I’m accustomed to the old south as being the way I’ve always envisioned it. Females in early records are seldom mentioned. And likewise, there is little to no mention of blacks or “people of color.” This all changed for me when I began looking at the neighborhood of Joseph Thomas and of his neighbors including Ishmael Roberts. None of what you’re about to see will be an easy read but is very much necessary in understanding what may have happened. Let’s take a look.
Dated 6 Dec 1819, Joseph Thomas’ Chatham County estate sale included purchases by several people of color:The above listed John C. Waldon, whose middle name was Chavis (a well-known and prominent African American surname) is first found in Virginia. The name later appears in records of Northampton, Warren, Wake, Randolph and then Chatham Counties North Carolina where members of the family are listed in census records as free people of color. John C Waldon purchased large amounts of land in both Chatham and Randolph Counties. On 12 Sep 1829, being ten years after the above recorded estate sale of Joseph Thomas, John Waldon wrote his last will and testament in Chatham County NC. His wife and thirteen children are named along with over 500 acres situated in both Chatham and Randolph Counties.
It is said that Allen Thomas, the son of elder Joseph Thomas [III] married Nancy Ann Weldon who is believed to be the daughter of John Weldon Esq later of Moore County. And yet, Allen Thomas owned a sizeable amount of land just to the west of the lands to be studied in this post. Curiously, the said Allen Thomas’ land adjoined that of the above mentioned John C Waldon who we know to be a person of color. There are also deeds to Bartley and James Walden and to “John Waldon” but none for John Weldon. In Aug 1821 a deed from Philip and Sally Johnson to Aaron Thomas was proved by oath of John Thomas and the private examination of the said Sarah was taken by David Reid and “John Welden” Justices of Peace for the County of Moore. Is it possible that John Waldon who buys from the estate of Joseph Thomas is the same as John Weldon who was later listed as Esquire in Moore County? If different, are we sure which family Allen Thomas married into?
And as for Ishmael Roberts in the above written estate sale, he was likely born ca. 1750 in Northampton County NC where on 6 June 1789 Ishmael was named in his mother Margaret Roberts’ last will and testament. Like others in the area, Ishmael is identified as “Free People of Color” or mulatto. He’s believed to be a mix of black and white with tribal roots of Iroquoian speaking Tuscaroran and Meherrin along with southeastern Siouan Indian. Following the conclusion of the Tuscaroran War of 1717, the culture of indigenous peoples was nearly lost through a slow mixing with other races. It was during this period when many migrated south to present day Duplin and Roberson Counties.
It’s in Roberson County where Ishmael Roberts first appears in land records. And in 1800 Robeson County, Ishmael Roberts is enumerated as head of household of 14 people of free color. As appears below, Ishmael Roberts removed again to Chatham County where he is listed similarly in 1810. Note that Ishmael’s living beside James Waldon and not far from his son Kinchen Roberts. Also, you’ll see Allen Thomas nearby along with Thomas Archy being enumerated near the bottom. And, as there’s so very much to learn by looking at the Chatham County lands of Ishmael Roberts, let’s go there next.
Circa 1800, Joseph Thomas moved from Wake County across Avent Ferry to land along the Moore and Chatham County line where he received several land grants. By 1804, Joseph Thomas began selling and gifting his lands to his sons. At that time part of the land fell into the hands of Ishmael Roberts:
MAP KEY 1 [Land Grant 168 Chatham, ent. 3 May 1779, iss. 31 Mar 1780] Being 250 acres issued to Volentine Braswell crossing Bush Creek and joining his own lines and those of Drake and Yarborough.
[N-456 Chatham, 18 Feb 1804] Micajah Thomas of Moore County to Ishmael Roberts being 250 acres on the waters of Bear (should be Bush) Creek adjoining his own and Yarbro’s land. Wit: A Harper and P. Griffis
MAP KEY 2 [Land Grant 1514 Chatham, iss. 13 Dec 1798] Being 275 acres issued to Joseph Thomas adjoining the county line and lands of Thomas Partridge and Micajah Thomas]
[N-437 Chatham, 18 Feb 1804] Joseph Thomas of Chatham to Ishmael Roberts, being 100 acres on the Cape Fear joining Thomas Partridge and son Micajah Thomas. Wit: A Harper and P. Griffis. In pink below, this was a horizontal strip cut from the northern end of a tract originally granted to Volentine Braswell.
Starting in 1808, Ishmael lost part of the above 250 acres of land due to indebtedness. However, within three years the same land returned back to him. Take a look at how the following two conveyances illuminate that situation:
MAP KEY 1 [P-118 Chatham, 12 Feb 1808] George Gee Esq Sherriff to Abraham Harper “whereas by virtue of an execution issuing from the county court of Chatham against Ishmael Roberts for the sum of 16 pounds of which said sum was recovered by Thomas Stokes.” The 250 acres Ishmael had purchased from Micajah Thomas per deed [N-456 Chatham] was sold to pay the debt. Wit: B Lightfoot, Francis Jones.
MAP KEY 1 [S-26 Chatham, 14 Aug 1811] Thomas Ragland & Henry Branson Administrators of Abraham Harper deceased to Ishmael Roberts. Being a certain tract of 260 acres “sold by execution of the instance of Thomas Stokes on 9 Nov 1807 belonging to Ishmael Roberts and bought by the Abraham Harper deceased.” Wit: Zach Harmon.
Before continuing, let’s look at a few other surrounding tracts once owned by the Thomas family. You’ll notice deeds amongst brothers and possibly including Uncles and Nephews:
MAP KEY 3 [Land Grant 1511 Chatham, iss. 13 Dec 1798] Assigned to John Thomas from Jos Thomas being 95 acres on the county line and adjoining the lands of Micajah Thomas and Parham.
MAP KEY 3 [U-447 Chatham, 21 Apr 1817, Aug 1817] Frederick Thomas of Moore County to Aaron Thomas of Chatham being 95 acres. Wit: Wm. Avent, John Griffin.
And another Tract:
MAP KEY 4 [Land Grant 497 Chatham, ent 14 Aug 1779, iss 31 Mar 1780] Being 100 acres issued to Bird Braswell adjoining the Cumberland County line and lands of Joseph Yarborough. CC: Henry Braswell, Seth Cotton. Note that Bird Braswell was a Revolutionary War Soldier who had moved to Hancock County GA.
MAP KEY 4 [E-156 Chatham, 8 Oct 1790] Bird Braswell to William Parham. Wit: John Womack, Nicholas Hardin.
MAP KEY 4 [K-417 Chatham, 27 Apr 1799, William (x) Parham to Lewis Parham. Wit: Benjamin Spivey.
MAP KEY 4 [L-24 Chatham, 1800] Lewis Parham to Micajah Thomas. Wit: Frances Parham, Benjamin Pollard.
MAP KEY 4 [M-629 Chatham, 9 Jan 1805] Micajah Thomas to Frederick Thomas being the lower and smaller section adjoining the county line. Wit: James Stephens, Joseph Thomas.
MAP KEY 4 [ Chatham, 1 Apr 1817] Frederick Thomas to Aaron Thomas. Wit: Wm. Avent, John C. Griffin.
MAP KEY 4 [M-641 Chatham, 9 Jan 1805] Micajah (x) Thomas of Moore County to Ishmael Roberts being 57 acres and the larger pick shaded upper portion of the tract. Wit: Joseph Thomas, James Stephens.
Over eight years following Ishmael Robert’s first purchases in Chatham, Ishmael Roberts purchased another piece of land before his children appear in land records:
MAP KEY 5 [V-131 Chatham, 10 Apr 1818] Allen Thomas for 76 dollars to Ishmael Roberts, being 102 acres on the branch of Little Lick Creek it being part of two tracts granted to James Rains per # 1487 & 1742. This tract adjoins the said Roberts’ line, Elizabeth Rush’s line, and a stake on Little Lick Creek at the mouth of Little Lick Branch. Wit: Thos. Springfield.
The title history for the tract adjoining to the east is very interesting and ends with a larger deed for 527 acres likely including the following land:
MAP KEY 5 [Land Grant 493 Chatham, 23 Aug 1779, 31 Mar 1780] Listed as being 300 acres granted to Nicholas Partridge, later conveyances are for 154 acres. The tract adjoins lands of Drake, Henry Braswell, Abner Hill. It crosses Henry Branch and the Ferry Line near the road.
MAP KEY 5 [X-320 Chatham, 15 Aug 1821] James A. M Carroll and Cornelius and Eliz. Tyson to Kinchen Roberts being 154 acres and 2/3 part of a certain tract adjoining Drake’s corner, Braswell’s corner, Abner Hill’s line, across Henry Branch, and across the ferry road.
MAP KEY 5 and MORE [Z-1 Chatham, 23 Sep 1825] Ishmael Roberts to John H. Levin of Wake. For 1,000 dollars . The land whereon I now live and also the tracts whereon his sons James and Aaron lives meaning the land he purchased of Micajah Thomas, Joseph Thomas, and Allen Rains except 33 acres which he the said Ishmael Roberts sold to Frederick Thomas containing 527 acres on Bush Creek and Little Lick Creek adjoining the lands of Jerry Yarborough, Nathan Yarborough, Aaron Thomas, Allen Thomas, and the land whereon Mrs. Rush now lives and others …that the aforesaid tract is conveyed in trust viz; that whereas the aforesaid Ishmael Roberts is justly indebted to Joseph Hawkins in the sum of 136 dollars. Wit: Green Bobbitt.
MAP KEY 2 [A.BA-134 Chatham, 25 Dec 1828] Kinchen Roberts to Thomas Springfield being the 154 acres in deed [X-320 Chatham]. Wit: Edmund J Drake, William Sloan.
MAP KEY 5 [ AD1-354 Chatham, 4 Nov 1835] Thomas Springfield to Joseph Avent. Wit: Wm Avent, Nathan Clegg.
Beginning in 1825, and nearing his death, Ishmael Roberts began selling off lands to his sons.
MAP KEY 2 [A.AA Chatham, 12 Feb 1825] Ishmael Roberts to Aaron Roberts for 150 dollars being 100 acres formerly adjoining Thomas Partridge and Micajah Thomas. Being the top portion shaded in pink, this is a portion of a grant assigned to John Thomas by his father Joseph Thomas. Wit: Wm. Campbell, Lunceford Dickens.
MAP KEY 1 [A.BA-221 Chatham, 8 Feb 1825] Ishmael Roberts to Richard Roberts for $400 being a tract of 100 acres on the Bush Creek. This is the lower unshaded or green section of the tract beginning at a stake on south side of Bush Creek deemed in Nathaniel Yarborough’s line S1 E with Yarborough’s line 23.70 ch to dead pine then S 81 W with James Roberts’ line 18.34 to stake among pointers sd James’ corner S 2.50 to stake , the S 89 W31.68 ch to Bush Creek then down the creek to begin. Wit: Wm. Campbell, Aaron Thomas.
MAP KEY 6 [A.BA-330 Chatham, 12 Sep 1828] Pardon B Roberts to Isham Rosser for 75 dollars containing 102 acres it being part of two tracts granted to James Roberts and the same and as sold by Allen Thomas to Ishmael Roberts per [V-131 Chatham]. Wit. Wm. Avent, Micajah Rosser.
Per the 1829 final estate settlement of Ishmael Roberts, the heirs sold a remaining 160 acre tract being the northern portion of the grant issued in 1780 to Thomas Springfield. As shown in the plat below, a year earlier Kinchen Roberts as representative of the heirs sold a small strip of the same land which originated with Voluntine Braswell. Not on any family histories, the plat below from Ishmael Roberts’ final estate names Thomas Springfield to be an heir. Huh?
[A.BA-186 Chatham, 3 Apr 1829] Kinchen Roberts to Thomas Springfield for 18 dollars all my interest of the undivided the lands of Ishmael Roberts deceased being a legatee of Ishmael Roberts deceased the lands being on Bush Creek adjoining the Rossers, Yarborough, Thomas and others supposed to be 150 acres. Wit: Edmund J Drake, Benja Springfield.
[A.BA-304 Chatham, 2 Feb 1830] Pardon B Roberts, Jonathan Roberts, Etheldred Roberts, James Roberts, Benjamin Roberts, Elias Roberts, Ishmael Roberts, Aaron Roberts, Richard Roberts, Zachariah Roberts, Elizabeth Archer, Mary Roberts, Margaret Lucas, Delphia Trevin, Rebecca Roberts, and Sylvia Roberts of Chatham to John W. Judd for total of $367 do sell 160 acres on Bush Creek beginning on the band of the sd creek in Nathan Yarborough’s line a horn beam corner then Ne 15.50 ch to a stake in Jeremiah Yarborough’s line, then with that line W 33.50 ch to Yarborough’s corner, then with his other line N 9 to Springfield’s line then with Springfields line W 24.75 to stake, S49.40 to stake in Aaron Thomas’ line then east with his line 7.50 to Bush Creek near below said Thomas’ mill, then down the sd creek to Richard Robert’s line it’s meanders to the beginning. Wit: Aaron Thomas, Yarborough.
As I hope you can ascertain from the above, the family of Ishmael Roberts as free people removed from Robeson County and chose to live near Joseph Thomas in Chatham County. And there were others who did also. Why did they choose Chatham? And what was there about 1800 that made it necessary or desirable to move? These folks bought and sold from each other and they were there at the death of Joseph Thomas. They were neighbors and to the degree they were neighborly I’m yet to fully understand. But know that Ishmael was a revolutionary war soldier who served from 3 June 1777 to 3 June 1778 as a private in Colonel Abraham Shepherd’s Company. Colonel Shepherd gave him a certificate which stated that Ishmael was furloughed at Head Quarters Valley Forge to come home with “me” who was enlisted in my regiment for the term of three years …and returned home with me. A patriot serving under Abraham Sheppard. I find it curious that Ishmael Roberts chose to settle on lands along the county line nearby or once belonging to John and Andrew Sheppard. Is there anything to that? There are many remaining questions and it’s my hope that work will be done to bring further light to the North Carolina side of this wonderful story.