On 25 Mar 1875, 70 year-old Everett Hays filed a claim with the Southern Claims Commission (#3663). He had lived in Wayne County’s Pikeville township for 25-30 years and worked as a farm laborer. Hays was born in Greene County, “close by Pikeville,” and testified:
“I was whipped by Jim Combs and Council Radford and said it was because I was a d–n’d radical.”
The Union “was my pluck always.”
“I was compelled, like a great many of my color, to go in to the service as a cook.”
“Colored folks had always to get passes.”
“During the war, John Sykes and a party looking for deserters came to my house, and questioned me about deserters, and because I could give them no satisfactory information they took me out and whipped me, and carried off from my house a quantity of sausages.”
“It was our good luck that the Rebs would not take in colored men as soldiers.”
“I never heard of a colored man who did not rejoice at the defeat of the Rebs.”
Laurence Reid was deposed in support of Hays’ claim. He was 58 years old “as near as I can come to it,” lived in Pikeville “near to Everett Hays.” He had known Hays for 30 years, but was not related to him, and asserted, “We were both shoved off to do slave’s duty tho’ we were both free-born men …”
Others mentioned were Hays’ wife Millie Hays, his sons Burkett and Lafayette Hays, daughter Biddy Hays, and Elbert Artis and Beedie Artis, both of Pikeville. Lafayette, a farmer, was about 26 years old and lived at Lagrange in Lenoir County. Burkett was about 30 years old and also lived at Lagrange, where he worked as a blacksmith’s helper.
Hays asserted that Union troops had taken 3 barrels of corn, 400 pounds of bacon, 5 pounds of lard, a half bushel of meal, a pound of tobacco and cooking utensils valued at $122.00. The Commission allowed $75.00 of his claim.
In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Everett Hays, 40, wife Milly, 40, and children Beady, 11, Burkett, 6, and Lafayette Hays, 2.
An act of Congress, approved March 3, 1871, provided that the President nominate three commissioners of claims (otherwise known as the Southern Claims Commission) to receive, examine, and consider the claims of “those citizens who remained loyal adherents to the cause and the Government of the United States during the war, for stores or supplies taken or furnished during the rebellion for the use of the Army of the United States in States proclaimed as in insurrection against the United States.” The commissioners were to satisfy themselves of the loyalty of each claimant; certify the amount, nature, and value of the property taken or furnished; report their judgment on each claim in writing to the House of Representatives at the beginning of each session of Congress, hold their sessions in Washington; and keep a journal of their proceedings and a register of all claims brought before them. The act provided further that of the claims within its provisions only those presented to the commissioners could be prosecuted, and that all others were to be barred.