From the records of the Freedmen’s Bank, New Bern branch:
When Jeremiah Barden opened his first account, he reported that he was living up the Trent River in Jones County, working on Colonel Whitford’s land for himself (i.e. as a tenant farmer.) Barden is frustratingly elusive in census records. His birth family, however, remained back in Wilson County and appear in the 1870 census of Black Creek township: farm laborer Washington Simms, 57, and wife Exy, 47, plus Henry, 32, Gatsey, 27, Nathan, 10, Grant, 4, and Harrit Simms, 5; Waity Nelson, 18; Joseph, 14, Samuel, 12, Mary, 10, and Della Simms, 8; Ellen Barden, 1; and William Nelson, 26. They are listed in close proximity to white farmers Arthur Barden, 54, and Benjamin Barden, 42. It is a reasonable conjecture that Exy Simms and her children (but not her husband Washington) belonged to one of these Bardens prior to Emancipation, and Jeremiah adopted “Barden” as a surname as a result.
Jere opened a second account after moving to Dawson’s Creek in Craven County in 1871. (Curiously, he marked his signature with an X this time, though he wrote his name in 1869.) Notice the detailed listing of his siblings, especially sisters. Gatsey, Mary and Della Simms and Waity and William Nelson were listed in the Simms household in 1870. Moses, 29, and Mariah Coley, 26, were in the household next door. Nearby, in Holden township, Wayne County: Jackson Barnes, 27, wife Farby, 27, and sons Benjamin, 10, Henry, 8, Frank, 7 and Joshua, 1.
I have not located Jere in any census. However, he and wife Mary were designated as living on marriage licenses of several children, including daughter Sarah Barden, who married Marshal Faison in Pamlico County in 1895; George Barden, who married Annie Allen in Pamlico County in 1907; and John Barden in Wayne County in 1925. In the first two, Jere and Mary were described as living in Pamlico. In the last, they were described as living in Craven County.
It is likely that Jeremiah Barden ran away from Wilson County while still enslaved. On 25 April 1864 in New Bern, he enlisted in the 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery.