Prior to Wilson County’s formation in 1855, much of its present-day territory lay in Edgecombe, including everything east of a line running a couple of miles inside present-day Interstate 95 and north of Contentnea Creek. In 1844, the Tarboro’ Press published “Rules and Regulations to be Observed by the Patrollers of the several Districts in the County of Edgecombe.” Slave patrols, known as patrollers or patty rollers, were government-sanctioned groups of armed men charged with monitoring and enforcing discipline upon enslaved people.
Edgecombe County patrollers operated under a set of comprehensive and precise rules. Tasked with visiting ever house inhabited by enslaved people at least once a month, they rode at night. They searched for firearms and “seditious publications” and kept a sharp lookout for any enslaved person out and about more than a mile from home. They could beat people — up to 15 lashes — for having too much fun. On Sundays, their job was to make sure enslaved people were not “strolling about” enjoying their one day off or selling trinkets for pocket change. Patrollers ran down runaways and, if met with “insolence,” could drop a whip 39 times across a black back. They were compensated for their services.
Tarboro’ Press, 9 March 1844.