last will and testament

A dispute over the estate of James Scarborough.

We revisited James Scarborough’s early nineteenth-century house outside Saratoga last week, and we examined the contents of his will here. Scarborough died shortly after executing his will in 1835, and his estate entered a lengthy and contentious probate.

To wife Martha and daughter Zilly Scarborough, along with his home and other property, Scarborough left “A Parcel of Negros that is to say Nan Aggy Sen’r Silvey Lemon Washington Sumter and Young Aggy and Haywood these Eight negros with the in Creas I lend them Jointly to Geather to my wife & daughter Zilly but by no means to be Hired out but to Remane on the Plantation to labour for them …”

To his son John R. Scarborough: “I also gave him three Likely negros when he went a way and now I give him four more after my death there names is as follows Luke Guilford Orange and Willis the above negros is not to be carryed away without a Lawful authority or Either by himself or his Heirs or Executors….” (In fact, John Scarborough took the men to Alabama even before the estate was opened, claiming that they were a gift to him rather than part of the estate.)

Scarborough died 1 March 1836. Nan, an enslaved woman, barely outlived her master:

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Rec’d the 28th Oct 1836 of Richard T. Eagles one of the Executors to James Scarboroughs will the sum of three Dollars & fifty Cents in full for making Coffin for Negro Nann.  William J. Lewis

The estate paid for the care of Silvey and four children for the year 1837.

Rec’d the 9th Decr 1837 the Sum of forty Dollar of Stephen Wooten and Richard T. Eagles Exer to the Estate of James Scarborgh decst for keeping Silvy and 4 children for the year 1837.  R.T. Eagles for Martha Scarbrough    Witness [illegible] Edwards

Despite James Scarborough’s express directive that “by no means” should his enslaved people be hired out, they were. Immediately.

On behalf of herself and her daughter Zilly, Martha Scarborough repeatedly challenged the terms of the will and the handling of the estate. In March 1839, pursuant to court order, a committee prepared an inventory of the enslaved people in Scarborough’s estate. They were: Aggy, age 55 ($100); Silva, age 37, and her two-month-old child Bunny ($650); Milly, age 3 ($250); Haywood, age 5 ($350); Aggy, age 7 ($400); Sumpter, age 9 ($550); Washington, age 14 ($725); and Lemon, age 16 ($850). Sumpter was “set apart” for widow Martha Scarborough.

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Martha Scarborough immediately sold Sumter to her son Jonathan T. Eason. Or did she? See below.

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Rec’d of Jonathan T. Eason five hundred and fifty Dollars in full for negro Sumter whitch was aloted to me in the Devishion of the negroes of the Decst James Scarborough my Late husbun this the 3th of April 1839  Martha (X) Scarborough      J.B. Eason

On 5 March 1840, Jonathan T. Eason received sixty dollars from the estate for caring for Silvey and three of her children during the previous year. Silva’s children appear to have been Bunny, Milly, Haywood, and Aggy. As a seven or eight year-old, Aggy would have been considered old enough to hire out separate from her mother.

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In 1843, Martha Scarborough filed petition charging her son Jonathan T. Eason with having taken advantage of her by convincing that the boy Sumpter, also known as Tom Sumpter, who was eight or ten years old in January 1840, was “badly grown for his age,” and the land she’d received as dower was “poor & much exhausted by cultivation.” She claimed she had eventually given way to Eason’s solicitations to manage her property — “he had acquired in a little time a complete ascendancy over her will” —  and he had sold it away in bits and pieces. “When he obtained consent to  sell the slave Tom Sumpter which was the only one she possessed he promised that she should have another to wait and attend upon her during her life ….” In a deposition of William W. Edwards taken pursuant to Scarborough’s litigation, Edwards testified that “I was well acquainted with the negro Sumpter. He was sold by Jonathan T. Eason to John Harrell Sr. at Eagles’ store for the sum of $560.00.” (This was probably Richard T. Eagles’ store in Edgecombe County.)

The outcome of Martha Scarborough’s suit is not clear.

The James Scarborough house.

James Scarborough Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records 1665-1998, ancestry.com; photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

The last will and testament of Josephine J. Murphy.

Josephine J. Murphy of Wilson drafted a detailed will in 1946.

First, her executor should pay her debts and funeral expenses and rest a suitable monument at her grave.

Second, she gave “to the First Baptist Church located on the corner of Nash Street and Pender Street in the Town of Wilson, North Carolina” $100 to be used “for needed decorations and improvements on the interior.”

Third, $200 to Jenkins Orphans Home for Negroes, Charleston, South Carolina.

Fourth, sell her house and lot at 1006 Washington Street, Wilson, and pay half the proceeds to her niece Ovena Simmons Richardson. With the remaining half, “purchase country property for the benefit of my niece Josephine Simmons Williams, and her two children Printiss Williams, Jr., and Florida Anna G. Williams” in any location Josephine Williams chose. However, if either Richardson or Williams elected to live in the house within one year of Murphy’s death, the house would not be sold until vacated as a primary residence.

Fifth, all household items to be divided equally between nieces Ovena S. Richardson and Josephine S. Williams.

Sixth, Luke Lamb appointed executor.

Josephine J. Murphy signed the document on 23 July 1946 in the presence of Veda Lamb, Maxine Hudson, and P.O. Barnes.

Per Find A Grave, here is the suitable monument erected for Josephine Murphy in Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church cemetery, Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Last Will and Testament of Josephine J. Murphy, Wilson County Wills, Volumes 9-10, North Carolina Wills and Estate Records 1665-1998, http://www.ancestry.com.

The last will and testament of Herman N. Grissom.

I, Herman Grissom, of the town of Wilson, State of North Carolina, declare this to be my last Will and testament.

1 — I give and devise to my wife Lydia Grissom, the dwelling house and lot on which it stands, and after her death to my three children Dorthea, Vivian and Lydia Grisom.

2 — I will and devise to my mother Hattie Grisom, the vacant lot on the north side of the above named house & lot, on which my said mother is to build a house as soon as possible after my death, and after her death, said house and lot, to go to my children.

I name as my executor, Walter Hines.

In testimony whereof, I have set my hand and seal this the 23rd day of Mar., A.D. 1921.      Herman X Grisom

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Hattie Grissom, 25; son Herman, 8; sister Anie, 23, and brother Warren, 15, day laborer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: factory laborer Etta [sic] Grissom, 35, divorced, and son Herman, 16, barbershop bootblack.

On 24 July 1913, Herman Grissom, 22, of Wilson, son of Willis and Hattie Grissom, married Lydia Meeks, 20, of Edgecombe, daughter of Philip and Nancy Meeks, at Saint Paul’s A.M.E. Zion in Tarboro, Edgecombe County.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Grissom Herman N (c) barber Tate & Hines h N Vick cor Atlantic

In 1917, Herman Natius Grissom registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 January 1890 in Wilson; lived on Atlantic Street, Wilson; was a barber with Tate & Hines; and had a wife and two children. He signed his card “Herman Nadis Grissom.”

Herman Nadies Grissom died 23 March 1921 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 January 1891 in Wilson to Willis Grissom of Franklin County, N.C., and Hattie Thorne of Wilson; was married to Lydia Grissom; lived at 201 Vick Street; and worked as a barber.

Apparently, Walter Hines, the barber for whom Grissom had worked, carried out the terms of Grissom’s will immediately. As early as the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories, his mother, nurse Hattie Grissom, is listed at 203 North Vick Street, the house built on the north side of the house in which he had lived at 201.

 

Last will and testament of Nellie Bullock Whitehead.

When Nellie Bullock Whitehead made out her will on 10 November 1949, she was very clear that only her daughters Anna Whitehead Hagans and Elnora Whitehead Sauls would inherit.

Nellie Bullock Whitehead was a native of Wilson County; her husband John Whitehead was from Georgia. I have not found a marriage license for them, but they lived in Dodge County, Georgia, in 1910, and all their children were born in Georgia. By 1920, they had returned to live in Nellie Whitehead’s home county.

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In the 1910 census of Mullis township, Dodge County, Georgia: John Whitehead, 26; wife Nellie, 25; and sons Edmund, 7, and Will. H., 4.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on S.H. Crocker Farm Road, tenant farmer, John Whitehead, 37; wife Nellie, 36; children E.K., 16, William H., 13, Anna V.O., 7, Anna Nula, 5, and J.B., 4; and great-uncle[?] Josh Whitehead.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, express laborer [no first name] Whitehead, 49; wife Ella, 45; and children Anna V., 17, Nora, 16, John, 14, and William, 24. All were born in Georgia except Ella [Nellie], who was born in North Carolina.

John Whitehead died in Wilson on 24 October 1937. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old; was born in Georgia to Joshua Whitehead and Georgian Melvin; was married to Nellie Whitehead; lived at 1513 Nash Street; and worked as a meat packer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widow Nellie Whitehead, 56; son J.B., 24, truck driver for a contractor; daughter Anna Hagans, 27, tobacco company stemmer; son-in-law Henry Hagans, 32, town garbage remover; and daughter Elnora Whitehead, 26.

John Baptist Whitehead registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1915 in Chester, Georgia; lived at Route 4, Box 39, Wilson; worked for Imperial Tobacco, Barnes Street; and his contact was his mother, Nellie Whitehead.

Nellie B. Whitehead died 27 March 1951 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 August 1884 in Elm City, N.C., to Equia B. Bullock and William Ann Barnes and was a widow. Anna B. Hagans was informant.

Exploring the kinships of men and women enslaved by the Moore-Flowers family.

We examined the connection between John H. Clark‘s father Harry Clark and Isabel Taylor here. Harry and Isabel were children of Annis Taylor, and all had been enslaved by Henry Flowers.

The will of Henry Flowers’ maternal grandfather, Edward Moore, who died in 1783 in Nash County, reveals interesting bequests, including “… to my loving Daughter Judah Flowers one Negro girl Named Nell …” and “… to my loving Daughter Elizabeth Moore one Negro [Wench?] Named Annis ….” Both Nell and Annis were already in possession of Moore’s daughters.

Judith Moore Flowers’ husband John Flowers legally owned Nell. John Flowers died intestate in early 1806, and his widow Judith quickly remarried Edward York. When the enslaved people belonging to Flowers’ estate were distributed in December 1807, York took possession of Primus, Nell, Annis and Will on Judith’s behalf. (Others distributed were Peter, Dorcas, Abram, Mourning, Jacob, Frank, Toney, and Joan.)

It appears that Nell passed from Edward and Judith Moore Flowers York to Judith’s son Henry Flowers and is likely the “old Negro woman Nelly” who died in 1845, per Henry Flowers’ estate records. 

And what about Annis? 

Recall that Edward Moore bequeathed an Annis to his daughter Elizabeth Moore. Was she the same Annis who, 24 years later, was part of John Flowers’ estate? And was this Annis connected to Annis Taylor, who was part of Henry Flowers’ estate in 1845? These and other shared names among the enslaved people belonging to the Moore-Flowers deserve a closer look.

For example, here is the bequest of Henry Flower’s grandfather, also named Henry Flowers, to John Flowers in his 1788 will:

 

Henry “Senior” directed that John receive a man named Primus (after the death of Henry’s wife Nanny) and three boys named Peter, Abraham, and Frank. Primus is surely the man Edward and Judith York took in 1807. It is possible that this is same Frank who is described as “old” in the lot drawn by John’s granddaughter Charity Flowers Taylor and her husband William in the 1849 distribution of the estate Henry “Junior.”  And Peter is probably the Peter named in the lot drawn by Nancy Flowers Mann and her husband Claiborne in the 1807 distribution of John Flowers estate. The Manns moved to Mississippi some time after 1820, and may have taken Peter with them. There is also a Peter in the estate of Henry Flowers Jr. Was he perhaps a son, grandson or nephew of the first Peter?

Henry Flowers Will (1788), John Flowers Estate Record (1806), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com. Many thanks to Katherine Elks for bringing my attention to these possible connections, which I began to explore here. Stay tuned.

The estate of George W. Thompson.

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Wilson Advance, 19 June 1890.

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In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer George Thompson, 57; wife Rilda, 43; son Rufus, 8; with Cherry Bailey, 42, and Bitha, 25, and Mittie Bailey, 16.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer George Thompson, 62; wife Marilda, 52; son Rufus, 20; and granddaughter Hattie Thompson, 6.

Apparently on his deathbed, George W. Thompson made out his will 16 December 1885.

He left all his property to his wife Rilda during her lifetime, then his land to son Rufus, and, if Rufus had no heirs, to granddaughter Cora Thompson. After Rilda’s death, his personal property was to be sold and the money equally divided between son Rufus Thompson, Courtney Peacock, and Cora Thompson. Solomon Lamm was appointed executor.

George Thompson died within days. His executor filed to open his estate and prepared this inventory of his property. Though relatively meager, the list represents a laudable achievement for a man who had spent the bulk of his life enslaved.

Unfortunately, George Thompson’s debts outweighed the value of his estate, forcing the sale advertised in the notice above of a ten-acre parcel adjoining the property of M.V. Peele, Isaac Rich, and Henry Peacock. Marilda and Rufus Thompson had left the area, however, and could not be found in the county for service.

George Thompson Will, George Thompson Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The estate of Isaac Daniel.

Isaac Daniel’s homeplace was at the site of modern Daniels Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, on Frank Price Church Road, northeast of Black Creek (and once part of Wayne County). Daniel made out his will on 13 January 1809. Among its provisions:

  • to beloved wife Mary Daniel, a negro woman woman named Crease
  • to wife Mary Daniel during her lifetime or widowhood, a negro boy named Everett
  • to wife Mary Daniel, negro woman Dinah and “her five younges children” Rose, Gin, Rachel, Lige, and Willie until his daughter Elizabeth Daniel comes of age, and then for Dinah and her children (and any increase) to be divided equally among Isaac and Mary Daniel’s six children, David, Elizabeth, Isaac, Patsey, Polly, and Jacob.

Isaac Daniel’s father was also named Isaac Daniel, which makes for confusing documentation, as we’ll see.

In March 1815, Wayne County Court divided the enslaved people belonging to Isaac Daniel’s estate. Son David Daniel drew Lot No. 1, Rosa and Clary ($440). Son Jacob Daniel drew Lot No. 4, Dinah and Sarah. Daughter Elizabeth Chance drew Lot No. 2, Jim ($375). Son Isaac Daniel drew Lot No. 3, Rachel and Peter. Daughter Martha Hooks drew Lot No. 5, Lige ($290). Daughter Polly Daniel drew Lot No. 6, Willie and Tobbin ($425).

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Though this 1817 document is found in Isaac Daniel’s estate file, it appears to relate to the estate of his father Isaac Daniel. This Isaac’s children were Isaac and Jacob Daniel, who predeceased their father; Elizabeth Daniel Rountree; and Solomon Daniel. Isaac the first had owned four enslaved people — Sally ($275), Leah ($275), Sharper ($275), and Iredal ($200). The heirs of Isaac Daniel Jr. (the Isaac above) received Sharper. Elizabeth Rountree received Leah. The heirs of Jacob Daniel received Iredal. Solomon Daniel received Sally.

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Beginning in December 1814, Jacob Fulghum, guardian of Isaac Daniel’s minor sons, kept a log for several years of “the hire of the Negroes belonging to Jacob and Isaac Daniel.” (This appears to refer to Isaac the second and his brother.)

Dena and children were named as enslaved people belonging to Jacob Daniel. Dena’s youngest was born between 28 December 1814 and 28 December 1815. By 1821, Dena’s children Jack and Sary were old enough to be hired out on the own.

Isaac Daniel’s enslaved people were Rachel and Peter.

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This brief inventory has a blurry date (1822?), and it is unclear whether it pertains to Isaac Daniel the first or second. In any case, it names two additional enslaved people — boy Laurance and girl Rena.

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Isaac Daniel Estate Records (1810),Wayne County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

The estate of Henry Horn.

Henry Horn owned several tracts of land in the Black Creek area, which was once part of Wayne County. He drafted his last will and testament on 25 January 1830 with very particular instructions. First, he directed his executor to “sell one Negro boy by the name of Arnold ….” Then, “to my wife Edah nine Negros Lige, Patience, Fanny, Warren, Dinah, Jim, Winny, Abram & Linnet … until my daughter Sally shall arrive to the age of fifteen years, then it is my desire that one half of the above named negroes be equally divided between my daughters Nancy Barnes, Sally, Zilly & Rebeckah …” The other half would remain with wife Edith during her lifetime, then be distributed among their children as she saw fit.

Horn died in 1838. The inventories his executor prepared on 21 September 1838 and 30 November 1839 note that his estate held fifteen enslaved people. The 1839 inventory carried this addendum:

“Since the taking of the first Inventory of the above dec’d one negro woman by the name Winny is deceast and Two children has been born one the child of sd. Winny and the other the child of Fanny”

Pursuant to an order of Wayne County Court at July Term 1840, Horn’s executors divided his enslaved property among his legatees. Widow Edith Horn drew Lot No. 1: Lije ($850), Linet ($600), Patience and child Hilard ($700), Will ($300), Litha ($350), and Jeffry ($125). Lot No. 2, to be split among their children: Jim ($800), Warren ($650), Fanny and child Henry ($750), Pearcy ($350), and Jo ($300). With adjustments paid to equalize shares, Rebecca Horn received Jim; Jonathan Barnes and wife Nancy Horn Barnes received Warren; James Newsom and wife Sally Horn Newsom received Fanny and Henry; and Zilla Horn received Pearcy and Jo.

Horn’s youngest children, Mary Ann and Elizabeth, were born after he made his will in 1830, and he never updated it to include them. Thus, the 1840 court ordered that they receive the shares they would have gotten had he made no will at all. Accordingly, Abram ($750), Diner ($400), Esther ($400), and Hester ($375) were set aside for the girls, who were about seven and four years of age.

Henry Horn Will (1830), Henry Horn Estate Records (1838), Wayne County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The estate of Patrick H. Simms.

On 8 March 1860, Benjamin E. Simms of Wilson County wrote out a will in which, in part, he left his brother Patrick H. Simms “my Negro woman Harriet & child.” (The Simms brothers were sons of Theophilus T. Simms.)

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When the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County was enumerated, P.H. Simms claimed three enslaved people — a 35 year-old woman, an 8 year-old girl, and a one year-old boy.

Excerpt from 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek district, Wilson County, showing listings for Patrick H. Simms, his mother Abigail Holland Simms, and sister Mary Abigail Simms.

When Patrick Simms died in 1864, an inventory of his personal property named “three negroes named Harriet, Frank and Ellen.” With the rest of his property, they passed to his mother Abigail Simms. (Who was forced to free them the following year.)

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Benjamin Simms Will (1860), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; P.H. Simms Estate Records (1864), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

The last will and testament of James B. Woodard.

I James B. Woodard of the County of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind but advanced in years, & aware of the uncertainty of life, do make, constitute & declare this to be my last will & testament in manner & form as follows.

Second. I give & devise to my Eldest daughter Elizabeth Ann Stancil wife of Thomas Stancil the land on which she now lives, known as the Atkinson land containing about two hundred & twenty acres …, the following Slaves, negro man Elvin, woman Feriba & girl Dellah and their increase ….

I also give & bequeath to my son John B. Woodard negro man London to have & to hold ….

Fifth. I give & devise to my son George W. Woodard the balance of my home tract of land on which my dwelling and improvements are bounded …. I also give & bequeath … the following slaves Howell & Jesse ….

Sixth. I give & bequeath to my daughter Margaret P. Batts wife of W.W. Batts the following slaves Sarah, Florence, Phebe, Mary & young Sarah and their increase ….

Seventh. I give & bequeath to my daughter Mary J. Edwards wife of W.H. Edwards the following slaves Harriett, Debba, Ben, Ned, Rose & Fanny and their increase ….

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this the 22 day of June A.D. 1863.       /s/ Jas. B. Woodard

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James B. Woodard’s will — drafted six months after the Emancipation Proclamation — included bequests of 17 enslaved people. Most were descendants of London Woodard (whom he had sold to Penny Lassiter in 1856) and his first wife Venus, including their children Elvin, Feriba, London Jr., Howell, Sarah, Harriet, and Rose, and daughter Feriba’s children Ben, Debba, young Sarah, and, possibly, Mary.