trustee

Confusion and trouble.

Here we examined the messy machinations of the administration of Weeks Parker’s estate, which entered probate in Edgecombe County in 1844. One of his legatees was daughter Margaret H. Battle, wife of Rev. Amos J. Battle and a Wilson resident by the mid-1850s.

Hugh B. Johnston transcribed this May 1861 letter to Rev. Battle from James Davis of Wilson, the court-appointed trustees of Margaret Battle’s share of estate. (The original letter does not appear to have preserved among the Battle papers.) The letter is difficult to decipher out of context but to seems to suggest that Davis felt significant pressure to bring in quick money by selling slaves rather than hiring them out and was protesting the interference in his management of Mrs. Battle’s affairs. Recall that Weeks Parker had purposefully drafted the terms of his will to hold in trust slaves Lucindy, Stephen, Turner, Lewis, George, Marina, Tony, Matilda, Caroline, William, Holly, Big Hardy, Ben, Cena, Moses, Syphax, Little Hardy, Jim, Lucy and Little Jim “for the sole and separate use and benefit of daughter Margaret H. Battle wife of Amos J. Battle during her natural life free from the management and control of her present or any future husband.”

Mr. Battle

My Dear Sir, I have striven in vain in the management as Trustee of Mrs. Battle’s affairs to act in such a way as would conduce to the interest of all concerned and at the same time to avoid giving occasion to those dissensions & wranglings in the family which I know are so harassing to you all. I have not in any arrangement which I have attempted to make been actuated by an motive of self interest of for my own security — but having been fully satisfied by the last years management of the farm & negroes that there could not upon any just ground be expected an adequate support for the family for the ensuing year from the farm, I advised the hireing out of the negroes & I was of the opinion & still am that it would have been best to have hired out every single man — According to an understanding had some 2 or 3 months ago I gave to Dr. Bullock the choice and the refusal of all the hands to be hired out; in pursuance of this arrangement I went to see Mrs. Battle & knew of her which of the negroes she had determined to keep & told her at the time that Dr. B. was to have such of the rest as he wanted, & this arrangement I shall most certainly adhere to as long I have any say-so in the matter, because I have made the promise to Dr. B. & I see no just reason why I should violate it.

In regard to the sale of the Women and Children and the appropriation of the proceeds of the sale to any other purpose than the buying of such other property as the Court may be satisfied is of equivalent value, I am satisfied upon an examination the will can not be done. I am however perfectly willing to appropriate every dollar of the hire of the negroes to the purchase of provisions & I will take the notes and advance the money (Provided the sureties to that notes agree to this arrangement) & I can not see why they should not in view of the condition in which you find yourself as to provisions.

If Mrs. Battle wishes the girl at Dr Harrel’s Exchanged, I will try and effect the Exchange as soon as I can conveniently do so, but I can not and will not do that with regard to this property which I am not authorized to do by the will. If I could have the absolute and undisturbed control of the negroes, I have not the shadow of a doubt I could realize from them a handsome support for your family, but as long as their whims and caprices are to consulted & there is no settled plan as to their management, there will inevitably be confusion and trouble.

I am writing plainly, not out of any feeling of vexation or resentment, but simply because you have written thus to me, and because the circumstances of the case demand plain and prompt action. I am now as I ever have been very willing to render through motives of friendship such service to your family as I may be able, & it is only by the exercise of the strictest economy that in the present arrangement of your force that you can get through this year, & instead of hireing either for the farm or for other purposes, it most certainly is the true policy to get clear of every one that can possibly be dispensed with.

I was from home from Tuesday last to Saturday evening or you would have heard from me sooner. You must be content as I and as many others have to, tho, to trust the future somewhat. I have not got corn enough on hand to last 2 months & but few have a year’s supply of corn or meat & if the Sureties to that note will as I have no doubt they will if the matter is properly represented to them consent to the appropriation of the negro hire to the purchase of provisions, it will place some 1200$ at your disposal & as soon as the notes are placed in my hands you can buy corn or meat & draw on me for the full amount of the notes & I will pay the orders.

This amt will surely relieve you till the next term of our Sup’r Court, when we can obtain (if necessary) in a legal manner such a decree as will enable us to get along for the bal. of the year, but as I have already said, I will not without proper authority violate the plain letter of that will — and I can but think that your threat to sell those negroes is made without due consideration. It is but too evident that there is a feeling of restlessness in regard to those negroes, a continual disposition to sell or exchange, which must result if persisted in to the detriment of the estate, & while I am always willing to do that which will promote the comfort or interest of Mrs. Battle or her family, I must see a good reason why a sale or exchange should be made before I proceed to make it. You need not send the Woman & children to me, but if you wish to dispose of her for the year, please come & let me know what kind of a negro she is, what incumbrance to her &c I will Endeavor to get her off your hands.

P.S. I have just seen Dr B. he gives up Hardy & keeps Stephen, Hilliard, & Turner — says further that he is willing to the appropriation of the negro hire Except his own to be applied as above proposed & I have no doubt will willingly agree to his own hire going in the same way if I solicit it, which I will if Mrs. Battle signifies her assent to the arrangement. It may be proper for me here to say in order to give Mrs. Battle time to select another that I shall be compelled upon the first opportunity (which will be at the June Court) to resign my Trusteeship because I see probability of my being able to so manage her affairs as to secure her best interest & retain the good will of others concerned

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Turner, Hilliard, Hardy, and Stephen were among the group of enslaved people Margaret P. Battle inherited from her father.

Letter 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, March 2003.

Vick buys a lot from the Knights of Labor.

In 1891, Samuel H. Vick purchased the lot upon which he built the Orange Hotel from the trustees of Knights of Labor Local 10699, an organization of which he was a member. The Knights of Labor had purchased the lot from William Smith and wife Harriett Smith on 22 December 1887 for $300.

S.H. Vick built a hotel-cum-boarding house at 519 East Nash Street on land he purchased at a discount from the Knights of Labor. The building is shown here on the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Here is a transcription of Vick’s deed, which is found in Book 30, Pages 92-93, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson:

This deed made by John H. Clark, John Ratley, Gilbert Stallings, William Goffney, George Harris, Wilson Sharpe and Daniel Vick, trustees of Local Assembly Number 10,699, Knights of Labor (the same being successors to James Bynum, Jack Hilliard, Wilson Sharpe, Charles Barnes, Daniel Vick, Wade Barnes, Samuel Williams, Samuel H. Vick and Reddick Strickland, former trustees of said assembly) the parties of the first part to S.H. Vick the Party of the second part all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina. Witnesseth that that [sic] the said parties of the first part by the direction of said assembly in meeting assembled and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold and conveyed and do by these presents bargain sell and convey unto him the said S.H. Vick One certain lot or parcel of land, lying and being Situate in the Town of Wilson State aforesaid on Nash Street adjoining the lands of Peter Rountree R.J. Taylor and others and bounded as follows. Beginning at Peter Rountrees corner on Nash Street thence with said Rountrees line to R.J. Taylors line thence nearly northwest to Henry Jones line thence with said Jones line to Nash Street thence with said Street to the beginning Containing One half acre more or less and for a more particular description of said land reference is made to the deed of Jas. E. Clark administrator to William Smith recorded in Book No 16 Page 373, in the Registers office of Wilson County.

To have, and to hold, said lot or parcel of land unto him the said S.H. Vick his heirs and assigns in fee simple together with all the privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging or appertaining to his and their only use & behoof and the said parties of the first part do for themselves their heirs and successors in office warrant to deed with the said S.H. Vick & his heirs that they will forever warrant and defend the title to said land against the lawful claims of and and all persons whomsoever to him the said S.H. Vick & his heirs. Witness our hands & seals this the 9th day of March 1891

[Signed] John Henry Clark, John (X) Ratley, Gilbert (X) Stallings, William (X) Goffney, George (X) Harris, Wilson (X) Sharpe, Daniel (X) Vick. Witness as to all J.D. Bardin

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  • John H. Clark
  • John Ratley — John Ratley, 37, married Eliza Mitchell, 31, on 26 August 1872 in Wilson. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, South Carolina-born John Ratley, 88; daughter Martha, 45, servant; and boarder Kernal Jordan, 46, wagon factory laborer. John Rattley died 22 February 1922 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was born in South Carolina to unknown parents; was a widower; resided at 630 Suggs Street; and had been a laborer. Martha Rattley Jordan was informant. [Martha Rattley, as financial secretary, signed Jane Bynum’s Knights of Labor dues card in 1888.]
  • Gilbert Stallings — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Gilbert Stallings, 28; wife Georgeanna, 23; and children Clara, 6, and Mary, 2. Gilbert Stallings died 13 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 February 1854 in Franklin County to John Stallings and Hannah Upperman; was married; and was a farmer. Informant was G.W. Stallings.
  • William Goffney
  • George Harris
  • Wilson Sharpe – probably, in the 1880 census of Taylors township, farmer Wilson Sharp, 52; wife Cherry, 45; nephew Jerry Bynum, 6; and James Mitchel, 47, with wife Rosa, 33, and son James G., 11.
  • Daniel Vick
  • James Bynum
  • Jack Hilliard — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jack Hilliard, 40, farmer; wife Laura, 25; and children Mattie, 5, John, 3, and Doctor, 1.
  • Charles Barnes
  • Wade Barnes
  • Samuel Williams
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • Reddick Strickland — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Redick Strickland, 54; wife Mary, 51; and children Berry, 23, Joseph, 20, Robert, 18, Spencer, 13, and Lily, 10; and grandfather Solomon Strickland, 102.
  • Peter Rountree

Trustees purchase land for the Baptist Church.

In 1906, Samuel H. Vick and Elijah L. Reid sold a lot at the corner of Nash and Pender Streets to trustees of the Missionary Baptist Church. The document below is a mortgage securing the purchase price.

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This agreement made and entered into this the 19th day of July, 1906, by and between S.H. Vick and E.L. Reid of the first part, and Parker Battle, George Woodard, S.D. Henderson and Walter Foster, Trustees of the Missionary Baptist Church, of the second part.

WITNESSETH: — The said parties mutually agree the one with the other, that in consideration of the mutual stipulations herein contained, as follows, to wit

That the said S.H. Vick and E.L. Reid shall have the rights to the rents to Jan. 1st, 1907, and to remove from the lot on the corner of Nash and Pender Streets, in the town of Wilson, and heretofore conveyed unto the said Trustees by them, all the buildings now located thereon, at any time prior to the 1st day of January, 1907, and that such removal shall not in wise effect the purchase price for the said lot heretofore agreed upon as set forth in the deed for the said lot.

It is further agreed, that if the said trustees shall not be able to pay such an amount on the note held by Silas Lucas and secured by a mortgage to him on the said real estate, as shall satisfy the said Lucas so that he shall give his consent to the removal of the said buildings then and in that event the said S.H. Vick and E.L. Reid hereby agree that they will extend the time of the payment of the note due unto them as a portion of the purchase price and secured by the mortgage on said lot, by allowing the sum of Three Hundred dollars to be paid at any time within six months after the 1st, day of January 1907.           /s/ S.H. Vick, E.L. Reid, W.M. Foster, Parker Battle, George W. Woodard, S.D. (X) Henderson

[Handwritten] It is also further, agreed that the buggy house and stable situated on the premises herein described shall remain on said premises, and be used by the trustees until the church contemplated to be built on said lot shall have been completed. E.L. Reid & S.H. Vick via E.L. Reid.

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  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick.
  • E.L. Reid — Veterinarian Elijah L. Reid seems never to be credited as half the partnership that sold the lot at the corner of Nash and Pender to First Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Parker Battle — Battle died in 1914, just a year after the new church was completed.
  • George W. Woodard
  • S.D. Henderson — Sandy D. Henderson.
  • Walter Foster — Walter M. Foster.
  • Missionary Baptist Church — This church later merged with Jackson Chapel to become today’s Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Silas Lucas — A wealthy brick maker, builder and real estate developer.

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The corner of Nash and Pender as shown in the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, two years before ground-breaking for church’s construction.

Deed book 72, page 141, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Establishing a graded school.

From “The Graded School Bill: An Act to Establish a Graded School in Wilson township, Wilson County,” as published in the Wilson Advance. The North Carolina legislature ratified the bill on 27 February 1883.

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Wilson Advance, 23 March 1883.

  • E.C. Simms. Edward Cicero Simms was a teacher. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Edward C. Simms, 23, wife Nicy, 26, and son Edward, 7 months. By 1891, the Simms family had moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where Edward is listed in the city directory. By 1897, Edward was an ordained A.M.E. Zion minister, as shown in this 9 May 1897 edition of the Norfolk Virginian:

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  • G.A. Farmer. Probably, Gray Farmer, a carpenter and constable.
  • Peter Rountree was a shoemaker.
  • Charles Battle was a blacksmith.
  • Jerry Washington. Jeremiah Washington was a blacksmith. His daughter Annie Maria married Samuel H. Vick.
  • C.M. Jones
  • Daniel Vick, carpenter, farmer and politician, was the father of Samuel H. Vick.
  • Samuel Williams was a baker, then grocer. In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: baker Samuel Williams, 30, with carpenter Daniel Vick, 25, wife Fanny, 24, and children Samuel, 8, Earnest, 3, Netta M., 5, and Violet Drake, 52. On 24 September 1870, Samuel Williams, parents unknown, married Ann Scarbro, daughter of Jack and Zaly Adams, in Wilson. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Williams, 38, wife Ann, 47, and daughter Anna, 9. In the 1900 census, grocer Samuel Williams, 58, with lodgers William Jackson, 36, and William Allen, 25, both tobacco graders.
  • C.H. Darden. Charles H. Darden was a blacksmith and, later, undertaker. In 1938, Wilson’s high school for African-American children would be named for Darden.

Trustees of the Colored Methodist Church of Elm City.

WDT 11 15 1910

Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1910.

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I have not been able to identify W.S. Allen, but in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: 55 year-old rock quarryman John Jones; Virginia-born laundress wife Mollie, 45; and children Annie B., 15, John, 15, and William, 5.

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.