Free People of Color

State v. Nathan Locus.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County }

The examination of Georgiana Simpson (Colored), in the said county, single woman, taken on oath before me, Wm.G. Jordan a justice of the peace in and for said county, this 18th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1866, who saith that she is the mother of a child now fifteen months old, and that the said child was born a bastard and likely to become chargeable to the county aforesaid and that Nathan Locus a free man of color , is a father of the said child    Georgiana (X) Simpson

Taken before me and signed the day and year above before written   Wm.G. Jordan J.P.

Both of the above parties were free born

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In the 1850 census, Nash County, North Carolina: Delany Locust, 28; Lucy, 25; and Nathan, 12, Henry, 8, Goodson, 6, Nelly, 4, and Mary A., 3.

In the 1860 census of Winstead township, Nash County: housekeeper Delany Locus, 43, and Nathan, 22.

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Ellic Taylor, 34, farm laborer, and wife Lainy, 45; Nathanel Locust, 33, and children Malvina, 11, and Duncan Locust, 4. [Delaney Locus married Alexander Taylor between 1860 and 1870. Duncan Locust may be the son of Georgiana Simpson and Nathan Locus. Simpson does not appear in Wilson or Nash County census record.]

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Nathan Locust, 40, hireling “working about.”

On 13 February 1883, Nathan Lucus, 40, married Sarah Williams, 40, at the Wilson Court House.

Branch Flowers died 27 August 1938 in Jackson township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 65; was born in Wilson County to Nathan Locus and Delsa [Delphia] Flowers, both of Wilson County; was a farmer; and was married to Mary Flowers.

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

The Benjamin and Tinner Howard Ellis family.

Benjamin Ellis, Mollie Brantley Howard Brown and Tinner Howard Ellis. Mollie Brown’s first husband, Kenyon Howard, son of Deal and Nancy Blackwell Howard, was Tinner Ellis’ uncle.

“As far back as my husband, Benjamin Ellis, and I can trace our family, it leads us to Wilson County. My great-grandfather Nelson Eatman was born issue-free about the year 1800. Fortunately, from that point on there was no slavery on my side of the family. He had a daughter named Roady who married Deal Howard. From that marriage was born a son, also named Deal Howard who married my mother, Nancy Blackwell. My grandmother on my mother’s side was named Nancy Blackwell. During the early part of the 19th century there were still many Indians in and around the eastern North Carolina region. One tribe known as the Cherokees still have a reservation in western North Carolina. It is through that tribe that I trace my mother’s heritage.

“My husband’s grandfather Hillard Ellis was born here in 1825, on the Roundtree Plantation. His mother and father were Africans who had been brought to America and sold in the slave market to the Roundtree family. Hillard Ellis had a brother named Warren Roundtree who took the slave name, and as a result, many Ellis’ and Roundtree’s are related. Hillard Ellis married Fairiby Roundtree who was also a slave on the Roundtree farm. To that union were born fourteen children — one of which was my husband’s father named Hillard who was born in 1865. Around the turn of the century and for many years thereafter he was one of only two blacksmiths in the Town of Wilson. Hillard married Cora Williams. Cora’s parents were Nellie Locust and Austin Williams. Austin was a slave on the McWilliams farm and Nellie was issue-free. My husband’s Uncle Warren’s son, Henry Ellis was the first black in Wilson County killed while serving his country in the first world war. His name is found in the Wilson County courthouse among those honored for serving their country.

“Both my husband and I are from very large families. I had four sisters and nine brothers and my husband had several brothers and one sister. We were raised as children in Wilson County and went to Howard elementary school. My husband also attended “graded” school in Wilson. We were married in 1921 and from our union were born seven children: Raleigh, Ezamae, Emma Lee, Tiner Mae, Mabel, Beulah and Benjamin. We have twenty-one grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. We still maintain the Ellis cemetery on a piece of land formerly owned by Hillard Ellis, Sr. Also the Ellis Chapel Church off Route 58 was named after Hillard Ellis, Sr., who donated the land to the church around the turn of the century.”

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  • For more on the Hilliard Ellis family, see here and here.
  • For more on the Nelson Eatmon family, see here.
  • For more on the Zealous “Deal” Howard family, see here.
  • Re the Blackwells:

Asberry Blackwell married Nancy Taylor on 2 October 1845 in Nash County.

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Asberry Blackwell, 25 [listed alone.]

In the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, Nancy, 30, farm laborer, Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4, Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months.

On 10 April 1882, Deal Howard, 21, married Nancy Blackwell, 24, in Taylors township, Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 38; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Deal Howard, 58; wife Nancy, 60; and Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Albert Howard, 35, farmer; mother Nancy, 75; and James, 11, and Tommie Howard, 9.

Nancy Howard died 30 June 1931 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 61 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nancy Blackwell and a father unknown to the informant; was married to Deal Howard; lived at Route 2, Wilson; and worked as a laundress. Informant was Thomas Howard, 318 Finch Street, Wilson.

  • Re the Williamses:

Austin Williams, son of Ben and Merica Williams, married Cornelia Taylor, daughter of Isaac Taylor and Lena Locus, on 10 May 1868 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austen Williams, 34, farm laborer; wife Cornelius, 24; and daughter Cora Lee, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austin Williams, 41, farmer; wife Nobly, 30; and children Cora L., 11, Charley A., 8, Benjamin and Isaac, 4, and Minnie, 8 months.

  • Re Warren Rountree:

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Warren Rountree, 40, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 32; and children Florence, 18, Rhebecca, 17, Mary, 11, Howell, 7, Sallie, 5, Lou, 2, and Warren Jr., 20.

Warren Rountree died in late fall 1871. In November of that year, R.J. Taylor was appointed administrator of his estate.

Text and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

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.

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.

State v. Reddick Joyner and Wilmoth Eatman.

At October Term 1855 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Reddick Joyner and Wilmoth Eatman “being lewd and vicious persons, and not united together in Marriage” who did “adulterously bed and cohabit together … and commit fornication and adultery …” contrary to law. However, after a hearing, the foreman returned the presentiment to the clerk of court as “not a true bill.” As a result, charges would have been dropped against both.

Per Eatmon’s descendants, the father of her first three children, William Joseph, Robert, Margaret was Alexander Watson Wells, a white man who died in 1862 of wounds suffered as a Confederate soldier. The father of her youngest two, Kinion and Annie, was Hackney High. The father of two others, Crawford and Missouri, is unknown.

Adultery Records – 1855, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

 

Studio shots, no. 118: Milly Ann Lassiter Strickland.

Milly Ann Lassiter Strickland (1861-1921).

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In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; 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 Delpha Simpson, 14.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Silas Lassiter, 47, and children Ophelia, 25, Mary, 20, Elizabeth, 16, Handy, 14, Penninah, 15, Silas W., 12, Milly, 8, and Jerusha, 4.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 56; wife Orpa, 50; and children Pennina, 24, Pharaoh, 20, Milly Ann, 19, and Gerusha Ann Lassiter, 14; plus daughter Sally Barefoot, 32, and her children Mary, 9, George, 6, and Warren Barefoot, 5.

On 11 February 1891, Henry Strickland, 42, son of Miles and Mourning Strickland, married Milly Laster, 28, daughter of Silas and Orphie Laster, in Taylor township.

In the 1900 census of Wilson  township, Wilson County: Henry Strickland, 54; wife Millie A., 36; and son Jessie, 11. [This was Millie Ann’s son, Jesse C. Lassiter.]

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Henry Strickland, 57, farmer; wife Millie, 40; and son Jessie, 21.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, farmer Henry Strickland, 70, and wife Anna, 55.

Millie And Streckley [sic] died 25 June 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; and was born in Wilson County to Silas Lassiter and Sarah Lassiter. J.C. Lassiter was informant, and Batts Brothers & Artis handled her burial.

Many thanks to Bernard Lassiter for the photograph.

Locust carried a gun about his person without a license.

In 1856, a grand jury indicted Eli Locust, a free man of color, for violating laws forbidding free men of color carry guns without license.

The Clerk of Court issued a warrant for Locust’s arrest.

Probably, in the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Eli Locust, 68, farmer; wife Beedy, 58; and children Nancy, 32, and John, 28; plus Ned Pace, 35, cabinet maker.

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

The Kerseys.

42091_331822-00181.jpg

John Kearsey married Julia Richardson in Franklin County, North Carolina, in 1849. Both were free people of color. The couple migrated to the Town of Wilson prior to 1860.

In the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Kersey, 37, blacksmith; wife Julia, 31; and children Louisa, 9, Dellah, 6, John, 5, and William, 1.  Kersey reported personal property valued at $300.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith John Kirsey, 45, wife Julia, 42, and children Louisa, 19, Idella, 16, John, 13, Walter, 10, and Robt., 9.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith John Kersey, 61; wife Julia, 53; and son Walter, 21; plus boarder William Joyner, who worked in the blacksmith shop.

John and Julia Kersey’s children included:

  • Louisa Kersey — Louisa Kersey Johnson died 15 January 1934 in Wilson after a fall from her front porch. Per her death certificate, she was 78 years old; was born in North Carolina to John and Julia Kersey; was married to Henry Johnson and lived at 503 Warren Street. Gertrude Jones, 309 Elba Street, was informant.
  • Ardella Kersey
  • John Kersey Jr.
  • William Kersey
  • Walter Kersey 
  • Robert Kersey — like Walter, Robert Kersey migrated to Indiana. Robert Kersey died 30 August 1902 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 36 years old; was born in North Carolina to John Kersey and Julia Robinson; and worked as a laborer.

The apprenticeship of Nicey C. Hall.

Nicey Caroline Hall married Wyatt Lynch in Wilson in 1860 and seems to have spent the remainder of her life in Wilson County. However, she spent her childhood across the county line in northeast Wayne County.

In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Lucy Hall, 45, with her children Sarah, 16, George, 15, Nathan, 13, Nicy, 10, Samuel, 3, and Esther, 6; plus Alford, 15, John, 14, Rhoda, 13, Julia, 12, and Rheuben Artis, 10; and Rufus Lane, 22. Next door: William Exum, a 25 year-old white farmer. The same year, per Wayne County apprentice bonds, Exum indentured the five Artis children to serve him as involuntary apprentices. (Lane had just aged out of his indenture too Exum.)

Under the laws governing the involuntary apprenticeship of free children of color, a mother could state her preference for the man to be named master of her bound children. When called to the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1851, Lucy Hall informed the judge that she wanted her children to be bound to James Yelverton (probably Sr.) Instead, the court awarded the indentures of George, Nathan, Nicy C., Esther and Sam Hall to their neighbor, William J. Exum, on whose land they likely lived. However, the clerk neglected to record the indentures in the court minutes, and Yelverton took advantage of the oversight to have the children bound to him instead. Exum sued Yelverton, claimed that he obtained the indentures contrary to the rules of court, and the judge rescinded Yelverton’s indentures. The court then re-bound the Halls to Exum, who thereby consolidated his control over the labor of the free children of color living on his property.

The Yelvertons and Halls’ lives remained intertwined, despite the best efforts of William J. Exum. In the 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County, James Yelverton (Jr.), 40, shared a household with Easter [Easther] Hall, 20, and her likely children Fanny, 7, and Puss, 5. Moreover, per family lore recently backed up by DNA testing, James Yelverton Jr. was the father of Nicey Caroline Hall’s first child, Susianna Frances Hall, alias Yelverton, born about 1857.

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On 5 June 1860, Wyatt Lynch married Nicey Hall in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: plasterer and brickmason Wyatt Lynch, 30, wife Caroline, 23, and daughter Frances, 3.

As revealed in this letter, while he was away at war, Captain Ruffin Barnes arranged with Wyatt Lynch for his wife to live with Barnes’ wife and perform household chores. Nicey Caroline Lynch butted heads with Barnes’ wife, however, and Barnes advised that she be sent back home.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brick maker Wyatt Lynch, 48, wife Nicey, 35, and children Harriet, 4, and John, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on the south side of the Plank Road, widow Nicy Lynch, 40, children Harriot, 13, John, 11, Noah, 9, Sammy, 7, and Mary Wyatt, 3, with mother-in-law Nancy Lynch, 98.

On 24 January 1899, Hattie Lynch, 33, of Wilson County, daughter of Wyatt and Nicy Lynch, married William Young, 46, of Wilson County, son of Manuel and Caroline Young of Mississippi. Primitive Baptist minister J.S. Woodard performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, widowed farmer Nicey Lynch, 60, daughters Harriet Young, 35, and Mary Rhodes, 23, and grandson John Rhodes, 2.

On 7 May 1905, Hattie Lynch, 39, daughter of John and Nicy Lynch, married Robert Dixon, 33, son of William and Charlotte Dixon, in Wilson County. Witnesses were D.F. Scott, Mary Rhoads, and Charley Edward.

On 3 December 1907, Eddie Bullock, 27, of Wilson, son of Preacher Chanson and Andy Bullock, married Mary Rhodes, 27, of Wilson, daughter of [name not given] Linch and Nicie Lynch.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Robert Dickson, 37, wife Hattie, 46, mother-in-law Nicie Lynch, and nephew Johnnie Rhodes, 12.

Susiannah Artis died 11 September 1931 in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was 74 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nicy Linch of Wilson County; worked in farming; and was married to Richard Artis.

Mary Wyatt Ellis died 10 October 1943 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 May 1876 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was married to Ruben Ellis; was a farmer; and was buried on the Lynch farm.

Harriet Hattie Dixon died 16 January 1958 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 July 1865 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was widowed; was a retired farmer; and was buried in a family cemetery. Hattie Anderson was informant.

Susanna Frances Yelverton Artis, daughter of Nicey C. Hall Lynch.

Documents detailing the proceedings in Exum v. Yelverton are found in Box 6, Apprentice Bonds and Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; photo of Susannah Artis courtesy of Teresa Artis.

Toney Eatmon’s sons.

Is it not clear whether Toney Eatmon ever lived in Wilson County, but his two known children did. The record is scarce, but:

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina, Tony Eatmon, 55, farmer, in the household of white farmer Theophilus Eatmon, 70. Tony was described as mulatto, and the belief that he was Theophilus Eatmon’s son is supported by DNA matching.

On 4 February 1868, Jack Williamson, son of Toney Eatmon and Hester Williamson, married Ann Boykin, daughter of John Harper and Alder Reid, at Jack Williamson’s in Wilson. [Per census records, Jack Williamson was born about 1835.]

Willis Barnes died 15 September 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; married; a farmer; and born in Nash County to Toney Eatmon and Annie Eatmon. Jesse Barnes was informant.

In short: Toney Eatmon was born free about 1795 (or perhaps a few years later), most likely in southeastern Nash County to Theophilus Eatmon and an unknown free woman of color. DNA testing suggests strongly that he was closely related to Nelson Eatmon, another free man of color. Whether he married is unknown, but he fathered at least two sons, Jack Williamson, born about 1835 to Hester Williamson, an enslaved woman, and Willis Barnes, born about 1841, to Annie Eatmon (or, perhaps, Barnes), an enslaved woman. Williamson and Barnes lived their adult lives in Wilson County. Toney Eatmon likely died between 1850 and 1860.