Court Actions

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.

 

Williamson v. Williamson.

Isaac and Sarah Williamson lived in Old Fields township, Wilson (formerly Nash) County. In 1853, Sarah Williamson filed for divorce from her husband, citing, among other things, serious physical and emotional abuse. The Williamsons lived in a part of Wilson County that was then in Nash County. Their divorce file is replete with accusations and counter-accusations of violence, alcohol abuse, infidelity and general profligacy. It also contains several references to the Williamsons’ enslaved laborers and free colored neighbors.

The court required Isaac Williamson to sequester $2500 pending a decree in the case and was given the choice to post a bond or to hand over to the sheriff “negroes Harry, Lewis, Viney, Reuben, Ben & Margarett.” [Isaac Williamson died in 1854 or 1855, ending the proceedings.]

In her deposition, Nancy Williamson, Isaac and Sarah’s 20 year-old daughter, swore that “at another night he run mother and me out of the house and then called in a Negro fellow made him get the gun, powder and shot — the gun was loaded and he, my father took it and said if he found my mother he would drop her wherever he found her. …” “At another time my father asked a negro fellow who had a wife there, to come into the house and he did so, cursed and abused my mother — and my father would not allow my mother to say any thing to the negro but told him to say what he pleased to her.”

Neighbor Jethro Harrison testified that “I am well acquainted with Isaac Williamson the Defendant, He is a man who drinks hard — when he has not liquor at home he goes off and drinks he does not attend to his business like a man ought to. I have seen the Defendant on my bed and one morning about an hour per sun I saw him on a bed at Elijah Powell‘s a free negroe who had living with him a daughter grown and a wife & other children. …” On cross examination, Harrison stated: “… the Defendant was lying across the bed at the free negroes house with his shoes off and a quilt over him I think his clothes were not off. He was drunk or quite drinkey.”

Son-in-law Robertson Baker testified: “Some five or six years ago the Defendant and myself were riding in the night along together he had a coloured woman supposed to be a Negro riding on his horse behind him, he stopped in the path I went back and found him on the woman — I rode off and in a short time he came on with the woman behind him I saw the woman put up behind him as we started from a sale or hireing at A[illegible] At the Defendant’s request there being two Negro girls at our horses where we went to start I took one of them behind me for the purpose of getting him off home.”

Daughter Kesiah Williamson, 17, testified that Isaac Williamson told her “if I stuck up to him that I would get a negro or two but if I stuck to mother I never should have any of his property.”

Dempsey Powell was subpoenaed to testify in a deposition, but the file does not contain a record of any such statement.

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  • Harry, Lewis, Viney, Reuben, Ben & Margarett — A document in the Williamson divorce notes that Isaac Williamson owned about 12 enslaved people. In 1864, Williamson’s youngest sons received their inheritance from their father.  Isaac Jr. took possession of Harry, Jacob, Priscilla and Wesley, and son Eli Williamson, Reuben, Margaret and child Riney, Hittie and Elias.
  • Elijah Powell — in the 1850 census of Nash County, listed next door to Isaac and Sarah Williamson: Robert Simpson, 36, farmer; Elijah Powell, 50, cooper; wife Selah [Celia Taylor], 48; and children Denis T., 22, Henry, 21, Elijah, 19, Mary, 18, Stephen, 10, Jane, 6, Jabe, 2, and Sally, 18. [Presumably, the girl on the bed was either Sally or Mary Powell.]
  • Dempsey Powell — in the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: turpentine worker Dempsey Powell, 30, who claimed $130 personal estate; Sallie Simpson, 28; and Sallie Simpson, 9.

Many thanks to Traci Thompson for sharing these documents, which are housed in Nash County Records at the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

Hired from Franklin County.

Slaveowners needing additional labor sometimes looked beyond the borders of Wilson County for supply. In January 1857, W.H. Privett, Stephen Privett and J.D. Rountree agreed to pay Dr. P.S. Foster $375 for twelve months’ hire of enslaved men Gaswell and James. Gaswell and James were to receive the usual clothing provided to hired slaves and were to be returned to Foster in Louisburg the following 1 January.

  • Dr. P.S. Foster — Peter S. Foster is listed in the 1860 census of Franklin County as a doctor with $5500 real property and $48,555 of personal property.
  • W.H. Privett
  • Stephen Privett — in the 1860 census, Stephen Privett is a 50 year-old farmer living in Black Creek township, Wilson County.
  • J.D. Rountree — in the 1860 census, Jno. [Jonathan] D. Rountree is a 40 year-old merchant living in the Town of Wilson.

Slave Hire-1857, Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Hired for twelve months.

On 2 January 1857, Bassett Sikes and B.H. Bardin promised to pay Elizabeth Farmer $162 for the hire of two enslaved woman, Chaney and Merica, for twelve months.

  • Bassett Sikes — in the 1850 census of Greene County, North Carolina, Sikes is listed as a 44 year-old merchant with $4000 in personal property.
  • B.H. [Benjamin Howell] Bardin — in the 1860 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County, Bardin is a 34 year-old farmer who claimed $12,800 in real property and $42,500 in personal property. His personal property would have included the 21 slaves he reported in the 1860 slave schedule.

Slave Hire-1857, Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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.

Heartbreak Day.

On 27 December 2019, Time magazine published Olivia B. Waxman’s sobering and insightful article on the hiring of slave labor, “The Dark History of New Year’s Day“:

“Americans are likely to think of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as a time to celebrate the fresh start that a new year represents, but there is also a troubling side to the holiday’s history. In the years before the Civil War, the first day of the new year was often a heartbreaking one for enslaved people in the United States.

“In the African-American community, New Year’s Day used to be widely known as “Hiring Day” — or “Heartbreak Day,” as the African-American abolitionist journalist William Cooper Nell described it — because enslaved people spent New Year’s Eve waiting, wondering if their owners were going to rent them out to someone else, thus potentially splitting up their families. The renting out of slave labor was a relatively common practice in the antebellum South, and a profitable practice for white slave owners and hirers.”

Please read the article and revisit these blog posts:

Sent to the roads.

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Wilson Times, 17 November 1911.

In this follow-up to “Teck got shot,” we get a close look at the way justice was administered (and reported upon) in 1911.

First, the Times flatly pronounced Herbert “Goldie” Horton guilty of shooting Ed Walker. The trial, however, had been on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon. The “trial for shooting … Walker will be deferred until Ed. recovers or dies.” On the basis of testimony from Jake Tucker, Annie Lewis and Elijah Saunders — testimony that sounds much more relevant to the shooting than mere concealed carry — Wilson’s mayor convicted Horton and sentenced him to four months on a road gang.

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  • Herbert Horton
  • Edward Walker
  • Jake Tucker — Jacob Tucker was also a key witness in the inquest into the homicide of James A. Hunt and the robbery of Neverson Green‘s grocery.
  • Annie Lewis — perhaps, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 555 Spruce Street, Ed Lewis, 49, odd jobs laborer; wife Nancy, 37, private family cook; sister Sue, 19, factory laborer; and daughter Annie, 16, private family cook.
  • Elijah Saunders

State v. Moses Bynum and Martha Snead (1870).

In August 1870, Moses Bynum, with J.W. Smith, posted a bond to insure Bynum’s appearance in Wilson County court to face an adultery charge.

Jack Privett and Jinsey Privett were subpoenaed to appear as witnesses against Bynum and Martha Snead.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: South Carolina-born farm laborer Jack Privett, 40; wife Quincy, 32 [probably Jincey]; and daughter Malvinia, 4; plus Adeler Privett, 18, and her likely children Jane, 3, and Eli, 9 months.

Laura Sneed, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Moses Bynum and [illegible] Bynum, married Burnis Hinnant, 21, of Wilson County, son of Amos Hinnant and Lindy Hinnant, on 3 September 1888 at Henry Dudley’s residence in Cross Roads township.

Mollie Hinnant died 4 August 1954 in Kenly, Johnston County. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 September 1878 in Wilson County to Moses Bynum and Martha Snead and was a widow. Mrs. Lossie Shaw was informant. [Her marriage license and the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, suggest that Laura “Mollie” Bynum Hinnant was in fact born about 1869, which is consistent with her parents’ prosecution.]

Adultery Records –1870, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

The estate of Moses Hagans.

Moses Hagans died early in the spring of 1873. His wife Theresa Lassiter Hagans, unlettered and unfamiliar with the workings of probate, signed over her rights to administer her late husband’s estate to Larry D. Farmer, a public administrator.

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Farmer filed in Probate Court for letters of administration, estimating the value of Hagans’ estate at $200 and naming his heirs as widow Theresa Hagans and Lucinda Hagans Brantley, who was Hagans’ daughter.

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On 12 April 1873, Farmer filed an inventory of Hagans’ personal estate, which consisted of meat and lard; household kitchen furniture; “old plunder in & around the houses”; a small amount of lint cotton; corn and peas; a cart and a crosscut saw; fodder; poultry and dogs; a horse and farming implements; sows and pigs; and a garden of greens. All of it was allotted to “Trecy” Hagans for her support while the estate was in probate.

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It was a meager showing, insufficient to meet the $300 minimum required for a year’s support.

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In the 1830 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of four free people of color.

In the 1840 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of nine free people of color.

On 10 February 1846, Moses Hagans, “now of Edgecombe,” paid Thomas Hadly of Wayne County $328.50 for 164 1/4 acres on Little Swamp in Nash County. The transaction is recorded in Deed Book 18, page 331. (A mortgage for the purchase is recorded at book 18, page 325.) Little Swamp is now in Wilson County. It rises near Old Raleigh Road; flows south between Radio Tower and Flowers Roads; crosses under Interstate 95 near its junction with N.C. Highway 42; then flows east to join Contentnea Creek.

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Moses Hagans, 48, farmer; wife Pitty, 38; and son Gray B., 19, farmer. Also: Thomas Brantley, 28, turpentine worker, and wife Lucinda, 23.

On 25 October 1857, Moses Hagans applied for a license to marry Trecy Laciter in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Moses Heggins, 60, farmer, and wife Theresa, 48. Moses claimed $125 in real property and $115 in personal property. [Hagans’ estate records do not mention real property.] Also, Thomas Brantley, 52, farmer; wife Lucinda, 35; and children William, 9, and James W., 6. Thomas claimed $800 in real property, $200 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Hegans, 70; wife Trecy, 50; and James R. Locust, 12, farm laborer. Also: farm laborer Thomas Brantly, 57; wife Lucinda, 39; and son Willie, 15, farm laborer.

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

The last will and testament of Thomas Williamson.

On 26 August 1852, Thomas Williamson of Nash County (brother of Hardy Williamson) penned a will whose provisions disposed of these 16 enslaved men, women and children:

  • to wife Kesiah Williamson a life estate in “three negro slaves namely Turner Patrick and Dennis,” with Turner to revert to daughter Tempy Fulghum, Patrick to son Dempsey Williamson, and Dennis to son Garry Williamson
  • to daughter Tempy Fulghum, negro girl Mary (and her increase) already in her possession and negro girl Bethany
  • to daughter Mourning Peele, four negroes Cherry, Merica, Charity and Washington
  • to daughter Rhoda Williamson, Ally, Arnold and Randal
  • to daughter Sidney Boyett, Julien, Issabel and Daneil
  • to son Garry Williamson, “negro man named Jack and one set of Blacksmith tools”

Kesiah Williamson died shortly after Thomas Williamson wrote out his will, and he died in October 1856 in the newly formed Wilson County.  Executors Dempsey Williamson and Jesse Fulghum filed suit to resolve “certain doubts and difficulties” that arose concerning the distribution of Thomas Williamson’s slaves.

In the meantime, the estate hired out Patrick and prepared an inventory that credited Thomas Williamson with 375 acres and 33 enslaved men and women: Patrick, Denick, Jack, Tamar, Mary, Spice, Tony, Thany, Amos, Catherine, Judy, Isbell, Daniel, Randel, Harret, Dilly, Nathan, Denis, Disey, Allen, Charity, Ben, Hester, Ally, Craroline, America, Arnold, Cherry, Bitha, Chaney, Renar, Lydia and Jo.

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After the Supreme Court rendered its decision, Thomas Williamson’s executors filed an “Account of Sale of the Negros belonging to the Estate of Thomas Williamson Dec’d Sold agreable to the desision of the Supreme Court on the construction of the last Will and Testament of said Dec’d for a divission among the heirs therein named Six months credit given the purcher by given Note with two approved Securites before the Rite of property is changed Sold the 16th of May A.D. 1850 By Garry Williamson and Jesse Fulghum Extrs.” Note that all sold were children. Nine men paid top dollar for 16 children, investments that would be as ash in their hands in six years.

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John T. Barnes purchased Nathan, age 8, for $927.50; Denick, age 7, for $855.00, Dillicy, age 10, for $508.00; and Carolina, age 7, for $871.00.

W. Swift purchased Ben, age 7, for $800.00, and Harriet, age 9, for $950.00.

Garry Fulghum purchased Amos, age 5, for $552.00, and Catherine, age 3, for $400.00.

Wright Blow purchased Joe, age 5, for $580.00.

James Boyette purchased Allen, 3, for $381.00.

John Wilkins purchased Bethea, 8, for $807.00.

Joshua Barnes purchased Chaney, 7, for $661.00.

William Ricks purchased Renner, age 5, for $600.00.

Ransom Hinnant purchased Dizey, age 5, for $575.00.

And A.J. Taylor purchased Lyddey, age 2, for $416.00.

There’s quite enough to ponder in this post. More later on some of the individual men, women and children whose lives were upended by Thomas Williamson’s death. Estate File of Thomas Williamson, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.