As adapted from Wikipedia and NCPedia: the crop-lien system was a credit system widely used by cotton and tobacco farmers in the South from the 1860s to the 1930s. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers, who did not own the land they worked, and even cash-strapped landowners, obtained supplies and food on credit from local merchants. The merchants held a lien on the farmer’s crop, and the merchants and landowners were the first ones paid from its sale. What was left over went to the farmer. Merchants routinely, and lawfully, marked up prices, and country stores rapidly proliferated across North Carolina and the South. Abuses in the crop lien system reduced many tenant farmers to a state of debt peonage, as their debts to landlords and merchants carried over from one year to the next.
On 1 January 1910, Littleton Ellis Jr. gave F.S. Davis a $140 lien on his crop in order to purchase fertilizer from Farmers Guano Company. Ellis promised to raise cotton and corn on the land on which he lived (and likely owned as his share of his father’s property) and also pledged a black mule, Rhodie, and a yellow mule, Katie, as security.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 73; wife Judy, 55; and children Lucy, 21, Littleton, 18, Sarah, 16, Maggie, 14, Nettie, 12, and Minnie, 10.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Wiggins Mill Road, farmer Littleton Ellis, 27; his mother Judie, 62; and sisters Lucy, 30, Sarah, 24, Maggie, 23, and Lettie, 21.
Littleton Ellis registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Per his draft registration card, he was born 30 August 1882; lived at Box 75, R.F.D. #2, Wilson; was a farmer “on his own land next to R.P. Watsons”; and his nearest relative was mother Juddy Ellis.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Judie Ellis, 80, widow; children Lucy, 32, Litt, 30, and Maggie, 25; and granddaughter Manerva Barnes, 22.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis Jr., 47; widowed mother Juddie, 82; and divorced sister Lucy Cooker, 49.
Littleton Ellis died 24 March 1934 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 August 1882 in Wilson to Littleton Ellis and Judia Barnes; Bryant Ellis was informant.
Deed book 72, page 562, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.