Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Edward J. & Susan Henderson Wynn.



EDWARD JAMES WINN (1838-1922) was the son of Gray Winn and Sarah “Sallie” Greenfield Winn.  His wife, SUSAN HENDERSON WYNN (1854-1907), was the daughter of James Henderson and Louisa Armwood Henderson. They are buried in a small family cemetery near Dudley in southern Wayne County.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2013.

In the 1850 census of South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Sally Winn, 30, and children Betsey, 14, Edw’d J., 12, Eliza, 10, Penny, 6, Ally, 4, and Washington, 1.

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County: James Henderson, 52, wife Eliza, 25, and children Anna J., 8, Susan, 6, Hepsie, 4, and Alexander, 1.

[Sidenote: Edward Winn’s brother, Washington Francis “Frank,” married Susan Henderson’s sister Hepsie. — LYH]

Oldest North Carolinian ever.

Cross Woodis: Candidate for Oldest North Carolinian

By Dr. H.G. Jones, for the Associated Press

Chapel Hill (AP) — … Who was the oldest person ever to live in North Carolina? We may never know, but know candidate for the distinction was Cross Woodis, who complained before his death about 1880 that liquor had shortened his life.

He had done pretty well, though, for according to his biographer, Woodis was 130 years old when he died. If we base his age on the census of 1860 when he was listed as 100, he would have been only 120 at the time of his death. But what difference would 10 years make at that age?

We would perhaps know nothing of Cross Woodis except for a tiny sketch published in 1905 by Alfred Nixon ….

A mulatto born free but bound to a white man named Curtis until he was 21, Cross Woodis, according to census records, was born in Mecklenburg County long before the Revolution. He spent many years in Cabarrus County but lived in Lincoln County in his advanced years. He had a cabin on the farm of William King near Catawba Springs.

As a young man Woodis married a free black woman who, when the southern states began restricting the rights of free Negroes, insisted that the couple move to the free state of Ohio.

Woodis told his wife to go ahead with her relatives ad that he would follow. He never did, except for a visit. After years of separation from his first wife, he married another free black woman in North Carolina.

Apparently Cross Woodis was primarily a farmer, but he worked at various jobs – fisherman, hunter, horse racer, well digger, water witch. With a forked peach tree spout, he was almost unerring in locating water for his clients.

Woodis was remembered as shriveled and stooped but retaining a remarkable degree of his senses, particularly his memory and wit. He claimed to have killed a British soldier while guarding a cache of guns during the Revolution, a claim that Nixon accepted as true. …

Cross Woodis died at the home of a daughter in Mecklenburg County about 1880 and was buried at a Presbyterian church for blacks at Caldwell, a few miles from Cowan’s Ford.

The Robesonian, Lumberton, 11 February 1982.

In the 1850 census of Lincoln County: Cross Woodruss, 70, Delphy, 35, Henderson, 10, and Jane Woodruss, 8.  In the 1860 Lincoln County: Cross Woodis, 100, farm laborer (active), born Mecklenburg County.  In 1870 Catawba Springs, Lincoln County: Jordan Shuford, 25, wife Dovey, 26, and Cross Wordice, 110, “at home.”  In 1880, Catawba Springs, Lincoln County: farm worker George Johnston, 27, Lucy, 22, Lizzie Boyd, 55, mother, Sarah Johnston, 50, mother-in-law, and Cross Woodis, 128, grandfather.

Horrible outrage.


Three Radicals Murder a Negro, His Wife and Four Children in Their Own Home.

The House Burned to Conceal the Crime – A Mother’s Devotion – The Woman Alarms Neighbors and Secures the Arrest of the Murderers.

RALEIGH, N.C., May 2, 1871.

The Sentinel of to-day has a correspondence from Rutherford Court House, which give the details of one of THE MOST HORRIBLE OUTRAGES that has ever shocked human ears. The perpetrators of the deed are radicals, though it partakes of the nature of Ku Klux Klan outrages. Six souls were, without a word of warning, ushered into eternity, and their slaughtered bodies afterwards consumed in the flames of their burning home. The outrage occurred in Morgan township, on the border of McDowell county, and is as follows:

Silas Weston, a free negro before the war, has for many years been living with Polly Steadman, a white woman of loose character. Polly has or had four children, white, the oldest about fourteen, the youngest nearly two years of age.

SILAS AND POLLY lived peaceably together, and were in better circumstances than most of their class. Some time ago three notorious characters – Govan and Columbus Adair and M. Bernard – were charged with the theft of a quantity of brandy and bound over at McDowell County Court. Silas had seen the thieves carrying off the booty, and was subpoenaed as the principal witness for the prosecution. The Adairs threatened his life if he peached but Silas expressed a determination to bring the rogues to justice. What we now proceed to tell is THE SWORN DEPOSITION of the woman Polly Steadman: — On Wednesday evening, April 26, shortly after nightfall, while the family were preparing to retire to peaceful repose, the dog began to bark violently. Polly, looking through chinks between the logs, received a pistol bullet in the eye. With a wild scream she sprang back, and at that instant the door was broken down and in rushed Govan Adair, Columbus Adair and Bernard FIRING AS THEY CAME. Silas fell dead, with two balls in the head. One of the assassins stood over the children as they lay upon the floor, shooting them through the head like so many pigs. Polly stopped to creep under the bed, but was flung back. Then she began to fight like a tigress. One of the butchers attacked her with a knife. Finally, with five deep cuts on the body, with her throat deeply gashed and a pistol shot through the eye, this poor creature sank to the floor and was kicked into a pile of broom straw preparatory to THE GRAND AUTO DA FE.  Meanwhile every voice in the family had been stilled. Six lifeless bodies lay on the bloody floor – the old man on the hearth, the mother haggled in pieces on the straw, and the children in their night clothes, lying where they fell – all had been jostled by rude feet. The fiends contemplated their work, to make sure it had been done thoroughly, and prepared to hide their tracks. Piling up clothing, straw and other combustible matter they applied the match, and then, with an ineffaceable stain on their souls, fled away into the darkness.

A MOTHER’S DEVOTION. And now occurred what may well sound marvelous. Polly Steadman, scorched by the flames, arouses herself, seizes her youngest child, who gives signs of life, and, crawling towards the door, tries to drag out another child, but nature fails, and the body lies just outside the threshold; then, with supernatural strength, Polly staggers the distance of half a mile to the residence of Mrs. Williams, and gives THE ALARM. It is too late. Three bleached skeletons grin from the ashes,, and a blistered corpse lay without the door.  As soon as possible messengers were dispatched for Sheriff Walker and for medical assistance; but before either arrived, Polly, supposing herself in the last agony of death, solemnly testified against the murderers. She knew them well; they were her near neighbors, and were not disguised. Her testimony was so clear and positive it carried conviction to all who heard it. Accordingly Squire Hanes promptly issued a warrant for THE ARREST of the suspected parties. They were found at home, one of them in bed, though late in the day. Sheriff Walker arrived shortly afterward and conveyed the prisoners to this place, where they are closely confined. Commenting on this horrible affair, it is proper to state with emphasis that all the parties are of the lowest order of society, and that all of them, the slain and the slayers, are radicals of the deepest dye. The Adairs for years have attended the polls for no other purpose than to insult and intimidate conservative voters. So “trooly loil” were they that even with murder in their hearts they sought to make the deed redound for the benefit of the party.

Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania, 4 May 1871.

In the 1860 census of Catheys Creek, Rutherford County: Cinthia Weston, 41, (described as “idiotic”), Elizabeth, 32, Stephen, 21, and Silas Weston, 20. In the 1870 census of Morgan, Rutherford County: Silus Western 50, farmer, wife Mary, 25, and children Harberd, 10, Docia, 6, David, 4, and Mary, 7 months. Silus, Harberd and baby Mary were described as mulatto; Mary, Docia, and David as white. Nearby, the large household of James H. and Arminta Adair, which included sons Columbus, 26, and Govan, 24.

More tales of slave-owning Negroes.

… Mr. George W. Brooks, of Atlanta, recalls [free negroes who owned slaves] when he was a youth in the county of Person, which lay immediately on the Virginia line. There was there quite a colony of free negroes, many of them named Epps, and supposed to be descendants of the slaves set free by Mr. Epps, the brother-in-law of Thomas Jefferson. In Person County there was a free negro named Billy Mitchell, an honest man of genial disposition, who being without means, often hired himself to work for Mr. Brooks’ father on his tobacco farm.  Mr. Brooks remembers hearing Mitchell telling his father of his trip to Mecklenburg, about thirty miles away, when and where he went courting, and told of the lands and slaves which were owned by his girl’s father. He told with much humor of an incident which occurred while he was there. He went out one morning with the girl’s brother to the pig pen to look at the fattening swine. He said that one of the slave boys came and got upon the pen with them; that soon he heard the girl calling her mother to “look at Jim perched up on the hog pen with the white folks.” Billy said that he looked at them all and he could not see but Jim was about as white as any of them. Billy went back and married the girl, took up his abode with them, became interested in the estate and became a slave owner himself.

From Calvin D. Wilson, “Negroes Who Owned Slaves,” Popular Science Monthly, vol. LXXXI (1912).