Slavery

I do like they done.

Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.

“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.

“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.

“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”

“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.

“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.

“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else.  She kept me and”

“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.

“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”

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In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.

Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.

In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.

In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.

In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.

In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.

Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.

Spicie Eatman dies.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 January 1944.

In the 1940 census of Bailey township, Nash County: on Finch Perry Road, farmer James Terrel, 60; wife Della, 58; children Luther, 26, Jessie D., 24, and Millard, 15; grandson Robert, 14; and lodge Spicy Eatmon, 99, an old age pensioner.

Spicie Eatman died in the Wilson County Home and was buried at New Vester. Her death certificate identified her mother as Gracie Flowers.

[Sidenote: I know nothing more about Spicie Eatman. I can say unequivocally, however, that the twenty years she spent enslaved were not the sum total of her long life.]

Received of Penny Lassiter.

James B. Woodard registered the receipt he issued to free woman of color Penny Lassiter for the $150 she paid to purchase her husband London Woodard in 1855. Though not legally manumitted, London lived essentially as a free man for the next ten years until Emancipation.

Deed book 1, page 155, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

W. Alfred Boykin house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This fine early nineteenth-century house [near Sims] was probably built between 1830 and 1840 for William Alfred Boykin, one of Wilson’s first commissioners. Boykin was born in 1814 in what was then Nash County. He was a son of Hardy Boykin Jr. and acted as the administrator of his father’s estate in 1837. Boykin married Elizabeth Barnes of Black Creek in 1832, and this house was probably erected shortly after their marriage. … The house, as it stands today, is a rare example of pre-Civil War architecture in Wilson County. As the home of an affluent farmer, the Boykin House reflects the life style of this influential and civic-minded man. On the exterior, the simple gable-roof house is enriched by two bands of dentils and scalloped wooden trim. The shed porch is enclosed at each end by sleeping rooms and the subtle peak of the porch ceiling above the two panelled front doors has a decorative effect.”

——

In the 1860 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Alfred Boykin, 45, farmer; wife Elizabeth, 48; and children Temperance, 27, Patience, 19, Hardy, 17, Mahala, 15, Alfred B., 14, Sarah and Lenora, 11, Martha, 6, Addison, 6, and Lerozah, 7 months. Boykin listed $4910 in real property and $4800 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included 4 enslaved girls and women ranging from 6 to 26 years old and one enslaved boy, age 8.

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.

The life and times of Nathan W. Boyette.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 1921.

In a nutshell: Nathan W. Boyette lived at 210 Pender Street. He was born 18 September 1850 and was enslaved in Old Fields township by Jimmy Boyette. He was the second oldest of 11, eight boys and three girls. His mother Julie was literate and taught her children to read and write. In October 1865, Boyette purchased a Blueback Speller from Moses Rountree’s store at Tarboro and Broad Streets in Wilson. In 1871, he began subscribing to the Wilmington Post. Before he was 20, he became Sunday school superintendent at New Vester Baptist Church. Shortly after, he moved to Goldsboro and went to work for “Old Man” John Robinson. After seven years, he became a carpenter and continued to work into his 70s. In 1920 Boyette married his sixth wife. All but one — Roscoe Boyette — of his 14 children were dead. However, Roscoe’s whereabouts since his discharge from the military after World War I were unknown. Boyette was hardworking and thrifty and gave up his sole vice, smoking, as a condition of his last marriage. He had only been inside a courtroom to serve as a juror three times. He was a member of the Missionary Baptist Church on East Nash Street. “Never had a doctor but once in my life and then I could have done without him. The Lord has been good to me.”

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The 1860 slave schedule of Old Fields township, Wilson County, lists James Boyett as the owner of eight enslaved people: a 28 year-old woman [Julia?]; six boys aged 19, 12, 9 [Nathan?], 7, 4 and 2; and a girl aged 8. They were housed in two dwellings.

On 23 February 1882, Nathan Boyett, 31, of Wayne County, son of Moses Bayley and Julia Bayley of Wilson County, married Charity Crow, 27, of Wayne County, daughter of Jorden and Jane Crow of Wayne County, in Mount Olive, Brogden township, Wayne County, North Carolina.

On 2 March 1904, Nathan Boyette, 53, married Louisa Fowler, 38, daughter of Suckey Wiggins, in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Boyette Nathan carp h 210 Pender; Boyette Emma dom h 210 Pender.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Boyett Nathan W (c, Emma) carp h 210 Pender

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 115 West Walnut Street, rented for $20/month,  Nathan Boyette, 79, and Emma Boyette, 56, cook for private family.

Nathan Boyett died 2 June 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 February 1850 in Wilson County to Moses Bailey and Julia Boyett of Wilson County; had worked as a laborer until three months prior to his death; was married to Emma Boyett; and lived at 115 West Walnut. [Note that Nathan Boyette adopted his mother (and former owner’s) surname upon Emancipation. Julia Boyette apparently died before 1870. In that census Moses Bailey is listed as the single parent of several children, and on 5 January 1871, he married Isabella Renfrow in Wilson County. Per their marriage license, Bailey was the son of Benja Bryant and Juda Jones.]

Receipt for negro slaves.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 January 1950.

This brief article appeared in a edition of the Daily Times celebrating Wilson’s centennial. It possibly raises more questions than it sheds light:

  • Did this transaction take place in Wilson County? Burket Barnes and Jethro Aycock appear in Wayne County census records after Wilson County’s 1855 creation.
  • How many enslaved people did Barnes sell to Aycock? The $3400 sale price suggests several. (And why did the Daily Times see fit to omit their names in 1950?)
  • Does the last paragraph relate to the receipt?
  • “One of the negro slaves of the township”? I assume the township is Wilson township, and the reference is to formerly enslaved people.
  • Wiggins Mill was a grist mill on Contentnea Creek, and the modern dam and reservoir can be seen from U.S. 301 South.
  • Who was “Aunt Sylvia“? The 1940 census of Wilson County reveals only one African-American woman named Sylvia in Wilson township old enough to have been enslaved, and barely. Sylvia Jones‘ age was estimated as 75, which yields an 1865 birth year. However, Jones noted that she had lived in Edgecombe County just five years earlier, and in the 1930 census she was living in Toisnot township. And only 50 years old.

 

The last wills and testaments of Joel Newsom Sr. and Jr.

In the name of God amen I Joel Newsom Senr of the State of No. Carolina & County of Wayne being in a low State of Health but of Perfect mind & memory do make & ordain this my last will & Testament in manner & form as follow towit —

Item — I lend unto my wif Pennellopy Newsom one half my plantation whereon I now live with half the west room of my Dwelling house & Kitchin — also one feather berd & furniture half dozin siting chears two Puter dishes two Basons haf Dozen Plates the Iron ware that belongs to the Ketchen a sufficent quantity of Corn & fodder as will serve her & her family one year & a sufficient quantity of Provision as will last her & family the same term & two Cows & Calves two Sows & Pigs also the sum of fifty dollars to purches her a Horse — also Two negroes (to wit) Tom & Nel — also as much cotton flax & wool as Shall be sufficient to serve her & family for one year also four Ews also two Plow hoes two weading hoes one ax & one grubbing hoe — the above named Property I lend unto my wife during her natural life or widowhood & after her death or widow hood it it my will & desire that the whole be Sold & be disposed of as I Shall hereafter direct

Item I give & bequeath unto my son Joel Newsom all the tract of Land on the south Side of the March Branch & negro Sam to him & his heirs for ever

… I have hereunto set my hand & seal this 26th Sept 1818 attest — Joel X Newsom     Benjn. Simms, Stephen Woodard

——

In the name of God, Amen, I Joel Newsom of the county of wayne and State of No Carolina being in a low state of health, but in sound mind and memory, do make and ordain this to be my last will and Testament, as follows – (viz)

Item, 1st, I Give and bequeath unto my son Larry Newsom, all my lands lying on the south side of black Creek (i.e.) the lands whereon I formaly, the lands whereon Sally Daniel now lives, and also the lands I purchased of Willis Garner and also a tract of piney land adjoining the tract I bought of Willis Garner, I also give and bequeath unto my Son Larry Newsom, four negroes (viz) Harry, Allen, Ben, and Tom, to him and his heirs forever ….

Item 2nd I lend unto my daughter, Zilpha Daniel and my son in law Jap. Daniel, my lands I bought of Elisha Daniel, lying between black Creek and Cotentna creek, with the exception of the fruit that may grow in the orchard on said lands, untill my Grand son Larry Daniel, son of Jas. & Zilpha Dan’l arrives to the age of twenty one years, I also lend unto my daughter Zilpha Daniel one negro girl named Hanner during her lifetime ….

Item 3rd I Give and bequeath unto my son James Newsom my tract of land whereon I now live lying on the north side of black creek also three negroe boys (viz) Tony, Will and Sam ….

Item 5th I give and bequeath unto my sister Patience Pearce a negro Girl by the name of Dill, to her and her heirs forever

Signed Sealed and acknowledged in the presence of us – John Rowe, Burket Barnes       Joel Newsom Augt. 14th 1837

——

The Newsoms lived in the Black Creek area of Wayne County, which became part of the new Wilson County in 1855.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, North Carolina, Ben Newsome headed a household that included wife Edna, 31, and children Amos, 10, Gray, 7, Penelope, 6, and Mary, 2. It is likely that Newsome was the Ben referred to Joel Newsom Jr.’s will 33 years earlier. (Note that one of his daughters shared a first name with Joel Newsom Jr.’s mother Penelope.) As required by law, Benjamin Newsome and Edna Newsome registered their 16-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866. (Edna was likely considerably older than 31 in 1870.) Harry Newsom, who may have been the Harry listed in Newsome Jr.’s will, registered his ten-year cohabitation with Rachel Woodard in 1866.

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Image of original will available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Shadrach and Keziah Simms Dickinson house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This Georgian cottage is said to have been the dwelling of Keziah and Shadrack Dickenson. Dickenson was the daughter of Robert Simms, a major landowner in Black Creek Township. The land upon which this house was built is said to have come from the Simms family. This late eighteenth-century cottage is a rare survival in Wilson County. It was probably constructed much as it stands today. It is a small rectangular building with a gable roof. The gable ends suggest the presence of exterior end chimneys, now removed. The door is board and batten. Although some alterations have been made on the interior, the present appearance suggests that it was once a hall-and-parlor plan dwelling. The interior is sheathed with flush boards and some original woodwork remains intact. The interior and exterior details of this house suggest that it may be of the oldest, as well as one of the best-preserved houses in the county.”

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As shown in the last column on this partial image, Shadrach Dickinson reported to the enumerator recording the 1790 census of Wayne County, North Carolina, that he owned 14 enslaved people. (Black Creek township was part of Wayne County prior to 1855.)

Dickinson died in 1818 at the age of about 68. His will entered probate in Wayne County:

In the Name of God Amen — I Shadrack Dickinson of the County of Wayne & State of No Carolina do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament Revoking all others being in Sound mind & memory. It is my wish and desire that all my children To wit Martha Simms Elizabeth Stanton Polly Thomas Sally Jernigan Patience Turner James Dickinson Penelope Barnes Wm Dickinson & Susannah Edmundson  shall have an equal part of all my whole estate that is consisting Lands negroes and money &tc with the Exception of my Daughter Polley Thoma’s part of the negroes which I have now in possession it is my wish and desire after the Valuation of sd negroes that her part be made up to her in money or good notes of hands and the said negroes Eqully Divided between the above name Eight Heirs with the exception of my negro man Jacob & his wife Jenny shall be valued at one Hundred dollars and my negro man Harry shall be valued at three Hundred dollars, and without any compulshon shall have their choice of said Eight Heirs for their Master or Mistress, and the said Four Hundred dollars to be paid in good Notes as the other part of said Estate, it is my wish & desire that all the negroes & perishable property which already has been given to said nine Heirs be valued at the time when said property was [illegible] and also three Hundred Acres of Land deeded to my son James also three Hundred Acres of Land deeded to my daughter Patience valued at this time, it is also my wish and desire after all my Just debts are paid that all the residue of my Estate be Equally divided between the above named nine Heirs by Joel Newsom Junr & Arthur Bardin which I ordain and appoint also my Executors to this my last will and Testament. Oct. 28th 1818. Shadrack Dickinson  Signed Seald & acknowledged in the presents of William Dickinson, Henry T. Stanton

1790 United States Federal Census; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.