Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: estates

It was for their own good.

Troublesome Escheats.

A free negro had a daughter, the slave of another. He bought her, and she then became the mother of a boy. The woman’s father died without kin and intestate. His child and grandchild being his personal property became the property of the University. They were ordered to be sold. This sounds hard, but it was proved to the Board that they were in the lowest stage of poverty and degradation and that it would redound to their happiness to have a master. It must be remembered that slaves were considered to be as a rule in a better condition than free negroes.

From Kemp P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina from its Beginning to the Death of President Swain 1789-1868 (1907).

William Burnett’s estate.

William Burnett died 2 May 1881.  His estate was opened in May 1881 by administrator A.K. Smedes and, at final account, was valued at $1049.84.  Items removed from the rooms Burnett kept over J.N. Edwards’ store in Goldsboro included a barber chair and rest, a barber pole, four spittoons, two looking glasses, a pistol, and various items of furniture.  He also had two lots on Pine Street.  The estate file contains considerable information about Burnett’s family, which sued Smedes over his handling of the estate.  Burnett died without a widow, children or grandchildren.  Heirs were his sisters Mary Nixon, Betsy Burk, Elizabeth Burnett and Eliza Burden; nieces Delitha Burnett and Melitha Arnold, Amy Anne Stevens and Mary J. Dortch; and Susan Burnett. (Her relationship to William is not specified, and ultimately she did not receive a share of the estate.)  Brothers-in-law mentioned in the documents were George A. Burden, Solomon Hill, Geo. Arnold, and Whitt Dortch.  Also mentioned, William’s mother Elizabeth Burnett.

Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Miles Howard.

Miles Howard was born enslaved and, when he was about 11 years old, was brought to Halifax and sold to Thomas Burgess, a prominent attorney in the Halifax area. Burgess evidently took a liking to the young Miles and made sure that he learned a trade as a barber. Around 1818, Howard took a wife by consent of both his and her masters. Howard was emancipated very shortly afterwards. Burgess sold him property in Halifax in 1825 and more property later. In 1832, Burgess wrote to Senator Mangum regarding a free man of color who was a barber and a musician. The free man had purchased children from a former master. He had not been able to free them due to a law prohibiting this. He wished to move his family to a state where they could be freed and not held as his slaves. Evidently, nothing came from this request, as Howard later died in Halifax.

Burgess, in his will, gave “his worthy and excellent friend Miles Howard the Barber two lots in Halifax, now occupied by said Miles.” In 1838, in an act of emancipation the four children and slaves of Miles Howard were set free, and the family was baptized by a Catholic priest in Halifax. Between 1842 and 1846, Matilda died, and Howard married Caroline Valentine. The two had children who were also baptized Catholic. Howard handled various land transactions and was a sound businessman in Halifax. He died in 1857 without leaving a will. A lawsuit ensued, with the children of his first marriage seeking a share of his property and the children of his second marriage fighting them. The case went to North Carolina Superior Court, which ruled in favor of the children of the second marriage, because the first marriage was a slave marriage and not legal in the eyes of the law.

Adapted from

We have further allotted the widow one bed, wheel and cards.

State of North Carolina, Robeson County   }   To the worshipful the Justices of the court of pleas and quarter-sessions for said county November term 1862

We John G. M’Lean Justice of the Peace of said county and Hector J. M’Lean Angus Wilkison and John McNair freeholders in obedience to the anexed order proceeded on the 17th day of October to view the estate of Hugh Chavous, deceased, and out of the crop stock and provisions on hand we have laid off and allotted Clarisa Chavous widow of Hugh Chavous (deceased) as follows that is to say one hindred bushels of corn eighteen hed of hogs one Beef all the peas, one Table four Bushels of Salt one Bible and Hym Book one Loom one pot one tray and sifter and these being not sufficient of the crop stock and provision on hand to make a comfortable provision for the Said Widow and family for a year We assess the deficiency to the sum of Thirty five Dollars in money to be paid to the said Widow by the administrator of the said Hugh Chavous (Decd) and we have further laid off and allotted to the said Widow one Bed and necessary furniture and Wheel and Cards as her absolute property and put her in possession of the same

Given in our hands and seals this 17th day of October AD 1862.  /s/ John G. M’Lean, Hector M’Lean, A.D. Wilkison, Jno. McNair

In the 1860 census of Robeson County: Hugh Chavis, 50, farmer; wife Clarisy, 45; and children Benjamin, 18, Pinkney, 16, Preston, 16, Nancy, 13, Prissey, 13, Hugh, 9, Melinda, 8, Turner, 7, Murdock, 6, D. Richard, 5, Sallie B., 3, and Alston, 1; all described as mulatto.

Complaint for possession of land.

North Carolina, Wayne County   } In Superior Court April Term 1892.

David Brown and wife Minta Brown vs. Sallie Simmons and Frank Winn – Complaint.

The plaintiffs for their complaint allege, I. That prior to the [blank] day of April 1854 David Simmons was the owner in fee of a tract of land in Wayne County near the town of Mount Olive on which the defendant Sallie Simmons now lives, bounded as follows, Beginning at a pine and running thence S 82 poles to a pine, then S 87 W 81 poles to a pine, the N 47 W 46 poles to a pine, then N 5 E 56 poles to a stake, then East 110 poles to the beginning containing 57 acres more or less.

II. That on said [blank] day of April 1854 the said David Simmons conveyed said tract of land for life to his mother Ita Simmons reserving an annual rent of one penny by deed duly admitted to probate and registered in Wayne County.

III. That thereafter on the 23rd day of April 1855 the said David Simmons conveyed said land in fee to one James McDuffie by deed duly admitted to probate and registered in Wayne County.

IV. That thereafter the said McDuffie died in the County of Wayne leaving a last will and testament by which he devised said land in fee to the plaintiff Minta Brown (then Minta Bryant) subject to the life estate of the said Ita Simmons.

V. That soon after the execution of said deed to Ita Simmons set out in the second paragraph of this complaint, the said Ita Simmons took possession of said land under said deed and remained in possession thereof until her death in the year 1891.

VI. That the plaintiff Minta Brown is the owner in fee of said land and in entitled to recover possession thereof.

VII. That the defendants are now in possession of said land and wrongfully withholding the same from the plaintiffs.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray for Judgment.

1. That the plaintiff Minta Brown is the owner in fee of said land.

2. For possession & costs.

Minta Brown being duly sworn says, That the facts stated in the foregoing complaint as of her own knowledge over time and then states on information and belief she believes to be true.  Minta X Brown    Sworn to & subscribed before me this 9 day of April 1892.  Jno. D. Taylor, Clerk Superior Court, New Hanover County

In the 1850 census of the South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Ity Simmons, 40, born in Duplin County, with sons David, 22, cooper, and George, 20, hireling; all mulatto.  Also, Sally Bryan, 30, and her children Arimenta, 8, Penny, 6, Charley, 4, and Caroline, 4, and Charity Bryan, 70, perhaps her mother.  Arimenta and Penny were described as mulatto; the rest of the family, white.  In the 1860 census of Indian Springs, Wayne County, Minta Bryant, 23, and her children Mitchel, 4, Edith, 6, and Rufus Bryant, 2, all mulatto, lived in the household of James McDuffee, 41. [Was McDuffie the father of Bryant’s children?]

Ita Simmons Estate Papers, Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.  US Federal Population Schedules.

5 chears, one cubbard, 3 bee gumes.

“Account of the Sale of the property of Matthew Aldridg Deceased sold by Joseph Hollowell Adm. on a credit of six months, Nov 20th 1868”

His widow [Catherine Boseman (or Simmons) Aldridge] purchased five “chears”, cart wheels and an axle, two tables (one small), two beds and furniture, “one cubbard & contents,” a clock, a gun, “3 Bee Gumes & work bench,” a tub dipper, kitchen furniture, a blind mare and two beehives.  Green Simmons, George Simmons and David Winn purchased tools, and “Robbert Aldridg,” who likely was Matthew Aldridge’s brother, bought the fourth and fifth beehive choices.  A note on William Carter for a $27.50 debt, due 1 January 1869, was described as doubtful.  The Application for Letters of Administration in the file notes that Aldridge’s heirs were John Henry Aldridge, Wm. Aldridge, Frances Aldridge, Della Aldridge, Mary Ann Aldridge, Joanna Aldridge, and James Thomas Aldridge.

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.  All the Aldridges described as mulatto, and Matthew and James worked as railroad hands.  Matthew reported owning $200 real estate and $25 personal property.

Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; US Federal Population Schedules.


We promise to pay.

On demand the first day of January 1848 we or Either of us do promise to pay John Lewis the Admr for ayres of urban Lewis decd it being for the sum of thirty dollars and fifty cents it for Rent of the land belonging to M. Husted lying on the East side of the Railroad joining James Kelly this January 29th 1847 test Obed Brock             Gray X Winn, Levi Winn, Adam X Greenfield

Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

[Side note: Urban Lewis (1788-1846) was my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. — LYH]

Credit or cash.

“The terms of the Sale of the Property Belonging to Serril Newsom Deceased Was Solde on a Credit of Six Months or Cash Which Ever the Perchiser chose on the 29 of Decr 1864 By Jas. H. Smith his Admr” is a four-page document listing the contents of Serrell Newsome’s estate and its buyers.  Paying inflated Civil War-era prices with Confederate money, buyers included free men of color Zion Reed (“1 Cast Plow”), Aaron Sebary [Seaberry] (“1 Lot of Shovels, 1 Single Tres, 3 ½ Booshels of Oats, 1 Cart & Wheeles, 1 Lot of Seed Cotton”), and Rufus Artis (“1 Lot of Peas”).

In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Serrell Newsom, 43, farmer, with sons Nathan, 18, Willie, 17, and William, 14.

Estate Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives. US Federal Population Schedules.

1 pare of Shew buckles 1 Stone Gug

An Inventory of the Estate of Archebell Artis

7 head of Cattle 1 wooden Dish 1 Fether Bed 3 knives 1 par of Sisers 7 Head of Sheep 1 pare of Shew buckles 1 Stone Gug 1 plow hoe 25 head of hogs 1 pott 1 puter dish 3 Spoons 1 testament 1 meal Sifter 1 Ax 1 Gubing hoes 1 weeding ho 2 warter pails 1 pigen 1 Basket 5 rows of pins one five hundred Slay 1 pair of Cotton Cards 2 Deer Skin 1 Bell.

Johnston County November Court 1782 this Inventory was Exhibited on oath in Open Court by Stephen Powell the Adms’r and admitted to record.  Wm. Ward Clk.


An Account of the Sale of the Estate of Archebell Artis Desed in Specie 10th of December 1782.

Mary Artis – 1 Feather bedd £1.0.6, 1 pot & hooks, 1 pale, 1 peggon, 3 spoons, 3 knives, 1 pr cards & puter dish 1 wooden d’o 1 pair buckles 1 Heffer £5.13.6

Stephen Powell Jr. – 1 ax 1 Testament £1.3.6, 7 head of sheep £9.5.-, 1 cow and yearling £3.5.-, 4 head hogs £2.10.-

Estate Books, Johnston County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Estate of Solomon Williams.


Vicey Artis, a free woman of color, and Solomon Williams, a slave, had eleven children together — Zilpha Artis Wilson, Adam Toussaint Artis, Jane Artis Artis, Loumiza Artis Artis, Charity Artis, Lewis Artis, Jonah Williams, Jethro Artis, Jesse Artis, Richard Artis and Delilah Williams Exum — before they were able to marry legally.  On 31 August 1866, they registered their 35-year cohabitation in Wayne County.  Vicey died soon after, but Solomon lived until 1883.  The document above, listing his and Vicey’s six surviving children and heirs of their deceased children, is found among his estate papers, now held at the North Carolina State Archives.

In the 1850 census of Bull Head district, Greene County, Vicy Artess is listed with children Zilpha, Louis, Jonah, Jethro, and Richard Artess.  Next door, her and Solomon’s children Adam, Charity and Jane appear in the household of Silas Bryant, to whom they apparently were apprenticed.