Connections Like Wildfire

Just a quick post this time, but I’ve had so many connections come out the woodwork this week from sharing family tree information online it’s been crazy.

  • got an email from a possible cousin based on her husband’s lineage from former slaves on the Kemp P. Battle plantation in Edgecombe County, NC where my 4th great-grandparents were also slaves.  There may be a blood connection between the slaves, but we aren’t sure and so are beginning to work collaboratively on trying to figure it all out.  She found me based on a blog post I did after Robyn sent me some labor contract information
  • was contacted through Ancestry from a cousin who is descended from a sister of my 3rd great-grandfather,  Edward Kilpatrick of Craven County, NC.   I did not have any additional information for his sister Caroline, but through the cousin, I learned that she married a gentleman named Robert White and they moved to Pitt county.  More information to add to the family tree!
  • got a follow-up email related to my stepmother’s Frye ancestry.  We think we have linked her tentative 3rd great-grandfather Leonard Frye to a very large Frye family w/ ancestry going way back. more to do on that line…
  • through my genealogy site was contacted by a Koonce descendant. No relation to me, but since I collect Koonces I have part of his family tree on the site.  I will begin adding his branch to the tree later this weekend.  He is descended from Phillip H. Koonce of Shelby County, Texas.
  • was contacted by someone interested in the spouse of someone who’s tree I’ve been working on as the Picot family associated with Washington County, NC – one of my GenWeb projects.
  • my cousin emailed me tonight to call my great-uncle.  He is a brother of my maternal grandmother and is very interested in helping to figure out the origins of his Lawhorn surname.  I called him and he saw an obituary in a nearby city paper of a woman whose last name was Lawhorne and informed me as a possible lead.  He said his father told him that his father came from Georgia, but we are still working on that. It was great to talk to him too!

All of this has been in the last 4 days.  I have hardly had time to follow-up on all of these leads, but I hope to squeeze in some time this weekend.  I’ve got major projects due for school over the next couple of weeks and have a couple of activities planned on the weekend, so we’ll see.  I haven’t even watched the tonight or last week’s episodes of Faces of America yet!

UNC Yearbooks Available Online 1894-1960

As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I feel urged to share this news as widely as possible – the UNC Libraries are adding old issues of the school yearbook, the Yackety Yack (formerly the Hellenian), online to the Internet Archive.   I find some irony in the fact that I graduated from there, seeing as how the Kemp P. Battle, former University president from 1876-1891 was my ancestors’ slaveowner, but oh well.  (Kalonji tells me I should seek retribution :-)).

For anyone with persons of interest who went there during this time span it is definitely worth checking out! Read more on the NCGenWeb Blog.

This is Why I Never Go To Bed

I knew it was a mistake to get back on the computer after I *said* I was going to bed.  But, I had to check the email and feed readers “one last time.”  Well, now it’s going to cause me to be up long enough to do this blog post, but I couldn’t wait because what I found was too exciting!

Last week I learned of a new resources, a new website of NC  Maps.  I only had an opportunity to briefly consult it, planning to investigate it more in-depth this week.  Well, a researcher today shared the link with the Edgecombe County mailing list and pointed out in her post that the maps allow you to see the locations of properties. She specifically shared the link to at 1905 map.

So, off I go to look at this map and was elated to see my two surnames of interest EXACTLY just like I figured they were — the Wimberly property right next to the McNair property, and those two properties just south of the Battle property! 

I’ve been posting with some frequency lately on my McNair, Wimberly, Battle connections and this is just too perfect.   My 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair was likely the slave of Dr. Augustus Harvey McNair.  Rufus married Mariah Wimberly, whose mother was the slave of Kemp Plummer Battle and whose father was probably the slave of Robert Diggs Wimberly.  

I knew from census records that the white McNair, Wimberley and Battle families lived in proximity, but to have this visual is wonderful! Admittedly, I’ve not delved into land records very much for my research – this type of discovery definitely picques my interest.  Thanks so much to the North Carolina State Archives, the Outer Banks History Center, and the University of NC @ Chapel Hill for this wonderful resource!   This is truly made my day. :-)

Tombstone Tuesday: Kemp Plummer Battle Sr.

This is my first Tombstone Tuesday post and since I had the perfect opportunity to do one, I thought I would.  This is the tombstone of Kemp Plummer Battle Sr.   Kemp was what you would call a “prominent” North Carolinian; he was highly active and involved in many matters of the state, including serving as President of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kemp is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina next to his wife and other family members.  Last month I created his FindAGrave entry, which was surprising to me that he did not already have one given his social position, and two days ago, my picture request was fulfilled by a FindAGrave volunteer!

Now, why would I interested in Kemp?  I am interested in him and his family because he was the last slaveowner of a branch of my family.   My third great-grandmother, Mariah Wimberly McNair was the daughter of Della Battle and Allen Wimberly.   Della and at least one of her children, were slaves of Kemp’s plantation in Edgecomebe County, North Carolina, that he inherited from his father-in-law,  James S. Battle.  I know that Della was his slave from the wonderful resource of Dr. Barnetta McGhee -White on cohabitation records from North Carolina, Somebody Knows My Name.

I have not yet gotten to the point where I’ve begun to examine family estate and court records (which Robyn describes a perfect example to do so in her recent blog post), but when I do have that opportunity, I want to be clear on all the family members.  Creating a Battle family tree, allows me to do so in order that I am adequately prepared.

Hmmm… would you call it ironic that I went to the University of the man who enslaved my ancestors?  I personally don’t have any misfeelings about this – history was what it was, but at the same time, I do feel connected in a way, to this family.

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.