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.
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
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
This is a copy of the contract between Virgil Bridges W.L. Quarles State of North Carolina Wilson County
Articles of agreement concluded between Virgil Bridges of the one part and W L Quarles of the other part both of the state and county above written. The said Virgil Bridges for the consideration hereinafter mentioned doth hereby covenent and agree to wit
That he the said Virgil have bound him self and three of his children viz. Siah Rachel and Bunny to serve the said W L Quarles the present year (1867) commencing the 1st day of Jany and ending the 31st day of December (inclusive) the said Virgil are to board him self and children to furnish seed to plant of any and every description such as are usually planted in this section of country. The said are to do all manner of work usually done on farms such as fencing putting the fences in good repair raising manures ditching cleaning out ditches clearing of lands &c &c. In consideration of the said Virgil faithfully discharging us duty (and having his children to do same as set forth in this agreement the said Quarles do agree to give unto the said Virgil two thirds of the crop that he may make and save. The said Quarles also agrees to furnish the said Virgil with two plow nags for which the said Virgil do agree to give him for the use of same (that is the two horses, twelve (12) barrels of corn and 2500 lbs of fodder for each horse or mule he the said Virgil shall pay trict attention to the wellfare of the animals that may be placed under his charge the animals are to be used on
the farm only without first obtaining permission from the said Quarles to do otherwise. The said Quarles also agrees to furnish such agricultural implements as may be necessary to carry on the farm for which the said Virgil Bridges are to pay the said Quarles the sum of Ten (10) dollars he the said Virgil further binds him self and the above named children to be governed by the orders and instructions that may be given by the said Quarles the said Virgil also hires unto the said Quarles two other of his children viz Easter & Turner for Easter the said Quarles is to pay at the rate of four (4) dollars per month until the 1st day of Jany next half of which going to the hireling and half to the said Virgil and for Turner five (5) bunches of cotton yarn board and clothes until Jan next.
Now should it appear that from any neglect that either party fails to do his duty as setforth in this agreement he or they shall forfeit the sum of Ten dollars in every instance for such neglect. Given under our hands and seals this the 15th day of May 1867
Witness Z. Johnson Virgil (X) Bridges W.L. Quarles
Wilson NC Septr 5th 1867
Lieut Allison Sir
[Illegible] I herewith transmit you a copy of contract between myself and Virgil Bridges [illegible]. I hope the instructions you gave to impart to him will have a very desirable effect he has gone to work though the crop is badly damaged from his neglect I am yet willing to over look it in a great measure provided he will stick up to his contract for the balance of the year accept my thanks for what you have done in the matter and oblige Yrs very respectfully W.L. Quarles
In the 1870 census of Lower Town Creek, Edgecombe County: farmer Virgil Bridgers, 66; wife Frances, 51; and children Josiah, 22, Turner, 15, Easter, 21, Bunny, 13, Harriet, 11, and Manda, 6.
On 18 July 1872, Simon Pope, 21, of Edgecombe County, married Ester Bridgers, 22, of Edgecombe County, in Wilson County.
On 12 March 1876, Turner Bridgers, 23, of Edgecombe County, married Nelly Horn, 23, of Edgecombe, in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek, Edgecombe County: laborer Virgil Bridgers, 74 laborer; wife Francis, 74; daughters Hannah, 23 and Amanda, 17; and grandchildren Laura, 4, Esther, 3, and Richmond, 12.
On 7 January 1886, Hilliard Barron, 43, married Rachel Bridgers, 35, at Wilson County Courthouse.
In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Hilliard Barron, 56; wife Rachel 49; and son Hilliard, 19.
In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Turner Bridgers, 52; wife Nellie, 50; sons General, 17, and Isaac, 14; mother-in-law Lany Horne, 97; and boarder Nelson Williams, 40.
In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Hilliard Barron, 67, and wife Racheal, 60.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: odd jobs farm laborer Turner B. Bridgers, 55; wife Nellie, 60; and son Isaac, 17.
Rachel Barron died 31 March 1917 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was married; was about 60 years old; was born in Wilson County to Virgin Bridger and an unknown mother; and worked as a tenant farmer.
In the 1920 Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, Turner Bridgers, 72, farmer; Nellie, 74; grandchildren Willie, 16, Georgeanna, 12, and Nathan, 7; and adopted daughter Hattie Stokes, 13.
Turner Bridges died 16 October 1921 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1850 in Saratoga; was a farmer; and was married to Nellie Bridgers.
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
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.
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
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.
Mr. O Compton, I Received your note yesterday in closed you will find the am of my Acct against Jourdin Artis, allso an Acct he should of had to of settled with his hands. Jourdin has never bin to me for asettlement nor nor finished the contract he is oing me right smart Am. now. I thought all last fall he would come & complete the egagement you want the Am of labour done there has bin only 6423 bushels of marl thrown out & agreeable to contract he should of thrown out 26000 bushels. I would go down at once & see you but my crop is allmost ruined with grass I have narry dutiful Sevent or that will do to risk. if you request my going to your office let me hear from you again I shall be at this post office again in five or six days. Verry Respectfully yrs., Calvin Bone.
Bone attached pages and pages documenting supplies advanced to Artis for laborers Artis employed — tobacco, flour, sugar, whiskey, herrings, mullet, shoes, clothing.
Including documents that named the workers. Though Bone lived in Black Creek, Wilson County, Artis appears — per the 1870 census — to have hired his hands from nearby Wayne County communities.
The contract itself:
Witnesseth that the said Jourdin Artis agrees with the Said Calvin Bone that he will clear off dig & threw out twenty six thousand bushels of pure marl on the farm of the said Calvin Bones in the mill Swamp on or before the first of Dcr next
and the said Calvin Bone in consideration of the fourgoing agreement promises and agrees, to and with the Said Jourdin Artis pay one cent a bushel in Specie or its value in Something wee can agree on, and the said Calvin Bone do further to furnish the said Jourdin Artis with one hundred & eighty lbs of bacon or its adequate in herrings & ten bushels of meal during the time he is labouring & digging the above named marl, & the said Jourdin Artis is to give the said Calvin Bone his trade whilst he is performing the above named labour this the twenty third day of July one thousand eight hundred Sixty Six in witnesseth whereoff wee set our hands and seals
This is a true coppy of the contract with me and Jourdin Artis there was only one ritten Ys truly Calvin Bone
My Son Walter is sick and as it may be important for you to get the information, I have concluded to write. We hired Mary Tomlin last year to wash on the farm and I asked her at the end of the year if she was willing to live with me this year and do any little thing about the house, and wash, and iron. She said she was, but did not know how to iron, therefore we had our ironing done by others, and when she washed we had our cooking done by others. She has never been burdened for she had half of her time to work for herself. We agreed to give her two dollars a month and feed her two small children which was her price and when she wanted anything we purchased it for her and charged her with it, and last summer she had a little girl that was without a home, which she wished me to hire. I told her I would, if she would let me have her for five years which I would learn her enough to make her useful to her, and herself, too. I also promised to learn her to read. I told her to think about it, that I did not wish her to answer me hastily for I did not want her without she was perfectly willing. In a few weeks she told me that she rather I would have her than any body else so we had a contract written, and I am to pay her at the end of every year. Last winter we hired her son at eight dollar a month her price, she agreed to let him have half to buy clothes as he was very destitute when he came, he has nearly had it and she wanted a settlement at the end of the year. When she left we would have owed her sixteen dollars, but she had traded to the amount of twenty dollars, fell in my debt, so we do not owe her any thing until the end of the year. About three months ago she became dissatisfied and wish to leave, I told her I could hold her to her bargain if I choose, but if she wanted to leave I would let her go off with her two small children, but she did not at that time, but was often threatening to go until she called for a settlement, and as I had told her before, that I would let her off, I did not oppose her. I had enquired where I could get some one to take her place when she did, she never was sent from here she went off on her own accord. I have always tried to be fair with all that I have hired and since she left I have said nothing against her to keep her from getting a home, and I have tried to help them from getting in debt, when her pay is due for her children it will be paid certain all that we owe. We do not want to wrong her out of a cent. Respectfully, Margaret H. Battle
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: minister Amos J. Battle, 65, wife Margret J., 59, sons Jesse, 19, and Cullen, 22, and fifteen hotel boarders, plus Kit Carmel, 35, his wife Louisa, 35, a hotel cook, and sons Joseph, 11, and Henry, 8; George Merit, 21, and Warren Adams, 22, hotel porters; and chambermaid Harret Barnes, 18.
Elsewhere in town: Washer woman Mary Tomlin, 40, with Ellen, 17, Orphius, 20, Blount, 9, and Willie Tomlin, 12, and James Davis, 27. Ellen worked as a domestic servant and Orphius as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Davis, who was white, worked as a store clerk and appears to have been a boarder.
Sir. You sent an order to Jonathan Bullock to settle with Dearry & Ginny (colored) for labor done on his farm or to report to Goldsboro to day; it is impossible for him to report to day, so I drop you these lines Conserning the case. Your order stated for him to settle from the 1st of May to the 16th of Dec. Now I know that neither one of them have not labored at Jonathan Bullock’s much over half of that time. Dearry left him in May & did not return until sometime in Oct I don’t think all the work he done was more nine weeks for which he acknowledged having been paid according to Contract. Wit to that is John Bullock. Ginny left Jonathan Bullock’s farm very soon after they were liberated but returned after staying away some time, Jonathan says he has settled with her according to Contract.
Your Obedt Servt
Capt. L.P. Force
Thirty-eight year-old farmer William Bullock is listed in the 1870 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County. Thirty-five year-old farmer John Bullock is listed in Wilson township. Near Jonathan Bullock nor anyone identifiable as Dearry or Ginny appears in that census.
The condition of my family will prevent my personal appearance at Rocky Mount on the 9th to show cause by what authority I hold in my service Edward & Esau Bagley (Col’d) But will take this method of reporting that Edward aged about 13 years was apprenticed to me by the Bureau at Goldsboro N.C. in the year 1866. Subsequently (Oct Term 1866) by the County Court of Wilson County. Said boy is an orphan, with no nearer relative than half-uncle and is perfectly satisfied & contented.
Esau is forty five years of age and is living with me as per contract made and entered into by himself and myself and with which he seems, to me, perfectly satisfied, none having made any complaint. If any informality or irregularity exists in regard to the indentures I am not aware of it, & which, if such there be the court upon motion properly made will correct – or annul the indentures. Yours &c, Alvin Bagley
Forty year-old white farmer Alvin Bagley is listed in the 1870 federal census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Eighteen year-old “farmer’s apprentice” Edwin [sic] Bagley appears next door in the household of 22 year-old black farm laborer CainAtkinson. Fifty year-old farm laborer Esaw Bagley is listed in the household of 40 year-old black farmer Isaac Bell in Springhill township.
On the Freedmen’s Bureau “court day” in Wilson County:
Colonel Eliphalet Whittlesey, the Freedmen’s Bureau’s first assistant commissioner for North Carolina, appended to his Congressional testimony an unattributed article from the 3 February 1866 edition of the New York Tribune, in which the writer chronicled his train voyage through the South. Found in The Reports of the Committees of the House of Representatives, Made During the First Session Thirty-Ninth, 1865-’66.