Both Darden High Schools graduated their last classes in 1970. Their buildings, however, remain in use. The newer section of Wilson’s Darden houses part of Samuel H. Vick Elementary. Opelika’s Darden is now home to Lee County Head Start Darden Center.
Lemon Ruffin executed his will shortly before leaving for war as a Confederate soldier. He did not return. He died as a prisoner of war in Illinois in 1864, age 32. (His brothers Etheldred, George W. and Thomas Ruffin also died in the war.) As set forth in more detail below, Ruffin received the bulk of his enslaved property as an inheritance from his exceedingly wealthy father Henry J.G. Ruffin, who died in 1854. An inventory of the elder Ruffin’s estate listed 138 enslaved people held on plantations in Franklin, Greene, Wayne and Edgecombe Counties.
I Lemon Ruffin of the county of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainly of my existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:
First: That my executors shall pay my debts out of the money that may first come into their hands on part or parcel of my estate.
Item: I give and bequeath to my sister S.B. Ruffin my tract of land situated in Wilson Co NC adjoining the lands of Warner Woodard & others on Tosnot — to have and to hold to her and her heirs in fee simple forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my sister M.H. Fugitt the proceeds of the sale of the Negro slaves Amos, Sallie and Henderson. Amos to be sold in Alabama. My will and desire is that Sallie and Henderson be brought to N.C. and sold in Wilson County.
Item: I give and bequeath to my sister, Nina W. Ruffin, the Negro slaves Crockett and Harriet to her and her personal representatives forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin of Misourah the Negro Slaves Isse(?) the first and her three children and grandchildren, viz; Eliza, Esther, Elizabeth and Haywood.
Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Thomas Ruffin, the Negro slaves Patience and her children named Isaac, Lettuce & Jerre and the youngest child to him and his personal representative forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Etheldred Ruffin, Beck and all her children named Ned, Elving(?), Arabella and Thom to him and his personal representatives forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew, Samuel Ruffin, Jr. of Mississippi, the Negro slaves Isse(?) the 2nd commonly called Son[illegible] to him and his personal representative forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Mary L. Ruffin the negro slave Creasy to her and her personal representative forever.
I do whereof I the said Lemon Ruffin do hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th day of June 1862.
In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Ruffin is listed as a 28 year-old farmer living alone, with $5000 in real property and $21,600 in personal property.
These are the relatives listed in his will:
sister S.B. Ruffin — Sarah Blount Ruffin.
sister M.H. Fugitt — Mary Haywood Ruffin Williams Fugett.
sister Nina W. Ruffin — Penina Watson Ruffin Ruffin of Franklin County.
brother Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin — William Haywood Ruffin, who migrated to Lexington, Missouri (and later Choctaw County, Alabama.)
brother Etheldred Ruffin — Etheldred F. Ruffin, Greene County.
nephew Samuel Ruffin Jr. — son of W. Haywood Ruffin, but migrated to Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama, to join his uncle Samuel R. Ruffin. Samuel R. Ruffin was the largest slaveholder in that county at Emancipation, and a list of his slaves reveals a number of first names common among Henry’s slaves. See below.
niece Mary L. Ruffin
Henry John Gray Ruffin, father of the above and husband of Mary Tartt Ruffin, died in 1854 in Franklin County, North Carolina. He had accumulated immense wealth and prudently executed a precise will, which entered probate in Franklin County. Among the provisions to son Lemon Ruffin were one-half interest in a plantation on Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe [now Wilson] County (son George W. Ruffin received the other half) and “twenty negro slaves of average value.” (In addition, Mary Tartt Ruffin was to receive “my old negro man servant Bryant now living at my Tossnot plantation.”) The inventory of Ruffin’s property listed 51 people enslaved on his Franklin County plantation, 50 enslaved on a plantation in Greene and Wayne Counties, and 37 in Edgecombe. (Other enslaved people were distributed among his children prior to his death.)
When distribution was made in September 1854, Lemon Ruffin received Beck, age 23, and her children Wyatt, 3, and Ned, 1; Patience, 32, and her children Isaac, 5, Lettuce, 3, and Jerry, 1; Maria, 45, and her children Eliza, 7, Hester, 5, and Elizabeth, 1; Isaac, 44; Reuben, 43; Crockett, 21; Isaac, 9; Arthur, 9; Sally, 19; Charlotte, 50; Harriet, 12; and Henry, 13. Per the inventories of Ruffin’s plantations, most had been enslaved on the Greene/Wayne County farm previously.
In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County, Lemon Taylor is listed with 21 slaves living in three dwellings. He enslaved eight males aged 6, 11, 15, 20, 25, 25, 51 and 52, and 13 females aged 1, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 18, 18, 20, 25, 40 and 50. (Above him on the list was his brother G.W. Ruffin and his 22 slaves, aged 3 to 43.)
Two years later, Lemon Ruffin’s will showed that he retained ownership of 14 of the 20 enslaved people he had inherited from his father. Beck’s son Wyatt was likely dead, but she had had three more children, Elvin, Arabella and Tom, in the interim. Maria was dead or sold away; her children Eliza, Hester/Esther and Elizabeth were listed with their grandmother Isse (who seems to have been the “old” Isaac of the inventory, though Isaac is generally a masculine name). Reuben, Charlotte, Arthur and Henry do not appear in Lemon Ruffin’s will, but Crockett, young Isaac, Sallie and Harriet do. Lemon had also purchased or otherwise come into possession of Amos, Henderson and Creasy. (There are an Amos and Creasy listed in the “residue” of Henry Ruffin’s slaves after distribution. Perhaps Lemon had purchased them from the estate.) Per Lemon Ruffin’s will, Amos, Henderson and Sallie were in Alabama (on lease? on loan?) Sallie and Henderson were to be brought back to Wilson for sale, but Amos was to be put on the block In Alabama. None of it came to pass, as Ruffin’s estate did not enter probate until 1866, when his formerly enslaved property was beyond reach.
A North Carolina-born Amos Ruffin, age 35, appears in the 1870 census of Township 13, Choctaw County, Alabama, with his wife and children. Was this the Amos who was targeted for sale in Lemon Ruffin’s will?
In 1866, Patience Ruffin and Michel Ward appeared before a Wilson County justice of the peace to register their 16-year cohabitation. In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmworker Patience Ward, 50, and daughter Lettuce, 20, with Mitchell Ward listed next door.
None of other men, women and children Lemon Ruffin possessed at his death are clearly identifiable in post-Emancipation records.
Children up to about age 7 were usually grouped with their mothers for purposes of sale or distribution. It is almost certain that the children listed with Patience and Maria in Henry Ruffin’s distribution were merely their youngest and that their older children were separated from them.
Though enslaved people sometimes married men or women with whom they shared an owner, more often they married outside the farm or plantation on which they lived. Patience Ruffin and Mitchell Ward are an example.
Wealthy planters often owned multiple plantations and moved enslaved people among them at will. Henry Ruffin divided his Edgecombe (Wilson) County plantation into halves. However, the people who had lived on that plantation during his lifetime did not necessarily remain in place after his death. In fact, it appears that the 20 people with whom Lemon Ruffin stocked his half of Toisnot plantation came primarily from his father’s Greene/Wayne plantation. The former Toisnot slaves were shifted to plantations elsewhere. This kind of movement resulted in the further splintering of families as parents owned by neighboring enslavers were left behind.
White eastern North Carolina slaveowners were among the earliest settlers of Alabama in the early 1800s, taking North Carolina-born enslaved people with them. Slaveowners who did not leave North Carolina often sold their “excess” enslaved property to meet the ravenous labor needs of Alabama’s booming cotton economy.
Herbert G. Gutman argued in his exhaustively researched The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750-1825 that enslaved African-Americans strove to maintain and transmit ties of kinship by repeating first names among generations of a family. Though we do not know the relationships among all the Ruffin slaves, this pattern can be observed among them. More on this later.
Images of estate documents available atNorth Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 35, wife Leah, 30, and children Adelia, 5, Geneva, 2, Virgil, 1 month, and Nicholas, 18.
Ada G. and Geneva T. Battle left Wilson to complete their studies in the western part of the state. The Charlotte Observer‘s coverage of Livingstone College’s 1890 commencement mentioned that Ada had received the freshman award for oratory.
Charlotte Observer, 1890.
In Reminiscences of College Days, his self-published 1904 memoir of Livingston College, William Frank Fonvielle remembered both Battle sisters:
A year later, she was well-enough known to personify Wilson’s African-American elite, along with Samuel H. Vick and Braswell R. Winstead:
Raleigh Gazette, 19 December 1896.
In the 1900 census, Ada G. Battle, 24, is a listed as a teacher at Scotia Seminary in Concord, Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Her younger sister Chandler Battle was enumerated among the school’s students.
On 17 November 1904, Chandler News listed Ada G. Battle of Chandler, Oklahoma, among the teachers certified as first grade instructors. Ada’s brother Nicholas Battle was a Chandler resident, and this seems to be Ada of Wilson.
On 17 September 1905, in Wilson County, Doane Battle, 19, daughter of Charles Battle, married F.O. [Frank Oliver] Williston, 24, of Wilson, son of Henrietta Williston of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Episcopal priest Robert N. Perry performed the ceremony at the residence of James Jenkins before official witnesses F.S. Hargrave, Jenkins, and William Dawson.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County, on Stantonsburg Street, widow Cortney Gofney, 50, and lodgers Ada Battle, 30, teacher, and Sylvester Gofney, 16, laborer. (Courtney Battle Goffney may have been Ada’s relative.) Teacher Chandler Battle, 27, is listed in the household of her cousin George H. Porter in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. In the census of Salisbury, Rowan County: Frank O. Williston, 26, wife Doane B., 23, and daughter Leah H.E., 3. In Chandler, Logan County, Oklahoma:
In the 1912 Wilson city directory: Battle Ada G tchr Wilson Graded School
Three years later, however, it appears that the peripatetic Ada had returned to Oklahoma. On 26 August 1915, Guthrie’s Oklahoma State Register published a notice of the teachers selected by Logan County schools that included Ada G. Battle, hired in District No. 94.
In the 1920 census of Iowa, Logan County, Oklahoma: 55 year-old Georgia-born farmer Stonewall J. Favers, wife Geneva, 39, daughter [sic] Charles M., 15, and sister-in-law Ada G. Battle, 41. Geneva and Ada’s brother Charles T. Battle also lived in Iowa township. In Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma, their brother Nicholas R. Battle, 56, wife Dora, 58, and son Henry N., 11. Back in North Carolina, in Salisbury, Rowan County: Frank O. Williston, 38, and wife Doane, 33, and children Henrietta, 13, Inez, 8, and Dorothy, 6, and in Brinkleyville, Halifax County: farmer Charles Wright, 36, wife Chanler, 35, and brother June, 29.
On 5 June 1927, the Guthrie Daily Leader ran this respectful notice of the death of Geneva’s husband, Stonewall Jackson Faver:
FAVER, NEGRO LEADER TO BE BURIED SUNDAY Body To Lie In State In Guthrie During Morning Hour
The body of S. J. Faver, one of Logan county’s best known negro leaders, was to lie in state at the Edwards and McKee funeral home, 301 W. Harrison av. Sunday between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.
Faver died Friday at his home south of Meridian where he has lived on his one thousand acre farm for the past few years.
Faver was for two terms a county commissioner of Logan county and was on the board at the time the county courthouse was built in 1907. He was on who secured the building for use of the state soon after statehood.
Funeral and burial ceremonies will be from the family residence at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
In the 1930 census of Brinkleyville, Halifax County: Charlie Wright, 42, wife Chandler, 38, and children Charlie, 9, and Nicholas T., 7. In Washington, D.C.: Frank O. Williston, 49, wife Doane, 44, and children Inez, 18, and Fay, 16, and Weldon Phillips, 38. In Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: Henry Battle, 22, his wife Vannie, 23, and son Henry Jr., 3, plus widower father Nicholas B. Battle, 64. In Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma: Geneva B. Faver, widow, lived alone at 1002 E. Vilas Street.
In the Educational Directory of North Carolina issued for 1934-35 by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the list of Jeanes Industrial Supervisors (Colored) includes Ada G. Battle of Clinton, Sampson County.
In the 1940 census of Clinton, Sampson County: living at 123 McKoy, which seems to have been a teacherage, Ada G. Battle, 54. In the census of Washington, D.C.: Frank Williston, 58, wife Doane B., 54, and daughter Darthy H., 26. In the census of Brinkleyville, Halifax County: farmer Charlie Wright, 54, wife Chandler, 50, son Chas., 20, (“college — in summer works on farm”), and Nichols, 18. In the census of Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nicholas R. Battle, 75, wife Ella, 39, and children Ada L., 5, Nicholas R., 3, and Evelene, 1. In the census of Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma: widow Geneva B. Faver, 60, and daughter Charles Marie Faver, 28, an instructor at Langston State University.
The Carolina Times, 22 November 1941.
Per Findagrave.com, N.R. Battle died Christmas Eve 1946 and was buried in Chandler, Oklahoma’s Clearview cemetery.
Ada G. Battle made out her will on 7 April 1951. She was living in Wilson again and had been seriously ill since at least the previous October. Her sister Chandler Wright had come from Enfield to tend her during her confinement, and Ada made special provisions for her. She also left bequests to her remaining siblings, Geneva Faver of Guthrie, Oklahoma; Doane Willistoin of Washington, D.C.; and Charles Battle of Mobile, Alabama. Rev. O.J. Hawkins was named executor, and Estella L. Shade (wife of pharmacist Isaac Shade) and pharmacist Darcy C. Yancey witnessed the execution of the document.
On 12 November 1952, Chandler Battle Wright died at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Her death certificate noted that her residence was Enfield, Halifax County; that she was 61 years old and married; that she had been born in Wilson County to Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle; and that her occupation was “graduate nurse.” Mrs. Willie H. Smith of Wilson was the informant.
Chandler Wright’s will was filed in Wilson Superior Court six days later. Though her death certificate cited her residence as Enfield, the will notes that she owned two houses in Wilson. Chandler distributed her belongings widely: a desk to cousin Willie Hargrove Smith; a gold necklace with pearl cross to niece Charlie Faver Tilghman (Geneva’s daughter); a dining room suite to son Nicholas L. Wright; a walnut bedroom suite to son Charlie Wright; all her livestock and $25.00 to husband C.W. Wright; her 304 North Pender Street house to son Nicholas; her 306 North Pender Street house to son Charlie; and all personal property to be divided between her sons. Willie H. Smith was named executrix, and Roberta Battle Johnson (daughter of Parker and Ella Burson Battle; a cousin?) and Mary L. Spivey of Wilson were witnesses.
In 1957, Willa Allegra Strong submitted a dissertation to the University of Oklahoma Graduate College entitled “The Origin, Development and Current Status of the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.” Among the women she interviewed was Geneva B. Faver, and she wrote this about this seminal figure in Guthrie’s black community:
“Mrs. Geneva Faver assumed the office of treasurer in 1940 and has served without interruption since that date. Mrs. Faver, a pioneer citizen of Guthrie, Oklahoma, has functioned as a leader in many areas of service. She was the first music teacher hired to teach in Guthrie public schools. The Negro high school of Guthrie has been named for her husband. Some special serviced rendered to the public by Mrs. Guthrie have included: secretary of the Logan County Republican Central committee, juror in Federal Court, chairman of the city library board, and member of the library board. Mrs. Faver donated a forty acre tract of land for use as a camp site for Negro boys. The location of this site was three miles south of Meridian. The presentation was a memorial to her husband, Stonewall J. Faver.”
Per Findagrave.com, Geneva Battle Faver June 1877-December 1967 and Charlie Faver Tillman 1904-1998 are buried undera double marker at Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie.
“In the early 1900s a horse and buggy slowly made its way along dusty, dirt roads throughout Opelika and the countryside as Dr. John Darden began a long day of calling on patients. His bride, Maude Jean, who rode along to keep the young doctor company, sat in the buggy and waited until he provided medical care to his patients.
“John Wesley Darden had decided at 13 years of age that he wanted to become a medical doctor when he was unable to find a physician for his unconscious younger sister. His sister lived, fueling a young John to become a doctor.
“Born in 1876 in Wilson, N.C., John was the eldest of 13 children. His father was the first African American undertaker in the state of North Carolina and also owned a general store that sold fresh produce and his homemade wine. The community held him in such high esteem that the first African American high school was named in his honor, the Charles H. Darden High School.
“When John was 13 years old, his parents, who were determined to give all their children an education, sent him to high school in Salisbury, N.C. John worked his way through Livingstone College (now Shaw University) [sic; but this is incorrect] and a medical internship in Long Island, N.Y.
Since his hometown already had African American medical service, the young doctor began searching for a place where his services were needed. A college friend, who was a physician in Tuskegee, recommended the small town of Opelika. John moved to Opelika in 1903 and became the first African American physician in a 30-mile radius and began working 18-hour days. …”
After restoration, Dr. Darden’s house was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Today, it houses the J.W. Darden Wellness Center, which offers health screening and education in collaboration with the J.W. Darden Foundation, Inc., the EAMC Parish Nurse Program, and the Auburn University School of Nursing. For more of Dr. Darden’s remarkable life and practice in Opelika, see Dr. John Wesley Darden, www.eastalabamaliving.com, the source of the passage above.