Births Deaths Marriages, Civil War, Enslaved People, Other Documents, Photographs, Virginia

Has the old fuss died out yet?

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).

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Gawd.

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:

Roxabel Margaret Marshall papers

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:

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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.

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Civil War, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Map, in color.

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.

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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.

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Civil War, Free People of Color, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics

He would be murdered if he did not cease.

 

Weekly Standard Raleigh 5 6 1868 Jacob Ing

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.]

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Business, Civil War, Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Photographs

Eagle Mills.

An abstract from Heritage of Iredell County, Vol. I (1980) —

In 1846, peddlar Andrew Baggerly bought the old Francis Barnard mill tract on Hunting Creek in north Iredell County.  In 1849, he placed an ad in Salisbury’s Carolina Watchman: “Capital Wanted And If Not Obtained Then Valuable Property For Sale.”  He described the property as “the most valuable water power in the Southern Country … situated on Hunting Creek in Iredell County, twenty-eight miles west of Salisbury … [on] a never-failing stream, … remarkable for its purity, … [and] adapted to the manufacture of paper, to calico printing, to bleaching etc.”  Baggerly noted that there was a dam in place, an active sawmill, a grist mill soon to open, and a factory building about half-finished.

On 2 Mar 1850, Baggerly, James E.S. Morrison, William T. Gaither, William R. Feimster, William I. Colvert, G. Gaither Sr. and Andrew Morrison filed a deed for a 318 1/4-acre tract called the Eagle Mills place.  By 1852, the factory was operating with William I. Colvert as its agent.  It had 700 spindles and 12 looms and employed an overseer and 22 workers, 20 of whom were women. By 1854 the adjacent former Inscore Mill had been added to the works, and Baggerly claimed the “intrinsic and speculative value” of the complex was $2,700,000.  

In 1855, Baggerly advertised in Charlotte’s North Carolina Whig and in the Carolina Watchman, calling the complex “Eagle City, the Great Point of Attraction, Destined to be the great center of manufacturing interests in Western North Carolina and perhaps the United States.”  He deeded the president and Congress of the United States a ten-acre block in Eagle City called Eagle Square, located on Market Street.  

After Baggerly was forced to liquidate his assets during the Panic of 1857, William Colvert became the owner of his interest in Eagle Mills.  “According to tradition there was a tobacco factory, hotel, oil mill, and general store at Eagle Mills in addition to the grist mill and cotton factory.  A number of homes stood in the horseshoe bend above the mills and a church was eventually constructed on the edge of the settlement.”

In the spring of 1865, Stoneman’s raiders came upon Eagle Mills unexpectedly and burned it to the ground.  The mills were rebuilt, but Eagle Mills never recovered its former prosperity.  The cotton factory and grist mill operated until destroyed by fire in April 1894.  At that time, William I. Colvert, Robert S. Colvert, and James E.S. Morrison were the owners.  

The only remains at the site are gravestones in the church cemetery, traces of the main road to the mill, the grist mill’s foundation stones, and, a short distance upstream, remains of the stone supports where a covered bridge crossed the creek.

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Sville_Record_and_Landmark_4_19_1894_Eagle_Mills

Statesville Record & Landmark, 19 April 1894.

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When William I. Colvert took charge of Eagle Mills in 1852, my great-grandfather Walker Colvert was in his early 30s and father of a one year-old boy, John Walker Colvert. I don’t know exactly what kind of work Walker did for W.I., but they had grown up together, and Walker was an entrusted slave. Even if his primary labors were not at the cotton factory complex, I am certain that he spent considerable time in and around his master’s largest investment. So, too, would John Walker, who remained with W.I. after Emancipation. He is listed in W.I.’s household in the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and I suspect he stayed at Eagle Mills until the final fire closed down the works.

On a rainy December morning I cruised the backroads of northern Iredell County, drinking in the landscape that was home to my Colverts and Nicholsons for much of the 19th century. I made a left onto Eagle Mills Road, headed north. A sharp bend in the road and there, a bridge over Hunting Creek. I pulled over and, ignoring a No Trespassing sign, clambered down to the sandy bank. The waterway is too shallow and rocky to have been paddled or poled, but I imagine that Walker and John Walker knew its course very well. Hunting Creek powered Eagle Mills and was a direct link between W.I. Colvert’s lands and those of Thomas A. Nicholson, whose son James Lee married W.I.’s daughter and whose granddaughter, Harriet Nicholson, gave birth to John Walker Colvert’s first child.

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Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.

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Agriculture, Civil War, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Confederate Citizens File: Durant Dove.

Form of the estimate and assessment of agricultural products agreed upon by the assessor and tax-payer, and the value of the portion thereof to which the government is entitled, which is taxed in kind, in accordance with the provisions of Section 11 of “an Act to lay taxes for the common defence and carry on the government of the Confederate States,” said estimate and assessment to be made as soon as the crops are ready for market.

Rice — Quantity of gross crop. — 5 bush. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 1/2 bush. Value of one-tenth. — $2.00

Cured Fodder – Quantity of gross crop. — 700 lbs. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 70 lbs. Value of one-tenth. — $280

Ground peas – Quantity of gross crop. — 7 1/2 bush. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 3/4 bush. Value of one-tenth. — $4.50

I, Durant Dove of the County of Onslow and State of N.C. do swear that the above is a true statement and estimate of all the agricultural products produced by me during the year 1863, which are taxable by the provisions of the 11th section of the above stated act, including what may have been sold of consumed by me, and of the value of that portion of said crops to which the government is entitled. /s/ Durant X Dove

Sworn to and subscribed to before me the 28th day of November 1863, and I further certify that the above estimate and assessment has been agreed upon by said Dove and myself as a correct and true statement of the amount of his crops and the value of the portion to which the government is entitled. /s/ F. Thompson, Assessor.

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The Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865 (NARA M346), often called the “Confederate Citizens File,” is a collection of 650,000 vouchers and other documents relating to goods furnished or services rendered to the Confederate government by private individuals and businesses.

 

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Agriculture, Civil War, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Confederate Citizens File: Mathew Aldridge.

Form of the estimate and assessment of agricultural products agreed upon by the assessor and tax-payer, and the value of the portion thereof to which the government is entitled, which is taxed in kind, in accordance with the provisions of Section 11 of “an Act to lay taxes for the common defence and carry on the government of the Confederate States,” said estimate and assessment to be made as soon as the crops are ready for market.

Mathew Aldridge

Cured Fodder Quantity of gross crop. — 1000 Tithe or one-tenth. – 100 Value of one-tenth. — $3.00

I, Mathew Aldridge of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina do swear that the above is a true statement and estimate of all the agricultural products produced by me during the year 1863, which are taxable by the provisions of the 11th section of the above stated act, including what may have been sold of consumed by me, and of the value of that portion of said crops to which the government is entitled. /s/ Mathew X Aldridge

Sworn to and subscribed to before me the 3 day of December 1863, and I further certify that the above estimate and assessment has been agreed upon by said Mathew Aldridge and myself as a correct and true statement of the amount of his crops and the value of the portion to which the government is entitled. /s/ J.A. Lane, Assessor.

Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865, National Archives and Records Administration.

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Civil War, Enslaved People, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Daniel was always spoken of with respect and love.

I recently received a comment from a reader in response to my posts on the Daniel Artis family. She was hesitant to contact me because her ancestor John Lane had owned slaves — quite possibly some of the people I’ve written about — but was anxious to share a story about Daniel that had been passed down in her family for 150 years. I was surprised and excited to read her message and encouraged her to get in touch. Here’s our April 28 exchange:

Hi, Tammi! Please forgive my excitement and inability to wait for your response. I’m traveling to NC next week to meet some of my newfound Sauls relatives — descendants of Daniel Artis. I’m just beside myself wondering about John Lane — whom I believe apprenticed several of Daniel’s sister Sylvania’s children and might have owned Sylvania’s husband, Guy Lane. I know you’re busy, but I hope you’ll be able to touch base soon. Thanks again!

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Lisa, thank you for getting back to me! … Yes, apparently there were a few children apprenticed. I recall, I think, five or six on one census. The younger Daniel Artis was 17 years old on, I think, the 1860 census in my g-g-grandfather John Lane’s home. From my family’s handed down stories, the little Daniel was my g-g-g-uncle Christopher Lane’s body servant. Christopher was one of John’s sons and only about seven years older than little Daniel. So they kind of grew up together. The story is that when they both grew up Christopher went to War and Daniel was allowed to go with him as his servant because Christopher was an officer. Only officers could take a servant with them. Daniel was considered free before the war although an apprentice as you probably know. Well, Christopher was captured by the northern troops and taken to their POW camp at Fort Pulaski, Ga. He died there from dysentery. The thing that my family is grateful for is that Daniel went to the camp with Christopher and stayed with him until his death, never leaving his side. When he died, Daniel made his way back to Bull Head, NC to let Christopher’s family and his father John Lane know what happened to him. Daniel was always spoken of with respect and love for what he did for Christopher.

I thank you so much for replying to me, Lisa, because I’ve always wanted to thank his descendants for what Daniel did and for his devotion to our family in such a terrible time. I always wondered if the Daniel Artis next door who was older was related to little Daniel. I saw on the census that he owned property near John Lane, my relative. I hope this information helps some, and I wish all of his relatives happiness and blessings.

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What a pleasure to hear from you! The Daniel you speak of was the older Daniel’s nephew. “Your” Daniel was the son of Sylvania Artis, a free woman of color, and Guy Lane, her enslaved husband. My direct ancestor, Vicey Artis, was the sister of Sylvania and Daniel the elder. Vicey also married a slave, Solomon Williams. Most of their children were apprenticed by Silas Bryant, a close neighbor of John Lane’s. Daniel the elder’s wife was enslaved, as were their children.

Thanks so much for sharing the story about Daniel the younger. I had no idea that he served in the War. I need to look in my files, but I don’t think I know much about him, though I recall that he married Eliza Faircloth. I do not know of any his descendants either. I grew up in Wilson NC, but with no knowledge of my Greene County links. During a visit home this weekend, I’m going down to Bull Head to meet some Saulses and visit Artis Town cemetery, which is where Daniel the elder was buried in 1905. I’ll keep you posted on anything I find about Daniel the younger.

If you are willing, I would love to share Daniel and Christopher’s story on my blog. I so appreciate your coming forth with this bit of history. Researching African-Americans is generally incredibly difficult, and so much lies locked away with other families. I always dream that someone will contact me just like you did!

Best wishes, keep in touch, and thanks again!

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I’d be honored for you to use Daniel’s story, of course. I’ve also dreamed and wanted for years to find his relatives, as I mentioned, so I could thank all of them. To be honest, I don’t know if the younger Daniel was enlisted or just went along as an aide to Christopher. I’m only learning recently about the service of black troops both Confederate and Union. I don’t think Daniel was enlisted but I may be wrong. I’ve found the Saulses in many of my genealogy searches but not able to make a connection directly to the Lanes. I can’t remember if I mentioned but my genealogy research came to a brick wall with my g-g-grandfather John Lane. No one anywhere, not even Ancestry.com knows who his father was for sure. I have hints but nothing else. It’s all fascinating.

I can only imagine the difficulty there must be tracing African American genealogy, but I see DNA is being used which is great. It’s part of why I find Scuffalong so interesting. There’s so much information. I really love hearing about Vicey, Sylvania and the elder Daniel since their names have come up so often in my own research. And so happy to meet you, a descendant! Many of my Lane ancestors ended up in Wilson, NC after leaving Bull Head. I’m not sure why, but there were many there in my research including a great-grandmother of mine. Please pay my respects at the Artis Cemetery, to their memory, Lisa, when you visit it. Feel free to write me anytime, if you have any thoughts or questions or just to say hello!

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CCLane Page 2

Christopher C. Lane enlisted in the 3rd North Carolina Infantry on 23 April 1861 at Snow Hill, Greene County. He was wounded at Gettysburg on September 1863, recuperated at home, then returned to war. He was captured 12 May 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, and sent to Fort Delaware. In August, in retaliation for the Confederate Army’s imprisonment of Union officers as  human shields in Charleston, U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sent 600 Confederate officers to Morris Island, South Carolina, to serve as human shields. Lane was among them. After 45 days, the men were transferred to Fort Pulaski, Georgia, and imprisoned in dismal conditions. Christopher Lane died there on 8 December 1864.

I have found no record of Daniel Artis’ service to Christopher Lane during the Civil War, which is not surprising. He was not a soldier; he would not have enlisted. The role of body servants in the early days of the War is the subject of intense debate, and Artis’ status as a free man of color, rather than a slave, further complicates any assessment of his motives (or volition) in following Lane to war.

Many thanks to Tammi Lane for reaching out and sharing a part of Daniel Artis’ life that would otherwise be lost to his family.

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Image found at http://www.fold3.com.

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