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

Collateral kin: the Rickses.

Both of my grandfathers died long before I was born. In 1958, however, my paternal grandmother married Jonah Catellus Ricks and moved to Philadelphia with him. He died just before I turned three, but I am told I was fiercely attached to him.

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Hattie Henderson Ricks and Jonah C. Ricks, Philadelphia, circa 1957.

Among the cache of funeral programs my grandmother left is a trove memorializing services for Granddaddy Ricks’ people, many of whom migrated to Philadelphia with him. His father, Jonah Lewis Ricks, lived in Philly for a time, but returned to North Carolina in late adulthood and died in Wilson in 1960.

Jonah L. Ricks was born near Bailey, Nash County, in 1885. His mother, Nancy Jones Ricks, was born about 1865 in western Wilson County to Jacob and Milly Powell Jones, both born into free families of color. (Jacob was a grandson of Bethana Jones.) Jonah’s father was Joseph Ricks.

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Jonah L. Ricks, Wilson, 1953.

Joseph’s death certificate, filed in Nash County in 1949, asserts that he was born about 1876 in Nash County to Square [sic] and Nicey Ricks. However, the censuses of 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 consistently list 1860 as his birth year.

What follows is a summary of research I conducted to pierce the veil of slavery and shed light on Joseph Ricks’ family just before and after Emancipation.

Initially, I was unable to find either Joseph Ricks or his parents in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. However, I had found a Kinchen R. Ricks (1858-1915) whose Nash County death certificate listed his parents as Squire Ricks and Nicie Braswell, so I looked for him instead. In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County, 22 year-old Kenchin Ricks appears as a servant in the household of Marmaduke Ricks. Next door is this household: Sqare Perry, wife Nicy, and their children, including 18 year-old Joseph. I went back ten years to 1870 to find, in Chesterfield township, Nash County: Esqire Perry, 52, wife Nicey, 47, and children Primus, 22, Willie, 18, Mary J., 16, Rebecca, 13, Kinchen, 11, Joseph, 9, Robert, 8, and Matilda, 6. Also sharing the household were Judy Finch, 19, and her 7 month-old Nancy, and Sham Freeman, 63, Silva, 58, Mary, 25, and Rosa Freeman, 18. Thus I determined that Joseph Ricks was known as Joseph Perry as a child.  His parents were known as Squire and Nicey Perry and, I later determined, all of his siblings except brother Kinchen retained the surname Perry.

Squire Perry was born circa 1815, according to census records. His wife Nicey was born circa 1824. As neither appears in censuses earlier than 1870, I assumed that both were born slaves. I consulted Timothy Rackley’s volumes on Nash County estate divisions and slave cohabitations and discovered records of the division of the estate of Clabourn Finch, which was conducted 18 December 1849.  Finch’s property, which included slaves Jacob, Benjamin, Squire, Sam, Henry, Gilbert, Adam, Primus, and Nicy and her child, was divided among his heirs.  Squire, valued at $550, went to Finch’s daughter Betsy and her husband Jacob Strickland.  Nicy and child, valued at $700, went to Finch’s daughter Nicy and her husband Marmaduke Ricks. Thus, the family was divided during the last decade and a half of slavery.

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Page from the estate of Clabourn Finch, Nash County, 1849. The enslaved people distributed to his heirs at November Term of court differ slightly from those listed in this inventory.

The 1850 slave census of Nash County shows Jacob Strickland as the owner of four slaves and Marmaduke Ricks as the owner of ten. The 1860 slave census of Sullivants township, Nash County, lists him as the owner of 18 slaves.

Among post-Emancipation Nash County cohabitation records, I discovered that, on 19 August 1866, Esquire Strickland and Nicey Ricks registered their 22-year marriage with a Nash County Justice of the Peace.  At the time they reunited, each was using the surname of his or her most recent former owner. By the 1870 census, however, as noted above, Squire had settled upon Perry.

It is probably not coincidence that another of Clabourn Finch’s daughters, Ann C., was married to a Perry. Clabourn Finch’s slaves were divided among his children at his death and may have been further sold or traded within the family. At present, Squire’s reason for choosing Perry rather than Ricks or Strickland is not clear, nor is the basis for Joseph Ricks’ report on his brother Kinchen’s death certificate that their mother’s maiden was Braswell. Similarly, the reason that two of their sons, Kinchen and Joseph, reverted to Ricks is unclear.

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Original photographs and funeral program in my possession. Federal population schedules; North Carolina Certificates of Death filed in Nash and Wilson Counties; Timothy W. Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves & Cohabitation Record 1862-1866; Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves 1829-1861; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Religion

This Book was give to Sarah Jacobs.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver left two Bibles. One, a gift from her second husband, Rev. Joseph Silver, had originally belonged to his first wife, Felicia Hawkins Silver. The other passed through several hands before arriving in mine.

There are three inscriptions inside the front cover. “This book was give to Sarah Jacobs from Ganny Caroline 1920 of Wilson NC” — that’s my grandmother’s handwriting. Then, faintly: “Present by Mrs Caroline Vick of Wilson N.C. present in May 18th year 1904.” Then: “Gladys OKelley book give to her by Charity Pitt keep as long as I live no one to take it a way from me year 1913 Dec 23.”

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Who are these folk?

Carolina Williamston Vick was born in Newton County, Georgia in 1844. How or why she came 425 miles north to settle in Wilson, North Carolina, may never be known, but a clue might lie in her maiden name. “Williamson” was a prominent southwest Wilson County family that included slaveholders. Did some migrate — or sell their slaves — South? In any case, Carolina was in Wilson by 1880 when she is listed in a household headed by 28 year-old Robert Vick. They are married and have three children, Alice, 18, Willie, 15, and Cora Vick, 3. (It appears that the older two were Robert’s step-children.) By 1900, Carolina was living in the 700 block of Green Street (around the corner from the Elba Street house) and spent the reminder of her life living with a rotating series of children, grandchildren, in-laws and lodgers and serving as a midwife to women in the community. “Granny Caroline” died in July 1925, when my grandmother was 15 years old.

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As for Gladys O’Kelly (or Gladys O. Kelly), the nine year-old that so vigorously assorted her ownership in 1913 — see below.

The Bible’s frontispiece introduces another owner:

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Unfortunately, her name is too common to begin to identify her.

As was custom in good quality Bibles of the era, the book’s text is halved by a shiny section of maps and illustrations and charts. My grandmother filled blank pages and the backs of leaves with the births and deaths and marriages of her family, her handwriting gradually shifting from a barely recognizable, youthful, curlicued version to the one I know so well.

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The “Births” page introduces another family. Or maybe families. Gladys O’Kelly is there, and there are two Carolina Vick entries.

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The others seem to be members of an extended family I found in the 1880 census of Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina: Yunk Strayhorn (45), his wife Patsey (36), son Isaac (18), son-in-law Louis Pitt (25) and daughter Charity Pitt (23), children Rose (24), Jane (17), Henry and Reuben (13), Sandy (23) and Clara (21), and grandchildren Richard (3), Adeline (12) and Margaret (9). (Lewis Pitt married Charity Strayhorn in Edgecombe County in 1872 and moved to Wilson.) Little Gladys O’Kelly? She seems to have been the daughter of Rose Strayhorn’s daughter Gatsey and her husband, Reubin O’Kelly, both of Orange County.

And then there are Madison Perry, son of Carolina Vick’s daughter Cora, who married Isham Perry, and the Shiverses:

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IMG_4935I’ve been unable to find all the Shiverses, and what I have found doesn’t align cleanly with the dates inscribed here (for example, John and Nicey Shivers, born about 1872 and 1880, are listed in the 1900 census with six-month-old daughter Kizzy), but this appears to be a family that lived in Greenville, Pitt County at the turn of the 20th century.

I don’t hope to be able to reconstruct how this Bible bounced all over eastern North Carolina like this before coming to rest with my family, which has had it nearly 100 years. I share it here in hopes that descendants of the other families who cherished it will find themselves in its pages.

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