Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Raleigh

An acquittal. A conviction.

Raleigh, Oct. 10 – The Superior Court for this County adjourned on Saturday. On Friday, Trueman Goode, a free man of colour, was tried for the murder of Jacob, slave, the property of Wm. Daniel; but it appearing from the testimony, that he killed the deceased in self-defence, he was acquitted.

On the same day, Frederick Matthews, a free man of colour, indicted for an assault on John Gragson, a white man, with intent to kill, was tried and convicted of the charge. He was sentenced to remain in Jail until our next County Court, on the first two days of which he is to stand in the public Stocks for one hour; to be recommitted until the 15th of January, to pay the costs of the prosecution, and to give security for the preservation of the peace for eighteen months.

Free Press, Tarboro, 17 October 1826.

She put her pretty gold head on his shoulder, and …

An Interview with Adora Rienshaw of 431 South Bloodworth Street, Raleigh.

I wuz borned at Beulah, down hyar whar Garner am now, an’ my parents wuz Cameron an’ Sally Perry. When I wuz a month old we moved ter Raleigh.

We wuz called ‘Ole Issues’, case we wuz mixed wid de whites. My pappy wuz borned free, case his mammy wuz a white ‘oman an’ his pappy wuz a coal-black nigger man. Hit happened in Mississippi, do’ I doan know her name ‘cept dat she wuz a Perry.

She wuz de wife of grandfather’s marster an’ dey said dat he wuz mean ter her. Grandfather wuz her coachman an’ he often seed her cry, an’ he’d talk ter her an’ try ter comfort her in her troubles, an’ dat’s de way dat she come ter fall in love wid him.

One day, he said, she axed him ter stop de carriage an’ come back dar an’ talk ter her. When he wuz back dar wid her she starts ter cry an’ she puts her purtty gold haid on his shoulder, an’ she tells him dat he am her only friend, an’ dat her husban’ won’t eben let her have a chile.

Hit goes on lak dis till her husban’ fin’s out dat she am gwine ter have de baby. Dey says dat he beats her awful an’ when pappy wuz borned he jist about went crazy. Anyhow pappy wuz bound out till he wuz twenty-one an’ den he wuz free, case no person wid ary a drap of white blood can be a slave.

When he wuz free he comed ter Raleigh an’ from de fust I can remember he wuz a blacksmith an’ his shop wuz on Wolcot’s Corner. Dar wuz jist three of us chilluns, Charlie, Narcissus, an’ me an’ dat wuz a onusual small family.

Before de war Judge Bantin’s wife teached us niggers on de sly, an’ atter de war wuz over de Yankees started Hayes’s school. I ain’t had so much schoolin’ but I teached de little ones fer seberal years.

De Southern soldiers burned de depot, which wuz between Cabarrus an’ Davie Streets den, an’ dat wuz ter keep de Yankees from gittin’ de supplies. Wheeler’s Cavalry wuz de meanest troops what wuz.

De Yankees ain’t got much in Raleigh, case de Confederates has done got it all an’ gone. Why fer a long time dar de way we got our salt wuz by boilin’ de dirt from de smoke house floor where de meat has hung an’ dripped.

I’m glad slavery is ober, eben do’ I ain’t neber been no slave. But I tell yo’ it’s bad ter be a ‘Ole Issue.’

In the 1860 census of Raleigh, Wake County: Cameron Perry, 48, blacksmith, wife Sarah, and children Adora, 7, Narcissa, 5, Charley, 3, plus Susan Cuffy, 70, and Henderson Duntson, 21; all mulatto except Susan, whose color designation was left blank.

Now, you see, my father was a free man.

William Scott

William Scott: Ex-Slave Story, 401 Church St., 77 years old.

My name is William Scott. I live at 401 Church Street, Raleigh, North Carolina. I wuz born 1860, March 31st. I wuz free born. My father wuz William Scott. I wuz named after my father. My mother wuz Cynthia Scott. She wuz a Scott before she wuz married to my father. She wuz born free. As far back as I can learn on my mother’s side they were always free.

My mother and father always told me my grandfather wuz born of a white woman. My grandfather wuz named Elisha Scott. I have forgot her name. If I heard her name called I have forgot it. My grandfather on my mother’s side wuz a Waverly. I can’t tell you all about dese white folks, but some of ’em, when they died, left their property to mulattoes, or half-breed children, and several of them are living in this community now. I can tell you exactly where they are, and where they got their property. Some of them are over half white. They were by a Negro woman who wuz a mulatto and a white man. Dey air so near white you can’t tell them from white folks. This condition has existed as long ago as I have any recollection, and it still exists, but there are not as many children according to the relations as used to be.

Free Negroes were not allowed to go on the plantations much. Now you see my father wuz a free man. We lived right here in town. My father wuz a ditcher and slave gitter. One night the man he worked for got up a crowd and come to whup him and take his money away from him. He had paid father off that day. Dat night dey come an’ got him an’ blindfolded him. He moved the blindfold from over his eyes and run an’ got away from ’em. He never did go back no more to the man he had been workin’ for. I wuz a little boy, but I heard pappy tell it. Dat wuz tereckly after de surrender. Pappy saw the man he had been workin’ for when he slipped the blindfold off his face, and he knowed him.

I wuz a boy when the Yankees came to Raleigh. They came in on the Fayetteville Road. They stopped and quartered at the edge of the town. I remember they had a guardhouse to put the Yankees in who disobeyed. Later on they came in from the east and quartered at the old Soldiers Home right in there, but not in the buildings. There were no houses there when the Yankees came. They had some houses there. They built ’em. They stayed there a good while until all the Yankees left. When the Yankees first came in they camped over near Dix Hill, when they come into town you hardly knew where they come from. They were jist like blue birds. They jist covered the face of the earth. They came to our house and took our sumpin’ to eat. Yes sir, they took our sumpin’ to eat from us Negroes. My daddy didn’t like deir takin’ our rations so he went to de officer and tole him what his men had done, and the officers had sumpin’ to eat sent over there.

My mammy cooked some fur de officers too. Dey had a lot of crackers. Dey called ’em hard tack. The officers brought a lot of ’em over dere. We lived near the Confederate trenches jist below the Fayetteville Crossin’ on Fayetteville Street. The breastworks were right near our house.

I know when the colored men farmed on share craps, dey were given jist enough to live on, and when a white man worked a mule until he wuz worn out he would sell him to de colored man. De colored man would sometime buy ‘im a old buggy; den he wuz called rich. People went to church den on steer carts, that is colored folks, most uv ’em. De only man I wurked for along den who wud gib me biscuit through de week wuz a man named June Goodwin. The others would give us biscuit on Sundays, and I made up my mind den when I got to be a man to eat jist as many biscuits as I wanted; and I have done jist dat.

My mammy used to hire me out to de white folks. I worked and made jist enough to eat and hardly enough clothes to wear to church until I wuz a man. I worked many a day and had only one herrin’ and a piece of bread for dinner. You know what a herrin’ fish is? ‘Twon’t becase I throwed my money away, twas cause we didn’t git it, nuther to save up. When we farmed share crap dey took all we made. In de fall we would have to split cord wood to live through de winter.

I will tell you now how I got my start off now, I am going to use dis man’s name. I went to work for a man name George Whitaker. I drive a wagon for him. He ‘lowed me all de waste wood for my own use. This wuz wood dat would not sell good on de market. I hauled it over home. I worked for him till he died, en his wife lowed me a little side crap. I made this crap, took de money I got for it, and built a little storehouse. I disremember how long I worked fer Mis’ Hannah Whitaker. Den I quit work for her and went to work for myself. I owns dat little storehouse yit, de one I worked wid Mis’ Hannah Whitaker, en from dat I bought me a nudder home.

When de Yankees come to Raleigh dere wuz a building dey called de Governor’s Palace, it stood whur de Auditorium now stands. Right back o’ where de courthouse now stands wuz a jail and a gallows an’ a whuppin’ pos’ all dere together. I know when dey built de Penitentiary dey hauled poles from Johnston County. Dey called dem Johnston County poles. Dey hauled em in on trains. Dis post office wuz not built den. De post office den wuz built of plank set up an’ down.

I remember seeing a man hung down at de jail. His name wuz Mills. He wuz a white man. When he got on de scaffold he said, ‘What you gwine to do to me do it quick and be done wid it’.

I think Abraham Lincoln done the colored man a heap of good. If it hadn’t been for Mr. Roosevelt there are many livin’ today who would have parished to death. There are plenty of people walkin’ about now who would have been dead if Mr. Roosevelt had not helped them. The only chance I had to hold my home wuz a chance given me through him. At my age, I cannot make much at work, but through things he helped me, and I is holding my own.

From Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (1841).

In the 1850 census of Raleigh, Wake County: Alfred Wavy, 25, Kazina, 38, Lewis H. Wavy, 2, and Syntha H. Scott, 14. But: in Camp Creek, Rutherford County: William Scott, 25, Cynda, 17, Rufus, 16, Wesley, 15, and Mary Scott, 6 months.

In the 1860 census of Alamance County: Wm. Scott, 24, fireman, wife Synthia, 23, and children May J., 3, Saml, 1, and Jane, 2 months.

William Scott. Died 14 June 1945, Raleigh, Wake County. Resided 601 Church St. Colored. Widower. Laborer. Born 5 Aug 1852 in Wake County to William Scott and Senthia Scott. Buried Mount Hope, Raleigh. Informant, Pinkie Hall.

Opens at once both earth and heaven.

I went to my mistress and inquired what was her price for me. She said a thousand dollars. I then told her that I wanted to be free, and asked her if she would sell me to be made free. She said she would; and accordingly I arranged with her, and with the master of my wife, Mr. Smith, already spoken of, for the latter to take my money  and buy of her my freedom, as I could not legally purchase it, and as the laws forbid emancipation except, for “meritorious services.” This done, Mr. Smith endeavored to emancipate me formally, and to get my manumission recorded; I tried also; but the court judged that I had done nothing “meritorious,” and so I remained, nominally only, the slave of Mr. Smith for a year; when, feeling unsafe in that relation, I accompanied him to New York whither he was going to purchase goods, and was there regularly and formally made a freeman, and there my manumission was recorded. I returned to my family in Raleigh, and endeavored to do by them as a freeman should. I had known what it was to be a slave, and I knew what it was to be free.

But I am going too rapidly over my story. When the money was paid to my mistress and the conveyance fairly made to Mr. Smith, I felt that I was free. And a queer and a joyous feeling it is to one who has been a slave. I cannot describe it, only it seemed as though I was in heaven. I used to lie awake whole nights thinking of it. And oh, the strange thoughts that passed through my soul, like so many rivers of light; deep and rich were their waves as they rolled; — these were more to me than sleep, more than soft slumber after long months of watching over the decaying, fading frame of a friend, and the loved one laid to rest in the dust. But I cannot describe my feelings to those who have never been slaves; then why should I attempt it? He who has passed from spiritual death to life, and received the witness within his soul that his sins are forgiven, may possibly form some distant idea, like the ray of the setting sun from the far off mountain top, of the emotions of an emancipated slave. That opens heaven. To break the bonds of slavery, opens up at once both earth and heaven. Neither can be truly seen by us while we are slaves.

[Footnote omitted.] From THE NARRATIVE OF LUNSFORD LANE, FORMERLY OF RALEIGH, N. C., Embracing an account of his early life, the redemption by purchase of himself and family from slavery, And his banishment from the place of his birth for the crime of wearing a colored skin. PUBLISHED BY HIMSELF (1842).

James Boon.

James Boon (1808-1850s or later) was a free black carpenter active in North Carolina from the 1820s through the 1850s. As historian John Hope Franklin relates, the rare if not unique survival of the personal papers of this free black artisan provides an important window into the ‘common experiences, the fortunes, both good and ill, which all free Negroes had.’ Boon was evidently born to a free mother and was apprenticed at 18 to Franklin County carpenter William Jones until the age of 21. In 1829, he received a paper that served as a pass, stating ‘James Boon, a boy of colour who was bound to William Jones by this court’ was ‘ordered to be liberated and set free.’

“Boon led a mobile life and carried with him passes and letters of reference from employers and prominent citizens to affirm his free status and good work. He worked first around Louisburg in construction and furniture making. In the mid-1830s, he went to Raleigh, possibly to help build the Duncan Cameron House (1835-1836). He traveled to Littleton in 1839 and to rural Halifax County in 1842. A reference to ‘Boon’ in Skinner family correspondence suggests that he worked on the Greek Revival style plantation house Linden Hall (1841-1844) near Littleton for Charles and Susan Little Skinner; there are also references to ‘Mr. Bragg’ (probably Thomas Bragg, Sr.) and ‘Jones’ (possibly Albert Gamaliel Jones). One of his employers, R. H. Mosby, affirmed in 1842 that Boon was ‘an orderly and well behaved man, and attentive to his business. His work is executed better and with more taste than any persons within my knowledge in this section of country.’ In 1848, James Boon joined his brothers and a friend seeking work in Wilmington. He then went to Raleigh in 1849, where he was employed by the prominent builder Dabney Cosby on various projects. There he hired other workmen to help on ‘Mr. D. Cosby’s work.’ On October 27, 1850, Cosby wrote him a reference stating that ‘Jim Boon’ had been in his employ ‘for some time’ and was ‘a good workman.’

“Boon sometimes worked alone but also hired as many as nine workmen, including whites, slaves, and free blacks. He charged $1.25 a day for his own time and $0.50 cents to $1.00 for his employees. He owned one slave, Lewis, and land in Franklin County, which he occasionally mortgaged. Boon did not learn to read and write, but William Jones, who remained a friend, helped him in business matters. Various receipts note payment for such jobs as ‘Mill House 30 by 36, Ten feet pitch, Two stories, three floors, 12 windows and ten doors, weatherboarding dressed plain strong work,’ or for a more finished project, ‘24 lights glass, 12 x 15, Pilasters rose blocks–inside double architraves.’

“James Boon’s family included a brother, Carter Evans. Boon’s first wife was Sarah, a literate slave who belonged to Maria Stallings. They had a son who went to Raleigh with his father in 1849. (James Boon does not appear in the 1850 census.) In 1854, Boon married Mahaly Buffalo in Raleigh. His last record was in 1857; his death date is unknown.”

Author: Catherine W. Bishir.  Published 2009.

As published in North Carolina Architects and Builders: A Biographical Dictionary,  (All rights retained.) This web site is a growing reference work that contains brief biographical accounts, building lists, and bibliographical information about architects, builders, and other artisans who planned and built North Carolina’s architecture.  

John Anthony Copeland Jr.


John Anthony Copeland, Jr. (1834–1859) was born free in Raleigh, North Carolina, to John Anthony Copeland, who was born into slavery in 1808, and Delilah Evans, born free in 1809. Copeland, Sr. was emancipated about 1815. The family lived near Hillsborough, North Carolina, until 1843, when the family migrated to Cincinnati and then Oberlin, Ohio, where some of his wife’s brothers and their families also lived.

John Copeland, Jr. worked as a carpenter and briefly attended Oberlin College. As a young man, he became involved in the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society.  In September, 1858, with his uncles Henry and Wilson Bruce Evans, Copeland was one of the thirty-seven men involved in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue to free John Price, a runaway slave who had been captured and held by authorities under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. The men freed the slave and helped him escape to Canada.

In September 1859, Copeland was recruited to John Brown’s armed group by his uncle, Lewis Sheridan Leary. Brown led twenty-one followers, sixteen white and five black men, and captured the armory guards of Harpers Ferry, then part of Virginia, where they took control of the Federal arsenal. The raiders were soon pinned down by Virginia militiamen until U.S. marines led by Robert E. Lee arrived to apprehend them.

At Harper’s Ferry, Copeland and John Henry Kagi, a white raider, were to seize control of Hall’s Rifle Works. Kagi and several others were killed while swimming across the Shenandoah River to escape. Copeland was captured alive, and he, John Brown, and five others were held for federal trial.  Copeland was found guilty of treason and murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Six days before his execution, he wrote to his brother, referring to the American Revolution:

“And now, brother, for having lent my aid to a general no less brave [than George Washington], and engaged in a cause no less honorable and glorious, I am to suffer death. Washington entered the field to fight for the freedom of the American people – not for the white man alone, but for both black and white. Nor were they white men alone who fought for the freedom of this country. The blood of black men flowed as freely as the blood of white men. Yes, the very first blood that was spilt was that of a negro…But this you know as well as I do, … the claims which we, as colored men, have on the American people.”

Copeland’s family continued his struggle by taking up arms during the Civil War. His father served as a cook for the 55th Ohio Infantry, and his younger brother Henry E. Copeland served as a first sergeant in Douglass’s Independent Battery of Colored Artillery in Kansas.

Adapted from Photo courtesy of Kansas Historical Society.

This alarm is altogether unfounded.

THE FREE NEGROES. – We understand that some of the free negroes in this community are alarmed for their personal safety.  This alarm is altogether unfounded, for we feel well assured that no free negro who conducts himself properly will suffer any harm.  We would suggest to the free negroes here to do as their brethren did at Newbern – volunteer to work in the cause of the State.  They can be made useful in working upon forts, magazines, arsenals, breastworks, &c. – Register.

Weekly Standard, Raleigh, 1 May 1861.