She is entitled to all of it.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Doe on the demise of Mary Ann Jones v. William Norfleet, 52 NC 473 (1860).
This ejectment action was tried in Edgecombe County Superior Court.
The plaintiff, “a colored woman,” claims title to a parcel of land under the 1860 will of Henry S. Lloyd, which contains the following clause: “I give and devise to Mary Ann Jones, a free colored woman, of the said town of Tarborough, and to her heirs and assigns forever, the lot of ground and the house thereon erected in the said town, on which she now lives.”
William Norfleet, Lloyd’s executor, having been directed to sell all of Lloyd’s real estate in Tarboro, except that specifically devised, took possession of lot 118, insisting that lot only 107 passed to Jones.
The two lots, totaling about an acre, adjoin each other and are enclosed by one fence, except nine or ten feet of lot 118 at the upper end, which has a steep descent. There has never been a dividing line between the lots, which are situated “in the suburbs” of Tarboro.
In 1856, before the lots were enclosed, Lloyd built an ice house on lot 118, at a cost of some 800 dollars, for storing ice for a tavern in which he had one-half ownership. The lots were surrounded by a board fence in 1857, and the same year Lloyd built Jones a house on lot 107. She moved in immediately and resided there at the time of the suit. In the spring of 1859, Jones enclosed a small portion of the ground for a garden. There is a smokehouse on lot 107, built when the house was built, and, on lot 118, a small privy. In 1858, Lloyd built a rough cabin with a small garden for an aged slave. Jones had the use of the rest of both lots for the purpose of cultivation.
Tarboro’s town plan shows lots fifty yards square, and according to such measurement, part of Jones’ garden and the privy are situated on 118. Lloyd bought both lots from the same person at the same time. He lived near them and frequently saw them, but it is unknown whether he knew where the line between them would run.
The Superior Court judge ruled that Jones was entitled to both lots, and Norfleet appealed.
“A testator, owning a parcel of land embracing two town lots, on which he had settled a woman, having built her a dwelling on one lot and an outhouse on the other, and permitted her to inclose a garden, partly on each lot, and to use the whole parcel inclosed within one fence, devised to her ‘the lot of ground and house thereon erected in the said town where she now lives.’ The facts are distinctly and clearly stated, and after duly considering them, in connection with the language of the will, we are of opinion that the entire parcel of ground, embracing lots 107 and 118, passed under the devise, except such portions as had been appropriated by the devisor to the ice-house and to the cabin and garden of the old slave.” Judgment affirmed.