Snaps, no. 72: Jesse and Delphia Ruffin Harris.

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The 13 September 2018 edition of the Wilson Daily Times featured Jerry Harris‘ contribution of this photograph of his grandparents Jesse “Jack” Harris and Delphia Ruffin Harris, most likely taken in the 1950s or early 1960s.


In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Ruffin, 24; wife Mariah, 22; and children Hurbert, 3, William, 2, and Delphia, 10 months; plus brother Walter, 19.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Arch Harris, 53; wife Rosa, 45; and children James, 22, Arch, 20, Mary Jane, 18, Nancy, 16, Lucy, 12, Minnie, 11, Maggie, 8, Jessie, 6, and Annie, 3.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, farmer Gray Ruffin, age unknown; wife Maria, 45; and children Hubbard, 13, William, 12, Delphia, 11, Lizzie, 9, Mary, 8, Pattie, 7, Franklin, 6, London, 4, and Bessie, 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Harris, 28, Dora, 22, and Rosa, 1, with grandmother Cherady Harris, 80. Next door: Arch Harris, 56, Rosa, 51, and children Jessie, 15, Annie, 12, and James, 12.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Barnes Crossing Road, farmer H. Gray Ruffin, 38; wife Mariah, 35; and children G. Hurbert Jr., 22, H. William, 21, Delphia, 20, Lizzie, 18, Mary, 16, Pattie, 15, B. Frank, 14, London, 13, Bessie, 11, [illegible], 10, and W. George, 9.

Jesse Harris, 32, of Wilson, married Delphia Ruffin, 27, of Gardners, on 17 January 1927 in Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, Jessie Harris, 34, farmer; wife Delphia, 36; children Rosetta, 12, Alberta, 9, James, 2, and Jesse Jr., 1; and mother Rosa, 66, widow.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, Jack Harris, 43, farm laborer; wife Delphia, 40; children Rosetta, 22, Odell, 20, Annie M., 15, James Oscar, 13, Jesse, 12, Thelma, 10, Amos, 8, Archie, 7, and Chaney Mae, 5; and grandsons Ned, 5, and Leroy, 1.

Willie Gray Ruffin died 24 September 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 July 1921 to Delphia Ruffin; lived at 801 Moore Street; was married to Mildred Ruffin; worked as a laborer. Channie M. Horton, 609 Stephenson Street, was informant.

Jesse Harris died 4 June 1975 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 November 1893 to Art Harris Jr. and Rosetta Woodard; was married to Delphia Harris; lived at 919 Poplar Street; and was a farmer.

Delphia Harris died 10 May 1984 in Raleigh, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1899 in Wilson to Gray and Mariah Ruffin; was a widow; and had worked in farm labor.

The first line of defense is on the home front.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 December 1941.

Negro Home Agent Jane Amos Boyd highlighted the efforts of homemaker Henrietta Ruffin to insure an ample food supply for her family and community. Ruffin canned 674 quarts of fruits, vegetables, and meats; bought 460 baby chicks; and sold more than eighty dollars worth of surplus eggs and chickens at a curb market.

Though Ruffin had a Pitt County address, she lived between Saratoga and the Wilson-Pitt County line.


In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, farmer Jesse Ward, 26; wife Arey, 32; and children William, 14, Walton, 10, Henrietta, 10, Susan, 6, Kizie, 5, and Juanita, 1 month.

Charlie Ruffin, 21, of Saratoga, son of Ida Ruffin, married Henretta Moore, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Ara Moore, on 25 January 1920 in Saratoga township. Washington Littles, a Disciples minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of William Dupree, Henry Stewart, and Arluster McNair, all of Saratoga.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Fountain Road, farmer Charles Ruffin, 19; wife Henrietta, 19; mother Ida, 50, widow; sister Daisy, 13; and niece Mary, 12.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Ruffin, 30; wife Henritta, 28; and children Bertha, 9, Charles Jr., 8, James R., 6, Juntia, 2, and Gladis L., 10 months.

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Ruffin, 39; wife Henretta, 38; and children Bertha, 19, Charles, 17, James R., 16, Juanita, 12, Gladys Lee, 10, Christine, 8, Bruce, 7, Bertie Mae, 4, and Curtis, 10 months.

Henrietta Moore Ruffin died 29 November 2004.

Johnny Thomas’ forefathers.

Some Black Families of Wilson County, North Carolina, a compilation of The Hugh B. Johnston Jr. Working Papers published in 1997 by Wilson County Genealogical Society, contains several typed worksheets that Johnston asked his subjects to complete (or filled in while interviewing them.)

Johnny Thomas‘ undated questionnaire is reproduced in the volume. It appears to have been completed by Thomas in his own handwriting. Hugh Johnston did not shy away from the public identification of the white fathers of African-American children, and Thomas was forthcoming.

In summary, Johnny Thomas wrote:

  • His father Alfred Thomas was born in 1863 in Wilson [County].
  • His mother Lula Ruffin Thomas was born in 1877 in Wilson [County].
  • He did not know for whom Alfred Thomas was named.
  • Was Alfred Thomas’ father Alfred Thomas or Hilliard Thomas? Hilliard Thomas [Most likely, Hilliard Thomas (1824-1884), son of Eason and Mary Eure Thomas and a maternal relative of Hugh Johnston.]
  • “What do you remember your father, Alfred Thomas, saying about his father or his father’s white family connections?” “I can rember my father having his farther picture, he was trully white.”
  • Was Lula Ruffin’s father “Little Jimmy” Woodard or “Coon” Farmer? Coon Farmer [William Thomas “Coon” Farmer (1858-1912), son of Isaac B. and Nancy Yelverton Farmer.]
  • “What do you remember your mother, Lula Ruffin Thomas, saying about her father or her father’s white family connections?” “She said that her farther also was white.”
  • “Your grandmother Adline Thomas was born in 1842 and died on March 20, 1926. Where did she die?” “On Tarboro Highway [now N.C. Highway 42].” Where buried? Rountree cemetery. “What do you remember about her appearance, personality, or unusual qualities?” “Well she was very fair long straight hair.”


In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County; farmer Jordan Thomas, 52, who reported owning $175 in real property and $100 in personal. Next door: Eliza Thomas, 52, Henriet, 35, Hariet, 30, Alfred, 9, Jordan, 7, John, 11, Charity, 10, and Henry, 6.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 68; daughters Henyeter, 42, and Harty [Adeline], 40; and grandchildren John, 21, Charity, 18, Henry, 15, Jordan, 17, and Alfread, 18.

On 2 January 1890, Alfred Thomas, 26, of Gardners township, son of Adaline Thomas, married Cornelia Whitehead, 31, daughter of Richard Hagans and Alley Hagans, in Wilson County in the presence of Jordan Thomas, Lawrence Hagans and James Kelley.

On 1 March 1899, Alfred Thomas, 39, of Wilson County, son of Adline Thomas, married Lou Ruffin, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Liza Ruffin. Primitive Baptist minister James S. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Peter Thomas, Charles Hagans and Joseph Hagans.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Alford Thomas, 36; wife Lou, 18; and children Sallie, 12, Florra, 9, and Mary T., 6 months; and servant Cora White, 17.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on the Plank Road, farmer Alford Thomas, 42; wife Lula, 26; children Mary, 9, Martha, 8, Sudie, 6, Lula, 4, and Jordan, 3; and mother Adline Thomas, 57.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1919. The runaways were likely Johnny Thomas’ sisters Sudie and Lula Thomas.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on “Stantion Burg Road,” Alford Thomas, 75; wife Lula, 50; children Lula, 26, Jordon, 22, Johnnie, 20, and Pattie, 16; and grandson James, 2.

On 26 July 1930, Johnnie Thomas, 21, of Wilson, son of Alf Thomas and Lula [no last name listed], married Thelma Ward, 20, daughter of Frank and Winnie Ward, in Wilson.

On 21 May 1931, Lula Thomas died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 44 years old; was born in Wilson County to Coon Farmer and Eliza Ruffin; and was engaged in farming. Sudie Plant of Rocky Mount, N.C., was informant.

Alfred Thomas died 16 January 1933 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Adline Thomas and “father unknown”; was a farmer; and was married to Lula Thomas. Jordan Thomas was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer John Thomas, 30; wife Thelma, 30; children Walter H., 11, James, 8, Rosa Lee, 13, and Willie F., 5; grandmother Rosa Harris, 86; and lodger Zebedee Ford, 19.

Johnny Thomas died 22 March 1986 in Wilson.

From the reproduction of the program for Johnny Thomas’ funeral service printed in Johnston’s Some Black Families.

Snaps, no. 52: Jessie Ruffin Hill.


Jessie Beatrice Ruffin Hill (1908-1990).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 East Nash Street, transfer man Garfield Ruffin, 39; wife Thennie, 28; and children Jessie, 12, Emma, 8, Mary, 7, Cora, 5, Naomi, 3, Kernice, 1, and Thennie, 7 months.

On 23 May 1929, William Hill, 21, of Durham, married Jessie Hill, 23, of Durham, daughter of Pres Binn (dead) and Thenie Ruffin of Washington, D.C., in Durham, North Carolina.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County: at 504 Fowler Avenue, rented for $8/month, and shared with another family, factory worker William Hill, 24, wife Jessie, 22, and son William Jr., 2 months.

[In the 1930 census of Washington, D.C.: at 728 – 12th Street, barber James G. Ruffin, 45; wife Parthenia, 36; and children Emma, 19, Mary E., 18, Cora, 16, Naomi, 15, Kernice, 12, Parthenia, 11, James B., 9, Linwood, 7, Izah, 6, Calvin C., 4, and Canlice, 2.]

William Hill registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1906 in Roxobel, Bertie County; lived at 704 Pickett Street, Durham; worked for Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company; and his contact was wife Jessie Beatrice Hill.

Jessie R. Hill died 29 July 1990 in Durham. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1908 in Wilson to Henry G. Ruffin and an unnamed mother; was a widow; and had been a tobacco worker. George Hill of Albany, Georgia, was informant.

Photograph courtesy of user jfount6081.

Ruffin’s negroes, part 1.

Lemon Ruffin executed his will shortly before leaving for war as a Confederate soldier. He did not return. He died as a prisoner of war in Illinois in 1864, age 32. (His brothers Etheldred, George W. and Thomas Ruffin also died in the war.) As set forth in more detail below, Ruffin received the bulk of his enslaved property as an inheritance from his exceedingly wealthy father Henry J.G. Ruffin, who died in 1854. An inventory of the elder Ruffin’s estate listed 138 enslaved people held on plantations in Franklin, Greene, Wayne and Edgecombe Counties.


I Lemon Ruffin of the county of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainly of my existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

First: That my executors shall pay my debts out of the money that may first come into their hands on part or parcel of my estate.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister S.B. Ruffin my tract of land situated in Wilson Co NC adjoining the lands of Warner Woodard & others on Tosnot — to have and to hold to her and her heirs in fee simple  forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister M.H. Fugitt the proceeds of the sale of the Negro slaves Amos, Sallie and Henderson. Amos to be sold in Alabama. My will and desire is that Sallie and Henderson be brought to N.C. and sold in Wilson County.

Item: I give and bequeath to my sister, Nina W. Ruffin, the Negro slaves Crockett and Harriet to her and her personal representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin of Misourah the Negro Slaves Isse(?)  the first and her three children and grandchildren, viz; Eliza, Esther, Elizabeth and Haywood.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Thomas Ruffin, the Negro slaves Patience and her children named Isaac, Lettuce & Jerre and the youngest child to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my brother, Etheldred Ruffin, Beck and all her children named Ned, Elving(?), Arabella and Thom to him and his personal  representatives forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew, Samuel Ruffin, Jr. of Mississippi, the Negro slaves Isse(?) the 2nd commonly called Son[illegible] to him and his personal representative forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Mary L. Ruffin the negro slave Creasy to her and her personal representative forever.

I do whereof I the said Lemon Ruffin do hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th day of June 1862.


In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Ruffin is listed as a 28 year-old farmer living alone, with $5000 in real property and $21,600 in personal property.

These are the relatives listed in his will:

  • sister S.B. Ruffin — Sarah Blount Ruffin.
  • sister M.H. Fugitt — Mary Haywood Ruffin Williams Fugett.
  • sister Nina W. Ruffin — Penina Watson Ruffin Ruffin of Franklin County.
  • brother Dr. W. Haywood Ruffin — William Haywood Ruffin, who migrated to Lexington, Missouri (and later Choctaw County, Alabama.)
  • brother Thomas Ruffin
  • brother Etheldred Ruffin — Etheldred F. Ruffin, Greene County.
  • nephew Samuel Ruffin Jr. — son of W. Haywood Ruffin, but migrated to Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama, to join his uncle Samuel R. Ruffin. Samuel R. Ruffin was the largest slaveholder in that county at Emancipation, and a list of his slaves reveals a number of first names common among Henry’s slaves. See below.
  • niece Mary L. Ruffin

Henry John Gray Ruffin, father of the above and husband of Mary Tartt Ruffin, died in 1854 in Franklin County, North Carolina. He had accumulated immense wealth and prudently executed a precise will, which entered probate in Franklin County. Among the provisions to son Lemon Ruffin were one-half interest in a plantation on Toisnot Swamp in Edgecombe [now Wilson] County (son George W. Ruffin received the other half) and “twenty negro slaves of average value.” (In addition, Mary Tartt Ruffin was to receive  “my old negro man servant Bryant now living at my Tossnot plantation.”) The inventory of Ruffin’s property listed 51 people enslaved on his Franklin County plantation, 50 enslaved on a plantation in Greene and Wayne Counties, and 37 in Edgecombe. (Other enslaved people were distributed among his children prior to his death.)

When distribution was made in September 1854, Lemon Ruffin received Beck, age 23, and her children Wyatt, 3, and Ned, 1; Patience, 32, and her children Isaac, 5, Lettuce, 3, and Jerry, 1; Maria, 45, and her children Eliza, 7, Hester, 5, and Elizabeth, 1; Isaac, 44; Reuben, 43; Crockett, 21; Isaac, 9; Arthur, 9; Sally, 19; Charlotte, 50; Harriet, 12; and Henry, 13. Per the inventories of Ruffin’s plantations, most had been enslaved on the Greene/Wayne County farm previously.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson township, Wilson County, Lemon Taylor is listed with 21 slaves living in three dwellings. He enslaved eight males aged 6, 11, 15, 20, 25, 25, 51 and 52, and 13 females aged 1, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 18, 18, 20, 25, 40 and 50. (Above him on the list was his brother G.W. Ruffin and his 22 slaves, aged 3 to 43.)

Two years later, Lemon Ruffin’s will showed that he retained ownership of 14 of the 20 enslaved people he had inherited from his father. Beck’s son Wyatt was likely dead, but she had had three more children, Elvin, Arabella and Tom, in the interim. Maria was dead or sold away; her children Eliza, Hester/Esther and Elizabeth were listed with their grandmother Isse (who seems to have been the “old” Isaac of the inventory, though Isaac is generally a masculine name). Reuben, Charlotte, Arthur and Henry do not appear in Lemon Ruffin’s will, but Crockett, young Isaac, Sallie and Harriet do. Lemon had also purchased or otherwise come into possession of Amos, Henderson and Creasy. (There are an Amos and Creasy listed in the “residue” of Henry Ruffin’s slaves after distribution. Perhaps Lemon had purchased them from the estate.) Per Lemon Ruffin’s will, Amos, Henderson and Sallie were in Alabama (on lease? on loan?) Sallie and Henderson were to be brought back to Wilson for sale, but Amos was to be put on the block In Alabama. None of it came to pass, as Ruffin’s estate did not enter probate until 1866, when his formerly enslaved property was beyond reach.

A North Carolina-born Amos Ruffin, age 35, appears in the 1870 census of Township 13, Choctaw County, Alabama, with his wife and children. Was this the Amos who was targeted for sale in Lemon Ruffin’s will?

In 1866, Patience Ruffin and Michel Ward appeared before a Wilson County justice of the peace to register their 16-year cohabitation. In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmworker Patience Ward, 50, and daughter Lettuce, 20, with Mitchell Ward listed next door.

None of other men, women and children Lemon Ruffin possessed at his death are clearly identifiable in post-Emancipation records.


  • Children up to about age 7 were usually grouped with their mothers for purposes of sale or distribution. It is almost certain that the children listed with Patience and Maria in Henry Ruffin’s distribution were merely their youngest and that their older children were separated from them.
  • Though enslaved people sometimes married men or women with whom they shared an owner, more often they married outside the farm or plantation on which they lived. Patience Ruffin and Mitchell Ward are an example.
  • Wealthy planters often owned multiple plantations and moved enslaved people among them at will. Henry Ruffin divided his Edgecombe (Wilson) County plantation into halves. However, the people who had lived on that plantation during his lifetime did not necessarily remain in place after his death. In fact, it appears that the 20 people with whom Lemon Ruffin stocked his half of Toisnot plantation came primarily from his father’s Greene/Wayne plantation. The former Toisnot slaves were shifted to plantations elsewhere. This kind of movement resulted in the further splintering of families as parents owned by neighboring enslavers were left behind.
  • White eastern North Carolina slaveowners were among the earliest settlers of Alabama in the early 1800s, taking North Carolina-born enslaved people with them. Slaveowners who did not leave North Carolina often sold their “excess” enslaved property to meet the ravenous labor needs of Alabama’s booming cotton economy.
  • Herbert G. Gutman argued in his exhaustively researched The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750-1825 that enslaved African-Americans strove to maintain and transmit ties of kinship by repeating first names among generations of a family. Though we do not know the relationships among all the Ruffin slaves, this pattern can be observed among them. More on this later.

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

You have broken my arm.


Last Monday in Taylors township, this county, Jesse Howard, a Negro Republican registrar for the coming election, assaulted his father-in-law Green Ruffin, a respectable inoffensive old man of ninety years of age. It seems that Green’s hog had got out into Jesse’s field and although the crop had been gathered and Green had kept his hog out a long time, yet Jesse became so enraged as to pick up the hog and throw him over the fence, breaking its back. Greene who was cutting cane near by, seeing the hog fall, ran to the fence, still having his cane knife in his hand. When he saw Jesse he expostulated with him when the latter jerked a rail from the fence and struck Greene breaking his right arm. Greene said, “you have broken my arm.” Jesse answered “yes and G__D__ you, I will break the other.” And changing the rail he struck Greene again and broke his left arm.

Jesse was up before M.M. Matthews, J.P. but we have not heard the result. Such outrages as this should not go unpunished.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 October 1896.


In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Green Ruffin, 36, wife Tamer, 30, and children Ora, 3, and Martha, 2, plus Nicey Watson, 58. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Green Ruffin, 57, wife Tamer, 47, and children Orah, 14, Martha, 11, and Stephen, 3. [In 1896, then, Green was probably closer to 60 to 70 years of age than 90. Not that that excuses anything.]

On 17 August 1889, Jesse Howard, 22, son of Deal and Rhoda Howard, married Martha Ruffin, 21, daughter of Green and Tamer Ruffin, all of Taylors township.

The couple is not found in the 1900 census. Did Martha leave after Jesse thrashed her father? Was Jesse prosecuted? Did Martha die?

On 5 June 1901, Jesse Howard, 33, son of Delius and Rhoda Howard, married Zillah Woodard, 32, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard.

No. 3462.

From the records of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank, New Bern branch:

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Though born and raised in Wilson County, on 14 March 1871, Lizzie Washington married Elias Mitchell in New Bern, Craven County. In the marriage register, Elias’ parents are listed as Anthony and Nancy Mitchell. Lizzie’s parents are shown as Aaron Ruffin (rather than Bryant Barden) and Rachael Ruffin.

Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line],

Dr. William Henry Bryant.

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A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

Here’s William Henry Bryant‘s family early in freedom: paternal grandmother Mary Bryant, father Fisher Bryant, mother Martha Ruffin Bryant, aunts Eliza and Caroline Bryant, and older siblings Lilly and General Bryant. [Small world: Martha’s father David Ruffin was the man shot by Zeno Green here.]

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1870 census, Wilson township, Wilson County, North Carolina.

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1930 census, Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina.

Here’s the entry for Dr. Bryant in Geraldine Rhoades Beckford’s Biographical Dictionary of American Physicians of African Ancestry 1800-1920:

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I’m aiming to get back home and die there.

Washington, Monday, February 16, 1880.


GREEN RUFFIN (colored) was sworn and examined as follows.

By the CHAIRMAN [Daniel Voorhees, Democrat-Indiana].

Question.  State where you live when at home.  – Answer.  I live in Wilson County, North Carolina.

Q. How long is it since you left home? – A. It’s about two months now, as near as I can get at it.

Q. Where have you been? – A. To Indianapolis.

Q. How did you come to go there? – A. Well, sir, there came news about there in the settlement, that if we would all agree to go out to the Western States, to Indianapolis, we could live considerably better out there. Well, it get my head deranged, so I had no sense to make any bargains to work at home, and I said I would go and I would carry my folks; but I didn’t, and I put off and goes myself.

Q. Have you a family? – Yes, sir.

Q. How many in the family? – A. I have a wife and three children.

Q. Did you go with the first party that went? – A. No, sir; I went with the second party.

Q. Did you pay your own way? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do you know how much it cost you to get there? – A. I think it was $15.65.

Q. Well, when you got there, what did you do? – A. Well, sir, I done nothing for about two or three weeks.

Q. Did you get any work at all? – A. Sometimes I could get some – just a little more than enough to board me and pay rent. I tried every day to get work, except on Sunday.

Q. During the two months that you were there how much work did you do? – A. I can’t tell..

Q. Did you work half the time? – A. No, sir.

Q. Did you work one day in three? – A. Yes, sir. I worked one week in about three weeks. Maybe I would get a week’s work for a whole week at a time.

Q. How much did you get? – A. I got a dollar a day and boarded myself, and furnished my own tools.

Q. What sort of work did you do? – A. I was putting in sewers about the city.

Q. Did you have to furnish your own shovel? – A. Yes, sir; but they furnished the picks.

Q. And you got a dollar and boarded yourself? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you find much demand there for work? – A. There was mighty few people there were looking for workmen.

Q. Were there a few many or many who were looking for work? – A. There were a great many of them looking for work, for there are plenty of people there as bad off as we were.

Q. How much wages were you to get out there? – A. Fifteen dollars a month on a farm, and house to live in, firewood furnished, and a cow and calf to milk extra for each family.

Q. Did you find any truth in such statements? – A. None at all, sir.

Q. Are you on your way back to North Carolina? – A. yes, sir.

Q. Do you expect to stay there? – A. I’m aiming to get back home and die there.

Q. You are going to stay when you get there? – A. I am going to stay right at home and advise all the rest to stay.

Q. What kind of advice are you going to give them? – A. I am going to tell them, “You have got a home, and you stay there”; for it’s an abomination to go where you have got none.

Q. You speak in the church at home sometimes, don’t you? – A. Yes, sir; sometimes in the prayer meetings and round about.

Q. Do you expect to speak to them about this thing? – A. Yes, sir; if I live, I expect to tell them about these things.

Q. You think it is a great outrage on your race? – A. Yes, sir; it is a regular abomination.

Q. You belonged to Mr. Ruffin, who was once in Congress, did you not? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. How have you been treated since the war down there? – A. As good as I want to be. Nobody ever bothered me, and when I worked for them they paid me.

Q. Did you vote down there? – A. Yes, sir; at every election. I have never missed any one that I know of.

Q. What ticket did you vote? – A. The Republican ticket.

Q. Did anybody ever keep you from voting it? – A. No, sir.

Q. Did you go to court during court week? – A. Yes, sir; I go to see how court goes on and the cases there.

Q. Did you live there on the old plantation? – A. Yes, sir; I have a piece of ground there yet.

Q. Do you rent it? – A. Yes, sir; I rent from a landholder.

Q. What sort of terms do you get? – A. Well, sir, if you tend the lands and they furnish the teams and all the utensils and seed, and I do the labor and board myself, I get a half.

Q. Do you make a living for yourself and your family that way? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. When you heard of those big wages, you thought you could do better out there than at home? – A. Yes, sir; it’s a man’s duty to do better if he can, but if you don’t like it, why then don’t take up with it.

Q. You don’t like it, and you are going back? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. How many of your people out there would go back from Indiana if they could? – A. I know of two families, and think they have something of the rise of eight or ten children, who asked us to do something to get them back, and I said I would do my best.

Q. And you are going to try to get them back? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. How did you get back? – A. I had worked and got seven dollars that I saved; and the man that I was with wrote for money, and they send him $35, and he lent me seven, and with the seven I had it bought me here; and when I got here I had nothing to eat, but I was this nigh home.

Q. Did you tell the white people out there you were going home? – A. Yes, sir; I declared I wouldn’t live in their State.

Q. Did any of them advise you to stay? – A. Yes, sir; they said they did not blame you immigrants for wanting to go home, but said, you try and stay until after the Presidential election, and then we think it is best for you to go home; and I said all right, and I went on my way and come here.

Q. Do you know the men who said that to you? – A. I do not.

Q. You have been raised in North Carolina, I believe. Now tell us how you found the weather out there in Indiana for your people? – A. It was too cold, sir.

Q. Did you notice a good many people among your emigrants who were sick? – A. Yes, sir; some two or three died in the time. There were little children who were carried to the graveyard and some old ones.

Q. So you know this man Perry – Sam Perry? – A. I know him if I see him, but I wasn’t acquainted with him.

Q. Did he make speeches down there in your country about this emigration matter? – A. No, sir; I don’t know of anybody making any speeches in Wilson, but when I got to town I found this thing was all through there. I caught hold of it and it worried me so that I got away.

Senator BLAIR [Henry W. Blair, Republican-New Hampshire.]  I want you to tell me how many people advised you to stay in Indiana until after the election?  A.  I didn’t take any notice how many – no more than I know this was spoke to us.

Q. How many times? – A. Twice.

Q. Only twice? – A. Only twice to my knowledge.

Q. Were they there in Indianapolis? – A. Yes, sir; right in the city.

Q. You have no knowledge of the persons who said that to you? – A. No, sir.

Q. And you kept quiet about it? – A. I said all right and walked right on.

Q. How many white people did you talk with while you were there? – A. A great many.

Q. Did you talk with them probably a thousand times? – A. Yes, sir, more or less.

Q. And twice only somebody said for you to hold on until after the election? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. You can’t give the names of those people? – A. No, sir.

Q. You don’t know but what they were Democrats who wanted you to stay there and vote the Democratic ticket? – A. I don’t know, sir.

Q. These Democrats are pretty sharp and up to a great many tricks, ain’t they? – A. Yes, sir; I reckon so.

Q. How much money did you have when you started to Indiana? – A. $45.

Q. And it cost you something to live on along the way? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do you know how much? – A. No, sir; I loaned out $8 to a colored man who was going on.

Q. Then it must have cost you some $23? – A. I never counted it up.

Q. When you got ready to go back, when did you start from Indiana? – A. Thursday morning at five o’clock.

Q. This last week? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. When did you arrive here? – A. Friday night, at seven o’clock.

Q. How did you happen to be here this morning? – A. Well, sir, Mr. Barnes requested of me to stay.

The CHAIRMAN.  I subpoenaed him, Mr. Blair.

The WITNESS.  Mr. Barnes requested of me to stay, and so I staid.

Senator BLAIR. Did anybody else request you to stay? – A. I don’t know if Mr. Vance [Zebulon B. Vance, Democrat-North Carolina] didn’t say he would like for me to stay.

Q. You can’t give the names of those people? – A. No, sir.

Q. How did everybody know you had anything to tell about this emigration? – A. They spoke to me in the depot, and I said I was going home from Indianapolis; and they asked me how I liked it, and I said I didn’t like it all. I said to them “Do you know of a man here by the name of Mr. Barnes?” They said “Yes.”

Q. How did you come to know him? – A. Because I was raised with him right there in North Carolina.

Q. You say you got work only a third of the time you were out there? – A.Yes, sir.

Q. If you had been at home, how much could you have gotten? – A. I would have worked every day if the weather was suitable.

Q. You could work all the time there? – A.Yes, sir.

Q. Are there any idle people down there? – A. Yes, sir; if they make themselves idle – that is all there is about it.

Q. What is the demand for labor? Is it so that the whole colored people there can work? – A. Yes, sir; if they want.

Q. From January to January? – A.Yes, sir.

Q. Do you work out yourself? – A. I farm, sir.

Q. You rent land, do you? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. You mean, then, that you can work on the piece of land that you hire? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. You don’t mean that your people generally can have labor by the day, every single day in the year? – A. They don’t do much of that kind of hiring down there with us.

Q. You mean, then, they can work on their land or land that they hire? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. That there are a good many days that you don’t have to work? – A. Yes, sir. There are a good many days when you won’t have to work if you are up with your business.

Q. And it is in that way that you mean that you have work every day in the year? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. A man can do that in Indiana, can’t he? – A. I didn’t inquire about that.

Q. When you got there you didn’t have any such work as that to do? – A. No, sir; I didn’t.

Q. But you got a chance to dig sewers in Indianapolis? – A. Yes, sir, I struck it for a while.

Q. That is not good work for farmers to do, is it? – A. No, sir; but they tell me they don’t have any use for farmers much until about March. I went round for about ten miles from the city all round. Some of them said they would take me in March, but I said I couldn’t be there in March.  They asked me where I was going to be.  I said I reckon I would be dead if I staid there, for I must have something to eat between this and March.

Q. Yet you say you accumulated $7? – A. Yes, sir; but that’s nothing to what I would get at home.

Q. You don’t think you had the chance out there that you have at home? – A. Not the beginning of the chances.

Q. Isn’t it a fact that a good many colored people have got chances to work, and have scattered out among the farmers and are doing well? – A. Well, sir, some of them have, and if they don’t like it they say they do.

Q. If they don’t like it they say they do? – A. Yes, sir; I don’t see how they liked it though, when they say they can’t get work and are about fit to starve.

Q. You think they don’t tell it, then, as it is? – A. No, sir; I don’t think so, because I could see their conditions myself.

Q. At the same time they seem to like it better than North Carolina? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you saw many men who have families, and who want to get back home? – A. Yes, sir; they told me.

Q. And these are the only ones you know who want to get back? – A. They are the only ones who told me so.

Q. You are a preacher, and a sociable sort of man, and you go round among them a great deal at Indianapolis? – A. I didn’t have anything to say of the Scriptures among them.

Q. You saw them and talked with them, though? – A. Mighty little; I talked mighty little myself.

Q. But you saw most of them and talked with them? – A. I couldn’t say that and tell the truth.

Q. But you saw a good deal of them? – A. Yes, sir; I saw a good deal of them.

Q. And two of them said they wanted to get back? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Well, you seem to have a good deal of feeling in this matter? – A. Yes, sir; I have.

Q. And you want to get back home and die there? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. But you don’t want to die right away, do you? – A. I hope not, but I am going to tell them not to go out there to Indiana; I ain’t going myself no more; but I shall not pester them if they want to go and find out for themselves.

Q. You think they have a right to go if they want to? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. They have the same right to go to Indiana as a white man? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you talk with the white people out there much as to whether they thought the colored people ought to go there? – A. No, sir.

Q. Did you see any politicians out there, and talk politics with them? – A. I don’t talk politics with anybody if I can help it.

Q. Why not? – A. I don’t believe in taking up too much time with that sort of stiff, and if I can get labor and get my money for it, I rather for that.

Q. But the question is, did you talk any politics out there? – A. Not unless somebody attacked me about it.

Q. Did anybody attack you with it? – A. I told you that gentleman did, who asked me to stay until after the day of the election.

Q. Were there any others who talked the merits of the political question with you; argued with about it? – A. Not that I can remember.

Q. Those two Republicans or Democrats told you to stay until after the election? – A. I didn’t know whet their politics were.

Q. Didn’t they tell you you would have an easy time when it came spring? – A. Some did and some did not; some of them said it would be the same thing all the year.

Q. Some of them said it was better for you to go out? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. You don’t know whether they were Republicans or Democrats? – A. I am certain there were two of them were Q. Republicans; they were the same two who sent off my letter.

Q. They were Republicans? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. They were not anxious, then, for you to stay? – A. They were Republicans, and they said I had better go back.

Q. They advised you to come back home? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. Were they very strong Republicans? – A. I don’t know, sir.

Q. Were they good looking men? – A. Yes, sir; they looked like intelligent men.

Q. And they advised you to leave Indiana? – A. Yes, sir; they thought it best, as they said we were most on to starvation.

Q. These people who go out there didn’t take money to buy land, and so they have to work and earn some before they can make any purchases? – A. Yes, sir.

Q. If a man went to Indiana with three or five hundred dollars in his picket he could do as he pleased, could he not? – A. Five hundred dollars wouldn’t go far with there to buy land.

Q. How far would it go in North Carolina? – A. A right smart piece.

Q. It wouldn’t buy much in Raleigh would it? – A. Well, sir, I haven’t been there since I was a boy.

Q. Well, $500 wouldn’t buy much in a city? – A. I think not.

Q. And wouldn’t do so in Indianapolis? – A. No, sir; I don’t suppose it would.

Q. Suppose you were to go out in the unsettled parts of Indiana as in North Carolina, then it would go pretty far, wouldn’t it? – A. I can’t keep up with you about that; I have not any experience of it.

Q. Were they good looking men? – A. Yes, sir; they looked like intelligent men.

Q. And they advised you to leave Indiana? – A. Yes, sir; they thought it best, as they said we were most on to starvation.

(By the CHAIRMAN.) Mr. Blair has asked you if you believe it is right for a man to go anywhere in this country that he pleases, and you said you do think so. Do you think it is right to be induced to leave your home and go away where you are not known, and where you cannot get work, by means of falsehoods and misrepresentations? – A. No, sir.

Q. You don’t think a man ought to be induced in that way to go where he would be worse off? – A. No, sir; I don’t think so.

Q. You think that has been done in this case? – A. Yes, sir; with me and all the rest.

Q. And that is the feeling of the colored people towards this man Perry? – A. The feeling, so far as I presume of it, is great dissatisfaction with him.


Green Ruffin, age 36, appears in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, with wife Tamer and children Ora and Martha, plus 58 year-old Nicey Watson. (N.B. David Ruffin and family lived next door; the two may have been brothers.) In 1880, Green, with age listed as 52, is in Wilson township, Wilson County, with Tamer and children Orah, Martha and Stephen.  His former master was United States Congressman Thomas Ruffin of Franklin County, North Carolina.

Senate Report 693, 2nd Session, 46th Congress.  Proceedings of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States.  U.S. Congressional Serial Set.