Gray

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 1.

A few weeks ago, I promised to go a teeny way toward carrying out my original plan for several one-place studies by turning the focus of Black Wide-Awake briefly to other beloved Black communities. This week I’ll be guest-blogging (though in my own space) from time to time about Iredell County, North Carolina, my maternal grandmother’s birthplace, two hundred miles west of Wilson on the western edge of North Carolina’s Piedmont.

I’ll start with an introduction to my great-great-great-grandfather Walker Colvert, who was born enslaved about 1819 in Culpeper County, Virginia. When Samuel W. Colvert died in 1823, Walker passed to his son John Alpheus Colvert, who had migrated to Iredell County and bought land on Rocky Creek, a South Yadkin River tributary.

Only four years later, John A. Colvert died. This excerpt from his estate records shows  “Negroes hired for one year,” that is, enslaved people leased to neighbors to earn money for Colvert’s estate and the support of his widow and children. “Boy Walker” was about eight years old. That he was listed without his mother may suggest that he was an orphan, though he was about the age to be separated from her and put to work on his own. Walker’s kinship to Jerry, Amy, Joe, Ellen, Meel, Anda, Charlotte, and Lett is unknown. 

Inventory of the estate of John Alpheus Colvert, Iredell County, North Carolina, 1827.

When he reached adulthood in 1851, John’s son William Isaac Colvert inherited Walker and held him until Emancipation on his farm in Eagle Mill township. The same year, Walker Colvert fathered a son, John Walker Colvert, by Elvira Gray. The boy and his mother were likely enslaved on a nearby plantation, perhaps that of William I. Colvert’s sister, Susan Colvert Gray. Around 1853, Walker married Rebecca Parks, a relationship that was not legalized until they registered their cohabitation as freed people in 1866. Their registration notes three children — John (Rebecca’s stepson), Elvira, and Lovenia. Rebecca also had a son Lewis Colvert, born about 1860, whom Walker reared but apparently did not father.

Iredell County Cohabitation Records, Register of Deeds Office, Statesville, N.C.

Walker Colvert and his son John Walker worked for decades after slavery for William I. Colvert, likely both on his farm and at his cotton manufacturing enterprise, Eagle Mills. Walker eventually bought a small farm in nearby Union Grove township, though he did not record a deed for it. On 16 March 1901, with the help of his neighbors he drafted a short will leaving all his property to his widow Rebecca Colvert, and then to his son John Colvert. Four years later, he died.

The Landmark (Statesville, N.C.), 10 February 1905.

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In the 1870 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 50; wife Rebecca, 25; and Lewis, 10.

In the 1880 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 62; wife Rebecca, 37; grandson Alonzo, 5; and niece Bitha Albea, 3.

In the 1900 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farmer Walker Colvert, 84, and wife Rebecca, 60. Both reported having been born in Virginia.

You better get out. I don’t want to hurt you.

Collier Gray being duly sworn says:

Albert Battle was on wagon with me come to his house he open up the gate I drove in yard he shut gate behind me I drove to wood pile he stopped behind wagon I look back & saw deceased getting over fence Albert’s wife told deceased not to get in yard dog would bite him deceased said what dog if you get over you will find out what dog he continued to come & came to front door he tried to open door from front door he went to back door & left to back door & went to wagon where Albert Battle & myself were at & stood there about 2 or 3 minutes & never said anything Albert said what do you want deceased said I don’t want anything I ask him did he have good sense he said you need not care he did not say anything more for about 2 or 3 minutes then he turned & went back to back door & left back door & went to front door walked up on steps & tried to open front door again Albert came around from wood pile & said you get out of my yard the deceased said I am not going no where Albert went in house & got his gun & told deceased to get out of my yard deceased said he was not going Albert said to deceased my wife is scared of you get out of my yard deceased said I am not going anywhere Albert said go out I don’t want to hurt you deceased I am not going no damn where I am not scared of you & nobody else I am not going nowhere Deceased said you can shoot me if you want to I am not going no where Albert said you better get out I don’t want to hurt you Albert turned off & went to gate & opened gate & started back to house to put his gun up & the deceased turned from corner of house & made toward Albert & said I am not scared of you & I will let you know it & deceased made towards Albert & got in about 7 or 8 steps of Albert & put his hands in his pocket & continued towards Albert Albert said stop & still deceased continued toward Albert & deceased got in about 2 steps of Albert & started to take hold of Albert & Albert knocked deceased down with his gun then Albert put his gun in this house & then went to out in the road & called Mr Warren Woodard & Mr Woodard went to where Albert was & went in Alberts yard & looked at deceased Mr Woodard told me to get some of the boys to help me to carry deceased down to the Gin house Alberts brother in law helped me    /s/ Collier Gray

Dorsey Ann Battle being duly sworn says:

The man came to my gate & did not know him I told him not to come in that the dog twill bite you deceased says what dog I said you come over & you will see then the deceased came in front then I went to back door & fastened that then I stepped to the window & let down the curtain he left the front door went to the front window then he went around to the end window & then he went around to the back door & stood there some little time then deceased went to where the men folks were throwing out the wood at and began talking with the men then be came back to the front window then my husband came around to where the deceased was standing and ask deceased to go out of the yard & dec’d said he was not going any where then my old man came in the house & got his gun & went out the back door around the house to where the man was I was standing looking through the window at him my husband said to decd you go out of my yard I don’t want to hurt you decd said I am not going no where what in the hell do I care about you hunting then my husband took his gun in his hand & went to the gate & opened it & stood there with his hand on the gate & his other hand on the gun my husband hollered to the man & told him to come out of the yard & then my husband left gate seeing the man would not come out the decd was standing near the wagon when my husband left the gate decd left wagon and came meeting my husband my husband was going backwards & the decd was advancing on him then decd put his hand behind him & mu husband said go on back man says I don’t want to hurt you he got so close to my husband I thought he was going to hurt my husband then I turned back into the house & I did not see any more in a few minutes I came back to the door & saw the decd lying on the ground & my husband was standing near him     Dorsey Ann (X) Battle

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  • Collier Gray — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Collie Gray, 29, wife Penny, 29, and children Lulu, 6, Carry, 7, Rosa, 5, Robert, 4, and Mary, 2. In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Colier Gray, 39, wife Penny, 39, and children Lula, 18, Cary, 16, Robert, 12, Annie, 19, Walter, 7, Willie, 5, Matty, 7 months, and Henry, 3. Collier Gray died 8 March 1925 in Wilson township, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 September 1870 in Wilson County to Cary Gray and Philis Pender; was married to Mary Gray; was a farmer; and was buried on the Whitehead farm in Wilson County. Walter Gray was informant.
  • Albert Battle — in the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Albert Battle, 41, wife Dorseyana, 42, and children Joe, 17, Millie, 15, Albert, 13, Sudie, 9, Bettie, 8, Mary, 5, Jacob, 4, and Lenora, 1.
  • Dorsey Ann Battle — Dorsey Ann Battle died 24 February 1922 in Great Swamp township, Wayne County. Per her death certificate: she was born in Edgecombe County to Tom Drake and Francis Battle; was a widow; and was buried at Rountree Chapel, Wilson. Albert Battle of Fremont was informant.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.