Brantley

In the neighborhood of Watson’s land.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 9.51.38 PM.png

Plat book 1, map 254.

This 1937 notice of sale of the property of John A. and Nannie K. Watson contains bits of information about land ownership by African-Americans in Taylors township, a few miles northeast of the town of Wilson.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 9.58.29 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 9.59.48 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 10.00.53 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 10.01.04 PM.png

Lots 1-4 on the plat map were known as the “Ellis and Woodard tract of Kinchen Watson.” They lay about a half-mile west of the Wilson-Nashville highway (now N.C. Highway 58) and the description of their outer perimeter begins at the corner of “the old Warren Rountree lands and the Hilliard Ellis home tract.” Warren Rountree and Hilliard Ellis were half-brothers. Both were born into slavery, but became prosperous farmers and landowners within a few years after Emancipation. The irregular pentagon of Lot 1 of the tract wrapped around a two-acre rectangle belonging to the Warren Rountree heirs, and Lot 2 excluded “a parcel of land containing one-half acre called the Ellis Chapel lot upon which stands a colored church.”

Detail of lots 1 and 2 of the Ellis & Woodard tracts.

The second tract up for auction, “the Jim Howard tract,” is marked Lot 5 on the plat map at page 251 of Plat Book 1, below.

The third tract, the “Lamm tract,” consisted of Lots 1-4 of the plat map below. These properties were surrounded by tracts belonging to African-American men whose families were connected by blood, intermarriage and historical status as free people of color. James G. “Jim,” Kenyon, Jesse and Allison (not Anderson) Howard were sons of Zealous and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, and William Howard appears to have been a grandson. Charles Brantley‘s daughter Mollie married her cousin Kenyon Howard. John and Kenyon “Kenny” Locust (also spelled Locus and Lucas) were father and son, and John’s mother was Eliza Brantley Locus.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1937.

Plat Book 1, Page 251.

Per Google Maps, the area shown in the first plat today. At (A), Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church; at (B), the approximate location of the Warren Rountree heirs’ two acres; at (C), the Hilliard Ellis cemetery, which is outside the Watson land; at (1) Aviation Place; at (2) Packhouse Road; at (3) N.C. Highway 58; and at (4) Little Swamp, which is a tributary of Toisnot Swamp.

Plat books at Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

 

The division of Henderson Brantley’s land.

Though he died in 1916, Henderson Brantley‘s land in Taylors township was not divided per the terms of his will until 1946. His son Charlie Brantley and daughter Mollie Brantley Howard received equal shares.

——

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Betty Brantley, 50, and her children Kimbrel, 25, Henderson, 14, and Guilford B. Brantley, 12, all described as mulatto.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, Henderson Brantley, 70, widower; daughter Bettie, 23; and cousin Dock Howard, 38.

On 9 April 1915, Hence Brantley executed a will in Wilson County. Under its terms, his daughter Bettie was to receive 22 1/2 acres, including the home place; son Charley Brantley was to receive an adjoining 22 1/2 acres; and daughter Molie Hourd was to receive his remaining land. His money was to be split evenly among the children. Brantley named his “trusty friend” Grover T. Lamm executor, and Lamm and Dock Howard were witnesses.

Henderson Brantley died 2 December 1916 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; was a widower; was a retired farmer; was born in Nash County to Bettie Brantley. Informant was Charles Brantley.

Bettie Brantley died 8 December 1919 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 40 years old; single; and was born in Wilson County to Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone. Charlie Brantley was informant.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Charlie Brankley, 63; his sister Mollie Howard, 53; and lodger Earnest Howard, 30, a farm laborer.

Charlie Brantley died 8 January 1948 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was single; was born 1 August 1874 in Nash County to Hence Brantley and Mollie Boone; was a farmer; and was buried in Brantley cemetery. Mollie Brantley was informant.

Mollie Howard Brown died 1 January 1974 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 April 1878 in Wilson County to Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone; was a widow; and was buried in Howard cemetery. Earnest Howard was informant.

Plat book 2, page 218, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The Edward and Cora Brantley Locus family.

This portrait of family members gathered for the funeral of Edward Locus (also known as Edward Lucas) was taken in 1947 in Taylor township, Wilson County.

Front: Edward Locus’s grandson L.J. Lucas First row: children Quentin Lucas (1920-??), Lottie Lucas McKinnon (1925-1978), Kennie Lucas (1924-??), Winnie Locus Rankin (1915-1961), John Edd Locus (1918-??), Nancy Locus Farmer (1930-1973), and Frank Locus (1928-2001). Back row: daughters Redelphia Locus Pone (1916-2000), Ella Lucas (1916-??), Maggie Lucas Dew (1914-1992), widow Cora Brantley Locus (circa 1892-1962), and sister Dora Locus Battle (1872-1960).

——

On 19 July 1906, Ed Lucas, 21, of Wilson County, son of John and Delphy Lucas, married Cora Brantley, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Margaret Lucas, in Nash County.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Edward Locus, 37; wife Cora, 27; and children Linwood, 10, Maggie, 9, Beulah, 8, Winnie, 6, Chicken, 4, Delphy, 3, John Ed., 1, and Quinton, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Locus, 47; wife Cora, 35; and children Linward, 20, Maggie, 19, Ula, 18, Winnie, 17, Alma, 16, Redelpha, 13, John E., 11, Clinton, 10, Kenny, 9, Josephine, 7, Easter, 5, Louise, 4, Frank, 3, and Nancy, an infant.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Ed Locus, 55; wife Clara, 45; and children Ella, 26, Redelphine, 23, Jhonnie Ed, 21, Qunnion, 19, Kerney, 18, Jasperine, 17, Lottie and Louise, 15, Frank, 12, and Nancy, 10.

Eddie Lucas died 14 June 1947 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 October 1883 in Wilson County to John Locus and Louise Howard; was married to Cora Lucas; worked as a farmer; and was buried in the Lucas family cemetery, Wilson County.

Photograph courtesy of Locus/Lucas family historian Europe A. Farmer.

Fenner Brantley and the color line.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.30.11 PM

Records related to Fenner Brantley suggest a life spent straddling the color line. Though Kenyon Howard, the “trusty friend” he appointed as executor, was African-American, Fenner died 6 February 1924 as a white man.

S123_156-0750

What of his father though? Charlie Brantley, who reared him and cared for him during his battle with tuberculosis? In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County:

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.43.22 PM

Fenner Brantley, age 26, black, is listed as the servant of Charlie Brantley, 48, white, who was named in his will as his father. Wiley Howard, 21, mulatto, rounds out the household. Was this an brutally awkward attempt to work around a socially unacceptable relationship?

In mid-1917, Fenner Brantley registered for the World War I draft. The registrar first recorded his name as “Fenner Howard,” then marked through Howard to write “Brantley.” His racial designation? “African,” which was standard for anyone of any degree of African descent.

005152194_01736

It seems that prior to 1920, both Fenner and his father were consistently regarded as African-American. Here’s Fenner’s 1914 marriage license:

42091_343641-01561

And the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County, on Howards Path: Charlie Brantley, mulatto, his son Fenner Locust and daughter Mena Locust. (Fenner’s death certificate listed his mother as Margaret Lucas. Many Locus/Locusts in western Wilson County shifted the pronunciation and spelling of their surname to Lucas.) Brantley lived next door to his elderly father, Henderson Brantley, who appears in antebellum Nash County census records as a free person of color.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.38.04 PM

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Zack Locus, 69, wife Emley, 59, daughter Margret, 29, and five grandchildren Mattie, 14, Hattie, 11, Fenner, 7, Ellen, 4, and Mena,  5; all described as mulatto.

It’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from all this. Fenner Brantley, ne Locus, was born into families deep-rooted in Nash County’s mixed-race free antebellum community. These families were well-known in the larger community and, regardless of their physical appearance, would not have been “mistaken” for white by anyone from the area. As seen here, though, contemporary mores did sometimes allow for certain fluidity in racial identification, and Fenner and Charlie Brantley seemed to have floated at that edge.

Still, when Charlie Brantley died in 1948, 24 years after his son succumbed to tuberculosis, he was a “colored”man.

S123_334-1596

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; death certificates and federal census records also at ancestry.com.

 

Five country negroes in a free fight.

Wilson_Advance_4_15_1897_Locus_Fight

Wilson Advance, 15 April 1897.

Asa “Acey” Locus (1860-1858) was the son of Martin and Eliza Brantley Locus. Kenyon “Kennie” Eatman was the brother of Acey’s wife Annie. Their parents were Wilmouth Eatman and Hackney High. The Eatman family and Locus families lived in western Wilson County in Old Fields and Taylor townships.

I have been unable to identify the Harrises or Jude Strickland.