runaway slave

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 3.

Just months after Eugene B. Drake bought her in 1863, 23 year-old Rebecca was gone. Desperate to recoup his investment, Drake posted this remarkably detailed reward notice in newspapers well beyond Statesville. After precisely noting her physical features, Drake noted that Rebecca was “an excellent spinner” and “believed to be a good weaver, and said she was a good field hand.” (He had not had the chance to see for himself.) Rebecca may have helped herself to the products of her own labor, carrying away several dresses, as well as “new shoes.” Drake had purchased her from one of Richmond’s notorious slave dealers, but she was from Milton, in Caswell County, North Carolina, just below the Virginia line and southeast of Danville. There, Rebecca had been torn from her child and other relatives. Drake believed she was following the path of the newly opened North Carolina Railroad, which arced from Charlotte to Goldsboro, perhaps to seek shelter with acquaintances near Raleigh. He offered a $150 reward for her arrest and confinement.

Daily Progress (Raleigh, N.C.), 23 November 1863.

A year later, Drake was again paying for newspaper notices, this time for the return of his “slave man” Milledge, also called John, who had also absconded in new clothes and shoes. Drake again provided precise a physical description of the man, down to his slow, “parrot-toed” walk. Milledge/John had procured counterfeit free papers and a travel pass, and Drake believed he was aiming 200 miles south to Augusta, Georgia, probably on trains. 

Carolina Watchman (Salisbury, N.C.), 28 December 1864.

I don’t know whether Drake recaptured either Rebecca or Milledge/John. If he did, the rewards he paid were money wasted. The Confederacy surrendered in April 1865, and thereafter he owned no one.

Black River.

Dr. Algeania Freeman recently published Black River, a narrative of the life of her great-grandfather James Woodard. Accordingly to family lore and research, James Woodard was born enslaved in what is now Wilson County about 1850. After his father Amos was sold at auction and his mother died, Woodard ran away, eventually settling in Cumberland County. Dr. Freeman believes she may be descended from or otherwise related to London and Venus Woodard and is searching for proof of that connection. Her family has beaten the odds by maintaining a detailed oral tradition through several generations. Genetic genealogy may hold the key to recovering their Wilson County connection.

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The estate of W.E.J. Shallington (or: “Hines has gone to the Yankees.”)

When Dr. W.E.J. Shallington died without a will at the end of 1860, his widow Sarah Shallington relinquished her right to administer his estate to David L. Hardy. The Shallingtons had minor children, and Hardy had the unenviable task of managing the estate to provide income for the family during the entirety of the Civil War.

Dr. Shallington held six people in slavery, and on Christmas Eve Hardy hired all of them out through 1 January 1862. Willis went to William Hamlet for $156.00; Hines to Gray B. Sharp for $60.00; Ann to widow Shallington for the nominal sum of $1.00; and Critty and her two children to Hamlet for $31.00. J.D. Rountree rented the Shallingtons’ house and lot in Wilson for $15.00

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Though the account is not in the estate file, Hardy likely rented out the group 2 January 1862 through 1 January 1863 as well. The process repeated on 2 January 1863, with Willis, Hines, and Critty and her children going to J.H. Bullock and Ann remaining with Sarah Shallington. George Barefoot rented the house and lot at a cut rate.

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The following year, the hiring out took place at Joyner’s Depot [Elm City] for the period of 28 December 1864 to 28 December 1865. (Or so the parties intended. Events at Appomattox would intervene.) Willis, Critty and her children went to Jordan Winstead at inflated rates (reflected also in the house rental); Ann, to Sarah Shallington. Hines, perhaps smelling freedom in the air, had “gone to the Yankees.”

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With no enslaved labor to tap as a resource, by 1869 D.L. Hardy’s account of rentals contained a single line item: “6 March 1869, To amt rec’d for rent for house & lot from David Strickland cold. [colored] to Jany 1st 1870 $14.00. The house was vacant for 2 months as I could not rent it out at the 1st Jany 1869 on satisfactory terms.” Strickland renewed his lease on 1 January 1870 at an increase of four dollars a month.

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——

In the 1860 census of Coopers township, Wilson County: Roda Shallington, 69; [daughter-in-law] Sarah, 36; and Mary Ann, 15, Caroline, 12, and Fredrick Shallington, 1. Roda claimed $5000 in personal property, and the rest of the Shallingtons, $3800. (This constant amount likely represented their (anticipated) inheritance from recently deceased W.E.J. Shallington.)

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: David Strickland, 30, farm laborer; wife Fillis, 28; and children Isaac, 2, Amanda, 12, and Samuel Strickland, 8; William Farmer, 1; and Jane Mosely, 9.

There are no Shallingtons, black or white, listed in the 1870 census of Wilson County. (In fact, I have found none of the men and women listed in W.E.J. Shallington’s estate using the surname Shallington.) However, in the 1880 census of North Wilson township, Wilson County, widow Sallie Shallington, 55, is listed as a member of an otherwise African-American household: Aaron Edmundson, 31, well digger; wife Ann, 26; and their children Earnest, 5, and Hattie, 3. (The census taker, perhaps startled by the unexpected arrangement, wrote a W over the B he initially recorded for her race. Also, this may be the Ann hired out above, if that Ann were a child.)

Estate Records of W.E.J. Shallington, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Arch is committed to Edgecombe County jail.

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Tarborough Southerner, 11 July 1857.

In July 1857, the Tarboro jailer advertised in a local newspaper that an enslaved teenager named Arch had been committed to jail. Arch, who had a scar on his wrist from being struck by a grubbing hoe, told Benjamin Williams that William J. Moore of Wilson County was his owner.

$50 reward for runaway Willie.

On 5 February 1853, E.D. Hall, sheriff of New Hanover County, North Carolina, placed an ad in the Wilmington Daily Journal. His office had “taken up and committed” to jail a runaway enslaved man named Wiley. Wiley, who was about 24 years old, told the sheriff he belonged to a woman named Cynthia A. Ellis and had been leased to a Dr. Dortch of Stantonsburg. As was customary, Hall’s ad served notice for Ellis to make arrangements (including paying fees) to take him or he would be sold at auction.

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Three and a half years later, Wilson’s Southern Sentinel newspaper printed this ad:

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Southern Sentinel, 17 October 1856.

Was 30 year-old Willie the same man as Wiley? “Wiley” was often spelled the same way as “Willie” in that era, so it would seem so. Having apparently been returned to Wilson County, Willie had run away again in February 1856. The ad is rich with detail. Willie was a “bright mulatto” (this generally meant white-looking, or nearly so); he wore his hair in long plaits; he was a cooper (a builder of staved wooden vessels like barrels and buckets) by trade; he had a wife in Georgetown District, South Carolina (sold away from Wilson County? or met while he was a runaway?); and he refused to look slaveholders in the eye. He was thought to be hiding near the farms of William Ellis or his son Jonathan Ellis near Stantonsburg, as he had relatives in the area.

A month later, Willie was still missing.

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Southern Sentinel, 15 November 1856.

Images courtesy of the N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisements project, which “makes available some 2400 advertisements that appeared in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. A collaboration between The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)  and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), the project builds on the work of Freddie L. Parker (Stealing a Little Freedom: Advertisements for Slave Runaways in North Carolina, 1791-1840) and Lathan Windley (Runaway Slave Advertisements)and presents digital images of the advertisements alongside full-text transcripts and additional metadata to facilitate search and discovery.”

Harboring.

The solicitor of the 1860 fall term of Wilson County Superior Court presented to the grand jury a charge against Delitia Eatmon for harboring a slave, Violet, who was owned by Berkley Cone.

In the 1860 census of Sullivants district, Nash County, Berkley Cone was a 45 year-old farmer whose household included a 10 year-old mulatto boy named Richard Locus, who was probably an involuntary apprentice. The 1860 slave schedule of Nash County lists Cone as the owner of a single enslaved person — a 15 year-old mulatto girl. Who was reported as a fugitive from the state. It’s reasonable to assume that Violet was the runaway.

Delitia (or, more likely, Selitia) Eatmon was born about 1810 in what was then Nash County. She and her children are listed in her parents’ household in the 1850 census of Nash, but by 1860 she headed her own household in Oldfields township, Wilson County. She, too, owned enslaved people as reported in the 1860 Wilson County slave schedule. Five, who appear to have been an elderly woman, her daughter, and that daughter’s three children.

Who was Violet to Selitia Eatmon? Why would Eatmon have kept and concealed Violet from Berkley Cone? Were Eatmon’s slaves Violet’s family? Had she been with Eatmon the entire six months between the census enumeration and the grand jury panel? Longer? Had she run because she missed her family? To avoid Cone’s close attention to her teenaged body? To thwart sale?

Berkley Cone and J. Calvin Narron appeared before the grand jury to offer testimony. Whatever they swore to, it was not enough. “Not a true bill,” said the jury. No indictment.

Harboring a Slave (1860), Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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:

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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

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“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.

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Southern Sentinel, 15 November 1856.

$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.