As detailed here, Edmond Petty was Eva Petty Walker‘s grandfather. Petty was born enslaved in the 1830s, probably in Wilkes County, North Carolina (Iredell County’s northwestern neighbor). On 26 April 1865, he enlisted in Company H, 40th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, in Greeneville, Tennessee. Intentionally or accidentally, his name was recorded as “Edward Pedy.” (Greeneville is about 120 miles from Wilkes County over the Blue Ridge Mountains through what is now Cherokee National Forest. This is tough terrain even today.)After mustering out in February 1866 at Chattanooga, Edmond Petty returned to Wilkes County, married and reared a family. In poor health and finally straitened, in 1883, Petty applied to the United States government for an invalid’s pension. He claimed disability as a result of suffering a sunstroke while drilling with his regiment.Petty’s disability affidavit provides rich details of his life. Prior to enlistment in the Army, he had lived “with B.F. Petty to whom I belonged in Wilkes County, State of North Carolina. I was there a slave.” (Benjamin F. Petty, who reported owning 23 enslaved persons in 1850, was one of the largest slaveholders in Wilkes County.) Since the war, he had lived in the Fishing Creek area of Wilkes County and had worked as a farmer when he was able. Petty claimed that his diminished eyesight and rheumatism were the result of sunstroke suffered while on duty at Greeneville and that, because of his condition, he was barely able to work.Edmond Petty’s file comprises 84 pages of testimony by his fellow veterans, neighbors and doctors about Petty’s medical condition and its causes, as well as his ability to support himself. Said H.M. Wilder, for example, “I found him hauling wood in a small one horse wagon to the town of Statesville earning a meagre living.” In the end, he was awarded eight dollars a month for three-quarters disability due to rheumatism and one-quarter to heart trouble.The Record & Landmark published a sarcastic piece about Petty’s appeal of his initial pension award in an article that was reprinted across North Carolina’s Piedmont. The piece insinuates that Petty had done nothing to warrant his stipend, but more importantly reveals that Petty was the agent of his own emancipation. When Stoneman’s Raid passed through Wilkes County in late March 1865, capturing Wilkesboro, Petty escaped the Petty plantation and fell in with Union troops as contraband, following them all the way to Tennessee, where he enlisted to fight the Confederacy.Record & Landmark (Statesville, N.C.), 18 March 1898.U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; File #471,881, Application of Edmond Petty for Pension, National Archives and Records Administration.
A few weeks ago, I ran across a reference to Joel Craig and Sharlene Baker’s As You May Never See Us Again: The Civil War Letters of George and Walter Battle, 4th North Carolina Infantry (2004). George and Walter were sons of Amos Johnston Battle, a prominent (and peripatetic) Baptist minister who spent his last years in Wilson County. I wondered if the brothers mentioned any of the family’s slaves in their letters, so when I was at home I stopped by the Wilson County Public Library to skim their copy.
I found only a single reference to a Church, presumably enslaved, who was charged with delivering certain items to the letter writer. A footnote appended to the passage states: “The boy ‘Church’ has been referred to by some as one of the Battle’s [sic] slaves. Whether this is referring to the Raleigh Battle’s or the Wilson Battle’s is unclear. However, if the Rev. Battle did own slaves in the midst of the war it might mean that he was not the abolitionist as previously thought.”
Two things struck me: (1) given Hugh B. Johnston’s confident identification of Amos Battle as the owner of my ancestor Cherry, was his possession of slaves a question? (2) “abolitionist” is a mighty strong word to describe anybody coming out of Wilson County.
First, I did what I’ve apparently never bothered to do — check the 1850 and 1860 federal slave schedules for Amos J. Battle. He appears in neither, but his wife Margaret H. Battle is listed with 32 slaves in 1860. (Hugh Johnston noted that Amos Battle’s “wife owned a small farm north of Wilson not far from the Barnes plantation.”) She is not listed in the 1850 slave schedule, and the sudden acquisition of that many slaves suggested inheritance. After figuring out her maiden name (Margaret Hearne Parker) and father’s name (Weeks Parker) I went looking for estate records.
Sure enough, Weeks Parker died in January 1844 in Edgecombe County, leaving a widow and three children. (One predeceased him.) The 88 pages of his estate file span more than a decade, and Emancipation eventually intervened to prevent a final distribution. There was this, though, a listing of those slaves apportioned to daughter Margaret H. Battle and her children, apparently dating from the late 1850s:
Old Ben, Old Seny, Big Hardy, Lucinda, Stephen, Turner, Hilliard, Mary, Adeline, William, Lena, Alice, William “usually called Reuben,” Little Ben, Harriet, Marina, Sally, Smith, Maria, Little Hardy, Betty, Jim, Moses, Syphax, Toney, Louis, Allen, George, Matilda, Lizzie. I was disappointed not to find a Cherry listed among them, but intrigued nonetheless. Would Weeks Parker’s will shed more light?
Yes. And no.
Weeks Parker executed his will on 31 July 1843. The document mentions his wife Sabra [Irwin Hearn]; son Simmons B. Parker; deceased son Dr. John H. Parker, who had migrated to Florida; and daughters Henrietta, wife of Benjamin Battle, and Margaret, wife of Amos J. Battle. [Benjamin Dossey Battle was Amos’ brother.]
Weeks designated son Simmons as his executor and trustee. He bequeathed certain slaves — Polly, Godwin, Old Ned, Winny, Hardy, Charlotte and her child Cintha, and Nelly — to pass to Simmons after wife Sabra’s death, and mentioned that he had already given Simmons 14 slaves in a deed of gift. He also directed Simmons to sell the land and slaves in Florida inherited from son John’s estate. (And tweaked this last provision in a codicil.)
Weeks’ bequests to his daughters are curious though. After Sabra’s death, Simmons was to hold in trust slaves Lucindy, Stephen, Turner, Lewis, George, Marina, Tony, Matilda, Caroline, William, Holly, Big Hardy, Ben, Cena, Moses, Syphax, Little Hardy, Jim, Lucy and Little Jim “for the sole and separate use and benefit of daughter Margaret H. Battle wife of Amos J. Battle during her natural life free from the management and control of her present or any future husband.” Similarly, he directed that Simmons hold in trust after Sabra’s death slaves Barbara, Sarah, Luke, Ned, Sophia, Elick, Harrison, Milly, Jeffrey, Dorcas, Silas, Bill, Lou, Julia, Randal, Will and Abner for the benefit of daughter Henrietta Battle. Why the specific attempt to keep Amos Battle’s hands off his wife’s property? Was he in fact an abolitionist likely to try to free them? Or were Weeks’ concerns more prosaic?
Simmons and his mother went into court to have Weeks’ will admitted to probate, and the skirmishes began. The two sets of Battles teamed up to claim that they had not been notified prior to probate and that the will’s codicil had been made under undue influence. Simmons and the other trustees admitted that Battles may not have been given formal notice, but claimed that they knew anyway. They also charged Amos Battle with having taken a slave named Jim to Wilmington. The Battles fired a second volley with a claim that Simmons was in “extreme bad health” and “great physical inability” and “utterly incapable of carrying out his duties” as a trustee. Simmons responded meekly, acknowledging that he had been shot in the chest many years before and had never recovered, a circumstance that sometimes completely debilitated him. He agreed to surrender his trusteeship. Nathan Matthewson, too, stepped down, and was replaced by Benjamin Oliver of Duplin County. In one of Oliver’s reports, he advised the court that he had sold for $600 a slave named Jim “in consequence of grossly bad behavior and general bad deportment.” The buyer was Wyatt Moye. With the funds received, Oliver then spent $500 to purchase Lilah from a Dr. Arrington. (She later gave birth to a son Charles.) In 1849, Oliver moved to Bladen County and resigned his trusteeship; Uriah Vaughan of Hertford County — where Margaret then lived — was appointed in his stead. In the mid-1850s, Margaret, Amos and their children moved to the town of Wilson, where Sabra Parker bought them a house and lot. In another plaintive petition for yet another trustee, submitted in September 1856, Margaret complained that she had no other property and that the family was “dependent on their own exertions for a support” as their trust fund was inadequate. The younger children were chiefly supported by Margaret’s “exertions” [she was an innkeeper], while the creditors of her husband Amos, “who is greatly embarrassed,” tried to take her earnings at every opportunity.
Another source shines light on the Battle family’s financial situation. In 1911, Amos and Margaret’s youngest son, Jesse Mercer Battle, published memoirs titled Tributes to my Father and Mother and Some Stories of My Life. In the chapter on his mother, he recalled that his “mother’s family lived in Wilson, N.C. We lived in a large house, and it was called ‘The Battle House.'” There, to her humiliation, his mother took in boarders and other passers-through to earn money for the family’s keep. His father, though “rich in lands and negroes,” gave away his wealth to the point that his younger sons’ educations were neglected. The chapter on Amos J. Battle goes further. Amid fifty hagiographic pages limning his father’s Christlike-ness, Jesse reveals that “his money, his lands, his negoes, his stocks, his bonds, his personal property of every description went as his free will offering to the Church as a whole, and to anyone of its members individually, or to those who were not members.” (This was not offered ironically, and there is no attempt to square Battle’s slaveholding with his Christian values.)
Ah. So. And therein lies the motive for Weeks Parker’s determined attempt to keep his wealth out of pious Amos Battle’s hands.
Jesse Battle’s memoir also provides a peek at the family’s slaves and demonstrates that the thirty or so inherited from Weeks did not define the extent of Margaret’s holdings. “Negroes were my companions,” he wrote. “I played with them, and spent my time with them all day, till I was about seven years old, when I was started to school. I knew my alphabet and how to read a little. This start on my way to an education was given to me by a good old colored woman I called Mammy. (Her name was Dinah.) … This good woman remained with our family till 1865, when the Civil War ended, when she left us and moved down to Greenville, N.C., where her husband, whose name was ‘Shade,’ lived. After the emancipation of the slaves she said that she could never enjoy her ‘freedom’ as long as she lived with her master and mistress.” [Three cheers for Dinah!] Jesse elsewhere mentioned that Dinah had lived with the family at a farm called Walnut Hill, “about three miles from Wilson N.C., on the railroad toward Rocky Mount.”
In the end, I still don’t know if Hugh B. Johnston was correct about Cherry Battle Barnes’ ownership, but I have confirmed that Amos J. and Margaret Hearne Battle owned slaves and that some of those slaves worked on a farm just north of Wilson, not far from where Cherry lived at the time of the first post-Emancipation census.
Will Book F, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970, familysearch.org; Estate of Weeks Parker (1844), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, familysearch.org; other sources as named.
My Daniel Artis/Christopher Lane posts have attracted even more fruitful attention. S.C. has researched the John Lane family for her half-brother, who is descended from one of Christopher Lane’s brothers, and has generously shared photos she has collected.
This photo, taken perhaps in the 1980s, depicts the ruins of John Lane’s house in Bullhead, Greene County. It was in and around this house, presumably, that Sylvania Artis‘ children worked during their involuntary apprenticeship to Lane. S.C. says the house has since been pulled down, though some its interior was salvaged. She also said the family’s cemetery is nearby.
And then this rather leprous image shows Christopher C. Lane, the young soldier who took Daniel Artis with him as a valet when he entered Confederate service.
Many thanks to S.C. for reaching out and for sharing these photographs.
Though he was of prime soldiering age, I have found no evidence that James Lee Nicholson, father of my great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart, ever enlisted or fought in the Civil War. He married in 1861, a few weeks after North Carolina seceded, and his wife Martha “Mattie” Colvert Nicholson gave birth to their first son in 1864. Otherwise, I have no idea how he spent the war years. Today, however, I found an oath he signed a couple of months after the Surrender, promising to abide by all laws made concerning the emancipation of slaves, i.e. those related to the newly won freedom of his four year-old daughter and her mother:
Daniel Artis’ pension file arrived today, and I was puzzled. Was this either of “my” Daniels?
As detailed here, Daniel Artis, allegedly went to war as a body servant for Confederate officer Christopher C. Lane. There are two Daniel Artises. One was born about 1820 and would have been well into middle age when he trudged off to battle. On the other hand, his nephew Daniel Artis, Sylvania’s son, was born about 1843, and was in his prime when the Civil War erupted.
What does the file tell us? It’s a slim one, as pension application files go. Daniel’s request for assistance was rejected summarily, so there was no need to interview his neighbors and kin to corroborate his claims. Still, it is useful.
On 2 December 1901, the Board of Review received an application from DANIEL ARTIES, G 14 USCHA, and assigned it claim number 1277226. Milo B. Stevens & Company of Washington, D.C., a firm of attorneys specializing in pension claims, represented the old soldier. Daniel gave his address as P.O. Box 5, Greenville, Pitt Co., NC, and stated that he had enrolled in the Army in an unknown date in 1865 and been discharged on 11 December of the same year. Despite the Pitt County address, Artis granted Stevens power of attorney on a form sworn to in Wayne County — specifically, Eureka — in the presence of W.M. Exum and Philip Forte. I’m not clear on Exum’s identity, but Forte was a prominent African-American in the neighbor and himself a Union veteran. Further, Forte’s daughter Hannah married Daniel’s cousin Walter S. Artis, son of Adam and Frances Seaberry Artis. Simon S. Strother, the notary public who stamped Daniel’s application, was executor of Adam T. Artis’ estate.) At some point, a commissioner requested “personal description and name of owner” from Artis, but the response — which would have included an assertion of his freeborn status — is not found.
Daniel’s supporting declaration for invalid pension stated that he was 68 years old, that he had been discharged at Fort Macon, and that he was unable to support himself by manual labor due to “rheumatism in back and hip and piles and affected in the breast.” Daniel signed the document with an X.
And then the downer: “Rejection on the ground that the soldiers name is not borne on the rolls of Co G, 14th U.S.Col.H.A., as alleged, as shown by the report from the War Department.”
So, which Daniel is this? Several clues help eliminate Daniel the elder. First, he was born circa 1820, well before Daniel the applicant. Second, Daniel the elder owned significant property in Greene County and is not known to have lived in either Wayne or Pitt Counties. Last, and this applies to either, if Daniel served Christopher C. Lane during his time as an officer in Company A, 3rd North Carolina Artillery from about 1861 till his death in 1864, is it likely that he would have trudged home from Georgia, turned around, gone to New Bern, and enlisted in the Colored Troops in 1865?
My money is on Daniel, son of Sylvania Artis and Guy Lane. Here’s the little I know about him:
In the 1850 census of Greene County, next to white farmer John Lane, Silvany Artess is listed with her children Daniel, Mitchell, Meriah, Gui, and Penny Artess. Ten years later, John Lane’s household included Dannel, Mike, Penney, Dyner, Juley, and Washington Artis, who probably were his apprentices. Next door was 40 year-old Dannel Artis, the children’s uncle. On the other side, their mother Sylvania Artis.
Around 1861, Daniel went to war with John Lane’s son Christopher and returned home in 1864. Surely it is he, and not his 45 year-old uncle Daniel, that enlisted in the Union Army in 1865. His service was short-lived, and he apparently returned to Greene County after.
Guy Lane and Sylvania Artis formalized their marriage a year after he was emancipated, and by 1870 the family had moved several miles west into Nahunta district, Wayne County. There, Guy Lane and wife Silvania are shown in the census with children Daniel, Mike [Mitchell], Mariah, Guy, Penny, Dinah, Julie, Washington, and Alford.
In the 1880 census in Bull Doze [Bull Head] township, Greene County, Daniel Artis appears with his wife Eliza and children Emma D. and James W. I cannot find him in any census thereafter. However, if he is the Daniel Artis who applied for a Civil War pension, he was living in Wayne or Pitt County from 1900 until at least 1904. The notice below also seems to indicate that he was alive as late as 1905, when Dunk Lane and “Miss Dickerson” used his house as a place of assignation. This is the last evidence I have of Daniel Artis’ life.
Goldsboro Weekly Argus, 1 August 1907.
My cousin is the fourth man in this family to bear his name, and those four generations of Johns are the exact measure of my Allen lineage. When Graham Allen married Mary Brown in Charles City County, Virginia, on 22 June 1876, she was six months pregnant with a white man’s child. We know nothing of the circumstances of conception, and nothing of the man’s identity beyond the Y-haplotype — R1b1b2a1a1 — that my uncles and cousins carry. [Update: I have identified John C. Allen‘s father.] Graham adopted Mary’s baby boy at birth, gave him his name, and reared him, as far as we know, with no distinction from their later children. So. We are Allens.
Graham Allen was born about 1852 in Prince George County, Virginia. His first marriage records lists his parents as Mansfield and Susan Allen. His second, as Edmund and Susan Allen. I have found no other trace of Edmund/Mansfield. However, in the 1870 census of Brandon, Prince George County, laundress Susan Allen, 50, and sons Alexander, 20, and Graham Allen, 17, appear in #14, the household of Anthony Shackleford, 26, farmer; wife Fannie, 24; and son Willie, 1. Also living in the house was Mary Hill, 23. I don’t know if the Allens, Shacklefords and Hill were related, or if they were related to two households of Allens listed nearby: #16, Harry Allen, 47, wife Abba, 43, Richard, 19, Augustin, 17, Assia, 13, Robert, 9, and Mary, 6; and #20, Joseph Allen, 42, wife Lucy, 37, and children Mildred, 8, Joseph, 6, and Willie, 1. However, an intriguing Freedmen’s Bureau document links those Allens and the Shacklefords:
“I have the honor to request transportation for the following named persons to their former homes, and to find employment,” wrote Samuel C. Armstrong, Superintendent of the Freedmen’s Bureau 1st District (and founder of Hampton Institute, which educated a dozen Allens between 1927 and the present.) Among those to be transported, Harry and Abbie Allen and their children and Anthony and Fanny Shackleford. City Point, in Prince George County, had been headquarters of the Union Army during the siege of Petersburg in the Civil War. The Allens and Shacklefords likely were refugees, so-called “contraband,” who fled their owners during the war to join a large camp near Fort Monroe. (For recent news of archaeological digs at the former Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton, see here.) Though none has surfaced to date, I will continue to look for links between these families and Edmund or Susan Allen.
Other than Graham and Mary’s marriage license, I have no other record of the family in the 1870s. (An Alexander Allen married Mary Wallace on 15 February 1872 in Charles City County. This Alexander was 30 years old and the son of James and Sophia Allen. Thus, he is not Graham’s brother.)
In the 1880 census of Harrison, Charles City County, 26 year-old farm laborer Gram Allen’s household includes wife Mary and children Nannie, 5, John, 3, and Emma, 1. I suspect that Nannie was Mary’s child by a previous relationship, but I don’t know. In the next few years, Mary gave birth to a son Willie, who died of burns in October 1885. (Graham Allen, who provided information, is listed on the boy’s death certificate as father, but the mother’s name is given as Sarah. A misunderstanding? A mistranscription? And “outside” child?) A month later, Mary gave birth to Alexander Allen. Two years later, in December 1887, Graham Allen reported the death of Mary Allen, age 30. Graham’s relationship to the deceased was not stated, but this was not his wife. In 1892, Mary Brown Allen gave birth to her last child, son Edward Noble Allen. In 1896 and 1899, daughter Emma Allen gave birth to sons Milton and Junius Allen in Charles City County. I do not know their fathers.
On 18 Aug 1898, at Charles City County Courthouse, Graham Allen filed a deed for the purchase of two parcels on Hyde Road, one 12 acres and the other 2 3/4 acres, from A.H. Drewry et ux. A plat filed with the deed shows a roughly trapezoidal lot 2 1/2 miles from Rolands Mill, surrounded by the land of Sarah Jones, Edward Jones, Frank Martin, and Peter Jefferson.
In the 1900 census of Harrison, Charles City County, Graham Allen is listed with wife Mary, sons Alexander and Edward, and grandsons Milton and Junius. (I believe they were Emma Allen’s sons.) Mary was illiterate, but Graham could read and write. Mary reported 4 of 8 children living. (John, Emma, Alex and Ed, living; Nannie, Willie and who, dead?) As detailed here, John had moved to the city by the late 1890s and married Mary Agnes Holmes in 1899.
On 3 Apr 1901, Emma Allen, 22, married widowed laborer Stephen Whorley [Whirley], 32, son of Stephen and Patsy Whorley. W.E. Carter performed the ceremony at Graham Allen’s residence.
On 11 March 1902, at Charles City County Courthouse, Graham Allen filed a deed (book 17, page 437) for the purchase for $16 of 2 3/4 acres in the Grafton tract from Mary Harrison Drewry. The sale was made 27 Feb 1902, and the tract was located 4 miles northwest of Drewry’s Mill. Two years later, he filed a deed or the purchase of 4 1/2 acres in Turkey Trot from M.E. and W.E. Stagg and in 1909 filed another (book 20, page 165) for the purchase for $12 of 2 1/4 acres in the Bishops tract, west of Old Hyde Road in Turkey Trot, bordered on the east by Graham ‘s own land and True Reformers and on west by Peter, James B. and Elvina Jefferson and M.E. Stagg.
In the 1910 census of Harrison, Charles City County, on River Road, farmer Graham Allen is listed with wife Mary and son Edward. (Where were Milton and Junius?) Mary reported 4 of 9 children living. (Eight children, or nine?) Also on River Road, farmer Steaven Whirley, wife Emma, and children Royal, John, Samuel, and Graham. Royal and John were Stephen’s children by a previous wife, and the family lived next to Samuel and Mary E. Whirley, Stephen’s brother and sister-in-law. (River Road is now State Route 5, or John Tyler Memorial Highway.)
Mary Brown Allen died 1 Apr 1916, aged 67 in Harrison township, Charles City County. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Amelia County, Virginia, to James Brown and Catherine Booker, both born in Virginia. She was buried 2 Apr 1916, and Junius Allen of Roxbury was informant for the certificate.
On 22 Nov 1917, in Roxbury, the widower Graham Allen, 58, widow, born Prince George County, resident of Charles City County, son of Edmund and Susan Allen, married Lenner Charles, 32, born Charles City County to William and Lucy Charles. The couple appear in the 1920 census of Harrison, Charles City County on Kemmiges Road with a five year-old daughter named Sallie. (Was she Graham’s child?)
John, Edward, Milton and Junius Allen registered for the World War I draft:
- JOHN CHRISTFUL ALLEN. Born 25 Dec 1876. Resided 2107 Marshall Avenue, Newport News VA. Laborer, Hampton Roads Stev. Co. Nearest relative, Mary Holmes Allen (wife). Medium height, stout build. Brown eyes, grey hair. (Signed “John Christful Allen” in the same hand as rest of the card. A duplicate card shows the signature in a different hand, presumably John’s, as “John Christopher Allen.”)
- EDWARD NOBLE ALLEN. Born 17 May 1888, Charles City County VA. Resided 6724 1/2 – 24th Street, Newport News VA. Laborer, C&O Railway, Newport News. Supports father. Medium height and weight. Brown eyes, black hair. “Three fingers missing on right hand.”
- MILTON ALLEN. Born 22 Nov 1895, Roxboro, Charles City County VA. Resides 318 N. 18th Street, Richmond VA. Laborer for Clarence Cosby, Richmond VA. Single. Signed Milton Allen. Registered 5 June 1917. Also,
- MILTON ALLEN. Born 20 Aug 1896, Richmond VA. Resides 1011 N. Lafountaine, Kokomo, Ind. Employed by Willis White, Kokomo, Ind., USA. Nearest relative, Ed Allen, address “don’t know.” Tall and stout. Black eyes and hair. Signed with an X. Registered 5 June 1918. (Is this the same man who registered in Richmond the year before? If not, which is the right Milton?)
- JUNIUS ALLEN. Born 22 Feb 1899. Resides 1752 Ivy Ave., Newport News, Warwick VA. Carpenter, Boyle-Robertson Co., Newport News VA. Nearest relative, wife Margaret Allen. Medium height and weight. Black eyes and hair. (He was barely literate and signed his name something like ‘Juily Allen.’)
I have not found a card for Alexander and assume he died before the war. Edward actually served; I don’t know about Milton and Junius.
In the 1920 census of Harrison, Charles City County, on Kemmiges Road, Stephen Whirley, farmer, is listed with wife Emma and children Samuel, Graham, Matilda and Susie. John and his family remained in Newport News, as did “Junnus” Allen and his wife Margaret, with brother-in-law Samuel Johnson, at 1752 Ivy Avenue. Junius worked as a transfer drayman; Samuel as a bricklayer at the shipyard. Edward may have been living and working in Washington County, New York. Milton was definitely gone. In the 1920 census of Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana, at 1011 North LaFontaine Street, there is a listing for Virginia-born Milton Allen, single, age 21, living as a roomer in a household headed by Myrtle Harston. Milton worked as a laborer in a stove factory.
On 10 January 1928, Graham Allen died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of about 74. According to informant William Webb, Graham was born in Charles City County to unknown parents and left a widow, Lena Charles. He was buried at New Vine Church on 14 January 1928.
In the 1930 census of Harrison, Charles City County: Emma Whirley and daughter Susie were listed “cook-private family” in household of Eugene A. Dietrich, a German-American grocery merchant. I have not found Edward, though I believe he was living in Charles City County. Nor can I locate Milton and Junius. (There is a Junius Allen listed in Newport News city directories in the 1940s, but I am not certain they are the same man. There is also a Junius Allen listed in the 1902 directory, which definitely is not Emma’s son, so I am cautious.) At least one of Emma’s children had gone North by this time and is found with her daughter in the 1930 census of Baltimore, Maryland, living with her half-brother. At 1314 Mulberry Street, rented for $40, are listed John W. Whirley, 31, wife Susie, 28, sister Matilda, 20, boarder Sam Bradley, 30, and niece Dorothy Whirley, 1. John worked as a laborer in a car shop; Matilda as a laundress in a laundry; and Sam as a hospital waiter. All were born in Virginia except Susie, who was born in South Carolina. On 24 Dec 1930, in Charles City County, Graham Whirley, 22, laborer, son of Stephen Whirley and Emma Allen, residing Roxbury, married Arnether A. Harris, 20, daughter of John A. Harris and Mary Jefferson, residing in Providence Forge. I have not found Samuel Whirley in 1930.
Edward N. Allen died 25 Jan 1933 at the Marine Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, of aortic aneurism and valvular heart disease. Based on information he provided as a patient, Edward’s death certificate reported that he was born 17 May 1890 to Graham Allen and Mary Brown of Virginia and resided at RFD#2, Box 66, Roxbury, Virginia. Edward was buried 30 Jan 1933 at Hampton National Cemetery, in section Fii, Site 6459-A.
In 1935, Samuel Whirley made a splash in Fredericksburg, Virginia, newspapers after being on the lam for a year on larceny and false pretense charges. It’s not clear whether this one-armed man was Emma Allen Whirley’s son, but an article noted that he had spent time in Baltimore while on the run.
In the 1940 census of Hopewell, Virginia, at 601 Maplewood Avenue, Graham Whirley, 25, a chemical plant laborer, is listed as a lodger with Andrew and Lena Joyner. There is no sign of his wife. On 21 January of that year, in Charles City County, his past behind him, Samuel Whirley, 37, born in Charles City County to Stephen Whirley and Emma Allen, residing Petersburg, married Alice Howard, 23, born Charles City County to Laura Howard. The rest of the Whirleys — Emma, Susan, Matilda — are nowhere to be found, though I know they were living. Similarly, of the Allens, I can only place John and his children.
I lose the thread of my great-grandfather’s extended family after 1940. I’ve written of my brief and unsatisfactory telephone conversation with Dorothy Whirley in 1996. She had no children, nor did Edward Allen, but it’s hard to believe that none of Graham’s sons, save John, or his grandchildren by his daughter Emma, have contemporary descendants.
When the call came, Nancy 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.
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.
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.
Raleigh Weekly Standard, 6 May 1868.
Jacob Ing’s radical ideas surfaced well before Reconstruction. As made clear in his last will and testament, he had a long relationship with a free woman of color named Chaney Jones (also known as Hester or Easter Jones) and fathered several children for whom he provided. One, daughter Lucinda, was the first legal wife of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.
[Small world: Jacob Ing witnessed the last will and testament of Reubin Taylor of Nash and Edgecombe Counties and served as executor of the estate of Reubin’s sons Dempsey and Kinchen Taylor, who owned my great-great-grandparents.]