Standing Vigilant – an old dwelling place ever-watchful in Bertie County


Joseph Thomas [III] is believed to have been born in the early 1740’s Bertie County. He is also believed to be the same Joseph Thomas who removed to Wake County before his death ca. 1818/19 in Chatham County. It’s deeply entrenched into family lore that his middle name is Luther and that he married a person named Martha or Patsy. I’ve found no proof of either.

Joseph’s father, Joseph Thomas [II] died ca. 1757 following the 1752 writing of a last will and testament mentioning his namesake son thusly:

4th I give to my son Joseph Thomas my land & plantation whereon I now live and all my stock of mare cattle that belongs to the sd. plantation except what cattle I have given to my wife and two three year old horses two breeding mares one young horse six sows and piggs one negro boy named Bason and Liberty if he sees proper to make a plantation on the south east side of the Spring Branch in case his mother is living when he is at age to him and assignees forever.

Shortly after the death of Joseph Thomas [II], his widow Anne Thomas married ca. 1762 to John Hill Junior. As her children came of age and in a way likely complicated by Anne’s marriage, the courts became clogged with records reflecting shifts in the family dynamic.

In a 1760 deed, one of the sisters of Joseph Thomas [III] is, for the first time, identified as being married. Mary and her husband Solomon Asbell sell land that was passed to the said Mary through her father’s last will and testament. The land is clearly shown in the following two records.

From her father’s 1752 last will and testament:

5th I give and demise unto my daughter Mary Thomas my land that now belongs John Spivey a minor my said land I now give to my said daughter Mary is now in the occupation of Hardy Keel

And, here’s the deed reflecting the above bequeath:

[I-423 Bertie, 29 Mar 1760, Oct 1760] Solomon (x) Asbell & his wife Mary (x) to William Holmes. Being 640 acres part of which was devised to sd. Mary by the will of her father Joseph Thomas dec’d joining Roanoke River, John Blount, Thomas Busby, Richard Melton. Wit: John Francis Spivey, Samuel Hail, Mordecia (x) White.

Note that land identified in the last will and testament as belonging to John Spivey is later sold with the said John Spivey serving as witness. At the time of sale he is known as John Francis Spivey. Just a few years later, in 1763, Michael Thomas served alongside Adam Raby as co-administrator for the estate of the above mentioned John Francis Spivey. Michael is a son of Joseph Thomas [II]. And, as for the mentioned Hardy Keel, he must not have lived much longer. Following the 1752 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II] and before his death ca. 1757, the same Joseph Thomas [II] served as administrator of the estate of Hardy Keel deceased. The two must have been respectfully friends however criminal action papers in Bertie County show that on 18 Mar 1745 Joseph Thomas [II] may have taken a gelding with saddle and harness from the said Hardy Keel.

Hardy Keal.jpg

In the fall of 1762, Michael Thomas, brother of Mary and Joseph Thomas [III] sold land to their step-father John Hill [Jr]. Note the witness is Solomon Asbell who is Mary’s husband and a brother-in-law to Joseph Thomas [III].

[K-188, Bertie, 9 Oct 1762, Oct 1762] Michael Thomas planter of Bertie to John Hill planter of same. 547 acres on the north side of Pellmell called Moborn Hills. Wit: Solomon (x) Asbell, Thomas Bass.

And then, in early 1763, the young Joseph Thomas [III] is coming of age to work and is therefore bound out to David Turner to learn the trade of Joiner and Cabinet Maker. He is to remain with said Turner till reaching the age of 16. And just a few months after this indenture is recorded, Michael, the brother of Joseph Thomas [III], is appointed guardian to their brother Josiah Thomas. Note that Colonel Thomas Whitmell and Arthur Williams provided security for the guardianship of Josiah Thomas. The two men were co-executors along with the widow Anne for the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II].

Feb 1763, Bertie – Ordered that Joseph Thomas orphan of Joseph Thomas Dec’d be bound to David Turner to learn the trade of a Joiner and Cabinet Maker of ye. Age of sixteen years.

May (1763?), Bertie – Ordered that Michael Thomas be appointed guardian to Josiah Thomas on his giving security in the sum of two hundred pounds proclamation money which security is given by Collo. Thomas Whitmell & Arthur Williams.

Likely marking a coming of age, land was deeded to Josiah Thomas from his step-father John Hill. The land was given in consideration of the last will and testament of Josiah’ father who was Joseph Thomas [II] deceased. From their father’s will it’s clear that Michael and Josiah were bequeathed adjoining lands:

3dly I give and devise unto my son Josiah Thomas my land and plantation whereon Nathaniel Keel now lives, it being bounded and joining the land I gave to my son Michael and Thomas Blounts land and all my stock of cattle on the sd land that is in possession of Nathaniel Keel

Whereas the corresponding deed is from step father John Hill to Josiah Thomas, in the court minutes below, the same deed is recorded as being from John Hill to “James Thomas.” Is it James or Josiah? The naming issue will continue to haunt me.

[L-80 Bertie, 15 Sep 1766, Jun 1767] John Hill to Josiah Thomas “for in consideration of last will and testament of his father Joseph Thomas deceased …a certain tract and plantation of 320 lying on the south side of Cashy River, beginning at the mouth of the Great Branch between the said Michael Thomas’ plantation running up the said branch westerly to Joseph Thomas’ line then along Joseph Thomas’ head line south to Whitmell Hill’s corner then along a line easterly to a branch called middle branch, then down said branch to Cashy Swamp and up the swamp to the first station.” Witnesses were Joseph Collins and William Boyce.

Jun 1767, Bertie – A deed of sale from John Hill to James Thomas was proved in due form of law by the oath of Joseph Collins one of the subscribing witnesses and on motion ordered to be registered.

In the fall of 1767, there are two guardianship records that really peak my curiosity. First, in Sept 1767, “William Thomas, orphan of Joseph Thomas” being about fifteen years old is bound until age twenty in order to learn the trade of cooper from James Slatter. Joseph [II] did not name a son William in his last will and testament. However, from this guardian order we know that the said William would have been born around 1752 about the time Joseph Thomas [II] wrote his last will and testament. It works.

Also in September 1767, “James Thomas, an orphan of Joseph Thomas” aged about thirteen years was apprenticed to Joseph Thomas until he arrives at the age of twenty one years to learn the trade of joiner. Joseph Thomas [II] is dead and his son James choses brother Joseph Thomas [III] to be his guardian] Knowing that Joseph [II] had a brother James who died ca. 1749/50, it would have been a rightful honor to name a son after him. Especially because Judith, the widow of the said James was living on land that Joseph Thomas [II] acquired through the death of his brother James. From the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II]:

6thly I give and demise to my daughter Elizabeth Thomas my land and plantation whereon Judeth Thomas now lives it being the land that fell to me by the death of my brother James Thomas.

And knowing the orphan James was 13 years of age in 1767, he could have rightfully been born ca. 1754 after his father’s will was made and before the death of the said Joseph Thomas [II]. And also, knowing that Joseph Thomas [III] had been indentured in 1763 to David Turner, it would have only been proper for young James to work as joiner under the tutelage of his older brother who was learning the same trade ….see? However, I do have a real question. Was the above deed from step father John Hill meant for son James as the court record shows or for Josiah as the deed shows? It bothers me.

Sep 1767, Bertie – Ordered that William Thomas, orphan of Joseph Thomas aged about fifteen years be bound an apprentice unto James Slatter until he arrives at the age of twenty to learn the trade of a cooper.

Sep 1767, Bertie – ordered that James Thomas orphan of Joseph Thomas aged about thirteen years be apprentice to Joseph Thomas until he arrive at the age of twenty one years to learn the trade of joiner.

A Few Indentures

Looking back at the indenture of Joseph Thomas [III] to David Turner, let’s discuss the life of said David Turner. And remember that Joseph Thomas [III] was indentured to him to learn the trade of Joiner and Cabinet Maker.

Tax lists show Anne Thomas as head of household following the death of her husband Joseph Thomas [II]. And then Anne falls off the lists after her marriage to John Hill Jr. who later appears on the tax lists along with the very influential John Hill or John Hill Sr. It’s not believed they are father and son however they must surely be family.

In 1765 the tax lists shows Michael with his brother Josiah (a white servant )in the same household. Not a servant in the way you’re thinking, Michael was Josiah’s guardian. Also in 1765, Joseph Thomas [III] is listed as servant in the home of Thomas Turner and his sons Elijah and David. The tax listing confirms Joseph Thomas’ indenture. It further defines David Turner as being the son of Thomas Turner. Also important to take note are the people surrounding the listing of Joseph Thomas. You’ll see Martha Hill, widow of prominent John Hill. The daughter of Thomas Whitmel, Martha married Henry Laurence Bate before marrying John Hill. You’ll also see Francis Hobson upon whose land Hope Plantation will soon after be built. Colonel Thomas Whitmell is also listed along with his son of same name. My point here is to give a sense of the community in which Joseph Thomas [III] grew to be a man. Learn the neighbors and you’ll know more about your guy.

Tax List

I digress, ….so back to David Turner. I wonder? How does David Turner relate to Hannah Turner who would eventually marry David Stone, the son of Zedekiah Stone and his wife Elizabeth Shivers? Elizabeth happens to be the widow of the above mentioned Francis Hobson. It is said that Hannah Turner is the daughter of Simon who is the son of William.   Somehow the above David Turner is related to Hannah though the way and proof are unknown.

David Turner aspired to more than being just a cabinet maker as from 1780-1784 he served in the North Carolina House of Commons. He served again in 1790 alongside David Stone who was eventually elected Governor by the General Assembly for the years 1808-10.

Involved in the owning of slaves, David Turner died during the disgraceful period known as the “Slave Rebellion of 1802.” From the Slave Collection at North Carolina State Archives, the June 1802 examination of “David Turner’s Isaac” and of “D. Turner’s (estate) Emanuel” sadly marks the ending of David Turner’s life.


Just a year prior to his death and the Slave Rebellion, David Turner wrote a congratulatory letter to Thomas Jefferson who himself had been elected President of United States but five years earlier. In the letter David Turner speaks of our republican form of government and of shame to those who had served Britain during the Revolution. If only David Turner were here today to see how his stances on slavery are now viewed. What would he say?


Seeking closure, I found the Bertie County estate papers for David Turner. The loose papers beginning in the late summer of 1802 mention his wife Elizabeth. A lengthy Inventory lists all of David’s woodworking tools. Though years had passed since the time when Joseph Thomas [III] was indentured to learn the trade of cabinetmaking and joinery, David Turner held on to the tools that possibly brought him joy till his death. That, or they had been used as part of a proper plantation shop ran by slaves.

So, what became of Joseph Thomas [III]? Dated 31 Jul 1769, Joseph Thomas of Bertie sold to Joseph Collins 178 acres situated on the Cashy Swamp adjoining the land of Colonel West. It is believed this is the same Joseph Thomas who shows up in Wake County ca, 1772. Joseph Collins named in this transaction had earlier witnessed the last will and testament of the said Joseph Thomas’ father. Also, Joseph Collins’s son David married Annis, the widow of Michael Thomas who was brother of the said Joseph Thomas [III]. And about the land, this 178 acre piece of land originates with a purchase by his father Joseph Thomas [II] in 1742. The two transactions for this piece of land are:

[G-78 Bertie, 27 Feb 1746, Nov 1746] John Bell to Joseph Thomas, 178 acres on
NS Cashy Swamp adj. Maj. West. Wit: Thomas Castallew, Thomas Simons, Peter Day.

[L-193 Bertie, 31 Jul 1769, Sep 1769] Joseph Thomas planter of Bertie to Joseph Collins of same. Being 178 acres on Cashy River, joining West. Wit: Isaac Williams, Malichi Frazer, Anne (x) Hill.

Note that the 1769 sale by Joseph Thomas [III] was witnessed by Isaac Williams and Malichi Frazer. And, tying it all together, the deed was signed by Joseph Thomas and his mother Ann (A) Hill. From the deed we see that Joseph Thomas [III], as with his father and grandfather, never signed anything with middle initial L. His and their middle name was not Luther. That’s lore.

Never again appearing in the records of Bertie County, the said Joseph Thomas [III] is believed to be the same person who settled ca. 1772 in the newly formed Wake County. There’s no proof saying that’s not so just as there’s nothing proving it didn’t happen as many believe. That said, lore and a few collateral possibilities give us hope of a connection to this family of Bertie County through Joseph Thomas [III]. Also, my own linage may tie back similarly though Jacob who is the brother of Joseph Thomas [II]. The key word is hope and maybe that’s the way it happened.

2 thoughts on “OUR FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS (Pt 8)

  1. howard white

    my name is ed white from bertie county. i am a descendant of mordacai white and john white from isle of wight va.


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