Among the supplies the Wayne County Commissioners bought in 1884 to feed residents of the county poorhouse was $22 worth of corn from Napoleon Hagans.
Goldsboro Messenger, 14 August 1884.
Among the supplies the Wayne County Commissioners bought in 1884 to feed residents of the county poorhouse was $22 worth of corn from Napoleon Hagans.
Goldsboro Messenger, 14 August 1884.
Were Walter “Wat” and Nancy Carter the step-father and mother of Joseph and Jasper Holmes? Here is the evidence:
My conjecture: Nancy [last name unknown] married first Payton Holmes in Charlotte County and had at least two children, Joseph and Jasper. Nancy then married Walter “Wat” Carter in Charlotte County. Their children included Louisa, Lettie, Walter Jr. and Eliza. Between 1867 and 1870, perhaps in response to his brother’s murder, Jasper moved his family to Charles City County. Between 1870 and 1873, Wat and Nancy Carter and family also moved to Charles City County. Lettie Carter Booker married and settled in Queens with her husband. For some period, her nephew Walter Holmes, son of Jasper, lived with them. The fortuitous capturing of this stay in the 1880 census cements these relationships for me, as it is a direct connection between Jasper and his half-sister.
Sources: federal census records; Charlotte County VA death records; Charlotte County voter register; Charles City County VA birth, marriage and death records; Freedman’s Bank records.
Tarboro’ Press, 1 March 1845.
I first thought that the Kinchen Taylor in this ad was one of other Kinchen Taylors in Nash County in the antebellum period. However, a bit of research revealed that Kinchen Taylor of Fishing Creek had a son, Josiah, who died in late 1846 or early 1847. Josiah Taylor’s modest estate, administered by his brother-in-law Benjamin D. Mann, included no slaves. Nonetheless, it appears here that Josiah sold at least one slave who actually belonged to his father. Was this Lewis related to the “Big Lewis” listed in Kinchen’s estate in 1853? Was he ever captured? How many other Lewises were sold away from Kinchen’s plantation, their links to their families permanently sundered? (And their perplexed descendants, known to each other only via mysterious DNA matches, left to ponder lost connections.)
When the call came, Hester Balkcum‘s grandsons answered. And paid.
James Lucian Balkcum, born about 1839, son of Mariah Balkcum and William L. Robinson. Lucian was a Sampson County farmer when he enlisted as a private on 9 May 1861 in Company F, 20th North Carolina Infantry. He was captured 20 July 1864 at Stephenson’s Depot, Virginia, and confined at Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio, where he died of variola on 4 Jan 1865. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Columbus.
Josiah Johnson, born about 1844, son of William and Mariah Balkcum Johnson of Sampson County. Josiah enlisted as a private on the same day and in the same company as his half-brother Lucian Balkcum. He received a disability discharge on 6 May 1862, but re-enlisted 2 Jan 1864. Josiah died from wounds on 9 Nov 1864 at Mount Jackson, Virginia.
Harman Balkcum, born about 1822 to Nancy Balkcum and an unknown father. A 5’6″ farmer, he enlisted 4 Jan 1862 in Duplin County as a private in Company A, Wilmington & Weldon Railroad Guards (later Company D, 13th Battalion, North Carolina Infantry.) A month later, records note that he missed duty for five days due to parotitis. He died 8 April 1863, probably of illness.
William James Balkcum, born 1841 to Lemuel and Jemima Rackley Balkcum of Sampson County. W.J. enlisted on 10 Sept 1862 in the same company as Lucian Balkcum and Josiah Johnson. He was wounded 1 July 1863 at Gettysburg, and his left arm amputated. He was captured as prisoner of war on 5 July 1863 and paroled circa 25 Sept 1867. He arrived for prisoner exchange 27 Sept 1863 at City Point, Virginia, and transferred to Company F, 20th Infantry on 16 Apr 1864. Nancy’s great-grandson was the only Balkcum to come home.
Lemuel Balkcum, born about 1823. He was named as a grandson in Hester Balkcum’s will and was probably the son of Nancy Balkcum. In the early 1840s, Lemuel Balkcum married Jemima Rackley. They had at least eleven children — the youngest just months old — before his enlistment on 2 September 1863 as a private in Company E, 30th North Carolina Infantry at Camp Holmes, Raleigh NC. Lemuel died of typhoid fever on 26 Dec 1863 in a Richmond, Virginia, hospital and is buried in Hollywood cemetery, Richmond.
It was in July. I’m sure of that, but not the actual date. The first Colvert-McNeely family reunion. We gathered in Statesville, of course, where my grandmother Margaret and her sisters Louise and Launie Mae were born and grew up. The reunion called not only their descendants, but those of their older half-sisters, Mattie and Golar, and their maternal McNeely kin. I was 14 that summer and not much interested in anyone more than three or four years older than I. Nor had I been seized with the unquenchable genealogical fervor that would light me up a decade later . So I lounged around the hotel pool and wasted opportunities that year, and subsequent, to winnow every broad hint and slender clue from the ever-waning recollections of my elders. My great-aunt Louise, who lived in Statesville all her life and probably knew the most. My great-great-aunt Min, last of the McNeely siblings. The “other” Colverts, cousins and children of my great-grandfather’s half-sisters — were they even there? I’d been surprised to learn later that some were living in 1978. (They were not much spoken of. Was there a rift?) Who was in Statesville that summer? Whom did I miss?
The last day. Or maybe the first. My uncle John’s wife Gladys, my mother, my grandmother (in curlers — she would not approve of this post), my uncle John, an unknown man (a Colvert? a McNeely? who?), my mother’s first cousin Donald, my aunt Lynne, my father. Statesville, 1978.
Surprisingly few of Adam Artis‘ 25+ children migrated out of North Carolina, perhaps because the family’s relative farming wealth and good standing in their community made life in North Carolina — even in the 19th century — attractive. Two who did strike out went West. Sort of. They went to Arkansas.
Augustus Kerney “Gus” Artis was born about 1857 to Adam and his wife Lucinda Jones. He was a mere toddler when his mother died, and he was reared primarily by Frances Seaberry Artis, whom Adam married in 1861. Gus inherited one-third of his mother’s share of the estate of her father Jacob Ing, a small nest egg that may nonetheless have represented the pinnacle of his wealth. In 1879, Gus married Rebecca Morgan in Wayne County. Though a 13 year-old girl is implausibly described as their daughter in the 1880 census, there is convincing evidence of a daughter Lena, born in 1882. What Gus did or where he was over the years after her birth is a mystery, for in 1893 he suddenly appears in the city directory of Little Rock, Arkansas, living at the corner of Allen and Elm in North Little Rock. (Which, by all accounts, was a swampy outpost known as Argenta at that time.) In 1898, Lena Artis married Charlie Hill in Pulaski County. By 1900, however, she was back in her parents’ house on Washington Avenue in North Little Rock. Farm laborer Gustice Artis and wife Mary R. (presumably Rebecca), married 19 years, are listed with Lena, 18, born in North Carolina, and Mary, 13, an adopted daughter born in Arkansas. By 1910, both daughters had left the household, though Mary reported them living. Augustus, then in his early 50s, worked as a laborer in a greenhouse. Lena, described as a widow, was living and working as a “dining room girl” in a Scott Street boarding house. I’ve found none of the Artises in the 1920 census, though Gus and Mary were still alive. Gus didn’t last much longer though. He died of heart disease 2 June 1921 in Brandie township, Pulaski County, and was buried in the “fraternal cemetery.” His death certificate lists his final occupation as “scavenger.”
Twenty-five miles east of North Little Rock, Gus’ younger sister Eliza Artis Everett also built a life far from her home. She was the twin of my great-great-grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge; the girls were born in 1865 to Adam Artis and his second wife Frances. I have not found their marriage license, but around 1890, Eliza married Haywood Everett. By 1900, they had migrated to Williams township, Lonoke County, Arkansas, and joined a veritable colony of Wayne County migrants, including Haywood’s elderly parents. Families listed near them in the census carried such familiar surnames as Barnes, Best and Coley. In 1910, the Everetts appear in the Richwoods section of the county. In 1920 and 1930, they are in Walls township. They never had children. On 10 October, 1936, Eliza Everett died of pancreatic cancer. Her husband remarried before she was cold in her grave.
Did Gus and Mary Rebecca Artis and Haywood and Eliza Everett migrate together in the late 1880s/early 1890s? Why Arkansas? Did Gus and family originally settle among other Wayne County families in Williams township, Lonoke County, before moving closer to Little Rock? And then there’s this — the Lonoke County Race War of 1897-1898?!?!
In the name of God, Amen, I Hester Balkcum of the State of North Carolina and County of Sampson, being of sound mind & memory, but of feeble health, and knowing that all must die; do make & ordain this my Last Will & Testament. And first I give my body to the dust, to be buried in a decent manner and commend my spirit to the care of God who gave it, as a being infinitely wise & good. As for my worldly goods, my will is that they be disposed of as follows – (viz):
1st. I give & devise to my daughter Nancy Balkcum, thirty acres of land, to be laid off by the direction of my executor, from the eastern extremity of a tract lying on the southside of Beaver Dam swamp, so as to include the house in which she now lives, & a part of the cleared land to her & her heirs forever, in fee simple. I also give & bequeath to my said daughter Nancy the sum of Six dollars in money to be paid her by my executor.
2nd. I give & devise to my grandson, James Lucien Balkcum, son of my daughter Mariah, the residue of said tract of land, lying on Beaver Dam Swamp, after thirty acres as aforesaid shall have been given to my daughter Nancy, the said residue supposed to contain one hundred acres more or less with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging to said James L. Balkcum & his heirs forever in fee simple and I hereby revoke all gifts, grants and deeds of whatsoever nature or kind coming within the meaning & purview of these devises & declare them utterly void as having been done for temporary purposes & having had their effect I also give & bequeath unto said James Lucien Balkcum, one bed, bed-stead & furniture and one pot & skillet.
3rd. I give & bequeath unto my grand daughter Mary Ellen Johnson, daughter of my daughter Mariah, one bed and its necessary furniture and all my household & kitchen furniture not heretofore disposed of, with all clothes & cloths of every description, which I may leave at my decease.
4th. I give & bequeath unto my grand son, John Balkcum, one common Bible, or its equivalent in money
5th. I give & bequeath unto my two grand sons, Harman & Lemuel Balkcum, one common Bible each, or money sufficient to purchase the same
6th. It is my will that my Executor pay all my legal debts, and the above legacies, with the Expense of Administration out of such money or notes as may be left by me at my death and the overplus (if any) be given to my daughter Mariah for her own proper use or benefit.
7th. I hereby constitute & appoint my friend William L. Robinson Executor of this my last Will & Testament, hereby revoking all former Wills, Deeds, gifts or grants of what name or kind soever.
March the 9th day 1843 Hester X Balkcum
Signed, seal’d, publish’d & declared by the Testatrix to be her last Will & Testament in the presence of us, who were present at the signing of the same /s/ Isaiah Robinson /s/ Abner Robinson
State of North Carolina, Sampson County } Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, May Term 1843
There was the foregoing will duly proven in open court by the oath of Isaiah Robinson a subscribing witness & ordered to be recorded. /s/ Thomas J. Faison Clk
About 1799, John Balkcum, a widower with two young children, married a woman named Hester in Duplin County NC. Her maiden name is unknown. John died in 1803, leaving as heirs only Hester and his children by his first wife, Tomsin and William. In 1804, Hester received a widow’s allotment and two years later is listed in a Duplin County tax digest with 450 acres.
In the next few years, Hester Balkcum gave birth to two daughters, Nancy and Mariah. She gave them the last name Balkcum, though neither was John’s child. It was the beginning of an unconventional family, with both Nancy and Mariah giving birth out of wedlock, and one or two of Nancy’s children fathered by a black or mixed-race man. (This last circumstance was unconventional, but not nearly as uncommon in antebellum America as one might imagine.) Hester appears only sporadically in census enumerations, but in 1830 “Hester Baucom” is listed in Duplin County heading a household that consisted of a female aged 50-59; one male under 5; two males 5-9; one male 10-14; one male 20-29; one female under 5; one female 15-19; one female 20-29; one female 30-39; all described as white. Ten years later, in the 1840 census of Sampson County, Hester does not appear, but her daughter Nancy Balkcom, aged 30-40, is listed, heading a household of two females aged 5-10 and one female aged 10-14, all white, and one slave.
When Hester died in the spring or early summer of 1843, her executor W.L. Robinson listed the debts owed her estate — all to family members — and her meager belongings. Her real property had dwindled considerably since the early days of her widowhood, and I catch a bit of feeling that the family was struggling.
Ten years later, Hester’s daughter Nancy felt poorly enough to dictate her own last will and testament:
In the name of God Amen, I Nancy Balkcum of the State of North Carolina & County of Sampson being of sound & perfect mind & memory but feeble in body & feeling that the sentence if Death which has been passed upon all will probably ere long be executed upon me think fit to make this my last will & testament as follows.
First I give my body to be buried in a decent manner without parade or vain shew & commend my spirit to him who gave it as a being infinitely wise & good.
As for my worldly goods my will is that they disposed of as follows
First. I give & bequeath unto my daughter Margaret Balkcum one bed bedstead & furniture (the bed on which I have usuly lain) one wheel & cards one table one sow & pigs & twenty dollars to be paid by my executors. This is for her services in waiting on me in my last sickness to her & her heirs forever
Secondly, I give & bequeath unto my two daughters Eliza & Mary one bed & furniture to them & their heirs forever
Thirdly I desire that my Son Harman be paid back all expence that he may incur in providing for me by my Executor
Fourthly, All the residue of my property both real & personal ( desire to be sold by my executor to the best advantage & after paying all my just debts & funeral expences that the proceeds of said sale be equally divided among all my children
Lastly I hereby make constitute & appoint my friend William L. Robinson Executor of this my last will & testament with full powers to execute the same according to the true intent & meaning thereof & I hereby revoke all former will this the 20th day of August 1853
Signed sealed published & declared by the Testatrix to be her last will & testament hereby revoking all former wills in the presents of us who witnessed the in the presents of the testatrix & of each oth /s/ Nathan Johnson, Joshua X Rackley Nancy X Balkcum
Nancy was dead within six months. The same William L. Robinson who had administered her mother’s estate handled hers, and his inventory reveals Nancy’s slightly better-furnished life.
Inventory of Nancy Balkcum’s estate, 1854.
The account of sale of the property is even more detailed. With the exception of two or three neighbors, all the buyers were Nancy’s children or other close family and they seem to have gotten bargain basement prices. Subtracting the $200 that Harmon Balkcum paid for Nancy’s 32 acres, the remainder of her worldly goods netted only $12.86.
Account of sale of Nancy Balkcum’s estate, 1854.
Documents found in estate files of Hester Balkcum and Nancy Balkcum, Estates Records, Sampson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
Here’s another account of Joseph Holmes‘ murder, presented as a pivot point in the romanticized life of the author’s father:
When Jim Wilkes rode into Raft River Valley in 1870, he had two pasts behind him though he was barely twenty-one. His real name was Griffin Seth Marshall. He had called himself Jim Wilkes only since a spring evening in 1867 when an incident in a Virginia village had sent him into exile as a fugitive from the law.
I heard the story from Mother — I am the daughter of Kate Parke and Griffin Marshall. Father wouldn’t have considered it suitable for a little girl, but Mother had no such qualms. Mother had a strong sense of drama, and for her the story was the thing.
“Your father changed his name,” she told us, “because he got in trouble back home and had to leave the country. He never done anything. No indictment was ever found” — Mother was careful to insert the formal, exonerating phrase — “but he was in a crowd one night with his brother John and this colored man was killed. He’d been a slave of your grandfather’s before the war, so when he was shot they thought the Marshall boys had something to do with it. There were soldiers there, northern soldiers, but your father and his brother got away. They left the country that same night — without even saying goodbye to their mother. That was when they changed their name. That’s History,” Mother would add, as she usually did when she told us a story about the early days. “Do what you will with it.”
The time came when I visited the Virginia village. And I discovered not only that every word of Mother’s account was true, but that the full story was adorned with details and a couple of postscripts that would have delighted her.
THE NAME of the village is Charlotte Court House and it is the seat of Charlotte County. It’s the courthouse, built in 1823, is a handsome building of red brick, with a white portico and four white columns overarched by venerable trees. Before the courthouse on an evening is the spring of 1867 a crowd had gathered to listen to a speech. The speaker was a Negro, who was able to make a speech only because Federal troops were camped in a grove of trees across the street. His name was Jo Holmes. He had been a slave, the butler of Judge Hunter Marshall whose plantation Roxabel was five miles from the village. Now Jo Holmes was not only a free man but also a member of the Virginia legislature. Jo Holmes’ podium was the slave block that still stands at the point where the walk from the courthouse joins the street. According to the local story, he was advocating mixed marriages. He didn’t get very far with his speech. A shot was fired and Jo Holmes fell dead. The bullet, I was told is buried in the front wall of the courthouse.
In the crowd were my father and his older brother John who were home on vacation from Clifton Academy in Fauquier County. John had been in the Confederate cavalry. (Their oldest brother Hunter had been killed in the Civil War — four days after Appomattox.) Griffin, who was only seventeen, had been too young to go to war. With them was cousin David Morton, actually a second or third cousin, and a friend named Fred Beal.
The shot that killed Jo Holmes came from the part of the crows where the four young men were standing. One of the four did fire the shot — then slipped the gun into the hand of a friend who threw it into the creek that runs through the hollow beside the courthouse. The Federals came running, but before they could get to the scene the four boys had made their escape with the help of relatives and friends. They were hidden for several hours in a house in the village. Before dawn they were driven to Pamplin, the nearest station on the Norfolk and Western Railway, and put on a train headed west.
The four fugitives soon parted. A letter from Griffin to his older sister Mary dated May 29,1867 — I got it from the daughter of Father’s sister — shows that he and John had been commended to the care of people named Taylor in country that might be Texas. There is no mention of the other two boys. The letter is written on a piece of stationery embossed in the upper left-hand corner with the head of an Indian and, beneath it, the legend “N.P. Co.”; but there is no place name on the letter and the envelope is missing. It reads as follows:
May 29, 1867
My Dear Sister: You must really excuse me for not writing to you sooner but I have been sick nearly ever since I have been here and the other part of the part of the time I didn’t feel like writing. I haven’t had anything to do at all- we have been waiting for Mr. Taylor’s son to come down here- but he has been sick and is now worse and probably never will be able to come. The old man said that he (his son) could get better situations than anyone else and advised us to wait for him and of course as we are under his care we took his advice and are now waiting to see what is going to turn up. Mr. T. Sr. went up to see about his son yesterday and we are expecting him back every day. Morgan is well and in pretty good spirits, but I am not in good spirits. I am getting tired of doing nothing and paying board.
This is the hardest country I ever saw; there isn’t a tree of any consequence in two hundred miles of this place. One day it is hot as five hundred (this was a simile my father often used) and the next day you can’t wrap up and keep comfortable-now today it is very hot. I wrote to Ma some two or three days ago; tell her to write to me and that often. Has the old fuss died out yet or not? I am very anxious to know the effect that thing produced. I haven’t got anything to write about and I am going to stop. Give my love to Bee Jim and all at Roxobel and regards to all of my friends and write soon to your affectionate Brother
The handwriting is the same that appears in two letters Griffin had written to his mother a few months before from Clifton Academy, but the writer signs himself not “G. S. M.” or “G. S. Marshall” as in the earlier letters but “J.T. Wilkes.” The “Morgan” he refers to can only be his brother John. “I never understood,” said my cousin Sarah when she handed me the worn sheet, “what a letter with that strange signature was doing in Mother’s papers.”
I once asked my father who killed Jo Holmes. He replied only it was not he.
— An American Memoir, Margaret Marshall, originally published in The Hudson Review, volume 24, number 2 (1971).
I could pick at the details of this account — starting with the date of the letter, a full two years before Joseph Holmes was actually killed — but what’s the point? It is so obviously unconcerned with Joe Holmes — “delightful postscripts”? — or his life that accuracy is too much to ask.
This photo is found among literary editor Margaret Marshall’s papers in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University:
It is labeled “Roxabel.” This is either a photograph of the back of the house, which has been much modified if it is, or is mislabled. It certainly does not match Marshall’s white portico-and-columns description. (That’s a shed roof porch with posts.) Further, Roxabel is still standing, and I’ve been there. It’s used primarily as the background for tasteless plantation-themed weddings these days, but was mercifully still when I drove up with Kathy Liston, a Charlotte County archeologist-cum-genealogical researcher who opened many a door, literal and figurative, for me in my quest for Jasper and Joseph’s roots. With a wing added long after the Marshalls left, here is Roxabel today:
If Joseph R. Holmes was enslaved here, was his brother Jasper as well? Or had they been separated early, Jasper perhaps sold locally as excess or to settle a debt. I don’t know. But I do know that, emancipated in 1865 and at least free to build a relationship on their terms, the brothers’ bond was sundered forever by a rash pistol shot.
Back in December, I went on a hunt for Artis cemeteries in the Eureka area. One that I found, just south of the others, holds the remains of William M. Artis and his family. Today, while I was sorting old documents, I ran across William’s death certificate. His place of birth, which I’ve surely read a hundred times, seized my eye:
“Family (Seabury)”? Was this graveyard originally the resting place of William’s maternal great-grandfather, Aaron Seaberry, who died just after 1910? Are there other Seaberrys here, including William’s mother Frances Seaberry Artis? (Who was erroneously referred to as Frances Hagans above. “Hagans” was her mother’s maiden name and the surname of her half-brother Napoleon Hagans. William’s age is off, too. He was 70 when he died.)
Last time I was at the North Carolina State Archives, I went looking for the original of this Confederate field map. I didn’t find it, but Trisha Blount Hewitt did.
Dr. David G.W. Ward’s plantation is just below Stantonsburg at the top, and Silas Bryant and John Lane’s farms — where the Artises were apprenticed — are bottom left. X marks the approximate spot of the Artis Town cemetery.
More thanks to Trisha.