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

A thousand acres between creek and swamp.

Kinchen Taylor’s estate papers include two plats. One laid off his widow Mary Blount Taylor’s dower. The second divided his remaining land into two large parcels:

ImageIn some ways, Taylor’s old lands have not changed dramatically. Pine forest and tilled fields still predominate the landscape; far northern Nash County remains rural. Nonetheless, Taylor and enslaved workers like Green and Fereby, who walked and worked it intimately, might be pressed to recognize his property.


I-95 — a far cry from the path shown in the plat — roars with traffic just west of Taylor’s acreage, hauling truckers and tourists from Maine to Florida. If you tilt your head sharply to the right, you’ll see that Fishing Creek, crawling across the top of the screen, still follows the same general course. Beaver Dam Swamp, however, has been dammed just below its confluence with the creek, forming a small body called Gum Lake. The watercourse of the swamp, probably largely drained, is barely detectable as an undulating line of taller vegetation angling southwest from the pond. Lost somewhere in its tangle of canes and catbrier is the Old Mill shown on the plat.

On the other side of Beaver Dam swamp, to the far right of the Google Map view, is an industrial hog farm, identifiable by the white structures with adjacent dark lozenges — barns holding up to 2500 hogs a piece and the lagoons that capture the stupendous quantities of waste they produce. This perhaps would have startled Kinchen Taylor most, as his hogs would have been free-range until time for fattening. (And it should startle you, too, as this is huge, nasty business.)

The file of Kinchen Taylor (1853), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, https://familysearch.org, original, North Carolina State Archives;

Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

6 chisels, a hammer & square, a grain box, a sorrell mare, 10 hogs and …

Inventory of the estate of John Alpheus Colvert, Iredell County, North Carolina, 1827.


On the second page, in the second column, are “Negroes hired for one year,” that is, slaves leased to neighbors to earn money for Colvert’s estate. “Boy Walker” was about eight years old. That he was listed without his mother suggests that he was an orphan, though he may have been kin to the others who appear in this list. Walker had arrived in North Carolina only two or three years before, passed to John Colvert from the estate of John’s father Samuel. When John’s died, his son William I. Colvert inherited Walker. William was even younger than his own slave, however, and Walker was likely hired out until the boy came of age.

Civil War, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Total value: $7,600.


Rowan County, North Carolina, 1863. The Civil War is dragging on, and the Rebs need money. In 1861, the Congress of the Confederate States of America had passed a statute authorizing a tax (at 50 cents per $100 valuation) to help finance the war effort. Taxable property included real estate, slaves, merchandise, stocks, securities, and money, and later agricultural products and anything else they could think of. In the 1863 assessment, for the first time, the North Carolina General Assembly required taxpayers to list their slaves by name. Assessments for only eight counties survive. Rowan is one of them.

Look in the bottom left corner. J.W. McNeely identified his seven slaves for the tax assessor, who duly recorded: Lucinda, age 47, value $750. Julius, 25, $1500. Henry, 22, $1500. Archy, 14, $1200. Mary, 13, $1000. Stanhope, 11, $900. And Sandy, 12, $950. Total valuation of Lucinda, her sons, and grandchildren: $7600. Remember Alice, the 3 year-old that Sam and J.W. McNeely bought with Lucinda? She was Archy’s mother, and Mary, Stanhope and Sandy were probably her children, too. Alice herself is gone — dead or sold — and John is not listed, though that seems to be oversight. Julius was born a few years after the McNeelys purchased his mother. His father is unknown, but was probably an enslaved man on a neighboring farm. Henry, though, was John Wilson McNeely’s boy. His only child, in fact. And worth exactly $1500.

Enslaved People, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Kinchen Taylor’s inventory.



Nash County, North Carolina, 1856. An inventory of the slaves of Kinchen Taylor, deceased. Number 32 is Green. Number 88 is his wife Ferribee; and 89, 90 and 91, their oldest children. Most of Kinchen Taylor’s slaves were divided among his children, but two lots of slaves were sold. Green and Ferribee and their children were included in one of those lots, and it is not clear to whom they went, or if they went together. However, in 1870, in the first post-Emancipation census, they are listed in southern Edgecombe county as an intact family: Green Taylor, 52, his wife Phebe, 55, and children and grandchildren Dallas, 19, Christiana, 15, Mckenzie, 13, Mike, 9, and Sally Taylor, 1. Henry Michael “Mike” Taylor was my great-grandfather.

The file of Kinchen Taylor (1853), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, https://familysearch.org, original, North Carolina State Archives.

Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Virginia

The death of Walker Colvert.


Born in Culpeper County, Virginia; bundled up with chairs and kegs and sundry and shipped to North Carolina after his first master died; reared with his future master, the William I. Colvert noted; husband to his beloved Rebecca; father of three, or maybe four (or more likely more); a middle-aged man when freedom came; a farmer who got a toehold and kept it long enough to pass it on. In the February 5, 1905, edition of the Statesville Landmark, a brief acknowledgement of the death of Walker Colvert, “a true and faithful old negro.” I feel some kind of way about the description, but I didn’t have to live in 19th century North Carolina, and I will not judge. (Him, anyway.)


Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

How we came to be McNeelys.


Rowan County, North Carolina, 1819. Widow Elizabeth Kilpatrick is close to death. Her daughter Mary is to receive “one feather bed and all my beds clothing of every kind, all my dresser furniture, my chest, one pot, one dutch oven, one pot rack” and “my negro girl named Lucinda.”

Don’t forget Lucinda. She’s my great-great-great-grandmother, and you’ll see her again. And Juda? In paragraph 5? Probably Lucinda’s mother. “All her children (not disposed of)” suggests that Dave, who went to Robert Kilpatrick, and Lucinda, were Juda’s disposed-of children. Who were the others?


Rowan County, North Carolina, 1834. Mary Kilpatrick files a deed for the sale of “one negro woman named Lucinda aged about twenty years one negro child named Alice aged three years and one negro child named John aged between one and two years,” plus a few other sundries to Samuel and John W. McNeely, who are father and son. This is the Lucinda that Mary Kilpatrick inherited from her mother in 1819. Remember John Wilson McNeely. You’ll see him again, too.


Rowan County, North Carolina, 1843. Samuel McNeely‘s will. To his beloved son John W. McNeely, he leaves “a negro woman named Lucinda and all her offspring.” Lucinda, then, may have been the only slave Samuel ever bought, and she returned his investment handsomely.

One of Lucinda’s offspring was Henry W. McNeely, whose father was the very John W. McNeely who owned him.  Henry, my grandmother Margaret Colvert Allen‘s maternal grandfather, was born in 1841 in western Rowan County and died in Statesville, North Carolina, in 1906.

DNA, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Virginia

Walker’s people.

Amelia.  Anthony.  Caroline.  Charles.  Daniel.  Eliza.  Frank & his wife Charlotte & their children Townsend, Jere, Little Frank, Lewis & Ellen.  George.  Harry.  Jane.  Mary.  Little Mary.  Patty.  Rachel.  Robert & his wife Milly & their children Easter, Jack, Reuben, Edmund & Rachel.  Sarah.  Siller.  Winny.

These are the men and women and children with whom my great-great-great-grandfather Walker Colvert lived in 1823, the year their master Samuel Colvert died and his Culpeper County, Virginia, estate was divided.  Walker and Amelia were sent 300 miles south to Samuel’s son John Alpheus Colvert in North Carolina.  Was Amelia Walker’s mother?  His sister?  No kin at all?  Was he an orphan, or did he leave his parents behind?  Who among these 30-odd slaves claimed Walker as their own?

Until I learned recently that I share DNA with descendants of Leonard Calvert, the first governor of colonial Maryland, it had never occurred to me that Walker might be blood-kin to his master, also a Calvert descendant.  The news set me wondering.  Not so much about which Colvert was Walker’s father, or maybe grandfather, but about Walker’s family in general.  I’ve long known that four years after his arrival in North Carolina, John Colvert died, and Walker was hired out until John’s son William was old enough to control him.  I know that Walker was married at least twice, and had at least four children, but age and circumstances suggest that he fathered even more.  Who were they? Where did they go?

Genealogical DNA testing may yield answers to some of these questions. I have learned already that I am distantly related to those Calvert descendants through my father’s family, not my mother’s, and thus Walker was probably not related to his owners at all. I’m still looking for Walker’s children.

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

These Artises.

“It comes from Fremont, Wayne county, that Adam Artis, colored, 75 years old, who lives near there, is the father of 47 legitimate children and that in addition there are 80 or 90 grandchildren.”   — Statesville Landmark, 9 Jan 1906.

Try as I might, I can only account for 32 children.  My great-great-grandmother, by Adam’s third wife Frances Seaberry, was one of them.  Adam was born in 1831 in Greene County, North Carolina, to a freeborn mother and an enslaved father.  They gave him the middle name Toussaint, and I’d love to know that story.  He was apprenticed as a carpenter and purchased his first acreage in 1855 from his brother-in-law, John Wilson.  Over the years, he bought and sold a few hundred acres in northern Wayne County, and descendants still live on land that was his.  It is said that his fifth wife, 50+ years his junior, treated him badly in his last days, and was so afraid that he would haunt her that she had his feet cut off before the burial.  No photos of him remain, but his legacy is well-secured.  As his granddaughter Beulah Williams once told me: “These Artises, they are innumerable.”