In this blog post I will chronicle the Native American/”free colored” Anderson family from their origins in Norfolk, VA to their relocation in Granville County. The origins of the Anderson family are interconnected to the Nansemond Indian Bass family. If you have not already, please read my blog entry on the Basses to familiarize yourself with that history.
Unlike the vast majority of the family lineages of Native Americans in Granville County who were born free and always free, the Andersons were once enslaved. So before I delve into the Anderson family, I’ll need to first discuss their former slave owner – John Fulcher. Much of the source material for this blog entry comes from the excellent research provided by Fulcher descendant Ellen Fulcher Cloud on her website that can be found here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Andersons.
John Fulcher (1666-1712) was born to English colonist Captain Thomas Fulcher and Mary Sibsey (daughter of Captain John Sibsey) of Norfolk County, VA. By the 1660s, Thomas Fulcher owned land in Lower Norfolk County called “Manor Plantation” that he inherited from his father-in-law John Sibsey. Both the Fulcher and Sibsey families were prosperous and held high status. Captain John Sibsey was a member of the House of Burgesses and Captain Thomas Fulcher was a Sheriff. Upon Thomas’ death, his son John Fulcher inherited “Manor Plantation”. John was married to Ruth Woodhouse and had one son with her but by 1691, the couple was divorced. This can be seen in a 1691 court order in which John Fulcher was held to financially assist his ex-wife Ruth and their son. So when John Fulcher passed away in 1712, it was probably no surprise that he did not leave any of his property to his ex wife and son. However what he did in addition to not leaving his family any property, was unconventional for the time.
In his 1712 will, John Fulcher requested that all of his slaves be freed and he gave them property to live on, specifically 640 acres on Sewall’s Point in Norfolk County. Imagine what a stir this must have caused. Not only did Fulcher not leave anything to his own family, but he freed his slaves and instead gave them property. Most of Fulcher’s property including “Manor Plantation” went to his “godson” Lewis Conner who also served as executor of the estate.
The freeing of John Fulcher’s slaves caused so much of a stir that the General Assembly the following year recommended outlawing the manumission of slaves because they feared that freed slaves would help organize slave revolts – something the colonists were especially paranoid about. The names of the slaves freed in Fulcher’s will were: “Robert Richards, Maria Richards, Kate Anderson, Hester Anderson, Betty Anderson, Lewis Anderson, Sarah Anderson and children Peter Anderson, George Anderson, Dinah Anderson, Nedd Anderson, Rachell Anderson, Mingo Anderson, Tony Anderson, and Susan Anderson.”
As you can see the surname of the freed slaves was Anderson with two freed slaves having the Richards surname. They did not take the surname of their most immediate former slave owner John Fulcher, and not all the slaves had the same last name. I do not know how Fulcher’s freed slaves acquired these surnames.
Though the colonial government could not prevent the manumission of Fulcher’s slaves, estate executor Lewis Conner did just about everything in his power to remove the Anderson family to North Carolina. The Sewall’s Point land that the Andersons were granted was in the heart of the British colony and was likely highly desired by many individuals including Lewis Conner. In 1715, Conner swapped the Anderson family’s land in Norfolk County for 646 acres of land on Welsh’s Creek in Chowan County, NC (modern Martin and Washington Counties). The Andersons refused to take possession of this land in North Carolina and continued living in Norfolk County. One apparent freed slave of Fulcher’s named James (no last name given) sold his share of the Sewall’s Point land to Lewis Conner in 1715. None of the freed slaves named in Fulcher’s will had the first name James so I’m unsure exactly who this person was but he was certainly formerly enslaved by Fulcher.
Over the next several years, there were a number of lawsuits between Lewis Conner and the Anderson family regarding the land and Conner’s role as executor of the estate, but the Anderson family still continued living in Norfolk County. This is evident in a 1718 land deed which describes a path leading to Sowell’s (Sewall’s) Point where “free negroes” resided. And throughout the 1730s and into the 1750s, numerous members of the freed Anderson family and their descendants were counted in tax lists in Tanner’s Creek (located next to Sewall’s Point) in Norfolk County. For these Andersons that remained in Virginia, I have not traced their descendants to the present so I cannot say for certain what happened to them but they may still live in the area. However a couple of Andersons did move to North Carolina and these are the Andersons who intermarried with the Nansemond Indian Basses and became part of Granville County’s Native American community.
Back when John Fulcher was still living in 1699, he sold 15 acres of his land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River to Edward Bass. By 1720, Edward Bass and his brother John bass had moved to Chowan County, NC (modern Gates County) and many of their descendants married members of the Anderson family. Below is a summary of the Andersons who moved to North Carolina:
1. Lewis Anderson, born 1690. Freed in 1712, he was married to Katherine Bass, daughter of Fulcher’s neighbor Edward Bass. He was taxed in Tanner’s Creek, Norfolk County in 1730 and 1731. Lewis and his wife inherited land in Northampton County, NC in 1748 from his father-in-law Edward Bass which the couple later sold in 1757. It is not known if Lewis Anderson ever made it to Granville County or if he had any descendants.
2. George Anderson, born 1696. Freed in 1712 and by the 1730s, George owned land in Bertie County (modern Northampton County). By 1746, George sold his Northampton County land and was living in Granville County. George’s wife Mary’s maiden name is unknown, but George’s mistress with whom he fathered a child with was Lovey Bass, niece of Edward Bass (daughter of John Bass). I think it is very probable that George’s wife Mary was a Bass. George purchased land from Edward Bass’ brother John Bass in 1738 in Bertie County (modern Northampton County). John Bass did have a daughter named Mary and it is unknown what happened to her but she was alive to be named in her father’s will in 1732. George enlisted in Col. William Eaton’s regiment which I blogged about previously here. Also George’s daughter Ruth Anderson was a servant in Eaton’s household in 1755 when her child was bound to him
3. Lewis Anderson, born 1713. He was born after the Anderson slaves were freed, so he was never enslaved. Lewis is thought to be the son of Elizabeth Anderson who was freed in Fulcher’s will. However this is not definite and more verification is needed. Lewis is the direct ancestor of the vast majority of the Native American/”free colored” Andersons of Granville County because his descendants continued marrying into the Bass, Evans, Taborn, Pettiford, Tyler, Mitchell, Howell and Chavis families. Lewis was married to Sarah Bass, daughter of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass. He owned land in Bertie County (modern Northampton County) in the 1730s that his wife inherited from her father. Lewis was in Granville County by 1746 and enlisted in Col. William Eaton’s regiment which I blogged about here.
As you can see, the three Anderson men who moved to North Carolina had Bass spouses/partners including the two who are confirmed to have moved to Granville. And when you take into consideration the early North Carolina land purchases of brothers John Bass and Edward Bass, it appears those Anderson men married into the Bass family and thus followed them into North Carolina.
But who exactly were the freed Andersons? And if they have a Native American tribal origin, what is it? The original Andersons who were enslaved were almost certainly of African heritage but I think it is very likely they were mixed Native American. Their very close relationship with the Nansemond Bass family and their association with Indian trader Col. William Eaton are strong indicators that they also had a Native lineage. However slavery can very much obscure the ethnic origins of those who were enslaved and until we know exactly how and where John Fulcher acquired his slaves, I can only really speculate on the Anderson’s origins. If John Fulcher did inherit his slaves, it seems likely they came from his maternal grandfather Captain John Sibsey. Sibsey’s 1652 Norfolk County will does not make any specific mention of slaves and simply mentions property. But we know John Sibsey owned slaves because Mary Sibsey’s first husband Richard Conquest complained to the courts in 1652 that he was being withheld a slave that was due to him from his father-in-law.
Whatever their exact origin may have been, the Andersons who intermarried with the Nansemond Basses, who moved to Granville County and who continued intermarrying with the Native American/”free colored” families living there, were full fledged members of the community.
The Andersons have remained one of the largest families in the community as can be seen in the Granville County census records. In 1800 there were 9 Anderson head of households and in 1840 there were 15 Anderson head of households. In the 1850 census which was the first census in which every household member was listed there were 112 Andersons. In 1900 there were 54 Andersons and in 1940 there were 66 Andersons. And of course these numbers do not reflect Anderson women who were married as well as Anderson descendants who no longer carried the Anderson surname.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Andersons: