Births Deaths Marriages, Civil War, Enslaved People, Military, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

They would not have taken them in church.

Part II of Bailham and Hannah Sauls Speight’s pension application file arrived today, and here are some extracts from witnesses deposed 4 June 1904:

  • Hannah Speight – “I claim pension as the widow of Bailham Speight but who served during the Civil War in the U.S. Army under the name of Bailham Edwards.” His brother Lafayette Edwards “lives at Bull Head which is eight miles from Goldsboro.” “I was born on Appletree Swamp near the town of Stauntonberg, Greene County. N.C. and was a slave; was owned by Lawrence Brown. I am the daughter of Rosetta Sauls. My father was Sheppard Sauls. I was known as Hannah Sauls prior to my marriage to Bailham Speight. … [A]fter our marriage we lived as husband and wife till he died December the 21st 1902.” “My husband was born and raised in Greene County. He was about six years older than I was still I knew him before he was grown….” “After his discharge he went to Georgia and was there just twelve months I do not know in what part of Georgia he was. No, I guess it was South Carolina where he went for he went away with Capt. Bill Taylor to work turpentine. … I married my husband about four years after the close of the war and we were married in the month of November in Snow Hill….” Married at Rebecca Bess’ house. She is deceased, as are witnesses Martha Sheppard, Luke Sheppard, and Charles Moseley. Maria Lofton did not witness, but could testify to marriage. She lives on Dr. Parrott’s plantation near Falling Creek. Amos Ellis, Lafayette Edwards, and Violet Edwards would have heard of the marriage, as would Isaac Lynch. … “My husband was raised five miles from Snow Hill on the Betsey Edwards place.” “My husband had a woman before the war. She might be called a slave wife and her name was Jennie. My husband told me she died in Newbern about the close of the war.” “At date of death of my husband I had one child under 16, viz., George Speight and he was fourteen on the 26th of last September. I never had George’s age set down by I remembered it all the same and I have always celebrated the twenty sixth of September as being his birthday and I am absolutely sure that he is now fourteen going on fifteen.” Midwife Mariah Moore lived one mile from Kinston in Harveytown. “After my marriage I lived for twelve months on the place of Dr. John Harvey and then I moved down here; moved here in the Fall of 1870 and have been here ever since. Everybody both white and black know me around here.” Deposition A.
  • Hannah Speight — Sixty-one years of age and lives four miles from Kinston. “I have had eleven children – ten by Bailham Speight and one by Loderick Artist. I never lived with Loderick Artist for during the time he came to see me I was living in the house with my mother and father. We were engaged to be married but after he got me in trouble he went and married another woman. He married her before I married Bailham Speight. He married a woman named Mandy and lived with her till he died ten years ago. He died in the neighborhood of Speights Bridge. No, I never went under the name of Artist nor was I ever known as his wife and never lived with him a day. Our relations were all of a secret nature.” Deposition B.
  • Rosetta Sauls – “I think I am 85; I can do no work and live with my grandson.” “Hannah Speight is my daughter.” … “I did not see her married because she married in Snow Hill and I was living in the country but Bailham come and got her from her my house and took her to Snow Hill where they were married and then they came right back to my house where they lived some three or four months and then they moved in a house to themselves.” “No, my daughter was never married to Loderick Artist and they never did live together but he was the father of her oldest child. He deceived my daughter and got a child by her and then went and married Mandy. All the time he was keeping company with my daughter she was living with me. My daughter never went under the name of Artist nor did she ever go under any name except Sauls and Speight. …” “Bailham Speight and Hannah were both members of the Baptist Church and had they been living improperly and not regularly married they would not have taken them in church.”
  • Lemon Speight – “On the 27th of last April I was 37 years of age.” Farmer four miles from Kinston. “Hannah Speight is my mother. I am the son of Loderick Artist who died ten years go. He never married my mother and I am the only child she ever had except those belonging to Bailham Speight. My father had a wife and her name was Mandy.” “I was married December the 12th 1889 and my brother George was born September the 26th 1889.”

And a letter dictated by Bailham Speight himself:

February 11th 1896, Kinston N.C.

Mr. I.S. Kurtz       Dear Sir, Relative to my age and the way that my name has been spelled. Now I wished to informs you that I used to belong to the old man names Edwards before the war (white) Therefore I enlisted in the Military Services of the United states. I enlisted by the name of Bailham Edwards and I answered at roll call. Bailham Edwards. But the Yankees, they called the name some what like this. Balum Edwards. But however you is speaking to the same man after all. …” [The letter is written in a very florid hand, and the signature does not show his “X.” However, other documents reveal that Bailham Speight could not, in fact, read or write.]

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Births Deaths Marriages, Civil War, Military, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

I know they were married by law.

Feverish with malaria, friends and family at his side, Baalam Speight closed his eyes a final time on 21 December 1902, free of the pain that had wracked him for years. He left a widow, Hannah Sauls Speight, and nine children, but little otherwise to show for a lifetime of hard work. Hannah and youngest son, George Speight, just 13, faced uncertain times.

Baalam Speight was born about 1840 in Greene County. In the waning days of the Civil War, he and his brother Lafayette Edwards slipped away from their plantations to make their way to Morehead City, North Carolina. There, in March 1865, they enlisted in Company H, 14th United Stated States Colored Heavy Artillery. Baalam had not yet adopted his father’s surname and joined the army as “Baalam Edwards.” He and his company served garrison duty at Fort Macon until mustered out on 11 December 1865. In 1890 and again in 1892, 1895 and 1896, Baalam applied to the U.S. government for a veteran’s pension. Though he once been a “well developed, powerful built man,” he complained of “fluttering of the heart,” muscle pains, eye disease as a result of measles, rheumatism, lumbago, deafness and “misery in the head” attributable to exposure during his military service. Several doctor’s examinations concluded, however, that Baalam’s troubles were primarily attributable to old age, and his claims were rejected.

Despite Baalam’s failed attempts, Hannah Speight squared her shoulders and filed a widow’s claim in June 1903. It was assigned No. 786,944. Her burden? To prove that she and Baalam were legally married and never divorced. What might have been a straightforward task was complicated by the fact that Greene County’s courthouse had burned down with everything in it and the magistrate who had performed the ceremony was overworked and often drunk. Hannah turned to neighbors and friends to make her case, and nearly a dozen were deposed over the course of several days in August 1904. In addition to corroborating Hannah’s account of her marriage, they present a trove of personal information about the lives of Hannah and Baalam’s circle:

  • Mariah Moore – midwife; 78 years old in 1904;  lives near Kinston, Lenoir County; delivered Baalam and Hannah’s youngest son George Speight; her unnamed husband died in July 14 years ago.
  • Maria Loftin — about 62 years old, wife of Cornelius Loftin; lives near Kinston; lived on Harvey plantation at same time as Balaam Speight and recalled his marriage. “I used to patch his clothes before he was married … I was freed by Lincoln and staid on Bear Creek four years then I went to near Snow Hill on Harvey place where I met Baalam and I staid there two years.”
  • Cain D. Sauls – Lives in Snow Hill, Greene County NC. “I am 40 years of age … merchant. I am second cousin of the claimant Hannah Speight. Her maiden name was Hannah Sauls. I have known her all my life ….[She and Balham] lived in this county but I don’t know where they lived as I saw them only when they visited my people.” [Only witness who signed his own name. All others signed with X.]
  • Viola Edwards – Lives in Bull Head, Greene County. “I don’t know my age, am 50 or more. … Wife of LaFayette Edwards. … I lived just across the creek from [Hanna Sauls] when she married Baalam Speight. … I recollect that they were on the plantation next to the one I lived on at that time. It was the Rawls plantation …. I did not know Jennie the slave wife of Baalam Edwards ….”
  • Grace Harper – about 62 years old, wife of Lewis Harper, lives in Snow Hill. “I knew Balham Speight as a boy before he went away to go into the army. … I had known Hannah Sauls as a girl and lived in two miles of her before she married Balham Speight. … I think they had one child before they lived at Kinston … Yes Hannah had a child by Loderick Artist before her marriage to Balham Speight, but she did not marry or live with him or any other man until she married Balham. …”
  • Mary Shepard – About 70 years old, lives near Snow Hill. Widow of Marcus Shepard. “I knew [Hannah’s] aunt Becca [Best.] … They lived around here about two years after they were married and then moved away to Lenoir Co. … Baalam Speight was a brother of Fate Edwards. He was always called Baalam Speight. I think he was owned by Jim Edwards and that his father was Reddin Speight. … It seems to me that Hannah had a boy by Loderick Artist before her marriage to Baalam Speight …”
  • Lewis Harper – Lives in Snow Hill. “I am about 65 years of age … laborer…. I was born and raised in Greene County and knew Balham Speight as a boy. We lived about 3 miles apart and were right often together before he went away to go into the army. … I knew when Balham Speight was married to Hannah Sauls, it was not mighty long after the war. It may have been two or three years after. … They did not remain near Snow Hill very long until they moved to Kinston where they remained afterwards up to his death. … Hannah had a child by the man Loderick Artist a year and a half before she married Balham while she was living with her parents. … Loderick Artist was my brother and is dead.
  • LaFayette Edwards – 63 years of age, lives in Bull Head, Greene County. “I served as a corporal of Co. H, 14 U.S.C.H.A. and knew Baalam Edwards of that company; he was my brother and our father was Reddin Speight. In slave time I belonged to Ap. Edwards and he belonged to his brother Orfa Edwards. We were raised and enlisted, served and discharged together. After he came out of the army he worked in turpentine one year or so in S.C. or Georgia. … After that he came back and lived on Hill place near Kinston. But for two or three years after he came from the South he lived out near Snow Hill. He was married close to Jno. Harvey plantation to Hannah Sauls daughter of Shepard Sauls. … I know they were married by law as there was no taking up with each other in those days. … Before he married Hannah Baalam had lived with a woman named Jennie Suggs in slave time. She died while we were in the service. I did not go to the burial, but we were at Morehead City not far away when she died and heard of her death at the time.”
  • Peter Hood – 64 years old, farmer and pensioner, lives near Kinston. “I was a pvt. in Co H, 14 U.S.C.H.A. and knew Baalam Edwards. He was in my company and I was witness for him when he was trying to get pension. … He was a sort light complected spare somewhat tall man. I don’t know his height. I reckon he was about as tall as you (about 5 ft. 10 in.)”
  • Isaac Edwards alias Eddis — 67 year-old farmer. “I am not a pensioner but I served as a pvt. in Co. H, 14 U.S.C.H.A from Mch. 8, 1865 to Dec. 11, 1865. I knew a man named Baalam Edwards in my company. I had known him before we went into the army and we had both belonged to Betsy Edwards in slave time and lived not far apart. His father was Reddin Speight. He used the name of his mistress in the army and after he came out of the army he went by the name of his father Speight. … [H]e was married to a woman named Hannah Sauls. This was the first wife of Baalam Edwards except that he had a slave wife named Jennie.” “Baalam Edwards was not sick and did not get hurt in the army, except that he had mumps at Ft. Macon. He was a long slim, not very dark, dark hair and eyes. I am six feet high, he was not quite as tall as I am.”
  • Francis Williams — 70 year-old pensioner. “I was a corporal in Co. I, 14 U.S.C.H.A. and I knew Balham Speight. He was a member of my regiment.” [C.D. Sauls signed as witness.]

The testimony was satisfactory, and Hannah was granted a pension of $10/month.

A document in this pension file lists Baalam’s children as Charles, born 12 April 1870; Nancy Susan, 19 February 1872; Lizzie, 8 March 1874; Claiborn, 30 March 1876; Major, 27 September 1879; James, 8 April 1882; Franklin, 19 June 1885; Luvenia, 5 April 1887; and George Meade Speight, 26 September 1889. Census records reveal a tenth child, who was oldest. Lemon Speight’s Lenoir County death certificate lists his birthdate as 27 April 1867 — about a year-and-a-half before Baalam and Hannah married in late 1869. The certificate also names Baalam as Lemon’s father, but, as several witnesses testified, he was in fact the son of Loderick Artis.

The file reveals other tantalizing tidbits, in italics, related to my family. How were Loderick Artis and Lewis Harper brothers? On their mother’s side? Or through Loderick’s father Daniel Artis? Cain Sauls, who was Loderick’s nephew, testified that he was Hannah’s second cousin. Her parents were Rosetta Best and Sheppard Sauls. Who was Sheppard to Cain?

ARTIS -- CD Sauls Deposition_Page_1

ARTIS -- CD Sauls Deposition_Page_2

Deposition of Cain D. Sauls, 8 August 1904.

File #786944, Application of Hannah Speight for Widow’s Pension, National Archives and Records Administration. Hat tip to Trisha Blount Hewitt for pointing out the mention of Loderick Artis in Baalam Speight’s file, #988961, which is included in Hannah’s file.

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North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Long-lost cousins.

M. had the same first name — an unusual one in that time and place — and last initial as my first cousin. We met when I, a year too young, tagged along to my cousin’s Brownie Scout meetings. M. and I discovered that we lived down the street from one another and from then until my family moved away three years later, we were inseparable.

Several years ago, I did some basic genealogical research on M.’s mother’s family. Her grandfather was a Greene County Edwards, and I was able to trace his ancestry back to slavery. I gratified by the achievement, but nothing in what I found resonated on a personal level.

Fast forward to last week. While hunting for Artis Town, I revisited an Edwards cemetery that I first encountered five or ten years ago while driving Greene County back roads. As I noted here, this time I realized that these Edwardses were also Artises, descendants of Daniel, the brother of my great-great-great-great-grandmother Vicey Artis Williams. Standing there, mulling this over, I started thinking about M.’s family, her Edwardses, and wondering …

When I got back to my parents’ house, I hopped onto the internet. Twenty minutes, and a lot of scribbling and charting later, there it was. M.’s grandfather was the grandson of Mariah Sauls Edwards, who was the daughter of Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson, who was the daughter of Daniel Artis. In other words, M. is my cousin, too!

P.S. I figured all this out the day before M.’s birthday. A little present for us both.

P.P.S. An iron-clad childhood rule: “Don’t get in anybody’s car unless we have given you permission.” I broke it twice before the lesson took. The second and last time, I was about seven. I was playing down at M.’s house when her grandparents announced that they were about to ride down Greene County. I ran home to see if I could go with them. Nobody was home. I decided for myself and hopped in the car. I don’t remember much about the short visit — a white farmhouse on brick pillars standing on a slight hill, maybe? — but now I wonder. Was I visiting my own kin?

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

Family cemeteries, no. 9: Daniel Artis’ Edwardses.

A right turn out of my parents’ neighborhood puts me onto Highway 58. Head southeast, cross the edge of Stantonsburg, over Contentnea Creek and the Greene County line, and, 13 miles from home, you reach Lane Road. Turn left, round the curve, and there, neatly marked and kept, is the Edwards cemetery. Here are buried Daniel Artis‘ daughter Clara, her husband Henry Edwards, and their descendants.

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Photo taken today, Lisa Y. Henderson.

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