This convoluted case involves a dispute between two parties claiming title to a lot that once belonged to Needham Kennedy, Mathew W. Aldridge’s father-in-law. The ins and outs of the lawsuit are difficult to extract from the decision and, in any case, are not the most interesting aspects of the matter for me. Rather, my focus is on the evidence of relationships among Kennedy’s children (and their spouses) and the light shed on the affairs of a family that had quickly accumulated property post-slavery.
There is astoundingly little in conventional records about Needham Kennedy. I assume he was native to Wayne County, perhaps the former slave of one of several Kennedy families in the area. However, to my confusion and dismay, I have found neither him nor his family in any census records prior to 1900. Where were these landowners???
All the more important, then, is the personal information that can be gleaned from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in Bradford v. Bank of Warsaw, 182 N.C. 225 (1921). The main opinion in the case gives some information, but the fullest, clearest details are set forth in a dissenting opinion. A distillation of it all:
Needham Kennedy bought a lot measuring 42 feet by 210 feet in “’Negro Town,’ a suburb of Goldsboro,” on 12 January 1870 and registered his deed six years later. He also owned other property. Needham died intestate about 1898, leaving five children – Fannie Kennedy Aldridge, Ida Kennedy Darden, Bryant Kennedy, William Kennedy, and Levi Kennedy – and a wife, the children’s stepmother, who died in 1908. (Their birth mother was named Patience, maiden name possibly Kennedy.) After the stepmother’s death, the children arranged to divide the property so that William and Bryant, who lived in New Jersey, would receive cash and their sisters and Levi would divide the land. Ida was to get the contested lot (A); Fannie, lot B; and Levi, lot C.
In 1909 and 1910, William, Bryant and Levi conveyed their interest in A to Ida. The deeds from William and Bryant were not recorded until 1921, and Levi’s was lost and never recorded. On 21 March 1910, at lawyer A.C. Davis’ office, Fannie Aldridge and husband Mathew conveyed her interest in A to Ida and her interest in C to Levi. Levi and wife and Ida Darden and her husband John conveyed their interest in B to Mathew Aldridge. These deeds were immediately probated, and Fannie, Ida and Levi took possession of their respective lots. (Levi later sold his.)
To secure a sum of money that Ida owed Mathew, Ida gave him a mortgage on A dated 22 March 1910, which was recorded that day. Ida had received rents from A since her stepmother’s death and continued to do so until 20 May 1912. On that day, Mathew Aldridge sold the mortgaged property to Captain A.J. Brown, who recorded the deed on 11 June 1912.
Captain Brown, and later his heirs, received rents from A from the date of purchase until 27 March 1915. On that day, the heirs sold the lot to defendant Bank of Warsaw, which recorded its deed on 1 May 1916. The bank then began to receive rents.
In the meantime, on 14 July 1916, William, Bryant and Levi Kennedy conveyed their undivided 3/5 interest in lot A to J.J. Ham. The deeds were registered 24 August 1916. On 17 October 1917, Ham conveyed his interest in the lot to N.E. Bradford, who registered the deed 24 October 1917. Thus, both Bradford and the Bank claimed interests in the title to A on the basis of deeds executed by various heirs of Needham Kennedy.
My year of property law class is far behind me, and I won’t attempt to untangle the dense reasoning set forth in the majority opinion in this matter. Suffice it to say, the Bank of Warsaw lost its appeal.
Fannie’s husband Mathew W. Aldridge, brother of my great-great-grandfather John, died in 1920. Seven months later, Fannie married W.D. Farmer. (What’s the story there?) I have not found her death certificate.
Eliza Balkcum Aldridge and her daughter-in-law, Fannie Kennedy Aldridge, circa 1920.
Levi Kennedy died 6 February 1940 in Goldsboro. His death certificate notes that he lived at 310 W. Pine Street, that he was a clothing merchant, and that he was married to Anna Kennedy. He was born in 1875 in Goldsboro, and his parents were listed as Needham and Patience Kennedy. He is buried in Elmwood cemetery.
Ida Kennedy Darden Lamb died 18 December 1954 in Goldsboro. She was a widow and resided at 305 West Elm Street. She was born 18 March 1874 to “Needman” and Patience Kennedy.
I’ve been unable to trace William and Bryant Kennedy in New Jersey.