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:
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, 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
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.
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.