Edgecombe County NC

The last will and testament of Moses Farmer Sr.

Moses Farmer Sr. of Edgecombe County [near Toisnot Swamp, later Wilson County] made out his will in 1844. Among its very specific provisions were these:

  • Other then a few items mentioned, all his perishable estate was to be sold “except my negroes,” and the tract of land on which his brother Samuel Farmer lived was to be sold privately if it would bring $250. Otherwise it was to be sold at auction.

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  • If the sale of the perishables and the Samuel Farmer tract did not raise enough cash to settle Moses Farmer’s debts, Farmer directed his executor to sell “enough of my negroes either at public or private sale to the best advantage such as he thinks most suitable”

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  • Farmer’s wife or eldest son Larry D. Farmer were to hire”Negro woman called big Chainny” from the estate “as long as she is hired out at a reasonable price for each year.”

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  • As Samuel Farmer was “verry much indebted” to Moses Farmer, and possibly unable to pay his debts, Moses let his executor decide whether to sell Samuel’s “negroes at private sale if they can agree on the price if not to have them sold at public sale.” Either way, the executor was to buy Samuel’s “negro woman Mariny” for Moses’ estate and hire her out to Samuel for $10 per year as long as he remained in-state. At Samuel’s death, Mariny was “to be disposed of as” Moses’ property. If Samuel tried to move Mariny out of state, however, she was to be sold. [Who was Mariny to Samuel? Why did not Moses take some measures to keep her with Samuel even as he gave permission for the people enslaved with her to be sold off?]

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Moses Farmer Sr. died in 1848. His estate file does not appear to contain an inventory of his enslaved people. However, it does contain the petition filed by Farmer’s heirs at the November 1848 session of court seeking to sell “a certain slave named Rina or Marina” in order to divide her value among them. The petition was granted. On 1 January 1949, Joshua Barnes purchased Marina for $325.

Will of Moses Farmer (1844), North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Moses Farmer (1844), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

 

Totten defrauds veteran freedmen.

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In September 1867, Major William A. Cutler passed a report up the chain to his superior in the Freedmen’s Bureau.”… J.E. Totten at Joyners N.C. [Elm City] has been defrauding Freedmen by obtaining from them their “Discharges” from the U.S. Army by false representations …”

Bureau R.F.&A.L., Office Asst.Sub.Asst.Com., Rocky Mount, N.C., Sept. 6th, 1867.

Maj. C.E. Compton, Sub. Asst. Com., Goldsboro, N.C.

Major:

Howell Vine (colored) gave me the enclosed receipt, & I feel it my duty to send it to you, as he is anxious to obtain his discharge papers again.

From his statement it seems that he was deceived at the time he gave them into the hands of J.E. Totten and thought that Totten was sent by the Bureau to look after the interest of the freed people.

You will learn by the note written by Cd. Frank H. Bennett (register) that this not the only case of the kind.

I sent a note to the county clerk of Wilson county to find whether Totten had obtained the county seal to the certificate on the back of the claim.

I enclose the letter which I received in reply to the note.

I have the honor to be, Very Respectfully Your Obdt. svt, Wm. A. Cutler, Maj. & A.S.A.C.

——

Though his encounter with J.E. Totten apparently took place in Wilson County, and the Bureau made inquiries with the Wilson County clerk, it is not clear whether Howell Vines ever actually lived in the county. Joseph Totten, 29, is listed as a store clerk in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, living in the household of Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail].

Per muster records, Howell Vine (or Vines) enlisted in Company B, 14th Regiment, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 21 March 1864 in Washington, North Carolina. He was described as 32 years of age; five feet nine inches tall; with black complexion, black eyes and wooly hair. He reported being born in Edgecombe County.

In the 1870 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County: farmer Howell Vines, 36; wife Priscilla, 35; and children James and Jenny, 14, Lucy, 12, Sarah, 2, and  Charlie, 1.

In the 1880 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County: farmer Howell Vines, 52; wife Cillar, 42; and children James and Jennie, 24, Lucy, 21, Sarah, 13, and Charlie, 10.

Lucilla Vines applied for a widow’s pension on 20 July 1891.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The last will and testament of Coffield Ellis.

On 28 January 1854, Coffield Ellis of Edgecombe County penned a will that included these provisions:

  • to wife Penninah Ellis, enslaved people Minny, Lewis, Robbin, Jacob, Young Minny, Turner, Jane, Laurence, Bright, Chaney, Greene, Mary, Jonas, Charlott, Frances, Robert, Ellen, Annah, Calvin, Cherry, Faroby, Littleton, Bryant and George. After Penninah’s death, Robert and Charlotte were to go to son William Ellis.
  • if “at any time during her life [wife Penninah] became tired of keeping any of the said negroes she may call three disinterested men together and point out to them said such of said negroes as she wishes to get clear of,” to be divided between their daughters Sally, wife of William Barnes, and Louisa, wife of James Barnes.
  • to son William Ellis, the right to take any of Coffield Ellis’ slaves to use, when water level is low, to complete a canal in Toisnot Swamp
  • “if my faithful servant Old Miney shall survive my wife,” she shall be able to choose a master from his three children
  • to daughter Sally, wife of William Barnes, an enslaved woman named Gilly
  • to daughter Louisa, wife of James Barnes, an enslaved woman named Caroline

Coffield Ellis Will, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

The will and estates of William and Unity Ellis.

Per Powell and Powell, Wilson County Founding Families (2009), published by Wilson County Genealogical Society, William Ellis was born about 1740 in what was then Chowan County, North Carolina. He married Unity Dixon and settled in an area of Edgecombe County that is now Wilson County. His and Unity Ellis’ children were Willie, William, Coffield, Dixon, John, Gray, Jonathan and Spicy Ellis.

William Ellis made out his will on Christmas Eve 1812 in Edgecombe County:

  • to wife Unity Ellis, a life interest in the plantation on which lived lying at the fork of Mill or Panthers Branch and Toisnot Swamp, to revert to son Willie Ellis at her death. Also, Unity received life interests in enslaved people Arthur, Jonas, Isham, Belford, Lisle, Pat, Mimah, Treasy and Hester.
  • to son Coffield Ellis, a grist mill and land lying on the south side of Mill Branch, as well as slaves Sam and Harry, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Coffield turned 21
  • to son Dixon Ellis, the plantation on which William formerly lived on White Oak Swamp and a second parcel of land, as well as slave Giddeon
  • to son John Ellis, the plantation on which John lived on the main road from Tarboro to Stanton’s Bridge [roughly modern N.C. Highways 111 and 222], containing 149 acres, as well as a second one-hundred-acre tract and an enslaved man named Jack
  • to son Gray Ellis, if he had heirs, a plantation near Tarboro containing 125 acres (to go to son Jonathan Ellis if Gray had no lawful children) and an enslaved man named Bob
  • to son Jonathan Ellis, a plantation on the south side of the main road from Tarboro to Greenville, containing 100 acres, and an enslaved man named Guilford
  • to daughter Spicey Ellis, a plantation on the south side of Toisnot Swamp on the main road from Stanton’s Bridge to Tarboro, containing 100 acres, and slaves Hannah, Byhuel, Chaney and Beedy
  • to son William, an enslaved man named Jim; and
  • to son Willie, slaves Anthony and Mol, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Willie turned 21

Unity Ellis died in 1817, before the settlement of William Ellis’ estate. Her share of William’s enslaved estate was divided thus: to son John, Arthur ($525) and Pat ($5); to son Dixon, Jonas ($712); to son Coffield, Belfour ($712); for son Willie, Isham ($636); for son Jonathan, Mima, Sary and Clary ($888); and to son William, Trease ($600) and Hester ($350). Lisle, presumably, died between 1812 and 1818, and Sarah and Clara were born to Mima during the same period.

——

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isom Ellis, 67; wife Patience, 62; and son (grandson?) Jacob, 18, farm laborer.

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40, farm laborer; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4.

Will of William Ellis (1812); Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Sukey’s journey, part 1.

Recd. of Jas. B. Woodard a negro girl Sucky in his possession as Execr. of Obedience Brownrigg decd., the legacy of Alfred Brownrigg which said girl was sold by Alfred Brownrigg to Edwin Brownrigg in as good health & Condition as he recd. her under the will of Mrs. Brownrigg, and obligates to hold him the sd. Woodard harmless in Event any difficulty should rise from the delivery of sd. negro.    Feby. 14th 1842  Jno. Wright for Edwin Brownrigg

——

Waynesboro, N.C., 15 Feb. 1842

Edwin Barnes, Esq., Tosnot Depot

Dr Sir, You will please hand Mr. Barnes the above receipt for Sucky. If it does not suit him, write out any thing to give him such as will satisfy him. I am under many obligations to you for the trouble I have put you to in this and other matters of mine. I am much in hopes yr health will speedily return.

Yours Truly, Jno. Wright

——

This note and receipt are transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian, republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society in 2003. What is going on here?

Obedience Thomas Tartt Brownrigg died in 1840, likely on her plantation near White Oak Swamp in what was then Edgecombe County. She had drafted a will in April 1839, and among its many bequests were these:

  • to daughter Maria Burden [Borden] — “Tom Penny Dennis & William & Maria & Jim & Ellick
  • to son Alfred Brownrigg — “one negro girl by the name of Susan”
  • to daughter Obedience Wright — “one boy Henry one boy Lonor one negroe woman named Winny one boy Bryant one boy John also one girl named Angy & Anscy
  • also to daughter Obedience Wright — “one negro woman named Cloy one negro man named Joe and all my Table & Tea Spoons it it my Will and desire that the labor of Joe Shall Support the Old Woman Cloy her life time then Joe to Obedience Wright”

Obedience Brownrigg’s first husband was Elnathan Tartt, who died in 1796. As shown here, he bequeathed his wife an enslaved woman named Cloe [Chloe], who is surely the Cloy named above, and man named Ellic, who is probably Ellick.

Obedience’s second husband was George Brownrigg, who died without a will in 1821. An inventory of his estate included enslaved people Ellick, Chloe, Joe, Jem, Tom, Penny, Drury, Tom, Annie, Matilda, Suckey, Clara, Fereba, Sarah, Clarky, Anthony, Rachel, Mary, Nelson, Emily, Julia and Abram, and several others unnamed in a petition for division of negroes filed by his heirs in 1825. Ellick and Chloe surely are the man and woman Obedience brought to the marriage. I have not found evidence of the distribution of George Brownrigg’s enslaved property, but Joe, Tom, Penny and Susan seem to have passed to his wife Obedience. (Suckey, pronounced “Sooky,” was a common nickname for Susan.)

So, back to the receipt.

George Brownrigg bequeathed Susan “Sukey” to his widow Obedience about 1821. Obedience Brownrigg in turn left Sukey to her son Alfred Brownrigg. Alfred Brownrigg quickly sold Sukey to his brother Edwin Barnes Brownrigg. On 15 February 1842, Edwin’s representative John Wright took possession of Sukey from James B. Woodard, Obedience Brownrigg’s executor. Wright was married to Eliza Obedience Brownrigg Wright, daughter to Obedience Brownrigg and sister to Alfred and Edwin.

The note is less clear. Wright, who lived in Waynesborough (once the Wayne County seat, now long defunct) is asking someone (the unnamed “sir”) to deliver the receipt to Edwin Barnes of Toisnot Depot (now Wilson.) There were several Edwin Barneses in southeast Edgecombe (to become Wilson) County at that time.  And Edwin Brownrigg’s middle name was Barnes. Are Edwin Barnes and Edwin Brownrigg the same man, whose name was misgiven in one or the documents? In other words, should the receipt have been made out instead to the Edwin Barnes mentioned in the note? If this were the case, the note would make immediate sense. As to Sukey, I’ll explore a possible twist to her story in another post.]

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

 

Their father claimed them.

Don’t let anyone tell you that slavery destroyed the black family. African-Americans struggled against terrible odds to unite sundered families, often standing up to authority in the process.

In June 1866, George W. Blount wrote a letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau on behalf of Josiah D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County. Just months after being forced to free them, Jenkins had indentured eight siblings whose mother had died. Within six months, the children’s family had come for them, and the five oldest had left for more agreeable situations. Sallie, 14, Sookie, 12, and Isabella, 10, were in Wilson County with their elder sister and her husband Willie Bullock. Arden, 16, was working for what appears to be a commercial partnership in Tarboro, and Bethania, 14, was with her and Arden’s father Jonas Jenkins (paternity that Blount pooh-poohed.) Jonas Jenkins had sought custody of his children before their indenture, but his claims had been trumped by a “suitable” white man who “ought” to have them because he had “raised them from infancy” [i.e., held them in slavery since birth] and their mother “died in his own house.”

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Wilson No.Ca. June 29 1866

Col. Brady   Col.

Mr. Jo. D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County has been here expecting to see you; but as he did not find you here he requested me to write to you and state his case, asking you to furnish him the remedy if any he is entitled to, and such he believes he has. In Dec 1865, Capt Richards Asst Sup F.B. for the dist of Tarboro, Apprenticed to him Eight (8) Orphan Colored children. The indentures he has, five, and the only ones large enough to render any service have been enticed away from him, leaving him with three who are hardly able to care for the own wants every thing furnished. Three of them are in the custody of Willie Bullock F.M. [freedman] whose wife is the older sister of the three. The others – Arden is in the employment of Messrs. Haskell & Knap near Tarboro. Bethania is in the custody of Jonas Jenkins F.M., who claims to be the father of both of her & Arden. The three first mentioned are in Wilson County the others in Edgecombe.

Mr. Jenkins desires me to say to you that if he cannot be secured in the possession of them he desires the indentures cancelled; for according to law he would be liable for Doctors bills – and to take care of them in case of an accident rendering them unable to take care of themselves.

This man Jonas set up claim to Arden and Bethania before they were apprenticed. The matter was referred to Col Whittlesey who decided that as they were bastard children he Jonas could not intervene preventing apprenticeship to a suitable person.

Mr. J is a suitable man to have charge of them and ought to have their services now. He raised them from infancy, and after the mother died in his own house

I am Col,                       Very Respectfully &c, G.W. Blount

An early reply desired.

A note from the file listing the Jenkins children to which Josiah D. Jenkins laid claim.

——

Entry for Josiah D. Jenkins in the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County. By 1860, Jenkins claimed ownership of 36 people, evenly divided between men and women. 

  • G.W. Blount — A year later, George W. Blount was embroiled in his own battle for control over formerly enslaved children. He lost.
  • Jo. D. Jenkins — Joseph [Josiah] D. Jenkins appears in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, as a 59 year-old farmer who reported $25,000 in real property and $15,000 in personal property — remarkable wealth so soon after the Civil War. John Jenkins, 10, domestic servant, is the only black child living in his household and presumably of the one of the children at issue here.
  • Bethania Jenkins — on 7 April 1874, Turner Bullock, 23, married Bethany Jenkins, 21, in Edgecombe County.
  • Willie Bullock
  • Arden Jenkins
  • Sallie Jenkins
  • Sookie Jenkins
  • Isabella Jenkins — Isabella Jenkins, 22, married Franklin Stancil, 30, on 16 April 1878 at Jackson Jenkins’ in Edgecombe County. Isabelle Stancill died 19 November 1927 in Township No. 2, Edgecombe County,. Per her death certificate, she was about 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County; was the widow of Frank Stancill; and was buried in Jenkins cemetery. Elliott Stancill was informant,
  • Jonas Jenkins — in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, Jonas Jenkins, 45, farm laborer. No children are listed in the household he shared with white farmer John E. Baker.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

State v. William Baker and Patsey Mitchell.

At Fall Term 1856 of Wilson County Superior Court, a grand jury charged William Baker and Patsey Mitchell, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.”  William Felton and Elisha Owens were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman William Ellis returned a true bill to the clerk of court.

William Baker was white; Martha “Patsey” Mitchell was African-American.

——

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina: Willis Hagins, 50, and Patsy Mitchell, 45, and her children Sally, 20, Rufus, 9, Amanda 6, Wm., 2, and Mary, 1. Next door, laborer Wm. Baker, 26, white, in the household of Joseph Peacock.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Martha Mitchell, 44, and her children William, 13, Franklin, 11, George, 10, Thomas, 9, and Martha, 6. Also in Gardners, William Baker, 30, in the household of John Bynum, 22.

[A note: During my recent visit to North Carolina, I stopped for several hours for a long-overdue visit to the State Archives in Raleigh. I was pressed for time, so I skimmed folders with an eye for names of African-Americans (or indicia like “col.”), then flagged those documents for copies that I could study later. In the Adultery records, I pulled just a few years from 1856-1868 and ultimately copied only six or seven sets of documents. Baker-Mitchell is the fourth of them that involves an interracial relationship. The fact of these relationships does not surprise, but their seeming overrepresentation among prosecutions for adultery does. Perhaps it’s no more than a fluke of my search. I look forward to a return visit to search further.]

Adultery Records-1857, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

They are non-residents of this state.

Hardy Lassiter died about 1853 in a section of Edgecombe County that two years later became part of the newly created Wilson County. During the probate of his estate, the court ordered this ad placed in an attempt to locate his daughter Sally Lassiter Artis and her husband, Morrison Artis.

The Tarborough Southerner, 24 September 1853.

Where were the Artises?  Indiana.

Morrison Artis, son of Micajah and Bedie Powell Artis, was born about 1822 in or near what would become Wilson County. His father Micajah is listed as a head of household in the 1830 census of Taylor district, Nash County, and the 1840 census of Davis district, Wayne County. Morrison Artis married Sarah “Sally” Lassiter circa 1845. Born about 1827 in what was then Edgecombe County, she was the daughter of Hardy and Obedience Lassiter. Morrison and Sally’s first child, Benjamin F. Artis, was born in 1847, and within a year or so the family struck out for Indiana with Morrison’s family.

In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 24, farmer; wife Sarah, 21; and children Benjamin, 3, and Rachel, 6 months. All except Rachel were born in North Carolina.

In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 50, farmer; wife Bedy, 40; and children Arcada, 17, Eliza, 14, Burket, 4, and Henriette, 1. All but Henriette were born in North Carolina.

In the 1860 census of Reserve township, Parke County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 35; wife Sally, 33; and children Benjamin, 13, Rachel. 10, and Martha, 5. Morrison reported owning $1000 in real property and $465 in personal property.

In the 1860 census of Adam township, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 58, farmer; wife Beda, 50; and children Birket, 16, Henrietta, 10, Elmeda, 8, and Benson, 7.

Per Early Black Settlements by County, indianahistory.org, “During the 1850s, the Bassett, Artis and Ellis families left Parke County, Indiana, and established a settlement in Ervin Township. (The Bassett and Artis families were free African Americans who came to Indiana from North Carolina.)  At least 11 families lived in this area that became a small farming community of blacks sometime known as the Bassett Settlement or the Bassett and Ellis Settlement.  They had a school, church, cemetery (located at 950 W.), general store, blacksmith shop and a post office.  Some of the other surnames associated with the settlement include Canady, Griggs, Jones, Kirby, Mosely, and Wilson.

“Zachariah and Richard Bassett served as ministers at the Free Union Baptist Church in Howard County.  The 1870 census list Bassetts, Artis, and Ellis as farmers.  Richard had land valued at $8,400 and Morrison Artis’s land was valued at $2,800.  In 1892, Richard Bassett became the third black person to be elected to the Indiana state legislature.”

The heart of the Bassett Settlement as shown in this 1877 plat map. Two parcels are labeled M. Artis — one, perhaps, Micajah and the other Morrison. A small cross is visible at the center of the image in a parcel marked R. Bassett; it marks the community cemetery in which the older Artises were buried. [For an account of my visit to Bassett cemetery and a family connection to this place, see here and here.]

In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 46; wife Sarah, 40; and children Benjamin, 23, Martha, 16, and William, 1. Morrison reported owning $2800 in real property and $500 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Macajah Artis, 65, farmer; wife Bedea, 65; and children Henrietta, 22, Almedia, 20, and Benson 17. Morrison reported owning $700 in real property and $100 in personal property.

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Indianapolis Leader, 30 August 1879.

In the 1880 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 57; wife Sarah, 55; children Benjamin, 33, Martha, 26, and William M., 11; and grandson Melvin, 8.

In 1891, Morrison Artis was nearly swindled from his life’s accumulation in a fraudulent land transaction.

Kokomo Saturday Tribune, 12 May 1891.

Morrison Artis died in April 1896 after terrible head injuries sustained when his spooked horse threw him, then fell on him.

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 9 April 1896.

Benjamin F. Artis died 8 September 1910 in Coopers Grove, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1947 in North Carolina to Morrison Artis and Sarah Lassiter; was married to Caroline Artis; and was a retired laborer.

Melvina Bassett died 7 April 1917 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1839 in North Carolina to Micajah Artis and Bedie Powell; was the widow of John Bassett; and was buried in Bassett cemetery. William Bassett was informant.

Benson Artis died 17 April 1919 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 56 years old; was born in Indiana to M. Artis and an unknown mother; was single; lived at 145 Western Avenue, Kokomo.

William M. Artis died 27 August 1920 in Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 February 1869 in Indiana to Morrison Artis and an unknown mother; was married to Lula Artis; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Kokomo.

U.S. Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.