Approaching Deadline

Contributions for the Heritage of Edgecombe County book are due October 15th! I have two submissions I will be making, that I started and wrote back in July.  I have ancestors from Edgecombe County and I certainly want them represented. 

However, I have to finalize my entries – such as print out photos, list my sources, and format appropriately. My target day to do this is by Sunday so that I can mail in by Monday. 

I am very excited to have this opportunity! Pieces of my family history printed and available on library bookshelves!

Negro Week in Edgecombe

The September 20, 1898 issue of the Charlotte Observer featured an article titled: “Negro Week in Edgecombe: Black Republican Convention.”

As was often the case with some of these older articles, this is the overall synopsis– “Not a White Man in the Crowd — This is the set the White population are fussing with and putting in power — Lee Person, a notorious Black politician makes incendiary speeches — Tarboro still has a good police — Northhampton’s negro coroner, who is out for the stuff.”

I came across this article while browsing GenealogyBank tonight and had to read it.  My g-g-g-grandmother was named Mariah WImberly McNair and I suspect the local politician Dred Wimberly was her brother (see previous posts on Dred).  Since this article was about the right time frame as when he was in service, I took a closer look and sure enough he is mentioned. The article notes that although he was seemingly “master of ceremonies” someone else won the NC Senate seat.

[image from GenealogyBank.com]

Then, when I kept reading, I also saw mention of Turner Prince, whom I posted very briefly about last week as there is a community in Edgecombe County named after him, Princeville.  This article notes that Turner served as a state magistrate.

[image from GenealogyBank.com]

I need to read this article more in-depth. This is why I love newspapers!

Princeville, NC – Wordless Wednesday Follow-up

Yesterday in my Wordless Wednesday post, I put up a picture of the historical marker of Freedom Hill, North Carolina.  Freedom Hill was an all African-American community established in Edgecombe County, North Carolina in 1865 by freed slaves. It is the oldest incorporated black town in the US, getting incorporated in 1885 as Princeville.  The community was named after Turner Richard Prince (1843-1912) who was a carpenter in the community.  In 1999, Princeville received nationwide attention after Hurricane Floyd hit the coast of NC as many of the town’s residents were displaced and there was extensive flood damage.

I first learned of Princeville when I purchased an Arcadia Publishing book on Edgecombe County last year.  At that time, I had no one in my family tree that I knew of that had any connections to Princeville, though my maternal grandmother’s McNair line started (as we know of) in Edgecombe County. When the Ancestry database of NC death certificates came out, one of the many discoveries I made was that there is indeed a connection.

My earliest known McNair ancestor, Rufus McNair (1823-1910) and his wife Mariah Wimberly (abt. 1843-1903) had at least 15 kids (in one census record, it is reported she had 22) that lived to adulthood. Two of their youngest, Susan & Sophia, both married a gentleman name Arthur Wooten.  Arthur married Susan first and together they had at least 8 children. Then, I believe Susan must have died and he then married her sister Sophia. With Sophia, he had at least 3 children.  Arthur Wooten Jr’s (son of Sophia) daughter Violet married George Mays and they for several years lived in Princeville.  Arthur & Susie were in Princeville in the 1910 census.

I discovered this after my mother, in going through some of her mother’s papers, found a double obituary for Violet and her husband George.  Since Princeville at that time was only a community of several hundred, I wonder if they knew Turner Prince? Possibly! Again, more flavor to add to the background context should I ever decide to do a formal write-up of my McNair ancestry.

Life on the Battle Plantations

With Ancestry’s current focus on the African-American records they have in their collections, I’ve been taking another look through what is available. Tonight, I thought I would look and search through some of the Works Progress Administration’s Slave Narratives. The full-text of the slave narratives are also available on the Library of Congress (LOC) website.

I found a slave narrative as told by a woman named Adaline Johnson. She was born near Jackson, Mississippi, but her mother was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. They were slaves of the Battle family – Jim, Joe, Hue, and Marmaduke Battle are mentioned. I’ve been keen to start tracing the Battle family tree, as I believe my 3rd great-grandmother’s parents were Della Battle & Allen Wimberly, and Della was a slave on the Battle plantation in Edgecombe County. Adaline mentions in her narrative that the Battles owned three plantations full of slaves (which I have learned on my own from census records), and were in Tarboro & Rocky Mount in that county.

Adaline’s accounts of the Battle men are mixed – some were kinder than others. What makes this slave narrative of particular interest to me is the description of the experience with the Battles. If I ever get around to writing any kind of “formal” document on the history on this branch of my family, this would help add some historical context to life as a slave on the Battle family plantations.

I also recognized something else in her narrative. She describes the happenings of a slave named Will (referred to as “Big Will”) who killed an overseer. Big Will was apparently a big and strong guy b/c he could “do as much as any two” other slaves and the family had for him a “big axe” and a “big hoe.” Well, the new overseer the Battle family had got into some kind of altercation with Big Will and Big Will killed the overseer. Marmaduke Battle had Will put in jail, but when his uncle, Jim Battle got back into town, he sold Big Will and Adaline reports that no one ever saw him again, but his family stayed and worked on the plantation. As I read this, I realized I had heard of this Will in an article I found about a year ago.

There were court proceedings for what happened and is reflected by the case North Carolina vs. Negro Will. An April 1920 article by George Gordon Battle from the Virginia Law Review goes into great detail about the case.

On January 22, 1834, Will killed the overseer, Richard Baxter. Another slave named Allen had gotten into an argument with Will about a hoe. Allen went and reported it to Baxter. Baxter went to go confront Will. They argued, but no one heard what was said. Will got mad and started to walk away and Baxter shot him in the back “the whole load lodged in the prisoner’s back, covering a space of twelve inches square”, but Will kept running and made it to the woods. Will was pursued by both Baxter and other slaves and in a scuffle with slaves and Baxter ended up wounding Baxter in the thigh, in addition to a puncture in his breast, a wound about four inches long and two inches deep on his right arm above his elbow. Among Baxter’s last words were a comment stating that he should have listened to his wife (who advised him not to get involved in the dispute between Will & Allen).

At trial, Will was found guilty of felony murder. But the case was appealed and taken to the NC Supreme Court as James Battle wanted the rights of his slaves protected and hired Bartholomew F. Moore for $1000 to lead the defense. The court found Will justified in resisting and defending himself and that what happened was not murder, but manslaughter. Gordon Battle states that the judge concedes,

“though with reluctance, the cruel rule of law that there is no limit of the authority of the master over the slave, so long as his life is spared. But the judge is determined that the law shall be so administered as to promote justice and not injustice, and so we see him invoke the principle that the master may so treat a slave, even though that treatment be not technically a crime, as to justify the slave in resisting the master even into death.”

The North Carolina Supreme Court would then go on to serve notice to all slaveholders in the state that while masters had the right to punish slaves “in order to maintain discipline,” slaves too had the right of self-defense if the punishment was exercised with unreasonable cruelty. These events happened three years after the Nat Turner uprising.

At the end of the article, George describes his relationship to the case. James Battle was his paternal grandfather, and one of the three presiding judges on the case, Joseph J. Daniel, was his maternal grandfather. George states that Will was sent to the a plantation in Mississippi (owned by Battle or Daniel – that is not clear), where Will killed another slave and was hung for that act. Will’s wife, Rose, came back to NC. Gordon remembers her often saying

“Will sho’ly had hard luck. He killed a white man in North Carolina and got off, and then was hung for killing a nigger in Mississippi.”

A slave narrative and a court case that intersect with my own family history.

Connections We Didn’t Know We Had

Before I discovered the wonderful world of genealogy a couple of years ago, my hobby of choice was cross-stitching. I still enjoy stitching, I just don’t do it as much (you can see all the projects I’ve completed here).  Back in 2003, while on a business trip out to San Diego and while there had dinner with a group of stitchers there – one of the ladies I met during that time was a woman I’ll call T.   Since then, we’ve exchanged emails, read each other’s blogs, etc.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, T emails me a genealogy related question.  There is a cross-stitch design called Mother’s Tree that she is wanting to stitch and she’d hit a road block with her 2nd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Daw.   She didn’t know who Elizabeth’s mother had been, but she knew Elizabeth had married a man named John Wimberly. Well, she was internet searching the Wimberly name and up came my genealogy blog. My blog came up b/c I’ve been researching Wimberlys. I have previously posted this, but I have a 3rd great-grandmother named Mariah Wimberly, whom I believe was a slave of a very wealthy Robert Diggs Wimberly of Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

Today, I took about an hour to spend some time trying to help her and I think we made a breakthrough! As she’d given me enough information to start, I was able to find her ancestor in census records and from those, combined with burial records available online, I am at this point about 90% sure we’ve found Elizabeth’s mother. If we are right, her mother would be a Nancy Daw, and Nancy’s mother was Anne Wilson. This would add two more generations to T’s family tree and cross-stitch chart – how cool.

As I was looking further into Elizabeth’s husband John, I came up with a hypothesis on who his father was based on again,  census records and burial records – a Watford Wimberly, who is listed in the census as being from NC — ooh, was this a connection in any way to “my” Wimberly?

So, off I go to Google Watford and one of the pages that is returned is a genealogy from a very detailed an comprehensive Wimberley Family History.  Working my way through the site, according to this researcher, Watford was indeed John’s father as on this site, John is listed as having married a Mary Elizabeth Daw.

More interesting to me is that when I worked my way up through Watford’s ancestry, it appears he is a 8th great-grandson of a William Wimberly of England (1455-1510).  “My” Robert Diggs Wimberly is also listed on this site as a descendant of the same William Wimberly.  Through my own research, I had only identified up to Robert’s grandfather, a George Wimberly.

I have emailed the site owner to learn more about his sources. One thing I often lament when visiting other’s trees is the too frequent lack of sources. This is one reason I value the program that I use for my own genealogies and my website is b/c it makes it very easy to include and show sources.  I have emailed the site owner to find out more, but this is such a cool connection for me and T.   Over the next few weeks, we are going to try and further verify this information, but it is for reasons such as this that I absolutely love the internet!