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.
The Bookram family of Granville Co, NC descends directly from a man named Elias Bookram (b. 1790). Though his descendants intermarried with most of Granville’s Native American families, Elias Bookram was a somewhat latecomer to the community. The reason is that Elias was not a local man and instead was from Maryland. Even more fascinating, “Bookram” is a corrupted and Anglicized name derived from the Algonquian language. Elias’ very own surname was a testament to his indigenous tribal identity. Originally known as “Elias Puckham”, he came from the well known and documented Puckham family of the Nanticoke tribe. In this blog post I will discuss the Puckham family’s Nanticoke lineage as well as trace the descendants of Elias Bookram.
Puckham Family and the Nanticoke Tribe
The Nanticoke tribe are an Algonquian speaking people, originally from the upper Eastern Shore area that is today Maryland and Delaware. The earliest colonial records for the Nanticoke are found in Maryland in Somerset, Dorchester, and Wicomico counties. As coastal people, they had early contact with European colonists and as a result were affected immensely by European colonization. An initial reservation was set up for the Nanticoke people on the Nanticoke River in Somerset Co, Maryland in 1698:
At the same time the Lord Proprietor of Maryland issued a proclamation recognizing two Nanticoke towns of Chicone on the west bank of Nanticoke River and Puckamee on the east bank as well as a three-mile buffer zone around it in which Englishmen were prohibited from settling. Notwithstanding this proclamation an English trader named Thomas Taylor was allowed to buy a patent to land within the boundary of the Chicone Indian town named Handsel. In 1698 a formal Nanticoke reservation was created by the Maryland Assembly and the boundaries of Chicone were surveyed.
Source: Cohen, David. The One-Drop Rule in Reverse: The Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape, the Delaware Indians, and the New Jersey Indian Commission.
However due to European encroachment, the tribe purchased another tract of land off of Broad Creek in what is today Sussex Co, DE. According to Nanticoke tribal member Kenneth Clark, this was their seasonal”summer residence” which they made their year round home because of the hostility of the Maryland colonists.
Continued colonial intervention lead to many Nanticoke leaving their homelands and joining other tribes. Some Nanticoke joined the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and descendants today can still be found in the Six Nations Reserve. The Nanticoke were also very close to the Lenape tribe and the two tribes frequently intermarried. When the Lenape were removed to Oklahoma, many Nanticoke joined their kinsfolk and Nanticoke descendants can be found among the Lenape in Oklahoma today. However many Nanticoke remained in their homelands and today there are two “state recognized” Nanticoke tribes: the Nanticoke Indian Association located in Delaware and the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe in New Jersey. During the turn of the 20th century, the Nanticoke in Delaware were visited by some noted anthropologists including Frank Speck, Mark R. Harrington, and William Babcock. You can read Frank Speck’s research here and William Babcock’s research here.
So where do the Puckhams fit into this? The earliest verified direct ancestor of the Puckham family was a Nanticoke Indian named John Puckham born about 1660. A number of texts cite John Puckham as the progenitor of the family, including Helen Rountree’s book found here, a well researched essay authored by the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe of New Jersey found here, the Eastern Shore Indian genealogy website found here, and genealogist Paul Heinegg’s research found here.
The Nanticokes like many other tribes up and down the East Coast went through extensive periods of being racially misclassified by the colonial and U.S. government, often as “mulatto”, “free colored”, “negro”, “black”, and “Moor”. However earlier colonial records reveal the indigenous identity of the tribe’s forebearers. On 25 Feb 1682/3, John Puckham married a woman named Joan Johnson and the official record of their marriage, identifies John Puckham as an Indian:
John Puckham an Indian baptised by John Huett minister on 25th day of January one thouseand six hundred eighty two And the said John Puckham & Jone Johnson negro were married by the said minister ye 25th February Anno Do./ Maryland.
You can see that John Puckham was baptized a month before he married Joan Johnson. During this baptismal, he was likely given the first name “John”. But where did the Puckham surname come? Many researchers believe that the Puckham surname is derived from the former Nanticoke village called Puckamee which was located in Somerset Co, MD. Given that John Puckham lived in Somerset Co, it’s quite likely he came from Puckamee village and that is how he acquired his last name. “Puckamee”, according to fellow researcher Duane Brayboy Williams, is likely derived from the Lenape dialect of the Algonquian word “puccoon” which means “red ochre”. The suffix “mee” refers to a place. So “Puckamee” means “a place to source red ochre”. Duane also explained that in the Renape dialect of Algonquian, the word for “ochre” means “ancestors”. Traditionally, people adorned themselves with red ochre as a way to represent the ancestors and acknowledge their ever presence. So when we think about John Puckham and his descendants, I think it’s quite amazing that their surname truly represents their Nanticoke ancestors.
After John Puckham’s death, his widow Joan bound out their sons to be apprentices and so we are able to trace John’s lineage forward. By the mid 1700s, some of John Puckham’s descendants were still in Somerset Co, MD but several had also moved up to Sussex Co, DE. As discussed above, the Nanticoke tribe moved up the river, across the state line into Delaware so that is likely why some of the Puckhams moved that way.
We also have a colonial record of another Puckham identified as an Indian. The tensions between the European colonists and tribes on the Eastern Shore peninsula escalated to the point where in 1742 representatives from a number of Eastern Shore tribes met with the Shawnee tribe at a place called “Winnasoccum” in Maryland to strategize. The colony found out about the meeting and rounded up a number of the individuals to sign a peace treaty including a George Puckham who was identified as one of the signatory “chiefs” of the treaty. George Puckham is believed to be a grandson of John Puckham (b. 1660). You can read more about the Winnasoccum meeting here.
So there is very good primary source documentation showing the Puckham family originated in Somerset Co, MD with a Nanticoke man named John Puckham. From here we’ll turn our discussion to Granville Co and Elias Bookram.
Elias Puckham aka Bookram in Granville County
I remember when I first started my genealogy research and learned about the Bookram family. Though I’m not a direct descendant of the Bookram family, I’m related to most of them through other shared common ancestors. The surname always stuck out to me because it was rare and quite unusual. The pronunciation of the surname sounded like the Algonquian language, so I had suspected that “Bookram” could be some sort of Anglicized version of an Algonquian word. Therefore you can imagine my excitement when I finally made the connection between Elias Bookram and the Nanticoke Puckham family. I’ll explain below how I did it.
The first record I have for Elias Bookram in Granville Co is the 1820 census. He is the head of a household of 8 “free colored” people living in Hatch’s District which is in southern Granville Co. The household looks to include himself, a wife, four sons and two daughters. So we can surmise from this record that Elias Bookram was first married before 1820 and had at least 6 children born before 1820. But what is very telling is how his surname is spelled in this census record – “Elias PUCKINS”. It is quite noteworthy that his name was spelled this way, the first time that he appears in the Granville records.
On 24 Jun 1824, Elias Bookram married for a second time to Chashe Scott. So we know any children born to Elias on or after 1824, were from his second wife. The Scotts are a Saponi Indian/”free colored” family that came to the Granville area in the mid/late 1700s. But again what is important about this record is the spelling of Elias’ surname – “Elias PUCKRAM”. These first two records for Elias Bookram in Granville Co clearly show his surname was spelled with a “P” and not a “B” and I think it’s understandable how one letter could be confused for the other because they sound similar.
In the 1830 census for Granville Co, Elias Bookram is the head of a household of 14 “free colored” people. The household looks to include Elias, his second wife Chashe, six sons and six daughters. For this census record his name is spelled “Elisha BUCKRAM”. This is the first time that his surname was spelled with a “B”. I can also tell by his neighbors that Elias Bookram was still residing in the southern part of Granville County and living among other families from the Native American community: Chavis, Guy, Pettiford, Jones, Anderson, Harris, Bibby, Taborn, Evans, Bass.
Elias Bookram still had a large household in the 1840 census for Granville Co. He was the head of a household of 12 “free colored” people that look to include Elias, second wife Chashe, three sons and seven daughters. His name in this census is spelled “Elias BOOKRAM” which became the most common standardized spelling of the name.
As you know, censuses before 1850 only list the name of the head of household and don’t include other important information like birthplace. Thankfully Elias Bookram lived long enough to be counted in the 1850 census and you will see why this is important. In the 1850 census for Granville Co, Elias was enumerated as the head of a household with his wife Chashe and 7 daughters. He was counted in the Dutch(ville) district which is still southern Granville Co. Now here’s the crucial piece of evidence: Elias Bookram’s birthplace is listed as Maryland. You can see his wife, children, and neighbors were all born in North Carolina. So the enumerator wrote in Elias’ out of state birthplace which lets us know that is was not likely an error. In addition to the unusual surname, Elias’ birthplace of Maryland in the 1850 census was also very odd to me because nearly everyone in the community was born in North Carolina. And if not North Carolina, then Virginia. It was rare to see someone born outside of North Carolina and Virginia. So from this census record we have confirmation that Elias Bookram was from Maryland.
Elias Bookram died sometime between the 1850 and 1860 censuses because his widow Chashe (Scott) Bookram is enumerated in the 1860 census without her husband.
I should also mention that I have identified a couple of other families in Granville Co that came from Native American tribes in Maryland and Delaware. A Revolutionary War soldier named Joseph Proctor (1759-1843) who was born in Maryland and from the Piscataway Tribe’s Proctor family, relocated to Granville Co in the late 1790s. There was also Joseph Okey b. 1725 who was from Sussex Co, Delaware and of the Lenni-Lenape Okey family. He relocated to Granville Co by about 1765. In the 1840 and 1850 censuses, Elias Bookram is in fact living in the next household over from the Okey family. I don’t believe the Puckhams/Bookrams, Proctors, and Okeys moved to Granville Co together because they all first appear in the Granville records at different times. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that several people from Maryland/Delaware tribes relocated to Granville Co.
I think I effectively have shown in previous blog posts that there was a network of Native American communities throughout North Carolina and Virginia that are related by kinship. But these networks did not stop at the state borders. Clearly there was a network up and down the east coast of kinship circles. It is no coincidence that Elias Bookram from the Nanticoke tribe in Maryland happened to relocate to another Native American community in North Carolina. He had prior knowledge of the community and likely knew that some of his closer tribal relations in Maryland and Delaware (Proctor and Okey families) had already relocated down there. And it is very much worth mentioning that displaced Saponi, Tuscarora and other NC/VA tribal peoples who relocated to the upper midwest and Canada during the early 1800s, intermarried with displaced Maryland/Delaware tribes like the Nanticoke, Lenape and Piscataway who also relocated to the upper Midwest and Canada. So Granville Co was by no means the only place where a diverse set of tribal peoples came together. This is one of many reasons why I reject the antiquated anthropological term “tri-racial isolate” to describe our communities. Yes these were people that for tribal kinship purposes practiced heavy endogamy which is no different from tribal peoples elsewhere (and there were laws forbidding them to marry free whites and black slaves), but they weren’t ignorant of the world around them and weren’t cut off from other peoples.
I would still like to know more about why Elias Bookram seemingly on his own, traveled to Granville Co to settle down. I think the Revolutionary War played a factor in this. The Nanticoke tribe sided with the British during the War and as you can imagine, the newly formed U.S. government did not take kindly to that. The post Revolutionary War era saw a major exodus of Nanticoke peoples away from their homelands. Perhaps Elias thought it would be safer for him to move to a very tight knit Native American community which interestingly boasted a large number of Revolutionary War veterans of the Continental Army. In addition, Granville Co at this time had a reputation for being “liberal” with its “free colored” population. Having “friendly whites” as your neighbors versus antagonizing ones, is certainly a draw.
At this time, I’m not able to definitively state who Elias Bookram’s parents were. If his approximate birth date of 1790 is correct and all of his life events are consistent with that being his approximate birth year, then he would be a minor around 1800 and living with his family in Maryland. I have identified three men who are brothers who could possibly be Elias’ father. First we have George Puckham born around 1766. He was a tithable across the Maryland border in Kent Co, DE in 1788 and 1789. In the 1800 census he is in Somerset Co, MD the head of a household of 5 “free colored” people. The census doesn’t break down the age and gender of the household members. And in the 1820 census George Puckham is the head of a household of 5 “free colored” people in Somerset Co, MD.
Second we have Levin Puckham born around 1768. He was also a tithable in 1788 and 1789 in Kent Co, DE and a tithable in Sussex Co, De in 1790. He doesn’t seem to appear in the 1800 census, but he is captured in the 1810 census in Somerset Co, MD the head of a household of 3 “free colored” people and 1 white woman over the age of 45. The white woman was most likely Levin Puckham’s wife. Levin was counted in the 1820 census, head of a household of 4 “free colored ” people. And third we have John Puckham born around 1770 who was a delinquent tithable in Sussex Co, DE in 1790. On 7 Apr 1804, John purchased 32 acres of land in Somerset Co, MD. These three brothers: George, Levin, and John Puckham were great-grandsons of John Puckham b. 1660 the documented Nanticoke Indian.
Elias Bookram’s Descendants
As can be seen from his census household numbers, Elias Bookram had a very large family. His was married twice and most of his children were born to his second wife Chashe Scott. The name of Elias’ first wife is not known. She may have also been Nanticoke and came with Elias Bookram to Granville Co. Or she may have been from the Native American community in Granville and Elias married her when he relocated here. All of Elias Bookram’s children that I have documented appear to have been born in North Carolina but I wouldn’t completely rule out that some of the eldest children could have been born in Maryland. Elias Bookram migrated to Granville Co in the 1810s and because he lived in the southern part of the county, his children and descendants can also be found in the records of counties bordering to the south such as Wake, Franklin, and Orange (later Durham) counties. The big challenge with researching this family is the many various spellings of the surname. In the Granville, Wake, Franklin, and Orange Co records, I have found their surname spelled: Bookram, Bookrum, Pookram, Buckram, Bookrun, Bookriam, Bookhum, and more. So if you are researching this family, you will need to be quite creative when thinking about spelling variations in order to locate records.
*1. Walter Bookram (1810-1893): married Nancy Copeland on 28 Nov 1841 in Wake Co. Appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses with his family in Franklin Co. Descendants intermarried with the Outlaw, Ransom, and Hawkins families.
*2. William Bookram (b. 1812): appears in the 1850 Orange Co census with first wife Betsy (maiden name unknown) and children. He married for a second time on 17 Jan 1852 in Wake Co to Susan Mitchell. He then appears in the 1860 census for Wake Co with his second Susan and children. Most of his children either died young or did not marry, but one daughter named Frances Bookram married a Burnett. Very noteworthy is his son Henry Haywood Bookram who actually reverted to the “P” spelling of the surname and can be found in the 1870 and 1880 censuses as “Haywood Pookrum”. His descendants continued to use the “Pookrum” spelling of the surname.
*3. Gavin Bookram (b. 1815): appears in 1850 Granville Co census with wife Patsy Evans and children. He married first wife Patsy Evans on 3 May 1842 in Granville Co and married second wife Polly Chavis on 19 Feb 1854 in Granville Co.
4. Emaline Bookram (b. 1826): married Jesse Hedgepeth on 10 May 1845 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1850, 1870, and 1880 censuses in Granville Co. She had a lot of children who also continued to intermarry into the community with families such as Howell, Brandon, Evans, Kersey, and Jones.
5. Sally Bookram (b. 1827): married Moses Hedgepeth on 4 Sep 1845 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census with her husband and children.
6. Dilly Bookram (b. 1831): married Paul Taborn on 15 Feb 1854 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co and the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 censuses for Wake Co. Descendants intermarried with the Boswell/Braswell and Allen families.
7. Alfred Bookram (b. 1833): married Anna Peed on 10 Dec 1852 in Granville Co. He appears in the 1860 and 1870 censuses for Granville CO and the 1880 census for Orange Co. In the 1900 census he was back in Granville Co and in that census record, his father’s birthplace is listed as “Maryland”, again confirming Elias Bookram’s Maryland roots. Descendants intermarried with the Evans and Harris families.
8. Betsy Bookram (b. 1834): married Thorton Pettiford on 13 Sep 1852 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses for Granville Co. She left no surviving children.
9. Solomon Bookram (b. 1836): married Sallie Ann Pettiford on 11 Sep 1859 in Granville Co. He appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co and the 1860 census for Franklin Co. Solomon died young and his widow and children relocated to Oberlin, Ohio in the 1870s.
10. Nancy Bookram (b. 1837): married Paul Weaver on 23 Sep 1857 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co. I cannot find Nancy after she married Paul Weaver, so I’m unsure if she moved away or died young. I do find her husband Paul Weaver in the 1880 census in Orange Co listed as “single” and living with his sister.
11. Rena Bookram (b. 1840): appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Granville Co. I have no record of her marrying and can’t find her in later censuses, so she may have died young.
12. Frances Bookram (b. 1841): appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Granville Co. I also have no record of her marrying so she may have died young. There was another Frances Bookram (b. 1850) who was the daughter of the above William Bookram (b. 1812). This second Frances Bookram married William Burnett on 4 Jan 1868 in Wake Co. I mention this because it is easy to confuse the two women.
13. Mary Bookram (b. 1843): married William Foster Chavis on 19 Dec 1862 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses of Granville Co.
* Indicates children of Elias Bookram who were born to his first unknown wife
Unlike most other surnames found among Granville’s Native Americans, “Bookram” is not a European name. Our European surnames usually came via intermarriage with whites, slavery, apprenticeship, and adoption. So this makes the Bookram surname unique in our community because it is somewhat of an artifact, connecting the present to the past. All Bookram descendants should feel proud to carry on this name that comes from our pre-colonial past.
The Native American Parker family of Granville County are a large and integral part of the community. Most of the local families intermarried with the Parkers, so they’re an important family to identify and document. The Parker family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation of neighboring Orange/Alamance Counties, are from this same Parker family and will be included in this blog post. So let’s continue!
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) – Earliest Identified Parker:
Identifying the earliest known ancestor of the Granville Parker family is not an easy task because the Parkers don’t appear in the Granville records until the 1820s/1830s as “free people of color”. Clearly they did not appear out of nowhere and had to have been living elsewhere before the 1820s. And we need to go to neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA to find the earliest known “free colored” Parker in the immediate area
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) first appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA. Sadly the 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses for Mecklenburg Co did not survive to the present, so we don’t know much about Stephen Parker’s early life. In the 1820 census he is the head of a household of 8 “free people of color”. He is recorded again in the 1830 census for Mecklenburg Co but his household numbers were not properly recorded so I don’t know how large his household was. I have not located Stephen Parker in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.
In the 1860 census, Stephen Parker is still in Mecklenburg Co and is listed as 82 years old. Living in his household are 3 Parker women who are probably his daughters. Another important clue that lets us know we have identified a probable early ancestor of the Granville Parker family is that Stephen Parker was surrounded by the “free colored”/Native American Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor and Mayo families that are from the same families found in Granville Co.
The Parker, Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor, Mayo and additional “free colored” people who were clustered together in this 1860 census next to Stephen Parker, were all living/working on the grounds of the Moss Tobacco Factory. The company was created by Robert H. Moss along with brother Reuben Moss and George B. Hammett. The factory was built in 1855 during a time when Clarksville, Mecklenburg Co was the tobacco producing capital of the United States. In fact according to an 1859 report, the Moss Tobacco Factory was the largest tobacco producing plant in the United States. The Moss family “employed” 160 people. Some of these workers were “free colored” families including the Parkers. But the Moss family also “rented” slaves from nearby plantations, so they also used slave labor to produce their tobacco. In that 1860 census, we see the “free colored”/Native American people who worked at the factory are listed with occupation titles such as “stemmer” and “twister”. Despite its early success, the tobacco factory closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1979, the building that once housed the Moss Tobacco Factory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but was delisted in 2001.
I have not found any marriage records for Stephen Parker so I don’t know who the mother of his children was and it’s quite plausible he was married more than once. However from the 1820 census household numbers it is clear his large household included a wife, and 5 girls and 1 boy born on or before 1820.
So with this in mind, let’s move onto Granville County.
Parkers in Granville County:
So we can deduce from the 1820 census that Stephen Parker had at least 6 children born on of before 1820. From later census records, it appears some of Stephen Parker’s children remained in Mecklenburg Co but others moved to neighboring Granville Co by the 1820s. Here is a list of Stephen Parker’s possible children who appear in the Granville records:
Elizabeth Parker (b. 1807) married Allen Cousins Sep 7, 1825 Granville Co
Polly Parker (1808-1846) married Thomas Pettiford Jan 17, 1829 Granville Co
Henry Parker (b. 1810) married Mahaly Brandon, marriage record not found
Susan Parker (b. 1816) married John Quinchett Dec 26, 1836 Granville Co. Susan Parker’s brother in law Allen Cousins was the bondsman.
Elizabeth Parker and her husband Allen Cousins appear in the Granville Co census in 1830 and 1840. In 1850, they were in neighboring Person Co, and by 1860, they relocated their family to Ross Co, Ohio. Their descendants are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
Siblings Henry Parker and Polly Parker remained in North Carolina, as did their Parker descendants, so let’s focus on their families.
Henry Parker (b. 1810) of Granville Co:
Henry Parker appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 censuses for Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. We know that his wife Mahaly’s maiden name was Brandon through the death record of their son Junius Parker (1856-1929). Mahaly Brandon (b. 1805) was from the Native American/”free colored” Brandon/Branham family that has Saponi/Monacan tribal origins and I wrote a little piece on them here. Mahaly’s father was Burwell/Burrell Brandon (b. 1785) who had moved his family from Virginia to Granville Co in the 1820s, which is the same time the Parkers first appear in the Granville records. Also it appears Mahaly named her son Burwell Parker (b. 1840), after her father Burwell Brandon.
Though Henry Parker’s birthplace is listed as North Carolina on the census records, the death certificate of his son Junius Parker (1856-1929) confirms that Henry Parker was born in Virginia. Henry and Mahaly lived in the middle of Granville’s Native American community and their many children also intermarried with the community. Their children were:
Eleanor Parker (b. 1830)
Giles Parker (b. 1835) married Betsy Pettiford, March 8, 1862 Granville Co
Alfred Parker (b. 1836) married Melvina Evans, Nov 20, 1854 Granville Co.
Susan Parker (b. 1838) married John Mitchell, Apr 13, 157 Granville Co.
Burwell Parker (b. 1840)
William Parker (1852-1915) married Emma Pettiford, Aug 29, 1863 Granville Co
Mary Parker (b. 1844) married Arthur Vaughan, Oct 12, 1868 Granville Co
Bunion Parker (b. 1845) married Mary Ann Brandon, Jun 16, 1863 Granville Co
Lucy Ann Parker (b. 1845) married Crutch Brandon, Feb 19, 1877 Granville Co
Stella Parker (1846-1929) married Larkin Smith, Mar 5, 1865 Granville Co
Junius Parker (1856-1938) married Francis Evans, Oct 9 1877 Granville Co
As you can see, Henry Parker and Mahaly Brandon had a lot of children, most of whom remained an integral part of the Native community in Granville.
A well known Granville Co ancestor of many Saponi people who relocated to Ohio, was a man named John Anderson (1832-1916) who I previously blogged about in my Anderson entry. John Anderson’s first wife was Margaret Parker (married Oct 27, 1852) and Margaret Parker was the biological mother to children Margaret Anderson b. 1853, Frances Anderson b. 1855, and Benjamin Anderson b. 1856. Margaret Parker died when the children were just a few years old, and John Anderson remarried Mary Mayo on May 14, 1857 and had additional children with her. I mention this because many descendants of John Anderson are unaware that Margaret Parker was the mother of John Anderson’s oldest children, so these family trees should be updated with this correct info. I don’t yet know who Margaret Parker’s parents were but I have no doubt she is from this Parker family.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) – Progenitor of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Parker Family:
Finally, we turn to Henry Parker’s sister Polly Parker (b. 1808). The Parker family is also a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in neighboring Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. Polly Parker was the mother of Samuel Parker (1825-1908), who was an important person early on in the Occaneechi-Saponi tribal community. Because Samuel Parker’s parentage has not been fully documented, I’m going to use this section to carefully show how I connected Samuel Parker to Polly Parker.
In the article “Occaneechi-Saponi Descendants in North Carolina: The Texas Community” (1991), Forest Hazel, tribal historian for the Occaneechi-Saponi tribe, briefly discusses the Parker family. Hazel writes:
However, it is known from oral tradition that an Indian named Sam Parker moved to the Texas community from the Vance-Granville county area prior to the Civil War.
So it is known within the Occaneechi-Saponi community (also referred to as the “Texas community”) that Samuel Parker was an Indian who came from Granville Co, thus situating him within the Parker family of Granville Co discussed above. I cannot stress enough the value of our oral histories to help make sense of what is in recorded history.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) of Granville Co had her son Samuel Parker out of wedlock and I have no leads on who fathered her son. Samuel was born in 1825, so Polly became a young, unwed mother. But this changed a few years later when Polly Parker married Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805) on January 17, 1829 in Granville Co. Thomas Pettiford therefore became Samuel Parker’s step-father.
I have not located the family in the 1830 census, but in 1840 we find the family in the Orange Co census. Their household had 3 members – one adult male aged 24-35 (Thomas Pettiford), one adult female aged 24-35 (Polly Parker) and one young male aged 10-23 (Samuel Parker).
Though no death records exist for this time period, we know that Polly Parker died sometime before 1846, because on September 4, 1846 in Orange Co, Thomas Pettiford remarried Jane Roland. In addition, on April 10, 1846 in Orange Co Samuel Parker married Lucy Chavis.
So the next time we find Thomas Pettiford and his new wife Jane Roland, and Samuel Parker and his new wife Lucy Chavis is in the 1850 census in Alamance Co. In 1849, a section of Orange Co became newly formed Alamance Co and that is where the family was located. And indeed we can see in the 1850 census, Thomas Pettiford is listed with a wife named Jane, and young children.
However, in the 1850 census, there is no one named “Samuel Parker” in Alamance or neighboring counties. BUT – there is a “Samuel Pettiford” listed two households above Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805). This Samuel Pettiford has a wife named Lucy and two young children named John and Francis. This is our Samuel Parker, but why is he listed with the Pettiford surname? As you will recall, Polly Parker had Samuel Parker out of wedlock but a couple of years later married Thomas Pettiford. It was not uncommon for children to sometimes be enumerated with the surname of their step parent, and for the 1850 census record, Samuel Parker was enumerated with the Pettiford surname. It could be the enumerator knew or was told that Samuel Parker was a “son” of Thomas Pettiford and assumed they shared the same surname. We may not know the exact reason why, but clearly this is our Samuel Parker.
The 1860 census in Alamance Co is almost just as confusing because in that census, Samuel Parker’s surname was mistranscribed as “Parks”. However you can see this Samuel has a wife named Lucy. The enumerator only used initials for the first names of Samuel and Lucy’s children. However you can see the oldest son is listed as “J H Parks” age 13 years. That is Samuel and Lucy’s son John who was enumerated in the 1850 census. On this same census page is Samuel Parker’s step-father Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805), which provides additional corroboration that this is the correct Samuel Parker. So if you have been researching Samuel Parker and were having trouble locating his family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, now you know why.
We next find Samuel Parker in the 1870 census in Alamance Co, and he is finally enumerated with the correct spelling of his name (yay!). And you can see the names and ages of his children, match up with the children in the 1860 census, further verifying that “Samuel Parks” in the 1860 census is our Samuel Parker.
Samuel Parker and Lucy Chavis’ children and later descendants continued to intermarry with other Occaneechi-Saponi families of Orange/Alamance Cos including Jeffries, Haithcock, Guy, Burnett, and Day.
In 1902, Samuel Parker registered to vote in Alamance Co and in order to register, Samuel identified a “Jack Parker” of Virginia as an ancestor who was legally able to vote in 1865. I along with other researchers including Forest Hazel have not been able to identify this “Jack Parker” that Samuel Parker references as an ancestor. Samuel Parker may have been referring to his possible grandfather Stephen Parker (b. 1778) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Whoever this Jack Parker was in reference to, we can certainly glean from that voting registration, the Samuel Parker was aware of the Virginia roots of the Parker family.
Occaneechi/Saponi Tribal Origins of the Parker Family:
I have not found a record that directly ties the Parker family to the Occaneechi or Saponi during the colonial period, but there are some circumstances to consider. The earliest “free colored” Parkers are found in Mecklenburg Co living among other families that in other blog posts (and more to come), that I have connected to the Saponi people. Mecklenburg Co is next to Fort Christanna, site of the former Saponi reservation, and we know that the Saponi continued living in and around the fort many decades following its closure in 1718.
And specifically, Mecklenburg Co is the site of “Occaneechi Island”, a historically significant site of the Occaneechi/Saponi people. During a colonial armed rebellion in 1676 known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”, some of the British colonists took up arms against the colonial government and also attacked friendly “tributary” tribes of the colony including the Occaneechi. To escape this armed conflict, the Occaneechi fled to the site of Occaneechi Island which is a large island located in the middle of the Roanoke River in Mecklenburg Co which during this time was outside of the core of the Virginia colony.
Additionally, Forest Hazel (via personal communication and here), identified a Thomas Parker who purchased land in Tabbs Creek in Granville County in 1752. This land purchase placed Thomas Parker next to community founder William Chavis and perhaps there was a connection between the two men. It’s quite possible the Parker family was moving back and forth from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC since the 1700s. Certainly more research is needed to further explore the tribal origins of the Parker family and I hope this blog post will push that research forward.