Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: skilled trades

The Winns of Mount Olive.

On March 20, 1838 the county records show that in consideration of the sum of $19.00, Adam Winn deeded the railroad a right-of-way through his lands. In November, 1837 and again in February of 1838 the President and Directors of the railroad had appealed to the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to force Winn to sell them a right-of-way. At that point the railroad was getting near the county line. Winn sold in 1838. It is believed that  Winn’s land lies along present day Center Street.

The 1838 deed to the railroad stated that the adjoining lands to the north belonged to Basil Kornegay, a rich Duplin County planter, member of the state House of Commons in 1814, and brother-in-law of William Rufus King, Vice-President under Franklin Pearce. The adjoining land of Winn’s was owned by Charles Winn, who was a member of his family.

With Winn’s lands on the south, and Flowers’ and Slocumb’s on the north, the railroad had a clear right-of-way to Dudley. The railroad track begins at Wilmington, curves at Faison, and then runs in an almost direct line to Weldon. When it was finished in 1840, with 161 miles of track, it was the longest railroad in the world.

Charles and Levi Winn were both blacksmiths, a vital service in a community which moved almost entirely on hoof. Adam Greenfield, Samuel Parker, George Simmons, Henry Coleman, Edward Griffin and Branson Merritt were coopers. A cooper is a man who makes and repairs barrels. Eastern North Carolina had long been famous for its tar and pitch, commonly called “naval stores.”

The Winn Family

The Winn family is one of the most interesting in the area. In 1836 Ginny Winn purchased a hundred acres of land from Ezekiel Norris in the lower part of Wayne. This is the first land transaction by Winns in Wayne County, though John Kornegay of Duplin County deeded Adam Winn, also of Duplin, land on the northeast “precosin” (swamp) on September 18, 1834. This land ran into Wayne County at one point near present-day Mount Olive.

In the 1850 census the Winn family is listed as “mulatto”, but in the 1860 census they were listed as “black”. The Winn family were free blacks from Duplin County who had received their freedom prior to 1834. The Artis, Simmons and Greenfield families of Mount Olive were also free blacks, according to the1860 census.

Adam Winn was himself a slave owner, for in April 1849 he borrowed money from Benjamin Oliver of Duplin, and put up three slaves, Bethana, Martha and Oliver, as security, along with 133 acres of land. The Winns did business with the most prominent and respected white families, and through the years have generally been considered the most outstanding family of their race in the area. They have produced farmers, school teachers and tradesmen and have been leaders in the black community of Mount Olive. Adam Winn who was also one of the first magistrates of Mount Olive, had sons, William, Charles and Levi. Charles and Levi were blacksmiths, the first to be located in the village of Mount Olive. Levi Winn owned land west of the railroad which was later purchased by Dr. Roberts, and transferred in 1854 to William W. Loftin and Dr. Benjamin Franklin Cobb. William and Charles Winn also owned land in the Mount Olive area.

Extracted from John Baxton Flowers III, “Early History of Mount Olive,” Mount Olive Tribune, 7 September 1979, posted in

Freedman’s Bank depositor, no. 2.

No. 5467. Record for Geo. Hostler.  Date January 6, 1872. Where born: Fayetteville. Where brought up: ditto. Residence: Chestnut between 5th and 6th Streets. Age 35. Complexion: light brown. Occupation: barber. Works for self. Wife: Marie. Children: None. Father: Joe, dead. Mother: Hannah, dead. Brothers and Sisters: (6) Susie, Mary, Mary Isabella, Caroline, Henry [sic].

Freedman’s Bank Records, National Archives and Records Administration.

As good as any mill in the state.


I have rented the Mill on Cross Creek, formerly owned by Mr. Hall. I will carry Corn to the mill and deliver MEAL or HOMINY without charge in any part of town. I have a Dray ready always for this very purpose, and I will guarantee customers as good meal or Hominy as any mill in the State can make. I will be very thankful for a liberal share of the public patronage.   ABEL PAYNE.  March 11.

Carolina Observer, Fayetteville, 11 March 1861.


The subscriber would be pleased to grind, haul to and carry from the Mill, free of charge, at the Mill near the Gas Works, formerly Mr. Hall’s.   ABEL PAYNE. July 21, 1862.

Carolina Observer, Fayetteville, 21 July 1862.

Thomas Day.


Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker by trade, is the most celebrated of North Carolina’s antebellum craftsmen. He was born 1801 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, to a family of free, landowning African-Americans. His father, John Day, was a skilled cabinetmaker who plied other trades as well, but always relied on woodworking to bring in money. Thomas and his brother John Day were well-educated. John’s education, during which he boarded with prominent whites and attending schools with them, is documented in his later correspondence, and it is assumed that Thomas did the same. Both of the Day sons initially followed in their father’s footsteps, learning the skills of a cabinetmaker. John eventually left the trade to study theology and later moved to Liberia, becoming one of its founders by signing its Declaration of Independence.

John Day moved to Warren County by 1820 and it is believed that Thomas was with him. The Days had established themselves in the furniture business in Milton by 1823. Thomas Day became a prominent and well-respected citizen of the community. In response to an act that prohibited free blacks from immigrating into the state, Milton’s white leaders petitioned the General Assembly in 1830 to allow Day’s bride, Aquilla Wilson, a free black from Virginia, to join him. They reared two sons and a daughter. In his almost forty years in Milton, Thomas Day built an extraordinary business, employing freedmen and slaves alike to craft stock lines of furniture and to fill custom orders for furniture and interior woodworking. By 1850, Day had the largest cabinetry shop in North Carolina. He is believed to have died in about 1861, after having suffered financial losses due to the national panic of 1857.

Adapted from

In the 1850 census of Milton, Caswell County: Thomas Day, 49, cabinetmaker, born Virginia, property valued at $8000; wife Aquila, 44; son Devereux J., 17, cabinetmaker, born Milton; Mourning S. Day, 84, born VA; and Joshua Wood, 32, cabinetnaker; all mulatto except the last, who was white.

Competition? Drive it out.

The Mechanics of Washington, N.C., have formed an association, and published resolutions declaring that hereafter they will not give employment to any negro mechanic, or learn any negro boy a trade. They condemn the practice of masters letting slaves hire their own time. They refer to the influx of free negroes from Virginia, driven out by the laws of that State; and they express a determination to petition the Legislature of North Carolina to pass a similar act, or tax free negroes to raise a fund to send them to Africa. – North Carolinian.

Carolina Watchman, 15 August 1850.


Near the blacksmith shop on the old road.

I, Thomas Hollowell, of the County of Wayne and the State of North Carolina being in feeble health but of sound mind and memory do make this my last will and testament in manner and form as follows: First – I give to my wife all my household and kitchen furniture, my buggie and harness also I have one note I hold against John Hollowell in the hands of my executors for them to pay to her the amount of interest so long as she may live. My will further is that my two sons Jesse and Thomas shall furnish my wife a bountiful support and in case they shall refuse at any time, I wish for her to have a dower laid off on the lands I leave them. Second – I give to my Levi Hollowell two notes that I hold against him. Item 3rd – I give to my granddaughter Elizabeth A. Stanton one note that I hold against her brother Thomas H. Stanton. Item 4th – I give to my grandson Levi H. Massey one acre of land joining Dudley on the south side of the old road near Levi Winn‘s blacksmith shop. Item 5th – I give to my son John Hollowell two shares in the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company. Item 6th – I give to my son Jesse Hollowell all the land I own lying on the east side of my Gin Branch also the upper part in the Big Fork down to where the bend of the Branch comes nearest together, and then down the run of Big Fork to the head of the Gin Branch and then to extend down the Canal to the run of Brook’s Swamp except the privilege of enough land near the Gin House at the end of the Gin Dam to put up a cotton screw also two shares in the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company, also two lots in Dudley known as No. 5 and No. 15. Item 7th – I give to my son Thomas L. Hollowell all the land I own on the west side of said Gin Branch from the line marked out for Jesse Hollowell to the aforesaid Brook’s Swamp also one share in the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company, two lots in Dudley known as No. 13 and 14, and one note that I hold against the said Thomas L. Hollowell. Item 8th – I wish my executors hereafter named to pay all of my just debts out of my estate not heretofore named and given away. Item 9th – My will and desire is that the balance of the amount due my estate in John Hollowell’s hands after paying the interest to my wife during her life and the balance of my estate after paying my debts to be equally divided between my living children and to those deceased to the heirs of their body. Lastly – I constitute and appoint my son John Hollowell and my grandson Levi H. Massey Executors to this my last will and testament hereby revoking all other wills by me made this 25th of 10th month A.D. 1861. Thomas Hollowell. Sealed in the presence of – Mary E. Hollowell, Jesse T. Hollowell.

Proved November Term 1865.

Book R14, Page 239, Wayne County Superior Court Clerk’s Office, Wayne County Courthouse.

James, an industrious, sober and honest barber and hairdresser.

State of North Carolina, Chowan County  }   June Term 1795

To the worshipful the County Clerk of Please and Quarter Sessions for the County of Chowan the petition of John Cunningham Humbly Sheweth that your petitioners Father died when he was very Young leaving a Valuable but unproductive Estate for the Support of your Petitioner and his Mother, consisting principally of Young Slaves, among whom is a Mulatto Male Slave by the Name of James, the profits of whose labour, has greatly if not principally contributed to the Maintenance & Support of your Petitioner thru a long Minority and an expensive course of Education. Your petitioner further Sheweth that the great profit which he has derived from the labour of the said Slave James has been owing as well to the great assiduity and attention of the said James in acquiring & presenting himself in the Trade of Mystery of a Barber & Hair Dresser as to his Industry sobriety and honesty Your petitioner further Sheweth that during a very dangerous and lingering Sickness last Spring (1794) the attention of the said James was such as cannot fail to inspire the highest gratitude in him in consideration whereof and as a reward for the past faithful Services of the said James, your Petitioner is willing and desirous to Manumit or set him free conceiving that no less a reward will be commiserate to the Services rendered, but as to guard against the great injuries & inconvenienced which might result from the indiscriminate Manumission of Slaves the legislature have Wisely provided that no Slave shall be manumitted except for Meritorious services to be approved of by the County Court, your petitioner is prevented from effecting his intentions without the aid and assistance of your Worships. May it thereof please your Worships taking the past character and faithful and meritorious Services of the said James into consideration to order & Decree that he may be Manumitted & Set free agreeable to the Directions of the act of the General Assembly in Such Cases Made and provided And your petitioner as in Duty bound shall ever pray &c.     John Cunningham

Miscellaneous Slave Records, Chowan County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

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.

She is probably with her mother. Or a free negro.

$20 REWARD. Ranaway from the subscriber, on the evening of the 18th inst., a mulatto woman by the name of LUCY. Said woman is about 23 years old, slender frame, but now quite corpulent, of ordinary bright, and will probably weight 120 to 140 lbs., short hair, with rather a bony face, and is quite intelligent.

Said woman is probably harbored by her mother, owned by J.A. Worth, and Bill Bruinton, a free negro, with whom she has been very intimate. I will pay the above reward of $20 if she is delivered to me or lodged in the Jail of this County, or I will pay $50 if she is taken in any other county and confined in the Jail of the same.  JNO. D. WILLIAMS. Fayetteville, July 12, 1862.

Fayetteville Observer, 4 August 1862.


Ranaway, a mulatto woman by the name of LUCY, about 23 years old, of medium size, but now quite corpulent.

Said woman is probably in or near Town, but may have been led off in the direction of Newbern by Bill Bruinton, a free mulatto man who has been at work as a Carpenter probably on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad at a Depot North of Warsaw. I will pay $25 for the delivery of the girl to me or lodged in Jail in town, if found in this County, or $50 if said girl is found in any other County and confined in the Jail of the same, the party arresting giving me early information of the same.  JNO. D. WILLIAMS. Fayetteville, Aug, 25, 1862.

Fayetteville Observer, 14 November 1862.

We ain’t knowed so much ’bout slavery.

An Interview with Anthony Ransome of 321 S. Tarboro St., Raleigh, N.C.

I reckon dat I is eighty years old, an’ I wus borned in Murfreesboro in Hertford County. My mammy wus named Annice an’ my father wus named Calvin Jones. My brothers wus named Thomas, Wesley, Charlie, Henry an’ William.

We wus borned free, my mammy bein’ de daughter of a white ‘oman, an’ my paw’s paw onct saved do life o’ his master’s chile, an’ wus freed.

My paw wus a shoemaker an’ he made a putty good livin’ fer us. Course we ain’t knowed so much ’bout slavery, but Doctor Manning who lived near us owned some slaves an’ he treated ’em bad. We could hyar ’em screamin’ at de top of dere voices onct in a while, an’ when dey got through beatin’ ’em dey wus tied down in de cellar. Dey ain’t had much ter eat nother.

Dar wus a preacher what tol’ us ’bout a member of his congregation durin’ de war. De wife wus sold from de husban’ an’ he married ag’in. Atter de war his fust wife comed back an’ atter his secon’ wife died he married de fust one ober ag’in.

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