Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

He is devoted to his call in the ministry.

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The subject of this sketch, Franklin Kesler Bird, was born December 1, 1856, at Rutherfordton, N. C. He was the only child of his father, William Bird, who died when young Franklin was two years of age. He and his mother, Mary Martha, lived with his grandfather, the “Blacksmith,” Wylie Morris, until 1867, when his mother was married to Cain Gross.

By early industry and economy Wylie Morris succeeded in purchasing his freedom for $2,000, and marrying a freeborn woman. All of Franklin’s relatives were freeborn, and strict members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, until after the close of the war, when they connected themselves with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which remains the choice of the family. Young Franklin connected himself with the Church of which he is now a member at the age of eleven years, and soon afterward manifested much usefulness and devotion. His stepfather being engaged yearly in a large farming business, in which Franklin was regularly employed, together with the meagre school system of his home section, deprived him of early school advantages, except one or two months occasionally in some private or public school.

In 1869 his grandfather moved and settled at Newport, Tenn. In 1871, while visiting him, he was favored with one year’s instruction in the high school of that place, under Professor William H. McGhee as instructor. On his return to his native home he had made sufficient advancement to obtain a third grade teacher’s certificate, and taught his first school at Mykle’s Chapel Schoolhouse, near his home. This was the small beginning of an eventful life of public usefulness.

It was while teaching this small school that he grasped the opportunities of educating himself. He paid out of his income for private instruction to one Professor –, a white teacher, at the rate of $2 for three recitations each week at night, on condition that he would never divulge his teacher’s name. During this time he succeeded in completing his studies in arithmetic, grammar, geography, history, etc. He also cultivated his talent in vocal music, and while teaching the same his fame had reached Marion, N. C., from which place he received a call to the principalship of a large school, which gave him from five to six months’ employment in each year. He remained at the head of this school for six years consecutively, during which time he found his way to Biddle University, Charlotte, N. C., where he spent four terms, paying for the same with the money he obtained by teaching. He professed faith in Christ June 24, 1874, served in every local official capacity in his church, was licensed to exhort July 4, 1876; received local preacher’s license in November of the same year, and joined the North Carolina Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, at Salisbury, N. C., December 4, 1877. He took his first appointment in the following year at the hands of his Presiding Elder. Rev. S. S. Murdock, to a part of the Marion Circuit.

At the following Conference, Goldsboro, N. C., he was ordained deacon and appointed in charge of the entire circuit. This work was so enlarged that it became the work of two pastors at the end of his two years’ administration. At Lincolnton, N. C., in 1879, when the North Carolina Conference was divided, and the Central and North Carolina Conferences formed, he was appointed to Wilson Station, in the North Carolina Conference. At the end of the year the property, which had been long involved in litigation, was redeemed, and the church doubled in membership. At Tarboro, N. C., 1880, he was ordained to the office of an elder and stationed at Concord, N. C., where he rendered efficient service to Bishop C. R. Harris, as business manager of the Star of Zion. On April 7, of this year, at Wilson, N. C., he was united by marriage to Miss Agnes M. Barnes, a student of St. Augustine Institute, Raleigh, N. C.

During this year he also met President Mattoon, D.D., of Biddle University, with whom he arranged, and in the next year reentered the university, filling at the same time the pastorate at Biddleville Station. He remained in the university five terms, during which he completed the normal course and advanced rapidly in the classical course. He was considered by the faculty as being one of the brightest students in that institution. He is yet a student, and has mastered many of the studies most helpful to him in his work by persistent effort and private instructions.

In February, 1883, Bishop Hood secured his services by transfer, and stationed him at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Exchange Street, Worcester, Mass., where he rendered more than three years’ successful service, to the general satisfaction of the people. He was then removed to the church, corner Broad and Gregory Streets, Bridgeport, Conn. Here he had a splendid financial success. At the end of two years, feeling that his services could be more effective in the Southern field, he transferred back to his native State, and has since filled with success the pastorates at St. Paul Station, Tarboro, N. C., Farmer’s Temple, Washington, N. C., and St. James Station, at Goldsboro, N. C. He has filled the position of secretary in all of his Conferences, receiving all his ordinations under the administration of Bishop Hood, and has been in attendance upon the last three General Conferences, where he was an able representative of his Church and race.

While at the General Conference at Pittsburg, Pa., May, 1892, he received notice from the President of Bethany College, at Lumberton, N. C., that the trustees of said institution had, without solicitation, conferred upon him the degree of Divinitatis Doctor. Upon refusing to accept their proffer he found on his arrival home the certificate awaiting him at the express office. At his Conference on December 6, 1892, he was unanimously elected to the position of presiding elder, as the result of a long-expressed desire upon the part of the ministers, and was appointed Presiding Elder of the Wilmington District of the North Carolina Conference, where he is doing a great work in building up and extending the borders of Zion. He is unassuming in public life, affable, congenial in disposition, self-sacrificing, and devoted to his calling in the ministry.

From J.W. Hood, One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; or, The Centennial of African Methodism (1895).

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In the 1860 census of Broad District 2, Rutherford County: Wiley Morris, 57, Louisa, 42, Wily, 23, Mary, 18, Wm., 17, Adelade, 14, David, 11, Franklin Keesler, 3, and Martha Morris, 20.

His papers have never been seen.

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Tarborough Southerner, 15 May 1852.

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NOTICE.

$10 Reward.

RANAWAY from the subscriber, on the 1st day of April, 1852, a mulatto fellow named Jerry Manly, as he calls himself, and says that he is a free man, but his papers have never been seen. Said boy is 30 or 32 years old, and has a free woman for his wife — the woman is well known by the name of Nancy Reed, she has a sister in the neighborhood for Tarboro’, and Logsboro’, and no doubt they are lurking in that vicinity. The boy was raised in the town of Louisburg, N.C., and has a mother and several brothers in that place. The above reward will be paid for his delivery to the undersigned at Rocky Mount, or any jail so that I can get him again.  S.D. Armstrong.

Rocky Mount, April 3rd, 1852.

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Nancy Reed, 32, with Betsey, 16, Mary, 6, and William Reed, 7 months, plus Matilda Cross, 29, all mulatto.

She had been ailing for some years.

FOUND DEAD.

Coroner Jones held an inquest on yesterday, over the body of a free negro woman, named Betsey Hagan, aged about 60 years, found dead on the lot of Mr. J.W. Potter, in the Eastern portion of the town. It appears that the woman lived in a small house on Mr. P’s lot, and that early in the morning, as himself and brother came out of his house, they found the woman lying dead in the yard. She had been “ailing” for some years, and it is supposed, that in going out that morning to attend to some duty, she fell dead. The verdict of the Jury was that she came to her death from natural causes.

Wilmington Daily Journal, 9 September 1860

Committed on suspicion.

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Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 8 March 1858.

In the 1850 census of Northwest, Brunswick County: cooper Henry Patrick, 24, wife Hester, 24, and children Anne, 2, and William, 4 months. Next door: cooper William Patrick, 47, wife Sophia, 55, and Ezekiel, 23, Massa, 17, Mildred, 16, Benjamin, 2, and Margaret Patrick, 9 months.

In the 1850 census of Northwest, Brunswick County: Elias Freeman, 59, wife Abby, 50, and children Celia, 21, Prucilla, 20, Joshua, 21, William, 20, Jesse, 16, John, 12, Mary, 10, and Eliza Freeman, 4, plus Julia Jacobs, 10.

In the 1850 census of Northwest, Brunswick County: Henry Jacobs, 43, wife Mary, 42, and children Eli, 18, Sylvany, 11, Mary, 15, Betsy, 9, Eliza, 7, and Jerry Jacobs, 4.

Praying for the emancipation.

Notice!

Is hereby given to all persons, that I shall proceed to file a petition in the next Superior Court to be held for the County of Iredell, at the Court-House in Statesville, on the Sixth Monday after the Fourth Monday in August, A.D. 1859, praying for the Emancipation of the following slaves, to wit: Lindsay and his wife Lucy, and their two children, Lindsay Walton and Louisa and her child Lucy Adelaide. ABNER FEIMSTER Aug. 22, 1859

Iredell Express, 26 August 1859.

Particulars for the funeral.

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Funeral bill for Anna Henderson Simmons, who died in Logansport, Cass County, Indiana, on 16 June 1906.

Anna H. Simmons was a native of Wayne County, North Carolina. Contrary to information shown in this document, her parents were James Henderson and Eliza Armwood Henderson. Anna’s husband Montraville Simmons was born in Duplin or Wayne County, North Carolina, in 1839 to John Calvin Simmons and Hepsie Whitley Simmons. The family migrated to Ontario, Canada, in the 1850s.

In the 1850 census of South Side of Neuse, Wayne County, North Carolina: farmer Calvin Simmons, 42, wife Hepsey, 46, and children Harriet, 13, Susan, 11, Montrival, 9, Jno. R., 7, Margaret, 5, Dixon, 3, and Geo. W., 1, plus Robt. Aldridge, 26, who worked as a hireling. 

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina: James Henderson, mulatto carpenter; wife Eliza; and four children, Anna J., Susan, Hepsie, and Alexander

Copy of funeral bill courtesy of Kroeger Funeral Home, Logansport, Indiana.

Bright mulatto boy with one thumb.

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$10 REWARD.

A REWARD of Ten dollars will be paid for the apprehension and delivery to me or his confinment in any Jail so that I get him, of my boy Lafayett Tucker a bright mulatto boy about thirteen years of ago, 4 feet 6 or 8 inches high, light bushy head of hair, with the thumb off of his left hand, who was bound to me by the County Court of Nash, some years since, and ranaway from me on the 15th July. It is supposed that he is lurking in the neighborhood of Nashville or Enfield all persons are forwarned against employing, harboring, aiding or assisting said boy in any manner whatever under the penalty of the law.    JAMES TUCKER.  Hilliardston, N.C.  July 11th, 1860.

Wilson Ledger, 20 November 1860.

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Matthew Jones, 66, wife Nancy, 40, and children Elias, 16, Adaline, 14, and Mary, 6, plus Amanda Tucker, 23, and Laffyette Tucker, 4.

She had been ailing for some years.

Found Dead.

Coroner Jones held an inquest on yesterday, over the body of a free negro woman, named Betsey Hagan, aged about 60 years, found dead on the lot of Mr. J.W. Potter, in the Eastern portion of the town. It appears that the woman livef in a small house on Mr. P’s lot, and that early in the morning , as himself and his brother came out of his house o, they found the woman lying dead in the yard. She had been “ailing” for some years, and it is supposed, that in going out that she came to her death from natural causes.

Wilmington Daily Journal, 9 September 1860.

His razors are of the first quality.

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Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 10 January 1827.

New Barber Shop.

“Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”

HORACE HENDERSON respectfully informs the gentlemen of Fayetteville, and the public generally, that he has taken the shop on Gillespie street formerly occupied by D. Ochiltree, Esq. and nearly opposite the State Bank, where the above business will be carried on in all its various branches. He flatters himself that from the circumstance of his having been born and raised in Fayetteville, his known habits of industry and sobriety, to merit and receive a liberal share of patronage. His Razors and other materials are of the first quality and shall always be kept int he best order.

Fayetteville, January 10, 1827.

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Horace Henderson was enslaved, though he lived much like a free man. His wife Lovedy Henderson  petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for his freedom in 1832.

Hat tip to Gabby Faith for the clipping.

Nathan Blackwell’s will and desire.

this the 24th of January 1845 }   this my desire and will that I give to Josiah and Nathan Axum Andrew & all my property to be Equally divided and I want Asberry Blackwell to take Andrew and see to his labor for my children to the best advantage also take my children and take care of them and satisfy himself for his troble out of my property this my Last will and testament whereunto I now set my han and Seal to        Nathan (X) Blackwell {seal}

Test  James F. Mercer, Thomas Mercer

Nathan Blackwell received a marriage license to marry Jincey Powell on 15 December 1838 in Nash County, North Carolina. Elijah Powell and Henry Bount were bondsmen, and B.H. Blount, a witness.

In the 1840 census of Nash County, North Carolina, Nathan Blackwell headed a household comprised of one free colored male, aged 10-23; one free colored female, aged 10-23; and two free colored males under 10. In the 1850 census of Nash County, Asberry Blackwell [likely Nathan’s brother] lived alone.

Nathan’s children are not found in the 1850 census. In 1860, Josiah Blackwell, 21, was listed as a steam mill laborer in the household of engineer John Valentine. On 27 March 1861, Josiah married Becky Mitchell at Wiley Lamm’s steam mill. In 1860, Nathan E. Blackwell, 20, is listed as a wagoner living in the household of farmer Robinson Baker in Wilson County.

North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], ancestry.com.