Newspaper articles have the added bonus of providing a more intimate look at the ancestor you are researching. Local newspapers especially provide an important social context that allows you to better understand the society your ancestor was apart of. This is why newspaper archives are among my favorite sources to utilize when doing genealogical research.
In this blog post, I offer a couple of examples of what can be found in the newspaper archives. Our ancestors were most commonly classified in census and vital records with racially ambiguous terms whose definitions changed with time and location, such as “free colored”, “mulatto”, “black”, and “negro”. In a previous blogpost, I discuss the writings of local historian Oscar Blacknall who interchangeably used the terms “free negro” and “Indian” to describe the people in our community. Similar to Blacknall’s essays, we see that these newspaper articles reveal a lot more about how society racially classified our ancestors.
From the 12 May 1905 edition of the Warren Record in Warren County, NC, is an obituary for a man named Tom Richardson who died at the age of 70 years. In the obituary, Richardson is described as being “7/8 Indian and 1/8 Negro”. How this blood quantum was calculated is unknown to me. However what we can infer from this description is that Tom Richardson was known a person who mostly “Indian” and some part “Negro”.
The Tom Richardson (1841-1905) named in this obituary is the same man commonly known as Tom Snake Richardson and Tom Hardy Richardson. He was the son of Rheese Richardson (b. 1813) and Emily Richardson (b. 1820). Rheese Richardson was the son of John Richardson (b. 1770) and Sarah Bass (b. 1777). Emily Richardson was the daughter of Hardy Richardson (1788-1855) and Dorcas Boone (1794-1871). John Richardson and Hardy Richardson were half brothers, both sons of Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809). Benjamin Richardson is the main Richardson progenitor of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Sarah Bass is from the Bass family I blogged about here. And Dorcas Boone is from the Boone family I blogged about here. (Tom Richardson is also the second cousin of my great-great grandmother Virginia Richardson)
Even though Tom Richardson was known as an “Indian”, in the census he is recorded as “mulatto” from 1850-1880. And in the 1900 census he was recorded as “black”, likely because “mulatto” was removed from the census that year. Tom Richardson is also listed as “colored” in his marriage records. How Tom Richardson was racially classified in the census and vital records holds true for the next two men I discuss below.
This newspaper article I find quite interesting because it uses three different racial terms to describe C.D. Burnett. From the 19 April 1910 edition of the Raleigh Times, we read that a man named C.D. Burnett was held a on a serious charge. We don’t learn exactly why he’s being charged but that there was a rumor that he confessed to killing a white man. The article describes Burnett as a “half breed Indian, but passing for colored”. Though it appears the author of the article is making a distinction between “Indian” and “colored”, the author later contradicts himself. At the end of the article, we read that Burnett, “a negro appears to be from Orange county”. So even though the author states at the begging of the article that Burnett was an Indian, he later describes him with a different racial term – “negro”.
Charles D Burnett (1894-1965) was the son of William Burnett (1876-1938) and Roxanna Hester of Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. William Burnett was the son of Thaddeus Burnett (1853-1917) and Betsey Liggins (b. 1855). His family can be found among the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
In this 27 Jan 1873 newspaper article, we read that Jesse Archer (“Arche”) was captured after stabbing another person. Jesse Archer is referred to as an “Indian mixed mulatto”. “Mulatto” infers that someone has a mixed race background and the article specifies that Indian is included in the mixture. But we don’t know what Jesse’s Indian background is mixed with.
Jesse Archer (b. 1840) was from Orange Co, NC and was the son of Stephen and Lydia Archer (Lydia’s maiden name is unknown). Stephen Archer (b. 1815) was the son of Jesse Archer (1780-1855) and Patsy Haithcock (b. 1775). Jesse Archer never married and had no children that I know of, but his closest living relatives can be found among the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
The next two articles mention “half breed Indian” women but do not give us their names so I’m unable to identify them. However the articles are interesting and definitely illustrate that Indian people were known and living in these areas.
From the 15 June 1912 edition of the Oxford Public Ledger in Granville Co, we read that there is a “half-bred Indian woman” living in Hunt Woods and is to blame for a series of late night shootings. Hunt Woods lies on the southeastern outskirts of the city limits of Oxford, heading towards the Fishing Creek township. The Native American community in Granville Co was centered in Fishing Creek and then spread out in various directions, including towards the city of Oxford. Is there a connection between the “half bred Indian woman” in Hunt Woods and the Native American community? I cannot say, but it’ is something to look into.
In this 24 June 1871 article from the Semi-Weekly Raleigh Sentinel, we read that a “half breed Indian woman” who resides in Caswell County is 100 years old. The article celebrates her age but fails to mention her name, so I have no way of verifying who she is.
So these are just a couple of examples that illustrate the point that it is imperative to dig deeper beyond the census and vital records, to learn more about your ancestors. The information contained in the newspaper archives may be the missing link you need to take your research a step further.
In this blog post, I will use a combination of genetic genealogy, paper based genealogy, and family oral history to confirm a genealogical relationship within the Saponi/Catawba Guy family of Granville County. By utilizing different techniques, I present a strong case for identifying Miles Guy and Delila Guy of Granville County as siblings. I especially hope the genetic genealogy section of this blog post will help readers better understand how to use cousin matches to confirm genealogical relationships.
The Guy family is a core family of the Native American community in Granville County. I have not written a blog post discussing their early tribal origins yet because I’m still in the process of verifying research. However, there is a key primary source that is vital to documenting the origins of the Guy family that I will briefly discuss here. In 1872, a white man named Joseph McDowell of Fairmount, GA who had married a Guy woman, collected the names of 84 descendants of Buckner Guy who desired to be recognized as Catawba Indians by the United States and sought financial relief. In the early 1800s, Buckner Guy (b. 1789) relocated his family from Orange County out to the far western part of the state in Macon County.
There was no action from the 1872 list that Joseph McDowell submitted. As a result, he submitted the list and letter again in 1897 when the United States Senate was holding a session about the Catawba Indians. Unfortunately not much came from this action, but it does show an early direct attempt by the Guy family to not only be recognized as Native Americans, but specifically as Catawba. In my research, I identify the Guy family as “Saponi/Catawba”, that is I believe they were Saponi who took refuge with their closely related cousins, the Catawba.
The Guys were “free people of color”, so there is good documentation on them. However the paper record doesn’t always clarify exactly how all the “free colored” Guys are related to one another. In particular, I’ve had questions about Miles Guy (b. 1827) of Granville County and the identity of his siblings and parents. I had long suspected that a Delila Guy (b. 1819) of Granville County was his sister but still needed records to verify my suspicions.
The Paper Trail
In order to learn more about Miles Guy’s family, I located the earliest primary source record on him. On 5 May 1842, Miles Guy (b. 1827) was apprenticed out to William Chavis in Granville County. Miles’ age was given 14 years as of 15 Nov 1841, which would indicate that Miles Guy was born on 15 Nov 1827. It is not common to be able to establish a precise birthdate for ancestors from this time period, so this is excellent documentation to have. Miles Guy was to be taught the trade of carpentry and to remain with William Chavis until 21 years of age. The document unfortunately does not name Miles Guy’s parents. He is referred to as an “orphan”, but this term can be a bit misleading as it doesn’t necessarily mean both of his parents were deceased. The Granville County Court Minutes may have recorded the names of Miles Guy’s parents but those records are not digitized online.
So who was William Chavis? William Chavis (1801-1854) was the son of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) who I previously blogged about here. On 16 Oct 1834, William Chavis married Delila Guy (b. 1819) and she was the mother of his children. This means that eight years after getting married to Delila Guy, William Chavis formally takes in “orphan” Miles Guy as an apprentice. This is certainly not a coincidence. This is why I believe Miles Guy was Delila Guy’s younger brother, and that she and her husband took him in when he became “orphaned”.
William Chavis and Delila Guy had the following children together:
Harriet Chavis (b. 1837)
Nelly Chavis (b. 1840)
William Chavis (b. 1841)
Julia Chavis (b. 1845)
Edna Chavis (b. 1847)
Silvanus Chavis (b. 1850) *died in childhood*
Patrick Chavis (b. 1852)
The documentation that identifies William Chavis and Delila Guy’s children is quite solid because William died relatively young in 1854 and so there are probate records concerning his estate and named heirs.
Miles Guy was married a few times and had several children. Before marrying, Miles Guy had a child out of wedlock named Emily Curtis (1853-1925) with a woman named Nancy Curtis (b. 1835). Emily Curtis’ death record identifies her father as Miles Guy.
He then married Henrietta Dunstan on 19 Oct 1854 in Granville County. It must have been a short marriage that likely ended with Henrietta’s death because in the 1860 census, Miles Guy is shown with no wife or children.
On 13 Sep 1865, Miles Guy then married Susan Taborn (1846-1879). Together Miles Guy and Susan Taborn had the following children:
Mary Etta Guy (b. 1866)
Robert Guy (b. 1869)
Jana Guy (b. 1872) *died in childhood*
Cora Guy (b. 1873)
Delia Guy (b. 1877)
Miles Guy’s wife Susan Taborn was deceased by 1879 because on 2 Sep 1879 he married for a third time to Sarah Burnett. Miles Guy last appears in the 1900 census for Granville County and he registered to vote in 1902, so he died sometime after that date.
So we have good documentation on Miles Guy and Delila Guy which show their families living close to one another in the Fishing Creek community in Granville County. And we have documentation that shows that Miles Guy was brought up in Delila Guy’s household. But is there anything else we can do to verify their relationship?
When I recently showed the picture below to a great-grandson of Miles Guy, he immediately recognized the elderly woman seated in the middle and exclaimed “that’s aunt Julia!”. This great-grandson of Miles Guy identified Julia Chavis, daughter of Delila Guy, as his “aunt”. The term “aunt” when used in our communities does not necessarily mean a literal “aunt” or “great aunt”, but is also used to describe a close relationship with an elder female relative. Also because Miles Guy was raised in Delila Guy’s home, he likely viewed her children as his “siblings”.
With fairly good paper trail documentation firsthand testimony from a living person, what would DNA testing reveal about the relationship betweenn Miles Guy and Delila Guy?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you most likely at some point have encountered advertisements for DNA tests that will predict your ethnic composition. The three leading companies that offer DNA tests to consumers are 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FamilyTree DNA. The ethnicity estimates offered with these tests are interesting and perhaps revealing but if you’re looking to take a DNA test to confirm Native American heritage for example, it’s not so straight forward. I’m not going to take the space here to discuss the many complications and limitations of DNA testing to confirm Native American identity but I suggest following the research of scholar Dr. Kim Tallbear.
However where I see the biggest strengths in these DNA tests, is the cousin matching feature. The DNA company that you test with, will pair you with other individuals who have also tested and share a segment of DNA with you. A free genetic genealogy website called Gedmatch, allows users from the three companies mentioned above to upload their DNA data and utilize the website’s more sophisticated tools. And because anyone from the three companies can upload to Gedmatch, it significantly opens the pool of potential cousin matches. In other words, Gedmatch is a genetic genealogist’s best friend.
Within the past year, four direct lineal descendants of the Guy family from Granville County have done DNA tests. All four have also uploaded their results to Gedmatch which has allowed me to take a closer look at their DNA. And to top it all off, all four individuals have very well researched and documented family trees.
To preserve anonymity, I am using initials to discuss these 4 Guy descendants.
RT = His great-grandfather was Miles Guy (b. 1827)
SH = Her great-great grandfather was Miles Guy (b.1827)
WD = Her great-great-great grandfather was Miles Guy (b. 1827)
CL = Her great-great-great grandmother was Delila Guy (b. 1819). Also note that CL is my (Kianga’s) second cousin.
RT, SH, WD, and CL are all cousin matches with one another on Gedmatch. This is not surprising because all four individuals have deep roots within Granville’s Native American community and so they have several lineages in common in addition to the Guys. The heavy endogamy within our community creates a major challenge with genetic genealogy because it’s not immediately clear when looking at cousin matches, which shared common ancestor is reflected in that chromosome match. What also complicates matters is that your DNA will not always match all of your known cousins. With each generation that passes, there is a greater chance for the recombination process to diminish that shared DNA. So the further back in time that common ancestor is, the greater the chance that you will not match cousins from that ancestor. So this is where the “triangulation” process helps us identify the common ancestor of all four individuals.
What I found when comparing the Gedmatch kits of RT, SH, WD, and CL is that all match one another on overlapping segments on Chromosome 5. In other words, all four people share a common ancestor whose DNA they have inherited on their Chromosome 5. Below are “One to One” comparisons between the four Gedmatch kits. Please note that I have blocked out their Gedmatch kit numbers and user names and have replaced them with initials:
Though there are other chromosome segments that some of the individuals share, the only overlapping segment that all four individuals shared was on Chromosome 5. If you look at the start and end point numbers, that is the measurement of where on the chromosome that matching segment occurs. Not all four individuals match on the exact start and end points and that is due to recombination and inheritance (we do not inherit exact replica copies of our ancestors’ DNA). But I think it is clear that all four individuals inherited overlapping large segments that indicate a shared common ancestor.
Another important feature on Gedmatch is the “Most Recent Common Ancestor” (MRCA) number. This is exactly what it sounds like – Gedmatch predicts how many generations back that most recent common ancestor was. But a very strong word of caution: the number is an estimation and the extreme endogamy of our community amplifies cousin matches so that they sometimes appear closer than what they really are. With that said, the MRCA’s predicated on the Chromosome 5 matches are consistent with Miles Guy and Delila Guy being siblings.
SH is the niece of RT, so there is no question as to their biological relationship. They share lots of DNA in common and their MRCA is predicated at 1.5. This means they share common ancestors between 1 and 2 generations ago. This is spot on because for RT, his parents (1 generation ago) are the MRCA and for SH her grandparents (2 generations ago) are the MRCA. You also see that SH and RT share a very long segment on Chromosome 5, starting and ending at approximately 29,000,000 to 83,000,000.
SH and WD are third cousins, once removed. That is, SH‘s great-great grandparents are the same as WD‘s great-great-great grandparents (Miles Guy and Susan Taborn). This puts their MRCA between 4 and 5 generations ago. However when you look at Gedmatch’s predicated MRCA, it states 3.4. This is likely a result of endogamy and sharing multiple sets of common ancestors.
CL who is a direct lineal descendant of Delila Guy is predicated to share a MRCA to SH, RT, and WD, in the 5 range (5.9, 5.4, and 5.1 respectively). 5 generations from CL goes back to her great-great-great grandmother Delila Guy. And because these MRCA numbers are above 5, it suggests that CL is sharing a MRCA one more generation back from Delila Guy.
In other words, the parents of Miles Guy and Delila Guy are the shared common ancestors for all four individuals. This of course means Miles Guy and Delilah Guy were siblings. I did even consider the possibility that Delila Guy was Miles Guy’s mother, but she is only roughly 8 years older than him, making her way too young to be his mother.
So in summary, the overlapping segments shared by all four individuals on Chromosome 5 appear to come from the parents of Miles Guy and Delila Guy.
So we have a paper trail showing that Miles Guy was raised in Delila Guy’s home. We have family oral history from a living person who knows the two families are related. And finally we have DNA tests which are consistent with descendants of both Miles Guy and Delila Guy sharing common ancestors within the correct Guy family genealogy timeframe. It feels satisfying to have three different categories of evidence to align so perfectly because often times this is not the case.
However, the big remaining question is who are the parents of Miles Guy and Delila Guy?
There was an earlier Miles Guy (b. 1797) recorded in the Granville records. This Miles Guy married a Betsy Bonner on 22 May 1817 in Granville Co. Betsy Bonner was likely a white woman and the sister of Neverson Bonner who provided the bond for the marriage. By 1820, this Miles Guy moved to Caswell Co where he is recorded as the head of a household of three “free colored” males. That is the last time I find Miles Guy in the records. Sharing a name with Miles Guy (b. 1827) certainly indicates a close relationship but it does not necessarily mean they were father and son. They may have an uncle/nephew relationship because parents often named their children after their siblings. So it’s possible that Miles Guy (b.1827) and Delila Guy’s (b. 1819) parent may be a sibling of this older Miles Guy (b. 1797).
It is noteworthy to mention that this elder Miles Guy in the 1820 census is listed next to Vines Guy. The census was recorded alphabetically so this does not mean that the two men lived next to one another. But the two men lived in Caswell Co at the same time, which may indicate that they were brothers. Vines Guy (1785-1836) settled in Orange Co and some of his descendants are enrolled members of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Orange/Alamance Cos. Vines Guy is believed to be a son of William Guy (1763-1837), the Revolutionary Soldier who lived in Granville County and filed a military pension. However I’m still looking for proof to verify this relationship, so I do not consider it fully confirmed.
My suspicion is that most if not all of the Guys who appear in the Granville Co records are direct lineal descendants of William Guy (1763-1837), the Revolutionary War soldier. He is the earliest known Guy to move to Granville Co in 1803 and remained in Granville until his death in 1837. William was originally from across the state line in Mecklenburg Co, VA and had at least two brothers – Christopher Guy (b. 1766) and John Guy (b. 1758) who were also Revolutionary War soldiers (but died before filing pensions). Though neither Christopher or John moved to North Carolina, many of their descendants did which is why there is much confusion with identifying the correct lineal descendants of each brother.
I’m hoping that by using a combination of different sources including the paper trail and DNA, we can begin to correctly map out the Guy family tree. If there is anyone reading this who descends from William, John, or Christopher Guy and has done DNA testing or plans to do so, please get in touch with me.
The Brandons are a core family of Granville’s Native community that have intermarried with most of the other Native families. Originating in Southside Virginia, the Brandons came to Granville County in the 1820s, rejoining their Saponi relatives who had already established the community during the days of Indian trader Colonel William Eaton. I introduced the Brandon family in an earlier blog post about the Saponi Indian cabins that were reported in Amelia Co (modern Nottoway Co), Virginia in 1737. I will repost some of the content here but I recommend reading that blog post if you have not already done so.
The Brandon surname has been spelled a variety of ways including Brannum, Branham, Brandom, and Brandum. However for the sake of clarity and consistency, I will use the standardized “Brandon” spelling of the surname for the family in Granville Co, NC. But please be aware of the variety of spellings as you research this family. Also note that there were white Brandon/Branham families residing in the same areas as the “free colored”/Native American Brandon/Branham family. I have found no connection between the two populations, with the exception that they share the same surname. The family that is the topic of this blog post were consistently listed as “free colored” people with the exception of some later descendants who were identified as “white”.
Background on the Brandon Family:
The Brandon family descends from several Brandons living in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co, as well as surrounding areas of Brunswick Co. and Henrico Co. who first appear in the records in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s. It is not known exactly how all these Brandons relate to each other but a few Brandons who were born in the household of Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale in Bristol Parish were most likely siblings and could be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins in Amelia County in 1737. Edward Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on July 9, 1730 and in 1751, Edward Brandon was a tithable between the Flatt and Deep Creek districts of Amelia Co. As you will recall, Winningham Creek the site of the Saponi cabins runs off of Deep Creek in Amelia County. Margaret Brandon was born on Nov 7, 1720 and was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Oct 10, 1722. Doll “Dorothy” Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Jul 24, 1727.
Contemporaries to siblings Edward, Margaret and Doll Brandon, who are probably of some family relation to them include: Benjamin Branham b. 1721 who lived in Louisa Co, and Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728 who lived in Brunswick and Lunenburg Cos. There was also an Edward Branham b. 1760 who was likely related to Benjamin Branham and Eleanor Branham/Brandon. Edward Branham b. 1760 first appears as a tithable in Amherst Co, VA in 1783 and he is the progenitor of the core Branham family (this family used the standardized “Branham” spelling) of the state recognized Monacan Tribe in Amherst Co, VA. Current Chief Dean Branham is a direct lineal descendant. The Monacan are another Eastern Siouan tribe that once comprised a confederacy that included the Saponi.
Eleanor Brandon b. 1728
We don’t know much about Eleanor Brandon except for the records of her children that were bound out. Based upon the dates of when her children were bound out, Paul Heinegg in his research on the Brandon family suggests that she was born around 1728.
On 24 Jul 1753 in Brunswick County, VA, Eleanor’s children – Thomas and Molly/Mary Brandon were bound out. And on 29 January 1755, her children Thomas Brandon, Molly/Mary Brandon, and Viney Brandon were bound out again in Brunswick Co. There is no record of who her children were bound out to. Brunswick Co is the location of Fort Christanna, the former Saponi reservation that was closed in 1718. Many Saponi continued to live in and around Brunswick Co which explains why Eleanor resided there.
Viney Brandon (1754-1818)
Viney Brandon was a daughter of Eleanor Brandon and resided in Mecklenburg Co, VA. She was the “wife” of a white man named Thomas Dison. Because of laws against interracial marriage, they could not legally marry and so on 14 March 1791, they were presented to the court for living in “adultery”.
Viney continued to live in Mecklenburg Co, VA where she was a land owner and appears on the tax lists until her death in 1818. She left a will which named her children. Because she was not legally married to Thomas Dison, their children alternated between the Brandon and Dison (also spelled Dyson) surnames. Most of Viney Brandon’s children and descendants remained in Mecklenburg Co or on the North Carolina side of the state border. They mostly intermarried with other known “free colored”/Native American families in the area such as Goins, Chavis, Howell. etc. There was one son named William Brandon Dison (1777-1845) who relocated out to Wilkes and Surry Cos, NC. Though he was “mixed race”, after he moved to Western NC, he and his children were most commonly recorded as “white”.
Thomas Brandon (1746-1834)
As discussed above, Thomas Brandon was bound out in Brunswick Co in 1753 and 1755 to an unnamed person. Heinegg suggests he was born around 1746 and that is the date I will use for consistency but it’s possible he was a few years younger. Thomas Brandon was also my 5th great-grandfather.
On 12 May 1763, Thomas Brandon was bound out again in neighboring Lunenburg Co, VA to Hutchins Burton. And according to the tax lists in 1764 for St. James Parish in Lunenburg Co, Thomas Brandon was a tithable in Hutchin Burton’s household. Very noteworthy is that Robert Corn (1745-1816) was also listed as a tithable in Hutchin Burton’s household in 1764. Robert Corn later moved to North Carolina and some of his descendants are the Corn (now more commonly known as “Cohen”) family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Orange/Alamance Cos, NC.
So this begs the question, who was Hutchins Burton? Hutchins Burton (1722-1767) was the son of Nowell Burton and Judith Allen and looks to have belonged to a prominent, slave-owning family. You can find additional well researched information about the Burton family here. I wonder if there was a connection between his family and the Saponi people.
Thomas Brandon was mistreated by Hutchins Burton and complained to the courts to be freed from his indenture. And on 13 Jul 1764 Thomas Brandon was bound to Jacob Chavis (1736-1808). Jacob Chavis was the husband of Elizabeth Evans (1745-1814) which is probably why on 3 January 1771, Thomas Brandon married Elizabeth Evans’ sister Margaret Evans (b. 1753). Elizabeth and Margaret Evans were the children of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and his unnamed Walden wife. I previously discussed Thomas Evans in this blog post.
We learn from his 1833 pension application (W.4643) that Thomas Brandon was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Thomas lived in Mecklenburg Co until his death in 1834 and his widow Margaret (Evans/Walden) Brandon received a widow’s pension. In Margaret’s application, she provided a family register which listed the names and ages of her children. This specificity of this information is very impressive and rare for its time, so this is a valuable source for reseachers.
So the children of Thomas Brandon and Margaret Evans/Walden were:
1. Nancy Brandon (b. 1771) married Frederick Graves
2. Agnes Brandon (b. 1773)
3. Walden Brandon (b. 1775) – note that his first name “Walden” probably came from his mother Margaret’s Walden heritage.
4. Susan “Suckey” Brandon (b. 1777) married Freeman Howell. These are my 4th great-grandparents and they moved from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC.
5. Edward Brandon (b. 1779) married Elizabeth Chavis
6. Elizabeth Brandon (b. 1782) married Archer Stewart
7. Thomas Brandon Jr (b. 1786) married Sarah Chavis
8. Margaret Brandon (b. 1790) married John Garnes
9. John Brandon (b. 1792)
10. Jesse Brandon (b. 1796) married Parthena Drew
Mary/Molly Brandon b. 1744
This brings us to Eleanor Brandon’s daughter Mary/Molly Brandon who is the primary progenitor of the Brandons in Granville Co. She was called both “Mary” and “Molly” in the records and for the sake of clarity I will refer to her as Mary Brandon.
Like her siblings, Mary Brandon was bound out in 1753 and 1755 in Brunswick Co, VA. She was living in neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA when her son Rhode Brandon (1762-1811) was bound out on 11 Aug 1766. There are no additional records for Mary Brandon, so I’m unsure who fathered her children or what became of her. So we will move onto Mary Brandon’s descendants.
Rhode Brandon (1762-1811)
Rhode Brandon was a son of Mary Brandon and he was initially bound out to a white man named Isaac Holmes on 11 Aug 1766 in Mecklenburg Co, VA. Isaac Holmes (1727-1772) was married to Lucy Ballard and when Isaac Holmes died in 1772, Rhode Brandon was bound out to Isaac Holmes’ brother-in-law John Ballard Jr. Rhode Brandon continued to live in Mecklenburg Co until his death in about 1811. His wife’s name was Elizabeth but her maiden name is unknown. Elizabeth may have been a Stewart because after Rhode Brandon’s death, she purchased land in Mecklenburg Co from James Stewart (b. 1734) that adjoined William Stewart’s (b. 1723) property. The Stewarts were another Saponi family that lived in the area, intermarried with the Brandons, and some family members also moved into Granville Co. This same William Stewart (b. 1723) was bound out to Indian trader Col. William Eaton. Col. Eaton had a close relationship to the Saponi Indians and would later move to Granville Co where the Saponi lived next to his land. See my previous blog posts about Col. William Eaton here and here.
Rhode and Elizabeth Brandon had the following children:
1. *Charles Brandon b. 1787
2. *Burwell Brandon b. 1789
3. Elizabeth Brandon b. 1791
4. Peter Brandon b. 1784
5. George Brandon
6. *Mary Brandon b. 1790 married Robert Mayo 31 Dec 1811 in Mecklenburg Co, VA
7. Hannah Brandon
*Charles Brandon, Mary Brandon, and Burwell Brandon relocated next door to Granville Co, NC. Mary Brandon’s children carried the Mayo surname and despite what Paul Heinegg says about her and Robert Mayo separating by 1839, I have not found that to be the case. They are clearly listed together in the 1850 census in Granville Co with their children. My next sections will focus on Charles Brandon and Burwell Brandon as they are the ones who primarily carried the Brandon surname into Granville Co.
Charles Brandon b. 1787
Charles Brandon is well documented as a son of Rhode and Elizabeth Brandon because he was a tithable in their Mecklenburg Co, VA household. By 1820, Charles Brandon moved to the Abrams Plains district of Granville Co, NC where he is found in the census, head of a household of 6 “free colored” individuals, including: 1 male under 14, 1 male 26-45, 2 females 14-26, and 1 female over 45. This household information suggests that Charles Brandon was married and had at least one son and two daughters. I say at least because it’s quite possible some of his children may have been bound out as apprentices in white households (a common occurrence for the Brandons in Mecklenburg Co, VA).
I know very little about Charles Brandon because that is the last time he appears in the census. I do not have a marriage record associated with him either so I cannot verify the identity of his wife. However it certainly appears that Charles Brandon died sometime after 1820, and so we may find his children in the apprenticeship records in Granville Co.
On 7 Feb 1831 in Granville Co, a Mary Brandon and a Susannah Brandon were bound out to John Bowen and Chesley Daniel, respectively. The fact that both girls were bound out on the same date is good evidence that they were sisters. Their parents were not named in the apprenticeship records but looking at the date of when they were bound out suggests they were orphans of Charles Brandon. And Granville County court minutes reveal that Mary and Suannah were the orphans of Charles Brandon, deceased (h/t to researcher Warren Milteer). I don’t know what happened to Mary Brandon. Susannah Brandon on the other hand married William Pettiford (son of Collins Pettiford and Polly Chavis) of the very large “free colored”/Native American Pettiford family on 3 Jan 1846. Also, Susannah Brandon and her husband resided in the Abrams Plains district, the same district that Charles Brandon formerly resided in.
What is also worth pointing out is the name of Chesley Daniel. This Chesley Daniel may have had a close relationship to Charles Brandon because there was a Chesley Brandon b. 1812 who appears in the Granville Co records that I believe to be a son of Charles Brandon. It was not uncommon for “free colored”/Native American families to name their children after “friendly whites”. I cannot locate an earlier Chesley in the Brandon family, so Chesley Daniel may be the reason why the Chesley name was passed down in the Brandon family. (Also note there was a Chesley Bass b. 1815 of Granville’s Native community).
Below is a list of probable children of Charles Brandon and they all lived in and intermarried with members of Granville’s Native community. If I find additional documents to verify or dispute these connections, I will update:
1. Chesley Brandon b. 1812. Married Susan Anderson 8 Oct 1840 in Granville Co, with Collins Pettiford as the bondsman. This is the same Collins Pettiford who was the father-in-law of Chesley’s sister Susannah Brandon.
2. Jane Brandon b. 1815. Married Martin Cousins 26 March 1845 in Granville Co, with Evans Pettiford as the bondsman. Evans Pettiford was the husband of Jane’s sister Martha Brandon.
3. Susan “Susannah” Brandon b. 1819. Married William Pettiford 3 Jan 1846 in Granville Co, with Sterling Chavis as the bondsman. Susannah was called an orphan of Charles Brandon when she bound out in 1831 to Chesley Daniel and lived in the same part of Granville Co as her father Charles Brandon.
4. Martha Brandon b. 1821. Married Evans Pettiford 30 Sep 1840 in Granville Co, with Abram Plenty as the bondsman. Evans Pettiford was the bondsman for the marriage of Martha’s sister Jane Brandon.
5. Mary Brandon b. 1823. She was bound out on the same date as her sister Susannah Brandon in 1831 to John Bowen when she was called an or[han of Charles Brandon. No additional records of her after she was bound out.
If we go back and look at the census information for Charles Brandon’s household in 1820, we know that he had at least three children (1 son and 2 daughters) born before 1820. Those children could be Chesley, Jane, and Susannah (Jane and Susannah may have been mistakenly listed a bit older).
Burwell Brandon b. 1785
Burwell Brandon was born in Mecklenburg Co, VA where he was found on the tax lists in the household of his father Rhode Brandon. He next appears in the 1820 census in neighboring Charlotte Co, VA, head of a household of one male (himself). This is a very important detail because it strongly implies that Burwell Brandon was not married nor had children before 1820 unless they were bound out.
I have not located Burwell Brandon in the 1830 census, so I’m unsure the exact year he moved to Granville Co. However other closely interrelated Saponi families in the Mecklenburg Co area such as the Guy, Howell, Parker, Cousins, and Chavis families moved into Granville Co in the 1820s.
In the 1840 census in Granville Co, Burwell Brandon is listed as the head of household of 5 “free people of color”, and by looking at their ages they were presumably his wife, 2 sons, and 1 daughter.
So who was Burwell Brandon’s wife? There are some family trees on Ancestry that list Burwell’s wife as Lucy Young but I have found no evidence to support this. I believe these family trees are confusing a woman named Lucy Young who lived in and never left Charlotte Co; she appears in the 1810, 1820, 1830 and 1840 censuses for Charlotte Co. According to the “Free Negro Register” of Charlotte Co, this Lucy Young along with other Youngs were emancipated slaves of an Edward Almond. This Lucy Young was 57 years of age in 1822 when she is listed in the “Free Negro” register of Charlotte Co, making her born around 1765, too old to be Burwell’s wife.
According to the death certificate of Burwell Brandon’s youngest son Richard Brandon (1840-1916), Burwell’s wife was “Lucy Stoye”. I have not come across this surname before and I’m pretty confident that “Stoye” was a misspelling of “Stow”. I found several white Stow (also spelled “Stoe”) households in Charlotte and adjacent counties in the early 1800s. As we know Burwell Brandon resided in Mecklenburg and Charlotte Cos before coming to Granville Co. And Virginia is listed as Lucy Brandon’s birthplace in the 1850 census record. It could be that Lucy was a member of the white Stow family or even an emancipated slave of the Stow family. Either scenario may explain why I have not been able to find a marriage record for Burwell Brandon.
In the 1850 census, Burwell Brandon appears in the Tabbs Creek district of Granville Co with his wife Lucy Brandon, daughter Betsy Brandon, sons Humbleston “Amos” Brandon and Richard Brandon, and grandchildren Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon and Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon. These grandchildren were the children of Burwell’s daughter Betsy Brandon.
We learn from the Granville Co apprenticeship records that a few years prior in 1847, the court had ordered that Burwell’s sons Humbleston Brandon and Richard Brandon to be bound out. The sons were not specifically named but it is clear the court order was referring to Humbleston and Richard Brandon. But it appears the court never took action since Humbleston and Richard were living with their father in 1850.
I have not located Burwell Brandon in the 1860 census. In 1870, he was living in Fishing Creek township in Granville Co, and enumerated again with his wife Lucy Brandon. This was the last time Burwell and his wife Lucy appear in the census, so they likely died shortly afterwards.
The documented children of Burwell and Lucy Brandon were:
1. Betsy Brandon (b. 1831). She was not married and had a number of children whom I will discuss in the next section.
2. Humbleston “Amos” Brandon (b. 1834). He was first married to Onie Peace and second married to Addie (I don’t know her maiden name). He had numerous children with both women and continued living in the Native community in Granville/Vance Co in Fishing Creek/Kittrell townships.
3. Richard Brandon (1840-1916) . He was married to a woman named Eliza (not sure of her maiden name) but it appears they never had children. He remained in the Native community in Granville Co in Fishing Creek township.
There are two additional Brandon children of Burwell’s that were much older than than the ones discussed above and so they likely had a different mother. Mahalia Brandon (b. 1805) was the wife of Henry Parker (b. 1810) who was from the Saponi Indian Parker family that I discussed in this previous blog post. Their descendants remained in Granville’s Native community. Second there is Giles Brandon (1813-1909) who was the husband of Sallie Ann Evans 1827-1914 (daughter of Thomas Evans and Sallie Bass) of the Native American Evans and Bass families. Interestingly, Mahalia Brandon’s husband Henry Parker was the bondsman for the marriage of Giles Brandon and Sallie Ann Evans, which is a strong indicator that Mahalia Brandon and Giles Brandon were siblings. Furthermore, Mahalia Brandon had a son named Giles Parker (b. 1835), likely named after her brother Giles Brandon. Giles Brandon eventually left Granville Co for Ohio where his descendants are found among the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
Several of Mahalia (Brandon) Parker’s children listed their grandfather as Burwell Brandon when they registered to vote in 1902 under the “grandfather clause” (h/t to researcher Warren Milteer). So from those voting records, we know Burwell Brandon had to be the father of Mahalia and Giles Brandon. But their mother could not have been Lucy Stow/Stoe (b. 1795) because she was too young to be the mother of Mahalia Brandon (b.1805). As I mentioned earlier, Burwell Brandon in the 1820 census was in a household by himself, so perhaps his first unknown wife had died and his children were bound out. So you can see, there are some unresolved questions with identifying the mother of Mahalia and Giles Brandon. I would urge any researchers and descendants of this family to be aware of these issues.
Betsy Brandon b. 1831
In this final section, I’m going to take some time to discuss Betsy Brandon’s children. Because she was not married, I have seen some confusion about who fathered her children.
Betsy is well documented as a daughter of Burwell and Lucy Brandon and appears in their household in the 1850 census. Betsy’s oldest children were fathered by Hilliard Evans b. 1815 (son of Thomas Evans and Sallie Bass) of the Native American Evans and Bass families that I previously blogged about. I have verified this a few ways. The marriage record for Betsy’s oldest son Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon to Parthenia Eaton, recorded on 23 Dec 1868 in Granville Co, lists his father as Hilliard Evans. Betsy’s oldest daughter was named Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon, obviously named after her father. The marriage records for Betsy’s next three children: Crutch Brandon, Pantheyer Brandon and Amanda Brandon do not list their father’s name. But given that they are quite close in age to Hayoshe and Hilliard Brandon, Hilliard Evans was most likely their father. It also worth mentioning that Hilliard Evans was the brother of Sallie Ann Evans who married Giles Brandon.
Hilliard Evans on 24 Jun 1855 married Louisa Mitchell in Wake Co and relocated to Ohio, so we know he likely did not father any additional children with Betsy Brandon after 1855.
I cannot find Betsy Brandon and her children in the 1860 census, which makes establishing their ages a bit difficult. She does appear again in the 1870 and 1880 censuses in Fishing Creek township in Granville Co with additional children. The next clue about who fathered Betsy Brandon’s next set of children comes from the death certificate of her son Peyton Brandon (1861-1925). His death certificate lists his father as William “Billie” Peace of Granville Co. Another clue comes from the death certificate for Betsy’s daughter Maranda Brandon (1868-1962), where her father is listed as “Billie Brandon”. There was no Billie Brandon but I believe this was also in reference to William “Billie” Peace.
So who was William “Billie” Peace? I found two William Peaces who were both the appropriate age to father children with Betsy Brandon, were never married and lived in close proximity to her. Both men were also white. One was William L Peace (son of Pleasant Peace and Peggy Reed) who looks to have been a prosperous slave owner. The other was William R Peace (son of John Peace and Frances Reed) who is consistently listed in the census as “deaf & dumb”, so I doubt that he is the correct one. William Peace being white is also likely why Betsy Brandon never was able to marry him. Additional research is needed to verify that I have identified the correct William Peace.
Here is the list of Betsy Brandon’s children who all lived in the Native community. Most intermarried with other Native American families:
Fathered by Hilliard Evans:
1. Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon b. 1847. Married to Samuel Harris
2. Hayoshe “Osh” Brandon 1848-1923. Married first to Parthenia Eaton and second to Sarah Williams.
3. Pantheyer Brandon 1851-1934. Married to Junius Thomas Howell
4. Crutch Brandon b. 1853. Married to Lucy Ann Parker.
5. Amanda Brandon 1854-1922. Married to Henry Howell.
Fathered by William “Billie” Peace:
6. Admond Brandon 1858-1948. Married to Delia Braswell
7. Peyton Brandon 1861-1925. Married to Beatrice (maiden name not known).
8. William Brandon 1864-1932. Married first to Florence Braswell and second to Etta Jones.
9. Walter Brandon 1865-1939. Never married.
10. Maranda Brandon 1868-1962. Married to Matthew Parker.
11. Delia Brandon 1869-1958. Married to Ben Howell.
This is a special blog post for me because Freeman Howell (1777-1870) was my 4th great-grandfather. He was also the progenitor of all of the Native American/”free colored” Howells living in Granville, Orange, Person, and Alamance Cos so it is important to correctly identify all of his descendants. Freeman Howell’s descendants married into most of the Native families in and around Granville, including: Pettiford, Anderson, Evans, Curtis, Brandon, Cousins, Tyler, Day, Richardson, Goins, Bass, Chavis, Guy, Hedgepeth and more. Thus if you are also researching these families, you’ll want to keep reading.
What has recently aided me in documenting Freeman’s descendants are the new wills and probate records that are available on Ancestry.com. These records have helped me verify his family as well as add in new family members I was previously unaware of.
Freeman’s father Matthew Howell died in 1793, and as a result Freeman and his siblings were bound out as apprentices in the Charlotte County courts on June 3, 1793 to William Flood (1752-1806):
On 3 June 1793 the Charlotte County court bound her (Peggy Howell) “Mulatto” children Freeman, John and Peggy Howell to William Flood“
William Flood (1752-1806) was from the Native American/”free colored” Flood family and I suspect that he was Freeman Howell’s maternal uncle. Like the Howells, William Flood moved from Amelia Co, VA to Charlotte and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Also Freeman’s brother Matthew B Howell (b. 1784) married for a second time William Flood’s daughter Mary “Polly” Flood b. 1796 which would have been a first cousin marriage – a somewhat common occurrence in the community during this time period. So this would mean that Freeman’s mother Peggy Howell was originally Peggy Flood. If I find more evidence to support this theory, I’ll be sure to update this blog post.
Freeman Howell’s niece Betsy Howell (1814-1912) relocated her family to Gallia Co, Ohio where their descendants are “core” families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation. Betsy’s son Wesley Howell (b. 1843) was a know medicine man:
Over the next few years, Freeman Howell appears in the tax lists for Charlotte County. He then appears in the tax lists for neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA. It is there that he likely marries his wife Susan (Maiden name unknown) 1777-1870. Regrettably, I have not been able to locate their marriage record so I cannot say for certain what year they married or have confirmation of Susan’s maiden name. I have speculated in the past that Susan may have been the Susan Brandon who was the daughter of Thomas Brandon (1746-1834) and Margaret Evans/Walden (b. 1753, she used both surnames) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Freeman Howell appears on the same tax lists as his potential father-in-law Thomas Brandon in Mecklenburg Co. He is counted in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA, head of a household of 8 “free colored persons”. However, I am still looking for more solid documentation on Susan, so these connections aren’t solid yet.
In the 1820s, a number of Saponi families including the Howells, Brandons/Branhams, Guys, Cousins and Chavises living in Mecklenburg Co, VA moved just a couple of miles across the border to Granville Co, NC. There may have been a particular historical event that precipitated this move because I don’t think it was a coincidence that all these families moved into Granville’s Native community in the 1820s. The first records for Freeman Howell in Granville County are in 17 Jan 1824 and 2 Feb 1824, when he received $150 and a land deed from Robert Cousins (b. 1796). Robert Cousins was the brother of Freeman’s son-in-law Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson Cousins was married to Freeman’s daughter Julia Howell (1797-1870).
Freeman Howell’s household, which included his wife Susan and children, appears in the Granville County census in 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860. By 1870, Freeman was deceased but he did not leave a will. And this is where the estate records help identify Freeman’s heirs, so let’s take a look.
Freeman Howell’s Estate Records
Lewisford A. Paschall (also known as Lunsford Paschall and L.A. Paschall), Granville County’s clerk was assigned as administrator of Freeman Howell’s estate on 19 Nov 1870. As administrator, he was responsible for selling Freeman’s assets which included 100 acres of land and any personal property. After paying off any outstanding debts, the remaining balance was to be divided among Freeman’s living heirs. On 2 Oct 1871, Freeman’s 100 acres of land was sold to his white neighbor John Greenway for $499 cash.
After paying off Freeman’s debts with the $499 received for the land sale, administrator L.A. Paschall had a remaining balance of $117.17 to be divided among Freeman’s heirs. A white woman named Milly Wilkerson(1810-1879) received a judgement of $210.82 against Freeman Howell’s estate which accounted for most of Freeman’s debt. I’m unsure of Milly’s exact relationship to Freeman, but in the 1850 census she was residing in his household. Milly Wilkerson was a single woman, but she had children with Native American/”free colored” men from the community. I know one man was Burton Cousins because he paid for her “bastard bond” in Feb 1835, but maybe she was also involved with a Howell. After all the debts were paid, an additional $25.60 was paid to county clerk Calvin Betts which brought down the remaining balance further.
Each of Freeman Howell’s children received $9.45. His son James Howell received $10.08 and I’m unsure why he received slightly more money. Because Freeman Howell lived to be almost 100 years old, he outlived many of his children. So the shares for his deceased children were divided among their living heirs. For example, Freeman Howell’s son John Howell was deceased but had 11 living children, so each child received 1/11 of $9.45 which equaled 85 cents.
Some of Freeman Howell’s children signed over their shares to pay off outstanding debts, and this included the estates of some of Freeman Howell’s deceased children. For example, Freeman’s daughter Elizabeth (Howell) Fain who was still living, signed over her $9.45 to A.H. Bumpass. And the estate for Freeman Howell’s deceased son William Howell signed over his share to James Amis.
What also further complicated the distribution of Freeman Howell’s estate was that many of his heirs had relocated to other counties and to the state of Ohio where many other Saponi descendants had resettled. Today they are the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation. As a result, administrator L.A. Paschall was required to publish in the newspaper the names of Freeman Howell’s heirs who had moved away to alert them of the land sale. For example:
In the account book for the Freeman Howell’s estate, we can see that his heirs who were still local received their cash share from the sale of his land. It also appears that those who had moved away and lost contact did not receive their shares. Here is the account for Freeman Howell’s estate:
Freeman Howell’s Descendants:
In the following sections, I will provide an overview of Freeman Howell’s descendants. This is a chart of Freeman Howell’s children, more detailed charts are included in the sections below.
1. Julia Howell (1797 – 1870)
Julia Howell was the wife of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA next to his father-in-law Freeman Howell. In 1830 and 1840, Nelson is counted in the Granville Co census. And by 1850, the family moved next door to Person Co, NC.
Starting in the 1860s, several of Julia Howell and Nelson Cousin’s children relocated to Ross Co, Ohio. And Julia Howell herself joined her children in Ohio because her death was recorded in Ross Co, OH on April 15, 1870.
Julia (Howell) Cousins’ children who relocated to Ohio were: John Cousins (1820-1891), Edmund Cousins (1824-1886), Robert Cousins (1830-1907), Elizabeth (Cousins) Day (b. 1832), Wiley Cousins (b. 1836) and William Cousins (b. 1838). The children who remained in North Carolina were: Frederick I Cousins (b. 1817), Emily (Cousins) Day (b. 1827), and Nelson Cousins Jr (b. 1844).
Because Julia predeceased her father, her share was divided among her heirs and her three children who remained in North Carolina each received a share of $1.33 of Freeman Howell’s estate. $9.45 divided by 7 shares, is $1.35. This indicates 7 living heirs of Julia (Howell) Cousins and according to my records, Elizabeth (Cousins) Day and William Day were deceased by 1870. And that would leave 7 living heirs.
Son Edmund Cousins (1824-1886) lived long enough to file a Civil War pension in 1881 and his widow Julia Cousins filed one in 1890. If you’re a descendant of his, you’ll want to order the file from the War Department.
And son John Cousins (1820-1891) also fought in the Civil War and filed a pension in 1879 and his widow Martha (Hansberry) Cousins filed in 1892.
2. Elizabeth Howell (1801- about 1874)
Elizabeth Howell was the wife of James Fain (b. 1789), a man who was born enslaved but became emancipated in 1822. There is likely no official record of their marriage because of James Fain’s enslaved status, but any children born to them would be free because Elizabeth Howell was a free-born woman. James Fain’s brother was Jacob Fain (1775-1837) and a transcription of his emancipation record in 1805 can be found here. Jacob Fain’s widow Sally Fain, named James Fain as her husband’s brother in her 1814 will that was proved in 1854. A transcription can be found here.
From the census records it appears Elizabeth (Howell) Fain and her husband James Fain resided in Jacob and Sally Fain’s household in 1820, 1830, and 1840. In the 1850 census, Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided next to their sister-in-law Sally Fain. By 1870, Elizabeth (Howell) Fain was widowed and residing in Person Co, NC. She died in 1879, when her estate was administered by A.H. Bumpass. This is the same man who Elizabeth signed over her $9.45 share from Freeman Howell’s estate to several years earlier. Elizabeth’s estate was divided among James H Cousins, Fanny (Cousins) Davis, William A Cousins, and Sally Ann Cousins.
Because Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided with their brother/sister-in-law Jacob and Sally Fain, I’ve had difficulties differentiating their children. There’s a strong possibility that James Fain and Elizabeth Howell’s son was William Fain (b. 1824) who married Arabella Wilkerson (b. 1832) on 8 Nov 1848 in Granville Co. Freeman Howell’s son Alexander Howell 1811-1881) paid the bond. Arabella Wilkerson was a daughter of the previously mentioned Milly Wilkerson, a white woman who lived with Freeman Howell.
3. William Howell (1804- before 1860)
William Howell married Margaret Pettiford (b. 1805) on 22 Mar 1828 in Granville Co, NC. Burton Cousins was the bondsman. William Howell appears in the 1830 and 1840 censuses for Granville Co. In 1850 his household was in Caswell Co, NC. With Magaret Pettiford, William Howell had three children: Freeman Howell b. 1830, John Howell b. 1834, and Margaret Howell b. 1838. His wife Margaret died sometime before 1858 because on 30 Dec 1858, William Howell remarried Parthena Cousins b. 1833 in Person Co. With Parthena Cousins, William Howell had one additional son: Asa Howell (1860-1929).
William Howell died around 1860, so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. William Howell’s estate received the $9.45 share and signed it over to James Amis:
William Howell’s son Freeman Howell (b. 1830) lived in Hillsboro, Orange Co and Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the present day Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation tribal members. He was married to Eliza Simmons (b. 1820) who was originally from Fayetteville, Cumberland Co and had been previously married to Henry Goins. After Goins death, Eliza and her three daughters relocated to Alamance Co and she married Freeman Howell.
William Howell’s son John Howell (b. 1834) also lived in Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. John Howell does not appear to have ever married or had children. He last appears in the census in 1900.
And William Howell’s youngest son Asa Howell (1860-1929) lived most of his life in Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. He was married three times: Dora Norwood (b. 1860), Virginia Crews (b. 1875) , and Nancy Howell (1871-1949).
4. Edward Howell (1805-1874)
Edward Howell was not married and did not have any children. He appears in the 1850 and 1870 censuses for Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co, NC which is where the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation is located. He received his $9.45 share of his father Freeman Howell’s estate. Edward died in 1874 and because he did not have any children, his estate was divided among his siblings and their living heirs. The administrator of Edward Howell’s estate published a notice in the newspaper regarding the estate.
5. John Howell (1805-1867)
John Howell married Jane Harris (1817-before 1900) on 5 Aug 1836 in Granville Co. He then appears in the census for Granville Co in 1840, 1850, and 1860. John died around 1867 and so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. Jane (Harris) Howell continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and assisted in raising her grandchildren.
John Howell and Jane Harris had 11 children: Julia Howell (b. 1838), James E Howell (1840-1912), Indiana Howell (b. 1842), Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914), Harvey Howell (b. 1846), Christopher C Howell (1848-1920), Sally Howell (1850-1923), Missouri Howell (1851-1918), Joanna Howell (b. 1852), Ida Howell (1855-1928), and Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858). Each of John Howell’s 11 living heirs received a share of the $9.45 payment which came to 85 cents but not all came to collect their shares.
Julia Howell (b. 1838) was married to Henry Chavis (1815-1882) and continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. James E Howell (1840-1912) was my 2nd great-grandfather and he was married first to Betsy Ann Tyler (1851-1869) on 6 Apr 1867 but she died soon after. He next married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson (1850-before 1880) on 11 Nov 1869 in Warren Co and they had three children: Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942), Francis Ellen Howell (1872-1923), and Lucy J Howell (1873-1952). Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson Howell died and James E Howell remained a widow until he remarried Mary McGlemdon on 9 Aug 1887 in Granville Co and had one additional son William Isaac Howell (b. 1891). James E Howell spent his entire life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and was once nominated as county coroner on the Radical Republican ticket.
Indiana Howell (b. 1842) was married to William Kersey(b. 1939) and lived in Townesville on the current Vance/Granville Co border. All of their children relocated to Brockton, MA by 1900. Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914) was first married to Aaron Curtis (1842-1883) and had a son named Harvey Curtis (b. 1885) who moved to New Haven, CT. She became widowed and second married John Green (1850-1915).
Harvey Howell (b. 1846) moved up to Danville, VA and married a woman named Sallie Burnett (b. 1848). Christopher C Howell (1848-1920) married Harriet Goins (b. 1850) and lived his whole life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. He owned an insurance company named Masonic Insurance and most of his children relocated to Brockton, MA and New Haven, CT.
Sally Howell (1850-1923) was first married to Lunsford Williford (b. 1847) and second married James Berry Cousins (1854-1926). She lived in Granville Co her entire life. Missouri Howell (1851-1918) was not married but had two daughters Plummer Howell (1880-1930) and Mittie Howell (b. 1888) born out of wedlock.
Joanna Howell (b. 1852) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m not sure what happened to her after that and if she married and had children. Ida Howell (1855-1928) married James Mayo (1847-1910) on 22 Dec 1874 and continued to live in Granville Co. Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m certain if she married and had children.
6. Matthew Howell (1806 – before 1860)
Matthew Howell married Mary Pettiford (b. 1807) on 29 Mar 1831. He appears in the 1850 census for Alamance Co with his wife and children. Matthew died before the 1860 census, and his children are found spread among Orange Co, NC, Guilford Co, NC, Danville, VA, And it appears they became disconnected with the rest of the Howell family because although Freeman Howell’s estate published their names in the newspaper, none of Matthew Howell’s children came back to collect on their share of the estate.
7. James Howell (1810 – before 1870)
James Howell married Ann Troler b. 1810 (also spelled Toler) on 14 Aug 1834 in Granville Co. He was counted in the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Granville Co and died sometime before 1870 so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. As a result, James Howell’s estate was granted his share of Freeman Howell’s estate which was $10.08, slightly higher than the $9.45 that the rest of Freeman’s children received.
James Howell and Ann Troler’s children were: Minerva Howell (b. 1836), Louisa Howell (b. 1845), Margaret Howell (1849-1915), William Howell (1852-1926), Mary Eliza Howell (1856-1926), and Juda Howell (b. 1858) who continued to live around the Sassafras Fork/Oak Hill area of Granville Co.
8. Alexander “Doc” Howell (1811-1881)
Alexander Howell married Betsy Ann Anderson (b. 1825) on 4 Jul 1839 in Granville Co. Alexander was a preacher and resided in Fishing Creek, Granville Co for his entire life. He was still living when his father Freeman Howell passed away, so Alexander received his $9.45 share of the estate. He had a large family that included 10 children and his family often appears living adjacent to the family of his brother John Howell (and wife Jane Harris).
Daughter Polly Ann Howell (b. 1840) was not married but had a son named Ben Howell (1867-1949). Son Elijah Howell (b. 1841) was first married to Harriet Evans (b 1847) and second to Eveline Watkins (b. 1854). Daughter Frances Howell (b. 1842) was married to Civil War veteran of the 54th Regiment Varnell Mayo (1837-1900) whom I previously blogged about here.
Son Freeman Howell (b. 1844) was also a preacher and was married first to Nancy Ash (b. 1849) and second to Mary Cowell (b. 1866). Son James A Howell (1846-1934) was first married to Emily Evans (b. 1853), second married to Mary Eaton (1865-1887), and third married to Sally Pettiford (1856-1934). Son Junius Thomas Howell (b. 1848) was married to Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934).
Daughter Mickins Howell (b. 1850) does not appear in the records again as an adult. Daughter Judith Howell (1852-1924) was married first to Nehemiah Mayo (b. 1850) and second married to John Hedgepeth (b. 1860).
Son Henry Howell (1857-1916) was married to Amanda Brandon (1858-1922) and lived in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and Kittrell, Vance Co. And daughter Adeline Jane Howell (b. 1858) was married to Dennis Stanley Hedgepeth (b. 1852).
Alexander Howell died on June 15, 1881 and his obituary appeared in the newspaper:
9. Mary Ann Howell (b. 1815)
Mary Ann Howell married Owen Hart (1810-1881) on 18 Sep 1832 in Granville Co. By 1850, the family was residing in Person Co, NC and by 1860, the family relocated to Pike Co, Ohio. Their children were: Susan Hart (b. 1845), Nancy Hart (1845-1869), Abigail Hart (1849- before 1880), Lorenzo Hart (1857-1870), and Robert Owen Hart (b. 1862).
Mary Ann (Howell) Hart was still living when her father Freeman Howell died but she had relocated to Ohio, so her name was published in the paper to alert her of the land sale. It does not appear Mary Ann received her $9.45 share of the estate likely because she had moved away.
10. Additional Howell Descendants
There are a few Howells that I know directly descend from Freeman Howell (1777-1870) because they are named in the estate files, but I have some questions about exactly how they are related to Freeman Howell.
Allen Howell (1820-1850), married Malinda Parrish (b. 1827) on 12 Mar 1847 in Granville Co, NC, James Floyd bondsman. They had one daughter together – Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) but Allen Howell died the same year. Allen Howell’s sister Eliza Howell (b. 1825) married James Floyd on 6 Sep 1845 in Granville Co, NC. This is the same James Floyd who was the bondsman for his brother-in-law Allen Howell’s marriage. James Floyd and Eliza Howell had two children: William Floyd (b. 1847) and Willie Ann Floyd (b. 1849) but James Floyd died in 1850. You can find the widowed sister-in-laws Eliza (Howell) Floyd and Malinda (Parrish) Howell living together with their children in the 1850 census:
Malinda (Parrish) Howell remarried Dennis Anderson (b. 1813) on 18 Jun 1852 and had additional children with him. Dennis was a preacher and presided over many marriages for people in the community. I don’t know what happened to Eliza (Howell) Floyd. When Freeman Howell passed away, Allen Howell and Malinda Parrish’s daughter Elizabeth Howell (b.1850) received $1.58 for her share of the estate. And Eliza (Howell) Floyd’s daughter Willie Ann Floyd b. 1849 (she was called “Willie Ann Howell” in the estate records), received $1.05 for her share of Freeman Howell’s estate. So we know Allen Howell and Eliza Howell Floyd were related to Freeman, but I’m unsure if they were his children or grandchildren. I’m also unsure of how their shares of Freeman Howell’s estate were calculated.
There was a Margaret Owen who received a share of $3.15 of Freeman Howell’s estate. That is 1/3 of the $9.45 that was distributed to Freeman Howell’s children which suggests that this Margaret Owen was one of three siblings, who were grandchildren of Freeman Howell.
There was a Lucy Chavis who received a share of $1.58 of Freeman Howell’s estate. This is Lucy (Howell) Chavis b. 1843 who married Lawson Chavis (b. 1833) on 20 Nov 1865 in Person Co, NC. I’m not sure who Lucy Howell’s parents were because the first time I find her in the census she’s living in the household of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) and Julia Howell (1797-1870). So we know Lucy Howell is definitely a descendant of Freeman Howell. It’s also worth mentioning that both Lucy (Howell) Chavis and the previously discussed Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) received $1.58 each, suggesting a close (sibling?) relationship between the two.
And finally there is an Elizabeth Haithcock who received a share of 85 cents from Freeman Howell’s estate. Her husband William Haithcok signed the receipt for her and stated that his wife Elizabeth’s maiden name was Howell. I found a William Howell (a blacksmith) and Bettie Howell in the 1860 census in Granville Co and they seem to fit. But this same William Haithcock appears in the 1870 and 1880 census as a blacksmith with a wife name Isabella Haithcock. Also Elizabeth (Howell) Haithcock received 85 cents which is the same amount that the children of John Howell and Jane Harris received. However there is no record of John Howell and Jane Harris having a daughter named Elizabeth. So I’m also not sure what to make of this.
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.