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.
Susan Parker and her husband John Quinchett lived in Mecklenburg Co where their descendants continued to live and where the modern Occoneechee-Saponi Tribe of Virginia is.
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.