Court Actions

The estate of Hiram Forbes (1861).

We have read Hiram Forbes’ 1861 will here, in which he made arrangements for the distribution of enslaved people Mary Ann, Tony, Gatsy, Mace, Silvey, Tobey, Jim, Hannah and Minna.

Forbes died shortly after, and his estate file reveals more about the people he held in bondage.

On 15 September 1861, Dempsey Webb acknowledged receipt of fifty cents from Forbes’ executor, James Barnes, in payment for work Webb’s enslaved man Abram performed.

This undated receipt details hire arrangements for seven enslaved people for the year ending 1 July 1863. Forbes’ widow Milly Harrell Forbes paid the estate $50 to hire woman Mariam [Mary Ann], man Tony, girls Macy and Silvy, and man Jim. Britton Forbes hired woman Gatsey for $53, and Rufus Forbes leased boy Toby’s services for $61. (Where were Hannah and Minna?)

The bulk of Hiram Forbes’ personal property went to auction on 5 February 1862. That day, between sales of 50 bushels of cotton seed and four stacks of fodder, John T. Barnes bought a boy named Hector.

On 3 January 1863, of nine enslaved people, Milly Forbes hired all but Toby, who went to John Carter. Macy and Silvey are not named, but likely were two of the young children attached to Mariam and Gatsey, who also were likely the mothers of babies born during the previous year.

The five dollars paid to Polly Walston in 1863 for “Services rendered on attendance to negro woman” may have been for the birth of one of these babies.

Emancipation interrupted the final distribution of Hiram Forbes’ enslaved people.


I traced forward Hiram Forbes’ enslaved people in the post about his will, but here is one update.

An August 1867 marriage record reveals that Abram Webb was the father of Toby Forbes, who, with his mother Macy, was enslaved by Hiram Forbes. However, on 20 August 1866, Abram Webb and Marion Forbes registered their 34-year cohabitation with an Edgecombe County justice of the peace.

in the 1870 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: Abram Webb, 65; wife Miriam, 54; Hector, 18, and Hannah, 12. This appears to be Mariam, Hector that was sold to John T. Barnes, and Hannah mentioned in the will.

In the 1880 census of Auters Creek township, Edgecombe County: Abraham Webb, 75; wife Mary, 65; daughter Hannah, 25; and granddaughter Patsy Procythe, 25.

Estate File of Hiram Atkinson (1861), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,

Rules and regulations for patrollers.

Prior to Wilson County’s formation in 1855, much of its present-day territory lay in Edgecombe, including everything east of a line running a couple of miles inside present-day Interstate 95 and north of Contentnea Creek. In 1844, the Tarboro’ Press published “Rules and Regulations to be Observed by the Patrollers of the several Districts in the County of Edgecombe.” Slave patrols, known as patrollers or patty rollers, were government-sanctioned groups of armed men charged with monitoring and enforcing discipline upon enslaved people.

Edgecombe County patrollers operated under a set of comprehensive and precise rules. Tasked with visiting ever house inhabited by enslaved people at least once a month, they rode at night. They searched for firearms and “seditious publications” and kept a sharp lookout for any enslaved person out and about more than a mile from home. They could beat people — up to 15 lashes — for having too much fun. On Sundays, their job was to make sure enslaved people were not “strolling about” enjoying their one day off or selling trinkets for pocket change. Patrollers ran down runaways and, if met with “insolence,” could drop a whip 39 times across a black back. They were compensated for their services.

Tarboro’ Press, 9 March 1844.

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.”

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Wilson …

In May 1950, the Negro Citizens’ Committee paid to place an open letter in the Wilson Daily Times explaining the lawsuit it had filed against Wilson City Schools. Takeaways below.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1950.

  1. The N.C.C. was comprised of African-Americans from every Wilson County township and across the economic spectrum. 
  2. The group neither solicited nor accepted aid from outside the county.
  3. Members represented 15 churches, eight social organizations, 13 fraternal orders, and nine unions. [Nine unions?? Who were these groups?]
  4. The group was founded to advocate for improved schools for African-American children in each of Wilson County’s three educational administrative units — Wilson City, Wilson County, and Elm City Public Schools. N.C.C. worked for the success of a bond referendum, believing it would result in improved schools for Black children.
  5. The committee visited each Black school and discovered “shocking conditions.” After compiling data detailing vast disparities in per-pupil investment and expenditures, N.C.C. appealed to the local school boards and the State to make improvements. None were made.
  6. In later 1949, after personal appeals went nowhere, N.C.C. retained counsel, who requested meetings with the three boards. N.C.C. was careful to emphasize that it was not seeking the same facilities as white students enjoyed, but “certain minimum essential needs.” Meetings with Wilson County and Elm City went well; Wilson City ignored the request.
  7. N.C.C. understood that if Wilson City did not budget for improvement of African-American schools in the proceeds from the current bond, there would not be another in the next ten years, which was too long to wait for upkeep already overdue, especially when Wilson City had “approved a several-hundred-thousand-dollar expenditure for a vocational building for white high school pupils while the Negro pupils are not provided with facilities that would earn accreditation ….” [Some of you may remember this vocational building as the Annex across the street from Coon Junior High School, the former all-white high school in Wilson. Despite its cost, it was poorly constructed and in bad shape by time I attended classes there in 1977.  It closed in the 1980s, lay vacant and festering for another 20+ years, and was finally demolished about 2006.]
  8. N.C.C. reassured white citizens that it was not seeking school desegregation. Rather, it sought to end discrimination against Black students in per-capita spending.
  9. A partial list of inequities in city schools: (a) none of the Black elementary schools had an auditorium, including the new one [Elvie Street School] under construction; (b) because there is no cafeteria in one elementary school [presumably Vick], lunch is prepared in a former janitor’s closet and served to children in their classrooms; (c) the elementary schools do not qualify for accreditation because of their physical plants; (d) two elementary schools [Vick and Sallie Barbour] employed double-shift scheduling to accommodate enrollment; (e) the only auditorium for Black children is at the high school and is a “fire-trap” that can only accommodate about a third of the high school students; (f) the Black schools have a “deplorable transportation system” for children living outside city limits but inside Wilson township [children inside were expected to walk], with only two buses to serve three schools and resulting in eleven-hour days for some children.
  10. Having tried for two years to avoid litigation, N.C.C. saw no other way. Chiding the Daily Times for suggesting Wilson Schools would settle their complaints if they withdrew their complaint, reminding readers they had already waited two years. 

Conjure doctor Henderson charged with selling poison.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1930.

We first encountered George Henderson (no relation) here, when I wondered what kind of doctor he was, as he was also described as a laborer.

In 1930, Henderson was arrested after allegedly selling poison to George Gay, a young white Greene County man who was charged with killing his wife, Mollie R. Windham Gay.

Gay went to trial less than a month later. Witnesses testified that Gay said he was tired of his wife, that he didn’t like her because she was slow, that he could have her killed for $6.01, that a Negro conjure doctor in Wilson would do it. A “young divorcee” testified Gay had told her he had been to see “his girl” and, when she criticized him for not staying home with his wife, Gay had said she wouldn’t be in his way much longer. His brother-in-law testified that Gay had purchased ingredients for an abortifacient (whiskey, camphor, quinine, and “capsules”) and given them to his wife. And on and on. For his part, Gay testified that his wife was in delicate health after having four pregnancies in six years, with two babies dying, and admitted that he had taken her to Wilson to see Henderson, whom he called a “praying doctor.” (Others described him as a liquor dealer and conjure doctor.) Gay asserted that his wife had asked him if arsenic might relieve her troubles and hinted at committing suicide. Gay said he had never been alone with her in her sick room, and Gay’s sister testified her sister-in-law had said the year before that she would kill herself before she would have another child. 

Henderson was released just before Gay’s trial. Gay was acquitted. 

Obedience Lassiter receives her dower land.

Deed book 26, page 309, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

We’ve discussed Hardy Lassiter‘s estate here and here. Above, we see the 5 January 1854 deed transferring to his widow Obedience Lassiter her dower share of his real estate — “beginning at a small sweet gum in Henry Ruffin line then west to a small water oak on the run of Mill swamp then up the various courses of said swamp to the line of Simon Barnes heirs line then along said line to Nathan Rountree line then along said line to said Ruffins line again, then along said line to the beginning.” Lassiter’s will had not provided for his wife, and she sued for dower.


In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Hardy Laster, 73, wife Beady, 54, and children Mathew, 26, Silas, 26, Green, 25, Hardy, 21, and Rachel, 20; all described as mulatto. Hardy reported owning $650 of real property.

Kerfuffle at the Board of Education.

The appointment of three populists, including Samuel H. Vick, to the Wilson County Board of Education in June 1897 created a firestorm and was condemned in the Times as a result of lawlessness and chicanery.

Notwithstanding, the new Board members were qualified at the beginning of July, and got on with their business. On July 23, C.H. Mebane issued an interim ruling recognizing Vick, George W. Connor, and Nathan Bass as Board members, as they had received a majority of votes from a majority of county commissioners during a meeting marked by confusion (and, likely, rancor.) Democrats Boykin, Moore, and Aycock were the choices of the county commissioners’ minority Democrat members. 

Wilson Daily Times, 23 July 1897.