Freedmen’s Bank

No. 2738.

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When Aaron Bess opened an account at the Freedmen’s Bank in New Bern, he reported that he had been born and raised in Greene County, resided at the Widow Bess’ in Greene County, and farmed for Heywood Bess. He and Evelina Bess had been married 26 years and had eleven children: Orpheus, Harper, Jane, Mary (deceased), Argent, Cherry, Alice, Nancy, Samuel Lincoln, Hattie and Hope. His parents were Abel Edwards (deceased) and Argent Edwards, who lived in Wilson County, and his siblings were Richard, Margaret, Harriet, Gracie and Justina.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Cally Speight, wife Margaret, 26, and Ann Speight, 13, a domestic servant. Sharing their household were Abel Edwards, 84, Argen, 72, Jssie(?), 24, a hotel chambermaid, Gracy, 23, a domestic servant, and Ann P. Edwards, 5.

In the 1880 census of Moseley Hall, Lenoir County: laborer Aaron Best, 62, wife Eveline, 48, children Nancy, 18, Harriet, 12, Hopewell, 9, and Mariah, 4, and grandchildren Eugenia, 8, and Frances Joyner, 3.

Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com

No. 2879.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank, New Bern branch:

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When Hamilton Holmes of New Bern registered for an account at the local branch of the Freedmen’s Bank, he noted that his sister Tempe and her husband William Smith lived “at Wilson.”

Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

No. 3462.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank, New Bern branch:

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Though born and raised in Wilson County, on 14 March 1871, Lizzie Washington married Elias Mitchell in New Bern, Craven County. In the marriage register, Elias’ parents are listed as Anthony and Nancy Mitchell. Lizzie’s parents are shown as Aaron Ruffin (rather than Bryant Barden) and Rachael Ruffin.

Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

No. 3600.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Bank, New Bern branch:

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Clara Best, born about 1813 near Stantonsburg, reported that she was reared in Greene County. Her husband Daniel Best had died the “1st spring Yankees come.” She named twelve children (plus “2 not named”) — Cynthia, William, Philip, Nancy, Ivory, Jinnie and Clara, living, and Ransom and Toney (“d. soldier”), deceased. Her father Isaac Best was dead, as was brother Nathan, but mother Sylvia seems to have been living yet, as were siblings Isaac, Rose Ann, Patience, Isaiah and David.

Nos. 1394 and 2319.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Bank, New Bern branch:

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When Jeremiah Barden opened his first account, he reported that he was living up the Trent River in Joned County, working on Colonel Whitford’s land for himself (i.e. as a tenant farmer.) Barden is frustratingly elusive in census records. His birth family, however, remained back in Wilson County and appear in the 1870 census of Black Creek township: farm laborer Washington Simms, 57, and wife Exy, 47, plus Henry, 32, Gatsey, 27, Nathan, 10, Grant, 4, and Harrit Simms, 5; Waity Nelson, 18; Joseph, 14, Samuel, 12, Mary, 10, and Della Simms, 8; Ellen Barden, 1; and William Nelson, 26. They are listed in close proximity to white farmers Arthur Barden, 54, and Benjamin Barden, 42. It is a reasonable conjecture that Exy Simms and her children (but not her husband Washington) belonged to one of these Bardens prior to Emancipation, and Jeremiah adopted “Barden” as a surname as a result.

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Jere opened a second account after moving to Dawson’s Creek in Craven County in 1871. (Curiously, he marked his signature with an X this time, though he wrote his name in 1869.) Notice the detailed listing of his siblings, especially sisters. Gatsey, Mary and Della Simms and Waity and William Nelson were listed in the Simms household in 1870. Moses, 29, and Mariah Coley, 26, were in the household next door. Nearby, in Holden township, Wayne County: Jackson Barnes, 27, wife Farby, 27, and sons Benjamin, 10, Henry, 8, Frank, 7 and Joshua, 1.

I have not located Jere in any census. However, he and wife Mary were designated as living on marriage licenses of several children, including daughter Sarah Barden, who married Marshal Faison in Pamlico County in 1895; George Barden, who married Annie Allen in Pamlico County in 1907; and John Barden in Wayne County in 1925. In the first two, Jere and Mary were described as living in Pamlico. In the last, they were described as living in Craven County.

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It is likely that Jeremiah Barden ran away from Wilson County while still enslaved. On 25 April 1864 in New Bern, he enlisted in the 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery.

Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

No. 6067.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank, New Bern branch:

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Sixteen year-old John Barnes, newly arrived in New Bern from Wilson County, opened an account at the Freedmen’s Bank. His registration card speaks to a fractured family life. He had never been told his father’s name; his mother Nancy, uncle Gray and siblings Alfred and Lizzie were dead. I have been unable to identify with certainty any record of his grandmother Spicey Barnes‘ residence in “Wilson Town.”

Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

No. 2768.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Bank, New Bern branch:

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In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County, 80 year-old midwife Cherry Rogers is shown in the household of Watson and Rosa Stanton. Cherry and Rosa may have been the mother and half-sister named above.

Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

A slave for a wife.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County to wit:

Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions January Term AD 1859

The Jurors for the State on their oath present that Benjamin Price a free negro late of the County of Wilson on the 1st day of December AD 1858 and divers other days and times both before and after that day at and in the county aforesaid did unlawfully cohabit & live as man & wife with Easter a slave the property of Dempsey Barnes contrary to the form of the statute in such cases made & provided and against the peace & dignity of the state.    /s/ B.B. Barnes Sol

[Reverse: State vs Ben Price A Slave for Wife / Gov Pros Wit Dempsey Barnes  / Not a true Bill W.E.J. Shallington For’n Grand Jury]

Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.