Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Rules for patty rollers.

By an act of Assembly, passed in the year 1802, the County Court have power to establish Rules and Regulations for the government of the Patrollers in their respective counties;

In pursuance of the power thus granted, the County Court of Rowan, at August session, 1825, made and established the following regulations for the government of Patrols, to wit:

1st. Patrols shall be appointed, at least four in each Captain’s district.

2d. It shall be their duty, for two of their number, at least, to patrol their respective districts once in every week; in failure thereof, they shall be subject to the penalties prescribed by law.

3d. They shall have power to inflict corporal punishment, if two be present agreeing thereto.

4th. One patroller shall have power to seize any negro slave who behaves insolently to a patroller, or otherwise unlawfully or suspiciously; and hold such slave in custody until he can bring together a requisite number of Patrollers to act in the business.

5th. Previous to entering on their duties, Patrols shall call on some acting magistrate, and take the following oath, to wit:

“I, A. B. appointed one of the Patrol by the County Court of Rowan, for Captain B’s company, do hereby swear, that I will faithfully execute the duties of a Patroller, to the best of my ability, according to law and the regulations of the County Court.

Signed, A. B.”    “Witness, C. D. J. P.”

Whereupon, the officiating magistrate shall make out and deliver to him, or them, the following certificate, to wit:

“I, C. D. one of the acting magistrates of Rowan County, do hereby certify, that A. B. came before me, on this the _______ day of ______ A. D. 182__ and was duly sworn faithfully to execute the duties of a Patroller for this County, in Captain B’s company, according to law and the regulations of the County Court in such case made and provided.

Signed,   ____________ C. D. J. P.”

And no Patroller, without this certificate, shall be allowed the privileges and compensation otherwise extended to them.

6th. If any Patroller, while in the discharge of his duty, shall get drunk, or behave in a riotous or disorderly manner, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of five dollars, to be recovered in the name of the chairman of the County Court. He is also, by law, subject to indictment.

7th. The Sheriff of the county shall have the acts of Assembly relating to Patrols, together with these regulations, printed; and, in future, furnish each set of Patrols with a copy of the same; and he shall be allowed for the cost of printing, in his settlement with the county Trustee.

— from Patrol Regulations for the County of Rowan; Printed by Order of the County Court, at August Term, Anno Domini 1825, http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/rowan/rowan.html  

Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Other Documents

Lewis Colvert, son or stepson?

Something’s been bothering me about Lewis “Lou” Colvert. My grandmother knew his son Aggie (pronounced “Adgie”) Colvert as her cousin, but just whose son was Lewis?

The first irregularity: as shown here, when Walker Colvert and Rebecca Parks registered their 13-year cohabitation in 1866, they did not list six year-old Lewis among their three children. Why not?

In the 1870 census of Union Grove, Iredell County, he’s there: Walker Colvert, wife Rebecca and Lewis Colvert, 10.  I haven’t found him in the 1880 census, but a year later, on 13 October 1881, he married Laura Sharpe in Statesville. References to him over the next 30+ years though are few.

On 11 October 1895, the Statesville Landmark printed a short piece about Lou suffering a head injury after being thrown from a wagon.

The census taker again missed Lewis for the 1900 census, but found his wife Laura Colbert, born 1851, and son Aggie, born 1888, living on Valley Street in Asheville, Buncombe County. Laura worked as a cook and described herself as a widow. And though he eluded the enumerator, Lewis was still in Statesville, as this snippet from a court calendar report demonstrates:


Carolina Mascot (Statesville), 8 February 1900.

(Lon was his nephew, my great-grandfather.)

Walker Colvert died in 1905. His will, made in 1901, directed that all his land and personal property go first to his wife Rebecca and, after her death, to his son John Walker Colvert. No mention of Lewis.

In 1910, Lewis again sidestepped the census taker. Laura remained in Asheville. Though she lived until 1926, and I’ve found no evidence of a divorce, in April 1913, Lewis married Quiller Ward in Statesville. The marriage was short-lived. Lewis “Lou” Colvert died 27 March 1915 in Statesville. Lon W. Colvert provided the information for his death certificate — mother, Rebecca Colvert; father, unknown.

Lew Colvert Death Cert

Unknown. Not Walker Colvert. Neither here nor anywhere else is there a claim that Walker was Lewis’ father.

Here is my speculation: Walker Colvert was born at 1815. He married Rebecca Parks about 1853. At that time, he had a two year-old son, John Walker, whose mother was named Elvira Gray. (At nearly 40, however, Walker surely had children older than John. If so, their identities may never be known.) Rebecca was 24 years Walker’s junior and almost certainly belonged to a different master. She was about 16 when she gave birth to her first child with Walker, a daughter named Elvira, and daughter Lovina followed. Then, in 1861, she bore Lewis. As with every enslaved woman, Rebecca’s body was not her own. Perhaps she willingly conceived a child outside her relationship with Walker. Just as likely, that relationship was not uniformly recognized, and she submitted to someone else’s will. Walker reared the boy with his own children and gave him his surname, but did not claim him as a son.



Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Virginia

Book of Negroes.

An ongoing memorial to my enslaved ancestors and the communities in which they lived.


Juda, her children LucindaDave, Matthew, John and Kezy, Rowan County, North Carolina. Enslaved by Elizabeth Kilpatrick. Under terms of Elizabeth Kilpatrick’s will, Juda, Matthew, John and Kezy were sold; Dave enslaved by her son Robert; and Lucinda by her daughter Mary (see below).

Matilda (ca. 1845-1885), probably Charlotte County, Virginia. Married Jasper Holmes circa 1862. Owner unknown.

Graham Allen (1852-1928), Prince George County, Virginia. Son of Edmund (or Mansfield) and Susan Allen, husband of Mary Brown Allen, adoptive father of John C. Allen Sr. Owner unknown.

Mary Brown Allen (1849-1916), Amelia County, Virginia. Daughter of Catherine Booker and James Brown. Owner unknown.

Clara Artis Edwards, Henry Artis, Lodrick Artis, Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson, and Mariah Artis Swinson, Greene County, North Carolina. Children of Daniel Artis and an unknown enslaved woman. Owner unknown.

Cain Artis (1851-1917) and Caroline Coley (1854-??), Wayne County, North Carolina. Children of Winnie Coley, an enslaved woman, and Adam T. Artis, a free man of color. Owned by W.W. Lewis and possibly John Coley.

Willis Barnes (1841-1914). Nash, Wilson and possibly Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina. Son of Annie Eatman and (possibly free-born) Toney Eatman. Owner unknown.

Cherry Battle (1842-ca. 1890) and children Rachel Battle/Barnes and Wesley Barnes. (Younger children born in freedom.) Wilson County and possibly Edgecombe County NC. Wife of Willis Barnes. Possibly enslaved by Margaret Parker Battle.

Pleasant Battle Battle Williams (1842-1912) and children John (1857), George (1858), Ida (1859), Richard (1860) and Cora Battle (1865). Edgecombe County. Daughter of Bunyard and Pleasant Battle. First husband, Blount Battle, was an enslaved man. Married second husband, free-born Jonah Williams, after Emancipation.

Walter Carter (ca. 1813-1885), Charlotte County, Virginia. Husband (probably second) of Nancy, mother of Joseph, and probably Jasper, Holmes. Owner unknown.

Walker Colvert (1815-1905), Culpeper County, Virginia, and Iredell County, North Carolina. Enslaved by Samuel Colvert, then John A. Colvert, then William I. Colvert.

John Walker Colvert (1851-1921) and his mother Elvira Gray. Iredell County. John was the son of Walker Colvert. Owner probably William I. Colvert, but possibly Susan Colvert Gray, sister of William I. Colvert.

Lucinda Cowles (??-bef. 1870?) and her daughter Harriet Nicholson (1861-1926). Lucinda was owned by James Nicholson, then his son Thomas A. Nicholson. Harriet was owned by Thomas A. Nicholson.

Simon Exum (1842-1915), Wayne County, North Carolina. Son of John and Sophronia Exum. Husband of free-born Delilah Williams. Owner unknown, but probably one of the white Exums who lived in Nahunta area of Wayne County.

Lewis Harper (ca. 1844-after 1904), Greene County, North Carolina. Brother of Loderick Artis. Owner unknown.

Nancy Holmes Carter (ca. 1809-1884) and children Louisa Carter, Lettie Carter, Walter Carter Jr., and Eliza Carter, Charlotte County, Virginia. Married first Payton Holmes, then Walter “Wat” Carter. Owner unknown.

Joseph R. Holmes (1838-1869), Charlotte County, Virginia. Son of Peyton Holmes and Nancy (last name unknown.) Probably enslaved by Hunter Holmes Marshall.

Jasper Holmes (1840-ca. 1899), Charlotte County, Virginia. Brother of Joseph R. Holmes. Possibly enslaved by Hunter Holmes Marshall.

Margaret Kerr McNeely (ca. 1840-?), Rowan County. Wife of Julius McNeely. Owner possibly Dr. Samuel E. Kerr.

Eliza Catherine Kerr Miller (1843-1907) and son Baldy Alexander Miller (1858-1942), Rowan County. Wife of George Miller. Owner unknown.

Guy Lane (ca. 1798-ca. 1875), Greene County, North Carolina. Husband of Sylvania Artis. Almost certainly enslaved by John Lane (see below.)

Margaret McConnaughey and her children George W. Miller, Caroline McConnaughey (and daughter Angeline McConnaughey Reeves), Mary Ann McConnaughey Miller, Grace Adeline Miller Miller, Martha Miller McNeely and John B. McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina. Enslaved by John M. McConnaughey.

Lucinda McNeely (1816-ca. 1890) and her children Alice (and her children Joseph Archy, Mary, Alexander and John Stanhope); John Rufus; Julius and Henry W. McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina. Lucinda, Alice and John enslaved by Mary Kilpatrick. All enslaved by Samuel McNeely, then John W. McNeely.

Edwin (or Edward) Miller, Rowan County, North Carolina. Father of most of Margaret McConnaughey’s children. Owner unknown.

Green Miller (1848-1923), Rowan County, North Carolina. Son of Edward and Malissa Miller. Married Grace Adeline Miller. Owner unknown.

Ransom Miller (1845-1917), Rowan County, North Carolina. Son of Samuel and Malissa Miller. Married Mary Ann McConnaughey. Owner unknown.

William H. Nicholson (1842-1909), Iredell County, North Carolina. Son of Lucinda Cowles and Burwell Carson. Probably owned by Thomas A. Nicholson.

Rebecca Parks (1839-1915) and son Lewis Colvert (1861-1915), Iredell County, North Carolina. Rebecca was the daughter of Jerry Gray and Lettie Gray, who were probably owned by John A. Colvert. Second (?) wife of Walker Colvert. Owner possibly Susan Colvert Parks, sister of William I. Colvert.

Frank Reeves (1854-1910), Rowan County, North Carolina. Son of Henry and Fina Overman Reeves. Married Caroline McConnaughey. Owner unknown.

Hannah Sauls Speight, Greene County, North Carolina. Daughter of Shephard Sauls and Rosetta Sauls. “Born on Appletree Swamp near the town of Stauntonburg, Greene County, N.C. and was a slave” belonging to Lawrence Brown. Married Bailham Speight.

Bailham Speight alias Edwards, Greene County, North Carolina. Son of Reddin Speight. Brother of Lafayette “Fate” Edwards, who was enslaved by Ap. Edwards. Enslaved by Jim Edwards, “Orfa” (probably Theophilus) Edwards, and Elizabeth “Betsy” Edwards. Married to Jennie Suggs during slavery. She died in New Bern, North Carolina, near the end of the Civil War. Married Hannah Sauls after.

Green Taylor (1817-ca. 1890), wife Fereby Taylor (1825-ca. 1890), and children Peter, Henrietta, Dallas, Christiana, McKenzie, and Henry Michael Taylor, Nash County and possibly Edgecombe County. Green, Fereby, and oldest three children enslaved by Kinchen Taylor until about 1856, then distributed to his heirs.

Abner Tomlin (1855-ca. 1900), Iredell County, North Carolina. Son of Milas and Lucinda Tomlin. First husband of Harriet Nicholson. Owner unknown.

Sarah Ward Darden (ca. 1823-ca. 1890) and children Mittie Ward Vaughn (ca. 1857-1924), Appie Ward Hagans (ca. 1857-1895), and Henry Ward, Greene and Wilson Counties, North Carolina. Owned by David G.W. Ward.

Solomon Williams (ca. 1800-1884), Wayne and possibly Greene Counties, North Carolina. Owner unknown.


1793, 22 June — Will of James Neill, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To wife, “my negro wench Luce.”

1793, 25 November — Will of Thomas Allison, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To wife Madeline, “negroe wench” Jude and use of two negro fellows, Pomp and Bob.

1793, 25 November — Will of Madeline Allison, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To son Thomas Allison, Pomp; to son Richard Allison, Bob; to daughter Ann Allison, “Negroe Jude.”

1800, 22 February — Will of John McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • To son Alexander, “a negro wench named Esther.”

1805, 17 November — Will of Theophilus Simonton, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To wife, “my Negro Woman named Soose and her child Esther,” “the rest of my negroes” to remain on the plantation or be sold as executors think necessary.

1819, 3 September – Will of Elizabeth Kilpatrick, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To son Robert Kilpatrick, “my negro boy Dave”; to daughter Mary Kilpatrick “my negro girl named Lucinda”; “my negro woman Juda and all her children not disposed of” to be sold.

1823 – Estate of Samuel Colvert, Culpeper County, Virginia.

  • Amelia; Anthony; Caroline; Charles; Daniel; Eliza; Frank, his wife Charlotte and their children Townsend, Jere, Little Frank, Lewis and Ellen; George; Harry; Jane; Mary; Little Mary; Patty; Rachel; Robert and his wife Milly and their children Easter, Jack, Reuben, Edmund and Rachel; Sarah; Siller; and Winny.

1824, 30 December — Will of James McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina. Fathe

1827, 10 and 11 DecemberInventory of John A. Colvert’s estate, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • Negroes hired for one year: Jerry, Amy, Walker, Joe, Ellen, “Meel & two children,” Anda, Charlotte, “Lett & three children.”

1829, [date illegible] — Estate of Elizabeth Kilpatrick, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • Juda, Matthew and John sold for $50, $ and $200. Kezy, described as “unsound,” sold for $74.75 on 20 October 1830.

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1829, 13 April — will of Ann [Robison] McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina. Mother of John M. McConnaughey, who owned my great-great-great-grandmother Martha McConnaughey and her children.

  • to son John McConnaughey, negro fellows March and Squire.

1834, 29 December – deed of sale, Mary Kilpatrick to Samuel and John McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • “One negro woman named Lucinda aged about twenty years one negro child named Alice aged three years and one negro child named John aged between one and two years” sold.

1843, 29 May – will of Samuel McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • “a negro woman named Lucinda and all her offspring” to son John W. McNeely.

1845, 1 Mayrunaway slave ad placed by Kinchen Taylor, Tarboro’ Press.

  • $100 reward for the apprehension of “my fellow Lewis.”

1850 — federal slave schedule, John Lane, Greene County, North Carolina.

  • 8 females; 13 males.

1850 — federal slave schedule, John M. McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • Black female, age 58; black male, age 53; black male, age 32; black female, age 26; black male, age 12; mulatto male, age 12; mulatto female, age 8; mulatto male, age 6; black female, age 4; mulatto female, age 2; mulatto male, age 3 months.

1850federal slave schedule, John W. McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • Black female, age 34; black female, age 19; black male, age 17; black male, age 14; black male, age 12; mulatto male, age 9; mulatto male, age 2; mulatto female, age 1.

1850 — federal slave schedule, James Nicholson, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • Female, age 40; male, age 33; male age, 23; male, age 15, male, age 12; male, age 11; male, age 6; male, age 4; male, age 8; male, age 4; female, age 4; male, age 1; male, age 4 months.

1850 — federal slave schedule, Thomas Nicholson, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • Male, age 45; male, age 18; male, age 21; female, age 20; male, age 4.

1850 — federal slave schedule, Silas Bryan, Greene County, North Carolina.

  • Female, age 45; male, age 32; male, age 28; female, age 8; male, age 2.

1850 — federal slave schedule, Kinchen Taylor, Nash County, North Carolina.

  • 30 females, 47 males.

1850 — federal slave schedule, David G.W. Ward, Greene County, North Carolina.

1851, 3 February — will of Kinchen Taylor, Nash County, North Carolina.

  • To wife Mary Taylor, negroes Big Tom, Little Tom, Clary, Lucinda, Jane, Washington and Ellen; to daughter Wineford Rosser, wife of William Rosser, negroes Sam, Cassa, Harriet, Rosetta, Berry and Daniel; son Kinchen C. Taylor, negroes Isham, Fanny and child, Sandy and Simon; to daughter Carolina Knight, wife of William H. Knight, Haley, Hasty, Amy and Glascow, Alfred and Susan; the remaining estate, including slaves, to be divided among all children.

1851, 17 November — will of James Nicholson, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • To wife, slaves Milas, Dinah, Jack, Liza and Peter.  To son Thomas, slaves Carlos, Nelson, Lucinda and Joe.  To son John, slaves Manoe, Armstrong, Manless, Calvin and Soffie.

1856, February — inventory of slaves of Kinchen Taylor, Nash County, North Carolina.

  • Dred, Long Henry, Kinchen, Cooper Henry, Doctor, Tom, Simon, Jack, Jim Sr., Chapman, Yel. Henry, Tom Jr., Isaac, Bill, Allen Jr., Arnol, Bob, Seasar, Washington, Cato, John Sr., Tony, Allen Jr., Ned, Amanuel, Sam, Nick, Ellick, Edmon, Wm. Henry, Virgil, Green, Jeffrey, Cane, Handy, John Jr., Big Lewis, Carter, Amy, Patience, Isabella, Henryetta, Lucy, Joe, Mol, Martha, Lucy Jr., Turner, Francis, Della, Carter, George, Lucinda, Elah, Olive, Angeline, Hilly, Hasty, Amy, Glasgo, Darson, Susan, Albert, Penny, Carter Sr., Mary, George, Levinia, Thad, Frank, Betsy, Evline, Wiley, Caroline, Isham, Fanny, Margaret, Lucy, Leah, Jolly, Matilda, Calvin, Elvira, Joe, Faulcon, Ann, Jim Jr., Ferribee, Dallas, Peter, Henryetta, Margaret, Ida, Pink, Emily, July Ann, Mariah, Eliza, Jane, Ella, Mourning, Clary, Cherry, Anna, Hanah, and Elizabeth.

1860 — federal slave schedule, William I. Colvert, Iredell County, North Carolina.

  • Black male, age 42; black female, age 34; black female, age 34; black female, age 15; black male, age 13; black female, age 11; black male, age 10; black female, age 8; black male, age 4; black male, age 1.

1860federal slave schedule, J.W. McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • Black female, age 44; black male, age 22; mulatto male, age 19; mulatto male, age 12; black female, age 11; black male, age 9; and black male, age 7.

1860 — federal slave schedule, John McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina.

  • Mulatto female, age 68; black male, age 61; black male, age 48; mulatto female, age 40; black male, age 22; mulatto male, age 21; mulatto female, age 20; black female, age 16; mulatto male, age 15; mulatto male, age 14; mulatto female, age 10; mulatto female, age 7; mulatto female, age 5; mulatto female, age 3; mulatto female, age 1.

1860 — federal slave schedule, Silas Bryan, Greene County.

  • Black female, age 55; black male, age 43; black female, age 18; black male, age 12; black male, 10.

1860 — federal slave schedule, John Lane, Greene County.

  • 13 females; 11 males.

1863 — John Coley for W.W. Lewis, Wayne County, North Carolina, tax assessment.

  • Winney, 29, Cane, 9, Caroline, 7.

1863 — J. M. McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina, tax assessment.

  • George, age 24, $1500; John, age 2, $150; Edwin, age 1, $100; Margaret, age 42, $850; Caroline, age 23, $1200; Mary Ann, age 13, $1000; Grace, age 10, $500; Martha, age 7, $250; Angeline, age 7, $250.

1863 — J.C. McConnaughey, Rowan County, North Carolina, tax assessment.

  • Simon, age 57, $200; Ceasar, age 54, $400; Perry, age 45, $300; Isaac, age 36, $1400; Charles, age 32, $1450; Nelson, age 32, $1450; Edward, age 32, $1450; George, age 31, $1450; Ellick, age 26, $1500; Henry, age 17, $1500; Thom, age 14, $1200; Giles, age 14, $1200; Dallas, age 7, $400; Alfred, age 4, $300; John, age 25, $1500; Juber, age 14, $1500; Nancy, age 36, $1000; Ritta, age 32, $1100; Harried, age 23, $1200; Liza, age 23, $1200; Laura, age 11, $650; Louisa, age 8, $400; Jennie, age 4, $250; Ellen, age 5 months, $100; Allice, age 3 months, $200.

1863 — J.W. McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina, tax assessment.

  • Lucinda, age 47, value $750. Julius, 25, $1500. Henry, 22, $1500. Archy, 14, $1200. Mary, 13, $1000. Stanhope, 11, $900. Sandy, 12, $950.
Enslaved People, Other Documents

Recommended, no. 2.

Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom.

Actually, I don’t recommend this book. The New York Times does. I haven’t read it yet. But I will because (1) Eric Foner admitted me to the graduate program in history at Columbia (and I’ve forgiven him for losing my only copy of Joseph R. Holmes’ photograph), and (2) in the 1930s, Ardeanur Hart worked for a descendant of Sidney Howard Gay at the family’s Staten Island house, formerly an Underground Railroad station.


Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 3. Strong Woman.

I’ve been working on my Book of Negroes post, digging in my Family Tree Maker files and through scanned documents, cross-referencing and making notes. At the top of the list of enslaved ancestors is Juda, a woman named in the 1819 will of Elizabeth Kilpatrick of Rowan County, North Carolina. Kilpatrick left her “negro boy Dave” to her son Robert Kilpatrick, her “negro girl named Lucinda” to her daughter Mary Kilpatrick, and directed that her executors sell her “negro woman Juda and all her children (not disposed of).” There are gut-punches all through this document — Lucinda was my great-great-great-grandmother — but that last one always tears me all to pieces. Put it all together, and you see that Kilpatrick owned one family of slaves — Juda and her children — and she directed that that family be ripped apart upon her death.

Elizabeth Kilpatrick’s will was devastating enough. And then I found her 1829 estate records. There, in faded script is the last sighting of Juda and her not-disposed-of children, Matthew, John, and Kezy. It’s damnably hard to read, but if you peer closely: Negroes Juda $50 Matthew $425 John $2[illegible]0. And below, a notation: Kezy Unsound Not sold by consent of Heirs Remains in the hands of [illegible]. (Another note in the file records a change of heart — on 20 October 1830, Kezy was, in fact, sold for $74.75.) I don’t know how old Juda was when she was sold away from her children in 1829, nor Matthew, John, Kezy, or Dave, but Lucinda was about 13.

And, so, without the need to explain further, the “strong woman” to whom I dedicate this edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is my great-great-great-great-grandmother Juda.

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 Estate of Elizabeth Kilpatrick (1829), North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org

Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Requiem for Peter and Flora.

Working on my DNA Definites Neill piece sparked an idea for a running post. Sort of my own Book of Negroes. A list of (1) enslaved family members and (2) the enslaved people owned by my family members. I thought briefly about who might make the list, then relegated the idea to “to do.” And then last night —

Well, Illbedamn.

I ran an idle Google search for “Iredell County slavery.” At the top of the third page of results, I ran up on this: a bill of sale for two slaves, Peter, aged 22, and Flora, aged 12, sold by my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather James Nicholson to Robert S. Gray on 15 October 1829.

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Lot 387. Yes. This document was included in a list of items in an on-line estate auction conducted November 16, 2014. I am two months too late. The bill of sale sold. And probably for more than Robert Gray paid for Peter and Flora.

And so I got up this morning and started my Book of Negroes. The format is eluding me, but I’m compiling the entries. The ancestors have called, and I’m answering.

Image posted by Butterscotch Auction Gallery, Bedford, New York, liveauctioneers.com.




Enslaved People, Virginia

Recommended, no. 1.

“The Old South, like any other long-vanished society, is distant from us, and strange. The more we learn about it, the more we realize we do not know. If the story of free Afro-Virginians in Prince Edward County teaches us anything, it is the danger of making assumptions about that past and its people based on what we see around us today, or on what we think we know about the history of other periods, or on the hubristic notion that our own society is superior to theirs in every conceivable way.”

At 619 pages, this is not light reading. But may I strongly recommend to anyone with the least interest in 19th century, southern, or African-American history Melvin Patrick Ely’s Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War. It’s a richly detailed, scrupulously documented, compellingly limned history of Israel Hill, a community of freed slaves in southern Virginia.


Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

38 acres.

So, I found this deed today on the Iredell County Register of Deeds’ site:

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A number of things strike me:

  • John Walker Colvert never registered a deed for this or any other property. Neither did his father Walker Colvert.
  • The property bordered that of John Greenberry “J.G.” Colvert, a son of William I. Colvert, who had been Walker and John Walker’s master.
  • “For further description and title, see deed of G.W. Mullis to G.B. Morgan. Also see will of Walker Colvert — Will Book 6 at page 483.” George W. Mullis was the father of Daniel A. Mullis, one of the witnesses to Walker’s will.
  • Though the deed was not registered until 1904, Mullis sold the 38 acres for $250 to Gabriel B. Morgan on 2 April 1863. Lying in the northeast corner of the Richardson tract on Hunting Creek, the parcel was bounded as follows: “Beginning at a hickory thence South (58) fifty-eight poles to a stone thence near south [sic] a conditional line 114 (one hundred & fourteen) poles to two oaks near a branch, then north to Beatys line thence East with said line to the beginning containing thirty eight acres more or less….” (Deed Book 30, page 234)
  • In the 1870 census, Walker reported owning $100 of real property. It is not clear when he bought the 38 acres, presumably from Morgan.  He is listed in Union Grove township, just west of Eagle Mills township in Iredell County. His close neighbor is Beeson Baty, presumably of the “Beaty’s line” named in the deed.
  • Walker made his will in 1901; it was probated in 1905. Walker’s widow Rebecca was his primary beneficiary, but everything passed to John after her death in 1915.
  • As an aside, Walker and Rebecca’s daughter Elvira married Richard Morgan, son of Richard Madison and Hilda Morgan, in 1874. Had Richard and his mother belonged to G.B. Morgan?
  • P.P. mentioned that D.A. Mullis lived in the vicinity of Mullis Road and Zion Liberty Road. I’ve marked that intersection with the left-most arrow on the map below. As the deed described, this area is near Hunting Creek, which crawls across the middle of the image, and is at the eastern edge of Union Grove township. The second arrow marks the point at which I photographed the creek from the Eagle Mills Road bridge. The third points in the direction of Nicholson Mill. As the crow flies, the map depicts an area no more than a couple of miles wide.

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Enslaved People


Christmas 1976.

My father was, and is, a voracious reader and tucked under the tree was the most talked-about work of the season, especially among African-Americans — Alex Haley’s Roots. I’d read about it, I’m sure, in Ebony or Jet. “The Saga of an American Family.” I cracked open the hefty volume after Christmas dinner … and didn’t put it down until the wee hours of the 26th when I’d turned the 700th page.


Over the long course of that late night, I started wondering about my own Kizzys and Kunta Kintes. Though Roots, largely fictional, is not the miraculous straight line back to the Mother Land that most of us believed it to be when we read the book (or, better yet, sat glued to the TV eating up the mini-series — all those black folk!), it stirred in African-Americans a little anger and a lot of pride and a great desire to reclaim their people and know their pasts. Though I was still a child, Roots was that same spark for me, and I am grateful to Alex Haley for it.

Education, Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents


My grandmother tells a story:

… Jay and I were supposed to clean the house on Saturday. You know, do the vacuuming and dusting and cleaning and everything. And then I would play, and we would play, and Grandma would say, “I’m gonna tell your mama. I’m gonna write your mama and tell your mama how you act.” She said, “I can’t write her right now ‘cause I’m nervous,’ you know.” Couldn’t write a lick. [I laugh.] Couldn’t read …. I don’t think she could read or write, but I know she couldn’t write. Bless her heart. She says, “I’m gonna tell your mammy on you. You see if I don’t. And, see, if I wont so nervous, I’d write her, but I’m too nervous” – couldn’t write any more than she could fly! [Laughs.]

Martha Miller McNeely, born into slavery in 1855, may not have been able to read or write, but her children signed their names in clear, firm hands that evidence both their early education and their easy familiarity with penmanship. Their father Henry, the literate son of a slaveowner, may have taught them rudiments, but they likely attended one of the small country schools that dotted rural Rowan County. (My grandmother said that her mother Carrie finished seventh grade and was supposed to have gone on to high school at Livingstone College, but the family used her school money to pay for an appendectomy for one of her sisters.) The document below is found in the estate file of Henry’s half-brother, Julius McNeely, who, unlike Henry, was not taught to read during slavery. Julius died without a wife or children, and Henry’s offspring were his sole legal heirs.

Power of attorney

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.


 Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved. File of Jule McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, https://familysearch.org. Original, North Carolina State Archives.