NECKS AND ANKLES

Attending NC State University in the late 1970’s, one of my most cherished experiences grew from the opportunity to meet and share time with other students who were enrolled in the various life sciences programs. Whether studying Ag. Engineering or participating in other programs such as the Ag Institute, these young folks were unlike myself. They grew up with a dream and their life plan was already in place before ever enrolling in school.

Coming off family farms or some related industry, these kids had a sense of pride different from the rest of us. Back then, and in reply to anyone who may meet and refer to them as being a redneck, these students were quick to let you know, hell yeah …and don’t forget where your food comes from either!” To them the derogatory label wasn’t even complete as they would proudly show you their “red neck, brown arms and white back.”

It’s from experiences like this where I began to build my way among the wide range of possible life ambitions. And as a part of the making of me, I learned who rednecks really were and began to appreciate their role within our greater society. Such lessons learned from fellow students have remained untested until this last week when I stumbled upon the following entry in the 1820 Chatham County Court Minutes:

William Utley who earlier lived among the neighbors of Joseph Thomas in Wake County is now appointed overseer of a road along Lick Creek in Chatham County. And hugely odd, in parenthesis beside his name, William Utley is identified as “redneck.” Wow! …and in 1820!

Labels have always been used to distinguish or even separate us from one another. For instance, in present day Randolph and Montgomery Counties runs a road called Black Ankle. From a search through the North Carolina Gazateer I found the following description for this most oddly named community. Black Ankle is:

a derisive name for an area in S central Randolph County and NE Montgomery County. Named because bootleggers operating there during Prohibition would start fires over a large area when they were operating a still so that officers of the law could not find the still. They were said to have “black ankles” from walking through the ashes of old fires to start new ones. Name also said to derive from fact that gold miners in the area stood in muck.

Also, in the state of South Carolina could once be found a people known regionally as Brass Ankles. According to Wikapedia:

The Brass Ankles of South Carolina were a “tri-racial isolate” group, as defined by anthropologists, that developed in the colonial era. They lived as free people of color successively in the areas of Charleston, Berkeley, Colleton and Orangeburg counties as they increasingly migrated away from the Low Country and into the Piedmont and frontier areas, where racial discrimination was less. They were identified by this term in the later 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They had a combination of European, African, and Native American ancestry.

The above examples originate in the late 1800’, but in truth, was such naming taking place even earlier?

Looking back to the 1820 court entry naming William Utley, that document appears much earlier than do the above mentioned examples. Was the label of redneck used to describe people who labored in the sun? Did it refer to race or was there something else at play? Doing another search with the help of Mr. Google, I learned that the term redneck goes back to the 1600’s! From the following short video found on the History Channel, it appears the term originates from a religious war in Scotland. Making its way to America, the term redneck was used to marginalize the Scottish Presbyterians who settled on England’s newly claimed land.

It’s really interesting that the area where William Utley lived in Chatham County served in some ways as the western boundaries of the early Presbyterian strongholds to the east. Is it a coincidence? There were many Scottish in Moore, Cumberland and Richmond Counties. Was William Utley a Presbyterian and if so, why was such label reserved for him without seeing it used to identify others? And, as timing is important, would such a term be used in the early 1800’s to label a person based on events more than a hundred years in the past? To me this is a known unknown.

MAY I DROP YOU A NAME?

 

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Goldston High School Six-Man Football Team – ca. 1954

 

From nearly every back wood crossroads in North Carolina can be found stories of some favorite son or daughter who left their country home to make it big. I’m talking politics, music, sports and yes, even Hollywood. Such people may be close kin, but regardless, any dropping of names is done so with pride. It’s the hope that those listening will come to realize that it’s possible for great things to be born of simple beginnings.

While visiting and researching family far from home, and if asked where I’m from, I proudly reply “from Charlotte, just a few blocks from Billy Graham’s mom.” I’m no kin to Morrow Graham but in some way her story is a part of me by way of mere proximity within the community we shared. Similarly and from many years ago in rural Union County, a happenchance stop at a little country store led me to Annie Lee Traywick who so happens to be a very close relative of country music legend Randy Travis. Randy was also born a Traywick. Annie Lee has now passed but she was a friend and in the truest sense, my mentor. More than anyone, Ms. Annie Lee gladly shared all she knew of our common homeplace in old Anson County.

In searching for my Thomas family who migrated to Cherokee County Alabama, I learned of a line that moved from that county to Marion County TN. It’s in Tennessee where I learned of Sonny Thomas who played guitar and was known as the “Fret King” by those who performed at the Grand Ole Opry. Sonny Thomas was close to Chet Atkins and is an American treasure. His name appears among those honored in the National Thumb Picking Hall of Fame.

And in telling the story of such family connections, I cannot leave out distant cousin Henry Jackson Thomas Jr. who as a child had the ability to cry on command. He was a shoo-in for the role he played as Elliott in the movie ET. Not only an actor, Henry has musical talents and expresses himself in a band called Farspeaker.

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Recently, I’ve had the chance to spend time with distant cousin Daniel Thomas who lives near Chicago. During his early childhood Daniel’s family often visited his grandparents and cousins in and around the small town of Gulf NC. Named for the deep water bend in the aptly named Deep River, the town’s only traffic light was removed years ago when it was deemed unnecessary following improvements to nearby US 421. The town is small and quaint. Dan and I had a great time retracing his family’s migration through the piedmont hills of Carolina. Visiting the Chatham County seat of Pittsboro, he reconnected with the slower days of his childhood memories while having his hair cut at the local barber shop. There’s no better place to learn about a community than through conversations found at the barber shop. We also stopped at the local History Museum where cousin Charles Thomas spoke of Chatham County and of his line of the family who lives there today. We also drove the Lower Moncure Road and Buckhorn Road where old church cemeteries were filled with our family’s past. And later, the visit was made personal as we paid respectful visits to Dan’s Aunts and cousins.


Daniel was invited to attend service at Gulf Presbyterian Church where his father is interred. It was a special day for Dan as he was joined by his cousins Keith and Darryl Hunter. And driving that Sunday morning down from Goldtson to Gulf, Dan recalled the day his dad had driven the rural road back in 1954. They were heading to Goldston to see his uncle Pat play in a local high school football game. However, a storm named Hazel was rapidly approaching and as you may guess, the game was cancelled. Dan never got to see his uncle play football and it wasn’t till much later that he learned the story of the team’s more notable player by the name of Charlie Daniels.

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It happens that our visit to Dan’s hometown coincided with Veteran’s Day at a time when the small congregation of Gulf Presbyterian Church held its second Sunday luncheon following what was a very special service. The Pledge of Allegiance was read and accompanied by a guitar duet, songs for the day included Just a Walk with Thee, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Where We’ll Never Grow Old. And then there was the meal. Seated at folding tables in the fellowship hall, it warmed the heart to see this remnant Thomas family share in conversation, good food, and the photographic snapshots of their collective past. And in the group photo below, local celebrity Russell Palmer also joined in.

As was shared with me, the photo at the top of the page captures the1954 Goldston High School football team. Second from the left in the photo is Dan’s Uncle Pat. And to the far right is a big kid wearing a much darker jersey. That’s because they didn’t have a matching jersey big enough to fit the kid named Charlie Daniels. As you may have already guessed, we all know Charlie for his music and the mean fiddle he plays. But where did it all begin?

I’m in no way qualified to tell the story as it’s best to direct you to a wonderful must-read article that appears in Our State Magazine. I can say though, that as a curious young man, Charlie Daniels sat down with his friend Russell Palmer (photo above) who first introcued him to guitar by way of a few chords. It’s from that humble beginning the country music legend credits his starting point. Back in 2006 Charlie Daniels was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In acknowledgement of his roots, Charlie invited Russell Palmer to join him onstage for a celebratory performance. The circle is complete.  Please read the article linked above!

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I could end this as is, but let me drop one more name. My second cousin Tony Thomas plays guitar with a local Union County band called the Pine Ridge Boys. Tony is also close friends with Ricky Traywick, the brother of singer Randy Travis. Recently, Cousin Tony Thomas joined with Ricky Traywick in writing a song honoring the life of Randy Travis. The song was played at a nationally televised tribute to Randy Travis who’s clawing his way back following a life changing stroke.

I’m always reminded that we all have value, playing our part in making this country what it truly is. But, it’s only human nature for us to drop names, to be prideful of those among us who have made it big. It’s okay. It’s okay to share the stories of others as if they are your own. Such stories serve as examples steering the dreams of future generations. However, it’s all just a matter of how we draw upon our circles of life and influence. For me, it’s a gift that our life stories intersect with those of people like Randy, Charlie, Henry, and Sonny. It provides a sense of hope among all of us who are utterly unknown. It’s a surprise celebration for those of us living life quietly and simply in our own way.

 

 

OUR FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS (Pt 8)

 

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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?

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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.

PROVING HER RIGHTS: A Correction To Be Made

 

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I love putting it all out there. And when it’s online it’s even better!

Many folk list their strings of begetting along with a few documents aimed at putting a little meat to the bone.  Sadly, they miss out on the opportunity to learn and share with others who may hold much more background or understanding. We never know who’ll stop and read our written thoughts so why not put them all out there!

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From my last post Red, White, and Black; I readdressed a record that has stumped me since first seeing it. From Bertie County court minutes, two entries from 1742 read:

Feb 1742, Bertie – Alice Thomas proved her rights vizt: Alice Thomas, James Thomas, Jacob Thomas, Mary Thomas whites & York, Rose, Ned, Simon, Philis & Penny Blacks. Ind.

Aug 1742, Bertie – Joseph Thomas on oath proved his rights to wit: Joseph Thomas, Anne Thomas & Michael Thomas & Mary Thomas white persons.

Trying to make sense of the above, I had figured the entries had something to do with the death of Joseph Thomas [I] and a need of clarification before the courts relating to the new family dynamic following his death ca. 1735. And, due to county court orders just a few years following the death of Joseph Thomas [I], I thought it all had to do with tithables and how the family was being taxed.  It was all curious and yet there were not many other families similarly listed in the court records.  Why?

There was a problem and something was afoot within the state to make corrections.  In 1739 an Act of the North Carolina General Assembly reads:

February 1739 – CHAPTER II.

 An Act to prevent the concealment of Tithables in the several Counties within this Province, for declaring what Persons shall be deemed Tithables, and for defraying the standing and contingent Charges of Government of their Continuance in Office, and directing their Duty therein, and for Granting to his Majesty a Poll-Tax of Five Shillings per Head, to be levied on the Tithable Inhabitants of this Province.

 

Okay.  And following but one year after the above court record naming the Thomas family, the following appears in Bertie County:

May 1743 Bertie – Pursuant to the directions of ad act of Assembly for obtaining an exact list of tithables this court appoint the following districts to the several constables & Vizt: (one of which is) Jos: Thomas’s district from the mouth of Rocqques up Cashay to Thos. Jones thence across the woods to Nathan Mirs & down Rocques to the first station.

This for me is all an awesome find in that it established the family along with the area upon which Joseph Thomas [II] lived. It was a tax list like no other.  It was a cool find!

Upon reading the post, friend Gregory Tyler immediately saw something more.  In the 1739 Act of General Assembly and in the 1743 Bertie County orders, the word “Rights” is not used.  It was not an oversight but rather is something very important which Gregory seized upon. She was certain this was not about taxes and if so drew upon specific language used in “headrights” … a term applied in the colonial period to the system of granting unclaimed land to persons who imported new settlers to the Carolina colony.

A huge thanks to Gregory who provided the following in support of her view. It makes perfect sense and very much settles concerns of which I was struggling:

“I have read your post Red, White and Black, and about the entries of the 1742 Bertie Court where Alice Thomas and Joseph Thomas II, “prove their rights”.  Proving your rights concerns your entitlement to acreage from the government, usually in the amount of 50 of acres per person, you claimed to have brought into the colony.  You could count slaves, indentured servants, FPC and whites, and family members whether they were male and female and of any age, as part of your claim for 50 acres per person.

These entries for Alice and her son Joseph would not have been related to the settlement of Joseph Thomas I’s estate, as that had been probated and closed to the satisfaction of the court in 1735. Nor would they have been related to tax lists, or the Thomas family being held to a stricter standard tax wise, despite Joseph II being the tax collector for his district.  

 The entry for Alice is in Feb. 1742, months before the tax lists for 1742 would have been prepared and submitted.  Also, white females were not taxed, unless they were the head of a household.  On these lists in 1742, there is another female, Mary her daughter who is white, with Alice.  Joseph’s wife Ann and a likely daughter Mary were also listed with him, and all as white.  So these females would not have been taxed.  

 I have included links to sites that explain how “proving your rights” worked in Colonial Virginia and North Carolina.  Even though the 1742 court entries do not relate to taxes or estates as you theorized, they are a great find that show the members of Alice Thomas’s and Joseph Thomas’s households, including females and that some of Alice’s slaves who were Indian or mixed race Indians!”

 https://www.ncpedia.org/ headrights

 http://statelibrarync.org/news/2013/03/land-records-colonial-land-patents-part-2/

http://www.genfiles.com/ articles/headrights/


RED, WHITE, AND BLACK

During a recent conference on the 300th Anniversary of the Tuscarora removal from North Carolina, I had the opportunity to join in rich discussions on the racial blending taking place in early Bertie County. Whether occurring naturally, or by force and through slavery or conquest; blacks, whites and Indians somehow melded to form the peoples many of us are today. It’s a time that differs greatly from what we hear in the standard dialogue of southerners and their unforgiveable sins as owners of slaves. I’m new to this, but I believe there was a time when the rules and morals were not as racially restricted as they are even today. Within the harsh truth of slavery, there was a fleeting moment in society when it was possible for blacks and even some Indians to own large tracts of land. Slavery was in play and yet free people of color advanced with little punitive retribution. It really was a fleeting moment in time when things were different.

Seeking from the conference experts their thoughts on the meaning of a family tax record, I presented the following:

Feb 1742, Bertie – Alice Thomas proved her rights vizt: Alice Thomas, James Thomas, Jacob Thomas, Mary Thomas whites & York, Rose, Ned, Simon, Philis & Penny Blacks. Ind.

Aug 1742, Bertie – Joseph Thomas on oath proved his rights to wit: Joseph Thomas, Anne Thomas & Michael Thomas & Mary Thomas white persons.

Concerned about Mary and Anne, what was the above entry saying about their race? You see, I’ve heard that a female should normally not be listed in a tax list unless she was a land owner or was either black or Indian. So, with it being proper for Alice to be listed, why was Anne and Mary listed? There are exceptions and I was told not to worry about it as following the death of Alice’s husband the record likely reflects land bequeaths to children coming of age. It was an imperfect system.  The history gurus did point out however that they were seriously glad to see the term “Ind.” which is an abbreviation for Indian. They further commented that many people believe the Indians were not held in slavery and that they need to see these kinds of records. It appears in this 1742 entry that at least one of the above people York, Rose, Simon, Philis, or Penny was certainly Indian. The entry is proof that Indians lived in the widow Alice’s household as either slaves or for some other reason not disclosed. Were they slaves or could they otherwise have been indentured to learn a trade?

Alice’s son Joseph Thomas [II] wrote his last will and testament in 1752. However, the will was not probated until 1758. From the journal of Moravian August Gottlieb Spangenburg we know the coastal region was prone to influenza in the 1750’s. Did Joseph die from sickness?

In 1756, a portion of the Bertie County tax entry lists the following people:

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You see Joseph Thomas [II] listed above in the year likely prior to his death. Notice the people surrounding him. There’s Arthur Williams who along with Joseph Thomas’ wife Anne were named Executors of his last will and testament. There’s also Henry Bunch who was black /person of color. Henry was a large land owner. Outside of farming his family was also house builders by trade. They may have built the original house at Hope Plantation. You’ll also see Joseph Collins in the list. A witness to Joseph Thomas’ last will and testament, Joseph Collins married Rachel Bunch, the daughter of Henry Bunch. His children are identified in tax lists as both mulatto and later as white. Joseph Collin’s daughter Elizabeth married Jonas Summerell, brother to Joseph Summerell who married Elizabeth, the daughter of Joseph [II] and Alice Thomas. You’ll see Isaac Bass who is from a black/mulatto family out of Nansemond County VA. Somehow his family connects to Samuel Bass who, in 1729, sold Joseph Thomas [I] his first piece of land in Bertie County. And lastly, you’ll see William Butler who in the late 1740’s was head of household of two free mulattos.

So, in that day and time can you imagine a community in which race and slavery was so very different than how we perceive colonial America today? In 1800 the namesake child of Henry Bunch was master to three slaves along with a white female servant. And as for Joseph Thomas [II], his last will and testament names negro slaves Rose Jack and Boson along with “my mulatto servant boy named Jacob.” The use of the word mulatto may indicate a person of color with Indian mix. And like his father, the estate inventory of Joseph Thomas [II] included a tomahawk. If only that hatchet could talk!

Following the death of Joseph Thomas [II], Samuel Butler was indentured to the widow Ann Thomas to learn the business of husbandry which is by definition the care, cultivation, and breeding of crops and animals.

Samuel Butler Indenture

Samuel Butler is the son of Mary Butler who is the daughter of Jethro Butler who was black/mulatto. In 1779 Samuel Butler of Camden South Carolina sold out land holdings to his Uncle Tobias Butler in Bertie.

I can only imagine the day and time where a young mulatto boy was indentured to a newly widowed white woman to learn the business of farming. What about her own children and the load she bore in raising them?

Anne Thomas, widow of Joseph Thomas [II] would soon marry again to John Hill Junior following her husband’s death ca. 1757. Some of her children known through Joseph Thomas’ last will and testament were coming of age. Others were indentured within and outside of the family to learn the various trades. And yet, I’ve learned there were even other younger children not named in joseph Thomas’ last will and testament. These children were appointed guardians following their mother’s marriage. More on them in my next post.

I could continue this line of thought as you know similar stories played out across the rural landscape of early North Carolina. We now know better! Judgement is passed as though how we see things today is the truth and the way it should always be. Morality is not a constant. Constantly changing, it’s redefined and proven forward by our own devises.

Slavery was a scourge and there’s nothing that can be said to make it right. And, to the treatment encountered by the American Indians; it must be said that was wrong too. I wish it could have been different. But, within it all, it’s important that we know and acknowledge a way of life which few of us realize as once happening.

BLAME IT ON MICHAEL

 

michaelpdf

 

Following my last post I sure wish documentation on my Thomas family was as easy to present. But, that’s not the case. Every day I seem to find new things and with each one come a new twist or change to the story. I’ve seen online where many have indicated that Michael, the son of Joseph [II], married Anne or Anney. That’s all. But in truth, the same person Michael who’s included in so many other family histories is a trouble maker. Flat out and clearly so, his record adds to, twists and turns, and confuses our story like no other. I try to understand who he is and then some record pops up telling me …no he can’t be that. Is he the son of Joseph [II] or his father Joseph [I]? Is there yet another Joseph whose family limbs have grown among our tree? It’ll all come out and we’ll know the truth someday but for now I blame it on Michael. With that, forgive me for the ramblings as that’s all he gave me to work with.

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Both Joseph Thomas [I] and Joseph Thomas [II] above had sons named Michael. Some say that Michael, the son of Joseph Thomas [I], moved to Albemarle County in western VA where he died. I have my doubts about that as there’s no documentation that supports their claim …what a damn shame! Michael Thomas, the son of Joseph [I] was bequeathed land and was even appointed co-executor in his father’s last will and testament. He must have been older, being given such an important job. However, within seven years following his father’s death, this same Michael was listed on a tax record as living in the home of his brother Joseph Thomas [II]:

Aug 1742, Bertie – Joseph Thomas on oath proved his rights to wit: Joseph Thomas, Anne Thomas & Michael Thomas & Mary Thomas white persons.

There’s not much more on Michael Thomas until after the death of Joseph Thomas [II] ca. 1757. I guess, in itself, that is a clue. And then, beginning not long after, the name Michael Thomas is mentioned often in tax lists, deeds and court records. Depending on which Michael this really was, his life may not have lasted long as in 1766 a person named Michael Thomas penned his last will and testament in Bertie. A very odd thing though is that this Michael mentioned brothers Lewis and William Thomas. Neither Joseph Thomas [I] nor Joseph Thomas [II] named a son William or Lewis in their last will and testaments. Who are Lewis and William??!! This is huge and surely a key bit of information leading many to disavow themselves from even considering Michael as son of either Joseph [I] or [II]. They simply left him there by himself.  How can we explain away this line in Michael’s last will and testament?

…I will and order that the remainder shall be given to my two brothers viz; William Thomas and Lewis Thomas only that my wife Ann received fifteen head of day hogs and two sows and three pigs for service

She got three little pigs  …ha! Beyond the will there are land deeds that clearly connect with the name Joseph Thomas. And, we know from deeds that the location mentioned in Michael’s will connects with either the father (Joseph) or his son of same name. But, am I seeing Michael, son of Joseph [I] or Michael son of Joseph [II]? Are the same records attributable to Joseph Thomas [I] or [II]? At this point I simply can’t say as there are numerous other records pointing to either as possibilities. It’s a mess at least in my head.
And if that’s not enough, at the same time I’m seeing the mentioning of Michael Thomas in deeds near that of Joseph Thomas, there’s also mention of a person named Micajah Thomas. Could this be Micajah Thomas Senior or his son Junior who left the area of Northhampton to settle the town of  Nashville NC? Or, there are people of that name in Darlington SC along with Hancock GA who are believed to come out of Bertie. Or, could it simply be a dual spelling of the name Michael? Is Micajah the same person as Michael? All of that will come into focus in later blogs …I hope.

Rather than continuing at this time based on some declaration I can’t defend, I’m pushing forward with a generic version of Michael Thomas in hopes the question of exactly who he is will somehow be resolved in the future. I’ll eventually dice the details of documentation including land records. But, for now, let’s look at Michael who died ca, 1766. Let’s focus only on records that relate to and grow from his life; let’s start with a reading of Michael’s last will and testament:

In the name of God amen the nineteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 1766, I Michael Thomas of Bertie County planter being such and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory that’s be given unto God for the same and calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I recommend my soul to the hands of God that gave and for my body I recommend it to the earth to be buried in a Christian like and descent manner at the discretion of my Executors nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate wherewith hath pleased God and as touching such worldly estate wherewith hath pleased God to bless me with in this life I give demise and dispose of the same in the manner and form following that is to say I first constitute make and ordain my true and faithful friends Thomas Pugh and Hardy Hayse and Anney Thomas my Executors of this my last will and testament I now give and bequeath to my son Joseph a certain tract of land lying on Cashe Swamps the west side and the north side of Spring Branch at my father’s sd decd mention to him his heirs forever only that his mother to have the use of the said land during his life and to my daughter Judy Thomas I give my negro boy named Sharp I give to my true and living wife my negro named Rose my riding horse for her service but not to dispose of during said horses life and two feather beds during the time she remains my widow and then for my daughter Judy Thomas to have the two beds.

I give and bequeath to my sister Elizabeth Thomas a negro girl named Nanny my right and title to her and her heirs and likewise feather bed to the said sister Elizabeth.

To my wife I give two cows and to yearlings and two steers and daughter Judy I give to cows and two yearling it is my will and desire that my brother Lewis Thomas shall have two year schooling and his board and clothing during the said time to be found out of my estate.

It is further my will and order that my other lands shall be sold and the said money to pay my lawful debts and likewise the remainder of my estate that is not bequeathed away in my will and if there be more than I —– to discharge my lawful debts I will and order that the remainder shall be given to my two brothers viz; William Thomas and Lewis Thomas only that my wife Ann received fifteen head of day hogs and two sows and three pigs for service.

And I do hereby utterly disallow revoke and disannull all and every other former testament will and legacies and Executors by me in any ways before this time named willed and bequeathed ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.

Signed sealed pubished declared by the said Michael Thomas as his last will and testament in the presents of us the under subscribers that is to say

Test. Robert Cake
Geo. Winslow Michael Thomas
Adam Raby

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Following the death of Michael Thomas, his widow Anney or Annis is recorded as follows in his estate proceedings:

Mar 1767, Bertie – ordered that Annie Thomas Exx of Michael Thomas sell the perishable part of the estate of the said Michael.

In 1774 Annis Thomas gifted her personal holdings to daughters Judith and Clara Mitchell Thomas:

[M-83 Bertie, 1 Aug 1774, Aug 1774, Annis Thomas of Bertie (widow) to my children Judith Thomas and Clara Mitchell Thomas] First, I give to my daughter Judith 2 cows & 3 calves one large pewter dish one bason and 2 pewter plates also my riding horse called Darby. Secondly I give to my daughter Clara Mitchell Thomas two cows and calves one pewter dish one bason and two pewter plates and likewise one feather bed & furniture. Witnesses James Purvis and Jane Purvis.

I wonder about the child’s name Judith as Annis’ likely sister in law (wife of James Thomas) is named Judith. Also, where did the middle name Mitchell come from for daughter Clara Mitchell Thomas? Note that Clara was not mentioned in the will.

Only two years later, in 1776, Zedekiah Stone (father of soon to be Governor David Stone) and others were directed to lay off dower rights to the widow Annis. But something changed in process because at this point Annis is suddenly identified as “Annis Collins.” Collins you say?

Feb 1776, Bertie – Ordered that David Standly, Peter Clifton, Zedekiah Stone and Watkin William Wynns and John Watson or any three of them lay off the third part of the real estate of Michael Thomas deceased for the use of his widow and relict Annis Collins and that they make return of their proceedings therein to next court.

In the same month, Josiah Williams was appointed guardian of Annis’ two daughters Judith and Clara Mitchel Thomas:

Feb 1776, Bertie – Ordered that Josiah Williams be appointed guardian to Judeth Thomas orphan of Michael Thomas on his giving security in the sum of one hundred pound proclamation money which security is accordingly given by Humphry Hardy

Feb 1776, Bertie – Ordered that Josiah Williams be appointed guardian to Clary Mitchel Thomas on his giving security in the sum of one hundred pound proclamation money which is accordingly given by Humphry Hardy.

In 1779 David Collins was appointed to be the guardian of Michael’s girl Judith. And then in 1783 guardianship of Judith and Mary Clara Mitchel Thomas was appointed to Joseph Sumerlin. So, who and why is David Collins entering the picture? And who is Joseph Sumerlin?

Feb 1779, Bertie – Ordered that David Collins be appointed guardian to Judeth Thomas on giving security in the sum of one thousand pounds which security is accordingly given by Joseph Collins and Josiah Collins.

Feb 1783 – Ordered that Joseph Sumerlin be apt guardian to Judeh Thomas and Clary Micthel Thomas with security given by Hardy Hayes.

It’s becoming evident that David Collins was involved with the children of Michael Thomas. Could he be the one who married Michael’s widow Annis? Let’s look at an important deed which resolves this issue:

[N-233, 8 May 1786, May 1786, David Collins (and Annis) to Benjamn Bryars] Being 250 acres beginning at the Beaver Dam Swamp where Wm. Wilson did live near a white oak then running up the said swamp then down the said swamp for compliment. Witness was James Barnes.

The above deed specifically from David Collins to Benjamin Bryars was legally signed by David Collins and Annis Collins. There’s nothing saying she is his wife though joint signatures provide overwhelming proof through the customary practice. We now know that David Collins married Annis, the widow of Michael Thomas.

The Collins family were possibly of mixed race with a history rich in how that all played out. Members of the family spread west into Johnston, Wake and other counties in that area. Also, the following deed foretells of David Collins’ death and of the family’s move to Georgia. And note that all of these folks are connected by way of a piece of land once in the hands of Joseph Thomas. And note that Joseph Collins was a sworn witness in Joseph Thomas [II]’s 1752 last will and testament:

[Y-40 Bertie, 4 Feb 1814, Aug 1818, Jacob Collins of the State of Georgia and County of Tatnell of the one part acting agent for Joseph Collins, heirs David Collins, John Collins, and john Collins heirs and Drury Wilson of the state of South Carolina Edgefield district, Jonas Summerlin & wife of Bertie Boswell (Braswell?), Charles Collins and the heirs of Miliba Collins of the one part to John Bass]  A parcel of land lying on the north side of Cashy Swamp one part being that land Joseph Collins bought of Joseph Thomas the other part of the land being the said land that Joseph Collins bought of Francis Pugh. Being 253 acres beginning at a cypress on the run of Cashy Swamp formerly George ___ corner then along Meets line to a cypress then running N80W88 to hic then N220 to red oak then S77W192 to a cypress near the run of the swamp then to the main run of Cashy Swamp and then the various courses of the said run to the first station. Witnesses were Jos. Eason, John Robbins.

We know from this deed that Annis’ husband David Collins died prior to 1818. From unsubstantiated information online, it’s likely that David settled in either Georgia or Tennessee. There’s much out there on David Collins but nothing really at all on his wife Annis. That said, a loose estate paper in Bertie County indicates she may have died prior to 10 Nov 1823. Did she make the move before returning home to die? Is it possible David Collins removed and remarried? From the surviving paper below, Temperance Hobbs was appointed administrator and the estate settlement was was witnessed by E. A. Rhodes and Hardy Hayes. Hardy Hayes was also the Executor of Michael Thomas’ last will and testament:

annis

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From the Land

In the following line from his 1766 last will and testament, Michael Thomas provides a nice description of his land situated on the Cashie Swamp adjoining the “Spring Branch:”

I now give and bequeath to my son Joseph a certain tract of land lying on Cashe Swamps the west side and the north side of Spring Branch at my father’s sd decd mention to him his heirs forever only that his mother to have the use of the said land during his life.

In comparison of what Joseph Thomas [II] wrote in his last will and testament we find:

Imprimus I bequeath to my loving wife Ann Thomas the use or the plantation whereon I now live during her natural life and all the land thereunto belonging except what land lies on the south & southeast side of the plantation called the Spring Branch

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.

As for son Michael, Joseph Thomas [II] bequeathed another tract as follows. Note that I’ve yet to find the deed from Thomas Kearney …who is he???:

2nd I give and demise unto my son Michael Thomas six hundred & forty acres of land now the occupation of Griffin Summerell it being the land I purchased of Thomas Kearney

Doing a search for Spring Branch and other mentions of Michael Thomas, I found the following:

[L-42 Bertie, 24 Jun 1766 Sep 1766, Michael Thomas planter to John Capehart] Being 70 acres on the south side of Cashy Swamp beginning at a stooping oak in the Spring Branch and running down various courses of the said branch to a pine in the branch then cutting across a course of marked trees another branch that makes __ of Spring Branch to a water oak then running up the said branch to a water oak then running up said branch the various courses to the head line Robert Hardy’s line then cutting across a course of marked trees to the first station. Witnesses were David Gaskins, William Starke and Hezekiah Ponder.

[P-180, 25 Oct 1790, Feb 1790, Josiah Collins (and Nancy Collins) to John Thomas] Being 70 acres lying on the south side of the Cashy Swamp beginning at a stooping oak in the Spring Branch then down the various courses of the said branch to a pine in the branch then running across a line of marked to another branch that makes out of the Spring Branch to a water oak then running the various courses of the said branch to the head line Jesse Bazemore’s line then running across a line of marked trees to the first station, being the land that Michael Thomas sold to John Capehart and the said Capehart sold to John Freeman and & by Freeman to Josiah Collins afrsd. Witnesses were Josiah Thomas, John Collins and Mary Asbell. It is firmly believed that Mary is the daughter of Joseph Thomas [I]. It’s also believed that she and her husband Solomon Asbell were massacred by Indians in South Carolina. Would that have not occurred sooner and if so, why is Mary Asbell mentioned in this deed?

[O-86, 6 Mar 1787, May 1787, James Williford to John Bazemore Senr] Being 130 acres beginning at a live oak in the fork of the Great Branch & Spring Branch then running up the said Spring Branch to a pine John Freeman corner tree then along John Freeman’s line to a poplar standing in a swamp which runs along Freeman’s line then up the said branch to a maple in Jesse Bazemore’s line then along Jesse Bazemore’s and Thomas Pugh’s line to a live oak & sweet gum standing in the Great Branch then down the said branch to the first station. Witnesses were: David Stone, Elizabeth Stone, and Josiah Thomas. In this deed we’re seeing future Governor David Stone. Also, the deed is witnessed by Elizabeth Stone. David’s mother Elizabeth died in the 1770’s and his sister of same name was born in the early 1780’s. As his sister was too young to be a signature for this transaction, exatly who was the witnessed named Elizabeth?

[P-85, 17 Nov 1789, May 1790, Joseph (actually Josiah) Thomas to Jesse Bazemore] A certain tract beginning at a persimmon tree in John Brown’s line on Little Chesky then up the branch and along the line of marked trees to the road that leads from Cashy Bridge to Halifax then up the road to the Spring Branch then along the said Spring Branch to a gum in the said Bazemore’s line then along the said Bazemore’s line to the first station. Signed Josiah Thomas. Witnesses were Richard Dawson and Arthur Williams. The road from Cashy Bridge should be locatable and note that Arthur Williams along with Thomas Whitmell were Co-Executors in the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II].

[l-50 Bertie, 25 Oct 1766, Dec 1766, Robert (x) Hardy to Jesse Bazemore planter] Being 253 acres on the north side of Chesky Swamp, joining Thick Branch, Frances Hobson, Thomas Jones, Joseph Thomas, Edward Gilman. Wit: Herbert Pritchard, Jas. (X) Basmore, Peter Byran. Here’s mention of Joseph Thomas lands adjoining Frances Hobson whose widow Elizabeth married Zedekiah Stone. Their son David Stone became Governor after marrying Hannah Turner.

From the 1758 estate settlement of Joseph Thomas [II], we know his widow married second to John Hill. Proof of this marriage comes in Oct 1760 when the courts ordered that Absolum Collins be brought in to answer a charge by “John Hill and Ann his wife (executrix) and Arthur Williams and Thomas Whitmell executors of the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas.”

The marriage of the widow Ann and John Hill opens a whole new dynamic that needs to be worked out as there are numerous deeds and records connecting Michael Thomas to his mother, his aunt Mary Asbell, and brother Josiah Thomas. In the thick of it all are court records and deeds also connecting to John Hill Junior:

[l-80 Bertie, 15 Sep 1766, Jun 1767, John Hill planter to Josiah Thomas taylor of same] As by the will of his father, Joseph Thomas dec’d. Being 320 acres on the south side of Cashy River, joining Great Branch, Michael Thomas, Joseph Thomas, Whitmel Hill, Middle Branch, Cashy Swamp. Wit: Jos Collins, William (x) Boyce. Here we see mentions of Michael, Joseph and and Josiah Thomas. The prominent Whitmell Hill is mentioned. How does John Hill Junior relate to the prominent Whitmell Hill?

Here are a few deeds reaching back and even identifying the land which Joseph Thomas [I] purchased from Samuel Bass in 1729. Conveyances mention Thomas Blount and Whitmell Hill who seem to be tied up in this mess of a storyline.

[F-200 Bertie, 18 Feb 1740, Apr 1741, John Lett and Mary his wife to Thomas Blount late of Edenton merchant] Beginning at an ash on Mr John Hardy’s corner tree then S 65 W 270 to pine then N 25 W 320 to pine then N 65 E 320 to pine on the Cashie Swamp then the windings of the swamp to the first station. By patent to John Griffin being 591 acres and was given by William Griffin son of the said John Griffin to his wife Mary Griffin by Will “….except a piece of the land which was sold by William Griffin unto Samuel Bass containing by estimation 320 acres or agreeable to the bounds set off & known by the sd sale to the sd Bass since belongs to Joseph Thomas. Wit: Hezekiah Muhon Bart. Barnes. Witnesses were Sarah Hunter and Elizabeth Whitmell.

[M-206 Bertie, Nov 1774, Whitmell Hill and Winifred his wife to Josiah Williams] Beginning at an ash on John Hardy’s corner tree then S 65 W 270 to pine then N 20 W 320 to pine then N 65 E 270 to pine on Casky Swamp then the windings of the swamp to the first station. By patent to John Griffin being 591 acres and was given by Wm Griffin son of the said John Griffin by will ….except a parcel of the land which was sold by William Griffin unto Samuel Bass containing by estimation 320 acres or agreeable to the bounds set off & known by the sd sale to the sd Bass since belongs to Joseph Thomas. Wit: Hexekiah Muhon and Bart. Barnes.

Another deed likely adjoining those above likely originates as a 700 grant to John Hill Esq:

[M-204 Bertie, 3 Aug 1773, Whitmell Hill and Winefred his wife to Josiah Williams] Being 700 acres of land lying in Cashy Swamp beginning at a little cypress on Cashy Swamp being in the line of Catherine Hunter minor of Moses Hunter Dec’d then N 44 W 90 along Cashie Swamp being her line to a beach her corner standing on the swamp then up the swamp being Maj. Robert West’ line S 85 W 38 to a gum on the sd swamp then along the said swamp N 57 W 22 to a cypress then along the swamp N 75 W 26 to an ash then N 76 W 12 to an ash in the swamp then S 51 W 28 to a beach on the swamp then S 41 W 28 to a beach then S20 E 32 to a beach then S 18 to a cypress then S 44 W 24 to a beach then N 41 W 8 to a white oak on the swamp then N 15 E 26 to a gum then N 16 W 28 to an ash then N 42 W 38 to a maple then N 19 W 36 to beach N 52 to a beach on the swamp then N 33 W 24 to a gum then N 68 W 26 to a gum then S 78 W 48 to a white oak then North 16 W 30 to a beach then N 3 E 36 to a poplar then N 42 W 2 to an ash then N 12 E 16 to a water oak then N 40 W24 to a gum on the swamp near (Bryar?) House then N 36 along sd swamp being Joseph Thomas’s line to a cypress in the swamp then N 11 W 50 to an Elm then N 71 W 20 to a cypress then N 7 W 26 to a beach then N 43 W 28 to a beach then N 46 W 70 to a cypress then N 10 then N 7 E 36 along Henry Bunch’s line to a white oak then N 8 W 22 to a beach then S 72 W 20 to a cypress then along the swamp being Bunch’s line then N 27 W 34 to a beach on the swamp then N 33 E 16 to a beach then N 57 W 18 to a beach then N 27 W 68 to a beach on swamp then N 22 to a chinkerpin then N 43 W 20 to a beach then N 18 to a beach then N 30 E 26 to a chinkerpin then N 44 W 20 to a hickory on the swamp then across the Cashy Swamp to a pine on the swamp standing above Micajah Thomas’ plantation then down the said swamp S 28 E 14 to a red oak then S 12 W 56 to a beach then S 33 E 16 to beach then S 7 W 27 to a pine then S 53 W 16 to a dogwood then S 11 W 14 to a gum in John Hill Junior’s line then S 51 E 6 to a beach them S 46 to a sourwood then S 36 W 30 to a chinkerpin then S 47 E 38 to a gum them S 8 E 42 to a pine in Whitmell Hill’s line then S 44 E 22 to a hickory then N 53 E 8 to a pine then S 65 E 20 to a pine. Witnesses are Hezekiah Mohum and Bart. Barnes. Note that this deed possibly mentions “Bryar” who purchased land from Davie Collins and his wife, the widow Annis Thomas. The 700 acres also adjoin Micajah Thomas and in other records land in the area adjoin Michael. Are they one and the same?

At this point I could go deeper into the story of Michael Thomas but would like to end while keeping focus on revelations born of land and deed. However, note in Michael’s 1776 last will and testament the names of Michael Thomas’ brothers Lewis and William and sister Elizabeth. William and Lewis are not mentioned in the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II]. Let’s take a look at a telling line:

To my wife I give two cows and to yearlings and two steers and daughter Judy I give to cows and two yearling it is my will and desire that my brother Lewis Thomas shall have two year schooling and his board and clothing during the said time to be found out of my estate.

It appears that William and Lewis were born in the mid 1750’s and were simply not old enough to receive from their father’s last will and testament.  They certainly are not the sons of Joseph Thomas [I]. Michael’s brother is quite young and upon reaching age will likely attend school at William and Mary as was customary.  It would be a good next step to see if the name Lewis Thomas can be found among the school’s records.

And, as for Sister Elizabeth who is mentioned in the last will and testament, she too could very well be the daughter of Joseph Thomas [II] mentioned thusly in his last will and testament:

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. I also give to my daughter Elizabeth the second child that shall hereafter be born of my negro woman (named Rose) that shall live to the age of three years old two breeding mares one young horse to hers and her heirs and assignees forever.

I remind you that James Thomas (son of Joseph Thomas [II] died ca. 1750, not in 1780 as traditionally told. We know from his estate that Judeth is his wife and widow. From Michael Thomas’ last will and testament, was she the person whom his daughter was named? There is one other record that beckons to shake the tree. Dated 20 Apr 1762, Thomas Pennington of neighboring Halifax County mentioned a Judeth Thomas as follows:

I give to Judah Thomas one bay mare named Nan and also lend to her a “garl” mare for three years and and after return her to my daughters

Note that Thomas Pugh served as Executor and the last will and testament was witnessed by Adam Raby. The same two were similarly named in the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II].

As for Michael’s sister Elizabeth who was named in his will, is she the same person as is listed above in “Item 6thly” of the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas [II]? Answering that question raises a huge question as the following deed bridges a huge gap. Apparently Elizabeth married Joseph Sumerell in the following identifies herself as the daughter of “Alice Thomas.” Problem is that Alice is the wife of Joseph Thomas [I] and in his last will and testament was no mention of a person named Elizabeth. Was Elizabeth, the child of Alice, born after her father’s death? Could her mother have died and could she have been raised by Joseph Thomas [II} who could have been her half-brother? I certainly have no idea other than knowing it’s huge knowing the particular land she and her husband Joseph Sumerall are selling:

[M-731, 5 May 1785, May 1785, Joseph (X) Sumerell & wife Elizabeth to Hezekiah Callum (Collins?)] Being 220 acres beginning at a gum that was once James Blunt’s and Thomas Busby’s corner and then along the first line to a red oak standing near patent line at a beginning tree at a dividing line between Spivey and Page then along a line of marked trees until it meets with the afsd patent line to a marked white oak standing in the line and then down the patent line to a marked pine then along a line of marked trees to the head of the branch then down the branch to the first station which land was made over unto me from my mother Alice Thomas by a deed of gift and now I have sold the land unto my brother James Thomas. Witnesses were Luke Raby and Edward Collins.

Looking back in time, take a look at earlier conveyances of this same land:

[E-395 Bertie, 13 Nov 1738, Feb 1738, Littleton Spivey to Eeale Thomas] Being 220 acres lying on the north side of the Morrattock River beginning a gum John Blunt’s and Thomas Busby’s corner then running along the patent line to a red oak standing in or by the patent line a beginning tree of a dividing line between Spivey and Page then running along a row of marked trees until it meets the patent line to a marked white oak s standing in the line so down the patent line to a marked pine then along a row of marked trees to the head of a branch so down the branch to the first station. Witnesses were George House, James Carter and Luke Thomas, jurat.


[F-450 Bertie, 29 Dec 1740, Feb 1742, Alice Thomas, widow to Luke Thomas] Deed of gift 220 acres to well-beloved son Luke, land Adj. James Blunt Thomas Busby, Spivie, and Page, which land Alice Thomas bought of Littleton Spivie. Wit. William Carter and James Thomas.

There’s no further deed of conveyance from Luke Thomas as grantor for this land. It’s believed Luke moved to Edgecombe County where he wrote his last will and testament naming Brother and Sister Jacob and Mary. You’ll note that deeds below show later divisions of the land or at least land very close nearby. It has reduced in acreage but the mentions of past ownership and certain metes surely link it to being near the original 640 acres:

[K-240 Bertie, 9 Feb 1763, Feb 1763, Adam Raby to John Francis Spivey] A plantation of 120 acres being part of a patent formerly granted to John Blount bearing date 3 day 1721 beginning at a gum the said Raby’s & Christopher Butler’s corner then along the said Raby’s line of marked trees to a white oak John Harrell’s corner then along Harrell’s line to a red oak said Harrell’s corner standing in Elizabeth Thomas’ line then along the said Elizabeth Thomas’ line to the first station. Witnesses were William Andrews, Lydia (A) Andrews, James (X) Hedgepath.

[K-86 Bertie, Jul 1761, John Francis Spivey to Edward Holmes] Being 100 acres beginning at a pine Elizabeth Thomas’ corner standing in Henry Hill’s line thence along said Hill’s line to a white oak thence along line of marked trees to red oak standing on Elizabeth Thomas’ line thence along said Thomas’ line to the beginning.

[K-326 Bertie, 13 Oct 1762, Edward Holmes to John Harrell] Witnesses were Wm Andrews, John Francis Spivey and Lemuel Harrell.

[K-391 Bertie, 4 Jan 1764, John Harrell to Hardy Hays] Witnesses were William Andrews, Bo___ Harrell and Nicholas Skinner.

                                                                                  I’m tired so I rest my case …for today

 

 

 

 

 

THREE HUNDRED YEARS OF INDIAN WOODS: A Conference in Bertie County

Making my way to Bertie County, I arrived predawn on Friday in advance of the conference which began in earnest on Saturday morning. My goal for the “free” day was to drive the county in search of descriptive imagery which in my mind’s eye best represented the local people and their culture. I witnessed the sun rising above freshly turned fields of peanuts. There were also fields of corn, cotton and soy beans. I also found the swamps; they are everywhere. Bertie County was covered with swamps and also those things the Indians called pocosins. A pocosin is not the normal watery low spot but rather, is a swamp-like body situated on high ground. Flowing away from such a swamp, the water is the source for many a creek in the area. In my travels across the land my untrained eyes saw little remnants of the native Indian culture. That would change.

I also witnessed a variety of homes and structure from the distant past.  Most were decaying with their days being numbered.  I saw what must have once been two room slave or tenant farmer housing. There were also large homes on spreads of land once known by the term plantation. Hope Plantation, home of Governor David Stone whose father Zedekiah married the widow Hobson.  My possible ancestor may have lived on land adjoining Hope Plantation.  Regardless of their size and valuation, I can imagine a day and time where each and all were surrounded by the sounds of children and the daily goings on of life on a farm

The conference opened ceremonially with prayerful words offered in the native Tuscaroran tongue. All such gatherings begin with similar words as it’s best to clear the mind by acknowledging nature’s blessings before directing thought to a specific purpose. It all worked well as from that point the gathering was sincerely open to the lessons to be learned.

I learned both from and about the remnant people who still live in Bertie County in a historically remote area aptly called Indian Woods. There were also talks from a delegation of the Tuscarorans who had removed to New York following their 1717 defeat at Neyuhekuke. We heard from 87 year old Leo Henry, Chief of the Tuscarora Nation. No forgiveness of past transgressions was offered as the US Government never recognized nor made any effort to rectify that which they knew to be wrong.

We heard a spirited talk from Dr. David La Vere on the life of King Tom Blunt who as chief of the northern Tuscarora (in Bertie) sought peace by taking sides with the contemporary English visionary. He took the less dangerous path for his people. Whilst agreeing to do much, King Blunt’s actions were guided and paced to the advantage of his people.

We also heard from my very distant cousin Gerald Thomas who descends from Lazarus Thomas of northern Bertie County. Gerald spoke on land and the original Tuscaroran reservation known as Indian Woods. He told of politically astute white neighbors who systematically stripped the Indians of their land. The government did nothing as what was once untaxed Indian land now bore governmental revenue. The piecemeal dismantlement of their reservation pushed the North Carolina band of Tuscarora into a diminishing space. Having nowhere to go, many married outside the Tuscarora leading to a slow and painful dissolve of the people they once were.

Next to speak was Vincent Schiffert of the New York band of Tuscarora. He spoke of Federal agreements in which the New York Tuscarora lost out to the neighboring Seneca and others in the six nations of the Iroquois. Coinciding with the demise of their southern brethren here in North Carolina, the northern band was faced with a huge need for land beyond the meager amount that had been allotted them. From money raised through agreed leases of the remaining lands in Indian Woods North Carolina, the Northern Band was able to acquire the land they so very much needed.

At the end of the Saturday session, all the participants gathered in the heart of Indian Woods at the Blue Jay Recreation Center. We shared conversation, time and a meal complete with bar-b-que, turtle, beans and corn. As much as learning from the experts, I enjoyed the down time spent informally with them, the locals and visitors from our north.

On day two E Thomson Shields read “The Indian Gallows,” a poem by William H. Rhodes. Having potential family ties to the Rhodes family, there will be more on this in a later post. We also heard a moving testimonial from a member of the New York band concerning legal and moral stances taken by their people. The speaker told of Wounded Knee and of her being there as part of a delegation in support of the cause. She told of the siege and of defying governmental orders and of hiking in provisions to those in need. She witnessed the armored troop carriers, night flares and even flying bullets that had been intended for her. The speaker also talked about marches and efforts by the Nation to preserve their environment. We also heard from Marty Richardson about interactions with neighboring tribes such as his own being the Haliwa-Saponi people.

The last speaker was Dr. Arwin Smallwood who gave a passionate talk on Indian Woods and of its pathway to what it is today. Growing up in the community, he said things have changed but that the spirit of the people remains strong. Arwin spoke of the slave rebellion of 1802 where eleven slaves were hung. He showed photos of “Gospel Tree” which was blown down by a hurricane in recent years. From families reaching back to the earliest days of the area, a coalescence of race and belief make Indian Woods what it is today. It’s really quite cool to me in that each and every one in community can tell you of their ties bringing together their white, Indian, and black heritage. At the same time, the people know of and are not forgiving of the wrongs that have been forced upon them.

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Following a discussion on language,  the conference adjourned to the back porch where corn was shucked and braided for drying. It was an amazing process and I can imagine what a porch or shed would look like with rafters covered by corn hung to dry. Following the corn shucking the conference closed with a banquet including a traditional meal of beans, corn soup and squash prepared by those from the New York band of Tuscarora. From one of the earlier talks by Vincent Schiffert, we learned of mound planting. Corn would be planted with beans growing up and around the stalk. Squash vines would be grown at the base of the corn to keep the roots cool and protected. Beans, corn and squash; they call it “Three Sisters.”

There were so many good people who made this conference work. Most importantly were the two communities who came together to learn and share from each other.  I’d also like to close this post with appreciation of  host David Serxner who gave an excellent talk on Hope Plantation. He made sure all needs were met at our meeting place on the grounds of Hope. Also, Dr. Larry Tise from ECU served wonderfully as announcer/moderator. At one point he made the statement: “in eastern North Carolina when you mention “The War,” it might come across as the Tuscarora War was more important than the Civil War. That is because the Tuscarora War did more to change North Carolina than the Civil War.” I guess that’s the point I’ll be pondering for the rest of my time researching family in Bertie County.

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