Black American Genealogy
Hyde County, North Carolina

by Dr. Joyce I. Humber-Faison

When my brother and I were very young, our mother sent us to North Carolina during our summer vacations. There the understanding of the importance of family was etched into our soul. In the North, during winters, my mother, my aunt, and their cousins would tell and retell stories about the past. Do you remember when Grand Pa or Grand Ma or Aunt Flora, or Aunt Clara or Mama or Papa did. . . and the story would begin. During one of her stories my mother told me that her grandfather had been in the Civil War. I did not believe her. How could my mother know someone who had lived in another century? And, yet she did. She told me that her grandfather had been shot and did not know he was wounded. After the battle, he had taken off his boot and saw that it was full of blood. She told me that she would sit with him because her grandmother was afraid he would wander off. Sometimes she would listen to him talk; and, at other times, she didn't listen. One time, he said to her, "Look out Bee (my mother's nickname)! Here come the elephants." I later learned that the Union troops called the Confederates elephants because of the way they yelled, the way in which they charged in battle and the color of their uniforms. All of these little anecdotes and stories raised my curiosity. "Mama, where did your grandfather come from?" "Oh," she said, "I donít know. I never asked him. I just know that he came to Bladenboro after the Civil War." "We could find out from his marriage license", I said. "Well, no. The courthouse burned down two times, and all the records were destroyed." It looked as if I had hit the brick wall.

Years, later while I was employed by a New York State agency that was funded by the Veterans Administration, I asked one of their employees about finding the records of Civil War veterans. But he always had one excuse or another for not finding my great grandfatherís record. God, however, always rewards persistence.

In 1988, my brother requested his military records and also those of our great grandfather from the Veterans Administration. He was informed that the records of the Civil War veterans were maintained in the National Archives, and two duplicate forms of the "Order for Copy of Veterans Records (National Archives Trust Fund Form 80)" were included in the correspondence. My brother gave the forms to me to complete. The forms are actually requests for information as to whether the Archives had the Civil War veteranís war or pension records Ė each request requires a completed form. I remitted them, and a few weeks later, I received a reply that the Archives had my grandfatherís military records. About two weeks afterwards, they replied that my great grandfatherís pension records also existed. I sent the fees for both records. Some four weeks later, I received the documents that attested to his military service and to the pension he was granted for having been wounded twice in battle.

For my great grandfatherís documents, I learned that he [Milton Jones] had been born into slavery on March 18th, 1842 in Lake Landing Hyde County, North Carolina. Edward L. Mann and the "Barr" girls were named as having owned him. Further, he had enlisted in the [Union] army as a private on the 26th of May, 1863. He had been enrolled in June of 1863 as the sergeant in the 35th United States Colored Troops at New Bern, North Carolina. The records revealed that my great grandfather had been wounded twice; first in the Battle of Olustee in Florida on February 20th, 1864 and again in the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina on July 9th, 1864. The 35th served with valor in both battles. He was mustered out with his regiment that was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina on June 1st, 1866. Other documents gave the date of my great grandparentsí marriage date as June 5th, 1873 and the names of their ten children (Milton, Minnie Inez, Julia, Flora, Narinon, David, Absolon, John, Harrison, and Harinah). My grandmother was Minnie Inez, for whom my mother was named. The records held over fifty years of records that documented my great grandfather and great grandmotherís lives. My great grandmotherís full name was Clara Louisa Holly (sometimes spelled Harley). Her motherís name was Louisa Holly. My great grandfather died at the age of 79 on September 10th, 1921. After his death, my great grandmother received his Civil War pension until her death at 75 years of age on October 22nd, 1926. There the records ended. I had known my grandmother and grandfatherís names before receiving the records. I didnít know the names of the ones who had been the parents and grandparents of my great grandfather.

After I had reviewed the documents over and over, I realized that I had even more questions for which I wanted answers. I did not know the names of my great, great, grandparents. I wanted to dig deeper, to find out more. But how? Finally, it occurred to me that maybe other records would be maintained in North Carolina. I telephoned information in North Carolina and asked for the genealogical society of Lake Landing, Hyde County. There was no listing. I thought about the entire situation again. Was this all nothing but a wild goose hunt? Hadnít blacks been told for years that our history had been stolen? Then it occurred to me that I should telephone Raleigh, North Carolina and ask for the genealogical society there. I would then ask if there were a branch in Hyde County. I did just that. I was given a telephone number in Lake Landing. The telephone number happened to be the same as the general store. Mr. R. S. Spencer, the storeowner, who was at that time the president of the Hyde County Historical and Genealogical Society, listened to me patiently as I poured out my story. He suggested that I contact Mrs. Ellen Williams. That same day, I did exactly that. Mrs. Williams and I talked. She told me her fee, and I sent her copies of the records.

In a few weeks a large package of papers arrived. The records that Mrs. Williams sent me disclosed that the Barrow girls had owned my great grandfather and that Edward L. Mann had been the executor of their fatherís and their motherís estates. I also found out that perhaps the name of my great, great grandfather might have been Simon Jones (Jr.) and that of my great, great grandmother might have been Dinah Jones. I say might have because at that juncture there was no certainty. Zacariah Barrow, who had previously purchased a girl named Harriet from the Gibbs estate, purchased Simon, Dinah and their sons. A sale deed of 1842 revealed the sale of " ÖSimon Jones, his wife Dinah, and her two negro (sic) boy children now with her." In my heart of hearts, I knew they had to be my relatives. There was, however, no absolute proof. Other information in Mrs. Williamsí package revealed that Simon Jones had been held in servitude to the Cason Jones family; Dinah had been under the ownership of the Gibbs family. An "Old Simon, 60 years" who was also sometimes listed as Simon, Sr. was named as also being one of Cason Jonesí slaves. Dr. Tunnell purchased him in 1842. The more information I had, however, the more I wanted.

In the next few years, Mrs. Williams and I talked by telephone a number of times. She and Mrs. Betty Mann, another member of the Hyde County Historical and Genealogical Society, joined forces one time and went to the Archives in Raleigh to do research on my ancestors. I also made yearly visits to research the Archives. I learned the names of some of those whom I thought were my great grandfather's siblings. One time on the way to Raleigh, my mother, husband, my son and I even went to Lake Landing. We met Mr. Spencer and talked with Ms. Jones, whom Mr. Spencer thought might be one of my relatives. As it turned out she was not, but the visit to Lake Landing lives in my memory because I saw the nineteenth and twentieth centuries touch. My mother during the visit said to me, "So, this is where Grandpa came from." A smile came to her face, as she remembered him. This happened a few years prior to her passing, and as I think of my mother, I also smile Ė the nineteenth, the twentieth, and now the twenty-first centuries touch.

One day I received another package and a letter from Mrs. Williams. It contained information on the depositors of the Freedmanís Bank, Raleigh branch in 1873 and 1874; the information came from the "North Carolina Freedman's Savings & Trust Company Records" that were published by the NC Genealogical Society, 1992. What did these papers have to do with my family? One of the depositors was Pius Jones (record # 3972). He listed the names of his brothers, his sisters, his mother, and his father; the information stated:

"3972. Record for Pius Jones. Date of application Feb. 7, 1874 (actually 1873). Born in Hyde County, N. C. Raised in New Bern. Residence - near Cedar Street. Age 35. Brown complexion. Self-employed as a carpenter. No wife or children listed. Father is Simon. His mother is Dinah. Brothers and sisters are Riley, Henderson, Milton, Lorenzo, Dick, etc. (Harriet), Emma, Arena and Frances, etc. Full signature by the applicant."

His bother Milton was my great grandfather. These few papers confirmed what I had believed all along. They gave me my great, great grandparents and tied me to my great, great, great grandfather, Old Simon.

During one of my visits to the archives, I thought that I had found the key. A Negro boy called Simon was listed as having been owned by the deceased David Jones in 1780. I thought I had found the key. This must have been the owner of Simon, Sr. How or why Simon, Sr. came to be owned by Cason Jones remained a mystery.

Now, I suppose, you think: "She should be satisfied." I wasÖfor awhile. I still made those yearly pilgrimages. I tried to find little bits and pieces of the lives that my ancestors lived. The number of times they were sold or willed to others. It was truly fascinating. And I was truly satisfied, that is until I received another letter from Mrs. Williams.

Mrs. Williams had been researching her husbandís ancestors when she came across a bit of information that was the most coincidental of occurrences. Delaney Williams had been willed a slave named Simon. Delaney had been one of Cason Jonesí wives. There was the connection. But who had originally given Simon to Delaney. That is a most convoluted tale. William Williams had married Jane Wahab. Jane was the widow of Job Wahab. Job had inherited Simon from his father James Wahab. James Wahab's will is dated 1772; in his will, he had bequeathed "the Negro boy Simon" to Job.

There it was. Old Simon, "the Negro boy Simon", listed in the 1772 will of James Wahab, was my great, great, great grandfather. The blood of my maternal grandmother had been in this land before it was even a country.

Simon, Sr. (Old Simon)
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Simon Jones, Jr. m. Dinah
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Milton Jones m. Clara Louise Holly
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Minnie Inez Jones m. Harrison Elwell Singletary
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Minnie Inez Singletary m. Charlie Humber
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Joyce Humber m. Robert R. Faison, Sr.
|
Robert R. Faison, Jr.

Simon, Sr. had not been the slave of David Jones. James Wahab had been the slave master. This information opens up new research roads. From research that I have already completed, I have learned that the name Wahab is really of English origin Ė Walkup. There were Wahab's in North Carolina in the 1730ís and before. When next I go to Raleigh, I will research the Wahab familyís wills and estate papers. You never know how far back you can go until you begin your search.

The search for oneís African, African-American, and black American ancestors in North Carolina, in general, and in Hyde County, in particular is a fascinating process. The documents that bear witness to their lives are housed in the archives in Raleigh, in the various county courthouses and, in the National Archives in Washington D. C. The history of black American has not been taken - it is preserved. Hopefully, more people will want to research their past so as to pay homage to their ancestors who gave so much so that they could now be free. The documents maintained in the archives throughout this county are mute testimonies of the transcendent lives of people who endured in spite of their condition of servitude.

The testament of the generation that was nearest to the last slaves is growing quite. It is now, at the beginning of this second millennium that we must hear their childhood stories and their shared remembrances about their fathers, grandfathers, and their other progenitors. We must listen, research, and learn.

Copyright  2002

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