Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Chapter 107. Slaves and Free Negroes, section 11.

11. Free negroes to procure like certificates. Penalty for neglect.  Free negroes working in any of said swamps [“the Great Dismal Swamp, or in the swamp which lies between Lees’ mill in the county of Washington, and Pamlico river in the county of Beaufort, or in the swamp which lies between Juniper creek, and the lands of Charles Pettigrew, in the county of Tyrrell”] shall procure from the clerks of the proper counties, a similar description of themselves, certified as above directed, and keep it ready at all times when so engaged to be exhibited. And if any free person of color shall willfully work in any of said swamps without such copy, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor; and, on conviction, may be punished at the discretion of the court, by fine, whipping, and imprisonment, or any of them.

The description of the swamps is found in section 10, as are the specifications for the document free colored workers were required to carry: “an exact description of the [person,] specifying the name and residence of the person intending so to employ the [person,] the height, complexion, and every peculiar mark of description … and such written description shall be entered by the clerk of the court of pleas and quarter sessions on the book kept for that purpose.”

Revised Code of North Carolina, 1854.

One of the runaways had a free wife.

TAKEN UP AND COMMITTED TO THE PUBLIC JAIL — of Wilkes County on the 15th inst. three negro men, who say they belong to JOHN SMITH, a refugee, stopping at present at High Point, N.C. viz:

JO, about 30 years of age, weighs 160 lbs., five feet three and a half inches high, teeth good, “black as soot,” says he was raised in Jones County by MERRY JONES; had a free wife name ANNA DONE [DOVE]; is a shoe-maker.

CHARLES, raised in Craven County, owned by MRS. LAVINIA SMITH, of Edgecombe County; knows B.M. SELBY and other citizens of Tarboro’; 40 years of age, weighs 160 lbs., height five feet eight inches; black round face; and professes to be a sort of carpenter.

HENRY, 35 years of age; weighs 150 lbs., five feet eight inches high; yellow black in color; was raised in Virginia by DR. HARRIS, sold to JAS. HARRISON, who sold to JOHN SMITH, the present owner, and says he is a plasterer.

The owner or owners will please come forward, pay charges and take said negroes away, or they will be dealt with as law further directs.  August 24, 1863       ROBT. M. SMITH, Sheriff.

Raleigh Standard, 26 August 1863.

Halifax County Apprentices, 1847-49.

Lucy Harris was bound to Stephen Burrows in August 1847.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Lucy Harris, 14, spinster, living alone, but two doors from Stephen Burrows, merchant.

Saphronia Scott, daughter of Mary Scott, was bound to Matthew Weldon in August 1847.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Andrew Scott, 19, and Saphrona Scott, 8, in the household of Mathew Weldon, farmer.

Nicholas, son of Lucy Jones, was bound to Arther Pender in August 1847.

Ann Daniel, age 11 on 1 October 1848, “orphan child of Mary Daniel and a bastard,” was bound to Daniel G. Briggs as a housemaid spinster in November 1848.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Ann Daniel, 11, born in Halifax County, in the household of Wm. Whitfield, “in keeper,” as was Daniel Briggs and family.

In May 1848, Ann Peters was ordered to come into court at next term to show cause why her children, Jas. Peters, Isham Peters, and two other children whose names were unknown, should not be bound.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Ann Peters, 30, and children Menerva, 13, and Lewis, 6.

“Free children of colour” James Gaffin, born 15 December 1830; Mary Gaffin, born 12 December 1832; William Gaffin, born 29th October 1834; Margaret Gaffin, born 28 April 1839; and Elizabeth Gaffin, born 10 September 1845, were bound to F.A. Smith in February 1849.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: six Gaffin children – Joe, 7, James, 20, Wm., 15, Mary, 17, Margt. 12, and Betsy, 5 – are listed in the household of F.A. Smith, farmer. All are described as white.  Nearby, Betsey Gaffin, 50, and Fanny Gaffin , 28. Betsey is described as mulatto; Fanny, as white. In the 1860 census of Western District, Halifax County: Elizabeth Gaffin, 16, mulatto, farm laborer, remained with the Smiths. Frances Gaffin, 38, seamstress, and Joseph J. Gaffin, 18, farm laborer, were white. (As was the Joseph Gaffin, 19, probably the same boy,who worked as an overseer for Fred McWilliams, farmer.) On the other hand, James Gaffin, 31, farm laborer, his wife Betsey, 27, and son James,1, were described as mulatto.

In February 1849, Henry Pettiford, son of Lovy Pettiford, was ordered into the next court term “to be dealt with or bound out.”

Hezekiah Scott bound to Lazarus Pope, a free man of colour, to be a blacksmith in May 1849.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Lasrus Pope, 29, blacksmith, born Northampton County; wife Peggy, 27, born Halifax County; Elizabeth Pope, 8, and Olive Pope, 22, born in Halifax County; and Ezekiah Pope, 5, born in Northampton County.

Thos. Saunders, 15, was bound to Chas. N. Webb as a farmer in May 1849.

Blake Underdue, 13, was bound to John H. Panton in August 1849.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Blake Underdue, 12, born Halifax County, in the household of Wm. B. Pope, lawyer.

Thos. Underdue, 14, was bound to Charles Ferrall in August 1849.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County: Tom Underdue, 15, born Edgecombe County, in the household of Rich’d Sells, 28, merchant.

Minutes, Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, Halifax County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Don’t credit her.


Whereas my wife, ELIZABETH CHAVERS, has deserted my bed and board without any just cause, I hereby forewarn all persons from crediting her on my account, as I am determined to discharge no debt of her contracting.   ISAAC CHAVERS, Granville, Jan. 30, 1811.

Raleigh Minerva, 7 February 1811.

Those of negro blood have been excluded.

We have procured from the homes of these Indian families a few photographs, showing the type of these Croatan Indians today living in Sampson County. It will be readily seen that they are neither white people, negroes or mulattoes. They all have straight black hair, the Indian nose and lips, their skin a light brown hue, mostly high cheek bones, erect in their carriage, steel gray eyes and an intelligent countenance. Where the white blood predominates many of them have beards.

They are the true type of the Croatan Indian and have always resided and lived in this section and known as “free persons of color.” There are a few of these people that have intermarried with mulattoes, but all those of negro blood have been excluded from this sketch and no demands or claims are made in their behalf, as under the law they are properly classed with the negroes.

From George E. Butler, “The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina. Their Origin and Racial Status. A Plea for Separate Schools,” (1916).