slave sale

The sales of Penelope, Emily, Rose, Caroline, Isham, Harriet, Lewis, Haywood, Eugena, Dicy, Teresa, Guilford, Mary, Judah, and William.

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 1 January 1856, for love and affection, Thomas Hadley of Wilson County sold to Mary Malvina Hadley, wife of Stephen Woodard, nine enslaved people — Penelope, Emily, Rose, Caroline, Isham, Harriet, Lewis, Haywood, and Eugena. Deed Book 1, page 542, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Stephen Woodard Jr. was a physician in Black Creek township. His and Mary Hadley Woodard’s children included Sidney A. Woodard, Paul L. Woodard, and Frederick A. Woodard.]
  • On 3 February 1859, for $6555, David Taylor of Wilson County sold to R.J. Taylor of Wilson County “all of his the said David Taylors slaves to wit Dicy Teresa Guilford Mary (Moll) Judah & William (Bill),” as well a horse and buggy, furniture, all stock in trade in David Taylor’s liquor establishment, and various farm animals. Deed Book 1, page 392, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [David Taylor lived in Oldfields township, Wilson County, which had formerly been Nash County. In the 1850 Nash County slave schedule, he is listed with six enslaved people — women aged 40, 55, and 48; two boys aged 5 and 6; and a girl aged 2. Despite the statement in the bill of sale that he was selling “all” of his slaves, Taylor reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County two women aged 47 and 50, a 13 year-old boy, and girls aged 8 and 12. Robert Jackson Taylor (1833-1912) was David Taylor’s son.]

The sales of Peggy, Henry, Mourning, Harry, Elvy, Essex, Aaron, and Julia.

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 10 May 1860, for love and affection, John P. Clark sold Pomeroy P. Clark, in trust for Nancy B. Clark, a woman named Peggy, aged about 25, her children Henry, 7, and Mourning, 3, and a man named Harry, 19. Deed Book 1, page 570, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [John P. Clark is listed in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County as the owner of five enslaved people — a 25 year-old woman (Peggy), a 19 year-old man (Harry), a 7 year-old boy (Henry), a 5 year-old girl, and a 3 year-old girl (Mourning). For more about Peggy Flowers Farmer and Harry Clark, see here and here and here.]
  • On 29 December 1860, for $1, Jennet Holland of Wilson County transferred Needham G. Holland of Wilson County, in trust, property to sell as he thought most advantageous to the benefit of numerous creditors assorted property, including 415 acres on Great Swamp in Wayne and Wilson Counties, farm animals, and enslaved people Elvy, Essex, Aaron, and Julia. Deed Book 1, page 658, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Forty-six year-old Jennet Holland is a head of household in the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County.]

The sales of George, Harry, Anica, Frances, Lorenzo, Easter, Edith, and Albert.

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 3 February 1859, for $925, J.T. Rountree, acting on behalf of J.T. Bynum of Wilson County, sold Eli Robbins of Wilson County “one negro a boy by the name of George about twelve years & ten months old.” Deed Book 1, page 408, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • Also on 3 February 1859, for $1040, David Webb of Wilson County sold Eli Robbins of Wilson County a man named Harry, aged about 28 years. Deed Book 1, page 409, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Eli Robbins died in 1864. On 23 October of that year, an inventory of his estate recorded “five negroes Keziah, Amos, Harry, George, Jinny.”

  • On 1 April 1859, Sarah A.E. Stephens of Wilson County pledged to James J. Taylor as security for several notes totaling about $1700 a parcel of land on Barnes Street and Anica, Frances, and Lorenzo. Deed Book 1, page 422, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 26 June 1857, for $600, J. William Barnes sold Jesse Haynes a 9 year-old girl named Easter. The sale was not recorded until 26 April 1859. Deed Book 1, page 457, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [In the 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, Jesse Haynes reported owning two enslaved people — a 36 year-old woman and an 11 year-old girl, who was almost surely Easter.]
  • Also on 26 June 1857, for $600, J. William Barnes sold Jonas Lamb a girl named Edith, aged about 11. Deed Book 1, page 510, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [Whether or not they were sisters, Easter and Edith had lived in the same small community, and the pain of their separation from their families and each other is unfathomable.]
  • On 1 January 1859, for $575, Bennett Barnes sold Benjamin Parker an 8 year-old boy named Albert. Deed Book 1, page 518, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. [In the 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, Benjamin Parker reported owning three enslaved people — a 25 year-old woman and two boys, aged 10 (almost surely Albert) and 1.]

Eli Robbins Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records 1665-1998,

The sale of Westley, who is sound and healthy.

Received of John P. Bardin & Wm. H. Bardin six hundred & twenty Dollars in full payment of a negro boy named Westley The title of said negro I will forever warrant & defend I also warrant him to be sound & healthy, January 25th 1858  Amos Barnes

The execution of the foregoing Deed is proven before me by the acknowledgement of Jas. H. Barnes. Let it be registered Jan 29th 1858  J.C. Davis Clk

Deed Book 1, Page 328, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Silah and her daughter Lucinda mortgaged to pay the debts of James Viverette.

On 20 February 1855, James Viverett of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, conveyed to trustee James Wiggins “two Slaves one woman by the name of Silah & child name Lucinda three head of houses five head of cattle twenty five head hogs three goats all my featherbeds & furniture together with the whole of my house hold & kitchen furniture all my corn & blade fodder peas &c” as security for debts owed to six entities, most of which appear to have been mercantile outfits. If Viverett were to default, all the listed property would be sold at public auction to pay off his debt. Viverett and his creditors appear to have lived on either side of the Wilson County-Edgecombe County border in the Town Creek-Temperance Hall area.

One of the creditors, William J. Armstrong, a merchant in what is now Elm City, died two years later. His estate records show that “Scilla” and her unnamed children were among Armstrong’s enslaved property. Scilla and one unnamed child (presumably an infant born after the conveyance above) were given to Armstrong’s son-in-law Willie G. Barnes and Barnes’ wife (unnamed in the document, but Mary E. Armstrong Barnes.) A Lucinda, who may have been Scilla’s older child above, went to W.J. Armstrong’s son-in-law John H. Winstead and wife (who was Crissie Armstrong Winstead.) (Children over about age eight were listed individually in inventories and freely separated from their mothers.) Thus, in the space of two years, Scilla changed hands twice and was separated from a daughter who was probably no more than about age eight or nine.

The transaction is recorded in Deed Book 1, page 21, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

The great black section.

The Local History Room of Wilson County Public Library’s Main Branch holds a copy of Daisy Hendley Gold’s typewritten manuscript, “A Town Named Wilson,” published in 1949. It doesn’t have anything to say about African-Americans except this:

“Evidence of prosperity and the possession of cash money was found in the large number of slave owners in Wilson town and county. This was the period when this area was one of the great ‘black’ sections of the state.

“In 1855 William Daniel was prosperous enough to pay Amos Horne the following substantial sums for slaves: $875 for slave Harry, 19 years; $875 for Alfred, 18; $800 for Oney, 17; $675 for Gray, 14.

“In the same year John Harper who lived near Wilson left three slaves, Jason, Lettice and Martha, in trust with General Joshua Barnes for the ‘sole and separate use and benefit of Mary Harper.'”

The last will and testament of Moses Farmer Sr.

Moses Farmer Sr. of Edgecombe County [near Toisnot Swamp, later Wilson County] made out his will in 1844. Among its very specific provisions were these:

  • Other then a few items mentioned, all his perishable estate was to be sold “except my negroes,” and the tract of land on which his brother Samuel Farmer lived was to be sold privately if it would bring $250. Otherwise it was to be sold at auction.

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  • If the sale of the perishables and the Samuel Farmer tract did not raise enough cash to settle Moses Farmer’s debts, Farmer directed his executor to sell “enough of my negroes either at public or private sale to the best advantage such as he thinks most suitable”

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  • Farmer’s wife or eldest son Larry D. Farmer were to hire”Negro woman called big Chainny” from the estate “as long as she is hired out at a reasonable price for each year.”

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  • As Samuel Farmer was “verry much indebted” to Moses Farmer, and possibly unable to pay his debts, Moses let his executor decide whether to sell Samuel’s “negroes at private sale if they can agree on the price if not to have them sold at public sale.” Either way, the executor was to buy Samuel’s “negro woman Mariny” for Moses’ estate and hire her out to Samuel for $10 per year as long as he remained in-state. At Samuel’s death, Mariny was “to be disposed of as” Moses’ property. If Samuel tried to move Mariny out of state, however, she was to be sold. [Who was Mariny to Samuel? Why did not Moses take some measures to keep her with Samuel even as he gave permission for the people enslaved with her to be sold off?]

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Moses Farmer Sr. died in 1848. His estate file does not appear to contain an inventory of his enslaved people. However, it does contain the petition filed by Farmer’s heirs at the November 1848 session of court seeking to sell “a certain slave named Rina or Marina” in order to divide her value among them. The petition was granted. On 1 January 1949, Joshua Barnes purchased Marina for $325.

Will of Moses Farmer (1844), North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],; Moses Farmer (1844), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,


An account of the sale of Negroes.


On 3 January 1859, administratrix Mahala Barnes sold two families belonging to her deceased husband Elias Barnesestate. Elias’ brother Joshua Barnes purchased Axey and her two children for $1321 and Rachel and her child for $1105 on behalf of the estate of Jesse Barnes Sr., who was Elias and Joshua’s late father.

Estate of Elias Barnes (1856), North Carolina Wills and Estates 1665-1998 [database on-line],

The last will and estate of William H. Skinner.

William H. Skinner made out his will in Wilson County on 8 September 1860. Among other things, he left his wife Rebecca Skinner 423 acres “on both sides of the swamp,” “also the following Slaves [blank] & two children Randal & Judy a boy Peter a slave, a boy a slave Jo ….” [The phrasing and lack of punctuation make it difficult to determine how many people are included in this list.]

Skinner also directed “a Negro Girl Matilda & all the balance of my Property … be divided among” several named heirs and, at his wife’s death, all slaves were to be sold and the proceeds divided among his remaining heirs.

On 11 January 1861, executor Thomas H. Skinner held a public sale of William H. Skinner’s personal property. The very last item listed, accounting for more than a quarter of the proceeds brought in, is this unnamed woman. Presumably, she was Matilda:

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In 1866, Peter Skinner and Cherry Sharp registered their cohabitation in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Peter Skinner, 24; wife Cherry, 24; and children Van, 7, and Fate, 3.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Rosa Skinner, 30; and children Randal, 13, farm laborer, and John, 8, Judea, 7, Dennis, 3, and Amos, 3 months.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Peter Skinner, 35; wife Sarah, 35; and children Van Buren, 14, and Lafayette, 13.

Will of W.H. Skinner (1860); Estate Records of W.H. Skinner (1860); Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Sukey’s journey, part 1.

Recd. of Jas. B. Woodard a negro girl Sucky in his possession as Execr. of Obedience Brownrigg decd., the legacy of Alfred Brownrigg which said girl was sold by Alfred Brownrigg to Edwin Brownrigg in as good health & Condition as he recd. her under the will of Mrs. Brownrigg, and obligates to hold him the sd. Woodard harmless in Event any difficulty should rise from the delivery of sd. negro.    Feby. 14th 1842  Jno. Wright for Edwin Brownrigg


Waynesboro, N.C., 15 Feb. 1842

Edwin Barnes, Esq., Tosnot Depot

Dr Sir, You will please hand Mr. Barnes the above receipt for Sucky. If it does not suit him, write out any thing to give him such as will satisfy him. I am under many obligations to you for the trouble I have put you to in this and other matters of mine. I am much in hopes yr health will speedily return.

Yours Truly, Jno. Wright


This note and receipt are transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian, republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society in 2003. What is going on here?

Obedience Thomas Tartt Brownrigg died in 1840, likely on her plantation near White Oak Swamp in what was then Edgecombe County. She had drafted a will in April 1839, and among its many bequests were these:

  • to daughter Maria Burden [Borden] — “Tom Penny Dennis & William & Maria & Jim & Ellick
  • to son Alfred Brownrigg — “one negro girl by the name of Susan”
  • to daughter Obedience Wright — “one boy Henry one boy Lonor one negroe woman named Winny one boy Bryant one boy John also one girl named Angy & Anscy
  • also to daughter Obedience Wright — “one negro woman named Cloy one negro man named Joe and all my Table & Tea Spoons it it my Will and desire that the labor of Joe Shall Support the Old Woman Cloy her life time then Joe to Obedience Wright”

Obedience Brownrigg’s first husband was Elnathan Tartt, who died in 1796. As shown here, he bequeathed his wife an enslaved woman named Cloe [Chloe], who is surely the Cloy named above, and man named Ellic, who is probably Ellick.

Obedience’s second husband was George Brownrigg, who died without a will in 1821. An inventory of his estate included enslaved people Ellick, Chloe, Joe, Jem, Tom, Penny, Drury, Tom, Annie, Matilda, Suckey, Clara, Fereba, Sarah, Clarky, Anthony, Rachel, Mary, Nelson, Emily, Julia and Abram, and several others unnamed in a petition for division of negroes filed by his heirs in 1825. Ellick and Chloe surely are the man and woman Obedience brought to the marriage. I have not found evidence of the distribution of George Brownrigg’s enslaved property, but Joe, Tom, Penny and Susan seem to have passed to his wife Obedience. (Suckey, pronounced “Sooky,” was a common nickname for Susan.)

So, back to the receipt.

George Brownrigg bequeathed Susan “Sukey” to his widow Obedience about 1821. Obedience Brownrigg in turn left Sukey to her son Alfred Brownrigg. Alfred Brownrigg quickly sold Sukey to his brother Edwin Barnes Brownrigg. On 15 February 1842, Edwin’s representative John Wright took possession of Sukey from James B. Woodard, Obedience Brownrigg’s executor. Wright was married to Eliza Obedience Brownrigg Wright, daughter to Obedience Brownrigg and sister to Alfred and Edwin.

The note is less clear. Wright, who lived in Waynesborough (once the Wayne County seat, now long defunct) is asking someone (the unnamed “sir”) to deliver the receipt to Edwin Barnes of Toisnot Depot (now Wilson.) There were several Edwin Barneses in southeast Edgecombe (to become Wilson) County at that time.  And Edwin Brownrigg’s middle name was Barnes. Are Edwin Barnes and Edwin Brownrigg the same man, whose name was misgiven in one or the documents? In other words, should the receipt have been made out instead to the Edwin Barnes mentioned in the note? If this were the case, the note would make immediate sense. As to Sukey, I’ll explore a possible twist to her story in another post.]

Estate Records of Obedience Brownrigg, Estate Records of George Brownrigg, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],