To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances.
On 29 March 1866, Nancy Williford admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace William D. Farmer that she was a single woman, that she was pregnant, and that Daniel Sharp was the child’s father. Farmer ordered that Sharp be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Williford’s charge.
Two years later, Williford, who was white, and Sharp, who was Black, were charged with adultery and fornication. By then they had had two children together, John B. Williford, born about 1866, and Mary E. Williford, born about 1867.
In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Williford, 46; [second] wife Nancy, 26; and children Mary A., 18, John T., 16, Nancy T., 14, Caroline, 11, Arabella, 5, Elijah A., 4, and James C., 1.
In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 34, and children John B., 3, and Mary E., 2. All were described as white. [I initially assumed that this Nancy was James G. Williford’s daughter. However, her age as listed in the 1870 and 1880 censuses is more consistent with that of Williford’s wife Nancy Mears Williford. Williford died in 1861. His and Nancy’s son Elijah Elbert is listed in the 1870 census as Bertie Williford, 14 year-old apprentice to Hickman Barnes, and daughter “Arvilla” is listed in the household of her half-brother William Williford. Did Nancy lose custody of her children as a result of her relationship with Daniel Sharp?]
In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Benjamin Tillery, 27; wife Cherry; and daughter Jane, 3; Lucy Taylor, 23, and son Columbus, 8 months; and Daniel Sharp, 26, farm laborer.
In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 42, and children John, 13, farm laborer, and Mary E., 12. Here, Nancy’s children were described as mulatto.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 40, farmer.
Mary Williford, 18, daughter of Nancy Williford, and Lorenzo Barnes, 22, son of William and Sarah Barnes, obtained (but did not return) a marriage license in Wilson County on 15 April 1891.
On 20 February 1895, John Williford, 28, married Mary Ella Barnes, 21, in Toisnot township. G.A. Gaston, J.C. Ellis and Buck Dew witnessed the ceremony.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widower John Williford, 34, farmer; daughter Mary B., 4; and boarder Sammie Barnes. 19.
On 29 October 1893, Daniel Sharp, 52, of Toisnot, married Cynda Parker, 19, of Toisnot, in the presence of John Williford, Mose Parker and Jason Barnes.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 58, farmer; wife Lucinda, 25; and children Joseph, 6, George W., 4, and James H., 2.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Renza Barnes, 26; wife Mary, 32; daughters Nanny, 11, and Minnie, 8; and niece Bertha Williford, 4.
On 19 December 1900, John Williford, 34, son of Dan Sharp, married Lena Locust, 19, daughter of Elbert and Rose Locust, in Elm City in the presence of J.C. Ellis, Lucian Norfleet, Willie Locus, and George Braswell.
In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: John Williford, 43; wife Lena, 28; and children Bertha, 14, Beatrice, 7, John L., 6, Edward, 4, Arnold, 2, and Odell, 2 months.
In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: well digger John Williford, 53; wife Lena, 38; and children John, 15, Edwin, 13, Arnel, 12, Frank, 8, and Inez, 17 months.
In the 1930 census of Elm City town, Toisnot township: John Gaston, 48, brickmason; wife Nannie, 41; daughters Pricilla, 21, and Minnie, 18; plus mother-in-law Mary Barnes, 62.
Mary [Williford] Barnes died 6 April 1949 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1868 in Wilson County to unknown parents and was a widow. Nannie Gaston was informant.
Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.