Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The brothers.

Yesterday would have been Cousin Snook’s 92nd birthday. My grandmother spoke of him and his oldest brothers in tandem — “Snook, Dink and Jabbo.” They were her double cousins, the sons of her second cousin once removed Henry Lee Henderson and her aunt Nora Aldridge Henderson. Jabbo died early, without children, but my relationships with Dink and Snook’s descendants, as well as with their surviving youngest brother, are deeply cherished.

Dink and Snook

Johnnie D. “Dink” Henderson (1925-1992) and Horace B. “Snook” Henderson (1923-1984).

Aaron Henderson

Aaron H. “Jabbo” Henderson (1922-1944).

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Bessie, in color.

I’ve talked about Bessie Henderson‘s portrait before. It is perhaps the most cherished of the original photographs I hold, likely the only picture taken in her short life.

I recently asked my cousin J.G., great-grandson of Bessie’s first cousin Daniel Simmons, if he would take a shot at colorizing Bessie’s photograph. She died at 19 in early 1911, and no one now living ever saw her alive. (In fact, I’ve known only five people — my grandmother, her sister Mamie, Beulah Aldridge CarterFannie Aldridge Randolph, Jessie Mae Jacobs — who did. The last of them passed in 2001.) So I just wanted to see her as she might have looked. See her in something other than sepia tone.

And here she is.

Bessie Henderson 001 - before after side by side-2

I was struck on two fronts. First, there is Bessie’s beauty anew. And then … the detail. The lacy ruffles of her blouse, the tiny collar pin bar, the pleats of her skirt. And the background? It was years before I saw the white bird swooping past Bessie’s wrist. But trees? A pool of water? Ducks? Who knew?

Here’s a little video of Bessie’s progression. Thank you again, J.G.!

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Amelia Henderson Braswell.

A long time ago, like, maybe, in the late 1990s, I took a ride with my cousin L.H. over to LaGrange, Lenoir County, to visit Mackie Bee Elliott Williams. The daughter of Roland and Georgetta “Etta” Henderson Elliott, Cousin Mackie Bee was then a little more than 80 years old. Today, as I began writing this piece, I discovered that she passed away just this past March at the age of 97.


Cousin Mackie Bee as a young woman, early 1930s.

In that era before phone cameras and portable scanners, I’d arrived at Cousin Mackie Bee’s armed with my trusty old Canon AE-1 and several micro-filters. Fortune rewards the prepared. Cousin Mackie, whose grandfather was James Henry Henderson, had lined the walls of home with photographic portraits of her mother Etta and, to my astonishment, two of her aunts, Mary Ella and Amelia Henderson.

Of Mary Ella Henderson, I have found only one reference — the 1880 census of Brogden, Wayne County, which lists mulatto farmer James Henderson, his wife Frank, and children Mary, 12, Nancy, 10, and Lizzie, 6. Amelia was born in 1880, but too late to be counted by the census taker. I have been able to fill out some details of her short life, however.

On 31 1898, 18 year-old Amelia Henderson married Manuel Braswell in Bullhead township, Greene County, North Carolina. Their license noted that she was a Wayne County resident, and, assuming she was still living in her father’s household in the far south of the county, I’m not sure how she would have met Braswell.


By the time of the 1900 census, “Man” and Amelia Braswell were living in Nahunta, Wayne County, which bordered Greene County.  Man worked as a farm laborer; the couple had no children. Ten years later, they remained in the same area, still with no children.

Four years after that, Amelia Henderson Braswell was dead.

The death certificate for Amelia “Brazzell” records her death on 26 March 1914 in Goldsboro of uremic convulsions following an operation for pyosalpinx.  It was a slow and agonizing demise. Uremic convulsions are involuntary muscle spasms or seizures resulting from the toxic effects of kidney failure. Pyosalpinx is pus-filled infection of a fallopian tube. Amelia was 37.  Her brother Elias L. Henderson provided the information for her death certificate, and the family buried her in Jason, Greene County, the day after she died.

Amelia Henderson 001

Amelia Henderson Braswell (1880-1917)

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Photographs

MY grandmother.

Every time I see you as a little girl, I think of one time you came, and I was going Overtown and you said you were going with me. You wanted to go with me. So I carried you with me, and I saw a lady I had been working with, and she had a granddaughter named Lisa, too. And so she said, “Oh, hello, Grandmother, you have your Lisa, too!” And I said, “I have my Lisa, too.” And you said, “Don’t call her Grandmother ‘cause she is not your grandmother.” That lady just laughed about that thing. You said, “Don’t call her Grandmother. She is not your grandmother. She is my grandmother.” Yes, sir. But you were ‘sleep before I got to Orcutt Avenue.

Margaret Allen newspaper

Margaret Colvert Allen (2 August 1908-11 February 2010)

Missing my grandmother on her birthday.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

No damages.

More times than I might have imagined, see here and here and here and here and here, members of my extended family have figured in litigation that made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Here’s another such case:

William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).

In 1845, the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions bound brothers Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis to William Hooks to serve as apprentices until age 21. At the time of their indentures, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after the court determined that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when apprenticed, a judge ordered his indenture amended to correct his true age. Hooks, apparently, never got around to it.  Meanwhile, William Perkins hired Thomas. Deprived of the young man’s labor, Hooks attempted to enforce the court order, and Perkins took up Thomas’ cause.  Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his true age of 21 — regardless of the age listed on his indenture — Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period from November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over.  The state Supreme Court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ indenture to reflect his actual age at the time it expired, per the court order.  Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, were listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. (William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census at all.)  Worse, by 1860, Rufus Artis had lost ground, as the census of Nahunta, Wayne County, lists him as a 17 year-old — rather than the 21 or 22 year-old he actually was — in Hooks’ household, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13.  In other words, what Hooks could not get out of Thomas Artis, he appears to have extracted from his younger brother.

Rufus Artis eluded the census taker in 1870, but he was around. On Christmas Eve 1874, he married Harriet Farmer in Wayne County. The family appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Rufus Artis, 46, wife Harriet, 30, and daughters Hannah, 13, and Pennina, 9. The family lived very near a cluster of three other sets of extended Artis families descended from Vicey Artis, Celia Artis, and Vincent Artis, none of whom were not known to have been related. (Or, at least, not closely so.) In the 1900 census of Nahunta, Rufus and Harriet, their children grown and gone, shared their home with Harriet’s mother, 73 year-old Chanie Farmer. Daughter Pennina had married Curry Thompson, son of Edie Thompson, on 11 October 1893 in Wayne County. They had two daughters, Harriet (1895) and Appie (1896). On 10 January 1917, Harriet Thompson married John Henry Artis, born 1896 to Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard, of course, was the son of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis, and the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 5: Napoleon Hagans and family.

Napoleon Hagans, self-made man, could neither read nor write. His wife, Appie Ward Hagans, born into slavery, picked up the rudiments of an education at some point in her life and was able to scratch out a shaky signature, as shown in this 1888 deed. By time his sons were born, Napoleon had begun his ascent into Wayne County’s African-American elite, recognized by both blacks and whites as a savvy and successful cotton farmer. Thanks to his wealth, the children he reared, Henry and William Hagans, would lead lives very different from their father’s, starting with their educations at local schools and then Howard and Shaw Universities.Napoleon Hagans X Appie Hagans SigHenry E. Hagans spent much of his life as a teacher and principal, and his small, firm hand reflects his pedagogical life. He likely met his wife, Julia B. Morton of Danville, Virginia, at Howard. This sample of their signatures is on a deed dated 1899.
HE Hagans & Julia Hagans SigWilliam Hagans’ signature was bolder and more architectural than his brother’s, as shown on the 1916 deed below. Though not a teacher, his early career as secretary (read: assistant or even chief of staff, if there was additional staff) to United States Congressman George H. White and as businessman/farmer provided ample opportunity for him to display his conjoined signature. (William M. Artis, son of Adam T. and Frances Seaberry Artis, was William Hagans’ first cousin, and Hannah E. Forte Artis was the wife of William Artis’ brother, Walter S. Artis. William likely did not attend school beyond eighth grade, but his penmanship is lovely. Hannah, too, clearly benefitted from several years of schooling. I wish I knew more about late 19th century rural African-American schools in Wayne County.)
WS Hagans WM Artis Hannah Artis Sig