Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Free-Issue Death Certificates: MISCELLANEOUS, no. 7.

Jane Tidline Fletcher.  Died 11 April 1943, Edwards, Wilkes County. Negro. Married to Geo. Fletcher. Born about 1853 in Wilkes County to Alfred Tidline and Margaret Valentine, both of Wilkes. Buried Sandy Creek cemetery. Informant, R.B. Gwyn.

In the 1860 census of Upper Division, Wilkes County: John A. Tydline, 24, day laborer; wife Margret, 22; and daughter Elmira, 4, plus Littleton Valentine, 30, carpenter, and George Grinton, 24, carpenter.

Nancy Calloway.  Died 6 November 1926, North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County. Widow. Black. Born 6 November 1847, Wilkes County, to B. Valentine and Pressie Valentine, both of Wilkes County.  Buried Woodlawn. Informant, Ben Calloway.

In the 1860 census of Upper Division, Wilkes County: Abedegoe Valintine, 65, farmer; wife Prissilla, 55; and Matterson, 32, Jack, 19, Nancy, 11, Sally Ann, 25, and Judia Valentine, 6.

William J. Watkins. Died 18 July 1923, North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County. Colored. Married to L.C. Watkins. Born 20 May 1852 to John Watkins of Davie County and Fannie Chavers of Wilkes. Buried Fair Plains NC. Informant, John Wadkins.

In the 1860 census of Lower Division, Wilkes County:  John Wadkins, 35, wife Fanny, 43, and children Laura, 13, Jordan, 11, Lucy, 9, Wm., 7, and Alfred, 3.

Intelligence received from some free people of colour.

RUNAWAY. From the Subscriber residing in the vicinity of Rolesville, on the 30th day of July last, a negro by the name of BEN, about 30 years of age, nearly 6 feet high, a very slick black, with one crooked knee, perhaps his right, it bears considerably towards his other knee when walking, an uncommon large foot, his fore teeth affected and look dark, so much so, as to be plainly discovered if noticed, it is expected from intelligence received from some free people of colour, since he started, he intends passing as a free man. When last heard from, he was on his way to Edgecomb County, North Carolina. Any person bringing him to me or lodging him in some Jail, so that I get him again, shall receive a reasonable reward with all necessary expenses paid. CLATON LEA. Rolesville, August 7, 1838.

Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser, 13 August 1838.

I blame the State of North Carolina.


I was born free, in Halifax Co. North Carolina, where I lived thirty-five years. About ten years ago, I removed to Indiana. My father was a farmer, half white, who ran through his farm. If a white man there brings a great account, the white man would carry it against the colored, — the law there does not favor colored people. I cannot read or write. A free-born man in North Carolina is as much oppressed, in one sense, as the slave: I was not allowed to go to school. I recollect when I was a boy, a colored man came from Ohio, and opened a school, but it was broken up. I was in the field ploughing with my father, — he said he wished we could go and learn. I think it an outrageous sin and shame, that a free colored man could not be taught. My ignorance has a very injurious effect on my prospects and success. I blame the State of North Carolina — the white people of that State — for it. I am now engaged in a troublesome lawsuit, about the title to my estate, which I would not have got into, had I known how to read and write.

There were lots of slaves in the neighborhood where I was raised. After I grew up to take notice of things, I found I was oppressed as well as they. I thought it a sin then, for one man to hold another. I never was allowed to visit among the slaves, — had I been caught visiting them, I should have been fined: if a slave had visited me, he would have been whipped. This prevented my having much intercourse with them, except when I was hired to work by the masters. The conversation among the slaves was, that they worked hard, and got no benefit, — that the masters got it all. They knew but little about the good of themselves, — they often grumbled about food and clothing, — that they had not enough. I never heard a colored man grumbling about that here. They were generally religious, — they believed in a just God, and thought the owners wrong in punishing them in the way they were punished. A good many were so ignorant that they did not know any better, than to suppose that they were made for slavery, and the white men for freedom. Some, however, would talk about freedom, and think they ought to be free.

I have often been insulted, abused, and imposed upon, and had advantage taken of me by the whites in North Carolina, and could not help myself.

When I was twenty-one, I went to vote, supposing it would be allowed. The ‘Squire, who held the box objected, and said no colored man was allowed to vote. I felt very badly about it, — I felt cheap, and I felt vexed: but I knew better than to make an answer, — I would have been knocked down certain. Unless I took off my hat, and made a bow to a white man, when I met him, he would rip out an oath, —  “d–n you, you mulatto, ain’t you got no politeness? Do n’t you know enough to take off your hat to a white man?” On going into a store, I was required to take off my hat.

I have seen slaves with whom I worked, nearly starved out, and yet stripped and whipped; blood cut out of them. It makes my flesh creep now to think of it – such gashes as I’ve seen cut in them. After a whipping, they would often leave and take to the woods for a month or two, and live by taking what they could find. I’ve often heard it said that’s the cause of colored people in the South being dishonest, because they are brought so as to be obliged to steal. But I do not consider it dishonest — I always thought it right for a slave to take and eat as much as he wanted where he labored.

At some places where I have worked, I have known that the slaves had not a bite of meat given them. They had a pint of corn meal unsifted, for a meal, — three pints a day. I have seen the white men measure it, and the cook bake it, and seen them eat it: that was all they had but water — they might have as much of that as they wanted. This is no hearsay — I’ve seen it through the spring, and on until crop time: three pints of meal a day and the bran and nothing else. I heard them talk among themselves about having got a chicken or something, and being whipped for it. They were a bad looking set — some twenty of them — starved and without clothing enough for decency. It ought to have been a disgrace to their master, to see them about his house. If a man were to go through Canada so, they ‘d stop him to know what he meant by it — whether it was poverty or if he was crazy, — and they ‘d put a suit of clothes on him. I have seen them working out in the hot sun in July or August without hats — bareheaded. It was not from choice, — they could n’t get hats.

I have seen families put on the block and sold, some one way, some another way. I remember a family about two miles from me, — a father and mother and three children. Their master died, and they were sold. The father went one way, the mother another, with one child, and the other two children another way. I saw the sale — I was there — I went to buy hogs. The purchaser examined the persons of the slaves to see if they were sound, — if they were “good niggers.” I was used to such things, but it made me feel bad to see it. The oldest was about ten or eleven years. It was hard upon them to be separated — they made lamentations about it. I never heard a white man at a sale express a wish that a family might be sold together.

On removing to Indiana, the white people did not seem so hostile altogether, nor want the colored people to knuckle quite so low. There were more white people who were friendly than in North Carolina. I was not allowed my vote nor my oath. There were more who wished colored people to have their rights than in North Carolina, — I mean there were abolitionists in Indiana.

I came here a year last spring, to escape the oppression of the laws upon the colored men. After the fugitive slave bill was passed, a man came into Indianapolis, and claimed John Freeman, a free colored man, an industrious, respectable man, as his slave. He brought proofs enough. Freeman was kept in jail several weeks, — but at last it turned out that the slave sought, was not Freeman, but a colored man in Canada, and F. was released. The danger of being taken as Freeman was, and suffering from a different decision, worked on my mind. I came away into Canada in consequence, as did many others. There were colored people who could have testified to Freeman’s being free from his birth, but their oath would not be taken in Indiana.

In regard to Canada, I like the country, the soil, as well as any country I ever saw. I like the laws, which leave a man as much freedom as a man can have, — still there is prejudice here. The colored people are trying to remove this by improving and educating themselves, and by industry, to show that they are a people who have minds, and that all they want is cultivating.

I do not know how many colored people are here — but last summer five hundred and twenty-five were counted leaving the four churches.

From Benjamin Drew, A North-Side View of Slavery. The Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada Related by Themselves, with an Account of the History and Condition of the Colored Population of Upper Canada (1856).

Though his age is off by several years, this is possibly the Tho. Hedgepath, 31, farmer, with wife Mary, 28, and children A., 7, M.J., 3, and L., 7 months, listed in the 1850 census of Center, Marion County, Indiana. Thomas, Mary and A. were born in North Carolina; the younger children in Indiana.

I won’t have her, but he won’t take her away from me.

The State v. Tackett, 8 NC 210 (1820).

This was an indictment against Tackett for the murder of Daniel, a slave, in Raleigh.  Daniel’s  free colored wife, Lotty, lived in a house on a lot owned by Richardson, a carpenter. Daniel generally was at his wife’s house at night.  Tackett worked as a journeyman for Richardson and lived in Richardson’s house on the same lot.  On the night that Daniel was killed, Richardson was awakened by a gunshot. Soon after, Richardson heard someone enter his room and set something down in the spot he usually kept his gun. Richardson’s gun was loaded with buckshot, and his family had been admonished not to use it.  Richardson turned over and saw someone he thought was Tackett leaving. Shortly after, Richardson heard groans and complaints outside, as if from an injured person.  He saw no more of Tackett that night, and Tackett did not sleep at home.

About a week to ten days before this night, Tackett, while drunk, told Richardson that he and Daniel had fought and said that he would kill Daniel. Because of this threat and of the rumor and his belief that Tackett “kept” Daniel’s wife, Richardson discharged him, but took him back again in a few days when he promised to behave better.  Witnesses testified that at about 9:00 on the night of the shooting, Tackett went to a house in the suburbs where he said several times that he was uneasy and, when asked why, said that he had been downtown and gotten into a fight and was afraid the constables would get him. Soon after, he said he had shot a black man belonging to Mr. Ruffin and believed he spattered him well, because he took good sight at his legs and thighs, and the man “hollowed.” Tackett then said that he had been downtown and was returning home “the back way through the lot” and found Daniel lying on his belly on the ground near a window of Richardson’s house. Tackett said that he would have blown out Daniel’s brains if he had had a pistol.  He asked Daniel who he was and what he was doing there, and Daniel replied by asking who he was and what he was doing there.  Daniel then got up and said Richardson was not at home. The men then went into the yard together, where they remained a short while before Tackett went into the house, got Richardson’s gun, and shot Daniel, who was “dodging around the turning lathe.” Shortly after Daniel was wounded, neighbors, alarmed by his groans, found him and sent for a surgeon who examined his body and found a very large gunshot wound in the front and lower part of the abdomen.

Witnesses stated that Tackett did not appear to be drunk and asked permission to stay all night.  He went to bed and seemed to be asleep when the constables came to arrest him. At that moment, he said it was hard to go out of a good warm bed to jail.

Witnesses also testified that two or three weeks before the homicide, Daniel told someone that Tackett “kept” his wife, showed a large stick that he said he had beaten Tackett with, and said that if Tackett did not let his wife alone, he would kill him. On another night, about a week to ten days before the homicide, Daniel was seen standing at Richardson’s gate, and, when asked who he was, said he was not afraid to tell his name, that he was Daniel, and that the devil had been to pay there. He said Richardson had whipped him and driven him off his lot, but he would be the death of Richardson or Tackett one. Another witness, who also was a carpenter and worked in Richardson’s shop, testified that about ten days before Daniel died, he came up to a workbench where Tackett was working in the street very near Richardson’s house.  Tackett ordered him to leave, and Daniel said he was in the street and would not go. The men then fought, but the witness did not see and could not tell how it began. When the witness took notice of them, Daniel had the stile of a window sash in his hand and struck Tackett several times with it, hurting his eye. Daniel also caught hold of the adze Tackett picked up to strike him with.  They scuffled for it; Daniel butted Tackett and got the adze from him. This witness also stated that very early in the next morning or the morning after that, he found Daniel lying in wait in Richardson’s garden with two stones in his hands. Daniel said he thought the witness was Tackett and had intended to knock his brains out. Further, after dinner on the day of the homicide, he saw Daniel downtown, and Daniel asked him where Tackett was.  Daniel then said that he did not intend for Tackett and Lotty to out-do him and that she had behaved so meanly that he would not have her, but Tackett would not take her away from him, and that, if he did not let her alone, he would kill Tackett or Tackett would kill him.

Tackett then offered to prove that Daniel was a turbulent man and was insolent and impudent to white people, but the Court refused to hear such testimony unless it would prove that Daniel was insolent and impudent to Tackett in particular.

In its charge to the jury, the Court instructed that the case was to be determined by the same rules and principles of law as if the deceased had been a white man and went on to define murder.  The jury found Tackett guilty of murder.  Tackett’s lawyer moved for a new trial on the grounds that proper evidence had been rejected and the Court erred in the charge to the Jury. The motion was denied, and Tackett was sentenced to death.  He appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court held that, in the trial of one charged with the murder of a slave, it is permissible to give evidence that the deceased was turbulent and that he was insolent and impudent to white persons. Further, “it exists in the very nature of slavery, that the relation between a white and a slave is different from that between free persons; and therefore, many acts will extenuate the homicide of a slave, which would not constitute a legal provocation of done by a white person.”