Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Between mills.

I was on my way to posting this map when I stumbled across the Welch-Nicholson House application. Back to it:


Historian and genealogist Margaret Miller created and holds the copyright on this map of early Iredell County settlers and landmarks. The county, taller than wide, stands on a narrow foot, and I’ve excerpted a section that covers roughly the top fifth of its territory. The world of my 19th-century Iredell County ancestors was largely contained within the borders of the superimposed red box. There, just south of the Yadkin County line, is the Nicholson Mill that anchored the farm that James Nicholson bought in 1826. His half-brother John Nicholson lived on adjoining land, and their children Thomas A. Nicholson and Rebecca C. Nicholson married in 1839. Thomas and Rebecca reared their children in the house James had owned, and their slaves worked both the mill and the farm. One enslaved woman, Lucinda, likely worked with Rebecca in the house and, in 1861, gave birth to a daughter, Harriet, whose father was Thomas and Rebecca’s son Lee. That same year, Lee married Martha Ann Olivia Colvert.

In the early 1870s, the adolescent Harriet Nicholson met John Walker Colvert, a 22 year-old farmhand still living on the farm at which he had been born a slave. That farm, which is also where Martha “Mattie” Colvert was reared, was near Eagle Mills, the ill-fated cotton mill on Hunting Creek due south of Nicholson Mill. Mattie’s father William I. Colvert, an early small-scale industrialist, had been a partner in the development of Eagle Mills in the 1850s. William’s father John A. Colvert had died just a few years after arriving in Iredell County, and William — still a child — had inherited a boy named Walker Colvert, later the father of John Walker Colvert.

Just a few miles apart as the crow flies, Nicholson Mill and Eagle Mills were the poles of the community in which Harriet Nicholson’s family and John Walker Colvert’s family lived for generations before merging in my great-grandfather, Lon W. Colvert.


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