Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The apprenticeship of “base-born” children.

Apprentice records show a dozen or so free colored Henderson children in Onslow County in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  It seems likely that they were from one extended family – and my kin – but proof is thin.  There is persuasive evidence that the mother of Nancy Henderson, a free woman of color, was a white woman named Nancy Ann Henderson, but no evidence to date that this Nancy Ann had additional free colored children.  James and Bryan were Patsey Henderson’s children; Durant, Willis, Miranda, Patsey, Gatsey, Minerva, William and Betsey were Nancy’s children; and there is considerable evidence to suggest that Nancy Henderson and Patsey Henderson were sisters.  My comments and speculations are in italics.

Sucky Henderson was bound to Richard Trott in 1809. Sucky, Polly and Naomi below possibly were too close in age to Nancy and Patsey Henderson to have been their children. Sisters instead?

Polly Henderson to Isaac Barber in 1809.

Durand Henderson, son of Nancy Henderson, to Henry Hyde in 1811. Durant Henderson was also called Durant Dove. He and his brother Willis were the subject of a North Carolina Supreme Court case, about which more later. He is the progenitor of today’s Lenoir County Doves.

Sukey Henderson to Richard Trott in 1811.

Naomi Henderson to Adam Trott in 1811.

Durant Henderson and Willis Henderson to John Jones in 1818.

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson, sons of Patsey Henderson, to Jesse Gregory in 1821.

Miranda Henderson and Patsey Henderson, daughters of Nancy Henderson, to Nancy Henderson in 1821. Who was the Nancy Henderson to whom the children were bound? A child could not be bound to his or her own parent. Was she Nancy Ann Henderson, Nancy Henderson’s mother?

Patsey Henderson, age 5 or 6, to Jason Gregory in 1822. Was this Nancy’s child (as above)? Or Patsey’s?

Gatsey Henderson and William Henderson, reputed children of Simon Dove, to James Glenn Sr. at August term, 1822. Nancy Henderson and Simon Dove never married, but had several children together. In the 1850 census of Upper Richlands, Onslow County, Nancy Henderson, 55, headed a household that included Gatsey, 30, Nervy, 25, Monday, 6, Lott, 4, Jessee, 1, and Sally Ann Henderson, 6 months. 

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson to Jason Gregory in 1823.

Betsy Henderson to James Glenn Jr. in 1823.

Betsy, Nancy and Appie [no surnames] to David Mashborn in 1823.  Are these Hendersons? If so, is Appie another of Nancy Henderson’s daughters?

Miranda Henderson, James Henderson, Martha Henderson and Bryant Henderson to James Glenn in 1824. Two of Nancy’s children and two of Patsey’s, bound together.

Miranda Henderson to Elizabeth Williams in 1824.

William Henderson to Lemuel Williams in 1824.

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson, “the baseborn children of Patsey Henderson,” to James Glenn Sr. in 1824.

Betsy Henderson and Gatsey Henderson, daughters of Nancy Henderson, to Lewis Mills in 1824.

Patsy Henderson to Amos Askew in 1824.

William Henderson, son of Nancy Henderson, to Lemuel Williams in 1827.

Durant Dove and Willis Dove were bound to James Mills in 1828. These boys were otherwise known as Durant and Willis Henderson.

Durant Henderson and Willis Henderson to James Mills in 1829.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Loudie’s legacy.

Loudie was the youngest of Lewis and Mag Henderson’s children, the one who never left home, the one who scarcely had time to do so, for she died at 19, but not before making her mark in the form of her children Bessie and Jesse. Loudie died in childbirth and, had circumstances been different, her children’s father might have reared them, but that was not to happen in that place and time.  Their father was a white man, a lifelong bachelor farmer named Joseph Buckner Martin and called Buck.  If his love for his second set of children, also by a colored woman, is any indication, he felt for Loudie and her two, but there was a long way between loving one’s yellow babies and taking them in, and so Lewis and Mag and their daughter Sarah (who would have a child of her own by a white man) reared them.

Jesse Henderson, then called Buddy, followed his aunt Sarah and her husband Jesse Jacobs to Wilson. They and Jesse’s younger children by his first wife settled into a L-shaped, three-roomed bungalow on Elba Street, a block off black Wilson’s best residential address and a few blocks over from the main business drag, East Nash Street.  Jesse found work at Jefferson Farrior’s livery stable on Barnes Street, perhaps through a Dudley connection who worked as Farrior’s maid.  When Big Jesse brought his wife’s nephew Jesse into the livery, Farrior christened the younger man “Jack” to cut down confusion.  (The name stuck so well that some of his children never knew anything different, and a rumor grew that Farrior was Jack’s real daddy.)

Jack I almost knew.  Our lives overlapped, and we could have met, but I was a child when he was a sick old man, and before my sixth birthday, he was gone.  I know his children, and I have his few photographs, and I will have to be content with that. He is below, with open collar and cheroot.


Photograph of Jack Henderson, friend and dog in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

James Henderson’s children, part 2: Eliza Armwood.

Around 1851, as his oldest set of children moved into their mid-teens, James Henderson married Eliza (sometimes noted as “Louisa”) Armwood, daughter of John and Susan Armwood. They reared their ten children in the tri-county area formed by the meeting of Sampson, Duplin and Wayne Counties:

Anna Jane Henderson, born in 1852, married Montreville Simmons, son of Calvin and Hepsey Whitley Simmons in 1871 in Duplin County. The Simmons family had migrated to Ontario, Canada, in the 1850s, and after the death of his young first wife, Montreville journeyed home to find a second. The family is found in the 1881 census of Chatham, Kent, Ontario: Montreville Simmons, 40, farmer; wife Annie, 29; and children Elizabeth, 8, Doctor T., 7, Susan M., 4, and Montreville, 2. All were born in the US except the two youngest children, and the family was Baptist. They returned to the US in the 1890s, and in 1900 are found in the census of Eel, Cass County, Indiana. Annie Simmons died 16 June 1906 in Cass County.

Susan and Hepsie Henderson, born 1854 and 1856, married brothers Edward J. and Washington F. “Frank” Wynn and raised their families near Dudley.  Susan H. Wynn’s children were Elizabeth Wynn Simmons, Sallie Wynn Manuel, Fannie Wynn Price, William H. Wynn, Arthur Wynn, Eddie Wynn, Minnie Wynn Greenfield, Cora Wynn Bennett, Jessie Wynn and Danzie Wynn. She died 6 January 1907 and is buried in a family cemetery near Dudley. Hepsie’s children were Alice Wynn, George Wynn, William Wynn, Sallie Wynn, James Wynn, Richard G. Wynn, Dock Wynn, Georgeanna Wynn and Israel Henderson Wynn. Hepsie died circa 1895.

Alexander Henderson, born 1860, was the only one of James’ sons to leave farming.  In 1900, he, his wife Mary Odom Henderson and children were living near Mount Olive, but by 1910, Alex had moved his family to James Street in Goldsboro.  Alex and Mary Odom Henderson’s children were William Henderson, Mary Jane Henderson Wooten, Theodore Henderson and Connie Geneva Henderson Smith. He died 13 June 1919 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Goldsboro. Inexplicably, his death certificate lists his father as “Stephen Henderson.”

John Henry Henderson, born 1861, married Sarah E. Simmons, daughter of Bryant and Elizabeth Wynn Simmons, in 1886 at the Congregational Church in Dudley.  John and Sarah’s three surviving children were Charles Henry Henderson, Frances Henderson Wynn and Henry Lee Henderson.  At John’s death on 8 August 1924, he was the last of James Henderson’s sons.  John’s son Charles Henderson moved away to Virginia, but “Frankie” and Henry remained in Dudley and are the forebears of a great many of our present-day Hendersons, some of whom still live on ancestral land.

Nancy Henderson, born 1865, married Isham Smith, son of Milly Smith.They lived in Goldsboro, where Isham worked as a wagon driver.  Their children were Annie Smith Guess, Oscar Smith, Furney Smith, Ernest Smith, Elouise Marie Smith, Johnnie Smith, Mary E. Smith Southerland, James Smith, Willie Smith, Effie May Smith, and Bessie Lee Smith. Nancy’s second husband was Patrick Diggs. She died 11 December 1944.

Betty Henderson and Edward Henderson, born 1867 and 1874, appear in one census record each, and nothing further is known of them.

Julia Henderson, born 1872, known as “Mollie,” married Alex Hall in Wayne County in 1889. They had two daughters, Lula and Sadie. In 1902, Mollie married Walter Holt, son of George W. and Martha Holt, in Randolph County. (How — and why — did she get from Wayne County to Randolph?) By 1910, they were living in Greensboro NC.  She died circa 1929.

Louella Henderson, born 1876, married first a man whose last name was King, then one named Wilson. (According to my grandmother.) She may have died in Bessemer NC.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The case for Leasy Hagans’ children.

Leasy Hagans is one of my great-great-great-great-grandmothers. She was born circa 1800, perhaps in Nash County. Though Hagans might have been her married name, the involuntary apprenticeship of her children makes it more likely that she was unmarried. “Lesy Hagins” appears as a head of a household of five children in the 1820 census of Nash County. Though it is not inconceivable that all were hers, some may have been young siblings.  The only other Hagans in the county is Lukens Hagins — I cannot work out any other reasonable interpretation of the spelling of that first name — another colored female aged 14-26 with two children under 14. In the 1840 census of Davis District, Wayne County, Leecy Hagins is a 36-55 year-old colored woman living with a boy aged less than ten years and a girl aged 10-24 years.  (Note that prior to the creation of Wilson County in 1855, Nash and Wayne shared a short border.)  In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, Leacy Hagans, age 50, heads a household that includes ten year-old Napoleon Hagans. He is almost certainly her grandson and appears elsewhere in the same census with Aaron and Levisa Seaberry, his stepfather and mother.

There is a small web of census and apprenticeship connections among several people that suggest that they are among Leasy Hagans’ children:

William Hagans and Calvin Hagans. In 1833, William, 16, and Calvin Hagans, 10, were apprenticed to Council Bryan in Wayne County. In the 1850 census of Wayne County, Calvin appeared as a 27 year-old farmhand in the household of William Thompson. Leasy Hagans’ household was next door.

Levisa Eliza Hagans. In the 1850 census of Wayne County: Aaron Seaberry, 32, wife Levisa, 26, her son Napolian, 11, their daughter Francis, 4, and Celia Seaberry, 17, relationship unknown. As noted above, Napoleon also appears in Leasy Hagans’ household that year, and I deduce that he was her grandson.

Matilda Hagans. In the 1850 census of Wayne County: Mary Hagins, 18, Matilda Hagins, 25, Leasy Hagins, 2, and John Hagins, 1, appear in the household of John L. Fulks, a white carpenter. I believe Leasy and John were Matilda’s children. Was, then, Leasy named for her grandmother Leasy?

Mary A. Hagans. In 1839, William Thompson apprenticed Mary A. Hagans in Wayne County. As noted above, Mary, Matilda and Matilda’s presumed children live together in 1850.

The evidence, admittedly, is thin, but it is suggestive.

Enslaved People, Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Some of that set.

“Dear Lisa,” he wrote. “I read with interest your letter of October 31….”


I was new at research and utterly clueless about where to start looking for information about slave forebears when I reached out to the late, great Hugh B. Johnston, Wilson County’s pre-eminent historian and genealogist. I was thrilled to receive his prompt reply. The letter was brief, but encouraging, and though I’d hoped for a complete and annotated report that left no end loose, I was confident that a breakthrough loomed just around the bend.

Unfortunately, here I am, nearly 27 years later, with the same fundamental questions burning:

  1. Was Rachel Barnes the daughter of Willis Barnes, or his step-daughter as the 1880 census indicates?  If the latter, who was her father?
  2. Did Willis Barnes belong to Joshua Barnes?
  3. Was Toney Eatman, a free man of color from Nash County, Willis’ father? Was Annie Barnes Eatman his mother?
  4. Was Cherry Battle‘s first name actually Charity?
  5. Did she belong to Amos J. Battle?
DNA, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 6.

I recognized his name immediately and shot off a message to his inbox. … And then another message. … And then another one. … And still, crickets. In the meantime, I had an email from his first cousin, and I shared news of the match with her. She was excited and said she’d prod him.  Apparently, he is prod-proof.

In any case, this is another match between descendants of Adam T. Artis, with an Aldridge twist. H.B.’s great-grandfather was Henry J.B. Artis, son of Adam by his fourth wife, Amanda Aldridge, who was a daughter of Robert and Eliza Balkcum Aldridge. H.B. and I are roughly 4th cousins, which Ancestry correctly predicted.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History

Elizabeth. And Elizabeth.

Henry McNeely had two Lizzies.

The first Elizabeth McNeely appears as a 13 year-old in Henry’s household in the 1870 census of Rowan County. In a letter written in 1987, my grandmother explained that the girl was abandoned at her father’s doorstep. (Before Emancipation, or after?) He reared her, but I know nothing further about her.

My grandmother’s earliest memory involved the second Elizabeth McNeely, who was Henry’s oldest daughter with Martha Miller McNeely. My grandmother recalled riding on a train from Statesville to Winston-Salem to visit her mother’s sister.

Me: Which sister was that?

My grandmother: Lizzie.

Me: It was like a day trip, or y’all went for —

My grandmother: I don’t remember. You know, I was kind of young.

Me: Yeah. Yeah. You were what? Like, two?

My grandmother: Yeah. I think two. Somebody said I wouldn’t, I couldn’t possibly remember, but I do. I do because, you know, it looked like the trees were going like that. [Moves her hand across her face quickly.] ‘Round and ’round. And I was sitting up in the window. I know I was looking out the window. And that was one of my first memories.

This Elizabeth McNeely was born in 1877. In 1900, she married William Watt Kilpatrick in Statesville, and I discovered JUST TODAY, via their license, that her full name was Margaret Lougene Elizabeth McNeely. The marriage seems not to have been a happy one:


One Negro in Jail and Another Under Bond – Cases in the Local Courts.

Watt Kilpatrick was before Justice Carlton Wednesday for wife-beating and was fined $5 and the cost.

Statesville Landmark, 21 September 1906.

At the time of the 1910 census, around the time my grandmother went by train to visit, the couple were living in Oldtown, Forsyth County. Seven years later, when Watt registered for the World War I draft, he gave his address as 17 Roanoke in Winston-Salem and reported working as a shape puller at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Lizzie “Patrick” was listed as his next of kin, but resided in Statesville. When the censustaker returned in 1920, Watt was sharing a house with another woman, and Lizzie was not to be found.

On 1 February 1923, the Statesville Landmark posted this notice:


… Elizabeth Kilpatrick, colored, was granted a divorce from Watt Kilpatrick.

Four months later, she married John Long. She spent the rest of her life in Iredell County.

In 1950, Lizzie Long died in a housefire. Beyond the basic tragedy of her death, there is something unsettling about this account of the “accident.”


Statesville Landmark, 28 September 1950.

(My grandmother would have expressed a tart opinion about what happened, but I didn’t know to ask her.) Whatever the case, the shock of Lizzie’s death sent her youngest brother into cardiac arrest, and the family had to bury two McNeelys that September.

Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Vocation

The colored fire company.

Members of the colored fire company of Statesville left yesterday for Oxford to attend the State tournament. Among those who went were F.F. Chamber, vice president of the State association; J.P. Chambers, first foreman and J.H. Gray second foreman of the local company; J.A. Brown, Clarence Carlton, W.G. Kimbrough, Jim Dalton, Luther McNeely, J.W. Byers, S.Y. Allison, J.P. Murphy and Smith Byers.

Statesville Landmark, 20 August 1912.


Epiphany, no. 1.

Fairly early in the game, I noticed that in some feminine names, I’s that are now pronounced IH or EE were once pronounced EYE. For example, Cousin Nina Aldridge Hardy was NYE-na.  Cousin Tilithia Brewington Godbold was Ta-LYE-thi-a.  Cousin Beathina Henderson Hargrove was Be-THY-na.  I also noticed — or so I thought — that sometimes the names Eliza and Louisa were interchanged in records and assumed that this was because “Louisa” was once pronounced “Lou-EYE-za,” which, maybe, could have been misheard as “Eliza.”  Example: Louisa/Eliza Hagans Seaberry.

But then: today while looking at Louisa Seaberry’s entry in the 1850 census of Wayne County way enlarged, I noticed that … there was no loop in the first vowel. I looked up and down the page. The censustaker’s other O’s all featured a distinct loop. This, now that I was really looking at it, seemed to be an  E. And the U rather like V. So, not Louisa, but LEVISA? But what about definite references in the 1870 census and deeds to “Eliza”? A mispronunciation? A middle name? In 1865, her daughter Frances Seaberry Artis named her twin daughters Louvicey … and Eliza. Were they both named after their grandmother? Frances’ daughter Georgianna Artis Reid also named a daughter Levicy. I’m onto something….

Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Politics, Rights

Uncle Caswell makes a fine point. … And then ….


Colored American, Washington DC, 20 June 1903.


(1) Who knew Caswell C. Henderson was “one of the best known Republicans in the County of New York”?

(2) Uncle Caswell worked at the United States Custom House, where positions were highly sought-after. In other words, they were patronage jobs. Now I understand the path the farmer’s son from North Carolina took to get one.

(3) It appears that Caswell wasn’t a white man at work after all. He was merely one when below the Mason-Dixon line.