The Granville County – Lumbee Connections

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.

North-Carolina-County-Map-10

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.

 


Chavis/Gibson

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 Original Land Tract
Granville County’s Native American community founder William Chavis originally owned land that stretched from Lynch’s Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This was the land base for the community. © Kianga Lucas

 

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.

Sarah Jane Chavis
Sarah Jane Chavis (1854-1908) was the daughter of Thomas Chavis and Arabella Ransom of Robeson County. She was the wife of James Deese. Sarah Jane Chavis is a direct lineal descendant of Philip Chavis (born 1726) who moved from Granville to Robeson. Source: Ancestry, Username: debbiedoo107

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.

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 is a direct lineal descendant of William Chavis (1706-1778) and wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) through their grandson 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.
Delia Harris updated
Delia Harris (1843 – after 1870) of Granville County, is also a direct lineal descendant of William Chavis (1706-1778) and Frances Gibson (1700-1781) through their daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris. Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.

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.


Evans (Gibson)/Locklear

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.

Pantheyer Brandon
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934) was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon of Granville County and a direct lineal descendant of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson. Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

 

Ira Evans 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Lewis Evans and Zibra Bookram of Granville County and is a direct lineal descendant of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson through Major Evans. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.

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.

 

American Evans 1850 census
In the 1850 census for Robeson County, there is a Betsey Evans, age 50, born in Richmond County, residing in the household of Joseph Locklear and wife American “Mary” Evans/Locklear. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Southern Division, Robeson, North Carolina; Roll: M432_642; Page: 358B; Image: 217

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.

Arren Spencer Locklear1
Arren Spencer Locklear/Lockee (1872-1957) was a grandson of Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear and America Evans of Robeson County. Source: The Smithsonian
Arren Spencer Locklear
Another photo of Arren Spencer Locklear/Lockee (1872-1957) who was a grandson of Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear and America Evans. He was a member of the Redman’s Lodge. Source: Kelvin Oxendine

Bass

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.

Bass Robeson Co
An Elijah Bass, age 60, is shown in the 1850 census for Robeson Co. Both his birthplace and Priscilla Jones‘ birthplaces are listed as Anson County. The Bass and Jones families appeared to have moved together from Anson to Robeson. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Southern Division, Robeson, North Carolina; Roll: M432_642; Page: 386A; Image: 274

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.

sylvester bass
Sylvester Bass (1894-1969) was the son of Alonzo Bass and Bettie Johnson. Sylvester lived in Person and Granville counties and moved to Durham in his later years. The Native American community in “Rougemount” in Person county, was primarily made up of Native/FPOC families from next door in Granville. Source: Randy Maultsby
IMG_1777
Unidentified Bass family in Granville county. This photo was taken by George Huley Tyler (1886-1961) who was a professional photographer and from the Native community in Granville. His son shared this photo with me and remembered that the family were Basses, but forgot their exact names. Please let me know if you recognize anyone in the photo. Source: Robert Tyler

Goins/Gowen

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.


Kersey/Lowry

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.

Emiline Lowry
Emiline Lowry (1844-1920) was the daughter of Patrick Lowry and Catherine Strickland of Robeson County. Like all other Lumbee Lowrys, she descends from Sally Kersey. Source: Ancestry, Username: sjlocklear2013

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.

Sally Kersey
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known) of Granville County. She is from the same Kersey family that the Lumbee Lowry family also descends from. She is also the sister of Baldy Kersey. Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol

Scott

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.

Joseph Walter Scott
Joseph Walter Scott (1872-1938) was the son of John Scott and Sally Emeline Taborn of Granville County. Source: Ancestry, Username: waniehol

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.

 

John L Scott Ida Lowery
John L Scott (1886-1947) and his wife Ida Lowry (1886-1969) of Robeson County. John was the son of James Scott and Margaret Ellen Chavis. Source: Ancestry, Username: gscott56

Final Thoughts

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.

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The Pamunkey Origins of the FPOC Howell Family

The FPOC Howell family traces directly back to a young woman named Dorothy Howell who lived in the early 1700s. As a “mixed-race” Pamunkey woman, Dorothy became geographically separated from her people when she had to live across the river from the Pamunkey reservation, as a house servant to a leading colonial family. Consequently, the lives of her descendants followed different paths with some leaving the area to intermarry with other tribes, while others who were determined to stay, continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. This blog post takes a close look at the branch of the Howell family that stayed closely connected to the Pamunkey tribe and who have descendants enrolled in the tribe today. A great variety of records that I have amassed will be used to help document their lives.


Dorothy Howell (b. 1707) of New Kent County

Untitled presentation
Family Tree that shows the descedants of Dorothy Howell. This blog post examines the lineage traced down to John Howell b. 1822 and his wife Susan Pearman b. 1727 whose descendants are enrolled with the Pamunkey tribe.

The earliest documented direct lineal ancestor of the FPOC Howell family was a woman named Dorothy Howell (b. 1707). For me, she is my 7th great-grandmother. What we know about Dorothy Howell comes directly from the Registry Book of St. Peter’s Parish. The parish was formed in 1678 and served New Kent and James City counties. Births, deaths, and marriages are recorded in the Vestry Book, so these records help to establish Dorothy Howell’s approximate birth year, her location, and clues into her ethnic heritage. I know of no surviving records where we get to hear testimony from Dorothy Howell herself to understand her life and identity from her perspective. So this is something important to keep in mind as we review the historical archive.

The earliest record for Dorothy Howell, is when the birth of her daughter Judith Howell was recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1725:

Judith Howell
“Judith daughter of Dorothy Howell a mallatto servant to Mr. Sherwood Lightfoot born, 1725.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA, 1684-1786. Page 473

The next and final record of Dorothy Howell which mentions her specifically by name is for the birth of her son Robbin Howell in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1730/31:

Robbin Howell
“Robbin a mulatto son of Dorothy Howel born March 18th, 1730/1.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 468

Given the birth dates of her two documented children, Judith born in 1725 and Robbin born in 1730/31, Dorothy Howell was likely born around 1707 (as genealogist Paul Heinegg suggests). In the birth record of her daughter Judith, Dorothy is referred to as a mulatto and in the birth record of her son Robbin, he is referred to as a mulatto. So we know that Dorothy Howell was considered a person of color with a likely “mixed race” background. We also know that she was a free woman because she is called a servant of a man named Sherwood Lightfoot. Notice that in the record for the birth of her son Robbin, Dorothy Howell is not referred to as a servant. The reason for this is that Sherwood Lightfoot died on 26 April 1730. If Dorothy had not already completed the length of her servitude, the death of Sherwood Lightfoot likely released her from service.

It is important to contextualize how the word “mulatto” was used in Virginia in the 1700s. In October 1705 (just twenty years before the birth of Judith Howell), the Acts of Assembly in Virginia defined “mulatto”, “as the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of a Negro”. Therefore the term “mulatto” encompassed many varieties of ethnic admixtures. Thus Dorothy Howell could have been mixed European and African, mixed European and Native American, or mixed European, African and Native American. In consideration of the historical analysis that I will provide over the following sections and given that her descendants are well documented as Pamunkey Indians, I believe that Dorothy Howell was a “mixed race” Pamunkey Indian.

The Pamunkey are one of many tribes that compromise the Powhatan Confederacy which once dominated the Tidewater Virginia area.

Powhatan Confederacy
A map of where the various tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy were located in 1607. Source: Helen Rountree

 

Because of the limited documentation on Dorothy Howell, the next section will take a close look at the man whose residence she lived and work in, Sherwood Lightfoot.


Sherwood Lightfoot and St. Peter’s Parish

Sherwood Lightfoot (1686-1730) was the son of Col. John Lightfoot and Ann Goodrich, a wealthy British colonial family. Ann Goodrich’s parents were Major Thomas Goodrich and Ann Sherwood of Old Rappahannock County, VA (present day Essex County, VA). Major Thomas Goodrich played a significant role during a pinnacle event in Virginia colonial history. Goodrich was a top lieutenant for Nathaniel Bacon during a violent episode known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”. In 1676, Bacon and allied colonists, formed an armed rebellion against colonial Virginia Governor William Berkeley. The colonists accused Governor Berkeley of not protecting their interests. During this violent uprising, Powhatan tribal peoples living in coastal Virginia were slaughtered by the rebellious colonists. You can learn more about Bacon’s Rebellion here.

Before becoming a lieutenant in Bacon’s Rebellion, Major Thomas Goodrich was a signatory to a treaty with a Powhatan tribe, dated September 1655 in Old Rappahannock Co, VA. The text reads:

“At a court September 1655 Rappahannock Present Coll Moore Fantleroy Capt Francis Slaughter Majr Thos Goodrich Mr Andrew Gilson Mr. Thos Lucas Senior Mr Richard Loe Capt William Underwood Mr Humphrey Boot The King Masquran Mquanzafsi Caskamino”

Source: http://gedcom.surnames.com/burgess_jim/np247.htm

Another relevant connection between Sherwood Lightfoot and Native American peoples is through his brother Goodrich Lightfoot. In the St. Peter’s Parish records, Goodrich Lightfoot is documented owning an “Indian” slave named Charles:

Charles the Indian Goodrich Lightfoot
“Charles an Indian belonging to Captain Goodrich Lightfoot died October 9, 1722.” Source: Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 64

Goodrich Lightfoot is also connected to the origins of the “free colored” Evans family of Granville County, who descend from Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson the younger. Some of Morris and Jane’s descendants were illegally held as slaves by Goodrich Lightfoot and later sold to other slave owners. The Evans descendants were able to obtain their freedom by proving they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder who was the mother of Jane Gibson the younger. Unfortunately Jane Gibson’s tribe is not specified in those records, but given the location, it’s most likely she was of Powhatan heritage. I have a blog post where I discuss the Native American origins of the Evans family here. Also descendants of the Evans family and of the Howell family often intermarried throughout Virginia and North Carolina, so it is common to find people who descend from both lineages (self included).

It is important to take a moment to study the geography of where Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot lived and how this factors into understanding the heritage of Dorothy Howell.  Sherwood Lightfoot’s estate was located on the banks of the Pamunkey River, directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. In 1707, Col. John Lightfoot died and his sons Goodrich and Sherwood Lighfoot inherited his large land holdings along the Pamunkey River which he originally purchased in 1686.

Pamunkey_map 1
Brothers Sherwood Lightot and Goodrich Lightfoot lived on properties that were about 1 mile apart and directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. Sherwood resided at “Ricahock” and Goodrich resided at the “White House”. Source: http://archive.wetlandstudies.com/newsletters/2016/January/Pamunkey.html
Pamunkey River
A recent photo taken from the shores of the Pamunkey Indian reservation along the Pamunkey River. The land directly across the river is where Sherwood Lightfoot and his servant Dorothy Howell lived. Photo courtesy of Azie Dungey

The geographical proximity of Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot to the Pamunkey Reservation is also evident in a diary entry from Col. William Byrd. On September 22 and 23, 1712, Byrd described staying at the homes of both brothers before going to the Pamunkey reservation to meet the Governor.

Byrd and Lightfoot brothers
Excerpt from Col. William Byrd’s diary which demonstrates that Sherwood Lightfoot lived directly across from the Pamunkey reservation, commonly called “Pamunkey Town”. Source:  “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 123.

Additionally, Sherwood’s father Col. John Lightfoot who had previously owned the land before Sherwood, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from him.

Lt John Lightfoot and Pamunkey
Col. John Lightfoot, the father of Sherwood Lightfoot, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from his estate. Source: “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 122.

Pamunkey Origins

So what does this tell us so far? We have the Lightfoot family whom in successive generations have a number of notable interactions with Powhatan peoples – Major Thomas Goodrich who was a signatory of a treaty and also fought in Bacon’s Rebellion; Col. John Lightfoot whose estate was across the river from the Pamunkey reservation and had difficulties with the tribe, and brothers Sherwood and Goodrich Lightfoot who inherited their father’s estate from across the Pamunkey reservation and are noted for enslaving local Native American peoples.  Dorothy Howell was a free woman living and working as an indentured servant in Sherwood’s household, and I do believe her heritage is from the Pamunkey reservation. Perhaps she or one of her parents was the offspring of a Howell colonist and a Pamunkey Indian woman? Or even a Howell woman and a Pamunkey Indian man?

At this time, Dorothy Howell’s parents are unidentified. Her birth was not recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records and for Dorothy to be a free-born person means that her mother was also free.

I looked through earlier records to see if I could find any Howells who lived in the area and who had any interactions with Native Americans. It was not uncommon for some Native Americans to adopt the surnames of “friendly whites”, so it’s possible the Howell surname entered the local Native American population through that manner.

In court records for neighboring Charles City County, there was a John Howell who in 1659 received permission from the courts to hire an “Indian”. This person is not identified by name or by tribe.

Lt John Howell
John Howell was allowed to employ in “Indian” on 3 Aug 1659 in Charles City County, VA. Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

The John Howell named in this record was a man named  Lt John Howell (1623-1679) who was a Welsh-born colonist. Some additional information about him can be found here.

There was also an Edmund Howell who lived in nearby Surry Co, VA who was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, just like Sherwood Lightfoot’s grandfather Major Thomas Goodrich. This same Edmund Howell left a 1679 will which named his godson Gibson Gibson. This Gibson Gibson was a mixed race Native American and a relative of Jane Gibson the elder whose Evans descendants were illegally enslaved by Goodrich Lightfoot. Edmund Howell had a son named William Howell who left a 1718 will which named sons William, Thomas, Edmund, and Joseph. Perhaps Dorothy Howell (or one of her parents) was a mixed race offspring of one of these Howell men and she ended up as an indentured servant with Lightfoots who were family friends? You can read more about Edmund Howell and his relationship to the Gibson family here.

I also found another record which offers precedence for Pamunkey Indians desiring to leave the reservation to live with the nearby white population. On 27 Oct 1709, in neighboring James City County, a Pamunkey Indian named Robin asked permission to remain among the white population so that he could continue his shoemaking business. His request was granted:

Robin Pamunkey
Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

 

I also found another record in the St. Peter’s Parish register that could possibly pertain to Dorothy Howell:

Thurs Dec 20, 1722 – Sherwood was paid 500 lbs of tobacco for keeping a “mollatto child of the parish”.

The Sherwood referenced here is Sherwood Lightfoot. Could this mulatto child be Dorothy Howell? In 1722, Dorothy Howell would have been about 15 years old, so still a minor. Because Sherwood Lightfoot was paid for taking in this child, we know that this child was not a slave.

In summary, all of these records present possible scenarios for how Dorothy Howell acquired her Howell surname and how she became an indentured servant for a prominent colonial family.


The Howells Descendants Diverge

As discussed earlier, Dorothy Howell had a daughter named Judith Howell who was born in 1725. 27 years later in 1752, we find Judith Howell a few counties over to the West in the Amelia County, VA records. And the following year in 1753 her son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out. Judith Howell lived in the Amelia County area at the same time it was reported a group of Saponi Indians lived in a small village built of cabins. I discussed this in an earlier blogpost here. It was in Amelia County that Judith Howell’s branch of the Howell family, first began to intermarry with the Saponi who were gradually moving away from the former Saponi reservation called Ft. Christanna. Matthew Howell continued to move further into the Southside counties of Virginia and his descendants continued to intermarry with the Saponi descendants in the area. Descendants of Matthew Howell’s daughter Elizabeth Howell b. 1783 relocated to Ohio and today are found among the Saponi-Catawba Nation in Ohio. Descendants of his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) are the North Carolina branch and spread first into Granville County with some moving into Orange, Person, and Alamance counties. This is my branch of the Howell family and you can read more about Freeman Howell’s descendants here.

From the St. Peter’s Parish and Revolutionary War records, we learn that there was a branch of the Howell family that remained in New Kent County and therefore continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. Please note that the genealogy that I will present here diverges a bit from the genealogy presented by Paul Heinegg about the Howell family. I found additional documents to corroborate the timeline and dates that I am presenting.

Robert Howell (1730/1740 – 1780) and his wife Mary are shown as the parents of several “mulatto” children whose births were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish registry. I have estimated that Robert Howell was born between 1730 and 1740 based upon the ages of his children and other life events. And given Robert Howell’s approximate age, it makes the most sense that he was a son of Dorothy Howell (Heinegg tentatively believes that Robert Howell is Judith Howell’s son). The maiden name of Robert Howell’s wife Mary is unknown. From the St. Peter’s records, we learn that Robert Howell was the father of John Godfrey Howell born 12 July 1768 and twin daughters named Betsey and Sarah Howell who were born 22 March 1771. We also learn from Revolutionary War bounty land records that Robert Howell enlisted while living in New Kent County and died a year or two into his service. No dates are given, so I have estimated that he died around 1780. Thomas Howell was named as the heir at law of Robert Howell and that his parents were legally married. So this means Robert Howell had another son named Thomas Howell (more on him below). You can read Robert Howell’s transcribed Revolutionary War records and see the original images  here.

Thomas Howell b. 1760 who is documented as Robert Howell’s heir, was also a Revolutionary War soldier and there are records from his service which help document his life. Thomas Howell filed for a pension in 1836 while living in the city of Richmond, VA. He stated that he was 76 at the time, thus he was born around 1760. He enlisted while living in New Kent County and said that his birth was registered at St. Peter’s Parish. This is a key detail because it is consistent with Thomas Howell being a son of Robert Howell who we know was living in New Kent County and whose children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records. After the War, Thomas Howell states he resided in the city of Richmond through to the present. You can read a transcribed version of Thomas Howell’s pension application here. Thomas Howell’s testimony is consistent with the census records which show him as the head of a “free colored” household in Richmond in the 1810 and 1820 censuses and in Henrico Co in the 1830 census (Richmond was enumerated in Henrico Co that year). I found no other Thomas Howells living anywhere in the Richmond from this time period, so I’m confident that this is him recorded in the census.

Fold3_Page_6_Revolutionary_War_Pension_and_BountyLand_Warrant_Application_Files
An excerpt from Thomas Howell’s Revolutionary War pension application. His answers to the first three questions provide key details about where he was from. “1. I was born in St. Peter’s Parish New Kent County Virginia 2. I believe there is a record of my age in New Kent Clerks Office. 3. I resided in New Kent when called into service, since that I have resided in this City.” Source: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; R5300, Page 6

The births of Thomas Howell’s children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records as well, so we are able to continue to trace his line forward. His wife was named Lucy, but her maiden name is unknown. Son Robert Howell was born 20 Feb 1785 and the births of his daughters were recorded: Susannah in born 17 Apr 1787, Rebecca in born 27 Apr 1790 and Elizabeth in born 12 Mar 1794.

Robert Howell b. 1785 married Kitty Didlake on 22 Dec 1810 in Henrico County and that same year is enumerated in the census for Henrico County, head of a household of 2 “free colored” persons. It is his lineage who brings the Howells full circle back into the tight-knit Pamunkey tribal community


The Pamunkey Howell Family From the 1800s Onward

During the 1800s, Pamunkeys who lived off the reservation in neighboring New Kent County, began to emerge as a group referred to as the “Cumberland Indians”. Cumberland is a town in New Kent County where many off reservation Pamunkey families resided. In her book “Pocahontas People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries”, historian Helen Rountree refers to the Pamunkeys residing in New Kent County as “fringe Indians” and includes the Howell family in this group. The term “fringe Indians” seems to imply that those living off the reservation, lost their tribal identity and this is simply not the case. Historian Arica Coleman and others have pushed back against Rountree’s “fringe Indians”, and instead I will refer to the Pamunkeys living in New Kent as the “Cumberland Indians”.

John Howell b. 1822 was the son of previously mentioned Robert Howell b. 1785. It is John Howell’s family who emerges as a leading and integral family among the Cumberland Indians. John Howell was married to Susan Pearman and they are enumerated in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses in New Kent County and sometimes classified as “mulatto” and sometimes classified as “Indian”. Susan Pearman was also an Indian woman and the daughter of Michael Pearman and Lucy Jarvis. The descendants of John Howell and Susan Pearman intermarried with just about every other Pamunkey family: Collins, Langston, Cook, Stewart, Dennis, Allmond, Wynn, Dungee, Miles, Tupponce, Adkins, Bradby, Custalow, etc (some of these surnames and families are also found among the neighboring Chickahominy and Mattaponi tribes).

Below is a picture of John Howell and Susan Pearman’s daughter Pinkie Howell b. 1865. She married fellow Pamunkey Simeon Collins b. 1859 and so they are shown here with their children. The photo was taken during an anthropological survey of the Pamunkey reservation.

Simeon Collins with wife Pinkie Howell and children. New Kent Co, VA. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives
Simeon Collins b. 1859 seated in the middle with wife Pinkie Howell b. 1865 to the left and their children. Pamunkey Indian reservation in King William County, VA. Circa 1899. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives

Simeon Collins and Pinkie Howell’s family were enumerated in the 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation:

Pinkie 1900 census
Simeon “S” Collins and his wife Pinkie Howell and children were enumerated in 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation. The first column identifies their tribe as “Powhatan”. The second and third columns identify the tribe for their father and mother, respectively. The parents of Simeon and Pinkie are both identified as Powhatan. The next column indicates how much “white blood” they have. The entire family is noted for having 1/2 “white blood”. Thus both of their Powhatan Indian parents were also mixed with European ancestry. This indicates that Pinkie Howell’s parents John Howell and Susan Pearman were both of mixed Pamunkey and European heritage. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: West Point, King William, Virginia; Roll: T623_31077_4117892; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0043; FHL microfilm: 1241714.

Another daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman was named Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936). She was married to another Pamunkey named John Solomon Wynn b. 1855. Lena Howell and John Wynn had a daughter named Kate Wynn (1887-1969) who married outside of the tribe to a white man named Otho Floyd Gray.

Lena Lucy Howell
Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936) was the daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman. She was married to John Solomon Wynn.  Source: Robert Gray
Kate Wynn
Kate Wynn (1887-1969) was the daughter of John Solomon Wynn and Lena Lucy Howell. She is shown with her husband Otho Floyd Gray and her son Luther Gordon Gray.  Source: Robert Gray

 

Another child of John Howell and Susan Pearman was Michael Howell b. 1869. I found the most obscure reference to Michael Howell in an online book that contained portions of a transcribed diary. The diary was written by a white woman who lived in the Richmond, VA area in the late 1800s. The woman was lamenting over the fact that her Pamunkey Indian house servant girl was leaving to marry another Pamunkey named Michael Howell. Unfortunately I did not bookmark this reference and I have been unable to locate it again. I will update this blogpost when I am able to locate this source again.

In 2015, the Pamunkey Tribe became the first tribe in Virginia to receive federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In support of their recognition application, the tribe submitted hundreds of pages of documentation to prove their identity and status as a sovereign indigenous nation. Included in these records was interesting information about a member of the Pamunkey Howell family. We learn that John C. Howell (“J.C. Howell”) who lived outside of the reservation in New Kent County, did not want a school built for Pamunkey children in New Kent in 1870, to have a “colored” teacher. John C. Howell (b. 1849) was the son of John Howell and Susan Pearman. For Howell it was important that the Pamunkeys keep their distance from “colored” people in order to maintain their status as “Indian” in the eyes of their white neighbors.

BIA Pamunkey 1
An excerpt from the Preliminary Positive Decision that the Bureau of Indians Affairs provided for the Pamunkey tribe. Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (page 42)
BIA Pamunkey 2
Continuation of the excerpt from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Preliminary Positive Decision for the Pamunkey Tribe Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (Page 43)

The Pamunkey’s tribe attempt to keep a clear racial distinction between themselves and “colored” people was complicated by Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  I previously wrote a blogpost about Walter Plecker (1861-1947) who was the Registrar of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 – 1946. He was a proponent of white supremacy, racial segregation and eugenics and believed that only two races of people existed in Virginia: “White” and “Negro”. In his view, Indian peoples no longer lived in Virginia and “Negro” people simply identified as “Indian” as a racial stepping stone towards whiteness. Plecker’s racial policies were in direct conflict with the Indian identity of the Pamunkey and other tribal peoples who still lived in Virginia. In order to combat people from self identifying as “Indian” on vital records, Plecker sent out a list to the heads of vital statistics in counties across the state. On his list, Plecker identified surnames by county, of families whom he felt were trying to “pass” as “Indian” and “White”. The Pamunkey Howell family made the Plecker list:

Plecker letter 2
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 “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

The fallout from Plecker’s policies, meant that there were some Pamunkey Howells who did “pass” for white instead of suffering the social disadvantages of being identified as “Negro”. Some families in order to avoid being pinned between two racial categories that they did not identify with, simply left the state. The racial identity of one Pamunkey Howell named Herbert Clayton Howell (1916-1979) is an interesting example. Herbert Howell was identified as “white” in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses and identified as “white” in his World War II draft and enlistment records, thus it appeared that he had successfully “passed” for white. However it was his marriage to a white woman, that eventually “outed” his identity as a person of color. On 28 March 1845, just 5 years into their marriage, Herbert Howell and his wife Margaret Shadoan received an annulment. The reason for the annulment is stated clearly on the record: “Defendant was a person of the negro race.”

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Margaret Shadoan received an annulment from her marriage to Herbert Clayton Howell. The stated reason: “Defendant is a person of the negro race.” Source: Virginia, Divorce Records, 1918-2014
43006_172028004422_0335-00264
Herbet Clayton Howell’s death record from 1979, lists his race as “American Indian”. He died after Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was overturned, so it became legal again to self identify as Indian. Source: Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014

Final Thoughts

I think it is quite amazing to look back to see that all of us Howells descend from one woman named Dorothy Howell who lived right in the epicenter of a burgeoning colony. I wish there was a way to access more about her life and experiences. I wonder how she felt living so close, yet across the river from her people. In the end, the decisions that she made did result in many of her descendants still staying connected to the tribe and having an integral part in its political and cultural revolution in the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern DNA testing is having a tremendous impact on genealogy as a way of confirming the paper trail with genetic evidence. As a direct lineal descedant of Dorothy Howell’s daughter Judith Howell who moved away from the Pamunkey, I am finding DNA cousin matches who descend from the Pamunkey Collins, Dungee, and Custalow families. The Howells who remained among the Pamunkey appear to be the genetic link. Dorothy Howell’s legacy lives on in the DNA of her many descendants and it is helping us find our way back to one another.

image (1)
A group of Pamunkeys including members of the Cook, Dennis, Miles, Allmond, Page and Bradby families. Circa 1881. Source unknown.

52nd Annual Haliwa-Saponi Pow Wow April 14-16, 2017

It’s that time again! The third weekend in April is when the annual Haliwa-Saponi Pow Wow takes place in recognition of when the tribe was officially granted “state-recognition” status.

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If you plan on being in the area this weekend, stop on by. All are welcome!

The tribal grounds are located in Hollister which is in Halifax County, North Carolina, very close to the Warren County border. The physical address is: 130 Haliwa Saponi Trail, Hollister NC 27844. Please visit the Haliwa-Saponi website or call the tribal office at (252) 586-4017 if you need directions to the tribal grounds and for more info: http://haliwa-saponi.com/

The annual pow wow is a very special event and will be filled with dancing, drumming, singing, art vendors and more. It is also a time for tribal members who live away from home to come back and reunite with family and friends.

Here is a short video provided by videographer David James from last year’s pow wow which highlights some of the sights and sounds that you can expect to see this weekend:

Another short video provided by David James shows one of our top North Carolina drum groups: Warpaint, jamming at last year’s pow wow:

And finally a video provided by the North Carolina Arts Council in which tribal members Marty Richardson and Senora Lynch are interviewed and discuss the connections between the modern pow wow and Native American identity:

So please come on out and enjoy this beautiful event!

Some tips:

1. This is a rural area, so cell phone reception will be spotty. It is a good idea to print out directions beforehand if you are not familiar with the area and make plans ahead of time to meet family/friends.

2. Pow wow tickets are already on sale at the tribal office. Avoid the lines and purchase your tickets ahead of time.

3. Pow wow t-shirts are also already on sale and can be picked up at the tribal office. If you are unable to attend the pow wow, you can still order t-shirts to be sent by mail by contacting the tribal office.

4. Make sure to visit the arts and food vendors at the pow wow. These are all Native American owned and operated businesses and they need your support and patronage.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the pow wow, so I am sending all my love and support to my family this weekend for a successful pow wow. I descend from the Haliwa-Saponi Richardson family (my mom’s great-grandma was Virginia Richardson from Hollister) and I will be writing some blog posts that explore the genealogy of core tribal families such as Richardson, Lynch, Hedgepeth, Silver, Evans and more.

Haliwa Saponi tribal seal

Historian Vikki Bynum on Granville’s FPOC Community

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!

Here is a direct link to Vikki Bynum’s article:

https://renegadesouth.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/free-people-of-color-in-slaveholding-north-carolina-the-andersons-of-granville-county/

 

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. Jane was the daughter of Mark and Crecy Anderson. The family lived in Granville and Wake Counties and relocated to Washington, D.C. in their later years. Source: Ancestry, Username: rewinder11

The Full Potential of Marriage Records

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:

doc-alexander-howell-betsy-ann-anderson
This is a 4 July 1839 bond for the marriage of “Doctor” Alexander Howell (1811-1881) and Betsy Ann Anderson (b. 1825). William Howell along with the groom guaranteed the marriage bond for a sum of 500 lbs. Doctor Alexander Howell was the brother of my 3rd great-grandfather John Howell. William Howell the bondsman, was also a brother to Doctor Alexander Howell which is why he helped guarantee the bond. Source: North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011, Marriage Bonds (1763 – 1869), Granville, Page 4631.

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.

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When I find a marriage bond for my ancestors, I usually make a note in my family tree identifying who the bondsman was and if he had any relationship to the groom or bride.

Here is another example of a marriage bond, where the bondsman was an uncle:

john-evans-martha-harris-marriage-bond
This 23 December 1853 Granville County marriage bond for John Evans (1830-1892) and Martha Harris (1836-1896), shows a bondsman named Hilliard Evans (b. 1815). Hilliard Evans was the uncle of John Evans. John Evans was born out of wedlock to Polly Evans (b. 1812) and an unknown father. So Polly Evans’ brother Hilliard Evans provided the bond for his nephew’s marriage. Source: North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011, Marriage Bonds (1763-1869), Granville County, page 2848.
John Evans and Martha Harris
John Evans (1830 – 1892) and his wife Martha Harris (1836-1896) pictured here are the married couple in the above marriage bond. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. Martha Harris was the daughter of David Harris aka David Dew and Polly Cole. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. Source: E. Howard Evans

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.

james-a-howell-emily-evans
This is the marriage license for James A Howell (1846-1934) and Emily Evans (b. 1853) dated 8 January 1868. The license provides identifying information about the groom and bride. Their parents are identified which helps to not mix up their identities with others who share their same name. For example, James A Howell is the first cousin of my 2nd great grandfather James E Howell. The first cousins shared the same name, were close in age, and lived on adjoining property, so their identities can easily be confused (save for the differing middle initial). By identifying James A Howell’s parents as Alexander and Betsy Ann Howell, I know this is not a marriage record for my 2nd great grandfather James E Howell. The bottom half of the record shows that James A Howell’s father Alexander Howell (same man named in the marriage bond in the above section), who was a preacher, solemnized the marriage. Source: North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011, page 4636

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.

james-tyler-virginia-scott
The 29 July 1879 Granville County marriage record of James H Tyler and (Sarah) Virginia Scott. These are screenshots from the marriage book which is why the text is not continuous.

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.

james-h-tyler
Pictured is James H Tyler (1852-1919) who was the groom in the above marriage record. He was the son of William Tyler and Sally Kersey of Granville County. Source: Robert Tyler
Sally Kersey
Pictured is Sally/Sarah (Kersey) Tyler (1828-1911) who was a witness to her son James Tyler’s marriage to Sarah Virginia Scott. She was the daughter of Benjamin and Sally Kersey. Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol

 

Another example of a marriage license with biographical information:

 

lewis-h-anderson-amanda-w-anderson
Screenshots of the marriage license for Lewis H Anderson and Amanda W Anderson.

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.

malinda-parrish
Dennis Anderson (b.1807) was a preacher in the community and officiated over a number of weddings but I have not been able to locate a photo of him. Instead pictured here is his second wife Malinda Parrish (b. 1827). Malinda Parrish was first married to Allen Howell and second married Dennis Anderson. Source: Ancestry, Username: waniehol

 

And here is another example of a marriage record with important biographical information:

james-mayo-ida-howell
Screenshots of the marriage license for James A Mayo and Ida Howell

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.

william-tyler
Pictured is William Tyler (1825-1897) who was a witness to the marriage of James A Mayo and Ida Howell. William was the son of William Tyler Sr and Martha Patsy Day of Granville County. Source: Robert Tyler

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.

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Transcription of the marriage bond for Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass: “We the subscribed do acknowledge to owe to ALEXANDER MARTIN esq. Governor of the State of North Carolina & to his successors in office the sum of five hundred pounds to be levied of our goods to be levied of our goods & chattels respectively But to be void on Condition that no lawful cause shall hereafter appear to obstruct a marriage intended between BENJAMIN RICHARDSON and MARY BASS – to perform which Marriage the said BENJAMIN RICHARDSON hath obtained a license bearing even date with these presents sealed with our seals & dated the 13 day of February A.D. 1783 Signed sealed & delivered BENJAMIN RICHARDSON (“X” his mark) (seal) in presence of PHILA PATTEFORD (seal) ELIZABETH SEARCEY North Carolina Granville County”. Transcription courtesy of Deloris Williams.

 

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.

fanny-cavender-testimony
On 21 November 1843 in Granville County, Frances (Bridges) Cavender provided testimony about the marriage of Sherwood Harris: “… and she was present where the said Sherrod and Martha or Patty was married and she believes that the marriage took place about the date of 1787 and they were married by the bonds of matrimony being published and solemnized by John Pope, Esq of said county…” Source: U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900. W.3984

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.

William Chavis Original Land Tract
Granville County’s Native American community founder William Chavis originally owned land that stretched from Lynch’s Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This was the land base for the community. In 1756, William Chavis gifted his son-in-law Edward Harris 340 of this land along Tabbs Creek. You can see Tabbs Creeks running north-south and cutting directly through the center of William Chavis’ land. © Kianga Lucas

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.

The Legend of Baldy Kersey

One of Granville County’s most infamous residents was a member of the Native American community named Archibald “Baldy” Kersey (1821-1899). Baldy showed little regard for the law, as he headed a gang of counterfeiters and thieves who traded stolen goods. Not even a jail cell could prevent Baldy from his life of crime as he would find inventive ways to break out. He also showed little regard for the racially segregated laws of the South. Baldy’s gang was interracial and Baldy had a known relationship with a white woman named Rovella Tanner with whom he fathered numerous children with. However to simply characterize Baldy as a “bad guy” does disservice to the complexity of his life. Baldy had a deep love and loyalty for family as demonstrated by “adopting” the fatherless children of his relatives. He also fought hard to the very end to keep possession of his family’s original land which actually resulted in a major United States Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s Homestead law. In this blog post, I will document the life of one of the community’s most colorful characters with the help of digitized court records and newspaper articles.


Baldy Kersey’s Lineages and Early Life

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This is the only known surviving image of Archibald “Baldy” Kersey. This photo used to hang in the home of Baldy’s daughter Martha Kersey who was married to John Henry Tyler. Sadly the original photo no longer exists, but Baldy’s great nephew Robert Tyler was able to take a snapshot of it many years back. The quality is not great but at least it gives you an idea of Baldy’s physical appearance.

Archibald “Baldy” Kersey (1821-1899) was born in Granville County to Benjamin and Sally Kersey. Some family oral history indicates that Sally’s maiden name was Oxendine but I have not been able to locate a marriage record or any record that identifies her maiden name. Through his father Benjamin Kersey, Baldy descends from the Kersey, Evans, and Walden families. Baldy’s paternal grandmother Polly Evans (1765-1840) was sisters to my 5th great-grandmother Margaret Evans (b. 1753). I previously blogged about the Weyanoke and Nottoway/Tuscarora tribal origins of the Kersey family here and the Evans family here. “Kersey” is the standardized and most common spelling of the surname but throughout the documents in this blog post you will see the surname spelled in a variety of ways: “Kearsey” and “Kearzey”.

Baldy had numerous siblings who all lived within and married within the community:

Emily Kersey (b. 1820) married Samuel Richardson

Susan Kersey (b. 1825) married Samuel Johnson

Sally Kersey (1828-1911) married William Tyler Jr. (Baldy’ first wife Francis Tyler was sisters to William Tyler Jr)

Sophia Kersey (1829-1918) married William Anderson

Benjamin Kersey (b. 1831) never married and died young

Sally Kersey
This is Baldy Kersey’s sister Sally Kersey (1828-1911). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granville, in Fishing Creek township. Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol
Sally Kersey Tyler and grandchildre
Baldy Kersey’s sister Sally Kersey (1828-1911) is pictured here again with her Tyler grandchildren (children of her son John Thomas Tyler). Fishing Creek township, Granville Co, NC. Source: Robert Tyler

Baldy Kersey first married Francis Tyler b. 1824 (daughter of William Tyler Sr and Martha Patsy Day) on 11 March 1841. Though they are listed together as a married couple in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Baldy and Francis did not have any children together. However during their marriage, Baldy did father a child named Mary Jane Chavis (1857-1929) out of wedlock with a woman named Lula Chavis.

Also during his first marriage, Baldy adopted the 4 “illegitimate” children of his wife’s sister Martha Jane Tyler (b. 1830). The four children were: Francis Tyler b. 1850, Elizabeth “Betsy Ann” Tyler b. 1851, Hawkins Tyler (1854-1921), and Amanda Tyler (1858-1955). From that point forward, the siblings interchangeably used the Tyler and Kersey surnames and were commonly known as Baldy Kersey’s children.

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August 1860 Court in Granville County shows that Martha Jane Tyler’s son Hawkins Tyler was in the custody of Baldy Kersey. Kersey would “adopt” Hawkins and his siblings Francis, Elizabeth, and Amanda. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998; Granville, Apprentice Bonds and Records, 1810-1865, page 1984.

Later Baldy Kersey had a relationship with a white woman named Rovella Tanner but could not legally marry her because of laws forbidding interracial marriages. They had numerous children together which I discussed in detail in this blog post.

Sam Napolean Kersey
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the son of Baldy Kersey and Rovella Tanner. Sam was Baldy’s youngest son and passed away just a year after Sam was born. Sam lived in the heart of Granville’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey. Source: Darrin Norwood

Baldy Kersey’s Gang

In her book, “Unruly Woman, The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South”, historian Victoria Bynum includes a brief discussion on the illegal activities of Baldy Kersey. During the Civil War, Baldy Kersey was the leader of an interracial gang of people who traded looted goods. It was a very extensive underground network that went from Granville County all the way to the Atlantic Coast. This network included “free people of color”, as well as white men who had deserted the Confederate Army and black slaves.

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Baldy Kersey’s gang had an extensive network for trading stolen goods that covered Granville County all the way to the coast.

The Civil War brought about great poverty in the South and poor people especially had a hard time finding goods. Baldy Kersey’s gang filled this void by providing a way for poor people to be able to acquire goods. But it was not just the illegal activities that worried authorities, it was the interracial nature of Baldy’s gang that was a direct slap to the face of the racially segregated South. Granville Co Sheriff William Philpott explained to North Carolina Governor Vance that Baldy was:

the worst rogue and seducer of slaves I have ever known. He has a range from here to the extremity of the state east, as he has been trading that way for years.

In a later newspaper article from 16 Mar 1880, we see that Baldy Kersey and a white man named John Smith were the leaders of a gang that dealt in counterfeit money and horse stealing. We can also see that counterfeiting and stealing was a family affair for Baldy, as his “adopted” son Hawkins (Tyler) Kersey was also a member of the gang:

Baldy Kersey gang
Newspaper article about Baldy Kersey’s gang. Source: The Torchlight (Oxford, North Carolina) 16 Mar 1880, Tue • Page 3

The more I have learned about Baldy Kersey, the more he reminds me of another contemporary from his time: Henry Berry Lowry. Lowry is the famed ancestor of the Lumbee and Tuscarora of Robeson Co. In fact, Baldy Kersey and Henry Berry Lowry were cousins. Lowry’s paternal grandmother was Sally Kersey who was described as a “half breed Tuscarora Indian”. Like Kersey, Henry Berry Lowry lead an interracial gang of thieves who refused to enlist with the Confederacy during the Civil War. I’m sure the two men crossed paths during their extensive networks throughout the state. And according to Baldy Kersey’s great grand nephew Robert Tyler, the family has always known that they were cousins with Henry Berry Lowry.

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Henry Berry Lowry (b. 1845) was the grandson of Sally Kersey, described as a “half breed Tuscarora woman”. Lowry and Baldy Kersey were cousins and each lead similar interracial gangs during the Civil War.

In the following sections, I’m going to explore in detail some of Baldy Kersey’s major court cases.

 


John Crabtree V. Baldy Kersey and the Stolen Wagon Hubs

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Source: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/wagon-wheel-hub-wayne-sheeler.html

The earliest court case that I could find where Baldy Kersey was charged with larceny was from an accusation in 1863. It is worthwhile to note that Baldy was already approximately 42 years of age in that year, so it seems unlikely this was his first offense. Familysearch recently digitized a collection called,  “North Carolina, State Supreme Files, 1800-1909” and I was able to find a number of cases from our community. One such case was State V. Kearzey 61 N.C. 481 (N.C. 1868). This was  an appeals decision from an earlier case that was in the Granville County District Court and North Carolina Superior Court. Both lower courts had previously ruled in favor of the state in the 1863 larceny case. So within this North Carolina State Supreme Court appeal are the transcripts from the the previous courts’ rulings of the 1863 case which provide lots of detail as to what exactly Baldy Kersey was accused of. You can access the entirety of the files for this case here (these are in original handwriting and not transcribed).

The details of the case are quite interesting because they demonstrate the tenacity of Baldy Kersey. On 5 March 1863, John Crabtree came before the court and testified that Baldy Kersey had committed larceny and as a result Kersey was indicted for larceny in May 1863. Crabtree was a wagon maker who had a shop in Oxford. A year earlier in February 1862, Crabtree met a man named Murray (first name not given) who was also a wagon maker who had a shop about 10-12 miles outside of Oxford. Murray was preparing to leave the state and needed to sell his wagon making materials. Crabtree agreed to purchase the materials which included distinctive wagon hubs made from walnut timber.

Because the two shops were 10-12 miles apart, the purchased materials needed to be transferred and this is where Baldy Kersey enters the story. In the spring of 1862, Crabtree was in the process of transferring the goods when he saw Baldy Kersey just outside of Murray’s shop and asked him to assist in transferring the materials to his own shop in Oxford. Crabtree even told Kersey where the key was to his shop so that Kersey could let himself in to unload the goods. (Not to excuse Kersey’s actions but if Kersey was a known thief, why would Crabtree enlist his help?)

Baldy Kersey apparently picked up the materials but never transferred them to the shop. Instead he brought the materials home. Crabtree never realized that Kersey did not transfer the goods to his shop because it appears Crabtree never had a full list of the items he purchased from Murray. Fast forward a year later to March 1863, and Crabtree reported that several individuals were going through Baldy’s house looking for other stolen goods. Crabtree was not the only person who had been wronged by Baldy. While going through his house, these individuals found the wagon hubs that Crabtree purchased from Murray a year earlier. There was little doubt that these were the same wagon hubs because they were made from walnut and had the same distinctive marks. Kersey was present during the search and denied that the wagon hubs belonged to Crabtree and instead insisted he purchased them from a man named Grissom who left the county several years earlier.

Indicted on larceny charges by the grand jury in May 1863, Baldy Kersey decided to leave the county and hide out instead of coming to court and answering the charges against him. In the court records we see that starting in August 1863, Baldy Kersey could not be located. Every two months, the courts would call the case up but it had to be delayed on account of Baldy Kersey being on the run. This continued on until May 1866 when Baldy Kersey finally showed up to court to answer for the charges against him.

During Baldy Kersey’s 3 years on the run, the documentation gets a bit confusing and conflicting. According to the court documents for this larceny case involving Crabtree, Baldy was consistently on the run from August 1863 through May 1866. But it appears that Baldy was picked up by the sheriff at some point and started to serve a 6 month jail sentence on yet another larceny charge. We know this because on 27 October 1864, we see a notice in the newspaper alerting the public that Baldy Kersey had escaped from jail:

Baldy_Kersey_escape
Source: The Daily Conservative, 7 Oct 1864, Fri, Page 1

We learn from this notice that Baldy Kersey had been sentenced in September 1864 to 6 months of imprisonment for larceny. The notice doesn’t specify the details of this conviction but it does say that there were still 5 outstanding larceny indictments against him. We know one of those five indictments was the theft of Crabtree’s wagon hubs.

To escape from jail is a big deal. According to later witness testimony, Baldy used bribery and the assistance of two white men to escape from jail.

When Baldey Kersey returned to court in May 1866 after 3 years on the run, he entered a plea of “not guilty” and a trial date was set for August 1866. However Baldy was able to convince the court that he was not ready for trial and asked for a delay which was granted for November 1866. And not just one delay, he was able to delay the trial multiple times so that the trial did not take place until May 1867.

For the trial, Kersey hired a defense attorney to argue his side of the case. However a jury found him guilty of larceny. Kersey’s attorney asked for a new trial which was denied. The defense attorney also asked the judge to squash the punishment citing other statues that petty larceny under $25 was not punishable by a criminal court. However the court overruled the defense attorney’s motion.

As a result of the “guilty” judgment, Baldy Kersey was ordered to pay a fine of $25. He was further ordered to be held in the custody of the sheriff until the fine and court costs were paid off. Baldy Kersey appealed the decision and formally asked for his case to be reviewed by the North Carolina Superior Court which was granted. He had to post a bond for $300 and Samuel Richardson, Lewis Evans, and Berry Williams were his sureties. All three men were from the Native community and Samuel Richardson was Baldy’s brother-in-law.

Crabtree Granville Court verdict 1094
Baldy Kersey convicted of larceny in the Granville County court. He appealed the decision to the North Carolina Superior Court. Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case Number 9190, Page 1094.

In the fall 1867 term of the North Carolina Superior Court, the jury found Baldy Kersey “guilty” again of stealing Crabtree’s wagon hubs. He was ordered to be held 6 months in jail and to pay a fine of $25. He was further ordered to be held in jail until the court costs were paid off. So this time Baldy Kersey appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court which was granted. He was ordered to post a bond for $500 and this time William Tyler and Lewis Evans were his sureties. Lewis Evans was the same Lewis Evans from the previous $300 bond and William Tyler was also from the community and Baldy Kersey’s brother-in-law.

Crabtree ruling Superior Court 1096
Baldy Kersey was convicted again of larceny in the North Carolina Superior Court. He appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case Number 9190, Page 1096.

The North Carolina Supreme Court reviewed the case in the January 1868 term and you can read the court’s transcribed decision here. By citing earlier precedents, Judge Reade found that there was no error in the lower court’s judgments and upheld the ruling. The court ordered that Baldy Kersey and his sureties Lewis Evans and William Tyler pay $17.95 – the amount of the court costs. However on 16 March 1868, a Congressional special order declared that Baldy Kersey and his sureties did not have to pay the judgment and in fact annulled the judgement entirely. All judgments made by any North Carolina court on this larceny case after the date of 29 April 1865 were annulled. This was likely a result of the Reconstruction laws after the Civil War. All of the court judgments against Baldy for this larceny case happened after that date, so Baldy was excused for paying the judgment or going to jail. However if the court wanted to indict him on new charges relating to theft of the wagon hubs, they could do so and start the process over again.

 


Baldy Kersey V. Avery Taborn, and Horse Thievery

Baldy Kersey was the defendant in yet another case of larceny involving a stolen horse that he “sold” to Avery Taborn. This is another interesting case because the details included in the records speak volumes about Baldy’s character. The records for this larceny case are actually found within the Freedmen’s Commission records and not the court records. After the Civil War, the U.S. formed the Freedmen’s Bureau to assist freed slaves with efforts in rebuilding their lives. Both Baldy Kersey and Avery Taborn were “free people of color” from the Native American community in Granville, but the Freedmen’s Bureau serviced them as well. On Familysearch, you can access these records in the folder “North Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Assistant Commissioner Records, 1862-1870.”

You can read the entirety of Baldy Kersey’s case here (a lengthy case with pages in original handwriting). We learn that in August 1868, Baldy Kersey sought out the Freedmen’s  Bureau to hold a hearing about an earlier trial, Taborn vs. Kersey, in which Baldy felt the judgment against him was not lawful. A Freedmen’s Bureau agent named E.T. Lamberton took up the case and from his notes, we learn more about what happened.

In 1866, Baldy Kersey stole a horse from the Draughan family in Edgecombe County, NC. He returned to Granville County and traded the stolen horse for a mule owned by Avery Taborn that was worth about $150. Avery Taborn b. 1832 was the son of Littleton Taborn and Charlotte Chavis, who were a prominent family in the Native American community. As you will recall from earlier, Baldy Kersey lead an underground network of traded stolen goods. A few days later when Taborn rode the stolen horse into Oxford, the Draughan family saw Taborn and questioned him about the horse where it was revealed that Baldy Kersey had stolen the horse. Baldy was subsequently arrested by Granville Co Sheriff William Philpott and indicted on larceny charges. We learn that Baldy had the case moved from Granville County court to Franklin County court because he felt he could not get a fair trial in Granville. However there was a technical error with transferring the transcripts to Franklin, so the the case was dismissed. The court did order for the Draughan family to retrieve their stolen horse from Avery Taborn, but now Taborn was out $150 for the loss of the mule because Baldy had already sold it off.

Avery Taborn tracked down a Captain Evans of the Freedmen’s Bureau to seek compensation for his property loss. Capt Evans was able to negotiate a deal in which Baldy was to give one of his own horses and $75 to Taborn to make up for the loss. Baldy did deliver a horse to Taborn but a short while later stole it back from Taborn and sold it to his son-in-law Benjamin Richardson. Benjamin Richardson (b. 1844) was the husband of Baldy Kersey’s “adopted” daughter Francis Tyler. Baldy admitted to taking the horse back from Taborn but did not agree that it constituted theft because he felt that Captain Evans’ ruling was unlawful. Because Baldy had never been convicted of that larceny charge, there was some truth to his protests.

There was another attempt to make Taborn financially whole again. Kersey went to Taborn and in front of several witnesses agreed to pay Taborn $100 plus 300 lbs of meat for 30 cents a pound. A few days later when Taborn agreed to the deal, Kersey reneged and said he already spent the money.

So what does Baldy have to say about all of this? Well, he admitted under oath that he paid Capt Evans $50 to bribe him into ruling in his favor. But despite receiving the money, Capt Evans still ruled in Taborn’s favor and that is why Kersey felt the judgment was unfair. Bribery is also how Baldy was able to escape from jail in 1864, so clearly we see a pattern here where Baldy believes he can pay people off in order to escape punishment.

In the notes from Lamberton, we see that Baldy was quite eager for the Freedmen’s Bureau to look into this case and rule in his favor because of the threat of having to sell his own property to pay Taborn. Clearly, Kersey’s thievery was starting to catch up to him financially. The agent ordered for both parties to gather witnesses and hire legal counsel. Due to his reputation for not paying people, no attorney agreed to represent Baldy in the hearing. On the other hand Avery Taborn hired a white attorney Col. Leonidas C. Edwards to represent him in the hearing. Col. Edwards is a name to not forget because he was the plaintiff in the biggest legal case involving Baldy Kersey that will be discussed in the next section.

Agent Lamberton’s notes shows that he had sympathy for Kersey not being able to hire an attorney, but he could not delay the trial any longer because the witnesses were being inconvenienced. Both Taborn and Kersey brought witnesses to testify but according to Lamberton, Baldy’s own witnesses seemed to side with the plaintiff. In fact Baldy’s sister Emily (Kersey) Richardson and brother-in-law Samuel Richardson provided testimony that supported Taborn.

Baldy Kersey Freedmans 526
Baldy Kersey’s own sister Emily (Kersey) Richardson provided testimony that supported Avery Taborn’s claims. Source: Source: North Carolina, Freedmen’s Commissioner Records, 1862-1870; Roll 31; Page 526

Lamberton also noted that Baldy did not offer any substantive arguments in his favor, so it was a one sided hearing. Lamberton ruled in Taborn’s favor and ordered that Kersey pay him $89.50. From witness testimony the mule was valued at $125 and Taborn had already been paid $35.50 from the sale of another one of Baldy’s horses. So that left a remaining balance of $89.50. In addition, Baldy was ordered to pay interest on the amount from 1866 to present as well as a fee of $4.97 for securing witnesses to testify.

Baldy Kersey Freedman 528
Agent Lamberton ruled in Avery Taborn’s favor and issued a judgment against Baldy Kersey. Source: Source: North Carolina, Freedmen’s Commissioner Records, 1862-1870; Roll 31; Page 528

What is very telling is that at the end of his notes, Lamberton adds in some additional observations about the character of Baldy Kersey. He says before the hearing, he never knew of Baldy but during the hearing he learned a lot about him. Lamberton explains that the community regarded Kersey as:

“notorious and infamous….he is regarded as a most plausible, expert and dangerous thief, who… escaped justice by bribery and appeal”.

Baldy Kersey Freedmans 506
Freedmen’s Bureau Agent Lamberton’s notes about the character of Baldy Kersey. Source: North Carolina, Freedmen’s Commissioner Records, 1862-1870; Roll 31; Page 506

 Col. Leonidas C. Edwards V. Baldy Kersey and North Carolina’s Homestead Law

The last legal case that I will discuss went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Edwards V. Kearzey 96 U.S. 595 (1877) has been cited 237 times since its ruling and was cited as recently as 2014. It’s quite an important case involving contract laws and the constitutionality of Homestead laws. But let’s first discuss the beginnings of this important court decision.

The Granville County court had ordered several judgments against Baldy Kersey for larceny. Plaintiffs in these cases that were ordered to receive compensation from Baldy Kersey included: B.L. and D.A. Hunt, Avery Taborn, and William Philpott. Though these judgments came in 1868 and 1869, they resulted from unpaid contracts from several years earlier (this detail is important). As a result of these outstanding judgments that had not been paid by Baldy Kersey, on 18 January 1869 a lien was put against his property.

Let’s take a moment to discuss Baldy’s property. It was 173 acres of land located in Fishing Creek township in the heart of the Native American community founded by William Chavis in the mid 1700s. Adjoining property owners included William Tyler  Sr. and Manson Stewart. This land was on the waters of what is called “Hatcher’s Run” (the documented Native American Hatcher family including David Hatcher, described as “half Indian” in his Revolutionary War records are the namesake for this waterway) and had been passed down in Baldy’s family from earlier generations. It was very important for Baldy Kersey to hold onto this land. In addition, it was the only land he owned, so if he lost it, he would be homeless. With young children to raise, there was no way he could risk that. Therefore on 22 January 1869, Baldy Kersey applied to have his land transferred to a homestead.

In 1868, North Carolina enacted a new state constitution that took affect on 24 April 1868. Sections 1 and 2 of Article 10 in the Constitution state that every homestead that was valued at $1,000 or less was exempt from being sold to pay off debt. Baldy’s property fit the criteria so he applied for a homestead. Despite his application, Sheriff William Philpott sold the entirety of Baldy Kersey’s 173 acres of land on 5 March 1869 to Col. Leonidas C. Edwards for $150.

This is the same Col. Leonidas C. Edwards who was the attorney hired by Avery Taborn when he sued Baldy Kersey for the loss of his mule. From what I can surmise, Col. Edwards was familiar with Baldy’s legal troubles and the upcoming sale of his land. He saw an opportunity to purchase prized land for a low price and followed through.

Unsurprisingly, Baldy Kersey protested the sale of his land and refused to turn it over to Col. Edwards. As a result, on 31 March 1869, Col. Edwards, plaintiff, filed suit against Baldy Kersey, defendant, in the Granville County Superior Court. The case was delayed for a number of years for unspecified reasons. And finally in the 1 May 1873, the Superior court ruled in Col. Edwards’s favor in large part because the judge excluded evidence which showed that Baldy filed an application for a homestead. Not only did the court rule that Col. Edwards should recover possession of the land, they ordered Baldy Kersey to pay a fine of $310 and 12.5 cents for punitive damages. As a result, Baldy posted a $500 bond to appeal the court’s decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

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Baldy Kersey appealed the judgment from the North Carolina Superior Court to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Source: Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case 11392, Page 479.

Edwards V. Kearsey, 74 N.C. 241 (N.C. 1876) is the North Carolina Supreme Court Case resulting from Baldy Kersey’s appeal. You can access the entirety of the case here which includes transcripts from the Superior Court case and ruling (the pages are in the original handwriting). The decision was handed down in January 1876 by Judge Bynum. Citing North Carolina’s Homestead law, Judge Bynum reversed the North Carolina Superior Court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff Col. Edwards. You can read a transcribed version of Judge Bynum’s ruling here. Specifically, Bynum notes that the original judgments against Kersey were docketed after the adoption of North Carolina’s 1868 Constitution, therefore the Homestead law was in affect. This was a big win for Baldy but the fight to keep his land was far from over.

Due to the North Carolina Supreme Court’s reversal, the Granville County Superior Court set aside its judgement against Kersey and ordered a new trial.

Baldy Kersey new Superior Court trial granted 448
As a result of the reversal from the North Carolina Supreme Court, the North Carolina Superior Court set aside the previous judgment against Baldy Kersey and ordered a new trial. Source: Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case 11392, Page 448.

The facts of the case were argued once again with the plaintiff Col. Edwards insisting that the Homestead law did not protect Baldy’s land and the defense insisting the opposite. On 24 April 1876, the court issued a judgment in favor of defendant Baldy Kersey and agreed that the Homestead Law was in affect and applied to Baldy’s land. The judge ordered that the plaintiff was not entitled to the land and that Baldy recover court costs. Col. Edwards and his attorney filed to appeal the decision back to the North Carolina Supreme Court and posted a $500 bond.

Baldy Kersey Edwards appeal Superior Court 461
Col. Edwards appealed the Superior Court’s ruling in favor of defendant Baldy Kersey to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Source: Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case 11392, Page 461.

Edwards V. Kearsey, 75 N.C. 409 (N.C. 1876) is the second North Carolina Supreme Court decision regarding this case. You can read the entirety of the case here which includes transcripts from the Superior Court’s decision (the pages are in the original handwriting). In June 1876, the Judge Reade issued a ruling affirming the Superior Court’s decision in favor of the defendant Baldy Kersey. You can read a transcribed version of Judge Reade’s decision here. Judge Reade agreed that the Homestead Law applied to Baldy’s land. This was a major victory for Baldy Kersey. Not just one, but two North Carolina Supreme Courts agreed that his land was protected and not subject to be sold off to pay debts.

But it was still not over…

Col. Edwards and his attorneys were able to successfully appeal this case to the United States Supreme Court and posted a $1,000 bond. They argued that this case had federal implications because North Carolina’s Homestead law violated the constitutionality of contracts. In other words, they argued that contracts could no longer be enforceable and would lose value due to what they saw as the overreaching retroactive aspects of the Homestead law.

Baldy Kersey Appeal to Supreme Court 486
Col. Edwards appealled of the North Carolina Supreme Court decision to the United States Supreme Court. Source: North Carolina, State Supreme Court Case Files, 1800-1909, Case 11392, Page 486.

Edwards V. Kearzey, 96 U.S. 595 (1877) is the United States Supreme Court case that issued the final ruling for this case. The implications of the decision were monumental. A newspaper article from the time provides some context:

Homestead Laws US Supreme Court
A newspaper articles discussed the significance of the upcoming United States Supreme Court decision. Source: The Granville Free Lance (Oxford, North Carolina) 22 Feb 1878, Fri • Page 3

 

Justice Swayne delivered the majority opinion of the Supreme Court and he reversed the ruling of the North Carolina Supreme Court. You can read a transcribed version of his decision here. In his opinion, he provides an in depth discussion about contract law and cites previous cases. He points out that the United States Constitution states that:

no State shall pass any . . . law impairing the obligation of contracts.

Justice Swayne also offers a definition for a contract:

A contract is the agreement of minds, upon a sufficient consideration, that something specified shall be done, or shall not be done.

When reading up on Justice Swayne, I can see it is no surprise that he ruled in the favor of Col. Edwards. In an earlier U.S. Supreme Court Case, Gelpcke v. Dubuque 68 U.S. 175 (1864), Justice Swayne also found that Iowa could not enact state laws which retroactively impaired contracts.

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Justice Noah Haynes Swayne delivered the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_Haynes_Swayne

Justice Clifford and Justice Hunt concurred with Justice Swayne’s decision, and Justice Harlan dissented. Justice Harlan was known as the “Great Dissenter” because of his famous dissents including two of the biggest Civil Rights cases of his time: Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883) and Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In both cases the majority opinion of the court sided with the states’ segregation laws but Justice Harlan dissented arguing for equal rights for all.

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Justice John Marshall Harlan was the lone dissenter in the case, siding with Baldy Kersey’s argument that the Homestead law was applicable. Source:

With the United States Supreme Court ordering ruling in favor of plaintiff Col. Edwards and reversing the lower court’s decision, the court then would need to provide direction on how to resolve the case based upon their ruling.

But…did you really think the fight for Baldy Kersey’s land was over yet?


Baldy Kersey’s Land After the Court Cases

Unfortunately I do not have many records that explain in great detail exactly what happened next. However from an 1883 newspaper article we learn that Col. Edwards was in the process of selling Baldy’s land when Baldy’s mother Sallie Anderson, paid off Baldy’s debt and put the land in her name. At that time, Baldy’s mother Sallie was known as “Sallie Anderson” because she had remarried Martin Anderson.

Sallie Anderson Baldy Kersey land
Newspaper article describing the fate of Baldy Kersey’s land after the United States Supreme Court decision. Source: The Torchlight (Oxford, North Carolina) 23 Jan 1883, Tue • Page 3

Baldy’s mother Sallie Anderson saved his land and in the 1880 census, Baldy Kersey does appear to be still living on his own land. Though Sallie left the land in his name as specified in her will, we can see from the above newspaper article that her will was being contested on the grounds of insanity.

I found a digitized copy of her will on Ancestry’s North Carolina Probate Records collection. Unfortunately the text is very faded so not all words are legible. However I see her make no mention of disowning any of her children as stated in the above newspaper article. She divided her estate among her children and specifically named her living children at the time: Emily (Kersey) Richardson, Sallie (Kersey) Tyler, Sophia (Kersey) Anderson, and Baldy Kersey. In addition, she left property for Amanda ______ and Mary Jackson. Sallie doesn’t state their relationship to her, but they are named as heirs so perhaps her grandchildren or siblings. In the will, she does leave Baldy her land but also states that he still owed her $50 and that the debt must be paid in order for him to inherit. I wonder if the $50 is related to her paying off his debts to save the land.

Sallie Anderson will
This is the will of Baldy Kersey’s mother Sallie Anderson dated 9 January 1883. In it, she divides her estate among her children and names her son-in-law William Tyler Jr as executor of the estate. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998; Granville; Wills, Vol 23, 1868-1887, page 498.

Baldy Kersey continued to appear in the newspaper. On 24 Jan 1890, it was reported in the local paper that Baldy Kersey posted a $200 bond for Lem Richardson to be released on bail on account of being charged with larceny. Lemuel “Lem” Richardson (1867-1922) was the son of Benjamin Richardson and Francis Tyler. Francis Tyler was one of the four children of Martha Jane Tyler that Baldy Kersey had “adopted”. In addition, Baldy Kersey was the brother of Lemuel Richardson’s grandmother Emily (Kersey) Richardson.

Lem Richardson
Baldy Kersey posted a $200 bond for family member Lemuel “Lem” Richardson. Source: Oxford Public Ledger (Oxford, North Carolina) 24 Jan 1890, Fri • Page 1

Beginning in 1895, we see that Baldy Kersey’s land was posted for sale. Because the Granville County Superior Court records are not available online, I cannot see the cause for the judgment which lead to the sale. As reported in that earlier newspaper article from 1883, Sallie Anderson’s will was being contested on grounds of insanity. Perhaps her will was successfully contested and as a result, the land was posted for sale.

Baldy Kersey land sale
Baldy Kersey’s land posted for sale. Source: Oxford Public Ledger (Oxford, North Carolina) 31 May 1895, Fri • Page 2

Baldy Kersey died on 20 Nov 1899, where his death was reported in the newspaper a few days later:

Baldy Kersey obituary
Baldy Kersey’s obituary. Source: Oxford Public Ledger (Oxford, North Carolina) 23 Nov 1899, Thu • Page 1

 

Baldy Kersey left a will in which he left all of his property to his “wife” Rovella Tanner and children (both biological and adopted):

 

Baldy Kersey will
A copy of Baldy Kersey’s will that was written up on 11 July 1899. Baldy leaves the bulk of his land and possessions to Rovella Tanner.  All of Baldy’s then living children (both biological and adopted) were included in his will. Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts.
Though his land was up for sale, it appears that all the way through until his death in 1899, Baldy Kersey never left his land. The following year in 1900, his land was still on the auction block:

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The year after his death, Baldy Kersey’s land was still up for sale. Source: Oxford Public Ledger (Oxford, North Carolina) 18 Jan 1900, Thu • Page 2

 

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Another version of the the only known surviving image of Baldy Kersey. Source: Robert Tyler

 

Elias Bookram: A Nanticoke Indian from Maryland in Granville County

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

Nanticokemap
A map of the upper Eastern Shore area shows the homeland of the Nanticoke tribe shaded in yellow. The tribe lived in what is today Maryland and Delaware. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Nanticoke map
A zoomed in map of the Nanticoke homeland around the Nanticoke River that passes through Maryland and Delaware. The Chicacoan Town was the first reservation established for the Nanticoke in 1698. And the Broad Creek Town was where the Nanticoke moved to upstream because of colonial encroachment. Source: https://peninsularoots.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/the-nanticokes-last-stand/

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.

NanticokeCommunity-Speck19153
These photos were included in Frank Speck’s research on the Nanticoke of Delaware. This was during the era of antiquated anthropology ideas about the biological races, so “degrees” of Indianness were determined by examining phenotypes. Source: Speck, Frank “The Nanticoke Community of Delaware”. 1915.
NanticokeCommunity-Speck1915
Additional photos from Frank Speck’s research on the Nanticoke. Source: Speck, Frank “The Nanticoke Community of Delaware”. 1915.

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.

Source: http://freeafricanamericans.com/Palmer-Rustin.htm

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.

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Source: Norwod, John R. “We Are Still Here: The Tribal Saga of New Jersey’s Nanticoke and Lenape Indians”. http://nativeamericansofdelawarestate.com/We_Are_Still_Here_Nanticoke_and_Lenape_History_Booklet_pre-release_v2.pdf

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.

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Elias Bookram was enumerated as “Elias Puckins” in the 1820 census for Granville Co. Please note that this census page has been incorrectly mixed in with the census for Guilford Co, NC. Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Capt Hatchs District, Granville, North Carolina; Page: 45; NARA Roll: M33_85; Image: 34

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.

Elias Puckram marriage
Elias Bookram married Chashe Scott on 24 Jun 1824 in Granville Co, NC. You can see on the marriage bond, that Elias’ is called “Elias PUCKRAM”. Source: North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011

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.

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Elias Bookram was enumerated in the 1830 census for Granville Co, as “Elisha BUCKRAM”. This is the first time his surname was spelled with a “B” and not a “P”. Source: 1830 US Census; Census Place: South Regiment, Granville, North Carolina; Page: 76; NARA Series: M19; Roll Number: 121; Family History Film: 0018087

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.

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Elias Bookram in the 1840 census for Granville Co was enumerated as “Elias BOOKRAM”. This is the spelling that became the most standardized. Source: Year: 1840; Census Place: Granville, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: 360; Page: 152; Image: 312; Family History Library Film: 0018094

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.

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In the 1850 census for Granville Co, NC, Elias Bookram’s birthplace is listed as Maryland. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Dutch, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 148A; Image: 292

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.

Walter Bookram tanner
Walter Bookram was a popular tanner and numerous articles like this one can be found in the newspaper. Source: The Weekly Era, 23 Dec 1875, Thu, Page 4

 

Walter Bookram letters to the editor
Walter Bookram was also a well educated man as can be seen in a letter he wrote to the editor of the newspaper. To publish a letter containing such a strongly worded critique of the political parties, Walter must have been a well respected person in the community. You can feel his passion and commitment for fair representation of “colored peoples” in politics. This letter is such a treasure because it’s Walter’s very own words. Source: The Weekly Era, 13 Nov 1873, Thu, Page 6

*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.

Dennis Hedgepeth
Dennis Stanley Hedgepeth (b. 1852) was the son of Emaline Bookram and Jesse Hedgepeth. He was married to Adeline Jane Howell and lived in Granville Co, NC. Source: Christopher Williams
Carrie Hedgepeth
Carrie Hedgepeth (1894-1960) was the daughter of Dennis Stanley Hedgepeth and Adeline Jane Howell and the granddaughter of Emaline Bookram and Jesse Hedgepeth. Source: Christopher Williams
William Turner Hedgepeth
William Turner Hedgepeth (1863-1946) was the son of Emaline Bookram and Jesse Hedgepeth. He lived in Granville Co, NC and was married to Lula Howell. Source: Christopher Williams (Observation: I think William Hedgepeth favors Principal Chief Mark Gould of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape)

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.

Alfred Bookram
Alfred Bookram (b. 1833) was the son of Elias Bookram and Chashe Scott and lived in Granville Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: tracey6840
Ira Evans 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Zibra Bookram and Lewis Evans and was the grandson of Alfred Bookram (pictured above). He lived in Durham Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.
Eula Harris
Eula Harris (1885-1945) was the daughter of Adeline Bookram and George Harris and the granddaughter of Alfred Bookram (pictured above). She was born in Granville Co, NC but her family moved to South Carolina and later Arkansas. Source: Ancestry, Username: tracey6840

 

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.

Alice Bookram
Alice Bookram (1864-1935) was the daughter of Solomon Bookram and Sallie Ann Pettiford. She was born in Franklin Co, NC but moved to Oberlin, OH after her father died. Source: Ancestry, Username: davidjames40

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


Final Thoughts

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.

 

 

 

Jesse Chavis, Saponi Indian from Granville County – An Update!

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

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This is the genealogy that Paul Heinegg presented for Jesse Chavis. He conflated two different Jesse Chavises into one person. Source: freeafricanamericans.com

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)

Jesse Chavis family tree.001
Family Tree of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840). All of these family relationships are explained in this blog post. © Kianga Lucas

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.

William Chavis Original Land Tract
Granville County’s Native American community founder William Chavis originally owned land that stretched from Lynch’s Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This was the land base for the community. © Kianga Lucas

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.

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1754 census of Native Americans in North Carolina shows 14 men, 14 women, and children of the Saponi (“Sapona”) living in Granville County. Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr05-0089

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).

Jesse Chavis court order
On 5 February 1777 a number of family and friends of William Chavis were summoned to come to court to settle his will. “Jesse Chavers” (Chavis) was among them. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

 

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.

Jesse Chavis apprenticeship
A page from William Chavis’ (1709-1777) 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

 

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.

Joshua Hunt deposotion
Joshua Hunt provided a deposition on 9 August 1780 to the Granville County court in which he testified to being a witness to a marriage contract between the deceased William Chavis and his son-in-law Asa Tyner. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

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.

Sampson Anderson and wife Jane Anderson and and son Robert F Anderson
Sampson Anderson (1844-1906) was the son of Henry Anderson (1790-1850) and was the grandson of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) and Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). He is pictured with his wife Jane Anderson (1852-1923) and son Robert F Anderson (1872-1914). The family lived in Granville and Wake Counties and relocated to Washington, D.C. in their later years. Source: Ancestry, Username: rewinder11

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.

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Jesse Chavis enumerated in the 1830 census in Granville County. He is living amongst other members of the Native community in the Fishing Creek district. Living two households above him is Jesse Chavis’ first cousin (and my 5th great-grandfather) Sherwood Harris. Source: 1830; Census Place: South Regiment, Granville, North Carolina; Series: M19; Roll: 121; Page: 78; Family History Library Film: 0018087

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.

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Jesse Chavis’ widow Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis was enumerated in the Beaver Dam District of Granville County in the 1850 census. She is listed with her step-son Redding Chavis, her daughter Franky (Mitchell) Anderson and Franky’s husband Benjamin Anderson. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Beaver Dam, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 126B; Image: 251

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.

Emily Harris Evans death
The death certificate for Emily (Harris) Evans, confirms that she was the daughter of Redding Chavis and Frances “Fanny” Harris. Redding Chavis was the son of Jesse Chavis and his first unknown wife. Emily was the wife of Thomas Evans who also hailed from Granville’s Native American community. Source: http://cdm16317.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p129401coll7/id/271747
Joseph Evans
Joseph Evans (b. 1869) was the son of Emily Harris and Thomas Evans. He was a grandson of Redding Chavis, and a great-grandson of Jesse Chavis. He was born in Ohio, after the family left Granville County. Joseph later moved to Michigan. Source: Ancestry, Username: shaithcox
Ida (Evans) Allen  & sister Kathyrn Evans
Sisters Ida Belle Evans (1893-1971) and Catherine Evans (b. 1884). They were daughters of Richard Evans, granddaughters of Emily Harris and Thomas Evans, great-granddaughters of Redding Chavis, and great-great granddaughters of Jesse Chavis. Source: Ancestry, Username: shaithcox

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.

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. William Chavis was a son 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.

 

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.

 

The Saponi/Monacan Indian Brandon/Branham Family of Granville County

The Brandons are a core family of Granville’s Native community that have intermarried with most of the other Native families. Originating in Southside Virginia, the Brandons came to Granville County in the 1820s, rejoining their Saponi relatives who had already established the community during the days of Indian trader Colonel William Eaton. I introduced the Brandon family in an earlier blog post about the Saponi Indian cabins that were reported in Amelia Co (modern Nottoway Co), Virginia in 1737. I will repost some of the content here but I recommend reading that blog post if you have not already done so.

The Brandon surname has been spelled a variety of ways including Brannum, Branham, Brandom, and Brandum. However for the sake of clarity and consistency, I will use the standardized “Brandon” spelling of the surname for the family in Granville Co, NC. But please be aware of the variety of spellings as you research this family. Also note that there were white Brandon/Branham families residing in the same areas as the “free colored”/Native American Brandon/Branham family. I have found no connection between the two populations, with the exception that they share the same surname. The family that is the topic of this blog post were consistently listed as “free colored” people with the exception of some later descendants who were identified as “white”.


Background on the Brandon Family:

The Brandon family descends from several Brandons living in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co, as well as surrounding areas of Brunswick Co. and Henrico Co. who first appear in the records in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s. It is not known exactly how all these Brandons relate to each other but a few Brandons who were born in the household of Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale in Bristol Parish were most likely siblings and could be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins in Amelia County in 1737. Edward Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on July 9, 1730 and in 1751, Edward Brandon was a tithable between the Flatt and Deep Creek districts of Amelia Co. As you will recall, Winningham Creek the site of the Saponi cabins runs off of Deep Creek in Amelia County. Margaret Brandon was born on Nov 7, 1720 and was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Oct 10, 1722. Doll “Dorothy” Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Jul 24, 1727.

Contemporaries to siblings Edward, Margaret and Doll Brandon, who are probably of some family relation to them include: Benjamin Branham b. 1721 who lived in Louisa Co, and Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728 who lived in Brunswick and Lunenburg Cos. There was also an Edward Branham b. 1760 who was likely related to Benjamin Branham and Eleanor Branham/Brandon. Edward Branham b. 1760 first appears as a tithable in Amherst Co, VA in 1783 and he is the progenitor of the core Branham family (this family used the standardized “Branham” spelling) of the state recognized Monacan Tribe in Amherst Co, VA. Current Chief Dean Branham is a direct lineal descendant. The Monacan are another Eastern Siouan tribe that once comprised a confederacy that included the Saponi.

Family tree of the Brandon/Branham family. The Brandons bound out to Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale may be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins. The other Brandon/Branhams are connected to known Saponi/Eastern Siouan communities. © Kianga Lucas
Family tree of the Brandon/Branham family. The Brandons bound out to Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale may be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins. The other Brandon/Branhams are connected to known Saponi/Eastern Siouan communities.
© Kianga Lucas
Map showing the precise location of the Saponi Indian cabins within what is now Nottoway Co, VA. Source: http://bridgehunter.com/va/nottoway/big-map/
Map showing the precise location of the Saponi Indian cabins within what is now Nottoway Co, VA. This is where some of the early Brandons lived.
Source: http://bridgehunter.com/va/nottoway/big-map/

Eleanor Brandon b. 1728

We don’t know much about Eleanor Brandon except for the records of her children that were bound out. Based upon the dates of when her children were bound out, Paul Heinegg in his research on the Brandon family suggests that she was born around 1728.

On 24 Jul 1753 in Brunswick County, VA, Eleanor’s children – Thomas and Molly/Mary Brandon were bound out. And on 29 January 1755, her children Thomas Brandon, Molly/Mary Brandon, and Viney Brandon were bound out again in Brunswick Co. There is no record of who her children were bound out to. Brunswick Co is the location of Fort Christanna, the former Saponi reservation that was closed in 1718. Many Saponi continued to live in and around Brunswick Co which explains why Eleanor resided there.

Entrance to the Fort Christanna site Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty
Entrance to the Fort Christanna site
Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty
This panel at the Fort Christanna site explains the original layout of the fort. Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty
This panel at the Fort Christanna site explains the original layout of the fort.
Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty
This panel at the Fort Christanna site discusses the nearby location of the Saponi village called Junkatapurse. After the fort was closed Saponi people continued to reside in the area and both sides of the state border. Eleanor Brandon was likely one of those Saponi who remained in Brunswick Co. Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty
This panel at the Fort Christanna site discusses the nearby location of the Saponi village called Junkatapurse. After the fort was closed Saponi people continued to reside in the area and both sides of the state border. Eleanor Brandon was likely one of those Saponi who remained in Brunswick Co.
Photo credit: Tonya Evans Beatty

Viney Brandon (1754-1818)

Viney Brandon was a daughter of Eleanor Brandon and resided in Mecklenburg Co, VA. She was the “wife” of a white man named Thomas Dison. Because of laws against interracial marriage, they could not legally marry and so on 14 March 1791, they were presented to the court for living in “adultery”.

Viney continued to live in Mecklenburg Co, VA where she was a land owner and appears on the tax lists until her death in 1818. She left a will which named her children. Because she was not legally married to Thomas Dison, their children alternated between the Brandon and Dison (also spelled Dyson) surnames. Most of Viney Brandon’s  children and descendants remained in Mecklenburg Co or on the North Carolina side of the state border. They mostly intermarried with other known “free colored”/Native American families in the area such as Goins, Chavis, Howell. etc. There was one son named William Brandon Dison (1777-1845) who relocated out to Wilkes and Surry Cos, NC. Though he was “mixed race”, after he moved to Western NC, he and his children were most commonly recorded as “white”.

From left to right siblings: Susannah Dyson b. 1812 (with white shawl), Moses Dyson b. 1810 (wearing dark hat next to Susannah), and Solomon Dyson b. 1817 (standing right behind the donkey). They are direct descendants of Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728. Their father was William Brandon Dyson and their grandmother was Viney Brandon. The family moved from Mecklenburg Co, VA out to western North Carolina (Wilkes, Caldwell, Burke Cos). This photo was taken when Moses Dyson was leaving for Tennessee. Source: Jerry Dagenhart
From left to right siblings: Susannah Dyson b. 1812 (with white shawl), Moses Dyson b. 1810 (wearing dark hat next to Susannah), and Solomon Dyson b. 1817 (standing right behind the donkey). They are direct descendants of Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728. Their father was William Brandon Dyson who was the son of Viney Brandon and a white man named Thomas Dyson. The family moved from Mecklenburg Co, VA out to western North Carolina (Wilkes and Burke Cos). This photo was taken when Moses Dyson was leaving for Tennessee.
Source: Jerry Dagenhart
Andrew Jackson Dyson Source: Jerry Dagenhart
Andrew Jackson Dyson b. 1818. He was a brother to the above listed Dyson siblings. His father was William Brandon Dyson who was the son of Viney Brandon and a white man named Thomas Dyson.
Source: Jerry Dagenhart

Thomas Brandon (1746-1834)

As discussed above, Thomas Brandon was bound out in Brunswick Co in 1753 and 1755 to an unnamed person. Heinegg suggests he was born around 1746 and that is the date I will use for consistency but it’s possible he was a few years younger. Thomas Brandon was also my 5th great-grandfather.

On 12 May 1763, Thomas Brandon was bound out again in neighboring Lunenburg Co, VA to Hutchins Burton. And according to the tax lists in 1764 for St. James Parish in Lunenburg Co, Thomas Brandon was a tithable in Hutchin Burton’s household. Very noteworthy is that Robert Corn (1745-1816) was also listed as a tithable in Hutchin Burton’s household in 1764. Robert Corn later moved to North Carolina and some of his descendants are the Corn (now more commonly known as “Cohen”) family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Orange/Alamance Cos, NC.

So this begs the question, who was Hutchins Burton? Hutchins Burton (1722-1767) was the son of Nowell Burton and Judith Allen and looks to have belonged to a prominent, slave-owning family. You can find additional well researched information about the Burton family here. I wonder if there was a connection between his family and the Saponi people.

Thomas Brandon was mistreated by Hutchins Burton and complained to the courts to be freed from his indenture. And on 13 Jul 1764 Thomas Brandon was bound to Jacob Chavis (1736-1808). Jacob Chavis was the husband of Elizabeth Evans (1745-1814) which is probably why on 3 January 1771, Thomas Brandon married Elizabeth Evans’ sister Margaret Evans (b. 1753). Elizabeth and Margaret Evans were the children of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and his unnamed Walden wife. I previously discussed Thomas Evans in this blog post.

We learn from his 1833 pension application (W.4643) that Thomas Brandon was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Thomas lived in Mecklenburg Co until his death in 1834 and his widow Margaret (Evans/Walden) Brandon received a widow’s pension. In Margaret’s application, she provided a family register which listed the names and ages of her children. This specificity of this information is very impressive and rare for its time, so this is a valuable source for reseachers.

A page from Thomas Brandon's Revolutionary War pension application which lists the names and birth dates of his children. Source: The National Archives
A page from Thomas Brandon’s Revolutionary War pension application which lists the names and exact birth dates of his children.
Source: The National Archives

Most of their children remained in Mecklenburg Co, VA where the Occaneechi-Saponi of Virginia community is located. Some later relocated to Ohio where the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation are.

So the children of Thomas Brandon and Margaret Evans/Walden were:

1. Nancy Brandon (b. 1771) married Frederick Graves

2. Agnes Brandon (b. 1773)

3. Walden Brandon (b. 1775) – note that his first name “Walden” probably came from his mother Margaret’s Walden heritage.

4. Susan “Suckey” Brandon (b. 1777) married Freeman Howell. These are my 4th great-grandparents and they moved from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC.

5. Edward Brandon (b. 1779) married Elizabeth Chavis

6. Elizabeth Brandon (b. 1782) married Archer Stewart

7. Thomas Brandon Jr (b. 1786) married Sarah Chavis

8. Margaret Brandon (b. 1790) married John Garnes

9. John Brandon (b. 1792)

10. Jesse Brandon (b. 1796) married Parthena Drew

Elisha Pettiford (1875 - after 1940). Elisha Pettiford (1875 - after 1940). Elisha was the son of Arabella Brandon and Chesley Pettiford. Arabella Brandon was the daughter of Jesse Brandon and Parthena Drew. And Jesse Brandon was a son of Viney Brandon and a white man named Thomas Dison. Elisha's family relocated to Ohio in the 1860s. Source: Ancestry, Username:dl1952
Elisha Pettiford (1875 – after 1940). Elisha was the son of Arabella Brandon and Chesley Pettiford. Arabella Brandon was the daughter of Jesse Brandon and Parthena Drew. And Jesse Brandon was a son of Thomas Brandon and Margaret Evans/Walden. Elisha’s family relocated to Ohio in the 1860s.
Source: Ancestry, Username:dl1952
Arminta Evangeline Pettiford (1857-1934). She was the daughter of Arabella Brandon and Chesley Pettiford. Arabella Brandon was the daughter of Jesse Brandon and Parthena Drew. And Jesse Brandon was a son of Thomas Brandon and Margaret Evans/Walden. Arabella's family relocated to Ohio. Source: Ancestry, Username: sej1sej
Arminta Evangeline Pettiford (1857-1934). She was the daughter of Arabella Brandon and Chesley Pettiford. Arabella Brandon was the daughter of Jesse Brandon and Parthena Drew. And Jesse Brandon was a son of Thomas Brandon and Margaret Evans/Walden. Arabella’s family relocated to Ohio.
Source: Ancestry, Username: sej1sej

Mary/Molly Brandon b. 1744

This brings us to Eleanor Brandon’s daughter Mary/Molly Brandon who is the primary progenitor of the Brandons in Granville Co. She was called both “Mary” and “Molly” in the records and for the sake of clarity I will refer to her as Mary Brandon.

Like her siblings, Mary Brandon was bound out in 1753 and 1755 in Brunswick Co, VA. She was living in neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA when her son Rhode Brandon (1762-1811) was bound out on 11 Aug 1766. There are no additional records for Mary Brandon, so I’m unsure who fathered her children or what became of her. So we will move onto Mary Brandon’s descendants.


Rhode Brandon (1762-1811)

Rhode Brandon was a son of Mary Brandon and he was initially bound out to a white man named Isaac Holmes on 11 Aug 1766 in Mecklenburg Co, VA. Isaac Holmes (1727-1772) was married to Lucy Ballard and when Isaac Holmes died in 1772, Rhode Brandon was bound out to Isaac Holmes’ brother-in-law John Ballard Jr. Rhode Brandon continued to live in Mecklenburg Co until his death in about 1811. His wife’s name was Elizabeth but her maiden name is unknown. Elizabeth may have been a Stewart because after Rhode Brandon’s death, she purchased land in Mecklenburg Co from James Stewart (b. 1734) that adjoined William Stewart’s (b. 1723) property. The Stewarts were another Saponi family that lived in the area, intermarried with the Brandons, and some family members also moved into Granville Co. This same William Stewart (b. 1723) was bound out to Indian trader Col. William Eaton. Col. Eaton had a close relationship to the Saponi Indians and would later move to Granville Co where the Saponi lived next to his land. See my previous blog posts about Col. William Eaton here and here.

Rhode and Elizabeth Brandon had the following children:

1. *Charles Brandon b. 1787

2. *Burwell Brandon b. 1789

3. Elizabeth Brandon b. 1791

4. Peter Brandon b. 1784

5. George Brandon

6. *Mary Brandon b. 1790 married Robert Mayo 31 Dec 1811 in Mecklenburg Co, VA

7. Hannah Brandon

*Charles Brandon, Mary Brandon, and Burwell Brandon relocated next door to Granville Co, NC. Mary Brandon’s children carried the Mayo surname and despite what Paul Heinegg says about her and Robert Mayo separating by 1839, I have not found that to be the case. They are clearly listed together in the 1850 census in Granville Co with their children. My next sections will focus on Charles Brandon and Burwell Brandon as they are the ones who primarily carried the Brandon surname into Granville Co.

Robert Mayo and his wife Mary brandon did not separate by 1839. They are shown in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granvile Co, residing in the household of their son Eldridge Mayo. Eldridge was married to Sally Harris (sister of my 3rd great-grandmother Jane Harris). Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 106B; Image: 212
Mary (Brandon) Mayo and her husband Robert Mayo did not separate by 1839. They are shown in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granvile Co, residing in the household of their son Eldridge Mayo. Eldridge was married to Sally Harris (sister of my 3rd great-grandmother Jane Harris).
Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 106B; Image: 212

Charles Brandon b. 1787

Charles Brandon is well documented as a son of Rhode and Elizabeth Brandon because he was a tithable in their Mecklenburg Co, VA household. By 1820, Charles Brandon moved to the Abrams Plains district of Granville Co, NC where he is found in the census, head of a household of 6 “free colored” individuals, including: 1 male under 14, 1 male 26-45, 2 females 14-26, and 1 female over 45. This household information suggests that Charles Brandon was married and had at least one son and two daughters. I say at least because it’s quite possible some of his children may have been bound out as apprentices in white households (a common occurrence for the Brandons in Mecklenburg Co, VA).

Charles Brandon was enumerated in the Abrams Plains District of Granville Co in 1820. Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Granville, North Carolina; Page: 23; NARA Roll: M33_85; Image: 23
Charles Brandon was enumerated in the Abrams
Plains District of Granville Co in 1820.
Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Granville, North Carolina; Page: 23; NARA Roll: M33_85; Image: 23

I know very little about Charles Brandon because that is the last time he appears in the census. I do not have a marriage record associated with him either so I cannot verify the identity of his wife. However it certainly appears that Charles Brandon died sometime after 1820, and so we may find his children in the apprenticeship records in Granville Co.

On 7 Feb 1831 in Granville Co, a Mary Brandon and a Susannah Brandon were bound out to John Bowen and Chesley Daniel, respectively. The fact that both girls were bound out on the same date is good evidence that they were sisters. Their parents were not named in the apprenticeship records but looking at the date of when they were bound out suggests they were orphans of Charles Brandon. And Granville County court minutes reveal that Mary and Suannah were the orphans of Charles Brandon, deceased (h/t to researcher Warren Milteer). I don’t know what happened to Mary Brandon. Susannah Brandon on the other hand married William Pettiford (son of Collins Pettiford and Polly Chavis) of the very large “free colored”/Native American Pettiford family on 3 Jan 1846. Also, Susannah Brandon and her husband resided in the Abrams Plains district, the same district that Charles Brandon formerly resided in.

Apprenticeship record for Susannah Brandon shows that she was bound out to Chesley Daniel on 7 Feb 1831. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
Apprenticeship record for Susannah Brandon shows that she was bound out to Chesley Daniel on 7 Feb 1831.
Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
The apprenticeship record for Mary Brandon shows that she bound out to John Bowen on 7 Feb 1831. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
Apprenticeship record for Mary Brandon shows that she bound out to John Bowen on 7 Feb 1831.
Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

What is also worth pointing out is the name of Chesley Daniel. This Chesley Daniel may have had a close relationship to Charles Brandon because there was a Chesley Brandon b. 1812 who appears in the Granville Co records that I believe to be a son of Charles Brandon. It was not uncommon for “free colored”/Native American families to name their children after “friendly whites”. I cannot locate an earlier Chesley in the Brandon family, so Chesley Daniel may be the reason why the Chesley name was passed down in the Brandon family. (Also note there was a Chesley Bass b. 1815 of Granville’s Native community).

Below is a list of probable children of Charles Brandon and they all lived in and intermarried with members of Granville’s Native community. If I find additional documents to verify or dispute these connections, I will update:

1. Chesley Brandon b. 1812. Married Susan Anderson 8 Oct 1840 in Granville Co, with Collins Pettiford as the bondsman. This is the same Collins Pettiford who was the father-in-law of Chesley’s sister Susannah Brandon.

2. Jane Brandon b. 1815. Married Martin Cousins 26 March 1845 in Granville Co, with Evans Pettiford as the bondsman. Evans Pettiford was the husband of Jane’s sister Martha Brandon.

3. Susan “Susannah” Brandon b. 1819. Married William Pettiford 3 Jan 1846 in Granville Co, with Sterling Chavis as the bondsman. Susannah was called an orphan of Charles Brandon when she bound out in 1831 to Chesley Daniel and lived in the same part of Granville Co as her father Charles Brandon.

4. Martha Brandon b. 1821. Married Evans Pettiford 30 Sep 1840 in Granville Co, with Abram Plenty as the bondsman. Evans Pettiford was the bondsman for the marriage of Martha’s sister Jane Brandon.

5. Mary Brandon b. 1823. She was bound out on the same date as her sister Susannah Brandon in 1831 to John Bowen when she was called an or[han of Charles Brandon. No additional records of her after she was bound out.

If we go back and look at the census information for Charles Brandon’s household in 1820, we know that he had at least three children (1 son and 2 daughters) born before 1820. Those children could be Chesley, Jane, and Susannah (Jane and Susannah may have been mistakenly listed a bit older).

William Pettiford (1852-1932) was the son of Sussanah Brandon and William Pettiford Sr. He lived in Granville's Native community. Source: Ancestry, Username: t4phillips
William Pettiford (1852-1932) was the son of Susannah Brandon and William Pettiford Sr. He lived in Granville’s Native community.
Source: Ancestry, Username: t4phillips

Burwell Brandon b. 1785

Burwell Brandon was born in Mecklenburg Co, VA where he was found on the tax lists in the household of his father Rhode Brandon. He next appears in the 1820 census in neighboring Charlotte Co, VA, head of a household of one male (himself). This is a very important detail because it strongly implies that Burwell Brandon was not married nor had children before 1820 unless they were bound out.

Burwell Brandon was enumerated in the 1820 census in Charlotte Co, VA. He was the head of a household that only included himself. Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Charlotte, Virginia; Page: 33; NARA Roll: M33_136; Image: 46
Burwell Brandon was enumerated in the 1820 census in Charlotte Co, VA. He was the head of a household that only included himself.
Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Charlotte, Virginia; Page: 33; NARA Roll: M33_136; Image: 46

I have not located Burwell Brandon in the 1830 census, so I’m unsure the exact year he moved to Granville Co. However other closely interrelated Saponi families in the Mecklenburg Co area such as the Guy, Howell, Parker, Cousins, and Chavis families moved into Granville Co in the 1820s.

In the 1840 census in Granville Co, Burwell Brandon is listed as the head of household of 5 “free people of color”, and by looking at their ages they were presumably his wife, 2 sons, and 1 daughter.

So who was Burwell Brandon’s wife? There are some family trees on Ancestry that list Burwell’s wife as Lucy Young but I have found no evidence to support this. I believe these family trees are confusing a woman named Lucy Young who lived in and never left Charlotte Co; she appears in the 1810, 1820, 1830 and 1840 censuses for Charlotte Co. According to the “Free Negro Register” of Charlotte Co, this Lucy Young along with other Youngs were emancipated slaves of an Edward Almond. This Lucy Young was 57 years of age in 1822 when she is listed in the “Free Negro” register of Charlotte Co, making her born around 1765, too old to be Burwell’s wife.

According to the death certificate of Burwell Brandon’s youngest son Richard Brandon (1840-1916), Burwell’s wife was “Lucy Stoye”. I have not come across this surname before and I’m pretty confident that “Stoye” was a misspelling of “Stow”. I found several white Stow (also spelled “Stoe”) households in Charlotte and adjacent counties in the early 1800s. As we know Burwell Brandon resided in Mecklenburg and Charlotte Cos before coming to Granville Co. And Virginia is listed as Lucy Brandon’s birthplace in the 1850 census record. It could be that Lucy was a member of the white Stow family or even an emancipated slave of the Stow family. Either scenario may explain why I have not been able to find a marriage record for Burwell Brandon.

The death certificate for Burwell and Lucy Brandon's youngest son Richard Brandon, lists Lucy's maiden name as
The death certificate for Burwell and Lucy Brandon’s youngest son Richard Brandon (1840-1916), lists Lucy’s maiden name as “Lucy Stoye”. I believe this is a misspelling of the Stow/Stoe family.
Source: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.

In the 1850 census, Burwell Brandon appears in the Tabbs Creek district of Granville Co with his wife Lucy Brandon, daughter Betsy Brandon, sons Humbleston “Amos” Brandon and Richard Brandon, and grandchildren Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon and Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon. These grandchildren were the children of Burwell’s daughter Betsy Brandon.

Burwell Brandon and his family were enumerated in the 1850 census for the Tabbs Creek District of Granville Co. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Tabscreek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 82B; Image: 166
Burwell Brandon and his family were enumerated in the 1850 census for the Tabbs Creek District of Granville Co.
Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Tabscreek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 82B; Image: 166

We learn from the Granville Co apprenticeship records that a few years prior in 1847, the court had ordered that Burwell’s sons Humbleston Brandon and Richard Brandon to be bound out. The sons were not specifically named but it is clear the court order was referring to Humbleston and Richard Brandon. But it appears the court never took action since Humbleston and Richard were living with their father in 1850.

Court order in Granville Co in 1847 recommended that Burwell Brandon's sons (Humbleston and Richard) be bound out. However it appears this never happened because they are listed in Burwell's household in 1850. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
Court order in Granville Co in 1847 recommended that Burwell Brandon’s sons (Humbleston and Richard) be bound out. However it appears this never happened because they are listed in Burwell’s household in 1850.
Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

I have not located Burwell Brandon in the 1860 census. In 1870, he was living in Fishing Creek township in Granville Co, and enumerated again with his wife Lucy Brandon. This was the last time Burwell and his wife Lucy appear in the census, so they likely died shortly afterwards.

The documented children of Burwell and Lucy Brandon were:

1. Betsy Brandon (b. 1831). She was not married and had a number of children whom I will discuss in the next section.

2. Humbleston “Amos” Brandon (b. 1834). He was first married to Onie Peace and second married to Addie (I don’t know her maiden name). He had numerous children with both women and continued living in the Native community in Granville/Vance Co in Fishing Creek/Kittrell townships.

3. Richard Brandon (1840-1916) . He was married to a woman named Eliza (not sure of her maiden name) but it appears they never had children. He remained in the Native community in Granville Co in Fishing Creek township.

There are two additional Brandon children of Burwell’s that were much older than than the ones discussed above and so they likely had a different mother.  Mahalia Brandon (b. 1805) was the wife of Henry Parker (b. 1810) who was from the Saponi Indian Parker family that I discussed in this previous blog post. Their descendants remained in Granville’s Native community. Second there is Giles Brandon (1813-1909) who was the husband of Sallie Ann Evans 1827-1914 (daughter of Thomas Evans and Sallie Bass) of the Native American Evans and Bass families. Interestingly, Mahalia Brandon’s husband Henry Parker was the bondsman for the marriage of Giles Brandon and Sallie Ann Evans, which is a strong indicator that Mahalia Brandon and Giles Brandon were siblings. Furthermore, Mahalia Brandon had a son named Giles Parker (b. 1835), likely named after her brother Giles Brandon. Giles Brandon eventually left Granville Co for Ohio where his descendants are found among the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.

Several of Mahalia (Brandon) Parker’s children listed their grandfather as Burwell Brandon when they registered to vote in 1902 under the “grandfather clause” (h/t to researcher Warren Milteer). So from those voting records, we know Burwell Brandon had to be the father of Mahalia and Giles Brandon. But their mother could not have been Lucy Stow/Stoe (b. 1795) because she was too young to be the mother of Mahalia Brandon (b.1805). As I mentioned earlier, Burwell Brandon in the 1820 census was in a household by himself, so perhaps his first unknown wife had died and his children were bound out. So you can see, there are some unresolved questions with identifying the mother of Mahalia and Giles Brandon. I would urge any researchers and descendants of this family to be aware of these issues.


Betsy Brandon b. 1831

In this final section, I’m going to take some time to discuss Betsy Brandon’s children. Because she was not married, I have seen some confusion about who fathered her children.

Betsy is well documented as a daughter of Burwell and Lucy Brandon and appears in their household in the 1850 census. Betsy’s oldest children were fathered by Hilliard Evans b. 1815 (son of Thomas Evans and Sallie Bass) of the Native American Evans and Bass families that I previously blogged about. I have verified this a few ways. The marriage record for Betsy’s oldest son Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon to Parthenia Eaton, recorded on 23 Dec 1868 in Granville Co, lists his father as Hilliard Evans. Betsy’s oldest daughter was named Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon, obviously named after her father. The marriage records for Betsy’s next three children: Crutch Brandon, Pantheyer Brandon and Amanda Brandon do not list their father’s name. But given that they are quite close in age to Hayoshe and Hilliard Brandon, Hilliard Evans was most likely their father. It also worth mentioning that Hilliard Evans was the brother of Sallie Ann Evans who married Giles Brandon.

The marriage record for Hayoshe
The marriage record for Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon to Parthenia Eaton on 23 Dec 1868 lists his father as “Hilliard Evans
Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Hilliard Evans on 24 Jun 1855 married Louisa Mitchell in Wake Co and relocated to Ohio, so we know he likely did not father any additional children with Betsy Brandon after 1855.

I cannot find Betsy Brandon and her children in the 1860 census, which makes establishing their ages a bit difficult. She does appear again in the 1870 and 1880 censuses in Fishing Creek township in Granville Co with additional children. The next clue about who fathered Betsy Brandon’s next set of children comes from the death certificate of her son Peyton Brandon (1861-1925). His death certificate lists his father as William “Billie” Peace of Granville Co. Another clue comes from the death certificate for Betsy’s daughter Maranda Brandon (1868-1962), where her father is listed as “Billie Brandon”. There was no Billie Brandon but I believe this was also in reference to William “Billie” Peace.

Peyton Brandon's death record lists his father as
Peyton Brandon’s death record lists his father as “Billie Peace
Source: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.

So who was William “Billie” Peace? I found two William Peaces who were both the appropriate age to father children with Betsy Brandon, were never married and lived in close proximity to her. Both men were also white. One was William L Peace (son of Pleasant Peace and Peggy Reed) who looks to have been a prosperous slave owner. The other was William R Peace (son of John Peace and Frances Reed) who is consistently listed in the census as “deaf & dumb”, so I doubt that he is the correct one. William Peace being white is also likely why Betsy Brandon never was able to marry him. Additional research is needed to verify that I have identified the correct William Peace.

Here is the list of Betsy Brandon’s children who all lived in the Native community. Most intermarried with other Native American families:

Fathered by Hilliard Evans:

1. Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon b. 1847. Married to Samuel Harris

2. Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon 1848-1923. Married first to Parthenia Eaton and second to Sarah Williams.

3. Pantheyer Brandon 1851-1934. Married to Junius Thomas Howell

4. Crutch Brandon b. 1853. Married to Lucy Ann Parker.

5. Amanda Brandon 1854-1922. Married to Henry Howell.

Fathered by William “Billie” Peace:

6. Admond Brandon 1858-1948. Married to Delia Braswell

7. Peyton Brandon 1861-1925. Married to Beatrice (maiden name not known).

8. William Brandon 1864-1932. Married first to Florence Braswell and second to Etta Jones.

9. Walter Brandon 1865-1939. Never married.

10. Maranda Brandon 1868-1962. Married to Matthew Parker.

11. Delia Brandon 1869-1958. Married to Ben Howell.

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 Betsy Brandon and Hilliard Evans and a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township in Granville County. She was married to Junius Thomas Howell.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973
Admond Brandon (1858-1948) was the son of Betsy Brandon and William
Admond Brandon (1858-1948) was the son of Betsy Brandon and William “Billie” Peace. He was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek and Kittrell townships.
Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
Hayoshe
Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon (1848-1923) was the son of Betsy Brandon and Hilliard Evans. He was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek and Kittrell townships.
Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
Zonius Brandon (1896-1970) was the son of Hayoshe Brandon and Sarah Williams and he was the grandson of Betsy Brandon and Hiliard Evans. Zonius spent most of his life in Fishing Creek and Kittrell and later moved up to Boston, MA. Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
Zonius Brandon (1896-1970) was the son of Hayoshe Brandon and Sarah Williams and he was the grandson of Betsy Brandon and Hiliard Evans. Zonius spent most of his life in Fishing Creek and Kittrell and later moved up to Boston, MA.
Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
Willie Brandon (1904-1980) was the daugjhter of Hayoshe Brandon and Sarah Williams. She was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek and Kittrell. Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
 Willie Brandon (1904-1980) was the daughter of Hayoshe Brandon and Sarah Williams. She was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek and Kittrell.
Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm

The Ashkenazi Jewish Origins of the Native American Levy Family

The Levy family came to Granville County well after the Native community had been established. Before that we find ancestors of the Levy family in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Guadeloupe, London, and Holland. The reason for this is that although the Levys were Native American/”free colored” people, they also were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. This unique and fascinating aspect of their heritage will be documented in this blog post.


Jacob Levy (1780-1850)

The story of the Native American Levy family in North Carolina begins in Wilmington. But the Ashkenazi Jewish origins of this Levy family take us back to Holland. It is there that Jacob Levy , progenitor of the Native American Levy family, was born. We know a bit about Jacob Levy’s life from the biography of his great nephew Confederate Statesman Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884) found here. Additionally, Jacob Levy is discussed quite a bit in this text about Jewish American history in North Carolina, so I have also used this for source information as well.

Jacob Levy was living in Holland in the late 1700s when his sister Eva Levy married a Sephardic Jewish man named Solomon de Mendes. They had a daughter named Rebecca de Mendes and the family moved with Jacob Levy to London, England soon after 1790. In London we learn that Rebecca de Mendes married a Sephardic Jewish man named Phillip Benjamin by about 1807. The following year, Phillip and Rebecca Benjamin moved to St. Criox, now part of the U.S Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean and that is where their son Judah P. Benjamin was born in 1811. This was during the Napoleonic Wars and St. Criox which was Danish territory yet British occupied, was under heavy guard by British war ships. As a result, the Benjamin family moved to the United States in 1813.

Map of the Caribbean Islands. St. Criox which is today part of the U.S. Virgin Islands is circled. Source: http://www.shipdetective.com/maps/caribbean.htm
Map of the Caribbean Islands. St. Criox which is today part of the U.S. Virgin Islands is circled.
Source: http://www.shipdetective.com/maps/caribbean.htm

Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjamin’s uncle Jacob Levy was already situated in Wilmington, North Carolina and it was probably he who persuaded the Benjamins to leave St. Criox. I do not know the exact year Jacob Levy left London to come to the United States and I have reason to believe he also likely came to the West Indies before coming to the U.S. The first records for Jacob Levy in the U.S. are in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1799 when it was published in the paper that he was dissolving his business relationship with Abraham Isaacs. Wilmington was home to a small yet thriving community of Jewish (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) merchants who mostly dealt with West Indian trade goods (nearby Charleston, SC had the largest Jewish population in the U.S.).

Jacob Levy's announcement of the opening of his store. Source: The Wilmington Gazette, 24 Dec 1801, Thu, Page 4
Jacob Levy’s announcement of the opening of his store.
Source: The Wilmington Gazette, 24 Dec 1801, Thu, Page 4

In 1819 a fire destroyed Jacob Levy’s store, so he moved up to Fayettville and his niece Rebecca Benjamin, along with her husband Phillip Benjamin and son Judah Benjamin (and siblings) relocated to Fayetteville as well. Jacob Levy opened a store there and the Benjamins resided on the second floor. Jacob Levy paid for Judah Benjamin to attend Fayetteville Academy and Jacob was a well respected member of the community who was praised for his skills as an auctioneer:

In this letter to the newspaper, we learn more details about the Jacob Levy and the Benjamins. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 10 Feb 1898, Thu, Page 1
In this letter to the newspaper, we learn more details about Jacob Levy and the Benjamins.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 10 Feb 1898, Thu, Page 1

We learn first hand from a letter written by a childhood friend of Judah Benjamin, that Jacob Levy, along with his sister Mrs. Wright (this was actually Phillip Benjamin’s sister Harriet Wright) left Fayetteville around 1826 and relocated to New Orleans so that Jacob Levy could expand his business:

A letter to the newspaper offers information about when Jacob Levy left Fayetteville for New Orleans. Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5
A letter to the newspaper offers information about when Jacob Levy left Fayetteville for New Orleans.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5

I found additional corroboration in a newspaper ad from 1827 which shows Jacob Levy’s trust selling off his Fayetteville property:

Jacob Levy's property in Fayetteville was sold in 1827 because he relocated to New Orleans. Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5
Jacob Levy’s property in Fayetteville was sold in 1827 because he relocated to New Orleans.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5

Jacob Levy died on July 19, 1850 in New Orleans and he  is buried at the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery  where his tombstone still stands:

Jacob Levy is buried at the Dispersed Judah Cemetery in New Orleans. His niece Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjaminis buried in the same plot. Source: http://thompsongenealogy.com/2010/12/the-mysterious-hunt-for-the-grave-of-rebecca-de-mendes/
Jacob Levy is buried at the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery in New Orleans. His niece Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjamin and another relative are buried in the same plot.
Source: http://thompsongenealogy.com/2010/12/the-mysterious-hunt-for-the-grave-of-rebecca-de-mendes/

“French Mary”

From the above records we know much about Jacob Levy’s business life but his personal family life is not as well documented. According to one text, Jacob Levy’s wife was “Maria”, daughter of his Sephardic Jewish business partner Aaron Lopez. I did find family trees which indicate that this Maria died in 1812 back when Jacob Levy was still living in Wilmington and it does not appear they had any children that lived to adulthood. And in reviewing all the biographies about Judah Benjamin, there is no mention of Jacob Levy having children of his own living in the household with the Benjamin family.

However there is one woman who is known to have had at least one son with Jacob Levy, and she was commonly known as “French Mary”. Mary’s origins though are not so transparent and I found numerous conflicting stories about her heritage. In consideration of the many documents I looked over, I believe “French Mary” was Native American (Carib Indian) and was enslaved in Guadeloupe and later freed by Jacob Levy in North Carolina. Below I’ll present the source material for “French Mary” and how I came to this conclusion.

On 4 December 1876, Jacob Levy’s son Lewis Levy submitted a claim to the Southern Claim Commission to be compensated for his losses during the Civil War. He provided testimony that he was a free born person, born to an Indian woman from Guadeloupe who came to this country in 1794:

Excerpt from Lewis Levy's Southern Claims Commission in which he describes his mother as an Indian woman from Guadeloupe. Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880
Excerpt from Lewis Levy’s Southern Claims Commission in which he describes his mother as an Indian woman from Guadeloupe.
Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880

We learn from several newspaper articles starting in the 1890s, that “French Mary” was a well known local woman because she had famously served dinner to General Marquis de Lafayette (namesake of Fayetteville) when he visited Fayetteville in 1825. De Lafayette, a Frenchman, was so impressed with the dinner that he was served, that he knew the cook must have been French. We learn from one article that Mary was a small, dark skinned woman with straight hair and usually wore a turban style head handkerchief:

Excerpt from a newspaper article that describing
Excerpt from a newspaper article that describing “French Mary’s” appearance.
Source: Fayetteville Observer, 25 Aug 1897, Wed, Page 2

Mary’s ethnic origins differ with each retelling of the infamous story of her famous meal to General de Lafayette. In the above newspaper article, she is described as being “Moorish” and that she was kidnapped and sold into slavery, where she was first brought to France, then to a West Indian island, and then brought to Charleston, S.C. and finally Fayetteville. I have found that “Moor” when used in the context of the United States does not always mean the historic Moors who were an Arab/Muslim population that inhabited and controlled Spain over many centuries. Instead it usually is meant to signal someone’s non-European physical appearance. I think in the context of “French Mary”, she may have been referred to as a Moor due to her dark physical appearance and her relationship with the Sephardic Jewish Benjamin family. Also, “French Mary” was noted as wearing a “turban” which may have also contributed to the lore that she was a Moor.

In a 1903 newspaper article authored by Mary’s grandson John Sheridan Leary, he described her as a woman named “Mary Ann Willette” who came from France to America and was well regarded as a good cook. Guadeloupe was at that time and still is a French territory, which is why it was referred to as “France”:

“French Mary’s” grandson John Sheridan Leary indicated that her name was “Mary Ann Willett” and that she came from France.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 6 Sep 1903, Sun, Page 10

And in a 1921 newspaper article, “French Mary” is said to have not been born a slave, but was a free woman who came to Wilmington on a sailing vessel and the captain then sold her into slavery. What’s also interesting about this article is that the author thinks that General de Lafayette visited Phillip Benjamin’s family (including Jacob Levy) and that is why it was “French Mary” who cooked the meal:

Another news article about
Another news article about “French Mary” that describes her origins.
Source: Fayetteville Observer, 9 Mar 1921, Wed, Page 3

What is consistent about “French Mary” is that she had three known documented children: 1. Lewis Levy (who is the subject of the next section); 2. Juliette Memorell who married Matthew Leary and was the mother of Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) who took part in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, and 3. John Ochiltree. The fact that her three children all had different surnames suggests that each child had a different father.

Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) was the son of Juliette Memorell who was the daughter of
Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) was the son of Juliette Memorell who was the daughter of “French Mary” – an Indian woman from Guadeloupe.
Source: Ancestry

We know that Jacob Levy was a slave owner and we even know the names of some of his slaves from legal transactions. From the Wilmington records we learn that on 28 March 1817 Jacob Levy manumitted his “mulatto” slave named Margaret Allan and her child Jacob. The same year, Jacob Levy purchased a “negro” slave named Isaac. And in the Fayetteville records, we learn that in 1819 Jacob Levy had a “mustee” slave girl name Maria that he deeded to his newborn great nephew Jacob Levy Benjamin (son of Jacob Levy’s niece Rebecca Benjamin). This last record is especially interesting because the slave’s name is “Maria” and she’s described as “mustee” meaning very specifically of mixed Native American/African descent. This slave girl could be related to “French Mary” or could possibly be “French Mary” herself. The newborn baby Jacob Levy Benjamin did not survive childhood, so I’m not sure where the enslaved “Maria” ended up. And when we consider that Jacob Levy was a merchant of West Indian goods, it stands to reason that his slaves also came from the West Indies.

So if Lewis Levy was born to Jacob Levy and his freed slave “French Mary”, then that would explain why neither “French Mary” or Lewis Levy went with Jacob Levy to New Orleans in 1826. We saw that Jacob Levy sold his real estate in Fayetteville in 1827 and I wonder if he left behind any money or property to his son before taking off.

Out of all the evidence presented about “French Mary”, I think the statement made by her son Lewis Levy back in 1876 that she was an Indian woman from Guadeloupe is the most credible. Not only is that the earliest document that speaks directly to “French Mary’s” heritage but it was information given from her own direct son, who would be most familiar with his mother’s heritage. Guadeloupe was during that time period and still today, a French territory and would explain the “French” aspect of Mary’s cultural background and culinary skills. The indigenous people of Guadeloupe are the Carib Indians and there are still recognized Carib people on the island today. So taking all the above information into consideration, I do believe that “French Mary” was a Carib Indian woman from Guadeloupe. She was most likely born a slave and freed at some point by the Levy/Benjamin family where she continued to work and have a child by Jacob Levy.

A Carib Indian woman from Martinique wearing traditional dress, 1902.
A Carib Indian woman of Martinique in Native dress, 1902. “French Mary” was most likely a Carib Indian woman from neighboring Guadeloupe island and was known for wearing a “turban”, perhaps similar to this example.
Source: http://kadaotonkao.blogspot.com/2013/03/ktk29-les-antilles-part2.html

Lewis Levy (1820-1899)

Lewis Levy (1820-1899) was the son of Jewish Jacob Levy and Carib Indian
Lewis Levy (1820-1899) was the son of Jewish Jacob Levy and Carib Indian “French Mary”. He was a lifelong resident of Cumberland Co, NC and married to Sarah Jane Scott.
Source: Ancestry, Username:carolaalen53

This brings us to Lewis Levy, whose Southern Claims Commission record we reviewed above. Lewis Levy identifies himself as the son of Jacob Levy the auctioneer from Fayetteville and an Indian woman (“French Mary”):

Lewis Levy's identifies his father as Jacob Levy and his mother as an Indian woman. Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880
Lewis Levy identifies his father as Jacob Levy and his mother as an Indian woman.
Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880

The first record I have for Lewis Levy is when he married Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) on 24 Apr 1843 in Cumberland Co, NC with Abram Scott paying the bond. Abram Scott was Sarah Jane Scott’s father who resided in Cumberland Co by 1830. Sarah Jane Scott was a Native American woman of Saponi/Catawba heritage.

Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) was the wife of Lewis Levy. She was the daughter of Abram Scott and Lucinda Walden who moved down from Wake Co to Cumberland Co. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) was the wife of Lewis Levy. She was the daughter of Abram Scott and Quentina Scott (maiden name not known) who resided in Cumberland Co.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

We first find Lewis Levy with wife Sarah Jane Scott and children living in Fayettville, Cumberland Co in the 1850 census. The entire family was enumerated as “mulatto”” and Lewis is listed as a saddler and harness maker. In 1844, Lewis Levy opened his shop in Lumberton and advertised it in the newspaper:

Lewis Levy was a saddler and harness maker and advertised his new shop located in Lumberton. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 18 Dec 1844, Wed, Page 1
Lewis Levy was a saddler and harness maker and advertised his new shop located in Lumberton.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 18 Dec 1844, Wed, Page 1

However something serious must have happened to the family because in 1851 Lewis Levy announced via the newspaper that he was trying to leave Fayetteville as soon as possible and so he was hoping to wrap up all outstanding business. I don’t know exactly why Lewis Levy suddenly decided to leave but it could be that the “Free Negro” laws were ruining him financially. After the Nat Turner slave rebellion in Southampton Co, VA, North Carolina in 1835 passed a new constitution that rescinded the rights that “free people of color” had and instead began to strictly enforce “Free Negro” laws. The last couple of decades leading up to the Civil War were incredibly oppressive times for all “free people of color” in North Carolina.

In 1851, Lewis Levy is shown making haste to close his shop and leave Fayetteville. I do not know why. but he ended up staying. Source: The North-Carolinian, 23 Aug 1851, Sat, Page 4
In 1851, Lewis Levy is shown making haste to close his shop and leave Fayetteville. I do not know why. but he ended up staying.
Source: The North-Carolinian, 23 Aug 1851, Sat, Page 4

But, Lewis Levy did not leave Fayetteville and in the 1860 census, his family was enumerated again in Fayetteville. This means Lewis Levy stayed in the South during the Civil War and we learn a little bit about his experiences during the War from his Southern Claims Commission (#16083) record from 1876. The full file is available on fold3.com. Lewis Levy stayed loyal to the Union and aided General Sherman’s troops with food and transportation so he sought to be compensated for his expenses. He filed a claim for $1592.65 and supplied a detailed list of exactly what he provided to the Union soldiers and the associated cost. In return, the commission allowed him to claim $723. Within the 75 pages of this claim, Levy provides testimony that he was assaulted and abused by the Confederate soldiers and because Levy himself was so fair skinned and could “pass” for white, the Confederacy tried to force him to enlist. Friends and family of Lewis Levy provided additional testimony to corroborate his claims.

Lewis Levy made his mark during the post-Civil War Reconstruction politics of the South. Unlike most “people of color” (both free-born and freedmen) who were members of the Republican Party (the “Radical Republicans”), Lewis Levy was a member of the Democratic Party – specifically the “Colored Democratic Club of Wilmington”.  And this put him at odds with his neighbors and community as seen in this news article:

Lewis Levy was a member of the Democratic Party which put him at odds with his Republican neighbors. Source: The Daily Journal, 22 Apr 1868, Wed, Page 3
Lewis Levy was involved with Reconstruction politics and was a member of the Democratic Party which put him at odds with his Republican neighbors.
Source: The Daily Journal, 22 Apr 1868, Wed, Page 3

Cumberland County continued be Lewis Levy’s home until his death in 1899. A newspaper article relays the news that Lewis Levy’s died en route while visiting his son Matthew Levy in Virginia:

Lewis Levy's death announcement in the newspaaper. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 1 Jun 1899, Thu, Page 4
Lewis Levy’s death announcement in the newspaaper.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 1 Jun 1899, Thu, Page 4

Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott had the following children (some may have been grandchildren):

1. Eiza Levy (b. 1842) Died in childhood.

2. Robert Levy (b. 1844) married Celia Scott and continued to live in Cumberland Co. Descendants enrolled with the Lumbee Tribe.

3. Lewis Levy Jr. (1846-1945) married Josephine Holliday and later settled in Philadelphia.

Lewis Levy Jr (1847-1945) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He later moved to Philadelphia. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Lewis Levy Jr (1847-1945) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He later moved to Philadelphia.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

4. Matthew Levy (1850-1913) married Elizabeth Merrick and moved to Virginia.

Matthew Levy (b. 1850) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved to Virginia where he was a preacher. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Matthew Levy (1850-1913) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved to Virginia where he was a preacher.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

5. ***James W. Levy (1852-1936) married Martha Freeman and moved up to Granville Co. He is the subject of the following section.

6. (William) Henry Levy (1854-1938) married Tempie Young and remained in Cumberland Co. Descendants enrolled with the Lumbee tribe.

7. Edward Levy (b. 1858) Died in childhood.

8. Mary Jane “Jennie” Levy (b. 1861) married James Pearce

9. William L. Levy (b. 1863) Died in childhood.

10. Charlotte Levy (b. 1870) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.

11. Anna Levy (b. 1872) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.

12. Aurelia Levy (b. 1876) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.


James W. Levy (1852-1936)

Reverend James Levy (1852-1936) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved up to Granville Co and married Martha Freeman. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Reverend James W. Levy (1852-1936) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved up to Granville Co and married Martha Freeman.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

So this brings us to the Granville County part of the Levy history and that begins with James W. Levy, son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. James was the only child of Lewis Levy that moved up to Granville Co. I don’t have an exact year for this move but it occurred in the mid 1880s because James is last enumerated in Cumberland Co in the 1880 census. James moved to to the township of Kittrell, which is situated right next to Fishing Creek. Up until 1881 Kittrell was part of Granville Co and due to political maneuvering, Vance Co was created in 1881 from a small section of Ganville Co which included Kittrell.

It is there that James married a woman from the Native community named Martha Freeman (1865-1944). Martha was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes and is descended from the Native American Freeman, Hayes, Taborn, and Epps families. Though she was raised in Kittrell, most of Martha’s family came from neighboring Person Co in the High Plains community that is today the Sappony Tribe of Person County. I have not located James Levy and Martha Feeman’s marriage record yet but according to census info, they married around 1887.

Martha Freeman (1865-1944) was the wife of James Levy. She was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes of Kittrell, Granville/Vance Co. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Martha Freeman (1865-1944) was the wife of James Levy. She was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes of Kittrell, Granville/Vance Co.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

James Levy was a popular minister at A.M.E. Zion Church and was active and well known in the Native community and throughout Granville/Vance Co. James served on the Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford, Granville Co.  The orphanage was situated a very short distance from the Native community, so community members took a strong interest in the institution and did a lot to support its efforts. For example, I’ve found that my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell and his first cousin James A Howell volunteered their services and often took in children from the orphanage.

Reverend James W. Levy is listed on the annual report of Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford. Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/asyl1910/asyl1910.html
Reverend James W. Levy is listed in the annual report of Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford.
Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/asyl1910/asyl1910.html

James Levy remained in Kittrell until his death in 1936. His wife Martha (Freeman) Levy also remained in Kittrell until her death in 1944. And what I think is a bit uncommon for the times, James Levy and Martha Freeman only had two children: a son named Dr. James W. Levy Jr and a daughter named Bessie Levy.


Dr. James W. Levy Jr. (1893-1975) – Medical Doctor, Bureau of Indian Affairs

Dr. James W. Levy was the son of Reverend Lewis Levy and Martha Freeman. He was a physician employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Dr. James W. Levy was the son of Reverend James Levy and Martha Freeman. He was a physician employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

James Levy Jr was the son of James Levy Sr. and Martha Freeman and early in his life, left North Carolina to assist other Native American communities. James was born and raised in Kittrell and enrolled in Winston-Salem State University, a historically black university in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County. He earned his medical license in 1915 as seen in a newspaper article that listed people who passed the North Carolina medical examination:

James Levy Jr received his medical license in 1915. Source: Greensboro Daily News, 17 Jun 1915, Thu, Page 7
James Levy Jr received his medical license in 1915.
Source: Greensboro Daily News, 17 Jun 1915, Thu, Page 7

In Winston-Salem, NC he met and married a woman named Christina Dykes on 21 Jan 1916. They had one son together named Ulysses Levy (1916-2003) but it appears the couple divorced soon after they wed.

We next find Dr. James Levy Jr in 1917 living all the way out in Minnesota. According to his WW1 draft record, James was working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (then called the U.S. Indian Service) as a medical doctor on the Leech Lake reservation. He is described as single, Indian, and that his mother was his dependent:

Dr. James W. Levy's WW1 draft card which shows he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (
Dr. James W. Levy’s WW1 draft card which shows he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“U.S. Indian Service”).
Source: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls.

The Leech Lake reservation is the reservation for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota where the Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for carrying out treaty obligations between the United States government and the tribe. These treaty obligations include access to healthcare and so Dr. James Levy’s patients were all from the reservation.

Dr. James Levy also developed a relationship with a woman from the Leech Lake reservation named “Marie”, her surname is unknown. She accompanied Dr. James Levy on a trip back home to Kittrell, NC to meet his parents:

From left to right: Marie (girlfriend of Dr. James Levy who was Leech Lake Ojibwe), Dr. James Levy, Martha (Freeman) Levy, and Reverend James Levy. Dr Levy brought his girlfriend Marie home to Kittrell to meet his parents. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
From left to right: Marie (girlfriend of Dr. James Levy who was Ojibwe), Dr. James Levy, Martha (Freeman) Levy, and Reverend James Levy. Dr Levy brought his girlfriend Marie home to Kittrell to meet his parents.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

American Indians served in high numbers during World War 1 and a result many returning Indian veterans of the World War came back to the U.S. with little support from the federal government. Thus in 1920 Dr. James Levy along with several other American Indians from other tribes formed the “American Indians of the Wold War” (AIWW) in Minneapolis:

Dr. James Levy along with several others founded the American Indians of World War to assist Indian veterans. Here Levy is called
Dr. James Levy along with several others founded the “American Indians of the World War” to assist Indian veterans. Here Levy is called “Cherokee” which was a term applied to and used by Indians in North Carolina who were not Cherokee.
Source: Bitten, Thomas A. “American Indians in World War I: At Home and at War”. Page 166

Unfortunately I have not found Dr. James Levy in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses. I get the feeling he moved around a bit, likely working on different projects for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And if he was living on reservations, he may not have been counted in the general U.S. census. If the Bureau still has records of James Levy’s employment, that would be worthwhile to look at.

By 1931, James Levy was living in Miami, OK and married an Arkansas-born woman named Dorothy O’Connor. By the 1950s onward, the couple is consistently listed in the Sioux City, Iowa city directories where James Levy is listed as a medical doctor.

James Levy died in September 1975 and is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, IA in the same plot as his wife Dorothy who predeceased him in 1969:

Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=120045173
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=120045173

Bessie Levy (1888-1980)

image
Bessie Levy (1888-1980) was the daughter of Revered James Levy and Martha Freeman. She is pictured here holding one of her children. Bessie’s headband is a reflection of the family’s Native American identity. Source: Shirley Hines (granddaughter of Bessie Levy)

Bessie Levy was the daughter of James Levy Sr. and Martha Freeman, and sister to Dr. James W Levy. Unlike her brother, Bessie stayed local and married within the community.

On 24 September 1913 in Kittrell, Bessie Levy married George Huley Tyler from Fishing Creek of the Native American Tyler, Guy, Kersey, Day, Anderson, Bass, Evans, Walden, Taborn, Chavis families.

George Huley Tyler (1886-1961) was the husband of Bessie Levy. He was from Fishing Creek, Granville Co and the son of John Thomas Tyler and Mary Etta Guy. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
George Huley Tyler (1886-1961) was the husband of Bessie Levy. He was from Fishing Creek, Granville Co and the son of John Thomas Tyler and Mary Etta Guy.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

In the 1920 census we find Bessie Levy with her husband George Tyler and their children, living with Bessie’s parents in Kittrell. She is listed as a teacher so we know she was an educated woman like her brother Dr. James Levy. Her husband George Tyler was a photographer who had his own studio. They had 8 children who lived into adulthood (including 1 who is still living) and at least 2 children who died in infancy.

image
Robert Guy is pictured here with Bessie Levy at her home in Kittrell, Vance Co (formerly Granville Co). Robert Guy was the son of Miles Guy and Susan Taborn. His nephew George Huley Tyler was the husband of Bessie Levy. Source: Shirley Hines (Bessie Levy’s granddaughter)

In 1948, Bessie Levy and husband George Tyler moved up from Granville/Vance Cos to Boston, MA where some of their children had already settled. They both remained in Boston until their deaths – Bessie died in 1980 and her husband George predeceased her in 1961.

Marie Sarah Elizabeth Tyler (1916-2004) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She is pictured with her son Charles at the family home in Kittrell. Marie relocated up to Boston. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Marie Sarah Elizabeth Tyler (1916-2004) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She is pictured with her son Charles at the family home in Kittrell. Marie relocated up to Boston.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
James
James “Jimmy” Joseph Tyler (1918-1998) was the son of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. Jimmy Tyler was a jazz saxophonist who had a successful career in the jazz scene from the 1940s onward. He was in the Boston (legendary “Wally’s club”) and New York jazz clubs and later moved to Florida. You can listen to one of his recordings here.
Source: Ancestry, Username: ShirleyHines73
Goldie Tyler (1922-2011) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She relocated up to Boston and was a songwriter. Her son Steve Johns is jazz drummer carrying on the family's musical legacy. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Goldie Tyler (1922-2011) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She relocated up to Boston and was a songwriter. Her son Steve Johns is jazz drummer carrying on the family’s musical legacy.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

Final Thoughts:

By taking a close look at the Levy family, we see that the European heritage of some Native American families did not just include Christians. European Jews were also settlers in the Carolinas where they had many opportunities to intermarry with local Native Americans and blacks. As “minority” populations in Europe, it stands to reason that in the Americas they may have also faced discrimination from their Christian European counterparts, thus at times placing them on a social level that was in close proximity to that of “free people of color”. So as we explore the diverse heritage of these families, we should keep an open mind about the contribution of other “minority” European groups.