Stagecoach Mary: the Black Cowgirl

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America’s Old West was undoubtedly a Wild West before an ex-slave named Mary Fields arrived in 1885 at a small railroad town in present-day Montana. Yet she certainly made things more interesting. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying: “she drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.”

Source: Stagecoach Mary: the Black Cowgirl

London’s Primitive Baptist Church in Ruins

london-church-1 london-church-2 london-church-3Last week, a patron showed me some photographs that she took of a crumbling London’s Primitive Baptist Church on London Church Road.  The Church, built in about 1895, was moved to this site from Herring Avenue in 1992 to preserve the structure. All has not gone as planned and after a tree fell through the church sometime after 2013, it has been left as a ruin.  The patron that brought me the photos had been trying to get Preservation Wilson to renovate the structure, but they said that it was the landowner’s responsibility.  The church was deeded to the owners of American Museum of Music but after one of them died, the other was unable to take care of the important historic building.  For more on the church, see this post in Black Wide-Awake.

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London’s Primitive Baptist Church in better days.

Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past

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Join us next month 2/7/2017 @ 7 pm in the WCPL assembly room for Lisa Henderson’s presentation: Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past. If it is anything like her past presentations, it will be stellar.

New Marker for African Americans who fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain

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Last weekend, I went camping at King’s Mountain National Park with my son and lots of cousins.  It was a beautiful two days and we hiked on the gorgeous trail around the Revolutionary War battlefield.  While hiking, I noticed a new marker, placed there just a few days before, memorializing three African Americans who fought at the battle: Esaias Bowman, John Broddy and Andrew Ferguson.  When I got home I looked into these three soldiers and found some interesting information, but I found the most interesting one was Andrew Ferguson (1765-1855).

There are two applications that I examined on Fold3, one for a pension and one for bounty land.From his pension/ bounty applications Ferguson  acknowledges that he is colored and born of a free father and free mother.  Andrew states that he and his father, Andrew Perley, were from Dinwiddie County, Virginia and were captured by the British who whipped them with a “cat o’ nine tails”.  They both escaped and joined Nathanael Greene’s regiment, who were in the county at the time. Father and son participated in a good portion of the battles of the southern theater.  Andrew Ferguson relates that he was wounded at Camden in the leg but was able to fight at Ninety-Six, Kings Mountain, Pacolet River, Musgrove’s Mill, Eutaw Springs, Cowpens and  Guilford Courthouse.  It was at Guilford Courthouse where he was seriously wounded in the head and Doctor John Sidney placed a silver plate in the fracture.  Andrew was discharged shortly after Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown.

The bounty letter also mentions that he was in the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania and in the pension application there is a reference to the notorious Tory, Bill Cunningham, also known as bloody Bill Cunningham (for  the massacres of patriot militia he perpetrated in South Carolina).  He shot and killed an American near Andrew, then escaped.

Andrew Ferguson was given a small pension and would move to Monroe County, Indiana sometime after 1820. Both he and his wife were very poor and the first pension letter was in 1838 when he was 73.  The bounty letter was in 1851.  Then he wrote another one in 1855 when he was supposedly 90 years old!  He finally received his bounty for 160 acres in 1856, but by then he and his wife had already died without heirs.

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Andrew Ferguson’s pension letter in 1838.

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Andrew Ferguson’s first bounty letter in 1851

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Andrew received 20 dollars a year.

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Unfortunately his land bounty of 160 acres came too late.

Using Deeds to Discover Your Enslaved Ancestors Part 2: Henderson Bagley

Recently a man and his son visited from Wake County looking for information on their enslaved and later freed ancestor, Henderson Bagley.  I was not there when they visited unfortunately, but I have kept in touch  with them over the phone and through email trying to decipher the enigmatic past of Henderson Bagley.

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The marriage of Henderson Bagley and Hana Williams. Taken from Family Search.

On 22 August 1866 Henderson Bagley and Hana Williams registered their cohabitation in Wilson.  According to the 1870 census, Henderson Bagley  was listed as  living in Chesterfield, Nash County  with his five children and no wife.  In 1880, Henderson and four of his children were living in  Old Fields Township in Wilson County.

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The Bagley family in the 1870 Census. Taken from Ancestry.com

I thought that the name Henderson was so unique that if I found it in a record as an enslaved person’s name, it would be a good chance that it would be Henderson Bagley.  But the name was more ubiquitous than I realized.  The name Henderson  appears several times in Nash County, NC, Division of Estate Slaves  1829-1861, abstracted by Timothy W. Rackley, as the name of a slave owned by the Boddie family.

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henderson_bagley49henderson_bagley72In Johnston County deed books I found eight different entries of a slave (or several) named Henderson.  According to the 1870 census, Henderson was born in about 1830, therefore the most promising deed listed here  is from 14 March 1837, where they list a seven year old boy named Henderson.

Henderson in deedsIn a Wilson County will I found a record that lists an enslaved person named Henderson.  The will is from 1862 and I would have hoped that it  listed Hana or one of their older children from the census, but no such luck.

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This image is from “Abstracts of Wills, Wilson County, NC 1855-1899” by Robert Boykin

Although I found not a few entries that listed a man named Henderson in deeds, wills and estate records, it is difficult to determine if any of them are the Henderson Bagley that I was searching for.  Not often is the research as cut and dry as it was with Mariah and Bryant Pender from my earlier post.  But the fact that I found an enslaved man (or men) named in the records 14 times is a great indicator of how useful deeds, wills and estate records can be used to good effect.

Lisa Henderson (no relation) has also posted some info about Henderson Bagley on her blog.