I was recently contacted by historian Vikki Bynum (“The Free State of Jones” – author of the book which inspired the movie), who was working on updating her research on the “free people of color” from Granville County. Vikki became familiar with my own research through this blog: “Native American Roots” and I was so delighted to work with her on this. The narrative that she presents and how she was able to synthesize and summarize the lives of our ancestors is quite impressive.
I am so proud to descend from such remarkable people and honored that my blog has become a source for others to learn more about our ancestors.
This blog would not be possible without the many people who have shared photos, family stories, and other key family information. Collaboration is vital in telling the full stories of our ancestor’s lives. A heartfelt thank you to all who have contributed!
If you are using marriage records to simply document when and where your ancestors married, you are missing out on so much more information. In this blog post, I will provide some examples and give advice about how to maximize the information contained in marriage records. Granville is a county that thankfully did not suffer from major record loss when compared to other North Carolina counties, so it’s important to take full advantage of the written record left behind. I will also provide some general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors that I was able to observe by closely reviewing their marriage records.
Marriage Bonds and the Bondsman
In North Carolina, from the colonial era and up through about 1869, marriages in the state typically required a marriage bond to be posted. Marriage bonds were a formal guarantee between the potential groom and bride and the jurisdictional government that the couple was legally able to marry. The groom was accompanied by a bondsman who both signed their names to guarantee the marriage bond for a specific amount of money. No actual money was exchanged. The Legal Genealogist has a good blog post with additional information about marriage bonds.
Because the bondsman just like the groom, could potentially be legally held responsible if the marriage was unlawful, the bondsman was usually a relative or friend/neighbor of the groom or bride. This means marriage bonds contain potentially additional genealogical information. If the bondsman was a relative, this can help identify other family members of the married couple.
Over the course of my research, I have closely looked at hundreds, probably thousands of marriage bonds for our ancestors in Granville and nearby counties. I have observed that if the bondsman was a relative, he was most often either the father, uncle, brother, or brother-in-law of the groom or bride. I have identified bondsmen who were slightly more distant relatives like first cousins, but these instances were not nearly as common as the father, uncle, brother, and brother-in-law relationship.
Here is an example of a marriage bond:
So my recommendation is that every time you locate a marriage bond of your ancestors, make sure to record the name of the bondsman. After you do that, follow up to see if you can identify exactly who that bondsman was and if he had any family relationship to the groom or bride.
Here is another example of a marriage bond, where the bondsman was an uncle:
Transition to Standardized Marriage Licenses
In the years following the conclusion of the Civil War, North Carolina abandoned the marriage bond system in favor of more standardized marriage licenses. In this section, I’ll document some of the variety of marriage licenses you can expect to see from this time period. These marriage licenses typically offer a lot more biographical information about the groom and bride. Additional information may include: age, race/color, names of parents, witnesses to the marriage, location of marriage, the person who solemnized the marriage, and the residence of the groom and bride.
The Native American community in Granville was very tight knit and this can be seen in the marriage records which record the witnesses of the event. Witnesses were often family members and friends and so these marriage records offer an important insight into these kinship and social circles.
The marriage license for James H Tyler (1852-1919) and Sarah Virginia Scott (1858-1937) shows some familiar names included in the record. The marriage license indicates that both the groom and bride lived in “F.C.”, meaning Fishing Creek township – the heart of the Native American community in Granville. James Tyler was 25 years of age and Sarah Virginia Scott was 17 years of age. A “J.P.” (Justice of the Peace) named L.H. Cannady officiated the ceremony at John Scott’s home. John Scott (b. 1823) was the father of Sarah Virginia Scott. The witnesses to the marriage were David Day, Sarah Tyler, and Hawkins Kersey. All three people were from the community. David Day (b. 1837) was the from FPOC Day family, a core family. By 1879, he was widowed from Nancy Bass who may have been a close family member of Sarah Virginia Scott’s maternal grandmother Henrietta Bass (b. 1800). “Sarah Tyler” was James H Tyler’s mother Sarah/Sally (Kersey) Tyler (1828-1911). Hawkins Kersey (1854-1921) was originally born Hawkins Tyler, and was the son of Martha Jane Tyler (b. 1830) who was James H Tyler’s aunt. Hawkins, was then “adopted” by Baldy Kersey (James H Tyler’s uncle) and his surname was changed to Kersey. Baldy Kersey was the infamous outlaw and the subject of this blog post.
Another example of a marriage license with biographical information:
The 27 July 1872 Granville County marriage record of Lewis H Anderson (b. 1849) and Amanda W Anderson (1856-1920) also shows important biographical information. Lewis Anderson listed as 22 years of age resided in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Amanda Anderson age 18, resided in “O” (Oxford) township. The marriage took place at the New Hope Church which was one of several churches that serviced the community. Dennis Anderson (b. 1807), a member from the community, officiated the service. While browsing through the Granville County marriage records, I noted that Dennis Anderson officiated numerous marriages for people in the Native American community. Amanda W Anderson’s grandfather Jeremiah “Jerry” Anderson (1794-1875) was the older brother of Dennis Anderson, so Dennis Anderson was also a great uncle of the bride. Witnesses to the marriage were Arthur Bass, James Horner, and David Day. There were two Arthur Basses of adult age living in Granville County in 1872, so I’m uncertain which one is referred to here. James Horner (b. 1842) was not a FPOC. He was born enslaved but married into the Native American/FPOC community which likely why he was a witness. David Day (b. 1837) is the same man who was listed above as a witness to the marriage of James H Tyler and Sarah Virginia Scott.
And here is another example of a marriage record with important biographical information:
The 22 December 1874 marriage between James A Mayo (1847-1910) and Ida Howell (1855-1928) also includes a few notable people from the community. James Mayo is listed as being 22 years of age and residing in “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township and Ida Howell is 16 years of age and also a resident of “F.C.” (Fishing Creek) township. Cuffy Mayo (1800-1896) officiated the marriage. Cuffy was a very important person not only in the community but was also well respected by his white neighbors. He was a delegate to North Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention. The marriage took place at the home of Jane (Harris) Howell (b. 1817) who was Ida Howell’s mother. Witnesses to the marriage were Edward Allen, James E Howell, and William Tyler. I’m unsure who Edward Allen was. James E Howell (1840-1912) was Ida Howell’s brother and my 2nd great-grandfather. William Tyler (1825-1897) was another well respected member of the community and a cousin and neighbor to the Howell family. It is also worth mentioning that the groom and bride were first cousins. James Mayo’s mother Sally Harris was a sister to Ida Howell’s mother Jane Harris. First cousin marriages were not atypical at all for this very tight knit community.
Military Pension Files
Another excellent resource to use to help document marriages of our ancestors are military pension files. Many of the men in our community were soldiers in the Revolutionary War and if they lived long enough into their elder years, they typically filed applications for military pension benefits. If a soldier died before or while receiving pension benefits, his surviving widow could apply for a widow’s pension to continue to receive those payments.
In order to prove that a female applicant was the legal surviving widow of a soldier, she had to provide a copy of their marriage license as well as witness testimony from friends/relatives/neighbors to confirm the identity of the applicant. If a widow remarried, she was no longer entitled to her deceased husband’s benefits.
For example, my 5th great-grandmother Mary (Bass) Richardson (1757-1844) was the widow of two Revolutionary War soldiers: her first husband Elijah Bass (1743-1781) and her second husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Elijah Bass died while in service in the Revolutionary War, so Mary Bass remarried Benjamin Richardson at the conclusion of the war. Mary Bass was eligible to receive Benjamin Richardson’s military pension benefits. In order to do that, she applied for a widow’s pension – W.4061. In her application, Mary (Bass) Richardson provides the following testimony about her marriages:
That she was married to Elijah Bass who was a private in the Army of the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina line that he served as such for the period of two and a half years and Enlisted under Captain Bailey of the tenth Regiment. She further declared that she was married to the said Elijah Bass on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Seventy seven. That her husband the aforesaid Elijah Bass died (or was killed) in the aforesaid War at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on the 8th day of September 17 hundred & Eighty one. That she was afterward (to wit) on the 14th day of February 17 hundred & Eighty three married to Benjamin Richardson who was a private in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War who served as such for the period of twelve months under Capts. Joel Wren, John White Jordan Harris & other officers.
So in her testimony, Mary (Bass) Richardson gives 14 February 1783 as the date she married Benjamin Richardson. A search of the Granville County marriage bonds, shows that Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass received a marriage bond on 13 February 1783 with Phillip Pettiford as the bondsman. This is consistent with the testimony that Mary (Bass) Richardson provided – they married the following day after receiving the marriage bond. If this marriage bond was no longer available due to record loss, Mary (Bass) Richardson’s testimony for her widow’s pension, serves as an excellent secondary source substitute record to document her marriage to Benjamin Richardson.
Another example is found in the widow’s pension application of my 5th great-grandmother Martha Patsy Harris (1770-1859). She was the widow of my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Martha Patsy’s maiden name is unknown because I have never been able to locate a marriage record for her and Sherwood Harris. However her widow’s pension does provide me with an approximate date of when and where they married. You can read transcribed portions of the application W.3984 here.
Included in Martha Patsy Harris’ widow application, is testimony from several white residents of Granville and Wake Counties who were personal friends of Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris and attended their wedding. Siblings Stephen Bridges (born 1770) and Frances “Fanny” (Bridges) Cavender (born 1765) remembered attending the wedding and gave 1787 as the approximate year of the marriage. Frances also gave additional information that the couple were married in Granville County by the Justice of the Peace named John Pope. Another personal friend named Nathaniel Estes (1770-1845) also recalled attending the wedding and determined that it happened several years before 1793 (the birth year of his son). Martha Patsy Harris also testified that she recalled the wedding was in 1787, so the information given in all the testimonies is consistent. So without a marriage record, we can give the approximate marriage year for Sherwood and Martha Patsy Harris as 1787. Having an exact date is certainly more desirable but an approximate date at least gives us something to work with.
So definitely make sure to read through the entire Revolutionary War pension files of your ancestors to help document their marriages. I have even found testimony that describes the actual wedding event – a detail that is not conveyed in marriage licenses. I recall reading a description of a wedding service that included fiddling and singing.
Land Deeds and Marriage
If you’ve searched high and low through marriage records and military pension files, and still cannot find leads on the marriages of your ancestors, here’s another source to consider: land deeds. Though land deeds do not specify an exact marriage event between a groom and bride, it does provide some clues about a recent marriage within the family. It was common for the families of the groom and bride to sell and purchase land from one another around the time of the marriage. There are a few possible reasons for this. For one, our community was very tight knit and land transactions were common within these close kinship circles. Marriages extended that kinship network of people to do business with and kept land ownership within the family. Another reason for these land transactions around the time of the marriage was that the groom desired to purchase land near his wife’s family to stay in close contact. If the groom was not already a land owner, his marriage into a new family provided an opportunity to became a land owner.
For example, my 4th great-grandfather Freeman Howell (1777-1870) had a daughter named Julia Howell (1797-1870). Julia Howell was married to Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) but I have never found a marriage record for the couple. I do have confirmation of their marriage through Freeman Howell’s estate records which specify how his estate was divided among his living heirs. Given the approximate ages of Nelson Cousins and Julia Howell’s children, I suspected that they were married around 1820. In 1824 in Granville County, the following land deeds were recorded between Julia Howell’s father Freeman Howell and Nelson Cousins’ brother Robert Cousins:
17 Jan 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
$150 in hand deed of Gift from Robert Cousins to Freeman Howell
2 Feb 1824 • Granville County, North Carolina
Robert Cozen acknowledges a deed to Freeman Howell for a 120 acres of land which is ordered to be Registered
Source: Land deed notes transcribed by Jahrod Pender
Though these land deeds do not provide me with a date of a marriage event between a member of the Howell family and a member of the Cousins family, it does suggest that there is now a kinship relationship between these two families. This would be especially true if I find additional land deeds between the Howell and Cousins family during this period.
Another example of a land deed tied to a recent marriage is the example of my 6th great-grandparents Edward Harris (b. 1730) and Sarah Chavis (1730-1785). We believe that Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis married around 1750 according to the approximate ages of their children and 1750 being the first year that Sarah was listed as a tithable in Edward Harris’s household.
On 6 September 1756 (about 6 years after they married), Sarah Chavis’ father William Chavis made a deed of gift for 340 acres along Tabbs Creek in Granville County to Edward Harris and Sarah Chavis. (Land deed transcribed and shared by Paul Heinegg). William Chavis (1709-1778) was a man I refer to as a community founder because he originally owned all of the land that makes up the core of the community. According to local historian Oscar Blacknall, William Chavis owned a continuous 16 acres along the North side of the Tar River, going 5 miles inland. The land that William Chavis gifted to his new son-in-law Edward Harris was land which was part of this original plot that William Chavis owned. William Chavis likely wanted to guarantee that his daughter and her descendants would be well taken care of, for generations to come. So keep this in mind as you’re looking at land deeds to connect to marriage events.
Marriage Patterns and Observations
Finally I thought it would be good to create a list of my general observations about the marriage patterns of our ancestors. These are simply general patterns, so there will always be exceptions and variation. But with that said, I think you will find this helpful and a great reminder about the potential information you can gleam by closely observing marriage records.
ENDOGAMY! Our ancestors primarily practiced endogamous marriages, simply meaning that they limited marriages within the local community and people they already regarded as “kin”. As a result, I usually try to figure out if and how the groom and bride are related. It may be a blood connection through a more distant common relative, or it may be that they share cousins in common. But you will typically find some already existing family connection between the groom and bride.
Multiple Marriages. If a man or woman became widowed, you can typically expect for them to marry again. This is especially true if they still had minor children living at home. Another parent was needed to help raise and support those children, so it was not advantageous to remain widowed. These multiple marriages can create some complex family trees but it is important to document all of your ancestor’s marriages.
Keep track of a woman’s name changes. Following up on the point made above – each time a woman married, her surname changed. As a result, a bride’s surname listed on a marriage record may not be her original maiden name if she was previously married. Marriage records typically do not list if the bride was previously married, so it is up to you the research to investigate further.
Not all marriages were recorded. Some of our ancestors may not have went through with obtaining the proper license to legally marry. This means there will be no official record of the marriage. One possible explanation was that some people still married in a traditional, indigenous way. In the rejected Dawes and Eastern Cherokee applications of our ancestors, it’s not unusual to see references of ancestors marrying “the Indian way”, which usually meant not registered with the government. There were some who still adhered to indigenous cultural practices.
Native American/FPOC communities throughout NC were connected via kinship. Though most marriages happened directly within kinship circles of people geographically living within the same community, you will find marriages from people who live in two different neighboring or nearby communities. For example, my 2nd great-grandfather James E Howell who lived in the Granville community married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia Richardson who lived a couple of counties over along the Halifax/Warren County border in the Haliwa-Saponi community. I found a trend of a few people from the Lumbee and Coharie community in Cumberland and Sampson County, move up to Orange/Alamance Counties and marry people from the Occaneechi-Saponi community. The reason for this is that all of these communities share at least some common ancestors from generations earlier and so they considered themselves all kin and socially acceptable to marry.
Girls who became orphaned, typically married young – in their teenage years. It’s important to remember that European colonists introduced an incredibly lopsided patriarchal society, that our ancestors had to quickly adapt to. Therefore if you were a girl who did not have a father to legally support and provide for you, you could find yourself in a vulnerable situation. Therefore it was in the best socio-economic interest of young girls who did not have fathers, to marry so they could benefit from their husband’s financial standing and land ownership. If you were a young woman still living at home on your father’s land, you had a bit more time before you needed to marry out.
If you have identified more marriage patterns of our ancestors and other ways to document marriages, please comment below.
The Native American Parker family of Granville County are a large and integral part of the community. Most of the local families intermarried with the Parkers, so they’re an important family to identify and document. The Parker family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation of neighboring Orange/Alamance Counties, are from this same Parker family and will be included in this blog post. So let’s continue!
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) – Earliest Identified Parker:
Identifying the earliest known ancestor of the Granville Parker family is not an easy task because the Parkers don’t appear in the Granville records until the 1820s/1830s as “free people of color”. Clearly they did not appear out of nowhere and had to have been living elsewhere before the 1820s. And we need to go to neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA to find the earliest known “free colored” Parker in the immediate area
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) first appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA. Sadly the 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses for Mecklenburg Co did not survive to the present, so we don’t know much about Stephen Parker’s early life. In the 1820 census he is the head of a household of 8 “free people of color”. He is recorded again in the 1830 census for Mecklenburg Co but his household numbers were not properly recorded so I don’t know how large his household was. I have not located Stephen Parker in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.
In the 1860 census, Stephen Parker is still in Mecklenburg Co and is listed as 82 years old. Living in his household are 3 Parker women who are probably his daughters. Another important clue that lets us know we have identified a probable early ancestor of the Granville Parker family is that Stephen Parker was surrounded by the “free colored”/Native American Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor and Mayo families that are from the same families found in Granville Co.
The Parker, Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor, Mayo and additional “free colored” people who were clustered together in this 1860 census next to Stephen Parker, were all living/working on the grounds of the Moss Tobacco Factory. The company was created by Robert H. Moss along with brother Reuben Moss and George B. Hammett. The factory was built in 1855 during a time when Clarksville, Mecklenburg Co was the tobacco producing capital of the United States. In fact according to an 1859 report, the Moss Tobacco Factory was the largest tobacco producing plant in the United States. The Moss family “employed” 160 people. Some of these workers were “free colored” families including the Parkers. But the Moss family also “rented” slaves from nearby plantations, so they also used slave labor to produce their tobacco. In that 1860 census, we see the “free colored”/Native American people who worked at the factory are listed with occupation titles such as “stemmer” and “twister”. Despite its early success, the tobacco factory closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1979, the building that once housed the Moss Tobacco Factory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but was delisted in 2001.
I have not found any marriage records for Stephen Parker so I don’t know who the mother of his children was and it’s quite plausible he was married more than once. However from the 1820 census household numbers it is clear his large household included a wife, and 5 girls and 1 boy born on or before 1820.
So with this in mind, let’s move onto Granville County.
Parkers in Granville County:
So we can deduce from the 1820 census that Stephen Parker had at least 6 children born on of before 1820. From later census records, it appears some of Stephen Parker’s children remained in Mecklenburg Co but others moved to neighboring Granville Co by the 1820s. Here is a list of Stephen Parker’s possible children who appear in the Granville records:
Elizabeth Parker (b. 1807) married Allen Cousins Sep 7, 1825 Granville Co
Polly Parker (1808-1846) married Thomas Pettiford Jan 17, 1829 Granville Co
Henry Parker (b. 1810) married Mahaly Brandon, marriage record not found
Susan Parker (b. 1816) married John Quinchett Dec 26, 1836 Granville Co. Susan Parker’s brother in law Allen Cousins was the bondsman.
Elizabeth Parker and her husband Allen Cousins appear in the Granville Co census in 1830 and 1840. In 1850, they were in neighboring Person Co, and by 1860, they relocated their family to Ross Co, Ohio. Their descendants are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
Siblings Henry Parker and Polly Parker remained in North Carolina, as did their Parker descendants, so let’s focus on their families.
Henry Parker (b. 1810) of Granville Co:
Henry Parker appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 censuses for Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. We know that his wife Mahaly’s maiden name was Brandon through the death record of their son Junius Parker (1856-1929). Mahaly Brandon (b. 1805) was from the Native American/”free colored” Brandon/Branham family that has Saponi/Monacan tribal origins and I wrote a little piece on them here. Mahaly’s father was Burwell/Burrell Brandon (b. 1785) who had moved his family from Virginia to Granville Co in the 1820s, which is the same time the Parkers first appear in the Granville records. Also it appears Mahaly named her son Burwell Parker (b. 1840), after her father Burwell Brandon.
Though Henry Parker’s birthplace is listed as North Carolina on the census records, the death certificate of his son Junius Parker (1856-1929) confirms that Henry Parker was born in Virginia. Henry and Mahaly lived in the middle of Granville’s Native American community and their many children also intermarried with the community. Their children were:
Eleanor Parker (b. 1830)
Giles Parker (b. 1835) married Betsy Pettiford, March 8, 1862 Granville Co
Alfred Parker (b. 1836) married Melvina Evans, Nov 20, 1854 Granville Co.
Susan Parker (b. 1838) married John Mitchell, Apr 13, 157 Granville Co.
Burwell Parker (b. 1840)
William Parker (1852-1915) married Emma Pettiford, Aug 29, 1863 Granville Co
Mary Parker (b. 1844) married Arthur Vaughan, Oct 12, 1868 Granville Co
Bunion Parker (b. 1845) married Mary Ann Brandon, Jun 16, 1863 Granville Co
Lucy Ann Parker (b. 1845) married Crutch Brandon, Feb 19, 1877 Granville Co
Stella Parker (1846-1929) married Larkin Smith, Mar 5, 1865 Granville Co
Junius Parker (1856-1938) married Francis Evans, Oct 9 1877 Granville Co
As you can see, Henry Parker and Mahaly Brandon had a lot of children, most of whom remained an integral part of the Native community in Granville.
A well known Granville Co ancestor of many Saponi people who relocated to Ohio, was a man named John Anderson (1832-1916) who I previously blogged about in my Anderson entry. John Anderson’s first wife was Margaret Parker (married Oct 27, 1852) and Margaret Parker was the biological mother to children Margaret Anderson b. 1853, Frances Anderson b. 1855, and Benjamin Anderson b. 1856. Margaret Parker died when the children were just a few years old, and John Anderson remarried Mary Mayo on May 14, 1857 and had additional children with her. I mention this because many descendants of John Anderson are unaware that Margaret Parker was the mother of John Anderson’s oldest children, so these family trees should be updated with this correct info. I don’t yet know who Margaret Parker’s parents were but I have no doubt she is from this Parker family.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) – Progenitor of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Parker Family:
Finally, we turn to Henry Parker’s sister Polly Parker (b. 1808). The Parker family is also a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in neighboring Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. Polly Parker was the mother of Samuel Parker (1825-1908), who was an important person early on in the Occaneechi-Saponi tribal community. Because Samuel Parker’s parentage has not been fully documented, I’m going to use this section to carefully show how I connected Samuel Parker to Polly Parker.
In the article “Occaneechi-Saponi Descendants in North Carolina: The Texas Community” (1991), Forest Hazel, tribal historian for the Occaneechi-Saponi tribe, briefly discusses the Parker family. Hazel writes:
However, it is known from oral tradition that an Indian named Sam Parker moved to the Texas community from the Vance-Granville county area prior to the Civil War.
So it is known within the Occaneechi-Saponi community (also referred to as the “Texas community”) that Samuel Parker was an Indian who came from Granville Co, thus situating him within the Parker family of Granville Co discussed above. I cannot stress enough the value of our oral histories to help make sense of what is in recorded history.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) of Granville Co had her son Samuel Parker out of wedlock and I have no leads on who fathered her son. Samuel was born in 1825, so Polly became a young, unwed mother. But this changed a few years later when Polly Parker married Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805) on January 17, 1829 in Granville Co. Thomas Pettiford therefore became Samuel Parker’s step-father.
I have not located the family in the 1830 census, but in 1840 we find the family in the Orange Co census. Their household had 3 members – one adult male aged 24-35 (Thomas Pettiford), one adult female aged 24-35 (Polly Parker) and one young male aged 10-23 (Samuel Parker).
Though no death records exist for this time period, we know that Polly Parker died sometime before 1846, because on September 4, 1846 in Orange Co, Thomas Pettiford remarried Jane Roland. In addition, on April 10, 1846 in Orange Co Samuel Parker married Lucy Chavis.
So the next time we find Thomas Pettiford and his new wife Jane Roland, and Samuel Parker and his new wife Lucy Chavis is in the 1850 census in Alamance Co. In 1849, a section of Orange Co became newly formed Alamance Co and that is where the family was located. And indeed we can see in the 1850 census, Thomas Pettiford is listed with a wife named Jane, and young children.
However, in the 1850 census, there is no one named “Samuel Parker” in Alamance or neighboring counties. BUT – there is a “Samuel Pettiford” listed two households above Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805). This Samuel Pettiford has a wife named Lucy and two young children named John and Francis. This is our Samuel Parker, but why is he listed with the Pettiford surname? As you will recall, Polly Parker had Samuel Parker out of wedlock but a couple of years later married Thomas Pettiford. It was not uncommon for children to sometimes be enumerated with the surname of their step parent, and for the 1850 census record, Samuel Parker was enumerated with the Pettiford surname. It could be the enumerator knew or was told that Samuel Parker was a “son” of Thomas Pettiford and assumed they shared the same surname. We may not know the exact reason why, but clearly this is our Samuel Parker.
The 1860 census in Alamance Co is almost just as confusing because in that census, Samuel Parker’s surname was mistranscribed as “Parks”. However you can see this Samuel has a wife named Lucy. The enumerator only used initials for the first names of Samuel and Lucy’s children. However you can see the oldest son is listed as “J H Parks” age 13 years. That is Samuel and Lucy’s son John who was enumerated in the 1850 census. On this same census page is Samuel Parker’s step-father Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805), which provides additional corroboration that this is the correct Samuel Parker. So if you have been researching Samuel Parker and were having trouble locating his family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, now you know why.
We next find Samuel Parker in the 1870 census in Alamance Co, and he is finally enumerated with the correct spelling of his name (yay!). And you can see the names and ages of his children, match up with the children in the 1860 census, further verifying that “Samuel Parks” in the 1860 census is our Samuel Parker.
Samuel Parker and Lucy Chavis’ children and later descendants continued to intermarry with other Occaneechi-Saponi families of Orange/Alamance Cos including Jeffries, Haithcock, Guy, Burnett, and Day.
In 1902, Samuel Parker registered to vote in Alamance Co and in order to register, Samuel identified a “Jack Parker” of Virginia as an ancestor who was legally able to vote in 1865. I along with other researchers including Forest Hazel have not been able to identify this “Jack Parker” that Samuel Parker references as an ancestor. Samuel Parker may have been referring to his possible grandfather Stephen Parker (b. 1778) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Whoever this Jack Parker was in reference to, we can certainly glean from that voting registration, the Samuel Parker was aware of the Virginia roots of the Parker family.
Occaneechi/Saponi Tribal Origins of the Parker Family:
I have not found a record that directly ties the Parker family to the Occaneechi or Saponi during the colonial period, but there are some circumstances to consider. The earliest “free colored” Parkers are found in Mecklenburg Co living among other families that in other blog posts (and more to come), that I have connected to the Saponi people. Mecklenburg Co is next to Fort Christanna, site of the former Saponi reservation, and we know that the Saponi continued living in and around the fort many decades following its closure in 1718.
And specifically, Mecklenburg Co is the site of “Occaneechi Island”, a historically significant site of the Occaneechi/Saponi people. During a colonial armed rebellion in 1676 known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”, some of the British colonists took up arms against the colonial government and also attacked friendly “tributary” tribes of the colony including the Occaneechi. To escape this armed conflict, the Occaneechi fled to the site of Occaneechi Island which is a large island located in the middle of the Roanoke River in Mecklenburg Co which during this time was outside of the core of the Virginia colony.
Additionally, Forest Hazel (via personal communication and here), identified a Thomas Parker who purchased land in Tabbs Creek in Granville County in 1752. This land purchase placed Thomas Parker next to community founder William Chavis and perhaps there was a connection between the two men. It’s quite possible the Parker family was moving back and forth from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC since the 1700s. Certainly more research is needed to further explore the tribal origins of the Parker family and I hope this blog post will push that research forward.
For the 1820 census of Granville County, the enumerators did something unusual – they enumerated every household by district. Most censuses of rural counties during this time period, simply enumerated every household in the county without dividing them among the districts within the county. For reasons unknown to me (perhaps the 1820 census was based off of a tax list?), the enumerators did something different for the 1820 census. What they did is a tremendous help to researchers because we can geographically locate where in Granville, a family was living. Though it was a noble effort, it was unfortunately executed poorly. Many of the census pages for the 1820 census for Granville County were not properly labeled, were sequenced out of order and some pages were erroneously mixed in with the census for Guilford County, creating quite a confusion. But do not fear – I correctly resequenced the 1820 census by district.
The 1820 census for Granville County is divided into the following districts with the corresponding page numbers:
Oxford – pages 3, 4, 33, 34
Henderson – pages 5, 6, 46 (46 mixed in with Guilford County)
Epping Forest – pages 7, 8
Fishing Creek – pages 9, 10
Tabbs Creek – pages 11, 12
Fort Creek – pages 13, 14, 49 (49 mixed in with Guilford County)
Beaverdam – pages 15, 16, 47 , 48 (47 and 48 mixed in with Guilford County)
Ledge of Rock – pages 17, 18, 41 (41 mixed in with Guilford County)
Tar River – pages 19, 20, 39 (39 mixed in with Guilford County)
Goshen – pages 21, 22, 37 (37 mixed in with Guilford County)
Abram Plains – pages 23, 24
Island Creek – pages 25, 26
Nutbush – pages 27, 28
Napp (Knapp) of Reeds – pages 29, 30
Raglands – pages 31, 32
County Line – pages 35, 36 (36 mixed in with Guilford County)
Hatch District – pages 43, 44, 45 (all pages mixed in with Guilford County)
Pages 38, 40 and 42 are blank
The following is a list of every household headed by a “free person of color” in the 1820 census for Granville County. Most but not all of these families were part of the Native American community.
Ledge of Rock:
John Silvy/Silva/Silver (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Napp (Knapp) of Reeds:
Collins Pettiford (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Abram Smith (incorrectly indexed in Guilford County)
Hatch District (all incorrectly indexed in Guilford County):
Elias Bookram (enumerated as “Elias Puckins”)
There were no “free colored” head of households in the Epping Forest, Fort Creek, and Island Creek Districts.
If you located your research subject in the list above, then you now know what district of Granville County in 1820 they were living in. Many of these district names have changed over the years and their boundaries have changed as well. For example, I have found that what was considered Oxford in 1820 included large sections of Fishing Creek.
To aide in identifying where these districts are located, I labeled the following map:
Many people remember the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the popular film “Glory” (1989) and their courageous stand at the Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Organized in Boston, MA and commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a wealthy, abolitionist family, the 54th were the first “colored” regiment of the Civil War. The regiment was composed of a diverse set of men – some were free born, some had been enslaved, some were from the North, and some were from the South. But they all shared a common goal of abolishing slavery in the Southern states. Though most of the soldiers of the colored regiments were primarily of African descent, there were “colored” men of other mixed ethnic backgrounds, including Native Americans. In fact you will find many tribes from up and down the East Coast had tribal members who enlisted in the colored regiments. Granville’s Native American community can proudly claim a connection to the 54th regiment because of Varnell Mayo’s (1837-1900) military service.
Varnell Mayo’s Granville Roots:
Varnell W. Mayo was born around 1837 in Granville County, the eldest son of William Mayo (1805 – before 1850) and Joyce “Joisey” Chavis (1816 – abt 1906). William Mayo and Joyce Chavis were married 12 Jun 1834 with Joyce’s uncle William Chavis (1801-1854) as the bondsman. Joyce Chavis (1816-1906) and her brother Anderson Chavis (born 1816) were the children of John Chavis (1790-before 1840) and Sarah Anderson (born 1798). John Chavis (1790-before 1840) was the son of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) an an unknown wife. Sarah Anderson (born 1798) was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr (1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Thus Varnell Mayo descended from several of the prominent Native American families in Granville: Chavis, Anderson, Bass, Gibson. I’m unsure who William Mayo’s parents were, but he almost certainly descends from the Mayo family who were formerly enslaved by a man named Joseph Mayo who left a 1780 will that freed them. By 1789 Joseph Mayo’s slaves were freed in neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and most intermarried with Native Americans/”free people of color”.
In the 1840 census, Varnell’s father William Mayo is shown living next to his brother-in-law William Chavis in Granville County and among members of the Harris/Dew, Anderson, Pettiford, Evans, Richardson and Mitchell families.
In the 1850 census which is the first census in which every household member was enumerated by name, we see Varnell Mayo age 13 years, listed with his parents and siblings:
On June 7, 1858 in Caswell County, NC, Varnell Mayo married Sally Chavis:
In the 1860 census, we find Varnell and his wife Sally (“Sarah”) living all the way out in Hamilton, Ohio. During the decades leading up to the Civil War, many “free colored” families from North Carolina moved to Ohio because of hostile conditions from local whites. In 1835, due to an increased fear of growing abolitionist movements and slave uprisings, North Carolina passed a new constitution that disenfranchised all “free people of color” including Native Americans who fell under this social category. This new constitution took away the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to own firearms, and the right to move freely in and out of the state. Even though both Varnell and Sally were free born people, there was still the threat of being stolen and illegally sold into slavery. In Ohio, Varnell would find a growing abolitionist community with people who were committed to ending slavery.
Varnell Mayo Enlists in the 54th Regiment:
The next time we find Varnell is on April 28, 1863 in Boston, MA when he joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. He was enlisted by a ” R. P. Hallowell” – this is Richard Price Hallowell (1835-1904) who was in charge of recruiting soldiers for the 54th regiment. His brothers Edward Needles Hallowell(1836-1871) and Norwood Penrose Hallowell(1839-1914) were officers in the 54th. Edward was a lieutenant-colonel and second in command of the 54th (actor Cary Elwes’ portrayal of Major Cabot Forbes in “Glory” was based upon Edward Hallowell). Norwood left the 54th and commanded his own colored regiment – the 55th. The Hallowell brothers came from a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia who dedicated their lives to abolishing slavery and fighting for equal rights.
In the remarks section we see that Varnell was listed as wounded in action at Morris Island on July 18, 1865 (this should read 1863). Additional muster roll pages clarify these remarks.
In the July/August 1863 muster roll, we see Varnell Mayo was absent because he was “wounded in the attack at Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863”. There it is, Fort Wagner! Just three months after enlisting in the 54th, Varnell Mayo fought in a major battle that would earn the 54th a distinguished place in history noted for their bravery, heroism and sacrifice.
If you’ve studied the Civil War or have even seen the film “Glory”, you will remember that Fort Wagner was the site of a Confederate fort on Morris Island in South Carolina. Colonel Shaw volunteered his 54th regiment to lead the attack despite knowing they would likely sustain a high casualty rate. Though the Union Army in 1863 began organizing colored regiments, most did not see any action on the battle field because of racist views that colored troops were unfit for battle. Instead most of the colored regiments were simply used for manual labor. Col. Shaw recognized that this was an opportunity to show his peers that his troops were no less capable than any other white regiment. 600 men from the 54th lead the charge that historic day on July 18, 1863 with 30 being killed in action (including Col. Shaw), 24 later dying from their wounds, 15 being captured, 52 going MIA, and 149 being injured. This accounted for the nearly 272 total casualties out of 600 men for the 54th regiment.
We learn from additional muster rolls and discharge records that Varnell Mayo suffered a gunshot wound in his left foot at Fort Wagner and he spent the remainder of his time after the battle in a soldier’s hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island. He luckily did not succumb to his injuries and he survived the Civil War. Varnell was discharged from active military service on May 13, 1864 at De Camp General Hospital on David’s Island in New York. In the records we see that Varnell indicates a desire to go back to Columbus, Ohio and that is where the military transported him.
I have not located any correspondence between Varnell Mayo and his family during the war. However a fellow solider in the 54th named Lewis Douglass who also survived the Battle at Fort Wagner, penned a letter to his fiancee that I think expresses the sentiment that many soldiers of the 54th felt including Varnell:
This regiment has established its reputation as a fighting regiment not a man flinched, though it was a trying time. Men fell all around me. A shell would explode and clear a space of twenty feet, our men would close up again, but it was no use we had to retreat, which was a very hazardous undertaking. How I got out of that fight alive I cannot tell, but I am here.
My Dear girl I hope again to see you. I must bid you farewell should I be killed. Remember if I die I die in a good cause. I wish we had a hundred thousand colored troops we would put an end to this war.
Lewis Douglass’ wishes for more colored regiments did come to fruition. As a result of the 54th’s actions at Fort Wagner, many thousands more soldiers enlisted in the colored regiments and are credited with turning the outcome of the war to the Union Army’s favor.
Varnell Mayo after the Civil War:
Though he had returned to Ohio, Varnell Mayo’s roots and heritage were in Granville County and he returned to marry a woman from the Native American community. On September 29, 1874 in Granville County, Varnell married Francis Howell(1842 – before 1920), daughter of Alexander Doc Howell and Betsy Ann Anderson. I’m not sure what happened to Varnell’s first wife Sally Chavis, but the last I can find her is in the 1860 census in Ohio. She likely died or divorced Varnell. I also don’t know of any children born to Varnell and Sally.
Sadly it appears the marriage between Varnell Mayo and Francis Howell did not last long because Varnell is shown in the 1880 census living back in Columbus, Ohio without Francis and listed as “divorced”. In today’s society we have a better understanding of how war can mentally and emotionally harm soldiers and have a medical diagnosis “PTSD” – post traumatic stress disorder. I don’t know if Varnell suffered from PTSD because this was not something that would have been diagnosed in the 19th century but I think it is understandable that his experiences from the war may have been too much for him to carry on normal social relations. Varnell was on the front lines of a very bloody battle in which his commanding officer and many of his comrades did not survive. I can’t imagine how he could not have been traumatized by that experience.
Varnell and his second wife Francis did have one son together named Abram Mayo (1870-1945). Abram’s marriage to Julia Harris on January 7, 1891, shows additional evidence that Varnell Mayo was estranged from his family. On the marriage record, Abram’s father is listed as “William Mayo” (Varnell’s middle name was William) and that his location was “unknown”.
Varnell Mayo passed away on March 3, 1900 in Springfield, Ohio. His tombstone is located at Ferncliff Cemetery also in Springfield, and you can see from the photo below, his service with the 54th Regiment is memorialized on his tombstone for all to see.
In 1897, highly acclaimed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens revealed his bronze relief sculpture in honor of Col. Robert Should Shaw and the 54th Regiment. The sculpture sits prominently at the edge of the Boston Common and directly across the street from the state capitol. The relief depicts Shaw and his soldiers when they departed for battle on May 28, 1863. Their march through Boston brought them to the exact same spot where the sculpture is located. One of these soldiers was Private Varnell Mayo of Granville County.
The city of New Bedford, MA on July 18, 2015 unveiled a new public mural dedicated to the memory of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. New Bedford like Boston, was a hot spot for abolitionist activity and many soldiers in the 54th hailed from New Bedford. This beautiful mural is another testament to the bravery and honor of the 54th .
The Boon(e) family in Granville County descends from a woman named Rebecca Boon (born 1805) who moved to Granville in the 1840s. Her Boone family originally came from the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation in Bertie County. In addition to Granville County, there are Boon(e) descendants in the Haliwa-Saponi tribe and the Meherrin Tribe. This blog entry will take a closer look at the historical records that connect the Boon(e) family to the Indian Woods reservation.
Rebecca Boon (born 1805)
Before discussing the Boon family’s tribal origins, I will first provide more background information on Rebecca Boon. She is the most recent common ancestor of every Boon that I have identified from Granville County.
Rebecca first appears in the census in 1840 in Northampton County, NC. She is the head of a household that includes 1 Free Colored Female 24-35; 1 Free Colored Male 10-23; 1 Free Colored Male Under 10; 2 Free Colored Females 10-23; 2 Free Colored Females Under 10. From this census data, we can surmise that Rebecca Boon is the head of a household that includes 6 children (2 boys, 4 girls) that are most likely her children.
The next record for Rebecca Boon is in 1847, when she married Iverson Mitchell from the Native American/”free colored” Mitchell family in Granville County. By marrying Iverson Mitchell, Rebecca relocated her family to the center of the Native American community in Granville. In the 1850 census for Granville County, she is listed as “Rebecca Mitchell” and is living with her husband Iverson Mitchell, and her youngest children Jane Boon and Margaret Boon.
Rebecca last appears in the 1860 census in Granville County, when she is listed in the household of her son-in-law Lewis Anderson who is married to her daughter Ruth Boon.
Below is a list of Rebecca Boon’s children:
1. James Boon (born 1825) – married first Martha Curtis and second Mary Drew
2. Martha Boon (born 1827) – married Cuffy Mayo (this is not the same Cuffy Mayo who was married to Glathy Ann Pettiford-Hawkins and Julia Pettiford- Hawley)
3. Betsy Boon (born 1828) – married John Mills
4. Willis Boon (born 1829) – married Isabella Mayo
4. Ruth Boon (born 1832) – married Lewis Anderson
5. Jane Boon (born 1837)
6. Margaret Boon (born 1842)
and possibly 7. Emeline Boon (birth date unknown) – married Samuel Hawley
The earliest verified records for the Boon(e) family are found in Bertie County in the mid/late 1700s. Unfortunately there are no land records or estate records associated with the Boones during this time period. There are however a number of court cases that involve several Boon(e) children being bound out. In these records, the Boones were labeled as “mulatto” and were free people, not enslaved. Some of the genealogical information on the Boon(e) family comes from Paul Heinegg’s research.
Patt Boone (born abt 1742) and her offspring
The Bertie County court bound out several of Patt Boon’s (born abt 1742) children to James Brown in 1774. These children were: Lewis, Katie, Judah, and Arthur. Patt Boon’s age is unknown and can only be estimated based upon the birth dates of her children. So with that in mind, researcher Paul Heinegg estimated her birth date to be 1742. In 1772, Rachel Boon was a “mollatter” listed as a tithable in the household of a white man named James Purvis. In 1769, it appears Rachel was also in James Purvis’ home because he was charged with a tax for having a free non-white woman in his home. Heinegg believes this Rachel is a daughter of Patt Boon. Two of Rachel Boon’s sons – Willis Boon and Hill Boon, were bound out in 1791 to Richard Veal. A girl named Sarah Boon who Heinegg suspects is a daughter of Rachel Boon’s, was bound out to Thomas Pugh Jr in 1789. Another suspected daughter of Patt Boon’s named Rebeeca Boon (born about 1767) had a son named Cary Boon bound out also to Richard Veal in 1792.
Boon(e) Family and Indian Woods
When we take a closer look at these men from Bertie County who are associated with various members of the Boon family, we start to see the Tuscarora Indian Woods connections.
James Purvis, the man who Rachel Boon was living with in 1769 and 1772, is recorded in 1766 selling land on the north side of Roquist Swamp (Creek).
1765: Deed Book K, 659 (475), 18 May 1765. James Purvis of Bertie Co. to Charles King of same, £33.6.8 proclamation money, 1/3 part of land which MARTIN GARDNER gave to his 3 daughters, on north side of Rockquis Swamp, joining William Sparkman, John Rhoads. Witnesses: William Gouge, James Purvis. June Court 1765. CC: John Johnston.[Deeds of Bertie County, North Carolina, 1757-1785, Part 1, by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., page 61]
James Purvis’ wife was Jane (Gardner) Purvis, daughter of the above mentioned Martin Gardner. Jane inherited this land from her father’s 1760 will in Bertie County and so that is why her husband James later sold it.
Recall from my blog post about the boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation, that Roquist Swamp (Creek) forms a long natural border of the reservation. The reservation abuts the southside of the creek, and James Purvis’ land that his wife inherited from her father Martin Gardner, abuts the north side of the creek.
Also of important relevance is that Martin Gardner was a close friend of Needham Bryan (1690-1770), who served as executor of Martin Gardner’s 1760 will that granted land to Jane (Gardner) Purvis. Needham Bryan owned Snowfield Plantation located within the Indian Woods reservation and he held a number of important public offices. The location of Needham Bryan’s land within Indian Woods is confirmed in this colonial record from 1773 (Moratuck is the Roanoke River):
Upon a Complaint of the Chief of the Tuscarora Indians that one William King had entered upon and committed waste upon the Lands lying on the North side of Moratuck which lands were granted to Col. Needham Bryan by the Lords proprietors upon the failure of that nation of Indians and afterwards confirmed to him by the Legislature of this Province, it was the opinion of this Board that His Excellency should write a letter to Mr Wm King to remove off the Land or shew cause why he had possession of it.
Then we have Richard Veal – the man who Rachel Boon’s sons Willis and Hill and Rebecca Boon’s son Cary were bound to. Richard Veal purchased land in 1805 next to Roquist Swamp (Creek):
Witnesseth that the said DEMPSEY VEALE hath bargained
sold and put into possession of the said RICHARD VEAL a
certain tract or message of land lying and being in the
State and County aforesaid lying in ROCQUIST POCOSIN, it
being a prt of the land that belonged to MORRIS VEAL
So two men – James Purvis and Richard Veal, both living on land adjoining the Indian Woods reservation, have several members of the Boon family residing in their homes.
There is also James Brown, the man who four of Patt Boone’s children – Lewis, Katie, Judah and Arthur were bound out to in 1774. According to land transactions found here and here, James Brown lived near the fork of the Cashie River, close to the Harrell family that frequently appears in the Bertie County records. This land is not immediately adjacent to the reservation but is still extremely close to the reservation as indicated in the map above.
Thomas Pugh Sr (1728-1806) and Thomas Pugh Jr (1748-1799)
When we closely examine Thomas Pugh Jr, the man who Rachel Boon’s probable daughter Sarah Boon was bound to, we see an even stronger connection between the Boon family and Indian Woods.
In 1778, the General Assembly of North Carolina appointed Thomas Pugh Sr. (1728-1806), William Williams, Willie Jones, Simon Turner and Zedekiah Stone as commissioners for the Indian Woods reservation. Roberta Estes provides additional information about the 1778 act:
It appointed William Williams, Thomas Pugh, Willie Jones and Simon Turner and Zedekiah Stone commissioners for the Indians and empowered the said commissioners to hold courts, etc. for the redress of the grievances of the Indians. It further enacted that the land leased by the Tuscarora Indians to Jones, Williams and Pugh and to other persons prior to ’77 “shall revert to and become the property of the State at the expiration of the terms of the several leases mentioned, if the said Nation to then extinct. And the lands now belonging to and possessed by the said Tuscaroras shall revert to and become the property of the State whenever the said Nation shall become extinct, or shall entirely abandoned or remove themselves off the said lands and every part thereof.
In 1766, Thomas Pugh, Robert Jones, and William Williams had leased 8,000 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora. The money from this lease was used to relocate some of the Tuscarora to upstate New York to rejoin the Haudenosaunee Confederacy:
Between James Allen, John Wiggins, Billy George, Snipnose George, Bille Cain, Charles Cornelius, Thomas Blount, John Rogers, George Blount, Wineoak Charles, Bille Basket, Bille Owens, Lewis Tuffdick, Isaac Miller, Harry Samuel, Bridgers Thomas, Senicar Thomas Howett, Bille Sockey, Bille Corelius, John Senicar, Thomas Baskett, John Cain, Billy Denis, William Taylor, Owins John Walker, Bille Mitchell, Bille Netop, Billy Blount, Tom Jack, John Litewood, Billy Robert, James Mitchell, Capt. Joe and William Pugh, Chieftains and Principal persons of that part of the Nation of Indians commonly called Tuskarora Indians dwelling in the county of Bertie in the Province of NC on the one part and Robert Jones, Jr., his majesty’s attorney general of the province aforesaid and William Williams and Thomas Pugh of the said province, gentlemen of the second part. Witnesseth that the said Tusckarora Indians as well for and in consideration of the sum of 1500 pounds proclamation money to them in hand paid or secured to be paid for their own use and for the use of the rest of that part of the said Nation of Tuscarora dwelling in the county and Province aforesaid. As for the yearly rents and covenants herein after mentioned have demised granted and to form let and by these presents in behalf of themselves and their said nation to demise ??? and to form let unto the said Robert Jones Jr., William Williams and Thomas Pugh, all that dividend or tract of land lying and being on the North side of Roanoke River in Bertie County and bounded as follows, to wit. Beginning at the mouth of Deep Creek otherwise known as Falling River then running up the sand creek to the ?? or head line thence by the said line south 50 ?? degrees East 1280 poled thence with the course of said Creek to Roanoke River and the River to the beginning….together with appurtenances….unto the said Robert Jones, William Williams and Thomas Pugh….8000 acres of land to be enjoyed severally, each holding one third equal part…for the term of 150 years….to be paid yearly every year one peppercorn if demanded on the feast of St. Michael. This deed was registered in the September Court of 1767.
Again in 1775, Thomas Pugh, William Williams, and Willie Jones leased 2,000 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora:
298-(316) Whitmell Tufdick, Wineoak Charles Jr., Billie Roberts, Lewis Tufdick, West Tufdick, Billie Blunt Sr., Billie Blunt Jr., John Rodgers, John Smith, Billie Pugh, Billie Baskit, John Hicks, Samuel Bridgers, John Owens, James Mitchell, Isaac Cornelius, Tom Tomas, & Walter Gibson, chieftans of the Tuskarora Indians to Thomas Pugh, Willie Jones & William Williams. 2 Dec 1775. For the yearly rent of 80 Duffield Blankets, 80 Oznatrig Shirts, 80 prs of boots, 50 pounds of powder & 150 pounds of shot. 2000 acres which was part of the land called the Indian Lands, joining Town Swamp, the old path that leads to Unarowick Swamp, James Wiggins, Unrinta Road, Quitana Swamp, Rocquist, Jones, Williams, Pugh, excepting 300 acres Watking now tends. Signed by: Bille(x)Cain, John Hicks, John Rogers, John(X)Owen, James(X)Hicks, Bille(x)Smith, Bille(x)Mitchell, Billie(x)Pugh, Wineoak(x)Chalres, James(X) Mitchell, Bille(X)Blunt, Jr., Saml(X)Bridgers, Tom Roberts.
And again in 1777, Thomas Pugh leased 100 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora:
297-(315) Whitmell Tufdick, William Roberts, William Blount, Lewis Tufdick, John Randal, William Pugh, James Mitchel, Winoak Charles, William Basket, John Owens, Thomas Roberts, Walter Gibson, Billy Cane chieftans of the Tuscarora Indians in Bertie County to Thomas Pugh Sr. of same. 28 May 1777. The lease for 99 years @ 8 pounds per year of 100 acres, joining Black Gut Neck on Town Swamp, Roanoke River. Signed by: Billy (x) Blunt, Wineoak (x) Charles, Ben (x) Smith, Walter (X) Gibson, Thomas (X) Roberts, John (X) Ra nndel, Whitmell (x) Tuffdick, Billey (X) Cane, Lewis (x) Tufdick, Billey (x) Baskit, William (x) Pugh, Williams (x) Roberts, James (x) Mitchell. WITNESSES: Zedekiah Stone Jr., Thomas Whitmell Jr., May Ct 1777. John Johntston CJC
Thomas PughSr’s son Thomas Pugh Jr, who Sarah Boon was bound out to, was a witness to a reservation land lease between the Tuscarora and Zedekiah Stone (one of the Indian Woods reservation commissioners) in 1777:
296-(314) Articles of agreement between WHITMELL TUFDICK, WILLIAM ROBERTS, WILLIAM CAIN, WILLIAM BLOUNT, TOM SMITH, JOHN SMITH, & LEWIS TUFDICK of Bertie Co., chieftans of the Tuscarora Indians on Roanoke River to ZEDEKIAH STONE of same. 10 Feb 1777. Sd chieftains were desirous that sd STONE should clear land, joining Coniack Neck, TITUS EDWARDS, Cesars Island, the river. Sd STONE agrees not to disturb JOSEPH LLOYD & THOMAS SMITH & SARAH HICKS. Sd STONE will be permittd to occupy the sd land for the space of 99 years. SIGNED BY: William Basket, Molley Smith, Benja. Smith, Sarah Hicks, Sarah Baskett, Watt & Gibson, Whitmell Tuffdick, Thomas (x) Smith, John Rodgers, Samuel Bridgers, William Roberts, Wineoak Charles, ZEdekiah Stone, John Owens, Thomas Baskett, William (x) Caine, Edward (x) Blount, John (x) Smith, James (x) Mitchell, John (x) Randle, William (x) Blount, Lewis (x) Tufdick, William (x) Pugh, West Whitmell (x) Tuffdick. WITNESSES: Thomas Pugh, Jr., Titus Edwards, Thos. Pugh, Sr.. May Court 1777. John Johnston Clerk of Court
You will also notice that one of the Tuscarora chieftans on the land deeds named “William Pugh” likely adopted his Pugh surname from Thomas Pugh Sr. Clearly the Pugh family was closely involved with the Tuscarora at Indian Woods in a formal and personal capacity. Sarah Boon being a Tuscarora girl bound out to the Pugh family who are commissioners and leasers of the Indian Woods reservation makes sense.
I believe a reasonable explanation for all the above historical records is that the Boon family were Tuscarora from the Indian Woods reservation. That is why there are no early land purchases or estate records associated with them because they were living on communally owned reservation land. Due to increasing impoverished and deteriorating conditions and with many of the Tuscarora families moving up North or away from the reservation, the Boon family were forced to place their children as indentured servants in the homes of neighboring white families. This is why the Boones seem to suddenly emerge out of nowhere in the court records in the 1760s/1770s. This was the exact same time that large numbers of Tuscarora were moving North and leasing their reservation land to the same men who many members of the Boon family were bound out to.
Descendants of Patt Boon
Lewis Boone (born 1757-1844):
Patt Boon’s son Lewis Boone (1757-1844) was bound out in 1774 in Bertie County. He then appears in the 1800 census for Northampton County, NC and in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 censuses for Halifax County (his household was enumerated in every census as “free colored”). Lewis filed a Revolutionary War pension application (excerpts found here) in 1843 in Halifax County which confirmed that he was born in Bertie County and lived a short while in Northampton County before relocating to Halifax County. The pension application includes some very important details about Lewis Boone’s service which further verifies the Boone family’s origins with the Tuscarora at Indian Woods.
Lewis Boone enlisted via the draft in 1778 in Bertie County with Uriah Dunning and served under Captain James Blount of the 10th Regiment. Lewis Boone also indicated that Captain William Williams marched him from Bertie County to Halifax which is where he enlisted under Captain Blount. This Captain William Williams is the same William Williams who was appointed as a commissioner of the Indian Woods reservation in 1778 and whose name appears on several Indian Woods land leases with previously mentioned Thomas Pugh. Captain James Blount who commanded Lewis Boone’s regiment, was from the Blount family who was the namesake for Tuscarora chief – “King Blount”. It was not uncommon for Native Americans to adopt the names of “friendly” colonists. The pension application did not list the names of Lewis Boone’s wife or children. However through the rejected Cherokee Dawes and Eastern Cherokee/Guion Miller applications that were filed by Lewis Boone’s descendants, we know who some of his children were. Many non-Cherokee Native American families from North Carolina were often mislabeled and sometimes self-identified as Cherokee, which resulted in these families applying for Cherokee status. This will be a subject of a future blog post. Cherokee anthropologist Robert K. Thomas, who did fieldwork in the mid 1970s to investigate the claims of many of the self-identified “Cherokee” communities of the Southeast, had this to say about the Tuscarora heritage of the Haliwa-Saponi (the tribal community of Lewis Boone’s descendants):
They do not accept the term Haliwa and refer to themselves as Cherokee although the term Haliwa is gaining more acceptance as time goes on. This tribe appears from the research I have done, to be the remnants of the North Carolina Tuscaroras. When the Tuscaroras fled north in the early 1700s they left a large body, of so-called neutral Tuscarora, on a reservation just to the east of the modern Haliwa country near Windsor, North Carolina. There were several hundred Indians left on that reservation after the “hostile” Tuscaroras fled north and became part of the Iroquois League in New York. Slowly throughout the 1700’s, parties of Indians left that reservation and joined their brethren in New York. In the first decade of the 1800’s the few remaining Tuscarora sold their lands at Windsor, North Carolina. It appears they simply moved west a few miles to the present Haliwa area. There were a few other Indians, possibly Tuscarora, already living in that area. In any case, it appears that the Haliwa are remnants of the neutral Tuscarora.
The Haliwa-Saponi tribe officially states to be descended mostly from the Saponi, Tuscarora, and Nansemond tribes. Like Thomas, historian and Haliwa-Saponi tribal member Marvin Richardson also noted the very short distance between the Indian Woods reservation and the Haliwa community:
The Tuscarora Reservation, known as Reskooteh Town and Indian Wood, was located in Bertie County, North Carolina, approximately thirty miles east of the modern Haliwa-Saponi community. The reservation consisted initially of 40,000 acres, bordered eastern Halifax County, and included a village known as the Sapona Town. By 1734 some Nansemond were also living with the Nottoway Indians in Virginia, and other Nansemond had resettled near the Tuscarora in North Carolina.
1. Dorcas Boone born about 1794 was married to Hardy Richardson, son of Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass (of the Nansemond Bass family). Dorcas Boone and her husband Benjamin Richardson are the progenitors of many of the Richardsons in the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Dorcas’ Native identity is asserted in the Richardson family’s rejected 1896 Cherokee Dawes applications and rejected 1906 Eastern Cherokee/Guion Miller application, where she is referred to as being an Indian doctor and midwife. Some of Dorcas’ descendants list her maiden name as “Pope” despite Lewis Boone being Dorcas’ father. It is likely that Lewis Boone’s wife/Dorcas’ mother was a Pope.
2. Caroline Boone born about 1810 was unwed and had one son named William Boone. In William Boone’s Dawes application, which can be found fully transcribed on researcher Deloris Williams’ website here, he verified that his mother Caroline was Dorcas’ sister. From William Boone’s 1896 rejected Dawes application, it states:
Your petitioner WM. BOONE the undersigned respectfully states that he is a Cherokee Indian by blood and asks to be enrolled as a member of the Cherokee Nation of Indians in the Indian Territory.
That he derives his Indian blood from his grandfather LEWIS BOONE who was the father of CAROLINE BOONE, who was the mother of petitioner. CAROLINE BOONE and DARCUS RICHARDSON were sisters and both were Cherokee Indians by blood.
3. William Boone was born about 1790 and was most likely a son of Lewis Boon though I’d like additional confirmation of their relationship. William’s descendants ofter intermarried with the descendants of Hardy Richardson and Dorcas Boone. Wife Fanny’s maiden name is unknown.
Arthur Boon (1773-?)
Patt Boon’s son Arthur Boon was born around 1773 and like his brother Lewis Boone, he was also bound out in 1774 in Bertie County. In the 1790 census, Arthur Boon was recorded in Hertford County, head of a household of 6 “Free colored persons”. I cannot locate him in the census again until the 1840 census where he was recorded living alone in Northampton County, head of his own household of 1 free colored male. However directly under Arthur Boon’s name in the 1840 census, is his probable daughter Rebecca Boon (born 1805). This is the Rebecca Boon who is the progenitor of the Granville County Boon family. Arthur most likely had other children but but I do not have them identified at this time.
The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Snelling and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A variety of records including census records, marriage records, tax lists, court minutes, estate records, freedom lawsuits, land deeds, newspaper articles, maps and personal family photos are used to help tell the story of the Evans family through space and time. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. Therefore it is imperative that researchers do their due diligence to attribute records to the correct Evans ancestor.
Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”
Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640-1722). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by a group of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some white planters from illegally enslaving them. Some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1685-1771) were enslaved by a wealthy white planter named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners. On 5 March 1804, the enslaved Evans through their attorney Edmund Randolph sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.
The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..
A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”
Before this lawsuit there were several earlier lawsuits where descendants of Jane Gibson sued for their freedom. The information contained in those court cases are also quite revealing.
Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson was the first who sued for his freedom beginning in 1790. John Meriweather offered testimony that his father Colonel William Meriweather purchased a “mulatto wench” named Frances Evans and her brother (Tom Evans) from a Mr. Lightfoot (Goodrich Lightfoot) in New Kent County, VA. John Meriweather goes on to testify how Frances Evans’ offspring were divided among the heirs of his father’s estate. His testimony provides information on how the Evans went from being indentured servants to being sold as slaves to the Meriweather family. For earlier information on the Evans/Gibson family, we turn to a man named Robert Wills who personally knew Jane Gibson the elder, her daughter Jane Gibson the younger aka Jane Evans (wife of Morris Evans) and their offspring. On 25 June 1791, Robert Wills testified and a transcription of that testimony can be read here:
That about seventy years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her brother who were dark mulattoes and lived in the County of Charles City, and were free people; That the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George Gibson, that they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger intermarried with a certain _____ Evans of the said County, by whom she had several children, one named Frances Evans Grand Daughter of the said Jane Gibson above named, that the said Frances Evans removed to New Kent County, where she lived and had several children, two of whom, as the said Frances Evans informed this deponant were named Tom and Frances Evans, and were bound to one LIGHTFOOT of New Kent. This information was made to this Depon’t by the said Frances Evans the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were neighbours to this deponant. This deponant; This deponant further saith, that after the said great Grandchildren Viz: Tom & Frances were bound to the said LIGHTFOOT he never heard any thing more relative to them; That many of the descendants of the said GIBSONS and EVANS now in this deponants knowledge are alive, and are enjoying their freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponants first acquaintance with the said Jane Gibson the elder; That many of them are black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes, which this deponant supposes proceeded from a promiscious intercourse with different colours.
Questions by the defts agent.
Do you know any thing of the descendants of the said Frances Evans, who was bound to LIGHTFOOT? No I do not.
What became of Frances Evans and her brother after they were bound to LIGHTFOOT? I know nothing of them, but from the information of their mother aforesaid.
Do you know any free mulattoes or blacks who have descended from a branch of the name of EVANS, who are they and from whom did they spring?
I know a number of them, to wit, in Charles City, the SCOTTs, BRADBYs, SMITHs, REDCROSSes alias EVANS, MORRISSes alias EVANS, and in Henrico the BOWMANs, all descendants from the original stock of the GIBSON, to wit, Jane EVANS Daughter of Jane GIBSON.
Do you know or have you ever known of any other free persons by the name of EVANSS of a different family? I do not except in Caroline.
How do you know that the children of Frances Evans were named Tom & Frances, and how old would they be were they now alive: I heard their mother say so; I cannot tell how old, but they would be many years old.
How old are you? I am in my eighty first year.
And further this deponant saith not.
The following month on 9 July 1791, Robert Wills was back in court providing additional testimony which clarified a few points. A transcription can be found here:
Questions by the defendant. How old were you when you were firs acquainted with the elder Jane Gibson and George her brother?
Answer I believe I was ten or eleven years old or thereabouts.
Quest. How old do you suppose they were and how long did they live afterwards?
Answer. Jane Gibson the elder was very old, I apprehend she was eighty years of age, being past all labour – Mr. Carter my Master took her to live with him at Shirley where I then lived to brew a diet drink, he being afflicted with a dropsy – The old Jane Gibson I suppose might live two or three years. Her daughter Jane widow to an EVANS (whose christian name I am not certain of but believe it was Morris), lived a considerable number of years after my first acquaintance with her- she bore the name of EVANS as did all her children.
Quest. About what time were you acquainted with Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane, and how old were they when you were first acquainted with them?
Answer. I knew Jane Evans the daughter some time before I knew the old woman, which I believe as I have deposed in my former deposition must be seventy years ago; she was an old woman when I became acquainted with her, she practised midwifery and doctoring in families, but was not above sixty I should suppose: George too was an old person, I believe – Jane was the older.
Quest. About what time did Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane Gibson die?
Answer I do not know
Quest. About what year did Jane Gibson the younger intermarry with ___ EVANS?
Answer That I cannot possibly tell it must have been long before I was born.
Quest. About what year do you believe to the best of your recollection or judgment was Frances Evans the Grand daughter of old Jane Gibson born?
Answer She had children bound out when I first knew her, so that she must have been born long before I was, as I should suppose.
Quest. Then as you know so little about her how do you know she (Frances Evans) was the daughter of Jane Evans, and that Jane Evans was descended from Jane Gibson?
Answer. I know nothing but common reputation they called each other by the name of Mother and daughter.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans remove to New Kent?
Answer. I never knew her until she came on a visit to her mother, she then lived there as she reported; when she came there to live I knew nothing about it.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans inform you she had bound two of her children Frances and Tom to Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent when she came on a visit to her friends in Charles City?
Ans’r. I cannot recollect that with any certainty, I suppose fifty eight or fifty nine years ago or somewhere thereabouts.
Quest. Did you understand from her how old they were at that time, if not how old do you suppose they were, and how long had they been bound before she informed you of it?
Answer. That I know nothing about.
Quest. If the said Frances Evans and her brother Tom who are said to have been bound to one LIGHTFOOT were now alive how old would they be to the best of your judgment?
Ans’r. I do not know that; they were probably as old as myself; I never saw either of them nor asked any questions about their age.
Quests. by the plaintiff 1. Was not the mother of Sarah Redcross (now living in Charles City) alias Sarah Evans named Frances Evans, and was she not related as by common reputation believed to Frances Evans that was bound to LIGHTFOOT?
Ans’r. About twenty four or twenty five years ago Frances Evans was about in Charles City County, and was claimed as a mother by Sarah Redcross, and Sarah Redcross said that her mother was the grand daughter of Jane Evans the daughter of Jane Gibson – she went away and I know not what became of her, but have been informed (I suppose twenty years ago) that she was dead.
Quest. by deft. Why do you in this deposition call Mr. Carter your master?
Answer. My father gave me to him when I was ten years of age, and he brought me up and had me taught my trade of a carpenter.
Quest. for how many years were you acquainted with that particular family of the GIBSONs and EVANSs, which have been the object of your testimony in this suit meaning the three first generations and where did you live during that time?
Ans’r. I lived at Shirley where the said Jane Gibson died, and as Jane Evans lived within two miles of Shirley I was frequently in her family and she was very often at Shirley as was the rest of the family being employed there in different sorts of work, as for how long, I have already said about seventy years ago I first became acquainted with old Jane Gibson and Jane Evans, and knew them to their death, but cannot say exactly how long they did live from the time I first knew them.
Quest. Will you please to answer the second question in this deposition more fully, you have in your answer to that question said nothing about George Gibson the elder?
Ans: I never mentioned more than one George Gibson, the Son of the elder Jane Gibson, brother to Jane Evans. If it be so expressed in my former deposition it was misconceived, I never did know any but one of that name. And further this deponent saith not.
From both of his depositions, we learn that Robert Wills was an apprentice of Mr. Carter of the Shirley Plantation which is how he became familiar with the Evans/Gibson families. He personally knew both mother Jane Gibson the elder and the daughter Jane Gibson the younger. Jane Gibson the elder lived at the Shirley Plantation and practiced doctoring as did her daughter Jane Gibson the younger who was also a midwife. Robert Mills initially referred to Jane Gibson the elder and her brother George Gibson as dark mulattos but later clarified that it was Jane Gibson the younger who had a brother named George Gibson. So it appears he was instead referring to them as “dark mulattos”.
The only information or testimony provided that spoke directly to the identity of Jane Gibson the elder was the information provided by her descendants via their attorney Edmund Randolph which called her a free Indian woman. Additional testimony about the Indian origins of the family comes from Ann Meriweather who was the wife of John Meriweather who provided testimony discussed above and whose father Col. William Meriweather illegally purchased Frances Evans’ children as slaves from Goodrich Lightfoot. Ann Meriweather testified in 1798 that “from the Complexion & strait black hair of Sarah Colley this deponent believes they were descended from Indians”. Sarah Colley was the daughter of Frances Evans. Though judging phenotypes is not necessarily a correct way to assess one’s ethnic heritage, it is still rather telling when put in context with the rest of the testimony and documentation about the Gibson/Evans family. The other testimony from the Meriweather family and from Robert Wills most often describe Jane Gibson the elder’s offspring and descendants as “mulattos”. It should be noted in 1705, the Acts of Assembly of Virginia legally classified mulatto as: “the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a Negro”.
None of the testimony provided by witnesses or Jane Gibson the elder’s own descendants, offer the names of Jane Gibson the elder’s parents. No information is given as to whether Gibson was her maiden name, her married name, or even a name she adopted from another family. I have seen a lot of speculative family trees and theories online about her parentage but with no actual documentation. It is important to point out that the only documentation located for her comes from after her lifetime through the testimony of others. Therefore, I strongly advise to hold off on guesswork (if’s, maybes, possibly, etc) about her parentage until solid documentation is located.
The freedom lawsuits of Jane Gibson the elder’s descendants have been cited in scholarship on the history of the slavery in the U.S. Historian Loren Schweninger, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who created a digital library on American Slavery, published a book in 2018 called Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. In his section on petitions filed by plaintiffs claiming descent from an Indian woman, Professor Schweninger had this to say about the petitions from Jane Gibson’s descendants:
You can review the Evans freedom documentation on genealogist Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.
In July 2018, my cousins Roderick Daye, William Evans, and Shirley Hines, like myself, who are all documented direct lineal descendants of Jane Gibson the elder through the Evans family, visited the Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, VA to learn more about where our esteemed ancestor lived. Here are a few photos from their trip:
I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who illegally enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it does offer evidence that Goodrich Lightfoot did enslave Native Americans.
Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a Pamunkey woman named Dorothy Howell b. 1707, who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.
The exact tribal origin of the Evans-Gibson family has also been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color but it is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about. From Morris Evans’ estate records we do learn that after his wife Jane Gibson the younger died, he was involved with a woman named Rebecca Hulet who inherited some of his estate.
However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps she was from the local Pamunkey or Chickahominy tribes. There is another Algonquian speaking tribe, the Nansemond, whom the Granville County Basses descend from, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville quite a bit. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County.
Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s sons Charles Evans and Morris Evans Jr moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. As a result, some of their family did intermarry with Saponi descendants. We also know from the testimony provided by Robert Wills, that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger had other children who the Redcross, Bradby, Smith, Scott, Morris, and Bowman families of the Charles City County area descend from. I wish he identified the other children, so that we can genealogically connect all of these other surnames back to Jane Gibson. The Redcross family, we know from the testimony of Robert Wills, descend from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger’s daughter Frances Evans who had a daughter named Sarah Redcross. Some of her Redcross descendants are found among the Monacan tribe in Amherst County, Virginia. And what is also interesting is that the Bradby family is found among the Chickahominy tribe in Charles City County and the Pamunkey tribe of King William County.
The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia
The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.
Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is most likely the ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co who intermarried with the Locklears.
Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:
Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful” by his father. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
*Major Evans (1733-after 1794 ) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
Sarah Evans (b. 1742) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.
From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.
Major Evans (1733-after 1794) comes to Granville County
Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. His neighbors include members of the Chavis, Snelling, Harris, and Bass family which indicates that he lived on the north side of the Tar River, in the heart of the community began by William Chavis (1706-1777) a couple of decades earlier. Notably on 16 February 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1777) who according to late 19th century local Granville historian Oscar Blacknall, originally owned 51,200 acres on the north side of the Tar River. Blacknall, in his published articles, goes on to extensively discuss the Indian identity of the “free colored” community that William Chavis founded in Granville. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. It’s possible that Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family. Three years earlier in 1777, Major Evans was called with other members of the Chavis family to report to court to provide information on William Chavis’ will. The estate papers don’t specify what family relationship (if any) that Major Evans had with William Chavis but it is clear from that point forward, Major Evans was considered part of the community.
It’s important to remember that William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1780) was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA whose family was also apparently of a mixed race Indian ancestry. A relative of Gibson Gibson named Gideon Gibson Sr (b. 1685) and his family, including son Gideon Gibson Jr (b. 1721) moved to South Carolina in the 1730’s, where their racial identity came under scrutiny. Some South Carolina officials wanted the Gibsons to be subjected to the discriminatory “Free Negro” laws. However one such South Carolina politician named Henry Laurens who was involved in the debate about the racial identity of the Gibson family, had this to say about Gideon Gibson Jr:
Gideon Gibson escaped the penalties of the negro law by producing upon comparison more red and white in his face than could be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly, including your old acquaintance the Speaker.
Source: Council Journal, August 26, 1768. Henry Laurens to William Drayton, February 15, 1783.
Perhaps Major Evans’ great-grandmother Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. But as discussed earlier, there is no solid documentation that identifies the parentage of Jane Gibson the elder nor the origins of her Gibson surname. So it would be unwise to speculate much further without locating records that speak to Jane Gibson the elder’s parentage. If there is a relationship, that may explain why Major Evans moved to William Chavis’ land in Granville County and quickly became part of the community.
Seven years later on 26 June 1787, Major Evans added to his land ownership by purchasing 100 acres of land on both side of Middle Creek from James Kelley (O’Kelley). The land deed explains that this 100 acres was part of a larger 580 land tract purchased by John Pope. Middle Creek is on the south side of the Tar River, just slightly west and across the river from the land Major Evans purchased earlier from Phillip Chavis on the Buffalo Race Paths.
Though he had accumulated land in Granville, Major Evans still owned land across the border in Mecklenburg County, VA which he had inherited from this father Charles Evans. Therefore he was taxed in Mecklenburg from 1782 until 1787 when he finally sold his Mecklenburg County land.
Major Evans also sold land in Granville in 1787. On 15 December 1787, he sold 100 acres to James Blackley and three days later on 18 December 1787, Major Evans sold 100 acres to Elijah Ball.
In February 1789, Major Evans sued Elias Pettiford (another Native/FPOC from the community) and won a judgment against him.
By 1794, Major Evans moved further south into Granville County when he purchased 100 acres on Newlight Creek on 19 July 1794. This is land in the very southeastern part of Granville County, close to the Wake County and Franklin county borders. Some of William Chavis’ (1706-1777) descendants, specifically members of the Harris (offspring of his daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris) and Snelling families (offspring of his daughter Lettice Chavis who married Aquilla Snelling) also began moving to this part of Granville County as well into Wake County.
The 1794 land deed is the last located record that can be attributed to Major Evans. No will or estate records have been found for him, so it is not known what year he died. Likewise, accounting for all of Major Evans’ children has been a challenge without estate records. Most of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:
1. *Morris Evans (1750-1834) second married Lydia Anderson, a FPOC, on 8 December 1784 in Granville. His first wife is unknown and he had children from both marriages.
2. *Gilbert Evans (1755-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley on 20 June 1780 in Wake. Phoebe Lumbley was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse.
3. *William Evans (1757-1823) married Sarah Hays on 14 May 1785 in Wake County. Sarah Hays was apparently white and like his brother Gilbert Evans, William Evans and his children appear to have “passed” for white.
4. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell, a FPOC, on 22 February 1797 in Granville. I believe this was a second marriage for Burwell Evans because the 1786 North Carolina state census shows that he was the head of a household of one male age 21-60, three males aged under 21 & over 60, and three females of any age. The household information strongly implies that he was married with three sons and two daughters who were born by 1786.
5. *John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.
5. Elizabeth Evans (1760-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis, a FPOC, on 6 September 1800 in Granville. Before she married, Elizabeth Evans had at least one child born out of wedlock when she filed a bastardy bond in Granville court with her father Major Evans as the bondsman. The record does not name the child.
7. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn, a FPOC, on 1 January 1778 in Bute County.
8. Sarah Evans (1774 – before 1860) married George Anderson, a FPOC, on 14 October 1800 in Granville County.
* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.
All of Major Evans’ offspring lived in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, signaled a movement of many of his descendants into Wake.
The Offspring of Major Evans
The heightened “white”/”colored” racial binary and the growth of the institution of chattel slavery in the American South during the early 19th century, put immense pressure on families like the Evans who had experienced some level of wealth with land ownership. In 1835, North Carolina approved a new constitution which revoked many rights of free people of color. These revoked rights included owning fire arms, holding public office, voting, and being able to move freely in and out of the state. Additionally, free people of color households continued to be taxed at a higher rate than white households which resulted in the depletion of personal property and land.
A closer examination of records pertaining to brothers Hilliard Evans (b. 1815) and Morris Evans (1814-1900) provide some very interesting insight into how Native/”free colored” families were pressured into selling personal property to pay off debt. Hilliard Evans and Morris Evans were the sons of Thomas Evans (1790-1867) and Sallie Bass (1793-1889). And Thomas Evans was the son Morris Evans (1750-1834) and Liddy Anderson listed above. On 20 November 1840, Hilliard “Hillyard” Evans sold one gray horse saddle and bridle for one dollar to Isaiah M. Paschall. The record goes on to indicate that Hilliard Evans was in debt to Peyton V. Duke for forty dollars on a note that was due the following September. If Hilliard Evans was able to pay off the debt by the following September, then the sale of his property to Isaiah M. Paschall was to be voided and returned to him. However if he was unable to pay off the debt in time, then Isaiah M. Paschall would sell the property with all of the sales to cover the principal and interest of the debt that Hillard Evans owed Peyton V. Duke with any leftover money to be paid to Hilliard Evans.
Morris Evans found himself in a similar desperate financial situation of being in debt the following year. He owed Wyatt Cannaday $103.59 that was due to be paid by the following December 25th. As a result, on 28 June 1841, he sold to Henry B. Brides, one mare, one cow, one calf, eleven heads of hog, tobacco crop, corn, oats, household items, and furniture for one dollar. If he did not pay off the debt in time, Henry Bridges was to sell those personal items and use the funds to pay off the debt Morris Evans owed to Wyatt Cannaday with any left over money to be paid to Morris Evans.
Just a few years later, Hilliard Evans experienced something that I imagine many free people of color feared – that is, he was kidnapped and an attempt was made to sell him into slavery. We learn from a letter that his parents Thomas and Sally (Bass) Evans placed in the newspaper, that Hilliard Evans traveled from Granville County with a man named William R. Boswell last August to sell a horse in the southern part of the state. After the sale, Boswell was able to convince Hilliard Evans to continue to travel with him to Petersburg, Richmond and New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Boswell attempted to sell Hilliard Evans into slavery but Hilliard made it known that he was a free person. However it was not known what happened to and where Hilliard Evans was, so his parents were attempting to locate him. It is a heartbreaking letter to read and is a testament to how the institution of slavery was a threat to even families who were free and had always been free.
About a week later on 28 January 1746, we learn that Thomas and Sallie (Bass) Evans’ letter had garnered some interest. Editors at the Weekly Standard in Raleigh reemphasized the concerns in Thomas and Sallie Evans’ letter that they didn’t know the whereabouts of their son Hilliard Evans.
Thankfully, two months later we learn from another newspaper article published on 11 March 1846 in the Tarboro Press that Hilliard Evans had been sent back home to his family in Granville County and supplied with new clothes. William Boswell, the man who kidnapped him, had not been caught. I have no additional records to learn if he was ever caught or received any type of punishment.
The kinship network that the Evans family belonged to in the Granville County Native/FPOC community is evident in the division of the estate of William Evans(1789-1870), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. William Evans died without a living wife or children, so he had no direct heirs. Instead his estate was divided among the children of his siblings, ie. his nephews and nieces. And if any of his nephews or nieces had already died, then their living heirs, if any, stood to inherit in their place. The nine original legatees who each were to inherit $64.17, named in the estate records are:
Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Ann Anderson, Glatha Anderson (Hawkins), Joyce Anderson, William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford and Thomas Pettiford.
It is interesting that Glatha was called an Anderson in this record, because her marriage record to Cuffee Mayo, calls her “Glatha Hawkins”. I have long wondered if “Hawkins” was a mistake because I don’t know of any Hawkins family that the Evans and Anderson families associated with. All of the named original legatees, save for Ann Anderson whose parentage I’m working on confirming, were the children of William Evans’ sister Susannah Evans (b. 1784). She was first married to Abel Anderson (17772-1817) on 23 May 1804 in Granville. With her first husband Abel Anderson, Susannah Evans had: Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Glatha Anderson, and Joyce Anderson. Abel Anderson was deceased by 1817 when his guardianship of his younger brother Wright Anderson was transferred to his brother Jacob Anderson in that year as a result of his death. Susannah Evans second married a Pettiford though I have not been able to just yet confirm which Pettiford in Granville she married. With her second Pettiford husband, she had William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Thomas Pettiford. Susannah Evans was last enumerated in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granville County, as “Susan Pettyford” age 59.
At the time of William Evans’ death in 1870, original legatees Ann Anderson, Washington Anderson, and Glatha Anderson (Hawkins) were deceased so their children each inherited an equal portion of their share of the estate. What also complicated the distribution of William Evans’ estate was that several of the named legatees had moved out of the state in the decades prior. Even as late as 1878, several of the named legatees still had not been in touch with the administrator of William Evans’ estate.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:
Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.
She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.
John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.
Mary Etta Guy’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Mary Etta Guy; Susan Taborn; Littleton Taborn; Nelly Evans; Major Evans.
Ira Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ira Evans; Lewis Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans, Morris Evans; Major Evans
Ada Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ada Evans; Thomas Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
Addendum: What about James Evans (1720-1786) of Halifax County, NC??
James Evans (1720-1786) is the earliest documented ancestor of the Native/”free colored” Evans family of Halifax County, NC. It is not known nor documented if he is at all related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. As stated at the beginning of this blog post, “Evans” was a very common surname in colonial Virginia, so it is quite possible he is from an unrelated Evans family. Nevertheless, because I get many inquiries about James Evans and his descendants, I have included a summary of records pertaining to his family.
James Evans(1720-1786) first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.
James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Halifax/Warren Counties in NC. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.
The Bass family in Granville County is one of the larger, if not the largest Native American families in the county. It is a “core” lineage whose family members have intermarried with just about all other families of Native American descent in the community. The Basses have a well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe who are indigenous to the Nansemond River area of lower tidewater Virginia. Today known as the Nansemond Indian Nation, the tribal nation received federal acknowledgement in 2018. Due to the rapid and increased colonization of the Nansemond homeland, many Basses settled in the “frontier” of North Carolina. The Bass family never lost knowledge of their Native American origins, and as a result, some of their descendants today can be found in a number of tribal communities such as: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee. This blog post follows the migration of the Nansemond Bass family from Norfolk, Virginia to Granville County.
Nansemond Tribal Origin
Some of the source material for this blog entry comes from the research of Bass descendant and genealogist Lars Adams. Lars has invested a lot of time in correcting past research mistakes. Nikki Bass is another Bass descendant and researcher who publishes her Bass related genealogy in a blog here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family as well as from Albert Bell’s book, Bass Families of the South (1961). Both Heinegg and Bell have made some errors in their Bass genealogies, so throughout this blogpost you will see some corrections that I have made with my own research. And finally it is important to point out that I author of this blog, Kianga Lucas, am a Nansemond Bass descendant which is how I first came to research the family and is why I am dedicated to preserving and sharing our family history. I believe it is imperative that we as Native peoples, lend voices to our own histories that have often been told by non-Natives.
The Nansemond branch of the English 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. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family sermon book that has survived to the present. Albert Bell’s book contained an incorrect transcription of this marriage record that falsely states Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can read from a copy of the original marriage entry, her name is simply “Elizabeth” and her father’s name is not mentioned at all. “Keziah” is however a first name found frequently among descendants of the Nansemond Bass family, so it is possible that this mix-up comes from fractured memories of the family history. 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:
The Nansemond tribe is an Algonquian speaking tribe that at one point in history, was affiliated with 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. Below is a map of the locations of the sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:
John Bass/e and Elizabeth the Nansemond had several children including a son named William Bass(1654-1741) who appears to have the most well documented descendants. William Bass was married to a woman named Catherine Lanier and they made their home in what was then known as Lower Norfolk County, Virginia along the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. 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 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, VA area with Thomas Bass’ grandson William Bass (b. 1762) and his descendants moving across the state line into Camden County, NC and neighboring counties beginning in the late 1700s. 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 Edward Bass and John Bass are found in Granville.
William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:
An Inquest pertaining to possession and use of Cleared and Swamp lands in and adjoining ye Great Dismal by William Bass, Sr. and His kinsmen who claim Indian Privileges, Sheweth by the testimony of White Persons and sundry records of great age and known to be authentic, That said William Bass, Thomas Bass, and Joseph Bass and spinister daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemond Indian descent with no admixture of negro, Ethiopic, and that they and all others in kinship with them are freeborn subjects of his Majesty living in peace with his Majesty’s Government entitled to possess and bear arms as permitted by Treaties of Peace by and between Charles II of blessed memory and ye Indians of Virginia and the said William Bass, Sr. and als are in Rightful, and Lawful possession thereof and are not to be further Molested by any person or persons whatsoever under any pretended Authority under Penalties etc. etc., whilst ye said Bass and his kinsmen claim Indian privileges pursuant to the aforesaid Treaties of Peace.
17 day of March 1726/27
Solo. Wilson, Cl. Cur.
William Bass’ sons Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior. However it is important to note that this certificate extended to all of William Bass’ kin who were not specifically named in the certificate. This is a compelling detail because it demonstrates that William Bass had the foresight to ensure all of his relations had these same treaty rights.
Later William Bass’ 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 secure their Nansemond Indian identity and treaty rights and in order to do this, it required them to distance themselves from any “negro admixture”. This theme of distancing and denying African admixture, in order to substantiate Indian identity is a common theme throughout Native American communities in the Southeast. And it has unfortunately had devastating effects that fractured families who had relatives deemed “too African” in phenotypical appearance. It has also impacted the political recognition of tribal communities. Even the Native Americans of Granville County adamantly denied African admixture as can be seen in the writings of local historian Oscar Blacknall that you can read more about here. Elder cousins have shared anecdotal stories with me on the topic of race/racial appearance, that are consistent with Blacknall’s observations about our community.
William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk County. In the will, William gives 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 Bass 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. It is important to point out that by 1740, son Edward Bass (1672-1750) had lived in North Carolina for twenty years, yet his father William Bass still made sure to include him in his will. This shows that Edward Bass was still in touch with his family and community back in Norfolk, VA.
Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) in Norfolk, Virginia
Before moving to North Carolina, brothers Edward Bass and John Bass spent the early part of their adulthood in Norfolk. On 17 Nov 1698, Edward Bass appeared in Norfolk court to admit that he owed 500 lbs of tobacco to Hugh Campbell. Hugh Campbell was a Scottish born merchant who was licensed to operate in the West Indies and who later settled in Norfolk. Campbell was also a merchant of human chattel when it was recorded on 8 Jun 1680 that he was paid for transporting an enslaved Indian woman of Bermuda into the Virginia colony. The following year on 16 Nov 1699, Edward Bass purchased 15 acres of land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, from John Fulcher. This is the same John Fulcher whose 1712 will freed the Anderson slaves. Over the next several generations, the offspring of these freed slaves repeatedly intermarried with Edward Bass’ offspring. The Andersons moved with the Basses out of Norfolk and into Granville and became one of the core families of the community. My blog post on the Andersons can be found here. Thus, it appears there is a yet unknown direct relationship between Edward Bass and John Fulcher (perhaps Edward Bass’ wife was a relative of John Fulcher?).
In June 1702, Edward Bass was back in Norfolk court to admit he owed 70 lbs of tobacco to Thomas Winfield from items he purchased at the estate sale of William Whitehurst. And on 15 Nov 1709, Edward Bass sued Henry Lawley for a 3 lb debt. Edward Bass was brought to the Norfolk court again on 20 July 1711 for retailing liquor without a license. The charges were subsequently dropped. On 16 Dec 1715, Edward Bass sued John Muns Jr for 20 lbs for unlawfully riding his mare. There are additional Norfolk records which show a pattern of Edward Bass being harassed by his Anglo neighbors through a series of lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts. Ultimately what we can learn from these records is that Edward Bass was a land owner on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, likely had a farm, and earned enough money to make large purchases. The records also demonstrate his knowledge of the laws and court system, as he was a plaintiff in a few of the cases. This pattern of harassment by his Anglo neighbors may have played a large part in Edward Bass’ leaving the area and moving to the North Carolina frontier.
To date, located records for his brother John Bass in Norfolk are not nearly as numerous. On 15 October 1701 in Norfolk court, John Bass paid the costs for a suit brought against him by Thomas Hodges. This is the only record I know of for John Bass in Norfolk. Hopefully more records are uncovered for him, to better understand his life and his relationships in Norfolk before he settled in North Carolina.
Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) Move to North Carolina
From here our discussion shifts to documenting Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) movement into North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. The last known record of him in Norfolk was recorded in 1715. By 1720/1721, Edward Bass owned land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land deed dated 30 January 1720/21, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know he is the same Edward Bass from Norfolk. Edward Bass did not remain on the Horsepool Swamp land for long, because on 26 March 1723 he purchased 200 acres of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. On 28 March 1726, he sold his Horsepool Swamp land. Over the next couple of decades, Edward Bass purchased an additional 615 acres of land adjoining his Urahaw Swamp land in Northampton County, bringing his total land ownership to 815 acres. On 25 July 1748, Edward Bass wrote his will which was proved in August 1750. The will named Edward Bass’ children who all inherited shares of their father’s land, thus making it possible to trace out his descendants. The will also named Edward Bass’ widow as Lovewell. She was called “Love”, when she and husband Edward Bass sold their Horsepool Swamp land in 1726. There is no surviving marriage record for the couple, so Lovewell’s maiden name and origin in unknown. Edward Bass likely married her when he still resided in Norfolk, so she is perhaps from one of families who were neighbors to the Basses and perhaps she was Nansemond.
All of Edward Bass’ children moved from Northampton to Granville County beginning in the 1750’s. Soon after settling in Granville, they sold their shares of land in Northampton that they inherited from their father. The Anderson family who was freed in 1712 in Norfolk, made the move with the Basses to Northampton County and then to Granville County where the families continued to frequently intermarry. When Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established and land owning Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, Evans, and Mitchell families.
The offspring of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also found in the Granville community, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s offspring. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:
As researcher Lars Adams points out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA (formerly Upper Norfolk County) they married in North Carolina. John Bass who was Indian and Love Harris who was probably white were a couple during a time period where Virginia passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they may have married in North Carolina where the laws against interracial marriages were not as strictly enforced.
John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows a concerted effort by the brothers to remain close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward Bass, John Bass then moved to Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County (now Northampton County) where he accumulated a total of 1,060 acres of land that adjoined his brother’s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he left a Bertie County will which divided his Urahaw Swamp land among his children. As a result, his children and their descendants are well documented in both the will and subsequent land deeds dealing with the division and sale of their inherited land.
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. These offspring typically intermarried with wealthy, slave owning, planter families, and from that point forward were documented as “white”. Subsequent generations moved to the deep South to expand their plantation economies. Other children moved to other parts of the state. For example, John Bass’ grandson Frederick Bass (b. 1750) moved to Anson Co and some of his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.
Four 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, Lovey Bass b. 1720 and Mary Bass b. 1722. 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 with whom she had children with named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. She also had at least one child with Bartlet Tyler (b. 1742) from the FPOC Tyler family of Native American origins, that often intermarried with and were neighbors to the Basses in Granville over subsequent generations. The wife of William Bass b. 1712 is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Mary Bass b. 1722 married her first cousin Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) who was the son of Edward Bass (1672-1750). On 26 July 1784, Mary Bass (while married to Benjamin Bass) sold the 100 acres of land along the Urahaw Swamp that she inherited from her father John Bass in 1732. Just like Edward Bass’ children, John Bass’ children who moved to Granville married into and became a part of the Native American community.
****Mary Bass (1751-1844) and her husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809) are my 5th great-grandparents and are the main progenitors of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Before Benjamin Richardson, Mary Bass was married to her first cousin Elijah Bass (1743-1781). It had been assumed by earlier researchers that Mary Bass (1751-1844) 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) and Love Harris. However I have extensively reviewed the records for Thomas Bass/Thomasine Bunch and their children and it is very clear that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was not their daughter. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and his wife Mary Bass (b. 1722). This means that Mary Bass (1751-1844) was the granddaughter of both Edward Bass (1672-1750) and his brother John Bass (1673-1732). ****
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 scrutiny. 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 Chavis was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1706-1777) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew Chavis 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.
The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. The Gibsons were originally from Charles City County, Virginia where one of the earliest Gibson family members, Jane Gibson (the elder), was known as a free Indian woman. She is the female progenitor of the Evans family who settled in Granville. You can read my Evans/Gibson blog post here. The previously mentioned William Chavis (1706-1777)‘ wife was Frances Gibson. Her brother John Gibson who lived nearby, was a witness to a 1728 land purchase along Urahaw Swamp made by Edward Bass (1672-1750). This shows a direct earlier connection between the Basses and Gibsons. Two of John Gibson’s sons – George Gibson and Charles Gibson moved to Granville in 1750. 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 (1706-1777) 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 in 1750, William Chavis (1706-1777) 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 the tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him there several years later. Much more research is needed to learn why these families moved from Northampton to Granville.
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. George Skipper’s wife was Nottoway Indian Mary Bailey, the apparent daughter of Wat Bailey who was documented on the Nottoway Indian reservation in Southampton County, VA. George Skipper and Mary Bailey’s son George Skipper b. 1720 was one of the chief men of the Nottoway Indian Nation who sold his land in 1749. 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. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same Iroquoian speaking confederacy. And some of the Nansemond lived with the Nottoway on the Nottoway reservation in Southampton Co, VA (across the state line from Northampton Co, NC). 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.
So why did some Nansemond Indians leave the Virginia homeland and settle with other friendly tribes? According to scholar Helen Rountree, the Basses belonged to the so-called “Christianized-Nansemond”, and were never granted a reservation like other Virginia tribes (Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Gingaskin, etc). The “traditional” Nansemond did live on a reservation in Southampton County, VA with the Nottoway Tribe. By 1792 they sold off their remaining reservation land. A closer genealogical examination of the Nansemond/Nottoway families on the Nottoway reservation shows that some individuals (such as George Skipper mentioned above) did leave the reservation for nearby Native American communities. In other words, in the 1700’s there were both Christianized and Traditional Nansemond who were not tied down to the traditional Nansemond homeland along the Nansemond River. This is a great avenue for additional deep dive research into a time and place that I believe is understudied. Thus I think a reexamination of Nansemond ethnohistory that is inclusive of the large amount of Nansemond Bass family members who moved to North Carolina, is long overdue.
Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of Virginia as a result of encroachment by Anglo colonists. This brings to mind Edward Bass’ (1672-1750) 1715 court case against John Muns Jr. for riding his mare. 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 Native American family from the Virginia tidewater area that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families in Granville that have tidewater Virginia roots, were Algonquian speaking peoples who were pushed out due to encroachment. Even Algonquian speaking peoples as far as away the Nanticoke Pukham/Bookram family, the Piscataway Proctor family and the Lenape Okey family moved to Granville County.
The Nansemond Basses in Granville County
So to summarize: all of the children of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and four of the children of John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to Granville County in the 1750’s. Edward Bass and John Bass were brothers, and the grandsons of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth. In Granville, these Bass descendants practiced endogamy by intermarrying with their own Bass cousins and other Native American families to form a tightly closed kinship network. As a result, most living Bass descendants from Granville have multiple Bass ancestors. For example, I have a cousin who has at minimum, 14 different documented Bass genealogical pedigrees back to Elizabeth the Nansemond.
The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from a variety of primary source records. The Basses are found in very high numbers in the census records, marriage records, land deeds, estate records, military pension records, tax lists and more. 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 was enumerated by name 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 head counts of course do not reflect female Basses whose surnames changed due to marriage and do not include Bass descendants whose surnames were no longer Bass.
Brothers Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) who were the sons of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and Lovewell, became the largest land owners of the Bass family in Granville. Benjamin Bass owned at least 500 acres of total land and Edward Bass owned at least a total of 206 acres of land as reflected in the Granville tax lists and land deeds. They also married their own Bass cousins. Benjamin Bass married his first cousin Mary Bass, and Edward Bass married his first cousin, once removed Tamer Anderson.
Benjamin Bass (1722-1800) and Edward Bass (1728-1800) had a brother named Sampson/Samuel Bass (b. 1726) whose identity has been conflated with other men who share the same name, by researcher Paul Heinegg. What follows is an explanation of this mistake, so if you are using Paul Heinegg’s research to document this Sampson/Samuel Bass, please proceed with caution.
The conflation of Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (son of Edward Bass 1672-1750) and Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (parentage unknown) of Brunswick Co, VA/Northampton Co, NC and his son Samuel Bass Jr (1734-1796):
The first Sampson/Samuel Bass b. 1726 (he is called by both first names in the primary source records), was a tithable and land owner in Granville County. The available tax lists (1758, 1761, and 1762) show that he only paid tax on himself, so he appears to not have been married nor had any children. He was also taxed as a free person of color (free persons of color were required to pay taxes on their wives). In 1764, the part of Granville County he resided in became short lived Bute County and he makes a land purchase there in 1771. That is the last known record for him. So he may have died intestate and with no heirs.
On the other hand, the second Samuel Bass 1712-1789 (never referred to as Sampson Bass in any records) was taxed as white and was a wealthy planter who owned a lot of slaves. He resided in Brunswick Co, VA in 1765 when he gave his son Burwell Bass land in Northampton Co, NC (Brunswick and Northampton share a border). In 1765, the first Sampson/Samuel Bass resided in Granville, not Brunswick, so that should raise some initial red flags that we’re looking at two different men. He may also be the same Samuel Bass who appears as a tithable in the 1762 Northampton Co, NC tax list. In 1780 he was a tithable in Northampton, assessed on a large amount of property and 12 slaves. His 1787 Northampton Co will, proved in 1790, names his widow Sarah and children who received his property and slaves. This Samuel Bass had a son Samuel Bass Jr 1734-1796 named in the will. Samuel Bass Jr’s will was proved in 1796 in Greensville Co, VA (Greensville borders Brunswick and Northampton). Paul Heinegg also incorrectly attributes the Halifax Co, NC 1810 census showing a Samuel Bass head of a household of 7 free people of color and 1 slave to this Samuel Bass Jr. But that absolutely cannot be him since he was deceased by 1796. Instead the Samuel Bass enumerated in the 1810 census in Halifax Co, NC was a man named Samuel Bass b. 1784 who eventually moved to Tennessee, Alabama and finally Mississippi.
This RootsWeb tree which can be viewed here, includes the following statement from a Samuel Bass researcher who also agrees that the identities of these men have been conflated. He believes the second Samuel Bass was the Samuel Bass who made a 1733 land purchase in Isle of Wight, VA and lived next to Charles Bass Jr. and James Bass.
“I believe Heinegg and Marcia McClure and others have confounded a number of Samuels and Sampsons into one man. I am fifth great grandson of Samuel Bass, Sr who died in 1789 so I have spent a great amount of time trying to tease them apart. The Samuel Bass above was son of Samuel Sr. However I do not believe Samuel Sr was Sampson and the son of Edward. Through tracing land I place this man as the Samuel who purchased land in Isle of Wight County in 1733. He stated he was “of Isle of wight ” and the land adjoined property of James Bass and Charles Bass, Jr. They in subsequent years signed deeds for each other and moved about together. To me that says related. I have come to believe that Samuel was a son of Charles Bass, Sr of Isle if Wight Co. He was born most likely around 1712. He married twice. First to Elizabeth who was still alive in 1755. He was married to Sarah by 1770 and she is the wife in the will. He had 8 children who I believe were born in the order listed in the will. My ancestor Matthew could be the son of either wife.”
The Nansemond identity of the Basses in Granville County was known by Bass researcher, Albert Bell. While doing archival research for his book, Bass Families of the South, published in 1961, Albert Bell came across the 1833 Norfolk County, VA Indian certificates of several members of the Bass family in the Norfolk court minutes. Similar to the Norfolk court records from the 1700’s, the Nansemond Bass family found it necessary to clarify their identity as Indian peoples. Albert Bell submitted a copy of these 1833 Indian certificates and citations to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh and included a note which stated:
“The Basses of Norfolk County have been bedeviled by the same problem as that faced by the Granville County crowd.”
Photos of Nansemond Basses from Granville County
Below are a handful of photos of individuals who come from the Nansemond Bass family in Granville County. Some of the Granville Basses in the following generations moved to neighboring and nearby counties such as Halifax, Person, Orange, Durham, and Alamance.
The Bass pedigree of the three brothers pictured below who were sons of William Bass b. 1831 and Sarah Evans is as follows:
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.
Welcome! The following is a list of surnames of closely related Native American families of Granville County. Please note that all the families are “free people of color”, meaning they were not enslaved and generally not recorded as “white”.
It is these families that most of the content of this blog is about. I have documentation on all of these families, so if you believe you are also researching the same families, please do get in touch.