William L. Farmer’s hefty estate file contains multiple references to both enslaved people and free people of color.
From an inventory of assets, a list of enslaved people hired out in 1857 and 1858 — Samson, Blunt, Joshua, Jane and Clarkey.
A 25 November 1856 inventory of the debts owed to William L. Farmer highlights the web of financial relationships that characterized the largely bankless antebellum South. For many, after land and slaves, their greatest assets consisted of I.O.U.’s.
Green Lassiter (and his sister Rachel Lassiter?) seems to have been one of the largest debtors.
Terrell Parker‘s $11.32 debt to Farmer was declared “bad,” i.e. uncollectible.
As were those of many others, including Gray Boseman …
Benjamin Thorn hired out Joshua for a year. Jane went to Archibald Roes, and Sampson to Henry Armstrong. The estate paid Evins Baker five dollars to care for Clarky.
“They are to have 3 soots of Cloths & three pair of shoes one of woolen one hat & one Blanket” Henry Crumpley hired out Daniel for the year, and W.G. Sharp hired Ben. Though both were described as “boys,” their hire prices suggest they were young men in their prime.
On 6 April 1860, “negro Ben” required a visit to Dr. James G. Armstrong.
This remarkable document, the only one of its kind I’ve seen, is a receipt for the late fall purchase of goods for Farmer’s slaves — seven blankets, seven pairs of shoes, five wool hats, 18 and-a-half yards of osnaburg, five yards of linsey, one pair of coarse boots, and 29 years of kersey. Osnaburg was a coarse, stiff fabric woven from flax or jute and commonly used to make garments for enslaved people. Linsey (or linsey-woolsey) was another coarse cotton and wool fabric. Kersey was a dense woolen fabric.
In 27 August 1856, shortly before he died, Farmer gave Rachel Lassiter a note for $15.59, which could have represented money borrowed or more likely services rendered or goods sold.
On 14 July 1857, Farmer’s administrator, Augustin Farmer, paid Green Lassiter $16.42 to settle a debt.
Moses Hagans died early in the spring of 1873. His wife Theresa Lassiter Hagans, unlettered and unfamiliar with the workings of probate, signed over her rights to administer her late husband’s estate to Larry D. Farmer, a public administrator.
Farmer filed in Probate Court for letters of administration, estimating the value of Hagans’ estate at $200 and naming his heirs as widow Theresa Hagans and Lucinda Hagans Brantley, who was Hagans’ daughter.
On 12 April 1873, Farmer filed an inventory of Hagans’ personal estate, which consisted of meat and lard; household kitchen furniture; “old plunder in & around the houses”; a small amount of lint cotton; corn and peas; a cart and a crosscut saw; fodder; poultry and dogs; a horse and farming implements; sows and pigs; and a garden of greens. All of it was allotted to “Trecy” Hagans for her support while the estate was in probate.
It was a meager showing, insufficient to meet the $300 minimum required for a year’s support.
In the 1830 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of four free people of color.
In the 1840 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of nine free people of color.
On 10 February 1846, Moses Hagans, “now of Edgecombe,” paid Thomas Hadly of Wayne County $328.50 for 164 1/4 acres on Little Swamp in Nash County. The transaction is recorded in Deed Book 18, page 331. (A mortgage for the purchase is recorded at book 18, page 325.) Little Swamp is now in Wilson County. It rises near Old Raleigh Road; flows south between Radio Tower and Flowers Roads; crosses under Interstate 95 near its junction with N.C. Highway 42; then flows east to join Contentnea Creek.
In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Moses Hagans, 48, farmer; wife Pitty, 38; and son Gray B., 19, farmer. Also: Thomas Brantley, 28, turpentine worker, and wife Lucinda, 23.
On 25 October 1857, Moses Hagans applied for a license to marry TrecyLaciter in Wilson County.
In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Moses Heggins, 60, farmer, and wife Theresa, 48. Moses claimed $125 in real property and $115 in personal property. [Hagans’ estate records do not mention real property.] Also, Thomas Brantley, 52, farmer; wife Lucinda, 35; and children William, 9, and James W., 6. Thomas claimed $800 in real property, $200 in personal property.
In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Hegans, 70; wife Trecy, 50; and James R. Locust, 12, farm laborer. Also: farm laborer Thomas Brantly, 57; wife Lucinda, 39; and son Willie, 15, farm laborer.
Estate Records of Moses Hagans, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
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.
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
About 1857, as Benjamin Simpson took stock of his son’s estate, he prepared a list of notes owed to Jesse Simpson. Several free people of color, all neighbors of the Simpsons, are listed among the debtors.
“1 note against Silas Laseter for 7.17 on the mande from intrust from the date given the 1 of Febraury 1855″ — In the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delpha Simpson, 14.
“1 acount against Jo Jones for 6.00″ — in the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: Joseph Jones, 40, turpentine; wife Zillah, 34; and children Milly, 17, Jesse, 10, Nathan, 8, and Frances and Lenora, 6.
“1 acount against William Jones for 2.50″ — in the 1860 census of Oldfields district, Wilson County, either: William Jones, 35, making turpentine, and wife Mary, 37, domestic, in the household of farmer Jethro Harrison, 31, or, more likely, William Jones, 20, mulatto, farm laborer; Mahaly Jones, 17, domestic; John Locus, 10; Mary Jones, 35, domestic; John, 10, and Josiah Jones, 6; all mulatto; in the household of farmer Elizabeth Simpson, 30.
The list of “book accounts” included:
Penne Powel — probably Penelope Taborn Powell, the wife of Calvin Powell, see below.
Wilis Jones — in the 1860 census of Oldfields district, Wilson County: Willis Jones, 62, black, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 51, mulatto; and children Henry, 20, Alexander, 17, Noel, 16, Willis, 12, Paton, 10, Burthany, 7, Sarah, 13, and James, 10.
Calvin Powel — In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: Calvin Powell, 35, teamster; wife Penelope, 30; and children Jefferson, 12, Cidney, 10, and Calvin, 6. Next door: Dempsey Powell, 30, turpentine; wife Sallie, 28; and Susan, 9.
Dempsy Powel — see above.
Asbary Blackwell — in the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, wife Nancy, 30, farm laborer, and children Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4, Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months.
Alin Powel — in the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Calvin Powell, 49; William Powell, 4; and Allen Powell, 79, basket maker. [William and Allen Powell were described as white; Calvin, as mulatto.]
Stephen Powel — in the 1860 census of Winsteads township, Nash County: 50 year-old Stephen Powell; wife Cyntha, 45; and children Gray, 21, Dollerson, 17, Queenanah, 13, Crocket, 12, Matchum, 10, and Frances, 8.
Lige Powel Ju. — Elijah Powell Jr. Probably, in the 1860 census of Wilson district, Wilson County: John Valentine, 32, engineer, with Elijah Powell, 23, and Josiah Blackwell, 21, sawmill laborers.
North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], ancestry.com.
In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delpha Simpson, 14.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Silas Lassiter, 47, and children Ophelia, 25, Mary, 20, Elizabeth, 16, Handy, 14, Penninah, 15, Silas W., 12, Milly, 8, and Jerusha, 4.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 56; wife Orpa, 50; and children Pennina, 24, Pharaoh, 20, Milly Ann, 19, and Gerusha Ann Lassiter, 14; plus daughter Sally Barefoot, 32, and her children Mary, 9, George, 6, and Warren Barefoot, 5.
On 11 February 1891, Henry Strickland, 42, son of Miles and Mourning Strickland, married Milly Laster, 28, daughter of Silas and Orphie Laster, in Taylor township.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Henry Strickland, 54; wife Millie A., 36; and son Jessie, 11. [This was Millie Ann’s son, Jesse C. Lassiter.]
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Henry Strickland, 57, farmer; wife Millie, 40; and son Jessie, 21.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, farmer Henry Strickland, 70, and wife Anna, 55.
Millie And Streckley [sic] died 25 June 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; and was born in Wilson County to Silas Lassiter and Sarah Lassiter. J.C. Lassiter was informant, and Batts Brothers & Artis handled her burial.
Many thanks to Bernard Lassiter for the photograph.
Ruby Jane Lassiter, born 19 August 1923 in Wilson, N.C., died 30 August 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
On 30 August 1943, two months after she arrived in Indianapolis (and 11 days after her birthday), 20 year-old Ruby Jane Lassiter was dead. Her family entrusted her body to Jacobs Brothers Funeral Home, and the newly digitized records of that establishment detail the arrangements to bring her home.
(Plummer D. and Cary D. Jacobs, born in 1897 and 1901 in Dudley, Wayne County, North Carolina, were the nephews of Jesse A. Jacobs, Jr.)
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, owned and valued at $1000, truck gardener Jesse C. Lassiter, 41, widower, and children Jesse C., Jr., 15, James D., 13, Ernest D., 12, Annie B., 10, Mildred P., 8, Ruby J., 7, Lesie D., 6, Harvey G., 5, and Wade, 2. [Mildred Lassiter Sherrod died six months prior to her sister Ruby, also of tuberculosis.]
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, WPA laborer Jessie Lassiter, 50, and children Ruby, 16, Lessie L., 15, Harvey, 14, and Wade, 12.
Hardy Lassiterdied about 1853 in a section of Edgecombe County that two years later became part of the newly created Wilson County. During the probate of his estate, the court ordered this ad placed in an attempt to locate his daughter Sally Lassiter Artis and her husband, Morrison Artis.
The Tarborough Southerner, 24 September 1853.
Where were the Artises? Indiana.
Morrison Artis, son of Micajah and Bedie Powell Artis, was born about 1822 in or near what would become Wilson County. His father Micajah is listed as a head of household in the 1830 census of Taylor district, Nash County, and the 1840 census of Davis district, Wayne County. Morrison Artis married Sarah “Sally” Lassiter circa 1845. Born about 1827 in what was then Edgecombe County, she was the daughter of Hardy and Obedience Lassiter. Morrison and Sally’s first child, Benjamin F. Artis, was born in 1847, and within a year or so the family struck out for Indiana with Morrison’s family.
In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 24, farmer; wife Sarah, 21; and children Benjamin, 3, and Rachel, 6 months. All except Rachel were born in North Carolina.
In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 50, farmer; wife Bedy, 40; and children Arcada, 17, Eliza, 14, Burket, 4, and Henriette, 1. All but Henriette were born in North Carolina.
In the 1860 census of Reserve township, Parke County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 35; wife Sally, 33; and children Benjamin, 13, Rachel. 10, and Martha, 5. Morrison reported owning $1000 in real property and $465 in personal property.
In the 1860 census of Adam township, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 58, farmer; wife Beda, 50; and children Birket, 16, Henrietta, 10, Elmeda, 8, and Benson, 7.
Per Early Black Settlements by County, indianahistory.org, “During the 1850s, the Bassett, Artis and Ellis families left Parke County, Indiana, and established a settlement in Ervin Township. (The Bassett and Artis families were free African Americans who came to Indiana from North Carolina.) At least 11 families lived in this area that became a small farming community of blacks sometime known as the Bassett Settlement or the Bassett and Ellis Settlement. They had a school, church, cemetery (located at 950 W.), general store, blacksmith shop and a post office. Some of the other surnames associated with the settlement include Canady, Griggs, Jones, Kirby, Mosely, and Wilson.
“Zachariah and Richard Bassett served as ministers at the Free Union Baptist Church in Howard County. The 1870 census list Bassetts, Artis, and Ellis as farmers. Richard had land valued at $8,400 and Morrison Artis’s land was valued at $2,800. In 1892, Richard Bassett became the third black person to be elected to the Indiana state legislature.”
The heart of the Bassett Settlement as shown in this 1877 plat map. Two parcels are labeled M. Artis — one, perhaps, Micajah and the other Morrison. A small cross is visible at the center of the image in a parcel marked R. Bassett; it marks the community cemetery in which the older Artises were buried. [For an account of my visit to Bassett cemetery and a family connection to this place, see here and here.]
In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 46; wife Sarah, 40; and children Benjamin, 23, Martha, 16, and William, 1. Morrison reported owning $2800 in real property and $500 in personal property.
In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Macajah Artis, 65, farmer; wife Bedea, 65; and children Henrietta, 22, Almedia, 20, and Benson 17. Morrison reported owning $700 in real property and $100 in personal property.
Indianapolis Leader, 30 August 1879.
In the 1880 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 57; wife Sarah, 55; children Benjamin, 33, Martha, 26, and William M., 11; and grandson Melvin, 8.
In 1891, Morrison Artis was nearly swindled from his life’s accumulation in a fraudulent land transaction.
Kokomo Saturday Tribune, 12 May 1891.
Morrison Artis died in April 1896 after terrible head injuries sustained when his spooked horse threw him, then fell on him.
Kokomo Daily Tribune, 9 April 1896.
Benjamin F. Artis died 8 September 1910 in Coopers Grove, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1947 in North Carolina to Morrison Artis and Sarah Lassiter; was married to Caroline Artis; and was a retired laborer.
Melvina Bassett died 7 April 1917 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1839 in North Carolina to Micajah Artis and Bedie Powell; was the widow of John Bassett; and was buried in Bassett cemetery. William Bassett was informant.
Benson Artis died 17 April 1919 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 56 years old; was born in Indiana to M. Artis and an unknown mother; was single; lived at 145 Western Avenue, Kokomo.
William M. Artis died 27 August 1920 in Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 February 1869 in Indiana to Morrison Artis and an unknown mother; was married to Lula Artis; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Kokomo.
For at least 15 years, Mary Jane Bynum Lassiter placed an annual ad in the Daily Times to commemorate her husband Dempsey Lassiter‘s life.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: lumber sawyer Charley Bynum, 41; wife Julia Ann, 43; and children Calvin, 21, Mary Jane, 18, Ameta, 16, Annie, 13, John C., 9, and Abraham, 1.
Dempsy Lester, 38, of Wilson, son of Green and Mary Lester, and Mary Jane Bynum, 28, of Wilson, daughter of Charlie and Julie Bynum. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony on 2 October 1912 at the bride’s residence. Witnesses were A.R. Phillips, Roscoe Barnes, and C.L. Coppedge.
Rufus Lassiter died 10 October 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 11 July 1913 in Wilson to Dempsey Lassiter and Mary J. Bynum.
In 1918, Dempsey Lassiter registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 103 East Street; was born 28 October 1874; was a blacksmith for Hackney Wagon Company; and his nearest relative was Mary Jane Lassiter.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Street, wagon factory laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 35, and wife Mary, 25.
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lassiter Dempsey (c: Mary J) farmer h 106 S East
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 106 East Street, owned and valued at $1250, Dempsey Lassiter, 55, wife Mary J., 44; nephew Charles Bynum, 16; and nieces Katie Powell, 10, and Willie M. Leonard, 6.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 65; county school teacher Mary, 55; and widowed sister-in-law Carrie Bynum, 30, a housekeeper.
Dempsey Lassiter died 16 July 1946 at his home at 106 South East Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was married; was 68 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lassiter and Mary Powell; was a farmer; and his informant was Mary J. Lassiter. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.
Mary Jane Lassiter died 21 August 1966 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 84 years old; was born in Wilson County to Charles Bynum and Julia Ann Davis; was a school teacher; and was a widow. James Bynum was informant.
London Woodard was born in 1808. In 1827, James Bullock Woodard purchased him for $500 from the estate of Julan Woodard.
In 1828, London Woodard was baptized at Toisnot Primitive Baptist.
In 1866, he sought permission to preach among his people.
In 1870, he was “dismissed” from Toisnot so that he could pastor the church he founded. He died lass than a month later.
London Church appears to have become disorganized after Woodard’s death, but in 1895, Toisnot P.B. dismissed several “colored brethren and sisters” who wanted to reestablish worship at London’s. The same year Union (now Upper Town Creek) P.B. released Haywood Pender, George Braswell, Dublin Barnes, and couple Charles and Rebeckah Barnes for the same purpose.
London Woodard married Pennie Lassiter, born free about 1810 and possessed of considerable property, including 29 acres purchased from James B. Woodard in 1859. [Penelope Lassiter was his second wife. His first, Venus, was enslaved.]
London and Pennie Woodard’s children were Priscilla (1846), Theresa (1848), Hardy (1850), Haywood (1852), William (1854), and Penina (1858). “Another child was probably named Elba, born in 1844; she was working for the John Batts family in 1860.” [London and Venus Woodard had nine children; Elba was not among either set.]
Many “old-time colored Christians” remained members of the churches they attended during slavery. Their children and grandchildren, however, gradually formed separate congregations.
Haywood Pender — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Haywood Pender, 50, farmer; wife Feraby, 45; children Mollie, 39, and Ann, 8; and grandchildren Gold, 5, Nancy, 3, and Willie, 16. Haywood Pender died 15 July 1942 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 October 1852 in Wilson County to Abram Sharp and Sookie Pender; was a farmer; was a widower; and was buried in Piney Grove cemetery, Elm City.
Dublin Barnes — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Doublin Barnes, 25; wife Eliza, 21; daughter Sattena, 2; and Jane Thomas, 12, farmhand.
Charles and Rebecca Barnes — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57; and children John, 26, William, 23, Annie, 17, Tom, 18, and Corah, 12.