The purpose of this blog post is twofold: To put a spotlight on how tax lists are helpful for genealogical research and to encourage researchers to take full advantage of the North Carolina Wills and Probate collection made available on Ancestry. Recently while browsing through these records, I stumbled across a list of ‘Insolvent Taxpayers’ from 1810 mixed into a folder of wills. I immediately recognized the names of several Native/FPOC residents of Granville Co whom I research regularly, including my own direct and indirect ancestors.
North Carolina Tax Laws
In order to read and interpret North Carolina tax lists, it is vital to understand how the law determined who was taxable. This is a link which provides an overview of North Carolina tax laws as well as instructions on how to access original tax lists. The North Carolina State Archives houses tax lists prior to 1900, so it requires an in-person visit. Tax lists have not been digitized and are not available online through popular genealogy sites such as Ancestry and FamilySearch. (This is why the list of Granville County Insolvent Taxpayers from 1810 mixed into the Wills folders is a remarkable find).
Before the implementation of the modern income based tax system that we are all familiar with, North Carolina used to have a ‘Poll Tax’ system that was initiated in 1715. Free white males, 16 years of age and older were considered taxable. And all “free people of color”, both males and females, 12 years of age and older were considered taxable. This meant that FPOC had to pay more poll taxes than whites. In Granville County, there were petitions signed by FPOC and sympathetic whites, requesting that this unfair tax system be abolished. Consequently, some “free colored” men protested and refused to pay taxes on their wives and you will see notations in the tax lists which reflect that.
In 1784, North Carolina passed a new tax law which more or less, stayed in place with minor amendments until 1970. Here are the key features of the tax law:
All free men (both white men and men of color), ages 21 and over were required to pay a poll tax.
In 1801, the law was amended so that all free men, ages 21-50 were required to pay a poll tax. This meant that when a man turned 51, he was no longer taxable.
All slaves, ages 12-50 were taxable. Slave owners were responsible for paying taxes on their slaves. Slaves were also referred to as “black polls”.
In 1817, the law was further amended so that all free men, ages 21-45 were required to pay a poll tax. This meant that when a man turned 46, he was no longer taxable.
No matter the age, all men were required to pay taxes on their land. Therefore you will see tax lists which show men who are not assessed with a poll tax, and are only assessed with a property tax.
If you did not pay your poll tax, your name was added to the Insolvent Taxpayer List.
Though tax lists don’t specify the age of the individual listed, you can at least determine an age range if they were assessed with a poll tax. Therefore tax lists are helpful when you are trying to estimate the age of an individual you are researching. Another advantage is that tax lists are created yearly, whereas census records are created only every ten years. Much can happen in the span of ten years, so tax lists help fill in those gaps.
Mixed into Granville County Wills, Vol 7, 1808-1816 folder on Ancestry is where I found the list of insolvent taxpayers from 1810. In a previous blog post here, I provided detailed instructions on how to access this collection on Ancestry. The Wills and Probate Collection on Ancestry not only contains estate records but for some counties, this collection also includes apprenticeships, “Poor House” lists, some court orders and other official court documents. The availability of these records online varies considerably from one county to the next and these records are not at all consistently available for all years. Luckily for Granville, some of these miscellaneous files were mixed into the estate records. The problem is that none of these records are indexed which means they are not searchable, so you quite literally have to browse page by page in folders that contain thousands of pages. Joy!
However, when you do find these miscellaneous records, it is worth the time spent. After hours and hours of reading wills containing barely decipherable handwriting, I came across the following list of “Insolvent Taxpayers” from 1810:
An insolvent taxpayer refers to someone who failed to pay their taxes. So this is NOT a full list of taxpayers but rather a list of residents of Granville County who were supposed to pay taxes in 1810 but failed to do so. You can see from the second page that this document was produced and recorded in the August 1811 session of the Granville County court. There is also an additional note at the top of the page which indicates that some of these persons may have moved out of county which is why they did not pay taxes to the county that year.
There are two columns next to each individual name listed. The first column is “Free Poll” which refers to the unpaid poll tax of the individual named. The second column is “Slaves” and refers to individuals who failed to pay taxes on their slaves. What is omitted from these lists is additional biographical information such as age, race, occupation, marital status, etc. So though tax lists and insolvent tax lists are excellent primary source records, it can be tricky to identify exactly who is named on the list (especially if multiple people living in the same county share the same name).
Fortunately, I recognize the names of all the FPOC who are listed and I have transcribed their names below. And to ensure there is little confusion about the identities of the individuals listed, I have included a brief bio on each person.
Racey Bass – Born circa 1790 (though probably a year or two older because to be taxable he had to be 21 years of age). Son of Jesse Chavis and Milly Bass. Resided in the Abrams Plains area. You can read more about Racey’s father Jesse Chavis here and read more Racey’s brother Willis Bass here. Due to conflicting information, I was unclear about the gender of Racey Bass. However I now know Racey Bass was a male because he is named as a free poll in this tax list. (There are some examples where widowed women who act as head of household are taxable, but this is not the case for Racey Bass). Isaac Chavis – Born circa 1766, died before 1831. Son of James Chavis and Elizabeth Evans. Married and divorced Elizabeth Evans. Owned 150 acres of land in Abrams Plains district.
Sherwood Harris – Born circa 1761, died in 1831. Son of Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. A Revolutionary War veteran and you can read about him here. Resided in the Beaverdam district. (He is my 5th great-grandfather). Daniel Harris – Born circa 1785. Son of Sherwood Harris listed above him. He was likely living on Sherwood Harris’ land in Beaverdam district. (He is my 4th great-grandfather).
James Chavis “Shavers” – Born circa 1786. Son of Anthony Chavis and Betsy Evans. There was an older James Chavis (born circa 1744) living in Granville in the early 1800s. However, in 1810 that older James Chavis was exempt from paying taxes. James Chavis (born circa 1786) and several of his siblings moved to Chatham Co. where he married Nancy Bird. He later relocated to the “Lost Creek Community” in Vigo Co, IN. “Shavers” is an alternative spelling of “Chavis”, and James Chavis is documented in other census records with this alternative spelling.
Thomas Chavis – This is the same Thomas Chavis who was enumerated in the 1810 census in Granville Co, head of a household of 10 “free people of color” and 1 slave. I don’t have solid information that helps to identify more about his life and who his parents may have been. He resided next to Charles Chavis (below) who resided in Abrams Plains. The Chavises living in this area came from across the state border in Mecklenburg Co VA. Charles Chavis – This is the same Charles Chavis who was taxed in the Abrams Plains district in 1788 and enumerated in the Granville Co census in 1800 and 1810. He was married to Nancy Taborn and was the bondsman for the 1802 Granville Co marriage of Evans Chavis and Lucy Smith. Genealogist Paul Heinegg theorizes with no supporting documentation that he may be the “illegitimate” son of Hannah Francis and Philip Chavis. I do not concur and instead believe he is from the Mecklenburg Co, VA Chavises.
James Pettiford – He does not appear in any Granville Co census or marriage records, so I’m unsure of his age and who his parents were. He may have died shortly after this tax list or moved out of the county or state.
Elijah Valentine – Born circa 1770. I do not have parents identified for him. He was married to Polly Bass and lived in the Fishing Creek district.
William Anderson – Perhaps born circa 1789. Enumerated in the 1810 census of Granville, head of household of 7 “free people of color”. He was married to Elizabeth Pettiford. I have not identified his parents but he may have been a grandson of Lewis Anderson Jr (1743-before 1810).
Reuben Day – Born circa 1788. He was the son of Jesse Day and Prissy Bass. He later moved to Orange Co, NC.
Jacob Hawley – Not to be confused with the older Jacob Hawley listed below. I’m unsure of the age and parents of this Jacob Hawley. It’s possible he could be a son or closely related to Jacob Hawley Sr.
John Day – Born circa 1785. He was also enumerated in the 1810 census in Granville, head of a household of 2 “free people of color”. He may be a son of Jesse Day and Prissy Bass.
Jacob Hawley Sr – Born circa 1751, but if he was still considered a tithable in 1810, then he may actually be a few years younger. Died in 1817. Son of Joseph Hawley and Martha Harris. You can read more about the Hawley family here. Lewis Mitchell – This is probably the same Lewis Mitchell who was enumerated in the 1830 census in Granville, head of a household consisting of himself. I have found no marriage records for him and unable to identify his parents.
William Mitchell – Born circa 1775. Son of Archibald Mitchell and Selah Bass. He was married to Bythea Hedgepeth.
Dempsey Bass – Born circa 1781, died by 1828. Son of Edward Bass and Tamer Anderson. He was married to Phoebe Day. In 1810, he resided in the Oxford district and in the 1820 census was in the Ledge of Rock district. You can read more about the Bass family here.
Edward Mitchell – Born circa 1775. Son of Archibald Mitchell and Selah Bass. He was married to Mary Ann/Mariah Bass. He resided in the Tar River district.
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.
If you are using marriage records to simply document when and where your ancestors married, you are missing out on so much more information. In this blog post, I will provide some examples and give advice about how to maximize the information contained in marriage records. Granville is a county that thankfully did not suffer from major record loss when compared to other North Carolina counties, so it’s important to take full advantage of the written record left behind. I will also provide some general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors that I was able to observe by closely reviewing their marriage records.
Marriage Bonds and the Bondsman
In North Carolina, from the colonial era and up through about 1869, marriages in the state typically required a marriage bond to be posted. Marriage bonds were a formal guarantee between the potential groom and bride and the jurisdictional government that the couple was legally able to marry. The groom was accompanied by a bondsman who both signed their names to guarantee the marriage bond for a specific amount of money. No actual money was exchanged. The Legal Genealogist has a good blog post with additional information about marriage bonds.
Because the bondsman just like the groom, could potentially be legally held responsible if the marriage was unlawful, the bondsman was usually a relative or friend/neighbor of the groom or bride. This means marriage bonds contain potentially additional genealogical information. If the bondsman was a relative, this can help identify other family members of the married couple.
Over the course of my research, I have closely looked at hundreds, probably thousands of marriage bonds for our ancestors in Granville and nearby counties. I have observed that if the bondsman was a relative, he was most often either the father, uncle, brother, or brother-in-law of the groom or bride. I have identified bondsmen who were slightly more distant relatives like first cousins, but these instances were not nearly as common as the father, uncle, brother, and brother-in-law relationship.
Here is an example of a marriage bond:
So my recommendation is that every time you locate a marriage bond of your ancestors, make sure to record the name of the bondsman. After you do that, follow up to see if you can identify exactly who that bondsman was and if he had any family relationship to the groom or bride.
Here is another example of a marriage bond, where the bondsman was an uncle:
Transition to Standardized Marriage Licenses
In the years following the conclusion of the Civil War, North Carolina abandoned the marriage bond system in favor of more standardized marriage licenses. In this section, I’ll document some of the variety of marriage licenses you can expect to see from this time period. These marriage licenses typically offer a lot more biographical information about the groom and bride. Additional information may include: age, race/color, names of parents, witnesses to the marriage, location of marriage, the person who solemnized the marriage, and the residence of the groom and bride.
The Native American community in Granville was very tight knit and this can be seen in the marriage records which record the witnesses of the event. Witnesses were often family members and friends and so these marriage records offer an important insight into these kinship and social circles.
The marriage license for James H Tyler (1852-1919) and Sarah Virginia Scott (1858-1937) shows some familiar names included in the record. The marriage license indicates that both the groom and bride lived in “F.C.”, meaning Fishing Creek township – the heart of the Native American community in Granville. James Tyler was 25 years of age and Sarah Virginia Scott was 17 years of age. A “J.P.” (Justice of the Peace) named L.H. Cannady officiated the ceremony at John Scott’s home. John Scott (b. 1823) was the father of Sarah Virginia Scott. The witnesses to the marriage were David Day, Sarah Tyler, and Hawkins Kersey. All three people were from the community. David Day (b. 1837) was the from FPOC Day family, a core family. By 1879, he was widowed from Nancy Bass who may have been a close family member of Sarah Virginia Scott’s maternal grandmother Henrietta Bass (b. 1800). “Sarah Tyler” was James H Tyler’s mother Sarah/Sally (Kersey) Tyler (1828-1911). Hawkins Kersey (1854-1921) was originally born Hawkins Tyler, and was the son of Martha Jane Tyler (b. 1830) who was James H Tyler’s aunt. Hawkins, was then “adopted” by Baldy Kersey (James H Tyler’s uncle) and his surname was changed to Kersey. Baldy Kersey was the infamous outlaw and the subject of this blog post.
Another example of a marriage license with biographical information:
The 27 July 1872 Granville County marriage record of Lewis H Anderson (b. 1849) and Amanda W Anderson (1856-1920) also shows important biographical information. Lewis Anderson listed as 22 years of age resided in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Amanda Anderson age 18, resided in “O” (Oxford) township. The marriage took place at the New Hope Church which was one of several churches that serviced the community. Dennis Anderson (b. 1807), a member from the community, officiated the service. While browsing through the Granville County marriage records, I noted that Dennis Anderson officiated numerous marriages for people in the Native American community. Amanda W Anderson’s grandfather Jeremiah “Jerry” Anderson (1794-1875) was the older brother of Dennis Anderson, so Dennis Anderson was also a great uncle of the bride. Witnesses to the marriage were Arthur Bass, James Horner, and David Day. There were two Arthur Basses of adult age living in Granville County in 1872, so I’m uncertain which one is referred to here. James Horner (b. 1842) was not a FPOC. He was born enslaved but married into the Native American/FPOC community which likely why he was a witness. David Day (b. 1837) is the same man who was listed above as a witness to the marriage of James H Tyler and Sarah Virginia Scott.
And here is another example of a marriage record with important biographical information:
The 22 December 1874 marriage between James A Mayo (1847-1910) and Ida Howell (1855-1928) also includes a few notable people from the community. James Mayo is listed as being 22 years of age and residing in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Ida Howell is 16 years of age and also a resident of “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township. Cuffy Mayo (1800-1896) officiated the marriage. Cuffy was a very important person not only in the community but was also well respected by his white neighbors. He was a delegate to North Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention. The marriage took place at the home of Jane (Harris) Howell (b. 1817) who was Ida Howell’s mother. Witnesses to the marriage were Edward Allen, James E Howell, and William Tyler. I’m unsure who Edward Allen was. James E Howell (1840-1912) was Ida Howell’s brother and my 2nd great-grandfather. William Tyler (1825-1897) was another well respected member of the community and a cousin and neighbor to the Howell family. It is also worth mentioning that the groom and bride were first cousins. James Mayo’s mother Sally Harris was a sister to Ida Howell’s mother Jane Harris. First cousin marriages were not atypical at all for this very tight knit community.
Military Pension Files
Another excellent resource to use to help document marriages of our ancestors are military pension files. Many of the men in our community were soldiers in the Revolutionary War and if they lived long enough into their elder years, they typically filed applications for military pension benefits. If a soldier died before or while receiving pension benefits, his surviving widow could apply for a widow’s pension to continue to receive those payments.
In order to prove that a female applicant was the legal surviving widow of a soldier, she had to provide a copy of their marriage license as well as witness testimony from friends/relatives/neighbors to confirm the identity of the applicant. If a widow remarried, she was no longer entitled to her deceased husband’s benefits.
For example, my 5th great-grandmother Mary (Bass) Richardson (1757-1844) was the widow of two Revolutionary War soldiers: her first husband Elijah Bass (1743-1781) and her second husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Elijah Bass died while in service in the Revolutionary War, so Mary Bass remarried Benjamin Richardson at the conclusion of the war. Mary Bass was eligible to receive Benjamin Richardson’s military pension benefits. In order to do that, she applied for a widow’s pension – W.4061. In her application, Mary (Bass) Richardson provides the following testimony about her marriages:
That she was married to Elijah Bass who was a private in the Army of the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina line that he served as such for the period of two and a half years and Enlisted under Captain Bailey of the tenth Regiment. She further declared that she was married to the said Elijah Bass on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Seventy seven. That her husband the aforesaid Elijah Bass died (or was killed) in the aforesaid War at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on the 8th day of September 17 hundred & Eighty one. That she was afterward (to wit) on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Eighty three married to Benjamin Richardson who was a private in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War who served as such for the period of twelve months under Capts. Joel Wren, John White Jordan Harris & other officers.
So in her testimony, Mary (Bass) Richardson gives 14 February 1783 as the date she married Benjamin Richardson. A search of the Granville County marriage bonds, shows that Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass received a marriage bond on 13 February 1783 with Phillip Pettiford as the bondsman. This is consistent with the testimony that Mary (Bass) Richardson provided – they married the following day after receiving the marriage bond. If this marriage bond was no longer available due to record loss, Mary (Bass) Richardson’s testimony for her widow’s pension, serves as an excellent secondary source substitute record to document her marriage to Benjamin Richardson.
Another example is found in the widow’s pension application of my 5th great-grandmother Martha Patsy Harris (1770-1859). She was the widow of my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Martha Patsy’s maiden name is unknown because I have never been able to locate a marriage record for her and Sherwood Harris. However her widow’s pension does provide me with an approximate date of when and where they married. You can read transcribed portions of the application W.3984 here.
Included in Martha Patsy Harris’ widow application, is testimony from several white residents of Granville and Wake Counties who were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris and attended their wedding. Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) remembered attending the wedding and gave 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. Frances also gave additional information that the couple were married in Granville County by the Justice of the Peace named John Pope. Another personal friend named Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) also recalled attending the wedding and determined that it happened several years before 1793 (the birth year of his son). Martha Patsy Harris also testified that she recalled the wedding was in 1787, so the information given in all the testimonies is consistent. So without a marriage record, we can give the approximate marriage year for Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris as 1787. Having an exact date is certainly more desirable but an approximate date at least gives us something to work with.
So definitely make sure to read through the entire Revolutionary War pension files of your ancestors to help document their marriages. I have even found testimony that describes the actual wedding event – a detail that is not conveyed in marriage licenses. I recall reading a description of a wedding service that included fiddling and singing.
Land Deeds and Marriage
If you’ve searched high and low through marriage records and military pension files, and still cannot find leads on the marriages of your ancestors, here’s another source to consider: land deeds. Though land deeds do not specify an exact marriage event between a groom and bride, it does provide some clues about a recent marriage within the family. It was common for the families of the groom and bride to sell and purchase land from one another around the time of the marriage. There are a few possible reasons for this. For one, our community was very tight knit and land transactions were common within these close kinship circles. Marriages extended that kinship network of people to do business with and kept land ownership within the family. Another reason for these land transactions around the time of the marriage was that the groom desired to purchase land near his wife’s family to stay in close contact. If the groom was not already a land owner, his marriage into a new family provided an opportunity to became a land owner.
For example, my 4th great-grandfather Freeman Howell (1777-1870) had a daughter named Julia Howell (1797-1870). Julia Howell was married to Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) but I have never found a marriage record for the couple. I do have confirmation of their marriage through Freeman Howell’s estate records which specify how his estate was divided among his living heirs. Given the approximate ages of Nelson Cousins and Julia Howell’s children, I suspected that they were married around 1820. In 1824 in Granville County, the following land deeds were recorded between Julia Howell’s father Freeman Howell and Nelson Cousins’ brother Robert Cousins:
17 Jan 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
$150 in hand deed of Gift from Robert Cousins to Freeman Howell
2 Feb 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
Robert Cozen acknowledges a deed to Freeman Howell for a 120 acres of land which is ordered to be Registered
Source: Land deed notes transcribed by Jahrod Pender
Though these land deeds do not provide me with a date of a marriage event between a member of the Howell family and a member of the Cousins family, it does suggest that there is now a kinship relationship between these two families. This would be especially true if I find additional land deeds between the Howell and Cousins family during this period.
Another example of a land deed tied to a recent marriage is the example of my 6th great-grandparents Edward Harris (b. 1730) and Sarah Chavis (1730-1785). We believe that Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis married around 1750 according to the approximate ages of their children and 1750 being the first year that Sarah was listed as a tithable in Edward Harris’s household.
On 6 September 1756 (about 6 years after they married), Sarah Chavis’ father William Chavis made a deed of gift for 340 acres along Tabbs Creek in Granville County to Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. (Land deed transcribed and shared by Paul Heinegg). William Chavis (1709-1778) was a man I refer to as a community founder because he originally owned all of the land that makes up the core of the community. According to local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous 16 acres along the North side of the Tar River, going 5 miles inland. The land that William Chavis gifted to his new son-in-law Edward Harris was land which was part of this original plot that William Chavis owned. William Chavis likely wanted to guarantee that his daughter and her descendants would be well taken care of, for generations to come. So keep this in mind as you’re looking at land deeds to connect to marriage events.
Marriage Patterns and Observations
Finally I thought it would be good to create a list of my general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors. These are simply general patterns, so there will always be exceptions and variation. But with that said, I think you will find this helpful and a great reminder about the potential information you can gleam by closely observing marriage records.
ENDOGAMY! Our ancestors primarily practiced endogamous marriages, simply meaning that they limited marriages within the local community and people they already regarded as “kin”. As a result, I usually try to figure out if and how the groom and bride are related. It may be a blood connection through a more distant common relative, or it may be that they share cousins in common. But you will typically find some already existing family connection between the groom and bride.
Multiple Marriages. If a man or woman became widowed, you can typically expect for them to marry again. This is especially true if they still had minor children living at home. Another parent was needed to help raise and support those children, so it was not advantageous to remain widowed. These multiple marriages can create some complex family trees but it is important to document all of your ancestor’s marriages.
Keep track of a woman’s name changes. Following up on the point made above – each time a woman married, her surname changed. As a result, a bride’s surname listed on a marriage record may not be her original maiden name if she was previously married. Marriage records typically do not list if the bride was previously married, so it is up to you the research to investigate further.
Not all marriages were recorded. Some of our ancestors may not have went through with obtaining the proper license to legally marry. This means there will be no official record of the marriage. One possible explanation was that some people still married in a traditional, indigenous way. In the rejected Dawes and Eastern Cherokee applications of our ancestors, it’s not unusual to see references of ancestors marrying “the Indian way”, which usually meant not registered with the government. There were some who still adhered to indigenous cultural practices.
Native American/FPOC communities throughout NC were connected via kinship. Though most marriages happened directly within kinship circles of people geographically living within the same community, you will find marriages from people who live in two different neighboring or nearby communities. For example, my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell who lived in the Granville community married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia Richardson who lived a couple of counties over along the Halifax/Warren County border in the Haliwa-Saponi community. I found a trend of a few people from the Lumbee and Coharie community in Cumberland and Sampson County, move up to Orange/Alamance Counties and marry people from the Occaneechi-Saponi community. The reason for this is that all of these communities share at least some common ancestors from generations earlier and so they considered themselves all kin and socially acceptable to marry.
Girls who became orphaned, typically married young – in their teenage years. It’s important to remember that European colonists introduced an incredibly lopsided patriarchal society, that our ancestors had to quickly adapt to. Therefore if you were a girl who did not have a father to legally support and provide for you, you could find yourself in a vulnerable situation. Therefore it was in the best socio-economic interest of young girls who did not have fathers, to marry so they could benefit from their husband’s financial standing and land ownership. If you were a young woman still living at home on your father’s land, you had a bit more time before you needed to marry out.
If you have identified more marriage patterns of our ancestors and other ways to document marriages, please comment below.
The Grandfather Clause was an important component of the 1900 constitutional amendment restricting North Carolina’s class of eligible voters. The disfranchisement amendment provided that voters must be able to read and write a section of the state constitution in the English language and to pay a poll tax. Far from attempting to encourage literacy, however, the primary goal of the amendment, as admitted in the Democratic Party’s pro-amendment campaign in 1900, was to eliminate African American voters as a factor in North Carolina politics. The large number of poor illiterate black males, as well as the bias of white Democratic registrars, ensured that the literacy test and the poll tax would be used to reduce the electorate.
The drafters of the amendment were aware of the politically unacceptable fact that illiterate whites could also be excluded by the literacy test. The answer to this problem was the grandfather clause, which stated that no one should be denied the right to register and vote because of the literacy requirement if he or a lineal ancestor could vote under the law of his state of residence on 1 Jan. 1867, provided that he registered before 1 Dec. 1908. The 1867 date was important because it preceded any federal prohibition of racial discrimination; therefore very few blacks were eligible to vote. In practical terms, it meant that illiterate whites were absolved of the embarrassment of a literacy requirement and blacks were not, thus enhancing the discretionary power of Democratic registrars.
“Free people of color” in North Carolina had the right to vote and hold office until 1835, when North Carolina adopted a new constitution that disenfranchised ALL free people of color. With the new state constitution enacted in 1900, North Carolina adopted a policy of “poll taxes” which essentially made it impossible for people of color to vote. As you read in the above summary, these poll taxes also made it difficult for “poor whites” to vote because many were illiterate and could not afford to pay the poll tax.
As a result, North Carolina adopted a “grandfather clause” starting in 1900 which allowed for men to list themselves or a direct lineal male ancestor who could vote on January 1, 1867 (or earlier). By identifying themselves or an earlier direct ancestor as an eligible voter in 1867, these individuals were exempt from the poll tax.
Free people of color and those descended from free people of color took advantage of this grandfather clause in order to circumvent these literacy tests that were required to become an eligible voter. African Americans descended from slaves however were unable to take advantage of this grandfather clause because their ancestors for the most part were not eligible voters on January 1, 1867 (or earlier). However, free people of color had ancestors who were eligible voters in earlier times, so this grandfather clause provided a way to become registered to vote.
In 1902, 1904, 1906, and 1908, residents of Granville County who were eligible for the “grandfather clause” registered to vote. These lists are available to researchers for every county in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. A fellow researcher and friend, Dr. Warren Milteer, provided me with un-transcribed copies of the Granville County list. A huge thanks to Dr. Milteer for sharing this incredibly valuable information. Not only do these lists provide the names of all who applied for the “grandfather clause”, they are also helpful genealogical documents since individuals named earlier direct ancestors. The voter lists are a great way to verify suspected earlier ancestors of the person you’re researching. And if you hit a genealogical road block, these lists may help you push through to identify an earlier ancestor.
WORD OF CAUTION: Just like all historical documents, you may find both intentional and unintentional errors in these documents. So they should be seen as just one of many clues to help you identify earlier ancestors. I have noticed a couple of errors in the lists for Granville County. For example, Hawkins Kersey (also known as Hawkins Tyler) listed his adopted father Baldy Kersey as a direct ancestor. Baldy Kersey was most definitely known as Hawkins’ “father”, but was not his biological father. Another example is found with Sandy Guy. On every census, marriage, and death record, Sandy is consistently identified as “Sandy Guy”. However on his voter registration, he listed himself as “Sandy Chavis”. I have no idea why he used a different surname for his voting application but I can assure you that Sandy Chavis = Sandy Guy.
Below is a table chart which lists all free people of color (and those descended from people of color) in Granville County who registered to vote using the “grandfather clause”. I only transcribed the records for free people of color, so this list does not reflect all people who applied using the “grandfather clause”. The first column is the name of the applicant, the second column is their listed age, the third column is the ancestor they claimed descent from, and the fourth column is the township they resided in. I added an additional column where I provided my own research notes to help you identify exactly who these individuals are. As you will see there are a couple of individuals who I’m still working on researching. I will update this list if I come across additional information. Also please note that this list is only for Granville County. Many people within the Granville County Native American community lived in Kittrell and Henderson townships and those townships became apart of Vance County in 1881. Therefore residents of those townships will be found in the Vance County list. What you will notice is a heavy concentration of individuals living in Fishing Creek township which is where most of the community resided.
After the list, you will see a few photos I added of the people who applied to register to vote under the “grandfather clause”. On a personal note, I was very delighted to see my great-great grandfather James E Howell registered to vote. I hope this information is valuable to your research.
I have a major update and correction to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. This is a big breakthrough for Chavis, Gibson, and Granville County researchers. And what I will discuss below is a major correction to the genealogy that researcher Paul Heinegg has provided for Jesse Chavis. As I’ve shown in other blog posts, researchers sometimes conflate the records of multiple people who happen to share the same name into a single person. I can confirm that Jesse Chavis of Granville County was NOT the son of Elizabeth Chavis of Amelia and Mecklenburg Counties, VA. Instead Jesse Chavis was from the family of Granville community founders William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson.
The Wrong Jesse Chavis
In his section on the Chavis family, Paul Heinegg wrote about a woman named Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) who lived in southside Virginia and was the mother of several children born out of wedlock. On 13 November 1769, Elizabeth Chavis had a son named Jesse Chavis who was bound out. No other information is provided as to what happened to Jesse Chavis after he was bound out. As you can see from the text above, no additional records are provided on this Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County. What Heinegg then does is assume that a Jesse Chavis who appears in the Granville County records is the same Jesse Chavis who was bound out in Mecklenburg County. This is not an unfair assumption to make because Mecklenburg County shares an important border with Granville County and many of the Native families in Granville that I have discussed came from Mecklenburg. However Heinegg provides no records to demonstrate that the Jesse Chavises are indeed the same person. In the following sections, I will examine the records of Jesse Chavis more closely and present some new records that I found which help to sort out this mix up.
The Family of William Chavis (1709-1777)
I have referenced William Chavis (1709-1777) many times in previous blog posts though I have yet to write a full blog solely dedicated to him. The reason for this is that I’m still gathering and analyzing records related to William Chavis. He is such an important ancestor not only for Granville County but for other Native communities as well, so I want to make sure I get it right.
William Chavis was the original land owner of a massive, continuous tract of land that he likely received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville in the 1740s. Local Granville/Vance County historian Oscar W. Blacknall(1852-1918) wrote about the Native American identity of William Chavis and his massive land holdings which I previously discussed here. It is the Chavis land tract that provided the original land base for the Native community. William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson(1700-1780),who was the daughter of Gibby Gibson (1660-1727) originally from the Charles City County, VA area. Before marrying William Chavis, Frances Gibson had a son named John Smith.
Perhaps most importantly, William Chavis was part of a group of Saponi Indians who were documented several times in the colonial records in the 1750s and 1760s, living in Granville County next to the land of Indian trader Col. William Eaton. I have previously blogged about these records here and here. I can’t stress enough how important this documentation is for establishing that not only were these individuals identified as Saponi, but they were collectively identified as a recognized Saponi Nation. These were not random individuals living together who just happened to be Native Americans. These were individuals that were deeply connected through a shared national identity. And these documents are from the 1750s/1760s which is many decades after the closure of Fort Christanna located in Brunswick County, VA which was the site of the Saponi reservation that the colony established.
Together William Chavis and Frances Gibson had the following children (birth dates are approximations):
1. Phillip Chavis(b. 1726)– executor of his father William Chavis’ estate and sold what was left of his father’s land. Philip moved around a lot between North Carolina and South Carolina, eventually settling in Bladen Co (later Robeson Co). He is the common ancestor of the Chavises of the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora of Robeson County.
2. Sarah Chavis(1730-1785)– married to Edward Harris and received a parcel of her father William Chavis’ land which her children later sold. Many of Sarah’s descendants remained in Granville and Wake Counties. Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris were also my 6th great-grandparents.
3. Gibby/Gideon Chavis (1737-1777)– namesake of Gibbs Creek in Granville/Vance Co off of the Tar River. He was married to Ann Priddy and because he died somewhat young (according to historian O.W. Blacknall, he was killed as a result of a horse race), his three children were looked after by his widow’s family. One of his sons named William Chavis eventually moved away by 1785 to South Carolina or Georgia (according to a letter written to the British Claims Commission). Heinegg guesses but does not firmly assert that Gibby’s son William Chavis married Sarah Kersey in 1790 and lived in Wake Co but this is not correct. After William Chavis sold his father Gibby Chavis’ land in 1785, he moved out of state.
4. William Chavis Jr (b. 1741)– was married to a woman named Ellender (maiden name not known) and by the 1780s, relocated down to Bladen (Robeson ) Co with his brother Philip Chavis. It is unknown if he had any surviving children.
5. Lettice Chavis(1742-1814)– was married to Aquilla Snelling and their descendants are mostly found in neighboring Wake Co and some relocated to Tennessee and Kentucky.
6. Keziah Chavis(b. 1742) – was married to Asa Tyner. Asa Tyner and his father-in-law William Chavis had a very tumultuous relationship which will be discussed in more detail below. Keziah’s descendants remained in Granville Co and many later moved out to Stokes/Forsyth Cos, NC.
7. Fanny Chavis – she appears on a tax list in her father William Chavis’ household in 1761 but nothing is known about her after that and she is not named in William Chavis’ estate papers.
Because William Chavis was a substantial land owner, tax payer, and had a close relationship with Indian trader Col. William Eaton, his children are well documented since they all at some point owned parcels of their father’s land and/or appear in his estate papers.
Newly Discovered Records for Jesse Chavis
William Chavis died in 1777 and his estate papers are digitized and available on Ancestry.com. Please be aware that the index for Ancestry’s North Carolina Wills and Probate collection is not so accurate, so the stop and end points of folders are not indexed properly and there are pages from different folders mixed in together. William Chavis’ estate papers are a necessary read if you are a William Chavis descendant and/or researcher. Heinegg only makes brief references to the content of the estate papers and so they are definitely worth a look because you will learn a lot more.
So while I was reviewing William Chavis’ estate papers, I came across a very interesting page. It was a court order from 5 February 1777 that called for several people to report to court to settle William Chavis’ will. The following people are named to report to court: Frances Chavers (William Chavis’ widow), Phillip Chavers (William Chavis’ son and executor of the estate), Anna Chavers (I’m not yet sure who she is), Joseph Hill, John Nevil, William Mills, John Kittrell, William Ashley, and Major Evans (from the Native America/”free colored” Evans family who intermarried and had several land transactions with the Chavises). And scribbled in between these names is a “Jesse Chavers”. (Chavers is another common spelling of Chavis).
The court order does not specify Jesse Chavis’ relationship with the deceased William Chavis but I found another page in the estate files that does help clarify. William Chavis owned a lot of land and property, so it took a number of years to finally settle his estate. His widow Frances (Gibson) Chavis died in 1780 which likely added to the complications of William Chavis’ estate. A page dated 9 Aug 1780 named Jesse Chavis as an orphan of William Chavis, deceased, and ordered that Jesse Chavis be bound out to Thomas Person until the age of 21 years.
Perhaps the reason why Jesse Chavis was not originally bound out in 1777/78 when William Chavis died was that Frances (Gibson) Chavis was still living and was financially secure from her husband’s estate to raise Jesse. But when Frances died in 1780, Jesse Chavis was truly orphaned.
However, with that said, I don’t believe that Jesse Chavis was William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son despite being called their “orphan”. For one, Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s since he was still a minor in 1780. Frances was born around 1700, making her too old to give birth in the 1760s. And second, in the many estate records dealing with transfer of land ownership and with companies attempting to collect outstanding debts from William Chavis’ estate, Jesse is never mentioned as a son to potentially collect debt from. William Chavis’ sons are consistently listed as Phillip, Gibson, and William Jr.
So if Jesse Chavis was not William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son, then what was his relationship? I believe the most likely scenario is that he was their grandson that they were raising. I’m not 100% certain which of William Chavis’ children was Jesse Chavis’ parent, but we can definitely eliminate a few. Again, keep in mind that Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s and based on other biographical information discussed later, I have estimated his birth at around 1766.
Phillip Chavis was married to wife Celia before Jesse was born, was living in Bladen County and then South Carolina around the time of Jesse’s birth, and lived long past his father William’s death, so he’s not a candidate.
Sarah Chavis was married to Edward Harris by about 1750, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Gibby/Gideon Chavis died in 1777, however Gibby’s children were named in their maternal grandfather Robert Priddy’s will. Gibby’s own will which was written in 1777 only names one son named William, so we can rule him out.
William Chavis Jr moved down to the Bladen (Robeson) Co area in the 1770s and lived long after his father died, so he doesn’t seem to be a possibility.
Lettice Chavis was married to Aquilla Snelling by 1761 and her children are named in her will, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Keziah Chavis was married to Asa Tyner in 1766 (according to tax lists and testimony from William Chavis’ estate papers). If Jesse was born before Keziah Chavis married Asa Tyner, then it is a possibility. I will explore this some more below.
And finally there is Fanny Chavis who we know very little about because she only appears in a tax list once in 1761 and no additional records for her. It’s quite possible she was Jesse’s mother and she died a short time after, thus Jesse’s grandparents raised him.
Mixed in with William Chavis’ estate papers, I found a sworn deposition provided by Joshua Hunt on 9 August 1780. Mr. Hunt was a witness to a proposed marriage contract some 15 years earlier between William Chavis and his future son-in-law Asa Tyner. It appears Asa Tyner never received his payments from William Chavis and sued the estate to be fully compensated. According to Joshua Hunt, William Chavis offered Asa Tyner: 500 £, two slaves (“Dick” and “Dilcie”), 644 acres of land that included two plantations, a large quantity of cattle and hogs, and an assortment of household items if he married William’s daughter Keziah Chavis.
Offering a dowry to marry off a daughter was certainly not unheard of for this time period, but that is quite a lot to offer to pay. I don’t know if William Chavis made similar offers to his other son-in-laws such as Edward Harris or Aquilla Snelling. So this leaves me wondering why he offered so much? Could it be that Keziah Chavis was already an unwed mother to Jesse Chavis, so William had to offer more to persuade Asa Tyner to marry her? We also know from court records that Heinegg provided, that when William Chavis was still living, he and Asa Tyner were involved in a number of legal disputes. So it appears they had a hostile relationship and some of it may stem from William Chavis never fully compensating Asa Tyner for marrying Keziah.
So at this time, my best leads are that Jesse Chavis was a son of either Fanny Chavis or Keziah Chavis. Hopefully additional research will clarify exactly who Jesse’s parents were.
Jesse Chavis and His Family
Let’s continue reviewing the additional records that Heinegg provided for Jesse Chavis and you will see they are consistent with him being from William Chavis’ family. In 1787, Jesse Chavis was a tithable in Hugh Snelling’s Granville County household. 1787 is also the year that Jesse Chavis was 21 years old, so his indenture to Thomas Person was over. Hugh Snelling was a grandson of William Chavis through his daughter Lettice Chavis and her husband Aquilla Snelling. Aquilla Snelling was deceased by 1779, so oldest son Hugh Snelling acquired most of his parent’s possessions. Hugh was a substantial land owner in Granville County and it makes sense that Jesse Chavis would reside with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. This is yet another confirmation that the Jesse Chavis of Granville County was not the same Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County.
By 1790, Jesse Chavis was the head of his own household in the Fishing Creek district of Granville County. Fishing Creek was the heart of the Native community and the location of most of William Chavis’ family and their land holdings. In August 1794, Jesse Chavis was charged with having an “illegitimate child” with Nelly Bass.Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were his securities for the “bastard bond”. Nelly, Absalom and Benjamin were from the Native American/”free colored” Bass family that I previously blogged about here. Absalom and Benjamin were brothers and Nelly was likely their sister or niece which is why they were the sureties for the bond. I don’t know the name or gender of the child that Jesse Chavis had with Nelly Bass or what happened with that child.
In his Jesse Chavis discussion, Heinegg included a record from 8 April 1798 which states a Jesse Chavis of Petersburg sold 8 heads of cattle in Granville County. This is most likely a different Jesse Chavis, perhaps the one living in Mecklenburg Co or yet another Jesse Chavis that was contemporary to one we are discussing. The fact that the record says this Jesse Chavis was of Petersburg, indicates that he was not local and instead was from Petersburg and came to Granville County to sell cattle.
In the 1790s, Jesse Chavis also fathered an “illegitimate child” with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). The name of that child was Henry Anderson (1790-1850). We know this because Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and Darling’s will makes mention of his step-son Henry Anderson. Rhody Anderson was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr(1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Winnie Bass was a sister of Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass discussed above and Lewis Anderson Jr. was from the Anderson family that I blogged about here.
Jesse Chavis was a tithable in 1802 and appears in the Granville County census in 1810, 1820, and 1830. His 1810 household included 6 people which would indicate that by 1810 Jesse was married and had several children (the 1810 census does not provide age and sex of household members). In 1820, Jesse is listed in the Fishing Creek district and is the head of a household of 8 people. In this census we can see the age and gender breakdown of the household and it appears to include Jesse, 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls ages 14 and under), and 3 women in the same age range as Jesse. One woman is likely a wife but I’m unsure who the other 2 women are. Perhaps siblings or in-laws or even a mistake by the enumerator.
In 1830, Jesse Chavis is the head of a household of 5 people (Ancestry has this incorrectly indexed as 15 people). The household looks to include Jesse (age 55 or over), a wife (female age 55 or over), two adult sons (one age 24-36 age, one age 36-55), and a daughter (age 10-24). Though the 1830 census did not name districts, I know from looking at Jesse Chavis’ neighbors that he was still in Fishing Creek. In fact he is listed two households over from my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Sherwood Harris (who was the son of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris) and Jesse Chavis were first cousins.
1830 is the last census that Jesse Chavis appears in, so he died sometime before the 1840 census. I do not have a precise date of his death and have not located a will or estate papers for him.
We do know that Jesse Chavis was married at least once. On 2 May 1812, he married Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Interestingly, Darling Bass was the bondsman for the marriage, so Jesse appears to have been on good terms with his son Henry Anderson’s step-father. Nancy Mitchell was the wife living in Jesse’s household in the 1820 and 1830 censuses, but she couldn’t have been with him in the 1810 census as that was before they were married in 1812. Recall that the 1810 census included 6 individuals in the household, so Jesse Chavis was most likely married before Nancy Mitchell and had children with that wife. I have not located any other marriage records for Jesse, so I don’t know the identity of this first wife.
I did find Jesse’s widow Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in the Beaver Dam district in Granville County. Beaver Dam is right below Fishing Creek, on the other side of the Tar River and was a location that some of the Fishing Creek community members moved into, including other descendants of William Chavis.
In the 1850 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown living with a Redding Chavis, age 49 years and a married couple – Benjamin Anderson age 60 and Franky Anderson age 52. Redding Chavis was Jesse Chavis’ son from his first unknown wife since he was born in 1801, which is before the 1812 marriage date with second wife Nancy Mitchell. Franky Anderson’s maiden name was Franky Mitchell and she was Nancy Mitchell’s daughter from before marrying Jesse Chavis. In the 1830 census, Franky Mitchell’s husband Benjamin Anderson is also shown only living two households away from Jesse Chavis. Benjamin Anderson was also the younger brother of Rhody Anderson, the woman who Jesse Chavis had a child with.
In the 1860 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown again living with her step-son Redding Chavis in Beaver Dam district in Granville Co. That is the last time she appears in the census, so she died sometime before 1870. Redding Chavis was never married but he did father a child with Fanny Harris b. 1815 named Emily Harris (1834-1907). Fanny Harris was also a descendant of William Chavis, and in fact Redding Chavis and Fanny Harris were second cousins. Emily Harris married Thomas Evans(1827-1911) and their family like many other Saponi families from Granville County, relocated to Ohio and later Michigan where the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation are today.
So to recap, Jesse Chavis was from the family of William Chavis and Frances Gibson and most likely a grandson of theirs. He was bound out to Thomas Person and then lived with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. He had a child with Nelly Bass, a child with Rhody Anderson named Henry Anderson, a first unknown wife with whom he had at least one son named Redding Chavis, and then later married Nancy Mitchell.
Looking at his household numbers in the census records, it’s quite apparent Jesse Chavis had other children. He likely had more children with his first unknown wife and children with his second wife Nancy Mitchell.
I can confirm that William Chavis (1801-1854) was a son of Jesse Chavis. And given his approximate birth date of 1801, he would be from Jesse Chavis’ first unknown wife. Census records and tax lists place William Chavis in very close proximity to where Jesse Chavis and his known family lived in the 1830s and 1840s. William Chavis married Delilah Guy (1819-1860) on 16 Oct 1834 and the Guy family as well lived in Fishing Creek and were neighbors to Jesse Chavis. William Chavis’ will makes mention of giving his mother title to the land that she was already living on in the Beaver Dam district. The text of the will was transcribed by fellow Granville County researcher Jahrod Pender:
Will of William Chavis
Jan. 26 1854 proved Feb. Court 1854
William Chavis wills to his mother the land in Beaverdam district where she now lives for her life then to my wife if she be living and if not to my children; To wife Delilah Chavis, for life or widowhood, all else I own but if she marry again then to be taken over by my excr. For use of my wife and children, and after her death to all my children.
Exrs. Col Lewis Parham
Wts W.W Dement, W H Paschall.
Though the will does not give the name of William Chavis’ mother, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is the only elder female Chavis who is listed in the census for Beaver Dam district in 1850 and 1860. Nancy was actually his step-mother but was the mother that raised him for most of his life since she married his father Jesse Chavis when William was about 10 years old. And this explains why in the census records for 1850 and 1860, Nancy was the head of the household and not her adult step-son Redding Chavis who resided with her.
I hope this blog post was informative and clarifies exactly who Jesse Chavis of Granville County was. I especially hope it’s a helpful reminder for researchers to be patient with the records and to carefully review all of the content. This is the best way to avoid mistakes such as conflating records of different individuals.
This is a special blog post for me because Freeman Howell (1777-1870) was my 4th great-grandfather. He was also the progenitor of all of the Native American/”free colored” Howells living in Granville, Orange, Person, and Alamance Cos so it is important to correctly identify all of his descendants. Freeman Howell’s descendants married into most of the Native families in and around Granville, including: Pettiford, Anderson, Evans, Curtis, Brandon, Cousins, Tyler, Day, Richardson, Goins, Bass, Chavis, Guy, Hedgepeth and more. Thus if you are also researching these families, you’ll want to keep reading.
What has recently aided me in documenting Freeman’s descendants are the new wills and probate records that are available on Ancestry.com. These records have helped me verify his family as well as add in new family members I was previously unaware of.
Freeman’s father Matthew Howell died in 1793, and as a result Freeman and his siblings were bound out as apprentices in the Charlotte County courts on June 3, 1793 to William Flood (1752-1806):
On 3 June 1793 the Charlotte County court bound her (Peggy Howell) “Mulatto” children Freeman, John and Peggy Howell to William Flood“
William Flood (1752-1806) was from the Native American/”free colored” Flood family and I suspect that he was Freeman Howell’s maternal uncle. Like the Howells, William Flood moved from Amelia Co, VA to Charlotte and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Also Freeman’s brother Matthew B Howell (b. 1784) married for a second time William Flood’s daughter Mary “Polly” Flood b. 1796 which would have been a first cousin marriage – a somewhat common occurrence in the community during this time period. So this would mean that Freeman’s mother Peggy Howell was originally Peggy Flood. If I find more evidence to support this theory, I’ll be sure to update this blog post.
Freeman Howell’s niece Betsy Howell (1814-1912) relocated her family to Gallia Co, Ohio where their descendants are “core” families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation. Betsy’s son Wesley Howell (b. 1843) was a know medicine man:
Over the next few years, Freeman Howell appears in the tax lists for Charlotte County. He then appears in the tax lists for neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA. It is there that he likely marries his wife Susan (Maiden name unknown) 1777-1870. Regrettably, I have not been able to locate their marriage record so I cannot say for certain what year they married or have confirmation of Susan’s maiden name. I have speculated in the past that Susan may have been the Susan Brandon who was the daughter of Thomas Brandon (1746-1834) and Margaret Evans/Walden (b. 1753, she used both surnames) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Freeman Howell appears on the same tax lists as his potential father-in-law Thomas Brandon in Mecklenburg Co. He is counted in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA, head of a household of 8 “free colored persons”. However, I am still looking for more solid documentation on Susan, so these connections aren’t solid yet.
In the 1820s, a number of Saponi families including the Howells, Brandons/Branhams, Guys, Cousins and Chavises living in Mecklenburg Co, VA moved just a couple of miles across the border to Granville Co, NC. There may have been a particular historical event that precipitated this move because I don’t think it was a coincidence that all these families moved into Granville’s Native community in the 1820s. The first records for Freeman Howell in Granville County are in 17 Jan 1824 and 2 Feb 1824, when he received $150 and a land deed from Robert Cousins (b. 1796). Robert Cousins was the brother of Freeman’s son-in-law Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson Cousins was married to Freeman’s daughter Julia Howell (1797-1870).
Freeman Howell’s household, which included his wife Susan and children, appears in the Granville County census in 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860. By 1870, Freeman was deceased but he did not leave a will. And this is where the estate records help identify Freeman’s heirs, so let’s take a look.
Freeman Howell’s Estate Records
Lewisford A. Paschall (also known as Lunsford Paschall and L.A. Paschall), Granville County’s clerk was assigned as administrator of Freeman Howell’s estate on 19 Nov 1870. As administrator, he was responsible for selling Freeman’s assets which included 100 acres of land and any personal property. After paying off any outstanding debts, the remaining balance was to be divided among Freeman’s living heirs. On 2 Oct 1871, Freeman’s 100 acres of land was sold to his white neighbor John Greenway for $499 cash.
After paying off Freeman’s debts with the $499 received for the land sale, administrator L.A. Paschall had a remaining balance of $117.17 to be divided among Freeman’s heirs. A white woman named Milly Wilkerson(1810-1879) received a judgement of $210.82 against Freeman Howell’s estate which accounted for most of Freeman’s debt. I’m unsure of Milly’s exact relationship to Freeman, but in the 1850 census she was residing in his household. Milly Wilkerson was a single woman, but she had children with Native American/”free colored” men from the community. I know one man was Burton Cousins because he paid for her “bastard bond” in Feb 1835, but maybe she was also involved with a Howell. After all the debts were paid, an additional $25.60 was paid to county clerk Calvin Betts which brought down the remaining balance further.
Each of Freeman Howell’s children received $9.45. His son James Howell received $10.08 and I’m unsure why he received slightly more money. Because Freeman Howell lived to be almost 100 years old, he outlived many of his children. So the shares for his deceased children were divided among their living heirs. For example, Freeman Howell’s son John Howell was deceased but had 11 living children, so each child received 1/11 of $9.45 which equaled 85 cents.
Some of Freeman Howell’s children signed over their shares to pay off outstanding debts, and this included the estates of some of Freeman Howell’s deceased children. For example, Freeman’s daughter Elizabeth (Howell) Fain who was still living, signed over her $9.45 to A.H. Bumpass. And the estate for Freeman Howell’s deceased son William Howell signed over his share to James Amis.
What also further complicated the distribution of Freeman Howell’s estate was that many of his heirs had relocated to other counties and to the state of Ohio where many other Saponi descendants had resettled. Today they are the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation. As a result, administrator L.A. Paschall was required to publish in the newspaper the names of Freeman Howell’s heirs who had moved away to alert them of the land sale. For example:
In the account book for the Freeman Howell’s estate, we can see that his heirs who were still local received their cash share from the sale of his land. It also appears that those who had moved away and lost contact did not receive their shares. Here is the account for Freeman Howell’s estate:
Freeman Howell’s Descendants:
In the following sections, I will provide an overview of Freeman Howell’s descendants. This is a chart of Freeman Howell’s children, more detailed charts are included in the sections below.
1. Julia Howell (1797 – 1870)
Julia Howell was the wife of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA next to his father-in-law Freeman Howell. In 1830 and 1840, Nelson is counted in the Granville Co census. And by 1850, the family moved next door to Person Co, NC.
Starting in the 1860s, several of Julia Howell and Nelson Cousin’s children relocated to Ross Co, Ohio. And Julia Howell herself joined her children in Ohio because her death was recorded in Ross Co, OH on April 15, 1870.
Julia (Howell) Cousins’ children who relocated to Ohio were: John Cousins (1820-1891), Edmund Cousins (1824-1886), Robert Cousins (1830-1907), Elizabeth (Cousins) Day (b. 1832), Wiley Cousins (b. 1836) and William Cousins (b. 1838). The children who remained in North Carolina were: Frederick I Cousins (b. 1817), Emily (Cousins) Day (b. 1827), and Nelson Cousins Jr (b. 1844).
Because Julia predeceased her father, her share was divided among her heirs and her three children who remained in North Carolina each received a share of $1.33 of Freeman Howell’s estate. $9.45 divided by 7 shares, is $1.35. This indicates 7 living heirs of Julia (Howell) Cousins and according to my records, Elizabeth (Cousins) Day and William Day were deceased by 1870. And that would leave 7 living heirs.
Son Edmund Cousins (1824-1886) lived long enough to file a Civil War pension in 1881 and his widow Julia Cousins filed one in 1890. If you’re a descendant of his, you’ll want to order the file from the War Department.
And son John Cousins (1820-1891) also fought in the Civil War and filed a pension in 1879 and his widow Martha (Hansberry) Cousins filed in 1892.
2. Elizabeth Howell (1801- about 1874)
Elizabeth Howell was the wife of James Fain (b. 1789), a man who was born enslaved but became emancipated in 1822. There is likely no official record of their marriage because of James Fain’s enslaved status, but any children born to them would be free because Elizabeth Howell was a free-born woman. James Fain’s brother was Jacob Fain (1775-1837) and a transcription of his emancipation record in 1805 can be found here. Jacob Fain’s widow Sally Fain, named James Fain as her husband’s brother in her 1814 will that was proved in 1854. A transcription can be found here.
From the census records it appears Elizabeth (Howell) Fain and her husband James Fain resided in Jacob and Sally Fain’s household in 1820, 1830, and 1840. In the 1850 census, Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided next to their sister-in-law Sally Fain. By 1870, Elizabeth (Howell) Fain was widowed and residing in Person Co, NC. She died in 1879, when her estate was administered by A.H. Bumpass. This is the same man who Elizabeth signed over her $9.45 share from Freeman Howell’s estate to several years earlier. Elizabeth’s estate was divided among James H Cousins, Fanny (Cousins) Davis, William A Cousins, and Sally Ann Cousins.
Because Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided with their brother/sister-in-law Jacob and Sally Fain, I’ve had difficulties differentiating their children. There’s a strong possibility that James Fain and Elizabeth Howell’s son was William Fain (b. 1824) who married Arabella Wilkerson (b. 1832) on 8 Nov 1848 in Granville Co. Freeman Howell’s son Alexander Howell 1811-1881) paid the bond. Arabella Wilkerson was a daughter of the previously mentioned Milly Wilkerson, a white woman who lived with Freeman Howell.
3. William Howell (1804- before 1860)
William Howell married Margaret Pettiford (b. 1805) on 22 Mar 1828 in Granville Co, NC. Burton Cousins was the bondsman. William Howell appears in the 1830 and 1840 censuses for Granville Co. In 1850 his household was in Caswell Co, NC. With Magaret Pettiford, William Howell had three children: Freeman Howell b. 1830, John Howell b. 1834, and Margaret Howell b. 1838. His wife Margaret died sometime before 1858 because on 30 Dec 1858, William Howell remarried Parthena Cousins b. 1833 in Person Co. With Parthena Cousins, William Howell had one additional son: Asa Howell (1860-1929).
William Howell died around 1860, so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. William Howell’s estate received the $9.45 share and signed it over to James Amis:
William Howell’s son Freeman Howell (b. 1830) lived in Hillsboro, Orange Co and Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the present day Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation tribal members. He was married to Eliza Simmons (b. 1820) who was originally from Fayetteville, Cumberland Co and had been previously married to Henry Goins. After Goins death, Eliza and her three daughters relocated to Alamance Co and she married Freeman Howell.
William Howell’s son John Howell (b. 1834) also lived in Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. John Howell does not appear to have ever married or had children. He last appears in the census in 1900.
And William Howell’s youngest son Asa Howell (1860-1929) lived most of his life in Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. He was married three times: Dora Norwood (b. 1860), Virginia Crews (b. 1875) , and Nancy Howell (1871-1949).
4. Edward Howell (1805-1874)
Edward Howell was not married and did not have any children. He appears in the 1850 and 1870 censuses for Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co, NC which is where the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation is located. He received his $9.45 share of his father Freeman Howell’s estate. Edward died in 1874 and because he did not have any children, his estate was divided among his siblings and their living heirs. The administrator of Edward Howell’s estate published a notice in the newspaper regarding the estate.
5. John Howell (1805-1867)
John Howell married Jane Harris (1817-before 1900) on 5 Aug 1836 in Granville Co. He then appears in the census for Granville Co in 1840, 1850, and 1860. John died around 1867 and so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. Jane (Harris) Howell continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and assisted in raising her grandchildren.
John Howell and Jane Harris had 11 children: Julia Howell (b. 1838), James E Howell (1840-1912), Indiana Howell (b. 1842), Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914), Harvey Howell (b. 1846), Christopher C Howell (1848-1920), Sally Howell (1850-1923), Missouri Howell (1851-1918), Joanna Howell (b. 1852), Ida Howell (1855-1928), and Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858). Each of John Howell’s 11 living heirs received a share of the $9.45 payment which came to 85 cents but not all came to collect their shares.
Julia Howell (b. 1838) was married to Henry Chavis (1815-1882) and continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. James E Howell (1840-1912) was my 2nd great-grandfather and he was married first to Betsy Ann Tyler (1851-1869) on 6 Apr 1867 but she died soon after. He next married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson (1850-before 1880) on 11 Nov 1869 in Warren Co and they had three children: Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942), Francis Ellen Howell (1872-1923), and Lucy J Howell (1873-1952). Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson Howell died and James E Howell remained a widow until he remarried Mary McGlemdon on 9 Aug 1887 in Granville Co and had one additional son William Isaac Howell (b. 1891). James E Howell spent his entire life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and was once nominated as county coroner on the Radical Republican ticket.
Indiana Howell (b. 1842) was married to William Kersey(b. 1939) and lived in Townesville on the current Vance/Granville Co border. All of their children relocated to Brockton, MA by 1900. Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914) was first married to Aaron Curtis (1842-1883) and had a son named Harvey Curtis (b. 1885) who moved to New Haven, CT. She became widowed and second married John Green (1850-1915).
Harvey Howell (b. 1846) moved up to Danville, VA and married a woman named Sallie Burnett (b. 1848). Christopher C Howell (1848-1920) married Harriet Goins (b. 1850) and lived his whole life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. He owned an insurance company named Masonic Insurance and most of his children relocated to Brockton, MA and New Haven, CT.
Sally Howell (1850-1923) was first married to Lunsford Williford (b. 1847) and second married James Berry Cousins (1854-1926). She lived in Granville Co her entire life. Missouri Howell (1851-1918) was not married but had two daughters Plummer Howell (1880-1930) and Mittie Howell (b. 1888) born out of wedlock.
Joanna Howell (b. 1852) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m not sure what happened to her after that and if she married and had children. Ida Howell (1855-1928) married James Mayo (1847-1910) on 22 Dec 1874 and continued to live in Granville Co. Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m certain if she married and had children.
6. Matthew Howell (1806 – before 1860)
Matthew Howell married Mary Pettiford (b. 1807) on 29 Mar 1831. He appears in the 1850 census for Alamance Co with his wife and children. Matthew died before the 1860 census, and his children are found spread among Orange Co, NC, Guilford Co, NC, Danville, VA, And it appears they became disconnected with the rest of the Howell family because although Freeman Howell’s estate published their names in the newspaper, none of Matthew Howell’s children came back to collect on their share of the estate.
7. James Howell (1810 – before 1870)
James Howell married Ann Troler b. 1810 (also spelled Toler) on 14 Aug 1834 in Granville Co. He was counted in the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Granville Co and died sometime before 1870 so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. As a result, James Howell’s estate was granted his share of Freeman Howell’s estate which was $10.08, slightly higher than the $9.45 that the rest of Freeman’s children received.
James Howell and Ann Troler’s children were: Minerva Howell (b. 1836), Louisa Howell (b. 1845), Margaret Howell (1849-1915), William Howell (1852-1926), Mary Eliza Howell (1856-1926), and Juda Howell (b. 1858) who continued to live around the Sassafras Fork/Oak Hill area of Granville Co.
8. Alexander “Doc” Howell (1811-1881)
Alexander Howell married Betsy Ann Anderson (b. 1825) on 4 Jul 1839 in Granville Co. Alexander was a preacher and resided in Fishing Creek, Granville Co for his entire life. He was still living when his father Freeman Howell passed away, so Alexander received his $9.45 share of the estate. He had a large family that included 10 children and his family often appears living adjacent to the family of his brother John Howell (and wife Jane Harris).
Daughter Polly Ann Howell (b. 1840) was not married but had a son named Ben Howell (1867-1949). Son Elijah Howell (b. 1841) was first married to Harriet Evans (b 1847) and second to Eveline Watkins (b. 1854). Daughter Frances Howell (b. 1842) was married to Civil War veteran of the 54th Regiment Varnell Mayo (1837-1900) whom I previously blogged about here.
Son Freeman Howell (b. 1844) was also a preacher and was married first to Nancy Ash (b. 1849) and second to Mary Cowell (b. 1866). Son James A Howell (1846-1934) was first married to Emily Evans (b. 1853), second married to Mary Eaton (1865-1887), and third married to Sally Pettiford (1856-1934). Son Junius Thomas Howell (b. 1848) was married to Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934).
Daughter Mickins Howell (b. 1850) does not appear in the records again as an adult. Daughter Judith Howell (1852-1924) was married first to Nehemiah Mayo (b. 1850) and second married to John Hedgepeth (b. 1860).
Son Henry Howell (1857-1916) was married to Amanda Brandon (1858-1922) and lived in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and Kittrell, Vance Co. And daughter Adeline Jane Howell (b. 1858) was married to Dennis Stanley Hedgepeth (b. 1852).
Alexander Howell died on June 15, 1881 and his obituary appeared in the newspaper:
9. Mary Ann Howell (b. 1815)
Mary Ann Howell married Owen Hart (1810-1881) on 18 Sep 1832 in Granville Co. By 1850, the family was residing in Person Co, NC and by 1860, the family relocated to Pike Co, Ohio. Their children were: Susan Hart (b. 1845), Nancy Hart (1845-1869), Abigail Hart (1849- before 1880), Lorenzo Hart (1857-1870), and Robert Owen Hart (b. 1862).
Mary Ann (Howell) Hart was still living when her father Freeman Howell died but she had relocated to Ohio, so her name was published in the paper to alert her of the land sale. It does not appear Mary Ann received her $9.45 share of the estate likely because she had moved away.
10. Additional Howell Descendants
There are a few Howells that I know directly descend from Freeman Howell (1777-1870) because they are named in the estate files, but I have some questions about exactly how they are related to Freeman Howell.
Allen Howell (1820-1850), married Malinda Parrish (b. 1827) on 12 Mar 1847 in Granville Co, NC, James Floyd bondsman. They had one daughter together – Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) but Allen Howell died the same year. Allen Howell’s sister Eliza Howell (b. 1825) married James Floyd on 6 Sep 1845 in Granville Co, NC. This is the same James Floyd who was the bondsman for his brother-in-law Allen Howell’s marriage. James Floyd and Eliza Howell had two children: William Floyd (b. 1847) and Willie Ann Floyd (b. 1849) but James Floyd died in 1850. You can find the widowed sister-in-laws Eliza (Howell) Floyd and Malinda (Parrish) Howell living together with their children in the 1850 census:
Malinda (Parrish) Howell remarried Dennis Anderson (b. 1813) on 18 Jun 1852 and had additional children with him. Dennis was a preacher and presided over many marriages for people in the community. I don’t know what happened to Eliza (Howell) Floyd. When Freeman Howell passed away, Allen Howell and Malinda Parrish’s daughter Elizabeth Howell (b.1850) received $1.58 for her share of the estate. And Eliza (Howell) Floyd’s daughter Willie Ann Floyd b. 1849 (she was called “Willie Ann Howell” in the estate records), received $1.05 for her share of Freeman Howell’s estate. So we know Allen Howell and Eliza Howell Floyd were related to Freeman, but I’m unsure if they were his children or grandchildren. I’m also unsure of how their shares of Freeman Howell’s estate were calculated.
There was a Margaret Owen who received a share of $3.15 of Freeman Howell’s estate. That is 1/3 of the $9.45 that was distributed to Freeman Howell’s children which suggests that this Margaret Owen was one of three siblings, who were grandchildren of Freeman Howell.
There was a Lucy Chavis who received a share of $1.58 of Freeman Howell’s estate. This is Lucy (Howell) Chavis b. 1843 who married Lawson Chavis (b. 1833) on 20 Nov 1865 in Person Co, NC. I’m not sure who Lucy Howell’s parents were because the first time I find her in the census she’s living in the household of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) and Julia Howell (1797-1870). So we know Lucy Howell is definitely a descendant of Freeman Howell. It’s also worth mentioning that both Lucy (Howell) Chavis and the previously discussed Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) received $1.58 each, suggesting a close (sibling?) relationship between the two.
And finally there is an Elizabeth Haithcock who received a share of 85 cents from Freeman Howell’s estate. Her husband William Haithcok signed the receipt for her and stated that his wife Elizabeth’s maiden name was Howell. I found a William Howell (a blacksmith) and Bettie Howell in the 1860 census in Granville Co and they seem to fit. But this same William Haithcock appears in the 1870 and 1880 census as a blacksmith with a wife name Isabella Haithcock. Also Elizabeth (Howell) Haithcock received 85 cents which is the same amount that the children of John Howell and Jane Harris received. However there is no record of John Howell and Jane Harris having a daughter named Elizabeth. So I’m also not sure what to make of this.
The Native American Parker family of Granville County are a large and integral part of the community. Most of the local families intermarried with the Parkers, so they’re an important family to identify and document. The Parker family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation of neighboring Orange/Alamance Counties, are from this same Parker family and will be included in this blog post. So let’s continue!
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) – Earliest Identified Parker:
Identifying the earliest known ancestor of the Granville Parker family is not an easy task because the Parkers don’t appear in the Granville records until the 1820s/1830s as “free people of color”. Clearly they did not appear out of nowhere and had to have been living elsewhere before the 1820s. And we need to go to neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA to find the earliest known “free colored” Parker in the immediate area
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) first appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA. Sadly the 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses for Mecklenburg Co did not survive to the present, so we don’t know much about Stephen Parker’s early life. In the 1820 census he is the head of a household of 8 “free people of color”. He is recorded again in the 1830 census for Mecklenburg Co but his household numbers were not properly recorded so I don’t know how large his household was. I have not located Stephen Parker in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.
In the 1860 census, Stephen Parker is still in Mecklenburg Co and is listed as 82 years old. Living in his household are 3 Parker women who are probably his daughters. Another important clue that lets us know we have identified a probable early ancestor of the Granville Parker family is that Stephen Parker was surrounded by the “free colored”/Native American Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor and Mayo families that are from the same families found in Granville Co.
The Parker, Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor, Mayo and additional “free colored” people who were clustered together in this 1860 census next to Stephen Parker, were all living/working on the grounds of the Moss Tobacco Factory. The company was created by Robert H. Moss along with brother Reuben Moss and George B. Hammett. The factory was built in 1855 during a time when Clarksville, Mecklenburg Co was the tobacco producing capital of the United States. In fact according to an 1859 report, the Moss Tobacco Factory was the largest tobacco producing plant in the United States. The Moss family “employed” 160 people. Some of these workers were “free colored” families including the Parkers. But the Moss family also “rented” slaves from nearby plantations, so they also used slave labor to produce their tobacco. In that 1860 census, we see the “free colored”/Native American people who worked at the factory are listed with occupation titles such as “stemmer” and “twister”. Despite its early success, the tobacco factory closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1979, the building that once housed the Moss Tobacco Factory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but was delisted in 2001.
I have not found any marriage records for Stephen Parker so I don’t know who the mother of his children was and it’s quite plausible he was married more than once. However from the 1820 census household numbers it is clear his large household included a wife, and 5 girls and 1 boy born on or before 1820.
So with this in mind, let’s move onto Granville County.
Parkers in Granville County:
So we can deduce from the 1820 census that Stephen Parker had at least 6 children born on of before 1820. From later census records, it appears some of Stephen Parker’s children remained in Mecklenburg Co but others moved to neighboring Granville Co by the 1820s. Here is a list of Stephen Parker’s possible children who appear in the Granville records:
Elizabeth Parker (b. 1807) married Allen Cousins Sep 7, 1825 Granville Co
Polly Parker (1808-1846) married Thomas Pettiford Jan 17, 1829 Granville Co
Henry Parker (b. 1810) married Mahaly Brandon, marriage record not found
Susan Parker (b. 1816) married John Quinchett Dec 26, 1836 Granville Co. Susan Parker’s brother in law Allen Cousins was the bondsman.
Elizabeth Parker and her husband Allen Cousins appear in the Granville Co census in 1830 and 1840. In 1850, they were in neighboring Person Co, and by 1860, they relocated their family to Ross Co, Ohio. Their descendants are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
Siblings Henry Parker and Polly Parker remained in North Carolina, as did their Parker descendants, so let’s focus on their families.
Henry Parker (b. 1810) of Granville Co:
Henry Parker appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 censuses for Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. We know that his wife Mahaly’s maiden name was Brandon through the death record of their son Junius Parker (1856-1929). Mahaly Brandon (b. 1805) was from the Native American/”free colored” Brandon/Branham family that has Saponi/Monacan tribal origins and I wrote a little piece on them here. Mahaly’s father was Burwell/Burrell Brandon (b. 1785) who had moved his family from Virginia to Granville Co in the 1820s, which is the same time the Parkers first appear in the Granville records. Also it appears Mahaly named her son Burwell Parker (b. 1840), after her father Burwell Brandon.
Though Henry Parker’s birthplace is listed as North Carolina on the census records, the death certificate of his son Junius Parker (1856-1929) confirms that Henry Parker was born in Virginia. Henry and Mahaly lived in the middle of Granville’s Native American community and their many children also intermarried with the community. Their children were:
Eleanor Parker (b. 1830)
Giles Parker (b. 1835) married Betsy Pettiford, March 8, 1862 Granville Co
Alfred Parker (b. 1836) married Melvina Evans, Nov 20, 1854 Granville Co.
Susan Parker (b. 1838) married John Mitchell, Apr 13, 157 Granville Co.
Burwell Parker (b. 1840)
William Parker (1852-1915) married Emma Pettiford, Aug 29, 1863 Granville Co
Mary Parker (b. 1844) married Arthur Vaughan, Oct 12, 1868 Granville Co
Bunion Parker (b. 1845) married Mary Ann Brandon, Jun 16, 1863 Granville Co
Lucy Ann Parker (b. 1845) married Crutch Brandon, Feb 19, 1877 Granville Co
Stella Parker (1846-1929) married Larkin Smith, Mar 5, 1865 Granville Co
Junius Parker (1856-1938) married Francis Evans, Oct 9 1877 Granville Co
As you can see, Henry Parker and Mahaly Brandon had a lot of children, most of whom remained an integral part of the Native community in Granville.
A well known Granville Co ancestor of many Saponi people who relocated to Ohio, was a man named John Anderson (1832-1916) who I previously blogged about in my Anderson entry. John Anderson’s first wife was Margaret Parker (married Oct 27, 1852) and Margaret Parker was the biological mother to children Margaret Anderson b. 1853, Frances Anderson b. 1855, and Benjamin Anderson b. 1856. Margaret Parker died when the children were just a few years old, and John Anderson remarried Mary Mayo on May 14, 1857 and had additional children with her. I mention this because many descendants of John Anderson are unaware that Margaret Parker was the mother of John Anderson’s oldest children, so these family trees should be updated with this correct info. I don’t yet know who Margaret Parker’s parents were but I have no doubt she is from this Parker family.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) – Progenitor of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Parker Family:
Finally, we turn to Henry Parker’s sister Polly Parker (b. 1808). The Parker family is also a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in neighboring Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. Polly Parker was the mother of Samuel Parker (1825-1908), who was an important person early on in the Occaneechi-Saponi tribal community. Because Samuel Parker’s parentage has not been fully documented, I’m going to use this section to carefully show how I connected Samuel Parker to Polly Parker.
In the article “Occaneechi-Saponi Descendants in North Carolina: The Texas Community” (1991), Forest Hazel, tribal historian for the Occaneechi-Saponi tribe, briefly discusses the Parker family. Hazel writes:
However, it is known from oral tradition that an Indian named Sam Parker moved to the Texas community from the Vance-Granville county area prior to the Civil War.
So it is known within the Occaneechi-Saponi community (also referred to as the “Texas community”) that Samuel Parker was an Indian who came from Granville Co, thus situating him within the Parker family of Granville Co discussed above. I cannot stress enough the value of our oral histories to help make sense of what is in recorded history.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) of Granville Co had her son Samuel Parker out of wedlock and I have no leads on who fathered her son. Samuel was born in 1825, so Polly became a young, unwed mother. But this changed a few years later when Polly Parker married Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805) on January 17, 1829 in Granville Co. Thomas Pettiford therefore became Samuel Parker’s step-father.
I have not located the family in the 1830 census, but in 1840 we find the family in the Orange Co census. Their household had 3 members – one adult male aged 24-35 (Thomas Pettiford), one adult female aged 24-35 (Polly Parker) and one young male aged 10-23 (Samuel Parker).
Though no death records exist for this time period, we know that Polly Parker died sometime before 1846, because on September 4, 1846 in Orange Co, Thomas Pettiford remarried Jane Roland. In addition, on April 10, 1846 in Orange Co Samuel Parker married Lucy Chavis.
So the next time we find Thomas Pettiford and his new wife Jane Roland, and Samuel Parker and his new wife Lucy Chavis is in the 1850 census in Alamance Co. In 1849, a section of Orange Co became newly formed Alamance Co and that is where the family was located. And indeed we can see in the 1850 census, Thomas Pettiford is listed with a wife named Jane, and young children.
However, in the 1850 census, there is no one named “Samuel Parker” in Alamance or neighboring counties. BUT – there is a “Samuel Pettiford” listed two households above Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805). This Samuel Pettiford has a wife named Lucy and two young children named John and Francis. This is our Samuel Parker, but why is he listed with the Pettiford surname? As you will recall, Polly Parker had Samuel Parker out of wedlock but a couple of years later married Thomas Pettiford. It was not uncommon for children to sometimes be enumerated with the surname of their step parent, and for the 1850 census record, Samuel Parker was enumerated with the Pettiford surname. It could be the enumerator knew or was told that Samuel Parker was a “son” of Thomas Pettiford and assumed they shared the same surname. We may not know the exact reason why, but clearly this is our Samuel Parker.
The 1860 census in Alamance Co is almost just as confusing because in that census, Samuel Parker’s surname was mistranscribed as “Parks”. However you can see this Samuel has a wife named Lucy. The enumerator only used initials for the first names of Samuel and Lucy’s children. However you can see the oldest son is listed as “J H Parks” age 13 years. That is Samuel and Lucy’s son John who was enumerated in the 1850 census. On this same census page is Samuel Parker’s step-father Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805), which provides additional corroboration that this is the correct Samuel Parker. So if you have been researching Samuel Parker and were having trouble locating his family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, now you know why.
We next find Samuel Parker in the 1870 census in Alamance Co, and he is finally enumerated with the correct spelling of his name (yay!). And you can see the names and ages of his children, match up with the children in the 1860 census, further verifying that “Samuel Parks” in the 1860 census is our Samuel Parker.
Samuel Parker and Lucy Chavis’ children and later descendants continued to intermarry with other Occaneechi-Saponi families of Orange/Alamance Cos including Jeffries, Haithcock, Guy, Burnett, and Day.
In 1902, Samuel Parker registered to vote in Alamance Co and in order to register, Samuel identified a “Jack Parker” of Virginia as an ancestor who was legally able to vote in 1865. I along with other researchers including Forest Hazel have not been able to identify this “Jack Parker” that Samuel Parker references as an ancestor. Samuel Parker may have been referring to his possible grandfather Stephen Parker (b. 1778) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Whoever this Jack Parker was in reference to, we can certainly glean from that voting registration, the Samuel Parker was aware of the Virginia roots of the Parker family.
Occaneechi/Saponi Tribal Origins of the Parker Family:
I have not found a record that directly ties the Parker family to the Occaneechi or Saponi during the colonial period, but there are some circumstances to consider. The earliest “free colored” Parkers are found in Mecklenburg Co living among other families that in other blog posts (and more to come), that I have connected to the Saponi people. Mecklenburg Co is next to Fort Christanna, site of the former Saponi reservation, and we know that the Saponi continued living in and around the fort many decades following its closure in 1718.
And specifically, Mecklenburg Co is the site of “Occaneechi Island”, a historically significant site of the Occaneechi/Saponi people. During a colonial armed rebellion in 1676 known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”, some of the British colonists took up arms against the colonial government and also attacked friendly “tributary” tribes of the colony including the Occaneechi. To escape this armed conflict, the Occaneechi fled to the site of Occaneechi Island which is a large island located in the middle of the Roanoke River in Mecklenburg Co which during this time was outside of the core of the Virginia colony.
Additionally, Forest Hazel (via personal communication and here), identified a Thomas Parker who purchased land in Tabbs Creek in Granville County in 1752. This land purchase placed Thomas Parker next to community founder William Chavis and perhaps there was a connection between the two men. It’s quite possible the Parker family was moving back and forth from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC since the 1700s. Certainly more research is needed to further explore the tribal origins of the Parker family and I hope this blog post will push that research forward.
On November 8, 1737, a land deed recorded in Amelia County, Virginia contains a report of Saponi Indian cabins. This historical record is quite significant because it documents a very specific date and location of Saponi people. Throughout the 1700s, documented sightings of Saponi people continued to diminish, so any and every reference to the Saponi is important in tracking their location. In a previous blog post, I discussed the multiple reports of Saponi Indians in Granville County living next to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in the 1750s/1760s and I proposed that this was the foundation of the Native American community in Granville. (If you have not already read that blog post, I strongly suggest you do to make better sense of the content here). In this blog entry, I will look to see if any of Granville’s Native American families and nearby tribal communities can be tied to this record of Saponi Indian cabins in Amelia County.
Fort Christanna (1714-1718), the Saponi reservation:
Before discussing the Saponi living in Amelia County in 1737, some background information on where they were located before is needed. In 1714, Virginia Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740)created Fort Christanna on the outskirts of what was then the Virginia Colony, to create a “buffer zone” between the English colonists and tribes they deemed as “hostile”. The fort was located is what is now Brunswick County, Virginia. The Saponi along with other related Eastern Siouan speaking tribes were invited to live on a reservation next to the fort. After gathering at Ft. Christanna, the various tribes were all referred to collectively as “Saponi”. I will do a future blog post specifically on Fort Christanna so I will not delve into all the details about the fort here. However what is important to know is that in 1718, the fort closed due to financial pressure from Great Britain and from competing Indian traders.
After the fort closure in 1718, it is evident the Saponi fractured into smaller family groups. Some Saponi (Tutelo) allied with the Haudenesaunee and relocated to upstate NY and were adopted into the confederacy. We also have multiple reports of Saponi in the 1730s moving to and from the Catawba reservation. So it is important for researchers to understand that after 1718, one report of the Saponi living in a specific area does not mean the entire Saponi Nation was located there. So the 1737 land deed which recorded the Saponi Indian cabins, does not mean that every Saponi Indian was living in Amelia County. Instead it means that a group of Saponi people were living there. Okay, let’s proceed…
1737 Land Deed in Amelia County and Saponi Indian Cabins:
On November 8, 1737 (19 years after Ft. Christanna closed) in Amelia County, a land transaction took place between seller John Taylor of Surry Co, Va and buyer Alexander Bruce of Amelia Co, VA. The exact language of the deed reads as follows:
Beginning at a white oak above the Sappone Indians Cabbins, thence south 10 degrees, east 302 poles to a corner hicory near a branch of Winnigham Creek, thence east 10 degrees north 164 ples to a corner shrub white oak, thence noth 10 degrees west 218 poles to two corner Spanish oaks a the fork of a small spring branch thence down the said branch as it meanders to the said creek, thence up the creek as it meanders to the first station.
Previous research published by archaeologist C.G. Holland in 1982, identifies the precise location of the Saponi Cabins – on the south side of Winningham Creek and just west of State Route 617 also called “Winningham Road”. The closest municipality to this location is the town of Crewe which is located a few miles to the West. The approximate GPS coordinates of this site: 37°10’32.1″N 78°04’38.7″W
This area now falls within the borders of Nottoway County which was formed from the southern portion of Amelia County, VA called Nottoway Parish in 1789. It is also important to remember that the area where the Saponi cabins were located in 1737, is the section of Amelia Co that was formerly Prince George Co just 2 years prior in 1735. Therefore to find potential additional records related to the Saponi Indians residing off of Winningham Creek in 1737, we need to look at Prince George Co, Amelia Co, and Nottoway Co records. The land deed does not indicate how long previous to or how long after 1737, the Saponi resided off of Winningham Creek. It’s within reason to deduce that the Saponi had lived there at least several years before and after 1737, as cabins are permanent structures and the land deed would likely not rely upon a temporary point of reference.
A Cluster of Indian Traders and the Saponi Indians:
A closer look at the Anglo residents who resided in Amelia Co/Prince George Co in the years leading up to 1737, reveals a lot about why some Saponi lived in the area. In the 1720s and 1730s, Prince George Co was served by Bristol Parish. Fortunately the Bristol Parish vestry book has survived to the present. A number of noted Indian traders and other Anglo colonists who had frequent dealings with local Indians resided in Prince George Co and served as the churchwardens and vestrymen of Bristol Parish. Many of these Indian trading families were related to one another. Here follows a summary of these men:
Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) was born in York Co, VA, and resided in Prince George Co, VA for most of his life. He is recorded many times throughout the Bristol Parish records. Eaton was an Indian trader who traded with Saponi and Catawba Indians. By 1746, Eaton relocated to Granville Co, NC and in a previous blog post, I discussed the numerous reports of Saponi Indians living next to his land and enlisting in his regiment. One of these Saponi men was William Chavis (1709-1778), who owned a substantial amount of land that formed the land base for the Native American community in Granville. Clearly, Col. William Eaton had a close relationship with the Saponi when he lived in Prince George Co, VA which continued when he moved to Granville Co, NC.
Other churchwardens of Bristol Parish included Colonel Robert Bowling Jr (1682-1749), Major Robert Mumford (1674-1735), Major Peter Jones III (1691-1753), Captain Buller Herbert (1680-1730), Major William Kennon (1685-1735), William Poythress (1694-1763), and Captain Henry Randolph (1689-1726).
Colonel Robert Bolling Jr. (also spelled “Bowling”) was an Indian trader and son of Robert Bolling Sr. (1646-1709) and his second wife Anne Stith. Robert Bolling Sr.’s first wife was Jane Wolfe – granddaughter of Powhatan Indian “Pocahontas” and Englishman John Rolfe. Jane Wolfe died shortly after giving birth to their son John Fairfax Bolling. Robert Bolling Sr. remarried Anne Stith (a white woman) and he had several more children with her including Robert Bolling Jr of Bristol Parish. Robert Bolling Jr. was married to Anne Cocke.
Major Robert Mumford was an Indian trader who along with William Byrd II, John Bowling, Robert Bowling, John Evans, Peter Jones, Thomas Jones and Richard Jones traded with Indians along the Great Indian Trading Path (aka the Occaneechi Path) in North Carolina. Robert Mumford’s son James Mumford (1705-1754) was married to Elizabeth Bolling (1709-1755), daughter of the above mentioned Robert Bolling Jr. and Anne Cocke.
Major Peter Jones III was a vestryman for both Bristol Parish and Raleigh Parish (Raleigh Parish served Amelia Co after it split from Prince George Co in 1735). Peter Jones was an Indian trader and accompanied William Byrd II on at least two expeditions on the Virginia-North Carolina border line. He was also the namesake for the city of Petersburg. Major Peter Jones’ father Captain Peter Jones II (1661-1727) was also a vestryman for Bristol Parish. Peter Jones III’s paternal grandmother Margaret (maiden name not known) was second married to Thomas Cocke after Peter Jones I died. Thomas Cocke was the uncle of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke, the wife of Robert Bolling Jr.
Captain Buller Herbert was captain of the Prince George Co militia and vestryman for Bristol Parish. William Byrd II writes about visiting Buller Herbert’s home which was a short distance from Major Robert Mumford’s. Buller Herbert was married to Mary Stith, daughter of Col. Drury Stith. Drury Stith was the brother of previously mentioned Anne Stith, wife of Robert Bolling Sr.
Major William Kennon was an Indian trader whose sister Mary, was the wife of Indian trader John Fairfax Bowling, son of the previously mentioned Robert Bowling Sr. and his first wife Jane Rolfe. William Kennon was married to Anne Eppes, daughter of Col. Francis Eppes.
William Poythress was an Indian trader and came from a large family of Indian traders. His wife was Sarah Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes who was the wife of Major William Kennon.
Captain Henry Randolph was a vestryman for Bristol Parish and married to Elizabeth Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes and Sarah Eppes.
Lastly there is Robert Hicks (1658-1759) who was an Indian trader and resided in Prince George Co before moving to Emporia, VA. His surname is spelled both “Hicks” and “Hix” in colonial records. In 1708 Robert Hicks purchased land in Prince George Co from the previously mentioned Peter Jones and made another land transaction in Prince George Co in the same year with Joshua Irby (1664-1746). In 1709, Robert Hicks purchased a land tract along the northside of the Meherrin River that has been previously surveyed by Arthur Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was under investigation for misleading agreements between the Saponi Indians and the English.
Also noteworthy is that at the conclusion of the Tuscarora War in 1713, Robert Hicks lead an expedition that included 50 “tributary Indians” (meaning Indians who had been made treaties to not take up arms against the British such as the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Nansemond, Meherrin, Nottoway, Saponi, Tutelo, and Occanecchi) to locate Tuscarora Indians who were hiding out from the war. Hicks successfully brought the Tuscarora Indians into Williamsburg with a delegation that included leaders from the Tutelo, Nottoway, and Saponi. When Fort Christanna opened in 1714, Robert Hicks was named captain of the fort and he relocated his family to the area. His homestead “Hick’s Ford” is close to the modern city of Emporia in Greensville Co, VA. Robert Hicks was married to Winnifred Evans, daughter of the previously mentioned Indian trader John Evans. Hicks also accompanied William Byrd in the 1722 expedition of the Virginia/North Carolina border. Included in this expedition was Saponi guide Ned Bearskin.
Clearly Prince George Co was home to a number of wealthy and influential Indian traders who had dealings with Saponi and other regional tribes. Close proximity to the Great Trading Path is also what brought all of these Indian traders into the Prince George Co area. Additionally, there was strong incentive for the Saponi to settle close to these Indian traders and the Great Trading Path in order to sustain a trade and “tributary” relationship with the Virginia colony. With all of this in mind, I think we have thoroughly explored and contextualized why a group of Saponi Indians were residing in cabins in Amelia Co in 1737.
Identifying the Saponi Indians in Amelia County:
With the identification of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737 and the discussion of the numerous local Indian traders, we may be able to identify who some of these Saponi families were. The land deed did not provide any names of the Saponi Indians living in Amelia County in 1737, so we may never be able to fully verify their identities. However I was able to identify several Native American families, many who have descendants in Granville County and neighboring Native communities, that could very well be part of the Saponi Indian living in Amelia Co. And to no surprise, most of these families have intermarried with one another over many generations.
CHAVIS Rebecca Chavis (1721-1768) first appears in the Bristol Parish records on Nov 11, 1734 when she was bound out to John West (1673-1743). On that exact same day a Sarah Chavis is bound out to William Macewen, so there is a strong probability that Rebecca and Sarah were sisters or some other close family relation. I don’t have any solid leads on who the parents of Rebecca and Sarah Chavis were. It is likely that their mother was an indentured servant and became pregnant during her servitude which is why her children were bound out by law. We know that both John West and William Macewen lived in the section of Prince George Co that became Amelia County the following year in 1735, because they are next found in the Amelia Co records. (A published copy of Amelia Co road orders found here, is what I frequently used to help locate where individuals lived). John West’ wife Mary asked the previously mentioned Indian trader Robert Mumford to represent her interests in a land deed. Furthermore, John West and William Macewen are on a list of tithables located below Deep Creek. Winningham Creek, the site of the Saponi cabins, runs northeast into Deep Creek. In 1740, the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County, bound out Rebecca Chavis’ son Adam Chavis. And in 1756, 1760, 1763, 1764, and 1768, the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish in Amelia Co, bound out more of Rebecca’s children. Rebecca Chavis is also mentioned in Dec 1760 in neighboring Lunenburg County, when the churchwardens of Cumberland Parish bound out her son Ned. So Rebecca Chavis lived in the immediate area of the Saponi cabins before, during, and after their documented reference in 1737.
All of Rebecca Chavis’ children were bound out repeatedly and it appears her Chavis family moved slightly southwest into Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties as they start to appear in those county records in 1768. At least two of Rebecca’ Chavis’ children – James Chavis (1749-1824) and Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 had children who were well documented, so we are able to trace Rebecca’s line forward. James Chavis moved to Mecklenburg Co as early as 1782, when he first appears as a tithable and continued to be listed as a “mulatto” tithable through 1820. James Chavis’ and his wife Fanny were named in a May 14, 1800 order from the Mecklenburg County court, to have Frederick Gowen/Goins pay them $1.06 for being witnesses in a suit. James Chavis appears in the 1820 Census as a head of household of 10 “other free” in Mecklenburg Co. He died before 1824, when his estate was settled. James Chavis’ children – James, Lydia, Jincy, William, Thomas, Ann, Pleasant, Henry, Ellison, and Elizabeth were named in a 1832 chancery suit.
All of James Chavis’ children intermarried with other local Native American families and appear to have remained in Mecklenburg Co. Some of these Chavises are the ancestors of the contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi community located in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA. One of James Chavis’ children – Lydia Chavis(1779-1865) married Jeremiah Harris(1775-1855) and moved to Jackson County, Ohio by 1830. Their Harris family is a core family of the modern Midwest Saponi Nation, Saponi Nation of Ohio, and Catawba of Carr’s Run tribes all located in Ohio. The Catawba are a closely related tribe to the Saponi and a number of Saponi allied with the Catawba after the closure of Fort Christanna.
Going back to Rebecca Chavis, she also had a daughter named Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 who was bound out by the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County on Aug 26, 1756. By 1760, Elizabeth Chavis was in Lunenburg Co, and by 1782, she was living in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth had two children born out of wedlock, Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) and Bartlett Chavis (born 1776). Elizabeth Chavis’ son Bartlett Chavis (born 1776) continued living in Halifax Co, VA as well as neighboring Pittsylvania Co, VA and married Elizabeth Matthews on Feb 10, 1803 in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth Matthews is of the Native American Matthews family that I discuss below. Bartlett’s probable children – Cole Chavis and Benjamin Chavis, were listed as tithables in the same household that Bartlett was a tithable in.
I should also include that since I don’t know who Rebecca Chavis’ (1721-1768) parents are, I don’t know if and how she is related to Granville community “founder” William Chavis (1706-1778). But certainly if the two are related, it lends additional credence that Rebecca Chavis was related to the Saponi Indian cabins. And it would explain why some of Rebecca’s descendants later moved to the Granville location of her relative William Chavis where the Saponi were also reported.
On Oct 30, 1732, Ruth Matthews was bound to Robert Downing in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co. She next appears in the records as a “free mulatto”on Mar 7, 1756 when her daughter Elizabeth was baptized at St. James Northam Parish in Goochland County, VA. Ruth Matthews was then called an “Indian” on Sep 26, 1737 when her children Betty, Jemmy, Bristol, and Judith were bound to William Flemming of St. James Northam Parish in Cumberland Co VA (formerly a section of Goochland Co, VA).
I have not been able to identify who “Robert Downing” was and cannot locate him in any other historical records of Virginia from that time period. I also cannot locate any other Downings in the Brisol Parish records. I think it’s probable that his name has been mis-transcribed and the entry in the original vestry book should be reviewed for accuracy. Maybe the name should have been transcribed as “Robert Bowling” – as in Col. Robert Bolling Jr (1682-1749) – the Indian trader who we already know was a churchwarden of Bristol Parish. Without knowing exactly who “Robert Downing” was, it’s hard to identify exactly where in Prince George Co Ruth Matthews resided. But if it turns out to be Robert Bolling Jr, then that situates Ruth Matthews in close proximity to the Saponi Indian cabins and living with a known Indian trader.
Ruth Matthews’ son James (called “Jemmy” when he was bound out) Matthews was born around 1750 and moved to Halifax Co, VA by 1787. On Jul, 20 1790, he married Molly Cumbo with David Gowen/Goins providing the surety. James Matthews last appears as a tithable in 1813 in Halifax Co, VA and likely died shortly after that. I have not located any records of descendants.
Bristol Matthews, another son of Ruth’s was born around 1752 and remained in Goochland Co, VA when he married Ann “Nanny” Lynch on Sep, 25 1775. Bristol Matthews likely fathered Ann Lynch’s children who were born before their marriage and when she was still bound to George Payne. The reason being that while she was still an indentured servant, she could not marry. However when her service was complete, she immediately married Bristol Matthews. One child was Thomas Lynch b. 1772 who married Sally Banks on July 29, 1801. Another possible child of Bristol Matthews and Ann Lynch’s was Patsy “Martha” Lynch b. 1774. Patsy Lynch is the progenitor of the core Lynch family of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Patsy first appears in the Halifax Co, NC minutes in 1798 and I have not located her in the Virginia records so I don’t have any further verification that she was the daughter of Ann Lynch and Bristol Matthews.
Returning to Ruth Matthews – her father was most likely William Matthews who is mentioned a few times in the Bristol Parish records. On Nov 17, 1722, William Matthews’ stepson William Snelgrove was bound out to Robert Lyon. In that record William Matthews was identified as an “Indian”.
And on July, 24 1727, the churchwardens of Bristol Parish, including all of those Indian traders that I discussed earlier, bound Mary Bibby to William Matthews. The dates of both of these records would make William Matthews an appropriate adult age to be Ruth Matthew’s father, given her approximate birth year was 1728.
The Native American Bibby family in Granville/Franklin Cos, NC descend from Mary Bibby who as previously mentioned in the Matthews section above, on July 24, 1727 was bound by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish to William Matthews.
Mary Bibby’s parents are unknown, but it is likely her Bibby surname is connected to the Bibby family descending from William Bibby, an Englishman who arrived in Accomack Co, VA in the 1620s. I think it is also possible that William Matthews was Mary Bibby’s father since she was bound out to him. We know from other Bristol Parish and Goochland Co records that William Matthews and his Matthews family were documented as “Indian” and it seems highly unlikely the colony would bound out a child to an “Indian” that was of no relation to the child.
It is not known how long Mary Bibby stayed in Prince George Co but by 1759 she was living in Granville Co, NC. In 1762 she wa a tithable in Joshua Ingram’s household and had married his “negro slave” Charles. The part of Granville Co that she lived in became Franklin Co in 1779. Mary Bibby had several documented children: Edmund Bibby b. 1758, Fanny Bibby b. 1759, Solomon Bibby (1764-1846), Absalom Bibby b. 1764, and William Bibby b. 1766 who all continued to live in Franklin Co. Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) married Charity Young b. 1768 on Dec 25, 1789 in Franklin Co. Charity was from Bertie Co, NC and from the Young and Demery families that have connections with Nottoway and Tuscarora people (and the modern Lumbee community). Solomon Bibby was a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran, along with his brothers Absalom and Edmund.
Local Granville Co historian Oscar W. Blacknall (aka David Dodge) wrote about the Indian identity of the “free negroes” of the area which I blogged about previously here and the Bibby family was included in his writing. In Blacknall’s October 12, 1895 letter to the editor of the News and Observer, he talks about a “free negro” Revolutionary War soldier named “Dibby” and his son who strongly protested the 1835 state constitution which disenfranchised all “free people of color”. There are no Dibbys in the area and given that Blacknall misspelled other names in this same letter, I’m certain he meant to say “Bibby”. And I’m confident Blacknall is referring to Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) because he is the most well known of the Bibby siblings and neither Edmund or Absalom Bibby had any documented sons. The descendants of Solomon Bibby continued to intermarry with Granville’s Native American community.
The Brandon family (also spelled Branham, Brandum, Brandom) descends from several Brandons living in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co, as well as surrounding areas of Brunswick Co. and Henrico Co. who first appear in the records in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s. It is not known exactly how all these Brandons relate to each other but a few Brandons who were born in the household of Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale in Bristol Parish were most likely siblings and could be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins. Edward Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on July 9, 1730 and in 1751, Edward Brandon was a tithable between the Flatt and Deep Creek districts of Amelia Co. As you will recall, Winningham Creek the site of the Saponi cabins runs off of Deep Creek in Amelia County. Margaret Brandon was born on Nov 7, 1720 and was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Oct 10, 1722. Doll “Dorothy” Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Jul 24, 1727.
Contemporaries to siblings Edward, Margaret and Doll Brandon, who are probably of some family relation to them include: Benjamin Branham b. 1721 who lived in Louisa Co, and Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728 and who lived in Brunswick and Lunenburg Cos. There was an Edward Branham b. 1760 who was likely related to Benjamin Branham and Eleanor Branham/Brandon. Edward Branham first appears as a tithable in Amherst Co, VA in 1783 and he is the progenitor of the core Branham family of the state recognized Monacan Tribe in Amherst Co. The Monacan are another Eastern Siouan tribe that are very closely related to and allied with the Saponi at Fort Christanna.
Eleanor Brandon/Branham is the common ancestor of the Brandon family of Granville County. She also has descendants who remained in Mecklenburg Co and who removed to Ohio and are part of the Midwest Saponi Nation and Saponi Nation of Ohio. Eleanor’s surname is spelled both “Branham” and “Brandon” in the records, but her children more often used the “Brandon” spelling. The Brandons in Granville County intermarried with the Native community and became a core family.
STEWART/STUART Elizabeth Stewartb. 1695 had several children whose birth, baptisms, and indentures were recorded in Bristol Parish from 1721-1741 – Edward b. Aug 19, 1721, William b. 1723, Matthew b. Sep, 19 1726, Mary b. Sep, 19 1732, Martha b. Oct 3, 1741. Her son Edward Stewart b. 1721, was bound to the previously mentioned Indian trader Buller Herbert in Bristol Parish, Price George Co. By 1747, Edward had moved to Chesterfield Co, VA. His son James Stewart b. 1760, was counted as an “Indian” on the 1795 Goochland Co, VA tax list. A possible son of Edward Stewart’s named John Stewart (1758-1812), married Pamunkey Indian Frances Dungey. In fact John Stewart or a brother of his, may be responsible for the Stewart family currently found in Chickahominy and Pamunkey tribes. Many of John Stewart and Frances Dungey’s documente descendants relocated to Ohio and are found among the Midwest Saponi Nation and the Saponi Nation of Ohio.
Elizabeth Stewart’s son William Stewart b. 1723 who is the progenitor of most of the Stewarts found on Granville’s Native American community, was bound to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in 1739 by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish. Several years later Eaton moved to Granville Co living next to the Saponi so it makes sense that some of William Stewart’s descendants later ended up in Granville. By 1779, William Stewart was a resident of Mecklenburg Co when he purchased land in the county. His wife was Mary Harris was the aunt of the previously mentioned Jeremiah Harris who married Lydia Chavis. Another son of Elizabeth Stewart’s named Matthew Stewart b. 1726, had a son named Titus Stewart b. 1753 whose descendants are also found in Granville Co.
There is another Stewart lineage that descends from a John Stewart (17175-1765) and his wife Martha Patty Harris (b. 1730) who lived in neighboring Lunenburg and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Their son Thomas Stewart (1742-1818) is the progenitor of the core Stewart family of the Sappony Tribe of Person County.
BIRD/BYRD Elizabeth Birdb. 1720 was called a “mulatto woman” when her daughter Molly Bird b. 1738 was bound out by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish on Dec 9, 1740. The person who Molly Bird was bound out to was not named, so we don’t know the exact location of Elizabeth or Molly. Next on On Nov 24, 1757, she sued for her freedom from Alexander Bolling in Amelia Co. Alexander Bolling (1720-1767) was from the Indian-trading Bolling family and the grandson of the previously mentioned Col. Robert BollingSr. and his second wife Anne Stith.
Molly was also called Mary Bird and is next found in the Brunswick Co, VA records where her children were bound out by the churchwardens of Meherrin Parish on Feb 28, 1780. Her children all appear to have moved to Charlotte Co, VA: Joseph Bird b. 1765 married Nettie Jackson on Aug 20, 1790, Catherine Bird b. 1769 married Isaac Jackson on 22 Sep 1797 in Lunenburg and then moved to Charlotte Co, Peggy Bird b. 1770 did not marry and appears in the tax lists, and William Bird b. 1775 married Polly Carter Nov 19, 1796. Molly Bird’s descendants’ that remained in the Charlotte Co area can be found among contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in the area and some descendants moved to Ohio and are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation.
Three contemporary “Indian” Lawrences who lived in Amelia Co. and Brunswick Co. and were likely siblings: Martha Lawrence b. 1730, Drury Lawrence b. 1734, and Robin Lawrence b. 1735. Drury is the only one mentioned in Amelia Co when on Jun 26, 1755, he asked to be discharged from his indenture to Charles Irby (1695-1763). Charles Irby was a justice and prominent land owner in the area of Amelia Co where the Saponi cabins were reported. By 1772, Drury Lawrence was living in Lunenburg Co, VA when he taxed as an “Indian” in Cumberland Parish. Martha Lawrence’s son Richard Littlepage Lawrence b. 1747 was called an “Indian” when he was bound out to Drury Stith Jr. in 1751 in Brunswick Co, VA. Drury Stith Jr. was the son of the previously mentioned Col. Drury Stith and nephew of the previously mentioned Anne Stith who married Robert Bolling Sr. When Robin Lawrence’s son Wood Lawrence b. 1767, registered as a “free negro” in 1811 in Charlotte Co, VA, his father Robin was called an “Indian”. The Lawrences intermarried with other local Native American families including : Jumper, Flood, and Barber. Descendants are found among the Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA.
There were quite a number of Valentines who first appear in the records in the early-mid 1700s in neighboring counties in southside Virginia that may be related. Only one was found in area of the Sapon cabins and that was John Valentine b. 1721.John Valentine first appears in the Amelia Co records in May 1743 when he accused Charles Irby of keeping him as a slave despite being a free person. This is the same Charles Irby who the previously mentioned Drury Lawrence asked the courts to relieve him of his servitude in 1755. There are no known records for John Valentine before 1743, but if he was an indentured servant to Charles Irby before 1743, then he also lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737. There are Valentine descendants in Granville’s Native American community who first appear in the Granville records in the first decades of the 1800s. Unfortunately because it is not known how all of these early Valentines are related to one another, I’m unsure where the Granville Valentines exactly fit into the larger Valentine family tree.
HOWELL Judith Howell’s 1725 birth was registered in St. Peter’s Parish in New Kent Co as a daughter of Dorothy Howell, a “mulatto” servant of Sherwood Lightfoot. Judith Howell does not appear in the records again until 1752, when she complained to the Amelia Co, VA courts that John Thomas was keeping and detaining her as a slave despite being a free woman. The following year in 1753 she was taxed in the Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co household of Abraham Cocke (1690-1760). Abraham Cocke was a relative of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke who was the wife of Indian trader Robert Bolling Jr. Both John Thomas and Abraham Cocke lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins and were neighbors with the previously mentioned Charles Irby. There is a thirty year gap between Judith’s birth and her complaint against John Thomas, so I’m not sure where she was living during those years. I do believe Judith Howell was of the Pamunkey tribe, because the Pamunkey reservation was situated directly across the river from where she was born in 1725 and historian Dr. Helen Rountree calls the Howell family “fringe Pamunkey”. However Judith Howell ended up living in Saponi territory with descendants who intermarried with Saponi families. It could be the Howells, were similar to the Stewarts and Dungeys who have early tribal roots with both the Pamunkey (or Chickahominy) and Saponi people.
In 1753, Judith’s son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out by the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co. Matthew Howell moved to Charlotte Co, VA and his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) is the progenitor of the Howell family in Granville’s Native American community. Other descendants of Matthew Howell remained in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Co area and some moved out to Ohio to form core families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
For the 1820 census of Granville County, the enumerators did something unusual – they enumerated every household by district. Most censuses of rural counties during this time period, simply enumerated every household in the county without dividing them among the districts within the county. For reasons unknown to me (perhaps the 1820 census was based off of a tax list?), the enumerators did something different for the 1820 census. What they did is a tremendous help to researchers because we can geographically locate where in Granville, a family was living. Though it was a noble effort, it was unfortunately executed poorly. Many of the census pages for the 1820 census for Granville County were not properly labeled, were sequenced out of order and some pages were erroneously mixed in with the census for Guilford County, creating quite a confusion. But do not fear – I correctly resequenced the 1820 census by district.
The 1820 census for Granville County is divided into the following districts with the corresponding page numbers:
Oxford – pages 3, 4, 33, 34
Henderson – pages 5, 6, 46 (46 mixed in with Guilford County)
Epping Forest – pages 7, 8
Fishing Creek – pages 9, 10
Tabbs Creek – pages 11, 12
Fort Creek – pages 13, 14, 49 (49 mixed in with Guilford County)
Beaverdam – pages 15, 16, 47 , 48 (47 and 48 mixed in with Guilford County)
Ledge of Rock – pages 17, 18, 41 (41 mixed in with Guilford County)
Tar River – pages 19, 20, 39 (39 mixed in with Guilford County)
Goshen – pages 21, 22, 37 (37 mixed in with Guilford County)
Abram Plains – pages 23, 24
Island Creek – pages 25, 26
Nutbush – pages 27, 28
Napp (Knapp) of Reeds – pages 29, 30
Raglands – pages 31, 32
County Line – pages 35, 36 (36 mixed in with Guilford County)
Hatch District – pages 43, 44, 45 (all pages mixed in with Guilford County)
Pages 38, 40 and 42 are blank
The following is a list of every household headed by a “free person of color” in the 1820 census for Granville County. Most but not all of these families were part of the Native American community.
Ledge of Rock:
John Silvy/Silva/Silver (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Napp (Knapp) of Reeds:
Collins Pettiford (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Abram Smith (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Hatch District (all incorrectly indexed in Guilford County):
Elias Bookram (enumerated as “Elias Puckins”)
There were no “free colored” head of households in the Epping Forest, Fort Creek, and Island Creek Districts.
If you located your research subject in the list above, then you now know what district of Granville County in 1820 they were living in. Many of these district names have changed over the years and their boundaries have changed as well. For example, I have found that what was considered Oxford in 1820 included large sections of Fishing Creek.
To aide in identifying where these districts are located, I labeled the following map:
Many people remember the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the popular film “Glory” (1989) and their courageous stand at the Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Organized in Boston, MA and commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a wealthy, abolitionist family, the 54th were the first “colored” regiment of the Civil War. The regiment was composed of a diverse set of men – some were free born, some had been enslaved, some were from the North, and some were from the South. But they all shared a common goal of abolishing slavery in the Southern states. Though most of the soldiers of the colored regiments were primarily of African descent, there were “colored” men of other mixed ethnic backgrounds, including Native Americans. In fact you will find many tribes from up and down the East Coast had tribal members who enlisted in the colored regiments. Granville’s Native American community can proudly claim a connection to the 54th regiment because of Varnell Mayo’s (1837-1900) military service.
Varnell Mayo’s Granville Roots:
Varnell W. Mayo was born around 1837 in Granville County, the eldest son of William Mayo (1805 – before 1850) and Joyce “Joisey” Chavis (1816 – abt 1906). William Mayo and Joyce Chavis were married 12 Jun 1834 with Joyce’s uncle William Chavis (1801-1854) as the bondsman. Joyce Chavis (1816-1906) and her brother Anderson Chavis (born 1816) were the children of John Chavis (1790-before 1840) and Sarah Anderson (born 1798). John Chavis (1790-before 1840) was the son of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) an an unknown wife. Sarah Anderson (born 1798) was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr (1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Thus Varnell Mayo descended from several of the prominent Native American families in Granville: Chavis, Anderson, Bass, Gibson. I’m unsure who William Mayo’s parents were, but he almost certainly descends from the Mayo family who were formerly enslaved by a man named Joseph Mayo who left a 1780 will that freed them. By 1789 Joseph Mayo’s slaves were freed in neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and most intermarried with Native Americans/”free people of color”.
In the 1840 census, Varnell’s father William Mayo is shown living next to his brother-in-law William Chavis in Granville County and among members of the Harris/Dew, Anderson, Pettiford, Evans, Richardson and Mitchell families.
In the 1850 census which is the first census in which every household member was enumerated by name, we see Varnell Mayo age 13 years, listed with his parents and siblings:
On June 7, 1858 in Caswell County, NC, Varnell Mayo married Sally Chavis:
In the 1860 census, we find Varnell and his wife Sally (“Sarah”) living all the way out in Hamilton, Ohio. During the decades leading up to the Civil War, many “free colored” families from North Carolina moved to Ohio because of hostile conditions from local whites. In 1835, due to an increased fear of growing abolitionist movements and slave uprisings, North Carolina passed a new constitution that disenfranchised all “free people of color” including Native Americans who fell under this social category. This new constitution took away the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to own firearms, and the right to move freely in and out of the state. Even though both Varnell and Sally were free born people, there was still the threat of being stolen and illegally sold into slavery. In Ohio, Varnell would find a growing abolitionist community with people who were committed to ending slavery.
Varnell Mayo Enlists in the 54th Regiment:
The next time we find Varnell is on April 28, 1863 in Boston, MA when he joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. He was enlisted by a ” R. P. Hallowell” – this is Richard Price Hallowell (1835-1904) who was in charge of recruiting soldiers for the 54th regiment. His brothers Edward Needles Hallowell(1836-1871) and Norwood Penrose Hallowell(1839-1914) were officers in the 54th. Edward was a lieutenant-colonel and second in command of the 54th (actor Cary Elwes’ portrayal of Major Cabot Forbes in “Glory” was based upon Edward Hallowell). Norwood left the 54th and commanded his own colored regiment – the 55th. The Hallowell brothers came from a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia who dedicated their lives to abolishing slavery and fighting for equal rights.
In the remarks section we see that Varnell was listed as wounded in action at Morris Island on July 18, 1865 (this should read 1863). Additional muster roll pages clarify these remarks.
In the July/August 1863 muster roll, we see Varnell Mayo was absent because he was “wounded in the attack at Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863”. There it is, Fort Wagner! Just three months after enlisting in the 54th, Varnell Mayo fought in a major battle that would earn the 54th a distinguished place in history noted for their bravery, heroism and sacrifice.
If you’ve studied the Civil War or have even seen the film “Glory”, you will remember that Fort Wagner was the site of a Confederate fort on Morris Island in South Carolina. Colonel Shaw volunteered his 54th regiment to lead the attack despite knowing they would likely sustain a high casualty rate. Though the Union Army in 1863 began organizing colored regiments, most did not see any action on the battle field because of racist views that colored troops were unfit for battle. Instead most of the colored regiments were simply used for manual labor. Col. Shaw recognized that this was an opportunity to show his peers that his troops were no less capable than any other white regiment. 600 men from the 54th lead the charge that historic day on July 18, 1863 with 30 being killed in action (including Col. Shaw), 24 later dying from their wounds, 15 being captured, 52 going MIA, and 149 being injured. This accounted for the nearly 272 total casualties out of 600 men for the 54th regiment.
We learn from additional muster rolls and discharge records that Varnell Mayo suffered a gunshot wound in his left foot at Fort Wagner and he spent the remainder of his time after the battle in a soldier’s hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island. He luckily did not succumb to his injuries and he survived the Civil War. Varnell was discharged from active military service on May 13, 1864 at De Camp General Hospital on David’s Island in New York. In the records we see that Varnell indicates a desire to go back to Columbus, Ohio and that is where the military transported him.
I have not located any correspondence between Varnell Mayo and his family during the war. However a fellow solider in the 54th named Lewis Douglass who also survived the Battle at Fort Wagner, penned a letter to his fiancee that I think expresses the sentiment that many soldiers of the 54th felt including Varnell:
This regiment has established its reputation as a fighting regiment not a man flinched, though it was a trying time. Men fell all around me. A shell would explode and clear a space of twenty feet, our men would close up again, but it was no use we had to retreat, which was a very hazardous undertaking. How I got out of that fight alive I cannot tell, but I am here.
My Dear girl I hope again to see you. I must bid you farewell should I be killed. Remember if I die I die in a good cause. I wish we had a hundred thousand colored troops we would put an end to this war.
Lewis Douglass’ wishes for more colored regiments did come to fruition. As a result of the 54th’s actions at Fort Wagner, many thousands more soldiers enlisted in the colored regiments and are credited with turning the outcome of the war to the Union Army’s favor.
Varnell Mayo after the Civil War:
Though he had returned to Ohio, Varnell Mayo’s roots and heritage were in Granville County and he returned to marry a woman from the Native American community. On September 29, 1874 in Granville County, Varnell married Francis Howell(1842 – before 1920), daughter of Alexander Doc Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. I’m not sure what happened to Varnell’s first wife Sally Chavis, but the last I can find her is in the 1860 census in Ohio. She likely died or divorced Varnell. I also don’t know of any children born to Varnell and Sally.
Sadly it appears the marriage between Varnell Mayo and Francis Howell did not last long because Varnell is shown in the 1880 census living back in Columbus, Ohio without Francis and listed as “divorced”. In today’s society we have a better understanding of how war can mentally and emotionally harm soldiers and have a medical diagnosis “PTSD” – post traumatic stress disorder. I don’t know if Varnell suffered from PTSD because this was not something that would have been diagnosed in the 19th century but I think it is understandable that his experiences from the war may have been too much for him to carry on normal social relations. Varnell was on the front lines of a very bloody battle in which his commanding officer and many of his comrades did not survive. I can’t imagine how he could not have been traumatized by that experience.
Varnell and his second wife Francis did have one son together named Abram Mayo (1870-1945). Abram’s marriage to Julia Harris on January 7, 1891, shows additional evidence that Varnell Mayo was estranged from his family. On the marriage record, Abram’s father is listed as “William Mayo” (Varnell’s middle name was William) and that his location was “unknown”.
Varnell Mayo passed away on March 3, 1900 in Springfield, Ohio. His tombstone is located at Ferncliff Cemetery also in Springfield, and you can see from the photo below, his service with the 54th Regiment is memorialized on his tombstone for all to see.
In 1897, highly acclaimed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens revealed his bronze relief sculpture in honor of Col. Robert Should Shaw and the 54th Regiment. The sculpture sits prominently at the edge of the Boston Common and directly across the street from the state capitol. The relief depicts Shaw and his soldiers when they departed for battle on May 28, 1863. Their march through Boston brought them to the exact same spot where the sculpture is located. One of these soldiers was Private Varnell Mayo of Granville County.
The city of New Bedford, MA on July 18, 2015 unveiled a new public mural dedicated to the memory of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. New Bedford like Boston, was a hot spot for abolitionist activity and many soldiers in the 54th hailed from New Bedford. This beautiful mural is another testament to the bravery and honor of the 54th .