They commenced to taking everything.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Abel Payne, age 77, filed claim #21703 with the Southern Claims Commission.  He lived in Fayetteville and worked as a builder.  He rented and operated a grist mill for three months just before and at the start of the war and did not know whether he ground any corn for Confederates.  He was arrested by an officer at the Confederate arsenal one time, but released because of his age.

“I was born a slave.  I bought myself and family and was emancipated by the Legislature of North Carolina in 1837 I think it was.”

On 11 March 1865, a group of union soldiers came to his house, took his horse from the stable on his lot, “then commenced to taking” everything else within an hour.  “Took all my good cloths and my watch, after all my property and while my house was full of soldiers an officer rode by I went to him told him that the soldiers had taken everything that I had, he put a Guard at my house, the Guard cleared the premises.”

Peter Harmon, 52, was a gardener.  He was employed by Payne as a drayman.  He drove Payne’s horse, a small sorrel about 7 or 8 years old, the night before the soldiers came and put it in the stable.  He went to Payne’s house hoping he could get some provisions and found that the soldiers had taken all.

Martha Payne, 77, was Abel Payne’s wife. She witnessed the soldiers take his property.  They asked for the keys to trunks “which was given to them or rather the trunks was opened for them.” They broke into the stable and rode off on the horse.

Mary Payne, 32, was Abel Payne’s daughter.

John Stewart, 40, brickmason, and Alexander Murphy, 45, carpenter, testified to Payne’s loyalty. Murphy worked for during the war. Murphy testified that Capt. James M. Williams threatened to send Payne to work at the breastworks “because he did not please him in some work he was doing for him. I never knew him to contribute anything in any way to aid the Confederate govt. or its officers or soldiers except to make hay presses for Capt. Williams which I suppose was for the Confederate or state government.”

In the 1860 census of Fayetteville, Cumberland County: Abel Payne, 64, carpenter, wife Martha, 65, seamstress, and daughters Jane, 31, Mary, 21, and Martha, 19.