Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Category: History

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).

Scuffletown avenger.

One of these curiously mixed people left his mark upon the history of the state — a bloody mark, too, for the Indian in him did not passively endure the things to which the Negro strain rendered him subject. Henry Berry Lowrey was what was known as a “Scuffletown mulatto,” Scuffletown being a rambling community in Robeson county, N. C., inhabited mainly by people of this origin. His father, a prosperous farmer, was impressed, like other free Negroes, during the Civil War, for service upon the Confederate public works. He resisted and was shot to death with several sons who were assisting him. A younger son, Henry Berry Lowrey, swore an oath to avenge the injury, and a few years later carried it out with true Indian persistence and ferocity. During a career of murder and robbery extending over several years, in which he was aided by an organized band of desperadoes who rendezvoused in inaccessible swamps and terrorized the county, he killed every white man concerned in his father’s death, and incidentally several others who interfered with his plans, making in all a total of some thirty killings. A body of romance grew up about this swarthy Robin Hood, who, armed to the teeth, would freely walk into the towns and about the railroad stations, knowing full well that there was a price upon his head, but relying for safety upon the sympathy of the blacks and the fears of the whites. His pretty yellow wife, “Rhody,” was known as “the queen of Scuffletown.” Northern reporters came down to write him up. An astute Boston detective who penetrated, under false colors, to his stronghold, is said to have been put to death with savage tortures. A state official was once conducted, by devious paths, under Lowrey’s safeguard, to the outlaw’s camp, in order that he might see for himself how difficult it would be to dislodge them. A dime novel was founded upon his exploits. The state offered ten thousand, the Federal government, five thousand dollars for his capture, and a regiment of Federal troops was sent to subdue him, his career resembling very much that of the picturesque Italian bandit who has recently been captured after a long career of crime. Lowrey only succumbed in the end to a bullet from the hand of a treacherous comrade, and there is even yet a tradition that he escaped and made his way to a distant state. Some years ago these mixed Indians and Negroes were recognized by the North Carolina legislature as “Croatan Indians,” being supposed to have descended from a tribe of that name and the whites of the lost first white colony of Virginia. They are allowed, among other special privileges conferred by this legislation, to have separate schools of their own, being placed, in certain other respects, upon a plane somewhat above that of the Negroes and a little below that of the whites.

Excerpt from Charles W. Chesnutt, “The Free Colored People of North Carolina,” The Southern Workman, vol. 31, no. 3 (1902).

The largest of any Indian family.

The Brewington family is now the largest of any Indian family in Sampson County, most of which are the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even the great-great-grandchildren of the late Raford Brewington, father of Hardy A. Brewington. He had several other sons and daughters. Brewington is a pure English word, which means a brewer of drinks, and we would also add, one that likes such drinks after they have been made, which is one of the characteristics that followed this family for several generations, and even now the evil practice is overcome only by the very best of training. This name was first given to an Indian who was considered by the white settlers of what is now Sampson County, as an excellent maker of “fire water,” as the Indians called it. They called him Bill Brewington. His Indian name was dropped, and he was taught the language of the English.

Bill Brewington’s wife was a Cherokee Indian, by the name of Jane Brewington, who lived a good many years after her husband’s death. They had a daughter, Hannah Brewington, who if now living would be upwards of one hundred and forty years old. Hannah Brewington is well remembered by few of the oldest people of the county, namely John Emanuel, Jonathan Goodman, James Strickland, and others. They describe her as being a true specimen of the original Cherokee, she being of a copper-reddish hue, with prominent cheek-bones, straight black hair and black eyes. She bought land in the year of 1807, as the records in Clinton, N. C., now show, though before that time she and her people lived on the banks of Coharee, without any need of buying, as the land was held in common by the Indians of those days.

The above Hannah Brewington was the mother of Raford Brewington, who has already been mentioned in this section. She helped a poor illiterate bound white boy, who was, as we have been told, a son of a soldier who was killed during the Revolutionary War, while bearing arms for the independence of America. Soon after the death of his father his mother also died, leaving the child to provide for himself. His name was Simon, and as he was placed under the control of a man that owned a good many servants and slaves, he was given the title that has ever been known as his name, “White Simon.” Hannah Brewington proved to be a friend to this poor orphan boy, and in time, by early Indian custom, she and he were married. Soon after the marriage of this couple, Raford, a son, was born in their home. Simon having no real surname, adopted the name of his wife. Soon after the birth of the above Raford Brewington, his father left the State and went north. He has never returned, but was heard from a few times indirectly. Thus you see the beginning of the Brewington family of Sampson County.

One other son and daughter were born to Hannah Brewington, namely, Nathan Brewington and Nancy Brewington.

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

[Sidenote: Though I have offered excerpts from Butler’s appeal without comment, here I think it prudent to advise that it, like all of the early written history reproduced here, should be considered carefully in the context of the time and place — and purpose — for which it was written. — LYH]

First Congregational Church.

“History of the First Congregational Church of Dudley, North Carolina, Given by Mr. General Washington Simmons, born December 22, 1856.”

In 1867, after Emancipation, came the first school for Dudley, taught four months by a white confederate soldier, John P. Casey, who was paid by the community families. The only textbook was the “blue-back speller.”

George Washington Simmons, father of General W. Simmons, corresponded with Mr. James O’Hara in Wilmington, Delaware, though whom the services of another white friend, Miss Jane Allen of Delaware, were secured for another two months’ session. She, too was paid by families.

From Oberlin College in 1868, came D.C. Granison, 23 or 24 years of age, the first Negro teacher, who remained for two years, residing in the home of George Washington Simmons. … His correspondence with the A.M.A. brought visitors in 1870, among whom were many to be remembered, especially Rev. D.D. Dodge, at that time pastor of the First Congregational Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. With his guidance our first Sunday School was organized. After several visits, he sent Rev. John Scott of Naugatuck, Connecticut, who began work in 1870. …

Just after Rev. Scott’s ordination, the First Congregational Church of Dudley was organized in what is known as the old “mission home.” … Charter members of the church were George Washington Simmons, James King, Levi Winn Sr., Levi Winn Jr., Henry Winn, George Winn, and members of their families. The first converts were Charity Faison and Sylvania Simmons. They were baptized in the “Yellow Marsh Pond” just north of the cemetery. …

Volume II [of the church records] summarizes the history from March 9, 1870. … The list of members, dating from 1870, is divided by male and female. It includes the names of Frank Cobb, William Aldridge, Bryant Simmons (Sr. and Jr.), John Aldridge, Lewis Henderson, Levi Wynn, Richard Brunt, Amos Bowden, Charles Boseman, M.A. Manuel, Solomon Jacobs, George Washington Simmons, …

From the souvenir bulletin of the 100th Anniversary, First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, 1870-1880.

Copy of bulletin in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

In the 1860 census of Indian Springs, Wayne County: George Simmons, 40, wife Axey J., 38, and children Riley B., 19, Simon, 15, Susan A., 17, George R., 13, Zack, 10, Silvania, 9, Bryant, 7, H.B., 5, and Gen., 2. 

In the 1860 census of Buck Swamp, Wayne County: James King, 47, wife Susan, 27, George, 9, James H., 8, Jerome, 4, John, 2 months, and Polly A., 2.

In the 1860 census of Buck Swamp, Wayne County: Levi Winn, 47, blacksmith, wife Elizabeth, 39, and children Henry, 21, David, 20, Pinkney, 19, George, 17, Charles, 15, Mary, 13, Martha, 11, John, 9, Elizabeth, 7, Susan, 5, and Levi, 3.

In the 1860 census of Buck Swamp, Wayne County: Matthew Aldridge, 50, wife Catharine, 28, and children William, 10, John H., 16, Frances, 7, Delia, 3, and Mary A., 1, with James Boseman, 26. 

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County: Robert Aldridge, 32, farmer, wife Mary E., 27, and children George W.,7,  John, 5, Amelia, 4, Matthew L., 3, David S., 2, and a one month-old infant.

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County: Lewis Henderson, 25, turpentine laborer, wife Margaret, 26, and children Lewis T., 4, James L., 3, and Isabella J., 4 mos. 

In the 1860 census of Dismal, Sampson County: Faraba Manuel, 60, farmer (widow), and children Gidens, 33, Michael A., 23, Eden, 21, John, 19, William H., 16, Enoch, 14, and Nancy, 12, plus Lemuel Manuel, 60. 

In the 1860 census of Honeycutts, Sampson County: Jesse Jacobs, 43, farmer, wife Abba, 41, and children Edward J., 14, Betsey A., 13, John R., 11, Martha, 8, Solomon, 6, Jesse, 4, and Abba J. Jacobs, 6, plus William, 10, Eliza, 8, and John Jacobs, 6.

Joseph C. Price.

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Joseph C. Price was born in Elizabeth City, the child of a free mother and a slave father. When his natural father was sold away, his mother, Emily Pailin, married David Price. In 1863 the Prices moved to New Bern where Joseph was enrolled in St. Andrew’s School, opened by James Walter Hood, later the bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Young Price, though late in beginning his formal education, made exceptional progress. After St. Andrew’s, he attended Cyprian Episcopal School and Lowell Normal School. After completing his own education, he taught in Wilson, becoming the principal at a school there in 1871. In 1873, Price enrolled at Shaw University to study law, but shortly thereafter transferred to Lincoln University (Oxford, Pennsylvania) to prepare for the ministry in the A.M.E. Zion Church. He was valedictorian of his class at Lincoln in 1879 and stayed on at the school to complete the seminary course.

In 1881 Price distinguished himself as an orator, speaking on prohibition and later on education and race issues. On a speaking tour in Europe, Price raised nearly $10,000 to establish a college for blacks in North Carolina. With the additional support of Salisbury residents, he became president of Zion Wesley College in 1882. The name was changed to Livingstone College in 1885. Price gained national attention during his tenure at the college. He was offered a variety of prestigious positions, but chose to remain at Livingstone. In 1890 Price was elected president of the Afro-American League and the National Equal Rights Association.

Price’s promising life ended abruptly October 25, 1893, after he contracted Bright’s disease, a disease affecting the kidneys. He was buried in a mausoleum on the campus of Livingstone College. He was survived by his wife, the former Jennie Smallwood, and their five children, one of whom was yet unborn at the time of her father’s death.

Adapted from http://www.ncmarkers.com

UPDATE, 8 August 2014: Joseph Price’s archives were recently unearthed at a yard sale in Cornelius, North Carolina.

He was elected county commissioner.

“I remember the first election held here after the negroes were given the right to vote. The negroes were corralled in Little Washington by J. E. O’Hara, a West India negro, and formed in two lines and marched to the Court House. I was standing on the piaza [sic] of the old Griswold Hotel, when they turned down Walnut Street, and as the last of the line passed where I was standing, the head of the column was turning into the court house square near where Col. I. F. Dortch’s office stands. The election lasted for three days and the votes were sent to Gen. Canby’s headquarters at Charleston, S.C. to be counted. At the first election held after the adoption of the Canby Constitution, one negro, Green Simmons, was elected on the Board of County Commissioners. Negroes were appointed on the police force of the town.  A Yankee, J. H. Place, who came here with the army, was elected mayor. The finances of the town and county both got into bad shape, county orders getting down as low as forty cents on the dollar.”

From J.M. Hollowell, “War-Time Reminiscences and Other Selections,” Goldsboro Herald, June 1939.

In the 1850 census of South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Green Simmons, 33, cooper, wife Betsy J., 26, and children Needham, 5, Cicero, 3, and Mary, 1. All were born in Wayne County, except Betsy, born in Sampson.

Born in 1844 in New York of West Indian and Irish parentage, James E. O’Hara migrated to North Carolina after the Civil War with African Methodist Episcopal Zion missionaries.  He served as clerk for the 1868 state constitutional convention and was elected to the North Carolina State House of Representatives in 1868 and the United States House of Representatives in 1882. O’Hara died in New Ben in 1905.

Fayetteville State founders.

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Fayetteville State University, now part of the University of North Carolina system, was the first normal school for African Americans in North Carolina. The university’s founding dates to 1867, when David A. Bryant, Nelson Carter, Andrew J. Chestnutt, George Grainger, Matthew Leary, Thomas Lomax and Robert Simmons paid $140 for a lot on Fayetteville’s Gillespie Street and named themselves into a board of trustees to maintain the property as a permanent site for the education of black children. General O. O. Howard, an early supporter of black education, erected a building on the site, and the school was named the Howard School in his honor.

The education center was chartered by the legislature as the State Colored Normal School in 1877. In 1880 Charles W. Chesnutt was appointed principal of the school after the death of principal Robert Harris. Chesnutt served the institution for three years before resigning and moving to Cleveland, Ohio.

Ezekiel Ezra Smith was appointed as Chestnutt’s replacement in 1883. E. E. Smith had a long and distinguished career at the school. During his span as principal (and eventually president) at the institution, he served in a host of other positions. Smith was appointed Minister Resident and Consul General of the U. S. to Liberia by President Grover Cleveland in 1888. George H. Williams assumed the duties of principal in Smith’s absence. After serving in Liberia for two years, Smith returned to North Carolina to organize the state’s first newspaper for African-Americans, The Carolina Enterprise, in Goldsboro. During Smith’s tenure, he saw the school the school move to its permanent location on Murchison Road in 1907. The high school curriculum was discontinued by the state in 1929 and Smith’s title change to president. He retired in 1933.

Adapted from http://www.ncmarkers.com.

In the 1850 census of Fayetteville, Cumberland County: Angus Carter, 45, boatman, wife Dezda, 38, and children Nelson, 16, Angus, 15, John, 13, Margaret A., 12, Betsy, 10, Jane, 8, Alonzo, 5, Mellissa, 2, and Ann, 2 months.

In the 1850 census of Fayetteville, Cumberland County: John Terry, 13, Ellen Terry, 16, Sally Lucus, 12, and Thos. Lomack, 18, in the household of Jesse W. Powers, merchant.

In the 1850 census of Eastern Division, Cumberland County: Griscilla Simmons, 35, Robert, 12, Samuel, 8, and Mary A., 2.

Fugitive, with a bold look.

State of North Carolina.

$300 REWARD.

A PROCLAMATION,

By his Excellency JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of North Carolina:

Whereas, it has been represented to me that HENRY BERRY LOWRY, a free negro, late of the county of Robeson, in said State, stands charged with the murder of James P. Barnes, of said county, and other crimes, and that the said Lowry is a fugitive from justice:

Now, THEREFORE, in order that the said Henry Berry Lowry may be arrested and brought to trial for said alleged crimes, I, JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of said State, do issue this, my proclamation, offering the reward of

THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS

For his arrest and delivery to the Sheriff of the said county of Robeson.

In witness whereof, His Excellency, JONATHAN WORTH, Governor of said State, has hereunto set his hand and caused the Great Seal of the State to be affixed.

Done at the city of Raleigh, this the 11th day of December, A.D., 1866.

By the Governor:   JONATHAN WORTH.

Wm. H. Bagley, Private Secretary.

Description. – Henry Berry Lowry is five feet eight or nine inches high, heavy built, copper color, long, coarse, bushy hair, Indian like, black eyes, high nose, with a bold look; has a scar under one of his eyes.

Dec. 13.

The Daily Journal, Wilmington, 28 December 1866.

The Cousins brothers, dark of skin.

First Residents of Boone and Vicinity. — … There was another house which stood in the orchard near the present Blackburn hotel. It was a small clapboard house, with only one room. Ben Munday and family occupied it first and afterwards Ellington Cousins and family, dark of skin, lived there till Cousins built a house up the Blackburn branch in rear of the Judge Greer house. It is still known as the Cousins place …

John and Ellington Cousin. – The brothers came from near East Bend, Forsythe County, soon after Boone was formed, bringing white women with them. Ellington’s wife was Margaret Myers and John’s was named Lottie. Ransom Hayes sold Ellington an acre of land up the Blackburn branch, where he built a house and lived in 1857, having moved from the house in the orchard below the road near the present Blackburn hotel. He had two daughters. Sarah married Joseph Gibson and moved to Mountain City, Tenn., where he carried on a tannery for Murphy Brothers, but he afterwards returned to the state and lived at or near Lenoir, finally going West, where he remains. Ellington died at Boone and his widow and daughter, nicknamed “Tommy,” went with Gibson and wife to Mountain City, where she also married. John lived near Hodges Gap and at other places, dying at the Ed. Shipley place near Valle Crucis. He had several children.

From John Preston Arthur, A History of Watauga County, North Carolina, with Sketches of Prominent Families (1915).

In the 1850 census of Watauga, Watauga County: Johnson Cusins, 44, farmer, wife Charlotta, 41, and children Hezekiah, 18, Mary, 14, Clarkson, 11, William H., 9, Rebecca, 8, Annanias, 5, Martha, 4, W.W. and Evaline, both 3 months.  All described as mulatto, except Charlotta, white.  In the 1860 census of Boone, Watauga County: John Cuzzens, 52, farmer, wife Charlotte, 50, and children Henry, 19, Rebecca, 17, Ann, 15, Martha, 13, Wiley, 10, and Eveline, 10, all mulatto.

In the 1850 census of Northern Division, Davidson County: in jail, Francis Briant, 20, laborer, Alva Sapp, 22, laborer, and Ellington Cozzens, 41, shoemaker. Cozzens was mulatto; the others, white.  In the 1860 census of Boone, Watauga County: Ellington Cuzzens, 53, boot & shoemaker, wife Margarett, 44, and daughters Sarah, 8, and Martha J., 5; all mulatto except Margarett, was described as white.

In the aftermath of Nat Turner …

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.