Reconstruction

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.

Were the Fisher children regularly bound?

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Mr. Burnell, No. 11, Wilson, N.C.             Goldsboro N.C. March 8 1866

Sir,

You are requested to inform this office if you have in your employ two (col) boys, named Beverly & Henry Fisher, aged 12 & 14 years, formerly of Dinwiddie Va. Please state if these children are regularly bound to you, or if there exist any reason, why they should not be returned to the custody of their parents, who have made application to this Office for this return.     Very respectfully, Hannibal D. Norton

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.

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

I have no men to send for them.

Though Wilson is a few miles closer to Rocky Mount, Wilson County was under the jurisdiction of the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The people of northeastern Wilson County — the area around Elm City — were closely tied to southeastern Nash and southwestern Edgecombe Counties, and many families moved frequently across county lines for work and family.

In this letter, William Cox, the assistant superintendent at the Rocky Mount field office referred a matter to Goldsboro. In a nutshell: father and son Spencer and Churchwell Bullock signed a labor contract with James J. Taylor of Joyners Depot (now Elm City) in Wilson County. However, the Bullocks had left Taylor’s employ to work for E. Ferrell in “this county” (either Edgecombe or Nash County, Rocky Mount straddles the county line and Joyners Depot was close to both). Cox had no staff to spare to go out and round up the Bullocks and, in any case, because Taylor’s farm was in Wilson County and the contract therefore was approved by the Goldsboro F.O., the problem was not his.

Freedmen’s Bureau, Rocky Mount April 25th, 1866.

Captain Geo. O Glavis, U.S.A., Asst. Supt. Bureau of R.F. and A.L., Goldsboro, N.C.

Captain:

I have the honor to request that two freedmen, Spencer Bullock, and Church Bullock, his son, who have entered into a written contract with Mr. Jas. J. Taylor of Wilson County, and who have left him, The contract is approved by You, The freedmen are now living in this County, on the plantation of E. Ferrell Near Joiners Depot in this County, I have no men to send for them, and as the contract was drawn up in Your County, and as Mr. Taylor lives in Wilson County, I have referred the case to you,

I am, Captain,

Very respectfully, William F. Cox, 2d Lieut. and Asst. Supt.

P.S. I suppose the reason why Mr. Taylor did not go to you is that freedmen are in this county. W.F. Cox

——

In the 1870 census of Tarboro township, Wilson County: farm laborer Spencer Bullock, 56; wife Mathilda, 53; and children Georgewell [Churchwell], 17, Emeline, 9, Leda, 8, and Louisia, 3.

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

Their father claimed them.

Don’t let anyone tell you that slavery destroyed the black family. African-Americans struggled against terrible odds to unite sundered families, often standing up to authority in the process.

In June 1866, George W. Blount wrote a letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau on behalf of Josiah D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County. Just months after being forced to free them, Jenkins had indentured eight siblings whose mother had died. Within six months, the children’s family had come for them, and the five oldest had left for more agreeable situations. Sallie, 14, Sookie, 12, and Isabella, 10, were in Wilson County with their elder sister and her husband Willie Bullock. Arden, 16, was working for what appears to be a commercial partnership in Tarboro, and Bethania, 14, was with her and Arden’s father Jonas Jenkins (paternity that Blount pooh-poohed.) Jonas Jenkins had sought custody of his children before their indenture, but his claims had been trumped by a “suitable” white man who “ought” to have them because he had “raised them from infancy” [i.e., held them in slavery since birth] and their mother “died in his own house.”

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Wilson No.Ca. June 29 1866

Col. Brady   Col.

Mr. Jo. D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County has been here expecting to see you; but as he did not find you here he requested me to write to you and state his case, asking you to furnish him the remedy if any he is entitled to, and such he believes he has. In Dec 1865, Capt Richards Asst Sup F.B. for the dist of Tarboro, Apprenticed to him Eight (8) Orphan Colored children. The indentures he has, five, and the only ones large enough to render any service have been enticed away from him, leaving him with three who are hardly able to care for the own wants every thing furnished. Three of them are in the custody of Willie Bullock F.M. [freedman] whose wife is the older sister of the three. The others – Arden is in the employment of Messrs. Haskell & Knap near Tarboro. Bethania is in the custody of Jonas Jenkins F.M., who claims to be the father of both of her & Arden. The three first mentioned are in Wilson County the others in Edgecombe.

Mr. Jenkins desires me to say to you that if he cannot be secured in the possession of them he desires the indentures cancelled; for according to law he would be liable for Doctors bills – and to take care of them in case of an accident rendering them unable to take care of themselves.

This man Jonas set up claim to Arden and Bethania before they were apprenticed. The matter was referred to Col Whittlesey who decided that as they were bastard children he Jonas could not intervene preventing apprenticeship to a suitable person.

Mr. J is a suitable man to have charge of them and ought to have their services now. He raised them from infancy, and after the mother died in his own house

I am Col,                       Very Respectfully &c, G.W. Blount

An early reply desired.

A note from the file listing the Jenkins children to which Josiah D. Jenkins laid claim.

——

Entry for Josiah D. Jenkins in the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County. By 1860, Jenkins claimed ownership of 36 people, evenly divided between men and women. 

  • G.W. Blount — A year later, George W. Blount was embroiled in his own battle for control over formerly enslaved children. He lost.
  • Jo. D. Jenkins — Joseph [Josiah] D. Jenkins appears in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, as a 59 year-old farmer who reported $25,000 in real property and $15,000 in personal property — remarkable wealth so soon after the Civil War. John Jenkins, 10, domestic servant, is the only black child living in his household and presumably of the one of the children at issue here.
  • Bethania Jenkins — on 7 April 1874, Turner Bullock, 23, married Bethany Jenkins, 21, in Edgecombe County.
  • Willie Bullock
  • Arden Jenkins
  • Sallie Jenkins
  • Sookie Jenkins
  • Isabella Jenkins — Isabella Jenkins, 22, married Franklin Stancil, 30, on 16 April 1878 at Jackson Jenkins’ in Edgecombe County. Isabelle Stancill died 19 November 1927 in Township No. 2, Edgecombe County,. Per her death certificate, she was about 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County; was the widow of Frank Stancill; and was buried in Jenkins cemetery. Elliott Stancill was informant,
  • Jonas Jenkins — in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, Jonas Jenkins, 45, farm laborer. No children are listed in the household he shared with white farmer John E. Baker.

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

Barnes reports an outrage.

A year after Austin F. Flood‘s plea to the Freedmen’s Bureau, Van Buren Winbourn continued to terrorize African-Americans in Wilson. In this letter, a Central District superintendent directed his assistant in Goldsboro to refer this complaint to Wilson County authorities and, if they failed to act, to arrest and jail Winbourn and his gang. I have not located Jacob Barnes‘ referenced affidavit.

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Office Superintendent Bureau Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Central District

Raleigh, N.C., August 25th, 1866.

Maj. Jas. W.H. Stickney, Asst. Supt. Sub District of Goldsboro N.C.

Major

Jacob Barnes freedman of Wilson in your sub District complains that an outrage was committed upon him by “Van Winman” and seven others, citizens of Wilson with intent to kill, for full particulars in this case your attention is invited to the enclosed Affidavit taken before me — Present this case to the proper County Authorities and if upon your application in behalf of this freedman, they neglect or refuse to arrest and bring to trial the offenders, in accordance with G.O. No. 3, current series Hd.Qrs. Asst.Com. N.C. and in accordance with Genl Grants G.O. No. 44. You will arrest the offenders and send them to Raleigh to be “detained in Military confinement until such time as a proper justicial tribunal may be ready and willing to try them.”

Very respectfully, A.G. Br[illegible], Bvt. Col. and Supt.

——

  • Jacob Barnes — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Hardy Barnes, 50; wife Mary, 49; and children Alfred, 21, Riley, 24, Jacob, 22, Isaac, 19, Warren, 17, Zilly, 12, Mary, 9, and Wade, 6.
  • “Genl Grants G.O. No. 44” — General Order 44 directed division and department commanders in the former Confederate states “to arrest all persons who have been or may hereafter be charged with the commission of crimes and offenses against officers, agents, citizens, and inhabitants of the United States, irrespective of color, in cases where the civil authorities have failed, neglected, or are unable to arrest and bring such parties to trial, and to detain them in military confinement until such time as a proper judicial tribunal may be ready and willing to try them.” General Orders, No. 44, Headquarters of the Army, Adjutant General’s Office, 6 July 1866, Orders & Circulars, series 44, Adjutant General’s Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.

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

Perkins seized his corn.

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Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abd Lands, Sub Dist Goldsboro May 7/ 1867

Mr. John Perkins, Black Creek NC

Sir, Information has been received at this office that you seized one Bbl [barrel] and one stand of corn valued at $6.67 2/3 the property of Isaac Winsted to liquidate a debt due you from his father. You will please send to this office a written statement of the matter

Very Respectfully &c

O.E. Compton, Major USA Sub Asst Com


Pikeville N.C., June 1st 1867

O.E. Compton, Goldsboro N.C.

Sir, I have only yesterday 31st May received the within from you ishued 7th Inst. in reply I have to say that I rented or leased some land to Riched Winstead the father of Isaac & Prince Winsted. he Richard bout provisions of me in time that he was making the corn and pledged the corn to pay the amount at harves but before he paid me all he turned over or pretendidly give the corn to his Sones, but he had pledged me the corn to pay the amount, so I did not really take any of Isaac’s corn in his possession &c I can prove the above to be true by two witnesses.

Written by R.W. Perkins by request        Yours respectfully, John Perkins

——

  • John Perkins — Perkins, born in 1844, was a Confederate veteran, having enlisted in Company F, North Carolina 61st Infantry Regiment in 1862.
  • Isaac Winstead

In the 1870 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Richard Winstead, 80, farm laborer; wife Phillis, 57; and children Frank, 12, Anna, 6, and Isaac, 28.

On 27 April 1873, Isaac Winsted, 30, of Wilson County, married Caroline Batchelor, 30, of Nash County, in Taylors.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Isaac Winstead, 38; wife Caroline, 38; children Lizzie, 12, and Jane, 8; and mother Phillis, 70.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farm laborer Isaac Winstead, 79, and wife Calline, 75.

Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was 78 years old; his father was Dick Winstead; and he was a tenant farmer for J.S. Thompson. Informant was E.E. Winstead. (A duplicate certificate shows: Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was about 70 years old; was born in Wilson County; and he was a farmer for J.S. Thompson was informant.)

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868; 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 

You have never known the cruelties of these people.

Three months after the Confederacy surrendered, the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau received this shocking letter from an African-American resident of Wilson. Austin F. Flood poured his anguish and anger into four pages detailing the outrages of authorities against freedmen in the county. Though some of the perpetrators of violence were former Confederates, Flood pointed a steady finger at so-called Union men who also terrorized and abused formerly enslaved men and women.

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Wilson July the 16 to 1865

Dear Sir

I take the opportunity of writeing you these few lines because I under stand you to be the head ruler ove this Steate in Millitary act. And this I write to you secretly in feare of my life. For in the present condision we can not helpe our Selves. Because thes people has every advantege of us and they are makeing use of it. The free men are under very good beheaveior here; And yet they cant see any peace at all. The rebes is about take the Town because we cant help our Selves Because we are without any thing to Protect us. For they sent the cunstable around to every free man s houses and taken all the wepons they said by General Schorfield. they were com manded to do it. And thuse we gave them up because we thought it was demanded of us by him. And not with Standing I thought at the Same time in a certain [illegible] that he was giveing them

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a Stick not only to breake my head But also his even the heads of all the Northren People whom I love as my Self. Yea I say more then love them. Therefore I look to them for protection. Why am I keept from my libberties Because you have never known the cruilties of these People Who says they are Union men when they are not. For am I acquainted with bot Heavenly an National union and it is as much imposible to mix union and secess as it is to mix Oil an Water. Ive been watching them for twenty-eight months and there is but three union principles about the place and that is Wilie Daniel an Lawyer Langston — T.C. Christmond. These are all that I can look opond as Such. And if these officers be Union men Why do they keep all your ordinances conceiled frome us And try so harde to place a Yoke of thiere own opond us when this is not your Militry rules. They receives your commans and make thiere own laws. Taken down the free men an striping them without liefe or licens. Carring them to Jail and Whiping them [illegible]

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The cunsable Thom Hadly a few days a go or rather at neight took a man at his work And carid him to his house and Striped him with out Law And this thing are going continuely in the Country Wm Batts stroped two this Weak and gave them a bige dink I surpose not to say anything about it. Johnathan Bullock discharging two loads after a yonge man to make him go home to his Master to work. The Cunstable are ruled more by the rebs then he is by the officers as they so call in nam. But not in principle. They say that have every thing in thiere hands to do as they please. And a Negro shall not be equill with him. Before he shall they will kill him. And this they have stated to do. We have to pay taxes and yet we have no priverledge. We dar to walk almost after night without being put in Jail. And the rebs going where he pleases. And they have gon so far that we are almost a fraide to Stay in the house after night Last Friday night the town was in a larm with the cry of a free [illegible] Men who disguised them Selves

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And wente to the house wher he staid and routed him. And as he jumped out the window. A pistol was fired on him. And by the time he tuched the grown one struck him with a gun. And by that time there four on him Choping with sabers an beating on him with greate stick. And hollowing murder an help nor man could go to him. Willie Dannel atempted to go to him And they threatened his life for they had sentenals out to keepe others off. Ben Lanston and the Cunstaple: Sid Clark Van Winman and Rube Winman. And they have almost ruin him. And it never will be no better untill you send men here and put this place to rights. And this is what has never been done. For the men that was sent here worked every thing to our disadvantage and I’m [in] the faviour of these People. I writ you these things secretly. Please send to our releife for we are here in this place And I will more then thank you.  Yours, A.F. Flood

——

  • General Schorfield — Gen. John McAlister Schofield,
  • Wilie Daniel — Willie Daniel (1820-1897), wealthy planter and merchant, owner of 18 enslaved people as reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, neutral during the Civil War
  • Lawyer Lanston
  • T.C. Christmond — not Thomas F. Christman, who died in 1861.
  • Thom. Hadly — Thomas Jefferson Hadley IV (1838-1917), Confederate captain.
  • Wm. Batts
  • Johnathan Bullock — Jonathan Bullock (1822-??), farmer.
  • Ben Lanston
  • Sid Clark — Sidney Phineas Clark (1841-1896), born in Connecticut, Confederate captain.
  • Van Winman — Van Buren Winbourn (1838-1889), Confederate private.
  • Rube Winman — Reuben Winborne (1832-??), brother of Van, Confederate private.
  • A.F. Flood — I’ve been able to find little about Austin F. Flood, a Missionary Baptist minister who was born in slavery, probably in Pitt County, North Carolina. His letter indicates that he had been observing conditions in Wilson for 28 months, which would put his arrival in about March 1863. A year and two days after penning this letter, he filed a petition with the Bureau seeking an officer to arrest a “villain” in Greenville. Shortly after, he and Frances Delany registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Pitt County justice. In the 1870 census of Greenville, Pitt County: Austin Flood, 47; wife Francis, 35; children Della, 18, John, 16, Warren, 15, Louisa, 13, Josaphine, 8, Netta, 2, and Hetta, 5 months; and Dorey Paten, 17, hosler. Flood remained in Greenville the rest of his life. He was active in local Republican politics and Baptist leadership, helping establish several churches in the Pitt County area.

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

Toney Robbins’ side: “Please send me a paper so as I can get them.”

In August 1867, John J. Pender complained to the Freedmen’s Bureau that Toney Robbins was harassing him about Pender’s apprenticeship of three children who Robbins claimed were his grandchildren. Pender asserted that Robbins had no children, much less grandchildren. The Bureau apparently sided with Pender, as the children were with him in 1870 when the census taker passed through.

Here is one of Robbins’ letters pleading for the Bureau to intercede on his behalf.

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Joyners Depot Wilison Co NC   August 5th 1867

Freedmen Bureau

I ha [written] 2 or 3 letter to Maj Crompto a Bout 3 of my grand Children nor [illegible] Eny Anser then wrote to General Every at Raleigh he said go to the Freedmen Bureau at Rockey Mount in Edgecone County the children is in Wilison County he told me to write to you it was out of his Power as it was in Wilison County

Thy or not Bound By law, So Plese Send me a Paper So as I can get them thy ar living With John J. Pender of Wilison Co

I wait an Anser [illegible] with Respets Tony Robins

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner), Roll 17, Letters received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

There was about 1200 colored people.

The Freedmen’s Bureau also lent aid to impoverished white people. M.A. Gay’s letter to Major Compton began with a breezy description of the African-American Fourth of July celebration in Joyners Depot [Elm City] and ended in a plea for food assistance.

Joyners Depot Wilson Co NC

Mag Comton  Kinde Sir

I again seat my self to drop you a few lines which I hope will soon reach your hand. we had a nice time on the fourth I note there was a bout 12 hundred Col people assembled at this place and formed a prosession and marched up and down the streets with music in front they had a butifull dinner. I was much pleased with what you sent to me. I again am oblige to beg you I am nearly out of meat but I have some corn I have been sick nearly all the time and have not been able to help my self to any thing you will pleas send it to Mr Joseph Conte as before I would be glad if you could arrang it so as to send me my rashons every month Mr Conte will make it all right how and his wife are particular friends of mine yours with respets, you will pleas write to me     M.A. Gay

——

  • M.A. Gay — probably, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Mary Gay, 34, seamstress, and son Edwin, 3.
  • Joseph Conte — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail]; wife Mary, 28; and Joseph Totten, 29, clerk in store. The Contes were born in Italy; Totten, in Maine.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters Received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org