When Wilson Simpson died in 1854, ownership of an enslaved man named Sampson passed to his heirs as tenants in common. In other words, each owned an equal share of his value. Led by Lovett Atkinson, administrator of the estate of Amanda Simpson (who died after Wilson Simpson), the heirs sought to divide their interests in a petition filed in October Term, 1857, of Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.
Clerk of court T.C. Davis issued an order “to sell said slave to the highest bidder at public auction” and appointed Hardy H. Williamson to carry out the task.
A few months later, Williamson reported that W.W. Barnes had bought “Boy Sampson” for $605.00.
Estate of Amanda Simpson (1857), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, familysearch.org.
In January 1865, a court-appointed committee of neighbors divided “negro slaves and stock among and between” the heirs of Stephen Boykin, who died in 1864. (Various sums of money changed hands among the heirs to even the value of their inheritances.)
Boykin’s widow Sallie Davis Boykin received “Anthony valued at $400.”
Sallie Mercer received Nancy and Rose, valued at $500.
Kizziah Pope received Henry, $800.
Willie Coleman and wife Smithy received Chaney, $700.
John Barnes and wife Nicey received Thom, $700.
Willis Hanes and wife Cally received Jason, $500.
Mules and cattle were distributed next.
Four months later, these men, women, and children were freed.
In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Boykin, 24; Nancy, 55; Jason, 15; and Rosetta, 12. [This appears to be a nuclear family — a mother, or perhaps grandmother, with her offspring. If so, the distribution of Stephen Boykin’s estate had briefly divided them among three households.] Next door: Allen Powell, 32, dipping turpentine; wife Charity, 22 [Chaney Boykin]; and children Robert, 4, and Cena, 2.
Also in the 1870 census of Oldfields: Anthony Boykin, 60, blacksmith.
And: Thomas Boykin, 27, farm laborer; wife Thana, 34; and daughter William Harriet, 6 months.
Stephen Boykin Estate File (1865), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
As is often the case for African-Americans who lived and died prior to the early 20th century, there’s relatively little information readily available about Carey C. Hill.
The Tarborough Southerner, 20 October 1881.
I have not found him in the 1870 census, but on 4 April 1874, Cary Hill, 24, married Anna Pascal, 20, in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.
In the 1880 census of Tarboro, Edgecombe County: Cary Hill, 32, laborer, and wife Anna, 28.
The following year, Carey C. Hill was murdered.
On 28 November 1881, James H. Harris of Wilson applied in Edgecombe County for letters of administration for Hill’s estate. (Though he worked in Wilson and was well-known and well-respected there, Hill’s permanent residence apparently was in Tarboro.) Hill’s small estate was estimated at $100. Harris listed Hill’s heirs as wife Anna Hill and, curiously, Nannie Harris, Sarah Clark, Lucy Jones, Mary Lawrence, Susan Lawrence, James H. Lawrence, and Isaac Lawrence. (Nannie Harris was James Harris’ wife, and the Lawrences were children of Haywood and Eveline Lawrence of Caledonia township, Halifax County, North Carolina. Who were they to Hill and why were they — neither his spouse, nor children, nor parents — his heirs?)
Wilson residents G. Washington Suggs and Ned Barnes served as Harris’ sureties. (Or maybe William J. Harriss, as that’s whose signature appears on the bond below.)
A week earlier Murray & Woodard, a Wilson law firm, had written to W.A. Duggan, Clerk of Edgecombe County Superior Court, to vouch for James Harris, “quite a respectable colored man” who was “nearly related” to Anna Hill. Anna Hill was described as “mentally incapable of acting as administratrix,” but whether from grief or cognitive challenge we cannot say. The firm mentioned that Harris’ sureties were “not willing to trouble themselves to go to Edgecombe” with him, but vouched for their ability to give bond. Murray & Woodard acknowledged that Hill’s estate was small, but noted “there is talk of bringing suit against the parties who killed Carey,” but Ben May and John Gardner were out of state and not likely to return, and such talk was premature. In a short note pencilled in at the end of the letter, the firm added: “We will be responsible for the costs attending taking out administration. Give Harris the bill to hand to us.”
I have found nothing further about Carey Hill or his estate or the fate of his murderers.
James H. Harris — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, house carpenter James Harriss, 35; wife Nannie, 35; children Susie, 13, Nannie, 11, Willie, 10, Mattie, 4, Jimmie, 2, and an unnamed infant girl, 2 months; and sister Susan Lawrence, 19, cook. (Was Susan James Harriss’ sister, or Nannie Harris’?)
Winstead was born about 1866 in Wilson County to Riley Robbins and Melissa Winstead. Melissa Winstead died about 1880, leaving three heirs — adult daughters Jennie Smith, wife of Charles Smith, and Eliza Joyner, wife of Joe Joyner, and minor son Braswell Winstead (whose name is first listed as John Braswell.) Two of the children filed in Wilson County Superior Court to have their mother’s lot in Wilson township partitioned into equal parts. There was a problem though — the lot was too small to yield useful thirds. Accordingly, the Smiths and Braswell Winstead were petitioning for the sale of the property with six weeks’ notice in the local paper for the benefit of the Joyners, who lived in Georgia. The petition was granted.
Charles and Virginia Smith
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Roberts Winstead, 26, farm laborer; Caleshea, 28; Eliza, 15; Virginia, 13; Barnwell [Braswell], 7; Caroline, 19; Simmons, 17; Prince, 14; Frank, 7; and Harret Winstead, 7. [The relationships between the members of this household are not clear. Eliza, Virginia “Jenny,” and Braswell were siblings, but I am not sure about the others.]
On 28 August 1874, Charly Smith, 22, married Jennie Barnes, 17, in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, minister Charles Smith, 26; wife Virginia, 22; and children Arminta, 7, John T., 3, and Charles H., 1; and brother-in-law Braswell Winstead, 20, teaching school.
Joseph and Eliza Winstead Joyner
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Roberts Winstead, 26, farm laborer; Caleshea, 28; Eliza, 15; Virginia, 13; Barnwell [Braswell], 7; Caroline, 19; Simmons, 17; Prinnce, 14; Frank, 7; and Harret Winstead, 7.
On 3 June 1879, Joseph Joyner, 24, and Eliza Winstead, 23, were married in Wilson County by A.M.E. Zion minister R.B. Bonner in the presence of A. Lindsay, Joseph Hinton, and Jas. Harriss.
In the 1880 census of Wayne County, Georgia: Robert Roberson, 30, and wife Hattie; Joseph Joyner, 25, and wife Eliza, 22; and Jacob Dove, 30, and wife Susan, 25. All were born in North Carolina, except Susan Dove, who was born in Florida. All the men worked turpentine.
When Doctor S. Farmer died without a will in 1928, the administrator of his estate published notices in the local paper seeking any persons with claims.
On 16 March 1880, D.S. Farmer, 22, married Elizabeth Locust, 22, in Wilson.
In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Doctor S. Farmer, 22, and wife Elizabeth, 20.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Doctor S. Farmer, 45; wife Elizabeth, 43; children Lowla, 16, William L., 13, Ella E., 12, Emma L., 9, Walter W., 5, and Geneva A., 2; and boarder Sarah Parker, 24.
On 13 May 1906, D.S. Farmer, 50, of Taylors township, son of Delphia Farmer, married Susie Johnson, 40, of Wilson, daughter of Nash Johnson [sic; Horton], in Taylors township, Wilson County.
In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Dock S (c) farmer h 410 N Pine
On 7 October 1908, D.S. Farmer, 46, of Wilson, applied for a license to marry Janie Lewis, 35, of Wilson.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Dock S. Farmer, 52; wife Janie, 26; children Ella, 20, Emma, 18, Walter, 14, and Geneva, 12; and hired woman Sarah Wells, 32.
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Doc Farmer, 68; wife Janie, 30; son Walter, 25; and laborer Sarah Parker, 46.
In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Dock S (c) farmer h 1109 E Nash
Doctor Sims Farmer died 20 February 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 April 1857 in Wilson County to Hillard Farmer and Adelphia Farmer; was married to Channie Farmer; and was a self-employed barber.
Susan Horton died 18 January 1945 in Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 July 1866 in Wake County to Nash Horton; was the widow of Dock Farmer; and lived at 417 South Goldsboro Street. She was buried in Boyett [Saint Delight Missionary Baptist Church] cemetery.
Here we examined the messy machinations of the administration of Weeks Parker’s estate, which entered probate in Edgecombe County in 1844. One of his legatees was daughter Margaret H. Battle, wife of Rev. Amos J. Battle and a Wilson resident by the mid-1850s.
Hugh B. Johnston transcribed this May 1861 letter to Rev. Battle from James Davis of Wilson, the court-appointed trustees of Margaret Battle’s share of estate. (The original letter does not appear to have preserved among the Battle papers.) The letter is difficult to decipher out of context but to seems to suggest that Davis felt significant pressure to bring in quick money by selling slaves rather than hiring them out and was protesting the interference in his management of Mrs. Battle’s affairs. Recall that Weeks Parker had purposefully drafted the terms of his will to hold in trust slaves Lucindy, Stephen, Turner, Lewis, George, Marina, Tony, Matilda, Caroline, William, Holly, Big Hardy, Ben, Cena, Moses, Syphax, Little Hardy, Jim, Lucy and Little Jim “for the sole and separate use and benefit of daughter Margaret H. Battle wife of Amos J. Battle during her natural life free from the management and control of her present or any future husband.”
My Dear Sir, I have striven in vain in the management as Trustee of Mrs. Battle’s affairs to act in such a way as would conduce to the interest of all concerned and at the same time to avoid giving occasion to those dissensions & wranglings in the family which I know are so harassing to you all. I have not in any arrangement which I have attempted to make been actuated by an motive of self interest of for my own security — but having been fully satisfied by the last years management of the farm & negroes that there could not upon any just ground be expected an adequate support for the family for the ensuing year from the farm, I advised the hireing out of the negroes & I was of the opinion & still am that it would have been best to have hired out every single man — According to an understanding had some 2 or 3 months ago I gave to Dr. Bullock the choice and the refusal of all the hands to be hired out; in pursuance of this arrangement I went to see Mrs. Battle & knew of her which of the negroes she had determined to keep & told her at the time that Dr. B. was to have such of the rest as he wanted, & this arrangement I shall most certainly adhere to as long I have any say-so in the matter, because I have made the promise to Dr. B. & I see no just reason why I should violate it.
In regard to the sale of the Women and Children and the appropriation of the proceeds of the sale to any other purpose than the buying of such other property as the Court may be satisfied is of equivalent value, I am satisfied upon an examination the will can not be done. I am however perfectly willing to appropriate every dollar of the hire of the negroes to the purchase of provisions & I will take the notes and advance the money (Provided the sureties to that notes agree to this arrangement) & I can not see why they should not in view of the condition in which you find yourself as to provisions.
If Mrs. Battle wishes the girl at Dr Harrel’s Exchanged, I will try and effect the Exchange as soon as I can conveniently do so, but I can not and will not do that with regard to this property which I am not authorized to do by the will. If I could have the absolute and undisturbed control of the negroes, I have not the shadow of a doubt I could realize from them a handsome support for your family, but as long as their whims and caprices are to consulted & there is no settled plan as to their management, there will inevitably be confusion and trouble.
I am writing plainly, not out of any feeling of vexation or resentment, but simply because you have written thus to me, and because the circumstances of the case demand plain and prompt action. I am now as I ever have been very willing to render through motives of friendship such service to your family as I may be able, & it is only by the exercise of the strictest economy that in the present arrangement of your force that you can get through this year, & instead of hireing either for the farm or for other purposes, it most certainly is the true policy to get clear of every one that can possibly be dispensed with.
I was from home from Tuesday last to Saturday evening or you would have heard from me sooner. You must be content as I and as many others have to, tho, to trust the future somewhat. I have not got corn enough on hand to last 2 months & but few have a year’s supply of corn or meat & if the Sureties to that note will as I have no doubt they will if the matter is properly represented to them consent to the appropriation of the negro hire to the purchase of provisions, it will place some 1200$ at your disposal & as soon as the notes are placed in my hands you can buy corn or meat & draw on me for the full amount of the notes & I will pay the orders.
This amt will surely relieve you till the next term of our Sup’r Court, when we can obtain (if necessary) in a legal manner such a decree as will enable us to get along for the bal. of the year, but as I have already said, I will not without proper authority violate the plain letter of that will — and I can but think that your threat to sell those negroes is made without due consideration. It is but too evident that there is a feeling of restlessness in regard to those negroes, a continual disposition to sell or exchange, which must result if persisted in to the detriment of the estate, & while I am always willing to do that which will promote the comfort or interest of Mrs. Battle or her family, I must see a good reason why a sale or exchange should be made before I proceed to make it. You need not send the Woman & children to me, but if you wish to dispose of her for the year, please come & let me know what kind of a negro she is, what incumbrance to her &c I will Endeavor to get her off your hands.
P.S. I have just seen Dr B. he gives up Hardy & keeps Stephen, Hilliard, & Turner — says further that he is willing to the appropriation of the negro hire Except his own to be applied as above proposed & I have no doubt will willingly agree to his own hire going in the same way if I solicit it, which I will if Mrs. Battle signifies her assent to the arrangement. It may be proper for me here to say in order to give Mrs. Battle time to select another that I shall be compelled upon the first opportunity (which will be at the June Court) to resign my Trusteeship because I see probability of my being able to so manage her affairs as to secure her best interest & retain the good will of others concerned
Turner, Hilliard, Hardy, and Stephen were among the group of enslaved people Margaret P. Battle inherited from her father.
Letter 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, March 2003.
James Barnes was administrator of Hickman Ellis‘ estate. Among his duties in 1861, he secured a doctor’s visit for an unnamed enslaved woman staying at John Owens’ farm:
Barnes hired out Ellis’ slaves to assorted kin and neighbors in 1861. J.R.P. Ellis leased Peter and Chana for $9.00; Jonathan T. Dew, Jack for $10.00; Lorenzo Felton, Margaret and an unnamed child for $3.00; D.S. Richardson, Liza and two children for $1.00 and Tempe and one child for $3.50; John Carter, Netty and one child for $1.75; John I. Sharpe, Rose for 25 cents; and Jackson Lassiter, Hannah for free. The estate paid Barnes $5.00 to care for Harriet and two children.
He also obtained “docttrin” for “negar Jack,” “Aren when was burnt,” Milbry and Netty’s fellow in October 1861.
In 1862, these individuals and several others were hired out again, along with several fields and the “low grounds”:
A court-appointed committee charged with dividing Hickman Ellis’ enslaved property filed its report at Wilson County Court on October Term 1863. Ellis’ daughter Spicey received Jim, Netty, Aaron, Rose, Mary, Hannah, Old Peter and Old Chaney, valued at $11,050. The remaining enslaved people — Jack, Margaret, Elvy, Hewel, Tempy, Peter, Harriet, Gray, Hardy, Chaney and child Isaac, Eliza, John, Milbry and child Betsy, and Nancy — were held in common by Unity Ellis and Hickman Ellis (Jr.)
Hickman Ellis Estate (1860), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
About 1857, as Benjamin Simpson took stock of his son’s estate, he prepared a list of notes owed to Jesse Simpson. Several free people of color, all neighbors of the Simpsons, are listed among the debtors.
“1 note against Silas Laseter for 7.17 on the mande from intrust from the date given the 1 of Febraury 1855″ — In the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delpha Simpson, 14.
“1 acount against Jo Jones for 6.00″ — in the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: Joseph Jones, 40, turpentine; wife Zillah, 34; and children Milly, 17, Jesse, 10, Nathan, 8, and Frances and Lenora, 6.
“1 acount against William Jones for 2.50″ — in the 1860 census of Oldfields district, Wilson County, either: William Jones, 35, making turpentine, and wife Mary, 37, domestic, in the household of farmer Jethro Harrison, 31, or, more likely, William Jones, 20, mulatto, farm laborer; Mahaly Jones, 17, domestic; John Locus, 10; Mary Jones, 35, domestic; John, 10, and Josiah Jones, 6; all mulatto; in the household of farmer Elizabeth Simpson, 30.
The list of “book accounts” included:
Penne Powel — probably Penelope Taborn Powell, the wife of Calvin Powell, see below.
Wilis Jones — in the 1860 census of Oldfields district, Wilson County: Willis Jones, 62, black, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 51, mulatto; and children Henry, 20, Alexander, 17, Noel, 16, Willis, 12, Paton, 10, Burthany, 7, Sarah, 13, and James, 10.
Calvin Powel — In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: Calvin Powell, 35, teamster; wife Penelope, 30; and children Jefferson, 12, Cidney, 10, and Calvin, 6. Next door: Dempsey Powell, 30, turpentine; wife Sallie, 28; and Susan, 9.
Dempsy Powel — see above.
Asbary Blackwell — in the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, wife Nancy, 30, farm laborer, and children Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4, Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months.
Alin Powel — in the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Calvin Powell, 49; William Powell, 4; and Allen Powell, 79, basket maker. [William and Allen Powell were described as white; Calvin, as mulatto.]
Stephen Powel — in the 1860 census of Winsteads township, Nash County: 50 year-old Stephen Powell; wife Cyntha, 45; and children Gray, 21, Dollerson, 17, Queenanah, 13, Crocket, 12, Matchum, 10, and Frances, 8.
Lige Powel Ju. — Elijah Powell Jr. Probably, in the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: John Valentine, 32, engineer, with Elijah Powell, 23, and Josiah Blackwell, 21, sawmill laborers.
North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], ancestry.com.