Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Horribly scalded.

The horrifying account of a farm accident that befell Doctor Simmons, oldest son of Montraville and Annie Henderson Simmons.

8 16 05 L Pharos Tribune

Logansport Daily Pharos, 16 August 1905.

Dock Simmons survived his terrible burns, but bad luck dogged him, and in 1917 he suffered another agonizing injury. Though I have not found his death certificate, evidence indicates that — despite all this — Dock lived into the 1940s.

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

Misinformation Monday, no. 6.

The sixth in a series of posts revealing the fallability of records, even “official” ones.


Again, from “The Adam Artis Family History”

Adam Artis had about five wives and 39 children. His first legal wife was Frances Hagens of Eureka. She was very fair and had beautiful long black silky hair. 

Frances Hagans. By the early 20th century, that this was Frances Artis’ maiden name was accepted wisdom. When four of her children — Vicey Artis Aldridge, Napoleon Artis, William M. Artis and Walter S. Artis — died, their informants replied “Frances Hagans” when asked the name of the mother of the deceased. Researchers find these records and dutifully set down her name this way in the innumerable family trees of her innumerable kin.


But Frances Artis was not born a Hagans. She was a Seaberry, as her earliest records attest. She is Frances Seaberry, daughter of Aaron and Levisa Seaberry in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Most tellingly, it is the name Adam Artis gave the registrar when he applied for their marriage license in 1861.


How, this mix-up? It is a case of transferral. Frances’ mother’s maiden name was Hagans and gave birth to a son, Napoleon Hagans, before she married Aaron Seaberry. Napoleon Hagans grew to become one of the wealthiest “colored” men in Wayne County, larger than life, feared and respected by black and white alike. Given the shadow that Frances’ brother (probably half-brother, in fact) cast, it is not surprising that 50+ years after her death, her descendants assumed that she was a Hagans, too.

Maternal Kin, Paternal Kin, Vocation

Where we worked: grocers and storekeepers.

Jesse Artis, Eureka NC – owned and operated a general store, circa 1890.

Mathew W. Aldridge, Goldsboro NC – grocer, 219 Pine Street, 1900s-1920.

nc year book & business directory 1903

John C. Allen Sr., Newport News VA – owned and operated grocery, 2006 or 2206 Madison Avenue, circa 1916-1917.

John W. Aldridge, Dudley NC – owned and operated a general store, circa 1900?-1910.

Columbus E. Artis, Stantonsburg NC – “grocery storekeeper,” circa 1910.

Isaac Lee, Fremont NC – husband of Eva Aldridge Lee; general store operator; circa 1930-1970.

J. Leslie Thompson, Goldsboro NC – husband of Margaret Artis Thompson; storekeeper, circa ??-1960s.

Richard T. Price, Newport News VA — Price’s Confectionery, 12th Street & Ivy Avenue; 1940s-1970s.


The tenth in an occasional series exploring the ways in which my kinfolk made their livings in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 8: The Nicholsons.

The map was not entirely clear, but the graveyard was definitely on Barnards Mill Road, which branched off Harmony Highway somewhere above Hunting Creek. Though morning, the sky was dark with impending rain. I kept an eye on the left side of the road. A bridge over the creek … an unmarked road … “Bridge Out.”  Wait, wasn’t the cemetery by a bridge?  I backtracked and turned off the highway. After a half-mile or so, the blocked bridge and a path, marked No Trespassing, leading into the woods. I am not a fool. I trotted up to the closest house and knocked. A middle-aged woman peered through a window, then motioned me around to the side door. “I’m looking for a cemetery near here. Welch-Nicholson.” She gestured behind me and smiled. Up the hill across the road, a low stacked-stone wall inset with a simple iron gate surrounded the remains of a hundred years of Nicholsons.


My great-great-great-great-great-grandfather James Nicholson bought a mill on the creek in the late 1820s and probably established the graveyard. His father, Revolutionary War veteran John Stockton Nicholson, who was born 1757 in Princeton, New Jersey, and migrated to North Carolina circa 1800, is buried Muddy Creek Friends cemetery, Kernersville, North Carolina. He died in 1838.


John was married twice, to Mary McComb, then Catherine Anne “Caty” Stevenson. Mary bore one son, the James Nicholson above. Caty bore ten, including John S. Nicholson Jr. Mary McComb Nicholson is buried near John Jr., whose stone is shown above. Caty is buried at Muddy Creek.

James Nicholson married Mary Allison in 1815; their children were Thomas Allison Nicholson and John McComb Nicholson. Thomas A. Nicholson married his first cousin Rebecca Clampett Nicholson, daughter of John S. Nicholson Jr. and Mary Fultz.

Thomas Nicholson’s broken gravestone is propped next to that of Rebecca.



Thomas and Rebecca’s oldest child James Lee Nicholson, my great-great-great-grandfather, is also buried here. He died a few weeks short of his 30th birthday in 1871.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in December 2013.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A lot in Negro Town.

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.

Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles

Rubbing a little too close.

1 9 03 Logansport Pharos Times

Logansport Pharos Times, 8 January 1903.

Montraville (or Montreville) Simmons was, of course, the irascible husband of Anna J. Henderson Simmons. After many years in Ontario, the family settled in rural Cass County, Indiana, near the community of Kenneth. Not far away was an African-American settlement dating back to the mid-1800s, when southern free people of color began migrating to the Midwest. The Bassett family, originally from North Carolina, anchored that community, and two of Annie and Montraville’s daughters married into the family.

Montraville, occasionally his sons Dock and Edward, Annie (once), and Montraville’s second wife Eliza (often and dramatically) popped up in the pages of nearby Logansport’s newspaper much more regularly than one might expect. He had a penchant for clashing with his neighbors, for lawsuits, and for violence, and local reporters gleefully recounted his mayhem and mishaps.

Free People of Color, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

A win for Uncle Mathew.


Goldsboro Headlight, 5 March 1890.

I don’t know why Matthew W. Aldridge sued Calvin Foy, but I’ll try to find out next time I’m in Raleigh. “Little Washington” was a black neighborhood south of Pine Street and west of Virginia Street, just outside Goldsboro city limits. The community was largely lost to urban renewal projects.