partition

The last will and testament of Trial Williamson.

Trial Williamson, born about 1805, is likely the “Trion” mentioned in the 1829 will of Hardy Williamson and is certainly the “Trial” mentioned in the 1858 estate records of Hardy H. Williamson. His blood relationship to other enslaved people held by the Williamsons is unknown.

Trial Williamson dictated his will in April 1878 and died the next month.

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In the name of God Amen! I Tryal Williamson do make and declare this my last will and testament as follows:

Item 1 I give and devise to my wife Rosetta the lands whereon I now live during her natural life or widowhood and at her death or marriage to be equally divided between my daughter Mary wife of John Boykin and my daughter Cherry wife of Daniel Hocutt during their lives and at their deaths to be equally divided between the children of each; that is the children of Mary to have one half and the children of Cherry to have the other half the said lands to be free from the control of their respective husbands John Boykin and Daniel Hocutt.

Item 2 I give and bequeath to my said wife my mare one ox all the hogs bacon and corn & fodder of which I may die possessed. Also all my kitchen and household furniture and farming implements.

Item 3 It is further my will and desire that my cattle one mule colt bees and any other property that my wife does not want be sold and the proceeds of said sale with whatever money I may have at my death be used by my wife for her sole benefit and use the interest to be used by here whenever she needs it.

Item 4 I hereby constitute and appoint my wife Rosetta executrix to this my last will and testament

Signed and declared my last will and testament This 6 day of April 1878    Tryal (X) Williamson

Witness J.M. Taylor, A.S.J. Taylor

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In 1866, Trial Williams [sic] and Roseta Williams registered their 17-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farm laborer Trial Williamson, 65; wife Rose, 60; and daughters Mary, 21, and Cherry, 19.

On 18 September 1874, Cherry Williamson, 19, married Danl. Hocutt, 24, in Wilson.

In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer John Boykin, 42; wife Mary, 29; and children Dock, 19, and Dick, 15 (both sick with whooping cough), Turner, 7, Troy, 5, Betty, 3, and John, 1. [Per the 1870 census, Zadoc and Richard — Dock and Dick — were John’s children.] Next door, widowed farmer Rose Williamson, 68.

In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Daniel Hocutt, 30; wife Cherry, 29; and children Jiney, 4, James T., 3, and Tilda An, 1.

Rose Williamson died in 1891. Ishmael Wilder was appointed administrator of her estate. Her meager household goods, purchased by friends and family, netted less than nine dollars.


Handy Atkinson, John Boykin, and Spencer Shaw were among the purchasers at Rosetta Williamson’s estate sale.

Per the terms of Trial Williamson’s will, at Rosetta Williamson’s death, the family farm passed in equal shares to their daughters Mary Williamson Boykin and Cherry Williamson Hocutt.

In 1902, by their attorney W.A. Finch, Cherry Hocutt and her heirs filed a Petition to Sell Real Estate for Division, Including Infants Interest. In a nutshell: (1) Trial Williamson died in 1878 and left a will with the above provision; (2) before Trial died, his land was divided, and the halves were allotted to his daughters; (3) after Rosetta Williamson died about 1891, Cherry Hocutt took full possession of her half; (4) Cherry Hocutt is now 49 years old and has these living children — J.A. Hocutt, age 27, J.T. Hocutt, age 25, M.A. Hocutt, age 22, Ben Hocutt, age 20, Settles Hocutt, age 17, Ida E. Hocutt, age 15, Willie J. Hocutt, age 14, and Lenore Savannah Hocutt, age 12 — and no grandchildren; (5) B.A. Scott has been appointed to represent the interests of the minor children; (6) the Hocutts are tenants in common on their half of Trial Williamson’s 23 1/2 acres in Spring Hill township; (7) in 1889, Daniel and Cherry Hocutt and their children migrated to [Cotton Plant,] Tippah County, Mississippi; (8) the Hocutts wish to sell their half because they “derive no benefit whatever” from it, are too far away to look after it, derive no net income from renting it out, and “the land is hilly and badly washed” and getting worse; and (9) the land is too small to divide among them.

The Superior Court approved the sale, it was advertised, and J.T. Rentfrow was high bidder at $500. Rentfrow promptly filed to partition his property from the half held by Mary Boykin and her heirs — Turner Boykin and wife; Laura Boykin; William Boykin and wife; Cora BoykinBettie Boykin; John Connor Boykin; Minerva Boykin; Sarah BoykinJames Boykin and wife; Ella Boykin; Buck Boykin; and Lizzie Boykin. Turner, Laura and John Connor Boykin no longer lived in North Carolina.

The court ordered this survey, then approved the partition as platted:

Estate Records of Trial Williamson, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Estate File of Rose Williamson, Estate File of Trial Williamson, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

Division of lots in Stantonsburg.

Brothers William M. Artis and Walter S. Artis were primarily residents of the Eureka area of northeast Wayne County, but owned property in Wilson County. (As did their siblings Cain Artis, June S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper.) Walter Artis and wife Hannah E. Forte Artis sued William Artis and wife Etta Diggs Artis for the partition of three lots they jointly owned in the town of Stantonsburg. (Filing suit does not necessarily indicate an adversarial situation. It is simply the mechanism for initiating a legal division.)

In January 1941, a trio of commissioners met to partition the three lots into two more-or-less equal parts:

  • Lot 1 — This 50′ by 150′ lot at the intersection of Broad and Yelverton Streets was allotted to Hannah Artis. [This is odd and interesting. Why Hannah alone, and not to her and Walter jointly? He was alive in 1941, and they were still married.] Because Lot 1 was more valuable than Lot 2, Hannah was to pay William $212.50. Also, William had sixty days to move a small building behind the store on Lot 1 to Lot 2, or it would become Hannah’s property, and the owner of an oil tank buried on Lot 1 had sixty days to move it or to come to terms with Hannah. [The “store” is identified here as the building rented by John Whitley for a blacksmith shop.]
  • Lot 2 — A 100′ by 150′ lot (comprising two lots on a town plat map) adjacent to Lot 1.

Hannah Artis and William Artis split the cost of the proceeding, paying $22.35 each.

The approximate location of the Artis lots at the corner of West Broad and North Yelverton. As in Wilson, Stantonsburg’s African-American community was clustered “across the tracks.” 

William and Etta Diggs and three of their children, circa 1930s.

Deed Book 150, page 315, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson. Photo from personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

The estate of Henderson Bagley.

Late in the winter of 1906, Henderson Bagley closed his eyes in death. Born a slave, perhaps in Nash County, he had defied odds to accumulate a sizeable estate in western Wilson County. Despite his advanced age, however, he died without a will, and his family stepped forward to ask the County Superior Court to appoint Samuel H. Vick as the estate’s administrator. Bagley’s widow, second wife Lenora, marked the petition with an X, but sons Nestus and Ruffin Bagley penned confident signatures. Notes at the bottom identified more heirs — Zilla Bagley Renfrow, Ida Jones, Etta Bagley and Allen Bagley‘s children Willie, Hattie, Sarah and Gertrude — and estimated the value of his property.

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On 7 March 1906, Vick filed an inventory of Bagley’s personal estate: a mule, a cart, a wagon, nine hogs, 17 geese, 25 chickens, about five barrels of corn, one and a half stacks of fodder, four feather beds, and some furniture, valued in total at $150; $458.35 received from the sale of timber; and $220.66 paid into the estate by son Ruffin. Vick noted that the heirs had decided that their stepmother should receive Bagley’s personal property as the year’s allowance due her as a widow.

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Two months later, three commissioners and a surveyor paced the irregular outlines of Bagley’s nearly 180 acres, dividing it into parcels of equal value for distribution to Bagley’s heirs. Here is their report:

NORTH CAROLINA, Wilson County  }  In the Superior Court, Before the Clerk.

Leno Bagley, widow, Zillia Rentfrow, Nestus Bagley and others, Ex Parte. }

Report of Commissioners.

To S.G. Mewborn, Clerk of the Superior Court of Wilson County:

Obedient to a summons of the sheriff of Wilson County, we, the undersigned commissioners appointed to divide and allot in severalty the lands of the petitioners, containing 178 3/5 acres, assembled on the premises in Old Fields Township, Wilson Co. on the 5th, day of June, 1906, and after being duly sworn, and proceeded to partition the lands among the said tenants in common, according to their prospective rights and interests therein, after first laying off and allotting to Leno Bagley, widow, her dower and thirds in the lands of Henderson Bagley, deceased, the metes and bounds of dower and of each share, being as follows (as will appear by reference to plat of same, filed herewith):

To Leno Bagley, widow of Henderson Bagley, deceased we allot the following tract of land, as her dower:

Beginning at a stake at (B), Wiley Pearson’s corner, thence to said Pearson’s line S. 85; 20 E. 20 chains and 44 links to a stake on the north side of a certain ditch, at (C) on plat; thence S. 4, 9 W. 14 chains and 37 links to a large black gum on a branch, at (D) on plat; thence S. 87; 30′ E. 6 chains and 19 links to a large pine, Wiley Pearson’s corer thence along an agreed line, with said Pearson, S. 4; 53′ E. 7 chains to a stake, at (E) on plat, corner of Lot No. 1, thence with the line of Lot No. 1, S. 87; 30′ W. 25 chains and 75 links to a stake, at (A), thence North 24 chains and 82 links to the first station, containing 40 8/10 acres.

Lot No. 1, assigned to Ruffin Bagley, consisting of two shares, 1st share in his own right and 2nd share in the right of his sister, Zilla Rentfrow, as per her deed to Ruffin Bagley, is described as follows:

Beginning at a stake, in Morgan’s line, at the intersection of said Morgan’s line and the Center of Avenue, thence with the center of said Avenue N. 87; 30′ E. 40 chains and 25 links to a stake on Wiley Pearson’s agreed line; thence along said agreed line, this day marked, S. 4; 53′ E. 10 chains and 50 links to a Bay, on the run of Juniper Swamp, then up the run of said swamp to the mouth of a ditch, Morgan’s corner; thence along Morgan’s line, N. 2 E. 18 chains and 25 links to the first station, containing 64 acres, and valued at $400.00.

Lot No. 2, assigned to Willie, Hattie, Sarah and Gertrude Bagley is composed of two tracts (2 and 5 on the map), first tract, being lot no. 2. is described as follows:

Beginning at a stake at intersection of Morgan’s line and the Avenue the beginning corner of Lot No. 1, thence along said Morgan’s line N. 2 E 34 chains and 25 links to a stake, said Morgan’s corner; thence S. 85; 50′ E 5 chains and 50 links to three pines, an old corner same course continued, 2 chains and 59 links to a stake, thence south 33 chains and 24 links to a stake, on the line of Lot No. 1, thence along said line S. 87; 30′ W. 8 chains and 30 links to the first  station, containing 33 9/10 acres; 2nd Tract, marked on plat No. 5, being in widow’s dower, is described as follows, Beginning at a large pine, Wiley Pearson’s corner, thence along said Pearson’s line S. 4; 53′ E. to a stake, corner of Lot No. 1, thence along line of Lot No. 1 S. 87; 30 W. 15 chains and 50 links to a stake S. 85 E. 10 chains and 19 links to a stake on the south side of a ditch, thence S. 4; 9′ W. 14 chains and 37 links to a large Black Gum, in a branch, thence S. 87; 30′ E. 6 chains and 19 links to the beginning, containing 23 4/10 acres, valued at $200.

Lot No. 3, assigned to Nestus Bagley, is composed of two tracts marked on plat no. 3 and 4, 1st tract is described as follows:

Beginning at three pines, thence N. 4; 30′ E. 9 chains and 71 links to a stake, thence S. 85 E, 8 chains and 50 links to a stake, thence S. 17 chains and 47 links to a stake, Pearson’s and the Dower corner, same course continued 24 chains and 82 links to a stake on line of Lot No. 1, thence along line of Lot No. 1. S. 87; 30′ W. 6 chains and 30 links to a stake, corner of Lot No. 2, thence along line of Lot No. 2, 33 chains and 24 links to a stake, thence N. 85; 50′ W. 2 chains and 59 links to the first station, containing  33 9/10 acres; 2nd tract, being on the Dower, and marked no. 4 on plat, is described as follows, Beginning at a stake at (B) on plat, Pearson’s corner, thence along Pearson’s line a stake, in line of Lot No. 1. thence along line of Lot No. 1, S. 87; 30’W 10 chains and 35 links to a stake, thence North 24 chains and 82 links to the beginning, containing 23 4/10 acres, valued at $200.00

The Plat, showing the above division, dated June 14, 1906, made by James W. Taylor Surveyor, is hereto attached and made a part of this report.

Respectfully submitted,  W.N. Glover, A.R. Taylor, N.W. Williams, Commissioners

This 20th day of June, 1906. A correct copy. S.G. Mewborn, C.S.C.

Bagley plat

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On 22 August 1866, Henderson Bagley and Thana Williams registered their 12-year cohabitation in Wilson County, thereby legitimating a marriage made during slavery.

In the 1870 census of Chesterfield, Nash County: Henderson Bagley, 40, and children Catherine, 15, Allen, 10, Zillie, 8, Nestus, 6, and Thomas R., 4.

In the 1880 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: farmer Henderson Bagley, 53, and children Allen, 21, Zillah, 18, Genestus, 17, and Ruffin, 14.

On 4 July 1880, Henderson Bagley, 50, married Lenora Jones, 25, in Wilson County. J.W. Smith, Cena Smith and D.J. Scott witnesses the ceremony, which was performed by a justice of the peace.

On 7 October 1880, Allen Bagley, 22, married Mary Rountree, 20, at Alfred Woodard‘s in Wilson County. [Mary Rountree and her sister Louisa, who married Allen’s younger brother Ruffin, were Alfred Woodard’s stepdaughters. They are listed in the household of their father Warren Rountree in the 1870 census of Wilson township with mother Sarah, and siblings Florence, Rhebecca, Howell, Sallie and Warren Jr. Alfred Woodard, his first wife Harriet and their children are listed next door. Alfred Woodard married Sarah Rountree on 13 February 1873.]

On 18 December 1884, Nestus Bagley, 22, married Margarett Coleman, 20, at Washington Farmer‘s with J.W. Turner, Oscar Jones and James Locus witnessing.

On 27 November 1889, Ruffin Bagley, 22, son of Henderson and Bethany Bagley, married Louisa Rountree, 20, daughter of Warren Rountree and Sarah Woodard, at Alfred Woodard’s in Wilson County. Witnesses were W.W. Rountree, Sam Winstead and Henry Deans.

In the 1900 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: farmer Henderson Bagley, 70, wife Lenora, 48, daughter Etta, 18, and grandchildren Lonna Locus, 8, Earnest Locus, 6, and Percy Locus, 2. Next door: Ruffin Bagley, 32, wife Luesah, 25, and son Arthar, 6.

Ruffin Bagley, age 50, died 30 December 1915 in Old Fields township, Wilson County, of gastritis. His death certificate lists his parents as Henderson Bagley and Fannie Williamson. Nestus Bagley was informant.

On 12 March 1933, Ida Jones, daughter of Henderson Bagley and Lena Jones, both of Wilson County, died of uterine cancer. Her death certificate reports that she was married to Thomas Jones.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.comCommissioners’ Report at Plat Book 1, page 4, and plat at Plat Book 1, page 5, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.