Freedmen’s Bureau

Update: identifying the Hines-Sharpe-Batts family.

One of the great benefits of blogging is the insight and information contributed by readers. In October 2019, I wrote of an 1866 custody dispute referred to the Freedmen’s Bureau by John B. Batts, former owner of a woman named Penny and her children. (The 1860 slave schedule of Gardners township, Wilson County, lists John B. Batts with seven slaves — a 55 year-old man; a 21 year-old woman; boys aged 9, 8, 7, and 6; and a 2 year-old girl.) The children’s father, Abram, was seeking to take them, and Batts and Penny contested his claim. Batts did not name the children in his petition, nor did he give surnames for Penny and Abram.

Isabelle Martin cracked the mystery on the basis of information provided in Nash County marriage license applications filed in the 1870s. Penny Hines was the mother, Abram Sharpe was the father, and the children were Alexander, Adline, Amanda, Gandy, Joshua, and Peter Batts (and maybe others.) That the children adopted J.B. Batts’ surname, rather than that of their mother or father suggests (but does not prove) that they remained with him well after slavery, and demonstrates the folly of making assumptions about relationships among freedmen on the basis of their last names.

Here’s what I now know about the family:

  • Abram Sharpe

We’ve already met Abram Sharpe here. He was enslaved by Benjamin W. Sharpe and named in Sharpe’s will. Abram Sharpe, son of Church Bynum and Thana Sharp, married Caroline Hines, daughter of Allen Hines and Harriet Hines, on 12 January 1869 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Abram Sharp, 30, wife Caroline, 19, and son John, 9 months.

In the 1900 census of No. 13 Cokey township, Edgecombe County: farmer Abram Sharp, 64; wife Caroline, 62; children Willie, 15, Mamy, 14, and Richard, 8; grandchildren Fred, 7, Nathan, 4, and Liza, 2; and widowed mother-in-law Harriett Hines, 77.  But also, in the 1900 census of No. 10 township, Edgecombe County: farmer Abrom Sharp, 55; wife Caline, 50; and children Mamie, 8, Willie, 7, and Hattie, 30.

  • Penny Hines

In the 1880 census of Cooper township, Nash County: Penny Hines, 40, hireling. [On either side, son Red Batts and daughter Amanda Batts Hargrove. All appear to have been working for white farmer Wiilis Eason.]

On 31 December 1883, Alice Batts, 19, daughter of Penny Hines, married Daniel Parker, 21, at Redman Hines’ in Nash County. [Is this another of Abram and Penny’s children? Or just Penny’s?]

[Was Penny a Hines because she remarried? Was her next husband Redman (or Reddin) Hines, called “Red”? Red Hines hosted or witnessed the marriages of three of the Batts children. In the 1880 census of Stony Creek township, Wilson County: ditcher Reddin Hines, 40; wife Penny, 40; and children Alice Ann, 15, Margaret, 12, Jno., 7, Calford O., 6, Charles B., 4, and Joe and Ida, 1.]

  • Alexander Batts

On 20 December 1874, Alex Batts, 19, married Mariah Daniel, 24, at Red Hines’ house in Nash County.

In the 1880 census of Stony Creek township, Nash County: ox driver Alex’r Batts, 23; wife Mariah, 26; and children Bettie, 4, Jno. Rich’d, 1, and Mary, 3 months.

In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County: farmer Alex Batts, 46; wife Maria, 45; and children Johnnie, 22, Joseph, 14, Laurence, 12, Mancy, 11, Lula B., 9, Rosco, 8, and Roy, 4.

  • Adline Batts

On 26 December 1871, Adline Batts, daughter of Abram Sharp and Penny Batts, married Jerry Davis, son of Doctor O. Bunn and Harriet Davis, at Red Hines’ in Nash County.

  • Amanda Batts

On 4 November 1875, Charles Hargroves, 35, of Nash County, married Amanda Batts, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Abram Sharpe and Penny Hines, in Cooper township, Nash County.

In the 1880 census of Cooper township, Nash County: next to Red Batts, 23, hireling, and Penny Hines, 40, hireling, hireling Charles Hardgrove, 46, and wife Amanda, 18, hireling.

In the 1900 census of Township No. 14 Upper Town Creek, Edgecombe County: farmer Charles Hargroves, 63; wife Amanda, 38; and children John C., 16, Mance H., 13, Maggie, 11, Cora, 10, Bessie, 8, Ether, 5, and Ella, 1.

Manda Lane died 10 June 1914 in Township #12, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was about 53 years old; was married; and was the daughter of Abram Sharp and Pennie Forehand. Mance Hargrove was informant.

Ether Bryan died 11 June 1916 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born August 1894 to Charles Hargrove and Amanda Hines; and was married. Flora Hargrove was informant.

Mance Hargrove died 5 May 1945 in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 June 1886 in Nash County to Charles Hargrove and Manda Batts; was married to Florida Hargrove; lived in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County; was a merchant in a grocery store; and was buried in Unity cemetery, Rocky Mount.

Lillie Williams died 26 December 1947 in Sharpsburg, Rocky Mount township, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 March 1907 in Nash County to Charles Hargrove and Mandy Lewis; was married to Mandonia Williams; and was buried in Unity cemetery, Rocky Mount.

  • Gandy Batts

On 23 May 1878, Gandy Batts, 24, of Nash County, son of Abram Sharp and Penny Hinds, married Emily Whitley, 18, daughter of John and Crensy Whitley, in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Red Hines was a witness.

In the 1880 census of Stony Creek township, Nash County: farm laborer Gandy Batts, 26; wife Emily, 21, and son Balaam, 1.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Gandy Batts, 48; wife Emma, 40; sons Bailey [Balaam], 21, and Allen, 15; and cousin Charley Hines, 24.

Gandy Batts is buried in Elm City Colored Cemetery. His broken headstone, made in the anchor-and-ivy style, states: Gandy Batts died Sept. 22, 1908 Age 53 Yrs. Gone to a brighter home Where grief can not [come.]

Ballam Batts died 25 March 1952 at his home at 1000 Roberson Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 October 1886 to Gandy Batts and Emily Whitley; was married to Clara Batts; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Elm City [Colored] Cemetery.

  • Joshua Batts

On 10 May 1873, Joshua Batts, 20, of Nash County, son of Abram Sharp and Penny Hines, married Silvia Whitaker, 25, of Nash County, daughter of Gray Whitley, at John Joyner’s plantation in Coopers township, Nash County. Peter R. Batts applied for the license and was a witness.

In the 1880 census of Stony Creek township, Nash County: farmer Joshua Batts, 26, farm laborer; wife Sylvia, 28; and children William, 15, Fountain, 10, Ella, 6, Helen, 5, Ella, 2, and Mindy Ann, 1 week.

In the 1900 census of Morehouse Parish, Louisana: farmer Josh Batts, 54; wife Silvie, 52; and daughter Elvie, 15.

  • Peter Reddick “Red” Batts

On 27 July 1878, Peter Reddick Batts, 22, of Nash County, son of Abram Sharp and Penny Hines, both of Wilson County, married Harriet Whitaker, 20, of Nash County, daughter of Jacob Whitaker, at Charlie Hargro’s in Cooper township, Nash County. Joshua Batts was a witness.

In the 1880 census of Cooper township, Nash County: Red Batts, 23, hireling, and Penny Hines, 40, hireling.

Peter R. Batts died between 1880 and 1885. On 5 January 1885, his widow Harriett Batts married Charles Farmer at the Wilson County Courthouse. Farmer adopted her and Red Batts’ infant son, Edward, and the family migrated to Arkansas.

In the 1900 census of Ellis township, Pulaski County, Arkansas: farmer Charles Farmer, 53; wife Harriett, 48; and son Claudis, 13, all born in North Carolina.

Edward Berry Farmer died 13 July 1938 in Brodie County, Arkansas. Per his death certificate, he was 62 years old; was born in North Carolina to Red Bats and Hattie Whitaker; and lived near Little Rock. Ida Taylor was informant.

Ida Taylor Parker died 17 January 1962 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 March 1880 in North Carolina to Red Bats and Harriette [maiden name not given]; was a widow; and was buried in Mount Zion cemetery. Bernice Joyner, Oakland, California, was informant. [Taylor and Parker were married names. Presumably, Ida’s maiden name was Batts.]

Privett is perfectly willing to take them.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County }

This is to certify that Stephen Privet of above named county and state has on his premises three children of color — whose mother is dead — and have no known father — name and ages as follows viz — Mary aged about ten years, Amy aged about five years, William aged three years — I have no hesitancy in commending the above named Stephen Privett as a suitable person to have said children of color bound to him — as he is perfectly willing to take them — Said children have no visible means of support. Given under my signature, this 5th day of Dec: 1865   Wm. G. Jordan J.P.

——

In the 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Stephen Privett, who claimed ownership of one 18 year-old black man, one 20 year-old mulatto woman, and two mulatto girls, aged 3 and 1. [The girls may have been Mary and Amy, and the woman their mother.]

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Stephen Privett, 59; wife Isabella, 55; children Cornelia, 21, and Robert, 18; farm laborer Joseph High, 20; and “apprentiss” William Privett, 8 [an African-American boy].

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (Assistant Superintendent), Roll 56 Labor contracts, Dec 1865-Jul 1867. Hat tip to Debby Gammon for the lead on this document.

Why should not the girl be returned to her mother?

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No. 55        Bureau of Ref. Freedman & Abd. Lands, Office Asst. Supt. Goldsboro, N.C. March 27 1867

Mr. Organ, Stantonsburg N.C.

Sir,

Complaint has been made, that you keep Betsey Homes, aged 15 years & daughter of Julia Homes, without the consent of said Julia & after you promised the mother to bring the girl to Petersburg, Va. — You will please report to this office without delay, if Betsey is bound to you by any offices of the Bureau or if any other objection exists, why the girl should not be returned to her mother.

Very Respectfully, Your obd servant,

Hannibal D. Norton, [illegible], Asst. Supt. Bur. of R.F.& A. Lds.

——

“Mr. Organ” was almost surely John Organ, 38, the Virginia-born bookkeeper who appears with wife Anna and children in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County. Only the youngest child, four-month-old Ellen, had been born in North Carolina, indicating that the Organs were recent transplants to Wilson County — apparently having dragged Betsey Holmes with them. Incredibly, her mother Julia had managed to track her across state lines and demand that the Freedmen’s Bureau intervene to secure her return to her family.

See also the Fisher brothers, likewise kidnapped from Virginia.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org.

Please state by what authority they are apprenticed to you.

Bureau R F & A Lands, Office Asst Sub Asst Comr, Goldsboro N.C. July 15th 1867

Barnes William Esq., near Blk Creek NC

Sir:

it is reported at the Head Quarters that you have in your possession three Colored Children named Blaney Barnes, Leonard Barnes and Perry Barnes: which you claim to have apprenticed to you. It is farther represented that these children if apprenticed at all were bound in violation of existing Laws.

In view of these facts you are hereby directed to Report in writing to these Hd. Quarters of your earliest convenience the Authority by which you hold these children in your possession. If they are apprenticed to you please state by what Authority, and if the consent of Parents or next nearest of kin was obtained previous to such Apprenticeship.

Yours Respectfully, J.F. Allison [illegible]

——

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 20, farm laborer.

Blany Barnes married Rachel Cooper on 10 August 1873 at J. Barden’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Blany Barnes, 27; wife Rachel, 25; and children Larry, 6, Mary An, 4, and William Anderson, 2.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: railroad laborer Blaney Barnes, 47; wife Rachel, 44; and children Anderson W., 22, Lanettie, 16, and Charlie, 11; plus boarder Dorch Wade, 25.

On 22 September 1903, Blaney Barnes, 50, married Diana Ricks, 45, in Spring Hill township.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 55, log hauler for saw mill; wife Dianna, 44, farm laborer; daughters-in-law Louvenia Furgerson, 21, and Jane Barnes, 19; grandsons Hiliard, 7, and Joseph N. Barnes, 5, and Willie Furgerson, 4; granddaughter Martha G. Barnes, 12; and boarder Troy Barnes, 23.

Blaney Barnes died 26 April 1915 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1844 in Wilson County to Sip Barnes of Wayne County and an unknown mother; was married; and was buried in Barnes graveyard. Informant was Wiley H. Johnson of Lucama.

Roll 17, Letters sent, July-Sep 1867, Goldsboro Assistant Subassistant Commissioner’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

These, and other things too tedious to mention.

In this peevish sworn statement, dated 29 January 1866, Jane C. Barnes airs grievances held over from slavery. A man named Redmond and his family have left her employ, carrying with them items she had “let him have,” presumably at the start of 1865, when slaveholders typically dispensed clothing. She also complained that Redmond had depleted stocks of food and drink she had “put in his charge.” (When and why? Had Jane Barnes and family fled the area during the Civil War?) Tellingly, Barnes griped that Redmond’s “family was an entire expense instead of being a profit” what with his sick children and a wife who had never given her all to the labors imposed upon her.

Jane Barnes’ outrage is not surprising. Her husband William had been one of Wilson County’s largest slaveholders, claiming 79 men, women and children just before the war. He estimated their value in the 1860 census as $89,000 — roughly $2.8 million in 2019 dollars. The Barneses’ sturdy plantation house still stands today.

I have not found evidence of the outcome of Jane C. Barnes’ complaint.

——

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To be sworn to that it has been given after May 1, 1866

I certify that Redmon had clothing last year to the amount of shirts and of winter pants before he left. I also let him have three gallons of molasses, twenty-five pounds of flour and some lard, also quinine and other medicines for his children. I also let him have one hundred dollars at one time to buy leather, and put in his charge twenty-six gallons of wine and returned only six gallons to me, about the same time I put in his charge fifty-three peices of bacon and when it was returned six peices were missing. His family was an entire expense instead of being a profit, for his three children had the hooping-cough from April up to the time they left, and his wife had to be in the house nearly all the time with them; I further say that his wife never done me a week’s washing in her life by herself. He has had many other things too tedious to mention.

January 29th 1866         Jane C. Barnes

Dear Captain, Above you will find a statement of Mr Wm S Barnes’ wife — I know the lady to be one of very high character & quite an estimable lady.  Yours very truly, J.J. Lutts

——

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer William Barnes, 48; wife Jane, 44; and others. [William Barnes was a brother of Joshua Barnes and Elias Barnes.]

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga township, Wilson County, William Barnes claimed 79 enslaved people living in 12 dwellings on his property. He held an additional 26 in trust for minor heirs.

Reddin Barnes and Martha Barnes registered their seven-year cohabitation on 6 July 1866 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Redmond Barnes, 34; wife Martha, 29; children Adeline, 9, Mary, 3, and Laura, 1; and farm laborer Alfred Simms, 23. Next door: Toby Barnes, 56, and wife Hannah, 84, who registered their 15-year cohabitation in 1866 as well.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Redmond Barnes, 45; wife Martha, 38; and children Adline, 19, Mary, 13, Laura, 11, Harriet, 9, James, 7, Margaret, 5, Joan, 4, Martha Ann, 2, and Ed, 1.

Roll 17, Miscellaneous Records, 1865-1867, Goldsboro Subassistant Commissioner’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

 

I never drove off any.

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Wilson N.C. Dec 22 1865.

Capt. G.O. Glavis, Capt.

I have received your communication by the hands of Mary. I of course do not know what kind of statement has been made to you; but I will make one myself. I have settled with all my employees to their satisfaction. As soon as it was announced that negroes were free I offered wages to those who could earn anything, and expressly told the others I could not give them wages, among these were Mary and Sukey. Mary had 3 children and she was not fit for steady hard work. She was worked as she saw fit. One of her children was sick one month during summer. I employed a physician to attend him, during all this time the mother did not go to work at all. I furnished their diet, houses and all their clothes until they left. The other Sukey has two children and an aged grandfather & mother the last two have not worked for a great many years, and this grand daughter spent a good deal of her time in attention upon them & her children.

I further state that I never drove off any. Who have gone did so of their own accord.

Respectfully &c., J.H. Adams

——

In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, North Carolina, Jesse H. Adams is listed as the owner of 31 enslaved people living in six dwellings. In the population census, Adams is described as a farmer, but he was also proprietor of the newly opened Adams Hotel.

I am unable to identify Mary, Sukey or their families.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

Were they illegally bound?

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Bureau R.F.&A.L. Goldsboro May 18 /67

Edwards Marcellus J., Wilson N.C.

Sir

Complaint has been made at this office that the boy Freeman and the girls Amanda & Bethany now living with you were illegally bound to you You will please forward a statement of the case to this office on or before the 23rd inst and show cause if any exist why the indentures should not be cancelled.

I am Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servt

A. Compton, Major 40th U.S.I., Sub Asst Com

——

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Marcellus Edwards, 42; his children Emma, 16, Sallie, 14, Mary, 13, William, 10, Julia, 9, Marcellus, 6, Joseph, 2, and James, 1; Virginia Edwards, 25; plus Freeman, 18, Amand, 16, and Bethena Edwards, 12, all farmer’s apprentices.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org.

The mother does not wish him to have them.

A man named Abram sought the Freedman’s Bureau’s help in removing his children from John Bailey Batts’ indenture, and Batts wanted to set the record straight. With hubris typical of the times, Batts claimed to have raised the children (by virtue of having held them in slavery from their birth). Abram had once been married to an unnamed woman, but he had left her for Penny. Several children later, Abram left Penny, but was now claiming custody of their children. According to Batts, neither he nor Penny wanted the father to have them.

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Joyners N.C. Jany 12th 1866

Agent of Freedmen Goldsborough N.C.

Sir, I write to inform you of the condition of colored children born with and so far raised by me the man Abram that claims them had wife and she is still living but he left her and took up with Penny at my home she has several children by him but he has left her (Penny) but now claims her children the mother does not wish him to have them and those you bound to me I wish to retain. Penny can give her statement and I wish to hear from you please write to me and send by the woman Penny or by mail to Joyners Depot N.C. Your favorable consideration will much oblige

Yours verry truly, John B. Batts

——

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer John B. Batts, 32; wife Margaret, 23; children Mary A.F., 4, and Nancy H., 1; Eveline Morris, 21; and farm laborer Elba Lassiter, 16. [Lassiter was a free person of color who probably had been apprenticed to Batts.] Batts reported $1600 in real property and $7740 in personal property [which would mostly have been in the form of enslaved people.]

Batts is not listed in the 1870 census, though he likely remained in Wilson or Nash Counties. I have not been able to identify Abram or Penny.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

We are now friendly with each other.

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Joyners Depot NC Dec 26th 1865

Geo. O. Elavis [Glavis], Agt. Freeman Bureau, Goldsboro N.C.

Sir Louis Bearer of a repot ordering me to appear before you in Goldsboro on the 27th of the present inst. for trial has repoted to me. And find me in Verry feble health also short of funs inlily too unwell to come down by the time that you have ordered me to do.

I am one of the Home polease of Wilson Co and have been ever since the surrender of the Army. And had Louis under arest when he left me and carried off my doble Barrel Gunn. Louis now has come & diliverd to me the Gunn and has been given all of his clothing. And myself & Louis are now friendly with each other and Louis tels me that he is coming back soon to work on my land &c.

Louis will sattisfy you inreguards to the former order

Please write me at Joyners Depot & let me know if I can be let off from coming down to see you

I am Verry Respecfully yours &c, J.H. Armstrong

P.S. I will be prepared in afew days if compell to come down

——

  • Louis — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Lewis Armstrong, 23; wife Vicey, 17; Chester Garrett, 16; and Mary E. Parker, 4.
  • J.H. Armstrong — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farmer Jas. H. Armstrong, 57; wife Emily, 56; and children Amos, 19, Carolina, 17, William, 15, and David W., 13; plus servant Martha Watson, 16.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org

I have no men to send for them.

Though Wilson is a few miles closer to Rocky Mount, Wilson County was under the jurisdiction of the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The people of northeastern Wilson County — the area around Elm City — were closely tied to southeastern Nash and southwestern Edgecombe Counties, and many families moved frequently across county lines for work and family.

In this letter, William Cox, the assistant superintendent at the Rocky Mount field office referred a matter to Goldsboro. In a nutshell: father and son Spencer and Churchwell Bullock signed a labor contract with James J. Taylor of Joyners Depot (now Elm City) in Wilson County. However, the Bullocks had left Taylor’s employ to work for E. Ferrell in “this county” (either Edgecombe or Nash County, Rocky Mount straddles the county line and Joyners Depot was close to both). Cox had no staff to spare to go out and round up the Bullocks and, in any case, because Taylor’s farm was in Wilson County and the contract therefore was approved by the Goldsboro F.O., the problem was not his.

Freedmen’s Bureau, Rocky Mount April 25th, 1866.

Captain Geo. O Glavis, U.S.A., Asst. Supt. Bureau of R.F. and A.L., Goldsboro, N.C.

Captain:

I have the honor to request that two freedmen, Spencer Bullock, and Church Bullock, his son, who have entered into a written contract with Mr. Jas. J. Taylor of Wilson County, and who have left him, The contract is approved by You, The freedmen are now living in this County, on the plantation of E. Ferrell Near Joiners Depot in this County, I have no men to send for them, and as the contract was drawn up in Your County, and as Mr. Taylor lives in Wilson County, I have referred the case to you,

I am, Captain,

Very respectfully, William F. Cox, 2d Lieut. and Asst. Supt.

P.S. I suppose the reason why Mr. Taylor did not go to you is that freedmen are in this county. W.F. Cox

——

In the 1870 census of Tarboro township, Wilson County: farm laborer Spencer Bullock, 56; wife Mathilda, 53; and children Georgewell [Churchwell], 17, Emeline, 9, Leda, 8, and Louisia, 3.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868, http://www.familysearch.org