State of North Carolina, Wilson County }
In the Probate Court Before A. Barnes, Probate Judge, May 8th, A.D. 1871.
George Morris an apprentice by indenture to Thomas White, colored, complaining says:
1st That he was bound by articles of indenture to Thomas White, colored, on the ___ day of _____ 18 ___ by
2nd That the said Thomas White has treated with great cruelty, inflicting upon him severe whippings for trifling faults, especially on the evening of Friday May 5th A.D. 1871 , when he was beaten by the said Thomas White in a most cruel and inhumane manner
Wherefore petitioner humbly asks your Honor that you will by order command the said Thomas White to appear before you at some early day to be named by your Honor to show cause why the articles of indenture above specified should not be cancelled.
George Morris, by Kenan & Durham, his Attorneys
- George Morris — in the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County, George Morriss, 10, is listed in the household of his mother Eliza Morriss. The family is described as white. [Eliza Morris was the widow of Warren Morris, with whom she appears in the 1850 Johnston County census.] The absence of a color designation behind Morris’ name in this petition can be interpreted as as an indication that he was white, which accords with this census entry.
- Thomas White — in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Thomas White, 56; wife Charlotte, 56; and Lucy, 14, Reuben, 15, George, 10, and Lucy White, 3. [The apprenticeship of white children by African-American masters was exceedingly rare, and White was surely taking his life in his hands abusing one.]
- Kenan & Durham — Col. Thomas S. Kenan (1838-1911) settled in Wilson in 1869 and opened a law practice that flourished and lead to a long and influential legal career.
Apprentice Records-1871, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
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.
William Ayers, 13, was bound to Fred Hollomon in 1843.
William Ayers, 13, was (re-)bound to Enos Rose in 1843.
- In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: William Ayres, 30, farm laborer, in the household of Stephen Privett, farmer. In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer William Ayers, 46.
Betsey Morris, 9, was bound to Thomas Horn in 1842.
- In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Elizabeth Morris, 17, is listed in the household of Thomas Horn, farmer.
- In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Martha Morris, 60; probable daughter Elizabeth, 25, and granddaughter Martha, 2. Next door, in the household of farmer John Saunders: Zillah Morris, 4, likely a second-generation apprentice. (Martha was white; Elizabeth and her daughters, mulatto.)
- In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: domestic servant Elizabeth Morris, 33, and children Zilla A., 17, Martha, 13, Henry, 7, and Elizabeth, 1; all mulatto.
- Possibly, in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Morris, 47; wife Martha, 42; children Mattie, 16, Buddie, 6, and Frank, 1; and mother Elizab. Morris, 70; all white. (Elizabeth Morris and Martha Morris are approximately the right age to be Elizabeth and daughter above, but death certificates show Martha Morris’ maiden name to be Peele.)
Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.
Wilson Daily Times, 15 July 1910.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Smith Street, Katie Williams, 46, widowed boarding house cook, and boarder Henry Hagan, 54, widower, oil mill laborer. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hagan Henry, lab h 404 Spring St alley. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 616 Suggs Street, rented for $12/month, Henry Hagan, 75, sanitary department laborer, and wife Sarah, 55. Henry Haggan who died 21 October 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Napoleon Haggan and an unknown mother; worked as a common laborer; and lived at 611 Suggs. Mary Gatling of Newport News, Virginia, was informant.