Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Person County

He saw his money walk into a white man’s pocket.

State v. Jarrott, a slave, 23 NC 76 (1840).

This case arose in Person County. Jarrott, an enslaved man, was indicted for the murder of Thomas Chatham, who was 18 or 19 years old.  A 14 year-old white boy named John T. Brooks testified that he went with Chatham to a fish-trap in the neighborhood in a Saturday night and remained until “about two or three hours before day.” They were the only white people present.  Jarrott and a free negro named Jack Hughes argued over a card game and called on Chatham to “keep the game for them.” After a second argument, Hughes refused to play anymore.  Jarrott snatched up the handkerchief they had been playing on, knocking a twelve-and-a-half cent coin into the leaves. When he was unable to find it, he said “he saw his nine pence walk into a white man’s pocket, and that any white man who would steal a negro’s money, was not too good to unbutton a sheep’s collar.” Further, he charged Chatham with being raised on and living on stolen sheep, accused him of stealing his money, threatened to kill him if he did not give it up, and brandished a stick over his head. Chatham invited Jarrott to search his pockets, and turned them out when Jarrott refused. When Jarrott then accused Chatham of hiding the money in his shoes, he pulled off his shoes and socks. Another man got a light, searched among the leaves, and found the coin near where Chatham stood, which was “some six or seven steps from the spot” where Jarrott jerked up his handkerchief. Chatham sat down near the fire and Jarrott “continued to abuse him, using very indecent and insolent language.”  Chatham asked Brooks for his knife, saying he wanted to cut his nails. He then told Jarrott that if he did not hush, he would stick it in him. Jarrott raised his stick and dared him, and Chatham chased him around the fire with a length of fence rail. Jarrott ran off, but returned and “said something.” Chatham picked up his fence rail and approached Jarrott with the knife in his other hand. Brooks heard two blows, then saw Chatham lying on the ground.

The testimony of Isaac, an enslaved man, essentially corroborated Brooks’, but he added that there was about a 15-minute gap between the argument about the money and Chatham’s renewal of the dispute and threat to stab Jarrott.

A free negro named Nathan Jones corroborated Isaac, but denied that Jarrott ever brandished his stick over Chatham. He also swore that Chatham said he would kill Jarrott that night or go to his master Monday and have him whipped, then would waylay him and shoot him with a rifle.  Two other witnesses testified about Chatham’s wounds (two to the back of the head, about two inches in length); his size (“small and slender for a boy of his age,” said one, “not tall, but stoutly built,” said the other); and Jarrott’s stature (“about six feet high, and of the ordinary size of negroes of that height; and was about twenty-three years of age.”)

Jack Hughes testified that Chatham swung at Jarrott and missed before Jarrott knocked him down and struck him several blows.

The jury found Jarrott guilty of murder, and the judge pronounced a death sentence.

The appeal focused on the judge’s jury instructions. Though not agreeing with his every ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict, establishing that “the same matters which would be deemed in law a sufficient provocation to free a white man … from the guilt of murder, will not have the same effect when the party slain is a white man, and the offender a slave ….”

William R. Pettiford.

Image

Rev. William Reuben Pettiford, D.D.

This popular and influential pastor well deserves mention for hard, persevering, laborious, and faithful work for God and his fellow man.

Rev. W.R. Pettiford was born in Granville County, North Carolina, January 20, 1847.His parents, William and Matilda Pettiford, were free, and, according to the law of the land, their son was free. … His parents sold their little farm and moved to Person County, where he had the advantage of private instruction, and obtained a very fair knowledge of the English branches. Being the oldest child, he had to bear a part of the burden of the family; the hard, toilsome work he was compelled to do was a school of preparation for his life work.

Being converted in 1868, and baptized at Salisbury, N.C., by Rev. Ezekiel Horton, was the beginning of the life which has made him an earnest disciple and minister of Christ. … In 1869 he married Miss Mary J. Farley. Business becoming dull he moved to Selma, Alabama, and worked there both as a laborer and teacher. In March, 1870, after being married eight months, his wife died. Deciding to pursue a further course of training he entered the state normal school at Marion, Alabama. He remained there seven years, paying his expenses by teaching during vacations. … He was connected with the church at Marion, where he made a favorable impression upon the brethren by attending and conducting prayer-meetings and revivals. The church licensed him to preach in March, 1879. Mr. Pettiford had in the mean time, 1873, married a Mrs. Jennie Powell, of Marion, who died September, 1874, leaving him for the second time a widower. As principal of the school at Uniontown he was assisted by Mrs. Florence Billingslea and Rev. John Dozier. Mr. Pettiford met with much success. Wishing to take a more extended course of study, he resigned his position as principal, 1877, and entered Selma University. The following year the trustees appointed him a teacher at a salary of twenty dollars per month and permission to pursue the theological studies …. [He married Della Boyd on November 23, 1880; was ordained at St. Philip Baptist Church in Selma; moved to Union Springs; then, in 1883, accepted a call at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.]

At this time the church had a membership of one hundred and fifty, were worshiping in a store in the low part of town, and five hundred dollars in debt. [A year later, the debt was retired and a new edifice costing more than $7000 built.]

He is president of the ministerial union of Birmingham, a trustee of Selma University, president of the Baptist State Convention, and president of Alabama Penny Savings Bank. Besides owning a valuable home in the city, he is interested in other property. …

The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon Rev. Pettiford by Selma University.

Adapted from A.W. Pegues, Our Baptist Ministers and Schools (1892).

More tales of slave-owning Negroes.

… Mr. George W. Brooks, of Atlanta, recalls [free negroes who owned slaves] when he was a youth in the county of Person, which lay immediately on the Virginia line. There was there quite a colony of free negroes, many of them named Epps, and supposed to be descendants of the slaves set free by Mr. Epps, the brother-in-law of Thomas Jefferson. In Person County there was a free negro named Billy Mitchell, an honest man of genial disposition, who being without means, often hired himself to work for Mr. Brooks’ father on his tobacco farm.  Mr. Brooks remembers hearing Mitchell telling his father of his trip to Mecklenburg, about thirty miles away, when and where he went courting, and told of the lands and slaves which were owned by his girl’s father. He told with much humor of an incident which occurred while he was there. He went out one morning with the girl’s brother to the pig pen to look at the fattening swine. He said that one of the slave boys came and got upon the pen with them; that soon he heard the girl calling her mother to “look at Jim perched up on the hog pen with the white folks.” Billy said that he looked at them all and he could not see but Jim was about as white as any of them. Billy went back and married the girl, took up his abode with them, became interested in the estate and became a slave owner himself.

From Calvin D. Wilson, “Negroes Who Owned Slaves,” Popular Science Monthly, vol. LXXXI (1912).

Criminal conversation with a negro man.

Elizabeth Walters v. Clement H. Jordan, 34 NC 170 (1851).

Elizabeth Walters petitioned for a year’s allowance out of the estate of her late husband, Hardy Walters, who died intestate. Hardy “seduced” Elizabeth and “lived in adultery” with her before marrying her.  Both were white.  After the marriage, Elizabeth “had criminal conversation with a negro man” and got pregnant. Hardy ordered her to leave his home.  She did, but, with his permission, moved into another house on his property. There she gave birth to a mulatto child.  Hardy died soon after.

“Whatever cause this woman may have given her husband for taking steps to have the marriage dissolved, and thereby protect his estate from her claims. it is sufficient for this case, that he did not such thing, but did leave her as his widow and under no bar to her claims, as such, on his property.”

Trafficking in corn.

The State v. Nelson Cozens, 28 NC 82 (1845).

Nelson Cozens, a free negro, was indicted in Granville County Court for buying a peck of corn on 11 Feb 1837 from a slave named Lewis, the property of Fleming Beasley. He was found guilty by a Person County court and appealed to the state Supreme Court, apparently on a challenge to the wording of the indictment. Appeal denied.

In the 1850 census of Person County, Nelson Cozens, 57, is listed with wife Judy, 53, and children Robert J., 21, Willis, 14, William, 12, and Nelson, 6, plus Izarary Mitchel, 7, and Jerome Collins, 23.