slave sale

The 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], http://www.ancestry.com.

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

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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

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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], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

Materially and essentially promoted.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County  }   Court of Equity, Fall Term 1860

To the Honorble, the Judge of Said Court

The Petition of Joshua Barnes Trustee of Mary Harper and of John Harper & Mary Harper his wife

Humbly complaining respectfully Showeth unto your Honor that on the 12th day of May AD 1855 a deed was executed by your Petitioner John Harper conveying certain slaves to your Petitioner Joshua Barnes in trust for the benefit of your Petitioner the said Mary Harper who is the wife of your petitioner John Harper for a more minute description of which Refference is hereby made, and a true and verified copy of which is hereunto Attached Marked A and prayed to be taken as a part of this your Petitioners Petition

Your Petitioners further show that in pursuance to said deed your petitioner held said Slaves therein conveyed until some time in the month of [blank] when one of the slaves man named Jason therein conveyed becoming so disorderly and rebellis that it became unsafe for him to remain in this community for his life having been frequently threatened on an account of Spirit of insubordination and rebellion when your petitioner took him & sent him out of the State & sold him the sum of fifteen hundred and fifteen dollars and out the proceeds of said he purchased a negro woman Named Agnes & child for the sum of twelve hundred and fifty dollars this was done by and with the consent and approval of your petitioners John & Mary Harper and under the advice of many of the friends of all your petitioners.

In as much therefore as the acts and doings of the trustee aforesaid are not binding and legitimate without the Sanction of the this Court and in as much as the interest of his cestui que trust has been materially and essentially promoted by the sale of Slave Jason and purchase of Woman Agnes & child (now [blank] children)

Your petitioners do therefore pray your Honor to duly consider the premises and make a decree confirming the sale of said Slave Jason and also the purchase of the Agnes & child and ordering, directing and decreeing that the Said Joshua Barnes as trustee aforesaid shall keep hold use and apply to the same uses purposes and trusts as was expressed and implied in the original conveyance from Harper to Barnes aforesaid the said woman Slave Agness & children and their increase and the balance of the money arising from the sale of Jason after paying for the woman Agness & child and all necessary expenses of selling Jason and purchasing Agness & child together with the costs of this proceeding

And as in duty bound your Petitioners will ever pray &c      E.A. Thompson Solicitor for Petitioner

He shall be at liberty to expend in hiring of laborers to assist in supporting the family or otherwise as he may consider best for the interest of his cestui que trust.

Jas. D. Barnes John T. Barnes maketh oath that in their opinion the interest of the Cestui que trust the said Mary Harper has been materially and essentially promoted by the sale of the Slave Jason and the purchase of Negro woman Agnes & child

Sworn to & subscribed before me this 5th day of Dec 1860} J.T. Barnes, Jas. D. Barnes, Wm. H. Barnes C.M.E.

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[Attachment A]

Know all men by these presents that I, John Harper, of the county of Wilson State of North Carolina for & in consideration of the natural love & affection I bear to my wife Mary Harper & my children & for the further consideration of one Dollar in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have given, granted, bargained, sold & conveyed & by these presents do give, grant, bargain sell & convey unto Joshua Barnes three slaves, Jason, Lettice & Martha To have & to hold unto the said Joshua Barnes his executors & administrators nevertheless in Trust for the sole & separate use & benefit of the said Mary Harper during her Natural life or widowhood, & after her death or Marriage to divide & make over the same to such person or persons as would be my Distributees at that time. And the said Joshua Barnes for himself his executors & administrators does hereby covenant & agree to faithfully execute the above Trusts.

In testimony whereof I the said John Harper & Joshua Barnes as Trustee hereunto affix our hands & seals this the 12th day of May AD 1855.   John Harper {seal} Witness Geo. Howard Jr.

State of North Carolina Wilson County This is the 12th day of May 1855 Geo Howard Jr the subscribing witness to the above Deed appears before me & being duly sworn proved the execution of the same by John Harper whereupon it is so ordered to be registered  Washington Barnes C.C. Clerk

This deed was received for Registration the 12th day of May 1855  L. Sauls Register

I hereby certify that this is a true copy of the above Deed from the Register Oct 22 AD 1860  A.J. Brown Reg

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In other words, John Harper set aside three enslaved people in trust for his wife and children and designated Joshua Barnes — “Father of Wilson County” — as trustee. When Jason became “disorderly and rebellious,” Barnes sold him out of state and purchased Agnes and her child with the proceeds. A trustee’s actions required court approval, and Barnes petitioned for same, asserting that the transactions had benefited the trust. He also tacked on a request to be able to hire laborers, i.e. slaves, to support the Harper family.

Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.