Free People of Color

The apprenticeship of the Hagans siblings.

On 4 December 1869, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered 15 year-old Joseph Hagans, described as an orphan, to serve James S. Barnes until he was 21 years of age. Joseph’s siblings Penny, 13, Edwin, 11, George, and Sarah Hagans, 6, were placed under Barnes’ control the same day.

The Haganses were the children of Robert and Sarah Hagans. In the 1860 census of Fields district, Greene County: day laborer Robert Hagans, 31; wife Sarah, 30; and children Mary, 12, Joseph, 8, Penelope, 5, and Edwin, 1. Robert and Sarah Hagans apparently died between 1864 and 1869.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: siblings Joseph, 15, Penelope, 12, Edwin, 11, Sarah, 8, and George Hagans, 6, all described as “farmer’s apprentices.” Their household is listed next to James R. Barnes, a wealthy farmer who reported owning $18,000 in real property. (This is a different James Barnes from the one who apprenticed the Hagans children. James S. Barnes died in 1871. With the exception of Penny — see link above — I have not found the Hagans siblings after 1870.)

United States, Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at https://familysearch.org.

Family ties, no. 1: a shoebox full of food.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as in the Great Migration north. This post is the first in a series of excerpts from interviews with Hattie Henderson Ricks, their adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, born in 1872, was the eighth of nine children. By time she moved to Wilson, only her brothers James Lucian Henderson, born 1859, and Caswell C. Henderson, born 1865, were living. (Hattie was her sister Loudie Henderson’s grandchild.) Caswell had migrated to New York City by about 1890, but Lucian remained in Dudley to farm. He and his wife, Susan McCollum Henderson, had only one child, who died in early adulthood without a spouse or children.

Susie Henderson had long been sickly and, by the late 1920s, Lucian Henderson’s health had begun to fail. Jesse Jacobs’ nephew, John Wesley Carter, lived nearby. He had developed a close relation with the Hendersons, but could not be expected to assume complete responsibility for their care.

The family turned to the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road for a solution:

“Mama Sarah [would] fix dinner and send it down to Dudley on the train. The man that run the whatchacallit — engine?  Up there, where stokes the fire or whatever is on the train. He would take it.  But she would tell what day she was gon send it. And so somebody’d be up there to the train station to get it.  And the train, ‘cause a lot of time the train didn’t stop in Dudley. But anyway, the man, the conductor, he would pull the thing, whatever, for the train to stop long enough for him to drop off this package.  … Somebody she’d have be out there when the train come through, and then the porter on the train — Mama knew him —  and so then Johnnie and them or somebody be out there to take the package. It’d be a shoebox full of food, already cooked and ready to eat. So that’s the way they helped Uncle Lucian and A’nt Susie, like that. Until they died, and so that was the end of trying to feed them and take care of them.”

Look closely at this snippet of a 1936 map of the Atlantic Coast Line’s routes. Wilson is just above the center point. Lucian and Susie Henderson’s care packages traveled south through Goldsboro to the whistle stop at Dudley’s platform, nine miles below and just above Mount Olive.

Adapted from interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1996 and 1998. All rights reserved. 

Usher in Juneteenth with Black Wide-Awake and Zella Palmer!

I find myself with an unexpected day off, so what better way to kick off the real holiday than chopping it up with Zella Palmer about family, Black history, and Wide-Awake Wilson?

Zella is chair and director of Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture and renowned for her innovative work to preserve African-American food culture. Find out what she and I have in common — besides everything Black — this afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern in our Instagram Live conversation @maisonzella!

The Evans and Taylor families of Taylor township.

As we’ve seen here, here, herehere, here and here, “race” in the 19th century could be an expansive construct, even within a family. Some people classified as “mulatto” into the turn of the 20th century transitioned to full whiteness within a few decades. Others, classified as white, but having mixed-race children, became mulatto, though nothing had changed about their physical presentation. The Evans and Taylor family of Taylor township, connected by marriage, are another example. The Evanses were descended from Elizabeth Evans, a white woman, whose children were mixed-race. This Taylor family descended from Sally Taylor via her daughter Harriet Taylor, both white.

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Elizabeth Evans, 45, white, with Ivey, 16, and Elizabeth Evans, 13, both mulatto; plus Temperance Perry, 35, and Margaret Perry, 7, both white. Also, E. Evans, 50; Edith Evans, 19, both white, and Ivy, 14, and E. Evans Jr., 12, both mulatto.

On 27 August 1851, Elizabeth Evans married Richard Locus in Edgecombe County. [This is the younger Elizabeth Evans.]

On 18 May 1855, Ivy Evans and Sarah Brantley received a license to marry in Nash County, but never returned it to the courthouse.

In the 1860 census of Mannings township, Nash County: Ivey Evans, 23, farm laborer, and wife Sally, 28, with farm laborer Gilbert Howard, 20, all mulatto. Next door: Richard Locus, 35, farm laborer, wife Elizabeth, 26, and children William J., 7, Frances E., 4, Julia A., 3, and John E., 1, all mulatto; plus Elizabeth Evans, 50, white.

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ivey Evans, 37, and wife Sallie, 39, both mulatto. Next door: Betsey Evans, 65, white. Next door to her: Telitha Driver, 53, Harriet Taylor, 21, and Margrett Taylor, 2, all white.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Richard Locust, 48, farm laborer; wife Betsey, 36; children William, 17, Francis, 15, Julia, 13, John, 10, Elizabeth, 8, Robert, 5, James, 3, and Henriettie, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Elisha Driver, 60, white, “stays with niece”; Harriett Taylor, 35, white; her children Margrett, 12, Ellen, 9, John H., 6, and Dora Taylor, 4, all mulatto. Next door: Ivory Evans, 50, and wife Sally, 45, both mulatto. Ivey Evans was the father of at least some of Harriett Taylor’s children.

On 18 November 1888, Ellen Taylor, 18, of Wilson County, son of Harriett Taylor, married Dora Locus, 18, of Wilson County, daughter of John and Delphia Locus, in Taylors township, Wilson County. [Delphia Taylor Locus was the daughter of Dempsey Taylor and Eliza (or Louisa) Pace and was Harriett and Ellen Taylor’s cousin.]

On 10 May 1890, Ivy Evans, 56, son of Betsey Evans, married Harriett Taylor, 47, daughter of Sally Taylor, in Taylors township, Wilson County. Though Harriett was white in 1880, both are described as colored.

On 7 April 1900, John Davis, 50, of Wilson County, married Dora Taylor, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Iva Evans and Harriette Taylor, in Old Fields township, Wilson County. John A. Jones, James E. Jones, and Deal Howard were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Iva Eavins, 68; wife Hattie, 50; children John H., 23, Margret, 17, Manuell, 15, Bettie, 13, and Francis, 10; grandson Leavy, 3; and boarder Willie Blackwell, 23, all black.

In the 1900 census of Coopers township, Nash County: farmer John Pulley, 44; wife Margarett, 33; children Jesse, 10, Tabitha, 11, Martha, 7, Minnie, 5, and Fed, 3; widowed mother Harriett, 77; and brother-in-law Ellen Taylor, 28, day laborer, widower, and his children Sallie A., 10, and Thomas, 7.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: day laborer Richard Locus, 85; wife Betsy, 68, cook; and grandson Wiley, 6.

On 19 November 1902, John Blackwell, 22, colored, of Wilson County, son of Albert and Classie Blackwell, married Bettie Liles, 18, colored, of Wilson County, daughter of Ivy Evans and Sis Liles, in Isaac Ivens’ residence in Taylors township, Wilson County. Ellen Taylor applied for the license, and George Taylor, Dock High and Hence Brantley were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Ellen [sic] Evans, 39; wife Eliza, 25; son Thomas, 18; mother Harriet, 68, cook; widowed sister Dora Davis, 28; and nieces and nephews Levi, 14, Ivy, 12, Lillie, 10, Mamie, 5, and Margaret Davis, 2.

Eliza Evans died 19 November 1921 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 40 years old; was married to Allen Evans; was engaged in tenant farming for John Griffin; was born in Nash County to Elija Joyner and Mary Taylor. Allen Taylor was informant.

Margaret Pulley died 13 December 1935 in Sturgeon district, Brunswick County, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1876 in Wilson County, N.C., to Ivey Evans and Harriet Taylor; and was a widow. Monnie Pulley was informant.

Dora Strickland died 6 August 1949 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 July 1899 [actually, circa 1886] in Wilson County to Ivory Evans and Harriet Taylor; was married; worked as a farmer; and was colored. Isaac Strickland was informant.

Order for publication for non-resident defendants, heirs of Willis Jones.

A notice in the matter of P.B. Deans vs. Shade Jones et al. ran for a month in the summer of 1883. The matter was an action for the partition of land, land that apparently was part of the estate of Willis Jones. Willis and Sarah K. Jones‘ children included Josiah Jones, Charity Jones Taylor (ca. 1827-1891), Jacob Jones (ca. 1828), Shade Jones (ca. 1832), Henry Jones (ca. 1840), Alexander Jones (ca. 1841), Noel Jones (1843), Willis Kingsberry Jones (ca. 1847), Payton A. Jones (ca. 1849), and Bethany Jones Barnes (ca. 1852). Two of Willis Jones’ children resided out of state, and the court ordered the notice commanding them to answer the complaint in the case. Charity Jones Taylor and her husband, Kingsberry Taylor, were believed to be in Indiana; Josiah Jones, in South Carolina.

Wilson Advance, 13 July 1883.

In fact, by 1883, Charity Taylor had been living in western Michigan for decades.

Kingsberry Taylor married Charity Jones on 4 July 1846 in Nash County, North Carolina. Both were free people of color. Jones for certain and Taylor likely lived in a section of Nash County that became Wilson County in 1855.

The couple immediately migrated to Indiana. In the 1850 census of Madison township, Jefferson County, Indiana: laborer Kingsberry Taylor, 29, owner of $100 real estate, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 20, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 3, born in Indiana. All were classified as mulatto.

They did not stay long. Mid-decade, the family moved more than 300 miles due north in Allegan County, Michigan. Per the History of Allegan and Berry Counties, Michigan, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Men and Pioneers (1880), Kingsbury Taylor was one of ten men who bought land in Section 28 of Cheshire township between 1852 and 1858. “A considerable proportion of the population are of the colored race, who merit notice in a history of Cheshire [township]. As a class they stand well for both sobriety, and industry. Many of them have farms upon which comfortable houses are built, and the land of which is improved and well maintained. They also have two church organizations, to which a liberal support is accorded, and of which mention is made farther on. They are by no means the least influential of the citizens of the township, and have won much credit for the ambition they display in their farming pursuits and the good reputation they have established in all their social relations. The first colored men to settle in the township were C. Tomison and K. Taylor, who located on the southwest quarter of section 28. The land owned by the colored people was mostly bought of the Indians when they departed.”

In the 1860 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 35, farmer, owned $400/real property, $250/personal property, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 30, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 13, born in Indiana.

In the 1870 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 52, farmer, owned $2500/real estate, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 42, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 22, born in Indiana.

In the 1880 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 61, farmer, born in N.C.; wife Charrita, 48, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A. Brown, 33, divorced, born in Indiana.

On 17 September 1880, Foster H. Maxwell, 42, mason, of Manger, Michigan, born in Ross County, Ohio, married Sarah A.J. Taylor, 33, divorced, of Cheshire, Michigan, born in Jefferson County, Indiana, in Bloomingdale, Michigan. The marriage entry noted that they were black. [Maxwell was a Civil War veteran, having served in Co. D, 102nd United States Colored Infantry.]

Charity Taylor died 16 April 1891 in Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in N.C. to Wilis Jones and Sarah Jones; and was a farmer.

Illustrated Atlas of Allegan County, Michigan (1895). (Would that these types of plat maps existed everywhere.)

In the 1900 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: widower Kinbury Taylor, 82, farmer, and granddaughter Nina Maxwell, 19.

In the 1900 census of Springfield, Clark County, Ohio: Sarah Maxwell, 52, and daughters Dayette, 18, and Christina, 14. All were classified as white. Sarah was married, and three of her five children were living. 

On 5 June 1900, in Allegan County Circuit Court, Foster H. Maxwell, 59, was granted a divorce from Sarah A. Maxwell, 45, on the grounds of desertion.

Kingsbury Taylor died 3 November 1906 in Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan. Per his death certificate, 

The Hartford Day Spring (Hartford, Michigan), 14 November 1906.

In the 1910 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County: Sarah A. Maxwell, 62, “own income,” and daughter Dayetta, 27.

In the 1920 census of Allegan, Allegan County: at 634 Academy, widow Sarah A. Maxwell, 72.

In the 1930 census of Allegan, Allegan County: at 634 Academy, owned and valued at $1000, widow Sarah A. Maxwell, 82, and granddaughter Betty A., 6.

Sarah Ann Maxwell died 11 September 1938 in Allegan, Michigan. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 August 1847 in Madison, Indiana, to Kingsburg Taylor and Charity Jones, both of Wilson, N.C.; was the widow of Foster Maxwell; lived at 634 Academy Street; and was buried in Lindsley Cemetery, Allegan. Dayette Maxwell was informant.

Kingsberry and Charity Jones Taylor were also buried in Lindsley Cemetery. 

Christine Charity Maxwell Chandler (1885-1937), daughter of Foster H. and Sarah A. Taylor Maxwell.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user PatriciaPhillips212.

A marriage in New Hampshire.

Some who joined the Great Migration went from Point A to Point B and stayed. Others had more peripatetic journeys. Corneda Moore Jackson Woodard Bentley Kelsey stopped in Philadelphia, then Haverhill, Massachusetts, before settling in Cranford, New Jersey.

Herschel F. Bentley, 36, and Corneda J. Woodward, 38, both of Haverhill, Massachusetts, were married 2 September 1925 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (just a few miles up the coast.) It was Bentley’s first marriage. He was a native of Columbia, South Carolina, and a cook. Woodward, a Wilson native and widow, worked as a domestic. 

Herschel Bentley was the son of Joseph [Bentley?] of Macon, Georgia, and Grace Piot, born in Wall Hollow, South Carolina, and resident of Columbia, South Carolina. Cordena Woodard was the daughter of Bryant Moore, a farmer in Wilson, North Carolina, and Peonia [Penelope, Penny] Hagans, born in Greene County, North Carolina, and a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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In the 1860 census of Fields district, Greene County: day laborer Robert Hagans, 31; wife Sarah, 30; and children Mary, 12, Joseph, 8, Penelope, 5, and Edwin, 1.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: siblings Joseph, 15, Penelope, 12, Edwin, 11, Sarah, 8, and George Hagans, 6, all farmer’s apprentices.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Howel Moore, 50; wife Gatsey, 42; and children Bettie, 14, Eliza, 12, Simon, 21, Clora, 10, Jesse, 8, Howel, 3, Gatsey, 2, Penny, 17, and Bryant, 19.

In the 1880 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: farmer Evans Jackson, 36, and wife Charity, 26; niece Penny Moore, 25, and [her children] Florence, 2, and Victoria, 8 months; and apprentices Benjn. Farmer, 19, and George Hagens, 15.

Perhaps, in the 1880 census of Raleigh, Wake County: Bryant Moore, 25, farm laborer.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widow [sic; she was likely separated or divorced] Pennie Moore, 45; children Florence, 22, Victora, 20, Cornetta, 18, Besse, 15, Fenner, 14, and Gussie L., 1; and granddaughter Gaslen, 1.

On 27 August 1900, James H. Jackson, 21, of Wilson County, married Cornada Moore, 19, at Pennie Moore’s in Wilson. Freewill Baptist Crockett Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Millie Best, James Best, and Jasper Davis.

On 16 September 1903, Bryant Moore, 52, of Wilson, son of Howard and Gatsey Moore, married Maggie Farmer, 37, of Wilson, daughter of Barbara Lucas, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Cooper Barnes, Jackson Barnes, and Bessie Ratley.

In the 1910 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: widow Pinney Moore, 51; daughter Florence Lee, 32, divorced, and her daughters Gussie, 11, and Madeline, 2; daughter Canetor Jackson, 27, divorced; daughter Bessie M. Bessa [Best], 25; son-in-law James Bessa, 27, and daughter Mable, 7; and lodgers Alfred O. Smith, 56, James Bell, 40, William Willand, 32, and Harrison R. Tyler, 31.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wiggins Street, odd jobs laborer Bryant Moore, 58, and wife Maggie, 37.

Fennell Moore died 25 December 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 28 years old; was married; and was born in North Carolina to Bryant Moore and Penny Hagans.

In the 1920 census of Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts: at 21 Ashland Street, office building janitor William R. Woodard, 42, and wife Corneda J., 33, laundress. William was born in Ohio to a N.C.-born father and Ohio-born mother. Corneda was born in N.C.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, cotton mill laborer Bryant Moore, 65, and wife Maggie, 40, tobacco factory worker. 

In the 1930 census of Cranford, Union County, New Jersey: at 15 McClelland, owned and valued at $5000, Hersher F. Bentley, 41, cook for government service cafeteria, and wife Corneda J., 43, daily domestic.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 641 Wiggins Street, owned and valued at $1000, farm laborer Bryant Moore, 74; wife Maggie H., 45, farm laborer; and son Thomas, 16.

In the 1931 Westfield, N.J., city directory: Bentley Herschel F. (Corneda J.) cook h 103 McClellan

Bryant Moore died 23 March 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was married to Maggie Moore; was a farmer; was born in Wilson County to Howard and Gatsey Moore; and lived at 640 Wiggins Street.

Victoria A. Hill died 27 February 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 September 1883 in North Carolina to Bryant Moore and Penny Moore; lived at 252 East Sharpnick, Philadelphia; and was married to Phillip Hill.

In the 1940 census of Cranford, Essex County, New Jersey: Ganes Kelsey, 44, scavenger collector; wife Corneda, 52, domestic; and lodgers Jake Bowers, 36, truck driver, and Charles Llyod, 47, laborer. 

Florence Tyler died 3 December 1946 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 April 1889 in N.C. to Bryant Moore and Penney Hagans; lived at 6623 Ross Street, Philadelphia; and was a widow.

Gladys Moore died 17 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 June 1914 to Bryant Moore and Gladys Moore; lived at 914 Carolina Street; was single; and worked as a domestic. Informant was Gracie Allen, 1006 Atlantic Street.

Corneda Kelsey died 15 May 1971 in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey.

Marriages across the freedom line.

  • Solomon Andrews and Mary Woodard
  • Solomon Andrews and Emily Woodard

Solomon Andrews was a free man of color. Andrews was a carpenter who lived and worked on the farm of slaveowner Dr. Stephen Woodard. The death certificate of Benjamin Woodard, who was born about 1838, lists Solomon Anders and Mary Woodard as his parents. Benjamin, and presumably his mother Mary, were enslaved by Stephen Woodard. In 1866, Solomon Anders [sic] and Emly Woodard registered their eight-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. It is reasonable to assume that Emily Woodard was also enslaved by Stephen Woodard.

Arch Artis was a free man of color. Rose and their children, who included Tamar, Jesse, John, Gray and Ned, were enslaved by William Woodard’s family in the White Oak area of Gardners township. All of the children used the surname Artis after Emancipation.

Jesse Artis was a free man of color. Several Jesse Artises lived in southeast Wilson/northeast Wayne Counties during the late antebellum period, but he was most likely the Jesse H. Artis listed in the 1850 census of the Town of Wilson. He may have died prior to 1870. In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Rebecca Rountree, 50, and children and grandchildren Henry, 20, butcher, John, 23, barber, Dempsy, 26, farm laborer, Charles, 15, Benjamin, 24, butcher, Mary, 30, domestic servant, Joseph, 9, Willie, 8, Lucy, 20, domestic servant, Worden, 2, and Charles, 1. Henry Rountree was Jesse Artis’ son.

  • Mahala Artis and Aaron Barnes

Mahala Artis was a free woman of color. She is listed in the 1860 census of the town of Wilson, with her daughter Sarah, who was not likely not Aaron Barnes’ child. In 1866, Mahala Artist and Aron Barnes registered their five-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. 

  • Wilson Artis, alias Hagans, and Obedience Applewhite

Wilson Artis, also known as Wilson Hagans, was a free man of color. In 1866, Wilson Hagan and Beady Applewhite registered their nineteen-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. Hagans and Applewhite are listed in different households in the 1870 census of Wilson County. They had at least two children — Sarah Jane Artis, whose 1930 death certificate lists her parents as Wilson Artis and Beedie Artis, and Rosetta Artis, whose 1869 marriage license lists her parents as Wilson Artice and Beedy Artice.

  • Toney Eatmon and Annie [Eatmon? Barnes?]
  • Toney Eatmon and Hester Williamson

Toney Eatmon was a free man of color. In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina, Tony Eatmon, 55, farmer, in the household of white farmer Theophilus Eatmon, 70. Whether he married is unknown, but he is listed as father on the marriage license of Jack Williamson, born about 1835 to Hester Williamson, an enslaved woman, and the death certificate of Willis Barnes, born about 1841, to Annie Eatmon (or, perhaps, Barnes), an enslaved woman. 

Penny Lassiter was a free woman of color. She worked for James B. Woodard and married London Woodard, whom Woodard enslaved. In 1856, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband from J.B. Woodard. As Penny was free, all her and London Woodard’s children were also free-born. 

Delaney Locus was a free woman of color. Alex Taylor was enslaved by Henry Flowers and William Taylor. In 1866, Alex Taylor and Laney Locus registered their seven-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Ellic Taylor, 34, farm laborer, and wife Lainy, 45; Nathanel Locust, 33; and Malvina, 11, and Duncan Locust, 4.

  • Gaines Locus and Zana Williams

Gaines Locus was a free man of color. On 9 August 1866, Ganes Locus and Zana Williams registered their seventeen-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Ganes Locust, 40; wife Zana, 35; and children Penny, 15, Hasty, 12, James, 9, Julius, 5, Sarah, 4, and Amanda, 1.

  • Patsey Locus and Harry Taylor

On the basis of her surname, Patsey Locus likely was a free woman of color. Harry Taylor was the brother of Alex Taylor above. In 1866, Harry Taylor and Patsey Locus registered their eighteen-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Harry Taylor, 51; wife Martha T., 45; and hireling Margrett Locus, 21, “working out.”

  • John Pettiford and Catherine Hinnant

On the basis of his surname, John Pettiford likely was a free man of color. In 1866, John Pettiford and Catherine Hinnant registered their ten-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. 

Henrietta Thomas, daughter of Jordan Thomas below, was born free. She and Warren Rountree had at least one child, Charity Thomas.

  • Jordan Thomas and Rosa Woodard

Jordan Thomas was a free man of color. Rosa Woodard, daughter of London Woodard, above, and his first wife Venus, was enslaved by James B. Woodard. They had at least one child together, Peter Thomas.

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.

Hardy Tabourn seeks a Revolutionary War pension.

State of North Carolina, Nash County  }   On this thirteenth day of August Eighteen hundred and Forty four Personally appeared in open Court Hardiman Tabourn a resident of the County of Nash and maketh the following declaration in order to obtain a pension under the act of Congress passed on the seventh day of June Eighteen hundred and thirty two and after being duly sworn according to law doth declare on his oath that he is the son of Burrell Tabourn who Enlisted in the war of the revolution in the year Seventeen hundred and eighty-one For the term of Twelve months under Capt Lytle and after he had served out that time he was drafted for a twelve month tour in the year of Seventeen hundred and eighty two as he has always heard his said father say who will more fully appear by two certificates which he has procured from the Secretary of the State of North Carolina, which he submits as evidence in Connection with his own of his Said Fathers services.

And further declares that his said Father Burrell Tabourn died leaving no widow and that his said father Burrell Tabourn died on the Ninth day of January Eighteen hundred and fortytwo and that he was Eighty one years old when he died and that he himself is forty nine years old and that he has three Brothers and two Sisters Namely Larkin Tabourn forty seven years old, Caleb Tabourn Thirtyfive years old, Boling Tabourn twentyeight years old, Beady Tabourn who intermarried with one Berry Locust Thirtytwo years old and Elizabeth Tabourn Thirty years old and he Further declares that his said Father was at the time he entered the Service a resident of the County of Nash and remained as Such up to this death and that he himself and all his brothers and sisters are Residents of the County of Nash and State aforesaid

And he Further declares that he has always heard his Father Say that he served the last Tower under the same Capt as he did the first two and he said Hardiman Further declares that he hims [sic] and he in behalf of his Brother and Sisters do hereby relinquish all Right to a pension whatever Except this

Sworn and subscribed to the day and date before written Before me  Francis M. Taylor  Hardiman X Tabourn

——

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Caleb Tayborne, 51, wife Susan, 50, and children Quilly, 20, Jane, 15, Owen, 15, Martha, 12, Larkin, 12, and Sallie, 10.  Also, Larkin Tayborne, 57, wife Rebecca, 68, Ricks, 24, and Levenia, 15.  Also, Berry Locust, 50, wife Beedy, 45, and children Arthur, 25, Eliza, 19, Hepsy A., 16, Ivah, 15, Alsey, 12, Henry, 10, and Leymon, 8.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: Hardy Tabourn, 70, farm laborer, living alone.

From the file of Burrell Tabourn, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives and Records Administration.

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.