Every once in a while, antebellum Wilson County estate records will offer details about enslaved people that allow you to identify nuclear families and to trace their movements in the tumultuous period after a slaveholder died and a community was broken up. The probate of the undated will of Elias Barnes of Edgecombe County [later the Saratoga area of Wilson County], drafted prior to 1855, is a rich example.
Elias Barnes, son of Jesse and Edith Jordan Barnes, was the brother of prominent farmer, politician and slaveholder Joshua Barnes, often dubbed “Father of Wilson County” for his efforts to establish the county. He married Mahala F. Sharpe, daughter of Benjamin and Anna Farmer Sharpe, in Edgecombe County in 1830.
Barnes’ will included these provisions:
- to wife Mahala Barnes and children Joshua Barnes, Elias Barnes and Willis Barnes $3584 “worth of my negro slaves” each (unnamed), and
- to children Benjamin B. Barnes, John S. Barnes, Jesse Barnes, Edith Barnes, and William Barnes $2500 “worth of my negro slaves” each
Elias Barnes was fatally stuck by lightning in June 1856, when most of his children were minors. The inventory of his estate, taken 27 October 1856, included these 55 enslaved people:
List of Slaves: Jack, Celia, Jim Sr., Elva, Ann, Reddick, Spice, Exy, Mary, Green, Scinda, Siller, Gincey, Daniel, Jim Jr., George, Rachel, Zany, Pleasant, Gilbert, Harry, Charles, Cad, Cooper, Spence, Winny, Brister, Eliza, Minters, Willie, Susan, Albert, Chany, Sarah, Abel, Austin, Adeline, Henry, Hardy, Sampson, Morrison, Liberty, Cary, Lewis, Judith, Jolly, Warren, Hilliard, Edward, Bob Sr., Bob Jr., Clark, Winsor, Gray, Bunny.
Here’s a partial list that includes alternate spellings or full names of some of the people listed above, such as Scinda/Cindy, Cad/Cadmus, Minters/Mentus, and Siller/Priscilla.
Mahala Barnes administered her husband’s estate. At the first of the year following his death, she hired out most of his slaves to family members, like her brother-in-law Joshua Barnes, daughter Anna S. Thompson, and son John P. Barnes. Note these family groups hired out together: Redick, Spice and four children; Gray, Bonny and three children, Sillah and child; and Ax and three children. (And possibly, Clark and Abel and Ann and Sampson.)
Again in January 1858, the enslaved people of Elias Barnes’ estate were hired out. This time, Mahala Barnes was ready to assume control of her husband’s farm operations and hired many herself. Note that Reddick and Spice had had another child together; Bonny/Bunny had had another child; and Elva and Eliza now had two children. (Together? Separately?)
In October of 1858, for just over $2500, administrator Mahala Barnes sold Axey and her two children and Rachel and her child to her brother-in-law Joshua Barnes in his capacity as administrator of the estate of his father Jesse Barnes Sr.
The partition of Elias Barnes’ enslaved property, valued at $32,076.00, was made 1 January 1859:
- to Benjamin B. Barnes — Gilbert, Jim, Anna, Sampson, valued at $2451.00
- to John P. Barnes — Bob, Cilla, Spicy and child Ida, and Jolly, valued at $2400.00
- to Jesse Barnes — Hardy, Clarky and child Celia, and Cooper, valued at $2425.00
- to Edith Barnes — Cinda, Gray, Bunny and child Violet, and Hilliard, valued at $2550.00
- to William Barnes — Willie, Winnie and Reddick, valued at $2350.00
- to Mahala Barnes, widow — Harry, Green, Mary, Elva, Eliza, Austin and Jack (“invalid”), $4175.00 (with a credit of $150 for Jack)
- the balance in common to minor children Joshua, Elias, Willis and Mahala J. Barnes, valued at $16,725.00
For more on the lives (and deaths) of Elias and Mahala Sharpe Barnes and their children, see Katharina Schichtherle’s article in the Autumn 2015 edition of Military Images, an on-line magazine.
Barnes is far and away the most common surname in Wilson County, black or white. And the universe of given names was far smaller in the mid-1800s than it is now. Further, many freedmen did not adopt the surname of their enslaver at Emancipation, especially women and children whose husbands and fathers had had a different owner. These facts complicate the identification in the postbellum period of the men and women who once lived on Elias Barnes’ plantation.
The pair listed in the 1857 hire list may have been a couple. Harriet Barnes, daughter of Sampson Farmer and Ann Barnes, married Robert Barnes, son of Tony Flowers and Hanah Bass, on 20 July 1867 in Wilson County. (Though if so, where was Harriet in the 1856 inventory?)
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Austin Barnes, 45; wife Cintha, 33; and children Fonser, 12, and Etna, 7. (The 1870 mortality schedule of Saratoga township lists five deaths in April 1870 in this household, all of pertussis: Mourning, 5, Austin, 4, Loyd, 2, Richard, 3, and Mary, 9 months.)
Austin Barnes, 45, married Ferbe Barnes, 36, on 21 September 1873 in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Austin Barnes, 56, farmer; wife Pharby, 44, farmworker; and children Zilla, 6, Thomas, 4, and Pet, 1.
Axey Barnes and Washington Sims registered their 30-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Washington Simms, 57; wife Exy, 47; and children and likely grandchildren Henry, 32, Catsey [Gatsey], 27, Nathan, 10, Grant, 4, and Harret Simms, 5, Waity Nelson, 18, Joseph, 14, Samuel, 12, Mary, 10, and Della Simms, 8, and Ella Barden, 1; plus William Nelson, 26.
Possibly, the Bill Barnes who registered his cohabitation with Harriet Ellis on 18 April 1866 in Wilson County.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Bill Barnes, 47, farm laborer; wife Harriet, 36; and children Amanda, 15, Bettie, 13, Ellen, 12, Caroline, 9, John, 6, Dinah, 5, Jason, 2, and Lettuce, 7 months.
Bristor Barnes and Catherine Barnes registered their three-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
Cad Barnes and [Rose] Bearfoot registered their cohabitation on 31 August 1866 in Wilson County.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Cadmus Barnes, 23; wife Rose, 27; and children Elly, 3, Fanny, 2, and an infant, 1 month. (The 1870 mortality schedule of Saratoga township lists the death of Baldwin Barnes, 70, in January 1870 in this household.)
In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Cadmus Barnes, 45; wife Rose, 28; and children Elvy, 12, Fanny, 9, William Thos., 7, Edwin, 4, and Julia Ann, 2.
- Charles Barnes and Chaney Barnes
Perhaps, the Charles Barnes and Chaney Barnes who registered their three-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
- Gray and Bonny Barnes and their children Hilliard, Violet and others.
Gray Barnes and Bunny Barnes registered their 44-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
Hilliard Barnes, 30, married Nancy Baker, 25, on 16 February 1880 in Wilson County. In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Hilliard Barnes, 30; wife Nancy, 28; and Edmund Taborne, 3.
Hilliard Barnes died 6 January 1944 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 100 years old; was born in Wilson County to Gray Barnes and Bernie Barnes; lived at 705 Woodard Line; and was married to Fannie Barnes, age, 70.
Perhaps, Green Barnes who married Sarah Barnes on 17 November 1866 in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Greene Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 26; children Lindy, 12, Mary, 10, Ora, 7, Joseph, 5, Henrietta, 3, and Cinda, 1; and father-in-law James Sharp, 76.
In the 1900 census of Olds township, Greene County: Green Farmer, 65; wife Sarah, 45; and children Joseph, 23, [his wife] Florence, 18; John, 18; Ada, 15; Ivy C., 12; Eddie, 9; Allanora, 7; and Jenette, 5.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Fountain Road, Greene Barnes, 70; wife Sarah, 65; and daughter Mary J., 20. Green reported that he had been married three times.
Lindsey Joyner died 18 March 1924 in Speights Bridge, Greene County. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 March 1864 in Pitt County to Green Barnes and Sarah Barnes, both of Wayne County; was married to Charles Joyner; and was buried in Red Hill cemetery [Stantonsburg.] Jesse Joyner was informant.
Perhaps, the Hardy Barnes registered his 25-year cohabitation with Mary Barnes with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
Or, in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Watson Stanton, 65, farm laborer, born in Virginia; wife Rosa, 53; and children Richard, 15, Adeline, 13, Feribee, 8, and Louisa, 21; Cherry Rogers, 80, midwife; and Hardy Barnes, 20, carpenter’s apprentice.
There were three adult African-American men named Harry Barnes listed in the 1870 census of Wilson County, aged 47, 44 and 26.
Perhaps, the Louis Barnes who registered his eight-year cohabitation with Alley Whitley with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lewis Barnes, 54; wife Harriet, 35; children Gray, 12, Julia, 4, and Louisa, 5 months; and Amanda Barnes, 24, and [her son] Warren Hardy, 2.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, Lewis Barnes, 43, farmer; wife Harriette, 45; children Julia A., 14, and Anarchy, 8; C. Applewhite, 25, servant, and Anna Applewhite, 5.
Mintus Barnes, son of Reddic Barnes, married Frances Stanton, daughter of Watt Stanton and Rose Stanton, on 23 December 1873 at Watt Stanton’s.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mentus Barnes, 23, farm laborer, and wife Frances, 18.
Perhaps, the Pleasant Barnes who registered her cohabitation with Guilford Bynum with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4. [Guilford Ellis and several of his relatives changed their surname from Bynum to Ellis between 1866 and 1870.]
Perhaps, the Precilla Barnes who registered her nine-year cohabitation with Henry Applewhite with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Applewhite, 30; wife Priscilla, 32; and children Cherry, 7, Amanda, 11, and Love, 6; George Lindsey, 21; and Abram Applewhite, 69.
In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Henry Applewhite, 43; wife Pricilla, 44; and daughter Cherry, 17.
- Reddick and Spicy Barnes and their children Jolly, Ida, Harry and others
Reddic Barnes and Spicy Barnes registered their ten-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Reddick Barnes; wife Spicy, 54; and children Jolly, 16, Ida, 15, and Harry, 11. [Recall that this family had been divided. Spicy and children Ida and Jolly were passed to John P. Barnes; Reddick to William Barnes; and Harry to Mahala Barnes.]
On 6 February 1876, Jolly Barnes, 21, married Alice Barnes, 18, at E. Felton’s.
Zany Barnes and Henry Rodgers registered their ten-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Henry Rogers, 34, farm laborer; wife Zana, 33; and son Thomas, 11; Mary F. Barnes, 2; and Feribee Ellis, 40.
In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Henry Rodgers, 50, laborer; wife Zanie, 35; and children Tiny, 7, Leelie, 5, Callie A., 4, and Sarah, 2.
Will and Estate Records of Elias Barnes, images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.