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.
Both of my grandfathers died long before I was born. In 1958, however, my paternal grandmother married Jonah Catellus Ricks and moved to Philadelphia with him. He died just before I turned three, but I am told I was fiercely attached to him.
Hattie Henderson Ricks and Jonah C. Ricks, Philadelphia, circa 1957.
Among the cache of funeral programs my grandmother left is a trove memorializing services for Granddaddy Ricks’ people, many of whom migrated to Philadelphia with him. His father, Jonah Lewis Ricks, lived in Philly for a time, but returned to North Carolina in late adulthood and died in Wilson in 1960.
Jonah L. Ricks was born near Bailey, Nash County, in 1885. His mother, Nancy Jones Ricks, was born about 1865 in western Wilson County to Jacob and Milly Powell Jones, both born into free families of color. (Jacob was a grandson of Bethana Jones.) Jonah’s father was Joseph Ricks.
Jonah L. Ricks, Wilson, 1953.
Joseph’s death certificate, filed in Nash County in 1949, asserts that he was born about 1876 in Nash County to Square [sic] and Nicey Ricks. However, the censuses of 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 consistently list 1860 as his birth year.
What follows is a summary of research I conducted to pierce the veil of slavery and shed light on Joseph Ricks’ family just before and after Emancipation.
Initially, I was unable to find either Joseph Ricks or his parents in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. However, I had found a Kinchen R. Ricks (1858-1915) whose Nash County death certificate listed his parents as Squire Ricks and Nicie Braswell, so I looked for him instead. In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County, 22 year-old Kenchin Ricks appears as a servant in the household of Marmaduke Ricks. Next door is this household: Sqare Perry, wife Nicy, and their children, including 18 year-old Joseph. I went back ten years to 1870 to find, in Chesterfield township, Nash County: Esqire Perry, 52, wife Nicey, 47, and children Primus, 22, Willie, 18, Mary J., 16, Rebecca, 13, Kinchen, 11, Joseph, 9, Robert, 8, and Matilda, 6. Also sharing the household were Judy Finch, 19, and her 7 month-old Nancy, and Sham Freeman, 63, Silva, 58, Mary, 25, and Rosa Freeman, 18. Thus I determined that Joseph Ricks was known as Joseph Perry as a child. His parents were known as Squire and Nicey Perry and, I later determined, all of his siblings except brother Kinchen retained the surname Perry.
Squire Perry was born circa 1815, according to census records. His wife Nicey was born circa 1824. As neither appears in censuses earlier than 1870, I assumed that both were born slaves. I consulted Timothy Rackley’s volumes on Nash County estate divisions and slave cohabitations and discovered records of the division of the estate of Clabourn Finch, which was conducted 18 December 1849. Finch’s property, which included slaves Jacob, Benjamin, Squire, Sam, Henry, Gilbert, Adam, Primus, and Nicy and her child, was divided among his heirs. Squire, valued at $550, went to Finch’s daughter Betsy and her husband Jacob Strickland. Nicy and child, valued at $700, went to Finch’s daughter Nicy and her husband Marmaduke Ricks. Thus, the family was divided during the last decade and a half of slavery.
Page from the estate of Clabourn Finch, Nash County, 1849. The enslaved people distributed to his heirs at November Term of court differ slightly from those listed in this inventory.
The 1850 slave census of Nash County shows Jacob Strickland as the owner of four slaves and Marmaduke Ricks as the owner of ten. The 1860 slave census of Sullivants township, Nash County, lists him as the owner of 18 slaves.
Among post-Emancipation Nash County cohabitation records, I discovered that, on 19 August 1866, Esquire Strickland and Nicey Ricks registered their 22-year marriage with a Nash County Justice of the Peace. At the time they reunited, each was using the surname of his or her most recent former owner. By the 1870 census, however, as noted above, Squire had settled upon Perry.
It is probably not coincidence that another of Clabourn Finch’s daughters, Ann C., was married to a Perry. Clabourn Finch’s slaves were divided among his children at his death and may have been further sold or traded within the family. At present, Squire’s reason for choosing Perry rather than Ricks or Strickland is not clear, nor is the basis for Joseph Ricks’ report on his brother Kinchen’s death certificate that their mother’s maiden was Braswell. Similarly, the reason that two of their sons, Kinchen and Joseph, reverted to Ricks is unclear.
Original photographs and funeral program in my possession. Federal population schedules; North Carolina Certificates of Death filed in Nash and Wilson Counties; Timothy W. Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves & Cohabitation Record 1862-1866; Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves 1829-1861; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
“I found your blog posts on line,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk to you some more about them. Kinchen Taylor was my ancestor.”
It took a little while, but we finally caught up as I sat waiting for a flight to Philadelphia. I’ll call him “Cal.” He goes by a different nickname, but he bears — with pride, but some chagrin — the same name as his forebear. It’s been passed down generation after generation after generation and, in spite of himself, he passed it on, too.
Cal grew up within shouting distance of the Kinchen C. Taylor house that I wrote about, and his father and uncle are among the last of Kinchen Taylor’s descendants holding property passed down from him. He’s a few years younger than I am, and he thinks Kinchen Senior’s house was already in shambles during his childhood. He was aware that Kinchen had accumulated vast tracts of farm and woodland in northern Nash County, but dismayed that he had owned so many slaves. That he had owned any at all, really. Without them, of course, his great-great-great-grandfather’s thousands of acres would have been a wilderness of swamp and impenetrable forest. Cal also wondered if we were perhaps related, but I have no reason to believe that we are.
Many thanks to “Cal” for reaching out and for sharing his connection to Taylor Crossroads.
Photographs from the Welch-Nicholson House and Mill Site National Register nomination file held at the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh. Many thanks to File Room Manager Chandrea Burch and National Register Coordinator Ann Swallow.
My great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart walked these rooms.
This, of course, is all gone now. Burned to the ground one night in the 1980s.
I’ve talked about her here and here, but now I’m a little uncertain. Were there actually two Winnie Coleys? Were the mothers of Cain and Caroline Artis and William M. Coley and Patrick, Philip and John Revis Coley different women? Here’s what I know — and conjecture — about her:
- In 1863, North Carolina’s Confederate government levied a tax on slaveholders across the state. Tax lists survive for only a few counties. (Most deliciously for me, Rowan is one.) I have not been able to find Wayne County’s anywhere, but fortuitously — and a little suspiciously — they were abstracted in Martha Ellis Will’s Wayne County North Carolina Court House Records Four Books 1780-1896. The 1863 tax list of Davis District, shows John Coley, Administrator of Estate of W.W. Lewis, with five taxable slaves. It’s the first record of Winnie and her children: Winey, age 29; Cane, age 9; Caroline, age 7; Pat, 4; and Nathan, 2. [Who was W.W. Lewis? Coley himself is not listed with slaves, but the 1860 slave schedule tells a different story. There he reported owning 114 men, women and children. And where were Winnie’s other children?]
- At #272 of the 1870 census of Pikeville, Wayne County, the unmarried 55 year-old John Coley heads a household of possibly related white folks. In every direction, there is evidence of his toppled fiefdom — African-Americans bearing the surname Coley. Were they related to him? To each other? How? (And the non-Coleys in the neighborhood — who among them were also John’s former slaves, men and women who’d disdained his name?) For now, a few. At #270, Trecendia Coley, 36, with Peter, 5, and Dallas Coley, 5. At #273, Winney Coley, 41, with John R., 17, Phillipp, 11, and Mack Coley, 5. At #276, Peter Coley, 50, Harret, 44, Devrah, 16, Delliah E., 15, Napolian, 14, Nicholas, 12, and Thomas V. Coley, 7. At #281, Thomas Coley, 35, Charlotte, 27, Branton, 8, Bealie, 6, Trecendia, 4, Harriett, 1.
- On 5 May 1872, Patrick Coley, son of Peter Coley “sen.” and Winney Coley, married Debby Coley, daughter of Peter Coley and Hannah Coley in Greene County. [The 1870 mortality schedule of Wayne County records the death of 52 year-old black farmer Peter Coley of Pikeville. Was he Peter Sr.? Also, though no ages are listed on the marriage license, the 1880 and 1900 censuses show Patrick’s birth year as 1849, which is not consitent with the “Pat” listed in the 1863 tax list.]
- On 2 Oct 1878, Richard Baker applied for a marriage license from the Wayne County Register of Deeds for Madison Artis of Wayne County, 22, colored, son of Calvin and Serena Artis, father living, mother dead, and Caroline Coley of Wayne County, age 24, colored, daughter of Adam Morris [sic, Artis] and Winny Coley, both living. The ceremony was performed by Fred G. Becton, Justice of the Peace, on 3 Oct 1878 at Winnie Coley’s in Nahunta, before E.L. Becton, Thomas Artis, and Jonah Williams. [Thomas Artis, son of Celia Artis, was Madison Artis’ uncle. Jonah Williams was Caroline’s uncle, Adam Artis’ brother.]
- In the 1880 census of Pikeville, Wayne County, Winnea Coley, 71, is listed with sons Jack R., 26, Phillip, 20, and grandson Dallas Coley, 15. [71?!?! This is the same Winnie Coley listed in 1870, but her age is inexplicably 20 years off.]
- On 5 November 1881, in Wilson County, Winnie Coley, 50, married Alex Barron, 57. The ceremony took place at minister Jessie Baker’s house in the presence of Mary Ellis, Peter Coley and Red Barnes. [Is this our Winnie? If so, she never appears elsewhere with this husband. Which Peter Coley was this?]
- On 16 February 1882, Phillip R. Coley, 22, son of Peter Coley (dead) and Winnie Coley (living), married Ann Exum, 18, in Pikeville, Wayne County, in the presence of witnesses Christopher Coley, Gard Coley and Olin Coley. [“Grad” Coley appears in the 1870 census in household #279 as the son of Howell and Amy Coley. In 1886, Gard married Ollin Coley [Sr.]’s daughter Miranda. Their witnesses were Philip R. Coley, Dennis Coley and Christopher Coley. Christopher appears in the 1870 census of Pikeville, Wayne County, as the son of Lafayette and Julia Coley. Philip R. Coley witnessed Christopher’s 1885 marriage to Sarah Powell. Ollin Coley Jr. married Christopher’s sister Imogen in the presence of Philip R., Dennis and Christopher Coley in 1885.]
- On 11 Apr 1888, Charles Battle applied for a marriage license for Cain Artis of Wayne County, age 35, black, son of Adam Artis and Winny Artis, both living, and Margaret Barnes of Wilson County NC, age 38, black, daughter of Sherard Edmundson, dead. P.D. Gold, minister of the gospel, performed the ceremony on the same day at Margaret Barnes’ home in Wilson before H.G. Phillips, Henrietta Clark and Mary J. Davis.
- On 26 February 1891, William Coley, 22, son of Napolion Hagans and Winney Hagans, of Gardner’s Township, Wilson County, married Minnie Woodard, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard of Taylor’s township, Wilson. Cain Artis applied for the license and stood as a witness.
- In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Willie Coley, 30, wife Minnie, 30, children Effie M., 8, and James M., 6, mother Winnie Coley, 65, and sister Zilley Coley, 38. [Where was Zilley in previous censuses? Or was she, in fact, Minnie’s sister?]
- On 21 July 1909, in Wilson, Wilson County, William Coley, 42, son of Pole Hagans and Winnie Coley, married Mary Mercer, 34, daughter of Sam and Julia Mercer. Jonah Williams, Primitive Baptist Minister, performed the ceremony at the home of W.M. Coley in Wilson.
- Winnie is not found in the 1910 census or beyond and presumably died between 1900 and 1910.
- On 23 March 1917, farmer Cain Artis died in Wilson County of pulmonary tuberculosis. His death certificate reports that he was born March 1851 to Adam T. Artis and Winnie Coley, both of Wayne County NC. Informant for the certificate was W.M. Coley of Wilson NC.
- On 15 December 1920, Phil R. Coley died in Nahunta, Wayne County, of stomach cancer. His death certificate reports that he was born around 1861 to Peter Coley and Winnie [no last name], both of Wayne County. J.A. Coley was informant.
- On 26 January 1928, William Coley died in Wilson County of pulmonary tuberculosis. His death certificate reports that he was born about 1867 to Pole Hagans and Winnie Coley, both of Wayne County. Informant for the certificate was Mary Coley of Wilson NC.
- On 3 September 1934, Jack Revis Coley died in Nahunta, Wayne County, of bladder and prostate cancer. His death certificate reports that he was born about 1850 to Peter Coley and Winnie Coley, both of Wayne County. Informant for the certificate was Philip E. Coley of Fremont NC.
- In summary, Winnie Coley was born about 1830 and died 1900-1910. Her children included Cain Artis (circa 1851-1917); Caroline Coley, born about 1854; John Revis “Jack” Coley (born in the early 1850s-1934); Philip R. Coley (circa 1860-1920); Patrick Coley (??-??); and William M. Coley (circa 1867-1928); and possibly Nathan Coley (circa 1861-??) and Lafayette Coley (circa 1842-1913).
- Fun facts: Philip R. Coley’s son Philip Elmer Coley married Genetta Thompson, daughter of Celebus and Lillie Beatrice Artis Thompson. Lillie was a daughter of Adam T. Artis and a half-sister of Cain Artis. Genetta, then, married her half-uncle Cain’s half-brother’s son.
- Fun facts, 2: William Coley’s father Napoleon was the half-brother of Frances Seaberry, who married Adam Artis. Thus, William’s half-brother Cain was also his first cousin by marriage.
Edward Cunningham Harrison … was John C. Allen Sr.’s biological father.
A recap: my great-grandfather’s mother, Mary Brown, married Graham Allen in 1876 in Charles City County, Virginia, during her pregnancy. Except that he was a white man, we knew nothing of John’s birth father’s identity, and I didn’t really expect ever to.
However, a few months ago, I got an estimated 3rd cousin DNA match at Ancestry DNA. I was intrigued. I have only six matches at that level. Three are with known paternal cousins, and all are African-American. Except this one. A.B. is all Great Britain and Ireland and Scandinavia and Europe West.
I sent A.B. a message, and then a follow-up. She responded, and we briefly explored a dead-end or two. I examined A.B.’s family tree more closely. Two of her great-grandfathers were from Richmond, Virginia, which is just up the road from a couple of the counties in which my maternal grandfather’s forebears lived. One of A.B.’s great-grandfathers was Edward C. Harrison; the other, John S. Ellett. I inquired about both men, and she told me that her Harrisons had lived in Charles City County. We were getting warm. I asked A.B. to upload her raw data to Gedmatch, where I quickly determined that she is a solid second cousin match to my mother and maternal uncle. I told her that I believed that we were related through my great-grandfather and that Edward C. Harrison was the right age and in the right place at the right time to have been his father. A.B. immediately asked what she could do to help figure out the connection. I asked if she would test with 23andme, and she readily agreed. So did her sister.
A couple of weeks ago, their results posted. My mother, my uncle, my sister and all six of my first cousins have tested with 23andme. All of us match A.B. and her sister M.H. The closeness of the DNA matches confirm a recent common ancestor, and all signs pointed toward Harrison. I needed to eliminate Ellett though.
A.B. and my mother, 267 cM total match.
In reviewing my matches, I noticed that T.N., a long-time and fairly close match, also listed Harrison among his surnames.
From my mother’s 23andme matches — sisters M.H and A.B., T.N.’s mother, and T.N.
I also found that T.N. matches A.B. and her sister and, most importantly, they all share matching segments of the same chromosomes with my Allens. This “triangulation” proves that all of us descend from a common ancestor.
Partial screenshot of comparisons of chromosome matches of T.N. to my mother, A.B., M.H., and my uncle. (That Chromosome 7 segment gave me life. It’s the stuff of dreams.)
I sent T.N. a message and mentioned that, based on chromosome share, I thought that our common ancestor was William Mortimer Harrison, father of Edward C. Harrison. T.N. responded, forwarding an old email from his uncle that detailed his family’s history. T.N., in fact, is descended from Edward C. Harrison’s sister Caroline and thus from William M. Harrison, as I’d guessed. He is a third cousin to A.B. and to my mother, and he has no Ellett ancestry. Thus, Edward C. Harrison is confirmed as A.B. and my mother’s direct ancestor. (T.N. is descended from a separate Harrison line through Caroline’s husband James P. Harrison, her distant cousin. Relative chromosome shares between A.B. and my line, however, eliminate James as our common ancestor.)
Through Edward, we are descended from or related to the oldest colonial families of Virginia — Harrisons, Randolphs, and Carters, among others. A signer of the Declaration of Independence. Two presidents. Pocahontas. (Yes.) These families were also owners of several of the large plantation houses still standing in Charles City County, including Westover and Berkeley. (At this time, however, I don’t think that any of my forebears were enslaved in the area.) I’m not sure how John Allen’s mother Mary Brown met Edward C. Harrison or what the nature of their relationship was. She was from Amelia County, and there was a Harrison branch there, but I don’t know if she knew them.
A.B. is ecstatic to learn that her grandfather had a half-brother. So is her sister M. My family, too, is amazed. I’m hoping that, with their help and some deep sleuthing, I will learn more about the circumstances of John Allen’s birth. And I may meet A.B. when she comes to Georgia next month.
The truth will out. DNA tells the tale.
In Church Home, no. 9, I wrote about Back Creek Presbyterian, the church that my great-great-great-great-grandfather Samuel McNeely helped found and lead. I wanted to see this lovely edifice, erected in 1857, for myself:
And I wanted to walk its cemetery. I didn’t expect to see the graves of any of its many enslaved church members there, but thought I might find Samuel McNeely or his son John W. Dozens of McNeelys lie here, many John’s close kin and contemporaries, but I did not find markers for him or his father. (I later checked a Back Creek cemetery census at the Iredell County library. They are not listed.)
Within a few miles of Back Creek stands its mother church, Thyatira Presbyterian. This lovely building was built 1858-1860, but the church dates to as early as 1747. There are McNeelys in Thyatira’s cemetery, too, and this is the church Samuel originally attended.
Just up White Road from Thyatira is Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. I visited its cemetery in December 2013 and took photos of the the graves of descendants of Joseph Archy McNeely (my great-great-grandfather Henry McNeely‘s nephew), Mary Caroline McConnaughey Miller and John B. McConnaughey (siblings of Henry’s wife, my great-great-grandmother Martha Miller McNeely.) Green Miller and Ransom Miller’s lands were in the vicinity of this church.
Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2015.