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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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.

007640993_01984
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.

tumblr_mr4g6bD7I71scwdruo1_500
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.

Baldy Kersey appeal Superior Court decision 479
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.

Baldy Kersey Edwards appeal Superior Court 461
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.

Baldy Kersey Appeal to Supreme Court 486
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.

Noah_Haynes_Swayne,_photo,_head_and_shoulders,_seated
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.

800px-JudgeJMHarlan
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:

Baldy Kersey land sale 2
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

 

baldy-kersey-copy-3
Another version of the the only known surviving image of Baldy Kersey. Source: Robert Tyler

 

The Ashkenazi Jewish Origins of the Native American Levy Family

The Levy family came to Granville County well after the Native community had been established. Before that we find ancestors of the Levy family in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Guadeloupe, London, and Holland. The reason for this is that although the Levys were Native American/”free colored” people, they also were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. This unique and fascinating aspect of their heritage will be documented in this blog post.


Jacob Levy (1780-1850)

The story of the Native American Levy family in North Carolina begins in Wilmington. But the Ashkenazi Jewish origins of this Levy family take us back to Holland. It is there that Jacob Levy , progenitor of the Native American Levy family, was born. We know a bit about Jacob Levy’s life from the biography of his great nephew Confederate Statesman Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884) found here. Additionally, Jacob Levy is discussed quite a bit in this text about Jewish American history in North Carolina, so I have also used this for source information as well.

Jacob Levy was living in Holland in the late 1700s when his sister Eva Levy married a Sephardic Jewish man named Solomon de Mendes. They had a daughter named Rebecca de Mendes and the family moved with Jacob Levy to London, England soon after 1790. In London we learn that Rebecca de Mendes married a Sephardic Jewish man named Phillip Benjamin by about 1807. The following year, Phillip and Rebecca Benjamin moved to St. Criox, now part of the U.S Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean and that is where their son Judah P. Benjamin was born in 1811. This was during the Napoleonic Wars and St. Criox which was Danish territory yet British occupied, was under heavy guard by British war ships. As a result, the Benjamin family moved to the United States in 1813.

Map of the Caribbean Islands. St. Criox which is today part of the U.S. Virgin Islands is circled. Source: http://www.shipdetective.com/maps/caribbean.htm
Map of the Caribbean Islands. St. Criox which is today part of the U.S. Virgin Islands is circled.
Source: http://www.shipdetective.com/maps/caribbean.htm

Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjamin’s uncle Jacob Levy was already situated in Wilmington, North Carolina and it was probably he who persuaded the Benjamins to leave St. Criox. I do not know the exact year Jacob Levy left London to come to the United States and I have reason to believe he also likely came to the West Indies before coming to the U.S. The first records for Jacob Levy in the U.S. are in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1799 when it was published in the paper that he was dissolving his business relationship with Abraham Isaacs. Wilmington was home to a small yet thriving community of Jewish (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) merchants who mostly dealt with West Indian trade goods (nearby Charleston, SC had the largest Jewish population in the U.S.).

Jacob Levy's announcement of the opening of his store. Source: The Wilmington Gazette, 24 Dec 1801, Thu, Page 4
Jacob Levy’s announcement of the opening of his store.
Source: The Wilmington Gazette, 24 Dec 1801, Thu, Page 4

In 1819 a fire destroyed Jacob Levy’s store, so he moved up to Fayettville and his niece Rebecca Benjamin, along with her husband Phillip Benjamin and son Judah Benjamin (and siblings) relocated to Fayetteville as well. Jacob Levy opened a store there and the Benjamins resided on the second floor. Jacob Levy paid for Judah Benjamin to attend Fayetteville Academy and Jacob was a well respected member of the community who was praised for his skills as an auctioneer:

In this letter to the newspaper, we learn more details about the Jacob Levy and the Benjamins. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 10 Feb 1898, Thu, Page 1
In this letter to the newspaper, we learn more details about Jacob Levy and the Benjamins.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 10 Feb 1898, Thu, Page 1

We learn first hand from a letter written by a childhood friend of Judah Benjamin, that Jacob Levy, along with his sister Mrs. Wright (this was actually Phillip Benjamin’s sister Harriet Wright) left Fayetteville around 1826 and relocated to New Orleans so that Jacob Levy could expand his business:

A letter to the newspaper offers information about when Jacob Levy left Fayetteville for New Orleans. Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5
A letter to the newspaper offers information about when Jacob Levy left Fayetteville for New Orleans.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5

I found additional corroboration in a newspaper ad from 1827 which shows Jacob Levy’s trust selling off his Fayetteville property:

Jacob Levy's property in Fayetteville was sold in 1827 because he relocated to New Orleans. Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5
Jacob Levy’s property in Fayetteville was sold in 1827 because he relocated to New Orleans.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan 1898, Sat, Page 5

Jacob Levy died on July 19, 1850 in New Orleans and he  is buried at the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery  where his tombstone still stands:

Jacob Levy is buried at the Dispersed Judah Cemetery in New Orleans. His niece Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjaminis buried in the same plot. Source: http://thompsongenealogy.com/2010/12/the-mysterious-hunt-for-the-grave-of-rebecca-de-mendes/
Jacob Levy is buried at the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery in New Orleans. His niece Rebecca (de Mendes) Benjamin and another relative are buried in the same plot.
Source: http://thompsongenealogy.com/2010/12/the-mysterious-hunt-for-the-grave-of-rebecca-de-mendes/

“French Mary”

From the above records we know much about Jacob Levy’s business life but his personal family life is not as well documented. According to one text, Jacob Levy’s wife was “Maria”, daughter of his Sephardic Jewish business partner Aaron Lopez. I did find family trees which indicate that this Maria died in 1812 back when Jacob Levy was still living in Wilmington and it does not appear they had any children that lived to adulthood. And in reviewing all the biographies about Judah Benjamin, there is no mention of Jacob Levy having children of his own living in the household with the Benjamin family.

However there is one woman who is known to have had at least one son with Jacob Levy, and she was commonly known as “French Mary”. Mary’s origins though are not so transparent and I found numerous conflicting stories about her heritage. In consideration of the many documents I looked over, I believe “French Mary” was Native American (Carib Indian) and was enslaved in Guadeloupe and later freed by Jacob Levy in North Carolina. Below I’ll present the source material for “French Mary” and how I came to this conclusion.

On 4 December 1876, Jacob Levy’s son Lewis Levy submitted a claim to the Southern Claim Commission to be compensated for his losses during the Civil War. He provided testimony that he was a free born person, born to an Indian woman from Guadeloupe who came to this country in 1794:

Excerpt from Lewis Levy's Southern Claims Commission in which he describes his mother as an Indian woman from Guadeloupe. Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880
Excerpt from Lewis Levy’s Southern Claims Commission in which he describes his mother as an Indian woman from Guadeloupe.
Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880

We learn from several newspaper articles starting in the 1890s, that “French Mary” was a well known local woman because she had famously served dinner to General Marquis de Lafayette (namesake of Fayetteville) when he visited Fayetteville in 1825. De Lafayette, a Frenchman, was so impressed with the dinner that he was served, that he knew the cook must have been French. We learn from one article that Mary was a small, dark skinned woman with straight hair and usually wore a turban style head handkerchief:

Excerpt from a newspaper article that describing
Excerpt from a newspaper article that describing “French Mary’s” appearance.
Source: Fayetteville Observer, 25 Aug 1897, Wed, Page 2

Mary’s ethnic origins differ with each retelling of the infamous story of her famous meal to General de Lafayette. In the above newspaper article, she is described as being “Moorish” and that she was kidnapped and sold into slavery, where she was first brought to France, then to a West Indian island, and then brought to Charleston, S.C. and finally Fayetteville. I have found that “Moor” when used in the context of the United States does not always mean the historic Moors who were an Arab/Muslim population that inhabited and controlled Spain over many centuries. Instead it usually is meant to signal someone’s non-European physical appearance. I think in the context of “French Mary”, she may have been referred to as a Moor due to her dark physical appearance and her relationship with the Sephardic Jewish Benjamin family. Also, “French Mary” was noted as wearing a “turban” which may have also contributed to the lore that she was a Moor.

In a 1903 newspaper article authored by Mary’s grandson John Sheridan Leary, he described her as a woman named “Mary Ann Willette” who came from France to America and was well regarded as a good cook. Guadeloupe was at that time and still is a French territory, which is why it was referred to as “France”:

“French Mary’s” grandson John Sheridan Leary indicated that her name was “Mary Ann Willett” and that she came from France.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, 6 Sep 1903, Sun, Page 10

And in a 1921 newspaper article, “French Mary” is said to have not been born a slave, but was a free woman who came to Wilmington on a sailing vessel and the captain then sold her into slavery. What’s also interesting about this article is that the author thinks that General de Lafayette visited Phillip Benjamin’s family (including Jacob Levy) and that is why it was “French Mary” who cooked the meal:

Another news article about
Another news article about “French Mary” that describes her origins.
Source: Fayetteville Observer, 9 Mar 1921, Wed, Page 3

What is consistent about “French Mary” is that she had three known documented children: 1. Lewis Levy (who is the subject of the next section); 2. Juliette Memorell who married Matthew Leary and was the mother of Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) who took part in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, and 3. John Ochiltree. The fact that her three children all had different surnames suggests that each child had a different father.

Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) was the son of Juliette Memorell who was the daughter of
Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835-1859) was the son of Juliette Memorell who was the daughter of “French Mary” – an Indian woman from Guadeloupe.
Source: Ancestry

We know that Jacob Levy was a slave owner and we even know the names of some of his slaves from legal transactions. From the Wilmington records we learn that on 28 March 1817 Jacob Levy manumitted his “mulatto” slave named Margaret Allan and her child Jacob. The same year, Jacob Levy purchased a “negro” slave named Isaac. And in the Fayetteville records, we learn that in 1819 Jacob Levy had a “mustee” slave girl name Maria that he deeded to his newborn great nephew Jacob Levy Benjamin (son of Jacob Levy’s niece Rebecca Benjamin). This last record is especially interesting because the slave’s name is “Maria” and she’s described as “mustee” meaning very specifically of mixed Native American/African descent. This slave girl could be related to “French Mary” or could possibly be “French Mary” herself. The newborn baby Jacob Levy Benjamin did not survive childhood, so I’m not sure where the enslaved “Maria” ended up. And when we consider that Jacob Levy was a merchant of West Indian goods, it stands to reason that his slaves also came from the West Indies.

So if Lewis Levy was born to Jacob Levy and his freed slave “French Mary”, then that would explain why neither “French Mary” or Lewis Levy went with Jacob Levy to New Orleans in 1826. We saw that Jacob Levy sold his real estate in Fayetteville in 1827 and I wonder if he left behind any money or property to his son before taking off.

Out of all the evidence presented about “French Mary”, I think the statement made by her son Lewis Levy back in 1876 that she was an Indian woman from Guadeloupe is the most credible. Not only is that the earliest document that speaks directly to “French Mary’s” heritage but it was information given from her own direct son, who would be most familiar with his mother’s heritage. Guadeloupe was during that time period and still today, a French territory and would explain the “French” aspect of Mary’s cultural background and culinary skills. The indigenous people of Guadeloupe are the Carib Indians and there are still recognized Carib people on the island today. So taking all the above information into consideration, I do believe that “French Mary” was a Carib Indian woman from Guadeloupe. She was most likely born a slave and freed at some point by the Levy/Benjamin family where she continued to work and have a child by Jacob Levy.

A Carib Indian woman from Martinique wearing traditional dress, 1902.
A Carib Indian woman of Martinique in Native dress, 1902. “French Mary” was most likely a Carib Indian woman from neighboring Guadeloupe island and was known for wearing a “turban”, perhaps similar to this example.
Source: http://kadaotonkao.blogspot.com/2013/03/ktk29-les-antilles-part2.html

Lewis Levy (1820-1899)

Lewis Levy (1820-1899) was the son of Jewish Jacob Levy and Carib Indian
Lewis Levy (1820-1899) was the son of Jewish Jacob Levy and Carib Indian “French Mary”. He was a lifelong resident of Cumberland Co, NC and married to Sarah Jane Scott.
Source: Ancestry, Username:carolaalen53

This brings us to Lewis Levy, whose Southern Claims Commission record we reviewed above. Lewis Levy identifies himself as the son of Jacob Levy the auctioneer from Fayetteville and an Indian woman (“French Mary”):

Lewis Levy's identifies his father as Jacob Levy and his mother as an Indian woman. Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880
Lewis Levy identifies his father as Jacob Levy and his mother as an Indian woman.
Source: Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims, 1871-1880

The first record I have for Lewis Levy is when he married Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) on 24 Apr 1843 in Cumberland Co, NC with Abram Scott paying the bond. Abram Scott was Sarah Jane Scott’s father who resided in Cumberland Co by 1830. Sarah Jane Scott was a Native American woman of Saponi/Catawba heritage.

Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) was the wife of Lewis Levy. She was the daughter of Abram Scott and Lucinda Walden who moved down from Wake Co to Cumberland Co. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Sarah Jane Scott (1825-1898) was the wife of Lewis Levy. She was the daughter of Abram Scott and Quentina Scott (maiden name not known) who resided in Cumberland Co.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

We first find Lewis Levy with wife Sarah Jane Scott and children living in Fayettville, Cumberland Co in the 1850 census. The entire family was enumerated as “mulatto”” and Lewis is listed as a saddler and harness maker. In 1844, Lewis Levy opened his shop in Lumberton and advertised it in the newspaper:

Lewis Levy was a saddler and harness maker and advertised his new shop located in Lumberton. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 18 Dec 1844, Wed, Page 1
Lewis Levy was a saddler and harness maker and advertised his new shop located in Lumberton.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 18 Dec 1844, Wed, Page 1

However something serious must have happened to the family because in 1851 Lewis Levy announced via the newspaper that he was trying to leave Fayetteville as soon as possible and so he was hoping to wrap up all outstanding business. I don’t know exactly why Lewis Levy suddenly decided to leave but it could be that the “Free Negro” laws were ruining him financially. After the Nat Turner slave rebellion in Southampton Co, VA, North Carolina in 1835 passed a new constitution that rescinded the rights that “free people of color” had and instead began to strictly enforce “Free Negro” laws. The last couple of decades leading up to the Civil War were incredibly oppressive times for all “free people of color” in North Carolina.

In 1851, Lewis Levy is shown making haste to close his shop and leave Fayetteville. I do not know why. but he ended up staying. Source: The North-Carolinian, 23 Aug 1851, Sat, Page 4
In 1851, Lewis Levy is shown making haste to close his shop and leave Fayetteville. I do not know why. but he ended up staying.
Source: The North-Carolinian, 23 Aug 1851, Sat, Page 4

But, Lewis Levy did not leave Fayetteville and in the 1860 census, his family was enumerated again in Fayetteville. This means Lewis Levy stayed in the South during the Civil War and we learn a little bit about his experiences during the War from his Southern Claims Commission (#16083) record from 1876. The full file is available on fold3.com. Lewis Levy stayed loyal to the Union and aided General Sherman’s troops with food and transportation so he sought to be compensated for his expenses. He filed a claim for $1592.65 and supplied a detailed list of exactly what he provided to the Union soldiers and the associated cost. In return, the commission allowed him to claim $723. Within the 75 pages of this claim, Levy provides testimony that he was assaulted and abused by the Confederate soldiers and because Levy himself was so fair skinned and could “pass” for white, the Confederacy tried to force him to enlist. Friends and family of Lewis Levy provided additional testimony to corroborate his claims.

Lewis Levy made his mark during the post-Civil War Reconstruction politics of the South. Unlike most “people of color” (both free-born and freedmen) who were members of the Republican Party (the “Radical Republicans”), Lewis Levy was a member of the Democratic Party – specifically the “Colored Democratic Club of Wilmington”.  And this put him at odds with his neighbors and community as seen in this news article:

Lewis Levy was a member of the Democratic Party which put him at odds with his Republican neighbors. Source: The Daily Journal, 22 Apr 1868, Wed, Page 3
Lewis Levy was involved with Reconstruction politics and was a member of the Democratic Party which put him at odds with his Republican neighbors.
Source: The Daily Journal, 22 Apr 1868, Wed, Page 3

Cumberland County continued be Lewis Levy’s home until his death in 1899. A newspaper article relays the news that Lewis Levy’s died en route while visiting his son Matthew Levy in Virginia:

Lewis Levy's death announcement in the newspaaper. Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 1 Jun 1899, Thu, Page 4
Lewis Levy’s death announcement in the newspaaper.
Source: Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 1 Jun 1899, Thu, Page 4

Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott had the following children (some may have been grandchildren):

1. Eiza Levy (b. 1842) Died in childhood.

2. Robert Levy (b. 1844) married Celia Scott and continued to live in Cumberland Co. Descendants enrolled with the Lumbee Tribe.

3. Lewis Levy Jr. (1846-1945) married Josephine Holliday and later settled in Philadelphia.

Lewis Levy Jr (1847-1945) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He later moved to Philadelphia. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Lewis Levy Jr (1847-1945) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He later moved to Philadelphia.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

4. Matthew Levy (1850-1913) married Elizabeth Merrick and moved to Virginia.

Matthew Levy (b. 1850) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved to Virginia where he was a preacher. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Matthew Levy (1850-1913) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved to Virginia where he was a preacher.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

5. ***James W. Levy (1852-1936) married Martha Freeman and moved up to Granville Co. He is the subject of the following section.

6. (William) Henry Levy (1854-1938) married Tempie Young and remained in Cumberland Co. Descendants enrolled with the Lumbee tribe.

7. Edward Levy (b. 1858) Died in childhood.

8. Mary Jane “Jennie” Levy (b. 1861) married James Pearce

9. William L. Levy (b. 1863) Died in childhood.

10. Charlotte Levy (b. 1870) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.

11. Anna Levy (b. 1872) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.

12. Aurelia Levy (b. 1876) Died in childhood, birth date suggests granddaughter not daughter.


James W. Levy (1852-1936)

Reverend James Levy (1852-1936) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved up to Granville Co and married Martha Freeman. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Reverend James W. Levy (1852-1936) was the son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. He moved up to Granville Co and married Martha Freeman.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

So this brings us to the Granville County part of the Levy history and that begins with James W. Levy, son of Lewis Levy and Sarah Jane Scott. James was the only child of Lewis Levy that moved up to Granville Co. I don’t have an exact year for this move but it occurred in the mid 1880s because James is last enumerated in Cumberland Co in the 1880 census. James moved to to the township of Kittrell, which is situated right next to Fishing Creek. Up until 1881 Kittrell was part of Granville Co and due to political maneuvering, Vance Co was created in 1881 from a small section of Ganville Co which included Kittrell.

It is there that James married a woman from the Native community named Martha Freeman (1865-1944). Martha was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes and is descended from the Native American Freeman, Hayes, Taborn, and Epps families. Though she was raised in Kittrell, most of Martha’s family came from neighboring Person Co in the High Plains community that is today the Sappony Tribe of Person County. I have not located James Levy and Martha Feeman’s marriage record yet but according to census info, they married around 1887.

Martha Freeman (1865-1944) was the wife of James Levy. She was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes of Kittrell, Granville/Vance Co. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Martha Freeman (1865-1944) was the wife of James Levy. She was the daughter of John Freeman and Elizabeth Hayes of Kittrell, Granville/Vance Co.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

James Levy was a popular minister at A.M.E. Zion Church and was active and well known in the Native community and throughout Granville/Vance Co. James served on the Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford, Granville Co.  The orphanage was situated a very short distance from the Native community, so community members took a strong interest in the institution and did a lot to support its efforts. For example, I’ve found that my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell and his first cousin James A Howell volunteered their services and often took in children from the orphanage.

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
Reverend James W. Levy is listed in the annual report of Board of Directors for the Colored Orphanage in Oxford.
Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/asyl1910/asyl1910.html

James Levy remained in Kittrell until his death in 1936. His wife Martha (Freeman) Levy also remained in Kittrell until her death in 1944. And what I think is a bit uncommon for the times, James Levy and Martha Freeman only had two children: a son named Dr. James W. Levy Jr and a daughter named Bessie Levy.


Dr. James W. Levy Jr. (1893-1975) – Medical Doctor, Bureau of Indian Affairs

Dr. James W. Levy was the son of Reverend Lewis Levy and Martha Freeman. He was a physician employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Dr. James W. Levy was the son of Reverend James Levy and Martha Freeman. He was a physician employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

James Levy Jr was the son of James Levy Sr. and Martha Freeman and early in his life, left North Carolina to assist other Native American communities. James was born and raised in Kittrell and enrolled in Winston-Salem State University, a historically black university in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County. He earned his medical license in 1915 as seen in a newspaper article that listed people who passed the North Carolina medical examination:

James Levy Jr received his medical license in 1915. Source: Greensboro Daily News, 17 Jun 1915, Thu, Page 7
James Levy Jr received his medical license in 1915.
Source: Greensboro Daily News, 17 Jun 1915, Thu, Page 7

In Winston-Salem, NC he met and married a woman named Christina Dykes on 21 Jan 1916. They had one son together named Ulysses Levy (1916-2003) but it appears the couple divorced soon after they wed.

We next find Dr. James Levy Jr in 1917 living all the way out in Minnesota. According to his WW1 draft record, James was working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (then called the U.S. Indian Service) as a medical doctor on the Leech Lake reservation. He is described as single, Indian, and that his mother was his dependent:

Dr. James W. Levy's WW1 draft card which shows he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (
Dr. James W. Levy’s WW1 draft card which shows he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“U.S. Indian Service”).
Source: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls.

The Leech Lake reservation is the reservation for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota where the Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for carrying out treaty obligations between the United States government and the tribe. These treaty obligations include access to healthcare and so Dr. James Levy’s patients were all from the reservation.

Dr. James Levy also developed a relationship with a woman from the Leech Lake reservation named “Marie”, her surname is unknown. She accompanied Dr. James Levy on a trip back home to Kittrell, NC to meet his parents:

From left to right: Marie (girlfriend of Dr. James Levy who was Leech Lake Ojibwe), Dr. James Levy, Martha (Freeman) Levy, and Reverend James Levy. Dr Levy brought his girlfriend Marie home to Kittrell to meet his parents. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
From left to right: Marie (girlfriend of Dr. James Levy who was Ojibwe), Dr. James Levy, Martha (Freeman) Levy, and Reverend James Levy. Dr Levy brought his girlfriend Marie home to Kittrell to meet his parents.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

American Indians served in high numbers during World War 1 and a result many returning Indian veterans of the World War came back to the U.S. with little support from the federal government. Thus in 1920 Dr. James Levy along with several other American Indians from other tribes formed the “American Indians of the Wold War” (AIWW) in Minneapolis:

Dr. James Levy along with several others founded the American Indians of World War to assist Indian veterans. Here Levy is called
Dr. James Levy along with several others founded the “American Indians of the World War” to assist Indian veterans. Here Levy is called “Cherokee” which was a term applied to and used by Indians in North Carolina who were not Cherokee.
Source: Bitten, Thomas A. “American Indians in World War I: At Home and at War”. Page 166

Unfortunately I have not found Dr. James Levy in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses. I get the feeling he moved around a bit, likely working on different projects for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And if he was living on reservations, he may not have been counted in the general U.S. census. If the Bureau still has records of James Levy’s employment, that would be worthwhile to look at.

By 1931, James Levy was living in Miami, OK and married an Arkansas-born woman named Dorothy O’Connor. By the 1950s onward, the couple is consistently listed in the Sioux City, Iowa city directories where James Levy is listed as a medical doctor.

James Levy died in September 1975 and is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, IA in the same plot as his wife Dorothy who predeceased him in 1969:

Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=120045173
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=120045173

Bessie Levy (1888-1980)

image
Bessie Levy (1888-1980) was the daughter of Revered James Levy and Martha Freeman. She is pictured here holding one of her children. Bessie’s headband is a reflection of the family’s Native American identity. Source: Shirley Hines (granddaughter of Bessie Levy)

Bessie Levy was the daughter of James Levy Sr. and Martha Freeman, and sister to Dr. James W Levy. Unlike her brother, Bessie stayed local and married within the community.

On 24 September 1913 in Kittrell, Bessie Levy married George Huley Tyler from Fishing Creek of the Native American Tyler, Guy, Kersey, Day, Anderson, Bass, Evans, Walden, Taborn, Chavis families.

George Huley Tyler (1886-1961) was the husband of Bessie Levy. He was from Fishing Creek, Granville Co and the son of John Thomas Tyler and Mary Etta Guy. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
George Huley Tyler (1886-1961) was the husband of Bessie Levy. He was from Fishing Creek, Granville Co and the son of John Thomas Tyler and Mary Etta Guy.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

In the 1920 census we find Bessie Levy with her husband George Tyler and their children, living with Bessie’s parents in Kittrell. She is listed as a teacher so we know she was an educated woman like her brother Dr. James Levy. Her husband George Tyler was a photographer who had his own studio. They had 8 children who lived into adulthood (including 1 who is still living) and at least 2 children who died in infancy.

image
Robert Guy is pictured here with Bessie Levy at her home in Kittrell, Vance Co (formerly Granville Co). Robert Guy was the son of Miles Guy and Susan Taborn. His nephew George Huley Tyler was the husband of Bessie Levy. Source: Shirley Hines (Bessie Levy’s granddaughter)

In 1948, Bessie Levy and husband George Tyler moved up from Granville/Vance Cos to Boston, MA where some of their children had already settled. They both remained in Boston until their deaths – Bessie died in 1980 and her husband George predeceased her in 1961.

Marie Sarah Elizabeth Tyler (1916-2004) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She is pictured with her son Charles at the family home in Kittrell. Marie relocated up to Boston. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Marie Sarah Elizabeth Tyler (1916-2004) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She is pictured with her son Charles at the family home in Kittrell. Marie relocated up to Boston.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
James
James “Jimmy” Joseph Tyler (1918-1998) was the son of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. Jimmy Tyler was a jazz saxophonist who had a successful career in the jazz scene from the 1940s onward. He was in the Boston (legendary “Wally’s club”) and New York jazz clubs and later moved to Florida. You can listen to one of his recordings here.
Source: Ancestry, Username: ShirleyHines73
Goldie Tyler (1922-2011) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She relocated up to Boston and was a songwriter. Her son Steve Johns is jazz drummer carrying on the family's musical legacy. Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53
Goldie Tyler (1922-2011) was the daughter of Bessie Levy and George Huley Tyler. She relocated up to Boston and was a songwriter. Her son Steve Johns is jazz drummer carrying on the family’s musical legacy.
Source: Ancestry, Username: carolaallen53

Final Thoughts:

By taking a close look at the Levy family, we see that the European heritage of some Native American families did not just include Christians. European Jews were also settlers in the Carolinas where they had many opportunities to intermarry with local Native Americans and blacks. As “minority” populations in Europe, it stands to reason that in the Americas they may have also faced discrimination from their Christian European counterparts, thus at times placing them on a social level that was in close proximity to that of “free people of color”. So as we explore the diverse heritage of these families, we should keep an open mind about the contribution of other “minority” European groups.

Walter Plecker and Granville County’s Native Americans

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:

Marriage record of two Monacan Indians Houston Robert Beverly and Lee Ann Clark. You can see how their races were originally recorded as "Indian" and then someone went back with a pen and wrote "mixed". Source: Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.
Marriage record of two Monacan Indians, Houston Robert Beverly and Lee Ann Clark. You can see how their races were originally recorded as “Indian” and then someone went back with a pen and wrote “mixed”.
Source: Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.

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:

Walter Plecker's 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should be categorized as
Walter Plecker’s 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should not be racially categorized as “Indian”. Unsurprisingly, many of the surnames listed here make up the families of Virginia’s Native American tribes.
Source: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/letterscan.html

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)

Rockbridge (Migrants to Augusta): Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pultz, Ramsey, Southerds (Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns.

Charles City: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins.

King William: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Custalow (Custaloe), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes, Suprlock, Doggett.

New Kent: Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston.

Henrico and Richmond City: See Charles City, New Kent, and King William.

Caroline: Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex)

Essex and King and Queen: Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond, Brooks, Boughton, Prince, Mitchell, Robinson.

Elizabeth City & Newport News: Stewart (descendants of the Charles City families).

Halifax: Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley, Sheppard (Shepard), Young.

Norfolk County & Portsmouth: Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King, Bright, Porter, Ingram.

Westmoreland: Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Gutridge, Oliff.

Greene: Shifflett, Shiflet.

Prince William: Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier)

Fauquier: Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William)

Lancaster: Dorsey (Dawson).

Washington: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley.

Roanoke County: Beverly. (See Washington)

Lee and Smyth: Collins, Gibson (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Mise, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins. — Chiefly Tennessee “Melungeons.”

Scott: Dingus. (See Lee 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.

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon and a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township in Granville County. She comes from the same Branham family in Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon and a lifelong resident of Fishing Creek township in Granville County. She comes from the same Branham family in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

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).

Adeline Jane Howell (1858 - after 1900) Daughter of Alexander "Doc" Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. Adeline comes from the same Howell family in Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas 1973
Adeline Jane Howell (1858 – after 1900). Daughter of Alexander “Doc” Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. She lived in Fishing Creek township in Granville County and moved to Nash County later in life. Adeline comes from the same Howell family in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas 1973

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.

Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Hardy Bass and Sarah Evans. Alonzo's Bass family is from Granville and he lived in neighboring Person, and Orange counties. He is from the same Bass family found in Walter Plecker's letter. Source: Ancestry, User:  randymaultsby
Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Hardy Bass and Sarah Evans. Alonzo’s Bass family is from Granville and he lived in neighboring Person, and Orange counties. He is from the same Bass family found in  Plecker’s letter.
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby

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. 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.

Ira Evans (1879-1968). He was the son of Lewis Evans and Zibra Bookram. Ira was born in Granville where both of his parents were from and lived most of his live in neighboring Durham County. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams
Ira Evans (1879-1968). He was the son of Lewis Evans and Zibra Bookram. Ira was born in Granville where both of his parents were from and lived most of his live in neighboring Durham County. He descends from the same Gibson family in Plecker’s letter. 
Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams
Delia Harris (1843 - after 1870), granddaughter of Martha Harris. She is listed in Martha's household in the 1850 census for Granville County, listed as "Dilly Harris" age 7.  Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.
Delia Harris (1843 – after 1870). She was the daughter of Fanny Harris and William Henry Mills. She descends from the same Gibson family (via her Harris/Chavis line) listed in Plecker’s letter.
Source: Marvin Richardson. Please do not reproduce.

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. However, there are Bunch descendants found among some of the Bass family through the marriage of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch.

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 colony. 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.

The Nansemond Indian Bass Family of Granville

The Bass family in Granville is one of the larger Native American families in the county. Just about all “core” surnames of the Native community in Granville have intermarried with the Basses. Thankfully, the Bass family has a very well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe in Virginia. Additionally, there are Bass descendants found in several state recognized tribes in North Carolina including: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee.


Nansemond Tribal Origin

Untitled presentation (2)
Family Tree of the first generations of Basses. John Bass(e), a colonist, married Elizabeth, daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. This blog post focuses on their grandsons Edward Bass and John Bass who moved to North Carolina. © Kianga Lucas

Much of the source material for this blog entry comes from Lars Adams’ research on the Basses. Not only is he a researcher, but he is also a descendant of the Bass family and has invested a lot of time in correcting past genealogical mistakes. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family.

The Native American branch of the British Bass family begins with the marriage in 1638 of John Bass(e) an English colonist to Elizabeth, baptized daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. They are my 10th great-grandparents. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family bible that has survived to the present. There have been incorrect transcriptions of this marriage record that falsely state that Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can clearly read from the actual original marriage record, her name is simply “Elizabeth” and her father’s name is not mentioned at all. So if you are a Bass descendant or researcher, please check your family tree to make sure you have the correct information. Below is an image of the marriage:

Bass Family Bible transcription:
Bass Family Bible transcription:
“John Basse married ye dafter of ye King of ye Nansemond Nation by name Elizabeth in Holy Baptizm and in Holy Matrimonie ye 14th day of August in ye yeare of Our Blessed Lord 1638 Dyed 1699 A.D.”

The Nansemond tribe is an Algonquian speaking tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy from the tidewater Virginia area that is today the modern city of Suffolk. As coastal people they were impacted very early on by European colonization. Here is a map of sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:

Map of the Powhatan Confederacy. The Nansemond Tribe is circled in red. Source: Helen Rountree
Map of the Powhatan Confederacy. The Nansemond Tribe is circled in red.
Source: Helen Rountree

John Bass and Elizabeth had several children including a son named William Bass (1654-1741) who appears to be the most well documented. William Bass was married to a woman named Catherine Lanier and they continued living in the area that was then Norfolk County, VA and is today Chesapeake, VA. William Bass Sr and Catherine Lanier had the following children:

  • Edward Bass b. 19 Oct 1672
  • John Bass b. 4 Dec 1673
  • Keziah Bass b. 30 Oct 1675
  • William Bass b. 28 Oct 1676
  • Joseph Bass b. 21 Dec 1678
  • Mary Bass b. 15 Jun 1681
  • Thomas Bass b. 13 Nov 1687

Four of his sons: Edward, John, William, and Thomas are known to have had children and living descendants today. Sons William Bass Jr (1676 – 1761) and Thomas Bass (1687-?) and their descendants primarily remained in the Norfolk Co, VA area with some descendants moving a very short distance across the state line into Camden Co, NC and neighboring counties. Descendants of the Basses who remained in the Norfolk area make up the core membership of the state recognized Nansemond Tribe. These Basses commonly intermarried with other FPOC families such as: Hall, Perkins, Price, Archer, Newton, and Nickens.

On the other hand, sons Edward Bass (1672 – 1750) and John Bass (1673- 1732) relocated to North Carolina and their descendants I will document in the following sections. The descendants of both men can be found in many Native American communities throughout North Carolina, including Granville.

William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:

William Bass, Senr. & … his sons Wm. Bass, Thomas Bass and Joseph Bass, & spinster daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemun Indian descent with no Admixture of negor, Ethipopic blood

William’s sons Edward and John Bass are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior.

Later William’s son William Bass Jr (1676-1761) received a similar certificate in 1742 that read:

William Bass, the Bearer, tall, swarthy, dark eyes, weight abt. 13 stone, scar on back of left hand, is of English & Indian descent with no admixture of negro blood, numbered as a Nansemun by his own Choosing. The sd. Bass dwells in this County and hath a good name for his industry and honesty.

Clearly the Bass family early on was attempting to document and establish their Nansemond Indian identity and in the eyes of the colony, this meant also not having any “negro admixture”.

Augustus Bass sitting on the far left with other members of his family in Norfolk County, VA (modern Chesapeake). Augustus Bass is a descendant of William Bass Jr (167 ), whose family remained in Virginia.
Augustus Bass sitting on the far left with other members of his family in Norfolk County, VA (modern Chesapeake).
Augustus Bass is a descendant of William Bass Jr (1676-1761), whose family remained in Virginia.

William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk Co. In the will, William gives to his sons William, Edward and Thomas only one shilling each. He gave to his son Joseph Bass, his “waring cloaths” and left his land and anything else to his daughter Mary in the hopes that she salvage what is left. Clearly, William was not in good financial standing at the time of his death. Son John Bass (1673-1732) is not named in the will because he predeceased his father. This is also true for William’s daughter Keziah Bass who died in 1704.

William Bass will
This is the original handwritten will of William Bass (1654-1741). Source: Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983; Norfolk; Original Wills, 1693; page 427.

 

William Bass will abstract
Transcription of the will of William Bass dated 1 Oct 1740 and proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk Co, VA

Edward Bass and John Bass Move to North Carolina

From here our discussion focuses on the two brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) who moved to North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. Edward Bass was named in his father William Bass’ 1740 will in which he only inherited one shilling. Edward’s wife was Lovewell but her maiden name has not been confirmed and so more research is needed to properly identify exactly who she is. Edward is well documented as a land owner in Norfolk County, VA (modern Chesapeake, VA) and purchased land from John Fulcher in 1699. Fulcher’s will in 1712, freed the Anderson family that would both intermarry and move with the Basses into North Carolina. You can read more about John Fulcher and the Anderson family here. Edward Bass makes numerous appearances in the Norfolk Co court records up through 1715.

By 1720, Edward Bass owned land around the Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land transaction, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know it is our same Edward Bass. A couple of years later in 1723 he started purchasing tracts of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. Fortunately, Edward left a Northampton County will which named his children.

All of Edward Bass’ children moved to Granville County and so his descendants are well represented in the Granville community. And it is important to note that Edward Bass’ children and descendants intermarried quite frequently with the freed Anderson family, so much so, that it’s nearly impossible to separate the two families. Though all of Edward Bass’ children inherited a parcel of his Northampton Co. land, they all eventually sold off their shares when they moved to Granville Co. Edward’s son Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) still owned a parcel of his father’s Northampton Co land in 1784, when he and his wife Mary eventually sold it off. Once Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, and Mitchell families and became apart of the community.

 

The descendants of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also among the Granville Native Americans, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:

John Bass and Love Harris marriage recorded in Perquimans County, NC. “John BAS and Love HARRIS was Married ye 8th day of Janewary 1696 both of Nanse Mum County and Nanse Mum Parresh by Mager Samuel SWANN Esqr.”
John Bass and Love Harris marriage recorded in Perquimans County, NC.
“John BAS and Love HARRIS was Married ye 8th day of Janewary 1696 both of Nanse Mum County and Nanse Mum Parresh by Mager Samuel SWANN Esqr.”

As researcher Lars Adams point out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA they married in North Carolina. John Bass was Indian and Love Harris was white and during this time, VA passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they likely married in North Carolina where the laws were more lenient.

John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan Co (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows the two brothers moved together and remained close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward, John Bass accumulated a lot of land that adjoined his brother’s along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County, and now Northampton County starting in the early 1720s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he also left a Northampton County will which divided his Urahaw Swamp land among his children.

It should be noted that John Bass’ will makes mention of his widow Mary, and in it, John leaves his plantation to her as gift for “bringing up my small children”. Since we have an earlier marriage record for John Bass to Love Harris, this would mean that Love died sometime earlier, and John Bass remarried Mary. The will seems to indicate that Mary helped raise the children that John Bass had with his previous wife. The will also confirms that Edward Bass and John Bass were siblings because in it, John Bass refers to his own land as being adjacent to his brother Edward Bass.

Some of John Bass’ children remained in Northampton County and neighboring/nearby counties including Bertie, Edgecombe, Nash and Halifax. Other children moved to other parts of the state. For example, John Bass’ grandson Frederick Bass (b. 1750)  moved to Anson Co and some his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.

Several of John Bass’ children did join Edward Bass’ children in their relocation to Granville Co. They were Sarah Bass b. 1704, William Bass b. 1712, and Lovey Bass b. 1720. Sarah Bass b. 1704 was the wife of Lewis Anderson (1713-1785), of the freed Anderson family of Norfolk Co, so that explains why she moved to Granville. Lovey Bass b. 1712 was not married but had a partner named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. The wife of William Bass b. 1712  is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Just like Edward Bass’ children, John Bass’ children who moved to Granville married into and became a part of the Native community.

****Mary Bass (1757-1844) and her husband  Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809) are my 5th great-grandparents and are the main progenitors of the state recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe. It had been assumed that Mary Bass was the same Mary Bass who was the daughter of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch of Bertie Co. Thomas Bass was a grandson of John Bass (1673-1732). However I no longer believe this to be true. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows Mary Bass to have a closer relationship with the Edward Bass (1672-1750) branch of the Bass family. Specifically, I’m looking into Mary Bass being the daughter of either Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) or perhaps Edward Bass Jr (1728-1800) of Granville Co. Both men were sons of Edward Bass (1672-1750). I will update this blog post when I can confirm my research. Please check back again later. ****

This map shows the movement of brothers Edward and John Bass from their Nansemond homeland in Virginia to North Carolina. All of Edward Bass' children and three of John Bass' children moved and settled in Granville County by the 1750s. © Kianga Lucas
This map shows the movement of brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) from their Nansemond homeland in Virginia to North Carolina. This map shows that the brothers moved together from Norfolk, to Horspool Swamp, and then to Urahaw Swamp together. All of Edward Bass’ children and three of John Bass’ children moved and settled in Granville County by the 1750s.
© Kianga Lucas

 


A Closer Look at Urahaw Swamp and Neighboring Tribes

The fact that brothers Edward Bass and John Bass moved to North Carolina at the same time and bought adjoining land deserves further examination. The Urahaw Swamp land that was first purchased in 1722/1723 is of particular interest because Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) also owned land along Urahaw Swamp. Bartholomew was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1709-1777) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew are found in Henrico and Surry County, VA. By 1719/1720 he was living in North Carolina and started purchasing land along Urahaw Swamp just 2-3 years before the Bass brothers purchased land there.

Map of the southern portion of Northampton County, NC. I circled Urahaw Swamp which runs off of Potecasi Creek which I also circled. Potcesai Creek enters Northampton from the eastern border with Hertford. Urahaw Swamp breaks off from Potecasi and runs westward an ends on the northern side of the Roanake River along the Halifax County border. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/8072/rec/18
Map of the southern portion of Northampton County, NC. I circled Urahaw Swamp which runs off of Potecasi Creek which I also circled. Potecasi Creek enters Northampton from the eastern border with Hertford. Urahaw Swamp breaks off from Potecasi and runs westward and ends on the northern side of the Roanake River along the Halifax County border.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/8072/rec/18

The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson. Her brother John Gibson who lived nearby, was a witness to a 1728 land purchase along Urahaw Swamp by Edward Bass (1672-1750). Two of John Gibson’s sons – George Gibson and Charles Gibson moved to Granville in 1750 but this was the far southwestern part of the county that just two years later became Orange County. George and Charles Gibson did not stay in Orange County for along and moved around quite a bit with their descendants eventually leaving the state. William Chavis (1709-1777) also owned some land in Orange County and perhaps that is connected to George and Charles Gibson’s temporary residence there. Despite inheriting his father’s Northampton County land along the Roanake River in 1750, William Chavis (1709-1777) continued to live in Granville County. William even continued to have additional land transactions in Northampton County but Granville was his primary residence as indicated in tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him.

I find it interesting that a Nottoway Indian named George Skipper b. 1685 was documented through land transactions, living along Urahaw Swamp in the 1720s (See Heinegg here). This is the exact same time that the Chavis, Gibson, Bass, and Anderson families lived along Urahaw Swamp. And when we take a look at the Moseley map of 1733, we see both the Meherrin and the Nansemond Indians living in close proximity to Urahaw Swamp in Northampton Co. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same Iroquois speaking confederacy. And some of the Nansemond lived with the Nottoway. This was an area where a number of tribes took refuge with one another, and this historical context is important for understanding Urahaw Swamp and the cluster of mixed race Native American families who resided there.

Mosely Map 1733
Zoomed in portion of the Moseley Map of 1733. Urahaw Swamp is shown west of the Nansemond and Meherrin tribes which are circled. Source: http://ncpedia.org/moseley-manuscript-map

 

So why did some Nansemond Indians leave VA and head into Iroquois/Tuscarora and Saponi territory and ultimately end up marrying into both tribes? The Basses belonged to the so-called “Christianized-Nansemond” as explained by scholar Helen Rountree, and they were never granted a reservation like other Powhatan tribes (Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Gingaskin, etc). The “traditional” Nansemond did live on a reservation in Southampton County and lived with the Nottoway Tribe. By 1792 they sold off their remaining reservation land.

Map showing the location of the
Map showing the location of the “Christianized Nansemond” that the Bass family belonged to.
Source: Helen Rountree

Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of VA as a result of encroachment by European colonists. North Carolina at that time was still the “frontier” and that is where the Basses decided to make their home. The Basses were not the only family from a Powhatan tribe that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families from North Carolina that have tidewater Virginia roots were Powhatan tribal people who were pushed out and ended up marrying into other tribal communities.


The Basses from Granville County

So to summarize: all of the children of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and three of the children of John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to Granville County. Edward Bass and John Bass were brothers, and the grandsons of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth.

The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from census records. In 1800, there were 14 Bass heads of households, in 1810: 10 heads of household, in 1820: 7 heads of household, in 1830: 6 heads of household, and in 1840: 6 heads of household. In the 1850 census where every household member is named for the first time, there were approximately 24 Basses in Granville, and in 1860 there were approximately 25 Basses in Granville. By the 1940 census which is the last publicly available census, there were approximately 100 Basses in Granville. These numbers of course do not reflect female Basses whose names changed due to marriage, nor their descendants.

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Family Tree showing the immediate family of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802), great-grandson of John Bass(e) and Elizabeth the Nansemond. Because neither a will or estate records have been located for Benjamin Bass, there are unanswered questions as to how many children he had. In addition, numerous children were bound out to Benjamin Bass. © Kianga Lucas
Untitled presentation
Family Tree showing the immediate family of Edward Bass Jr (1728-1800), great-grandson of John Bass(e) and Elizabeth the Nansemond. Edward Bass left a will which named his children. In the Granville tax lists, he is consistently shown with his wife Tamer so I feel confident that she was the mother to all of his children. © Kianga Lucas

Two of Edward Bass’ sons: Benjamin Bass (b. 1722) and Edward Bass Jr (b. 1728) are primarily responsible for the large number of Basses in Granville Co as well as those who continued to head further west into Person, Orange, Caswell, Alamance, Chatham, and Guilford Counties, so you will find a high number of their living descendants today.

Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Alonzo Bass (1859-1941). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans. 
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
William Brammer Bass (1874-1962) Source: Ancestry, User: Derika73
William Brammer Bass (1874-1962). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans
Source: Ancestry, User: Derika73
Garland Bryant Bass (1879-1935). Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Garland Bryant Bass (1879-1935). Son of William Bass and Sarah Evans
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby

The Bass lineage of the three brothers pictured above:

William Bass; Cullen Bass; Prudence Bass; Edward Bass Jr; Edward Bass Sr; William Bass Sr; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.

Not only do the three Bass brothers descend from the Bass family, they are descendants of the Granville County Evans, Anderson, Day, and Mayo families. This particular branch of the Bass family moved around neighboring Granville, Person, and Orange counties.

Alonzo Bass’ grandson Joel Bass (1929-2012) was former chief of the Eno-Occaneechi Tribe (precursor to the state recognized Occaneechi-Saponi tribe). On Joel’s mother’s side he is descended from the Granville County Day, Stewart, Cousins and yes the Bass family again from the Edward Bass Sr line.

Joel Bass (1929-2012). Son of Buck Bass and Minnie Day. Source: Richard Haithcock
Joel Bass (1929-2012). Son of Buck Bass and Minnie Day and grandson of Alonzo Bass pictured above.
Source: Richard Haithcock
Joel Bass as a young man. Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Joel Bass as a young man.
Source: Ancestry, User: randymaultsby
Alford Pettiford born 1877 Resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, NC. Son of James Pettiford and Frances Brandon. Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye
Alford Pettiford born 1877
Resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, NC.
His parents were James Pettiford and Frances Brandon.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye

Alford Pettiford is another Bass descendant and in fact has multiple Bass lines that trace back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732).  One of his Bass lineages is as follows:

Alford Pettiford; James Pettiford; William Pettiford; Dicey Bass; Nathan Bass; Lovey Bass; John Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.

Cappie Frances Anderson (1882-1947). Cappie was a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Anderson and Emma Taborn. Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye
Cappie Frances Anderson (1882-1947). Cappie was a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Anderson and Emma Taborn.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rdaye

Cappie Frances Anderson also has multiple Bass lineages going back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732). One of her Bass lineages is as follows:

Cappie Anderson; James Anderson; Winnie Anderson; Henry Anderson; Rhody Anderson; Winnie Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.