North Carolina

Who was Lawyer Henderson?


This is a snippet of the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, North Carolina. It’s difficult to read, but there, on the third line, living in a house on South Mercer is 28 year-old Lawyer Henderson. When asked where he had been living five years earlier, Lawyer responded, “Dudley, Wayne County.”


There was but a single rooted family of Hendersons in the Dudley area, all descended from my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson. I have no knowledge of anyone named Lawyer, born about 1912, in the family. There is, however, a Lawyer Henderson, born about 1912, listed in the 1920 census of White Oak township, Onslow County, North Carolina. His parents were Cal and Rose Henderson. I do not recognize the family and suspect they are descended from people formerly enslaved by white Hendersons in Onslow.

For now then, it seems a coincidence that Lawyer Henderson lived briefly in Dudley and then in Wilson.

Agriculture, Civil War, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Confederate Citizens File: Durant Dove.

Form of the estimate and assessment of agricultural products agreed upon by the assessor and tax-payer, and the value of the portion thereof to which the government is entitled, which is taxed in kind, in accordance with the provisions of Section 11 of “an Act to lay taxes for the common defence and carry on the government of the Confederate States,” said estimate and assessment to be made as soon as the crops are ready for market.

Rice — Quantity of gross crop. — 5 bush. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 1/2 bush. Value of one-tenth. — $2.00

Cured Fodder – Quantity of gross crop. — 700 lbs. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 70 lbs. Value of one-tenth. — $280

Ground peas – Quantity of gross crop. — 7 1/2 bush. Quality — #2. Tithe or one-tenth. — 3/4 bush. Value of one-tenth. — $4.50

I, Durant Dove of the County of Onslow and State of N.C. do swear that the above is a true statement and estimate of all the agricultural products produced by me during the year 1863, which are taxable by the provisions of the 11th section of the above stated act, including what may have been sold of consumed by me, and of the value of that portion of said crops to which the government is entitled. /s/ Durant X Dove

Sworn to and subscribed to before me the 28th day of November 1863, and I further certify that the above estimate and assessment has been agreed upon by said Dove and myself as a correct and true statement of the amount of his crops and the value of the portion to which the government is entitled. /s/ F. Thompson, Assessor.


The Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865 (NARA M346), often called the “Confederate Citizens File,” is a collection of 650,000 vouchers and other documents relating to goods furnished or services rendered to the Confederate government by private individuals and businesses.


Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin


The case for Nancy Henderson and Patsey Henderson as sisters is circumstantial, but strongly suggestive.

(1) With a handful of exceptions, they and individuals who appear to be their children are the only known free “colored” Hendersons in Onslow County, North Carolina, in the early 1800’s. I have not found record evidence of any colored Hendersons prior to 1809. (The exceptions: three Henderson girls apprenticed circa 1810 who may have been too old to have been Patsey or Nancy’s children. I have not been able to trace them forward from their apprenticeships.)

(2) Nancy and Patsey are named in Onslow County court records as mothers of children bound out as apprentices, and Nancy may have apprenticed two of Patsey’s. (Between February, 1821, and November, 1824, seven Henderson children were shifted from master to master nine times.  In the 25 years between 1809 and 1834, 14 Hendersons — sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews — appeared before the bench on 17 occasions.  A group of white families dominated the apprenticeship of Henderson children — Richard, Adam, and Houston Trott; Jesse and Jason Gregory; James Glenn sr. and jr.; Lewis, William, and Uzy Mills; John and Steven Humphrey, William and Jesse Alphin.  I know no familial relationship between Nancy or Patsey and any of these families, but Mills relatives gave evidence concerning Nancy’s parentage.)

(3) Nancy’s children (Durant, Willis, Miranda, Patsey, Gatsey, Minerva, William and Betsey) and Patsey’s children (James and Bryant) were roughly the same age and were occasionally apprenticed together.

(4) Several names recur among the grandchildren of both women. Nancy’s son Durant Dove (alias Henderson) had children named Lewis James, Julia, Susan, Eliza, Edward and Nancy. Patsey’s son James Henderson had children named James, Lewis, Susan, Julia, Edward and Nancy. Durant reared his family in Onslow and Lenoir Counties NC. James reared his in Onslow and Sampson. James left Onslow in the 1850s. Despite the physical distance and probable lack of contact, both men drew from the same pool of names for children born well into the 1870s.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The apprenticeship of “base-born” children.

Apprentice records show a dozen or so free colored Henderson children in Onslow County in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  It seems likely that they were from one extended family – and my kin – but proof is thin.  There is persuasive evidence that the mother of Nancy Henderson, a free woman of color, was a white woman named Nancy Ann Henderson, but no evidence to date that this Nancy Ann had additional free colored children.  James and Bryan were Patsey Henderson’s children; Durant, Willis, Miranda, Patsey, Gatsey, Minerva, William and Betsey were Nancy’s children; and there is considerable evidence to suggest that Nancy Henderson and Patsey Henderson were sisters.  My comments and speculations are in italics.

Sucky Henderson was bound to Richard Trott in 1809. Sucky, Polly and Naomi below possibly were too close in age to Nancy and Patsey Henderson to have been their children. Sisters instead?

Polly Henderson to Isaac Barber in 1809.

Durand Henderson, son of Nancy Henderson, to Henry Hyde in 1811. Durant Henderson was also called Durant Dove. He and his brother Willis were the subject of a North Carolina Supreme Court case, about which more later. He is the progenitor of today’s Lenoir County Doves.

Sukey Henderson to Richard Trott in 1811.

Naomi Henderson to Adam Trott in 1811.

Durant Henderson and Willis Henderson to John Jones in 1818.

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson, sons of Patsey Henderson, to Jesse Gregory in 1821.

Miranda Henderson and Patsey Henderson, daughters of Nancy Henderson, to Nancy Henderson in 1821. Who was the Nancy Henderson to whom the children were bound? A child could not be bound to his or her own parent. Was she Nancy Ann Henderson, Nancy Henderson’s mother?

Patsey Henderson, age 5 or 6, to Jason Gregory in 1822. Was this Nancy’s child (as above)? Or Patsey’s?

Gatsey Henderson and William Henderson, reputed children of Simon Dove, to James Glenn Sr. at August term, 1822. Nancy Henderson and Simon Dove never married, but had several children together. In the 1850 census of Upper Richlands, Onslow County, Nancy Henderson, 55, headed a household that included Gatsey, 30, Nervy, 25, Monday, 6, Lott, 4, Jessee, 1, and Sally Ann Henderson, 6 months. 

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson to Jason Gregory in 1823.

Betsy Henderson to James Glenn Jr. in 1823.

Betsy, Nancy and Appie [no surnames] to David Mashborn in 1823.  Are these Hendersons? If so, is Appie another of Nancy Henderson’s daughters?

Miranda Henderson, James Henderson, Martha Henderson and Bryant Henderson to James Glenn in 1824. Two of Nancy’s children and two of Patsey’s, bound together.

Miranda Henderson to Elizabeth Williams in 1824.

William Henderson to Lemuel Williams in 1824.

James Henderson and Bryan Henderson, “the baseborn children of Patsey Henderson,” to James Glenn Sr. in 1824.

Betsy Henderson and Gatsey Henderson, daughters of Nancy Henderson, to Lewis Mills in 1824.

Patsy Henderson to Amos Askew in 1824.

William Henderson, son of Nancy Henderson, to Lemuel Williams in 1827.

Durant Dove and Willis Dove were bound to James Mills in 1828. These boys were otherwise known as Durant and Willis Henderson.

Durant Henderson and Willis Henderson to James Mills in 1829.

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

Her freedom has never been disputed.

State of North Carolina Onslow County

To all persons whom it may concern we the under Signed being called on to State what we Know concernning the Freedom of Nancy Dove formerly Nancy Henderson do certify that Nancy Ann Henderson the Mother of the said Nancy Dove was a Free born white Woman and that the Freedom of the said Nancy Dove never has been disputed given under our hands this 3rd March 1860  /s/ John Mills {seal} Nancy Parker {seal}

Test J.W. Thompson X


I believe that Nancy Henderson alias Dove and my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Patsey Henderson were sisters. More on that later.

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.

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.


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.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs


These men were convicted of the August 1922 murder of mail carrier Cyrus Jones in Swansboro, NC, largely on the testimony of another man, Willie Hardison, who was tried separately for the murder. Hardison later confessed that he had made up their involvement under the threat of being lynched. The state electrocuted Hardison in 1923, but both the trial judge and the prosecutor wrote letters requesting executive clemency for George Williams and the brothers Frank and Fred Dove. After almost six years on death row, the three were given full pardons in March 1928 by Governor A.W. McLean.


Sidenote:  My people are from Onslow County, just west of Swansboro.  My furthest traceable Henderson ancestor was a free woman of color named Patsey Henderson, born about 1800.  Patsey’s sister Nancy married (or perhaps didn’t) a free man named Simon Dove.  The Onslow County Doves, including Fred and Frank, are descended from their son Durant Henderson, alias Durant Dove.

Image from “Capital Punishment in North Carolina,” Special Bulletin from the North Carolina State Board of Charities and Public Welfare, Raleigh, N.C. (1929). Copy courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Civil War, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Hillary Herring, Union man.


#563,970. Claim of Kizza Harring, widow of Hillary Harring, Co. A, 37 U.S.C.T., for Widow’s Pension.

Hillary Herring enlisted in the Union Army in 1864.  At his enlistment, he reported that he was 23 years old, 6 feet 1/2 inches tall, light-complexioned, with black eyes and dark hair, was born in Onslow County NC, and worked as a farmer. (Census records reveal that he grew up in Wayne County.) Documents in Herring’s widow’s pension application file show that he was discharged from the army on 11 February 1867, making it likely that he fought in the 37th in battles across southern Virginia and eastern NC. (See a history of the 37th U.S.C.T. here.)  He married Kizzy Dudley on 18 December 1869 in Burgaw, Pender County NC. Rev. Elisha Boon performed the ceremony. It was Hillary’s first marriage, but Kizzy was the widow of a John Herring that she’d married in 1863. (Hillary’s kin?) Hillery Herring died 30 June 1876 in Bentonsville, Johnston County, of “disease of lungs.” Dr. Martin Harper attended him during his final illness.  Lewis Hood furnished his coffin and served as undertaker, and Rev. John James Harper, a white man, preached the funeral sermon.

On 21 November 1872, Hillery and Keziah Herring and my great-great-great-grandparents Lewis and Margaret Henderson sold two tracts in Wayne County totalling about 80 acres to John P. Cobb and Jesse Hollowell. The four had purchased the tracts from William R. Davis, but the deed was not recorded. Both Lewis and Hillery were born in Onslow County.  Were they related?  If not, why did they buy land together?


Free People of Color, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Introducing Lewis & Mag Henderson.

Though his brother Bryant disappeared from the record after apprenticeship, James Henderson achieved adulthood and shows up in the 1850 census as a mechanic and the father of four children whose last name was Skipp.  The children too were apprentices, which tells us that their mother, like James’ own, was unmarried. “Skipp” was an uncommon name in the area.  I know nothing else about her, and she apparently was dead by time the censustaker rode through their corner of Onslow County.  When James wandered 50 miles northeast to Sampson County to a tiny community of free people of color north of present-day Clinton, his sons Lewis and James Henry and daughter Eliza went with him. By this time, they had assumed their father’s last name.  Lewis Henderson, born about 1836, was my great-great-great-grandfather. There are no photographs of Lewis, but there is one of his brother James Henry, who was blue-eyed and bushy-bearded and generally indistinguishable from his Anglo-Saxon neighbors.


Sometime around 1856 Lewis married a woman much like himself, free-born and colored and of uncertain antecedents.  Her first name was Margaret, and her last name seems to have been Balkcum.  And we do know what Grandma Mag looked like.  My great-aunt Mamie showed me the battered tintype; I was 21 years old and nearly lost consciousness.  Mag was born in 1836, too.  She was perhaps middle-aged when she sat for her portrait — her age, like her racial stock, is indeterminate.  But she had straight iron-gray hair parted down the middle and pulled back severely; high, broad cheekbones; and thin lips marking an ultra-wide mouth.  A handsome woman, if not a pretty one.  She seems to be smiling; there is a twinkle in her gray eyes.


My grandmother remembered her like this:

We used to go down to Dudley to see Grandma Mag – we called her Mag, but her name was Margaret – before she died.  I remember her being alive, but she was in bed sick.  She was always in the bed.  Her hair looked like white, and she had it parted right in the middle and all carried back, don’t even look like she had none.  Couldn’t tell how much she had ‘cause she was laying on it, what I saw of it.  I don’t ever remember her getting up and down.  I remember ‘cause I wanted to know why she was in the bed all the time.  And I don’t remember seeing her walk but one time.  She stayed sitting around so much until she couldn’t hardly half walk – but she didn’t have nair stick with her.  She’d just hold on to different things.  I don’t know, I wouldn’t never ask a person, ask ‘em, “What’s wrong with your legs?” or “What’s the matter with you.  How come you can’t walk no better?”  But Mamie stayed with Grandma Mag and them until Grandpa Lewis died.  The house they was staying in where was up by the railroad, was just about to fall down.  So Mama Sarah built them a house.  


Photos of James H. Henderson and Margaret Henderson in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.