Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

No damages.

More times than I might have imagined, see here and here and here and here and here, members of my extended family have figured in litigation that made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Here’s another such case:

William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).

In 1845, the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions bound brothers Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis to William Hooks to serve as apprentices until age 21. At the time of their indentures, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after the court determined that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when apprenticed, a judge ordered his indenture amended to correct his true age. Hooks, apparently, never got around to it.  Meanwhile, William Perkins hired Thomas. Deprived of the young man’s labor, Hooks attempted to enforce the court order, and Perkins took up Thomas’ cause.  Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his true age of 21 — regardless of the age listed on his indenture — Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period from November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over.  The state Supreme Court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ indenture to reflect his actual age at the time it expired, per the court order.  Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, were listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. (William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census at all.)  Worse, by 1860, Rufus Artis had lost ground, as the census of Nahunta, Wayne County, lists him as a 17 year-old — rather than the 21 or 22 year-old he actually was — in Hooks’ household, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13.  In other words, what Hooks could not get out of Thomas Artis, he appears to have extracted from his younger brother.

Rufus Artis eluded the census taker in 1870, but he was around. On Christmas Eve 1874, he married Harriet Farmer in Wayne County. The family appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Rufus Artis, 46, wife Harriet, 30, and daughters Hannah, 13, and Pennina, 9. The family lived very near a cluster of three other sets of extended Artis families descended from Vicey Artis, Celia Artis, and Vincent Artis, none of whom were not known to have been related. (Or, at least, not closely so.) In the 1900 census of Nahunta, Rufus and Harriet, their children grown and gone, shared their home with Harriet’s mother, 73 year-old Chanie Farmer. Daughter Pennina had married Curry Thompson, son of Edie Thompson, on 11 October 1893 in Wayne County. They had two daughters, Harriet (1895) and Appie (1896). On 10 January 1917, Harriet Thompson married John Henry Artis, born 1896 to Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard, of course, was the son of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis, and the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

An action for seducing away two colored boys.

John Jones v. James Mills, 13 NC 540 (1830).

Jones sued Mills in Jones County Court for “seducing” two apprentices from him. Jones produced evidence of his indentures of the boys, and Mills countered with proof that Jones had not properly executed bond, as required by law, not to remove the apprentices out of the county. The trial judge charged the jury that Jones had indentured the boys and taken care of them, and Mills, a stranger, “could not avail himself of any irregularity or defect in the bond” as a defense to the suit. The jury returned a verdict for Mills, and Jones appealed. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned the decision, opining that, even if the bond were defective, the apprentices had not been turned loose, “fit subjects to be seduced and employed by any stranger that thinks proper to interfere.

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I first encountered this case many years ago when I was researching my master’s thesis, which examined the involuntary apprenticeship of free children of color. The published decision in Jones v. Mills is not terribly interesting. I was stunned, then, when I peeked into the case file, now stored at the North Carolina State Archives: “This was an action on the case for seducing away two colored boys Durant and Willis Henderson alias Dove claimed by the plaintiff as his apprentices by virtue of indentures with the County Court of Onslow.”

Durant and Willis Henderson — alias Dove?

I knew that my Hendersons originated in Onslow. I also had a good friend during my college years who was a Dove. A bit of research quickly established that L.D. was a descendant of Durant Dove, via his son Lewis James Dove. Further research, still ongoing, strongly suggests that Durant and Willis’ mother, Nancy Henderson alias Dove, was the sister of my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Patsey Henderson. Their father appears to have been Simon Dove, a free man of color from Craven County.

The case file also reveals that John Jones bound Durant and Willis in 1819 to serve as his apprentices and learn the art of farming. They remained with Jones until 1828, when Mills took them into Jones County, giving rise to this suit.

 

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Sisters?

The case for Nancy Henderson and Patsey Henderson as sisters is circumstantial, but strongly suggestive.

(1) With a handful of exceptions, they and individuals who appear to be their children are the only known free “colored” Hendersons in Onslow County, North Carolina, in the early 1800’s. I have not found record evidence of any colored Hendersons prior to 1809. (The exceptions: three Henderson girls apprenticed circa 1810 who may have been too old to have been Patsey or Nancy’s children. I have not been able to trace them forward from their apprenticeships.)

(2) Nancy and Patsey are named in Onslow County court records as mothers of children bound out as apprentices, and Nancy may have apprenticed two of Patsey’s. (Between February, 1821, and November, 1824, seven Henderson children were shifted from master to master nine times.  In the 25 years between 1809 and 1834, 14 Hendersons — sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews — appeared before the bench on 17 occasions.  A group of white families dominated the apprenticeship of Henderson children — Richard, Adam, and Houston Trott; Jesse and Jason Gregory; James Glenn sr. and jr.; Lewis, William, and Uzy Mills; John and Steven Humphrey, William and Jesse Alphin.  I know no familial relationship between Nancy or Patsey and any of these families, but Mills relatives gave evidence concerning Nancy’s parentage.)

(3) Nancy’s children (Durant, Willis, Miranda, Patsey, Gatsey, Minerva, William and Betsey) and Patsey’s children (James and Bryant) were roughly the same age and were occasionally apprenticed together.

(4) Several names recur among the grandchildren of both women. Nancy’s son Durant Dove (alias Henderson) had children named Lewis James, Julia, Susan, Eliza, Edward and Nancy. Patsey’s son James Henderson had children named James, Lewis, Susan, Julia, Edward and Nancy. Durant reared his family in Onslow and Lenoir Counties NC. James reared his in Onslow and Sampson. James left Onslow in the 1850s. Despite the physical distance and probable lack of contact, both men drew from the same pool of names for children born well into the 1870s.

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