Tag Archives: Kersey

The Granville County – Lumbee Connections

If you were to look at my mother’s top DNA cousin matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, and Gedmatch, you would swear she had at least one parent from the Lumbee tribe in Robeson County, NC. Many of her closest cousin matches are Lumbee tribal members whose families have called Robeson county home for many, many generations. Yet, my mother does not have a single documented direct ancestor that ever lived in Robeson. So what gives?

My mother’s North Carolina roots are directly from the Native American community in Granville County and with the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in nearby Halifax and Warren counties. Though the Lumbees have called Robeson county home since the late 1700s, many of their ancestors came from the North Carolina/Virginia border area. It was in this area that many Native/FPOC lineages diverged, with some families staying put and others moving deeper into North Carolina to Robeson county. These familial connections are known and have been passed down through oral history. A Granville County cousin who is also an elder, has fond memories of traveling with his parents down to Robeson, to visit his Lowry cousins from the Lumbee tribe. So as I have researched the origins of our Granville families, I have always noted the “Lumbee branches” of our family trees.

The growing popularity of DNA testing is also helping to corroborate these documented family connections both within and between tribal communities in North Carolina. I have closely reviewed the DNA test results of dozens of people from the Granville community and from the Lumbee tribe. The DNA cousin matches are so strong and numerous, that the correct question should be “how are we NOT related?”. The endogamy within North Carolina tribal communities, typically means that most of us have multiple lineages from the same family. As a result, our DNA cousin matches often appear closer by DNA than on paper.

So in this blog post, I will look closely at six family connections (Chavis/Gibson, Evans/Locklear, Bass, Goins/Gowen, Kersey/Lowry, and Scott) between Granville and the Lumbee tribe which help explain why we are showing such strong DNA cousin matches with one another. So if you are from the Granville community or a Lumbee tribal member and have done DNA testing, this blog post is for you. I am focusing specifically on lineages that are common/noteworthy in the Granville community. For the sake of space and clarity, I am not including lineages that are specific to the Haliwa-Saponi and Occaneechi-Saponi tribal communities (both communities are geographically next to and have strong, direct ties to Granville). I could write a separate blog post about each of those topics.

North-Carolina-County-Map-10

A final word on the use of “Lumbee”. I am well aware of the current political disagreements within the Robeson county community about the “authenticity” of the Lumbee tribal name. There are some community members who completely reject the Lumbee name for other tribal identities that they view as more accurate and reflective of the community. By using “Lumbee” in my blog post, I do not mean to take one side over another. My use of “Lumbee” is for genealogical purposes, to able to identify the tight knit interrelated Native American families who have historically resided in Robeson and neighboring counties.

 


Chavis/Gibson

The family connection between Granville County and the modern Lumbee community based in Robeson County is best seen through the Chavis/Gibson family. William Chavis (1706 – 1778) and his wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) are whom I often refer to as the “founding family” of the Granville community because of their massive land holdings. According to 19th century local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous track of 51,200 acres in Granville County along the Tar River. This was land that he received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville himself. William Chavis was likely born in Henrico County, Virginia, because his father Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) is documented in Henrico in the early 1700s as well as in neighboring Surry County. By 1719, Bartholomew Chavis moved to North Carolina and owned large amounts of land on both sides of the Roanoke River in what would become Northampton and Halifax counties, North Carolina. So even before accumulating his own land in Granville County, William Chavis inherited a lot of his land from father along the Roanoke River.

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

 

William Chavis’ 1778 will filed in Granville County, provides excellent documentation about his heirs. William’s son Philip Chavis (born 1726) was the executor of his estate and inherited a portion of his father’s land. Philip Chavis is also the ancestor of the Lumbee branch of the Chavis family. We learn from a series of land transactions that Philip Chavis was moving back and forth between Granville County, North Carolina and Bladen/Robeson County, North Carolina and Craven County, South Carolina. The last land deeds in Philip Chavis’ name are found in the 1780s and 1790s in Bladen/Robeson Counties (Robeson County was formed from a part of Bladen in 1787). Philip Chavis’ sons Ishamel Chavis (born 1747) and Erasmus Chavis (born 1768) continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants intermarried with other Robeson County Native American/FPOC families such as Lowry, Oxendine, Locklear, Carter, Sweat, and more. In support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition efforts, Wes White authored the “Saponi Report” in 1985 which documented the Chavis family in the Lumbee tribe descending from William Chavis via his son Philip Chavis who moved from Granville to Robeson. So this is a connection that is formally acknowledged by the Lumbee tribe.

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

William Chavis (1706-1778) had other children whose descendants remained in Granville (and neighboring counties) and tied into the Native American community in Granville. Descendants of his three daughters primarily remained in the Granville community though their descendants do not carry the Chavis surname because the three daughters were married. Daughter Sarah Chavis (1730-1785) married Edward Harris (born 1730) and their descendants are the FPOC Harris family in Granville and Wake counties. Daughter Lettice Chavis (1742-1814) married Aquilla Snelling (1723-1779) and while some descendants moved away, other descendants remained in Wake and are the FPOC Snelling family found there. Daughter Keziah Chavis (born 1742) married Asa Tyner (born 1740), and her descendants did remain in Granville for the next generation or two, but eventually moved further west to Stokes County, North Carolina. William Chavis also had a grandson named Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who is referred to as his “orphan” in his estate papers. Jesse Chavis fathered a number of children whose descendants stayed connected to the Granville community and carried on the Chavis surname.

Bibby family 1898
Julia Chavis (1845-1939) is the elder woman seated in the middle. She was the daughter of William Chavis (1801-1854) and Delilah Guy and is a direct lineal descendant of William Chavis (1706-1778) and wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) through their grandson Jesse Chavis (1766-1840). Julia is pictured here with her husband William Solomon Bibby, children, and grandchildren at the family farm in Franklinton, NC in 1898. My great-grandfather Edward Brodie Howell’s first wife Mary Bibby is standing on the right.
Delia Harris updated
Delia Harris (1843 – after 1870) of Granville County, is also a direct lineal descendant of William Chavis (1706-1778) and Frances Gibson (1700-1781) through their daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris. Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.

As a direct lineal descendant of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris, my mother is finding through autosomal DNA testing, an abundance of Lumbee cousin matches who descend from Sarah Chavis’ brother Philip Chavis. By using sophisticated triangulation techniques, I am to determine that many of these Lumbee cousin matches are related through our shared common ancestors William Chavis and Frances Gibson. It should also be noted that the Gibson family of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson, moved to the Newman’s Ridge area of eastern Tennessee (Hawkins/Hancock counties) and became the “core” Gibson family of the “Melungeon” community there. Thus being a descendant of Frances Gibson, my mother also has a ton of cousin matches who descend from the Melungeons of Newman’s Ridge.


Evans (Gibson)/Locklear

The Locklears are likely the largest family in the Lumbee tribe today and all descend from a shared Locklear ancestor named Robert Locklear (born 1700) who lived in Halifax/Edgecombe counties. Most of Robert’s children moved to Bladen/Robeson County and their descendants make up the Locklear family found in the Lumbee tribe today. Robert Locklear also had a grandson named Thomas Locklear (born 1750) through his son Randall Locklear (born 1730), whose family remained in the Granville/Wake area. So it is possible to have a Locklear ancestor directly from the Granville community. However a more common link between our community and the Lumbee Locklears is actually through the Evans family.

The large Evans family in Granville are direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans (1665-1739) and his wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, Virginia. I wrote a blog post about the Evans family genealogy found here. Jane Gibson was the daughter of a woman also named Jane Gibson “the elder” who was documented as a “free Indian woman”. Their descendants moved from the Virginia Tidewater area to the Virginia Southside counties of Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties and from there they moved into North Carolina. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s grandson Major Evans (born 1733) moved to Granville and the Evans who remained in the Granville community, primarily descend from him.

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

 

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

There are at least two known female Evans ancestors in the Lumbee Locklear family. Wiley Locklear (1780-1865) married Nancy Evans (born 1800) on 25 May 1817 in Robeson County. Nancy Evans was the daughter of Richard Evans (born 1750) who was the son of Morris Evans Jr (born 1710) who was the son of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson.

Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear (1823-1890) and his wife America Evans/Locklear (1829-1891)  are another important Evans/Locklear link. A marriage record for the couple has not been located, so America’s maiden name is not well documented. From the records I have been able to review, there is inconsistent info about the parentage of Joseph Locklear and his wife America Evans/Locklear. For example, on her Find A Grave page found here, the author calls her the daughter of Patsy Evans and James Cricket Locklear. However, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Patsy (Evans) Locklear was born in 1780 in South Carolina. America was born about 1829 in Robeson County, so this Patsy appears too old to be her mother. In the 1850 census, we see a Betsey Evans, age 50, residing in their household. Betsey Evans is the only person in the household whose birthplace is listed as Richmond County, North Carolina. It is not clear to me what relationship Betsey Evans has to either Joseph Locklear or American Evans/Locklear, but it’s quite possible she could be either person’s mother.

 

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

I am working on correctly identifying how exactly this Locklear family ties into the Evans family and Betsey Evans is a strong lead. I’ll be sure to update as I obtain more information. As an Evans descendants, I am (through my mother’s test) finding plenty of cousin matches who are Evans descendants and cousin matches who are Lumbees that directly descend from Joseph Locklear/America Evans, matching on the same chromosome segment. So I am certain there is a legitimate Evans connection to this family.

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

Bass

The Nansemond descended Bass family is one of the larger FPOC families in Granville County, as well as one of the larger widespread FPOC families in Virginia, the Carolinas (and beyond). I previously wrote a blog post on the Bass family and so it should be no surprise to learn that there are Bass descendants among the Lumbee tribe. Through land deeds, Frederick Bass (born 1750) is documented with his wife Olive living in Anson County by 1777. Paul Heinegg believes Frederick Bass to be the possible son of William Bass (born 1712) (son of John Bass 1673 and Love Harris) of Granville County. I have not found documentation yet for Frederick Bass in Granville County, so this connection probably needs additional supporting evidence. At least one of Frederick Bass’ sons moved from Anson to Robeson by about 1800. His son Elijah Bass (born 1775) is shown in the Robeson county census beginning in 1800 and his descendants are found in the Lumbee tribe today. Elijah Bass’ descendants intermarried frequently with the FPOC Jones family in Robeson Co. The Lumbee Jones family in Robeson Co, also came from Anson Co, so it appears the Bass and Jones moved together from Anson to Robeson. I have noticed that many of my Lumbee cousin matches are unaware that they descend from the Bass family because they either do not have family trees or their family trees don’t go back far enough to their Bass ancestors. So I recommend building “mirror trees” of your Lumbee cousin matches, to better explore the many possible connections.

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

The Bass family is one of the largest FPOC families in Granville County that intermarried with just about every other Native/FPOC family in the community. Most Granville Basses descend from Edward Bass 1672 and his wife Lovewell. But there are descendants of his brother John Bass 1673 and wife Love Harris in the community as well. All of these Basses are relatives of Elijah Bass (born 1775) who moved to Robeson County.

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

Goins/Gowen

Several members of the large FPOC Goins (including spelling variations of Gowen/s, Goings, etc) came to Granville County in the 1740s/50s.  Notably Michael Goins (born 1722), his brother Edward Goins (1727-after 1810), along with his cousins Thomas Goins (1732-1797) and William Goins (born 1710) are all documented as enlisted members of Indian trader Col. William Eaton’s colonial regiment. I previously wrote a blog post here, about Eaton’s regiment and its connection the Saponi Indians that were also documented in Granville. Most of the Goins who came to Granville, did not stay in the community and continued to move to western North Carolina and out of state. However descendants of Edward Goins (1727-after 1810) did remain in the Granville community and intermarried with other Granville families such as Bass and Anderson. The Goins surname quickly “daughtered out” in the early/mid 1800s, so Edward Goins’ descendants no longer carry the Goins surname.

As the Goins family spread to other parts of North Carolina, one branch moved from Granville County to Robeson County. Ann Goins (born 1719) was a cousin to the previously mentioned Goins in Granville. The earliest records for Ann Goins are found in Brunswick County, Virginia and by the 1750s, she appears in Granville.  By the 1790s, Ann Goins was in South Carolina, but close to the Robeson County border because she appears in the records there as well. Ann Goins’ children continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants today make up the Lumbee tribe.


Kersey/Lowry

The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of the FPOC Kersey family was the topic of a previous blog post that I wrote which can be found here. In addition, Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods wrote an article on the early genealogy of the Kersey family which can be accessed here. The Kersey family is significant to the Lumbee tribe because the large Lowry family descends specifically from Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was also the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). In his essay, Woods shows through careful analysis that Sally Kersey was a descendant of  Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry County, VA, who later relocated close to the Tuscarora living in Bertie County, NC.

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

The Kersey family also moved to Granville County. A man named Thomas Kersey ( born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton Counties, Virginia is the common ancestor of the Granville Kersey family. Paul Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry County. John Kersey (born 1668) was a brother of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) who is direct ancestor of the Lumbee tribe’s Kersey/Lowry family.

Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was the grandfather of Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) who resided in Granville County and whose descendants make up the Kersey family in Granville today. One of Benjamin Kersey’s children was the infamous outlaw Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) who is the subject of a blog post I wrote here.

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

Scott

The FPOC Scott family primarily lived on the Wake County side of the Granville/Wake County border. But there were some members of the family who settled across in Granville and intermarried with other FPOC families in the community.

The FPOC Scott family descends primarily from John Scott (born 1823) and his wife Sally Emeline Taborn (born 1829) who resided in Granville County. Though I have not identified his parents yet, John Scott is likely a descendant of Revolutionary War soldier  Exum Scott (1754-1823) who resided in neighboring Wake County. For example, Exum Scott’s son Guilford Scott (1790-1880) was married to Sylvia Taborn, who is from the same Taborn family as John Scott’s wife.

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

Exum Scott (1754-1823) was the son of Francis Scott (born 1720) of Halifax County, NC. Francis Scott (born 1720) had two brothers named John Scott (born 1710) and Abraham Scott (born 1710) and the three men are the ancestors of the FPOC Scotts found in the Halifax, Northampton, and Edgecombe records with some descendants moving to other parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The Lumbee Scott family primarily descends from several Scotts who stayed along the North Carolina and South Carolina border in  Robeson, Richmond, and Scotland counties in North Carolina and Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina. For example, there is David Scott (born 1795) who is found in the 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses in Robeson. He married Betsy Morgan on 11 Feb 1822 in Robeson. The Morgan family like the Scott family, was primarily found in Halifax, Northampton and Edgecombe counties. Matthew Morgan (born 1770) was from Halifax County and by 1820, he relocated to Robeson county. Matthew Morgan was most likely Betsy Morgan’s father. So it seems likely that David Scott’s family also originally came from Halifax County. David is also a first name passed down repeatedly in the FPOC Scott family in Halifax.

Another couple that produced a lot of Scott offspring found in the Lumbee tribe today, is James Scott (1836-1888) and his wife Margaret Ellen Chavis (1860-1930) of Richmond and later Robeson county. Census records indicate that James Scott was born in South Carolina, so he was likely from Marion or Marlboro counties and moved a small distance across the border. James Scott’s will filed in 1888 in Richmond County, provides the names of his widow and surviving children and gives detailed instructions about the education of his children.

 

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

Final Thoughts

If you descend from any of these families, these connections that I described should help provide some answers about your DNA cousin matches. Have you noticed other interesting cousin matches from your DNA results? Feel free to comment here.

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Historian Vikki Bynum on Granville’s FPOC Community

I was recently contacted by historian Vikki Bynum (“The Free State of Jones” – author of the book which inspired the movie), who was working on updating her research on the “free people of color” from Granville County. Vikki became familiar with my own research through this blog: “Native American Roots” and I was so delighted to work with her on this. The narrative that she presents and how she was able to synthesize and summarize the lives of our ancestors is quite impressive.
I am so proud to descend from such remarkable people and honored that my blog has become a source for others to learn more about our ancestors.

This blog would not be possible without the many people who have shared photos, family stories, and other key family information. Collaboration is vital in telling the full stories of our ancestor’s lives. A heartfelt thank you to all who have contributed!

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

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

 

Sampson Anderson and wife Jane Anderson and and son Robert F Anderson
Sampson Anderson (1844-1906) with wife Jane Anderson (1852-1923) and son Robert F Anderson (1872-1914). Sampson was the son of Henry Anderson and Nancy Richardson. Jane was the daughter of Mark and Crecy Anderson. The family lived in Granville and Wake Counties and relocated to Washington, D.C. in their later years. Source: Ancestry, Username: rewinder11

The Full Potential of Marriage Records

If you are using marriage records to simply document when and where your ancestors married, you are missing out on so much more information. In this blog post, I will provide some examples and give advice about how to maximize the information contained in marriage records. Granville is a county that thankfully did not suffer from major record loss when compared to other North Carolina counties, so it’s important to take full advantage of the written record left behind. I will also provide some general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors that I was able to observe by closely reviewing their marriage records.


Marriage Bonds and the Bondsman

In North Carolina, from the colonial era and up through about 1869, marriages in the state typically required a marriage bond to be posted. Marriage bonds were a formal guarantee between the potential groom and bride and the jurisdictional government that the couple was legally able to marry. The groom was accompanied by a bondsman who both signed their names to guarantee the marriage bond for a specific amount of money. No actual money was exchanged. The Legal Genealogist has a good blog post with additional information about marriage bonds.

Because the bondsman just like the groom, could potentially be legally held responsible if the marriage was unlawful, the bondsman was usually a relative or friend/neighbor of the groom or bride. This means marriage bonds contain potentially additional genealogical information. If the bondsman was a relative, this can help identify other family members of the married couple.

Over the course of my research, I have closely looked at hundreds, probably thousands of marriage bonds for our ancestors in Granville and nearby counties. I have observed that if the bondsman was a relative, he was most often either the father, uncle, brother, or brother-in-law of the groom or bride. I have identified bondsmen who were slightly more distant relatives like first cousins, but these instances were not nearly as common as the father, uncle, brother, and brother-in-law relationship.

Here is an example of a marriage bond:

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

So my recommendation is that every time you locate a marriage bond of your ancestors, make sure to record the name of the bondsman. After you do that, follow up to see if you can identify exactly who that bondsman was and if he had any family relationship to the groom or bride.

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-43-52-am
When I find a marriage bond for my ancestors, I usually make a note in my family tree identifying who the bondsman was and if he had any relationship to the groom or bride.

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

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

Transition to Standardized Marriage Licenses

In the years following the conclusion of the Civil War, North Carolina abandoned the marriage bond system in favor of more standardized marriage licenses. In this section, I’ll document some of the variety of marriage licenses you can expect to see from this time period. These marriage licenses typically offer a lot more biographical information about the groom and bride. Additional information may include: age, race/color, names of parents, witnesses to the marriage, location of marriage, the person who solemnized the marriage, and the residence of the groom and bride.

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

The Native American community in Granville was very tight knit and this can be seen in the marriage records which record the witnesses of the event. Witnesses were often family members and friends and so these marriage records offer an important insight into these kinship and social circles.

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

The marriage license for James H Tyler (1852-1919) and Sarah Virginia Scott (1858-1937) shows some familiar names included in the record. The marriage license indicates that both the groom and bride lived in “F.C.”, meaning Fishing Creek township – the heart of the Native American community in Granville. James Tyler was 25 years of age and Sarah Virginia Scott was 17 years of age. A “J.P.” (Justice of the Peace) named L.H. Cannady officiated the ceremony at John Scott’s home. John Scott (b. 1823) was the father of Sarah Virginia Scott. The witnesses to the marriage were David Day, Sarah Tyler, and Hawkins Kersey. All three people were from the community. David Day (b. 1837) was the from FPOC Day family, a core family. By 1879, he was widowed from Nancy Bass who may have been a close family member of Sarah Virginia Scott’s maternal grandmother Henrietta Bass (b. 1800). “Sarah Tyler” was James H Tyler’s mother Sarah/Sally (Kersey) Tyler (1828-1911). Hawkins Kersey (1854-1921) was originally born Hawkins Tyler, and was the son of Martha Jane Tyler (b. 1830) who was James H Tyler’s aunt. Hawkins, was then “adopted” by Baldy Kersey (James H Tyler’s uncle) and his surname was changed to Kersey. Baldy Kersey was the infamous outlaw and the subject of this blog post.

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

 

Another example of a marriage license with biographical information:

 

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

The 27 July 1872 Granville County marriage record of Lewis H Anderson (b. 1849) and Amanda W Anderson (1856-1920) also shows important biographical information. Lewis Anderson listed as 22 years of age resided in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Amanda Anderson age 18, resided in “O” (Oxford) township. The marriage took place at the New Hope Church which was one of several churches that serviced the community. Dennis Anderson (b. 1807), a member from the community, officiated the service. While browsing through the Granville County marriage records, I noted that Dennis Anderson officiated numerous marriages for people in the Native American community. Amanda W Anderson’s grandfather Jeremiah “Jerry” Anderson (1794-1875) was the older brother of Dennis Anderson, so Dennis Anderson was also a great uncle of the bride. Witnesses to the marriage were Arthur Bass, James Horner, and David Day. There were two Arthur Basses of adult age living in Granville County in 1872, so I’m uncertain which one is referred to here. James Horner (b. 1842) was not a FPOC. He was born enslaved but married into the Native American/FPOC community which likely why he was a witness. David Day (b. 1837) is the same man who was listed above as a witness to the marriage of James H Tyler and Sarah Virginia Scott.

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

 

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

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

The 22 December 1874 marriage between James A Mayo (1847-1910) and Ida Howell (1855-1928) also includes a few notable people from the community. James Mayo is listed as being 22 years of age and residing in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Ida Howell is 16 years of age and also a resident of “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township. Cuffy Mayo (1800-1896) officiated the marriage. Cuffy was a very important person not only in the community but was also well respected by his white neighbors. He was a delegate to North Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention. The marriage took place at the home of Jane (Harris) Howell (b. 1817) who was Ida Howell’s mother. Witnesses to the marriage were Edward Allen, James E Howell, and William Tyler. I’m unsure who Edward Allen was. James E Howell (1840-1912) was Ida Howell’s brother and my 2nd great-grandfather. William Tyler (1825-1897) was another well respected member of the community and a cousin and neighbor to the Howell family. It is also worth mentioning that the groom and bride were first cousins. James Mayo’s mother Sally Harris was a sister to Ida Howell’s mother Jane Harris. First cousin marriages were not atypical at all for this very tight knit community.

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

Military Pension Files

Another excellent resource to use to help document marriages of our ancestors are military pension files. Many of the men in our community were soldiers in the Revolutionary War and if they lived long enough into their elder years, they typically filed applications for military pension benefits. If a soldier died before or while receiving pension benefits, his surviving widow could apply for a widow’s pension to continue to receive those payments.

In order to prove that a female applicant was the legal surviving widow of a soldier, she had to provide a copy of their marriage license as well as witness testimony from friends/relatives/neighbors to confirm the identity of the applicant. If a widow remarried, she was no longer entitled to her deceased husband’s benefits.

For example, my 5th great-grandmother Mary (Bass) Richardson (1757-1844) was the widow of two Revolutionary War soldiers: her first husband Elijah Bass (1743-1781) and her second husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Elijah Bass died while in service in the Revolutionary War, so Mary Bass remarried Benjamin Richardson at the conclusion of the war. Mary Bass was eligible to receive Benjamin Richardson’s military pension benefits. In order to do that, she applied for a widow’s pension – W.4061. In her application, Mary (Bass) Richardson provides the following testimony about her marriages:

That she was married to Elijah Bass who was a private in the Army of the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina line that he served as such for the period of two and a half years and Enlisted under Captain Bailey of the tenth Regiment. She further declared that she was married to the said Elijah Bass on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Seventy seven. That her husband the aforesaid Elijah Bass died (or was killed) in the aforesaid War at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on the 8th day of September 17 hundred & Eighty one. That she was afterward (to wit) on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Eighty three married to Benjamin Richardson who was a private in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War who served as such for the period of twelve months under Capts. Joel Wren, John White Jordan Harris & other officers.

So in her testimony, Mary (Bass) Richardson gives 14 February 1783 as the date she married Benjamin Richardson. A search of the Granville County marriage bonds, shows that Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass received a marriage bond on 13 February 1783 with Phillip Pettiford as the bondsman. This is consistent with the testimony that Mary (Bass) Richardson provided – they married the following day after receiving the marriage bond. If this marriage bond was no longer available due to record loss, Mary (Bass) Richardson’s testimony for her widow’s pension, serves as an excellent secondary source substitute record to document her marriage to Benjamin Richardson.

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

 

Another example is found in the widow’s pension application of my 5th great-grandmother Martha Patsy Harris (1770-1859). She was the widow of my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Martha Patsy’s maiden name is unknown because I have never been able to locate a marriage record for her and Sherwood Harris. However her widow’s pension does provide me with an approximate date of when and where they married. You can read transcribed portions of the application W.3984 here.

Included in Martha Patsy Harris’ widow application, is testimony from several white residents of Granville and Wake Counties who were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris and attended their wedding. Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) remembered attending the wedding and gave 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. Frances also gave additional information that the couple were married in Granville County by the Justice of the Peace named John Pope. Another personal friend named Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) also recalled attending the wedding and determined that it happened several years before 1793 (the birth year of his son). Martha Patsy Harris also testified that she recalled the wedding was in 1787, so the information given in all the testimonies is consistent. So without a marriage record, we can give the approximate marriage year for Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris as 1787. Having an exact date is certainly more desirable but an approximate date at least gives us something to work with.

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

So definitely make sure to read through the entire Revolutionary War pension files of your ancestors to help document their marriages. I have even found testimony that describes the actual wedding event – a detail that is not conveyed in marriage licenses. I recall reading a description of a wedding service that included fiddling and singing.


Land Deeds and Marriage

If you’ve searched high and low through marriage records and military pension files, and still cannot find leads on the marriages of your ancestors, here’s another source to consider: land deeds. Though land deeds do not specify an exact marriage event between a groom and bride, it does provide some clues about a recent marriage within the family. It was common for the families of the groom and bride to sell and purchase land from one another around the time of the marriage. There are a few possible reasons for this. For one, our community was very tight knit and land transactions were common within these close kinship circles. Marriages extended that kinship network of people to do business with and kept land ownership within the family. Another reason for these land transactions around the time of the marriage was that the groom desired to purchase land near his wife’s family to stay in close contact. If the groom was not already a land owner, his marriage into a new family provided an opportunity to became a land owner.

For example, my 4th great-grandfather Freeman Howell (1777-1870) had a daughter named Julia Howell (1797-1870). Julia Howell was married to Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) but I have never found a marriage record for the couple. I do have confirmation of their marriage through Freeman Howell’s estate records which specify how his estate was divided among his living heirs. Given the approximate ages of Nelson Cousins and Julia Howell’s children, I suspected that they were married around 1820. In 1824 in Granville County, the following land deeds were recorded between Julia Howell’s father Freeman Howell and Nelson Cousins’ brother Robert Cousins:

17 Jan 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
$150 in hand deed of Gift from Robert Cousins to Freeman Howell

2 Feb 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
Robert Cozen acknowledges a deed to Freeman Howell for a 120 acres of land which is ordered to be Registered

Source: Land deed notes transcribed by Jahrod Pender

Though these land deeds do not provide me with a date of a marriage event between  a member of the Howell family and a member of the Cousins family, it does suggest that there is now a kinship relationship between these two families. This would be especially true if I find additional land deeds between the Howell and Cousins family during this period.

Another example of a land deed tied to a recent marriage is the example of my 6th great-grandparents Edward Harris (b. 1730) and Sarah Chavis (1730-1785). We believe that Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis married around 1750 according to the approximate ages of their children and 1750 being the first year that Sarah was listed as a tithable in Edward Harris’s household.

On 6 September 1756 (about 6 years after they married), Sarah Chavis’ father William Chavis made a deed of gift for 340 acres along Tabbs Creek in Granville County to Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. (Land deed transcribed and shared by Paul Heinegg). William Chavis (1709-1778) was a man I refer to as a community founder because he originally owned all of the land that makes up the core of the community. According to local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous 16 acres along the North side of the Tar River, going 5 miles inland. The land that William Chavis gifted to his new son-in-law Edward Harris was land which was part of this original plot that William Chavis owned. William Chavis likely wanted to guarantee that his daughter and her descendants would be well taken care of, for generations to come. So keep this in mind as you’re looking at land deeds to connect to marriage events.

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

Marriage Patterns and Observations

Finally I thought it would be good to create a list of my general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors. These are simply general patterns, so there will always be exceptions and variation. But with that said, I think you will find this helpful and a great reminder about the potential information you can gleam by closely observing marriage records.

  • ENDOGAMY! Our ancestors primarily practiced endogamous marriages, simply meaning that they limited marriages within the local community and people they already regarded as “kin”. As a result, I usually try to figure out if and how the groom and bride are related. It may be a blood connection through a more distant common relative, or it may be that they share cousins in common. But you will typically find some already existing family connection between the groom and bride.
  • Multiple Marriages. If a man or woman became widowed, you can typically expect for them to marry again. This is especially true if they still had minor children living at home. Another parent was needed to help raise and support those children, so it was not advantageous to remain widowed. These multiple marriages can create some complex family trees but it is important to document all of your ancestor’s marriages.
  • Keep track of a woman’s name changes. Following up on the point made above – each time a woman married, her surname changed. As a result, a bride’s surname listed on a marriage record may not be her original maiden name if she was previously married. Marriage records typically do not list if the bride was previously married, so it is up to you the research to investigate further.
  • Not all marriages were recorded. Some of our ancestors may not have went through with obtaining the proper license to legally marry. This means there will be no official record of the marriage. One possible explanation was that some people still married in a traditional, indigenous way. In the rejected Dawes and Eastern Cherokee applications of our ancestors, it’s not unusual to see references of ancestors marrying “the Indian way”, which usually meant not registered with the government. There were some who still adhered to indigenous cultural practices.
  • Native American/FPOC communities throughout NC were connected via kinship. Though most marriages happened directly within kinship circles of people geographically living within the same community, you will find marriages from people who live in two different neighboring or nearby communities. For example, my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell who lived in the Granville community married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia Richardson who lived a couple of counties over along the Halifax/Warren County border in the Haliwa-Saponi community. I found a trend of a few people from the Lumbee and Coharie community in Cumberland and Sampson County, move up to Orange/Alamance Counties and marry people from the Occaneechi-Saponi community. The reason for this is that all of these communities share at least some common ancestors from generations earlier and so they considered themselves all kin and socially acceptable to marry.
  • Girls who became orphaned, typically married young – in their teenage years. It’s important to remember that European colonists introduced an incredibly lopsided patriarchal society, that our ancestors had to quickly adapt to. Therefore if you were a girl who did not have a father to legally support and provide for you, you could find yourself in a vulnerable situation. Therefore it was in the best socio-economic interest of young girls who did not have fathers, to marry so they could benefit from their husband’s financial standing and land ownership. If you were a young woman still living at home on your father’s land, you had a bit more time before you needed to marry out.

If you have identified more marriage patterns of our ancestors and other ways to document marriages, please comment below.

“Grandfather Clause” Voting Registrations for Granville County

 

What is the “grandfather clause” and how does it relate to the Native American/”free colored” citizens of Granville County?

Let’s jump right in!

http://ncpedia.org/grandfather-clause:

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.

Granville County Voting Registrations:

Voting Registrations 1

Voting Registrations 2.jpg

Voting Registrations 3

Voting Registrations 4

Voting Registrations 5

 

Voting Registrations 6

Voting Registrations 8

Voting Registrations 9

Voting Registrations 10

Admond Brandon 1857 - 1948
Admond Brandon (1858-1948) was the son of Betsy Brandon and William “Billie” Peace. He was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek and Kittrell townships and registered to vote. Source: http://www.chileshomepage.com/Brown/ID/Brown.htm
Miles Guy.jpg
Miles Guy (b. 1828). Miles was the apparent son of Miles Guy Sr and Betsy Bonner. He lived in Fishing Creek township and registered to vote. Source: Robert Tyler
John Thomas Tyler
John Thomas Tyler (1862-1943) was the son of William Tyler Jr and Sally Kersey. He was married to Mary Etta Guy. He resided in Fishing Creek township and registered to vote. Source: Robert Tyler
William Fletcher Tyler and family
William Fletcher Tyler (1872-1949) who is pictured standing on the far right was the son of William Tyler Sr and Sally Kersey. He is pictured here with his children. Fletcher was a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township and registered to vote. Source: Robert Tyler
David Tyler.jpg
David Tyler (1870-1930) was the son of William Tyler Jr and Sally Kersey. He resided in Fishing Creek township and registered to vote. Source: Robert Tyler

The “Colored Orphanage” of Granville County

During the Reconstruction era, two orphanages were built in Granville County within a few miles of each other. In 1873, the “Oxford Orphans Asylum”, today known as the “Masonic Home for Children”, was established in the town of Oxford, to house and educate orphaned and less fortunate children. The orphanage however was only for white children. Children of color were not admitted into the school which left them without proper care. In 1883, concerned citizens of color in the Granville County area helped to establish the “Grant Colored Asylum” with the help of Congressional funding. Just outside of the town limits of Oxford next to Fishing Creek township, is where the orphanage was built. It went through numerous name changes over the years and today is known as the “Central Children’s Home of North Carolina”. In this blog post, I will discuss the close relationship between families of the Native American community in Granville and the Colored Orphanage, including a set of Cherokee twin boys who were sent to the orphanage and then adopted into the community.

6357031911_ac40a7caf8_b
The Colored Orphanage is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the Henry Plummer Cheatham building, constructed in 1915 and functioned as the dining hall and auditorium. Photo By Earl C. Leatherberry. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/23711298@N07/6357031911/in/photostream/

Orphaned Children Before Orphanages

Before the establishment of the two local orphanages, most orphaned and less fortunate children were typically “apprenticed out” (also called “bound out”) by the county court. This process involved sending a child to live in the home of a family where that child would be housed, fed and taught to read and write. In exchange, that child was taught a trade and used those services to work for the family until a specified age (typically 21 years of age). Boys were often taught the trade of being a planter, blacksmith, or carpenter and girls were often taught the trade of being a domestic. Free children of color were commonly apprenticed out and throughout the blog posts on this site, I have used apprenticeship records as primary source records to establish genealogical connections. And it was not only just orphaned children who were apprenticed out. Free children of color born out of wedlock (in those days they commonly used the phrase “base born child”) were typically apprenticed out if the mother could not properly provide for the child.

Willis Bass John Irby apprenticeship
An example of an apprenticeship record shows that a free boy of color named Willis Bass, age 9 years, was bound out to John Irby on 8 May 1801 in Granville County. You can see that Willis Bass was ordered to be apprenticed until 21 years of age to be taught the trade of a planter. Source: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998

The apprenticeship system was quite common starting in the colonial era and officially came to an end in North Carolina in 1913. But I have noticed that for Granville County, the Reconstruction Era saw a rapid decline in the apprenticeship system and this created a need to house orphaned and less fortunate children. We also have to remember too that before the Civil War, enslaved children were the property of their slave owners, so it was not the county’s responsibility to house enslaved children. But after emancipation, there was a sudden jump in the orphaned population due to the high number of orphaned children who were emancipated. This growing and urgent need to address this crisis is what lead to the establishment of the first iteration of the Colored Orphanage called the “Grant Colored Asylum”.


Establishment of the Colored Orphanage

Reverend Dr. Augustus Shepard (1846-1911), a concerned local African-American resident of Raleigh, presented the idea of establishing an orphanage as a way to allieviate the growing orphan crisis. With the assistance of Henry Plummer Cheatham (1857-1935) who was a local African American politician from the town of Henderson, they secured Congressional funding to establish the Grant Colored Asylum. For $1,565, 23 acres of farm land just south of Oxford was purchased to house the new orphanage.

Rev_Dr_Augustus_Shepard
Reverend Dr. Augustus Shepard initially presented the idea of establishing an orphanage for “colored children” in North Carolina. Source: http://contentdm.auctr.edu/cdm/ref/collection/nccu/id/78
Henry_Plummer_Cheatham
Henry Plummer Cheatham was a local politician who was one of only five African Americans to serve in the House of Representatives during Reconstruction. He helped secure Congressional funding for the orphanage. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_P._Cheatham

Historian Dr. Bernetta McGhee White has written about the history of the orphanage and you can read some of her research here. Dr. White cites an unknown author who wrote the following about the founding of the orphanage which helps us identify additional key players:

The colored orphanage association was formed in August, 1882, in Henderson, North Carolina, by members of the Shiloh and Wake Associations [of the Baptist denomination]. The idea was presented by Dr. Augustus SHEPARD who noticed in his travels throughout the state that there was a large number of homeless and neglected children.
In October, 1883, a farm of twenty-three acres, located one and one-half miles from Oxford, on the Raleigh Road, was obtained… The orphanage was named the ‘Grant Colored Asylum.’

The ‘Grant Colored Asylum’ ceased to exist in 1887 when the ‘Colored Orphan Asylum of North Carolina’ was incorporated. The members of the board were Rev. Augustus SHEPARD, Rev. Joshua PERRY, Rev. M. A. PATILLO, Rev. Isaac ALSTON, Rev. J. W. LEVY, Mr. M. T. THORNTON, Mr. H. E. LONG, Mr. Henry LESTER, and the Honorable H. P. CHEATHAM.

The orphanage was incorporated as a non-denominational institution to receive children deprived of their parents and means of support, and to train them along religious, moral and industrial lines in order to fit them for useful, law-abiding citizen[ship].

The first superintendent of the ‘Grant Orphanage’ was Rev. Joshua PERRY. Rev. W. A. PATILLO was named General Agent. The Rev. PERRY served for one year and was succeeded by Miss Bessie HOCKIN, a Canadian woman who not only served without pay, but also donated her furniture to the orphanage… During this time Mr. Henry HESTER, of Oxford, volunteered to pay all bills contracted in providing food for the orphans. Mr. HESTER acted as treasurer of the orphanage until his death in 1901.

Rev. W. A. PATILLO served as Superintendent for the year 1886-87. It was during his administration that Mrs. Adline COGWELL became connected with the institution as matron. Mrs. COGWELL not only received no pay, but worked to help support the children of the institution.

In 1887, the board of directors elected Rev. Robert SHEPARD superintendent without promise of remuneration. Rev. M. C. RANSOM gave board to the new superintendent until a three room house could be enlarged. The enlarged building served as the superintendent’s home, boys dormitory, dining room and kitchen. A few years later a girls dormitory was built, and near it a laundry building was built.

Source: http://www.afrigeneas.com/library/ncarolina/chome.html

As you can read from the above text, among the founding board members was Reverend James W Levy (1852-1936) of the Native American community. I previously blogged about the Levy family here and did mention Rev. Levy’s connection to the orphanage. Levy served on the board of the orphanage for most of his life.

James Levy 1853-1936
Reverend James Levy (1852-1936) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He was born in Fayetteville and moved up to Granville Co and married Martha Freeman. He served on the board of directors of the Colored Orphanage. Source: Robert Tyler
Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.05.54 PM
Reverend James W. Levy is listed on the annual report of Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford. Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/asyl1910/asyl1910.html

Miss Bessie Hockin of Nova Scotia, Canada

I would like to take a moment to discuss a woman who played a very important role in the foundation of the orphanage. Bessie Hockin (1850-1925) was not a local woman, but was rather a white woman from Nova Scotia, Canada who came to Granville County to assist in the Reconstruction efforts. She actually served as Superintendent of the orphanage in its very early years. Because she was a missionary, she refused to be paid for her services and instead donated her time and possessions to the orphanage.

Bessie Hockin Colored Orphanage
Source: The Torchlight (Oxford, North Carolina) 4 Jan 1887, Tue • Page 5

 

Bessie Hockin continued to live right in community in Fishing Creek township and must have been a beloved neighbor. When my great-great grandfather James E Howell (1840-1912) remarried in 1887, Bessie Hockin was a witness to the wedding as documented on the marriage certificate:

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 10.52.00 AM
My great great grandfather James E Howell married a second time to Mary E (McGlemdon) Howell in 1887. Missionary Bessie Hockin was a witness. Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Bessie Hockin continued to live in and work for the community until her death in 1925. Her estate specified that her personal property  was to be turned over to the Colored Orphanage.

Bessie Hockin death cert
Bessie Hockin’s death certificate: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Bessie Hockin estate
Bessie Hockin’s estate papers show that after disbursements, her remaining personal property was to go to the Colored Orphanage. Of note is that my great-great grandfather James E Howell’s second wife Mary Howell was paid $15 for services. Perhaps Mary helped take care of Bessie in her final years. Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

The Colored Orphanage and the Native American Community in Fishing Creek

It is important to remember that the orphanage was built a very short distance from the tight cluster of Native American families that had been living in Fishing Creek township since the days of William Chavis (1709-1777). (See this blog post about historian Oscar W. Blacknall who wrote about the Native American community in Fishing Creek). Because of this close proximity, these families were able to assist the orphanage by donating services and goods.

Historical_map_of_old_Granville_County_from_which_were_made_GranvilleButeWarrenFranklin_and_Vance_Counties_North_Carolina (1)
Map showing the very close proximity between the Colored Orphanage and the Native American community in the Fishing Creek area. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

The annual Board of Directors reports for the Colored Orphanage are digitized on UNC’s “Documenting the American South” website found here. The board reports have also been transcribed so that you can search by keyword for text in the document. The reports offer an interesting insight into the daily operations of the orphanage. What is especially interesting to see is which individuals and organizations donated to the orphanage.

 

For the 1909/1910 report, we learn a group of individuals helped to transport building materials to the orphanage:

One of the strong tokens and indications that we are to have continued success in our effort to build up and maintain the home is the kindly sympathy and approval of our neighbors both in the country and in the city of Oxford on the part of both races. There is not a business man or firm in the city of Oxford who has ever denied us a favor when it was in his power to grant it. One of the most pleasing and encouraging things I have ever seen here was to behold during the month of last August the big Christian-hearted friends of this community, Messrs. Robert Glover, Sam Morton, Sidney Taylor, John A. Kittrell, Jas. E. HowellAndrew Howell, Davie McGhee, Jas. A. Howell, J. Thomas Tyler, H. Howard and others in line with their one and two-horse wagons hauling brick from our brick-yard to the new building without any charge whatever, and without their most timely and valuable help just at that time we could not have so successfully managed our farm, as this, was in the heart of the busy farming season of the year.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/asyl1910/asyl1910.html

I underlined the names of four individuals listed above who were part of the Native American community. James E Howell (1840-1913) I already mentioned was my great-great grandfather. His first cousin was James A Howell (1846-1934). The middle initials are important to distinguish between the two men since they were first cousins, close in age, and lived on adjoining properties. Andrew Howell  (1876-1951) was James A Howell’s son. And J(ohn) Thomas Tyler (1862-1943) was a cousin to the Howells. Tyler’s son George Huley Tyler was married to Bessie Levy, daughter of Reverend James W Levy who was on the board of the directors of the orphanage. All four men were farmers who owned extremely large plots of land and thus had large equipment at their disposal to help the orphanage.

John Thomas Tyler
John Thomas Tyler (1862-1943) was the son of William Tyler Jr and Sally Kersey. He was married to Mary Etta Guy. John Thomas Tyler donated his services to the Colored Orphanage. Source: Robert Tyler (grandson of John Thomas Tyler)
Sally Kersey Tyler and grandchildre
Though he is not in the picture, this wagon belonged to John Thomas Tyler (1862-1943). Pictured are his mother Sally (Kersey) Tyler and his children. This could in fact be the same wagon that John Thomas Tyler used to transport building materials to the orphanage as indicated in the board report. Fishing Creek township, Granville Co, NC. Source: Robert Tyler

Orphaned Children in the Community

Finally I would like to discuss something else that many Native American families in Fishing Creek did to assist with the orphanage and that is actually bringing home orphaned children to raise them. In the census records, you will occasionally see children who are non-family members listed in the household as a “lodger”. Sometimes these children are actually listed as “adopted child” though they usually were not legally adopted. How and why some children were selected to go live with families in the community is not clear to me. The 1890 census is destroyed, so the 1900 census is the first census after the establishment of the orphanage.

In the 1910 census I found my great-great grandfather James E Howell enumerated with his second wife Mary E (McGlemdon) Howell and with an “adopted son” named Arthur Bryant, age 13. As far as I know, Arthur was not from our family so he most likely came from the Colored Orphanage.

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Source: Year: 1910; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: T624_1113; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0081; FHL microfilm: 1375126

 

Another interesting example comes from my great-great grandfather’s first cousin James A Howell. James adopted twin brothers Samuel Donald (1885-1960) and David Donald (1885-1951) who were Cherokee Indians from the far Western part of the state in Asheville. In the 1900 census they are shown living in his household:

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James A Howell is shown with his third wife Sally (Pettiford) Howell and adopted twin sons Samuel and David Donald. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: 1197; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0055; FHL microfilm: 1241197

Samuel Donald’s great-grandson Christopher Williams located the twins’ orphanage records which clarify how they became orphaned and when they were sent to the orphanage. Unfortunately their parents’ names are not listed and that is something we are still researching:

Record of Children Received into the Colored Orphan Asylum
No. 57
Name: David Donald from the town of Asheville, County of Buncombe
Admitted: November 1892; Born [blank]; Age when admitted: 6 years 6 months
Father’s name: [blank], member of [blank] Church
Mother’s name: [blank], member of [blank] Church
If one or both parents are dead, so state: Father died 1885, Mother died 1886
State cause of death, if possible: [blank]
Application made by: Eliza Donald (sister); Approved by: C.G. Aston
Recommended by: [blank]
Description: Light in color, Slight in form
Character: Good character generally, though mischievous
History: These two boys twin brothers were adopted in 18[blank] by James Howell, Fishing Creek, Granville Co. where they remained until of age giving great satisfaction. They both went to Salisbury, but the health of Samuel failing. He returned to Jas. Howell and at this date in 1907 is still with him. David is foreman for some white man in Salisbury and giving satisfaction. Samuel now married.

So from the above records we learn the twin boys were orphaned when they were infants and were admitted to the Colored Orphanage in November 1892. Sometime in the 1890s, James Howell adopted the boys where they were raised in his home. David Donald moved away to Salisbury, NC where he married and had children. He remained in Salisbury until his death in 1951.

Samuel Donald remained in Fishing Creek and married the great niece of his “adopted” father named Mamie Anderson (1891-1965) who was the daughter of Herbert Junius Anderson and Nancy Howell.

Sam Donald
Samuel Donald (1885-1960) was a Cherokee Indian from Asheville who was sent to the Colored Orphanage in Granville County in 1892. He was then adopted by James A Howell of local Native American community and married Mamie Anderson. He remained in Fishing Creek township until his death. Source: Christopher Williams

The Legend of Baldy Kersey

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


Baldy Kersey’s Lineages and Early Life

baldy-kersey-copy-1
This is the only known surviving image of Archibald “Baldy” Kersey. This photo used to hang in the home of Baldy’s daughter Martha Kersey who was married to John Henry Tyler. Sadly the original photo no longer exists, but Baldy’s great nephew Robert Tyler was able to take a snapshot of it many years back. The quality is not great but at least it gives you an idea of Baldy’s physical appearance.

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

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

Emily Kersey (b. 1820) married Samuel Richardson

Susan Kersey (b. 1825) married Samuel Johnson

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

Sophia Kersey (1829-1918) married William Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baldy Kersey’s Gang

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

ncmaps-county-names-non-editable
Baldy Kersey’s gang had an extensive network for trading stolen goods that covered Granville County all the way to the coast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


John Crabtree V. Baldy Kersey and the Stolen Wagon Hubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Baldy Kersey V. Avery Taborn, and Horse Thievery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it was still not over…

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Justice Swayne also offers a definition for a contract:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baldy Kersey’s Land After the Court Cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Elias Bookram: A Nanticoke Indian from Maryland in Granville County

The Bookram family of Granville Co, NC descends directly from a man named Elias Bookram (b. 1790). Though his descendants intermarried with most of Granville’s Native American families, Elias Bookram was a somewhat latecomer to the community. The reason is that Elias was not a local man and instead was from Maryland. Even more fascinating, “Bookram” is a corrupted and Anglicized name derived from the Algonquian language. Elias’ very own surname was a testament to his indigenous tribal identity. Originally known as “Elias Puckham”, he came from the well known and documented Puckham family of the Nanticoke tribe. In this blog post I will discuss the Puckham family’s Nanticoke lineage as well as trace the descendants of Elias Bookram.


Puckham Family and the Nanticoke Tribe

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

The Nanticoke tribe are an Algonquian speaking people, originally from the upper Eastern Shore area that is today Maryland and Delaware. The earliest colonial records for the Nanticoke are found in Maryland in Somerset, Dorchester, and Wicomico counties. As coastal people, they had early contact with European colonists and as a result were affected immensely by European colonization. An initial reservation was set up for the Nanticoke people on the Nanticoke River in Somerset Co, Maryland in 1698:

At the same time the Lord Proprietor of Maryland issued a proclamation recognizing two Nanticoke towns of Chicone on the west bank of Nanticoke River and Puckamee on the east bank as well as a three-mile buffer zone around it in which Englishmen were prohibited from settling. Notwithstanding this proclamation an English trader named Thomas Taylor was allowed to buy a patent to land within the boundary of the Chicone Indian town named Handsel. In 1698 a formal Nanticoke reservation was created by the Maryland Assembly and the boundaries of Chicone were surveyed.

Source: Cohen, David. The One-Drop Rule in Reverse: The Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape, the Delaware Indians, and the New Jersey Indian Commission.

However due to European encroachment, the tribe purchased another tract of land off of Broad Creek in what is today Sussex Co, DE. According to Nanticoke tribal member Kenneth Clark, this was their seasonal”summer residence” which they made their year round home because of the hostility of the Maryland colonists.

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

Continued colonial intervention lead to many Nanticoke leaving their homelands and joining other tribes. Some Nanticoke joined the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and descendants today can still be found in the Six Nations Reserve. The Nanticoke were also very close to the Lenape tribe and the two tribes frequently intermarried. When the Lenape were removed to Oklahoma, many Nanticoke joined their kinsfolk and Nanticoke descendants can be found among the Lenape in Oklahoma today. However many Nanticoke remained in their homelands and today there are two “state recognized” Nanticoke tribes: the Nanticoke Indian Association located in Delaware and the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe in New Jersey. During the turn of the 20th century, the Nanticoke in Delaware were visited by some noted anthropologists including Frank Speck, Mark R. Harrington, and William Babcock. You can read Frank Speck’s research here and William Babcock’s research here.

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

So where do the Puckhams fit into this? The earliest verified direct ancestor of the Puckham family was a Nanticoke Indian named John Puckham born about 1660. A number of texts cite John Puckham as the progenitor of the family, including Helen Rountree’s book found here, a well researched essay authored by the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe of New Jersey found here, the Eastern Shore Indian genealogy website found here, and genealogist Paul Heinegg’s research found here.

The Nanticokes like many other tribes up and down the East Coast went through extensive periods of being racially misclassified by the colonial and U.S. government, often as “mulatto”, “free colored”, “negro”, “black”, and “Moor”. However earlier colonial records reveal the indigenous identity of the tribe’s forebearers. On 25 Feb 1682/3, John Puckham married a woman named Joan Johnson and the official record of their marriage, identifies John Puckham as an Indian:

John Puckham an Indian baptised by John Huett minister on 25th day of January one thouseand six hundred eighty two And the said John Puckham & Jone Johnson negro were married by the said minister ye 25th February Anno Do./ Maryland.

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

You can see that John Puckham was baptized a month before he married Joan Johnson. During this baptismal, he was likely given the first name “John”. But where did the Puckham surname come? Many researchers believe that the Puckham surname is derived from the former Nanticoke village called Puckamee which was located in Somerset Co, MD. Given that John Puckham lived in Somerset Co, it’s quite likely he came from Puckamee village and that is how he acquired his last name. “Puckamee”, according to fellow researcher Duane Brayboy Williams, is likely derived from the Lenape dialect of the Algonquian word “puccoon” which means “red ochre”. The suffix “mee” refers to a place. So “Puckamee” means “a place to source red ochre”. Duane also explained that in the Renape dialect of Algonquian, the word for “ochre” means “ancestors”. Traditionally, people adorned themselves with red ochre as a way to represent the ancestors and acknowledge their ever presence. So when we think about John Puckham and his descendants, I think it’s quite amazing that their surname truly represents their Nanticoke ancestors.

After John Puckham’s death, his widow Joan bound out their sons to be apprentices and so we are able to trace John’s lineage forward. By the mid 1700s, some of John Puckham’s descendants were still in Somerset Co, MD but several had also moved up to Sussex Co, DE. As discussed above, the Nanticoke tribe moved up the river, across the state line into Delaware so that is likely why some of the Puckhams moved that way.

We also have a colonial record of another Puckham identified as an Indian. The tensions between the European colonists and tribes on the Eastern Shore peninsula escalated to the point where in 1742 representatives from a number of Eastern Shore tribes met with the Shawnee tribe at a place called “Winnasoccum” in Maryland to strategize. The colony found out about the meeting and rounded up a number of the individuals to sign a peace treaty including a George Puckham who was identified as one of the signatory  “chiefs” of the treaty. George Puckham is believed to be a grandson of John Puckham (b. 1660). You can read more about the Winnasoccum meeting here.

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

So there is very good primary source documentation showing the Puckham family originated in Somerset Co, MD with a Nanticoke man named John Puckham. From here we’ll turn our discussion to Granville Co and Elias Bookram.


 

Elias Puckham aka Bookram in Granville County

I remember when I first started my genealogy research and learned about the Bookram family. Though I’m not a direct descendant of the Bookram family, I’m related to most of them through other shared common ancestors. The surname always stuck out to me because it was rare and quite unusual. The pronunciation of the surname sounded like the Algonquian language, so I had suspected that “Bookram” could be some sort of Anglicized version of an Algonquian word. Therefore you can imagine my excitement when I finally made the connection between Elias Bookram and the Nanticoke Puckham family. I’ll explain below how I did it.

The first record I have for Elias Bookram in Granville Co is the 1820 census. He is the head of a household of 8 “free colored” people living in Hatch’s District which is in southern Granville Co. The household looks to include himself, a wife, four sons and two daughters. So we can surmise from this record that Elias Bookram was first married before 1820 and had at least 6 children born before 1820. But what is very telling is how his surname is spelled in this census record – “Elias PUCKINS”. It is quite noteworthy that his name was spelled this way, the first time that he appears in the Granville records.

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

On 24 Jun 1824, Elias Bookram married for a second time to Chashe Scott. So we know any children born to Elias on or after 1824, were from his second wife. The Scotts are a Saponi Indian/”free colored” family that came to the Granville area in the mid/late 1700s. But again what is important about this record is the spelling of Elias’ surname – “Elias PUCKRAM”. These first two records for Elias Bookram in Granville Co clearly show his surname was spelled with a “P” and not a “B” and I think it’s understandable how one letter could be confused for the other because they sound similar.

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

In the 1830 census for Granville Co, Elias Bookram is the head of a household of 14 “free colored” people. The household looks to include Elias, his second wife Chashe, six sons and six daughters. For this census record his name is spelled “Elisha BUCKRAM”. This is the first time that his surname was spelled with a “B”. I can also tell by his neighbors that Elias Bookram was still residing in the southern part of Granville County and living among other families from the Native American community: Chavis, Guy, Pettiford, Jones, Anderson, Harris, Bibby, Taborn, Evans, Bass.

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

Elias Bookram still had a large household in the 1840 census for Granville Co. He was the head of a household of 12 “free colored” people that look to include Elias, second wife Chashe, three sons and seven daughters. His name in this census is spelled “Elias BOOKRAM” which became the most common standardized spelling of the name.

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

As you know, censuses before 1850 only list the name of the head of household and don’t include other important information like birthplace. Thankfully Elias Bookram lived long enough to be counted in the 1850 census and you will see why this is important. In the 1850 census for  Granville Co, Elias was enumerated as the head of a household with his wife Chashe and 7 daughters. He was counted in the Dutch(ville) district which is still southern Granville Co. Now here’s the crucial piece of evidence: Elias Bookram’s birthplace is listed as Maryland. You can see his wife, children, and neighbors were all born in North Carolina. So the enumerator wrote in Elias’ out of state birthplace which lets us know that is was not likely an error. In addition to the unusual surname, Elias’ birthplace of Maryland in the 1850 census was also very odd to me because nearly everyone in the community was born in North Carolina. And if not North Carolina, then Virginia. It was rare to see someone born outside of North Carolina and Virginia. So from this census record we have confirmation that Elias Bookram was from Maryland.

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

Elias Bookram died sometime between the 1850 and 1860 censuses because his widow Chashe (Scott) Bookram is enumerated in the 1860 census without her husband.

I should also mention that I have identified a couple of other families in Granville Co that came from Native American tribes in Maryland and Delaware. A Revolutionary War soldier named Joseph Proctor (1759-1843) who was born in Maryland and from the Piscataway Tribe’s Proctor family, relocated to Granville Co in the late 1790s. There was also Joseph Okey b. 1725 who was from Sussex Co, Delaware and of the Lenni-Lenape Okey family. He relocated to Granville Co by about 1765. In the 1840 and 1850 censuses, Elias Bookram is in fact living in the next household over from the Okey family. I don’t believe the Puckhams/Bookrams, Proctors, and Okeys moved to Granville Co together because they all first appear in the Granville records at different times. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that several people from Maryland/Delaware tribes relocated to Granville Co.

I think I effectively have shown in previous blog posts that there was a network of Native American communities throughout North Carolina and Virginia that are related by kinship. But these networks did not stop at the state borders. Clearly there was a network up and down the east coast of kinship circles. It is no coincidence that Elias Bookram from the Nanticoke tribe in Maryland happened to relocate to another Native American community in North Carolina. He had prior knowledge of the community and likely knew that some of his closer tribal relations in Maryland and Delaware (Proctor and Okey families) had already relocated down there. And it is very much worth mentioning that displaced Saponi, Tuscarora and other NC/VA tribal peoples who relocated to the upper midwest and Canada during the early 1800s, intermarried with displaced Maryland/Delaware tribes like the Nanticoke, Lenape and Piscataway who also relocated to the upper Midwest and Canada. So Granville Co was by no means the only place where a diverse set of tribal peoples came together. This is one of many reasons why I reject the antiquated anthropological term “tri-racial isolate” to describe our communities. Yes these were people that for tribal kinship purposes practiced heavy endogamy which is no different from tribal peoples elsewhere (and there were laws forbidding them to marry free whites and black slaves), but they weren’t ignorant of the world around them and weren’t cut off from other peoples.

I would still like to know more about why Elias Bookram seemingly on his own, traveled to Granville Co to settle down. I think the Revolutionary War played a factor in this. The Nanticoke tribe sided with the British during the War and as you can imagine, the newly formed U.S. government did not take kindly to that. The post Revolutionary War era saw a major exodus of Nanticoke peoples away from their homelands. Perhaps Elias thought it would be safer for him to move to a very tight knit Native American community which interestingly boasted a large number of Revolutionary War veterans of the Continental Army. In addition, Granville Co at this time had a reputation for being “liberal” with its “free colored” population. Having “friendly whites” as your neighbors versus antagonizing ones, is certainly a draw.

At this time, I’m not able to definitively state who Elias Bookram’s parents were. If his approximate birth date of 1790 is correct and all of his life events are consistent with that being his approximate birth year, then he would be a minor around 1800 and living with his family in Maryland. I have identified three men who are brothers who could possibly be Elias’ father. First we have George Puckham born around 1766. He was a tithable across the Maryland border in Kent Co, DE in 1788 and 1789. In the 1800 census he is in Somerset Co, MD the head of a household of 5 “free colored” people. The census doesn’t break down the age and gender of the household members. And in the 1820 census George Puckham is the head of a household of 5 “free colored” people in Somerset Co, MD.

Second we have Levin Puckham born around 1768. He was also a tithable in 1788 and 1789 in Kent Co, DE and a tithable in Sussex Co, De in 1790. He doesn’t seem to appear in the 1800 census, but he is captured in the 1810 census in Somerset Co, MD the head of a household of 3 “free colored” people and 1 white woman over the age of 45. The white woman was most likely Levin Puckham’s wife. Levin was counted in the 1820 census, head of a household of 4 “free colored ” people. And third we have John Puckham born around 1770 who was a delinquent tithable in Sussex Co, DE in 1790. On 7 Apr 1804, John purchased 32 acres of land in Somerset Co, MD. These three brothers: George, Levin, and John Puckham were great-grandsons of John Puckham b. 1660 the documented Nanticoke Indian.


Elias Bookram’s Descendants

As can be seen from his census household numbers, Elias Bookram had a very large family. His was married twice and most of his children were born to his second wife Chashe Scott. The name of Elias’ first wife is not known. She may have also been Nanticoke and came with Elias Bookram to Granville Co. Or she may have been from the Native American community in Granville and Elias married her when he relocated here. All of Elias Bookram’s children that I have documented appear to have been born in North Carolina but I wouldn’t completely rule out that some of the eldest children could have been born in Maryland. Elias Bookram migrated to Granville Co in the 1810s and because he lived in the southern part of the county, his children and descendants can also be found in the records of counties bordering to the south such as Wake, Franklin, and Orange (later Durham) counties. The big challenge with researching this family is the many various spellings of the surname. In the Granville, Wake, Franklin, and Orange Co records, I have found their surname spelled: Bookram, Bookrum, Pookram, Buckram, Bookrun, Bookriam, Bookhum, and  more. So if you are researching this family, you will need to be quite creative when thinking about spelling variations in order to locate records.

*1. Walter Bookram (1810-1893): married Nancy Copeland on 28 Nov 1841 in Wake Co. Appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses with his family in Franklin Co. Descendants intermarried with the Outlaw, Ransom, and Hawkins families.

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

 

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

*2. William Bookram (b. 1812): appears in the 1850 Orange Co census with first wife Betsy (maiden name unknown) and children. He married for a second time on 17 Jan 1852 in Wake Co to Susan Mitchell. He then appears in the 1860 census for Wake Co with his second Susan and children. Most of his children either died young or did not marry, but one daughter named Frances Bookram married a Burnett. Very noteworthy is his son Henry Haywood Bookram who actually reverted to the “P” spelling of the surname and can be found in the 1870 and 1880 censuses as “Haywood Pookrum”. His descendants continued to use the “Pookrum” spelling of the surname.

*3. Gavin Bookram (b. 1815): appears in 1850 Granville Co census with wife Patsy Evans and children. He married first wife Patsy Evans on 3 May 1842 in Granville Co and married second wife Polly Chavis on 19 Feb 1854 in Granville Co.

4. Emaline Bookram (b. 1826): married Jesse Hedgepeth on 10 May 1845 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1850, 1870, and 1880 censuses in Granville Co. She had a lot of children who also continued to intermarry into the community with families such as Howell, Brandon, Evans, Kersey, and Jones.

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

5. Sally Bookram (b. 1827): married Moses Hedgepeth on 4 Sep 1845 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census with her husband and children.

6. Dilly Bookram (b. 1831): married Paul Taborn on 15 Feb 1854 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co and the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 censuses for Wake Co. Descendants intermarried with the Boswell/Braswell and Allen families.

7. Alfred Bookram (b. 1833): married Anna Peed on 10 Dec 1852 in Granville Co. He appears in the 1860 and 1870 censuses for Granville CO and the 1880 census for Orange Co. In the 1900 census he was back in Granville Co and in that census record, his father’s birthplace is listed as “Maryland”, again confirming Elias Bookram’s Maryland roots. Descendants intermarried with the Evans and Harris families.

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

 

8. Betsy Bookram (b. 1834): married Thorton Pettiford on 13 Sep 1852 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses for Granville Co. She left no surviving children.

9. Solomon Bookram (b. 1836): married Sallie Ann Pettiford on 11 Sep 1859 in Granville Co. He appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co and the 1860 census for Franklin Co. Solomon died young and his widow and children relocated to Oberlin, Ohio in the 1870s.

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

10. Nancy Bookram (b. 1837): married Paul Weaver on 23 Sep 1857 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850 census for Granville Co. I cannot find Nancy after she married Paul Weaver, so I’m unsure if she moved away or died young. I do find her husband Paul Weaver in the 1880 census in Orange Co listed as “single” and living with his sister.

11. Rena Bookram (b. 1840): appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Granville Co. I have no record of her marrying and can’t find her in later censuses, so she may have died young.

12. Frances Bookram (b. 1841): appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Granville Co. I also have no record of her marrying so she may have died young. There was another Frances Bookram (b. 1850) who was the daughter of the above William Bookram (b. 1812). This second Frances Bookram married William Burnett on 4 Jan 1868 in Wake Co. I mention this because it is easy to confuse the two women.

13. Mary Bookram (b. 1843): married William Foster Chavis on 19 Dec 1862 in Granville Co. She appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses of Granville Co.

* Indicates children of Elias Bookram who were born to his first unknown wife


Final Thoughts

Unlike most other surnames found among Granville’s Native Americans, “Bookram” is not a European name. Our European surnames usually came via intermarriage with whites, slavery, apprenticeship, and adoption. So this makes the Bookram surname unique in our community because it is somewhat of an artifact, connecting the present to the past. All Bookram descendants should feel proud to carry on this name that comes from our pre-colonial past.

 

 

 

“Poor White Women” in Granville’s Native American Community

In this blog post, I closely examine the lives of several white women who lived among, married into, and had children with Native Americans in Granville County. I find these examples quite interesting because they dispel the notion of “white” as a static racial category. Though these women were “biologically” white and born into white families, because of their close association with “free people of color”, they themselves at various times in their lives were also considered “persons of color”. These examples should help other genealogy researchers understand the social constructiveness of race.


 

Historical Context and Background

In an earlier blog post, I discussed the writings of local historian Oscar W. Blacknall (1858-1918) who also used the pseudonym “David Dodge”. His articles provide an interesting inside look into the identity of Granville’s Native American population because he explains that although the people were called “free colored”, they were actually Native American. For example in an article from 31 Oct 1895 in the News and Observer, Blacknall states:

“Excepting Wake county, I found them far more numerous in Granville County as well as much more characteristic of the type…I found that many of the families denied that their ancestors had ever been slaves. This denial I naturally attributed to their pride or ignorance. But it turned out they were right. An investigation as far as practicable of their genealogy SHOWED THEM TO BE LARGELY OF INDIAN BLOOD……Their prejudices against the slaves were so strong that nearly all the affinity of the free negro was with the lowest class of whites. As this exclusiveness still prevails, many known as free negroes probably have not one drop of negro blood.”

So according to Blacknall, members of Granville’s Native American community mostly socialized among themselves and viewed themselves as distinct and separate from the white and black populations. But in the above example, you see that he admits that the community did have some relationships with the “lowest class of whites”.

In another article, Blacknall explains that it was mostly “low white women” who had lived among and had relationships with members of the Native American community. For example in his article “The Free Negroes of North Carolina” published in January 1886, Blacknall says:

After their own immediate class, they associate almost wholly with the poorest whites, though not quite as equals.

And in the same article, Blacknall explains some more:

Hardly a neighborhood was free from low white women who married or cohabited with free negroes. Well can I recollect the many times when, with the inconsiderate curiosity of a child, I hurriedly climbed the front gate-post to get a good look at a shriveled old white woman trudging down the lane, who, when young, I was told, had had her free-negro lover bled, and drank some of his blood, so that she might swear she had negro blood in her, and thus marry him without penalty.

You are probably aware that marriages between whites and “free colored” people including Native Americans were legally forbidden in the South during this time period. However according to Blacknall, this did not stop lower class white women from intermarrying with the community. And some would even try to pass as “colored”.

What is also important to notice in Blacknall’s writing on this topic, is his tone. These interracial unions were not socially acceptable which is why horrifying rumors such as a white woman literally drinking the blood of her “colored” lover so that she herself could be considered “colored”, were passed down over time.

Blacknall’s articles provide us with an important understanding of the social status and hierarchy of Granville Co. At the top were wealthy whites, next came poor whites, next came the “free colored” Native American population, and next came enslaved (and later freedmen) peoples. The distance in social status between the poor whites and the “free colored” Native American population was not so distant which allowed for some socialization between the two.

In my own in depth genealogical research into the Native American population of Granville County I have observed much of what Blacknall wrote about. And in the following sections, I will chronicle the lives of several lower class white women who lived among and had children with members of the Native American community. Milly Wilkerson, Virginia Jackson and Rovella Tanner are just three examples of many women that I know about.


 

Milly Wilkerson (1810-1879)

Milly was from the large Wilkerson family of Granville County. I don’t know much about her early life or who her parents may have been. The first record for Milly Wilkerson is in May 1835 when she filed a “bastard bond” in Granville County. Burton Cousins from the large “free colored”/Native American Cousins family was the father of her child. Allen Cousins (apparent brother of Burton Cousins) and Collins Pettiford (from the “free colored”/Native American Pettiford family) paid the bond.

Though the child is not named in the “bastard bond”, we know the child was born on or before May 1835. Burton Cousins went on to marry Elizabeth Mayo in 21 March 1835 and moved out to Forsyth Co, NC.

The first time we find Milly Wilkerson listed in the census is in 1850, when she resided in the household of my 3rd great-grandfather Freeman Howell (1777-1870). They lived in the Abrams Plains District of Granville County, and Milly Wilkerson is listed as “white”. Also note that the child she had with Burton Cousins is not living with her which would indicate that her child was “bound out” or had reached adult age and married out.

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In 1850, Milly Wilkerson is listed as white (race column left blank) and is enumerated living in the household of Freeman Howell. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Abrahams Planes, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 202B; Image: 390

I have not located Milly Wilkerson in the 1860 census. In 1870, she is the head of her own household in Granville Co. What is very interesting here is that Milly’s race is listed as “mulatto”. Though Milly was a white woman, the fact that she lived among the Native community and had at least one child with one of the men, seems to have made her socially accepted as “non-white”.

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In 1870, Milly Wilkerson is listed as “mulatto”. She is also enumerated in the same dwelling as her son-in-law William Fain (husband of Milly’s daughter Arabella/Isabella Wilkerson). Source: Year: 1870; Census Place: Sassafras Fork, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1139; Page: 329A; Image: 665; Family History Library Film: 552638

The last record I located for Milly Wilkerson is her death recorded in the federal census “mortality schedule”. She died in July 1879 in Granville County. In this record she’s listed as “white” again.

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Milly Wilkerson’s death was recorded in the 1880 census because she had died in the previous year. Her race is listed as “white” again. Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Non-population Census Schedules for North Carolina, 1850-1880: Mortality and Manufacturing; Archive Collection: M1805; Archive Roll Number: 4; Census Year: 1879; Census Place: Sassafras Fork, Granville, North Carolina

So what became of her child with Burton Cousins? Milly’s daughter was named Arabella/Isabella Wilkerson born about 1832. On 8 Nov 1848, Arabella Wilkerson married a “free colored” person named William Fain. Alexander Howell, son of Freeman Howell (the man who Milly resided with in 1850) was the bondsman. In the 1870 census shown earlier, Milly Wilkerson was listed as head of her own household but in the same dwelling as her daughter Arabella Wilkerson with husband William Fain and children.

Mildred Fain
Mildred “Milly” Fain (1852-1930) was the daughter of Arabella Wilkerson and William Fain. Arabella Wilkerson was the daughter of Milly Wilkerson and Burton Cousins. Milly Fain was likely named after her grandmother Milly Wilkerson. Milly Fain was married to William Pettiford of the Native American/”free colored” Pettiford family. Source: Ancestry, Username: t4phillips

 

Virginia Jackson (b. 1825)

Another white woman who lived in the Native community was a woman named Virginia Jackson. I don’t know who fathered her children and she appears to never have filed any “bastard bonds”. However because she lived in the community and her daughter Arimetta Jackson married within the community, I’m certain that a man from the Native community fathered Virginia’s children.

Virginia Jackson first appears in the 1850 census in the Oxford district in Granville County. She is listed as “white” and her two daughters Arimetta Jackson and Emily Jackson are both listed as “mulatto”. Virginia and her children were residing in the household of another white woman who lived in the Native community named Lucy Mangum. They are surrounded by the Native American/”free colored”Anderson, Taborn, Richardson, Day, Evans, Harris, Bass and Tyler families.

1850 census
In this page from the 1850 census, you can see two white women named Lucy Mangum and Virginia Jackson listed among “free colored” members of the Native American community who are racially classified as “M” for “mulatto”. Lucy Mangum and Virginia Jackson had children with men from the community but because of laws against interracial marriage, they could not marry their partners. Their “mixed race” children are listed as “mulatto”. Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 106A; Image: 211

In 1860, Virginia Jackson is shown living with her daughters Arimetta and Emily again in the Oxford district of Granville County surrounded by the Anderson, Taborn, Bass, Richardson and Chavis families. Virginia is enumerated again as “white” but this time her daughters are also enumerated as “white” and not “mulatto”.

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In 1860, Virginia Jackson was enumerated again as “white” and still living within the Native community. Her two children who were enumerated as “mulatto” in the 1850 census, are now enumerated as “white” in 1860. Source: Year: 1860; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M653_898; Page: 518; Image: 524; Family History Library Film: 803898

I was unable to locate Virginia or her daughters in the 1870 census. Emily Jackson I lose after the 1860 census. Arimetta Jackson on the other hand married James Anderson on 6 Sep 1864 in Granville Co.

In the 1880 census we find Virginia Jackson still living in the Oxford district in the household of her daughter Arimetta and her husband James Anderson. This time Virginia is enumerated as “mulatto”, reflecting her socially accepted inclusion within the Native community.

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In 1880, Virginia Jackson a white woman is for the first time enumerated as “mulatto”. She is living in the household her of her son-in-law James Anderson. Source: Year: 1880; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: 965; Family History Film: 1254965; Page: 558A; Enumeration District: 107; Image: 0176

Arimetta Jackson divorced her first husband James Anderson and remarried Silas Harris on 2 March 1893 in Granville Co. In the 1900 census we find Virginia Jackson again in the Oxford district residing with her daughter Arimetta and her new husband Silas Harris. In this census, Virginia is enumerated as “black” (“mulatto” was not an option in the 1900 census). That is the last time Virginia appears in the census, so she likely died a short time afterwards. Though she was married twice, Arimetta Jackson did not have any children.

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Virginia Jackson was last enumerated in the 1900 census. Here she is listed as “black” (“mulatto” was not an option) and living with her son-in-law Silas Harris. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: Oxford, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: 1197; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0058; FHL microfilm: 1241197

Rovella Tanner (1855-1915)

This brings us to our last example: Rovella Tanner. Rovella was the last “wife” of Baldy Kersey (1820-1899): one of the most infamous residents of Granville’s Native American community. In a recent conversation I had with an elder cousin named Robert Tyler, he relayed to me that the relationship between Rovella and Baldy was considered quite scandalous and he confirmed with me that Rovella was a white woman. I previously discussed Baldy Kersey in my blog post about the Kersey family and their tribal origins with the Weyanoke Indians. Baldy had a lot of run ins with the police and certainly did much to evade the law. So the fact that he had a relationship and children with a white woman, comes with little shock, because Baldy showed no restraint with the law and with what was considered socially unacceptable.

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In the 1870 census, Rovella Tanner was enumerated as “mulatto” and residing in the household of Baldy Kersey who she later would have a number of children with. Source: Year: 1870; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1139; Page: 177A; Image: 359; Family History Library Film: 552638

The first time we find Rovella Tanner is in the 1870 census, where she is enumerated as “mulatto” and living in Baldy Kersey’s household. Baldy’s first wife Frances Tyler had recently passed away so Baldy was newly widowed. The two “Kersey” children living with Baldy named “Hawkins” and “Manda” were actually the children of Frances Tyler’s sister Martha Tyler. Baldy and his wife Frances had adopted them. Also listed in Baldy’s household is a woman enumerated as “white” named Rovanna Russell. Because her first name is nearly identical to that of Rovella Tanner’s and from additional clues, I suspect this Rovanna Russell was of some family relation to Rovella Tanner. Rovanna Russell was consistently enumerated as “white” but never married. Yet on her death certificate, she was listed as “colored” and the informant of the death certificate was Rovella Tanner’s son Henry Lyon Kersey.

Because Rovella Tanner was white and Baldy Kersey was not, they could not legally marry so it is hard to know exactly when their relationship started. But by 1880 Baldy Kersey had remarried to a woman named Sarah (last name not known), yet he had already fathered 3 children with Rovella Tanner. In the next household from Baldy Kersey, Rovella Tanner was enumerated as “white” and with one unnamed baby. In addition, several households above Baldy Kersey, we find the previously mentioned Rovanna Russell with two children in her household: George W Tanner and Henry Tanner. These two children along with the unnamed baby with Rovella Tanner, were all children that Baldy Kersey fathered with Rovella Tanner. George and Henry Tanner’s surnames would soon after be recorded as Kersey and remained that way.

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In the 1880 census, Rovella Tanner is enumerated as “white” and is shown with one unnamed baby that Baldy Kersey fathered. Two additional children that Rovella Tanner had with Baldy Kersey, were residing in the household of her relative Rovanna Russell. Source: Year: 1880; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina

 

Baldy Kersey and Rovella Tanner had at least 8 children: George, Henry, Sally, Archibald/”Baldy”, John/”Buck”, Martha, Elbert, and Sam. Baldy Kersey died in 1899 and though the children he had with Rovella Tanner were legally “born out of wedlock”, he made sure they were included in his will as well as Rovella herself. Baldy even included Rovanna Russell (family relative of Rovella Tanner’s) in his will.

Baldy Kersey will
A copy of Baldy Kersey’s will that was written up on 11 July 1899. Baldy leaves the bulk of his land and possessions to Rovella Tanner. Notice that he never refers to Rovella as his wife. All of Baldy’s living children (both biological and adopted) were included in his will. Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts.
In the 1900 and 1910 censuses, Rovella Tanner is enumerated as “Rovella Kersey” and listed as “black” and “mulatto” respectively. Even though she never could legally marry Baldy Kersey, her children were Kerseys and that is likely why she was also listed with the Kersey surname.

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Rovella Tanner was enumerated as “black” (“mulatto” was not an option in 1900) and with the Kersey surname along with her children. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: 1197; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0056; FHL microfilm: 1241197
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Rovella Tanner was last enumerated in the 1910 census. She’s again listed with the Kersey surname and as “mulatto”. Source:Year: 1910; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: T624_1113; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0080; FHL microfilm: 1375126

Rovella Tanner died on 21 Feb 1915 in Granville County. Her name on the death certificate is listed as”Rovella Kersey” and she is listed as “black”. Rovella’s son Baldy Kersey Jr was the informant listed. Also noteworthy is that Rovella was buried at Olive Grove Baptist Church. This was a church that serviced the Native community and had mostly a “colored” congregation. Rovella’s family relative Rovanna Russell was also buried at Olive Grove which is consistent with both women being considered members of the community.

The other interesting information provided on Rovella’s death certificate is the name of her mother. No father is listed but her mother’s name is listed as “Mary Ladd”. I did find a white women in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Granville Co with the name “Mary Ladd” (born in the 1830s) but I’m unable to verify that she is indeed Rovella’s mother.

Rovella Tanner death cert
Rovella Tanner’s death certificate. Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sam Napolean Kersey
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the youngest son of Rovella Tanner and Baldy Kersey.  Sam lived in the heart of Granville’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey. Source: Darrin Norwood

Help Me Locate the Descendants of the Siblings of my Great-Grandfather Edward B. Howell

My great-grandfather was Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942). He was the son of James E Howell of Granville County and Virginia “Ginny” Richardson of Warren/Halifax Cos. He was born and raised in Granville County’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township. I am looking to get in touch with any descendants of his siblings:

1. Frances Ellen Howell (1872-1923), 2.  Lucy J Howell (1873-1952), and 3. William Isaac Howell (1891-?)

I have not successfully found any living descendants, so I’m hoping the readers of this blog will be able to assist in any way. Please share this blog post!

Some background information:

Edward Brodie Howell was born in late September 1870 in Granville Co, NC to James E Howell and Virginia Richardson. James E Howell had first married Betsy Ann Tyler-Kersey, daughter of Baldy Kersey and Frances Tyler. They were wed in 1867 but Betsy Ann died soon after their wedding and they had no children together.

Next, James E Howell married Virginia “Ginny” Richardson, daughter of Nancy Richardson and an unidentified father. Virginia was from the Haliwa-Saponi Richardson family. They wed in 1869 and Virginia moved to Granville County where she gave birth to three children:

1. Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942) – my great-grandfather

2. Frances Ellen Howell (1872-1923) – my great grand aunt

3. Lucy J Howell (1873-1952) – my great grand aunt

Sadly Virginia (Richardson) Howell died young, leaving her husband James E Howell to care for three very young children on his own. By 1880, James E Howell was listed as “widowed” in the census and had moved into his mother Jane (Harris) Howell’s home. Jane helped raise her grandchildren and the family remained in Granville County’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township.

Later, James E Howell married for a third time – Mary (maiden name not confirmed). They wed in 1887, and had one son together:

4. William Isaac Howell (1891 – ?) – my great grand uncle

James E Howell died in 1912, but by that time his two sons – Edward Brodie Howell and William Isaac Howell had relocated to New Haven, CT and his two daughters Frances Ellen Howell and Lucy J Howell relocated to Washington, D.C.


This is what I know about my great-grandfather’s 3 siblings:

Frances Ellen Howell (1872-1923).

By 1900, Frances relocated to Washington, D.C. where she worked as a nurse. And by the following year she married John B Loftus (1870-1955) who had also moved from Granville County to Washington, D.C. John worked as a policeman in Washington, D.C and the family lived at 1514 Kingman Place. John and Frances (Howell) Loftus had one daughter together: Ruth Loftus (1901-1996).

John B. Loftus, Frances (Howell) Loftus, and Ruth Loftus enumerated in Washington, D.C. in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census Source: Year: 1910; Census Place: Precinct 2, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T624_149; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1374162
John B. Loftus, Frances (Howell) Loftus, and Ruth Loftus enumerated in Washington, D.C. in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census
Source: Year: 1910; Census Place: Precinct 2, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T624_149; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1374162

Frances (Howell) Loftus died young in 1923. Her widow John B Loftus married again to a woman named Essie. John Loftus died in 1955.

John and Frances (Howell) Loftus’ daughter Ruth Loftus (1901-1996) remained in Washington, D.C. Ruth was a public school teacher and was married to Fred Jolie (1886-1979). Fred was from a Louisiana Creole background and worked as a clerk in the War Department. The couple lived at 325 T St and as far as I know they did not have any children. Fred Jolie died in 1975 and Ruth (Loftus) Jolie died in 1996. I hope that I am mistaken about them not having any children and I would welcome any additional information anyone has about John and Ruth.

As Ruth grew older and perhaps lonelier she would regularly send poems to the newspaper in honor of her parents. For example:

Ruth (Loftus) Jolie, daughter of John Loftus and Frances Howell writing a poem in honor of her deceased parents. Source: The Washington Post, 1982.
Ruth (Loftus) Jolie, daughter of John Loftus and Frances Howell writing a poem in honor of her deceased parents.
Source: The Washington Post, 1982.

Lucy J Howell (1873-1952)

Lucy Howell relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1902 and that same year she married William Sanford (1865-1928). William worked as a clerk in the Post Office and Lucy was a dressmaker who owned her own shop. The couple lived at 1316 U Street. I have no records of William and Lucy having any children. William died in 1928 and Lucy died in 1952.

William Sanford and Lucy (Howell) Sanford enumerated in Washington, D.C. in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. They have quite of number of boarders who are living in their home. Source: Year: 1910; Census Place: Precinct 8, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T624_153; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0145; FHL microfilm: 1374166
William Sanford and Lucy (Howell) Sanford enumerated in Washington, D.C. in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. They have quite of number of boarders who are living in their home.
Source: Year: 1910; Census Place: Precinct 8, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T624_153; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0145; FHL microfilm: 1374166

William Isaac Howell (1891-?)

William Isaac Howell was my great-grandfather’s youngest sibling, and he was biologically his half sibling because William had a different mother. There was also a 21 year age difference between the two brothers, so I’m not sure how close they were growing up. But William did move to New Haven, CT which is where my great-grandfather also relocated. William was in New Haven by 1910 and was married to a woman named Margaret (maiden name not known). William and Margaret had two children together: James Howell (1913-?) and Theda Howell (1919-?).The family resided at 53 Foote St and 1411 Chapel St.

William Isaac Howell, Margaret Howell and children James and Theda Howell are listed in the 1920 census in New Haven, CT. They also have a boarder living in their home. Source: Year: 1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 9, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_191; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 362; Image: 212
William Isaac Howell, Margaret Howell and children James and Theda Howell are listed in the 1920 census in New Haven, CT. They also have a boarder living in their home.
Source: Year: 1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 9, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_191; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 362; Image: 212

By 1932, William Isaac Howell and Margaret had separated/divorced and William relocated to New York City and Margaret remained in New Haven at 866 Grand Ave. Their son James Howell later followed William to New York City.

The last verified record for William Isaac Howell was from 1942 when he filed a WW2 draft card. His address is listed as 104 West 132nd St. His son James Howell is listed as next closest living relative. Source: The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; State Headquarters: New York
The last verified record for William Isaac Howell was from 1942 when he filed a WW2 draft card. His address is listed as 104 West 132nd St. His son James Howell is listed as the next closest living relative.
Source: The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; State Headquarters: New York

As previously mentioned, William’s son James Howell also moved to New York City but I have no idea what happened to him. I do not know if James was married, if he had children or when he died. I also have no idea what happened to William’s daughter Theda Howell. I do not know if she remained in New Haven, moved to New York City, or even moved elsewhere.

However I do know that all 4 Howell siblings were still close and visited each other frequently in addition to visiting their home roots in Granville County, North Carolina. Going from a rural indigenous community where everyone was kin to moving to major urban areas with people from diverse backgrounds must have been quite an adjustment for them. I found several newspaper articles to verify this.

Lucy (Howell) Sanford visiting her home in North Carolina in 1925. Source: The New York Age, 29 Aug 1925, Sat, Page 9
Lucy (Howell) Sanford (1873-1952) visiting her home roots in Granville County, North Carolina in 1925.
Source: The New York Age, 29 Aug 1925, Sat, Page 9
Frances (Howell) Loftus and daughter Ruth Loftus visiting my great-grandfather Edward B. Howell and family in New Haven, CT in 1908. Source: The Washington Bee, 19 Sep 1908, Sat, First Edition
Frances (Howell) Loftus and daughter Ruth Loftus spent the summer visiting my great-grandfather Edward B. Howell and family in New Haven, CT in 1908.
Source: The Washington Bee, 19 Sep 1908, Sat, First Edition
Lucy (Howell) Sanford visiting my great-grandfather Edward B. Howell and family in New Haven, CT in 1910. Source: The Washington Bee, 2 Jul 1910, Sat, First Edition
Lucy (Howell) Sanford visiting my great-grandfather Edward B. Howell and family in New Haven, CT in 1910.
Source: The Washington Bee, 2 Jul 1910, Sat, First Edition
My great-grandfather Edward B. Howell bringing his two oldest children Edward and Beatrice to visit his sister Lucy (Howell) Sanford in Washington, D.C. in 1910. Source: The Washington Bee, 17 Sep 1910, Sat, First Edition
My great-grandfather Edward B. Howell bringing his two oldest children Edward and Beatrice to visit his sister Lucy (Howell) Sanford in Washington, D.C. in 1910.
Source: The Washington Bee, 17 Sep 1910, Sat, First Edition
My grand uncle Dr. Edward Gaylord Howell (1898-1971)  accompanied his father Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942) to visit family in Washington, D.C. Source: Yale University archives
My grand uncle Dr. Edward Gaylord Howell (1898-1971) accompanied his father Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942) to visit family in Washington, D.C.
Source: Yale University archives
My grand aunt Beatrice Howell (1901-1967) also accompanied her father Edward Brodie Howell to visit family in Washington, D.C. © Christine Moore Lynch
My grand aunt Beatrice Howell (1901-1967) also accompanied her father Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942) to visit family in Washington, D.C.
© Christine Carter Lynch. Do not reproduce

The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of Granville’s Kersey Family

Many of Granville County’s Native American families came to the county from Virginia to escape the intrusions of the British colonists. The Bass, Evans, and Anderson families are just several examples of coastal Algonquian speaking peoples that followed this route. The Kersey family is no exception, and has roots in Surry County, VA among the Weyanoke, an Algonquian speaking people who allied and moved in with Nottoway and Tuscarora on their reservations. In this blog post I will trace the Kersey family from the Surry Co, VA area to Granville Co, NC.

Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods published an essay titled, “Lumbee Origins: The Weyanoke-Kersey Connection” in support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition bid. The full text of the essay can be found here and here (pdf format). The tribal origins of the Kersey family are relevant to the Lumbees because the tribe’s Lowry/Lowrie family of Robeson County, NC descend from the Kersey family – specifically a Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). Through careful examination of genealogical and historical records, Woods chronicles how a Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey  (born 1665) from Surry Co,VA resettled close to the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation in Bertie Co, NC. His Kersey family likely intermarried with the Tuscarora before moving down together to Robeson Co. I will be citing Wood’s scholarship for this article as well as Paul Heinegg’s genealogy of the Kersey family.

Who are the Weyanoke?

Map of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1607. The Weyanoke tribe is circled in red. Source: Helen Rountree
Map of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1607. The Weyanoke tribe is circled in red.
Source: Helen Rountree

The Weyanoke are an Algonquian-speaking tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy from the Tidewater area of Virginia. Because of ongoing conflicts between indigenous people and the British colony, the Weyanoke moved around quite a bit to seek shelter, and by the 18th century had integrated onto the Nottoway and Tuscarora reservations. The surname “Wineoak” appears on the land records for both reservations, indicating that these community members were of Weyanoke descent. Cedric Woods describes this movement and integration of tribal people:

As this case study will show, what may be initially viewed as a spin-off of what I maintain as a Weyanoke individual, was actually the continuation of a cross border movement to friendlier social and political environs. These person also did not move in isolated fashion. They are individual faces of historic movements of tribes. Additionally, they did not move to isolation, but maintained contact with their kinsfolks and allies, and recreated their communities as much as possible in new territory. This process created new Native communities in North Carolina with very ancient roots in Virginia.

What Woods is describing is exactly what I’ve noticed in carefully describing the genealogies of Granville’s Native American families. These families moved together from one location to the next, and along the way brought in allied Native families to sustain their Native identity. This is why these families are so interrelated across state and county borders because of centuries of documented intermarriage. For the Weyanoke families that moved out of Virginia and into North Carolina, they did not simply “blend” into African-American or European-American communities like researcher Heinegg suggests, but rather they moved together with other Native American families to form new tribal communities.

Cedric Woods also points to another trend that lead to the “detribalization” of Virginia Native Americans – the indentured servitude system. Young Native Americans were often “bound out” to white families to be servants and by the time their service contract was over, these individuals most often did not rejoin their tribal communities.

The Kersey line that is ancestral to the Lumbee tribe, descends from a man named Thomas Kersey  (born 1665) who was an indentured servant of Benjamin Harrison of Surry Co, VA. Harrison was a known Indian trader who traded with the Saponi, Meherrin, Nottoway, and Weyanoke tribes. Cedric Woods also cites several colonial references of Weyanoke villages and cabins in the Surry Co area, to geographically place the Weyanoke people in Surry So in the late 17th century. For example, I found in colonial records from 1707:

…then lived on A Plantation of Collo Benjamin Harrisson on Blackwater and within call of the Weyanoake Indian Forte and consumed there five yeares during which time this Deponent had frequent Discourses with the Indians and was by them informed that they never Claimed to the Southward of the Maherine River But at the time that the Appachoukanough was Routed and taken for the Massacre he had committed the Weyanoakes (being his Confederates and fearing the English) removed themselves from that place which is now called Weyanoake in James River to Warraekeeks on Weyanoake River and after when the Poackyacks killed their King they were by the English brought from thence and placed on the Blackwater aforementioned as Tributarys. where this Deponent lived by them and this Deponent further saith that he was informed by the Weyanoaks that the Weyanoke River now Called Nottoway was their bounds and that they never Seated to the Southward of Warr-a-keeks.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr01-0343

All of this information leads Woods to conclude that Thomas Kersey (born 1665) was  a local Weyanoke Indian who was “bound out” to Indian trader Benjamin Harrison.

By 1720, Thomas Kersey (born 1665) left Virginia and resettled in the Chowan/Bertie Co area that later became northeastern Northampton County, NC. His son Thomas Kersey (born 1712) moved to the part of Edgecombe County, NC that later became Nash County, NC by 1743 and in 1764 he moved to Robeson County. Cedric Woods explains why the Weyanoke had such a strong affiliation with Tuscarora people:

Another strong connection that predisposed the Weyanoke to relocate to Tuscarora-controlled territory is their pre-contact relationship with the Tuscarora as ambassadors for Powhatan’s chiefdom (Rountree, 1993). In fact, the Tuscarora queens (clan mothers) are on several occasions documented as entreating with them to relocate to North Carolina. This begs the question, what did the Tuscaroras have to gain by the relocation of the landless Weyanokes to their homeland? A couple of possibilities seem evident. First, this was an infusion of additional Native people in the region that was coming under increasing pressure from the English (pressure that would eventually result in the Tuscarora Wars). The Tuscaroras, clearly an Iroquoian people, had Algonquin speakers as allies, and recruiting others is not surprising. Second, the Weyanokes were Algonquins that had already had extensive dealings with the English, and knew their customs fairly well, particularly as a result of the experience of indentured servitude. They also had connections with the English traders in Virginia, who might be more willing to supply the Tuscarora with guns and powers as opposed to the English traders who lived in their area. Perhaps they were viewed as potential go-betweens with the English. In any case, by the mid-eighteenth century, Weyanokes were very much a part of Tuscarora political structure, as is evidenced by their names on land deeds (Powell, 1758).

Woods cited Helen Rountree’s book “Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722” (1993), as a reference to the Weyanoke’s relationship with the Tuscarora as ambassadors to the Powhatan confederacy and her book is worth a look to learn more about Powhatan diplomacy.

An unsourced Wikipedia entry also relays the following information about the Weyanoke seeking protection with the Nottoway and Tuscarora:

Despite their many moves, the Weyanoke after 1646 became partly Anglicised, preferring to have some English-style houses built, rather than yehakans, wherever they moved. The colony, in assigning them reserve land on the upper Blackwater in 1650 (from which they were driven by colonists the following year), even expressed a desire to teach the Weyanokes the English concept of property ownership, and this was successful. In their subsequent wanderings, the Weyanoke always made land purchase or rental contracts with the chiefs of the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora and Nottoway tribes. By the 18th century, they had fully integrated with the Nottoways, and were speaking their language, their former presence visible only in the surname “Wineoak”.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weyanoke,_Virginia

I did find in the colonial records from 1710, sources that reveal the Weyanoke were making land contracts with the Nottoway:

All our Evidences are unanimous as to the name of Nottoway River which with the Indians account, corroborated by English Evidences of the Weyanoaks paying an acknowledgement to the Nottoways (who lived there long before) for living on that River, makes it seem improbable the name of that River should be changed from their living a few years upon it, at least twenty five miles from the mouth, when they lived much longer upon Blackwater without altering the name of it.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr01-0397

And finally, current Nottoway Chief Lynette Allston in a letter dated 2006 to the Virginia Council on Indians, for the purpose of the Nottoway to be “recognized” as a tribe by the state of Virginia says:

The Nottoway had earlier provided a safe haven for those some historians have labeled (or mis-labeled) a non-Christianized segment of the Nansemond in 1744 through at least 1786[5] . Segments of the Weyanockes and Meherrins also sought refuge within the Nottoway community.

Source: http://www.nottowayindians.org/petitioncoverletter.html

Map showing the movement of the Kersey family from Weyanoke territory in Virginia into North Carolina. In red is the movement of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) whose Kersey family is ancestral to the Lumbee Tribe. In purple is Thomas Kersey (born 1735) whose Kersey family is ancestral to Granville County. In blue are locations of the Nottoway Reservation and the Tuscarora Reservation. © Kianga Lucas
Map showing the movement of the Kersey family from Weyanoke territory in Virginia into North Carolina. In red is the movement of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) whose Kersey family is ancestral to the Lumbee Tribe. In purple is Thomas Kersey (born 1735) whose Kersey family is ancestral to Granville County. In blue are locations of the Nottoway Reservation and the Tuscarora Reservation.
© Kianga Lucas

Granville County’s Kersey Lineage

So with the background information that Woods has provided about the Kersey-Weyanoke connections, let’s take a closer look at the genealogy of Granville’s Kersey family.

Identifying the precise verified earliest member for the Kersey family of Granville is a bit tricky, because Heinegg in his Kersey genealogy, leaves a lot of room for speculation. However I am comfortable saying that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton County, VA is the earliest verified ancestor. Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey is a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry Co, VA. This John Kersey is probably a brother of previously mentioned Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry Co, VA who was the subject of Cedric Woods’ essay. I agree that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) descends from the Kerseys next door in Surry Co, but more research is needed to correctly identify his parents. Because there are several different related Thomas Kerseys found in these early records, Heinegg has unfortunately incorrectly attributed records to the wrong Kersey, so below is a corrected version of major life events for Thomas Kersey (born 1735).

Thomas Kersey (born 1735)

The first verified record for Thomas Kersey (born 1735) is when he was sued for debt by David Wiggins in Sussex Co, VA court in 1755. (Sussex Co was formed from Surry Co in 1749). The following year in 1756, Thomas received a plat for 104 acres of land on the southside of the Nottoway River near Ploughman Swamp in Sussex Co. This is in close proximity of the former Nottoway and Weyanoke  village called “Warekeck” that was located in the Blackwater River area that Woods describes in his essay. Thomas Kersey then sold this land in 1759 to William Longbottom. Next, Thomas Kersey purchased land in neighboring Southampton Co, VA in 1760 from the previously mentioned David and Elizabeth Wiggins who were residents of Surry Co, VA. This land was situated on Three Creeks and was adjacent to Thomas Wiggins and McLemore (probably a descendant of James McLemore, a Scottish born settler). This Southampton County land owned by Thomas Kersey was also adjacent to the bounded Nottoway “square tract” reservation.

Map showing the locations of several Indian reservations, including both the "square tract" and the "circle tract" of the Nottoway reservation. Thomas Kersey (born 1735) owned land on the southside of the Nottoway River, along Three Creeks which was adjacent to the Nottway "square tract" reservation. Source: https://andersonnc.wordpress.com/2-john-pitmans-of-iow/
Map showing the locations of several Indian reservations, including both the “square tract” and the “circle tract” of the Nottoway reservation. Thomas Kersey (born 1735) owned land on the southside of the Nottoway River, along Three Creek which was adjacent to the Nottway “square tract” reservation.
Source: https://andersonnc.wordpress.com/2-john-pitmans-of-iow/

Thomas Kersey’s wife is unknown but I have strong reason to believe she was from the Native American/”free colored” Walden family of Southampton County. Thomas did not leave a will, but the Kerseys who appear in the subsequent Southampton records, are most likely his children. These children include: William Kersey (born 1761), Agatha Kersey (born 1762), Thomas Kersey (born 1767), Walden Kersey (born 1767), Willis Kersey, Delilah Kersey (born 1778), and Loudon Kersey.

Walden Kersey’s name is very revealing because it was common practice for the maiden names of wives to be passed down as first names in their descendants. The Walden family is also ancestral to many Native American families of Granville County (myself included). The Waldens are connected to the Nottoway and there are still Walden descendants among the state recognized Nottoway Tribe of Southampton County. This is why I strongly believe that Thomas Kersey’s (born 1735) wife was a Walden.

William Kersey (born 1761)

From here we turn to Thomas Kersey’s son William Kersey (born 1761). William was a tithable in Southampton County, VA in 1780. In 1786, he married Polly Evans, the daughter of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and his unnamed Walden wife of Mecklenburg County, VA. Polly Evans was the sister of my 5th great-grandmother Margaret Evans and I discussed their Evans family here. After marrying Polly Evans, William Kersey appears in both Southampton and Mecklenburg records, but Mecklenburg County appears to be his primary residence. This Mecklenburg County property was situated right on the Warren County, NC border because William Kersey was recorded just as frequently in the Warren County records.

In 1832, William Kersey filed a pension for his services in the Revolutionary War. You can find excerpts of his pension application here. From this application we learn many details of his war service. He first enlisted in 1777, survived the disastrous winter camp at Valley Forge, and fought in the Battle of Monmouth. Other important details in the pension application confirm that William Kersey was from Southampton County but moved to Warren County towards the end of the war and continued to live there through to the present because he received 640 acres of land for his war service. William Chavis (not the founder of Granville’s Native American community) provided testimony in support of William Kersey’s pension and stated that he remembered William Kersey’s wedding to Polly Evans because there was lots of “fiddling and dancing”, and the wedding took place at Polly’s father Thomas Evans’ home. From the pension records, we learn that William Kersey later died in 1836 and that his widow Polly (Evans) Kersey died in 1840.

In 1845, William and Polly Kersey’s youngest son Edmund Kersey (born 1805), sought to collect his father’s pension payments and listed the names of William and Polly’s other surviving children. In addition to Edmund, the other surviving children named were: Thomas Kersey (born 1785), William Kersey (born 1794), Nancy Kersey (born 1799) and Barbara Kersey (born 1800). One son was not named and that was Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838). Thomas Kersey (born 1785) and Nancy Kersey (born 1799) remained on the Mecklenburg County side of the border, and Edmund Kersey (born 1805) remained on the Warren County side of the border. However Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838), William Kersey (born 1794), and Barbara Kersey (born 1800) had all moved to Granville County by 1830. William Kersey was married to Margaret Ivey and moved further into North Carolina and settled in Orange County. Barbara Kersey was married to Martin Anderson of the Native American/”free colored” Anderson family. Benjamin Kersey was married to a woman named Sally (maiden name not known). However Benjamin died by 1838, and his widow Sally remarried Martin Anderson who had been widowed when his first wife Barbara Kersey died.

Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838)

As stated earlier, Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) was not named as a surviving child in William Kersey’s pension record because Benjamin died in 1838, 7 years before Edmund Kersey petitioned to collect their father’s pension payments. And because Benjamin’s widow Sally had remarried Martin Anderson, she was not entitled to any support from William Kersey’s pension. All of Benjamin Kersey’s children and grandchildren intermarried with members of Granville’s Native American community including: Tyler, Anderson, Howell, Harris, Chavis, and Richardson families and continued to live in the heart of the community.

Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granvilly, in Fishing Creek township.  Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granville, in Fishing Creek township.
Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol
Sally Kersey Tyler and grandchildre
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) is pictured again with her Tyler grandchildren (children of her son John Thomas Tyler). Sally is seated in the back of the carriage. Fishing Creek township, Granville Co, NC. Source: Robert Tyler

The Adventurous Life of Baldy Kersey (1820-1899)

Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) was a son of Benjamin and Sally Kersey and was a well known person in Granville County whose name made the papers for being on the wrong side of the law. Baldy Kersey was first married to Frances Tyler and they adopted the four children of Frances Tyler’s sister Martha Tyler (their adopted daughter Betsy Ann Tyler was the first wife of my 2nd great-grandfather James E. Howell). In 1864, Baldy Kersey escaped from jail in Oxford and the following notice was published which includes a physical description of him:

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

In 1866 as recorded in the Freedmen’s Bureau records, Baldy Kersey was again accused of larceny when he stole a horse and a mule and sold them to Avery Taborn, another member of the community.

In 1880, Baldy Kersey was arrested along with a white man named John Smith. They were accused of being in charge of a gang that was stealing horses and counterfeiting:

Source: The Torchlight, 16 Mar 1880, Tue, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 16 Mar 1880, Tue, Page 3

Baldy Kersey was also involved in a famous land case that went up all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Apparently, a man named Col. Edwards was attempting to collect a debt from Baldy Kersey, and Baldy claimed his homestead. Baldy Kersey’s land was in the heart of the Native American community in Granville County, in Fishing Creek township and it was very important for Baldy to hold onto this land. As you’ll recall from earlier, Baldy’s mother Sally (maiden name unknown) remarried Martin Anderson after her husband Benjamin Kersey died. In order to keep this highly valued land in the family, Sally Anderson paid Baldy’s debt and put the land deed in her name. Perhaps to stop her other children (and debtors) from claiming the land, Sally Anderson disinherited her children and left the land solely to Baldy in her will. However after her death, her will was being contested on the grounds of insanity.

Source: The Granville Free Lance, 22 Feb 1878, Fri, Page 3
Source: The Granville Free Lance, 22 Feb 1878, Fri, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 23 Jan 1883, Tue, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 23 Jan 1883, Tue, Page 3
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the son og Baldy Kersey and his last wife Rovella Tanner. Sam was Baldy's youngest son and passed away just a year after Sam was born. Sam lived in the heart of Granville's Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey. Source: Darrin Norwood
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the son of Baldy Kersey and his last wife, a white woman named Rovella Tanner. Sam was Baldy’s youngest son and Baldy passed away just a year after Sam was born. Sam lived in the heart of Granville’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey.
Source: Darrin Norwood

So to summarize, the Kersey family came to Granville County in the early 1800s, after the founding members had already established a Native American community. Previous to Granville County, the Kersey’s tribal origins are with the Algonquian speaking Weyanoke tribe who sought refuge and intermarried with the Iroquois speaking Nottoway and Tuscarora tribes. The Kersey lineage that came to Granville, was more closely connected to the Nottoway tribe because of intermarriage with the Nottoway Walden family. The journey of the Kersey family exemplifies how early contact Native American peoples maintained their Native identity in spite of colonial pressures to relocate.