enslaved people

The last will and testament of Jacob Taylor.

On 9 July 1860, Jacob Taylor of Wilson County penned a will that included these provisions:

  • To son William T. Taylor, two parcels totaling 224 acres on the public road from Hadley’s Mill to the Town of Wilson, near the “poor house land” and Great Branch, plus “two negro boys Raiford and Pomp
  • To daughter Louiza Martin, wife of John H. Martin, 200 acres and “two negro boys Alfred and Deberry
  • To Taylor and Martin, to divide or sell and divide the proceeds, “two negroes Charlotte and Frank

The approximate location of Jacob Taylor’s farm between Hadley’s Mill and the County Poor House land.

——

Perhaps, Deberry was, in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Berry Taylor, 28; wife Caroline, 26; and children Hardy, 8, Robart, 5, Loucenda, 3, and John, 5 months; plus farm laborer Berry Strickland, 18.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Pompy Taylor, 30, was listed as a farm laborer in the household of Benj’m Farmer, 48.

Likely, in the 1880 census of Stony Creek township, Wayne County: railroad worker Pompey Taylor, 40; wife Lindy, 34; and children Jack, 16, Zackary, 8, Lotty, 6, Penny, 3, and Annie, 6 months. Pompey reported that his father was born in Africa.

In the 1900 census of Stony Creek township, Wayne County: farmer Pompey Taylor, 59; wife Linda, 50; and children Annie, 19, and Jacob, 13.

in the 1910 census of Stony Creek township, Wayne County: farmer Pomp Taylor, 69, and wife Lindy, 60.

 

Images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Arch is committed to Edgecombe County jail.

Screen Shot 2019-07-07 at 5.35.21 PM.png

Tarborough Southerner, 11 July 1857.

In July 1857, the Tarboro jailer advertised in a local newspaper that an enslaved teenager named Arch had been committed to jail. Arch, who had a scar on his wrist from being struck by a grubbing hoe, told Benjamin Williams that William J. Moore of Wilson County was his owner.

Toney Eatmon’s sons.

Is it not clear whether Toney Eatmon ever lived in Wilson County, but his two known children did. The record is scarce, but:

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina, Tony Eatmon, 55, farmer, in the household of white farmer Theophilus Eatmon, 70. Tony was described as mulatto, and the belief that he was Theophilus Eatmon’s son is supported by DNA matching.

On 4 February 1868, Jack Williamson, son of Toney Eatmon and Hester Williamson, married Ann Boykin, daughter of John Harper and Alder Reid, at Jack Williamson’s in Wilson. [Per census records, Jack Williamson was born about 1835.]

Willis Barnes died 15 September 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; married; a farmer; and born in Nash County to Toney Eatmon and Annie Eatmon. Jesse Barnes was informant.

In short: Toney Eatmon was born free about 1795 (or perhaps a few years later), most likely in southeastern Nash County to Theophilus Eatmon and an unknown free woman of color. Whether he married is unknown, but he fathered at least two sons, Jack Williamson, born about 1835 to Hester Williamson, an enslaved woman, and Willis Barnes, born about 1841, to Annie Eatmon (or, perhaps, Barnes), an enslaved woman. Williamson and Barnes lived their adult lives in Wilson County. Toney Eatmon likely died between 1850 and 1860.

The Civil War letters of J.R.P. Ellis, part 1.

The East Carolina University Manuscript Collection’s Josiah Robert Peele Ellis Papers contain photocopies of transcriptions of correspondence by J.R.P. Ellis of Wilson County, North Carolina, to his wife Elizabeth Grimes Ellis while he was serving in Company C of the 43rd N.C. Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

Hugh B. Johnston Jr.’s introduction to the letters describes Josiah R.P. Ellis as “a well-to-do planter who lived in Wilson County, about a mile northwest of Stantonsburg where the road forks in the respective directions of Black Creek and Wilson.” Ellis, born in 1821, was apparently inadvertently drafted, enlisted in the Confederate Army anyway, and was fatally wounded in 1864.

Several letters include references to free and enslaved African-Americans who lived in Ellis’ community, especially in regards to Ellis’ suggestions for hiring labor to work on the farm in his absence.

——

Letter #1, undated, probably written late in 1863, to wife Betsy Ellis:

“I was glad to hear that Cole and Tomy got home safe. If any of you come, you will have to get a pass to come over the bridge. Direct your letters to J.R.P. Ellis, Kinston, 43 Reg’t., Co. C, Hoke’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division. I also desire your prayers. Your affectionate husband until death.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis   P.S. They have stopped the daily mail. The mail only comes Monday and Thursday.”

In footnotes, Johnston noted that Cole and Tomy are believed to have been men enslaved by the J.R.P. and Betsy Ellis.

——

Letter #2, dated “Camp near Modern Ford, Dec. 4/63”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“Having a favorable opportunity I will endeavor to drop you a few lines to let you know I am still living. I left Kinston on Sunday, the 22nd of November. I was sent to Goldsboro and then to Raleigh, and then to Camp Holmes and was enrolled. They told me that I had to go to Lee’s Army or Bragg’s, so I am with the 43 Regt. with Rufus and Edwin Amerson. I got to this Company last Thursday night at 11 o’clock. We left Orange Court House about sunset and walked 15 miles. I had been there about 30 minutes when we received orders to march, so we had to start and march 7 or 8 miles. We were then marched to a line of battle and remained there until day. And then we started and marched until about 9 o’clock and then we met the Yankees and throwed in a line of battle. And then in about ten minutes the sharpshooters were firing. They kept up shooting until night, and then we fell back some 2 or 3 miles and went to throwing up breastworks, and if if you ever saw poor fellows work, then was the time.

“About sunrise the sharpshooters were sent out again. I was sent with them and by the time we got to our post we saw the Yanks coming, and in about 5 minutes they were shooting us and the bullets were coming whistling. In about 10 minutes a ball struck a man in the face, and I had to help tote him off the field with the balls striking all around me. Two struck a man that was on my side a-touching me. There is no use in telling you about being scared, for it will scare the most of the time. We got our breastworks done and I felt tolerable easy under the circumstances. We lay there 4 days a-waiting for the Yanks to advance on us, but on the 4 night they left us and we started after them, but I did not want to catch them much, so we ran them over the Rapidan and then we turned back and marched some 8 or 10 miles and struck up camp and stayed all night, so we started back to our old camp. I helped bury a dead man this morning.

“I received your letter that you send my by A.J. Ellis and was glad to that you and children were tolerable well except colds, and I still hope that you are still enjoying the same blessing. You said something about hiring Eas and Emily. You can do as you please, but I think you had better hire them if they don’t ask too much for them. You had better try to make support if you can. Encourage the children to be smart and saving and careful, for you and they are left dependent on your own exertions for a living, and I sincerely hope you will do well.

“I must come to a close.  /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Per Johnston’s footnotes: Eas [Eason] and Emily were “Edmundson slaves.” This reference may be to Wright Edmundson.

——

Letter #3, dated “The Camp of the 43rd, Dec. 9th 1863”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“This may inform you and family that I am very unwell though I am up. I have a very heavy cold and cough. I have to lie out and take the weather as it comes. We have no shelter at all to protect us. I have to drill 4 hours a day. Cooking and drilling take all our time. We have to tote our wood nearly a half-mile. It is very cold here now, and I suffer with cold a-nights. I have not cover enough to keep me warm. I have as much as I can tote, and in fact more if I have to march much, so don’t send me any clothes or cover. I got a permit to go see the boys in Staton’s old Co. I am with the boys now. They all seem glad to see me and it makes me feel proud to see so many of my old friends. The boys are all well here.

“You have no idea how badly I want to see you and the children. I would give all the money you have got to be with you and if I could stay and not be troubled, but that time has passed, I am afraid.  Lieut. Killet wants Wyatt Lynch to bring him a qt. of the old peach brandy. You can let him have it, and T. Barnes wants a qt., too. You can send it, also, and send me a qt. by Wyatt if he will bring it. They want it for Christmas. They will pay me for it.

“Thomas Mumford wants 1/2 bushel of potatoes. Send them if you can by anybody. Write as soon as this comes to hand. Don’t put it off a minute, for I want to hear from you once a week without fail. I must come to a close as Tom wants to send some in this letter, so nothing more, only I remain yours as ever.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Johnston’s footnote: “Wyatt Lynch (born 1830) was a highly regarded free black of Wilson County. He followed the trade of plasterer and brickmason.” Captain Ruffin Barnes also made reference to Wyatt Lynch, as well as Lynch’s wife Nicey Caroline Lynch, in his correspondence. As a free man of color, Lynch was not subject to conscription as a Confederate soldier and could freely travel the countryside (carrying at all times evidence of his free status), which made him useful as a courier over the relatively short distance from Wilson County to encampments near Kinston, North Carolina.

 

The last will and testament of Long John Webb.

“Long” John Webb, so-called because his height distinguished him from several contemporaries of the same name, lived in a section of southwest Edgecombe County that is now northeast Wilson County. His will, drafted in 1845, entered probate in August 1853 and included these provisions:

“I, John Webb, of the State of North Carolina and County of Edgecombe, being of sound mind and perfect memory blessed be God do this 19th day of October in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty-Five, make and publish this my last will and testament in the following manner:

“First:  I give and bequeath to my son John Webb one Negro man by the name of Prussian; also one by the name of Jim and a Negro woman by the name of Maci and one by the name of Anaky and a Negro boy the name of Peter.

“Second:  I give and bequeath unto my son David Webb one Negro girl by the name of Bet and one Negro boy by the name of Harry, one Negro boy by the name of Elie.

“Third:  I give an bequeath unto my son Nathan Webb one Negro woman by the name of Nance and her daughter Silvy, and one other by the name of Mary Lettie, her child.

“Fourth:  I give and bequeath to my son Orman Webb one Negro boy by the name of Tom, also one Negro boy by the name of Ephraim.

“Fifth:  I give and bequeath to my son Willis Webb one Negro boy by the name of Dennis, also one Negro girl named Gatsy.

“Sixth:  I also give and bequeath unto my daughter Anna Webb one Negro boy by the name of Miles and one Negro girl by the name of Anna.

Seventeenth:  And lastly I do hereby make and ordain my worthy friend David Williams my executor to this my last will and testament, revoking all other wills by me made or cause to be made.

…”

Will transcribed at ncgenweb.us.

The estate of William J. Armstrong.

William J. Armstrong died in Wilson County in September 1856. Several months later, his heirs, as tenants in common, petitioned for the division of his enslaved property, identified as Quinny, Abram, Jim, Birden and his wife and child, Ned, Tony, Harry, Julann and her two children, Lizett, Nance and her child, Ciller and her two children, Jane, Lucinda and two children, Berry, and Mahala.

At January term 1858 of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a team of commissioners reported their division, randomly allotted, thus:

  • Lot 1 to Catherine Armstrong, consisting of Abram, Avy, Nelson and Allis, valued at $2275.
  • Lot 2 to Caroline Armstrong, consisting of Julan, Mahala and Nancy, valued at $2175.
  • Lot 3 to Willie G. Barnes and wife, consisting of Quinny, Harry, Scilla and her child, valued at $3050.
  • Lot 4 to George W. Armstrong, consisting of Ned, Clary, Sarah and Barry, valued at $3100.
  • Lot 5 to James G. Armstrong, consisting of James, Burton, Rufus and Lucinda and her child, valued at $3325.
  • Lot 6 to John H. Winstead and wife, consisting of Tony, Lizette, Lucinda, Jane and her child, valued at $3320.

Some notes:

  • The petitioners clearly underestimated the number of enslaved people William Armstrong had owned at his death.
  • Scilla and one of the Lucindas were each separated from one of their (youngest) children. (Children over about age eight would have been listed individually.) Julann and Nancy were completely divided from their children.
  • Burton, who seems to have been the only man with a wife living on the Armstrong plantation, was separated from his wife Clary and child.

Only a few of the men, women and children formerly enslaved by William J. Armstrong are readily identifiable in post-Emancipation records:

  • A Wilson County justice of the peace registered Abram Armstrong and Cherry Proctor’s 16-year cohabitation in 1866. In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Abraham Armstrong, 52, wife Cherry, 32, and children Nancy, 16, Haywood, 14, Nelson, 12, Joshua, 11, and Burlee, 7. As Cherry Armstrong and children were owned by a different enslaver, this Abraham’s son Nelson is a different person than the Nelson listed above. So is Nancy.
  • A Wilson County justice of the peace registered Burton Armstrong and Clary Armstrong’s 18-year cohabitation in 1866. In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Burden Armstrong, 45, farm laborer, who owned $400 personal and $300 real property, and wife Clara, 38. Burton and Clara Armstrong became Exodusters and are found in the 1900 census of Portland township, Ashley County, Arkansas, with granddaughter Laura Binam, 6.
  • A Wilson County justice of the peace registered James Armstrong and Pricilla Braswell‘s two-year cohabitation in 1866.
  • In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Lucinda Armstrong, 41; her children Charley L., 16, Gray Anna, 13, and Shadrick, 10; her sister Lizette Armstrong, 51; and Mourning Pitt, 80. Charley Armstrong may have been the child allotted with Lucinda to James G. Armstrong. Though they presumably spent the last decade of slavery owned by Barneses, Lucinda and Lizette retained Armstrong as their surname.
  • A Wilson County justice of the peace registered Ned Armstrong and Eliza Whitehead‘s cohabitation in 1866.

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The last will and testament of Theophilus Grice.

Theophilus Grice made out his will on 18 April 1823; he died six months later. Per Elton Cooke, who contributed a transcription of the will to http://www.ncgenweb.us, “The Grices, Deans and Cooks owned large tracts of land along Contentnea Creek, Hwy. 42 W and the Old Raleigh Road west of Wilson and east of I 95. References to Poplar Spring branch and Shepard’s branch are frequently seen in Cook and Grice deeds of the period. The area, known as the Old Fields (various spellings) district was taken from Nash County in 1856 [sic] to form a part of the new County of Wilson.”

——

“In the name of God Amen. I Theophilus Grice of the County of Nash and State of North Carolina Being Weake in body but Sound in Mind and Memmory blesed be God for his goodness do this Eighteenth day of April in the year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and twenty three Ordain and Make this My Last Will and Testament in Manner following to wit

“After My death and being buried and all My just debts is paid I lend to My Wife Polley Grice doring hur lifetime or Widowhood the home plantation and the Jacob Row field and after inclooding the said Row field thence two and along the Grass fence below the orched to the ford of the Contenney Creake at My old place all the lands adjoining above the said ford of the Creake is allotted for hur I also lend My negro Man Sesar to hur during hur natrel life or widowhood I allso give to hur one negro Man named Hardy and it is My desier that he be Hired out and the Money arising from His hire to be aplied to the seport of My Wife and hur Children that lives With hur I give hur three Cows and Calves and twenty hed of hogs Such As She Chooses out of My Stock and five hed of Sheep and one bay mare Called pidgin One plow frame two Cutting hoes one ax one grubing hoe I lend to My Wife one pot one Dutchoven one gridiron one boilar during of hur natrel life or Widowhood I give hur one bed and furniture one Whele and Cards One lume and gun one bridle and Saddle one burch table one pine table & Six Chiers one pale one pigin two tubs one Case of knifes and forks one meal sifter one bred tray I lend to My Wife during hur natrel life or Widowhood two puter basons one dish six plates and six table spoons and one Chest to hur and hur ares forever

Item I give to My Sun John Grice the blumery land that is to say the lots bought of Dred Deberry and his Wife and Irvin Ricks lying on both sides of the blumery pond also another tract of land lying in the afore said County Beginning at the ford of the Creake about one Hundred and fifty yards from the house at My old place on the Johnston line thence down the Manders of Said Creake to the Row Corner on Said Creake thence with the Row line & Grice line between Theopolis Grice and Christen Row unto the Raley Rode to a corner pine thence West With the Rode to Nichols line thence South With Nichols line to Theopolis Grices line thence East With his line until they get below the Jacob Row feld and down the Branch to the fork thence up the other branch nearly West to the head of said branch thence nearly South to the first beginning at the ford of Contenney Creake to him and his ares forever

Item I give to My Sun Thomas Grice all of My land lying in Johnston County Except three Akers lying at the Mill Called the Cobb Mill also I give him another tract of land lying in Nash County Called the boykin land adjoining Jesse Simpson to him and His ares forever also all the ballance of My land that is not Willed away I leave to be Sold at a twelve Month Credit

Item I give to My daughter Salley Cook two negros garls and their Children that is now is their puseson also one bed and furniture two Cows and yearlins one desk one Chest to Hur and hur ares forever.

Item I give to My Suns and daughters that is to Say John Thomas Rodey and Tempey fifteen negros to be Eakeley divided between them that is to Say Pris and hur three Children and Sal and hur fore Children and Darkis and hur fore Children and all of their increase that Shal Come hereafter and one Small garl named Morning to be divided at the time that My Sun John think proper to take his part of them to them and their ares forever and it is My desier that all the Rest of My Negros be Sold at a twelve Month Credit Namely Phillis Phareby Rode Anddy Patianc Fortin and Child Joe Nance and hur Child Art Jes Mill Zil

… I also nominate and apoint Bartley Deans and My Sun John Grice My Hole Sole Executor to this My Last Will and testament Whereof I Theopolis Grice have herunto Set My hand and afixed My Seal the day and year first above Written   /s/ Theophilus Grice

Signed in the presence of us and Sealed in the presence of us  /s/ John L. Lyons  James Deans

——

In a nutshell, Theophilus Grice left his wife Mary “Polly” Harrison Grice a life interest in Caesar and directed that Hardy be hired out to support Polly and their children. He left his daughter Sarah “Sally” Grice Cook two unnamed young women and their children, who were already in her possession. For his four remaining children — John, Temperance Ann, Rhoda and Thomas Grice, who were all minors — he directed that 15 enslaved people be divided equally among them. The fifteen were Pris [Priscilla?] and her three children; Sal [Sally or Sarah] and her four children; Darcus and her four children; and Mourning, “a small girl” (who, presumably, was orphaned.) To equally distribute 15 people among four heirs likely required that one or more mothers be separated from their children. Grice further directed that Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, Andy, Patience, Fortune and her child, Joe, Nancy and her child, Art, Jess, Mill, and Zil be sold.

On several days in over the year after his death, Grice’s executors held sales to liquidate his property per the terms of his will. On 4 December 1923, they sold Phillis, Phereby, Rhoda, and Fortune and her child Bedy to Polly Grice; Andrew, Jess and Ace, Zill and Milly to John Grice; Joe, Arthur and Nancy and her child Piety to John Cook; and Patience to Harris Horn.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 10.25.17 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 10.26.43 PM.png

At February 1824 term of court, Grice’s executors filed an inventory that listed all 37 of his slaves, including those sold above:

Philis, Phareby, Rody, Andrew, Patience, Fortune and child Beedy, Joe, Nance and child Piety, Arthur, Jes, Mill and Zill (twins?), Sarah, Ace, David, Chaney, Henry, Eliza, Priss, Richmon, Daniel, Ann, Darcus, Litha, Wiley, Charity, Dempsey, Mourning, Caesor, Hardy, Beed, Cussey and her three children.

In December 1828, the guardians appointed to oversee minor Thomas Grice’s inheritance filed an income and expense report with the court showing, among other things, that they had paid Mary Grice thirty-seven dollars for “the expense” of feeding and clothing the enslaved people Thomas had inherited, and Josiah Horn seven dollars and fifty cents for “doctoring his Negro woman.”

007384023_00986

On 7 February 1829, Polly Grice sold some of the property she had inherited, including Caesar, whom her son John Grice purchased. (Note the credit to the account of seven dollars for the balance of the six-month period Caesar had been hired out to Peter C. Davis.)

007384023_00983

In this December 1838 account of Rhoda Grice’s inheritance, Bartley Deans reported income from the hire of enslaved people Wiley, Charity, Jim, Caroline and Elbert.

007384023_00981

Estate of Theophilus Grice, images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.