Letters

Rev. Clark congratulates The Age.

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New York Age, 9 February 1935.

In 1935, Rev. Thomas G. Clark sent a congratulatory letter to mark the New York Age’s “50 years of untrammeled service to the race, nation and the world.” In it, he revealed details of his early educational struggles, and the epiphany to which Edward A. Johnson’s A School History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1890 brought him. [Johnson, born enslaved in Wake County in 1860, was educated at Atlanta University and wrote A School History at the urging of a school superintendent. The book was the first by an African-American author to be approved for use in North Carolina’s public schools. (Sidenote: I won’t rest until I secure a copy.)]

 

Letters to Santa Claus.

In early December 1948, the Daily Times published letters to Santa from William B. “Billy” Davis Jr. and Diana Davis (now Myers), children of William B. and Hazel Ingram Myers.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1948.

The children wrote again a few days later with revised lists. (Only the request for a baby brother remained constant.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1948.

I never drove off any.

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Wilson N.C. Dec 22 1865.

Capt. G.O. Glavis, Capt.

I have received your communication by the hands of Mary. I of course do not know what kind of statement has been made to you; but I will make one myself. I have settled with all my employees to their satisfaction. As soon as it was announced that negroes were free I offered wages to those who could earn anything, and expressly told the others I could not give them wages, among these were Mary and Sukey. Mary had 3 children and she was not fit for steady hard work. She was worked as she saw fit. One of her children was sick one month during summer. I employed a physician to attend him, during all this time the mother did not go to work at all. I furnished their diet, houses and all their clothes until they left. The other Sukey has two children and an aged grandfather & mother the last two have not worked for a great many years, and this grand daughter spent a good deal of her time in attention upon them & her children.

I further state that I never drove off any. Who have gone did so of their own accord.

Respectfully &c., J.H. Adams

——

In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, North Carolina, Jesse H. Adams is listed as the owner of 31 enslaved people living in six dwellings. In the population census, Adams is described as a farmer, but he was also proprietor of the newly opened Adams Hotel.

I am unable to identify Mary, Sukey or their families.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

Oust him.

Wilson, N.C., July 31st 1865

J.B. Woodard

Sir, you will oust or cause to leave Mr. L.D. Farmer’s premises one negro man by the name of Warren, also his wife. Should he refuse to leave and not return, bring him to me. Call in any person to your assistance.    W.J. Bullock, Capt. L.P.Y.

——

I have not been able to identify Warren or his wife or the reason Larry Dew Farmer wanted them off his property so soon after Emancipation.

Letter transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,” republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.

Sukey’s journey, part 1.

Recd. of Jas. B. Woodard a negro girl Sucky in his possession as Execr. of Obedience Brownrigg decd., the legacy of Alfred Brownrigg which said girl was sold by Alfred Brownrigg to Edwin Brownrigg in as good health & Condition as he recd. her under the will of Mrs. Brownrigg, and obligates to hold him the sd. Woodard harmless in Event any difficulty should rise from the delivery of sd. negro.    Feby. 14th 1842  Jno. Wright for Edwin Brownrigg

——

Waynesboro, N.C., 15 Feb. 1842

Edwin Barnes, Esq., Tosnot Depot

Dr Sir, You will please hand Mr. Barnes the above receipt for Sucky. If it does not suit him, write out any thing to give him such as will satisfy him. I am under many obligations to you for the trouble I have put you to in this and other matters of mine. I am much in hopes yr health will speedily return.

Yours Truly, Jno. Wright

——

This note and receipt are transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian, republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society in 2003. What is going on here?

Obedience Thomas Tartt Brownrigg died in 1840, likely on her plantation near White Oak Swamp in what was then Edgecombe County. She had drafted a will in April 1839, and among its many bequests were these:

  • to daughter Maria Burden [Borden] — “Tom Penny Dennis & William & Maria & Jim & Ellick
  • to son Alfred Brownrigg — “one negro girl by the name of Susan”
  • to daughter Obedience Wright — “one boy Henry one boy Lonor one negroe woman named Winny one boy Bryant one boy John also one girl named Angy & Anscy
  • also to daughter Obedience Wright — “one negro woman named Cloy one negro man named Joe and all my Table & Tea Spoons it it my Will and desire that the labor of Joe Shall Support the Old Woman Cloy her life time then Joe to Obedience Wright”

Obedience Brownrigg’s first husband was Elnathan Tartt, who died in 1796. As shown here, he bequeathed his wife an enslaved woman named Cloe [Chloe], who is surely the Cloy named above, and man named Ellic, who is probably Ellick.

Obedience’s second husband was George Brownrigg, who died without a will in 1821. An inventory of his estate included enslaved people Ellick, Chloe, Joe, Jem, Tom, Penny, Drury, Tom, Annie, Matilda, Suckey, Clara, Fereba, Sarah, Clarky, Anthony, Rachel, Mary, Nelson, Emily, Julia and Abram, and several others unnamed in a petition for division of negroes filed by his heirs in 1825. Ellick and Chloe surely are the man and woman Obedience brought to the marriage. I have not found evidence of the distribution of George Brownrigg’s enslaved property, but Joe, Tom, Penny and Susan seem to have passed to his wife Obedience. (Suckey, pronounced “Sooky,” was a common nickname for Susan.)

So, back to the receipt.

George Brownrigg bequeathed Susan “Sukey” to his widow Obedience about 1821. Obedience Brownrigg in turn left Sukey to her son Alfred Brownrigg. Alfred Brownrigg quickly sold Sukey to his brother Edwin Barnes Brownrigg. On 15 February 1842, Edwin’s representative John Wright took possession of Sukey from James B. Woodard, Obedience Brownrigg’s executor. Wright was married to Eliza Obedience Brownrigg Wright, daughter to Obedience Brownrigg and sister to Alfred and Edwin.

The note is less clear. Wright, who lived in Waynesborough (once the Wayne County seat, now long defunct) is asking someone (the unnamed “sir”) to deliver the receipt to Edwin Barnes of Toisnot Depot (now Wilson.) There were several Edwin Barneses in southeast Edgecombe (to become Wilson) County at that time.  And Edwin Brownrigg’s middle name was Barnes. Are Edwin Barnes and Edwin Brownrigg the same man, whose name was misgiven in one or the documents? In other words, should the receipt have been made out instead to the Edwin Barnes mentioned in the note? If this were the case, the note would make immediate sense. As to Sukey, I’ll explore a possible twist to her story in another post.]

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

 

A great question affecting their welfare.

On 1 September 1887, John H. Williamson of the North Carolina Industrial Association wrote Samuel H. Vick seeking his assistance. Vick was head of the Wilson County chapter of the association, and this letter is found at the Freeman Round House and Museum:

My Dear Sir:

I shall be present in your city and address the people Sept. 8, 1887, on the Fair and progress of the race.

Will you please aid in securing a place for speaking and see that a large audience is obtained as I desire to talk to them on what I consider a great question effecting their welfare. I have sent hand bills.

Yours most truly,

Jno. H. Williamson, Sect.

Were they illegally bound?

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Bureau R.F.&A.L. Goldsboro May 18 /67

Edwards Marcellus J., Wilson N.C.

Sir

Complaint has been made at this office that the boy Freeman and the girls Amanda & Bethany now living with you were illegally bound to you You will please forward a statement of the case to this office on or before the 23rd inst and show cause if any exist why the indentures should not be cancelled.

I am Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servt

A. Compton, Major 40th U.S.I., Sub Asst Com

——

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Marcellus Edwards, 42; his children Emma, 16, Sallie, 14, Mary, 13, William, 10, Julia, 9, Marcellus, 6, Joseph, 2, and James, 1; Virginia Edwards, 25; plus Freeman, 18, Amand, 16, and Bethena Edwards, 12, all farmer’s apprentices.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org.

Condolences on assassination of President McKinley.

Correspondence from and to Owen L.W. Smith, Consul General to Liberia, concerning the assassination of President William McKinley.

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Papers Related to the Foreign Relations of the United States with the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 3, 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902).

The mother does not wish him to have them.

A man named Abram sought the Freedman’s Bureau’s help in removing his children from John Bailey Batts’ indenture, and Batts wanted to set the record straight. With hubris typical of the times, Batts claimed to have raised the children (by virtue of having held them in slavery from their birth). Abram had once been married to an unnamed woman, but he had left her for Penny. Several children later, Abram left Penny, but was now claiming custody of their children. According to Batts, neither he nor Penny wanted the father to have them.

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Joyners N.C. Jany 12th 1866

Agent of Freedmen Goldsborough N.C.

Sir, I write to inform you of the condition of colored children born with and so far raised by me the man Abram that claims them had wife and she is still living but he left her and took up with Penny at my home she has several children by him but he has left her (Penny) but now claims her children the mother does not wish him to have them and those you bound to me I wish to retain. Penny can give her statement and I wish to hear from you please write to me and send by the woman Penny or by mail to Joyners Depot N.C. Your favorable consideration will much oblige

Yours verry truly, John B. Batts

——

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer John B. Batts, 32; wife Margaret, 23; children Mary A.F., 4, and Nancy H., 1; Eveline Morris, 21; and farm laborer Elba Lassiter, 16. [Lassiter was a free person of color who probably had been apprenticed to Batts.] Batts reported $1600 in real property and $7740 in personal property [which would mostly have been in the form of enslaved people.]

Batts is not listed in the 1870 census, though he likely remained in Wilson or Nash Counties. I have not been able to identify Abram or Penny.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

We are now friendly with each other.

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Joyners Depot NC Dec 26th 1865

Geo. O. Elavis [Glavis], Agt. Freeman Bureau, Goldsboro N.C.

Sir Louis Bearer of a repot ordering me to appear before you in Goldsboro on the 27th of the present inst. for trial has repoted to me. And find me in Verry feble health also short of funs inlily too unwell to come down by the time that you have ordered me to do.

I am one of the Home polease of Wilson Co and have been ever since the surrender of the Army. And had Louis under arest when he left me and carried off my doble Barrel Gunn. Louis now has come & diliverd to me the Gunn and has been given all of his clothing. And myself & Louis are now friendly with each other and Louis tels me that he is coming back soon to work on my land &c.

Louis will sattisfy you inreguards to the former order

Please write me at Joyners Depot & let me know if I can be let off from coming down to see you

I am Verry Respecfully yours &c, J.H. Armstrong

P.S. I will be prepared in afew days if compell to come down

——

  • Louis — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Lewis Armstrong, 23; wife Vicey, 17; Chester Garrett, 16; and Mary E. Parker, 4.
  • J.H. Armstrong — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farmer Jas. H. Armstrong, 57; wife Emily, 56; and children Amos, 19, Carolina, 17, William, 15, and David W., 13; plus servant Martha Watson, 16.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org