Ayers

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.

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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.

 

Bad debts.

Among the men whose debts to deceased Theophilus Grice were listed in an inventory of his assets were these free men of color — Lewis Artis, Thomas Ayers, Richard Artis and Jacob Artis. (Actually, Thomas Ayers’ ethnicity is ambiguous. He may have been white, but appears to have been closely related to free colored Ayerses in the county.) All likely were close neighbors of Grice in the area around Bloomery Swamp in western Wilson (then Nash) County.

Lewis Artis owed for two loans — $17.00 incurred in 1806, and $13.05 incurred in 1808. Thomas Ayers had owed $29.79 since 1818. Richard Artis owed $15.84 since 1819. Jacob Artis had owed $14.56 since 1810. All the debts were described as “desperate” and were unlikely to be recovered.

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

Wanton deviltry.

One hundred twenty years ago yesterday …

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Wilson Advance, 14 October 1897.

  • Lewis Pitt — On 1 August 1872, Lewis Pitt, 24, and Charity Strayhorn, 21, were married in Edgecombe County. In the 1880 census of Hillboro township, Orange County, Lewis, 25, and Charity Pitt, 23, were listed in the household of Charity’s parents, Yank and Patsy Strayhorn. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lewis Pitt, 55; wife Carty, 50; and grandson Daniel, 10. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 633 Green Street, farmer Lewis Pitt, 71; wife Charity, 68; daughter Gradis, 15; and roomers George Thompson, 16, and John Byrd, 20, both wagon factory laborers. Lewis Pitt died 6 April 1924 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was about 76 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Hardy and Peggy Atkinson; and resided at 704 East Green Street. Charity Pitt was informant.
  • Nettie Jones
  • Bill Ayers
  • John Swader

Citizens are aiding him.

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Wilson Advance, 12 September 1889.

In the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Jesse Ayres, 7, mulatto, is listed in the household of white farmer Lawrence Moors [to whom he likely had been bound as an apprentice.]

On 19 February 1871, Jesse Ayers, son of Sally Ayers, married Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of Lewis and Sally Taylor, in Wilson County. Their marriage is listed in the colored register.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: 28 year-old farmer Jesse Ayers; wife Elizabeth, 28; and children Ida, 8; Harriet, 6; Howard, 5; and Hubbard, 2; all mulatto.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Jesse Ayers, 53; wife Elizabeth, 54; and children Herbert, 19, Loutory, 15, Addie, 13, Alvester, 12, and Betsey A., 9; all black.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Jessie Ayers, 59, and wife Pollie, 54, both white.

Jessie Ayers died 11 April 1940 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; white; a widower; a farmer; had been born in Wilson County to unknown parents; and was buried in a family cemetery. Rufus Brewer was informant.

Studio shots, no. 33: W. Thomas Ayers.

Thomas Ayers

William Thomas Ayers (1883-1963), who appears to be seated in Picture-taking Barnes‘ one-armed wicker chair.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: William Ayers, 45; wife Zilphia, 35; and children William T., 17, Sallie A., 15, Paul E., 13, William J., 11, Henry, 10, Josiah, 8, Rhoda, 7, David J., 5, Viola, 3, and Lilly M., 1.

On 26 September 1918, Thomas Ayers, 34, son of Bill and Zilphia Ayers, married Callie Hood, 25, daughter of Gollett Hood, in Spring Hill township, Wilson County. Witnesses were James H. Barnes, Ivory Atkinson and Harry Barnes, and Missionary Baptist minister R.M.C. Robertson performed the ceremony.

On 12 September 1918, William Thomas Ayers registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 February 1883; farmed for G.W. Watson, Lucama; resided at Route 1, Lucama; and his nearest relative was Callie Ayers.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Spring Hill and Black Creek Road, farmer Tom W. Airs, 39; wife Callie, 27; and children James W., 1, and Lillie M., 3 months, plus daughter-in-law Hazel, 19.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Tom Ayers, 47; wife Callie, 37; and children James W., 11, Lillie M., 10, Eddie, 8, Harvey, 7, Arthur, 3, Marvis, 2, and Vivian, 1 month.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Tom Ayers, 57; wife Callie, 46; and children Eddie, 18, Harvey, 17, Ather, 14, Marvin, 12, and Vivian, 10.

W. Thomas Ayers died 15 September 1963.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user AngelAyers.

Ayers found dead in his yard.

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Wilson Advance, 2 February 1883.

The “old man” was William Ayers, who appeared in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, as a 46 year-old farmer. Though he was marked married, he is listed as the only person in his household.

William’s wife, Rose Ayers, quickly moved to open his estate in probate court, relinquishing her right to administer his estate to Thomas J. Rowe.

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The court duly appointed Rowe, estimated the size of Ayers’ estate at $250, and named Rosa, Jesse and Joseph Ayers as his heirs. The latter two, presumably, were his sons (or descendants of deceased children.)

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By late February, William Ayers’ personal property had been sold at auction, yielding a little more than $200. The account revealed that, in addition to carpenter’s tool, household furnishings and clothing, Ayers owned a fiddle and a single bottle of cologne.

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On 22 November 1883, commissioners laid off Rose Ayers’ dower, granting her twenty acres of her late husband’s 80 acres in Cross Roads township, representing one-third value of the land. In December 1883, commissioner F.A. Woodard placed a series of notices in The Wilson Advance (Josephus Daniels’ first newspaper), presumably advertising the sale of Ayers’ land.

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Estate records show that Edwin Barnes was the highest bidder at $430 for Ayers’ property on 7 January 1884. (The commissioners’ report also lists another heir, Council Ayers.)

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  • Rose Ayers — Rose Ayers, 45, married Nash Horton, 50, on 5 December 1888 at Meeksville post office, Spring Hill township. James G., I., and Guilford Wilder were witnesses.
  • Jesse Ayers — probably,  in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: 28 year-old farmer Jesse Ayers; wife Elizabeth, 28; and children Ida, 8; Harriet, 6; Howard, 5; and Hubbard, 2; all described as mulatto.
  • Joseph G. Ayers
  • Council Ayers — In the 1870 census of Beulah township, Johnston County: Council Ares, 52, wife Mary, 33, and William Smith, 3. However, this man was older than William and could not have been his son. (He died 1 December 1915 in Spring Hill township, and his death certificate lists his father as Sampson Ayers.) Similarly, the Council Ayers, age 21, who appears in the 1910 census of Spring Hill township with wife Beadie, 25, was born after William Ayers’ death.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

White man marries negro.

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Raleigh News & Observer, 5 April 1895.

In the 1880 census of Spring Hill, Wilson County: farmer Polly Proctor, 43, and her sons John W., 20, and Charly T., 12. On 19 September 1894, John Proctor, 34, son of John and Polly Proctor, married Hattie Ayers, 20, daughter of Jesse and Elizabeth Ayers, in Wilson. Husband and wife were described as white.

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However, in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: 28 year-old farmer Jesse Ayers; Elizabeth, 28; Ida, 8; Harriet, 6; Howard, 5; and Hubbard, 2; all described as mulatto. In the 1900 census, the family (with younger children Loutory, Addie, Alvester, and Betsey A. Ayers) is black, and Jesse Ayers and Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage license is recorded in the colored register. When their son Howard Ayers married Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of Patrick and Polly Taylor, on 19 September 1894, and their marriage license describes them as “mixed.” However, the marriage licenses of Jesse and Elizabeth’s children Herbert, Loutoria, Alvester and Addie describe them as white. Elizabeth Ayers’ 4 April 1929 Wilson County death certificate describes her as white, as does Herbert Ayers’ 22 February 1957 Nash County certificate. Jesse and Elizabeth’s daughters Della Ayers Batts and Addie Ayers Collier also died as white women.

I have found no further record of  John and Harriet Ayers Proctor.