We’ve met William D. Petway here (advertising the sale of several enslaved people) and here (placing an ad for a runaway enslaved man). His home and plantation lay near and across the boundary with present-day Edgecombe County in Wilson County’s Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District.
William Davis Petway house, 1980.
Per the National Register of Historic Places Inventory — Nomination Form for Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District, prepared by Kate Ohno in 1982:
“The oldest house in the district is the William Davis Petway house. Petway was born on October 1, 1799, and was the son of Major Micajah Pettaway, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and Mary Sugg. Major Pettaway was a prominent planter and in July 1819, he deeded 435 acres on the north side of Poplar Branch to his son. It seems likely that this tract formed the core of Petway’s holdings and was most likely the tract upon which he built his home. He married Cinderella Cromwell, daughter of Elisha Cromwell, prior to 1823. Petway continued to add to his landholdings in the 1820s, receiving 112 acres from the division of his father-in-law’s estate and other tracts adjacent to his property. By the time of this death on October 18, 1858, he owned in excess of 2,270 acres.
The parlor mantel of the Petway house.
“Petway was involved in business and civic matters as well as in farming. He served as sheriff of Edgecombe County from 1835 until 1851. He was also associated in the mid 1850s with W.M.G. Sharp and John T. Sharp in a mercantile business which also sold liquor at Joyner’s Depot [Elm City]. By 1850 Petway was in the turpentine business. He employed four male laborers and produced $800 worth of turpentine and other pine products annually. Petway was an extensive farmer as well. In 1836 he purchased the real property in his father’s estate amounting to 1,364 acres. By 1850 he owned 2,400 acres of which 500 acres were cultivated. Although his real property was valued at only $7,381 he owned forty-eight slaves in 1850. … [Petway’s listing in the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County actually credits him with 49 slaves. Curiously, 43 were reported as women or girls, and only six as men or boys (and none of these above age 18). This is an improbable ratio that suggests a recording error.]
“Petway died intestate in 1858 leaving his widow and seven children ….
“The home tract thus came under the managements of Cinderella Petway for nearly 13 years. At first the plantation prospered; in 1860 Mrs. Petway is listed as a sixty-year old farmer owning real property valued at $25,000 and personal property valued at $16,000. She owned only fifteen slaves due to the division of her husband’s slaves among his heirs. Six slave houses (no longer extant) were on the property. Her son Oliver, age twenty, lived with his mother as well as Ezra Bullock, a farm overseer, and a white female domestic servant. Oliver’s personal property, including slaves, was valued at $18,000 and his slaves were probably used to cultivate and maintain the home tract occupied by him and his mother. …” [Senda Petway appears in the 1860 census of Edgecombe County with women and girls ages 50, 40, 28, 27, 18, 7, 2, and 1, and men and boys ages 70, 45, 28, 19, 8, 7, and 4. Son O.C. Petway claimed women and girls ages 40, 25, 18, 5, and 5, and men and boys ages 50, 13, 8, 8, and 1.]
The Petways enslaved dozens of people, but the surname is now uncommon in Wilson County. I have not been able to identify by name any of the enslaved except freedom-seeker Miles.
The historic district nomination form includes a map pinpointing the Petway house on State Road 1414.
That road is now White Bridge Road, and the Petway house and its outbuildings have been demolished.
A close-up of the site:
Photos courtesy of nomination form, above; aerials courtesy of Google Maps.