Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The Balkcum women.

In the name of God, Amen, I Hester Balkcum of the State of North Carolina and County of Sampson, being of sound mind & memory, but of feeble health, and knowing that all must die; do make & ordain this my Last Will & Testament. And first I give my body to the dust, to be buried in a decent manner and commend my spirit to the care of God who gave it, as a being infinitely wise & good. As for my worldly goods, my will is that they be disposed of as follows – (viz):

1st. I give & devise to my daughter Nancy Balkcum, thirty acres of land, to be laid off by the direction of my executor, from the eastern extremity of a tract lying on the southside of Beaver Dam swamp, so as to include the house in which she now lives, & a part of the cleared land to her & her heirs forever, in fee simple. I also give & bequeath to my said daughter Nancy the sum of Six dollars in money to be paid her by my executor.

2nd.  I give & devise to my grandson, James Lucien Balkcum, son of my daughter Mariah, the residue of said tract of land, lying on Beaver Dam Swamp, after thirty acres as aforesaid shall have been given to my daughter Nancy, the said residue supposed to contain one hundred acres more or less with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging to said James L. Balkcum & his heirs forever in fee simple  and I hereby revoke all gifts, grants and deeds of whatsoever nature or kind coming within the meaning & purview of these devises & declare them utterly void as having been done for temporary purposes & having had their effect  I also give & bequeath unto said James Lucien Balkcum, one bed, bed-stead & furniture and one pot & skillet.

3rd. I give & bequeath unto my grand daughter Mary Ellen Johnson, daughter of my daughter Mariah, one bed and its necessary furniture and all my household & kitchen furniture not heretofore disposed of, with all clothes & cloths of every description, which I may leave at my decease.

4th.  I give & bequeath unto my grand son, John Balkcum, one common Bible, or its equivalent in money

5th.  I give & bequeath unto my two grand sons, Harman & Lemuel Balkcum, one common Bible each, or money sufficient to purchase the same

6th.  It is my will that my Executor pay all my legal debts, and the above legacies, with the Expense of Administration out of such money or notes as may be left by me at my death and the overplus (if any) be given to my daughter Mariah for her own proper use or benefit.

7th.  I hereby constitute & appoint my friend William L. Robinson Executor of this my last Will & Testament, hereby revoking all former Wills, Deeds, gifts or grants of what name or kind soever.

March the 9th day 1843          Hester X Balkcum

Signed, seal’d, publish’d & declared by the Testatrix to be her last Will & Testament in the presence of us, who were present at the signing of the same /s/ Isaiah Robinson /s/ Abner Robinson

State of North Carolina, Sampson County  } Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, May Term 1843

There was the foregoing will duly proven in open court by the oath of Isaiah Robinson a subscribing witness & ordered to be recorded.  /s/ Thomas J. Faison Clk

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About 1799, John Balkcum, a widower with two young children, married a woman named Hester in Duplin County NC. Her maiden name is unknown. John died in 1803, leaving as heirs only Hester and his children by his first wife, Tomsin and William.  In 1804, Hester received a widow’s allotment and two years later is listed in a Duplin County tax digest with 450 acres.

In the next few years, Hester Balkcum gave birth to two daughters, Nancy and Mariah. She gave them the last name Balkcum, though neither was John’s child. It was the beginning of an unconventional family, with both Nancy and Mariah giving birth out of wedlock, and one or two of Nancy’s children fathered by a black or mixed-race man. (This last circumstance was unconventional, but not nearly as uncommon in antebellum America as one might imagine.) Hester appears only sporadically in census enumerations, but in 1830 “Hester Baucom” is listed in Duplin County heading a household that consisted of a female aged 50-59; one male under 5; two males 5-9; one male 10-14; one male 20-29; one female under 5; one female 15-19; one female 20-29; one female 30-39; all described as white. Ten years later, in the 1840 census of Sampson County, Hester does not appear, but her daughter Nancy Balkcom, aged 30-40, is listed, heading a household of two females aged 5-10 and one female aged 10-14, all white, and one slave.

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When Hester died in the spring or early summer of 1843, her executor W.L. Robinson listed the debts owed her estate — all to family members — and her meager belongings. Her real property had dwindled considerably since the early days of her widowhood, and I catch a bit of feeling that the family was struggling.

BALKCUM -- H Balkcum Inventory 1843

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Ten years later, Hester’s daughter Nancy felt poorly enough to dictate her own last will and testament:

In the name of God Amen, I Nancy Balkcum of the State of North Carolina & County of Sampson being of sound & perfect mind & memory but feeble in body & feeling that the sentence if Death which has been passed upon all will probably ere long be executed upon me think fit to make this my last will & testament as follows.

First I give my body to be buried in a decent manner without parade or vain shew & commend my spirit to him who gave it as a being infinitely wise & good.

As for my worldly goods my will is that they disposed of as follows

First. I give & bequeath unto my daughter Margaret Balkcum one bed bedstead & furniture (the bed on which I have usuly lain) one wheel & cards one table one sow & pigs & twenty dollars to be paid by my executors. This is for her services in waiting on me in my last sickness to her & her heirs forever

Secondly, I give & bequeath unto my two daughters Eliza & Mary one bed & furniture to them & their heirs forever

Thirdly I desire that my Son Harman be paid back all expence that he may incur in providing for me by my Executor

Fourthly, All the residue of my property both real & personal ( desire to be sold by my executor to the best advantage & after paying all my just debts & funeral expences that the proceeds of said sale be equally divided among all my children

Lastly I hereby make constitute & appoint my friend William L. Robinson Executor of this my last will & testament with full powers to execute the same according to the true intent & meaning thereof & I hereby revoke all former will  this the 20th day of August 1853

Signed sealed published & declared by the Testatrix to be her last will & testament hereby revoking all former wills in the presents of us who witnessed the in the presents of the testatrix & of each oth  /s/ Nathan Johnson, Joshua X Rackley                         Nancy X Balkcum

Nancy was dead within six months. The same William L. Robinson who had administered her mother’s estate handled hers, and his inventory reveals Nancy’s slightly better-furnished life.

record-image

Inventory of Nancy Balkcum’s estate, 1854.

The account of sale of the property is even more detailed. With the exception of two or three neighbors, all the buyers were Nancy’s children or other close family and they seem to have gotten bargain basement prices. Subtracting the $200 that Harmon Balkcum paid for Nancy’s 32 acres, the remainder of her worldly goods netted only $12.86.

NBalkcum Sale 1854

BALKCUM -- N Balkcum Inv 1854 p 2

Account of sale of Nancy Balkcum’s estate, 1854.

Documents found in estate files of Hester Balkcum and Nancy Balkcum, Estates Records, Sampson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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Agriculture, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Rights

But for marl.

I don’t know if I’m an Armwood or not, but (1) my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson’s second wife, Louisa, was Henry Armwood’s cousin, (2) I’ve got a DNA match with one of Henry Armwood’s descendants, and (3) Inez Armwood Watson always said we were kin. Either way, I claim him just on the strength of the moxie he displayed when he, a tenant farmer, fought back against the landowner who sought to cheat him of his cotton.

Herring v. Armwood, 130 NC 177 (1902).

B.W. Herring filed this suit in Duplin County, North Carolina, to recover from William Henry Armwood two bales of cotton worth $81 that he alleged belonged to him. Armwood responded that the cotton was worth much more than $81 and that it was not Herring’s. Further, countered Armwood, he rented the farm on which the cotton was raised under this contract: “I, B.W. Herring, do hereby agree to rent my farm to Henry Armwood for the year of 1899 for five bales of cotton of the first picking, weighing five hundred pounds, or the equivalent in money. I do also agree to dig marl to the amount of two thousand bushels, more or less, and Henry Armwood agrees to haul the same and scatter on the land.” Armwood was to use the marl in lieu of commercial fertilizers to improve the land and increase crop yield. However, Herring refused to dig the marl, and Armwood’s crops suffered.

At trial, Herring testified that Armwood paid only three of five bales of cotton he owed in rent. Armwood took two more bales raised on the rented land to Ruffin Cameron’s to be ginned and those bales were seized. Herring’s testimony is somewhat confusingly recounted in the opinion, but he seems to assert that he did not agree to dig any marl for the 1899 crop, but that he used it as an experiment in 1898 on about 16 of the 40 acres he rented to Armwood.  Armwood countered: “It was agreed that the two thousand bushels of marl shoul dbe hauled on the crop for 1899. I lived on the plaintiff’s land in 1898, and hauled marl for 15 or 16 acres. The crops were increased by the use of the marl 50 to 75 per cent. I hauled the marl from Mr. Dan Lee Flowers. He had the bed, and furnished Mr. Faison Hicks, Mr. Ab Herring, Andrew Barfield, and others in the neighborhood. My crop was decreased by the failure to use the marl at least 50 per cent.” Herring objected to this testimony on the grounds that it was too remote, and the trial judge sustained the objection. Though Dan Lee Flowers testified in support of Armwood, the judge rendered a verdict and judgment for Herring. Armwood appealed.

The North Carolina Supreme Court neatly framed the issue: “The sole question involved in this appeal, when stripped of its technical paraphernalia, is whether an action for damages will lie for a breach of contract in failing to furnish fertilizers, whereby the yield of the crop was decreased, because such damage or failure in the yield will be too remote.” And decided: “… the conclusion is irresistible that a lessening in the yield would be the natural result of a failure to use the marl, if marl be beneficial to the growth and development of the crops, and that the lessened yield would be incidental to such breach, and therefore plaintiff would be liable.” Further, everybody knows that fertilizers increase yield and marl can greatly increase production. “… [i]f damages be recoverable for a breach of contract which decreased the yield, they can also be recovered for a breach of contract whereby the yield was not increased.” Armwood had a right to present his proof to the jury. Error in the lower court, and a new trial awarded.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Robert Aldridge.

Again from “The Adam Artis Family History“:

Robert Aldridge was born in 1819, in or near Savannah, Georgia. He owned about 700 acres of land in Dudley. He ran a brick kiln, where he employed a lot of extra hands to make bricks. He was taken ill in the woods opossum hunting and never recovered. He died in 1871 at the age of 52. He had 7 or 8 brothers and sisters.

Sentence by sentence:

(1) I suppose that it is remotely possible that Robert Aldridge was born in or near Savannah, but it seems highly unlikely. More probably, as reported in the 1850 census, he was born in Duplin County NC and was the free colored son of a white woman.  An extended family of white Aldridges lived in the Duplin/Greene/Lenoir County area and at least one, Winnie Aldridge, had children of color during the right timeframe.

(2) At his death, Robert owned just under 600 acres of land near Dudley, as his estate division attests.

(3) His brick kiln was located on present-day Durham Lake Road, near the lake, which is a dammed stretch of Yellow Marsh Branch.

(4) Interesting.

(5) Actually, he died about 1899.

(6) If he did, who were they???  I am reasonably sure that John Matthew Aldridge was a brother, but that’s it.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

James Henderson’s children, part 1: the Skipps.

James Henderson had two sets of children. His first set bore the surname Skipp in childhood, when they were apprentices, and these facts suggest that James and their mother were not married. Son James Henry’s death certificate gives his mother’s name as Sallie Henderson. Was she instead Sallie Skipp?  Skipp is rare name in Onslow County, but a free man of color named William Skipp headed a household in 1820. Her father, perhaps?

The children of James Henderson and “Sallie Skipp”:

Lewis Henderson married Margaret Balkcum, a free woman of color from Sampson or Duplin County.  The family settled near Dudley, in southern Wayne County, and in 1870 Lewis and Mag became founding members of the Congregational Church.  By 1880, Lewis was growing corn, wheat and cotton on about 150 acres.  He and Mag had nine children, but descendants of only two, Ann Elizabeth and Loudie, remain today. Lewis died 12 July 1912.

James Henry Henderson’s first child, Carrie Faison, was born about 1869 to Keziah Faison.  Soon after, James married Frances Sauls and settled in Wayne County as tenant farmers.  James and Frances’ children were Mary Ella Henderson (1867-??), Elizabeth Henderson (1869-??), Nancy Henderson (1873-??), Amelia Henderson Braswell (1877-1914), Elias L. Henderson (1880-1953), James Ira Henderson (1881-1946), Lewis Henderson (1885-1932), and Georgetta Henderson Elliott (1889-1972).  In 1900, James married Laura Roberts. Though James’ modern heirs descend from only a few of his children, Lewis, Georgetta “Etta,” and Elias, they comprise the largest sub-branch of the family. James died 21 June 1920 in Duplin County.

Mary E Henderson Text

Amelia Henderson 001 Text

Elias L Henderson Text

Georgetta Henderson 001 Text

Mary Henderson seems to have died in childhood.

Eliza Henderson moved to Sampson County with her rest of her family, but has not been found after the 1860 census.

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The case for the Skipps as James Henderson’s children.

1. In the 1840 census of Onslow County, James Henderson is listed twice.  First, his household includes 1 male 24-26 [James]; 1 female 10-24 [Sallie Skipp?]; 2 males under 10 [Lewis and James]; and 1 female under 10 [Mary], all colored, and is listed between Bryant Koonce and William Mills.  Second, the household composition is the same, but is listed between William Boyett and Jesse King.

2. In the 1850 census of Upper Richlands township, Onslow County:  at household #32, Jim Henderson, 35, mulatto, mechanic, in the household of B.S. Koonce, farmer; at #34, Eliza Skipp, 7, mulatto, in the household of Jesse Alphin, farmer; at #60, Jim Dove, 14, and Mary Skipp, 10, mulatto, in the household of John Humphrey, farmer; at #65, Lewis Skipp, 16, laborer, and James Skipp, 10, both mulatto, in the household of Stephen Humphrey.

3. Neither James “Jim” Henderson nor the Skipp children appear in any Onslow County census thereafter.

4. In the 1860 census of Westbrooks township, Sampson County (about – miles from Upper Richlands): at #1033, Lewis Henderson, 25, turpentine laborer, with wife Margaret, 26, and children Lewis T., 4, James L., 3, and Isabella J., 4 months; at #1038, James Henderson, 52, carpenter, wife Eliza, 25, and children Anna J., 8, Susan, 6, Hepsie, 4, and Alex, 1; at #1039, Eliza Henderson, 18, in the household of John B. Sutton; at #1113, James Henderson, 22, farm laborer, in the household of Louis C. King. (Mary Skipp/Henderson has not been accounted for.) They are the only Hendersons in Westbrooks and were not in Sampson County in 1850.

5. In the 1870 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson “senior” is listed with his wife and children, including 27 year-old James. In Brogden, Wayne County: Lewis Henderson with his wife and children.

6. In the 1880 census of Brogden, Wayne County, James is listed with his wife and daughters. Lewis and his family were also in Brogden township. James senior remained in Faison.

7. Lewis Henderson had sons Lewis and James and a daughter Mary. James H. Henderson had sons Lewis and Elias Lewis and a daughter Mary.

8. James Henderson died in Faison, Duplin County, on 21 June 1920, aged about 80. His death certificate listed his birthplace as Onslow County and his parents as James Henderson and Sallie Henderson.

9. My grandmother, a great-granddaughter of Lewis, recognized Elias L. Henderson as a cousin. She recognized as aunts the daughters of James Henderson by his second wife. (They were actually her grandmother’s aunts, though they were contemporaries.) She also recognized as cousins the son and daughter of James’ son John Henderson.

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In other words: in 1850, four children of ages to be siblings appeared in Onslow in proximity to a man believed to be their father. One of the children, Lewis, was born approximately the same year as Lewis Henderson. Ten years later, three of the four children, now bearing their father’s surname, appeared in proximity to him in Sampson County. (Surname shifts, especially among the children of unmarried parents, were not uncommon in free families of color.) The sons, Lewis and James, named sons after one another and settled sequentially in Brogden township, Wayne County.  Most of their half-siblings also migrated to Brogden, and their descendants maintained close family ties into the early 20th century. When James “junior” died, his death certificate acknowledged his birth in Onslow County and named James Henderson as his father.

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