The estate of Isaac Scarborough, part 2.

Isaac Scarborough died in early 1857, and his estate entered a lengthy probate. The estate file is rich with references to the enslaved people whose lives were upended by his death.

In this post, we examine documents from 1859 through 1863, including hire lists and receipts for medical care.

In 1859, James Reddick Barnes, guardians of Isaac Scarborough’s children, paid Dr. John R. Mercer of Edgecombe County $4.50 “To visit Boy at Pat. Byrum,” i.e. to provide treatment to an enslaved boy (or man, frankly) that Patrick Byrum had hired out. (Byrum hired out Bill in 1858 or 1859.)

Polly Walston, likely a midwife, received two dollars “for Services rendered in attending to negro woman Ginna, January 21st 1861.”

In 1861, Barnes paid J.N. Bynum “to visit medicine &c to little negro boy at G.S. Bergeron’s.”

In November 1862, Barnes paid Edwin Whitley seven dollars for “making coffin for negro.” We do not know who died.

The annual “hiring of Negros” took place on the last day of December 1862. For the first time, Jesse Galloway secured labor, hiring Bill for $72. William Forbes hired David for $75. John Bridgers took Daniel for $100. T.H. Bridgers took Jesse and Ned for $100 a piece and Tony for $50.50. James Parker took Augustin for $35. David Webb took Ashley for $10. Hannah went to Reddin Bridgers for $51; Milly to David Amason for $60. Deamos went to William Web for $21.50. Mary and child went to Fanny Eason for $35. Nancy Scarborough took Chana for $34. Jinna and two children went to B. Crafton for $15. Jane went to William Burriss for $38. Jacob went to George Thigpen for $4. Nancy Scarborough accepted the whopping sum of $540 from the estate to care for Lucy and her three children, Debbie and her four, and Charlotte and her three.

The receipt Nancy Scarborough received for “taking care of” three enslaved women and their children.

Another year, another Heartbreak Day. Nancy Scarborough died during 1863, and the enslaved people under her direct control also became available for hire to generate income for her and Isaac Scarborough’s children. John Harrel took Bill for $72; T.H. Bridgers took David for $150 and Tony for $157. Oran went to Starkey Howard for $125; Daniel, to T.J. Gardner for $175. Jarret Webb leased Ned for $145; J.C. Moore took Augustin for $70. William Webb hired Deamos for $36; Howel went to J.C. Moore for $70; and Mary and child to Polly Gay for $35. Jesse Baker took Hannah for $6; Theophilus Atkinson took Milly for $77 and Jane for $51. Demsey Owens hired Chana and child for $6; S.E. Crisp, Calvin for $2.35; and David Webb, Ashley for $36 and Jesse for $205. Jacob went to John Felton for $1; Austin went to T.J. Moore for $84; Jerry went to Thomas Felton for $3. James L. Eason was paid $600 to care for Lucy and her three children and Debbie and her three. Bennet Crafton was paid $100 to care for Jinna and her two children; C. Crisp received $98 for Rose and her two; Moses Perkins, $75 for Charlotte and one child.

Estate of Isaac Scarborough (1859), North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,

The estate of Isaac Scarborough, part 1.

We met James Scarborough and the people he enslaved here and here and here. His son Isaac Scarborough, born in 1780, came into possession of Scarborough House just before his death and passed it on to his younger daughter, Susan Scarborough Bryant.

Isaac Scarborough made out his first will in Edgecombe County on 21 August 1826. In it, he left twelve enslaved people to his wife Nancy Scarborough — Sooky, Harry, Agnes, David, Austin, Elsy, Jinny, Amy, Abel, Orange, Caswell, and Charlotte. [N.B.: Isaac Scarborough married two women named Nancy. The maiden name of his first wife is not known. Nor is her death date.]

In 1848, Scarborough married Nancy Barnes Tyson. In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, Isaac Scarborough’s household included himself, his wife, their infant daughter, and Nancy Tyson’s children by her first marriage to Abner Tyson, and Scarborough reported 33 enslaved people.

Isaac Scarborough made out his will in October 1853. To his wife Nancy, he left a life interest in the tract of land on which they lived near present-day Saratoga, which he had purchased from Joab Horne in 1841, as well as the adjoining tract purchased from Louis Dilda in 1847. [These purchases totaled more than 1400 acres on White Oak Swamp.] Isaac also left Nancy outright “the following slaves (viz) Mary, Edith, Harriet, John, Himbrick, Abraham, and Gray Hilliard ….” and a life interest in Harry, Orrin, Rose, and Austin, who were to pass to their daughters Victoria and Isaac Susan after Nancy’s death. Isaac’s remaining enslaved people, who were not named, were also to pass to their daughters in equal shares.

Isaac Scarborough died in early 1857, and his estate entered a lengthy probate. The file is rich with references to the enslaved people whose lives were upended by his death.

In this post, we examine documents from 1858 through 1860, including hire lists and a receipt for the care of “a n*gger woman.”

First things first, to keep the plantation going and income flowing, some of Scarborough’s land was rented and enslaved people were hired out. (Those belonging to the estate, that is. The men and women bequeathed directly to widow Nancy Scarborough were not subjected to these transactions.)

For the period 6 March 1857 to 1 January 1858, widow Nancy Scarborough hired David and Ned for ten dollars each, a price that suggests their old age or disability. She was also paid by the estate for the care of four women with small children — Charlotte with three, Jinny with three, Debby with three, and Chaney with two. Joseph Payne hired Daniel ($139) and Lucy and her child ($40). Jacob Byrum hired Abel ($160) and Bill ($110), and James J. Taylor, Jesse ($95, Toney ($40.50), and  Mary ($70); John Felton, Hannah ($13.50); and Rufus W. Edmundson, Milly ($2.75).

At the end of 1858, the cycle started all over again, with people from Isaac Scarborough’s shifted around to spend a year with the highest bidder. Bill went to David Webb for $73. David went to Jonathan Weaver for $137.25. James Barnes took Abel for $175.25. Lewis S. Dilda took Daniel for $175.00. Jonathan Bulluck took Jesse ($127) and Milly ($12). Ned remained with Nancy Scarborough, who also took Augustin for $2.50. (Augustin’s absence from the previous year’s hire and his low lease rate suggests he was a young child, perhaps 6 or 7 years old.) Lucy and her child remained with Joseph Pane ($25), and Hannah with John Felton ($25.25).

Curiously, there’s a second account that appears to have been filed for the same year. The heading is somewhat ambiguous — is this account for the year that ended 31 December 1858? Patrick Bynum hired Bill ($140), Hannah ($42), and Milly ($43); Nancy Scarborough hired David ($141); James Barnes hired Abel ($178) and Daniel ($190); Hiram Webb, Jesse ($167); Jonathan Bulluck, Toney ($99.75) and Ned ($112); James J. Taylor, Mary ($85); and Isaac C. Moore, Augustin ($34.50). David Webb took in Jinny and her three children, and Nancy Scarborough took in Charlotte and her three children, Debby and her four children, Lucy and her two children, and Chaney and one child.

On an unspecified date in 1859, the estate paid Anna Walston two dollars “for A visit to A n*gger woman.”

For the year following 30 December 1859: Bill ($125) and Jinny and two children went to David Webb; David ($50), Hannah ($50), and Milly ($50) to Nancy Scarborough; Abel ($179) to James Barnes; Daniel ($170) to William Gardner; Jesse to Hiram Webb ($180); Tony ($111), Ned ($139), and Ashley ($25) to Jonathan H. Bulluck; Augustin ($62) to William Woodard; and Mary and a child ($60) and Lucy and two children ($30) to John Harper. Nancy Scarborough agreed to payment for the care of Charlotte and three children, Debby and five children, and Chaney and one child.

On 9 January 1860, James J. Taylor received a ten-dollar credit from James Barnes, guardian of Isaac Scarborough’s minor heirs. Why? The unnamed woman he had hired the previous year had had a child, thereby diminishing her usefulness.

On 2 June 1860, Joshua Walston received two dollars for “Services rendered by my wife in attending to negro woman in 1859.”

A receipt for care of women with children during 1859 and 1860:

In December 1860, again, the community is picked over and divided up for the next year. David Webb hired Bill ($120) and Jinna and two children ($10); Nancy Scarborough hired David ($50) and Ashley ($46); James Barnes hired Abel ($175); William Felton hired Daniel ($170); Hiram Webb hired Jesse ($150); Elbert Felton hired Toney ($111) and Ned ($135); Isaac Moore hired Augustin ($64); Garry Bargeron hired Hannah ($55) and Charlotte and her two children ($45); and David Amason hired Milly ($37). Nancy Scarborough agreed to take payment for care for Debbie and her five children, Lucy and her two children, and Mary and her two children.

As seen, members of Isaac Scarborough’s enslaved community were moved from year to year as their hire arrangements began and ended. Given Saratoga’s proximity to the county line, it is not surprising that several of the men who bid for their services lived beyond Wilson County in Pitt and Edgecombe Counties. Thus, we see that, even when a community was not broken up by sales, the death of an enslaver profoundly destabilized communities.

Estate of Isaac Scarborough (1859), North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,

The enslaved people of Scarborough House.

Folk LOOVVVE an antebellum house … but don’t love an antebellum house. Mention “slavery,” and it’s all sighs and glazed eyes. Kudos, then, to Scarborough House Resort for facing head on and with loving action the complicated legacy of their 1821 Federal-style plantation house.

As Scarborough House prepared to host a fundraising tea to benefit Preservation of Wilson, I was brought in to research the African-Americans who labored under the yoke of Major James Scarborough and his descendants. My 15-page report drew upon census records, a Bible, deeds, bills of sale, wills, and estate records to sketch the lives of twenty or so enslaved men and women — sixteen of whom we can now call by name: Bluford, Guilford, Nan, Aggy, Silvia, Bunny, Milly, Lemon, Washington, Tom Sumter, Young Aggy, Haywood, Luke, Orange, Willis, and Treasy.

A sample page from the report:

Of the sixteen enslaved people I was able to identify by name, six have been traced forward into Freedom. None adopted the surname Scarborough, but four chose Eason, the surname of James Scarborough’s grandchildren and heirs. If you recognize your ancestors below, please let me know.

Silvia was the mother of four young children in the early years of James Scarborough estate’s probate — Milly, Aggy, Haywood, and Bunny. After Emancipation, having adopted the surname Eason, she lived with her youngest daughter Bunny Ann Eason Hines and family in the Saratoga area. Silvia Eason apparently died between 1870 and 1880.

  • In 1868, Calvin Hines and Bunny Ann Eason, daughter of Cilva Eason, applied for a Wilson County marriage license.
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Calvin Hines, 26; wife Burnett [Bunny Ann], 25; and children Harriett, 6, and Caroline, 4; Silva Eason, 48; Milly Forbs, 31, and her children John, 3, and Vesta, 1; and William Smith.

Silvia’s daughter Milly also lived briefly with her sister and mother. Her chosen surname, Forbes, may reflect her unknown father’s name. By 1870, she had at least two living children, both born after slavery. Though she likely had older children, none have been identified. In 1874, Milly married Jacob Ellis and began a second family with him. Milly Forbes Ellis died between 1900 and 1910.

  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Calvin Hines, 26; wife Burnett, 25; and children Harriett, 6, and Caroline, 4; Silva Eason, 48; Milly Forbs, 31, and her children John, 3, and Vesta, 1; and William Smith.
  • Milly Forbs, 35, married Jacob Ellis, 22, on 28 February 1874 in Wilson County.
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 27; wife Milly, 33; and children Thadeus, 4, and Rufus, 2.
  • On 6 February 1884, Vesta Forbes, 14, married Andrew Eason, 20, at Jacob Ellis’ residence in Wilson County. [Andrew Eason was the son of Lemon Eason, who was also enslaved at Scarborough House. See below.]
  • In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 81 [sic], and Milly, 64. Also, George Ellis, 29; sister Vesty, 35; and Rufus, 4.
  • On 22 February 1903, Vestie Eason, 37, of Saratoga, daughter of Ben Moore and Millie Ellis, married Freeman Speight, 57, of Greene County, son of Paul and Mary Speight, at Pine Grove Church in Saratoga.
  • Jacob Ellis died 31 August 1926 in Speights Bridge township, Greene County. Per his death certificate, he was about 48 years old [actually, he was about 74]; was born in Wilson County to Isom Ellis and Patience Ellis; was the widower of Millie Ellis; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. George W. Ellis of Wilson was informant.
  • Rufus Ellis died 23 February 1931 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born May 1878 in Wilson County to Jacob Ellis and Milly Forbes; was a widower; and worked as a tenant farmer. George Ellis was informant.
  • Vesta Ellis died 10 August 1955 in Saratoga, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1851 [actually, circa 1869] to Jacob Ellis and Millie Forbes; resided in Holdens Crossroads; and was buried in Saints Delight Cemetery, Greene County. General Ellis of Wilson was informant.

Agnes “Young Aggy” Eason lived in the Saratoga area with her children Ellen Eason Scarborough and Jerry Eason. Agnes also likely had older children. Agnes Eason seems to have died between 1880 and 1900.

  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Agnes Eason, 43, with Ellen, 15, Abraham, 3 months, and Jerry, 6.
  • Ellen Eason, 19, married Ashley Scarboro, 22, on 29 August 1872 in Wilson.[Ashley Scarborough’s parents were William and Victoria Scarborough, and he and his father appear in the estate records of James Scarborough’s son Isaac Scarborough’s estate records.]
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Ashley Scarboro, 23 [sic]; wife Ella, 22; children Abraham, 9, Jesse, 8, Peter, 4, James F., 3, and John O.P., 2; mother-in-law Aggie Eason, 40; and brother-in-law Jerry Eason, 15.
  • On 3 January 1889, Jerry Eason, 21, son of Washington Forbes and Agie Eason, married Mary Bynum, 23, daughter of George and Fereby Bynum, in Saratoga township, Wilson County.
  • In 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 36; wife Mary, 35; and children Hattie, 10, Ad, 9, Georgianna, 8; Ferebee, 7; Lou, 3; and Charley, 2.
  • In 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 43; wife Mary, 42; and children Addie, 20, Georgianna, 19, Ferebee, 17, Lear E., 13, Charlie, 12, Joe, 10, and Mary, 2.
  • In 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 55; wife Mary, 53; Hattie, 30; Addie, 27; Mary, 12; Archie, 7; Virginia, 5; Zeelas, 2; Charlie, 20; and Joe Henry, 18.
  • In 1930 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: farmer Jerry Eason, 54; wife Mary, 50; Addie, 36; Earl, 12; Roma, 6; and Daisey, 3 months.
  • Jerry Eason died 19 October 1938 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 May 1866 in Edgecombe County to Wash Forbs and Aggie [no maiden name listed].

Lemon Eason and his wife Chaney remained in the Saratoga area. Lemon appears to have died between 1880 and 1900.

  • On 26 July 1866, Lemon Eason and Chaney Scarborough registered their 14-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace. [Chaney was enslaved by Isaac and Nancy Scarborough. Isaac’s estate records show that Chaney had several small children during the period of probate 1858-1865, but I have not identified them by name.]
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Isaac Simms, 21; wife Elvy, 18; Lemon Eason, 46; wife Chaney, 27 [sic; she likely was at least a decade older]; and children Andrew, 5, and Columbus, 2. [Elvy may have been a daughter of Lemon and Chaney Eason.]
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lemon Eason, 55, and children Andrew, 16, Columbus, 12, Larence, 10, Mary L., 7, Randal, 5, and Jane, 3.
  • On 22 December 1889, Lawrence Eason, 20, married Henrietta Price, 20, in Wilson County.
  • On 27 April 1897, Jane Eason married Henry Ward in Wilson County.
  • On 18 December 1901, Andrew Eason, 35, son of Lemon and Chaney Eason, married Nancy Smith in Wilson County.

Like Milly, Washington appears to have taken the surname Forbes. He fathered a son, Jerry Eason, by Aggie Eason circa 1865. He married a woman enslaved in Pitt County, N.C., about 1863; they settled in the Saratoga area. Washington Forbes likely died between 1880 and 1900.

  • Washington Forbes and Pattie Forbes applied for a marriage license in Wilson County on 3 April 1866, but apparently did not return it or marry.
  • On 28 July 1866, Washington Forbes and Priscilla Harrell registered their cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Washington Forbs, 47; wife Priscilla, 25; and children Rachel, 11, Ervin, 5, Adeline, 3, and Kate, 1.
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Washington Forbs, 55; wife Priscilla, 35; and children Rachel, 18, Earvin, 15, Adline, 13, Caite, 10, Anderson, 8, Arie, 8, Mariah, 4, and July, 11 months.

Scarborough House Resort recently dedicated this memorial bench hewn from a white oak felled on the property. Photo courtesy of Mahalia Witter-Merithew.

Taylor held in shooting.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1948.

Spoiler: Woodrow Taylor was acquitted.

  • Hugh Bynum
  • Will Scarborough — probably: in 1945, William Harvey Scarborough registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 September 1927 in Wilson County; lived at 511 South Walnut Street, Wilson; his contact was Festus Scarborough, same address; and he worked for Costers Beauty Supplied. 

Commemoration and celebration at Scarborough House.

Black Wide-Awake has featured several of Wilson County’s remaining antebellum plantation houses, including the James Scarborough house, built circa 1821, just outside Saratoga.

Now an event space and bed-and-breakfast, “Scarborough House Resort is committed to a long-term and ongoing effort to more deeply understand and respond to the historic role this property contributed to the injustice of slavery, as well as the legacies of enslavement on the Scarborough Plantation. Through engagement with the members of the Preservation of Wilson, collaborative projects with our surrounding community, and continued initiatives of learning and research, the Scarborough House Resort resolves to memorialize and reconcile with the wrongs of the past. We aim to follow a path of love and respect for all humanity, creating an inclusive environment, where all people will feel welcomed.” The site goes on to request that anyone with information, photographs, documents or other artifacts pertaining to Scarborough Plantation or its residents, enslaved or free, to contact or reach out to the Scarborough staff.

I am thrilled and honored that Scarborough House has engaged me to research the property’s African-American past, a first step toward respect and reconciliation. On 22 April 2023 Scarborough House Resort is hosting a tea party to benefit Preservation of Wilson. Guests will enjoy a tree-planting in honor of Earth Day, learn the history of the house and its original inhabitants, and join in the dedication of a bench memorializing the lives of enslaved people who worked its land.

Photo collage courtesy of Scarborough House Resort.

Populist vs. Republican.

Up until he killed his wife, Samuel Vick‘s sister Nettie Vick Jones, — A. Wilson Jones enjoyed a reputation as a gifted, if wily, orator.

Wilson Advance, 25 October 1894.


  • Jeremiah Scarboro — Jeremiah Scarborough, a Baptist minister and white supremacy apologist, as well as Populist politician.

The sale of Charity, Aaron, Sarah, Lucinda, and Cloe.

I have undertaken a page-by-page examination of Wilson County’s earliest deed books to look for evidence of the mortgage, sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people. I found plenty.

  • On Christmas Eve 1861, Ann Scarborough of Wilson County for natural love and affection for her daughter, Mrs. Louisianna C. Murphy, and for one dollar paid by John E.F. Harper of Greene County, sold and conveyed to Harper, in trust for Murphy’s sole use, these enslaved people: a woman named Charity, about 30 years old; a boy named Aaron, aged about 13; a girl named Sarah, aged about 7; a girl named Lucinda, aged about 5 years; and a girl named Cloe, aged about 9. Deed Book 1, page 793, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

A dispute over the estate of James Scarborough.

We revisited James Scarborough’s early nineteenth-century house outside Saratoga last week, and we examined the contents of his will here. Scarborough died shortly after executing his will in 1835, and his estate entered a lengthy and contentious probate.

To wife Martha and daughter Zilly Scarborough, along with his home and other property, Scarborough left “A Parcel of Negros that is to say Nan Aggy Sen’r Silvey Lemon Washington Sumter and Young Aggy and Haywood these Eight negros with the in Creas I lend them Jointly to Geather to my wife & daughter Zilly but by no means to be Hired out but to Remane on the Plantation to labour for them …”

To his son John R. Scarborough: “I also gave him three Likely negros when he went a way and now I give him four more after my death there names is as follows Luke Guilford Orange and Willis the above negros is not to be carryed away without a Lawful authority or Either by himself or his Heirs or Executors….” (In fact, John Scarborough took the men to Alabama even before the estate was opened, claiming that they were a gift to him rather than part of the estate.)

Scarborough died 1 March 1836. Nan, an enslaved woman, barely outlived her master:

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.29.29 PM.png

Rec’d the 28th Oct 1836 of Richard T. Eagles one of the Executors to James Scarboroughs will the sum of three Dollars & fifty Cents in full for making Coffin for Negro Nann.  William J. Lewis

The estate paid for the care of Silvey and four children for the year 1837.

Rec’d the 9th Decr 1837 the Sum of forty Dollar of Stephen Wooten and Richard T. Eagles Exer to the Estate of James Scarborgh decst for keeping Silvy and 4 children for the year 1837.  R.T. Eagles for Martha Scarbrough    Witness [illegible] Edwards

Despite James Scarborough’s express directive that “by no means” should his enslaved people be hired out, they were. Immediately.

On behalf of herself and her daughter Zilly, Martha Scarborough repeatedly challenged the terms of the will and the handling of the estate. In March 1839, pursuant to court order, a committee prepared an inventory of the enslaved people in Scarborough’s estate. They were: Aggy, age 55 ($100); Silva, age 37, and her two-month-old child Bunny ($650); Milly, age 3 ($250); Haywood, age 5 ($350); Aggy, age 7 ($400); Sumpter, age 9 ($550); Washington, age 14 ($725); and Lemon, age 16 ($850). Sumpter was “set apart” for widow Martha Scarborough.


Martha Scarborough immediately sold Sumter to her son Jonathan T. Eason. Or did she? See below.

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.37.53 PM.png

Rec’d of Jonathan T. Eason five hundred and fifty Dollars in full for negro Sumter whitch was aloted to me in the Devishion of the negroes of the Decst James Scarborough my Late husbun this the 3th of April 1839  Martha (X) Scarborough      J.B. Eason

On 5 March 1840, Jonathan T. Eason received sixty dollars from the estate for caring for Silvey and three of her children during the previous year. Silva’s children appear to have been Bunny, Milly, Haywood, and Aggy. As a seven or eight year-old, Aggy would have been considered old enough to hire out separate from her mother.

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.33.23 PM.png

In 1843, Martha Scarborough filed petition charging her son Jonathan T. Eason with having taken advantage of her by convincing that the boy Sumpter, also known as Tom Sumpter, who was eight or ten years old in January 1840, was “badly grown for his age,” and the land she’d received as dower was “poor & much exhausted by cultivation.” She claimed she had eventually given way to Eason’s solicitations to manage her property — “he had acquired in a little time a complete ascendancy over her will” —  and he had sold it away in bits and pieces. “When he obtained consent to  sell the slave Tom Sumpter which was the only one she possessed he promised that she should have another to wait and attend upon her during her life ….” In a deposition of William W. Edwards taken pursuant to Scarborough’s litigation, Edwards testified that “I was well acquainted with the negro Sumpter. He was sold by Jonathan T. Eason to John Harrell Sr. at Eagles’ store for the sum of $560.00.” (This was probably Richard T. Eagles’ store in Edgecombe County.)

The outcome of Martha Scarborough’s suit is not clear.

The James Scarborough house.

James Scarborough Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records 1665-1998,; photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

Former glory?

Today’s Wilson Times touted the renovation of the James Scarborough plantation house near Saratoga, and its new use as an event venue, as a return to its “former glory.” Though the reporter’s editor was unfazed by her nostalgic waxing, some readers on Facebook immediately homed in on the problem.

I added to the Facebook thread a link to Black Wide-Awake‘s post on this 200 year-old house. The Times article speaks of parties and weddings and family reunions, and the desire of the new owners to share “this home and its history with the community,” but there is no mention, even in passing, of the largest set of actors in that history. Nan, Aggy Sr., Silvey, Lemon, Washington, Sumter, Young Aggy, Haywood, Luke, Gilford, Orange, and Willis, among others, were enslaved by James and Martha Scarborough, and their labor created and sustained the family’s wealth. Enslaved men and women built this house, labored in its fields, cooked in its kitchen, cared for its children. Glory came only with freedom.

After some hours, The Times modified its article and offered this statement — an acknowledgment that stops well short of an apology and seems still to miss the point.

My thanks to all who spoke truth and demanded accountability today.

Photo courtesy of Wilson Times.