Tag Archives: Goodrich Lightfoot

The Pamunkey Origins of the FPOC Howell Family

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


Dorothy Howell (b. 1707) of New Kent County

Untitled presentation
Family Tree that shows the descedants of Dorothy Howell. This blog post examines the lineage traced down to John Howell b. 1822 and his wife Susan Pearman b. 1827 whose descendants are enrolled with the Pamunkey tribe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Sherwood Lightfoot and St. Peter’s Parish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pamunkey Origins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


The Howells Descendants Diverge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Pamunkey Howell Family From the 1800s Onward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plecker letter 2
Walter Plecker’s 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should be categorized as “Indian”. Unsurprisingly, many of the surnames listed here make up the families of Virginia’s Native American tribes. Source: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/letterscan.html

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

43071_162028006071_0327-00235
Margaret Shadoan received an annulment from her marriage to Herbert Clayton Howell. The stated reason: “Defendant is a person of the negro race.” Source: Virginia, Divorce Records, 1918-2014
43006_172028004422_0335-00264
Herbet Clayton Howell’s death record from 1979, lists his race as “American Indian”. He died after Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was overturned, so it became legal again to self identify as Indian. Source: Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014

Final Thoughts

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

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

Evans Family of Granville County – descendants of Jane Gibson “a free Indian woman”

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, BassSnelling 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”

Evans family kinship chart

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..

Source: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genealogyfriend/evans/gib_evans.htm

A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”

jane-gibson-family-chart.jpeg
Family  Tree Chart which shows that Jane Gibson the elder had a son named George Gibson and a daughter named Jane Gibson who married Morris Evans. Source: City of Lynchburg Court Records, Chancery Records, Charles Evans and others v. Lewis B. Allen, 1821-033. Local Government Records Collection, City of Lynchburg Court Records, Library of Virginia. 04-1407-01/03.

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:

Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 7.53.04 AM

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Source: Schweninger, Loren. Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. New York: Oxford University Press. 2018. Pp 128-129. caption

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:

Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation. Charles City County, VA. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye
Shirley Plantation1
Shirley Plantation, Charles City County, VA. The construction on this plantation house began right around the time Jane Gibson the elder died, so she would not have resided in this particular home but somewhere else on the property. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye
Shirley Plantation3
Shirley Plantation. Charles City County, VA. Photo courtesy of Roderick Daye

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.

Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter's, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787
Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter’s, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787

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.

Pamunkey_map 1
Brothers Goodrich Lightfoot and Sherwood Lightfoot lived in property about 1 mile apart that was directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation in New Kent Countyt. Goodrich resided as the “White House” and Sherwood resided as “Ricahock”. Source: http://archive.wetlandstudies.com/newsletters/2016/January/Pamunkey.html

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:

  1. 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.
  2. *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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sarah Evans (b. 1742)  – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  6. Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  7. 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.

Phillip Chavis land sold to Major Evans in 1780. Buffalo Race Paths - Granville County.
Land plat of the 16 February 1780 Granville County, North Carolina land deed for Phillip Chavis to Major Evans for 100 acres on the “Buffalo Race Paths”. This land is very close to the Granville (now Vance) and Franklin County border

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Phillip Chavis to Major Evans Part 2
Land deed for the 100 acres on the Buffalo Race Paths in Granville County that Major Evans purchased from Phillip Chavis on 16 February 1780. The record shows that Phillip Chavis had already relocated from Granville to Bladen (today Robeson) County. Phillip Chavis is the main Chavis progenitor of the Chavis family found within the Lumbee tribe.

 

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.

James Kelley to Major Evans Part 1

james-kelley-to-major-evans-part-2.jpg

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.

Major Evans Vs Elias Pettiford
Major Evans won a judgment against Elias Pettiford on 4 February 1789.

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.

Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Land plat of the 19 July 1974 land Granville County land deed for Benjamin Morgan to Major Evans for 100 acres on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders. Note the land plat has the incorrect year.

benjamin-morgan-to-major-evans-part-1.jpg

benjamin-morgan-to-major-evans-part-2.jpg
Land deed for the 100 acres on Newlight Creek that Major Evans purchases from Benjamin Morgan on 17 July 1794.
Historical_map_of_old_Granville_County_from_which_were_made_GranvilleButeWarrenFranklin_and_Vance_Counties_North_Carolina copy
Circled in blue are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in Granville County: the 1780 land purchase on the Buffalo Race Paths, the 1787 land purchase on Middle Creek and the 1794 land purchase on Newlight Creek.  Outlined in red the approximate boundaries of the land owned by William Chavis as described by local historian Oscar Blacknall. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

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.

hilliard-evans-to-isaiah-m-paschall-page-1.jpg

 

Hilliard Evans to Isaiah M Paschall Part 2

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.

morris-evans-to-henry-b-bridges.jpg

Morris Evans to Henry B Bridges Part 2

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.

Hilliard Evans 20 January 1846

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.

hilliard-evans-28-january-1846.jpg

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.

Hilliard Evans 11 March 1846

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.

william-evans-estate-1.jpg

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.

Washington Anderson orphan of Abel Anderson
Court minutes from Granville County show that Abel Anderson and Susannah Evans’ son Washington Anderson at the age of 10, was bound out upon the death of Abel Anderson. “Orphan” was a term that was used not necessarily to indicate that both parents were deceased, but that the father was deceased. Washington Anderson was named as an original legatee in his uncle William Evans’ estate records. 

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.

william-evans-legatees-out-of-state.jpg
A page from William Evans’ estate records shows that as late as 27 August 1878, administrator Augustine Landis still was not in touch with legatees Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Joyce Anderson because they had left the state. Census records do indicate that Richard Pettiford moved to Tennessee and “passed” for white, Franklin Pettiford moved to Tennessee and later Illinois and also “passed” for white, and Joyce Anderson had married Robert Taylor Valentine and they moved to Wisconsin and later Iowa.

 

 

Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother's last name. Though Pantheyer's marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934) of Fishing Creek, Granville County. She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother’s last name. Though Pantheyer’s marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as “unknown”, Hilliard Evans identity was confirmed through Pantheyer’s brother Osh Brandon’s marriage record. Pantheyer’s sister Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon was also named after their father. Pantheyer’s mother Betsy Brandon later had several more children with William Peace. Hilliard Evans later married Louisa Mitchell and relocated to Ohio. Probably only his oldest children with Betsy Brandon had memories of him before he moved out of state. 
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

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 (1830 - 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. Source: E. Howard Evans
John Evans (1830 – 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. John Evans was first cousins to Pantheyer Brandon pictured above.
Source: E. Howard Evans

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.

Standing on the left if John Evans' son Thomas McDaniel Evans  (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas' son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas' daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live. Source: E. Howard Evans
Standing on the left is John Evans’ son Thomas McDaniel Evans (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas’ son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas’ daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live.
Source: E. Howard Evans
Mary Etta Guy (1866 - 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband's death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York. Source: Carole Allen
Mary Etta Guy (1866 – 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband’s death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York.
Source: Carole Allen

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 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Lewis Evans (1847-1917) and  Zibra Bookram (b. 1859). His is a direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson through their grandson Major Evans. Ira descends from the Evans, Gibson, Bookram, Bass, Anderson, and Scott families and lived in Durham Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.

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
Ada Evans (1885-1954) was the daughter of Thomas Evans and Mary Bookram. She is double first cousins with Ira Evans pictured above. Ada was first married to Earnest Day and second married to William Glover. She lived in Granville and Durham Counties. Please note that most family tree on Ancestry have confused this Ada Evans for her older first cousin Ada Evans ( b 1877) who was the daughter of Sallie Evans.  Source: Ancestry, Username: MichaelSmith493

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.

image1
Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) is pictured with his first wife Adeline Virginia Richardson (1876-1920). Major Blake Evans was a brother to Fox Evans pictured above. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through his grandson Leven Evans. Major Blake Evans lived in Halifax Co, NC his entire life where some of his descendants are among the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Source: Desmond Ellsworth
image2
Pictured are children of Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) who resided in Halifax Co, NC. Source: Desmond Ellsworth

 

Mollie Evans
Mollie Evans (1892-1938) was the daughter of William Evans and Martha Richardson. She is also direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Mollie was married to Arch Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: GwendolynJohnson84