Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Lewis Sheridan Leary.


Lewis Sheridan Leary (1835–1859), a harnessmaker from Oberlin, Ohio, joined John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, where he was killed.  Leary was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, also a harnessmaker, and Julia Memril Leary.  His paternal grandfather was an Irishman, Jeremiah O’Leary, who fought in the American Revolution under General Nathanael Greene. A paternal great-grandparent, Abram Revels, a free man of color, was also a Revolutionary War veteran. His mother’s grandmother was “French Mary,” a freed West Indian who was a well-regarded cook in Fayetteville.

In the mid-1850s, Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where two of his sisters had settled. One sister, Sarah, had married Henry Evans, whose sister Delilah Evans Copeland, the mother of John A. Copeland Jr., another John Brown follower.  Leary married Oberlin College graduate Mary Patterson, and had a daughter, Louise.  Leary became involved with abolitionists in Oberlin, which had an active community. Later, he met John Brown in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1858, Leary joined in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, when fugitive slave John Price was forcibly taken from the custody of a U.S. Marshal to prevent his being returned to slavery . He was not among the 37 men (twelve of them free men of color) who were indicted and jailed for their actions.

Accompanied by Copeland, Leary joined John Brown at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  Leary died eight days after the attack on Harper’s Ferry from wounds suffered in the conflict. Copeland was captured, tried and later executed.

Leary’s family remained in Fayetteville during the Civil War.  During Reconstruction, his father and a brother served as city councilmen and county commissioners, and his brother Matthew Leary Jr. was an early trustee of the college that became Fayetteville State University. Leary’s youngest brother, John Sinclair Leary, graduated from Howard University in 1871 and was one of the earliest black attorneys admitted to the bar in North Carolina. He served in the state legislature for two terms as a Republican representative for Cumberland County during Reconstruction, and in 1884 was sent as a delegate to the National Republican Convention. He later founded and served as the first dean of the Shaw University Law School, and in the 1890s moved his family and practice to Charlotte. Today the Charlotte chapter of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers is named the John S. Leary Bar Association in his honor.

 Adapted from Tar Heels at Harper’s Ferry, October 16-18, 1859,”, published by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Photograph, c. 1850s, courtesy of Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio.

In the 1860 census , Fayetteville, Cumberland: Matthew Leary, 48, wife Julia A., 42, Matthew, 17, Lewis S., 15, Julia A., 12, John S., and Mary E., 13.

Beat, wound and ill treat.

State of North Carolina, Warren County    } Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions August Term 1852.  The Jurors for the State upon their oath present that James Reed a freeperson of Color at and in the said County of Warren on the first day of August in the AD 1852 with force and arms did assault one John Harris and him the said John Harris did then and there beat wound and illtreat against the peace and dignity of the State.    Ransom Sol.

Miscellaneous Records, Warren County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

5 chears, one cubbard, 3 bee gumes.

“Account of the Sale of the property of Matthew Aldridg Deceased sold by Joseph Hollowell Adm. on a credit of six months, Nov 20th 1868”

His widow [Catherine Boseman (or Simmons) Aldridge] purchased five “chears”, cart wheels and an axle, two tables (one small), two beds and furniture, “one cubbard & contents,” a clock, a gun, “3 Bee Gumes & work bench,” a tub dipper, kitchen furniture, a blind mare and two beehives.  Green Simmons, George Simmons and David Winn purchased tools, and “Robbert Aldridg,” who likely was Matthew Aldridge’s brother, bought the fourth and fifth beehive choices.  A note on William Carter for a $27.50 debt, due 1 January 1869, was described as doubtful.  The Application for Letters of Administration in the file notes that Aldridge’s heirs were John Henry Aldridge, Wm. Aldridge, Frances Aldridge, Della Aldridge, Mary Ann Aldridge, Joanna Aldridge, and James Thomas Aldridge.

In the 1860 census of Buck Swamp, Wayne County: Matthew Aldridge, 50, wife Catharine, 28, and children William, 10, John H., 16, Frances, 7, Delia, 3, and Mary A., 1, with James Boseman, 26.  All the Aldridges described as mulatto, and Matthew and James worked as railroad hands.  Matthew reported owning $200 real estate and $25 personal property.

Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; US Federal Population Schedules.



The Superior Court for this county is in session – Judge Ellis presiding.  We are happy to be able to say, that there is no capital case before it.

At Sampson Court, last week, Wm. Boon, alias Wm. Hussey, a free mulatto, was convicted of Burglary with intent to commit a Rape.  Solicitor Strange and Hon. J.C. Dobbin for the State; C.G. Wright, Esq. for the prisoner.

Fayetteville Observer, 4 May 1852.

In the 1850 census of Southern Division, Sampson County: Comfort Boon, 50, with Kadar, 22, Ann, 24, Beckey, 23, Elizabeth, 20, Caty, 19, Evaline, 18, William, 15, and Almira Boon, 10; all described as black.

Craven County Apprentices, 1802-1804.

On 14 June 1802, Isaiah Godett, a free person of color aged 1 year the 19 October next, was bound to George Godett as a shoemaker.

On 18 June 1802, William Carter, a free Negro boy aged 12 years, was bound to Asa Jones as a cooper.

On 18 June 1802, John Carter, a free person of color aged 6 years, was bound to Frederick Jones as a cooper.

On 11 June 1804, James Lewis, a free person of color aged 2 years, and Sall Lewis, a free person of color aged 5 years, were bound to Gideon Sparrow as a ship carpenter.

On 12 June 1804, Peg Duncan, a free person of colour aged 6 years, was bound to Noah Champion of the town of New Bern as a spinster.

On 14 June 1804, Jim Dove, a free person of colour [no age listed], bound to John C. Stanly as a barber. An endorsement on the back of the bond indicated “James Dove” was born 2 February 1794, was 10 years and 4 months old, and had 10 years and 8 months to serve.  On the same day, Elijah Dove, a free person of colour, was also bound to John C. Stanly, as a house carpenter.

On 15 June 1804, Israel Harris, free person of color aged 12 years, was bound to James Carney, Esq., as a cooper, and Rachel Harris, a free person of color aged 14 years, was bound to him as a spinster.

On 10 September 1804, Elisha Gregory, a free person of color aged 20 years, Macksey Gregory, a free person of color aged 18 years 6 months, and James Willouby, a free person of colour aged 15 years, were bound to John C. Stanly as house carpenters.

On 11 September 1804, Lizzy Driggers, aged about 15 years, and Ana Driggers, aged about 18 years, two free base born orphans of color, were bound to Thomas Mahon until 21 years as spinsters.

On 14 September 1804, Peter Braddock, a free person of color aged 17 years, was bound to John C. Stanly as a house carpenter.

On 15 December 1804, Rachel Donaldson, a free person of colour, was bound to Edward Pasteur as a spinster.