Monthly Archives: May 2015

Evans Family of Granville County – descendants of Jane Gibson “a free Indian woman”

The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding  Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, BassSnelling and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A variety of records including census records, marriage records, tax lists, court minutes, estate records, freedom lawsuits, land deeds, newspaper articles, maps and personal family photos are used to help tell the story of the Evans family through space and time. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. Therefore it is imperative that researchers do their due diligence to attribute records to the correct Evans ancestor.


Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”

Evans family kinship chart

Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640-1722). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by a group of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some white planters from illegally enslaving them. Some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1685-1771) were enslaved by a wealthy white planter named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners.  On 5 March 1804, the enslaved Evans through their attorney Edmund Randolph sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.

The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..

Source: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genealogyfriend/evans/gib_evans.htm

A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”

jane-gibson-family-chart.jpeg
Family  Tree Chart which shows that Jane Gibson the elder had a son named George Gibson and a daughter named Jane Gibson who married Morris Evans. Source: City of Lynchburg Court Records, Chancery Records, Charles Evans and others v. Lewis B. Allen, 1821-033. Local Government Records Collection, City of Lynchburg Court Records, Library of Virginia. 04-1407-01/03.

Before this lawsuit there were several earlier lawsuits where descendants of Jane Gibson sued for their freedom. The information contained in those court cases are also quite revealing.

Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson was the first who sued for his freedom beginning in 1790. John Meriweather offered testimony that his father Colonel William Meriweather purchased a “mulatto wench” named Frances Evans and her brother (Tom Evans) from a Mr. Lightfoot (Goodrich Lightfoot) in New Kent County, VA. John Meriweather goes on to testify how Frances Evans’ offspring were divided among the heirs of his father’s estate. His testimony provides information on how the Evans went from being indentured servants to being sold as slaves to the Meriweather family. For earlier information on the Evans/Gibson family, we turn to a man named Robert Wills who personally knew Jane Gibson the elder, her daughter Jane Gibson the younger aka Jane Evans (wife of Morris Evans) and their offspring. On 25 June 1791, Robert Wills testified and a transcription of that testimony can be read here:

That about seventy years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her brother who were dark mulattoes and lived in the County of Charles City, and were free people; That the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George Gibson, that they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger intermarried with a certain _____ Evans of the said County, by whom she had several children, one named Frances Evans Grand Daughter of the said Jane Gibson above named, that the said Frances Evans removed to New Kent County, where she lived and had several children, two of whom, as the said Frances Evans informed this deponant were named Tom and Frances Evans, and were bound to one LIGHTFOOT of New Kent. This information was made to this Depon’t by the said Frances Evans the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were neighbours to this deponant. This deponant; This deponant further saith, that after the said great Grandchildren Viz: Tom & Frances were bound to the said LIGHTFOOT he never heard any thing more relative to them; That many of the descendants of the said GIBSONS and EVANS now in this deponants knowledge are alive, and are enjoying their freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponants first acquaintance with the said Jane Gibson the elder; That many of them are black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes, which this deponant supposes proceeded from a promiscious intercourse with different colours.
Questions by the defts agent.

Do you know any thing of the descendants of the said Frances Evans, who was bound to LIGHTFOOT? No I do not.
What became of Frances Evans and her brother after they were bound to LIGHTFOOT?  I know nothing of them, but from the information of their mother aforesaid.
Do you know any free mulattoes or blacks who have descended from a branch of the name of EVANS, who are they and from whom did they spring?
I know a number of them, to wit, in Charles City, the SCOTTs, BRADBYs, SMITHs, REDCROSSes alias EVANS, MORRISSes alias EVANS, and in Henrico the BOWMANs, all descendants from the original stock of the GIBSON, to wit, Jane EVANS Daughter of Jane GIBSON.
Do you know or have you ever known of any other free persons by the name of EVANSS of a different family? I do not except in Caroline.
How do you know that the children of Frances Evans were named Tom & Frances, and how old would they be were they now alive: I heard their mother say so; I cannot tell how old, but they would be many years old.
How old are you? I am in my eighty first year.
And further this deponant saith not.

The following month on 9 July 1791, Robert Wills was back in court providing additional testimony which clarified a few points. A transcription can be found here:

Questions by the defendant. How old were you when you were firs acquainted with the elder Jane Gibson and George her brother?

Answer I believe I was ten or eleven years old or thereabouts.

Quest. How old do you suppose they were and how long did they live afterwards?

Answer. Jane Gibson the elder was very old, I apprehend she was eighty years of age, being past all labour – Mr. Carter my Master took her to live with him at Shirley where I then lived to brew a diet drink, he being afflicted with a dropsy – The old Jane Gibson I suppose might live two or three years. Her daughter Jane widow to an EVANS (whose christian name I am not certain of but believe it was Morris), lived a considerable number of years after my first acquaintance with her- she bore the name of EVANS as did all her children.
Quest. About what time were you acquainted with Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane, and how old were they when you were first acquainted with them?

Answer. I knew Jane Evans the daughter some time before I knew the old woman, which I believe as I have deposed in my former deposition must be seventy years ago; she was an old woman when I became acquainted with her, she practised midwifery and doctoring in families, but was not above sixty I should suppose: George too was an old person, I believe – Jane was the older.
Quest. About what time did Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane Gibson die?

Answer I do not know
Quest. About what year did Jane Gibson the younger intermarry with ___ EVANS?

Answer That I cannot possibly tell it must have been long before I was born.
Quest. About what year do you believe to the best of your recollection or judgment was Frances Evans the Grand daughter of old Jane Gibson born?

Answer She had children bound out when I first knew her, so that she must have been born long before I was, as I should suppose.
Quest. Then as you know so little about her how do you know she (Frances Evans) was the daughter of Jane Evans, and that Jane Evans was descended from Jane Gibson?

Answer. I know nothing but common reputation they called each other by the name of Mother and daughter.

Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans remove to New Kent?
Answer. I never knew her until she came on a visit to her mother, she then lived there as she reported; when she came there to live I knew nothing about it.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans inform you she had bound two of her children Frances and Tom to Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent when she came on a visit to her friends in Charles City?

Ans’r. I cannot recollect that with any certainty, I suppose fifty eight or fifty nine years ago or somewhere thereabouts.
Quest. Did you understand from her how old they were at that time, if not how old do you suppose they were, and how long had they been bound before she informed you of it?

Answer. That I know nothing about.
Quest. If the said Frances Evans and her brother Tom who are said to have been bound to one LIGHTFOOT were now alive how old would they be to the best of your judgment?

Ans’r. I do not know that; they were probably as old as myself; I never saw either of them nor asked any questions about their age.
Quests. by the plaintiff 1. Was not the mother of Sarah Redcross (now living in Charles City) alias Sarah Evans named Frances Evans, and was she not related as by common reputation believed to Frances Evans that was bound to LIGHTFOOT?

Ans’r. About twenty four or twenty five years ago Frances Evans was about in Charles City County, and was claimed as a mother by Sarah Redcross, and Sarah Redcross said that her mother was the grand daughter of Jane Evans the daughter of Jane Gibson – she went away and I know not what became of her, but have been informed (I suppose twenty years ago) that she was dead.
Quest. by deft. Why do you in this deposition call Mr. Carter your master?
Answer. My father gave me to him when I was ten years of age, and he brought me up and had me taught my trade of a carpenter.
Quest. for how many years were you acquainted with that particular family of the GIBSONs and EVANSs, which have been the object of your testimony in this suit meaning the three first generations and where did you live during that time?

Ans’r. I lived at Shirley where the said Jane Gibson died, and as Jane Evans lived within two miles of Shirley I was frequently in her family and she was very often at Shirley as was the rest of the family being employed there in different sorts of work, as for how long, I have already said about seventy years ago I first became acquainted with old Jane Gibson and Jane Evans, and knew them to their death, but cannot say exactly how long they did live from the time I first knew them.
Quest. Will you please to answer the second question in this deposition more fully, you have in your answer to that question said nothing about George Gibson the elder?

Ans: I never mentioned more than one George Gibson, the Son of the elder Jane Gibson, brother to Jane Evans. If it be so expressed in my former deposition it was misconceived, I never did know any but one of that name. And further this deponent saith not.

From both of his depositions, we learn that Robert Wills was an apprentice of Mr. Carter of the Shirley Plantation which is how he became familiar with the Evans/Gibson families. He personally knew both mother Jane Gibson the elder and the daughter Jane Gibson the younger. Jane Gibson the elder lived at the Shirley Plantation and practiced doctoring as did her daughter Jane Gibson the younger who was also a midwife. Robert Mills initially referred to Jane Gibson the elder and her brother George Gibson as dark mulattos but later clarified that it was Jane Gibson the younger who had a brother named George Gibson. So it appears he was instead referring to them as “dark mulattos”.

The only information or testimony provided that spoke directly to the identity of Jane Gibson the elder was the information provided by her descendants via their attorney Edmund Randolph which called her a free Indian woman. Additional testimony about the Indian origins of the family comes from Ann Meriweather who was the wife of John Meriweather who provided testimony discussed above and whose father Col. William Meriweather  illegally purchased Frances Evans’ children as slaves from Goodrich Lightfoot. Ann Meriweather testified in 1798 that “from the Complexion & strait black hair of Sarah Colley this deponent believes they were descended from Indians”. Sarah Colley was the daughter of Frances Evans. Though judging phenotypes is not necessarily a correct way to assess one’s ethnic heritage, it is still rather telling when put in context with the rest of the testimony and documentation about the Gibson/Evans family. The other testimony from the Meriweather family and from Robert Wills most often describe Jane Gibson the elder’s offspring and descendants as “mulattos”. It should be noted in 1705, the Acts of Assembly of Virginia legally classified mulatto as: “the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a Negro”. 

None of the testimony provided by witnesses or Jane Gibson the elder’s own descendants, offer the names of Jane Gibson the elder’s parents. No information is given as to whether Gibson was her maiden name, her married name, or even a name she adopted from another family. I have seen a lot of speculative family trees and theories online about her parentage but with no actual documentation. It is important to point out that the only documentation located for her comes from after her lifetime through the testimony of others. Therefore, I strongly advise to hold off on guesswork (if’s, maybes, possibly, etc) about her parentage until solid documentation is located.

The freedom lawsuits of Jane Gibson the elder’s descendants have been cited in scholarship on the history of the slavery in the U.S.  Historian Loren Schweninger, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who created a digital library on American Slavery, published a book in 2018 called Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. In his section on petitions filed by plaintiffs claiming descent from an Indian woman, Professor Schweninger had this to say about the petitions from Jane Gibson’s descendants:

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Source: Schweninger, Loren. Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. New York: Oxford University Press. 2018. Pp 128-129. caption

You can review the Evans freedom documentation on genealogist Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.

In July 2018, my cousins Roderick Daye, William Evans, and Shirley Hines, like myself, who are all documented direct lineal descendants of Jane Gibson the elder through the Evans family, visited the Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, VA to learn more about where our esteemed ancestor lived. Here are a few photos from their trip:

Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation. Charles City County, VA. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye
Shirley Plantation1
Shirley Plantation, Charles City County, VA. The construction on this plantation house began right around the time Jane Gibson the elder died, so she would not have resided in this particular home but somewhere else on the property. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye
Shirley Plantation3
Shirley Plantation. Charles City County, VA. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye

I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who illegally enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it does offer evidence that Goodrich Lightfoot did enslave Native Americans.

Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter's, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787
Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter’s, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787

Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a Pamunkey woman named Dorothy Howell b. 1707, who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.

Pamunkey_map 1
Brothers Goodrich Lightfoot and Sherwood Lightfoot lived in property about 1 mile apart that was directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation in New Kent Countyt. Goodrich resided as the “White House” and Sherwood resided as “Ricahock”. Source: http://archive.wetlandstudies.com/newsletters/2016/January/Pamunkey.html

The exact tribal origin of the Evans-Gibson family has also been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color but it is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about. From Morris Evans’ estate records we do learn that after his wife Jane Gibson the younger died, he was involved with a woman named Rebecca Hulet who inherited some of his estate.

However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps she was from the local Pamunkey or Chickahominy tribes. There is another Algonquian speaking tribe, the Nansemond, whom the Granville County Basses descend from, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville quite a bit. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County.

Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s sons Charles Evans and Morris Evans Jr moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. As a result, some of their family did intermarry with Saponi descendants. We also know from the testimony provided by Robert Wills, that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger had other children who the Redcross, Bradby, Smith, Scott, Morris, and Bowman families of the Charles City County area descend from. I wish he identified the other children, so that we can genealogically connect all of these other surnames back to Jane Gibson. The Redcross family, we know from the testimony of Robert Wills, descend from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger’s daughter Frances Evans who had a daughter named Sarah Redcross. Some of her Redcross descendants are found among the Monacan tribe in Amherst County, Virginia. And what is also interesting is that the Bradby family is found among the Chickahominy tribe in Charles City County and the Pamunkey tribe of King William County.


The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia

The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.

Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is most likely the ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co who intermarried with the Locklears.

Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:

  1. Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful” by his father. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
  2. *Major Evans (1733-after 1794 ) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
  3. Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
  4. Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
  5. Sarah Evans (b. 1742)  – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  6. Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  7. Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.

From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.


Major Evans (1733-after 1794) comes to Granville County

Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. His neighbors include members of the Chavis, Snelling, Harris, and Bass family which indicates that he lived on the north side of the Tar River, in the heart of the community began by William Chavis (1706-1777) a couple of decades earlier. Notably on 16 February 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1777) who according to late 19th century local Granville historian Oscar Blacknall, originally owned 51,200 acres on the north side of the Tar River. Blacknall, in his published articles, goes on to extensively discuss the Indian identity of the “free colored” community that William Chavis founded in Granville. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. It’s possible that Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family. Three years earlier in 1777, Major Evans was called with other members of the Chavis family to report to court to provide information on William Chavis’ will. The estate papers don’t specify what family relationship (if any) that Major Evans had with William Chavis but it is clear from that point forward, Major Evans was considered part of the community.

Phillip Chavis land sold to Major Evans in 1780. Buffalo Race Paths - Granville County.
Land plat of the 16 February 1780 Granville County, North Carolina land deed for Phillip Chavis to Major Evans for 100 acres on the “Buffalo Race Paths”. This land is very close to the Granville (now Vance) and Franklin County border

phillip-chavis-to-major-evans-part-1.jpg

Phillip Chavis to Major Evans Part 2
Land deed for the 100 acres on the Buffalo Race Paths in Granville County that Major Evans purchased from Phillip Chavis on 16 February 1780. The record shows that Phillip Chavis had already relocated from Granville to Bladen (today Robeson) County. Phillip Chavis is the main Chavis progenitor of the Chavis family found within the Lumbee tribe.

 

It’s important to remember that William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1780) was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA whose family was also apparently of a mixed race Indian ancestry. A relative of Gibson Gibson named Gideon Gibson Sr (b. 1685) and his family, including son Gideon Gibson Jr (b. 1721) moved to South Carolina in the 1730’s, where their racial identity came under scrutiny. Some South Carolina officials wanted the Gibsons to be subjected to the discriminatory “Free Negro” laws. However one such South Carolina politician named Henry Laurens who was involved in the debate about the racial identity of the Gibson family, had this to say about Gideon Gibson Jr:

Gideon Gibson escaped the penalties of the negro law by producing upon comparison more red and white in his face than could be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly, including your old acquaintance the Speaker.

Source: Council Journal, August 26, 1768. Henry Laurens to William Drayton, February 15, 1783.

Perhaps Major Evans’ great-grandmother Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. But as discussed earlier, there is no solid documentation that identifies the parentage of Jane Gibson the elder nor the origins of her Gibson surname. So it would be unwise to speculate much further without locating records that speak to Jane Gibson the elder’s parentage. If there is a relationship, that may explain why Major Evans moved to William Chavis’ land in Granville County and quickly became part of the community.

Seven years later on 26 June 1787, Major Evans added to his land ownership by purchasing 100 acres of land on both side of Middle Creek from James Kelley (O’Kelley). The land deed explains that this 100 acres was part of a larger 580 land tract purchased by John Pope. Middle Creek is on the south side of the Tar River, just slightly west and across the river from the land Major Evans purchased earlier from Phillip Chavis on the Buffalo Race Paths.

James Kelley to Major Evans Part 1

james-kelley-to-major-evans-part-2.jpg

Though he had accumulated land in Granville, Major Evans still owned land across the border in Mecklenburg County, VA which he had inherited from this father Charles Evans. Therefore he was taxed in Mecklenburg from 1782 until 1787 when he finally sold his Mecklenburg County land.

Major Evans also sold land in Granville in 1787. On 15 December 1787, he sold 100 acres to James Blackley and three days later on 18 December 1787, Major Evans sold 100 acres to Elijah Ball.

In February 1789, Major Evans sued Elias Pettiford (another Native/FPOC from the community) and won a judgment against him.

Major Evans Vs Elias Pettiford
Major Evans won a judgment against Elias Pettiford on 4 February 1789.

By 1794, Major Evans moved further south into Granville County when he purchased 100 acres on Newlight Creek on 19 July 1794. This is land in the very southeastern part of Granville County, close to the Wake County and Franklin county borders. Some of William Chavis’ (1706-1777) descendants, specifically members of the Harris (offspring of his daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris) and Snelling families (offspring of his daughter Lettice Chavis who married Aquilla Snelling) also began moving to this part of Granville County as well into Wake County.

Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Land plat of the 19 July 1974 land Granville County land deed for Benjamin Morgan to Major Evans for 100 acres on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders. Note the land plat has the incorrect year.

benjamin-morgan-to-major-evans-part-1.jpg

benjamin-morgan-to-major-evans-part-2.jpg
Land deed for the 100 acres on Newlight Creek that Major Evans purchases from Benjamin Morgan on 17 July 1794.
Historical_map_of_old_Granville_County_from_which_were_made_GranvilleButeWarrenFranklin_and_Vance_Counties_North_Carolina copy
Circled in blue are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in Granville County: the 1780 land purchase on the Buffalo Race Paths, the 1787 land purchase on Middle Creek and the 1794 land purchase on Newlight Creek.  Outlined in red the approximate boundaries of the land owned by William Chavis as described by local historian Oscar Blacknall. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

The 1794 land deed is the last located record that can be attributed to Major Evans. No will or estate records have been found for him, so it is not known what year he died. Likewise, accounting for all of Major Evans’ children has been a challenge without estate records. Most of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:

1. * Morris Evans (1750-1834) second married Lydia Anderson, a FPOC,  on 8 December 1784 in Granville. His first wife is unknown and he had children from both marriages.

2. * Gilbert Evans (1755-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley on 20 June 1780 in Wake. Phoebe Lumbley was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse.

3. * William Evans (1757-1823) married Sarah Hays on 14 May 1785 in Wake County. Sarah Hays was apparently white and like his brother Gilbert Evans, William Evans and his children appear to have “passed” for white.

4. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell, a FPOC, on 22 February 1797 in Granville. I believe this was a second marriage for Burwell Evans because the 1786 North Carolina state census shows that he was the head of a household of one male age 21-60, three males aged under 21 & over 60, and three females of any age. The household information strongly implies that he was married with three sons and two daughters who were born by 1786.

5. * John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.

5. Elizabeth Evans (1760-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis, a FPOC, on 6 September 1800 in Granville. Before she married, Elizabeth Evans had at least one child born out of wedlock when she filed a bastardy bond in Granville court with her father Major Evans as the bondsman. The record does not name the child.

7. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn, a FPOC, on 1 January 1778 in Bute County.

8. Sarah Evans (1774 – before 1860) married George Anderson, a FPOC, on 14 October 1800 in Granville County.

* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.

All of Major Evans’ offspring lived in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, signaled a movement of many of his descendants into Wake.


The Offspring of Major Evans

The heightened “white”/”colored” racial binary and the growth of the institution of chattel slavery in the American South during the early 19th century, put immense pressure on families like the Evans who had experienced some level of wealth with land ownership. In 1835, North Carolina approved a new constitution which revoked many rights of free people of color. These revoked rights included owning fire arms, holding public office, voting, and being able to move freely in and out of the state. Additionally, free people of color households continued to be taxed at a higher rate than white households which resulted in the depletion of personal property and land.

A closer examination of records pertaining to brothers Hilliard Evans (b. 1815) and Morris Evans (1814-1900) provide some very interesting insight into how Native/”free colored” families were pressured into selling personal property to pay off debt. Hilliard Evans and Morris Evans were the sons of Thomas Evans (1790-1867) and Sallie Bass (1793-1889). And Thomas Evans was the son Morris Evans (1750-1834) and Liddy Anderson listed above. On 20 November 1840, Hilliard “Hillyard” Evans sold one gray horse saddle and bridle for one dollar to Isaiah M. Paschall. The record goes on to indicate that Hilliard Evans was in debt to Peyton V. Duke for forty dollars on a note that was due the following September. If Hilliard Evans was able to pay off the debt by the following September, then the sale of his property to Isaiah M. Paschall was to be voided and returned to him. However if he was unable to pay off the debt in time, then Isaiah M. Paschall would sell the property with all of the sales to cover the principal and interest of the debt that Hillard Evans owed Peyton V. Duke with any leftover money to be paid to Hilliard Evans.

hilliard-evans-to-isaiah-m-paschall-page-1.jpg

 

Hilliard Evans to Isaiah M Paschall Part 2

Morris Evans found himself in a similar desperate financial situation of being in debt the following year. He owed Wyatt Cannaday $103.59 that was due to be paid by the following December 25th. As a result, on 28 June 1841, he sold to Henry B. Brides, one mare, one cow, one calf, eleven heads of hog, tobacco crop, corn, oats, household items, and furniture for one dollar. If he did not pay off the debt in time, Henry Bridges was to sell those personal items and use the funds to pay off the debt Morris Evans owed to Wyatt Cannaday with any left over money to be paid to Morris Evans.

morris-evans-to-henry-b-bridges.jpg

Morris Evans to Henry B Bridges Part 2

Just a few years later, Hilliard Evans experienced something that I imagine many free people of color feared – that is, he was kidnapped and an attempt was made to sell him into slavery. We learn from a letter that his parents Thomas and Sally (Bass) Evans placed in the newspaper, that Hilliard Evans traveled from Granville County with a man named William R. Boswell last August to sell a horse in the southern part of the state. After the sale, Boswell was able to convince Hilliard Evans to continue to travel with him to Petersburg, Richmond and New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Boswell attempted to sell Hilliard Evans into slavery but Hilliard made it known that he was a free person. However it was not known what happened to and where Hilliard Evans was, so his parents were attempting to locate him. It is a heartbreaking letter to read and is a testament to how the institution of slavery was a threat to even families who were free and had always been free.

Hilliard Evans 20 January 1846

About a week later on 28 January 1746, we learn that Thomas and Sallie (Bass) Evans’ letter had garnered some interest. Editors at the Weekly Standard in Raleigh reemphasized the concerns in Thomas and Sallie Evans’ letter that they didn’t know the whereabouts of their son Hilliard Evans.

hilliard-evans-28-january-1846.jpg

Thankfully, two months later we learn from another newspaper article published on 11 March 1846 in the Tarboro Press that Hilliard Evans had been sent back home to his family in Granville County and supplied with new clothes. William Boswell, the man who kidnapped him, had not been caught. I have no additional records to learn if he was ever caught or received any type of punishment.

Hilliard Evans 11 March 1846

The kinship network that the Evans family belonged to in the Granville County Native/FPOC community is evident in the division of the estate of William Evans (1789-1870), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. William Evans died without a living wife or children, so he had no direct heirs. Instead his estate was divided among the children of his siblings, ie. his nephews and nieces. And if any of his nephews or nieces had already died, then their living heirs, if any, stood to inherit in their place. The nine original legatees who each were to inherit $64.17, named in the estate records are:

Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Ann Anderson, Glatha Anderson (Hawkins), Joyce Anderson, William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford and Thomas Pettiford.

william-evans-estate-1.jpg

It is interesting that Glatha was called an Anderson in this record, because her marriage record to Cuffee Mayo, calls her “Glatha Hawkins”. I have long wondered if “Hawkins” was a mistake because I don’t know of any Hawkins family that the Evans and Anderson families associated with. All of the named original legatees, save for Ann Anderson whose parentage I’m working on confirming, were the children of William Evans’ sister Susannah Evans (b. 1784). She was first married to Abel Anderson (17772-1817) on 23 May 1804 in Granville. With her first husband Abel Anderson, Susannah Evans had: Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Glatha Anderson, and Joyce Anderson. Abel Anderson was deceased by 1817 when his guardianship of his younger brother Wright Anderson was transferred to his brother Jacob Anderson in that year as a result of his death. Susannah Evans second married a Pettiford though I have not been able to just yet confirm which Pettiford in Granville she married. With her second Pettiford husband, she had William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Thomas Pettiford. Susannah Evans was last enumerated in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granville County, as “Susan Pettyford” age 59.

Washington Anderson orphan of Abel Anderson
Court minutes from Granville County show that Abel Anderson and Susannah Evans’ son Washington Anderson at the age of 10, was bound out upon the death of Abel Anderson. “Orphan” was a term that was used not necessarily to indicate that both parents were deceased, but that the father was deceased. Washington Anderson was named as an original legatee in his uncle William Evans’ estate records. 

At the time of William Evans’ death in 1870, original legatees Ann Anderson, Washington Anderson, and Glatha Anderson (Hawkins) were deceased so their children each inherited an equal portion of their share of the estate. What also complicated the distribution of William Evans’ estate was that several of the named legatees had moved out of the state in the decades prior. Even as late as 1878, several of the named legatees still had not been in touch with the administrator of William Evans’ estate.

william-evans-legatees-out-of-state.jpg
A page from William Evans’ estate records shows that as late as 27 August 1878, administrator Augustine Landis still was not in touch with legatees Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Joyce Anderson because they had left the state. Census records do indicate that Richard Pettiford moved to Tennessee and “passed” for white, Franklin Pettiford moved to Tennessee and later Illinois and also “passed” for white, and Joyce Anderson had married Robert Taylor Valentine and they moved to Wisconsin and later Iowa.

 

 

Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother's last name. Though Pantheyer's marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934) of Fishing Creek, Granville County. She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother’s last name. Though Pantheyer’s marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as “unknown”, Hilliard Evans identity was confirmed through Pantheyer’s brother Osh Brandon’s marriage record. Pantheyer’s sister Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon was also named after their father. Pantheyer’s mother Betsy Brandon later had several more children with William Peace. Hilliard Evans later married Louisa Mitchell and relocated to Ohio. Probably only his oldest children with Betsy Brandon had memories of him before he moved out of state. 
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.

She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.

 

John Evans (1830 - 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. Source: E. Howard Evans
John Evans (1830 – 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. John Evans was first cousins to Pantheyer Brandon pictured above.
Source: E. Howard Evans

John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans

John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.

Standing on the left if John Evans' son Thomas McDaniel Evans  (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas' son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas' daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live. Source: E. Howard Evans
Standing on the left is John Evans’ son Thomas McDaniel Evans (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas’ son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas’ daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live.
Source: E. Howard Evans
Mary Etta Guy (1866 - 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband's death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York. Source: Carole Allen
Mary Etta Guy (1866 – 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband’s death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York.
Source: Carole Allen

Mary Etta Guy’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

Mary Etta Guy; Susan Taborn; Littleton Taborn; Nelly Evans; Major Evans.

Ira Evans 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Lewis Evans (1847-1917) and  Zibra Bookram (b. 1859). His is a direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson through their grandson Major Evans. Ira descends from the Evans, Gibson, Bookram, Bass, Anderson, and Scott families and lived in Durham Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.

Ira Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

Ira Evans; Lewis Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans, Morris Evans; Major Evans

Ada Evans
Ada Evans (1885-1954) was the daughter of Thomas Evans and Mary Bookram. She is double first cousins with Ira Evans pictured above. Ada was first married to Earnest Day and second married to William Glover. She lived in Granville and Durham Counties. Please note that most family tree on Ancestry have confused this Ada Evans for her older first cousin Ada Evans ( b 1877) who was the daughter of Sallie Evans.  Source: Ancestry, Username: MichaelSmith493

Ada Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

Ada Evans; Thomas Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans


Addendum: What about James Evans (1720-1786) of Halifax County, NC??

James Evans (1720-1786) is the earliest documented ancestor of the Native/”free colored” Evans family of Halifax County, NC. It is not known nor documented if he is at all related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. As stated at the beginning of this blog post, “Evans” was a very common surname in colonial Virginia, so it is quite possible he is from an unrelated Evans family. Nevertheless, because I get many inquiries about James Evans and his descendants, I have included a summary of records pertaining to his family.

 James Evans (1720-1786) first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.

James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the  Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Halifax/Warren Counties in NC. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.

image1
Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) is pictured with his first wife Adeline Virginia Richardson (1876-1920). Major Blake Evans was a brother to Fox Evans pictured above. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through his grandson Leven Evans. Major Blake Evans lived in Halifax Co, NC his entire life where some of his descendants are among the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Source: Desmond Ellsworth
image2
Pictured are children of Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) who resided in Halifax Co, NC. Source: Desmond Ellsworth

 

Mollie Evans
Mollie Evans (1892-1938) was the daughter of William Evans and Martha Richardson. She is also direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Mollie was married to Arch Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: GwendolynJohnson84

The Tale of two (maybe three, four?!) Sherwood Harrises in Granville County

I think one of the most common mistakes in doing genealogical work is mixing up the records for people who have the same name. In Granville County in the 1700s, there were at least four men with the name “Sherwood Harris”. One of those men was my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris. The three other men are related to one another but are unrelated to my Sherwood Harris. My Sherwood was Native American, most often listed as a “free person of color” in the records. The other three Sherwood’s were listed as “white”. One would think that this racial distinction along with many diverging life details would help resolve any confusion, but that has not been the case. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss the Revolutionary War pension application of my Sherwood Harris that has quite frequently been attributed to the other Sherwood Harrises. Hopefully this will be a helpful warning to other researchers to take more care in how they attribute records.

My 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833) was the son of Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. Edward Harris was among the founding members of the  Native community in Granville. Sarah Chavis’ parents were William Chavis and Frances Gibson, who owned the original land base for the community. Two of Sherwood brother’s named Jesse Harris (1762-1844) and Edward Harris Jr (1756-1792) also fought in the Revolutionary War. Edward Jr died before filing a pension and left no heirs, and Jesse and later his widow Julia (Taborn) Harris successfully filed and received a pension (W.1277).

It is actually incorrect for me to say that Sherwood Harris filed a pension. From after his service in the war and until his death in 1833, Sherwood never filed for a pension. According to witness testimony provided by Nathaniel Estes, Sherwood “felt rather above begging” the government for compensation. However after his passing, his widow Martha/Patsy Harris (maiden name not known) was in financial trouble and had no means of support. So in 1843, she filed a widow’s pension, application number W.3984.

In order to receive a widow’s pension, Martha Harris had several things to prove. For one, she had to prove that she was legally married to Sherwood Harris and had not remarried after his death. She also needed to give proof of his Revolutionary War service including details such as names of captains and battles that would substantiate his record as a soldier. Despite both Martha and her deceased husband Sherwood being illiterate and not being able to leave behind a paper trail, Martha was able to prove her claim to a widow’s pension based off of witness testimony.

The following individuals provided testimony in support of Martha’s application: Frances “Fanny” Cavender, Samuel Chapell, Nathaniel Estes, Peter CashStephen Bridges, and George Pettiford. I have a full un-transcribed copy of the pension application but you can access transcribed portions of the pension application here. George Pettiford (1760-1853) was from the Native American Pettiford family of Granville, and he was the son of founding community member Lawrence Pettiford. George was also a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran and provided testimony that he was well acquainted with Sherwood Harris before the war. He knew that Sherwood had been enlisted, but did not see Sherwood until after the war when they both came back to Granville.

The five remaining testimonies came from white residents of Granville who also knew Sherwood Harris. Samuel Chapell (1757-1845), was a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran who knew Sherwood Harris around the time of the war and believed that Sherwood was a private in Col. William Moore’s regiment for at least two years. Peter Cash (1756-1846) was also a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran and recalled that he served with Sherwood Harris in Col. William Moore’s regiment. He further stated that Sherwood served under a different captain named Capt. Harrison.

Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Harris and knew that their father and older brother served with Sherwood in the Revolutionary War. They both remembered attending Sherwood and Martha’s wedding and provided 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. And finally Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) was aclose friend of Sherwood and Martha’s and provided some interesting information about the couple. He said he frequented their home regularly and heard Sherwood speak of being a soldier in the war. He also recalled Sherwood and Martha’s wedding but could not remember the date. However he added that Sherwood had a son who was older than his own son born in 1793 and that this son of Sherwood’s was buried on his property.

The testimony provided by fellow soldiers  as well as personal friends, allowed for Martha Harris to receive an annual widow’s pension payment of $80. However Martha Harris was not receiving any money because her pension payments were being illegally withheld by local land agent J.H. Kirkham according to additional testimony from Martha Harris in 1851 and backed up by a letter sent from her attorney William Hunt. As a result Martha was in a state of destitution.

Letter from Martha Harris' attorney William Hunt in 1851 confirming that she has not received her pension payment because it is being illegally withheld. Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application W.3984
Letter from Martha Harris’ attorney William Hunt in 1851 confirming that she has not received her pension payment because it is being illegally withheld.
Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application W.3984

Even back in 1844, after initially filing the pension claim, the pension office mixed up Martha’s husband Sherwood Harris with another Sherwood Harris. The other Sherwood Harris had received a bounty land grant for 228 acres and Justice of the Peace Clement Wilkins writing on Martha’s behalf had to explain that it was a different Sherwood Harris who received this land.

Justice of Peace Clement Wilkins explaining the Sherwood Harris mix up back in 1844.
Justice of the Peace Clement Wilkins explaining the Sherwood Harris mix up back in 1844. “The Sherwood Harris who received 228 acres of land for two and a half years of service since in the Continental Line from the state of North Carolina could not have been her husband such since being entirely inconsistent that said forth in her own declaration”.
Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application. W.3984

As you can see, these Sherwood Harrises have been getting mixed up for quite some time. Finally in 1855, Martha Harris applied for a bounty land grant however there is no further documentation to find out what happened with that application. According to her 1855 testimony, Martha Harris was receiving $80 annually so it appears J.H. Kirkham eventually released her payments or she was issued a new payment certificate. Martha passed away in 1859.

Martha
Martha “Patsy” Harris’ household in the 1850 census for Granville County. She had been widowed for 17 years and is living with her daughter and grandchildren.
Source: 1850; Census Place: Beaver Dam, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 127A; Image: 252
Delia Harris (1843 - after 1870), granddaughter of Martha Harris. She is listed in Martha's household in the 1850 census for Granville County, listed as
Delia Harris (1843 – after 1870), granddaughter of Sherwood and Martha Harris. She is in Martha’s household in the 1850 census for Granville County, listed as “Dilly Harris” age 7. Her descendants today are part of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe
Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.

So who are these other Sherwood Harrises?

Two of the Sherwoods have a father/son relationship, and the third Sherwood shares an uncle/nephew and 1st cousin relationship with the previous two. Below I created family tree to better illustrate the family relationships:

Family Tree showing the Sherwood Harrises. Circles is the Sherwood Harris who was also a Revolutionary War veteran as well as a Justice of Peace.
Family Tree showing the Sherwood Harrises. Circled is the Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) who was also a Revolutionary War veteran as well as a Justice of the Peace.

Most of the genealogical information on the Sherwood Harris family tree above comes from this website. I found many trees on Ancestry that included these Sherwood Harrises, though far too many looked incorrect, had contradictory information and lacked sources. Many of these family trees also had the pension application for my Sherwood Harris attached to these three other Sherwood Harrises. What a mess! But by reviewing some additional records I was able to sort out the records for each of these Sherwoods and determine which of these other Sherwoods was also a Revolutionary War veteran.

Off the bat, I could eliminate the Sherwood Harris (1720-1763) who left a 1763 will because he pre-deceased the Revolutionary War. Several descendants of the other Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) who was also a veteran, filed applications to join Sons of the American Revolution. According to those applications, their ancestor Sherwood Harris was married to an Elizabeth Tillman/Tallman and they claimed descent through two of their sons – Daniel and William Harris. Additionally, they state that their Sherwood Harris fought under General Ashe and was also a Justice of the Peace. They also have 1805 as Sherwood’s death date.

Sons of the American Revolution application for Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) descendant Charles Harris Livingood Jr. The document provides key details about this Sherwood Harris' life and descendants.  Source: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.
Sons of the American Revolution application for Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) descendant Charles Harris Livingood Jr. The document provides key details about this Sherwood Harris’ life and descendants.
Source: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.
More information on Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) confirming his occupation as Justice of Peace from the Sons of the American Revolution application. Source: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.
More information on Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) confirming his occupation as Justice of the Peace from the Sons of the American Revolution application.
Source: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.

The 1805 death date of the veteran Sherwood Harris is consistent with the Granville County census records which show 2 white Sherwood Harris head of households for the 1800 census, and only 1 white Sherwood Harris head of household for the 1810 census. So for any researchers of this family, the white Sherwood Harris in the 1810 census is the Sherwood Harris (born 1749) who was NOT the Revolutionary War veteran, and instead was the son of Sherwood Harris Sr. and Jane Hudspeth.

Revisiting the pension application of my Sherwood Harris (1761-1833), it is clear the Pension Office incorrectly filed correspondence letters from the descendants of the other Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) veteran into his folder. The letters from these descendants provide details that are consistent with the other Sherwood Harris. Yet, the Pension Office wrote back to these descendants and provided them with the service information of my Sherwood Harris.

Letter from a Mrs. J.B. Stroud, a descendant of Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) requesting information about her ancestor. Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. W.1277
Letter from a Mrs. J.B. Stroud, a descendant of Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) requesting information about her ancestor.
Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. W.3984
Response from the Pension Office to Mrs. J.B.Stroud, a descendant of Sherwood Harris (1733-1805). The office mistakenly gives her the information on my Sherwood Harris (1767-1833). Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. W.3984
Response from the Pension Office to Mrs. J.B.Stroud, a descendant of Sherwood Harris (1733-1805). The office mistakenly gives her the service record and pension information on my Sherwood Harris (1761-1833).
Source: NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. W.3984

I hope this blog post will not only clear up any confusion about the many Sherwood Harrises of Granville County, but also serve as a reminder for all of us researchers to be patient and take the time to efficiently sort out and attribute records.

The Nansemond Indian Bass Family of Granville

The Bass family in Granville County is one of the larger, if not the largest Native American families in the county. It is a “core” lineage whose family members have intermarried with just about all other families of Native American descent in the community. The Basses have a well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe who are indigenous to the Nansemond River area of lower tidewater Virginia. Today known as the Nansemond Indian Nation, the tribal nation received federal acknowledgement in 2018. Due to the rapid and increased colonization of the Nansemond homeland, many Basses settled in the “frontier” of North Carolina. The Bass family never lost knowledge of their Native American origins, and as a result, some of their descendants today can be found in a number of tribal communities such as: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee. This blog post follows the migration of the Nansemond Bass family from Norfolk, Virginia to Granville County.


Nansemond Tribal Origin

John Basse family tree
Family Tree of the first generations of Bass family. John Bass(e), a colonist, married Elizabeth, daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. This blog post focuses on their grandsons Edward Bass and John Bass who moved to North Carolina. Note: this tree only names the children of William Bass and Catherine Lanier who had known living offspring © Kianga Lucas

Some of the source material for this blog entry comes from the research of Bass descendant and genealogist Lars Adams. Lars has invested a lot of time in correcting past research mistakes. Nikki Bass is another Bass descendant and researcher who publishes her Bass related genealogy in a blog here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family as well as from Albert Bell’s book, Bass Families of the South (1961). Both Heinegg and Bell have made some errors in their Bass genealogies, so throughout this blogpost you will see some corrections that I have made with my own research. And finally it is important to point out that I author of this blog, Kianga Lucas, am a Nansemond Bass descendant which is how I first came to research the family and is why I am dedicated to preserving and sharing our family history. I believe it is imperative that we as Native peoples, lend voices to our own histories that have often been told by non-Natives.

The Nansemond branch of the English Bass family begins with the marriage in 1638 of John Bass(e) an English colonist to Elizabeth, baptized daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family sermon book that has survived to the present. Albert Bell’s book contained an incorrect transcription of this marriage record that falsely states Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can read from a copy of the original marriage entry, her name is simply “Elizabeth” and her father’s name is not mentioned at all. “Keziah” is however a first name found frequently among descendants of the Nansemond Bass family, so it is possible that this mix-up comes from fractured memories of the family history. So if you are a Bass descendant or researcher, please check your family tree to make sure you have the correct information. Below is an image of the marriage:

Bass Family Bible transcription:
Bass Family Sermon Book transcription:
“John Basse married ye dafter of ye King of ye Nansemond Nation by name Elizabeth in Holy Baptizm and in Holy Matrimonie ye 14th day of August in ye yeare of Our Blessed Lord 1638 Dyed 1699 A.D.”

The Nansemond tribe is an Algonquian speaking tribe that at one point in history, was affiliated with the Powhatan Confederacy from the tidewater Virginia area that is today the modern city of Suffolk. As coastal people they were impacted very early on by European colonization. Below is a map of the locations of the sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:

Map of the Powhatan Confederacy. The Nansemond Tribe is circled in red. Source: Helen Rountree
Map of the Powhatan Confederacy. The Nansemond Tribe is circled in red.
Source: Helen Rountree

John Bass/e and Elizabeth the Nansemond had several children including a son named William Bass (1654-1741) who appears to have the most well documented descendants. William Bass was married to a woman named Catherine Lanier and they made their home in what was then known as Lower Norfolk County, Virginia along the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. William Bass Sr and Catherine Lanier had the following children:

  • *Edward Bass b. 19 Oct 1672
  • *John Bass b. 4 Dec 1673
  • Keziah Bass b. 30 Oct 1675
  • *William Bass b. 28 Oct 1676
  • Joseph Bass b. 21 Dec 1678
  • Mary Bass b. 15 Jun 1681
  • *Thomas Bass b. 13 Nov 1687

Four sons: Edward, John, William, and Thomas are known to have had children and living descendants today. Sons William Bass Jr (1676 – 1761) and Thomas Bass (1687-?) and their descendants primarily remained in the Norfolk, VA area with Thomas Bass’ grandson William Bass (b. 1762) and his descendants moving across the state line into Camden County, NC and neighboring counties beginning in the late 1700s. These Basses commonly intermarried with other FPOC families such as: Hall, Perkins, Price, Archer, Newton, and Nickens.

On the other hand, sons Edward Bass (1672 – 1750) and John Bass (1673- 1732) relocated to North Carolina and their descendants I will document in the following sections. The descendants of both Edward Bass and John Bass are found in Granville.

William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:

An Inquest pertaining to possession and use of Cleared and Swamp lands in and adjoining ye Great Dismal by William Bass, Sr. and His kinsmen who claim Indian Privileges, Sheweth by the testimony of White Persons and sundry records of great age and known to be authentic, That said William Bass, Thomas Bass, and Joseph Bass and spinister daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemond Indian descent with no admixture of negro, Ethiopic, and that they and all others in kinship with them are freeborn subjects of his Majesty living in peace with his Majesty’s Government entitled to possess and bear arms as permitted by Treaties of Peace by and between Charles II of blessed memory and ye Indians of Virginia and the said William Bass, Sr. and als are in Rightful, and Lawful possession thereof and are not to be further Molested by any person or persons whatsoever under any pretended Authority under Penalties etc. etc., whilst ye said Bass and his kinsmen claim Indian privileges pursuant to the aforesaid Treaties of Peace.

17 day of March 1726/27

Solo. Wilson, Cl. Cur.

William Bass’ sons Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior. However it is important to note that this certificate extended to all of William Bass’ kin who were not specifically named in the certificate. This is a compelling detail because it demonstrates that William Bass had the foresight to ensure all of his relations had these same treaty rights. 

Later William Bass’ son William Bass Jr (1676-1761) received a similar certificate in 1742 that read:

William Bass, the Bearer, tall, swarthy, dark eyes, weight abt. 13 stone, scar on back of left hand, is of English & Indian descent with no admixture of negro blood, numbered as a Nansemun by his own Choosing. The sd. Bass dwells in this County and hath a good name for his industry and honesty.

Clearly the Bass family early on was attempting to document and secure their Nansemond Indian identity and treaty rights and in order to do this, it required them to distance themselves from any “negro admixture”. This theme of distancing and denying African admixture, in order to substantiate Indian identity is a common theme throughout Native American communities in the Southeast. And it has unfortunately had devastating effects that fractured families who had relatives deemed “too African” in phenotypical appearance. It has also impacted the political recognition of tribal communities. Even the Native Americans of Granville County adamantly denied African admixture as can be seen in the writings of local historian Oscar Blacknall that you can read more about here. Elder cousins have shared anecdotal stories with me on the topic of race/racial appearance, that are consistent with Blacknall’s observations about our community.

Augustus Bass sitting on the far left with other members of his family in Norfolk County, VA (modern Chesapeake). Augustus Bass is a descendant of William Bass Jr (167 ), whose family remained in Virginia.
Augustus Bass sitting on the far left with other members of his family in Norfolk County, VA.
Augustus Bass is a descendant of William Bass Jr (1676-1761), whose family remained in Norfolk, Virginia.

William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk County. In the will, William gives his sons William, Edward and Thomas only one shilling each. He gave to his son Joseph Bass, his “waring cloaths” and left his land and anything else to his daughter Mary in the hopes that she salvage what is left. Clearly, William Bass was not in good financial standing at the time of his death. Son John Bass (1673-1732) is not named in the will because he predeceased his father. This is also true for William’s daughter Keziah Bass who died in 1704. It is important to point out that by 1740, son Edward Bass (1672-1750) had lived in North Carolina for twenty years, yet his father William Bass still made sure to include him in his will. This shows that Edward Bass was still in touch with his family and community back in Norfolk, VA. 

William Bass will
This is the original handwritten will of William Bass (1654-1741). Source: Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983; Norfolk; Original Wills, 1693; page 427.

 

William Bass will abstract
Transcription of the will of William Bass dated 1 Oct 1740 and proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk Co, VA

Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) in Norfolk, Virginia

Before moving to North Carolina, brothers Edward Bass and John Bass spent the early part of their adulthood in Norfolk. On 17 Nov 1698, Edward Bass appeared in Norfolk court to admit that he owed 500 lbs of tobacco to Hugh Campbell. Hugh Campbell was a Scottish born merchant who was licensed to operate in the West Indies and who later settled in Norfolk. Campbell was also a merchant of human chattel when it was recorded on 8 Jun 1680 that he was paid for transporting an enslaved Indian woman of Bermuda into the Virginia colony. The following year on 16 Nov 1699, Edward Bass purchased 15 acres of land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, from John Fulcher. This is the same John Fulcher whose 1712 will freed the Anderson slaves. Over the next several generations, the offspring of these freed slaves repeatedly intermarried with Edward Bass’ offspring. The Andersons moved with the Basses out of Norfolk and into Granville and became one of the core families of the community. My blog post on the Andersons can be found here. Thus, it appears there is a yet unknown direct relationship between Edward Bass and John Fulcher (perhaps Edward Bass’ wife was a relative of John Fulcher?).

In June 1702, Edward Bass was back in Norfolk court to admit he owed 70 lbs of tobacco to Thomas Winfield from items he purchased at the estate sale of William Whitehurst. And on 15 Nov 1709, Edward Bass sued Henry Lawley for a 3 lb debt. Edward Bass was brought to the Norfolk court again on 20 July 1711 for retailing liquor without a license. The charges were subsequently dropped. On 16 Dec 1715, Edward Bass sued John Muns Jr for 20 lbs for unlawfully riding his mare. There are additional Norfolk records which show a pattern of Edward Bass being harassed by his Anglo neighbors through a series of lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts. Ultimately what we can learn from these records is that Edward Bass was a land owner on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, likely had a farm, and earned enough money to make large purchases. The records also demonstrate his knowledge of the laws and court system, as he was a plaintiff in a few of the cases. This pattern of harassment by his Anglo neighbors may have played a large part in Edward Bass’ leaving the area and moving to the North Carolina frontier.

To date, located records for his brother John Bass in Norfolk are not nearly as numerous. On 15 October 1701 in Norfolk court, John Bass paid the costs for a suit brought against him by Thomas Hodges. This is the only record I know of for John Bass in Norfolk. Hopefully more records are uncovered for him, to better understand his life and his relationships in Norfolk before he settled in North Carolina.


Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) Move to North Carolina

Bass Map Movement
This map shows the movement of brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) from their Nansemond homeland in Virginia to North Carolina and that they moved together from Norfolk, to Horsepool Swamp, and then to Urahaw Swamp. All of Edward Bass’ children and four of John Bass’ children moved and settled in Granville County by the 1750s. © Kianga Lucas

From here our discussion shifts to documenting Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) movement into North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. The last known record of him in Norfolk was recorded in 1715. By 1720/1721, Edward Bass owned land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land deed dated 30 January 1720/21, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know he is the same Edward Bass from Norfolk. Edward Bass did not remain on the Horsepool Swamp land for long, because on 26 March 1723 he purchased 200 acres of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. On 28 March 1726, he sold his Horsepool Swamp land. Over the next couple of decades, Edward Bass purchased an additional 615 acres of land adjoining his Urahaw Swamp land in Northampton County, bringing his total land ownership to 815 acres.  On 25 July 1748, Edward Bass wrote his will which was proved in August 1750.  The will named Edward Bass’ children who all inherited shares of their father’s land, thus making it possible to trace out his descendants. The will also named Edward Bass’ widow as Lovewell. She was called “Love”, when she and husband Edward Bass sold their Horsepool Swamp land in 1726. There is no surviving marriage record for the couple, so Lovewell’s maiden name and origin in unknown. Edward Bass likely married her when he still resided in Norfolk, so she is perhaps from one of families who were neighbors to the Basses and perhaps she was Nansemond.

All of Edward Bass’ children moved from Northampton to Granville County beginning in the 1750’s. Soon after settling in Granville, they sold their shares of land in Northampton that they inherited from their father. The Anderson family who was freed in 1712 in Norfolk, made the move with the Basses to Northampton County and then to Granville County where the families continued to frequently intermarry.  When Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established and land owning Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, Evans, and Mitchell families.

Edward Bass Family Tree
The family tree of Edward Bass (1672-1750) who was the grandson of John Bass/e and Elizabeth the Nansemond. His Northampton County will named all of his living children who each inherited a share of his land. All of Edward Bass’ children moved to Granville County and continued to intermarry with Native American/FPOC. It is interesting that Dinah Bass’ husband was named John Pone. “Pone” is a Virginia Algonquian word for unleavened cornbread and thus infers that John Pone, like his wife Dinah Bass, was of a Virginia Algonquian speaking background. © Kianga Lucas

The offspring of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also found in the Granville community, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s offspring. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:

John Bass and Love Harris marriage recorded in Perquimans County, NC. “John BAS and Love HARRIS was Married ye 8th day of Janewary 1696 both of Nanse Mum County and Nanse Mum Parresh by Mager Samuel SWANN Esqr.”
John Bass and Love Harris marriage recorded in Perquimans County, NC.
“John BAS and Love HARRIS was Married ye 8th day of Janewary 1696 both of Nanse Mum County and Nanse Mum Parresh by Mager Samuel SWANN Esqr.”

As researcher Lars Adams points out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA (formerly Upper Norfolk County) they married in North Carolina. John Bass who was Indian and Love Harris who was probably white were a couple during a time period where Virginia passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they may have married in North Carolina where the laws against interracial marriages were not as strictly enforced.

John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows a concerted effort by the brothers to remain close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward Bass, John Bass then moved to Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County (now Northampton County) where he accumulated a total of 1,060 acres of land that adjoined his brother’s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he left a Bertie County will which divided his Urahaw Swamp land among his children. As a result, his children and their descendants are well documented in both the will and subsequent land deeds dealing with the division and sale of their inherited land.

It should be noted that John Bass’ will makes mention of his widow Mary, and in it, John leaves his plantation to her as gift for “bringing up my small children”. Since we have an earlier marriage record for John Bass to Love Harris, this would mean that Love died sometime earlier, and John Bass remarried Mary. The will seems to indicate that Mary helped raise the children that John Bass had with his previous wife. The will also confirms that Edward Bass and John Bass were siblings because in it, John Bass refers to his own land as being adjacent to his brother Edward Bass.

John Bass 1673 family tree
Family tree of John Bass (1673-1732) that shows his children and their spouses/partners if documented. Four of is his children: Sarah Bass, William, Bass, Lovey Bass, and Mary Bass moved from Urahaw Swamp to Granville County. © Kianga Lucas, Native American Roots

Some of John Bass’ children remained in Northampton County and neighboring/nearby counties including Bertie, Edgecombe, Nash and Halifax. These offspring typically intermarried with wealthy, slave owning, planter families, and from that point forward were documented as “white”. Subsequent generations moved to the deep South to expand their plantation economies. Other children moved to other parts of the state. For example, John Bass’ grandson Frederick Bass (b. 1750)  moved to Anson Co and some of his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.

Four of John Bass’ children did join Edward Bass’ children in their relocation to Granville Co. They were Sarah Bass b. 1704, William Bass b. 1712, Lovey Bass b. 1720 and Mary Bass b. 1722. Sarah Bass b. 1704 was the wife of Lewis Anderson (1713-1785), of the freed Anderson family of Norfolk Co, so that explains why she moved to Granville. Lovey Bass b. 1712 was not married but had a partner with whom she had children with named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. She also had at least one child with Bartlet Tyler (b. 1742) from the FPOC Tyler family of Native American origins, that often intermarried with and were neighbors to the Basses in Granville over subsequent generations. The wife of William Bass b. 1712 is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Mary Bass b. 1722 married her first cousin Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) who was the son of Edward Bass (1672-1750). On 26 July 1784, Mary Bass (while married to Benjamin Bass) sold the 100 acres of land along the Urahaw Swamp that she inherited from her father John Bass in 1732. Just like Edward Bass’ children, John Bass’ children who moved to Granville married into and became a part of the Native American community.

****Mary Bass (1751-1844) and her husband  Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809) are my 5th great-grandparents and are the main progenitors of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Before Benjamin Richardson, Mary Bass was married to her first cousin Elijah Bass (1743-1781). It had been assumed by earlier researchers that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the same Mary Bass who was the daughter of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch of Bertie Co. Thomas Bass was a grandson of John Bass (1673-1732) and Love Harris. However I have extensively reviewed the records for Thomas Bass/Thomasine Bunch and their children and it is very clear that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was not their daughter. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and his wife Mary Bass (b. 1722). This means that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the granddaughter of both Edward Bass (1672-1750) and his brother John Bass (1673-1732). ****


A Closer Look at Urahaw Swamp and Neighboring Tribes

The fact that brothers Edward Bass and John Bass moved to North Carolina at the same time and bought adjoining land deserves further scrutiny. The Urahaw Swamp land that was first purchased in 1722/1723 is of particular interest because Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) also owned land along Urahaw Swamp. Bartholomew Chavis was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1706-1777) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew Chavis are found in Henrico and Surry County, VA. By 1719/1720 he was living in North Carolina and started purchasing land along Urahaw Swamp just 2-3 years before the Bass brothers purchased land there.

Map of the southern portion of Northampton County, NC. I circled Urahaw Swamp which runs off of Potecasi Creek which I also circled. Potcesai Creek enters Northampton from the eastern border with Hertford. Urahaw Swamp breaks off from Potecasi and runs westward an ends on the northern side of the Roanake River along the Halifax County border. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/8072/rec/18
Map of the southern portion of Northampton County, NC. I circled Urahaw Swamp which runs off of Potecasi Creek which I also circled. Potecasi Creek enters Northampton from the eastern border with Hertford. Urahaw Swamp breaks off from Potecasi and runs westward and ends on the northern side of the Roanake River along the Halifax County border.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/8072/rec/18

The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. The Gibsons were originally from Charles City County, Virginia where one of the earliest Gibson family members, Jane Gibson (the elder), was known as a free Indian woman. She is the female progenitor of the Evans family who settled in Granville. You can read my Evans/Gibson blog post here. The previously mentioned William Chavis (1706-1777)‘ wife was Frances Gibson. Her brother John Gibson who lived nearby, was a witness to a 1728 land purchase along Urahaw Swamp made by Edward Bass (1672-1750). This shows a direct earlier connection between the Basses and Gibsons. Two of John Gibson’s sons – George Gibson and Charles Gibson moved to Granville in 1750. This was the far southwestern part of the county that just two years later became Orange County. George and Charles Gibson did not stay in Orange County for along and moved around quite a bit with their descendants eventually leaving the state. William Chavis (1706-1777) also owned some land in Orange County and perhaps that is connected to George and Charles Gibson’s temporary residence there. Despite inheriting his father’s Northampton County land in 1750, William Chavis (1706-1777) continued to live in Granville County. William even continued to have additional land transactions in Northampton County but Granville was his primary residence as indicated in the tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him there several years later. Much more research is needed to learn why these families moved from Northampton to Granville.

I find it interesting that a Nottoway(?) Indian named George Skipper b. 1685 was documented through land transactions, living along Urahaw Swamp in the 1720s (See Heinegg here). This is the exact same time that the Chavis, Gibson, Bass, and Anderson families lived along Urahaw Swamp. George Skipper’s wife was Nottoway Indian Mary Bailey, the apparent daughter of Wat Bailey who was documented on the Nottoway Indian reservation in Southampton County, VA. George Skipper and Mary Bailey’s son George Skipper b. 1720 was one of the chief men of the Nottoway Indian Nation who sold his land in 1749. When we take a look at the Moseley map of 1733, we see both the Meherrin and the Nansemond Indians living in close proximity to Urahaw Swamp. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same Iroquoian speaking confederacy. And some of the Nansemond lived with the Nottoway on the Nottoway reservation in Southampton Co, VA (across the state line from Northampton Co, NC). This was an area where a number of tribes took refuge with one another, and this historical context is important for understanding Urahaw Swamp and the cluster of mixed race Native American families who resided there.

Mosely Map 1733
A portion of the Moseley Map of 1733. Urahaw Swamp is shown west of the Nansemond and Meherrin tribes which are circled. Source: http://ncpedia.org/moseley-manuscript-map

 

So why did some Nansemond Indians leave the Virginia homeland and settle with other friendly tribes? According to scholar Helen Rountree, the Basses belonged to the so-called “Christianized-Nansemond”, and were never granted a reservation like other Virginia tribes (Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Gingaskin, etc). The “traditional” Nansemond did live on a reservation in Southampton County, VA with the Nottoway Tribe. By 1792 they sold off their remaining reservation land. A closer genealogical examination of the Nansemond/Nottoway families on the Nottoway reservation shows that some individuals (such as George Skipper mentioned above) did leave the reservation for nearby Native American communities. In other words, in the 1700’s there were both Christianized and Traditional Nansemond who were not tied down to the traditional Nansemond homeland along the Nansemond River. This is a great avenue for additional deep dive research into a time and place that I believe is understudied. Thus I think a reexamination of Nansemond ethnohistory that is inclusive of the large amount of Nansemond Bass family members who moved to North Carolina, is long overdue. 

Map showing the location of the
Map showing the location of the “Christianized Nansemond” that the Bass family belonged to.
Source: Helen Rountree

Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of Virginia as a result of encroachment by Anglo colonists. This brings to mind Edward Bass’ (1672-1750) 1715 court case against John Muns Jr. for riding his mare. North Carolina at that time was still the “frontier” and that is where the Basses decided to make their home. The Basses were not the only Native American family from the Virginia tidewater area that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families in Granville that have tidewater Virginia roots, were Algonquian speaking peoples who were pushed out due to encroachment. Even Algonquian speaking peoples as far as away the Nanticoke Pukham/Bookram family, the Piscataway Proctor family and the Lenape Okey family moved to Granville County.


The Nansemond Basses in Granville County

So to summarize: all of the children of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and four of the children of John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to Granville County in the 1750’s. Edward Bass and John Bass were brothers, and the grandsons of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth. In Granville, these Bass descendants practiced endogamy by intermarrying with their own Bass cousins and other Native American families to form a tightly closed kinship network. As a result, most living Bass descendants from Granville have multiple Bass ancestors. For example, I have a cousin who has at minimum, 14 different documented Bass genealogical pedigrees back to Elizabeth the Nansemond.

william-chavis-original-land-tract
According to local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis (1706-1777) originally owned land that stretched from Lynch’s Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This is the land base for the community. When the Bass family began to move to Granville County in the 1750’s, they settled on this land of their former Chavis neighbors in Urahaw Swamp in Northampton County, NC. 
© Kianga Lucas

The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from a variety of primary source records. The Basses are found in very high numbers in the census records, marriage records, land deeds, estate records, military pension records, tax lists and more. In 1800, there were 14 Bass heads of households, in 1810: 10 heads of household, in 1820: 7 heads of household, in 1830: 6 heads of household, and in 1840: 6 heads of household. In the 1850 census where every household member was enumerated by name for the first time, there were approximately 24 Basses in Granville, and in 1860 there were approximately 25 Basses in Granville. By the 1940 census which is the last publicly available census, there were approximately 100 Basses in Granville. These head counts of course do not reflect female Basses whose surnames changed due to marriage and do not include Bass descendants whose surnames were no longer Bass.

Brothers Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) who were the sons of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and Lovewell, became the largest land owners of the Bass family in Granville. Benjamin Bass owned at least 500 acres of total land and Edward Bass owned at least a total of 206 acres of land as reflected in the Granville tax lists and land deeds. They also married their own Bass cousins. Benjamin Bass married his first cousin Mary Bass, and Edward Bass married his first cousin, once removed Tamer Anderson.

Benjamin Bass family tree
Family tree of Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) who was married to his first cousin Mary Bass (b. 1722).  © Kianga Lucas

John Lock to Benjamin Bass

John Lock to Benjamin Bass copy
Land deed showing that Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) purchased a whopping 480 acres in Granville County on 5 August 1782.
Edward Bass Jr family tree
Family tree of Edward Bass Jr (1728-1800) who married his first cousin, once removed Tamer Anderson (b. 1742). © Kianga Lucas

Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) had a brother named Sampson/Samuel Bass (b. 1726) whose identity has been conflated with other men who share the same name, by researcher Paul Heinegg. What follows is an explanation of this mistake, so if you are using Paul Heinegg’s research to document this Sampson/Samuel Bass, please proceed with caution.

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 7.30.37 PM
A selection from Paul Heinegg’s summary of the Bass family. In his discussion of Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (son of Edward Bass 1672-1750 and Lovewell), he incorrectly attributes records belonging to a different Samuel Bass. Please take caution and read my discussion of the mix-up below.

The conflation of Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (son of Edward Bass 1672-1750) and Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (parentage unknown) of Brunswick Co, VA/Northampton Co, NC and his son Samuel Bass Jr (1734-1796):

The first Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (he is called by both first names in the primary source records), was a tithable and land owner in Granville County. The available tax lists (1758, 1761, and 1762) show that he only paid tax on himself, so he appears to not have been married nor had any children. He was also taxed as a free person of color (free persons of color were required to pay taxes on their wives). In 1764, the part of Granville County he resided in became short lived Bute County and he makes a land purchase there in 1771. That is the last known record for him. So he may have died intestate and with no heirs.

On the other hand, the second Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (never referred to as Sampson Bass in any records) was taxed as white and was a wealthy planter who owned a lot of slaves. He resided in Brunswick Co, VA in 1765 when he gave his son Burwell Bass land in Northampton Co, NC (Brunswick and Northampton share a border). In 1765, the first Sampson/Samuel Bass resided in Granville, not Brunswick, so that should raise some initial red flags that we’re looking at two different men. He may also be the same Samuel Bass who appears as a tithable in the 1762 Northampton Co, NC tax list. In 1780 he was a tithable in Northampton, assessed on a large amount of property and 12 slaves. His 1787 Northampton Co will, proved in 1790, names his widow Sarah and children who received his property and slaves. This Samuel Bass had a son Samuel Bass Jr 1734-1796 named in the will. Samuel Bass Jr’s will was proved in 1796 in Greensville Co, VA (Greensville borders Brunswick and Northampton). Paul Heinegg also incorrectly attributes the Halifax Co, NC 1810 census showing a Samuel Bass head of a household of 7 free people of color and 1 slave to this Samuel Bass Jr. But that absolutely cannot be him since he was deceased by 1796. Instead the Samuel Bass enumerated in the 1810 census in Halifax Co, NC was a man named Samuel Bass b. 1784 who eventually moved to Tennessee, Alabama and finally Mississippi.

This RootsWeb tree which can be viewed here, includes the following statement from a Samuel Bass researcher who also agrees that the identities of these men have been conflated. He believes the second Samuel Bass was the Samuel Bass who made a 1733 land purchase in Isle of Wight, VA and lived next to Charles Bass Jr. and James Bass.

“I believe Heinegg and Marcia McClure and others have confounded a number of Samuels and Sampsons into one man. I am fifth great grandson of Samuel Bass, Sr who died in 1789 so I have spent a great amount of time trying to tease them apart. The Samuel Bass above was son of Samuel Sr. However I do not believe Samuel Sr was Sampson and the son of Edward. Through tracing land I place this man as the Samuel who purchased land in Isle of Wight County in 1733. He stated he was “of Isle of wight ” and the land adjoined property of James Bass and Charles Bass, Jr. They in subsequent years signed deeds for each other and moved about together. To me that says related. I have come to believe that Samuel was a son of Charles Bass, Sr of Isle if Wight Co. He was born most likely around 1712. He married twice. First to Elizabeth who was still alive in 1755. He was married to Sarah by 1770 and she is the wife in the will. He had 8 children who I believe were born in the order listed in the will. My ancestor Matthew could be the son of either wife.”

 

The Nansemond identity of the Basses in Granville County was known by Bass researcher, Albert Bell. While doing archival research for his book, Bass Families of the South, published in 1961, Albert Bell came across the 1833 Norfolk County, VA Indian certificates of several members of the Bass family in the Norfolk court minutes. Similar to the Norfolk court records from the 1700’s, the Nansemond Bass family found it necessary to clarify their identity as Indian peoples. Albert Bell submitted a copy of these 1833 Indian certificates and citations to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh and included a note which stated:

The Basses of Norfolk County have been bedeviled by the same problem as that faced by the Granville County crowd.”

Albert Bell note
First page of the note left by Albert Bell in the North Carolina State Archives with a copy of the 1833 Norfolk Indian certificates of the Bass family. This note shows that Albert Bell hoped that these Indian certificates would be of help to establishing the Nansemond identity of the Granville County Bass family.
Albert Bell note2
Second page of the note left by Albert Bell in the North Carolina State Archives. In it he provides additional sources about the Nansemond tribe written by ethnographers Frederick Webb Hodge and Frank Speck. On a personal side note, as a former curatorial assistant at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles, I encountered Hodge’s work on a regular basis because he used to be director of the museum.

Photos of Nansemond Basses from Granville County

Below are a handful of photos of individuals who come from the Nansemond Bass family in Granville County. Some of the Granville Basses in the following generations moved to neighboring and nearby counties such as Halifax, Person, Orange, Durham, and Alamance.

 

The Bass pedigree of the three brothers pictured below who were sons of William Bass b. 1831 and Sarah Evans is as follows:

William Bass; Cullen Bass; Prudence Bass; Edward Bass Jr; Edward Bass Sr; William Bass Sr; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.

Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans. 
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
William Brammer Bass (1874-1962) Source: Ancestry, User: Derika73
William Brammer Bass (1874-1962). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans
Source: Ancestry, User: Derika73
Garland Bryant Bass (1879-1935). Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Garland Bryant Bass (1879-1935). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby

 

 

Joel Bass (1929-2012). Son of Buck Bass and Minnie Day. Source: Richard Haithcock
Joel Bass (1929-2012). Son of Buck Bass and Minnie Day and grandson of Alonzo Bass pictured above.  Joel Bass was former chief of the Eno-Occaneechi Tribe (precursor to the state recognized Occaneechi-Saponi tribe). On Joel’s mother’s side he is descended from the Granville County Day, Stewart, Cousins and  the Bass family again from the Edward Bass (1672-1750) line. Source: Richard Haithcock
Joel Bass as a young man. Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Joel Bass as a young man.
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Alford Pettiford born 1877 Resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, NC. Son of James Pettiford and Frances Brandon. Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye
Alford Pettiford born 1877
Resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, NC.
His parents were James Pettiford and Frances Brandon. Alford Pettiford has multiple Bass lines that trace back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732).  One of his Bass lineages is as follows:
Alford Pettiford; James Pettiford; William Pettiford; Dicey Bass; Nathan Bass; Lovey Bass; John Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief. Source: Rod Daye

 

Cappie Frances Anderson (1882-1947). Cappie was a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Anderson and Emma Taborn. Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye
Cappie Frances Anderson (1882-1947). Cappie was a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Anderson and Emma Taborn. Cappie Frances Anderson has multiple Bass lineages going back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732). One of her Bass lineages is as follows:
Cappie Anderson; James Anderson; Winnie Anderson; Henry Anderson; Rhody Anderson; Winnie Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief. Source: Rod Daye

 

Joseph Walter Scott
Joseph Walter Scott (1872-1938) of Granville/Vance Counties, was the son of John Scott and Sally Emeline Taborn. His maternal grandparents were Arthur Taborn and Henrietta Bass. Source: Ancestry, Username: ellemoorehp
John Anderson b 1833
John Anderson (1832-1916) was the son of Thomas Anderson and Sally Day of Granville County. He was first married to Margaret Parker and second married to Mary Mayo. He has multiple Bass pedigrees. One of sis Bass pedigree is as follows: John Anderson; Thomas Anderson; Winnie Bass;  Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief. Source: Christopher Bradley Cooper
Eliza Louisa Richardson and Emila Lucretia Richardson
On the right Eliza Louisa Richardson (1828-1909) and on the left her niece Emily Richardson (1840-1910/1920) of Halifax County, NC. Eliza Louisa Richardson was the daughter of Hardy Richardson and Dorcas Boone. They descend from the Granville Bass family. This photo was submitted with the Richardson family’s rejected Dawes Cherokee Dawes applications in 1898. Source: The National Archives. Eliza Louisa Richardson’s Bass pedigree is as follows: Eliza Louisa Richardson; Hardy Richardson; Mary Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth the daughter of the chief of the Nansemond.
Sally Richardson Henry Richardson
Seated in the front are siblings Sally Richardson (1862-1951) and Henry Richardson (1871-1964) (children of Cofield Richardson and Rachel Mary Lynch) of Halifax County, NC with Sally Richardson’s daughter standing in the back. They descend from the Granville Co Bass family. Their Bass pedigree is as follows: Sally Richardson/Henry Richardson; Cofield Richardson; Absalom Richardson; Mary Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth the daughter of the Nansemond Chief. Source: Donnie Hansberry.

 

Southall Bass Eva Richardson
This is a very special picture, because it captured the descendants of three Nansemond brothers, Edward Bass (1672-1750), John Bass (1673-1732) and Thomas Bass (1687-?), grandsons of John Bass(e) and Elizabeth the Nansemond. On the far left is Southall Bass III (1913-1991) who is a direct male descendant of Thomas Bass (1687-?). His family remained in Norfolk and Southall Bass became a noted local photographer. Standing next to him is his friend and distant cousin Eva Richardson (1924-2007) originally of Halifax County, NC but resided in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. Eva Richardson’s 4th great-grandmother (and four times repeated) was Mary Bass (1751-1844) who married Benjamin Richardson. Thus, Eva Richardson descends from both Edward Bass (1672-1732) and John Bass (1673-1750) four times over. Photo courtesy of Eva Richardson’s son Rod Northern.

Geography of Granville County and Regional Native American Sites

In this post, I’m going to discuss the geography of Granville County that will help illustrate the settlement of the Native American community.

The Great Trading Path also known as the Occaneechi Path was a Native American road that began in Petersburg, VA and on some accounts ended with the Catawba Nation on the South Carolina/North Carolina border just below Charlotte and in other accounts, terminated in Augusta, GA. In the area surrounding Petersburg, lived numerous Indian traders and this path gave them direct trading access to tribes. The Great Trading Path cuts right through Granville County, entering Northeast from neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and exiting through the Southwest to neighboring Durham County. Not only was it beneficial for Indian traders to live on the path, but it was also necessary for tribes to live close to or have access to this path. Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) who I have mentioned in previous blog posts was an Indian trader from Prince George Co, VA who moved to Granville County by the 1740s. Both of Eaton’s residences were along the Great Trading Path and it explains why a group of Saponi Indians were living next to his land in Granville in the 1750s. This means the origins of the Native American community in Granville are very much tied into this trade relationship between the colonists and local tribes and it explains why that specific location became the land base for the community.

The path labeled number 10 on this map is the Great Trading Path. Source: http://ncpedia.org/indian-trading-paths
The path labeled number 10 on this map is the Great Trading Path.
Source: http://ncpedia.org/indian-trading-paths
Another map of the Great Trading Path that includes county borders. You can see how the path enters and exits Granville County. Source: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Occaneechi_Path
Another map of the Great Trading Path that includes county borders. You can see how the path enters and exits Granville County.
Source: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Occaneechi_Path

Granville County was originally created in 1746 from Edgecombe County. Previously, the entire northern half is what was then the Carolina Colony was claimed by John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville (1690-1763) and became known as Granville District.

Map showing the upper half of the Carolina Colony known as Granville District. Source: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2040
Map showing the upper half of the Carolina Colony known as Granville District.
Source: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2040

Originally, “Old” Granville County included the land that is today known as Granville, Vance, Warren, and Franklin Counties. This changed in 1764, when the areas known today as Warren and Franklin Counties were split from Granville to form Bute County (a short lived County, that quickly split into modern Warren and Franklin Counties in 1779). Finally in 1881, the eastern section of Granville that included the Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville/Nutbush townships was separated to form newly created Vance County.

Map of
Map of “Old” Granville County which includes the modern counties of Vance, Warren, and Franklin. Dates along the modern county borders in the map explain the divisions.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ncmaps/id/3569
Map of Granville County in 1880, just one year before Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville were separated to form Vance County. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/654/rec/8
Map of Granville County in 1880, just one year before Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville were separated to form Vance County.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/654/rec/8

In addition to old Indian Trading Paths, being familiar with the local rivers and creeks is vital to understanding Native peoples’ relationship to Granville County’s geography. The Tar River cuts right through the middle of the county, the Neuse River forms the southern border of the county, and the Roanake River just barely touches Granville County’s northern border with Mecklenburg County. The Tar, Neuse, and Roanake are major waterways that local Natives have used since before European colonization. This blog post takes a closer look at the indigenous place names local to Granville County.

The land base for the Native American community in Granville, is mostly concentrated off of Fishing Creek and Tabbs Creek which run north off of the Tar River. Founding community member William Chavis (1706-1778), originally owned a continuous land tract that stretched all the way from Lynch Creek to Fishing Creek along the Tar River and went 5 miles north inland.

In this map, you can see The Great Trading Path labeled “Trading Road”. Buffalo once inhabited in this region, and “Buffalo Creek” off of the Tar River along with many other local buffalo name places, reflect this history. The buffalo is also what originally brought the Eastern Siouan speaking Saponi from the Ohio River valley into this region.

Map of Granville County's waterways Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf
Map of Granville County’s waterways
Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf

When reviewing census data for Granville County, it’s helpful to know exactly what section of the county you are looking at. The following map displays the census designated areas of Granville County. Also note in northwestern Granville in the township of Oak Hill, is “Bearskin Creek” named after Saponi guide Ned Bearskin who accompanied William Byrd II on the Diving Line in 1728.

Census Designated Areas of Granville County Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf
Census Designated Areas of Granville County
Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf

Finally, I made a map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia showing current Native American communities, former reservation land, and other important sites. The very close proximity of the sites to one another and to the Native American community in Granville County, demonstrate the interconnectedness of indigenous peoples living in this region. Please note that this map does not reflect all past or current Native American sites but rather shows locations that are most relevant to Granville’s Native Americans.

Map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia Native American sites © Kianga Lucas
Map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia Native American sites
© Kianga Lucas
Key to the Map © Kianga Lucas
Key to the Map
© Kianga Lucas

Identifying the Saponi Indians living next to Col. William Eaton

The Native American community in Granville County was very much a community, and not a place where unconnected random Native American peoples settled. It was/is very much a thriving, connected community of very closely related families that have been intermarrying with one another in this exact location since at least the early/mid 1700s.

There is probably no better way to demonstrate this, than to identify the group of Saponi Indians that were documented living in Granville County next to Col William Eaton. In the previous blog post, I listed several sources from the mid 1700s that placed a group of Saponi families living next to Eaton. It is from this group of original settlers that the Native community in Granville traces its roots to. But who exactly were these early families and how can we identify them?

Here are a few things we can learn about the group of Saponi Indians from the colonial reports:

  • they were free and not enslaved
  • they lived next to Col. William Eaton’s land
  • they enlisted in Eaton’s regiment in 1754
  • they are documented living in Granville County in 1754, 1755, and 1761
  • they were not “white” and instead considered a distinct people (this may seem rather obvious, but indigenous peoples have been racially mislabeled since colonization)
  • there were approximately 14-20 “fighting men” meaning healthy adult males and there was an equal number of women and children.

By examining the list of Eaton’s regiment, tax lists, and land deeds I was able to come up with a list of men who perhaps were the Saponi listed in Eaton’s regiment. Unless noted otherwise, all the men that I researched were “free people of color” a term applied to all free non-whites living in the Southeast including Native Americans. Researcher Roberta Estes of the Native Heritage Project previously blogged about Eaton’s regiment and made an attempt to identify the Saponi Indians living in Granville.

Researcher Steven Pony Hill also observed a connection between the multiple colonial reports of Saponi Indians in Granville in connection with specific surnames:

A 1761 report counted 20 Saponi warriors in the area of Granville County, NC and this corresponds to the “Mulatto, Mustee or Indian” taxation in Granville of such families as Anderson, Jeffries, Davis, Chavis, Going, Bass, Harris, Brewer, Bunch, Griffin, Pettiford, Evans, and others in the 1760’s.

Source: http://sciway3.net/clark/freemoors/CHAPTER1colonial.htm

Beginning in the 1960s, a Cherokee anthropologist named Robert K. Thomas began conducting research in several Native American communities in North Carolina. In his “A Report on Research of Lumbee Origins”, Thomas makes the following observation about Native Americans in Granville:

Another band of Saponi appears to have gone, in 1743, to Granville Co., NC to live on the land of Colonel John Eaton, a very famous Indian fighter originally from Virginia, and a man who had traded with the Catawba and spoke the Saponi language. They lived there from 1743, according to local historians, to the 1760s. Then according to one local historian, they disappeared by “marrying with other races.”

Source: http://jackgoins.blogspot.com/2015/05/report-on-lumbee-indians-by-robert.html

Robert K. Thomas mistakenly calls Col. William Eaton “John Eaton”.

The Chavis, Evans, Bass, Kersey, Harris, Scott, and Goins families are among the many shared direct blood lines between the Native Americans in Granville County and the Native Americans in Robeson County (including the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora Nation). This is extremely relevant because in support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition, Wesley White also wrote up a report on the Saponi Indians in Granville who lived next to Col. William Eaton. Through similar research methods, White also showed a connection between William Chavis, an original Granville County land owner and Col. William Eaton:

Map of Granville County showing Col. William Eaton's tracts of land next to William Chavis'. This map does not represent the total of Chavis' land holdings which were most much extensive. From Wes White's
Map of Granville County showing Col. William Eaton’s tracts of land next to William Chavis’. This map does not represent the total of Chavis’ land holdings which were much more extensive and continuous. Source: Wes White’s “Saponi Report”. 1985

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Here is my list:

1. William Chavis Sr. (1706 – 1778). William was an original Granville County land owner and owned a substantial amount of land that would form the land base for the Native American community. This land bordered Eaton’s as shown in the above map. William Chavis also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment.  (Note: William Chavis is my 7th great-grandfather).

2. William Chavis Jr (1741 – ?). Son of William Chavis Sr and Frances Gibson. William Jr also served in Eaton’s regiment and inherited a parcel of his father’s land.

3. Gibson/Gilbert Chavis (1737-1777). Son of William Chavis Sr. and Frances Gibson. Alternately called Gibson and Gilbert (and Gibeon) in the historical records, Gibson also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and inherited a parcel of his father’s land. Gibson Chavis was the namesake of “Gibbs Creek” which runs off of the Tar River and was part of William Chavis Sr’s original tract of land.

4. Edward Harris (1730 – 1780s). Son-in-law of William Chavis Sr by marriage to his daughter Sarah Chavis. William Chavis gave his daughter Sarah Chavis-Harris a parcel of land that Edward Harris was subsequently taxed on. Edward also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. The Harris family from the state recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Holliser, descend from Edward Harris. (Note: Edward Harris is my 6th great-grandfather).

5. Joseph Hawley (1725 – after 1791). Brother-in-law of Edward Harris by his marriage to Edward’s sister Martha Harris. Joseph’s land was adjacent to William Chavis’ and he first appears in the Granville County tax lists in 1750. Joseph also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. The Holley/Hawley family of the state recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe of Hollister, descend from Joseph Hawley.

6. William Bass (1712 – ?). William is documented in Granville County as early as 1749 and taxed in Granville throughout the 1750s and 1760s. He also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. William is a documented great-grandson of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth. (There will be a blog post dedicated to the Nansemond descended Bass family who are one of the largest Native families in Granville). The Nansemond Basses who moved from the Tidewater area of Virginia into North Carolina, married into and became apart of local tribes including the Tuscarora and Saponi.

7. Lewis Anderson (1713-1785). Lewis was the brother-in-law of William Bass by his marriage to William’s sister Sarah Bass. Lewis first appears in Granville County records in 1749 and was counted in the tax lists until his death. He also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment.

8. George Anderson (1696-1771). George’s wife is unknown aside from her first name Mary. She could very well have been a member of the Bass family because the Bass and Andersons moved together from Norfolk, VA to Granville County by the mid 1700s. George is also a relative of Lewis Anderson. George first appears in the Granville records in 1746 and he enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. George’s mistress Lovey Bass with whom he fathered a child, was the sister of William Bass and the sister-in-law of Lewis Anderson. George’s daughter Catherine Anderson was a sister-in-law of Edward Harris through her marriage to Edward’s brother George Harris.

9. Lawrence Pettiford (1732 – after 1790) Lawrence first appears in the Granville records when he enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. He is also found consistently in the Granville tax records beginning in the 1750s. Lawrence’s wife was Mary but her maiden name is unknown. She was previously married to a member of the Mitchell family (a Native American/”free colored” family from Granville that did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment). Given the very close relationship between the Pettiford and Bass families who have been intermarrying for centuries, Mary may have been a Bass. Lawrence also had a couple of land transactions with members of the Bass family, including Nathan Bass – son of the previously mentioned Lovey Bass and George Anderson.

10. George Pettiford (1736 – ?) George was a brother to Lawrence Pettiford. Like his brother Lawrence, George enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and is found in the tax record beginning in the 1750s.

11. Michael Gowen (1722 – ?) Michael enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and starts appearing in the Granville tax lists in 1750. He owned land off of Taylor’s Creek which falls within the original William Chavis land holding. Michael moved out of state to South Carolina towards the end of his life.

12. Edward Gowen (1727 – after 1810) Edward was a brother of Michael Gowen and also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and appears in the tax lists beginning in the 1750s. Edward lived on Michael’s property off of Taylor’s Creek and remained in Granville County as did many of his children.

13. Thomas Gowen (1732 – 1797) Thomas was a cousin to Michael and Edward. He enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and was counted in the tax lists starting in the 1750s. Towards the end of his life, he and his children relocated to Montgomery Couty, NC.

The above 13 men have the best documentation to show that they were part of the Saponi Indians living in Granville County.

The following men were also most likely counted among the group of Saponi but I have some questions or need further documentation.

14. William Gowen (1710 – ?) William was a cousin to Edward, Michael, and Thomas Gowen. He enlisted in Eaton’s regiment and was in the tax lists beginning in the 1750s. Unlike his cousins, William was taxed as “white” in every Granville record and including his enlistment in Eaton’s regiment. Though Native Americans in the South were most commonly documented as “Free colored”, they were also occasionally documented as “white” (especially if there was a lot of recent mixed in European ancestry). However the fact that William consistently was recorded as white in Granville records, despite coming from a family that was not white, raises a lot of questions as to wether he was counted among the Saponi (who were clearly not being recorded as white at that time). William and his children relocated to South Carolina towards the later years of his life.

15. Robert Davis (1717 – ?). Robert first appears in the tax lists in the 1750s and enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. His wife is unknown. There were a couple more generations of Davises  in Granville after Robert but the family was not large at all and did not leave many descendants. Because of this shortage of information along with no known parentage or siblings for Robert, I’m not sure if he was among the Saponi.

16. Lewis Pettiford (1734 – after 1794). Lewis was a brother to the already named George and Lawrence Pettiford, though unlike his brothers, he did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment. However he appears in the Granville tax lists beginning in 1758 – a couple of years after his brothers first appear in the tax lists. Perhaps this is why he did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment – he was not fully of adult age. His birth year is also an approximation and perhaps he was really a few years younger.

17. William Hawley (1728 – ?). William was a brother to the already named Joseph Hawley. He first appears in the Granville County tax lists in the 1750s but not consistently as it appears he relocated to South Carolina and then moved back and forth between the two locations. He also did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment. He was married to Amy Scott of South Carolina who was a relative of “King Hagler” of the Catawba Indians in South Carolina. The Saponi and Catawba are very closely related tribes, both part of the Eastern Siouan language group. During the 1730s and 1740s, groups of Saponi sought refuge with the Catawba and then would return back to Saponi homelands. The back and forth movement of William Hawley along with family ties to the Catawba’s King Hagler, suggests that he was part of this movement of Saponi.

18. Gideon Bunch (1713 – ?). The Bunch family is a “free colored” family going back to the early 1600s in Virginia and have extensively married into many Native families. He inconsistently  appears in the Granville County tax lists in the 1750s and 1760s and did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment. Tax and land records place him moving about in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His later years were in South Carolina.

19. Richard Chavis (1724 – 1766) Richard was likely a brother of the previously named William Chavis Sr though I’d like to see additional records confirming their relationship. Richard is found in the tax lists beginning in the 1750s and in the 1760s. He did not enlist in Eaton’s regiment. Richard’s daughter Milly Chavis was married to Edward Silver. Interestingly, Edward purchased land from William Chavis Jr (part of the original William Chavis tract). Edward and Milly Silver are the progenitors of the Silver family found in the state recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister.

So I counted 19 men, 13 of whom I’m confident identifying as the Saponi who lived next to and enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. According to the colonial records, there was anywhere from 14 – 20 Saponi men in Granville and the list that I created seems to fit that count. I would also venture to say that this was a conservative count and that there likely were more Native adult males in Granville County during this time. Furthermore, all of the men that I have identified are all very closely related by both blood and marriage, indicating a shared heritage and identity. These families would more or less remain in the same area and continue mostly intermarrying with one another well into the 20th century. These early settlers laid the foundation for my tribal community. Many of the sons of these founding members would take up arms with the colonists against the British in the uprising known as the American Revolution. In the decades immediately preceding and following the Revolutionary War, additional Saponi as well as Tuscarora families with following surnames: Evans, Kersey, Brandon, Guy, Taborn, Tyler, Mitchell, Boon(e), Parker, Hedgepeth, Richardson, Howell, Scott and many more would join this settlement adding to the rich indigenous heritage of this community.

Colonial Records of Saponi Indians in Granville County

Throughout history, Granville County was occupied by both Saponi and Tuscarora peoples at various times. However, the last time the government officially identified the Native Americans of Granville County by a tribe, they identified the people as “Saponi”. This is not to imply that the only Saponi people left in North Carolina lived only in Granville Co nor do I mean to imply that all the Native peoples in Granville Co were Saponi. But rather, the last known documentation that identified and acknowledged a relationaship with the Saponi people, was in Granville County in the mid 1700s.

These records are important because they document that Saponi people still existed as a distinct tribe after the closing of Fort Christanna in 1718 and the removal of some Saponi/Tutelo to upstate NY. It also demonstrates that the Saponi were still considered a distinct tribe after the formation of the Indian Woods reservation in 1717 in nearby Bertie Co for the neutral Northern Town Tuscarora.

These records are also significant because they demonstrate a very close relationship between the Saponi people in Granville County and an Indian trader named Col. William Eaton (1690-1759). These details are key and will be discussed at length in future blog posts about William Chavis and the other Saponi Indians who lived next to Eaton.

In 1754, in a “Report concerning the militia in each county of North Carolina”, we see:

Granville—Willm Eaton Esqr Coll: of Granville county His Regimt consists of 8 companys 734 besides officers 2 Captns Simms & Jones are moved away the others Resigned He thinks the fines on delinquents should be fixed by a Court Martial. No arms or ammunition in the Stores.

There are about 12 or 14 Sapona men and as many women & children in the county

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr05-0072

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Also in 1754, in “Muster roll for William Hurst’s company for the Granville County Militia”, we see that Hurst writes:

A small number of Saq. Indians living on the lands of Colonel Wm. Eaton in Granville.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr22-0109

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In 1755, in a “Report concerning the number of Native Americans in North Carolina”, we see:

Granville County:  The Saponas about 14 Men & 14 Women Children. Total = 28.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr05-0089 

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Also in 1755, we have another report of Saponi Indians. It does not specify the location but it again demonstrates the Saponi are a separate people who have a trade relationship with the colony.

In a “Report by the Committee of both Houses of the North Carolina General Assembly concerning public claims”, we see:

Mr. Spaight produced a further claim of £39.11.6, expended in presents to the Catawba and Sapona Indians in March last. As to this last claim, the Committee proposes the House should come to a resolution thereon. Allowed by the house

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr22-0635

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And finally in 1761 in a “Report by Arthur Dobbs concerning general conditions in North Carolina”, we see:

The only Tribes or remains of Tribes of Indians residing in this Province are the Tuskerora Sapona Meherin and Maramuskito Indians. The Tuskerora have about 100 fighting men the Saponas and Meherrin Indians about 20 each and the Maramuskitos about 7 or 8. the first 3 are situated in the Middle of the Colony upon and near Roanoak and have by Law 10,000 acres of Land allotted to them in Lord Granvilles District they live chiefly by hunting and are in perfect friendship with the Inhabitants

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr06-0167

From this last passage we learn that the neutral Tuscarora, along with the Meherrin and Saponi are still living in the Northeastern part of the state. And despite living with or near one another, they are still separate tribes.

This is the last primary source reference I can find for Saponi people in North Carolina until the modern era.

Col. William Eaton's home shown in a historical map of Granville County. To view a full version of the map: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569
Col. William Eaton’s home shown in a historical map of Granville County.
To view a full version of the map: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

Family Surnames for Granville County Native Americans

Welcome! The following is a list of surnames of closely related Native American families of Granville County. Please note that all the families are “free people of color”, meaning they were not enslaved and generally not recorded as “white”.

It is these families that most of the content of this blog is about. I have documentation on all of these families, so if you believe you are also researching the same families, please do get in touch.

Anderson

Bass

Boon(e)

Boswell/Baswell/Braswell

Brandon

Chavis/Chavers

Cousins

Curtis

Day(e)

Evans

Goins/Gowen

Guy

Harris

Hawley

Hedgepeth

Howell

Jones

Kersey

Locklear

Mayo

Mitchell

Parker

Pettiford

Richardson

Scott

Stewart

Taborn

Tyler