involuntary apprenticeship

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.

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 

 

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 

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 

 

Bunyan Barnes’ apprentices.

Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from the homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.

Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify the following free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and parts of Crossroads township.

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Bunyan Barnes was born about 1809 and died before 1870. Per Wilson County Founding Families, S. Powell and H. Powell, editors, Barnes was the first postmaster of Bardin’s Depot (now Black Creek) and owned property along the Wilson and Goldsboro Road (now Frank Price Church Road) between Canal Branch and Dickerson Mill Branch in Black Creek township.

  • Stephen Mitchell, 8, and Warren Mitchell, 7, were bound to Bunyon Barnes in 1833.
  • John Hagans, 15, was bound to Bunyan Barnes in 1844.

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

Stephen Woodard’s apprentices.

Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from their homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Involuntary apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.

Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify a few free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and part of Crossroads township.

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Stephen Woodard was born about 1790 and died in 1864. He was a wealthy farmer whose last will and testament named 75 enslaved people. In the 1850 census of North of the Neuse River district, Wayne County, Woodard’s household included 40 year-old farmhand Sollomon Woodard, who was a free man of color. In the 1860 census of Woodard’s household, then in Black Creek township, Wilson County, the same man, now known as Solomon Andrews, 50, carpenter, is listed.

The Black Creek Rural Historic District was nominated as a National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and listed in 1986. The nomination form described the residences in the district, including Stephen Woodard’s, as “a rare survivor of antebellum architecture and … excellent examples of early farmsteads in Wilson County.” Per the nomination form, Woodard built a “modest coastal cottage” between 1810 and 1820. In 1821, he inherited additional land from his father John Woodard.

Stephen Woodard Sr.’s coastal cottage, at left, attached by breezeway to a two-story, frame I-house later built for his son, Dr. Stephen Woodard Jr., possibly by carpenter Solomon Andrews. Photo courtesy of the nomination form for Black Creek Rural Historic District.

Over the span of 1820 to 1831, as he began to expand his wealth, Stephen Woodard indentured at least eight children of color:

  • Welthy [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 15, and Ned [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 4, in 1820.
  • Kinnard Samson, age 7, Liza Samson, age 12, and Jere Samson, age 2, in 1820.

Possibly, in the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Jesse Sampson, 35, day laborer, with wife Mary, 30, and children Caswell, 10, Martha, 8, Elizabeth, 6, Temda, 4, and Gabriel, 6 months.

  • William Artis, age 7, in 1822.
  • David Artist, age 15, as a farmer in 1829.

In the 1840 census of Boswells district, Wayne County, David Artis is listed as head of household consisting of two free people of color. In 1850, North Side of Neuse district, Wayne County: David Artis, 40, day laborer, wife Siry, 40, and Lafayet Artis, 3. In 1860, Nahunta, Wayne County: David Artis, 50, turpentine hand, and wife Elizabeth, 35.

  • Willie Hagans, age 9, in 1831.

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The indenture of four year-old Ned.

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

The apprenticeship of Nicey C. Hall.

Nicey Caroline Hall married Wyatt Lynch in Wilson in 1860 and seems to have spent the remainder of her life in Wilson County. However, she spent her childhood across the county line in northeast Wayne County.

In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Lucy Hall, 45, with her children Sarah, 16, George, 15, Nathan, 13, Nicy, 10, Samuel, 3, and Esther, 6; plus Alford, 15, John, 14, Rhoda, 13, Julia, 12, and Rheuben Artis, 10; and Rufus Lane, 22. Next door: William Exum, a 25 year-old white farmer. The same year, per Wayne County apprentice bonds, Exum indentured the five Artis children to serve him as involuntary apprentices. (Lane had just aged out of his indenture too Exum.)

Under the laws governing the involuntary apprenticeship of free children of color, a mother could state her preference for the man to be named master of her bound children. When called to the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1851, Lucy Hall informed the judge that she wanted her children to be bound to James Yelverton (probably Sr.) Instead, the court awarded the indentures of George, Nathan, Nicy C., Esther and Sam Hall to their neighbor, William J. Exum, on whose land they likely lived. However, the clerk neglected to record the indentures in the court minutes, and Yelverton took advantage of the oversight to have the children bound to him instead. Exum sued Yelverton, claimed that he obtained the indentures contrary to the rules of court, and the judge rescinded Yelverton’s indentures. The court then re-bound the Halls to Exum, who thereby consolidated his control over the labor of the free children of color living on his property.

The Yelvertons and Halls’ lives remained intertwined, despite the best efforts of William J. Exum. In the 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County, James Yelverton (Jr.), 40, shared a household with Easter [Easther] Hall, 20, and her likely children Fanny, 7, and Puss, 5. Moreover, per family lore recently backed up by DNA testing, James Yelverton Jr. was the father of Nicey Caroline Hall’s first child, Susianna Frances Hall, alias Yelverton, born about 1857.

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On 5 June 1860, Wyatt Lynch married Nicey Hall in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: plasterer and brickmason Wyatt Lynch, 30, wife Caroline, 23, and daughter Frances, 3.

As revealed in this letter, while he was away at war, Captain Ruffin Barnes arranged with Wyatt Lynch for his wife to live with Barnes’ wife and perform household chores. Nicey Caroline Lynch butted heads with Barnes’ wife, however, and Barnes advised that she be sent back home.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brick maker Wyatt Lynch, 48, wife Nicey, 35, and children Harriet, 4, and John, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on the south side of the Plank Road, widow Nicy Lynch, 40, children Harriot, 13, John, 11, Noah, 9, Sammy, 7, and Mary Wyatt, 3, with mother-in-law Nancy Lynch, 98.

On 24 January 1899, Hattie Lynch, 33, of Wilson County, daughter of Wyatt and Nicy Lynch, married William Young, 46, of Wilson County, son of Manuel and Caroline Young of Mississippi. Primitive Baptist minister J.S. Woodard performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, widowed farmer Nicey Lynch, 60, daughters Harriet Young, 35, and Mary Rhodes, 23, and grandson John Rhodes, 2.

On 7 May 1905, Hattie Lynch, 39, daughter of John and Nicy Lynch, married Robert Dixon, 33, son of William and Charlotte Dixon, in Wilson County. Witnesses were D.F. Scott, Mary Rhoads, and Charley Edward.

On 3 December 1907, Eddie Bullock, 27, of Wilson, son of Preacher Chanson and Andy Bullock, married Mary Rhodes, 27, of Wilson, daughter of [name not given] Linch and Nicie Lynch.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Robert Dickson, 37, wife Hattie, 46, mother-in-law Nicie Lynch, and nephew Johnnie Rhodes, 12.

Susiannah Artis died 11 September 1931 in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was 74 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nicy Linch of Wilson County; worked in farming; and was married to Richard Artis.

Mary Wyatt Ellis died 10 October 1943 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 May 1876 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was married to Ruben Ellis; was a farmer; and was buried on the Lynch farm.

Harriet Hattie Dixon died 16 January 1958 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 July 1865 in Wilson County to Wyatt Linch and Nicie [last name unknown]; was widowed; was a retired farmer; and was buried in a family cemetery. Hattie Anderson was informant.

Susanna Frances Yelverton Artis, daughter of Nicey C. Hall Lynch.

Documents detailing the proceedings in Exum v. Yelverton are found in Box 6, Apprentice Bonds and Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; photo of Susannah Artis courtesy of Teresa Artis.