Is Jesse Chavis the father of Willis Bass of Granville County?

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.

Jesse Chavis apprenticeship
A page from William Chavis’ (1709-1778) estate records shows that Jesse Chavis was his orphan who was bound out to Thomas Person on 9 August 1780. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

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.

Sampson Anderson and wife Jane Anderson and and son Robert F Anderson
Sampson Anderson (1844-1906) with wife Jane Anderson (1852-1923) and son Robert F Anderson (1872-1914). Sampson was the son of Henry Anderson and Nancy Richardson. And he was the grandson of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840). The family lived in Granville and Wake Counties and relocated to Washington, D.C. in their later years. Source: Ancestry, Username: rewinder11

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).

Bibby family 1898
Julia Chavis (1845-1939) is the elder woman seated in the middle. She was the daughter of William Chavis (1801-1854) and Delilah Guy. And she was the granddaughter of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840). Julia is pictured here with her husband William Solomon Bibby, children, and grandchildren at the family farm in Franklinton, NC in 1898. My great-grandfather Edward Brodie Howell’s first wife Mary Bibby is standing on the right.

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 John Irby apprenticeship
Willis Bass, age 9 years, was bound out to John Irby on 8 May 1801 in Granville County. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
Racey Bass 1798 Court Minutes
Racey “Raisey” Bass is called the son of Milly Bass, wife of Pearson Hawley in the May 1798 Court Minutes. Racey was ordered to be bound to James H. Smith. Source: Dr. Warren Milteer

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.

Elijah Bass Jr and Elizabeth Arnold
Elijah Bass Jr (1835-1912) with his wife Elizabeth Arnold. Elijah Jr was the son of Elijah Bass Sr and the grandson of Willis Bass (b. 1792) and Olive Chavis of Granville Co, NC. Elijah Bass Jr filed a (rejected) Eastern Cherokee application # 16753. Source: Ancestry, Username: Anthony DI DIO
Fold3_Page_4_Eastern_Cherokee_Applications_of_the_US_Court_of_Claims_19061909
A page from Elijah Bass Jr’s Eastern Cherokee application. Source: NARA M1104. Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1909.

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-34-19-pm
From genealogist Paul Heinegg’s website. He incorrectly states it was Nelly Bass who filed a bastard bond against Jesse Chavis. Her name was really Milly Chavis. Source: http://freeafricanamericans.com/Chavis_family.htm

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!

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-38-06-pm
Source: http://home.earthlink.net/~bcamin/bbonds/granvill.htm

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.

jesse-chavis-family-tree
© Kianga Lucas
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Walter Plecker and Granville County’s Native Americans

Walter Plecker (1861-1947) is a very recognizable name in the history of Southeastern Native Americans. His name is not remembered for any good deeds though, but rather for his white supremacist views that essentially outlawed the identity of Native Americans during his lifetime. As the director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 to 1946, Plecker had the ability to change records and authorize how vital records should be recorded throughout the state. In the racial binary that Plecker was molding, there was no place for Native Americans. There was either “white” or “colored”, no exceptions. Plecker was responsible for creating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which legally classified all Virginians as either “white” or “colored” and outlawed all forms of miscegenation. Furthermore, Plecker pressured the Census Bureau to eliminate the “mulatto” category (a racial category that Native Americans in the Southeast were most often labeled under), and from 1930 onward “mulatto” was no longer used in the federal censuses.

What is important to understand about the Plecker era is that his obsession with keeping the races separate was well received by many Virginians. This was “Jim Crow” South, and Plecker’s racist ideas were mainstream. Adolph Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany was also influenced by Plecker’s views on race and eugenics. Because Plecker felt no shame in his actions, he left behind an extensive paper trail. Plecker and those working on his behalf were known to have changed vital records, for example:

Marriage record of two Monacan Indians Houston Robert Beverly and Lee Ann Clark. You can see how their races were originally recorded as "Indian" and then someone went back with a pen and wrote "mixed". Source: Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.
Marriage record of two Monacan Indians, Houston Robert Beverly and Lee Ann Clark. You can see how their races were originally recorded as “Indian” and then someone went back with a pen and wrote “mixed”.
Source: Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.

With a stroke of a pen, Plecker attempted to erase the identity of Virginia’s Native Americans and the impact of Plecker’s work is still felt today. The Pamunkey tribe after decades of waiting, just received federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and have become the FIRST Virginia tribe to receive such recognition. However there are close to a dozen of state recognized tribes in Virginia that are still seeking federal recognition, and they are facing quite an uphill battle because of Plecker’s legacy.

Though there is much to write about Walter Plecker, the scope of this blog post is his January 1943 letter that he sent out to the head registrars of Vital Statistics in counties across Virginia. A full transcription of the 1943 Plecker letter can be found here. At the beginning of the letter, Plecker makes his intentions crystal clear:

Our December 1942 letter to local registrars, also mailed to the clerks, set forth the determined effort to escape from the negro race of groups of “free issues,” or descendants of the “free mulattoes” of early days, so listed prior to 1865 in the United States census and various types of State records, as distinguished from slave negroes. Now that these people are playing up the advantages gained by being permitted to give “Indian” as the race of the child’s parents on birth certificates, we see the great mistake made in not stopping earlier the organized propagation of this racial falsehood.

We see Plecker refer to the people as “free issues” which is reminiscent of the language that Oscar W. Blacknall used to describe Granville County’s Native Americans which I blogged about here. Also apparent is Plecker’s idea that the “Indian” racial category was providing social advantages that should not be allowed to “negroes”. Moreover, Plecker warns that “negroes” being able to pass for “Indian” is a threat to the white race, as stated here:

Some of these mongrels, finding that they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates unchallenged as Indians are now making a rush to register as white.

In Plecker’s warped view, “Indian” was a stepping stone for “negroes” to infiltrate the so-called purity of the “white race”. Plecker made it clear that any violation of this racial binary was against the law and should be reported:

To aid all of you in determining just which are the mixed families, we have made a list of their surnames by counties and cities, as complete as possible at this time. This list should be preserved by all, even by those in counties and cities not included, as these people are moving around over the State and changing race at the new place…Please report all known or suspicious cases to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, giving names, ages, parents, and as much other information as possible.

Plecker became so obsessed with keeping track of all these families that sought to be listed as “Indian”, that he created an actual list of surnames by county of these families. Here is the Plecker List:

Walter Plecker's 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should be categorized as
Walter Plecker’s 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should not be racially categorized as “Indian”. Unsurprisingly, many of the surnames listed here make up the families of Virginia’s Native American tribes.
Source: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/letterscan.html

And here is a fully transcribed version of Walter Plecker’s list from 1943:

SURNAMES, BY COUNTIES AND CITIES, OF MIXED NEGROID VIRGINIA FAMILIES STRIVING TO PASS AS “INDIAN” OR WHITE.

Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey.

Amherst (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell): Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present adult generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood.

Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County)

Rockbridge (Migrants to Augusta): Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pultz, Ramsey, Southerds (Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns.

Charles City: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins.

King William: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Custalow (Custaloe), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes, Suprlock, Doggett.

New Kent: Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston.

Henrico and Richmond City: See Charles City, New Kent, and King William.

Caroline: Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex)

Essex and King and Queen: Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond, Brooks, Boughton, Prince, Mitchell, Robinson.

Elizabeth City & Newport News: Stewart (descendants of the Charles City families).

Halifax: Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley, Sheppard (Shepard), Young.

Norfolk County & Portsmouth: Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King, Bright, Porter, Ingram.

Westmoreland: Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Gutridge, Oliff.

Greene: Shifflett, Shiflet.

Prince William: Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier)

Fauquier: Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William)

Lancaster: Dorsey (Dawson).

Washington: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley.

Roanoke County: Beverly. (See Washington)

Lee and Smyth: Collins, Gibson (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Mise, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins. — Chiefly Tennessee “Melungeons.”

Scott: Dingus. (See Lee County)

Russell: Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell)

Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell)

Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties.


So what does this have to do with Granville County?

As I’ve shown through earlier blog posts and more yet to come, many of Granville’s Native American families have Virginia tribal origins. These families that came to Granville left behind plenty of family members that remained in Virginia. Additionally, Granville County shares a border with Virginia (Mecklenburg and Halifax Cos), and so the social influence of Plecker and his cronies certainly did not end at Virginia’s border with Granville County. We need to keep this historical context in mind when reviewing records of Native Americans in the Southeast.

The surnames that I highlighted from Plecker’s list above are from the same family lines of Granville County’s Native Americans. Some further information:

BRANHAM – Listed in Amherst and Bedford counties, the Branhams are a core family of the Monacan Indian Nation. The BRANDON (sometimes spelled Brannum, Brandum) family of Granville County is originally from the Virginia Piedmont and is the same family as the Branhams, just a spelling/pronunciation difference. I also believe the Branham/Brandon family to have ties to Fort Christanna in Brunswick Co, VA, where Saponi and allied tribes including the Monacan resided from 1714-1718.

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon and a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township in Granville County. She comes from the same Branham family in Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon and a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township in Granville County. She comes from the same Branham family in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

REDCROSS – Listed in Amherst county like the Branhams, the Redrosses are also members the Monacan Indian Nation. Though no Redcrosses made it to Granville County, we know that they are the same family as the Evans family of Granville. Recall my blog post about some of the Evans descendants who were illegally enslaved and were freed on account that they descended from a free Indian woman. Testimony seen here from those court cases reveal that the Redcross family are descendants of the same Evans family.

HOWELL – Listed in Charles City, King William, and Henrico counties and the city of Richmond, the Howell family are from the Pamunkey Tribe. The Howells from Granville County have roots in New Kent County (in between Charles City and King William) and started to move into Virginia’s southside counties. One branch stemming from Freeman Howell moved across the state border into Granville in the early 1800s. Oddly, Plecker doesn’t list New Kent as a location for the Howells which is where the Pamunkey Howells primarily resided but lists them in every surrounding municipality (perhaps an oversight).

Adeline Jane Howell (1858 - after 1900) Daughter of Alexander "Doc" Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. Adeline comes from the same Howell family in Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas 1973
Adeline Jane Howell (1858 – after 1900). Daughter of Alexander “Doc” Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. She lived in Fishing Creek township in Granville County and moved to Nash County later in life. Adeline comes from the same Howell family in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas 1973

STEWART/STUART – Listed in Charles City, New Kent, King William, Henrico, Richmond, Elizabeth City, Newport News, and Halifax. The Stewarts found in all the municipalities except Halifax are from the Pamunkey and Chickahominy tribes. The Halifax County Stewarts are from the Sappony Tribe. It is unclear to me if both the Pamunkey/Chickahominy Stewarts and the Sappony Stewarts are the same family but I’ve included them both just in case. The Granville County Stewarts are the same family as the Sappony Stewarts in neighboring Halifax Co, VA and Person Co, NC. The Sappony Tribe’s tribal territory extends to both sides of the VA/NC state border.

BASS: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Bass family have a well documented Nansemond tribal origin that I previously blogged about here. We know that many of the Nansemond Basses relocated to North Carolina, making their way to Granville by the late 1740s. Granville’s Anderson family also has tribal roots with the Nansemond Bass family that I blogged about here.

Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Hardy Bass and Sarah Evans. Alonzo's Bass family is from Granville and he lived in neighboring Person, and Orange counties. He is from the same Bass family found in Walter Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, User:  randymaultsby
Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Hardy Bass and Sarah Evans. Alonzo’s Bass family is from Granville and he lived in neighboring Person, and Orange counties. He is from the same Bass family found in  Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby

WEAVER: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, there are Weavers in the Nansemond Tribe as well as the Meherrin Tribe (who adopted in Nansemond, Chowanoke, and other coastal Algonquin tribes). The Weaver family originates from East Indian indentured servants brought to Virginia in the early 1700s who intermarried with local Virginia tribes. The Weavers moved into North Carolina, with a few branches coming to Granville County in the mid 1800s.

LOCKLEAR: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Locklear family is more well known in North Carolina, where it is one of the most common surnames found among Native Americans in Robeson County (Lumbee and Tuscarora Indians). There was one branch of the Locklear family that lived in and around Granville County. That branch comes from a man named Randall Locklear (born 1730) whose descendants lived in neighboring Granville and Wake counties.

GIBSON: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Gibson family originally comes from the Charles City County area of Virginia, dating back to the early 1700s. There are two well known Gibson ancestors of Granville’s Native Americans. The first is Jane Gibson, the maternal ancestor of the Evans family who was described as an “old Indian woman” and I blogged about here. The second is Frances Gibson, wife of William Chavis. William Chavis’ original land plot formed the land base for Granville’s Native American community. There are many different opinions about the tribal origins of the Gibsons, but I suspect them to be originally of Algonquian heritage, given their earliest known locations.

Ira Evans (1879-1968). He was the son of Lewis Evans and Zibra Bookram. Ira was born in Granville where both of his parents were from and lived most of his live in neighboring Durham County. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams
Ira Evans (1879-1968). He was the son of Lewis Evans and Zibra Bookram. Ira was born in Granville where both of his parents were from and lived most of his live in neighboring Durham County. He descends from the same Gibson family in Plecker’s letter. 
Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams
Delia Harris (1843 - after 1870), granddaughter of Martha Harris. She is listed in Martha's household in the 1850 census for Granville County, listed as "Dilly Harris" age 7.  Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.
Delia Harris (1843 – after 1870). She was the daughter of Fanny Harris and William Henry Mills. She descends from the same Gibson family (via her Harris/Chavis line) listed in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.

GOINS: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Goins have  Tidewater Virginia roots. The Goins came to Granville County in the 1740s with many remaining in Granville. Though by the early 1900s, the Goins (also spelled Goings, Gowens) surname had mostly “daughtered out”. The same Goins family are also found in Robeson County, NC among the Lumbee.

BUNCH: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Bunches as well have Tidewater Virginia roots. There were some Bunches in Granville Co in the 1750s, but they did not stay long, with most leaving the county and the state. However, there are Bunch descendants found among some of the Bass family through the marriage of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch.

Identifying the Saponi Indians living next to Col. William Eaton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas mistakenly calls Col. William Eaton “John Eaton”. The Chavis, Evans, Bass, Kersey, Harris, Scott, and Goins families are among the many shared direct blood lines between the Native Americans in Granville County and the Native Americans in Robeson County (including the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora Nation).

Finally, in support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition, Wesley White also wrote up a report on the Saponi Indians in Granville who lived next to Col. William Eaton. Through similar research methods, White also showed a connection between William Chavis, an original Granville County land owner and Col. William Eaton:

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

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Here is my list:

1. William Chavis Sr. (1709 – 1778). William was an original Granville County land owner and owned a substantial amount of land that would form the land base for the Native community. This land bordered Eaton’s as shown in the above map. William also enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. William Chavis will be the subject of a much longer dedicated blog post. (Note: William Chavis is my 7th great-grandfather).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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