Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: free people of color

A very considerable technical exception.

In our generalizations upon American history — and the American people are prone to loose generalization, especially where the Negro is concerned — it is ordinarily assumed that the entire colored race was set free as the result of the Civil War. While this is true in a broad, moral sense, there was, nevertheless, a very considerable technical exception in the case of several hundred thousand free people of color, a great many of whom were residents of the Southern States. Although the emancipation of their race brought to these a larger measure of liberty than they had previously enjoyed, it did not confer upon them personal freedom, which they possessed already. These free colored people were variously distributed, being most numerous, perhaps, in Maryland …. In the year 1850, according to the [federal census], there were in the state of North Carolina 553,028 white people, 288,548 slaves, and 27,463 free colored people. In 1860, the white population of the state was 631,100, slaves 331,059, free colored people, 30,463.

This free colored population was by no means evenly distributed throughout the state, but was mainly found along or near the eastern seaboard, in what is now known as the “black district” of North Carolina. In Craven county, more than one-fifth of the colored population were free; in Halifax county, where the colored population was double that of the whites, one-fourth of the colored were free. In Hertford county, with 3,947 whites and 4,445 slaves, there were 1,112 free colored. In Pasquotank county, with a white and colored population almost evenly balanced, one-third of the colored people were free. In some counties, for instance in that of Jackson, a mountainous county in the west of the state, where the Negroes were but an insignificant element, the population stood 5,241 whites, 268 slaves, and three free colored persons.

The growth of this considerable element of free colored people had been due to several causes. In the eighteenth century, slavery in North Carolina had been of a somewhat mild character. There had been large estates along the seaboard and the water-courses, but the larger part of the population had been composed of small planters or farmers, whose slaves were few in number, too few indeed to be herded into slave quarters, but employed largely as domestic servants, and working side by side with their masters in field and forest, and sharing with them the same rude fare. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterian strain in the white people of North Carolina brought with it a fierce love of liberty, which was strongly manifested, for example, in the Mecklenburg declaration of independence, which preceded that at Philadelphia; and while this love of liberty was reconciled with slavery, the mere prejudice against race had not yet excluded all persons of Negro blood from its benign influence. Thus, in the earlier history of the state, the civil status of the inhabitants was largely regulated by condition rather than by color. To be a freeman meant to enjoy many of the fundamental rights of citizenship. Free men of color in North Carolina exercised the right of suffrage until 1835, when the constitution was amended to restrict this privilege to white men. It may be remarked, in passing, that prior to 1860, Jews could not vote in North Carolina. The right of marriage between whites and free persons of color was not restricted by law until the year 1830, though social prejudice had always discouraged it.

The mildness of slavery, which fostered kindly feelings between master and slave, often led to voluntary manumission. The superior morality which characterized the upper ranks of white women, so adequately protected by slavery, did not exist in anything like the same degree among the poorer classes, and occasional marriages, more or less legal, between free Negroes and slaves and poor white women, resulted in at least a small number of colored children, who followed the condition of their white mothers. I have personal knowledge of two free colored families of such origin, dating back to the eighteenth century, whose descendants in each case run into the hundreds. There was also a considerable Quaker element in the population, whose influence was cast against slavery, not in any fierce polemical spirit, but in such a way as to soften its rigors and promote gradual emancipation. Another source of free colored people in certain counties was the remnant of the Cherokee and Tuscarora Indians, who, mingling with the Negroes and poor whites, left more or less of their blood among the colored people of the state. By the law of partitus sequitur ventrem, which is a law of nature as well as of nations, the child of a free mother was always free, no matter what its color or the status of its father, and many free colored people were of female Indian ancestry.

I may add that North Carolina was a favorite refuge for runaway slaves and indentured servants from the richer colonies north and south of it. It may thus be plainly seen how a considerable body of free colored people sprang up within the borders of the state. The status of these people, prior to the Civil War, was anomalous but tenable. Many of them, perhaps most of them, were as we have seen, persons of mixed blood, and received, with their dower of white blood, an intellectual and physical heritage of which social prejudice could not entirely rob them, and which helped them to prosperity in certain walks of life. The tie of kinship was sometimes recognized, and brought with it property, sympathy and opportunity which the black did not always enjoy. Many free colored men were skilled mechanics. The State House at Raleigh was built by colored workmen, under a foreman of the same race. I am acquainted with a family now living in the North, whose Negro grandfather was the leading tailor, in Newbern, N. C. He owned a pew on the ground floor of the church which he attended, and was buried in the cemetery where white people were laid to rest. In the town where I went to live when a child, just after the Civil War, nearly all the mechanics were men of color. One of these, a saddler by trade, had himself been the owner, before the war, of a large plantation and several slaves. He had been constrained by force of circumstances to invest in Confederate bonds, but despite this loss, he still had left a considerable tract of land, a brick store, and a handsome town residence, and was able to send one of his sons, immediately after the war, to a Northern school, where he read law, and returning to his native state, was admitted to the bar and has ever since practiced his profession. This was an old free family, descended from a free West Indian female ancestor. For historical reasons, which applied to the whole race, slave and free, these families were, before the war, most clearly traceable through the female line.

The principal cabinet-maker and undertaker in the town was an old white man whose workmen were colored. One of these practically inherited what was left of the business after the introduction of factory-made furniture from the North, and has been for many years the leading undertaker of the town. The tailors, shoemakers, wheelwrights and blacksmiths were men of color, as were the carpenters, bricklayers and plasterers. …

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

A badge marked FREE.

Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1785, North Carolina General Assembly.

At a General Assembly, begun and held at New Bern on the nineteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five, and in the tenth year of the independence of the said State, it being the first session of this Assembly. Richard Caswell, Governor.

CHAPTER VI.  An Additional Act to Amend the Several Acts for Regulating the Town of Wilmington, and to Regulate and Restrain the Conduct of Slaves and Others in the Said Town, and in the Towns of Washington, Edenton and Fayetteville.

And in order to discriminate between free negroes, mulattoes and other persons of mixed blood, and slaves:

X. Be it Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all persons of the above mentioned description, who are or shall be free, shall on or before the said first day of May next, apply to the commissioners, trustees or directors of the respective towns aforesaid, in order to have their names registered; and every such person coming into the said towns respectively to reside, shall within three days after their arrival make the like application; and the commissioners, trustees or directors are hereby authorised and required to give every such free person a badge of cloth, of such colour or colours as they shall respectively direct, to be fixed on the left shoulder, and to have thereon wrought in legible capital letters the word FREE: For registration of each of which names the town clerk shall receive two shillings, and the commissioners, trustees and directors respectively shall receive the sum of eight shillings for the use of their respective towns; which registration and badge shall continue in force during the time that such free person shall remain an inhabitant of the town in which he or she shall reside; and if any free negro, mullatto or other person of mixed blood, shall neglect or refuse to apply to the commissioners, trustees or directors as aforesaid, or shall refuse to receive a badge in manner by this Act directed, every such person so neglecting or refusing shall be subject to pay the same tax that is hereby imposed on slaves who are not returned as town taxables, and who shall have badges to enable them to hire themselves; and that such free persons may be the better known, the justices of the peace who shall receive the returns of taxable property in said towns, shall in their yearly returns describe all such persons as are free, and are negroes, mullattoes or otherwise of mixed blood as aforesaid; and all such persons as aforesaid not paying their fines, fees and taxes shall be hired out for so long time as will pay the same respectively.

Free Colored Inhabitants of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County, 1860.

#352. James Higgins, 16, day laborer; Mary Butler, 40, cook, and Molly Butler, 1; in the household of E.T. Mayo.

#354. John Butler, 18, “ostler,” in the household of H.W. Peel.

#355. Lemon Taborn, 26, barber; William Shavers, 25, barber; and William Johnston, 23, carpenter; in the household of Joseph Barbee.

#362. Dave Simms, 25, day laborer, in the household of W.D. Rountree, merchant.

#369. Eliza Himan, 15, and Theodore Himan, 5, in the household of David Nolly, farmer.

#385. Joseph Thorn, 30, plasterer, and Caroline Thorn, 24, domestic, in the household of A.H. Williams, merchant.

#386. Sarah Locus, 6, in the household of Thomas C. Davis, County Court Clerk.

#388. Tenie Marbly, 11, and Henry Wiggins, 40, carpenter, in the household of Edmund Moore, farmer.

#392. Asburn Dunstan, 23, laborer, in the household of H.L. Winton, boarding house operator.

In the 1850 census of Louisburg, Franklin, Lemuel Dunn, 60, blacksmith; Milly Dunn, 60; Jane Fog, 19; Osborn Dunstan, 14; and John Fog, 8.  The household is listed among a cluster of Dusntan households, including: Osborn Dunstan, 57, swayer, Barbary, 50, and Sarah Dunston, 18, and Osborn May, 6. Also, in Timberlakes, Franklin County: Osborn Dunston, 52, and Sally Dunstan, 16.

#398. John Kersey, 37, blacksmith; wife Julia, 31; and children Louisa, 9, Dellah, 6, John, 5, and William, 1.  Kersey reported personal property valued at $300.

#399. Joseph Thorn, 25, brickmason; wife Caroline, 19, washerwoman; and daughter Fannie, 8 months; plus Bettie Fogg, 60, day laborer.

#401. Noah Lynch, 30, plasterer, and wife Piaty Lynch, 33, washerwoman; plus Julia Higgins, 20, domestic; John James, 10, and Martha Taylor, 7.  Lynch reported personal property valued at $700.

#406. Jesse H. Artis, 48, hostler, in the household of George Howard, Superior Court Judge.

#419. Joseph Fogg, 50, shoemaker, in the household of Edwin Eatmon, bootmaker.

In the 1850 census of Warren, Warren County: Joseph Fogg, 37, shoemaker.

Free-Issue Death Certificates: NC-born Michiganders, no. 4.

Sarah E. Scipio.  Died 5 Sept 1912, Boyne City, Charlevoix County, Michigan.  Colored. Widowed. Born 27 March 1845 in NC to Daniel Oxendine and Elizabeth Morgan, both of NC. Buried Wilson Cemetery #1. Informant, N. Moran, Boyne City.

William Scott.  Died 4 Jul 1885, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Age 71. Mulatto. Married. Farmer. Born in NC to Alexander Scott and Betsey Scott.

Dica Scott.  Died 4 April 1885, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Mulatto.  Married. Born in NC to William and Sally Haithcock.

In the 1860 census of Calvin, Cass County, Michigan: William Scott, 44, wife Disa, 35, and children Anne C., 11, Saml., 13, plus Louisa Wade, 3, D.C. Gumbo, 8, and Sally Tabron, 64. William, Disa, D.C. and Sally were born in NC; Ann and Samuel in Ohio; and Louisa in Michigan.

Louis Gilford Scott.  Died 4 June 1899, Lawrence, Van Buren County, Michigan. Married. Black. Parent of 6 children; 2 living. Age 75 years, 10 months, 2 days. Farmer. Born in NC to Robert Scott of Virginia and Amey Scott of NC.  Buried Hicks cemetery.

Charity Taylor.  Died 16 Apr 1891, Cheshire, Allegan County, Michigan. Mulatto. Married. Age 63. Born NC to Wiley and Sarah Jones.

In the 1870 census, of Cheshire, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 52, wife Charity, 42, and daughter Sarah A., 22. Kingsbury and Charity were born in NC; Sarah, in Indiana.

Catharine Wilson.  Died 15 April 1885, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan.  Black Married. Age 37. Born NC to Neal and Jennie Hunt.

A bill to bind out the mulatto children of white women.

Mr. Baker moved for leave to bring in a bill to impower the Justices of the Inferior Courts to bind out Mulatto Children born of any white woman

Ordered that he have leave accordingly

Mr. Baker presented the aforementioned Bill which he read in his place and delivered in at the Table where the same was again read by the Clerk.  Then on Motion, Ordered that the said Bill lie on the Table for the perusal of the House.

From the Minutes of the Lower House of the North Carolina General Assembly, Tuesday, 25 Nov 1760, p. 495.  Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.

He had no right to come back.

The Wadesboro’ Argus tells of a free negro who lived in Wadesboro’, and removed to Ohio; but soon found he could not live as well there as in North Carolina, and came back.

If this negro staid out of the State 90 days he had no right to come back, according to law.  We hope there has been no neglect of the law in this matter, on the part of the proper officers. No free negro is allowed by law to come into this State.  Any person who brings one in as an emigrant, either by land or water, is liable to a fine of $500.

We notice this case in order to arouse the attention of the officers of the law.  – North Carolinian.

Carolina Watchman, Salisbury, 10 Oct 1850.

Properly instructed, he has become a constant communicant.

In that year [1760] besides the immediate duty of my own Parish I visited the Parishes of St Martins, Bladen & St John’s, Onslow; and in these 2 counties I baptized 55 Children whereof 9 were negroes & I baptized 2 adults, 1 white & 1 black by immersion.  In my own Parish, I baptized 9 white and 4 mulatto Children, 1 Adult Mulatto woman belonging to Coll’n Dry, & 4 Adult Negro women, belonging to the Hon’ble Mr. Hasell.  In the year 1761, I baptized in my own Parish in Bladen & in St James’ Wilmington 35 Children & 1 adult negro man.  In this Current year 1762 I have already baptized 33 children & 2 Adults; 1 a free negro man, who after proper instructions, is since become a constant communicant; the other a Captain of a vessel who died here, & on his death bed acquainted me, that he had never been baptized & prayed he might then receive that Sacrament.

Extract, letter from John McDowell to Daniel Burton, June 15, 1762, Brunswick NC.  Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.

Free-Issue Death Certificates: NC-Born Michiganders, no. 3.

Sarah Eveline Jenkins. Died 13 Sept 1907, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Colored. Widow. Age 91. Married at age 24. Parent of 9 children, of whom 1 is living. Born in NC to Newsom Artis and Amy Newsom, both of NC. Buried At Mount Zion.  Informant, Amy Jenkins, Cassopolis.

In the 1830 census of Northampton County, Newsom Artis headed a household of 9 free people of color.

John Thomas Lane.  Died 19 Aug 1914, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Colored. Married. Farmer. Born 2 Aug 1848 in NC to Jessie Lane and Piercy Artis, both of NC. Buried Chain Lake cemetery.  Informant, Ollie Lane, Cassopolis.

In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Jesse Lane, 40, carpenter, wife Percy, 40, and children William, 13, Arbella, 11, Nancy, 8, and John Lane, 2.  All reported born in NC except John, who was reported Indiana-born.

Arthur Mitchell.  Died 25 May 1902, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Mulatto. Widower. Parent of 16 children; 9 living. Farmer. Born 20 Oct 1821 in NC to David Mitchel and Virginia Allen. Buried Mount Zion cemetery. Informant, W.O. Allen, Williamsville.

Almeda Morton.  Died 19 Dec 1913, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Michigan.  Resided 320 Adams Street. Black. Widowed. Born 19 May 1854 in NC to Alfred Artiss and Tempy Alcock, both of NC.  Buried Saint Johns cemetery. Informant, James H. Kersey, Ypsilanti.

Allen Peavy.  Died 30 Mar 1939, Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. Mulatto. Married to Nora Peavy. Born 22 Mart 1861 in NC to Joshua Peavy and unnamed mother. Buried Community Chapel.

Aaron Revels.  Died 22 Jan 1903, Jefferson, Cass County, Michigan.  Mulatto.  Resident of County Infirmary for  9 years, 1 month, 10 days.  Married at age 21. Parent of 5 children; 2 living. Laborer. Born 5 Jan 1820 in NC to John Revels and Mary Wilkins, both of NC. Buried Bethel cemetery.

In the 1850 census of Fugit, Decatur County, Indiana: Aaron Revels, 27, and wife Ann, 27, both born in NC. In the 1850 census of Fugit, Decatur County, Indiana: Sally Hunt, 55, with Celia, 22, Susan, 5, and Levi Hunt, 1; Wiley, 14, and Jordon Jones, 12; and Flora, 10, Parmelia, 6, and Caswell Oxendine, 4.

John Revels.  Died 17 Jan 1892, Calvin, Cass County, Michigan. Black, Widowed. Cooper. Age 92. Born in NC to Burl Revels and Winnie Revels.

In the 1850 census of Fugit, Decatur County, Indiana: John Revels, 50, and wife Mary, 48, both born in NC.

Free-Issue Death Certificates: MISCELLANEOUS, no. 4.

Frances Diggs.  Died 22 April 1927, Nahunta, Wayne County. Colored. Widow of William Diggs.  Age 85. Born Wayne County to Jim Yelverton and Elizah Artis. Informant, Elijah Diggs.

Delilah Exum. Died 18 July 1934, Nahunta, Wayne County. Colored. Widow of Simon Exum. 87 years old. Born Wayne County to Solomon Artis and Lovicy Anderson.

N.B.: In fact, Delilah Exum’s parents were Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis.  She was a sister of Adam T. Artis.

Washington Lane. Died 26 Feb 1934, Goldsboro, Wayne County. Resided 703 E. Elm Street. Colored. Widower. Age 80. Born Greene County to Gui Lane and Silvernane Artis. Buried Fields cemetery.  Informant, Ana Sauls.

In Bull Head, Greene County: Dannel,17, Mike, 13, Penney, 12, Dyner, 9, Juley, 7, and Washington Artes, 5, listed in the household of white farmer John Lane.  

Ann Liza Manuel.  Died 29 March 1925, Dudley, Brogden, Wayne County. Colored. Widow of Alvin Manuel. Born 1841, Sampson County to Raiford Brewington and Basheba Brewington, both of Sampson County. Informant, Randolph Winn.

In the 1850 census of Northern District, Sampson County: Raiford Brewington, 38, cooper; wife Barsheba, 33; and children Nancy, 13, Thomas, 10, Lucy, 9, Ann, 7, James, 5, Hardy, 3, Joshua, 2, and Raiford, 2 months; plus Hardy Manuel, 17; all mulatto.

Mikel Manuel.  Died 5 April 1922, Dudley, Brogden, Wayne County. Colored. Widower of Annie Manuel. Age 85. Born Sampson County to unknown parents. Informant, Ashley Manuel.

In the 1850 census of Northern District, Sampson County: Michael Manuel, 63, cooper; wife Fereby, 49; and children Gideon, 19, Cintilla, 16, Drusilla, 15, Michael, 13, Eden, 11, John, 9, William, 7, Enoch, 4, and Nancy, 1; all described as mulatto.

Nancy Seabury.  Died 26 July 1914, Goldsboro, Wayne County. Colored. Widow of Archie Powell. Born 1834, Johnston County, to unknown parents. Informant, Nelson Seabury.

United States Colored Troops, no. 6.

27 U.S.C.T. Herbert Chavous. Co. A, 27th U.S. Col’d Inf. appears on Company Descriptive Book of the organization named above. Description: age, 18 years; height, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches; complexion, dark; eyes, black; hair, black; where born, Granville Co., NC; occupation, labourer. Enlistment: when, 15 Jan 1864; where, Union County, Oh.; by whom, George St. Clair; term, 3 years.

In the 1860 census of Ledge of Rock, Granville County: Howard Chvis, 38, farmer, Harriet, 50, Luetta, 17, Herbert, 13, Ann, 11, and Ellen, 8.

9 H. Art’y U.S.C.T. Jaret Chavous. Co. D, 9th Reg’t U.S. Col’d H. Art’y. appears on Company Descriptive Book of the organization named above. Description: age, 43 years; height, 5 feet 3 inches; complexion, dark; eyes, black; hair, black; where born, Chatham Co., NC; occupation, farmer. Enlistment: when, 3 September 1864; where, Columbus, O.; by whom, Capt. Wilcox; term, 1 years.

5 U.S.C.T. Asberry Toney. Co. F, 5 Reg’t U.S. Col’d H. Art’y. appears on Company Descriptive Book of the organization named above. Description: age, 44 years; height, 5 feet 8 inches; complexion, dark mulatto; eyes, black; hair, black; where born, Halifax Co., NC; occupation, farmer. Enlistment: when, 30 January 1865; where, Columbus, O.; by whom, Capt. Nesbit; term, 1 years.

In the 1860 census of Marion, Fayette County, Ohio: Abury Toney, 37, laborer, wife Martha, 30, and children J.O., 12, Narely, 4, J. Tilia, 1,  and Emma A., 1.  ALl but the youngest three children were born in NC.