North Carolina, Wayne County } In the Superior Court Before A.T. Grady C.S.C.
A.A. Williams & R.J. Barnes }
vs } Complaint
John W. Moore & Isaiah Barnes }
The plaintiffs allege
1. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are tenants in common of a lot of land situate in the town of Fremont in said State and County adjoining the lands of W.R. Ballance & others bounded as follows:
Beginning at a stake in the centre of Sycamore Street below J.P. Hopewell’s lot and running the centre of said street 47 yards; then at right angles with said street nearly East to R.E. Cox and W.R. Ballance line; then nearly North with said line 47 yards to a stake thence nearly west to the beginning containing one half acre.
2. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are seized and possessed in fee simple of said lands as tenants in common in the following proportions to wit 1. A.A. Williams to one third part thereof 2. R.J. Barnes to one third part thereof 3. Isaiah Barnes to one sixth part thereof 4. John W. Moore to one sixth part thereof
3. That the defendants Isaiah Barnes and John W. Moore refuse to [illegible] with the plaintiffs in a petition for the sale of said lands for division.
4. That the plaintiffs desire to have partition of said land made amongst the plaintiffs and the defendants according to their respective rights and interests therein so that each party may hold his interest in severalty, but the number of the parties interested it is impossible that actual partition thereof can be made without serious injury to the parties interested
Wherefore the plaintiffs demand judgment
1. That the plaintiffs and the defendants be declared tenants in common in said lands
2. That an order issue for the sale of said lands on such terms as this Court shall deem reasonable and that the proceeds of such sale may be divided among the plaintiffs and the defendants according to their respective shares and interests in the said lands.
W.S.O’B.Robinson, Atty for plaintiffs
North Carolina, Wayne County } Superior Court Before the Clerk
A.A. Williams & R.J. Barnes
Jno. W. Moore et als
The defendants Jno. W. Moore, Isaiah Barnes and R.J. Barnes, answering the petition herein say:
I. That paragraph I thereof is not true.
II. That paragraph II thereof is not true.
III. That paragraph III thereof is not true.
IV. That paragraph IV thereof is not true.
For a further defense defendants allege:
I. That on the [blank] day of 1888, the plaintiffs and defendants, together with Geo. Aldridge and Wm. Durden for the purpose of obtaining a school site for a free school in District No. 6 Colored, in Wayne County, which district had been in July 1888 created at the request of the said persons above-named, paid for the lot of land described in the petition and procured a conveyance thereof from R.E. Cox to themselves, it being the intent and purpose of all the parties thereto that the parties in said deed should hold the lot therein conveyed as trustees for the said district for use as a free school in the same, and that the said deed should be executed to them as said trustees.
2. That by the eventual mistake of the parties to said deed the same was executed by the said R.E. Cox to the parties individually and not as trustees.
Wherefore defendants pray that they be hence dismissed and that they receive their costs of plaintiff A.A. Williams and for such other and further relief is they may be entitled to.
Aycock & Daniels, Attys for Deft.
These undated pleadings do not exactly speak for themselves, but I hesitate to read into them something that’s not there. I don’t know how the suit turned out, but if the answer is credited, something like this happened: my great-great-grandfather John Aldridge‘s brother George and five others purchased a half-acre from R.E. Cox to be used for the erection of a school for Fremont’s African-American children. (That’s how it worked then — communities had to donate the land for schools to be built upon.) Through mistake and oversight, Cox made out the deed to the six men individually, rather than as trustees. Subsequently, Williams and R.J. Barnes, seeking to take advantage of the tenancy in common, sought to force a sale of the land — which was too small to divide — so that each owner could cash out his share.
Who were these folks?
- A.A. Williams was a teacher and principal of the Colored Graded School in Goldsboro.
- John W. Moore appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, as a 57 year-old farmer. He is named in Goldsboro newspaper as active in colored school affairs.
- Isaiah Barnes appears in the 1880 census of Fremont, Wayne County, as a 30 year-old farm laborer. By 1894, he is named in Goldsboro newspapers as a poll holder for Fremont voting district.
- R.J. Barnes cannot be identified.
- William E. Durden is most likely the “William Darden” who appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, as a 29 year-old farmer.
- R.E. Cox was a physician and Fremont town commissioner. Goldsboro newspaper show that he also owned a drugstore and was active in other business ventures. He was white; the other men were African-American.
Document found in School Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.