Barnes marriages and deaths.

In August 1866, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle registered their six-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace. Willis likely had been enslaved by Joshua Barnes of Wilson County. Cherry had been enslaved by Alexander Eatmon of Nash County, then sold in 1860 to Margaret H. Battle of Wilson County.

The couple had at least nine children, most of whom lived to adulthood. An examination of the children’s marriage license applications and birth certificates reveals the varied and sometimes conflicting ways personal information, especially names, were recorded in official records.

  • Rachel Barnes Taylor

On 21 Sep 1882, H.G. Whitehead applied for a marriage license for Mike Taylor of Wilson, aged 20, colored, son of John Taylor and unknown mother, both living, and Rachel Barnes of Wilson, age 19, colored, parents unknown, father dead, mother’s status not given. Whitehead was a wealthy white farmer for whom Taylor likely worked, and his utter lack of familiarity with the couple’s families (and disinterest in correcting the lack) is reflected in the bad information he provided. Mike Taylor’s father’s name was Green Taylor, not John, and his mother was Phereby Taylor. (It makes no sense Mike’s mother was described as living, but unknown.) Whitehead knew nothing at all about Rachel’s parents and described her “unknown” father as dead (Willis Barnes lived until 1914), and her mother as a complete cipher, though Cherry Barnes was alive into the 1890s.

On the same day, Louis Croom, Baptist minister, married Taylor and Barnes in Wilson in the presence of W.T. Battle and Edman Pool. [Was W.T. Battle related to Rachel?  Was he the W. Turner Battle who married Louvina Knight in Wilson on 24 May 1875? A man named Turner was among the enslaved people Margaret H. Battle received from her father Weeks Parker’s estate. Edmund Pool, of course, was the legendary founder of the Red Hot Hose & Reel Company.]

Rachel Barnes Taylor died 2 October 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, her parents were Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes.

  • Wesley Barnes

Wesley Barnes, called “Sylvester” Barnes on his marriage application, married Ella Mercer on 4 June 1885 in Wilson County. His parents’ names are not listed.

Wesley Barnes died 20 January 1919 in Wilson township. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Eatmon.

  • Jesse Barnes

Jesse Barnes, 21, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Mary Mag Mercer on 3 April 1889 in Wilson. Mercer was the sister of Jesse’s brother Wesley’s wife Ella Mercer Barnes. The official witnesses to the marriage were Jesse’s brothers Wesley and Ned Barnes.

Jesse Barnes died 25 January 1916 in Wilson. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes.

  • Ned Barnes

Ned Barnes appeared in the 1880 census and on his marriage license as “Edward,” but by 1900 he is invariably referred to as “Ned,” the name he passed on to his son. On 29 October 1891, he and Louisa Gay were married in Wilson. Their marriage record does not list their parents’ names.

Ned Barnes died 1 December 1912 in Raleigh, Wake County, N.C. His death certificate lists his father as Willis Barnes and his mother as unknown. His wife Louisa surely knew her mother-in-law’s name, but their daughter Mattie Barnes was informant, and she apparently did not.

  • Mary Barnes Barnes Jones

Mary Barnes, 18, daughter of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Pearce Barnes, 26, son of Robert and Hannah Barnes, on 14 September 1893 at “Gen. [Joshua] Barnes Plantation” in Wilson County.

Mary Barnes and Henry Jones, both 41, were married in Wilson on 24 December 1917. Almost exactly two years later, Mary Jones was dead. Her death certificate lists her parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle. Her sister Rachel Taylor was informant.

  • William “Willie” Barnes

Willie Barnes married Hattie Best on 31 December 1902 at Hattie’s father Orren Best’s house in Grabneck, Wilson. Per their marriage license, Willie Barnes was the son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes; his brother Jesse Barnes applied for the license.

Witness Charles B. Gay was the brother-in-law of Willie’s brother Ned Barnes.

  • Lucinda “Cintha” Barnes Perry

Sentha Barnes married Henry S. Perry on 14 September 1899 in Wilson. Their marriage license lists her father, Willis Barnes, but applicant F.A. Fenderson described her mother as unknown. This marriage was reported in the Wilson Daily Times.

Cintha Perry died about 1909.

  • Edgar Barnes

Edgar Barnes, 21, of Wilson, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Mary Hill, 19, daughter of Joe Hill and Anna Hill, at Saint John A.M.E. Zion in Wilson on 4 October 1909.

On 24 September 1921, Edgar Barnes, 27, of Greenville, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Delia Hawkins, 22, daughter of Will Hawkins and Ella Hawkins, in Greenville, Pitt County.

Edgar Barnes died 6 April 1940 at the Veterans Hospital in Kecoughtan, Elizabeth City County, Virginia. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Eatman, both of Wilson County.

Connecting dots.

I’ve been at this a long time, folks. And sometimes it takes a long time to make the dots connect.

In 1986, renowned local historian Hugh B. Johnston Jr. told me he believed (1) Willis Barnes had been enslaved by Joshua Barnes (or some of “that set” north of Toisnot Swamp; (2) he was “suspicious” of Toney and Annie Eatmon as Willis Barnes’ parents; and (3) Cherry Battle Barnes “no doubt” had been enslaved by Amos J. Battle and lived on a farm owned by Battle’s wife.

This week, I made the connection that supports (3). In 1860, as a result of litigation arising from the settlement of the estate of Weeks Parker, a wealthy Edgecombe County planter, a trustee purchased from Alexander Eatmon an enslaved young woman named Cherry, who joined a group of enslaved people bequeathed to Parker’s daughter Margaret H. Parker Battle — Amos J. Battle’s wife. I found the bill of sale in deed books at the Wilson County courthouse.

The jury’s still out on (1), as the only evidence I have at this point is the proximity of Willis Barnes’ household (#180) to Joshua Barnes’ (#188) in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County. As to (2), I have discussed freeborn Toney Eatmon elsewhere, and the strong DNA links I have to descendants of both Theophilus Eatmon, his putative father, and Nelson Eatmon, his putative brother. Annie was an enslaved woman who apparently died before 1870 and about whom I have no additional information.

Bill of sale for Syphax, Jim, Mose, and Cherry.

Deed book 1, pages 612, Wilson County Register of Deeds, Wilson, North Carolina.

Whereas at the Spring Term A.D. 1860 of the court of Equity for Wilson County NC a decree was made in the suit of Sabra Parker & others to the Court confirming the sale of Slaves Syphax Jim & Mose & ordering James W. Davis as trustee of the plaintiff another slave in the stead & whereas the said James W. Davis by & with the consent of the plaintiff has contracted with Alexander Eatman for the purchase of a slave by the name of Cherry as a substitute which bargain & purchase has been approved & confirmed by the said court of Equity Now therefore the said Alexander Eatman for & in consideration of the sum of twelve hundred Dollars in hand paid the receipt of which by the said Eatman is this day acknowledges has bargained sold & conveyed & by these presents doth bargain sell & convey unto the said James W. Davis trustee as aforesaid slave Cherry to have & to hold according to the decree of the court of Equity aforesaid & the said Alexander Eatman does hereby warrant the title to said Negroe & that she is sound  June 19th 1860  Alexander Eatman {seal}

P.W. Barnes

The Execution of the foregoing Bill of Sale is proven before me by P.W. Barnes the subscribing witness thereto August 14th 1860    T.E. Davis Clerk of Wilson Court

Record for Registration August 14th 1860  A.J. Brown Regr


Some context for this transaction is provided in this post and post, but it is difficult to fully understand what is happening here. Edgecombe County planter Weeks Parker died in January 1844, leaving a widow, Sabra Hearn Parker, and three children, Margaret H. Parker Battle, Simmons B. Parker, and Henrietta Parker Battle. (Another son, Dr. John H. Parker, who had migrated to Florida, died while his father’s estate was in probate. Syphax, Jim, and Moses were among the 30 enslaved people Weeks Parker bequeathed to Margaret Battle, wife of Amos Johnston Battle. The Parker heirs fought amongst themselves and with the estate’s administrators over the handling of the estate, and Emancipation eventually intervened to prevent a final distribution of all of Weeks Parker’s immense wealth. In the meantime, there were partial distributions here and there, as well as sales of unsatisfactory slaves and purchases of replacements. That appears to be what happened in this situation, though it’s not clear who Cherry replaced. 

What I am fairly certain of, however, is that Cherry was my great-great-grandmother.

In 1986, I wrote legendary local Hugh B. Johnston Jr. for help tracing my enslaved ancestors, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle, who registered their six-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866. Johnston wrote back promptly, opining that Cherry had been “a slave belonging to the noted Reverend Amos Johnston Battle of Wilson, whose wife owned a small farm north of Wilson not far from the [Joshua] Barnes plantation.” [More about this letter later.]

Willis and Cherry Battle went on to have at least nine children, whose marriage licenses and death certificates list their mother’s maiden name as Cherry Battle, but just as often name her as Cherry Eatmon

In 1860, Alexander Eatmon, a Nash County farmer, sold 18 year-old Cherry to Margaret H. Battle. The young woman went to live at Walnut Hill, Battle’s farm just north of Wilson. Shortly after, Cherry married Willis, who is believed to have been enslaved on Joshua Barnes‘ neighboring plantation. Their eldest child, Rachel Barnes Taylor, was my great-grandmother.

Studio shots, no. 206: Bessie Eatmon Howard.

Bessie Eatmon Howard  (1898-1971).


In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Eatmon, 25; wife Mahala A., 21; and daughter Bessie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Eatmon, 35; wife Hally A., 35; children Bessie, 12, Wade, 7, and Mack, 2; and hired man Willie Durden, 17.

On 14 November 1919, Willie Howard, 22, of Nash County, N.C., married Bessie Eatmon, 20, of Nash County, in Taylor township, Wilson County. Duncan Eatmon was a witness.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Willie Howard, 22, and wife Bessie, 21.

In the 1930 census of Ferrells township, Nash County: farmer Willie Howard, 34; wife Bessie, 31; and children Vester, 9, Ruby, 8, Exie M., 6, Lee, 5, Roman, 2, and Madeline, 8 months.

In the 1940 census of Ferrells township, Nash County: farmer Willie Howard, 48; wife Bessie, 39; and children Vester, 20, Ruby, 18, Ellabe, 13, Roma, 12, Magaleen, 10, W.H. Jr., 7, Bessie, 6, and Carilene, 3.

In the 1950 census of Ferrells township, Nash County: farmer Willie Howard, 52; wife Bessie, 48; and children Romer, 22, W.H. Jr., 17, Bessie Ann, 14, and Caroline, 12.

Bessie Howard died 20 March 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 September 1899 to Hand Eatmon and Hallie [maiden name unknown]; was married to Willie Howard; and lived at Route 2, Middlesex, Nash County.

Photo courtesy of user howardm49.

The estate of Joel Eatmon.

Eatmons (also “Eatman”) settled in what is now the Rock Ridge area of Wilson County by the mid-1700s. They are thought to descend from brothers John and Thomas Eatmon, but exact relationships between various Eatmon lines, which often intermarried, are murky.

This post is the first in a series featuring documents from Eatmon/Eatman family estate files.


Joel Eatmon, son of John and Ruth Ruffin Eatmon, was born about 1780 in Nash County, N.C., and died 7 July 1851 in Nash County, N.C. Eatmon’s estate opened shortly after. Pending inventory and distribution of his assets, several of the enslaved people he had held were hired out to neighbors:

“The acount of the higher of the neroes of Joel Eatmans discease highered the 3 of March 1852”

Nathan Williams hired Reddick for a year for $56.50; Cornelius Jordan Sr. hired Sewel for $56.25 and Clary for $37.50; and Alexander Baker hired Haywood for $36.75.

Eatmon’s estate paid Alexander Eatmon $85.00 for “maintainance” of Charity and her four children, and Bertley Well $46.25 to care for Easter and her four children.

On 8 July 1851, the court approved the distribution of Eatmon’s enslaved property. Daughter Sally Eatmon drew Sowell, valued at $800; son Peter Eatmon drew Reddick, valued at $750; son Alexander Eatmon drew Haywood, $675; son-in-law John Eatmon, on behalf of his wife Elizabeth Eatmon Eatmon, drew Clary and Zilla, $912.50; son Amos Eatmon drew Easter, Ben, and Vilet, $837.50; son-in-law Barney B. Person, on behalf of wife Piety Eatmon Person, Charity, Delpha, Hawkins, and Wester, $825; and the heirs of Amy Eatmon Williams, Dolly, Barbary, and Milbry, $900.


In the 1850 slave schedule of Nash County, North Carolina, Joel Eatmon reported nine enslaved people — a 52 year-old man, a 41 year-old woman, a 35 year-old woman, a 19 year-old young man, a 14 year-old boy, a 13 year-old girl, a 10 year-old boy, and 5 and 8 year-old girls.

  • Reddick and Charity

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Redick Eatmon, 40, and wife Charity, 39.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Reddic Eatmon, 49; wife Charity, 48; and hireling Casana Wiggins, 14.

Estate File of Joel Eatmon, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,

The Benjamin and Tinner Howard Ellis family.

Benjamin Ellis, Mollie Brantley Howard Brown and Tinner Howard Ellis. Mollie Brown’s first husband, Kenyon Howard, son of Deal and Nancy Blackwell Howard, was Tinner Ellis’ uncle.

“As far back as my husband, Benjamin Ellis, and I can trace our family, it leads us to Wilson County. My great-grandfather Nelson Eatman was born issue-free about the year 1800. Fortunately, from that point on there was no slavery on my side of the family. He had a daughter named Roady who married Deal Howard. From that marriage was born a son, also named Deal Howard who married my mother, Nancy Blackwell. My grandmother on my mother’s side was named Nancy Blackwell. During the early part of the 19th century there were still many Indians in and around the eastern North Carolina region. One tribe known as the Cherokees still have a reservation in western North Carolina. It is through that tribe that I trace my mother’s heritage.

“My husband’s grandfather Hillard Ellis was born here in 1825, on the Roundtree Plantation. His mother and father were Africans who had been brought to America and sold in the slave market to the Roundtree family. Hillard Ellis had a brother named Warren Roundtree who took the slave name, and as a result, many Ellis’ and Roundtree’s are related. Hillard Ellis married Fairiby Roundtree who was also a slave on the Roundtree farm. To that union were born fourteen children — one of which was my husband’s father named Hillard who was born in 1865. Around the turn of the century and for many years thereafter he was one of only two blacksmiths in the Town of Wilson. Hillard married Cora Williams. Cora’s parents were Nellie Locust and Austin Williams. Austin was a slave on the McWilliams farm and Nellie was issue-free. My husband’s Uncle Warren’s son, Henry Ellis was the first black in Wilson County killed while serving his country in the first world war. His name is found in the Wilson County courthouse among those honored for serving their country.

“Both my husband and I are from very large families. I had four sisters and nine brothers and my husband had several brothers and one sister. We were raised as children in Wilson County and went to Howard elementary school. My husband also attended “graded” school in Wilson. We were married in 1921 and from our union were born seven children: Raleigh, Ezamae, Emma Lee, Tiner Mae, Mabel, Beulah and Benjamin. We have twenty-one grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. We still maintain the Ellis cemetery on a piece of land formerly owned by Hillard Ellis, Sr. Also the Ellis Chapel Church off Route 58 was named after Hillard Ellis, Sr., who donated the land to the church around the turn of the century.”


  • For more on the Hilliard Ellis family, see here and here.
  • For more on the Nelson Eatmon family, see here.
  • For more on the Zealous “Deal” Howard family, see here.
  • Re the Blackwells:

Asberry Blackwell married Nancy Taylor on 2 October 1845 in Nash County.

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Asberry Blackwell, 25 [listed alone.]

In the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, Nancy, 30, farm laborer, Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4, Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months.

On 10 April 1882, Deal Howard, 21, married Nancy Blackwell, 24, in Taylors township, Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 38; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Deal Howard, 58; wife Nancy, 60; and Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Albert Howard, 35, farmer; mother Nancy, 75; and James, 11, and Tommie Howard, 9.

Nancy Howard died 30 June 1931 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 61 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nancy Blackwell and a father unknown to the informant; was married to Deal Howard; lived at Route 2, Wilson; and worked as a laundress. Informant was Thomas Howard, 318 Finch Street, Wilson.

  • Re the Williamses:

Austin Williams, son of Ben and Merica Williams, married Cornelia Taylor, daughter of Isaac Taylor and Lena Locus, on 10 May 1868 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austen Williams, 34, farm laborer; wife Cornelius, 24; and daughter Cora Lee, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austin Williams, 41, farmer; wife Nobly, 30; and children Cora L., 11, Charley A., 8, Benjamin and Isaac, 4, and Minnie, 8 months.

  • Re Warren Rountree:

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Warren Rountree, 40, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 32; and children Florence, 18, Rhebecca, 17, Mary, 11, Howell, 7, Sallie, 5, Lou, 2, and Warren Jr., 20.

Warren Rountree died in late fall 1871. In November of that year, R.J. Taylor was appointed administrator of his estate.

Text and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Spicie Eatman dies.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 January 1944.

In the 1940 census of Bailey township, Nash County: on Finch Perry Road, farmer James Terrel, 60; wife Della, 58; children Luther, 26, Jessie D., 24, and Millard, 15; grandson Robert, 14; and lodge Spicy Eatmon, 99, an old age pensioner.

Spicie Eatman died in the Wilson County Home and was buried at New Vester. Her death certificate identified her mother as Gracie Flowers.

[Sidenote: I know nothing more about Spicie Eatman. I can say unequivocally, however, that the twenty years she spent enslaved were not the sum total of her long life.]

Studio shots, no. 65: Dockery Eatmon.

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 7.57.23 PM

Dockery “Dock” Eatmon (1896-1952).

In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Reuben Eatman, 34; wife Elizer, 35; and children Jinne, 16, Elizabeth, 13, Grill S., 12, Siddie A., 10, Henry G., 8, Casanda, 6, Dock, 5, and Ada, 3.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Reuben Eatman, 45; wife Eliza, 45; and children Henry, 17, Casandra, 15, Dockery, 13, and Ida, 11.

On 5 July 1914, Dock Eatmon, 19, of Nash County, son of Reuben and Eliza Eatmon, married Mettia Belle Smith, 20, of Nash County, daughter of Tom and Alsie Smith, in Old Fields township, Wilson County.

In 1918, Dock Eatman registered for the World War I draft in Farrells township, Nash County. Per his registration card, he was 21 years old; was born in January 1896 in Wilson, North Carolina; was a farmer; and supported a wife and child.

In the 1920 census of Farrells township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Dock Eatmon, 24; wife Mattie, 26; and children Ruthy, 3, and William R., 1 month.

In the 1930 census of Newport News, Warwick County, Virginia: at 715-22nd Street, rented at $12/month, shipyard laborer Dock Eatmon, 35; wife Nettie, 37; and children Lillian, 8, Reuben, 6, and Lindsey, 5.

In the 1940 census of Newport News, Warwick County, Virginia: Doc Eatman, 47, laborer at N.N.S.D.Co.; wife Mattie, 47; and children Lillian, 18, Ruben, 15, and Lincie, 12.

In 1942, Doc Eatmon registered for the World War II draft in Newport News, Virginia. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1893 in Wilson County; lived at 4213 Roanoke Avenue, Newport News; his contact was W.C. Smith; and he worked at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.

Dock Eatmon died 17 November 1952 in Warwick County, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1895 in Nash County, North Carolina, to Reuben and Liza Eatmon; resided at 4310 Roanoke Avenue, Newport News, Virginia; was separated; worked as a gardening laborer; and was buried in Pleasant Shade cemetery, Newport News. Informant was Mattie Eatmon.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 8.35.36 AM.png

Dock Eatmon.

Photographs courtesy of user faithbridges19.

Studio shots, no. 44: Alvin Howard, a soldier.


In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 39; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

Alvin Howard registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1896 in Wilson County; worked as a farmer for John Ba[illegible]; and was single.


In the 1940 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Dock Eatmon, 63; wife Sallie, 63; son Clifton, 19; brother Peedie, 50; and lodger Alvin Howard, 44.

Alvin Howard died 15 August 1974 near Sims, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 March 1903 to Deil Howard and Nancy Blackwell; was a retired laborer; never married; and was buried in Howard cemetery. Mary Eatman was informant.

Photograph courtesy of Europe A. Farmer.

Five country negroes in a free 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.