Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

The predicament.

As we have already noted, according to the laws of the colonial period, illegitimate children acquired the status of the mother, and this ruling explains the predicament of John Oggs’ children. Oggs was a bachelor whose housekeeper and cook was his slave, a Negro woman named Hester. By her he fathered four offspring, two males and two females. To “my gairl Alley (Alice)” and “my boy Jesse” he devised an equal interest in the plantation whereon he lived. To “my gairl Prudence” and “my boy Charles” he bequeathed the “land on the Island.” The total acreage of his real estate was between two and three hundred acres. He had failed, however, to provide for the manumission of either the mother or her children and since the law prohibited a slave from owning real property, the complications produced by the will became immediately evident. Here were properties clearly intended for individuals who were unable to exercise the privileges of ownership.

This peculiar state of affairs continued for a period of eighteen years, the boy Jesse having died in the meantime, when John Hamilton solved the problem by sponsoring a special legislative enactment, doubtless at the behest of interested persons in Camden and in Pasquotank. Following are quoted pertinent passages from the act finally passed by the State Legislature: “And whereas, the within mentioned Hester, and her children Charles, Alley and Prudence Oggs, are recommended to this General Assembly by several very respectable inhabitants of Camden and Pasquotank, as worthy of being manumitted and set free agreeable to the intentions of their father John Oggs. . . . Be it therefore enacted, that the said Negro woman Hester, and her children Charles, Alley and Prudence Oggs, are hereby manumitted and set free to all intents and purposes, and to possess all rights and privileges as if they had been born free.”

Exercising their long-delayed rights of ownership, for a few years the Oggs heirs sold and bought real estate. The father had owned one tract located in a neighborhood now known as Wickham, and the other was on Indian Island. Prudence finally purchased fifty acres on Indian Island, where she apparently spent her last days. Hester and the other two children later assumed the surname of Dixon. Eventually they sold all their possessions and departed for parts unknown.

Excerpt from Jesse F. Pugh, Three Hundred Years Along the Pasquotank (1957).

They have always been a nuisance, and now become a great danger.

North Carolina. To the Senate & House of Commons, Your memorialists, citizens of Currituck County, respectfully petition your honorable bodies to take immediate steps to relieve the people of this State of the free negro population, which has always been a nuisance, and now become an element of great danger. Scattered over the State, having at all times free communication with the slaves, the free negroes furnish a ready and safe medium for the diffusion of incendiary doctrines which we have abundant reason to believe have, especially of late, been instilled into the minds of the slaves, and they thereby rendered insubordinate and ripe for any wicked enterprise to which they may be instigated by Northern Emissaries. The minds of our people have for several years past been directed to this source of danger, but recent events have produced a deep and settled conviction of the necessity of guarding against it, either by expelling the free negroes, or reducing them all to the condition of slavery. Your memorialists are [page torn] with us qualms as to the right of the Legislature either to expel them from the State, or to reduce them to a condition of slavery. Disfranchised in this State by the convention of 1835, the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial tribunal in our country, by a late decision has decided that they are not citizens under the Constitution; and it must be admitted that here, the only rights to which they are entitled are strictly & solely legal, and therefore subject to revision or change by act of the Gen’l Assembly. Whatever diversity of opinion, however, may be Entertained in reference to this question, it strikes your Petitioners that there is one view of the subject that cannot fail to impress the mind of Every good citizen; all must admit that the present is a time of great danger; such in fact as never before Endangered the peace & safety of the Southern States, and threatened the institution of slavery; it is unnecessary to enter into any statement of facts to prove the truth of this declaration, what is the first duty of the people of North Carolina? Surely, to provide all necessary means to ward off the threatened danger – your Memorialists, firmly believing the removal of the free Negroes from the State, or their reduction to the same condition of the slave population, one of the necessary means, hold that the plain right of self defense would justify such action on their part through their Legislature, and that such legislation at this time would meet the approving voice of the whole body of the Southern people & challenge the approbation of all others throughout the country who properly appreciate our position & respect our rights. But your Memorialists do not design submitting any argument upon the subject to your honorable bodies, either as to the right or the expediency of the policy they recommend; nor do they propose to advise any particular plan for the accomplishment of the object in view, being content to leave the matter to your own good judgement, guided as they believe it will be by sound patriotism and a just sense of your representative duties. They cannot refrain, however, from suggesting that according to their own judgements the wisest and most judicious policy would be to provide for the removal of all such as might choose to go to the Northern States within a certain fixed time, and to authorise the several county courts to sell as slaves all such as remained after the Expiration of the time named in the act and believing that sound policy requires that all proper means should be resorted to to strengthen the institution of slavery by increasing the number of slave holding citizens and otherwise, your Memorialists would recommend, in case the above policy be adopted, that the right of purchase should be confined to these citizens of the state who are not already owners of slaves; that no one person should be allowed to become the purchaser of more than one, except in the case of mothers and small children, that all negroes so purchased shall be exempt from execution for debt, and not transferable by sale and purchase for a term of years. Trusting that your honorable bodies will give this subject that serious attention which its importance entitles it to, your petitioners will ever pray &c

General Assembly Session Records, November 1860-February 1861, Petitions Box 8, North Carolina State Archives.

Wayne County Apprentices, 1843.

Eliza Hagans, 16, was bound to Lovet Peacock in 1843.

William Ayers, 13 was bound to Fred Hollomon in 1843.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: William Ayres, 30, farm laborer, in the household of Stephen Privett, farmer.

John Q. Barfield, 12, Thomas Barfield, 11, and Henry Barfield, 7, were bound to John Hooks in 1843.

In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Henry Barfield, 14, in the household of Mary Hooks. In the 1860 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Thomas Barfield, 32 turpentine hand, with Charly A., 16, and Melvina Barfield, 2.

William Ayers, 13, was bound to Enos Rose in 1843.

Ruben Artis, 1, and July Artis, 1, were bound to John Exum in 1843.

In the 1850 census of Warren, Warren County: Reuben Pettiford, 50, stonemason, wife Judy A. Pettiford, 37, children Eliza Artis, 21, Alfred Artis, 15, Jack Artis, 13, Rhody Artis, 12, Ruben Artis Jr., 10, Julian Artis, 9, Mary Artis, 7, Elizabeth J. Pettiford, 5, and Virginia Pettiford, 3, plus Middy Artis, 60, and Isah Artis, 4 months. [Sidenote: This family appears in a number of permutations in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Apparently, Reuben Pettiford and Judy Pettiford married late, if at all, and did not always cohabitate.  –LYH.]

Simpson Artis, 14, Jordan Artis, 11, Henry Artis, 9, Duncan Artis, 7, Ned Artis, 7, Leonard Artis, 4, Nancy Artis, 2, Rasberry Artis, 1, and Levinah Artis were bound to Burket Barnes in 1843.

In the 1850 census of Monroe, Howard County, Indiana: Simpson Artis, 22, laborer, born NC, and John Owens, 24, born Indiana. In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Henry, 15, Duncan, 13, Lenoard, 10, and Ashberry Artice, 7, in the household of Burkett Barnes, farmer. In the 1860 census of Saulston, Wayne County: Olive Artis, 60, Elizabeth Artis, 20, Jordan, 27, and infant, 1 month. 

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.