apprentice

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

Severe whippings for trifling faults.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County }

In the Probate Court Before A. Barnes, Probate Judge, May 8th, A.D. 1871.

George Morris an apprentice by indenture to Thomas White, colored, complaining says:

1st That he was bound by articles of indenture to Thomas White, colored, on the ___ day of _____ 18 ___ by

2nd That the said Thomas White has treated with great cruelty, inflicting upon him severe whippings for trifling faults, especially on the evening of Friday May 5th A.D. 1871 , when he was beaten by the said Thomas White in a most cruel and inhumane manner

Wherefore petitioner humbly asks your Honor that you will by order command the said Thomas White to appear before you at some early day to be named by your Honor to show cause why the articles of indenture above specified should not be cancelled.

George Morris, by Kenan & Durham, his Attorneys

——

  • George Morris — in the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County, George Morriss, 10, is listed in the household of his mother Eliza Morriss. The family is described as white. [Eliza Morris was the widow of Warren Morris, with whom she appears in the 1850 Johnston County census.] The absence of a color designation behind Morris’ name in this petition can be interpreted as as an indication that he was white, which accords with this census entry.
  • Thomas White — in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Thomas White, 56; wife Charlotte, 56; and Lucy, 14, Reuben, 15, George, 10, and Lucy White, 3. [The apprenticeship of white children by African-American masters was exceedingly rare, and White was surely taking his life in his hands abusing one.]
  • Kenan & Durham — Col. Thomas S. Kenan (1838-1911) settled in Wilson in 1869 and opened a law practice that flourished and lead to a long and influential legal career.

Apprentice Records-1871, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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 

Apprentices.

Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from the homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.

Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify the following free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and parts of Crossroads township.

——

William Ayers, 13, was bound to Fred Hollomon in 1843.

William Ayers, 13, was (re-)bound to Enos Rose in 1843.

  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: William Ayres, 30, farm laborer, in the household of Stephen Privett, farmer. In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer William Ayers, 46.

Betsey Morris, 9, was bound to Thomas Horn in 1842.

  • In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Elizabeth Morris, 17, is listed in the household of Thomas Horn, farmer.
  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Martha Morris, 60; probable daughter Elizabeth, 25, and granddaughter Martha, 2. Next door, in the household of farmer John Saunders: Zillah Morris, 4, likely a second-generation apprentice. (Martha was white; Elizabeth and her daughters, mulatto.)
  • In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: domestic servant Elizabeth Morris, 33, and children Zilla A., 17, Martha, 13, Henry, 7, and Elizabeth, 1; all mulatto.
  • Possibly, in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Morris, 47; wife Martha, 42; children Mattie, 16, Buddie, 6, and Frank, 1; and mother Elizab. Morris, 70; all white. (Elizabeth Morris and Martha Morris are approximately the right age to be Elizabeth and daughter above, but death certificates show Martha Morris’ maiden name to be Peele.)

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

 

He has received less care and attention than his years demanded.

In 1877, Abram Farmer petitioned Probate Court to apprentice his grandson to him, charging that the boy was being neglected by his stepfather:

Before H.C. Moss, Judge of Probate for Wilson County

The Petition of Abraham Farmer of Wilson County North Carolina, respectfully shows with your Honor that his grandson, Gray Pender a boy of color, aged about Sixteen years, is an orphan, his father Richmond Pender having died about six years ago, and his mother, Sarah Pender died about two years ago. That the said orphan has been living with this step father, Stephen Battle since the death of his mother, & by him hired out for wages, & has received less care & attention than his tender years demanded &c &c

Your petitioner respectfully makes application before your Honorable Court that the said orphan may be summoned to appear before the [illegible] & show cause why he may not be apprenticed to him or to some other good master who will educate & provide for said orphan as the law directs

Jan’y 22nd 1877     J.S. Woodard Atty for Petitioner

The said orphan is now at the house of your petitioner on the premises of Isaac B. Farmer.

——

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Rich’d Pender, 28, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 25; and sons Gray, 9, and George, 1.

On 7 June 1871, at Anthony Barnes’, Stephen Battle, son of Hundy and Lucinda Battle, married Sarah Pender.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Abram Farmer, 63; wife Rhoda, 45; step-children Charlotte, 16, Kenneth, 15, Fannie, 11, and Martha, 10; and grandchildren Gray Pender, 17, Gray Farmer, 19; and Thad, 13, and John Armstrong, 10.

In the 1910 census to Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Pender, 47; wife Lillie, 35; and Eliza, 18 months, and Aniky, 4 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Grey Pender, 58; wife Lily, 44; and children Elijah, 11, Annie, 10, Herman, 8, Rosetta, 9, Furney, 6, Dennis, 4, and Victoria, 2.

Grey Pender died 22 August 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Wilson County to Richmond and Sarah Pender; was married to Lillie Pender; and was a tenant farmer for Mrs. Mattie Williams.

Apprentice Records 1877, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

 

 

The apprenticeship of Nicey C. Hall.

Nicey Caroline Hall married Wyatt Lynch in Wilson in 1860 and seems to have spent the remainder of her life in Wilson County. However, she spent her childhood across the county line in northeast Wayne County.

In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Lucy Hall, 45, with her children Sarah, 16, George, 15, Nathan, 13, Nicy, 10, Samuel, 3, and Esther, 6; plus Alford, 15, John, 14, Rhoda, 13, Julia, 12, and Rheuben Artis, 10; and Rufus Lane, 22. Next door: William Exum, a 25 year-old white farmer. The same year, per Wayne County apprentice bonds, Exum indentured the five Artis children to serve him as involuntary apprentices. (Lane had just aged out of his indenture too Exum.)

Under the laws governing the involuntary apprenticeship of free children of color, a mother could state her preference for the man to be named master of her bound children. When called to the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1851, Lucy Hall informed the judge that she wanted her children to be bound to James Yelverton (probably Sr.) Instead, the court awarded the indentures of George, Nathan, Nicy C., Esther and Sam Hall to their neighbor, William J. Exum, on whose land they likely lived. However, the clerk neglected to record the indentures in the court minutes, and Yelverton took advantage of the oversight to have the children bound to him instead. Exum sued Yelverton, claimed that he obtained the indentures contrary to the rules of court, and the judge rescinded Yelverton’s indentures. The court then re-bound the Halls to Exum, who thereby consolidated his control over the labor of the free children of color living on his property.

The Yelvertons and Halls’ lives remained intertwined, despite the best efforts of William J. Exum. In the 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County, James Yelverton (Jr.), 40, shared a household with Easter [Easther] Hall, 20, and her likely children Fanny, 7, and Puss, 5. Moreover, per family lore recently backed up by DNA testing, James Yelverton Jr. was the father of Nicey Caroline Hall’s first child, Susianna Frances Hall, alias Yelverton, born about 1857.

——

On 5 June 1860, Wyatt Lynch married Nicey Hall in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: plasterer and brickmason Wyatt Lynch, 30, wife Caroline, 23, and daughter Frances, 3.

As revealed in this letter, while he was away at war, Captain Ruffin Barnes arranged with Wyatt Lynch for his wife to live with Barnes’ wife and perform household chores. Nicey Caroline Lynch butted heads with Barnes’ wife, however, and Barnes advised that she be sent back home.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brick maker Wyatt Lynch, 48, wife Nicey, 35, and children Harriet, 4, and John, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on the south side of the Plank Road, widow Nicy Lynch, 40, children Harriot, 13, John, 11, Noah, 9, Sammy, 7, and Mary Wyatt, 3, with mother-in-law Nancy Lynch, 98.

On 24 January 1899, Hattie Lynch, 33, of Wilson County, daughter of Wyatt and Nicy Lynch, married William Young, 46, of Wilson County, son of Manuel and Caroline Young of Mississippi. Primitive Baptist minister J.S. Woodard performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, widowed farmer Nicey Lynch, 60, daughters Harriet Young, 35, and Mary Rhodes, 23, and grandson John Rhodes, 2.

On 7 May 1905, Hattie Lynch, 39, daughter of John and Nicy Lynch, married Robert Dixon, 33, son of William and Charlotte Dixon, in Wilson County. Witnesses were D.F. Scott, Mary Rhoads, and Charley Edward.

On 3 December 1907, Eddie Bullock, 27, of Wilson, son of Preacher Chanson and Andy Bullock, married Mary Rhodes, 27, of Wilson, daughter of [name not given] Linch and Nicie Lynch.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Robert Dickson, 37, wife Hattie, 46, mother-in-law Nicie Lynch, and nephew Johnnie Rhodes, 12.

Susiannah Artis died 11 September 1931 in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was 74 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nicy Linch of Wilson County; worked in farming; and was married to Richard Artis.

Mary Wyatt Ellis died 10 October 1943 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 May 1876 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was married to Ruben Ellis; was a farmer; and was buried on the Lynch farm.

Harriet Hattie Dixon died 16 January 1958 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 July 1865 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was widowed; was a retired farmer; and was buried in a family cemetery. Hattie Anderson was informant.

Susanna Frances Yelverton Artis, daughter of Nicey C. Hall Lynch.

Documents detailing the proceedings in Exum v. Yelverton are found in Box 6, Apprentice Bonds and Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; photo of Susannah Artis courtesy of Teresa Artis.

He never set up a claim to them until recently.

We read earlier of Violet Blount‘s successful attempt to gain custody of her grandsons, Oscar and Marcus Blount, who were first cousins to Samuel H. Vick. Though that battle played out in the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau, George W. Blount’s statement was filed in the Rocky Mount office. In it, he gave details about the relationship between the boys’ mother, Margaret Blount, and Samberry Battle.

——

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Statement of G.W. Blount.

Margarett was the name of the mother of the children. Oscar & Marcus, two colored children bound to B.H. Blount their former master by Wilson County Court. The mother of these children is dead and has been for several years. Samberry Battle did have the mother of the children for a wife & by her begot one child who is now of age & whose name is William. After the birth of William the mother became intimate with another man, by name Hillman, by whom she had two children, James & [illegible]. After the birth of the first of these two Samberry left the mother on account of her infidelity and took another woman and never after had anything to do with the mother of these. Marcus has a different father from Oscar, and there is yet another child by a different father. It is notorious among negros & whites that Samberry is not the father of any of the children except William and never set up a claim to them, until recently. He has never mentioned the mother to B.H. Blount in whose custody the children have always been. The grandmother of the children is living under the protection of B.H. Blount who will not see her suffer and said Grandmother protests against the claim of Samberry Battle. The fathers of the two children referred to above if living are not in this country & if so could not claim them as they were both begotten illegitimately. Therefore the binding by the Court without Notice to them is valid. The binding was regular & in accordance to law.

Roll 56, Miscellaneous Records, Rocky Mount Assistant Superintendent’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

 

Osborne and Mariah Dunston.

photo-1

The headstones of Ausborn Dunstan and wife, Maria Dunstan, are found in Row E of Rest Haven Cemetery.  Mariah Munday Dunstan died in 1896, and Osborne Dunstan in 1905. Their graves were almost certainly removed and reinterred from Rountree cemetery or the even older Oakdale cemetery.

——

In the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse district, Wayne County: Moriah Munda, 9, listed as farmhand in the household of white farmer John G. Barnes, 33. Maria Mundy and her brother Stephen was first apprenticed to Barnes in 1848, under a law designed to attach the labor of orphaned or “illegitimate” free children of color to a (usually white) neighbor. Apprentice records filed in Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions name their mother as Elizabeth Mundy, a white woman. For reasons not clear, the children were rebound to Barnes in 1852.

In the 1850 census of Louisburg, Franklin County, Lemuel Dunn, 60, blacksmith; Milly Dunn, 60; Jane Fog, 19; Osborn Dunstan, 14; and John Fog, 8.  The household is listed among a cluster of Dunstan households, including: Osborn Dunstan, 57, sawyer, Barbary, 50, and Sarah Dunston, 18, and Osborn May, 6. (Also, in Timberlakes township, Franklin County: Osborn Dunston, 52, and Sally Dunstan, 16.) Osborne’s parentage and his relationship to the other Osborne Dunstans in Franklin County is not clear.

In the 1860 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Asburn Dunstan, 23, laborer, in the household of H.L. Winton, boarding house operator.

Though both were free-born, and accordingly not subject to legislation creating a path to legitimation of slave marriages, Orsborn Dunson and Mariah Monday registered their five-year marriage on 24 August 1866 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Osborn Dunstan, 37, wife Mariah, 45, and children Dora, 4, Cora, 2, Sarah, 2 months, John, 12, and Fanny, 6. [It appears that the latter two children were Mariah’s prior to her marriage to Osborne.]

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm worker Osbourn Dunston, 44, wife Mariah, 40, and children Dorah, 12, Corah, 11, Sarah, 9, Frances, 7, Hubbard, 5, Mary, 4, and Harriet, 3. Next door, in the household of farmer Henry Miller, was John Dunston, 20.

On 4 May 1882, John Simpson, 22, son of Dick Simpson and Mariah Dunston, married Tilder Rountree, 19, daughter of Dave and Nancy Rountree. P.E. Hines performed the ceremony at Disciples Church in the presence of Daniel Bess, Robert Rountree and Tilly Rountree.

On 3 March 1890, Cora Dunston, 19, daughter of Osborn and Moriah Dunston of Wilson township, married Haywood Becton [Beckwith], son of Pheraby Becton of Wilson. Freewill Baptist minister Solomon Arrington performed the service in the presence of Mariah Dunston, Crocket Best, and Mark Barnes.

On 17 January 1897, Dora Duntson, 25, married Joe Battle, 24, in Wilson County. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the bride’s home in the presence of J.R. Bullock, L.D. Johnson and Fanny Rountree.

On 22 May 1897, Mary Dunstan, 21, married Walter Thorn, 27, in Wilson County. Missionary Baptist minister M. Strickland performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster Haywood Beckwith, 40, wife Cora, 31, and daughter Delzel, 14, plus father [in-law] Osborn Dunson, 67, who still worked as a farm laborer. Also, wagon driver Joseph Battle, 28, and wife Dora, 22.

On 11 September 1901, Sarah Dunston, 23, of Wilson, North Carolina, daughter of Osborne and Mariah Dunston, married Marshall Bells in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Rebecca Beckwith, 47, a widowed laundress, and daughter Dezell, 20, a teacher. On Spring Street, ice factory laborer Joe Battle, 28, and wife Dora, 32, a cook.

On 24 December 1913, Walter Whitted, 24, of Durham, married Helen Beckwith, 22, of Wilson. Rev. M.A. Talley performed the ceremony, and A.J. Townsend and Robert Haskins were witnesses. [“Helen” was Delzelle Beckwith’s first name.]

On 5 June 1917, Walter Whitted of 516 South Lodge Street, Wilson, registered with the Wilson County draft board. He reported that he was born in Durham, North Carolina, on 3 October 1889; that he was a self-employed tailor in Wilson; and that he had a wife and two children to support. He was described as medium height and weight with dark brown eyes and black hair.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Spring Street, tobacco company laborer Joe Battle, 58, wife Dora, 52, and daughter Esther, 19, a private servant.

On 14 August 1920, Cora Beckwith, 45, married William G. Reeves, 37, in Wilson. Rev. Charles T. Jones performed the ceremony at J.E. Artis‘ house in the presence of Artis, Alfred Robinson and Levi H. Jones.

Cora Beckwith died 29 October 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in May 1876 in Wilson County to Osborne Duston of Louisburg, North Carolina, and Maria Moudin of Virginia, and was married to Haywood Beckwith. Dazelle Whitthead was informant.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on South Lodge Street, house carpenter Walter Whitted, 38, wife Delzle H., 35, a public school teacher, and children Walter H., 14, and Cora J. Whitted, 13.

Sarah Bell died 29 December 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 54 years old, born in Wilson County to Osbourne Dunston and Mariah Monday. She was married to William Marshall Bell and resided at 710 East Vance. The informant was Hattie [Dunston] Wilkerson, 712 Blount Street, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Dora Battle died 8 January 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1871 in Wilson County to Arsborn Dunston of Lewisburg, North Carolina, and Mary Mandin of Richmond, Virginia. Informant was Dezelle Whitted; Dora was buried at Rountree cemetery.

Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted died 15 February 1976 in Wilson.

 

In which grimly bald-faced assertions of privilege are roundly rejected, and children are returned to their family.

Letters from the files of the Goldsboro Field Office of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which had jurisdiction over Wilson County:

Wilson N.C. 4th June 1867

C.C. Compton Major U.S.A.

Sir

In answer to your Order directing me to return the boys Oscar & Marcus who were apprenticed to me by the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of Wilson County, to their parents or other kin, permit me to inform you that Samberry Battle pretending to claim them as his children has filed his Complaint against me, first before the Gentleman of the bureau at Rockymount, who made an Order on me to deliver them to him or show cause &c. I got my son G.W. Blount who knew most of the facts connected with the matter to go to Rockymount and make a statement of facts for the consideration of the Bureau and thereupon the case was dismissed. Some few weeks ago Samberry filed another complaint against me before your predecessor Capt. [blank] at Goldsborough who issued his order for me to deliver the boys to Samberry or report to him &c. Being unwell at the time and unable to attend in person I wrote to him and made a statement of facts which I requested him to consider before making his final decision. Which letter, my son G.W. Blount, who was well acquainted with most of the facts therein stated and was willing to swear to them, carried down to Goldsborough and delivered it to the Capt who considered the matter and expressed himself as perfectly satisfied and said that he would dismiss the proceedings and write to me in a few days giving me official information, which I was expecting up to the time I received your Order yesterday. I presume the Capt., your predecessor turned over to you all the papers belonging to his office and if so, be so good as to look at the statement made by me to him and I feel confident that your decision will be the same as his. The case decided by the Supreme Court of N.C. was different from this in many respects, but it is not my purpose to argue the matter but simply to present some facts showing the injustice of the claims set up by Samberry and others who never did any thing toward the support of the boys while I have worked night and day to feed and clothe them. I admit that the boys were not in court at the time of the binding, but they were in town and would have been carried into the Court room if it had been required by the Court. And as to notice — the mother has been dead several years and their fathers (they are different men) if living are not in this country and could not be notified. The boys were born mine and I have fed and clothed them until they were large enough to remunerate me in some small decree for their expenses it seems to me that it would be a very great injustice to deprive me of their services and to give them up to persons that never contributed one cent to their support. Their next of kin are too poor to provide for them and protect them properly and their means would be to hire them out as slaves and treated as such. Be so good as to look at my statement made to your predecessor, as that is more full and explicit. If you have any doubt about the truth my statement I would refer you to Mr. Dortch of your town who knows my character and has known it from his early youth. If you should decide that I must turn them out upon the cold charities of the world I shall do so promptly. Inform me of your decision at your convenience & Oblige very respectfully &c. /s/ B.H. Blount

——

I Violet Blount do hereby certify on oath that Oscar & Marcus Blount are my grand-children that their reputed father is a resident of another county & that he has no controll of them, that they were apprenticed to Mr. B.H. Blount without their knowledge or consent, that they were not in Open Court at the time of such binding, as the records of the Court will show. I further certify that I am old & infirm & am dependent upon the labor of my grand daughter & husband for support. I further certify that Marcus & Oscar have a younger brother who is unable to support himself, being only about ten years old. I further certify that I am willing that Daniel Vick should have said boys apprenticed to him that they may assist him in my support.    Violet X Blount

Sworn to & subscribed before me this 25th day of June 1867   /s/ Elisha Barnes J.P.

——

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Court of P.&.Q. Sessions July Term A.D. 1867

On motion it is ordered by the Court that the Indentures of Apprenticeship between A.G. Brooks Chairman of the Court and Benj. H. Blount binding of Oscar and Marcus col’d children is canseld & it is further Ordered that the said Oscar age 16 years and Marcus age 18 years be apprenticed to Violet Blount colard woman all parties being in open court and consenting.  Witness B.F. Briggs Clerk

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  • Daniel Vick and Fannie Blount registered their six-year cohabitation in Wilson County on August 31, 1866.
  • Sambery Battle married America Vick in Nash County on 2 May 1867. Wallace Battle served as bondsman.
  • Violet Blount, described as a 70 year-old, married mulatto woman, is listed in the 1870 mortality schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County. She had died of cancer in July 1869.
  • Benjamin Harrison Blount (1804-1876) lived and worked as a merchant in the Castalia area of northwest Nash County. It is clear that he had held Marcus and Oscar Blount, and most likely their mother and grandmother, during slavery. The 1860 federal slave schedule records him as owner of 16 enslaved people, who lived crammed in two houses. Per a biography published at Findagrave.com, “After the Civil War, hard times saw the [Blount] family remove to Wilson where eldest son George W. Blount had married and established himself as a successful attorney.” I have not found the detailed letter Blount said his son G.W. sent to Major Compton’s predecessor. [Update: see here.]
  • In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: baker Samuel Williams, 30, carpenter Daniel Vick, 25, wife Fannie, 24, children Samuel, 8, Earnest, 3, and Nettie M., 5, plus Violet Drake, 52. Oscar Blount is not found, but, also in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, domestic servant Eliza Milton, 41, and children John, 13, Robert, 12, and Francy, 8; Susan Benjamin, 2; and Mark Blount, 18.
  • Marcus W. Blount, 26, and Frank O. [Oscar] Blount, 20, appear in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County, in the household of their brother-in-law Daniel Vick and sister Fannie Blount Vick. I have not found the younger brother referred to in their grandmother’s letter.
  • In the 1880 census of Nashville, Nash County: Sambery Battle, 57, farmer, with wife Ann, 54, daughter Bettie, 15, and grandchildren Sambery, 10, and Laura, 5.
  • On 18 January 1880, Henry Battle, 26, son of Samberry Battle, married Cornelia Boddie, 19, in Nash County. Henry was the (half-?) brother of Marcus (and maybe Oscar) Blount. On 13 August 1887, Henry married again to Mary May, 21, in Nash County.
  • As a skilled carpenter, Daniel Vick was unlikely to have been as destitute as Benjamin Blount charged. He amassed considerable property just outside Wilson’s eastern city limits, sent at least three of his sons — Samuel, William Henry and J. Oscar — to college, and probably paid for F. Oscar Blount’s schooling, too. (For more about Oscar Blount, see here.)
  • Unlike his brother, Marcus Blount spent his entire life in Wilson. On 27 December 1888, Mark Blount, 35, son of Sebery Battle and Margaret Blount, married Annie Smith, 27, daughter of Louisa Bryant. F.O. Blount applied for the license on his brother’s behalf. The couple were married at the A.M.E. Zion church in the presence of F.O. Blount and their nephews S.H. and W.H. Vick.
  • In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: the widower Mark Blount, 38, a cook, and his children Coneva, 10, Dotsey, 9, and Theodore W., 6, were lodgers in the household of George Faggin, just a few households away from Samuel Vick.
  • On 4 March 1903, Mark Blount, 50, married Alice Black, 23, at the residence of Thomas Johnson in Wilson. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Willie A. Johnson, John Battle and Mamie Lucas.
  • On 14 November 1906, Coneva Blount, 21, daughter of Mark Blount, married Boston Griffin of Farmville, 24, at the residence of George Faggin in Wilson. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony before Dotsie Blount, S.Y. Griffin, and Annie Taylor.
  • In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook at cafe Mark Blount, 60, wife Mary, 29, children Allen, 2, Frances E., 1, Dotsey, 19, a nurse, and Walter, 17, a tobacco factory laborer. Next door: Boston Griffin, 27, brickmason, and wife Coneva, 21, a private cook.
  • On 24 June 1916, Dotsie Bount, 24, daughter of Mark and Alice Blount, married A.B. Barnhill, 27, of Greenville. Rev. H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony before G.W. Joyner, Mrs. M. Ada Perry and C.C. McCoy.
  • On 16 August 1918, school boy Allen Blount, son of Mark Blount and Allice Black, died of pulmonary tuberculosis a month shy of his 12th birthday. (Oddly, Mark reported his birthplace as Asheville. Should this have read “Nashville”? Alice’s birthplace was listed as Fayetteville.)
  • In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mark Blount, 67, cook at cafe; wife Alice, 31; children Florence, 10, and Hellen, 7; divorced son-in-law Boston Griffin, a furniture delivery man; and roomer David Carrol, a tobacco factory worker.
  • On 12 February 1928, Walter Mark Blunt (as his death certificate reads) died of kidney disease in Wilson. He lived at 113 East Street, was married to Mary Alice Blunt, and worked as a chef. He was 69 years old and had been born in Castalia, North Carolina, to Samberry Battle and Margaret Blunt.
  • On 11 May 1927, Florence Blount, daughter of Mark and Alice Blount, married James Hollingsworth of Norfolk, Virginia. E.H. Cox, a Freewill Baptist minister, performed the service before James Tinsley, John Lennards and Lee Lennards.
  • On 15 April 1932, Helen Blount died of the same disease that killed her brother Allen, pulmonary tuberculosis. Her death certificate noted that she was born in 1915 to Mark Blount of Nash County and Mary Alice Black of Fayetteville and lived at 113 South East Street. Sister Florence Hollingsworth was the informant.
  • On 8 February 1941, Corneva Gaston died in Wilson, though she was a regular resident of Warsaw, Duplin County. Her death certificate notes that she was born 18 July 1899 to Mark Blount and Annie Blunt and was married to Theodore Gaston.
  • On 16 January 1988, Florence English, a resident of 113 South East Street, died. Her death certificate lists her parents as Marcus Blount and Mary Alice Black.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database online], http://www.ancestry.com; 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 

Dick complains that I keep his sister’s children.

State of North Carolina }

Wilson County     }

I B.F. Briggs

The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions hereby Certify that at October Term A.D. 1865 the Court apprenticed to Mrs Elizabeth Whitley seven children to wit – Drury age 10 years, George 16 years, Easter 14 years Turner 18 yrs Sophia 14 yrs Robert 12 yrs Adelade 16 years of age &c

Given under my hand and seal of office at office the 6th day of April A.D. 1867

B.F. Briggs, Clerk

——

Stantonsburg N.C. April 6th/67

[illegible] H.G. Norton

Goldsboro N.C.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 2 Int to hand contents noticed you stated that Dick Whitley (col) complains that I keep his sisters children without his consent & refuses to let the same return to him. I have not got the children nor have not had nothing to doe with them at all. My wife had the children bound to her at the time they were bound. We did not know whire Dick Whitley was and think that he had not been in the county for Several months, the children has in the neighbourhood, two uncles & grand mother & none of them has not complained at all in reguard to the children. Dick has not made any application for the children, nor does nothing for the support of his old helpless Mother, We are willing to doe any thing that is legal or right: in regard to them we send now a copy of the indentures, if you desire that I should come down inform me

Very Respectfully           /s/ Gray Whitley

——

Stantonsburg NC, Apr 22nd, 1867

Maj. N.D. Norton

Yours of April 20th is to hand regarding five children who are at present working with my wife. In reply I would State that your letter of April 2nd came duly to hand makeing inquiries about said children, and I wrote to you at one, acknowledgeing the receipt of said letter, but failed to address it to you officially in the envelope and suppose from this cause you have not received it. The children alluded to, are as you have been informed, orphans, having lost both parents. Their mother during her lifetime and while a slave belonged to my wife, and after the close of the war, they having no protector, my wife made application to the county court of Wilson and had them bound to her. In my former reply to your letter of April 2nd I give you a correct statement concerning the children and enclosed also the certificate of the county court clerk of Wilson to the effect that the said children had been bound to my wife, I regret that the letter and certificate have not reached you. If you desire it, I will obtain and forward to you another certificate from the clerk of the county; the children have been brought up by my wife from infancy and have living near them two uncles and two aunts, who seem to be willing that I should retain them, and theas I imagine should have some voice in the matter. They have never raised any objections to my keeping the children, and the children seem to be willing to remain with me. I think that as a majority of the living relatives of the children are willing that they should stay with my wife she having raised them and the children seems to be well contented thus far and I really think that we should be allowed to keep them. Dick has not been seen in this vicinity for 12 months which he has living near us an Old Mother almost helpless he does nothing for her nor seems to care nothing for her so I think if he had the children but little assistance they would get from [illegible] Hopeing to hear from you soon and also hope that the above explanation may be satisfactory I am

Yours truly, Gray Whitley

——

Farmer Gray Whitley, 55, and wife Bettie appear in the 1870 federal census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County. No black children are listed in their household, nor are any elsewhere with the names listed above.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database online], http://www.ancestry.com.