Free People of Color, Land, Migration, Paternal Kin

Indiana Chronicles, no. 1: East half and Northwest quarter of Section 29, Township 27 North, Range 1 East.

On 10 April 1900, Montraville Simmons and Dock Simmons of Howard County, Indiana, paid $6000 to the heirs of Israel Watts for this real estate:

Beginning at the North-west corner of said Section; thence West Twenty-eight -28- chains and Eighty-two -82- links to a stone; thence South Twenty-eight -28- chains and Seventy-one -71-links to a stone on the North Bank of the Wabash and Erie Canal; thence Westwardly along the North line of the Wabash and Erie Canal Eighteen -18- chains and Sixty-three -63- links to the East line of the Public Highway; thence South eastwardly along the East line of the Public Highway to the North Bank of the Wabash River; thence Eastwardly along the North line or meanderings of said Wabash River to the East line of said Section Twenty-nine -29-; thence North along the East line of said Section to the place of beginning, containing in said tract One Hundred and thirty-eight -138- acres, more or less.

Excepting from the Warranty the Wabash and Erie Canal and the P.C.C. and St.L.R.R. Co. right-of-way.

The decade that the family held the “Old Watts Farm” was a non-stop circus of squabbling with neighbors, domestic abuse and ruinous mortgages. (More on all that later.) In the middle of it all, Anna Henderson Simmons lay her burden down. After a few years tied up in Anna’s probate, and the deaths of Montraville Sr. and Jr., the property passed out of the Simmonses’ hands.

Astonishingly, though, the parcel is largely intact. Here it is in an undated (but perhaps mid 1930s) Cass County, Indiana Plat Book and Atlas, found at the Cass County Public Library:


And a 1951 map of Cass County prepared by Charles D. Murphy, Cass County surveyor (also found at the library):


And an up-to-date county plat map hanging in the Cass County Recorder’s Office:


And in a screen-capture from Google Maps:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 7.27.31 PM

Highway 24 cuts across the bottom of the property running alongside the railroad (formerly owned by Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & Saint Louis Railroad.) It’s difficult to tell where the canal once ran. Presently, there’s no road off 24 leading into the Simmons farm. However, if, headed west, you hang a sharp left onto Georgetown Road, you’ll pass under the railroad trestle and, on the left as the road curves to follow the Wabash River, you’ll see a private driveway that leads into what was Montreville’s riverfront. (Now occupied by Morels on the Wabash, offering cabins and campsites.)


Looking across Highway 24 to the trestle over Georgetown Road. The land stretching away to the left (east) was Montreville Simmons’.


The Wabash River looking west.

Metes and bounds set forth in deed (that I copied, but neglected to write down the book and page numbers for), Cass County Recorder’s Office; photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2016.

Agriculture, Business, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

I stated the fact.

The fourth in an occasional series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. Paragraph breaks inserted for better readability.

Plaintiff introduces John Rountree who being duly sworn, testifies as follows:

I know Tom Artis. I heard him say that the cotton was for rents. I heard that for the last 14 years. I collected the rent for W.S. Hagans for several years. I heard Tom alude to it as rents. I heard last September after the land was sold, that it was interest. I never heard anything but rents to that time. I had a conversation with Tom, and carried a message to Hagans for Tom. This last Fall Tom came over to the gin house where I was ginning, and said to me that he understood that Hagans was going to sell the 30 acres piece of land, and said to me to tell Hagans if he pleased not to sell till he gave him notice, because he wanted to buy it. I delivered that mesage to Hagans. Hagans said alright he would sell it to him as soon as anybody, but he didn’t want to sell one piece at the time. We didn’t talk about the sale to Coley.


I have lived at W.S. Hagans’ for about 18 years. I farm at Hagans’. I rent land. I pay him 1/3. I collected Tom’s rent along in the Fall. Hagans has asked me to go to Tom and ask him to send his rents. Uncle Tom sometime would bring the rent and Hagans wasn’t there, and he would give it to me to keep for Hagans. Tom called it rent when Pole Hagans was living. (Plaintiff objects.) I wasn’t there when he sent it to W.J. Exum. While Mr. Exum was living, I didn’t see Tom taking his cotton there. I didn’t tell Hgans that I would swear the old man always called it rent. I had no right to, I didn’t tell the lawyers I would swear to that. I stated the fact that he always called it rent. I told Tom that Hagans had sent me for the rent two or three times. I knew it was rent. I told Hagans that I had his rent from Tom. I told Coley that the old man called it rent last summer. They had me subpoenad before then. I told him Tom always called it rent. I told Mr. Coley’s lawyers that last summer. I never told Hagans, he knew it.

Land, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The lots.

Said my grandmother:

And Johnnie [Aldridge], he called me, and I was working to the hospital. And he called me and told me, at least he called the hospital and wanted to speak to me: “Well, if you want to see your daddy – you said you ain’t never seen him before – come down here. He’s down here now. So, don’t let him know I told you.” [Laughs.] So, I went down – I said, well, I’m gon go down there and see Silas Cox ‘bout selling the lots where Grandma Mag’s house was on. So, I got off. So, I got Mr. Fisher to take me down there. I said, “Mm, I wanna see that man.”


My grandmother inherited two lots in Dudley from Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, her great-aunt and foster mother. (Because she had been informally adopted by Sarah and her husband Jesse Jacobs, my grandmother used the surname Jacobs until adulthood, when she reverted to Henderson.)

Mama had the lot where the house was, where Grandma Mag lived. Had that house built for her. The house they was staying in was up by the railroad, was just about to fall down. Somewhere down up there by where the Congregational Church is. And she built that house down there next to Babe Winn. I don’t think it was but one room. The porch, one room, and a little shed kitchen, a little, small, like a closet almost, and had the stove in it. Then had a stove in the room where she was, one of them round-bellied stoves where you take the top off and put wood in it. I remember that. And Sis Winn, her name was Annie, and she had a daughter, and she named her Annie after her. So they called the mother Sis, and they called the daughter Annie. And they were living in the house right next to her, Grandma Mag’s house. As I can remember. And after Grandma Mag died, the old preacher stayed in there and burnt it up.

I posted a query to my cousins:

Can someone tell me if the Dudley VFD was at its present location in the 1960s? I’m trying to figure out where two lots were on a 1967 plat. The plat mentions NC Secondary Road 1120 (which seems to run east-west), Simmons Street (abandoned) and Walnut Street (abandoned). James Newkirk and William Newkirk owned land on either side of where the fire station was on 1120. Thank you!

No luck.

Dudley Volunteer Fire Department is now on Highway 117 Alternate, south of its intersection with O’Berry Road.  A Google search revealed that O’Berry was formerly known as Secondary Road 1120, so I now know that the fire department has moved around the corner.  My father recalled that his mother’s lots were just west of the intersection, behind Silas Cox’s feed silos.

Here’s an aerial view of Dudley today: dudley intersection

Other than Road 1120/O’Berry Road at (4), there’s not much of anything that matches the plat. However, with the clue about the (1) feed or fertilizer silos, I’ve identified (2) as the approximate location of Grandma Mag’s house and the lots. (3) is Highway 117 Alternate.

My grandmother finally sold her lots in the late 1960s, ending more than 90 years of land ownership in Dudley by my line of Hendersons.


Interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. 

Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

A glimpse of Uncle Sloan.

David Sloan Aldridge is the mystery brother. Born about 1858, he was Robert and Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge‘s fourth son and fifth child and appears with them in the Wayne County censuses of 1860, 1870 and 1880. By 1896, David, also called Sloan, had married Lillie Uzzell, though no license has been found. The couple filed three deeds for real estate purchases in Goldsboro and Grantham township in the late 1890s.  In 1900, David and Lillie (called Dilley in the census) are listed in Goldsboro, and he received his share of his father’s estate in 1902. And then he disappeared.


Goldsboro Weekly Argus, 1 September 1904.

I have not found David S. Aldridge in the 1910 census or after. Until I found this article last night, I had no record of him beyond Robert Aldridge’s estate settlement. The lots offered at auction were jointly purchased by David and his wife. In 1904, after his wife’s death, David sold his share in the property to Lillie Uzzell’s sole heir, her adult son, and, after this notice was published, disappears from the record again.

Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

100 acres on Watery Branch.

Fourteen years into their marriage, Adam and Frances Seaberry Artis purchased three tracts of land totaling about 109 acres from her half-brother, Napoleon Hagans. All three are on or near Watery Branch, an east-flowing tributary of Contentnea Creek. The first two documents are a mortgage deed and deed of sale for two tracts on the creek. The third is a deed of sale for an additional nine acres nearby. Notably, this last is land upon which Adam had lived in prior years, as it contained the graves of his first wife, Lucinda Jones Artis, and a child.


North Carolina, Wayne County  }  This indenture made this the 25th day of July AD 1874, between Adam T. Artis and wife Frances of the first part, and Napoleon Hagans of the second part, and all of the County and State above written, Witnesseth that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand paid by the said party of the second part, have bargained and sold and by these presents do convey unto the said party of the second part, and his heirs two tracts or parcels situated in the County of Wayne, and bounded as follows: viz: the first tract begins at a pine on the New Road in Willie Moorings line and runs with his line North 136 poles to a stake on the main run of Watery Branch, then up and with the various courses of the branch to the mouth of a small branch, then up the various courses of said branch to a stake, then E 20 poles to said new road, then with the same to the beginning, containing Eighty eight acres, more or less: the other tract begins at a stake in Cullen West’s line, and runs South 28 ¼ poles to a stake in said line Charity Bailey’s corner, then with his line West 67 ¼ poles to a stake Wm Bailey’s corner, then with his line West, 67 ¼ poles to the beginning, containing twelve and one fourths acres more or less _

And the said parties of the first part do for themselves and their heirs forever warrant and defend title to the above land, to the said party of the second part his heirs and assigns

The condition of the above deed is such whereas the above named Adam T. Artis is indebted to the said Napoleon Hagins in the amount of Fifteen hundred dollars, purchase money for the land herein conveyed, and for which said sum the said Artis has given promissory notes for $375.00 each, and payable in the manner following viz: the first note will be due on the 1st day of January AD 1876: at the same day and date the interest on the whole amount of the purchase money ($1500.00) from Jany 1st 1875 to that date will be paid annually on the first day of January. The amount of principal paid thereon to be deducted; the second note will be due on January 1st 1877, the third on January 1st 1878; and the fourth on Jany 1st 1879, and all are subject to the conditions set forth as to the first note above mentioned.

Now if the said Artis shall pay the interest as above set forth as they come due according to their tenor, then this deed to be void otherwise to be of full force and effect.

And upon the failure of said Artis to pay said noted and interest as above set forth as they severally fall due, then it shall be in the power of said Hagins to sell the land herein described after twenty days advertisement at the Court House door in Goldsboro and four other places in Wayne County, and after deducting the whole amount due him & the expenses of sale shall pay the balance if any to the said Artis or his legal representatives.

In testimony whereof the said parties of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and date first above written.

Witness: /s/ W.T. Faircloth             Adam X Artis, Frances X Artis

[Wife’s consent omitted.]

Deed Book 37, page 72, Wayne County Register of Deeds office.


State of N. Carolina, Wayne County  } This indenture made this the 25th day of July in the year of Our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and Seventy four, between Napoleon Hagins and wife Absey Hagins of the first part and Adam T. Artis of the second part, all of the County and State aforesaid Witnesseth: that we said Hagins and wife parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of Fifteen hundred Dollars to us in hand paid by said Adam T. Artis  the receipt and payment whereof we said parties of the first part do by these presents hereby acknowledge ourselves fully satisfied content and paid before the ensealing signing and delivery of the same have bargained sold delivered given up conveyed unto said Artis his heirs and assigns two certain pieces or parcels of land lying in said County of Wayne on the South side of Watery Branch, the first tract adjoining the lands of Wiley Moring Charity Bailey and others, bounded as follows:  Beginning at a pine on the New Road in Willie Moring’s line and runs with said line N. 136 poles to a stake on the main run of Watery Branch, then up the various courses of the run as it meanders to the mouth of a small branch, then up the run of said small branch its various courses to a stake, then East 20 poles to said New Road, then with the same to the beginning, containing Eighty eight acres, more or less:

Also one other tract purchased from Wm. Bailey and wife Celia, adjoining the lands of Charity Bailey Wm. Bailey Cullen West and others bounded as follows: Beginning at a stake in Cullen West’s line and runs South 28 ¼ poles to a stake in said line Charity Bailey’s corner, then with her line West 69 ½ poles to a stake in said West’s other line, then with said line  N 28 ¼ to a stake, Wm Bailey’s corner then with his line W 69 ½  poles to the beginning, containing 12 ¼  acres more or less _

And we said Hagans and wife Absey parties of the first part do by these presents bind ourselves our heirs executors admrs & assigns forever free claims or encumbrances whatsoever

In testimony whereof we the said Hagins and wife have hereunto set our hands and affixed our seals, the day and date first mentioned.

Witness: /s/ W.T. Faircloth             Napoleon X Hagans, Absey X Hagans

[Wife’s consent omitted.]

Deed Book 37, page 74, Wayne County Register of Deeds office.


North Carolina, Wayne County  }

This Deed made this thirty first day of October 1874 by Adam Artis and his wife Frances of Wayne County, and State of North Carolina to Napoleon Hagans of Wayne County, and State of North Carolina, Witnesseth that said Adam Artis in consideration of Two hundred & seventy five /100 Dollars, to them paid by said Napoleon Hagans, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, have bargained and sold and by these presents do bargain, sell and convey to said Napoleon Hagans and his heirs a tract of land in Wayne County, State of N.C. , adjoining the lands Bryant Yelverton & Jesse Mincey, and others, bounded as follows: viz: — Beginning at a stake on road in Yelverton’s line and runs S. 59 E. 51 ½ poles to a light stake in Yelverton’s line then N. 61 poles to another stake on said road then S. 54 W. with said road to the beginning containing 9 ¼ acres more or less.

Reserving a graveyard on said land, now paled in in which the said Adam Artis’ first wife & one child were buried.

To have and to Hold the aforesaid tract of land and all privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging to the said Napoleon Hagans and his heirs and assigns to them only

And the said parties of the first part do for themselves and their heirs forever warrant and defend title to the above land, to the said party of the second part his heirs and assigns to their only use and behalf

And this the said Adam Artis & wife Frances, covenant that they are seized of said premises in fee and have right to convey the same in fee simple, that the same are free from all incumbrances, and that they will warrant and defend the said title to the same, against the claims of all persons whatsoever

In testimony whereof, the said Adam Artis & wife Frances have known to set their hands and seals, the day and year above written  Adam X Artis, Frances X Artis

[Wife’s consent omitted.]

Deed Book 37, page 220, Wayne County Register of Deeds office.


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.

Free People of Color, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

A win for Uncle Mathew.


Goldsboro Headlight, 5 March 1890.

I don’t know why Matthew W. Aldridge sued Calvin Foy, but I’ll try to find out next time I’m in Raleigh. “Little Washington” was a black neighborhood south of Pine Street and west of Virginia Street, just outside Goldsboro city limits. The community was largely lost to urban renewal projects.

Land, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

This deed.


This is the deed for Jesse Jacobs‘ purchase of 303 Elba Street. He bought the house (in which he was already living) and lot for $725 from E.L. and Ietta R.M. Reid on 4 May 1908. (Elijah Reid, a veterinarian, was born into a free family of color from the opposite end of Wayne County than Jesse and Sarah Jacobs.) The same day, Jacobs gave George W. Connor, Trustee, a mortgage on the property, perhaps to secure a $400 loan he used to buy it.  Jacobs was to repay Connor at the rate of $2.50 per week. 

On 10 April 1917, the Jacobses arranged another mortgage on their Elba Street home, this time promising to repay W.A. Finch, Trustee, $395 at 6% interest. Circumstances intervened. By about 1922 or ’23, Jesse Jacobs was too ill to work. He died in 1926. Sarah and Hattie Jacobs, her great-niece (and my grandmother) paid what they could from their meager earnings as laundresses. When Sarah Jacobs died in early 1938, the house remained encumbered. Finch’s loan was not repaid until September of that year, most likely from the sale of the property.

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

Jule McNeely leaves a toehold.

I did not doubt that Henry and Julius McNeely were brothers, but here is proof-positive: Julius died widowed, childless and intestate, and his sole heirs were Henry’s children.Image“Jule” McNeely’s thin estate file, opened in 1913 in Rowan County Superior Court, is devoted to the distribution of his tiny plot of farmland to John, Luther, Emma, Addie, Carrie, Ed, Litha, Janie, Lizzie and Minnie McNeely as tenants in common. When Addie died in the middle of matters, a guardian was appointed for her children, “Ardenia” [actually, Ardeanur], 14, and James Smith, 9. At issue: “Beginning at a stone on D.S. Cowan’s line, and runs S. two degrees W 7.10 chains to a stone thence; N. 85 degrees W. 3.50 chains to a stone, thence; N. 2 degrees E. 6.50 chains to a stone on Cowan’s line, thence; E. to the beginning, containing two and a half acres more or less.” “The above land is the old Jule McNeely place, lying just east of Mount Ulla in Rowan County, and” — despite its tininess — “is a very desirable lot.” The heirs’ attorney petitioned for the sale of the lot, noting that it was too small to be advantageously divided or to justify continued possession by so many heirs, all of whom lived in Iredell County except Emma and her husband Ervin Houser of Bayonne, New Jersey. The petition was granted, and at auction on April 21, 1917, Carrie’s husband Lon W. Colvert placed the highest bid at $80.

[Sidenote: Before I found this file, I did not know that (1) Lizzie McNeely was first married to Watt Kilpatrick; (2) when Addie McNeely Smith died; or (3) Lon Colvert owned property in Rowan County, much less property that had belonged to his wife’s late uncle.]