enslaved people

Williamson v. Williamson, 57 N.C. 272 (1858).

This case was filed in Wilson County Court of Equity by Garry Williamson and Jesse Fulgham, executors of the will of Thomas Williamson, concerning the distribution of certain enslaved people for whom Williamson claimed ownership. The principle question posed to the North Carolina Supreme Court was whether enslaved children, born before Williamson died, passed with their mothers to the designated legatees. “The general rule is clearly settled that the bequest simply of a female slave and her increase passes the mother only, and not the increase which she may have had before the will was executed, or between that time and the death of the testator.” An exception would be where the testator’s intent to include the children can be inferred from a reference to the enslaved woman having previously been in the possession of the legatee. Otherwise, the children become part of the “residue,” i.e. property to be liquidated and the proceeds equally divided among legatees.

The chart below summarizes the fates of 26 of the enslaved people — all women and children — that Thomas Williamson owned. It is a stark encapsulation of the devastating impact of slavery on African-American families. And where were their men? An examination of Williamson’s will, drafted in August 1852, reveals further separation. Turner, Patrick and Dennis were bequeathed to his wife Keziah Williamson, and Jack was passed to son Garry Williamson.

 

James and Zilpha Newsome Daniel house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This handsome plantation house is thought to have been built for James Daniel. Daniel was born in 1802 and died in 1854. He married Zilphia Newsome, and after her death in 1862 the property was sold to Dr. Alexander G. Brooks …. The Daniel House is a smaller version of the type of plantation house built for such prominent planters as William Barnes (Stantonsburg Township), Elias Barnes (Saratoga Township) and Colonel David Williams (Toisnot Township). It is two stories high with a rather shallow hipped roof and interior chimneys. Both front and rear doors are trabeated, and the front elevation is sheltered by a hipped-roof porch supported by slender chamfered posts. A kitchen wing is located on the side elevation. The house has a double-pile central-hall plan with two rooms off the hall. All the original mid-nineteenth century mantels and doors are still in place.”

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In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County: farmer James Daniel, 48; wife Zilpah, 47; and her children Elizabeth, 23, Eliza, 21, Lawrence, 19, Joseph, 15, James, 17, Sarah, 12, Mary, 8, and Martha, 8.

In the 1850 slave schedule of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, James Daniel is reported with eight slaves, five girls and women aged 3 to 26, and three boys and men, aged 1 to 35.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Zilpha Daniel, 53, and her children Elizabeth, 33, Eliza, 29, Larry, 28, Sallie, 19, Mary, 18, and Martha, 18. Farm laborer Smithy Artis, 38, a free woman of color, and her son George, 21, described as “idiotic,” also lived in the household. [The term was often applied to deaf people.] Daniel reported $8000 in real estate and $12,000 in personal property, including enslaved people.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek township, Wilson County, Zilpha Daniel is reported with 14 slaves, eight girls and women aged 1 to 39, and six men and boys, aged 2 to 39.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists many dozens of African-Americans with the surname Daniel living throughout the eastern half of Wilson County.

Robert M. Cox house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

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“Dr. Robert Cox was born in 1825 and he married Zillah Horne, an heir to the Horne land where this house was built. In 1844 Cox purchased his wife’s share of the Horne land, amounting to 385 acres. This house was probably built in the 1840s. After the death of Zillah, Cox married her sister, Elizabeth Horne. According to the 1860 census he was identified as a farmer with real property worth $8,000. … The Cox House consists of a two-room dwelling with an engaged porch and rear shed. The sturdy porch posts are chamfered and a shed room with access from the outside was built under one side of the porch. There are two exterior end chimneys; one centrally located on the west elevation which served the parlor and one on the east elevation on the rear shed. On the interior the house is divided into two main rooms with a shed room running the width of the house at the rear.”

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In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, North Carolina [in an area which became part of Black Creek township, Wilson County, in 1855]: farmer Robert Cox, 25; wife Zillie, 23; and daughter Julia, 10 months. Per the 1850 slave schedule of the same district, Cox enslaved a 37 year-old woman, four girls ranging in age from 4 to 14, a 42 year-old man, and two boys, aged 7 and 14.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Robert M. Cox, 35; wife Elizabeth, 21; Barney B. Cox, 21, clerk; John H. Minshew, 28, clerk; and J.S. Holt, 28, merchant. Cox reported $8000 in real property and $36000 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included five enslaved girls and women ranging from 9 to 30 years old and ten enslaved boys and men ranging from 9 months to 35 years old. Cox provided three dwellings to house them.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists 20 African-Americans with the surname Cox living in four households in Black Creek, Stantonsburg and Cross Roads townships. Though Robert Cox was the sole Cox slaveholder listed in Wilson County in 1860, several of his Cox kin in neighboring Wayne County owned slaves.

 

They unlawfully hired their time of their master.

An enslaver could, and often did, rent the services of an enslaved person to others for specific tasks or under long-term leases. Under North Carolina law, however, enslavers were prohibited from allowing their slaves to rent their own time. That is, to come to their own terms and arrangements for working for others for wages that they either kept for themselves or split with their masters. Slaves who hired their own time created their own wealth, a dangerous circumstance. There was a wide gulf between law and reality, however.

Dennis, a man over whom white Wilson County carpenter John Farmer claimed ownership, was indicted on misdemeanor charges of hiring his time at July term, 1859, of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.  Five years later, at July 1864, jurors indicted Farmer himself for allowing the entrepreneurial activities of enslaved women named Mary, Lucy and Silvia.

The jurors for the State on their oath present, that Dennis, a Slave the property of John Farmer (Carpt) at and in the County of Wilson on the first day of January 1859 and on divers other days and times as well before as afterwards up to the taking of this inquisition by the permission of the said John Farmer his master, unlawfully did go at large, the said Salve having then and there unlawfully hired his own time of his said master, contrary to the form of the Stature in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State.

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John Farmer may have been the John W. Farmer of Wilson township, Wilson County, who is listed in the 1860 slave schedule as the owner of ten enslaved men and women.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Arthur Bass farm.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This house is said to have been the property of Arthur Bass. According to the Wayne County census of 1850 Arthur Bass was born in 1816. Little is known of Bass’ life. … The Bass House appears to date from the 1830s and it consists of a two-story dwelling with an attached shed porch and three-bay façade. Under the porch the façade is sheathed in flush boards instead of the unusual weatherboards, the main house is linked with the kitchen by an open breezeway on the eastern elevation and this breezeway shelters an unusual enclosed exterior stair. On the first floor of the main house there are two main rooms, while the second floor appears to have been one large room.”

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In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, North Carolina [in an area which became part of Black Creek township, Wilson County, in 1855]: farmer Arthur Bass, 34; wife Martha, 19; and daughter Zilla, 8 months. Per the 1850 slave schedule of the same district, Arthur Bass enslaved a 25 year-old woman, a three year-old boy and a two year-old girl.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Arthur Bass, 46; wife Pattie, 28; and children Zillah, 11, Louisa, 8, Perry, 6, and William, 2 months. He listed $4000 in real property and $7000 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included five enslaved girls and women ranging from 8 months to 32 years old and two enslaved boys. aged 12 and five.

Arthur Bass was just one of several white Basses who enslaved people in Wilson County. The 1870 census of Wilson County lists 134 African-Americans with the surname Bass living in households across eastern Wilson County in Black Creek, Stantonsburg, Gardners, Wilson, Joyners and Cross Roads townships.

Alexander G. Brooks plantation.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“Dr. Alexander G[oodrich]. Brooks was a leading citizen of Black Creek Township. He was born in 1826 [in Caswell County, North Carolina] and he married Patience Simms before 1856. His wife was the daughter of Garry Simms, and the couple built this house on land once owned by the Simms family. Brooks was a physician and a planter. He was one of the commissioners appointed to lay out the county seat when the county was formed in 1855, and he served for many years as a justice of the peace. … The house was probably built in the late 1840s. It is situated in a grove of mature trees and faces south. It stands two stories high and is T-shaped. The front section of the house consists of a two-story block with double gallery porches on either side. Exterior end chimneys are located on the front section on the east and west elevations, and one chimney is on the rear two-story section. A one-story early twentieth century wing was attached to the read of of the two-story section. An open breezeway leads from the kitchen wing to a well located under the breezeway roof. A mid-nineteenth century one-story porch sheltered the entrance bay until it was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1950s. The front section of the house consists of a central hall with one room to either side of the hall.”

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Black Creek Rural Historic District, drafted in 1982, contains a lengthy discussion of A.G. Brooks’ house and farm, with some minor difference in detail from the passage above.

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In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, A.G. Brooks, 32, farmer, listed $12500 in real property and $31240 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included 14 enslaved girls and women ranging from 4 to 55 years old and 15 enslaved boys and men ranging from 1 to 47 years old.

The 1870 census of Black Creek township lists about 20 African-Americans with the surname Brooks living in four households.

State vs. Jim, a slave.

State of North Carolina, County of Wilson   }  Superior Court of Law, Fall Term AD 1858

The jurors for the State upon their oath present that Jim, a slave, the property of Jacob Robbins, late of the County Wilson, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, in the first day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight with force and arms , at and in the said County of Wilson, int and upon one Jacob D. Robbins in the peace of the State then and there being feloniously, wilfully and his malice aforethought did make an assault: and that the said Jim with a certain axe, of the value of one dollar, which he the said Jim, then and there in both his hands had and held, him the said Jacob D. Robbins in and upon the right side of the head of him the said Jack D. Robbins, then and there feloniously, wilfully and and of his malice aforethought did hit and strike; and that the said Jim did then and there give unto him the said Jacob D. Robbins by such striking and hitting of him the said Jacob D. Robbins with the axe aforesaid one mortal wound of the length of two inches, and of the breadth of one inch in and upon the said right side of the head of him the said Jacob D. Robbins, of which said mortal wound the said Jacob D. Robbins then and there instantly died; and so the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do say that the said Jim, him the said Jacob D. Robbins, then and there, in manner and form aforesaid feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder against the peace and dignity of the State.

And the jurors aforesaid on their oath aforesaid do further present that the said Jim a slave the property of Jacob Robbins, late of said County of Wilson, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, afterwards to wit on the day and year aforesaid, with force and arms, at and in the County aforesaid, in and upon one Jacob D. Robbins in the peace of the State, then & there being, feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and that he the said Jim, witth a certain axe of the value of one dollar, which he the said Jim, then and there, in both his hands had and held him the said Jacob D. Robbins, in and upon the right sight of the head, and in and upon the face of him the said Jacob D. Robbins, then and there feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought divers times did beat and strike, giving to him the said Jacob D. Robbins, then & there by striking and beating him as aforesaid with the axe aforesaid several mortal wounds of the length of one inch and the depth of one inch in and upon the right side of the head and in and upon the face of him the said Jacob D. Robbins, of which said mortal wounds the said Jacob D. Robbins then and there instantly died, and so the jurors aforesaid on their oath aforesaid do say that the said Jim him the said Jacob D. Robbins then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloniously willfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder against the peace and dignity of the State.   /s/ Geo. A Stevenson Sol.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The ages of the Negroes’ children.

BLACK GENEALOGY IN WILSON COUNTY

by Hugh Buckner Johnston

Because of the scarcity of surviving records of our black citizens prior to the Wilson County Census of 1870, the first Federal Census that gave the name and age of every individual living within our borders in that year, the discovery of any vital statistics of the Antebellum period represents purest genealogical gold.

The writer learned only a few weeks ago that his 3rd great uncle William Woodard (1795-1847) had inscribed on the rear flyleaves of Volume I of John Bunyan’s WORKS (New-Haven, 1831) “The ages of the Negroes Children,” with their names, to the number of sixty-one.

These families still living in 1865 adopted without known exception the surname Woodard and left descendants who have continued to be numbered among the most respectable black citizens. It should also be remembered that a book in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contains the record made in 1865 [sic; 1866] of the earlier marriages of all former slaves who desired that kind of legal protection for their children. (The marriages of both whites and blacks since 1865 have been recorded impartially down to current date in the regular Marriage Registers.)

The names and ages of the blacks belonging to William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard were as follows:

Morris Bornd March 1824

Blunt Bornd August 31st 1825

Ben Bornd April 1826

Peg Bornd May 18th 1826

Win Bornd September 1827

Arch Bornd December 1827

Bishe Bornd February 1828

Willis Bornd October 1829

Alfred Bornd March 1830

Silvire Bornd June 1830

Poity Bornd 26th February 1831

Aga Bornd 10th January 1832

_______ Bornd March 10th 1832

Sarah Bornd 22nd May 1832

Tom Bornd 15th June 1832

Charta Bornd 27th June 1832

Hanner Born 12th May 1833

Jonathan Bornd 31st July 1833

Jim was Bornd 1st August 1833

Liberty Bornd 23rd April 1834

_______ Bornd 8th May 1834

_______ Bornd 23rd May 1834

_______ Bornd Feb. 1st 1835

[N]ed Bornd 27th Sept. 1835

Zilpha Bornd 11th May 1836.

Cherry Bornd 8th March 1837

Rachel Bornd 8th January 1838

Eady Bornd 3rd March 1838

Anna Bornd 31st July 1839

Manda Bornd 7th December 1839

Rila Bornd 2nd April 1840

Gray Bornd May 1840

Harry Bornd 30th May 1841

John Bornd Jan. 1842

Marry Bornd 4th July 1843

Jesse Bornd 30th December 1843

Susan Bornd 30th Nov. 1843

Lewis Bornd January 20h 1845

Mariar Bornd April 30th 1845

Rebecca Born January 16th 1846

Hilliard Bornd June 1846

Sally Born October 27, 1846

Tresy Born 2nd March 1847

London born August 15th 1847

Mintey born December 29th 1847

Lizzy born Jan. 19th 1848

Rose born Jan. 1848

Ned born Nov. 1948

Venice Born Ap 30, 1849

Dennis February 1850

Simon borned March 1850

Richard borned June 1850

Charles Borned August 1851

Adline born Dec. 20th 1851

Louisa Born Sept. 29 1853

John Born May 1853

Nathan Born Sept. 8, 1855

Winney Born March 1856

Edwin Nov. 6, 1856

Jonas Jany 1858

Hat tip to Wilson County librarian Will Robinson, who reprinted Johnston’s undated article on the Wilson County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Blog. 

Feloniously and burglariously.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   } Superior Court of Law, Fall Term A.D. 1862

The Jurors for the State upon their oath present that Jacon a negro slave late of Wilson County the property of James Pender of the County of Wilson and Law a negro Slave late of said County of Wilson the property of Joshua Barnes of said County of Wilson on the first day of October A.D. 1862 about the hour of eleven o’clock in the night of the same day with force and arms at and in the County of Wilson aforesaid the dwelling house of one Levi M. Hays there situated feloniously and burglariously did break and enter with intent the goods and chattels of the said Levi M. Hays in said dwelling house there and then being found, then and there feloniously and burglariously to steal take and carry away against the peace and dignity of the State.  /s/A. Thompson Sol

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State vs. Jacon (a slave) & Law (a slave)

Burglary

Witness Woodard (a slave), Levi M. Hays, W.W. Batts, John B. Batts, Josiah Farmer

Sworn & sent J.W. Davis Clk

Nott a true bill  Jos. H. Armstrong forman

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All that to say that two enslaved men, Jacon and Law, were charged with breaking and entering Levi M. Hays at eleven at night, but no true bill was returned.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Bill of sale for one negro boy named Wesley, 1858.

In February 1858, James H. Barnes registered a bill of sale signed by Alfred Boykin upon Barnes’ purchase of an enslaved man named Wesley. I have not been able to identify Wesley post-Emancipation. Barnes may have been the J.H. Barnes of Joyners and Gardners township in the 1860 slave schedule who reported owning 15 enslaved people, including four boys and men, aged 11, 15, 19 and 30, who may have been Wesley. [Based on his valuation, I am inclined to believe he was one of the younger two.] Alfred Boykin appears in the same schedule in Oldfields township owning five enslaved people.

Received of James H. Barnes Six Hundred and twenty dollars in full for one negro boy named Wesley. The right and title of Said negro I will forever warrant and defend also I warrant the Said negro to be young and Healthy January 12th 1858        /s/ Alfred Boykin, Wm. H. Bardin [witness]

The reverse of the receipt: The execution of the within Bill of Sale is proved before me by the oath & examination of W.H. Bardin the subscribing witness thereto. Let it be registered Jany. 29th 1858  /s/ T.C. Davis

Registered foregoing Bill of sale Feb 16th 1858.   R.J. Taylor Regr.

Bill of Sale, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.