Agriculture, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

No need for exodusting.

Napoleon Haganstestimony before a Senate committee was not his last word on the migration of African-American farmers out of North Carolina. Nine months later, he — or someone for him, in any case, as he was unlettered — penned a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, recounting his agricultural success and exhorting his “race” to cast down their buckets where they were. His sentiments were echoed by Jonah Williams, his friend, neighbor, pastor and brother-in-law’s brother. (Jonah, too, was illiterate. Both men, however, were strong believers in the value of education and saw that their children received the best they could afford. See here, here and here.)

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Goldsboro Messenger, 30 December 1880.

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

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 4: Rowan County deeds.

My notes from an hour or so spent poking around the Rowan County Register of Deeds’ office:

  • No deeds filed by my Henry W. McNeely.
  • Julius McNeely bought his one and only parcel of land — the one his half-brother Henry’s children inherited — for $20 on 5 January 1876 from J.M. and H.E. Goodman.
  • In 1869, John W. McNeely applied for a homestead exemption. The application, filed at Deed Book 44, page 247, attached descriptions of his real and personal property. His real property consisted one tract of land bordered by Joshua Miller on the north, Frederick Menius on the east, “Dr. Luckey” and Ephraim Overcash on the south, and Jacob Shuliberinger and Mrs. Malissa Pool on the west, containing 235 acres and valued at $940.
  • On 7 January 1880, Ransom Miller, husband of Mary Ann McConnaughey, paid $900 to John S. Henderson, trustee for the estate of Archibald Henderson and Jane C. Boyden, for 135 acres. The land’s bounds lay on the north side of Sills Creek and touched on the Buffalo Big Road, crossed Second Creek and followed its meander to the intersection of Back Creek. On 1 December 1883, Ransom paid G.W. and C.C. Corriher $600 for 40 1/2 acres west of Neely’s Mill Road.
  • On 18 September 1889, Green E. Miller, husband of Grace Adeline Miller, paid $220 to John S. Henderson, trustee for the estate of Archibald Henderson and Jane C. Boyden, for about 22 acres. [Archibald Henderson Jr. and Jane C. Henderson Boyden were children of Salisbury lawyer Archibald Henderson. John Steele Henderson was Archibald Jr.’s son.] The plot description: “beginning at a stone in a field, South of where the said Green Miller now lives” running at one corner to a stake or stone in Ransom Miller’s line. The land was part of the Foster tract on the east side of Sill’s Creek and the west side of the Neely’s Mill Road, but not immediately adjoining either. Green had contracted to buy the property on 30 November 1886.
  • Oddly, on 28 May 1897, Green Miller and John Henderson sold 10 acres of the above tract to “Grace Adeline Miller, wife of Green Miller” for $100. [What was this about? Records seem to indicate that Adeline and Green remained married until her death in 1918. Why did he partition the land? And, why, if Green had purchased the full tract in 1889, was John Henderson listed as a grantor?]

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This section of the Cleveland, North Carolina, USGS quadrangle topographical map helps narrow the location of Ransom, Green and Adeline Miller’s properties in Steele township, Rowan County. (1) is the point at which (2) Second Creek branches into Back Creek and Sills Creek. That Ransom and Green’s lands adjoined supports a conclusion that Ransom was, in fact, the man referred to in the letter published in local newspapers about a damaging hailstorm in the area. The road running north-south is today called White Road. (3) marks the location of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, attended to this day by descendants of Adeline’s daughter Mary Caroline Miller Brown, her brother John B. McConnaughey and cousins of Martha Miller McNeely‘s husband Henry W. McNeely.

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Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 3: Eagle Mills ramble.

Monday afternoon came the highlight of the whole little road trip. I’d arranged to meet P.P. at a little cafeteria at the crossroads that is Harmony, North Carolina. I first spoke with her a little over a month ago, when she responded to my blog post about Walker Colvert’s will. P. is a distant cousin, another descendant of Thomas and Rebecca Nicholson Nicholson, and I was giddy with anticipation.

After lunch, at her direction, I headed north on Highway 21 toward Houstonsville. The sky was overcast, and a little drizzle had begun that would deepen into steady rain before long. I was undeterred. Over the next few hours, we traced the back roads of Eagle Mills and Union Grove townships, rolling through fallow fields, pastures, and woodlands, crossing and recrossing Hunting Creek and its tributaries. This was Colvert and Nicholson ground zero, and the highlights of our ramble warrant their own blogposts, soon to come.

My everlasting gratitude goes to Cousin P.P. for her generosity of time and knowledge.

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Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 2: Iredell County records.

I was killing time in a way, but I wanted to do so usefully, so I arrived at the Register of Deeds office shortly after it opened at 8 A.M. I side-eyed this —

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— and headed into the search room. I had a few loose questions: did Walker Colvert in fact never file a deed for his acres in Union Grove? Did John W. Colvert file any deeds? Where did Abner and Harriet Nicholson Tomlin live?

I took these notes:

  • Who were the William and Lucy A. Dalton from whom Lon W. Colvert purchased his first property in 1906? What was their relationship, if any, with his first wife Josephine Dalton?
  • No recorded deeds for Walker Colvert.
  • No recorded deeds for John W. Colvert.
  • However, John’s wife Adeline Colvert bought two lots on Harrison Street in Statesville in 1912 for $472. Huh? John and Adeline married in 1905. As far as I know, they remained married until his death in 1921. So why was she purchasing property in her own right in 1912? The house built on the property sheltered John and Addie’s descendants as late as 1959, and probably later. There’s a plat filed at Book 33, page 398, for the section of Statesville in which the lots lay. I forgot to get a copy.
  • Abb Tomlin had one recorded deed — for the $40 purchase of an acre of land from William and Laura Pearson on 19 June 1891. The tract adjoined the AT&O Railroad and is probably the same one that Abb and Harriet Nicholson Tomlin‘s son and heir Harvey Golar Tomlin sold to Lon W. Colvert in 1906.
  • My grandmother believed T. Alonzo “T.L.” Hart to be a real estate lawyer. I haven’t found any evidence that he attended law school or practiced law, but there is no question that he knew his way around a land acquisition. Between 1887 and 1922, he recorded 14 deeds for purchases in or near Statesville totaling well over 200 acres. Three small purchases in 1911 and 1920 were from Andy King (1839-1919) and his heirs. King was a farmer and rock quarry laborer whose near neighbors were Logan and Laura Sherrill.
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Agriculture, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

An educated colored man comments.

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After a few observations about colored dockworkers in Norfolk and the spirit of brotherly love that enveloped black and white railroad workers, Alfred Islay Walden arrived in Wayne County. At Mount Olive, he asserted confidently that “nearly all the families own their homes and farms” and marveled at the reported wealth of “some men.” The former is not true, but the latter could have been a reference to the members of the Simmons and Wynn families, whose relative wealth dated back to their status as free skilled craftsmen and landowners in the antebellum era.

The week in Dudley is particularly interesting, as all of my mother’s Henderson and Aldridge ancestors and relatives lived in this community in 1879, when Walden was perambulating. The “excellent school carried on by the American Missionary Society” was probably the school conducted at First Congregational Church, which my forebears founded and attended. The many who taught first and second grades in public schools included my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge and his brothers Matthew W. and George W. Aldridge. I’m not sure who owned the saw and shingle mills, but the landowners included the Aldridge brothers and their father Robert Aldridge, Lewis Henderson and his father James Henderson, Hillary B. Simmons’ father George W. Simmons, and other extended kin.

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Goldsboro Messenger, 28 August 1879.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Dr. Ward’s empire.

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Wilson Advance, 22 August 1889.

The Civil War set Dr. David G.W. Ward back, but not for long. When he died in 1887, he stood possessed of more than 1900 acres in Wilson and Greene Counties.

[As an aside, Ward’s administrator, Frederick A. Woodard, was elected Democratic Congressman to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1892. He lost his bid for re-election to George H. White, a visionary African-American who was the last black Southerner elected to Congress until the post-Civil Rights era. I attended a middle school named for Woodard.]

[As another aside — literally — I think it’s safe to say that Sarah Ward’s children received nothing from the doctor’s estate.]

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Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

He was rejoicing at the opportunity.

The sixth in an occasional series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908.

Defendant introduces JONAH WILLIAMS:

I have had a conversation about this land. All I know is what Hagans and Tom told me. The first talk was with Napoleon Hagans. (Defendant objects.) Best I remember I went to him to borrow some money to open my brick yard in the Spring. He referred to this deal and some other deal. Tom wanted to take up some papers, and had done so, and I remarked to Hagans how much better off than he was before. He said he was rejoicing at the opportunity. He promised to give 800 lb. of cotton until he could work a advance to him. He said if Tom did that he would never disturb him his life time. I asked Hagans to have it in a written contract, that his heirs might dissent from it. He replied that 800 lb. was a good interest on his money, and his heirs would probably be satisfied. I had a conversation with Tom. I saw him two or three weeks after that. (Plaintiff objects.) I spoke to him about Hagans taking up the Exum paper. He told me Hagans had ***** to take that up. Hagans had given him a chance to pay the debt off. Whenever he paid anything on the principle, he would not have to pay the 800 lb., but simply a lawful interest on the money. I advised Tom to do his best and pay some in on his principal.

CROSS EXAMINED.

He said that he had taken up the mortgage; had it transferred. He said Claim, I might have said mortgage. I don’t say ‘Pole Hagans told me all his business, but I knew about as much as anybody. Said he was going to let him, (Tom) pay 800 lb. of cotton until he could pay the principle. Mortgage given in 1881 to Mrs. Exum. This conversation about 12 or maybe 14 years ago. Don’t know whether it was as late as 1890. Began brick business in 1893. I can’t tell whether it was in 1880 or ’90. ‘Pole Hagans died about two or three years before this took place.  Tom married my sister. He is not a member of my church. I turned him out. He is a Primitive Baptist. I preached Napoleon Hagans’ funeral.

 ——

Elder Jonah Williams was a brother of my great-great-great-grandfather, Adam T. Artis. Adam Artis married Napoleon Hagans‘ half-sister Frances Seaberry. Tom Artis married Jonah and Adam’s sister Loumiza Artis.

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Agriculture, Land, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

A sufferer by the hailstorm.

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Carolina Watchman, 27 June 1889.

The Ransom Miller named above may not have been not “my” Ransom, but a white man. However, “Green Miller, col.” was definitely my great-great-grandmother Martha Miller McNeely‘s brother-in-law, husband of her sister Grace Adeline Miller Miller.

Two days earlier, a Winston-Salem newspaper had also posted an appeal for help for Rowan County’s devastated farmers.

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Winston-Salem Progressive Farmer, 25 June 1889.

When it came down to it, however, despite having “lost nearly everything,” Green Miller somehow failed to benefit from the Wood Grove Alliance’s appeal.

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Carolina Watchman, 11 July 1889.

 

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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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Agriculture, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Maybe he might redeem it.

The fifth in an occasional series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. 

Defendant introduces T.F. Jones, who being duly sworn, testifies:

I had a conversation with Napoleon Hagans about this land, the 30 acre piece. (Plaintiff objects to question and answer.) I got after Uncle ‘Pole to see me the land. I told him if he would give me a deed for both places, the Calv Pig, that is the 24 acre piece, and the Tom Pig place, the 30 acre piece, I would take them. He told me he would sell me the Calv Pig place, but the Tom Pig place he had promised to let Tom stay on that as long as he lived, that maybe he might redeem it. That about ended the conversation with us. I bought some timber off this land from Tom. Off of the 30 acre piece. I suppose Hagans knew about it. (Plaintiff objects.) I couldn’t say that Hagans saw me hauling the timber, I guess he saw me. (Plaintiff objects.) Hagans never made any objection. I had a conversation with Tom about this land along during that time, when Uncle ‘Pole Hagans first got rid of that Calv Pig place, about 15 years ago. I asked him if he wouldn’t sell his part, and what would he ask for it, (Plaintiff objects). He said he didn’t want to sell it, he expected to redeem it sometime. Last Fall I told him if he expected to get that mortgage he had better attend to it. He said he had boys in Norfolk, who would take it up; that he had confidence in Will Hagans. That if his boys let it slip out after he died, they could. (Plaintiff objects.)

CROSS EXAMINED.

Mr. W.J. Exum died about 1885. Tom is known as Pig. I don’t know why he was called Pig. I think they got “Pig” from “Diggs”. Some of his people ‘way back there, were named “Diggs”, and they got to calling it “Pig” for short. I remember when Napoleon Hagans died. I was down the Country. I left here in ’94, and came back in 1900. He died during that time. I got this timber 20 years ago. I was buying all I could, I don’t know how much I got. I got it by the tree. I went in 1881 and milled ’till 1890. Either ’81 or ’82. I bought the timber about that time. I didn’t know that the deed from Mrs. Exum to Hagans was executed before 1892.

——

Jones’ explanation of Tom Artis’ nickname is unsatisfying. “Pig” from “Diggs”? In fact, Thomas and Calvin Artis took their name from their father, an enslaved man, who was called “Simon Pig.” Artis was the surname of their mother Celia, a free woman of color. Though I have found no other record that he was manumitted prior to Emancipation, Simon Pig Artis is listed as the head of his household in the 1860 census of Davis township, Wayne County. He reported (or was attributed with) $800 of real property and $430 of personal property. The land was almost surely his wife Celia’s; she is one of the earliest free colored property owners appearing in Wayne County deed books.

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Diggs, on the other hand, while a family surname, was that of Frances Artis Diggs, daughter of Tom and Calv’s oldest sister, Eliza Artis. Frances married Wilson (or William) Diggs in 1868 in Wayne County. (Two of Frances and Wilson’s granddaughters, Etta and Minnie Diggs, married a son, William M., and a grandson, Leslie, of Adam T. Artis. As discussed here, Adam and Celia Artis were not meaningfully related.)

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