Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: freedom

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.

She was always cold a free woman.

State of North Carolina Wayne County June 15 1853 Winney Huff after being Duly Sworn Deposith and says as follows (viz) that she has seen Fareby Simmons Mother a Colord Woman living in the County of Birtie and State aforsaid and it was stated to her in the neighborhood that she was a free person and said hir Daughter Fariby Simmons was indentured to one Sertain William Burnham and Said Burnham Emigrated from the County of Birtie to the County of Wayne and said fariby Simons lived with Burnham as an apprentice and fariby Simmons in the time of her apprenticeship had a child Bornd Named Hannah which was Bound to Betsey Burnham a Daughter of Said William Burnham and that Fariby Simons was always cold a free woman and has pased for a free woman Ever since my Recollection which would be Seventy or Seventy five years furthe the Deponant sayeth Not June the 1st 1853 then was the above Written certificate of Winney Huff sworn to Before me George Flowers J.P.  Winney X Huff

This is one of three sworn statements by whites attesting to Fereby Simmons’ freedom.  Their purpose is not clear.  It seems likely that Fereby and Hannah Simmons were the matriarchs of the sprawling free colored Simmons clan — with branches by mid-19th century from southeast North Carolina to Canada — but relationships between the various lines remain undetermined.

Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Wayne County Miscellaneous Records, North Carolina State Archives.

One who sells his services does not cease to be free.

James Casey v. L.S. Robards, 60 NC 434 (1864)

The issue in a case from Haywood County Superior Court: if a free man sells his services for 99 years, by deed, does he cease to be a free man?

In 1859, James Casey, a free negro, conveyed his services to James R. Love.  On 10 September 1864, Lt. L.S. Robards took Casey into custody as a conscript.  Love’s executors objected, claiming Love’s services.  Under an act of the Confederate Congress dated 17 February 1864, “all male free negroes, and other persons of color, resident in the Confederate states, between the ages of 18 and 50 years, shall be held liable to perform such duties with the army, or in connection with the military defenses of the country in the way of work upon fortifications or in government works for the production or preparation of material of war, or in military hospitals, as the Secretary of War may … prescribe; and … shall receive rations and clothing and compensation in the rate of $11 per month. …”

Casey asserted that his contract with Love degraded him from free man to slave, and therefore he was not liable to conscription.  The NC Supreme Court first pointed out that, if Casey were not free, he had no status to sue, and his case must be dismissed on that basis.  However, one who sells his services does not cease to be free, and free negroes could be compelled to render service.

James Casey, age 27, appears with George Casey, 24, and Leander Casey, 15, all described as mulatto, in the 1860 census of Haywood County in the household of James R. Love, an exceptionally wealthy farmer and slaveowner.  Casey’s death certificate, filed in Haywood County, reveals that he lived in or near Waynesville, was about 84 when he died on 11 March 1918, and was the son of Jim Moore and Harriet Casey.

She lived to herself and was controlled by no one.

William Brookfield v. Jonathan Stanton, 51 NC 156 (1858)

William Brookfield, whom Jonathan Stanton claimed as a slave, brought the action to try his right to freedom.  Brookfield introduced evidence that for 30 years or more prior to his birth, his mother and maternal grandmother were recognized and admitted to be free people of color.  They were known as the McKim negroes.  His mother had moved from Carteret to Hyde County and lived as a free woman.  She was reported to be the wife of a slave “but lived to herself and was controlled by no one.”

Stanton sought to prove that Brookfield’s mother and grandmother were slaves.  He proffered (1) an attachment made on behalf of an Elijah Cannady against John McKim, who resided in another state, that was levied upon a negro woman named Beck and her children Fan and Olly in 1809 and (2) a bill of sale for the purchase of Bookfield. Both were rejected.

The Supreme Court noted that when a person is black, i.e. dark-skinned, a presumption arises that he is a slave.  Nonetheless, where that person’s mother and grandmother have been treated as free for 30 years, there is an inference that they were lawfully manumitted.  The case was remanded to Craven County court.

There are no free colored Brookfields or McKims listed in antebellum North Carolina census records.