Enslaved People, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Where we lived: north of Wilson, near the railroad.

Thanks to Marion “Monk” Moore and Joan Howell Waddell, I’ve been able to identify the approximate locations of several of the white farmer-landowners listed near Willis and Cherry Battle Barnes in the 1870 census.  If the family remained in the general area in which they had been enslaved, Hugh B. Johnston’s speculation is correct.

toisnot

Toisnot Reservoir, a dammed stretch of Toisnot Swamp, today lies on the northern edge of the city of Wilson.  Joshua Barnes, Alpheus Branch, Ceborn Farmer, Isaac Farmer and Jesse Farmer’s farms all lay north of the swamp and south of present-day Elm City in a corridor now defined by London Church Road, the CSX Railroad (then the Wilmington & Weldon) and US Highway 301. The Barneses lived somewhere in this area. In the photo above, the diagonal running top to bottom is the railroad, London Church Road bows to the left, and numbers mark the approximate locations of farms and modern landmarks: (1) Isaac Farmer land; (2) Seborn Farmer land; (3) Alpheus Branch land; (4) Joshua Barnes land; (5) Toisnot Reservoir; and (6) the Bridgestone-Firestone tire plant.

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In a letter dated 11 January 2007, Waddell included a map of Wilson County with the above properties marked. Many thanks to her and Monk Moore.

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Update, 23 June 2015: Joshua Barnes’ house is not only still standing, it’s been continuously occupied since the 1840s and was on the market just a few years ago. It’s located at 3415 London Church Road.

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Battle? Barnes?

Rachel Taylor was born about 1863 in Wilson County, most likely between the town of Wilson and what is now Elm City. Records consistently name her mother as Cherry Battle, or Barnes, but a single entry renders her father’s identity is more ambiguous.

In 1866, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle legalized their relationship by registering their cohabitation in Wilson County. They informed the registrar that they had been married six years. In the first post-Civil War census of 1870, Rachel Barnes is the oldest child, at 6, in their household.  Three younger children follow: West, Jesse and Ned.

However, in the 1880 census, the family appears as: Willis Barnes, wife Cherey, stepdaughter Rachel Battle, children Wesley, Jesse, Ned, Eddie, and Mary Barnes, niece Ellen Battle, and son Willey Barnes.  “Stepdaughter”?  Rachel appears to have been born after her parents’ marriage in 1860, and this is the only reference I have found that assigns her the surname “Battle.” She married in 1882 as “Rachel Barnes” and is listed as Rachel Barnes on several records related to her children. When she died in 1925, a month after suffering a stroke, her son named Willis Barnes as her father.  Was the 1880 censustaker merely mistaken? Misinformed?

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Enslaved People, Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Some of that set.

“Dear Lisa,” he wrote. “I read with interest your letter of October 31….”

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I was new at research and utterly clueless about where to start looking for information about slave forebears when I reached out to the late, great Hugh B. Johnston, Wilson County’s pre-eminent historian and genealogist. I was thrilled to receive his prompt reply. The letter was brief, but encouraging, and though I’d hoped for a complete and annotated report that left no end loose, I was confident that a breakthrough loomed just around the bend.

Unfortunately, here I am, nearly 27 years later, with the same fundamental questions burning:

  1. Was Rachel Barnes the daughter of Willis Barnes, or his step-daughter as the 1880 census indicates?  If the latter, who was her father?
  2. Did Willis Barnes belong to Joshua Barnes?
  3. Was Toney Eatman, a free man of color from Nash County, Willis’ father? Was Annie Barnes Eatman his mother?
  4. Was Cherry Battle‘s first name actually Charity?
  5. Did she belong to Amos J. Battle?
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