Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Category: Free Women of Color

The horrid deed.

MURDER. – An inquest was held by coroner Scott over the body of a free negro named Chaves, who was found murdered on the Fayetteville road, several miles from this city, on Friday morning last. His death was caused by a frightful wound extending from the groin upwards towards the bowls, which was doubtless made by a knife. The testimony before the coroner’s jury, we learn, implicates a free negro named Jordan, and a free woman in the horrid deed. The woman has been lodged in jail, but the man has not been taken.

The North-Carolina Star (Raleigh), 8 November 1854.

Intemperance and exposure.

Coroner’s Inquest.

On Sunday, 16th inst., a jury of inquest was held upon the dead body of Caroline Alfonzo, a free colored woman: the evidence proved her to be a drudge laborer about town. At her will, she was the wife of Ned, a superannuated slave, formerly the property of John W. Guion, dec’d. On Saturday, the 15th inst., at 3 o’clock, P.M., she parted company with Ned in good health and went to the house of Mrs. Emily Jane Fulford to fulfill an engagement with her. She left Mrs. Fulford’s about 1 ½ hours before night-fall, and took with her a tray of plates containing sausages and pigs feet to sell for Mrs. Fulford – she was under the influence of liquor at the time, — she did not return to her husband nor her employer as was her custom to do. Sunday morning Caroline was found dead in the road leading to Pembrook near the South-West part of the town: on examination there was traces of blood from where she lay to a ditch about thirty yards distant; a smooth deep cut on her right cheek was the only mark of violence found on the body. By request of the Jury, Dr. R.S. Primrose examined the wound and pronounced it insufficient to produce death and stated that it might have been the result of accident. The clothes of the deceased were wet and frozen; the ditch had water in it about 3 ½ feet deep, and showed that it had been recently disturbed; a tray, some crockery and plates, etc. lay near the body. In her pockets was ninety cents, in silver and copper coin, a snuff-box, &c.

Verdict of the Jury was: “The deceased came to her death by intemperance and exposure.”

Newbern Weekly Progress, 18 December 1860.

He is guilty of assault; she, of murder.

On Tuesday, therefore, the criminal docket was taken up, when Lewis Chavers, a free man of color, was put upon his trial for an assault and battery on Mr. Drury Kemp, a white man. Chavers was found guilty of the assault, which was of an aggravated nature, and fined one hundred dollars, and ordered to be sold for the payment of the fine. …

On Thursday, Harriet Durham, (a free woman of color,) charged with the murder of Grace, a negro woman, the property of Mr. John Pennington, of this county, was put upon her trial, and pleaded not guilty. The evidence in this case was entirely circumstantial. It seemed, from the proofs, that the prisoner and the deceased slept together in the same log-cabin; that on the night the murder was committed several of the witnesses were in the cabin with the prisoner and the deceased, and that they observed the signs of ill will between them; that the witnesses left the cabin about midnight; that next morning, about sun-up, one of the witnesses discovered the deceased lying in the jam of the chimney outside the cabin, with her skull broken; that the prisoner was interrogated by the witness before the body was found, as to where the deceased was, and that the prisoner said she did not know, but that somebody had called upon the deceased that night in a low voice, and asked her to come out of the cabin and go to a certain place; that another witness, after the body was found, told the prisoner she might as well confess herself the murderer, for she would have it to do; that the prisoner was afterwards asked why she had killed Grace, and that she answered because Grace had threatened to kill her; that the prisoner admitted she had struck the deceased two blows with a very heavy iron pestle, which caused her death. It was further in evidence that there was no way of getting into the cabin but through the door, which was fastened inside every night with a strong pin; that the iron pestle, which had been rusty and out of use before, was found that morning bearing the marks of having been scoured in the ashes; that blood was sprinkled upon the bed-clothing, on the floor, and upon the walls and loft of the cabin; that there was blood upon the door-sill, and evidence upon the ground outside the door of some one’s having been dragged upon it; that part of the bed-clothing had been washed, and that the blood had dried upon them in circles; that they were scortched in some places, and a portion of an old rug, the property of the deceased, cut out and hid or destroyed. This was the substance of the evidence on the part of the State. The prisoner offered no evidence. The case was opened by Hugh McQueen, Esq., for the prisoner; he was replied to by the Attorney General, and as the prisoner offered no testimony, was entitled to the concluding argument. This argument was more upon the facts than his opening speech, and was consequently extended to greater length; and we believe the opinion of all who heard it was that it eminently sustained his reputation for ability and ingenuity. The verdict of the Jury was, Guilty.

The North-Carolina Star (Raleigh), 12 April 1843.

 

Not a drop.

SKETCH OF THE SIMMONS FAMILY

William Simmons, the father of most all of the Simmons of Sampson County, was born in the eastern part of Sampson County, near Faison, N.C. In early life he married one Penny Winn, of Wayne County, N.C. William Simmons is now dead, but he has often often told the writer that he was of purse white and Indian descent, and judging from his features and general characteristics, we are quite sure that hsi statements were true, he having long black hair, and prominent cheekbones, and his color corresponding very strikingly near with the real Indian. His wife is living, and resides near Clinton, N.C. James Simmons, one of the sons of William and Penny Simmons, is a very prominent farmer, and has accumulated  quite a lot of real estate; also his hother brothers have shown a good share of industry, which has resulted in a similar accumulation. Percy Simmons married the daughter of Hardy A. Brewington.

BETSY J. SIMMONS

The subject of this sketch was formerly Betsy J. Thornton. SHe married Green Simmons in 1843 in Clinton. She is the mother of William Simmons and has numerous grandchildren residing in Sampson County who claim to be free from all negro blodd. Betsy had grey eyes, straight hair, high cheek bones, and in general appearance was half Indian and half white.

WILLIAM SIMMONS

The subject of this sketch lived in South Clinton township, Sampson County, but died a few years ago. His wife, still living, was Penny Winn who lived near Neuse River in Wayne County. William’s mother was Winnie Medline, who married Jim Simmons in Fayetteville, and she made an affidavit in 1902, in order that her son William could vote under the grandfather clause, that her mother was a white woman and her father was an Indian. She further states in her affidavit that there was not a drop of negro blood in her veins or those of her children. Her son, William Simmons, had dark brown eyes, straight hair and high cheek boones and light brown skin. He claimed that his grandfather and grandmother, on his father’s side, were Indians and came from Roanoke River, and never affiliated with the negroes. William Simmons has eighteen grandchildren whose parents have not intermarried with the negro race, and these children are without school advantages except by private subscriptions.

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

 

I did the best I could.

North Carolina     }           In the Superior Court October Term 1897

Sampson County }

Hardy A. Brewington, Joshua Brewington, Simon Brewington, Nathan Brewington, Nancy Goodman and her husband J.B. Goodman, Lucy Strickland and her husband J.S. Strickland, Eliza Manuel and her husband Alvin Manuel, Bashaby Brewington, Mary Wheeler, Lulu Brewington and Luther Brewington heirs at law of Raiford Brewington Jr. and Allen B. Brewington by his guardian Hardy A. Brewington, Plaintiffs

Jno. R. Jacobs, Rocia Lee Brewington and her husband J.A. Brewington, Lillie B. Brewington and her husband M.L. Brewington, and Jno. R. Jacobs, guardian ad litem of Della Jacobs and Lavinia Jacobs, Defendants

The plaintiffs complain of the defendants and allege:

I.    That on the 20th day of Nov. A.D. 1890 Raiford Brewington & his wife Bashaby Brewington executed a deed to John R. Jacobs and his wife Polly Ann Jacobs for the following described tract of land to wit: Situate in Sampson County State of North Carolina and adjoining the lands of Nathan Brewington, James M. Parker and others and bounded as follows; Beginning at a stake on the lane and runs about S 550 yards to a stake at an old post oak stump the line of Jas. M. Parker & W. Royal thence west about 750 yards to a stake on the west wide of Beaver Dam swamp, thence up the edge of the swamp to a shortleaf pine at the ditch, thence East 750 yards to the beginning containing 75 acres more or less.

II.    That the deed aforesaid is duly recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Sampson County Book 76 p 193 a copy of which deed is marked “Exhibit A” and hereto attached and made a part of this complaint, which deed does not convey the said lands in fee simple but upon certain stipulations and conditions in words as follows: — The said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington excepts their life time estate in said lands and the said John R. Jacobs and Polly Ann Jacobs and their heirs are to support the said Raiford Brewington and wife Bashaby Brewington and their son Allen B. Brewington during their natural life time and furnish them with good comfortable cloths. When the said John R. Jacobs and wife Polly Ann and their heirs fails to comply with the above obligations then their right and title to the aforesaid land shall be void and a further condition in said deed is that the said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashy shall have the use of said property during their life time but shall not sell any of said property not land unless it is agreeable with J.R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann. Neither the said J.R. Jacobs and Polly Ann shall sell any of said property nor land unless it is agreeable with Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby.

III.     That upon the execution & delivery of said deed to wit on Nov 20th 1890 the said Jno. R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann Jacobs went into possession of the lands described in said deed and exercised possession and full control of same until 1893 when Polly Ann Jacobs died, but during this period they did not fully comply with the conditions of said deed and Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby were required to work and furnish their own support. After the death of Polly Ann Jacobs, her husband Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs continued to live on the premises & exercise possession & full control of same until about Jan 1st 1896 when they quit the premises & furnished no further food or support in any way since to Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington of their son Allen Brewington nor did the said Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs comply with the conditions in said deed before they deserted the premises but instead wasted & used the provisions made & provided by the said Raiford Brewington & wife with whom the said Jno. R. Jacobs & family loved.

IV.     That Polly Ann Jacobs is one of the children and heirs of Raiford Brewington & Bashaby Brewington and has been fully provided for by them before said deed was executed to them. That Allen Brewington one of the children is an idiot and the only heir not provided for by Raiford Brewington, and the lands conveyed to Jno. R. Jacobs & Polly Ann Jacobs in the deed set out above was the sahe of the Raiford Brewington estate that he intended for his son Allen Brewington and for himself and wife Bashaby Brewington as long as they should live.

V.      That in January 1896 Raiford Brewington died leaving his wife Bashaby Brewington & son Allen Brewington with no one to support them, as Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly An Jacobs had broken the conditions in said deed by leaving the premises & refusing to provide them any support.

VI.     That if said deed shall remain in full force & effect, it would be in violation of the conditions in said deed, and contrary to the will and intent, and the express declaration of the grantors therein & would leave them without any means of support.

VII.      That if said deed shall remain in full force and effect Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs would thereby receive a double share of the estate of Raiford Brewington to wit: the share of Allen Brewington and the share of Polly Ann Jacobs which latter share had been allotted to her before the execution of said deed.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray:

I.             That the deed referred to in Article I of this Complaint be declared null and void and that a suitable person be appointed by the court to take the title of said land and hold the same in trust for Bashaby Brewington and her son Allen Brewington and the rents and profits therefrom be applied to the feeding, clothing & support of them as long as they both shall live and the remainder to the heirs at law of Raiford Brewington.

II.            For cost and general relief —   Lee & Butler attys for the plaintiffs.

Hardy A. Brewington being duly sworn according to law says that he has read the foregoing complaint or heard it read and that he knows the contents thereof to be true except such matters and things as are set out on information and belief and those he believes to be true.

Subscribed & sworn to before me this the 29 day of October 1897   /s/ H.A. Brewington

——

The file also contains notes from trial testimony:

Hardy Brewington — am son of Raiford Brewington – he had twelve children – Polly Ann Jacobs is my sister – My father gave her Polly Ann $300 in money & $100 in other property – My father never gave Allen Brewington anything – He is an idiot – 48 yrs old never did any work – My mother is living is 86 or 87 yrs old – not able to work – Allen lives with her – Jacobs & wife came into possession at date of deed They lived on the land with my mother 5 yrs – Polly Ann died about ’93 – Jacobs lived there 2 ½ yrs after death of wife – Jacobs went to Dudley in Wayne Co & has lived there ever since – My father was then living on the land – he died at 85 yrs – Jacobs provided very poorly for the old man wife & son provisions were poor & not plenty of it. Jacobs was liable to drink & will go off & leave them unprovided for in food & fuel. Land tolerably good when Jacobs took possession, pretty poor when he left He always had plenty to eat & good clothes – The Heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs left the old people neglected – Jacobs could have remained on the land & made them more comfortable – He cut timber & carried to Wilmington – and wasted the money – Myself & son have supported the old people since Jacobs my married defnts daughter – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Have heard old man complain of being hungry – cold &c. – Raiford Brewington & wife did not consent to the mortgage didn’t know of it until six or eight months after – He said Jacobs had given a mortgage & he didn’t know what wd become of him – My father died in ’96 – My mother & Idiot have no means of support except this land – Whitney Royal wrote the deed – Jacobs moved from Dudley down on this land – Jacobs married 2nd time after about 1 ½ yr after wife’s death – Jacobs got money from Parker $30 & my father said he would see it paid. – Note given about 12 mos before mortgage

Jim Strickland — Live 2 ½ miles from place – I married Raiford Brewington’s daughter – He gave her $200 – Jacobs didn’t give them enough to eat – at all times – his clothes were common – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Place was better when he came than when he left – Land not worth much now – Brother Hardy & son Arthur have been supporting them since Jacobs left

Arthur Brewington – Am son of Hardy Brewington Jacobs staid on the land about 5 years – The food was pretty poor like the most of us meat & bread – Before Jacobs went there could get as good a meal as anywhere – he wd leave land neglected – Drank every week – Raiford put me there after Jacobs left – Me & my father have been supporting the old people – They complained of want of food & fuel – I did the best I could under the circumstances – Jacobs could have done better than he did.

J.R. Jacobs – Am one of Defn’ts – When I went there but little provisions – fence gone down pretty much – I made a crop next I put 2000 [illegible] the spring I went there & clean out ditches I did the best I could – all eat at same table – He complained some like old people will do – Neither of them suffered for food or fuel I cut timber & carried to Wilmington – no profit – My wife lived about 4 yrs after I went there – I did the best I could – Arthur seemed to be their choice – We bargained for Arthur to go there & take my obligation with consent of old people – I was in debt in Clinton – I went to Parker to get the money – Old man helped to get up money – Old Man was present – gave boundaries &c — $35 note was to pay for guano – I owed Vann $25 for corn – I carried it home he carried it [illegible] – All of it was for money used on the place & for mule worked on place. Raiford [knew] all about it – I gave a lien on crop that year – The $35 mortgage was included in the $125 mortgage Raiford Brewington only once came here – The $125 mortgage was made on the plantation & he knew about it, and was willing to it – Judgmt agst me for Parker – 40 acres of cleared land on the place – Raiford Brewington asked me to cancel the deed I told him I didn’t [think] it right to do so. This was after my wife died.

J.L. Brewington – Raiford Brewington was my father – Hard to please he wanted something to drink He had a heap to feed – people & stock – Jacobs did the best he could The old man grumbled all the time – but had plenty to eat –

Jonathan Goodman – Live about ½ miles from the place – I saw the old man frequently – He lived as good as most any farmer – While Jacobs lived there – he lived as well as common run of people that had no more – Jacobs drank some – It seemed as if Jacobs wished to please him – he was off at times –

Mary Eliza Brewington – Raiford was my husbd father – I lived ½ mile from him I heard Raiford say it was a just debt as far as he [illegible] and he wanted Parker paid – The old people got along as well as one could expect

J.R. Parker – The $35 mortgage Raiford & Jacobs came to me & wanted to borrow some money – Raiford proposed to meet him in Clinton & make up the papers – which we did – I let Jacobs have some corn & bacon – This was cancelled to make up the $125 mortgage – The cash that I gave Jacobs – and the note for $35 with the money due me makes up the $125 – I know that Raiford knew of the $125 note & mortgage — $35 was all money – how much more I don’t know – over half of it – There was an indictment agst Jacobs for passing counterfeit money. Raiford came to me & didn’t say he would or wouldn’t sign the $125 –

Marshal Newman – Was J.P. – at time mortgage was made – Parker & Jacobs got me to write this mortgage – it was made at Nathan Brewington’s house Raiford was not present, and never said anything to me about it. Nathan Brewington’s was convenient to Jacobs –

Hardy Brewington (re-called) – We knew nothing about $125

——

Judgment for Hardy Brewington et al. The judge found that John and Polly Ann Jacobs had not complied fully with the terms of the deed and ordered that (1) the deed from the Brewingtons to the Jacobses be declared null and void; (2) Hardy Brewington be appointed trustee of the land for the sole use and benefit of Bashaby and Allen Brewington during their lifetimes; (3) after the deaths of Bashaby and Allen, Hardy was to be discharged from his trusteeship, and (4) John Jacobs and the Parkers were to pay court costs.

From the file of Polly Ann Jacobs, Sampson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, https://familysearch.org. Original, North Carolina State Archives.

In the 1860 census of Honeycutts, Sampson County: Raiford Brewington, 48, farmer; wife Basheba, 45; and children Thomas, 21, Ann E., 17, James, 15, Hardy, 13, Joshua, 11, Raiford, 9, Simon P., 8, Polla A., 6, Allen B., 4, and Nathan, 1; all mulatto.

Dreadfully burnt.

DEATH BY FIRE – A Coroner’s Jury was called, Saturday at noon, to view the body of SALLY POTTS, a colored woman, who was burnt to death on Friday night, by her clothes taking fire, either from her own act or of some other person. The Jury had not been able to decide upon the case when our paper went to press. Her clothes had been impregnated with Spirits of Turpentine, and she was so dreadfully burnt that she died on Saturday. – Wil. Commercial

Raleigh Register, 5 December 1849.

Mail call.

List of Letters

Remaining in the Post Office at Charlotte, October 8, 1863. Persons calling for any of these letters will please say they are advertised.

Cain, Mary Ann (colored)

Smith, John (Free Boy)

The Charlotte Democrat, 13 October 1863.

No good feelings for free negroes.

Mary Brooks, a free woman of color was drowned while drunk at one of the wharves at Washington a few days since. Wouldn’t care if all the free negroes in Newbern were drowned. Also a slave, an old man, was drowned in the river near Washington on Sunday last. Sorry for him. Can respect a slave but have no good feelings for free negroes.

Newbern Daily Progress, 23 April 1859.

With the intention of holding her as a slave.

HABEAS CORPUS CASE. – Yesterday forenoon, His Honor Judge Person, had Elizabeth Post, a free woman of color, brought before him on a writ of habeas corpus, the facts as we learn them, being, that Elizabeth was sold or hired out for a term of years, by the court of Cumberland county, and her term of the balance of it, was assigned by the original hirer or purchaser, to James Bryant of Bladen county. Day before yesterday said Bryant brought the woman down to Wilmington on board one of the steamboats, on the Cape Fear, and during the passage down she overheard some conversation, leading her to believe that it was designed to carry her out of the State with the supposed intention of holding her as a slave. On a representation of the facts to His honor, he issued a writ for the production of the woman, when upon an examination of the case it appeared beyond question that she was a free woman, and she was consequently set at liberty. We believe she was found on board the Manchester cars. No one appeared to contest her claim. – Wilmington Journal.

Weekly Raleigh Register, 9 December 1857.

An account of an execution.

FOR THE PRESS.

WENTWORTH, N.C., Jan. 11th, 1859.

DEAR SIR:

On Friday last, according to the sentence of His Honor, Judge DICK, Lucy Hine, a free woman of color, and a resident of your county, was publicly executed about 1 ½ miles East of town, in the presence of an unusually small crowd, compared with the number generally attending executions. I was glad to see so small a crowd in attendance, as I think such spectacles have anything but a good tendency. – Instead of morality, immorality is taught on all such occasions.

The day of execution was a little damp, and the roads muddy, but not sufficiently so to be disagreeable. About 11 o’clock the Sheriff proceeded to the jail with the attending officer, robed the criminal for execution, placed her in a wagon, and conducted her to the gallows. – She was attended by three ministers, Rev’s Day, Fields and Norman. Arriving at the gallows, she ascended the scaffold with a firm and resolute step. On being asked, if she had any confessions to make, she relied, none more than she had already made to the jailor, which in substance is, that she was innocent of the murder, and that there was no plot whatever between Frank and herself to kill her husband, and that she lent no aid either for or against him, and that she helped to conceal the body after the murder was committed.

She then exhorted all persons present, mostly negroes, to beware of their acts and conduct and not so as she had done. Said that she had been a great sinner, but felt that she was forgiven, and was willing to die. After which Rev. B. Field of the Methodist Church, delivered a short and appropriate address; and at 1 o’clock, the rope being adjusted, the drop fell, and her spirit took its flight to that last resting place “whence no traveler returns.”

Much credit is due Rev. Wm. Gay of the Episcopal church at Leaksville, who visited the criminal the day before her execution, and prayed with attended her to the gallows. AVO.

The People’s Press (Winston-Salem), 14 January 1859.

In the 1840 census of Bethabara, Stokes County: Lucy Hine, a free woman of color aged 24-36, living alone.