Court, Frank Barnes, white, and Henry Barnes, colored, were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to testify in State vs. William Stephens and Fereby Barnes, who had been charged with fornication and adultery.

  • Henry Barnes
  • William Stephens
  • Fereby Barnes — perhaps Farbee Barnes who married Hardy Ellis on 11 August 1870 in Wilson County.

Adultery Records-1868, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Send me my money.

In 1858, Robert Fuller was subpoenaed as a witness in an unspecified court case brought by E.H. Flowers, apparently involving an enslaved person. Here is the note he sent back to the court:

Mrs Clearke you will pleas send me my money Due me a bout being a Witness in the Niggar suit by E.H. Flowers this the 28th of March 1859    Robbart Fullar

  • E.H. Flowers — in the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County, E.H. Flowers is listed as 23 year-old farmer. He reported owning $3364 in personal property, which would have consisted primarily of enslaved people.
  • Robbart Fullar — in the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County, Robert H. Fuller is listed as a 24 year-old carpenter.

Court Cases Involving Slaves-1859, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Apprentices.

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 the 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. 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 the following free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and parts of Crossroads township.

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William Ayers, 13, was bound to Fred Hollomon in 1843.

William Ayers, 13, was (re-)bound to Enos Rose in 1843.

  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: William Ayres, 30, farm laborer, in the household of Stephen Privett, farmer. In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer William Ayers, 46.

Betsey Morris, 9, was bound to Thomas Horn in 1842.

  • In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Elizabeth Morris, 17, is listed in the household of Thomas Horn, farmer.
  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Martha Morris, 60; probable daughter Elizabeth, 25, and granddaughter Martha, 2. Next door, in the household of farmer John Saunders: Zillah Morris, 4, likely a second-generation apprentice. (Martha was white; Elizabeth and her daughters, mulatto.)
  • In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: domestic servant Elizabeth Morris, 33, and children Zilla A., 17, Martha, 13, Henry, 7, and Elizabeth, 1; all mulatto.
  • Possibly, in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Morris, 47; wife Martha, 42; children Mattie, 16, Buddie, 6, and Frank, 1; and mother Elizab. Morris, 70; all white. (Elizabeth Morris and Martha Morris are approximately the right age to be Elizabeth and daughter above, but death certificates show Martha Morris’ maiden name to be Peele.)

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

 

State v. William Baker and Patsey Mitchell.

At Fall Term 1856 of Wilson County Superior Court, a grand jury charged William Baker and Patsey Mitchell, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.”  William Felton and Elisha Owens were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman William Ellis returned a true bill to the clerk of court.

William Baker was white; Martha “Patsey” Mitchell was African-American.

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina: Willis Hagins, 50, and Patsy Mitchell, 45, and her children Sally, 20, Rufus, 9, Amanda 6, Wm., 2, and Mary, 1. Next door, laborer Wm. Baker, 26, white, in the household of Joseph Peacock.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Martha Mitchell, 44, and her children William, 13, Franklin, 11, George, 10, Thomas, 9, and Martha, 6. Also in Gardners, William Baker, 30, in the household of John Bynum, 22.

[A note: During my recent visit to North Carolina, I stopped for several hours for a long-overdue visit to the State Archives in Raleigh. I was pressed for time, so I skimmed folders with an eye for names of African-Americans (or indicia like “col.”), then flagged those documents for copies that I could study later. In the Adultery records, I pulled just a few years from 1856-1868 and ultimately copied only six or seven sets of documents. Baker-Mitchell is the fourth of them that involves an interracial relationship. The fact of these relationships does not surprise, but their seeming overrepresentation among prosecutions for adultery does. Perhaps it’s no more than a fluke of my search. I look forward to a return visit to search further.]

Adultery Records-1857, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

State v. Calvin Barnes.

In December 1866, Eliza Barnes was hauled before two justices of the peace to answer some sharp questions. In response, she admitted that she had delivered a baby boy in about July; that she was not married to his father, who was Calvin Barnes; and that she was poor.

The justices issued a warrant for Calvin Barnes:

Calvin Barnes appeared with John Q. Thigpen, a white farmer, to post a two hundred dollar bond for Barnes’ appearance at January term.

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Possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: George, 24, Dempsey, 23, Calvin, 22, Esther, 44, Alice, 18, Anna, 19, Robert, 20, and Jane Barnes, 19, all farm laborers.

Also possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Frank Barnes, 55; wife Nicy, 51, and children Edwin, 12, Catharine, 7, and Watson Barnes, 12; with Weltha, 13, and Richard Artis, 21, and Eliza Barnes, 26, and her son Benjamin, 5. [Benjamin possibly the child sworn to in the proceeding above.]

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

State v. Martin Locust and Bede Wells.

At April Term 1856 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Martin Locust and Bede Wells, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.”  William Wells and Josiah Boyett were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman Jacob Taylor returned a true bill to the clerk of court.

This is the bond Locus and Wells pledged for their appearance in court. Curiously, the names of two co-pledgers were crossed out — Kingsberry Wells and William Wells. Both were likely relatives of Bedie Wells, and William was a witness before the grand jury.

Martin Locus was of African, European and Native American descent. Obedience Wells was white. Their prosecution and, presumably, conviction did not much alter their lives, as they are found living together four years later in the 1860 census. (The third column after their names was used to indicate race or color. Wells’ was left blank; white was the default. Locus’ M stood for mulatto.)

1860 census of Kirbys district, Wilson County.

The 1850 census of Nash County shows the household of Kingsberry Wells and his next-door neighbors, Beedy and Martin Wells, who was actually Martin Locus. (The age disparity is likely a recording error. In fact, Martin Locus and Obedience Wells, listed as “Pheby Wells,” were married in Nash County on 22 November 1822, during a period in which laws forbidding interracial marriage were only loosely enforced. Per descendant and family historian Europe Ahmad Farmer, after about 1830, when North Carolina began to strip away rights from free people of color, the couple made an effort to appear to live separately.)

Martin Locus and Obedience Wells’ son Martin Locus Jr. was the father of Martin John Locus.

1822 Nash County marriage license of Martin Locust and Pheby Wells.

Adultery Records-1856, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Roadwork.

Henry Stott was overseer of “the new road” running from “the old conty line road to the Tarborough road near Alsey Boykins.” Stott had summoned men to fulfill two days of road building and maintenance duty on May 21 and 22, 1857. However, Wiley Deans and Jack, an enslaved man belonging to Deans, failed to show either day, and Stott complained to justice of the peace Josee Peele. Peele issued a warrant ordering Deans to appear before him or another justice of the peace to pay a four-dollar fine (a dollar a day for each man for two days’ work) if convicted.

A note on the back of the warrant indicates that justice of the peace L.S. Boykin found against Stott, and “The plantiff craves an appeal to the next county court to be held in the town of Wilson on the forth Monday of October next.”

Road Records-1857, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.