free people of color

Received of Penny Lassiter.

James B. Woodard registered the receipt he issued to free woman of color Penny Lassiter for the $150 she paid to purchase her husband London Woodard in 1855. Though not legally manumitted, London lived essentially as a free man for the next ten years until Emancipation.

Deed book 1, page 155, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Studio shots, no. 41: Peninah Lassiter Woodard.

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Penninah Lassiter Woodard Barnes (1858-1919) was the youngest child of London and Penelope Lassiter Woodard.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Penny Lassiter, 50, and children Priscilla, 14, Theresa, 12, Hardy, 10, Haywood, 8, William, 6, and Penina, 2. Penny claimed $600 in real estate and $300 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer London Woodard, 79; wife Penelope, 59; and children Trecy, 20, Hardy, 19, Haywood, 18, William, 15, and Peninah, 12.

On 1 January 1877, Simon Barnes, 38, married Pennina Woodard, 17, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Simon Barnes, 30; wife Penniney, 21; and children Rosetta, 2, and James, 11 months.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Barnes, 51; wife Penina, 40; and children Rosetta, 22, James W., 20, Hardy, 18, Charly, 16, Penny, 14, London, 12, Silas, 11, Prisa, 8, Simon, 5, and Marylisa, 2.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Barnes, 65; wife Pennie, 55; and children Pennie S., 22, Sillas, 17, Mary L., 12, Lucie, 8, Ama, 6, and Simon, 14.

Penina Barnes died 24 February 1919 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 30 January 1859 to London Woodard and Pennie Lassiter; was married to Simon Barnes; and was a farmer. Informant was Hardy Barnes.

Pricilla Hardy died 24 October 1919 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; born in Wilson County to Simon Barnes and Penninah Woodard; was a tenant farmer; and was married. James Walter Barnes was informant.

Leonard Barnes died 19 November 1952 at his home at 1312 Carolina Street. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 June 1888 in Wilson to Simon Barnes and Pennina Woodard; and was a World War I veteran. Informant was Pennie Barnes.

Treasy Barnes Atkinson died 23 December 1964 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 June 1900 to Simon Barnes and Pennia Woodard and was widowed. Informant was Mrs. Inez Lucas, Wilson.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user rogerbarron52.

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.

Jordan Thomas.

Hugh B. Johnston Jr., “Looking Backward,” Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1954.

This piece on Jordan Thomas is not entirely accurate. Franklin County native Jordan Thomas’ first wife was Charity Locus, a free woman of color. His second, Eliza, also seems to have been free. His third was Rosa Woodard, the enslaved daughter of London Woodard, who bore him a son, Peter.

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In the 1810 census of Franklin County, North Carolina, were free colored heads of household Lettice Thomas and Eliza Thomas. One, perhaps Eliza, may have been Jordan Thomas’s mother.

Jordan Thomas married Charity Locus in 9 February 1837 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

In the 1840 census of District 17, Edgecombe County: Jerdan Thomas headed a household that comprised one male aged 24-35 and two females under 10. Nearby, Hearty Thomas, head of a household that included one male under 10; three females aged 10-24; one female 24-26; and one female 36-45. [Who was Hearty Thomas? Jordan Thomas named a daughter Harty.]

In the 1850 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: in the household of white farmer J.B. Woodard, farmer Jordon Thomas, 35, “free.” [Where were his wife and children?]

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: turpentine laborer Jordon Thomas, 50; daughters Henrietta, 21, Eliza, 20, and Harty, 18; and grandson John, 1.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County; farmer Jordan Thomas, 52, who reported owning $175 in real property and $100 in personal. Next door: Eliza Thomas, 52, Henriet, 35, Hariet, 30, Alfred, 9, Jordan, 7, John, 11, Charity, 10, and Henry, 6.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 68; daughters Henyeter, 42, and Harty, 40; and grandchildren John, 21, Charity, 18, Henry, 15, Jordan, 17, and Alfread, 18.

On 5 January 1881, Charity Thomas, 18, daughter of Warren Rountree and Henrietta Thomas, married Charley Hagans, 20, son of Richd. and Alley Hagans, at Jordan Thomas’ in Gardners township. London Woodard, Ed Hoskins and John Thomas were witnesses.  [Charity Thomas’ father Warren Rountree was enslaved at the time of her birth.]

On 5 July 1899, Jordan Thomas made his mark on his last will and testament. Under its terms, “beloved daughters” Harty and Henretta Thomas received a life interest in the 11 acres upon which he lived in Gardners township adjoining the lands of Benjamin Finch, Benjamin Artis and T.W Barnes. After their deaths, the property was to go to grandchildren Jordan Thomas, Alfred Thomas and Charity Hagans. The will entered probate on 21 March 1901 in Wilson, presumably shortly after Thomas’ death.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 88, widower, and daughters Henrietta, 60, and Adline, 57.

Adline Thomas died 20 May 1926 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 91 years old; unmarried; was born in Edgecombe County to Jerdon Thomas of Franklin County and Chattie Thomas; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Anderson Thomas. [“Adeline” was Harty Thomas.]

Peter Thomas died 7 July 1929 in Wilson township. Per his death certificate, he was 78 years old; married to Maggie Thomas; was a farmer; was born in Wilson County to Jordan Thomas and Rosa Thomas; and was buried in Penders family cemetery, Wilson County. Sudie Barnes was informant.

On 19 December 1932, Jordon Thomas died in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Henrietta Thomas; and was a farmer. Informant was J.T. Barnes.

Wayne County roots.

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Wayne County Public Library has posted to YouTube video of my little talk last week in Goldsboro. I spoke specifically about Wayne County’s free people of color, but many of their descendants, such as Elijah Reid, J.D. Reid, C.E. Artis, Willie Wynn, Jonah WilliamsJosephine Artis Sherrod and others, migrated into Wilson County by the turn of the twentieth century. Others lived in parts of Wayne County, in the Black Creek area, that became Wilson County in 1855.

Please come if you can, no. 1.

Goldsboro’s not Wilson, but it’s right down the road, and many of Wilson’s African-American families have roots in antebellum Wayne County. On 6 February 2018, I’ll be giving a talk about Wayne County’s free communities of color as part of the Wayne County Public Library’s Black History Month observation. I welcome your support!

Osborne and Mariah Dunston.

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The headstones of Ausborn Dunstan and wife, Maria Dunstan, are found in Row E of Rest Haven Cemetery.  Mariah Munday Dunstan died in 1896, and Osborne Dunstan in 1905. Their graves were almost certainly removed and reinterred from Rountree cemetery or the even older Oakdale cemetery.

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In the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse district, Wayne County: Moriah Munda, 9, listed as farmhand in the household of white farmer John G. Barnes, 33. Maria Mundy and her brother Stephen was first apprenticed to Barnes in 1848, under a law designed to attach the labor of orphaned or “illegitimate” free children of color to a (usually white) neighbor. Apprentice records filed in Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions name their mother as Elizabeth Mundy, a white woman. For reasons not clear, the children were rebound to Barnes in 1852.

In the 1850 census of Louisburg, Franklin County, Lemuel Dunn, 60, blacksmith; Milly Dunn, 60; Jane Fog, 19; Osborn Dunstan, 14; and John Fog, 8.  The household is listed among a cluster of Dunstan households, including: Osborn Dunstan, 57, sawyer, Barbary, 50, and Sarah Dunston, 18, and Osborn May, 6. (Also, in Timberlakes township, Franklin County: Osborn Dunston, 52, and Sally Dunstan, 16.) Osborne’s parentage and his relationship to the other Osborne Dunstans in Franklin County is not clear.

In the 1860 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Asburn Dunstan, 23, laborer, in the household of H.L. Winton, boarding house operator.

Though both were free-born, and accordingly not subject to legislation creating a path to legitimation of slave marriages, Orsborn Dunson and Mariah Monday registered their five-year marriage on 24 August 1866 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Osborn Dunstan, 37, wife Mariah, 45, and children Dora, 4, Cora, 2, Sarah, 2 months, John, 12, and Fanny, 6. [It appears that the latter two children were Mariah’s prior to her marriage to Osborne.]

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm worker Osbourn Dunston, 44, wife Mariah, 40, and children Dorah, 12, Corah, 11, Sarah, 9, Frances, 7, Hubbard, 5, Mary, 4, and Harriet, 3. Next door, in the household of farmer Henry Miller, was John Dunston, 20.

On 4 May 1882, John Simpson, 22, son of Dick Simpson and Mariah Dunston, married Tilder Rountree, 19, daughter of Dave and Nancy Rountree. P.E. Hines performed the ceremony at Disciples Church in the presence of Daniel Bess, Robert Rountree and Tilly Rountree.

On 3 March 1890, Cora Dunston, 19, daughter of Osborn and Moriah Dunston of Wilson township, married Haywood Becton [Beckwith], son of Pheraby Becton of Wilson. Freewill Baptist minister Solomon Arrington performed the service in the presence of Mariah Dunston, Crocket Best, and Mark Barnes.

On 17 January 1897, Dora Duntson, 25, married Joe Battle, 24, in Wilson County. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the bride’s home in the presence of J.R. Bullock, L.D. Johnson and Fanny Rountree.

On 22 May 1897, Mary Dunstan, 21, married Walter Thorn, 27, in Wilson County. Missionary Baptist minister M. Strickland performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster Haywood Beckwith, 40, wife Cora, 31, and daughter Delzel, 14, plus father [in-law] Osborn Dunson, 67, who still worked as a farm laborer. Also, wagon driver Joseph Battle, 28, and wife Dora, 22.

On 11 September 1901, Sarah Dunston, 23, of Wilson, North Carolina, daughter of Osborne and Mariah Dunston, married Marshall Bells in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Rebecca Beckwith, 47, a widowed laundress, and daughter Dezell, 20, a teacher. On Spring Street, ice factory laborer Joe Battle, 28, and wife Dora, 32, a cook.

On 24 December 1913, Walter Whitted, 24, of Durham, married Helen Beckwith, 22, of Wilson. Rev. M.A. Talley performed the ceremony, and A.J. Townsend and Robert Haskins were witnesses. [“Helen” was Delzelle Beckwith’s first name.]

On 5 June 1917, Walter Whitted of 516 South Lodge Street, Wilson, registered with the Wilson County draft board. He reported that he was born in Durham, North Carolina, on 3 October 1889; that he was a self-employed tailor in Wilson; and that he had a wife and two children to support. He was described as medium height and weight with dark brown eyes and black hair.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Spring Street, tobacco company laborer Joe Battle, 58, wife Dora, 52, and daughter Esther, 19, a private servant.

On 14 August 1920, Cora Beckwith, 45, married William G. Reeves, 37, in Wilson. Rev. Charles T. Jones performed the ceremony at J.E. Artis‘ house in the presence of Artis, Alfred Robinson and Levi H. Jones.

Cora Beckwith died 29 October 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in May 1876 in Wilson County to Osborne Duston of Louisburg, North Carolina, and Maria Moudin of Virginia, and was married to Haywood Beckwith. Dazelle Whitthead was informant.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on South Lodge Street, house carpenter Walter Whitted, 38, wife Delzle H., 35, a public school teacher, and children Walter H., 14, and Cora J. Whitted, 13.

Sarah Bell died 29 December 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 54 years old, born in Wilson County to Osbourne Dunston and Mariah Monday. She was married to William Marshall Bell and resided at 710 East Vance. The informant was Hattie [Dunston] Wilkerson, 712 Blount Street, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Dora Battle died 8 January 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1871 in Wilson County to Arsborn Dunston of Lewisburg, North Carolina, and Mary Mandin of Richmond, Virginia. Informant was Dezelle Whitted; Dora was buried at Rountree cemetery.

Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted died 15 February 1976 in Wilson.

 

Free people of color, 1860: Joyners & Gardners district.

Free people of color enumerated in Wilson County’s first federal census, taken in 1860.

Joyners & Gardners district

#606. Elba Lassiter, 16, mulatto, farm laborer, in the household of white farmer John B. Batts, 32.

#614. Isaac Lassiter, 26, mulatto, farm laborer, in the household of white farmer Thomas H. Bridgers, 27.

#631. Margaret Rose, 28, mulatto, farm laborer, with Clara, 9, and Diana Rose, 7, both mulatto, in the household of 68 year-old white farmer Mary E. Batts.

#649. Blessen Heggins, 39, black, farm laborer, with Elizabeth, 14, and Jolly Heggins, 12, black, in the household of white farmer Elijah Winsted, 71.

#665. Kinchen Locust, 8, black, and Joseph Perry, 6, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Henry Dixon, 76.

#669. Chessie Portice, 52, black, and William Portice, 25, black, farm laborer.

#719. Farm laborer Mariah Lassiter, 20, black, and child Esset, 3, in the household of white farmer Elizabeth Barnes, 79.

#741. Farmer Penny Lassiter, 50, mulatto, with children Priscilla, 14, Theresa, 12, Hardy, 10, Haywood, 8, William, and Pennina, 2, all black. Penny reported owning $600 real property and $300 personal property.

#774. Arch Artis, 65, black, in the household of white farmer Calvin Woodard, 32.

#782. Martha Mitchel, 44, mulatto, with children William, 13, Franklin, 11, George, 10, Thomas, 9, and Martha, 6. Martha reported $20 personal property.

#802. Jordan Thomas, 50, mulatto, with daughters Henrietta, 21, Eliza, 20, and Harley, 18, and grandson John, 1. Jordan reported $100 in real property and $80 in personal property.

 

Free people of color, 1860: Kirby’s district.

Free people of color enumerated in Wilson County’s first federal census, taken in 1860.

Kirbys district

#226. Jesse Ayres, 7, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Lawrence Moore, 40.

#233. Willis Taylor, 45, mulatto, turpentine laborer; Nancy, 11, and Alice Rose, 7, both mulatto, in the household of Sarah Rose, 50, white.

#237. Patrick Taylor, 16, mulatto, wagoner, and Martha Taylor, 26, mulatto, domestic, in the household of white farmer John D. Adams, 32.

#239. William Taylor, 22, mulatto, turpentine laborer, Sallie, 30, mulatto, day laborer, Jane, 23, white(?), day laborer, and Elizabeth, 10, Martha, 8, Cilvira, 5, and George Taylor, 1, all mulatto. William claimed $40 in personal property.

#248. John Ward, 14, black, farm laborer, in the household of white farmer Kinchen Crumpler, 53.

#252. George Locus, 6, black, in the household of white farmer Joseph Boyett, 28.

#273. Litha H. Richardson, 22, mulatto, farm laborer, in the household of Asa Ward, 43.

#283. David Rose, 36, farmer, Axcy, 34, and children Ruffin, 10, and Theophilus, 13, plus Sallie Sasser, 67. All mulatto except Theophilus and Sallie. David claimed $232 personal property, $200 real property.

#284. Sallie Hawley, 75, Patsey, 35, day laborer, William, 17, turpentine laborer, Mary, 14, Cerenia, 10, Willey, 4, Saffira, 4, and John D. Hawley, 1. Sallie, Patsey and John described as mulatto; the others, white.

#305. Elizabeth Taylor, 42, farm laborer, Abia, 18, farm laborer, Bryant, 14, Jackson, 12, Kinchen, 10, and McDaniel, 7. Abia, Jackson, and Kinchen were described as mulatto.

#333. Martin Locus, 61, mulatto, farm laborer, in the household of white farmer Obedience Wells, 77.

#335. Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, Nancy, 30, farm laborer, Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4 Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months, all mulatto.

Free people of color, 1860: Black Creek district.

Free people of color enumerated in Wilson County’s first federal census, taken in 1860.

Black Creek district

#17. Louisa Rose, 10, F, mulatto, in the household of 51 year-old white farm laborer Gray Lodge.

#43. Terrell Parker, 23, M, mulatto, in the household of 40 year-old white farmer Elias Farrell.

#45. Farm laborer Smithy Artis, 38, F, black, and son George Artis, 21, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Zilpha Daniel, 53.

#54. Farm laborer William Ayres, 30, M, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Stephen Privett, 50.

#79. Farm laborer John Hagans, 23, M, black, in the household of white farmer, Edwin Barnes, 35.

#82. Farm laborer Caroline Hagans, 18, F, black; her likely son Jacob Hagans, 7 months, black; and James Barnes, 17, M, black, in the household of white farmer Elias Barnes, 57.

#88. Martha Morris, 60, white, with her likely daughter Elizabeth Morris, 25, mulatto, and granddaughter Martha Morris, 2,, mulatto.

#89. Zillah Morris, 4, F, mulatto, in the household of 81 year-old white farmer John Saunders.

#92. Farm laborer Rufus Artis, 15, M. mulatto, in the household of white farmer Jacob Woodard.

#93. Mary Artis, 14, F, mulatto, in the household of Felix Woodard, 21, white.

#94. Mattress maker Jerry Manly, 50, M, mulatto, and Maria Manly, 55, F, mulatto.

#145. Farm laborer Daniel Hagans, 74, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Jesse Aycock, 34.

#152. Farm laborer Leah Langston, 38, F, black, who claimed $30 personal estate; with children and grandchildren Rebeca, 21, Martha, 18, Lucinda, 10, Louis, 5, Mourning, 5, Isaac, 3, Polly, 1, Benajah, 4, and Frank and Frances, 4 months. (The last three described as mulatto.)

#199. Cooper Solomon Andrews, 50, M, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Stephen Woodard Sr.

#203. Seamstress Jane Mitchell, 27, F, mulatto, with James, 12, George, 9, Nancy, 8, John, 6, and Bennet Mitchell, 4, and day laborer Martha Blackwell, 20.

#207. Turpentine worker Dempsey Powell, 30, M, mulatto, who claimed $130 personal estate; Sallie Simpson, 28, F, mulatto; and Sallie Simpson, 9, F, mulatto.

#208. Teamster Calvin Powell, 35, M; Penelope, 30, F; Jefferson, 12, M; Cidney, 10, F; and Calvin Powell, 6, M; all mulatto.