The purpose of this blog post is twofold: To put a spotlight on how tax lists are helpful for genealogical research and to encourage researchers to take full advantage of the North Carolina Wills and Probate collection made available on Ancestry. Recently while browsing through these records, I stumbled across a list of ‘Insolvent Taxpayers’ from 1810 mixed into a folder of wills. I immediately recognized the names of several Native/FPOC residents of Granville Co whom I research regularly, including my own direct and indirect ancestors.
North Carolina Tax Laws
In order to read and interpret North Carolina tax lists, it is vital to understand how the law determined who was taxable. This is a link which provides an overview of North Carolina tax laws as well as instructions on how to access original tax lists. The North Carolina State Archives houses tax lists prior to 1900, so it requires an in-person visit. Tax lists have not been digitized and are not available online through popular genealogy sites such as Ancestry and FamilySearch. (This is why the list of Granville County Insolvent Taxpayers from 1810 mixed into the Wills folders is a remarkable find).
Before the implementation of the modern income based tax system that we are all familiar with, North Carolina used to have a ‘Poll Tax’ system that was initiated in 1715. Free white males, 16 years of age and older were considered taxable. And all “free people of color”, both males and females, 12 years of age and older were considered taxable. This meant that FPOC had to pay more poll taxes than whites. In Granville County, there were petitions signed by FPOC and sympathetic whites, requesting that this unfair tax system be abolished. Consequently, some “free colored” men protested and refused to pay taxes on their wives and you will see notations in the tax lists which reflect that.
In 1784, North Carolina passed a new tax law which more or less, stayed in place with minor amendments until 1970. Here are the key features of the tax law:
All free men (both white men and men of color), ages 21 and over were required to pay a poll tax.
In 1801, the law was amended so that all free men, ages 21-50 were required to pay a poll tax. This meant that when a man turned 51, he was no longer taxable.
All slaves, ages 12-50 were taxable. Slave owners were responsible for paying taxes on their slaves. Slaves were also referred to as “black polls”.
In 1817, the law was further amended so that all free men, ages 21-45 were required to pay a poll tax. This meant that when a man turned 46, he was no longer taxable.
No matter the age, all men were required to pay taxes on their land. Therefore you will see tax lists which show men who are not assessed with a poll tax, and are only assessed with a property tax.
If you did not pay your poll tax, your name was added to the Insolvent Taxpayer List.
Though tax lists don’t specify the age of the individual listed, you can at least determine an age range if they were assessed with a poll tax. Therefore tax lists are helpful when you are trying to estimate the age of an individual you are researching. Another advantage is that tax lists are created yearly, whereas census records are created only every ten years. Much can happen in the span of ten years, so tax lists help fill in those gaps.
Mixed into Granville County Wills, Vol 7, 1808-1816 folder on Ancestry is where I found the list of insolvent taxpayers from 1810. In a previous blog post here, I provided detailed instructions on how to access this collection on Ancestry. The Wills and Probate Collection on Ancestry not only contains estate records but for some counties, this collection also includes apprenticeships, “Poor House” lists, some court orders and other official court documents. The availability of these records online varies considerably from one county to the next and these records are not at all consistently available for all years. Luckily for Granville, some of these miscellaneous files were mixed into the estate records. The problem is that none of these records are indexed which means they are not searchable, so you quite literally have to browse page by page in folders that contain thousands of pages. Joy!
However, when you do find these miscellaneous records, it is worth the time spent. After hours and hours of reading wills containing barely decipherable handwriting, I came across the following list of “Insolvent Taxpayers” from 1810:
An insolvent taxpayer refers to someone who failed to pay their taxes. So this is NOT a full list of taxpayers but rather a list of residents of Granville County who were supposed to pay taxes in 1810 but failed to do so. You can see from the second page that this document was produced and recorded in the August 1811 session of the Granville County court. There is also an additional note at the top of the page which indicates that some of these persons may have moved out of county which is why they did not pay taxes to the county that year.
There are two columns next to each individual name listed. The first column is “Free Poll” which refers to the unpaid poll tax of the individual named. The second column is “Slaves” and refers to individuals who failed to pay taxes on their slaves. What is omitted from these lists is additional biographical information such as age, race, occupation, marital status, etc. So though tax lists and insolvent tax lists are excellent primary source records, it can be tricky to identify exactly who is named on the list (especially if multiple people living in the same county share the same name).
Fortunately, I recognize the names of all the FPOC who are listed and I have transcribed their names below. And to ensure there is little confusion about the identities of the individuals listed, I have included a brief bio on each person.
Racey Bass – Born circa 1790 (though probably a year or two older because to be taxable he had to be 21 years of age). Son of Jesse Chavis and Milly Bass. Resided in the Abrams Plains area. You can read more about Racey’s father Jesse Chavis here and read more Racey’s brother Willis Bass here. Due to conflicting information, I was unclear about the gender of Racey Bass. However I now know Racey Bass was a male because he is named as a free poll in this tax list. (There are some examples where widowed women who act as head of household are taxable, but this is not the case for Racey Bass). Isaac Chavis – Born circa 1766, died before 1831. Son of James Chavis and Elizabeth Evans. Married and divorced Elizabeth Evans. Owned 150 acres of land in Abrams Plains district.
Sherwood Harris – Born circa 1761, died in 1831. Son of Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. A Revolutionary War veteran and you can read about him here. Resided in the Beaverdam district. (He is my 5th great-grandfather). Daniel Harris – Born circa 1785. Son of Sherwood Harris listed above him. He was likely living on Sherwood Harris’ land in Beaverdam district. (He is my 4th great-grandfather).
James Chavis “Shavers” – Born circa 1786. Son of Anthony Chavis and Betsy Evans. There was an older James Chavis (born circa 1744) living in Granville in the early 1800s. However, in 1810 that older James Chavis was exempt from paying taxes. James Chavis (born circa 1786) and several of his siblings moved to Chatham Co. where he married Nancy Bird. He later relocated to the “Lost Creek Community” in Vigo Co, IN. “Shavers” is an alternative spelling of “Chavis”, and James Chavis is documented in other census records with this alternative spelling.
Thomas Chavis – This is the same Thomas Chavis who was enumerated in the 1810 census in Granville Co, head of a household of 10 “free people of color” and 1 slave. I don’t have solid information that helps to identify more about his life and who his parents may have been. He resided next to Charles Chavis (below) who resided in Abrams Plains. The Chavises living in this area came from across the state border in Mecklenburg Co VA. Charles Chavis – This is the same Charles Chavis who was taxed in the Abrams Plains district in 1788 and enumerated in the Granville Co census in 1800 and 1810. He was married to Nancy Taborn and was the bondsman for the 1802 Granville Co marriage of Evans Chavis and Lucy Smith. Genealogist Paul Heinegg theorizes with no supporting documentation that he may be the “illegitimate” son of Hannah Francis and Philip Chavis. I do not concur and instead believe he is from the Mecklenburg Co, VA Chavises.
James Pettiford – He does not appear in any Granville Co census or marriage records, so I’m unsure of his age and who his parents were. He may have died shortly after this tax list or moved out of the county or state.
Elijah Valentine – Born circa 1770. I do not have parents identified for him. He was married to Polly Bass and lived in the Fishing Creek district.
William Anderson – Perhaps born circa 1789. Enumerated in the 1810 census of Granville, head of household of 7 “free people of color”. He was married to Elizabeth Pettiford. I have not identified his parents but he may have been a grandson of Lewis Anderson Jr (1743-before 1810).
Reuben Day – Born circa 1788. He was the son of Jesse Day and Prissy Bass. He later moved to Orange Co, NC.
Jacob Hawley – Not to be confused with the older Jacob Hawley listed below. I’m unsure of the age and parents of this Jacob Hawley. It’s possible he could be a son or closely related to Jacob Hawley Sr.
John Day – Born circa 1785. He was also enumerated in the 1810 census in Granville, head of a household of 2 “free people of color”. He may be a son of Jesse Day and Prissy Bass.
Jacob Hawley Sr – Born circa 1751, but if he was still considered a tithable in 1810, then he may actually be a few years younger. Died in 1817. Son of Joseph Hawley and Martha Harris. You can read more about the Hawley family here. Lewis Mitchell – This is probably the same Lewis Mitchell who was enumerated in the 1830 census in Granville, head of a household consisting of himself. I have found no marriage records for him and unable to identify his parents.
William Mitchell – Born circa 1775. Son of Archibald Mitchell and Selah Bass. He was married to Bythea Hedgepeth.
Dempsey Bass – Born circa 1781, died by 1828. Son of Edward Bass and Tamer Anderson. He was married to Phoebe Day. In 1810, he resided in the Oxford district and in the 1820 census was in the Ledge of Rock district. You can read more about the Bass family here.
Edward Mitchell – Born circa 1775. Son of Archibald Mitchell and Selah Bass. He was married to Mary Ann/Mariah Bass. He resided in the Tar River district.
If you were to look at my mother’s top DNA cousin matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, and Gedmatch, you would swear she had at least one parent from the Lumbee tribe in Robeson County, NC. Many of her closest cousin matches are Lumbee tribal members whose families have called Robeson county home for many, many generations. Yet, my mother does not have a single documented direct ancestor that ever lived in Robeson. So what gives?
My mother’s North Carolina roots are directly from the Native American community in Granville County and with the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in nearby Halifax and Warren counties. Though the Lumbees have called Robeson county home since the late 1700s, many of their ancestors came from the North Carolina/Virginia border area. It was in this area that many Native/FPOC lineages diverged, with some families staying put and others moving deeper into North Carolina to Robeson county. These familial connections are known and have been passed down through oral history. A Granville County cousin who is also an elder, has fond memories of traveling with his parents down to Robeson, to visit his Lowry cousins from the Lumbee tribe. So as I have researched the origins of our Granville families, I have always noted the “Lumbee branches” of our family trees.
The growing popularity of DNA testing is also helping to corroborate these documented family connections both within and between tribal communities in North Carolina. I have closely reviewed the DNA test results of dozens of people from the Granville community and from the Lumbee tribe. The DNA cousin matches are so strong and numerous, that the correct question should be “how are we NOT related?”. The endogamy within North Carolina tribal communities, typically means that most of us have multiple lineages from the same family. As a result, our DNA cousin matches often appear closer by DNA than on paper.
So in this blog post, I will look closely at six family connections (Chavis/Gibson, Evans/Locklear, Bass, Goins/Gowen, Kersey/Lowry, and Scott) between Granville and the Lumbee tribe which help explain why we are showing such strong DNA cousin matches with one another. So if you are from the Granville community or a Lumbee tribal member and have done DNA testing, this blog post is for you. I am focusing specifically on lineages that are common/noteworthy in the Granville community. For the sake of space and clarity, I am not including lineages that are specific to the Haliwa-Saponi and Occaneechi-Saponi tribal communities (both communities are geographically next to and have strong, direct ties to Granville). I could write a separate blog post about each of those topics.
A final word on the use of “Lumbee”. I am well aware of the current political disagreements within the Robeson county community about the “authenticity” of the Lumbee tribal name. There are some community members who completely reject the Lumbee name for other tribal identities that they view as more accurate and reflective of the community. By using “Lumbee” in my blog post, I do not mean to take one side over another. My use of “Lumbee” is for genealogical purposes, to able to identify the tight knit interrelated Native American families who have historically resided in Robeson and neighboring counties.
The family connection between Granville County and the modern Lumbee community based in Robeson County is best seen through the Chavis/Gibson family. William Chavis (1706 – 1778) and his wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) are whom I often refer to as the “founding family” of the Granville community because of their massive land holdings. According to 19th century local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous track of 51,200 acres in Granville County along the Tar River. This was land that he received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville himself. William Chavis was likely born in Henrico County, Virginia, because his father Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) is documented in Henrico in the early 1700s as well as in neighboring Surry County. By 1719, Bartholomew Chavis moved to North Carolina and owned large amounts of land on both sides of the Roanoke River in what would become Northampton and Halifax counties, North Carolina. So even before accumulating his own land in Granville County, William Chavis inherited a lot of his land from father along the Roanoke River.
William Chavis’ 1778 will filed in Granville County, provides excellent documentation about his heirs. William’s son Philip Chavis (born 1726) was the executor of his estate and inherited a portion of his father’s land. Philip Chavis is also the ancestor of the Lumbee branch of the Chavis family. We learn from a series of land transactions that Philip Chavis was moving back and forth between Granville County, North Carolina and Bladen/Robeson County, North Carolina and Craven County, South Carolina. The last land deeds in Philip Chavis’ name are found in the 1780s and 1790s in Bladen/Robeson Counties (Robeson County was formed from a part of Bladen in 1787). Philip Chavis’ sons Ishamel Chavis (born 1747) and Erasmus Chavis (born 1768) continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants intermarried with other Robeson County Native American/FPOC families such as Lowry, Oxendine, Locklear, Carter, Sweat, and more. In support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition efforts, Wes White authored the “Saponi Report” in 1985 which documented the Chavis family in the Lumbee tribe descending from William Chavis via his son Philip Chavis who moved from Granville to Robeson. So this is a connection that is formally acknowledged by the Lumbee tribe.
William Chavis (1706-1778) had other children whose descendants remained in Granville (and neighboring counties) and tied into the Native American community in Granville. Descendants of his three daughters primarily remained in the Granville community though their descendants do not carry the Chavis surname because the three daughters were married. Daughter Sarah Chavis (1730-1785) married Edward Harris (born 1730) and their descendants are the FPOC Harris family in Granville and Wake counties. Daughter Lettice Chavis (1742-1814) married Aquilla Snelling (1723-1779) and while some descendants moved away, other descendants remained in Wake and are the FPOC Snelling family found there. Daughter Keziah Chavis (born 1742) married Asa Tyner (born 1740), and her descendants did remain in Granville for the next generation or two, but eventually moved further west to Stokes County, North Carolina. William Chavis also had a grandson named Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who is referred to as his “orphan” in his estate papers. Jesse Chavis fathered a number of children whose descendants stayed connected to the Granville community and carried on the Chavis surname.
As a direct lineal descendant of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris, my mother is finding through autosomal DNA testing, an abundance of Lumbee cousin matches who descend from Sarah Chavis’ brother Philip Chavis. By using sophisticated triangulation techniques, I am to determine that many of these Lumbee cousin matches are related through our shared common ancestors William Chavis and Frances Gibson. It should also be noted that the Gibson family of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson, moved to the Newman’s Ridge area of eastern Tennessee (Hawkins/Hancock counties) and became the “core” Gibson family of the “Melungeon” community there. Thus being a descendant of Frances Gibson, my mother also has a ton of cousin matches who descend from the Melungeons of Newman’s Ridge.
The Locklears are likely the largest family in the Lumbee tribe today and all descend from a shared Locklear ancestor named Robert Locklear (born 1700) who lived in Halifax/Edgecombe counties. Most of Robert’s children moved to Bladen/Robeson County and their descendants make up the Locklear family found in the Lumbee tribe today. Robert Locklear also had a grandson named Thomas Locklear (born 1750) through his son Randall Locklear (born 1730), whose family remained in the Granville/Wake area. So it is possible to have a Locklear ancestor directly from the Granville community. However a more common link between our community and the Lumbee Locklears is actually through the Evans family.
The large Evans family in Granville are direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans (1665-1739) and his wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, Virginia. I wrote a blog post about the Evans family genealogy found here. Jane Gibson was the daughter of a woman also named Jane Gibson “the elder” who was documented as a “free Indian woman”. Their descendants moved from the Virginia Tidewater area to the Virginia Southside counties of Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties and from there they moved into North Carolina. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s grandson Major Evans (born 1733) moved to Granville and the Evans who remained in the Granville community, primarily descend from him.
There are at least two known female Evans ancestors in the Lumbee Locklear family. Wiley Locklear (1780-1865) married Nancy Evans (born 1800) on 25 May 1817 in Robeson County. Nancy Evans was the daughter of Richard Evans (born 1750) who was the son of Morris Evans Jr (born 1710) who was the son of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson.
Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear (1823-1890) and his wife America Evans/Locklear (1829-1891) are another important Evans/Locklear link. A marriage record for the couple has not been located, so America’s maiden name is not well documented. From the records I have been able to review, there is inconsistent info about the parentage of Joseph Locklear and his wife America Evans/Locklear. For example, on her Find A Grave page found here, the author calls her the daughter of Patsy Evans and James Cricket Locklear. However, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Patsy (Evans) Locklear was born in 1780 in South Carolina. America was born about 1829 in Robeson County, so this Patsy appears too old to be her mother. In the 1850 census, we see a Betsey Evans, age 50, residing in their household. Betsey Evans is the only person in the household whose birthplace is listed as Richmond County, North Carolina. It is not clear to me what relationship Betsey Evans has to either Joseph Locklear or American Evans/Locklear, but it’s quite possible she could be either person’s mother.
I am working on correctly identifying how exactly this Locklear family ties into the Evans family and Betsey Evans is a strong lead. I’ll be sure to update as I obtain more information. As an Evans descendants, I am (through my mother’s test) finding plenty of cousin matches who are Evans descendants and cousin matches who are Lumbees that directly descend from Joseph Locklear/America Evans, matching on the same chromosome segment. So I am certain there is a legitimate Evans connection to this family.
The Nansemond descended Bass family is one of the larger FPOC families in Granville County, as well as one of the larger widespread FPOC families in Virginia, the Carolinas (and beyond). I previously wrote a blog post on the Bass family and so it should be no surprise to learn that there are Bass descendants among the Lumbee tribe. Through land deeds, Frederick Bass (born 1750) is documented with his wife Olive living in Anson County by 1777. Paul Heinegg believes Frederick Bass to be the possible son of William Bass (born 1712) (son of John Bass 1673 and Love Harris) of Granville County. I have not found documentation yet for Frederick Bass in Granville County, so this connection probably needs additional supporting evidence. At least one of Frederick Bass’ sons moved from Anson to Robeson by about 1800. His son Elijah Bass (born 1775) is shown in the Robeson county census beginning in 1800 and his descendants are found in the Lumbee tribe today. Elijah Bass’ descendants intermarried frequently with the FPOC Jones family in Robeson Co. The Lumbee Jones family in Robeson Co, also came from Anson Co, so it appears the Bass and Jones moved together from Anson to Robeson. I have noticed that many of my Lumbee cousin matches are unaware that they descend from the Bass family because they either do not have family trees or their family trees don’t go back far enough to their Bass ancestors. So I recommend building “mirror trees” of your Lumbee cousin matches, to better explore the many possible connections.
The Bass family is one of the largest FPOC families in Granville County that intermarried with just about every other Native/FPOC family in the community. Most Granville Basses descend from Edward Bass 1672 and his wife Lovewell. But there are descendants of his brother John Bass 1673 and wife Love Harris in the community as well. All of these Basses are relatives of Elijah Bass (born 1775) who moved to Robeson County.
Several members of the large FPOC Goins (including spelling variations of Gowen/s, Goings, etc) came to Granville County in the 1740s/50s. Notably Michael Goins (born 1722), his brother Edward Goins (1727-after 1810), along with his cousins Thomas Goins (1732-1797) and William Goins (born 1710) are all documented as enlisted members of Indian trader Col. William Eaton’s colonial regiment. I previously wrote a blog post here, about Eaton’s regiment and its connection the Saponi Indians that were also documented in Granville. Most of the Goins who came to Granville, did not stay in the community and continued to move to western North Carolina and out of state. However descendants of Edward Goins (1727-after 1810) did remain in the Granville community and intermarried with other Granville families such as Bass and Anderson. The Goins surname quickly “daughtered out” in the early/mid 1800s, so Edward Goins’ descendants no longer carry the Goins surname.
As the Goins family spread to other parts of North Carolina, one branch moved from Granville County to Robeson County. Ann Goins (born 1719) was a cousin to the previously mentioned Goins in Granville. The earliest records for Ann Goins are found in Brunswick County, Virginia and by the 1750s, she appears in Granville. By the 1790s, Ann Goins was in South Carolina, but close to the Robeson County border because she appears in the records there as well. Ann Goins’ children continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants today make up the Lumbee tribe.
The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of the FPOC Kersey family was the topic of a previous blog post that I wrote which can be found here. In addition, Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods wrote an article on the early genealogy of the Kersey family which can be accessed here. The Kersey family is significant to the Lumbee tribe because the large Lowry family descends specifically from Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was also the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). In his essay, Woods shows through careful analysis that Sally Kersey was a descendant of Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry County, VA, who later relocated close to the Tuscarora living in Bertie County, NC.
The Kersey family also moved to Granville County. A man named Thomas Kersey ( born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton Counties, Virginia is the common ancestor of the Granville Kersey family. Paul Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry County. John Kersey (born 1668) was a brother of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) who is direct ancestor of the Lumbee tribe’s Kersey/Lowry family.
Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was the grandfather of Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) who resided in Granville County and whose descendants make up the Kersey family in Granville today. One of Benjamin Kersey’s children was the infamous outlaw Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) who is the subject of a blog post I wrote here.
The FPOC Scott family primarily lived on the Wake County side of the Granville/Wake County border. But there were some members of the family who settled across in Granville and intermarried with other FPOC families in the community.
The FPOC Scott family descends primarily from John Scott (born 1823) and his wife Sally Emeline Taborn (born 1829) who resided in Granville County. Though I have not identified his parents yet, John Scott is likely a descendant of Revolutionary War soldier Exum Scott (1754-1823) who resided in neighboring Wake County. For example, Exum Scott’s son Guilford Scott (1790-1880) was married to Sylvia Taborn, who is from the same Taborn family as John Scott’s wife.
Exum Scott (1754-1823) was the son of Francis Scott (born 1720) of Halifax County, NC. Francis Scott (born 1720) had two brothers named John Scott (born 1710) and Abraham Scott (born 1710) and the three men are the ancestors of the FPOC Scotts found in the Halifax, Northampton, and Edgecombe records with some descendants moving to other parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The Lumbee Scott family primarily descends from several Scotts who stayed along the North Carolina and South Carolina border in Robeson, Richmond, and Scotland counties in North Carolina and Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina. For example, there is David Scott (born 1795) who is found in the 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses in Robeson. He married Betsy Morgan on 11 Feb 1822 in Robeson. The Morgan family like the Scott family, was primarily found in Halifax, Northampton and Edgecombe counties. Matthew Morgan (born 1770) was from Halifax County and by 1820, he relocated to Robeson county. Matthew Morgan was most likely Betsy Morgan’s father. So it seems likely that David Scott’s family also originally came from Halifax County. David is also a first name passed down repeatedly in the FPOC Scott family in Halifax.
Another couple that produced a lot of Scott offspring found in the Lumbee tribe today, is James Scott (1836-1888) and his wife Margaret Ellen Chavis (1860-1930) of Richmond and later Robeson county. Census records indicate that James Scott was born in South Carolina, so he was likely from Marion or Marlboro counties and moved a small distance across the border. James Scott’s will filed in 1888 in Richmond County, provides the names of his widow and surviving children and gives detailed instructions about the education of his children.
If you descend from any of these families, these connections that I described should help provide some answers about your DNA cousin matches. Have you noticed other interesting cousin matches from your DNA results? Feel free to comment here.
I was recently contacted by historian Vikki Bynum (“The Free State of Jones” – author of the book which inspired the movie), who was working on updating her research on the “free people of color” from Granville County. Vikki became familiar with my own research through this blog: “Native American Roots” and I was so delighted to work with her on this. The narrative that she presents and how she was able to synthesize and summarize the lives of our ancestors is quite impressive.
I am so proud to descend from such remarkable people and honored that my blog has become a source for others to learn more about our ancestors.
This blog would not be possible without the many people who have shared photos, family stories, and other key family information. Collaboration is vital in telling the full stories of our ancestor’s lives. A heartfelt thank you to all who have contributed!
If you are using marriage records to simply document when and where your ancestors married, you are missing out on so much more information. In this blog post, I will provide some examples and give advice about how to maximize the information contained in marriage records. Granville is a county that thankfully did not suffer from major record loss when compared to other North Carolina counties, so it’s important to take full advantage of the written record left behind. I will also provide some general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors that I was able to observe by closely reviewing their marriage records.
Marriage Bonds and the Bondsman
In North Carolina, from the colonial era and up through about 1869, marriages in the state typically required a marriage bond to be posted. Marriage bonds were a formal guarantee between the potential groom and bride and the jurisdictional government that the couple was legally able to marry. The groom was accompanied by a bondsman who both signed their names to guarantee the marriage bond for a specific amount of money. No actual money was exchanged. The Legal Genealogist has a good blog post with additional information about marriage bonds.
Because the bondsman just like the groom, could potentially be legally held responsible if the marriage was unlawful, the bondsman was usually a relative or friend/neighbor of the groom or bride. This means marriage bonds contain potentially additional genealogical information. If the bondsman was a relative, this can help identify other family members of the married couple.
Over the course of my research, I have closely looked at hundreds, probably thousands of marriage bonds for our ancestors in Granville and nearby counties. I have observed that if the bondsman was a relative, he was most often either the father, uncle, brother, or brother-in-law of the groom or bride. I have identified bondsmen who were slightly more distant relatives like first cousins, but these instances were not nearly as common as the father, uncle, brother, and brother-in-law relationship.
Here is an example of a marriage bond:
So my recommendation is that every time you locate a marriage bond of your ancestors, make sure to record the name of the bondsman. After you do that, follow up to see if you can identify exactly who that bondsman was and if he had any family relationship to the groom or bride.
Here is another example of a marriage bond, where the bondsman was an uncle:
Transition to Standardized Marriage Licenses
In the years following the conclusion of the Civil War, North Carolina abandoned the marriage bond system in favor of more standardized marriage licenses. In this section, I’ll document some of the variety of marriage licenses you can expect to see from this time period. These marriage licenses typically offer a lot more biographical information about the groom and bride. Additional information may include: age, race/color, names of parents, witnesses to the marriage, location of marriage, the person who solemnized the marriage, and the residence of the groom and bride.
The Native American community in Granville was very tight knit and this can be seen in the marriage records which record the witnesses of the event. Witnesses were often family members and friends and so these marriage records offer an important insight into these kinship and social circles.
The marriage license for James H Tyler (1852-1919) and Sarah Virginia Scott (1858-1937) shows some familiar names included in the record. The marriage license indicates that both the groom and bride lived in “F.C.”, meaning Fishing Creek township – the heart of the Native American community in Granville. James Tyler was 25 years of age and Sarah Virginia Scott was 17 years of age. A “J.P.” (Justice of the Peace) named L.H. Cannady officiated the ceremony at John Scott’s home. John Scott (b. 1823) was the father of Sarah Virginia Scott. The witnesses to the marriage were David Day, Sarah Tyler, and Hawkins Kersey. All three people were from the community. David Day (b. 1837) was the from FPOC Day family, a core family. By 1879, he was widowed from Nancy Bass who may have been a close family member of Sarah Virginia Scott’s maternal grandmother Henrietta Bass (b. 1800). “Sarah Tyler” was James H Tyler’s mother Sarah/Sally (Kersey) Tyler (1828-1911). Hawkins Kersey (1854-1921) was originally born Hawkins Tyler, and was the son of Martha Jane Tyler (b. 1830) who was James H Tyler’s aunt. Hawkins, was then “adopted” by Baldy Kersey (James H Tyler’s uncle) and his surname was changed to Kersey. Baldy Kersey was the infamous outlaw and the subject of this blog post.
Another example of a marriage license with biographical information:
The 27 July 1872 Granville County marriage record of Lewis H Anderson (b. 1849) and Amanda W Anderson (1856-1920) also shows important biographical information. Lewis Anderson listed as 22 years of age resided in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Amanda Anderson age 18, resided in “O” (Oxford) township. The marriage took place at the New Hope Church which was one of several churches that serviced the community. Dennis Anderson (b. 1807), a member from the community, officiated the service. While browsing through the Granville County marriage records, I noted that Dennis Anderson officiated numerous marriages for people in the Native American community. Amanda W Anderson’s grandfather Jeremiah “Jerry” Anderson (1794-1875) was the older brother of Dennis Anderson, so Dennis Anderson was also a great uncle of the bride. Witnesses to the marriage were Arthur Bass, James Horner, and David Day. There were two Arthur Basses of adult age living in Granville County in 1872, so I’m uncertain which one is referred to here. James Horner (b. 1842) was not a FPOC. He was born enslaved but married into the Native American/FPOC community which likely why he was a witness. David Day (b. 1837) is the same man who was listed above as a witness to the marriage of James H Tyler and Sarah Virginia Scott.
And here is another example of a marriage record with important biographical information:
The 22 December 1874 marriage between James A Mayo (1847-1910) and Ida Howell (1855-1928) also includes a few notable people from the community. James Mayo is listed as being 22 years of age and residing in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Ida Howell is 16 years of age and also a resident of “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township. Cuffy Mayo (1800-1896) officiated the marriage. Cuffy was a very important person not only in the community but was also well respected by his white neighbors. He was a delegate to North Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention. The marriage took place at the home of Jane (Harris) Howell (b. 1817) who was Ida Howell’s mother. Witnesses to the marriage were Edward Allen, James E Howell, and William Tyler. I’m unsure who Edward Allen was. James E Howell (1840-1912) was Ida Howell’s brother and my 2nd great-grandfather. William Tyler (1825-1897) was another well respected member of the community and a cousin and neighbor to the Howell family. It is also worth mentioning that the groom and bride were first cousins. James Mayo’s mother Sally Harris was a sister to Ida Howell’s mother Jane Harris. First cousin marriages were not atypical at all for this very tight knit community.
Military Pension Files
Another excellent resource to use to help document marriages of our ancestors are military pension files. Many of the men in our community were soldiers in the Revolutionary War and if they lived long enough into their elder years, they typically filed applications for military pension benefits. If a soldier died before or while receiving pension benefits, his surviving widow could apply for a widow’s pension to continue to receive those payments.
In order to prove that a female applicant was the legal surviving widow of a soldier, she had to provide a copy of their marriage license as well as witness testimony from friends/relatives/neighbors to confirm the identity of the applicant. If a widow remarried, she was no longer entitled to her deceased husband’s benefits.
For example, my 5th great-grandmother Mary (Bass) Richardson (1757-1844) was the widow of two Revolutionary War soldiers: her first husband Elijah Bass (1743-1781) and her second husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Elijah Bass died while in service in the Revolutionary War, so Mary Bass remarried Benjamin Richardson at the conclusion of the war. Mary Bass was eligible to receive Benjamin Richardson’s military pension benefits. In order to do that, she applied for a widow’s pension – W.4061. In her application, Mary (Bass) Richardson provides the following testimony about her marriages:
That she was married to Elijah Bass who was a private in the Army of the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina line that he served as such for the period of two and a half years and Enlisted under Captain Bailey of the tenth Regiment. She further declared that she was married to the said Elijah Bass on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Seventy seven. That her husband the aforesaid Elijah Bass died (or was killed) in the aforesaid War at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on the 8th day of September 17 hundred & Eighty one. That she was afterward (to wit) on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Eighty three married to Benjamin Richardson who was a private in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War who served as such for the period of twelve months under Capts. Joel Wren, John White Jordan Harris & other officers.
So in her testimony, Mary (Bass) Richardson gives 14 February 1783 as the date she married Benjamin Richardson. A search of the Granville County marriage bonds, shows that Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass received a marriage bond on 13 February 1783 with Phillip Pettiford as the bondsman. This is consistent with the testimony that Mary (Bass) Richardson provided – they married the following day after receiving the marriage bond. If this marriage bond was no longer available due to record loss, Mary (Bass) Richardson’s testimony for her widow’s pension, serves as an excellent secondary source substitute record to document her marriage to Benjamin Richardson.
Another example is found in the widow’s pension application of my 5th great-grandmother Martha Patsy Harris (1770-1859). She was the widow of my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Martha Patsy’s maiden name is unknown because I have never been able to locate a marriage record for her and Sherwood Harris. However her widow’s pension does provide me with an approximate date of when and where they married. You can read transcribed portions of the application W.3984 here.
Included in Martha Patsy Harris’ widow application, is testimony from several white residents of Granville and Wake Counties who were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris and attended their wedding. Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) remembered attending the wedding and gave 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. Frances also gave additional information that the couple were married in Granville County by the Justice of the Peace named John Pope. Another personal friend named Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) also recalled attending the wedding and determined that it happened several years before 1793 (the birth year of his son). Martha Patsy Harris also testified that she recalled the wedding was in 1787, so the information given in all the testimonies is consistent. So without a marriage record, we can give the approximate marriage year for Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris as 1787. Having an exact date is certainly more desirable but an approximate date at least gives us something to work with.
So definitely make sure to read through the entire Revolutionary War pension files of your ancestors to help document their marriages. I have even found testimony that describes the actual wedding event – a detail that is not conveyed in marriage licenses. I recall reading a description of a wedding service that included fiddling and singing.
Land Deeds and Marriage
If you’ve searched high and low through marriage records and military pension files, and still cannot find leads on the marriages of your ancestors, here’s another source to consider: land deeds. Though land deeds do not specify an exact marriage event between a groom and bride, it does provide some clues about a recent marriage within the family. It was common for the families of the groom and bride to sell and purchase land from one another around the time of the marriage. There are a few possible reasons for this. For one, our community was very tight knit and land transactions were common within these close kinship circles. Marriages extended that kinship network of people to do business with and kept land ownership within the family. Another reason for these land transactions around the time of the marriage was that the groom desired to purchase land near his wife’s family to stay in close contact. If the groom was not already a land owner, his marriage into a new family provided an opportunity to became a land owner.
For example, my 4th great-grandfather Freeman Howell (1777-1870) had a daughter named Julia Howell (1797-1870). Julia Howell was married to Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) but I have never found a marriage record for the couple. I do have confirmation of their marriage through Freeman Howell’s estate records which specify how his estate was divided among his living heirs. Given the approximate ages of Nelson Cousins and Julia Howell’s children, I suspected that they were married around 1820. In 1824 in Granville County, the following land deeds were recorded between Julia Howell’s father Freeman Howell and Nelson Cousins’ brother Robert Cousins:
17 Jan 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
$150 in hand deed of Gift from Robert Cousins to Freeman Howell
2 Feb 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
Robert Cozen acknowledges a deed to Freeman Howell for a 120 acres of land which is ordered to be Registered
Source: Land deed notes transcribed by Jahrod Pender
Though these land deeds do not provide me with a date of a marriage event between a member of the Howell family and a member of the Cousins family, it does suggest that there is now a kinship relationship between these two families. This would be especially true if I find additional land deeds between the Howell and Cousins family during this period.
Another example of a land deed tied to a recent marriage is the example of my 6th great-grandparents Edward Harris (b. 1730) and Sarah Chavis (1730-1785). We believe that Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis married around 1750 according to the approximate ages of their children and 1750 being the first year that Sarah was listed as a tithable in Edward Harris’s household.
On 6 September 1756 (about 6 years after they married), Sarah Chavis’ father William Chavis made a deed of gift for 340 acres along Tabbs Creek in Granville County to Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. (Land deed transcribed and shared by Paul Heinegg). William Chavis (1709-1778) was a man I refer to as a community founder because he originally owned all of the land that makes up the core of the community. According to local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous 16 acres along the North side of the Tar River, going 5 miles inland. The land that William Chavis gifted to his new son-in-law Edward Harris was land which was part of this original plot that William Chavis owned. William Chavis likely wanted to guarantee that his daughter and her descendants would be well taken care of, for generations to come. So keep this in mind as you’re looking at land deeds to connect to marriage events.
Marriage Patterns and Observations
Finally I thought it would be good to create a list of my general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors. These are simply general patterns, so there will always be exceptions and variation. But with that said, I think you will find this helpful and a great reminder about the potential information you can gleam by closely observing marriage records.
ENDOGAMY! Our ancestors primarily practiced endogamous marriages, simply meaning that they limited marriages within the local community and people they already regarded as “kin”. As a result, I usually try to figure out if and how the groom and bride are related. It may be a blood connection through a more distant common relative, or it may be that they share cousins in common. But you will typically find some already existing family connection between the groom and bride.
Multiple Marriages. If a man or woman became widowed, you can typically expect for them to marry again. This is especially true if they still had minor children living at home. Another parent was needed to help raise and support those children, so it was not advantageous to remain widowed. These multiple marriages can create some complex family trees but it is important to document all of your ancestor’s marriages.
Keep track of a woman’s name changes. Following up on the point made above – each time a woman married, her surname changed. As a result, a bride’s surname listed on a marriage record may not be her original maiden name if she was previously married. Marriage records typically do not list if the bride was previously married, so it is up to you the research to investigate further.
Not all marriages were recorded. Some of our ancestors may not have went through with obtaining the proper license to legally marry. This means there will be no official record of the marriage. One possible explanation was that some people still married in a traditional, indigenous way. In the rejected Dawes and Eastern Cherokee applications of our ancestors, it’s not unusual to see references of ancestors marrying “the Indian way”, which usually meant not registered with the government. There were some who still adhered to indigenous cultural practices.
Native American/FPOC communities throughout NC were connected via kinship. Though most marriages happened directly within kinship circles of people geographically living within the same community, you will find marriages from people who live in two different neighboring or nearby communities. For example, my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell who lived in the Granville community married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia Richardson who lived a couple of counties over along the Halifax/Warren County border in the Haliwa-Saponi community. I found a trend of a few people from the Lumbee and Coharie community in Cumberland and Sampson County, move up to Orange/Alamance Counties and marry people from the Occaneechi-Saponi community. The reason for this is that all of these communities share at least some common ancestors from generations earlier and so they considered themselves all kin and socially acceptable to marry.
Girls who became orphaned, typically married young – in their teenage years. It’s important to remember that European colonists introduced an incredibly lopsided patriarchal society, that our ancestors had to quickly adapt to. Therefore if you were a girl who did not have a father to legally support and provide for you, you could find yourself in a vulnerable situation. Therefore it was in the best socio-economic interest of young girls who did not have fathers, to marry so they could benefit from their husband’s financial standing and land ownership. If you were a young woman still living at home on your father’s land, you had a bit more time before you needed to marry out.
If you have identified more marriage patterns of our ancestors and other ways to document marriages, please comment below.
It is such a rewarding feeling when you are researching what you thought were two unrelated topics which turn out to be directly related to one another. Well that is exactly what happened with research I was doing on two different people: Jesse Chavis and Willis Bass. I had previously corrected the genealogies of both men but upon a recent closer examination of the records, I realized that they were father and son!
In this blog post, I will revisit the research I did on Jesse Chavis and Willis Bass and explain how I came to this exciting conclusion.
Jesse Chavis (1766-1840)
In a previous blog post, I discussed some very important corrections I made to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. Genealogist Paul Heinegg had incorrectly identified the Jesse Chavis of Granville County as a different Jesse Chavis, who was the son of an Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) of Southside Virginia. However, a closer look at the Granville County records revealed that Jesse Chavis was in fact from the family of William Chavis (1709-1778) of Granville County. (William Chavis and wife Frances Gibson are my 7th great-grandparents). Though Jesse Chavis is referred to as William Chavis’ orphan in estate records, Jesse’s approximate birth year of 1766 makes it impossible for Jesse Chavis to be a son of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781). Either William Chavis fathered Jesse Chavis with a much younger woman outside of his marriage, or Jesse Chavis is a grandson of William Chavis/Frances Gibson that William Chavis had custody of.
Since I made my blog post, Heinegg has corrected and updated the information on Jesse Chavis on his website, and now has him listed as a son of William Chavis and Frances Gibson.
Jesse Chavis did father a number of children both inside and outside of his marriages. The first child that I am aware of, is the child Jesse Chavis had with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). They were not married, so their son was named Henry Anderson (1790-1850). Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and so Henry Anderson was raised by his stepfather Darling Bass.
Next Jesse Chavis was involved with a woman named Milly Bass (b. 1772). It is this relationship that I will discuss in more detail below. So let’s move on.
By 1800, Jesse Chavis was married. I have not found a marriage record yet to be able to identify the name of Jesse’s first wife. However with this wife, Jesse Chavis had at least two sons: Redding Chavis (b. 1800) and William Chavis (1801-1854).
On 2 March 1812, Jesse Chavis married a second time to Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Jesse likely became widowed which is why he remarried for a second time. I’m unsure if Jesse Chavis had any children with Nancy Mitchell, but Nancy did raise Jesse’s children born to his first wife.
Unfortunately, no estate records have been located for Jesse Chavis so I don’t have an exact year of his death. We learn from census records, that was deceased by 1840. Estate records would also name his heirs which would definitely help to identify more of his children.
But by examining the records more carefully, I was able to identify the children Jesse Chavis had with Milly Bass!
Willis Bass (b. 1792) and Racey Bass (b. 1790)
In another previous blog post, I corrected the genealogical information on Willis Bass (b. 1792) of Granville County. Genealogist Paul Heinegg incorrectly identified Willis Bass of Granville County as the son of James Bass (b. 1760) of Norfolk Co, VA whose family relocated out to Tennessee. I proved unequivocally through Granville Co apprenticeship records, that Willis Bass (b. 1792) and his sister Racey Bass (b. 1790) never lived in Virginia and instead was born out of wedlock to a woman named Milly Bass. Heinegg has since corrected and updated the information about Willis Bass on his website.
Willis Bass and his sister Racey Bass were both bound out as apprentices in the Granville Co courts. Court minutes provided to me by history professor Dr. Warren Milteer, shows that their mother was named Milly Bass. The court minutes also showed that Milly Bass had married a man named Pearson Hawley. Many of Willis Bass’ descendants later relocated out of the state and filed unsuccessful Eastern Cherokee applications.
But this is where I was stuck. I knew Willis Bass and Racey Bass were siblings and children of a woman named Milly Bass, but who was Milly Bass? Not only was I able to identify Milly Bass, but I was able to identify their previously unknown father: Jesse Chavis.
Milly Bass (b. 1772)
It is important to go back and verify records because you may find mistakes and you may also find connections you did not notice before. This is exactly what happened with Milly Bass. One of the initial clues that helped solve the puzzle was looking at the bastard bond filed against Jesse Chavis in August 1794. I noticed that genealogist Paul Heinegg had incorrectly transcribed the information on the bastard bond. Heinegg had recorded the woman’s name as “Nelly Bass”, not “Milly Bass”. So up until that point, I had thought Jesse Chavis fathered a child with a woman named Nelly Bass.
A genealogist named Betty Camin who sadly passed away in 2007, transcribed the Granville Countyn”bastard bonds”. Here is a link to Betty Camin’s website which contains a lot of important material that she worked on during her career. On her website is a link to an index she created for the Granville Co Bastard Bonds that she transcribed. This is the link here. If you are a Granville County researcher, please make sure to bookmark/save that link because it provides invaluable information. So within Betty Camin’s list, it shows that a woman named “Milly Bass” filed a bastard bond in August 1794 and Benjamin Bass and Absalom Bass provided the sureties for the bond. This is the record that Heinegg was referring to in his research, but the woman’s name was Milly, not Nelly!
The timing of this bastard bond in 1794 fits perfectly into the timing of the Milly Bass we are looking for, who had children born in 1790 and 1792. And the fact that Paul Heinegg had already connected this bastard bond in August 1794 to Jesse Chavis through the court minutes was also consistent with this being our same Milly Bass.
I then went back and looked at Heinegg’s write-up on the Bass family and found that he had identified a woman named Milly Bass who had a child with Jesse Chavis, in which Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass were her sureties in November 1794. There it was, staring at me all along! Willis Bass and Racey Bass were the children of Milly Bass and Jesse Chavis. Their mother had filed bastard bonds to receive support and the children were then bound out as apprentices. It all matched up so perfectly!
Milly Bass (b. 1772) was the apparent daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) of Granville County. I say apparent because there is no direct evidence that names her as a daughter of Benjamin Bass but there are records that strongly infer a relationship. As stated above, Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were Milly Bass’ sureties when she filed a bastard bond. Usually it was very close family members who provided the sureties for unwed mothers. Most often it was a brother of father. Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass Jr are documented sons of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802). It’s possible the Benjamin Bass who provided the bond was actually the father and not the son, but for the time being I’m working under the assumption it was the son. Either way, the bastardy bond records show that Milly Bass was from Absalom and Benjamin Bass’ family.
Milly Bass’ approximate birth year of 1772 is based upon life events and she may in fact be a few years older. Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) is from the Bass family that I blogged about here. Unfortunately estate records have not been located for him, so not all of his children have been all identified.
Paul Heinegg believes that Milly Bass is the same woman called “Mildred Bass” who filed a bastard bond in December 1798 which named Clement Bunch as the father. Milly is a nickname for Mildred, so it’s possible it’s the same woman. It’s conceivable that after having two children with Jesse Chavis, Milly Bass had a child a few years later with Clement Bunch. We know that she then later married Pearson Hawley, so any of these relationships cannot be ruled out so easily. Not much is known about Clement Bunch. He was born around 1770 and can be found in a few Orange Co and Granville Co records. Heinegg suspects he may be a son of Micajah Bunch but there are no documents to link the two men.
I have not found a marriage record for Milly Bass and Pearson Hawley but they were married by May 1798, when the court minutes identified her as a wife of Pearson Hawley. So it doesn’t seem likely to me that she was the same woman named “Mildred Bass” who a few months later in December 1798 filed a bastard bond against Clement Bunch. But I cannot rule it out as well, so we need more information.
In the 1800 census for Granville County, Pearson Hawley can be found as a head of a household of 5 people. The census doesn’t give us the age and gender of the members of his household. But one could infer that the household included children, so it’s quite reasonable that Milly Bass had children with Pearson Hawley. Not much more is known about Pearson Hawley because that is the last time he appears in the census.
A Family Reunited
Even though we still have some lingering questions, I feel confident that we have correctly identified two additional children for Jesse Chavis and that we have successfully identified who Milly Bass was. For the many living descendants of Willis Bass (b. 1792), this update should be a welcome addition, so they know exactly where they fit in the large Bass family tree. Descendants of Jesse Chavis (through his son Henry Anderson) and descendants of Willis Bass have taken DNA tests and they do show as close cousin matches, confirming that paper trail that we have discussed above is correct.
Newspaper articles have the added bonus of providing a more intimate look at the ancestor you are researching. Local newspapers especially provide an important social context that allows you to better understand the society your ancestor was apart of. This is why newspaper archives are among my favorite sources to utilize when doing genealogical research.
In this blog post, I offer a couple of examples of what can be found in the newspaper archives. Our ancestors were most commonly classified in census and vital records with racially ambiguous terms whose definitions changed with time and location, such as “free colored”, “mulatto”, “black”, and “negro”. In a previous blogpost, I discuss the writings of local historian Oscar Blacknall who interchangeably used the terms “free negro” and “Indian” to describe the people in our community. Similar to Blacknall’s essays, we see that these newspaper articles reveal a lot more about how society racially classified our ancestors.
From the 12 May 1905 edition of the Warren Record in Warren County, NC, is an obituary for a man named Tom Richardson who died at the age of 70 years. In the obituary, Richardson is described as being “7/8 Indian and 1/8 Negro”. How this blood quantum was calculated is unknown to me. However what we can infer from this description is that Tom Richardson was known a person who mostly “Indian” and some part “Negro”.
The Tom Richardson (1841-1905) named in this obituary is the same man commonly known as Tom Snake Richardson and Tom Hardy Richardson. He was the son of Rheese Richardson (b. 1813) and Emily Richardson (b. 1820). Rheese Richardson was the son of John Richardson (b. 1770) and Sarah Bass (b. 1777). Emily Richardson was the daughter of Hardy Richardson (1788-1855) and Dorcas Boone (1794-1871). John Richardson and Hardy Richardson were half brothers, both sons of Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Benjamin Richardson is the main Richardson progenitor of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Sarah Bass is from the Bass family I blogged about here. And Dorcas Boone is from the Boone family I blogged about here. (Tom Richardson is also the second cousin of my great-great grandmother Virginia Richardson)
Even though Tom Richardson was known as an “Indian”, in the census he is recorded as “mulatto” from 1850-1880. And in the 1900 census he was recorded as “black”, likely because “mulatto” was removed from the census that year. Tom Richardson is also listed as “colored” in his marriage records. How Tom Richardson was racially classified in the census and vital records holds true for the next two men I discuss below.
This newspaper article I find quite interesting because it uses three different racial terms to describe C.D. Burnett. From the 19 April 1910 edition of the Raleigh Times, we read that a man named C.D. Burnett was held a on a serious charge. We don’t learn exactly why he’s being charged but that there was a rumor that he confessed to killing a white man. The article describes Burnett as a “half breed Indian, but passing for colored”. Though it appears the author of the article is making a distinction between “Indian” and “colored”, the author later contradicts himself. At the end of the article, we read that Burnett, “a negro appears to be from Orange county”. So even though the author states at the begging of the article that Burnett was an Indian, he later describes him with a different racial term – “negro”.
Charles D Burnett (1894-1965) was the son of William Burnett (1876-1938) and Roxanna Hester of Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. William Burnett was the son of Thaddeus Burnett (1853-1917) and Betsey Liggins (b. 1855). His family can be found among the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
In this 27 Jan 1873 newspaper article, we read that Jesse Archer (“Arche”) was captured after stabbing another person. Jesse Archer is referred to as an “Indian mixed mulatto”. “Mulatto” infers that someone has a mixed race background and the article specifies that Indian is included in the mixture. But we don’t know what Jesse’s Indian background is mixed with.
Jesse Archer (b. 1840) was from Orange Co, NC and was the son of Stephen and Lydia Archer (Lydia’s maiden name is unknown). Stephen Archer (b. 1815) was the son of Jesse Archer (1780-1855) and Patsy Haithcock (b. 1775). Jesse Archer never married and had no children that I know of, but his closest living relatives can be found among the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
The next two articles mention “half breed Indian” women but do not give us their names so I’m unable to identify them. However the articles are interesting and definitely illustrate that Indian people were known and living in these areas.
From the 15 June 1912 edition of the Oxford Public Ledger in Granville Co, we read that there is a “half-bred Indian woman” living in Hunt Woods and is to blame for a series of late night shootings. Hunt Woods lies on the southeastern outskirts of the city limits of Oxford, heading towards the Fishing Creek township. The Native American community in Granville Co was centered in Fishing Creek and then spread out in various directions, including towards the city of Oxford. Is there a connection between the “half bred Indian woman” in Hunt Woods and the Native American community? I cannot say, but it’ is something to look into.
In this 24 June 1871 article from the Semi-Weekly Raleigh Sentinel, we read that a “half breed Indian woman” who resides in Caswell County is 100 years old. The article celebrates her age but fails to mention her name, so I have no way of verifying who she is.
So these are just a couple of examples that illustrate the point that it is imperative to dig deeper beyond the census and vital records, to learn more about your ancestors. The information contained in the newspaper archives may be the missing link you need to take your research a step further.
During the Reconstruction era, two orphanages were built in Granville County within a few miles of each other. In 1873, the “Oxford Orphans Asylum”, today known as the “Masonic Home for Children”, was established in the town of Oxford, to house and educate orphaned and less fortunate children. The orphanage however was only for white children. Children of color were not admitted into the school which left them without proper care. In 1883, concerned citizens of color in the Granville County area helped to establish the “Grant Colored Asylum” with the help of Congressional funding. Just outside of the town limits of Oxford next to Fishing Creek township, is where the orphanage was built. It went through numerous name changes over the years and today is known as the “Central Children’s Home of North Carolina”. In this blog post, I will discuss the close relationship between families of the Native American community in Granville and the Colored Orphanage, including a set of Cherokee twin boys who were sent to the orphanage and then adopted into the community.
Orphaned Children Before Orphanages
Before the establishment of the two local orphanages, most orphaned and less fortunate children were typically “apprenticed out” (also called “bound out”) by the county court. This process involved sending a child to live in the home of a family where that child would be housed, fed and taught to read and write. In exchange, that child was taught a trade and used those services to work for the family until a specified age (typically 21 years of age). Boys were often taught the trade of being a planter, blacksmith, or carpenter and girls were often taught the trade of being a domestic. Free children of color were commonly apprenticed out and throughout the blog posts on this site, I have used apprenticeship records as primary source records to establish genealogical connections. And it was not only just orphaned children who were apprenticed out. Free children of color born out of wedlock (in those days they commonly used the phrase “base born child”) were typically apprenticed out if the mother could not properly provide for the child.
The apprenticeship system was quite common starting in the colonial era and officially came to an end in North Carolina in 1913. But I have noticed that for Granville County, the Reconstruction Era saw a rapid decline in the apprenticeship system and this created a need to house orphaned and less fortunate children. We also have to remember too that before the Civil War, enslaved children were the property of their slave owners, so it was not the county’s responsibility to house enslaved children. But after emancipation, there was a sudden jump in the orphaned population due to the high number of orphaned children who were emancipated. This growing and urgent need to address this crisis is what lead to the establishment of the first iteration of the Colored Orphanage called the “Grant Colored Asylum”.
Establishment of the Colored Orphanage
Reverend Dr. Augustus Shepard (1846-1911), a concerned local African-American resident of Raleigh, presented the idea of establishing an orphanage as a way to allieviate the growing orphan crisis. With the assistance of Henry Plummer Cheatham (1857-1935) who was a local African American politician from the town of Henderson, they secured Congressional funding to establish the Grant Colored Asylum. For $1,565, 23 acres of farm land just south of Oxford was purchased to house the new orphanage.
Historian Dr. Bernetta McGhee White has written about the history of the orphanage and you can read some of her research here. Dr. White cites an unknown author who wrote the following about the founding of the orphanage which helps us identify additional key players:
The colored orphanage association was formed in August, 1882, in Henderson, North Carolina, by members of the Shiloh and Wake Associations [of the Baptist denomination]. The idea was presented by Dr. Augustus SHEPARD who noticed in his travels throughout the state that there was a large number of homeless and neglected children.
In October, 1883, a farm of twenty-three acres, located one and one-half miles from Oxford, on the Raleigh Road, was obtained… The orphanage was named the ‘Grant Colored Asylum.’
The ‘Grant Colored Asylum’ ceased to exist in 1887 when the ‘Colored Orphan Asylum of North Carolina’ was incorporated. The members of the board were Rev. Augustus SHEPARD, Rev. Joshua PERRY, Rev. M. A. PATILLO, Rev. Isaac ALSTON, Rev. J. W. LEVY, Mr. M. T. THORNTON, Mr. H. E. LONG, Mr. Henry LESTER, and the Honorable H. P. CHEATHAM.
The orphanage was incorporated as a non-denominational institution to receive children deprived of their parents and means of support, and to train them along religious, moral and industrial lines in order to fit them for useful, law-abiding citizen[ship].
The first superintendent of the ‘Grant Orphanage’ was Rev. Joshua PERRY. Rev. W. A. PATILLO was named General Agent. The Rev. PERRY served for one year and was succeeded by Miss Bessie HOCKIN, a Canadian woman who not only served without pay, but also donated her furniture to the orphanage… During this time Mr. Henry HESTER, of Oxford, volunteered to pay all bills contracted in providing food for the orphans. Mr. HESTER acted as treasurer of the orphanage until his death in 1901.
Rev. W. A. PATILLO served as Superintendent for the year 1886-87. It was during his administration that Mrs. Adline COGWELL became connected with the institution as matron. Mrs. COGWELL not only received no pay, but worked to help support the children of the institution.
In 1887, the board of directors elected Rev. Robert SHEPARD superintendent without promise of remuneration. Rev. M. C. RANSOM gave board to the new superintendent until a three room house could be enlarged. The enlarged building served as the superintendent’s home, boys dormitory, dining room and kitchen. A few years later a girls dormitory was built, and near it a laundry building was built.
As you can read from the above text, among the founding board members was Reverend James W Levy (1852-1936) of the Native American community. I previously blogged about the Levy family here and did mention Rev. Levy’s connection to the orphanage. Levy served on the board of the orphanage for most of his life.
Miss Bessie Hockin of Nova Scotia, Canada
I would like to take a moment to discuss a woman who played a very important role in the foundation of the orphanage. Bessie Hockin (1850-1925) was not a local woman, but was rather a white woman from Nova Scotia, Canada who came to Granville County to assist in the Reconstruction efforts. She actually served as Superintendent of the orphanage in its very early years. Because she was a missionary, she refused to be paid for her services and instead donated her time and possessions to the orphanage.
Bessie Hockin continued to live right in community in Fishing Creek township and must have been a beloved neighbor. When my great-great grandfather James E Howell (1840-1912) remarried in 1887, Bessie Hockin was a witness to the wedding as documented on the marriage certificate:
Bessie Hockin continued to live in and work for the community until her death in 1925. Her estate specified that her personal property was to be turned over to the Colored Orphanage.
The Colored Orphanage and the Native American Community in Fishing Creek
It is important to remember that the orphanage was built a very short distance from the tight cluster of Native American families that had been living in Fishing Creek township since the days of William Chavis (1709-1777). (See this blog post about historian Oscar W. Blacknall who wrote about the Native American community in Fishing Creek). Because of this close proximity, these families were able to assist the orphanage by donating services and goods.
The annual Board of Directors reports for the Colored Orphanage are digitized on UNC’s “Documenting the American South” website found here. The board reports have also been transcribed so that you can search by keyword for text in the document. The reports offer an interesting insight into the daily operations of the orphanage. What is especially interesting to see is which individuals and organizations donated to the orphanage.
For the 1909/1910 report, we learn a group of individuals helped to transport building materials to the orphanage:
One of the strong tokens and indications that we are to have continued success in our effort to build up and maintain the home is the kindly sympathy and approval of our neighbors both in the country and in the city of Oxford on the part of both races. There is not a business man or firm in the city of Oxford who has ever denied us a favor when it was in his power to grant it. One of the most pleasing and encouraging things I have ever seen here was to behold during the month of last August the big Christian-hearted friends of this community, Messrs. Robert Glover, Sam Morton, Sidney Taylor, John A. Kittrell, Jas. E. Howell, Andrew Howell, Davie McGhee, Jas. A. Howell, J. Thomas Tyler, H. Howard and others in line with their one and two-horse wagons hauling brick from our brick-yard to the new building without any charge whatever, and without their most timely and valuable help just at that time we could not have so successfully managed our farm, as this, was in the heart of the busy farming season of the year.
I underlined the names of four individuals listed above who were part of the Native American community. James E Howell (1840-1913) I already mentioned was my great-great grandfather. His first cousin was James A Howell (1846-1934). The middle initials are important to distinguish between the two men since they were first cousins, close in age, and lived on adjoining properties. Andrew Howell (1876-1951) was James A Howell’s son. And J(ohn) Thomas Tyler (1862-1943) was a cousin to the Howells. Tyler’s son George Huley Tyler was married to Bessie Levy, daughter of Reverend James W Levy who was on the board of the directors of the orphanage. All four men were farmers who owned extremely large plots of land and thus had large equipment at their disposal to help the orphanage.
Orphaned Children in the Community
Finally I would like to discuss something else that many Native American families in Fishing Creek did to assist with the orphanage and that is actually bringing home orphaned children to raise them. In the census records, you will occasionally see children who are non-family members listed in the household as a “lodger”. Sometimes these children are actually listed as “adopted child” though they usually were not legally adopted. How and why some children were selected to go live with families in the community is not clear to me. The 1890 census is destroyed, so the 1900 census is the first census after the establishment of the orphanage.
In the 1910 census I found my great-great grandfather James E Howell enumerated with his second wife Mary E (McGlemdon) Howell and with an “adopted son” named Arthur Bryant, age 13. As far as I know, Arthur was not from our family so he most likely came from the Colored Orphanage.
Another interesting example comes from my great-great grandfather’s first cousin James A Howell. James adopted twin brothers Samuel Donald (1885-1960) and David Donald (1885-1951) who were Cherokee Indians from the far Western part of the state in Asheville. In the 1900 census they are shown living in his household:
Samuel Donald’s great-grandson Christopher Williams located the twins’ orphanage records which clarify how they became orphaned and when they were sent to the orphanage. Unfortunately their parents’ names are not listed and that is something we are still researching:
Record of Children Received into the Colored Orphan Asylum
Name: David Donald from the town of Asheville, County of Buncombe
Admitted: November 1892; Born [blank]; Age when admitted: 6 years 6 months
Father’s name: [blank], member of [blank] Church
Mother’s name: [blank], member of [blank] Church
If one or both parents are dead, so state: Father died 1885, Mother died 1886
State cause of death, if possible: [blank]
Application made by: Eliza Donald (sister); Approved by: C.G. Aston
Recommended by: [blank]
Description: Light in color, Slight in form
Character: Good character generally, though mischievous
History: These two boys twin brothers were adopted in 18[blank] by James Howell, Fishing Creek, Granville Co. where they remained until of age giving great satisfaction. They both went to Salisbury, but the health of Samuel failing. He returned to Jas. Howell and at this date in 1907 is still with him. David is foreman for some white man in Salisbury and giving satisfaction. Samuel now married.
So from the above records we learn the twin boys were orphaned when they were infants and were admitted to the Colored Orphanage in November 1892. Sometime in the 1890s, James Howell adopted the boys where they were raised in his home. David Donald moved away to Salisbury, NC where he married and had children. He remained in Salisbury until his death in 1951.
Samuel Donald remained in Fishing Creek and married the great niece of his “adopted” father named Mamie Anderson (1891-1965) who was the daughter of Herbert Junius Anderson and Nancy Howell.
The Lost Creek Settlement in Vigo County, Indiana is a settlement of mixed Native American, African American, and European American families who in part descend from Granville County. I recently assisted a woman whose family descends from the Andersons of the Lost Creek settlement make the connection back to the Andersons of Granville County. While doing this research I found many family trees on Ancestry that seemed to be having difficulty making the correct Anderson connection from the Lost Creek settlement to Granville County. So in this blog post I will properly outline and document that connection.
The Lost Creek Settlement, A Native American Descendants Association
James Shepard is the the webmaster and a descendant of the Lost Creek Settlement. Here is some background information:
Lost Creek Community Grove
The Lost Creek Settlement was a community established prior to 1860, by “free people of color” from the southeastern American states. The largest migration from North Carolina to Indiana occurred between the late 1820’s thru 1840. Those pioneers settled within the Vigo County, Indiana townships of Lost Creek, Otter Creek, Nevins, and Linton. The Linton community became known as the Underwood Settlement. Almost all of these pioneers were an admixture of European and Native American. Others were an admixture of European and African, and some were a mixture of all three. Descendants of these settlers, who have verified their Native American ancestry via DNA testing, are the families of: Allen, Anderson, Bass, Batton, Cooper, Harris, Manuel, Norton, Russell, Shepard, Tyler, and Underwood.
From Norfolk, VA to Granville Co, NC
I previously blogged about the origins of Anderson family here and it is a worthwhile read to learn more about the early origins of the family. The Lost Creek branch of the Anderson family begins with an earliest known ancestor named George Anderson (1696-1771). In 1712, George Anderson and his Anderson family were freed as ordered by the will of John Fulcher, their deceased slave owner. Fulcher lived in Norfolk Co, VA and was a neighbor to and had land transactions with the Nansemond Bass family. The freed Andersons and the Basses subsequently intermarried.
The wife of George Anderson was a woman named Mary but her maiden name is unknown. Given the high frequency of Anderson and Bass marriages, it’s quite probable she was a Bass. The first land transaction recorded for George Anderson was on 13 Jan 1738 for 260 acres on Bear Swamp that he bought from John Bass ( 1700-1777) in what was then Bertie Co, NC and later became Northampton Co, NC. George Anderson’s wife Mary may have been John Bass’ sister. John Bass did in fact have a sister named Mary Bass who was identified in their father John Bass Sr’s 1732 will.
In 1745, George Anderson sold his Northampton Co, NC land and settled in Granville Co, NC by 1746. From the Granville Co tax lists and from George Anderson’s will we know the names of his children. Jeremiah Anderson (1740-1793) was identified as George’s son in the 1752 tax list. In 1762, Jeremiah Anderson purchased 200 acres of land from his father George Anderson in Granville Co. And in George Anderson’s 1771 will, Jeremiah Anderson inherited only 1 shilling from his father.
Jeremiah Anderson (1740-1793) Moves Back to Northampton Co
In 1764 Jeremiah Anderson was a tithable in Granville Co and his wife was listed as Margaret. It’s possible she was from the Mitchell family because David Mitchell (1744-1784) was listed a tithable in Jeremiah’s household. By 1780, Jeremiah Anderson left Granville Co and returned to Northampton Co,NC where his father George Anderson had previously lived. This was an unusual move because most of the Andersons who came to Granville stayed in Granville or left for land further west. By the end of his life, Jeremiah Anderson had remarried to a woman named Millie. He was deceased by 1794 when his widow Millie Anderson and son George Anderson sold his Northampton Co, NC land.
So from the 1794 land transaction we know that Jeremiah Anderson had a son named George Anderson (b. 1770). For reasons not known to me, George Anderson left Northampton Co, NC and relocated out to Richmond Co, NC. In the 1820 census he is the head of a household of 10 “free colored” people in Richmond Co, NC. In the 1830 census George is the head of a household of 10 “free colored” people in neighboring Montgomery Co, NC.
I haven’t been able to locate any marriage records for this George Anderson. However according to the 14 Mar 1882 Vigo Co, IN marriage record of George Anderson’s son John Anderson (b. 1815), George Anderson’s wife was Morning Taborn. This certainly makes sense because the Taborn family are a large Native American/”free colored” family that lived in Northampton Co and intermarried with other families such as the Allens, Manleys, Birds, and Haithcocks. William Taborn (1758-1835) moved from Northampton Co, NC to Granville Co in the 1770s and is the main progenitor of the Taborns of Granville’s Native American community. I haven’t been able to verify Morning Taborn’s parents yet, but she is most likely closely related to William Taborn’s brothers who remained in Northampton Co: Nathan Taborn (1760-1833), Allen Taborn (b. 1763), Isaac Taborn (b. 1768), and Wyatt Taborn (b. 1775).
I have noticed that a number of family trees on Ancestry have confused this George Anderson (b. 1770) of Richmond/Montgomery Co, NC who is the father of the Andersons who relocated to the Lost Creek settlement in Indiana for a different George Anderson (b. 1776) of Granville Co, NC. The latter George Anderson (b. 1776) of Granville Co, NC was the son of Lewis Anderson and Winnie Bass and was married to Sarah Evans. He and his children for the most part remained in Granville Co, NC and were not the Andersons that relocated to the Lost Creek settlement in Indiana.
So to repeat, the George Anderson who was the father of the Andersons who relocated to the Lost Creek Settlement in Vigo Co, IN is not the same George Anderson of Granville Co who was married to Sarah Evans. Please make sure you have the correct George Anderson identified in your family tree.
The Andersons Arrive at the Lost Creek Settlement in Vigo Co, IN
We can tell from the 1820 and 1830 census records that George Anderson (b. 1770) and wife Morning Taborn had a large family. I have been able to identify a number of George Anderson’s children and they all appear to have relocated to the Lost Creek Settlement in Indiana by the 1830s. The following is a summary of George Anderson’s children:
1. Jordan Anderson (b. 1799) was married to Elizabeth Jackson. By 1830 he was the head of a household of 7 “free colored” people in Orange Co, IN and was counted in the 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses for Vigo Co, IN.
2. Jeremiah Anderson (1805-1889) was married to Rhoda Underwood. In 1830 he was the head of a household of 6 “free colored ” people in Richmond Co, NC. And from 1840 through 1880 he was counted in the Vigo Co, In censuses.
3.David Anderson (1807-1868) was married to an Elizabeth with some family trees claiming her maiden name is Shad and other claiming her maiden was is Jackson. I cannot find direct evidence of either. David Anderson was enumerated in the 1840, 1850, and 1860 censuses of Vigo Co, IN.
4. Abel Anderson (b. 1808) was married to Jane Roberts in Orange Co, IN in 1832. He was counted in the 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses in Vigo Co, IN.
5. Lewis Anderson (b. 1812) was married to Mary Green and was counted in the 1840 and 1850 censuses in Vigo Co, IN.
6. John Anderson (b. 1815) was married to Nancy Patterson in 1840 in Vigo Co, IN. He was enumerated in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Edwards Co, IL. In 1870 and 18880 he was enumerated back in Vigo Co, IN. He married for a second time to Margaret Riley 1882 in Vigo Co, IN. It is this marriage record that identifies George Anderson’s wife as Morning Taborn.
I have a major update and correction to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. This is a big breakthrough for Chavis, Gibson, and Granville County researchers. And what I will discuss below is a major correction to the genealogy that researcher Paul Heinegg has provided for Jesse Chavis. As I’ve shown in other blog posts, researchers sometimes conflate the records of multiple people who happen to share the same name into a single person. I can confirm that Jesse Chavis of Granville County was NOT the son of Elizabeth Chavis of Amelia and Mecklenburg Counties, VA. Instead Jesse Chavis was from the family of Granville community founders William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson.
The Wrong Jesse Chavis
In his section on the Chavis family, Paul Heinegg wrote about a woman named Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) who lived in southside Virginia and was the mother of several children born out of wedlock. On 13 November 1769, Elizabeth Chavis had a son named Jesse Chavis who was bound out. No other information is provided as to what happened to Jesse Chavis after he was bound out. As you can see from the text above, no additional records are provided on this Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County. What Heinegg then does is assume that a Jesse Chavis who appears in the Granville County records is the same Jesse Chavis who was bound out in Mecklenburg County. This is not an unfair assumption to make because Mecklenburg County shares an important border with Granville County and many of the Native families in Granville that I have discussed came from Mecklenburg. However Heinegg provides no records to demonstrate that the Jesse Chavises are indeed the same person. In the following sections, I will examine the records of Jesse Chavis more closely and present some new records that I found which help to sort out this mix up.
The Family of William Chavis (1709-1777)
I have referenced William Chavis (1709-1777) many times in previous blog posts though I have yet to write a full blog solely dedicated to him. The reason for this is that I’m still gathering and analyzing records related to William Chavis. He is such an important ancestor not only for Granville County but for other Native communities as well, so I want to make sure I get it right.
William Chavis was the original land owner of a massive, continuous tract of land that he likely received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville in the 1740s. Local Granville/Vance County historian Oscar W. Blacknall(1852-1918) wrote about the Native American identity of William Chavis and his massive land holdings which I previously discussed here. It is the Chavis land tract that provided the original land base for the Native community. William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson(1700-1780),who was the daughter of Gibby Gibson (1660-1727) originally from the Charles City County, VA area. Before marrying William Chavis, Frances Gibson had a son named John Smith.
Perhaps most importantly, William Chavis was part of a group of Saponi Indians who were documented several times in the colonial records in the 1750s and 1760s, living in Granville County next to the land of Indian trader Col. William Eaton. I have previously blogged about these records here and here. I can’t stress enough how important this documentation is for establishing that not only were these individuals identified as Saponi, but they were collectively identified as a recognized Saponi Nation. These were not random individuals living together who just happened to be Native Americans. These were individuals that were deeply connected through a shared national identity. And these documents are from the 1750s/1760s which is many decades after the closure of Fort Christanna located in Brunswick County, VA which was the site of the Saponi reservation that the colony established.
Together William Chavis and Frances Gibson had the following children (birth dates are approximations):
1. Phillip Chavis(b. 1726)– executor of his father William Chavis’ estate and sold what was left of his father’s land. Philip moved around a lot between North Carolina and South Carolina, eventually settling in Bladen Co (later Robeson Co). He is the common ancestor of the Chavises of the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora of Robeson County.
2. Sarah Chavis(1730-1785)– married to Edward Harris and received a parcel of her father William Chavis’ land which her children later sold. Many of Sarah’s descendants remained in Granville and Wake Counties. Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris were also my 6th great-grandparents.
3. Gibby/Gideon Chavis (1737-1777)– namesake of Gibbs Creek in Granville/Vance Co off of the Tar River. He was married to Ann Priddy and because he died somewhat young (according to historian O.W. Blacknall, he was killed as a result of a horse race), his three children were looked after by his widow’s family. One of his sons named William Chavis eventually moved away by 1785 to South Carolina or Georgia (according to a letter written to the British Claims Commission). Heinegg guesses but does not firmly assert that Gibby’s son William Chavis married Sarah Kersey in 1790 and lived in Wake Co but this is not correct. After William Chavis sold his father Gibby Chavis’ land in 1785, he moved out of state.
4. William Chavis Jr (b. 1741)– was married to a woman named Ellender (maiden name not known) and by the 1780s, relocated down to Bladen (Robeson ) Co with his brother Philip Chavis. It is unknown if he had any surviving children.
5. Lettice Chavis(1742-1814)– was married to Aquilla Snelling and their descendants are mostly found in neighboring Wake Co and some relocated to Tennessee and Kentucky.
6. Keziah Chavis(b. 1742) – was married to Asa Tyner. Asa Tyner and his father-in-law William Chavis had a very tumultuous relationship which will be discussed in more detail below. Keziah’s descendants remained in Granville Co and many later moved out to Stokes/Forsyth Cos, NC.
7. Fanny Chavis – she appears on a tax list in her father William Chavis’ household in 1761 but nothing is known about her after that and she is not named in William Chavis’ estate papers.
Because William Chavis was a substantial land owner, tax payer, and had a close relationship with Indian trader Col. William Eaton, his children are well documented since they all at some point owned parcels of their father’s land and/or appear in his estate papers.
Newly Discovered Records for Jesse Chavis
William Chavis died in 1777 and his estate papers are digitized and available on Ancestry.com. Please be aware that the index for Ancestry’s North Carolina Wills and Probate collection is not so accurate, so the stop and end points of folders are not indexed properly and there are pages from different folders mixed in together. William Chavis’ estate papers are a necessary read if you are a William Chavis descendant and/or researcher. Heinegg only makes brief references to the content of the estate papers and so they are definitely worth a look because you will learn a lot more.
So while I was reviewing William Chavis’ estate papers, I came across a very interesting page. It was a court order from 5 February 1777 that called for several people to report to court to settle William Chavis’ will. The following people are named to report to court: Frances Chavers (William Chavis’ widow), Phillip Chavers (William Chavis’ son and executor of the estate), Anna Chavers (I’m not yet sure who she is), Joseph Hill, John Nevil, William Mills, John Kittrell, William Ashley, and Major Evans (from the Native America/”free colored” Evans family who intermarried and had several land transactions with the Chavises). And scribbled in between these names is a “Jesse Chavers”. (Chavers is another common spelling of Chavis).
The court order does not specify Jesse Chavis’ relationship with the deceased William Chavis but I found another page in the estate files that does help clarify. William Chavis owned a lot of land and property, so it took a number of years to finally settle his estate. His widow Frances (Gibson) Chavis died in 1780 which likely added to the complications of William Chavis’ estate. A page dated 9 Aug 1780 named Jesse Chavis as an orphan of William Chavis, deceased, and ordered that Jesse Chavis be bound out to Thomas Person until the age of 21 years.
Perhaps the reason why Jesse Chavis was not originally bound out in 1777/78 when William Chavis died was that Frances (Gibson) Chavis was still living and was financially secure from her husband’s estate to raise Jesse. But when Frances died in 1780, Jesse Chavis was truly orphaned.
However, with that said, I don’t believe that Jesse Chavis was William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son despite being called their “orphan”. For one, Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s since he was still a minor in 1780. Frances was born around 1700, making her too old to give birth in the 1760s. And second, in the many estate records dealing with transfer of land ownership and with companies attempting to collect outstanding debts from William Chavis’ estate, Jesse is never mentioned as a son to potentially collect debt from. William Chavis’ sons are consistently listed as Phillip, Gibson, and William Jr.
So if Jesse Chavis was not William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son, then what was his relationship? I believe the most likely scenario is that he was their grandson that they were raising. I’m not 100% certain which of William Chavis’ children was Jesse Chavis’ parent, but we can definitely eliminate a few. Again, keep in mind that Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s and based on other biographical information discussed later, I have estimated his birth at around 1766.
Phillip Chavis was married to wife Celia before Jesse was born, was living in Bladen County and then South Carolina around the time of Jesse’s birth, and lived long past his father William’s death, so he’s not a candidate.
Sarah Chavis was married to Edward Harris by about 1750, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Gibby/Gideon Chavis died in 1777, however Gibby’s children were named in their maternal grandfather Robert Priddy’s will. Gibby’s own will which was written in 1777 only names one son named William, so we can rule him out.
William Chavis Jr moved down to the Bladen (Robeson) Co area in the 1770s and lived long after his father died, so he doesn’t seem to be a possibility.
Lettice Chavis was married to Aquilla Snelling by 1761 and her children are named in her will, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Keziah Chavis was married to Asa Tyner in 1766 (according to tax lists and testimony from William Chavis’ estate papers). If Jesse was born before Keziah Chavis married Asa Tyner, then it is a possibility. I will explore this some more below.
And finally there is Fanny Chavis who we know very little about because she only appears in a tax list once in 1761 and no additional records for her. It’s quite possible she was Jesse’s mother and she died a short time after, thus Jesse’s grandparents raised him.
Mixed in with William Chavis’ estate papers, I found a sworn deposition provided by Joshua Hunt on 9 August 1780. Mr. Hunt was a witness to a proposed marriage contract some 15 years earlier between William Chavis and his future son-in-law Asa Tyner. It appears Asa Tyner never received his payments from William Chavis and sued the estate to be fully compensated. According to Joshua Hunt, William Chavis offered Asa Tyner: 500 £, two slaves (“Dick” and “Dilcie”), 644 acres of land that included two plantations, a large quantity of cattle and hogs, and an assortment of household items if he married William’s daughter Keziah Chavis.
Offering a dowry to marry off a daughter was certainly not unheard of for this time period, but that is quite a lot to offer to pay. I don’t know if William Chavis made similar offers to his other son-in-laws such as Edward Harris or Aquilla Snelling. So this leaves me wondering why he offered so much? Could it be that Keziah Chavis was already an unwed mother to Jesse Chavis, so William had to offer more to persuade Asa Tyner to marry her? We also know from court records that Heinegg provided, that when William Chavis was still living, he and Asa Tyner were involved in a number of legal disputes. So it appears they had a hostile relationship and some of it may stem from William Chavis never fully compensating Asa Tyner for marrying Keziah.
So at this time, my best leads are that Jesse Chavis was a son of either Fanny Chavis or Keziah Chavis. Hopefully additional research will clarify exactly who Jesse’s parents were.
Jesse Chavis and His Family
Let’s continue reviewing the additional records that Heinegg provided for Jesse Chavis and you will see they are consistent with him being from William Chavis’ family. In 1787, Jesse Chavis was a tithable in Hugh Snelling’s Granville County household. 1787 is also the year that Jesse Chavis was 21 years old, so his indenture to Thomas Person was over. Hugh Snelling was a grandson of William Chavis through his daughter Lettice Chavis and her husband Aquilla Snelling. Aquilla Snelling was deceased by 1779, so oldest son Hugh Snelling acquired most of his parent’s possessions. Hugh was a substantial land owner in Granville County and it makes sense that Jesse Chavis would reside with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. This is yet another confirmation that the Jesse Chavis of Granville County was not the same Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County.
By 1790, Jesse Chavis was the head of his own household in the Fishing Creek district of Granville County. Fishing Creek was the heart of the Native community and the location of most of William Chavis’ family and their land holdings. In August 1794, Jesse Chavis was charged with having an “illegitimate child” with Nelly Bass.Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were his securities for the “bastard bond”. Nelly, Absalom and Benjamin were from the Native American/”free colored” Bass family that I previously blogged about here. Absalom and Benjamin were brothers and Nelly was likely their sister or niece which is why they were the sureties for the bond. I don’t know the name or gender of the child that Jesse Chavis had with Nelly Bass or what happened with that child.
In his Jesse Chavis discussion, Heinegg included a record from 8 April 1798 which states a Jesse Chavis of Petersburg sold 8 heads of cattle in Granville County. This is most likely a different Jesse Chavis, perhaps the one living in Mecklenburg Co or yet another Jesse Chavis that was contemporary to one we are discussing. The fact that the record says this Jesse Chavis was of Petersburg, indicates that he was not local and instead was from Petersburg and came to Granville County to sell cattle.
In the 1790s, Jesse Chavis also fathered an “illegitimate child” with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). The name of that child was Henry Anderson (1790-1850). We know this because Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and Darling’s will makes mention of his step-son Henry Anderson. Rhody Anderson was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr(1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Winnie Bass was a sister of Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass discussed above and Lewis Anderson Jr. was from the Anderson family that I blogged about here.
Jesse Chavis was a tithable in 1802 and appears in the Granville County census in 1810, 1820, and 1830. His 1810 household included 6 people which would indicate that by 1810 Jesse was married and had several children (the 1810 census does not provide age and sex of household members). In 1820, Jesse is listed in the Fishing Creek district and is the head of a household of 8 people. In this census we can see the age and gender breakdown of the household and it appears to include Jesse, 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls ages 14 and under), and 3 women in the same age range as Jesse. One woman is likely a wife but I’m unsure who the other 2 women are. Perhaps siblings or in-laws or even a mistake by the enumerator.
In 1830, Jesse Chavis is the head of a household of 5 people (Ancestry has this incorrectly indexed as 15 people). The household looks to include Jesse (age 55 or over), a wife (female age 55 or over), two adult sons (one age 24-36 age, one age 36-55), and a daughter (age 10-24). Though the 1830 census did not name districts, I know from looking at Jesse Chavis’ neighbors that he was still in Fishing Creek. In fact he is listed two households over from my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Sherwood Harris (who was the son of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris) and Jesse Chavis were first cousins.
1830 is the last census that Jesse Chavis appears in, so he died sometime before the 1840 census. I do not have a precise date of his death and have not located a will or estate papers for him.
We do know that Jesse Chavis was married at least once. On 2 May 1812, he married Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Interestingly, Darling Bass was the bondsman for the marriage, so Jesse appears to have been on good terms with his son Henry Anderson’s step-father. Nancy Mitchell was the wife living in Jesse’s household in the 1820 and 1830 censuses, but she couldn’t have been with him in the 1810 census as that was before they were married in 1812. Recall that the 1810 census included 6 individuals in the household, so Jesse Chavis was most likely married before Nancy Mitchell and had children with that wife. I have not located any other marriage records for Jesse, so I don’t know the identity of this first wife.
I did find Jesse’s widow Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in the Beaver Dam district in Granville County. Beaver Dam is right below Fishing Creek, on the other side of the Tar River and was a location that some of the Fishing Creek community members moved into, including other descendants of William Chavis.
In the 1850 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown living with a Redding Chavis, age 49 years and a married couple – Benjamin Anderson age 60 and Franky Anderson age 52. Redding Chavis was Jesse Chavis’ son from his first unknown wife since he was born in 1801, which is before the 1812 marriage date with second wife Nancy Mitchell. Franky Anderson’s maiden name was Franky Mitchell and she was Nancy Mitchell’s daughter from before marrying Jesse Chavis. In the 1830 census, Franky Mitchell’s husband Benjamin Anderson is also shown only living two households away from Jesse Chavis. Benjamin Anderson was also the younger brother of Rhody Anderson, the woman who Jesse Chavis had a child with.
In the 1860 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown again living with her step-son Redding Chavis in Beaver Dam district in Granville Co. That is the last time she appears in the census, so she died sometime before 1870. Redding Chavis was never married but he did father a child with Fanny Harris b. 1815 named Emily Harris (1834-1907). Fanny Harris was also a descendant of William Chavis, and in fact Redding Chavis and Fanny Harris were second cousins. Emily Harris married Thomas Evans(1827-1911) and their family like many other Saponi families from Granville County, relocated to Ohio and later Michigan where the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation are today.
So to recap, Jesse Chavis was from the family of William Chavis and Frances Gibson and most likely a grandson of theirs. He was bound out to Thomas Person and then lived with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. He had a child with Nelly Bass, a child with Rhody Anderson named Henry Anderson, a first unknown wife with whom he had at least one son named Redding Chavis, and then later married Nancy Mitchell.
Looking at his household numbers in the census records, it’s quite apparent Jesse Chavis had other children. He likely had more children with his first unknown wife and children with his second wife Nancy Mitchell.
I can confirm that William Chavis (1801-1854) was a son of Jesse Chavis. And given his approximate birth date of 1801, he would be from Jesse Chavis’ first unknown wife. Census records and tax lists place William Chavis in very close proximity to where Jesse Chavis and his known family lived in the 1830s and 1840s. William Chavis married Delilah Guy (1819-1860) on 16 Oct 1834 and the Guy family as well lived in Fishing Creek and were neighbors to Jesse Chavis. William Chavis’ will makes mention of giving his mother title to the land that she was already living on in the Beaver Dam district. The text of the will was transcribed by fellow Granville County researcher Jahrod Pender:
Will of William Chavis
Jan. 26 1854 proved Feb. Court 1854
William Chavis wills to his mother the land in Beaverdam district where she now lives for her life then to my wife if she be living and if not to my children; To wife Delilah Chavis, for life or widowhood, all else I own but if she marry again then to be taken over by my excr. For use of my wife and children, and after her death to all my children.
Exrs. Col Lewis Parham
Wts W.W Dement, W H Paschall.
Though the will does not give the name of William Chavis’ mother, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is the only elder female Chavis who is listed in the census for Beaver Dam district in 1850 and 1860. Nancy was actually his step-mother but was the mother that raised him for most of his life since she married his father Jesse Chavis when William was about 10 years old. And this explains why in the census records for 1850 and 1860, Nancy was the head of the household and not her adult step-son Redding Chavis who resided with her.
I hope this blog post was informative and clarifies exactly who Jesse Chavis of Granville County was. I especially hope it’s a helpful reminder for researchers to be patient with the records and to carefully review all of the content. This is the best way to avoid mistakes such as conflating records of different individuals.
One of the most common mistakes found in genealogical research is conflating multiple people into a single person. In an earlier blog post about my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (son of Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis), I discussed how even the War Department conflated the records of multiple men who shared the same name: Sherwood Harris. So it is understandable that in Paul Heinegg’s massive research on all “free colored people” from colonial times in the American South, he would likely commit a few of these mistakes.
One such error comes from Heinegg’s discussion about a man named Willis Bass (b. 1792). (Heinegg suggests his birthdate is 1787 but I have records which indicate 1792). By carefully reviewing the records that Heinegg provided and finding additional records to corroborate my suspicions, I am able to update and correct important info on Willis Bass. If you are a descendant of Willis Bass or just researching him, you will definitely want to update your records after reading this blog post. Most researchers use Heinegg’s material so hopefully he will update his website with this new info that I have provided.
Heingg’s Research on Willis Bass (b. 1792)
James Bass (b. 1760) is who Heinegg suggests is the father of Willis Bass (b. 1792) of Granville County. Heinegg included a number of very helpful primary source documents for James Bass. We see he lived in Norfolk Co, VA for most of his life and later moved out to Tennessee where he filed a Revolutionary War pension application. What you do not see is a single record of James Bass in Granville Co, NC. Children do certainly move away from their parents at some point but to not have a single record for James Bass in Granville Co should immediately throw up some red flags. Let’s take a closer examination of the records.
We see that in the 1801 tax list for Norfolk Co, VA James Bass is listed with the names of members of his household. Included in his houshold is a Willis Bass, which is solid proof that James Bass had a son named Willis Bass. This tax list is the only record provided for the Willis Bass of Norfolk Co, VA. I do find James Bass in the Bedford Co, TN census records starting in 1820 and he is there along with several other “free colored” Bass head of households. These are most likely James Bass’ children and other close family members. If his son Willis Bass survived childhood and did move away from Norfolk Co, VA, he likely would have relocated with his family to Bedford Co, TN. So the Willis Bass of Norfolk, VA coming to Granville Co, NC just doesn’t make much sense or fit into the general trend for James Bass’ family. Let’s look at the records available for the Willis Bass of Granville Co.
Willis Bass (b. 1792) Apprenticeship Records
The earliest records that I found for Willis Bass are not included in Heinegg’s research. Ancestry recently made available to their members, Wills and Probate Records for North Carolina and included in the Granville County folder are also apprenticeship records. These records have been an incredible aide for me to verify or disprove genealogical relationships.
On 8 May 1801, Willis Bass, age 9 years, was bound out to John Irby. On the exact same day, Racey Bass, age 11 years,was also bound out to John Irby. John Irby (1780-1841) was a resident of the Abrams Plains district of Granville County. This is an important detail because Willis Bass and Racey Bass are later shown living in the Abrams Plains District after their indentured servitude was over.
The fact that Willis Bass and Racey Bass were bound out on the same day to the same person is strong evidence that they were siblings. Often times the courts would send out orders requesting that the children of a specific individual, be required to report to court to be bound out. But who were Willis and Racey’s parents? The Granville County court minutes, reveal that a few years earlier in May 1798, Racey Bass, was called the son of Milly Bass who was the wife of Pearson Hawley. The identified gender of Racey Bass is odd because the 1801 apprenticeship order to be bound to John Irby, identified Racey Bass as a female. For the time being I will continue to refer to Racey Bass as a female.
So who was Milly Bass? According to the court minutes, Milly Bass (b. 1772) was the wife of a Pearson Hawley (b. 1770). This means that Willis Bass and Racey Bass were born to Milly Bass before she married Pearson Hawley. And this explains why Willis Bass and Racey Bass were bound out because it was common for children born out of wedlock to be apprenticed out. Pearson is found in the Granville Co records beginning in 1791 and is in the 1800 census, head of a household of 5 “free colored” people. He is from the Saponi/Catawba Indian Hawley family that I previously blogged about here. The 1800 census is the last time I find Pearson Hawley in the Granville records, so I’m unsure of what later happened to him or his wife Milly Bass.
Milly Bass (b. 1772) was the apparent daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) and his wife Mary (maiden name not known). The Granville County bastardy bonds show that Milly Bass had children out of wedlock and that it was Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who fathered those children. After making this blog post I made additional discoveries that you can read here, which reviews the evidence that supports Jesse Chavis being the father of Milly Bass’ children.
On 5 Aug 1803, Willis Bass and Racey Bass were bound out again to John Irby. I’m not sure why multiple apprenticeship orders were needed but it shows the pattern of siblings being bound out on the same date.
Willis Bass (b. 1792) in the Granville Co Census and Marriage Records
So if Willis Bass was bound out as a boy in Granville Co in 1801 and 1803, how could he be the son of someone who was living in Norfolk Co, VA during that time? The answer is that Willis Bass was not the son of James Bass of Norfolk Co, VA. And the apprenticeship records and court minutes of Granville Co identify the mother of Willis Bass and Racey Bass as Milly Bass.
The next time we find Willis Bass in the records was on 4 Jan 1809 when he married Olive Chavis. He was then counted in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 censuses for Granville Co. He lived in the Abrams Plains district which is a district in far northern Granville Co, immediately next to the Virginia state border. And this is the same district that he lived in when he was bound out to John Irby. Willis Bass’ 1810 household consisted of three people – himself, wife Olive, and a child. His sister Racey Bass was enumerated right next to him, head of a large household of 9 people. Willis Bass’ 1820 household consisted of 9 people (himself, wife Olive, 5 boys and 2 girls). His sister Racey Bass does not appear in the census again after 1810 and I wonder if some of the children in Willis’ 1820 household may have been his sister’s children. Willis Bass’ 1830 household consisted of 12 people (himself, wife Olive, 5 young men/boys, and 5 young women/girls).
I also found that Willis Bass was twice the bondsman for marriages in Granville Co. He was the bondsman for the marriage between Joseph Peal and Jane Pettiford on 18 May 1822. Jane Pettiford was the daughter of Collins Pettiford and Polly Chavis (perhaps a family members of Willis Bass’ wife Olive Chavis). And Willis Bass was the bondsman for the marriage between Henry Bass and Eliza Hart on 26 Feb 1824. Henry Bass (b. 1800) is too old to be Willis’ son, but perhaps he was a close relative. Henry Bass relocated to Ohio, specifically Ross County which is a couple of counties over from where some of Willis Bass’ descendants relocated to.
So the last time Willis Bass appears in Granville Co is in the 1830 census and we know from the size of the household that he had a large family. We next learn about what happened to Willis Bass from the Eastern Cherokee (Guion Miller) applications that his descendants filed.
If you’re not familiar with the Guion Miller roll, here is a blurb from familysearch:
The Guion Miller Roll is a list of Eastern Cherokees who applied for money awarded in 1905 because of a 1902 lawsuit in which the Eastern Cherokee tribe sued the United States for funds due them under the treaties of 1835, 1836 and 1845. Claimants were asked to prove they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe at the time of the treaties, or descended from members who had not been affiliated with any other tribe. Guion Miller, an agent of the Interior Department, was appointed as a commissioner of the Court of Claims to compile a list of claimants. He made an extensive enrollment of the Cherokees in 1907 and 1908.
Even though the applications for Willis Bass’ descendants were rejected, they are full of important genealogical information about his family. I will be doing a blog post hopefully soon about why so many of our families were labeled “Cherokee” despite not being tribally Cherokee. In that blog post I will explore that phenomenon more in depth but for now you should at least be aware that “Cherokee” was often synonymous for “Indian” in the Southeast.
Descendants of Willis Bass who filed Eastern Cherokee applications: grandsons: Elijah Bass Jr (#17657) and Peter Bass (#44383); great-grandchildren: two named Alice Revels (#14050 and #14118), Charles Bass (#14052), Malissa Roberts (#16153), Delia McCann (#16156), Matilda Bostwick (#16155), Martha J Bass (#17656), Mansfield Bass (#17659), Ransom Bass (#18015), Martha Anderson (#18350), Rosa Bass (#19825), Nora Thomas (#19826), and Matilda Newville (#15670); and great-great grandchildren: William Newville (#24366), Alice Elizabeth Carman (#24379), and Charley Newville (#32952). All applicants claimed descent from Willis Bass and Olive Chavis’ son Elijah Bass Sr. I won’t discuss each application because they are quite repetitive. Instead I’ll focus on a couple of applications that provide the most pertinent info.
By the time of the Eastern Cherokee roll applications in 1907, some descendants of Willis Bass had relocated from Granville Co, NC to Lawrence Co, OH and finally to Vernon Co, WI. We learn from Elijah Bass Jr’s application, that Willis and Olive Bass had the following children: Elijah Bass Sr, William Bass, Henry Bass, Racey Bass, Ransom Bass, Nancy Bass, Polly Bass, and Delia Bass. Elijah Bass Sr was the only one to relocate to Ohio, while the others continued to live in North Carolina. We have already seen the name Racey Bass from the apprenticeship records which show that Willis Bass had a sister named Racey Bass. The Racey name was passed down a lot in the Willis Bass family, and was used by both males and females.
Elijah Bass Jr states that he was born on 15 Oct 1835 in Granville Co but relocated with his father Elijah Bass Sr to Lawrence Co, OH a couple of years later. This is consistent with Elijah Bass Sr first appearing in the Lawrence Co, OH census in 1840. However, Elijah Sr’s marriage record to Matilda Dutton of Pennsylvania was recorded on 20 March 1835 in Lawrence Co, OH. It seems unlikely that Elijah Sr would go all the way to Ohio to marry a woman from elsewhere, return to Granville Co where his first son was born, and then a few years later go back to Ohio. In the 1850 census, Elijah Jr’s birthplace is listed as Ohio and every other census after that it was listed as North Carolina. I wonder if Elijah Jr thought he was born in North Carolina, when he was actually born in Ohio.
Another inconsistency is found when Elijah Bass Jr identified his grandparents as Willis Bass and Olive Stewart. We know from their 1809 marriage record in Granville Co, that Olive’s maiden name was Chavis. It’s possible that she was first married to a Chavis, became widowed and then married Willis Basss. But I could find no marriage record for an “Olive Stewart”. The Stewarts were another large “free colored”/Native American family in the area, and I suspect that Olive’s mother was a Stewart. The Stewarts and Chavises intermarried a lot on both sides of the VA/NC border. Because I have not been able to identify Olive’s parents, I can’t say for certain how the Stewarts fit into her lineage.
In a letter dated 25 Feb 1908, Elijah Bass Jr writes directly to the Guion Miller commissioner to provide some additional background information about his family.There are some big inconsistencies in his narrative with what is found in the actual records. Elijah Jr states that his grandparents (Willis and Olive Bass) had to flee from Virginia into North Carolina in 1812 because they were driven out of their land by white people. And that his grandfather Willis Bass had previously lived on a (Cherokee) reservation in Virginia.
But we know from apprenticeship, marriage, and census records that Willis Bass was born in North Carolina and is in the Granville Co records before 1812. I think this misleading narrative is why Heinegg tried to force a connection between Willis Bass of Granville Co and the James Bass of Norfolk Co, VA. This is why examining the totality of all the records is vital when you have conflicting stories. I do not think Elijah Bass Jr fabricated this story completely and that there is likely some truth in there. The events that he is recalling, happened well before his was born, so that may partially account for the mistakes. But I also wonder if the story about fleeing Virginia for North Carolina was more about his grandmother Olive Chavis’ lineage. Willis Bass’ widow Olive Chavis was enumerated in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 censuses, and her birthplace is given as Virginia. And earlier on in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 censuses, Olive Chavis (counted in her husband Willis Bass’s household) lived close to Evans Chavis (1770-after 1860), Charles Chavis, and Isaac Chavis (1766-1831). These three men were from neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and perhaps were of some relation to Olive Chavis.
I can say with certainty that all the Basses in Granville Co all descend from two brothers: Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) who initially left Suffolk, VA for North Carolina in 1720 and whose descendants were in Granville Co by the 1750s. Edward and John Bass were the documented grandsons of British colonist John Bass(e) and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth. If you’d like a good recap of the Bass family of Granville Co, read my previous blog post. So the Basses were well established in Granville Co before 1812.
When we look at Elijah Jr’s brother Peter Bass’ Eastern Cherokee application, we find some additional information. In the Guion Miller applications, there is space for respondents to write down their “Indian names”. Peter Bass lists his Indian name as “Peter Chavers” and lists his father Elijah Bass Sr’s Indian name as “Elijah Chavers”. So we can clearly see Willis Bass’ descendants were aware that they descended from the Chavers (Chavis) family. Also, Chavis/Chavers is not an “Indian name”.
As stated earlier, all of the Eastern Cherokee enrollment applications for Willis Bass’ descendants were rejected. On Alice Revels’ (#14050) application, the Guion Miller commission provided the exact reason why the family’s applications were rejected. The Willis Bass family was never listed on any previous Cherokee rolls, never lived with the Cherokees, and Granville Co was never part of original Cherokee territory.
In February 2016, Paul Heinegg updated the Bass section of his website with some of the corrected information I discussed above. He no longer has the Willis Bass who was the son of James Bass b. 1760 of Norfolk CO, VA and Bedford Co, TN as the same Willis Bass of Granville Co. Heinegg also provided additional records for the James Bass b. 1760 of Norfolk Co, VA and Bedford Co, TN so if you are a descendant of the this branch of the Bass family, it is worthwhile to revisit Heinegg’s Bass section: