Tarborough Southerner, 4 November 1854.
The death of a slaveholder generally portended devastating disruption for the enslaved. The 650-page estate of Dr. Lewis J. Dortch provides more chilling evidence.
Nash County-born, University of Pennsylvania-trained Dortch married Nancy Jane Adams in Tarboro, Edgecombe County, in 1844. The couple settled in Stantonsburg, and Jane Dortch gave birth to three children — Sarah, Isaac, and Mary — before dying of tuberculosis in 1849. The children went to live with their maternal uncle, merchant Jesse H. Adams, and his family, who were listed between Dr. Dortch and slave trader Wyatt Moye in the 1850 Edgecombe County census.
Dortch married Martha Forbes in 1853, but died intestate in October 1854. Lawyer and politician William T. Dortch of Goldsboro, North Carolina, his close kinsman, was appointed administrator of his estate, which was heavily in debt. Shortly after, Robert S. Adams — also a slave trader and Dortch’s brother-in-law — was appointed the Dortch children’s guardian and moved them to Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi. (When the children petitioned for their share of their father’s 2200 acres in Wilson County, the court asked for assurances that their guardian had sufficient assets to secure the estate. Testimony established that Adams was worth a modest $30,000, but was backed by Wyatt Moye, whose estimated net worth was no less than $250,000, and W.R. Cunningham, worth no less than $100,000.)
William Dortch’s first inventory report on 11 November 1854 revealed both the complexity of L.J. Dortch’s slaveholdings and the movement of his enslaved people into short-term hires in Stantonsburg and over the county line in Nahunta district, Wayne County.
- Boy John was hired till 1 January 1855 to W.J. Exum [of northwest Wayne County] for $4.55
- Rody and child Rosa were hired to Jno. Wilkinson [of Stantonsburg] for the same period for $2.25
- Sarah was hired to W.J. Exum for the same period for $2.75
- Frank and Allen to Jesse H. Adams “to keep” for $5.45
- “in addition to the above slaves the deceased owned the following, viz.: Wash, Beedy, Warren, George, Ned, Tom, Anderson, Gray, Primus“
- “and one half of nine slaves in the possession of Wm. T. Dortch, & owned jointly by them — whose names are Diza, Jinney, Louisa, Jim, Mary, Charles, Fanny, Nancy & Josephine.” [This appears to be the nine enslaved children and grandchildren of Wayne County free man of color Adam Winn, who were sold at auction in March 1852 to satisfy Winn’s creditors. A contemporary news account cites “Dr. Dortch” of Stantonsburg as the purchaser.]
- “The deceased has an unsettled partnership between himself & John T. Barnes, in South Carolina, in the turpentine business — the firm own the following slaves, viz. Dance, Mintus, George and Anthony“
Further inventories reflected the first sales of enslaved people, as well as the instability created by movement each year pursuant to new hire agreements:
- “Received for equality of division in wife’s negroes on the 29th day of January 1856, one hundred & fifty-six dollars 25/100 — the following negroes formerly belonging to intestate’s wife, & received in division viz., Pompey, Fox & Judah & two children, in Jany 1856″ [Martha Forbes Dortch had been a minor when her father Alfred Forbes died in Pitt County, N.C., and only 20 years old when she married Dr. Dortch.]
- The hires from 1 January 1855 to 29 April 1855 of Sarah to Ollin C. Sasser for $8; Beedy and child Rosetta to Orpha Applewhite for $6; George to Jonathan Bullock for $7.50; Frank and Allen to Jesse H. Adams for $2.62; and Rody and Rosa to John Wilkinson for $6 [Sasser lived in or near Goldsboro, Wayne County; Applewhite and Wilkinson in Stantonsburg; and Bullock further north in Edgecombe County.]
- An account of the 2 April 1855 sale of 14 enslaved people: John to Drue Daniel for $1000; Frank to Ollin Coor for $390; Warren to Robert Bynum for $705; Rody to John Wilkinson for $211; Rosa to Washington Barnes for $380; Beedy and child Rosetta to Orpha Applewhite for $535; Sarah to Drue Daniel for $841; Diza to John B. Griswold for $900; Jinney, Jim, Charles, and Mary to William B. Fields for $1507; George to Josiah Howell for $491 [I have not identified Drue Daniel. Wayne County sheriff Ollin Coor lived in Goldsboro, as did John B. Griswold, William B. Fields, and Josiah Howell. (As estate administrator, William T. Dortch likely steered hires toward his Goldsboro associates.) Washington Barnes lived in Saratoga district of what is now Wilson County, and Robert Bynum in what is now Gardners township.]
- The hire of Wash to W.K. Lane from 1 January 1855 to 1 January 1856 for $202 [Lane lived in Nahunta district, Wayne County.]
- The hires of Ned, Primus, Tom, Anderson and Gray to John T. Barnes for that period for $1050 [John T. Barnes was soon to be sheriff of Wilson County.]
- The sale of Primus on 1 January 1856 to John T. Barnes for $1250.25
- On 29 January 1856, the sales of Pompey to Stephen Page for $700; Fox to Joshua Barnes for $400; and Judah and two children to Redding Moore for $1200 [Probably Stephenton Page, who was a slave trader with Robert S. Adams and Wyatt Moye; Joshua Barnes of Wilson, who dabbled in the trade. Redding Moore’s identity is not clear.]
- The hires from 1 January 1856 to 1 January 1857 of Wash, Ned, Tom, Anderson, and Gray to George W. Barefoot for $950 and Allen to William T. Dortch for $36.50 [George and A.J. Barefoot promised to provide each with two new suits of clothes, two pairs of shoes, a hat, and a blanket, feed them well, and return them to Goldsboro at the end of the term.]
- The hires from 1 January 1857 to 1 January 1858 of Wash, Ned, Tom, Anderson, and Gray to B.F. Arrington for $950 and Allen to William T. Dortch for $30 [Arrington was a Goldsboro dentist.]
- The hires from 1 January 1858 to 1 January 1859 of Wash, Ned, Tom, Anderson, and Gray to S.D. Barnhill & Company for $950 and Allen to William T. Dortch for $30 [Pitt County native Stanley D. Barnhill migrated to Horry County, South Carolina, about 1850 and established S.D. Barnhill & Company, a turpentine, rosin, and timber firm. Per E.S. Barnhill, The Beatys of Kingston (1923), the company heavily supplemented its own enslaved labor with hired slaves.]
- The hires from 1 January 1859 to 1 January 1860 of Wash, Ned, Tom, and Anderson to B.F. Arrington for $800; Allen to William T. Dortch for $30; and Gray (“badly shot, & disabled”) to Dortch for $0 [Shot?? What happened to Gray down in South Carolina?]
- The sale on 2 January 1860 of Wash to W.T. Dortch for $1750; Tom to S.D. Barnhill for $1725; Anderson to E.S. Valentine for $1000; Allen to J.H. Adams for $1166; Ned to S.D. Barnhill for $795; and Gray (disabled) to W.T. Dortch for $265 disposed of the last of Dr. Dortch’s 34 enslaved people — except the four in South Carolina in the Barnes turpentine partnership. [I have not identified Valentine.]
Receipt for advertisement of “Adrmr’s sale of Dr. Dortch’s Negroes, (twice)”
The file contains innumerable promissory notes from Dr. Dortch’s patients such as this consolidated bill for care for Vincent Artis and his daughter, who were members of small interrelated community of free people of color in what is now the Eureka area of Wayne County:
And this one for John Artis, Vincent Artis’ neighbor and kinsman:
And a bill to William Barnes for care of an enslaved man named Napoleon:
Probate dragged on for years as the minor heirs grew up. Not uncommonly for wealthy landowners, Dr. Dortch was entangled in a web of promissory notes, and more than William T. Dortch fought more than 30 lawsuits for and against the estate, even as parties charged that he was too busy with his other affairs to handle it effectively.
There were no African-American Dortches in Wilson County in 1870, but I have been able to trace forward a handful of the people Lewis J. Dortch held in bondage:
- John (sold to Drue Daniel)
- Rhoda and daughter Rosa (the mother sold to John Wilkinson, the daughter to Washington Barnes)
- Sarah (sold to Drue Daniel)
- Frank (sold to Ollin Coor)
- Allen (sold to Jesse H. Adams)
- Wash, born about 1830 (sold to William T. Dortch)
Probably: Washington Dortch married Winnifred Barron on 15 April 1866 in Edgecombe County.
In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: cooper Washington Dortch, 39; wife Winifred, 23; children Marsilla, 5, Hetty, 2, and Charley, 5 months; and Briney Barnes, 28.
In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: laborer Washington Dortch, 50; wife Winifred, 35; children Frances, 15, Hettie, 13, Charles, 10, and Bill, 7.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Dortch, 68; wife Winiford, 51; children Edward, 20, Luckey T., 17, Lucresy, 15, and Andrew G., 9; and granddaughter Emma, 16.
Tom Dortch died 7 November 1939 in Yale, Sussex County, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 September 1882 in Wilson County, N.C., to Washington Dortch and Winifred [maiden name not known]; was married to Clara Dortch; and worked as a farmer. He was buried in Sharpsburg, N.C.
- Beedy, born about 1830, and child Rosetta, born about 1852 (sold to Orpha Applewhite)
Orpha Pike Applewhite was the recent widow of Henry Applewhite. I have found no record of her ownership of Beedy or Rosetta. However, a Bedie is recorded in the estate of her brother-in-law Council Applewhite. This Bedie, who was born about 1807, was the mother of grown children who were also enslaved by Council Applewhite. She was alive as late as 1880, when she appears in her son’s household in Goldsboro, Wayne County, as Obedience Applewhite.
However, on 31 August 1866, Wilson Hagans and Obedience Applewhite (who was not the same woman as above) registered their 19-year marriage with a Wilson County register of deeds. Wilson Hagans, who was a free man of color, was also known as Wilson Artis, and Obedience took that surname.
On 21 September 1869, Henry Peacock, son of Haywood Edmundson and Ulrsa Peacock, married Rosetta Artice, daughter of Wilson Artice and Bidy Artice, in Wilson County.
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Peacock, 18; wife Rosetta, 18; and children Henry, 2, and John W., 2 months.
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Obedience Artis, 40, and daughter Sarah J., 9.
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Bety Artis, 60; daughter Sarah, 20; and grandchildren Willie, 2, and Mamie Hall, 6.
On 29 December 1892, Henry Dortch, 52, of Wilson, son of Isaac Thorne and Bedie Artis, married Eliza Darden, 42, at Crawford Darden‘s in Wilson County. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed, and Frank Woodard, Warren Darden, and Isom Sutton witnessed the ceremony.
In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Sarah J. Artis, 39; children Mamie Hall, 20; Tommie, 16, Emma, 14, Henry, 12, Hallie, 11, Eddie, 9, Mary S., 5, and Nursie E. Artis, 4 months; and mother Bedie Artis, 77.
Sarah Jane Artis died 23 April 1930 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 December 1872 in Wilson County to Wilson Artis and Beedie Artis, both of Wilson County; she was single; and she was buried in Stantonsburg township.
- Warren, born about 1840 (sold to Robert Bynum)
Probably: on 11 March 1869, Warren Bynum, son of Dick Rogers and Mary Rogers, married Elizabeth Applewhite, daughter of Theophilus Applewhite and Rancy Applewhite, in California township, Pitt County.
In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: farmhand Warren Bynum, 30; wife Bettie, 29; daughter Fanie, 1; and [mother] Raney, 60.
In the 1880 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: Warren Bynum, 38, farmer; wife Betsy, 32; and daughters Mary, 10, Fancy, 8, Marenda, 7, and Nellie, 5.
In the 1900 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: farmer Warren Bynum, 55; wife Sarah, 35; and daughters Elsie, 12, and Lizzie, 8.
On 7 October 1908, Warren Bynum, 65, of Greene County, married Ellen Bynum, 55, of Saratoga township, Wilson County, in Saratoga township, Wilson County.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Warren Bynum, 66; wife Ellen, 55; and niece Appie, 38. (Warren reported having been married four times.)
Warren Bynum died 16 February 1918 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1854 to Dick Rodgers and Mary Ellis and worked as a farmer. George Bynum was informant.
Marenda Barrett died 18 July 1919 in Farmville, Pitt County. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 July 1873 in Pitt County to Warren Bynum and Betsy Ward and worked in farming. Garfield Shirley was informant.
Mary J. Shirley died 14 September 1931 in Farmville, Pitt County. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 May 1870 in Pitt County to Warren Bynum of Wilson County and Mynie Bynum of Wilson County and was married to Buck Shirley.
- George (sold to Josiah Howell)
- Ned, born about 1810 (sold to Stanley T. Barnhill)
Perhaps: in the 1870 census of Conway township, Horry County, S.C.: day laborer Edward Dorch, 60, and wife Mary, 58.
- Tom (sold to Stanley T. Barnhill)
- Anderson (sold to E.S. Valentine)
- Gray (sold to William T. Dortch)
- Primus (sold to John T. Barnes)
- Diza (sold to John B. Griswold)
- Jinney (sold to William B. Fields)
- Louisa, born about 1850 (remained with William T. Dortch)
Perhaps: in the 1870 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: Louiza Dortch, 20, “h. servant,” in the household of W.T. Dortch, 46 year-old lawyer.
On 18 July 1878, Louisa Dortch married Needham Smith in Wayne County.
In the 1880 census of Little Washington, Goldsboro, Wayne County: Needham Smith, 63; wife Louisa, 30; children Henry, 9, Hattie, 6, and Julia, 4; and stepchildren Lizzie, 11, and Adam Dortch, 9.
- Jim (sold to William B. Fields)
- Mary (sold to William B. Fields)
- Charles (sold to William B. Fields)
- Fanny (remained with William T. Dortch)
Perhaps: on 17 January 1867, Fannie Dortch married Grandison Dawson in Wayne County.
- Nancy, born about 1852 (remained with William T. Dortch)
Perhaps: on 28 March 1874, Nancy Dortch married Joseph Adams in Wayne County.
In the 1880 census of Little Washington, Goldsboro, Wayne County: cook Nancy Adams, 28, and children Georgianna, 11, David, 8, Edward, 4, and Rowena, 2.
In the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: widow Nancy Adams, 48, and children Roena, 22, Fannie, 19, Woodley, 16, drayman, and Elijah, 13, day laborer.
Nancy Adams died 27 November 1911 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old [born circa 1854]; was born in N.C. to [no first name] Dortch and Lula Winn; was married; and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Elijah Adams was informant.
- Josephine (remained with William T. Dortch)
- Pompey (sold to Stephenton Page)
- Fox (sold to Joshua Barnes)
- Judah and two children (sold to Redding Moore)
L.J. Dortch Estate Record (1854), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org