Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Complaint for possession of land.

North Carolina, Wayne County   } In Superior Court April Term 1892.

David Brown and wife Minta Brown vs. Sallie Simmons and Frank Winn – Complaint.

The plaintiffs for their complaint allege, I. That prior to the [blank] day of April 1854 David Simmons was the owner in fee of a tract of land in Wayne County near the town of Mount Olive on which the defendant Sallie Simmons now lives, bounded as follows, Beginning at a pine and running thence S 82 poles to a pine, then S 87 W 81 poles to a pine, the N 47 W 46 poles to a pine, then N 5 E 56 poles to a stake, then East 110 poles to the beginning containing 57 acres more or less.

II. That on said [blank] day of April 1854 the said David Simmons conveyed said tract of land for life to his mother Ita Simmons reserving an annual rent of one penny by deed duly admitted to probate and registered in Wayne County.

III. That thereafter on the 23rd day of April 1855 the said David Simmons conveyed said land in fee to one James McDuffie by deed duly admitted to probate and registered in Wayne County.

IV. That thereafter the said McDuffie died in the County of Wayne leaving a last will and testament by which he devised said land in fee to the plaintiff Minta Brown (then Minta Bryant) subject to the life estate of the said Ita Simmons.

V. That soon after the execution of said deed to Ita Simmons set out in the second paragraph of this complaint, the said Ita Simmons took possession of said land under said deed and remained in possession thereof until her death in the year 1891.

VI. That the plaintiff Minta Brown is the owner in fee of said land and in entitled to recover possession thereof.

VII. That the defendants are now in possession of said land and wrongfully withholding the same from the plaintiffs.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray for Judgment.

1. That the plaintiff Minta Brown is the owner in fee of said land.

2. For possession & costs.

Minta Brown being duly sworn says, That the facts stated in the foregoing complaint as of her own knowledge over time and then states on information and belief she believes to be true.  Minta X Brown    Sworn to & subscribed before me this 9 day of April 1892.  Jno. D. Taylor, Clerk Superior Court, New Hanover County

In the 1850 census of the South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Ity Simmons, 40, born in Duplin County, with sons David, 22, cooper, and George, 20, hireling; all mulatto.  Also, Sally Bryan, 30, and her children Arimenta, 8, Penny, 6, Charley, 4, and Caroline, 4, and Charity Bryan, 70, perhaps her mother.  Arimenta and Penny were described as mulatto; the rest of the family, white.  In the 1860 census of Indian Springs, Wayne County, Minta Bryant, 23, and her children Mitchel, 4, Edith, 6, and Rufus Bryant, 2, all mulatto, lived in the household of James McDuffee, 41. [Was McDuffie the father of Bryant’s children?]

Ita Simmons Estate Papers, Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.  US Federal Population Schedules.

Surnames: Johnston County, 1850.

The following surnames appear among free people of color in the 1850 census of Johnston County:


By the assistance, industry, economy and prudence of his wife.

State of North Carolina, Pasquotank County  }  June Term 1797

To the Worshipful the County Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions for Pasquotank County The Petition of Thomas Sylvester a Freeman of Colour Humbly Sheweth That he some years agoe took to wife a Negroe Woman Slave by the Name of Joan the property of a certain Jeremiah Symons who hath borne him four Children, to wit Abba, Nancy, Jerry and Annaretta. That by the Assistance, Industry economy & prudence of his said Wife Joan he hath been enabled to raise a sufficient Sum to purchase her and her Children from their said Master.

May it therefore please your worships taking your Petitioners Case under your consideration to prepare Order for the liberation & emancipation of the said Joan, Abba, Nancey, Jerry and Annaretta by the names of Joan Sylvester, Abba Sylvester, Nancey Sylvester, Jerry Sylvester and Annaretta Sylvester agreeable to the Power of Authority in your Worships Vested by the Act of the General Assembly in such Cases made and provided and Your Petitioner as in Duty bound shall ever pray &     Will Blair for the Petitioner

In the 1790 census of Pasquotank County, Thomas Sylvester is listed as the head of a household of four “other free” people.

Records of Slaves and Free Persons of Color, Pasquotank County Records, North Carolina State Archives. US Federal Population Schedule.

He may have procured free papers.

$25 REWARD. RANAWAY from the subscriber, residing near Concord, North Carolina, about the 1st of December last, a negro boy by the name of JOHN.  John is a very bright colored mulatto, is about five feet 10 inches in height, straight and well built – has long dark hair and wears it combed over in front and straight down over his ears and the back part of his head – and when excited or heated by exercise his face assumes a flush and ruddy complexion. He has a scar on his left hand and one upon his right wrist. – He has an axe scar on his left foot, as well as recollected, extending from the end of his big toe near to the middle of the foot.  He took with him when he left me a good pair of cassinette pantaloons, and a good brown overcoat and a pair of boots.  He may have procured free papers and attempted to make his way to a free State, as a free man of color, or he may have attempted to pass for a white man, which his color would well justify.  But I am rather inclined to believe he is lurking about Charlotte, as he was raised in that town and has numerous relations and acquaintances in and around that place – or he may be about Asheville, N.C., having a brother living there.  Any information respecting him, given to me at Concord, N.C., will be thankfully received.  And the above reward will be given to any person who will deliver him to me, or confine him in any jail so that I can get him.  WM. C. MEANS.  Concord, N.C. March 22, 1848.

Carolina Watchman, 1 June 1848.