During a recent trip to the North Carolina State Archives, I discovered documents related to an Iredell County bastardy action — State v. John Colvert, colored. Harriet Nicholson had been examined by county officials and found to be pregnant. She named John Colvert as the child’s father and, on 26 January 1874, a warrant was issued to force him into court. In May, John Colvert, with Alfred Dalton and Peter Allison giving bond, agreed to “maintain” the child, i.e. pay child support.
I was aware that Harriet and John were not married when their son Lon was born. Indeed, they never married. In an unusual turn for the era, the child was given his father’s last name and was reared by John’s father and stepmother, Walker and Rebecca Colvert. However, the date of the bastardy action struck me. First, in January 1874, Harriet was only 13 years old. (John was 23.) Second, Lon always gave his birth year as 1875. (June 10, to be exact. Belated shout-out.) Was he in fact born a year earlier in 1874? Could Harriet’s condition have been detected early enough for her to been hauled into court in January? Or was Lon Harriet’s second pregnancy, the first having resulted in a stillbirth or infant death?
My grandmother never mentioned an older child. Perhaps she never knew of one. Harriet married Abner Tomlin a couple of years after Lon’s birth and of their several children only one, Harvey Golar Tomlin, lived long enough for my grandmother to know. Her last child, Bertha Mae Hart, was born in 1904 of her second marriage.