plantation records

“Gatsey’s children”: a register of births of enslaved children, part 1.

The North Carolina State Archives’ Private Collections holds a remarkable and exceedingly rare document within the Virginia Pou Davis Doughton Papers. A small booklet, comprised of thirteen hand-sewn pages, holds list after list of the birthdates of enslaved women and the children they bore.

The provenance of the manuscript is unclear. The finding aid describes it as “Slaves of Bynum or Farmer Family in Edgecombe or Wilson Counties, 1825-1865.” The women’s and children’s names appear in a tight, neat script easily distinguished from other bold strokes penning lists of staples like tobacco, molasses, and whiskey. There are no fathers named. For most part, the lists of women and children appear to have been made in a single sitting, perhaps as a copy of older records. Above several names, “dead” is lightly penciled in. Some of these notations suggest updates after the end of slavery. The number of children attributed to each woman, and the frequency of their births, is startling. These women were, as enslavers so matter-of-factly described them, “good breeders.” In 1792, Thomas Jefferson himself calculated that he was making a four per cent annual profit on the birth of enslaved children. Is that what was happening here?

The front of the booklet displays at least three handwritings.

The left page, below: “this is Mr Bynum this is Mr Bynum Book” Who was Mr. Bynum? The enslaver of the women and children detailed in this volume? The enslaver’s overseer? Virginia Pou Davis Doughton’s maternal great-grandmother was Matilda Bynum Barnes (1848-1925). Had this diary belonged to her father, Robert Bynum (1817-1868), or grandfather, Turner Bynum (1787-1867)? The 1850 federal slave schedule of Edgecombe County lists Robert Bynum with 19 enslaved people; Turner Bynum claimed 44. Obviously, they are strong candidates.

At right: Gatsey‘s Children. Maria was born in May 1843. John was born in April 1849. Adeline dead was born in April 1852. Annice dead was born in July 1853. Albert was born in March 1855. Amos dead was born in March 1855. Lucinda was born Dec. the 6 1857. [Illegible] was born Jan. 1860. Penny was born Jan. 1860. Betty dead was born the 12 Sept. 1861. Hansel was born Nov. 1862. Mary was born [illegible.]

In 1866, Allen Bynum and Gatsey Bynum registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

On 26 December 1868, Mariah Bynum, daughter of Allen and Gatsey Bynum, married Cezar Pitt, son of Stephen Barnes and Bunna Pitt, in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Allen Bynum, 30; wife Gatsey, 45; and children Adeline, 18, Ann, 16, Lucy, 12, Ethelbert, 15, Ranson, 7, and Harbert, 2.

In the 1870 census of Coney township, Edgecombe County: Caesar Pitt, 21; wife Maria, 28; Lucy, 11; Patrick, 17; and William Haskins, 8.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alen Bynum, 60; wife Gatsey, 40; and children Lucy, 18, and Horbord, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Conetoe township, Edgecombe County: Ceasar Pitt, 28; wife Mariah, 30; stepdaughter Martha, 18; grandson John, 1; Frank Staton, 21; and Febia Jenkins, 8, nurse.

Lucinda Bynum died 29 November 1933 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 85 years old; was single; and was born in Wilson County to Allen Bynum and Gatsey Bynum. Lydie Ricks was informant.


Cherry was born the 8 Sept 1820. Preston was born the 3 June 1836. Harry was born the 11 June 1838. Americus was born the 26 Jan. 1840. Patience dead was born the 12 Feb. 1842. Austine was born the 22 Feb. 1842. Harbord was born in Sept. 1848. Scott was born in Sept. 1849. Hilliard was born in Aug. 1850. Daniel was born in  Feb. 1852. Irvin was born in June 1854. Abbie was born in August 1856. Silva was born in May 1859. Bunny was born June 1862. Jack was born in Dec. 1865.

  • Preston Bynum

In 1866, Preston Bynum and Violet Bynum registered their 13-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Preston Bynum, 34; wife Violet, 30; and children Wilson, 12, George, 4, and Hugh, 2.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Preston Bynum, 48; wife Violet, 39; children Wilson, 18, George, 17, Major, 12, Phariba, 7, Debby, 6, Patience, 4, and Silvia, 2.

In the 1900 census of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana: Preston Bynum, 69; wife Violet, 49; daughter Patience, 29; and grandchildren Preston, 11, Martha, 8, Irvin, 4, Major, 2, and Wilson Bynum, 1, and Edgar, 9, and James Mosley, 3. All the children were born in Louisiana.

In the 1910 census of Melton township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: Preston Bynum, 78; wife Vinie, 76; and grandchildren Janie, 14, and James Jones, 13, and Harvest Wiley, 8. Next door: Wilson Bynum, 50; wife Louvena, 41; and children Calvin, 16, Charley, 10, Minnie, 7, Celia, 6, Florence, 4, and Lucinda, 11 months.

Violet S. Bynum died 24 December 1916. Her grave marker cites her date of birth as 22 June 1841.

  • Harry Bynum

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Osborn Buck, 23, farm laborer; Harry Bynum, 31, and Mary Bynum, 26; and John Barron, 28.

  • Hilliard Bynum

Hilliard Bynum, 22, married Cloe Jones, 23, on 9 November 1873 in Wilson County. In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Hilliard Bynum, 27; wife Cloah, 28; and sons Charles, 6, and Richard, 1.

  • Irvin Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Earvin Bynum, 24; wife Lettice, 23; and children Joeseph, 7, Canny, 5, Cherry, 4, and Robert, 3.

  • Bunny Bynum and Cherry Bynum

Bunny Bynum married Ned Hussey 16 October 1878 in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Ned Hussey, 23, laborer; wife Bunny, 17; children Marguert, 3, and Ned, 6 months; and [mother-in-law] Chery Bynum, 58, midwife.


Vinie was born in 1837. Her children. Rosa was born August 1854. Lewis dead was born April 1856. Zilphia dead was born July 1857. Wilson was born June 1860. Beauregard dead was born 1862. Calvin was born 3rd wk. in Dec. 1863.

I have not been able to identify definitively Vinie or her children.

Slaves — Bynum or Farmer Families, Edgecombe, Wilson Counties, 1825-1865, P.C. 1981.3; Virginia Pou Doughton Family Papers, Private Collections, State Archives of North Carolina. Thanks to Jennifer Johnson for bringing this collection to my attention. Librarians rock!