Freedmen’s Bureau

Common justice requires that they work for family.

Here is the original complaint from Violet Blount to the Freedmen’s Bureau about her grandsons’ unlawful apprenticeship, chronicled here. Blount was also the maternal grandmother of Samuel H. Vick.

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Wilson N.C., May 31, 67

Freedmens Bureau Goldsboro N.C.

I respectfully wish to inform you that my grandsons Oscar & Marcus Blount (16 & 17 years of age) have been without my or their knowledge or consent bound to Mr. B.H. Blount, their former owner, while myself and their younger brother age seven years have to be supported by my son in law Daniel Vick. I am seventy years old and do think that common justice requires these boys to work at least in part for me & their younger brother as their mother is dead and their father does not claim to work for him. Mr. B.H. Blount once agreed to give the boys up to me but still holds on to them saying that his son G.W. Blount Esq. had arranged it for them to stay where they are till they are free.

Most Respectfully, Violet Blount

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868.

Perkins seized his corn.

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Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abd Lands, Sub Dist Goldsboro May 7/ 1867

Mr. John Perkins, Black Creek NC

Sir, Information has been received at this office that you seized one Bbl [barrel] and one stand of corn valued at $6.67 2/3 the property of Isaac Winsted to liquidate a debt due you from his father. You will please send to this office a written statement of the matter

Very Respectfully &c

O.E. Compton, Major USA Sub Asst Com


Pikeville N.C., June 1st 1867

O.E. Compton, Goldsboro N.C.

Sir, I have only yesterday 31st May received the within from you ishued 7th Inst. in reply I have to say that I rented or leased some land to Riched Winstead the father of Isaac & Prince Winsted. he Richard bout provisions of me in time that he was making the corn and pledged the corn to pay the amount at harves but before he paid me all he turned over or pretendidly give the corn to his Sones, but he had pledged me the corn to pay the amount, so I did not really take any of Isaac’s corn in his possession &c I can prove the above to be true by two witnesses.

Written by R.W. Perkins by request        Yours respectfully, John Perkins

——

  • John Perkins — Perkins, born in 1844, was a Confederate veteran, having enlisted in Company F, North Carolina 61st Infantry Regiment in 1862.
  • Isaac Winstead

In the 1870 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Richard Winstead, 80, farm laborer; wife Phillis, 57; and children Frank, 12, Anna, 6, and Isaac, 28.

On 27 April 1873, Isaac Winsted, 30, of Wilson County, married Caroline Batchelor, 30, of Nash County, in Taylors.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Isaac Winstead, 38; wife Caroline, 38; children Lizzie, 12, and Jane, 8; and mother Phillis, 70.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farm laborer Isaac Winstead, 79, and wife Calline, 75.

Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was 78 years old; his father was Dick Winstead; and he was a tenant farmer for J.S. Thompson. Informant was E.E. Winstead. (A duplicate certificate shows: Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was about 70 years old; was born in Wilson County; and he was a farmer for J.S. Thompson was informant.)

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868; 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 

Clara and Emeline are working for me.

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Stantonsburg, N.C., April 3rd, 1867

Major N.D. Norton, Dear Sir:

Your favor of April 2nd is to hand and contents noted. In reply I have to state that the two girls, named Clara Ann and Emeline are in my employment, they having hired themselves to me, and having entered into a written contract to work with me on my farm for the balance of the year. The contracts, which I hold, were drawn up by a Notary Public, and signed by the girls. The girls agreed to work with me of their own accord, and part of their wages have been paid them.

I will be in Goldsboro on Saturday next, and will call and see you, and bring the contracts.

Yours truly  Jno. B. Carrow

P.S. If I fail to come up on Saturday I will try and come on Monday next if possible.  J.B.C.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters received, Jan 1867-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org 

You have never known the cruelties of these people.

Three months after the Confederacy surrendered, the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau received this shocking letter from an African-American resident of Wilson. Austin F. Flood poured his anguish and anger into four pages detailing the outrages of authorities against freedmen in the county. Though some of the perpetrators of violence were former Confederates, Flood pointed a steady finger at so-called Union men who also terrorized and abused formerly enslaved men and women.

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Wilson July the 16 to 1865

Dear Sir

I take the opportunity of writeing you these few lines because I under stand you to be the head ruler ove this Steate in Millitary act. And this I write to you secretly in feare of my life. For in the present condision we can not helpe our Selves. Because thes people has every advantege of us and they are makeing use of it. The free men are under very good beheaveior here; And yet they cant see any peace at all. The rebes is about take the Town because we cant help our Selves Because we are without any thing to Protect us. For they sent the cunstable around to every free man s houses and taken all the wepons they said by General Schorfield. they were com manded to do it. And thuse we gave them up because we thought it was demanded of us by him. And not with Standing I thought at the Same time in a certain [illegible] that he was giveing them

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a Stick not only to breake my head But also his even the heads of all the Northren People whom I love as my Self. Yea I say more then love them. Therefore I look to them for protection. Why am I keept from my libberties Because you have never known the cruilties of these People Who says they are Union men when they are not. For am I acquainted with bot Heavenly an National union and it is as much imposible to mix union and secess as it is to mix Oil an Water. Ive been watching them for twenty-eight months and there is but three union principles about the place and that is Wilie Daniel an Lawyer Langston — T.C. Christmond. These are all that I can look opond as Such. And if these officers be Union men Why do they keep all your ordinances conceiled frome us And try so harde to place a Yoke of thiere own opond us when this is not your Militry rules. They receives your commans and make thiere own laws. Taken down the free men an striping them without liefe or licens. Carring them to Jail and Whiping them [illegible]

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The cunsable Thom Hadly a few days a go or rather at neight took a man at his work And carid him to his house and Striped him with out Law And this thing are going continuely in the Country Wm Batts stroped two this Weak and gave them a bige dink I surpose not to say anything about it. Johnathan Bullock discharging two loads after a yonge man to make him go home to his Master to work. The Cunstable are ruled more by the rebs then he is by the officers as they so call in nam. But not in principle. They say that have every thing in thiere hands to do as they please. And a Negro shall not be equill with him. Before he shall they will kill him. And this they have stated to do. We have to pay taxes and yet we have no priverledge. We dar to walk almost after night without being put in Jail. And the rebs going where he pleases. And they have gon so far that we are almost a fraide to Stay in the house after night Last Friday night the town was in a larm with the cry of a free [illegible] Men who disguised them Selves

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And wente to the house wher he staid and routed him. And as he jumped out the window. A pistol was fired on him. And by the time he tuched the grown one struck him with a gun. And by that time there four on him Choping with sabers an beating on him with greate stick. And hollowing murder an help nor man could go to him. Willie Dannel atempted to go to him And they threatened his life for they had sentenals out to keepe others off. Ben Lanston and the Cunstaple: Sid Clark Van Winman and Rube Winman. And they have almost ruin him. And it never will be no better untill you send men here and put this place to rights. And this is what has never been done. For the men that was sent here worked every thing to our disadvantage and I’m [in] the faviour of these People. I writ you these things secretly. Please send to our releife for we are here in this place And I will more then thank you.  Yours, A.F. Flood

——

  • General Schorfield — Gen. John McAlister Schofield,
  • Wilie Daniel — Willie Daniel (1820-1897), wealthy planter and merchant, owner of 18 enslaved people as reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, neutral during the Civil War
  • Lawyer Lanston
  • T.C. Christmond — not Thomas F. Christman, who died in 1861.
  • Thom. Hadly — Thomas Jefferson Hadley IV (1838-1917), Confederate captain.
  • Wm. Batts
  • Johnathan Bullock — Jonathan Bullock (1822-??), farmer.
  • Ben Lanston
  • Sid Clark — Sidney Phineas Clark (1841-1896), born in Connecticut, Confederate captain.
  • Van Winman — Van Buren Winbourn (1838-1889), Confederate private.
  • Rube Winman — Reuben Winborne (1832-??), brother of Van, Confederate private.
  • A.F. Flood — I’ve been able to find little about Austin F. Flood, a Missionary Baptist minister who was born in slavery, probably in Pitt County, North Carolina. His letter indicates that he had been observing conditions in Wilson for 28 months, which would put his arrival in about March 1863. A year and two days after penning this letter, he filed a petition with the Bureau seeking an officer to arrest a “villain” in Greenville. Shortly after, he and Frances Delany registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Pitt County justice. In the 1870 census of Greenville, Pitt County: Austin Flood, 47; wife Francis, 35; children Della, 18, John, 16, Warren, 15, Louisa, 13, Josaphine, 8, Netta, 2, and Hetta, 5 months; and Dorey Paten, 17, hosler. Flood remained in Greenville the rest of his life. He was active in local Republican politics and Baptist leadership, helping establish several churches in the Pitt County area.

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

They are my grandchildren.

In response to John J. Pender’s claim to three African-American children, Jenny Robbins sent a sworn statement to the Freedmen’s Bureau. Reading between the lines suggests that Pender’s bald claim that Toney Robbins was not the children’s grandfather split hairs. They were, it seems, Jenny Robbins’ grandchildren by blood and Toney Robbins’ by marriage. Note that Robbins gives their surname as Turner, not Pender as set forth in the 1870 census and in J.J. Pender’s claim.

I Jenny Robbins wife of Toney Robbins do certify on oath that Dellah Ann Sylva Ann and Jacob Turner three infant children now in the possession of J.J. Pender of the county of Wilson state of North Carolina are my grand children and do further swear that my daughter Amy the mother of the said three children is and was dead when they were set free that I am the nearest kin now living to the said infants and wish to have the management control and raising of the same which he the said J.J. Pender haves and will not allow me to take or have anything to do with them     Jenny (X) Robbins

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 21st day of August 1867 James Wiggins J.P.

Witness D.W. Weaver, Moses (X) Morris Col., Haywood (X) Batts

Plece let me hear from you soon

——

Former policeman James Wiggins also weighed in in support of Ginny Pender/Jenny Robbins’ claim for custody of her children. (The date of his letter is puzzling, as it more than a year and a half before Robbins’ above. It gives a sense, however, of the protracted fight Toney and Jenny Robbins waged for her grandchildren.)

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868; North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org 

Simpson took his stock.

In 1867, blacksmith Harry Simpson asked two white neighbors to write a letter on his behalf to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The letter is fascinating in many ways: (1) the glimpse at the independence afforded a skilled enslaved man; (2) his willingness to confront his former master’s father over a matter of equity; (3) the willingness of his neighbors vouch for his integrity and to assist him against a well-known white man.

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Wilson County N.C.

To the Freedmen’s Bureau in Goldsboro N.C.

Harry Simpson (colerd) the bearer formerly a slave of J.T. Simpson’s, was a black-smith & worked through the county from shop to shop. Said Harry lived off to himself & for some reason his owner put a portion of his stock in the care of Harry who provided for them & used them as his own & in the early part of the late war said J.T. Simpson died, having no family his property then was his fathers who let it remain with said Harry untill about the first of February 1867. Then Benjamin Simpson the father of the said J.T. Simpson took possession of it, and his pourk. We have known Harry for several years & have no just reason to doubt his character. We state the above to you by his request which are facts.

April 18th 1867  S.D. Boykin, S.J. Winborn

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For Capt. Hannibal D. Norton’s response to Simpson, which seems to miss the mark somewhat, see here.

  • Harry Simpson — Simpson does not appear in post-Civil War records of Wilson or Nash Counties.
  • J.T. Simpson — John T. Simpson (1831-1863), enlisted in Company A, 55th N.C. Infantry in 1862, died in a camp on the Blackwater River, Virginia, on 27 May 1863.
  • Benjamin Simpson — Benjamin Simpson (1804-1875), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and blacksmith.
  • S.D. Boykin — Stephen Davis Boykin (1833-1910), resident of Oldfields township, farmer, justice of the peace.
  • S.J. Winborn — Samuel Jackson Winborn (1840-1901), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and wagoner.

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

Toney Robbins’ side: “Please send me a paper so as I can get them.”

In August 1867, John J. Pender complained to the Freedmen’s Bureau that Toney Robbins was harassing him about Pender’s apprenticeship of three children who Robbins claimed were his grandchildren. Pender asserted that Robbins had no children, much less grandchildren. The Bureau apparently sided with Pender, as the children were with him in 1870 when the census taker passed through.

Here is one of Robbins’ letters pleading for the Bureau to intercede on his behalf.

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Joyners Depot Wilison Co NC   August 5th 1867

Freedmen Bureau

I ha [written] 2 or 3 letter to Maj Crompto a Bout 3 of my grand Children nor [illegible] Eny Anser then wrote to General Every at Raleigh he said go to the Freedmen Bureau at Rockey Mount in Edgecone County the children is in Wilison County he told me to write to you it was out of his Power as it was in Wilison County

Thy or not Bound By law, So Plese Send me a Paper So as I can get them thy ar living With John J. Pender of Wilison Co

I wait an Anser [illegible] with Respets Tony Robins

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner), Roll 17, Letters received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

There was about 1200 colored people.

The Freedmen’s Bureau also lent aid to impoverished white people. M.A. Gay’s letter to Major Compton began with a breezy description of the African-American Fourth of July celebration in Joyners Depot [Elm City] and ended in a plea for food assistance.

Joyners Depot Wilson Co NC

Mag Comton  Kinde Sir

I again seat my self to drop you a few lines which I hope will soon reach your hand. we had a nice time on the fourth I note there was a bout 12 hundred Col people assembled at this place and formed a prosession and marched up and down the streets with music in front they had a butifull dinner. I was much pleased with what you sent to me. I again am oblige to beg you I am nearly out of meat but I have some corn I have been sick nearly all the time and have not been able to help my self to any thing you will pleas send it to Mr Joseph Conte as before I would be glad if you could arrang it so as to send me my rashons every month Mr Conte will make it all right how and his wife are particular friends of mine yours with respets, you will pleas write to me     M.A. Gay

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  • M.A. Gay — probably, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Mary Gay, 34, seamstress, and son Edwin, 3.
  • Joseph Conte — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail]; wife Mary, 28; and Joseph Totten, 29, clerk in store. The Contes were born in Italy; Totten, in Maine.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters Received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

The three orphan children are in my possession.

In August 1867, white farmer John J. Pender posted a letter to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau, disputing Toney Robbins‘ claim to three orphaned children, Della, Sylvia and Jacob Pender, whom Pender likely had claimed as property just a few years before:

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Joyners Depot NC August 10th 1867

Lieut J F Allison

Sir

Your note was received last evening ordering me to furnish you with all the facts concerning three grand children belonging to Tony Robbins cold [colored]. I must say the report is entirely false. Tony Robbins has no grand children and he had none of his own nor he never has had any children. I can if necessary furnish you with all the evidence you may desire. I have three orphan children in my possession named Dellar, Sylva & Jacob apprenticed and bound to me on the 2nd January 1866 by Capt Glavis post Commander at Goldsboro, and also my Lawyer instructed me to have said children bound to me by Wilson Court and I did so. So have had them bound to me at Goldsboro by Capt Glavis and by Wilson County. Said Tony Robbins has given me considerable trouble abot said children and I am getting tired. Said Tony Robins has made application to every Commander in reach concerning Said Children and further more the Children is not related to Said (Robins) in no shape nor manner. He has run me to a great deal of expense. Said Tony Rbbins and Mr (Totten) at Joyners Dept have been troubling me badly during this year Concerning said Children

I am glad to Say the Children are in fine health and get a plenty to eat and are sheltered under my own roof and well clothed &c &c.

Very Respectfully yours truly

J.J. Pender

To Lieut. J.F. Allison

Post Commander

Goldsboro NC

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In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph Pender, 63, and wife Lucretia, 49; daughter Lucretia, 5; and farmer’s apprentices Jacob, 8, and Selvia Pender, 5, both black.

In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Toney Robbins, 51, farm laborer, and wife Jinny, 48. [Sidenote: Joseph J. Pender’s mother was Elizabeth Robbins Pender. Was Toney Robbins linked to her family?]

On 18 April 1878, Haywood Braswell, 23, married Sylva Pender, 19, in Township No. 14, Edgecombe County, in the presence of Toney Robbins, Charles Daws and Tom Petway.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haward Braswell, 25; wife Silvy, 22; and daughter Lucy, 3.

Sylvia Pender Braswell died 12 April 1952 at her home at 510 South Spring Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 January 1842 [sic] in North Carolina to unknown parents and was a widow. Connie Bynum was informant.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters Received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

 

He swears he has been to work.

Freedman Reddick Barnes signed a labor contract with white farmer Elisha Barnes commencing in January 1866. After several months, when Elisha failed to pay Reddick wages, Reddick complained to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedman’s Bureau. Though Ben Barnes, another freedman, testified against him, Reddick seems to have won his case.

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Case of Reddick Barnes Freedman vs. Elisha Barnes white, Breach of Contract

Reddick Barnes freedman sweares that he has been to Work for Mr Barnes white for some time he general went to work at sun rise in the morning. Ben Barnes freeman testified that he has been to work with Reddick Barnes. And has often found him asleep and was not out in the morning to feed his stock went he went out. And left his quarters most every night and went to Town with out permission Mr Elisha Barnes always treated him well Mr Rett Barnes Testified that Reddick did not work as he should have done got up late in the morning and often caught him asleep on his plough in the field and caught him shelling corn.

Contract fairly broken by Reddick Barnes Freedman, Wilson July 12th 1866

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Reddick Barnes’ receipts.

Roll 17, Miscellaneous Records, Goldsboro Subassistant Commissioner’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org