In 1860 Henry C. Cherry, a 24 year-old free mulatto carpenter residing in Edgecombe County, owned no property. By 1870 he owned real estate valued at $1,000 and had already served as a delegate to the North Carolina Constitution Convention in 1868 and one term in the state assembly. In addition to maintaining his carpentry firm, during the 1880s Cherry ran a combination grocery and liquor establishment in Tarboro. Although he was elected to the state legislature for only a single term, Cherry also served on the county commission of Edgecombe. Further, Cherry maintained ties to politics though his three sons-in-law. His daughter Louise married Henry P. Cheatham, and his daughter Cora married George H. White, two of the most influential black officeholders in North Carolina during the 1880s and 1890s. These rivals were elected to the U.S House of Representatives North Carolina’s Second Congressional District for a total of four terms. Further, another of Cherry’s daughter, Georgie, was the wife of Eustace E. Green, a member of the state assembly from Wilmington.
From Robert C. Kenzer, Enterprising Southerners: Black Economic Success of North Carolina 1865-1915 (1997).
In the 1860 census of Edgecombe County: Henry Bonner, 30, carpenter, wife Charity, 18, daughter Harriet, 1, Willie Bonner, 23, carpenter, and Henry Cherry, 26, carpenter.
[Sidenote: Henry C. Cherry married Mary Jones in Edgecombe County on 14 March 1861, about a year after the death of Henry Lloyd, the white man who fathered her first two children. Georgie Jones, above, was Henry Cherry’s step-daughter. – LYH]