Brantley

The estate of Moses Hagans.

Moses Hagans died early in the spring of 1873. His wife Theresa Lassiter Hagans, unlettered and unfamiliar with the workings of probate, signed over her rights to administer her late husband’s estate to Larry D. Farmer, a public administrator.

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Farmer filed in Probate Court for letters of administration, estimating the value of Hagans’ estate at $200 and naming his heirs as widow Theresa Hagans and Lucinda Hagans Brantley, who was Hagans’ daughter.

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On 12 April 1873, Farmer filed an inventory of Hagans’ personal estate, which consisted of meat and lard; household kitchen furniture; “old plunder in & around the houses”; a small amount of lint cotton; corn and peas; a cart and a crosscut saw; fodder; poultry and dogs; a horse and farming implements; sows and pigs; and a garden of greens. All of it was allotted to “Trecy” Hagans for her support while the estate was in probate.

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It was a meager showing, insufficient to meet the $300 minimum required for a year’s support.

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In the 1830 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of four free people of color.

In the 1840 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of nine free people of color.

On 10 February 1846, Moses Hagans, “now of Edgecombe,” paid Thomas Hadly of Wayne County $328.50 for 164 1/4 acres on Little Swamp in Nash County. The transaction is recorded in Deed Book 18, page 331. (A mortgage for the purchase is recorded at book 18, page 325.) Little Swamp is now in Wilson County. It rises near Old Raleigh Road; flows south between Radio Tower and Flowers Roads; crosses under Interstate 95 near its junction with N.C. Highway 42; then flows east to join Contentnea Creek.

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Moses Hagans, 48, farmer; wife Pitty, 38; and son Gray B., 19, farmer. Also: Thomas Brantley, 28, turpentine worker, and wife Lucinda, 23.

On 25 October 1857, Moses Hagans applied for a license to marry Trecy Laciter in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Moses Heggins, 60, farmer, and wife Theresa, 48. Moses claimed $125 in real property and $115 in personal property. [Hagans’ estate records do not mention real property.] Also, Thomas Brantley, 52, farmer; wife Lucinda, 35; and children William, 9, and James W., 6. Thomas claimed $800 in real property, $200 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Hegans, 70; wife Trecy, 50; and James R. Locust, 12, farm laborer. Also: farm laborer Thomas Brantly, 57; wife Lucinda, 39; and son Willie, 15, farm laborer.

Estate Records of Moses Hagans, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The Brantley cemetery.

Armed with a 1937 Leica IIIa 35mm camera, Brian Grawburg has begun a project to document “lost” Wilson County graveyards. Using early 20th topographical maps, WPA cemetery surveys, Google Maps, and tips from the public, Grawburg has battled heat, humidity and nearly impenetrable thickets to create and preserve a record of these forgotten spaces.

This is the second in a series of posts exploring African-American cemeteries that rediscovered by Grawburg.

The Brantley cemetery, off Crepe Myrtle Road in Taylors township, Wilson County, contains nine headstones. For more about the Brantleys, see here and here and here.

  • Bettie Brantley — 1878-8 Dec 1919, daughter of Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone Brantley.
  • Charlie Brantley — 1 Aug 1873- 8 Jan 1948, son of Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone Brantley.
  • Finner Brantley — 1 Dec 1887-5 Jan 1924, son of Charlie Brantley and Margaret Locus Brantley.
  • Floyd Brantley — 17 Feb 1901-20 May 1905, son of Richard Brantley and Missouri Eatmon Brantley.
  • Henderson Brantley — ca. 1836-2 Dec 1916, son of Bettie Brantley.
  • Richard Brantley — ca. 1877-28 Dec 1905, son of Henderson Brantley and Bettie Brantley.
  • Solomon Finch  — 9 Mar 1896-11 Mar 1955, son of Jane Finch and Joseph Jones.
  • Annie Thomas Howard — 15 May 1907-1 Aug 1930, adopted daughter of Kenyon Howard and Mollie Brantley Howard.
  • Kenyon Howard — 28 Oct 1874-9 Dec 1938, son of Zealous Howard and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, first husband of Mollie Brantley Howard Brown.

In the neighborhood of Watson’s land.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.