Introduction to Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina
These genealogies, comprising the colonial history of the majority of the free African American families of Virginia and North Carolina, illustrate the colonial and early national history of their communities:
- Most of the families were the descendants of white servant women who had children by slaves. Over 1,000 free children were born to white women by slaves in Maryland and Virginia during the colonial period.
- Many descended from slaves who were freed before the 1723 Virginia law which required legislative approval for manumissions. The Chavis, Cumbo, Driggers and Gowen families who were free in the mid-seventeenth century had several hundred members before the end of the colonial period.
- Very few African American families that were free during the colonial period descended from white slave owners who had children by their slaves, less than 1% of the total.
- Many free African American families in colonial North Carolina and Virginia were landowners who were generally accepted by their white neighbors.
- Over 420 free-born African Americans served in the Revolution from Virginia, over 400 from North Carolina and 40 from South Carolina.
- Free Indians blended into the free African American communities. They did not form their own separate communities.
- Some of the light-skinned descendants of free African Americans formed the tri-racial isolates of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Louisiana.
Most of the free African Americans of Virginia and North Carolina originated in Virginia where they became free in the seventeenth and eighteenth century before chattel slavery and racism fully developed in the colonies.
When they arrived in Virginia, Africans joined a society which was divided between master and white servantC a society with such contempt for white servants that masters were not punished for beating them to death in 1624. They joined the same households with white servantsC working, eating, sleeping, getting drunk, and running away together [McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council, 1622-1632, 1670-1676, 22-24, 466-7; Northampton Orders 1664-74, fol.25, p.31-fol.31; Wills & Orders 1689-98, 27a; Hening, Statutes at Large, II:26, 117; Charles City County Orders 1687-95, 468; Westmoreland County Orders 1752-5, 41a]. Some of these first African slaves became free:
- Michael Gowen, a "negro" servant, was freed by the 18 January 1654 York County will of Christopher Stafford [DWO 3:16].
- Emanuel Driggers of Northampton County was free by 1661 [DW 1657-66, fol. 123; Orders 1664-74, fol. 75, p. 78].
- Emanuell Cambow (Cumbo), "Negro," was granted 50 acres in James City County on 18 April 1667 [Patent Book 6:39].
- John Harris "negro" was free in 1668 when he purchased 50 acres in York County [Deeds 1664-72, 327].
Susannah Carsey was a "free Negro" living in Charles City County in 1677 [Orders 1677-79, 216; 1687-95, 90, 223] and Peter Kersey was a free "Negro" living in Surry County in 1678 [Orders 1671-91, 240, 251; DW 2:336a, 3:13a].
A number of African Americans living on the Eastern Shore gained their freedom in the seventeenth century. There were at least 33 taxable African Americans in Northampton County in the 1670s who were free, later became free, or had free children. They represented one third of the taxable African Americans in the county.1
1Tithable Heads of Household:
Bastian Cane and his wife Grace, Emanuel Driggers, Basshaw Ferdinando and his wife Susan, Hannah Carter, John Francisco Negro and Christian Francisco, William Harman and his wife Jane, Anthony Johnson, John Johnston (2), John Kinge, Philip Mongon and his wife, Francis Pane Negro, and King Tony and his wife Sarah.
Tithables in White Households:
John Archer Negro, Peter Beckett Negro, Edward and Thomas Carter, Thomas Driggus, Frances and Mary Driggus Negro, Peter and Joan George, Jane Guzell, Ann Harmon, Gabriel and Bab Jacob, and Daniel and Isabell Webb [Order Books 1657-64, p.103, fol.104, 176, 198; 1664-74, fol.14, 15, 19, 42, 54, pp. 15, 42, 54, 55; 1674-79, fol.114, p.191]. In the year 1677 there were 25 tithable free African Americans and 53 tithable slaves out of a total of 467 tithables [1674-79, 189-91].
The Nickens family came from Lancaster County where Black Dick (Richard Nickens), his wife Chris, and their children were freed in 1690 by the will of John Carter [Wills 1690-1709, 5]. The family was associated with the Weaver family, descendants of three East Indian men who were free from their indentures in Lancaster County in 1708. 2
2 See http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/East-Indians.htm for a number of East Indians who were free persons of color and slaves in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. They came over from England as indentured servants.
Free African Americans were beginning to be assimilated into colonial Virginia society in the mid-seventeenth century. Some were the result of mixed race marriages:
- Francis Payne was married to a white woman named Amy by September 1656 when he gave her a mare by deed of jointure [DW 1655-68, fol. 19].
- Elizabeth Key, a "Mulatto" woman, successfully sued for her freedom in Northumberland County in 1656, and married her white attorney, William Greensted [Record Book 1652-8, 66, 67, 85a, 85b].
- Francis Skiper was married to Ann, a "negro," before 1671 when the Norfolk County court ruled that she was tithable [Orders 1666-75, 73].
- Peter Beckett, a "Negro" slave taxable from 1671 to 1677 in Northampton County, Virginia, married Sarah Dawson, a white servant and had at least four children [OW 1674-79, 203; OW 1683-89, 59].
- Hester Tate, an English woman servant in Westmoreland County, had four children by her husband James Tate, "a Negro slave to Mr. Patrick Spence," before 1690 [Orders 1690-98, 40-41].
As slaves replaced white servants, the legislature passed a series of laws which designated slavery as the appropriate condition for African Americans:
- In 1662 the Virginia Assembly enacted the law that a child was free or slave depending on "the condition of the mother." The child of a slave by a white man was a slave, but the child of a white woman by a slave was free. And white men and women who committed fornication with a Negro were subject to twice the usual fine for fornication [Hening, Statutes at Large, II:270].
- In 1691 the Assembly prohibited the manumission of "negro, mulatto and Indian" slaves unless they were transported out of the colony. It also ordered that white women who had children by "negroes or mulattos" were to be sold as servants for five years and their children be bound out for 30 years [Hening, Statutes at Large, III:86-87].
- In 1705 the Assembly revised the law of 1691 to include the children of Indian servants "by a negro or mulatto" and extended the term of the children's indenture to thirty-one years.3 They also all but eliminated the ability of slaves to earn their freedom by ordering that the farm stock of slaves be sold by the churchwardens and the profit applied to the use of the poor [Hening, Statutes at Large, III:453, 459-60].
3 For an explanation of the change in the law which bound out mixed-race children in 1705, see Judge Green's remarks in the 1826 Virginia Court of Appeals case Gregory v. Baugh [Michie, Virginia Reports, VIII:250-2 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044078608734;view=1up;seq=260].
- In 1712 all fifteen members of the Anderson and Richards families were freed and given 640 acres in Norfolk County, Virginia, by the will of John Fulcher, creating such a stir that the Legislative Council on 5 March 1712/3 proposed that the Assembly
provide a Law against such Manumission of Slaves, which in time by their increase and correspondence with other Slaves may endanger the peace of this Colony [McIlwaine, Executive Journals of the Council, III:332].
In 1723 the Virginia Assembly prohibited the freeing of "negro, mullatto or indian" slaves except in cases where they had rendered some public service such as foiling a slave revolt and amended the 1705 taxation law to make female "negros, mullattos and indians" (except tributary indians) over the age of sixteen tithable. It also ordered that any child born to a female "mullatto or indian" serving a thirty or thirty-one-year indenture also serve for the same age as their mother was obliged to serve [Hening, Statutes at Large, IV:132-3].4
4 "Negro women set free" were made tithable in 1668, but the 1705 law did not include them [Hening, Statutes at Large, II:267, III:258-9]. Norfolk County officials did not enforce the 1723 amendment until 1735-1736 when female members of the Anderson, Archer, Bass, Hall, Manley, and Price families were taxed [Wingo, Norfolk County Tithables, 1730-1750, 144, 157, 168, 183, 185, 190]. Surry County probably did not enforce the 1723 amendment until 21 November 1758 when the Surry County court presented thirteen free African Americans for not listing their wives as tithables. They were the Banks, Barkley, Barlow, Charity, Debrix, Eley, Peters, Simon, Tann, Walden, and Wilson families [Orders 1757-64, 135]. See similar cases for other counties: http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/taxation.htm].
Despite the efforts of the legislature, white servant women continued to bear children by slave fathers through the late seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century. From these genealogies, they were the primary source of the increase in the free African American population from 1723 until 1782 when Virginia relaxed its restrictions against manumission. Over 375 families in this history descended from white women. Many of these women may have been the common-law wives of slaves since they had several mixed-race children.
Fifty families descended from freed slaves, twenty-nine from Indians, and nineteen from white men who married or had children by free African American women. 5 It is likely that the majority of the remaining families descended from white women since they first appear in court records in the mid-eighteenth century when slaves could not be freed without legislative approval, and there is no record of legislative approval for their emancipations.
5 The folloinwg 345 families in these histories descended from white women who had 488 children: Abel (3 children), Acre, Alford, Allen, Alvis, Ancel, Anderson (3 children), Angus, Armfield, Armstrong, Arnold, Ashberry, Ashby (2 families, 3 children), Atkins, Atkinson, Avery, Baine, Baker (2 families), Balkham, Baltrip (2 children), Banks (2 children), Barber, Barnett (2 children), Barrow, Bazden (2 children), Beckett (6 children), Bee, Bell (2 children), Berry (3 children), Bibbens (5 children), Bibby, Bluford, Bolton, Bond, Boon, Bowden, Bowles, Bowling, Boyd, Bright, Britt, Brooks, Bruce, Bryan (2 families), Bryant, Bugg, Bunch, Bunday (5 children), Burden, Burke, Burkett, Burnett (7 children), Burrell, Buss, Butler, Byrd (2 children), Campbell (3 children), Cannady (4 children), Cary, Case (2 families), Cassidy, Causey, Cauther, Chambers, Chapman (2 children), Church, Clark (3 families, 4 children), Cole, Collins (2 families), Combess, Connely, Conner (3 children), Cook (2 families, 3 children), Cooley, Copes (2 children), Corn, Cotance, Cousins, Craig, Crane, Cunningham, Cuttillo (3 children), Daley, Dalton, Davenport (5 children), Davis, Day (3 children), Dempsey (5 children), Dennis (3 children), Donathan, Driver, Duncan (2 children), Dunn, Dunstan, Dutchfield, Edgar, Elliott, Ellis (2 children), Epperson, Faggot, Farrell, Farthing, Fielding, Finnie (2 families, 4 children), Fletcher (4 children), Flora, Fortune, Fullam (2 children), Fuller, Gaines, Gallimore (3 children), Gillett (2 children), Gilmore, Grace, Graham, Grant (2 children), Gray, Grayson, Gregory, Griffin (2 families, 3 children), Grimes, Gwinn (3 children), Hagins, Haithcock, Hall (2 families, 4 children), Ham, Hamilton, Hammond, Hanson (2 children), Harrison, Haws, Haynes (2 children), Heath, Hilliard, Hitchens, Hobson, Hodges, Hogg (4 children), Holt, Hood (2 children), Honest (2 children), Horn, House, Howard, Howell (2 families), Hubbard, Hughes (2 children), Hurst, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones (5 families, 8 children), Keemer (2 children), Kelly, Kent (5 children), King (2 children), Lamb, Lansford, Lawrence (2 children), Lawson (2 children), Laws (5 children), Lee, Lephew, Lewis (3 families, 4 children), Lightly (2 children), Lively, Lloyd, Locksam, Locus, Lucas, Lugrove, Lynch, Lynum (2 children), McCarty, McCullam, McCoy, Maclin (3 children), McIntosh, Madden (2 children), Magee, Mahorney, Manly (2 families, 6 children), Mann, Martin, Mason, Matthews, Mays, Meade (2 children), Melvin, Miles, Mills, Morgan, Morris (3 families, 4 children), Morrison (2 children), Moss, Murphy, Murray, Murrow, Neal, Newman, Nicholas (2 children), Norman, Norris, Norton, Okey, Oliver, Overton (2 families), Owens, Oxendine, Palmer, Parsons, Parker (2 families), Parr, Payne, Peacock, Pendergrass, Peters, Phillips (2 children), Pierce, Pittman, Pitts, Poe, Portions, Powell, Price, Proctor, Pryor, Pursley, Ralls, Range (2 children), Ratcliff, Redman, Reed, Rich (2 children), Ridley, Roach, Roberts (2 families, 3 children), Robinson (2 children), Rollins, Ross, Rowe, Rowland, Ruffs, Russell (2 families), Salmon (4 children), Sample (2 children), Saunders, Scott (4 families, 6 children), Selden, Sexton, Shaw, Shepherd (2 families), Simmons, Simms, Simpson, Slaxton, Smith (5 families), Sneed, Sorrell, Sparrow, Spiller, Spriddle (2 children), Spriggs, Spurlock (2 children), Stephens, Stewart, Stringer, Swan, Symons, Tate (2 families, 5 children), Taylor, Thomas (2 children), Toney, Tootle, Toyer, Turner, Tyler, Tyner, Tyre, Underwood, Venie/ Venners (2 children), Verty, Viers, Walker, Wallace, Warwick, Watkins (3 children), Webb (two families), Welch (2 children), West (2 families, 3 children), Whistler (3 children), White (4 families), Whiting (2 children), Wiggins (2 children), Williams (3 families), Wilson (2 families, 4 children), Winn, Wise, Wood (3 families, 5 children), Wooten, Worrell, Wright and Young (2 families). It is also likely that the following families descended from white women: Ailstock, Alden, Alman, Ampey, Ashe, Bailey, Ball, Bannister, Bartlett/ Bartley (4 children), Battles, Berry, Beverly, Blake, Bowers, Bowman, Brandom/ Branham, Britton, Brogdon, Burrell, Byrd (of Essex County), Carpenter, Caton, Chapman, Chandler, Churchwell, Cooper, Coy, Curtis, Dean, Dove, Drake, Dungee, Drew, Dring, Dunlop, Evans (King George County), Fields, Flood, Flowers, Fortune, Fry, Garner, Garnes, Hamlin, Hartless, Harvey, Hawley, Hays, Hearn, Hewlett, Hewson, Hickman, Hill, Hollinger, Holmes, Hull, Humbles, Hunt, Hurley, Hurst, Jackson, Jasper, Johns, Joiner, Lemon, Ligon, Lowery, Mealy, Meggs, Milton/ Melton, Monoggin, Munday, Muns, Otter, Page, Phillipson, Pickett, Plumly, Powers, Pugh, Rawlinson, Redcross, Richardson (2 families), Robinson (3 children), Rouse, Sawyer, Shoemaker, Spelman, Spruce, Teamer, Toulson, Travis, Twopence, Valentine, Walden, Wilkins and Womble. See endnote for another 92 white women who had mixed-race children. For white women who had children by slaves in Maryland see http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/Intro-md.htm. Families descended from freed slaves include: Africa, Anderson, Andrews, Archer, Artis, Black, Bowser, Braveboy, Brooks, Brown, Cane, Carter, Charity, Churton, Cole, Cook, Cornish, Cuffee, Cumbo, Demery, Dove, Driggers, Drury, Edwards, Fagan, George, Gowen, Gretory, Harmon, Harris, Jacobs, James, Jeffries, Johnson, Jordan, Leviner, Lewis, Longo, Lytle, Manuel, Mongom, Moore, Mordick, Newton, Nickens, Payne, Roberts, Sisco, Symons, Tann and Thompson families. Families descended from Indians who married into the free African American community include: Bass, Bennett. Bingham, Busby, Cockran, Coleman, Cypress, Findley, Garden, Hatcher, Hatfield/ Hatter, Hiter, Jeffery, Jumper, Kinney, Lang, Lawrence, Logan, Month, Pinn, Press, Robibins, Teague, Tyler, Vaughan, Vickory and Whitehurst. Families descended from white men who married free African American women include: Berry, Collins (South Carolina), Combs, Davis, Hailey, Holman, Ivey, Landrum, Lantern, Locklear, Marshall, Newsom, Norwood, Pendarvis, Silver, Snelling, Skipper and Sweat.
Table 1. Descendancy of Free African American Families in This Genealogy: Virginia and North Carolina White servant women 443 Freed slaves 50 Indians 29 White men 19
Male and Female "Mulatto" Children
The law binding out the children of white women by men of African descent until the age of thiry-one applied to their daughters and granddaughters as well. The law had a far greater impact on females than males. When men completed their indentures, they had the skills needed to earn a living in a trade or as farmers--even if some of their most productive years were behind them. Women who were bound out until thirty-one were likely to have children during their indenture. Each child added another five years to their service, in many cases making them servants for life and tying them to the slave population.
Gideon Gibson, an apprenticed son of Elizabeth Chavis in 1672, had descendants who attended Yale University (as whites) in the 1850s [Sharfstein, The Invisible Line, 54-6]. Many of the apprenticed descendants of his relative Jane Gibson were illegally held as slaves for most of the eighteenth century. Thirteen successfully sued for their freedom in 1792 and 1795, but the remainder remained slaves for life.
Jane Webb of Northampton County, Virginia, sold her service to her master for seven years in 1706 in exchange for marrying her master's slave and for his manumission at the end of her service [Mihalyka, Loose Papers, I:147]. Her son Daniel Webb was a "free Negro" landowner in New Hanover County, North Carolina, in 1765 and left a New Hanover County will in 1769 [DB E:274; original will at N.C. Archives].
One of Daniel's sisters, Ann Webb, married a slave named Weeks, and they were the ancestors of the Weeks family of Northampton County. Another sister, Elizabeth, sold her service to her mistress for sixteen years in exchange for marrying her slave Ezekiel Moses, and they were the ancestors of the Moses family of Northampton County. Still another sister Dinah married Gabriel Manly, the "Mulatto" son of a white woman in Northampton County. They moved to Norfolk County by 1735, soon after the completion of his thirty-one-year indenture, and were landowners in Bertie County, North Carolina, by 1742.
Jacob Chavis, a free-born "Black" man, owned over 1,000 acres of land and two slaves in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, by 1774. His relative Sarah Chavis left a Charlotte County, Virginia will in 1811 asking her executors to free her husband [WB 3:184].
Charity Oxendine, granddaughter of John Oxendine, a "Mulatto" who completed his indenture in Northumberland County, Virginia, had two children who were bound to Thomas White in Bladen County, North Carolina. White sold their labor to Thomas Ingles who took Charity and her two children to Mississippi where he claimed them as slaves [Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom, The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans, 158, 170, 177, 234, 235, citing Oxendine v. McFarland, case no. 2992, January 9, 1812, Records of the New Orleans City/ Parish Court, 1806-1813, City Archives, New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans, Louisiana]. Several male members of the Oxendine family were landowners in Robeson County, North Carolina, and in adjoining North and South Carolina counties.
The Virginia law binding children until the age of thirty-one was changed in October 1765 to bind the children until the same age as white children, but the change was not retroactive for those already bound out [Hening, XXIV:134].
Replacement of White Servants by Slaves
The replacement of white servants with African slaves, begun in earnest in 1660, continued for more than a century. African slaves had still not completely replaced white servants by 14 October 1773 when the jailer in Prince William County advertised in the Virginia Gazette that he had caught a runaway white servant man:
Committed to Prince William gaol a certain William Rawlings, who says he is the property of Francis Smith of Chesterfield. The owner is desired to pay charges, and take him away.
and he advertised in the same edition that he had jailed a runaway white servant woman:
Committed to the gaol of Prince William a servant woman about 26 years of age, named Mary Richardson; has on a short printed cotton gown, and striped Virginia cloth petticoat [Virginia Gazette, Rind, p. 3, col. 3 ]. 5
6The same advertiser in that edition identified runaway Reuben Dye, as a "Negro man."
Elizabeth Bartlett, an indentured servant from Accomack County, was punished in July 1716 for running away with her mistress's "Negro man named James" [Orders 1714-7, 28]. George Wallis, a white man, and "Negro Dick" were taken up as runaways in Westmoreland County in November 1752 [Orders 1752-5, 41a].
Racial contempt for free African Americans did not fully develop as long as there were white servants in similar circumstances. It was during this period, as late as the end of the eighteenth century, that free African Americans were accepted in some white communities.
Definition of "Mulatto"
On 16 August 1705 John Bunch, "a Mulatto," and Sarah Slayden, a white woman, petitioned the Council of Virginia to allow them to marry because the Minister of Blisland Parish (in New Kent and James City counties) had refused to marry them. The Attorney General was undecided whether the petition "came within the intent of the Law to prevent Negros and White Persons intermarrying" because he could not resolve "Whether the issue begotten on a White woman by a Mulatto man can properly be called a Mulatto, that name as I conceive being only appropriated to the Child of a Negro man begotten upon a white woman or a white man upon a negro woman...[McIlwaine, Executive Journals of the Council, III:28, 31].
In an apparent attempt to clarify the matter of John Bunch's petition, Virginia passed a law in October 1705, "for the clearing all manner of doubts...who shall be accounted a mulatto, Be it enacted and declared...That the child of an Indian and the child, grandchild, or great grandchild, of a negro shall be deemed, accounted, held and taken to be a mulatto" [Hening, The Statutes at Large, III:229-235]. This has been taken by some to mean that there was a community of people of mixed white and Indian ancestry in Virginia. However, no such community existed. And there was no mention of Indians in the October 1785 Virginia law which was enacted specifically for "declaring what persons shall be deemed mulattoes":
every person of whose grandfathers or grandmothers any one is, or shall have been a negro, although all his other progenitors, except that descending from the negro, shall have been white, shall be deemed a mulatto, and so every person who shall have one-fourth or more of negro blood, shall, in like manner, be deemed a mulatto [Hening, The Statutes at Large, XII:184].
But regardless of the legal definition, the word "Mulatto" was most commonly used by the colonial county courts of Virginia and Maryland when they prosecuted thousands of cases of bastardy concerning the children which white women had by slaves of African descent and the cases where their daughters and granddaughters were prosecuted. The few cases in which a woman had a child by an Indian were prosecuted under the same law as white bastardy for which the penalty was a fine or corporal punishment.
African American Communities
A community developed in York County during the colonial period from the descendants of white women who had children by slaves. There were probably many white women serving the gentry in Williamsburg, the colonial capitol. A community also developed in Petersburg when it expaned in the 1790s . There were already a number of families in Chesterfield, Prince George and Dinwiddie counties, but they were joined by free African Americans from other Virginia counties as far away as Accomack and Northampton counties on the Eastern Shore, as well as from several North Carolina counties [Petersburg Register of Free Negroes, 1794-1819]. Several owned their own lots.
However, most communities developed around families who were able to purchase land or obtain grants for land on what was then the frontier. In the early decades of the colony the present-day county of Louisa was the frontier, and the Gibson, Bunch, Collins, Hall, Branham, and Donathan families formed a community there. Present-day Southampton County was the frontier at one time. Bertie, Craven, Granville and Robeson counties in North Carolina were once the frontier, and later the back country of South Carolina and then the states of Tennessee and Louisiana.
Migration From Their Place of Birth
Many families who descended from white women in York County moved to Southampton County and formed a community with adjoining Greensville County that spanned across the border into Northampton, Halifax and Hertford counties, North Carolina, where they were landowners. They included the Allen, Banks, Brooks, Byrd, Cannady, Hawley, and Roberts families.
The Archer, Manley and Driggers families from Northampton County, Virginia, crossed the bay into Norfolk County where they were in the earliest surviving list of taxables that begin in 1730.
The Chavis, Evans, Stewart, Going, Harris, Brandom, Epps, Bunch, Cuttillo, Locklear, Maclin, Dunstan, and Valentine families were among the early settlers of Lunenburg County which was formed in 1748. A free community developed in the part of Lunenburg from which Mecklenburg County was formed that spanned across the border into Warren and Granville counties, North Carolina.
Many free African Americans originated in or moved to Surry County, Virginia, where their deeds, marriage bonds, and wills were recorded in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. They were the Banks, Blizzard, Byrd, Charity, Chavis, Cornish, Debrix, Jeffries, Kersey, Peters, Scott, Sweat, Tann, Valentine, Walden, and Wilson families. Descriptions in the Surry County, Virginia, "Registry of Free Negroes" in the late 18th and early 19th century read:
Armstead Peters a Mulatoe man, ...aged about 56 years, born free of a yellowish complexion... (6 October 1794).
James Williams a Mulatto man, pretty dark complexion, born of free parents residents of this county, 35 years old ... (11 May 1797).
Joseph Byrd son of Joseph and Nelly Byrd free Mulatto persons & residents of this county 20 years old, 5'5" high, bright complexion, short thick hair, straight & well made (27 September 1798).
William Tan, a mulatto man and son of Jemima Tan, a white woman late of this county. He is of bright complexion, has straight black hair, pretty stout and straight made, aged 21 last September (3 December 1801) [Back of Guardian Accounts Book 1783-1804, nos. 1, 21, 35, 136].
Since so many free African Americans were light-skinned, many observers assume that they were the offspring of white slave owners who took advantage of their female slaves. Only 4 of over 600 families in this history were proven to descend from a white slave owner. The Leviner family of Norfolk County were the descendants of a white slave owner who freed them in 1697. And there were three families who were the children of South Carolina planters: Collins, Holman, and Pendarvis. Like their fathers, they were wealthy slave owners who were accepted in white society.
In 1782 Virginia relaxed its restrictions on manumission, and thereafter manumitted slaves contributed to the increase in the free African American population.
By 1790 free African Americans were concentrated the counties below the James River and the northeastern part of North Carolina [Heads of Families - North Carolina, 10]. This was a pattern of settlement similar to that of newly freed white servants. Land was available in Southside Virginia and in the northeastern part of North Carolina at prices former servants could afford [Morgan, American Slavery, 227-30].
Table 2. Number of free African Americans in North Carolina and their percentage of the total free population in 1790 by county
Total North Carolina
Descendants of families which had been free during the colonial period continued to comprise a major part of the free African American population due to natural increase. In 1810 the Going/ Gowen family, free since the mid-seventeenth century, headed 40 "other free" households with 105 persons in Virginia, 62 persons in North Carolina, 11 in South Carolina, and 10 in Louisiana; the Chavis family, free since the seventeenth century, headed 41 households containing 46 persons in Virginia, 159 in North Carolina, and 12 in South Carolina.
Table 3. Number of Persons in the Households of Families who had Been Free During the Colonial Period - 1810 Census Family Name Virginia North Carolina Anderson 7 52
Archer 9 51
Artis(t) 86 38
Banks 54 28
Bass 21 80
Chavis/ Chavers 46 159
Cousins 52 6
Day 46 13
Fuller 28 3
Going/ Gowen 105 62
Haithcock 9 70
Ligan/ Ligon 39
Locus/ Lucas 100 25
Nickens 64 6
Reed 12 43
Valentine 55 7
Vena/ Venie 64
Walden 24 87
Weaver 64 37
Migration to North Carolina
Several free African Americans voted in the North Carolina General Assembly elections in 1701 [Saunders, Colonial Records, I:903].
Thomas Blango was in Beaufort County in 1701, and Abraham Moore, a former slave from Surry County, Virginia, was in Beaufort County before 16 February 1716/7 when he sold 100 acres of the 320 acre tract he owned at the head of the west branch of Town Creek [DB 1:241]. Abraham's Moore descendants became the largest free African American family in colonial Craven County.
Many of those who were free on the Eastern Shore of Virginia settled in Craven County. Thomas, Jacob and Stephen Johnson were in Craven County by 1720 [SS 837]; the Carter, Copes, Driggers, and George families were there by 1754 [Clark, Colonial Soldiers of the South, 708].
James and Peter Black came to Craven County from Essex County, Virginia, where they had been freeborn. John Heath tried to sell them as slaves, but the Craven County court intervened on their behalf in 1745.
Moll, Nell, Sue, Sall, and Will Dove, "Negroes," came to Craven County from Maryland with Leonard Thomas who was trying to keep them as his slaves in 1749, but William Smith travelled to Maryland and proved their claim that they were freeborn [Haun, Craven County Court Minutes, III:465; IV:11-12].
The Stringer family was in Craven County by 1755, the Conner family by 1760, the Perkins family by 1761 and later the Godett family.
John Smith was called a "free negro" in September 1711 when William Wilson and his wife Sarah gave him 304 acres on the North River Swamp in Currituck Precinct "for good will and affection" [DB 3:116].
Jack Braveboy, a freed slave, was living in Chowan County before 17 July 1716 when he was presented by the court:
a negro, Coming into this Government with a woman and do live together as man and wife, it is ordered that the sd. Braveboy produce a Sufficient Certificate of their Marryage [Hoffman, Chowan Precinct North Carolina 1696 to 1723, 224].
Thomas, Jacob and Stephen Johnson were "Mulats" taxables in Craven County in 1720 [SS 837].
Hubbard Gibson was taxable on 370 acres in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1721 [Haun, Old Albemarle County NC Miscellaneous Records, 331]. Gideon Gibson purchased 200 acres in what was then Chowan County on the south side of the Roanoke River on 24 July 1721 [DB C-1:142].
Thomas Kersey owned land in present-day Northampton County, North Carolina, in 1726 [Bertie County DB B:171].
Robert Locklear owned land in present-day Halifax County in 1738. John Locklear owned land in present-day Robeson County in 1752, and he and Major Locklear were "Mulato" taxables in Cumberland County in 1755 [T&C, Box 1].
James and Peter Black came to Craven County from Essex County, Virginia, where they had been freeborn. John Heath tried to sell them as slaves to William Handcock, but the Craven County court intervened on their behalf on 21 June 1745.
Moll, Nell, Sue, Sall, and Will Dove, "Negroes," came to Craven County, North Carolina, from Maryland with Leonard Thomas who was trying to keep them as his slaves in September 1749, but William Smith traveled to Maryland and proved their claim that they were freeborn [Haun, Craven County Court Minutes, III:465; IV:11-12].
The Anderson, Bunch, Chavis, Gowen, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, and Turner families were taxable in Granville County by 1748 [CR 44.701.19].
The Archer, Bunch, Butler, Carter, Demsey, Evans, Hall, Hammond, James, McDaniel, Manly, Nickens, and Weaver families were Bertie County taxables by 1751 [CCR 190].
The Manuel family, descended from slaves freed in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, in 1718, were in Edgecombe County by the 1750's [Elizabeth City County Deeds, Wills 1715-21, 194-5; N.C. Archives TR, Box 1, folder 12, p.5].
Many of those who were free on the Eastern Shore of Virginia settled in Craven County, North Carolina, before 1754. They were the Carter, Copes, Driggers, Johnson, George, and Perkins families who were joined by the Moore, Black, Stringer, Spelman, and Dove families from Virginia and the Godett family.
The Bunch, Collins, Gibson, and Martin families were taxable "Mulatas" in Orange County, North Carolina, by 1755 [T&C, Box 1].
The family histories of over 80% of those counted as "all other free persons" in the 1790-1810 federal census for North Carolina indicate that they were descendants of African Americans who were free in Virginia during the colonial period.
Free African American immigrants were of sufficient number in 1723 that the North Carolina General Assembly received complaints
of great Numbers of Free Negroes, Mulattoes, and other persons of mixt Blood, that have lately removed themselves into this Government, and that several of them have intermarried with the white Inhabitants of this Province...
That session passed a law which required freed slaves to leave the colony within six months of their emancipation, and in 1741 the Assembly restricted manumission to meritorious service "to be adjudged and allowed by the county court" and also required their removal from the colony [Clark, State Records, XXIII:106-7, 203-4].
Land Ownership and Relations With Whites
While some North Carolina residents were complaining about the immigration of free African Americans, their white neighbors in Granville, Halifax, Bertie, Craven, Granville, Robeson and Hertford counties welcomed them. Neighbor depended upon neighbor, and whites may have been more concerned with harsh frontier living conditions than they were with their neighbors' color.
The slave population on the frontier was much lower than in the settled areas of Virginia, so the presence of free African Americans would not have posed a threat to most settlers. And several of these free African Americans owned slaves of their own. However, land ownership was more likely the social equalizer for them and their white neighbors.
During the colonial and early national periods at least one member of most African American families in Nrth Carolina owned land. Land ownership made for closer relations with the white community than with slaves.7
7 Goochland County, Virginia, was an example of a location where free African Americans had very limited opportunities to own land, and they had closer relations with slaves. See Reginald Dennin Butler, "Evolution of a Rural Free Black Community: Goochland County, Virginia, 1728-1832," Ph.D. diss., The Johns Hopkins University, 1989. Free African Americans in Maryland also had limited opportunities to own land, and they generally had closer relations with slaves. But in Delaware they had owned land since the seventeenth century, and those who had been free since the colonial period were associated with the white community [http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/Intro-md.htm].
The McKinnie family, originally from Isle of Wight County, Virginia, was one of the leading white families in the area around the Roanoke River. Barnaby McKinnie, member of the General Assembly from Edgecombe County in 1735, was witness to many of the early Bass, Bunch, Chavis, and Gibson deeds. John McKinnie called Cannon Cumbo his friend when he mentioned him in his 28 February 1753 Edgecombe County will. Other leading white settlers who sold them land adjoining theirs and witnessed their deeds were Richard Washington, William and Thomas Bryant, Richard Pace, and William Whitehead. Arthur Williams, member of the General Assembly for Bertie County in 1735, and John Castellaw, (brother?) of James Castellaw, a member of the Assembly from Bertie County, had mixed-race common-law wives: Elizabeth and Martha Butler [Saunders, Colonial Records, IV:115 and the Butler history].
On 9 November 1762 many of the leading residents of Halifax County petitioned the Assembly to repeal the discriminatory tax against free African Americans, and in May 1763 fifty-four of the leading citizens of Granville, Northampton, and Edgecombe Counties made a similar petition. They described their "Free Negro & Mulatto" neighbors as
persons of Probity & good Demeanor (who) chearfully contribute towards the Discharge of every public Duty injoined them by Law.
About ten years later a similar petition by seventy-five residents of Granville County included those of a few of the free African Americans of the county: Benjamin, Edward, and Reuben Bass, William and Gibea Chavis, Lawrence Pettiford, and Davie Mitchell (negro) [Saunders, Colonial Records, VI:902, 982; IX:96-97].
In March 1782 a Continental officer observed a scene in a local tavern at Williamsboro, North Carolina:
The first thing I saw on my Entrance was a Free Malatto and a White man seated on the Hearth, foot to foot, Playing all fours by firelight: a Dollar a Game [Journals of Enos Reeves, March 13, 1782, Manuscript Department, Duke University, cited by Crow, The Black Experience in Revolutionary North Carolina, 32].
By 1790 free African Americans represented 1.7% of the free population of North Carolina, concentrated in the counties of Northampton, Halifax, Bertie, Craven, Granville, Robeson, and Hertford where they were about 5% of the free population [Heads of Families - North Carolina, 9-10]. In these counties most African American families were landowners, and several did exceptionally well.
Economic Condition and Race Relations
The Bunch, Chavis and Gibson families owned slaves and acquired over 1,000 acres of land on both sides of the Roanoke River in present-day Northampton and Halifax counties, and the Gowen family acquired over 1,000 acres in Granville County. William Chavis, a "Negro" listed in the 8 October 1754 muster roll of Colonel William Eaton's Granville County Regiment, owned over 1,000 acres of land, a lodging house frequented by whites, and 8 taxable slaves [T.R., box 1, folder 37, p. 1]. His son Philip Chavis also owned over 1,000 acres of land, traveled between Granville, Northampton, and Robeson counties, and lived for a while in Craven County, South Carolina.
Edward Carter was the fourth largest Dobbs County landowner with property valued at 23,292 pounds in 1780 [GA 46.1]. He was head of a Dobbs County household of 8 "other free," a white woman, and 20 slaves in 1790 [NC:137].8
8On 13 February 1773 the Dobbs County court recommended to the General Assembly that Edward Carter's daughters be exempted from the discriminatory tax against female children of African Americans [Saunders, Colonial Records of North Carolina, IX:495].
In mid-eighteenth century North Carolina mixed-race families were counted in some years by North Carolina tax assessors as "mulatto" and in other years as white. Jeremiah and Henry Bunch, Bertie County slave owners, were taxed in Jonathan Standley's 1764 Bertie County list as "free male Molattors" in 1764, but as whites in Standley's 1765 Bertie list, and again as "free Molatoes" in 1766 [CR 10.702.1]. Michael Going/ Gowen was taxed in Granville County as white in 1754 and was called "Michael Goin, Mulattoe" in 1759 [CR 44.701.19].
John Gibson, Gideon Gibson and Gibeon Chavis all married the daughters of prosperous white planters. Some members of the Gibson, Chavis, Bunch and Gowen families became resolutely white after several generations.
Relations with Slaves
While some free African Americans owned slaves and were accepted in white society, others married slaves and socialized with slaves. Hester Anderson, one of those freed in 1712 in Norfolk County, was the common-law wife of a slave. She was the ancestor of the Artis family of Southampton County, Virginia, and several North Carolina counties. James Revell of Cumberland County entrusted his executor with the task of making application to the legislature for his wife's freedom [WB C:21]. 9
Abel Carter was suspected of aiding a runaway slave. The 14 November 1778 issue of the North Carolina Gazette of New Bern advertised a reward for
a negro fellow named Smart...Tis supposed he is harboured about Smith River by one Abel Carter, a free Negro, as he has been seen there several times [Fouts, NC Gazette of New Bern, I:83].
However, the majority were small farmers who married other free African Americans. Their marriages can be identified from colonial wills and tax lists as well as the county marriage bonds starting in the late eighteenth century.
9 Another member of this family, Hiram Revels, first African American to be elected to the U.S. Senate, was born in Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina in 1822 [Encyclopedia Britannica, Ready Reference & Index VIII:538].
They suffered under the discriminatory North Carolina tax law enacted in 1723 and restated in 1749 which described taxables as
all and every White Person, Male, of the Age of Sixteen Years, and upwards, all Negroes, Mulattoes, Mustees Male or Female, and all Persons of Mixt Blood, to the Fourth Generation, of the Age of Twelve Years, and upwards, and all white Persons intermarrying with any Negro, mulatto, or Mustee, or other Person of mixt Blood,...shall be deemed Taxables... [Clark, State Records of North Carolina, XXIII:106-7, 345].
Thus, free African American and Indian households can be identified by the taxation of their female family members over twelve years of age. Some light-skinned people would claim to be white to avoid this discriminatory tax, and they would be listed by the tax collector with the notation, "Refuses to list his wife" [Thomas and Michael Gowin in the 1761 list of John Pope, CR 44.701.19]. It was in the interest of the tax collector to classify those of doubtful ancestry as "Mulatto" since he received a portion of the tax. However, those with some political and economic influence like the Bass and Bunch families were often listed as white.
In addition to the discriminatory tax, poor and orphaned African American children were bound out until the age of twenty-one by the county courts just like their poor white counterparts. 10
10 North Carolina and Virginia enacted apprenticeship laws similar to those in England. In 1646 Virginia passed a law giving justices of the peace at their own discretion the right to bind out children of the poor "to avoyd sloath and idleness wherewith such children are easily corrupted, as also for the relief of such parents whose poverty extends not to give them breeding" [Hening, Statutes at Large, XXVII:336].
In July 1733 the North Carolina General Assembly received complaints from "divers Inhabitants" that
divers free People, Negroes, Molattoes residing in this Province were...bound out until they come to 31 years contrary to the consent of the Parties bound out. The said comittee further report that they fear that divers Persons will desert the settlement of those parts ...
The General Assembly ruled that those illegally bound should be released, the practice of binding out children to thirty-one years of age was to cease, and the children were to be bound out for the same term as white children [Saunders, Colonial Records, III:556]. 11
11Carteret County, however, continued the practice of binding mixed-race children until the age of thirty-one at least until 1759 [Minutes, 1747-64, 53]. This attitude of the court may explain why free African Americans made up only 0.3% of the free Carteret County population in 1790. Craven and Granville Counties, on the other hand, bound out free African American girls until the age of eighteen - the same as for white girls, and free African Americans made up almost 5% of the free population of these counties in 1790 (4.6 and 4.9% respectively) [Heads of families - North Carolina, 10; Craven Minutes 1764-66, 50d; 1779-84, 79a; 1784-86, 49a; 1786-87, 26b; Granville Minutes, 1792-95, 65, 92].
The children were bound as apprentices in various crafts. Some apprentices were bound "to learn the art, trade, and mystery of farming," and others were trained as coopers, blacksmiths, cordwainers, or other useful occupations.
The November 1774 Bertie County court ordered eight-year-old Jemima Wiggins and ten-year-old Mary Beth Wiggins, "bastard Mulattos of Sarah Wiggins," bound to John Skinner. However, this order was reversed in the May 1775 court session when Edward Wiggins, the children's father, convinced the court
of the said Skinners ill & deceitful Behavior procuring sd Order... [Haun, Bertie County Court Minutes, IV:157].
The courts bound out the children of many free African American women who were not married or were the common-law wives of slaves, but Doll Burnett argued against the binding of her daughter Edith in the 28 May 1777 Johnston County court:
and the court taking the Conduct Character and Circumstances of the said Doll Burnet into consideration & finding no just reasons to apprehend that the said Edith would become a charge to this County, Ordered her to be returned to the care of her said Mother again [Haun, Johnston County Court Minutes, II:260].
In some instances the indenture laws virtually enslaved a person for life. George Cummins had the indenture of his white servant woman named Christian Finny extended by a year and her child bound for thirty-one years by order of the 7 December 1736 Carteret County court because she had a "Mallatto Bastard Child during her service." She may have been the common-law wife of a slave for she was charged with having another "Melato" born 10 July 1739 and another on 20 December 1743. When she applied to the court for her freedom on 9 June 1744, the court ruled that she serve for another five months to pay for the cost of the court suit against her. When she again applied for her freedom six months later, the court ruled that on checking the record she serve another year since she had a "Mullatto Child in the time of her servitude" [Minutes 1723-47, fol.33c, fol.58, 59b-c, 62d, 151-2].
Some unscrupulous masters treated their apprentices like slaves. On 21 September 1742 David Lewis brought John Russell, a six-year-old mixed-race boy, into Craven County court, requesting that he be bound to him and promising to
Cause to be learned the sd Boy to Read & Write a Ledgable hand & teach him or cause to be taught the Shoemakers trade...
However, Lewis "made a present of the said boy" to his brother, John Lewis of Chowan County, and his brother sold the boy to Captain Hews of Suffolk County, Virginia [Haun, Craven County Court Minutes, III:328, 653].
Between 1759 and 1786 there were sixteen African American apprentices in Craven County who at the completion of their indentures had to petition the court for their freedom. The court ruled in the favor of the petitioners in every case [Minutes 1758-66, 1:22c; 1764-75, 1:50d; 1772-84, 1:49c, 58c-d, 59d, 61c; 2:4b, 34a-b, 49a, 79a; 1784-87, 1:5c, 11c, 33d; 2:26b]. 12
12 The Craven County court also ruled in favor of three African Americans who were born free elsewhere but held in bondage in Craven County between 1770 and 1778 [Minutes 1764-75, 2:147b; 1772-84, 2:38d, 48b, 58c-d, 69a].
Caleb Lockalier was bound apprentice to Stephen Kades who assigned him to Francis Kennaday, who assigned him to James Oneal, who assigned him to Thomas Hadley, who refused to release him from his indenture until ordered to do so by the 27 July 1786 Cumberland County court [Minutes 1784-7, Thursday, 27 July 1786].
John Harris, a white Hyde County carpenter, found guilty of begetting a bastard child by Mary Ba_row, a white spinster, was required by law to support her. However, in June 1756 when the child was about two months old, the court learned that the child was mixed-race. Harris was compensated for his expense by binding the child, a "Molatto Named George," to him for twenty-one years [Haun, Hyde County Court Minutes, II:174].
Robert West, Sr., advertised in the North Carolina Gazette of New Bern on 13 March 1752 for Thomas Bowman as if he were a runaway slave:
Ran away from the subscribers on Roanoke River, a Negro fellow named Thomas Boman, a very good blacksmith, near 6 feet high, he can read, write and cyper. Whoever will apprehend him shall be paid 12 Pistoles, besides what the law allows [Fouts, NC Gazette of New Bern, I:3].
Almost twenty years later Thomas Bowman was a taxable "free Molatto" in John Moore's household in the Bertie County tax list of 1771, 1772, and 1774 [CR 10.702.1, Box 13].
A South Carolinian advertised in the North Carolina Central and Fayetteville Gazette on 25 July 1795 for Nancy Oxendine, daughter of Charles Oxendine of Robeson County:
$10 reward to deliver to the subscriber in Georgetown, a mustie servant woman named Nancy Oxendine, she is a stout wench, of a light complexion about 30 years old. It is supposed she has been ??els away by her brother and sister, the latter lives in Fayetteville [Fouts, Newspapers of Edenton, Fayetteville, & Hillsborough, 81].
We also find cases where children were willingly bound by their parents to neighbors, friends, and relatives. Lovey Bass bound her illegitimate child Nathan to her neighbor George Anderson who was probably the boy's father. George devised his land to Nathan and his farm animals to Lovey Bass but left his wife and children only a shilling each [Original 1771 Granville County will].
Other apprenticeships were simply a way for a person to acknowledge responsibility for a child's support. Mary Bibby, a "black" taxable, had a "base born" child named Fanny who was bound out to Amy Ingram in Bute County on 13 May 1772 [Warren County WB A:227]. However, Mary had been living in the Ingram household for at least ten years prior to this. She and a slave named Charles were "black" taxables in Jesse Ingram's household in Gideon Macon's list for Goodwin's District of Granville County in 1761 [CR 44.701.19], and she and Charles were taxables in the Ingram household in the Bute County tax list of William Person in 1771 [CR 015.70001]. Mary was Charles' common-law wife according to a 28 June 1893 letter from a Bibby descendant, Narcissa Ratley, to her children. 13
Some masters took the apprenticeships seriously. In Bertie County on 26 September 1768 seven-year-old Frederick James, "natural son of Ann James," was bound as an apprentice to John Norwood [CR 10.101.7]. And about fifty years later on 25 February 1817 we find Frederick James able to write his own Bertie County will in good handwriting [Original at N.C. Archives].
13 Narcissa Ratley's letter is in the possession of Robert Jackson of Silver Springs, Maryland. A copy is at the end of the Pettiford family file.
Sale Into Slavery
Free African Americans were also in danger of having their children stolen and sold into slavery. In his Revolutionary War pension application on 7 March 1834 Drury Tann declared in Southampton County, Virginia court that
he was stolen from his parents when a small boy by persons unknown to him, who were carrying him to sell him into Slavery, and had gotten with him and other stolen property as far as the Mountains on their way, that his parents made complaint to a Mr. Tanner Alford who was Then a magistrate in the county of Wake State of North Carolina to get me back from Those who had stolen me and he did pursue the Rogues & overtook Them at the mountains and took me from Them [NARA, S.19484, M804, http://fold3.com/image/19565717].
An advertisement in the 10 April 1770 issue of the North Carolina Gazette of New Bern described how the Driggers family was victimized in Craven County, North Carolina:
broke into the house...under the care of Ann Driggus, a free negro woman, two men in disguise, with marks on their faces, and clubs in their hands, beat and wounded her terribly and carried away four of her children [Fouts, NC Gazette of New Bern, I:65-6].
And John Scott, "freeborn negro," testified in Berkeley County, South Carolina, on 17 January 1754 that three men, Joseph Deevit, William Deevit, and Zachariah Martin,
entered by force, the house of his daughter, Amy Hawley, and carried her off, with her six children, and he thinks they are taking them north to sell as slaves.
One of the children was recovered in Orange County, North Carolina, where the county court appointed Thomas Chavis to return the child to South Carolina on 12 March 1754 [Minutes 1752-8, 70-1].
Stealing free African Americans to sell them into slavery in another state was not a crime in North Carolina until 1779 [Clark, State Records of North Carolina, XXIV:220]. However, free African Americans were afforded some protection under the law [Clark, State Records of North Carolina, XXIV:220]. In 1793 the murderer of John James of Northampton County was committed to jail according to the 20 March 1793 issue of the North Carolina Journal:
Last night Harris Allen, who was committed for the murder of John James, a free mulatto, of Northampton County, made his escape from the gaol of this town. He is a remarkable tall man, and had on a short round jacket [Fouts, NC Journal, I:205].
Service in the Revolutionary War
Many of the families in this history have at least one member who fought in the Revolutionary War. Over 420 free-born African Americans served in the Revolution from Virginia, another 390 from North Carolina and 40 from South Carolina [http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/revolution.htm].
Army pay probably helped fund additional land purchases, and this service alongside whites established long lasting friendships. Justice William Bryan of Johnston County testified in court for Holiday Haithcock in support of his application for a Revolutionary War pension on 21 September 1834 explaining that
in the times of our Revolutionary War free negroes and mulattoes mustered in the ranks with white men...This affiant has frequently mustered in company with said free negroes and mulattoes...That class of persons were equally liable to draft and frequently volunteered in the public Service.
And H. Thompson Venable wrote for him to the Commissioner of Pensions in Washington,
the case of Holliday Hethcock of N.C. has been suspended merely because he was a free man of color. As we understand that several cases of this sort have been admitted, you will oblige us by having it admitted [NARA, R.4812, M804, https://www.fold3.com/image/1/22996357].
Charles Roberson Kee, a leading citizen of Northampton County, testified that he knew Drury Walden for more than twenty years and that
no man, not James Polk himself is of better moral character [NARA, R.11014, M804, roll 2471, frame 456 of 1334].
The Free Negro Code
Many free African American families sold their land in the early nineteenth century and headed west or remained in North Carolina as poor farm laborers. This was probably the consequence of a combination of deteriorating economic conditions and the restrictive "Free Negro Code."
Beginning in 1826 and continuing through the 1850s, North Carolina passed a series of restrictive laws termed the "Free Negro Code" by John Hope Franklin. Free African Americans lost the right to vote and were required to obtain a license to carry a gun. Tensions arising from Nat Turner's slave rebellion in nearby Southampton County, Virginia, played a major role in the passage of these laws. 14
14 Free African Americans arrested in Southampton County after Nat Turner's Rebellion included Arnold Artist (Artis), Exum Artes, Berry Newsom, Thomas Haithcock, and Isham Turner. Artes, Haithcock, and Newsom were sent for further trial [Drewry, The Southampton County Insurrection, 195-6].
With the whole state literally up in arms over Nat Turner's rebellion, delegates to the General Assembly from New Bern called on the Assembly "setting forth the incompetency of free persons of color exercising the privilege of voting." Edmund B. Freeman, editor of the Roanoke Advocate, a Halifax County weekly, boldly came to their support in the 5 January 1832 issue:
It cannot be denied that free negroes, taken in the mass, are dissolute and abandoned -yet there are some individuals among them, sober, industrious and intelligent - many are good citizens; and that they are sometimes good voters we have the best proofs...We do think that too much prejudice is excited against this class of our population... -but, at the same time, there is a class of white skinned citizens, equally low and abandoned, whose absence whould be little regretted [N.C. Archives, Microfilm HaRA-2].
If his attitude toward free African Americans was typical of white Halifax County residents, this would help to explain why free African Americans made up over 18% of the free population of the county in 1810 [NC:59]. The editor's back-handed compliment certainly compares well to the sentiments of Robeson County residents:
The County of Robeson is cursed with a free-coloured population that migrated originally from the districts round about the Roanoke and Neuse Rivers. They are generally indolent, roguish, improvident, and dissipated [Franklin, Free Negro in North Carolina, 79, citing MS in Legislative Papers for 1840-41; Schweninger, Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series 1, 96].
or a northern paper quoted in the 5 January 1832 issue of the Roanoke Advocate complaining about "the evils arising from the immigration of free blacks" from other states into Pennsylvania:
Overun by an influx of ignorant, indolent & depraved popullation most dangerous to the peace, rights & liberties of our citizens... [N.C. Archives Microfilm HaRA-2, January 5, 1832].
John Hope Franklin recorded a famous case in which Elijah Newsom of Cumberland County was prosecuted for carrying his gun in the county [Franklin, Free Negro in North Carolina, 77, citing State v. Newsom, 27 N.C., 183]. However, Halifax County and Robeson County appear to have granted gun licenses freely. These licenses were recorded in the county court records from 1841 through 1846. 15
15 "By petition signed by 5 or more of their respectable neighbors" the 18 August 1845 Halifax Court issued gun licenses to
Lemuel Morgan, Aaron, Arthur and Gabriel Locklear, Matthew Jones, John Smith, Robert Mitchum, Fed Haithcock, Fed Wilkins, Alex Jones, David Reynolds, Julius Flood, Ambrose Hawkins, Simon Purnin, William Jones.
The November 1841 Robeson County court issued licenses using the form, "Whereas ... a Colored man residing in this County by name ____ doth sustain a good moral Character therefore it is adjudged that the said ____ be permitted to bear fire armes ... & use the same as any other good Citizen of the Community." They were issued to
David, Aaron, and Alexander Oxendine, Ishmael, Ethelred, Nelson, and Willis Roberts, David Scott, William Goings, Henry Sampson, Abraham Jones, George Morgan, Levi and Hector Locklear, and John Blanks.
Many of those who left the state were enumerated in the 1840-1860 censuses of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. Some went to Canada and a few to Haiti and Liberia. By 1857 when Henry Chavers (Chavis) emigrated to Liberia, life for free African Americans in North Carolina must have been truly oppressive. A letter written for him to his friend, Dr. Ellis Malone of Lewisburg in Franklin County, describing Liberia sounds like that of a recently liberated slave:
this Land of Freedom...a nation of free and happy Children of a hitherto downcast and oppressed Race...I now begin to enjoy life as a man should do...did my Coloured Friends only know or could they have seen what I already have seen they would not hesitate a moment to come to this Glorious Country [Ellis Malone Papers, NUCMC, 21-H, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University]. 16
By 1870 many of those who remained behind were living in virtually the same condition as the freed slaves. In the 1870 census for Northampton County, North Carolina, the most common occupation listed for those who were free before 1800 was "farm laborer," the same occupation as the former slaves. Some married former slaves, and by the twentieth century they had no idea their ancestors had been free.
16 Bell I. Wiley understandably mistook Chavers for a recently manumitted slave, including this letter in his book, Slaves No More (1980), University Press of Kentucky.
Migration to South Carolina
Some members of the Gibson family moved to South Carolina in 1731 where a member of the Commons House of Assembly complained that "several free colored men with their white wives had immigrated from Virginia." Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gideon Gibson and his family to explain their presence there and after meeting him and his family reported,
I have had them before me in Council and upon Examination find that they are not Negroes nor Slaves but Free people, That the Father of them here is named Gideon Gibson and his Father was also free, I have been informed by a person who has lived in Virginia that this Gibson has lived there Several Years in good Repute and by his papers that he has produced before me that his transactions there have been very regular, That he has for several years paid Taxes for two tracts of Land and had several Negroes of his own, That he is a Carpenter by Trade and is come hither for the support of his Family [Box 2, bundle: S.C., Minutes of House of Burgesses (1730-35), 9, Parish Transcripts, N.Y. Hist. Soc. by Jordan, White over Black, 172].
Like the early settlers of the North Carolina frontier Governor Johnson was more concerned with the Gibsons' social class than their race.
Many of the free African Americans who were counted in the census for South Carolina from 1790 to 1810 originated in Virginia or North Carolina. They were among the first settlers of the backcountry of South Carolina where they were granted land and formed communities in what became Marion, Marlboro, Liberty, and Richland counties. They were:
Bass, Berry, Biddie, Bonner, Bowman, Bradley, Braveboy, Bryan, Bugg, Bunch, Butler, Buzby, Carter, Chavis, Clark, Collins, Combest/ Cumbess, Cumbo, Demery, Driggers, Ferrell, Gallimore, Gibson, Gowen, Grooms, Hagan, Haithcock, Harmon, Hatcher, Hawley/ Holly, Hays, Hazell, Henderson, Hicks, Hilliard, Howard, Huelin, Hunt, Ivey, Jacobs, Jeffries, Jones, Kersey, Lamb, Locklear, Lowry, Lucas, Matthews, Mitcham, Mosely, Mumford, Oxendine, Pavey, Rawlinson, Reed, Rouse, Russell, Scott, Shoecraft, Shoemaker, Sweat, Tann, Turner, Valentine, Weaver, Webb, Wilson, and Winn.
A Hawley family with relatives in Northampton and Granville counties, North Carolina, was in Berkeley County, South Carolina, by 1754 [Orange County, North Carolina Minutes 1752-8, 70-1].
Winslow Driggers, James Bunch, Jacob Bunch, Ephraim Bunch, Gideon Bunch, Peter Rouse, Anthony Sweat, Barnet Sweat, and Thomas Sweat were in South Carolina militias before 1760 [Clark, Colonial Soldiers of the South, 883, 892, 895, 925, 929, 938, 989].
Families from Virginia and North Carolina represented most of the "free persons of Colour" of present-day Liberty and Marlboro counties, South Carolina, who petitioned the legislature to repeal the discriminatory tax against "free Negroes" on 20 April 1794: Richard Evins (Evans), Nathaniel Conbie (Cumbo), George Collins, William Turner, Thomas Hulen, Spencer Bolton, William Swett, Solomon Bolton, James Shewmak (Shoemaker), John Turner, Junr., Solomon Shewmk, Sampson Shewmak, Thomas Shewmake, Junr., Thomas Shewmake, Senr., John Shumake, James Shumake, David Collins, Thomas Collins, John Turner, Senr., Mildred Turner, Penelope Turner, Catherine Turner, Elias Hulon, Cudworth Oxendine, Archmack Oxendine, Dellie Gibson, and Drusilla Gibson. Others who signed the petition were Isaac Mitchell, Jonathan Price, and Nathan Price. Stephen Gibson, Jur.(?) Driggers, James Ivey, Joseph Bass and Levi Gibson were considered white when they signed in support of the petition [South Carolina Department of Archives and History, General Assessment Petition, 1794, no. 216, frames 370-374, Free People of Color ST 1368, series no. 165015, item 216].
In 1806 female free "persons of Colour" of Richland District petitioned against the discriminatory tax against them: Elizabeth Harris, Dicey Nelson, Lydney Harris, Keziah Harris, Clarissa Harris, Eleanor Harris, Katherine Rawlinson, Elizabeth Wilson, Jerry Sweat, Sarah Jacobs, Sarah Wilson, Sarah Holley, Edey Wilson, Sarah Bolton, Nancy Grooms, Mary Jeffers, Sarah Jeffers, Mary Jacobs, Rachel Portie, and Sarah Portie (a variation of the name Poythress) [S.C. Archives, General Assembly Petitions, S165015, ND1885, frames 382-386].
And the sheriff of Richland District complained to the General Assembly that between 1821 and 1824 he was unable to collect the tax of $4 each from Randel Harris, John Harris, Eliza Harris, Jacob Harris, Nassry Harris, Rowline Harris, Russell Portee, Fanny Portee, Polly Oxendine, Rachel Oxendine, Wm Oxendine, Ailsey Oxendine, Michael Wilson, Thomas Wilson, Rebecca Locklier, James Locklier, Philip Gibbs, Lydia Chavis, Wm Harris, Ephraim Wilson, Stark Harris, Jery Harris, Gideon Gibson, Sarah Jacob, J. Jacobs, Keziah Jacobs, Essey Jacobs, Mary Chavis, Tempty Cursey (Kersey), Charlotte Chavis, Griffin Harris, and Sophia Sweat [S.C. Archives, General Assembly Petitions, S165015, ND 1796, frames 793-797].
Few colonial South Carolina county court records have survived, so it is not possible to determine the origin of all the free South Carolina families. However, at least three families were the descendants of white slave owners who left slaves and plantations to their mixed-race children: Collins, Holman, and Pendarvis. James Pendarvis expanded his father's holdings more than fourfold to 4,710 acres and 151 slaves. John Holman, Jr., established a plantation with 57 slaves on the Santee River in Georgetown District and then returned to his homeland in Rio Pongo, West Africa to resume the slave trading he learned from his English father [Koger, Black Slaveowners, 104, 108-110, 112-121].
According to Koger, free Indians in Charleston were part of the free African American community. They married members of the free African American community and were members of the Brown Fellowship Society, an organization of "lighter skinned men" which maintained a cemetery, operated a school for the children of its members, and supported charity and social functions. Proof of descent from a free Indian allowed free African Americans to avoid the discriminatory state capitation tax [Koger, Black Slaveowners, 16-17; S.C. Dept. of Archives & History, Public Programs Document Packet No.1]. Free association of Indians and African Americans is also evident from their family genealogies. Rachel Garden, "a free Mustee," married Robert Baldwin, "a free Blackman," in Charleston on 5 September 1801.
Tri-racial, "Portuguese," and "Indian" Communities
Some of the lighter-skinned descendants of these families formed their own distinct communities which have been the subject of anthropological research. Those in Robeson County, North Carolina, are called "Lumbee Indians," in Halifax and Warren counties: "Haliwa-Saponi," in South Carolina: "Brass Ankles" and "Turks," in Tennessee and Kentucky: "Melungeons" and "Portuguese," and in Ohio: "Carmel Indians." Several fantastic theories on their origin have been suggested. One is that they were from Raleigh's lost colony at Roanoke and another that they were an amalgamation of the Siouan-speaking tribes in North and South Carolina [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 36-41].
Documents from a court case held in Johnson County, Tennessee, in 1858 provide a detailed description of one such family. They illustrate the extent to which the family was accepted by the white community and the extent to which the family history was already clouded by myths in 1858. Joshua Perkins, born about 1732, the "Mulatto" descendant of a white woman, from Accomack County, Virginia [Orders 1731-36, 133], owned land in Robeson County, North Carolina, in 1761, moved to Liberty County, South Carolina, and in 1785 moved to what later became Washington County, Tennessee [Bladen County DB 23:80, 121, 104-5, 424-5, 147-8; Philbeck, Bladen County Land Entries, no. 1210]. Along the way, succeeding generations of his family married light-skinned or white people. They owned a ferry, race horses, and an iron ore mine; ran the local school house, and were election officials. However, conditions had changed drastically just prior to the Civil War in 1858 when Jacob F. Perkins, great-grandson of Joshua Perkins, brought an unsuccessful suit against one of his neighbors in the Johnson County Circuit Court for slander because he had called him a "free Negro" [The Perkins File in the T.A.R. Nelson Papers in the Calvin M. McClung Collection at the East Tennessee Historical Center].
More than fifty witnesses made depositions or testified at the trial. Many of the deponents had known three generations of the family in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee. Sixteen of twenty-two elderly witnesses who had actually seen Joshua Perkins testified that he was a "Negro," describing him as
a dark skinned man with sheeps wool and flat nose ... [Ibid., deposition of Nancy Lipps].
black man, hair nappy ... Some called Jacob (his son) a Portuguese and some a negro [Ibid., deposition of John Nave, 88 years old].
Knew old Jock (Joshua) in North Carolina on Peedee ... right black or nearly so. Hair kinky ... like a common negro [Ibid., deposition of Abner Duncan, 86 years old].
However, eighteen witnesses for Perkins testified that Joshua Perkins was something other than "Negro" - Portuguese or Indian. They said little about his physical characteristics and those of his descendants. Instead, they argued that he could not have been a "Negro" and been so totally accepted by his community:
dark skinned man ... resembled an Indian more than a negro. He was generally called a Portuguese. Living well ... Kept company with everybody. Kept race horses and John Watson rode them [Ibid., deposition of Thomas Cook, 75 years old].
mixed blooded and not white. His wife fair skinned ... They had the same privileges [Ibid., deposition of Catherine Roller, 80 years old].
Hair bushy & long - not kinky. Associated with white people ... Associated with ... the most respectable persons. Some would call them negroes and some Portuguese [Ibid., deposition of John J. Wilson, about 70 years old].
He was known of the Portuguese race ... Four of his sons served in the Revolution ... Jacob and George drafted against Indians ... they came from and kept a ferry in South Carolina [Ibid., deposition of Anna Graves, 77 years old].17
They kept company with decent white people and had many visitors [Ibid., deposition of Elizabeth Cook, about 71].
I taught school at Perkins school house ... they were Portuguese ... associated white peoples, clerked at elections and voted and had all privileges [Ibid., deposition of David R. Kinnick, aged 77].
Some who testified in favor of the Perkins family had never seen Joshua Perkins and seemed to be genuinely confused about the family's ancestry:
I was well acquainted with Jacob Perkins (a second generation Perkins). A yellow man - said to be Portuguese. They do not look like negroes. I have been about his house a great deal and nursed for his wife. She was a little yellow and called the same race. Had blue eyes and black hair. Was visited by white folks [Ibid., deposition of Mary Wilson].
One of the deponents, seventy-seven-year-old Daniel Stout, explained very simply how people of African descent could have been treated well by their white neighbors:
Never heard him called a negro. People in those days said nothing about such things [Ibid., deposition of Daniel Stout].
17 The use of the term "Portuguese" for a mixed-race person accepted as white was used as early as October 1812 when the Marion District, South Carolina Court of Common Pleas ruled that Thomas Hagans did not have to pay the levy on "Free Negros" because he was Portuguese [NCGSJ IX:259]. Thomas was the son of Zachariah Hagins, a "Mulatto" bound out in Johnston County, North Carolina court in October 1760 [Haun, Johnston County Court Minutes, I:46]. Full sequence Y-DNA testing shows that the descendants of Emanuel Driggers and Joshua (Old Jock) Perkins share a common ancestor born about 1600 CE. Their Y-haplogroup likely originated in Angola and is a subclade of E-M96.
Many of these light-skinned communities were isolated from both the white and former slave populations after the Civil War. Emancipation brought a lower status to many former free persons of color when the division of society went from free and slave to white and black. Mobile Hobson was the descendant of Ann Hobson, a white woman of Elizabeth City County, and a slave. He was a very old man when interviewed by the Virginia Writers Project which described him as "Grecian featured with skin as white as a white man's." He described events in Poquoson, Virginia, after the Civil War:
We used to go to de white churches fo' de war; an' arter dey started schools dey say we was Injuns. Well, we was, too, partly. But we wasn't no Negroes. First dey say we couldn't go in de white church no more. Well, we stopped goin'. Den when dey start de schools, dey say we couldn't go to de white schoolhouse. Some wouldn't go to de colored schoolhouse, an' some would. My dad wouldn't let us go to school wid de Negroes, so we didn't git no schoolin. When it come to marryin' we was in a worse fix. Couldn't marry white an' we wasn't aimin to marry colored. Started in to marryin' each other an' we been marryin' close cousins ever since [WPA, The Negro in Virginia, 36]. (The foreword to the 1994 printing warns that a thicker dialect was added in some interviews).
And a study in 1886 described these groups and their relations with the newly freed slaves:
The line of demarcation between the Old and New "Ishy" is not only still plainly visible, but bids fair long to continue so. Associating but little with each other, intermarriage is not common. A free Negro who marries a freed one almost invariably loses caste and is disowned by his people.
In their habits, manner, and dress, the free negroes still resemble, as they always did, the poorest class of whites much closer than they do the freedman [Dodge, "Free Negroes of North Carolina," Atlantic Monthly 57 (January 1886):20-30]. 18
18 "Old" and "new issue" were terms used to distinguish African Americans free before and after the Civil War. The term probably referred to the new monetary currency issued after the war.
During Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 and for many decades afterwards, thousands of Indians were enslaved as the English colonists expanded their lands to include more of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Over 30,000 Indians were sold into slavery in South Carolina alone, mostly to the West Indies and New England [Ablavsky, Gregory, Making Indians 'White': The Judicial Abolition of Native Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia and its Racial Legacy (May 2011). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 159, p.1457, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1830592]. But some were also held in the same households as African slaves in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland--many as small children, perhaps because they would not have been able to escape or know where to escape to.
Virginians were already bequeathing Indian slaves to their heirs for life in 1682 when Virginia passed a law which allowed masters to purchase Indians from neighboring tribes and "any other trafiqueing with us for slaves" and hold them as slaves for life [Hening, Statues at Large, II:491]. Thus, when Indian children were brought into court in Henrico County, Virginia, in 1683, a year after the law's passage (to record their age in order to know when their masters should start paying taxes on them), the court noted whether they had "Come in Amongst the English" before or after the 1682 law "making Indians slaves." Thirty-one Indian children who came in after the law were treated as slaves and 22 who came in before were treated as servants to serve until the age of 30 years.
Another 34 Indian children were brought to court to have their ages adjudged in Charles City County Court between 1687 and 1695, and another 30 in Henrico County between 1691 and 1712 [Charles City Orders 1687-95, 144, 180, 244, 263, 295, 314, 332, 349, 351, 353, 385, 409, 415, 421, 458, 461, 474, 482, 505, 507, 535; Henrico Orders 1678-93, 139-41, 146-7, 150, 157-8, 161, 163, 177, 210, 241, 391, 430; 1694-1701, 40, 71, 80, 82, 112, 117, 149, 169, 200, 210, 211, 213, 218, 229-31, 235, 237; 1707-9, 29; 1710-4, 134, 161]. About 1% of the taxable slaves in Surry County, Virginia, were Indians between 1680 and 1700 [Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, vols. 22-24]. And Indian slaves were listed in the inventories of the estates in Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland throughout the colonial period [http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/free-Indians.htm].18
18 Daniel Jenifer's "negro Slave called old Daniel" had a child by his Indian slave, Nanny, before 15 April 1687 when Jenifer made his Accomack County will. Their child Annis was called a "mustie" young woman in a 9 December 1697 Accomack County court case [Orders 1697-1703, 8]. Mary Scarburgh's slave, Songo, had an Indian wife named Molo when Scarburgh made her 19 December 1691 Accomack County will [Orders 1682-97, 216, 228a]. The Henrico County court bound out as an apprentice "Joe a Mollatto the Son of Nan an Indian Woman" in November 1740 [Orders 1737-46, 128]. And "Tom a Mulatto or Mustee" petitioned the Henrico County court for his freedom in January 1737/8, testifying that he was the grandson of a white woman but was held as a slave by Alexander Trent [Orders 1737-46, 20]. In June 1722 "Peg a Mulattoe woman Servant ... whose mother was an Indian" was ordered by the Henrico County court to serve her master until the age of thirty years [Orders 1719-24, 182].
However, about the year 1772, Virginians came to have a different view of Indians. They were not equal to whites, but they were not as inferior as Africans and thus should not have been enslaved. Only Africans were of such a low class that they deserved slavery. This was conveniently at a time when there were no Indians available to be enslaved and they were no longer a military threat to the colonists. This also helped confirm in the minds of the colonists the justification for enslaving Africans.
The courts took the view that anyone who could prove descent from an Indian woman, should, therefore, be set free. The Coleman family was probably the first to be freed under this new interpretation of the law. They were described as having dark brown complexions with short bushy hair when they obtained certificates of freedom in Petersburg [Register of Free Negroes, 1794-1819, 11, 32, 33, 37, 58, 138, 139, 170, 215, 240, 260, 290, 310, 333]. After three or four generations of living with African slaves, descendants were more African than Indian.
The Findleys were another such family. Fortunately, the testimony from their trial has survived, and we can trace them back to two children brought to court by their master to have their ages adjudged in Henrico County in 1712. Testimony at the trial said that their master brought the two children back to Virginia from a trip he took "beyond Carolina." Their descendants were described as having anywhere from dark brown to yellow complexions.
The freedom suits were discontinued about 1820 because testimony about what happened well over 100 years previous was second and third hand, and most descendants were by then physically indestinguishable from other slaves.
The concept of Indians having a higher status than African resurfaced in 1833, the year after Virginia passed very harsh, restrictive laws against free African Americans. In response to this, a Norfolk County legislator helped pass a law which allowed very light-skinned people to register as Indians. The thinking behind the law was that people who were practically white should not have to suffer the indignity of registering as free Negroes [Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1832-3, 51; Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood, 210-11]. Of the families that were registered as such, only the Bass family had any Indian ancestry, and that was from six generations back. Ironically, Norfolk County did not apply this law to the Cook family who actually had a court ruling that their freedom was based on descent from an Indian woman. They were apparently too dark-skinned [Register of Free Negroes, 1800-52, nos. 201, 1041-3, 1054-5]. Usage of this law was largely confined to the Bass family and their relatives in Norfolk County such as the Weaver family shown below. Other counties continued to register very light-skinned people as "bright Mulattos," as Norfolk had before 1833.
Augustus Bass (standing, in suit and tie) and William H. Weaver (sitting) in Norfolk County ca. 1900.
Robeson County, North Carolina
The concept of Indians being superior to and a separate group from African Americans re-emerged again in 1885 when the Democrats were trying to take control of the legislature in North Carolina and make it a Jim Crow state. The state was about equally divided on the issue, as was Robeson County.
Hamilton McMillan, a Democrat from Robeson County, took advantage of the fact that the African Americans who had been free since colonial times resented the loss of status they experienced when they had to attend the "Colored" schools with the former slaves. In order to secure their votes for the Democrats, he helped pass a law which allowed them to have their own separate schools [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 20, 61, 73].
McMillan explained the new school system by revising the then popular historical novel about Virginia Dare being raised by Indians after the massacre of the other colonists in the "lost colony" of Roanoke in 1587 [Mason, Mary. "The White Doe Chase. A Legend of Olden Times." Our Living and Our Dead, December 1875. Vol. 3, no. 6. pp. 753-771 (Raleigh, North Carolina)].
He revised the story to say that the colonists who had been last seen 300 years previous had mixed with friendly Indians and were the ancestors of those who had been free in colonial Robeson County. He named them "Croatan Indians" after the island near Roanoke Island that the colonists were presumed to have fled to.
White residents of Robeson County ridiculed the idea by shortening the name to "Cros" after Jim Crow, and the community changed the name to "Cherokee Indians of Robeson County" in 1913, "Siouan Indians of Lumber River" in 1934-1935, and they were recognized by the U.S. Congress as Lumbee Indians in 1956. After many generations they developed an Indian identity.
The actual ancestry of the community in Robeson County is as follows:
Mixed-race families from Virginia were among the earliest settlers of Bladen County, North Carolina, from which Robeson County was formed in 1787. They were described in a report to the colonial governor of North Carolina in 1754:
50 families a mixt Crew, a lawless People, possess the Lands without patent or paying quit rents; shot a Surveyor for coming to view vacant lands being inclosed in great swamps.
... No Indians...in the county [Saunders, Colonial Records, V:161].
The colonial tax lists for Bladen County listed the following mixed-race families as "Mulattoes" from 1768 to 1770: Braveboy, Carter, Chavis, Clark, Cox, Cumbo, Dimry, Doyal (Dial), Drake, Evans, Goin, Groom, Hammons, Hayes, Hunt, Ivey, James, Johnston, Jones, Kersey, Lamb, Locklear, Lowery, Overton, Oxendine, Perkins, Phillips, Russell, Skipper, Sweat, Sweeting, Walden, Wharton, Wilkins, and Wilson. Only one person was called an Indian: Thomas Britt [Byrd, William L., III, Bladen County Tax Lists, 1768-1774, I: 4-9, 14-17, 24-46, 50].
A complaint of 13 October 1773 listed "free Negors and Mullatus living upon the Kings land...Raitously Assembled together" in Bladen County: Captain James Ivey, Joseph Ivey, Ephraim Sweat, William Chavours Clark, Bengman Dees, William Sweat, George Sweat, William Groom, Senr, William Groom, Junr, Gidion Grant, Thomas Groom, James Frace, Isaac Vaun, Sol. Stableton, Edward Locklear, Tiely Locklear, Major Locklear, Recher Groom, and Ester Carsey [G.A. 73, Box 7]. Actually, most of these families were either granted or purchased land in Bladen County during the eighteenth century. John Groom entered 200 acres in 1748, John Locklear entered 100 acres in 1752, and Major Locklear was living on 100 acres in 1753 when a land entry was recorded for that land in the name of two white men. Thomas Ivey recorded a land entry for 150 acres in February 1754, and in December 1754 Robert Sweat was granted 150 acres which was sold by Philip Chavis in 1768.
A representation from Bladen County to the House of Assembly on 18 December 1773 complained of
the number of free negroes and mulattoes who infest that county and annoy its Inhabitants [Saunders, Colonial Records, IX:768].
And a white man named Jacob Alford petitioned on behalf of the inhabitants of the upper section of Bladen County that he and his neighbors lived in "Constant dread & Fear of Being Robbed and Murdered by a Set of Robbers and Horse Thiefs," mostly "mulattoes" who numbered about forty [Schweninger, Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series 1, 58]. Winslow Driggers was a notorious leader of one of the outlaw, back-country communities in South Carolina that bordered Bladen County and which were said to consist of both white and mixed-race men. In the Fall of the year 1770 he escaped from jail in Savannah, Georgia, and returned to the area of the Little Peedee River in North and South Carolina where he continued his outlaw career. The following year a band of ex-Regulators captured him at his hideout near Drowning Creek and used the provisions of the Negro Act as an excuse to hang him on the spot [Brown, South Carolina Regulators, 29-31, 103; Saunders, Colonial Records of North Carolina, IX:725, 771].
Most of the families listed in the 1790 and 1800 Robeson County census as "other free" are traced in this history back to persons referred to as "Negroes" or "Mulattos" in Virginia or North Carolina. These are the Branch, Braveboy, Brooks, Carter, Chavis, Cumbo, Dunn, Evans, Gowen, Hammond, Hogg, Hunt, Jacobs, James, Johnston, Kersey, Locklear, Manuel, Newsom, Oxendine, Revell, Roberts, Sweat and Wilkins families.
It appears from court records that free African Americans in Robeson County were at times accepted by the white population. They attended white schools and churches, voted, and mustered with whites. On 1 April 1805 the Robeson County court appointed James Lowery overseer of a road, a position usually reserved for whites [Minutes I:321]. However, they lost many of their rights with the passage of North Carolina's "Free Negro Codes" from about 1826 to 1850. Charles Oxendine was indicted by the Robeson County court for assault and battery and fined $15. When he failed to pay his fine, the court ordered the sheriff to hire him out since he was a "free Negro." Oxendine appealed the ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1837 on the basis that the law unconstitutionally discriminated against free persons of color.
During the Civil War, two cousins of the Lowery family of Robeson County were murdered while absent from fortification duty. The white man suspected of their murder was himself murdered shortly afterwards. A few months later in March 1865 a grandson of James Lowery, Allen Lowery, and his son William were murdered by the White Home Guard on the suspicion they were aiding escaped Union prisoners. The following month Hector Oxendine was murdered on the suspicion he helped General Sherman when he marched through Robeson County.
In response to these acts Henry Berry Lowery, a son of Allen Lowery, led a band of armed men who killed or drove from the county those who were involved in the murders. The band remained at large for nearly ten years despite the determined efforts of the White Home Guard, federal troops, and huge rewards for bounty hunters [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 50-65].
The New York Herald sent journalist Alfred Townsend to the county to report on the band. He described the area where most of the former free persons of color were living as
Scuffletown...The Mulatto Capital...spreads besides three or four miles on both sides of the (Rutherford Railway) track and is surrounded on three sides with swamps, a tract of several miles, covered at wide intervals with hills and log cabins of the rudest and simplest construction, sometimes a half dozen of these huts being proximate. The people have few or no horses, but often keep a kind of stunted ox to haul their short, rickety carts... and a little old lever-well of the crudest mechanism. The cabin is found built of hewn logs, morticed at the ends, the chinks stopped with mud, the chimney built against one gable on the outside of logs and clay, with sticks and clay above where it narrows to the smoke hole. There is beside the large chimney place, a half barrel, sawed off, to make lye from the wood ashes, and the other half of the barrel is seen to serve the uses of a washtub. The mongrel dog is always a feature of the establishment. The two or three acres of the lot are generally ploughed or planted in potatoes or maize...The bed is made on the floor, there are two or three stools; only one apartment comprising the whole establishment. Just such a place as the above is the house of Henry Berry Lowery, the outlaw chief, except that, being a carpenter he has nailed weather strips over the interstices, between the logs and made himself a sort of bedstead and some chairs. His cabin has two doors, opposite each other. The Scuffletowners go out to work as ditchers for the neighboring farmers who pay them magnanimous wages of $6 a month. The above picture while true of the majority of Scuffletowners, is not justly descriptive of all. The Oxendines are all well to do, or were before this bloody feud began, and the Lowerys were industrious carpenters, whose handiwork is seen at Lumberton, Shoe Heel and all round that region...The whites hated the settlement because it was a bad example to the negroes. But most people were Baptists or Methodists, and nearly all owned their own homesteads [Townsend, The Swamp Outlaws, 42-5]. 19
19 Scuffletown was the term for the center of the Lumbee settlement.
He described Henry Berry Lowery as "a yellow fellow, Indian-looking...of mixed Tuscarora, mulatto, and white blood...has straight black hair, like an Indian...one of the handsomest mulattoes you ever saw." And stated that the Lowerys "and their blood relatives showed Indian traces while Scuffletown at large is mainly plain, unromantic mulatto." He described the predominantly-white county seat of Lumberton as
wholly built of unpainted planks or logs which have become nearly black with weather stains. The streets are sandy and without pavements of either brick or wood [Townsend, The Swamp Outlaws, 39, 42-6].
Though started for the purpose of exacting revenge for the murders of members of the Lowery family, the band also demonstrated that the community could not be intimidated by whites. Much of the white community was in fear of the band, but their leader was quoted as saying,
We don't kill anybody but the Ku Klux [Townsend, Swamp Outlaws, 26-7].
The end of the band came in 1874 with the death of Steve Lowery, but the establishment of a self defence force helped their community maintain some political power at a time when white aggression prevented many African Americans from exercising their political rights.
In 1875 Mrs. Mary C. Norment, a resident of Robeson County whose husband was killed by one of James Lowry's great-grandsons, wrote about the band in The Lowrie History. She described the mixed-race population of Robeson County as "free negroes or mulattoes" who "had more or less a swarthy, yellow tinge of color, some whiter than others. They had married and intermixed with each other so often that the distinctive features of one was representative of all." She surmised that runaway slaves had taken "up their abode in this large free negro settlement," and that this was partly responsible for the fact that Robeson County was one of the largest "free negro" settlements in North Carolina [Norment, The Lowrie History (1875) (1895), 26-8]. In 1909 the Lumbee Publishing Company purchased the rights to Norment's book and removed all instances of the word "Mulatto" and "negro" and replaced them with the word "Indian" or removed them altogether. James Lowrie became a "respectable Indian." The Chavis, Dial and Oxendine families were no longer "Mulatto" [Norment, Mary C. and Olds, Fred, The Lowrie History (1909), 4, 12].
Free Indians in the English Community
There were Indians in Virginia who were not slaves. However, like the Indian slaves who were assimilated into the African slave population, free Indians living among the English as well as those on reservations were assimilated into the free African American population.
Molly Cockran, a free Indian woman from Goochland County, had a child by slave "Negro Ben" in August 1765 [Jones, The Douglas Register, 348]. The children of Judith Cypress, an Indian woman from Surry County, Virginia, married African Americans. Both families became part of the free African American community.
John Teague was an Indian tenant on land in Accomack County on 8 September 1725 [Orders 1724-31, 37]. His likely descendants were Robert Teague, a "Mulato" taxable on himself and a horse in Northampton County, Virginia, in 1787 [PPTL, 1782-1823, frame 75] and Sacker Teague who registered as a "free Negro" in Accomack County: born July 1785, a light Black, 5 feet 10-1/2 Inches, Born free [Register of Free Negroes, no.3]. Jacob Teague was a 63 year-old "man of color" who appeared in Accomack County court in 1820 to apply for a pension for his service in the Revolution [NARA, S.41235, M804, Roll 2354, frame 204 of 1099; https://www.fold3.com/image/18334058].
William Press, an Indian "born ... of the body of a free Negro called Priscilla," was fined for failing to list himself as a taxable in Northampton County, Virginia, in 1730 [Mihalyka, Loose Papers 1628-1731, 239].
The descendants of David Pinn, an Indian taxed in Benjamin George's Christ Church Parish, Lancaster County household in 1745 and 1746 were so much a part of the African American community by 1785 that a descendant left his estate to his wife with the proviso that she not marry a slave. Otherwise, it was to go to his sister who was married to a member of the free African American Nickens family [LVA,Tithables 1745-95, 1, 6; Northumberland County Wills and Administrations, 80]. Ann Pinn registered in Lancaster County on 19 September 1803: Age 55, Color black, Height 5'3"...born free [Burkett, Lancaster County Register of Free Negroes, 1].
Archer Bowmer, son of a free Indian woman, registered in Halifax County, Virginia, on 20 May 1827: a dark mulatto man about 64 years of age...grey wooly hair, was born free [Register of Free Negroes, 1802-1831, no. 114].
Some Indians with English surnames took their names from African American parents. Solomon Bartlett (born about 1727), a "free Mulatto" living in Bertie County in 1772, was probably the ancestor of Solomon and Fanny Bartlett (born about 1800) who were counted in the 1808 Nottoway Indian census [Executive Papers, June 21-July 22, 1808, Gov. William H. Cabell, box 154a, LVA].
John Dungee, a "free Mulatto," received thirty lashes in July 1755 when he was convicted of the attempted rape of a white woman in Brunswick County, Virginia [Orders 1753-6, 451, 498]. He was probably the grandfather of John Dungee, a Pamunkey Indian "descended from the aborigines of this dominion," who petitioned the Virginia Legislature to allow his wife, the daughter of a slave and her slave owner, to remain in Virginia in 1825 [King William County Legislative Petition, 19 December 1825, LVA].
Francis Skiper was married to Ann, a "negro" woman, before 1671 when the Norfolk County county court ruled that she was tithable [Orders 1666-75, 73]. They may have been the ancestors of George Skiper, one of the Nottoway Indians who sold land in Southampton County on 2 February 1749 [DB 1:98].
The history of the Bass family, a mixed-race Nansemond and English family, illustrates the position of culturally English Indians Americans in Virginia and North Carolina. Their ancestor, John Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, married an Indian woman in 1638. There is no evidence that the family ever adopted any Indian customs or married another Indian in Norfolk County.
John Bass's son William1 Bass purchased land in Norfolk County in 1729. William's son Edward Bass purchased land there in 1699 and had normal dealings in the county court [DB 6, no.2, fols. 36, 170, 255; Orders 1708-10, 124; 1710-17, 14, 136]. William1's daughter Mary Bass was the mistress of two white children who were bound to her by the Norfolk County court on 8 June 1714 [DB 6:189].
William1 Bass obtained a certificate from the Norfolk County court clerk in 1727:
An Inquest p'taining to possession & use of Cleared & Swamplands ... William Bass, Senr. & his kinsmen ... are persons of English and Nansemun Indian descent with no Admixture of negor, Ethipopic blood.
William1 Bass's son by the same name, William2 Bass, described as tall and swarthy, also obtained a certificate of Indian ancestry from the Norfolk County Clerk on 20 September 1742 [Bell, Bass Families of the South, 15]. His descendants were at least as much African as Indian since he married Sarah Lovina, the "Molatto" daughter of a "Negro Woman" slave named Jean Lovina, in 1729 [Norfolk WB 6:fol.96; DB 12:188; 18:41-2]. About seventy years later on 27 May 1797 their grandson obtained a certificate from the Norfolk County clerk stating that he was
of English and Indian descent and is not a Negroe nor yt a Mulattoe as by some falsely and malitiously stated.
and that he was the son of Sarah Lovina,
a vertious woman of Indian descent [Virginia State Archives Accession no.26371]. 20
20 Other free African American families (Anderson, Weaver, Perkins, Bright, Newton, and Price) were issued certificates of Nansemond Indian ancestry by the Norfolk Court on 15 and 20 July 1833 [Bell, Bass Families of the South, chapter on Nansemond Indian Ancestry of Some Bass Families, 1, 8].
William2 Bass's brothers came to North Carolina in the early eighteenth century, and their descendants settled in Northampton, Bertie, and Granville Counties. Those who settled in Northampton and Bertie Counties prospered and were among the larger landowners in the county. They married whites and most were considered white after a few generations. The Granville branch of the family were relatively small landowners who married free African Americans and were considered African American after a few generations.
One of the Granville County descendants, William Bass, was called "free negro" in an undated Granville County court presentation [CR 44.289.19]. Another William Bass was the foster son of a slave in Marlboro District, South Carolina. His extraordinary case illustrates both the extent which the family intermarried with African Americans and the degree of repression suffered by free African Americans in the mid-nineteenth century. On 14 December 1859 he petitioned the legislature to become the slave of Philip W. Pledger explaining that
his position as a free person of color, a negro, is more degrading and involves more suffering in this State, than that of a slave ... he is preyed upon by every sharper with whom he comes in contact ... and is charged with and punished for every offence guilty or not, committed in the neighborhood ... and lives a thousand times harder, and in more destitution, than the slaves of many planters [Henry, Police Control of the Slave in South Carolina, 196-7, citing the Charleston Courier, 20 December 1859]. 21
21 Philip Pledger may emancipated or been related to Morris Pledger, head of an Anson County, North Carolina household of 6 "other free" in 1800 [NC:203].
By the mid-eighteenth century Indians on Virginia's reservations were too few in number to have continued to exist solely through endogamous relationships.
One of the largest reservation tribes were the Ginkaskins who were assimilated into the African American population of Northampton County, Virginia, by the early 1800s.
Likewise, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Indians of King William County, Virginia, married African Americans in the area surrounding their reservations. In 1708 there was a Pamunkey Queen Ann and twelve great men:
Mr. Younks, Mr. John, Mr. Po White, Tho. Beck, Fra. Maoco, Sham Mearen, Henry Marshall, James Corvan, Thos. Rogers, Charles, Thos. Secawesah, John Hicks [Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 127-8].
Forty years later in 1748 the tribe had only seven men, five of whom were related to each other:
George Langston, John Langston, William Langston, George Tawhaw, John Samson, Thomas Cook, Thomas Samson
They "having been afflicted with long and grievous Sickness" and debts for medicines, doctors' attendance, corn, clothing and other necessaries they were unable to pay, petitioned the governor to allow them to sell a tract of land of 88 acres which was four miles from their town [Winfree, The Laws of Virginia, 416-7].
It is likely that the Langston, Samson and Cook families descended from non-Pamunkey men. The Langston family apparently descended from "Indian Langston" who was paid by the Henrico County court on 12 October 1691 for killing wolves [DW 1668-1697, 249]. And the Sampson family likely descended from John Sampson, a "free Molatto" who lived in Elizabeth City County in 1715 [See the Sampson family history].
In the 1750s the Mush family, descendants of Chickahominy Indian James Mush, joined the community [McIlwaine, Executive Journals of the Council, II:364, 376]. And by the time of the Revolution there were members of the Major family who may have been related to free, Eastern Shore Indian Peter Major, African slaves and an Indian slave named Cook [Cook, George: Freedom Suit, 1796; Mary: Freedom Suits, 1804; Major: Freedom Suit, 1801, Accomack County, African American Digital Collection, LVA; See the Major family history].
On 12 September 1771 a slave owner advertised in the Virginia Gazette that his "yellow Complexioned" slave Frank had run off to his Pamunkey wife [Virginia Gazette, Purdie & Dixon, p.3, col. 2].
The Revolutionary War pension files of John Collins and Stephen Freeman indicate that the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Indian communities were part of the free African American communities in surrounding counties and grew up with each other as children in the 1760s [NARA, W.6736, M804, roll 613, frame 703 of 761, also https://www.fold3.com/image/12861980; NARA, B.LWt 2393-100, M804, roll 1024, frame 312 of 952, also https://www.fold3.com/image/20171576]. Free African American families that married into the tribes included: Adams, Almond, Arnold, Bradby, Brisby, Collins, Cooper, Custalow, Dicky, Dungee, Edwards, Freeman, Hills, Holmes, Holt, Key, Miles, Mills, Page, Sweat, Twopence, Wheeler/ Wheeley and Winn.22
22 Abraham Sweat (head of a Halifax County, North Carolina household of 5 "other free" in 1790) left a Halifax County will in 1819 by which he divided his estate among his grandchildren John Langston ("son of Judah") and Lucy Cook [WB 3:653].
Molly Holt, Rhody Arnold, Billy Sampson and Squire Osborne ("F.N."), "all free persons of Colour," were heirs of John Freeman who died while serving in the Revolution according to testimony by Jane Collins, a "free woman of Colour" [NARA, M804, Roll 1024, frame 312 of 952; https://www.fold3.com/image/20171576].
Nancy Major died from domestic violence in Henrico County in 1819 according to testimony of Agnes Langston and a slave who testified to a Henrico County coroner's inquest that Nancy's slave husband was in the habit of beating his wife severely and frequently and that Nancy had died after one such beating [Major, Nancy, Coroner's Inquest, 1819, African American Narrative, LVA].
Several members of the Langston, Sampson and Major families moved to Petersburg and registered there as free Negroes in the early nineteenth century. Minerva Gunn, "an Indian of the Pamunkey tribe," married Austin Curtis, a "free Negro," in Petersburg and emigrated with him to Liberia in 1823 as did three members of the Sampson family [https://www.fold3.com/image/46670209; https://fold3.com/image/46670216].
One hundred and forty-three whites in King William County, Virginia, petitioned the legislature on 20 January 1843 concerning the Pamunkey Tribe saying
they all have one fourth or more of negro blood...not an individual can be found among them of whose grandfathers and grandmothers one or more is or was not a negro. Their land is now inhabited by two unincorporated bands of free mulattoes in the midst of a large slave holding community.
The Pamunkey submitted a counter-petition in which they claimed that
there are many here that are more than half-blooded Indian, tho we regret to say that there are some here that are not of our Tribe [Pamunkey Indians: Counter Petition, King William County, 1843-01-21, Legislative Petitions Digital Collections, LVA].
By the 1850s the Pamunkeys were frequenting Richmond. Terrell, Richard, Edward and Pleasant Bradby advertized in Richmond newspapers for the return of their free papers which they had lost in Richmond. Pleasant Miles attempted to have his wedding reception there in 1853, but the police broke it up because of the law against free Negroes congregating together in large numbers. Sixteen of the twenty guests were "free Negro" residents of Richmond. Four were from the Indian town.
The July 1853 edition of the Richmond Morning Mail reported that the mayor had called to the attention of his police officers "that a large number of half bred Indians-or rather descendants of the Pamunkey tribe, who by intermarriage with negroes had obliterated all traces of their originality, were congregating in the city...and as far as he could prevent it, they would not be allowed to settle here."
In the case of Richard Bradby the mayor argued that "if his father were a negro, the prisoner was no more an Indian than would the offspring of a white woman by a black man be white. The kinky hair and general appearance of the accused was such to convince him that he was nothing more than a free negro, and he should therefore fine him $1 for being drunk, and commit him to prison as a free negro without a register" [https://virginiachronicle.com, "Richard Bradby"].
Rhoda Sampson, "a descendant of the Pamunkey Indians," was a resident of Richmond between 1854 and 1860 when she appeared in editions of several newspapers after getting into fights, once with a slave and once with Betsy Martin, a "free negress...an associate" [https://virginiachronicle.com, "Rhoda Sampson"].
By 1900 descendants and spouses of just one "free Mulatto" Thornton Almond represented 41 of 50 persons on the Mattaponi Reservation and 31 of 84 on the Pamunkey Reservation [See the Almond family history and the 1900 census for King William County].
Alexander Almond, son of Thornton Almond and his wife Dicy Major of King William County, Pamunkey Indians Smithsonian Institution Photo no. 895.
Lee Major and his wife Sarah Langston Major (a Pamunkey) shown in the Mattaponi Indian Town ca. 1900. Smithsonian Institution photo no. 851a.
The Gingaskin Indians of Northampton County, Virginia, said to be as numerous as all other tribes in the county put together, numbered only thirty persons by 1769. In 1812 eleven adult members of the tribe petitioned the governor to allow the sale of their lands. Six of the petitioners bore the names of African American families that had been free in Northampton County since the colonial period: Beavans/ Bibbens (2 petitioners), Carter, Collins, Drighouse (Driggers), and Francis [Trustees of the Gingaskin Tribe of Indians: Petition, Northampton County, 1812-12-02, Legislative Petitions Digital Collection, LVA].
Petitioner Edmund Press descended from William Press, born 1706, an "Indian who was born in Accomack (County) of the body of a free Negro called Priscilla" [Mihalyka, Loose Papers I:239]. In 1828 the clerk of Northampton County court stated that their descendants were respectable free Negro landowners [Johnston, Race Relations in Virginia, 280-1].
The nearest thing to a census of the reservations is provided by the deeds by which Indians living on tribal lands sold or leased their land. The deeds were signed by the "chief men" (and women) of the tribe. The principal members of the Nottoway and Nansemond living in present-day Southampton County were:
King Edmunds, James Harrison, Ned, Peter, Robert Scoller, Sam, Wanoke Robin, William Hines, Frank, Wanoke Robin, Jr., Cockarons Tom, and Cockarons Will (in 1735).
Sam, Frank, Jack Will, John Turner, Wat Bailey, and George Skiper (in 1750).
John Turner, and Celia Rogers (a Nansemond Indian) and Suky Turner (in 1795) [Surry County DB 8:550; Southampton County DB 1:98; 7:714].
Between 1734 and 1756 the Nottoway had been so reduced by "the want of the common necessaries of life, sickness, and other casualties" that the Virginia Legislature allowed them to sell a total of 18,000 acres of their land in Southampton County [Hening, Statutes at Large, IV:459; V:170; VI:211; VMHB V:339]. They used land sales and leases to support themselves. There were only six adults and eleven children in the census taken in 1808:
adults: Littleton Scholar, Tom Turner, Jemmy Wineoak, Edy Turner, Nancy Turner, and Betsy Step
children: Tom Step, Henry Turner, Alexander Rogers, John Woodson, Winny Woodson, Anny 99Woodson, Polly Woodson, Fanny Bartlett, Solomon Bartlett, Billy Woodson, and Jenny Woodson [Executive Papers June 21- July 22, 1808, Gov. William H. Cabell, Box 154a, LVA].
No adult Indian was married to or sharing a household with any other adult Indian [Rountree, "The Termination and Dispersal of the Nottoway Indians of Virginia," VMHB 95:193-214].
A legislative petition from Southampton County in 1818 reported that
Their husbands and wives are chiefly free negroes [Legislative Petition, Southampton County, December 16, 1818, LVA].
The Piscataway Indians living in Richmond County, Virginia were named in a court case in September 1704:
Young Toby, Long Tom, Jack the Fidler, Old Mr. Thomas, Bearded Jack, Jemmy, Harry Capoos, and Bearded Jack [Orders 1702-1704, 361].
Members of the Saponi in Orange County, Virginia, were mentioned in a court case in 1742-1743 in which they were charged with stealing a hog and burning the woods:
Alex Machartion, John Bowling, Manissa, Caft Tom, Isaac Harry, Blind Tom, Foolish Jack, Charles Gibb, John Collins, and Little Jack [VMHB III:190].
The names of the Piscataway Indians living in Richmond County, Virginia were mentioned in a court case in September 1704:
Young Toby, Long Tom, Jack the Fidler, Old Mr. Thomas, Bearded Jack, Jemmy, Harry Capoos, and Bearded Jack [Orders 1702-1704, 361].
Members of the Saponi in Orange County, Virginia, were mentioned in a court case in 1742-1743 in which they were charged with stealing a hog and burning the woods:
Alex Machartion, John Bowling, Manissa, Caft Tom, Isaac Harry, Blind Tom, Foolish Jack, Charles Gibb, John Collins, and Little Jack [VMHB III:190].
North Carolina Reservations
Some of the names of the Chowan Tribe were recorded in Chowan County deeds by which they sold their land on Bennett's Creek in 1734 in what was later Gates County. They were
Charles Beasley, James Bennett, Thos Hoyter, Jeremiah Pushin, John Reading, John Robins, & Nuce Will [Chowan DB W-1, 215-216, 237-239, 247-253].
There were only two men and five women and children in the tribe in 1754 [Saunders, Colonial Records, V:161]. When the surviving members of the tribe sold the last 400 acres of their 11,360 acre patent in 1790, they were described as
a parcel of Indian women, which has mixed with Negroes, and now there is several freemen and women of Mixed blood as aforesaid which has descended from the sd Indian...the said freemen ...did in the late Contest with Great Brittain behave themselves as good and faithful soldiers [General Assembly Session Records, Nov-Dec 1790, Box 2; Gates County DB 2:273, 274; A-2:33]. 23
23 Kinston Robins was one of the "sundry persons of Colour of Hertford County" who petitioned the General Assembly in 1822 to repeal the act which declared slaves to be competent witnesses against free African Americans [NCGSJ XI:252]. The soldiers were probably members of the Reed family.
Parker David Robbins. Raleigh, N.C. Museum of History, N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources
1834-1 November 1917
Parker David Robbins, soldier, legislator, and inventor, born in Bertie County, the son of John A. Robbins. A Mulatto with Chowan Indian ancestors, Robbins was regarded as a free Black man. He was one of fifteen Blacks elected to the 1868 constitutional convention and one of nineteen Blacks elected to the 1869-70 term in the state house of representatives [http://ncpedia.org/biography/robbins-parker-david].
About 300 Tuscarora men, women, and children were living on 40,000 acres in Bertie County between 1752 and 1761. The tribe never gave up its Indian customs. They still required an interpreter in 1752 [Saunders, Colonial Records, V:161-2, 320-1; VI:616]. Their numbers had been reduced to 260 in 1766 when they leased part of their land. One hundred and fifty-five members of the tribe moved to the state of New York after the 1766 lease, and the remainder joined them in 1802 [Swanton, Indian Tribes of North America, 87].
Since they left the Southeast, it is difficult to determine the extent to which they mixed with the free African American population of Bertie County. However, the colonial Bertie Count court records, which have been abstracted by Weynette Parks Haun, do not indicate any interactions between the English colonial community and the Indians other than the sale of their lands which are recorded in the deeds of 1766 and 1777 by which they leased over 8,000 acres of the land in the southwest corner of Bertie County between the Roanoke River and Roquist Pocosin to the Attorney General. Their names were:
James Allen, Sarah Basket, Thomas Basket, William Basket, Betty Blount, Billy Blount, Sr., Billy Blount, Jr., Edward Blount, George Blount, Sarah Blount, Thomas Blount, Bille Blunt, Jr, Samuel Bridgers, William Cain, John Cain, Molly Cain, Wineoak Charles, Jr., Wineoak Charles, Sr., Bille Cornelius, Charles Cornelius, Isaac Cornelius, Billy Denis, Sarah Dennis, Billy George, Snipnose George, Watt Gibson, James Hicks, John Hicks, Sarah Hicks, Senicar Thomas Howell, Tom Jack, Capt. Joe, John Litewood, Isaac Miller, James Mitchell, Bille Mitchell, Bille Netof, Bille Owens, John Owens, Nane Owens, William Pugh, John Randel, Billy Roberts, Tom Roberts, Jr., John Rogers, Harry Samuel, John Senicar, Thomas Senicar, Ben Smith, John Smith, Molly Smith, Thomas Smith, Bille Sockey, William Taylor, Bridgers Thomas, Tom Thomas, Lewis Tuffdick, West Whitmel Tufdick, Whitmel Tuffdick, Isaac Whealer, James Wiggians, John Wiggins, Molly Wineoak and Bette Yollone [DB L-2:56; M:314-9].
The Cherokee lived in the mountainous regions of North Carolina and East Tennessee and had little contact with the colonists [Saunders, Colonial Records, VI:616].
"Indians" in the Southeast
The 1885 North Carolina bill changed the history of Indians in the Southeast. Anthropologist James Mooney included the Croatan Indians and other mixed-race communities in adjoining North and South Carolina counties in his studies of the Indian tribes of the Southeast in 1907, and Frank G. Speck traveled throughout the Southeast "discovering" lost tribes [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 41].
Person County granted a group called "old issue negroes" their own separate school on 2 February 1887. It was discontinued about 1896 but reestablished on 4 January 1901: listed as "Mongolian" through 1906, "Cuban" from 6 April 1908 through 1911, and listed as for "the Indian race" in October 1912 [Person County School Board Minutes cited by G.C. Waldrep, III, personal communication, 20 April 2000]. Other invented North Carolina Indian tribes followed: the Sampson County Coharie Indians, Columbus County Waccamaw-Siouan Indians, and Halifax County Haliwa-Saponi Indians. Virginia recognized the former free-person-of-color community of Norfolk County as Nansemond Indians and the community in Amherst County as Monacan Indians.
A study in 1920 described the group in Halifax County:
Probably the largest group of free Negroes to be found in North Carolina was the exclusive "old issue" settlement known far and wide as the Meadows, near Ransom's Bridge on Fishing Creek in Halifax County. The group still bears the appellation "old issue" and are heartily detested by the well-to-do Negroes in the adjoining counties [Taylor, R. H., The Free Negro in North Carolina (James Sprunt Historical Publications) v. 17, no.1, p.23].
These arrangements with the former "free person of color" communities were probably a major factor in creating the 20th century fiction that light-skinned people who look nearly white descend from Indians.
Another 100 white women who had children by slaves were:
-Jane Alexander in 1754 [Prince William County Orders 1754-5, 4, 131]
-Mary Ballard on 29 March 1708 [Northampton County Orders, Wills 1698-1710, 398].
-the mother of Joseph Barham in July 1744 [Charles City County Orders 1737-51, 311]
- Beautifilah Barker in Accomack County in 1752 [Orders 1744-53, 573].
-the mother of Ann in 1690 [Chamberlayne, Vestry Book of Christ Church Parish, 68].
-Dorothy Bestick in 1687 [Accomack County W&c 1682-97, 119a]
-Hannah Boughan in 1714 in Northumberland County [Orders 1713-19, 102].
-Ann Bradger in 1744 [Chamberlayne, Vestry Book of Stratton Major Parish, King & Queen County, 56]
-Mary Brady in 1733 [Fouts, Vestry Minutes of St. Paul's Parish, 51]
-Mary Brawner in 1766 [Loudoun County Orders 1765-7, 148].
-Mary Breedlove in 1767 [Essex County Orders 1764-7, 415, 469].
-Sarah Bunbury in 1692 [Richmond County Orders 1692-94, 40]
-the mother of Margaret Callahan in 1751 [Frederick County Orders 1751-3, 418].
-Elizabeth Cambridge in 1702 [Essex County Orders 1699-1702, 116]
-the mother of Peter Cato in Chesterfield County in 1774 [Orders 1774-84, 14].
-Eleanor Caverner in 1724 [Richmond County Orders 1721-32, 158, 164]
-Elizabeth Chilmaid in 1706 [York DOW 13:19]
-Margaret Chiswick in 1705 [Richmond County Orders 1704-8, 97].
-Margaret Christian in 1722 [Northumberland County Orders 1719-29, 78].
-Mary Cicile (3 children) in 1702 [Richmond County Orders 1702-04, 157]
-Hannah Clagg in 1695 [Princess Anne County Minutes 1691-1709, 81]
-Mary Collowhough in 1691 [Westmoreland Orders 1690-92, 24]
-the mother of William Coney in 1747 [Elizabeth City County Orders 1731-47, 532].
-the mother of Priscilla Creswell in April 1771 [Amelia County Orders 1769-72, n.p.].
-Margaret Croney in 1726 [York County DOW 16:70, 387]
-Jane Crowthen in 1771 [Botetourt County Orders 1770-1771, 69].
- the mother of Daphney in 1746 [Richmond County Orders 1739-46, 514].
-Margaret Davison in 1748 [Frederick County Orders 1745-8, 501, 505]
- the mother of Dainty Davy in 1760 [Isle of Wight County Orders 1759-63, 170].
-Charlotte Deormond before 1769 [Rowan County, North Carolina Minutes 1766-9, 16 (abstract p. 194)].
-the mother of Peter Eads in 1696 [Richmond County WB 4:113-5].
- Elizabeth Ease (2 children) before September 1750 [Accomack County Orders 1744-53, 440, 445].
- Margaret Fitzgerald in 1703 [Richmond County Orders 1702-04, 274]
- the mother of Sarah Fonntain before 1730 [Westmoreland County Inventories, 1723-46, 99].
- Isabel Forbess in 1761 and 1764 [Historic Dumfries, Records of Dettingen Parish, 114-5]
- Elizabeth Fulgham in 1755 [Isle of Wight Orders 1755-7, 30].
- Sarah Gupton in 1737 [Richmond County Orders 1732-9, 556].
- Tamer Haislip in 1765 [Chesterfield County Orders 1765-7, 96]
- the mother of Tamer Hastlie in 1761 [Prince Edward County Orders 1759-65, 85].
- Mary Hipsley in 1707 [Westmoreland County Orders 1705-21, 64, 69, 72]
- Ann Hollford in Charles City County in 1679 [Record Book 1692-1700, assigned p. 312].
- the mother of Frank Holland in 1770 [Fauquier County Orders, 1768-73, 261].
- the mother of Bathsheba Holloway in 1745 [Fredericksville Parish Deeds, 1742-87, 38].
- Martha Hudman in 1760 [Prince William County Orders 1759-61, 223, 229, 230, 241].
- Sarah Hutchins in 1710 [Northumberland County Orders 1699-1713, pt. 2, 703].
- Isabel Hutton in 1707 [Accomack County Orders 1703-9, 91a, 122]
- Martha Inglish in 1768 [Isle of Wight County Orders 1764-8, 498]
- Dorcas Johnston in 1758 [Caroline County Orders 1755-8, 347].
- Jane Kewmin in 1703 [Richmond County, Va. Orders 1702-04, 154]
- Jane Knox in Augusta County in 1758 [Orders 1757-61, 177, 221, 285].
- Elizabeth Lane in 1691 (two children) [Surry Orders 1682-91, 771, 777]
- Mary Lawhan in 1708 [Middlesex County Orders 1705-10, 177, 181].
- Mary Lawler 30 July 1707 [Westmoreland County Orders 1705-21, 64]
- Isabella Levingston in 1768 [Fairfax County Orders 1768-70, 70, 90].
- the mother of George Lundy in 1775 [Augusta County Orders, 1774-9, 92].
- Mary Lynn (Robert Hitch) before 1710 [Westmoreland County Orders 1705-21, 144]
- Katherine Mackeel in 1699 [Princess Anne County Minutes 1691-1709, 211, 213, 224]
- the mother of Rebecca Macon in 1757 [Loudoun County Orders, 1757-62, 17].
- the mother of Elizabeth Magess before 1757 [Loudoun County Orders, 1757-62, 17].
- the mother of Charlotte Manwaring in 1774 [Norfolk County Orders, 1773-5, 44].
- the mother of Frederick McFarland [Virginia Gazette (Rind), 8 November 1770, p. 1, col. 3].
- the mother of Katharine Mistor in 1752 [Westmoreland County Orders 1750-2, 108a].
- Mary Ormes in 1697 [Middlesex County Orders 1694-1705, 182].
- Mary Peers in 1694 [Charles City County Orders, 1687-95, 558].
- the mother of George Petsworth in 1714 [Chamberlayne, Petsworth Parish Vestry Book, 1677-1793, 135-6].
- Elizabeth Pharis in 1695 [Accomack County Orders 1690-7, 153]
- Eleanor Poor in 1704 [Lancaster County Orders 1702-13, 70]
- Mary Poore (two children) in 1686 [Surry Orders 1682-91, 529, 630]
- Ann Pullen in 1688 [Henrico Orders 1678-93, 278]
- the mother of Daniel Reynard before 1752 in Brunswick County [St. Andrews Parish Vestry Book, 1732-1797, 60, 65, 66].
- the mother of Christopher Roarrey in 1746 [Augusta Parish Vestry Book, 1746-1780, 49].
- Betty Robins in 1748 [Accomack County Orders 1744-53, 274].
- Eleanor Road in Augusta County in 1747 [Orders 1745-7, 288].
- the mother of Mary Rock in 1739 [Chamberlayne, The Vestry Book of St. Peter's Parish, 552].
- Dorothy Rossum before 19 October 1791 [Chamberlayne, Petsworth Parish Vestry Book, 1677-1793, 33].
- the mother of Sarah, a "molotto" in York County in 1694 [OW 9:318]
- Jane Scot in Augusta County in 1749 [Orders 1747-51, 112]
- Ann Screws in 1748 [Isle of Wight County Orders 1746-52, 109]
- the mother of Tammy Settle in 1767 [Fauquier County Orders, 1764-8, 268].
- Susanna Shelton in 1686 [Surry Orders 1682-91, 508]
- Mary Sherredon in 1736 [Surry DW&c 1730-38, 569]
- Mary Simbler/ Sembler in 1733 and 1740 [Chamberlayne, Vestry Book and Register of St. Pater's Parish, 507, 523].
- Tamer Smith served a six months prison term and paid a 10 pound fine in order to marry Major Hitchens, head of a Northampton County, Virginia household of 4 free tithables and 2 slaves in 1737 and 1744 [L.P. 1737, 1744; L.P. #24 (1738) by Deal, Race and Class, 216]
- Jane Stewart in 1717 [Princess Anne County Minutes 1709-17, 248, 250-1] - the mother of Sarah Suel in 1751 [Dettingen Parish Vestry Book, 1748-1785, 108].
- Margaret Syms before 1703 [Chamberlayne, Petsworth Parish Vestry Book, 1677-1793, 75-6]. - Mary Taggat in 1751 [Lunenburg Orders 2:474]
- Margaret Theloball in 1735 [Princess Ann County Orders 1728-37, 272]
-Frances Tibbo on 10 June 1732 [Minutes of the Vestry of St. George's Parish, 1726-1745, http://familyhistory.com, microfilm 7398099, image 23 of 196]
- Elizabeth Thrift in 1734 [Northumberland County Orders 1737-43, 142]
- Ann Tillett in January 1744/5 [Pasquotank County Court Minutes, 1737-53, 141]
- Joan Tinkham in 1687 [Westmoreland County Orders 1675-89, 611]
- the mother of Reuben Tool/ Tolls in 1748 [Richmond County Orders, 1756-62, 230; Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 16 January 1772, p. 3, col. 3].
- Magery Tyer in Northampton County, Virginia, in 1663 [Orders 1657-64, fol. 173, 175].
- Ann Vasper in 1732 [Overwharton, Stafford County Register, 1724-74, 30]
- Mary Vincent in 1664 [Accomack County DW 1664-71, fol. 20]
- the mother of William a Molatto begotten by a Negro man on a white woman in March 1709/10 [Northumberland County Orders 1699-1713, 654].
- Sarah Williamson in July 1716 [Saunders, Colonial Records of North Carolina, V:114].
- Catherine Wilson in 1723 [Northampton County, Virginia Orders 18:86].
- Anne Wimball in 1703 [York County DOW 12:80].
- the mother of James Winkett in 1753 [Fairfax County Orders, 1749-54, 307].
- Ann Yates in 1772 [Pittsylvania County Court Records, 1767-72, 400].
Go to Family Histories, Abel-Angus