The life and times of Nathan W. Boyette.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 1921.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t a man take a nap?”

Not Dead But Sleeping.

Yesterday afternoon it was reported about the city hall that old man Alfred Boyette, the janitor and aho has been in the service of the town over forty years, was dead or dying in the town building. Mr. T.A. Hinnant, the city clerk, several policemen, and the county physicians and other officials hurried to that part of the building where he was lying anxious to do all they could to have him taken home. There was little appearance of life, but when they started pick him up he aroused himself and wanted to know what it all meant. Old man Alfred was simply asleep. “Can’t a man take a little nap,” he said. Everyone likes Alfred and the crowd was glad that he was not dead but sleeping.

— Wilson Times, 6 May 1910.


On 20 January 1867, Alfred Boyette and Liza Barnes were married in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyette, 26, farm laborer; wife Eliza, 29; and Julius Freeman, 21, carpenter.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, Alfred Boyette, 40, working on street; wife Eliza, 45; daughter Sylvia, 9; and boarder Albert Barnes, 22, working at ice house.

On 18 November 1897, Alfred Boyette, 55, son of Hady Hinnant, married Mrs. Mary Armstrong, 37, daughter of Raford Dew, at the home of Raford Dew in Wilson township. Missionary Baptist minister M. Strickland performed the ceremony in the presence of Bush Dew, Moses Dew and Henry Melton.

In the 1900 census of “genater” Alfred Boyett, 59; wife Mary, 32; and children Alfred, 1, Etna, 9, and Willie, 13.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyette, 75, laborer for court; wife Mary, 40; and children Millian, 21, and Willie, 18, both factory laborers, Edna, 11, and Gincy, 9.

On 7 March 1911, in a synopsis of news of the monthly city aldermen’s meeting, the Wilson Times noted that on motion Mayor Briggs was powered to “look into the condition and needs of Alfred Boyette, city employee, who is in bad health.”  Boyette apparently died shortly after.

Williamson v. Williamson, 57 N.C. 272 (1858).

This case was filed in Wilson County Court of Equity by Garry Williamson and Jesse Fulgham, executors of the will of Thomas Williamson, concerning the distribution of certain enslaved people for whom Williamson claimed ownership. The principle question posed to the North Carolina Supreme Court was whether enslaved children, born before Williamson died, passed with their mothers to the designated legatees. “The general rule is clearly settled that the bequest simply of a female slave and her increase passes the mother only, and not the increase which she may have had before the will was executed, or between that time and the death of the testator.” An exception would be where the testator’s intent to include the children can be inferred from a reference to the enslaved woman having previously been in the possession of the legatee. Otherwise, the children become part of the “residue,” i.e. property to be liquidated and the proceeds equally divided among legatees.

The chart below summarizes the fates of 26 of the enslaved people — all women and children — that Thomas Williamson owned. It is a stark encapsulation of the devastating impact of slavery on African-American families. And where were their men? An examination of Williamson’s will, drafted in August 1852, reveals further separation. Turner, Patrick and Dennis were bequeathed to his wife Keziah Williamson, and Jack was passed to son Garry Williamson.