Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Category: History

Well-known and respected.

“E-1 William Valentine

A free man of color, William Valentine was a well-known and respected barber in the 1850s. While his whereabouts during the Civil War are unclear, he was open for business again by 1869.”

Description of a bronze historical marker placed at East Innes and North Main Streets on Salisbury’s History and Art Trail, http://www.downtownsalisburync.com.

In the 1860 census of Salisbury, Rowan County: William Valentine, 35, Rebecca, 25, Louis C., 8, and Horace R. Valentine, 10 months; all mulatto.

Carolina_Watchman__Salisbury___4_22_1870

Carolina Watchman, 22 April 1870.

A free man of color gives information, is handsomely rewarded.

The Edenton Gazette states, upon information received from an undoubted source, that there have been killed in Southampton county upwards of one hundred negroes, consequent upon the late insurrection in that county. Fourteen of the thoughtless, savage wretches have been tried, of whom, thirteen were convicted, and are to be hung during the present week — there are thirty more now in the jail at Jerusalem yet to be tried, besides others in jail at Bellfield.

We understand that about twenty-one negroes have been committed to jail in Edenton, on a charge of having been concerned in concerting a project of rebellion. A slave has also been arrested and imprisoned in Duplin county, upon a similar allegation. He had communicated his knowledge of the scheme in agitation to a free man of color, who gave immediate information to the whites. Serious reports in relation to a revolt of the slaves in Wilmington and Sampson county, reached this city, by the way of Smithfield, on Monday night and Tuesday morning last. On Tuesday evening, certain intelligence from various sources reached us of an insurrection having occurred on Sunday night last in a part of Sampson and Duplin counties. Its extent or the damage done is unknown to us. But, as the militia have been called out in the adjacent counties, we flatter ourselves that it will be speedily suppressed, and that the deluded wretches who are concerned in the diabolical attempt will be made to suffer severely for their temerity.…

The miserable deluded and fiendish band in Southampton have paid dearly for their stupidity and atrocious wickedness; and such will inevitably be the late of all who may ever be so silly and depraved as to intimate their example. But there are some, it seems, reckless enough to attempt it. Vigilance, therefore, becomes necessary for perfect security.

North Carolina Star (Raleigh), 15 September 1831.

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General Assembly.

The resolution in favor of Leavin Armwood, was read the second and third time and ordered to be engrossed. [This Resolution votes $250 to the individual named, a free man of color, as a reward for his having disclosed the meditated conspiracy amongst the slaves of Duplin and Sampson.]

North Carolina Free Press (Halifax), 10 January 1832.

One of the insurrectionists.

LEWIS S. LEARY, a free negro, one of the insurrectionists, who was shot at Harper’s Ferry, was a native of Fayetteville, an infamous scoundrel who ran away from justice, and thereby cheated the rope of a deserving compliment. His father still lives in Fayetteville and is a very exemplary citizen — and his brother has a saddle and harness manufactory.

North Carolina Argus (Wadesboro), 17 November 1859.

The Winn family.

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Winn Family Marker, Center Street, Mount Olive.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2013.

[Sidenote: And thus, myth is codified.

There’s no question that the early 19th century Winns were a remarkable family.  However, to my knowledge, there is no definite evidence that there was an Adam Winn Sr., father of Adam Jr., Charles, Gray, Levi, and Washington Winn.  There were at least two Adams, as deduced from the dates of deeds. Though it’s not clear when the first one lived, the second was born circa 1805.  (What does the 1790 date relate to?) My research suggests that Charles Winn in fact was the son of Charles and Jinny Winn and had a brother named William Winn. The records also reveal a James Winn who bought and sold property with his kin. There are, moreover, contemporaneous female Winns, whose relationship to the “five brothers” is unaccounted for.

There is no definite evidence that Adam Winn (the one known as “Jr.”) ever married, but he had three or more sets of children. The oldest (Charles, James, Woodard, Marshall and Woodley) were born slaves to one or more enslaved mothers (one named Venus). Two other sets, the Newells and Parkers, who primarily used their mothers’ surnames, were born to white women. — LYH]

Some have resolved to move to Africa.

AUGUSTA, (GEORGIA) May 21st, 1837

To the Board of Managers of the American Colonization Society;

GENTLEMEN, I have the honor to submit a brief report of my proceedings since I left Washington early in March, with such suggestions and reflections as may occur during the relation of the incidents and observations of my tour up to this date.

North Carolina will stand forth a powerful and decided friend of the scheme of Colonization. … The Society of Friends in this State, early turned their thoughts to the plan of African Colonization, encouraged the free people of colour under their protection to emigrate to Liberia, and supplied a generous fund to defray the expenses of such as consented to remove thither. Several hundreds, once under the guardian care of this Society, are now enjoying the freedom and privileges of that Colony. There are still in North Carolina numerous free coloured persons of respectable intelligence and moral character. Those in Fayetteville, Elizabethtown, and Wilmington, have probably no superiors, among their own class, in the United States. After careful reflection, some have resolved to remove to Africa, and others are anxiously directing their thoughts to the subject. Louis Sheridan, with whose reputation and views the Board are partially acquainted, is a man of education, uncommon talents for business, a handsome property, and the master of nineteen slaves. His determination to emigrate to Liberia with a company of from forty to sixty of his relations and friends has already been announced. The public meetings held in Raleigh, during my visit, were well attended and of much interest, and addressed with spirit and effect by several of the citizens of that place. Collections were made for the benefit of the Society. The Resolutions adopted by the citizens of Raleigh are before the public.

I have the honor to be, With great respect, Gentlemen, your obedient Servant,

R. R. [Ralph Randolph] GURLEY

Excerpt from Secretary’s Report, The African Repository and Colonial Journal 13, No. 7 (July 1837), pages 201-206.

James H. Harris.

ImageBorn a slave around 1830 in Granville County, James Harris was freed in 1848. After receiving his freedom, Harris was apprenticed to a carpenter and later opened his own business in Raleigh. Harris left North Carolina prior to the Civil War and attended school at Oberlin College in Ohio for two years, followed by trips to Canada and Africa. In 1863, he received a commission to organize the 28th Regiment of United States Colored Troops in Indiana. (Note: Contrary to the original marker inscription, Harris did not serve as a Union colonel. The text has been rewritten and the marker reordered.) After the Civil War, Harris moved back to his native state as a teacher affiliated with the New England Freedmen’s Aid Society. He became involved in Reconstruction politics and was one of the charter members of the state’s Republican Party after serving as a delegate to the state’s Freedmen’s Convention in 1865. A staunch advocate for the rights of African Americans, Harris sought to provide a voice for equality while maintaining a moderate tone. His philosophy was that blacks and whites had to work together to promote the interests of each race. A gifted speaker, Harris received numerous appointments, including service as a delegate to the state’s 1868 constitutional convention. He was elected a state legislator in the house, 1868-1870, and 1883 and in the senate, 1872-1874. Harris also served Raleigh as a city alderman and as an advocate for the construction of the Colored Institution for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind. Harris was appointed vice-president of the National Equal Rights Convention in 1865, president of the National Convention of Colored Men in 1869, and vice-president of the National Black Convention in 1877. He attended the 1868, 1872, and 1876 Republican National Conventions, serving as a presidential elector in 1872. Harris edited the North Carolina Republican in the 1880s and pushed for reforms for the protection of laborers, women, orphans and other disadvantaged groups. Harris died in 1891 in Washington, D.C. and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Raleigh.

Adapted from http://www.ncmarkers.com

The Winns of Mount Olive.

On March 20, 1838 the county records show that in consideration of the sum of $19.00, Adam Winn deeded the railroad a right-of-way through his lands. In November, 1837 and again in February of 1838 the President and Directors of the railroad had appealed to the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to force Winn to sell them a right-of-way. At that point the railroad was getting near the county line. Winn sold in 1838. It is believed that  Winn’s land lies along present day Center Street.

The 1838 deed to the railroad stated that the adjoining lands to the north belonged to Basil Kornegay, a rich Duplin County planter, member of the state House of Commons in 1814, and brother-in-law of William Rufus King, Vice-President under Franklin Pearce. The adjoining land of Winn’s was owned by Charles Winn, who was a member of his family.

With Winn’s lands on the south, and Flowers’ and Slocumb’s on the north, the railroad had a clear right-of-way to Dudley. The railroad track begins at Wilmington, curves at Faison, and then runs in an almost direct line to Weldon. When it was finished in 1840, with 161 miles of track, it was the longest railroad in the world.

Charles and Levi Winn were both blacksmiths, a vital service in a community which moved almost entirely on hoof. Adam Greenfield, Samuel Parker, George Simmons, Henry Coleman, Edward Griffin and Branson Merritt were coopers. A cooper is a man who makes and repairs barrels. Eastern North Carolina had long been famous for its tar and pitch, commonly called “naval stores.”

The Winn Family

The Winn family is one of the most interesting in the area. In 1836 Ginny Winn purchased a hundred acres of land from Ezekiel Norris in the lower part of Wayne. This is the first land transaction by Winns in Wayne County, though John Kornegay of Duplin County deeded Adam Winn, also of Duplin, land on the northeast “precosin” (swamp) on September 18, 1834. This land ran into Wayne County at one point near present-day Mount Olive.

In the 1850 census the Winn family is listed as “mulatto”, but in the 1860 census they were listed as “black”. The Winn family were free blacks from Duplin County who had received their freedom prior to 1834. The Artis, Simmons and Greenfield families of Mount Olive were also free blacks, according to the1860 census.

Adam Winn was himself a slave owner, for in April 1849 he borrowed money from Benjamin Oliver of Duplin, and put up three slaves, Bethana, Martha and Oliver, as security, along with 133 acres of land. The Winns did business with the most prominent and respected white families, and through the years have generally been considered the most outstanding family of their race in the area. They have produced farmers, school teachers and tradesmen and have been leaders in the black community of Mount Olive. Adam Winn who was also one of the first magistrates of Mount Olive, had sons, William, Charles and Levi. Charles and Levi were blacksmiths, the first to be located in the village of Mount Olive. Levi Winn owned land west of the railroad which was later purchased by Dr. Roberts, and transferred in 1854 to William W. Loftin and Dr. Benjamin Franklin Cobb. William and Charles Winn also owned land in the Mount Olive area.

Extracted from John Baxton Flowers III, “Early History of Mount Olive,” Mount Olive Tribune, 7 September 1979, posted in http://files.usgwarchives.net/nc/wayne/history/other/earlyhis8ms.txt

Thomas Day.

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Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker by trade, is the most celebrated of North Carolina’s antebellum craftsmen. He was born 1801 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, to a family of free, landowning African-Americans. His father, John Day, was a skilled cabinetmaker who plied other trades as well, but always relied on woodworking to bring in money. Thomas and his brother John Day were well-educated. John’s education, during which he boarded with prominent whites and attending schools with them, is documented in his later correspondence, and it is assumed that Thomas did the same. Both of the Day sons initially followed in their father’s footsteps, learning the skills of a cabinetmaker. John eventually left the trade to study theology and later moved to Liberia, becoming one of its founders by signing its Declaration of Independence.

John Day moved to Warren County by 1820 and it is believed that Thomas was with him. The Days had established themselves in the furniture business in Milton by 1823. Thomas Day became a prominent and well-respected citizen of the community. In response to an act that prohibited free blacks from immigrating into the state, Milton’s white leaders petitioned the General Assembly in 1830 to allow Day’s bride, Aquilla Wilson, a free black from Virginia, to join him. They reared two sons and a daughter. In his almost forty years in Milton, Thomas Day built an extraordinary business, employing freedmen and slaves alike to craft stock lines of furniture and to fill custom orders for furniture and interior woodworking. By 1850, Day had the largest cabinetry shop in North Carolina. He is believed to have died in about 1861, after having suffered financial losses due to the national panic of 1857.

Adapted from ncmarkers.com.

In the 1850 census of Milton, Caswell County: Thomas Day, 49, cabinetmaker, born Virginia, property valued at $8000; wife Aquila, 44; son Devereux J., 17, cabinetmaker, born Milton; Mourning S. Day, 84, born VA; and Joshua Wood, 32, cabinetnaker; all mulatto except the last, who was white.

John Chavis.

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This marker, originally approved and erected in 1938, was the first one in the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program dedicated to African American history. The original sign (depicted in the photograph) was replaced in 2009 by one with a revised inscription.

John Chavis, born around 1763 in Virginia, was a prominent free black preacher and educator in and around Raleigh area from 1810 on. Chavis had an extensive education for the time, likely the best education of any African American of his day. He is best known for his classical teaching in Raleigh, educating children of all races. In 1832 free blacks lost many of their rights in North Carolina, and Chavis lost his freedom to preach and teach. He died in 1838, having lived and worked as a respected member of society.

Little is known about John Chavis’s early life, but it is thought, based on estate records from 1773, that he may have been an indentured servant for Halifax, Virginia, attorney James Milner. It is also speculated that Chavis received early education from Milner’s classical library under the tutelage of Reverend William Willie. In 1778, Chavis enlisted in the 5th Regiment of Virginia, serving for three years for the Patriots. Honorably discharged, Chavis studied at Washington Academy, present-day Washington & Lee University, and possibly studied privately at Princeton with Dr. John Witherspoon, the president of what was then College of New Jersey. In 1800 he returned to Virginia and was licensed as a Presbyterian minister.

Between 1801 and 1807, John Chavis did mission work among slaves for the Presbyterian Church throughout the southeastern United States. In 1809 he moved to Raleigh, where he began preaching as a part of the Orange County Presbytery. It was around this time that Chavis began his school.

Chavis’ school accepted both black and white students, widely expanding the options available for the education of free blacks in Raleigh at the time. Chavis taught white students during the day and black students during the evening. Many were from notable families in North Carolina, including future Governor Charles Manly and the sons of Chief Justice Leonard Henderson. Chavis may also have  instructed future United States Senator Willie P. Mangum.

Following Nat Turner’s Rebellion, free blacks across the south lost their standing as citizens. Chavis could no longer legally preach or educate, and was forced to close his school and retire. In 1833 he published his only written work, a sermon entitled An Essay on Atonement. The work was successful and widely read, and helped to supplement his income during the final years of his life. Chavis died on June 15, 1838. His burial location is unknown, although there is speculation that the grave is on Willie P. Mangum’s former plantation in present-day Durham County.

Adapted from ncmarkers.com.

Ever an anomaly.

INTRODUCTION

The most pathetic figure in North Carolina prior to the Civil War was the free negro. Hedged about with social and legal restrictions, he ever remained an anomaly in the social and political life of the State. The origin of this class of people may be attributed to many sources, the most common of which are (1) cohabitation of white women and negro men, (2) intermarriage of blacks and whites, (3) manumission, (4) military service in the Revolution, and (5) immigration from adjoining States. As early as 1723 many free negroes, mulattoes and persons of mixed blood had moved into the Province and had intermarried with the white inhabitants “in contempt of the acts and laws in those cases provided.” In the year 1715 in order to discourage intermarriage between white women and negro men, a penalty of £50 was imposed upon the contracting parties, while clergymen and justices of peace were forbidden to celebrate such marriage under a like penalty.

However regrettable it may be, it is certain that there were a few disreputable white women who had illegitimate children by negro men, and such children inherited the legal status of the mother. The laws of 1715 take cognizance of this fact by imposing a penalty on any white woman “whether bond or free,” who shall have a bastard child by any negro, mulatto or Indian.

Probably the most fruitful origin of the free negro class was manumission. While it is doubtful whether many slaves were set free prior to 1740, it is certain that the Quakers in their Yearly Meeting began to agitate the question of emancipating slaves in that year, and they never ceased to advocate emancipation both by precept and example.

The free negro class was slightly augmented by the addition of certain negroes who had served in the continental line of the State during the Revolutionary War, many of whom had been promised their freedom before they enlisted. It was easy in such cases to allege meritorious service as a ground for emancipation. To the before-mentioned causes for the existence of the free negro in North Carolina should be added one other; namely, immigration, particularly from Virginia. Despite the law to the contrary, many free negroes drifted across the State line from Virginia into North Carolina and quietly settled on the unproductive land adjacent thereto.

In every instance except one (service in the Revolution) the free negro came into being against the will of the State either expressed or implied; but once given a place in the social order of the commonwealth, his tribe increased in spite of adverse laws and customs prescribed by the dominant race.

From R.H. Taylor, The Free Negro in North Carolina (1920).