This blog post takes a closer look at the records attributed to William Chavis (b. 1760) who was the son of Gibeon Chavis (1737-1777) and Ann Priddy. When his father died when he was still a minor, William Chavis stood to inherit the entirety of his father’s large plantation when he reached adulthood. The surviving offspring of William Chavis, if any, are unknown, so I’m hoping that by identifying him in the records, I may in the future be able to learn if he has any living descendants.
William Chavis (b. 1760) was the son of Gibeon Chavis (1737-1777) and Ann Priddy. Gibeon Chavis was the son of William Chavis Sr (1706-1777) and Frances Gibson (1700-1780). William Chavis Sr was the “original” owner of an immensely large tract of land, 51,200 acres, on the north side of the Tar River in Granville County (in what is today Granville, Vance, and Franklin Counties). This land was described by late 19th century local historian Oscar Blacknall who wrote extensively about the Indian identity of the “free negroes” of Granville County. William Chavis Sr’s wife Frances Gibson also came from a land owning family who like the Chavises, originally came from the Virginia lower tidewater area.
Ann Priddy was the daughter of Robert Priddy (1694-1794) and Susannah Harlow who were a wealthy white planter family residing in Granville County. Before Ann Priddy married Gibeon Chavis, she had two daughters named Susannah Priddy and Patience Priddy. Their identities are documented in the 2 July 1759 will of Robert Priddy. In his will, Robert Priddy gave 200 acres of land to “my granddaughters & both daughters of my daughter Ann.” Later in the will, Robert Priddy identified his daughter “Ann Chavers, wife of Gibby Chavers” when he gave her five shillings. Genealogist Paul Heinegg believes that Susannah Priddy and Patience Priddy were daughters that Ann Priddy had with Gibeon Chavis however I strongly disagree with that conclusion. The will makes it clear that both daughters had the surname Priddy. Also, the division of his estate makes it evident that Robert Priddy divided his estate among his living children and only mentions grandchildren when they stood to inherit in place of their deceased parent. For example, Robert Priddy’s son Harlow Priddy predeceased him, so in Harlow’s place, Harlow’s daughters inherited his share of the estate. Ann Priddy Chavis was still living in 1759 and married to Gibeon Chavis, yet Robert Priddy mentions her daughters by name when he gave them a sizable amount of land. This indicates to me that Robert Priddy wanted to make sure that his two granddaughters Susannah Priddy and Patience Priddy inherited land since they were “illegitimate children”. They had no legal claim to their step-father Gibeon Chavis’ property. I don’t know who fathered Ann Priddy’s daughters. Perhaps a closer look at the Granville Court Minutes, bastardy bonds or apprentice records may lend some clues.
An Orphan of Gibeon Chavis
Gibeon Chavis died in 1777 when according to Oscar Blacknall, he was killed by jealous competitors in a horse racing contest. His 4 January 1777 will names his wife Ann and son William Chavis who stood to inherit his father’s plantation. For reasons not clear to me, Gibeon Chavis’ son Jesse Chavis is not named in the will (perhaps because Gibeon Chavis left his entire estate to his son William Chavis). Estate records show that Jonathan Kittrell who was executor of the estate, posted an inventory and sale of Gibeon Chavis’ estate. Jonathan Kittrell Sr (1726-1811) was the 3rd great-grandfather of Oscar Blacknall which probably explains how Blacknall was familiar with the details of Gibeon Chavis’ death. Included in the estate records is a document which shows that George Priddy was assigned to be guardian of Gibeon Chavis’ orphaned son William Chavis until he reached the age of 21. In 1777, William Chavis was about 17 years old and still a minor. The term “orphan” was not used in the same way today and did not necessarily denote that both parents are deceased. George Priddy was Ann Priddy Chavis’ brother, thus William Chavis’ uncle.
Gibeon Chavis owned 400 acres of land that was gifted to him by his father William Chavis Sr on 1 June 1755. The land was described as 400 acres on both sides of Little Creek on the north side of the Tar River and is what William Chavis (b. 1760) stood to inherit when he turned 21. This was also land within the boundaries of the 51,200 acres that Oscar Blacknall said William Chavis Sr originally owned. So knowing that William Chavis (b. 1760) was raised by his uncle George Priddy and owned 400 acres on Little Creek is how he can be tracked in the records.
William Chavis (b. 1760), a Young Adult and Heir in Granville
The 1780 tax list for the Fort Creek district of Granville shows that George Priddy paid for the tax on William Chavis’ 400 acres of land assessed at 2,362 pounds. William Chavis did not hold onto this land for much longer because on 13 March 1785, he sold the 400 acres on Little Creek. That same year, he was counted as a head of a household of two polls in the Granville County tax list (the districts were not recorded). In the North Carolina state census for 1786, William Chavis was counted as the head of household of one male age 21-60, one female and one slave in the Fishing Creek district of Granville. This would seem to indicate that by 1786, William Chavis was married and that he also owned a slave. The slave he likely inherited from his grandparents William Chavis Sr/Frances Gibson who were documented owning slaves in the tax lists and in their estate records. In that 1786 census, William Chavis was enumerated next to a few other “free colored” households, including some who were his relatives: Ann Snelling, Lettice Snelling, William Pettiford, Reuben Bass, Hugh Snelling, and Bartlet Tyler. Lettice (Chavis) Snelling was William Chavis’ aunt. She was the widow of Aquila Snelling and the mother Hugh Snelling. Land grants show that the Snelling family owned land on Little Creek. The 1786 tax list for Granville shows that William Chavis was taxed on one free poll and one slave.
On 13 October 1786, William Chavis purchased 20 acres of land adjacent to the Snelling family. He then sold this land on 10 February 1788. And the 1788 tax list shows William Chavis was a tithable in Fishing Creek district. The Granville Court minutes reveal that William Chavis sold a slave named Jack to his first cousin Hugh Snelling on 3 March 1789. This was probably the slave that was counted in his household in the 1786 census. Also in 1789 (exact date not recorded) William Chavis was sued by his neighbor Bartlet Tyler in which the plaintiff won a judgment.
According to testimony given by William Hicks in 1800 to the British Claims Commission “William, son of Gibia, who in right of his father, inherited a tract of land and other property of the said deceased, sold the same in the Year 1785 and removed to South Carolina or Georgia.” William Chavis Sr (1706-1777) who owned a large amount of land and slaves, had outstanding debts at the time of his death to British citizens. As a result, the British Claims Commission inquired about what became of William Chavis Sr’s massive estate. We know from the records that William Chavis (b. 1760) did inherit his father Gibeon Chavis’ 400 acres and later sold it. He remained in Granville County for several more years until at least 1789 when he sold his slave to his first cousin Hugh Snelling and was sued by his neighbor Bartlet Tyler. After 1789, I lose William Chavis in the Granville records and it is probably because around this time he did leave the area. If William Chavis (b. 1760) still resided in Granville County in 1800, then the William Hicks would not have said that he moved out of state. This means William Chavis (b. 1760) left Granville County sometime between 1789 and 1800.
A Different William Chavis in the Granville Records
Around 1790, a different William Chavis begins to appear in the Granville records and I believe some researchers, including genealogist Paul Heinegg have incorrectly attributed these records to William Chavis (b. 1760). On 13 March 1790, a William Chavis married Sarah Kersey. Heinegg has attributed this marriage record to William Chavis (b. 1760), but I’m not too sure about that. The Kersey family lived across the state line in Mecklenburg County, Virginia with some family members moving into Granville County in the very late 1700’s/early 1800’s. In Mecklenburg, the Kerseys were neighbors to and intermarried with the Chavisies who lived in Mecklenburg. It is not known nor documented if the Chavises in Mecklenburg are related to the family of William Chavis Sr (1706-1777). For this reason, I suspect that the William Chavis who married Sarah Kersey was from the Mecklenburg Chavises.
The 1791 tax list for Granville shows a William Chavis who was taxed on a free poll in the Abrams Plains district. Abram Plains is located on the very northern part of Granville, right across from the Mecklenburg County, Virginia border. Most of the “free colored” families who lived in Abrams Plains came from Mecklenburg. In the 1791 tax list, this William Chavis is shown living next to James Chavis. This is James Chavis (b. 1748) who was in fact from Mecklenburg County and moved to Granville County by 1786 when he was taxed in the Abrams Plains district. Thus it appears that the William Chavis who married Sarah Kersey and who was taxed the following year in Abrams Plains was the son of James Chavis (b. 1748).
Finally, there is a page from an estate record for a William Chavis which shows that the executor of the estate, Claiborne Spain, posted the sale of the estate on 2 July 1814 in Granville. No other information is provided in the estate records, so it is hard to learn more about who this William Chavis was. Paul Heinegg has attributed this estate record to William Chavis (b. 1760) but I disagree since William Chavis (b. 1760) was last recorded in Granville in 1789. This record perhaps could be attributed to the William Chavis who married Sarah Kersey and lived in Abrams Plains but without having additional info, it is difficult to make a correct attribution.
So where does this leave us? It means that the trail for William Chavis (b. 1760) after 1789 should pick up in either South Carolina or Georgia. The hunt continues…
Beginning in the early 1900s (and in some cases a few decades earlier), large numbers of Granville County’s Native American families moved to industrial cities in Southern New England such as Providence, New Haven, Brockton, Boston, Springfield, Hartford, and New Bedford. Escaping racial violence, Jim Crow laws, changing economies, and education were among the most common reasons for this exodus to the North. Upon arriving in these cities, Granville’s former residents would form relationships with southern New England tribal peoples, often resulting in intermarriage and opening new kinship patterns. This blog post takes a close look at several examples of individuals from Granville County whose spouses come from southern New England tribes such as Narragansett/Niantic, Nipmuck, Mattakeeset/Massachusett, Nemasket/Wampanoag, and Montauk. The genealogies of their spouses who come from notable families including: Fayerweather, Hazard, Perry, Harry, Cornwall, Brooker, Granderson, Gardiner, Dailey, and Willard are carefully presented and offer an opportunity to compare and contrast Northeastern and Southeastern tribal ethnohistories.
This topic is of special relevance for me personally, because my maternal great-grandfather Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942) left Granville County for New Haven in the early 1900s. Interestingly in New Haven, he had a business partner named Moses Spears who may be connected to the large Spears family of the Narragansett tribe. Documenting these kinship connections up and down the East Coast feels especially fulfilling to me, because I grew up and still live in southern New England and have family ties to the tribes here. I hope the research presented in this blog post will also give you a great appreciation for the resiliency of our ancestors and how their kinship patterns evolved when they moved North.
Before presenting the genealogies below, I’d like to offer a few points about southern New England tribal history. Just like Virginia and North Carolina, southern New England was the epicenter of early contact between European colonists and indigenous peoples. As a result of colonial attacks, genocide, warfare and disease, the indigenous populations suffered huge losses similar to what took place in Virginia and North Carolina. However the tribes rebounded and rebuilt their populations in part by intermarrying with European colonists and African slaves and indentured servants. Southern New England tribes also suffered from paper genocide which resulted in the loss of land and attacks on sovereign rights. In spite of those setbacks, many tribes have found success with federal recognition, economic development, and cultural revitalization in the 20th and 21st centuries. All of the southern New England tribes are Algonquian speaking peoples and many of their place names live on today in the names of cities and towns across the region.
I’d also like to especially thank Danny Menihan (Mashantucket Pequot tribal council member), Gloria Miller (Narragansett descendant), Cheryl Toney-Holley (Hassanamisco Nipmuc Chief and genealogist), and Ric Murphy (award winning author) for their contributions and assistance with my research.
William Francis Pettiford (1891-1985) and Edith Fayerweather (1910-2004) (Narragansett)
The first example I will discuss is that of the marriage of William Francis Pettiford and Edith Fayerweather, a Narragansett woman. William Francis Pettiford (1891-1985) was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1891 to John Pettiford (1840-1900) and Mary Copeland (born 1858). His father John Pettiford was born and raised in Richmond, VA and moved up North to enlist in the Civil War on 15 Nov 1861 in Philadelphia, PA. He served as a landsman for the U.S. Navy aboard the vessels USS Brooklyn, USS Richmond, USS Philadelphia and USS Princeton. After his service, he settled in Providence, RI where he married and had children with a widower named Mary (Copeland) Rogers who was also originally from Virginia.
Though John Pettiford left Richmond for the North, his parents and siblings remained in Richmond during and after the Civil War, and eventually relocated to Springfield, MA by the late 1800’s. John Pettiford’s paternal grandmother was a woman named Ary Pettiford (born 1809) who lived in the nearby city of Petersburg, VA. As with many free people of color in Virginia, she had to register her status as a free woman and did so on 14 July 1829:
No. 1518, Ary Pettiford, a free woman of color, born of free parents about the year 1809, dark complexion, four feet eleven and an half inches high. 14 July 1829. Petersburg, VA.
Ary Pettiford’s free born parents were Thornton Pettiford, born 1772, originally from Granville County, NC and Alice Goff of Virginia who were married on 31 March 1804 in Petersburg, VA. In the late 1700s/early 1800s, several individuals from the Granville County community moved (sometimes temporarily) to Petersburg, VA. Petersburg at this time may have been similar to what we know today as an “urban Indian community”. So when Thornton Pettiford moved to Petersburg, he did not do it alone and instead was joined by other Granville kinsman such as Jesse Chavis and Hardy Bass.
Thornton Pettiford’s wife Alice Goff most likely descended from a man named Edward Goff who was an “Indian” tithable in nearby Surry Co, VA in 1702. No tribe is specified in the tax list and I don’t know of additional genealogical research into the exact tribal origins of the Goff family. Further cementing his relationship with the Goff family, Thornton Pettiford and his fellow Granville kinsman Hardy Bass were paid as witnesses in a lawsuit filed by Fanny Goff against Molly Lee in 1807. I don’t know what the relationship was between Fanny Goff and Thornton Pettiford’s wife Alice Goff, but perhaps they were sisters.
The Granville County Pettiford family are lineal descendants of the Nansemond Indian Bass and Anderson families, so in addition to Alice Goff’s unknown tribal origin, William Francis Pettiford was of Nansemond descent.
Census records indicate that William Francis Pettiford was a patrol driver for the Providence Police department. In 1942, he was required to fill out of a draft card for World War 2 and notably both the “Indian” and “Negro” boxes were marked for Race.
In Providence is where William Francis Pettiford met and married Edith Fayerweather (1910-2004). Edith Fayweather was born in the Narragansett Indian community in South Kingstown, RI, to Corinne Fayerweather (1893-1971). Corinne later married fellow Narragansett Indian Alvin Stanton, so sometimes Edith Fayerweather was known as “Edith Stanton”, the surname of her step-father.
Corinne Fayerweather (1893-1971) was the daughter of James Fayerweather (1857-1922) and Mary Elizabeth Harry (1861-1948). Both James and Mary Elizabeth were lineal descendants of the Sachem Ninigret (1610-1670) of the Niantic tribe, through the Harry family. The Niantic were close allies and merged with the Narragansett tribe, resulting in many Narragansett tribal members today, being also of Niantic descent.
Rebecca Howell (1898-1996) and Benjamin Harrison Hazard (1898-1960)(Narragansett)
Rebecca Howell (1898-1996) was born in Fishing Creek township in Granville County, the daughter of Freeman Howell (1867-1917) and Lucy Ann Hedgepeth (1865-1953). Rebecca was also my grandfather’s 3rd cousin (as well as a distant cousin through other shared lineages). Both of Rebecca’s parents have deep roots in Granville’s Native American community from the Howell, Hedgepeth, Brandon, Evans, Bass, Bookram, and Scott families that are the subject of previous blog posts. Her Howell lineage goes through Freeman Howell (1777-1870) who was the progenitor of the “free colored” Howells in Granville, Person, Orange, and Alamance Counties. You can learn more about Freeman Howell here. Her Howell lineages extends further back into Tidewater Virginia, specifically to Dorothy Howell of New Kent Co, who was a Pamunkey woman that lived across the river from the Pamunkey reservation in the home of colonist Sherwood Lightfoot. You can read more about the Pamunkey origins of the Howell family here.
Rebecca’s Brandon lineage is connected to the Saponi/Monacan Brandon/Branham family which you can read about here. Her Evans lineage traces back to the Indian woman known as Jane Gibson the elder of Charles City Co, VA which you can read about here. Her Bass lineage traces back to the Nansemond tribe which you can read about here. And her Bookram family traces back to a Nanticoke man named Elias Puckham/Bookram who moved from Maryland to Granville County which you can read about here.
By 1910, Rebecca Howell and her family had moved up to New Haven, CT. She remained in New Haven through most of her life before living in a convalescent home in Stoughton, MA where she died in 1996. In New Haven is where Rebecca met and married her husband, a Narragansett man named Benjamin Harrison Hazard.
Benjamin Harrison Hazard (1898-1960) was the son of James Alexander Hazard (1867-1933) and Drusilla Jones (1871-1932). Both of Benjamin’s parents were from the same Narragansett Hazard family, with his father James Hazard being a double Hazard. Further back along the Hazard family line is an ancestor named Sarah Perry who comes from the large Narragansett Perry family. Certainly the endogamy that was common in Granville County can be seen in the Narragansett tribe through Benjamin Hazard’s family tree.
By 1920, Benjamin Hazard and his parents had moved from the rural Narragansett community in rural Rhode Island to the nearby city of New Haven, CT. The move was temporary for most of the family as they returned to Rhode Island by 1930. Benjamin however, remained in New Haven with his wife Rebecca.
Marie Howell (1907-2002) and Harold Cornwall (1901-1991) Nemasket/ Wampanoag and Mattakeeset/Massachusett descendant
Marie Howell (1907-2002) was born in Brockton, MA to William Badger Howell (1878-1946) originally from Granville County, NC and Matilda Watson originally from Mecklenburg Co, VA. Marie Howell was also my grandfather’s second cousin. William Badger Howell had deep roots in Granville’s Native American community through the Howell, Harris, Evans, Chavis, Gibson, Gowen/Goins, Anderson, and Bass families. As with Rebecca Howell discussed above, William comes from the Pamunkey descended Howell family. Through his grandmother Jane Harris (1817-1900), William descends from community founder William Chavis (1706-1778) and wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) via their daughter Sarah Chavis (1730-1785) who married Edward Harris (b. 1730). As you can see in the family tree below, I am still working on confirming the exact identity of the Evans ancestors along the Harris line, but ongoing research indicates that this is the Evans family that descends from the Indian woman Jane Gibson the elder of Charles City Co, VA. So if you are using this information to add to your family tree, please note the Evans line is not yet confirmed. Additional lineages include the Nansemond descended Bass and Anderson families. And the Gowen/Goins family who were early residents of Granville.
Marie’s parents William Badger Howell and wife Matilda Watson moved up to Brockton, MA shortly after they married in 1905. The family also spent a short time in New Haven, CT before returning back to Brockton, MA.
In Brockton MA, Marie Howell met and married Harold Cornwall, a descendant of the Wampanoag (Nemasket) and Massachusett (Mattakeeset) tribes of Massachusetts. Harold Cornwall (1901-1991) was the son of Benjamin Cornwall (1869-1918) and Grace Jackson (b. 1879). Benjamin was the son of William Henry Cornwall (1844-1926), a veteran of the Civil War who enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry. William’s mother Harriet Brooker’s lineage goes back to the Granderson family of Mattakeeset band of Massachusett Indians who resided in South Scituate (present day Norwell), MA and the Nemasket Band of Wampanoag who resided in Bridgewater, MA.
It is possible that Harold Cornwall’s mother Grace Jackson (born 1879) was of Montauk descent. Grace Jackson’s mother Keziah Gardiner (born 1850) was from Long Island, NY and her family descends from slaves emancipated by New York’s gradual emancipation laws, in the early 1800’s. Their former slave owner was a wealthy man named John Lyon Gardiner, proprietor of the estate on Gardiner Island. John Gardiner’s ancestor Lion Gardiner purchased the island from the Montauk Indians in 1639. John Gardiner was noted for also employing free people of color and Montauk Indians who worked side by side with the slaves, so some intermarriage among those groups may have occurred. Additional deep dive research on the Gardiner family is needed to see if there is anything to support this theory.
Jack Ronald Cornwall died Dec. 31, 2010, at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Brockton. He was 80. Loving son of the late Harold and Marie (Howell) Cornwall, he was the brother of Janyce Russell, Joan Murphy, Harold Cornwall, Alan Cornwall and his wife Jean, Craig Cora and the late Elaine Cornwall. Jack is also survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins. Jack was a carpenter after serving in the Army during the Korean War. He was a member of the combat engineering division. He was also a member of the Nemasket Trading Post of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe. Jack was also a amateur boxer in the welter weight class. Visiting hour in the Sampson-Hickey-Grenier MacKinnon Family of Funeral Homes, 309 Main St., Brockton, Thursday at 10-11 a.m., followed by a service with the Rev. Dr. Gordon Postill officiating. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend. Burial will be at Melrose Cemetery in Brockton. In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations to the Old Colony Hospice, One Credit Union Way, Randolph, MA 02368. Arrangements by Sampson-Hickey-Grenier-MacKinnon Family of Funeral Homes. For directions to send an online condolence, visit http://www.mackinnonfuneralhomes.com.
Another Wampanoag connection to the Cornwall family, comes through the intermarriage withe Peters family. Hanford Truman Cornwall (1856-1922) was the brother of Harold Cornwall’s grandfather William Henry Cornwall. Hanford was married to an Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian Mary Peters who was the daughter of Samuel Peters and Mary Jeffers.
Badger Emory Howell (1911-1996) and Irma Champion (1911-1972) Wabaquasset Nipmuck
Badger Emory Howell (1911-1996) was the brother of Marie Howell (1907-2002) discussed above, so I will not provide an overview of his genealogy. As his sister, Badger descends from the Howell, Harris, Gowen/Goins, Anderson, Bass, Evans, Chavis, Gibson families of Granville County. Badger was also my grandfather’s second cousin. In 1931, Badger Howell married Irma Champion, a Nipmuck woman whose genealogy is discussed below.
Irma Champion (1911-1972) was born in Scituate, MA to Benjamin Champion (born 1867) and Fannie Willard (born 1864) who were both originally from Woodstock, CT. Irma descends from the Nipmuck tribe on her maternal side which traces back to a Nipmuck man named David Dailey (born 1793). Because there were successive generations of out of wedlocks births on this side of the family along with several remarriages, the genealogy can be a bit tricky to untangle so I will explain this family line in detail.
Woodstock, CT was the site of a “praying town” of Nipmuck Indians called Wabaquassetwhich was set up by missionary John Eliot. Woodstock is located in the Northeastern corner of CT, on the border with MA. In fact, the town used to part of MA until 1749. It is here we begin with David Dailey who is discussed in the following text:
In 1850, however, Native people at Woodstock included: Charles Dorus, a shoemaker, with wife Mary Ann Dixon and children Franklin and Polly Dorus; his brother Esbon Dorus, a shoemaker, with wife Angenette White Dorus, their children Hezekiah, Henry and Betsey, along with Esbon’s mother Polly Dorus, his mother-in-law Betsey White, and a nephew James Nedson; and, relatives of the Nedson and Dorus families, Hosea Dixon, a basketmaker, with wife Hopey and their four children.
Other Woodstock Natives in 1850 included Sarah Crowd, serving in a white household; and the families of brothers George and DAVID DAILEY, both laborers, while other Indians were living at neighboring Thompson.
Source: Doughton, Thomas L. “Nedson, Dorus and Dixon Families
Nineteenth-Century Native Indian Community
At the Massachusetts and Connecticut Border” 1997. Online access: http://massasoit.0catch.com/nedson.htm
Indeed in the 1850 census, we find David Dailey (born 1793) as the head of household in Woodstock, CT. His household consisted of his wife Abigail (Fellows) Dailey (born 1799), daughter Mary Dailey (born 1819), daughter Nancy Dailey (born 1834), and granddaughter Lydia Willard (born 1846). Everyone in the household is enumerated with the Dailey surname except for the youngest Lydia. This means Lydia’s father was a Willard. Given the ages of the two daughters Mary and Nancy, Lydia could only be Mary’s daughter.
The 1860 census helps to confirm that Lydia was indeed Mary’s daughter. By 1860, Mary Dailey had married a man named Richard Addison and with him had a son named Francis “Frank” Addison, born in 1857. In the 1860 census, Mary who is working as a domestic servant for a white Goddard family, is enumerated with the Addison surname. Her son Francis Addison is enumerated in the household as is her daughter Lydia who is also enumerated with the Addison surname. Because Mary Dailey had remarried, her daughter Lydia Willard who was from a previous relationship with a male Willard, adopted the Addison surname as well. Trying to explain the complex nature of the household to the census enumerator was something that Mary and her employers perhaps did not care to do. So it may have been easier to identify the entire family as Addison. Mary Dailey’s husband Richard Addison was enumerated in the 1860 census in a different household where he was employed which is why he is missing from their household.
In 1861, John Milton Earle, released a census of Indians residing in the state of Massachusetts, commonly called the “Earle Report“. The Dailey/Daly and Willard surnames are listed under the Dudley band of Nipmuc Indians. The town of Dudley, MA borders the town of Woodstock, CT so these are likely people from the same Dailey and Willard families that resided in Woodstock. (Note: There is a Dudley Indian named Lydia Willard, age 13, residing in Uxbridge who is included in the report, but she is a different Lydia Willard than the daughter of Mary Dailey).
By 1870 Lydia Willard (daughter of Mary Dailey), had two daughters: a daughter Fannie Willard born 1864 and a daughter Lillian Tanner born 1869. Lydia (enumerated as Lydia Tanner) and her two daughters were enumerated in the 1870 census in the household of a white family named Burley, where Lydia worked as a domestic servant. The two different surnames of Lydia’s daughters indicates that the oldest Fannie was born out wedlock, so she received her mother’s Willard maiden surname. The youngest Lillian was born to a marriage that Lydia had with a Tanner, so Lillian received her father’s Tanner surname.
In the 1880 census, Lydia Willard’s daughter Fannie Willard was enumerated without her family and living as a domestic servant in the household of a white woman named Maria Corbin.
On 20 June 1893 in Hingham, MA, Fannie Willard married Benjamin Champion. Both Fannie Willard and Benjamin Champion were from Woodstock, CT, so they presumably knew each from their hometown. For reasons not clear to me, they moved to Hingham, MA where they married and they settled in nearby Scituate, MA. On the marriage record, Fannie Willard’s parents are listed as “James” and “Lydia Addison”. This further proves that Fannie Willard was the daughter of Lydia (Willard) Addison. Her mother’s surname was given as Addison on the marriage record because Lydia at that time was known as “Lydia Addison”. Because Fannie was born out of wedlock, James may be the first name of her father. But with no last name given, I am unsure of his exact identity.
And finally we have the birth record of Irma Champion (1911-1972) which shows that her parents were Benjamin Champion and Fannie Willard.
If you were to look at my mother’s top DNA cousin matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, and Gedmatch, you would swear she had at least one parent from the Lumbee tribe in Robeson County, NC. Many of her closest cousin matches are Lumbee tribal members whose families have called Robeson county home for many, many generations. Yet, my mother does not have a single documented direct ancestor that ever lived in Robeson. So what gives?
My mother’s North Carolina roots are directly from the Native American community in Granville County and with the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in nearby Halifax and Warren counties. Though the Lumbees have called Robeson county home since the late 1700s, many of their ancestors came from the North Carolina/Virginia border area. It was in this area that many Native/FPOC lineages diverged, with some families staying put and others moving deeper into North Carolina to Robeson county. These familial connections are known and have been passed down through oral history. A Granville County cousin who is also an elder, has fond memories of traveling with his parents down to Robeson, to visit his Lowry cousins from the Lumbee tribe. So as I have researched the origins of our Granville families, I have always noted the “Lumbee branches” of our family trees.
The growing popularity of DNA testing is also helping to corroborate these documented family connections both within and between tribal communities in North Carolina. I have closely reviewed the DNA test results of dozens of people from the Granville community and from the Lumbee tribe. The DNA cousin matches are so strong and numerous, that the correct question should be “how are we NOT related?”. The endogamy within North Carolina tribal communities, typically means that most of us have multiple lineages from the same family. As a result, our DNA cousin matches often appear closer by DNA than on paper.
So in this blog post, I will look closely at six family connections (Chavis/Gibson, Evans/Locklear, Bass, Goins/Gowen, Kersey/Lowry, and Scott) between Granville and the Lumbee tribe which help explain why we are showing such strong DNA cousin matches with one another. So if you are from the Granville community or a Lumbee tribal member and have done DNA testing, this blog post is for you. I am focusing specifically on lineages that are common/noteworthy in the Granville community. For the sake of space and clarity, I am not including lineages that are specific to the Haliwa-Saponi and Occaneechi-Saponi tribal communities (both communities are geographically next to and have strong, direct ties to Granville). I could write a separate blog post about each of those topics.
A final word on the use of “Lumbee”. I am well aware of the current political disagreements within the Robeson county community about the “authenticity” of the Lumbee tribal name. There are some community members who completely reject the Lumbee name for other tribal identities that they view as more accurate and reflective of the community. By using “Lumbee” in my blog post, I do not mean to take one side over another. My use of “Lumbee” is for genealogical purposes, to able to identify the tight knit interrelated Native American families who have historically resided in Robeson and neighboring counties.
The family connection between Granville County and the modern Lumbee community based in Robeson County is best seen through the Chavis/Gibson family. William Chavis (1706 – 1778) and his wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) are whom I often refer to as the “founding family” of the Granville community because of their massive land holdings. According to 19th century local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous track of 51,200 acres in Granville County along the Tar River. This was land that he received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville himself. William Chavis was likely born in Henrico County, Virginia, because his father Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) is documented in Henrico in the early 1700s as well as in neighboring Surry County. By 1719, Bartholomew Chavis moved to North Carolina and owned large amounts of land on both sides of the Roanoke River in what would become Northampton and Halifax counties, North Carolina. So even before accumulating his own land in Granville County, William Chavis inherited a lot of his land from father along the Roanoke River.
William Chavis’ 1778 will filed in Granville County, provides excellent documentation about his heirs. William’s son Philip Chavis (born 1726) was the executor of his estate and inherited a portion of his father’s land. Philip Chavis is also the ancestor of the Lumbee branch of the Chavis family. We learn from a series of land transactions that Philip Chavis was moving back and forth between Granville County, North Carolina and Bladen/Robeson County, North Carolina and Craven County, South Carolina. The last land deeds in Philip Chavis’ name are found in the 1780s and 1790s in Bladen/Robeson Counties (Robeson County was formed from a part of Bladen in 1787). Philip Chavis’ sons Ishamel Chavis (born 1747) and Erasmus Chavis (born 1768) continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants intermarried with other Robeson County Native American/FPOC families such as Lowry, Oxendine, Locklear, Carter, Sweat, and more. In support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition efforts, Wes White authored the “Saponi Report” in 1985 which documented the Chavis family in the Lumbee tribe descending from William Chavis via his son Philip Chavis who moved from Granville to Robeson. So this is a connection that is formally acknowledged by the Lumbee tribe.
William Chavis (1706-1778) had other children whose descendants remained in Granville (and neighboring counties) and tied into the Native American community in Granville. Descendants of his three daughters primarily remained in the Granville community though their descendants do not carry the Chavis surname because the three daughters were married. Daughter Sarah Chavis (1730-1785) married Edward Harris (born 1730) and their descendants are the FPOC Harris family in Granville and Wake counties. Daughter Lettice Chavis (1742-1814) married Aquilla Snelling (1723-1779) and while some descendants moved away, other descendants remained in Wake and are the FPOC Snelling family found there. Daughter Keziah Chavis (born 1742) married Asa Tyner (born 1740), and her descendants did remain in Granville for the next generation or two, but eventually moved further west to Stokes County, North Carolina. William Chavis also had a grandson named Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who is referred to as his “orphan” in his estate papers. Jesse Chavis fathered a number of children whose descendants stayed connected to the Granville community and carried on the Chavis surname.
As a direct lineal descendant of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris, my mother is finding through autosomal DNA testing, an abundance of Lumbee cousin matches who descend from Sarah Chavis’ brother Philip Chavis. By using sophisticated triangulation techniques, I am to determine that many of these Lumbee cousin matches are related through our shared common ancestors William Chavis and Frances Gibson. It should also be noted that the Gibson family of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson, moved to the Newman’s Ridge area of eastern Tennessee (Hawkins/Hancock counties) and became the “core” Gibson family of the “Melungeon” community there. Thus being a descendant of Frances Gibson, my mother also has a ton of cousin matches who descend from the Melungeons of Newman’s Ridge.
The Locklears are likely the largest family in the Lumbee tribe today and all descend from a shared Locklear ancestor named Robert Locklear (born 1700) who lived in Halifax/Edgecombe counties. Most of Robert’s children moved to Bladen/Robeson County and their descendants make up the Locklear family found in the Lumbee tribe today. Robert Locklear also had a grandson named Thomas Locklear (born 1750) through his son Randall Locklear (born 1730), whose family remained in the Granville/Wake area. So it is possible to have a Locklear ancestor directly from the Granville community. However a more common link between our community and the Lumbee Locklears is actually through the Evans family.
The large Evans family in Granville are direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans (1665-1739) and his wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, Virginia. I wrote a blog post about the Evans family genealogy found here. Jane Gibson was the daughter of a woman also named Jane Gibson “the elder” who was documented as a “free Indian woman”. Their descendants moved from the Virginia Tidewater area to the Virginia Southside counties of Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties and from there they moved into North Carolina. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s grandson Major Evans (born 1733) moved to Granville and the Evans who remained in the Granville community, primarily descend from him.
There are at least two known female Evans ancestors in the Lumbee Locklear family. Wiley Locklear (1780-1865) married Nancy Evans (born 1800) on 25 May 1817 in Robeson County. Nancy Evans was the daughter of Richard Evans (born 1750) who was the son of Morris Evans Jr (born 1710) who was the son of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson.
Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear (1823-1890) and his wife America Evans/Locklear (1829-1891) are another important Evans/Locklear link. A marriage record for the couple has not been located, so America’s maiden name is not well documented. From the records I have been able to review, there is inconsistent info about the parentage of Joseph Locklear and his wife America Evans/Locklear. For example, on her Find A Grave page found here, the author calls her the daughter of Patsy Evans and James Cricket Locklear. However, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Patsy (Evans) Locklear was born in 1780 in South Carolina. America was born about 1829 in Robeson County, so this Patsy appears too old to be her mother. In the 1850 census, we see a Betsey Evans, age 50, residing in their household. Betsey Evans is the only person in the household whose birthplace is listed as Richmond County, North Carolina. It is not clear to me what relationship Betsey Evans has to either Joseph Locklear or American Evans/Locklear, but it’s quite possible she could be either person’s mother.
I am working on correctly identifying how exactly this Locklear family ties into the Evans family and Betsey Evans is a strong lead. I’ll be sure to update as I obtain more information. As an Evans descendants, I am (through my mother’s test) finding plenty of cousin matches who are Evans descendants and cousin matches who are Lumbees that directly descend from Joseph Locklear/America Evans, matching on the same chromosome segment. So I am certain there is a legitimate Evans connection to this family.
The Nansemond descended Bass family is one of the larger FPOC families in Granville County, as well as one of the larger widespread FPOC families in Virginia, the Carolinas (and beyond). I previously wrote a blog post on the Bass family and so it should be no surprise to learn that there are Bass descendants among the Lumbee tribe. Through land deeds, Frederick Bass (born 1750) is documented with his wife Olive living in Anson County by 1777. Paul Heinegg believes Frederick Bass to be the possible son of William Bass (born 1712) (son of John Bass 1673 and Love Harris) of Granville County. I have not found documentation yet for Frederick Bass in Granville County, so this connection probably needs additional supporting evidence. At least one of Frederick Bass’ sons moved from Anson to Robeson by about 1800. His son Elijah Bass (born 1775) is shown in the Robeson county census beginning in 1800 and his descendants are found in the Lumbee tribe today. Elijah Bass’ descendants intermarried frequently with the FPOC Jones family in Robeson Co. The Lumbee Jones family in Robeson Co, also came from Anson Co, so it appears the Bass and Jones moved together from Anson to Robeson. I have noticed that many of my Lumbee cousin matches are unaware that they descend from the Bass family because they either do not have family trees or their family trees don’t go back far enough to their Bass ancestors. So I recommend building “mirror trees” of your Lumbee cousin matches, to better explore the many possible connections.
The Bass family is one of the largest FPOC families in Granville County that intermarried with just about every other Native/FPOC family in the community. Most Granville Basses descend from Edward Bass 1672 and his wife Lovewell. But there are descendants of his brother John Bass 1673 and wife Love Harris in the community as well. All of these Basses are relatives of Elijah Bass (born 1775) who moved to Robeson County.
Several members of the large FPOC Goins (including spelling variations of Gowen/s, Goings, etc) came to Granville County in the 1740s/50s. Notably Michael Goins (born 1722), his brother Edward Goins (1727-after 1810), along with his cousins Thomas Goins (1732-1797) and William Goins (born 1710) are all documented as enlisted members of Indian trader Col. William Eaton’s colonial regiment. I previously wrote a blog post here, about Eaton’s regiment and its connection the Saponi Indians that were also documented in Granville. Most of the Goins who came to Granville, did not stay in the community and continued to move to western North Carolina and out of state. However descendants of Edward Goins (1727-after 1810) did remain in the Granville community and intermarried with other Granville families such as Bass and Anderson. The Goins surname quickly “daughtered out” in the early/mid 1800s, so Edward Goins’ descendants no longer carry the Goins surname.
As the Goins family spread to other parts of North Carolina, one branch moved from Granville County to Robeson County. Ann Goins (born 1719) was a cousin to the previously mentioned Goins in Granville. The earliest records for Ann Goins are found in Brunswick County, Virginia and by the 1750s, she appears in Granville. By the 1790s, Ann Goins was in South Carolina, but close to the Robeson County border because she appears in the records there as well. Ann Goins’ children continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants today make up the Lumbee tribe.
The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of the FPOC Kersey family was the topic of a previous blog post that I wrote which can be found here. In addition, Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods wrote an article on the early genealogy of the Kersey family which can be accessed here. The Kersey family is significant to the Lumbee tribe because the large Lowry family descends specifically from Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was also the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). In his essay, Woods shows through careful analysis that Sally Kersey was a descendant of Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry County, VA, who later relocated close to the Tuscarora living in Bertie County, NC.
The Kersey family also moved to Granville County. A man named Thomas Kersey ( born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton Counties, Virginia is the common ancestor of the Granville Kersey family. Paul Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry County. John Kersey (born 1668) was a brother of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) who is direct ancestor of the Lumbee tribe’s Kersey/Lowry family.
Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was the grandfather of Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) who resided in Granville County and whose descendants make up the Kersey family in Granville today. One of Benjamin Kersey’s children was the infamous outlaw Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) who is the subject of a blog post I wrote here.
The FPOC Scott family primarily lived on the Wake County side of the Granville/Wake County border. But there were some members of the family who settled across in Granville and intermarried with other FPOC families in the community.
The FPOC Scott family descends primarily from John Scott (born 1823) and his wife Sally Emeline Taborn (born 1829) who resided in Granville County. Though I have not identified his parents yet, John Scott is likely a descendant of Revolutionary War soldier Exum Scott (1754-1823) who resided in neighboring Wake County. For example, Exum Scott’s son Guilford Scott (1790-1880) was married to Sylvia Taborn, who is from the same Taborn family as John Scott’s wife.
Exum Scott (1754-1823) was the son of Francis Scott (born 1720) of Halifax County, NC. Francis Scott (born 1720) had two brothers named John Scott (born 1710) and Abraham Scott (born 1710) and the three men are the ancestors of the FPOC Scotts found in the Halifax, Northampton, and Edgecombe records with some descendants moving to other parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The Lumbee Scott family primarily descends from several Scotts who stayed along the North Carolina and South Carolina border in Robeson, Richmond, and Scotland counties in North Carolina and Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina. For example, there is David Scott (born 1795) who is found in the 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses in Robeson. He married Betsy Morgan on 11 Feb 1822 in Robeson. The Morgan family like the Scott family, was primarily found in Halifax, Northampton and Edgecombe counties. Matthew Morgan (born 1770) was from Halifax County and by 1820, he relocated to Robeson county. Matthew Morgan was most likely Betsy Morgan’s father. So it seems likely that David Scott’s family also originally came from Halifax County. David is also a first name passed down repeatedly in the FPOC Scott family in Halifax.
Another couple that produced a lot of Scott offspring found in the Lumbee tribe today, is James Scott (1836-1888) and his wife Margaret Ellen Chavis (1860-1930) of Richmond and later Robeson county. Census records indicate that James Scott was born in South Carolina, so he was likely from Marion or Marlboro counties and moved a small distance across the border. James Scott’s will filed in 1888 in Richmond County, provides the names of his widow and surviving children and gives detailed instructions about the education of his children.
If you descend from any of these families, these connections that I described should help provide some answers about your DNA cousin matches. Have you noticed other interesting cousin matches from your DNA results? Feel free to comment here.
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
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:
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:
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.
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”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 Howellb. 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.
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 and Pinkie Howell’s family were enumerated in the 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation:
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.
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.
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:
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 1945, 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.”
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.
It is such a rewarding feeling when you are researching what you thought were two unrelated topics which turn out to be directly related to one another. Well that is exactly what happened with research I was doing on two different people: Jesse Chavis and Willis Bass. I had previously corrected the genealogies of both men but upon a recent closer examination of the records, I realized that they were father and son!
In this blog post, I will revisit the research I did on Jesse Chavis and Willis Bass and explain how I came to this exciting conclusion.
Jesse Chavis (1766-1840)
In a previous blog post, I discussed some very important corrections I made to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. Genealogist Paul Heinegg had incorrectly identified the Jesse Chavis of Granville County as a different Jesse Chavis, who was the son of an Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) of Southside Virginia. However, a closer look at the Granville County records revealed that Jesse Chavis was in fact from the family of William Chavis (1709-1778) of Granville County. (William Chavis and wife Frances Gibson are my 7th great-grandparents). Though Jesse Chavis is referred to as William Chavis’ orphan in estate records, Jesse’s approximate birth year of 1766 makes it impossible for Jesse Chavis to be a son of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781). Either William Chavis fathered Jesse Chavis with a much younger woman outside of his marriage, or Jesse Chavis is a grandson of William Chavis/Frances Gibson that William Chavis had custody of.
Since I made my blog post, Heinegg has corrected and updated the information on Jesse Chavis on his website, and now has him listed as a son of William Chavis and Frances Gibson.
Jesse Chavis did father a number of children both inside and outside of his marriages. The first child that I am aware of, is the child Jesse Chavis had with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). They were not married, so their son was named Henry Anderson (1790-1850). Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and so Henry Anderson was raised by his stepfather Darling Bass.
Next Jesse Chavis was involved with a woman named Milly Bass (b. 1772). It is this relationship that I will discuss in more detail below. So let’s move on.
By 1800, Jesse Chavis was married. I have not found a marriage record yet to be able to identify the name of Jesse’s first wife. However with this wife, Jesse Chavis had at least two sons: Redding Chavis (b. 1800) and William Chavis (1801-1854).
On 2 March 1812, Jesse Chavis married a second time to Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Jesse likely became widowed which is why he remarried for a second time. I’m unsure if Jesse Chavis had any children with Nancy Mitchell, but Nancy did raise Jesse’s children born to his first wife.
Unfortunately, no estate records have been located for Jesse Chavis so I don’t have an exact year of his death. We learn from census records, that was deceased by 1840. Estate records would also name his heirs which would definitely help to identify more of his children.
But by examining the records more carefully, I was able to identify the children Jesse Chavis had with Milly Bass!
Willis Bass (b. 1792) and Racey Bass (b. 1790)
In another previous blog post, I corrected the genealogical information on Willis Bass (b. 1792) of Granville County. Genealogist Paul Heinegg incorrectly identified Willis Bass of Granville County as the son of James Bass (b. 1760) of Norfolk Co, VA whose family relocated out to Tennessee. I proved unequivocally through Granville Co apprenticeship records, that Willis Bass (b. 1792) and his brother Racey Bass (b. 1790) never lived in Virginia and instead was born out of wedlock to a woman named Milly Bass. Heinegg has since corrected and updated the information about Willis Bass on his website.
Willis Bass and his brother Racey Bass were both bound out as apprentices in the Granville Co courts. Court minutes provided to me by history professor Dr. Warren Milteer, shows that their mother was named Milly Bass. The court minutes also showed that Milly Bass had later married a man named Pearson Hawley, making him their stepfather. Many of Willis Bass’ descendants later relocated out of the state and filed unsuccessful Eastern Cherokee applications.
But this is where I was stuck. I knew Willis Bass and Racey Bass were siblings and children of a woman named Milly Bass, but who was Milly Bass? Not only was I able to identify Milly Bass, but I was able to identify their previously unknown father: Jesse Chavis.
Milly Bass (b. 1772)
It is important to go back and verify records because you may find mistakes and you may also find connections you did not notice before. This is exactly what happened with Milly Bass. One of the initial clues that helped solve the puzzle was looking at the bastard bond filed against Jesse Chavis in August 1794. I noticed that genealogist Paul Heinegg had incorrectly transcribed the information on the bastard bond. Heinegg had recorded the woman’s name as “Nelly Bass”, not “Milly Bass”. So up until that point, I had thought Jesse Chavis fathered a child with a woman named Nelly Bass.
A genealogist named Betty Camin who sadly passed away in 2007, transcribed the Granville Countyn”bastard bonds”. Here is a link to Betty Camin’s website which contains a lot of important material that she worked on during her career. On her website is a link to an index she created for the Granville Co Bastard Bonds that she transcribed. This is the link here. If you are a Granville County researcher, please make sure to bookmark/save that link because it provides invaluable information. So within Betty Camin’s list, it shows that a woman named “Milly Bass” filed a bastard bond in August 1794 and Benjamin Bass and Absalom Bass provided the sureties for the bond. This is the record that Heinegg was referring to in his research, but the woman’s name was Milly, not Nelly! According to the bastard bond, Milly Bass identified Jesse Chavis as the father of her child born out of wedlock.
With the help of a descendant of Milly Bass, we were able to track down a copy of the original bastardy bond that Milly Bass filed on 4 August 1794. In the document, Milly Bass charged Jesse Chavis with having a bastard child with her.
The timing of this bastard bond in 1794 fits perfectly into the timing of the Milly Bass we are looking for, who had children born in 1790 and 1792. And the fact that Paul Heinegg had already connected this bastard bond in August 1794 to Jesse Chavis through the court minutes was also consistent with this being our same Milly Bass.
I then went back and looked at Heinegg’s write-up on the Bass family and found that he had identified a woman named Milly Bass who had a child with Jesse Chavis, in which Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass were her sureties in November 1794. There it was, staring at me all along! Willis Bass and Racey Bass were the children of Milly Bass and Jesse Chavis. Their mother had filed bastard bonds to receive support and the children were then bound out as apprentices. It all matched up so perfectly!
Milly Bass (b. 1772) was the apparent daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) of Granville County. I say apparent because there is no direct evidence that names her as a daughter of Benjamin Bass but there are records that strongly infer a relationship. As stated above, Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were Milly Bass’ sureties when she filed a bastard bond. Usually it was very close family members who provided the sureties for unwed mothers. Most often it was a brother of father. Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass Jr are documented sons of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802). It’s possible the Benjamin Bass who provided the bond was actually the father and not the son since they share the same name, but for the time being I’m working under the assumption it was the son. Either way, the bastardy bond records show that Milly Bass was from Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass’ family. In other words, Milly Bass’ brothers provided the surety for her bastardy bond.
Milly Bass’ approximate birth year of 1772 is based upon life events and she may in fact be a few years older. Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) is from the Bass family that I blogged about here. Unfortunately estate records have not been located for him, so not all of his children have been all identified. This is why other primary source records such as court minutes and bastardy bonds are vital to identifying his offspring.
Paul Heinegg believes that Milly Bass is the same woman called “Mildred Bass” who filed a bastard bond in December 1798 which named Clement Bunch as the father. Milly is a nickname for Mildred, so it’s possible it’s the same woman. It’s conceivable that after having two children with Jesse Chavis, Milly Bass had a child a few years later with Clement Bunch. We know that she then later married Pearson Hawley, so any of these relationships cannot be ruled out so easily. Not much is known about Clement Bunch. He was born around 1770 and can be found in a few Orange Co and Granville Co records. Heinegg suspects he may be a son of Micajah Bunch but there are no documents to link the two men.
I have not found a marriage record for Milly Bass and Pearson Hawley but they were married by May 1798, when the court minutes identified her as a wife of Pearson Hawley. So it doesn’t seem likely to me that she was the same woman named “Mildred Bass” who a few months later in December 1798 filed a bastard bond against Clement Bunch. But I cannot rule it out as well, so we need more information.
In the 1800 census for Granville County, Pearson Hawley can be found as a head of a household of 5 people. The census doesn’t give us the age and gender of the members of his household. But one could infer that the household included children, so it’s quite reasonable that Milly Bass had children with Pearson Hawley. Not much more is known about Pearson Hawley because that is the last time he appears in the census.
A Family Reunited
Even though we still have some lingering questions, I feel confident that we have correctly identified two additional children for Jesse Chavis and that we have successfully identified who Milly Bass was. For the many living descendants of Willis Bass (b. 1792), this update should be a welcome addition, so they know exactly where they fit in the large Bass family tree. Descendants of Jesse Chavis (through his son Henry Anderson) and descendants of Willis Bass have taken DNA tests and they do show as close cousin matches, confirming that paper trail that we have discussed above is correct.
In what has become a classic Anthropology text, author Keith Basso in “Wisdom Sits in Places: Language and Landscape Among the Western Apache” explores how Apache culture and place names are inextricably linked. Before European colonization, every mountain, forest, river, lake, road, canyon, etc had a place name in the local indigenous language. How each land feature earned its name, is a history lesson in itself so these place names are also ways of learning about the past. In this blog post, I will discuss what the historical record has revealed about the indigenous place names in Granville County found in the Siouan, Iroquoian, and Algonquian languages.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed the work of local historian Oscar W. Blacknall who wrote about the Native community. In one essay, Blacknall presented a story about how Gibbs Creek which runs off the Tar River, received its name. Gibson/Gideon Chavis 1737-1777 (son of William Chavis and Frances Gibson) of the Native community had a racing horse named “Black Snake” which won him a lot of money. After another successful horse race, Gibson Chavis’ losing opponents killed him at that creek and it was afterwards called Gibbs Creek. So the story of what happened to Gibson Chavis lives on forever in the name of that creek.
The tribes indigenous to the area that became Granville County are the Saponi and Tuscarora. During colonial times in the 1700s, especially after the Tuscarora War, the area was more so a Saponi settlement as indicated by the the numerous reports of a Saponi Indian community living next to Col. William Eaton who was an Indian trader. (These are the direct lineal descendants of Granville’s Native community – see my previous blog posts here and here for more info). Thus the indigenous place names found within and around Granville County are going to be in the Saponi/Tutelo (the Saponi and Tutelo spoke nearly identical languages) and Tuscarora languages. The Saponi language is an Eastern Siouan language and the Tuscarora language is an Iroquoian language. Although Algonquian speaking tribes are not indigenous to Granville County, many Granville Indians have some roots among the Algonquian-speaking Powhatan Confederacy and Algonquian speaking tribes in North Carolina were not that distant. Long, windy rivers that stretch across the ancestral territory of many tribes carry place names in the Algonquian language, often times because they were the peoples with whom European colonists had first contact with.
It is important to remember in our discussion about indigenous place names that none of these languages before European contact, were written languages. So applying the Roman alphabet to indigenous languages, is going to cause all kinds of corruption and inconsistency in how these indigenous words were transcribed. So in the historical archive, we are going to find multiple variations of the exact same place name. To the best of my ability, I will provide all variations that I am aware of.
The Roanoke, The Tar, and The Neuse Rivers
Let us first start with the three major waterways that pass through or are immediately adjacent to Granville County. The Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse Rivers all flow into the Atlantic Ocean and have long, winding courses that pass through diverse topography. In addition to sources that are linked within the discussion, I was assisted with the translations in this section by my Tuscarora friend/cousin/fellow researcher Duane Brayboy Williams. Nya:weh (thank you) to Duane for all his help.
The Roanoke River does not technically touch Granville County, but comes very close when it passes through northern Warren County, NC and on Granville’s northern border with Mecklenburg County, VA. Many smaller creeks in Granville County are tributaries of the Roanoke.
“Roanoke” is an Algonquian word meaning a string of wampum beads. Wampum is made from a highly prized clam shell called a quahog which is found only in salt water. Thus it would be quite odd for fresh water to be named after something found in salt water. Therefore it is possible that the English colonists mistook the name “Ohanoke” for “Roanoke”. Ohanoke is an Algonquian word for a crooked place, and perhaps it may have referred to the crooked, winding shape of the river.
Before the river was called the Roanoke, it was called the Moratuck River (also “Moritoco”). Moratuck is also an Algonquian word but it appears to be a corrupted Algonquian word because there is no “r” sound in the Algonquian dialect called Renape which is spoken in current day Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The “r” would be pronounced more like a “d” and it is believed that the name is rooted in the Algonquian world “madah” which means bad. The Roanoke River is noted for being a river with violent currents and so it is understandable how that would play a role in its naming. Our ancestors probably had many heroic and tragic stories about the rapid currents of the river. And when we consider both words: “Ohanoke” meaning crooked and “Moratuck” meaning bad river, it’s clear that the tumultuous nature of the river is how it was characterized.
The Tar River also has an interesting and complex history. The Tar cuts right through the center of Granville County and the Native community is most concentrated off of tributary creeks of the Tar River such as Fishing Creek, Tabbs Creek, Gibbs Creek, and more. We know from earlier historical records that the Tar River was called the Taw (or Tau) River but that is also not the river’s original name. For that we need to turn to the map created by German explorer John Lederer in 1671. Lederer lead several expeditions from Virginia through the North Carolina Piedmont and back in 1669/70. Most of the men who accompanied Lederer on his voyage left early on, leaving just Lederer and his Iroquoian speaking Susquehannock Indian guide. Because of the lack of other eyewitnesses to corroborate his journey, many of Lederer’s contemporaries believed that he fabricated aspects of his voyage and historians today still debate the veracity of the expeditions.
However what is clear is that on the map that Lederer created, he refers to the Tar River as the Torpaeo (also Tarpaeo and Tarpaco) River. From the map we can see that Lederer erroneously believed that river was a tributary of the Roanoke. Because Lederer’s Indian guide was an Iroquoian speaking person, it would be a fair assumption to think that “Torpaeo” was an Iroquoian word. The problem is that there is no known translation of this word. It could be that Lederer mistranscribed the word and unfortunately his accounts do not give us any additional background information. “Torpaeo” may also be an Algonquian word but if so, no definition has been located.
Another strong possibility for the original place name of the Tar River, could be from the Tuscarora village known in English as Torhunte or Tarhuntes. The correct Tuscarora spelling of the village is Teyurhę̀h·θa?. We know from accounts from Col. John Barnwell who lead the attack against the Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War, that Torhunte was located off of Cotechney Creek which runs northeast off of the Neuse River. However the Tar River is very close by, and it is believed by some that after the war, the village was reestablished closer to banks of the Tar River. Whatever the case may be, the fact that a Tuscarora village called Torhunte was in very close proximity to the Tar River is quite revealing and it’s conceivable that Torhunte/Tarhuntes could be corrupted and shortened to Taw/Tar. Torhunte means “a place to stay overnight”.
But there is still more…
The Tar River and the Pamlico River are actually the same river. What happened was that during Lederer’s time, a different group of European colonists lead an expedition on the river, starting from the Atlantic Coast. There they encountered Algonquian speaking Indians referred to as the Pamlico (also the Pamticough) Indians and they became the namesake of the river.
The Neuse River barely touches Granville’s southern border with Wake County but many creeks that run through lower Granville County are tributaries of the Neuse. The Neuse River was the home of the Neusiok Indians. Neusiok is an Algonquian word, meaning a settlement at the neck of a place. However the Neusiok Indians themselves were actually believed to be Iroquoian speaking peoples. Neusiok is what their Algonquian speaking neighbors referred to them as, and because it was the name that European colonists heard first, it became the name of the tribe. The Neusiok peoples likely lived in a bend/neck of the Neuse River and thus derived their name from their settlement along the river. During the Tuscarora War, what remained of the Neusiok people were absorbed into the Tuscarora.
Local Granville County Place Names
The following discussion focuses on place names found within Granville County. The information on these place names comes primarily from the expedition that Col. William Byrd II (1674-1744) lead in 1728 along the Virginia/North Carolina border. In addition to other Euro-American colonists, Byrd brought along Saponi Indian guides from the Saponi reservation at Ft. Christanna. One of these men was Ned Bearskin, and he provided important information about Saponi culture and the local landscape. Byrd authored “The History of the Dividing Line” based upon the 1728 expedition and the full text can be found here. In addition, I reviewed the material from some of the other men including the Christopher Gale/Edward Mosely/John Lovick/William Little journals found here and the fieldbook of Alexander Irvine found here.
James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who was doing field research on the Ghost Dance of the Great Plains in the late 19th century. During this research, he became interested in studying the Eastern Siouan speaking tribes. Mooney was drawn to the linguistic evidence which showed that the Siouan speaking people of the East and Siouan speaking people of the Plains spoke a similar language. In “Siouan Tribes of the East” published in 1894, Mooney drew upon the Saponi language that Ned Bearskin provided in Byrd’s notes to make that linguistic connection. Therefore I also used Mooney’s book to help translate the Saponi place names that Bearskin provided. A full text can be found here.
All of these place names are of creeks and the suffix “mony” or “moni” refers to water.
Place names in the Saponi language provided by Ned Bearskin:
Mausa-mony (also spelled Massa-mony): This translates into “paint creek” and is a reference to the red ochre paint that is found along the banks of the river. Natural paints like red ochre were used for a variety of purposes including for ceramics, burial ceremonies, and body paint. This creek is today called Island Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Yapatsco Creek (also spelled Yapatio Creek): This translates to “beaver creek” and is a reference to the many beavers and beaver dams situated along the river. In fact Byrd makes specific note that they had some difficulty crossing that creek because of the manner in which the beavers had dammed the water. Col. Byrd also tells a story of how our ancestors would mix the “juice” from the body of a dead beaver with ground up bark from the sassafras tree which grows in abundance in this territory and would use that as a bait to attract more beavers. Today the creek still goes by its English translation of Beaver Pond Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Ohimpa-mony (also spelled Ahimpa-mony): This translates into “jumping creek” and is named so after the jumping of fish in the creek. Clearly fish was an important part of our ancestor’s diet and they knew which creeks provided the best opportunities for fishing. Today this creek is known as Grassy Creek, located in northern Granville County.
Tewawho-mony (also spelled Keew-ahomony): This translates to “Tuscarora creek” and is a reference to a story about a Tuscarora who was killed by the Saponi and his body was thrown into the creek. The Saponi and Tuscarora during these colonial times were “enemies”, but later on some Saponi were adopted into the Iroquois when they relocated to upstate NY and the “neutral” Tuscarora who remained in the Indians Woods reservation did have friendly relations with the Saponi. This creek though serves as a reminder to a time period when the two tribes were warring against one another. Today this creek is known as Aarons Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Hico-oto-mony (also spelled Hycoote-mony): This translates into “turkey buzzard creek” and is a reference to the large number of buzzards who roost in the trees situated along the banks of the river. Turkeys provided both food and feathers for adornment for our ancestors. The name over time was shortened and corrupted to “Hyco” and today the river is known as the Hyco River and is located in northern Person County (borders Granville County to the West). Hyco Road which is an east-west road in northern Granville County is also named for this river.
I think you can see from these several place names in Granville County, an insight into Saponi culture and social values. The more place names that we are able to recover, the better we can understand the lives of our ancestors and the relationship they had with the land that they have called home since time immemorial.
Walter Plecker (1861-1947) is a very recognizable name in the history of Southeastern Native Americans. His name is not remembered for any good deeds though, but rather for his white supremacist views that essentially outlawed the identity of Native Americans during his lifetime. As the director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 to 1946, Plecker had the ability to change records and authorize how vital records should be recorded throughout the state. In the racial binary that Plecker was molding, there was no place for Native Americans. There was either “white” or “colored”, no exceptions. Plecker was responsible for creating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which legally classified all Virginians as either “white” or “colored” and outlawed all forms of miscegenation. Furthermore, Plecker pressured the Census Bureau to eliminate the “mulatto” category (a racial category that Native Americans in the Southeast were most often labeled under), and from 1930 onward “mulatto” was no longer used in the federal censuses.
What is important to understand about the Plecker era is that his obsession with keeping the races separate was well received by many Virginians. This was “Jim Crow” South, and Plecker’s racist ideas were mainstream. Adolph Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany was also influenced by Plecker’s views on race and eugenics. Because Plecker felt no shame in his actions, he left behind an extensive paper trail. Plecker and those working on his behalf were known to have changed vital records, for example:
With a stroke of a pen, Plecker attempted to erase the identity of Virginia’s Native Americans and the impact of Plecker’s work is still felt today. The Pamunkey tribe after decades of waiting, just received federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and have become the FIRST Virginia tribe to receive such recognition. However there are close to a dozen of state recognized tribes in Virginia that are still seeking federal recognition, and they are facing quite an uphill battle because of Plecker’s legacy.
Though there is much to write about Walter Plecker, the scope of this blog post is his January 1943 letter that he sent out to the head registrars of Vital Statistics in counties across Virginia. A full transcription of the 1943 Plecker letter can be found here. At the beginning of the letter, Plecker makes his intentions crystal clear:
Our December 1942 letter to local registrars, also mailed to the clerks, set forth the determined effort to escape from the negro race of groups of “free issues,” or descendants of the “free mulattoes” of early days, so listed prior to 1865 in the United States census and various types of State records, as distinguished from slave negroes. Now that these people are playing up the advantages gained by being permitted to give “Indian” as the race of the child’s parents on birth certificates, we see the great mistake made in not stopping earlier the organized propagation of this racial falsehood.
We see Plecker refer to the people as “free issues” which is reminiscent of the language that Oscar W. Blacknall used to describe Granville County’s Native Americans which I blogged about here. Also apparent is Plecker’s idea that the “Indian” racial category was providing social advantages that should not be allowed to “negroes”. Moreover, Plecker warns that “negroes” being able to pass for “Indian” is a threat to the white race, as stated here:
Some of these mongrels, finding that they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates unchallenged as Indians are now making a rush to register as white.
In Plecker’s warped view, “Indian” was a stepping stone for “negroes” to infiltrate the so-called purity of the “white race”. Plecker made it clear that any violation of this racial binary was against the law and should be reported:
To aid all of you in determining just which are the mixed families, we have made a list of their surnames by counties and cities, as complete as possible at this time. This list should be preserved by all, even by those in counties and cities not included, as these people are moving around over the State and changing race at the new place…Please report all known or suspicious cases to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, giving names, ages, parents, and as much other information as possible.
Plecker became so obsessed with keeping track of all these families that sought to be listed as “Indian”, that he created an actual list of surnames by county of these families. Here is the Plecker List:
And here is a fully transcribed version of Walter Plecker’s list from 1943:
SURNAMES, BY COUNTIES AND CITIES, OF MIXED NEGROID VIRGINIA FAMILIES STRIVING TO PASS AS “INDIAN” OR WHITE.
Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey.
Amherst (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell): Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present adult generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood.
Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County)
Russell: Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell)
Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell)
Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties.
So what does this have to do with Granville County?
As I’ve shown through earlier blog posts and more yet to come, many of Granville’s Native American families have Virginia tribal origins. These families that came to Granville left behind plenty of family members that remained in Virginia. Additionally, Granville County shares a border with Virginia (Mecklenburg and Halifax Cos), and so the social influence of Plecker and his cronies certainly did not end at Virginia’s border with Granville County. We need to keep this historical context in mind when reviewing records of Native Americans in the Southeast.
The surnames that I highlighted from Plecker’s list above are from the same family lines of Granville County’s Native Americans. Some further information:
BRANHAM – Listed in Amherst and Bedford counties, the Branhams are a core family of the Monacan Indian Nation. The BRANDON (sometimes spelled Brannum, Brandum) family of Granville County is originally from the Virginia Piedmont and is the same family as the Branhams, just a spelling/pronunciation difference. I also believe the Branham/Brandon family to have ties to Fort Christanna in Brunswick Co, VA, where Saponi and allied tribes including the Monacan resided from 1714-1718.
REDCROSS – Listed in Amherst county like the Branhams, the Redrosses are also members the Monacan Indian Nation. Though no Redcrosses made it to Granville County, we know that they are the same family as the Evans family of Granville. Recall my blog post about some of the Evans descendants who were illegally enslaved and were freed on account that they descended from a free Indian woman. Testimony seen here from those court cases reveal that the Redcross family are descendants of the same Evans family.
HOWELL – Listed in Charles City, King William, and Henrico counties and the city of Richmond, the Howell family are from the Pamunkey Tribe. The Howells from Granville County have roots in New Kent County (in between Charles City and King William) and started to move into Virginia’s southside counties. One branch stemming from Freeman Howell moved across the state border into Granville in the early 1800s. Oddly, Plecker doesn’t list New Kent as a location for the Howells which is where the Pamunkey Howells primarily resided but lists them in every surrounding municipality (perhaps an oversight).
STEWART/STUART – Listed in Charles City, New Kent, King William, Henrico, Richmond, Elizabeth City, Newport News, and Halifax. The Stewarts found in all the municipalities except Halifax are from the Pamunkey and Chickahominy tribes. The Halifax County Stewarts are from the Sappony Tribe. It is unclear to me if both the Pamunkey/Chickahominy Stewarts and the Sappony Stewarts are the same family but I’ve included them both just in case. The Granville County Stewarts are the same family as the Sappony Stewarts in neighboring Halifax Co, VA and Person Co, NC. The Sappony Tribe’s tribal territory extends to both sides of the VA/NC state border.
BASS: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Bass family have a well documented Nansemond tribal origin that I previously blogged about here. We know that many of the Nansemond Basses relocated to North Carolina, making their way to Granville by the late 1740s. Granville’s Anderson family also has tribal roots with the Nansemond Bass family that I blogged about here.
WEAVER: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, there are Weavers in the Nansemond Tribe as well as the Meherrin Tribe (who adopted in Nansemond, Chowanoke, and other coastal Algonquin tribes). The Weaver family originates from East Indian indentured servants brought to Virginia in the early 1700s who intermarried with local Virginia tribes. The Weavers moved into North Carolina, with a few branches coming to Granville County in the mid 1800s.
LOCKLEAR: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Locklear family is more well known in North Carolina, where it is one of the most common surnames found among Native Americans in Robeson County (Lumbee and Tuscarora Indians). There was one branch of the Locklear family that lived in and around Granville County. That branch comes from a man named Randall Locklear (born 1730) whose descendants lived in neighboring Granville and Wake counties.
GIBSON: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Gibson family originally comes from the Charles City County area of Virginia, dating back to the early 1700s. There are two well known Gibson ancestors of Granville’s Native Americans. The first is Jane Gibson, the maternal ancestor of the Evans family who was described as an “old Indian woman” and I blogged about here. The second is Frances Gibson, wife of William Chavis (1706-1778). William Chavis’ original land plot formed the land base for Granville’s Native American community. There are many different opinions about the tribal origins of the Gibsons, but I suspect them to be originally of Algonquian heritage, given their earliest known locations.
GOINS: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Goins have Tidewater Virginia roots. The Goins came to Granville County in the 1740s with many remaining in Granville. Though by the early 1900s, the Goins (also spelled Goings, Gowens) surname had mostly “daughtered out”. The same Goins family are also found in Robeson County, NC among the Lumbee.
BUNCH: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Bunches as well have Tidewater Virginia roots. There were some Bunches in Granville Co in the 1750s, but they did not stay long, with most leaving the county and the state.
The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Snelling and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A variety of records including census records, marriage records, tax lists, court minutes, estate records, freedom lawsuits, land deeds, newspaper articles, maps and personal family photos are used to help tell the story of the Evans family through space and time. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. Therefore it is imperative that researchers do their due diligence to attribute records to the correct Evans ancestor.
Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”
Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640-1722). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by a group of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some white planters from illegally enslaving them. Some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1685-1771) were enslaved by a wealthy white planter named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners. On 5 March 1804, the enslaved Evans through their attorney Edmund Randolph sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.
The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..
A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”
Before this lawsuit there were several earlier lawsuits where descendants of Jane Gibson sued for their freedom. The information contained in those court cases are also quite revealing.
Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson was the first who sued for his freedom beginning in 1790. John Meriweather offered testimony that his father Colonel William Meriweather purchased a “mulatto wench” named Frances Evans and her brother (Tom Evans) from a Mr. Lightfoot (Goodrich Lightfoot) in New Kent County, VA. John Meriweather goes on to testify how Frances Evans’ offspring were divided among the heirs of his father’s estate. His testimony provides information on how the Evans went from being indentured servants to being sold as slaves to the Meriweather family. For earlier information on the Evans/Gibson family, we turn to a man named Robert Wills who personally knew Jane Gibson the elder, her daughter Jane Gibson the younger aka Jane Evans (wife of Morris Evans) and their offspring. On 25 June 1791, Robert Wills testified and a transcription of that testimony can be read here:
That about seventy years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her brother who were dark mulattoes and lived in the County of Charles City, and were free people; That the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George Gibson, that they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger intermarried with a certain _____ Evans of the said County, by whom she had several children, one named Frances Evans Grand Daughter of the said Jane Gibson above named, that the said Frances Evans removed to New Kent County, where she lived and had several children, two of whom, as the said Frances Evans informed this deponant were named Tom and Frances Evans, and were bound to one LIGHTFOOT of New Kent. This information was made to this Depon’t by the said Frances Evans the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were neighbours to this deponant. This deponant; This deponant further saith, that after the said great Grandchildren Viz: Tom & Frances were bound to the said LIGHTFOOT he never heard any thing more relative to them; That many of the descendants of the said GIBSONS and EVANS now in this deponants knowledge are alive, and are enjoying their freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponants first acquaintance with the said Jane Gibson the elder; That many of them are black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes, which this deponant supposes proceeded from a promiscious intercourse with different colours.
Questions by the defts agent.
Do you know any thing of the descendants of the said Frances Evans, who was bound to LIGHTFOOT? No I do not.
What became of Frances Evans and her brother after they were bound to LIGHTFOOT? I know nothing of them, but from the information of their mother aforesaid.
Do you know any free mulattoes or blacks who have descended from a branch of the name of EVANS, who are they and from whom did they spring?
I know a number of them, to wit, in Charles City, the SCOTTs, BRADBYs, SMITHs, REDCROSSes alias EVANS, MORRISSes alias EVANS, and in Henrico the BOWMANs, all descendants from the original stock of the GIBSON, to wit, Jane EVANS Daughter of Jane GIBSON.
Do you know or have you ever known of any other free persons by the name of EVANSS of a different family? I do not except in Caroline.
How do you know that the children of Frances Evans were named Tom & Frances, and how old would they be were they now alive: I heard their mother say so; I cannot tell how old, but they would be many years old.
How old are you? I am in my eighty first year.
And further this deponant saith not.
The following month on 9 July 1791, Robert Wills was back in court providing additional testimony which clarified a few points. A transcription can be found here:
Questions by the defendant. How old were you when you were firs acquainted with the elder Jane Gibson and George her brother?
Answer I believe I was ten or eleven years old or thereabouts.
Quest. How old do you suppose they were and how long did they live afterwards?
Answer. Jane Gibson the elder was very old, I apprehend she was eighty years of age, being past all labour – Mr. Carter my Master took her to live with him at Shirley where I then lived to brew a diet drink, he being afflicted with a dropsy – The old Jane Gibson I suppose might live two or three years. Her daughter Jane widow to an EVANS (whose christian name I am not certain of but believe it was Morris), lived a considerable number of years after my first acquaintance with her- she bore the name of EVANS as did all her children.
Quest. About what time were you acquainted with Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane, and how old were they when you were first acquainted with them?
Answer. I knew Jane Evans the daughter some time before I knew the old woman, which I believe as I have deposed in my former deposition must be seventy years ago; she was an old woman when I became acquainted with her, she practised midwifery and doctoring in families, but was not above sixty I should suppose: George too was an old person, I believe – Jane was the older.
Quest. About what time did Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane Gibson die?
Answer I do not know
Quest. About what year did Jane Gibson the younger intermarry with ___ EVANS?
Answer That I cannot possibly tell it must have been long before I was born.
Quest. About what year do you believe to the best of your recollection or judgment was Frances Evans the Grand daughter of old Jane Gibson born?
Answer She had children bound out when I first knew her, so that she must have been born long before I was, as I should suppose.
Quest. Then as you know so little about her how do you know she (Frances Evans) was the daughter of Jane Evans, and that Jane Evans was descended from Jane Gibson?
Answer. I know nothing but common reputation they called each other by the name of Mother and daughter.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans remove to New Kent?
Answer. I never knew her until she came on a visit to her mother, she then lived there as she reported; when she came there to live I knew nothing about it.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans inform you she had bound two of her children Frances and Tom to Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent when she came on a visit to her friends in Charles City?
Ans’r. I cannot recollect that with any certainty, I suppose fifty eight or fifty nine years ago or somewhere thereabouts.
Quest. Did you understand from her how old they were at that time, if not how old do you suppose they were, and how long had they been bound before she informed you of it?
Answer. That I know nothing about.
Quest. If the said Frances Evans and her brother Tom who are said to have been bound to one LIGHTFOOT were now alive how old would they be to the best of your judgment?
Ans’r. I do not know that; they were probably as old as myself; I never saw either of them nor asked any questions about their age.
Quests. by the plaintiff 1. Was not the mother of Sarah Redcross (now living in Charles City) alias Sarah Evans named Frances Evans, and was she not related as by common reputation believed to Frances Evans that was bound to LIGHTFOOT?
Ans’r. About twenty four or twenty five years ago Frances Evans was about in Charles City County, and was claimed as a mother by Sarah Redcross, and Sarah Redcross said that her mother was the grand daughter of Jane Evans the daughter of Jane Gibson – she went away and I know not what became of her, but have been informed (I suppose twenty years ago) that she was dead.
Quest. by deft. Why do you in this deposition call Mr. Carter your master?
Answer. My father gave me to him when I was ten years of age, and he brought me up and had me taught my trade of a carpenter.
Quest. for how many years were you acquainted with that particular family of the GIBSONs and EVANSs, which have been the object of your testimony in this suit meaning the three first generations and where did you live during that time?
Ans’r. I lived at Shirley where the said Jane Gibson died, and as Jane Evans lived within two miles of Shirley I was frequently in her family and she was very often at Shirley as was the rest of the family being employed there in different sorts of work, as for how long, I have already said about seventy years ago I first became acquainted with old Jane Gibson and Jane Evans, and knew them to their death, but cannot say exactly how long they did live from the time I first knew them.
Quest. Will you please to answer the second question in this deposition more fully, you have in your answer to that question said nothing about George Gibson the elder?
Ans: I never mentioned more than one George Gibson, the Son of the elder Jane Gibson, brother to Jane Evans. If it be so expressed in my former deposition it was misconceived, I never did know any but one of that name. And further this deponent saith not.
From both of his depositions, we learn that Robert Wills was an apprentice of Mr. Carter of the Shirley Plantation which is how he became familiar with the Evans/Gibson families. He personally knew both mother Jane Gibson the elder and the daughter Jane Gibson the younger. Jane Gibson the elder lived at the Shirley Plantation and practiced doctoring as did her daughter Jane Gibson the younger who was also a midwife. Robert Mills initially referred to Jane Gibson the elder and her brother George Gibson as dark mulattos but later clarified that it was Jane Gibson the younger who had a brother named George Gibson. So it appears he was instead referring to them as “dark mulattos”.
The only information or testimony provided that spoke directly to the identity of Jane Gibson the elder was the information provided by her descendants via their attorney Edmund Randolph which called her a free Indian woman. Additional testimony about the Indian origins of the family comes from Ann Meriweather who was the wife of John Meriweather who provided testimony discussed above and whose father Col. William Meriweather illegally purchased Frances Evans’ children as slaves from Goodrich Lightfoot. Ann Meriweather testified in 1798 that “from the Complexion & strait black hair of Sarah Colley this deponent believes they were descended from Indians”. Sarah Colley was the daughter of Frances Evans. Though judging phenotypes is not necessarily a correct way to assess one’s ethnic heritage, it is still rather telling when put in context with the rest of the testimony and documentation about the Gibson/Evans family. The other testimony from the Meriweather family and from Robert Wills most often describe Jane Gibson the elder’s offspring and descendants as “mulattos”. It should be noted in 1705, the Acts of Assembly of Virginia legally classified mulatto as: “the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a Negro”.
None of the testimony provided by witnesses or Jane Gibson the elder’s own descendants, offer the names of Jane Gibson the elder’s parents. No information is given as to whether Gibson was her maiden name, her married name, or even a name she adopted from another family. I have seen a lot of speculative family trees and theories online about her parentage but with no actual documentation. It is important to point out that the only documentation located for her comes from after her lifetime through the testimony of others. Therefore, I strongly advise to hold off on guesswork (if’s, maybes, possibly, etc) about her parentage until solid documentation is located.
The freedom lawsuits of Jane Gibson the elder’s descendants have been cited in scholarship on the history of the slavery in the U.S. Historian Loren Schweninger, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who created a digital library on American Slavery, published a book in 2018 called Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. In his section on petitions filed by plaintiffs claiming descent from an Indian woman, Professor Schweninger had this to say about the petitions from Jane Gibson’s descendants:
You can review the Evans freedom documentation on genealogist Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.
In July 2018, my cousins Roderick Daye, William Evans, and Shirley Hines, like myself, who are all documented direct lineal descendants of Jane Gibson the elder through the Evans family, visited the Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, VA to learn more about where our esteemed ancestor lived. Here are a few photos from their trip:
I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who illegally enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it does offer evidence that Goodrich Lightfoot did enslave Native Americans.
Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a Pamunkey woman named Dorothy Howell b. 1707, who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.
The exact tribal origin of the Evans-Gibson family has also been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color but it is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about. From Morris Evans’ estate records we do learn that after his wife Jane Gibson the younger died, he was involved with a woman named Rebecca Hulet who inherited some of his estate.
However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps she was from the local Pamunkey or Chickahominy tribes. There is another Algonquian speaking tribe, the Nansemond, whom the Granville County Basses descend from, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville quite a bit. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County.
Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s sons Charles Evans and Morris Evans Jr moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. As a result, some of their family did intermarry with Saponi descendants. We also know from the testimony provided by Robert Wills, that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger had other children who the Redcross, Bradby, Smith, Scott, Morris, and Bowman families of the Charles City County area descend from. I wish he identified the other children, so that we can genealogically connect all of these other surnames back to Jane Gibson. The Redcross family, we know from the testimony of Robert Wills, descend from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger’s daughter Frances Evans who had a daughter named Sarah Redcross. Some of her Redcross descendants are found among the Monacan tribe in Amherst County, Virginia. And what is also interesting is that the Bradby family is found among the Chickahominy tribe in Charles City County and the Pamunkey tribe of King William County.
The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia
The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.
Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is most likely the ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co who intermarried with the Locklears.
Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:
Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful” by his father. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
*Major Evans (1733-after 1794 ) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
Sarah Evans (b. 1742) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.
From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.
Major Evans (1733-after 1794) comes to Granville County
Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. His neighbors include members of the Chavis, Snelling, Harris, and Bass family which indicates that he lived on the north side of the Tar River, in the heart of the community began by William Chavis (1706-1777) a couple of decades earlier. Notably on 16 February 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1777) who according to late 19th century local Granville historian Oscar Blacknall, originally owned 51,200 acres on the north side of the Tar River. Blacknall, in his published articles, goes on to extensively discuss the Indian identity of the “free colored” community that William Chavis founded in Granville. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. It’s possible that Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family. Three years earlier in 1777, Major Evans was called with other members of the Chavis family to report to court to provide information on William Chavis’ will. The estate papers don’t specify what family relationship (if any) that Major Evans had with William Chavis but it is clear from that point forward, Major Evans was considered part of the community.
It’s important to remember that William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1780) was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA whose family was also apparently of a mixed race Indian ancestry. A relative of Gibson Gibson named Gideon Gibson Sr (b. 1685) and his family, including son Gideon Gibson Jr (b. 1721) moved to South Carolina in the 1730’s, where their racial identity came under scrutiny. Some South Carolina officials wanted the Gibsons to be subjected to the discriminatory “Free Negro” laws. However one such South Carolina politician named Henry Laurens who was involved in the debate about the racial identity of the Gibson family, had this to say about Gideon Gibson Jr:
Gideon Gibson escaped the penalties of the negro law by producing upon comparison more red and white in his face than could be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly, including your old acquaintance the Speaker.
Source: Council Journal, August 26, 1768. Henry Laurens to William Drayton, February 15, 1783.
Perhaps Major Evans’ great-grandmother Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. But as discussed earlier, there is no solid documentation that identifies the parentage of Jane Gibson the elder nor the origins of her Gibson surname. So it would be unwise to speculate much further without locating records that speak to Jane Gibson the elder’s parentage. If there is a relationship, that may explain why Major Evans moved to William Chavis’ land in Granville County and quickly became part of the community.
Seven years later on 26 June 1787, Major Evans added to his land ownership by purchasing 100 acres of land on both side of Middle Creek from James Kelley (O’Kelley). The land deed explains that this 100 acres was part of a larger 580 land tract purchased by John Pope. Middle Creek is on the south side of the Tar River, just slightly west and across the river from the land Major Evans purchased earlier from Phillip Chavis on the Buffalo Race Paths.
Though he had accumulated land in Granville, Major Evans still owned land across the border in Mecklenburg County, VA which he had inherited from this father Charles Evans. Therefore he was taxed in Mecklenburg from 1782 until 1787 when he finally sold his Mecklenburg County land.
Major Evans also sold land in Granville in 1787. On 15 December 1787, he sold 100 acres to James Blackley and three days later on 18 December 1787, Major Evans sold 100 acres to Elijah Ball.
In February 1789, Major Evans sued Elias Pettiford (another Native/FPOC from the community) and won a judgment against him.
By 1794, Major Evans moved further south into Granville County when he purchased 100 acres on Newlight Creek on 19 July 1794. This is land in the very southeastern part of Granville County, close to the Wake County and Franklin county borders. Some of William Chavis’ (1706-1777) descendants, specifically members of the Harris (offspring of his daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris) and Snelling families (offspring of his daughter Lettice Chavis who married Aquilla Snelling) also began moving to this part of Granville County as well into Wake County.
The 1794 land deed is the last located record that can be attributed to Major Evans. No will or estate records have been found for him, so it is not known what year he died. Likewise, accounting for all of Major Evans’ children has been a challenge without estate records. Most of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:
1. *Morris Evans (1750-1834) second married Lydia Anderson, a FPOC, on 8 December 1784 in Granville. His first wife is unknown and he had children from both marriages.
2. *Gilbert Evans (1755-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley on 20 June 1780 in Wake. Phoebe Lumbley was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse.
3. *William Evans (1757-1823) married Sarah Hays on 14 May 1785 in Wake County. Sarah Hays was apparently white and like his brother Gilbert Evans, William Evans and his children appear to have “passed” for white.
4. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell, a FPOC, on 22 February 1797 in Granville. I believe this was a second marriage for Burwell Evans because the 1786 North Carolina state census shows that he was the head of a household of one male age 21-60, three males aged under 21 & over 60, and three females of any age. The household information strongly implies that he was married with three sons and two daughters who were born by 1786.
5. *John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.
5. Elizabeth Evans (1760-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis, a FPOC, on 6 September 1800 in Granville. Before she married, Elizabeth Evans had at least one child born out of wedlock when she filed a bastardy bond in Granville court with her father Major Evans as the bondsman. The record does not name the child.
7. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn, a FPOC, on 1 January 1778 in Bute County.
8. Sarah Evans (1774 – before 1860) married George Anderson, a FPOC, on 14 October 1800 in Granville County.
* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.
All of Major Evans’ offspring lived in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, signaled a movement of many of his descendants into Wake.
The Offspring of Major Evans
The heightened “white”/”colored” racial binary and the growth of the institution of chattel slavery in the American South during the early 19th century, put immense pressure on families like the Evans who had experienced some level of wealth with land ownership. In 1835, North Carolina approved a new constitution which revoked many rights of free people of color. These revoked rights included owning fire arms, holding public office, voting, and being able to move freely in and out of the state. Additionally, free people of color households continued to be taxed at a higher rate than white households which resulted in the depletion of personal property and land.
A closer examination of records pertaining to brothers Hilliard Evans (b. 1815) and Morris Evans (1814-1900) provide some very interesting insight into how Native/”free colored” families were pressured into selling personal property to pay off debt. Hilliard Evans and Morris Evans were the sons of Thomas Evans (1790-1867) and Sallie Bass (1793-1889). And Thomas Evans was the son Morris Evans (1750-1834) and Liddy Anderson listed above. On 20 November 1840, Hilliard “Hillyard” Evans sold one gray horse saddle and bridle for one dollar to Isaiah M. Paschall. The record goes on to indicate that Hilliard Evans was in debt to Peyton V. Duke for forty dollars on a note that was due the following September. If Hilliard Evans was able to pay off the debt by the following September, then the sale of his property to Isaiah M. Paschall was to be voided and returned to him. However if he was unable to pay off the debt in time, then Isaiah M. Paschall would sell the property with all of the sales to cover the principal and interest of the debt that Hillard Evans owed Peyton V. Duke with any leftover money to be paid to Hilliard Evans.
Morris Evans found himself in a similar desperate financial situation of being in debt the following year. He owed Wyatt Cannaday $103.59 that was due to be paid by the following December 25th. As a result, on 28 June 1841, he sold to Henry B. Brides, one mare, one cow, one calf, eleven heads of hog, tobacco crop, corn, oats, household items, and furniture for one dollar. If he did not pay off the debt in time, Henry Bridges was to sell those personal items and use the funds to pay off the debt Morris Evans owed to Wyatt Cannaday with any left over money to be paid to Morris Evans.
Just a few years later, Hilliard Evans experienced something that I imagine many free people of color feared – that is, he was kidnapped and an attempt was made to sell him into slavery. We learn from a letter that his parents Thomas and Sally (Bass) Evans placed in the newspaper, that Hilliard Evans traveled from Granville County with a man named William R. Boswell last August to sell a horse in the southern part of the state. After the sale, Boswell was able to convince Hilliard Evans to continue to travel with him to Petersburg, Richmond and New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Boswell attempted to sell Hilliard Evans into slavery but Hilliard made it known that he was a free person. However it was not known what happened to and where Hilliard Evans was, so his parents were attempting to locate him. It is a heartbreaking letter to read and is a testament to how the institution of slavery was a threat to even families who were free and had always been free.
About a week later on 28 January 1746, we learn that Thomas and Sallie (Bass) Evans’ letter had garnered some interest. Editors at the Weekly Standard in Raleigh reemphasized the concerns in Thomas and Sallie Evans’ letter that they didn’t know the whereabouts of their son Hilliard Evans.
Thankfully, two months later we learn from another newspaper article published on 11 March 1846 in the Tarboro Press that Hilliard Evans had been sent back home to his family in Granville County and supplied with new clothes. William Boswell, the man who kidnapped him, had not been caught. I have no additional records to learn if he was ever caught or received any type of punishment.
The kinship network that the Evans family belonged to in the Granville County Native/FPOC community is evident in the division of the estate of William Evans(1789-1870), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. William Evans died without a living wife or children, so he had no direct heirs. Instead his estate was divided among the children of his siblings, ie. his nephews and nieces. And if any of his nephews or nieces had already died, then their living heirs, if any, stood to inherit in their place. The nine original legatees who each were to inherit $64.17, named in the estate records are:
Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Ann Anderson, Glatha Anderson (Hawkins), Joyce Anderson, William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford and Thomas Pettiford.
It is interesting that Glatha was called an Anderson in this record, because her marriage record to Cuffee Mayo, calls her “Glatha Hawkins”. I have long wondered if “Hawkins” was a mistake because I don’t know of any Hawkins family that the Evans and Anderson families associated with. All of the named original legatees, save for Ann Anderson whose parentage I’m working on confirming, were the children of William Evans’ sister Susannah Evans (b. 1784). She was first married to Abel Anderson (17772-1817) on 23 May 1804 in Granville. With her first husband Abel Anderson, Susannah Evans had: Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Glatha Anderson, and Joyce Anderson. Abel Anderson was deceased by 1817 when his guardianship of his younger brother Wright Anderson was transferred to his brother Jacob Anderson in that year as a result of his death. Susannah Evans second married a Pettiford though I have not been able to just yet confirm which Pettiford in Granville she married. With her second Pettiford husband, she had William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Thomas Pettiford. Susannah Evans was last enumerated in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granville County, as “Susan Pettyford” age 59.
At the time of William Evans’ death in 1870, original legatees Ann Anderson, Washington Anderson, and Glatha Anderson (Hawkins) were deceased so their children each inherited an equal portion of their share of the estate. What also complicated the distribution of William Evans’ estate was that several of the named legatees had moved out of the state in the decades prior. Even as late as 1878, several of the named legatees still had not been in touch with the administrator of William Evans’ estate.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:
Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.
She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.
John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.
Mary Etta Guy’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Mary Etta Guy; Susan Taborn; Littleton Taborn; Nelly Evans; Major Evans.
Ira Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ira Evans; Lewis Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans, Morris Evans; Major Evans
Ada Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ada Evans; Thomas Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
Addendum: What about James Evans (1720-1786) of Halifax County, NC??
James Evans (1720-1786) is the earliest documented ancestor of the Native/”free colored” Evans family of Halifax County, NC. It is not known nor documented if he is at all related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. As stated at the beginning of this blog post, “Evans” was a very common surname in colonial Virginia, so it is quite possible he is from an unrelated Evans family. Nevertheless, because I get many inquiries about James Evans and his descendants, I have included a summary of records pertaining to his family.
James Evans(1720-1786) first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.
James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Halifax/Warren Counties in NC. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.
I think one of the most common mistakes in doing genealogical work is mixing up the records for people who have the same name. In Granville County in the 1700s, there were at least four men with the name “Sherwood Harris”. One of those men was my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris. The three other men are related to one another but are unrelated to my Sherwood Harris. My Sherwood was Native American, most often listed as a “free person of color” in the records. The other three Sherwood’s were listed as “white”. One would think that this racial distinction along with many diverging life details would help resolve any confusion, but that has not been the case. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss the Revolutionary War pension application of my Sherwood Harris that has quite frequently been attributed to the other Sherwood Harrises. Hopefully this will be a helpful warning to other researchers to take more care in how they attribute records.
My 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833) was the son of Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. Edward Harris was among the founding members of the Native community in Granville. Sarah Chavis’ parents were William Chavis and Frances Gibson, who owned the original land base for the community. Two of Sherwood brother’s named Jesse Harris (1762-1844) and Edward Harris Jr (1756-1792) also fought in the Revolutionary War. Edward Jr died before filing a pension and left no heirs, and Jesse and later his widow Julia (Taborn) Harris successfully filed and received a pension (W.1277).
It is actually incorrect for me to say that Sherwood Harris filed a pension. From after his service in the war and until his death in 1833, Sherwood never filed for a pension. According to witness testimony provided by Nathaniel Estes, Sherwood “felt rather above begging” the government for compensation. However after his passing, his widow Martha/Patsy Harris (maiden name not known) was in financial trouble and had no means of support. So in 1843, she filed a widow’s pension, application number W.3984.
In order to receive a widow’s pension, Martha Harris had several things to prove. For one, she had to prove that she was legally married to Sherwood Harris and had not remarried after his death. She also needed to give proof of his Revolutionary War service including details such as names of captains and battles that would substantiate his record as a soldier. Despite both Martha and her deceased husband Sherwood being illiterate and not being able to leave behind a paper trail, Martha was able to prove her claim to a widow’s pension based off of witness testimony.
The following individuals provided testimony in support of Martha’s application: Frances “Fanny” Cavender, Samuel Chapell, Nathaniel Estes, Peter Cash, Stephen Bridges, and George Pettiford. I have a full un-transcribed copy of the pension application but you can access transcribed portions of the pension application here. George Pettiford (1760-1853) was from the Native American Pettiford family of Granville, and he was the son of founding community member Lawrence Pettiford. George was also a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran and provided testimony that he was well acquainted with Sherwood Harris before the war. He knew that Sherwood had been enlisted, but did not see Sherwood until after the war when they both came back to Granville.
The five remaining testimonies came from white residents of Granville who also knew Sherwood Harris. Samuel Chapell (1757-1845), was a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran who knew Sherwood Harris around the time of the war and believed that Sherwood was a private in Col. William Moore’s regiment for at least two years. Peter Cash (1756-1846) was also a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran and recalled that he served with Sherwood Harris in Col. William Moore’s regiment. He further stated that Sherwood served under a different captain named Capt. Harrison.
Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Harris and knew that their father and older brother served with Sherwood in the Revolutionary War. They both remembered attending Sherwood and Martha’s wedding and provided 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. And finally Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) was aclose friend of Sherwood and Martha’s and provided some interesting information about the couple. He said he frequented their home regularly and heard Sherwood speak of being a soldier in the war. He also recalled Sherwood and Martha’s wedding but could not remember the date. However he added that Sherwood had a son who was older than his own son born in 1793 and that this son of Sherwood’s was buried on his property.
The testimony provided by fellow soldiers as well as personal friends, allowed for Martha Harris to receive an annual widow’s pension payment of $80. However Martha Harris was not receiving any money because her pension payments were being illegally withheld by local land agent J.H. Kirkham according to additional testimony from Martha Harris in 1851 and backed up by a letter sent from her attorney William Hunt. As a result Martha was in a state of destitution.
Even back in 1844, after initially filing the pension claim, the pension office mixed up Martha’s husband Sherwood Harris with another Sherwood Harris. The other Sherwood Harris had received a bounty land grant for 228 acres and Justice of the Peace Clement Wilkins writing on Martha’s behalf had to explain that it was a different Sherwood Harris who received this land.
As you can see, these Sherwood Harrises have been getting mixed up for quite some time. Finally in 1855, Martha Harris applied for a bounty land grant however there is no further documentation to find out what happened with that application. According to her 1855 testimony, Martha Harris was receiving $80 annually so it appears J.H. Kirkham eventually released her payments or she was issued a new payment certificate. Martha passed away in 1859.
So who are these other Sherwood Harrises?
Two of the Sherwoods have a father/son relationship, and the third Sherwood shares an uncle/nephew and 1st cousin relationship with the previous two. Below I created family tree to better illustrate the family relationships:
Most of the genealogical information on the Sherwood Harris family tree above comes from this website. I found many trees on Ancestry that included these Sherwood Harrises, though far too many looked incorrect, had contradictory information and lacked sources. Many of these family trees also had the pension application for my Sherwood Harris attached to these three other Sherwood Harrises. What a mess! But by reviewing some additional records I was able to sort out the records for each of these Sherwoods and determine which of these other Sherwoods was also a Revolutionary War veteran.
Off the bat, I could eliminate the Sherwood Harris (1720-1763) who left a 1763 will because he pre-deceased the Revolutionary War. Several descendants of the other Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) who was also a veteran, filed applications to join Sons of the American Revolution. According to those applications, their ancestor Sherwood Harris was married to an Elizabeth Tillman/Tallman and they claimed descent through two of their sons – Daniel and William Harris. Additionally, they state that their Sherwood Harris fought under General Ashe and was also a Justice of the Peace. They also have 1805 as Sherwood’s death date.
The 1805 death date of the veteran Sherwood Harris is consistent with the Granville County census records which show 2 white Sherwood Harris head of households for the 1800 census, and only 1 white Sherwood Harris head of household for the 1810 census. So for any researchers of this family, the white Sherwood Harris in the 1810 census is the Sherwood Harris (born 1749) who was NOT the Revolutionary War veteran, and instead was the son of Sherwood Harris Sr. and Jane Hudspeth.
Revisiting the pension application of my Sherwood Harris (1761-1833), it is clear the Pension Office incorrectly filed correspondence letters from the descendants of the other Sherwood Harris (1733-1805) veteran into his folder. The letters from these descendants provide details that are consistent with the other Sherwood Harris. Yet, the Pension Office wrote back to these descendants and provided them with the service information of my Sherwood Harris.
I hope this blog post will not only clear up any confusion about the many Sherwood Harrises of Granville County, but also serve as a reminder for all of us researchers to be patient and take the time to efficiently sort out and attribute records.
The Bass family in Granville County is one of the larger, if not the largest Native American families in the county. It is a “core” lineage whose family members have intermarried with just about all other families of Native American descent in the community. The Basses have a well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe who are indigenous to the Nansemond River area of lower tidewater Virginia. Today known as the Nansemond Indian Nation, the tribal nation received federal acknowledgement in 2018. Due to the rapid and increased colonization of the Nansemond homeland, many Basses settled in the “frontier” of North Carolina. The Bass family never lost knowledge of their Native American origins, and as a result, some of their descendants today can be found in a number of tribal communities such as: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee. This blog post follows the migration of the Nansemond Bass family from Norfolk, Virginia to Granville County.
Nansemond Tribal Origin
Some of the source material for this blog entry comes from the research of Bass descendant and genealogist Lars Adams. Lars has invested a lot of time in correcting past research mistakes. Nikki Bass is another Bass descendant and researcher who publishes her Bass related genealogy in a blog here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family as well as from Albert Bell’s book, Bass Families of the South (1961). Both Heinegg and Bell have made some errors in their Bass genealogies, so throughout this blogpost you will see some corrections that I have made with my own research. And finally it is important to point out that I author of this blog, Kianga Lucas, am a Nansemond Bass descendant which is how I first came to research the family and is why I am dedicated to preserving and sharing our family history. I believe it is imperative that we as Native peoples, lend voices to our own histories that have often been told by non-Natives.
The Nansemond branch of the English Bass family begins with the marriage in 1638 of John Bass(e) an English colonist to Elizabeth, baptized daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family sermon book that has survived to the present. Albert Bell’s book contained an incorrect transcription of this marriage record that falsely states Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can read from a copy of the original marriage entry, her name is simply “Elizabeth” and her father’s name is not mentioned at all. “Keziah” is however a first name found frequently among descendants of the Nansemond Bass family, so it is possible that this mix-up comes from fractured memories of the family history. So if you are a Bass descendant or researcher, please check your family tree to make sure you have the correct information. Below is an image of the marriage:
The Nansemond tribe is an Algonquian speaking tribe that at one point in history, was affiliated with the Powhatan Confederacy from the tidewater Virginia area that is today the modern city of Suffolk. As coastal people they were impacted very early on by European colonization. Below is a map of the locations of the sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:
John Bass/e and Elizabeth the Nansemond had several children including a son named William Bass(1654-1741) who appears to have the most well documented descendants. William Bass was married to a woman named Catherine Lanier and they made their home in what was then known as Lower Norfolk County, Virginia along the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. William Bass Sr and Catherine Lanier had the following children:
*Edward Bass b. 19 Oct 1672
*John Bass b. 4 Dec 1673
Keziah Bass b. 30 Oct 1675
*William Bass b. 28 Oct 1676
Joseph Bass b. 21 Dec 1678
Mary Bass b. 15 Jun 1681
*Thomas Bass b. 13 Nov 1687
Four sons: Edward, John, William, and Thomas are known to have had children and living descendants today. Sons William Bass Jr (1676 – 1761) and Thomas Bass (1687-?) and their descendants primarily remained in the Norfolk, VA area with Thomas Bass’ grandson William Bass (b. 1762) and his descendants moving across the state line into Camden County, NC and neighboring counties beginning in the late 1700s. These Basses commonly intermarried with other FPOC families such as: Hall, Perkins, Price, Archer, Newton, and Nickens.
On the other hand, sons Edward Bass (1672 – 1750) and John Bass (1673- 1732) relocated to North Carolina and their descendants I will document in the following sections. The descendants of both Edward Bass and John Bass are found in Granville.
William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:
An Inquest pertaining to possession and use of Cleared and Swamp lands in and adjoining ye Great Dismal by William Bass, Sr. and His kinsmen who claim Indian Privileges, Sheweth by the testimony of White Persons and sundry records of great age and known to be authentic, That said William Bass, Thomas Bass, and Joseph Bass and spinister daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemond Indian descent with no admixture of negro, Ethiopic, and that they and all others in kinship with them are freeborn subjects of his Majesty living in peace with his Majesty’s Government entitled to possess and bear arms as permitted by Treaties of Peace by and between Charles II of blessed memory and ye Indians of Virginia and the said William Bass, Sr. and als are in Rightful, and Lawful possession thereof and are not to be further Molested by any person or persons whatsoever under any pretended Authority under Penalties etc. etc., whilst ye said Bass and his kinsmen claim Indian privileges pursuant to the aforesaid Treaties of Peace.
17 day of March 1726/27
Solo. Wilson, Cl. Cur.
William Bass’ sons Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior. However it is important to note that this certificate extended to all of William Bass’ kin who were not specifically named in the certificate. This is a compelling detail because it demonstrates that William Bass had the foresight to ensure all of his relations had these same treaty rights.
Later William Bass’ son William Bass Jr (1676-1761) received a similar certificate in 1742 that read:
William Bass, the Bearer, tall, swarthy, dark eyes, weight abt. 13 stone, scar on back of left hand, is of English & Indian descent with no admixture of negro blood, numbered as a Nansemun by his own Choosing. The sd. Bass dwells in this County and hath a good name for his industry and honesty.
Clearly the Bass family early on was attempting to document and secure their Nansemond Indian identity and treaty rights and in order to do this, it required them to distance themselves from any “negro admixture”. This theme of distancing and denying African admixture, in order to substantiate Indian identity is a common theme throughout Native American communities in the Southeast. And it has unfortunately had devastating effects that fractured families who had relatives deemed “too African” in phenotypical appearance. It has also impacted the political recognition of tribal communities. Even the Native Americans of Granville County adamantly denied African admixture as can be seen in the writings of local historian Oscar Blacknall that you can read more about here. Elder cousins have shared anecdotal stories with me on the topic of race/racial appearance, that are consistent with Blacknall’s observations about our community.
William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk County. In the will, William gives his sons William, Edward and Thomas only one shilling each. He gave to his son Joseph Bass, his “waring cloaths” and left his land and anything else to his daughter Mary in the hopes that she salvage what is left. Clearly, William Bass was not in good financial standing at the time of his death. Son John Bass (1673-1732) is not named in the will because he predeceased his father. This is also true for William’s daughter Keziah Bass who died in 1704. It is important to point out that by 1740, son Edward Bass (1672-1750) had lived in North Carolina for twenty years, yet his father William Bass still made sure to include him in his will. This shows that Edward Bass was still in touch with his family and community back in Norfolk, VA.
Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) in Norfolk, Virginia
Before moving to North Carolina, brothers Edward Bass and John Bass spent the early part of their adulthood in Norfolk. On 17 Nov 1698, Edward Bass appeared in Norfolk court to admit that he owed 500 lbs of tobacco to Hugh Campbell. Hugh Campbell was a Scottish born merchant who was licensed to operate in the West Indies and who later settled in Norfolk. Campbell was also a merchant of human chattel when it was recorded on 8 Jun 1680 that he was paid for transporting an enslaved Indian woman of Bermuda into the Virginia colony. The following year on 16 Nov 1699, Edward Bass purchased 15 acres of land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, from John Fulcher. This is the same John Fulcher whose 1712 will freed the Anderson slaves. Over the next several generations, the offspring of these freed slaves repeatedly intermarried with Edward Bass’ offspring. The Andersons moved with the Basses out of Norfolk and into Granville and became one of the core families of the community. My blog post on the Andersons can be found here. Thus, it appears there is a yet unknown direct relationship between Edward Bass and John Fulcher (perhaps Edward Bass’ wife was a relative of John Fulcher?).
In June 1702, Edward Bass was back in Norfolk court to admit he owed 70 lbs of tobacco to Thomas Winfield from items he purchased at the estate sale of William Whitehurst. And on 15 Nov 1709, Edward Bass sued Henry Lawley for a 3 lb debt. Edward Bass was brought to the Norfolk court again on 20 July 1711 for retailing liquor without a license. The charges were subsequently dropped. On 16 Dec 1715, Edward Bass sued John Muns Jr for 20 lbs for unlawfully riding his mare. There are additional Norfolk records which show a pattern of Edward Bass being harassed by his Anglo neighbors through a series of lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts. Ultimately what we can learn from these records is that Edward Bass was a land owner on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, likely had a farm, and earned enough money to make large purchases. The records also demonstrate his knowledge of the laws and court system, as he was a plaintiff in a few of the cases. This pattern of harassment by his Anglo neighbors may have played a large part in Edward Bass’ leaving the area and moving to the North Carolina frontier.
To date, located records for his brother John Bass in Norfolk are not nearly as numerous. On 15 October 1701 in Norfolk court, John Bass paid the costs for a suit brought against him by Thomas Hodges. This is the only record I know of for John Bass in Norfolk. Hopefully more records are uncovered for him, to better understand his life and his relationships in Norfolk before he settled in North Carolina.
Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) Move to North Carolina
From here our discussion shifts to documenting Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) movement into North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. The last known record of him in Norfolk was recorded in 1715. By 1720/1721, Edward Bass owned land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land deed dated 30 January 1720/21, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know he is the same Edward Bass from Norfolk. Edward Bass did not remain on the Horsepool Swamp land for long, because on 26 March 1723 he purchased 200 acres of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. On 28 March 1726, he sold his Horsepool Swamp land. Over the next couple of decades, Edward Bass purchased an additional 615 acres of land adjoining his Urahaw Swamp land in Northampton County, bringing his total land ownership to 815 acres. On 25 July 1748, Edward Bass wrote his will which was proved in August 1750. The will named Edward Bass’ children who all inherited shares of their father’s land, thus making it possible to trace out his descendants. The will also named Edward Bass’ widow as Lovewell. She was called “Love”, when she and husband Edward Bass sold their Horsepool Swamp land in 1726. There is no surviving marriage record for the couple, so Lovewell’s maiden name and origin in unknown. Edward Bass likely married her when he still resided in Norfolk, so she is perhaps from one of families who were neighbors to the Basses and perhaps she was Nansemond.
All of Edward Bass’ children moved from Northampton to Granville County beginning in the 1750’s. Soon after settling in Granville, they sold their shares of land in Northampton that they inherited from their father. The Anderson family who was freed in 1712 in Norfolk, made the move with the Basses to Northampton County and then to Granville County where the families continued to frequently intermarry. When Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established and land owning Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, Evans, and Mitchell families.
The offspring of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also found in the Granville community, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s offspring. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:
As researcher Lars Adams points out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA (formerly Upper Norfolk County) they married in North Carolina. John Bass who was Indian and Love Harris who was probably white were a couple during a time period where Virginia passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they may have married in North Carolina where the laws against interracial marriages were not as strictly enforced.
John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows a concerted effort by the brothers to remain close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward Bass, John Bass then moved to Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County (now Northampton County) where he accumulated a total of 1,060 acres of land that adjoined his brother’s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he left a Bertie County will which divided his Urahaw Swamp land among his children. As a result, his children and their descendants are well documented in both the will and subsequent land deeds dealing with the division and sale of their inherited land.
It should be noted that John Bass’ will makes mention of his widow Mary, and in it, John leaves his plantation to her as gift for “bringing up my small children”. Since we have an earlier marriage record for John Bass to Love Harris, this would mean that Love died sometime earlier, and John Bass remarried Mary. The will seems to indicate that Mary helped raise the children that John Bass had with his previous wife. The will also confirms that Edward Bass and John Bass were siblings because in it, John Bass refers to his own land as being adjacent to his brother Edward Bass.
Some of John Bass’ children remained in Northampton County and neighboring/nearby counties including Bertie, Edgecombe, Nash and Halifax. These offspring typically intermarried with wealthy, slave owning, planter families, and from that point forward were documented as “white”. Subsequent generations moved to the deep South to expand their plantation economies. Other children moved to other parts of the state. For example, John Bass’ grandson Frederick Bass (b. 1750) moved to Anson Co and some of his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.
Four of John Bass’ children did join Edward Bass’ children in their relocation to Granville Co. They were Sarah Bass b. 1704, William Bass b. 1712, Lovey Bass b. 1720 and Mary Bass b. 1722. Sarah Bass b. 1704 was the wife of Lewis Anderson (1713-1785), of the freed Anderson family of Norfolk Co, so that explains why she moved to Granville. Lovey Bass b. 1712 was not married but had a partner with whom she had children with named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. She also had at least one child with Bartlet Tyler (b. 1742) from the FPOC Tyler family of Native American origins, that often intermarried with and were neighbors to the Basses in Granville over subsequent generations. The wife of William Bass b. 1712 is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Mary Bass b. 1722 married her first cousin Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) who was the son of Edward Bass (1672-1750). On 26 July 1784, Mary Bass (while married to Benjamin Bass) sold the 100 acres of land along the Urahaw Swamp that she inherited from her father John Bass in 1732. Just like Edward Bass’ children, John Bass’ children who moved to Granville married into and became a part of the Native American community.
****Mary Bass (1751-1844) and her husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809) are my 5th great-grandparents and are the main progenitors of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Before Benjamin Richardson, Mary Bass was married to her first cousin Elijah Bass (1743-1781). It had been assumed by earlier researchers that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the same Mary Bass who was the daughter of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch of Bertie Co. Thomas Bass was a grandson of John Bass (1673-1732) and Love Harris. However I have extensively reviewed the records for Thomas Bass/Thomasine Bunch and their children and it is very clear that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was not their daughter. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and his wife Mary Bass (b. 1722). This means that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the granddaughter of both Edward Bass (1672-1750) and his brother John Bass (1673-1732). ****
A Closer Look at Urahaw Swamp and Neighboring Tribes
The fact that brothers Edward Bass and John Bass moved to North Carolina at the same time and bought adjoining land deserves further scrutiny. The Urahaw Swamp land that was first purchased in 1722/1723 is of particular interest because Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) also owned land along Urahaw Swamp. Bartholomew Chavis was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1706-1777) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew Chavis are found in Henrico and Surry County, VA. By 1719/1720 he was living in North Carolina and started purchasing land along Urahaw Swamp just 2-3 years before the Bass brothers purchased land there.
The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. The Gibsons were originally from Charles City County, Virginia where one of the earliest Gibson family members, Jane Gibson (the elder), was known as a free Indian woman. She is the female progenitor of the Evans family who settled in Granville. You can read my Evans/Gibson blog post here. The previously mentioned William Chavis (1706-1777)‘ wife was Frances Gibson. Her brother John Gibson who lived nearby, was a witness to a 1728 land purchase along Urahaw Swamp made by Edward Bass (1672-1750). This shows a direct earlier connection between the Basses and Gibsons. Two of John Gibson’s sons – George Gibson and Charles Gibson moved to Granville in 1750. This was the far southwestern part of the county that just two years later became Orange County. George and Charles Gibson did not stay in Orange County for along and moved around quite a bit with their descendants eventually leaving the state. William Chavis (1706-1777) also owned some land in Orange County and perhaps that is connected to George and Charles Gibson’s temporary residence there. Despite inheriting his father’s Northampton County land in 1750, William Chavis (1706-1777) continued to live in Granville County. William even continued to have additional land transactions in Northampton County but Granville was his primary residence as indicated in the tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him there several years later. Much more research is needed to learn why these families moved from Northampton to Granville.
I find it interesting that a Nottoway(?) Indian named George Skipper b. 1685 was documented through land transactions, living along Urahaw Swamp in the 1720s (See Heinegg here). This is the exact same time that the Chavis, Gibson, Bass, and Anderson families lived along Urahaw Swamp. George Skipper’s wife was Nottoway Indian Mary Bailey, the apparent daughter of Wat Bailey who was documented on the Nottoway Indian reservation in Southampton County, VA. George Skipper and Mary Bailey’s son George Skipper b. 1720 was one of the chief men of the Nottoway Indian Nation who sold his land in 1749. When we take a look at the Moseley map of 1733, we see both the Meherrin and the Nansemond Indians living in close proximity to Urahaw Swamp. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same Iroquoian speaking confederacy. And some of the Nansemond lived with the Nottoway on the Nottoway reservation in Southampton Co, VA (across the state line from Northampton Co, NC). This was an area where a number of tribes took refuge with one another, and this historical context is important for understanding Urahaw Swamp and the cluster of mixed race Native American families who resided there.
So why did some Nansemond Indians leave the Virginia homeland and settle with other friendly tribes? According to scholar Helen Rountree, the Basses belonged to the so-called “Christianized-Nansemond”, and were never granted a reservation like other Virginia tribes (Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Gingaskin, etc). The “traditional” Nansemond did live on a reservation in Southampton County, VA with the Nottoway Tribe. By 1792 they sold off their remaining reservation land. A closer genealogical examination of the Nansemond/Nottoway families on the Nottoway reservation shows that some individuals (such as George Skipper mentioned above) did leave the reservation for nearby Native American communities. In other words, in the 1700’s there were both Christianized and Traditional Nansemond who were not tied down to the traditional Nansemond homeland along the Nansemond River. This is a great avenue for additional deep dive research into a time and place that I believe is understudied. Thus I think a reexamination of Nansemond ethnohistory that is inclusive of the large amount of Nansemond Bass family members who moved to North Carolina, is long overdue.
Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of Virginia as a result of encroachment by Anglo colonists. This brings to mind Edward Bass’ (1672-1750) 1715 court case against John Muns Jr. for riding his mare. North Carolina at that time was still the “frontier” and that is where the Basses decided to make their home. The Basses were not the only Native American family from the Virginia tidewater area that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families in Granville that have tidewater Virginia roots, were Algonquian speaking peoples who were pushed out due to encroachment. Even Algonquian speaking peoples as far as away the Nanticoke Pukham/Bookram family, the Piscataway Proctor family and the Lenape Okey family moved to Granville County.
The Nansemond Basses in Granville County
So to summarize: all of the children of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and four of the children of John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to Granville County in the 1750’s. Edward Bass and John Bass were brothers, and the grandsons of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth. In Granville, these Bass descendants practiced endogamy by intermarrying with their own Bass cousins and other Native American families to form a tightly closed kinship network. As a result, most living Bass descendants from Granville have multiple Bass ancestors. For example, I have a cousin who has at minimum, 14 different documented Bass genealogical pedigrees back to Elizabeth the Nansemond.
The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from a variety of primary source records. The Basses are found in very high numbers in the census records, marriage records, land deeds, estate records, military pension records, tax lists and more. In 1800, there were 14 Bass heads of households, in 1810: 10 heads of household, in 1820: 7 heads of household, in 1830: 6 heads of household, and in 1840: 6 heads of household. In the 1850 census where every household member was enumerated by name for the first time, there were approximately 24 Basses in Granville, and in 1860 there were approximately 25 Basses in Granville. By the 1940 census which is the last publicly available census, there were approximately 100 Basses in Granville. These head counts of course do not reflect female Basses whose surnames changed due to marriage and do not include Bass descendants whose surnames were no longer Bass.
Brothers Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) who were the sons of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and Lovewell, became the largest land owners of the Bass family in Granville. Benjamin Bass owned at least 500 acres of total land and Edward Bass owned at least a total of 206 acres of land as reflected in the Granville tax lists and land deeds. They also married their own Bass cousins. Benjamin Bass married his first cousin Mary Bass, and Edward Bass married his first cousin, once removed Tamer Anderson.
Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) had a brother named Sampson/Samuel Bass (b. 1726) whose identity has been conflated with other men who share the same name, by researcher Paul Heinegg. What follows is an explanation of this mistake, so if you are using Paul Heinegg’s research to document this Sampson/Samuel Bass, please proceed with caution.
The conflation of Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (son of Edward Bass 1672-1750) and Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (parentage unknown) of Brunswick Co, VA/Northampton Co, NC and his son Samuel Bass Jr (1734-1796):
The first Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (he is called by both first names in the primary source records), was a tithable and land owner in Granville County. The available tax lists (1758, 1761, and 1762) show that he only paid tax on himself, so he appears to not have been married nor had any children. He was also taxed as a free person of color (free persons of color were required to pay taxes on their wives). In 1764, the part of Granville County he resided in became short lived Bute County and he makes a land purchase there in 1771. That is the last known record for him. So he may have died intestate and with no heirs.
On the other hand, the second Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (never referred to as Sampson Bass in any records) was taxed as white and was a wealthy planter who owned a lot of slaves. He resided in Brunswick Co, VA in 1765 when he gave his son Burwell Bass land in Northampton Co, NC (Brunswick and Northampton share a border). In 1765, the first Sampson/Samuel Bass resided in Granville, not Brunswick, so that should raise some initial red flags that we’re looking at two different men. He may also be the same Samuel Bass who appears as a tithable in the 1762 Northampton Co, NC tax list. In 1780 he was a tithable in Northampton, assessed on a large amount of property and 12 slaves. His 1787 Northampton Co will, proved in 1790, names his widow Sarah and children who received his property and slaves. This Samuel Bass had a son Samuel Bass Jr 1734-1796 named in the will. Samuel Bass Jr’s will was proved in 1796 in Greensville Co, VA (Greensville borders Brunswick and Northampton). Paul Heinegg also incorrectly attributes the Halifax Co, NC 1810 census showing a Samuel Bass head of a household of 7 free people of color and 1 slave to this Samuel Bass Jr. But that absolutely cannot be him since he was deceased by 1796. Instead the Samuel Bass enumerated in the 1810 census in Halifax Co, NC was a man named Samuel Bass b. 1784 who eventually moved to Tennessee, Alabama and finally Mississippi.
This RootsWeb tree which can be viewed here, includes the following statement from a Samuel Bass researcher who also agrees that the identities of these men have been conflated. He believes the second Samuel Bass was the Samuel Bass who made a 1733 land purchase in Isle of Wight, VA and lived next to Charles Bass Jr. and James Bass.
“I believe Heinegg and Marcia McClure and others have confounded a number of Samuels and Sampsons into one man. I am fifth great grandson of Samuel Bass, Sr who died in 1789 so I have spent a great amount of time trying to tease them apart. The Samuel Bass above was son of Samuel Sr. However I do not believe Samuel Sr was Sampson and the son of Edward. Through tracing land I place this man as the Samuel who purchased land in Isle of Wight County in 1733. He stated he was “of Isle of wight ” and the land adjoined property of James Bass and Charles Bass, Jr. They in subsequent years signed deeds for each other and moved about together. To me that says related. I have come to believe that Samuel was a son of Charles Bass, Sr of Isle if Wight Co. He was born most likely around 1712. He married twice. First to Elizabeth who was still alive in 1755. He was married to Sarah by 1770 and she is the wife in the will. He had 8 children who I believe were born in the order listed in the will. My ancestor Matthew could be the son of either wife.”
The Nansemond identity of the Basses in Granville County was known by Bass researcher, Albert Bell. While doing archival research for his book, Bass Families of the South, published in 1961, Albert Bell came across the 1833 Norfolk County, VA Indian certificates of several members of the Bass family in the Norfolk court minutes. Similar to the Norfolk court records from the 1700’s, the Nansemond Bass family found it necessary to clarify their identity as Indian peoples. Albert Bell submitted a copy of these 1833 Indian certificates and citations to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh and included a note which stated:
“The Basses of Norfolk County have been bedeviled by the same problem as that faced by the Granville County crowd.”
Photos of Nansemond Basses from Granville County
Below are a handful of photos of individuals who come from the Nansemond Bass family in Granville County. Some of the Granville Basses in the following generations moved to neighboring and nearby counties such as Halifax, Person, Orange, Durham, and Alamance.
The Bass pedigree of the three brothers pictured below who were sons of William Bass b. 1831 and Sarah Evans is as follows:
William Bass; Cullen Bass; Prudence Bass; Edward Bass Jr; Edward Bass Sr; William Bass Sr; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.