I was recently contacted by historian Vikki Bynum (“The Free State of Jones” – author of the book which inspired the movie), who was working on updating her research on the “free people of color” from Granville County. Vikki became familiar with my own research through this blog: “Native American Roots” and I was so delighted to work with her on this. The narrative that she presents and how she was able to synthesize and summarize the lives of our ancestors is quite impressive.
I am so proud to descend from such remarkable people and honored that my blog has become a source for others to learn more about our ancestors.
This blog would not be possible without the many people who have shared photos, family stories, and other key family information. Collaboration is vital in telling the full stories of our ancestor’s lives. A heartfelt thank you to all who have contributed!
The Grandfather Clause was an important component of the 1900 constitutional amendment restricting North Carolina’s class of eligible voters. The disfranchisement amendment provided that voters must be able to read and write a section of the state constitution in the English language and to pay a poll tax. Far from attempting to encourage literacy, however, the primary goal of the amendment, as admitted in the Democratic Party’s pro-amendment campaign in 1900, was to eliminate African American voters as a factor in North Carolina politics. The large number of poor illiterate black males, as well as the bias of white Democratic registrars, ensured that the literacy test and the poll tax would be used to reduce the electorate.
The drafters of the amendment were aware of the politically unacceptable fact that illiterate whites could also be excluded by the literacy test. The answer to this problem was the grandfather clause, which stated that no one should be denied the right to register and vote because of the literacy requirement if he or a lineal ancestor could vote under the law of his state of residence on 1 Jan. 1867, provided that he registered before 1 Dec. 1908. The 1867 date was important because it preceded any federal prohibition of racial discrimination; therefore very few blacks were eligible to vote. In practical terms, it meant that illiterate whites were absolved of the embarrassment of a literacy requirement and blacks were not, thus enhancing the discretionary power of Democratic registrars.
“Free people of color” in North Carolina had the right to vote and hold office until 1835, when North Carolina adopted a new constitution that disenfranchised ALL free people of color. With the new state constitution enacted in 1900, North Carolina adopted a policy of “poll taxes” which essentially made it impossible for people of color to vote. As you read in the above summary, these poll taxes also made it difficult for “poor whites” to vote because many were illiterate and could not afford to pay the poll tax.
As a result, North Carolina adopted a “grandfather clause” starting in 1900 which allowed for men to list themselves or a direct lineal male ancestor who could vote on January 1, 1867 (or earlier). By identifying themselves or an earlier direct ancestor as an eligible voter in 1867, these individuals were exempt from the poll tax.
Free people of color and those descended from free people of color took advantage of this grandfather clause in order to circumvent these literacy tests that were required to become an eligible voter. African Americans descended from slaves however were unable to take advantage of this grandfather clause because their ancestors for the most part were not eligible voters on January 1, 1867 (or earlier). However, free people of color had ancestors who were eligible voters in earlier times, so this grandfather clause provided a way to become registered to vote.
In 1902, 1904, 1906, and 1908, residents of Granville County who were eligible for the “grandfather clause” registered to vote. These lists are available to researchers for every county in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. A fellow researcher and friend, Dr. Warren Milteer, provided me with un-transcribed copies of the Granville County list. A huge thanks to Dr. Milteer for sharing this incredibly valuable information. Not only do these lists provide the names of all who applied for the “grandfather clause”, they are also helpful genealogical documents since individuals named earlier direct ancestors. The voter lists are a great way to verify suspected earlier ancestors of the person you’re researching. And if you hit a genealogical road block, these lists may help you push through to identify an earlier ancestor.
WORD OF CAUTION: Just like all historical documents, you may find both intentional and unintentional errors in these documents. So they should be seen as just one of many clues to help you identify earlier ancestors. I have noticed a couple of errors in the lists for Granville County. For example, Hawkins Kersey (also known as Hawkins Tyler) listed his adopted father Baldy Kersey as a direct ancestor. Baldy Kersey was most definitely known as Hawkins’ “father”, but was not his biological father. Another example is found with Sandy Guy. On every census, marriage, and death record, Sandy is consistently identified as “Sandy Guy”. However on his voter registration, he listed himself as “Sandy Chavis”. I have no idea why he used a different surname for his voting application but I can assure you that Sandy Chavis = Sandy Guy.
Below is a table chart which lists all free people of color (and those descended from people of color) in Granville County who registered to vote using the “grandfather clause”. I only transcribed the records for free people of color, so this list does not reflect all people who applied using the “grandfather clause”. The first column is the name of the applicant, the second column is their listed age, the third column is the ancestor they claimed descent from, and the fourth column is the township they resided in. I added an additional column where I provided my own research notes to help you identify exactly who these individuals are. As you will see there are a couple of individuals who I’m still working on researching. I will update this list if I come across additional information. Also please note that this list is only for Granville County. Many people within the Granville County Native American community lived in Kittrell and Henderson townships and those townships became apart of Vance County in 1881. Therefore residents of those townships will be found in the Vance County list. What you will notice is a heavy concentration of individuals living in Fishing Creek township which is where most of the community resided.
After the list, you will see a few photos I added of the people who applied to register to vote under the “grandfather clause”. On a personal note, I was very delighted to see my great-great grandfather James E Howell registered to vote. I hope this information is valuable to your research.
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.
The Native American Parker family of Granville County are a large and integral part of the community. Most of the local families intermarried with the Parkers, so they’re an important family to identify and document. The Parker family of the state recognized Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation of neighboring Orange/Alamance Counties, are from this same Parker family and will be included in this blog post. So let’s continue!
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) – Earliest Identified Parker:
Identifying the earliest known ancestor of the Granville Parker family is not an easy task because the Parkers don’t appear in the Granville records until the 1820s/1830s as “free people of color”. Clearly they did not appear out of nowhere and had to have been living elsewhere before the 1820s. And we need to go to neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA to find the earliest known “free colored” Parker in the immediate area
Stephen Parker (b. 1778) first appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA. Sadly the 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses for Mecklenburg Co did not survive to the present, so we don’t know much about Stephen Parker’s early life. In the 1820 census he is the head of a household of 8 “free people of color”. He is recorded again in the 1830 census for Mecklenburg Co but his household numbers were not properly recorded so I don’t know how large his household was. I have not located Stephen Parker in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.
In the 1860 census, Stephen Parker is still in Mecklenburg Co and is listed as 82 years old. Living in his household are 3 Parker women who are probably his daughters. Another important clue that lets us know we have identified a probable early ancestor of the Granville Parker family is that Stephen Parker was surrounded by the “free colored”/Native American Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor and Mayo families that are from the same families found in Granville Co.
The Parker, Howell, Harris, Stewart, Cousins, Proctor, Mayo and additional “free colored” people who were clustered together in this 1860 census next to Stephen Parker, were all living/working on the grounds of the Moss Tobacco Factory. The company was created by Robert H. Moss along with brother Reuben Moss and George B. Hammett. The factory was built in 1855 during a time when Clarksville, Mecklenburg Co was the tobacco producing capital of the United States. In fact according to an 1859 report, the Moss Tobacco Factory was the largest tobacco producing plant in the United States. The Moss family “employed” 160 people. Some of these workers were “free colored” families including the Parkers. But the Moss family also “rented” slaves from nearby plantations, so they also used slave labor to produce their tobacco. In that 1860 census, we see the “free colored”/Native American people who worked at the factory are listed with occupation titles such as “stemmer” and “twister”. Despite its early success, the tobacco factory closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1979, the building that once housed the Moss Tobacco Factory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but was delisted in 2001.
I have not found any marriage records for Stephen Parker so I don’t know who the mother of his children was and it’s quite plausible he was married more than once. However from the 1820 census household numbers it is clear his large household included a wife, and 5 girls and 1 boy born on or before 1820.
So with this in mind, let’s move onto Granville County.
Parkers in Granville County:
So we can deduce from the 1820 census that Stephen Parker had at least 6 children born on of before 1820. From later census records, it appears some of Stephen Parker’s children remained in Mecklenburg Co but others moved to neighboring Granville Co by the 1820s. Here is a list of Stephen Parker’s possible children who appear in the Granville records:
Elizabeth Parker (b. 1807) married Allen Cousins Sep 7, 1825 Granville Co
Polly Parker (1808-1846) married Thomas Pettiford Jan 17, 1829 Granville Co
Henry Parker (b. 1810) married Mahaly Brandon, marriage record not found
Susan Parker (b. 1816) married John Quinchett Dec 26, 1836 Granville Co. Susan Parker’s brother in law Allen Cousins was the bondsman.
Elizabeth Parker and her husband Allen Cousins appear in the Granville Co census in 1830 and 1840. In 1850, they were in neighboring Person Co, and by 1860, they relocated their family to Ross Co, Ohio. Their descendants are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
Siblings Henry Parker and Polly Parker remained in North Carolina, as did their Parker descendants, so let’s focus on their families.
Henry Parker (b. 1810) of Granville Co:
Henry Parker appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 censuses for Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. We know that his wife Mahaly’s maiden name was Brandon through the death record of their son Junius Parker (1856-1929). Mahaly Brandon (b. 1805) was from the Native American/”free colored” Brandon/Branham family that has Saponi/Monacan tribal origins and I wrote a little piece on them here. Mahaly’s father was Burwell/Burrell Brandon (b. 1785) who had moved his family from Virginia to Granville Co in the 1820s, which is the same time the Parkers first appear in the Granville records. Also it appears Mahaly named her son Burwell Parker (b. 1840), after her father Burwell Brandon.
Though Henry Parker’s birthplace is listed as North Carolina on the census records, the death certificate of his son Junius Parker (1856-1929) confirms that Henry Parker was born in Virginia. Henry and Mahaly lived in the middle of Granville’s Native American community and their many children also intermarried with the community. Their children were:
Eleanor Parker (b. 1830)
Giles Parker (b. 1835) married Betsy Pettiford, March 8, 1862 Granville Co
Alfred Parker (b. 1836) married Melvina Evans, Nov 20, 1854 Granville Co.
Susan Parker (b. 1838) married John Mitchell, Apr 13, 157 Granville Co.
Burwell Parker (b. 1840)
William Parker (1852-1915) married Emma Pettiford, Aug 29, 1863 Granville Co
Mary Parker (b. 1844) married Arthur Vaughan, Oct 12, 1868 Granville Co
Bunion Parker (b. 1845) married Mary Ann Brandon, Jun 16, 1863 Granville Co
Lucy Ann Parker (b. 1845) married Crutch Brandon, Feb 19, 1877 Granville Co
Stella Parker (1846-1929) married Larkin Smith, Mar 5, 1865 Granville Co
Junius Parker (1856-1938) married Francis Evans, Oct 9 1877 Granville Co
As you can see, Henry Parker and Mahaly Brandon had a lot of children, most of whom remained an integral part of the Native community in Granville.
A well known Granville Co ancestor of many Saponi people who relocated to Ohio, was a man named John Anderson (1832-1916) who I previously blogged about in my Anderson entry. John Anderson’s first wife was Margaret Parker (married Oct 27, 1852) and Margaret Parker was the biological mother to children Margaret Anderson b. 1853, Frances Anderson b. 1855, and Benjamin Anderson b. 1856. Margaret Parker died when the children were just a few years old, and John Anderson remarried Mary Mayo on May 14, 1857 and had additional children with her. I mention this because many descendants of John Anderson are unaware that Margaret Parker was the mother of John Anderson’s oldest children, so these family trees should be updated with this correct info. I don’t yet know who Margaret Parker’s parents were but I have no doubt she is from this Parker family.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) – Progenitor of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Parker Family:
Finally, we turn to Henry Parker’s sister Polly Parker (b. 1808). The Parker family is also a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in neighboring Orange/Alamance Cos, NC. Polly Parker was the mother of Samuel Parker (1825-1908), who was an important person early on in the Occaneechi-Saponi tribal community. Because Samuel Parker’s parentage has not been fully documented, I’m going to use this section to carefully show how I connected Samuel Parker to Polly Parker.
In the article “Occaneechi-Saponi Descendants in North Carolina: The Texas Community” (1991), Forest Hazel, tribal historian for the Occaneechi-Saponi tribe, briefly discusses the Parker family. Hazel writes:
However, it is known from oral tradition that an Indian named Sam Parker moved to the Texas community from the Vance-Granville county area prior to the Civil War.
So it is known within the Occaneechi-Saponi community (also referred to as the “Texas community”) that Samuel Parker was an Indian who came from Granville Co, thus situating him within the Parker family of Granville Co discussed above. I cannot stress enough the value of our oral histories to help make sense of what is in recorded history.
Polly Parker (b. 1808) of Granville Co had her son Samuel Parker out of wedlock and I have no leads on who fathered her son. Samuel was born in 1825, so Polly became a young, unwed mother. But this changed a few years later when Polly Parker married Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805) on January 17, 1829 in Granville Co. Thomas Pettiford therefore became Samuel Parker’s step-father.
I have not located the family in the 1830 census, but in 1840 we find the family in the Orange Co census. Their household had 3 members – one adult male aged 24-35 (Thomas Pettiford), one adult female aged 24-35 (Polly Parker) and one young male aged 10-23 (Samuel Parker).
Though no death records exist for this time period, we know that Polly Parker died sometime before 1846, because on September 4, 1846 in Orange Co, Thomas Pettiford remarried Jane Roland. In addition, on April 10, 1846 in Orange Co Samuel Parker married Lucy Chavis.
So the next time we find Thomas Pettiford and his new wife Jane Roland, and Samuel Parker and his new wife Lucy Chavis is in the 1850 census in Alamance Co. In 1849, a section of Orange Co became newly formed Alamance Co and that is where the family was located. And indeed we can see in the 1850 census, Thomas Pettiford is listed with a wife named Jane, and young children.
However, in the 1850 census, there is no one named “Samuel Parker” in Alamance or neighboring counties. BUT – there is a “Samuel Pettiford” listed two households above Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805). This Samuel Pettiford has a wife named Lucy and two young children named John and Francis. This is our Samuel Parker, but why is he listed with the Pettiford surname? As you will recall, Polly Parker had Samuel Parker out of wedlock but a couple of years later married Thomas Pettiford. It was not uncommon for children to sometimes be enumerated with the surname of their step parent, and for the 1850 census record, Samuel Parker was enumerated with the Pettiford surname. It could be the enumerator knew or was told that Samuel Parker was a “son” of Thomas Pettiford and assumed they shared the same surname. We may not know the exact reason why, but clearly this is our Samuel Parker.
The 1860 census in Alamance Co is almost just as confusing because in that census, Samuel Parker’s surname was mistranscribed as “Parks”. However you can see this Samuel has a wife named Lucy. The enumerator only used initials for the first names of Samuel and Lucy’s children. However you can see the oldest son is listed as “J H Parks” age 13 years. That is Samuel and Lucy’s son John who was enumerated in the 1850 census. On this same census page is Samuel Parker’s step-father Thomas Pettiford (b. 1805), which provides additional corroboration that this is the correct Samuel Parker. So if you have been researching Samuel Parker and were having trouble locating his family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, now you know why.
We next find Samuel Parker in the 1870 census in Alamance Co, and he is finally enumerated with the correct spelling of his name (yay!). And you can see the names and ages of his children, match up with the children in the 1860 census, further verifying that “Samuel Parks” in the 1860 census is our Samuel Parker.
Samuel Parker and Lucy Chavis’ children and later descendants continued to intermarry with other Occaneechi-Saponi families of Orange/Alamance Cos including Jeffries, Haithcock, Guy, Burnett, and Day.
In 1902, Samuel Parker registered to vote in Alamance Co and in order to register, Samuel identified a “Jack Parker” of Virginia as an ancestor who was legally able to vote in 1865. I along with other researchers including Forest Hazel have not been able to identify this “Jack Parker” that Samuel Parker references as an ancestor. Samuel Parker may have been referring to his possible grandfather Stephen Parker (b. 1778) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Whoever this Jack Parker was in reference to, we can certainly glean from that voting registration, the Samuel Parker was aware of the Virginia roots of the Parker family.
Occaneechi/Saponi Tribal Origins of the Parker Family:
I have not found a record that directly ties the Parker family to the Occaneechi or Saponi during the colonial period, but there are some circumstances to consider. The earliest “free colored” Parkers are found in Mecklenburg Co living among other families that in other blog posts (and more to come), that I have connected to the Saponi people. Mecklenburg Co is next to Fort Christanna, site of the former Saponi reservation, and we know that the Saponi continued living in and around the fort many decades following its closure in 1718.
And specifically, Mecklenburg Co is the site of “Occaneechi Island”, a historically significant site of the Occaneechi/Saponi people. During a colonial armed rebellion in 1676 known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”, some of the British colonists took up arms against the colonial government and also attacked friendly “tributary” tribes of the colony including the Occaneechi. To escape this armed conflict, the Occaneechi fled to the site of Occaneechi Island which is a large island located in the middle of the Roanoke River in Mecklenburg Co which during this time was outside of the core of the Virginia colony.
Additionally, Forest Hazel (via personal communication and here), identified a Thomas Parker who purchased land in Tabbs Creek in Granville County in 1752. This land purchase placed Thomas Parker next to community founder William Chavis and perhaps there was a connection between the two men. It’s quite possible the Parker family was moving back and forth from Mecklenburg Co, VA to Granville Co, NC since the 1700s. Certainly more research is needed to further explore the tribal origins of the Parker family and I hope this blog post will push that research forward.
Given the frequency of racial mislabeling of Granville County’s Native Americans, how exactly can we be sure we’re correctly identifying “Indian” people? This is a fair and common question. Identifying Native Americans in the colonial and historical records throughout the Southeast is very challenging because Native Americans were seldomly identified individually by name and all free non-whites fell under the politically created term “free colored”. In addition, any real or perceived African racial “admixture” usually meant Native Americans with any African ancestry, were often not enumerated in official government documents as “Indian”. In spite of these challenges, there are still ways to correctly identify Native American communities.
This is why the writing of local Granville County historian Oscar W. Blacknall (1852-1918) is crucial in understanding the identify and social life of Granville County’s Native American community. As a white man, he provides an outsider perspective of the community but because of his family’s deep colonial roots in the area, he was intimately familiar with the community’s families. And one very important and consistent description in Blacknall’s writing about the “free colored” community is that although he includes the term “free negro” to describe the people, he is absolutely certain of their “Indian” racial identity.
Background Information on Oscar W. Blacknall aka David Dodge
Before we explore his writings, here is some background info on Oscar W. Blacknall (1852-1918). He was the son of fallen Confederate soldier Col. Charles C. Blacknall and Virginia Baskerville Spencer. His paternal great-grandmother was Mary “Polly” Kittrell, whose Kittrell family is the namesake for the town of Kittrell where her family has pre Revolutionary War roots. Blacknall wrote in many newspapers and magazines, sometimes under the pseudonym “David Dodge”. His life ended in a murder-suicide tragedy in 1918 when he killed his wife, his daughter, and then killed himself. This was after the devastating deaths of several of his children.
“The Free Negroes of North Carolina” from January 1886, The Atlantic Monthly
The first Blacknall writing that we will discuss is titled, “The Free Negroes of North Carolina” in the January 1886 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Blacknall wrote this article under his pseudonym “David Dodge”. It is a long article and I will not be reposting the entire text, but you can access the full text here. Instead I will repost important excerpts, starting with this one:
The other factor in their decadence — or perhaps more correctly, another cause of their torpor and inelasticity —is the considerable infusion of Indian blood generally diffused by exclusive intermarriage in their own class, and which has unduly asserted itself owing to their irregular mode of life for many generations. From the nature of the case, the extent of this infusion is of course hard to approximate. If the account of the free negro himself is to be received, it is large, though his anxiety to disown all negro affinity causes one to receive his statement with caution and allowance. But, tradition aside, many, if not the larger part, of the free negroes whose freedom dates back further than this century show traits of mind and body that are unmistakably Indian. In many instances, long, coarse, straight black hair and high cheek-bones are joined with complexions whose duskiness disclaims white blood and with features clearly un-African. True, these extreme types are the exception; but the majority shade up to it more or less closely. These traits are more noticeable among women, forming no exception to the usual accentuation of racial characteristics in the female. The mental qualities of unrecuperativeness and transcendent indolence of a drowsy, listless type, coupled with lurking vindictiveness, all point the same way.
This excerpt shows that Blacknall is unequivocal in his statement that the “free negroes” of the area he lived in are Native Americans. He even describes how the people strongly self-identify as “Indian”, perhaps at times over-stating their Indian identity. Blacknall believes the people to be not only Indian in their appearance but also in their personality and lifestyle. He uses the common racial tropes of “high cheekbones” and “straight hair” to describe the women as “Indian”. And Blacknall also points out what he perceives to be the community’s anti-modern, backwards, suspicious, and lazy demeanor as characteristically “Indian”. Something that he eludes to but discusses in more detail in the subsequent excerpt, is the extremely endogamous marriage patterns of the community – i.e., people almost exclusively marry their own kin.
My neighborhood contains an “Ol’ Isshy” town, a petrified remnant of the past, hardly an exaggeration of the general type, in which the above race marks are to be seen in their full development. It stands about five miles from the railroad station, and consists of some half a dozen families, scantily provided with fathers, crowded into as many little huts scattered here and there on a “slipe” of very poor, rocky ridge. Here they have vegetated for several generations since their ancestors immigrated from Virginia, early in the century. They are intensely clannish and loyal to each other, timid and suspicious of the outside world, of which they are incredibly ignorant. Many of the women have grown old without ever seeing the cars or having been in a town, although almost within sight of both.They still cherish boundless respect for the class that are to them, and to them alone, “rich folks,” coupled with an abiding dislike of the “New Isshy,” especially if he is black. A marriage, even a liaison, with one would be instantly fatal to the reputation of any female among them, though, excepting the African, the children of many, in point of variety of color at least, might serve to illustrate the five races of mankind.After their own immediate class, they associate almost wholly with the poorest whites, though not quite as equals.
We see Blacknall describe in more detail why members of the Native American community exclusively married their own kin because it was socially unacceptable for them to marry blacks or whites. He does concede that the community would sometimes intermarry with “poor whites” because both groups occupied similar social standing. Even though most members of the Native American community had varying amounts of both African and European ancestry, Blacknall shows that they still self-identified as “Indian” and were identified as “Indian” by their black and white neighbors.
The term “Old Isshy” referred to the “free-born” status of the Native American community, whereas “New Isshy” referred to the “freed slave” status of the black community. This distinction was apparently important for both communities to make which resulted in the use of this terminology. Blacknall also describes a particular cluster of families from the Native American community living a few miles from his home that I have pointed out on the map:
As you can see, 5 miles from the Kittrell train station is the precise location of the Native American community that is mostly centered around Fishing Creek and then expands in various directions including Kittrell, Oxford, and Brassfield. Native Americans families lived in tight clusters throughout the county, but the Fishing Creek area is the oldest area with the highest concentration of Native American families. The Native American families who most commonly lived in tight clusters in the Fishing Creek/Kittrell area that Blacknall described include: Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Mitchell, Parker, Howell, Boon, Scott, Brandon, Evans, Guy, Richardson, Taborn, Tyler, Hedgepeth, Jones and Hawley.
The “poor whites” that the Native American community intermarried with, were most often white women. Blacknall further explains here:
Indeed, of all the hundreds of free negroes that I have known from childhood, I cannot now recall a dozen black or very dark ones. Hardly a neighborhood was free from low white women who married or cohabited with free negroes. Well can I recollect the many times when, with the inconsiderate curiosity of a child, I hurriedly climbed the front gate-post to get a good look at a shriveled old white woman trudging down the lane, who, when young, I was told, had had her free-negro lover bled, and drank some of his blood, so that she might swear she had negro blood in her, and thus marry him without penalty. Since I became a man I have heard it corroborated by those who knew, and I still occasionally see the children of this tragic marriage, now grown old men.
From looking at census records and marriage records for members of the community, I as well noticed a pattern of poor white women who lived among and had children with men from the community. For example:
What I find also very informative about this article is that Blacknall discusses the changing attitudes that whites had towards the Native American community. Before and right after the Revolutionary War, whites looked at the community favorably. But due to increasing fears of slave revolts, whites began to distrust all “free people of color”:
The attitude of the races towards each other was widely different from what it afterwards became. But about 1830, a growing mistrust on the part of the whites manifested itself. Abolitionism, hitherto the hobby of visionaries and isolated philanthropists, had now grown to be the watchword of a militant, uncompromising party. Its subtle leaven permeated the whole country, encouraging the slave, exasperating the master.
Blacknall later references the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia, which prompted the North Carolina legislature to completely disenfranchise the rights of “free people of color” in 1835. This included taking away the right to vote and the right to own firearms. As a result, attitudes towards the Native American community greatly shifted during the decades leading up the Civil War and the community suffered for it. Blacknall echoes this sentiment:
There is still a tradition among them in Granville County that they lost the franchise on account of their persistent support of the notorious Potter. Potter, though a man of parts and a natural orator, was a consummate demagogue and a violent, unscrupulous man, whose new departure in iniquity evoked special legislation. Toward the last, the free negroes falling more and more into disrepute, their support carried such a stigma with it as to be an element of weakness rather than of strength to a candidate. More than one candidate of those days, twitted by his opponent on the stump about this element of his constituency, retorted by declaring his willingness to throw out every free-negro ballot, if his assailant would do likewise. After this period, the life of the free negro grew unspeakably harder. Not so much that the laws were harsher, but because the attitude of the whites became and continued more hostile.
And Blacknall continues:
It is not to be wondered that the free negroes, unelastic and prone to unthrift, underwent still further deterioration. Cowed, perplexed, and dispirited, they huddled together on any scant, sterile bit of land that they were fortunate enough to be possessed of, erected clusters of their frail little huts, and like oppressed, hopeless classes the world over sunk into profound listlessness and sloth. The women grew unchaste, the men dishonest, until in many minds the term “free negro” became a synonym for all that was worthless and despicable.
Oscar W. Blacknall’s Letters to the Editor in 1895
Though the 1886 Atlantic Monthly article is full of rich description, Oscar Blacknall failed to provide any specific names of people from the Native American community. In this published letter from 1895 he did provide names, but he mixed up their identities:
In this letter, Blacknall cites a man named “Chavers” who was a school teacher that taught white students. (“Chavers” is a common spelling variation of “Chavis”). He says this same man owned a huge tract of land along the Tar River and that there is still a bridge and road named after him. Though, Blacknall did not give the man’s first name, there is no doubt he is referring toJohn Chavis (1763-1838), a Revolutionary War soldier who famously became a Presbyterian preacher and taught white students. However John Chavis was not the owner of the large tract of land along the Tar River. That was William Chavis (1706-1778), founder of Granville County’s Native American community. And it is William Chavis, not John Chavis, who is the namesake for the road and bridge. It is not known if the two men were related. John Chavis (1763-1838) was born in Mecklenburg Co, VA and was the son of a Jacob Chavis and Elizabeth Evans. I authored a blogpost you can read here about this John Chavis to help clarify his identity in the historical archive. Blacknall mistakenly conflated the two men but a couple of weeks later, Blacknall corrects his mistake in another letter to the newspaper:
Immediately, Blacknall admits his mistake in conflating the two men and says that it is William Chavis (1706-1778) who was the large land owner. He refers to Chavis’ land as the “old Chavis tract” and describes it as beginning at Lynch Creek and going 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek. His land then extended continuously a full 5 miles inland from the banks of Tar River. I have outlined William Chavis’ land tract below:
51,200 acres is an enormous amount of land and is far beyond the Chavis land that was described in Wes White’s write-up for the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition. (The Lumbee Chavis family descends from William Chavis’ son Phillip Chavis). Blacknall believes that Chavis came to own such a large, continuous tract of land directly by way of John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville (1690-1763). As I discussed in an earlier blog post, the entire upper half of North Carolina was owned by John Cateret and was known as “Granville District”. The Blacknall Family property was originally part of the old Chavis land tract, so that is why Oscar Blacknall was intimately familiar with the history of who owned the land before his own family. This expansive tract of land that William Chavis owned, formed the land base for Granville County’s Native American community. So when I refer to the original land base for the community, you now know exactly what I’m referring to. Also note that this land was not “communally owned”, but rather privately owned by William Chavis and later divided into smaller plots privately owned by other community members. So it was not a bounded reservation, and increasingly over time as land was sold off, many unrelated families both white and black, came to reside in this location. (Note: William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson are my 7th great-grandparents).
In this article, Blacknall also discusses William Chavis’ son Gibson “Gibbs” Chavis (1737-1777) who he says is the namesake for Gibb’s Creek (part of the original Chavis land tract). Gibson Chavis was the owner of a racing horse named “Black Snake” who won Gibson a lot of money. However one night, Gibson Chavis was killed by a group of men he had won money off of from his racing horse. The fact that Gibson named his horse “Black Snake” is very culturally relevant. Black snakes are common in the area and traditional indigenous belief is that the snake holds a lot of power and medicine. The black snake is even featured on the Haliwa-Saponi tribal seal:
As the letter continues, Blacknall reiterates many of the points he raised in the 1886 Atlantic Monthly article. Here is an excerpt:
“Excepting Wake county, I found them far more numerous in Granville County as well as much more characteristic of the type…I found that many of the families denied that their ancestors had ever been slaves. This denial I naturally attributed to their pride or ignorance. But it turned out they were right. An investigation as far as practicable of their genealogy SHOWED THEM TO BE LARGELY OF INDIAN BLOOD……Their prejudices against the slaves were so strong that nearly all the affinity of the free negro was with the lowest class of whites. As this exclusiveness still prevails, many known as free negroes probably have not one drop of negro blood.”
In the article, he also discusses slave ownership among the “free negro” population. Blacknall found that some of the “free negroes” were themselves slave owners. This is true – for example William Chavis (1706-1778) the community’s founder, did own slaves. Though by the early 1800s, nearly all of the community members no longer owned slaves.
As the letter goes on, Blacknall again emphasized the division between the Native American community and the black freedmen community, saying that intermarriage and socialization between the two was so frowned upon that members of the Native American community likely had little to no African blood. It is difficult to discern how true this statement is because of the way all non-whites were classified using the same racial terms. So “degrees of Indian blood” for members of the community were not historically recorded. It is very much worth mentioning that it may have been true that intermarriage between members of the free-born Native American community and black freedmen was nearly non existent during Blacknall’s lifetime, but starting in the early-mid 20th century, the communities did begin to intermarry and socialize much more.
I’ve come to learn that much of Oscar Blacknall’s writing and research was destroyed in a house fire. This is truly unfortunate because as you can see, Blacknall’s insights offer a rare glimpse into a community that few of his contemporaries had any interest in. However, if you come across more of his writing that is relevant to the Native American community in Granville County, please leave a comment.
In this blog post I will chronicle the Native American/”free colored” Anderson family from their origins in Norfolk, VA to their relocation in Granville County. The origins of the Anderson family are interconnected to the Nansemond Indian Bass family. If you have not already, please read my blog entry on the Basses to familiarize yourself with that history.
Unlike the vast majority of the family lineages of Native Americans in Granville County whose ancestors were always free born, the Andersons were once enslaved. So before I delve into the Anderson family, I’ll need to first discuss their former slave owner – John Fulcher. Much of the source material for this blog entry comes from the excellent research provided by Fulcher descendant Ellen Fulcher Cloud on her website that can be found here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Andersons.
John Fulcher (1666-1712) was born to English colonist Captain Thomas Fulcher and Mary Sibsey (daughter of Captain John Sibsey) of Norfolk County, VA. By the 1660s, Thomas Fulcher owned land in Lower Norfolk County called “Manor Plantation” that he inherited from his father-in-law John Sibsey. Both the Fulcher and Sibsey families were prosperous and held high status. Captain John Sibsey was a member of the House of Burgesses and Captain Thomas Fulcher was a Sheriff. Upon Thomas’ death, his son John Fulcher inherited “Manor Plantation”. John was married to Ruth Woodhouse and had one son with her but by 1691, the couple was divorced. This can be seen in a 1691 court order in which John Fulcher was held to financially assist his ex-wife Ruth and their son. So when John Fulcher passed away in 1712, it was probably no surprise that he did not leave any of his property to his ex wife and son. However what he did in addition to not leaving his family any property, was unconventional for the time.
In his 1712 will, John Fulcher requested that all of his slaves be freed and he gave them property to live on, specifically 640 acres on Sewall’s Point in Norfolk County. Imagine what a stir this must have caused. Not only did Fulcher not leave anything to his own family, but he freed his slaves and instead gave them property. Most of Fulcher’s property including “Manor Plantation” went to his “godson” Lewis Conner who also served as executor of the estate.
The freeing of John Fulcher’s slaves caused so much of a stir that the General Assembly the following year recommended outlawing the manumission of slaves because they feared that freed slaves would help organize slave revolts – something the colonists were especially paranoid about. The names of the slaves freed in Fulcher’s will were: “Robert Richards, Maria Richards, Kate Anderson, Hester Anderson, Betty Anderson, Lewis Anderson, Sarah Anderson and children Peter Anderson, George Anderson, Dinah Anderson, Nedd Anderson, Rachell Anderson, Mingo Anderson, Tony Anderson, and Susan Anderson.”
As you can see the surname of the freed slaves was Anderson with two freed slaves having the Richards surname. They did not take the surname of their most immediate former slave owner John Fulcher, and not all the slaves had the same last name. I do not know how Fulcher’s freed slaves acquired these surnames.
Though the colonial government could not prevent the manumission of Fulcher’s slaves, estate executor Lewis Conner did just about everything in his power to remove the Anderson family to North Carolina. The Sewall’s Point land that the Andersons were granted was in the heart of the British colony and was likely highly desired by many individuals including Lewis Conner. In 1715, Conner swapped the Anderson family’s land in Norfolk County for 646 acres of land on Welsh’s Creek in Chowan County, NC (modern Martin and Washington Counties). The Andersons refused to take possession of this land in North Carolina and continued living in Norfolk County. One apparent freed slave of Fulcher’s named James (no last name given) sold his share of the Sewall’s Point land to Lewis Conner in 1715. None of the freed slaves named in Fulcher’s will had the first name James so I’m unsure exactly who this person was but he was certainly formerly enslaved by Fulcher.
Over the next several years, there were a number of lawsuits between Lewis Conner and the Anderson family regarding the land and Conner’s role as executor of the estate, but the Anderson family still continued living in Norfolk County. This is evident in a 1718 land deed which describes a path leading to Sowell’s (Sewall’s) Point where “free negroes” resided. And throughout the 1730s and into the 1750s, numerous members of the freed Anderson family and their descendants were counted in tax lists in Tanner’s Creek (located next to Sewall’s Point) in Norfolk County. For these Andersons that remained in Virginia, I have not traced their descendants to the present so I cannot say for certain what happened to them but they may still live in the area. However a couple of Andersons did move to North Carolina and these are the Andersons who intermarried with the Nansemond Indian Basses and became part of Granville County’s Native American community.
Back when John Fulcher was still living in 1699, he sold 15 acres of his land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River to Edward Bass (1672-1750). By 1720, Edward Bass and his brother John Bass (1673-1732) had moved to Chowan County, NC (modern Gates County) and many of their descendants married members of the Anderson family. Below is a summary of the Andersons who moved to North Carolina:
1. Lewis Anderson, born 1690. Freed in 1712, he was marriedto Katherine Bass, daughter of Fulcher’s neighbor Edward Bass. He was taxed in Tanner’s Creek, Norfolk County in 1730 and 1731. Lewis and his wife inherited land in Northampton County, NC in 1748 from his father-in-law Edward Bass which the couple later sold in 1757. It is not known if Lewis Anderson ever made it to Granville County or if he had any descendants.
2. George Anderson, born 1696. Freed in 1712 and by the 1730s, George owned land in Bertie County (modern Northampton County). By 1746, George sold his Northampton County land and was living in Granville County. George’s wife Mary’s maiden name is unknown, but George’s mistress with whom he fathered a child with was Lovey Bass, (daughter of John Bass 1673-1750). George enlisted in Col. William Eaton’s regiment which I blogged about previously here. An interesting details is that George Anderson’s daughter Ruth Anderson was a servant in Eaton’s household in 1755 when her child was bound to him
3. Lewis Anderson, born 1713. He was born after the Anderson slaves were freed, so he was never enslaved. Lewis is thought to be the son of Elizabeth Anderson who was freed in Fulcher’s will. However this is not definite and more verification is needed. Lewis is the direct ancestor of the vast majority of the Native American/”free colored” Andersons of Granville County because his descendants continued marrying into the Bass, Evans, Taborn, Pettiford, Tyler, Mitchell, Howell and Chavis families. Lewis was married to Sarah Bass, daughter of John Bass 1673-1732. He owned land in Bertie County (modern Northampton County) in the 1730s that his wife inherited from her father. Lewis Anderson was in Granville County by 1746 and enlisted in Col. William Eaton’s regiment which I blogged about here.
As you can see, the three Anderson men who moved to North Carolina had Bass spouses/partners. And because brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to North Carolina, the intermarried Andersons were included in that move.
But who exactly were the freed Andersons? And if they have a Native American tribal origin, what is it? The original Andersons who were enslaved were almost certainly of African heritage but I think it is likely they were mixed Native American. Their very close relationship with the Nansemond Bass family and their association with Indian trader Col. William Eaton are indicators that they also had a Native lineage. However slavery can very much obscure the ethnic origins of those who were enslaved and until we know exactly how and where John Fulcher acquired his slaves, I can only really speculate on the Anderson’s origins. If John Fulcher did inherit his slaves, it seems likely they came from his maternal grandfather Captain John Sibsey. Sibsey’s 1652 Norfolk County will does not make any specific mention of slaves and simply mentions property. But we know John Sibsey owned slaves because Mary Sibsey’s first husband Richard Conquest complained to the courts in 1652 that he was being withheld a slave that was due to him from his father-in-law.
Whatever their exact origin may have been, the Andersons who intermarried with the Nansemond Basses, who moved to Granville County and who continued intermarrying with the Native American/”free colored” families living there, were full fledged members of the community.
The Andersons have remained one of the largest families in the Granville community as can be seen in the Granville County census records. In 1800 there were 9 Anderson head of households and in 1840 there were 15 Anderson head of households. In the 1850 census which was the first census in which every household member was listed there were 112 Andersons. In 1900 there were 54 Andersons and in 1940 there were 66 Andersons. And of course these numbers do not reflect Anderson women who were married as well as Anderson descendants who no longer carried the Anderson surname.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Andersons:
Welcome! The following is a list of surnames of closely related Native American families of Granville County. Please note that all the families are “free people of color”, meaning they were not enslaved and generally not recorded as “white”.
It is these families that most of the content of this blog is about. I have documentation on all of these families, so if you believe you are also researching the same families, please do get in touch.