enslaved people

The why of Black Wide-Awake, no. 2.

Carolyn Maye, a generous contributor of photographs to Black Wide-Awake, made it to Imagination Station on closing day to see Say Their Names. The exhibit included among its displayed documents a copy of the obituary of her formerly enslaved great-great-grandmother, Jane Rountree Mobley.

She brought with her Skylar, the youngest of Jane Mobley’s great-great-great-great-granddaughters.

Thank you, Carolyn, for affirming the purpose of Black Wide-Awake. Your determination to get to Wilson, despite a pandemic, and to introduce Skylar to Jane Mobley, both humbles and inspires me. She will never believe, as so many of us have, that the lives of her ancestors passed unknown and unknowable.

The Mike Taylor family.

Last week, I reported my excited discovery of the headstone of Rachel Barnes Taylor, my great-grandmother. Presumably, my great-grandfather Henry Michael “Mike” Taylor was a member of Hannibal Lodge No. 1552, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, but his marker has yet to be uncovered.

Mike Taylor was born enslaved in far northern Nash County, North Carolina, near the start of the Civil War. Here’s what I know of his family and their journey to Wilson County.

This document filed in Nash County in 1856 is an inventory of the 106 slaves belonging to the estate of Kinchen Taylor, deceased.

Number 32 is a man named Green. Number 88 is his wife Ferribee, and numbers 89, 90 and 91, Dallas, Peter and Henrietta, were their eldest children. These 106 people were divided into lots of equal value. Most of the lots were divided among Taylor’s children, but two lots of slaves were sold. Green and Ferribee and their children were included in one of those sold lots, and it is not clear to whom they went, or if they went together. 

Sometime between the dissolution of their former master’s estate in 1856 and early summer of 1870, Green and Fereby Taylor found their way to Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, near present-day Pinetops. In that year, a census taker recorded their household as farm laborer Green Taylor, 52; wife Phebe, 55; and children Dallas, 19; Christiana, 14; Mckenzie, 13; Mike, 9; and Sally Taylor, 1. There is no sign of the older children – Peter and Henrietta – who had been listed with Fereby in the division of Kinchen Taylor’s slaves.  

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: laborer Green Taylor, 64; wife Phoebe, 55; daughters Christiana, 24, Kinsey, 20, and Sarah, 13, as well grandchildren Nannie, 5, Carrie, 1, Lizzie, 8, Louisa, 5, and Isaiah Taylor, 2. Dallas and Mike had left the household; Mike probably was in Wilson, but he is not listed in the census.

On 21 September 1882, Mike Taylor, 20, Wilson, married Rachel Barnes, 19, of Wilson, in Wilson. Baptist minister Louis Croom performed the ceremony in the presence of W.T. Battle and Edmon Pool.

On 7 Aug 1897, Jordan Taylor Jr., 21, and Eliza Taylor, 23, were married in Wilson. Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Prince Smith, Annie Barnes and Michiel Taylor.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Jordan Taylor, 24; wife Eliza, 25; and son Greemond, 3, shared a household with Sallie Taylor, 27, and her son Rufus Taylor, 4. Next door: Jordan’s father Jordan Taylor, 50, and his wife of 5 years, Matilda, 40.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mike Taylor, 36, drayman; wife Rachel, 36; and children Roderick, 17, Maggie, 14, Mattie, 13, Maddie, 12, Bertha E., 8, and Hennie G., 6.  Rachel and daughters Maggie, Mattie and Maddie were occupied at washing.  Roderick and the youngest girls “go to school.”

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lee Street, drayman Mike Taylor, 52; wife Rachel, 51, laundress; daughters Mattie, 21, Bertha, 18, and Henny, 16, laundresses; and niece Louise, 12.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, odd jobs laborer Jordan Taylor Jr., 31; wife Eliza, 30, laundress; and son Greeman, 12, with Mary Parker, 69, widow, whose relationship to Jordan was described as “proctor.”

Jordan Taylor registered for the World War I draft on 12 September 1917. He reported his address as R.F.D. #6, Wilson, and his birthday as 15 December 1875. He worked as a ditcher for Sid Clark, his nearest relative was Eliza Taylor, and he signed his card with an X.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 114 Lee Street, Mike H. Taylor, 50, cook in cafe; wife Rachel, 58; son [actually, nephew] Tom Perry, 12; bricklayer Van Smith, 33, and his wife Mattie, 28.

In 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 Stantonsburg Street in Wilson, Jordan Taylor, 48, wife Eliza, 37, son Greeman, 22, and son(?) Dave, 13. Jordan worked as a warehouse tobacco worker, Eliza as a tobacco factory worker, and Greeman as a street boot black.

On 24 March 1922, Greeman Taylor of Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, died of consumption. He was born 2 June 1898 in Wilson to Jordan and Eliza Taylor and worked as a common laborer. He was single.

Mike Taylor died 8 January 1927 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was about 68 years old; was the widower of Rachel Taylor; worked as a day laborer; was born in Wilson County to Green Taylor and Ferby Taylor; and was buried in Wilson. Roddrick Taylor was informant.

Eliza Taylor died 25 May 1934 in Rose Hill, Duplin County, North Carolina. She was described as 47 years old (in fact, she was at least 10 years older), married to Jordan Taylor, and born in Wilson County to Green Taylor and Kenzie Taylor, both of Wilson County. [Her parent information is likely incorrect.]

File of Kinchen Taylor (1853), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, https://familysearch.org, original, North Carolina State Archives.

The obituary of Sallie Bynum, of the old school.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 January 1920.

Mystifyingly, I have not been able to locate Sallie Bynum‘s death certificate. “Dr. Herring” is probably Dr. Needham B. Herring (1839-1923). Dr. Herring was a native of Duplin County. In 1860, his father, Bryan W. Herring reported owning personal property in Duplin County valued at $29,143, most of which would have been in the form of enslaved people. Dr. Herring’s father-in-law, J.J.B. Vick of northern Nash County, reported $26,133 of personal property in 1860. It is not clear which “relatives of Dr. Herring” are referred to in this death notice.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sallie Bynum, 63, widow; daughters Lula, 21, and Burtha, 18; and boarder Rabeca Edwards, 22.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, Lue Williams, 34; boarder Sallie Bynum, 65, widow; and [Lue’s] daughter Lue B. Williams, 13, all factory laborers.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Sallie Bynum, 85, widow, and Marie, 6.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Snaps, no. 76: Isabel Taylor.

Katherine Elks shared several incredible photographs from an old family album. They depict Isabel Taylor, born about 1847 in what was then Nash County. She, her mother Annis, and siblings were the property of Henry Flowers. After Henry’s death, Isabel, her mother, and her brother Alexander “Elick” passed to his daughter Charity Flowers Taylor. Isabel Taylor died in 1929, and this and the other snapshots must have been taken within a few years of her death.

Many thanks to Katherine Elks and family.

Exploring the kinships of men and women enslaved by the Moore-Flowers family.

We examined the connection between John H. Clark‘s father Harry Clark and Isabel Taylor here. Harry and Isabel were children of Annis Taylor, and all had been enslaved by Henry Flowers.

The will of Henry Flowers’ maternal grandfather, Edward Moore, who died in 1783 in Nash County, reveals interesting bequests, including “… to my loving Daughter Judah Flowers one Negro girl Named Nell …” and “… to my loving Daughter Elizabeth Moore one Negro [Wench?] Named Annis ….” Both Nell and Annis were already in possession of Moore’s daughters.

Judith Moore Flowers’ husband John Flowers legally owned Nell. John Flowers died intestate in early 1806, and his widow Judith quickly remarried Edward York. When the enslaved people belonging to Flowers’ estate were distributed in December 1807, York took possession of Primus, Nell, Annis and Will on Judith’s behalf. (Others distributed were Peter, Dorcas, Abram, Mourning, Jacob, Frank, Toney, and Joan.)

It appears that Nell passed from Edward and Judith Moore Flowers York to Judith’s son Henry Flowers and is likely the “old Negro woman Nelly” who died in 1845, per Henry Flowers’ estate records. 

And what about Annis? 

Recall that Edward Moore bequeathed an Annis to his daughter Elizabeth Moore. Was she the same Annis who, 24 years later, was part of John Flowers’ estate? And was this Annis connected to Annis Taylor, who was part of Henry Flowers’ estate in 1845? These and other shared names among the enslaved people belonging to the Moore-Flowers deserve a closer look.

For example, here is the bequest of Henry Flower’s grandfather, also named Henry Flowers, to John Flowers in his 1788 will:

 

Henry “Senior” directed that John receive a man named Primus (after the death of Henry’s wife Nanny) and three boys named Peter, Abraham, and Frank. Primus is surely the man Edward and Judith York took in 1807. It is possible that this is same Frank who is described as “old” in the lot drawn by John’s granddaughter Charity Flowers Taylor and her husband William in the 1849 distribution of the estate Henry “Junior.”  And Peter is probably the Peter named in the lot drawn by Nancy Flowers Mann and her husband Claiborne in the 1807 distribution of John Flowers estate. The Manns moved to Mississippi some time after 1820, and may have taken Peter with them. There is also a Peter in the estate of Henry Flowers Jr. Was he perhaps a son, grandson or nephew of the first Peter?

Henry Flowers Will (1788), John Flowers Estate Record (1806), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com. Many thanks to Katherine Elks for bringing my attention to these possible connections, which I began to explore here. Stay tuned.

The obituary of Henrietta Hill, whose life was a sermon.

An anonymous writer submitted this tribute to Henrietta Hill for publication in the 27 April 1928 Wilson Daily Times. It contains a rare detail of Hill’s early life — that she “escaped” to Wilson with her unnamed owners during the Civil War when the Union army captured Washington, N.C. The daughter mentioned was Cecilia Hill Norwood, and the A.C.L. railroad station was the precursor to the 1924 Flemish-style building that stands today.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Henry Hill, 35, blacksmith; wife Henrietta, 29; and children Celicia [Cecilia], 9, Robert, 4, and James H., 1.

On 28 February 1895, Celia A. Hill, 22, daughter of H. and H. Hill, married Richard Norwood, 21, son of B. Norwood of Chatham County, in Wilson. Episcopal minister J.W. Perry performed the ceremony at Saint Marks in the presence of John H. Clark, B.R. Winstead and S.A. Smith.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Richard Norward, 36; wife Celia, 34, public school teacher; Robert T., 14, Richard V., 15, Christine, 11, and Henry E., 8; mother Henry E. [Henrietta] Hill, 65, depot janitoress; Mack Peacock, 17, doctor’s office servant; and Joe Burnett, 17, hotel servant.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 134 Pender Street, Heneretta Hill, 70, A.C.L. railroad matron; Celia W. Hill, 40, teacher; Cora A. Hill, 27, teacher; Hazell Hill, 16; Christina Hill, 19; Barlee Hill, 22, laborer; Rosa Hicks, 22; and Archer Martin, 14.

On 19 July 1922, Hill drafted a will in which she passed all her property to her daughter Ceciia Norwood after payment of debts for “drugs and medical attention” and other expenses.

Henrietta Hill died 21 April 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 78 years old; was a widow; lived at 205 Pender; was a retired maid for A.C.L. station; and was born in Washington, N.C., to Robert Cherry and Martha Goodyear of Washington, N.C. Cecilia Norwood was informant.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing the clipping.

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 8.

Statesville Daily Record, 17 December 1951.

In the 1870 census of Eagle Mills township, Iredell County: in the household of S. Blackburn, 62, white, cook Fannie Blackburn, 47, and her children (and possibly grandchild) Andy, 26, Armsted, 20, Tempy, 20, Wiley, 14, Alfred, 10, and John, 1.

On 6 October 1880, Alfred Blackburn married Lucy Blackburn in Iredell County. T.A. Nicholson performed the ceremony. In the 1900 census of Deep Creek township, Yadkin County, N.C.: farmer Alfred Blackburn, 40; wife Lucy, 40; and children Rubin, 18, Mary K., 17, Obie A., 15, mail carrier, Amand B., 13, Henry H., 12, Magie I., 8, and Walter R., 6.

This 1898 document, signed on its reverse by A. Blackburn, was recently offered for sale at auction. The pre-printed form from the U.S. Post Office Department is notification of a failure to complete a route. On the back, Blackburn’s handwritten note to his brother Wiley Blackburn about a deduction to Wiley’s salary related to the shortened route. worthpoint.com.

In the 1910 census of Deep Creek township, Yadkin County: farmer Alfred Blackburn, 52; wife Lucy A., 54; and children Reuben C., 28, Mary, 26, Oby, 24, Amanda, 22, Majie, 18, Walter ,16, and Hugh, 9.

On 19 January 1919, Oby Alexander Blackburn died in Hamptonville, Deep Creek township, Yadkin County. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 July 1884 in Hamptonville to Alfred Blackburn and Lucy Carson, both of Iredell County; was single; was farming for himself; and was buried in Carson Town.

In the 1920 census of Deep Creek township, Yadkin County: farmer Teen Blackburn, 63; wife Lucy, 62; and children Mary, 34, Maggie, 28, and Henry, 17.

On 1 August 1926, Hugh C. Blackburn died in Hamptonville, Deep Creek township, Yadkin County. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1901 in Hamptonville to Alfred and Lucy Blackburn; was single; was a farmer; and was buried in Pleasant Hill cemetery.

Lucy Ann Blackburn died 10 August 1929 in Deep Creek, Yadkin County. Per her death certificate, she was 74 years old; was married to Alfred Blackburn; was born in Iredell County to Milton Blackburn and Edie Carson; and was buried in Pleasant Hill cemetery. H.H. Blackburn was informant.

In the 1930 census of Hamptonville, Deep Creek township, Yadkin County: farmer Alfred Blackburn, 84; daughters Mary, 45, and Madgie, 35; and boarder Luther Revals, 18.

In the 1940 census of Deep Creek township, Yadkin County: farmer Alfred Blackburn, 90, widower; daughters Mary, 48, and Madge, 42; and granddaughter Anne Love, 16.

Madge Blackburn died 11 August 1969 in Mocksville, Davie County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 July 1898 to Alfred and Lucy Blackburn; was never married [in fact, she married John Lindsay in Yadkin County on 14 January 1922]; and lived in Hamptonville, Yadkin County.

Henry Harold Blackburn died 3 March 1970 in Statesville, Iredell County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 May 1888 to Alfred “Teen” Blackburn and Lucy Blackburn; was married to Daisy Carson; lived in Hamptonville, Iredell County; and was a school teacher.

Reuben Cowles Blackburn Sr. died 9 November 1970 in North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 September 1881 to Alfred and Lucy Blackburn; was a widower; and was a retired rural mail carrier.

Mary Candis Blackburn died 10 August 1984 in Mocksville, Davie County. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 February 1883 to Alfred Blackburn and Lucy Carson; lived in Hamptonville, Yadkin County; was never married; and had been a school teacher.

Amanda Bell Carson died 4 May 1985 in Yadkinville, Yadkin County. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 July 1886 to Alfred and Lucy Carson Blackburn and was a widow.

Alfred “Teen” Blackburn, 25 January 1949, unattributed photo, Iredell County Public Library Flickr

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 3.

Just months after Eugene B. Drake bought her in 1863, 23 year-old Rebecca was gone. Desperate to recoup his investment, Drake posted this remarkably detailed reward notice in newspapers well beyond Statesville. After precisely noting her physical features, Drake noted that Rebecca was “an excellent spinner” and “believed to be a good weaver, and said she was a good field hand.” (He had not had the chance to see for himself.) Rebecca may have helped herself to the products of her own labor, carrying away several dresses, as well as “new shoes.” Drake had purchased her from one of Richmond’s notorious slave dealers, but she was from Milton, in Caswell County, North Carolina, just below the Virginia line and southeast of Danville. There, Rebecca had been torn from her child and other relatives. Drake believed she was following the path of the newly opened North Carolina Railroad, which arced from Charlotte to Goldsboro, perhaps to seek shelter with acquaintances near Raleigh. He offered a $150 reward for her arrest and confinement.

Daily Progress (Raleigh, N.C.), 23 November 1863.

A year later, Drake was again paying for newspaper notices, this time for the return of his “slave man” Milledge, also called John, who had also absconded in new clothes and shoes. Drake again provided precise a physical description of the man, down to his slow, “parrot-toed” walk. Milledge/John had procured counterfeit free papers and a travel pass, and Drake believed he was aiming 200 miles south to Augusta, Georgia, probably on trains. 

Carolina Watchman (Salisbury, N.C.), 28 December 1864.

I don’t know whether Drake recaptured either Rebecca or Milledge/John. If he did, the rewards he paid were money wasted. The Confederacy surrendered in April 1865, and thereafter he owned no one.

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 1.

A few weeks ago, I promised to go a teeny way toward carrying out my original plan for several one-place studies by turning the focus of Black Wide-Awake briefly to other beloved Black communities. This week I’ll be guest-blogging (though in my own space) from time to time about Iredell County, North Carolina, my maternal grandmother’s birthplace, two hundred miles west of Wilson on the western edge of North Carolina’s Piedmont.

I’ll start with an introduction to my great-great-great-grandfather Walker Colvert, who was born enslaved about 1819 in Culpeper County, Virginia. When Samuel W. Colvert died in 1823, Walker passed to his son John Alpheus Colvert, who had migrated to Iredell County and bought land on Rocky Creek, a South Yadkin River tributary.

Only four years later, John A. Colvert died. This excerpt from his estate records shows  “Negroes hired for one year,” that is, enslaved people leased to neighbors to earn money for Colvert’s estate and the support of his widow and children. “Boy Walker” was about eight years old. That he was listed without his mother may suggest that he was an orphan, though he was about the age to be separated from her and put to work on his own. Walker’s kinship to Jerry, Amy, Joe, Ellen, Meel, Anda, Charlotte, and Lett is unknown. 

Inventory of the estate of John Alpheus Colvert, Iredell County, North Carolina, 1827.

When he reached adulthood in 1851, John’s son William Isaac Colvert inherited Walker and held him until Emancipation on his farm in Eagle Mill township. The same year, Walker Colvert fathered a son, John Walker Colvert, by Elvira Gray. The boy and his mother were likely enslaved on a nearby plantation, perhaps that of William I. Colvert’s sister, Susan Colvert Gray. Around 1853, Walker married Rebecca Parks, a relationship that was not legalized until they registered their cohabitation as freed people in 1866. Their registration notes three children — John (Rebecca’s stepson), Elvira, and Lovenia. Rebecca also had a son Lewis Colvert, born about 1860, whom Walker reared but apparently did not father.

Iredell County Cohabitation Records, Register of Deeds Office, Statesville, N.C.

Walker Colvert and his son John Walker worked for decades after slavery for William I. Colvert, likely both on his farm and at his cotton manufacturing enterprise, Eagle Mills. Walker eventually bought a small farm in nearby Union Grove township, though he did not record a deed for it. On 16 March 1901, with the help of his neighbors he drafted a short will leaving all his property to his widow Rebecca Colvert, and then to his son John Colvert. Four years later, he died.

The Landmark (Statesville, N.C.), 10 February 1905.

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In the 1870 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 50; wife Rebecca, 25; and Lewis, 10.

In the 1880 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 62; wife Rebecca, 37; grandson Alonzo, 5; and niece Bitha Albea, 3.

In the 1900 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farmer Walker Colvert, 84, and wife Rebecca, 60. Both reported having been born in Virginia.