enslaved people

The last wills and testaments of Joel Newsom Sr. and Jr.

In the name of God amen I Joel Newsom Senr of the State of No. Carolina & County of Wayne being in a low State of Health but of Perfect mind & memory do make & ordain this my last will & Testament in manner & form as follow towit —

Item — I lend unto my wif Pennellopy Newsom one half my plantation whereon I now live with half the west room of my Dwelling house & Kitchin — also one feather berd & furniture half dozin siting chears two Puter dishes two Basons haf Dozen Plates the Iron ware that belongs to the Ketchen a sufficent quantity of Corn & fodder as will serve her & her family one year & a sufficient quantity of Provision as will last her & family the same term & two Cows & Calves two Sows & Pigs also the sum of fifty dollars to purches her a Horse — also Two negroes (to wit) Tom & Nel — also as much cotton flax & wool as Shall be sufficient to serve her & family for one year also four Ews also two Plow hoes two weading hoes one ax & one grubbing hoe — the above named Property I lend unto my wife during her natural life or widowhood & after her death or widow hood it it my will & desire that the whole be Sold & be disposed of as I Shall hereafter direct

Item I give & bequeath unto my son Joel Newsom all the tract of Land on the south Side of the March Branch & negro Sam to him & his heirs for ever

… I have hereunto set my hand & seal this 26th Sept 1818 attest — Joel X Newsom     Benjn. Simms, Stephen Woodard

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In the name of God, Amen, I Joel Newsom of the county of wayne and State of No Carolina being in a low state of health, but in sound mind and memory, do make and ordain this to be my last will and Testament, as follows – (viz)

Item, 1st, I Give and bequeath unto my son Larry Newsom, all my lands lying on the south side of black Creek (i.e.) the lands whereon I formaly, the lands whereon Sally Daniel now lives, and also the lands I purchased of Willis Garner and also a tract of piney land adjoining the tract I bought of Willis Garner, I also give and bequeath unto my Son Larry Newsom, four negroes (viz) Harry, Allen, Ben, and Tom, to him and his heirs forever ….

Item 2nd I lend unto my daughter, Zilpha Daniel and my son in law Jap. Daniel, my lands I bought of Elisha Daniel, lying between black Creek and Cotentna creek, with the exception of the fruit that may grow in the orchard on said lands, untill my Grand son Larry Daniel, son of Jas. & Zilpha Dan’l arrives to the age of twenty one years, I also lend unto my daughter Zilpha Daniel one negro girl named Hanner during her lifetime ….

Item 3rd I Give and bequeath unto my son James Newsom my tract of land whereon I now live lying on the north side of black creek also three negroe boys (viz) Tony, Will and Sam ….

Item 5th I give and bequeath unto my sister Patience Pearce a negro Girl by the name of Dill, to her and her heirs forever

Signed Sealed and acknowledged in the presence of us – John Rowe, Burket Barnes       Joel Newsom Augt. 14th 1837

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The Newsoms lived in the Black Creek area of Wayne County, which became part of the new Wilson County in 1855.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, North Carolina, Ben Newsome headed a household that included wife Edna, 31, and children Amos, 10, Gray, 7, Penelope, 6, and Mary, 2. It is likely that Newsome was the Ben referred to Joel Newsom Jr.’s will 33 years earlier. (Note that one of his daughters shared a first name with Joel Newsom Jr.’s mother Penelope.) As required by law, Benjamin Newsome and Edna Newsome registered their 16-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866. (Edna was likely considerably older than 31 in 1870.) Harry Newsom, who may have been the Harry listed in Newsome Jr.’s will, registered his ten-year cohabitation with Rachel Woodard in 1866.

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

Shadrach and Keziah Simms Dickinson house.

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

“This Georgian cottage is said to have been the dwelling of Keziah and Shadrack Dickenson. Dickenson was the daughter of Robert Simms, a major landowner in Black Creek Township. The land upon which this house was built is said to have come from the Simms family. This late eighteenth-century cottage is a rare survival in Wilson County. It was probably constructed much as it stands today. It is a small rectangular building with a gable roof. The gable ends suggest the presence of exterior end chimneys, now removed. The door is board and batten. Although some alterations have been made on the interior, the present appearance suggests that it was once a hall-and-parlor plan dwelling. The interior is sheathed with flush boards and some original woodwork remains intact. The interior and exterior details of this house suggest that it may be of the oldest, as well as one of the best-preserved houses in the county.”

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As shown in the last column on this partial image, Shadrach Dickinson reported to the enumerator recording the 1790 census of Wayne County, North Carolina, that he owned 14 enslaved people. (Black Creek township was part of Wayne County prior to 1855.)

Dickinson died in 1818 at the age of about 68. His will entered probate in Wayne County:

In the Name of God Amen — I Shadrack Dickinson of the County of Wayne & State of No Carolina do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament Revoking all others being in Sound mind & memory. It is my wish and desire that all my children To wit Martha Simms Elizabeth Stanton Polly Thomas Sally Jernigan Patience Turner James Dickinson Penelope Barnes Wm Dickinson & Susannah Edmundson  shall have an equal part of all my whole estate that is consisting Lands negroes and money &tc with the Exception of my Daughter Polley Thoma’s part of the negroes which I have now in possession it is my wish and desire after the Valuation of sd negroes that her part be made up to her in money or good notes of hands and the said negroes Eqully Divided between the above name Eight Heirs with the exception of my negro man Jacob & his wife Jenny shall be valued at one Hundred dollars and my negro man Harry shall be valued at three Hundred dollars, and without any compulshon shall have their choice of said Eight Heirs for their Master or Mistress, and the said Four Hundred dollars to be paid in good Notes as the other part of said Estate, it is my wish & desire that all the negroes & perishable property which already has been given to said nine Heirs be valued at the time when said property was [illegible] and also three Hundred Acres of Land deeded to my son James also three Hundred Acres of Land deeded to my daughter Patience valued at this time, it is also my wish and desire after all my Just debts are paid that all the residue of my Estate be Equally divided between the above named nine Heirs by Joel Newsom Junr & Arthur Bardin which I ordain and appoint also my Executors to this my last will and Testament. Oct. 28th 1818. Shadrack Dickinson  Signed Seald & acknowledged in the presents of William Dickinson, Henry T. Stanton

1790 United States Federal Census; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Jacob and Sarah Barnes Daniel house.

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

“The Jacob Daniel House is similar in construction to the Dr. Robert Cox House (also in Black Creek Township). The house was built for Jacob Daniel before 1850. Daniel was born in 1805 and died in 1880. He married Sarah Barnes, and according to the 1860 census he was a farmer of some substance, owning $6,000 worth of real property. Like the Cox House, the Daniel House has an engaged porch and rear shed. In the early twentieth century a kitchen wing was added to the rear. On the interior the house is divided into two rooms at the front with another room in the rear shed.”

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In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County: farmer Jacob Daniel, 45; wife Sarah, 50; and children Elizabeth, 21, Josiah, 20, Mary, 18, Zilpha, 15, Lucindia, 12, Sarah, 10, and Laney, 8. [Black Creek was in northern Wayne County prior to the establishment of Wilson County.]

In the 1850 slave schedule of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, Jacob Daniel is reported with eight slaves, four girls and women aged 4 to 35, and four boys and men, aged 1 to 50.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Jacob Daniel, 55; wife Sallie, 60; Willie Batts, 20; Teresa Batts, 21; and James Flora, 16. reported $6000 in real estate and $600 in personal property, including enslaved people.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek township, Wilson County, Jacob Daniel is reported with four enslaved men and boys, aged 9 to 60.

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

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. and Zillah Horne 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 house.

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.