Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Currituck County

They have always been a nuisance, and now become a great danger.

North Carolina. To the Senate & House of Commons, Your memorialists, citizens of Currituck County, respectfully petition your honorable bodies to take immediate steps to relieve the people of this State of the free negro population, which has always been a nuisance, and now become an element of great danger. Scattered over the State, having at all times free communication with the slaves, the free negroes furnish a ready and safe medium for the diffusion of incendiary doctrines which we have abundant reason to believe have, especially of late, been instilled into the minds of the slaves, and they thereby rendered insubordinate and ripe for any wicked enterprise to which they may be instigated by Northern Emissaries. The minds of our people have for several years past been directed to this source of danger, but recent events have produced a deep and settled conviction of the necessity of guarding against it, either by expelling the free negroes, or reducing them all to the condition of slavery. Your memorialists are [page torn] with us qualms as to the right of the Legislature either to expel them from the State, or to reduce them to a condition of slavery. Disfranchised in this State by the convention of 1835, the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial tribunal in our country, by a late decision has decided that they are not citizens under the Constitution; and it must be admitted that here, the only rights to which they are entitled are strictly & solely legal, and therefore subject to revision or change by act of the Gen’l Assembly. Whatever diversity of opinion, however, may be Entertained in reference to this question, it strikes your Petitioners that there is one view of the subject that cannot fail to impress the mind of Every good citizen; all must admit that the present is a time of great danger; such in fact as never before Endangered the peace & safety of the Southern States, and threatened the institution of slavery; it is unnecessary to enter into any statement of facts to prove the truth of this declaration, what is the first duty of the people of North Carolina? Surely, to provide all necessary means to ward off the threatened danger – your Memorialists, firmly believing the removal of the free Negroes from the State, or their reduction to the same condition of the slave population, one of the necessary means, hold that the plain right of self defense would justify such action on their part through their Legislature, and that such legislation at this time would meet the approving voice of the whole body of the Southern people & challenge the approbation of all others throughout the country who properly appreciate our position & respect our rights. But your Memorialists do not design submitting any argument upon the subject to your honorable bodies, either as to the right or the expediency of the policy they recommend; nor do they propose to advise any particular plan for the accomplishment of the object in view, being content to leave the matter to your own good judgement, guided as they believe it will be by sound patriotism and a just sense of your representative duties. They cannot refrain, however, from suggesting that according to their own judgements the wisest and most judicious policy would be to provide for the removal of all such as might choose to go to the Northern States within a certain fixed time, and to authorise the several county courts to sell as slaves all such as remained after the Expiration of the time named in the act and believing that sound policy requires that all proper means should be resorted to to strengthen the institution of slavery by increasing the number of slave holding citizens and otherwise, your Memorialists would recommend, in case the above policy be adopted, that the right of purchase should be confined to these citizens of the state who are not already owners of slaves; that no one person should be allowed to become the purchaser of more than one, except in the case of mothers and small children, that all negroes so purchased shall be exempt from execution for debt, and not transferable by sale and purchase for a term of years. Trusting that your honorable bodies will give this subject that serious attention which its importance entitles it to, your petitioners will ever pray &c

General Assembly Session Records, November 1860-February 1861, Petitions Box 8, North Carolina State Archives.

Sentenced to the gallows for stealing a slave.

At the late session of the Superior Court of Currituck County, N.C. a free negro man named Moses FULLER was sentenced to the gallows for seducing and stealing in conjunction with several other persons, a certain negro woman slave, contrary to a statute of the state of North Carolina, making the offense death without benefit of clergy.  He is to be executed on the 29th ins.

Baltimore Patriot & Commercial Gazette, 20 November 1822.

Free-Issue Death Certificates: BOWSER, no. 2.

Gid Bowser. Died 12 Aug 1925, Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County. Colored. Widower of Everlyn Robinson. Born 1 February 1857 in Halifax County to Tom Bowser and Rocksana Manly. Buried Halifax County. Informant, Willis Bowser.

Elizabeth Burn. Died 15 December 1917, Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County. Colored. Widow. Born 13 September 1860 in Halifax County to Tom Bowser and Roxana Manly. Buried Halifax County. Informant, W. Frank Bowser.

In the 1860 census of Western District, Halifax County: Thomas Bowser, 47, wife Roxanna, 27, and children Gideon, 3, and Penny E., 2.

James Christopher Toney. Died 19 September 1923, Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County. Resided Rosemary Street. Colored. Married to Hattie T. Toney. Farmer. Born 15 January 1857 in Halifax County to Hilliard Toney and Jane Bowser. Buried Toney cemetery. Informant, Vivian Toney.

In the 1860 census of Western District, Halifax County: Hilliard Toney, 45, wife Jane, 28, and Kinchen, 8, Orsborn, 5, and James, 2. 

Isiah Bowser. Died 22 January 1916, Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County. Colored. Married. Farm help. About 58 years old. Born Halifax County to Eaton Bowser and Sallie Bowser. Informant, John Carter.

In the 1860 census of Western District, Halifax County: Eaton Bowser, 34, farmer, wife Lucinda, 27, and children Rebecca, 9, Sallie, 8, George, 5, William, 3, and unknown, 3 months.

James Bowser. Died 1 November 1925, Poplar Branch, Currituck County. Born 9 August 1849, Currituck County to Jonas Bowser and Matilia Case.

In the 1860 census of Powells Point, Currituck County: Jonas Bowser, 37, laborer, wife Mahala, 33, and son James, 10.

Despite their family’s care.

Nancy Midgett v. Willoughby McBryde, 48 NC 21 (1855).

“Nancy Midgett, is a white woman, but her two children are mulattoes begotten by a negro father.”  The Currituck County Court ordered that children be bound to Willoughby McBryde.  Midgett presented evidence that for the last three years she had been living near her father in a house he built for her; that he had taken charge of her children and kept them diligently and industriously employed; that he was himself an honest, respectable and industrious man, well able to take care of her and her children and willing to do so; and that she herself had, during the last three years, behaved orderly and industriously.  Accordingly, contended Midgett’s counsel, the children did not fall within the category of those liable to be bound out by the County Court.  The trial judge disagreed, upheld the County Court’s action, and Midgett appealed.

The North Carolina Supreme Court held that the County Court had power to bind out all free base-born children of color, without reference to the occupation or condition of the mother. The provision of the statute that refers to the occupation or employment of the parents is confined to cases of free negroes and mulattoes whose children are”legitimate.” “In such cases, if the parents have no honest or industrious occupation, the children may be bound out.  These considerations do not arise when the child is a bastard.” Judgment affirmed.

Surnames: Currituck County, 1850.


Milly’s Mary Ann?

Fanshaw v. Jones, 33 NC 154 (1850).

Henry Britt found an infant mulatto child at his doorstep in Currituck County. He took the baby in, named her Mary Ann, reared her as a free child and, at his death, left her $200.  Britt’s wife dissented from the will, asserting that Mary Ann was in fact a slave.  The purported evidence: about 1829, one Wilson, a Caswell County “negro-trader,” sold to one Willis a pregnant slave named Milly. Milly ran away from Willis to the house of a widow who lived near Britt, “bringing with her a female infant, perfectly naked and apparently not more than a day old.”  The widow told Milly that she and the baby would die if they remained exposed in the woods and advised her to return to her owner.  Milly left, and a few days later an infant, Mary Ann, was found at Britt’s.  The widow could not swear that Milly’s baby was Mary Ann, but Mary Ann was a “bright mulatto” and resembled Milly.  Britt and his wife were childless and brought the child up “tenderly,” becoming much attached.  After about four years, Willis showed up to claim Mary Ann, but Britt refused to give her up without valid title and asserted his belief that she was the child of a white man and a colored woman.  After Britt’s death in 1836, Mary Ann lived with his administrator, William Jones, who did not claim as part of Britt’s estate.  The lower court found that whether or not Mary Ann was the child of a slave, the verdict was in favor of Jones, the administrator.  The Supreme Court, however, deemed the jury instructions invalid and ordered a new trial.

No interest in the question.

Harriet Owens v. Jasper Chaplain, 48 NC 323 (1856).

Currituck County Court bound free colored girl Polly Gordon to Frederick Owens, a free man of color, at August Term, 1851. In October 1854, Owens sailed for the West Indies and was not heard from again, leaving Gordon with his wife, Harriet Owens. Jasper Chaplain took Gordon from Harriet Owens’ custody, and Currituck County Court Court rebound her to him without notifying Harriet Owens and without the girl’s presence. Reversing the lower court, North Carolina Supreme Court held that, because Owens was derelict in his duty towards Gordon, Currituck had the authority to rebind her without notice to the wife (who “had no interest in the question”) and without the girl.

Frederick Owens married Harriet Owens (her maiden name) on 13 July 1850 in Tyrrell County.  The couple appear in Frederick’s mother Mary Owens‘ household in the 1850 census of Poplar Branch, Currituck County.  They are not found in the 1860 census.

In the 1860 federal census of Powells Point township, Currituck County, 53 year-old farmer Jasper Chaplin and his wife share a household with six free colored children, Sidney (17) and Lydia Patterson (15), Joseph Case (14), and Polly (13), Aaron (9) and Pater Gordon (5).

Sarah Wesley’s death certificate reveals that Polly Gordon married her fellow apprentice, Joseph Case.  Wesley was born 7 July 1874 in Jarvisburg NC and died 29 May 1925 in Poplar Branch.  Polly and Joseph are listed as her parents, and they appear together in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 federal censuses of Currituck County.