Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Chesnutt

Fayetteville State founders.


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

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.

Free-Issue Death Certificates: BURNETT.

Bettie Alford.  Died 7 September 1916, Smithfield, Johnston County. Colored. Widowed.  Dressmaker. Born 1 June 1856, Goldsboro, Wayne County, to Thomas Waters and Dolly Burnett. Buried Smithfield NC.  Informant, India Hicks, Smithfield.

In the 1860 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: Dolly Burnett, 20, sewing, with Polly, 18, Betsy, 5, and William An Burnett, 3.

John Henry Burnett.  Died 2 June 1921, Seventy-first, Cumberland County. Colored. Married to Lula Smith. Farmer. Age 72. Born to David Burnett and unknown mother. Informant, J.S. Hughes.

In the 1860 census of Western Division, Cumberland County: David Burnett, 42, farmer, wife Jane, 30, and children Mary, 12, Elizabeth, 10, Sarah, 9, John, 4, and Laura, 4 months.

Sarah Elizabeth Burnett. Died 13 February 1915, Stewarts Creek, Harnett County. Black. Married. About 60 years old. Born in NC to Evan Chance and Eliza Chesnut. Buried Harnett County. Informant, Mathew Burnett.

In the 1850 census of Eastern Division, Cumberland County: Evans Chance, 48, Louisa, 26, Nixon A., 11, Biddy E., 9, Mary A., 7, William A., 6, Henry E., 5, Joseph, 4, Sarah E., 2, and Curtis, 1. In the 1860 census of Cumberland County: Evans Chance, 57, cooper, children Rhoda E., 19, Jos., 14, Curties, 12, Sarah E., 12, Jno., 6, Dicey J., 4, and Jane, 3, plus Hanibal E. Corbin, 1, and A.W. Chance, 1.

Sarah Smith. Died 21 March 1921, Selma, Johnston County. Colored. Widowed. About 80. Born Cumberland County to John Burnett and Hannah Burnett. Buried Col. Selma cemetery. Informant Gus Smith, Selma.

In the 1860 census of Cumberland County: John Burnett, 47, wife Hanna, 46, and children Guilford, 22, Sarah, 13, Betsy J., 11, Mathew J., 7, Jno. W., 3, and Martha Burnett, 7 months.

Charles Waddell Chesnutt.


Charles Waddell Chesnutt was an author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South. Chesnutt was born June 20, 1858, in Cleveland, Ohio, to A. Jackson Chesnutt and Ann Maria Sampson Chesnutt, free people of color from Fayetteville, North Carolina. His paternal grandfather was known to be a white slaveholder. Chesnutt said he was seven-eighths white, but identified as a colored man.

In 1867, the Chesnutts returned to Fayetteville. By age 13, Charles was a pupil-teacher at the Howard School, one of many founded for black students by the Freedmen’s Bureau during the Reconstruction era. He eventually was promoted to assistant principal of the normal school in Fayetteville (later Fayetteville State University), one of a number of historically black colleges established for the training of black teachers. In 1878, Chesnutt married Susan Perry. The couple moved briefly to New York City, then Cleveland, Ohio. Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar exam in 1887 and established a lucrative legal stenography business.  Chesnutt also began writing stories, and in August 1887 Atlantic Monthly published his first short story, “The Goophered Grapevine.” Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1899.  Chesnutt’s works grappled with complex issues of racial identity and social place, and he began to write novels that reflected his stronger sense of activism. His Marrow of Tradition was a political-historical novel based on the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, in which white Democratic insurrectionists overthrew city government, burned a black newspaper office, and randomly killed black citizens. Because his novels posed a more direct challenge to existing sociopolitical conditions, they were not as popular as his short stories, and poor sales doomed his hopes of a self-supporting literary career.

In the new century, Chesnutt increasingly turned his energies social and political activism. He served on the General Committee of the newly founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and became one of the early 20th century’s most prominent activists and commentators. Chesnutt died on November 15, 1932, at the age of 74. He was interred in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery.

Modified from Wikipedia.

In the 1850 census of Fayetteville, Cumberland County: Anna M. Chestnut, 37, and children Geo. W., 19, barber, Jackson, 17, laborer, Sophia, 13, Stephen, 9, Mary Ann, 7, and Dallas Chestnut, 3. All of Anna’s children claimed real property valued $100-250, possibly inherited from their father.  Also, Moses Harris, 45, carpenter; wife Chloe Harris, 40; Ann M. Sampson, 18; and John Jasper, 6.

Andrew Jackson Chestnut died 26 December 1920 in Fayetteville, Cumberland County. His death certificate described him as a married, colored male; aged 87; and a farmer. He was born in North Carolina to Waddell Cade and Annie Chestnut.  He was buried in Brookside Annex. Miss Annie Chestnut of Fayetteville was the informant.