Slavery

The last will and testament of Theophilus Grice.

Theophilus Grice made out his will on 18 April 1823; he died six months later. Per Elton Cooke, who contributed a transcription of the will to http://www.ncgenweb.us, “The Grices, Deans and Cooks owned large tracts of land along Contentnea Creek, Hwy. 42 W and the Old Raleigh Road west of Wilson and east of I 95. References to Poplar Spring branch and Shepard’s branch are frequently seen in Cook and Grice deeds of the period. The area, known as the Old Fields (various spellings) district was taken from Nash County in 1856 [sic] to form a part of the new County of Wilson.”

——

“In the name of God Amen. I Theophilus Grice of the County of Nash and State of North Carolina Being Weake in body but Sound in Mind and Memmory blesed be God for his goodness do this Eighteenth day of April in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and twenty three Ordain and Make this My Last Will and Testament in Manner following to wit

“After My death and being buried and all My just debts is paid I lend to My Wife Polley Grice doring hur lifetime or Widowhood the home plantation and the Jacob Row field and after inclooding the said Row field thence two and along the Grass fence below the orched to the ford of the Contenney Creake at My old place all the lands adjoining above the said ford of the Creake is allotted for hur I also lend My negro Man Sesar to hur during hur natrel life or widowhood I allso give to hur one negro Man named Hardy and it is My desier that he be Hired out and the Money arising from His hire to be aplied to the seport of My Wife and hur Children that lives With hur I give hur three Cows and Calves and twenty hed of hogs Such As She Chooses out of My Stock and five hed of Sheep and one bay mare Called pidgin One plow frame two Cutting hoes one ax one grubing hoe I lend to My Wife one pot one Dutchoven one gridiron one boilar during of hur natrel life or Widowhood I give hur one bed and furniture one Whele and Cards One lume and gun one bridle and Saddle one burch table one pine table & Six Chiers one pale one pigin two tubs one Case of knifes and forks one meal sifter one bred tray I lend to My Wife during hur natrel life or Widowhood two puter basons one dish six plates and six table spoons and one Chest to hur and hur ares forever

Item I give to My Sun John Grice the blumery land that is to say the lots bought of Dred Deberry and his Wife and Irvin Ricks lying on both sides of the blumery pond also another tract of land lying in the afore said County Beginning at the ford of the Creake about one Hundred and fifty yards from the house at My old place on the Johnston line thence down the Manders of Said Creake to the Row Corner on Said Creake thence with the Row line & Grice line between Theopolis Grice and Christen Row unto the Raley Rode to a corner pine thence West With the Rode to Nichols line thence South With Nichols line to Theopolis Grices line thence East With his line until they get below the Jacob Row feld and down the Branch to the fork thence up the other branch nearly West to the head of said branch thence nearly South to the first beginning at the ford of Contenney Creake to him and his ares forever

Item I give to My Sun Thomas Grice all of My land lying in Johnston County Except three Akers lying at the Mill Called the Cobb Mill also I give him another tract of land lying in Nash County Called the boykin land adjoining Jesse Simpson to him and His ares forever also all the ballance of My land that is not Willed away I leave to be Sold at a twelve Month Credit

Item I give to My daughter Salley Cook two negros garls and their Children that is now is their puseson also one bed and furniture two Cows and yearlins one desk one Chest to Hur and hur ares forever.

Item I give to My Suns and daughters that is to Say John Thomas Rodey and Tempey fifteen negros to be Eakeley divided between them that is to Say Pris and hur three Children and Sal and hur fore Children and Darkis and hur fore Children and all of their increase that Shal Come hereafter and one Small garl named Morning to be divided at the time that My Sun John think proper to take his part of them to them and their ares forever and it is My desier that all the Rest of My Negros be Sold at a twelve Month Credit Namely Phillis Phareby Rode Anddy Patianc Fortin and Child Joe Nance and hur Child Art Jes Mill Zil

… I also nominate and apoint Bartley Deans and My Sun John Grice My Hole Sole Executor to this My Last Will and testament Whereof I Theopolis Grice have herunto Set My hand and afixed My Seal the day and year first above Written   /s/ Theophilus Grice

Signed in the presence of us and Sealed in the presence of us  /s/ John L. Lyons  James Deans

——

In a nutshell, Theophilus Grice left his wife Mary “Polly” Harrison Grice a life interest in Caesar and directed that Hardy be hired out to support Polly and their children. He left his daughter Sarah “Sally” Grice Cook two unnamed young women and their children, who were already in her possession. For his four remaining children — John, Temperance Ann, Rhoda and Thomas Grice, who were all minors — he directed that 15 enslaved people be divided equally among them. The fifteen were Pris [Priscilla?] and her three children; Sal [Sally or Sarah] and her four children; Darcus and her four children; and Mourning, “a small girl” (who, presumably, was orphaned.) To equally distribute 15 people among four heirs likely required that one or more mothers be separated from their children. Grice further directed that Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, Andy, Patience, Fortune and her child, Joe, Nancy and her child, Art, Jess, Mill, and Zil be sold.

On several days in over the year after his death, Grice’s executors held sales to liquidate his property per the terms of his will. On 4 December 1923, they sold Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, and Fortune and her child Bedy to Polly Grice; Andrew, Jess and Ace, Zill and Milly to John Grice; Joe, Arthur and Nancy and her child Piety to John Cook; and Patience to Harris Horn.

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At February 1824 term of court, Grice’s executors filed an inventory that listed all 37 of his slaves, including those sold above:

Philis, Phareby, Rody, Andrew, Patience, Fortune and child Beedy, Joe, Nance and child Piety, Arthur, Jes, Mill and Zill (twins?), Sarah, Ace, David, Chaney, Henry, Eliza, Priss, Richmon, Daniel, Ann, Darcus, Litha, Wiley, Charity, Dempsey, Mourning, Caesor, Hardy, Beed, Cussey and her three children.

In December 1828, the guardians appointed to oversee minor Thomas Grice’s inheritance filed an income and expense report with the court showing, among other things, that they had paid Mary Grice thirty-seven dollars for “the expense” of feeding and clothing the enslaved people Thomas had inherited, and Josiah Horn seven dollars and fifty cents for “doctoring his Negro woman.”

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On 7 February 1829, Polly Grice sold some of the property she had inherited, including Caesar, whom her son John Grice purchased. (Note the credit to the account of seven dollars for the balance of the six-month period Caesar had been hired out to Peter C. Davis.)

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In this December 1838 account of Rhoda Grice’s inheritance, Bartley Deans reported income from the hire of enslaved people Wiley, Charity, Jim, Caroline and Elbert.

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

 

Ruffin’s negroes, part 1.

Lemon Ruffin executed his will shortly before leaving for war as a Confederate soldier. He did not return. He died as a prisoner of war in Illinois in 1864, age 32. (His brothers Etheldred, George W. and Thomas Ruffin also died in the war.) As set forth in more detail below, Ruffin received the bulk of his enslaved property as an inheritance from his exceedingly wealthy father Henry J.G. Ruffin, who died in 1854. An inventory of the elder Ruffin’s estate listed 138 enslaved people held on plantations in Franklin, Greene, Wayne and Edgecombe Counties.

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I Lemon Ruffin of the county of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainly of my existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

First: That my executors shall pay my debts out of the money that may first come into their hands on part or parcel of my estate.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister S.B. Ruffin my tract of land situated in Wilson Co NC adjoining the lands of Warner Woodard & others on Tosnot — to have and to hold to her and her heirs in fee simple  forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister M.H. Fugitt the proceeds of the sale of the Negro slaves Amos, Sallie and Henderson. Amos to be sold in Alabama. My will and desire is that Sallie and Henderson be brought to N.C. and sold in Wilson County.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister, Nina W. Ruffin, the Negro slaves Crockett and Harriet to her and her personal representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin of Misourah the Negro Slaves Isse(?)  the first and her three children and grandchildren, viz; Eliza, Esther, Elizabeth and Haywood.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Thomas Ruffin, the Negro slaves Patience and her children named Isaac, Lettuce & Jerre and the youngest child to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Etheldred Ruffin, Beck and all her children named Ned, Elving(?), Arabella and Thom to him and his personal  representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew, Samuel Ruffin, Jr. of Mississippi, the Negro slaves Isse(?) the 2nd commonly called Son[illegible] to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Mary L. Ruffin the negro slave Creasy to her and her personal representative forever.

I do whereof I the said Lemon Ruffin do hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th day of June 1862.

——

In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Ruffin is listed as a 28 year-old farmer living alone, with $5000 in real property and $21,600 in personal property.

These are the relatives listed in his will:

  • sister S.B. Ruffin — Sarah Blount Ruffin.
  • sister M.H. Fugitt — Mary Haywood Ruffin Williams Fugett.
  • sister Nina W. Ruffin — Penina Watson Ruffin Ruffin of Franklin County.
  • brother Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin — William Haywood Ruffin, who migrated to Lexington, Missouri (and later Choctaw County, Alabama.)
  • brother Thomas Ruffin
  • brother Etheldred Ruffin — Etheldred F. Ruffin, Greene County.
  • nephew Samuel Ruffin Jr. — son of W. Haywood Ruffin, but migrated to Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama, to join his uncle Samuel R. Ruffin. Samuel R. Ruffin was the largest slaveholder in that county at Emancipation, and a list of his slaves reveals a number of first names common among Henry’s slaves. See below.
  • niece Mary L. Ruffin

Henry John Gray Ruffin, father of the above and husband of Mary Tartt Ruffin, died in 1854 in Franklin County, North Carolina. He had accumulated immense wealth and prudently executed a precise will, which entered probate in Franklin County. Among the provisions to son Lemon Ruffin were one-half interest in a plantation on Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe [now Wilson] County (son George W. Ruffin received the other half) and “twenty negro slaves of average value.” (In addition, Mary Tartt Ruffin was to receive  “my old negro man servant Bryant now living at my Tossnot plantation.”) The inventory of Ruffin’s property listed 51 people enslaved on his Franklin County plantation, 50 enslaved on a plantation in Greene and Wayne Counties, and 37 in Edgecombe. (Other enslaved people were distributed among his children prior to his death.)

When distribution was made in September 1854, Lemon Ruffin received Beck, age 23, and her children Wyatt, 3, and Ned, 1; Patience, 32, and her children Isaac, 5, Lettuce, 3, and Jerry, 1; Maria, 45, and her children Eliza, 7, Hester, 5, and Elizabeth, 1; Isaac, 44; Reuben, 43; Crockett, 21; Isaac, 9; Arthur, 9; Sally, 19; Charlotte, 50; Harriet, 12; and Henry, 13. Per the inventories of Ruffin’s plantations, most had been enslaved on the Greene/Wayne County farm previously.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County, Lemon Taylor is listed with 21 slaves living in three dwellings. He enslaved eight males aged 6, 11, 15, 20, 25, 25, 51 and 52, and 13 females aged 1, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 18, 18, 20, 25, 40 and 50. (Above him on the list was his brother G.W. Ruffin and his 22 slaves, aged 3 to 43.)

Two years later, Lemon Ruffin’s will showed that he retained ownership of 14 of the 20 enslaved people he had inherited from his father. Beck’s son Wyatt was likely dead, but she had had three more children, Elvin, Arabella and Tom, in the interim. Maria was dead or sold away; her children Eliza, Hester/Esther and Elizabeth were listed with their grandmother Isse (who seems to have been the “old” Isaac of the inventory, though Isaac is generally a masculine name). Reuben, Charlotte, Arthur and Henry do not appear in Lemon Ruffin’s will, but Crockett, young Isaac, Sallie and Harriet do. Lemon had also purchased or otherwise come into possession of Amos, Henderson and Creasy. (There are an Amos and Creasy listed in the “residue” of Henry Ruffin’s slaves after distribution. Perhaps Lemon had purchased them from the estate.) Per Lemon Ruffin’s will, Amos, Henderson and Sallie were in Alabama (on lease? on loan?) Sallie and Henderson were to be brought back to Wilson for sale, but Amos was to be put on the block In Alabama. None of it came to pass, as Ruffin’s estate did not enter probate until 1866, when his formerly enslaved property was beyond reach.

A North Carolina-born Amos Ruffin, age 35, appears in the 1870 census of Township 13, Choctaw County, Alabama, with his wife and children. Was this the Amos who was targeted for sale in Lemon Ruffin’s will?

In 1866, Patience Ruffin and Michel Ward appeared before a Wilson County justice of the peace to register their 16-year cohabitation. In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmworker Patience Ward, 50, and daughter Lettuce, 20, with Mitchell Ward listed next door.

None of other men, women and children Lemon Ruffin possessed at his death are clearly identifiable in post-Emancipation records.

Sidenotes:

  • Children up to about age 7 were usually grouped with their mothers for purposes of sale or distribution. It is almost certain that the children listed with Patience and Maria in Henry Ruffin’s distribution were merely their youngest and that their older children were separated from them.
  • Though enslaved people sometimes married men or women with whom they shared an owner, more often they married outside the farm or plantation on which they lived. Patience Ruffin and Mitchell Ward are an example.
  • Wealthy planters often owned multiple plantations and moved enslaved people among them at will. Henry Ruffin divided his Edgecombe (Wilson) County plantation into halves. However, the people who had lived on that plantation during his lifetime did not necessarily remain in place after his death. In fact, it appears that the 20 people with whom Lemon Ruffin stocked his half of Toisnot plantation came primarily from his father’s Greene/Wayne plantation. The former Toisnot slaves were shifted to plantations elsewhere. This kind of movement resulted in the further splintering of families as parents owned by neighboring enslavers were left behind.
  • White eastern North Carolina slaveowners were among the earliest settlers of Alabama in the early 1800s, taking North Carolina-born enslaved people with them. Slaveowners who did not leave North Carolina often sold their “excess” enslaved property to meet the ravenous labor needs of Alabama’s booming cotton economy.
  • Herbert G. Gutman argued in his exhaustively researched The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750-1825 that enslaved African-Americans strove to maintain and transmit ties of kinship by repeating first names among generations of a family. Though we do not know the relationships among all the Ruffin slaves, this pattern can be observed among them. More on this later.

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

The last will and testament of Hiram Forbes.

I, Hiram Forbes of the County of Wilson and the State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existance, do make & declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

Item. I give and devise to my beloved wife the tract of Land on which I now live during the term of her natural life or widowhood and after her death or marriage to my son Romulus and also lend to my wife Two negro slaves, one woman named Mary Ann and man Jim. The above named negroes to remain on the land and work for the support of my wife and two younger children Romulus and Elizabeth, and if in case my wife should marry, my will is that the negroes above shall be equally divided between my three children – Randolph, Elizabeth and Romulus.

Item. I give for the support of my wife & her family, fifteen hundred pounds of Pork and thirty barrels of corn, eight stacks of fodder first choice, Three sacks flour and I also give to my wife and two children, Elizabeth and Hannah, three sows and six shoats. I also desire that my wife should take care of a negro child Hannah until it arrives to the age of ten years.

Item. I give and devise to my children Randolph, Elizabeth and Romulus, three negroes Tony Mace and Hannah to be equally divided between them, and if any one of the other should die without issue, the negroes to be equally divided between the other two and if one of the two should die without issue the one thats living should be his.

Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter Sally, wife of Thomas Baker, 1 negro girl named Silvey to have and to hold to her and her lawful children forever.

Item. I give and devise to my son Rufus Webb and my daughter Cinthia Webb, children of Tempa Webb, one negro woman named Gatsy, to be equally divided between them.

Item. I give and devise to my six children, Vesta Ann, Walter, Barney, Lipsicomb, Tempa and Amanda, one tract of land known as the Felton Land, beginning at the Mill and running to the road so as to include all the tract of land above named and adjoining the land formerly belonging to Tempa Webb to have and to hold to them and their heirs forever. Also two negroes named Tobey and Minna to them and their heirs forever. It is my will and desire that the last named negroes, Tobey and Minna shall remain on the land that I give to my six children … and work to support the said children, until they arrive to the age of twentyone years, and I also give to the said children, one black horse male, one cow & yearling. The cow is red and white color. One pair of cart wheels, wooden axle, one plow, ten barrels corn, two blade stacks fodder, three hundred pound pork.

Item. My will and desire is that the Mill shall be kept up by my four sons … for the benefit of all my children. My will and desire is that if I have enough owe me after selling my property to pay my debts that my negroes hereafter named, to be hired out until they hire for enough to pay — Tony, Mace, Gatsy.

And lastly, I do hereby constitute and appoint my trusty friend James Barnes my lawful executor of all intent and purposes to execute this my last will and testament according to the true intent and meaning of the same and every part and clause-thereby revoking and declaring all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I, the said Hyrum Forbes, do hereunto set my hand and seal the 18th day of December, 1861.    /s/ Hyrum Forbes

WITNESS: Wm. Ellis, John Carter Jr.

——

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Hiram Forbes, 55; wife Milly, 45; and children Martha, 21, Rufus, 18, Randal, 17, Bettie, 8, and Romulus, 4. Forbes reported owing $8800 in personal property, which would have consisted largely of enslaved people. Next door was [the mother of the other set of his children] Temperance Webb, 55, and her children Susan, 20, and Sintha, 15.

In 1866, Tony Forbes and Cherry Barnes appeared before a Wilson County justice of the peace to register their seven-year cohabitation. James Forbes and Sarah Barnes registered their ten-year cohabitation.

On 2 August 1867, Toby Forbes, son of Abraham Webb and Masin [Mace] Forbes, married Patience Mercer, daughter of Cila Mercer, at Henry Winston’s in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Toby Forbes, 25, farm laborer.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Tony Forbes, 25; wife Cherry, 23; and children Willie, 6, George, 5, Harriet, 2, and Bud, 2 months, plus Alfred Bynum, 25. Sharing the same household: James Forbes, 38, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 25; and children Garrot, 12, Joseph, 4, Bynum, 3, and William, 1.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: James Forbes, 48; wife Sarah, 37; and children Garrett, 20, Joseph, 15, Bynum, 14, Murtheny, 10, Rose, 9, Movy, 8, Florence, 4, and Reddic, 6 months.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Toney Forbs, 39; wife Cherry, 30; and children Wiley, 17, George, 16, Harrett, 12, Buddie, 10, Elizebeth, 8, Elishea F., 4, and Mary L., 3 months.

In the 1900 census of Ellis township, Pulaski County, Arkansas: farmer Wiley Forbes, 37; wife Penny, 27; daughter Lula, 6; siblings Johnnie, 18, Mary B., 16, Martha J., 15, and Tinsey, 12; and father Toney Forbes, 70. All were born in North Carolina, except Lula, who was born in Arkansas.

In the 1910 census of Union township, Pulaski County, Arkansas: farm manager Jacob C. Gay, 28; wife Mary, 25; children William, 3, and Mattie S.A., 8 months; and father-in-law Tony Forbes, 80.

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

 

Sankofa: the Wards come home.

Joseph Henry Ward left Wilson in the late 1880s on a journey that would lead him to a trail-blazing career as a physician in Indiana and Alabama. It does not appear that he ever returned to his birthplace. Yesterday, however, his granddaughter and great-granddaughter, both born and reared in the Midwest, came home. Zella Palmer FaceTimed me as she and her mother Alice Roberts Palmer stood outside David G.W. Ward‘s house near Stantonsburg, the house in which Joseph Ward’s mother Mittie Ward and grandmother Sarah Ward toiled while enslaved. David Ward was the father of at least three of Sarah Ward’s children, including Mittie.

Cousin Alice is an accomplished educator and politician, a former member of the Illinois state senate. Zella is chair of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture in New Orleans. One hundred and thirty years after Joseph Ward left Wilson County, in the spirit of sankofa, they returned to claim their ancestors. There was laughter — Zella said she felt like she was in a scene from The Color Purple — and tears, as Cousin Alice, standing in her people’s footsteps, recalled the teachers who told her that black people did not have any history. The pilgrimage to North Carolina included time in Robeson County at a Lumbee pow-wow in honor of Dr. Ward’s wife, Zella’s namesake, Zella Locklear Ward. It was “magical, spiritual and sobering,” Cousin Alice said.

I’m so thankful to have been able to share, even if remotely, this incredible homecoming with you, cousins!

Zella’s photo of the house in which her great-great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were enslaved by her great-great-great-grandfather.

She passed away at a ripe old age.

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Wilson Mirror, 3 February 1892.

The 1880 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County, shows Amanda Kenedy, 65, listed as a servant in the household of trader B.H. Tyson. The grouping of names suggests that she was employed by S.D. [Sidney Delzell Crawford] Kennedy, Benjamin Tyson’s mother-in-law. Esther Crawford, 23, who had a one-month old son, Alexander, also lived in the household as a servant. (Note: if Kennedy were 65 in 1880, she was much younger than 100 in 1892.)

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Sidney Crawford Kennedy was a native of Washington, Beaufort County, North Carolina. She was born about 1811 to Charles D. and Sidney Bryan Crawford and married William Lee Kennedy circa 1830. Their daughter Virginia Kennedy married Benjamin Hawkins Tyson, a Pitt County native, in 1873. A brief search suggests that the Tysons, and presumably Amanda Kennedy with them, did not move to Wilson County until the 1870s.

The “noble-hearted” Mrs. Tyson’s mother, Sidney Crawford Kennedy, likely Amanda Kennedy’s last owner.

Photo of Kennedy courtesy of Ancestry.com user cpcarter2.

Another history of London Woodard and his church.

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Rocky Mount Telegram, 29 January 1960.

The take-away:

  • London’s Primitive Baptist is possibly the oldest African-American church in Wilson County.
  • London Woodard was born in 1808. In 1827, James Bullock Woodard purchased him for $500 from the estate of Julan Woodard.
  • In 1828, London Woodard was baptized at Toisnot Primitive Baptist.
  • In 1866, he sought permission to preach among his people.
  • In 1870, he was “dismissed” from Toisnot so that he could pastor the church he founded. He died lass than a month later.
  • London Church appears to have become disorganized after Woodard’s death, but in 1895, Toisnot P.B. dismissed several “colored brethren and sisters” who wanted to reestablish worship at London’s. The same year Union (now Upper Town Creek) P.B. released Haywood Pender, George Braswell, Dublin Barnes, and couple Charles and Rebeckah Barnes for the same purpose.
  • London Woodard married Pennie Lassiter, born free about 1810 and possessed of considerable property, including 29 acres purchased from James B. Woodard in 1859. [Penelope Lassiter was his second wife. His first, Venus, was enslaved.]
  • London and Pennie Woodard’s children were Priscilla (1846), Theresa (1848), Hardy (1850), Haywood (1852), William (1854), and Penina (1858). “Another child was probably named Elba, born in 1844; she was working for the John Batts family in 1860.” [London and Venus Woodard had nine children; Elba was not among either set.]
  • Many “old-time colored Christians” remained members of the churches they attended during slavery. Their children and grandchildren, however, gradually formed separate congregations.

——

  • Haywood Pender — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Haywood Pender, 50, farmer; wife Feraby, 45; children Mollie, 39, and Ann, 8; and grandchildren Gold, 5, Nancy, 3, and Willie, 16. Haywood Pender died 15 July 1942 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 October 1852 in Wilson County to Abram Sharp and Sookie Pender; was a farmer; was a widower; and was buried in Piney Grove cemetery, Elm City.
  • Dublin Barnes — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Doublin Barnes, 25; wife Eliza, 21; daughter Sattena, 2; and Jane Thomas, 12, farmhand.
  • Charles and Rebecca Barnes — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57; and children John, 26, William, 23, Annie, 17, Tom, 18, and Corah, 12.
  • George Braswell

$50 reward for runaway Willie.

On 5 February 1853, E.D. Hall, sheriff of New Hanover County, North Carolina, placed an ad in the Wilmington Daily Journal. His office had “taken up and committed” to jail a runaway enslaved man named Wiley. Wiley, who was about 24 years old, told the sheriff he belonged to a woman named Cynthia A. Ellis and had been leased to a Dr. Dortch of Stantonsburg. As was customary, Hall’s ad served notice for Ellis to make arrangements (including paying fees) to take him or he would be sold at auction.

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Three and a half years later, Wilson’s Southern Sentinel newspaper printed this ad:

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Southern Sentinel, 17 October 1856.

Was 30 year-old Willie the same man as Wiley? The name were often pronounced the same way in that era, and it seems so. Having apparently been returned to Wilson County, Willie had run away again in February 1856. The ad is rich with detail. Willie was a “bright mulatto” (this generally meant white-looking, or nearly so); he wore his hair in long plaits; he was a cooper (a builder of staved wooden vessels like barrels and buckets) by trade; he had a wife in Georgetown District, South Carolina (sold away from Wilson County? or met while he was a runaway?); and he refused to look slaveholders in the eye. He was thought to be hiding near the farms of William Ellis or his son Jonathan Ellis near Stantonsburg, as he had relatives in the area.

A month later, Willie was still missing.

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Southern Sentinel, 15 November 1856.

Images courtesy of the N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements project, which “makes available some 2400 advertisements that appeared in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. A collaboration between The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)  and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), the project builds on the work of Freddie L. Parker (Stealing a Little Freedom: Advertisements for Slave Runaways in North Carolina, 1791-1840) and Lathan Windley (Runaway Slave Advertisements)and presents digital images of the advertisements alongside full-text transcripts and additional metadata to facilitate search and discovery.”

Finding the Newsomes’ resting place.

Searching for Wilson County’s Lost Cemeteries: Project pinpoints gravesites before nature reclaims them.

By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Times, 29 June 2018.

Brian Grawburg stops his pickup truck at the end of a farm path between an old hedgerow and a field off Radford Road.

“There it is,” Grawburg says, pointing to the underbrush where two flat marble headstones have come into view.

The 72-year-old retiree is on a search for hidden and overgrown cemeteries in Wilson County.

Grawburg erects a ladder in the bed of his truck, climbs up and points his camera at the graves. He makes a couple of pictures with a 1937 Leica rangefinder and climbs down to note the cemetery’s location with a modern GPS tracker.

These are the gravestones of Amos and Martha Newsome, husband and wife, who called Wilson County home in the late 1800s. A neighbor across the road had told Grawburg about the graveyard’s existence, and this was his second visit to the spot. Upon closer inspection, Grawburg notes the presence of another grave a few feet deeper into the woods.

Hidden behind a shield of Virginia creeper, smilax and scuppernong grape vines is a marble obelisk not quite waist-high. The face of the monument is clean and the inscription is clear.

Edna Newsom, 1846 to 1913, Kind angels watch her sleeping dust.”

“It’s a very nice stone,” Grawburg comments. “That one we’re going to have to carefully look at.”

Despite the difference in the last name spelling, Grawburg wonders if Edna might be Amos’ mother, but he’s not sure.

“Martha died in 1902, and he’s 1919,” Grawburg said. “That is certainly where we will have to get more information.”

Grawburg says he can’t wait to tell Joan Howell that he has found another headstone.

MAKING A LIST

Joan Howell has compiled four books on Wilson County cemeteries. The first one was completed in 1993, and she is currently working on her fifth. All were projects supported by the Wilson County Genealogical Society with information supplied by the group’s members.

It is Howell’s work and old Work Progress Administration surveys from the 1930s that offer hints as to where Grawburg may find the forgotten cemeteries.

The Wilson resident will sometimes wear boots to protect his shins from snakes and ticks and take along clippers to cut back “vines from hell” as he calls them.

Grawburg is building a photographic record of deceased Wilson County residents.

He’s not interested in the cemeteries that are neatly kept. Those are the ones that are already well-known.

Grawburg is interested in finding the ones that have been overgrown and rest in little patches of woods in farm fields, at the edges of subdivisions, anywhere that Mother Nature has waged a battle to reclaim the plots.

“It doesn’t take long,” Grawburg said.

A cemetery can go from being well-maintained to overgrown in a matter of a few years.

“This is top priority because they are becoming nonexistent,” Howell said.

An example is the B. Ellis cemetery in a small plot hidden by trees and overgrowth that is unseen by passing traffic off Forest Hills Road in Wilson.

“There are 35 people in there, and you don’t know there is a single one in there,” Grawburg said. “That cemetery is right there.”

Grawburg said with 16 cemeteries Howell recently found and added to the list, there are about 260 known cemeteries in Wilson County.

There are estimates that there could be another couple of hundred cemeteries that are not documented in the county.

‘IT’S EXCITING’

At age 85 and after two hip replacements, Howell still puts on her “snake boots” and heads into the woods to search.

“It’s exciting,” Howell said. “I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Some people don’t know where their grandmothers and their grandfathers are. I just love doing this. I lament the fact that I am not as able as I once was.”

Grawburg and Howell will often meet in the genealogical room of the Wilson County Public Library to share notes. On Thursday, Howell spread out a United States Geological Survey topographical map with handwritten notations marking cemeteries that had been located.

“I don’t put anything on the map until I find the cemetery, and then I give it a name,” Howell said.

Howell said locating gravestones is vital to filling in Wilson County’s history.

“Death certificates didn’t begin to be recorded until 1913, and then they were spotty. So this is a means of recording people who might not have been noted elsewhere,” Howell said. “It is a way of preserving history and family information.”

Grawburg and Howell said there have been rare instances where farmers have driven implements over cemeteries, knocking over gravestones, and have even taken them away from the actual graves.

“That is distressing to me,” Grawburg said.

It is also a violation of state law, he added.

When Grawburg finds a grave, he wonders who the person was, how he ended up there and what he died from, particularly the children who are interred.

“Did they have scarlet fever? Did they have measles? I think about that,” Grawburg said. “Why did they die? Why so young?”

Grawburg traveled to upstate New York to locate his own relatives.

“I think about my reaction when I found my great-great-great-great-grandfather and you say, ‘Geez, I’m standing on the grave where we’re related.’ There is just something cool about that,” Grawburg said. “Not everybody sees that, but it is kind of neat to say that there’s a connection.”

Grawburg hopes that living Wilson County residents might have the same experience after their ancestors’ graves have been located.

He said there is the joy of saving somebody’s heritage regardless of the fact that he is not a relative.

“I don’t know Amos Newsome,” Grawburg said. “I don’t know anything about him. I don’t know any of his family. I have no connection to him whatsoever. None. Well, somebody does.”

Both Grawburg and Howell said tips from the public about the locations of lost cemeteries are valuable in the search.

“If they would show me where the cemeteries are, that would be helpful,” Howell said. “This is such a large project and I don’t know when we will ever get through with it.”

People interested in the project may contact Grawburg by email at archive@myglnc.com.

——

Benjamin Newsome and Edna Newsome registered their 16-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Newsom, 50; wife Edna, 31; and children Amos, 10, Gray, 18, Pennina, 16, Mary, 13, Louisa, 9, Larry, 7, and Joseph, 5.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Newsome, 53; wife Edna, 40; and children Oliver, 21, Amos, 19, Gray, 18, Penelope, 6, and Mary, 2.

On 23 December 1883, Amos Newsom, 23, married Martha Ann Barnes, 22, in Wilson County.

After Benjamin Newsome’s death in 1893, Edna Newsome applied for letters of administration for his estate. A Report of Commissioners valued his personal estate (excluding land) at $400. At his death, he had owned a safe; a bureau and its contents; four beds, [bed]steads and contents; another bed and bedstead; two trunks; a sewing machine; a table; a clock; eight chairs; a stove and contents; two more tables and contents; a lard stand; another safe and contents; a saw; three trays; two jugs; a jar; two pots; a tub; two buckets; one lot of corn (about 15 barrels); two stacks of fodder; two mules; one wagon and gear; one cart; farm tools; a barrel of syrup; two wheels; a loom; four bushels of pears; two bushels of wheat; nine hogs; 150 bushels of potatoes; 150 bushels of cotton seed; seven geese; 25 chickens; 500 pounds of tobacco; and 1200 pounds of seed cotton.

On 31 January 1900, Edna Newsome, 55, of Cross Roads, married Ishmael Wilder, 60, of Springhill township, at Newsome’s residence. W.H. Horton, “minister of the Christian denom.,” performed the ceremony in the presence of Grant Farmer, W.T. Barnes, and L.H. Newsome.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Ishmael Wilder, 63; wife Edney, 55; and daughter Clara, 26.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph L. Newsom, 34; wife Virginia L., 34; mother Edna, 65; and sister Mary E., 42.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Newsom, 55; [second] wife Frances, 30; and children Lena, 21, Mamie, 17, Mattie, 14, Linettie, 5, Clevland, 2, Willie, 20, and Albert, 18.

Amos Newsom died 8 June 1919 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1859 in Wilson County to Benjamin and Edna Newsom of Wilson County; was married to Francis Newsom; owned his farm; and was buried in the “country.” Informant was Larry Newsome.

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

Slave schedule.

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Prior to 1850, enslaved people were enumerated only as numbers in columns designated for sex and age. In 1850 and 1860, the federal government expanded the census to include “slave schedules.” Though enslaved people still were not recorded by name, they were enumerated individually by age, sex and color and grouped by slaveowner (or representative). Additional columns tallied “fugitives from the state,” “number manumitted,” “deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic,” and “no. of slave houses.”

These pages are the first and second in the 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek township, Wilson County. In them,

  • Sallie Simms reported that she owned ten slaves aged 7 months to 72 and sheltered them in two houses.
  • William Thompson reported that he owned 22 slaves aged 7 months to 44 and sheltered them in five houses.
  • Dr. A.G. Brooks reported that he owned 29 slaves aged 1 to 55 and sheltered them in four houses.
  • Enos Barnes reported that he owned two teenaged boys and sheltered them in one house.
  • Celia Barnes reported that she owned 28 year-old and 53 year-old men.
  • James Barnes reported that he owned nine slaves aged 3 to 50 and sheltered them in four houses.
  • Jesse Watson reported that he owned one ten year-old boy.
  • James Daniel reported that he owned four male slaves aged 9 to 60 and sheltered them in two houses.
  • Joseph Farrell reported that he owned nine slaves aged 5 months to 38 and sheltered them in one house.
  • James Nusom reported that he owned 22 slaves aged 1 to 28 and sheltered them in four houses.
  • Jesse Sauls reported that he owned seven slaves aged 3 to 26 and sheltered them in two houses.
  • Nancy Bass reported that she owned eight slaves aged 5 months to 36 and sheltered them in two houses.
  • Belinda Aycock reported that she owned six slaves aged 3 to 38 and sheltered them in two houses.
  • Sallie Daniel reported that she owned 14 slaves aged 11 months to 53 and sheltered them in four houses.
  • Elisha Bass reported reported that he owned six slaves aged 3 months to 30 and sheltered them in one house.
  • Jeremiah Bass reported that he owned a 17 year-old girl and two babies, aged 2 years and 4 months, who were probably her children.
  • Ephraim Bass reported that he owned a 36 year-old man.

Jane Street.

Jane Rountree Mobley was enslaved by Moses Rountree, a leading nineteenth-century merchant. As Carolyn Maye relates, family lore passed to Mobley’s descendants holds that the Rountree family named a street Jane in honor of Jane Mobley. If so, where is it?

There is no Jane Street in present-day Wilson. However, early twentieth-century Sanborn fire insurance maps reveal that this was not always the case. Ash Street, a narrow spur off Nash Street running parallel and just east of Pender Street, was once called Jane. (Was it actually named for Mobley?)  The street is clearly marked in the 1908 Sanborn map:

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However, in the Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory issued the same year, the street was called Ashe, and the 1913 Sanborn map relegated “Jane” to parentheses.

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When Hill’s issued the 1922 city directory, there was no alternate name listed for Ash Street.