God’s will for the colored race.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Nancy Brewer filed claim #11545 with the Southern Claims Commission. She was about 50 years old, lived in Chapel Hill, Orange County, and kept house for her husband during the war. Her husband was arrested during the war “to work on embankments at Fort Macon, I think, but Mr. J.W. Carr interfered and informed them that he was my property, I having bought him a few years before the war.” Her husband belonged to the Union League of America and was appointed a magistrate after the War.
The Brewers rented land to work on shares from Mr. Weaver and others about one mile from town. Nancy Brewer owned a house and lot in Chapel Hill. “I gave about four hundred dollars for it before the Surrender. I paid for it in gold & silver some old Bank money and some Confederate money.” Federal soldiers took a pile of lumber — about a thousand board feet — with which her husband had intended to build a stable. They also took a horse (a sorrel named Henry) and some bacon. “I asked them please not to take my horse, that it was all our dependence to make a crop.” (Confederate soldiers took some leather from her husband’s shoe shop.)
Nancy Brewer testified: “At the beginning of the war I felt troubled about it. I know my husband did not do anything to favor bringing it on, nor after it was brought on. Of course, he wanted the North to whip the South that was the way he talked and I agreed with him. I believed it was God’s will for it to become as it is now. If it was God’s will for the colored race to be free let it be so. And if not I was willing to submit to his will. I knew we were all in his hands. I believe God brought it out as it is, and I know he will do right.”
Nancy Stroud lived in Chapel Hill, Orange County. She did not know her age, but “I reckon I am away yonder in fifty.” She worked as a washerwoman and had been living with Nancy Brewer for two weeks when the “Yankee Soldiers” came to Chapel Hill around the time “corn was coming up.” She saw two “pure Yankees” that she believed were from the Ninth Ohio bridle Brewer’s horse and lead him away. She also saw them take three “big large hams”. She was afraid of the soldiers because they said “if Johnson did not surrender in a few days they would show me the devil and I did not want to see him.” She was no judge of horses, but estimated that Brewer’s was worth about $100. The soldiers also took the planking from Brewer’s fence. “I think the property was taken for the use of the Army, but to come to the truth of it, I just believe the Devil made them do it.” She never heard Brewer or her husband talk about the war as “It would not do for colored people to talk here. ‘A still tongue made a wise head.’”
Thomas M. Kirkland, a merchant, testified that he knew Brewer’s husband, Green Brewer, who had been dead about two years next August. “I was not intimate with colored people during the war as to be acquainted with his sentiments…,” but believed him to be loyal. “I am in no wise related to claimant he being a colored man and I a white man.”
The Commissioners remarked: “The claimant is a colored woman & a widow, her husband having died since the war. He was formerly a slave, but she had bought him & he belonged to her! – or rather was free during the war. He was a rather superior colored man. After the war Gov. Holden appointed him Magistrate. The property belonged to her, & it was taken by our soldiers about the 1st April ’65 & taken to camp, the lumber for barracks.”