I have a major update and correction to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. This is a big breakthrough for Chavis, Gibson, and Granville County researchers. And what I will discuss below is a major correction to the genealogy that researcher Paul Heinegg has provided for Jesse Chavis. As I’ve shown in other blog posts, researchers sometimes conflate the records of multiple people who happen to share the same name into a single person. I can confirm that Jesse Chavis of Granville County was NOT the son of Elizabeth Chavis of Amelia and Mecklenburg Counties, VA. Instead Jesse Chavis was from the family of Granville community founders William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson.
The Wrong Jesse Chavis
In his section on the Chavis family, Paul Heinegg wrote about a woman named Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) who lived in southside Virginia and was the mother of several children born out of wedlock. On 13 November 1769, Elizabeth Chavis had a son named Jesse Chavis who was bound out. No other information is provided as to what happened to Jesse Chavis after he was bound out. As you can see from the text above, no additional records are provided on this Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County. What Heinegg then does is assume that a Jesse Chavis who appears in the Granville County records is the same Jesse Chavis who was bound out in Mecklenburg County. This is not an unfair assumption to make because Mecklenburg County shares an important border with Granville County and many of the Native families in Granville that I have discussed came from Mecklenburg. However Heinegg provides no records to demonstrate that the Jesse Chavises are indeed the same person. In the following sections, I will examine the records of Jesse Chavis more closely and present some new records that I found which help to sort out this mix up.
The Family of William Chavis (1709-1777)
I have referenced William Chavis (1709-1777) many times in previous blog posts though I have yet to write a full blog solely dedicated to him. The reason for this is that I’m still gathering and analyzing records related to William Chavis. He is such an important ancestor not only for Granville County but for other Native communities as well, so I want to make sure I get it right.
William Chavis was the original land owner of a massive, continuous tract of land that he likely received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville in the 1740s. Local Granville/Vance County historian Oscar W. Blacknall(1852-1918) wrote about the Native American identity of William Chavis and his massive land holdings which I previously discussed here. It is the Chavis land tract that provided the original land base for the Native community. William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson(1700-1780),who was the daughter of Gibby Gibson (1660-1727) originally from the Charles City County, VA area. Before marrying William Chavis, Frances Gibson had a son named John Smith.
Perhaps most importantly, William Chavis was part of a group of Saponi Indians who were documented several times in the colonial records in the 1750s and 1760s, living in Granville County next to the land of Indian trader Col. William Eaton. I have previously blogged about these records here and here. I can’t stress enough how important this documentation is for establishing that not only were these individuals identified as Saponi, but they were collectively identified as a recognized Saponi Nation. These were not random individuals living together who just happened to be Native Americans. These were individuals that were deeply connected through a shared national identity. And these documents are from the 1750s/1760s which is many decades after the closure of Fort Christanna located in Brunswick County, VA which was the site of the Saponi reservation that the colony established.
Together William Chavis and Frances Gibson had the following children (birth dates are approximations):
1. Phillip Chavis(b. 1726)– executor of his father William Chavis’ estate and sold what was left of his father’s land. Philip moved around a lot between North Carolina and South Carolina, eventually settling in Bladen Co (later Robeson Co). He is the common ancestor of the Chavises of the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora of Robeson County.
2. Sarah Chavis(1730-1785)– married to Edward Harris and received a parcel of her father William Chavis’ land which her children later sold. Many of Sarah’s descendants remained in Granville and Wake Counties. Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris were also my 6th great-grandparents.
3. Gibby/Gideon Chavis (1737-1777)– namesake of Gibbs Creek in Granville/Vance Co off of the Tar River. He was married to Ann Priddy and because he died somewhat young (according to historian O.W. Blacknall, he was killed as a result of a horse race), his three children were looked after by his widow’s family. One of his sons named William Chavis eventually moved away by 1785 to South Carolina or Georgia (according to a letter written to the British Claims Commission). Heinegg guesses but does not firmly assert that Gibby’s son William Chavis married Sarah Kersey in 1790 and lived in Wake Co but this is not correct. After William Chavis sold his father Gibby Chavis’ land in 1785, he moved out of state.
4. William Chavis Jr (b. 1741)– was married to a woman named Ellender (maiden name not known) and by the 1780s, relocated down to Bladen (Robeson ) Co with his brother Philip Chavis. It is unknown if he had any surviving children.
5. Lettice Chavis(1742-1814)– was married to Aquilla Snelling and their descendants are mostly found in neighboring Wake Co and some relocated to Tennessee and Kentucky.
6. Keziah Chavis(b. 1742) – was married to Asa Tyner. Asa Tyner and his father-in-law William Chavis had a very tumultuous relationship which will be discussed in more detail below. Keziah’s descendants remained in Granville Co and many later moved out to Stokes/Forsyth Cos, NC.
7. Fanny Chavis – she appears on a tax list in her father William Chavis’ household in 1761 but nothing is known about her after that and she is not named in William Chavis’ estate papers.
Because William Chavis was a substantial land owner, tax payer, and had a close relationship with Indian trader Col. William Eaton, his children are well documented since they all at some point owned parcels of their father’s land and/or appear in his estate papers.
Newly Discovered Records for Jesse Chavis
William Chavis died in 1777 and his estate papers are digitized and available on Ancestry.com. Please be aware that the index for Ancestry’s North Carolina Wills and Probate collection is not so accurate, so the stop and end points of folders are not indexed properly and there are pages from different folders mixed in together. William Chavis’ estate papers are a necessary read if you are a William Chavis descendant and/or researcher. Heinegg only makes brief references to the content of the estate papers and so they are definitely worth a look because you will learn a lot more.
So while I was reviewing William Chavis’ estate papers, I came across a very interesting page. It was a court order from 5 February 1777 that called for several people to report to court to settle William Chavis’ will. The following people are named to report to court: Frances Chavers (William Chavis’ widow), Phillip Chavers (William Chavis’ son and executor of the estate), Anna Chavers (I’m not yet sure who she is), Joseph Hill, John Nevil, William Mills, John Kittrell, William Ashley, and Major Evans (from the Native America/”free colored” Evans family who intermarried and had several land transactions with the Chavises). And scribbled in between these names is a “Jesse Chavers”. (Chavers is another common spelling of Chavis).
The court order does not specify Jesse Chavis’ relationship with the deceased William Chavis but I found another page in the estate files that does help clarify. William Chavis owned a lot of land and property, so it took a number of years to finally settle his estate. His widow Frances (Gibson) Chavis died in 1780 which likely added to the complications of William Chavis’ estate. A page dated 9 Aug 1780 named Jesse Chavis as an orphan of William Chavis, deceased, and ordered that Jesse Chavis be bound out to Thomas Person until the age of 21 years.
Perhaps the reason why Jesse Chavis was not originally bound out in 1777/78 when William Chavis died was that Frances (Gibson) Chavis was still living and was financially secure from her husband’s estate to raise Jesse. But when Frances died in 1780, Jesse Chavis was truly orphaned.
However, with that said, I don’t believe that Jesse Chavis was William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son despite being called their “orphan”. For one, Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s since he was still a minor in 1780. Frances was born around 1700, making her too old to give birth in the 1760s. And second, in the many estate records dealing with transfer of land ownership and with companies attempting to collect outstanding debts from William Chavis’ estate, Jesse is never mentioned as a son to potentially collect debt from. William Chavis’ sons are consistently listed as Phillip, Gibson, and William Jr.
So if Jesse Chavis was not William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son, then what was his relationship? I believe the most likely scenario is that he was their grandson that they were raising. I’m not 100% certain which of William Chavis’ children was Jesse Chavis’ parent, but we can definitely eliminate a few. Again, keep in mind that Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s and based on other biographical information discussed later, I have estimated his birth at around 1766.
Phillip Chavis was married to wife Celia before Jesse was born, was living in Bladen County and then South Carolina around the time of Jesse’s birth, and lived long past his father William’s death, so he’s not a candidate.
Sarah Chavis was married to Edward Harris by about 1750, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Gibby/Gideon Chavis died in 1777, however Gibby’s children were named in their maternal grandfather Robert Priddy’s will. Gibby’s own will which was written in 1777 only names one son named William, so we can rule him out.
William Chavis Jr moved down to the Bladen (Robeson) Co area in the 1770s and lived long after his father died, so he doesn’t seem to be a possibility.
Lettice Chavis was married to Aquilla Snelling by 1761 and her children are named in her will, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Keziah Chavis was married to Asa Tyner in 1766 (according to tax lists and testimony from William Chavis’ estate papers). If Jesse was born before Keziah Chavis married Asa Tyner, then it is a possibility. I will explore this some more below.
And finally there is Fanny Chavis who we know very little about because she only appears in a tax list once in 1761 and no additional records for her. It’s quite possible she was Jesse’s mother and she died a short time after, thus Jesse’s grandparents raised him.
Mixed in with William Chavis’ estate papers, I found a sworn deposition provided by Joshua Hunt on 9 August 1780. Mr. Hunt was a witness to a proposed marriage contract some 15 years earlier between William Chavis and his future son-in-law Asa Tyner. It appears Asa Tyner never received his payments from William Chavis and sued the estate to be fully compensated. According to Joshua Hunt, William Chavis offered Asa Tyner: 500 £, two slaves (“Dick” and “Dilcie”), 644 acres of land that included two plantations, a large quantity of cattle and hogs, and an assortment of household items if he married William’s daughter Keziah Chavis.
Offering a dowry to marry off a daughter was certainly not unheard of for this time period, but that is quite a lot to offer to pay. I don’t know if William Chavis made similar offers to his other son-in-laws such as Edward Harris or Aquilla Snelling. So this leaves me wondering why he offered so much? Could it be that Keziah Chavis was already an unwed mother to Jesse Chavis, so William had to offer more to persuade Asa Tyner to marry her? We also know from court records that Heinegg provided, that when William Chavis was still living, he and Asa Tyner were involved in a number of legal disputes. So it appears they had a hostile relationship and some of it may stem from William Chavis never fully compensating Asa Tyner for marrying Keziah.
So at this time, my best leads are that Jesse Chavis was a son of either Fanny Chavis or Keziah Chavis. Hopefully additional research will clarify exactly who Jesse’s parents were.
Jesse Chavis and His Family
Let’s continue reviewing the additional records that Heinegg provided for Jesse Chavis and you will see they are consistent with him being from William Chavis’ family. In 1787, Jesse Chavis was a tithable in Hugh Snelling’s Granville County household. 1787 is also the year that Jesse Chavis was 21 years old, so his indenture to Thomas Person was over. Hugh Snelling was a grandson of William Chavis through his daughter Lettice Chavis and her husband Aquilla Snelling. Aquilla Snelling was deceased by 1779, so oldest son Hugh Snelling acquired most of his parent’s possessions. Hugh was a substantial land owner in Granville County and it makes sense that Jesse Chavis would reside with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. This is yet another confirmation that the Jesse Chavis of Granville County was not the same Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County.
By 1790, Jesse Chavis was the head of his own household in the Fishing Creek district of Granville County. Fishing Creek was the heart of the Native community and the location of most of William Chavis’ family and their land holdings. In August 1794, Jesse Chavis was charged with having an “illegitimate child” with Nelly Bass.Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were his securities for the “bastard bond”. Nelly, Absalom and Benjamin were from the Native American/”free colored” Bass family that I previously blogged about here. Absalom and Benjamin were brothers and Nelly was likely their sister or niece which is why they were the sureties for the bond. I don’t know the name or gender of the child that Jesse Chavis had with Nelly Bass or what happened with that child.
In his Jesse Chavis discussion, Heinegg included a record from 8 April 1798 which states a Jesse Chavis of Petersburg sold 8 heads of cattle in Granville County. This is most likely a different Jesse Chavis, perhaps the one living in Mecklenburg Co or yet another Jesse Chavis that was contemporary to one we are discussing. The fact that the record says this Jesse Chavis was of Petersburg, indicates that he was not local and instead was from Petersburg and came to Granville County to sell cattle.
In the 1790s, Jesse Chavis also fathered an “illegitimate child” with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). The name of that child was Henry Anderson (1790-1850). We know this because Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and Darling’s will makes mention of his step-son Henry Anderson. Rhody Anderson was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr(1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Winnie Bass was a sister of Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass discussed above and Lewis Anderson Jr. was from the Anderson family that I blogged about here.
Jesse Chavis was a tithable in 1802 and appears in the Granville County census in 1810, 1820, and 1830. His 1810 household included 6 people which would indicate that by 1810 Jesse was married and had several children (the 1810 census does not provide age and sex of household members). In 1820, Jesse is listed in the Fishing Creek district and is the head of a household of 8 people. In this census we can see the age and gender breakdown of the household and it appears to include Jesse, 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls ages 14 and under), and 3 women in the same age range as Jesse. One woman is likely a wife but I’m unsure who the other 2 women are. Perhaps siblings or in-laws or even a mistake by the enumerator.
In 1830, Jesse Chavis is the head of a household of 5 people (Ancestry has this incorrectly indexed as 15 people). The household looks to include Jesse (age 55 or over), a wife (female age 55 or over), two adult sons (one age 24-36 age, one age 36-55), and a daughter (age 10-24). Though the 1830 census did not name districts, I know from looking at Jesse Chavis’ neighbors that he was still in Fishing Creek. In fact he is listed two households over from my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Sherwood Harris (who was the son of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris) and Jesse Chavis were first cousins.
1830 is the last census that Jesse Chavis appears in, so he died sometime before the 1840 census. I do not have a precise date of his death and have not located a will or estate papers for him.
We do know that Jesse Chavis was married at least once. On 2 May 1812, he married Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Interestingly, Darling Bass was the bondsman for the marriage, so Jesse appears to have been on good terms with his son Henry Anderson’s step-father. Nancy Mitchell was the wife living in Jesse’s household in the 1820 and 1830 censuses, but she couldn’t have been with him in the 1810 census as that was before they were married in 1812. Recall that the 1810 census included 6 individuals in the household, so Jesse Chavis was most likely married before Nancy Mitchell and had children with that wife. I have not located any other marriage records for Jesse, so I don’t know the identity of this first wife.
I did find Jesse’s widow Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in the Beaver Dam district in Granville County. Beaver Dam is right below Fishing Creek, on the other side of the Tar River and was a location that some of the Fishing Creek community members moved into, including other descendants of William Chavis.
In the 1850 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown living with a Redding Chavis, age 49 years and a married couple – Benjamin Anderson age 60 and Franky Anderson age 52. Redding Chavis was Jesse Chavis’ son from his first unknown wife since he was born in 1801, which is before the 1812 marriage date with second wife Nancy Mitchell. Franky Anderson’s maiden name was Franky Mitchell and she was Nancy Mitchell’s daughter from before marrying Jesse Chavis. In the 1830 census, Franky Mitchell’s husband Benjamin Anderson is also shown only living two households away from Jesse Chavis. Benjamin Anderson was also the younger brother of Rhody Anderson, the woman who Jesse Chavis had a child with.
In the 1860 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown again living with her step-son Redding Chavis in Beaver Dam district in Granville Co. That is the last time she appears in the census, so she died sometime before 1870. Redding Chavis was never married but he did father a child with Fanny Harris b. 1815 named Emily Harris (1834-1907). Fanny Harris was also a descendant of William Chavis, and in fact Redding Chavis and Fanny Harris were second cousins. Emily Harris married Thomas Evans(1827-1911) and their family like many other Saponi families from Granville County, relocated to Ohio and later Michigan where the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation are today.
So to recap, Jesse Chavis was from the family of William Chavis and Frances Gibson and most likely a grandson of theirs. He was bound out to Thomas Person and then lived with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. He had a child with Nelly Bass, a child with Rhody Anderson named Henry Anderson, a first unknown wife with whom he had at least one son named Redding Chavis, and then later married Nancy Mitchell.
Looking at his household numbers in the census records, it’s quite apparent Jesse Chavis had other children. He likely had more children with his first unknown wife and children with his second wife Nancy Mitchell.
I can confirm that William Chavis (1801-1854) was a son of Jesse Chavis. And given his approximate birth date of 1801, he would be from Jesse Chavis’ first unknown wife. Census records and tax lists place William Chavis in very close proximity to where Jesse Chavis and his known family lived in the 1830s and 1840s. William Chavis married Delilah Guy (1819-1860) on 16 Oct 1834 and the Guy family as well lived in Fishing Creek and were neighbors to Jesse Chavis. William Chavis’ will makes mention of giving his mother title to the land that she was already living on in the Beaver Dam district. The text of the will was transcribed by fellow Granville County researcher Jahrod Pender:
Will of William Chavis
Jan. 26 1854 proved Feb. Court 1854
William Chavis wills to his mother the land in Beaverdam district where she now lives for her life then to my wife if she be living and if not to my children; To wife Delilah Chavis, for life or widowhood, all else I own but if she marry again then to be taken over by my excr. For use of my wife and children, and after her death to all my children.
Exrs. Col Lewis Parham
Wts W.W Dement, W H Paschall.
Though the will does not give the name of William Chavis’ mother, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is the only elder female Chavis who is listed in the census for Beaver Dam district in 1850 and 1860. Nancy was actually his step-mother but was the mother that raised him for most of his life since she married his father Jesse Chavis when William was about 10 years old. And this explains why in the census records for 1850 and 1860, Nancy was the head of the household and not her adult step-son Redding Chavis who resided with her.
I hope this blog post was informative and clarifies exactly who Jesse Chavis of Granville County was. I especially hope it’s a helpful reminder for researchers to be patient with the records and to carefully review all of the content. This is the best way to avoid mistakes such as conflating records of different individuals.
On November 8, 1737, a land deed recorded in Amelia County, Virginia contains a report of Saponi Indian cabins. This historical record is quite significant because it documents a very specific date and location of Saponi people. Throughout the 1700s, documented sightings of Saponi people continued to diminish, so any and every reference to the Saponi is important in tracking their location. In a previous blog post, I discussed the multiple reports of Saponi Indians in Granville County living next to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in the 1750s/1760s and I proposed that this was the foundation of the Native American community in Granville. (If you have not already read that blog post, I strongly suggest you do to make better sense of the content here). In this blog entry, I will look to see if any of Granville’s Native American families and nearby tribal communities can be tied to this record of Saponi Indian cabins in Amelia County.
Fort Christanna (1714-1718), the Saponi reservation:
Before discussing the Saponi living in Amelia County in 1737, some background information on where they were located before is needed. In 1714, Virginia Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740)created Fort Christanna on the outskirts of what was then the Virginia Colony, to create a “buffer zone” between the English colonists and tribes they deemed as “hostile”. The fort was located is what is now Brunswick County, Virginia. The Saponi along with other related Eastern Siouan speaking tribes were invited to live on a reservation next to the fort. After gathering at Ft. Christanna, the various tribes were all referred to collectively as “Saponi”. I will do a future blog post specifically on Fort Christanna so I will not delve into all the details about the fort here. However what is important to know is that in 1718, the fort closed due to financial pressure from Great Britain and from competing Indian traders.
After the fort closure in 1718, it is evident the Saponi fractured into smaller family groups. Some Saponi (Tutelo) allied with the Haudenesaunee and relocated to upstate NY and were adopted into the confederacy. We also have multiple reports of Saponi in the 1730s moving to and from the Catawba reservation. So it is important for researchers to understand that after 1718, one report of the Saponi living in a specific area does not mean the entire Saponi Nation was located there. So the 1737 land deed which recorded the Saponi Indian cabins, does not mean that every Saponi Indian was living in Amelia County. Instead it means that a group of Saponi people were living there. Okay, let’s proceed…
1737 Land Deed in Amelia County and Saponi Indian Cabins:
On November 8, 1737 (19 years after Ft. Christanna closed) in Amelia County, a land transaction took place between seller John Taylor of Surry Co, Va and buyer Alexander Bruce of Amelia Co, VA. The exact language of the deed reads as follows:
Beginning at a white oak above the Sappone Indians Cabbins, thence south 10 degrees, east 302 poles to a corner hicory near a branch of Winnigham Creek, thence east 10 degrees north 164 ples to a corner shrub white oak, thence noth 10 degrees west 218 poles to two corner Spanish oaks a the fork of a small spring branch thence down the said branch as it meanders to the said creek, thence up the creek as it meanders to the first station.
Previous research published by archaeologist C.G. Holland in 1982, identifies the precise location of the Saponi Cabins – on the south side of Winningham Creek and just west of State Route 617 also called “Winningham Road”. The closest municipality to this location is the town of Crewe which is located a few miles to the West. The approximate GPS coordinates of this site: 37°10’32.1″N 78°04’38.7″W
This area now falls within the borders of Nottoway County which was formed from the southern portion of Amelia County, VA called Nottoway Parish in 1789. It is also important to remember that the area where the Saponi cabins were located in 1737, is the section of Amelia Co that was formerly Prince George Co just 2 years prior in 1735. Therefore to find potential additional records related to the Saponi Indians residing off of Winningham Creek in 1737, we need to look at Prince George Co, Amelia Co, and Nottoway Co records. The land deed does not indicate how long previous to or how long after 1737, the Saponi resided off of Winningham Creek. It’s within reason to deduce that the Saponi had lived there at least several years before and after 1737, as cabins are permanent structures and the land deed would likely not rely upon a temporary point of reference.
A Cluster of Indian Traders and the Saponi Indians:
A closer look at the Anglo residents who resided in Amelia Co/Prince George Co in the years leading up to 1737, reveals a lot about why some Saponi lived in the area. In the 1720s and 1730s, Prince George Co was served by Bristol Parish. Fortunately the Bristol Parish vestry book has survived to the present. A number of noted Indian traders and other Anglo colonists who had frequent dealings with local Indians resided in Prince George Co and served as the churchwardens and vestrymen of Bristol Parish. Many of these Indian trading families were related to one another. Here follows a summary of these men:
Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) was born in York Co, VA, and resided in Prince George Co, VA for most of his life. He is recorded many times throughout the Bristol Parish records. Eaton was an Indian trader who traded with Saponi and Catawba Indians. By 1746, Eaton relocated to Granville Co, NC and in a previous blog post, I discussed the numerous reports of Saponi Indians living next to his land and enlisting in his regiment. One of these Saponi men was William Chavis (1709-1778), who owned a substantial amount of land that formed the land base for the Native American community in Granville. Clearly, Col. William Eaton had a close relationship with the Saponi when he lived in Prince George Co, VA which continued when he moved to Granville Co, NC.
Other churchwardens of Bristol Parish included Colonel Robert Bowling Jr (1682-1749), Major Robert Mumford (1674-1735), Major Peter Jones III (1691-1753), Captain Buller Herbert (1680-1730), Major William Kennon (1685-1735), William Poythress (1694-1763), and Captain Henry Randolph (1689-1726).
Colonel Robert Bolling Jr. (also spelled “Bowling”) was an Indian trader and son of Robert Bolling Sr. (1646-1709) and his second wife Anne Stith. Robert Bolling Sr.’s first wife was Jane Wolfe – granddaughter of Powhatan Indian “Pocahontas” and Englishman John Rolfe. Jane Wolfe died shortly after giving birth to their son John Fairfax Bolling. Robert Bolling Sr. remarried Anne Stith (a white woman) and he had several more children with her including Robert Bolling Jr of Bristol Parish. Robert Bolling Jr. was married to Anne Cocke.
Major Robert Mumford was an Indian trader who along with William Byrd II, John Bowling, Robert Bowling, John Evans, Peter Jones, Thomas Jones and Richard Jones traded with Indians along the Great Indian Trading Path (aka the Occaneechi Path) in North Carolina. Robert Mumford’s son James Mumford (1705-1754) was married to Elizabeth Bolling (1709-1755), daughter of the above mentioned Robert Bolling Jr. and Anne Cocke.
Major Peter Jones III was a vestryman for both Bristol Parish and Raleigh Parish (Raleigh Parish served Amelia Co after it split from Prince George Co in 1735). Peter Jones was an Indian trader and accompanied William Byrd II on at least two expeditions on the Virginia-North Carolina border line. He was also the namesake for the city of Petersburg. Major Peter Jones’ father Captain Peter Jones II (1661-1727) was also a vestryman for Bristol Parish. Peter Jones III’s paternal grandmother Margaret (maiden name not known) was second married to Thomas Cocke after Peter Jones I died. Thomas Cocke was the uncle of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke, the wife of Robert Bolling Jr.
Captain Buller Herbert was captain of the Prince George Co militia and vestryman for Bristol Parish. William Byrd II writes about visiting Buller Herbert’s home which was a short distance from Major Robert Mumford’s. Buller Herbert was married to Mary Stith, daughter of Col. Drury Stith. Drury Stith was the brother of previously mentioned Anne Stith, wife of Robert Bolling Sr.
Major William Kennon was an Indian trader whose sister Mary, was the wife of Indian trader John Fairfax Bowling, son of the previously mentioned Robert Bowling Sr. and his first wife Jane Rolfe. William Kennon was married to Anne Eppes, daughter of Col. Francis Eppes.
William Poythress was an Indian trader and came from a large family of Indian traders. His wife was Sarah Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes who was the wife of Major William Kennon.
Captain Henry Randolph was a vestryman for Bristol Parish and married to Elizabeth Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes and Sarah Eppes.
Lastly there is Robert Hicks (1658-1759) who was an Indian trader and resided in Prince George Co before moving to Emporia, VA. His surname is spelled both “Hicks” and “Hix” in colonial records. In 1708 Robert Hicks purchased land in Prince George Co from the previously mentioned Peter Jones and made another land transaction in Prince George Co in the same year with Joshua Irby (1664-1746). In 1709, Robert Hicks purchased a land tract along the northside of the Meherrin River that has been previously surveyed by Arthur Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was under investigation for misleading agreements between the Saponi Indians and the English.
Also noteworthy is that at the conclusion of the Tuscarora War in 1713, Robert Hicks lead an expedition that included 50 “tributary Indians” (meaning Indians who had been made treaties to not take up arms against the British such as the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Nansemond, Meherrin, Nottoway, Saponi, Tutelo, and Occanecchi) to locate Tuscarora Indians who were hiding out from the war. Hicks successfully brought the Tuscarora Indians into Williamsburg with a delegation that included leaders from the Tutelo, Nottoway, and Saponi. When Fort Christanna opened in 1714, Robert Hicks was named captain of the fort and he relocated his family to the area. His homestead “Hick’s Ford” is close to the modern city of Emporia in Greensville Co, VA. Robert Hicks was married to Winnifred Evans, daughter of the previously mentioned Indian trader John Evans. Hicks also accompanied William Byrd in the 1722 expedition of the Virginia/North Carolina border. Included in this expedition was Saponi guide Ned Bearskin.
Clearly Prince George Co was home to a number of wealthy and influential Indian traders who had dealings with Saponi and other regional tribes. Close proximity to the Great Trading Path is also what brought all of these Indian traders into the Prince George Co area. Additionally, there was strong incentive for the Saponi to settle close to these Indian traders and the Great Trading Path in order to sustain a trade and “tributary” relationship with the Virginia colony. With all of this in mind, I think we have thoroughly explored and contextualized why a group of Saponi Indians were residing in cabins in Amelia Co in 1737.
Identifying the Saponi Indians in Amelia County:
With the identification of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737 and the discussion of the numerous local Indian traders, we may be able to identify who some of these Saponi families were. The land deed did not provide any names of the Saponi Indians living in Amelia County in 1737, so we may never be able to fully verify their identities. However I was able to identify several Native American families, many who have descendants in Granville County and neighboring Native communities, that could very well be part of the Saponi Indian living in Amelia Co. And to no surprise, most of these families have intermarried with one another over many generations.
CHAVIS Rebecca Chavis (1721-1768) first appears in the Bristol Parish records on Nov 11, 1734 when she was bound out to John West (1673-1743). On that exact same day a Sarah Chavis is bound out to William Macewen, so there is a strong probability that Rebecca and Sarah were sisters or some other close family relation. I don’t have any solid leads on who the parents of Rebecca and Sarah Chavis were. It is likely that their mother was an indentured servant and became pregnant during her servitude which is why her children were bound out by law. We know that both John West and William Macewen lived in the section of Prince George Co that became Amelia County the following year in 1735, because they are next found in the Amelia Co records. (A published copy of Amelia Co road orders found here, is what I frequently used to help locate where individuals lived). John West’ wife Mary asked the previously mentioned Indian trader Robert Mumford to represent her interests in a land deed. Furthermore, John West and William Macewen are on a list of tithables located below Deep Creek. Winningham Creek, the site of the Saponi cabins, runs northeast into Deep Creek. In 1740, the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County, bound out Rebecca Chavis’ son Adam Chavis. And in 1756, 1760, 1763, 1764, and 1768, the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish in Amelia Co, bound out more of Rebecca’s children. Rebecca Chavis is also mentioned in Dec 1760 in neighboring Lunenburg County, when the churchwardens of Cumberland Parish bound out her son Ned. So Rebecca Chavis lived in the immediate area of the Saponi cabins before, during, and after their documented reference in 1737.
All of Rebecca Chavis’ children were bound out repeatedly and it appears her Chavis family moved slightly southwest into Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties as they start to appear in those county records in 1768. At least two of Rebecca’ Chavis’ children – James Chavis (1749-1824) and Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 had children who were well documented, so we are able to trace Rebecca’s line forward. James Chavis moved to Mecklenburg Co as early as 1782, when he first appears as a tithable and continued to be listed as a “mulatto” tithable through 1820. James Chavis’ and his wife Fanny were named in a May 14, 1800 order from the Mecklenburg County court, to have Frederick Gowen/Goins pay them $1.06 for being witnesses in a suit. James Chavis appears in the 1820 Census as a head of household of 10 “other free” in Mecklenburg Co. He died before 1824, when his estate was settled. James Chavis’ children – James, Lydia, Jincy, William, Thomas, Ann, Pleasant, Henry, Ellison, and Elizabeth were named in a 1832 chancery suit.
All of James Chavis’ children intermarried with other local Native American families and appear to have remained in Mecklenburg Co. Some of these Chavises are the ancestors of the contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi community located in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA. One of James Chavis’ children – Lydia Chavis(1779-1865) married Jeremiah Harris(1775-1855) and moved to Jackson County, Ohio by 1830. Their Harris family is a core family of the modern Midwest Saponi Nation, Saponi Nation of Ohio, and Catawba of Carr’s Run tribes all located in Ohio. The Catawba are a closely related tribe to the Saponi and a number of Saponi allied with the Catawba after the closure of Fort Christanna.
Going back to Rebecca Chavis, she also had a daughter named Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 who was bound out by the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County on Aug 26, 1756. By 1760, Elizabeth Chavis was in Lunenburg Co, and by 1782, she was living in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth had two children born out of wedlock, Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) and Bartlett Chavis (born 1776). Elizabeth Chavis’ son Bartlett Chavis (born 1776) continued living in Halifax Co, VA as well as neighboring Pittsylvania Co, VA and married Elizabeth Matthews on Feb 10, 1803 in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth Matthews is of the Native American Matthews family that I discuss below. Bartlett’s probable children – Cole Chavis and Benjamin Chavis, were listed as tithables in the same household that Bartlett was a tithable in.
I should also include that since I don’t know who Rebecca Chavis’ (1721-1768) parents are, I don’t know if and how she is related to Granville community “founder” William Chavis (1706-1778). But certainly if the two are related, it lends additional credence that Rebecca Chavis was related to the Saponi Indian cabins. And it would explain why some of Rebecca’s descendants later moved to the Granville location of her relative William Chavis where the Saponi were also reported.
On Oct 30, 1732, Ruth Matthews was bound to Robert Downing in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co. She next appears in the records as a “free mulatto”on Mar 7, 1756 when her daughter Elizabeth was baptized at St. James Northam Parish in Goochland County, VA. Ruth Matthews was then called an “Indian” on Sep 26, 1737 when her children Betty, Jemmy, Bristol, and Judith were bound to William Flemming of St. James Northam Parish in Cumberland Co VA (formerly a section of Goochland Co, VA).
I have not been able to identify who “Robert Downing” was and cannot locate him in any other historical records of Virginia from that time period. I also cannot locate any other Downings in the Brisol Parish records. I think it’s probable that his name has been mis-transcribed and the entry in the original vestry book should be reviewed for accuracy. Maybe the name should have been transcribed as “Robert Bowling” – as in Col. Robert Bolling Jr (1682-1749) – the Indian trader who we already know was a churchwarden of Bristol Parish. Without knowing exactly who “Robert Downing” was, it’s hard to identify exactly where in Prince George Co Ruth Matthews resided. But if it turns out to be Robert Bolling Jr, then that situates Ruth Matthews in close proximity to the Saponi Indian cabins and living with a known Indian trader.
Ruth Matthews’ son James (called “Jemmy” when he was bound out) Matthews was born around 1750 and moved to Halifax Co, VA by 1787. On Jul, 20 1790, he married Molly Cumbo with David Gowen/Goins providing the surety. James Matthews last appears as a tithable in 1813 in Halifax Co, VA and likely died shortly after that. I have not located any records of descendants.
Bristol Matthews, another son of Ruth’s was born around 1752 and remained in Goochland Co, VA when he married Ann “Nanny” Lynch on Sep, 25 1775. Bristol Matthews likely fathered Ann Lynch’s children who were born before their marriage and when she was still bound to George Payne. The reason being that while she was still an indentured servant, she could not marry. However when her service was complete, she immediately married Bristol Matthews. One child was Thomas Lynch b. 1772 who married Sally Banks on July 29, 1801. Another possible child of Bristol Matthews and Ann Lynch’s was Patsy “Martha” Lynch b. 1774. Patsy Lynch is the progenitor of the core Lynch family of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Patsy first appears in the Halifax Co, NC minutes in 1798 and I have not located her in the Virginia records so I don’t have any further verification that she was the daughter of Ann Lynch and Bristol Matthews.
Returning to Ruth Matthews – her father was most likely William Matthews who is mentioned a few times in the Bristol Parish records. On Nov 17, 1722, William Matthews’ stepson William Snelgrove was bound out to Robert Lyon. In that record William Matthews was identified as an “Indian”.
And on July, 24 1727, the churchwardens of Bristol Parish, including all of those Indian traders that I discussed earlier, bound Mary Bibby to William Matthews. The dates of both of these records would make William Matthews an appropriate adult age to be Ruth Matthew’s father, given her approximate birth year was 1728.
The Native American Bibby family in Granville/Franklin Cos, NC descend from Mary Bibby who as previously mentioned in the Matthews section above, on July 24, 1727 was bound by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish to William Matthews.
Mary Bibby’s parents are unknown, but it is likely her Bibby surname is connected to the Bibby family descending from William Bibby, an Englishman who arrived in Accomack Co, VA in the 1620s. I think it is also possible that William Matthews was Mary Bibby’s father since she was bound out to him. We know from other Bristol Parish and Goochland Co records that William Matthews and his Matthews family were documented as “Indian” and it seems highly unlikely the colony would bound out a child to an “Indian” that was of no relation to the child.
It is not known how long Mary Bibby stayed in Prince George Co but by 1759 she was living in Granville Co, NC. In 1762 she wa a tithable in Joshua Ingram’s household and had married his “negro slave” Charles. The part of Granville Co that she lived in became Franklin Co in 1779. Mary Bibby had several documented children: Edmund Bibby b. 1758, Fanny Bibby b. 1759, Solomon Bibby (1764-1846), Absalom Bibby b. 1764, and William Bibby b. 1766 who all continued to live in Franklin Co. Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) married Charity Young b. 1768 on Dec 25, 1789 in Franklin Co. Charity was from Bertie Co, NC and from the Young and Demery families that have connections with Nottoway and Tuscarora people (and the modern Lumbee community). Solomon Bibby was a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran, along with his brothers Absalom and Edmund.
Local Granville Co historian Oscar W. Blacknall (aka David Dodge) wrote about the Indian identity of the “free negroes” of the area which I blogged about previously here and the Bibby family was included in his writing. In Blacknall’s October 12, 1895 letter to the editor of the News and Observer, he talks about a “free negro” Revolutionary War soldier named “Dibby” and his son who strongly protested the 1835 state constitution which disenfranchised all “free people of color”. There are no Dibbys in the area and given that Blacknall misspelled other names in this same letter, I’m certain he meant to say “Bibby”. And I’m confident Blacknall is referring to Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) because he is the most well known of the Bibby siblings and neither Edmund or Absalom Bibby had any documented sons. The descendants of Solomon Bibby continued to intermarry with Granville’s Native American community.
The Brandon family (also spelled Branham, Brandum, Brandom) descends from several Brandons living in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co, as well as surrounding areas of Brunswick Co. and Henrico Co. who first appear in the records in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s. It is not known exactly how all these Brandons relate to each other but a few Brandons who were born in the household of Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale in Bristol Parish were most likely siblings and could be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins. Edward Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on July 9, 1730 and in 1751, Edward Brandon was a tithable between the Flatt and Deep Creek districts of Amelia Co. As you will recall, Winningham Creek the site of the Saponi cabins runs off of Deep Creek in Amelia County. Margaret Brandon was born on Nov 7, 1720 and was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Oct 10, 1722. Doll “Dorothy” Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Jul 24, 1727.
Contemporaries to siblings Edward, Margaret and Doll Brandon, who are probably of some family relation to them include: Benjamin Branham b. 1721 who lived in Louisa Co, and Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728 and who lived in Brunswick and Lunenburg Cos. There was an Edward Branham b. 1760 who was likely related to Benjamin Branham and Eleanor Branham/Brandon. Edward Branham first appears as a tithable in Amherst Co, VA in 1783 and he is the progenitor of the core Branham family of the state recognized Monacan Tribe in Amherst Co. The Monacan are another Eastern Siouan tribe that are very closely related to and allied with the Saponi at Fort Christanna.
Eleanor Brandon/Branham is the common ancestor of the Brandon family of Granville County. She also has descendants who remained in Mecklenburg Co and who removed to Ohio and are part of the Midwest Saponi Nation and Saponi Nation of Ohio. Eleanor’s surname is spelled both “Branham” and “Brandon” in the records, but her children more often used the “Brandon” spelling. The Brandons in Granville County intermarried with the Native community and became a core family.
STEWART/STUART Elizabeth Stewartb. 1695 had several children whose birth, baptisms, and indentures were recorded in Bristol Parish from 1721-1741 – Edward b. Aug 19, 1721, William b. 1723, Matthew b. Sep, 19 1726, Mary b. Sep, 19 1732, Martha b. Oct 3, 1741. Her son Edward Stewart b. 1721, was bound to the previously mentioned Indian trader Buller Herbert in Bristol Parish, Price George Co. By 1747, Edward had moved to Chesterfield Co, VA. His son James Stewart b. 1760, was counted as an “Indian” on the 1795 Goochland Co, VA tax list. A possible son of Edward Stewart’s named John Stewart (1758-1812), married Pamunkey Indian Frances Dungey. In fact John Stewart or a brother of his, may be responsible for the Stewart family currently found in Chickahominy and Pamunkey tribes. Many of John Stewart and Frances Dungey’s documente descendants relocated to Ohio and are found among the Midwest Saponi Nation and the Saponi Nation of Ohio.
Elizabeth Stewart’s son William Stewart b. 1723 who is the progenitor of most of the Stewarts found on Granville’s Native American community, was bound to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in 1739 by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish. Several years later Eaton moved to Granville Co living next to the Saponi so it makes sense that some of William Stewart’s descendants later ended up in Granville. By 1779, William Stewart was a resident of Mecklenburg Co when he purchased land in the county. His wife was Mary Harris was the aunt of the previously mentioned Jeremiah Harris who married Lydia Chavis. Another son of Elizabeth Stewart’s named Matthew Stewart b. 1726, had a son named Titus Stewart b. 1753 whose descendants are also found in Granville Co.
There is another Stewart lineage that descends from a John Stewart (17175-1765) and his wife Martha Patty Harris (b. 1730) who lived in neighboring Lunenburg and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Their son Thomas Stewart (1742-1818) is the progenitor of the core Stewart family of the Sappony Tribe of Person County.
BIRD/BYRD Elizabeth Birdb. 1720 was called a “mulatto woman” when her daughter Molly Bird b. 1738 was bound out by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish on Dec 9, 1740. The person who Molly Bird was bound out to was not named, so we don’t know the exact location of Elizabeth or Molly. Next on On Nov 24, 1757, she sued for her freedom from Alexander Bolling in Amelia Co. Alexander Bolling (1720-1767) was from the Indian-trading Bolling family and the grandson of the previously mentioned Col. Robert BollingSr. and his second wife Anne Stith.
Molly was also called Mary Bird and is next found in the Brunswick Co, VA records where her children were bound out by the churchwardens of Meherrin Parish on Feb 28, 1780. Her children all appear to have moved to Charlotte Co, VA: Joseph Bird b. 1765 married Nettie Jackson on Aug 20, 1790, Catherine Bird b. 1769 married Isaac Jackson on 22 Sep 1797 in Lunenburg and then moved to Charlotte Co, Peggy Bird b. 1770 did not marry and appears in the tax lists, and William Bird b. 1775 married Polly Carter Nov 19, 1796. Molly Bird’s descendants’ that remained in the Charlotte Co area can be found among contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in the area and some descendants moved to Ohio and are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation.
Three contemporary “Indian” Lawrences who lived in Amelia Co. and Brunswick Co. and were likely siblings: Martha Lawrence b. 1730, Drury Lawrence b. 1734, and Robin Lawrence b. 1735. Drury is the only one mentioned in Amelia Co when on Jun 26, 1755, he asked to be discharged from his indenture to Charles Irby (1695-1763). Charles Irby was a justice and prominent land owner in the area of Amelia Co where the Saponi cabins were reported. By 1772, Drury Lawrence was living in Lunenburg Co, VA when he taxed as an “Indian” in Cumberland Parish. Martha Lawrence’s son Richard Littlepage Lawrence b. 1747 was called an “Indian” when he was bound out to Drury Stith Jr. in 1751 in Brunswick Co, VA. Drury Stith Jr. was the son of the previously mentioned Col. Drury Stith and nephew of the previously mentioned Anne Stith who married Robert Bolling Sr. When Robin Lawrence’s son Wood Lawrence b. 1767, registered as a “free negro” in 1811 in Charlotte Co, VA, his father Robin was called an “Indian”. The Lawrences intermarried with other local Native American families including : Jumper, Flood, and Barber. Descendants are found among the Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA.
There were quite a number of Valentines who first appear in the records in the early-mid 1700s in neighboring counties in southside Virginia that may be related. Only one was found in area of the Sapon cabins and that was John Valentine b. 1721.John Valentine first appears in the Amelia Co records in May 1743 when he accused Charles Irby of keeping him as a slave despite being a free person. This is the same Charles Irby who the previously mentioned Drury Lawrence asked the courts to relieve him of his servitude in 1755. There are no known records for John Valentine before 1743, but if he was an indentured servant to Charles Irby before 1743, then he also lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737. There are Valentine descendants in Granville’s Native American community who first appear in the Granville records in the first decades of the 1800s. Unfortunately because it is not known how all of these early Valentines are related to one another, I’m unsure where the Granville Valentines exactly fit into the larger Valentine family tree.
HOWELL Judith Howell’s 1725 birth was registered in St. Peter’s Parish in New Kent Co as a daughter of Dorothy Howell, a “mulatto” servant of Sherwood Lightfoot. Judith Howell does not appear in the records again until 1752, when she complained to the Amelia Co, VA courts that John Thomas was keeping and detaining her as a slave despite being a free woman. The following year in 1753 she was taxed in the Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co household of Abraham Cocke (1690-1760). Abraham Cocke was a relative of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke who was the wife of Indian trader Robert Bolling Jr. Both John Thomas and Abraham Cocke lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins and were neighbors with the previously mentioned Charles Irby. There is a thirty year gap between Judith’s birth and her complaint against John Thomas, so I’m not sure where she was living during those years. I do believe Judith Howell was of the Pamunkey tribe, because the Pamunkey reservation was situated directly across the river from where she was born in 1725 and historian Dr. Helen Rountree calls the Howell family “fringe Pamunkey”. However Judith Howell ended up living in Saponi territory with descendants who intermarried with Saponi families. It could be the Howells, were similar to the Stewarts and Dungeys who have early tribal roots with both the Pamunkey (or Chickahominy) and Saponi people.
In 1753, Judith’s son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out by the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co. Matthew Howell moved to Charlotte Co, VA and his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) is the progenitor of the Howell family in Granville’s Native American community. Other descendants of Matthew Howell remained in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Co area and some moved out to Ohio to form core families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.
In 1717, after the conclusion of the Tuscarora War, the colony created a reservation for King Blount’s “friendly Tuscarora” in what is now Bertie County. The reservation became to be known as “Indian Woods”. The “friendly” Tuscarora who resided there did not take up arms against the colony, so they were rewarded for their neutrality. Some of the Native American families in Granville County have Tuscarora tribal roots from “Indian Woods”, so this reservation plays an important role in the history and genealogy of the community. My goal in this blog entry is to document the boundaries of the reservation through historical records and maps.
In her blog Native Heritage Project, Roberta Estes cites the research of Fletcher Freeman who describes the boundary of Indian Woods as follows:
In 1717, the NC Council created the Indian Woods Reservation for the Tuscarora in a Treaty with Chief Tom Blount. It consisted of “all the land lying between Mr. Jones’ lower land on the North side of the Moratoc River (Roanoke) to Quitsana Swamp” Two towns were created, one of which was “Resootska” or King Blounts’s Town. This reservation was approximately 60,000 acres. It was not specifically defined until 1748 at which time it was delineated from Quitsana Swamp north to Rocquist Swamp, west to Falling Run Creek/Deep Creek and south to the Roanoke River and back to Quitsana.
Though Freeman says the reservation land was about 60,000 acres, I found more records that indicate the land was 53,000 acres so that is the estimate that I’m working with. 53,000 acres is approximately 84 square miles.
I also found an additional reference to the layout of the reservation in another blog entry from Roberta Estes, which includes the following information:
1752: When Moravian missionaries visited the Indian Woods reservation, they noted “many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna” and that “others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke.’ Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg of the Moravian Brethren visited among the Tuscaroras in Bertie Co. while trying to secure land for the Moravians. He finds them to be “in great poverty.” At that time their land was about twelve miles long and six miles at its greatest width.
1752 is just a few decades after the reservation was created, and you already see a reference to many of the Tuscarora families moving North (to join the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) as well as many families scattering to surrounding areas. This means that early on in the history of the reservation, we know that the Tuscarora in North Carolina were not bounded by the Indian Woods reservation. This important and crucial detail is essential in documenting Tuscarora families that remained in North Carolina through to the present.
The observations of this Moravian missionary are very telling because he indicates that the reservation is twice as long as it is wide. 12 miles by 6 miles is 72 square miles, which is 12 square miles less than the original 84 square miles set aside in 1717. So we also know that also within a few decades, some of the reservation land was lost, most likely due to encroachment by colonists.
So knowing that the reservation was bounded by the Roanoke River, Quitsana Swamp, Roquist Creek, and Deep Creek and that it was a rectangular shape, I went to various maps to draw out the border.
Roanoke, Quitsana, and Roquist I found easily, but no Deep Creek! I found Deep Creeks in neighboring Hertford County and Northampton County but those Deep Creeks were too far out of the way to create a realistic border for Indian Woods. All of this lead me to realize that what was called “Deep Creek” back in the 1700s, is likely called by another name today. I’ve come across numerous waterways that underwent name changes over the years, so this was not out of ordinary. And my suspicions were confirmed when I found this reference:
Indian Creek: rises in NW Bertie County and flows S into Roanoke River. Creek was the N boundary of the Tuscarora Indian property in Indian Woods Township. Mentioned in local records as early as 1723. Appears as Deep Creek on the Collet map, 1770. See also Resootskeh.
So the Deep Creek that was referred to as a boundary of Indian Woods, is today known as “Indian Creek”. And by using all of the above information, I present to you my initial map of the original boundary of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation:
After posting this blog, Forest Hazel, historian for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation provided me with the 1748 land plat for Indian Woods. The plat follows the waterway borders: Roanoke River, Indian Creek (“Deep Creek”), Roquist Creek, and Quitsana Swamp:
However as was also pointed out to me, the Collett Map of 1770 and the various versions of the Mouzon map of 1775 found here and here, show the Indian Woods reservation with a slightly different border that followed the Roquist Creek to the very end past Quitsana Swamp. This additional land includes a peninsula known as Conine Island:
If you will recall from earlier, the Indian Woods reservation was first created in 1717 but without a defined border. It was simply referred to as the land between the Roanoke River and Roquist Swamp (Creek). However in 1748, the reservation’s borders were defined, placing Deep Creek as the Northwestern border and Quitsana Swamp as the Southeastern border. This is why the land plat for Indian Woods from 1748 does not include this additional land known as “Conine Island”. So with that in mind, here is my update version of Indian Woods showing both sets of boundaries:
Rethinking William Chavis’ Granville County Land Tract
So now having drawn out the boundary of the Indian Woods reservation, something about it looked very familiar to me – William Chavis’ original Granville County land tract!
As you’ll recall from my earlier blog post where I discuss local historian Oscar W. Blacknall’s writing about the Native American community, Blacknall described William Chavis’ land as being situated on the Tar River and going upstream for about 16 miles bordered by Lynch Creek and Fishing Creek, and then going 5 miles inland. Here is the boundary that I drew of William Chavis’ land:
Both William Chavis’ land and Indian Woods were situated on two of North Carolina’s major waterways: the Tar River and the Roanoke River, respectively. These rivers have always played a crucial role in the lives of Native Americans in North Carolina, before and after colonization. Both land tracts were rectangular, bounded by creeks and both went inland for 5-6 miles. Blacknall suggested that William Chavis received this land directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville, because it was such a large amount of continuous land with natural waterway borders.
This all makes me wonder if perhaps the Saponi living in Granville County were situated on some sort of recognized land base. As I discussed in this blog post on the colonial records of Saponi Indians in Granville County, it was documented many times that the Saponi were living on lands next to Col. William Eaton who had a trade relationship with them. And that is the precise location of William Chavis’ large land tract. I have not recovered any records to indicate that William Chavis’ land was recognized as a reservation or was communally owned, but clearly more research into his land records needs to be done.
Given the frequency of racial mislabeling of Granville County’s Native Americans, how exactly can we be sure we’re correctly identifying “Indian” people? This is a fair and common question. Identifying Native Americans in the colonial and historical records throughout the Southeast is very challenging because Native Americans were seldomly identified individually by name and all free non-whites fell under the politically created term “free colored”. In addition, any real or perceived African racial “admixture” usually meant Native Americans with any African ancestry, were often not enumerated in official government documents as “Indian”. In spite of these challenges, there are still ways to correctly identify Native American communities.
This is why the writing of local Granville County historian Oscar W. Blacknall (1852-1918) is crucial in understanding the identify and social life of Granville County’s Native American community. As a white man, he provides an outsider perspective of the community but because of his family’s deep colonial roots in the area, he was intimately familiar with the community’s families. And one very important and consistent description in Blacknall’s writing about the “free colored” community is that although he includes the term “free negro” to describe the people, he is absolutely certain of their “Indian” racial identity.
Background Information on Oscar W. Blacknall aka David Dodge
Before we explore his writings, here is some background info on Oscar W. Blacknall (1852-1918). He was the son of fallen Confederate soldier Col. Charles C. Blacknall and Virginia Baskerville Spencer. His paternal great-grandmother was Mary “Polly” Kittrell, whose Kittrell family is the namesake for the town of Kittrell where her family has pre Revolutionary War roots. Blacknall wrote in many newspapers and magazines, sometimes under the pseudonym “David Dodge”. His life ended in a murder-suicide tragedy in 1918 when he killed his wife, his daughter, and then killed himself. This was after the devastating deaths of several of his children.
“The Free Negroes of North Carolina” from January 1886, The Atlantic Monthly
The first Blacknall writing that we will discuss is titled, “The Free Negroes of North Carolina” in the January 1886 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Blacknall wrote this article under his pseudonym “David Dodge”. It is a long article and I will not be reposting the entire text, but you can access the full text here. Instead I will repost important excerpts, starting with this one:
The other factor in their decadence — or perhaps more correctly, another cause of their torpor and inelasticity —is the considerable infusion of Indian blood generally diffused by exclusive intermarriage in their own class, and which has unduly asserted itself owing to their irregular mode of life for many generations. From the nature of the case, the extent of this infusion is of course hard to approximate. If the account of the free negro himself is to be received, it is large, though his anxiety to disown all negro affinity causes one to receive his statement with caution and allowance. But, tradition aside, many, if not the larger part, of the free negroes whose freedom dates back further than this century show traits of mind and body that are unmistakably Indian. In many instances, long, coarse, straight black hair and high cheek-bones are joined with complexions whose duskiness disclaims white blood and with features clearly un-African. True, these extreme types are the exception; but the majority shade up to it more or less closely. These traits are more noticeable among women, forming no exception to the usual accentuation of racial characteristics in the female. The mental qualities of unrecuperativeness and transcendent indolence of a drowsy, listless type, coupled with lurking vindictiveness, all point the same way.
This excerpt shows that Blacknall is unequivocal in his statement that the “free negroes” of the area he lived in are Native Americans. He even describes how the people strongly self-identify as “Indian”, perhaps at times over-stating their Indian identity. Blacknall believes the people to be not only Indian in their appearance but also in their personality and lifestyle. He uses the common racial tropes of “high cheekbones” and “straight hair” to describe the women as “Indian”. And Blacknall also points out what he perceives to be the community’s anti-modern, backwards, suspicious, and lazy demeanor as characteristically “Indian”. Something that he eludes to but discusses in more detail in the subsequent excerpt, is the extremely endogamous marriage patterns of the community – i.e., people almost exclusively marry their own kin.
My neighborhood contains an “Ol’ Isshy” town, a petrified remnant of the past, hardly an exaggeration of the general type, in which the above race marks are to be seen in their full development. It stands about five miles from the railroad station, and consists of some half a dozen families, scantily provided with fathers, crowded into as many little huts scattered here and there on a “slipe” of very poor, rocky ridge. Here they have vegetated for several generations since their ancestors immigrated from Virginia, early in the century. They are intensely clannish and loyal to each other, timid and suspicious of the outside world, of which they are incredibly ignorant. Many of the women have grown old without ever seeing the cars or having been in a town, although almost within sight of both.They still cherish boundless respect for the class that are to them, and to them alone, “rich folks,” coupled with an abiding dislike of the “New Isshy,” especially if he is black. A marriage, even a liaison, with one would be instantly fatal to the reputation of any female among them, though, excepting the African, the children of many, in point of variety of color at least, might serve to illustrate the five races of mankind.After their own immediate class, they associate almost wholly with the poorest whites, though not quite as equals.
We see Blacknall describe in more detail why members of the Native American community exclusively married their own kin because it was socially unacceptable for them to marry blacks or whites. He does concede that the community would sometimes intermarry with “poor whites” because both groups occupied similar social standing. Even though most members of the Native American community had varying amounts of both African and European ancestry, Blacknall shows that they still self-identified as “Indian” and were identified as “Indian” by their black and white neighbors.
The term “Old Isshy” referred to the “free-born” status of the Native American community, whereas “New Isshy” referred to the “freed slave” status of the black community. This distinction was apparently important for both communities to make which resulted in the use of this terminology. Blacknall also describes a particular cluster of families from the Native American community living a few miles from his home that I have pointed out on the map:
As you can see, 5 miles from the Kittrell train station is the precise location of the Native American community that is mostly centered around Fishing Creek and then expands in various directions including Kittrell, Oxford, and Brassfield. Native Americans families lived in tight clusters throughout the county, but the Fishing Creek area is the oldest area with the highest concentration of Native American families. The Native American families who most commonly lived in tight clusters in the Fishing Creek/Kittrell area that Blacknall described include: Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Mitchell, Parker, Howell, Boon, Scott, Brandon, Evans, Guy, Richardson, Taborn, Tyler, Hedgepeth, Jones and Hawley.
The “poor whites” that the Native American community intermarried with, were most often white women. Blacknall further explains here:
Indeed, of all the hundreds of free negroes that I have known from childhood, I cannot now recall a dozen black or very dark ones. Hardly a neighborhood was free from low white women who married or cohabited with free negroes. Well can I recollect the many times when, with the inconsiderate curiosity of a child, I hurriedly climbed the front gate-post to get a good look at a shriveled old white woman trudging down the lane, who, when young, I was told, had had her free-negro lover bled, and drank some of his blood, so that she might swear she had negro blood in her, and thus marry him without penalty. Since I became a man I have heard it corroborated by those who knew, and I still occasionally see the children of this tragic marriage, now grown old men.
From looking at census records and marriage records for members of the community, I as well noticed a pattern of poor white women who lived among and had children with men from the community. For example:
What I find also very informative about this article is that Blacknall discusses the changing attitudes that whites had towards the Native American community. Before and right after the Revolutionary War, whites looked at the community favorably. But due to increasing fears of slave revolts, whites began to distrust all “free people of color”:
The attitude of the races towards each other was widely different from what it afterwards became. But about 1830, a growing mistrust on the part of the whites manifested itself. Abolitionism, hitherto the hobby of visionaries and isolated philanthropists, had now grown to be the watchword of a militant, uncompromising party. Its subtle leaven permeated the whole country, encouraging the slave, exasperating the master.
Blacknall later references the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia, which prompted the North Carolina legislature to completely disenfranchise the rights of “free people of color” in 1835. This included taking away the right to vote and the right to own firearms. As a result, attitudes towards the Native American community greatly shifted during the decades leading up the Civil War and the community suffered for it. Blacknall echoes this sentiment:
There is still a tradition among them in Granville County that they lost the franchise on account of their persistent support of the notorious Potter. Potter, though a man of parts and a natural orator, was a consummate demagogue and a violent, unscrupulous man, whose new departure in iniquity evoked special legislation. Toward the last, the free negroes falling more and more into disrepute, their support carried such a stigma with it as to be an element of weakness rather than of strength to a candidate. More than one candidate of those days, twitted by his opponent on the stump about this element of his constituency, retorted by declaring his willingness to throw out every free-negro ballot, if his assailant would do likewise. After this period, the life of the free negro grew unspeakably harder. Not so much that the laws were harsher, but because the attitude of the whites became and continued more hostile.
And Blacknall continues:
It is not to be wondered that the free negroes, unelastic and prone to unthrift, underwent still further deterioration. Cowed, perplexed, and dispirited, they huddled together on any scant, sterile bit of land that they were fortunate enough to be possessed of, erected clusters of their frail little huts, and like oppressed, hopeless classes the world over sunk into profound listlessness and sloth. The women grew unchaste, the men dishonest, until in many minds the term “free negro” became a synonym for all that was worthless and despicable.
Oscar W. Blacknall’s Letters to the Editor in 1895
Though the 1886 Atlantic Monthly article is full of rich description, Oscar Blacknall failed to provide any specific names of people from the Native American community. In this published letter from 1895 he did provide names, but he mixed up their identities:
In this letter, Blacknall cites a man named “Chavers” who was a school teacher that taught white students. (“Chavers” is a common spelling variation of “Chavis”). He says this same man owned a huge tract of land along the Tar River and that there is still a bridge and road named after him. Though, Blacknall did not give the man’s first name, there is no doubt he is referring toJohn Chavis (1763-1838), a Revolutionary War soldier who famously became a Presbyterian preacher and taught white students. However John Chavis was not the owner of the large tract of land along the Tar River. That was William Chavis (1706-1778), founder of Granville County’s Native American community. And it is William Chavis, not John Chavis, who is the namesake for the road and bridge. It is not known if the two men were related. John Chavis (1763-1838) was born in Mecklenburg Co, VA and was the son of a Jacob Chavis and Elizabeth Evans. I authored a blogpost you can read here about this John Chavis to help clarify his identity in the historical archive. Blacknall mistakenly conflated the two men but a couple of weeks later, Blacknall corrects his mistake in another letter to the newspaper:
Immediately, Blacknall admits his mistake in conflating the two men and says that it is William Chavis (1706-1778) who was the large land owner. He refers to Chavis’ land as the “old Chavis tract” and describes it as beginning at Lynch Creek and going 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek. His land then extended continuously a full 5 miles inland from the banks of Tar River. I have outlined William Chavis’ land tract below:
51,200 acres is an enormous amount of land and is far beyond the Chavis land that was described in Wes White’s write-up for the Lumbee Tribe’s federal recognition. (The Lumbee Chavis family descends from William Chavis’ son Phillip Chavis). Blacknall believes that Chavis came to own such a large, continuous tract of land directly by way of John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville (1690-1763). As I discussed in an earlier blog post, the entire upper half of North Carolina was owned by John Cateret and was known as “Granville District”. The Blacknall Family property was originally part of the old Chavis land tract, so that is why Oscar Blacknall was intimately familiar with the history of who owned the land before his own family. This expansive tract of land that William Chavis owned, formed the land base for Granville County’s Native American community. So when I refer to the original land base for the community, you now know exactly what I’m referring to. Also note that this land was not “communally owned”, but rather privately owned by William Chavis and later divided into smaller plots privately owned by other community members. So it was not a bounded reservation, and increasingly over time as land was sold off, many unrelated families both white and black, came to reside in this location. (Note: William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson are my 7th great-grandparents).
In this article, Blacknall also discusses William Chavis’ son Gibson “Gibbs” Chavis (1737-1777) who he says is the namesake for Gibb’s Creek (part of the original Chavis land tract). Gibson Chavis was the owner of a racing horse named “Black Snake” who won Gibson a lot of money. However one night, Gibson Chavis was killed by a group of men he had won money off of from his racing horse. The fact that Gibson named his horse “Black Snake” is very culturally relevant. Black snakes are common in the area and traditional indigenous belief is that the snake holds a lot of power and medicine. The black snake is even featured on the Haliwa-Saponi tribal seal:
As the letter continues, Blacknall reiterates many of the points he raised in the 1886 Atlantic Monthly article. Here is an excerpt:
“Excepting Wake county, I found them far more numerous in Granville County as well as much more characteristic of the type…I found that many of the families denied that their ancestors had ever been slaves. This denial I naturally attributed to their pride or ignorance. But it turned out they were right. An investigation as far as practicable of their genealogy SHOWED THEM TO BE LARGELY OF INDIAN BLOOD……Their prejudices against the slaves were so strong that nearly all the affinity of the free negro was with the lowest class of whites. As this exclusiveness still prevails, many known as free negroes probably have not one drop of negro blood.”
In the article, he also discusses slave ownership among the “free negro” population. Blacknall found that some of the “free negroes” were themselves slave owners. This is true – for example William Chavis (1706-1778) the community’s founder, did own slaves. Though by the early 1800s, nearly all of the community members no longer owned slaves.
As the letter goes on, Blacknall again emphasized the division between the Native American community and the black freedmen community, saying that intermarriage and socialization between the two was so frowned upon that members of the Native American community likely had little to no African blood. It is difficult to discern how true this statement is because of the way all non-whites were classified using the same racial terms. So “degrees of Indian blood” for members of the community were not historically recorded. It is very much worth mentioning that it may have been true that intermarriage between members of the free-born Native American community and black freedmen was nearly non existent during Blacknall’s lifetime, but starting in the early-mid 20th century, the communities did begin to intermarry and socialize much more.
I’ve come to learn that much of Oscar Blacknall’s writing and research was destroyed in a house fire. This is truly unfortunate because as you can see, Blacknall’s insights offer a rare glimpse into a community that few of his contemporaries had any interest in. However, if you come across more of his writing that is relevant to the Native American community in Granville County, please leave a comment.
The Native American /”free colored” Hawley/Holly family of Granville County originates in nearby Northampton County, NC and unlike the several lineages that I have discussed so far, the Hawleys cannot positively with documentation be traced back to the Tidewater area of Virginia. In this blog post, I will give an overview of the Hawley family and explain why I think their origins are tied into both the Saponi and Catawba tribes. Some genealogical information that is referenced came from Paul Heinegg’s research.
Micajah Hawley (1700-1752) is the common ancestor of the Hawley family. The first verified records for him are when he purchased 640 acres of land on Meherrin River in then Bertie County, now Northampton County in 1731. In 1738, he sold 300 acres of this land. Micajah’s wife was named Sarah but her maiden name and lineage is unknown. His location in Northampton County at that time, placed him close to the Bass and Anderson families that left Norfolk, VA and stopped in Northampton County for several years before continuing on to Granville. Micajah left a 1752 will in Northampton County which named his heirs, so we’re able to follow his descendants forward.
Though his will named all of his children as heirs, Micajah left most of his estate to his son Benjamin Hawley (1735-1805). This is likely because by the time of Micajah’s death, his other children had moved with the Basses and Andersons to Granville County and were property owners there. Only his son Benjamin stayed behind in Northampton County to inherit the majority of the estate. Benjamin’s son William Hawley(1760-after 1820) remained in Northampton and had a son named William Hawley Jr who married Lydia Newsom. Benjamin’s daughter Eady Hawley married Nathaniel Newsom (1765-1835). The Newsom family has ties to the Native American community in Northampton County called the “Portuguese Community”. By the 1840s, most but not all of the intermarried Hawley and Newsom family relocated to Ohio.
Micajah Hawley’s other three sons – Joseph, William, and Christopher Hawley moved to Granville County by 1750/51 as indicated by tax records. Christopher has no known descendants, so our discussion focuses on Joseph and William.
Joseph Hawley (1725-after 1791) first appears in the Granville tax lists in 1750. In 1754, he enlisted in Indian trader Col. William Eaton’s colonial regiment which I had previously blogged about here. Joseph was married to Martha Harris who came from the Native American/”free colored” Harris family. Her brother Edward Harris was my 6th great-grandfather. Records place Joseph Hawley’s land in the Fishing Creek district, which is part of community founder William Chavis’ original massive land tract. So we know Joseph and his family lived in the heart of the community. Though he died before filing a pension, Joseph was apparently a Revolutionary War soldier because in 1791, he gave power of attorney to a man named Thomas Bevan to collect wages that were due to him for three years of military service.
All but one of Joseph Hawley’s children remained in Granville County and continued marrying members of the Native American community. Son Jacob Hawley (1751 – after 1810) was second married to a woman named Liddy. Her maiden name did not get properly recorded in the marriage certificate, but Benton Taborn was the bondsman which suggests that Liddy was probably a member of the Native American/”free colored” Taborn family. Son Benjamin Hawley (1765 – ?) fought in the Revolutionary War with Joseph for 9 months and Joseph also gave power of attorney to Thomas Bevan to collect Benjamin’s wages. Daughter Mary Hawley (1749-1848) married Isham Mitchell from the Native American/”free colored” Mitchell family. According to the pension application for Isham Mitchell’s Revolutionary War service, Mary Hawley-Mitchell was also known as “Molly Craven”. I have not figured out where this nickname comes from but perhaps there are some important clues there. Son Nathan Hawley (1755-after 1820) remained in Granville for most of his life. Son Jesse Hawley (1760-after 1830) had a child named Labon Taborn with a member of the Taborn family in 1784 in Granville County. Labon Taborn later married Ann Tyner, granddaughter of community founder William Chavis. By 1800, Jesse Hawley had moved to nearby Halifax County, NC and was married to Winnifred Carpenter which is reflected in the census and tax records. Jesse was also the father of Henry Holly (1785-after 1860) who is the progenitor of the Holly family that intermarried with the “core” Richardson family of the state recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister, NC. This branch of the family often switched between the “Hawley” and “Holly” spellings of the surname.
Below are pictures of direct descendants of Joseph Hawley (1725 – after 1791):
When we look into the records for Joseph Hawley’s brother William Hawley, more clues of their tribal origins emerge.
William Hawley (1728- after 1772) first appears in the Granville County records in 1751. However it appears through tax and land records that he was moving back and forth between Granville and South Carolina. He was married to Amy Scott, daughter of John Scott (1700- ?) of the Native American/”free colored” Scott family. Amy Scott’s brother William Scott was married to a daughter of “King Hagler” (1710-1763), chief of the Catawba Nation (Per communication with descendants of the Scott family; look here and also take a look at Steven Pony Hill’s research on the Scott family here). The Scott family as well is documented moving back and forth between North Carolina and South Carolina during this time. And though not in very high numbers, the Scott family also resided in and were a part of Granville’s Native American community. In 1754, a group of men kidnapped Amy (Scott) Hawley and her children from their home in South Carolina to be sold into slavery in North Carolina. Though the Scott and Hawleys were free-born, this did not prevent some colonists from attempting to enslave them (see my blog entry on the illegally enslaved descendants of Jane Gibson the elder, an Indian woman).
At least one of these kidnapped children named “Busby alias John Scott”, appears to have been born to Amy (Scott) Hawley before she married William Hawley. Amy’s father John Scott directly descends from an Indian man named Thomas Busby who was documented as a servant to Robert Caufield in Surry Co, VA in 1684. This Indian servant Thomas Busby is thought to be named after a colonist also named “Thomas Busby” who was an Indian interpreter that lived in Surry Co, VA. It was common place for Native Americans to adopt the names of Indian traders and other “friendly colonists”. The last confirmed record of William Hawley is in 1772 for 225 acres of land he owned in now extinct Craven County, SC. In the early 1800s, several “free colored” Hawley/Holly families appear in the census records for South Carolina and these likely are descendants of William Hawley and Amy Scott.
So what is the significance of the movement between North Carolina and South Carolina during the mid 1700s? Well there are several colonial records that I believe help explain why the Hawley family (as well as the Scott and Harris families) were moving between these locations. In 1718, Fort Christanna located in Brunswick County, VA was closed. Fort Christanna was the project of Governor Alexander Spotwood’s to place “friendly” Saponi and allied Indians on what was then the frontier of the British colony, to serve as a buttress against “hostile” Indians and the colonists. After the fort was closed, the Saponi fractured into smaller bands or groups with some staying within close distance of the fort, and others moving into North Carolina. In 1743, Governor Clarence Gooch reported that:
Saponies and other petty nations associated with them . . . are retired out of Virginia to the Cattawbas
Source: 1743 British Records on Microfilm, #2.5 132 N. Colonial Office 5/1326:10B-19B, August 22, 1743. N.C. Division of Archives and History, Raleigh.
However in 1748, the Saponi decided to return to their homelands on the Virginia/North Carolina border area. This brief stay in the 1740s, is similar to another brief stay the Saponi had with the Catawba in 1729-1732, as noted by William Byrd and John Mitchell. We know this group of Saponi returned to Virginia/North Carolina by 1733 when Lt. Governor William Gooch granted them permission to come back. These brief moves onto the Catawba reservation were likely a result of conflicts the Saponi had with settlers and with other tribes.
During the mid 1700s, the Cheraw, another tribe closely related to the Saponi and Catawba, also sought refuge with the Catawba. So the Saponi who lived among the Catawba, most likely not only intermarried with the Catawba but also the Cheraw.
So knowing that the Saponi had at least two brief stays with the Catawba, let’s revisit the Hawley family again. Very little is known about Micajah Hawley’s origins prior to his land purchase in Bertie (modern Northampton) in 1731. I suspect he moved down to Bertie/Northampton sometime after Fort Christanna closed in 1718. It is also possible that Micajah was part of the group of Saponi that moved in with the Catawba in the early 1730s. The “Portuguese Community” in Northampton County largely descend from Saponi who left Fort Christanna (per communication with descendants of the “Portuguese Community”). Though later called “Portuguese” by neighboring whites, the people are not ethnically Portuguese and the label was one of the many misnomers attached to Native Americans peoples in the Southeast. Knowing that Micajah Hawley’s family who remained in Northampton County intermarried with the “Portuguese Community’s” Newsom family, suggests that he had a connection to this community.
However Micajah’s other children were likely part of the Saponi movement to and from the Catawba reservation. This seems to be especially true for son William Hawley who is recorded in South Carolina and became an extended family member of King Hagler of the Catawba. Note that the Great Indian Trading Path runs through Granville County down to Catawba territory. Indian trader Col. William Eaton lived in Granville and is noted for having Saponi living next to his land and enlisting in his regiment. The Hawley family lived in the heart of Granville’s Native American community and Joseph Hawley enlisted in Eaton’s regiment. Knowing that the Saponi lived among the Catawba for protection from colonists and other tribes, it certainly makes sense that they would return to Granville County when Eaton moved there. Living next to Eaton’s lands and having him and other friendly whites as allies, provided the Hawleys and other Native American families the protection they previously had while living among the Catawba.
The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, Snelling and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A variety of records including census records, marriage records, tax lists, court minutes, estate records, freedom lawsuits, land deeds, newspaper articles, maps and personal family photos are used to help tell the story of the Evans family through space and time. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. Therefore it is imperative that researchers do their due diligence to attribute records to the correct Evans ancestor.
Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”
Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640-1722). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by a group of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some white planters from illegally enslaving them. Some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1685-1771) were enslaved by a wealthy white planter named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners. On 5 March 1804, the enslaved Evans through their attorney Edmund Randolph sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.
The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..
A family tree chart was also submitted which showed how the plaintiffs descended from “Jane Gibson, the Indian woman.”
Before this lawsuit there were several earlier lawsuits where descendants of Jane Gibson sued for their freedom. The information contained in those court cases are also quite revealing.
Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson was the first who sued for his freedom beginning in 1790. John Meriweather offered testimony that his father Colonel William Meriweather purchased a “mulatto wench” named Frances Evans and her brother (Tom Evans) from a Mr. Lightfoot (Goodrich Lightfoot) in New Kent County, VA. John Meriweather goes on to testify how Frances Evans’ offspring were divided among the heirs of his father’s estate. His testimony provides information on how the Evans went from being indentured servants to being sold as slaves to the Meriweather family. For earlier information on the Evans/Gibson family, we turn to a man named Robert Wills who personally knew Jane Gibson the elder, her daughter Jane Gibson the younger aka Jane Evans (wife of Morris Evans) and their offspring. On 25 June 1791, Robert Wills testified and a transcription of that testimony can be read here:
That about seventy years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her brother who were dark mulattoes and lived in the County of Charles City, and were free people; That the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George Gibson, that they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger intermarried with a certain _____ Evans of the said County, by whom she had several children, one named Frances Evans Grand Daughter of the said Jane Gibson above named, that the said Frances Evans removed to New Kent County, where she lived and had several children, two of whom, as the said Frances Evans informed this deponant were named Tom and Frances Evans, and were bound to one LIGHTFOOT of New Kent. This information was made to this Depon’t by the said Frances Evans the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were neighbours to this deponant. This deponant; This deponant further saith, that after the said great Grandchildren Viz: Tom & Frances were bound to the said LIGHTFOOT he never heard any thing more relative to them; That many of the descendants of the said GIBSONS and EVANS now in this deponants knowledge are alive, and are enjoying their freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponants first acquaintance with the said Jane Gibson the elder; That many of them are black, some nearly white and others dark mulattoes, which this deponant supposes proceeded from a promiscious intercourse with different colours.
Questions by the defts agent.
Do you know any thing of the descendants of the said Frances Evans, who was bound to LIGHTFOOT? No I do not.
What became of Frances Evans and her brother after they were bound to LIGHTFOOT? I know nothing of them, but from the information of their mother aforesaid.
Do you know any free mulattoes or blacks who have descended from a branch of the name of EVANS, who are they and from whom did they spring?
I know a number of them, to wit, in Charles City, the SCOTTs, BRADBYs, SMITHs, REDCROSSes alias EVANS, MORRISSes alias EVANS, and in Henrico the BOWMANs, all descendants from the original stock of the GIBSON, to wit, Jane EVANS Daughter of Jane GIBSON.
Do you know or have you ever known of any other free persons by the name of EVANSS of a different family? I do not except in Caroline.
How do you know that the children of Frances Evans were named Tom & Frances, and how old would they be were they now alive: I heard their mother say so; I cannot tell how old, but they would be many years old.
How old are you? I am in my eighty first year.
And further this deponant saith not.
The following month on 9 July 1791, Robert Wills was back in court providing additional testimony which clarified a few points. A transcription can be found here:
Questions by the defendant. How old were you when you were firs acquainted with the elder Jane Gibson and George her brother?
Answer I believe I was ten or eleven years old or thereabouts.
Quest. How old do you suppose they were and how long did they live afterwards?
Answer. Jane Gibson the elder was very old, I apprehend she was eighty years of age, being past all labour – Mr. Carter my Master took her to live with him at Shirley where I then lived to brew a diet drink, he being afflicted with a dropsy – The old Jane Gibson I suppose might live two or three years. Her daughter Jane widow to an EVANS (whose christian name I am not certain of but believe it was Morris), lived a considerable number of years after my first acquaintance with her- she bore the name of EVANS as did all her children.
Quest. About what time were you acquainted with Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane, and how old were they when you were first acquainted with them?
Answer. I knew Jane Evans the daughter some time before I knew the old woman, which I believe as I have deposed in my former deposition must be seventy years ago; she was an old woman when I became acquainted with her, she practised midwifery and doctoring in families, but was not above sixty I should suppose: George too was an old person, I believe – Jane was the older.
Quest. About what time did Jane and George Gibson the children of Jane Gibson die?
Answer I do not know
Quest. About what year did Jane Gibson the younger intermarry with ___ EVANS?
Answer That I cannot possibly tell it must have been long before I was born.
Quest. About what year do you believe to the best of your recollection or judgment was Frances Evans the Grand daughter of old Jane Gibson born?
Answer She had children bound out when I first knew her, so that she must have been born long before I was, as I should suppose.
Quest. Then as you know so little about her how do you know she (Frances Evans) was the daughter of Jane Evans, and that Jane Evans was descended from Jane Gibson?
Answer. I know nothing but common reputation they called each other by the name of Mother and daughter.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans remove to New Kent?
Answer. I never knew her until she came on a visit to her mother, she then lived there as she reported; when she came there to live I knew nothing about it.
Quest. About what year did the said Frances Evans inform you she had bound two of her children Frances and Tom to Mr. Lightfoot of New Kent when she came on a visit to her friends in Charles City?
Ans’r. I cannot recollect that with any certainty, I suppose fifty eight or fifty nine years ago or somewhere thereabouts.
Quest. Did you understand from her how old they were at that time, if not how old do you suppose they were, and how long had they been bound before she informed you of it?
Answer. That I know nothing about.
Quest. If the said Frances Evans and her brother Tom who are said to have been bound to one LIGHTFOOT were now alive how old would they be to the best of your judgment?
Ans’r. I do not know that; they were probably as old as myself; I never saw either of them nor asked any questions about their age.
Quests. by the plaintiff 1. Was not the mother of Sarah Redcross (now living in Charles City) alias Sarah Evans named Frances Evans, and was she not related as by common reputation believed to Frances Evans that was bound to LIGHTFOOT?
Ans’r. About twenty four or twenty five years ago Frances Evans was about in Charles City County, and was claimed as a mother by Sarah Redcross, and Sarah Redcross said that her mother was the grand daughter of Jane Evans the daughter of Jane Gibson – she went away and I know not what became of her, but have been informed (I suppose twenty years ago) that she was dead.
Quest. by deft. Why do you in this deposition call Mr. Carter your master?
Answer. My father gave me to him when I was ten years of age, and he brought me up and had me taught my trade of a carpenter.
Quest. for how many years were you acquainted with that particular family of the GIBSONs and EVANSs, which have been the object of your testimony in this suit meaning the three first generations and where did you live during that time?
Ans’r. I lived at Shirley where the said Jane Gibson died, and as Jane Evans lived within two miles of Shirley I was frequently in her family and she was very often at Shirley as was the rest of the family being employed there in different sorts of work, as for how long, I have already said about seventy years ago I first became acquainted with old Jane Gibson and Jane Evans, and knew them to their death, but cannot say exactly how long they did live from the time I first knew them.
Quest. Will you please to answer the second question in this deposition more fully, you have in your answer to that question said nothing about George Gibson the elder?
Ans: I never mentioned more than one George Gibson, the Son of the elder Jane Gibson, brother to Jane Evans. If it be so expressed in my former deposition it was misconceived, I never did know any but one of that name. And further this deponent saith not.
From both of his depositions, we learn that Robert Wills was an apprentice of Mr. Carter of the Shirley Plantation which is how he became familiar with the Evans/Gibson families. He personally knew both mother Jane Gibson the elder and the daughter Jane Gibson the younger. Jane Gibson the elder lived at the Shirley Plantation and practiced doctoring as did her daughter Jane Gibson the younger who was also a midwife. Robert Mills initially referred to Jane Gibson the elder and her brother George Gibson as dark mulattos but later clarified that it was Jane Gibson the younger who had a brother named George Gibson. So it appears he was instead referring to them as “dark mulattos”.
The only information or testimony provided that spoke directly to the identity of Jane Gibson the elder was the information provided by her descendants via their attorney Edmund Randolph which called her a free Indian woman. Additional testimony about the Indian origins of the family comes from Ann Meriweather who was the wife of John Meriweather who provided testimony discussed above and whose father Col. William Meriweather illegally purchased Frances Evans’ children as slaves from Goodrich Lightfoot. Ann Meriweather testified in 1798 that “from the Complexion & strait black hair of Sarah Colley this deponent believes they were descended from Indians”. Sarah Colley was the daughter of Frances Evans. Though judging phenotypes is not necessarily a correct way to assess one’s ethnic heritage, it is still rather telling when put in context with the rest of the testimony and documentation about the Gibson/Evans family. The other testimony from the Meriweather family and from Robert Wills most often describe Jane Gibson the elder’s offspring and descendants as “mulattos”. It should be noted in 1705, the Acts of Assembly of Virginia legally classified mulatto as: “the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a Negro”.
None of the testimony provided by witnesses or Jane Gibson the elder’s own descendants, offer the names of Jane Gibson the elder’s parents. No information is given as to whether Gibson was her maiden name, her married name, or even a name she adopted from another family. I have seen a lot of speculative family trees and theories online about her parentage but with no actual documentation. It is important to point out that the only documentation located for her comes from after her lifetime through the testimony of others. Therefore, I strongly advise to hold off on guesswork (if’s, maybes, possibly, etc) about her parentage until solid documentation is located.
The freedom lawsuits of Jane Gibson the elder’s descendants have been cited in scholarship on the history of the slavery in the U.S. Historian Loren Schweninger, professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who created a digital library on American Slavery, published a book in 2018 called Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South. In his section on petitions filed by plaintiffs claiming descent from an Indian woman, Professor Schweninger had this to say about the petitions from Jane Gibson’s descendants:
You can review the Evans freedom documentation on genealogist Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.
In July 2018, my cousins Roderick Daye, William Evans, and Shirley Hines, like myself, who are all documented direct lineal descendants of Jane Gibson the elder through the Evans family, visited the Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, VA to learn more about where our esteemed ancestor lived. Here are a few photos from their trip:
I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who illegally enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it does offer evidence that Goodrich Lightfoot did enslave Native Americans.
Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a Pamunkey woman named Dorothy Howell b. 1707, who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.
The exact tribal origin of the Evans-Gibson family has also been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color but it is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about. From Morris Evans’ estate records we do learn that after his wife Jane Gibson the younger died, he was involved with a woman named Rebecca Hulet who inherited some of his estate.
However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps she was from the local Pamunkey or Chickahominy tribes. There is another Algonquian speaking tribe, the Nansemond, whom the Granville County Basses descend from, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville quite a bit. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County.
Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s sons Charles Evans and Morris Evans Jr moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. As a result, some of their family did intermarry with Saponi descendants. We also know from the testimony provided by Robert Wills, that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger had other children who the Redcross, Bradby, Smith, Scott, Morris, and Bowman families of the Charles City County area descend from. I wish he identified the other children, so that we can genealogically connect all of these other surnames back to Jane Gibson. The Redcross family, we know from the testimony of Robert Wills, descend from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson the younger’s daughter Frances Evans who had a daughter named Sarah Redcross. Some of her Redcross descendants are found among the Monacan tribe in Amherst County, Virginia. And what is also interesting is that the Bradby family is found among the Chickahominy tribe in Charles City County and the Pamunkey tribe of King William County.
The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia
The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.
Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is most likely the ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co who intermarried with the Locklears.
Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:
Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful” by his father. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
*Major Evans (1733-after 1794 ) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
Sarah Evans (b. 1742) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.
From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.
Major Evans (1733-after 1794) comes to Granville County
Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-after 1794) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. His neighbors include members of the Chavis, Snelling, Harris, and Bass family which indicates that he lived on the north side of the Tar River, in the heart of the community began by William Chavis (1706-1777) a couple of decades earlier. Notably on 16 February 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1777) who according to late 19th century local Granville historian Oscar Blacknall, originally owned 51,200 acres on the north side of the Tar River. Blacknall, in his published articles, goes on to extensively discuss the Indian identity of the “free colored” community that William Chavis founded in Granville. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. It’s possible that Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family. Three years earlier in 1777, Major Evans was called with other members of the Chavis family to report to court to provide information on William Chavis’ will. The estate papers don’t specify what family relationship (if any) that Major Evans had with William Chavis but it is clear from that point forward, Major Evans was considered part of the community.
It’s important to remember that William Chavis’ wife Frances Gibson (1700-1780) was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA whose family was also apparently of a mixed race Indian ancestry. A relative of Gibson Gibson named Gideon Gibson Sr (b. 1685) and his family, including son Gideon Gibson Jr (b. 1721) moved to South Carolina in the 1730’s, where their racial identity came under scrutiny. Some South Carolina officials wanted the Gibsons to be subjected to the discriminatory “Free Negro” laws. However one such South Carolina politician named Henry Laurens who was involved in the debate about the racial identity of the Gibson family, had this to say about Gideon Gibson Jr:
Gideon Gibson escaped the penalties of the negro law by producing upon comparison more red and white in his face than could be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly, including your old acquaintance the Speaker.
Source: Council Journal, August 26, 1768. Henry Laurens to William Drayton, February 15, 1783.
Perhaps Major Evans’ great-grandmother Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. But as discussed earlier, there is no solid documentation that identifies the parentage of Jane Gibson the elder nor the origins of her Gibson surname. So it would be unwise to speculate much further without locating records that speak to Jane Gibson the elder’s parentage. If there is a relationship, that may explain why Major Evans moved to William Chavis’ land in Granville County and quickly became part of the community.
Seven years later on 26 June 1787, Major Evans added to his land ownership by purchasing 100 acres of land on both side of Middle Creek from James Kelley (O’Kelley). The land deed explains that this 100 acres was part of a larger 580 land tract purchased by John Pope. Middle Creek is on the south side of the Tar River, just slightly west and across the river from the land Major Evans purchased earlier from Phillip Chavis on the Buffalo Race Paths.
Though he had accumulated land in Granville, Major Evans still owned land across the border in Mecklenburg County, VA which he had inherited from this father Charles Evans. Therefore he was taxed in Mecklenburg from 1782 until 1787 when he finally sold his Mecklenburg County land.
Major Evans also sold land in Granville in 1787. On 15 December 1787, he sold 100 acres to James Blackley and three days later on 18 December 1787, Major Evans sold 100 acres to Elijah Ball.
In February 1789, Major Evans sued Elias Pettiford (another Native/FPOC from the community) and won a judgment against him.
By 1794, Major Evans moved further south into Granville County when he purchased 100 acres on Newlight Creek on 19 July 1794. This is land in the very southeastern part of Granville County, close to the Wake County and Franklin county borders. Some of William Chavis’ (1706-1777) descendants, specifically members of the Harris (offspring of his daughter Sarah Chavis who married Edward Harris) and Snelling families (offspring of his daughter Lettice Chavis who married Aquilla Snelling) also began moving to this part of Granville County as well into Wake County.
The 1794 land deed is the last located record that can be attributed to Major Evans. No will or estate records have been found for him, so it is not known what year he died. Likewise, accounting for all of Major Evans’ children has been a challenge without estate records. Most of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:
1. *Morris Evans (1750-1834) second married Lydia Anderson, a FPOC, on 8 December 1784 in Granville. His first wife is unknown and he had children from both marriages.
2. *Gilbert Evans (1755-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley on 20 June 1780 in Wake. Phoebe Lumbley was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse.
3. *William Evans (1757-1823) married Sarah Hays on 14 May 1785 in Wake County. Sarah Hays was apparently white and like his brother Gilbert Evans, William Evans and his children appear to have “passed” for white.
4. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell, a FPOC, on 22 February 1797 in Granville. I believe this was a second marriage for Burwell Evans because the 1786 North Carolina state census shows that he was the head of a household of one male age 21-60, three males aged under 21 & over 60, and three females of any age. The household information strongly implies that he was married with three sons and two daughters who were born by 1786.
5. *John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.
5. Elizabeth Evans (1760-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis, a FPOC, on 6 September 1800 in Granville. Before she married, Elizabeth Evans had at least one child born out of wedlock when she filed a bastardy bond in Granville court with her father Major Evans as the bondsman. The record does not name the child.
7. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn, a FPOC, on 1 January 1778 in Bute County.
8. Sarah Evans (1774 – before 1860) married George Anderson, a FPOC, on 14 October 1800 in Granville County.
* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.
All of Major Evans’ offspring lived in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, signaled a movement of many of his descendants into Wake.
The Offspring of Major Evans
The heightened “white”/”colored” racial binary and the growth of the institution of chattel slavery in the American South during the early 19th century, put immense pressure on families like the Evans who had experienced some level of wealth with land ownership. In 1835, North Carolina approved a new constitution which revoked many rights of free people of color. These revoked rights included owning fire arms, holding public office, voting, and being able to move freely in and out of the state. Additionally, free people of color households continued to be taxed at a higher rate than white households which resulted in the depletion of personal property and land.
A closer examination of records pertaining to brothers Hilliard Evans (b. 1815) and Morris Evans (1814-1900) provide some very interesting insight into how Native/”free colored” families were pressured into selling personal property to pay off debt. Hilliard Evans and Morris Evans were the sons of Thomas Evans (1790-1867) and Sallie Bass (1793-1889). And Thomas Evans was the son Morris Evans (1750-1834) and Liddy Anderson listed above. On 20 November 1840, Hilliard “Hillyard” Evans sold one gray horse saddle and bridle for one dollar to Isaiah M. Paschall. The record goes on to indicate that Hilliard Evans was in debt to Peyton V. Duke for forty dollars on a note that was due the following September. If Hilliard Evans was able to pay off the debt by the following September, then the sale of his property to Isaiah M. Paschall was to be voided and returned to him. However if he was unable to pay off the debt in time, then Isaiah M. Paschall would sell the property with all of the sales to cover the principal and interest of the debt that Hillard Evans owed Peyton V. Duke with any leftover money to be paid to Hilliard Evans.
Morris Evans found himself in a similar desperate financial situation of being in debt the following year. He owed Wyatt Cannaday $103.59 that was due to be paid by the following December 25th. As a result, on 28 June 1841, he sold to Henry B. Brides, one mare, one cow, one calf, eleven heads of hog, tobacco crop, corn, oats, household items, and furniture for one dollar. If he did not pay off the debt in time, Henry Bridges was to sell those personal items and use the funds to pay off the debt Morris Evans owed to Wyatt Cannaday with any left over money to be paid to Morris Evans.
Just a few years later, Hilliard Evans experienced something that I imagine many free people of color feared – that is, he was kidnapped and an attempt was made to sell him into slavery. We learn from a letter that his parents Thomas and Sally (Bass) Evans placed in the newspaper, that Hilliard Evans traveled from Granville County with a man named William R. Boswell last August to sell a horse in the southern part of the state. After the sale, Boswell was able to convince Hilliard Evans to continue to travel with him to Petersburg, Richmond and New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Boswell attempted to sell Hilliard Evans into slavery but Hilliard made it known that he was a free person. However it was not known what happened to and where Hilliard Evans was, so his parents were attempting to locate him. It is a heartbreaking letter to read and is a testament to how the institution of slavery was a threat to even families who were free and had always been free.
About a week later on 28 January 1746, we learn that Thomas and Sallie (Bass) Evans’ letter had garnered some interest. Editors at the Weekly Standard in Raleigh reemphasized the concerns in Thomas and Sallie Evans’ letter that they didn’t know the whereabouts of their son Hilliard Evans.
Thankfully, two months later we learn from another newspaper article published on 11 March 1846 in the Tarboro Press that Hilliard Evans had been sent back home to his family in Granville County and supplied with new clothes. William Boswell, the man who kidnapped him, had not been caught. I have no additional records to learn if he was ever caught or received any type of punishment.
The kinship network that the Evans family belonged to in the Granville County Native/FPOC community is evident in the division of the estate of William Evans(1789-1870), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. William Evans died without a living wife or children, so he had no direct heirs. Instead his estate was divided among the children of his siblings, ie. his nephews and nieces. And if any of his nephews or nieces had already died, then their living heirs, if any, stood to inherit in their place. The nine original legatees who each were to inherit $64.17, named in the estate records are:
Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Ann Anderson, Glatha Anderson (Hawkins), Joyce Anderson, William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford and Thomas Pettiford.
It is interesting that Glatha was called an Anderson in this record, because her marriage record to Cuffee Mayo, calls her “Glatha Hawkins”. I have long wondered if “Hawkins” was a mistake because I don’t know of any Hawkins family that the Evans and Anderson families associated with. All of the named original legatees, save for Ann Anderson whose parentage I’m working on confirming, were the children of William Evans’ sister Susannah Evans (b. 1784). She was first married to Abel Anderson (17772-1817) on 23 May 1804 in Granville. With her first husband Abel Anderson, Susannah Evans had: Solomon Anderson, Washington Anderson, Glatha Anderson, and Joyce Anderson. Abel Anderson was deceased by 1817 when his guardianship of his younger brother Wright Anderson was transferred to his brother Jacob Anderson in that year as a result of his death. Susannah Evans second married a Pettiford though I have not been able to just yet confirm which Pettiford in Granville she married. With her second Pettiford husband, she had William Pettiford, Richard Pettiford, Franklin Pettiford, and Thomas Pettiford. Susannah Evans was last enumerated in the 1850 census in the Oxford district of Granville County, as “Susan Pettyford” age 59.
At the time of William Evans’ death in 1870, original legatees Ann Anderson, Washington Anderson, and Glatha Anderson (Hawkins) were deceased so their children each inherited an equal portion of their share of the estate. What also complicated the distribution of William Evans’ estate was that several of the named legatees had moved out of the state in the decades prior. Even as late as 1878, several of the named legatees still had not been in touch with the administrator of William Evans’ estate.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson via Major Evans:
Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.
She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.
John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.
Mary Etta Guy’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Mary Etta Guy; Susan Taborn; Littleton Taborn; Nelly Evans; Major Evans.
Ira Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ira Evans; Lewis Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans, Morris Evans; Major Evans
Ada Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Ada Evans; Thomas Evans; Major Lewis Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
Addendum: What about James Evans (1720-1786) of Halifax County, NC??
James Evans (1720-1786) is the earliest documented ancestor of the Native/”free colored” Evans family of Halifax County, NC. It is not known nor documented if he is at all related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. As stated at the beginning of this blog post, “Evans” was a very common surname in colonial Virginia, so it is quite possible he is from an unrelated Evans family. Nevertheless, because I get many inquiries about James Evans and his descendants, I have included a summary of records pertaining to his family.
James Evans(1720-1786) first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.
James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Halifax/Warren Counties in NC. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the geography of Granville County that will help illustrate the settlement of the Native American community.
The Great Trading Path also known as the Occaneechi Path was a Native American road that began in Petersburg, VA and on some accounts ended with the Catawba Nation on the South Carolina/North Carolina border just below Charlotte and in other accounts, terminated in Augusta, GA. In the area surrounding Petersburg, lived numerous Indian traders and this path gave them direct trading access to tribes. The Great Trading Path cuts right through Granville County, entering Northeast from neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and exiting through the Southwest to neighboring Durham County. Not only was it beneficial for Indian traders to live on the path, but it was also necessary for tribes to live close to or have access to this path. Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) who I have mentioned in previous blog posts was an Indian trader from Prince George Co, VA who moved to Granville County by the 1740s. Both of Eaton’s residences were along the Great Trading Path and it explains why a group of Saponi Indians were living next to his land in Granville in the 1750s. This means the origins of the Native American community in Granville are very much tied into this trade relationship between the colonists and local tribes and it explains why that specific location became the land base for the community.
Granville County was originally created in 1746 from Edgecombe County. Previously, the entire northern half is what was then the Carolina Colony was claimed by John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville (1690-1763) and became known as Granville District.
Originally, “Old” Granville County included the land that is today known as Granville, Vance, Warren, and Franklin Counties. This changed in 1764, when the areas known today as Warren and Franklin Counties were split from Granville to form Bute County (a short lived County, that quickly split into modern Warren and Franklin Counties in 1779). Finally in 1881, the eastern section of Granville that included the Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville/Nutbush townships was separated to form newly created Vance County.
In addition to old Indian Trading Paths, being familiar with the local rivers and creeks is vital to understanding Native peoples’ relationship to Granville County’s geography. The Tar River cuts right through the middle of the county, the Neuse River forms the southern border of the county, and the Roanake River just barely touches Granville County’s northern border with Mecklenburg County. The Tar, Neuse, and Roanake are major waterways that local Natives have used since before European colonization. This blog post takes a closer look at the indigenous place names local to Granville County.
The land base for the Native American community in Granville, is mostly concentrated off of Fishing Creek and Tabbs Creek which run north off of the Tar River. Founding community member William Chavis (1706-1778), originally owned a continuous land tract that stretched all the way from Lynch Creek to Fishing Creek along the Tar River and went 5 miles north inland.
In this map, you can see The Great Trading Path labeled “Trading Road”. Buffalo once inhabited in this region, and “Buffalo Creek” off of the Tar River along with many other local buffalo name places, reflect this history. The buffalo is also what originally brought the Eastern Siouan speaking Saponi from the Ohio River valley into this region.
When reviewing census data for Granville County, it’s helpful to know exactly what section of the county you are looking at. The following map displays the census designated areas of Granville County. Also note in northwestern Granville in the township of Oak Hill, is “Bearskin Creek” named after Saponi guide Ned Bearskin who accompanied William Byrd II on the Diving Line in 1728.
Finally, I made a map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia showing current Native American communities, former reservation land, and other important sites. The very close proximity of the sites to one another and to the Native American community in Granville County, demonstrate the interconnectedness of indigenous peoples living in this region. Please note that this map does not reflect all past or current Native American sites but rather shows locations that are most relevant to Granville’s Native Americans.