Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History

Collateral kin: the Daltons.

Me: And you said he looked just like your dad. Your dad looked just like his father.

My grandmother: Papa looked just like him. And one thing, with all that white in him, he was brown like Grandpa.

Me: Unh-uh.

Grandma: And I don’t know who Mat and Golar and Walker’s mother was, but Walker was real dark. But handsome. Honey, he was one beautiful child and had this pretty hair. Curly. And it wouldn’t even keep a part or nothing in it. And he came home one time, and he had cut this part, cut this place through his hair. And he said his friends had parts in their hair, but his was so curly it wouldn’t stay. So he had to cut this part. Another time, that was just after Mama had married Papa. And she was just so crazy ‘bout him, he was such a pretty little boy. And she made him this velvet suit.

My aunt L.: Who, Walker?

Grandma: Walker. Fauntleroy. You know what a Fauntleroy suit is?

Me: Mm-hmm.

Grandma: She made him this Fauntleroy suit for commencement. And she said it had this little collar, you know [inaudible] collar. And said when Walker came out on the stage to do his part, he had stuffed all that collar on the inside of his coat and pulled them sleeves down. [Laughing.] Mama said, “See. Will you look at this young’un.” [Laughing.]

Me: ‘Cause they were fairly young, right, when —

Grandma: Yeah, they were six —  something like six, eight and ten. And they may have been younger than that.

Me: And their mother died?

Grandma: Yeah. I don’t know how she died. But her sisters were really nice to Mama. Oh, they were really nice to her. Mama loved them like her own sisters. They were so nice to her. And, see, they were sort of taking care of the children while Papa was in between two marriages you know.

COLVERT -- Walker Colvert Border

J. Walker Colvert II, perhaps in his early twenties.

——

So, who was Lon Colvert’s first wife? I know her name — Josephine Dalton — but little else.

In the 1880 census of Eagle Mills, Iredell County, one year-old Josapene Dalton is listed in the household of her parents, Anderson and Vincey Dalton, along with brother Andrew, 17; sister Mary B., 3; her great-grandmother, Mary Houston, 85; and a boarder named Joe Blackburn, 28. The family lived among a little cluster of Dalton households, the first headed by 67 year-old John H. Dalton, a white farmer. Dalton, born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, arrived in Iredell County in 1840’s. He married the daughter of Placebo Houston, a prominent planter, and is credited with introducing tobacco cultivation in Iredell County. According to a 8 April 1974 article in the Statesville Record and Landmark, by 1850 Dalton had established a tobacco plug factory that employed 17, but had to haul bright leaf tobacco from counties along the Virginia line. This scarcity drove his efforts to jumpstart local tobacco production. In 1858, John Hunter Dalton built Daltonia, described as “an imposing Greek Revival house whose richness and diversity of detail make it one of the most architecturally outstanding houses” in the county.  The 1860 census counted among Dalton’s possessions 57 slaves living in eight houses. Josephine Dalton’s father, and maybe her mother, were likely among them.

Josephine was born well after the Civil War — after Reconstruction even — but her family seems to have remained tethered to Daltonia for decades after Emancipation. [After I started this blog post, I traveled to Iredell County, met P.P., and visited Daltonia. That story, and more about Josephine’s family, is here.] Sometime around 1894 — I have not located a license — Josephine married Lon W. Colvert, an ambitious 19 year-old Eagle Mills native set to make his mark in the town of Statesville. [Update, 4/6/2015: license found.] The young family appears in the 1900 census of Statesville, Iredell County — Lon Colvert, 25, wife “Joseph,” 23, and children Gola, 5, Mattie, 4, and Walker, 2. No more than five years later, Josephine was dead.

Standard
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.

Standard
Business, Civil War, Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Photographs

Eagle Mills.

An abstract from Heritage of Iredell County, Vol. I (1980) —

In 1846, peddlar Andrew Baggerly bought the old Francis Barnard mill tract on Hunting Creek in north Iredell County.  In 1849, he placed an ad in Salisbury’s Carolina Watchman: “Capital Wanted And If Not Obtained Then Valuable Property For Sale.”  He described the property as “the most valuable water power in the Southern Country … situated on Hunting Creek in Iredell County, twenty-eight miles west of Salisbury … [on] a never-failing stream, … remarkable for its purity, … [and] adapted to the manufacture of paper, to calico printing, to bleaching etc.”  Baggerly noted that there was a dam in place, an active sawmill, a grist mill soon to open, and a factory building about half-finished.

On 2 Mar 1850, Baggerly, James E.S. Morrison, William T. Gaither, William R. Feimster, William I. Colvert, G. Gaither Sr. and Andrew Morrison filed a deed for a 318 1/4-acre tract called the Eagle Mills place.  By 1852, the factory was operating with William I. Colvert as its agent.  It had 700 spindles and 12 looms and employed an overseer and 22 workers, 20 of whom were women. By 1854 the adjacent former Inscore Mill had been added to the works, and Baggerly claimed the “intrinsic and speculative value” of the complex was $2,700,000.  

In 1855, Baggerly advertised in Charlotte’s North Carolina Whig and in the Carolina Watchman, calling the complex “Eagle City, the Great Point of Attraction, Destined to be the great center of manufacturing interests in Western North Carolina and perhaps the United States.”  He deeded the president and Congress of the United States a ten-acre block in Eagle City called Eagle Square, located on Market Street.  

After Baggerly was forced to liquidate his assets during the Panic of 1857, William Colvert became the owner of his interest in Eagle Mills.  “According to tradition there was a tobacco factory, hotel, oil mill, and general store at Eagle Mills in addition to the grist mill and cotton factory.  A number of homes stood in the horseshoe bend above the mills and a church was eventually constructed on the edge of the settlement.”

In the spring of 1865, Stoneman’s raiders came upon Eagle Mills unexpectedly and burned it to the ground.  The mills were rebuilt, but Eagle Mills never recovered its former prosperity.  The cotton factory and grist mill operated until destroyed by fire in April 1894.  At that time, William I. Colvert, Robert S. Colvert, and James E.S. Morrison were the owners.  

The only remains at the site are gravestones in the church cemetery, traces of the main road to the mill, the grist mill’s foundation stones, and, a short distance upstream, remains of the stone supports where a covered bridge crossed the creek.

——

Sville_Record_and_Landmark_4_19_1894_Eagle_Mills

Statesville Record & Landmark, 19 April 1894.

——

When William I. Colvert took charge of Eagle Mills in 1852, my great-grandfather Walker Colvert was in his early 30s and father of a one year-old boy, John Walker Colvert. I don’t know exactly what kind of work Walker did for W.I., but they had grown up together, and Walker was an entrusted slave. Even if his primary labors were not at the cotton factory complex, I am certain that he spent considerable time in and around his master’s largest investment. So, too, would John Walker, who remained with W.I. after Emancipation. He is listed in W.I.’s household in the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and I suspect he stayed at Eagle Mills until the final fire closed down the works.

On a rainy December morning I cruised the backroads of northern Iredell County, drinking in the landscape that was home to my Colverts and Nicholsons for much of the 19th century. I made a left onto Eagle Mills Road, headed north. A sharp bend in the road and there, a bridge over Hunting Creek. I pulled over and, ignoring a No Trespassing sign, clambered down to the sandy bank. The waterway is too shallow and rocky to have been paddled or poled, but I imagine that Walker and John Walker knew its course very well. Hunting Creek powered Eagle Mills and was a direct link between W.I. Colvert’s lands and those of Thomas A. Nicholson, whose son James Lee married W.I.’s daughter and whose granddaughter, Harriet Nicholson, gave birth to John Walker Colvert’s first child.

IMG_4618

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.

Standard