Tag Archives: Powhatan

The Pamunkey Origins of the FPOC Howell Family

The FPOC Howell family traces directly back to a young woman named Dorothy Howell who lived in the early 1700s. As a “mixed-race” Pamunkey woman, Dorothy became geographically separated from her people when she had to live across the river from the Pamunkey reservation, as a house servant to a leading colonial family. Consequently, the lives of her descendants followed different paths with some leaving the area to intermarry with other tribes, while others who were determined to stay, continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. This blog post takes a close look at the branch of the Howell family that stayed closely connected to the Pamunkey tribe and who have descendants enrolled in the tribe today. A great variety of records that I have amassed will be used to help document their lives.


Dorothy Howell (b. 1707) of New Kent County

Untitled presentation
Family Tree that shows the descedants of Dorothy Howell. This blog post examines the lineage traced down to John Howell b. 1822 and his wife Susan Pearman b. 1827 whose descendants are enrolled with the Pamunkey tribe.

The earliest documented direct lineal ancestor of the FPOC Howell family was a woman named Dorothy Howell (b. 1707). For me, she is my 7th great-grandmother. What we know about Dorothy Howell comes directly from the Registry Book of St. Peter’s Parish. The parish was formed in 1678 and served New Kent and James City counties. Births, deaths, and marriages are recorded in the Vestry Book, so these records help to establish Dorothy Howell’s approximate birth year, her location, and clues into her ethnic heritage. I know of no surviving records where we get to hear testimony from Dorothy Howell herself to understand her life and identity from her perspective. So this is something important to keep in mind as we review the historical archive.

The earliest record for Dorothy Howell, is when the birth of her daughter Judith Howell was recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1725:

Judith Howell
“Judith daughter of Dorothy Howell a mallatto servant to Mr. Sherwood Lightfoot born, 1725.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA, 1684-1786. Page 473

The next and final record of Dorothy Howell which mentions her specifically by name is for the birth of her son Robbin Howell in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1730/31:

Robbin Howell
“Robbin a mulatto son of Dorothy Howel born March 18th, 1730/1.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 468

Given the birth dates of her two documented children, Judith born in 1725 and Robbin born in 1730/31, Dorothy Howell was likely born around 1707 (as genealogist Paul Heinegg suggests). In the birth record of her daughter Judith, Dorothy is referred to as a mulatto and in the birth record of her son Robbin, he is referred to as a mulatto. So we know that Dorothy Howell was considered a person of color with a likely “mixed race” background. We also know that she was a free woman because she is called a servant of a man named Sherwood Lightfoot. Notice that in the record for the birth of her son Robbin, Dorothy Howell is not referred to as a servant. The reason for this is that Sherwood Lightfoot died on 26 April 1730. If Dorothy had not already completed the length of her servitude, the death of Sherwood Lightfoot likely released her from service.

It is important to contextualize how the word “mulatto” was used in Virginia in the 1700s. In October 1705 (just twenty years before the birth of Judith Howell), the Acts of Assembly in Virginia defined “mulatto”, “as the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of a Negro”. Therefore the term “mulatto” encompassed many varieties of ethnic admixtures. Thus Dorothy Howell could have been mixed European and African, mixed European and Native American, or mixed European, African and Native American. In consideration of the historical analysis that I will provide over the following sections and given that her descendants are well documented as Pamunkey Indians, I believe that Dorothy Howell was a “mixed race” Pamunkey Indian.

The Pamunkey are one of many tribes that compromise the Powhatan Confederacy which once dominated the Tidewater Virginia area.

Powhatan Confederacy
A map of where the various tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy were located in 1607. Source: Helen Rountree

 

Because of the limited documentation on Dorothy Howell, the next section will take a close look at the man whose residence she lived and work in, Sherwood Lightfoot.


Sherwood Lightfoot and St. Peter’s Parish

Sherwood Lightfoot (1686-1730) was the son of Col. John Lightfoot and Ann Goodrich, a wealthy British colonial family. Ann Goodrich’s parents were Major Thomas Goodrich and Ann Sherwood of Old Rappahannock County, VA (present day Essex County, VA). Major Thomas Goodrich played a significant role during a pinnacle event in Virginia colonial history. Goodrich was a top lieutenant for Nathaniel Bacon during a violent episode known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”. In 1676, Bacon and allied colonists, formed an armed rebellion against colonial Virginia Governor William Berkeley. The colonists accused Governor Berkeley of not protecting their interests. During this violent uprising, Powhatan tribal peoples living in coastal Virginia were slaughtered by the rebellious colonists. You can learn more about Bacon’s Rebellion here.

Before becoming a lieutenant in Bacon’s Rebellion, Major Thomas Goodrich was a signatory to a treaty with a Powhatan tribe, dated September 1655 in Old Rappahannock Co, VA. The text reads:

“At a court September 1655 Rappahannock Present Coll Moore Fantleroy Capt Francis Slaughter Majr Thos Goodrich Mr Andrew Gilson Mr. Thos Lucas Senior Mr Richard Loe Capt William Underwood Mr Humphrey Boot The King Masquran Mquanzafsi Caskamino”

Source: http://gedcom.surnames.com/burgess_jim/np247.htm

Another relevant connection between Sherwood Lightfoot and Native American peoples is through his brother Goodrich Lightfoot. In the St. Peter’s Parish records, Goodrich Lightfoot is documented owning an “Indian” slave named Charles:

Charles the Indian Goodrich Lightfoot
“Charles an Indian belonging to Captain Goodrich Lightfoot died October 9, 1722.” Source: Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 64

Goodrich Lightfoot is also connected to the origins of the “free colored” Evans family of Granville County, who descend from Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson the younger. Some of Morris and Jane’s descendants were illegally held as slaves by Goodrich Lightfoot and later sold to other slave owners. The Evans descendants were able to obtain their freedom by proving they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder who was the mother of Jane Gibson the younger. Unfortunately Jane Gibson’s tribe is not specified in those records, but given the location, it’s most likely she was of Powhatan heritage. I have a blog post where I discuss the Native American origins of the Evans family here. Also descendants of the Evans family and of the Howell family often intermarried throughout Virginia and North Carolina, so it is common to find people who descend from both lineages (self included).

It is important to take a moment to study the geography of where Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot lived and how this factors into understanding the heritage of Dorothy Howell.  Sherwood Lightfoot’s estate was located on the banks of the Pamunkey River, directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. In 1707, Col. John Lightfoot died and his sons Goodrich and Sherwood Lighfoot inherited his large land holdings along the Pamunkey River which he originally purchased in 1686.

Pamunkey_map 1
Brothers Sherwood Lightot and Goodrich Lightfoot lived on properties that were about 1 mile apart and directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. Sherwood resided at “Ricahock” and Goodrich resided at the “White House”. Source: http://archive.wetlandstudies.com/newsletters/2016/January/Pamunkey.html
Pamunkey River
A recent photo taken from the shores of the Pamunkey Indian reservation along the Pamunkey River. The land directly across the river is where Sherwood Lightfoot and his servant Dorothy Howell lived. Photo courtesy of Azie Dungey

The geographical proximity of Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot to the Pamunkey Reservation is also evident in a diary entry from Col. William Byrd. On September 22 and 23, 1712, Byrd described staying at the homes of both brothers before going to the Pamunkey reservation to meet the Governor.

Byrd and Lightfoot brothers
Excerpt from Col. William Byrd’s diary which demonstrates that Sherwood Lightfoot lived directly across from the Pamunkey reservation, commonly called “Pamunkey Town”. Source:  “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 123.

Additionally, Sherwood’s father Col. John Lightfoot who had previously owned the land before Sherwood, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from him.

Lt John Lightfoot and Pamunkey
Col. John Lightfoot, the father of Sherwood Lightfoot, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from his estate. Source: “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 122.

Pamunkey Origins

So what does this tell us so far? We have the Lightfoot family whom in successive generations have a number of notable interactions with Powhatan peoples – Major Thomas Goodrich who was a signatory of a treaty and also fought in Bacon’s Rebellion; Col. John Lightfoot whose estate was across the river from the Pamunkey reservation and had difficulties with the tribe, and brothers Sherwood and Goodrich Lightfoot who inherited their father’s estate from across the Pamunkey reservation and are noted for enslaving local Native American peoples.  Dorothy Howell was a free woman living and working as an indentured servant in Sherwood’s household, and I do believe her heritage is from the Pamunkey reservation. Perhaps she or one of her parents was the offspring of a Howell colonist and a Pamunkey Indian woman? Or even a Howell woman and a Pamunkey Indian man?

At this time, Dorothy Howell’s parents are unidentified. Her birth was not recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records and for Dorothy to be a free-born person means that her mother was also free.

I looked through earlier records to see if I could find any Howells who lived in the area and who had any interactions with Native Americans. It was not uncommon for some Native Americans to adopt the surnames of “friendly whites”, so it’s possible the Howell surname entered the local Native American population through that manner.

In court records for neighboring Charles City County, there was a John Howell who in 1659 received permission from the courts to hire an “Indian”. This person is not identified by name or by tribe.

Lt John Howell
John Howell was allowed to employ an “Indian” on 3 Aug 1659 in Charles City County, VA. Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

The John Howell named in this record was a man named  Lt John Howell (1623-1679) who was a Welsh-born colonist. Some additional information about him can be found here.

There was also an Edmund Howell who lived in nearby Surry Co, VA who was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, just like Sherwood Lightfoot’s grandfather Major Thomas Goodrich. This same Edmund Howell left a 1679 will which named his godson Gibson Gibson. This Gibson Gibson was a mixed race Native American and a relative of Jane Gibson the elder whose Evans descendants were illegally enslaved by Goodrich Lightfoot. Edmund Howell had a son named William Howell who left a 1718 will which named sons William, Thomas, Edmund, and Joseph. Perhaps Dorothy Howell (or one of her parents) was a mixed race offspring of one of these Howell men and she ended up as an indentured servant with Lightfoots who were family friends? You can read more about Edmund Howell and his relationship to the Gibson family here.

I also found another record which offers precedence for Pamunkey Indians desiring to leave the reservation to live with the nearby white population. On 27 Oct 1709, in neighboring James City County, a Pamunkey Indian named Robin asked permission to remain among the white population so that he could continue his shoemaking business. His request was granted:

Robin Pamunkey
Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

 

I also found another record in the St. Peter’s Parish register that could possibly pertain to Dorothy Howell:

Thurs Dec 20, 1722 – Sherwood was paid 500 lbs of tobacco for keeping a “mollatto child of the parish”.

The Sherwood referenced here is Sherwood Lightfoot. Could this mulatto child be Dorothy Howell? In 1722, Dorothy Howell would have been about 15 years old, so still a minor. Because Sherwood Lightfoot was paid for taking in this child, we know that this child was not a slave.

In summary, all of these records present possible scenarios for how Dorothy Howell acquired her Howell surname and how she became an indentured servant for a prominent colonial family.


The Howells Descendants Diverge

As discussed earlier, Dorothy Howell had a daughter named Judith Howell who was born in 1725. 27 years later in 1752, we find Judith Howell a few counties over to the West in the Amelia County, VA records. And the following year in 1753 her son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out. Judith Howell lived in the Amelia County area at the same time it was reported a group of Saponi Indians lived in a small village built of cabins. I discussed this in an earlier blogpost here. It was in Amelia County that Judith Howell’s branch of the Howell family, first began to intermarry with the Saponi who were gradually moving away from the former Saponi reservation called Ft. Christanna. Matthew Howell continued to move further into the Southside counties of Virginia and his descendants continued to intermarry with the Saponi descendants in the area. Descendants of Matthew Howell’s daughter Elizabeth Howell b. 1783 relocated to Ohio and today are found among the Saponi-Catawba Nation in Ohio. Descendants of his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) are the North Carolina branch and spread first into Granville County with some moving into Orange, Person, and Alamance counties. This is my branch of the Howell family and you can read more about Freeman Howell’s descendants here.

From the St. Peter’s Parish and Revolutionary War records, we learn that there was a branch of the Howell family that remained in New Kent County and therefore continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. Please note that the genealogy that I will present here diverges a bit from the genealogy presented by Paul Heinegg about the Howell family. I found additional documents to corroborate the timeline and dates that I am presenting.

Robert Howell (1730/1740 – 1780) and his wife Mary are shown as the parents of several “mulatto” children whose births were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish registry. I have estimated that Robert Howell was born between 1730 and 1740 based upon the ages of his children and other life events. And given Robert Howell’s approximate age, it makes the most sense that he was a son of Dorothy Howell (Heinegg tentatively believes that Robert Howell is Judith Howell’s son). The maiden name of Robert Howell’s wife Mary is unknown. From the St. Peter’s records, we learn that Robert Howell was the father of John Godfrey Howell born 12 July 1768 and twin daughters named Betsey and Sarah Howell who were born 22 March 1771. We also learn from Revolutionary War bounty land records that Robert Howell enlisted while living in New Kent County and died a year or two into his service. No dates are given, so I have estimated that he died around 1780. Thomas Howell was named as the heir at law of Robert Howell and that his parents were legally married. So this means Robert Howell had another son named Thomas Howell (more on him below). You can read Robert Howell’s transcribed Revolutionary War records and see the original images  here.

Thomas Howell b. 1760 who is documented as Robert Howell’s heir, was also a Revolutionary War soldier and there are records from his service which help document his life. Thomas Howell filed for a pension in 1836 while living in the city of Richmond, VA. He stated that he was 76 at the time, thus he was born around 1760. He enlisted while living in New Kent County and said that his birth was registered at St. Peter’s Parish. This is a key detail because it is consistent with Thomas Howell being a son of Robert Howell who we know was living in New Kent County and whose children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records. After the War, Thomas Howell states he resided in the city of Richmond through to the present. You can read a transcribed version of Thomas Howell’s pension application here. Thomas Howell’s testimony is consistent with the census records which show him as the head of a “free colored” household in Richmond in the 1810 and 1820 censuses and in Henrico Co in the 1830 census (Richmond was enumerated in Henrico Co that year). I found no other Thomas Howells living anywhere in the Richmond from this time period, so I’m confident that this is him recorded in the census.

Fold3_Page_6_Revolutionary_War_Pension_and_BountyLand_Warrant_Application_Files
An excerpt from Thomas Howell’s Revolutionary War pension application. His answers to the first three questions provide key details about where he was from. “1. I was born in St. Peter’s Parish New Kent County Virginia 2. I believe there is a record of my age in New Kent Clerks Office. 3. I resided in New Kent when called into service, since that I have resided in this City.” Source: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; R5300, Page 6

The births of Thomas Howell’s children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records as well, so we are able to continue to trace his line forward. His wife was named Lucy, but her maiden name is unknown. Son Robert Howell was born 20 Feb 1785 and the births of his daughters were recorded: Susannah in born 17 Apr 1787, Rebecca in born 27 Apr 1790 and Elizabeth in born 12 Mar 1794.

Robert Howell b. 1785 married Kitty Didlake on 22 Dec 1810 in Henrico County and that same year is enumerated in the census for Henrico County, head of a household of 2 “free colored” persons. It is his lineage who brings the Howells full circle back into the tight-knit Pamunkey tribal community


The Pamunkey Howell Family From the 1800s Onward

During the 1800s, Pamunkeys who lived off the reservation in neighboring New Kent County, began to emerge as a group referred to as the “Cumberland Indians”. Cumberland is a town in New Kent County where many off reservation Pamunkey families resided. In her book “Pocahontas People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries”, historian Helen Rountree refers to the Pamunkeys residing in New Kent County as “fringe Indians” and includes the Howell family in this group. The term “fringe Indians” seems to imply that those living off the reservation, lost their tribal identity and this is simply not the case. Historian Arica Coleman and others have pushed back against Rountree’s “fringe Indians”, and instead I will refer to the Pamunkeys living in New Kent as the “Cumberland Indians”.

John Howell b. 1822 was the son of previously mentioned Robert Howell b. 1785. It is John Howell’s family who emerges as a leading and integral family among the Cumberland Indians. John Howell was married to Susan Pearman and they are enumerated in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses in New Kent County and sometimes classified as “mulatto” and sometimes classified as “Indian”. Susan Pearman was also an Indian woman and the daughter of Michael Pearman and Lucy Jarvis. The descendants of John Howell and Susan Pearman intermarried with just about every other Pamunkey family: Collins, Langston, Cook, Stewart, Dennis, Allmond, Wynn, Dungee, Miles, Tupponce, Adkins, Bradby, Custalow, etc (some of these surnames and families are also found among the neighboring Chickahominy and Mattaponi tribes).

Below is a picture of John Howell and Susan Pearman’s daughter Pinkie Howell b. 1865. She married fellow Pamunkey Simeon Collins b. 1859 and so they are shown here with their children. The photo was taken during an anthropological survey of the Pamunkey reservation.

Simeon Collins with wife Pinkie Howell and children. New Kent Co, VA. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives
Simeon Collins b. 1859 seated in the middle with wife Pinkie Howell b. 1865 to the left and their children. Pamunkey Indian reservation in King William County, VA. Circa 1899. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives

Simeon Collins and Pinkie Howell’s family were enumerated in the 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation:

Pinkie 1900 census
Simeon “S” Collins and his wife Pinkie Howell and children were enumerated in 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation. The first column identifies their tribe as “Powhatan”. The second and third columns identify the tribe for their father and mother, respectively. The parents of Simeon and Pinkie are both identified as Powhatan. The next column indicates how much “white blood” they have. The entire family is noted for having 1/2 “white blood”. Thus both of their Powhatan Indian parents were also mixed with European ancestry. This indicates that Pinkie Howell’s parents John Howell and Susan Pearman were both of mixed Pamunkey and European heritage. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: West Point, King William, Virginia; Roll: T623_31077_4117892; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0043; FHL microfilm: 1241714.

Another daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman was named Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936). She was married to another Pamunkey named John Solomon Wynn b. 1855. Lena Howell and John Wynn had a daughter named Kate Wynn (1887-1969) who married outside of the tribe to a white man named Otho Floyd Gray.

Lena Lucy Howell
Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936) was the daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman. She was married to John Solomon Wynn.  Source: Robert Gray
Kate Wynn
Kate Wynn (1887-1969) was the daughter of John Solomon Wynn and Lena Lucy Howell. She is shown with her husband Otho Floyd Gray and her son Luther Gordon Gray.  Source: Robert Gray

In 2015, the Pamunkey Tribe became the first tribe in Virginia to receive federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In support of their recognition application, the tribe submitted hundreds of pages of documentation to prove their identity and status as a sovereign indigenous nation. Included in these records was interesting information about a member of the Pamunkey Howell family. We learn that John C. Howell (“J.C. Howell”) who lived outside of the reservation in New Kent County, did not want a school built for Pamunkey children in New Kent in 1870, to have a “colored” teacher. John C. Howell (b. 1849) was the son of John Howell and Susan Pearman. For Howell it was important that the Pamunkeys keep their distance from “colored” people in order to maintain their status as “Indian” in the eyes of their white neighbors.

BIA Pamunkey 1
An excerpt from the Preliminary Positive Decision that the Bureau of Indians Affairs provided for the Pamunkey tribe. Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (page 42)
BIA Pamunkey 2
Continuation of the excerpt from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Preliminary Positive Decision for the Pamunkey Tribe Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (Page 43)

The Pamunkey’s tribe attempt to keep a clear racial distinction between themselves and “colored” people was complicated by Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  I previously wrote a blogpost about Walter Plecker (1861-1947) who was the Registrar of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 – 1946. He was a proponent of white supremacy, racial segregation and eugenics and believed that only two races of people existed in Virginia: “White” and “Negro”. In his view, Indian peoples no longer lived in Virginia and “Negro” people simply identified as “Indian” as a racial stepping stone towards whiteness. Plecker’s racial policies were in direct conflict with the Indian identity of the Pamunkey and other tribal peoples who still lived in Virginia. In order to combat people from self identifying as “Indian” on vital records, Plecker sent out a list to the heads of vital statistics in counties across the state. On his list, Plecker identified surnames by county, of families whom he felt were trying to “pass” as “Indian” and “White”. The Pamunkey Howell family made the Plecker list:

Plecker letter 2
Walter Plecker’s 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should be categorized as “Indian”. Unsurprisingly, many of the surnames listed here make up the families of Virginia’s Native American tribes. Source: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/letterscan.html

The fallout from Plecker’s policies, meant that there were some Pamunkey Howells who did “pass” for white instead of suffering the social disadvantages of being identified as “Negro”. Some families in order to avoid being pinned between two racial categories that they did not identify with, simply left the state. The racial identity of one Pamunkey Howell named Herbert Clayton Howell (1916-1979) is an interesting example. Herbert Howell was identified as “white” in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses and identified as “white” in his World War II draft and enlistment records, thus it appeared that he had successfully “passed” for white. However it was his marriage to a white woman, that eventually “outed” his identity as a person of color. On 28 March 1945, just 5 years into their marriage, Herbert Howell and his wife Margaret Shadoan received an annulment. The reason for the annulment is stated clearly on the record: “Defendant was a person of the negro race.”

43071_162028006071_0327-00235
Margaret Shadoan received an annulment from her marriage to Herbert Clayton Howell. The stated reason: “Defendant is a person of the negro race.” Source: Virginia, Divorce Records, 1918-2014
43006_172028004422_0335-00264
Herbet Clayton Howell’s death record from 1979, lists his race as “American Indian”. He died after Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was overturned, so it became legal again to self identify as Indian. Source: Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014

Final Thoughts

I think it is quite amazing to look back to see that all of us Howells descend from one woman named Dorothy Howell who lived right in the epicenter of a burgeoning colony. I wish there was a way to access more about her life and experiences. I wonder how she felt living so close, yet across the river from her people. In the end, the decisions that she made did result in many of her descendants still staying connected to the tribe and having an integral part in its political and cultural revolution in the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern DNA testing is having a tremendous impact on genealogy as a way of confirming the paper trail with genetic evidence. As a direct lineal descedant of Dorothy Howell’s daughter Judith Howell who moved away from the Pamunkey, I am finding DNA cousin matches who descend from the Pamunkey Collins, Dungee, and Custalow families. The Howells who remained among the Pamunkey appear to be the genetic link. Dorothy Howell’s legacy lives on in the DNA of her many descendants and it is helping us find our way back to one another.

image (1)
A group of Pamunkeys including members of the Cook, Dennis, Miles, Allmond, Page and Bradby families. Circa 1881. Source unknown.
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The Weyanoke (and Nottoway/Tuscarora) origins of Granville’s Kersey Family

Many of Granville County’s Native American families came to the county from Virginia to escape the intrusions of the British colonists. The Bass, Evans, and Anderson families are just several examples of coastal Algonquian speaking peoples that followed this route. The Kersey family is no exception, and has roots in Surry County, VA among the Weyanoke, an Algonquian speaking people who allied and moved in with Nottoway and Tuscarora on their reservations. In this blog post I will trace the Kersey family from the Surry Co, VA area to Granville Co, NC.

Lumbee scholar J. Cedric Woods published an essay titled, “Lumbee Origins: The Weyanoke-Kersey Connection” in support of the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition bid. The full text of the essay can be found here and here (pdf format). The tribal origins of the Kersey family are relevant to the Lumbees because the tribe’s Lowry/Lowrie family of Robeson County, NC descend from the Kersey family – specifically a Sally Kersey who was described as a “half-breed Tuscarora woman” during the Civil War era. Sally Kersey was the grandmother of famed Tuscarora (later Lumbee) hero Henry Berry Lowrie/Lowry (1845-1872). Through careful examination of genealogical and historical records, Woods chronicles how a Weyanoke man named Thomas Kersey  (born 1665) from Surry Co,VA resettled close to the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation in Bertie Co, NC. His Kersey family likely intermarried with the Tuscarora before moving down together to Robeson Co. I will be citing Wood’s scholarship for this article as well as Paul Heinegg’s genealogy of the Kersey family.

Who are the Weyanoke?

Map of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1607. The Weyanoke tribe is circled in red. Source: Helen Rountree
Map of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1607. The Weyanoke tribe is circled in red.
Source: Helen Rountree

The Weyanoke are an Algonquian-speaking tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy from the Tidewater area of Virginia. Because of ongoing conflicts between indigenous people and the British colony, the Weyanoke moved around quite a bit to seek shelter, and by the 18th century had integrated onto the Nottoway and Tuscarora reservations. The surname “Wineoak” appears on the land records for both reservations, indicating that these community members were of Weyanoke descent. Cedric Woods describes this movement and integration of tribal people:

As this case study will show, what may be initially viewed as a spin-off of what I maintain as a Weyanoke individual, was actually the continuation of a cross border movement to friendlier social and political environs. These person also did not move in isolated fashion. They are individual faces of historic movements of tribes. Additionally, they did not move to isolation, but maintained contact with their kinsfolks and allies, and recreated their communities as much as possible in new territory. This process created new Native communities in North Carolina with very ancient roots in Virginia.

What Woods is describing is exactly what I’ve noticed in carefully describing the genealogies of Granville’s Native American families. These families moved together from one location to the next, and along the way brought in allied Native families to sustain their Native identity. This is why these families are so interrelated across state and county borders because of centuries of documented intermarriage. For the Weyanoke families that moved out of Virginia and into North Carolina, they did not simply “blend” into African-American or European-American communities like researcher Heinegg suggests, but rather they moved together with other Native American families to form new tribal communities.

Cedric Woods also points to another trend that lead to the “detribalization” of Virginia Native Americans – the indentured servitude system. Young Native Americans were often “bound out” to white families to be servants and by the time their service contract was over, these individuals most often did not rejoin their tribal communities.

The Kersey line that is ancestral to the Lumbee tribe, descends from a man named Thomas Kersey  (born 1665) who was an indentured servant of Benjamin Harrison of Surry Co, VA. Harrison was a known Indian trader who traded with the Saponi, Meherrin, Nottoway, and Weyanoke tribes. Cedric Woods also cites several colonial references of Weyanoke villages and cabins in the Surry Co area, to geographically place the Weyanoke people in Surry So in the late 17th century. For example, I found in colonial records from 1707:

…then lived on A Plantation of Collo Benjamin Harrisson on Blackwater and within call of the Weyanoake Indian Forte and consumed there five yeares during which time this Deponent had frequent Discourses with the Indians and was by them informed that they never Claimed to the Southward of the Maherine River But at the time that the Appachoukanough was Routed and taken for the Massacre he had committed the Weyanoakes (being his Confederates and fearing the English) removed themselves from that place which is now called Weyanoake in James River to Warraekeeks on Weyanoake River and after when the Poackyacks killed their King they were by the English brought from thence and placed on the Blackwater aforementioned as Tributarys. where this Deponent lived by them and this Deponent further saith that he was informed by the Weyanoaks that the Weyanoke River now Called Nottoway was their bounds and that they never Seated to the Southward of Warr-a-keeks.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr01-0343

All of this information leads Woods to conclude that Thomas Kersey (born 1665) was  a local Weyanoke Indian who was “bound out” to Indian trader Benjamin Harrison.

By 1720, Thomas Kersey (born 1665) left Virginia and resettled in the Chowan/Bertie Co area that later became northeastern Northampton County, NC. His son Thomas Kersey (born 1712) moved to the part of Edgecombe County, NC that later became Nash County, NC by 1743 and in 1764 he moved to Robeson County. Cedric Woods explains why the Weyanoke had such a strong affiliation with Tuscarora people:

Another strong connection that predisposed the Weyanoke to relocate to Tuscarora-controlled territory is their pre-contact relationship with the Tuscarora as ambassadors for Powhatan’s chiefdom (Rountree, 1993). In fact, the Tuscarora queens (clan mothers) are on several occasions documented as entreating with them to relocate to North Carolina. This begs the question, what did the Tuscaroras have to gain by the relocation of the landless Weyanokes to their homeland? A couple of possibilities seem evident. First, this was an infusion of additional Native people in the region that was coming under increasing pressure from the English (pressure that would eventually result in the Tuscarora Wars). The Tuscaroras, clearly an Iroquoian people, had Algonquin speakers as allies, and recruiting others is not surprising. Second, the Weyanokes were Algonquins that had already had extensive dealings with the English, and knew their customs fairly well, particularly as a result of the experience of indentured servitude. They also had connections with the English traders in Virginia, who might be more willing to supply the Tuscarora with guns and powers as opposed to the English traders who lived in their area. Perhaps they were viewed as potential go-betweens with the English. In any case, by the mid-eighteenth century, Weyanokes were very much a part of Tuscarora political structure, as is evidenced by their names on land deeds (Powell, 1758).

Woods cited Helen Rountree’s book “Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722” (1993), as a reference to the Weyanoke’s relationship with the Tuscarora as ambassadors to the Powhatan confederacy and her book is worth a look to learn more about Powhatan diplomacy.

An unsourced Wikipedia entry also relays the following information about the Weyanoke seeking protection with the Nottoway and Tuscarora:

Despite their many moves, the Weyanoke after 1646 became partly Anglicised, preferring to have some English-style houses built, rather than yehakans, wherever they moved. The colony, in assigning them reserve land on the upper Blackwater in 1650 (from which they were driven by colonists the following year), even expressed a desire to teach the Weyanokes the English concept of property ownership, and this was successful. In their subsequent wanderings, the Weyanoke always made land purchase or rental contracts with the chiefs of the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora and Nottoway tribes. By the 18th century, they had fully integrated with the Nottoways, and were speaking their language, their former presence visible only in the surname “Wineoak”.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weyanoke,_Virginia

I did find in the colonial records from 1710, sources that reveal the Weyanoke were making land contracts with the Nottoway:

All our Evidences are unanimous as to the name of Nottoway River which with the Indians account, corroborated by English Evidences of the Weyanoaks paying an acknowledgement to the Nottoways (who lived there long before) for living on that River, makes it seem improbable the name of that River should be changed from their living a few years upon it, at least twenty five miles from the mouth, when they lived much longer upon Blackwater without altering the name of it.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr01-0397

And finally, current Nottoway Chief Lynette Allston in a letter dated 2006 to the Virginia Council on Indians, for the purpose of the Nottoway to be “recognized” as a tribe by the state of Virginia says:

The Nottoway had earlier provided a safe haven for those some historians have labeled (or mis-labeled) a non-Christianized segment of the Nansemond in 1744 through at least 1786[5] . Segments of the Weyanockes and Meherrins also sought refuge within the Nottoway community.

Source: http://www.nottowayindians.org/petitioncoverletter.html

Map showing the movement of the Kersey family from Weyanoke territory in Virginia into North Carolina. In red is the movement of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) whose Kersey family is ancestral to the Lumbee Tribe. In purple is Thomas Kersey (born 1735) whose Kersey family is ancestral to Granville County. In blue are locations of the Nottoway Reservation and the Tuscarora Reservation. © Kianga Lucas
Map showing the movement of the Kersey family from Weyanoke territory in Virginia into North Carolina. In red is the movement of Thomas Kersey (born 1665) whose Kersey family is ancestral to the Lumbee Tribe. In purple is Thomas Kersey (born 1735) whose Kersey family is ancestral to Granville County. In blue are locations of the Nottoway Reservation and the Tuscarora Reservation.
© Kianga Lucas

Granville County’s Kersey Lineage

So with the background information that Woods has provided about the Kersey-Weyanoke connections, let’s take a closer look at the genealogy of Granville’s Kersey family.

Identifying the precise verified earliest member for the Kersey family of Granville is a bit tricky, because Heinegg in his Kersey genealogy, leaves a lot of room for speculation. However I am comfortable saying that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) of Sussex and Southampton County, VA is the earliest verified ancestor. Heinegg suspects that Thomas Kersey is a descendant of John Kersey (born 1668) of Surry Co, VA. This John Kersey is probably a brother of previously mentioned Thomas Kersey (born 1665) of Surry Co, VA who was the subject of Cedric Woods’ essay. I agree that Thomas Kersey (born 1735) descends from the Kerseys next door in Surry Co, but more research is needed to correctly identify his parents. Because there are several different related Thomas Kerseys found in these early records, Heinegg has unfortunately incorrectly attributed records to the wrong Kersey, so below is a corrected version of major life events for Thomas Kersey (born 1735).

Thomas Kersey (born 1735)

The first verified record for Thomas Kersey (born 1735) is when he was sued for debt by David Wiggins in Sussex Co, VA court in 1755. (Sussex Co was formed from Surry Co in 1749). The following year in 1756, Thomas received a plat for 104 acres of land on the southside of the Nottoway River near Ploughman Swamp in Sussex Co. This is in close proximity of the former Nottoway and Weyanoke  village called “Warekeck” that was located in the Blackwater River area that Woods describes in his essay. Thomas Kersey then sold this land in 1759 to William Longbottom. Next, Thomas Kersey purchased land in neighboring Southampton Co, VA in 1760 from the previously mentioned David and Elizabeth Wiggins who were residents of Surry Co, VA. This land was situated on Three Creeks and was adjacent to Thomas Wiggins and McLemore (probably a descendant of James McLemore, a Scottish born settler). This Southampton County land owned by Thomas Kersey was also adjacent to the bounded Nottoway “square tract” reservation.

Map showing the locations of several Indian reservations, including both the "square tract" and the "circle tract" of the Nottoway reservation. Thomas Kersey (born 1735) owned land on the southside of the Nottoway River, along Three Creeks which was adjacent to the Nottway "square tract" reservation. Source: https://andersonnc.wordpress.com/2-john-pitmans-of-iow/
Map showing the locations of several Indian reservations, including both the “square tract” and the “circle tract” of the Nottoway reservation. Thomas Kersey (born 1735) owned land on the southside of the Nottoway River, along Three Creek which was adjacent to the Nottway “square tract” reservation.
Source: https://andersonnc.wordpress.com/2-john-pitmans-of-iow/

Thomas Kersey’s wife is unknown but I have strong reason to believe she was from the Native American/”free colored” Walden family of Southampton County. Thomas did not leave a will, but the Kerseys who appear in the subsequent Southampton records, are most likely his children. These children include: William Kersey (born 1761), Agatha Kersey (born 1762), Thomas Kersey (born 1767), Walden Kersey (born 1767), Willis Kersey, Delilah Kersey (born 1778), and Loudon Kersey.

Walden Kersey’s name is very revealing because it was common practice for the maiden names of wives to be passed down as first names in their descendants. The Walden family is also ancestral to many Native American families of Granville County (myself included). The Waldens are connected to the Nottoway and there are still Walden descendants among the state recognized Nottoway Tribe of Southampton County. This is why I strongly believe that Thomas Kersey’s (born 1735) wife was a Walden.

William Kersey (born 1761)

From here we turn to Thomas Kersey’s son William Kersey (born 1761). William was a tithable in Southampton County, VA in 1780. In 1786, he married Polly Evans, the daughter of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and his unnamed Walden wife of Mecklenburg County, VA. Polly Evans was the sister of my 5th great-grandmother Margaret Evans and I discussed their Evans family here. After marrying Polly Evans, William Kersey appears in both Southampton and Mecklenburg records, but Mecklenburg County appears to be his primary residence. This Mecklenburg County property was situated right on the Warren County, NC border because William Kersey was recorded just as frequently in the Warren County records.

In 1832, William Kersey filed a pension for his services in the Revolutionary War. You can find excerpts of his pension application here. From this application we learn many details of his war service. He first enlisted in 1777, survived the disastrous winter camp at Valley Forge, and fought in the Battle of Monmouth. Other important details in the pension application confirm that William Kersey was from Southampton County but moved to Warren County towards the end of the war and continued to live there through to the present because he received 640 acres of land for his war service. William Chavis (not the founder of Granville’s Native American community) provided testimony in support of William Kersey’s pension and stated that he remembered William Kersey’s wedding to Polly Evans because there was lots of “fiddling and dancing”, and the wedding took place at Polly’s father Thomas Evans’ home. From the pension records, we learn that William Kersey later died in 1836 and that his widow Polly (Evans) Kersey died in 1840.

In 1845, William and Polly Kersey’s youngest son Edmund Kersey (born 1805), sought to collect his father’s pension payments and listed the names of William and Polly’s other surviving children. In addition to Edmund, the other surviving children named were: Thomas Kersey (born 1785), William Kersey (born 1794), Nancy Kersey (born 1799) and Barbara Kersey (born 1800). One son was not named and that was Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838). Thomas Kersey (born 1785) and Nancy Kersey (born 1799) remained on the Mecklenburg County side of the border, and Edmund Kersey (born 1805) remained on the Warren County side of the border. However Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838), William Kersey (born 1794), and Barbara Kersey (born 1800) had all moved to Granville County by 1830. William Kersey was married to Margaret Ivey and moved further into North Carolina and settled in Orange County. Barbara Kersey was married to Martin Anderson of the Native American/”free colored” Anderson family. Benjamin Kersey was married to a woman named Sally (maiden name not known). However Benjamin died by 1838, and his widow Sally remarried Martin Anderson who had been widowed when his first wife Barbara Kersey died.

Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838)

As stated earlier, Benjamin Kersey (1790-1838) was not named as a surviving child in William Kersey’s pension record because Benjamin died in 1838, 7 years before Edmund Kersey petitioned to collect their father’s pension payments. And because Benjamin’s widow Sally had remarried Martin Anderson, she was not entitled to any support from William Kersey’s pension. All of Benjamin Kersey’s children and grandchildren intermarried with members of Granville’s Native American community including: Tyler, Anderson, Howell, Harris, Chavis, and Richardson families and continued to live in the heart of the community.

Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granvilly, in Fishing Creek township.  Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granville, in Fishing Creek township.
Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol
Sally Kersey Tyler and grandchildre
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) is pictured again with her Tyler grandchildren (children of her son John Thomas Tyler). Sally is seated in the back of the carriage. Fishing Creek township, Granville Co, NC. Source: Robert Tyler

The Adventurous Life of Baldy Kersey (1820-1899)

Baldy Kersey (1820-1899) was a son of Benjamin and Sally Kersey and was a well known person in Granville County whose name made the papers for being on the wrong side of the law. Baldy Kersey was first married to Frances Tyler and they adopted the four children of Frances Tyler’s sister Martha Tyler (their adopted daughter Betsy Ann Tyler was the first wife of my 2nd great-grandfather James E. Howell). In 1864, Baldy Kersey escaped from jail in Oxford and the following notice was published which includes a physical description of him:

Source: The Daily Conservative, 7 Oct 1864, Fri, Page 1
Source: The Daily Conservative, 7 Oct 1864, Fri, Page 1

In 1866 as recorded in the Freedmen’s Bureau records, Baldy Kersey was again accused of larceny when he stole a horse and a mule and sold them to Avery Taborn, another member of the community.

In 1880, Baldy Kersey was arrested along with a white man named John Smith. They were accused of being in charge of a gang that was stealing horses and counterfeiting:

Source: The Torchlight, 16 Mar 1880, Tue, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 16 Mar 1880, Tue, Page 3

Baldy Kersey was also involved in a famous land case that went up all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Apparently, a man named Col. Edwards was attempting to collect a debt from Baldy Kersey, and Baldy claimed his homestead. Baldy Kersey’s land was in the heart of the Native American community in Granville County, in Fishing Creek township and it was very important for Baldy to hold onto this land. As you’ll recall from earlier, Baldy’s mother Sally (maiden name unknown) remarried Martin Anderson after her husband Benjamin Kersey died. In order to keep this highly valued land in the family, Sally Anderson paid Baldy’s debt and put the land deed in her name. Perhaps to stop her other children (and debtors) from claiming the land, Sally Anderson disinherited her children and left the land solely to Baldy in her will. However after her death, her will was being contested on the grounds of insanity.

Source: The Granville Free Lance, 22 Feb 1878, Fri, Page 3
Source: The Granville Free Lance, 22 Feb 1878, Fri, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 23 Jan 1883, Tue, Page 3
Source: The Torchlight, 23 Jan 1883, Tue, Page 3
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the son og Baldy Kersey and his last wife Rovella Tanner. Sam was Baldy's youngest son and passed away just a year after Sam was born. Sam lived in the heart of Granville's Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey. Source: Darrin Norwood
Sam Napolean Kersey (1898-1982) was the son of Baldy Kersey and his last wife, a white woman named Rovella Tanner. Sam was Baldy’s youngest son and Baldy passed away just a year after Sam was born. Sam lived in the heart of Granville’s Native American community in Fishing Creek township, and relocated later in life to New Jersey.
Source: Darrin Norwood

So to summarize, the Kersey family came to Granville County in the early 1800s, after the founding members had already established a Native American community. Previous to Granville County, the Kersey’s tribal origins are with the Algonquian speaking Weyanoke tribe who sought refuge and intermarried with the Iroquois speaking Nottoway and Tuscarora tribes. The Kersey lineage that came to Granville, was more closely connected to the Nottoway tribe because of intermarriage with the Nottoway Walden family. The journey of the Kersey family exemplifies how early contact Native American peoples maintained their Native identity in spite of colonial pressures to relocate.

Evans Family of Granville County – descendants of Jane Gibson “a free Indian woman”

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, 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 word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. There were a few “free colored” Evans families originating in Virginia and it is not known if an how they may all be related. The focus of this blog post is about documenting the branch of the Evans family that begins with Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson. I do discuss two additional Evans families at the end, that may or may not be related.


Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”

Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640/1650). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by some of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some colonists from illegally enslaving them. Apparently, some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s  daughter Frances Evans (1700-1771) were enslaved by a colonist 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.  The enslaved Evans later 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..

Source: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genealogyfriend/evans/gib_evans.htm

You can review the documentation on 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.

I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who 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 certainly appears Goodrich Lightfoot enslaved multiple Native Americans.

Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter's, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787
Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter’s, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787

Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a woman 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 family has also been a subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color and we know from DNA testing that he was of at least partial African descent. 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.

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 that is where her tribal ancestry comes from. There is another Powhatan (specifically Nansemond) descended family of Granville County – the Basses, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville. 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 son Charles Evans moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. Charles Evans and his family  intermarried with the Saponi descendants residing in Virginia. The maiden name of Charles Evans’ wife is unknown, so more research into her identity is needed.


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 also 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 the most likely ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co.

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:

  1. 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”. 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.
  2. Major Evans (1733-1814) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sarah Evans (b. 1742)  – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  6. Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  7. 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 (1733-1814) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.


Major Evans (1733-1814) comes to Granville County

Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-1814) 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. By the 1780s and 1790s he had recorded several land transactions in Granville and short-lived Bute County (modern Franklin and Warren). Notably in 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 also sold Major Evans an additional 500 acres along the Granville/Franklin line. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1778) – the original Granville land owner and founding community member. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. In fact, 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.

It’s also important to remember that William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA. Perhaps Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. We know from witness testimony that Jane Gibson the elder had two children – Jane Gibson the younger who married Morris Evans and a son named George Gibson (born 1665) who died without having children. So William Chavis’ father-in-law Gibson Gibson could not have been a son of Jane Gibson the elder, but perhaps a brother or nephew. This is only speculation at the moment and hopefully some more documentation may confirm these suspicions.

Phillip Chavis land sold to Major Evans in 1780. Buffalo Race Paths - Granville County.
16 Feb 1780 Granville County, North Carolina – Phillip Chavis sells land along the “Buffalo Race Paths” to Major Evans. This land is very close to the Granille (now Vance) and Franklin County border
Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Circled in red are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in and around Granville County.  There are at least two locations named
Circled in red are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in and around Granville County. There are at least two locations named “Buffalo Race Paths” – one in Shocco township, Warren County where the old Bute County courthouse was located and one located on the Granville (now Vance) and Franklin county line. Major Evans’ “Buffalo Race Paths” land appears to be the latter one. This land bordered the Chavis family land and Snelling family land. The Snellings are Chavis descendants and intermarried with the Evans.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

Whatever the exact relationship between Major Evans and the Chavis family turns out to be, these land transactions placed Major Evans and his family in the heart of the Granville County Native American community. It’s also important to note that Major Evans still owned land in Mecklenburg County, VA and appears on the tax lists there in the 1780s, so he likely was moving back and forth (a very short distance) between his Mecklenburg County property and his Granville County property. This close relationship between the two locations explains why many other the Native American/”free colored” families from the Mecklenburg area including the Howell, Guy, KerseyBrandon/Branham, Cousins, and Mayo families (most of whom had intermarried with the Evans) continued moving into Granville up through the first couple of decades of the 1800s. There was a Major Evans recorded in the Warren County tax list for the Six Pound District in 1814 and if this is the same Major Evans which it likely is, then it shows he moved yet again in his final years.

Nearly all 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) married second Lydia Anderson, his first wife is unknown.

2. * Gilbert Evans (1757-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley. Phoebe 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. This is a pattern that I have seen before.

3. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell.

4. * John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.

5. Elizabeth Evans (1780-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis but they later separated.

6. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn

7. * William Evans (1764-1823) married Sarah Hays who was apparently white. Like his brother Gilbert, William “passed” for white and it was likely because he had a white spouse.

8. Sarah Evans (1770 – before 1860) married George Anderson.

* 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.

Most of these families resided in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, precipitated the movement of many of his descendants into Wake.

The interconnectedness of the Evans family to the Granville County Native American community is also evident in the division of the estate of William Evans (1789-1871), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Deloris Williams has transcribed his estate record here. William was the grandson of Major Evans. Though William Evans had been married to Frances Anderson, by the time of his death he was widowed and had no living heirs. So instead he divided his estate among some members of the Native American community including the Anderson, Boon, Pettiford, Hawley, Mayo, Curtis, Taborn, Jones, and Evans families.

Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Major Evans (and further back descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson):

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother's last name. Though Pantheyer's marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934) of Fishing Creek, Granville County. She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother’s last name. Though Pantheyer’s marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as “unknown”, Hilliard Evans identity was confirmed through Pantheyer’s brother Osh Brandon’s marriage record. Pantheyer’s sister Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon was also named after their father. Pantheyer’s mother Betsy Brandon later had several more children with William Peace. Hilliard Evans later married Louisa Mitchell and relocated to Ohio. Probably only his oldest children with Betsy Brandon had memories of him before he moved out of state.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

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 (1830 - 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. Source: E. Howard Evans
John Evans (1830 – 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. John Evans was first cousins to Pantheyer Brandon pictured above.
Source: E. Howard Evans

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.

Standing on the left if John Evans' son Thomas McDaniel Evans  (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas' son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas' daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live. Source: E. Howard Evans
Standing on the left is John Evans’ son Thomas McDaniel Evans (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas’ son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas’ daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live.
Source: E. Howard Evans
Mary Etta Guy (1866 - 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband's death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York. Source: Carole Allen
Mary Etta Guy (1866 – 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband’s death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York.
Source: Carole Allen
Ira Evans 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Lewis Evans (1847-1917) and  Zibra Bookram (b. 1859). His is a direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson through their grandson Major Evans. Ira descends from the Evans, Gibson, Bookram, Bass, Anderson, and Scott families and lived in Durham Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.
Ada Evans
Ada Evans (1885-1954) was the daughter of Thomas Evans and Mary Bookram. She is double first cousins with Ira Evans pictured above. Ada was first married to Earnest Day and second married to William Glover. She lived in Granville and Durham Counties. Please note that most family tree on Ancestry have confused this Ada Evans for her older first cousin Ada Evans ( b 1877) who was the daughter of Sallie Evans.  Source: Ancestry, Username: MichaelSmith493

What about the families of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and James Evans (1720-1786)??

 

Evans Migration Map.004
Map following the movement of the Evans family. The Morris Evans-Jane Gibson line is shown in red, the James Evans line is shown in blue, and the Thomas Evans line is shown in purple. The dates indicate the earliest records for the Evans family in those locations. © Kianga Lucas

 

So as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, there were other early “free colored” Evans families in Virginia that may be related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In particular, there are two two early Evans’ ancestors that need to be discussed.

 

Thomas Evans (1723-1788):

One family begins with a Thomas Evans (1723-1788) who lived in the southside Virginia counties of Lunenburg and Mecklenburg. His parents at this time are unknown. His wife’s name is also unknown but she was a Walden.  Thomas Evans and his descendants usually lived close to the known descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In fact, this Thomas Evans (1723-1788), Charles Evans and Major Evans (grandsons of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson) all together on 9 April 1782 in Mecklenburg County court proved their claim to be paid for 225 lbs of beef they each supplied the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This suggests a close relationship between the three men (two of whom are documented siblings).

All of Thomas Evans’ children married other closely related Native American families of the area including Chavis, Brandon, Drew and Kersey. Thankfully Thomas Evans left a 1787 (proved 1788) Mecklenburg County will that named his heirs. His heirs were also named in a subsequent lawsuit. Many of Thomas’ descendants moved into and intermarried with the Native American community in Granville including his grandson Isaac Chavis who married and later separated from the previously mentioned Elizabeth Evans who was the daughter of Major Evans. Additional surnames that Thomas Evans’ descendants married into when they moved to North Carolina include: LocklearIvey and Hawley. All of this suggests a close relationship between Thomas Evans and the descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m not sure what it is. I feel fairly confident that this Thomas Evans is related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m still working on seeing where exactly he fits in.

Sally Kersey
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). Her grandparents were William Kersey and Polly Evans. Polly Evans was a daughter of Thomas Evans (1723-1788). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granvilly, in Fishing Creek township. Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol

James Evans (1720-1786):

And second there is James Evans (1720-1786) who 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 state-recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister. 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.

Recent DNA testing suggests that Leven Evans (1775-before 1850) is not a descendant of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. At least 7 direct male lineal descendants of Morris Evans have done yDNA testing and their haplogroup is E-M2 which is a sub Saharan African haplogroup. At least one direct male lineal descendant of Leven Evans has done yDNA testing and his haplogroup is R1b which is Western European (most commonly Irish). This means we know that Leven Evans and Morris Evans do not share a common male Evans ancestor. But it’s possible that the Leven Evans branch may descend from a female Evans ancestor which would account for the different yDNA haplogroups. Like the paper trail, DNA results can offer a clue but not the full story about one’s heritage.

Fox Evans
Fox Evans (1882-1932) was the son of Elijah Evans and Jane Cornelia Richardson. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Fox Evans was married to Leacy Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: lynnmcaldwell1
image1
Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) is pictured with his first wife Adeline Virginia Richardson (1876-1920). Major Blake Evans was a brother to Fox Evans pictured above. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through his grandson Leven Evans. Major Blake Evans lived in Halifax Co, NC his entire life where some of his descendants are among the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Source: Desmond Ellsworth
image2
Pictured are children of Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) who resided in Halifax Co, NC. Source: Desmond Ellsworth

 

Mollie Evans
Mollie Evans (1892-1938) was the daughter of William Evans and Martha Richardson. She is also direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Mollie was married to Arch Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: GwendolynJohnson84

The Nansemond Indian Bass Family of Granville

The Bass family in Granville County is one of the larger, if not the largest Native American family in the county. It is a “core” lineage whose family members have intermarried with just about all other “core” families of the Native community in Granville. The Basses have a well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe who are indigenous to the Nansemond River area of Virginia. Today known as the Nansemond Indian Nation, the tribal nation received federal acknowledgement in 2018. Due to the rapid movement out of the Nansemond homeland as a result of increased colonization, many Basses settled in the “frontier” of North Carolina. Their descendants today can found in a number of tribal communities such as: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee.


Nansemond Tribal Origin

Untitled presentation (2)
Family Tree of the first generations of Basses. John Bass(e), a colonist, married Elizabeth, daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. This blog post focuses on their grandsons Edward Bass and John Bass who moved to North Carolina. Note: this tree only names the children of William Bass and Catherine Lanier who had know offspring © Kianga Lucas

Much 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). And finally it is important to point out that I author of this blog, Kianga Lucas, am also a Nansemond Bass descendant which is how I first came to research the family and is why I am dedicated to preserving our family history.

The Nansemond branch of the British Bass family begins with the marriage in 1638 of John Bass(e) an English colonist to Elizabeth, baptized daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. 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. So if you are a Bass descendant or researcher, please check your family tree to make sure you have the correct information. Below is an image of the marriage:

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

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

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

John Bass/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 some descendants moving a very short distance across the state line into Camden County, NC and neighboring counties. 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”.

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

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.

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

 

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

Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) in Norfolk, Virginia

Before moving to North Carolina, brother 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. Within the next generation, 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. What these records show us is that Edward Bass was a land owner on 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 few of the cases.

To date, records for his brother John Bass in Norfolk are not early as extent. 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 for uncovered for him, to better understand his life and his relationships in Norfolk before he settled in North Carolina.


Edward Bass and John Bass 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 it 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.

All of Edward Bass’ children moved from Northampton to Granville County beginning in 1758. 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:

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

As researcher Lars Adams 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 white were a couple during time period where Virginia passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they may have married in North Carolina where the laws were more lenient.

John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows the two brothers 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.

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 his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.

Several of John Bass’ children did join Edward Bass’ children in their relocation to Granville Co. They were Sarah Bass b. 1704, William Bass b. 1712, 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 named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. The wife of William Bass b. 1712  is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Mary Bass b. 1722 married her first cousin Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) who was the son of Edward Bass (1672-1750). on 26 July 1784, Mary 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 (1757-1844) 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 (1757-1844) 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 (1757-1844) was not their daughter. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows that Mary Bass (1757-1844) was the daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) and his wife Mary Bass (b. 1722). This means that Mary Bass (1757-1844) was the granddaughter of both Edward Bass (1672-1750) and his brother John Bass (1673-1732). ****

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

 


A Closer Look at Urahaw Swamp and Neighboring Tribes

The fact that brothers Edward Bass and John Bass moved to North Carolina at the same time and bought adjoining land deserves further examination. The Urahaw Swamp land that was first purchased in 1722/1723 is of particular interest because Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) also owned land along Urahaw Swamp. Bartholomew was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1706-1778) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew are found in Henrico and Surry County, VA. By 1719/1720 he was living in North Carolina and started purchasing land along Urahaw Swamp just 2-3 years before the Bass brothers purchased land there.

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

The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. 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 (1706-1778)‘ 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 (1706-1778) also owned some land in Orange County and perhaps that is connected to George and Charles Gibson’s temporary residence there. Despite inheriting his father’s Northampton County land along the Roanake River in 1750, William Chavis (1706-1778) continued to live in Granville County. William even continued to have additional land transactions in Northampton County but Granville was his primary residence as indicated in tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him 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. And when we take a look at the Moseley map of 1733, we see both the Meherrin and the Nansemond Indians living in close proximity to Urahaw Swamp in Northampton Co. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same 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.

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

 

So why did some Nansemond Indians leave the Virginia homeland and settle into other tribal territory? 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.

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

Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of Virginia as a result of encroachment by European colonists. This brings to mind Edward Bass’ (1672-1750) 1715 court case against a European colonist 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 Powhatan tribal peoples who were pushed out due to encroachment. Granville County was one of several locations in North Carolina, where these families rebuilt their communities.


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. 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 and often married their own Bass cousins. As a result, most living Bass descendants from Granville have multiple Bass pedigrees.

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 the 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 does not include Bass descendants whose surnames were no longer Bass.

Untitled presentation (1)
Family Tree showing the immediate family of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802), great-grandson of John Bass(e) and Elizabeth the Nansemond. Because neither a will or estate records have been located for Benjamin Bass, there are unanswered questions as to how many children he had. In addition, numerous children were bound out to Benjamin Bass. © Kianga Lucas
Untitled presentation
Family Tree showing the immediate family of Edward Bass Jr (1728-1800), great-grandson of John Bass(e) and Elizabeth the Nansemond. Edward Bass left a will which named his children. In the Granville tax lists, he is consistently shown with his wife Tamer so I feel confident that she was the mother to all of his children. © Kianga Lucas

Two of Edward Bass’ sons: Benjamin Bass (b. 1722) and Edward Bass Jr (b. 1728) are primarily responsible for the large number of Basses in Granville as well as those Basses who continued to move West into Person, Orange, Caswell, Alamance, Chatham, and Guilford Counties.

 

The Bass lineage 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliza Louisa Richardson and Emila Lucretia Richardson
On the right Eliza Louisa Richardson (1828-1909) and on the left her niece Emily Richardson (1840-1910/1920) of Halifax County, NC. Eliza Louisa Richardson was the daughter of Hardy Richardson and Dorcas Boone. This photo was submitted with the Richardson family’s rejected Dawes Cherokee applications in 1898. Source: The National Archives

Eliza Louisa Richardson (1828-1909) resided in Halifax County, NC and is a descendant of the Bass family in Granville. Her Bass pedigree is as follows:

Eliza Louisa Richardson; Hardy Richardson; Mary Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth the daughter of the chief of the Nansemond.