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


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.


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


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.


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.

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

Where we lived: Taylor’s Crossroads.

A plat included among Kinchen Taylor’s estate papers revealed the core of the man’s property.  With little difficulty, I matched waterways shown on one parcel with creeks running in modern Nash County. Fishing Creek forms its northern border with Halifax County, and Beaverdam Swamp flows into it a few miles northwest of the town of Whitakers. The hundreds of acres in the fork of these creeks belonged to Kinchen Taylor. For years I harbored a fantasy of hiring a prop plane to fly over this land while I scoured the ground for brick piers and broken chimneys and heaps of hewn logs and any other traces of Kinchen’s plantation.

Last year, I turned to the practical and learned that the I-house built by Kinchen’s son Kinchen Carter Taylor is not only still standing near Whitakers, but has been renovated and is occupied. After some sleuthing, I contacted the current resident, B.B., told him my interest in the place, and asked if I might be able to visit.  His response was quick and unequivocal: “Anytime.”

On disgracefully short notice, I emailed B.B. just before I went home last December. Would he have some time to show me around over the holidays? We made tentative plans for after Christmas and firmed them up a few days later. B.B. had to leave town for work, but his wife A. was more than happy to give me a tour.

On a sunny Saturday, I pointed my car north on US 301 and drove 40 minutes up to Whitakers. In the middle of town, I made a left and headed out Bellamy Mill Road toward Taylor’s Crossroads. Here’s the area on a 1918 map of Nash County:

Taylors XRoads

(A) marks the location of the largest chunk of Kinchen Taylor’s property at the fork of Fishing Creek and Beaverdam Swamp. (At some point the confluence was dammed to create Gum Lake shown above.) (B) is where Kinchen C. Taylor built his house, probably in the 1850s, on land inherited from his father called the Duncan Cain tract.

Taylors lived on the land well into the 20th century. In the 1980s, B.B.’s parents bought the house and surrounding acreage and set about repairing and renovating the abandoned dwelling, which looked like this:


As set forth in Richard L. Mattson’s The History and Architecture of Nash County, North Carolina, “[t]his Greek Revival house symbolizes the role of the Taylor family in the early settlement of the Whitakers vicinity. It was built in the 1850s, probably by Kinchen Carter Taylor, whose father (also Kinchen Taylor) may have occupied a house (demolished) across the road. … Though deteriorating, this house remains one of Nash’s finest examples of the vernacular Greek Revival. The facade includes such notable features as end chimneys with tumbled-brick shoulders, moulded gable returns, and heavy square porch columns with simple square capitals. The central-hall plan is entered through original double doors framed by sidelights and transom. The rear kitchen ell, which may have been moved up to the house at a later date, includes an engaged porch, close eaves, and a nine-over-six windows. … The house stands at the northwest corner of Taylor’s Crossroads. Located well back from the road and shaded by a cluster of oak trees, the Kinchen Carter Taylor House still evokes the image of the plantation seat it once was.”

A.B. warmly welcomed me when I pulled up beside the house. She graciously shared not only the photo above, but a map drawn by Kinchen C. Taylor’s nearly 100 year-old grandson that showed the locations of surrounding outbuildings, groves and pastures. Where possible, the character of the original house has been preserved in its interior, and I could not help but wonder if my Taylors, Green and Fereby, who had belonged to Kinchen C.’s father, had ever walked where I did. Even if not, they surely knew this house and were intimately familiar with its inhabitants.


Many thanks to Mark Bunn for alerting me that this house is still standing and putting me in touch with its owners and to them for opening their doors to give me a glimpse of my family’s world.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents

I did the best I could.

North Carolina } In the Superior Court October Term 1897

Sampson County }

Hardy A. Brewington, Joshua Brewington, Simon Brewington, Nathan Brewington, Nancy Goodman and her husband J.B. Goodman, Lucy Strickland and her husband J.S. Strickland, Eliza Manuel and her husband Alvin Manuel, Bashaby Brewington, Mary Wheeler, Lulu Brewington and Luther Brewington heirs at law of Raiford Brewington Jr. and Allen B. Brewington by his guardian Hardy A. Brewington, Plaintiffs

Jno. R. Jacobs, Rocia Lee Brewington and her husband J.A. Brewington, Lillie B. Brewington and her husband M.L. Brewington, and Jno. R. Jacobs, guardian ad litem of Della Jacobs and Lavinia Jacobs, Defendants

The plaintiffs complain of the defendants and allege:

I. That on the 20th day of Nov. A.D. 1890 Raiford Brewington & his wife Bashaby Brewington executed a deed to John R. Jacobs and his wife Polly Ann Jacobs for the following described tract of land to wit: Situate in Sampson County State of North Carolina and adjoining the lands of Nathan Brewington, James M. Parker and others and bounded as follows; Beginning at a stake on the lane and runs about S 550 yards to a stake at an old post oak stump the line of Jas. M. Parker & W. Royal thence west about 750 yards to a stake on the west wide of Beaver Dam swamp, thence up the edge of the swamp to a shortleaf pine at the ditch, thence East 750 yards to the beginning containing 75 acres more or less.

II. That the deed aforesaid is duly recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Sampson County Book 76 p 193 a copy of which deed is marked “Exhibit A” and hereto attached and made a part of this complaint, which deed does not convey the said lands in fee simple but upon certain stipulations and conditions in words as follows: — The said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington excepts their life time estate in said lands and the said John R. Jacobs and Polly Ann Jacobs and their heirs are to support the said Raiford Brewington and wife Bashaby Brewington and their son Allen B. Brewington during their natural life time and furnish them with good comfortable cloths. When the said John R. Jacobs and wife Polly Ann and their heirs fails to comply with the above obligations then their right and title to the aforesaid land shall be void and a further condition in said deed is that the said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashy shall have the use of said property during their life time but shall not sell any of said property not land unless it is agreeable with J.R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann. Neither the said J.R. Jacobs and Polly Ann shall sell any of said property nor land unless it is agreeable with Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby.

III. That upon the execution & delivery of said deed to wit on Nov 20th 1890 the said Jno. R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann Jacobs went into possession of the lands described in said deed and exercised possession and full control of same until 1893 when Polly Ann Jacobs died, but during this period they did not fully comply with the conditions of said deed and Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby were required to work and furnish their own support. After the death of Polly Ann Jacobs, her husband Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs continued to live on the premises & exercise possession & full control of same until about Jan 1st 1896 when they quit the premises & furnished no further food or support in any way since to Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington of their son Allen Brewington nor did the said Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs comply with the conditions in said deed before they deserted the premises but instead wasted & used the provisions made & provided by the said Raiford Brewington & wife with whom the said Jno. R. Jacobs & family loved.

IV. That Polly Ann Jacobs is one of the children and heirs of Raiford Brewington & Bashaby Brewington and has been fully provided for by them before said deed was executed to them. That Allen Brewington one of the children is an idiot and the only heir not provided for by Raiford Brewington, and the lands conveyed to Jno. R. Jacobs & Polly Ann Jacobs in the deed set out above was the sahe of the Raiford Brewington estate that he intended for his son Allen Brewington and for himself and wife Bashaby Brewington as long as they should live.

V. That in January 1896 Raiford Brewington died leaving his wife Bashaby Brewington & son Allen Brewington with no one to support them, as Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly An Jacobs had broken the conditions in said deed by leaving the premises & refusing to provide them any support.

VI. That if said deed shall remain in full force & effect, it would be in violation of the conditions in said deed, and contrary to the will and intent, and the express declaration of the grantors therein & would leave them without any means of support.

VII. That if said deed shall remain in full force and effect Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs would thereby receive a double share of the estate of Raiford Brewington to wit: the share of Allen Brewington and the share of Polly Ann Jacobs which latter share had been allotted to her before the execution of said deed.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray:

I. That the deed referred to in Article I of this Complaint be declared null and void and that a suitable person be appointed by the court to take the title of said land and hold the same in trust for Bashaby Brewington and her son Allen Brewington and the rents and profits therefrom be applied to the feeding, clothing & support of them as long as they both shall live and the remainder to the heirs at law of Raiford Brewington.

II. For cost and general relief – Lee & Butler attys for the plaintiffs.

Hardy A. Brewington being duly sworn according to law says that he has read the foregoing complaint or heard it read and that he knows the contents thereof to be true except such matters and things as are set out on information and belief and those he believes to be true.

Subscribed & sworn to before me this the 29 day of October 1897 /s/ H.A. Brewington


The file also contains notes from trial testimony:

Hardy Brewington — am son of Raiford Brewington – he had twelve children – Polly Ann Jacobs is my sister – My father gave her Polly Ann $300 in money & $100 in other property – My father never gave Allen Brewington anything – He is an idiot – 48 yrs old never did any work – My mother is living is 86 or 87 yrs old – not able to work – Allen lives with her – Jacobs & wife came into possession at date of deed They lived on the land with my mother 5 yrs – Polly Ann died about ’93 – Jacobs lived there 2 ½ yrs after death of wife – Jacobs went to Dudley in Wayne Co & has lived there ever since – My father was then living on the land – he died at 85 yrs – Jacobs provided very poorly for the old man wife & son provisions were poor & not plenty of it. Jacobs was liable to drink & will go off & leave them unprovided for in food & fuel. Land tolerably good when Jacobs took possession, pretty poor when he left He always had plenty to eat & good clothes – The Heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs left the old people neglected – Jacobs could have remained on the land & made them more comfortable – He cut timber & carried to Wilmington – and wasted the money – Myself & son have supported the old people since Jacobs my married defnts daughter – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Have heard old man complain of being hungry – cold &c. – Raiford Brewington & wife did not consent to the mortgage didn’t know of it until six or eight months after – He said Jacobs had given a mortgage & he didn’t know what wd become of him – My father died in ’96 – My mother & Idiot have no means of support except this land – Whitney Royal wrote the deed – Jacobs moved from Dudley down on this land – Jacobs married 2nd time after about 1 ½ yr after wife’s death – Jacobs got money from Parker $30 & my father said he would see it paid. – Note given about 12 mos before mortgage

Jim Strickland — Live 2 ½ miles from place – I married Raiford Brewington’s daughter – He gave her $200 – Jacobs didn’t give them enough to eat – at all times – his clothes were common – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Place was better when he came than when he left – Land not worth much now – Brother Hardy & son Arthur have been supporting them since Jacobs left

Arthur Brewington – Am son of Hardy Brewington Jacobs staid on the land about 5 years – The food was pretty poor like the most of us meat & bread – Before Jacobs went there could get as good a meal as anywhere – he wd leave land neglected – Drank every week – Raiford put me there after Jacobs left – Me & my father have been supporting the old people – They complained of want of food & fuel – I did the best I could under the circumstances – Jacobs could have done better than he did.

J.R. Jacobs – Am one of Defn’ts – When I went there but little provisions – fence gone down pretty much – I made a crop next I put 2000 [illegible] the spring I went there & clean out ditches I did the best I could – all eat at same table – He complained some like old people will do – Neither of them suffered for food or fuel I cut timber & carried to Wilmington – no profit – My wife lived about 4 yrs after I went there – I did the best I could – Arthur seemed to be their choice – We bargained for Arthur to go there & take my obligation with consent of old people – I was in debt in Clinton – I went to Parker to get the money – Old man helped to get up money – Old Man was present – gave boundaries &c — $35 note was to pay for guano – I owed Vann $25 for corn – I carried it home he carried it [illegible] – All of it was for money used on the place & for mule worked on place. Raiford [knew] all about it – I gave a lien on crop that year – The $35 mortgage was included in the $125 mortgage Raiford Brewington only once came here – The $125 mortgage was made on the plantation & he knew about it, and was willing to it – Judgmt agst me for Parker – 40 acres of cleared land on the place – Raiford Brewington asked me to cancel the deed I told him I didn’t [think] it right to do so. This was after my wife died.

J.L. Brewington – Raiford Brewington was my father – Hard to please he wanted something to drink He had a heap to feed – people & stock – Jacobs did the best he could The old man grumbled all the time – but had plenty to eat –

Jonathan Goodman – Live about ½ miles from the place – I saw the old man frequently – He lived as good as most any farmer – While Jacobs lived there – he lived as well as common run of people that had no more – Jacobs drank some – It seemed as if Jacobs wished to please him – he was off at times –

Mary Eliza Brewington – Raiford was my husbd father – I lived ½ mile from him I heard Raiford say it was a just debt as far as he [illegible] and he wanted Parker paid – The old people got along as well as one could expect

J.R. Parker – The $35 mortgage Raiford & Jacobs came to me & wanted to borrow some money – Raiford proposed to meet him in Clinton & make up the papers – which we did – I let Jacobs have some corn & bacon – This was cancelled to make up the $125 mortgage – The cash that I gave Jacobs – and the note for $35 with the money due me makes up the $125 – I know that Raiford knew of the $125 note & mortgage — $35 was all money – how much more I don’t know – over half of it – There was an indictment agst Jacobs for passing counterfeit money. Raiford came to me & didn’t say he would or wouldn’t sign the $125 –

Marshal Newman – Was J.P. – at time mortgage was made – Parker & Jacobs got me to write this mortgage – it was made at Nathan Brewington’s house Raiford was not present, and never said anything to me about it. Nathan Brewington’s was convenient to Jacobs –

Hardy Brewington (re-called) – We knew nothing about $125


Judgment for Hardy Brewington et al. The judge found that John and Polly Ann Jacobs had not complied fully with the terms of the deed and ordered that (1) the deed from the Brewingtons to the Jacobses be declared null and void; (2) Hardy Brewington be appointed trustee of the land for the sole use and benefit of Bashaby and Allen Brewington during their lifetimes; (3) after the deaths of Bashaby and Allen, Hardy was discharged from his trusteeship, and (4) John Jacobs and the Parkers were to pay court costs.


I’m not a Brewington or a Jacobs and have no direct link to any of the players in this sad intrafamily squabble over Polly Ann Brewington Jacobs’ estate. Nonetheless, as was the rule among free families of color in and around Dudley, Wayne County, there was multi-strand intertwining between these folks and my extended family:

  • Joshua L. Brewington, the J.L. who testified on behalf of John R. Jacobs, married Amelia Aldridge, sister of my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge.
  • John R. Jacobs was the older brother of “Papa,” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., who married Sarah D. Henderson (my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson’s sister) and reared my grandmother.
  • John Jacobs’ sister Frances married Marshall Carter of Sampson County. Frances’ son Milford E. Carter married Beulah M. Aldridge, John W. Aldridge’s daughter. Another son, John W. Carter, cared for Lucian Henderson (brother of Sarah) and his wife in their old age and inherited their small farm.
  • Milford E. Carter Jr. married Jessie Bell Brewington, granddaughter of Hardy A. Brewington.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s son, Alonzo Manuel, married Sallie Wynn, daughter of Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn. Susan H. Wynn was the sister of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s daughter Celestial married Hillary B. Simmons after the death of his first wife, Ann Elizabeth Henderson, who was a sister of Sarah, Loudie and Lucian Henderson.
  • Raiford Brewington’s wife Bashaby was the daughter of Shadrach and Zilpha Hardin Manuel. Her kinship to Michael Manuel is not entirely clear to me, but research by others suggests that they were cousins.

From the file of Polly Ann Jacobs, Sampson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, Original, North Carolina State Archives.

Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Free People of Color, Land, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Six acres on the south side of the road.


Goldsboro Messenger, 10 March 1884.

 Gboro Messenger 9 11 1884 Wms v Artis

Goldsboro Messenger, 11 September 1884.

Solomon Williams‘ son (and estate administrator) Jonah Williams placed these notices in a local newspaper. Solomon’s six acres could not be meaningfully divided among the eight children that survived him. Ruffin Bridge is another name for Peacock’s Bridge, which spans Contentnea Creek on the Wilson-Greene Counties border. It is not at all clear to me, however, which road would have been regarded as the road from Goldsboro to the bridge.

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

A lot in Negro Town.

This convoluted case involves a dispute between two parties claiming title to a lot that once belonged to Needham Kennedy, Mathew W. Aldridge’s father-in-law. The ins and outs of the lawsuit are difficult to extract from the decision and, in any case, are not the most interesting aspects of the matter for me. Rather, my focus is on the evidence of relationships among Kennedy’s children (and their spouses) and the light shed on the affairs of a family that had quickly accumulated property post-slavery.

There is astoundingly little in conventional records about Needham Kennedy. I assume he was native to Wayne County, perhaps the former slave of one of several Kennedy families in the area. However, to my confusion and dismay, I have found neither him nor his family in any census records prior to 1900. Where were these landowners???

All the more important, then, is the personal information that can be gleaned from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in Bradford v. Bank of Warsaw, 182 N.C. 225 (1921). The main opinion in the case gives some information, but the fullest, clearest details are set forth in a dissenting opinion. A distillation of it all:

Needham Kennedy bought a lot measuring 42 feet by 210 feet in “’Negro Town,’ a suburb of Goldsboro,” on 12 January 1870 and registered his deed six years later.  He also owned other property. Needham died intestate about 1898, leaving five children – Fannie Kennedy Aldridge, Ida Kennedy Darden, Bryant Kennedy, William Kennedy, and Levi Kennedy  – and a wife, the children’s stepmother, who died in 1908. (Their birth mother was named Patience, maiden name possibly Kennedy.)  After the stepmother’s death, the children arranged to divide the property so that William and Bryant, who lived in New Jersey, would receive cash and their sisters and Levi would divide the land. Ida was to get the contested lot (A); Fannie, lot B; and Levi, lot C.

In 1909 and 1910, William, Bryant and Levi conveyed their interest in A to Ida. The deeds from William and Bryant were not recorded until 1921, and Levi’s was lost and never recorded. On 21 March 1910, at lawyer A.C. Davis’ office, Fannie Aldridge and husband Mathew conveyed her interest in A to Ida and her interest in C to Levi.  Levi and wife and Ida Darden and her husband John conveyed their interest in B to Mathew Aldridge. These deeds were immediately probated, and Fannie, Ida and Levi took possession of their respective lots.  (Levi later sold his.)

To secure a sum of money that Ida owed Mathew, Ida gave him a mortgage on A dated 22 March 1910, which was recorded that day. Ida had received rents from A since her stepmother’s death and continued to do so until 20 May 1912. On that day, Mathew Aldridge sold the mortgaged property to Captain A.J. Brown, who recorded the deed on 11 June 1912.

Captain Brown, and later his heirs, received rents from A from the date of purchase until 27 March 1915. On that day, the heirs sold the lot to defendant Bank of Warsaw, which recorded its deed on 1 May 1916. The bank then began to receive rents.

In the meantime, on 14 July 1916, William, Bryant and Levi Kennedy conveyed their undivided 3/5 interest in lot A to J.J. Ham. The deeds were registered 24 August 1916. On 17 October 1917, Ham conveyed his interest in the lot to N.E. Bradford, who registered the deed 24 October 1917. Thus, both Bradford and the Bank claimed interests in the title to A on the basis of deeds executed by various heirs of Needham Kennedy.

My year of property law class is far behind me, and I won’t attempt to untangle the dense reasoning set forth in the majority opinion in this matter.  Suffice it to say, the Bank of Warsaw lost its appeal.


Fannie’s husband Mathew W. Aldridge, brother of my great-great-grandfather John, died in 1920. Seven months later, Fannie married W.D. Farmer.  (What’s the story there?) I have not found her death certificate.


Eliza Balkcum Aldridge and her daughter-in-law, Fannie Kennedy Aldridge, circa 1920.

Levi Kennedy died 6 February 1940 in Goldsboro. His death certificate notes that he lived at 310 W. Pine Street, that he was a clothing merchant, and that he was married to Anna Kennedy.  He was born in 1875 in Goldsboro, and his parents were listed as Needham and Patience Kennedy. He is buried in Elmwood cemetery.

Ida Kennedy Darden Lamb died 18 December 1954 in Goldsboro. She was a widow and resided at 305 West Elm Street. She was born 18 March 1874 to “Needman” and Patience Kennedy.

I’ve been unable to trace William and Bryant Kennedy in New Jersey.

Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Rights

Murdock v. Deal, 208 N.C. 754, 182 S.E. 466 (1935).

In case you’re interested, here’s the text of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Bertha Hart Murdock’s land. Property law is not my strong suit, especially as it applies to inheritance, so I will not attempt an explication.


This is an action for a declaratory judgment construing the last will and testament of T. L. Hart, deceased, and adjudging that by virtue of said last will and testament the feme plaintiff is the owner of an indefeasible estate in fee simple in certain lands described in the complaint, and has the power, with the joinder of her husband, to convey the same in accordance with her contract with the defendant.

The facts admitted in the pleadings are as follows:

T. L. Hart died in Iredell county, N. C., during the year 1930, having first made and published his last will and testament, which was duly probated by the clerk of the superior court of Iredell county, and recorded in the office of said clerk on June 4, 1930.

By his last will and testament, the said T. L. Hart devised his home place in Iredell county “to my daughter, Bertha May Hart and her bodily heirs, forever, never to be sold, and if she dies without bodily heirs, then it must be in trust for my sisters’ heirs, to hold but never to sell the same.”

By a codicil to his said last will and testament, the said T. L. Hart devised to his daughter, Bertha Mae Hart, a tract of land in Iredell county, containing forty-five acres, and described in the complaint by metes and bounds.

At his death, T. L. Hart left surviving as his only heir at law his daughter, Bertha Mae Hart, who has since intermarried with the plaintiff W. J. Murdock. He also left surviving five sisters, three of whom are married. Each of these sisters has children. Neither of his two unmarried sisters has children. Both are now over fifty years of age.

On April 1, 1935, the plaintiffs and the defendant entered into a contract in writing, by which the plaintiffs agreed to convey to the defendant a fee-simple estate, free and clear of all liens or incumbrances, in two tracts of land, one tract containing twelve acres, and being a part of the home place of T. L. Hart, deceased, which was devised to the feme plaintiff by the said T. L. Hart in his last will and testament, and the other tract containing forty-five acres and being the tract which was devised to the feme plaintiff by T. L. Hart, deceased, by the codicil to his last will and testament. By said contract, the defendant agreed to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of $1,000, upon the execution and delivery to him by the plaintiffs of a deed conveying both said tracts of land to the defendant, in fee simple, in accordance with said contract.

The defendant has refused to accept the deed tendered to him by the plaintiffs, and has declined to pay the plaintiffs the sum of $1,000, in accordance with said contract, on the ground that the feme plaintiff is not the owner of an indefeasible estate in fee simple in said tracts of land, and for that reason the plaintiffs cannot convey to him such an estate in said lands, in accordance with their contract.

On these facts the court was of opinion and so held that the feme plaintiff is the owner of an indefeasible estate in fee simple in the forty-five-acre tract, but that she is not the owner of such an estate in the twelve-acre tract.

It was accordingly ordered, considered, and adjudged that plaintiffs are not entitled to the specific performance by the defendant of the contract set up in the complaint, and that the defendant recover of the plaintiffs the costs of the action. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, assigning as error the holding of the court that the feme plaintiff is not the owner of an indefeasible estate in fee simple in the twelve-acre tract described in the complaint.


CONNOR, Justice.

There is no error in the judgment in this action. By virtue of the last will and testament of her father, T. L. Hart, deceased, and under the statute, C. S. § 1734, the feme plaintiff is the owner of an estate in fee simple in the twelve-acre tract described in the complaint. This estate, however, is defeasible upon the death of the feme plaintiff without bodily heirs. Whitfield v. Garris, 131 N. C. 148, 42 S. E. 568, and Id., 134 N. C. 24, 45 S. E. 904. It is clear that the words “bodily heirs,” used by the testator, must be construed as meaning children or issue; otherwise the limitation over to the heirs of the sisters of the testator would be meaningless. Rollins v. Keel, 115 N. C. 68, 20 S. E. 209. See Pugh v. Allen, 179 N. C. 307, 102 S. E. 394.

The limitation over to the heirs of the sisters of the testator, upon the death of the feme plaintiff, without bodily heirs or issue, is not void. The provision in the will that the home place of the testator, which includes the twelve-acre tract described in the complaint, shall not be sold by either the feme plaintiff or the remaindermen is void as against public policy. This provision, however, does not affect the validity of the devise either to the plaintiff or to the remaindermen. See Lee v. Oates, 171 N. C. 717, 88 S. E. 889, Ann. Cas. 1917A, 514.

There is nothing in the codicil which affects the estate in the home place of the testator devised in the will to the feme plaintiff.

The judgment is affirmed.

Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History

Bert’s estate.

She wanted a baby badly.

My grandmother:  … that nephew, Dr. Lord’s son, that was Mr. Hart’s nephew.  He got what Bert had. Yes, indeed. ‘Cause, see, it was heir property. And see that’s why Bert tried so hard to have a child.  Because if she didn’t have a child, it was going to whoever had had a child.  You know. And I guess Alonzo did, you know, he was a nephew.  When Bert died, it went to him. See, all this property and everything that Mr. Hart owned there was his family’s stuff.  Wasn’t Grandma Hart’s.

And in 1941, when she nearly 40 years old, Bertha Hart Murdock had one:


Statesville Landmark, 2 April 1941.

But little William Alonzo Murdock died the day after he was born.

Still, the situation for Bert and her property was not as critical as my grandmother had believed. In Alonzo Hart’s original will, made 15 October 1928 in Statesville, he devised “the home place to my daughter Bertha Mae Hart and her bodily heirs, for ever, never to be sold and if she dies without bodilies heirs. Then it must be in trust for my sisters heirs to hold but never sell same.” The remainder of his property went to his sisters’ heirs.

Thirteen months later, as he languished in the state sanitorium in Quewhiffle, dying of tuberculosis, Hart dictated a codicil.  In somewhat opaque and ungrammatical phrasing, Hart “hereby enlarge[d] the privilege to and use at her own and released to her. In stead of one parcel or tract of land I do bequeath and devise to her following described lands, In Iredell North Carolina, 45 acres in Concord Township (Deatonsville) Also 2 lots with one house Statesville Township also 47 acres in Shiloh township and Crawford near Sumters place 22 acres in above township near home belong to the home resdue. I am in my right presence of mind and know what is best for my only and legal heir Bertha Mae Hart.”

In other words, Bertha’s inheritance was generous and unrestricted, and her cousin Alonzo Lord was not to receive anything at all. Things did not go smoothly, however. Hart’s unconventional wording opened the door to challenge, and Bertha was forced to defend her title.

A Hart Est Suit Landmark 11 21 1935

Statesville Landmark, 21 November 1935.

Incredibly, this case went to the North Carolina Supreme Court: Murdock v. Deal208 N.C. 754, 756, 182 S.E. 466, 467 (1935).

By time Bertha died in 1955, her estate seems to have been much reduced, but still comprised some of Alonzo Hart’s land. The bulk of her estate went to Odessa A. Williams, who may have been her cousin. Her half-brother H. Golar Tomlin inherited only a half-interest in a lot. His daughter Annie LaVaughn Tomlin Schuyler received the other half. Another niece, Mattie Johnson, received the negligible sum of one dollar, which raises questions: who in the world was she? I only know of Golda’s one child. Was this in fact Mattie James, oldest daughter of Bert’s other half-brother, Lon Colvert? Why bother with a dollar? And why not give the other nieces, Louise Colvert Renwick, Margaret Colvert Allen, and Launie Colvert Jones, their own dollars?

Murdock Will 8 Jun 1955 R and L

Statesville Landmark, 8 June 1955.

The drama did not end with Bert’s death. In what looks to be the family’s own Bleak House saga, City of Statesville v. Credit and Loan Company, a corporation of the State of North Carolina; W.S. Nicholson and spouse, if any, and if they be deceased, then their unknown heirs, and if any of said unknown heirs be deceased, then their respective heirs, devisees, assignees, and spouses, if any; and the unknown heirs of Minnie Brawley, Florence Camp, Mollie Alexander, and Lula H. Lord, Deceased, and if any of said unknown heirs be deceased, then their respective heirs, devisees, assignees, and spouses, if any; and all other persons, firms and corporations who now have, or may hereafter have, and right title, claim or interest, in the real estate described herein, whether sane or insane, adult or minor, in esse, or in ventre sa mere, active corporations or dissolved corporations, foreign or domestic, 294 S.E.2nd 405, was not decided in the North Carolina Court of Appeals until 1982.

The first sentence of the decision: “The sole issue is whether plaintiff has a valid avigation easement over land owned by defendant.” An avigation easement is a property right acquired from a landowner for the use of air space above a specified height.  Alonzo Hart’s home property was located a few miles west of Statesville, adjacent to land now home to Statesville Regional Airport. (Brawley, Camp, Alexander and Lord were his sisters.) The City of Statesville’s claim that it held prescriptive easements was rejected, and partial summary judgment entered for the defendants.


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.