runaway slave

Tartt’s negroes, pt. 2.

Thirty-five years after his death, Jonathan Tartt‘s sons and grandsons, which included a bewildering number of Jonathans, Jameses and Elnathans, joined the stream of whites flooding into lands wrested from the Choctaw under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Several settled in and around Sumter County in far southwestern Alabama.

James B. Tartt, son of Jonathan’s son Elnathan Tartt, was an early arrival. A notice he placed in the 26 September 1828 edition of the Raleigh Register signaled his intent to file a claim for a lost hundred dollar note that Thomas E. Tartt had mailed to him at Stantonsburg the year before. By time he posted the ad, however, James had joined Thomas in Lagrange, Alabama. Within a few years, as the Choctaw were pushed out, he shifted across the state to Sumter County.

In October 1832, this ad appeared in North Carolina Free Press:

NC free press 10 2 1832

North Carolina Free Press, 2 October 1832.

Had Adam actually made it more than 700 miles back to Edgecombe County from Sumter? Or had he missed the boat, so to speak, by running away to avoid joining the coffle headed deep South? I do not know if Adam was ever returned to James B. Tartt.

James Tartt did not relinquish all his Edgecombe County possessions immediately, and here is an 1837 advertisement for the sale of 1400 acres he owned at the fork of Toisnot and White Oak Swamps in what is now Wilson County.

Tarboro' Press 10 28 1837

Tarboro Press, 28 October 1837.

By the 1840s, however, he and his children were well established in Sumter County. In the personal letter below, “old man” James B. Tartt’s son Elnathan wrote home to relatives — the envelope is addressed to “Edwin or Washington Barnes,” Stantonsburgh, Edgecombe County NC. He chatted a little about his sisters, but was primarily occupied with another runaway, Calvin, who had absconded on the way from North Carolina to Alabama:

Sumitvill Ala February 3rd 1848

Dear Cousins

I arrived home about three weeks ago and found my folks verry well, we had a verry pleasant trip. No axident hapened at all, the girls was verry much pleased with their trip, I left Elizabeth in Mobile to go to school. I was in Mobile three days. Mr. Stewarts & Pratts famileys wer all verry well.

I have noght bought any place for the old man yet and I doant recon I shall this spring, as it is verry late, and the people have calculated to make a nother crop and will not sell at any thing reasonable, I shall rent a place for him to make a corn crop, he says if he can get him a small place to work his preasant force on he is willing to give the Ballance of his money to his children, the old man don think of any thing but marring thats all his talk, says he is determine to have him a wife. Margret is at my house, going to scool. I receivd a letter from Arch the other day informing me that Calvin had run away. He left the night after they passed Raleigh. I have not heard from them since they left Pittsborough No Carolina but I am looking for them every day. I want you to manage to get Calvin in, some how, make out that you have bought him, or that you are otherwise to sell him and make a shamm sale of him to some one. I think we had better sell him if we can get a fair price, as it will cost a great deal to get him hir even if we could get holt of him. The old man is willing to sell him but I want him to come out hir if it will not cost to much if you can manager to get holt of him put him in jail and let me know it. Or if you know of any person coming out that will bring him I will pay them well. If any person is coming out by the rail road, he would not be but verry little troble — try and see what you can get for him and let me know what the prospects to get holt of him or sell him. Write to me and let me have your opinion what way I had best proceed about him, one relation are all well nothing moor but Rema[ining] yours  /s/ Elnathan Tartt

Give my respects to your family write to me and let me know all the nuse since I lelft, I settle all my buisness befor I left

——

“Arch” was Elnathan’s brother Archelaus B. Tartt.  Margaret and Elizabeth were their sisters. (Elizabeth returned to Wilson, married John Thomas Barnes, and is buried in Maplewood cemetery. Her sisters Penninah Tartt Eason and Margaret B. Tartt also went back to North Carolina.) The family appears in 1850 census of Sumter County in two side-by-side households. At #227: farmer James Tartt, 58, with children Edwin, 20, Elizabeth, 18, Margaret, 14, Paninah, 29, and Arch B., 23, all born in North Carolina. At #228, clerk Elnathan Tartt, 24, wife Mary, 27, and Alabama-born son John, 6, plus 8 year-old Louisa Randolph.

Apparently, one of the many schemes Elnathan mused about worked, and Calvin was returned to the fold. Seven months after Elnathan’s letter, James B. Tartt recorded a deed of gift in Sumter County in which he — in keeping with Elnathan’s hopes — transferred his wealth to his children. On 11 September 1848, “in consideration of the natural love and affection I have for my children” Elnathan Tartt, Enos Tartt, Martha Tartt Adams, Penninah Tartt, Archelaus Tartt, Edwin Tartt, Elizabeth Tartt, Margaret Tartt and Jonathan Tartt, James B. Tartt named his brother Thomas M. Tartt trustee and made the following transfers and distributions: (1) notes, drafts, checks, etc., totaling about $11000, (2) “the following negro slaves one negro named Gray about 26 years old and dark yellow complexion, a negro slave Calvin black and about 27 years old, Warren of dark yellow complexion and about 24 years of age, Sarah a negro woman about 50 years old, a negro girl Mary about 18 years old of yellow complexion, Lizzy black and about 11 years old, Peter, a child, black and about 2 years old and Rose the child of Mary about 1 year old,” (3) mules and wagons, and (4) moneys to secure for himself “a comfortable home and liberal living” and educations and comfortable livings until marriage for his daughters (with Penninah’s portion reduced because she had already been given a nine year-old enslaved girl, Julia). The document also contained provisions for the distribution of any property that remained at James’ death.

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The Tartts enumerated in Alabama’s 1855 state census. James B. Tartt, having given them away, is listed with no slaves. His older sons Enos and Elnathan owned a total of 33 men and women, and his brother Thomas M. Tartt held another 17 in trust.

The first post-Emancipation federal census, counted in 1870, lists 13 North Carolina-born African-Americans named Tartt in Sumter County. Their names and approximate birth years: Hilyard (1795), David (1805), Jessy (1805), Belfer (1810), Burwell (1810), Bettie (1815), Cherry (1816), Howell (1820), Hager (1825), Chaney (1835), Hugh (1810), Zarah (1820) … and Cal (1830).

Many, many thanks to a James B. Tartt descendant for sharing a copy of Elnathan Tartt’s letter. Privately held documents like this are an invaluable resource for African-American researchers.

Volunteered to serve as a soldier.

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156 years ago today, 18 year-old Hendy Barnes, undoubtedly a runaway from a Wilson County slaveholder, enlisted in Company C, 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery. Less than a month later, he died at a regimental hospital in Morehead City, North Carolina.

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U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

His wife is in South Carolina.

$50 REWARD.

RUNAWAY NEGRO.

RANAWAY FROM THE SUBSCRIBER, last February, Willie, a bright mulatto about 30 years old, about five feet, six inches high, wore when he ran away long platted hair; by trade a cooper, has a wife in the Georgetown district, (S.C.); has a down look when spoken to, he is supposed to be now lurking about Wm. or Jonathan Ellis’ near Stantonsburg where he has relatives. The negro belongs to Miss Cynthia A. Ellis. All persons black or white are hereby forewarned under penalty of law, not to harbor said negro.   ROB’T. BYNUM, Ag’t.

Southern Sentinel (Wilson, N.C.), 15 November 1861.

 

 

 

If you want your negroes caught, we have well-trained packs of dogs.

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Wilson Ledger, 13 November 1860.

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Wilson Ledger, 8 January 1861.

John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger’s Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation includes a detailed discussion of “negro dogs” and their widespread use in the antebellum South. The chapter begins: “One of the most widespread methods of tracking runaways was to use highly trained so-called ‘negro dogs.’ Frederick Law Olmsted observed that no particular breed was used in the hunt — bloodhounds, foxhounds, bulldogs, Scotch staghounds, curs — but slave hunters and planters had a method of training each breed to be effective. The dogs were locked and ‘never allowed to see a negro except while training to catch him.’ They were given the scent of a black man or woman’s show or article of clothing and taught to follow the scent. Slaves were sent out as trainees, and when the dogs treed them, they were given meat as a reward. ‘Afterwards they learn to follow any particular negro by scent.'”

J.W. Hamlet and Jacob D. Farmer had illustrious company. President Zachary Taylor was a renowned importer of bloodhounds from the Caribbean, fearsome dogs who would tear a man to pieces if not constrained. John William Hamlet, born about 1823, was a Virginia native. He appears in the 1850 census of Edgecombe County as a poor farmer owning little or nothing, but the next decade saw his fortunes soar. Negro-hunting was good business. Hamlet is listed in the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County, as the owner of $4500 in real property and $4800 in personal property (primarily, one can assume, in the form of slaves and dogs.) Curiously, his occupation is not listed. Nor is that of his business partner, Jacob D. Farmer, who enjoyed a similar rise in circumstances from a penniless laborer in 1850 to the owner of sizeable real and personal estates in 1860.

Though the census enumerator may have been exercising discretion, Hamlet was notorious for his derring-do as a slave tracker. In October 1859, a local newspaper published a spine-tingling account of his standoff with three cornered runaways in neighboring Nash County. If the report is be believed literally, only Hamlet emerged from this do-or-die fray unbloodied.

Tboro Southerner 10 15 1859

Tarborough Southerner, 15 October 1859.

Others were less enchanted by Hamlet’s exploits. On 6 June 1860, Honorable Charles H. Van Wyck of New York delivered his “Despotism of Slavery” speech on the House floor. In his spirited response to Southerners’ defense of slavery as a human and elevating institution, Van Wyck called “a few facts” to their attention, including the burning slaves at the stake, the branding of slaves, and the common practice of splitting families on the auction block. If slavery is so “godlike and divine,” he thundered, why do slaves run away? Why the need for ads like this one?:

“Catch him! catch him! But how can you catch him, unless you have along the well-trained pack of negro dogs owned by J. W. Hamlet. This pack consists of five blood-hounds and two catch-dogs, which are very sagacious, and which, once on the trail, will be very apt to start the game.

“The subscriber having prepared himself, with considerable trouble and expense, for this line of business, is ready at any time to undertake the capture of fugitive slaves, in this or any of the adjoining counties or States.

“His rates will be found reasonable; and he is confident that his past success will justify others in employing him. Among many other names which could be given, if necessary, he begs leave to refer to the following: B. H. Bordon, Esq., Wilson; Junius Daniel, Esq., Halifax; R. D. Atkinson, Esq., Smithfield; John Lemon and James Winfield, Esq., of Nash.      — J.W. Hamlet, Wilson, North Carolina.”

After a series of such speeches in 1860, on February 22, 1861, three men attempted to assassinate Van Wyck near the Capital building. The Congressman fought off the attack, surviving only because a book and congressional records tucked into the breast pocket of his coat blocked the blade of a Bowie knife. His assailants fled and were never identified.

negro dogs

Van Wyck’s speech reported in 29 Cong. Globe Appx. 434-439, 36th Cong., 1st Sess. Image from Franklin and Schweninger, Runaway Slaves.

Coartney runs away.

Halifax Free Press 5 4 1833

Halifax Free Press, 4 May 1833.

$25 Reward.

RAN AWAY from the Subscriber, about six months since, a negro woman named COARTNEY — she is about 5 feet 6 inched in height, very black, and about 30 years old. I have no doubt she is lurking about Sparta and Mrs. Hunter’s, near Tarborough. I will give $35, is she is delivered to me in Stantonsburg, or confined in any jail in the State. All persons are forbid harboring or employing her under penalty of the law. WM. STEWART.

Stantonsburg, April 26th, 1833.

He will attempt to pass for a free man.

The Star and North Carolina State Gazette 5 4 1833

The Star and North Carolina State Gazette, 4 May 1833

$25 Reward.

Eloped from my plantation on Tosnot, Edgecomb county, on the 19th instant, a negro man named BRYANT, 22 or 23 years old, five feet 9 or 10 inches high, stout built, quite yellow for the appearance of his hair, which is as knotty as the negroes usually is, long lips, large feet and long toes, has a down look when spoken to; had on when he went off dark clothes and a black forward hat. It is probable that he will procure papers and attempt to pass for a free man, as he has done the like before, and will probably skulk about Doct. Hall’s plantation near Tarborough until he is prepared to make his escape, as his father and mother live there. I will give the above reward to ay person who will confine him in jail so that I get him again, or deliver him to me at Stantonsburg.  WILLIE BROWNRIGG.

Stantonsburg, April 22, 1833

His father is a free negro.

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North-Carolina Free Press (Tarboro), 24 January 1832.

$25 REWARD.

RAN AWAY from the Subscriber, in May Court week last, a bright mulatto boy named JOHN, about 19 or 20 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, thick set and well built – he has a scar under his jaw, (I think the left jaw,) and thick ankles.  He is a shrewd fellow, and will perhaps alter his name and attempt to pass as a free man.  His father is a free negro, named Hardy Lassiter, living on Toisnot.  The above reward will be given for John’s apprehension, if delivered to me in Edgecombe county, or secured in any jail so that I can get him again.  All persons are hereby forbid harboring, employing, carrying off said boy, under the penalty of law.  SAMUEL FARMER.  Nov. 28, 1831.

 

He intends to leave this state with a free negro.

$20 REWARD. – RAN AWAY from the subscriber on the 6th instant, a negro man by the name of CAGE. Said negro is about twenty-seven years old, about five feet ten inches high, quick spoken and rather black – weighs some hundred and seventy pounds. It is my opinion that he intends to leave this State, with a free negro by the name of Nicholas Williams. The above reward will be given to any person, who will confine said negro in any jail or deliver him to me at my house about three miles above Toisnot Depot, Edgecombe County, N.C. – Josiah Jordan.

Tarboro Press, 13 March 1847.

Deliver him to Toisnot Depot.

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Eastern Carolina Republican (New Bern NC), 3 July 1850.

And then a shorter version, with different emphasis:

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Eastern Carolina Republican (New Bern NC), 20 November 1850.

$125 REWARD

will be paid for the delivery of the said HARRY to me at Tossnott Depot, Edgecombe county, or for his confinement in any Jail in the State so that I can get home, or One Hundred and Fifty Dollars will be given for his head.

He was lately heard from in New-Bern where he called himself Henry Barnes (or Burns), and will likely continue the same name, or assume that of Copage or Farmer. He has a free mulatto woman for a wife, by the name of Sally Bozeman, who has lately removed to Wilmington, and lives in that part of the town called Texas, where he will likely be lurking.

Master of vessels are particularly cautioned against harboring, employing, or concealing the said negro on board their vessels, as the full penalty of the law will be rigorously enforced. GUILFORD HORN.   June 29th, 1850