If you were to look at my mother’s top DNA cousin matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, and Gedmatch, you would swear she had at least one parent from the Lumbee tribe in Robeson County, NC. Many of her closest cousin matches are Lumbee tribal members whose families have called Robeson county home for many, many generations. Yet, my mother does not have a single documented direct ancestor that ever lived in Robeson. So what gives?
My mother’s North Carolina roots are directly from the Native American community in Granville County and with the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in nearby Halifax and Warren counties. Though the Lumbees have called Robeson county home since the late 1700s, many of their ancestors came from the North Carolina/Virginia border area. It was in this area that many Native/FPOC lineages diverged, with some families staying put and others moving deeper into North Carolina to Robeson county. These familial connections are known and have been passed down through oral history. A Granville County cousin who is also an elder, has fond memories of traveling with his parents down to Robeson, to visit his Lowry cousins from the Lumbee tribe. So as I have researched the origins of our Granville families, I have always noted the “Lumbee branches” of our family trees.
The growing popularity of DNA testing is also helping to corroborate these documented family connections both within and between tribal communities in North Carolina. I have closely reviewed the DNA test results of dozens of people from the Granville community and from the Lumbee tribe. The DNA cousin matches are so strong and numerous, that the correct question should be “how are we NOT related?”. The endogamy within North Carolina tribal communities, typically means that most of us have multiple lineages from the same family. As a result, our DNA cousin matches often appear closer by DNA than on paper.
So in this blog post, I will look closely at six family connections (Chavis/Gibson, Evans/Locklear, Bass, Goins/Gowen, Kersey/Lowry, and Scott) between Granville and the Lumbee tribe which help explain why we are showing such strong DNA cousin matches with one another. So if you are from the Granville community or a Lumbee tribal member and have done DNA testing, this blog post is for you. I am focusing specifically on lineages that are common/noteworthy in the Granville community. For the sake of space and clarity, I am not including lineages that are specific to the Haliwa-Saponi and Occaneechi-Saponi tribal communities (both communities are geographically next to and have strong, direct ties to Granville). I could write a separate blog post about each of those topics.
A final word on the use of “Lumbee”. I am well aware of the current political disagreements within the Robeson county community about the “authenticity” of the Lumbee tribal name. There are some community members who completely reject the Lumbee name for other tribal identities that they view as more accurate and reflective of the community. By using “Lumbee” in my blog post, I do not mean to take one side over another. My use of “Lumbee” is for genealogical purposes, to able to identify the tight knit interrelated Native American families who have historically resided in Robeson and neighboring counties.
The family connection between Granville County and the modern Lumbee community based in Robeson County is best seen through the Chavis/Gibson family. William Chavis (1706 – 1778) and his wife Frances Gibson (1700-1781) are whom I often refer to as the “founding family” of the Granville community because of their massive land holdings. According to 19th century local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous track of 51,200 acres in Granville County along the Tar River. This was land that he received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville himself. William Chavis was likely born in Henrico County, Virginia, because his father Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) is documented in Henrico in the early 1700s as well as in neighboring Surry County. By 1719, Bartholomew Chavis moved to North Carolina and owned large amounts of land on both sides of the Roanoke River in what would become Northampton and Halifax counties, North Carolina. So even before accumulating his own land in Granville County, William Chavis inherited a lot of his land from father along the Roanoke River.
William Chavis’ 1778 will filed in Granville County, provides excellent documentation about his heirs. William’s son Philip Chavis (born 1726) was the executor of his estate and inherited a portion of his father’s land. Philip Chavis is also the ancestor of the Lumbee branch of the Chavis family. We learn from a series of land transactions that Philip Chavis was moving back and forth between Granville County, North Carolina and Bladen/Robeson County, North Carolina and Craven County, South Carolina. The last land deeds in Philip Chavis’ name are found in the 1780s and 1790s in Bladen/Robeson Counties (Robeson County was formed from a part of Bladen in 1787). Philip Chavis’ sons Ishamel Chavis (born 1747) and Erasmus Chavis (born 1768) continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants intermarried with other Robeson County Native American/FPOC families such as Lowry, Oxendine, Locklear, Carter, Sweat, and more. In support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition efforts, Wes White authored the “Saponi Report” in 1985 which documented the Chavis family in the Lumbee tribe descending from William Chavis via his son Philip Chavis who moved from Granville to Robeson. So this is a connection that is formally acknowledged by the Lumbee tribe.
William Chavis (1706-1778) had other children whose descendants remained in Granville (and neighboring counties) and tied into the Native American community in Granville. Descendants of his three daughters primarily remained in the Granville community though their descendants do not carry the Chavis surname because the three daughters were married. Daughter Sarah Chavis (1730-1785) married Edward Harris (born 1730) and their descendants are the FPOC Harris family in Granville and Wake counties. Daughter Lettice Chavis (1742-1814) married Aquilla Snelling (1723-1779) and while some descendants moved away, other descendants remained in Wake and are the FPOC Snelling family found there. Daughter Keziah Chavis (born 1742) married Asa Tyner (born 1740), and her descendants did remain in Granville for the next generation or two, but eventually moved further west to Stokes County, North Carolina. William Chavis also had a grandson named Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who is referred to as his “orphan” in his estate papers. Jesse Chavis fathered a number of children whose descendants stayed connected to the Granville community and carried on the Chavis surname.
As a direct lineal descendant of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris, my mother is finding through autosomal DNA testing, an abundance of Lumbee cousin matches who descend from Sarah Chavis’ brother Philip Chavis. By using sophisticated triangulation techniques, I am to determine that many of these Lumbee cousin matches are related through our shared common ancestors William Chavis and Frances Gibson. It should also be noted that the Gibson family of William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson, moved to the Newman’s Ridge area of eastern Tennessee (Hawkins/Hancock counties) and became the “core” Gibson family of the “Melungeon” community there. Thus being a descendant of Frances Gibson, my mother also has a ton of cousin matches who descend from the Melungeons of Newman’s Ridge.
The Locklears are likely the largest family in the Lumbee tribe today and all descend from a shared Locklear ancestor named Robert Locklear (born 1700) who lived in Halifax/Edgecombe counties. Most of Robert’s children moved to Bladen/Robeson County and their descendants make up the Locklear family found in the Lumbee tribe today. Robert Locklear also had a grandson named Thomas Locklear (born 1750) through his son Randall Locklear (born 1730), whose family remained in the Granville/Wake area. So it is possible to have a Locklear ancestor directly from the Granville community. However a more common link between our community and the Lumbee Locklears is actually through the Evans family.
The large Evans family in Granville are direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans (1665-1739) and his wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, Virginia. I wrote a blog post about the Evans family genealogy found here. Jane Gibson was the daughter of a woman also named Jane Gibson “the elder” who was documented as a “free Indian woman”. Their descendants moved from the Virginia Tidewater area to the Virginia Southside counties of Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties and from there they moved into North Carolina. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s grandson Major Evans (born 1733) moved to Granville and the Evans who remained in the Granville community, primarily descend from him.
There are at least two known female Evans ancestors in the Lumbee Locklear family. Wiley Locklear (1780-1865) married Nancy Evans (born 1800) on 25 May 1817 in Robeson County. Nancy Evans was the daughter of Richard Evans (born 1750) who was the son of Morris Evans Jr (born 1710) who was the son of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson.
Joseph James “Big Joe” Locklear (1823-1890) and his wife America Evans/Locklear (1829-1891) are another important Evans/Locklear link. A marriage record for the couple has not been located, so America’s maiden name is not well documented. From the records I have been able to review, there is inconsistent info about the parentage of Joseph Locklear and his wife America Evans/Locklear. For example, on her Find A Grave page found here, the author calls her the daughter of Patsy Evans and James Cricket Locklear. However, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Patsy (Evans) Locklear was born in 1780 in South Carolina. America was born about 1829 in Robeson County, so this Patsy appears too old to be her mother. In the 1850 census, we see a Betsey Evans, age 50, residing in their household. Betsey Evans is the only person in the household whose birthplace is listed as Richmond County, North Carolina. It is not clear to me what relationship Betsey Evans has to either Joseph Locklear or American Evans/Locklear, but it’s quite possible she could be either person’s mother.
I am working on correctly identifying how exactly this Locklear family ties into the Evans family and Betsey Evans is a strong lead. I’ll be sure to update as I obtain more information. As an Evans descendants, I am (through my mother’s test) finding plenty of cousin matches who are Evans descendants and cousin matches who are Lumbees that directly descend from Joseph Locklear/America Evans, matching on the same chromosome segment. So I am certain there is a legitimate Evans connection to this family.
The Nansemond descended Bass family is one of the larger FPOC families in Granville County, as well as one of the larger widespread FPOC families in Virginia, the Carolinas (and beyond). I previously wrote a blog post on the Bass family and so it should be no surprise to learn that there are Bass descendants among the Lumbee tribe. Through land deeds, Frederick Bass (born 1750) is documented with his wife Olive living in Anson County by 1777. Paul Heinegg believes Frederick Bass to be the possible son of William Bass (born 1712) (son of John Bass 1673 and Love Harris) of Granville County. I have not found documentation yet for Frederick Bass in Granville County, so this connection probably needs additional supporting evidence. At least one of Frederick Bass’ sons moved from Anson to Robeson by about 1800. His son Elijah Bass (born 1775) is shown in the Robeson county census beginning in 1800 and his descendants are found in the Lumbee tribe today. Elijah Bass’ descendants intermarried frequently with the FPOC Jones family in Robeson Co. The Lumbee Jones family in Robeson Co, also came from Anson Co, so it appears the Bass and Jones moved together from Anson to Robeson. I have noticed that many of my Lumbee cousin matches are unaware that they descend from the Bass family because they either do not have family trees or their family trees don’t go back far enough to their Bass ancestors. So I recommend building “mirror trees” of your Lumbee cousin matches, to better explore the many possible connections.
The Bass family is one of the largest FPOC families in Granville County that intermarried with just about every other Native/FPOC family in the community. Most Granville Basses descend from Edward Bass 1672 and his wife Lovewell. But there are descendants of his brother John Bass 1673 and wife Love Harris in the community as well. All of these Basses are relatives of Elijah Bass (born 1775) who moved to Robeson County.
Several members of the large FPOC Goins (including spelling variations of Gowen/s, Goings, etc) came to Granville County in the 1740s/50s. Notably Michael Goins (born 1722), his brother Edward Goins (1727-after 1810), along with his cousins Thomas Goins (1732-1797) and William Goins (born 1710) are all documented as enlisted members of Indian trader Col. William Eaton’s colonial regiment. I previously wrote a blog post here, about Eaton’s regiment and its connection the Saponi Indians that were also documented in Granville. Most of the Goins who came to Granville, did not stay in the community and continued to move to western North Carolina and out of state. However descendants of Edward Goins (1727-after 1810) did remain in the Granville community and intermarried with other Granville families such as Bass and Anderson. The Goins surname quickly “daughtered out” in the early/mid 1800s, so Edward Goins’ descendants no longer carry the Goins surname.
As the Goins family spread to other parts of North Carolina, one branch moved from Granville County to Robeson County. Ann Goins (born 1719) was a cousin to the previously mentioned Goins in Granville. The earliest records for Ann Goins are found in Brunswick County, Virginia and by the 1750s, she appears in Granville. By the 1790s, Ann Goins was in South Carolina, but close to the Robeson County border because she appears in the records there as well. Ann Goins’ children continued to live in Robeson County and their descendants today make up the Lumbee tribe.
The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of the FPOC Kersey family was the topic of a previous blog post that I wrote which can be found here. In addition, Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods wrote an article on the early genealogy of the Kersey family which can be accessed here. The Kersey family is significant to the Lumbee tribe because the large Lowry family descends specifically from Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was also the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). In his essay, Woods shows through careful analysis that Sally Kersey was a descendant of Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry County, VA, who later relocated close to the Tuscarora living in Bertie County, NC.
The Kersey family also moved to Granville County. A man named Thomas Kersey ( born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton Counties, Virginia is the common ancestor of the Granville Kersey family. Paul Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry County. John Kersey (born 1668) was a brother of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) who is direct ancestor of the Lumbee tribe’s Kersey/Lowry family.
Thomas Kersey (born 1735) was the grandfather of Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) who resided in Granville County and whose descendants make up the Kersey family in Granville today. One of Benjamin Kersey’s children was the infamous outlaw Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) who is the subject of a blog post I wrote here.
The FPOC Scott family primarily lived on the Wake County side of the Granville/Wake County border. But there were some members of the family who settled across in Granville and intermarried with other FPOC families in the community.
The FPOC Scott family descends primarily from John Scott (born 1823) and his wife Sally Emeline Taborn (born 1829) who resided in Granville County. Though I have not identified his parents yet, John Scott is likely a descendant of Revolutionary War soldier Exum Scott (1754-1823) who resided in neighboring Wake County. For example, Exum Scott’s son Guilford Scott (1790-1880) was married to Sylvia Taborn, who is from the same Taborn family as John Scott’s wife.
Exum Scott (1754-1823) was the son of Francis Scott (born 1720) of Halifax County, NC. Francis Scott (born 1720) had two brothers named John Scott (born 1710) and Abraham Scott (born 1710) and the three men are the ancestors of the FPOC Scotts found in the Halifax, Northampton, and Edgecombe records with some descendants moving to other parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The Lumbee Scott family primarily descends from several Scotts who stayed along the North Carolina and South Carolina border in Robeson, Richmond, and Scotland counties in North Carolina and Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina. For example, there is David Scott (born 1795) who is found in the 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses in Robeson. He married Betsy Morgan on 11 Feb 1822 in Robeson. The Morgan family like the Scott family, was primarily found in Halifax, Northampton and Edgecombe counties. Matthew Morgan (born 1770) was from Halifax County and by 1820, he relocated to Robeson county. Matthew Morgan was most likely Betsy Morgan’s father. So it seems likely that David Scott’s family also originally came from Halifax County. David is also a first name passed down repeatedly in the FPOC Scott family in Halifax.
Another couple that produced a lot of Scott offspring found in the Lumbee tribe today, is James Scott (1836-1888) and his wife Margaret Ellen Chavis (1860-1930) of Richmond and later Robeson county. Census records indicate that James Scott was born in South Carolina, so he was likely from Marion or Marlboro counties and moved a small distance across the border. James Scott’s will filed in 1888 in Richmond County, provides the names of his widow and surviving children and gives detailed instructions about the education of his children.
If you descend from any of these families, these connections that I described should help provide some answers about your DNA cousin matches. Have you noticed other interesting cousin matches from your DNA results? Feel free to comment here.
Walter Plecker (1861-1947) is a very recognizable name in the history of Southeastern Native Americans. His name is not remembered for any good deeds though, but rather for his white supremacist views that essentially outlawed the identity of Native Americans during his lifetime. As the director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 to 1946, Plecker had the ability to change records and authorize how vital records should be recorded throughout the state. In the racial binary that Plecker was molding, there was no place for Native Americans. There was either “white” or “colored”, no exceptions. Plecker was responsible for creating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which legally classified all Virginians as either “white” or “colored” and outlawed all forms of miscegenation. Furthermore, Plecker pressured the Census Bureau to eliminate the “mulatto” category (a racial category that Native Americans in the Southeast were most often labeled under), and from 1930 onward “mulatto” was no longer used in the federal censuses.
What is important to understand about the Plecker era is that his obsession with keeping the races separate was well received by many Virginians. This was “Jim Crow” South, and Plecker’s racist ideas were mainstream. Adolph Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany was also influenced by Plecker’s views on race and eugenics. Because Plecker felt no shame in his actions, he left behind an extensive paper trail. Plecker and those working on his behalf were known to have changed vital records, for example:
With a stroke of a pen, Plecker attempted to erase the identity of Virginia’s Native Americans and the impact of Plecker’s work is still felt today. The Pamunkey tribe after decades of waiting, just received federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and have become the FIRST Virginia tribe to receive such recognition. However there are close to a dozen of state recognized tribes in Virginia that are still seeking federal recognition, and they are facing quite an uphill battle because of Plecker’s legacy.
Though there is much to write about Walter Plecker, the scope of this blog post is his January 1943 letter that he sent out to the head registrars of Vital Statistics in counties across Virginia. A full transcription of the 1943 Plecker letter can be found here. At the beginning of the letter, Plecker makes his intentions crystal clear:
Our December 1942 letter to local registrars, also mailed to the clerks, set forth the determined effort to escape from the negro race of groups of “free issues,” or descendants of the “free mulattoes” of early days, so listed prior to 1865 in the United States census and various types of State records, as distinguished from slave negroes. Now that these people are playing up the advantages gained by being permitted to give “Indian” as the race of the child’s parents on birth certificates, we see the great mistake made in not stopping earlier the organized propagation of this racial falsehood.
We see Plecker refer to the people as “free issues” which is reminiscent of the language that Oscar W. Blacknall used to describe Granville County’s Native Americans which I blogged about here. Also apparent is Plecker’s idea that the “Indian” racial category was providing social advantages that should not be allowed to “negroes”. Moreover, Plecker warns that “negroes” being able to pass for “Indian” is a threat to the white race, as stated here:
Some of these mongrels, finding that they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates unchallenged as Indians are now making a rush to register as white.
In Plecker’s warped view, “Indian” was a stepping stone for “negroes” to infiltrate the so-called purity of the “white race”. Plecker made it clear that any violation of this racial binary was against the law and should be reported:
To aid all of you in determining just which are the mixed families, we have made a list of their surnames by counties and cities, as complete as possible at this time. This list should be preserved by all, even by those in counties and cities not included, as these people are moving around over the State and changing race at the new place…Please report all known or suspicious cases to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, giving names, ages, parents, and as much other information as possible.
Plecker became so obsessed with keeping track of all these families that sought to be listed as “Indian”, that he created an actual list of surnames by county of these families. Here is the Plecker List:
And here is a fully transcribed version of Walter Plecker’s list from 1943:
SURNAMES, BY COUNTIES AND CITIES, OF MIXED NEGROID VIRGINIA FAMILIES STRIVING TO PASS AS “INDIAN” OR WHITE.
Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey.
Amherst (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell): Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present adult generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood.
Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County)
Russell: Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell)
Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell)
Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties.
So what does this have to do with Granville County?
As I’ve shown through earlier blog posts and more yet to come, many of Granville’s Native American families have Virginia tribal origins. These families that came to Granville left behind plenty of family members that remained in Virginia. Additionally, Granville County shares a border with Virginia (Mecklenburg and Halifax Cos), and so the social influence of Plecker and his cronies certainly did not end at Virginia’s border with Granville County. We need to keep this historical context in mind when reviewing records of Native Americans in the Southeast.
The surnames that I highlighted from Plecker’s list above are from the same family lines of Granville County’s Native Americans. Some further information:
BRANHAM – Listed in Amherst and Bedford counties, the Branhams are a core family of the Monacan Indian Nation. The BRANDON (sometimes spelled Brannum, Brandum) family of Granville County is originally from the Virginia Piedmont and is the same family as the Branhams, just a spelling/pronunciation difference. I also believe the Branham/Brandon family to have ties to Fort Christanna in Brunswick Co, VA, where Saponi and allied tribes including the Monacan resided from 1714-1718.
REDCROSS – Listed in Amherst county like the Branhams, the Redrosses are also members the Monacan Indian Nation. Though no Redcrosses made it to Granville County, we know that they are the same family as the Evans family of Granville. Recall my blog post about some of the Evans descendants who were illegally enslaved and were freed on account that they descended from a free Indian woman. Testimony seen here from those court cases reveal that the Redcross family are descendants of the same Evans family.
HOWELL – Listed in Charles City, King William, and Henrico counties and the city of Richmond, the Howell family are from the Pamunkey Tribe. The Howells from Granville County have roots in New Kent County (in between Charles City and King William) and started to move into Virginia’s southside counties. One branch stemming from Freeman Howell moved across the state border into Granville in the early 1800s. Oddly, Plecker doesn’t list New Kent as a location for the Howells which is where the Pamunkey Howells primarily resided but lists them in every surrounding municipality (perhaps an oversight).
STEWART/STUART – Listed in Charles City, New Kent, King William, Henrico, Richmond, Elizabeth City, Newport News, and Halifax. The Stewarts found in all the municipalities except Halifax are from the Pamunkey and Chickahominy tribes. The Halifax County Stewarts are from the Sappony Tribe. It is unclear to me if both the Pamunkey/Chickahominy Stewarts and the Sappony Stewarts are the same family but I’ve included them both just in case. The Granville County Stewarts are the same family as the Sappony Stewarts in neighboring Halifax Co, VA and Person Co, NC. The Sappony Tribe’s tribal territory extends to both sides of the VA/NC state border.
BASS: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Bass family have a well documented Nansemond tribal origin that I previously blogged about here. We know that many of the Nansemond Basses relocated to North Carolina, making their way to Granville by the late 1740s. Granville’s Anderson family also has tribal roots with the Nansemond Bass family that I blogged about here.
WEAVER: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, there are Weavers in the Nansemond Tribe as well as the Meherrin Tribe (who adopted in Nansemond, Chowanoke, and other coastal Algonquin tribes). The Weaver family originates from East Indian indentured servants brought to Virginia in the early 1700s who intermarried with local Virginia tribes. The Weavers moved into North Carolina, with a few branches coming to Granville County in the mid 1800s.
LOCKLEAR: Listed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the Locklear family is more well known in North Carolina, where it is one of the most common surnames found among Native Americans in Robeson County (Lumbee and Tuscarora Indians). There was one branch of the Locklear family that lived in and around Granville County. That branch comes from a man named Randall Locklear (born 1730) whose descendants lived in neighboring Granville and Wake counties.
GIBSON: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Gibson family originally comes from the Charles City County area of Virginia, dating back to the early 1700s. There are two well known Gibson ancestors of Granville’s Native Americans. The first is Jane Gibson, the maternal ancestor of the Evans family who was described as an “old Indian woman” and I blogged about here. The second is Frances Gibson, wife of William Chavis (1706-1778). William Chavis’ original land plot formed the land base for Granville’s Native American community. There are many different opinions about the tribal origins of the Gibsons, but I suspect them to be originally of Algonquian heritage, given their earliest known locations.
GOINS: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Goins have Tidewater Virginia roots. The Goins came to Granville County in the 1740s with many remaining in Granville. Though by the early 1900s, the Goins (also spelled Goings, Gowens) surname had mostly “daughtered out”. The same Goins family are also found in Robeson County, NC among the Lumbee.
BUNCH: Listed in Lee and Smyth counties, the Bunches as well have Tidewater Virginia roots. There were some Bunches in Granville Co in the 1750s, but they did not stay long, with most leaving the county and the state.
The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Snelling and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A variety of records including census records, marriage records, tax lists, court minutes, estate records, freedom lawsuits, land deeds, newspaper articles, maps and personal family photos are used to help tell the story of the Evans family through space and time. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. Therefore it is imperative that researchers do their due diligence to attribute records to the correct Evans ancestor.
Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”
Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640-1722). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by a group of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some white planters from illegally enslaving them. Some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1685-1771) were enslaved by a wealthy white planter named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners. On 5 March 1804, the enslaved Evans through their attorney Edmund Randolph sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.
The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..
A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”
Before this lawsuit there were several earlier lawsuits where descendants of Jane Gibson sued for their freedom. The information contained in those court cases are also quite revealing.
Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson was the first who sued for his freedom beginning in 1790. John Meriweather offered testimony that his father Colonel William Meriweather purchased a “mulatto wench” named Frances Evans and her brother (Tom Evans) from a Mr. Lightfoot (Goodrich Lightfoot) in New Kent County, VA. John Meriweather goes on to testify how Frances Evans’ offspring were divided among the heirs of his father’s estate. His testimony provides information on how the Evans went from being indentured servants to being sold as slaves to the Meriweather family. For earlier information on the Evans/Gibson family, we turn to a man named Robert Wills who personally knew Jane Gibson the elder, her daughter Jane Gibson the younger aka Jane Evans (wife of Morris Evans) and their offspring. On 25 June 1791, Robert Wills testified and a transcription of that testimony can be read here:
That about seventy years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her brother who were dark mulattoes and lived in the County of Charles City, and were free people; That the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George Gibson, that they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger intermarried with a certain _____ Evans of the said County, by whom she had several children, one named Frances Evans Grand Daughter of the said Jane Gibson above named, that the said Frances Evans removed to New Kent County, where she lived and had several children, two of whom, as the said Frances Evans informed this deponant were named Tom and Frances Evans, and were bound to one LIGHTFOOT of New Kent. This information was made to this Depon’t by the said Frances Evans the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were neighbours to this deponant. This deponant; This deponant further saith, that after the said great Grandchildren Viz: Tom & Frances were bound to the said LIGHTFOOT he never heard any thing more relative to them; That many of the descendants of the said GIBSONS and EVANS now in this deponants knowledge are alive, and are enjoying their freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponants first acquaintance with the said Jane Gibson the elder; That many of them are black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes, which this deponant supposes proceeded from a promiscious intercourse with different colours.
Questions by the defts agent.
Do you know any thing of the descendants of the said Frances Evans, who was bound to LIGHTFOOT? No I do not.
What became of Frances Evans and her brother after they were bound to LIGHTFOOT? I know nothing of them, but from the information of their mother aforesaid.
Do you know any free mulattoes or blacks who have descended from a branch of the name of EVANS, who are they and from whom did they spring?
I know a number of them, to wit, in Charles City, the SCOTTs, BRADBYs, SMITHs, REDCROSSes alias EVANS, MORRISSes alias EVANS, and in Henrico the BOWMANs, all descendants from the original stock of the GIBSON, to wit, Jane EVANS Daughter of Jane GIBSON.
Do you know or have you ever known of any other free persons by the name of EVANSS of a different family? I do not except in Caroline.
How do you know that the children of Frances Evans were named Tom & Frances, and how old would they be were they now alive: I heard their mother say so; I cannot tell how old, but they would be many years old.
How old are you? I am in my eighty first year.
And further this deponant saith not.
The following month on 9 July 1791, Robert Wills was back in court providing additional testimony which clarified a few points. A transcription can be found here:
Questions by the defendant. How old were you when you were firs acquainted with the elder Jane Gibson and George her brother?
Answer I believe I was ten or eleven years old or thereabouts.
Quest. How old do you suppose they were and how long did they live afterwards?
Answer. Jane Gibson the elder was very old, I apprehend she was eighty years of age, being past all labour – Mr. Carter my Master took her to live with him at Shirley where I then lived to brew a diet drink, he being afflicted with a dropsy – The old Jane Gibson I suppose might live two or three years. Her daughter Jane widow to an EVANS (whose christian name I am not certain of but believe it was Morris), lived a considerable number of years after my first acquaintance with her- she bore the name of EVANS as did all her children.
Quest. About what time were you acquainted with Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane, and how old were they when you were first acquainted with them?
Answer. I knew Jane Evans the daughter some time before I knew the old woman, which I believe as I have deposed in my former deposition must be seventy years ago; she was an old woman when I became acquainted with her, she practised midwifery and doctoring in families, but was not above sixty I should suppose: George too was an old person, I believe – Jane was the older.
Quest. About what time did Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane Gibson die?
Answer I do not know
Quest. About what year did Jane Gibson the younger intermarry with ___ EVANS?
Answer That I cannot possibly tell it must have been long before I was born.
Quest. About what year do you believe to the best of your recollection or judgment was Frances Evans the Grand daughter of old Jane Gibson born?
Answer She had children bound out when I first knew her, so that she must have been born long before I was, as I should suppose.
Quest. Then as you know so little about her how do you know she (Frances Evans) was the daughter of Jane Evans, and that Jane Evans was descended from Jane Gibson?
Answer. I know nothing but common reputation they called each other by the name of Mother and daughter.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans remove to New Kent?
Answer. I never knew her until she came on a visit to her mother, she then lived there as she reported; when she came there to live I knew nothing about it.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans inform you she had bound two of her children Frances and Tom to Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent when she came on a visit to her friends in Charles City?
Ans’r. I cannot recollect that with any certainty, I suppose fifty eight or fifty nine years ago or somewhere thereabouts.
Quest. Did you understand from her how old they were at that time, if not how old do you suppose they were, and how long had they been bound before she informed you of it?
Answer. That I know nothing about.
Quest. If the said Frances Evans and her brother Tom who are said to have been bound to one LIGHTFOOT were now alive how old would they be to the best of your judgment?
Ans’r. I do not know that; they were probably as old as myself; I never saw either of them nor asked any questions about their age.
Quests. by the plaintiff 1. Was not the mother of Sarah Redcross (now living in Charles City) alias Sarah Evans named Frances Evans, and was she not related as by common reputation believed to Frances Evans that was bound to LIGHTFOOT?
Ans’r. About twenty four or twenty five years ago Frances Evans was about in Charles City County, and was claimed as a mother by Sarah Redcross, and Sarah Redcross said that her mother was the grand daughter of Jane Evans the daughter of Jane Gibson – she went away and I know not what became of her, but have been informed (I suppose twenty years ago) that she was dead.
Quest. by deft. Why do you in this deposition call Mr. Carter your master?
Answer. My father gave me to him when I was ten years of age, and he brought me up and had me taught my trade of a carpenter.
Quest. for how many years were you acquainted with that particular family of the GIBSONs and EVANSs, which have been the object of your testimony in this suit meaning the three first generations and where did you live during that time?
Ans’r. I lived at Shirley where the said Jane Gibson died, and as Jane Evans lived within two miles of Shirley I was frequently in her family and she was very often at Shirley as was the rest of the family being employed there in different sorts of work, as for how long, I have already said about seventy years ago I first became acquainted with old Jane Gibson and Jane Evans, and knew them to their death, but cannot say exactly how long they did live from the time I first knew them.
Quest. Will you please to answer the second question in this deposition more fully, you have in your answer to that question said nothing about George Gibson the elder?
Ans: I never mentioned more than one George Gibson, the Son of the elder Jane Gibson, brother to Jane Evans. If it be so expressed in my former deposition it was misconceived, I never did know any but one of that name. And further this deponent saith not.
From both of his depositions, we learn that Robert Wills was an apprentice of Mr. Carter of the Shirley Plantation which is how he became familiar with the Evans/Gibson families. He personally knew both mother Jane Gibson the elder and the daughter Jane Gibson the younger. Jane Gibson the elder lived at the Shirley Plantation and practiced doctoring as did her daughter Jane Gibson the younger who was also a midwife. Robert Mills initially referred to Jane Gibson the elder and her brother George Gibson as dark mulattos but later clarified that it was Jane Gibson the younger who had a brother named George Gibson. So it appears he was instead referring to them as “dark mulattos”.
The only information or testimony provided that spoke directly to the identity of Jane Gibson the elder was the information provided by her descendants via their attorney Edmund Randolph which called her a free Indian woman. Additional testimony about the Indian origins of the family comes from Ann Meriweather who was the wife of John Meriweather who provided testimony discussed above and whose father Col. William Meriweather illegally purchased Frances Evans’ children as slaves from Goodrich Lightfoot. Ann Meriweather testified in 1798 that “from the Complexion & strait black hair of Sarah Colley this deponent believes they were descended from Indians”. Sarah Colley was the daughter of Frances Evans. Though judging phenotypes is not necessarily a correct way to assess one’s ethnic heritage, it is still rather telling when put in context with the rest of the testimony and documentation about the Gibson/Evans family. The other testimony from the Meriweather family and from Robert Wills most often describe Jane Gibson the elder’s offspring and descendants as “mulattos”. It should be noted in 1705, the Acts of Assembly of Virginia legally classified mulatto as: “the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a Negro”.
None of the testimony provided by witnesses or Jane Gibson the elder’s own descendants, offer the names of Jane Gibson the elder’s parents. No information is given as to whether Gibson was her maiden name, her married name, or even a name she adopted from another family. I have seen a lot of speculative family trees and theories online about her parentage but with no actual documentation. It is important to point out that the only documentation located for her comes from after her lifetime through the testimony of others. Therefore, I strongly advise to hold off on guesswork (if’s, maybes, possibly, etc) about her parentage until solid documentation is located.
The freedom lawsuits of Jane Gibson the elder’s descendants have been cited in scholarship on the history of the slavery in the U.S. Historian Loren Schweninger, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who created a digital library on American Slavery, published a book in 2018 called Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. In his section on petitions filed by plaintiffs claiming descent from an Indian woman, Professor Schweninger had this to say about the petitions from Jane Gibson’s descendants:
You can review the Evans freedom documentation on genealogist Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.
In July 2018, my cousins Roderick Daye, William Evans, and Shirley Hines, like myself, who are all documented direct lineal descendants of Jane Gibson the elder through the Evans family, visited the Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, VA to learn more about where our esteemed ancestor lived. Here are a few photos from their trip:
I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who illegally enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it does offer evidence that Goodrich Lightfoot did enslave Native Americans.
Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a Pamunkey woman named Dorothy Howell b. 1707, who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.
The exact tribal origin of the Evans-Gibson family has also been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color but it is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about. From Morris Evans’ estate records we do learn that after his wife Jane Gibson the younger died, he was involved with a woman named Rebecca Hulet who inherited some of his estate.
However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps she was from the local Pamunkey or Chickahominy tribes. There is another Algonquian speaking tribe, the Nansemond, whom the Granville County Basses descend from, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville quite a bit. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County.
Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s sons Charles Evans and Morris Evans Jr moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. As a result, some of their family did intermarry with Saponi descendants. We also know from the testimony provided by Robert Wills, that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger had other children who the Redcross, Bradby, Smith, Scott, Morris, and Bowman families of the Charles City County area descend from. I wish he identified the other children, so that we can genealogically connect all of these other surnames back to Jane Gibson. The Redcross family, we know from the testimony of Robert Wills, descend from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger’s daughter Frances Evans who had a daughter named Sarah Redcross. Some of her Redcross descendants are found among the Monacan tribe in Amherst County, Virginia. And what is also interesting is that the Bradby family is found among the Chickahominy tribe in Charles City County and the Pamunkey tribe of King William County.
The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia
The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.
Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is most likely the ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co who intermarried with the Locklears.
Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:
Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful” by his father. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
*Major Evans (1733-after 1794 ) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
Sarah Evans (b. 1742) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.
From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.
Major Evans (1733-after 1794) comes to Granville County
Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. His neighbors include members of the Chavis, Snelling, Harris, and Bass family which indicates that he lived on the north side of the Tar River, in the heart of the community began by William Chavis (1706-1777) a couple of decades earlier. Notably on 16 February 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1777) who according to late 19th century local Granville historian Oscar Blacknall, originally owned 51,200 acres on the north side of the Tar River. Blacknall, in his published articles, goes on to extensively discuss the Indian identity of the “free colored” community that William Chavis founded in Granville. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. It’s possible that Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family. Three years earlier in 1777, Major Evans was called with other members of the Chavis family to report to court to provide information on William Chavis’ will. The estate papers don’t specify what family relationship (if any) that Major Evans had with William Chavis but it is clear from that point forward, Major Evans was considered part of the community.
It’s important to remember that William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1780) was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA whose family was also apparently of a mixed race Indian ancestry. A relative of Gibson Gibson named Gideon Gibson Sr (b. 1685) and his family, including son Gideon Gibson Jr (b. 1721) moved to South Carolina in the 1730’s, where their racial identity came under scrutiny. Some South Carolina officials wanted the Gibsons to be subjected to the discriminatory “Free Negro” laws. However one such South Carolina politician named Henry Laurens who was involved in the debate about the racial identity of the Gibson family, had this to say about Gideon Gibson Jr:
Gideon Gibson escaped the penalties of the negro law by producing upon comparison more red and white in his face than could be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly, including your old acquaintance the Speaker.
Source: Council Journal, August 26, 1768. Henry Laurens to William Drayton, February 15, 1783.
Perhaps Major Evans’ great-grandmother Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. But as discussed earlier, there is no solid documentation that identifies the parentage of Jane Gibson the elder nor the origins of her Gibson surname. So it would be unwise to speculate much further without locating records that speak to Jane Gibson the elder’s parentage. If there is a relationship, that may explain why Major Evans moved to William Chavis’ land in Granville County and quickly became part of the community.
Seven years later on 26 June 1787, Major Evans added to his land ownership by purchasing 100 acres of land on both side of Middle Creek from James Kelley (O’Kelley). The land deed explains that this 100 acres was part of a larger 580 land tract purchased by John Pope. Middle Creek is on the south side of the Tar River, just slightly west and across the river from the land Major Evans purchased earlier from Phillip Chavis on the Buffalo Race Paths.
Though he had accumulated land in Granville, Major Evans still owned land across the border in Mecklenburg County, VA which he had inherited from this father Charles Evans. Therefore he was taxed in Mecklenburg from 1782 until 1787 when he finally sold his Mecklenburg County land.
Major Evans also sold land in Granville in 1787. On 15 December 1787, he sold 100 acres to James Blackley and three days later on 18 December 1787, Major Evans sold 100 acres to Elijah Ball.
In February 1789, Major Evans sued Elias Pettiford (another Native/FPOC from the community) and won a judgment against him.
By 1794, Major Evans moved further south into Granville County when he purchased 100 acres on Newlight Creek on 19 July 1794. This is land in the very southeastern part of Granville County, close to the Wake County and Franklin county borders. Some of William Chavis’ (1706-1777) descendants, specifically members of the Harris (offspring of his daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris) and Snelling families (offspring of his daughter Lettice Chavis who married Aquilla Snelling) also began moving to this part of Granville County as well into Wake County.
The 1794 land deed is the last located record that can be attributed to Major Evans. No will or estate records have been found for him, so it is not known what year he died. Likewise, accounting for all of Major Evans’ children has been a challenge without estate records. Most of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:
1. *Morris Evans (1750-1834) second married Lydia Anderson, a FPOC, on 8 December 1784 in Granville. His first wife is unknown and he had children from both marriages.
2. *Gilbert Evans (1755-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley on 20 June 1780 in Wake. Phoebe Lumbley was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse.
3. *William Evans (1757-1823) married Sarah Hays on 14 May 1785 in Wake County. Sarah Hays was apparently white and like his brother Gilbert Evans, William Evans and his children appear to have “passed” for white.
4. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell, a FPOC, on 22 February 1797 in Granville. I believe this was a second marriage for Burwell Evans because the 1786 North Carolina state census shows that he was the head of a household of one male age 21-60, three males aged under 21 & over 60, and three females of any age. The household information strongly implies that he was married with three sons and two daughters who were born by 1786.
5. *John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.
5. Elizabeth Evans (1760-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis, a FPOC, on 6 September 1800 in Granville. Before she married, Elizabeth Evans had at least one child born out of wedlock when she filed a bastardy bond in Granville court with her father Major Evans as the bondsman. The record does not name the child.
7. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn, a FPOC, on 1 January 1778 in Bute County.
8. Sarah Evans (1774 – before 1860) married George Anderson, a FPOC, on 14 October 1800 in Granville County.
* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.
All of Major Evans’ offspring lived in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, signaled a movement of many of his descendants into Wake.
The Offspring of Major Evans
The heightened “white”/”colored” racial binary and the growth of the institution of chattel slavery in the American South during the early 19th century, put immense pressure on families like the Evans who had experienced some level of wealth with land ownership. In 1835, North Carolina approved a new constitution which revoked many rights of free people of color. These revoked rights included owning fire arms, holding public office, voting, and being able to move freely in and out of the state. Additionally, free people of color households continued to be taxed at a higher rate than white households which resulted in the depletion of personal property and land.
A closer examination of records pertaining to brothers Hilliard Evans (b. 1815) and Morris Evans (1814-1900) provide some very interesting insight into how Native/”free colored” families were pressured into selling personal property to pay off debt. Hilliard Evans and Morris Evans were the sons of Thomas Evans (1790-1867) and Sallie Bass (1793-1889). And Thomas Evans was the son Morris Evans (1750-1834) and Liddy Anderson listed above. On 20 November 1840, Hilliard “Hillyard” Evans sold one gray horse saddle and bridle for one dollar to Isaiah M. Paschall. The record goes on to indicate that Hilliard Evans was in debt to Peyton V. Duke for forty dollars on a note that was due the following September. If Hilliard Evans was able to pay off the debt by the following September, then the sale of his property to Isaiah M. Paschall was to be voided and returned to him. However if he was unable to pay off the debt in time, then Isaiah M. Paschall would sell the property with all of the sales to cover the principal and interest of the debt that Hillard Evans owed Peyton V. Duke with any leftover money to be paid to Hilliard Evans.
Morris Evans found himself in a similar desperate financial situation of being in debt the following year. He owed Wyatt Cannaday $103.59 that was due to be paid by the following December 25th. As a result, on 28 June 1841, he sold to Henry B. Brides, one mare, one cow, one calf, eleven heads of hog, tobacco crop, corn, oats, household items, and furniture for one dollar. If he did not pay off the debt in time, Henry Bridges was to sell those personal items and use the funds to pay off the debt Morris Evans owed to Wyatt Cannaday with any left over money to be paid to Morris Evans.
Just a few years later, Hilliard Evans experienced something that I imagine many free people of color feared – that is, he was kidnapped and an attempt was made to sell him into slavery. We learn from a letter that his parents Thomas and Sally (Bass) Evans placed in the newspaper, that Hilliard Evans traveled from Granville County with a man named William R. Boswell last August to sell a horse in the southern part of the state. After the sale, Boswell was able to convince Hilliard Evans to continue to travel with him to Petersburg, Richmond and New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Boswell attempted to sell Hilliard Evans into slavery but Hilliard made it known that he was a free person. However it was not known what happened to and where Hilliard Evans was, so his parents were attempting to locate him. It is a heartbreaking letter to read and is a testament to how the institution of slavery was a threat to even families who were free and had always been free.
About a week later on 28 January 1746, we learn that Thomas and Sallie (Bass) Evans’ letter had garnered some interest. Editors at the Weekly Standard in Raleigh reemphasized the concerns in Thomas and Sallie Evans’ letter that they didn’t know the whereabouts of their son Hilliard Evans.
Thankfully, two months later we learn from another newspaper article published on 11 March 1846 in the Tarboro Press that Hilliard Evans had been sent back home to his family in Granville County and supplied with new clothes. William Boswell, the man who kidnapped him, had not been caught. I have no additional records to learn if he was ever caught or received any type of punishment.
The kinship network that the Evans family belonged to in the Granville County Native/FPOC community is evident in the division of the estate of William Evans(1789-1870), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. William Evans died without a living wife or children, so he had no direct heirs. Instead his estate was divided among the children of his siblings, ie. his nephews and nieces. And if any of his nephews or nieces had already died, then their living heirs, if any, stood to inherit in their place. The nine original legatees who each were to inherit $64.17, named in the estate records are:
Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Ann Anderson, Glatha Anderson (Hawkins), Joyce Anderson, William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford and Thomas Pettiford.
It is interesting that Glatha was called an Anderson in this record, because her marriage record to Cuffee Mayo, calls her “Glatha Hawkins”. I have long wondered if “Hawkins” was a mistake because I don’t know of any Hawkins family that the Evans and Anderson families associated with. All of the named original legatees, save for Ann Anderson whose parentage I’m working on confirming, were the children of William Evans’ sister Susannah Evans (b. 1784). She was first married to Abel Anderson (17772-1817) on 23 May 1804 in Granville. With her first husband Abel Anderson, Susannah Evans had: Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Glatha Anderson, and Joyce Anderson. Abel Anderson was deceased by 1817 when his guardianship of his younger brother Wright Anderson was transferred to his brother Jacob Anderson in that year as a result of his death. Susannah Evans second married a Pettiford though I have not been able to just yet confirm which Pettiford in Granville she married. With her second Pettiford husband, she had William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Thomas Pettiford. Susannah Evans was last enumerated in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granville County, as “Susan Pettyford” age 59.
At the time of William Evans’ death in 1870, original legatees Ann Anderson, Washington Anderson, and Glatha Anderson (Hawkins) were deceased so their children each inherited an equal portion of their share of the estate. What also complicated the distribution of William Evans’ estate was that several of the named legatees had moved out of the state in the decades prior. Even as late as 1878, several of the named legatees still had not been in touch with the administrator of William Evans’ estate.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:
Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.
She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.
John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.
Mary Etta Guy’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Mary Etta Guy; Susan Taborn; Littleton Taborn; Nelly Evans; Major Evans.
Ira Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ira Evans; Lewis Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans, Morris Evans; Major Evans
Ada Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ada Evans; Thomas Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
Addendum: What about James Evans (1720-1786) of Halifax County, NC??
James Evans (1720-1786) is the earliest documented ancestor of the Native/”free colored” Evans family of Halifax County, NC. It is not known nor documented if he is at all related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. As stated at the beginning of this blog post, “Evans” was a very common surname in colonial Virginia, so it is quite possible he is from an unrelated Evans family. Nevertheless, because I get many inquiries about James Evans and his descendants, I have included a summary of records pertaining to his family.
James Evans(1720-1786) first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.
James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Halifax/Warren Counties in NC. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.
Welcome! The following is a list of surnames of closely related Native American families of Granville County. Please note that all the families are “free people of color”, meaning they were not enslaved and generally not recorded as “white”.
It is these families that most of the content of this blog is about. I have documentation on all of these families, so if you believe you are also researching the same families, please do get in touch.