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J. Kelly Turner and 
Jno. L Bridgers, Jr. 

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Chaptkb I 18 

OBiGiEf JLzrD Sbituement 

Immigrants from Virginia — ^Barly Indian troubles — ^Town 
Creek settled 1720 — ^Tar Rlyer expedition 1722-— Bconomdc con- 
ditions of settlers— Precinct established — ^Political controyersy 
1733-1742 — ^Period of immigration — Commercial expansion — 
Halifax town 1744 — ^Erection of new counties — ^Tarboro incor- 
porated—Account of Spanish War and incidents. 

Chapter II 41 

Colonial GoviBinaarr 

Bnglish policy — ^Precinct courts — Oyer and Terminer courts — 
Courts of Justice — Superior Court in Bnfleld — ^Political rep- 
resentation contested — ^Function of local courts — Quit rent con- 
troversy — ^Taxation — ^Riot and rebellion — Corbin seized — ^Mar- 
tin visits Tarboro— Political significance— War of Regulation 
— ^Tyron's appeal to the people — County representation. 

Chaptbe III 78 


Pre-Revolutionary controversies — War preparations — Leaders 
and response to the cause — ^Troops in the revolution — ^Members 
in the Provincial Congress — Military organisations — ^Tempo- 
rary government — ^War incidents in Tarboro — ^Tory uprisings 
— Martin plans negro insurrection — ^Economic conditions — 
Power of imprisonment suspended — Deserters in Edgecombe 
— ^Battles of Swift and Fishing Creeks — ^Wilmington aided — 
Close of hostilities. 

Chapter IV 104 


General Washington's visit — ^Rise of parties — Edgecombe and 
Federal convention — Delegates to the Continental Congress — 
County courts organized — County government — Inferior courts 
and Quarter Sessions — Convention of 1SS5 — Organization of 
parties— Henry Cray's visit 1845 — ^Political effect— Political 
leaders — ^Whig agitation — ^Democratic controversy — ^War with 
Mexico — ^Edgecombe volunteers — ^Military leaders — Coalition 
of parties — Southern Rights movement — Campaign of 1860. 

Chaptsb V 156 


Indian slayes — Indentured servants — ^Negro slavery — Economic 
importance— Inducement for Importation — Law concerning 
slavery— Local regulations — Law affecting servants — Patrol 
system and its purpose — ^Hiring days — Method of punishment 
State vs. Will— Value of slaves-nSocial life— Religious life — 
Cause of religious indifference — Slavery and politics. 

Chapter VI 186 

Wab Between the States 

Political convention of 1861 — ^Awakening of public sentiment — 
Leaders of secession movement — Response to the call for troops 
— Edgecombe Guards at Bethel — Military muster — Military 
leaders — Eidgecombe in earnest — Internal conditions — Federal 
troops in Tarboro — ^Battle Daniel School house — ^Destruction of 
Tarboro threatened — Contributions to the Confederacy — Con- 
dlUons in 1865. 

Chaptbe VII and VIII 237, 259 


Economic conditions — Federal regime — ^Activities of republican 
party — Frauds in county government — ^Political organizations 
— Negro activities — Outrages committed — Retaliation — County 
government resumed — Suspension of Quarter Session of Court 
and Pleas — Political controversies — Free negro problem — Mu- 
nicipal politics — Democratic victory — Resumption of law and 
order — Leaders in reconstruction. 

Chapter IX 281 

Politics Sinob 1880 

Democratic control over court system — ^Republican struggle In 
politics — Political campaigns — Rise of populist party — ^Political 
leaders — Fusion of parties — Party controversies — Campaigns 
of 1892 to 1898 — £)dgecombe in the war with Spain — Campaigns 
of 1900 — ^Political significance — ^Economic conditions. 

Chapteb X 326 

AoBionLTUBE, Industries and Internal Improvement 

Agriculture — Early methods of farming — ^Tobacco culture — 
Introduction of marling and composting — Cattle raising — 
Method of Stock farming — ^Manufacturing — Erection of banks 
— Commercial activities — Early road improvement — ^Plank 
roads — Stages — ^Water navigation — Railroads — Modem methr 
ods of industries. 

Chapter XI 359 


Early eduoation — ^Period of opposition — Clergymen Bchoolmas- 
ters — Eiffects of the revolntion — ^Rise of academies — Leaders in 
educational movement — State aid for free schools — ^Free educa^ 
tion for paupers — County appropriations — ^Free school contro- 
yersy — ^MoTement for common schools — Consolidation of school 
districts — Educational promoters — Modem education — System 
of conducting schools. 

Chaptbb XII 387 


Origin and controversies to 1782 — Expansion after the reyolu- 
tion — Dissensions over church organisation — Rise of the Mis- 
sion Baptist — Character and services of Joshua Lawrence — 
Dissensions over church organization concluded — ^Rise of negro 

Chaptbb XIII 432 


English church and early governors — Eklgecomhe parish 
erected — Early controversies — Religious conditions — Church 
government — Edgecombe parish divided and political contro- 
versy — Qlebe lands and effect on the activities of the early 
clergsrmen — St. Mary's parish divided — ^Period of decay — ^At- 
tempts at religious revival — Conventions 1790 to 1794 and 1819 
— Calvary church 1833 — Period of expansion — Present condi- 

Chaptee XIV 458 

Pbesbytebians and Sons of Tebiperance 

Early conditions — Itinerant ministers during the colonial 
period — ^Activities of lay members — First church organized — 
Home missionary plans — Sunday school activities — Leaders in 
church work — Layman's movement — Controversy with Bap- 
tists — ^Period of expansion — New church in Tarboro. 

Chapter XV 467 


An account of the early Methodists and their religious convic- 
tions — Joseph Pilmoor's services — Methodist controversies — 
Activities of James O'Kelly — Results of Whitefleld's teachings 
— ^Division of Carolina Circuit — ^Account of Asbunr's visits — 
Revivals during the colonial period — Pastorate of Dr. Doub — 
Period of expansion — Camp-meetings — Negro missions — Sketch 
of Associate Reform Methodists — ^Account of Ellis meeting- 
house, McKendree church, Swift Creek Mission, Temperance 
Hall, and other churches— Conditions to 1900. 


This work was begun several years ago^ while Mr. Turner was 
a student at Trinity College. It has been completed with the co- 
operation of Mr. BridgerSy after interruption due to the World 
War. Certain features of their labors deserve mention. 

The careers of individuals and the description of notable events 
are subordinated to the treatment of movements, industrial, eco- 
nomic and political. The dominating theme is the environment 
and activity of the average man as involved in organs of govern- 
ment, labor systems, religion, education, economic life, and 
political affairs. For information and data the authors have util- 
ized a wide range of material, manuscript records, laws, news- 
papers, biographies, histories and unwritten traditions. The work 
is, I believe, a wider and more varied presentation of the life of 
the people than is conceived in our county and local histories. 

A varied feature of the work is its information regarding that 
vital but neglected period of local history, the years between the 
Revolution and the Civil War. There came to maturity institu- 
tions and forces which originated in early days. How often are 
these years of development glossed over in our local histories for 
the benefit of the tumult and the shouting of martial times ! 

For these reasons I feel that the authors deserve recognition 
and commendation for a meritorious as well as a patriotic work. 

W. K. BOTD. 

Trinity College. 
Dec. mh, 1919. 


Tliis Yoluine was undertaken by reason of a deep appreciation 
for the county of Edgecombe and her worthy history. We never 
realized the force of Job's utterance^ '^Oh that mine enemy would 
write a book," until well into the work. Locating and interpret- 
ing ancient and musty records, running down hazy traditions, 
whose origin is well nigh lost to memory and attempting to verify 
them, has been no easy task. How often have we wished that we 
had left the search to that uncertain somebody else. However, 
out of loyalty to our native county, we have not hesitated or turned 

The people of Edgecombe are intelligent, law abiding, indus- 
trious, resourceful, and progressive; but they are marked by one 
bar sinister, a most serious fault, that they have not properly 
appreciated their county, themselves, and the efforts of individual 
leaders. But they will grow, develop, and broaden with the 
process of time, and in so doing will stand foremost in all that 
makes and marks a most notable and worthy people. 

We have labored faithfully to record Edgecombe's past. Doubt- 
less we have made mistakes and errors; but we say to those who 
would criticize, 'TJo not tell us of our errors and mistakes, but 
report them to the next one who will be so bold as to undertake 
to write a history of Edgecombe. 

Pictures of many men, which deserve to be inserted, are not, 
because after earnest and diligent effort copies could not be pro-* 
cured. This history is put forth, trusting that it may be received 
in the spirit that impelled us to write it. 

Grateful acknowledgments are hereby made for the assistance 
given by Dr. L. R. Wilson, Chapel HiU ; J. P. Breedlove, Libra- 
rian of Trinity CoUege, Durham, N. C; A. T. Walston, R. H. 
Gatlin, Frank Powell, Miss Sarah Norfleet, Rev. B. E. Brown, 
Mrs. T. W. Thrash, late J. B. Bradley, H. S. Bunn, Tarboro, 
N. C, and R. D. W. Connor, Raleigh, N. C. Especially indebted 
are we to Dr. W. K. Boyd, Department of History, Trinity Col- 
lie, of Durham, N. C, for helpful criticisms and inspiration 
while writing these pages. 

J. Kelly Turneb, 
December 12, 1919. John L. Bbidgsbs, Jb. 


Origin aih) Settlement 

Many years before the appearance of civilized man in the new 
world, even ere the daring eye of the brave mariner wandered 
across the waters of the Atlantic, the forests of the Albemarle 
section in North Carolina were traversed by roving savages. 
Whence the aborigines came has never been discovered, and their 
origin will in all probability remain an enigma as long as time 
shall last. On the upper waters of Tar River dwelt the Tusca- 
roras and the Cotechneys, the most numerous and warlike of the 
North Carolina Indians, who roamed the forests and fished the 
streams at will. Torhunte, an Indian town, situated on the 
River Tar, was occupied by these tribes until the year 1712. 
This village and Tosneoc,^ about twelve miles from the present 
town of Tarboro, were the gathering places for the Tuscarora 
tribe. Here they assembled to plan their wars, and reassembled 
again after the conflict to divide their spoils and captives. 

It was late in the fall of 1656 that a small scouting party left 
the northern confines of Virginia and settled in the northeastern 
part of the Albemarle section. The settlements, which were 
then continuous until the beginning of the eighteenth century, 
was arrested by a sudden outbreak of Indians. However, tem- 
porary peace about 1710 placed new desires among the settlers to 
open up new locations and to penetrate deeper into this unex- 
plored region. At this time the early expansion from Albemarle 
began. The Tuscaroras on the west, although still a strong and 
brave tribe, were not unfriendly in their disposition. Their hunt- 
ing grounds that lay on the Neuse, Roanoke, and Tar Rivers had 
not been encroached upon, and they gave every indication of 
enjoying a free trade with the whites, who supplied them with the 
commodities they most desired. 

The migration was slow. A few young men, more energetic 
and with a more restless disposition than thdlr neighbors, deter- 
mined to seek new lands in a more fertile country. There were 
probably only fifteen or twenty men who came from Nansemond 

*I>o not read tliii IknA vnleM yoa haTe read the preface. 

^Tomeoe was alio a principal Indian Tillage and gets its name from the Tar- 
paeo Riyer, which later became Tar BiTor. 

14 HiBTOEY OF Edqbcombe County 

by way of the wilderness to the frontier of the Albemarle section, 
with no provision or eqmpment, except a rifle and a bag of ammu- 
nition, to supply their needs. These men did not come as con- 
querors, nor as outcasts. 

In the latter part of the eighteenth century peace reigned in 
Virginia; the freeman enjoyed more or less religious liberty, and 
representative goyernment. No oppression from religious creeds 
or political dogmas that hampered the settlers in later periods 
induced the party to leave their peaceful homes. The men were 
daring, hardened, and sturdy Virginians, nourished in the love 
of adventure, and defied the dangers lurking in a primeval forest. 

Among the early settlers were men who bore the names of 
Battle and Jarvis, who came in peace, and purchased lands from 
the Indian King and became staunch friends of the natives. This 
small band soon discovered, however, that their early purchases did 
not carry them beyond the limits of Virginia, and the rents im- 
posed by the Virginia colony pushed them further westward, across 
the Boanoke. Men of freedom-loving natures and with desires for 
a freer life than the civilization of Virginia oflFered, they pene- 
trated deeper in the wilderness to avoid the tithes levied by the 
Virginia government. 

The Gtevemor of Virginia resented the situation of the settlers 
in Albemarle, and while the movement was in progress, sent in- 
structions to make the rents more onerous upon the settlers who 
had purchased lands and received deeds from the Indians. The 
Gbvemor accordingly required all who had secured lands to take 
out patents from him and pay the customary tribute. Many 
patents were issued, but the more restless element moved on west- 
ward to the Boanoke and Tar. By 1720 the shores of the Chowan 
were well occupied, while the Pamlico was inhabited forty miles 
above Bath Town, almost touching the bounds of what is now 
Edgecombe County. 

In the meantime the dissensions in the colony at the opening 
of the century involved the Indians, who took part vrith one side 
or the other of the political contestants. Shrewd politicians led 
the Indians to believe that the new Governor, Hyde, who arrived 
in the meantime, was a person to be distrusted by them, while the 
rapid growth of the whites in the south along the water courses 
of the Pamlico and Neuse created fear among them lest they 

Obioin and Ssttlbmbnt 15 

should be forced back and finally driven from their old hunting 
grounds. The fears held by the Indians proved to be not in vain. 

The influence exerted over the Indians by the schemes of ignoble 
men brought destruction upon the heads of alL Indians wan- 
dered throughout the land at their leisure^ destroying the farms of 
the temporary settlers, confining the inhabitants themselves to 
their forts. Industry of every kind was checked by the devasta- 
tion and terror of the savages, thus checking the settlements in the 
region that afterwards became Edgecombe. 

Another cause that retarded permanent settlement was prob- 
ably the method of living by the people. Their life was one of 
satiety. If one would give full credence to the reports returned 
by the early explorers, it must be concluded that the men avoided 
every task involving physical labor and inconveniences. Lawson 
says some of the men were very laborious and made improvements 
in their way, but that this character could not be applied in gen- 
eral. The indication of enjoyment and pleasure away from the 
settled lands of the Old Dominion gave them no incentive for 
physical activity. Possibly there was no section in the colony 
where a subsistence suitable to the majority of the settlers could 
be so easily procured than in this fertile country which after- 
wards became Edgecombe. The principal employment was that 
of hunting, fishing, rearing horses and cattle. The level plains 
covered with nutritious grasses were the home of wild horse and 
cattle. Agriculture was not developed or encouraged in any 
form. Indeed, the living conditions of the settlers was on the 
same plane with that of the savage — both being accustomed to 
eat meat without bread. Women were the more industrious sex, 
TnftVing aU the cloth and keeping the household supplied with 
articles of wear. 

The tranquil ease of the fast increasing whites and the dislike 
for their civilization engend^ed a hate in the breast of the savage 
that found satisfaction only at the expense of massacre and 
murder. The untrammeled plains and forests had been the home 
of the red man in times of peace and war. From time imme- 
morial he had roamed the hills unconscious of the dangers from 
the pale faces across the seas. An Indian uprising was directed 
against the defenseless settlers; innocent women and children 
fell victims to the slashing tomahawk of the bloodthirsty savage. 

%MPW^Hi*^^^^^VK^ -■ 

16 HiSTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

Many people fled^ leaving their rude huts to be consumed by the 
flames^ and returned to Virginia, whence they came. A fort of 
protection was hurriedly built at Beading's plantation on Tar 
River about 1720. The remaining whites gathered here to repel 
the attack and to protect their lives. The Tuscaroras and the 
Cotechney Indiand combined to storm the fort at an untimely 
hour. In the meantime the Indians had been considerably weak- 
ened because of a lack of provisions. The onslaught was made, 
however, but was successfully repulsed by the defenders of the 
fort. The leaders of the colonists, assisted by John Moore, who 
remained at Fort Heading for a month with his army, negotiated 
with Tom Blount, the Indian chief of the Tuscaroras, for peace. 
Before the truce had expired for the negotiation, and before the 
Indians could recuperate from their long period of hunger. 
Colonel Moore was aided by a new army. The struggle against 
the whites then became futile, and the majority of the Tusca- 
roras departed from this section to New York, after Torhimte 
had been destroyed by Colonel John Barnwell in 1712. Eang 
Blount and his people were given a reservation between Tar and 
Neuse Rivers. They remained here until the second migration 
of whites to Edgecombe in 1732, and then were removed to 
Roanoke River at the request of the Indians themselves. 

The Indian war, although destructive and depressing, resulted 
in great benefit for the future welfare of the settlers. The weak- 
lings were frightened by the warfare of the Indians and returned 
to Virginia. This made way for the migration of the better type 
of industrious settlers from Virginia, who sought the fertile lands 
upon the Tar, Roanoke, and Neuse Rivers, and their tributaries. 

When the Lords Proprietors outlined their policy for the colony 
of Carolina, they established four counties, Albemarle, Bath, 
Clarendon, and one in the south. Albemarle, the vast territory 
between Weldon and Currituck, was later divided into six pre- 
cints. Chowan,! one of the largest, contained all the territory 
south of the Virginia line and north of Albemarle Sound, extend- 
ing westward to the extreme limits of the colony. 

^Colonial Records, Vol III, pp. XIII, says: Albemarle was divided into six pre 
cinets, Ohowan, Perquimans, Carritnck, Pasquotank, Bertie, and Edgecombe. This 
is probably an error in copying from the original laws. Bdgeoombe could not have 
been an original precinct, since in 1782 a request was made to erect Edgecombe 

Origin and Sbttlbment 17 

By 1722 settlements in this vast territory west of the Chowan 
had extended so far that it was necessary for a new precinct to 
be established. This new precinct was called Bertie^ and con- 
tained all the territory west of the Chowan River. 

A few years after the Indian troubles a new group of settlers 
were led across the borders of Virginia into the more western 
parts of the newly erected precinct. 

This second tide of immigration was mostly of the highest type 
of manhood of Yirginia. The law of primogeniture, then en- 
forced in that colony, gave to the oldest son the sole hereditary 
right and compelled the younger males of the family to cast their 
lot away from home or become clergymen. Many of these young\ 
men were of a roving disposition and were imbued with an ad- ^ 
venturous spirit. The church did not appeal to them as a pro-^/ 
fession, and they cast their lot on the more western frontier. 
Although the majority of the early settlers were of the gentry type, 
there were also many of the servant class, who came after having 
served the time of their indenture. They were anxious to secure 
farms of their own and live an independent life apart from their 
former masters. Many others came also who had no other desire 
than to get out of the borders of the Old Dominion. 

Just as the first permanent settlement in the colony b^an at 
the mouths of the rivers, the interior settlement of this section 
b^an at the mouths of the creeks, expanding as the remaining 
Indians were driven toward the frontier. The mouth of Town 
Creek marked the beginning of the settlement in 1720. Two years 
later the present vicinity of Tarboro was settled by a small party 
of young Virginians. Here the land was undulating and very 
fertile in the low grounds of Fishing and Swift Creeks and Tar 
Biver. Rippling brooks made frequent water courses, supplying 
an excellent pasturage for the settlers' cattle. The settlers en- 
countered many hardships in establishing homes in this region. 
The Indians, although conquered and weakened by previous wars, 
were not satisfied with the daily encroachment upon their homes. 
They were, however, gradually driven southward toward the 
colony of Bath across from Contentnea, as the settlement pro- 
gressed. Here they erected forts after their crude fashion and 
lived in safety until besieged and annihilated by the rapidly in- 
creasing colonists. 

18 BtsTOBY OF Edgboombb County 


The western part of Bertie Precinct increased rapidly in pop- 
ulation, making progress both in civilization and importance. 
By 1723 there were twenty families on Tar River alone. Among 
the freeholders here in 1723 were James Thigpen^ Thomas Elliott^ 
Paul Palmer, James Anderson, Francis Branch, Samuel Spruill, 
James Long, Thomas Hawkins, William Burgis, William Arren- 
ton. Some of these families still have representatives among the 
county's citizens, while the counties of Halifax and If ash, when 
cut ofiF, carried some of these settlers, and their descendants also 
live in those counties. Paul Pahner was one of the strongest 
Baptist preachers of his time and created a strong religious senti- 
ment among the colonists. 

Settlers were also locating on both sides of the river. Primi- 
tive methods for building were adopted, while the forests yielded 
an abundant supply of tar, pitch, turpentine, staves, and raw 
products for export. The influx of whites became still greater as 
the Virginia lands lost their fertility through continuous cultiva- 
tion of tobacco. The slow nmning rivers and creeks in the 
precinct attracted many eager severs for rich soil. 

Crude houses were also built of logs to furnish shelter until 
permanent settlement could be made. The logs were notched and 
were probably put together in the same fashion as many remote 
country homes were in the nineteenth century. Between the logs, 
split poles chinked with mud were securely fashioned. The chim- 
neys for the most part were wood, the foundation and body being 
built up to the funnel with split sticks daubed inside and out 
with sticky clay to protect from excessive heat. The inside of the 
fireplace was covered with mud in the same manner, and measured 
from five to six feet in length and two feet in depth. Lumber was 
sawed by hand before the erection of saw mills.^ In 1730 the 
first mills made their appearance and gave the settlers more con- 
venience in home building. 

The houses were usually covered with cypress boards, three 
feet long by one broad. These were attached to the rafters by the 
use of pegs, while the doors were supported by wooden hinges. 
Wooden locks were also employed to secure the door and protect 
against night prowlers. The houses were hardly ever larger than 
25 X 15 feet, one room sufficing for a sleeping and cooking apart- 
ment for the entire family. 

^Saw BilU were driyea by water power, and flnallj hdrsea were employed. 


Obioin and Settlbmbnt 19 

The constant increase in population was not without political 
bearing. A demand was created for representation in the law- 
making body of the province. Consequently when the Assembly 
met in Edenton, May 6^ 1732^ as called by Gbvemor Burrington^ 
the people residing on Tar Biyer and the south side of the 
Roanoke River presented a petition to the Gk>vemor and his 
Council requesting that a new precinct be erected^ giving them 
the same privileges that the other precincts enjoyed. The Gk>v- 
emor and Coimcil acted favorably toward the petition^ and or- 
dered the precinct of Bertie and the district on the south side of 
Roanoke River to appoint commissioners to measure the bounds 
which were to make a new precinct called Edgecombe. The 
newly erected precinct was named in honor of Richard First, 
Baron of Edgecombe, of the manorial House of England. He 
was bom in 1680 and died in 1758. He received his education at 
Trinity College, Cambridge, and became very prominent in Eng- 
lish politics. For several years he was a follower of Sir Robert 
Walpole, and attended to his interests. He was elevated to a peer- 
age in 1742, one year after Edgecombe Precinct was confirmed. 
He was also Lord of the Treasury. The boundary extended 
from the south side of Roanoke to the north of Canocanora Creek 
to Blount's Old Town on Tar River, including the territory of 
the present County of Martin and the upper part of Pitt. The 
dividing line extended between If euse and Tar Rivers, embracing 
all the area to the northeast branch of the Cape Fear River, 
touching the present vicinity of Mt. Olive in Wayne County. 

In October of the same year the inhabitants on the south side 
of Maratock River, which was not annexed to Edgecombe Pre- 
cinct from Bertie by the Governor and Council, presented a peti- 
tion that they also might be added to Edgecombe. The territory 
from Hawkins Line at Rainbow Banks ^ to Blount's Old Town 
on Tar River and the land direct up Roanoke River to the boun- 
dary line of Edgecombe Precinct, accordingly was added to Edge- 

By the annexation of this additional territory, the bounds of 
the precinct were greatly extended. The entire territory lying 
between Roanoke and Neuse River west of Tarboro vicinity and 
northeast of the Cape Fear River became a part of Edgecombe. 

^In the Ticinifcy of Hamilton, Halifax County. 

20 HisTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

Virginia marked the boundary Une on the north, beginning where 
the Boanoke crosses the border of If orth Carolina colony and ex- 
tending westward without limits. The boundary on the east of 
Edgecombe Precinct followed the Boanoke southward through 
the present counties of Halifax and Martin, a distance of about 
eighty-five miles. On the south, Edgecombe was bounded by 
Beaufort and Craven Counties, the line between Edgecombe ex- 
tending from the present village of Bobersonville to Walston- 
burg and thence to the northeast Cape Fear, touching M\. Olive. 
The western boundary followed the Neuse Biver through Selma 
in Johnston County, taking in the site of the present town of 
Clayton. At Clayton the boundary extended to the Cape Fear 
again, touching Merry Oaks, then followed Haw Biver, includ- 
ing the present counties of Orange and Caswell, a distance of 
about one hundred and fifty miles. 

This scope of vast territory, covering so many square miles, 
contained more than seventeen of our modem counties. Governor 
Burrington was aware of this immense stretch of land when he 
wrote the agents in London that the precinct of Edgecombe was 
a large territory, and he hoped to see it soon divided into several 
other precincts. 

The Assembly met early in the spring of 1733 at Edenton, at 
which time the erection of Edgecombe was confirmed by the 
Council. At the same session Gk>vemor Burrington appointed 
Captain John Spier and Captain William Whitehead, two worthy 
citizens, as Justices of the Peace for the precinct. These two men 
were among the earliest settlers, and were afterwards honored 
with trustworthy and honorable positions in the county govern- 

The confirmation by the Council of (Jovemor Burrington's ac- 
tion, declaring Edgecombe a precinct, aroused the animosity of 
prominent officials in the colony. ITathan Bice and John Ashe 
especially questioned the action, and began a hostile movement 
against the Gtevemor. Mr. Bice was a Commissioner from Eng- 
land, and, like Mr. Ashe, was also a high official in the (Governor's 
Council when the royal government was first established. These 
two men had other political grievances against the Gk>vemor and 
his policies. Many controversies had been waged by them against 
Burrington previous to this time. The objections to the new 

Origin and Settlemsnt 21 

precinct of Edgecombe were to the effect that the Gk)Temor fol- 
lowed the procedure of a former administration that erected new 
precincts to aid him in future elections.^ These charges^ while 
greatly exaggerated^ contained an element of truth. 

Personal differences and political opposition became greatly 
embittered when Burrington cast Mr. Ashe into prison for a trivial 
offense. While this matter was in progress^ Burrington's high 
temper drew him into personal antagonism with Chief Justice 
Little and other officials, ilfumerous letters^ claiming the erec- 
tion of Edgecombe unconstitutional^ and that it would cause un- 
equal representation of the people, were addressed to the Crown 
by Ashe and Bice. 

During the latter part of April, 1733, these two gentlemen 
wrote their reasons for the objection to the action of the Governor 
and Council They claimed that the Governor's methods were 
destructive to the existing constitution of the l^islature, whose 
powers were "separate and distinct," for the increase of precincts 
by the Upper House, thereby adding more members to the Lower 
House, would cause said Lower House to be dependent upon the 
Upper House and subject to its dictation. They also declared that 
the erection of the precinct was illegal in that it was done without 
royal instruction and royal license. 

Governor Burrington met these objections by saying that the 
people on the south side of Boanoke and Tar Bivers requested to 
be erected in a precinct called Edgecombe. He claimed that it 
was not a new practice for the Governor and Council to erect new 
precincts, and that the people living in the newly erected terri- 
tory were enjoying personal liberty and property rights. 

It is very probable that malice and the desire to show a zealous 
cause for the support of the privileges of the Lower House caused 
Ashe and Bice to create the sentiment in opposition. No protest 
against the erection of precincts had ever been made prior to this 
time. Bertie had been formed in 1722 from Chowan, and other 
precincts in Albemarle had also been made coimties with local gov- 
ernment by the Governor and his Council This fact gives con- 
clusive evidence that other reasons, in addition to those of patriot- 

^New Hftnorer had been erected a precinct by tbe former Governor. In several 
caees the firet action in relation to these diyisions was on the part of the GoTomor 
and Oooneil, whose proceedings were afterwards approved and conflrmed by Legis* 
latnre. Onslow was laid off in 1788 and later conflrmed. 

22 History of Edoeoombb County 

ism, actuated these two men in their contention. It was indeed 
very strange that the Gtovemor was in danger of subverting the 
Constitution by a method which had always been practiced, and 
which had not given the Upper House undue power. 

At the fall meeting of the Assembly Governor Burrington re- 
fused to sit in conference when the matter was debated, the con- 
troversy being so acute. The Upper House discussed the matter 
at length after the Governor had left the Assembly, and voted 
that the precinct should be ^^ascertained" in order that in the next 
biennial election the precinct could return members to serve in 
the Assembly. The boundary lines determined were the same that 
were fixed by Governor Burrington in 1732. 

In the meantime, in 1732, Governor Burrington appointed 
Colonel Henry Gaston, Major James Milliken, Dr. James Thomp- 
son, Captain John Pratt, John Alston, Dr. John Bryant, John 
Hardy, James Spier, Francis EUeby, William Kane, John Pope, 
and Edward Young as Justices of the Peace, with instructions to 
hold a precinct court on the third Tuesday in the months of 
August, November, February, and May of every year. This was 
the first court ordered to be held in the precinct, and indicated the 
fixed intentions of the Governor. Several of these justices had 
been members of Legislature and the court from Bertie Precinct, 
but were inhabitants of Edgecombe before and after the division 
in 1732. When the additional land was annexed to Edgecombe in 
October of the same year, one more Justice, Captain William 
Whitehead, was appointed by the Governor. 

The appointment of justices and the confirmation of the action 
of Governor Burrington by the Upper House, however, was not 
sufficient to give Edgecombe the privileges of the other precincts. 
In consequence of much conflict existing between the Governor 
and the officials, the matter was delayed until 1734. The bill was 
then introduced again in the Assembly. It was confirmed in the 
Upper House. The citizens, in order to encourage the passage of 
the bill, sent an earnest appeal to the Assembly, and were suc- 
cessful in influencing the Legislature to vote upon the bill, favor- 
ing the Governor's action. The bill came up again late in the 
meeting with the petition of the people, and passed the second 
time with amendments. 

Obioin and Sbttlbment 23 

In the fall of the same year the Governor met the Assembly 
for the last time. Ho had previously written to the Crown for 
permission to returr. home^ claiming to be ill and pauperized from 
being in the colony without his salary. The bill was introduced 
the third time for confirmation^ and was about to be acted on when 
the arrival of a new Governor, Gabriel Johnston^ interfered. 
Gk>vemor Burrington had made a compromise with his antagon- 
ists — compliments were returned on both sides, and an agree- 
ment was made between the two factions in order to reach a state 
of helpfulness to the citizens and to the precinct. The temper 
of the Gk>vemor subsiding caused a more harmonious feeling to 
affect the Assembly. 

On November Idth Gabriel Johnston published his commission 
as Gk>vemor on the Cape Fear in open Council. This closed Bur- 
rington^s administration. 

Immediately after Governor Johnston arrived legislation was 
resumed. Onslow and Bladen, two new precincts, were confirmed 
by the Assembly, but Edgecombe was not considered until three 
years later, when it was also designated as a precinct by the As- 

In the meantime Edgecombe was being represented in the As- 
sembly and was exercising the political rights of an organized 
precinct. In 1733 two representatives. Captain William White- 
head, and Dr. David Hopper, were sent to the Assembly. Other 
men in the precinct were recognized officially.' Henry Gaston was 
appointed as a member of the Governor's Council in 1734 by the 
Gk>vemor. One of the most important events, having influence 
directly upon the cause of the entire controversy, was exposed 
when Edgecombe asserted her rights as a precinct of Albemarle 
County in 1734 and sent five del^ates, Mr. William Whitehead, 
John Spier, Bar Maguinny, David Hopper, and John Milliken 
to the Assembly. This explains to some extent why Messrs. Ashe 
and Rice, who were from a precinct in Bath County, were adverse 
to the erection of new precincts. Bath County at this time being 
so sparsely settled was allowed only two members, where as pre- 
cincts of Albemarle County was allowed five. This always gave 
the additional power through representation to Albemarle. 

The economic conditions of the precinct were in the meantime 
influencing the policy of the Assembly. Plantations were selling 

24 HisTOBT OF Edoboombb County 

cheap; those which contained houses^ bams, orchards^ gardens^ 
pastures^ and cultivated lands sold for about thirty or forty 
pistoles. The explanation for such cheapness of land is attributed 
to the fact that the people were in search of new land for their 
hogs and cattle. This condition was very favorable to newcomers 
who could always possess convenient and already cultivated farms 
for less money than the buildings generally cost. A single Vir- 
ginia planter^ Elisha Battle^ bought eleven inhabited adjacent 
plantations in the old settlement. The plantations prior to his 
coming were inhabited by almost one hundred white people who 
had moved on further in the interior of the precinct. The new- 
comer brought with him ten negroes to cultivate the fields^ and 
no whites except his wif a 

Parallel with the changing of the small plantation for the 
large ones with slaves was the immigration of the Swiss colonists 
into the precinct. Considerable numbers of families came together 
after the precinct was erected. The Owens' and Holmes' were 
especially prominent. Many men who afterwards distinguished 
themselves in political and professional activities came into the 
precinct at this time. Thomas Blount^ Blake Baker^ Jacob Battle, 
Bythell Bell, David Daniel, Ed Hall, John Leigh, Joseph Ross, 
Laymon Ruffin, Theophilus Thomas, Thomas Jarvis, and John 
Jenkins, who became merchants, lawyers, doctors, with many 
others of mechanical professions made their entrance during this 
tide of migration. 

The intellectual life of the precinct was stimulated, and the 
governmental policies of the colony were influenced by these new- 
comers. Edgecombe became recognized as an influential part of 
the province. Her citizens were honored by the Governor, who 
offered to them political positions, while others became equally 
as prominent as traders and merchants. 

It was natural that the new settlers should approve of the atti- 
tude adopted by Governor Burrington in erecting Edgecombe. 
They defended his policies of 1732 by delivering lectures, hoping 
to effect thereby the action of Governor Johnston. They did this 
also to protect their interests in governmental and cop:miercial 
policies in 1736. The people considered their liberty infringed 
upon and that their possessions, which they had settled and im- 
proved after hard toil and privations, were in danger of unjust 

OsiGiN AND Settlement 25 

laws. Should Edgecombe not be recognized as a precinct and 
allowed representatives to sit in tbe Assembly, there would be no 
method whereby these people would be protected against the dis- 
criminating laws of the Legislature. The opposition to the erec- 
tion of Edgecombe was charged to a few of Governor Burring- 
ton's personal enemies. These men claimed that those who were 
adverse to the former Gtovemor's action were not aware of the 
inconveniences the inhabitants were subjected to in the election. 
These few men who were predisposed to object, became the object 
of the scorn and displeasure of the entire precinct, and were 
deprived of the political support they otherwise would have se- 
cured from the people of Edgecombe. 

In the meantime the precinct still continued to grow rapidly, 
and increased in civilization and wealth. Men began to settle in 
great numbers in various sections of the precinct. Francis 
Parker, in 1745, took up a grant for six hundred and forty acres 
on Fishing Greek, David Hopper six hundred and forty acres on 
Kehukee Swamp, William Merritt one hundred acres on the 
north side of Kehukee Swamp, and John Starky received four 
hundred acres on the east side of White Oak River. The south 
dividing creek, north of Swift Creek and Maratock River,^ was 
settled by a great influx of settlers from Virginia in this year. 
Simon Jeffries obtained three patents for one thousand acres on 
Tar River, which extended fifteen miles. At the same time seven 
thousand acres lying on Town Creek was purchased by a Mr. 
Boyd. In one year alone over thirty-five thousand acres were 
granted to new settlers. John Pratt, who was made Clerk of the 
Assembly in 1736, was also given six hundred and forty acres 
during this year. 

By 1740, four years later, the greatest increase of immigrants 
reached Edgecombe. Marmaduke !N'orfleet, William Kinchen, 
Sam Sessums, Edward Jones, Joseph Howe, Richard Braswell, 
Elias Fort, William Watson, Josiah Jones, Gleorge Suggs, Robert 
Hines, Andrew Irwin, and Richard Sessums, men who afterward 
achieved great honor by defending the political and civic rights 
of their county, came into the precinct, bought and also received 

^Now Boanoke RWer. 

26 HiSTOBY OF Edoeoombb County 

by grant much land. During the meeting of the Assembly for 
this year over fifty thousand acres of land were distributed among 
the settlers. 

The increase of settlers and the more urgent demand for po- 
litical recognition and freedom influenced the speedy action by 
the Assembly. Mr. Milliken had presented a request for the 
people to the Assembly in 1735 to recognize Edgecombe as a pre- 
cinct. A bill was accordingly drawn up, but no action was taken 
by the Assembly. The policy of delay was practiced for over 
eight years, with a bill oscillating from one House to another 
without permanent action. The bill was merely an object for 
debate and served as an issue for technical warfare and intrigue 
between the two political divisions of the Assembly. The discus- 
sion was carried on with a partisan spirit. The Lower House, 
under the charter of the proprietary period, claimed a prerogative 
to erect precincts; consequently, the action of the Governor was 
still strongly contested. In the meanwhile Edgecombe, from 
1732 to 1741, was governed by the authority of Bertie Precinct.^ 
All the jurymen from the precinct of Edgecombe were selected 
with Bertie's members, and her civil and criminal cases were tried 
in the Bertie courts. Quit rents for lands in Edgecombe were 
also collected in Bertie Precinct. 

The climax and end to the controversy came in 1741. The 
Lower House refused to admit members from Edgecombe until 
the right to admit representatives was investigated. The issue 
was referred to the Crown, who claimed that the matter was up to 
the Governor and his CounciL The precinct in the meantime had 
extended its frontier and was thickly settled. Many prominent 
men, like Thomas Norfleet, were coming from Virginia, and buy- 
ing land on Maratock Biver. Who was to guide the expansion in 
a situation like this, the Governor or a few people with antagonis- 
tic principles? Herein lay the basis for political power, the 
whole cause of the controversy. The original precincts of Albe- 
marle had exercised the right of sending five members to the 
Legislature, while the new precincts were allowed only two. The 
Albemarle County was the center of opposition to the Crown and 
the Governor's policies. The new precincts did not have the 

^ Edgecoinbe*t jurymen for Supreme Court were listed with Bertie*!, and her 
tsxei were sIbo collected with Bertie's taxes until 1789. 


reputation of opposing the Gk)vemor; consequently, he turned to 
them in order to accomplish his political ambition. The issue was 
made clear to the (Governor, and in 1741, when the matter was 
laid before him, he ordered the county of Edgecombe to be con- 

A new era dawned upon the history of Edgecombe after the 
confirmation by the Governor and his Council. New progress both 
in industry and commerce was introduced. Thomas Hall, Thomas 
Owen, Henry Holmes, Will Owens, made their appearance in 
the county, bringing large numbers of slaves and white servants 
with them in order to secure land.^ John Alston brought nine- 
teen slaves, John Pope brought six white servants, Thomas Kemey 
owned sixteen slaves, and others possessed a large retinue of serv- 
ants and slaves with which to cultivate the fertile fields. Agri- 
culture became the greatest industry with a landed aristocracy 
springing up around the old settlements. 

The actual settling of this new section and the accomplishment 
of new undertakings were no easy tasks. Much labor and exposure 
to the violent heat of the sun, sometimes with scanty food — an 
occasional deer or bear or raccoon — were the hardships that con- 
fronted the early settlers. Many of these pioneers also fell by the 
designing hand of cunning savages. Long journeys on the fron- 
tiers, lasting for days without necessary comforts, caused intense 
suffering from fatigue and hunger. 

The condition of the early frontier explains why the people 
were concerned about their political and personal liberties. The 
one fact that their labor be not in vain and that their property 
rights not be infringed upon by any discriminating laws or regu- 
lations of the Crown or Governor became an issue of absorbing 
interest. To this end the settlers wrote a rigid request to Governor 
Johnston in 1741. The laws of grants had been issued by the 
Governor to subsist for only two years, without regard to the con- 
venience of the settlers. Another controversy was being waged 
also over settling of land and issuing land grants. The quit rent 
policy had just begun to affect the economic welfare of the in- 
habitants. Land had been refused to some of the settlers, disre- 
garding the policy stated in the instructions of the Lords Froprie- 

^ Aeeording to law each ilaTe brought into the colony gave the master the right to 
daim a grant of land free. 

28 History of Edgecombe County 

tors. The settlers claimed that if the land did not raise tobacco 
as well as the Virginia land they had the right to request more 
land, and for a longer period than the time of two years, stipu- 
lated by Johnston. In this case quit rents became payable in other 
commodities than that of tobacco. Moreover, there were certain 
discriminations in the levying and collection of quit rents. When 
the settlement was made by the Swiss in the precinct they were 
required to pay four shillings per one hundred acres of land, 
while those already in the precinct and those settling in the first 
localities were required to pay only two shillings, and the King's 
agents traveled from house to house in collecting same. 

Governor Johnston repudiated the old method when he came, 
and a protest by the settlers resulted. He alleged that the existing 
laws were shameful, and that the settlers were attempting to 
cheat their masters. The settlers replied to his slanderous state- 
ments that if such be true, they should be counted fools, rather 
than cheats, for settling on insecure foundations. In return the 
Governor charged the settlers with refusing to pay their quit rents. 
He furthermore requested them to depart from the land of the 

The controversy increased with bitter rancor. Unpleasant epi- 
thets were exchanged on both sides. And when the Governor 
issued a proclamation between 1738 and 1741 commanding the 
settlers to pay quit rents in sterling money or bills instead of 
commodities as formerly, the actual clash resulted. The Governor 
was requested by the people to withdraw his proclamation. He 
refused, claiming inefficiency in the previous laws. 

In the meantime a bill to collect rents at certain localities had 
been rejected by the Lower House. The places of payment of 
rents were entirely too few, and the method of collecting had 
proved so vastly diflFerent from those methods in Virginia and 
those formerly used in the colony, that a reform was necessary. 
On October 7, 1736, the inhabitants complained more bitterly than 
before because of illegal methods employed in collecting the 
revenues. The collectors had compelled the people who held their 
lands by grant from the Lords Proprietors to carry their quit 
rents to specified places, many of which were selected to suit the 
convenience of the collectors rather than the people. The former 
custom had been to collect the quit rents at the inhabitants' re- 

Origin and Settlement 29 

flpective plantations. Extortionate fees were charged by the col- 
lectors who used their political office to advance their own per- 
sonal greed. The fees were increased sevenfold, and those who 
were hindered from coming to the appointed places were charged 
an increase of eightfold with extravagant fees extra. 

The bill providing for the collection of the various rents hav- 
ing been rejected, the people were secure, and were justified in 
their protest against the extortionate proceedings of the Crown. 
Governor Johnston appealed to the Board of Trade in England for 
instructions. The Governor receiving no instructions, now ad- 
vised the Crown that unless the old laws were annulled and better 
ones made, his majesty would have very little authority, for the 
people were taking especial care of themselves, irrespective of 
the Crown and government. He also requested a company of 
troops to be sent in order to insure a better condition of affairs. 

The Governor evidently intended to enforce his will and plans 
by compulsion, if necessary. In 1737 there came an urgent need 
for the troops which he had requested. At the General Court at 
Edenton of that year a man was imprisoned for insulting a mar- 
shal during the court. The people in Edgecombe understood the 
offense was non-payment of quit rents. They rose to the number 
of five hundred, cursing the King with hearts frdl of rebellion, 
and approached Edenton with the purpose of rescuing one of their 
fellow sufferers. So completely agitated were these people over 
the treatment they had received concerning quit rents that they re- 
solved to be oppressed no further. At the same time they threat- 
ened cruel usage to any person who came to demand rents of them 
in future. 

The quit rent controversy subsided when the Spanish War broke 
out in 1739. Gk>vemor Johnston was requested to raise what 
troops he could in 1740 to defend the rights of Great Britain. 
Edgecombe and Bertie furnished three companies of one hundred 
men each, while the Governor said he could have raised more if 
it had been possible to negotiate bills of exchange. These troops 
were intended to act under General Oglethorpe against St. Augus- 
tine, some few being dispatched on that service. However, that 
expedition failed, and they sailed for Jamaica, where the British 
troops had gathered. The losses here were great, due to the lack 
of co-operation between the army and navy. Some of the troops 

30 History of Edoboombb County 

engaged in battles in the West Indies, where fever broke out 
among them, and nine out of ten became yictims of this disease. 
Only a small number of these troops returned to the county. 

Before the termination of the war in 1738,^ a law was enacted 
directing the Justices of the Peace in the precinct to erect store- 
houses to receive conunodities in payment of quit rents. The 
Justices of the Peace were also authorized to levy a poll tax to 
defray the expenses of collecting the commodities stored in the 
warehouses. The first warehouse was established at John Pratt's. 
Later this same warehouse was moved to Marmaduke EimbrougVs 
near the fall of Maratock Siver, the distance to Mr. Pratt's be- 
ing too far for the inhabitants of ITorth Edgecombe. By this 
new law the people were obliged to pay the expenses of the men 
collecting the taxes for the King. Moreover, while the legality 
of this act may be admitted, it did not grant justice to the people 
as a whole. The poor were sorely oppressed, because the families 
who had only a small amount of land were required to pay more 
than a small family with a large amount of land. 

Happily for all concerned Governor Johnston was not able to 
enforce his views. The law had been in operation for only a short 
time when the Governor received instructions that it had been 
disallowed by the Crown. This bit of information was sadly 
humiliating to the Governor, who had labored incessantly to secure 
the passage of the bill. The decision was altogether in conflict 
with the Grovemor's views. Specie payments were abandoned. 
Quit rents were payable in commodities at their market value, 
and the place of payment was on the plantation. The relief came 
at the opportune time for the people, and gave them a greater 
incentive for industrial activity. 

The production of tar and naval stores was introduced after 
the relaxation of this law.^ In 1734 a large supply of tar for 
Europe had been secured from the section of Bertie and Edge- 
combe. The price became so low, however, between 1735 and 
1740, that the production ceased. Governor Johnston claimed 
that the cause for such low prices was due to the fact that the 
people made large fires in their kilns, forcing the coarse juices of 
the lightwood along with the tar in order to get a larger quantity. 

^ In 1789 all precincU by an act of Assembly became counties. 
' Naval stores were produced very early in the precinct, the industries being con* 
ducted on a very small scale. 

Obioin ajstd Sbttlbmbnt 31 

The tar producers claimed, on the other hand, that in order to 
make a better quality the old bounty of ten shillings per ^ barrel 
should be allowed. It is not known whether the additional pre- 
mium was given. Tar making, however, never ceased entirely. 
The vast pine forests were filled with lightwood, being the heart 
of resinous pines after the body of the fallen tree had decayed 
many years before, and the business of making tar engaged a good 
per cent of the population. There were also many new saw mills 
being erected, bricks were burned, and much progress was made 
in comfortable and respectable living, as well as in profitable com- 
merce. Special seasons of the year, planting time, harvest, the 
winter and summer, were recognized, and beeame of high impor- 
tance to the agricultural population. Frequently the occasions 
were observed and celebrated with some sort of festivity, such as 
log rolling and ceremonies involving symbols and physical courage. 

In 1744 the entire section of Edgecombe was turned over to 
Lord Granville as a part of his share of the colony. The people 
then became subject to his power, in that they owed him rents 
and advancements for settlement of the land.^ The Earl of 
Granville did not display a profound interest in the development 
of the county. His primary concern was to collect rents, intro- 
duce settlers, and to increase his profits by larger agricultural 
trade and industries. However, the currency in the colony was 
at this time rated so low that the people were reluctant to pay 
very much revenue for the land. The earPs rents became greatly 
in arrears. Matters became unsatisfactory on every side. 

In the meantime, for the benefit of a great number of soldiers 
and seamen, who were discharged from the service of the King 
because of peaceful conditions, quit rents in 1740 were remitted 
for ten years, and thereafter the rate was to be one shilling for 
every fifty acres. This same offer was extended also to men of 
trades, builders, and farmers. In 1744 a number of people, in- 
duced by these encouragements, immigrated to the northern part 
of Edgecombe County. A hundred acres of land was purchased 
from James Leslie by the various merchants in the county in 
order to build a town. The motives for building the town was to 

^The Crown in order to stimulate the production of naTal stores had been giring 
• boun^. 

' The Barl of Granville had refused to sell his share in the Oolony when the 
Lords Proprietors released their rights to the Crown in 1729. 

32 History of Edoecombb County 

foster a commercial relation between the counties and people. 
On the south side of the Roanoke River was a healthful and con- 
venient location. Qood water facilities and resources for a large 
commerce were made possible by this stream. The trade of the 
county was fast growing in importance by means of the steady in- 
crease of people. The Roanoke was improved and made navigable. 
Trade became more effective by reason of large numbers of prom- 
inent merchants locating at this place. 

The Assembly in 1744 granted the right to erect the town which 
was already under construction. The village was given the name 
Halifax^ presumably in honor of Lord Halif ax, who was a mem- 
ber of the Board of Trade in London. Thomas Barker^ Alexander 
McCuUoch^ John Gibson^ Richard Brownings and Robert Jones, 
Jr., were appointed trustees to supervise the buildings, laying off 
the lots, and to direct the affairs of the town until its completion. 
Four acres were reserved for a central market place; the re- 
mainder was cut up into lots. These lots were purchased by the 
citizens at forty shillings each with the obligation to build houses 
of certain dimensions which were specified by the trustees. The 
town had a prodigious growth from the beginning, but it was 
checked in its expansion for about five years on account of an 
outbreak of smallpox. 

Halifax town immediately became the center of commercial 
activities. By 1752 the little village was a scene of hustling 
traders and merchants. Although it was the center for local 
markets, the interior location of the town and county made for- 
eign trade very unsatisfactory. The Roanoke was only navigable 
to a certain distance. Moreover, the difficulty of shipping was 
great on account of the frequent low water. The county raised 
large quantities of tobacco, but it was generally carried to Suffolk 
or Iforfolk, Virginia, for shipment to England. In these ports the 
tobacco was inspected by officers appointed for that purpose. The 
best was selected; the remainder was burned. The farmers were 
paid just what the Virginia merchant saw fit to give. 

Cattle raising was also conducted in a similar fashion. The 
stock was taken to Virginia and slaughtered. The cattle raiser 
only received pay for the net meat, while the hide, tallow, livers, 
and reminants were appropriated by the Virginia merchant. The 

Obioin Aim Sbttlbmxnt 33 

same was true in regard to hogs. They were slaughtered in Yir- 
ginia, salted in Virginia, exported from Yirgima, and were sold 
as Yirginia pork. 

Parallel with the commercial growth, Halifax became the 
nucleus of social life in the county. The town became the gather- 
ing place for the merchant class, the trader, and the politician, 
all of whom settled around this typical English borough. Many 
also became large land and slave owners, and operated large 
plantations near the town. Few of the men married, but lived a 
sedentary life of luxury and self-indulgence. Many free n^roes 
and mulattoes intermarried with white women, while in the earliest 
period there was no recognized social restraint against exogamy 
to avoid incest. Halifax was the gathering place for all social 
activities indulged in by the landed aristocracy, such as the 
dance conducted in English style, the fox chase, and card parties. 
These social pastimes afforded the men of the leisure class means 
of occupation. 

The production of tobacco about the middle of the eighteenth 
century was so extensive that new lands were opened up. The old 
soil for some time had been fast losing its fertility. Consequently 
in 1746, five years after Edgecombe was recognized by the As- 
sembly, the first settlement of Virginians on Tar River had so 
expanded that Edgecombe had to be divided. The business of 
the county became very difficult to handle because of the distance 
many settlers had to travel in order to reach the place where 
courts were held. The territory from the mouth of Stonehouse 
Greek on Boanoke Siver, and thence across the river to the strip 
of land between Tar and ITeuse Rivers, which was the dividing 
line between Craven and Edgecombe Counties, was included in 
the bounds of the new county to be called Granville. The county 
was named in honor of Earl of Qranville, who owned the entire 
territory of Edgecombe. 

A few years later, in 1768, the southern part of Edgecombe 
and Johnston Counties was cut off and Dobbs County was formed, 
named in honor of Governor Dobbs. 

The system of trade and agriculture was of vital interest after 
the formation of Granville and Johnston Counties. The large 

34 HiSTOBY OF Edgbookbb County 

district west of Little lUver was cut off^ leaving a much smaller 
area in the bounds of Edgecombe. In the meantime^ settlers were 
still coming in the county. The result of this was a more rapid 
process of forming and shaping of industries. Tobacco was not 
planted in such quantities as before. Better roads, fences, and 
bridges were constructed to aid in better commerce. Waterways 
were opened up by taxation and swamps drained and put into 
cultivation. Gk>od roads had been supported by Governor Bur- 
rington, but he was unsuccessful in getting any action during his 
administration. Places of inspection were established in all im- 
portant places in the county to insure convenience to the farmer. 
Warehouses for the inspection of tobacco, turpentine, shingles, 
hemp, flax, pork, beef, flour, indigo, tar, pitch, etc., were estab- 
lished at William Williams' on Kehukee Creek, Howell's Ferry 
on Tar River, and on Fishing Creek. Agriculture was conducted 
on a far more intensive scale than when the vast fields were ac- 
cessible. At the same time the inspectors of the places near Mr. 
Joseph Howell's and William William's requested an increase in 
their salaries as inspectors. 

In 1754 an Indian uprising in the county affected the progress 
of the conmiercial life. When Gbvemor Dobbs came over from 
England he found the Indian war in progress. The affairs of the 
colony generally were in a deplorable condition. He called for 
the militia, and Edgecombe responded, reporting 1,317 men. On 
Boanoke Biver in Bertie and Edgecombe there were still a hun- 
dred warriors of the Tuscaroras and about two hundred women 
and children. In Qranville County on the west there were the 
Saporas with only fourteen men and fourteen women. The long 
struggle with the Indians terminated after about seventeen mur- 
ders and ten or twelve captives being carried awigr. 

In 1758 the greatest check to progress came when Halifax, the 
town and conunercial center, was cut off from Edgecombe by a 
division of the county. Considerable inconvenience prevented 
the inhabitants from attending the courts and many other public 
meetings because of the large extent of territory. Consequently, 
a petition was made to the Assembly in 1758 for a separate 

Obioin and Sbttlbmbnt 35 

county to be called Halifax.^ The dividing line was fixed be- 
tween the parish of Edgecombe and the parish of St. Mary's. 

The separation of Halifax County from Edgecombe checked 
the progress and welfare of the county in many respects. The 
town of Halifax being in the area cut oS, there was no borough 
with which to carry on trade. There remained no central gather- 
ing place for public meetings^ and no organized activities in any 
from. Every plantation was a distinct organization of business 
and social life in itself. To make matters worse^ Edgecombe's 
Superior Courts were to be held at Halifax, its former capital. 
This would only help the new county and town to grow at the 
expense of Edgecombe. 

The merchants and people of Edgecombe, realizing the situation, 
acted wisely in formulating immediate plans for a new capital 
for the county. In 1758, the same year the county of Halifax 
was formed, seven merchants, Thomas Spell, James Anderson, 
Aquila Suggs, Edward Telfair, Peter Mitchell, Robert Bignall, 
John Watson were selling merchandise at the village, Tarr Bur- 
row. Two years later, on September 23d, Joseph Howell, then liv- 
ing on Tar River, where the town of Tarboro now stands, sold to 
James Moir, Aquila Suggs, Lawrence Toole, Elisha Battle, and 
Benjamin Hunt, one hundred and fifty acres of land for 2,000 
pounds proclamation money of the province of ITorth Carolina. 
This tract of land lay on the south side of Tar River. 

The same year the men who purchased the land were appointed 
by the Assembly as trustees to lay off a town. A bond of 2,000 
pounds lease was given by the trustees as security to Mr. Howell 
for the construction of buildings and the laying off of the village. 
The land was cut up into lots, except the lot where Mr. Howell's 
dwelling stood, a small graveyard and fifty acres, which were to 
be used as a common for the benefit of the town. The Commis- 
sioners were to have rights to all the profits for the period of one 
year, and at the end of that time the trustees were to pay Mr. 
Howell the rent of one penny for transferring the property into 
the possession of the Commissioners. This deed of lease was 

^ Oftlled Halifax in honor ot Lord Halifax. 

36 HisTOBY OF Edgsoombb County 

recognized by the court in Tarboro and was attested by James 
Hall, the clerk, on September 24, 1760. 

The Commissioners began the work of surveying, laying off 
the streets seventy feet in width, and sold the lots to the inhabi- 
tants with one-haK acre to each lot. The ^'common" was laid off 
and consisted of the land beginning where the City Hall now 
stands. In order to cover the expenses of the pledged amount of 
2,000 pounds, the Commissioners took up subscriptions for the 
common at £2 proclamation money for each lot. The money 
received was paid over to Mr. Howell for all the lots composing 
the fifty acres except twelve lots which were used for the erection 
of public buildings. 

On November 30th the town was constituted and called Tar- 
borough by the Governor and his CounciL The town, situated at 
the head of navigation on the Tar River, fifty miles from Wash- 
ington, receives its name from this beautiful stream. A tradition 
of Tar River, although spurious is very interesting. The word 
Tar is a corruption of Tau. A tribe of Indians inhabiting the 
Roanoke (probably the Tuscarora) was visited every year by an 
epidemic which carried off large numbers of their tribe. They 
determined to migrate in search of a more healthful location, and 
accordingly fixed their residence on this river, which stream on 
account of its superior advantages to health they named Tau, 
signifying, in Indian language, health. By an easy substitution 
of the letter (r) for (u), aided by the circumstance that tar was 
the principal product on the river and an article of export from 
Edgecombe County, the name was easily changed to the present 
name Tar from the ancient and simple word Tau. 

There was much interesting dispute among the settlers as to the 
original name of the river. Following the controversy, in more 
modem times the name was first spelled Tau, and then Tar. The 
name of the town was subject to the same change as that of the 
river whenever the contest was applied. About 1855 an old in- 
habitant of Tarboro believed Tauboro to be the original name of 
the town. He said that in the year 1812 a delegation from the 
Tuscarora tribe of Indians, who formerly occupied this section of 





























♦ # 





5 € 


r s 


















99 ^ 

9 Tme£T 

































_ ^ -111'-. '^'~ 



Obiqin and Sbttlemsnt 37 

the county, visited Tarboro. One of the oldest, on being told the 
name of the river was Tar, shook his head. Then he was told by 
some persons that they thought the right name was Tau, and he 
immediately said: ^'That is it, a beautiful river/' 

An Englishman, Mr. Sabin, sent an original map of Iforth 
Carolina to J. C. Hoyt, of Buncombe County, several years ago, 
which spells the town Tarrburg, and indicates the opinion of 
those who have been confused and have insisted upon the abo- 
riginal authority of the name Tar Biver, and the somewhat re- 
proachful suggestion that the petty avocation of making tar on 
the river originated the name, and accordingly attempted to sub- 
stitute the name Tar for several years. The name is found in- 
scribed on this map as Tarr, with a double (r). No doubt but 
that the advocates of the name Tau were justified in their conten- 
tions, since Hawks, in his History of North Carolina, supported 
and published this as being his view. Dr. Hawks formed the 
English derivation from a syllable of an Indian word, which he 
claimed to have been the Indian name of the Biver Tarpaco and 
now known as Tar Biver. Dr. Hawks was correct in his guess, 
but from its present form of name Tar is more closely accurate, 
and will in all probability be spelled forever as it is now spelled. 

The town at the time of its formation was bounded on the north 
by what is now Wilson Street,^ running east and west; on the 
west by Hendrix Creek, running north and south ; on the south by 
St. John Street ; and on the east by the New Street, running west 
and parallel with the present Albemarle Avenue, and the avenue 
from Hendrix Creek. 

The spacious grounds left for the common was dedicated to the 
public for parks and amusements by the Commissioners. Oaks, 
which have since grown into large trees, were cultivated, giving 
a very comfortable as well as ornamental appearance. Today 
the common bears the impressive stamp of antiquity, with spread- 
ing limbs of gigantic branches of trees. 

Tarboro immediately became the center for trade. Merchants 
began to build up a commercial relation with the neighboring 
centers, and a medium of exchange was declared for the settlers 

^ Named in lionor of Looii D. Wilson. 

38 HiSTOBY OF Edgecombb County 

and the Yirginia ports. Tar River had an outlet to the ocean 
only through Ocracoke^ and here the shoals and sand bars made 
navigation impossible except for small crafts. Insurance on ac- 
count of dangerous obstructions and shoals was so high that 
navigation by water was very impracticable. Consequently, all 
goods, salt, and merchandise were brought from Petersburg and 
fTorfolk over land by pack mules. Whiskey and brandies were 
made, and traded for the manufactured goods from England which 
were left at these ports for distribution among the colonists. 

The following is a list of the purchasers of the town lots in 
Tarboro from the Commissioners' Book 1760, which remained in 
the possession of Elisha Battle until his death: 

Lots No. No. 





. . 

James Barnes 1 99 

Francis Kenner 1 19 

Thomas Barnes 1 25 

James Moir 2 78 48 

John Soott 1 14 

Benjamin Hart 2 85 80 

Joseph Summer 1 26 

Thomas Lenoir 2 66 9 

The Reverend Thomas Burgess 2 54 55 

James Casy (Attorney) 1 82 

Robert 1 16 

William Souther 2 101 63 

William Foreman 2 62 89 

Joseph Turso]\ 2 3 107 

Joseph Cotten, Jr 1 74 

Joseph Moore 1 102 

John Watsman 1 119 

Com. in care of William Williamson to €ol. Alex 

MoCulloh 1 65 

Thomas Mills 2 48 17 

Egland Haisrwood 2 120 94 

John Tanner 2 96 18 

Oeraldus Tool 1 110 

Lucy Belcher 1 79 

Dudley Whltakers 1 86 

West Duck 2 81 88 

Elisha Battle 2 78 45 

John Linsey 2 64 6 



. . 


. . 

• • . 




Lots No. 

Michael Cotannch, Jr 2 105 

Blake Baker 1 67 

James Knight 1 3€ 

Richard Qoow 1 G8 

Andrew Little 2 42 

Robert Hardy 2 12 

William Mace 1 70 

Jacob Carter 2 9 

Thomas Harrison 2 09 

Irwin Tool 1 01 

John Agar 2 02 

John Frost 1 82 

Henry Irwin 1 84 

John Qathings 1 81 

William Haywood 2 22 

Joseph Gotten 1 11 

Lawrence Tool 1 100 

John OUchrist 2 50 

Nicholas Long 2 15 

Sarah Cotaunch 1 21 

John Goodloe 1 121 

James Gibson 2 100 

Snsanah Mead 2 57 

Timothy Nicholson 2 117 

Samuel Johnson 2 104 

Walley Channcy 2 47 

William Kinchen 1 07 

Batt Peterson 1 184 

Robert Palmore 2 20 

Rob Qoodloe 1 2 

James Williamson 1 5 

Michael Gotannchrist 2 80 

Joseph Harrell 2 118 

John Parrls 2 7 

James Braswell 1 24 

Jacob Jones 1 107 

John Balmore 2 10 

Peter Johnson 1 34 

Peter Copland 2 77 

John Whitaker 2 50 

John Dnrien 2 40 

Thomas Goodson 1 57 


















40 HiBTOBY OF Edgsoombb Oounty 


Bdward Fanning 2 

Joseph Hjarrell 1 

Public lots as appears by plan, 

• • 

• • 

• • 

• • 

• • 

• • 

• • 






• • • 















Colonial GJovbbnment and Politics 

The inhabitants of Edgecombe in the colonial period were sub- 
ject to a dual goveminent^ that of the Province of North Carolina, 
and that of the local courts. The study of the local court system 
is a good index to the people's conception of justice and affords 
a better understanding of the people's history than any other 
institution. The method by which the people are governed deter- 
mines in a large measure what the people really are ; a bad govern- 
ment makes a discontented people, and a sound government makes 
a content and peaceful population. There was no institution 
which came so near touching the just and necessary need of all 
the x>eople as that of the courts; securing a fair and impartial 
administration of justice to both the offended and the offender. 

There are, however, two distinct facts one should realize in the 
study of local government. In the first place the territory in the 
colonial period was transitory and rapidly undergoing changes; 
consequently, the court system naturally became flexible and was 
remodeled to meet the demands of the expanding settlement. In 
the second place the local court system was merely a transplanting 
of the old English customs upon new soil and as such it was not 
entirely fitted for conditions in the new world. 

The inhabitants of the county prior to 1732 had acquired con- 
siderable property according to the grants of the Lurds Proprie- 
tors; consequently, it was necessary to construct a suitable form 
of local government to insure the right of property holding. The 
springing up of a small land-holding class, determined not only 
the economic and social welfare, but the political life of the people 
as welL The local government was naturally influenced by the 
territorial system, and as the county progressed the small landed 
class obtained a predominance in the political affairs. 

The principal and, perhaps, the earliest organ of local county 
government was that of the Precinct Court. This court came 
into existence in the colony about 1670, and bore a very close re- 
semblance to the English common law parish of the eighteenth 
century. It was the chief judicial body in Bertie County when 
Edgecombe was formed. It was, therefore, only a matter of 


42 HisTOKT OP Edgecombe County 

erecting a new governmental macliinery for the new precinct. 
The first act in the creation of a new court was to appoint JuBr 
tices of the Peace to organize a Precinct Court. This (lovemor 
Burrington did in 1733, selecting Colonel Henry Gaston, Major 
James Millikin, Dr. James Thompson, Captain John Pratt, John 
Alston, D(r. John Bryant, John Hardy, James Speir, Francis 
EUeby, William Kane, John Pope, and Edward Young to consti- 
tute tie judicial body.^ These men were ordered by the (lovemor 
to hold a Precinct Court on the third Tuesday in the months of 
August, November, February, and May. This system was based 
on the English system of Courts of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. 
At the next meeting of the Assembly in October more territory 
was added to Edgecombe, and two more justices. Captain William 
Whitehead and Captain John Speir, were appointed. 

The appointment of justices being in May, 1733, it was August 
following that the first court was held in the precinct. The exact 
location for the meeting of this session of the court is not known. 
It is probable that the justices met at Beading's plantation on 
Tar River. It was customary for the courts to assemble at various 
plantations in the precinct until the first court house was built at 
Enfield in 1744. According to the usual custom one of the jus- 
tices was denominated chairman, and with the consent of the 
remaining justices he presided over the court, which was sup- 
posed to meet quarterly. 

The power of the justices varied from time to time, according 
to the change of the general law; consequently, it is difficult to 
be explicit. However, certain powers, such as building roads and 
bridges, were taken from the Gleneral Court of the Province when 
the Precinct Court was formed. In addition to judicial powers 
the individual justices were granted specified authorities outside 
of the court. Among these was the power to marry eligible 
couples ; provided that there was no clergymen in the parish. 

In 1733, when the court was first established, it had power to 
try all criminal cases over fifty pounds in which the penalty did 
not affect life or limb; to hold orphan courts, appoint guardians, 
take securities, and to dispose of civil disputes not involving over 
a hundred pounds nor less than fifty. There was one limitation 

^The fundamental eonstitntion prorided that the Goremor should appoint jus- 
tices of the peace to hold court upon the erection of a new precinct. 

Colonial Goybxnuent autd Politics 48 

notable in this court in judicial power. No case could be beard 
twice in tbe same court under any pretense. Should a case be 
tried and undecided, it became necessary to buy an appeal and 
pay a price from five to fifty pounds to the Lords Proprietors.^ 
The variation in the price was due to the severity of the crime. 
Capital cases were usually charged the maximum price and the 
petty cases the minimum. The results of this law are very obvious. 
The restriction placed upon the Precinct Courts was at the insti- 
gation of the Lords Proprietors and enabled them to collect addi- 
tional revenue. The appeal cases went to the General Court of 
the Province for disposal 

There were also many civil powers this court possessed. Thus 
the court might take probate of wills, receive entry of land, when 
there were no disputes, and supervise the administration of estates. 
The latter was demonstrated in a case which occurred in 1758. 
Abram Bicks, a citizen, thought himseK to be fatally ill, and 
petitioned the court for a supervisor of his estate. John Cowell 
was accordingly appointed and duly sworn by the court to draw 
up and oversee the execution of Mr. Ricks' will. 

This court furthermore supervised the general management of 
civil affairs in the county — opening roads, building bridges, and 
appointing overseers for the public highways of the precinct. It 
also appointed constables, issued permits for building mills, in- 
dustrial enterprises, and administered licenses for ministerial 
worL These functions of the court are illustrated by a note- 
worthy case occurring in 1761. The first non-conformist preacher 
legalized in Eastern Carolina, Jonathan Thomas, was granted 
a license from Edgecombe County Court. Mr. Thomas produced 
an ordination in writing, signed by John Mopre and G«orge Gra- 
ham, leaders of the Baptist Society, qualifying him to preach 
according to the tenets of that church. The court, according to 
its power, administered the oath of allegience and issued a permit 
for Mr. Thomas to preach in the Province of North Carolina. 

The Precinct Court also exercised power in shaping the early 
social and mercantile activities of the people. One of the many 
characteristics the x>eople inherited from England and English 
life was the fondness for entertainment. Places of amusement 
found their way into this section early in the eighteenth century. 

^Appeal ooald be made from thii court to the Superior Court. 

44 HiSTOBY OF Edgboombb Countt 

The weary and solitary traveler was not by any means a lonely 
person in passing through Edgecombe. A mug of ale^ served by 
a gentle maiden^ was one of the chief assets of the Oolonial 
Ordinary, and according to the grants issued by the Precinct 
Court from 1745 to 1767 Edgecombe was fairly well represented. 
During the year 1761 five licenses were granted for houses of 
entertainment alone.^ 

The commands of the Precinct Court were executed by the 
Provost Marshal,^ an oflScer corresponding to the sheriflF of today. 
The marshal acted as a deputy to the Provost Marshal of the 
General Court of the Province of North Carolina, and performed 
almost the same duties for the Precinct Court as the latter did 
for the (Jeneral Court. That is to say, he summoned jurymen in 
person or by messenger, kept the jail, held elections for burgesses, 
served writs in civil and criminal cases, arrested criminals and 
collected public taxes.^ 

The first Provost Marshal or sheriff of Edgecombe was Thomas 
Kearney, appointed in 1739. He was accountable to no one but 
the (lovemor, received his instructions from him, and in many 
respects became a hired tool to promote the Gk)vemor's political 
ambition. That much corruption resulted from this system we 
shall hereafter observe. This method was made more odious by 
the fact that the sheriff's term of o£Sce was not definitely fixed. 
He might be continued in office after his appointment by the 
Governor, provided he gave good behavior, for an indefinite num- 
ber of years. 

The offiice of sheriff was the highest subsidiary position con- 
nected with the court, the administering of justice and the preven- 
tion of crime in the county. This being true the obligation of 
office and penalty for violation of oath was more severe. In addi- 
tion of having to take a solemn and binding oath to execute the 
duties of office agreeable to law, he was heavily bonded against 
accepting any pecuniary offers of bribes, to show leniency of the 
law in dealing with prisoners or jurymen ; and after 1739 he was 

^PermiU were granted Thomas Merritt, James Braswell, Oeralders O'Brien and 
Thomas Griffin to run ordinaries. 

* Title changed to sheriff in 1788. 

* The collection of taxes was the most important duty of the sheriff. He was pro- 
Tided with a list of all taxables in the county — whito males over sixteen years <^ 
age; mulattoes of both sexes above twelve years of age, and slaves over twelve — and 
from this list the provisional or public tax was collected. 

Colonial Gk)vsBNMENT and Politics 45 

not permitted to serve more than one year consecutively. In 
case of death the sheriff was usually succeeded by some freeholder, 
who was commissioned by the county court to complete the term. 
Bond for acceptance and as an assurance of good faith in the exe- 
cution of his duties was made to the Justices of the Peace of the 
county. Since the most important duty of the sheriff was the 
collection of taxes, and as a safeguard against personal use of the 
funds was necessary, he was required to give an additional bond. 
The sheriff was, moreover, allowed three per cent commission on 
all moneys collected, in addition to his regular commission for 
other duties. Whenever a sheriff was succeeded in o£Sce the taxes 
in the arrears were usually collected by his successor. However, 
the sheriff in office when the arrears were extant was liable for 
them until the Gleneral Assembly voted the county court the au- 
thority to relieve the deposed sheriff. Upon his release from 
office and the obligations subsequent thereto, the sheriff was or- 
dered to make out a detailed report of all taxes in arrears and turn 
same over to the county court. This regulation was well illus- 
trated in the relief of Abram Jones, who was sheriff of Edge- 
combe from 1757 to 1765. During the year 1765 he was super- 
seded in office, and although he was empowered by law to collect 
taxes after his surrender of authority, he was prevented from 
doing so on account of an accident. Accordingly, he petitioned 
for a reUef , which was granted by the county court. 

In addition to stipulated fees and percentage for the collection 
of taxes, the sheriff was allowed stated sums for maintaining the 
prison and caring for its inmates. In case of an execution of a 
prisoner he was also paid an extra fee. In 1766 Samuel Ruffin was 
allowed one pound, seventeen shillings, and four pence for im- 
prisoning and executing a negro criminal. Thomas Merritt, the 
jailer, was also paid sixteen shillings and eight pence as a special 
fee for attending the same negro during his period of confinement. 

The sheriff of the county was allowed assistance in the form of 
constables appointed by the county court to help him in the execu- 
tion of his duties. The appointment of constables was frequently 
made without the consent of those appointed. This worked obvious 
hardships on those who were unwilling to serve in this capacity. 
This impleasantness resulted from the custom of imposing a fine of 
fifty shillings on any constable who refused to qualify and take an 

46 BEisTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

oath following his appointment. Frequently also constables were 
conunitted to prison until a warrant of release was sworn out by 
Justices of the Peace of the county. This regulation no doubt 
caused undue embarrassment to those who were engaged in com- 
mercial and industrial activities. Later the law compelling a con- 
stable so appointed by the county court was restricted to those 
who could not show a sufficient cause for refusing and n^lecting 
to serve the wishes of the court. 

The constable^ like the sheriff, was required to take an oath ad- 
ministered by the Justices of the Peace of the county. As a com- 
pensation for his services, the constable was exempted from the 
provincial, county, and parish taxes, working on the roads, and all 
other financial impositions of the local government. The duties 
of the constable, as may be inferred from the salaries paid, were 
not numerous nor very severe. They were called upon to give 
assistance at stated intervals and during the sickness of the sheriff. 

The Precinct Court also had a clerk appointed by the Clerk of 
the (Jeneral Court, whose duties corresponded to those of the 
Clerk of the Gteneral Court. He acted in the capacity of both 
clerk of the court and register of deeds. He, therefore, issued 
marriage licenses and recorded deeds of trust, and made entries 
of local court proceedings. He was also obligated to take special 
care of the transcript or book of laws established by the Assem- 
bly of the Province. It was a part of his duty to keep the book 
of laws open upon the court room table during the sitting of the 
court for the peruaal by such members as desired information. 
When requested by any of the members of the court, the clerk 
was required to read the laws furnishing information upon the 
case being considered. Upon a refusal to act in conjunction with 
his constituents, the clerk was subject to a fine of five pounds. 

The regular court procedure was somewhat similar to that of 
the Superior Court today — that is, a bill of indictment was pre- 
sented to the grand jury, and if the evidence of the charges was 
sufficient a true bill was returned. The case was then presented 
to the petit jury by the justices for decision. There is, however, 
one notable exception. There were no lawyers at the county 
court to prosecute or to defend criminals. Locke, the author of 
the Fundamental Constitution, had made it a little less than a 
scandal for a lawyer to enter public life for the sake of pecuniary 

Colonial GtovxBNMSNT and Politics 47 

gain. The results were that no victim of the law could employ 
defense. This threw a prisoner upon his own ability and upon his 
own testimony. It was not, theref ore^ unusual for men in the 
ordinary vocations of life to be skilled in the minor technicalities 
of the law in order to defend themselves or others with credibil- 
ity. Although this law was repealed in 1747, many of the citizens 
in colonial Edgecombe continued to study points of law until late 
in the nineteenth century. John Norfleet was reputed to be as 
well skilled in the minor points of law as a practicing attorney. 

Under the royal administration a few changes were made. The 
structure of the courts as outlined remained until 1738. During 
that year the Assembly of ITorth Carolina passed an act which 
changed the precincts into counties, and the old Precinct Courts 
into county courts. The organization and function of the court, 
however, remained for some years the same in purport as for- 
merly. It is well, however, to notice that some minor changes 
were made in order to understand the legal powers vested in local 
government prior to the Eevolution. The judicial procedure of 
the county court was not perfected until after 1746, when the 
county court was reorganized. The Assembly then passed a law 
for the better establishment of the county courts, and specified 
that they should be held four times a year ^ by the Justices of the 
Peace. This same law restricted the number of justices to three, 
which constituted a legal judicial body. These three justices 
heard and decided cases where the litigation was above forty 
shillings and not more than twenty pounds. They also heard petty 
cases, assaults, batteries, trespasses, breaches of the peace, and 
various other misdemeanors of inferior cases, forgery and per- 
jury always excepted. 

Thus in 1746 the county court became the Inferior Court of 
Pleas and Quarter Sessions, meeting on the fourth Tuesday in 
January, April, July, and August. This court became the court 
of records and had recognizance of crimes when the punishment 
did not extend to the point of injuring life or limb. At this time 
the officers of the court were allowed a salary annually, indepen- 
dent of the fees of their office. Each justice also had jurisdiction 
when not in court over any litigated account not exceeding twenty 

^Tlie coanty coart after 1746 was designated as the Inferior Coart and Quarter 

48 HisTOBY OP Edgecombe County 

pounds. He could, if in his judgment it seemed advisable, grant 
an appeal to a higher court. After 1746 the admonition to the 
various officers in the county was made more stringent. The 
justices were obligated not to show partiality in dealing with 
criminals, nor to be an accomplice to any quarrel in which they 
might be tried. They were also charged not to receive a bribe 
or gift, nor accept any compensation from outside parties. In 
order to effect the letter of the law a fine of twenty pounds was 
placed upon any justice who entered office without his oath being 
properly administered and signed. The duties of the justices 
also were increased. Among other services they were intrusted 
with the care of the poor and the supervision of parish revenues. 

The constable and his duties also became more important. Like 
the sheriff he was compelled to take an oath that he would serve 
the King and cause the peace to be preserved according to his 
power. He was, moreover, charged to arrest all persons caught 
in fights, those who rode armed offensively, and any who com- 
mitted riots and disorders in the county. The constable became 
a sort of deputy, corresponding to the deputy sheriff of today, 
and was supposed to have apprehended all violators of the peace 
in the King's name. 

The departure from the old precinct system also marked an- 
other radical change in the county court. The prosecuting attor- 
ney became an official of considerable importance. Prior to 1746 
very little significance was attached to a lawyer. In 1767 Edge- 
combe had its first prosecuting attorney, when Robert Jones pre- 
sented and prosecuted, as a deputy of the Attorney General of 
the Province, all cases for the Crown. Mr. Jones was admon- 
ished in the office by James Cary, who charged him to prosecute 
in the King's name all offenders coming within the jurisdiction 
of the County Court. It was the custom to elect the prosecuting 
attorney every four years by the Justices of the Peace. This 
custom was consistently followed until the opening of the Ameri- 
can Revolution. 

The Inferior Court, by the act of (Jeneral Assembly, 1746, se- 
cured civil powers which had been vested in the Superior Court 
for the district of Edgecombe. It was, however, two years later 
before the newly granted prerogatives were executed in spirit as^ 
well as in form. Committees and commissions were appointed 

Colonial Govxbnmsnt and Foliticb 49 

among the Inferior Courts to control and supervise internal im- 
provementSy and to promote the general civic welfare of the 
county. Contracts were also issued by the county commissioners^ 
who were appointed by the County Court, for bridge building and 
road construction. In this manner Culpepper's Bridge was built 
in 1757. The contract was issued to Joseph Bridgers, he being 
the lowest bidder. Several similar constructions were made 
under this commission — Raef ord's Bridge, and also a bridge over 
Town Creek near Wright's plantation. Among the prominent 
men who served on this commission was Aquilla Suggs, Sam 
BufSn, and Benjamin Bunn. The sheriff of the county was made 
chairman of the commission for pubUc instruction and acted as 
treasurer in addition to his other duties. He paid all the bills for 
building bridges, roads, and the erection of public buildings. In 
the report of the commission for the building of Culpepper 
Bridge the sheriff was ordered by the County Court to pay Joseph 
Bridgers the sum of forty-seven pounds, the amount agreed upon 
in the contract. The Inferior Court also exercised the rigiht to 
determine disputes relating to estates and to make division of 

This court, moreover, appointed inspectors of tobacco at the 
various warehouses in the county for the purpose of supervising 
and preventing illegal weights. In 1754 Thomas Spell was ap- 
pointed inspector at Tarboro, and Solomon Williams at Scotland 
Neck. Later, in 1757, the court appointed Oeorge GJoodwin in- 
spector at Tar Biver warehouse and Bamaby Whenny, and Jo- 
seph Howell at Howell's and Kehukee warehouses, respectively. 
In the meantime Berry Heavill, the inspector for the warehouse 
at Halifax, died and Daniel Selbank was appointed inspector for 
that place. The sale and exportation of tobacco at this time be- 
ing one of the greatest industries in the county, it was natural 
for the court to exercise a supervision over the various ware- 
houses. The wareheouses, moreover, were the property of the 
county; consequently, demanded the superintendence of the 
County Courts. The Inferior Court also had civil power in addi- 
tion to criminal and economic functions. Constables who, for 
any reasons, failed to do their duty according to the law were 
removed by this court. During a proceeding of court in 1757 
William Turner, for some petty violation of his oath, was re- 

50 HisTOBY OF Edgbcombb County 

moved by the court, and Robert Tucker was placed in his stead. 
Still another instance of this kind occurred later in 1759, when 
Joseph Blake, another constable, lost his local position in the court 
house circle and was supplanted by John Jones, who afterwards 
became sheriff. 

During the year 1768 a very important political event occurred. 
Halifax County was cut off and created from Edgecombe. The 
citizens of both counties met for the last time in joint session of 
court, and in December adjourned with formal agreements of 
dissolution. The Halifax element was to meet the next court ses- 
sion, which was supposed to convene at Halifax town; while the 
Edgecombe citizens were to repair for the next session at Bed- 
mond's Old Field on Tyrancocoa Creek. A few domestic quarrels 
naturally resulted from the separation, but only one is of any 
considerable importance. 

In February, 1758, an urgent demand was made for an increase 
in taxes in order to meet the growing expenses for that year. 
Halifax and Edgecombe, although it was understood that they 
were to be separated, were considered as one in matters of local 
government and taxation; consequently, the citizens of Halifax 
were subject to the increase of four shillings on all taxables which 
had been levied by the County Court. Halifax, however, was cut 
off from Edgecombe before the taxes could be collected. When 
the sheriff called on those members from Halifax who were liable, 
many refused to pay, and a controversy resulted. Moreover, 
various disputes arose between the sheriffs of the two counties 
over their respective boundaries. The sheriff of Halifax claimed 
that the line began from the head of Coneto Creek and ran to 
Fishing Creek near Michael Dorman's plantation. He claimed 
also that the sheriff of Edgecombe overreached his bounds and 
went into Halifax County to collect taxes. Both of these accusa- 
tions were disputed by the sheriff of Edgecombe County, and a 
deadlock ensued. 

In order to avert any embitterness and to reach an harmonious 
agreement, Edgecombe, the mother county, acting through her 
court, ordered a commission to be appointed composed of John 
Royal and Thomas Wills to meet a similar commission from 
Halifax to settle the dispute of taxes and to mark out the dividing 
line as near as might be conformable to the act of the Assembly 

Colonial (Jovebnmbnt and Politics 51 

for dividing the Parish of Edgecombe. After some desultory 
conversation an agreement was reached whereby the citizens of 
Halifax were to pay those taxes which were in the arrears when 
the county was formed and the dividing line between the two 
counties was to be Fishing Creek. 

The jury system of the County Court constitutes a very inter- 
esting phase of local government. Unlike the method of the 
present day, only six men were selected for the grand jury and 
six for the petit jury. In 1757 Thomas Hall, Wallace Jones, 
Bichard Whitaker, John Deceece, William Jones, and Thomas 
Williams constituted the grand jury and James Sane, James King, 
John Alsbon, Nathan Barnes, Stephen Weaver, and William Wells 
made up the petit jury. The jurymen, acting with the three jus- 
tices who constituted the judicial bench, frequently determined 
matters of a civil nature without the regular court trial. In 1757 
the above-mentioned jurymen and John Hardy, James Speir, and 
Thomas Hall, the three justices of the court, met together and 
selected a guardian for Henry Cavenah, the orphan of Charles 
Cavenah. Henry was at the time of lawful age, but was consid- 
ered incapable of conducting the management of his estate. He 
came into court and chose Nathan Cavenah, his brother, as his 
guardian, and appealed to the jurymen and justices to approve of 
his appointment. Nathan was accordingly selected and placed 
under a two hundred pound bond by the court. 

The officials of the court also exercised the function of qualify- 
ing and administering the oath to militia officers. William 
Barnes, who was the first officer of the militia in Edgecombe 
County, was qualified at the court in 1757. His rank was not 
specified, but from the enumeration of his duties it is to be sup- 
posed his rank was that of a captain. Dreery Harrington was 
in like manner sworn and appointed as a miUtary officer at the 
session of the County Court in 1758. 

This court also established rates for produce and merchandise. 
In 1759 the price for West Indian rum was fixed at ten shillings 
per gallon ; county brandy, eight shillings per gallon ; punch, gin, 
whiskey with sugar, sugar per quart, and lime juice sold for a 
fixed price of four shillings. Hot dinners with wheat bread, small 
beer and cider could be secured at a stipulated price of one 
shilling. A supper or breakfast, hot, could not be sold for over 

62 History of Edoecombb County 

one shilling. Lodging for a night with one occupant in a bed 
cost the lodger by the regulation of the court only one shilling 
and when there were two occupants in a single bed the price was 
twenty pence. County cider usually sold for six pence per quart. 
English beer one shilling per bottle, and various other beverages 
had their prices for sale regulated by the county courts. 

The Inferior Court furthermore made provision for religious 
worship. The first reference concerning religious matters was 
made in the form of a petition in 1759 by John Thomas and 
others of the profession of Ana-Baptist. It seems that a Society of 
Baptists had constructed a meeting house, and a division in the 
society had occasioned a dispute over the legal owners; conse- 
quently, John Thomas, the leader of the Ana-Baptist element pe- 
titioned for a claim to the meeting house which had been con- 
structed under his supervision. The church had been built on 
Mr. S. Thomas' land, near Jonathon Thomas', according to a 
grant issued by the Parliament of Great Britain. Mr. Thomas 
was one of the active leaders of the dissenting element and had 
forcefully closed the doors of the church to the services of the 
Baptist Society. There is no record of the court's disposition in 
the matter, and so far as known it was never decided or its legal 
owners identified. It is very probable since it is known that there 
was a very strong sentiment by the Established Church against 
the dissenting element, and that the various members who made up 
the local judicial body were inclined toward the Established 
Church, that no action was ever taken in order that the Baptist 
Society might not retain its meeting house. 

In addition to the County Court there was the court of magis- 
trates or a coiirt of single justice which was provided for in the 
royal period by an act of 1741. This court had jurisdiction in 
civil cases which did not extend to cases involving more than 
forty shillings. The magistrate in the court of one justice was 
also given a power to exercise other magisterial rights; among 
these was that of inquiring of the "goodmen of the precinct by 
whom the truth may be known to detecting trespasses and sor- 
ceries." The magistrates were appointed by the Governor with 
the approbation of his Council, and were allowed a fee for all 
cases coming imder their judgment. The executive officer of the 
court was the constable, who was appointed by the Precinct 

Colonial (Joyernmsnt and Politics 53 

Court, and enjoyed powers similar to those of the constable in 
the English court of one justice. The constable, moreover, made 
a list of the taxables for the use of the vestry imtil a regular 
vestry was formed in the county. He acted also in conjimction 
with the sherifF of the county and summoned men for the coroner's 
jury. The magistrate's court, like the County Court, had a 
sheriff and clerk appointed by the Governor of the Province, 
whose duties corresponded with the similar offices of the County 

There was also another local tribunal, the slave court. Its 
chief functions were to give a speedy trial to slaves in order to 
save extra cost to their masters. It was /not unusual for the slave 
owners to be subject to considerable loss on account of his slave 
being confined in prison awaiting the session of court to meet. 
The slave court was composed of three Justices of the Peace and 
three freeholders, who must be owners of slaves. The court usu- 
ally convened at some convenient place designated by the senior 
justice, where the trial of the slave was conducted according to 
the regulation of the Precinct Court. There was one difference, 
however, between the Precinct Court and the slave court, the 
. latter having no jury and the court determining the facts in the 
case as well as administerii^ ^tW 4aw/ • In- *th« ^ftn^* court the 
slave could produce evidence'-in -His* behalf,^ and* ^oould avail him- 
self of any assistance offered -by Iris o^^m&t. : 'The'CX)urt,:a£ter hear- 
ing the case, if guilt was establiished, l^fsie^fii a ^enl^jqpe ac<?ording 
to the discretion of its members, imposing either corporal or tem- 
poral punishment, or both. 

It was the duty of the court also to determine the price and 
age of slaves when such was in dispute. Frequently when a slave 
was accidently shot and premeditatedly murdered, the court fixed 
the price which was to be paid by the one committing the deed. 
A good example of this function of the slave court occurred in 
1765. A slave of William Mace had run away from his owner 
and was hiding on Fishing Creek. Word of this was carried to 
Mr. Mace, and he deputized his overseer to go in search and to 
recapture the runaway negro. In accomplishing this the overseer 
killed the negro, and it became necessary for the slave court to 
ascertain the value of the dead slave in order that the overseer 
might pay the damage done. 

54 HisTOEY OP Edgecombe County 

One of the chief functions of the slave court was to determine 
the relations of the slave to his master, especially in regard to 
the slave's freedom. Slaves were frequently emancipated for 
meritorious service for the State and their master. In case a slave 
was granted his freedom it became necessary to get a permit from 
the slave court signifying that emancipation of the slave was 
given at the consent of the proper authorities. There is one 
notable case in Edgecombe County where a slave was granted his 
liberty for patriotic service. During the American Revolution 
a negro, Ned Griffin, belonging to Walter Kitchin, of Edge- 
combe, was promised his liberty on condition that he serve as a 
soldier in the Continental Army of the Province of North Caro- 
lina for twelve months. The slave accepted the condition of his 
freedom and began to serve in 1782. In 1784 the court issued 
a permit Uberating Ned according to the terms agreed upon. 

One of the first local administrative organizations in Edge- 
combe County, and also one which appears to have been most 
frequently overlooked and misunderstood by students of the 
colonial government, was the Parish Court. This court was 
purely temporary in the county, and was intended to serve the 
parish and vestry in promoting religious activities. In the 
meantime^ hov^Y^r J through tli^*'iA)s^nce of the court of one jus- 
tice the i^ansh'^Cfoiirt- wTsis* given 'Considerable civil authority and 
became it weminent factor in local.laffairs until the County Court 
was re<5f^ahl&ed in 17461 */ * ^ " 

The parish was not created in the precinct until it was fairly 
well settled, and then it was without uniformity and never well 
established. There were no local divisions such as the plantation, 
township, and districts at this time; consequently, there was no 
central place of operation for the Parish Court. Efforts were 
made and were partially successful to form a permanent admin- 
istrative body, the sole civic functions of which were to care for 
the sick, poor, and to assess local tax rates. A church warden 
was appointed in 1735 to raise money by poll tax not exceeding 
five shillings in currency on each tithable for these purposes. It 
is very noticeable, however, that Edgecombe County had very few 
paupers at this time; the rich and fertile soils afforded ample 
means of securing not only a livelihood, but of accumulating 
wealth. The greatest incumbrance upon the people was the ex- 

Colonial (Jovebnmbnt and Politics 65 

penses of the clergymen, and that being insignificant until 1744 
the actual services of the parish were limited and of little conse- 

It is true, however, that the Parish Court supervised the care 
of the highways until the establishment of the County Court, at 
which time this function was entrusted with officers appointed by 
that court. In the early existence of the Parish Court the church 
warden provided weights and measures for the use of the precinct, 
together with one "fair and large book of common prayer." The 
vestry also performed certain insignificant fimctions which were 
later transferred to the jurisdiction of the coimty government. 

The most important phase of the Parish Court was the part 
that it played in connection with the political activities of the 
people. It has been clearly demonstrated that where religious 
power and poUtical policy clash there is much strife. This obvi- 
ous fact has been confirmed by the parish in Edgecombe County 
from 1741 until the close of the American Revolution. In the 
county there were two factions — the Governor of the Province and 
his followers, who supported the civil courts, and the minister of 
the Established Church and his sympathizers, supporting the 
parish. Each faction was struggling for supremacy and each 
sought to obtain control by both legitimate and illegitimate 
means. This condition presented an opportimity for much cor- 
ruption, from which Edgecombe was not entirely exempt. The 
struggle finally was one of preponderance. 

In order to understand why the parish undertook to reform the 
politics in the county it is necessary to call attention to appointive 
power of the Governor of the Province of North Carolina. In the 
first place the coimty officers, the sheriff, constable, and jurymen, 
were largely appointed by the Governor. Those not directly ap- 
pointed by him were selected by officials who had been placed in 
office by the executive himself; consequently, the Governor in 
reality was the central figure and dominated the civil and political 
activities of the people. The results of this was a court house 
ring which became self-perpetuating. There was no redress for 
wrong; no appeal for grievances. Popular discontent never be- 
came effective and a resort to higher authorities was almost use- 
less. With this state of affairs one can forecast what the results 
would be when the Parish Court, under the leadership of some 

56 History of Edgeoombs County 

active olergymeiiy sought to interfere and improve the administra- 
tion. It was also obviously impossible during the early contro- 
versies between the religious and political factions for the local 
court not to become involved. 

The personal interests of the (Governor and the parish's atti- 
tude in county politics were made plain in a letter by Bev. Mr. 
Moir to the Secretary at London in 1765. Mr. Moir made bitter 
reflections upon the Governor and his actions in regard to the 
court system in the county. It is very difficult to ignore the per- 
sonal feelings which are involved in the report. Both Mr. Moir 
and Governor Dobbs were more bent on securing personal revenge 
than in effecting a harmonious adjustment of local affairs. In 
order, therefore, that his side might be placed in the best possible 
light, Mr. Moir and other churchmen wrote to the Secretary of 
London that Gk>vemor Dobbs' action in adjusting the political 
situation in the county was very arbitrary and intolerable. He 
claimed also that Dobbs had treated the Earl of Granville's agent, 
Francis Corbin, very unconscientiously, and that Corbin had acted 
very creditably in collecting the various rents entrusted with him. 

As a means of retaliation (Governor Dobbs sought means, legally 
and illegally, to keep Mr. Moir, because of his interference in 
political affairs, out of Edgecombe County. "When Governor 
Dobbs realized it was impossible to accomplish his design through 
moral force, he resorted to political strategy. In the meantime 
Dobbs sought to persuade the vestry in Edgecombe to refuse to 
employ Mr. Moir. In this he was unsuccessful. The Governor 
then exercised his political power and caused the parish in Edge- 
combe to be divided in a very unfair manner. In doing this the 
officers appointed by Dobbs acted unjustly by throwing the ex- 
penses of the two preceding years upon the parish they expected 
Mr. Moir would superintend. In order to keep the appearance of 
their design from looking too partial, the officers gave the moneys 
for the parish taxes to Edgecombe, although the taxes at that time 
had not been collected by reason of the stringent opposition of 
the county courts, acting in conjunction with Dobbs who had 
showed preference to the newly appointed parish. 

The operation of the political machine in the county was fur- 
ther demonstrated in another maneuver of Dobbs and his fol- 
lowers. Following the settlement of Mr. Moir in Edgecombe 

Colonial (Jovxbnmsnt and Politics 57 

pariah instead of Halifax parish, as Governor Dobbs intended, 
Dobbs caused the county to be divided in like manner as that of 
the parish. This was done in order to give Dobbs the oppor- 
tunity of appointing a new sheriff in Edgecombe who could man- 
age the election of the vestries. The result of this is obvious. The 
sheriff, acting as a tool of the Governor, decided the election 
against Mr. Moir, and attempted to displace him from the super- 
intendence of Edgecombe parish. 

Mr. Moir, however, defeated the Governor upon his own ground, 
and brought up a point of law which the Governor had entirely 
ignored. There had been, as a result to the long and continuous 
opposition to the parish, no vestry in the county for several years ; 
consequently, there had been no church warden. This being the 
case, it was impossible, according to the law, for the sheriff to 
take parish money except from church wardens and to supervise 
the parish affairs. Thus it is seen that the Governor was defeated 
and the parish gained considerable prestige which had been tem- 
porarily lost during the controversy. 

In August, 1761, following the church and court episode, Mr. 
Moir writes that the county is in a great confusion. Whether he 
has reference to the moral or political conditions, it can only be 
inferred from a suggestion that he makes in his letter. It is very 
likely that both the moral and political affairs were in a deplor- 
able condition, for he intimates that many citizens who had 
labored for a regular minister and support from the courts had 
despaired of success. The inexplicable state of affairs in Edge- 
combe was observable by many, and it is evident that the misun- 
derstanding between Dobbs and the leading men still subsisted. 
The General Assembly of the Province was then in session, and 
many hoped that something would be done for the more effective 
administration of justice. Although many accusations by Mr. 
Moir and his sympathizers were exaggerated, they were not wholly 
unfoimded. The officers on the civil list in Edgecombe Coimty 
showed very little regard for common honesty and many protests 
were made against them — so much so, that Mr. Moir was on the 
verge of leaving, but remained because of the solicitations of 
nei^boring vestries. 

It must have been evident that all the appointees for political 
and judicial positions in Edgecombe were not good. Current 

58 HisTOBY OF Edoeoombb Countt 

letters in 1760 to the Secretary at London stated numerous objec- 
tions to the bad appointments of the Governor, and how they were 
making positions corrupt. Some of these protests came back to 
the (Jeneral Assembly of the Province, and (Jovemor Dobbs was 
sharply censured for appointing bad officials in the county. Gov- 
ernor Dobbs, however, did not heed the rebukes that he received, 
and repeated the offense by putting in the commission of the peace 
objectionable characters and other ring leaders of the mob who had 
supported him in his previous contentions. Many citizens re- 
ported their intentions of leaving the county by reason of the 
unsatisfactory situation and the condition of the courts. 

The corrupt officials in Edgecombe was no infrequent thing 
prior to this time. As early as 1739 Colonel Whitehead and 
others had been removed from the position of Justice of the 
Peace by reason of unpardonable negligence and corrupt methods 
in the execution of the duties of their office. 

The church and the courts in the county were very closely re- 
lated in 1763 ; therefore, those policies of affecting one frequently 
affected the other. Matters of religion were usually referred to 
the court, and the attitude of the courts determined largely the 
conduct and effectiveness of the church. Especially was this true 
in regard to the revenue, which was supposed to support the 
church and its activities. In the days when there was no separa- 
tion of church and State one may expect difficulties and conflict- 
ing issues to arise. Such was the case in Edgecombe Coimty. As 
usual the minister was the central figure on one side and the 
political leaders on the other. With all due respects to Mr. Moir 
in this late day, he was enthusiastic for the revenue belonging to 
the church. This led him into many impleasant controversies 
affecting the local judicial powers. He became involved in a long 
conflict with two of the Chief Justices in North Carolina, and 
informed them in person how grossly they acted in the suits insti- 
tuted for the recovery of Edgecombe parish taxes from sheriffs 
who had squandered them upon personal needs. 

Mr. Moir, moreover, laid spiritual hands upon the political ac- 
tivities of the people, and with scorching words denounced the 
corruption of the civil officers. The moral intent of Mr. Moir 
was good, but not permissible in the estimation of the political 
officials. The stern churchman did himself a permanent injury 

Colonial GIoveenmbnt and Politics 59 

when lie denounced the leader of a mob who effected th^ release of 
Francis Corbin, to the delight of Governor Dobbs. Dobbs had 
previously made the captain a commissioner of the peace in 
Edgecombe. Mr. Moir should have recognized this and should 
have treated the officer with respect due his station. Mr. Moir, 
however, refused to acknowledge the captain's commission because 
of his corrupt nature. In 1763 the captain was a candidate for 
election to the House of Burgesses in Edgecombe, and Mr. Moir 
conducted the campaign opposing his election. The candidate had 
the support of the Govemor^s faction, and, as Mr. Moir put it, 
"even the Old Huzzah himself was on his side." In Mr. Moires 
extensive lecturing tour against the candidate he pointed out the 
corruptness and immorality of the candidate, and, in his own 
words, "painted the scoundrel in his own colors." The result was 
the leader's election never came off. This broadened the breach 
between the minister and his followers, and the political leaders 
and their supporters. 

As the controversy grew more bitter, Mr. Moir was warned to 
cease inspecting vestry accounts; since there were no church 
wardens the vestry revenues had been collected by the sheriff in 
violation of the law of the province. Naturally Mr. Moir, having 
the right of the law, disregarded the warning with righteous in- 
dignation. The courts were appealed to for a settlement of the 
controversy; consequently, they became involved in religious 
matters. The courts having no precedent in this case reached a 
decision in favor of the church. Shortly after this trouble a 
permanent vestry was formed in the county, and the religious 
difficulties were temporarily at an end. 

In addition to the local courts there was a general or appellate 
court,^ which exercised a general supervision over the courts of 
Edgecombe, Halifax, and Granville Counties. For more than five 
years after Edgecombe was declared a precinct, and until the 
Precinct Court was in operation, the judicial functions of gov- 
ernment, and especially the legislative and executive, were exer- 
cised by this court through the Chief Justice of the Province. 
With a few exceptions from 1732 to 1775 Edgecombe was under 
a provincial Governor. The Crown appointed the Governor, and 
the Governor selected his own officers to rule over the people. To 

^Knoim fts Saperior Oourt. 

60 HisTOBY OF Edgeoombb County 

a large extent^ therefore, the officials of the general court were ap- 
pointed by the Governor and conducted judicial affairs according 
to his judgment and order. This court enacted all laws for the 
construction of roads and internal improvements in the county 
before the Precinct Court was well organized. In order to do this 
commissioners were appointed to carry out the will of the court. 
In 1745 a commission for Edgecombe was appointed, composed of 
Seth Pilkinton, George Moy, Sr., William Mace, John Bumey, 
and James Barrow to construct a highway and lay off roads 
through the upper part of the county. Civil officers, moreover, of 
various kinds were appointed by the Governor, with the consent 
of his Council. When it became necessary for rangers to be ap- 
pointed in 1766 to appraise and ascertain stray horses in the 
county, it was the Governor who was vested with power to select 
men for this purpose. From June 7 to August 7, 1775, Governor 
Dobbs granted forty-five civil commissions for Edgecombe County 

Frequently in exercising the executive power, the Governor 
made known his wishes to the General Court, which carried out 
his bidding. The General Court became the Superior Court in 
1762. The change took place when the Governor appointed jus- 
tices to hold a circuit or district court for the counties cut off 
from Albemarle. After the change from the Gleneral to the 
Superior Court considerable power was given to the local courts 
in the county. The Superior Court, however, retained the higher 
authority and overruled cases from the local courts. 

The Superior Court also retained certain specified powers over 
civil matters in the district. It was similar on the one hand 
to the courts of the King's Bench, Common Pleas, and on the 
other to the courts of the Oyer Terminer and General Gkol De- 
livery. The Superior Court's jurisdiction was very extensive, 
and only very important cases, involving considerable money and 
punishment, could be appealed from this court to the Governor 
and Council. The jurisdiction by way of appeal was limited to 
cases of appeal from Inferior Courts, and in those cases only 
where sums of money of certain amount were involved. 

A very interesting case came under the jurisdiction of the 
Superior Court in 1767. The court exercised the power of issu- 
ing a writ of scire facias to collect money in another colony. 

Colonial GtovBRNMENx and Politics 61 

Joseph Howell, of Edgecombe County, had been sued by James 
Dunlap Merrith, of Virginia. Mr. Howell lost the suit and 
Merrith had judgment for 2,817 pounds, the amount sued for. 
Shortly afterwards an error was discovered in the decision, and 
the case was reopened, and it was found that Merrith was not 
entitled to damages. In order to recover the money paid by 
Mr. Howell the Superior Court issued a writ of scire facias to 
James Moore, sheriff of Edgecombe, to sell the goods, chattels, 
lands, tenements, to the amount adjudged for damages, which 
Mr. Merrith had recovered in the suit against Mr. Howell. 

Financial matters affecting the rights of the Crown or any of 
the royal subjects in England were determined by the Superior 
Court. The question of collecting and adjusting quit rents in 
Edgecombe was continually before this court for settlement. The 
quit rents being the chief source of revenue, it was natural for 
England, and especially Lord Granville, who owned this part of 
the province of North Carolina, to be anxious to have the man- 
agement of their monies in the hands of a more direct agent of 
the Crown. 

The presiding officer of the Superior Court held the title of 
Chief Justice,^ and, with his associates, sat upon the bench and 
rendered decisions. This court also had a provost marshal. It 
was his duty to execute the orders of the court and to summon 
jurymen from every precinct in the district. Means of reaching 
various individuals who were intended to serve on the jury were 
very crude, and the provost marshal had much trouble in sum- 
moning the jurymen selected. 

The Superior Court, being a court of record, it was supplied 
with another officer, designated as clerk, appointed by the Chief 
Justice, and who acted as a scribner for the court. His duties 
were fully specified and very confining. The law required him 
to reside and keep his office in the county in which the court was 
held. He also acted in the capacity of register of deeds and kept 
probated wills, records of all court proceedings, deeds of trust, 
and all other papers relative to the clerk's and register of deeds' 

^The Ohief Justice was allowed 38 pounds, 18 shillings, and 8 pence for every 
■eesion of court held in the district. 


62 History of Edgecombe County 

The question of raising and disbursing funds in the colonial 
period was one of the most important of that day^ inasmuch as 
corruption and inefficiency were constantly arising in matters of 
colonial jSnances. In order^ therefore^ to meet one of the greatest 
demands^ a treasurer was appointed in 1746 for the district of 
Edgecombe. It was his duty to collect all monies due the Crown 
from the county sheriff. The treasurer was also required to travel 
a circuit in this district and hear complaints arising from finan- 
cial difficulties at the Court of Assizes in Edgecombe and Edenton 
in October of each year. The position at this time was a very 
responsible one— the treasurer frequently had large sums of money 
in his possession. The risk was very great because the county 
was not thickly settled at this time, and there were no banks for 
ttie safe keeping of funds. The treasurer, therefore, was required 
to give a bond of 2,000 pounds for the faithful discharge of the 
official position. He received as compensation for his services a 
commission of five per cent on all monies passing through his 

The method of selecting and quaHfying jurymen is very inter- 
esting. A list of jurymen was made up by the Assembly of North 
Carolina for Edgecombe Precinct, and their names were put in 
a box to be drawn out at the end of each session of court by 
a child for the next session. A just decision of suits and contro- 
versies in the courts in the precinct depended on the integrity of 
the jurymen. It was declared, therefore, by the Governor and 
Assembly that no person could serve on the jury in either the 
Superior Court or the Court of Grand Sessions who was not 
selected, summoned, and properly qualified — ^that is to say, the 
justices of the Inferior Court within the precinct were directed 
before the Superior Court met to nominate twenty-four free- 
holders to serve as grand jurymen, and twenty-four to serve on 
the petit jury at the session of the Superior Court. The Inferior 
Court could not nominate any person to serve as juror at two 
consecutive courts, nor anyone who had an action or suit to be 
tried in the Superior Court at the term for which he was nomi- 
nated. The number of freeholders who could be nominated to 
serve as jurors from Edgecombe County was eight. In 1733 the 
first jurymen served from Edgecombe County. Any juryman 
who failed to appear when summoned was fined three pounds 
proclamation money unless he could give sufficient cause at the 

Colonial (Jovbrwment and Politics 63 

next court for his non-appearance. In case the fine was imposed 
upon a juryman the money was paid to those who attended from 
the precinct in order to lessen the precinct tax. The sheriff of the 
county was held responsible for all fines imposed upon those fail- 
ing to serve from the county. 

All grand jurors in the county were required to own or manage 
five hundred acres of land^ while all petit jurors had to own or 
control two hundred acres. One of the instructions issued to 
Governor Burrington when he assumed control of the Province 
of North Carolina was to restrict the voting of freemen unless 
they were freeholders. In 1734 this instruction was re-inforced 
by Governor Johnston^ who refused to admit freemen who were 
not freeholders to cast their vote for members of the Assembly 
xmless they had been inhabitants of the precinct at least six 
months and possessed a freehold of at least fifty acres of land. 
Even under these circumstances the one voting must have had the 
land in his possession at least three months before he would be 
allowed to vote. 

One of the essential needs for the administration of justice is 
a court house. Prior to 1742 Edgecombe County did not have a 
permanent place for holding courts, the justices meeting from 
time to time on different plantations convenient for those attend- 
ing the court session. In 1741 the General Assembly of the 
Province passed a law permitting the Justices of the Peace of the 
county to lay a tax not exceeding one shilling per poll for two 
years on every taxable in order to build a court house, prison, and 
stocks for the county. Accordingly, the sheriff began the collec- 
tion of the taxes for this purpose and turned same over to the 
Justices of the Peace, who superintended the construction of the 
public building. The first court house was built at Enfield, 
primarily for the exclusive use of the Superior Court. At the 
completion, however, a petition was made by the local county 
courts ^ that they might also hold their sessions at the court 
house in Enfield. 

At this time the area of the precinct of Edgecombe was very 
extensive; for this reason it was to the advantage of the people 
generally that the Superior Court and the public buildings be 

^The General Aftembly empowered the Justices of the Peace in Edgecombe to 
hold their sessions of court here. They were also given free use of the prison. 

64 HisTOBT OF Edoboombb County 

erected and remain at the most convenient place. Beyond the 
frontier of what is now Granville County the land was very 
sparsely settled ; consequently^ there was no very urgent need for 
a place for holding court. On the other hand^ Edgecombe County 
was fast being settled and a small urban population was growing 
in various sections of this district. The Assembly^ realizing the 
necessity for a court house in a central and thickly populated di&- 
trict^ wisely selected Edgecombe as one of the three most con- 
venient locations. 

Enfield, being the most central place in the district, the court 
house and prison were accordingly constructed at this place. En- 
field was made the county seat of Edgecombe, and all the courts 
of the county were accordingly held here. This, however, was 
only temporary, for in 1758 Halifax County was formed and was 
selected as a more convenient location for the holding of Superior 
Court; consequently, the citizens of Northampton, Granville, and 
those in northern Edgecombe petitioned the Assembly to move 
the Superior Court and jail for this district from Enfield to 
Halifax.^ Complaints, moreover, were made that Enfield afforded 
no conveniences for the people attending court at that place. Ac- 
commodation and conveyance also were not obtainable at Enfield. 
The Assembly of the province acted favorably and the court house 
and prison were accordingly moved to Halifax Town in Halifax 
County. Trustees were appointed to remove all the records and 
existing property and to erect the necessary buildings. An ap- 
propriation of 134 pounds, 9 shillings, and 4 pence was made and 
paid over to the trustees to complete the construction of the public 
buildings. An additional tax was also levied on all taxable per- 
sons in the three counties in order to help finance the construction 
of the buildings. 

Edgecombe County made an involuntary surrender of her 
judicial power in 1768 when Halifax County was formed. Enfield 
being located in Halifax, consequently it would be impracticable 
to continue to hold her sessions of court at that place. At this 
time there was also a commercial rivalry existing between the two 
counties, and Tarboro was growing as a commercial competitor 
with Halifax Town. It became necessary, therefore, to find some 
suitable and convenient place in Edgecombe County to hold court. 

1 Enfield was hardly a Tilla^ at this time. It never became incorporated until 
after the Revolution. 

Colonial Gh>yEKNMBNT and Politios 65 

It was probably in 1758 or the year after when the court house 
for Edgecombe County was permanently moved from Enfield to 
Bedmond's Old Field on Tyrancoca^ now known as Cokey Swamp. 
The building was presumably of logs, chinked here and there with 
mud and making a very crude structure. It could not have been 
a very permanent building^ for there was no special appropriation 
made to construct a court house at this place. In fact, there are 
grave uncertainties that the court house was ever completed. It 
is known, however, and there is conclusive evidence that the ses- 
sion of court for 1760 was held in the vicinity of Tyranooca 
Creek. The report of the grand jury was returned from Red- 
mond's Old Field during this year. The foreman was James 
Barnes, and among others who served at the first session of this 
court were John Calhoon, James Braswell, Bichard Lewis,^ and 
James Hogans. Fortimately, also, there is a record of the court 
proceedings held at Bedmond's Old Field that year. Among the 
civil cases disposed of was that of a land deal which involved some 
of Edgecombe's most prominent citizens at that time. The prop- 
erty of John P. Dew was divided by the County Court according 
to his wilL Acting on the special committee, appointed by John 
Haywood,^ Aquilla Suggs, and Thomas Hall, Justices of the 
Peace, to divide the estate among the heirs of John Dew accord- 
ing to law, were James Smith, Drew Smith, and James Hogans. 
The records indicate also that at this time Elisha Battle, a citizen 
who afterwards became very prominent in polities and church 
affairs, repaired to Bedmond's Old Field to take an oath as a 
Justice of the Peace. It is supposed that Mr. Battle presided 
over the few remaining sessions of court at this place. 

It may be inferred from that fact that the court house at Bed- 
mond's Old Field was not substantially built, and that the people 
in the county contemplated another site from the beginning. It 
is very difficult to reach any definite conclusion as to where the 
sessions of court were held between 1760 and 1764. There are no 
reports of any court session during these four years. In the mean- 
time a petition was sent to the Qeneral Assembly by the inhabi- 
tants of the county that they might be permitted to move the 

^Fath«r of Enm Lewis, noted Revolutionary aoldier from Edgecombe. 

sj<rim ELaywood was appointed public treasurer in 1756. He was the father of 
William Haywood, of Edgecombe County, and of Judge John Haywood, who lived in 
Halifax until his departure for Tennessee. 

66 HisTOBT OF Edoboombb County 

court house from Bedmond's Old Field to Tarboro. The reason 
given for the removal was that the former place was too incon- 
venient for the people, and that it was impracticable to build a 
jail near the old court house that would confine criminals. Those 
committing misdemeanors were frequently let out of prison by 
assistance from outside parties, and on one occasion the prison 
was set on fire and destroyed by some disorderly people in that 
vicinity. At this time the neighborhood of Tyrancoca Swamp was 
very thinly settled and no protection was offered for the county 
property. The petition also stated that a court house and prison 
should not be built at Tyrancoca Swamp, as had been previously 
planned, for the reason given by the inhabitants. From the indi- 
cation of the petition one might infer that no court house had 
been erected at Bedmond's Old Field. 

The Justices of the peace in the meantime were called upon by 
the Assembly to substantiate the reasons offered by the people why 
the court house should go to Tarboro. They accordingly recom- 
mended this town as a proper location. In order io impress the 
Assembly more favorably, another petition was presented to that 
body by Mr. Palmer in April, 1762. The former reasons were 
repeated, namely, that Bedmond's Old Field was too obscure a 
place for the court house and prison, and that the people suffered 
much inconvenience through the lack of accommodation at that 
place. The bill presented by Mr. Palmer was not acted upon 
during this session of the Qeneral Assembly. In the next election 
for representatives to the Qeneral Assembly he was not returned, 
and it fell to Mr. Buffings lot to agitate the matter and bring it to 
a conclusion. 

Early in 1764 arrangements were made for the construction of 
the public buildings. The court house could not have been very 
large, for it was completed in six months, after several interrup- 
tions, by William Dunn. The price paid for the work was eight 
pounds, which also indicates the smallness of the building. 
Aquilla Suggs, William Haywood, Joseph Howell, Sherwood 
Haywood, and James Hall were appointed by the (Jovemor and 
Assembly to supervise the work.^ There had been no tax prior to 
this time laid on the inhabitants to build the court house and 

^ A dork's olloe, the first to be built in Edgecombe, was also proTided for in this 
sot of Amemhlj, 1764. 










Bounds iakf out *n 
I7GZ t>y order of 

the court and of 


<5Ml<Jtt't4ti %Jfpr9 

Oovt<fs //04^r• 




LOTJ" eo 4 0/ 


Colonial GtovBBNMBNT and Politics 67 

prison for the county. The clerk of the County Court was ac- 
cordingly ordered to certify the unanimous consent of the court 
for an act providing for a court house and jail by taxation. Ac- 
cording to the wishes of the county officials two shillings were 
levied on all taxables in the county to be collected by the sheriff 
for two consecutive years in order to pay the expenses in building 
the court house and prison. The surplus money was turned over 
to the county officials to be applied to the contingent charges of 
the county and to aid the county tax. 

During the process of construction of the court house the ses- 
sions of court were held in a dwelling in Tarboro. This fact indi- 
cates that the old court house at Bedmond's Old Field, if one was 
constructed there in 1758, had been torn down or abandoned 
because of the inconvenience in holding court in that place. It is 
reasonable to believe that if one existed at this time at Redmond's 
Old Field the sessions of court would have been held there during 
the time the court house in Tarboro was being completed. 

The method of conducting the prison and court house in the 
colonial period presents a very interesting condition. Whether 
or not the people ruled with a more humane hand then than now 
many are prone to doubt. It can be said, however, that the prison 
was kept with much more leniency extended to the prisoner in the 
colonial times than now. A special provision was made in the 
plans for Edgecombe's prison for a parcel of land, six acres, to be 
annexed to the prison for exclusive use of the prisoners. Those 
who were confined in the prison after 1741 had the privilege of 
walking out in the open when endangered on account of bad 
health, provided, however, that those in prison were not charged 
with treason or felony. 

In addition to the local court system and the right of Superior 
Court trial, the county had also the right of a representation in 
the Qeneral Assembly of North Carolina. Edgecombe, because of 
her location, was subject to an unhappy and embarrassing situa- 
tion because of a long dispute over legal representation prior to 
1741. When the counties of Bath and Albemarle were erected it 
was agreed that the precincts of the former should send two mem- 
bers each to the Legislature, while those of the latter were allowed 
five. The discrimination was due to the differences in population, 
Bath County being very sparsely settled and Albemarle containing 

68 HisTOBY OF Edoscombb County 

a majority of the inhabitants. In the course of time, however, 
there grew to be an unequal representation of the various pre- 
cincts in the two counties which had reached a climax when Edge- 
combe was formed in 1732. It followed, therefore, that when (Jov- 
ernor Burrington issued a decree for an election for representa- 
tives from Edgecombe Precinct, and when Edgecombe elected five 
members according to the previous agreement of the Assembly 
that the large and populous counties should enter a vigorous pro- 
test. Especially was the question of representation further com- 
plicated when (Jovemor Dobbs constituted Halifax County and 
permitted four representatives to be elected from that district. 
Dobbs claimed he was trying to bring the southern and northern 
districts up to equal representation. Lord Granville, being in- 
terested in Edgecombe, it being his property at the time, objected 
strenuously to this action of Governor Dobbs, and claimed that to 
allow four members from the small county of Halifax and only 
two from the large county of Edgecombe was unjust. 

The agitation became very acute in 1734, when William White- 
head, James Speir, Bar Macquinny, David Hopper, and James 
Millikin appeared in the Assembly as representatives from Edge- 
combe. Their entries entitled them to a seat in the Assembly, 
which although objectionable to the precinct of Bath County 
brought forth no immediate protest. Before the time for the next 
election for the ensuing session of the Assembly a law was passed 
forming a more equal representation and pleasantly avoided a 
serious controversy. 

In the meantime another incident caused Edgecombe County 
considerable difficulty in securing seats in the Assembly for two 
representatives provided for by the new law. In 1733, one year 
after the precinct was formed, Edgecombe sent only two legis- 
lators. Captain Will Whitehead and Dr. David Hopper, because 
of the unsettled political condition. Contrary to the expectations 
of the precinct and to the humiliation of the representatives, they 
were refused a seat in the Assembly. Their rejection was the 
result of the controversy then being waged in the Assembly over 
the legality of a Governor erecting new precincts.^ 

' Edgecombe was erected by (Governor Burrington in 1732; but was not confirmed 
by the Assembly until 1741. 

Colonial GtevEBNMENT and Politics 69 

The following year, however, Captain Whitehead and Dr. 
Hopper were re-elected and returned to the General Assemhly. 
The controversy being less acute than in the preceding year, the 
representatives were permitted to take their seats. The unsettled 
conditions were evident, however, because Edgecombe's representa- 
tives were not allowed to take part or vote in the legislative ses- 
sion. The regular number of representatives, except in 1734^ 
and 1739,2 were sent to the Assembly until 1740. During 1740 
the situation was very offensive and Edgecombe County inten- 
tionally neglected to elect any members for the Qeneral Assembly. 
This served as a good pretext for those who had objected to Edge- 
combe's having a representation to exclude the county from having 
a voice in colonial legislation. George Boberts, »a representative 
from Graven County, originally a precinct in Bath County, came 
out in open opposition and declared Edgecombe's members ought 
not to be returned. He accordingly introduced a resolution in 
the Assembly declaring the members from Edgecombe County sat 
in the house contrary to the privileges of legislation, and moved 
that they should not be allowed to exercise the function of legis- 
lators until a law was passed constituting Edgecombe a legal 
county. The timely intervention, however, of several influential 
members avoided the embarrassment and a probable revolution 
of the Edgecombe citizens. 

It is very difficult to understand why Edgecombe should be 
granted local self-government through their courts and be given 
power to tax its citizens for specific purposes and then not be per- 
mitted to form a part of the provincial government. This much 
is certain, however, that the county was being used by political 
factions as a means to further their political ambition?. This 
fact is demonstrated by the dependency Edgecombe was involun- 
tarily compelled to assume upon Bertie County.^ Prior to 1740 
Bertie and Edgecombe were designated jointly in matters pertain- 
ing to the Supreme Court. Jurymen from Edgecombe were listed 
with those from Bertie, while taxes prior to 1737 were collected 
with those of this county. 

The results of political parleying placed Edgecombe not only 
in an awkward and unjust position, but hampered the progress 

^Five repTewntatiTM were dected that year. 
'Four repreaentatiTea were elected that jear. 
'Edgeoombe was cut off from Bertie County. 

70 HiBTOBY OF Edoboombb County 

and development of the county. It was, therefore, a matter of 
expediency to reach some method of adjusting effectiyely for 
Edgecombe the question of representation. To this end in 1743 
the county elected John Pope, an influential citizen, as a repre- 
sentative to appear before the Assembly and place before the ses- 
sion an actual account of the state of affairs. He was, however, 
prevented from accomplishing his original purpose by being per- 
mitted to accept a seat in the Assembly. 

In the meantime the question of representation was permanently 
settled when the Crown left the issue with (Governor Johnston, 
who declared in favor of Edgecombe in 1744. Edgecombe accord- 
ingly took her place the following year with the other counties 
in shaping legislation for the Province. Her first appearance 
under this condition was made when John Alston and John Pope 
were placed upon important committees to regulate grievances 
imposed from a lack of miUtary officers to prevent general muster. 
Two years later, 1746, John Haywood and Joseph Howell, two of 
the most influential men in the county were appointed to serve on 
a committee by the Assembly to examine pubUc claims and ac- 
counts. Meanwhile Mr. Haywood also acted as chairman of the 
committee which drew up a bill regulating the practice of the 
court of justice and another to facilitate navigation in the Prov- 
ince. For several years Mr. Haywood remained on the public 
claims committee, and acted with credibility. During this time 
Edgecombe regained much of her lost prestige and became one 
of the leading political centers of the Province. 

The members of the Assembly in Edgecombe were elected by the 
freemen of the county. As a qualification for a representative a 
candidate had to be a freeman and possess, in his own right, 100 
acres of freehold and be a resident of the precinct for one year. 
The sheriff ^ issued a writ in obedience to the summons from the 
(lovemor for the freeholders of the county to meet at the court 
house and vote for the candidates. The voting was done openly 
and orally.^ The candidates sat on the magistrates' bench in open 
court, the sheriff down below to oversee the voting to ascertain how 
every man voted. The candidates were permitted to acknowledge 

^ John Alston was sheriff during the first election, and the same custom was fol- 
lowed untU 1787. 

*This method was changed later in 1768 to that of voting by signing the name 
of the Toter on a ticket 

Colonial Gk>vEBNMENT and Politics 71 

the vote of his oonstituents by a nod, and sometiines words of 
thanks were spoken to those voting for him. After the election 
the voters usually met at some ordinary where a feast was held 
for all at the expense of the successful candidates. 

Bepresentative government in many respects corresponded to 
the old English system. One of the similarities was that of bor- 
ough representation. Edgecombe's part in borough representation, 
however, was negative rather than positive. In 1765 Governor 
Martin visited the town of Tarboro ^ for political reasons. He 
was given a very cordial and pleasant reception and for this reason 
was probably influenced to give the town the right of a borough 
member through the issuing of a charter. The sheriff of the 
county, at the command of (Governor Martin, held an election in 
1765, and Henry Irwin was elected. Naturally when Mr. Irwin 
appeared at the Qeneral Assembly to take his seat, various objec- 
tions were made. There were two material objections that the 
Assembly offered why Mr. Irwin should not be allowed a seat in 
the General Assembly. In the first place there was considerable 
danger that the Governor would be given additional power by being 
allowed to create boroughs at his will. It is obvious that the Gov- 
ernor by granting new members would be raising up for himself 
future power over colonial l^islation. Members elected by the 
creation of new boroughs by the Governor would necessarily feel 
under obligations to him and favor the Governor's plans in the 
coercion of legislative measures over the Assembly. 

The General Assembly observed this and watched with zealous 
care the increase of Governor Martin's encroachments. The mat- 
ter was referred to the committee on the privilege of election, 
where the legality of the case was debated. Many would have been 
inclined to favor Edgecombe h)sid not the personal matter of cur- 
tailing the power of the (Jovemor been under consideration. The 
point of law, however, entered into the Assembly's investigation 
and constituted the means whereby Edgecombe's borough repre- 
sentative was ultimately rejected. The law required that town 
representation should come through a charter which stipulated 
that each town so represented should have sixty resident families. 
Tarboro, not having the required number of families, was conse- 
quently not in a position to agitate the matter. 

> Tarboro wm the county seat 

72 HisTOBT OF Edosoombs County 

In ihe meantune^ however^ Gbvemor Martin was placed in a 
bad light by the several accusations brought against him by the 
Assembly. He sought to justify his action by saying Mr. Mc- 
Oullohy a member of the Council^ had presented a petition from 
the citizens of Edgecombe requesting that Tarboro be permitted 
a represfflitative according to the Bath town act of 1715. This 
being the fact in the case^ (Governor Martin wrote a letter to the 
Earl of Dartsmouth in 1774^ declaring the law was violated, and 
called upon the Crown to support him in his action. Gk)vemor 
Martin also claimed that he had consulted Chief Justice Howard 
and Mr. Strudwick, a councilor, who had sufficient power to grant 
a charter under the existing law, and that they had declared his 
action legaL 

The truth of the matter is not definitely known, since the au- 
thority for the case came from the report of Gk>yernor Martin. 
No records were entered upon the minutes of the Qeneral As- 
sembly. Be that as it may, the controversy was quelled when 
Governor Martin heard from the Earl of Dartsmouth, who in- 
formed him that the election law of 1715 evidently disqualified 
any town to send a representative that did not have the number 
of freeholders specified. He advised Martin not to enter into a 
controversy with the Assembly over the rejection of the repre- 
sentative from Tarboro allowed through the charter he had 


If the object of history is to describe the movements of people, 
the most obvious question that arises will naturally be: What 
force moves the people? In describing a war or a revolution the 
first thing to seek for is the cause of the event — the force which 
causes the conflagration — not in the power of any one individual, 
but in the reciprocal influence on each other of many individuals 
who took part in the controversy. 

The greatest activity of the Americans during the Revolution 
was directed from localities and the various sections of the various 
colonies. In the study, therefore, of the causes and part played 
by individuals, one must begin in Ijie localities where action was 
displayed. In almost every State, and in the county in each 
State, while they had many things in common, were actuated by 
different motives in taking a stand in the stru^le of 1775. It'or 
did all the motives appear spontaneously during the same period. 

While the actual cause of the Revolution grew out of condi- 
tions and measures affecting more directly the New England 
colonies, there were also some important forces in operation in 
other colonies which actuated them in taking a very prominent 
part in the rebellion. These causes in Edgecombe County began, 
it might be said, from the time Edgecombe Precinct was erected.^ 
This precinct along with all the others was considered a source of 
revenue to the Proprietors and of the English Crown. Those 
who occupied the land had to pay so much quit rent ^ — for the use 
and cultivation of the territory occupied. 

like a great many of the other policies of England during this 
period there was no regularity or consistency in the execution of 
the law, and the people were unmolested in their taking up land 
and cultivating it. The earliest overseer of the quit rents was a 
Mr. Rutherford, who had married the late Governor's widow. He 
was somewhat indolent and extravagant in his personal habits 
and permitted the people to manage affairs to suit themselves. 
Complaints were directed against him on account of his inac- 

*The control of the Ookmy wm at this time (1782) under the Lords Proprietors. 
'The significance of the term is not known. For several years the sheriff of the 
prednet did the collecting and was allowed 5 per cent of all rents collected. 


74 HiBTOBY OP Edoboombb Oountt 

tivitj. Quit rents became greatly in arrears with no one to 
supervise a regular collection for the Lords Proprietors. The 
arrears from 1732 to 1735 had heavily accumulated. In 1736 
over 400,000 acres of land were held by only 67 men who were 
not owners of the land in fee simple. Of the 67 tenants the entire 
amount of quit rent paid for the privilege of using the land for 
two and one-haK to five years was only a few hundred pence. 
When one considers the amount that should have been collected 
according to law, it is calculated a deficit of several hundred 
pounds. Finally, Mr. Rutherford lost his position, but not until 
matters had drifted into a deplorable state of affairs. 

The result from failure to collect the quit rents, especially in 
Edgecombe, which at this time was one of the most thickly 
settled sections of the Province, was that government officials — 
judges, councilmen, and (Jovernor — were behind in their salaries.^ 
Gborge Nicholas,^ one of the resident judges in the district of 
Edgecombe wrote Governor Dobbs in 1765 that his salary of 20 
pounds was always in arrears, and the same could not be paid 
until the quit rents were collected. He also complained that the 
circuit of Edgecombe compelled him to ride two hundred miles 
twice a year before he could secure his salary, which was payable 
out of the quit rent money. 

Naturally, when the Governor's salary depended on the collec- 
tion of rents, the officials sought to execute the measures which 
would guarantee them their pay. The controversy began with 
Governor Burrington, but reached no permanent head because of 
his limited stay in the Province. Governor Johnston, his suc- 
cessor, began the rent quarrel immediately after his arrival. New 
measures were enacted, the number of places for collecting the 
rents were diminished, the inhabitants were treated as tenants of 
the Crown, and revenues were to be paid in specie instead of in 
kind as was the former method. 

In the meantime many of the inhabitants had purchased and 
owned lands in fee simple. Consequently, those who were not so 
fortunate were grievously handicapped by being subject to the 
arbitrary treatment of the agents. The tenants refused to pay 

lOffleialt were paid with quit rent money. 

*Jadse Nicholai was allowed £20 annnally as Circuit Court Judge for Bdfe* 

IQGir/i^ CaroTtMO. 

RECEIVED, the <Z^//'^^^r>zy<i/^^^^^- iHS^ •f 

the Sum 

\2ni'Ufi/^ /t?/^^ \y^Z^' Year's QuiNlCcnt, due to the Crov^ ' 
the Twenty Nmth Diy otSe^itnihtr Uft, for ^^ J^y^^^r^-A/^i^^^ ' 


Acres of Laiid, holden by »- ' ^/^,^^,^ Jf^^^-r^n^^P 
and Icitiiatc in Qy^^.^A^ C.^y^/:^¥^^ 





[ '--' J 




• \ 


f ■ 

Revolution 75 

their rents unless provided with more convenient places, and, ac- 
cording to their interpretation, convenient places were the neigh- 
borhood in which the rents accrued. They also requested that 
rents should be collected in kind at a fixed price. 

The result of this conflict of opinion between the officials and 
the people led to a rebellion in 1736. The people refused to pay 
their rents until overtures were made by the authorities and the 
officials changed their attitude. It is not an easy matter to say 
just how far the trouble would have extended if it had not been 
for a change of policy on the part of the Crown. 

For sometime it had been a matter of serious consideration as 
to whether or not the Crown should take over the colony. In 
1729 the question was decided affirmatively. Although this 
settled the quit rent trouble temporarily in Edgecombe, it caused 
a more serious economic one to the settlers by the transfer of the 
land from the Proprietors to the Crown. It ultimately led, as will 
be seen, to numerous uprisings and open hostilities to the Crown's 

When the Earl of Granville consented, with the other Lords 
Proprietors in 1729, to surrender to the Crown the sovereignty 
of the Province of North Carolina, he reserved to himself all the 
rights of ownership to one-eighth part of the Province. The area 
of Edgecombe at this time included all of the Granville district. 
This fact resulted in many hardships on those residing in his 
territory. Naturally, Granville would create more drastic meas- 
ures and use more compulsion in the collection of rents than had 
been done. Since it was his main source of revenue, he decreed 
that all rents must be paid in gold or silver, and refused com- 
modities. Moreover, the rents were to be paid at Outlaw's Land- 
ing on Chowan Kiver, about 90 miles from the nearest boundary 
of Edgecombe and 300 miles from the frontier.^ This caused 
a hardship on the people, who every year had to make the journey 
without wagon trails, through forests infested with Indians and 
dangerous beasts. There were also other difficulties, for there 
was very little specie in the colony at this time, and this law nat- 
urally kept the Province entirely drained of gold or silver. More- 
over, instead of having a resident among them to collect the rents, 

^ TIm inhabitAnU were ftOowed 10 per cent of the amount paid for rents whenever 
they carried aame to the regular place for collection — ^Edenton or Outlaw Landing. 

76 History of Edgecombe Countt 

as was the case during the proprietary period^ agents from Eng- 
land were sent over by Granville to take charge of his lands. 

In addition to this a gross unfairness to the inhabitants came 
about through a controversy between Granville and the Crown. It 
was Granville's policy to rent land to various tenants, charging 
them a fee for issuing the land grant, and then a quit rent for 
the privil^e of using the land for cultivation. The consequences 
were that an immense revenue from Edgecombe County, instead 
of going into the King's treasury, went into the private funds of 
the Earl of Granville. This constituted a serious loss to the 
Crown, and an increased burden on the people, since it caused the 
Crown's officials to impose additional fees and taxes upon them 
in order to compensate the officials for their services in the 

In a short time Granville's district was looked upon as a sepa- 
rate part of the Province, and a warm jealousy grew up between 
this section and the Bang's domain in the matter of colonial rep- 
resentation. This friction was not satisfactorily adjusted until 
the opening of hostilities in 1775. 

In the meantime additional trouble arose over Earl Granville's 
neglect of his North Carolina possessions. Instead of supervising 
his estate personally and providing against grievances, which 
necessarily arose, he placed agents, many of whom were unfit for 
the position over the people. These agents by unscrupulous 
means carried on extortions until it became unbearable. These 
agents, especially Francis Corbin and Bradley, in their practices 
of fraud induced several persons to make entries for the same 
piece of land, charging each a fee. In 1752 Corbin and Thomas 
Childs increased their intolerable oppression by declaring patents 
void, which had been issued by their predecessors, in order to col- 
lect more fees. When the fraud was detected the agents refused 
to return the money. In this manner huge sums were collected 
and appropriated by the agents. Moreover, exhorbitant fees were 
charged extra in all land grants for Granville's lands ; the amounts 
above which they were required to turn over to the Earl of Gran- 
ville were retained by these agents. It has been estimated that 
in collecting the taxes imposed for revenue to meet the expenses 
of the Indian Wars and the fees imposed by the various agents 
amounted to $10 on each head of a family in the Granville 

Rbvolution 77 

In 1769 the Earl of Granville further showed his indifference 
to the people's grievances, and the welfare of his territory, by 
turning his lands over to Thomas Childs and Francis Corbin.i 
Childs was made auditor and exercised much influence over Lord 
Qranville himself. The fraud by which these men were to grow 
very rich in a short time was disclosed in a letter during this 

Mr. Childs was to return to England, leaving his position in 
charge of Colonel Innes on the Cape Fear during his absence. 
In his visit to England he was to represent the conditions of the 
colonists in Granville'^s district to the Earl, while Corbin was to 
act upon the information sent him as to the movements in the 
fraudulent scheme. In the meantime, Innes was to be a go- 
between, being kept ignorant of the intrigue, and receiving an 
annual salary for journeying to Edenton at stipulated times to 
receive fees, fines, and to issue deeds for lands imposed by Corbin. 

While in England Childs worked his scheme well, having issued 
in his own name a notice in which he delegated specified power to 
himself as auditor and representative of Earl Granville in the 
Qranville district. He succeeded in acquiring much esteem and 
favor from Lord Granville by informing the Earl that the agents 
had collected considerable money, and that Lord Granville took 
all the fees himself and granted only fixed salaries for his agents. 
Childs did this in order to show that the profits of the agents 
were lessened and that Colonel Innes (in office without Lord 
Granville's knowledge and at the instigation of Childs) would not 
pay him, Childs, the agent's regular allowance. Thus Childs 
candidly admitted to Earl Granville that he was under the neces- 
sity of stopping the money remitted to the Earl in order to pay 
himself. The design worked effectively as Childs had planned 
and justified him and his colleague Corbin in their robberies, in 
the estimation of Lord Granville. Colonel Innes, innocent though 
he was, bore the brunt of the blame. 

In the course of the swindle and hypocrisy. Lord Granville in 
his complete ignorance and stupidity, authorized Childs to turn 
out Innes. This was accordingly done, and a Mr. Wheatly was 
appointed in his place, the requirements for the position was a 

1 Oorbin was a member of the (JoYemor's Council daring Dobbs' administration, 
and Childa serred as Attorney General. 

78 HisTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

bond of £1000, and Ghilds was instructed by Lord Granville to 
force Corbin to sign bonds to Lord Granville to execute his trust. 
Ohilds was furthermore instructed to send over a list or schedule 
of fees which were to be posted in the district, in order that the 
people might know the amount they were required to pay as rents 
and land grants. Childs, however, in his adroit and cunning 
manner arranged with Corbin to get the bond and to keep it with- 
out its being properly signed and filed. The list of fees were 
never sent, nor were remittances of any importance made to Lord 
Granville. Childs continued his defalcations by making it appear 
that the fault was with the men he had appointed, thus clearing 
Corbin, who was his secret agent and growing richer with him at 
the expense of the inhabitants. 

Mr. Wheatly was accordingly turned out as had been his prede- 
cessor, Colonel Innes. Mr. Childs immediately transferred the 
bogus bond to Mr. Bodeley, another agent, after making about 
£2,000 by charging this agent a premium for the place. Mr. Bode- 
ley became an accomplice in the machinations of Childs and 
Corbin. He was instructed by Childs to call Corbin to a strict ac- 
countability. At the same time he directed Corbin not to account 
with Bodeley until he returned to the colony from England. 

Childs straightway began a movement to return to the gold 
mine he had laid and to reap some of the rewards of his ignoble 
scheme. He instructed Corbin to exert his influence as far as 
possible to create a party against the Governor and his admirers. 
Corbin was also to create a division among the agents so that 
Lord Granville would be under the necessity of sending him to 
the colony to adjust his affairs. 

There could be but one result from this secret and dishonest 
diplomacy. The suffering of the people caused by this corruption 
checked the final execution of the well-laid plots. The colonists 
complained and groaned under the oppression of wicked and de- 
signing men until relief could be had only by violent resistance. 

In order to check the injustice of the agents and to obtain re- 
dress, requests were addressed to Earl Granville by the inhabi- 
tants of Edgecombe. This effort proved futile, however, since 
Granville was too much engrossed with his personal matters, and 
the colonial legislature was unable to take action in the matter 
because the Earl's possessions were beyond its jurisdiction. 

Revolution 79 

The trouble drifted into an intolerable condition; the people 
became desperate. The Attorney General was applied to for in- 
formation in 1758. They demanded advice as to the best course 
to pursue. The Attorney General suggested that a petition be 
sent to either the Earl Granville or the legislature to consider 
their grievances. It was not advisable to send another petition to 
Granville^ since he ignored the first one, and on IN'ovember 25, 
1758, the inhabitants presented a petition to the Colonial Assem- 
bly through William Williams, the representative from Edge- 
combe County. A special committee was appointed to inquire 
into the action of the Granville agents. Witnesses were sum- 
moned and examined, and a detailed report was submitted to the 
Assembly showing that true complaints had been lodged against 
the agents. No action, however, was or could be taken by the legis- 
lature, but Corbin was forced, more through fear than by the law, 
to present his books and accounts for public inspection. 

The agitation abated temporarily, the quit rent trouble assumed 
a less violent form, and redress was looked forward to by the out- 
raged citizens. The abatement did not last, however, for the 
grievances were reopened when resentment became less apparent. 
Corbin had in the meantime assumed the role of chief, and was 
growing fat upon the extortions of his subordinates. It is prob- 
able that he sought to elude the people by playing second fiddle, 
thereby preventing the impression of his responsibility. Corbin 
at this time was a man of considerable political influence. In 
addition to being chief representative for Earl Granville, he was 
a member of the General Assembly. In 1756 he was playing a 
most active part in colonial legislation. 

The people, however, realized that Corbin was the direct cause 
of the renewal of their oppression, and took drastic measures 
against him when it became evident that no assistance would be 
ofPered by the Colonial Assembly. In January, 1759, a consider- 
able number of people from Edgecombe went to Corbin's home 
near Edenton, seized him during the night and carried him to 
Enfield, where the agent had an office at the time. He was forced 
to give a heavy bond for his appearance at the spring term of the 
Superior Court, and to refund all unjust fees taken from the 
people. In order to check the timely but unpleasant uprising 
Corbin signed an article in which he agreed with the inhabitants 

80 History of Edoscombb County 

to refund to every person the monies he had taken from them 
through his deputies. He further agreed to remoTO any deputy 
surveyor against whom objections were made, and to appoint 
only one person of good character in the county to take entries 
and to survey lands. The people were also permitted to examine 
the entry books and to appoint committees to adjust the claims 
to lands where two or more made a settlement on the same terri- 
tory. In the meantime Bodeley, Corbin's principal subordinate, 
had also been captured and was required to submit to the same 
procedure as his superior.^ 

The feeling against Corbin subsided, but against those of his 
subordinates, who were not required to give bond, became more 
acute. The people's feelings were so worked up that almost un- 
pardonable actions are charged to them. During the time Corbin 
was in the custody of the people a .Mr. Haywood, one of his sub- 
ordinates, returned home from Virginia, where he had fled, and he 
died suddenly. The inhabitants, thinking this was a rumor 
spread abroad to lead them from the pursuit, went to his grave 
and dug up his remains to see if the report was true. 

The government officials, in the meantime, throi^h their con- 
sideration for, and moral support to the Granville agents, set the 
inhabitants of Edgecombe against them. Bobert Jones, the Attor- 
ney General, lost his influence over the people by reason of his 
unjust treatment of their case, and considerable odium was ex- 
pressed against him. The people had given Mr. Jones a fee to ap- 
pear for them in court and to present their petition to the Gen- 
eral Assembly. In the meantime it was reported that Corbin had 
offered him a larger fee not to carry out his contract and to appear 
for him. The rumor gained credence and the people vowed not 
to let him appear in the General Assembly nor to plead in the 
local courts. It is not known whether the charges against Jones 
were true or not. The people, however, prepared to avenge them- 
selves when he appeared in the district to attend court. 

The extreme severity of the trouble was shown in a memorial 
addressed by the (Jeneral Assembly to the Governor in May, 
1759. The summary of the address was to the effect that several 
people within Lord Granville's district had conspired to do per- 
sonal injury to the officials. A request was made also to quell 

> This aprising is known at the Enfield Riot in North Carolina history. 


the rioters and to restore order in the coiuity. A reward of £25 
was also offered for any detection of those who caused the trouble, 
and upon conviction an additional fee would be paid. 

Governor Dobbs, however, was reluctant in giving the required 
help to quell the rebellion. In the first place, he was very well 
satisfied to let the trouble continue, since it would give him a pre- 
text to raise an issue of Granville's inability to oversee his pos- 
sessions. This was one of the main policies of the Governor, who 
was striving to bring Edgecombe under the control of the Crown. 
Perhaps if it had not been for the action of Beverend Mr. Moir, 
the parish clergyman, (Governor Dobbs would have remained silent 
in the matter. Previous to this episode Governor Dobbs and Mr. 
Moir had carried on a bitted controversy over the parish court 
system in the coimty; consequently, when the latter addressed 
a letter to the Secretary at London describing the situation, claim- 
ing that Corbin acted unjustly, Dobbs was obliged to come into the 
fray, although it was contrary to his interest. Mr. Moir, Dobbs 
stated, in order to create more feeling against Corbin, obtained 
a committee to report to the General Assembly on the conditions ; 
but his efforts proved ineffectual, and that Corbin publicly backed 
the collector in the county. 

The controversy between Dobbs and Moir had the effect in a 
slight degree which the former had hoped for in the beginning, 
that the disputes and riots which grew out of the rent quarrel 
gave him ample pretensions to object to this part of the Province 
being retained by private ownership. 

Dobbs, however, was duty bound to offer some objection to the 
lawlessness of the people, and accordingly issued a proclamation 
causing some of the rioters to be arrested. Certain leaders or 
supposed leaders were arrested and put in jail at Enfield, but were 
immediately released by their comrades. Corbin himself led 
the matter of prosecution, but was later warned by Childs, who 
had secretely guided the entire affair, that if he pursued this action 
too far he would be the one to suffer, since he had done many deeds 
which he could not justify. Childs, after having led his partner 
into crime, did not support him further. 

Although the Governor was a friend of the rioters, still believ- 
ing in the hope that the people would continue their rebellious 
attitude, the Assembly being the avowed enemy of the citizens. 


Pressure^ therefore^ was brought upon Dobbs, and he was com- 
pelled to continue an open effort to suppress the rebellion^ at the 
same time giving a secret support to the people's opposition to 
the government. Many of the people did not understand his posi- 
tion and thus in their misconception became opposed to the Gov- 

This apparent stand of the Governor caused feeling to run high 
against English rule. Moreover, at this time action was taken to 
prevent freedom of speech and liberty of the press. The people 
were not allowed to write letters and pamphlets to agitate relief 
for their grievances. In 1764 Lewis Oriffin was arrested and tried 
for speaking against the King, but by reason of the sympathies 
of the people, who shared his opinions, was not convicted. One 
of the witnesses, William Bakerman, during the trial against 
Griffin, swore that the prisoner was engaged in a quarrel with 
one of the citizens, and that Will (yQuinn, a constable, com- 
manded him to keep the King's peace, and that Griffin replied, 
"God damn the Bang's peace, and you, too." 

Early in 1766 a letter was written in Tarboro and addressed to 
the Wilmington paper in which the actual conditions and the 
grievances of the county were clearly stated. The general tone 
of the letter and its statement created considerable imeasiness 
among the officials and a movement was started to suppress the 
information. Threats were made against the parties in Wilming- 
ton who had published the letter as a public document. The 
effect of this was instantaneous, for the people were then deprived 
of the only means of making their grievances known. 

The change of feeling in Edgecombe was natural, due to the 
progress of the economic trouble and the attitude of the officials 
toward their demand for redress of their grievances. Although 
the (Governor represented the King in the colony, and was the 
bitter enemy of the people in Edgecombe, he became secretly a 
friend for personal ends and was forced to take a stand against 
them. It was, therefore^ well nigh impossible that these people 
could progress, work out an economic policy, without political 
and civil liberty. Their domestic life and economic salvation 
conflicted with the policy and development of government as pro- 
posed by the laws of England. Progress generally cost a struggle. 
The first phase of the struggle in Edgecombe was an opposition 

Keyolxjtion 88 

by the individual to the agent of Granville. The second phase 
was the opposition of the people to the British (Governor. The 
self-assertive interests and impulses were ever present in these 
pastoral and agricultural people^ but these qualities were largely 
undeveloped because they had not had enough stimulus to excite 
their activity prior to the beginning of the Bevolution. 

The condition of Edgecombe County was that of an individual 
maintaining his personal rights, opinions, and interest against 
national authority, interests, and oppression. In this condition 
action became voluntary, and it was for this reason that the citi- 
zens of Edgecombe took part in the Bevolution. The old re- 
straints were disregarded, and the citizens cast their lot for better 
or for worse. 

In all revolutions there are two parties — the radicals and Jthe 
conservatives. From the first there were some in the county who 
were against armed opposition to the King of England. Almost 
everyone, however, was in favor of taking some method to redress 
the people's grievances. The moderates remained so throughout 
the struggle from '75 to '82. There were two types of the con- 
servative element which played no inconspicuous part in the 

In the meantime the entire colony was in a state of general 
unrest and uprisings. In the western counties the war of regu- 
lation was having its greatest effect upon the minds of the people. 
The reaction of the western trouble and the spirit exercised by 
the officials was instrumental in creating a general and continu- 
ous upheaval of the people in Granville's district. While the con- 
troversy was going on in Orange County between Colonel Fan- 
ning and the inhabitants over rents and extravagant fees, Edge- 
combe was given a new spirit of rebellion and internal revolution. 
New fuel was added to the flames, which were already blazing 
high, and the rise of the insurgents in central North Carolina 
prompted the inhabitants to begin a more staunch opposition. 

The day that the Superior Court ended its session for Edge- 
combe district thirty men from the county (while the Assembly 
was in session) went to Halifax to rescue one Oneal, an insurgent 
from Edgecombe County, who had been put in prison for refusing 
to pay the fees imposed upon him. Oneal had been transferred to 
the Halifax jail for safe keeping. The party, in their attempt to 

84 History of Edoeoombb County 

rescue their fellow-citizen, were repulsed by some armed citizens 
and a few troops who were stationed there. One of the party was 
shot and taken prisoner, another had his horse killed, and several 
suffered minor wounds. 

The officials of the Crown were temporarily successful in check- 
ing the riot, but conditions remained bad for the payment of 
taxes and the resumption of good government. Attempts were 
made in the county to overcome the officials who persisted in what 
the people termed '^impartial discrimination in their rights." 
Discontent became more apparent as the grievances of the people 
grew more burdensome. Laws were generally disobeyed; the 
jails were weak and badly kept, and the constables were frequently 
the friends of the people. Consequently no adequate means were 
available for retaining and punishing those who resisted the power 
of the Crown's officials. 

In the meantime the notice of the Stamp Act issued by the 
Parliament of England was received in the county. Many who 
were at variance with the rioters became a champion of their 
cause. Open remonstrances were made against the legality of the 
act of Great Britain. The stamp master in Edgecombe was forced 
to take an oath at the court house not to have anything to do with 
stamps. The uprisings in other parts of the colony gave the local 
citizens an incentive for more opposition. The agitation reached 
a climax, the struggle was on, the flames were bursting everywhere 
with no restraint to be offered. The Stamp Act excitement was 
well under way when Gk)vemor Tryon came to the colony to suc- 
ceed Dobbs, who died March 28, 1765. The rebellion against the 
Stamp Act added much fuel to the flames. Edgecombe was, of all 
the counties, most adequately prepared to offer opposition and 
rebellion to the measures of Great Britain. However, singular it 
may appear that the interior counties should maintain a staunch 
opposition against the revenue bill, it is nevertheless certain that 
such was the general attitude. Chief Justice Hasell made a tour 
of the interior counties immediately after the act was passed by 
Parliament, and reported to the Governor that among all the in- 
habitants of the interior and border counties, he did not find one 
who supported the measure. That this was the state of affairs is 
indeed remarkable, for there were no restraints on trade and 
commerce to arouse the anger of the people as there was on the 

Kevolution 85 

Cape Fear. The most probable explanation of the bitter and 
timely rejection of the right of England to enforce the law, was 
the background of the whole period in which the people had to be 
subject to unlawful means of taxation. 

In March, 1765, a protest was lodged against the proceedings 
of Parliament, and the Sons of Liberty, an organization formed 
on the Cape Fear for opposing the Stamp Act, was organized in 
Edgecombe. Immediately after the organization was formed the 
Clerk of the County Court was forced to swear that he would 
not receive any stamped paper or distribute any stamps in the 
county. The foundation was fast being laid upon which the 
citizens were to stand nine years later. The spirit of rebellion 
was fast culminating in an aggressive action which was destined 
not to be settled until the close of the year 1783. 

Early conditions show conclusively that resistance, which had 
then reached the point of a common cause, was due to oppression, 
and it was this alone which moved all the agitation. It is clearly 
demonstrated that where force was resorted to grievances had been 
prolonged by the agents and mercenaries of England, who had 
not considered the welfare of their dependents. The records show 
also that when the occasion required, the citizens of Edgecombe 
were not slow in using violence to redress their wrongs. In the 
difficulties which had already taken place — rent troubles, legisla- 
tive discriminations, riots, and heavy taxations — ^they exercised 
patience and forbearance. However, in all of the differences 
which caused the conflicts the people were fully prepared to realize 
the nature of their unrest, and to resist the encroachments of 
Great Britain. 

It is clear at this time that the people were considering organ- 
ized resistance to the procedure of the British Qovemment. John 
Haywood, the colonel and commissioner in charge of the military 
affairs in Edgecombe, was requested to make a return of all forces 
under his command. In April, 1765, Colonel Haywood accord- 
ingly reported that he had 14 companies with 1,317 men, includ- 
ing officers, ready for miUtary duty. At this time preparations 
were under way. There were no arms at this time in the county, 
and shortly afterwards considerable stores were sent to Tarboro 
for use. There were no Indians in the county, and no suspected 
uprisings against the State than have been already mentioned. 

86 HiBTOBT OF Edoboombe County 

After Oolone] Haywood's report a new muster was made, and 200 
more men were added, the companies were increased and more 
equally divided. 

It became apparent in 1774 that general opposition was going 
to be made, especially in l^orth Carolina. The conflict between 
the Governor and the Qeneral Assembly gave rise to a new spirit. 
The rebellious attitude of the colonists everywhere showed plainly 
the uselessness of further attempts at a peaceful understanding. 
In the spring of 1774 John Harvey, speaker of the Assembly, is- 
sued circulars, headed by his name, in every county for the election 
of Bepresentatives to the First Provincial Congress to be hdd, 
August 25th, in l^ewbem. A most singular thing in Edgecombe's 
history happened when the county failed to elect delegates to 
form the first Bevolutionary Congress in ITorth Carolina. The 
fear of openly opposing Great Britain was so great that placidity 
exceeded the fervor which moved the people in 1768 and 1760. 
In the meantime, however, internal conditions created a radical 
change in the country, and the minds of the people were disturbed 
in a different way the following year. 

The first convention proposed the foundations upon which the 
new government in N"orth Carolina was to be based. A committee 
of five was elected for each county to execute the orders of the 
Congress, and to act as a committee of correspondence. Although 
Edgecombe had failed to send representatives to the Congress, it 
was not ignored in the propaganda for the new cause. Elisha 
Battle, William Haywood, Duncan Lemon, Henry Irwin, and 
llfathaniel Boddie were elected as the Edgecombe committee to 
discharge the duties imposed by the Congress. During the fall 
of 1774 the local committee convened the freeholders in Edge- 
combe, and a committee of safety was appointed, with Elisha 
Battle as its head. He was selected as one of the committee to 
propose certain rules and regulations for the government of the 
local people. E. Gray, from Edgecombe, was also appointed dis- 
trict conmiitteeman on the committee of privileges and elections. 

The following year many changes were made in the preparation 
for war in the county. Edgecombe, casting off her shame of the 
previous year, sent five representatives, William Haywood, Elisha 
Battle, Duncan Lemon, Henry Irwin, and IN'athaniel Boddie, to 
the Provincial Congress. 

Bbtolutioiv 87 

In the meantime Josiah Martin appeared in the eob)nj as 
Governor to succeed Tryon, who had gone to New York. In 1772 
he became very anxious to reform the colony^ and in order to do 
so he looked suspiciously upon Edgecombe, the seat of unrest and 
insurrection, as the principal place to start. He wisely set about 
to formulate a method (unlike Governor Dobbs') to purchase Lord 
Granville's right to the territory under a legal bin of sale. It 
happened at the time that the lands were for sale at a price of 
70,000 pounds. As a purely commercial transaction the purchase 
would have been a profitable one. In 1766 the quit rents amounted 
to over 6,000 pounds proclamation money, and with the reopening 
of the land office which had been closed for five years (1766-1772), 
and adjustment of the unhappy and deplorable conditions, causing 
those who had settled upon the land during the five years the land 
office was closed to pay the required fee, the yield of revenue 
would have been lucrative indeed. It was estimated by Governor 
Martin at the time that the amount would early reach 12,000 
pounds. It is not, however, to be presumed that conditions would 
have been made any better by the transfer of the territory to the 

Two notable occurrences prevented Governor Martin from ef- 
fecting his design. In the first place, the laxity of the agents in 
collecting the rents, and the refusal of the inhabitants to yield 
any further monies until their grievances were redressed, made it 
practically impossible to hope for any co-operation on the part 
of those who occupied the land. In the second place, a large num- 
ber of settlers and land squatters had occupied unsettled lands 
when the land office was closed, and the administration was in 
a chaotic condition. Naturally they claimed all rights to the 
land which was so easily possessed, and they also naturally re- 
sented the payment of rents. 

Strange to say, although it may seem contradictory, for these 
reasons Governor Martin, supported by the Assembly, urged the 
King to purchase the Granville territory. The fact that the con- 
ditions in the county were such as described, caused considerable 
discussion and debate as to the advisability of purchasing the 
lands. The matter was deferred because of the deliberations. 
When the policy of Martin was being considered in England, 
affairs in the Granville district grew worse. In 1773 Earl Gran- 

88 HisTOBY OF Edoeoombb County 

ville by some unaccountable means finally awoke to the actual 
conditions which existed^ and for the first time sought to effect an 
adjustment. He proposed to make GoTemor Martin his chief 
agent^ hoping thereby to restore his source of revenue and to 
effect a harmonious feeling among the people. Gk^vemor Martin 
submitted the matter to Lord Hillsboro in order to receive per- 
mission to execute this office along with his other duties. Before 
a decision could be reached another stage was set for a historical 
change. Meanwhile forces were operating which decided the 
question for all concerned. That this policy affected the American 
colonies as a whole^ overshadowed the purely local conditions, 
and Great Britain found herself involved in a war with her chil- 
dren across the sea. The questions for which the people had con- 
stantly and consistently labored were to be decided by a general 
uprising and armed resistance, not only to the agents of the Eng- 
lish who lorded it over them, but to the central head of the 
English Government as weU. 

Many conservatives held a decided view in favor of the colo- 
nists, and others — the royalists — ^were partial to the authority of 
Great Britain. In the first group were many men like Elisha 
Battle, Jonathan Thomas, William Horn, John Thomas, Willie 
O'Brien, and others. These men fought in the Revolution, but 
were not so enthusiastic over the open breach with so great a power 
as England was at that time. Acting in a religious capacity, 
these men wrote a letter to Governor Martin in 1772 commending 
him on his policies and his attributing to the people a desire for 
a sound religious and civil liberty. The influence of such promi- 
nent men upon the feverish spirit of the people cannot be over 
estimated. Cool, level-headed though these men were, it took 
only a few months to convince them of their error and to convert 
them to the Revolutionary cause. After all was done that was 
left for them to do, they acquiesced and assumed their share of 
the burden for political independence. 

The second type of conservatives, however, were more to be 
considered. They were as enthusiastic on one side as the colo- 
nists were on the other. Indeed, the principal trouble that local 
colonists had to contend with grew out of the conflict with the 
loyalists. The internal struggle began early in 1776, when the 
whole American continent was ablaze with momentous agitations 

Keyolution 89 

and reprisals. Joshua Bertley, a Tory with no little celebrity, 
deserted the common cause of the people, and endeavored to in- 
flame their minds against the American measures of liberty. He 
succeeded in unifying several followers, who created a political 
antagonism to the policies of the Bevolutionists. Bertley was 
arrested by the aid of the militia, and was tried for the charge. 
Sometime between midnight and day the agitator paid the pen- 
alty for his loyalty to England. He left, however, several ardent 
friends who advocated his principles to a conclusion as will here- 
after be observed. Among the Episcopalians, especially the 
wealthier and older planters, the Loyalists predominated. These 
men, although antagonistic to the citizens at that time, can now 
be looked upon with more consideration. They were brave and 
honest men, who were in all probability proud of their views, 
enjoyed a free empire to which they belonged, and who had no 
immediate desire to shirk the burden of maintaining it. The 
majority from Edgecombe ended their declining days, after hav- 
ing had their goods and property confiscated, in poverty and 
exile. History has not carefully recorded their memory, because 
they represented a defeated cause. But it can be recognized now 
that they were among some of the best and ablest men in the 
county, and that they contended for a principle as sacred to them 
as that for which the greater number fought. Perhaps, also, the 
Loyalists remained passive for a long time during the early period 
of the Bevolution, because they thought the people who took up 
arms had no idea of independence. They were merely attempting 
to redress their grievances and not to form a permanent separa- 
tion from the English Qovemment. 

The Bevolution having begun in earnest, it became necessary 
to take a military inventory. When the trouble began in 1776 
there were approximately 2,000 taxables in the county of military 
age. Measures were soon inaugurated to gather together all 
available forces to prevent Loyalists uprising, and to repel any 
possible invasion. The movement which undertook this task was 
the Council of Safety, with Elisha Battle as its head. Men of 
military experience were very scarce, although all were good 
hunters and expert riflemen. Although military tactics were 
practically unknown, several of the citizens had seen service in 
the Indian wars. Several military officers held commissions in 

90 HiBTOBT OF Edgscombb County 

the county^ having been appointed many years before the possi- 
bilities of war were ever considered. Alexander McOnllogh was 
appointed colonel of Edgecombe militia when Dobbs came to 
Iforth Carolina in 1764. William Barnes was made a captain in 
1767, William Haywood colonel of the regiment of Edgecombe 
in 1761, and Jacob Whitehead lieutenant-colonel at the same time. 
These men, however, were incapable of active service, and were, 
to a considerable degree, inefScient because of old age and lack 
of proper training. The Council of Safety, therefore, began its 
recruiting under very adverse conditions. 

The first provision made by North Carolina toward utilizing 
military force for the Eevolution was to organize minute men 
and militia. Edgecombe, according to her population and area, 
was required to raise two companies of 50 men each of minute 
men to serve for six months. They were not required to re-enlist 
after this term expired. The battle of Moore's Creek was the time 
for mustering out. 

In addition to two companies of minute men, Edgecombe was 
also to assist in raising a brigade of miUtia. The miUtia was 
made up of men from 16 to 60 years of age. 

In the meantime the Second Provincial Congress was called, 
and an election was held in the county to select members from 
Edgecombe. Accordingly, in August, 1776, Robert Signal, Henry 
Irwin, Duncan Lemon, Thomas Hunter, and Thomas Harmonson 
Hall were elected. In April, 1776, William Haywood, Elisha 
Battle, and Nathaniel Boddie were also elected. These men pre- 
sented to the Congress a true state of affairs in Edgecombe, and 
requested that action be taken to make the military situation suit- 
able for defense of the county. In September, 1775, Congress im- 
mediately appointed field officers for the minute men in Edge- 
combe County. William Haywood was made colonel, Sherwood 
Haywood lieutenant-colonel, Joseph Moore first maior, and Henry 
Horn second major. In June, 1776, Congress appointed Gresham 
Coffield captain, Spenser Watts lieutenant, and Francis Parker 
ensign to co-operate with Mr. Battle in military activities in the 
county. These men formed the first battalion and acted as its 
officers as designated above. 

In 1767 Catawba camp had been established on Fishing Creek 
for military headquarters for eastern North Carolina. This was 


Revolution 91 

done as a precaution against possible Indian troubles, which had 
not in the past been infrequent. In June of that year the Gov- 
ernor, accompanied by various military officers under the com- 
mand of Alexander Moses, of Edgecombe, visited the various 
Indian tribes and met here to report. This camp had been par- 
tially kept in a state of repair and promised to be useful as well 
as a convenient place for mobilization of troops. 

Under the regularly instituted military organization in the 
county field officers were elected, and commissions were issued 
by the Provincial Congress. Subordinate officers were electd by 
the county commissioners. The Council of Safety exercised the 
authority of calling out the militia in an emergency when the 
Congress was not in session. The first field officers of the Begular 
or Grand Army — Colonel William Haywood, Lieutenant Colonel 
Sherwood Haywood, Major Jaine$ "lifoore, and Second Major 
Henry Home — ^were elected in 1775. In 1776 the militia system 
was reorganized because of the inactivity of the officers. Edge- 
combe's Kst was changed completely. Exum Lewis succeeded 
William Haywood as colonel; Simon Gray became lieutenant- 
colonel; Jonas Johnson major, and Thomas Hunter second major. 
At the same time the Continental regiments were organized in 
North Carolina, and James Blount and Henry I. Toole were 
elected captains in the Second Begiment. After the discharge of 
this regiment. Captain Toole was appointed lieutenant-colonel of 
the Fifth Begiment. 

The organization of troops began with much enthusiasm, and 
officers were inmiediately appointed to take command of the 
various companies. In the meantime, William Williams was 
made adjutant in the spring of 1776 by Congress. He was re- 
quested to send 400 weights of shot to Colonel Irwin in Tarboro 
for defense and use by Edgecombe's militia. Large quantities of 
provisions were collected also at Tarboro for the use of the army 
under Colonel Irwin. Much of these provisions were sent to 
Wilmington to ration Edgecombe troops, who were there at that 
time defending the town from the Loyalists and the British. On 
MTovember 28, 1776, Green Bell was appointed captain by Con- 
gress, John Bryant, Jr., lieutenant, and Theophilus Coleman sec- 
ond lieutenant. From these officers and men in Edgecombe the 

92 HisTOBY OF Edobgombb County 

Halifax Brigade was organized in 1776. The captain of the 
brigade was James Gray, James Brown acted as lieutenant, and 
Joseph Creel as ensign. 

Several men from Edgecombe acquired fame for their military 
services during the struggle in behalf of the American cause. 
Among these were Henry Irwin Toole. He was among the first 
to accept a commission in the regular army.^ He took charge of 
a company and marched to Virginia to defend that State against 
the British at the beginning of the Bevolution. This illustrious 
patriot took part in the battle near Norfolk, and later won laurels 
for his name in the struggle at Brandywine. When the company 
which he commanded had served its time of enlistment and was 
disbanded, Captain Toole returned to Tarboro, where he resumed 
his profession as a merchant. He lived to represent his county 
in the Provincial Congress and to see the happy termination of the 
cause for which he fought. 

Prior to 1780 no fighting with the British occurred in the 
county, but the citizens took s. conspicuous part in accomplishing 
a successful military campaign. Perhaps the most notable, or 
at least one among the most prominent characters who supported 
the Eevolutionary cause in the coimty, was Colonel Jonas John- 
son. An industrious farmer, without the rudiments of learning, 
he proved to be a patriot with zeal and power. He took com- 
mand of a regiment in 1776, and found against the Tories at 
Moore's Creek. After engaging in several encounters, he returned 
home and became a del^ate to the Provincial Convention until 
1779. This year marked the beginning of his career as a mihtary 
leader. He assumed command of a regiment and went to South 
Carolina to defend that State against the British in 1780-81. 
Later he returned to his native State and engaged the Tories and 
British under Tarleton at the battles of Slone and Guilford Court 

Just as the county was making extensive preparation for the 
struggle, an incident occurred which excited deep resentment in 
the minds of the people. Governor Martin, just before his flight 
from the colony, issued a proclamation by which freedom was 

^Mr. Toole was also among the first members of the Assembly that met without 
the sanction of royal authori^ and in open opposition to the Grown. 


Revolution 93 

offered to all slaves who took up arms against their masters. Be- 
fore any damage oould he done^ however, the armed and organ- 
ized militia calmed the dissatisfied slaves and restored order 
among them. 

In the meantime the Loyalist activity hegan in earnest, and 
promised considerable trouble for those who opposed Great 
Britain. Early in 1776 an attempt was made to raise a Loyalist 
force in the county. The Loyalists, however, were without the 
means of securing sufficient arms and organization, and before 
they could muster together a force, the troops in the county suc- 
ceeded in defeating them and arresting the leaders of the move- 

Another attempted uprising occurred late in the winter of 
1776, when the disgruntled and disaffected element in the county 
gave signs of Toryism. There were many malcontents concerned, 
and various efforts were made to inflame the minds of the people 
against the action of the Continental Congress. The matter was 
of much importance since the success of the military forces de- 
pended on the support it gained from Congress and the sentiments 
of the people behind this l^islative body. Colonel Sheppard 
issued a notice for the militia to arrest the instigators and to 
suppress the anti-American feeUng. Colonel Jonas Johnson 
rallied a few raw militiamen and by his bravery and pronounced 
leadership dispersed the band of Tories and restored order in the 

In addition to noble and brave leaders, Edgecombe sent many 
troops to support the common cause. In 1777 the Scots were 
driven out of the county, while the Loyalists were completely 
under subjection. This enabled the Edgecombe troops to leave 
the county to defend other sections of the country. Some were 
sent to Pennsylvania to be placed under General Washington. 
Some fought in the battles of Princeton and Brandywine, and the 
bitter and bloody struggle at Qermantown, October 4, 1777. In 
this battle the heroic and noble patriot, Henry Irwin, fell dead 
upon the battlefield. 

In this battle Edgecombe lost a son of noble worth. His body 
lies covered with the soil of another State, but his heroic deeds 

94 History of Edoboombb Oountt 

and character are a product of Edgecombe County. Over his 
remains at Germantown a marble has been erected bearing this 
inscription : 

In honor to the Brave 

Hie jacet in pace. 

Colonel Henry Irwin, of North Carolina 

Captain Turner 

Adjutant Lucas and six soldiers, 

Elilled in the Battle of Germantown, 

One cause, one grave. 

J. F. W.i 

Colonel Irwin left three sons and several daughters. Two of 
his sons died without issue; the third left a son and two grand- 
daughters. One of his daughters married in Halifax, leaving one 
son, Thomas Burgess, who died without marrying. Another 
daughter married Governor Stokes, and their daughter married 
Wm. B. Lewis, of Tennessee, Auditor of the Treasury of the 
United States. Her daughter married Alphonso Pageot, at one 
time envoy from France to the United States. 

The sister of Colonel Irwin married Lawrence Toole, whose 
son, grandson, and great grandson inherited the name of Henry 
Irwin Toole, all distinguished for ability, influence, and popu- 
larity in Edgecombe. James W. Clark married a daughter of 
H. I. Toole, the first. 

The name of William Haywood, of this county, appears among 
the men of 1776. It is to be regretted that so little is known of 
his birth, services, and death. The records prove that in various 
offices, both civil and military, he was a true patriot and useful 
citizen. He was a member of the Committee of Safety for the 
Halifax district, 1775, a member of the State Congress at Halifax 
(April, 1776), and also of the State Convention which met at 
same place in November, 1776, which formed the State Constitu- 
tion. He was one of the committee which framed that historical 
document. He was elected one of the Counsellors of State, the 
first ever elected in the State (December, 1776). 

^The thanks of the State and the gratitude of every friend of Bdgeemobe are 
due to Mr. Watson, "author of the Annuals of Phfladelphia," for his generous and 
patriotic gift to the memory of the heroic dead. He was a son of Wilson and a son 
of Edgecomhe at the time of the inscription. 

Bkfolution 95 

William Haywood was the uncle of the noted and distinguished 
John Haywood, a jurist and writer in this State and Tennessee. 
He was the father of John Haywood, Treasurer of the State from 
1787 to 1827, after whom Haywood Oounty is named; and of 
Sherwood, Stephen, and William H. Haywood, Sr., of Baleigh, 
the latter being the father of Wm. H. Haywood, Jr., Senator in 
Congress from 1843 to 1846. William Haywood was the son of 
John Haywood, an Englishman, who came from the Barbadoes to 
Edgecombe County and settled not far from the present Walnut 
Creek and Dunbar bridge across Tar Biver, and here William 
Haywood was bom. The family subsequently moved to Wake 

The military operations in the county, as in almost every other 
oounty in the colony, were carried out by the energetic minority. 
There were many who first enlisted in the fervor of the moment, 
but who on reflection decided that they did not care to be sepa- 
rated from their families or farms. Naturally enlistment meant 
that they would be compelled to fight anywhere Congress de- 
cided. Colonel Jonas Johnson, in a letter to Qovemor Caswell, 
on November 24, 1778, shows the situation very plainly. He 
makes plain his grief when he wrote that he had sent to Caswell 
the commissions of Captain Davis and Ensign Gray, the former 
because of infirmity and the latter for cowardice. This left the 
detachment without any captain. Lieutenant Lee, who was a 
volunteer, and who accepted the ofSce when Davis resigned, 
headed the company without any commission. Colonel Johnson, 
moreover, reported the resignation of many of the officers and 
men, and pleaded for some method to restore the men to the 
services of the country. 

The commissary department was in excellent order in 1778, 
Colonel Johnson having just furnished Captain Lee with 934 
pounds of beef, 21 barrels of meaL The spirits of the men was 
good; their health good, and they were ready to encounter any 
difficulty. But Colonel Johnson deplored the fact that many of 
the old captains would not go with them. At this time another 
detachment was being drafted by Colonel Johnson in the coimty 
to be put into the regular army as soon as possible. 

The task and importance of provisioning the troops of the 
country as fast as they could be mustered was no small item. Edge- 

96 HisTOBY OF Edgsooicbb COUISTT 

combe in this respect, however, showed remarkable power of or- 
ganization and ability. In 1779 Edward Hall was appointed as 
commissioner. From the fall of that year to January, 1781, he 
sent the troops from Edgecombe 100 barrels of pork, 25 bushels of 
salt, an article essentially necessary and scare at that time, and 
a considerable quantity of meaL By 1781 provisions became a 
matter of no little importance. There was scarcely any food in 
the west that could be furnished to the troops. Along the borders 
of the counties of ^ash, Johnston, Pitt, and Edgecombe were 
numerous ringleaders who had harbored deserters from the 
armies and had signed articles of association or enlistment 
whereby they had obligated themselves to prevent the militia 
from being drafted. This was the beginning of a lawlessness 
which required a military force to suppress and restore civil 

In the meantime the County Court had been virtually sus- 
pended. The Granville district was under martial law. The 
economic stress and the lawlessness of many of the inhabitants 
placed in the hands of the military authorities full power of 
regulating the county affairs. Elisha Battle, as the dominant 
figure of the Council of Safety, acted with a committee appointed 
by the Governor of North Carolina to try all cases of criminal 
action and sedition in the county. The people generally obeyed 
the mandates of a self-created power — termed a committee — 
which absorbed all authority, both civil and military. Indeed, 
orders were complied with more readily than they were before 
the courts were suspended. None sought to evade the military 
r^ulations except the Tories. A body of this element entrenched 
themselves in the southwest part of the county, and a considerable 
number in the northeast for the ostensible purpose of showing 
open resistance. However, all their designs were frustrated with- 
out any bloodshed. There were also at this time several Scotch 
merchants residing in the coimty. They openly expressed them- 
selves as remaining loyal to the British Government, and were 
forced to leave Edgecombe, according to the law of the military 

At this time unscrupulous means were resorted to by designing 
men to pass worthless money upon the citizens in the county. 
The problem of financing the troops and all military activities in 

Revolution 97 

19'ortli Oarolina had been tiimed over to William Haywood^ of 
Edgecombe County. In 1776 he issued $600,000 in currency in 
addition to the one million which had been preyiously emitted. 
At the time unscrupulous schemes were formed by David Smith 
and Daniel Quin to perpetrate frauds upon the people at large. 
In 1776 the gang began to pass counterfeit money, and they were 
detected in August of that year. A $5.00 bill was discovered on 
Smith's person after several futile attempts to dispose of it, and 
he was sent up for prosecution before Mr. Battle. In November of 
the same year (1776) Daniel Guin, at the instigation of Solomon 
Nettle, William Copes, and James Bognor was convicted in like 

These men proved to be Tories and were leagued with several 
others who at that time conspired to slay the principal leaders of 
the American cause in Edgecombe before leaving with British 
officers who were recruiting in the county. Moreover, Quin and 
Smith, acting with several others in sympathy with the British, 
were stationed on the line of Edgecombe to prevent the military 
from drafting men from the Sling's army, and also those who were 
attempting to remain neutral. These men were making strenuous 
efforts to associate this element with the English troops. 

It happened at this time that Colonel Henry Irwin was in 
Tarboro convalescing from a wound he had received in the South 
Carolina campaign. His health had prevented him from attend- 
ing at Halifax previous to the departure of the militia, which had 
mobilized there, to assist the Continental army in New Jersey 
and Pennsylvania. He became aware of the conspiracy of the 
Tories and wrote (Governor Caswell apprising him of the situation. 
In the meantime about 30 or 40 adherents to the authority of 
Great Britain attempted to storm Tarboro. Colonel Irwin as- 
sembled about 25 men to oppose them. He, by his bravery and 
wise leadership, disarmed the entire band and compelled them to 
take an oath of allegiance to the State, and to promise to support 
and defend the independent government against Great Britain. 
One Mr. Brimage, a man of considerable influence and wealth, 
and the leader of the Tories, was arrested and exiled from the 

The following year the Provincial Congress passed a confica- 
tion act, depriving the Tories of their property and compelling 


98 HiSTOBY OF Edoboombs County 

them to take the oath of allegiance. The severity of the act, how- 
ever^ caused much opposition, and it was never put into force in 
its entirety. Many who refused to take the oath were permitted 
to remain in the county, but were deprived of the rights of citi- 

In 1778 the suppressed courts were again reopened, and the 
wheels of civil authority began to grind out justice through the 
proper channel. The sheriff of the county again made his ap- 
pearance at the regular sessions of Superior Court and discharged 
his duties according to procedure of law before the beginning of 
the Revolution. The county previous to this time had not been 
infested with any invasion by the British, but now the trend of 
the military movements of the British was southward, and Edge- 
combe was destined to witness the scene of bloodshed and unhappy 
suffering on her own soil. 

Lord Comwallis made his approach to Edgecombe after the 
battle of Guilford Court House by way of the Cape Fear. The 
resources of the coimty had been greatly diminished in both men 
and supplies by sending aid to South Carolina when that State 
was invaded in 1780-81. Joshua Potts, who was then commis- 
sioner in Edgecombe for the army, had sent on May 1st, just about 
eight days before Tarleton reached the county, 3,000 pounds Of 
bacon and much flour to Colonel Briton near Salisbury. Of the 
six North Carolina battalions and the thousand North Carolina 
State militia that surrendered at Charleston, more than 700 were 
from Edgecombe County. Also much salt, flour, and meat had 
been sent to support these troops in the campaign in South Caro- 
lina and also to Pennsylvania. The people throughout the section 
of the State were soon to realize the results of their unselfishness. 

Late in April, 1781, Lord Cornwallis deserted his camp at Cross 
Creek and prepared to march towards the Roanoke. He had 
with him about 1,500 men, composing a small detachment of royal 
artillery with four cannons, several battalions and a brigade of 
guards. Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton, with 180 dragoons, and 
Halmington's guard of Loyalists, was sent ahead of the army as 
a scout. They reached Tar River, near the mouth of Town Creek, 
early in May. The approach of the British gave the remaining 
Loyalists in the county renewed courage for resistance and up- 
rising. The appearance of the British and the obvious rise of the 

Revolution 99 

Tories necessitated the sending away of the valuable papers of 
the commissioners at Tarboro and the records of the court house. 
People in the vicinity became afraid to sleep at night for fear of 
attack and capture. Several Tories from Martin and Craven 
Counties visited the county while Tarleton was camping on Tar 
River. They proceeded to the house of Benjamin Vichous, one of 
their chief leaders, who assisted in organizing a body of Loyal- 
ists. They immediately joined the British forces, taking 21 head 
of cattle which they collected for the British army. 

Although the coimty had experienced and passed through sev- 
eral rebellions in the twenty years which preceded the Revolution, 
it now became the stage for a reign of terror. The advance guard 
under Tarleton reached Edgecombe about May 6th. His first 
action was to order the inhabitants to collect large quantities of 
provisions for the King's troops. In order to overawe the scat- 
tered militia in the county, he exaggerated the number of Corn- 
wallis' army. This enabled him to secure a retreat for his 
dragoons and Loyalists. He pushed forward toward Fishing 
Creek and made another effort to secure large supplies of flour 
and meal for the army. He decided, in order to effect his designs, 
upon finding the county abundantly supplied with provisions, to 
make a quick march against Halifax, where a store of provisions 
was then in keeping for the American troops. Gteneral Sunmier 
was at Halifax at the time, and on May 6, 1781, he wrote General 
Greene that he intended to evacuate Halifax and move to Warren 
County or Greenville, taking all stores with him. 

In the meantime large forces of militia were gathering from 
the different sections of Edgecombe, Pitt, and Northampton 
counties to repel the British. Tarlteon learned this and decided 
upon inmiediate action. Word of this reached the inhabitants of 
Halifax and Edgecombe and the militia was urged forward to 
meet the British at Swift Creek. The two forces met at Swift 
Creek Run May 7th. Most of the American troops were inexperi- 
enced and badly disorganized, and were forced to withdraw to 
Fishing Creek. Here another engagement took place; again the 
militia and citizens were unsuccessful in checking Tarleton's 
dragoons and Loyalists. The road was open to Halifax, and the 
British marched forward, reaching Halifax town on May 9th. 

100 HiSTOET OF Edgecombe County 

Meanwhile Oomwallis was still on Tar River, encamped on 
Crowell's Plantation. He hesitated to venture forward to the 
Roanoke, not having heard from General Phillips as to the condi- 
tions in Virginia. He wrote Tarleton to remain in HaUf ax untO 
he heard from Phillips. If, however, Tarleton did not hear from 
him in two or three days he was to rejoin Comwallis at Cob's 
mill near Roanoke River. On May 8th, Cornwallis wrote (Jeneral 
Phillips in order to ascertain his plans and to make arrangements 
to join him on James River. He then sent a messenger to Tarleton 
to meet him at Fashing Creek and march with him to Virginia. 
The evacuation of the British from Edgecombe and Halifax re- 
lieved the minds of the people considerably and enabled the militia 
to reorganize and check the Loyalists who did not march with 
Cornwallis. These two skirmishes on Swift and Fishing Creek 
were the first and last appearance of the main army of the British 
in Edgecombe.^ 

The presence of the British in the coimty, however, had a detri- 
mental effect in two ways. It created much unrest among the 
Tories who remained, and the provisions were considerably de- 
creased by waste and use by a part of the British troops. Also 
at this time money was getting to be a very necessary asset to the 
American cause. There was practically no specie money, not only 
in Edgecombe County, but in the entire State, while paper money 
was depreciated. Various means were devised to secure specie to 
finance the militia which the State put upon the battlegroimd. In 
July, 1781, two months after the British had departed, Robert 
Bignall was appointed by (Jovemor Burke to collect monies in 
the county to support the cause of the Revolution, but his com- 
mission was a failure. But if the inhabitants did not have money, 
they possessed the next thing to actual cash — tobacco. A ware- 
house was constructed in Tarboro where the commodity was both 
borrowed and purchased. Certificates were given for the amount 
of the price which was agreed upon the quantity purchased. 
In order to offset the hardships upon those who held the certifi- 
cates, the paper was exempted from taxation and bore interest at 

1 Dr. Battle in hit article on Edgecombe County {N. O. V. Maz. 2 p., 1860-61) 
says that Edgecombe waa never the scene of battle. The information he needed at the 
time he wrote, 1812, was not available; consequently his statement. 

Revolution 101 

the rate of six per cent per annum. The certificates were redem- 
able on the first day of December, 1783, in specie or its value in 
State currency. In like manner in order to procure arms and 
munitions several citizens loaned their tobacco on the same terms 
as those who sold their tobacco to the State. A book was kept 
by Mr. Bignall of all persons who sold or loaned their commodi- 
ties and compensation was made according to the quantity de- 
posited in the warehouse. In order also to secure additional 
troops for the service of the Revolution, power of imprisonment 
was also suspended. Persons who were in prisons were set at 
liberty to defend the State and to further the Revolutionary cause. 
Tinder this method and by general conscription, the county sent 
100 more men to assist Wihnington in 1781-82, after the greater 
part of the men of military age had been placed in active service. 
The reports of the militia for May 6, 1782, show that Edgecombe 
furnished one colonel, one lieutenant-colonel, two majors, ten cap- 
tains, ten lieutenants, ten ensigns, and 650 non-commissioned 
officers and privates that year alone. 

Although the county was prompt in providing military sup- 
port and means for a successful effort for independence, it was 
not to escape disgrace caused by desertion. Surely in the Revolu- 
tion where so many types made up the population, it is no surprise 
that the lukewarm would fail during the most trying period of the 
struggle. The closing of the year 1782 and the beginning of 1783 
were indeed the time which tried men's souls. In Edgecombe 
County provisions were scarce, all resources well nigh exhausted, 
clothes worn threadbare, shoes not available, and pressure weighed 
upon the troops from every angle. Just on the verge of success, 
which naturally was a surprise to those who fought for the right 
of freedom, at the time when victory was to come to those who 
fought and suffered with unyielding fortitude, a few careworn and 
weary stragglers deserted the post of duty, leaving the more faith- 
ful ones to bear the brunt of trial and to reap the reward of those 
who faint not. The names of Daniel Rogers, George Browning, 
Ralph Tickers, and a few others from Edgecombe cannot claim 
any honor nor bequeath to posterity any commendable deeds for 
their desertion from the military post at Kinston in August, 1782. 

102 HiBTOBY OF Edoboombb Oountt 

The economic and military conditions in the county again 
brought about an uprising of the Loyalists, which proved to be 
their final undoing. The Loyalists who still embraced a good por- 
tion of the civilian population, by schemes and artifices, disaffected 
a number of the troops who were under command of Colonel 
Henry Hart. These troops were citizens of Edgecombe, and had 
been raised to take part in the final resistance to British rule. 
Much discomfort existed among them because of the scarcity of 
food and clothing. And were depressed, for dark clouds portend- 
ing defeat were still hanging over the whole American army. The 
Loyalists took advantage of the situation and succeeded in enticing 
Daniel Stringer and others from the American army. These 
deserters not only abandoned the cause of liberty, but enlisted in 
the British army. Late in 1782, however. Stringer, with several 
more of his comrades, suffered a compunction of conscience and 
repented. Stringer petitioned Governor Burke for a pardon, and 
after having taken an oath of allegiance and promising to rejoin 
the State troops, he returned to Tarboro and served under Colonel 
Hart until the close of the Bevolution. 

The attitude toward the remaining Loyalists in the country was 
rapidly undergoing a radical change as a result of their machina- 
tions. The patience of the patriots was fast being exhausted 
under the strain of economic and military pressure. Those re- 
maining in Tarboro were dispersed abroad, many going to 
Canada; others departed for England. The English Church was 
completely demoralized and suspended all church functions until 
the beginning of the nineteenth century. In spite of the many 
reproaches and acts of ostracism, a few remained. They, however, 
were deprived by law of their rights as citizens. They were dis- 
qualified to enter suit against citizens, to vote, or to retain their 

Following the Bevolution the County of Edgecombe assumed 
new life, Tarboro gave evidence of becoming a place of conse- 
quence. Fine peach orchards were set and increasing crops of 
tobacco were cultivated throughout the county. However, the land 
was still sparsely settled at the head of Tar Biver. The West was 
gradually extending its frontier and Edgecombe for a hundred 
miles gave some signs of new habitations. 

Revolution 103 

The local interest and participation of Edgecombe in the Bevo- 
Intion ended in Tarboro in 1787-88. During this year the Qeneral 
Assembly met in Tarboro for its first time. Daring the sitting of 
the Assembly an act was passed declaring the treaty of peace be- 
tween the United States and the Eing of Great Britain to be a 
part of the law of the land. The courts of law and equity were 
again declared to have jurisdiction in all causes and questions. 
Elisha Battle was elected chairman, and he presided over the 
rapid and heated debates of the fundamental rules and provisions 
of the new State government. The adoption and ratification of the 
Constitution was followed by the first appearance of political 
parties on decided lines, the discussion of which follows. 


PoLiTios After thb Revolution 

The era of politics in Edgecombe and the beginning of the phase 
of public life, which was destined to make the county the scene of 
many hot campaigns and enthusiastic gatherings, commenced with 
the legislation in 1783. Many differences of opinions as to the 
policies affecting the State and nation were prevalent. During 
the Revolution parties sprang into being which favored and op- 
posed the policies adopted against Great Britain. Two cla§8es of 
men — ^whig and tories — lived in the county. The whigs, which 
constituted a majority, sought by legislative means to overpower 
the tories, and to some extent were successful. In 1778 about 
sixty-three tories were compelled to take the State oath of alle- 
giance, before allowed to remain in the county.^ 

One of the early laws affecting the tory element was the confis- 
cation acts. Considerable attention was given to this issue, and 
the tories had some sympathizers in the county. Many were con- 
nected with them by kindred ties and mutual feeling. With this 
background it is interesting to kiiow how Edgecombe would sup- 
port the law of confiscation. A bill concerning lands which had 
been confiscated by the State passed in the House of Commons, 
and was subsequently received by the Senate. In May, 1783, 
Elisha Battle, senator from Edgecombe, refused to support the 
bill and voted against its passage. Four years later the session of 
the G^eral Assembly was held in Tarboro. Party differences, 
which were buried in obUvion in 1776, were reawakened when 
State and national issues came to the fore in 1787. Etheldred 
Philips, one of the representatives from the county, became an 
active supporter of the tory cause. The patriotic spirit, which 
was then predominate, actuated him to be mild in his support, 
however, and the matter of determining the disposition of Loyalist 
property, elicited a stand against confiscating lands, unless a trial 
^y jury was given. This stand by Battle and Philips caused n> 
little interest in local politics, and had influence on the attitude 
these men took in 1788. 

^ Jamet Lanfttoii was district officer. James Milner and William Taping refosed 
to take oath and were driyen from the State. 


PoLTTios After the Revolution 105 

In the meantime it became evident, both from indications iu 
Congress and in the State, that the advocates for different meas- 
ures were fast arranging themselves into two distinct parties. 
The conflict of war was soon to be forgotten in the bitter stragi^le 
for political supremacy. It was apparent that the one great issue 
which was to elicit party lines was to be that of ratifying the Con- 
stitution. The legislature called a convention to meet at Hills- 
boro July, 1788. Curiously enough it was soon known that one of 
the most prominent leaders in North Carolina — Willie Jones — 
was to oppose the adoption of the new Constitution. Many others 
in the State were moved with a similar spirit. It was the begin- 
ning of parties ; party intrigues, and alliances in !N'orth Carolina. 
James Iredell, one of the political giants of this time, became a 
strong advocate for a strong Federal Government, while Willie 
Jones, Timothy Bloodworth, and David Caldwell for the repub- 
lican spirit. 

Meanwhile local sentiment in Edgecombe was shaping the minds 
of the people for participation in the pending struggle. The elec- 
tions for delegates to the convention was held in April, resulting 
in the defeat of the Federal element. In this election the Bevolu- 
tionary spirit had not entirely disappeared, and it was natural 
that men of the conservative type should have the honor of repre- 
senting the county in the first State convention. Edgecombe 
elected Elisha Battle, Bobert Digges, Etheldred Gray, William 
Fort, and Bythel BelL Elisha Battle was a man of considerable 
ability, wise, and an ardent Bepublican. He was a survival of the 
Revolutionary struggle, who still kept intact his wisdom, counsel, 
and his usual fairness in political controversy. The other dele- 
gates were also of the Bepublican tendency. 

The delegates met with the convention in HiUsboro, July 25, 
1788. The principal object was to deliberate and determine a plan 
for a Federal Government. Battle was placed on the committee 
to draw up rules of decorum. Gray was placed on the committee 
of elections. During the procedure of the convention James Ire- 
dell, a strong Federalist, proposed a series of amendments to the 
Constitution, whereby certain power was to be delegated to Con- 
gress, which would strengthen the Federal Government. This 
proposal strengthened the existing party lines, and the Edgecombe 
delegation, true to the principles of Bepublicanism, cast its votes 

106 History of Edgecombe Countt 

solidly in the negative and with the majority. The convention, 
while the majority wanted ratification, neither ratified nor re- 
jected the Constitution proposed for the government of the United 

It is obvious, according to the Edgecombe vote, that Bepublican 
tendencies were predominate in the county. Later evidences sub- 
stantiate this statement. This did not mean, however, that the 
county or its delegates were adverse to ratifying the Constitution, 
but that objection was voiced to the Federal amendment proposed 
by Iredell. 

In the meantime the people of Edgecombe addressed a letter of 
grievance to Governor Samuel Johnson, in which they claimed 
they suflFered by the decision of the late convention. They accord- 
ingly recommended another convention. The following year a 
convention was called to meet in Fayetteville on the 3d of No- 
vember. Edgecombe sent Etheldred Gray, Jeremiah Hilliard, 
Etheldred Philips, William Fort, and Thomas Blount. Only two 
of the previous delegates were returned. Thomas Blount was per- 
haps the most able man in the delegation. He was a man of 
the Revolutionary school, having enlisted as an ensign, at the age 
of seventeen. He was taken prisoner during the war ; sent to Eng- 
land, and returned after the cessation of hostilities. At the time 
of the convention he was a merchant in Tarboro, and later became 
one of the earliest Republican congressmen from this district. 

After the convention was called to order and the preliminaries 
were dispensed with, it resolved itself into a committee of the 
whole convention. Inmiediately amendments were proposed by the 
Federalists to be laid before Congress. When the vote was called 
Phillips, Blount, and Hilliard voted negatively. Gray and Fort 
were either not present or refused to vote. The majority desiring 
ratification, but preferring ratification without amendments, the 
question of concurring with the convention was placed on motion, 
and Philips, Blount, Hilliard, and Fort voted affirmatively. Gray 
failed to vote. 

This decided tendency of Republicanism was prevalent in the 
county on all issues affecting national and State policies. In 
1790, just before the question of refunding the State debts incurred 
during the Revolution, and the rise of the !N'ational Bank, Presi- 
dent Washington, for political reasons, planned a journey through 


Politics Aptbs the Revolution 107 

the Southern States. In 1791 he turned his attention southward, 
and in March he began his tour, arriving in !N'orth Carolina in 

He visited Halifax on April 16th, and started for Tarboro on 
the morning of the 18th. He was met at Boanoke River by 
Colonel Ashe, representative of the district, who escorted him to 
Tarboro.^ (Jeneral Washington was welcomed with a warm hos- 
pitality, being saluted with a single piece of artillery, and cordially 
entertained at the '^beautiful residence overlooking Tar River," 
belonging at the time to Major Reading Blount. "No man possessed 
greater acumen in observing the political sentiments of the people 
than Qeneral Washington, and with tact and ingenuity he sought 
the people's opinion of the political issues of the day. 

It is not to be inferred that because party beginning were evi- 
dent in the State and county, in 1788, the county was organized at 
once into a political machine with definite platforms and issues. 
Nothing could be further from correct. Indeed legislators, sheriffs, 
and other officers were elected in the same old way, with nothing 
more than minor local issues to determine a difference in candi- 
dates for several years. 

In November, 1790, the first political boundaries were estab- 
lished in North Carolina. The State was divided into five divi- 
sions for a more effective means of electing Representatives to 
United States Congress and other political positions. Edgecombe, 
and eight other eastern counties, formed the Roanoke division, and 
like the other districts were allowed one representative to Con- 
gress, eligible after being a resident of one of the counties from 
which elected for at least one year. The procedure of the election 
is worthy of comment in order to understand something of the po- 
litical machinery of that day. The sheriff of each county in the 
district was the returning officer; constituted the political boss 
with considerable power and authority. It was the duty of the 
sheriff on the first day of February to repair to Tarboro to count 
the votes cast in order to determine which candidate had received 
the greatest number. 

Separate and special means were devised for those in the militia 
to vote during elections. In 1800 a special law was enacted giv- 

^Preddent WMhinfton took noon-d*7 meal with one Slaughter, about fourteen 
miles from Tarboro. 

108 History op Edgboombb County 

ing Edgecombe the privilege to muster at the home of Joseph 
Pender and James Phillips for separate elections. It appears^ 
however, that this law was ignored by the field officers in the 
county, who desired to muster, as formerly, at Tarboro. The 
legislature passed an amendment forbidding a muster at Tarboro 
in order to make the demands to muster at Pender's and Phillips' 
more emphatic and mandatory. The results of this law afforded 
much convenience to the inhabitants of the county. The residence 
of Pender gave Captain Eason, Todd, Eobbins, Wood, and Ruth 
an opportunity to register and vote their men in the western part 
of the county without having to proceed some forty miles to Tar- 
boro. Moreover the distance from Tarboro offered a good reason 
for the citizens of ITorthern Edgecombe to petition for a separate 
election. Phillips' residence was accordingly designated as a place 
for mustering and Daniel Boss, Jeremiah Hillard, David Copfield, 
Sherwood Savage, and Elias Bryant were elected as a committee 
to supervise the elections. 

The sheriff or his deputies attended the election on the evening 
before and received all the votes from those eligible for suffrage. 
He opened the ballot at Tarboro on the evening of Friday after 
the second Thursday in August, in order to ascertain the candi- 
dates receiving the majority of votes. Precautionary measures 
were employed to prevent one citizen from voting twice, once at 
lyforthem Edgecombe and again at Tarboro. A fine of ten pounds 
was enacted as the penalty for detected parties, and the sheriff was 
not allowed to count the votes until all suffrages were taken. All 
ballots from Pender's and Phillips' were carried to Tarboro in a 
sealed box until all the districts voted. The seal was broken in 
the presence of the inspectors, sealed again until the election in 

The Congressional election 1793 was full of excitement and 
thrilling episodes. John B. Ashe, of Halifax, had the first honor 
of representing this district in Congress, but with the new election 
he was succeeded by Thomas Blount, of Edgecombe. There was 
an entire change in the delegation, and a rapid departure of the 
policies which caused the obvious election of a new candidate. 
The anti-Federalists were rapidly assuming new power both in 
Congress and the State legislature. State politics and the legisla- 

Politics After thb Rbvolution 109 

ture had previous to this time been comparatively conservative, 
but in 1794 Edgecombe substituted John Leigh, an astute poli- 
tician and reputed parliamentarian of Bepublican principles. 

He served as chairman of the House for several sessions, begin- 
ning from 1795^ at which time there arose an increasing bitterness 
between the Federals and the Kepublicans over the interpretation 
of the Federal Constitution, and the foreign policy of the Ameri- 
can Government. The State generally witnessed an exasperating 
effect at the decline (although not defeat) of the Bepublicans in 
1796. They resented without avail the encroachments of the Fed- 
erals in disregarding the agreements laid down in the Federal 
compact. The powers were limited, but the Federal leaders were 
using unlimited powers in accomplishing policies of State, both in 
finance and pending war with France. There was a warm contest 
in the fall election. John Leigh was defeated for Legislature by 
Colonel ITathan Mayo, a man of influence and some talent, but by 
the grace of much force, and campaigning, Thomas Blount was 
more successful and remained in Congress.^ 

Federalism lost its influence in national affairs, until the elec- 
tion of Jefferson in 1801. It began a downward pace which culmi- 
nated in failure owing to the loss of its principal leader, Alexander 
Hamilton, in 1806. North Carolina was Republican, with every 
hamlet carrying the banner of Jefferson and Democracy. Every 
position almost, in ITorth Carolina, was occupied by a Republican. 
But this was too much of a happy state to be permanent. Too 
sweet and memorable for history, and too full of satiety for ease. 

With the retirement of Jefferson in 1809, Mr. Madison assumed 
the presidency, inheriting the foreign complications which were 
far from being settled. He was possessed with taciturnity and 
irresolutions, which caused him to rely upon his party supporters. 
This gave the Federalists an opportunity to get new breath and 
an opportunity to push their interest, which had been inactive for 
nearly ten years. In the revival of party spirit in 1809 Edgecombe 
County became the scene for a warm campaign, so much so that 

>Th<nnaa Bloont, the son of Jacob Blount, was born May 10, 1759. After the 
war he entered into a partnership with his brother, John Qray Blount, of Wash- 
liifton, N. 0., and ran a branch store at Tarboro. These brothers conducted a large 
mercantile and shipping business. Thomas Blount died in Washington City in 1812, 
and being a member of Congress at the time, was buried in the Congressional 

110 Hdstobt op Edgbcombb County 

the Congressional election resulted in the election of Willis Aston, 
who though not an avowed Federalist, leaned toward that faith. 
From other sections of the State out and out Federalists were 

An important political issue affecting Edgecombe County at 
this time was being agitated in Iforth Carolina courts. Earl 
Granville heirs were attempting, through the Supreme Court of 
the United States, to lay valid claims to the property held by 
Earl Granville prior to the Revolution. To permit their claims 
would involve rights to land which were held by citizens of Edge- 
combe and other eastern counties, which had been cut off from 
Edgecombe since 1755. North Carolina courts had previously 
decided that the claims were invalid. The county was secured 
from further trouble and embarrassment by the death of Francis 
Key, counsel for the British heirs. Edgecombe politicians resented 
further inquiries in the matter, when the issue became one of 
national debate. Lined up with Edgecombe representatives in the 
State legislature were the representatives from Halifax, Granville, 
Nash, Johnston, and Pitt counties. The matter reached a success- 
ful conclusion, however, in 1809, when the suit was dismissed 
through the want of bond to push the case. 

The Federalists in the county were still weak when the year 
1811 found North Carolina on the verge of assisting in the war 
of 1812. Not all Bepublicans thought that the nation was in 
favor of war, and Edgecombe especially was lukewarm as repre- 
sented by Thomas Blount. The following year a bitter campaign 
was conducted among the candidates for Congress. Mr. Blount, 
who was deceased, was succeeded by Willis Alston, Jr., of Halifax. 

About this time there appeared a figure which was destined 
to make the annals of Edgecombe history glitter with political 
fervor. A man with a purpose in view, and with a career to make, 
came to the forefront in politics and war. Louis D. Wilson loved 
Edgecombe with a loyal love, and although he possessed no 
classical education nor a genius, he became a figure of value to the 
public welfare. At each session of the legislature to which he was 
elected he was becoming more familiar and effective as a politician 
and legislator. The life of Wilson presents both a saddened and 
brilliant glare upon the archives of Edgecombe's political history. 

Politics Afteb the Revolution 111 

His first prominent appearance upon the political arena was in 
1827. Democracy in Edgecombe had gained a foothold, which 
grew stronger and stronger as this political genius grew in power. 
The thirteenth district, of which Edgecombe was a part, put out 
two candidates for presidential elector — William Clark, of Pitt, 
and Louis D. Wilson, of Edgecombe. They agreed upon no elec- 
tioneering, and it is doubtful if the records of the national and 
State elections could furnish a parallel. Frauds, corruption, and 
bribery existed in all parts of the country. A militia company, 
under Captain White, remained at Beach Swamps during the 

The county, however, by the time of the election, was decidedly 
in favor of Jackson. The newspapers sounded the trumpet of 
Adams buying the presidential chair from Clay, by giving the 
latter the office of Secretary of State. The circulation of pamph- 
lets throughout the county to this effect injured Adams, and de- 
creased the number of votes for him. A freeman in his broken 
English wrote a letter to the Tarhoro Free Press, October 27, 
1827, that Clay and Adams ought to be tied together, and cast 
into the Chesapeake Bay. Strange to say this man voiced the 
opinions also of the majority of n^ro voters, who thought Jack- 
son should be the next President, because he would round out 
some of the 'T)ig folks" at Washington, and let them know wha% it 
was to "fool with the free men of the country." 

The returns of the election showed seventy-nine votes for Jack- 
son and only three for Adams. This return was immediately pro- 
tested and submitted to the editor of the United States Telegraph 
to solve. The announcement that all Jackson voters, after the 
votes were counted, would be given plenty to eat and drink de- 
cided the majority. 

Immediately after Jackson's election two political issues be- 
came prominent, one of which has lasted to the present day. The 
first of these was that of the tariff. Edgecombe County today 
has a survival of the old theory advanced during Jackson's admin- 
istration. Before Jackson was inaugurated, several journals in 
the eastern counties held him up to the people as an advocate of 
the policy of protection, but they had remained totally silent as 
regarded Adams' opinion on the same subject. The editor of the 
Tarhoro Free Press, in voicing the sentiments of the citizens of 
Edgecombe, sent out a declaration of their opinions. They were 

112 HisTOBT OF Edgegombb County 

in favor of a judicioiiB ezaminatioii of the reTision of the tariff, 
and in bo far as it embraced the design of fostering, protecting, 
and preserving within themselves the means of national defense 
and independence, particularly in a state of war, they supported it 

The condition of the times — ^burden of the Revolution and War 
of 1812,^ the issue of bonds and internal improvements — demanded 
a careful and judicious tariff to pay off the national debt, and to 
afford a means of defense on which the safety of the country and 
the liberty of the people depended. The eastern people, however, 
never favored direct taxation to pay this great national debt, and 
it has always been a known fact that they desire protection on 
other resources than their own. 

This opinion was expressed by a public meeting on September 
17, 1827. The citizens gathered at James Bridgers, where a vote 
was taken against the tariff, one hundred and twenty-seven against 
and none in favor of the measure. A resolution was drawn up, 
signifying that the present tariff law of the United States was 
^^iniquitous in principle, oppressive in operation, adverse to the 
intent and spirit of the Constitution, and dangerous to the in- 
tegrity of the Union." The politicians opposed the suggestion of 
a convention of the friends of States Bights (the second issue fol- 
lowing Jackson's election) and ^Tree Trade.'' 

On the 22d of September, 1827, a considerable number of voters 
of the county assembled at the court house and considered the 
project of sending delegates to Free Trade Convention, which was 
to assemble in Philadelphia on the 30th of September. Both 
meetings, one on the 17th, another on the dOth, agreed on the 
nature of Free Trade and its consequences, and appointed Louis 
D. Wilson and Francis L. Dancy delegates to attend the convention 
in behalf of Edgecombe in order to redress the wrongs of the people 
in the county. Freetrade became such a popular movement that 
goods were advertised in the county as free trade goods. 

The first public demonstration of State rights in Edgecombe 
occurred in the fall of 1827 during the election of W. Little, who 
was a rising politician of promising ability and influence. He 

^ Edgecombe made Taluable contoibution to this war. Edgecombe troops were in 
Fifth Brigade, gave one colonel, one major, fifteen captains, fifteen first lieutenants, 
fourteen ensigns, and one adjntant, one paymaster, one surgeon on the brigade 
staff. It also gave more than 1,000 firearms, including shot guns, muskets, rifles, 
cespontoons, and cartridge boxes. It sent 1,209 privates, sergeants, cori>orals, drum* 
mers, flfers, and one major general. 

PoLiTiCB After ths Rbyolutioh 113 

offered a toast at a political meeting which opened the waj for 
further agitation on this issue, '^Arise, North Carolina," he said, 
^'shake off the yoke, proclaim your states rights, be free and may 
the Heavens protect you." 

On December 22d of the same year, a notice was issued for a 
meeting to be held in the town of Stantonburg, now in Wilson 
County, for the citizens of Edgecombe, Green, and Wayne coun- 
ties to express their sentiments in regard to the presidential elec- 
tion. Approximately 250 people were present; William Speight 
was elected chairman and Thomas Speight, secretary. A com- 
mittee was appointed consisting of Thomas Speight, Dr. Blake 
Little, Benjamin Miller, Patrick S. Comwell, and Will Little to 
prepare resolutions for the consideration of the meeting. A better 
insight can be obtained as to the condition and nature of the issue 
by the f oUowing preamble this committee submitted : 

"It is the undoubted birthright of every American citizen to 
express publicly his opinion both of public men and measures. 
In order, however, to give time and energy to this most important 
and popular prerogative, it should be resorted to only in cases. 

'*Be it resolved, therefore, that we, the free people of Edge- 
combe, Wayne, and Greene, wiU use our utmost execution to pro- 
mote the election of (General Jackson to the presidential chair." 
This resolution was the voice of the meeting, as was, and now is, 
the custom. Great political symbdls were made as toasts, begin- 
ning with (General Washington, the Father of the country, and 
concluding with General Jackson, sitting at the helm of the great 
national ship, with Commodore Porter for his pilot and J. C. 
Calhoun, first mate. 

It is worthy of notice that the Edgecombe citizens did not vary 
from the rules of politicians in this meeting. A moral issue was 
accepted as a plank in abolishment of corruption, and the moral 
support of a protection of the "Fair Sex." The Adams, Clay, and 
Co., the political intriguers, were to be hurled from their seats 
and recollected only for their "catalogue of crimes." 

Edgecombe politicians were very much against internal im- 
provements. One of the campaign slogans was: 'internal im- 
provement by Congress at a wrong place, a wrong time and by 
wrong men." 


114 HisTOBT OF Edoboombb County 

By 1830 States rights theory was very strongly lodged in the 
minds of the Edgecombe Democrats. The movement was more 
popularly supported when it became known that James Iredell 
declined to be re-elected to the United States Senate. Edge- 
combe politicians began to consider the man who was next best 
fitted to uphold the political end of the government. They 
favored and supported Jackson's administration. A circular de- 
cree in the form of advertisement was issued for one who would 
manfully and ably defend the glorious cause in which the friends 
of ^^States Rights" were engaged. They wanted a man who had 
identified himself with the cause of Jackson and his reform. To 
this end the name of General Speight, of the Newborn district, 
received the prompt approval of the majority of the Democrats in 

With the close of the contest of 1828 between Adams and Jack- 
son, the bank bill became an issue of absorbing interest to the 
Edgecombe politicians. The Adams party believed in internal 
improvements, expansion of the Constitution and high protective 
tariff. These policies, however, died an easy and gradual death 
under the astute plans of Jackson. 

The themes of Jefferson were once more resorted to in the con- 
flict, and the split of the two wings of the Republican party fol- 
lowed. Edgecombe supported Jackson in the fight until toward 
the close of the second administration. 

The question and controversy over the banks demanded the first 
consideration of the people after Jackson's inauguration. In 
Jackson's first speech he had intimated that the banks as they were 
constituted were unconstitutionaL This proved to be a mere bo- 
ginning of a long stniggle, and one which Edgecombe had a con- 
siderable share. In the State Legislature in 1811 Edgecombe had 
lifted her voice against the rechartering of the bank when the bill 
was before the State Assembly. But by 1816 the sentiment 
changed, and Clark, of Edgecombe, voted, with a considerable ma- 
jority, in favor of rechartering the bank a second time. In this 
instance, however, the Republicans supported, and the Federalists 
opposed the measure. Without any hesitancy of speech, Jackson 
openly declared he opposed further expansion of the bank by 

PoLiTiCB After the Revolution 115 

granting charters or otherwise. Where would Edgecombe cast 
her voice? FoDow political creeds or yield to economic interest 
and needs? 

In 1839 the State bank question was taken before the General 
Assembly of North Carolina. For the time being the policies of 
Jackson were ignored and party prejudice eliminated. As a con- 
sequence of this and much other agitation it was rejected by the 
Commons in the March session of 1829. Moreover, much conflict 
arose from the appointment of a committee to investigate. This 
committee was invested with power to examine persons and to 
ascertain the exact conditions of the bank. It was soon discovered 
that two parties existed among the members of the committee, 
those who desired to present the banks in the worst light possible 
and those who sought to palliate their conduct in handling the 
financial affairs of the State. The result was an agreement could 
not be obtained on a single report. Each party, therefore, made 
its own report; one describing the banks in the darkest colors, 
and the other palliating any offense and act of the banking institu- 

Several days after the reports were made and the bill had been 
rejected, the Grand Jury at the March Term of the Superior 
Court of Edgecombe discharged their duties as Grand Jurors, 
and took in consideration the presentments made by the committee 
from Wayne and DupUn counties. The jury expressed its opinion 
inviting the attention of the citizens to the pecuniary embarrass- 
ment of the people, the conditions of the banks, and recommended 
an extra session of the (General Assembly of the State to take the 
subject into their exclusive jurisdiction. The excuse given for the 
activity of the Grand Jury was evidenced by the results and atti- 
tudes of the two above-named counties. 

The subject in itself, excluding the political side, was of vital 
importance to the people. Edgecombe was an infant in banking 
institutions and her industries were just beginning to become of 
financial value. A few of the more unbiased and thoughtful 
people knew something of the wishes and interests of the county 
generally. It cannot, therefore, be said that the jurors attempted 
to abuse their power, in expressing the opinion given to them by 
the people. Nor did they discuss the question of expending or 
constitutionality of the establishment of the bank in the State, nor 

116 HisTOBY OF Edoecombb Cottntt 

did they go into an agreement in order to show the causes which 
had produced the derangement of the currency at that time; but 
the people were^ they asserted, greatly indebted to the banks, and 
that the banks had contributed largely in the production of the 
present state of affairs. 

Edgecombe honestly believed that the people were greatly in- 
debted to the banks and needed them for business purpose. How- 
erer, as to actual conditions of the debt and the resources of the 
people to meet it, they said : 

'To the different banks of the State, the people owe at least five 
million dollars the whole debt due from the institutions do not 
exceed four hundred thousand dollars." This view of the banks 
would seem to anticipate a closing up of all banking interest. 
But such is not the time impression, for nearly six years remained 
to complete the process of demonstration of finances. The time 
had been in the county when some of the people considered it a 
credit to owe the bank ; they then considered it less than no credit. 
The people, however, instead of being in the debt of banks, were 
also indebted to each other. It became a question of owing an 
individual or owing a bank, some people will be in debt, and a 
sacrifice of property, in some instances, cannot be avoided. It is 
the natural consequence of trade and business relations, and no 
constitutional act can prevent it. The situation then resolves 
into this: The people desired legislature to compel the banks to 
extend to their indebtors every indulgence which their situations 
might demand. iN'aturally this would work hardships on the bank 
or at least would not we workable business policy, because they 
would be forced to exercise forebearance in their collections, ex- 
cept interest during the sunmier and fall months. Then, too, it 
is easy to see why the people were unanimously in favor of the 
view of Grand Jurors. 

In the meantime local politics was being waged in the county 
between the Republicans and Jackson followers. Following 
Jackson's election. Major James W. Clark was appointed clerk to 
Jackson Electoral College of North Carolina. He had been a 
member of both branches of the State L^slature, Representative 
in Congress and principal del^ate to the Senate. He was des- 
tined to run a political race with some of his colleagues in his 
native county. 

Politics Aftbb the REvoLimoN 117 

ThoioiLs H. Hally who had been elected congressman, was still in 
Congress at Washington under the sign of Democracy. The year 
1831 promised to be a heated campaign for him. There had ap- 
peared on the scene a young man of considerable ability and 
astuteness of mind. This person was no less than Joseph R. Loyd. 
He was practically a self-made man and a lawyer of no little repu- 
tation. Through his courtesy of manner, and his kindness and 
polite attitude toward the people, he had acquired much influence 
in the county. The time for campaign of 1831 came on and J. B. 
Loyd threw his hat in the political ring. He had already been a 
member of the State Legislature in 1821, being elected because of 
his popularity. Consequently there being no opposition from the 
Federalists, Loyd began the race, with Dr. Hall, who was also a 
Bepublican, as a candidate for Congress. It is not enough to say 
Loyd was a promising candidate. He was a strong opponent, and 
Dr. Hall knew it. Francis Dancy, of Tarboro, was a very ardent 
supporter of Dr. Hall, and being somewhat alarmed over the rapid 
increase of Loyd's influence issued a circular June 30, 1831, 
claiming that Loyd in 1821 had voted, while representing Edg^ 
combe in the legislature, in favor of a bill introduced by John 
Stanley which would decrease the jurisdiction of a single justice 
from $100.00 to $20.00. This issue was considered very beneficial 
to the people, and equally injurious to the interests of the lawyers. 
This was done, Dancy claimed^ in order to benefit the lawyers. 

Since this accusation was made investigations show that Dancy 
was in error and that no such bill was introduced. Stanley did^ 
however, introduce a bill entitled a bill to preserve the rights of 
trial by jury, where the amount in controversy exceeded $20.00, 
but this did not reduce or purport to reduce the jurisdiction of a 
Justice of the Peace. This bill provided for an appeal in all 
cases from the decision of a justice when the amount exceeded 

It seems that most of Loyd's opposition came from Washington, 
where he was not so well known as Dr. HalL Claims came from 
that quarter that Loyd was also a Federalist and supported the 
principles of Adams. It is to Dr. Hall's credit that he carried on 
the campaign with Loyd in a clean and above board manner. He 
did Lloyd the justice to declare publicly that he was a Eepublican 
and stood for the principles of Jefferson and Jackson. 

118 HisTOBT OF Edoboombb County 

Dr. Hall, however, had a decided advantage on account of his 
varied experience in Congress and his splendid record there. It 
was certain that Dr. Hall's election would be secured, because of 
his vote to repeal the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act in 
1820. The opposition he had grew, out of his voting in favor of 
this repeal, and on his opposition to the internal improvement 
then in vogue throughout the county. Toward the close of the 
canvass on the 25th, the election was almost wholly abandoned, 
and the interest and the internal improvement question was pre- 
sented to the people for their approval or rejection. 

The score against Loyd, therefore, was decidedly in his disfavor 
and siBce he had no tangible plank in hia campaign platform he 
was defeated. 

In the meantime Jackson's second campaign was in its forma- 
tive state and political wheels began to turn for national results. 
One result of Edgecombe's activities could always be depended 
upon. The political pot always boiled out crowds of followers. 
It had been no trouble to create interest in a political campaign. 
Early in May, 1832, pursuant to a public notice the followers of 
Jackson began to rally around the Democratic banner. The citi- 
zens of Edgecombe met in the court house of Tarboro to express 
their opinion of the re-election of persons to fill the offices of 
President and Vice-President of the United States, and to appoint 
delegates to represent the county in the convention held in Colo- 
rado on the 18th of January, 1832. 

Besolutions were adopted as were thought to meet the approba- 
tion of the majority of the citizens of Edgecombe and contributed 
to the union of party feelings. There was at this time a tide in 
the affairs of the nation as well as in those of individuals, which 
was serving to disregard a national unity. The political tide was 
then moving with a rapid current and without men to demand 
the rights and interests of her people. Edgecombe, as all the 
South, would become like a ship on the ocean a wreck, surrender- 
ing its privilege and anticipation of future prosperity. The 
people felt this, they knew it, because a dissolution of the Union 
had been echoed again and again, not only in the United States, 
and the individual states, but in almost every county. It remained 
to be seen by party elections whether the prophecy of the times 
would be fulfilled. This then was the one great issue before the 

Politics Apteb thb Revolution 119 

voters of Edgecombe when they met at this meeting. In the safety 
of the inter^ts, the people were willing to safely confide in General 
Jackson's integrity and patriotism. The question of the Vice- 
President alone remained to be settled, Jackson's elected by some, 
*T)ut versus," the people said, ^'endeavor to reject for the Vice- 
President a statesman, distinguished for talents, political honestjr 
and other indispensible requisites for that responsible station." 
There were two prominent names before the people — ^Barbour, of 
Virginia, and Martin Van Buren, of New York. Between these 
two individuals the people had to make a choice; and in the re- 
election was undivided not only their present interest but their 
future destiny. If Van Buren should be elected he would be at 
the threshold of his ambitions, he would then in all probability 
become President to the exclusion of many distinguished citizens. 
Van Buren had no identity with the citizens of Edgecombe, he had 
assisted to oppress them by advocating and voting for the tariff 
of 1828. In this respect he had scattered no blessings in the 
patriotic regions of the South. 

In contrast to Van Buren, Barbour claims were indisputable 
to the people. He was the pride of Virginia; consequently of 
North Carolina, and especially Edgecombe. The results of the 
meeting was a support of Jackson and Barbour. The people 
forgot that Jackson himself was in the harness with Van Buren, 
and were desirous to elect him. 

The question of State rights again became prominent in the 
campaign, and Jackson's alliance with Van Buren was the 
principal cause of the publicity which the movement acquired. 
Strange to say an element in Edgecombe adhered to Van Buren 
and supported the policies he advocated even in defiance of the 
views of the more extreme southerners. A convention was called 
at Raleigh in 1832 and Joseph R. Loyd was elected as delegate 
from Edgecombe. It is unnecessary to go into the discussion of 
the convention. Loyd remained quiet during the debate until Mr. 
Obrien from QranviUe County stated the grounds on which 
Van Buren's pretensions to Vice-President were founded. During 
this discourse Loyd was awakened and with all that eloquence 
with which he was master, he set forth his views, rather than the 
opinion of his fellow-citizens at home, upon the political issue. 

120 History of Edgboombb County 

Lloyd began by saying that North Carolina came into the 
Union cautiously; she was one of the last to adopt the Constitu- 
tion, and would be one of the last to desert the Union. '^The 
people of this State and county/' he said, ^^are not prepared to 
go into extremities/' This was the first meeting which had been 
called to express the feelings on the critical state of the county. 
The people preferred this opportunity of voing to settle the con- 
f usion, because it eould be done in a mild and constructive manner. 
They preferred to do it by showing that they would advance no 
man to office whose opinions were adverse to the interests of the 
Southern States. Lloyd could not have expressed his feelings on 
this subject better than by voting in favor of Barbour in prefer- 
ence to Van Buren. In doing so he exerted his influence to put 
down a man who had supported the tariff system. The main point 
of the whole campaign was to do away with the party's power 
until the national debt was paid. 

At the same hour that the convention was being addressed by 
Lloyd, a Yan Buren meeting was held in Edgecombe where all 
the Van Buren followers gathered with Barbour's supporters. 
The meeting was addressed by several speakers, after which reso- 
lutions approbatory of Phillip P. Barbour were offered and the 
ayes and noes taken. It soon became apparent that the friends 
of Barbour would be unsuccessful in passing the resolutions, and 
they offered a polite invitation to the Van Buren men to retire. 
They contended that the meeting was an anti-Van Buren meeting, 
and that the Yan Buren men had no authority to be there. The 
Yan Buren men submissively retired, leaving behind the Barbour 
men and neutrals. 

After the anti-Yan Buren meeting adjourned, the Yan Buren 
men reassembled in the court house. The meeting was addressed 
by Louis D. Wilson, R. R. Hines, and Moses Baker. The Yan 
Buren faction remained unanimous with the anti-Yan Buren fac- 
tion, however, on the President, but expressed the highest confi- 
dence in Martin P. Yan Buren as a politician of true Democratic 

In the meantime the Whig element made its first appearance in 
the county. The Whigs constituted the party which became op- 
posed to Jackson in 1834. Mature men who favored Adams as a 
general rule also allied themselves with the Whig party. The 

Politics Aftbs the Revolution 121 

entry of this party into politics at Edgecombe came after the de- 
feat of Van Bnren followers. They took the issue of opposition to 
all progressive movements as a platform upon which to solicit 
recognition from their fellow-citizens. The first opposition made 
against any of these movements was the fight they lodged against 
the railroads and theology. 

The Whigs in advocating their freedom as an issue for politics 
stayed the progress of industry in so far as lay in their power. 
Whigery of the county, in its enlightened democracy with sleep- 
less vigilance, retarded the movement of all internal improvements 
and ignored every attempt to carry out any project that tended to 
increase taxation. An issue of this nature was sure to find several 
enthusiastic supporters in Edgecombe, for it is plainly evident that 
the politicians had always fought against any system which would 
increase taxation. For this reason vehement protests were not 
lacking when the railroad project was just inaugurated in ]!Torth 
Carolina. The fact also that the Whigs opposed theological 
schools shows that the popularity of the movement was one of 
the cardinal principles which actuated the party in its adoption 
of the platform. 

In the Tarboro Free Press, October 25, 1833, an article ap- 
peared, issued by the Whigs of that vicinity, versus the incorpora- 
tion of theological schools. It was addressed to the General 
Assembly of the State of North Carolina. It was very easy to see 
that a religious creed of a partisan became mixed with his politics 
in this opposition. Two petitions were before the General As- 
sembly at the session 1833 for incorportion of two theological 
schools. The Whigs and sectarian writers claimed that the incor- 
poration of same would be an abuse of power, and the end of such 
corporations a subversion of the rights of both civil and religious 
Uberty. The legislature might, the writer asserted, as well incor- 
porate churches as incorporate theologicl schools, and might as 
well legislate on the doctrine of religion or on the ordinances or 
on the duties of religion, as on the ministry of religion. The 
right that gives the one, gives the other, or the same power that 
could do that could do the other, for nothing stood nearer related 
and more connected with religion than that of the ministry, for 
without it, would there have been a state of religion! It was 
obvious that the Whigs had an argument, and the legislature had 

122 HiBTOBY OF Edgscoicbb County 

no precedent to act upon; the law producing religion in a tedmical 
sense. Would not the theological schools produce religious laws in 
the end? This was the issue laid before the l^slature by the 
Whigs. The strife became bitter with a theological discussion 
among various politicians and the church people of the county. It 
finally cuhninated into a church and State affair, and was instru- 
mental in getting many from the Whig party and church. The 
Whigs secured the public sentiment primarily from the results 
of taxation in case the schools were incorporated. A writer, com- 
menting later on this subject and the progress in the county, said : 
"It's the priests' hope to get dominion over the public mind and 
command of the purses of our people by means of theological 
schools incorporations. The Whigs of Edgecombe hesitate not 
to investigate the designs and dangers which he concealed under 
their speeches, beginning of authority, plunder and put the people 
of the legislature on their guard." 

The quick rallying around the Whig banner and the opposition 
of the Bepublicans, changed the tone of politics in the county, and 
caused a support to be given to the national Democratic candidate. 
The increase of votes for the Whig party in Edgecombe grew 
firm in the year 1834, when Democratic votes totaled 1,395 votes 
for candidates to Congress, and 1,320 votes for Dr. Hall in 1836. 
Mr. Pettigrew, the Whig candidate, received 75 votes. Dr. Hall, 
the election previous to this, had received only 1,091 votes and 
with no opposition. In spite of this overwhehning vote for 
Dr. Hall in 1836, Mr. Pettigrew was elected to represent this dis- 
trict in Congress. This clearly indicates the spontaneous rise of 
Whig influence in the eastern counties of the State. In addition 
to this the anti-Jackson element in Edgecombe, which had openly 
declared for the Whig party, had grown considerably stronger, 
and the district gave seven anti-Jackson members to the General 
Assembly, whereas the Jackson party gave only eleven. 

In 1836 when the split finally culminated between the Jackson 
and Van Buren element, the Whigs were given additional strength. 
In spite of the fact that Edgecombe gave the largest Van Buren 
majority of any county in the State — 1,175 votes — the Whig party 
had gained more than 30 per cent more votes than in the previous 
local election. The Democrats had lost more than 255 votes since 

Politics Aftbb the Revolution 123 

the year 1836. Tlie ancient party, however, remained firm, con- 
sistent, and unshaken in her principles and unbroken in her 

The following year more enthusiasm existed in county than in 
its previous history. The Democratic party saw, with jealous eye, 
the rapid encroachment upon the virgin soil of democracy by the 
Whigs. The Whig convention met in Washington, N. C, for the 
district, on the 7th of April, 1837. Josiah CoUens, of Washington, 
was nominated for the Whig candidate for Congress. The fer- 
menting of the Whig machinery elicited recognition and immediate 
action on the part of the Democrats. The next day a large meet- 
ing was held at Captain W. Y. Bullock's in Edgecombe. 

The following is an extract of the Democratic fight versus the 
Whigs from the Tarboro Free Press: 

"On the 8th day of April, 1837, Eobert Barnes was called to the 
chair, and David G. Baker, Esq., was appointed secretary. Benja- 
min R. nines, Thomas J. Bullock, Dr. J. J. Daniels, and David G. 
Baker were appointed a committee to draft resolutions expressive 
of the sentiments of the meeting. 

"After having retired a short time the committee reported the 
following resolutions, which, on motion of B. R. Hines, were read 
by Dr. J. J. Daniels, who advocated them in a strenuous but brief 
maimer, and was followed by B. R. Hines, who also advocated 
their adoption: 

^^HESEAS, The people have the constitutional right to assemble 
together for the purpose of taking into consideration the political 
condition of our country, and to consult each other, as to the mode 
the most propitious for the perpetuation of our liberties and 
rights : and whereas, a time has arrived the most momentous that 
has ever existed since the organization of our Government, which 
certainly calls loudly for a full expression of opinion individually 
and collectively. We, a portion of the Democratic citizens of 
Edgecombe County, N. C, who have met together in conformity 
with such rights, do think it essentially requisite to adopt the 
following resolutions: 

'^Resolved, That we believe that efforts are making by the advo- 
"cates of modem Whigism and vicious fanaticism, to upset our 
venerated Constitution and our sacred Union ; and that it becomes 
us, as lovers of liberty and advocates of those patriotic principles 

124 HisTOBY OF Edgeoombb County 

80 nobly achieved to us by our ancestors, to scorn all attempts of 
that kind, and use all exertions in our power to prevent such a sad 

''Resolved, That we believe it to be essentially necessary to the 
cause of democracy and liberty, to present an undivided front in 
support of a Democratic candidate to represent this Congressional 
district ^NTo. 3, or else our cause so pure and so sacred must be 

"Resolved, That the long experience of the Honorable Thomas 
H. Hall, as well as his firm, able, independent and consistent 
course, so often verified in the national legislature, entitle him to 
our confidence and should ensure him the support of the Demo- 
cratic party throughout the district. 

"Resolved, That we feel disposed to support him in preference 
to any other individual in the district, and earnestly request the 
Democratic party to unite with us in a cause so noble and so 
essentially requisite for the cause of liberty and the Constitution. 

"Resolved, That our reluctance to give him up for any other 
individual induces us to positively give him our undivided sup- 
port, should we not obviously see that our cause of democracy 
must be defeated by so doing. 

"Resolved, That his claims to the office are undoubted, and jus- 
tice to our cause as well as his consistent and able course hereto- 
fore so ably manifested, forbid us doing otherwise than putting 
him in nomination." 

The above preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted. 

A. committee of four individuals was appointed to inform 
Dr. Hall of his nomination and request him to say whether or not 
he would serve the people if elected, or whether the nomination 
met with his acceptance. 

In the meantime disagreements arose over the advisaUlity of 
running Dr. Hall as the Eepublican candidate for Senate. 
Dr. Hall acted with decorum in the matter, and not wishing to 
impair the influence and strength of the party by causing a split 
wrote the Tarboro Free Press, May 13, 1837, that since his name 
had been placed before the district as a candidate for office, he 
found that many respectable members of the party would have 
preferred some other. Naturally Dr. Hall saw that the unity of 
feeling would not exist and that this desirable effect must be 

Politics After the Involution 125 

prevalent if the Bepublicans were to defeat the Whigs. Dr. Hall 
accordingly withdrew his name in a most gentlemanly manner, 
and that without engendering any degree of ill will toward the 
party and all concerned. This is one of the marked greatnesses 
of the man, who for more than a decade so faithfully represented 
Edgecombe in Congress, and in other important civil and political 

After Dr. Hall's withdrawal only one prospective candidate re- 
mained, namely, Louis D. Wilson. Wilson was then gaining 
ascendancy in the opinion of the people, and his influence was 
working an impression upon the district as well. He was well in 
his prime and almost in the zenith of his political power. He 
had been the choice of the people in 1835, with Phesanton Suggs 
to represent Edgecombe in the convention of that year. He took 
an active part in amending the Constituion in the respect of 
depriving free negroes and mulattoes under forty years of age to 
vote for members of the Senate and Congress. With his political 
insight and his acquisition of thought and action he gained many 
new supporters in this campaign. 

President Van Buren inherited from Jackson a great trouble 
and no less problem in the dying struggle of the United States 
Bank. In the contest beween the Whigs and Democrats this be- 
came the absorbing issue. That the public weal and the interests 
of the many unsuspecting and innocent people should have to 
suffer in the intense struggle for political supremacy is one of those 
sad realities handed down to posterity. The Whigs, in order to 
retain the foothold already gained by the weakening of the Dem- 
ocratic party, made the opposition to the iN'ational Bank their 
cardinal theme. It seems amazing at this day that men with such 
ingenuity and foresight like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster 
should have lent their power and influence to aid in the disastrous 

It presents a gloomy spectacle to witness old Edgecombe in the 
throes of political incubacy; struggling for party rights, yet 
ignoring the will of the people. However, the misty pages vanish 
under the stain of triumphancy, and the end of the campaign told 
the tale of democracy again instilled in the minds of many, and 
Whiggery maintaining her meager hold. Louis D. Wilson secured 

126 HisTOBY OF Edgboombb County 

1,167 votes versus Edward Stanley's 78 in the county. At the 
same time, however, there appeared a restlessness prevalent among 
the voters in the county. There was an urgent need to have a 
mutual understanding with prospective legislation to change or 
repeal the county law electing clerks for the County and Superior 
Courts, sheriffs and constable. The old systems were considered 
more convenient — that is, the appointment of such officers as were 
named by the courts. The promise of party spoils, however invit- 
ing, was never successful in persuading the people or politicians 
of the practicability of such a scheme. 

Amid the bitter controversy of the Whigs and Democrats over 
the bank and the tariff, the ^Tiideous spectre,^' of even a more 
dreadful issue was continually appearing to the front. The ques- 
tion of slavery, which many had hoped was forever settled in 
1920, was fast being revived by the Whigs, and far from solution. 
The unfurling of the Republican banner in 1839 was a movement 
b^uiled by the deceptive pretext of Federalism under a modem 
Whig garb. An alliance between the Federalists and Whigs gave 
the new party control over county politics in 1839 and 1840. 
Edward Stanley, Whig, had represented the district in Congress 
for three successive years. In addition local politics was gradu- 
ally passing from the Democrats to the Whigs. To add further 
to the complication and embarrassment of the Democratic party 
a farmer's ticket came out in 1840. This caused an additional 
decline of the Democratic party. There were accordingly three 
tickets. The Democrats, who supported R. M. Sanders for Gov- 
ernor; Louis D. Wilson, Senate; William S. Baker and Joshua 
Barnes, House of Congress, and M. Petway for Sheriff. The 
farmers' ticket supported the same candidates for President and 
Vice-President, Governor, Sheriff, but ran W. L. Kennedy for 
Senate. The Federal Whigs of course supported Tyler, Harrison, 
and Edward Stanley, of Beaufort, for Senate. 

The canvass for the campaign began with what promised to be 
a rampant contest. The fervor elicited some witty and appropri- 
ate remarks and writings on the issues of the day. One cotton 
victim who received reverses from an emotional as well as financial 

Politics Aftbb the Revolution 127 

oonsideration^ contributed a poem to be used against the Whigs. 
It is well worth quoting as an index to the issues then prevalent : 

'bought but these plagues of dreadful destruction, 
Distract us with fears of woeful reduction. 
Com groans beneath the oppression of bugs, 
Harrison swaggers with %ard cider' in mugs ; 
Indians are cutting the throats of the whites. 
Northern men brawling for 'nigger* men's rights. 
Congress bullying and butchering each other, 
Honest men claiming the rogue for their brother; 
Banks buying up every freeman they can, 
(Undermining the Bepublican Van) ; 
Grinding all men who're disposed to be free — 
Such is the history of the time that be." 

The Democrats fought bravely, but unsuccessfully, in defense 
of their policies. The Whigs in the national contest won the 
laurels for which they had struggled so faithfully to obtain. In 
local affairs, however, the Democrats were successful and man- 
aged to elect Charles G. Hunter, of Edgecombe, as Democrat dele- 
gate to the convention at Baltimore, H. T. Clark as clerk of 
Court, William S. Baker and Joshua Barnes as Bepresentative to 
State Legislature, William Petway as SheriflF, and Louis D. Wil- 
son as Senator, and polled 1,379 votes for Van Buren versus 135 
Whig votes for Harrison. 

By the fall of 1841, after the apparent Whig victory in Edge- 
combe, the Democrats rallied back to their own colors. The Dem- 
ocratic committee met after the election and appointed another 
committee to get up resolutions, defending the Democratic prin- 
ciples and the county's integrity. The meeting was held at the 
court house November 23, 1841. J. C. Knight acted as chariman 
and George Howard, secretary. T. R. Pumell outlined in a 
speech the artifices and deceptions as the Democratic party saw 
them practiced by the Whigs during the last victory. He pro- 
nounced the WTiig party "dead, dead, dead." Moreover charges 
of abusing public confidence was charged to the Whig leaders. 
The Democratic party depended upon the sober thoughts of the 
people in the county to cause them to rally back to the support 
of Democratic principles as taught by Jefferson, Jackson, and 

128 HiBTOBT OF Edobgombb County 

Van Buren. The Whigs had secured their ends in the bank ques- 
tion inasmuch as the President had failed to veto their measure. 
For this act the Edgecombe Democrats were not slow in acknowl- 
edging their appreciation. The party did not, as was charged 
against them^ guard money more excessively than the Republi- 
cans had. They at least got more credit by the paper money 
party than they actually wanted, The death of Harrison, April 4, 
1841, and the succession to the presidency by John Tyler, an 
ardent Democrat, caused great consternation to the Whigs and 
much rejoicing to the Democrats. A more prospective future 
loomed up for local democracy, and the campaign for 1841 for 
the election of Congressman was one of interest. Neyer did Dem- 
ocrats seem actuated by a more resolute and determined spirit. 
The boastings, the taunts, the sneers of their opponents only ap- 
peared to have a tendency to make them adhere more unflinchingly 
to the men of their choice and the Bepublican doctrine they advo- 
cated. This determination and the preparation made to offset 
the Whigs caused a prominent Whig voter to declare that the 
Democrats would only receive the support of the State of New 
Hampshire and the County of Edgecombe. 

The Bepublicans of Edgecombe and Nash gave a public dinner 
at H'oUey's X Boads in Edgecombe, 15th of October. Several 
prominent speakers were present and some rank Bepublican doc- 
trines were promulgated. John P. Pitt, then an active politician, 
presided over the gathering, and George Howard acted as secre- 
tary. H. T. Clark, Balph E. McNair, Harman Ward, Bobt. D. 
Hart, and Charles G. Hunter were appointed to draft resolutions 
expressive of the sentiment of those present. 

The committee having retired, the meeting was addressed at 
some length by J. J. Pippen, touching the merits of the respective 
candidates for the presidency; urging the necessity of vigilance 
and exertion on the part of the democracy, "to counteract the 
efforts of our opponents; inducing their neighbors to attend the 

The committee returned, whereupon H. T. Clark, in behalf of 
the committee, reported the following preamble and resolutions, 
prefacing the same with appropriate remarks. The resolutions 
were read collectively and separately, and unanimously adopted: 

"Whebeas, The zeal and unexampled effort now made by the 
opposition to thwart the operations of the Government, to oppose 

Politics Aptbe the Rbvolution 129 

the principles of the Republican party hj perverting its doctrines, 
misrepresenting facts, and raising a public clamor by the most 
bitter and malicious denunciations of men and measures connected 
with the present administration, call for renewed and vigorous 
efforts of the democracy to sustain themselves and the precious 
principles handed down to them by the forefathers. 

''Resolved, That a committee of twelve be appointed by the 
meeting, to be a committee of vigilance, who shall take the neces- 
sary steps to promote the cause of the Democratic party, and 
secure a full vote at the polls, and to distribute ^ch papers and 
documents as may tend to advance our cause. 

"Resolved, That we have confidence in the Republican doc- 
trines of the present administration, and think the welfare 
and prosperity of the county depend upon their successful 

"Resolved, That we view with much alarm and concern, the 
union of Whigism and aboUtionism at the North; while our pres- 
ent President stand's pledged to vote any interference with our 
domestic institutions from the fanatic abolitionists. General Har- 
rison is ominously silent on it — and the Whig party at the North 
have pursued such a course on this subject that no southern man 
should trust than with power. 

"Resolved, That we feel grateful for the firm and manly stand 
assumed by northern democracy in favor of southern rights and 
the Constitution, and while we sympathize with those who have 
been sacrificed for their course on this subject, we feel indignant 
at the boastings of southern Whigs for the success of northern 
Whigs who are avowed abolitionists. 

"Resolved, That the independent treasury bill, delivering us 
from the unholy alliance of corporations and the money power, 
is the plain interpretation of the Constitution and the true policy 
of the Government as marked out by our forefathers, and should 
be the uncompromising creed of the Democratic party." 

The banning of this campaign marked a sad omen which was 
not eliminated until 1847. The strategy exercised by the Whigs in 
supporting H. I. Toole, a Democrat in principle, caused suspicion 
to be cast upon him, and he was doomed to suffer for honest 



130 History of Edobcombb County 

principles. This is not the first time a man was defeated by the 
wrong kind of support and at the hands of superfluous flattery. 

Moreover, Toole became involved in an opposition with his 
personal friend, H. S. Clark. The convention placed Clark in 
order of nomination and under this condition nothing remained 
but for Toole to run as an independent candidate or withdraw 
with a loss of prestige. The Whigs were elated over the defeat of 
Toole in the convention, because he had been their greatest foe. 
In the election previous to this he had secured 841 votes in the 
county versus that of 80 for Stanley, the Whig candidate. In 
order to celebrate their feelings a cannon was fired in front of 
the market square in Tarboro when the news reached the street 
from the closed doors of the convention hall. The result was he 
ran as a mere choice of the people. The Tarboro people felt under 
obligations to support the nominee of the convention, and, as 
usual with political organizations, began to hurl its invectives 
toward Toole, and painting Clark up in brilliant colors. Both 
men were equal in character and ability. However, one was a 
victim of circumstances and the other a supporter of political 

Toole was so severely abused by the Democrats, although a Dem- 
ocrat himself, that he ordered his paper sent directly to him 
instead of his home, in order that his family might not be pained 
at the abuse against him. An article had appeared in the Tar- 
boro Press, signed "A. B.," in which Toole was defended of his 
principles and why the Whigs were supporting him. George 
Howard, then editor of the Tarhoro Free Press, commented in 
as mild a form as his position would admit and gave cause for 
further correspondence upon the issue. Accordingly a prominent 
writer in Tarboro, in making use of the opportunity to harass 
Toole further, wrote a scathing rejoinder. He thought that 
Howard had missed the mark in attributing the authorship of 
"A. B." in the paper to a Whig in Tarboro. The writer then 
declared that there were certain earmaks about the communica- 
tion, as well as twenty-three editorials in the same paper, which 
were strong features of a certain gentleman in Tarboro who calls 
himself a Democrat (meaning Toole). 

The writer proceeded further to show, in a ridiculous light, the 
workings of the new-fangled coalition. It was indeed queer that 

PoLiTiCB After the Bbvolution 191 

Toole should have been supported by the Whigs when a Democrat 
and the two parties being so abused to each other. And probably 
with present limitations of insight to the mistakes made by the 
parties involved, one should not be too harsh toward either oppo- 
nent or contestant. Toole's followers at any rate were pictured 
as a mere corporal's guard (which later proved otherwise), vieing 
with each other in their efforts to promote the cause of the great 
'TInpacked," **Toole shaking hands with Federalism,'' was the 
picture of ignominious r^ret. Federalism defending Toole was 
a unique cause for suspicion of any man claiming Democratic 
principles. This was of course an xmnatural alliance; and unholy 
union. The time was, and it came to pass soon after this predica- 
ment was realized by Toole himself, that H. I. Toole would have 
scorned such an alliance, when his ardent spirit for democracy 
would have suffered the keenest mortification, ere he would have 
permitted support from men whose principles he detested. Toole, 
however, was not willing to remain in his embarrassing position. 
Rather than be supported by Whigs and to suffer the Democratic 
party, the one for which he had fought and loved, to be impaired, 
he sacrificed the race and withdrew. Richard S. Donnell, of 
Craven County, became the Whig nominee for Congress in oppo- 
sition to Clark, after Toole's withdrawal. In this instance Clark 
did not play the ungentlemanly part. He immediately proposed 
in a letter to Toole that he also, in order to secure the harmony 
for the success of the Democratic party, would withdraw from the 
race on certain proposals, namely, that some other individual be 
selected or agreed upon, and that both he and Toole support such 

Toole in the meantime had given Clark's proposal consideration, 
and the reaction of his own mind again forced him to reinstate 
himself in the eyes of his supporters for the seat in Congress. 
He accordingly wrote Clark, May 6th, and informed him that 
since his withdrawal he had advised with his friends, and he nor 
they considered the harmony of the Democratic party endangered 
by the present conditions of things — ^both claimed to be Democrats 
— since if either were elected (and it was certain that one would 
be), a Democrat would be secured. In this event Toole recon- 
sidered his withdrawal, and proposed to Clark both run as candi- 
dates. There remained nothing else to do, and the race began. 

Hi Hjbtortof Epqecokbs CoujrrT: 

Immadiately after his declaration that ho was Bgain ux the 
field a dialogue between a Town Wliig^ and a Country I>enu>crat, 
which waa supposed to have taken place at X Hoads Me^ini; 
House, was published in the Tarboro Press^ The words 
*Hown" and "country*' were used profusely to convey a supposed 
idea that the town was superior over the country, and the country 
man was to beat in the conversation* This was to cast refleciion 
upon Toole. The dialogue is as follows : 

Whig (with a hat fuU of TooWs circulars, all copied from the 
North Stale Whig) : Good morning, 'Squira How do ye do 

Democrat: Thank you, tolenable — how's it with yourself? 

Whig: Joster so so. Well, 'Squire, who do you go for, for 

Democrat : I go for the nominee of the convention. 

Whig: You do? Why he^s a Whig, "as good a Whig as I 

Democrat: He is? Well, why don't you go for him? You 
profess to be a Whig» 

Whig : I would go for him, but "I have pledged myself to go for 

Democrat: You have? Then I "pledge myself to go for the 

"It is needless to say that the Whig (Coon) was fairly *treed,' 
and didn't say anything more." 

The results of the election demonstrated that Toole had not 
lost favor entirely in the people's estinmtion. His contribution to 
the policies of the Democratic party even though cloUied (as some 
Democrats declared) in a Whig garb was remembered in the most 
stringent and undue crisis of his political career. These ideals 
cherished by the voters in the county were manifested on the day 
of the election. Edgecombe gave Toole the majority of votes, but 
the other counties went against him. Because of the split among all 
parties only 52 votes were necessary to a choice, and Toole lacked 
only eight. Had Beaufort County gone for him he would have 
won; but by skillful jockeying her vote was secured for Clark 
by a majority of one. 

Politics After the Revolution 133 

In the meantime Wliiggery had continued to gain in power 
and in numbers. The Federal Whig oonvention in Raleigh, in 
April, 1842, gave Edgeeomhe another opxxyrtunity for display of 
numerical increase. R. H. Battle, Dr. L. J. Dortch, C. C. Battle, 
B. D. Battle, and William A. Pone were sent from the county as 
Edgecombe representatives. Edgecombe, however, grew less and 
less in sympathy with one of the principal Whig leaders, Stanley, 
in the district. They charged him with corruption, allowing him- 
self $53.00 too much in expenditures and voting for the tariff. 
It is true that Congress in 1842 passed a high tariff law, based 
and passed on the assumption of protecting the manufacturers. 
Edward Stanley was the only member from North Carolina, Whig 
or Democrat, who voted for the measure. Naturally this did not 
appeal to North Carolina and Edgecombe. The poor men of 
Edgecombe were then paying upon the necessities of life the high 
tax imposed by the Whig party. Stanley went to Stantonburg^ 
August, 1848, on an electioneering tour. While there he was at- 
tacked in a speech by William Norflet, who laid charges against 
him for his political association with abolitionists, his support of 
hi^ tariff, and protection. These charges were laid as a basis 
for the election of 1844, and constituted the unfurling of the 
political events until the outbreak of the War between the States. 

With the admission of Clay in the political ring the issues of 
slavery and tariff became revived and dominated politically for 
over twenty years. It is a darkened and gloomy phase of political 
history, but none the less one worthy for complete understanding. 
No phase of history is more interesting than to observe the move- 
ment of politicians; the unraveling of forces which later clashed 
in arms for political dominion. Politics was the one excitement 
of the day, and actuated men to impulses as blinding and mis- 
leading as they were noble and spectacular. In the gath^ing of 
the clouds of conflict dwindling of parties is seen, and alliances 
and friendship destroyed. In their place is found the rise of new 
parties, new alliances, and new entanglements. 

Preliminary to the campaign of 1844 the Whigs and Demo- 
crats, as their custom was, began having meetings and barbecues. 
Th^, moreover, began forming organizations for the campaign. 
A regular Democratic Association was organized in the Fifteenth 
District, with May Cherry as president and John F. Speight, 

184 HisTOEY OF Edoscombe County 

secretary; both from Edgecombe. A preamble was immediately 
formed; whereas, the democracy of Edgecombe did proclaim its 
unaltered attachment to the principles of the Democratic creed. 
With this firm determination, promise was made to do battle in 
the November election to defeat Clay and the combined force of 
Federalism. At this time Clay himself was carrying on a pompous 
parade through the State, and was securing great acclamations. 
He visited the "State" of Edgecombe, as he termed it, in his 
introductory remarks. The Democrats sought to play a trick upon 
him. The cars stopped at Joyners Depot, where a crowd, entirely 
Democratic, assembled to hear him. After the cars began to move 
off Clay stood on the platform and shouted at the top of his 
voice: "Go on, gentlemen, you are engaged in a noble cause and 
must triumph.'' In a few moments the party was out of sight, and 
the crowd made the atmosphere ring with laughter because of the 
blunder of the Whig candidate. 

At this meeting Toole was appointed to canvass the Fifteenth 
District as elector for Polk. The names of B. S. Bridges and 
James S. Battle were also recommended as suitable x>ersons to 
represent the county in the House of Congress. Wilson was 
favored for the Senate, Petway for sheriff, and Hoke for Governor. 

In the meantime the Whigs were not sitting idly by. A Whig 
central convention was organized and confidential circular letters 
were issued, threatening a revolution if Polk and Dallas were 
elected. This letter was signed by Kichard Hines (a member of 
Congress from Edgecombe, 1827), and other prominent men. It 
fell into the hands of the Democrats and was publudied in the 
Tarboro Free Press as threat to upset the unity of the State. 
Great exactions were employed to remove the obvious insult cast 
upon the country, and pleas were issued to resent the lofty crest, 
flashing eye, and shake of "Coondum" with a real vote for Polk 
and Dallas. 

The Whig convention denounced Edgecombe with special em- 
phasis, intimating she would give a thousand illegal votes in the 
approaching election. This marked the first fall of Whig power 
in the county, and showed an approaching sign of weakness. Fol- 
lowing these declarations the Whigs recommended the appoint- 
ment of various Whigs to be stationed at the polls to prev^it a 
stuffed ballot. This naturally aroused the indignation of the 

PoLincB Afteb the Kbvolution 136 

Democrats, and they prepared to rebuke the assailants of their 
reputation. Though Edgecombe has been often calumniated for 
her political consistency and unanimity in irresponsible newspaper 
articles, she now for the first time found responsible endorsers. 

The Whigs having some 8,000 majority in the State could rea- 
son a defeat only by a fraud and forgery in the Democratic party. 
In this fraud it was considered to be without redress or remedy, 
and it could be done with impunity, such being the prospects of 

Toole addressed the people in Tarboro immediately after this 
controversy and gave the origin of the parties in the county. 
H. Ferdinand Harris replied in a Whig discourse, but was hissed 
down by the Democrats. Later, newspaper battles began and the 
issues of both parties were made plain. The tariff issue was again 
reyived, and Harris stated that goods were cheaper since the 
passage of the tariff act of 1842 than they were during the com- 
promise act when duties were at a minimum rate. This Toole 

The Democratic party in Edgecombe has ever been opposed to 
the doctrine of protection, and have always stood pledged to re- 
duce the tariff to a revenue standard to meet the expense of the 
Gk)vemment ; economically administered. Consequently they were 
never pledged to any particular bill, but were opposed to the 
system of minimum and specific duties of 1846, as deceptive and 
fraudulent in their operations. 

This was practically the argument of the party. Assisting 
Toole in the promulgation of Democratic ideals were John !N'or- 
fleet, H. T. Clark, Elias Carr, W. M. Norfieet, and William T. 
Harvey. Who could stand such a Democratic charge, and who 
could sympathize with a conqueror over so many brilliant enemies? 

The Democratic creed embraced, as has been intimated, a sepa- 
ration of the (Government from the banks, opposition to old tariff 
and taxes, except such as were laid for revenue and the necessary 
expenses of the Gh)vemment; opposition to any distribution of 
public money, opposition to all repudiation of honest debts by the 
bankrupt laws of the general Government or by the State Legisla- 
ture in public expenditures, and a firm belief in states rights. 

On the celebration of the fifty-seventh anniversary of American 
Independence a huge mass of citizens of Edgecombe met in speak- 

136 HiBTOBY OF Edgboombb County 

ing and feasting. Several toasts were made on the occasion^ 
which emphasized the growing importance of the States rights 
issue. James W. Clark presided over the meeting after just hav- 
ing resigned the offiice as first clerk of the navy. There was much 
wrangling over his act by the Whigs, as a resignation was so rare 
in that day of rotation. But Clark resigned, as he stated, not for 
political purposes, but had resigned from motives purely of a 
private nature. 

Dr. Hall being indisposed was absent, but sent the following 
toast of Edgecombe's stand in politics: ''The sovereignty of the 
states, the sovereignty of the people, who compose the states — 
having never alienated they still retain it. The powers of Con- 
gress and State Legislature, being only delegated are of necessity 
subdivided and not sovereign power." 

It appears also that while there were States rights men, there 
were also men who were anxious for the union and its safety. 
The question of the Union had been often discussed prior to this 
date. George Howard, however, at the same meeting and fol- 
lowing Dr. Hall's toast, offered the following sentiment : ''liberty 
— ^who will part with it? Union — who can calculate its value? 
May the people of this United States never be called upon to 
choose between them." Little did he know that in 1861 he would 
assist in destroying the Union t^nporarily, and less still in the 
trying days of 1866-1880 assist in its perpetuation. 

The election of 1844 came off quietly considering the feverish 
campaign which had been waged. The county gave a majority of 
1,377 votes for Polk as President, an increase in Democratic votes 
of 85; and 13 more votes than had been previously given in the 
county. L. D. Wilson was elected to Senate, Joshua Barnes and 
R. E. Bridges to House of Commons. W. D. Petway was elected 
sheriff, and the county gave 1,410 votes for Hoke as Gtovemor 
versus 718 for Graham, the Whig candidate. The Democrats, 
therefore, received the first complete victory for several years. 
With the triumph of Polk and Dallas, and the defeat of Henry 
Clay, much rejoicing was witnessed and experienced in the county. 

Immediately after the campaign and election of 1844, the fidd 
of politics became open for the election of congressman. Arring- 
ton, of Nash, and Toole, of Edgecombe, became the successful 
nominees for the election. The citizens on Fishing Creek were 



notable Whigs, and greatly opposed Toole, hating him, as the 
Free Press told it, worse than the 'T)evil did holy water." The 
Whigs were demoralized by the recent election and did not know 
which candidate to support. Arrington was weak and his friends 
admitted it. Toole had considerable talents for doing them dam- 
age and ought not to be placed where he could catise an unrelent- 
ing and indictive warfare upon them. Both being Deemocrats, 
however, a choice had to be made between the two, since no Whig 
candidate was available. Consequently they took the lesser of the 
two evils and supported Arrington, who was accordingly elected. 

In the meantime party politics became intermingled with the 
clamor for war with Mexico. In this realm of activities Edge- 
oombe played no inconspicuous part. The center of the history 
from 1846 until 1848 clung around one noble and amiable char- 
acter, Louis D. Wilson. His name should instill in every Edge- 
combe son, the noble attribute which actuated this unselfish man 
to his patriotic duty. 

The beginning of 1846 were days of preparation for the fast 
approaching war with Mexico. Before the spring had gone the 
conflict had begun on the Kio Orande, and volunteers were offering 
their services to the Federal Gh)vemment. Edgecombe, for some 
reason, was slow to offer its services for the war. Louis D. Wil- 
son was a memb^ of the Senate at this time. Feeling the askance 
of mind and that day's touch of shame for his native county, 
Wilson presented a scene which is unparalleled in local history. 
With wonderful grace and touching dignity this venerable man, 
with hia flowing locks, rose and addressed the Senate with a fare- 
well address. He asked for permission to visit his county and 
f eUow-citizens, and there awaken them to duty and consciousness. 
The scene in the Senate was the most thrilling and effective. 
Senators without party distinction gathered around him and gave 
him a cordial farewell. Every heart was full. Whig and Demo- 
crats vied with each other in demonstration of affectionate ap- 
probation and regard. Tears trickled down the cheeks of the 
senator from Haywood when he arose, and reported a series of 
ocmiplimentary resolutions which were unanimously adopted. 

Wilson had given the freshness of his youth and manhood to 
the service of the State in its legislative halls, and now in the 
noon of life he went forward at his country's call to fight its 

138 History of Edqsoombb Coumrr 

battles in a distant land. Could a man be more noble, more 
patriotic, to unselfishly do a work not even required or expected 
of him to do ? Senator Wilson left Baleigh January 1, 1846, and 
arriyed home the next day. The patriotic zeal of the man kindled 
enthusiasm in the hearts of his fellow-citizens, and by the 6th of 
January a host of volunteers of the county met at Toisnot Depot 
to partake of a dinner and arrange plans prior to their departure. 
L. D. Wilson, then appointed captain, addressed them in a strong 
manner, exhibiting a firm determination on his part to go ahead 
in his arduous undertaking. They were also addressed by Lieu- 
tenant Pender, another noble son of Edgecombe, who was destined 
to give his life, along with General Wilson, in this last service for 
his country. On Thursday morning a numb^ of 150 men de- 
parted for Wilmington for mobilization and training. 

On the 23d of January two more regiments were mustered in 
the county. More than one hundred men stepped forward in one 
day to volunteer their services. The writer wishes it were con- 
venient to give the roster of all the troops, but the names of the 
officers will have to suffice. Louis D. Wilson was made captain; 
William S. Dugger, first lieutenant ; William H. Moye and Josiah 
S. Fender, second lieutenants; Qeorge W. Barnes, first ser- 
geant; Kobert Pitt, second sergeant; Hardy C. Dixon, third ser- 
geant; James J. Williams, fourth sergeant; Benjamin O. Bran- 
well, first corporal; Weldon S. Hunter, second corporal; Jethro D. 
Battle, third corporal; and Elisha Abrams, fourth oorporaL^ 
All of these men in the group, which later constituted several 
companies, were from Edgecombe except one from Pitt and one 
from Franklin County. 

The month of January was a proud one for old Edgecombe. 
The ladies of the county with commendable patriotism prepared 
appropriate banners for the volunteers and set apart the 18th for 
presentations. Miss Sarah E. Howard, in behalf of the women, 
delivered the address. Captain Wilson, having been notified, was 
present, accompanied by Lieutenant Staton and Corporal Abram. 
A large crowd of citizens from town and county witnessed the 
ceremony. At one o'clock a signal gun was fired, and Miss Howard 

^When the Tolunteers arriyed in Mexico chan«eB were made in the companiee 
and promotiona were made. 


appeared to give ber address. She was accompanied by Misses 
Fozhall and Lawrence. The address is as follows : 

**C ATTAIN Wilson : — ^To you, as the representative of the Edge- 
combe Yolunteers, I am deputized by the ladies of the county to 
present the flag which I hold. Appreciating the heroism which 
has impelled you at the call of your country to rush to her stand- 
ard, and that self-sacrificing spirit, which when patriotism de- 
mands, forget the comforts of home and ties of kindred, to peril 
life and fortune in the tented field; we have wrought with our 
hands a banner for the volunteers, hoping that its presence may 
urge them forward amid the hardships of the camp, and restrain 
them in the hour of victory. 

'^Whilst the weakness of our sex forbids us to encounter the 
fatigues and privations of war, it has always been deemed appro- 
priate that women should cheer on the soldier to the field. In 
this we but emulate the example of the maidens and matrons of 
the Eevolution, that Bevolution which established those political 
liberties and conferred those social benefits, to secure which you 
have volunteered. Your fathers waged war against the haughty 
Britons, and the Lion of England has twice crouched before the 
Eagle of our country. You are now engaged in a contest with 
the perfidious Mexicans, and the flag of '76 is the flag of '46. The 
same national emblem which waved over your ancestors now wave 
over you. The same glorious eagle which witnessed the death 
of the gallant Colonel Irwin, of Edgecombe, when he fell at the 
head of his regiment on the bloody field of Germantown, will fol- 
low you with his bold unwinking gaze to the mountains and valleys 
of Mexico. The same glorious stars and stripes which beamed 
over Saratoga and Monmouth, Kings Mountain, and Oamden, 
will beam over you. 

"The honor of North Carolina is in part entrusted to your care : 
that State which was the first in '76 to brave the wrath of the 
British lion; and which, if the clouds of adversity shall ever over- 
take our institutions, will be prepared to furnish the forlorn hope 
for freedom's farewell fight. More especiaUy is the honor of 
Edgecombe in your hands. You are our husbands, our sons, our 

140 History of Edgbcombe County 

brothers, our friends. You have enlisted under that proud 
banner which has been consecrated to the cause of human liberty 
— the glorious stars and stripes of your country — it is the precious 
emblem of our noble confederacy of free and independent states^ 
as yet as pure and unsullied as the bosom of a lovely baby. When 
unfurled to the breeze who of us beholds it without associating 
with it whatever is brave, whatever is just, whatever is generous. 
The alacrity which you have displayed in coming forward at the 
call of your country, forbids all fear that you will be backward in 
the fight. 

^'Accept, then, our banner — cherish, protect, and defend it to the 
death. May it ever be found in the front rank of battle ! Where 
the balls fly thickest and blows fall heaviest Bemember that it is 
not more the flag of the brave, than the flag of the virtuous; and 
we implore you, in behalf of our sisters of Mlexico, should the for- 
tune of war place them in your power, recollect that a noble 
courtesy not less than a high courage characterize the true soldier. 

"Go; our hearts are with you. Our prayers shall accompany 
you. Our plaudits shall hail your successes and greet your re- 
turn. If you fall, our tears will embalm your memories.'' 

A very appropriate song was composed by the volunteers, and 
sung during the war. The tune was the one used in singing 
"Mary Blain" — at that time a very popular song. Some lady 
with musical talent should revive this song : 

*^e shoulder our arms. 

And on the way we go: 
To right the wrongs we've borne 

So long from Mexico. 

Chobus : 

"Farewell the hearts to us so dear, 
And the dear girls we leave in pain ; 

She'll not forget her volunteer. 
He's coming back again. 

'TVp do not fi^t for money. 

But glory etiU more dear ; 
We'll wWp both France axid iE^ngtand, 

If they 4are to interfere., 

. "And when the war i^ over, 
Then Mexico will say, 
Shie'd rather fight the devil, 
.Than the boya who start today. 

"Who's not heard of Edgecombe, 

The pride of all the land? 
Her daughters fair have sent from home, 

This brave and gallant hand. 

"With Wilson for our leader, 

We'll fight like heroes brave; 
We'll dither conquer all our foes, 

Or fill the soldier's grave, 

"The old North State a mother, too. 

Of more than Boman fame: 
Has sent her sons all brave and true, 

To win a gallant name. 

"Thcai ere we go we bid adieu. 

To all we leave behind; 
Mothers, sisters, sweethearts true, 

We bid you not repine. 

"For to a sacred war we go, 

We'll win a glorious name, 
And when returned from Mexico 

You'll share our wealth and fame." 

Captain Wilson received the flag with an appropriate speech 
and returned that night for Wilmington. 

142 HiBTOBY OP Edgecombe Countt 

The Edgeconibe yolunteers left Fort Johnson^ Smithville, where 
they had mobilized, February 15, 1847, for Mexico, and took the 
steamer XJ. S. PoweU. They arrived in Santiago, March 7, 1847. 
The Edgecombe companiee were left at Francisco on the Bio 
Grande about fifteen miles from Canargo. They had seen no 
active service up to May 22, 1847. While at Canargo the Edge- 
combe companies suffered more than any other companies in the 
regiment, and out of the two large organizations only enough men 
remained to form one good company by July 18, 1847. Captain 
Exum L. Whitaker, of Edgecombe, Company A, died June 3d, 
while the same company had lost thirty-two from fever as early as 
June 3d. Company E had lost twenty men by the same epidemic. 
Several men died before reaching Canargo. Calvin Johnson, of 
Company A, died at Matamoras on the 28th of March, while 
William H. Spence and (Jeorge W. Barnes died on the boat which 
was taking the troops to the city. During the month of April 
Companies A and E had lost from typhoid fever over thirty-nine 
men. Gtethro Battle, one of the volunteers, died before leaving 
Fort Johnson. He ent^ed his tent one night in appar^it good 
health and was found dead the next morning. 

In the meantime Captain Wilson had been raised to the rank of 
colonel and was preparing a regiment under Ceneral Taylor. 
Late in June the two Edgecombe companies were ordered up the 
Bio Grande, Wayne Company following five days later. At the 
Bancho, San Francisco, the Edgecombe companies went {^ound, 
fast in the mud, and landed to encamp. The Wayne Company 
overtook them and aU proceeded to Canargo. After landing their 
cargoes, ihey went back to San Francisco to reinforce Colonel 
Wilson because of the excitement and danger along the river. 
Several men were then on the sick list, four being left at Mata- 
moras. Within a few days dysentery, billiousness, diarrhea, and 
typhoid had become general. Frequently not enough men were 
available to mount guard. Out of seventy-nine privates in one 
company only thirty to forty were reported fit for duty for several 
days. Several were sent to the hospital at Canargo and Mata- 
moras. Several died on the boat going down and were buried at 
Bancho and La Bolso. 

PoLinos Afteb the Bsvolution 143 

However, the Edgecombe troops arrived just in time. There 
was considerable excitement when rumors came of the approach of 
Santa Anna with overwhelming force, and General Taylor with 
but a remnant of an army left. The arrival of the volunteers at 
this time was fortunate. The men from Edgecombe soon had an 
opportunity to give honor to the county and to distinguish 

A letter had been received from Colonel L. D. Wilson, of the 
Twelfth Infantry, stating that he expected to leave Vera Cruz 
in command of 850 troops as a guard for a train with supplies 
for General Scott's army. Should they be molested by the Guer- 
rillas, Colonel Wilson was prepared to give a good account of 

In the meantime General Taylor was also making preparation 
for a move towards San Luis. The rumors about the appoint- 
ment of conmiissioners on the part of Mexico to make overtures 
for peace appeared to be all unfounded ; and vigorous preparations 
were made by the XJnited States administration and army to 
prosecute the war with renewed energy. 

First Lieutenant John S. Fender, commanding Company A, 
Edgecombe Volunteers, wrote an interesting letter, descriptive of 
events in Mexico, and gave an index to conditions: '^e deeply 
sympathize with the relatives of those who have fallen victims 
to disease," wrote Lieutenant Fender, ^'and hope the day is not 
distant when the survivors will return home crowned with laurels, 
and be enabled to recount to anxious hearers their 'hairbreadth' 
escapes in the tented field. Our people, no doubt, being ever 
anxious to hear from the 'BTioys' of the *01d North State,' more 
particularly from the Edgecombe Wheelhorses,' I have under- 
taken to give you some information as to our doings and 

"The remaining companies of our regiment under command of 
Colonel Faine (two detachments having advanced a short time 
previous — Captains Henry Henry and Blalock's to Saltillo; Cap- 
tain Frice and Williamson's and the two Edgecombe companies 
to Cerralvo, under command of' Major Stokes) have left the most 
odious and disagreeable, I might say fatal place, Canargo. For 
so it had proved to our r^ment. On the 3d of June, enroute for 
Buena Vista, we were joined by our detachment under Major 

144 HiBTOBY OF Edoboombb County 

Stokes at Cerralvo^ and arrived on the 16th of June at General 
Taylor's camp near Monterey, but four miles distant in a de- 
lightful grove of large pecan trees, whose tall and wide-spreading 
branches afford a delightful shade to the weary travelers, after 
marching several days over rugged and barren hills, covered with 
a few little shrubs termed chapparraL 

"At the camp of *01d Bough and Eeady* on Walnut Sprii^, 
so called from the large pecan trees (being a species of the wal- 
nut), is an excellent spring gushing out of the ground in a large 
and continuous volume of cold and refreshing water, which to us, 
who having been compelled to drink the San Juan composed of 
rotten limestone at times as thick as any mud puddle, saturated 
with the carcasses of cows, mules, etc., that are strewn along the 
river sometimes two or three tc^ther every forty or fifty yards — 
to us, who instead of drink had found both meat and drink, it was 
indeed a luxury, and could our good folks have seen us quaffing 
away at nature's font, they would have taken us for c(dd-water 

"General Wool is in command of this post, and is wooling the 
boys considerably in the way of drilling and guard duty; he is 
considered the strictest disciplinarian in the army, and has ex- 
pressed the intention of making soldiers of us, and I sinoerdy 
believe he will, from the manner in which he has commenced 
operations. Our regiment is in high favor with him, being the 
same wherever we have remained, sustaining a high character for 
its orderly and soldierlike bearing. 

"It is considered remarkably healthy here, and the boys are 
doing quite well; those that have been sick are convalescent, and 
I am confident that if our regiment, on its arrival in Mexico, 
could have advanced to this place, we should now number many 
brave soldiers in our ranks who have fallen victims to the climate 
of the lower sections of the country, where we remained so long 
engaged in the noble and glorious business of escorting wagon 
trains, and after undergoing these hardships and exposure to 
health and life, to have to content ourselves with the almost cer- 
tainty of having no fight. 

"While on our way up at Binconarda, a mountain pass where 
the Mexicans had such a desperate struggle with the Spanish, 
the success of which secured to them their independence, we were 


informed of the vicinity of the enemy^ some five thousand strong, 
and that an attack was certain. We pursued our way after using 
every precaution to prevent surprise^ and it gives me pride to say 
that I never saw more coolness and courage exhibited on any occa- 
sion. We had every reason to believe that we would have a fight, 
and I am confident our men wish it with a right good will. We 
received from time to time expresses confirming previous informa- 
tion that the enemy was certainly in our advance and determined 
to cut us off. I suppose they took the second sober thought and 
vamoosed, thinking we were not the boys to poke fun at. 

"There are various rumors in camp relative to our future move- 
ment. It is the opinion of some that we shall advance as far as 
Paras, there to remain; others anticipate a retrograde movement. 
It is likewise rumored that this line of operations will be entirely 
abandoned that a portion of the troops will be ordered to (General 
Scott, the remainder discharged. There are any quantity of 
rumors among us, and they fiy about so thick they keep a fellow 
continually dodging; though I believe it to be conceded generally 
that there will be no fighting on this line of operations. 

^^e imf urled our handsome fiag to the breeze on the 4th of 
July, which attracted much attention from the regiments com- 
posing this brigade, it being generally conceded to be the hand- 
somest company banner displayed, and many an eye in our rank 
was moistened with the unconscious tears while repeating that 
patriotic and endearing motto, ^Go, our hearts are with you,' 
^Presented by the Ladies.' As citizens of Edgecombe, we are de- 
termined to do our duty; and in rememberance of her fair daugh- 
ters defend our banner unto the death — we cherish it and will 
protect it with our heart's blood. 

^^eutenant William H. Moye has resigned on account of his 
very bad health, being advised so to do by all of his friends. His 
place cannot be easily filled, having performed every duty with 
promptness. I am now the only commissioned officer in the com- 
pany, that is on company duty. Lieutenant Buck being adjutant, 
has but little or nothing to do with the company; his time being 
consumed in business appertaining to the regiment. 

"Colonel Fagg arrived here about a week ago with the Bun- 
combe boys — they are fine looking men and are quite an acquisi- 
tion to the r^ment." 

146 HiBTOBT OF Edobookbb Couktt 

Lieutenant Pender concluded his letter with the melancholy 
duty of giving the names and dates of the death of lliose in the 
Edgecombe companies, who had fallen victims to the climate. 
The Ust included the following names : 

GoicPANT A: — Jethro D. Battle, Calvin Johnson, Qeorge W. Barnes, 
Amos Bdwards, William H. Spencer, Littleton T. Qri£Bn, William 
Parker, H. M. G. Worseley, Jackson Rodgers, Thomas Wiggins, Joel D. 
Braswell, Reuben Harrell, William Bdwards, Jergen Schultz, William 
Abrams, Dempsey Hicks, Henry Bell, William W. Amason, Benjamin Q. 
Little, William Tanner, Richard Daniel, and Evans Watson. 

Company B: — Qideon Bamhlll, J. J. F. Stokes, Wright Darden, 
Bphraim Flora* Patrick Hardy, Hardy G. L. Calhoun, Samuel Wren, 
William Qriffin, James L. Barnes, Joseph Proctor, Qeorge Lowe, Guil- 
ford Jojrner, John Cornish, Redding Flora, John Taylor, and Wright 

In the meantime internal troubles were beginning to embarrass 
Lieutenant Pender and others over the harshness of his command- 
ing officer^ Colonel Paine, r^arding the election of officers for 
Company A. A letter from an officer in the North Carolina Regi- 
ment, dated October 1st, said that the regiment was in excellent 
health, and was doing better than it had since it reached Mexico. 
Colonel Paine had sent in his resignation to Qeneral Wool due to 
difficulties encountered with Lieutenants Pender and Singletary, 
but the latter had replied that he would receive no resignations, 
unaccompanied by the surgeon's certificate. Colonel Paine had 
little or nothing to do with the regiment, ^^e has no doubt seen 
his error," said the writer, "and is repenting." 

Lieutenant Pender was educated at West Point, and up to the 
period of the departure of the troops for Mexico was reputed as 
being the best tactician of the regiment; and no doubt possessed 
more military knowledge than Paine, who was recruited from civil 
life. He left as lieutenant in A Company (First Edgecombe), of 
which Colonel Wilson was then captain. The resignation of 
Captain Wilson, death of Lieutenant Moye, and the election of 
Lieutenant Buck to the adjutancy, left Lieutenant Pender in 
sole command of Company A. In addition to his superior mili- 
tary qualities, he was endowed with refined feelings which en- 
deared him to his men, most of whom were young and eager to 
distinguish themselves in the service of their country. 

Politics Aftbb the Rbvoltttion 147 

Lieutenant Pender^ burdened with the extra duties^ had re- 
peatedly requested Colonel Paine to order an election in his com- 
pany to supply the vacancies. Colonel Paine, however, never at- 
tempted to name officers for the company. 

The secret of this otherwise unaccountable perversity may 
possibly be found in the fact that Adjutant Buck, the supposed 
pet of Colonel Paine, being sick and tired of his position and 
pay^ which was only that of second lieutenant, was anxious to be 
elected to the command of Company A. This, however, was im- 
possible while Pender was in the way, since he was very popular 
with his men, and evidently preferred him to Buck. These diffi- 
culties in the regiment were seized upon to inculpate Lieutenant 
Pender, and upon the pretext that he and Lieutenant Singletary 
were ringleaders in the matter, and upon insufficient evidence, 
they were both discharged. Paine immediately ordered an elec- 
tion which he had before refused to do; and Buck was elected 
captain. The issue is left to history to say if the matter was one 
of those inimitable kind in which fate goes against a man doing 
his duty or whether the evidence is incriminating to Lieutenant 
Pender. It appears from the fact of Colonel Paine's ordering an 
election after Pender was discharged, when he had led the com- 
pany four months, that Paine never intended Pender should be 
captain of his company. The men in his company, at any rate, 
showed their belief in him. 

From a letter received in Tarboro from Monterey, Mexico, it is 
learned that the Court of Investigation adjourned on the 10th of 
October, and that its decision was sent to Washington City. Com- 
pany A presented a sword to Lieutenant Pender, bearing this in- 
scription: *Tresented to Lieutenant John S. Pender by his 
company as a token of their respect and confidence in him as a 
commander. August 16, 1847." The sword was represented as a 
most el^ant one. Colonel Paine was soon court-martialed, and 
lieutenant-Colonel Fagg took command of !N'orth Carolina 

One of the company members from Edgecombe wrote from 
Saltillo, where the companies were encamped, giving a Very brief 
account of internal trouble in the regiment. Colonel Paine had 
made a wooden horse to ride the soldiers upon when they did not 
do their duty. This horse excited considerable curiosity both in 

148 HisTOBY OF Edoscoicbb Countt 

the North Carolina^ Virginia, and Mississippi regiments. The 
Virginians came down into the Edgecombe company camps after 
a parade August 16th, with the determination to break the horse 
to pieces. This they did, saying Colonel Paine's horse was dead. 
The colonel was angry and went to see Colonel Hantranch, of the 
Virginia regulars. The colonel laughed it off and said the boys 
will do such things as that. The next night the men went after 
the horse's carcass. Colonel Paine had a guard of ei^t men 
around it and when the men came Paine came out of his tent and 
hailed them. They all turned and ran toward their quarters. 
Paine fired and wounded two men; one belonging to Edgecombe 
Company A, who was mortally wounded in the body. 

The officers of the regiment had threatened to resign before this 
affair, because Colonel Paine was very fractious and sadly n^lect- 
ful of his duties. After this affair took place they were deter- 
mined that Paine should leave or they would. The officers in the 
regiment wrote him a poUte note, requesting him to resign. 
Colonel Paine went to see General Wool and told him that Lieu- 
tenants Pender and Singletary were the cause of all the trouble. 
Pender and Singletary were subsequently discharged from the 
army by order of (General Wool. These two men went to Monterey 
to see General Taylor with hopes of being reinstated. When 
Pender left, Paine ordered an election in the company and Adju- 
tant Buck was elected captain and Robert S. Pitt second 

Pender could not secure an investigation of the charges against 
him, since General Wool said he could not doubt one so zealous in 
the work as Colonel Paine. Gteneral Taylor refused on the ground 
that General Wool must have been well informed of the facts. 
Pender appealed to the Secretary of War for redress. 

In the meantime the surgeon of the IN'orth Carolina regiment 
issued a certificate, signifying that Pender was not on duty at 
the time of the disturbance in the camp, nor on duty the day pre- 
ceding; he being indisposed. It was also certified by several 
officers in the camp that Pender did not draw up the original 
paper sent to Colonel Paine, which requested the resignation. 
The commanding officers. General Wool and Colonel Paine, how- 
ever, persistently ignored the regulation of the army, which said 
every man must have a trial by a court-martial. 

Politics Aftbb the Revolution 149 

The fact that Paine was not a military man^ nor versed in mili- 
tary regulation, explains why he disregarded the law affecting 
subordinate officers and enlisted men. 

Singletary had the same evidence that Pender had, and on his 
way home visited the President of the United States; was rein- 
stated, and received $125.00 for arrears due him. He was returned 
to Mexico to join his regiment and company on October 26, 1847, 
at the same time with Pender. 

Their return, however, was of short duration, for soon after 
Pender was restored he was overtaken by the dreadful fever which 
had taken so many others. His remains were escorted out of 
Satillo by the two Edgecombe companies, a large number of 
Masons and several Mexicans. The body was enclosed in a tin 
coffin and carried to Monterey by Captain Duggan, of the Second 
Edgecombe, and placed where it could be easily obtained by his 
friends. Captain Roberts, of the Wayne Company, had resigned 
about this time and brought back Pender's body with him. 

Colonel Louis D. Wilson was stricken by disease on the 1st of 
August, 1847, while on his march upon the city of Mexico. In 
1848 the war ended with many noble sons left upon the fields of 
the slain by disease or bullets. The citizens of Edgecombe gath- 
ered together to welcome her returning troops. The volunteers 
left Brazos, July 6, 1848, and arrived at Old Point Comfort, 
Virginia, July 23d. Part of the regiment was discharged at 
SmithviUe. A dinner was given to the men as they came back, 
at James Bridges, Wednesday, August 17th. The banner that 
they carried away more than a year ago was returned neat and 
dean, untouched by dishonor or stain. 

In the meantime the defeat of Clay and his followers was the 
death knell to the Whig party. The year 1848, however, caused 
some little reviving, but his election was due to military fame. 
The annexation of Texas was now closed and a dear price paid 
for the greed of more area. The bank question was to revive no 
more. The task of conserving the power which had been ac- 
qxdred was a thing Whiggery was unable to do. Their influence 
began to weaken. In N'orth Carolina and Edgecombe especially, 
the Whig force did not bring prominence, for it was not the genus 
of her people. The State was merely held to the Whig alliance 
during the decade in which the real interests of the South seemed 

150 Hjstoby of Edobookbb Countt 

to be represented by the Democratic party. Not until the promi- 
nent followers caught the spirit of nationalism^ which in the suc- 
ceeding decade came into a violent conflict with the spirit of local 
individualism upon which the South relied, was Whiggery 

After the removal of the bugbear of Texas, the iN'orth Carolina 
Whig leaders believed the opportunity had come for regaining 
their lost strength, for welding the whole Whig party into imity. 
To this end they supported the policy of protective tariff. This 
issue, however, failed to satisfy the national policy, and it looked 
as if the entire institution would be demoralized. 

In the meantime the question of slavery in the new territories 
disturbed the peace of the Taylor administration. Southern 
members were divided, and some portions of the South were grow- 
ing warm. Debates were held all over the country, and issues 
were being formed for and against that institution. The ante- 
bellum Edgecombe was an entirely normal community so far as 
the play of the political forces was concerned. The negro-slave- 
plantation system created and maintained a large and special 
vested interest, differentiated from and in more or less chronic 
conflict with the local farming interest, and also the manufactur- 
ing and commercial interest in the western counties. But poli- 
ticians and political interests must have bedfellows. The Edge- 
combe planters were always a minority of the voting population 
— almost all large planters — consequently there was a large area 
to only a few planters, and for the purpose of securing their in- 
terests they were oftentimes obliged to find and retain allies at 
home and in other counties in order to decry the too sharp defini- 
tion of real issues. More often, also, they must be chary, for 
political shibboliths had turned out, for them, to be wolves in 
sheep's clothing. 

It is due to this fact that the wave of Jeffersonian democracy, 
and the democracy of Jackson successively, had put the conserva- 
tives of Edgecombe (the planters and other allies) on the de- 
fensive. !N'either of these movements gave heed to nor considered 
the fact that southern industry and society were exceptionally 
constructed upon a peculiar basis and each in turn threatened 
danger to the fabric. 

Pounce After thb Revolution 151 

The spring of 1850 still found the country in the throes of a 
political upheaval. The death of Mr. Calhoun, in a measure, 
facilitated the pacification reached by the fall of that year. Mil- 
lard Fillmore, a New York Whig, successor to GJeneral Taylor, 
had the wisdom and foresight to ignore many of the prejudices 
then current in the country between the Whig and Bepublican 
parties. A further compromise was made when the slave trade 
was forbidden in the District of Columbia and the fugitive slave 
law was passed. The northern people were exasperated at this, 
and it became evident that party splits would soon occur. 

The champions of the established regime had to rally to its 
support against each of these Waves, and to use for their purpose 
such means as were found at hand. Hence a diffusion of parties — 
the Southern Federalists of Jefferson's time and the Southern 
Whigs of Jackson's. There came a strong tendency for the 
people to turn to democracy, except those possessed with a social 
class consciousness, generally known as the squires. These gentle- 
men almost to a man joined the Whigs throughout the county. 
The problem of Federal powers — ^now consuming the attention of 
all politicians — exhausted the patience of the extremists on both 
sides of llie issue and drove them into a coalition so uncongenial 
upon questions of constructive policy as to require the constant 
effort of the country's most talented politicians to secure its 

The Southern Whigs in the county were all states rights men. 
They were cotton planters pure and simple, and joined the Whig 
party from a sense of outrage at the threat made to coerce South 
Carolina. Clay, it will be remembered, was at its head against 
the Jackson faction; but it was Calhoun who was chiefly re- 
sponsible for the course of action by the Southern Whigs — "The 
Federal Union, it must be preserved." This proved distasteful 
to the Edgecombe Whigs, whose interest lay with the South. 
Edgecombe took slavery as a matter of course, seemingly, and that 
any State might secede from the Union at its pleasure. 

With Calhoun and Tyler leading the Whig procession, the party 
entered into an alliance with Webster, Clay, and the National 
Republicans as a choice between two evils. For several it was 
an alliance and not a union. The basis of the amity within the 
coalition seems to have been an agreement, partly implied and 

152 HiSTOBY OF Edobookbb County 

partly expressed. Tliis was a great advantage over the Demo- 
cratic party. Tliis was due to the fact that they had no common 
platform. The Democratic party was compelled to take a mod- 
erate compromise position, because the party must be satisfied 
in all sections of the country; whereas, the Whigs in the South 
took the ultra southern ground and could abuse the Democrats as 
traitors to the South for not going as far as they did, and in the 
North, vice versa. The Whigs were not concerned about what you 
could prove on their northern allies. They did not profess to 
think alike, and they could give up the northern Whigs freely, 
even if they involved the northern Democrats. In the end they 
became pro-slavery Whigs, supporting all measures affecting the 
general interest to the section in which they lived. Nearly aU 
Edgecombe Whigs were anxious not only to safeguard southern 
control over southern affairs, but to preserve the *TTnion of their 

In 1850 Henry Toole Clark, son of Major James W. Clark, 
a member of Congress in 1815, was elected to the State Legisla- 
ture from Edgecombe. It had become obvious, however, at this 
time that Whiggery was declining, and with the compromise of 
1850 it was a self-evident fact. H. T. Clark had inherited much 
of the influence formerly possessed by Dr. Hall, Toole, and L. D. 
Wilson, and assisted by R. R. Bridgers and others made the county 
the stronghold of North Carolina democracy. 

Several incidents happened to hasten the death of the Whig 
party before the opening conflict of the Civil War. In these 
Edgecombe County was no less affected than the South at large. 
The Edgecombe Whigs, as has been pointed out, were states 
rights men. They were for the South and for their native county 
and its interests. But with the appearance of new party prin- 
ciples, the ^Tree Soil" wing, the ^'Wilmot Proviso," and the John 
Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, the party knew that it could not 
retain their old principles under the governments of Whiggery, 
Providence was more than kind to this party, and gave to them 
an opportunity to hide their consciences behind a name of ''Know 
Nothing." This party was conceived in Massachusetts in 1853 
and was obligated to slavery by an oathbound brotherhood. It 
was late in the year 1854 before the Ejiow Nothing movement 


reached the bounds of Edgecombe. Some few Whigs embraced 
the priyilege of organizing a party in Edgecombe, but later it was 
disooyered to their regret. 

On November 4, 1854, the opportune moment had arrived, and 
the form of organization appeared in the county. A group of men 
organized themselves under several names. It was known as the 
'Tarboro Squad of those renowned Invincibles." They paraded 
the streets, exciting the amusements of the Democrats and the 
astonishment of the children and darkies. (Gorgeous apparel 
decorated their heads, and a Know Nothing gaze or nod met every 
question as to the origin of the party or company. The organ- 
ization at Tarboro soon became recognized as the ^'Don Quixote 
Invincibles," as an ironical designation of the former Whigs. 

The Know Nothing party, however, as far as Edgecombe was 
concerned, was destined to be shortlived. In 1854 the Democrats 
elected all their candidates, H. T. Clark for Senate, Joshua Barnes 
and David Williams for the House of Bepresentatives, and all 
the local offices were filled by Democratic candidates. 

In the meantime the cobweb of Know Nothingism was being 
spumed by the hands of not only the Democrats, but the religious 
societies in the country as well. The Baptist churches took the 
Uoense to excommunicate several of its members who allied them- 
selves with the movement. It became a matter of choice with the 
expelled whether they preferred their Know Nothingism to church 
fellowahip. Many of the more pious and thoughtfully inclined 
renounced their party and were reinstated in their church. In 
addition to this some had a compunction of conscience which 
moved them to withdraw from the party and join the Democratic 
party. Many converts were made to democracy within the short 
space of six months. Southern men with southern principles, 
irrespective of party principles, were beginning to arrange them- 
selves for the pending conflict over slavery. The following is 
a letter written to the editor of the Tarboro paper by a man who 
was a Democrat but had been enticed away to the Know Nothing 

^^I joined a society last March (1855) court at NashviUe com- 
monly called Know Nothings. It was by persuasion that I did it. 
And now I am compelled with a sense of duty to myself and 
county as the day of election will soon approach when every free- 

154 HiBTOBT OF Edoboombb Couhtt 

man of Nordi Carolina should vote for whom he pleases without 
being sworn to support any political society. And as I have not 
time nor inclination to attend their meetings any more, I take this 
method to write to you, hoping you wiU give it space in your 
excellent paper, which I think wiU meet the eye of some member 
of that council, and I hope they will grant me a dismissal accord- 
ing to their promise, and erase my name off their book forever. 
Mr. Editor, I am a Democrat, and expect to vote that ticket next 
election. And I hope I never shall be caught in another such 
scrape as that. Mr. Editor, we intend to elect Dr. Shaw in this 
district. I do not think Colonel Paine can be elected by this 
Whig-Know Nothing- American Society, with all the Democrats 
they can deceive.** Signed, Henry B. S. Pitt. 

The election of James Buchanan to the presidency was a post- 
ponement of what seemed at that time evident for four more 
years. Many hearts gave breath to relief when news reached the 
four comers of the American nation. There was a large majority 
in North Carolina legislative halls to back up the national admin- 
istration. H. T. Clark was again sent to represent the ^^old State 
of Edgecombe." 

The year 1868 dawned upon the State with one enjoyment of 
peace and prosperity. But dark clouds were continuing to cover 
the political sky. The development of the Dred Scott case and the 
decision of the United States Supreme Court was deeply resented 
by the Bepublican party. Fresh injury and indignation opened 
the wound of slavery for the conception of an awful conflict. In 
Edgecombe, quietness and patience actuated the citizens. There 
were few Bepublicans and not much opposition. Qeneral Bragg 
had served his allotted time and become ineligible for reelection. 
The Democrats met in a convention at Salisbury to elect his suc- 
cessor. William H. Holden, of Wake County, who had been a 
Whig, but then an ardent Democrat of the Calhoun school, was 
thought to be the man for the nomination. The Democrats ad- 
mitted his ability, but disliked his radical policies, and being 
afraid of him awarded the nomination to J. W. Ellis, of Rowan. 
That same year the late George Howard, of Tarboro, was elected 
one of the three new judges for the Superior Court. Edgecombe 
lent full support to the nominee of the convention and gave an 
overwhelming Democratic majority in his favor. 


Politics Aftbb thb Kevolution 155 

The year 1860 had arrived and all parties hesitated on the 
border of doubt and duty. The companions of Clay, Calhoun, 
and Douglass could no longer stop the trend of history, and this 
country, with the entire South, was thrown into one of the most 
horrible internal struggles history has ever recorded. Early in 
that memorable year the bickerings of the Democrats among 
themselves became silenced under the strain. The Know !N'othing 
members of the Qeneral Association of North Carolina met in a 
caucus, agreed to abandon Know Nothingism, substituted Whig 
again for a party name, and determined upon a united fight 
against democracy in both State and national elections for the 
faU election. Edgecombe sent two delegates to a convention in 
Wilmington. The condition essential to the growth of the party, 
however, with the principles of the old one, was the absence of 
slavery agitation in national politics. !N'o rival party could hope 
for success while it was necessary to defend the principles of its 
Democratic opponents. Hence John Brown's fanatical raid at 
Harper's Ferry. The verge of the war between the states was 
reached, and although it presents a saddening chronicle it must 
bear a place in the annual of the county's history. The slave issue, 
however, deserves a discussion, since it is currently accepted as 
one of the causes of the war. 



Slavery existed in Edgecombe County from its earliest days. 
Before the grant of the Carolina charter to the Lord Proprietors, 
settlers came from Virginia into Albemarle section, and it is rea- 
sonable to believe that the first African slaves were brought in 
by them on their migration. The African slaves, however, were 
not the only type of slavery in Edgecombe County. There were 
Indian slaves, who had become so on account of crime, or of sale 
by some of their own race as captives taken in war. The early 
colonial records tell us how the Indians were carried up Tar 
River and worked as captives in the turpentine industry. 

There was yet a third class of bondsmen, the unfortiinate class 
of whites who had been indentured in England, and sold by their 
masters into the colony. Many such servants were apprenticed by 
the courts of the Province, or had been kidnapped in England, 
brought over and sold, or, according to Parliament, had been 
transported to the colony and sold for a term of years to the 
highest bidder. It is practically impossible to ascertain the exact 
date when this sort of servitude came to Edgecombe, but there are 
several instances of its existence. When the Reverend (George 
Whitfield made his tour of Eastern !N'orth Carolina, visiting 
Edgecombe County, he had with him a white servant. The 
colonial records relate that St. Mary's Parish of Edgecombe had 
several of these servants to support, because of infirmities and 
old age. The law regarding the indentured servants provided for 
release of such servants having a good behavior and fruitful 
service. It is obvious that there must have been instances in 
which masters gave freedom to their servants before their time 
expired, although it is impossible, through lack of preserved rec- 
ords, to recite any cases. From the evidence of the reports of 
St. Mary's Parish one concludes that in times past such a system 
of servitude was extensive. 

The system of negro slavery had practically the same origin as 
the indentured system; that is, the slaves were brought into the 
colony by masters from Virginia and elsewhere. A farmer settling 


Slaveby 157 

in Edgecombe County usually brought one or two slaves with 
him, or he would buy about that number as soon as he was able. 
Either from natural increase or from importation from Virginia 
— the latter which is the more probable, because it is known as 
early as 1665 that slaves were brought to Albemarle setlement 
from Virginia — there was from the first an increase in the 
number of slaves. 

To settle a new plantation without negroes was considered a 
hopeless task, and, although there is rare information on this 
point, it is evident that the importation was considerable. It is 
not known how many came or under what circumstances they lived 
in the early periods, but when the later movements of immigra- 
tion from Virginia came about the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury or perhaps a little earlier, and filled up the counties of 
Edgecombe, Halifax, and Northampton, it was inevitable that 
this immigration ceased.^ 

Governor Burrington and his Council had passed a law giving 
the new settlers the right to take the advantage of the custom 
which gave each inmiigrant fifty acres of land for each slave he 
brought with him. It is embodied in the instruction to Governor 
Burrington in 1730 ; in those to (Jovernor Bobbs in 1734, and in 
those to Governor Tryon in 1735. (Jovemor Johnson said in 1535 
that he knew of no such instruction. The leaders of the colonists 
declared that such had been the custom. It was finally decided 
not to follow the old law, but how long this was enforced does 
not appear. Several persons proved their rights to land on this 
account, consequently the number of slaves that first came through 
immigration was considerable.^ 

The county in its earliest history increased in population very 
slowly, and consequently it is impossible to estimate the number 
of slaves in the first twenty-five years of the existence of slavery .' 
It was not until the "Cultivation Act," a law of England, which 
made the means and the price of labor very high and the arti- 
ficers and laborers scarce in comparison to the number of planters, 
which was repealed in 1775, that slaves were numbered on a 

1 Later the period of slavery importatfon from abroad ceased, and the steadiness 
of this increase indicates that it was due entirely to births. 

'John AHon had 19 slayes, John Poi>e 6 white servants, while Elisha Battle 
bonght 11 plantations and brought 10 slaves from Virginia as late as 1785. 

'Edgecombe was originally a part of B«rtie County. 

168 HisTOKT OF Edosoombb County 

clear basis. Up to the passing of this act, about 1730, it appears 
from old records that colonists did not buy slaves directly from 
Africa. In 1730, when Qovemor Burrington was asked to report 
on the conditions of the Royal African Company in North Caro- 
lina, he replied that up to that year the trade had been smalL 
This proves that foreign importation did not flourish, and the 
planters were suffering because the natural increase was not suf- 
ficient. Governor Burrington added that under the existing con- 
dition the colonists had been 'Sinder the necessity of buying the 
refuse, refractory and distempered negroes brought from other 
governments," whereas it would, he did not doubt, be an easy 
matter to sell a shipload of good negroes in ahnost any part of the 

The conditions of importation may be seen from the fact that 
in 1754 only nineteen negroes were entered in the custom house 
at Bath, and that the average number brought into Beaufort ior 
the preceding seven years was sixteen. It is likely, however, that 
an additional number were brought in without paying duty, since 
the custom houses were very loosely kept. 

Under these conditions and that of the English Cultivation Act, 
the planters were unable to do their work efficiently. They 
scarcely did one-third of the work in a day that the Europeans 
did in Europe, and then the laborer's wages was from two to three, 
four, and five shillings a day. Under these circumstances the 
planters were not able to go on with improvements in building 
and clearing lands unless they could purchase two or three negroes ; 
therefore the people appealed to the (Jovemor for a relaxation of 
the Cultivation law. This law was an act of England granting a 
hundred acres of land to settlers, who were under obligation to 
cultivate at least six acres. Burning off stumps, etc., was not 
considered cultivation. This was done in order to prevent specu- 
lation by the settlers. The relaxation of the law was granted by 
England about 1775. 

This relaxing of the law gave rise to a new immigration, and 
from 1776 to the Civil War we find a record of a steady flow of 
negroes into Edgecombe County. 

In 1709 the Beverend James Adam, a missionary of the Church 
of England, wrote from an adjoining precinct that there were 
1,332 souls in the county, of whom 211 were negroes. About one- 

Slaveby 159 

sixth of the whole population must have been blacks. In 1754, 
forty-five years later, the first census was taken. The clerks of 
the several counties, by instruction, made a return to the Gov- 
ernor of all the taxables in their respective counties. The number 
of blacks reported was 624, and the whites were 1,160.^ This 
gave an increase over the year 1709 of 413 slaves and a few whites, 
the ratio of the increase being two to one in favor of the negroes. 

There was some dispute as to the accuracy of this census, since 
Governor Dobbs pronounced it defective. The people, he said, 
were holding back their taxables and negroes. The error could 
not have been great, for a year later he himself ordered a more 
correct return of the total number of negro taxables, and the 
number returned was proved to be the same as in 1754. 

Still another census was made in the same way in 1756, when 
it appears that there were about 1,091 negro taxables, and 1764 
whites, showing an increase of about 167 negroes and 514 taxables 
over the preceding year. It must have been evident that the in- 
crease of the negroes was from births, since Dobbs in 1761 said 
that but few people had come in bringing slaves since the French 
and Indian wars. This sudden change and growth of the white 
population may be attributed to a heavy migration of whites at 
this time of Edgecombe's history. Families were coming to 
settle in the fertile bottoms of Fishing and Swift Creeks. Elisha 
Battle, with several more prominent men, same to Edgecombe 
between 1750 and 1760, and bought 1,212 acres of land from 
Mr. Sanders and settled with his family. 

Another census made in 1766 gives both white and black tax- 
ables: there being no distinction between white and black; one is 
without means of ascertaining the exact number of negroes in that 
year. It is to be noted, however, that there was a considerable 
decline of population in both races.^ In 1767 both slaves and 
white had decreased in number. There were 1,060 slaves and 1,200 
white taxables, making a decrease of 29 slaves and over 330 
whites. This was due to the fact that in 1757, a year after the 
census in 1756 was taken, Halifax County was formed as an 
independent county from Edgecombe. This county, as can be 

^ OranvlUe County was cut off from Edgecombe in 1747, making a considerable 
decrease in the original number. 

*Due to formation of Halifax County, 1757. 

160 HisTOBY OF Edgbcombb County 

seen from maps, included several slave-holders in the bottoms of 
Fishing Creek. There must have been a heavy increase of slaves, 
considering the population Halifax took from Edgecombe when 
the two counties were divided. 

In 1790 there was a notable increase of slaves and a normal 
number of whites. There were in the county 1,260 heada of 
families. Of the entire families only 481 owned slaves, and only 
twenty-seven families owned twenty or more slaves. Four men 
owned a considerable number, Edward Hall 86, Absolom Benton 
40, Lewis Ervin 36, and Josiah Fort 86. Seventy-five families 
owned less than 20 and over 10, and a hundred families owned 
less than 10 and over 2. Ninety-nine owned 2, while seventy-nine 
families owned only one slave. The entire white population is 
here reported for the first time. There were 3,152 slaves and 
6,933 whites, an increase of 2,092 slaves. Since we have no ac- 
count of the entire white population prior to this census, no defi- 
nite comparison can be given, but it will be a safe estimate to 
say it was a ration of three to one. It was during this great in- 
crease also that Nash County was formed from Edgecombe, tak- 
ing with it a liberal portion of her population. 

In 1800 there was a decrease of 417 whites compared with the 
census of 1790, and an increase of 753 slaves. It is to be noted 
that the year 1800 marks the general trend that made Edge- 
combe a slave county and finally marked her as being one of the 
great black counties of the South. Never again does the census 
bring the total population of whites up to the number of blacks. 
There never were many free negroes in the county. For the year 
1800, when the first returns giving the number of free negroes 
were made, there were only 106, a small number as compared with 
the slaves. In 1860 there were only 389 free negroes. 

In 1830 the white and black pouplations were almost equaL In 
1840 a sudden leap, as if some mighty forces had shot servitude 
to the forefront, ran the number of slaves to 15,708, or over twice 
as many slaves as there were white. There is only one solution 
for this great rise — cotton, which was the largest crop of the 
eastern counties, had a sudden boom when the new invention of 
the cotton gin came to be used. It is nothing but right to say that 
in the early days of the coimty the most earnest men looked upon 
slavery as an evil that would in time disappear; but with the 

Slavbby 161 

invention of the gin, Edgecombe, as nature so placed her, became 
a great center of the cotton industry. It was then discovered by 
her great leaders that slavery was a "natural institution," the only 
relationship that could exist between the whites and the blacks, 
and together with the entire South, Edgecombe began to force 
political parties to assume a positive and uncompromising defense 
of the slavery. 

In 1850 the tide again changes, the number of slaves declines, 
because the men of Edgecombe began to go West in search of new 
lands, carrying their slaves with them. It is noticeable that the 
most sales of negroes in Tarboro were made between 1845 and 
1850, all of which indicates a tendency to purchase negroes for 
western farming. 

In 1860, the last census before the liberation of the slaves, 
shows that there were 10,108 negroes in bondage and 389 free 
negroes, and a population of 6,789 whites. Slaves had increased 
nearly 2,000 in number and the whites had decreased nearly 1,500 
in numbers since 1850. 

These are the official returns, and therefore constitute the only 
means of knowing with any degree of certainty how many negroes 
there were in the county. Unsatisfactory as they may be, they 
nevertheless indicate a tendency which is not wholly uninstructive 
— namely, a system which brought Edgecombe ultimately into a 
slave and, then immediately after the Civil War, a negro regime. 

The law concerning slavery is varied and extensive. New con- 
ditions demanded new changes in the law to protect slavery in its 
operation. Law never succeeds unless it corresponds to the par- 
ticular needs of the age in which it exists ; consequently one need 
not be surprised at the alarming number or the absurdity of the 
laws in the past. They had a particular purpose and function 
then that similar laws today would not have. It is necessary to 
know in the beginning, however, that most laws about slaves were 
passed to protect the master and not the slave. 

In addition to the laws of the Province, there were local regu- 
lations made by the County Court of Edgecombe. The earliest 
of these was in 1741. It declared that "no person whatsoever, 
being a Christian or of Christian parentage — imported or brought 
into the precinct — should be deemed a servant for any term of 
years'' unless by indenture or agreement. The court records at 

162 HisTOBT OF Edgsoombb County 

Tarboro show one example by which this law was aotually taken 
advantage of by the dependent classes. Soon after this law was 
passed, Samnel Williams, who must have been of low English 
descent, bound himself to George Patterson for ninety-nine years 
as a servant without permission to leave his master, and to obey 
all the commands given to him, for food and clothing. 

According to the same law, if the servants binding themselves 
thus should become disobedient or unruly, they might be carried 
before a Justice of the Peace and sentenced to not more than 
twenty lashes; if they ran away and were recaptured, they were 
to serve double the time lost. Moreover, the law also provided 
that if any person should "presume to whip a Christian naked," 
without an order from a magistrate, such person should forfeit 
forty shillings proclamation money to the party injured. Serv- 
ants by indenture had the privilege to carry complaints to magis- 
trates, who might bind masters and mistresses "to answer the 
complaint at the next County Court." If any master discharged 
his' servant while sick before the servant's time of service expired, 
the Coimty Court was to levy on the master for enough to enable 
the church warden of the parish to care for the sick servant until 
death or recovery. If the servant recovered, he became free. 

The law of servants was considered more lenient than the law 
of slavery. In 1753 the law prohibited any slave to go armed with 
any weapon of defense or to hunt in any manner unless he should 
have a certificate from his master. The servants enjoyed this 
privilege. Later this right was restricted by an act which forbade 
any chairman of the county to give permission to any slave to 
carry a gun or hunt in any form unless the slave's miaster or 
mistress went on a heavy bond for damages to any persons in- 
jured by slaves. No slave was allowed to carry a gun on a planta- 
tion where a crop was not cultivated, and in case of cultivation, 
only one slave had the privilege. 

In order to see that such restrictions were carried out the 
justices of the County Court divided the county into districts, 
and yearly at the first court appointed freeholders in each district, 
duly sworn as searchers. The searchers examined negro quarters 
four times a year or more as they thought necessary. As an in- 

Slavbby 163 

ducement for this office^ the searchers were exempted from serving 
as constableSy or upon the roads, or in the militia, or as jurors, 
and did not have to pay any provincial road or parish tax. 

If ovember 28, 1803, after a threatened uprising of the negroes 
in Eastern Korth Carolina, the law of searchers was changed to 
the patrol system by the quarterly session of Court of Fleas of 
Tarboro. They were to conform to the rules and ]:egulations, 
one copy of which was to be furnished to each and every district. 
During the time they were engaged the patrolmen were to be 
exempted from the same duties as the searchers had been. But 
if one should neglect or refuse to act, he had to forfeit and pay 
the sum of ten pounds. 

The rules and regulations to be observed by the patrolmen of 
the several districts in Edgecombe Coimty were without a doubt 
very strict. They provided for the patrolmen to go by night and 
at such time as they thought would answer the object of their 
appointment to all the houses inhabited by slaves within their 
respective districts once in every and each month or of tener if 
necessary. The patrolmen, if they should find in any of the 
houses or in the possession of a slave, or in any place of conceal- 
ment any guns or fighting implements, they should seize the slaves 
and present them to the court of the county. Reports were to be 
made in writing, specifying the time and the place where the 
person or persons in whose possession or care they were found. 
If any circumstances indicated danger to the peace or safety of 
the State attending the finding, the patrolmen should apprehend 
the slave or slaves on whom suspicion rested and carry him 
before some Justice of the Peace to be dealt with as the law 
directed. If the patrolers found any slave during night or day 
more than one mile from the house or the plantation in which he 
lived, without a paper in writing or some other strong convincing 
evidence of leave or orders from his owner, overseer, or employer, 
they or any two of them were permitted to inflict punishment, 
according to the opinion they entertained respecting the design 
of the offender, not exceeding ten lashes. If they found any 
slave behaving in a riotous or disorderly manner, whether at or 
from home, with or without written papers, they or any two of 
them might inflict punishment according to the circumstances of 
the case, not exceeding fifteen lashes, provided they were of the 

164 History of Edgecombe County 

opinion that such riotous or disorderly behavior did not proceed 
from a premeditated design to disturb the public peace. But when 
they saw or knew of a riot or other disorderly behavior among 
slaves indicating danger to the peace or safety of the State, they 
should take and use all necessary and proper means — sometimes 
improper means — ^to apprehend the offenders, and after having 
apprehended them, they, without inflicting any punishment other 
than was necessary to their safe keeping, should carry the slaves 
before some Justice of the Peace to be dealt with according to law. 

It is to be understood and at all times remembered that the 
object of patroling was to prevent public mischief without creating 
private injury, and, therefore, a slave found from home by day 
or at an early hour of the night without papers, but behaving in 
an orderly and peaceable manner and having in his possession 
something known to belong to his master, overseer, or employer, 
as a horse or ox, or seeming to be engaged in the performance of 
some duty to the person to whom he owed obedience, was not 
punished or turned aside or unreasonably restrained. The 
patroUer or patroUers finding a slave in such situation went with 
the slave to his owner to know whether the story told by such a 
slave was true or false, and if false, then severe punishment was 

Since some owners, overseers, and employers of slaves were not 
capable of writing, it was further provided that a negro man of 
good moral character and peaceful demeanor was not to be pirn- 
ished for a mere act of going without a written paper on Satur- 
day night to see his wife at a house of good fame, where he had 
long been accustomed to going in such manner with the consent 
of his master or mistress, overseer or employer, or with an order 
of illness by a doctor. 

In 1807 new rules were adopted by the Quarterly Sessions of 
Common Pleas in Tarboro. The patrollers were required to call 
on the master, mistress, or overseer, as the case might be, for the 
names of their slaves from twelve years of age and upwards. The 
slaves were enrolled on a list provided and kept for that purpose. 
Each succeeding time they went through their districts the patrol- 
men called the names of the slaves that they had collected, and 
if any were missing or absent between the hours of nine o'clock 
at night and six o'clock in the morning, or on the Sabbath day, 

Slavkby 166 

the patroller called the master or mistress of such slave which was 
absent to know whether they were gone on business or by their 
special permit or knowledge ; if neither was the case^ the slave was 
adjudged guilty of the same crime and liable to the same punish- 
ment as if caught without permit from home. The older negroes 
still tell how they were accustomed to line up for the roll call 
when the patroller came to the plantation. 

Frequently a disagreement would arise between the master and 
the patroller with respect to the pimishment of the slaves caught 
away from home. It was then the duty of the patroller to order 
the master or the mistress of the slave to bring him before some 
Justice of the Peace at a time and place which they might ap- 
point. Whenever the master refused to comply with this demand, 
the patroller would apply to some Justice of the Peace for a 
warrant for such slave or slaves to appear before him or some 
other Justice of the Peace to be examined and tried for offense, 
in which case the cost, according to law, was to be paid by the 
owner of the slave. 

It can be said, without injury to the radicals' feelings or im- 
posing on the abolitionists' sympathy, that the law concerning 
slavery was both good and bad. In some instances the slave was 
protected by local laws enacted by the Inferior Court. This is 
illustrated by the prevention of whipping slaves who professed 
Christianity. In 1716 an act prohibiting private burial places 
was passed in the (General Assembly. The frequent occurrence 
of several mysterious deaths provided that every planter, attorney, 
and owner of every settled plantation should set apart a burial 
place, and fence the same for interring aU such Christian persons, 
whether bound or free, that should die on the plantation. What 
traveler in passing through Edgecombe County is not, today, 
greeted with scores of little grave yards afar off on the hill ex- 
tended from the farm mansion ? This is the system left from the 
early period of slavery and is a consequence of this law. 

As a matter of precaution, there were, before the interring, three 
or four neighbors who were required by law to view the corpse^ 
and ascertain whether the person came to his or her death by any 
violent or unlawful means. If such was the decision of the 
viewers, it was to be reported to the coroner. A penalty of five 
shillings was imposed on any one who refused to come and view 

166 HisTOKT OP Edgecombe County 

the corpse. Moreover, if any person dying were buried contrary 
to the law, the person or persons occasioning the same were 
forced to forfeit and pay the sum of ten pounds, one-third of 
which went to the informer, one-third to the Lords Proprietors, 
and the other one-third to the poor. This law, of course, excluded 
such cases in which it was the desire of the deceased when in his 
or her life time to be interred elsewhere. This law no doubt did 
much to prevent unnecessary slaying of the negro slaves who 
occasionally disobeyed their masters to the extent of killing them. 
The most lenient law made by the legislature affecting slaves 
in Edgecombe was made in 1753. In case a slave did not appear 
properly clothed and fed, and was convicted of stealing com, 
cattle, or hogs from any person not his owner, the injured person 
could maintain an action against the master and recover dam- 
ages, and the slave remained unpunished by the law. This law, 
however, did not prevent the slave from being chastised by his 

The great trial for the man in bondage had not yet come. The 
law gave some liberty prior to the year 1800 that he was not to 
enjoy afterwards. No servant could be whipped, who professed 
to be a Christian, on his or her bare back, although we find many 
instances where the law forbade slaves to leave the plantation, 
and they were refused the right to raise horses, cattle, and hogs — 
chickens being the only fowl allowed, and in one particular statute 
of 1777 it was unlawful for any slave in the county to grow 
tobacco for his own use imder the penalty of five pounds currency 
for every five hundred hills so cultivated, which was to be recov- 
ered from the master or overseer. Yet the slave was not treated 
as a beast. On the eve of the Revolutionary War a more humane 
law protected the slave from willful and malicious killing. After 
May 5, 1774, any person foimd guilty of a premeditated or willful 
murder of his slave was tried by the same law and received ihe 
same fine as if the slave had been a freeman. 

During the Revolution the slaves in various sections of the 
precinct took the opportunity of becoming free. Masters, espe- 
cially Loyalists, were freeing their slaves, and to such an alarming 
extent that a law passed by the legislature on November 12, 1777, 
forbade a master to free his slave except for meritorious service, 
and then at such times only as the County Court allowed the 

Slavbey 167 

decision and gave a liceise of good faith. There are a few in- 
stances where the slave owners were debarred from freeing 
negroes by this law.^ 

Occasionally, through the graciousness of the master, a slave 
was freed irrespective of the law, and the negro took chances for 
his freedom by hiding in the swamps and numerous reed marshes 
in the county. This gave the slave dealers opportunities to re- 
capture negroes and sell them again, when the poor slave was so 
unfortunate as not to find one to plead his case. Yarious boats 
made frequent trips up the Pamlico and Tar rivers, bringing 
various commodities of interest to the negroes and finally enticing 
them away from their hiding places under profession of friend- 
ship. English traders came up Tar River to trade with the 
slaves and decoyed hidden negroes away. A law was passed by the 
legislature preventing the Englishmen from trading them or 
carrying them. In 1791 a law was passed to prevent the merchant 
or trader to harbor or trade with any slave under any pretense. 
This no doubt was designed to prevent the negroes from hiding 
and also iro^ being carried away. 

In many instances the slaves, in their attempt to get away 
from the county, forged passes. The legislature later made it 
punishable by death for a slave to attempt such methods of escape. 

The slave who was set free without being adjudged and allowed 
by the court of the county and a license issued, after an expiration 
of six months, was taken up by the church wardens and sold as 
a slave at the next court at public outcry, and the value of the 
slave was given to the poor. There are three cases where the 
negroes were sold at the Tarboro court house in 1800. It is not 
known how much the poor received, however. 

In 1781 the law permitted the masters to rent their slaves out 
by public auction to the highest bidder for any term not exceeding 
one year. Eegular hiring days held in January were established 
at the court house in Tarboro. Frequently men who had large 
estates consisting of negroes permitted them to be hired out and 
the money paid over to their wives after their decease for a con- 

* There was no more talk of emaneipating ilaTfee until 1885. From this time until 
the OiTil War slayes were frequently emancipated by their yarious masters. In 1861 
sereral slaye masters in the county liberated their slayes, while Jacob Mettles, a 
prominent planter, emancipated six at one time and shipped them to Liberia on 
board the 'llorgan Diz" from Baltimore. 

168 HiSTOBT OF Edobcombb County 

tinuous income. Thel'e are seyeral instances in which negro 
laborers were rented at the Tarboro court house. The average 
price about 1800 ranged from $150 to $200 a year for men, and 
$65 to $90 for women. By 1856 at the hirings, prices had in- 
creased and adyanced from the time the custom began. !N'egro 
men hired for $166 to $200 a year — plow boys and women from 
$100 to $125. In 1859, a year later, the price increased consider- 
ably over 1858. Cornfield hands, girls from eight to ten years 
old, brought from $250 to $300; ten to twelve years old, $80 to 
$85, while boys from fifteen to eighteen years old brought $180 
to $202. Men brought unheard of prices, varying from $175 
to $250. All this personal property was put in a heap together 
and bidden off as public service. 

The manner of trying slaves was very interesting as to the 
method of economizing time. A slave committing an offense, 
crime, or misdemeanor was committed by the Justice of the Peace 
to the ^'conmion gaol of the coimty," and the sheriff of the county 
upon the commitment certified the same to the justice of the com- 
mission of the County Court, temporarily in the county. The 
justice issued a summons for two or more justices of the court and 
four freeholders, such ap had owned slaves in the county, to 
constitute a court. The three justices and the four slaveholders 
were empowered, and required upon oath, to try all manner of 
crimes and offenses that were committed by any slaves at the court 
house of the county, and to take evidence and confession of the 
defender on the oath of one or two creditable witnesses or such 
testimony of negroes or mulattoes, bond or free, with circum- 
stances that were convincing to the justices and to the slave 
owners, without the ^'solemnity of a jury." 

In order to try slaves, when the offense was of a small and 
usual nature, and to prevent delay and great loss of time and 
expense to the owners, a law, as an act for remedy, was passed in 
1783. This law provided for all justices to have the power to 
issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and to pro- 
ceed immediately upon the trial of any slave and to pass sentence 
and award execution : provided, however, the punishment extended 
no farther than the ordering of the defendant to be whipped, not 
exceeding forty lashes. 

Slavbey 169 

Any Justice of the Peace of the county, who was an owner of 
slaTOS, was qualified, irrespective of moral integrity, and pro- 
nounced fit by the court to act as a member of the County Oourt 
though he or they should not be summoned thereto. The law was 
emphatically stated by the phrase ^'anything before contained to 
the contrary, in any wise notwithstanding/' 

Christian character was an important element in slavery. It 
made the slave more desirable, and it also influenced the courts 
and masters to show leniency to the slaves and to treat them with 
greater mildness and humanity. In case a slave was not a Chris- 
tian, it was produced as evidence on the trial against him for 
capital and other trials of crime. He was thus declared to be 
under a greater obligation to tell the truth. It was, therefore, 
declared by one act of law in 1741 as a source of protection against 
perjury, that when any negro or mulatto, bond or free, should, 
upon due proof made or pregnant circumstance appearing before 
the County Court, be found to have given a false testimony, was 
without further trial, to have by order of the court one ear 
nailed to the pillory, and stand in this position for the space of 
one hour, and then have the same ear cut off, and the other ear 
nailed in the same manner and cut off at the expiration of one 
hour, and moreover to have thirty-nine lashes well laid on his or 
her back at the common whipping-post. 

As a method of prevention of false testimony the chairman of 
the court charged each negro or mulatto in capital cases before 
his or her testimony, on not being a Christian, to tell the truth. 

There was a case about 1771 and also 1825 in which a negro 
man called Simon was given a mild sentence of this law. For 
false testimony he was branded in the palm of his right hand 
with a hot iron and imprisoned in close jail for twelve months. 

The most noted case, that of the State against Will, of a slave, 
and the greatest in the entire State was tried in Edgecombe 
County before Judge Donnell in the last Circuit Court, January 
22, 1834. It was a case that awakened a general and profound 
interest throughout the country, and settled the true relation 
between master and slave in the State. It recognized the right of 
the slave to defend himself against the assaults of his master in 
the preservation of his own life — a thing never asserted by slaves 
heretofore in the county. 

170 HiBTOBT OF Edoboombb Coxjnty 

A slaye. Will, was indicted for the murder of Rieliard Baxter. 
Will belonged to James S. Battle, and the deceased, Eichard 
Baxter, was the overseer of Battle, and was entrusted with the 
management of the slave at the time of the homicide. Early in 
the morning of the 22d day of January, the day the killing took 
place, Will had a dispute with another slave, Allen, who was also 
a slave of Mr. Battle, and a foreman on the same plantation of 
which the deceased was an overseer. A dispute arose between 
Will and Allen about a hoe which Will claimed as his own be- 
cause of having helved it in his own time, but Allen direct^ 
another slave to use it on that day. 

Some angry words passed between Will and the foreman, and 
Will broke out the helve, and walked oflf about one-fourth of a 
mile to a cotton field and began picking cotton. Soon aft^ the 
dispute they informed Mr. Baxter, the overseer, of the occurrence. 
He immediately went into the house, and while he was in there 
his wife was heard to say, "I would not, my dear;^' to which he 
was said to have replied in a positive tone of voice, **I will." In 
a very short time after this Mr. Baxter came out of his house to 
the place where the foreman was and told him that he was going 
after Will, and instructed the foreman to take his cowhide and 
follow him at a distance. Mr. Baxter then returned to the house, 
took his gun, saddled his horse, and rode to the screw,^ a distance 
of about six hundred yards, where Will was at work. 

The overseer came up within 20 or 26 feet of the screw without 
being observed by the slave, dismounted, and hastily got over 
the fence into the screwyard. He walked directly to the cotton 
screw, gun in hand, where the slave was standing, engaged in 
throwing cotton, and ordered him to come down. The slave took 
off his hat in an humble manner and came down. Mr. Baxter 
spoke some words to Will, which were not heard by any of the 
three negroes present. The slave inmiediately b^an to run. He 
proceeded about fifteen steps when the overseer fired upon the 
slave, sending the whole load in the negro's back. 

The wound caused by the shot was sufficient to have produced 
death, but the slave continued to make off through a field, and 
after retreating about 150 yards in sight of the overseer, was pu^ 

^A device for packing cotton. 

Slaveey 171 

sued by two slaves directed by Mr. Baxter, who said, '^e could 
not go far." The overseer himself, laying down his gun, mounted 
his horse, and having directed his foreman, who had just come up, 
to pursue the prisoner also, rode around the field and headed off 
the woimded slave. Mr. Baxter soon dismounted and pursued the 
negro on foot, and as soon as the slave discovered he was blocked, 
he changed his course to avoid the overseer, and ran in another 
direction towards the woods. The overseer, however, soon over- 
took him and collared him with his right hand. In the mean- 
time the negroes ordered to pursue the slave came toward the 
slave and the overseer. 

They were ordered by Mr. Baxter to seize the wounded slave. 
One of them attempted to lay hold of the negro, who had his knife 
drawn, and the left thumb of the overseer in his mouth. When 
he came up. Will struck at the slave with his knife, but missed 
him and cut the overseer on the thigh. In the scuffle which fol- 
lowed between Will and Mr. Baxter, the overseer received a 
wound in the arm which occasioned his death. 

Soon after the overseer let go his hold on Will, who ran towards 
the nearest woods and escaped. Mr. Baxter did not pursue the 
slave, but he ordered the negroes to do so, but soon recalled them. 
When they returned, Mr. Baxter was sitting on the ground bleed- 
ing, and as they came up the overseer said, ''Will has killed me; 
if I had minded what my poor wife said, I would not have been 
in this fix." 

In addition to the wound on his thigh, Mr. Baxter had a slight 
puncture in his chest about skin deep, and a wound about 4 inches 
long and 2 inches deep on his right arm above his elbow. The 
loss of blood occasioned the overseer's death, and he died in the 
evening of the same day. In the meantime, the slave went to his 
master and surrendered himself, and the following day was ar- 
rested. When the negro was informed of the death of the over- 
seer, he exclaimed, "Is it possible?" and appeared to be much 
affected by the report. 

The case was immediately called by the court. The jury hesi- 
tated to prove Will guilty of felony and murder on the indict- 
ment specified and charged against him by the court. The jurors 
were altogether ignorant of the law, since there was no precedent 
in the case. They requested the advice of the court upon the 

172 HisTOBY OF Edoeoombb Oountt 

matter. In the meantime, Judge Darnell claimed the slave was 
guilty of "feloniously kiUing and slaying'' Mr. Baxter, and prom- 
ised the sentence of death from the special verdict which had 
been made by the jury. The slave appealed to the Supreme 
Court. B. F. Moor e, a reputable lawyer, living on Fishing Creek, 
interceded for Will and defended his case in the Supreme Court. 
It was conceded that Baxter occupied the -place of master, and, in 
his capacity of overseer, was invested with all the authority of 
owner, in the means of rendering the prisoner subservient to his 
lawful commands. With this concession freely made, it was be- 
lieved that if the shot of Mr. Baxter had proved fatal, he would 
have been guilty of murder, and not of manslaughter. The in- 
strument used and the short distance between the parties were 
sufficient to produce death, and nothing but the want of malice 
could have deprived the act of any features of murder. 

It was then proved that Baxter had loaded his gun and pro- 
ceeded to the cotton screw with the intent to shoot the slave if the 
latter should run. It was clear then that if Baxter's shot had been 
fatal, he would have been guilty of murder and not of man- 
slaughter. This was manifest from the evidence of his whole 
conduct, and particularly so from the fact of his directing the 
foreman to walk behind at a distance. If he had armed himself 
for defense, expecting a conflict with the prisoner, he would have 
sunamoned aid and kept men at his command ready for encounter. 
It became evident to the defendant's mind that the purpose of 
the shooting had actually been formed and time had been given 
him for reflection. The argument by Mr. lii^oore on behalf of 
Will was therefore as follows: First, that if Baxter's shot had 
killed the prisoner, Baxter would have been guilty of manslaughter 
at the least. Second, this position being established, the killing 
of Baxter under the circumstances related was manslaughter on 
the part of the prisoner. 

The public mind was rapidly perverted 'by the opinion that 
any means might be resorted to in order to coerce the perfect 
submission of the slave to his master's will, and that any resist- 
ance to that will, reasonable or unreasonable, lawfully places the 
life of a slave at his master's feet. Mr. Moore attempted to draw 
the line, if there was any, before the jury, of the lawful and im- 
lawful exercises of the master's power in Edgecombe County. 

Slavery 173 

The decision in the case of State v. Mann was used as a prece- 
dent. This case left the slave where his life was spared, under 
the slender guardianship of the "frowns and execrations" of a 
moral community against cruelty. Judge Henderson had for- 
merly fixed the true boundary of the master's power. "It ex- 
tends/' he says, "to securing the service and labors of the slave, 
and no farther." He furthermore declared that a power over the 
life of the slave was not surrendered by the law, because the 
possession of such a power is always necessary to the purposes of 
slavery, and that his life was in care of the law. The previous 
laws, similar to those which subsisted in older slave countries, 
which declared the relation of master and slave, and had been 
practiced in the county since its formation, was no longer believed 
to be intended to cover the entire relation between master and 
slave. On the contrary, the idea of perfect submission of the 
slave was in accordance with the policy which should regulate 
condition of life, whenever it existed. 

It is safe to say that Mr. Mg.ore did not, however, argue so 
much from the point of law — which if it had been interpreted 
literally, would have been decidedly against him — as he did the 
irresistible force of public opinion. That force was that time 
setting in a countercurrent against the use of absolute power. 
It must be depreciated and stopped or absolute power would be 
clearly proved necessary to the ends of slavery. The courts of 
the country began to receive the light and to foster the enlightened 
benevolence of the age, by interpreting the powers that one class 
of people claimed over another, in conformity, not with the spirit 
that tolerated the barbarian who was guilty of savage cruelty, but 
with that which heaped upon him the frowns and depreciations 
of the community. When one views the proceedings of the early 
courts and the sentences of the people, one cannot but help ad- 
mitting that while the courts were lauding the Christian benevo- 
lence of the times, manifested by the humane treatment of the 
slaves, they were engaged in investigating to what possible extent 
the master might push his authority without incurring civil 

From this viewpoint Mr. Moore made his plea one of a moral 
nature. "I am," he said, "arguing no question of abstract right, 
but I am endeavoring to prove that the natural incidents of 

174 HiSTOBY OP Edoeoombb County 

slavery must be borne with because they are inherent to the con- 
dition itself; and that any attempt to restrain or punish a slave 
for the exercise of a right, which even absolute power cannot 
destroy, is inhuman and without the slightest benefit to the secur- 
ity of the master or to that of society at large." 

*1f/' continued Mr. Moore, "the deceased had been resisted, 
a great degree of force might have been used, and the law would 
not have been scrupulous in determining the excess. If he had 
been chastising the prisoner in the ordinary mode and death had 
ensued, it would have been nothing more than an unfortunate 
accident. But the prisoner was neither resisting the master nor 
did the calamity grow out of an attempt to chastise. It is confi- 
dently contended that a master has not by law of the land the 
right to kill his slave for a simple act of disobedience, however 
provoking may be the circumstances under which it is committed ; 
that if a slave be required to stand and he run off, he has not 
forfeited his life. This is conclusive, if the law will never justify 
a homicide except it be committed upon unavoidable necessity, 
and will excuse no one, except it be done by misadventure or so 
defendendo. There is no principle of criminal law which will 
justify or excuse the death that has been caused through the 
provocation of the passion alone." 

Moreover, it was shown by Mr. Moore that the prisoner was 
shot in the act of making off from his overseer, who was prepared 
to chastise him. A master's authority to apprehend the slave 
was conceded by the court not to be greater than that of a con- 
stable or a sheriff to arrest for misdemeanor; and a constable 
could not kill in order to prevent an escape of one guilty of that 
kind of offense. The law had such a high regard for human life 
that it instructed the ofiScers to permit an escape rather than 
kilL If the officer acted illegally, by abusing his authority or 
exceeding it, resistance unto death was not murder. Consequently, 
if the master had greater authority to apprehend his slave than 
a law officer had to arrest under a precept for a misdemeanor, he 
surely did not have a greater authority than a sheriff, acting 
under a precept, had to arrest a felon. Here the law again shows 
its deep regard for human life and its detestations to kill a felon, 
a murderer, or traitor unless his escape be inevitable. "And in 
every instance in which one man can be justified in killing 

Slavery 175 

another, the abuse of his power makes him guilty of man- 
slaughter." An ofiScer, therefore, having the right to kill a felon 
in order to prevent his escape, and having done so when the 
escape might have been prevented by more lenient means, was 
guilty of manslaughter. This necessity remained to be proved 
by Mr. Mogre, for it was never to be presumed, ^o such neces- 
sity appeared in ihe finding of the jury. In legal contemplation, 
therefore, it did not exist. 

The prisoner was thus looked upon as in the act of disobedience 
and not resistance, between which there was a vast difference. 
The deceased then must have exceeded his authority according to 
the evidence and the defendant was guilty of manslaughter only. 
The slave simply slew his overseer, after having been dangerously 
shot, pursued and overtaken. The tamest and most domestic 
brute would doubtless have done likewise. Was the victim now 
to be a sacrifice offered to the policy which regulated the relation 
of slavery among our fathers? May we say that the momentum 
of feeling, acting through the juries of the county and the spirit of 
the legislature at Baledgh, that the interests of society were 
at stake and demanded a permanent settlement of the extent of 
a master's authority? 

By a timely and judicious administration of the law, in rela- 
tion to this subject, the courts did much to formulate a sound 
public opinion. They used the opportunity afforded by their situ- 
ation in a most happy manner. The condition of the slave was 
rapidly advancing under the new kind of enlightenment and in- 
spiring civilization. The negro and the white were now, by the 
decision returned in Will's case, placed under the very same law. 
Will was declared guilty of manslaughter. 

A very interesting phase of the slave system in the county was 
the method of ascertaining the age and value of the slaves. When- 
ever a slaveholder was desirous of learning the age of his slave,^ 
he carried the slave before the grand jury convened at the County 
Court and the court pronounced the age of the slave. 

Quite frequently slaves were slain both accidentally and pre- 
meditatedly. In either case the slayer if detected was responsible 
to the owner for the value of the slave killed. Men who were 

^It wag necesMry to know the age of slayet in order to determine the selling 
price of gaid iUto, the yahie being fixed by the age, etc. 

176 HiSTOBT OP Edoecombb County 

familiar with certain slaves were summoned as a jury to estimate 
the value. (Jeorge Sugg, a farmer living on his farm in the 
eastern part of the county, was called upon in 1806 to estimate 
the value of a slave kiUed upon an adjoining farm. The slave was 
a runaway and belonged to Mr. Mace. He was robbing the 
citizens in the vicinity of Little River, now Fishing Creek, when 
William Mace, a manager for his father, went in search for the 
slave. Mr. Mace tarried at Little River approximately five days, 
but not finding the slave was about to return home. On his way 
back he visited Mr. Toole's slavequarters, a slave owner, in the 
night. A light was observed within, but it was put out in a mo- 
ment. Mr. Mace went in and blowing up a light saw the slave, 
Tom, and recognized him. The slave, on being discovered, at- 
tempted to secape. Mr. Mace called to him to stand, threatening 
to shoot him if he did not, but the slave ran off, upon which 
Mr. Mace shot him with a pistol that he held in his hand. It 
was the design of Mr. Mace to shoot over the n^ro's head in order 
to frighten him, but some of the shots hit and killed him in- 
stantly. The court passed the opinion that the negro was worth 
fifty pounds. 

Jn the valuation of a slave, his behavior and power of work- 
manship were always taken into consideration by the courts. Our 
record of the prices of slaves is very incomplete and almost with- 
out any effect. The first records we were able to find were in 
1775, but no record was given of the selling price. 

Ten years later John Ford sold one n^ro man to Jeremiah 
Hilliard for 180 pounds. It is inferred from this price that it was 
apparently the same ten years previous. In 1788 one n^ro boy 
about eight years sold in Tarboro for forty-five pounds, or $107.00. 
Joseph Buns sold a n^ro woman in 1788 for sixty pounds to 
John Dew, and at the same a n^ro girl, sixteen years old, was 
sold to a Virginia planter from Edgecombe County for ninety 
pounds. A year later n^ro boys about sixteen or seventeen years 
old sold for 120 pounds each. 

In 1790 John Dew sold the negro woman back to Buns for 
fifty pounds. Girls about eleven years old brought seventy pounds 
in the slave market in Tarboro in 1790. These are some of the 
estimates of slave prices in the early history in the county. Later 

Slaveet 177 

slaves brought 100 pounds per head. Richard Blackledge, of 
Tarboro, sold a negro boy about thirteen to sixteen years, 4 feet 
8 inches high, for 200 milled dollars. 

Halifax traders made frequent trips to Edgecombe for slaves 
to start a slave market. Jacob Barrow, of Halifax, purchased 
slaves at Tarboro in 1789 at a normal price of 120 pounds, and in 
1792 negro men at the age of forty-five brought 100 pounds, about 
the same price as in 1790. 

In 1794 a negro woman and child brought 200 Spanish milled 
dollars, and numerous other negroes brought about the same price. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century slaves brought a 
good price. In 1801, at open court, Bennett Barrow, a slave 
trader, sold to John Davidson six slaves, as follows : A woman 
named Millery and her three children named Harmon, Jim, and 
Molley, and another woman named !Relly and a child named Sam 
for 400 pounds. €ome further evidence can be obtained from 
the following figures : In 1803 one negro boy sold for $126 current 
money, another boy sold for $475, still another woman and her 
child brought $400, silver dollars. In 1807 a negro woman fifteen 
years old and her child sold for $375, and a n^ro girl ten years 
old for $135 current money. The physical condition of the slave 
and the early cultivation of cotton may have been the reason for 
so many enormous changes in prices. Moreover, the ability a 
slave had for work, trade, etc., determined in many instances the 
price of his body. One negro man who was a blacksmith and 
a good workman brought $1,000 in Tarboro in 1818, and in 1864 
a rough carpenter, about twenty-three years old, sold for $2,000. 

Toward the middle of the nineteenth century slaves were esti- 
mated by "piles" or quantities. The record gives an account of 
a pile of negroes as follows: Moll, Suckey, Sally, Maria, Molly, 
Austen, Daniah, one n^ro woman twenty-three years old and 
infant child, n^ro girl and negro boy, one negro man nineteen 
years old, one n^ro woman and two children, and a negro fellow 
thirty years old, a negro boy fifteen years old, and girl fifteen 
years old, sold for the sum of $5,111. 

Another method was resorted to in the estimation of the value 

of slaves. It was not, however, the most accurate one. Frequently 

masters would become short of funds and be unable to pay their 

taxes promptly, and slaves were sold at public auction at the 


178 History op Edgecombe County 

court house to justify the sheriflF for the taxes of the master. In 
1838 an incident of this kind occurred when a negro girl was sold 
to the highest bidder for $177. Again in 1843 a negro man was 
sold to B. I\ Moore^ of Fishing Creek, at a public auction in 
default of taxes for one dollar. This was not a fair sample of 
the value of slaves, and must have been sold primarily to bring 
the cost of taxes levied. 

The peculiar life of the slave is interesting from the viewpoint 
of character, socially and religiously. Only now and then, ac- 
cording to old slaveholders' records, was a slave found truthful, 
faithful, and entirely honest in dealing with labor and articles. 
Cunning and deception became necessary, inevitable habits. The 
old trick played on the master by turning a huge pot, the mouth 
upon the floor of the master's residence in order to deaden the 
noise while the negroes danced, was considered a part of the 
slave's right. It was not fair to expect anything else of them. 

The main cause of certain necessary restraints in the slave's 
liberty came in 1869, in the form of John Brown's raid. The 
press began to urge masters throughout the State to curtail the 
large freedom enjoyed by the negroes. Consequently Edgecombe 
passed a regulation forbidding negroes to assemble in groups 
between sunset and sunrise. Upon this event came the agitation 
for a new movement advocated by a book called "The Impending 
Crisis of the South," published in New York in 1867, but did not 
take effect until the time of John Brown's raid, by Hinton Rowan 
Helper, a native of Rowan County. This book was a compilation 
of statistics intended to prove that slavery was an economic curse. 
In addition it contained sentiments usually expected from aboli- 
tion quarters in the North. The slave owner naturally rejected 
the literature and the cause against abolition propagandism. 

The marriage of the slaves was a matter of little concern. The 
masters of the contracting parties must first consent to the union. 
That being arranged, the groom sought the bride, offered her some 
toy, a brass ring or beads, and if his gift was accepted, the mar- 
riage was considered made. If the couple ever separated, the 
present was always returned. Separation occurred often, and at 
times against the will of the parties. "If the woman bore no chil- 
dren in two or three years," says Bricknal, "the planter obliged 
them to take a second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth husband or 

Slavbby 179 

bedfellow — a fruitful woman amongst them being much valued by 
the planters and a numerous issue esteemed the great riches in the 
county." The children belonged to the owner of the mother, and 
the planter took pains to bring them up properly. 

Although slaves were permitted to marry among themselves, 
after 1787 no slave was allowed to marry or cohabit with any 
free negro without permission of the master of the slave in writ- 
ing and the sanction of two Justices of the Peace. 

The slaves showed great jealousy among themselves on account 
of their wives and mistresses. 

The slaves owned by the first settlers were very few, but these 
settlers who succedeed them had large numbers. Accustomed to 
settling down on little farms on the outskirts of civilization, the 
early farmers found it hard to become absorbed into the larger life 
of a settled community. It has most often been his fate to recover 
from nature a rim of forest land, and then giving that up to some 
'Vorldly habitant of civilized life," move on toward the West. 
This was a frequent occurrence in Edgecombe County in the early 
period. Before the county was declared an organized district, 
and existed merely as a precinct, many people who occupied their 
little holdings during the seventeenth century sold them early in 
the eighteenth and sought other lands for a song and dance along 
the frontiers. The newcomers were men of means, and usually 
brought their slaves with them. Men like Elisha Battle, Willie 
Jones, and Isaac Sessums and others came to the county with 
money and slaves to buy up the cheap lands. There is one in- 
stance where a man from Virginia bought eleven adjacent planta- 
tions. On these plantations on which small farmers had formerly 
Kved, there now lived a large planter with his family and a large 
number of slaves. Hence a gradual change of the social life as 
this economic process went on. 

The coming of these rich owners mark the change from the sys- 
tem of a few slaves to that of many. The same process was 
facilitated in the opening up of the turpentine industry. Here 
the slaves were profitable, and large numbers of them were taken 
to the high tracts of long straw pine which lay back from the low 
grounds of Swift and Fishing Creek and Tar River. 

There is no phase of a subject on which there is more incom- 
plete and unsatisfactory records than on the subject of the re- 

180 HisTOBT OF Edgecombb County 

ligious and social life of the slaves. The early writers said that 
the slaves in the colony, hence in the several counties, except in 
rare cases, were undoubtedly pagans. From all indications after 
the introduction of slavery the people seem to have been content 
that they should have remained such. Indeed, if we may believe 
such contemporary evidence that has come down to us, the whites 
did not care very much if they themselves were pagans. 

The one central fact that leads to the indifference to religion 
on the part of the whites was the thought of the illegality in hold- 
ing a Christian in bondage. The right and power of enslaving 
the negro seems to have been based on the fact that he was a 
pagan. If such was the case, would not conversion enfranchise 
him? It was in view of this feeling that the Lord Proprietors 
declared in the fundamental constitution, "Since charity obliges 
us to wish well to the souls of all men, and religion ought to alter 
nothing in any man's civil estate or right, it shall be lawful for 
slaves as well as for others to enter themselves and be of what 
church or profession any of them shall think best, and thereof be 
as fully members as any freeman. But yet no slave shall hereby 
be exempted from that civil dominion his master hath over him, 
but be in all things in the same state and condition he was in 

This law was a piece of skillful manipulation on the part of the 
Lords Proprietors. It gave an emphatic religious freedom to 
the slave, and at the same time gave a concealed compromise to 
prevent an agitation and uprising of the slaves. There seemed, 
however, to have been, in spite of this law, a fear of allowing 
slaves to be baptized in a religious rite. The law might have 
been used successfully to protect the planters, should a case have 
arisen over the point in question, and yet it left an element of 
risk in it that made the planters unwilling to allow the conver- 
sion of the negroes. 

The conditions that followed these circumstances is clearly seen 
from a statement of E. C. Taylor, a clergyman of the English 
Church, who on a tour in 1765 writes that he went to Edgecombe 
County on a preaching tour. That there being no minister there 
at the time, the Reverend John Burgess, the first English preacher 
in the county, having resigned previously, he did not have much 
success. He baptized in three days 159 whites and four black 

Slavery 181 

infants. There is no intimation in the reports of Reverend 
Burgess that he was ever interested enough in the slave to attempt 
baptizing him. 

In a ktter to the Bishop of London, Reverend Mr. Moir reports 
that he had completed the building of the parish church at Tar- 
borough, November 22, 1748, and that he had baptized in one 
day 100 children and dipped two adults. He does not mention 
having baptized any n^roes. On April 8, 1760, however, he re- 
ported having baptized three adult n^roes and 206 children. 
From this report Mr. Moir seems to have been an arduous worker, 
but (Jovemor Dobbs attested his statement in a letter to the 
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, January 22, 1760. 

The method of instructing the slave in the religious affairs 
prior to the coming of new denominations was entirely according 
to the notions of the clergymen, so far as we know. In the 
earliest days the settlers of the county did not put themselves to 
the trouble to try to convert their slaves. In the later period, as 
we shall presently see, they became more interested. Not only 
did the masters prevent the negroes from accepting religion, but 
in 1787 an act of the legislature prevented any negro or mulatto 
to ^^entertain any slave in his or her house during the Sabbath 
during the night between sunset and sunrise on penalty of twenty 
shillings for the first offense and forty shillings for each subse- 
quent offense.^' No assembling of slaves was tolerated unless 
some white man was present. 

When later in the period of slavery the system became more 
mild, the n^roes were allowed to join any church they might 
fancy, but they were not permitted to have a church organization 
among themselves. To have one was at once against the policy 
of the English Church and against the sentiments of the planters. 
The planters feared that negro churches might become centers of 
negro conspiracies. 

The Baptists came into the eastern counties at an early date. 
By the middle of the eighteenth century they had become strong 
in the eastern part of Halifax and Edgecombe counties. Mr. Bur- 
nett, a missionary of the established church, said that they al- 
lowed negroes to speak at their churches. Their kind feelings 
for the slaves is shown by a reply of the Eehukee Baptist Asso- 

182 HlBT(«T OF Ed^boombs CoC3TT 

cuition mt Falls Chnrch, to a qnatuMi uked in 1783, in regtird to 
the doty of a master towards his slave wlio l e f med to attoni f am- 
Sj worship. The answer was: 

*^t is the doty of ererj master of a f amilj to gire his alares 
liberty to attend worship of God in his family, and Ukewiae it is 
his duty to exhort them to it, and to ouleaTor to eonrinee them, of 
their dnty, and then to leare them to th^ dioiee.** 

The doctrines of Baptist and Methodist dinrdies appealed to 
the popular mind, and stirred the hearts of the middle, and even 
to a large extoit the hi^ier classes of men. Other diarches had 
negro members, but no other church had them in soch large nnm- 
hers as these. There were several Presbyterians in the county, 
hot nnf ortunately we have no eonchisive evidence as to their rda- 
tion to slavery. In both the Presbyterian and Episcopal dinrches, 
the negroes were mostly slaves of the families who had their mem- 
bership there, and consequently were effected only in so far as 
they were servants. 

In all denominations the negroes had equal rights in instruc- 
tion and communion, but were deprived of the privileges in the 
operation of the church government. When there were only a few 
negro members they attended services with the whites, and a cer- 
tain portion of the church, in the form of a large gallery, was 
assigned to them. 

There are today several old Baptist churches in the county 
which retain their old gaUeries over the front entrance for negro 
worshipers. It is not an infrequent sight to see slave-time 
darkies now assembling in their accustomed places when the first 
Sunday preaching begins. When there was a large congregation 
of negroes they were given a separate sermon, usually after the 
whites had dispersed. In the vicinity of one of the Methodist 
churches in the county today, "Temperance Hall," the writer was 
told of gatherings there by the negroes after the whites had gone 
to their respective homes. 

There were only a few negro preadiers, and a majority of the 
preaching was done by white preachers. The great influence that 
a preacher exercised over his flock was something that the whites 
very properly would not have surrendered to the negro preacher, 
had there been ever so manv of the latter. 


Slavbby 183 

In 1831 a strict law was passed forbidding the slaves and free 
negroes to preach, exhort or hold prayer meetings. This in many 
respects was a harsh law, and in most cases in the county, as else- 
where, was not strictly enforced. The white preachers in their 
attempt to be apprehensive and to preach such sermons as the 
negroes needed, emphasized the duty of servants to masters from 
the text "Servants obey your masters." The more independent 
among the blacks, and especially among the mulattoes, rejected 
this kind of preaching. To them it seemed merely a white man 
religion and but another means of making the bonds of servitude 
more secure. 

It was the custom to send some old preacher of great kindness, 
humility, and usually of very great ability to the task of preaching 
to the n^roes. It is clearly shown in the respects that the negroes 
WCTe very devoted to their preacher, and I have been told, by some 
of our oldest citizens, showed their appreciation of his service by 
frequent presents, such as cookies and articles of personal wear. 

For the n^roes on the plantation who joined the neighboring 
churches, special instruction was often provided. Such at least 
was shown from the report of Bishop Atkinson, of the Episcopal 
Church. In the Diocesan Convention, 1856, he reported that he 
appointed Mr. William Murphy some months before to officiate 
at Wilson and Rocky Mount, taking charge at the same time of 
religious instruction of the slaves of Mr. Turner Battle and his 
sister. Bishop Atkinson, himself a fine preacher, later preached 
in Rocky Mount one afternoon and administered the communion, 
and in the evening preached to the slaves of Mr. Battle and his 
sister. In the Episcopal Church the members must have been 
house servants since the Episcopals were largely slaveholders. 
Usually the colored people occupied the seats reserved for the 
slaves as in the other churches. Sometimes there were special 
missions for the slaves. Captain T. W. Battle had one, but the 
slaves took no interest in it. There seems also to have been one in 
connection with the church at Tarborough that was permanent. 

It is notable to observe that there was an encouraging indication 
of increasing interest in the religious instruction of the slaves 
prior to the Civil War. Ministers were employed by masters to 

184 History op Edobcombb County 

aid them in this part of their duty. In the earlier quarters of the 
diocese, Mr. Murphy was employed by the Battle family to pro- 
mote a religious spirit among the slaves. 

It appears from the results of the reUgious training or the 
social life of the slaves that they were either more or less content 
or because of the rigid laws they were afraid to uprise, since there 
is but one record of an insurrection even rumored in Edgecombe 
County. It may not be inappropriate to mention that one inci- 
dent in conclusion of this chapter. It is hardly necessary to men- 
tion that the laws against insurrection were very severe. Having 
once begun to have slaves there was the greatest necessity that the 
strictest means should be used to keep down any rebellion. In 
1776 the Assembly's Committee on Propositions and Grievances 
recommended that the searching and patrolling for negroes be 
made more frequent than heretofore, but no action in the county 
can be found to have taken place upon this recommendation. 

While the Province was arming for the Kevolution, negro up- 
risings were especially dreaded. This induced the colonists to 
increase their patroL In Pitt, Beaufort, Martin, and Edge- 
combe counties in 1775, the report was spread that a certain ship 
captain whose name was Johnson, of White Haven, and who 
was then loading naval stores in the Pamlico River, was inciting 
the negroes to rebellion. The alleged plan was to the effect that 
through the teachings of Captain Johnson all the slaves in that 
region had to agree to murder on a certain night all the whites 
where they (the slaves) lived. They were to proceed from house 
to house toward the interior of the Province, murdering as they 
went. Here they were told they would find the inhabitants and 
Governor ready to help them.^ Johnson was just sailing at that 
time, and he was reported to have said that he would return in 
the autumn and take his choice of the plantations on the river. 
The whites, it seemed, believed the story, and for a while the 
whole r^ion was in a fever of excitement. The "terrified people 
pursued an imaginary band of 150 n^roes for several days, but 

^Goyemor Martin wm principally the inatigator of this rebellion. He dealred to 
oaoie trouble for the rebellioni ooloniats. 

Slayeby 185 

none were taken or seen, though they had several times been fired 
at/' This was as near a discovery of the real movement as they 
ever came to, and marks the only account of the first and last 
indication of any slave insurrection in the county. 

From the account it appears that the slaves on the whole were 
more or less treated kindly, but Edgecombe, with the entire South, 
had to defend its institutions by force of arms. 


Wab Between the States 

The war between the states, whether considered in regard to its 
political significance and the numbers engaged, or to its fierce- 
ness and duration, is recorded in history as one of the great events 
of the nineteenth century. Its consequences have employed the 
pen of philosopher and historian, economist and reformer. Al- 
most every phase of the struggle has been discussed, considered, 
and recorded. The purpose of this chapter is to state facts as 
they happened from 1860 to 1865 in and relative to Edgecombe 

At the banning of the campaign of 1860 the country had not 
been divided geographically, and in most parts of the South it was 
evident that most of the people were opposed to the faction that 
had resolved to break up the Union in the event of Lincoln's 
election. In Edgecombe County the tense feeling characteristic 
of the secession movement had not quite obsessed the people's 
minds, and the most thoughtful citizens were undecided. This 
was partially due to the economic conditions in the county. There 
were, and had always been prior to 1860, two classes of people in 
this locality — ^the slaveholders and the nonslaveholders. In 1860 
there were about 1,695 heads of families in the county. Of this 
number only about ten per cent owned slaves, and of this ratio 
only a small minority owned considerable numbers. Those who 
owned slaves had political power. A man's rating was determined 
by his wealth in slaves and land. As a consequence, a few were 
rich and many were poor. It was the constant but futile hope of 
the poorer classes to elevate themselves by possessing some of this 
wealth. The prices of slaves, however, were so great, especially 
towards the close of this decade, that it was well nigh impossible 
for the man of small means to attain his desire. Moreover, if 
slaves could be secured, there was no hope or opportunity to pur- 
chase land. One would, therefore, naturally expect that those of 
the majority who were deprived of opportunity because of a lack 
of this property would attempt to remain neutral in the approach- 
ing conflict. 



Wab Between the States 187 

Edgecombe County was in a condition of great excitement. 
In the memorable year of 1860 the State elections were held on 
the first Thursday in August. John W. Ellis was elected Gover- 
nor of North Carolina,^ and H. T. Clark, of Edgecombe, to the 
State Senate. After Mr. Clark was chosen president of 
that body, and after he assumed the position he made a 
conservative address, in which he pointed out the serious- 
ness of the political situation and the necessity of caution 
and honesty in interpreting the will of the people. If any man 
was in a position to know the pulse of the people, especially in 
Eastern ITorth Carolina, it was H. T. Clark. He was a man 
belonging to the planter class, and he knew the economic condi- 
tions as no other public man knew them. The one great problem 
was '^ould the South have the support of the common folk in the 
attempt at secession because of the slavery issue ?" Sentiment was 
equally divided during the agitation of secession. If anything 
there were more Union men than secessionists. This is evidenced 
by the larger number of votes given for Bell, of Tennessee, in the 
national election in November. It is not to be inferred, however, 
that this sentiment prevailed after North Carolina seceded from 
the Union. 

On May 20, 1861, the State Convention met in Raleigh. This 
convention contained among its delegates the very ablest and most 
distinguished men of the State. Edgecombe sent two of the most 
popular and best qualified men — "W. S. Battle and George How- 
ard, Jr. Mr. Howard at the time was judge and editor of the 
Tarboro Southerner, a man of irreproachable character, pos- 
sessed with strong judgment and tact. His editorials, never long 
and always free from partisan bitterness, were logical and pointed. 
He had acquired a great influence among the democracy of Edge- 
combe and adjoining counties. When only fourteen years of age 
the fame of the boy editor spread throughout the State. Before 
many years his editorials were copied by northern newspapers and 
numerous conmients were made on his precociousness. In early 
life he was, therefore, made acquainted with the tendency of 
political sentiment. 

The Union newspapers had by this time given up the fight to 
prevent secession^ while Edgecombe, through the voice of both the 

lEdgeccmibe gave EUii the majority TOte. 

188 HisTOBY OF Edoecoicbb County 

Tarboro Mercury and the Tarboro Southerner, indicated plainly 
that the influential force of the county was for the secession 

Daring the year 1860 R. R. Bridgers was elected to the State 
L^slature. Mr. Bridgers was in favor of secession. He had 
been a member of the House of Commons with John F. Dancy in 
1856 and 1857. 

War was declared, and Governor Ellis' reply to President Lin- 
coln's call for troops voiced the sentiment of Edgecombe's political 
leaders, and for the most part of the Democratic party. Gov- 
ernor Ellis immediately called a special session of the Greneral 
Assembly to meet May 1, 1861, and asked for twenty thousand 
volunteers, at the same announcing that War was upon the South. 
On the identical date that the Assembly was called a convention 
was called without submitting the question to the vote of the 
people of the State. The election of delegates took place on the 
13th of May. When the day of the convention arrived the mo- 
mentous question of secession necessarily had to be met squarely. 
Edgecombe's delegates, W. S. Battle and George Howard, faced 
the gravest crisis of their time. 

Swayed by the multitude and pursued by the few conservatives, 
could any man possessed with true political principles have done 
other than what these two men in common with the other State 
delegates did for their people and State? The convention had 
hardly become an organization when Honorable C^rge E. 
Badger presented an ordinance based on the right of the Declara- 
tion of Independence. In his draft he adroitly avoided the ques- 
tion of the legal right for North Carolina to secede from the 
Union. Observe the results. The resolution was rejected by a 
vote of seventy-two to forty, with the names of Battle and Howard 
among the majority. Edgecombe's delegates did not vote on this 
side because it was the majority, but because of the impending 
crisis. No more indication of calm logic and lack of hot secession- 
ism could have been displayed on the part of any men. Although 
there was no Union party in the election of these men, the elec- 
tion of a president for the convention, as well as the other ofBcers, 
showed that there was a division in the convention between the 
original secessionists and the old Union or conservative men. 


Wab Between the States 189 

In the meantime the State was making hasty preparation for 
War. In the organization for military preparation (Jeorge How- 
ard received the honor he so richly deserved. He was appointed 
chairman of the convention of 1861, and also on committee of 
military affairs. He was also appointed on committee of annual 
election and sessions of the (General Assembly. His duties were, 
therefore, to be many, since as chairman of committee on mili- 
tary affairs it involved the task of appointing surgeons for ex- 
amination of troops, organization of regiments and the equipment 
of same. In addition the regulation of officers pay came imder 
his jurisdiction, and the laws to provide for the manufacture of 
arms and other munitions of war. John Norfleet, also of Edge- 
combe, was nominated as one of the commissioners of the board 
of claims, the purpose of which was to prepare claims of the 
State against the Confederate Qovemment on proper vouchers. 

In the meantime a call was issued for election to the first Con- 
federate Congress. Political interest was almost lacking since the 
absorbing thought among people was to fight. There were no 
State political meetings and all announcements were made in the 
newspapers. R. E. Bridgers being the unanimous choice of the 
people, he was elected to represent Edgecombe and also Wilson 
(this county still voting with her mother county) in the Confed- 
erate Congress for 1861. The State of North Carolina recorded 
a memorable day on February 4th, due to the assembling of two 
conventions, one in Washington City to compromise and to pacify 
the seceding states, and the other at Montgomery, Alabama, for 
the formation of the Southern Confederacy. To the latter place 
North Carolina choose of one of Edgecombe's most illustrious 
sons, John L. Bridgers. The late John L. Bridgers had for some- ' 
time enjoyed the intimacy of (Jovemor Ellis' friendship. Ac- 
companying him were two more of the State's noted citizens, 
D. L. Swain and M. W. Ransom.^ They met at Montgomery, 
Alabama, on the 2d of February, 1861. Governor Ellis, in his 
letter to Honorable J. W. Garrett, of Alabama, said: "North 
Carolina sends three delegates to the southern convention, in com- 
pliance with the invitation of Alabama. Two of them — GreneraL 
Ransom and Mr. Bridgers — are warm southern men; (Jovemor 

*TheM dele^tes were c<miini88ioDed as observers and had no part in forming 
a Confederate States Government. 

190 History of Edgecombe County 

Swain has not yet taken any decided position." (Jovemor Ellis 
also discredited the belief that the attempt to patch a compromise 
at Washington would mature, and suggested a hastening of an 
organization, since Mr. Lincoln would soon launch plans to subju- 
gate the South. 

The duty awaiting North Carolina delegates were therefore 
arduous and demanded all the ingenuity accredited to statesmen. 
On Wednesday, February 12th, ten days after the del^ates left 
North Carolina, Grovemor Ellis received a report and a copy of 
the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. A com- 
plete account of what this delegation accomplished cannot be 
amiss at this time. 

The report addressed to (Jovernor was drafted by Honorable 
D. L. Swain; dated February 11, 1861, and is as follows: 

"Sir: — On Wednesday, the 30th ult., we had the honor to re- 
ceive our commissions under the resolutions of the Gteneral As- 
sembly, adopted the previous day, appointing us commissioners 
to visit Montgomery for the purpose of effecting an honorable 
and amicable adjustment of all difficulties which distract the 
country upon the basis of the Crittenden resolutions, as modified 
by the Legislature of Virginia, and consulting for our common 
peace, honor, and safety. We left Raleigh the following evening, 
and arrived at this place about noon on Saturday, the 2d instant. 
"The resolutions of the convention of Alabama, adopted on the 
11th of January, invited the people of the states of Delaware, 
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, 
Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, 
Kentucky, and Missouri to meet the people of the State of Ala- 
bama, by their delegates in convention, on the 4th day of Febru- 
ary, A.D. 1861, for the purpose of consulting with each other as 
to the most effectual mode of securing concerted and harmonious 
action on whatever measures might be deemed most desirable for 
the common peace and security. 

"The resolutions of the General Assembly, from which we 
derived our authority, were in response to the resolution and 
invitation from the convention of Alabama. On our arrival we 
have learned that the convention had adjourned sine die, and that 
the legislature was in session. As we were not delegates to the 
Southern Congress, and had no authority to participate in any 

War Between the States 191 

consultation in relation to the contemplated formation of either 
a provisional or permanent government for the seceding states, 
we regarded our mission as restricted to the single duty of con- 
sulting for our common peace, honor, and safety. 

"On the evening of our arrival here, Saturday, 2d instant, we 
waited on his Excellency, (Jovemor Moore, and exhibited our 
credentials. We were received with marked courtesy and kind- 
ness, and had satisfactory assurance of his disposition to afford 
us every facility that we could desire, and that it was in his 
power to extend, to aid us in the proper discharge of our duties. 
The legislature and judicial department of the government of 
Alabama also placed us under grateful obligations by repeated 
acts of courtesy. 

'^e had expected to meet commissioners from Tennessee and, 
perhaps, other states, clothed with like powers, and charged with 
performance of similar duties with ourselves, and with the hope 
of consulting and cooperating with them, deferred entering into 
communication with the Southern Congress until the third day 
of the session. We then addressed the following note to Honorable 
Howell Cobb, the president of that body: 

" The undersigned have the honor to submit to the considera- 
tion of the Southern Congress the accompanying resolutions 
adopted by the (Jeneral Assembly of the State of North Carolina 
on the 29th ult.' 

"The following extracts from the published journals of the 
Congress will show the disposition made of the communication 
and the course pursued towards us upon its presentation: 

" 'Mr. Toombs: I have the pleasure, Mr. President, of present- 
ing a communication from the commissioners of the State of 
North Carolina to this body. I desire that it be read.' 

'It was read, together with the accompanying resolutions of 
the Greneral Assembly, and was, on motion, laid on the table for 
the present. 

"'Mr. Toombs: I move that the commissioners from North 
Carolina be invited to occupy seats on the floor during the open 
sessions, and that a conmiittee of three be appointed to communi- 
cate the invitation to them. Adopted.' 

"The next morning Johnson I. Hooper, Esq., the secretary of 
the Congress, communicated the following resolution: 

192 History of Edosoombb County 

'^ 'Resolved, That the committee who were instructed to invite 
Honorables David L. Swain, Matthew W. Ransom, and John L. 
Bridgers to seats on the floor be instructed to invite them to at- 
tend any open or secret sessions of this body at any time it may 
suit their convenience, for the purpose of making any communi- 
cation to this body that they may desire/ " 

The following day, Friday, 8th, the North Carolina del^ation 
received a similar communication from the secretary, with ac- 
companying resolutions, as follows: 

'Whereas, The people of the State of North Carolina and 
those of the states represented in this Congress have a common 
destiny, a common sympathy, a common honor^ and a conmion 
danger; and, whereas, it is the opinion and earnest desire of the 
Congress that the State of North Carolina should be united in 
government with these states; be it, therefore, 

"Resolved, That this Congress receive with pleasure the com- 
missioners from the State of North Carolina, and hope to pursue 
such a course of action as shall commend itself to and induce the 
people of the State of North Carolina speedily to unite in our 
councils and in such government as shall be formed by these 

The North Carolina delegates' report continues: 

'^e availed ourselves freely of this invitation to attend the 
open sessions of the Congress, and of favorable opportunities to 
consult with the members of Congress individually, with the 
executive, with the members of the legislature and judicial de- 
partments of the government of Alabama, and with many promi- 
nent citizens of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi in relation to 
the general objects of our mission. 

"The number of native North Carolinians called hither, either 
as members of, or anxious attendants upon the legislative bodies 
in session here, have afforded us unusual and most favorable op- 
portunities to ascertain public sentiment in relation to the cause 
and cure of the evils which threaten the peace and safety of the 
whole country. These gentlemen have made their homes in the 
Southwest at intervals during the last thirty or forty years, con- 
stitute no small proportion of the aggregate body of the com- 
munity, and, in point of wealth, intelligence, and respectability, 
occupy positions in society which entitle them to high considera- 

Wab Between the States 193 

tion in their native as well as their adopted states. So numerous 
are the instances in which they have approached us, and so full 
and unreserved have been their communications, that we suppose 
there is probably no extensive section in North Carolina in which 
any one of our number, by ten days of like intercourse, could 
satisfy himself more clearly of the direction and strength of 
public opinion. 

''We r^ret to be constrained to state, as the result of our in- 
quiries, made under such circumstances, that only a very decided 
minority of the community in these states are disposed at present 
to entertain favorably any proposition of adjustment which looks 
toward a reconstruction of our National Union. 

*1n the state of things, we have not deemed it our duty to 
attend any of the secret sessions of the Congress. The resolutions 
of the Qeneral Assembly are upon the table of the Congress, and 
having submitted them as a poor peace offering we would poorly 
perform the duties assigned us by entering into discussion, which 
would only serve to enkindle strife. 

''We conmiunicate herewith a copy of the 'Constitution of the 
Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America,' 
adopted on the 8th inst. (General Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, 
was, on the 9th, elected President and the Honorable Alexander H. 
Stephens, of Cleorgia, Vice-President of the new Confederation." 

Simultaneously R. R. Bridgers was to distinguish himself in 
the Confederate Congress, where he served during the entire war. 
It was here history rewards him with having displayed the greatest 
characteristic and strongest element of business success. More 
than any other man in the State and in the South at this time, 
he pointed out future necessities for the Confederate (Jovemment, 
and he inmiediately proceeded to make preparations in order to 
meet new conditions. From the beginning of his association with 
the Confederate Congress he advocated what later became the only 
practical and safe financial policy for the Southern Confederacy. 
It was his idea that the South should not stop raising cotton, as 
it did, but rather it should increase the production, because the 
Confederate States, being a new government, and having no gold 
surplus to give stability to the currency, could receive gold in 
exchange for cotton. Cotton indeed was the only hope of the 
South to obtain credit abroad as well as at home. England, it 

194 History of Edoecombb County 

was agreed, would take cotton and pay the highest market price 
for it in gold, thus allowing the Confederacy a large influx of 
gold reserve and financial credit, provided a large annual crop was 
produced. President Davis, however, took the opposite view and 
adhered to the belief that by refusing to ship cotton to England 
the industries in that country would bring pressure to bear and 
cause England to come to the aid of the South. Mr. Bridgers had 
but few supporters in his scheme to place the Confederate Gov- 
ernment on a sound financial basis, but later as he discussed the 
matter and explained the issues more thoroughly, many became 
convinced and endorsed his idea. Ultimately, when it became too 
late to execute his plans, and when exportation became hazardous, 
because of blockades, there grew a decided sentiment in the South 
that he should be appointed Secretary of the Treasury. It is 
authentically reported that Mr. Davis offered Mr. Bridgers the 
position. This burden Mr. Bridgers declined because the matter 
had been too long delayed and the opportunity to make it good 
had passed. 

Toward the close of the year 1863 and during the following 
year, Jefferson Davis was criticized severely for his policy. In 
North Carolina especially a falling away from Davis' policy was 
conspicuous. Mr. Bridgers again showed his ability as a states- 
man, and wrote (Jovemor Vance to make public his corre- 
spondence with President Davis in order that the people might 
appreciate the existing conditions. He did not doubt but that 
the people would be more lenient and less critical if the exact con- 
dition was known. It can be safely asserted that this loyal son 
and citizen did more than the average public man to uphold the 
declining arm of the Confederate (Jovernment during the awful 
days of 1864. 

In spite of the strenuous and speedy plans of Qovemor Ellis 
to prepare for the protection of the State and property, the people 
were quicker than he in their military actions. Almost the entire 
State was in an intense state of excitement, and patriotic men 
everywhere were accumulating all reserve power for the coming 
conflict. Edgecombe began the task which resulted in endless 
fame for her sons, and added laurels to her tradition for which 
every citizen should be grateful. In 1860 Edgecombe had a popu- 
lation of 6,879 whites, 50 of them were of foreign birth, 389 free 

Wab Between the States 195 

negroes, and 10,108 slaves. The town of Tarboro had 453 whites, 
65 free negroes, and 530 slaves, a total population of 1,048. Out 
of this population the county during the period of the war con- 
tributed 1,400 to the Confederate Army. 

An organization which has for many years received the admira- 
tion of the people of Edgecombe — the Edgecombe Guards — ^was 
soon to write its history upon immortal pages. This organization 
is worthy of more than a mere mention. The date of the Edge- 
combe military organization reaches back almost as far as the 
Revolution. In all probability the results of the domestic quarrel 
between England and the American colonies gave the stimulation 
which caused its birth. 

Lnmediately following the Bevolution, it became common to 
effect some military organization throughout the State for the 
purpose of repelling invasions and to maintain domestic peace 
at home. The issues growing out of the Revolutionary War left 
many doubts in the minds of many; consequently it may not be 
surprising to know that as early as 1803 the legislature of ITorth 
Carolina granted by law certain privileges to the Light Infantry 
Company of the Second Regiment in the county of Edgecombe. 
It gave the company full authority to make such laws, rules, and 
regulations for their government as they, or a majority, thought 
proper. However, the rules were not to conflict with the laws of 
North Carolina and in violation of the Constitution of the United 
States. The company at this period was governed by the field 
officers of the regiment, and was subject to orders of a battalion 

It appears also that there were other organizations in the 
county at this early date, since the law, as if a mediator between 
rival companies, specified that the Light Infantry was not to be 
subject to any other company in the county. 

The War of 1812 confirmed the fears of many regarding the 
necessity for military preparedness, and from 1815 to 1840 the 
Edgecombe companies were the strongest in the State. In 1830 
the Company of Light Infantry, commanded by Joseph R. Lloyd, 
of Tarboro, was incorporated under the title of "Tarboro Guards." 
From all accounts this was the beginning of the historic Edge- 
combe Guards. There was also a Company of Light Infantry in 
the county, in addition to the one at Tarboro, commanded by 

196 History of Edgboombb County 

Michael Parker. This company was also incorporated in 1833 
under the name of Swift Creek Greys. Yet another company in 
the county commanded by Henry Dixon was incorporated under 
the title of the United Blues^ during the same year. 

The first account of any other division of military organization 
from that of the infantry was a company of cavalry. This com- 
pany became incorporated as Edgecombe Cavalry under the com- 
mand of William H. Bobards in 1831. All of these companies 
enjoyed their own regulations and received orders for drills, com- 
pany election, time for mustering, not from a collective source, but 
from its own individual officers. All of the companies, however, 
were regulated by the State, and had stated periods for muster 
prescribed by the State Department. 

The Guards in the county had become more or less disintegrated 
prior to the war with Mexico, and between the termination of this 
War and 1860 the military spirit lay dormant. With the begin- 
ning of the year, however, the agitation for slave abolition and 
the hampering over fugitive slaves, gave local military organiza- 
tions an impetus not only in North Carolina, but over the entire 
South. In 1852 the county had 43 rifles, 540 shot guns, and 53 
muskets in its armory. In 1857 the Edgecombe Guards was 
completely reorganized under James B. Lloyd, captain; Frank B. 
Lloyd, first lieutenant ; and John W. Chase, second lieutenant. In 
1859 John L. Bridgers was unanimously elected captain and be- 
came very active in perfecting a good organization. 

The Edgecombe Guards were, therefore, above the average in 
organization and had good equipment when the need came for 
their participation in 1861. In the meantime Governor Ellis 
issued his call for volunteers to defend the State and to pursue the 
War against the North. John L. Bridgers, having returned from 
his mission to Alabama, took command of Company A, of the 
Guards, which became the honor company of the First North 
Carolina Begiment, on April 18, 1861. The company consisted of 
120 privates, nine noncommissioned officers, and four officers. 
Captain Bridgers on April 23, 1861, wired Governor Ellis for 
sixty-four Enfield rifles. Dr. J. H. Baker was attached to the 
Qompany as surgeon, having left his practice at Tarboro to 
answer the call of duty in the Confederate service. On May 9, 
1861, the company of volunteers was carried to Raleigh by 


Wab Between the States 197 

Captain John L. Bridgers to join other companies there. Dr. 
J. H. Baker, of Tarboro, accompanied the company as surgeon. 
The companies drilled in Raleigh for about four weeks^ when they 
were ordered to Virginia. Before their departure company officers 
of Company A were confirmed with John L. Bridgers, captain; 
Whitmel P. Lloyd, first lieutenant ; William S. Long, second lieu- 
tenant; and W. G. Lewis, Jr., second lieutenant, of Company A. 
Dr. Baker was assigned to the regiment as assistant surgeon. 

The First Begiment was inmiediately sent to the front after 
having reached Richmond in two detachments. I^orth Carolina 
was still technically in the Union, while Virginia had just passed 
her ordinance of secession and her military establishment was 
not yet transferred to the Confederacy. By placing troops on 
Virginia soil, I^orth Carolina executed its first real act of seces- 
sion. On the 6th of June Colonel Hill took position to check the 
advance of the Yankees in the vicinity of Yorktown, Virginia, 
and took position near Big Bethel Church with the First I^orth 
Carolina Raiment. Reconnaissance was made of the surrounding 
country with the purpose of fortifying it, but it was soon learned 
that the enemy had deployed and the time for action had begun. 
Skimiishes were continued until the day of the 9th, Captain 
Bridgers' company being posted in a dense wood, beyond an em- 
banknaent which had been hurriedly thrown up for protection. 
Beyond him was a creek, and on his left a public road. He de- 
ployed his company, which was soon removed to the right of the 
battle line. They attacked the enemy here and recovered a 
howitzer belonging to the Richmond Howitzers, which had been 
abandoned by them in the early part of the battle. In the mean- 
time other companies were getting the worse of tiie engagement, 
and at the orders of Colonel Magruder the regiment fell back to 
the entrenchment, back of Bethel Church. 

At this time Colonel Hill ordered Captain Bridgers with his 
company out of the swamp and directed him to take position on 
the right of the road. Captain Bridgers crossed over the road 
under fire, but in an orderly manner. In crossing over he drove 
the Federals out of an advanced battery and reoccupied it. This 
company and Captain Ross, with Company O, decided the results 
of the battle and gave the Confederates the odds. Colonel Ma- 
gruder said in his hasty report made the day of the engagement : 

198 HisTOEY OP Edgbcombb County 

'TVliikt it may seem invidious to speak particularly of any 
regiment or corps, where all behaved so well, I am compelled to 
express my great appreciation of the skill and gallantry of Major 
Randolph and his howitzer battalion and Colonel Hill, the men 
and officers of the North Carolina Regiment. As an instance of 
the latter, I will merely state that a gun under the gallant Cap- 
tain Brown, of the howitzer battery, having been rendered unfit 
for service by the breaking of a priming wire in the vent. Captain 
Brown threw it over the precipice and the work was occupied for 
a moment by the enemy. Captain Bridgers, of the I^orth Caro- 
lina B^giment, in the most gallant manner, retook it and held it 
until Captain Brown had replaced it and put in position another 
piece, and defended it with his infantry in the most gallant man- 
ner.^' Colonel Magruder made a fuUer report, dated June 12th, 
and he again refers to the subject by saying: 

*T. cannot omit to again bring to the notice of the Commander- 
in-Chief of the valuable services and gallant conduct of the First 
I^orth Carolina B^giment. The officers were not only prompt 
and daring in the execution of their duties, but most industrious 
and energetic in the preparation of the conflict. Captain Bridgers, 
of the North Carolina Regulars, retook in the most daring manner, 
and at a critical period of the fight, the nest from which Captain 
Brown, of the artillery, had withdrawn a disabled gun to prevent 
it falling into the hands of the enemy. Captain Bridgers deserves 
the highest praise for this timely act of gallantry." 

There were two critical turns in this battle. One when Com- 
pany B, reinforced by a part of Companies C, 6, and H, repulsed 
Winthrope*s strong and menacing attack. The other when Cap- 
tain Bridgers made the fearless attack across the road and retook 
the position from which the Confederate troops had withdrawn. 
Military history holds the view that if either one of these crisis 
had failed the enemy would have gained the victory. 

In the meantime the incident of Henry L. Wyatt's death, the 
first to be killed on either side, had occurred. Wyatt was a native 
of Virginia, bom in Richmond, February 12, 1842, a son of 
Isham and Lucinda Wyatt. Young Wyatt had been apprenticed 
to the carpenter's trade, and in October, 1866, he moved with his 
father to Edgecombe County. He was working at his trade in 


War Bbtwesn the States 199 

Tarboro when the war broke out, and when the Edgecombe 
Ouards was organized April 18, 1861, Henry Wyatt enlisted as a 
private soldier. 

During the skirmishes which were taking place and when 
Captain Bridgers had charged across the road and recaptured the 
entrenchment, he saw a regiment of the enemy in line of battle 
three hundred yards away, with a house between them. Up to this 
time there had been no casualties and the battle was just begin- 
ning. Captain Bridgers' company began firing, but their fire was 
not returned. It was thought that an order to retreat had been 
given to the Federals. The house referred to. Big Bethel Church, 
was affording the enemy protection. In the meantime Colonel 
Hill asked Captain Bridgers if he couldn't have the house burned. 
Captain Bridgers accordingly asked if five of the company would 
volunteer to bum it, suggesting that one of the number should 
be an officer. Corporal G^rge T. Williams volunteered to be the 
officer, and Thomas Fallon, John H. Thorpe, Henry L. Wyatt, 
R. H. Bradley, and R. H. Hicks said they would go with him. 
Matches and a hatchet were received, and immediately the party 
climbed over the breastworks. An act of this kind was exceed- 
ingly dangerous, since the space between the opposing forces 
was exposed to the enemy's guns. The party had scarcely leaped 
over the breastworks when a volley of fire struck them, coming 
not toward their front, but from the road on their left. The men 
being drilled in skirmishing, suddenly dropped to the ground with 
Wyatt fatally wounded. The others were recalled, and the church 
destroyed by shell fire. Wyatt was the only Confederate dead 
with several wounded, while the North lost more than one hun- 
dred and fifty killed and two hundred and fifty wounded. Young 
Wyatt was about twenty years old, and although there were many 
more of Edgecombe's best citizens who lost their lives, none are 
held in more esteem than Henry Wyatt. His body was carried to 
Yorktown the night after the battle. He died soon afterwards, 
and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. 

Colonel Magruder gave the report of Wyatt as follows: "Too 
much praise cannot be bestowed upon the heroic soldier whom we 
lost. He died pierced in the forehead by a musket ball. Henry L. 
Wyatt is the name of this brave soldier and devoted patriot." 
Camps were named in his honor during the war, his portrait is 

200 HiBTOBT OF Edgsookbb County 

now to be seen in the State Library at Raleigh. A chapter of the 
United Daughters of the Confederacy is also named in his honor 
at Selma, I^orth Carolina. 

Captain Bridgers won admiration from his commanding officer, 
and was cited for his action in the Battle of BetheL The citation 
won for him a promotion to lieutenant-colonel of heavy artillery, 
Tenth B^iment, C. S. A., on August 16, 1861; and afterwards 
became colonel of the regiment. 

The Tenth Begiment was the First Begular Artillery, and com- 
prised five companies of heavy artillery stationed at Fort Macon 
and five companies of light artillery. Some of the companies 
were garrisoned at Fort Macon and the breastworks extended sev- 
eral miles from there under command of Lieutenant-Colonel 
Bridgers. During his command Captain W. H. Parker, of the 
Confederate States I^avy, on an inspection tour visited the fort, 
and in his book, '^Recollections of a Naval Officer," says: *TJpon 
our arrival at Fort Macon we were received with great joy by 
Colonel Bridgers, the officer in command. The colonel had dis- 
tinguished himself at the battle of Bethel as a captain, had been 
promoted, and placed in command of Fort Macon. As he him- 
self said, he knew nothing about heavy artillery or the defense of 
fortified places. 7 only know,' said he, Hhat the flag must not 
come down,' and no one who knew this gallant man could doubt 
that it would only be lowered after a desperate defense, if at alL 
The colonel received me as the ordnance officer most cordially, 
^ow,' he remarked, ^y mind is at rest'; and I am sure that as 
soon as he felt that his men had been properly instructed and that 
his ammunition was all right, he would have welcomed the pres- 
ence of an attacking force." The attack was later made several 
times, and each time repulsed. At that time he had been made 
colonel of the Tenth Artillery Regiment. He tendered his resigna- 
tion of account of the condition of his health, and at his own re- 
quest was relieved of the duties at Fort Macon. He returned home 
after being succeeded by Colonel Moses G. White. He afterwards 
served on the staff of Lieutenant-Qeneral D. N. Hill. 

In the meantime the Edgecombe Company had been reorganized, 
with Whitmel P. Lloyd as captain, W. G. Lewis, first lieutenant, 
and Kenneth Wiggins, Jr., second lieutenant. The organization 

Wab Between the States 201 

soon disbanded^ however, due to the fact that the First B^giment 
was made up of volunteers who had enlisted for a period of six 

Captain Lloyd organized a battery and remained with the Tenth 
B^iment, being assigned with the five companies composing the 
light Artillery, and later with Company A, known as "Ellis' 
light Artillery." His battery went to Smithfield, Virginia, and 
was attached to Oeneral John C. Pemberton's brigade. It drilled 
there and at Todd's Point. On March 8, 1862, it crossed the 
James Biver and reported to Qeneral Magruder at Yorktown. 
Its first engagement was in April at Dam No. 1, and soon after- 
wards at Warwick Island. There were, however, no casualties on 
either side. On its retreat from Yorktown the company was at- 
tached to Simm's brigade, which fought at the battle of Williams- 
burg. The company remained at Williamsburg, occupying Fort 
Magruder, and then joined the general retreat to Bichmond. On 
approaching Chickahominy an engagement with the enemy was 
made and his advance checked. After the battle in the vicinity 
of Bichmond the company consolidated with the army which 
marched into Maryland, August, 1862. The troops marched 
through Culpepper, Warrenton, Harper's Ferry and Crampton's 
Gkip. At the latter place it had a small skirmish, and also at 
Sharpsburg the 16th and the 17th of September. The army 
then returned to Virginia and stopped at Winchester, where Cap- 
tain Lloyd's battery, of Tarboro, was disbanded. Captain Lloyd 
was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the State Beserves, but im- 
mediately resigned and returned home. He was regarded as being 
a bom soldier and a man of considerable ability. 

Among those to win distinction was William Gaston Lewis, 
who had been appointed first lieutenant of the Edgecombe Volun- 
teers after the promotion of Captain Bridgers. During the battle 
of Bethel he took a prominent part as second lieutenant. During 
the retreat he lead the Confederate sharpshooters against the 
retreating Federals. Following the Battle of Bethel he was 
reconmiended for promotion, and upon the organization of the 
Thirty-third I^orth Carolina Begiment he was appointed major 
dating from January 17, 1862. Oeneral Branch in his account 
of the battles below I^ewbem and around Kinston in March, 1862, 
reported that Lieutenant-Colonel Hoke and Major Lewis fought 

202 HiSTOBT OF Edgeoombb County 

against overwhelming odds and performed their duty fully. 
Major Lewifi took part in the battle at Slash Church or Hanover 
Court House, May 27, 1861, and Fort Thompson, where he com- 
manded the left wing of the line of battle and also at Cedar Run. 

On April 25, 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 
Forty-third Regiment North Carolina troops and assigned to 
Oeneral Daniel's brigade. The regiment, after its organization, 
was ordered to Wilmington and then Fort Johnson at Smithfidd. 
It remained here under command of (Jeneral French for about 
a month, when it was ordered to Virginia. Lieutenant-Colonel 
Lewis, being a civil engineer by profession, was ordered by his 
brigade commander to supervise the construction of the breast- 
works around Drewry's BluflF. The regiment at the approach of 
winter was ordered to Gtoldsboro, arriving there December 2, 
1862, to reinforce Confederate troops against the forc^ led by 
General Foster. The Federals succeeded in burning the bridge 
over the Neuse River and retreated to their base at Newborn. 
The bridge was immediately repaired by a detail from Daniel's 
brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis supervising. The regiment 
went to Washington and had skirmishes there, after which it re- 
turned to its former quarters at Kinston, and later went to Fred- 
ericksburg, Virginia. The Forty-third Regiment was then trans- 
ferred to Rhodes Division of the Second Corps. 

After a review of the army by General Lee the march to Penn- 
sylvania began in June of that memorable year, 1863. The line 
of march was through Martinsburg, Williamsport, Hagerstown, 
and Chambersburg to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It left the latter 
place and returned to Gettysburg. The brigade formed a line of 
battle here July 1, 1863, near Forney's house. In this battle 
Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis gained additional distinction. The fight, 
which began in the afternoon, lasted until late in the evening, the 
brigade being led by General Daniel. Seminary Ridge was cap- 
tured and occupied, but with a tremendous loss on both sides. 
General Lee and staff were personal witnesses of the battle, and 
encouraged the men. During the battle Colonel Kenan, of the 
Forty-third Regiment, was wounded in leading a charge, and was 
captured and held by the Federal soldiers. The command fell 
upon Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis. . 


Wab Between the States 203 

In giving liis report of this battle Oeneral Daniel made special 
mention of the service of Colonel Lewis, saying that he acted 
with bravery and coolness. After the three day^s battle at Gtet- 
tysbnrg the Forty-third Regiment moved to Hagerstown, where it 
engaged the Federal sally from the rear position of the retreat. 
It rem.ained at Hagerstown for a few days^ and then crossed the 
Potomac to the town of Darksville. Colonel Lewis commanded 
the Forty-third Regiment at the battle of Mine Bun. Here sev- 
eral minor engagements took place and the regiment was consoU- 
dated with General Hoke's brigade for the winter campaign in 
Eastern North Carolina in 1863 and 1864. 

In approaching Newbem, near Bachelor's Creek, a night at- 
tack was made against the Federal breastworks. In doing this it 
was learned that the flooring of a bridge had been removed. 
Colonel Lewis asked permission to repair the bridge in order that 
he might attack. General Hoke complied, and one company did 
the necessary repairing under fire, and the attack was made at 
daybreak, driving the enemy in a retreat to Newbern, a distance 
of seven miles. 

After an unsuccessful attempt to capture a train of cars on the 
way to Newbem to transport Federal troops, the Forty-third 
Begiment, under command of Colonel Lewis, fell back to Elnston 
for a few weeks and then marched to Plymouth. The battle of 
Plymouth, April 18th to 20th, 1864, was of notable interest. Gen- 
eral Hoke had been given command of the entire forces, with 
Colonel Lewis still commanding the Forty-third B^iment. Plans 
of cooperation were made with the Confederate Navy to rescue the 
"Albemarle," then on the Boanoke Biver. Colonel Mercer,^ 
commanding Hoke's brigade, was killed in the charge on the night 
of the 18th and Colonel Lewis assumed command, and was im- 
mediately promoted to brigadier general. The fort was captured 
with the assistance of the ^'Albemarle" in sinking Federal gun- 
boats. On the morning of the 20th, General Lewis occupied the 
western portion of the town and assisted in its capture. 

(General Lewis's next scene of action was around Washington, 
North Carolina, and then at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, May 16, 
1864. He still remained in charge of Hoke's old brigade. In writ- 
ing of the battle of Drewry's Bluff, General Bansom, commanding, 

^ Cokmel Mercer is buried in the Episcopal Obarch yard at Tarboro. 

204 HisTOBY OF Edoboombb County 

comments especially on the services of Qeneral Lewis's command, 
which he reported was led so gallantly at the "double-quick" 
against the enemy. 

During the year 1864 Qeneral Lewis and his brigade were in 
!N^orthem Virginia and took part in the struggles with Ransom's 
and Early's divisions. He was with Early in the historic valley 
of Virginia and engaged in the battles around Petersburg. It 
was during the battle of Farmville that he received his first 
wound. He was ordered by his commander to move on Farmville. 
It being discovered that the Federal troops were there and de- 
stroying bridges. On their approach the Federal army began 
firing with artillery. In the morning, however, the enemy had 
abandoned their position. Qeneral Humphreys, major-general 
of the Federal forces, in writing about the incident, said: *1 re- 
gret to report that Brigadier (General Lewis, conmianding brigade. 
Walker's Division, Qordan's Corps, of the Confederate Army, 
severely wounded, together with other wounded, were left in our 
hands by the enemy." This happened one day before the sur- 
render at Appomattox. 

The Confederate officers thought him dead upon the battlefield. 
He was one of the youngest brigadier-generals in the southern 
army and was several times complimented by Qeneral Lee. He 
recovered from his wound and became chief engineer of the North 
Carolina State Quards, which position he held until his death, 
January 7, 1901. 

Dr. J. H. Baker, after the disbanding of the First North Caro- 
lina Begiment, was given charge of the Confederate hospital at 
Tarboro. He returned to his home to assume charge, where he 
remained, except for intervals, throughout the war. He was at 
the battle of Plymouth and assisted in administering medical aid 
to the wounded in several minor engagements in North Carolina. 
It was his unfortunate duty to be present at Appomattox during 
the termination of the civil strife. 

The original First Begiment of North Carolina troops con- 
tributed some valuable assistance to the cause of the South. 
Edgecombe County's part in this regiment was made notable by 
John Luther Bridgers, William Qaston Lewis, Whitmel P. Lloyd, 
of the Bethel Begiment. J. H. Thorpe, of Bocky Mount, and a 
member of the Edgecombe Quards, and one of the number who 

Wab Bbtwebn thb States 205 

vohmteered to bum the house obstructing the fire of the Confed- 
erates at Bethel, rose most rapidly from the ranks. Thorpe was 
a graduate of the State Uniyersity and a man of considerable 
promise when he enlisted in Oaptain Bridgers's company. After 
the battle of Bethel he was promoted from the ranks to lieutenant 
and later became captain of Nash County Volunteers. 

The name of William Dorsey Pender ever lives in the hearts 
of brave and loyal men. Possessed with the calm and courageous 
bearing, he was, of all Edgecombe's loyal men, the one aroimd 
whom military history has its glory. He gave more than others 
who did not lose their all. His gift was precious, because in his 
loss the Confederacy lost a noble leader and Edgecombe a precious 

He was bom in Edgecombe County, February 6, 1834, the son 
of James Pender, a descendant of Edwin Pender, of Norfolk, 
Virginia. Dorsey Pender attended the United States Military 
Academy and graduated in 1854, in the class of which Custis Lee, 
Stephen D. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, and others of military fame, 
were members. His military experience prior to the war between 
the States was both varied and useful. He at first received a 
commission in the artillery, and in 1855 he received permission 
to be transferred to the First Dragoons. In 1858 he received a 
promotion to first lieutenant. During his service in the United 
States Army he had had several encounters with the Indians, an 
active experience in New Mexico, California, Washington, and 
Or^on with the Apaches, and the original natives around Four 
Lakes and Spokane Plains. In 1860 he was adjutant of his regi- 
ment and also acted in the capacity of ' recruiting officer in 

In appearance he was not unlike his fellow-leaders from Edge- 
combe. His manner was pleasing and gentle. He walked with 
a stately motion, was a gentleman, cultivated, unaffected, and 
above all a good friend to his fellowman. The idea that one 
could not be tender at heart and at the same time maintain disci- 
pline was without foundation. No man ever received more touch- 
ing tribute from his former comrades than did Pender. 

Bealizing the conditions that existed in his State, he returned 
in 1859, and soon afterwards resigned his conmiission and ac- 
cepted a captaincy in the Corps of Artillery in the Confederate 

206 HiSTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

Army. His first duties were as recruiting officer at Baltimore. 
Orders had been given Oeneral Beauregard, at Charleston, to 
detail an officer to Baltimore for special service. Through some 
misunderstanding the officer never appeared. (Jeneral L. P. 
Walker, Secretary of War, upon being apprised of the fact by 
Honorable L. T. Wigfall, wrote him that Captain Pender would 
be sent as inspector of recruits and to superintend the enlistment 
of men. War had not yet been declared, but all indications 
pointed that way, and the Confederate States were {Preparing. 
Captain Pender, after a few weeks, was removed from Maryland 
and stationed at Raleigh, where he became drill master in the 
spring of 1861. Brigadier General Cox received instructions 
from him in that year. 

May 16, 1861, found him moved still nearer the scene of actual 
encounter, when he was stationed as post conmiandant at Garys- 
burg. He became chief mustering officer for all the companies 
stationed at his camp. Prior to this, however. Captain Pender 
expressed his desire to resign and to become actively in service. 
On May 17, 1861, a few days after he had stated his desire by 
letter to Gtovernor Ellis, he was advised that' the Governor wanted 
him to remain at camp as instructor, since if he left camp it 
would have to be abandoned. The Thirteenth North Carolina 
Begiment was organized on this date, which marks the beginning 
of his active military career. Three of the companies which con- 
stituted the regiment had been sent to Garysburg and were being 
drilled under Captain Pender immediately after the State seceded. 
While at Garysburg the ten companies which constituted the 
Begiment organized and elected W. D. Pender colonel. This 
regiment was then known as the Third North Carolina Volunteers, 
and was completed in organization May 16, 1861. Among the ten 
companies was Company G, an Edgecombe organization, with 
J. H. Hyman captain. The regiment was sworn in the service 
for twelve months. Soon afterwards the regiment took the oath 
for the duration of the War and had its name changed to the 
Thirteenth Begiment, North Carolina troops. 

The regiment was stationed at Suffolk, Virginia, imtil June of 
1861, when it marched to Bagged Island and camped six miles 
from Smithfield, Virginia. For several weeks the r^ment re- 
mained here and did picket duty along the James Biver opposite 

Wae Bbtwesn the States 207 

Newport News. During the month of September, 1861, Colonel 
Pender resigned his command of the Thirteenth Begiment and 
was given Fisher's old regiment, the Sixth North Carolina, at 
Manassas. Colonel Pender took command of the Sixth Regiment 
at Bull Bun immediately after the famous battle. In order to be 
in a safer location, the camp was moved to near Bristow Station 
of now historic fame. The regiment had suffered from sickness 
and disease, and as winter was approaching it went into winter 
quarters at Freestone Point, near Ihinf ries. Except for the picket 
duty the winter proved uneventful. About the 8th of March, 
1862, the winter camp was burned with an inmiense amount of 
baggage, and the troops were transferred to Fredericksburg. 

During the latter part of March a large number of Federal 
troops under McClellan were being moved down the Potomac, 
when the Sixth Begiment received orders to move towards Bich- 
mond. While in the process of advancing, orders came for the 
formation of a battle line, but no engagement occurred. The 
regiment, although it was in readiness, missed the battle of 
Williamsburg and the skirmish at Yorktown. The first encounter 
took place at Barhamsville or Eltham's Landing. The enemy was 
prevented from landing by gunboats in York Biver. 

The regiment assisted then in a defense camp around Bichmond, 
where it remained until the fight at Seven Pines, where the Fed- 
erals made a persistent stand. While in this engagement Colonel 
Pender exercised the quickness of a true soldier. He was in 
danger at the flank and rear of his regiment by Federal troops. 
In an instant he saved his command by shouting, '^y the left 
flank, file right, double-quick." His regiment was excellently 
drilled, and, without a mistake, executed the order and thereby 
escaped the danger of the Federal formation. A brigade adjacent 
to him was suffering the worse of the engagement and had its 
forces repulsed. Colonel Pender, with judicious calmness, reor- 
ganized its ranks. President Davis was upon the field of battle 
and witnessed the ability of Colonel Pender. He turned to 
Pender and said, "General Pender, I salute you." Subsequently 
Colonel Pender became brigadier general and assumed comma ad 
of (Jeneral Pettigrew's brigade. Beginning June 3d he was given 
a greater opportunity to distinguish himself further. 

208 History of Eooboombe County 

Oeneral Pender's assignment of the Sixth Brigade included the 
Second Arkansas Battalion, Sixteenth North Oarolina, Twenty- 
second North Carolina, Thirty-fourth North Carolina, Thirty- 
eighth North Carolina, and the Twenty-second ^(^irginia hattalions. 
He led his men at Beaver Dam and suffered heavy fire at Cold 
Harbor, and at Cedar Run he proved the tactician that he was 
and became the pivot upon which defeat was turned into victory. 
At second Manassas his sword was applied with soldierly force, 
and here he received a wound. At MechanicsviUe he made a 
decided stand in an attempt to turn the enemy's left for a decisive 
advantage. At Fredericksburg he received a second wound and 
praise for himself and all his men. His brigade had been roughly 
handled when Major Oeneral Hill met him. He requested assist- 
ance of two more regiments of Eile/s brigade to turn the position 
at Ellison's Mill. He received the cooperation of (General Riley, 
and about dark the attack was made through an open plain against 
a well-fortified embankment. Immediately following this Gen- 
eral Pender received another wound at the battle of Frazier's 
Farm. In this engagement (General Pender lost eight hundred 
men. The Federals, however, testified to his fighting qualities. 

By July, 1862, General Pender was in "Stonewall" Jackson's 
Division, commanding five regiments. In the meantime G^eral 
Lee had written General Hill to relieve two brigades — ^that of 
Pender and of Lane. An explanation of this was probably tho 
fact that the two brigades were to be sent to North Carolina for 
the protection of Wilmington. On November 21, 1862, Brigadier 
(General Whiting wrote the Secretary of War that in event of the 
general movements of the enemy causing a concentration of the 
army near Richmond and a transfer of the troops to North Caro- 
lina he desired the brigade of Pender and his troops. The facts, 
however, in the case were soon disclosed in a letter of (General 
Lee's to President Davis. The order for the release of the two 
brigades was suspended. General Lee wrote: 

'T[ was surprised to learn from (General A. P. Hill on my return 
that the other two North Carolina brigades, Pender's and Lane's, 
which had been ordered off, were delighted, at the suspension of 
their order. They did not wish to go to North Carolina." The 
letter was written January 23, 1863, from Camp Fredericksburg, 
where the army was in winter quarters. 

Wab Betwben the States 209 

The next engagement of any consequence that (General Fender 
took active part was at Chancellorsville in the early part of the 
year 1863. It was here that Oeneral Jackson received a fatal 
wound and was relying on General Pender, who had been a 
faithful soldier under his command for several months. It is 
recorded that General Pender was so reserved in demeanor that 
Oeneral Jackson only knew him for his gallantry in battle, the 
discipline of his troops, and the orderly appearance of his camp. 

At Chancellorsville (General Jackson, after receiving his wound, 
recognized Oeneral Pender through the darkness, and said, 'Tou 
must hold your ground, Gteneral Pender, you must hold your 
groimd, sir.'^ From the account of Oeneral Lee, (Jeneral Pender 
held his ground, for in his report he recorded that "Gteneral 
Pender led his brigade to the attack under a destructive fire, 
bearing the colors of a regiment in his own hands up to and over 
the entrenchments, with the most distinguished gallantry." 

Immediately after the wounding of Oeneral A. P. Hill, Oeti- 
eral Pender took command of the ^*Light Division," receiving a 
slight wound while in battle. Oeneral Lee recommended that he 
be permanently assigned to this command, because of his quali- 
ties as an officer, ^'attentive, industrious, and brave, and has been 
conspicuous in every battle, and I believe wounded in most Al 
of them." He was accordingly promoted to major general May 
27, 1863, at the age of twenty-nine, but experienced in the school 
of war and hardships. 

Oeneral Pender is best known for his activities, although of 
short duration, while in command of the '*Light Division." Every 
one knew of him in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was 
quick to move, alert and forceful, as he was impetuous in attack- 
ing an enemy. He had the reputation of being never late. His 
reputation gained credence the few weeks he was actively in com- 
mand. It was commonly circulated among the army in Virginia 
that General Lee said Pender was the only man in his army that 
could fill the place of "Stonewall" Jackson. 

General Pender's first great battle after his promotion was at 
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was here he met an untimely death. 


210 History of Edobgombe Cottntt 

On July Ist hifi dlTision had attacked the enemy and driven him 
from Seminary Eidge. During the second day General Pender, 
Lieutenant Colonel Lewis, whose command rested on the left of 
Pender's division, and Major Englehard were reclining on a 
Urge rock pleasantly paasing jocular remarks, when a terrific 
artillery fire opened up from Cemetery Hill and struck the Con- 
federate lines. An eye witness relates that (General Pender, in 
a most quiet and unassuming manner, raised up and said, ^^ajor, 
this indicates an assault on our lines, and we will ride to the 
center of the division." The group rode oflf preUminary to an 
attack on Cemetery Hill, and had reached half the distance to the 
center of the division when General Pender was struck in his leg 
by a fragment of a shell. He survived the retreat to Staunton, 
where his leg was amputated July 18th, with subsequent death. 
His body lies in the beautiful Calvary churchyard at Tarboro, 
the town which still cherishes his memory. 

Qeneral Q. C. Wharton stated that in a conversation between 
A. P. Hill and himself General Lee said, '^I ought not to have 
fought the battle of (Gettysburg; it was a mistake. But the stakes 
were so great I was compelled to play; for if we had succeeded, 
Harrisburg, Baltimore, and Washington were in our hands; and 
we would have succeeded had Pender lived." The official records 
give testimony to General Lee's appreciation of his worth as a 
soldier and as a man. 'The- loss of Major General Pender," he 
writes, "is severely felt by the army and the country. He served 
with this army from the beginning of the war, and took a dis- 
tinguished part in all its engagements. Wounded on several occa- 
sions, he never left his command in action until he received the 
injury which caused his death. His promise and usefulness as 
an officer were only equaled by the purity and excellence of his 
private life." This excellent citizen and soldier has been honored 
by his county and State. Pender County, North Carolina, has 
been named in his honor, while the local chapter of the Daughters 
of the Confederacy bears his name. Mrs. L. L. Staton, of Tar- 
boro, contributed a memorial poem in his honor which was read 
at a meeting of the William Dorsey Pender Chapter, February 3, 


Wab Between the States 211 

1915. When Qeneral Pender's body was moved to Tarboro for 
reinterment, a beautiful poem, contributed by William Loftin 
Hargraye, was sung at the grave. It is worthy of permanent 
record. ^Dulce et decorum est, pro Patria mori.^' ^ 

"Soldier, while the Spring so balmy, 

Sighs in fragrance o'er thy head. 
While thou sleei^est on so calmly. 

Loving hands adorn thy bed. 
Let these flowers tell thy story. 

Bright and brief in dying — blest 
Let them breathe. Pro Patri mori, 

Dulce et decorum est. 

"In our hearts we proudly cherish. 

Recollections of thy worth; 
Noble deeds can never perish — 

Virtue has immortal birth. 
Lost to us — but not to glory! 

Warrior, in thine honor rest! 
Sweetly rest! Pro Patria mori, 

Dulce et decorum est. 

"Brighter flowers, noble Pender, 

Mem'ry weaves around thy name. 
Son of Southland — brave defender. 

Love is dearer still than Fame. 
Rest thee — in thy garments gory. 

War's grim emblem on thy breast, 
Rest in peace! Pro Patria mori, 

Dulce et decorum est." 

One of the saddest regrets in Edgecombe's history is that no 
monument has been erected to perpetuate his heroic deeds. The 
State has also shown its indifference during fifty-six years. A 
memorial window in Calvary Church enshrines his memory, his 
grave is marked by a circle of cannon balls placed as a sad 
memorial by the Edgecombe Guards. 

Brigadier General William Kuffin Cox's activities belong to 
Edgecombe County beginning with 1857. He moved to Edge- 
combe in this year and became extensively engaged in agriculture. 
In 1861, when times were excitable and pulses ran high, he con- 
tributed his knowldege and services to the State. He was a man 

^Horace Odei 8 — ^218. It is iweet- and glorious to die for one's country. 

212 History of Edoscombs County 

of good education^ having been admitted to the bar to practice law. 
His first service was the assistance rendered in organizing ''Ellis 
Artillery*^ Company and later organizing a company of infantry. 
In the meantime he had been commissioned by Governor Ellis 
major of the Second Begiment of North Carolina troops. This 
regiment soon entered active service. He was at Chancellors- 
ville and at Cold Harbor. At Sharpsburg the well-beloved Colonel 
C. C. Tew was killed, and when Judge W. P. Bynum was advanced 
next in command Cox was appointed lieutenant-coloneL Soon 
afterwards Bynum resigned and Cox became colonel of the r^- 
ment in March, 1863. The part that the Second Begiment played 
was indeed heroic, having achieved imperishable honors. Acting 
in command of the regiment Colonel Cox moved into the valley 
of Virginia. In the spring of 1863 Colonel Cox moved to 
Chancellorsville driving the enemy from his outposts. They 
camped so near the enemy that night all orders were given in 
whispers. Saturday night the charge was made by (General 
Jackson's Corps, when Cox's regiment halted a few feet from 
(Generals Lee and Jackson. Immediately afterwards the Second 
Begiment was ordered to charge. The order was misunderstood 
by some. Seven companies of the regiment charged, but going 
at different directions, the left end going far beyond the breast- 
works, while the right never reached it. The cause for the trouble 
was an order given by General Bamsuer. As he neared the Second 
Begiment, he said: 'Torward, Second.'' The three captains 
stood half faced to the right observing Cox, who was waiting for 
his command. The men were at high tension when General 
Bamseur said : 'Torward at once." The three colnpanies got the 
conmiand first and dashed away at top speed. Cox, taking in the 
situation, led the remaining companies and succeeded in driving 
the enemy from his works and silenced his guns. In this battle 
he was wounded three times. 

The next engagement was at (Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, but Cox 
was absent from his regiment on account of his wounds. General 
Bamsuer paid him a high compliment for his services and named 
him 'Hihe manly and chivabous Cox." 

Cox rejoined his command when it returned from Pennsylvania 
and took part in the Wilderness and Spottsylvania battles in 
1864. After these battles, under conmiand of General Bamsuer, 

Wab Between the States 213 

Lee, and Ewell, he was promoted to brigadier general. His old 
regiment remained in his brigade. He fought in Early's Division 
at Castleman's Ford, Winchester, Fisher's Mill and Cedar Creek. 
His brigade became known as Cox's brigade from the battle of 
Spottsylvania. His brigade captured more prisoners at Win- 
chester than it numbered and harrassed thousands in retreat. 

His brigade fought through Maryland to Washington and the 
Shenandoah battle of the fall of 1864. He then returned to the 
battle-scarred field of Northern Virginia, where he waited around 
Petersburg and took part in the attempt of Gordon's Corps to 
pierce the enemy's lines at Fort Stedman. It was on this retreat 
Cox displayed his best soldiership. Governor Vance related that 
one day during a retreat to the West, when General Lee was 
taxed to get in line some routed troops, he became elated by the 
appearance of a small but well organized brigade. He called out 
to his aide: ''What troops are those?" "Cox's North Carolina 
brigade," was the reply. General Lee took o£F his hat and with 
bowed head said, "God bless North Carolina." 

From Petersburg the brigade went to Appomattox, where Gten- 
eral Cox led the division in the last charge after ordering his 
brigade to cover the retreat. His men who were retiring were 
exhausted and well spent, but Cox ordered a halt and a command 
of "Right about face" was given. With the promptness of 
veterans they returned and fired a deadly volley into the Fed- 
eral ranks. Once more the firm Cox ordered, "Ready, aim, fire." 
This was the last volley fired by any troop of the Army of North- 
em Virginia. Defeated but not conquered the gallant Cox bore 
his eleven wounds and laid down his sword with the soldierly 
grace of a true hero. 

Although the career and achievements of Edgecombe's sons 
were of conspicuous interest, its military history centers around 
the performance of its organizations. The county contributed 
several companies to the service of the Confederate States and 
many notable events are credited to their achievements. The 
various companies in the North Carolina Regiments, its officers 
and part taken in battles, are given in order named : 

Company A in First North Carolina or Bethel has already been 
given. The companies assigned to North Carolina regiments are 
as follows: Company C, Eighth Regiment; Companies A, C, D, 

214 HiSTOEY OF Edgecombe County 

Tenth Begiment; Company G, Thirteenth Begiment; Companies 
I and K, Fifteenth Begiment; Company I, SeTenteenth Begi- 
ment; Company F, Thirtieth Begiment; Company F, Thirty- 
first Begiment; Company B, Thirty-third Begiment; Company 
F, Fortieth Begiment; Company E, Forty-third Begiment; Com- 
pany B, Forty-fourth Begiment, and Company I, of the Seventy- 
fifth Begiment. 

Company C of the Eighth North Carolina Begiment was 
originally made up from the counties of Edgecombe, Franklin, 
and New Hanover, and was organized at Warrenton, North Caro- 
lina, August and September, 1861. Charles H. Barron, of Edge- 
combe, was commissioned first lieutenant, May 16, 1861, and was 
promoted to captain February 1, 1863. William J. Baker, of 
Edgecombe, was second corporal, having enlisted July 9, 1861. 
J. B. Hill, a private, was soon promoted to sergeant. The 
county contributed thirty-nine privates out of the total number 
of ninety-one, in addition to an officer and two nonconmiissioned 
officers. The company was mustered in the Eighth Begiment Sep- 
tember 13th by Colonel Bobert Bamson, for the entire war. It 
received instruction in a camp near Warrenton, and was sta- 
tioned on Bonoke Island where fortifications were built. In 
October the regiment embarked on barges to the sound to attack 
an enemy force along the sea coast at Chicamacomics. The at- 
tack was made on October 4th and the entire camp and fifty-five 
prisoners were captured. It remained around Hatteras and Fort 
Bartow until February, 1862, when an enemy fleet entered Pam- 
lico Sound and bombarded Fort Bartow, when the regiment re- 
tired to the north of the island. The island surrendered, and the 
Eighth Begiment held as prisoners of war and paroled two weeks 
later. The regiment reassembled September, 1862, one year after 
its organization, with its former companies remaining intact. 
It became a part of Qeneral F. L. Clingman's brigade, and was 
stationed around Xinston, Wilmington, and Newborn, spending 
the winter at Camp Whiting at (Joldsboro. At Goldsboro Lieu- 
tenant Barron was promoted to captain of Company C. In Feb- 
ruary the regiment was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, 
and later to Savannah, (Jeorgia. It later returned to Charleston 
and then to Wilmington. It saw its first real service on its return 
to Charleston, July 13, 1863. Here it fought against an ironclad 

Wab Between the States 216 

fleet and was given a severe bombardment. They were sieged 
fifty-eight days at Battery Wagner and suffered undue hardsbips, 
tbe men working night and day. 

When the regiment returned to N"orth Carolina in December the 
organization was sent to Petersburg, Virginia, and slept in the 
streets the night of December 14, 1863. It remained in camp near 
here to January 29, 1864. It left Petersburg without a fight and 
returned to Ooldsboro, thence to Kinston and later made an at- 
tack at Newbem. It was then returned to Petersburg, and then 
fought at Suffolk, Virginia. It left here for Plymouth by way of 
Weldon, Rocky Mount, and Tarboro, by railroad. From Tarboro 
the regiment marched to Plymouth. It finally returned to Peters- 
burg and assisted in preventing the capture of that city. It 
fought at Cold Harbor, loosing 275 officers and men. The regi- 
ment received the news of Lee's surrender while in Randolph 

Companies A, C, D were in the famous battery known as the 
Sixteenth Regiment Artillery, which were stationed at Fort Macon 
and under command of Lieutenant-Colonel John L. Bridgers. 
Companies A, C, and D were three of the five companies of light 
artillery. Company A had about fifty privates, with J. H. Payne 
as second lieutenant, all of Edgecombe. Payne was commissioned 
March 1, 1862, and soon promoted to first lieutenant. H. P. 
Lyon enlisted March 1, 1862, as seventh sergeant, was promoted 
to second lieutenant March, 1862, and was assigned to the Thirty- 
third regiment. H. Slack enlisted in March, 1862, as eighth 
sei^ant and was promoted to fourth sergeant. W. T. Bryan, 
seventh corporal, enlisted March, 1862, while C. Zoeller was 

Company C had only a few of Edgecombe soldiers and no offi- 
cers, while Company D had about thirty men from Edgecombe. 
E. W. Wilcox and John Reggs were sergeants and J. W. Pittman 
a corporal. These companies saw service at Newbern and were 
captured and paroled not to take up arms again until properly 
exchanged. In 1862 an exchange was made, and Major Poole, 
with his command, went to Tarboro and fifty men under Captains 
McRae and Cobb joined his force. These two men received honor 
for themselves and company. In 1863 these companies were used 
in the Seventeenth Regiment to repell a supposed Federal force 

216 HisTOBY OF Edoboombk CionNTT 

between Tarboro and Williamston. The rumor was unfounded 
and the companies were returning when the force had a railroad 
accident between Tarboro and Rocky Mount. More than twenty 
men were wounded and war equipment, men, and cars piled to- 
gether. The mail train for Tarboro arrived and took the wounded 
to the Confederate hospital at that place. The crew was placed 
under conmiand of Lieutenant James H. Fool. Two of the men 
were injured for life. Major Pool remained at Tarboro, estab- 
lishing quarters, under instruction of General Bragg, to collect 
supplies for (General Johnson's army, to protect Confederate stores 
and to protect public property. On the 21st of April the forces 
of Schofield, composing an entire army corps, advanced this way 
to form a junction with Sherman's army. All supplies and about 
800 bales of cotton were sent to Halifax and Qoldsboro. Three 
hundred bales were left on account of the lack of transportation 
and were burned on order of General Bragg. 

A battallion of these companies was ordered to Bocky Mount to 
meet the Federals there, but being late the Union forces burned 
the cotton mills and railroad bridge at that place. The mill was 
the oldest of the South and constituted a great loss, as will be 
explained later. The companies remained around Eastern North 
Carolina and established its headquarters in Tarboro, March 22, 
1866. Major Fool remained here until April 10th, when Fort 
Branch was destroyed, bridges burned over Tar River, thus giv- 
ing cause for the consolidation of troops at Halifax. On April 
7th the conmiand encamped near Tarboro on Tar River. No pro- 
visions could be secured, since the people of the county had given 
to exhaustion. A council was formed to determine what plan to 
pursue, and lieutenant-Colonel Quion and Captain Cogdell went 
to Gk>ldsboro to draw up the terms of surrender. 

Company A of the Thirteenth Regiment has a remarkable his- 
tory. The company was organized by Captain J. H. Hyman 
and went to Garysburg, North Carolina, where it will be rwnem- 
bered General Fender was instructor. Later Captain Hyman 
began to rise in the ranks, first becoming major of the Thirteenth 
Regiment, March 2, 1862; lieutenant-colonel, October 16, 1862; 
and colonel, January 13, 1863. He had a very brilliant military 
career and remained with the Thirteenth Regiment from the be- 
ginning until his wound at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Captain 

War Between the States 217 

Hyman was commissioned captain of Company G, May 1, 1861. 
He saw active service at Williamsburg, Seven Fines, Gaines Mills, 
and Boonsborough. At the latter place lie had his first opportu- 
nity to distinguish himself. * He led his company against a hot fire 
and after the commanding officer was wounded led the r^ment 
and succeeded in effecting his objective. A scene described in 
this battle relates the horrors of war. Edgecombe company lost 
the greatest number killed in any one battle. A shell struck a 
sergeant of the company in the breast and exploded, leaving no 
trace of the body. Another was struck on the top of his head and 
uncapped, leaving the brains exposed. 

The lieutenant-colonel commanding, in giving his account of the 
battle, says: ^'I noticed particularly the gallant bearing of Cap- 
tain J. H. Hyman acting as major, and owing to an accident I 
was not able to command the regiment on the 17th, I therefore 
have the honor to call your attention to the accompanying report 
from Captain Hynuin, who commanded that day." 

A few days after this battle the reports of operation designated 
Hyman as major, commission dating March 2, 1862. In less than 
six months from the time his efficiency as a soldier had warranted 
promotion again, and on October 16, 1862, he became lieutenant- 
cobnel. He was still in General Fender's brigade, and saw service 
with him in the serious battles of N'orthem Virginia. Hyman 
was afterwards promoted to colonel of his regiment. 

He was very popular with the men and always considerate of 
them. An instance cocurred in which several of his men got too 
much brandy while very cold and created considerable disturbance 
with an Irish battalion. lieutenant-Colonel Benton Withers, 
who was in command of them, marched them back to camp. A 
letter written about him bears mark of his good feelings and kind- 
ness. A captain of one of his companies records : ''The next day 
being Christmas Eve, Colonel Joe Hyman received a very nice 
box from a friend at Tarboro, jN'orth Carolina, and in the box 
were five gallons of N'orth Carolina brandy, turkey, hams, sau- 
sage, cakes, etc. Well, he was something of a 'turnip' himself; 
he invited every commissioned officer to come up to his tent and 
partake of his hospitality. After a few smiles at the demijohn 
he then sent for the brass band, treated them and made them play 
till midnight. About this time his heart had gotten soft. He 

218 History of Edobcombb County 

called Colonel Withers and ordered him to go and tell all the 
officers that were tipsy to come to him at once, also to tell every 
man in the guardhouse that he was pardoned. He wound up by 
saying, T) — n a man that will punish others for the very thing 
he will do himself.' " 

At Chancellorsville he conducted himself well, and received the 
following commendation from Gteneral Pender: "Colonel Hyjnan 
showed himself a true and gallant officer." The eventful day at 
Appomattox still found Hyman in his fearless attitude. 

Company 6 had various changes made in its personnel and or- 
ganization. A list of officers all of Edgecombe County with dates 
of commission and changes are here given: J. H. Hyman, captain; 
J. A. Fugua, first lieutenant, and promoted to captain, October 
15, 1862; G. L. Brown, sergeant, later second lieutenant, and 
finally promoted captain, 1864; C. M. Ciralia, second lieutenant, 
promoted to first lieutenant, October 15, 1862; G. M. Stancil, 
sergeant, promoted to first lieutenant; W. T. McNair, second 
lieutenant, and resigned October 15, 1861 ; B. P. Jenkins, sergeant, 
and promoted to second lieutenant, October 15, 1861; Eufus At- 
kinson, corporal and promoted to second lieutenant, April, 1862. 
Lieutenant Atkinson was wounded at Gettysburg and died, Au- 
gust 3, 1863. Lieutenants Brown and Stancil were wounded, but 
not fatally, at Williamsburg and at Chancellorsville. The com- 
pany was made up almost exclusively of Edgecombe boys and 
endured some of the greatest trials of the war. It contributed 
approximately eighty-two privates out of a company of 104. 

Companies I and K of the Fifteenth Regiment are also closely 
allied with Company G of the Fourteenth. In this famous regi- 
ment the beloved Dowd was at first adjutant and later colonel. 
Gray Willis Hammond became major February 27, 1863, and 
later in 1864 was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. These men 
deserve a few remarks of their deeds of valor. The raiment was 
organized at Garysburg, North Carolina, June 10, 1861. When 
McKlinney, the colonel of the Fifteenth, was killed at Lee's Farm, 
H. A. Dowd, first lieutenant of Company I, and acting adjutant, 
was elected colonel April 20, 1862. He was wounded at Malvern 
Hill July 1, 1862, and resigned February 27, 1863. A rise in 
ranks occurred and G. W. Hanmionds was accordingly elected 

War Between the States 219 

major. MacBae^ who was appointed colonel at the resignation 
of Colonel Dowd, was appointed brigadier general August, 1864, 
and this gave Hammond the rank of lieutenant-colonel. 

The organization of Company I from May, 1861, to 1864, was 
composed of Turner W. Battle, captain; Henry A. Dowd, first 
lieutenant ; Benjanodn T. Hart, first lieutenant ; Frederick Philips, 
second lieutenant; Bedding S. Suggs, second lieutenant; Solomon 
M. Pender, second lieutenant; Edwin E. Knight, second lieu- 
tenant, and D. H. Barlow, second lieutenant. E. D. Foxhall was 
first sergeant and was promoted to captain May 2, 1862. Thomas 
W. DaTis, sergeant, was also promoted to second lieutenant in 
the Eighth Begiment March 25, 1863. The company had 148 
enlisted men, most of whom were from Edgecombe. 

Company K had three captains during its organization — Gray 
W. Hammonds, Gteorge W. White, and James P. Cross. First 
lieutenants were W. T. Gray, G. W. White, and J. P. Cross. Sec- 
ond lieutenants, J. J. Beed, Thomas H. Griffin, G. W. White, J. P. 
Cross, William D. Braswell, and H. H. Griffin. This company had 
140 enlisted men, the majority being from Edgecombe. 

These companies went through the battles of Lee's Farm, Mal- 
vern Hill, South Mountain, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg. It 
gave the promotion of J. P. Cross, a corporal, April 24, 1861, to 
the captaincy of Company K, March 14, 1863. 

Company I was formed April 21, 1861, with John S. Dancy, 
captain; A. M. J. Whitehead, first lieutenant; William H. Powell 
and Pleasant Petway, second lieutenants; Thomas F. Cherry, 
Henry G. Gorham, ^ames M. Cutchin, David S. Williams, William 
McDowell, sergeants, in order named, and James P. Jenkins, 
John A. Cutchin, Jesse H. B. Thorn, and C. B. King, corporals. 
J. G. Arrington was assistant surgeon. With the exception of 
William H. Philips, of Virginia, the 180 men, officers and privates, 
were from Edgecombe County. 

. May 16, 1862, Captain Dancy being detailed as quartermaster 
of the regiment, A. M. J. Whitehead was put in command. 
Powell was made first lieutenant, and in December was promoted 
captain. The entire company, along with the regiment, was cap- 
tured during the bombardment of Fort Bartow. After being ex- 
changed it had a reorganization at Camp Mangum and performed 
picket duty at Newbem, Washington, and Plymouth. The com- 

220 HisTOBT OF Edgecombe Countt 

panj saw service at Newport, battles of the Wilderness, and 
Spottsjlvania. It suffered the hardships of the siege of Peters- 
burg and rejoiced over the fight at Bentonville. It was in Iforth 
Carolina at Goldsboro when 115,000 Federal troops were menacing 
three sides of the city, met and repulsed a force over three times 
its number. The regiment surrendered to General Sherman in 
Randolph County, I^orth Carolina, after a brave struggle. 

Company F of the Thirtieth Begiment was organized in Edge- 
combe County the latter part of September, 1861, and was mus- 
tered into the regiment at Camp Mangum, October 7, 1861. Its 
first captain was Franklin 6. Pitt and was succeeded by William 
M. B. Moore, who was promoted from first lieutenant. (George E. 
Harrell was also first lieutenant, commissioned May 10, 1862; 
wounded at Sharpsburg September 17, 1862, and received a pro- 
motion immediately afterwards. Charles Vines and James Pitt 
were the original second lieutenants, both commissioned August 
21, 1861. Pitt died in August, 1862, and Lorenzo D. Eagles, 
being at first a sergeant, was promoted to second lieutenant March 
10, 1862, and wounded June 27, 1862, at the battle of Oaines 
Mill. S. B. Moore, also a sergeant, was promoted second lieu- 
tenant January 20, 1863, and became company commander in 
the last days of the war. The noncommissioned officers were 
John B. Cobb, second sergeant; L. D. Eagles, third sergeant, 
wounded at Cold Harbor and promoted to second lieutenant Janu- 
ary 20, 1863; J. B. Cobb, fourth sergeant; L. H. Smith, fifth 
sergeant, and Spencer Sherry, T. J. Moore, James Carney, L. B. 
Willis, corporals. There were 140 enlisted men and with the few 
exceptions of about fifteen men from Wake, Greene, and Pitt 
counties all were Edgecombe troops. 

The troops were drilled at Fort Johnson and Camp Wyatt, near 
Fort Fisher. Winter quarters were made at Camp Wyatt until 
the army at Wilmington was reinforced by the regiment in early 
spring. The company was with the regiment in the attack 
against Bumside's cavalry, and the defense of Newborn. The 
battle of Seven Pines gave the troops the season of war. The regi- 
ment fought at Gaines Mill where Frederick Philips, of Edge- 

Wab Between the States 221 

combe, was appointed adjutant and conimissioned July 5, 1862. 
Br. F. M. Garrett, also of Edgecombe, was commissioned surgeon 
on August 20, 1862, in place of Surgeon Henry Joyner, who had 
resigned. r 

The troops were then moved to Sharpsburg September, 1862, 
where a terrible slaughter met the Edgecombe company. It was 
here also that Lieutenant Philips received a severe wound. The 
fire was very fierce and the report came that (Jeneral Anderson 
was wounded and had left his command. Courier Baggarly, from 
brigade headquarters, was unable to find Colonel Tew, of the 
Second North Carolina, who was senior colonel of the regiment. 
The report was made to Colonel F. M. Parker, who instructed his 
adjutant, Lieutenant Philips, "to proceed cautiously down the 
line, observe what was going on, and if possible to find Colonel 
Tew and carry him Baggarly^s report.'' In attempting this dan- 
gerous task Lieutenant Philips received several shots through his 
clothing, and succeeded in reaching hailing distance of Colonel 
Tew. He reported his message and in order to be certain his 
message was understood, asked Colonel Tew, who at the time was 
standing, to give him a sign that he had heard completely. Colonel 
Tew lifted his hat and gave a polite bow, and fell instantly with 
a bullet in his head. On his return Lieutenant Philips also re- 
ceived a severe wound on the head, which occasioned his leaving 
the field. Colonel Parker, perceiving the situation, attempted to 
reach the left of the brigade to rally the troops, and after going 
about ten steps he also received a minnie ball on the head and was 
carried from the field. 

The next encounter with the Federal troops was at Chancellors- 
ville. Here again the strength of the North Carolina troops was 
felt. This regiment also constituted the rear guard of Rhodes's 
Division at (Gettysburg and drove the enemy from behind a stone 
wall into town. Lnmediately after this Adjutant Philips received 
a bad wound at Kelly's Ford, and in November, 1863, was ap- 
pointed captain and assigned to duty in the spring of 1864. He 
bore the reputation of being an efficient assistant quartermaster. 

In 1864 the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and the 
campaign of the Shenandoah Valley were taken part in by the 

222 History of Edgecombe County 

Edgecombe troops. (General Lee commended the Iforth Carolina 
troops the last days at Appomattox. With him they laid down 
their arms. 

Company F of the Thirty-first Begiment was organized some- 
time in August, 1861. The company was mustered into the 
Thirty-first Begiment September 19th, with Charles W. Enight, 
another one of Edgecombe's courageous men, as captain. He 
reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in June, 1863, but resigned 
shortly after. 

Although Company F was about as much or perhaps more of 
a Martin County contingent, it is related to Edgecombe history 
because of its first captain. 

Company B of the Thirty-third Begiment, with few exceptions, 
was also made up of Edgecombe soldiers. It preceded Company 
F of the Thirty-first Begiment in date of organization and was 
the company which distinguished itself in common with this 
memorable regiment. Frederick H. Jenkins was the first cap- 
tain, being commissioned in July, 1861. He died in June, 1862, 
and was succeeded by Theophilus C. Hyman, who was at the time 
first lieutenant. He resigned September 1, 1862, and Bichard H. 
Qatlin, promoted to first lieutenant June 7th, was appointed 
captain. Thomas H. Qatlin, who was second lieutenant in Lloyd's 
Battalion, was promoted to first lieutenant to fill the personnel of 
the company. Bichard H. Gatlin in the meantime haying been 
assigned to special duty on November 18, 1862, T. H. Gatlin acted 
as captain in his stead for sometime. Ebenezer Price, of Martin 
County, also acted as captain at times, and remained with the 
company, being wounded at Cedar Mountain, Falling Waters, 
and Wilcox's Farm, until he resigned February 14, 1865. Harri- 
son P. Lyon was transferred from Company A, Tenth Begiment, 
with the commission of first lieutenant. Francis D. Foxhall was 
second lieutenant and died in June, 1862, after serving the com- 
pany for less than a year. Additional commissioned officers who 
served the company during its organization were Peyton T. 
Anthony, second lieutenant, of Halifax, transferred from Tenth 
Virginia Cavalry, and Lewis H. Lawrence, second lieutenant, 
commissioned October, 1864. Levi H. Pervis, Bervin Stephenson, 
James H. Jenkins, Weldon S. Hunt, W. Bevely were the first ser- 

Wab Betwbbn ths States 223 

geantS; while Thomas L. May^ William C. Davenport, William F. 
Horde, John Andrews, William H. Andrews, and John Bowers 
were corporals. 

This company was in for the war and not a twelve-months 
volunteer. It trained at the fair grounds in Raleigh, and then 
transferred to Camp Mangum and united with the Thirty-third 
Begiment. Companies B and F were assigned to special duty in 
Hyde County and later with two companies were placed under 
Major E. D. Hall, of the Seventh Begiment. They left from 
Hyde County in 1862, and rejoined the Thirty-third at the fair 
grounds in N^ewbem. Here the men got a taste of real gun fire 
when the engagement with General Burnside took place. Com- 
pany B lost three of its men, John Bryan, Biley Bullock, and 
Wiley Whitley, killed in this battle. 

The troops in this contingent went to Virginia, May, 1862, 
with the Second Brigade, known as ^^ranch Brigade," and after 
Qeneral Branch's death, the ^Tane Brigade." Here the brigade 
was marched to and fro between the foothills and Criglersville in 
order to deceive the enemy. Later service was given at the 
Chickaiiominy, Gaines Mills, Cold Harbor, Fraser's Farm, Me- 
chanicsville, Fredericksburg, and Malvern HilL At Fredericks- 
burg, as at numerous other places. Captain Gatlin had charge of 
the picket line. Under a staggering and murderous fire the picket 
line, led by him in this engagement, retired slowly and in perfect 
order. Captain Gatlin was complimented for the bravery and 
coolness which he demonstrated. Some of the roughest fighting 
was experienced at Malvern Hill, where a chance came to annihi- 
late McClellan's army. If the Confederate forces could have 
succeeded, history would no doubt be different than it is now 

Cedar Bun, Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Sharpsburg, where the 
lost dispatch played havoc with Lee's army, all claim their toll of 
manhood and gallant deeds. At Fredericksburg, December 13, 
1862, with Pender and others the troops from Edgecombe per- 
formed praiseworthy service. Captain Saunders, in his official 
report as commander of the regiment, gives favorable mention of 
Lieutenant Price, of Company B. The majority of the enlisted 
men were conscripts, and the report says they fought heroically 
with the veterans. After fighting at Gettysburg, retreating to 

224 HisTOBT OF Edgecombe Countt 

Yirginia^ attacking at Mire Ban and capturing three flags at 
Spottsylvania, the force crossed Appomattox at Goode's bridge 
and occupied a position near the court house. The following 
officers, according to Major Weston, who took command after 
Colonel Cowan refused to surrender the regiment, that were 
present at Appomattox were Jenkins, Gktlin, Hyman, Price, 
Lyon, and Lawrence. Company B had the reputation of being 
the best drilled company in the raiment. It distinguished itself 
in almost all engagements and at the surrender at Appomattox 
the company stacked only seTenteen guns, with iJiree men present 
without arms. No company merited greater honor, nor any cap- 
tain of a company greater beloved than Captain Gkitlin. Major 
Weston accords him the honor of having been the most humane to 
his men and more democratic than any company commander of 
the Thirty-third Begiment. 

At the fair grounds of ISfewbem August 2, 1861, the counties of 
Edgecombe, Greene, and Wilson, Edgecombe having sent more 
men than the other two counties, sent troops to organize Company 
F of the Fortieth Begiment. Those who served as captains were 
Joseph J. Lawrence, Edgecombe; Bichard H. Blount, Martin, and 
John C. Bobertson supposedly from Martin.' Serving as lieu- 
tenants in the war were Bichard C. Tillery and Berry Lancas- 
ter, while the second lieutenants were Walter Dunn, B. Lancaster, 
B. H. Blount, J. C. Bobertson, J. L. Pool, H. Williams, and F. 
Edwards. Out of eleven nonconmiissioned officers Edgecombe 
gave five to the company during the war. 

After organization and drill the company remained at Fort 
Macon, N'orth Carolina, until the late fall. From November 1, 
1861, to March, 1862, it did picket duty on Harbor's Island. It 
returned to Fort Macon in time to take part in the bombardment 
of this fort and to be captured April 26, 1862. It lost two mem- 
bers before its capture. The company was soon paroled and 
landed at Fort Fisher from the gunboat "Chippewa." The troops 
returned home and remained there until September 4, 1862, 
when an exchange took place and a reorganization effected at 
(loldsboro. From here the company went to Kinston and fought 
there December 14th, also at White Hall and (Joldsboro. It was 
also active in the Pickett and Hoke campaigns in the winter and 
spring of 1863, fighting at Washington, North Carolina, and Deep 

Wab Bstwbbn thb States 225 

Gully until in the early spring of 1864. It then went to Fort Cas- 
well and later to Fort Campbell, where the company remained 
until Fort Fisher was captured. The company left Fort Camp- 
bell and joined the regiment for the first time at Fort Anderson. 
As a unit of the Fortieth Begiment the company served at 
Wilmington. In January, 1865, the companies were separated 
again, and Company F occupied Fort Campbell on Oak Island. 
After the assault against and fall of Fort Fisher the company 
was transported by steamer to SmithviUe, and later joined Com- 
pany A on the march to Fort Caswell. Here the company en- 
gaged in several minor skirmishes and joined the retreat across 
the State to join Lee's army. The junction was never formed, 
and they surrendered with (General Joseph E. Johnson near 
Qreensboro, Iforth Carolina. 

Among the companies Company £ of the Forty-third Begiment 
was the most historic. It was in the spring of 1862 before this 
company was organized. Those who served as captains were John 
A. Vines, James R. Thigpen, and Wiley J. Cobb. The first lieu- 
tenants were John A. Vines, James S. Thigpen, and Wiley J. 
Cobb, all being promoted to captains and resigned in order, ex- 
cept Cobb. Second lieutenants were Van B. Sharpe, J. H. Leigh, 
Charles Vines, Willis B. Dupre, T. H. Williams, and W. H. 
Wilkerson. With the exception of T. H. Williams and two priv- 
ates from Pitt County the company of ninety-six enlisted men 
were from Edgecombe. 

The company trained at Camp Mangum and was mustered 
with the Forty-third Begiment. It went through the fights at 
Wilmington, Kinston, Drewry's Bluff, and Fredericksburg. It 
was in the march through Pennsylvania, and fought at Brandy 
Station, Gettysburg, and followed Lewis at Seminary Bidge. 
Later it was in the battles of Mine Bun, Plymouth, Washington, 
Spottsylvania Court House, and saw the dome of the Federal 
capitol from Fort Stevens. The pathetic scene of Appomattox 
was experienced by this company after having performed memor- 
able work for the lost cause. 

In the early part of January, 1862^ Elisha Cromwell, who had 
been prominent in enlisting Edgecombe troops, organized Com- 
pany B, which later joined the Forty-fourth Begiment. Crom- 
well was well over the draft age and gave his efforts from patriotic 


motiT6. AU of his help had been drafted, and bmng a large 
planter in the eoimtj was oonaido^bfy handicapped in his work. 
Edmenaon, his overseer, and who had been left to care for crope, 
had been drafted three times and each time Mrs. Cromwell was 
asked to allow him to go. Three times a man was put in his place, 
and three times Edmenson asked to go. Assisting Elisha Crom- 
well was Baked W. Mabrey, first lieutenant; Thomas M. Carter 
and R. 0. Brown, seoond lieutenants. The company had 135 
enlisted men, and were with few exceptions natives of the county. 

When the company met at Camp Mangum March 28, 1862, a 
reorganization took place and Captain Cromwell, having had con- 
siderable experience, was elected major of the Forty-fourth lUgi- 
ment. Baker W. Mabrey succeeded him as captain, and died 
early in September. Bobert C. Brown then became captain in his 
stead. Thomas M. Carter, who was second lieutenant, was pro- 
moted to first lieutenant after R. C. Brown, the original second 
lieutenant, was advanced by promotion. Charles D. Mabrey auto- 
matically became second lieutenant, being promoted from first 
sergeant March 28, 1862. As did Elisha E. Knight, who also suc- 
ceeded to the position of second lieutenant. 

Immediately after the reorganization the troops camped in 
Tarboro, and later went to Greenville for a few weeks, doing 
picket duty. From Greenville the regiment proceeded to Vir- 
ginia and was assigned to FettigreVs Brigade. In the meantime 
the death of Colonel Singletary and the resignation of Lieutenant- 
Colonel Cotton, placed Major Cromwell to the rank of lieutenant- 
colonel. Before the ensuing campaign in Virginia had advanced 
to any considerable extent Colonel Cromwell resigned and re- 
turned to the county. 

This company gave its valiant men to the battles of the Wilder- 
ness, Spottsylvania Court House, Petersburg, Gaines Mill, Keen's 
Station and left a trail of blood along its exhausted march to 
Appomattox, where in common with the other troops surrendered 
to the Federal army. 

Company F of the Seventy-fifth Regiment was originally one 
of the three companies of the Sixty-second Georgia Regiment, 
and later was incorporated in the Sixteenth Battalion North 
Carolina Calvary. Later it emerged into the I^orth Carolina 
Cavalry or the Seventy-fifth North Carolina Regiment. The 

Wab Bxtwbbn thb States 227 

official orders of the change were ignored in the rush of organ- 
ization, and the regiment officially retained the designation of 
the Sixteenth Battalion. The company was organized in June, 
1862, with F. G. Pitt captain, promoted to major when the change 
occurred to the Seventy-fifth Begiment. When Colonel Kennedy 
was wounded, lieutenant-Colonel Edelin was promoted to colonel 
in command until Marc^, 1865, at which time Major Pitt took 

J. B. Edgerton became captain after the promotion of Pitt. 
Y. B. Sharpe was first lieutenant at the company's first organ- 
ization, B. P. Jenkins, second lieutenant, was taken prisoner 
July 20, 1868, and Mark P. Pitt succeeded to the second lieuten- 
ancy. J. S. Pippins, I. T. Cherry, P. S. Sugg, William Peebles, 
and L. W. Deavans were sergeants, and R. A. Knight, D. V. Bul- 
lock, W. E. Green, and J. B. Skinner, of Wilson County, were 
corporals. All except six members were from Edgecombe. 

The regiment was broken up and this company performed 
duty with the Sixty-second Georgia in Eastern Carolina near 
Greenville, and Southeast Yii^nia. Captain Edgerton camped 
with his isolated company near Bocky Mount until a raid was 
made here. 

During his stay in the vicinity Captain Edgerton and his com- 
pany participated in the battle of Daniels School House, the only 
engagement of importance which took place on Edgecombe soiL 
On the morning of July 14, 1863, General Martin sent orders for 
Major Kennedy, conmianding the Seventy-fifth Regiment, to re- 
port immediately to him near Hamilton. Every available man 
was hurriedly collected and upon arrival at Hamilton Colonel 
Martin was found sick, with lieutenant-Colonel Lamb in com- 
mand. Colonel Lamb gave orders for the troops to return to Tar- 
boro, where the enemy was to be expected on his return from 
Bocky Mount. The advance guards were to hold the enemy in 
check until the regiment with artillery could be brought up. 

The orders were obeyed until the troops reached Daniels School 
House, about five miles from town. Captain Edgerton was sent 
forward with five men to find the way. He encountered the 
enemy near the creek bridge, and their attention was drawn to 
him and his men by the firing of a gun by one of his men, con- 
trary to orders. The Federal troops mounted their horses and 

228 HigTOBT OF Edgsoombx Coumr 

started after him. Captain Edgerton reported that the whole 
force had crossed the bridge and were cautionslj making their 
way two miles from the regiment He received instmctions to 
go back and give fight, and in this manner draw them back to 
the regiment, which had concealed itself in a well-timbered road 
between the school house and a field. A triangle was formed of the 
concealed men, who waited for Captain Edgerton to report. 

Upon Edgerton's appearance, he cautioned the men to hold their 
fire until ordered, and then not to aim at any one above the 
stirrups. Edgerton and Major Kennedy, with five of his troops^ 
took their stand in the road. The whole number engaged is given 
by Major Kennedy as being thirty-four men with Captain Edger- 
ton; Captain Ellis, twenty-eight; Captain Thompson, nineteen. 
The relative position was : Captain Edgerton on the south side of 
the road, and Major Kennedy on the north side. This was the 
ambush which succeeded. 

The enemy came in view at the comer of a fence and opened 
on them with a small cannon^ thinking all the time it was a small 
party that they had encountered around Tarboro. They prepared 
for a charge, and in doing so received a fire from the right and 
left, losing seventeen horses in one volley. In delivering the fire it 
was believed the enemy would be cut off from escape, but many 
who were dismounted by the fire ran off, and since the Confederate 
horses were concealed two hundred yards away they could not 
be pursued. The men were still unobserved in the woods, and 
those who remained of the enemy refused to surrender. Their 
column was cut in half, with the rear retreating back to Tarboro, 
while the troops in front fought on with their sabers after their 
pistols had been emptied. 

Captain Edgerton and Major Kennedy and a few mounted 
men had considerable excitement. Edgerton attacked the Federal 
Major Clarkson and felled him with his saber in the road. Major 
Kennedy having shot his pistol empty resorted to the butt of his 
carbine, and gave Captain Church, of the Federal side, a stagger- 
ing blow and knocked him from his horse. 

Those of the Confederates who were mounted immediately 
gave chase to the retreating Federals. The race was run to Tar- 
boro bridge in hope of cutting off the enemy, but when the Con- 
federates arrived the bridge was torn up on the end opposite the 

War Between the States 229 

towiiy while the other end was on fire. The troops went as far as 
they could and called for aid from the citizens, who gave ready 
assistance. H. T. Clark, who then was Governor, being in town, 
passed the first bucket to extinguish the blaze. 

The enemy lost seventeen horses killed, forty-five captured, five 
prisoners at the school house and ten prisoners in the chase, who 
were sent to Colonel Lamb. Also the capture of Captain Church 
and Major Clarkton, Federal officers, and sixty-two saddles with 
equipment were the results of the battle of Daniel's School House. 

Again at Ifewbern in 1865 Captain Edgerton won commenda- 
tions for himself and company's fighting qualities. The army then 
returned to Virginia and camped around Petersburg. The regi- 
ment surrendered soon after this at Appomattox after distinguish- 
ing itself at Petersburg, Plymouth, Broadway, Brigen Mill, Davis 
House, Peeble's Farm, Hatcher's Bun, Newport, Tarboro, or 
Daniel's School House, Evan's Mills and Blount's Creek. Major 
Pitt had bravely led the command until April 2, 1866, when he 
was worn to exhaustion and was reported as captured in the 
numerous battles in the retreat to Appomattox. 

With the exception of a few individuals scattered among the 
numerous companies of the North Carolina troops, the account 
of Edgecombe troops is concluded. Among the individuals who 
served in other companies were Andrew M. Thigpen, second lieu- 
tenant. Company C, Forty-fourth Begiment; R. Hicks, Isaiah 
Thomas, and Richard Thomas, of the Confederate States Navy. 
Edgecombe also had official representation in the Southern Navy 
in the person of Richard Battle, master, who commanded in 1863. 
In addition also to the services of Dr. Baker at Bethel, Edge- 
combe gave two assistant surgeons — ^H. C. Herdon and W. T. 
Harlee — ^to the Confederate cause. Mentipn should also be 
made of the deeds of courage rendered by O. C. Petway. When 
the Thirty-fifth Regiment was organized, November 8, 1861, at 
Camp Crabtree, near Raleigh, he was made major of the regi- 
ment and was rated as third ranking officer. After the fall of 
Newborn, March 11, 1862, the regiment retreated to Kinston and 
was placed in (Jeneral Ransom's Brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel 
M. D. Craton resigned about April 10, 1862, and Major Petway 
succeeded him as lieutenant-colonel. Colonel Petway fought at 
the battle of Seven Pines, and in the bloody battle of Malvern 

230 History of Edoboombb County 

Hill. He led a heavy charge upon the enemy ranks^ sustaining 
a severe loss in officers and men. Colonel Bamson received a fatal 
wound and lieutenant-Colonel Fetway was killed. He was a 
gallant officer and was scheduled for a promotion at the time of 
his death. 

Major Henry A. Dowd also deserves commendation for his 
heroic achievements. He received rapid promotion in active 
military service^ having been jSrst lieutenant of one of the com- 
panies formed from the division of Captain Bridgers's Edge- 
combe Ouards at the beginning of the war. He received a wound 
which caused his retirement in 1863. He was appointed quarter- 
master general and was on the Governor's staff in 1864 and 1865. 

William Henry Austin^ bom 1840, lost his life in the war, and 
is entitled to honorable record. He had always been in poor 
health, having left the University of North Carolina in 1858, 
due to illness. He enlisted June 1, 1862, in Company I of the 
Seventeenth Begiment. He was promoted to sergeant, but in 
.862 was given a furlough home to recruit, because of ill health. 
In the early spring of the year of 1865 he was given his final 
discharge and died at Bolesville, March, 1865, while on his way 

W. T. Parker, captain Company A, October 2, 1862, to De- 
cember 1, 1863, of the Thirty-third Begiment, and George W. 
Sanderlin, captain from August 1, 1863, to close of war of same 
company contributed gallant and heroic service in the battles 
fought by the famous Thirty-third Begiment. 

In the meantime H. T. Clark, speaker of the Senate, of Edge- 
combe County, succeeded (lovemor Ellis, who died in July, 1861. 
Ellis's unexpired term dated from July 8, 1860, to September 7, 
1862, inclusive. Governor Clark was a distinguished gentleman. 
He was a graduate of Chapel Hill, 1826, at the early age of sev- 
enteen years. He remained inactive in politics until the death 
of Louis D. Wilson. The first instance of his gentility and kind- 
ness came after Governor Ellis's death. His letter addressed to 
Mrs. Ellis will compare with the expression of any man. In 
a letter dated July 10, 1861, three days after Ellis's death, he 
wrote to Graham Daves : 

'1 will thank you to convey to Mrs. Ellis, in the kindest terms, 
my deep sympathy with the great affliction which has fallen upon 

Wab Bstwsen thb States 231 

her in the death of Governor Ellis and how gratifying it would 
be to me to offer a word or an act which would alleviate her 

*T. desire to tender to her the continued use of the Executive 
Mansion. It would gratify me^ if it would prove agreeable to her 
to do so. Assuring her that it would not in the least interfere 
with any personal arrangements^ I shall have made for my own 
residence in Raleigh.'' 

Before the beginning of hostilities in 1861^ Governor Clark, as 
the speaker of the Senate, made an address which was an indica- 
tion of the policy he would pursue if the authority were ever 
placed in his hands. In 1860 he made a conservative and logical 
address, pointing out the seriousness of the political situation, 
and the necessity of caution and honesty in interpreting the will 
of the people. 

No man of the State has placed upon him a greater responsi- 
bility in carrying out the will of the people. He came into 
power when the State was just beginning to throw its weight into 
the southern cause. Military organization was more or less de- 
pendent upon him as commander-in-chief of the State forces. 
Yet he more than succeeded. Governor Clark did more for the 
morale and good of the State troops than has been realized and 
appreciated. To him much of the credit is due for the efficiency 
and admirable discipline with which they fought in the war. 
The regiments were better officered, more proficient in organiza- 
tion than from any other State. Northern writers generally con- 
cede this point. It was truly a trying task when men and means 
was the call from every section, and most commendably did Gov- 
ernor Clark rise to the occasion. It was his honored duty to as- 
sign commissioned officers to fifty State regiments, and then to 
supply and equip them upon the field of action. 

Governor Clark was fifty-three years of age when called to the 
high position, and in the most seasoned period of his life for the 
arduous duties he had to perfonn. One of the first acts of his 
official career as Governor was to divide the State into districts 
according to counties. Each sheriff was designated as an officer, 
whose duties were to collect blankets, woolen socks, garments, and 

2S2 History of Edobcombb County 

all the useful articles and send them to Raleigh with a list of the 
donors. In this manner needed supplies for the troops were col- 
lected and properly disbursed where most needed. 

At no time did the cause for promptness and business acumen 
become more prominent than when the convention of 1861 decreed 
to issue a currency for the State. There were grave dangers of 
a fluctuation of paper money^ and its abundance was likely to 
cause inflation^ thereby causing the good intentions of the State 
authorities to come to naught. The ability of H. T. Clark nowhere 
showed more conspicuously than in the part he took in this prob- 
lem. Ifowhere does his idea of sound government and clean 
citizenship cast a more noble luster than in the sedition acts of 
1861^ the test oaths, and the movement against religious exemp- 
tion from the war. The partisan spirit was always held in check 
by him, even in the face of the aspersions and invectives of his 
enemies. This attitude prevailed even toward the convention 
which sought to remove him by declaring the office of the Governor 
vacant. The movement of course was instigated by Holden, who 
was reported to have wanted the office, but whose plans met with 

Governor Clark had the hearty support of J. H. Powell, mem- 
ber from Edgecombe in 1862, 1863, 1864, and 1865. David Cobb 
and L. D. Farmer served the county in the House of Commons 
in 1864 and 1865. 

Many of these issues are State history, and a repetition of a 
story repeatedly told. The historians who write North Carolina 
history are indebted to him for the preservation of our State 
records. To him more than any one else does this noble task and 
effort belong. The writer has in his possession a letter written 
by Governor Clark showing the arduous task and duty performed 
not only to the citizens of his State, but to the entire literary and 
historically inclined everywhere. His brief administration is one 
that reflects an honor upon the pages of North Carolina history. 

The people of the county, in addition to contributing their 
services, sacrificing their personal comforts, and their lives in 
many instances, gave material aid in numerous ways. No group 
of people ever had a cause dearer, no people committed them- 
selves more imselfishly. When the approach of the Union forces 
were daily rumored, and even when they came on frequent occa- 

Wab Between the States 233 

sions, the people conducted themselves with a cool^ sober courage. 
There ware no wild demonstrations betrayed^ but a sensible patri- 
otic view of their responsibilities and duty in the crisis. The 
citizens of Tarboro met March the 20th, 1862^ and gave vent to 
their opinions and expectations at> the approach of the enemy. 
From the Tarboro Southerner one can read : 

^n^HSBEASy The military authorities in this department of 
North Carolina have issued an order that all cotton, naval stores, 
and tobacco shall be removed west of the Wilmington and Weldon 
Railroad by the 25th instant, or be liable to be destroyed to pre- 
vent their falling into the hands of the enemy, be it therefore 
resolved as the sense of this meeting — ^ 

^irst. That in our judgment all of the articles above named 
should be promptly destroyed by fire or otherwise, whenever in 
danger of falling into the enemy's hands, and that a committee of 
three in each captain's district ^ be appointed by the chair to see 
to the enforcement of this resolution. 

"Second. Believing it impossible to remove the cotton west of 
the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad by the time specified, we 
respectfully request the military authorities to extend the time to 
April 15th, and to carry out this resolution we ask the appoint- 
ment of a committee by the chair to attend to this matter. 

"Third. That as the earnest sense of this meeting in this hour 
of peril to the very life of our young Republic, we believe the 
cultivation of cotton the present year will make inroads from the 
enemy and render the staff of life, bread, scarce, and we invoke 
the farmers of Edgecombe not to cultivate in cotton a larger area 
than will make one acre to the land. 

'fourth. That we regard ardent spirits at this time as a worse 
enemy than the Yankees, and respectfully request a meeting of 
the justices of this county to consider the propriety of ordering 
the sheriff to seize every drop of spirits of any kind offered for 
sale, with the understanding that a fair valuation shall be paid 
the owner of the same, and that should any one offend a second 
time, then the sheriff shall seize the spirits and pour it on the 
ground, without compensation. 

^Hdd in Tarboro March 20, 1862. 

'The county -vras divided into districts for conscription purposes, and also to col* 
lect lapplies, as well as other military necessities. 

234 History of Edobcombb County 

''Fifth. That we recommend to our citizens to remain at home 
and pursue their usual avocations, should the fortune of war 
place us temporarily under the enemy's control" 

The people gave and gave of their limited means until they 
themselves suffered want. Ifumerous quantities of supplies had 
been sent from the county to General Johnson's and General Lee's 
army. Yankee raiding parties paid several visits also and de- 
stroyed what was not taken. Horses from numerous farms that 
could not be hid were seized and carried away, leaving the women 
and children helpless to cultivate their land in the absence of 
husband and father. Salt, the most common as well as the most 
useful article, by 1863, became a luxury. Indeed efforts were fre- 
quently futile in the attempt to obtain this article. The frei^t 
cost five times as much as the salt is worth today to get it from 
Wilmington. John !N'orfleet, in the Confederate commissary, in 
1863 ordered sixty-nine bags from Wilmington, with the freight 
costing him $147.45. J. Potts ordered twenty bags, the freight 
being $20.00, or one dollar per bag. B. J. Keech ordered ten bags, 
with the freight amounting to $10.00. 

The county also by having an industry of considerable im- 
portance — cotton mills at Rocky Mount — ^became one of the prin- 
ciple sources for cotton goods for manufacturing cloth and surgi- 
cal supplies. This factory became an object of the Federal forces 
purpose, and while manufacturing cotton goods for the Confed- 
erate army, was burned. The Federal account of this destruction 
was reported by the commanding officer, who states that in the 
expedition to Bocky Mount a large cotton mill, a bridge and a 
large amount of property was destroyed. A Mr. Bagley, of Wil- 
liamston, then a refugee from that town, in Rocky Mount, gives 
an awful account of conditions in Edgecombe. These conditions 
were later reported to the Governor of the State, who sent troops 
to alleviate conditions. The occasion for these troops resulted in 
numerous skirmishes in the county. The conditions had reached 
such proportions that T. W. Moore wrote to General J. R. Stubbs, 
of Halifax, in December, 1864, that the Yankees^ with eight 
gunboats and fifteen hundred troops, were landing at Williams- 
town and advancing toward Tarboro. General Leventhrope was 
accordingly dispatched to check them. The Federal troops, 
however, reached the county and took or destroyed considerable 

Wab Bstwsen thb States 235 

property. General Stubbs lost all his property at the Perry place, 
including negroes, horses, mules, hogs, while all outhouses and 
bams were burned to the ground. 

Sherman, on his march to the sea, passed through the northern 
edge of the county. His cavalry followed the railroad to Fayette- 
ville, North Carolina, and then came east to Rocky Mount. Sher- 
man readied Rocky Mount in person the 22d of February, and 
crossed the river on a pontoon bridge February 23d. He gives 
an account of having his army divided due to the fact of high 
water washing away his bridge, leaving Qeneral Parker on one 
side of the river with his division and himself on the other. 

In spite of all the adversity which afflicted the people, it would 
be folly to attempt to describe the suffering. Hope was always 
entertained and assistance rendered. When General Hill issued 
his request to the county for hands to build his defenses at Wash- 
ington, Edgecombe responded and sent eighty-eight good hands, 
thirty-three more than her quota, and those asked for, on a flat 
boat down the Tar River. In addition, the county in 1862 raised 
money and purchased 1,000 pair of stout shoes for her volunteers. 
In 1862 the county also gave the State in taxes $21,689.12,1 
which was more than the average for the preceding years. 

This chapter could not be closed without mention of the women 
of the county. May their memory be ever cherished, as the source 
of inspiration and strength of all good and patriotic movements. 
To them who bore the brunt of war and the curse of reconstruc- 
tion during the frightful days of 1861 to 1870 honor is hereby 
accorded. And when the time came Edgecombe's noble women did 
all that could be done to perpetuate the deeds of their sons, hus- 
bands, and fathers. Mention is made of the organization of the 
United Daughters of the Confederacy. In this society to perpetu- 
ate the valor and heroism of the sons of the War between the 
states, Mrs. T. W. Thrash has had a most active part. Preceding 
and contemporaneous with her were the spirited women of the 
county. The movement began in 1870 by the women of the city 
of Wilmington to promote an organization of associated Confed- 
erates in every county in the State. Its purpose was to decorate 

^The nAtnrftl resalt would have been a decline, since over 1,400 men were ab- 
aent from the county in wrrice, thna decreasing the amount paid in taxea aa well aa 
canains a decrease in production. 

236 History of Edgecombb County 

graves, offer solace to widows and orphans of the Confederate 
dead, to assist the maimed, blind and cripples who were disabled 
in the Confederate service. This act has been continued by the 
ladies in the county through their local organization. A drinking 
fountain, at an approximate cost of $500.00, has been erected as 
a Confederate memorial in the city common at Tarboro. The 
county of Edgecombe contributed the most money for the erection 
of the Wyatt monument at Raleigh, June 10, 1913, when the 
fiftieth anniversary was celebrated by the unveiling, with one of 
Wyatt's great-nephews participating. 

The Dixie Lee Chapter, an auxiliary of the U. D. C, is another 
organization created to keep alive the memory of the deeds of the 
Confederate dead. This society has contributed liberally in 
funds and deeds to all worthy and deserving objects. These or- 
ganizations took an active part in forming the Henry Wyatt 
Chapter of Selma, formed in 1915, and the William Dorsey 
Pender Chapter, Tarboro, established about fifteen years ago. 

After many suggestions from the Tarboro Southerner and the 
'Trogressive Association of Tarboro," a beautiful monument 
was erected in the Tarboro common. Mention is made of the 
noble efforts of the citizens of the county, and especially the efforts 
of Mrs. H. L. Staton, Mrs. Anna S. Howard, chairman of the 
committee; Mrs. Mattie Philips, Mrs. John L. Bridgers, Miss 
Sallie B. Staton, Mrs. Maggie W. Speight, Miss Bettie C. White- 
head, Mrs. Sadie F. KiUelnew, Miss Lucy C. Staton, Mrs. Pattie 

D. Hart, General W. R. Cox, Captain R. H. Gatlin, Captain 
W. H. Powell, Gray Brown, Captain Owen Williams, Captain 

E. D. Foxhall, Lieutenant William Howard, Sergeant J. H. 
Baker, and Sergeant J. M. Johnson, and Frank PowelL 


Reoonbtbtjotion — Social Ain> Pinanoial 

No more appropriate name could be given for the events which 
transpired between 1865 and 1880 than that of reconstruction. 
Politics were more or less corrupt, dominated to a large extent 
by the Federal Government; education made no progress, agri- 
culture was neglected; labor was at a premium; commerce and 
trade stood still ; the economic and financial conditions were un- 
certain; and the racial problem was alarming. The cause for 
such a tragic state was the Civil War and the adjustment which 
followed. It is quite impossible for the later generations to 
realize the imtold hardships and suffering the citizens endured 
during this eventful period. 

At the conclusion of the war questions of readjustment were 
the center of attention and the prevailing issue. Out of them 
grew numerous problems which had to be given due consideration. 
The State was under territorial government by the United States; 
and the Federal authority required, under heavy penalty, that 
the equality of rights and privileges be secured to all citizens, 
without distinction of race, color, or previous social relation. It 
was also required that avowed loyalty to the Union be assured. 
The President of the United States assumed an autocratic posi- 
tion on the most profoimd issue in the history of the coimtry. 
The leading Republicans warned him that this would result in the 
complete ascendency of the Confederates. The Republican party, 
following the Federal lead, evinced in their legislation a deter- 
mined purpose to keep the men who had been loyal to their coun- 
try during the direful years of war from any participation in the 
management of their affairs and to give preference to negroes, 
scalawags, and carpet-baggers. The determination of the Presi- 
dent to adhere to his policy, though apparently condemned by the 
masses of the party which had elected him, created a spirit of 
defiance among those who had been true to the Confederacy, for 
he, too, believed in disfranchisement. 

The returning Confederate soldiers had a moral right to believe 
what their parole said, ^'Retum to your homes and repair your 
wasted fortunes; build up the interests of your State, and you 


238 HiSTOBT OF Edgecombe County 

shall not be molested." The Federal generals to some extent 
endeavored to have this promise observed; but the United States 
persistently ignored this policy. 

Those who fought for the Confederate causes and survived, 
returned home to find Edgecombe County under martial law. 
General Martindale, of Washington, had his headquarters at 
Jamesville, Martin County. A provisional Governor, W. W. 
Holden, had been appointed, and a conservative representative 
from each county had been called to provide a form of govern- 
ment for the State. 

Under the protection of the Federal Government undesirable 
men from the North became residents of the county in order to 
exploit the innocent and misguided blacks and the helpless whites. 
Politics offered the greatest advantage; consequently Edgecombe 
witnessed a quick transition from a Democratic regime to a 
Eepublican rule. The Democrats were deprived of the right to 
vote because of their participation in the War, and negroes being 
enfranchised naturally followed the political lead of their 

One of the important political factors, as far as the Bepublican 
party was concerned, was the Freedman's Bureau. It was estab- 
lished by the Federal Government with the purpose of trying 
cases affecting freedmen, to clothe and feed the suffering, and 
assist the negro in securing employment. Colonel Savage was the 
first in charge in the county and proved a very considerate and 
just man. Captain R. H. Gatlin, of Tarboro, had Colonel Savage 
and his wife at his house frequently, and the people in the coimty 
were reported to be on good terms with him. His station was at 
Bocky Mount, and a branch agency was later established at Tar- 
boro. Captain Fred De Silver succeeded him about 1868, but he 
was a man of different type from Colonel Savage. He caused 
Joshua Bullock, an overseer for Moses Mordecai, who owned the 
present Dunbar farm immediately after the War, to be put in 
jail in Raleigh for over a month for whipping a negro caught in 
the act of stealing bags. 

A crew of northern missionaries followed the bureau to Edge- 
combe County, and a mission for the purpose of teaching the 
negro was located at the present home of Dr. S. N. Harrell, of 

Rbconstbuotion — Social and Financial 289 

Tarboro, formerly owned by the Lawrence family. The women 
oonneoted with the mission soon became dissatisfied because of 
ostracism, and the organization disbanded in 1868. 

In 1872 the Freedman's Bureau was abolished by Congress, 
and after June 20th of that year, the business of Tarboro and the 
county was conducted through the Adjutant General of the Army. 
There were many claims for bounties and for damaged property 
and confiscated lands in Edgecombe, and Gk>ldsboro was made the 
claim station for aU eastern comities, and payments were made 

Representatives of the Union League, which was organized in 
the North in 1862 as a political body of Unionists, came to Edge- 
combe about 1866. At this time efforts were made to establish 
this organization in every village. The first establishment was at 
Battleboro. Agents of the Freedman's Bureau had done con- 
siderable missionary work among the negroes and succeeded in 
causing their alienation from the native whites. A few negroes 
who were to be used for political purposes were initiated in the 
spring of 1866. The league offered a good substitute for the 
Freedman's Bureau, which was then on the verge of collapsing. 
Introduced by northern men of selfish design, it was carried on by 
them to work on the impulses and passions of the negro. By 
April, 1867, almost every negro who would be able to vote at the 
coming election was an ardent member of the league. Private in- 
fomudion from old citizens of the county discloses the fact that 
the negro was under compulsion from the northern leaders to 
join the league. An initiation fee of five dollars was charged, 
and monthly dues of ten cents. 

A few of the negroes in the county, like one Harvey Dancy and 
James Harris, declined to connect themselves with the league, 
preferring to accept guidance from their former masters. Dancy 
was candidate for employment by the State Legislature in 1870, 
and of pronounced conservative principles. This worked hard- 
ships on the dissenting negro, and under the direction of the 
carpet-baggers, who feared that the solidarity of the Bepublican 
party would be jeopardized, the Union League instituted punish- 
ment. In July, 1868, a negro in the county was severely beaten 
because of his refusal to join the league. 

240 HiSTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

The first local president of the IJnion League was Major Tatton, 
who in 1866 was living in Battleboro. Tatton was a carpet- 
bagger and became famous for his underhand work and corrupt 
domination of the negro in the county. When he first came to 
Edgecombe he was employed by the Democratic party to assist in 
carrying the county Democratic. The idea was to do propa- 
ganda work among the negroes and to enlighten them on their 
new condition. Tatton^ however, after collecting all the funds 
he could, left Tarboro and became connected with the league. He^ 
on a certain occasion, had ordered a negro to be brought before 
the council of the league for refusing to join. The n^ro was 
brought and confined for one day and night, and experienced con- 
siderable fright at his hands. Tatton was tried by the court in 
Edgecombe County and sentenced to six months in prison. The 
case was presented to Governor Holden, the president of the 
league in ]!f orth Carolina, and at his command the district com- 
mander ordered soldiers to break the jail at Tarboro and release 
Tatton. This was done and Tatton in turn released several 
negroes who were implicated with him. 

Immediately following this, Tatton and a number of his fol- 
lowers became involved in another case. This time Wiley Taylor, 
a negro member of the league, had voted the Democratic ticket. 
Tatton and his followers had abused Taylor, and the courts sen- 
tenced Tatton and his followers to imprisonment the secoiid time. 
The parties appeared to have had a fair trial, as certified by the 
Freedman's Bureau agent at Tarboro, who had been requested to 
be present at the trial. On Monday following conviction Lieuten- 
ant Heimer Beaman, agent at Rocky Mount, reached Tarboro 
with an order from (Jeneral Oanby for unconditional release of 
Tatton, Barnes, and Manor ^ from custody of civil authority, and 
declaring action of the court as null and void on grounds that the 
prosecution arose from prejudice on the part of civil authorities 
and with intention to break up the league. General Canby was 
evidently prompted in this move by Holden, who was exercising 
supervision of league operations. 

Bichmond Staton, a n^ro preacher, succeeded Tatton as head 
of the Union League in Edgecombe. He became as widely known 
as his predecessor for infamous deeds and terror. He had negroes 

^ BamM and Maner were associated with Tatton. 

Ebconstbuction — Social and Financial 241 

seized and severely beaten for voting the conservative ticket. On 
one occasion Staton was arrested by the sheriff of Edgecombe 
County^ together with seven negroes under him. They were 
brought to Tarboro charged with assault. Finding himself in 
trouble Staton went to his former white friends to secure bail. 
He was refused and referred to his political friends as the proper 
ones to render assistance. He considered John Norfleet, a Re- 
publican of the county^ as the one most benefited by his vote and 
influence, and requested his help in securing baiL Mr. Norfleet 
declined also, leaving Staton to reflect that politics is indeed pass- 
ing strange. 

It was under the reign of the Union League that Edgecombe 
witnessed what was known as the ^'Noo Administration of Jus- 
tica." The word ^IToo" was originated by the Tarboro South- 
erner, and indicated a satirical opinion on the new regime. Its 
original import was also closely connected with the idea advanced 
by northern politicians of the forty acres and a mule to be given 
to former negro slaves. The tone of this was later changed by 
negro leaders, who instructed the n^roes in the county they 
would get forty acres and one hundred dollars in cash. It re- 
mained for James Harris and Sil Barnes, two negroes in the Dem- 
ocratic party, to dispel this false doctrine. The occasion for the 
ironic name was a letter written by L. L. Lancaster, when he was 
elected justice in 1868. The letter was addressed to W. F. Mercer, 
a leading citizen in the township in which Lancaster was elected 
justice. In his letter, written December 8, 1868, Lancaster wrote: 
'*We claim one-half of the cotton and one-half of the com by 
L. D. Bullock in year 1868, and we shall be to your house to get 
same December 6, 1868.'' The idea being that as a newly elected 
justice, Lancaster considered himself entitled to some remunera- 
tion and would employ his office to collect his due. 

In order to promote the interests of the negro politically (so- 
called) and to corral them for elections, a new brick house was 
erected in Tarboro under radical guidance and financial support 
for the accommodation of guests *Svithout regard for color.'' At 
this time all negro leaders were agitating social equality, and the 
situation was not without comment. H. M. WilUams was in- 
stalled as manager, and the ever observant Southerner in its edi- 
torial commended ''all violators of the law to the tender mercies 


of mine host, Mr. Williams/' and assured them security under his 
control. Another incident served to fan the flames of social 
equality and in all probability gave regrets to one of our best re- 
ligious bodies. A negro bishop came to Tarboro in 1867 and was 
given permission to preach in the white Methodist Church. This 
brought considerable criticism against local Methodism^ and re- 
sulted in harm which was felt in after years. 

There were only a few isolated cases^ however^ in which actual 
social equality was practiced. The Tarboro Southerner, in 1869, 
gave an account of a white man applying for license to marry a 
negress of Wiknington. The register refused, and the editorial 
comment referred to the act of the register, but stated that Edge- 
combe had stain indited upon its history. One infers from this 
that there had been a few cases that slipped through the register. 

The dastard measures employed by the Union League proved 
disastrous in two ways; first, a desertion by honest negroes, and, 
second, the establishment of an organization to offset its force.^ 
After the notorious occurrence of whipping deserting negroes and 
the arrogation to control by force the political course of its mem- 
bers in the county, the Union League received letters from Wiley 
Taylor, William Taylor, Thomas Jackson, and Fred Mann, col- 
ored, who lived near L^gets, and members at Battleboro, of 
withdrawal, since they did not wish to be held responsible for 
acts committed by the league. Following their resignations 
Steven Conyers and Gtoorge Arrington resigned, and Taylor and 
others joined the Democratic Club at Tarboro. Prosecution of 
negroes who voted the conservative ticket continued as late as 
1875, at which time James H. Harris, a loyal negro of the South 
and a Democrat, together with Sam Base, of Toisnot, were at- 
tacked by a mob of black Bepublicans and shot, after escaping 
from their hands. 

The Union League of the county is deeply indebted to one 
"General" Wiley D. Jones, of Battleboro, whose name was un- 
familiar to Edgecombe history until 1868. His achievements were 
marked with rascality and corrupt swindling of innocent n^^roes. 
The multifarious acts of the Union League and the rise of loyal 
organizations had necessitated a law to forbid meeting of secret 
societies. Jones saw the way to continue his designs, and im- 

^llie Ku Klox. 


mediately advised the negroes not to hold any more league meet- 
ingSy since it was unlawf ul, but to hold prayer meetings, which 
were only league meetings in disguise. Accounts from 1869 to 
1875 indicate that the negro suddenly became extremely religious. 

The political effects of the Union League will be disclosed in 
the yarious elections which were held in the county from 1866 
to 1880. It seems befitting, although distasteful and abhorrent, 
to giye a record of the crimes perpetrated in the name of recon- 
struction under northern rule and the Union League. It is im- 
possible to read a State paper during this period without reading 
of some brutal murder or incendiary fires, while the Tarboro 
paper was inflated with the occurrence of crime and violence. It 
seems as if the negro had been allowed to release his passion and 
infest civilization with his new-bom liberty. Many of these 
crimes bear memory to people now living that overshadow the 
deeds of the dark days of the War between the states. It seems, 
however, mention should be made of the fact that in many in- 
stances the negro was the misguided tool of men of the North. 

The economic life of the people in the county at this period was 
constantly imperiled. The farmer who had his dwelling, his 
stable, or his bam reduced to ashes was frequently ruined. Edge- 
combe Coimty in two months in 1869 lost two churches, eight cot- 
ton gins, a cotton factory, and numerous bams and buildings, all 
being incendiary origin. In addition, plunder and theft destroyed 
thousands of dollars worth of property following a fire. The 
Union Leagues of the county entered into an agreement for arson 
and robbery. They were well organized for this purpose. Three 
unsuccessful attempts were made to bum a block in Tarboro in 
1868. On October 14, 1869, oil was placed in some old boxes in 
a narrow lane between the old S. £. Moore place and the store 
occupied by R. A. Sizer. The fiames were discovered and put 
out. In 1867 Tarboro had one fire which cost fifty thousand dol- 
lars. The fire began in B. J. Keech's stables and in the rear of 
several business houses. It was traced to incendiary origin. 
When the stores were burning, the goods were plundered and much 
stolen. An entire square was consumed. Colonel C. W. Smith, of 
the Penny Hill plantation, had his gin house burned in February, 
1870, at which time two good gins, 1,500 bushels of corn, and 5,000 
bushels of cotton seed were destroyed. 


The confusion in the civil government and the support given the 
Union League by the State (Jovemment^ under Holden, caused 
an increase of crime in the county. In addition the judges who 
came to the county to hold court were usually radicals or radical 
sympathizers. Judge Moore held court with a jury consisting of 
eleven negroes and only one white man in 1868. These negroes 
were of the lowest type. 

Incidents of n^ro crimes increased in intensity; while white 
men were subjected to violence at their hands and innocent 
women were frequently overpowered and ruined. In 1866 a 
young man named George £. Oriffin, a clerk at Whitakers^ pushed 
a negro, who was newly elected magistrate, aside from the depot 
platform for some white ladies to pass. The negro swore out 
a warrant before a negro magistrate, John Judge, and gave same to 
a deputized negro, who was ordered to take Oriffin dead or alive 
or carry his head. The n^gro went to the store where Griffin 
was shaving. Griffin had his pistol over a shelf. The n^ro 
reached for the pistol and Griffin asked for it back, all the time 
walking for the door. As he turned to go out the door, the negro 
shot him in the back. A crowd of white people heard of the inci- 
dent and went to the magistrate, but received no satisfaction. 
The negro in the meantime had been captured and taken to Tar- 
boro, where he was tried and sentenced to death. Judge Jones 
set aside the sentence, and gave the negro ten years. The negro 
was sent to Baleigh, and after a short time was pardoned by 

Two negroes, Lawrence Powell and Cornelius Pittman, mur- 
dered Cowan, a Jew merchant, in Whitakers. These negroes were 
tried and sentenced for first degree murder. They apx>ealed and 
were convicted the second time. It was near election time, and 
Governor Holden was scheduled to speak at Halifax. He learned 
of the case through the Union League and pardoned the negroes 
as the rope was placed around their necks to pay the penalty. 

In September, 1869, O. M. Mayo was assaulted in his home by 
a negro about seven miles from Tarboro. He was severely beaten 
and was made unconscious. In October, 1868, two ladies, mother 
and daughter, were traveling from Tarboro to their home in the 
coimtry and had their trunk stolen from behind their buggy, losing 
$600 in specie, a large sum in greenbacks and their entire ward- 

Reconstruction — Social and Financial 245 

robe. In the Edgecombe County Court in December, 1866, three- 
fourths of the cases concerned freedmen and members of the 
league. The military commander issued an order forbidding 
negroes to be bound out, and the jail became crowded. In June 
court, 1867, ninety cases were freedmen, while court for March 
had omitted all civil cases to try criminals only; the total number 
of criminal cases were 776. Court for March, 1868, had 100 cases, 
all freedmen. The expense of confining them for one quarter was 
over $1,000. As late as 1875 seven freedmen were convicted and 
sentenced to be hung, six for murder and one for rape. 

During the month of May, 1867, Gus Hoknes, John Stevens, 
Jordan Dancy, Hardy Lloyd, and John Morgan, all negroes of the 
Union League, broke into the railroad office at Tarboro, stole an 
iron safe containing express money and made away with it. 

On March 17, 1870, the grocery store of King and Williams 
was robbed in daylight of $996 in currency and several dollars in 
company orders. Other cases of robbery and assault could be 
mentioned. Usually the acts of the league were mysterious, but 
later evidence would be obtained. On March 13, 1867, Bennet 
Hayne, of the vicinity of Leggets, left home to invite some friends 
to a gathering at his home. He met a party of whites and blacks, 
and in resisting an attack by them was severely beaten and be- 
came unconscious. He was found by an old negro man, who as- 
sisted in getting him home. About the same time a citizen of the 
county was seen to cross the Norfolk bridge, but never returned. 
In 1868 A. M. Weber had two attempts at his life, the last time 
being called to the door and struck over the head with a club. 
The would-be assassin began to rob, but was interrupted by people 

Frequently when negroes were detected and arrested they were 
released by the Union League. In September, 1868, a negro was 
arrested for larceny; a gang of Union Leaguers and regular dele- 
gates to the convention of 1868 for the district endeavored to 
liberate him. 

The negroes occasionally in their moments of frenzy killed 
each other. In January, 1867, Oeorge Holmes, a mulatto, was 
a candidate for office and lost. He immediately shot Matthew 
King, his successful competitor. The smell of blood was indeed 
strong, and a frightened, agitated, impulsive man who had been 

246 HiBTOBT OF Edgscombb Oounty 

given liberty of passion after years of bondage knew no law but 
the law of license. Dempsey Morgan, a negro, was chai^^ with 
beating his wife and came clear. He accused his wife of being 
the cause of his arrest and struck her dead, and disembowelled 

Although the better class of whites had to tolerate this condi- 
tion of crime, they bore it under protest. Especially was this true 
when the sanctity of the home was invaded by their former slaves, 
who for the most part had been treated kindly and with com- 
passion. The patience of the people was restrained by the forces 
of the Federals when the acme of torture was reached in the crim- 
inal assault upon their women. Before freedom was granted to 
the negro it was unheard of for him to assault or rape a white 
woman. Negro and mistress worked together in the field and 
home. The negro acted as her protector in the absence of hus- 
band and father during the War between the states. Even dur- 
ing the last days of the War, when negroes from the county were 
joining the Federal forces and the Freedman's Bureau, the white 
women were unmolested. But with the coming of their northern 
sponsors preaching the doctrine of social equality, the sanctity of 
woman was no longer respected. 

The first case of rape was in number 5 township. Almost im- 
mediately afterward another case occurred in township number 6. 
In January, 1868, Qus Bogers, a negro, raped a white woman in 
Rocky Mount. In December, 1869, Lew Hines was convicted for 
rape on a white girl. The subject is repulsive, and only for the 
sake of attempting to give an idea of the awful days of recon- 
struction are these cases stated. It is essential to notice that it 
was only during the day of reconstruction that any such condition 

It is interesting to note that with all the crime committed no 
attempt was made at lynching during the reign of Federal 
agencies. However, there was one case that bordered on mob 
execution. Gray Hargrove was slain by a negro, Jim Hargrave, 
a slave belonging to General Lewis, superintendent of the Tar- 
boro and Welden Bailroad, before the war. General Lewis and 
others, upon learning of the deed, drew the n^ro up by his 
thumbs. The negro hung too long and the act almost resulted in 
death. Bealizing the seriousness of the act and knowing that 

Rboonbtbuction — Social and Financial 247 

the n^^ would go to the Freedman's Bureau, General Lewis 
went first and explained the affair as it occurred. The agent of 
the bureau replied : "I don't give a d — ^n, there are plenty more." 

In order to check the lawlessness and violence in the county a 
branch of an existing organization, the Ku Khix Elan, was formed. 
The method of organization of the Ku Klux, like that of the 
Union League, is disclosed in 'Halminton's History of Beconstruc- 
tion, and for want of space is omitted here. General N. B. Forest, 
of Western Tennessee, was the reputed head. In its early forma- 
tion in the county the society was composed of able and conserva- 
tive men. The clan had a small muster and carried out the in- 
structions of the leader. .Unfortunately very little was published 
in the local papers concerning the society's activities, and since 
the remaining few old citizens express reluctance in telling of its 
operations, very little is known. From private information, how- 
ever, one act of suppression in the county was obtained that is 
worthy of narration. During the year 1870 in which lawlessness 
and crime were at the highest, and just as the Republican party 
was losing its power in the county, eleven negroes who were be- 
lieved to be guilty of assaults on white women and burning were 
secured by members of the Ku Klux, conducted to Hendrick's 
Creek, about one mile from Tarboro, and emasculated. During 
the scene it was told that as many negro politicians as could be 
gathered together were forced to witness the operation. One of 
the ablest negro leaders in the county became frightened and left 
Tarboro between daylight and dark, and when next heard from 
was in Washington City. It was several years before he ever 
came back to the county. This act terrified the n^roes in the 
county, and prevented repetition of crime. 

It is declared by good authority that men who were guilty of 
offenses of a minor character received a better trial at the hands 
of the Ku Klux than by the courts. There was, however, no re- 
course for the victims of the order and no retaliation. That it did 
much good in quelling crime is indisputable, by the decline of 
crime aftar the organization appeared. After 1875 a bad element 
of whites began to get into the E[lan, and since its purpose was 
about accomplished the leading citizens began to withdraw. In 
addition to this the negro began to realize that the northern man 
was his enemy instead of his friend, and after the forty acres and 

248 HiSTOBT OF Edoboombb Oountt 

a mule never materialized he began to lean toward the native 
whites. This statement is well demonstrated by a n^ro man who 
lived on Captain R. H. Gkitlin's farm in the county. This negro 
had voted the Eepublican ticket and belonged to the Union League. 
This negro came to Captain Gatlin often and asked him to read 
the political news^ and made this statement: *T. am firmly con- 
vinced that the Democratic party will work for the best interests 
of the negro.'' This colored man frequently spoke to the members 
of his race^ and on one occasion he had over one hundred negroes 
in front of him hissing and hooting him down. He backed him- 
self against a tree and told them that they could kill him, but they 
could not shut his mouth, that this was a free country and that 
free speech was allowed, and he intended to say what he pleased. 
In his attempts to lead his race into better things, it was reported 
that he exercised sound logic and said things his opponents could 
not confute. 

When the (General Assembly in 1871 passed a law to abolish all 
secret political organizations, the Ku Elux disbanded, or all the 
best element withdrew. Its influence, however, was retained by 
parties were were banded together to protect the innocent. 

In order to brighten the n^roes' hope, when political issues 
were first agitated, the northern men promised the negro forty 
acres of his former master's land and one mule. Their slogan was 
bottom rail on top, or now negro up and white man down. In- 
duced by this theory, advanced and advocated by corrupt poli- 
ticians, the poor emancipated negro with ten thousand or more just 
freed, and with many white men disfranchised by the Federal 
Gbvemment, it was nothing but logical that they should vote for 
the radicals. The first court was made up of negroes, and was 
termed the ^^ongrel Constitution." 

The election in 1869 is an index to the political conditions, 
and the humiliation the citizens had to suffer. All citizens of 
the county who had been members of the Legislature, and had 
held local offices, were disfranchised, as well as those who had 
borne arms against the United States. Every negro, however, who 
could boast a man's clothes had the chance to vote. A greater 
farce had never been enacted. Quite a few white people were 

Regonstbuotion — Social and Financial 249 

present, but only the radical element were permitted to vote. 
The Democrats stood with hands in pockets — ^innocent spectators, 
while the radicals carried the election. 

When the voting was over the ballots were not sent to the court 
house to be verified, and the result reported to Kaleigh, in order 
that the vote of the State might be known, but was sent direct to 
Qeneral Canby, the autocratic ruler of the Carolinas, in Charles- 
ton, S. C. From the list of elected candidates it will be seen how 
many strangers in politics were successful in securing office in 
the county. For history's sake a result of the election in the 
different townships of the county, as shown by the returns to the 
Board of Commissioners, is given: 

Tarboro township elected Alexander McCabe, B. J. Keech, and 
J. H. M. Jackson (colored) as magistrates, and W. H. Shaw as 
clerk, E. Zoeller as constable, and John King, T. W. Harvey and 
David Harriss (colored) as school committee. 

Alexander McCabe came to Edgecombe County (Tarboro) be- 
fore becoming twenty-one years old from New York State, where 
he was connected with wealthy and prominent people. His pur- 
pose in coming South was to engage in the mercantile business. 
He was a man of good impulses and enjoyed considerable popu- 
larity among the people of Tarboro. He married the eldest 
daughter of Samuel Moore, a citizen of Tarboro. At this time 
Mr. McCabe became active in the Bepublican party and was soon 
its recognized leader. He was of Irish descent and possessed 
many characteristics of that people. It is reported that he exer- 
cised a kindly feeling toward the disfranchised whites, and safe- 
guarded their property and frequently their personal safety. 

LowBB CoNBTOE elcctcd W. T. Cobb and Henry Telfair (col- 
ored) as magistrates. Clerk, William A. Jones ; Constable, E. E. 
Knight ; School Committee, Gteorge W. Harriss, William Harrell, 
Frederick Bryan. 

Upper Conetob — Magistrates, James Howard, John Bryan 
(colored); Clerk, Benjamin Staton; Constable, James Howell; 
School Committee, William S. Long, Staton Whichard, James B. 

Deep Creek : — Magistrates, M. P. Edwards, John H. Edwards ; 
Clerk, B. T. Mayo; Constable, A. T. Parker; School Committee, 
D. B. Batts, E. M. Bryan, Israel Merritt (colored). 

250 History of Edoboombb County 

LowKB Fishing Crbbk: — Magidraies, Benjamin Jbhnson 
(colored), Almon Hart; Clerk, C. G. WiDdnson; Constable, Alfred 
Warren ; School Committee, H. L. Leggett, D. W. Bullock, J, W. 

TTppbb Fishing Cbbbk : — Magistrates, Mathew Allen (colored), 
Samuel G. Jenkins (colored ; Clerk, A. Dawson (colored) ; Com- 
stable, J. Simmons (colored) ; School Committee, L. Garrett 
(colored), Carter Bellamy (colored), N. Bellamy (colored). 

Swift Cbbbk: — Magistrates, K. O. Pope, Willis Brown (col- 
ored) ; Clerk, James K. Odom ; Constable, S. D. Pool ; School 
Committee, Carey Bellamy (colored), Ned Curtis (colored), 
Washington Taylor (colored). 

Spabta: — Magistrates, William S. Duggan, Frederick Greoi 
(colored); Clerk, James B. W. Norville; Constable, William R 
Cobb; School Committee, R. S. Williams, Elias Carr, J. L. 

Ottbbs Cbbbk.' — Magistrates, Joseph Cobb, Watson Harrell; 
Clerk, Battle Thome; Constable, Elisha Harrell; School Comr 
mittee, W. G. Webb, K. C. Lewis, Bennett Hagins. 

LowEB Township, No, 10 : — Magistrates, M. B. Atkinson, J. C. 
Moore; Clerk, Theophilus Atkinson; Constable, John Lewis; 
School Committee, Hiram Webb, John Walston, John T. Weaver. 

Walnut Cbbbk: — Magistrates, A. B. Nobles, W. H. Kni^t; 
Clerk, J. W. Garrett; Constable, Joshua Killebrew; School Com- 
mittee, C. B. Killebrew, S. D, Proctor, General Bullock (colored). 

Rocky Mount: — Magistrates, Spencer Fountain, John H. 
Harrison, John N. Taylor; Clerk, T. H. Ruffin; Constable, John 

Cokbt: — Magistrates, David Lane, James F. Jenkins; Clerk, 
Lawrence Lane; Constable, John Lancaster; School Committee, 
Bythel G. Brown, Guilford Moore, Samuel Clark. 

IJppBB Town Cbbbk : — Magistrates, J. J. Sharp, L. L. Lancas- 
ter; Clerk, Jesse W. Williams; Constable, C. S. Braswell; School 
Committee, John P. Wynn, Jeremiah Batts, Toney Bobbins 

After the election two leading n^roes conceived the idea of 
serving the Government in the capacity of postmaster at Tarboro. 
One thought that a long list of names to his petition would aid 
him in receiving the position, and so forged the signature of a 

Beconstruction — Social and Financial 251 

large number of n^ro names and forwarded the same to Wash- 
ington. The matter was referred to the Congressman from this 
district; there it was discovered that the applicant was without 
political support. The Congressman in turn referred the matter 
to the members of the Legislature from Edgecombe, when the 
fraud was discovered and nipped in the bud. 

After a careful examination of the names returned in the elec- 
tion, the Democrats expressed their surprise and pleasure at the 
result. In one township the influence of the Union League was 
sufficient to overbalance all other consideration and an entire 
n^gro ticket was elected — notwithstanding the exertion of the 
moderate white Republicans. In another township the result of 
effective compromises resulted in the election of some of the 
county's best men to office. 

With an overwhelming majority the n^roes elected but twenty 
of their own color, out of one hundred offices to be filled, and in 
a great number of townships this result was effected through a 
q[>irit of conciliation and compromise on their part. It was only 
natural to expect the negro to give way to the white Eepublican's 
ambition when he was to reap reward by being second fiddler. In 
fact, the negro voter duriBg the time he enjoyed unrestrained 
political power, remained at the foot of the Eepublican party. 
Out of the average 9,000 Eepublican majority from 1868 to 1880, 
in the second congressional district, only five per cent were whites, 
but the majority of offices were without exception given to this 
five per cent. 

During the campaign of 1869 the county polled 3,800 votes, and 
of these only fifty were white. The number of negro voters in 
1867 was 2,593 compared to 1,194 whites. In 1870 the figures 
grew even worse, when, out of a total population of 22,970, only 
7,858 were white, including sixty-four foreign birth. The negro 
population had increased over 5,000 in number in less than ten 
years, whereas the whites showed only an increase of 1,979 in 
the same length of time. 

The feeling of triumph over a Democratic gain in 1870 over 
the previous election was considered a victory and the result was 
expressed by two of Edgecombe's most able citizens. Judge How- 
ard said: ''So happy an escape from absolute despotism, so com- 
plete a repudiation of our base calumniators; so glorious a return 

252 History of Edobgombb County 

of liberty and good goyermnent surely demand great rejoicing." 
Governor Clark said: "In the midst of bayonets and military 
prisons we have achieved a signal and bloodless victory with no 
crime on our hands and no blood on our flag. While we are proud 
of our people, we may safely trust them in the great contest for 
civil liberty." 

For the whites to dominate the negro in politics was a problem 
greater than that of how England conquered India with India's 
own troops. It was indeed singular how this number of men 
could rule 3,780 negroes and keep them in almost absolute po- 
litical subjection. Bryan, Cobb, Duggan, Keech, Lancaster, Mc- 
Cabe, and Kobbins took the offices which paid a good salary, such 
as register of deeds, clerk, sheriff, treasurer, and supplied the 
n^ro with non-paying places in the Legislature. This procedure, 
however, beneficial as it was to the poor whites and detrimental to 
the negro, was not to be permanent. 

Three factors caused a complete reversion in the political mo- 
nopoly; emigration of whites, change in the State Constitution, 
and the awakening realization of the negroes themselves. The 
most prominent of these was the growing restlessness of the 
ambitious negro. 

In January, 1873, when it became apparent that things were 
going from bad to worse with no prospects of a change for the 
better, many of the oldest and more peaceful citizens, began to 
change places of residence. Emigration assumed such proportions 
that an "Emigration Association" was formed, with E. B. Borden 
as treasurer. Edgecombe County contributed $300 at one time 
to assist in the movement. The Richmond Examiner, in comment- 
ing on emigration from the eastern counties of iN'orth Carolina, 
said that of the several parties passing through Richmond, many 
were grey-haired men of sixty years, while several were children 
only four months old. The parties reported they were going to 
the western and northwestern states because they found it im- 
possible to live at home. Many sold their land for $1.50 per acre, 
and several only had money enough to carry them as far as Cin- 
cinnati. There evidently was much suffering in the county. In 
one month alone one hundred and twelve white families purchased 
emigration tickets at the depot at Tarboro ; certainly some of these 


were leaving the State permanently. The question of the county's 
becoming depopulated began to attract State attention before the 
close of the summer of 1873. 

In the meantime the fact that the best citizens of the State had 
no voice in the county government began to be felt. Hence a 
change was made in suffrage requirements by the constitutional 
convention of 1875. At the same time the appointment of magis- 
trates was vested in the Legislature, and the magistrates in turn 
elected five county commissioners to manage county affairs. Be- 
fore this change in the Constitution the radicals inflicted a great 
curse upon the white people of the county by mismanagement. 
Plunder and extravagance were the rule, and honesty and economy 
the exception. The changes made by the revised constitutional 
proceeding proved Edgecombe's salvation, although many at that 
time exercised some disappointment. This bill passed in 1877 
without altering the tenure of office of the Justices of Peace and 
county commissioners then in office. 

In the meantime the fact that the negroes constituted such a 
great majority gave indications that radical domination might 
continue. Especially was this true in regard to town administra- 
tion. This field of activity offered a greater opportunity in ex- 
ercising tact and ingenuity than that of county or State politics. 
To meet this political emergency arose William Pippin. He con- 
ceived a plan by which the whites could control town affairs in 
Tarboro. The old citizens will recall that prior to 1875 there were 
no wards or districts in the town of Tarboro; in fact, no such 
provision had been anticipated in the town charter. A census 
of the city showed that the n^roes had the majority and in- 
variable elected all three town commissioners. Mr. Pippin ap- 
peared before the State Legislature and succeeded in having the 
charter amended, dividing the town into three wards. The first 
and second wards contained the majority of whites in the central 
part of town, while the third ward included the suburbs, where 
the negroes lived. This placed the negroes in a position to carry 
only one ward, and the whites the remaining two wards, and negro 
domination collapsed. 

The county government after 1868 to 1875, gave the people the 
right to elect county commissioners, magistrates, and school com- 

254 HiSTOBY OF Edobcombb County 

mitteemen.^ Tlus made county goyemment exclusiyelj a local 
affair^ and if the Democrats had a majority^ the county goyem- 
ment passed under Democratic control. On the other hand, a 
constitutional amendment of 1875, which placed within the power 
of the Legislature to pass the law putting in force the new form 
of goyemment, the county, if it yoted solidly Democratic, would 
not necessarily haye a Democratic controlled goyemment, since 
the State Legislature may be Bepublican. The latter would be 
more than probable on account of the great negro majority in 
other counties in the State, as well as in Edgecombe. This look- 
ing into the future caused a demand for repeal of the system then 
known as "Canby*' system. The Tarboro paper says, howeyer, 
when it became known it would be impossible to secure a repeal, 
it was a great disappointment to the people, but if it was the 
best the county's friend could do for the people, "we must needs 
be contented.'' 

In order to show the reparation made during the reconstruction 
regime it becomes necessary to discuss the rule under the two 
parties. The amount of taxes leyied for the county for the year 
1867 was $14,681.00 to pay expenses of county, goyemment and 
schools. Up until March of 1868 only $9,696.07 had been col- 
lected, leaying a deficit of $4,984.93. Add to this the increasing 
cost due to criminal cases which were rapidly increasing, the 
county expense was more than $8,000.00 behind at the close of this 
year. In 1866 the Republican commissioners were liberal in aid- 
ing the needy. The burden of war had caused a large number 
of citizens to become dependent on the county for aid. This aid 
lasted for seyeral years. One instance which seryes to show the 
expense of such a liberal policy was Mrs. A. A. Moore, of Tar- 
boro. To her the commissioners gave 3,000 pounds of pork 
at 12^c per pound, 10 pounds of flour at $15.00 per barrel, 
20 pounds of com at $5.00 per pound, $100.00 worth of sugar, 
$60.00 of coffee, $40.00 worth of molasses, 30 cords of wood, cost- 
ing $150.00, $15.00 worth of salt, $3.00 worth of pepper and spice^ 

^ Prior to 1868 there were no county committioners. The conntx court attended 
to all duties which were later delegated to county commisaionert. 

Reconstruction — Social and Financial 255 

and a loom wheel and cards at the cost of $200.00, making total 
gift of $1,013.00. In this case, however, the husband who was 
deceased had left an estate unsettled, and was supposed of some 
value. This attitude on the part of the party in power was badlj 
abused, and caused fatal financial results. At this time the dis- 
franchised whites had not had their rights returned, and north- 
erners and negroes dominated the county. 

After the white people were franchised, the finances were 
handled some better, and when the Republicans turned over the 
oounty government there was less deficit than in the year 1867. 
Ck>nsiderable credit is due to John Iforfleet for the control of the 
county finances. He had been associated with the Confederate 
(Jovemment and received his amnesty in 1868. He later became a 
Republican and clerk of court, a position he had formerly oc- 
cupied as early as 1841. He was a good business man, adminis- 
trative official, honest and judicious. He had the reputation 
of being the best clerk in the State. After he was defeated for 
clerk he did the business of a lawyer, although he never received 
his license. He could draw a will and handle legal matters relat- 
ing to property with much success. He was also a man of fine 
business judgment. He was always anxious to serve the people, 
and when Edgecombe County had its government restored in 1868 
he watched carefully over its interest, and was elected mayor in 

Immediately after war a meeting was called to 'appoint county 
officers. H. C. Bourne gave a barbecue prior to the call for a con- 
vention. Mr. Bourne, as were a goodly number of others, was in 
poUtics for what it gave, and he suggested a place of chief jus- 
tice at a salary of $1,500.00 a year. The present Captain R. H. 
Oatlin, of Tarboro, went to see Mr. !N'orfleet and told him the 
circumstances and asked him if enough could be influenced to 
vote for him in the election, would he serva Mr. Norfleet in his 
characteristic way said : ^^I don't believe any man ought to refuse 
to serve his people.'' 

When the convention was called Mr. Gatlin received recognition 
and requested that the salary of Chief Justice be set before nomi- 

256 History of Edoboombb Countt 

nations were made. To this Mr. Bourne objected^ but the move 
of Mr. Gatlin's was seconded^ and the salary was set at $3.00 per 
day for each day served by the Chief Justice of the County 
Court. It was largely through Mr. Norfleet's efiForts that expenses 
were kept down. The alarming increase gave Edgecombe the 
name throughout the State as a ^Taradise for Thieves,'' where 
people rioted in great recklessness, and the criminal docket was 
blackened with every crime known to the penal code. 

In 1879 effort was made to reduce taxation by imposing extra 
revenue tax. This served to release the poll tax from eighty-nine 
cents to seventy-two, but the increase in revenue was still not 
sufficiently increased to offset the debit incurred and to pay operat- 
ing expenses. 

At the end of the War there was no debt if that which the Su- 
preme Court decided to be unconstitutional. Some of this debt, 
however, was paid by a EepubUcan board of commissioners. 
From April, 1865, to September 5, 1868, the expense of county 
government was $20,300, which was presented to the Board of 
Audit. In addition there were several thousand dollars not pre- 
sented which was later discovered and ordered paid by the Demo- 
cratic board when it came in power. Of this amount $1,500 was 
outstanding school orders and a debt due the school fund of $2,000. 
From 1868 to 1878, when Benjamin !N^orfleet, Bobert Iforfleet, 
Republicans, and W. H. Johnson, H. D. Teal, and W. H. Ejiight, 
Democrats, were taken out of control and J. C. Dancy, T. U. 
Whitted, and Clinton Cattle, colored, regained power, the cost of 
county government rose to $24,000 annually, while under sane 
white Sepublican rule it was less than half the amount. The 
Democrats made even a better showing, but this was due to a 
return of stable government and economy. 

From December 1, 1875, to December 1, 1876, Bepublican rule 
cost $23,925.92. From December 1, 1876, to December 1, 1878, 
under Sepublican rule the cost was $18,777.55. December 1, 1877, 
to December 1, 1878, last year of Bepublican rule, the cost was 
$20,978.55. From December 1, 1878, to December 1, 1879, the first 
year under Democratic rule was $7,687.12, while from December 
1, 1879, to August 1, 1880, constituting seven months expense, 




the amount was $6^492.73. The success of an administration is 
measured by financial results. A comparative statement, there- 
fore^ is given of the expenditures under the two administrations : 


































In addition during the Bepublican r^ime revenue was received 
from sale of real estate which was also expended : 

Amount ZMtd'f 

Sale of 98 acres of land 

Half acre town lot 

One hondred and fifty-four acres of land 

Half acre town lot 

Part of coarthouse lot 

Part of coarthouse lot 

Grand Total 







1 of land 












t 75.41 







The funded debt of the county in 1880 was $15,000 and at the 
close of the year there was an available cash balance of about 
$12y000. The first Democratic board, however, paid a part of the 
old indebtedness of about $4,000, which would have increased the 
amount of balance on hand at the close of 1880. The Eepublicans 
in ten years administration reduced the county debt of only 
$1,005.78. Another fact is also worthy of notice is that the 
average receipts under Democratic control was $7,493.04 or only 

258 HiSTOBY OF Edgxooicbb Oountt 

$36 more than the Eepublicans received in 1876 and 1877, mak- 
ing the average receipts under the Bepublicans $23,972.89, and 
$17,493.64 under the Democrats; a difference of $6,479.25 more 
each year for Bepublicans than the Democrats had. 

As a closing comparison of the prevailing conditions citation 
is made of the distribution of the county tax for the year 1875. 
It was distributed as follows: 

General Fund |16,005.92 

Poor Fund 10,598.17 

School Fond 8,773.77 

Total 134,877.77 

Against the general fund and poor fund orders were issued as 
follows : 







Prisoners In Jail 








From the above account it is to be noticed that the deficit was 
met, as was the custom, from the school fund. 

The closing years of the reconstruction witnessed improvement 
in both finances and party feeling. The economic life of the 
people was becoming more stable, and political animosities less 
apparent. The logical solution for party differences were con- 
summated in politics following 1865, and direction is made to this 


Reconstruction — ^Politics 

One of the most ill-timed conditions continued, although po- 
litical conditions in the county were gradually getting better. 
It became necessary under the radical rules for any one accepting 
public office to take an oath, a '^Test Oath/' before being allowed 
to enjoy political position. This oath caused the office holder 
to swear that he had not borne voluntary service against the 
United States, that no aid had been given, that no assumption 
of office had been made of any office in any government of author- 
ity or pretended authority in hostility to the United States, and 
that no support had been given to any government hostile to the 
United States. In addition a solemn oath of allegiance to the 
United States was administered. 

The results of this test oath are plainly seen. Whereas apparent 
franchise was being given to ez-Confederate soldiers and govern- 
ment officials, the power to hold office again was deprived them, 
due to the fact one could not subscribe to the test oath who had 
in any way participated in the Confederate cause. A true loyal 
southerner would not sell his birthright. In order to regain com- 
plete citizenship he had to take the oath, consequently it was 
sometime after 1868 before opportunities for political advance- 
ment were opened. Doubtless many unscrupulous men in the 
county perjured themselves for a few hundred dollars a year. 
Peace be to their ashes. 

General Sickles, soon after he took command under the Federal 
Government, issued an order declaring the civil government of 
the State provisional. For convenience of the military govern- 
ment the State was immediately divided into eleven districts. 
Tarboro, according to her geographical location, was in the 
eastern district, with !N'ewbern as headquarters and Captain 
Horace James in command. 

The original plan of Colonel Whittlesey, Gteneral Sickles's sub- 
ordinate, was to make each county a subdistrict, and he wrote 
every member of the convention of 1868, then in session, asking 
suggestions of desirable men to act as agents. He appeared, how- 


260 History of Edobcombe County 

ever^ to disapprove the appointment of any except military officers, 
and as there was a lack of these, two to eight counties were in- 
cluded in each subdistrict. 

The chief agency to effect his designs was the Freedman's 
Bureau. That it was used in the hands of designing men for 
corrupt purposes cannot be contradicted. The chief complaint, 
however, was not corruption, but of inefficiency and improper 
management. The Bureau at Tarboro proved to be an influence 
for good, such also was true at Raleigh, Charlotte, and Salisbury. 

(General Sickles had the power to remove civil officers, but he 
did not exercise this right of removal to any great extent. How- 
ever, when the question arose as to his right to remove civil 
officers, he wrote Attorney (Jeneral Stanberry that without mili- 
tary control order could not be maintained. Only in one or two 
instances was Tarboro affected; the first time was in a town elec- 
tion, which was suspended until the reconstruction acts could go 
into effect. 

In another instance General Sickles had ordered, in general 
order No. 32, that all citizens who had been assessed for taxes 
and had paid them were qualified to serve as jurors, and the 
proper civil officers were ordered to revise the jury lists in accord- 
ance with the order. This, although it admitted n^roes, was in 
accordance with the North Carolina law and custom. Gk>vemor 
Worth asked (General Sickles to suspend his jury order until 
October, when it could be ascertained who paid taxes when the 
sheriff made his returns. Accordingly Judge Barnes in June ad- 
journed Edgecombe Superior Court, because negroes had not been 
summoned in accordance with Oeneral Sickles's order. Judge 
Barnes was criticized for this act, because the court was ordered 
held before the order was issued, and the laws existing prior to 
1861 were considered as valid. Whatever Judge Barnes's opinion, 
it is a safe conclusion that his attitude tended to ameliorate the 
condition and bring about a better policy toward the Federal 
Oovemment. It had the effect, however, of causing several magis- 
trates to resign. 

It is well to recall that at this time the Sepublican convention 
was in session at Raleigh, March 27, 1867, composed of ninety- 
seven whites and forty-nine negro delegates, and that a platform 
had been adopted denouncing secession and endorsing the 

Reconstbuction — ^Politics 261 

supremacy of the Federal Grovemment. It also approved the 
measures of ciTil rights and enfranchisement without any prop- 
erty qualifications, conferred without distinction of color. No 
Federal Court had been held since 1861. This was due to the 
military rule and internal state of political chaos. It was August 
10, 1867, before the Federal Court was resumed. 

Inmiediately following the assumption of political domination 
by (Jeneral Camby under the Federal (Jovernment, in 1867, Edge- 
combe County was divided into fourteen districts. The plan of 
operation was to appoint a captain for each district for the pur- 
pose of supervising the ballot and to exercise more or less juris- 
diction over political affairs. The original design, however, proved 
a failure in consequence of the registration board's inability to 
procure suitable persons to act as captains and open polls in each 
district. In addition radical changes had been made in the 
county government. (Jeneral Canby dominated the Constitution 
of 1868, and adopted a county system of his own liking which was 
patterned after northern ideas. It was 1877 before the old system 
was redeemed and county affairs were improved. 

It was difficult to secure registers. The oath required was such 
but few natives could stretch their consciences to take it, and 
suitable northern men in the county had been exhausted. Three 
of the registers appointed in 1867, M. M. Lowe, W. H. Knapp, 
white, and Willis Brown, colored, failed to qualify. 

The entire county was then consolidated into two voting dis- 
tricts, one being at Tarboro, and the other at Rocky Mount, five 
districts voting at Tarboro and the remainder at Rocky Mount. 

In the appeal for the formation of counties for the election, 
orders wore issued for a popular vote for a constitutional conven- 
tion and delegates. Tarboro gave 1,191 votes for the convention, 
with 234 against. The votes for delegates were as follows: 
H. Baker, 1,352 ; H. A. Dowd, 1,348 ; and H. C. Cherry, negro, 
1,325. Rocky Mount polled 1,129 for the convention and 1,503 
against, and gave Baker 319 votes, Dowd 320, and Cherry 233. 
Accordingly Baker, Dowd, and Cherry represented Edgecombe in 
framing the Constitution of 1868. The large majority was con- 
sidered by the conservatives a victory in the county, as the blacks, 
if united, could have voted more than two to one. By electing 
this ticket the county procured the services of two good white men 

262 History of Edoecombs County 

— one a colonel in the Confederate service and the other a Con- 
federate surgeon. Although the election went off quietly, with 
both races behaving in a commendable manner, the purpose for 
which the vote was cast was not comprehended by the majority. 
A visitor from New Haven, Conhecticut, was residing temporarily 
in Tarboro. Although a Eepublican politician, he wrote back to 
the New Haven Register that in the election for the purpose of 
voting for or against a convention very few whites voted, and 
that the voting was done by the intelligent (with an interrogation 
mark) contraband who did not know whether he was voting for 
"George Washington or a new town-pump.*' He ended his letter 
by remarking that he hoped there may be an improvement in the 
next generation, for there was certainly room for it. 

The results of the election for this year, however, illustrated 
a most obvious condition in local politics. The number of white 
voters were 1,194, as against 2,593 blacks. The number of voters 
listed in the county was greater that those registered. After 
deducting the one-third nontaxed, the number listed was as great 
as those registered, no doubt attributable to the fact that the 
farmers in the county listed employes on the farm. 

The convention of 1865 was in no sense representative from a 
Democratic view, since it was not a call of the people, but of a 
provisional government that was out of sympathy with the people. 
Yet notwithstanding this fact the delegates elected could perform 
a beneficial work. Judge Howard had been a delegate to the 
Secession Convention, and S. F. Philips had acquired considerable 
experience in public Hfe. Mr. Philips was appointed on the com- 
mittee to suggest business for the convention. This committee's 
report gave appointment to subconmiittees to consider the ordi- 
nance of secession, the abolition of slavery, revision of the Con- 
stitution, Justices of the Peace, acts of the law, legislative courts 
since 1861 and other issues effecting financial, political, and 
economic life in North Carolina. 

In spite of the concurrent of opinion which prevailed at the 
beginning of the convention, it was apparent that clashes of 
opinion would result. Especially was this true since it became 
necessary to undo the work of the convention of 1861. It, there- 
fore, became logical to observe a sharp difference in the opinion 
in Judge Howard. As it was in the past and is at the present. 


the western counties were arrayed against the eastern — the matter 
became one of conflict between '^opinion and sentiment." There 
were those present from the western counties who were not lacking 
in loud resentment of the secession leaders, whose Unionism was 
of personal bitterness. In characteristic manner Judge Howard, 
to adopt his words, '^ad more faith in those who, without making 
loud professions of what they have always felt and believed, 
honestly give up all their past ideas, and avow themselves hence- 
forth good citizens of the United States than in those whose fierce 
zeal for the Union slumbered during all the years of secession, 
and only broke out in the hour of the triumph of the Union cause, 
or in other words, a conquered Bebd will, to my thinking, be much 
more easily converted into a good citizen than most of these 
North Carolina Unionists." 

The first clash came in the discussion of the nullification of 
the ordinance of secession. A resolution to abrogate the secession 
ordinance was adopted. A sharp debate followed, being led by 
Judge Howard. He declared that he voted for secession in 1861, 
but was convinced of its failure, and would do all in his power 
to revise its effect; and that so far as the United States (Govern- 
ment was concerned the ordinance of secession had always been 
considered null and void, but to the people of North Carolina it 
was accepted in good faith, and thus maintained by them for four 
years. Judge Howard did not care to have the responsibility of 
taking it away. The drafter of the resolution, B. F. Moore, 
favored it because it would obtain right of citizenship. S. F. 
Philips expressed the sound sentiment of many, when he said: 
''The convention of 1861 had expressed an opinion one way, a 
body of equal rank should roister a counter opinion, as the func- 
tions of a convention of the people are both legislative and judi- 
cial," it could either repeal or declare null and void the act of a 
former body. A tentative vote was rejected by a vote of 94 to 20, 
with Howard voting against it. After the third reading Judge 
Howard again voted in the negative. Judge Howard related that 
just before the third reading Judge Manly and D. D. Ferebee 
were about to leave the hall, but remained with him. Some one 
turned to him and said : ''Howard, let it be unanimous. You have 
already voted." Judge Howard replied, "I'll see you damned 

I . 

264 HiSTOBT OF Edobookbb County 

first." Although opposition was strong on the part of the minority 
the act of secession in Iforth Carolina was abrogated. 

In 1868 the negroes still followed a northern political party. 
The Democratic party in Iforth Carolina allied itself with the 
National Democratic Party. That alliance expanded and prevails 
today. To cement a working union between the two, J. B. Whit- 
aker, William Robinson, and J. W. Edmunson, acting as a county 
committee under the provision enacted by the State convention, 
held in Gbldsboro, appointed (George Howard as delegate and 
William S. Battle as alternate to attend the National Democratic 
Convention, held at New York, July 4, 1868. 

The letters of acceptance of the two men, especially that of Mr. 
Battle, express the sentiments of the leading thinkers of the day. 
Considerable light is thrown upon the condition which culminated 
in political ties in after years. After expressing the opinion that 
the war was not a rebellion, but a right as the South saw it, Mr. 
Battle says in part : ''To the great National Democratic Party of 
die North we look in our extremity. It is the only political or- 
ganization which has shown the least indication of according to 
us that justice which, sooner or later, history will award us." 

Judge Howard, while more concise, voiced a hopeful future 
when he wrote the committee that the people had but to be pru- 
dent, firm, and just to have their principles triumphantly 

The people in 1868 began to show signs of a new political life. 
Many who were still disfranchised sought emancipation from their 
political bondage. It was this year that William S. Battle, 
James Cobb, Bedden S. Petway, R. N. Proctor, John I. Ealle- 
brew, John Norfleet, B. H. Austin, Robert Norfleet, William H. 
Knight, William W. Parker, Jesse Mercer, Exum S. Moore, John 
W. Johnson, Thomas Norfleet, Micajah P. Edwards, Lewellyn 
Harrell, Lawrence Bunting, William H. Johnson, of Edgecombe, 
received a removal of political disability by act of Congress. At 
the same time R. R. Bridgers, of Confederate fame, received his 
political right after more than two years of constant effort. In 
1880 disabilities inposed by the fourteenth amendment were re- 
moved by Congress in behalf of Thomas W. Hussey, J. E. Lindsay, 
and J. B. Hyman. 

Rboonsteuction — Politics 266 

"To whom all present shall come. Greeting: 

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, Presi- 
dent of the United States, in consideration of the promises, divers 
other good and sufficient reasons, me thereunto moving, do hereby 
grant to the said Elisha Comwell a full pardon and amnesty for 
all offenses by him committed, arising from participation, direct 
or implied, in the said rebellion, conditioned as follows: This 
pardon to begin and take effect if the said Elisha Comwell shall 
take the oath prescribed in the proclamation of the President, 
dated May 29, 1865, and to be void and of no effect if said Elisha 
Comwell shall hereafter at any time acquire any property what- 
ever in slaves or make use of slave labor, and that he shall pay all 
costs which may have accrued in any proceedings hitherto insti- 
tuted against his personal property." 

In addition Mr. Comwell had to write the Secretary of State 
of his acceptance to the stipulated conditions. The Secretary in 
return wrote the substantiation to President Johnson's reprieve 
and signified the original was on file. 

The conservative State convention for this year provided for 
State or general organization and county organizations. Each 
county, by popular meeting or through the medium of existing 
organizations, appointed a county committee of two persons or 
captains. The purpose of which was to take charge of all matters 
in registration, organize local divisions, to make monthly reports 
to the chairman of the district committee and to keep the State 
convention informed of all local matters. Edgecombe county 
enrolled all registered voters who were willing to vote with the 
convention, and assisted all who would vote to register. The 
convention had elected the late Qeorge Howard, J. J. Davis, 
M. W. Bansom as members of the State Executive Committee. 

In the meantime the Tarhoro Southerner, a paper ever loyal to 
Edgecombe and the South, proposed a meeting of the representa- 
tives of the press to meet at Raleigh on June 18, 1868, to form 
plans to pursue in the campaign of the ensuing year. 

Prior to this Gteneral Canby had issued an order on May 23, 
1868, declaring the Constitution ratified and the radical candi- 
dates for State officers elected. Napoleon B. Belamy, Bepublican, 
was sent to the Senate ; George Peck, a northerner, and Henry C. 
Cherry, negro, to the House of Representatives, and Joseph J. 

266 ELiBTORY OF Edgscombb County 

Martin was elected solicitor for the Second Judicial District. 
Henry Cherry was a commissioner of the county for seyeral years, 
and has the distinction of being the only man, white or colored, 
who had two daughters married to Congressmen.^ Cherry was 
a good citizen and an excellent carpenter. 

James Cromwell, a worthy colored man, deserves mention for 
his honesty. He received a unanimous nomination for the con- 
stitutional convention, but declined. While he appreciated the 
honor, he doubted his ability to serve the people in a proper 
manner, and begged that an abler delegate be elected. There were 
very few of his race possessed of his candor and earnestness. 

Edgecombe polled in April of this year 2,844 votes for the 
Constitution and 1,158 against it. The number of registered 
whites was 1,246, of blacks 2,622. The number of votes cast for 
Thomas S. Ashe for Gbvemor was 1,158, and for Holden 2,337. 
By a comparison of the votes for the Constitution and Thomas S. 
Ashe the unity of the conservatives is observable. The number 
of votes each time was 1958. 

The county ticket of 1868 is here given to show who were con- 
tending for the county government in that fateful year. 


Conservatives Radicals 

Honorable George Howard N. B. Bellamy 

House of Bepresentatives 

Dossey Battle Q. P. Peck (northerner) 

William S. Battle H. C. Cherry (n^ro) 

Benjamin T. Hart Battle Bryan 

Superior Court Clerk 
L. D. Pender John Norfleet 

Joseph Cobb B. J. Keech 

^Oeorge White and H. P. OheftUm. 

Reconstbuction — Politics 267 

R. W. Whitehurst No candidate 

County Surveyor 
W. G. Lewis No candidate 


H. T. Clark Robert Norfleet 

William F. Lewis W. K. Knight 

L. R. Cherry Benjamin Norfleet 

E. Thigpen D. Johnson (negro) 

James F. Jenkins T. Newton 

Extensive plans had been made for a canvass of the county, 
led by Judge Howard, Fred Philips, and other able men. A 
mass meeting and barbecue was held October 24, 1868, and many 
notables were in attendance, among whom were Colonel R. H. 
Cowan, Honorable J. R. Stubbs, Gteneral M. W. Ransom, Colonels 
W. A. Jenkins and J. W. Hinton, of Norfolk, Virginia, Colonel 
E. C. Yellowley, Major John Hughes, Captain J. J. Davis, 
Colonel Thomas S. Eenan, and other influential citizens of the 
State. The radicals also had the pleasure of a visitor from Ohio, 
Colonel Davy Heaton, and Judge Rodman, of Beaufort. The 
local paper states that more than 10,000 people were present. 

The result was an enlightenment to many of the negroes, which 
later resulted in much good for the county. The lamented 
Thomas S. Eenan, the conservative candidate for Congress in 
the Second District, spent many efforts and labored much in the 
county for the conservative cause, having as his slogan, ^'ShaU 
negroes or white men rule North Carolina!" 

The Republicans had a considerable number of n^ro soldiers 
who conmiitted many outrages in support of their ticket. Such 
negroes as John Jones, of Rocky Mount district, who had been 
convicted of theft and had been publicly whipped at the whipping 
post, was chosen by the white Republicans as inspector of the 

At the end of 1868 the white people, with one accord, laid aside 
their indifference, and inspired the recovery of their political 
freedom; emerged from a state of long inactivity into which 

268 BhsTOBY OF Edoecombb County 

northern domination had forced them; and again devoted their 
energy to vindicate and maintain the supremacy of the white race. 
The Freedman's Bureau was on its last legs and the Federal 
military was preparing to be withdrawn. Yet incompetent and 
unworthy men filled practically all offices in the State and county. 
It can truly be said that North Carolina was reconstructed upon 
orthodox radical principles. A few whites, with the aid of the 
negro, controlled political affairs. The town of Tarboro alone 
claimed any pretension to real clean rule. N. M. Lawrence was 
elected mayor, H. H. Shaw, M. Weddell, James H. Bowditch were 
commissioners. They were elected by "The Citizen Ticket," and 
they were of worth and standing. 

The result of the election of 1870 was very quiet and without 
much undue demonstration. After the calm came the storm, 
which the Tarboro Southerner had the honor of raising. In fact, 
the election was hardly known to the public before The SotUh- 
emer, followed by other State papers, began an agitation for the 
impeachment of (Governor Holden. The issue of August 11, 
1870, had an editorial as follows : '^e is the vilest man that ever 
polluted public office and his enemies are now crying in trumpet 
tones against him. Impeach the traitor and apostate, and the 
renegade, and drive him into the infamous oblivion which is so 
justly his due." It was probably due to the anger against him 
that lead to the demoralization of the Bepublican party. Even 
many of his followers hated him with a political and personal 

The Democratic conservatives of Edgecombe met at Tarboro 
in the county convention, June 15, 1870, and formed pins for the 
ensuing campaign. 

An amusing incident occurred in election of 1870. Battle 
Bryan, the sheriff, gave notice that an election would be held on 
the 4th of August for the election of officers and omitted that of 
sheriff. He explained, however, that he had been advised that 
the election of sheriff for Edgecombe County could not be consti- 
tutionally held until the first Thursday in August, 1872. It ap- 
pears that Mr. Bryan's lack of information subjected him to 
some heckling, and to produce a sentiment against the Bepublican 
position that once in office never out again. Alexander McCabe 
was elected, but allowed Mr. Bryan to remain in office. 

Rbconstbuction — Politics 269 

Frequently in political campaigns, especially in the five years 
following 1865, personalities were indulged in by the canvassers. 
During this period the county was wild with excitement over 
issues raised by different parties. Charges without any purpose 
save political were accumulated to injure integrity and blacken 
the character of individuals. Then, as now, the character of 
many would not stand too much probing, and slight defects were 
sometimes exaggerated. The conflict between William Biggs, of 
Tarboro, and Judge Jones, of the Second Judicial District, was 
perhaps the greatest incident in Edgecombe. This resulted in 
Biggs losing his right to practice law in Edgecombe courts, and in 
the impeachment of Judge Jones. 

The trouble started in the campaign of 1872, when William 
Biggs, editor of Tarboro Southerner, attended a radical meeting 
at Tarboro to represent his paper. While there he was attacked 
and insulted by a negro, prompted by white radicals. Mr. Biggs 
had a large cane and struck the negro across the head. This acted 
as a signal, and more than five hundred of the mob rushed upon 
him and a few Democrats present. The mob was held at bay by 
Alexander McCabe, while two colored men, J. T. Scott and 
19'apoleon Patterson, who, knowing the purpose of the radicals, 
rescued Mr. Biggs, and got him away. 

Mr. Biggs, a most loyal Democrat, had supported his party 
principles with an able pen, thereby incurring the fear and 
hatred of the radicals in the county. He was commonly suspected 
of being a member of the Ku Klux. 

Following this William Biggs's actions proved offensive to 
Judge Jones, due to the appearance of articles in the Tarboro 
SotUhemer criticising him. Jones attempted to suppress the free- 
dom of the SotUhemer, and the State papers todk up the matter. 
In the meantime (General Lewis had charged Judge Jones with 
having pronounced in open court a slander against the William- 
son and Tarboro Railroad, of which (General Lewis was general 
superintendent. It appeared that one of the directors of the 
road had been summoned as juror and upon his pleading exemp- 
tion according to a clause of the charter of the company, exempt- 
ing officers from military, public road and jury duty, Jones stated 
that the Williamson and Tarboro Railroad had forfeited its 
charter more than once, and that it was not in force. General 

270 HiSTOBY OF Edgecombe County 

Lewis protested and Biggs supported bim. Judge Jones then 
deprived Biggs of his right to practice in the court, and attempted 
to discipline the Southerner, Editor Biggs defended himself and 
exposed Jones's character. Jones had been placed on the bench 
as a result of the war; was incompetent in all respects. In spite 
of this fact he was aided by Mr. Bodman, of Beaufort, who made 
an attack on the Southerner; and which Governor Holden aided 
and abetted. Jones's actions while presiding in court were so 
suggestive of a jay bird, that he was known as Jaybird Jones. 

The late editor of the Southerner, Frank Powell, retained a 
satire in verse against Jones, written by Biggs. It is worthy of 
copying : 

"It is said by the vulgar, and thought to be so, 
That jaybirds on Friday to Hades do go. 
But it is quite likely they make a limited stay, 
And depart for the earth on the following day, 
But when their namesake Jones goes there to bum, 
For the joy of mankind, he '11 never return." 

A bill for impeachment was finally brought against Jones in 
the Senate for immoral conduct with a negress in Tarboro, and 
for being indecent and drunk in Raleigh, Salisbury, and Char- 
lotte. In 1872 he was impeached, and at the same time Biggs 
asked to be restored as attorney and had the privil^e granted to 
him by the Supreme Court. 

In the meantime the realization of their declining power began 
to dawn upon the minds of the negroes, and the fact that they 
were being worsted in securing political bargains troubled them 
to a considerable extent. The negro voters in the county found 
in one W. P. Mabson (colored) a fit representative. Mabson 
was reported as being a Methodist preacher of some ability. In 
order to understand the position assimied by the negroes and 
radicals about the time Mabson appeared, it will be necessary to 
refer to campaigns of 1871 and 1872. 

There were two parties in the field — ^Democrats or conserva- 
tives, and Republicans or radicals. The Democrats of Edge- 
combe met in convention on Saturday, July 1, 1871, and nomi- 
nated as their candidates for the State Convention H. T. Clark 
and William F. Lewis. The convention that nominated these 
gentlemen was reputed to be the largest and most harmonious ever 

Rbconstbuction — Politics 271 

held in Edgecombe. Nearly every township was represented, and 
a wonderful spirit of unanimity prevailed throughout the entire 

These candidates, who promised a thorough and active canvass 
in the county, were supported by George Howard, John L. 
Bridgers, Fred Philips, C. M. Wesson, T. R. Owens, Jr., J. S. 
Barlow, H. L. Station, Jr., B. H. Bunn, and J. L. Bridgers, Jr., 
who were the coimty's best speakers at this time and who ex- 
plained the importance of the issues at stake. An appeal pub- 
lished in the local paper gives an example of the Democratic 
sentiment : 

as a day of fasting and prayer, throughout our habitations. Let 
no strong drink or other luxuries be used for the three days pre- 
ceding. Let the people assemble in their places of worship and 
cry mightily unto the Lord. Let the maidservants whose employ- 
ment will not permit them to worship during the forenoon ask 
their employers to allow them the afternoon, that they may spend 
it in fasting and prayer on behalf of the government and our 
snfFering people. 

'^t the minister of the Gk)spel proclaim this fast and see that 
it is observed. If this call is heartily responded to, God will 
deliver us." 

The occasion for this religious duty being the satirical opposi- 
tion offered to the Republican ticket and nominees, which were 
as follows : Gteorge L. Mabson, Representative, from New Hanover 
Coimty; Edward R. Dudley, Craven County; Robert Fletcher, 
Richmond County; Stewart Ellison, Wake County; R. Falkner, 
Warren County; W. H. Reavis, Granville County; Augustus 
Robbins, Bertie County; William D. ITewson, Hertford County; 
B. H. Jones, Northampton County; Willis Bunn, Edgecombe 
Ooimty; John Bryant, Halifax County; W. W. Morgan, Wake 
County; Charles Smith, Halifax County; J. R. Page, Chowan 
County; and R. M. Johnson, Edgecombe County. The entire 
number were Republicans. 

The Democratic campaign opened with the slogan: ^'Office- 
holder's ticket; no convention, increased taxation and ruin," as 
compared with the ^'people's ticket; convention; reduced taxation 
and restored prosperity." A county convention was called by the 

272 HisTOBT OF Edoxcombb County 

chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee to meet Satur- 
dajy July 1, 1871, in order to nominate candidates for the State 
convention. The purpose of the State convention was to remove 
the political chaos then existing. For some unexplained reason 
the convention was voted down. 

In the meantime conditions were becoming more favorable for 
the white citizens and the Democrats who had taken part in the 
war. A committee known as the ^'Southern Outrage Committee" 
was organized in Washington and considered means of redress for 
the multifarious deeds perpetrated on the whites in the Southern 
States. In February, 1871, William H. Battle and B. F. Moore 
were summoned to Washington to testify before this committee. 
This action and the sending of these two men proved a very 
favorable omen to the county, and a terrible ominous indication 
to northern politicians and the Bepublican party. The action 
by the committee indicated that at last some sincerity was shown 
in the search for a true condition in the county, while it proved to 
the political fortune hunters in Korth Carolina who had been 
gathering in Washington that their day was coming to a close. 
It indicated that the more thoughtful Republicans were heartily 
tired of the burdens they had been subjected to during the period 
of reconstruction. 

Messrs. Battle and Moore were men well selected for the mak- 
ing a true and imbiased report of the condition of affairs in the 
county and State. They were given recognition at the committee 
hearing and much benefit was derived from their official repre- 

In the year 1875 Bepublicans were still in control in State and 
county. W. P. Mabson and Alexander McCabe being the leading 
radicals. McCabe was in the Senate. It was at the beginning of 
this year that a promise of better things appeared on the horizon. 
The incompetency of Bepublican rule was too unjust and wasteful, 
and at the beginning of 1875 the coimty began its redemption. 
Under the rule of Bepublicans the town commissioners of Tar- 
boro attempted to get the State Legislature to empower them to 
sell the Tarboro Common. The local pride of the people resented 
this act severely, and this issue was thrown into campaign against 
the Bepublicans more than once. 

Bboonstruction — Politics 273 

The county Democratic ticket for 1876, while not as able as the 
year 1870, was composed of rising citizens. John M. Perry for 
Senate ; William T. Cobb and Dr. A. B. Ifobles, House of Eepre- 
sentatives; Spencer L. Hart, sheriff; William W. Parker, treas- 
urer; K. G. Pittman, surveyor; Thomas W. Ider, coroner, and 
C. B. Killibrew, Hiram Webb, D. B. Butts, James K. Lawrence, 
and M. B. Pitt for commissioners. Tarboro organized a Tilden 
and Vance Club, with S. S. Nash as president; J. H. Brown, 
first vice-president, and S. F. Philips, chairman. More than 400 
members joined this organization. At this time a falling away 
from the Bepublican banner was noticeable in the county. At 
the meeting held August 25, 1876, B. M. Johnson, a prominent 
negro Bepublican and ex-member of the Legislature, gave his 
application to the Tilden and Vance Club. His application is 
here quoted: 

'7 hereby tender my resignation to the Republican party, and 
ask that my name be enrolled in that of democracy. Having 
been a faithful member of the Bepublican party all my political 
life, it will be remembered in the campaign of 1874 I was one 
of the few Bepublicans in the county that asked for reform in 
my party which was not adhered to. ITow I am fully of the 
opinion not only the coimty demands reform, but also the nation, 
and as one of the citizens of the Bepublic I hereby tender my 
weak and feeble ability to the standard bearers of reform, Samuel 
J. Tilden, Thomas A. Hendricks, and Zebulon B. Vance.'' 

Harry Dancy, a very respectable colored man, was also a mem- 
ber of the Tilden and Vance Club at Battlesboro. He had always 
manifested a stand for the Democratic party, and was often 
threatened with death by the members of his own race. 

The retirement of Bepublicans from their party and giving 
support to Democrats gave much pleasure to Democratic leaders. 
The gain, however, was partially offset, due to the fact that there 
were several political aspirants for office who ran on an inde- 
pendent ticket. This caused a split in the party and gave a 
radical gain. The Tarboro Southerner, in commenting on an 
independent candidate, said that such a candidate was a political 
trickster, who was ready to betray his political friends and de- 
ceive his political opponents, and one who did not hesitate to 


274 ELisTOBT OF Edoeooicbx OOUITTT 

sacrifice principles for promotion, and who while scheming for 
the support of the carpetbaggers had not the courage or the manli- 
ness to array himseH under their banner. 

The electioneering this year was unique, carried on by Yance 
and Leach in the State, and Howard, Philips, Perry, Bridgers, 
Cheshire, Baker, and Bourne in the county. That their efforts 
resulted in much good is seen from the returns in the election. 
Although W. P. Mabson, colored, went to the Senate, W. A. 
Duggan and Willis Bunn, colored, went to the House of Bepre- 
sentatives, the county showed a large vote for Tilden and Vance. 

William A. Duggan was a native of Edgecombe County, and had 
been magistrate, commissioner, and school examiner. He gradu- 
ated at the Medical Department of the University of Pennsyl- 
vania, 1861, served through war as assistant surgeon at Fort 
Fisher and the military hospital at Wilson. He was at Goldsboro 
and surrendered there and immediately became Bepublican in 

William Bunn, a negro farmer and Republican, a former slave, 
one-time magistrate, was elected to the Legislature 1870, 1873, 
and 1877 by a majority vote of 2,800. 

William P. Mabson, senator, from Fifth District, was a negro 
of some ability, bom November 1, 1846, in Wilmington, North 
Carolina, and well educated at Lincoln College, Chester County, 
Pennsylvania. His first election was to the House in 1872 and 
to the Senate in 1874. He was Bepublican delegate to the Consti- 
tutional Convention 1875, and elected in 1877 by 2,300 majority. 
He was by vocation a school teacher, and for years was county 
school examiner in Edgecombe, and his party leader. 

The election was intensely exciting, and the result in the State 
of much consequence. The streets of Tarboro were thronged with 
citiz^[is to hear the news. Farmers, it was reported, left their 
fields, merchants their business, to hear the latest results. The 
Bepublicans felt the results heavily and stayed away from the 
streets. The State ticket was elected in its entirety, giving a great 
Democratic victory, with the State redeemed and the white man 
once more given his political rights. 

After the election of 1876 a movement for negro colonization 
was inaugurated, but soon came to grief. The movement, however, 
did not originate from the leading Democrats, but by some parties 


who suffered political reverses in that year. Bunn from Edge- 
combe agitated the matter in the Legislature. The resolution^ 
however, asking the Legislature to suggest some feasible plan upon 
which Congress could be memorialized to set apart some territories 
west of the Mississippi River for the use of colored people, was 
taken up as a special order and was considered. 

Following the Democratic victory of 1876 civil affairs were 
better administered. In 1877 a bill to provide for an Inferior 
Court, called Court of Common Fleas, was enacted by the Legis- 
lature. Members of the board of county commissioners were 
ez officio judges and possessed all powers incident to that jurisdic- 
tion. Court was held four times in each year, and conducted by 
the Justices of the Peace. This court exercised exclusive juris- 
diction of all special proceedings, and had concurrent jurisdic- 
tion with the Superior Court in all civil actions arising on torts 
in which damage claimed was not more than $50.00, and concur- 
rent jurisdiction with the courts of Justices of the Peace, wherein 
the sum demanded exceeded $60.00. The court also had a limited 
jurisdiction to inquire of, try, hear, and determine certain crimes 
and misdemeanors. 

In the election for this year Edgecombe elected forty-eight 
magistrates for fourteen townships and made considerable prog- 
ress for democracy. 

The campaign of 1876 had disclosed an attempt of strategy by 
the radical party to regain the lost ground in the previous elec- 
tion. Early in the time for registration it was discovered that 
the registration books were being copied from the old ones. The 
law was that none should register on election day. The duty of 
copying being in the hands of shrewd and unscrupulous radical 
leaders, many white names were omitted. To show that it was 
accidentally done, names of a few colored men were left out. 

In addition to this the polls in Tarboro townships revealed the 
fact that a number of illegal votes were cast by n^^ boys under 
twenty years of age, all of whom registered a few days previous 
to the election. The registration books were in the keeping of 
J. H. M. Jackson, who gave no notice of the time or place of 
registering. The books were kept at his house, where white men 
did not frequent, but where the colored people had unlimited 
freedom. It was easy, therefore, to get these boys to register 

276 History op Edobcombs County 

without fear of detection. After haying registered, the Democratic 
challengers were unable 'to prevent them from voting on account 
of the absence of any direct evidence to their ages. Also due to 
the fact that the registrar was at his house instead of the court 
house, the proper place, several whites failed to register and con- 
sequently could not vote. This was indeed a political trick, and 
although it aided the Republicans it was not sufficient to materi- 
aUy reduce the gain made by the Democrats. Bocky Mount gave 
a liberal Democratic majority and an increase over 1870. The net 
Democratic gain for the county was 1,071. The method employed 
by the radicals, caused an agitation for central government 

In the election of 1876 a very interesting article was published 
in the Tarboro paper as a colored man's view, signed by Joseph 
Weaver. In his article a suggestion was made that the Bepub- 
lican politicians of the county were after all the spoils and then 
leaving the negro to get what he could. The negro expressed, to 
a large extent, the actual conditions then existing. 

Alexander McCabe and Joseph Cobb remained commissioners 
for the town. They continued in this office until in 1875, when 
the L^islature of Korth Carolina amended the charter of the 
town of Tarboro and provided a registrar and inspector for the 
election of commissioners. Messrs. McCabe and Cobb considered 
the act as unconstitutional, and asked to be excused from voting. 
John S. Dancy was a negro appointed on the committee to assess 
property for taxation. He had lived in Washington City; had 
a good education and spoke well. Frank Battle, a blatant poli- 
tician, who had begun his political career in the seventies^ was 
given an unpleasant reminder after his acts in the election of 
1872. When Benjamin Hart was hung for a crime, Frank Battle, 
who had been warned because of his attempt to excite the mem- 
bers of his race, suddenly disappeared. 

William Battle, negro, was appointed policeman in 1872, while 
Frank Bedmond, also colored, served as policeman for two or 
three years. The chief of police of Tarboro for this period said 
that Bedmond was better than anybody he had to work up mat- 
ters. He stood well with the people. 

Saturday, January 13, 1878, will stand as a rather remarkable 
day in the annals of Bepublican politics in Edgecombe County. 

Reconstbtjction — Politics 277 

It was nothing unusual to see 3,000 colored votes influenced and 
controlled by a few aspiring whites. The method by which this 
was accomplished in 1873 is amusing. The scene was a Bepub- 
lican convention in Tarboro, and the actors were Mabson, negro, 
McCabe, Republican leader, and Joseph Oobb, white resident 
of the county. Mabson, a delegate, had been expelled from the 
convention and was making a desperate fight, with a show of 
considerable strength, when he was summarily set aside by order 
of McCabe, who appointed Joseph Cobb in his place. The tactics 
employed by both parties were characteristic of the time. In 
January, 1873, the L^islature voted to expel Mabson as repre- 
sentative from Edgecombe on accoimt of his ineligibility by not 
being a qualified resident of the county.^ The accoimt is given 
from the Tarboro Southerner: "The first move was made by 
Mabson and came near being a success. Noticing the absence of 
the Cobb faction, he, in the capacity of chairman of the executive 
committee, called the convention to order, and had Willis Bunn, 
his devoted friend, put in the chair as permanent president. By 
the time Bimn had taken the chair and was explaining the object, 
etc., news of the danger reached the Cobb faction downstairs, 
which, headed by McCabe, rushed into the hall in the most excited 
state of alarm and confusion. They were nearly tripped by 
McCabe, who was equal to the occasion, and, at the crack of his 
whip, Bunn was ignominiously driven from the chair on the 
ground that he had been nominated by one who was not a 'diligit.' 

'McCabe then immediately took charge of the vacated chair 
(though by what means deponent saith not), and issued his orders 
to his "niggers' with all the majesty of the king of the Sandwich 

'Numberless motions and counter motions were made, always 
ending in the defeat of Mabson, who, no doubt, thought it re- 
markably strange the chairman should so often forget to put his 
side of the question to the convention. 

"After a scene of inextricable confusion, during which it was 
utterly impossible to say who was hallooing the loudest and mak- 
ing the most noise, McCabe managed to bring his unruly colored 
subjects to something like order, when he announced that the 

^ Mftbson hftd sworn falaely in order to vote in Beaufort in 1871. He could not 
hare been both a citixen of Beaufort and Edgecombe. 

278 HisTOBY OF Edgboombs Couimr 

'diligits' of the different townships (twelve of which were re- 
ported represented) would retire for the purpose of making the 

^'Fearful for the interests of his friend Cobb, he placed a col- 
ored gem'man in his seat and followed the retiring ^diligits' to 
the scene of consultation. 

"After waiting some half hour they returned, headed by Mc- 
Cabe, holding in his hand the report. Mabson was defeated and 
had to retire. 

'Mabson said he should heartily support Cobb and had no 
intention of bolting. The nominee then came forward and made 
his same old speech about 'not seeking office/ etc., which caused 
even a smile on the faces of his sable hearers." 

The discussion in the committee room later disclosed consider- 
able strength for Mabson, five townships being strongly in his 
favor. He did not have suffi!cient strength, however, to overcome 
the white influence. 

After his rejection in 1873 and the succession of Joseph Cobb 
to the Legislature, Mabson tried to convince his colored constitu- 
ents that he was persecuted by the Democratic members of the 
Legislature on account of his color. It appears that he failed 
to convince enough of them to get a nomination. This began 
Mabson's decline in politics. He had enjoyed a rich harvest. 
He had been negro superintendent of education in the county and 
also a member of the Senate. He fell out with his race about 
1880 over one Benjamin Hart, a negro, when a mob was formed 
against the latter. Hart was carried at this time to Williamston 
by John BTorfleet, clerk of the Inferior Court, for protection. In 
the meantime two men with pistols mounted a train for Williams- 
ton. The engineer,. Perason, was told to run to Williamston. He 
refused, and was told to take his choice to 'Williamston or hen," 
and he informed them he would go to Williamston. A line of 
guards were placed on the streets from the jail to the depot. The 
negro, was retaken and brought back to Tarboro and hung. In 
the meantime Mabson claimed the protection of the guards for 
his attitude against the negro criminal In 1882 Mabson ex- 
perienced further trouble while in attendance at a convention in 
Wilson. While there he walked into a store on Tarboro street 
and with a pompous air called for a cigar, which he Ht and strolled 

Bbgonbtbuction — Politics 279 

away without paying for same. The clerk protested^ and the pro- 
prietor issued a warrant and had Mabson arrested. The case was 
submitted and Mabson fined five cents and costs. 

The Democratic party had no hopes of winning in 1873. They 
knew their only duty lay in putting out a ticket or else abandon 
the party. Consequently they ran candidates in every election and 
supported them as if in hope of victory. No canvass^ however^ 
was made this year by any of the party nominees. 

The last important attempt of the radicals to gain the fast dis- 
apx>earing power was in 1880. The Bepublican convention met 
in Tarboro on the 2d of September. John 0. Dancy (colored) 
was chairman of the executive committee^ and caUed the conven- 
tion to order. Dancy was considered a man of some intelligence^ 
and had been elected mayor of the town of Tarboro. He was a 
n^ro of the old type and liked by many of the white people. He 
was kind and friendly. The committee on permanent organisa- 
tion reported him as permanent chairman and W. A. Duggan, 
white, as secretary. The delegates conferred and reported the 
following nominations : W. P. Williamson, white, for Senate ; for 
the House, Clinton W. Battle and W. W. Watson, colored ; sheriff, 
Battle Bryan, white; registrar of deeds^ John C. Dancy, colored; 
treasurer, B. J. Eeech, white; coroner, Clem S. Camper, colored. 

A resolution waa passed pledging the party to support the 
nominees. During the campaign of July, 1880, the *T)loody shirt*' 
was furiously waived at the Oarfield and Arthur mass meeting 
held in the Tarboro Court House. The proceeding was led by 
J. C. Dancy as chairman. The Bepublicans in many respects 
were losing their ablest leaders. Sherwood Andrews, colored, who 
had been active in politics and an office holder, was a fugitive 
from justice, having been caught stealing bacon from Shaw and 
McCabe, merchants at Tarboro. Frank Battle had disappeared, 
while Mabson had lost his standing. 

Radical officers were elected for the county. Hilliard Chap- 
man was elected commissioner, while McCabe also came back as 
commissioner. McCabe was elected chief of police in May, 
1881, at the same time he was elected commissioner to succeed 
himself, but later resigned to give full time to his police duties. 
He was later accused of being so intoxicated as to be incapable 
of discharging his duties as chief, and even appeared in this 

280 Hi8T0BY OF Edobcombs County 

state before the commissioners. He was suspended from office, 
and later, upon his appearance before the commissioners and 
pleading guilty, upon his request he was taken back. On Septem- 
ber 21, 1881, Mayor Dancy preferred charges against him again 
for being in a continuous state of intoxication, and he was sus- 
pended indefinitely. This in a measure ended his political career. 
He was stricken down at the age of thirty-eight by that dreadful 
disease, consumption. 

At the same time Whitted colonized the Second Ward for the 
Republican vote against the party that put him in as police, and 
attempted to turn out the ones that put him in office. He immedi- 
ately had charges preferred against him by the mayor and subse- 
quently lost his job for neglect of duty while dabbling in politics. 

Among Edgecombe's numerous organizations in the eighties was 
a society known as the Ejiights of Labor. When Messrs. Eeech 
and McCuUen refused nomination McCullen issued a circular to 
the effect that he was a Enight of Labor candidate. The Ejiights 
of Labor were a nonpolitical body and ignored McCullen's letter 
announcing his candidacy. In addition McCullen hurt himself 
politically by attending the Democratic convention and running 
against a candidate whom he had nominated. 

The time for election caused considerable excitement, especially 
in the Second Ward. Many who had attempted to register were 
questioned by Democratic poll holders, and it was learned that 
many admitted that Bepublicans paid their rent to induce them 
to move in the Second Ward. They were not allowed to register, 
to the consternation of B. S. Taylor, a Republican leader, and 
Frank Whitted. John F. Shackleford, poll holder, remained 
firm, and only allowed those qualified to register. Packing of 
the ballot was carried to the extreme, while farm hands working 
several miles from town— one aspirant worked seven miles — 
claimed the Second Ward as their residence. 

In the Third Ward the Democrats did well, but could not over- 
come the Republican majority existing there at the time. On 
the whole the Republicans won a majority of officers in this elec- 
tion, especially in county offices. 


Politics 1880—1900 

Beginning with the year 1880 politics in Edgecombe took on 
a new interest due to the fact that political parties were more 
equalized. Party rancor of reconstruction subsided^ leaving a 
more or less open road for equal competition and the chance for 
the exercise of individual merit. Tarboro^ the county seat of 
Edgecombe^ had a population in 1880 of about 1,600 people, of 
whom at least fifty per cent were black, thus giving about an 
equal number in races, but a slight majority for the Bepublicans 
due to the fact that a few whites were still of this party. 

The RepubUcan majority in the county was offset, however, 
by the capture of the local court system by the Democrats. The 
struggle over the domination of the court began in 1877, as was 
intimated in the previous chapter. In the fall of 1877 the 
magistrates of the different townships met in Tarboro in TeeFs 
HaU for the purpose of establishing or not establishing an Inferior 
Court. W. A. Enight called the meeting to order, and H. C. 
Bourne offered a resolution that the convention establish a court 
to be known as the Inferior Court of Edgecombe County, and that 
justices be elected to constitute said court. 

Upon the motion of J. B. Cofield the pay of the associate jus- 
tices was fixed at two dollars ($2.00) per day and the presiding 
justice three dollars ($3.00). After the proposition of Mr. Bourne 
relative to the appointment of tellers, John I. Lewis and Thomas 
L. Mayo, the following men were nominated for justice: H. C. 
Bourne, W. T. Cobb, J. J. Battle, and J. K. Lawrence. Bourne 
received 29 votes, Cobb 13, Battle 1, and J. K. Lawrence 1. 
Bourne was accordingly declared justice. 

Following the ballot for first justice, W. T. Cobb, Ed Sharpe, 
(George Howard, W. A. Johnson, G. W. Hammond, and J. J. 
Battle were nominated for associate justice. The first ballot re- 
sulted in no election. The second ballot gave Cobb the majority 
and the election. The ballot for third justice resulted in the 
election of J. J. Battle. H. L. Station, then Superior Court 
Clerk, held the office of justice ex officio until his term as clerk 


282 HiSTOBY OF Edoboombb County 

In the meantime K. H. Gatlin moved to go into election of 
county soKcitor and J. L. Bridgers, Jr., Frank Powell, and Dorsey 
Battle were put in nomination. Mr. Bridgers was the successful 
nominee and was declared elected. Following the adjournment, 
the justices met and elected H. C. Bourne as presiding justice. 
All these men were Democratic in politics, and constituted the 
first Democratic court since the reconstruction acts were passed. 

In August of the following year time came to elect new justices, 
and W. H. Johnson was requested to serve, since a lawyer was 
needed on the bench. Considerable differences of opinion, how- 
ver, grew out of this policy and caused a new split in the power 
gained by the Democratic party. The question was raised as to 
the expediency of placing a lawyer on the Inferior Court, and 
could a lawyer of any capacity fill the position at the salary 
paid. To increase the salary would of necessity defeat one object 
of the court, which was to reduce the expenses of the county. 
M. J. Battle took the stand that the people were satisfied with 
the court as it was in 1877, and that the matter should not be 
agitated. The Tarboro Southerner, on the other hand, contended 
that the more expert the workman the higher the wages, but in 
the end the work was better and hence cheaper. Mr. Johnson was 
beyond question a man of great ability, and had attained at the 
State University many high honors. At the time he was the 
logical man for the position. Mr. Johnson was elected to succeed 
Mr. Cobb, but at the meeting of the court in January, 1880, 
Mr. Johnson had not qualified. He at first refused election, claim- 
ing that it would lower him in the judiciary, as Mr. Bourne 
would be his superior. Mr. Bourne and Mr. Battle w6uld not 
resign, and later, a compromise being effected, Mr. Johnson 

In the meantime the court had reorganised and Justices Battle 
and Bourne were on the bench. Both appeared to take the posi- 
tion as presiding justice. The law required a chairman, and one 
could not be elected without one voting for himself. This natu- 
rally was not done. Widespread dissatisfaction prevailed among 
the magistrates who elected Mr. Johnson, for they desired that he 
might be chairman. When this failed, Mr. Johnson refused to 
serve, after having written a charge to the grand jnrj and refus- 
ing several cases in the court. Mr. Johnson deserves credit, 

PoLiTiCfi 1880—1900 283 

however, in that he was the only lawyer in the State elected to 
that position who did not ask for more pay. Court was held in 
January with Mr. Powell clerk, Mr. Bridgers solicitor, and two 
justices, who did just as well as if three justices were on the 
bench, for they disposed of a large amount of business. 

In August, 1878, the justices selected five commissioners, who 
were to administer the county government for two years, begin- 
ning December 1, 1880. The men selected were well chosen as 
to qualification, and representative men of character and of 

In passing from Bepublican to Democratic rule considerable 
propaganda was used, both in and out of the county. The more 
intelligent negroes believed that the native whites were not hostile 
toward them so long as the negroes remained in their proper 
sphere. Edgecombe also had a few negroes who were loyal to her 
white people and made sacrifices for the interest of the common 
cause. W. H. Wytt, residing in Brooklyn, N. T., gave an inter- 
esting account of the address of Harvey Dancy, a negro, in a 
Methodist Church in that city upon the subject of 'The N"ew 
South from the Negro Standpoint." In his talk Dancy, who 
hailed from Edgecombe, said much good of the South and his 
native county. He spoke with appreciation of the colored school 
in the county which the white people provided for the colored 

Prior to the campaign of 1880, resulting in the election of 
Frank D. Dancy to the Senate, and C. W. Battle and D. Wimberly 
to the House of Bepresentatives, there was considerable talk of 
nominating W. S. Battle, of Edgecombe, for Governor. - Mr. 
Battle, in addition to being a prominent plants, business man, 
and politician, had taken considerable pajt in the deliberations 
over secession and reconstruction. 

The election following 1880 gave W. P. Williamson a seat in 
the Senate and C. W. Battle was returned to the House of Bepre- 
sentatives, while W. W. Watson succeeded Wimberly in the lat- 
ter's office. The county was governed by a Democratic board of 
commissioners, while the Bepublicans exercised a somewhat full 
rule over town affairs. 

The election of 1882, however, was full of unusual interest. 
Opposed to the regular Democratic party were the Bepublican 

284 History of Edgeoombe Countt 

and Liberal parties^ the latter consisting of so called Independent 
Democrats who had become dissatisfied with their party and 
coalesced with Republicans to defeat it. The county goyemment 
bill and the prohibition bill, which were passed by the Democratic 
Legislature, were the points against which the coalition directed 
its attacks. It will be recalled that prohibition in 1881 was de- 
feated in the State, Edgecombe County giving a large majority 
against it. The combination was therefore aimed at the State 
Legislature and not local matters. This fact was shown by the 
election of John K. Staton, a strong Democrat, as sheriff of the 
county in 1882. 

The racial question never was so intense in the days of 1869 
and 1870 as it was in 1882. ITegro and white men walked arm 
in arm upon the streets of Tarboro. Moreover, a deep agitation 
was moving the negroes with increased vigor. The reawakening 
grew out of the law providing for the county magistrates to be 
elected by the Legislature, and to allow the county commissioners 
to levy the county taxes and to rule county affairs after they had 
been elected by the magistrates. The change from electing the 
commissioners by the people, as was the case under the reconstruc- 
tion regime, was shown in providing Inferior Courts. The reason 
for the change was the fact that the negro, without property or 
education, controlled the elections and had piled up much debt, 
which threatened to bankrupt the county. The western couunties, 
although free from the negro menace, joined the east and passed 
the county system as a financial policy. 

The result is easily seen when one considers the political nature 
of the act. The Legislature of the State was beginning to have 
a Democratic majority. The Legislature would naturally elect 
Democratic magistrates, who, in turn, would elect Democratic 
commissioners. The Bepublicans and Liberals, therefore, charged 
that the obnoxious law deprived the people of the right of local 
seU-govemment. This was exactly what was intended by the 
Democrats, who had struggled for over a decade to take local 
seK-govemment away from the Bepublican party, which con- 
trolled the majority. 

In 1882 the Democrats gained an advantage when Frederick 
Philips was nominated by the judicial convention in Weldon on 
June 22, 1882, for judge of the Superior Court of the Second 


Politics 1880—1900 285 

Judicial District. He received the hearty support of both parties. 
His training quaUfied him for the position, having been engross- 
ing clerk of the Legislature of 1865, master of equity of Edge- 
combe County in 1866, and later prosecuting attorney for Nash 
County. He had also been mayor of Tarboro two terms beginning 
with 1875. Judge Philips was of a strong and courageous char- 
acter, and presided with great efficiency while upon the bench. 

In 1884 the intensity of politics had subsided much, as com- 
pared with the previous elections. This year Donnell Gilliam 
made his appearance in politics, a young lawyer of fine ability. 
It was unfortunate that he died in his prime. He received a 
liberal education and was well adapted for the career he selected. 
His oratorical ability was of a high order. In 1884 Mr. Gilliam 
was chosen presidential elector for the Second District. In the 
campaign for this year he became one of the principal speakers 
and many felt the weight of his ability. 

Two negroes, B. S. Taylor to the Senate, and B. W. Thorpe, 
were elected to the House of Bepresentatives, and N. D. Bellamy, 
Bepublican, to the House of Bepresentatives. In 1886 the number 
of voters in the county was more than forty per cent in favor of 
the negroes; the whites having 1,278 and the colored 2,303. The 
following year a considerable increase was noticeable, the whites 
having 1,304 and the colored 2,523. The results of the election of 
this year showed a Bepublican majority for legislative offices 
again, with B. S. Taylor (negro) succeeding himself and C. C. 
Crenshaw and D. Wimberly going to the House of Bepresenta- 
tives. C. M. Cook was elected sheriff of the county in 1886, and 
remained in office until November at which time Joseph Cobb 
filled the unexpired term. H. C. Bourne, a Democrat, succeeded 
to the office in July, 1887, and occupied the position imtil 1888, 
when Joseph Cobb was reelected. 

Early in the year 1887, however, there was a noticeable decline 
of the Bepublicans in the coimty and a faint sign of the rise of 
new parties. In the Third Ward of the town of Tarboro, which 
had been Bepublican since the year 1866, the Democrats had a 
fighting chance. The trial vote showed that the Bepublican 
majority, with a full vote, would not exceed a dozen. In the 
Second Ward B. J. Eeech and L. McCullen were candidates at 
the beginning. A caucus was held April 2, 1887, in the old 

286 History of Edgicoicbs County 

laundry building in Tarboro by some of the Bepublicans of the 
Second Ward. Keech and McCuUen were present and also Charles 
Duggen, the leader. Keech and McCullen opposed any nomina- 
tion, but signified their willingness to run as independent candi- 
dates. They refused to state why they wanted no nomination, 
but intimated that the people could guess the reason. In its 
guess the Tarboro Southerner suggested it was because Eeeoh 
and McCullen were either ashamed of CSiarles Duggen as party 
associate, or else by running as independent candidates they 
hope to get some Democratic votes. 

In the meantime Frank Whitted, negro policeman, who had 
been given a job under the Democratic rule, and Charles Duggen, 
a liquor dispenser in Tarboro, had organized and overoiHne the 
Bepublican fears, while in the First Ward the Democrats had no 
opposition. Below is the ticket by wards, showing the number 
of votes and the candidates elected : 


William B. Fountain, Democrat 42 

George Howard, Democrat 42 

Benjamin Norfleet, Republican 2 

Wiley Howard, Republican 2 


Donnell Oilliam, Democrat 56 

Charles G. Bradley, Democrat 60 

B. J. Keech, Republican 31 

L. M. McCullen, Republican 27 


W. H. Knight, Democrat. 6S 

Olando Burnett, Democrat 60 

W. H. Foreman, Republican 86 

R. S. Taylor, Republican 86 

At the same time W. E. Fountain was elected mayor. He was 
a Democrat and was destined to become involved in Edgecombe 

During the year 1889 the town charter was amended and the 
electing power was placed in the hands of the county commission- 
ers, giving them the power of ruling the Bepublicans out of office 
in local affairs. It is observed that ahnost each year disclosed the 

PouTios 1880—1900 287 

fact that Democratic legiBlation curtailed the right of the Bepub- 
licans to role. It was the only method of offsetting the great 
majority exercised by the Republican party in the county. Dur- 
ing the year 1889 not a single negro appeared in the list of magis- 
tratesy while W. E. Fountain, Democratic mayor of Tarboro, was 
reelected. D. Wimberly was elected to the Senate and Edward 
Bridgers and R. H. Daniels, all Democrats, to the House of Repre- 
sentatives. The Republicans, however, succeeded in putting 
G^rge H. White (negro), resident of Tarboro, in as solicitor for 
the Second Judicial District in 1888. White was a man of great 
native ability, and had the r^utation of being impartial in his 
prosecutions. He had practiced law in Washington City, and 
also had considerable experience in law in other cities. His 
greatest weakness was his desire for social equality, which eventu- 
ally resulted in his rejection by not only the white people of the 
county, but also by his raoe. White, a few years later, received his 
first rejection at the hands of his race. Several years ago John 
Robinson's Circus made its annual appearance in the county and 
exhibited at Tarboro. About the year 1900 White was a member 
of the audience to watch the exhibition and sat down with the 
white people. The circus officials asked him to move over to the 
colored sida White refused, and policemen were called to put 
him out upon his declaring that he would not sit with the mem- 
bers of his race. This caused an alienation on the part of the 
n^px»es, who claimed White could not go with white people and 
that he thought himself too good to go with negroes. 

The election of 1890 was the beginning of a change in political 
movements and caused considerable excitement and upheaval. A 
cleavage developed in party lines, and the Republican party, real- 
izing itself worsted by a Democratic Legislature, began to look 
around for an alliance to strengthen its ranks. There began also 
a great negro exodus under the efforts of negro labor agents, 
among whom was George P. Mabson, which had weakened the 
party. Great dissatisfaction prevailed among the negroes gen- 
erally. The movement began early in the year 1889. A conven- 
tion met in Raleigh April 25th, and after discussing the conditions 
of the negro, advised an emigration. The dominating principle 
of the whites in supporting the movement was that political con- 
ditions would be improved by the riddance of the negro. It was 

288 HiSTOBY OF Edgboombs County 

undeniable that the white people were persecuting him by discrim- 
inating l^slation as a result of the political revolution. More- 
over^ the farmers had organized due to the surplus of negro labor, 
and the alliance pushed oppression against the negroes every- 
where. The election law was also referred to later as being a 
direct blow at the negro, since it was necessary for him to read 
and write before he could vote. In 1890 the population had de- 
creased from 26,181 in 1880 to 24,173, making a decrease of 2,068 
in ten years. The division of the races was as follows: In 1880 
there were 7,968 whites as compared with 8,478 in 1890, while the 
negro population in 1880 was 18,213, as compared with 15,634 
in 1890. 

The year 1890 proved to be of such alarming nature that the 
decree issued by the Democratic party to rid the county of the 
negro was revoked, and severe measures were imposd on rcruiting 
agents working in the State. Each agent by law was compelled 
to secure a license at the cost of $1,000.00 before recruiting in 
any county. This practically marked a prohibition on their busi- 
ness. The county lost over 3,500 negroes in less than eighteen 
months, making a telling offset upon BepubUcanism in this oounty. 

The Democrats had a substantial ticket for the pending elec- 
tion, consisting of B. H. Speight for Senate, J. T. Howard and 
Jesse Brake, House of Bepresentatives, William Ejiight for 
sheriff, and Dr. W. J. Lawrence as coroner. At a meeting of the 
Central Democratic Executive Committee in the summer of 1890, 
Mr. Howard, however, tendered his resignation for the Legislature, 
and also Dr. Lawrence his resignation as coroner. W. A. Bridgers, 
of Township No. 11, was chosen to succeed Mr. Howard, and 
Dr. H. T. Bass, Dr. Lawrence. The selection was very timely 
and very beneficial. Mr. Bridgers, besides being a good scholar, 
was in touch with the people and exercised a good influence in the 
county. He was also equipped for a lawmaker. 

With the exception of Mr. Knight, who was then occupying 
the position of sheriff, none of the Democratic candidates were 
opposed in the Democratic convention. The Bepublicans, on the 
other hand, were considerably weakened by the existence of two 
factions in the party. B. J. Keech led one faction and Joseph 
Cobb the other. Both of the men wanted the office of register of 
deeds. Battle Bryan was running for sheriff. The only member 

Politics 1880—1900 289 

of the party who could give bond was Joseph Cobb, and he was 
unfit for service on account of his age. In order, however, to 
harmonize party issues Mr. Cobb consenting to become a candidate, 
but before the time for election withdrew. In making the com- 
promise the nomination for register of deeds was awarded to 
Elbert Bryan. 

The Bepublicans were called in meeting in the summer of 
1890, acting through Battle Bryan, who seemed to be the one 
most interested. The local paper puts the meeting as a tame 
affair, which was not characteristic of the party. About noon 
Mr. Bryan went into the courthouse and rang the courthouse 
bell for the Bepublicans to assemble. About half a dozen were 
in attendance at the time and Mr. Bryan remained until the 
afternoon. While he was ringing the bell a crowd assembled in 
opposition and stationed themselves opposite the courthouse to 
heckle him. About three o'clock the bell was rung again and 
Mr. Bryan, with about fifteen of the Kepublican party, proceeded 
with the meeting. In Mr. Bryan's speech he showed the necessity 
of having Bepublicans on the ticket, and denounced the action of 
the previous convention for endorsing Democratic nominees for 
sheriff and treasurer. 

Frank Dancy was appointed chairman of the meeting, who 
made a speech and introduced Frank Battle, who made a speech 
expressing disappointment in the l^islative ticket. The meeting 
was eventually interrupted by Stephen Clark, who was opposed 
to the wrangling of the partisan members. In spite of the agi- 
tators, the meeting closed by endorsing the old ticket. 

The results of the election gave the Democrats a big majority 
in State, county, and town. B. H. Speight was elected to the 
Senate, W. A. Bridgers and Jesse Brake to the House of Bepre- 
sentatives. When Mr. Brake's landlady's daughter, of Baleigh, 
asked him how he was elected from so great a Bepublican County 
as Edgecombe, he replied, ''I have enough children to elect me." 

Mr. Knight was elected sheriff to succeed himself, while the 
town election resulted in two Democratic and one Bepublican 
cammissioner. Don Gilliam for the First Ward, B. F. Spragins 
Second Ward, and J. W. Gant (Bepublican) for the Third Ward, 
by a majority of one vote. This occurred on account of the fact 
that D. L. Williams, Bepublican, refused to allow W. B. Moore 

290 HnrroKT of Edqboombx County 

to vote. Mr. Moore voted in the Third Ward in 1888 and 1889, 
and 8wore he had not changed his residence. The f act, howeyer, 
that he went away to marry a wcmian in Wilson and because his 
wif Oy who had relatives th^^, remained for some weeks, Mr. Wil- 
liams and Uie Republican poll holders decided he was not a citizen. 
W. S. Clark succeeded W. E. Fountain as mayor, receiving a 
majority of votes at the first meeting of the town commissioners. 

The facts in the election revealed a disgruntled element, espe- 
cially in the ranks of the Republicans, while the Democrats did 
not possess any too much solidarity. Elbert Bryan, who was 
beaten for the nomination for register of deeds by (Geoffrey 
Hyman, was dissatisfied and insisted upon a new ticket or a re- 
modeling of ihe old one. Joe Pope Stewart, a man of northern 
designs and candidate for clerk of the Superior Court, labored 
under one disadvantage — the fact tiiat he was not known in the 
county. The n^roes were constantly asking, **Who was Stewart?" 
In addition the county negro was not favorably impressed with 
George L. Uoyd. His Republican leaders estimated he would not 
get ten votes in his own township. Moses Clare and Ed Bridgers 
had charges of licentiousness against them and this alienated the 
colored people. 

During this election West Tarboro exercised its right of self- 
government. Captain Haywood Clark called a meeting of th^ 
citizens of this section to nominate commissioners for the first 
time. In the nomination for mayor Captain Clark was suggested 
and subsequently elected. 

In the meantime the Second Judicial District was under an 
agitation preliminary to electing a judge. Judge Philips's term 
having expired. John L. Bridgers, presiding justice of the In- 
ferior Court in 1890, was suggested to run against Judge Philips. 
Mr. Bridgers had become very popular because of his favorable 
stand and support for public education. This constituted a great 
factor in winning for him popular approval. Mr. Bridgers ex- 
pressed his sentiment by issuing a letter of refusal, thereby pre- 
serving the solidarity of feeling in the party and not jeopardizing 
the strength of the county in causing a split of votes by having 
two candidates. 

The election of 1890 resulted in the greatest reverse the Re- 
publican party had ever encountered. This was true to such an 

Politics 1880—1900 291 

extent they did not turn out in 1891. Even the strongly con- 
tested Third Ward in the town of Tarboro went through the 
campaign and election without opposition. The Democrats, al- 
though yictorious, were to witness a change of tactics the follow- 
ing year, due to the appearance of a third party. 

In order to understand the movement, it will be necessary to go 
back a few years when the organization began. About 1867 the 
"Grange'' movement was started in Washington by a number of 
the Government clerks who became interested in improving the 
conditions of the farmers in the South and West. It was a secret 
society, and both sexes could become members. About 1868 the 
first society was established in Edgecombe, and in common with 
other granges, was nonpolitical. Upon the agitation, however, 
of government regulation of railroads, the grangers in the West 
and endorsed by the Grange was declared unconstitutional by the 
began to participate in the movement. One of the laws advocated 
courts, and this caused the farmers to get in politics. The coali- 
tion of the Granges resulted in the "Farmer's Alliance." The 
independent parties which had appeared in the early seventies 
again appeared in political life under different names. The 
farmers in the county were censured for entering into politics 
through the "Alliance," which had been declared a nonpolitical 
organization. A reply was made in the Tarboro SoiUherner in 
which it was declared that since the Democratic party had not 
done anything for the farmers it was high time the farmer entered 
politics and did something for himself. In addition to that the 
'^ree silver" movement was at its acme in 1892, and free silver 
was supposed to be of benefit to the agricultural class, thus meet- 
ing the approval of at least seventy-five per cent of the population 
of Edgecombe County. 

In 1889 Edgecombe had about fifteen local Alliances, one 
designated as Edgecombe, with Ellias Oarr, president, and J. C. 
Powell, secretary. Another was Sparta, No. 218, with Ellias 
Oarr, president, and J. A. Davis, secretary. Maple Swamp 
AllianM, No. 488, met at Whitakers, with W. T. Mayo, president, 
and J. S. Dixon, secretary. There was also another at Whit- 
akers, No. 583, witii J. M. Outchin, president, and J. 0. Bellamy, 
secretary. Dr. A. B. Nobles was president and T. P. Wynn, sec^ 
retary, of Cocoa Alliance, No. 553. Otter's Creek, No. 732, had 

292 History of Edobcombb County 

a strong organization with H. H. Whitaker, president^ and W, T. 
Dunfopd, secretary. Joseph Cobb was president and Oeorge 
Suggs^ secretary, of Farm Creek Alliance, Ifo, 763 ; W. C. Brad- 
ley, president, and Miss Lulu Leggett, secretary of Excelsior, 
No. 790; Dr. W. T. Bass, president, and F. B. Lloyd, secretary, 
of Tarboro, No. 918; W. J. Davenport, president, and E. T. 
Speed, secretary, of Hickory Fort, "No. 933, which met at Coakley; 
A. J. Williams, president, and W. H. Worsley, secretary, of 
Juneville, No. 1080; E. C. E[night, president, and J. R Harris, 
secretary, Mildred, No. 1084; and J. J. Battle, president, and 
G^eorge C. Battle, secretary, of Battleboro Alliance. This is only 
a partial list of Alliances, which were increasing each year. 
There was hardly an interval of five miles in the county east, west, 
north, or south that did not have an organization. 

The election of 1892 was the first time that the local Alliance 
participated in politics. Its support was beyond a doubt the 
cause of the successful candidacy of Ellias Carr, of Edgecombe 
County. He had been an active member, and succeeded in creat- 
ing a deep interest in the Farmer's Clubs not only in the county, 
but also in the State. Both parties had representatives in the 
Alliance and prior to 1892 there had been no fusion of parties, 
while the Alliance was inclined more to the Democratic element 
than the third party in 1892. 

The first Democratic convention was called March 12, 1892, 
at the courthouse in Tarboro. John L. Bridgers called the conven- 
tion to order in an appropriate speech, and Dr. R. H. Speight, 
chairman, was made permanent chairman in opposition to Dr. 
W. T. Mayo. Dr. W. P. Mercer was made secretary. The county 
candidates were nominated by acclamation and were as follows: 
W. T. Knight, sheriff; S. S. Nash, treasurer; J. J. Pittman, 
register of deeds ; Dr. Don Williams, Sr., coroner ; and Thomas F. 
Cherry, surveyor, the first three then filling the office for which 
they were nominated. 

The l^slative nominations were numerous, consisting of Dr. 
R. H. Speight, declined; Jesse Brake, Paul Jones, V. B. Sharpe, 
Don Gilliam, Dr. W. P. Mercer, and James B. Lloyd. After the 
second ballot. Dr. Mercer was unanimously nominated for Senate, 
and Jesse Brake unanimously nominated for the House of Bepre- 

Politics 1880—1900 398 

aentatiyes. Mr. Sharpe also received unanimous nomination for 
the House against his protest, and W. L. Barlow was then nomi- 
nated in his stead without dissent. 

The committee on platform and resolution reported the 

"The Democratic party of Edgecombe County reafllrms its endorse- 
ments of the principles of the Democratic party, state and National, 
as the only party that offers agricultural relief. 

"That we deplore the retention in power of the Republican party, 
under whose domination laws so oppressive to the agricultural inter- 
ests have been placed upon the statute books. 

"That we oppose and will sti'enuously fight against the control and 
influence of those cormorants who go under the name of syndicates and 
monopolies composed of the money classes of the country, who have 
thus combined against the large masses and whose influence has been 
heretofore kept up by barefaced fraud and bribery. 

"We are opposed to the Federal tax on State bank circulation. 

"We favor lowering of taxes to revenue basis only, also a graduated 
Income tax, in short a taxation which bears upon all alike. 

"We favor abolition of the national banking system and a substitu- 
tion of one that will take the control of money out of the hands of the 
few individuals; we favor a currency that will contract and expand 
80 as to fit the annual products of the country, thereby furnishing 
a true and just measure of their value. 

"We regard a public office, as not private property, but a public 
trust, and we promise our Democratic brethren everywhere that we 
will use our best effort to put men in the office who will guard well and 
faithfully the affairs of the country, State, and county. 

"We favor a national system of finances based upon the wealth of 
the country, and not the public indebtedness, that will secure a suf- 
ficient currency to meet the requirements of the people, and we favor 
any constitutional means which will accomplish this purpose." 

The del^ation to the State convention was instructed to use 
all honorable means to send delegates to the Chicago convention 
to advocate the principles laid down and adopted in the county 

In the meantime, Elias Carr, at the solicitation of John L. 
Bridgers and others, had written his letter of acceptance for the 
nomination for Gtovemor of Iforth Carolina. The Democracy of 
Edgecombe, therefore, while assuring that the Democrats of the 
other counties of its firm adherence to the fundamental principles 
of the party, both National and State, recommended with one 

2M HiBTOBY OF Edoeoombs Oounty 

accord EEaa Carv to the yotera of the State as the most aTailaUs 
man to be oa the State ticket. The coHYention was spiced with 
humor and harmonious feeling. ICr. Brake, the joUy man that 
he wasy when the Oarr committee had reported f arorable, said 
Edgecombe had a first-class Carr, no railroad commission was 
necessary ta fix rates, and he insisted upon layijiig it upon the 
track. S. S. Kash, in his usual characteristic manner, wanted to 
know if it had brakes on it. 

In the meantime, on Hay 18th, a Democratic State conYcntion 
met in Raleigh, and on the sixth ballot nominated Elias Carr for 
Ooyemor oTcr tkree competitors: Lieutenant Governor Hoh, 
Oeorge W. Sanderlin, and JuUan S. Oarr. 

Immediately after the Democratic convention Cleveland and 
Carr clubs were organized throughout the county. On April 7, 
1892, the Farmer's Alliance made a public endorsement of Carr 
for Governor, and began a strong support for him. 

In the meantime the Republicans were rallying around their 
banner and called a county convention for the purpose of nomi- 
nating cancUdates. John Lloyd was secretary and made an 
effort tQ maintain a solid rank out of the dira.iniflihing members ei 
the party. G^rge H. White, negro solicitor tor the Second Ju- 
dicial District, made the opening speech at the convention, which 
was called to order by Wright Harrison. White drew the color 
line, but put the blame upon the Democrats for party partisajoship, 
and charged them with monopolizing politics in the county and 
Statsw Aftw several speeches noBsdnations were made as follows: 
Owen James (colored), register of deeds; C. B. Keech, clerk of 
Superior Court; Lee Person (colored). Senate; Preston Basker- 
ville (colored), House of Representatives. Only one white n^an 
was nominated for the ticket. 

On November 3, 1893, the Republicans met again iQ nooanate 
a treasurer, which had been omitted in the meeting of the first 
convention. At tbis meeting an affiliation with the third party 
came up. B. J. £eech had not registered and after being nomi- 
nated for treasurer refused te run. The party began to look U» 
a man to run. The Third Party in the meantime had failed te 
secure a cm;uUdate for sheriff,^ and had endorsed the Bc^blioan 
nQminee^ W. G. W- l^K and had proposed to the R^iuhUeans 
that they to endorse their candidate, A. B. Nobles, for treasurer. 

PoLincB 1880—1900 »5 

The Bepublicans, however, met to select a treasurer. It was 
offered to Ex-Sheriff Joseph Oobb, who decHned. The suggestion 
of the Third Party reciprocity idea was oonsidered, hat a majority 
of the* committee failed to vote for him. Af t«r this the name of 
Benjamin Norfleet was suggested, hat no action was taken. 

Campaign issaes were determined and pr^araticms were made 
for organizations to promote the party principles. Qeorge H. 
White tock an active part and received assistance from local 
members of his party. 

The Third Party preliminaries were held Jane 2, IMS, in the 
varioas towndiips. No. 6 Township held their meeting in Bras- 
well Hall, Whitakers, N. 0. J. S. Dixon was made permanent 
ehainnan and L. L. Lyon secretary; J. S. Dixon, L. L. Lyon, 
J. M. Catchin, Bisco Pittman, M. J. Battle, and £. W. Land 
were chosen delegates to the convention to be held in Tarboro, 
Jane 11, 1892. Maple Swamp sent W. L. Mayo, Patrick Lane, 
Theodore Fountain, J. B. Carr, and J. W. Johnson as delegates to 
the Tarboro convention. 

The meeting in Tarboro on June 11th was more or less con- 
sidered humorously. One purpose of the convention was to elect 
an executive committee and to appoint delegates to a convention 
to be held in Rocky Mount. W. H. Powell was made permanent 
diairman of the ccmvention, and became an active worker in the 
party. The executive committee were: M. J. Battle, W. H. 
Wonley, David Braswell, W. J. Lawrence^ and J. T. Di^ree. 
The delegates were: L. S. Pender, T. B. VhjA, C. S. Flowers, 
A. L. Manning, F. L. Savage, W. L. Edwaid% W. J. Lawrence, 
W. T. Mayo, R. S. Weeks, J. M. Cutchin, L. L. I^'on, W. D. 
Biokmj J. R Stewart, W. L. StaUiags^ Thmnas Best, N. B. Eille- 
brew, D. T. Britt, David Braswell, A. J. Williams, E. H. Fkfwtfs, 
and J. T. Killebrew. This convention endorsed the. St. Louis 
plalf orm without a dissenting vote^ luui was robieqjttintly adopted 
by the People's Party. 

Te^ward the middle of the svmmer the Third Party h^pin to 
Isan toward the Bepublieaa party, and the conditions indicated a 
wtam campaign. Aug«st, 1898^ the Third Party aauacK of the 
Bepublicans had a conference, composed of M. J. Battle, A. B. 
ITobles, and J. M. Cuthin. A caucus was held in one of the com- 
mittee rooms in the courthouse, where the party determined to put 

296 HiSTOBY OF Edosoombs Countt 

oat a full ticket and make diviflioiiB with the ''Ejiights of Labor." ^ 
The '^Knights of Labor" held a caucus and agreed to the coalition. 
Mr. Battle called the convention to order and explained the pur- 
pose of the caucus and called for nominations for chairman. 
W. L. Edwards was chosen and L. L. Lyons elected secretary. 
During the proceedings townships Nob. 2, 7, 9, 10, and 13 were 
without representation, while no township primaries had been 
held in townships Nob. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 14. Many volun- 
teers represented these townships. 

The position now assumed by the Third Party showed its atti- 
tude as to the political issues and parties for the first time. J. M. 
Cutchin addressed the convention and abused all parties and the 
Democrats in particular. Grover Cleveland was abused, while 
Harrison was without comment. Almost every public character 
was aired in the address. Congress was accused of spending a 
billion dollars in six months; Jefferson was quoted as being 
against national banks, and the Democratic party was accused of 
defeating the silver bill and injuring the farmer. 

The convention proceeded to elect delegates to a State conven- 
tion. In the list of delegates the truth of a fusion with the Be- 
publican party was brought to light. The delegates were as fol- 
lows: B. J. Keech, A. L. Manning, T. L. Winly, G. T. Dickens 
(colored), Nelson Barnes (colored), W. T. Mayo, L. L. Lyon, 
and W. D. Stokes. 

The county ticket nomination was as follows : Bister of deeds, 
B. J. Eeech (white), and Levy Thigpen (colored) ; surveyor, 
L. S. Pender; Senate, J. M. Cutchin; House of Bepresentatives, 
M. S. Williams (colored) and W. H. Worsley. The offices of treas- 
urer and sheriff were omitted because suitable candidates were not 

The ticket, although weak, promised to make a bad split in the 
voting and consequently made it less formidable for any one party. 
There were about forty in attendance and the proceedings of the 
convention caused several Democrats who were on the verge of 
bolting the party to return to Democracy. The '^Elnights of 
Labor" caucus was also feeble, having only about fourteen men, 

iThe Knight! of Labor wm • local organiutfon of farmen and labor in tlio 

Politics 1880—1900 297 

twelve oolored and two white. The party, however, had one good 
supporter in a newspaper, the Rattler, of Whitakers, which ad- 
vocated the party cause. 

The 'farmer's Alliance,'' with a few isolated exceptions, con- 
stituted the Third Party, many of whom were allied with the 
Democratic party in the early spring, but by June were members 
in the Third Party convention. 

Immediately after the organization of the Third Party differ- 
ences of opinion began to develop between it and the Democrats. 
Especially were the issues relative to the two party platforms 
discussed. M. J. Battle, of the Third Party, took issue with 
Elias Carr, candidate for Governor, as to the similarity of the 
two party platforms. On the 5th of April, 1892, he wrote that 
in no particular did the St. Louis platform differ from the Ocala 
platform,^ and asked if Elias Carr would repudiate his own 
handiwork. These two platforms were the essence of the relative 
party issues, and Mr. Oarr had considerable to do with the forming 
of the Ocala platform of 1890. The Ocala platform of 1890 con- 
tended that the national legislature should be so framed in the 
future as not to build up one industry at the expense of the other. 
Secondly, it demanded a removal of the existing levy of tariff tax 
from the necessities of life. Third, the Ocala platform demanded 
a most rigid, honest, and just State and iN'ational Government, 
controlled and improvised means of public communication and 
transportation, and if this control did not eliminate the evils 
existing, tiie platform demanded the public ownership of these 

The St. Louis platform, on the other hand, claimed that trans- 
portation being a means of exchange and a public necessity, the 
Ck>vemment should own and operate the railroads in the interest 
of the peopla The telephone and telegraph, like the postoffice 
system, being a necessity for the conveyance of news should also 
be owned and operated by the Government. 

The Ocala demands were later ingrafted into the State Demo- 
cratic platform and became a vital issue at the convention held 
at Indianapolis. Mr. Carr was a member of the committee at 
Ocala that formulated the resolution and reported unanimously 

> OeaU platfonn wm heartUj rapportad by 0»rr m • delefftt« to eoiiTaiitioii held 
al Oealft, rioridA. 

2^ HiSTOBT OF Edobcombb Couinnr 

upon these two plaiiks. Mr. Carr, not seeing the authority or 
reason for eliniinating these planks irom the Alliance platform, 
expressed his opinion to the Alliance men. There were, howvnr, 
abundant reasons for not endorsing the party which was at that 
time placing the Alliance in an inconsistent and false attitude 
by demanding ownerships after securing 19'ational and State eon- 
trol of railroads, while at the same time ignoring the tariff ques- 
tion, which was the most important issue of the day and in the 
greatest need of reform. 

The BepubUcan conyention met in October, with Josei^L Oobb 
and Joe Stewart and B. J. Eeech. Gteorge Lloyd waa made 
permanent chairman, and nomiiiati<ms were made aa follows: 
Ctoorge Uoyd, Senate; Moses Ohase and Ed Bridgers for ike 
House, Joseph Cobb for sheriff, Joe Stewart for clerk, after a 
compromise with B. J. KeecdL; Geffrey Hyman for regtater of 
deeds, and S. S. 19'ash was endorsed for treasurer after the denial 
of Mr. Cobb's fayorite, O. C. Farrar. The Bepublieana repre- 
sented by Sam Lawrence rejected in reality the selection of the 
State officers, claiming that if they were not nominated the cooBty 
candidates might use the money. ''The poor class," said Law- 
rence, 'Vanted the county offices, for what good would the Legie- 
lature do them?'' The fence law was upon the people^ and sud^ 
an order of the nomination was inconsist^it. 

During the latter part of May Mr. Carr, accompanied by 
Ex-Goyemor Jaryis and J. J. Laughinghouse, came to Taxboro 
and receiyed his first big oyation. He was escorted to a big car- 
riage, drawn by white horses, and receiyed a shower d roses 
with a yolume of shouts, 'hurrah for Elias Carr, the n^ct Gk>y- 
eraor." The courthouse did not offer sufficient ^aee, and Mr. 
Carr and his retinue occupied the baleoay of the hotels w h q ro 
the speeches were made* Ez-Qoyemor Jama addressed the meet- 
ing and belieyed that Carr's nomination was the logical resvU of 
the political situation. He also receiyed applause from th^^ n^gto 
yoters in his appeal to them, and who were more or less indining 
toward Democratic tendencies 

Mr. Carr had, in the meantime, established his eanqiaign keadt 
quarters in Rakii^ and had a good organization perfected to 
carry out his program for the election. 

PoMTiCB 1880—1900 2W 

By November the eampaigB had reached its height, with each 
party miming welL On November 3d the Third Party, of Pitt 
County, inohiding the candidates, were imported into Edgecombe 
at Oenetoe for the purpose of influencing the election by can- 
Yaseiag. N. R Dawson, Democrat, and residing in Conetoe, re» 
quested some time for his party. Philips, of the Pitt County 
delegation, and a candidate, announced his willingness to have 
a joint discussion. H. C. Bourne and Paul Jones, of Tarboro, 
being apprised of the fact, accordingly went to Conetoe for the 
joint debate. They met disappointment, however, for when they 
arrived they were coolly informed the meeting was a Third Party 
meeting, and they would not be given any division of time. Since 
there were no Democrats there and the meeting was composed 
entirely of Thirdites and colored people, the Democrat debaters 
deeKned to speak. 

There remained only eight days before the election, and the 
struggle was indeed exciting. All the various clubs met in Tar- 
bero for a good celebration at which time a torch light parade 
took place and speeches were made to 5,000 people. Dorsey 
Battle, of Bocky Mount, was one of the principal canvassers and 
a man of no little ability. 

In the meantime, James B. Lloyd, who conducted the Farmer's 
Advocate,^ although previously of Democratic principles, b^an 
to lean toward the Third Party. He had unpleasant contentions 
with Donnell Gilliam, chairman of the Democratic committee of 
the county. His open advocacy of the Third Party, however, 
alter he had identified himself with the Democrats of the county 
and had gone to the Democratic primaries of Tarboro Township 
and sat in the Democratic convention, from which place he was 
sent to the State oonventicm ae a delegate and remained through- 
out the proceedings, subjected him to severe criticism for assailing 
the Democratic candidates and the principles of iN'ational 

Mr. Carr and all the Democratic candidates made a good can- 
vass. The IC^ubKcans and the Thirdites, which were the weaker 
of the two, had also done everything imaginable to present a good 
showing. Never in the field of local politics had there been seen 
such ways devised to succeed. Party tricks were resorted to by 

H>rifinallj • nowqMiper orgftn conducted in the interett of the Fsrmer't AllUnct 
tad Afrieottore. 

300 HisTOBY OF Edgsoombx Oountt 

all parties. In many of the precincts bogus electoral and State 
tickets were issued and voted for by the Bepublicans. On the 
electoral ticket the name of John H. Covington, from the Tenth 
Congressional District, appeared. On the State ticket Samuel 
P. Stevens, of Cleveland County, was running for commissioner 
of labor. There were not any such candidates affecting Edge- 
combe, and although they were numerously and unsuspectingly 
voted for, the ballots were void. This had the effect of a full vote 
not being polled, while the Democrats gained a great percentage 
when many of the Republicans repudiated their party over the 
attempt to trade votes. At some of the precincts the negroes even 
cheered Cleveland and marched to the polls and voted for him. 

The Third Party did not succeed as expected by its leaders. 
The attempt, however, to excite race prejudices, while it added 
some votes to the Republicans, caused the negroes in Townships 
Nos. 2, 11, 13, and 14 to vote for the Third Party exclusively. 

The first precinct heard from was No. 1 of Tarboro. Prior to 
this election this precinct had been close, but when the vote was 
counted by two Republicans, Nathan Williams and Jordan Dancy, 
it was found that No. 1 had returned a Democratic majority, and 
so did several other townships. A vote in detail is here given for 
the county: 

President Congress 

Cleveland 1,702 Woodard 1,894 

Harrison 986 Cheatham 1,514 

Weaver 618 Thome 608 

Governor Senate 

Carr 1,760 Mercer 1,867 

Purches 1,078 Garrett 1,564 

Exum 580 Cutchen 471 


Democrats Republicans 

Brake 1,787 Bryant 1,568 

Barlow 1,784 WUllams 454 

Harrison 1,679 Worsley 552 


Politics 1880—1900 301 


Sheriff Treasurer 

Knight (D.) 2.200 Nash (D.) 2,094 

Leigh (D.) 1,793 James 1,878 

Nobles (3d P.) 484 

Register Coroner Surveyor 

Pittman (D.) .. 2,088 WUliams (R) . . 1,965 Cherry (D.) ... 1,758 

Hyman (R.) ... 1,488 Lloyd (3d P.). 1,472 Howard 1,490 

Keech (R.) 426 Thigpen (D.) . 432 Pender 484 

When the election returns were being made to the city hall at 
Tarboro, by wire, (Jovemor Carr came to town and heard of his 
election. He was greeted with great enthusiasm and hearty hand- 

Elias Carr was the son of Jonas Carr and Elizabeth (HiUiard) 
Carr. His father was of the farmer class and owned extensive 
landsy and a progressive farmer. Mr. Carr was educated under the 
tutelage of one of the State's noted educators, W. J. Bingham, of 
Oaks School. He completed his education at the Universities of 
North Carolina and Virginia. Although he was inexperienced in 
the administration of public affairs, he was a most practical man 
in his business dealings. While president of the State Alliance he 
showed his interest and ability in securing the passage of an act 
to increase the school tax for better education. 

After the election of 1892 party coalition took place in the 
county. It became obvious that since the Democrats had the 
heavy majority with three parties in the race, that strength must 
be obtained to offset their power. The Bepublicans have always 
been charged with engineering the Populist movement, which 
began in 1892 with the Farmer's Alliance, and reached its culmi- 
nation in 1894. The facts are, however, that at the beginning 
the party comprised both Democrats and Bepublicans who bolted 
their respective parties. The Third Party, after the election, 
began to look around for an alliance, and believing the Bepublican 
Party the stronger on account of the great negro vote, identified 
itself with Bepublicanism. The Bepublicans, moreover, welcomed 
such an alliance because of their weakened influence and numbers, 
and fully supported the project. 

In December, 1892, the State Alliance Executive Committee 
held a meeting. It was commonly known that the Alliance head- 

802 HiSTOBY OF Edoeoombb CouirTY 

quarters was the Third Party's political quarters. It was throu^ 
this organization that Marion Butler receiyed his publicity. It 
should be said^ however, to the credit of the Alliance that no such 
policy was welcomed, but was put through by pressure. 

The Populist Party movement, which began in 1892, opened 
its campaign for the election of 1894 in the early part of ApriL 
The opening scene was a large gathering at Conetoe for the pur- 
pose of celebrating the surrender of Qeneral Robert E. Lee. About 
six hundred men participated in a parade, headed by a brass 
band from Greenville. The principal Third Party speech was 
made by John Philips, of Pitt County. The silver question was 
aired and the Democratic Party was abused for its party measures. 
Party antics were displayed by rigging up a negro boy in a white 
sash on which was written the word '^Democracy." The boy was 
then mounted on a big steer and placed in the main body of the 

Like many similar spontaneous mov^nents which agitated 
needful reforms, the Populist Party never acquired a firm and 
suitable organization to do effective campaigning or to give suf- 
ficient publicity and educational work. Moreover it damaged 
itself by embracing any and all who claimed admission to its 
ranks. This policy, while not noticeable at the beginning, became 
more and more in evidence toward the close of the party's his- 
tory. In July, 1894, the party being more or less short of sp^k- 
ers, invited men of questionable characters as well as limited 
ability to make stump speeches. A drummer, reported as carrying 
samples in soap and drug supplies, was solicited to make an 
address before a Populist Club at Leggetts. He called himself a 
true silver Democrat, but in his address he showed the principle 
of Populism. His text was on Grover Cleveland and silver, and 
his slogan was 'TDown with the Democratic Party." 

In the meantime, various conventions had been held by the 
political parties in the county. The Democratic ticket put out 
was as follows: W. P. Mercer, for Senate; W. O. Howard and 
M. B. Pitt, for House of Bepresentatives ; Dr. I. P. Wynn, for 
coroner; B. F. Dawson, for register of deeds; W. T. Knight, for 
sheriff; S. S. Nash, for treasurer; and Ed Pennington, for clerk. 

The Republican convention, acting under the leadership of 
Moses Chase, chairman, and John Lloyd, secretary, put out W, 8. 

Politics 1880—1900 308 

Stallings for sheriff; James J. ICartin^ clerk; Joseph Cobb^ regis- 
ter of deeds; B. J. Keech, treasurer; Charles I. Law^ coroner; 
Elbert E. Bryan, Senate ; Lee Person and York Garrett, House of 

The Populist Party in its conyention endorsed candidates that 
were on both the Democratic and Bepublican ticket. They, how- 
eyer, had distinct party candidates for some of the offices in both 
State and county. The ticket was as follows: W. L. Stallings, 
sheriff; Ed Pennington, clerk; Joseph Cobb, register of deeds; 
J. F. Shackleford, treasurer; Dr. W. T. Hayo, coroner; James 
B. Lloyd, Senate; J. Latham and J. I. Lewis, House of Repre- 

Naturally the Democrats had the better organization, since 
they had not been subject to the numerous diyisions, doubts, and 
popular political waves of the nineties. Young men's clubs were 
scattered practically all oyer the county. William Summerlin, a 
man without yery much education, but of a great native ability 
proved of useful service in his labors around St. Louis. He 
possessed good common sense, and his humor and wit were un- 
excelled in the county. In July, 1894, he opened up on the 
Populist Party. His most familiar comparative joke was that 
on Mr. Procter, who owned a mill pond. It was told that no 
one but those who possessed Populist tendencies were permitted 
to fish on Mr. Procter's pond, and on one occsaion the announce- 
ment came that Mr. Procter was going to let off his pond. The 
fishing was good, and there never was seen so many Third Party 
men in the county. Every man, on being asked, said he was 
''third, too," since, if he were not, there would be no fishing for 

The Democratic Party possessed practically the same organiza- 
tion from the year 1892. The Tarboro SovJthemer, the official 
organ of the party, became the mouthpiece for all party questions 
and issues. The Populist ranked next in organization and ef- 
fectiveness. James B. Lloyd, former Democrat and editor of the 
AdvocaU, became an ardent endorser of the Populist Party, be- 
came a nominee for the Senate and dedicated his paper to the 
services of the party. The Populists also were not without 

304 HiSTOKT OF Edobcoicbs Countt 

staunch supporters from almost every type of citizen. Dr. Mayo 
and John Shackleford and others constituted an influfflitial ele- 
ment and bid fair to make a respectable showing. 

The Populist Party opened up its campaign of 1894 at St. 
LewiSy which had the reputation of being a populist center. Pitt's 
store was the gathering place. John I. Lewis was the leader in 
the community. Meares, of Wilson, introduced James B. Uoyd, 
who was the principal speaker. The issues discussed were the 
bad legislation on the part of both Democrats and Bepublicans, 
the stabling of silver, general criticism of Qrover Cleveland's 
administration, and the internal improvement program. At this 
time Mr. Lloyd was not committed to fusion with the Bepublicans^ 
and could not explain why in the West the Populists abused the 
Republicans and allied with the Democrats, while in the South 
they cursed the Democrats and allied with the Bepublicans. 

The Bepublicans, although theoretically in the majority because 
of the negro vote, had no newspaper support and relied upon the 
individual and collective effort of the party. The party plans 
were more or less lacking in system and depended largely upon 
the majority forces it enjoyed. In this respect the results proved 
disastrous since many of the n^roes were in direct sympathy with 
the Democrats. 

Between the three parties in the county the contestants were 
the Democrats and the Populists. J. B. Lloyd became the recog- 
nized leader of the latter, while the former had the help of W. O. 
Howard, John L. Bridgers, Donnell Qilliam, and others. 

The climax came in October when Lloyd, feeling it his duty 
and appreciating his ability as a Populist speaker, requested a 
chance to meet Honorable R. B. Glenn in discussion. The request 
was complied with when Glenn spoke in the city haU, and Lloyd 
was given an opportunity to speak, but declined for lack of 
preparation. The debate, therefore, was held October 22, 1894, 
before a tremendous gathering at the city halL About fifty 
Populists were present and about eight hundred Democrats. 

Lloyd made a grave mistake in undertaking to debate with 
Glenn. Glenn had the reputation of being an orator, versed in 
State and National affairs, and a man of considerable public 

Politics 1880—1900 306 

service. Lloyd's informatioii and experience were, on the other 
handy limited to local issues, and had only a limited experience 
as a debater. 

In the meantime, the Populist Party was not to escape the sad 
fate at the hands of the Democrats and Democratic sympathizers. 
The party was stigmatized through its chairman by a well com- 
posed and somewhat humorous poem emanating from 'buzzard's 
Roost/' ^ N. C, the headquarters of the county poet. The poem 
is quoted in full and is as follows : 


'My name is Chairman Jimmie, 

1 11 take Just what you gim'me. 
And not be dissatisfied at all; 

Only give me some direction, 

And guarantee protection, 
From the trouble that's a' coming in the fall. 

"1 11 tell you what is so, 

1 11 tell you FOR I KNOW, 
There's going to be big trouble in the fall; 

Unless you write me out a check, 

I cannot stay upon the deck. 
And face the onslaught of the coming squall. 

"You may think that it is funny. 
But 1 11 swear I must have money. 

To meet the campaign bills both great and small; 
The speakers must be paid. 
And a strong foundation laid, 

To gain the victory surely in the fall. 

"Now there is Mr. Nigger, 

111 swear by Je-menny-Jigger, 
We must catch him pretty soon in one big haul; 

We must not be a-fooling. 

Or try too much a-ruling. 
But quiet him for voting in the fall. 

"At first he 's pretty high. 

But Just wait, by and by. 
And we 11 put in some good work, that Is all; 

If we know where he 's at, 

Well have things strictly pat, 
A^ then there 11 be no trouble in the fall. 

> An AnonymouB designation employed by the Democratie paper in the county. 

306 HiSTOBT OF Edgsoombb Oouvtt 


'So up and be a-doing» 

And keep the things arstewlng, 
And hollow silver eversrwhere you go; 

Give the Democrats the Devil, 

And tell the folks the evil. 
That is now upon your land, and swear its so. 


'Make your tariff d — n low, 
For heaven's sake, don't show 

The trouble it has brought upon us all; 
If you do, the Jig is up, 
1 11 sure throw down the cup. 

And leave you men to catch h — 1 in the fall. 


'Be careful what you say, 

And don't in any way, 
Qive them credit for the Federal Bill that 's dead; 

Let the Income Tax alone, 

For if it 's passed, I '11 swear we 're gone, 
And put to sleep upon a funeral bed. 


'Cry an llonest ballot law,' 

Until you split your Jaw, 
Telling all about the frauds that you've seen done; 

The Democrats will laugh. 

Like a spring-time sickly calf. 
That loves to sleep and take the morning sun. 


'Now for my little work, 

I Just want to be clerk, 
And there I 'U truly serve you, one and all; 

But for me to get this place, 

WE ALL must run the race. 
And fight to win the vict'ry in the fall.' 


The Republicans were also subject to a similar fate by the 
Democrats. By not having any press they had no means of public 
retaliation and the matter was more or less a one-sided affair. 
George Lloyd was depicted as being out of place running for 
office with Ed. Bridgers, Moses Chase, and Gteoffrey Hyman. He 
was accused of drunkenness, gambling, and loafing. His three 
colleagues were accused of larceny and received considerable 
notoriety over the disappearance of a bale of cotton, a cow, and 
about $400.00 belonging to Thomas Johnson. Hyman was tried 
for stealing the money and acquitted. 

PoLinos 1880—1900 807 

In the meantimey the Democrats themselves were more or less 
annoyed over a division in their own ranks. W. £. Fountain^ quite 
a prominent Democrat and for several times mayor of Tarhoro, 
caused a split in his party due to a disagreement over appoint- 
ments of delegates, and ultimately became a member of the 
minority party. Later developments presented a difficulty with 
Mr. Uoyd, of which more after awhile. 

From the alignments and organizations of the various parties 
it was obvious which way the election would go in Edgecombe. 
It was a game fight, hard, bitter, and disagreeably unpleasant, 
and with a political victory for the Democrats. Much credit was 
given the negroes, for hundreds desired no fusion ticket and under 
proper solicitation from the Democrats voted a straight ticket for 
democracy. One incident is worthy of notice. The voting had 
been in progress for some hours when it was learned that the 
Democratic candidate for coroner had been working for a friend 
of the Populist-Fusion-Kepublican ticket. This necessitated a 
considerable scratching on the local ticket. The entire county 
ticket was elected by a small but sure majority, while the county 
also gave a majority for State and judicial tickets. Congressman 
Woodard received 700 plurality and Walter Daniel, for solicitor, 
was only a small number behind Woodard. The Fusionists, how- 
ever, captured the State Legislature, and herein lies another story 
efFecting Edgecombe. 

The Legislature being in control of the Republicans and Fusion- 
ists, the first act was to appoint magistrates in the various counties 
by the Legislature, as heretofore had been done. Of course, it was 
not expected that Democrats would be appointed in Edgecombe. 
Listen to the magistrate appointments : Y. D. Garret and Turner 
prince (colored), to No. 1 Township; Robert Brown (colored). 
No. 2; Samuel Howard (colored), No. 3; T. D. Bellamy (col- 
ored), No. 4; E. C. Bryan (colored). No. 5; William Johnson 
(colored). No. 7; Frank Deed (colored). No. 8; Alfred Reid 
(colored). No. 9 ; and David Lawrence (colored). No. 11. 

The Democratic party, ever cognizant of political snares, had 
proceeded to revoke the law giving the magistrates the power to 
appoint the commissioners when it became inevitable that a Re- 
publican Legislature would be in power for the following year. 
The Justices of the Peace had been shorn of all political power. 

808 HiBTOBT OF Edobcombb County 

They oould not elect county conunifisioners nor members of the 
board of education, while in the matter of levying taxes they were 
to take no part. Their power, on the other hand, consisted in 
petty and limited jurisdiction of criminal cases. The Fusionists, 
however, in spite of this fact, decided in a caucus to increase this 
number in order to accommodate party supporters. There were 
many whose services were not needed and who had nothing to do. 

Edgecombe was fortunate in having succeeded in preventing the 
Legislature in establishing many courts as it originally intended 
to do. Letters and petitions were presented against incorporating 
Edgecombe County in the bill for erecting more courts, and many 
of the Populists left the party caucus and voted to exempt Edge- 
combe. The county was later included, however, in the vote. 
Many who were present claimed that the first vote was taken to 
exempt Edgecombe, but the clerks counted the vote in accord with 
the caucus decree rather than exclude it as a single measure. 

When the Legislature convened in March, 1895, considerable 
excitement prevailed over the disclosure of party wrangles in the 
county. The Populist Bepublican party indirectly contested the 
Democratic representative, W. O. Howard, through the defeated 
Bepublican candidate, Lee Person (colored). The Baleigh News 
and Observer gives the account from which an extract is taken. 

When Edgecombe was called. Person, who was defeated for the 
House, stepped forward. He was extremely nervous and excited, 
and in a loud voice demanded that the entire list of magistrates 
be discarded and a list he himself had made up be put in its 
place. "I have been defrauded of my seat," declared Person, "and 
I am the proper man to recommend the magistrates." 

James B. Lloyd, chairman of the Populist Executive Com- 
mittee of the county and assistant clerk of the Senate, and J. J. 
Martin, a prominent Bepublican, had made the list and submitted 
it. Upon learning this. Person accused Lloyd and Martin of an 
act never before charged to them. In high tones Person said, 
"These two men have sold out to the Democrats, and I don't want 
their list appointed. Out of eighty-six magistrates, not ten are 
Bepublicans, and I will taken an oath to what I say. Bring out 
your books and swear me. These people have been robbing us 
negroes, and your committee haven't got sense enough to know it," 

Politics 1880—1900 309 

Chairman Evart called Person down, and informed him that 
the committee conducted its business in a respectable and orderly 
manner, and that they expected those who came before it to act 
accordingly. Mr. Evart said, "If you have any charges to make 
against any individuals on the list, make them; the committee 
will not throw out the entire list on such general wholesale 
charges.'' 'T[f that be your tactics," replied Person, "I withdraw 
my list, and you can do as you please with the whole business." 

Person was incorrect in his assertion as to the number of Be- 
publicans. Each township, when the increase was made, had one 
colored man on the list. The trouble seems to have arisen over 
the fact that Person himself had aspirations to be a justice and 
was left out of the promised spoils resulting from politics. The 
Fusionists, however, succeeded in reversing the election laws and 
aspired to carry the State in the next election by the power of 
Gideon's Band ^ and the negro churches. The occasion for the 
change in the election law was the fact that in all eastern counties 
and in Edgecombe in particular, many negroes had evinced a de- 
sire to vote the Democratic ticket, but were afraid because of 
ostracism and violence, or expulsion from the churches. Prior to 
the change of voting by the Australian system, the colored people 
enjoyed the privacy of voting and were not intimidated. Tinder 
the new method, however, secrecy could not be had, thereby caus- 
ing n^roes to be betrayed in their manner of voting. 

The silver movement by 1895 had reached such proportions in 
the county that a silver convention was organized. The organiza- 
tion was nonpolitical and was intended to be primarily educa- 
tional and to teach people the history of the silver agitation. It 
had its origin in September, 1896, and was convened by James B. 
Uoyd and Dr. W. J. Mayo, temporary chairman. W. E. Fountain 
was subsequently elected president, Frank B. Lloyd permanent 
secretary and treasurer. Dr. J. M. Baker, Walter Thigpen, and 
B. J. Keech, vice-presidents; Dr. T. P. Wynn, B. J. Keech, and 
J. A. Davis, executive committee; F. B. Lloyd, J. M. Baker, and 
H. C. Bourne, committee on lectures; and B. J. Keech, J. B. 
Lloyd, and John L. Bridgers, committee on organization. The 
mutual understanding, as voiced by W. O. Howard, was that all 

>A k>e»l organisation of negroes. 

310 HiBTOKT OF Edoeoombb Oounty 

political parties were to get together in an organization on non- 
partisan plans and to educate the people and themselves^ and then 
return to their respective party when voting time came. 

At the same time the State Legislature was reproducing scenes 
which dominated the Legislature of General Canby^s time. Poli- 
tics sacrificed sentiment, honesty and the supremacy of the white 
race to secure power and the advantages that it gave. However 
well the Bepublicans and Populists succeeded in increasing their 
ranks for the time being, their exercise of power produced a bad 
efFect upon the people of North Carolina, that ultimately caused 
their undoing; and party issues in Edgecombe slowly died out. 

From all indications in the year 1895 the Fusionists of Edge- 
combe, consisting of Populists and Kepublicans, were in a better 
position numerically than the Democrats. A good number of the 
men left the Democratic party, after supporting it in 1894^ be- 
cause they could not accept Qrover Cleveland. Many also joined 
the Populist party because of its silver issue and began a prepara- 
tion to support Bryan upon his silver platform. Not a few in 
1896 began to feel the weight of one dollar being worth only 
seventy-nine cents and later fifty cents, and, in their extremity, 
cast their lot with the party seeking financial reforms. 

With the beginning of 1896 James B. Lloyd, a popular and 
influential Populist, was assisted in his activities in the oounty 
by Mr. Joe Martin, playing second fiddle, and quite a numerous 
crowd of negroes dancing to the tune of Populism. 

The Democrats, realizing the situation, went so far as to make 
overtures to the Populists and intimated that they should return 
to the old party. They expressed their sentiments on issues for 
which the Populists were clamoring when they endorsed W. J. 
Bryan for their national leader. The Populist who had also 
endorsed this ticket, showed their faith by their works, and the 
county was carried by a large majority for silver in 1896. 

Li the meantime, Marion Butler had presented a proposition 
to the Democrats of the State whereby there was to be a division 
of offices between the Democrats and Populists. That is to say, 
they were to split fifty-fifty and run in this party fashion for the 
campaign of 1896. The Democrats refused. 

The State Republican convention met in Raleigh May 14th, 
when a contest for Qovemor had been on for a long time, with 

PouTiCB 1880—1900 311 

many contested seats. The nomination for Qovemor was made 
after a bitter contest, with the first ballot giving Daniel R. Russell 
the nomination. The n^ro Republican convention was called to 
Raleigh Jvlj 2d, and repudiated the nomination on fraudulent 
grounds, and branded him as a man who had proclaimed that the 
negro was largely savage, and that all negroes followed rascals who 
stole six days in the week and went to church on the seventh to 
pray their sins away. Edgecombe was well represented in this 
convention, and Russell became odious to the intelligent class of 
n^roes in the county. 

During the campaign Russell visited Tarboro and spoke in the 
city hall. He had modified his previous remarks, and under the 
assistance of Joe Martin made overtures to the n^proes of the 
county. These efforts in all probability succeeded in moderating 
the intense feeling against Russell personally. It was reported 
that in his speech Russell went to the other extreme in his praise 
for the n^roes, and depicted the bad treatment that the negro 
had received at the hands of the Democrats. This was resented 
on the part of the whites. 

The local democracy had nominated a respectable and able 
ticket. By a half spirited compromise they succeeded in electing 
only a part of the candidates. The Fusionists elected W. L. Per- 
son (negro) to the State Senate ; Elbert E. Bryan and J. H. Dancy 
to the House of Representatives. Yet a worse blow still awaited 
the Democracy in the majority vote for George White (negro), 
who was elected to represent this district in the United States 
Congress. Mack Lloyd (n^ro) also served on the board of com- 
missioners. For the first time in twenty years all branches of 
the State, and practically all branches of the local government, 
passed into the hands of another political party. 

The Democratic defeat of 1896 was in many respects very ef- 
fective and did much lasting good for the party. However, the 
victory for the Republican-Populist party served to make an ad- 
justment in legislative laws which had grown more or less bene- 
ficial for the party in power. It taught the party to appreciate 
activity, and to make plans for more intelligent legislation. 
There is no truer saying than evil cannot be legislated from a 
life. The same is also true in regard to the legal right to exercise 
political and economic liberty. It requires constructive legisla- 

312 HiSTOBT OF Edosoombs County 

tion, a standing for sound and economic issues to make politics 
successful in any party. While the Bepublican and Populist 
parties in the county held the majority^ the Democrats were in- 
variably in the rule, since the power was acquired by legislative 
strategy and unscrupulous means of party control. The victory 
of 1896 did the purging and the party turned its face to the front 
for redemption in 1898. 

During the beginning of this year it became obvious that the 
contest for political supremacy was to be a bitter one. The party 
alliance existing between the Bepublicans and the Populists made 
a strong opponent, and the Democrats who had lost ground the 
preceding election knew the effort necessary for victory. In the 
effort to recover lost prestige, the Democrats were charged with 
making solicitations to the n^roes and also of making political 
affiliations heretofore laid to the Bepublicans. One charge of 
grave repute is related in the county which is indicative of the 
charges generally made by the Fusionist party. 

Francis D. Winston, of Windsor, N. C, was a candidate for 
judge, according to a conventional nomination, which had also 
placed Gleorge H. White, of Edgecombe, in nomination as solicitor. 
Winston had been conmiissioned in 1897 to organize ''White 
Leagues" to rally votes to the Democratic standard. A letter, 
reported to have been written by Mr. Winston to G^rge H. 
White, of Rocky Mount, was circulated in the county and all 
eastern counties with the purpose of showing the movement on 
the part of the Democrats to win the negro vote. The letter, ad- 
dressed to George H. White, reads : 

"My dbab Sir : — I regret that I cannot attend the Judicial Con- 
vention on account of pressing engagements. Please put in a word 
to further my nomination for judge. While there is not much 
hope for an election, still the remote possibility of riding the dis- 
trict with you is a great pleasure." 

In the meanwhile, Marion Butler, who had already acquired 
considerable publicity in the State, made his tour through the 
eastern counties and stopped in Bocky Mount. Senator Butler 
was reported by the Rocky Mount Argonaut, a Democratic paper, 
as saying that "If colored men commit outrages, the Democrats 
pretend to be terribly shocked in public, but when they get behind 
the wall they laugh until they grow fat, and if the outrages are not 

Politics 1880—1900 313 

frequent enough, they hire worthless negroes to commit them.'' 
Thus the campaign of 1898 opened with charges and counter 
charges. Among the several citizens present in Rocky Mount, 
and who were to take an active part in the Populist campaign, 
were W. £. Fountain and James B. Lloyd, former Democrats. 
These men, with others, made affidavits that Butler made no such 
statements. Almost no issue calculated to incite the passion and 
to make political capital was omitted during the campaign. 

The Democratic convention was held in Tarboro October 18^ 
1898, with more than 5,000 present from Pitt, Nash, and Wilson 
counties. A mass meeting, with barbecue and brass band, was the 
preliminary reception to those participating. Every township in 
the county sent a big delegation, while the speakers' stand was 
adorned with flowers, women and children in the rally for De- 
mocracy. B. F. Aycock, of Wayne County, was the principal 
speaker. Inclement weather interrupted the outdoor gathering, 
and the audience divided in two divisions; one led by Donnell 
Gilliam in the town hall, and the other porceeded to the court- 
house. Mr. F. M. Simmons addressed the town hall audience, 
and Aycock delivered another speech at the courthouse. The 
convention for business was conducted at the Jeffries Warehouse, 
when the following ticket was nominated: J. H. Harris, sheriff; 
B. F. Dawson, register of deeds ; Ed. Pennington, clerk ; J. W. B. 
Battle, treasurer; Dr. R. H. Speight, Senate; S. L. Hart, House 
of Bepresentatives ; Dr. S. M. Hassell, coroner; John Howard, 
surveyor; and S. S. Nash, E. L. Daughtridge and W. S. Crisp, 
county commissioners. This ticket was a very formidable one, 
and was destined to make a creditable showing. 

The Fusionists held two conventions prior to the election. 
One was Bepublican and the other was Populist. They agreed 
to support the Fusion ticket, which was more or less dominantly 

Before the campaign was well under way confusion resulted 
when it became apparent there had been dissatisfaction among the 
n^roes over the Bepublicans securing all offices in the State ex- 
cept ten. This was done in spite of the 30,000 white Bepublicans, 
as compared with the 120,000 negro Bepublicans. 

The campaign was opened with W. E. Fountain, bolted Demo- 
crat, chairman of the People's Party, of Edgecombe County, and 

314 History of Eooecombe County 

also chairman of the congressional committee. James B. Lloyd 
served on the conference committee appointed by the State con- 
vention. In this capacity, he became one of the committeemen 
who proposed an alliance with the Democrats May, 1898, to 
cooperate in tke silver and financial reforms. Same being re- 
jected he became closely allied with Dr. Cyrus Thompson, one of 
the prominent leaders of the Populist party in the State. The 
Populists met in the beginning of the campaign and nominated 
him for Congress, the position then occupied by Gleorge H. White, 
Republican. Immediately after his nomination the News and 
Observer, of Baleigh, claimed Lloyd was nominated in the second 
district in order to elect the negro. The reason for this was, 
that since the Democrats did not have out a candidate of their 
own at the time, it became a choice of either Lloyd or White, and 
that Edgecombe preferred White to Lloyd. Political capital was 
made of the issue by Dr. Cyrus Thompson, who predicted that 
the Democrats would do as that party suggested to the Populists to 
do — .'^ote for a man who exactly fills the bill," meaning Uoyd. 
The rejection of the Populist proposition at the Democratic State 
convention indicated that White would receive support in prefer- 
ence to Lloyd. 

In the meantime, politics in Edgecombe, like the Irishman's 
breeches in the Pullman car wreck, had received a twist. It hap- 
pened in the People's Party, between two of its own supporters, 
and received much notoriety in the State and was considered as 
sounding the farewell of Populism. W. E. Fountain, it appeared, 
was the political friend of James B. Lloyd, and in the congrea- 
sional convention, which met in Wilson, July 28, 1898, was active 
in the support of Mr. Lloyd, who had been nominated by acclama- 
tion. It also appeared that considerable feeling was expressed 
against the methods employed by the Democratic managers in 
carrying out the campaign; that at the time Fountain did not 
express himself as favoring or disapproving the issue which was 
raised relative to supporting the negro candidate, Gleorge H. 
White, in opposition to Lloyd for Congress. 

A special committee was appointed by the county executive com- 
mittee to arrange cooperation in Edgecombe. Lloyd was not 
present, but wrote Fountain and also the committee that no 
cooperation was desired, if as a condition precedent a negro was 

Politics 1880—1900 816 

to be supported. Lloyd's suggestion, however, was ignored 
Fountain, on the other hand, was accused of giving acquiescence 
to the purpose to support negroes in certain offices, while Uoyd 
excused himseK upon the declaration that he had repeatedly told 
Fountain he would not support a n^ro if put on the ticket. 

After the convention had acted, Lloyd urged Fountain to re- 
assemble his committee and denounce the plan of cooperation, 
since it was obvious the voters would not support the ticket. 
Fountain declined, and when the campaign began, as congressional 
chairman, Fountain advised him not to draw the color Hne in his 
speeches. It seems that this policy was observed and subsequently 
met the objection of Fountain, who had advised its performance. 
Fountain in a letter said : 

"Captain Lloyd realized this fully, and also that he had made 
an irretrievable mistake, in not meeting the issue." As manager 
of Lloyd's campaign, Fountain soon repudiated his own suggestion 
'^ discuss economic issues and not that of the race issue," and 
in ten days of the election went back into the Democratic party 
and became a candidate against Lloyd. 

The real issue grew out of the declaration of Lloyd that if by his 
running the n^ro would receive a greater support, he would with- 
draw from the race, if another candidate would come forward. 
Fountain, who had approached Lloyd in the matter, did not inti- 
mate his intentions to run against him. When informed of his 
purpose, Lloyd expressed his surprise and told Fountain it looked 
as if he were undermining him. 

Mr. Lloyd, however, according to his promise, withdrew in Foun- 
tain's favor. When Fountain made his appeal to the committee, 
time was requested to present the matter before the congressional 
committee, but when it became obvious that time was short, the 
issue was withdrawn without Fountain being endorsed as a 

The Democratic convention met at Goldsboro, October 28th and 
Fountain was present and made a speech. The following is an 
extract: "I am no politician, but a plain business man, and have 
no desire for office." In less than ten days Fountain was a candi- 
date for Congress and was subsequently defeated, when Edge- 
combe County sent the only negro Congressman to Washington for 
that year. 

316 HiSTOBT OF Edobgombb Couktt 

Many Democrats disapproved the acts of Fountain, while the 
Charlotte Observer, a strong Democratic paper, denounced his 

The campaign issue of 1898 was unquestionably racial, while the 
episode between the two parties, as already related, was justified 
by the fact that the race was thrust before the people. That this 
was to be the issue, however, was known, as it was indicated by 
a letter issued by Foimtain prior to the campaign. In fact, the 
race issues had received such importance that (Jovernor Russell 
had issued a proclamation covering the situation. The fact that 
Edgecombe and all the eastern counties had passed under negro 
control by reason of fusion of parties ; according to all the principal 
State papers where negroes were deputy sheriffs, school examiners, 
Congressmen, and register of deeds; this was ample cause for an 
issue based on the racial question. Fountain, in 1897, following 
the publicity given the appearance of the idea of negro colonization 
in North Carolina, after they had gained control in 1896, issued 
a circular when chairman of the Populist State Committee in 

'TTou may have recently observed," said he, "that certain 
Democratic papers in this State are endeavoring now to revive 
the race question in order to make that the dominant issue in 
the next campaign. If you have kept posted as to political affairs 
in this State in years past, you will recall that periodically when 
the Democrats had no issue to go before the people with, they en- 
deavored to frighten the people into supporting their party by 
crying 'nigger.' The negro is an element in poKtics we cannot 
get clear of. They should be handled wisely and not create 
racial prejudices and possible strife. The Southern Railroad 
would be delighted, no doubt, to have that issue revived in order 
to conceal its plans and movements to control the next Legislature^ 
to prevent any action looking to the annulment of the ninety-nine- 
year lease. Let no one be alarmed or deceived. The issue is now 
equally and fairly drawn; shall the people of North Carolina 
control the political affairs of the State, or shall they be controlled 
by the Southern Railroad? Shall we exercise our right of sov- 
ereignty or shall we permit the agent of J. Pierpont Morgan to 

Politics 1880—1900 317 

direct and control the destinies of this great Commonwealth? 
The people of North Carolina must answer this, the paramount 
question now before them for settlement." 

Fountain had, soon after writing the above, turned a Democrat 
and supported those who had no issue but the cry of "nigger." 
The point with Fountain was that he saw the race question as an 
"overshadowing issue" and at the same time thought he saw a 
prospective seat in Congress. Even when he was writing his 
letter the negroes throughout the State were organizing to seize 
all legislative and judicial offices of the State, and make this land 
a paradise for the negroes. The crime of the days of reconstruc- 
tion had returned in all its lawlessness and horror. Princeville, 
just across the river from Tarboro, was a perfect scene of unre- 
strained violence. Drew Battle and William Morris burned 
Judge Philips's stables, while Clarence Davis, for a heinous 
crime,^ had a reward of $200.00 oflFered by the Governor for his 
capture. He was later captured and carried to Durham for safe 
keeping until a special term of court could be called to pass sen- 
tence. The State generally was in such lawless state that the 
northern press turned to North Carolina for its sensational news 

No county made stronger efforts nor achieved greater results in 
eliminating the racial evil, for it is the candid opinion of every 
thinking man in the county that had the negro continued in the 
power enjoyed from 1896 to 1898 a civil war between the races 
would have resulted. The names of C. B. Aycock, T. A. Woodard, 
General W. R. Cox, W. E. Daniel, T. D. Winston, and F. M. Sim- 
mons should still be remembered with reverence and appreciation. 
These men caused the county to be divided into districts, and 
each district was given a speaker to discuss the various issues, 
namely — tariff, silver theory, and racial problems. 

On November 8, 1898, the fruits of these men and others was 
harvested in the election. The Democrats won a decided victory 
both in the county and the State, Tarboro giving Democratic 
legislative and county ticket a majority of 2,511, a majority for 
the State ticket of 606, while Fountain carried the county by 
250. The Democrats had a majority in both branches of the 

^ Burning the residence of Mrs. Tamer Battle, she being in the house at the 
time^ and then attempting to loot what was left. 

318 History of Edoxoombs Conimr 

Legislature^ the control of affairs being completely reversed from 
1896, H. A. Gilliam and S. L. Hart being Edgecombe representa- 
tives, while Dr. R. H. Speight succeeded W. L. Person in the 
Senate. Gteorge H. White, however, was returned to Congress, 
having received a majority vote in the district. 

Beaction immediately set in when celebrations were held in all 
the towns in North Carolina. Race riots occurred in Wilmington 
and Newborn. The editors of papers of Populist sympathy and 
who had supported the party became subject to violence. The 
paper controlled by Manly, of Wilmington, was burned, while 
Lloyd, of the Advocate, in Tarboro, was more or less under po- 
litical ostracism when he left the State for Washington. His 
paper was sold to Marion Butler, the equipment dismantled and 
sent away from the county. The Caucasian was practically the 
only paper of any consequence in the State which remained intact 
after the defeat. 

The war which had been declared with Spain meanwhile caused 
a faint ripple over local politics, and Edgecombe proceeded to 
assume her obligations in defense of the State she had so gallantly 
honored a few decades previous. The activities of Edgecombe 
men centered around Company I, Second North Carolina Regi- 
ment. This company was made up from Leggets, Rocky Mount, 
Tarboro, and other neighboring towns in Eastern North Carolina. 
Captain John W. Cotton was commissioned May 11, 1898, to 
head the company, but he soon resigned to become major of the 
Second Regiment. Major Cotton had seen twenty-three years' 
service in the State Guard, seven years of which he filled the 
highest position, that of brigadier general. 

Upon his resignation, Carl W. Jeffries, of Tarboro, was ap- 
pointed captain. He resigned while at St. Francis Barracks, 
Florida, receiving his discharge September 5, 1898. James B. 
Jenkins was then appointed captain and John Howard first lieu- 
tenant. Among the noncommissioned officers of the county were 
William H. Baker, first sergeant; Joseph A. Warren, Q. M. ser- 
geant ; Charles H. Jenkins, sergeant ; William C. Suggs, sergeant ; 
Thomas H. Gatlin, Jr., sergeant; Walter Lee Simmons, sergeant; 
William Mitchell, corporal; George W. Smithson, corporal; 

PoLiTiOB 1880—1900 319 

Thomas H. Peters, corporal; James W. Lawrence, corporal; 
Thomas Hussey, corporal; Benjamin F. Long, corporal; Wiliford 
W. Haynes, artificer. 

Among the privates from the county were John J. Archer, 
James E. Askin, Joseph D. Brann, Ed Garter, James B. Cosby, 
Frank W. Davis, Thaddeus Downing, Guion Gabriel, Harry L. 
Griffin, Henry L. Leggitts, Paul Mitrick, and John W. Moore. 
The company was organized in the early part of May, 1898, and 
was mustered in the service at Raleigh, N. 0. It soon entered 
into a rigid course of drill and discipline, which gave an excellent 
degree of efficiency. All the tactics of modem warfare were prac- 
ticed with emphasis placed on physical exercise and fitness. 

After more than six weeks of daily drill the regiment was 
divided, with Companies C and I, under Major Cotton, being 
sent to St. Augustine, Fla. At this station the men merited the 
approval of their officers. The men were not to see service, for 
negotiations interrupted their prospective fight with the Span- 
iards. The several detachments of the regiment were ordered 
back to Raleigh, and all the men given a thirty-day furlough 
preliminary to being mustered out. Before the men could return 
to Raleigh previous orders were revoked, and on November 23, 
1898, the company was mustered out at Tarboro. Edgecombe 
lost two men, John Godley and Samuel F. Johnson, who died 
from disease in July. Charlie Badgett, of Mildred, N". C, re- 
ceived his discharge October 14, 1898, by order. 

There were also other enlistments from the county who served 
in other companies in the Second Regiment. Among the number 
was W. B. Howard, first sergeant of Company C, and Hinton E. 
Bell, private, of the regimental staff and band. 

Lnmediately following the election of 1898, the colored popu- 
lation had an outlet for their political ambitions in Princeville. 
Politics here, however, resulted frequently in a squabble and a 
wrangle in politics was no unusual occurrence. In 1899, when the 
local election was held, town officials then in office, refused to turn 
over their offices to newly elected officials. The former set up 
a claim that the election was a nullity, and proceeded to transact 
business as usual. On Monday after the election notices were 
served on Frank Battle, mayor; Orren James, J. G. Hyman, 
William Cook, Walter Alvis, and W. A. Hines, commissioners; 

320 History of Edoeoombs County 

Tomer Prince^ treasurer. The proceedings resulted in their sur- 
render. Princeville was then governed by Orren James, mayor; 
Daniel Hanmiond, E. F. Wooten, Walter Alvis, and Freeland 
Boberts as conmiissioners ; and Abram Wooten^ treasurer. 

The town election in Tarboro for this year was the quietest 
since the war. In no ward was there any opposition to the Demo- 
cratic candidates. Not even in the Third Ward, which had always 
been strongly contested. R. E. L. Cook had no one to oppose 
him. Gus Tander received the majority vote in the First Ward; 
Louis Arnhiem, the Second Ward, while R. E. L. Cook received a 
majority vote of ninety-one in the Third. The vote generally was 
very light. 

R. B. Hyatt was elected chief of police, and L. B. Knight and 
J. J. Pittman were newly elected county commissioners to serve 
with Dr. L. L. Staton, George Howard, Jr., and S. E. Speight, 
when the Legislature authorized, in 1899, an increase from three 
to five. Dr. J. H. Baker was elected mayor and J. A. Clark, 

In August, 1899, friction resulted over an interference between 
Mayor Baker and Chief of Police Hyatt, which resulted in the 
latter's resignation. Mr. Hyatt objected to the mayor's inter- 
fering directly with employees under his supervision and for 
whom he was responsible. His resignation being accepted, John 
W. Cotton was appointed to take the place of chief of police. He 
remained in this office several years. 

The racial question had abated with the exception of trouble 
over a few n^roes occupying the position of postmasters in the 
county. These were maintained by White, United States Con- 
gressman, of Edgecombe. J. W. Hargett was postmaster at 
Rocky Mount, but was soon removed in 1899, due to an arrest by 
postoffice authorities on a misappropriation of funds. A nogro 
woman was postmistress at Lawrence, her bond having been signed 
by F. D. Dancy, of Tarboro. After the incident at Rocky Mount 
he became frightened and wrote to the Postmaster-Gteneral, ask- 
ing to be relieved from the bond. Dancy was a colored man who 
by thrift and attention had accumulated some property of value. 

The election held in August, 1900, eliminated all questions of 
racial politics. The Populist Party was demoralized, while the 

PoLinoB 1880—1900 821 

negro constituted the rank and file of the Bepnblieans. The 
tactics of the election was one^ therefore^ of physical argument 
against mental argument. 

At this time a constitutional amendment qualifying suffrage 
was submitted to the people as follows : 

"He shall have resided In the State of North Carolina for two years, 
in the county for six months, and In the precinct, ward, or other elec- 
tion district In which he offers to TOte four months next preceding the 
election: Provided, that removal from one precinct, ward, or other 
election district to another In the same county shall not operate to 
deprive any person the right to vote In the precinct, ward, or other 
election district from which he has removed until four months after 
such removal. No person who has been guilty In open court upon 
Indictment of any crime, the punishment of which now is, or may 
hereafter be, imprisoned In the State Prison, shall be permitted to 
vote, unless the said person shall be restored to citizenship In the 
manner prescribed by law.** 

After omitting article three^ the amendment reads: 

"Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to 
read and write any section of the Ck>nstltutlon In the Bngllsh lan- 
guage before he shall be entitled to vote. But no male person who 
was, on January 1, 1867, or any time prior thereto, entitled to vote 
under the laws of any State in the United States wherein he then 
resided, and no lineal descendant of any person, shall be denied the 
right to register and vote at any election In the State by reason of 
his failure to possess the educational qualifications herein presented: 
Provided, he shall have registered In accordance with the terms of 
this sections prior to December 1, 1898." 

This amendment was submitted and adopted as a plan for the 
restriction of suffrage, and was intended to go into effect July 1, 
1900. The results of this amendment needs no comment. The 
n^ro who was unable to read could not vote, while the illiterate 
white man, by reason of his ability to vote prior to 1867, and his 
descendants who might also be illiterate, by virtue of his father 
or his grandfather's right to vote, had political suffrage. The 
North Carolina amendment, however, put a time limitation upon 
the working of the grandfather clause. No illiterate white could 
gain the exemption provided for unless he had registered prior to 
December, 1908. Hence all illiterate whites coming of age since 
that time would be disfranchised. The n^gro, therefore, when he 


322 HiBTOBY OF Edobooicbx Oountt 

voted August, 1900, was voting for or against his political liberty. 
The campaign was so conducted during this year. The Democrats, 
however, had the majority in the Legislature and State officers, 
and gave the negro and Republicans little hope for success either 
campaign or in the legislative hall. 

Edgecombe put out the following ticket: Dr. B. H. Spoilt, 
for Senate; Daughtridge and Shelton, for the House of B^re- 
sentatives; J. R. Harris, sheriff; and J. W. B. Battle, treasurer. 
F. M. Simmons was the county's choice to succeed White in Con- 
gress. These men appeared in a body in their canvass of the 
county, and spoke in the opera house at Bocky Mount, July 24tL 
Paul Jones, editor of the North Carolina Law Journal, aided in 
the canvass and made the closing speech at Bocky Mount. 

In addition the Democrats of Edgecombe by July were con- 
ducting their usual aggressive canvass under Donnell Gilliam, the 
county chairman. He was perhaps the most enthusiastic sup- 
porter of Democracy in the eastern counties. During this cam- 
paign, that the people were conducting for the election on the 
second day in August of county and State officers, and to take the 
sense of the people on amending the State Constitution, he made 
speeches in every township. Under his guidance Democratic 
rallies were held in different parts of the county. In this cam- 
paign no opposition was made, since by actual count there re- 
mained only eighty-five Populists, while its organization had 
ceased to exist. 

The issue being one entirely between the races it was logical 
to anticipate racial trouble. Prior to the meeting of the Legisla- 
ture to ratify the amendment, it became hinted that the Legisla- 
ture would retain the negro's rights for political purposes. The 
Tarboro Southerner, realizing this hint under its editorial head, 
''What will be done?" says: ''Will the next L^islature pass an 
election law so intelligence may rule, or will it keep the negro for 
political purposes? This present election was caused solely by 
drawing the color line. Let it stay drawn by giving the intelli- 
gent voters only the right of franchise. The press all over the 
State is harping on who is entitled to the spoils. Just do some- 
thing to show that every promise has been carried out. Don't let 
them be disappointed. The Democrats are the State guardians 
for the next two years, so let them do their full duty." 

Politics 1880—1900 323 

The color line being drawn^ and the whites arraigned against 
the negroeS; there sprang up in the county numerous clubs known 
as the ''White Supremacy Clubs/* One was organized at Eocky 
Mount on the Edgecombe side^^ July 2, 1900, with Dr. Charles 
L. Killebrew as president. One was also organized in Tarboro. 
Claude Eitchin was most actiye in this organization, while Donnell 
Oilliam was a prominent leader and promoter of its interests. 

During the latter part of June the Bepublican conyention met 
in Tarboro with not more than thirty present, while no white 
leader was in evidence. The fact that the issue was purely racial 
drew many whites of other political faith to the Democratic 
party. Many Populists and Bepublicans supported the amend- 
ment under a pretext of taking the color quedtion out of politics. 
They hoped in return to replenish their ranks with whites who 
would take the negro's place. 

The hopelessness on the part of the n^gro to offset the political 
trend was expressed by Qeorge H. White, negro Congressman from 
Edgecombe, and the negro leader in the Second Congressional 
District. He was later generally denounced throughout the State 
for his expression. 

In July White made a speech in which he advised the members 
of his race that the white people had it in their power to control 
the election, and if they did not treat the people right, he and 
other leaders would see that the matter was taken into the courts, 
and if the courts did not give them justice, then he would say, 
''May Qod damn North Carolina, the State of my birth." 

Bacial feeling ran higher at Bocky Mount, perhaps, than in 
Tarboro. It was reported by hardware dealers at this place that 
negroes were roistering steadily and buying large quantities of 
ammunition for some purpose. It was also current that many 
negroes made threats in case the amendments were passed. 

August 2, 1900, there appeared in politics of both State and 
county one of the most important and vital issues of political 
history. It was time to settle, as Dr. Cyrus Thompson, noted 
Populist leader, affirmed, whether the Democrats would have 

^TlM AtUatie Ooait Line Baflro«d diridei the town, iMTinf <me-hAlf in NAih 
Ooonty And the other in Bdceoombe. 

324 History of Edoscombs County 

political power indefinitely. The negroes had voted in the previ- 
ous election in most of the county precincts. At this time many 
precincts were not voted in by them. 

In Tarboro the few Republicans and negroes being entitled to 
select talismen and a challenger^ appointed 0. M. Dancy, a negro 
of considerable ability^ to act for them in seeing that no fraud was 
perpetrated. R. O. Jeffries, a tobacco auctioneer, was '^caller 
out." The work of counting the votes began at sundown, and the 
Democrats were found to have won. 

The returns of the election showed that Edgecombe gave 3,781 
votes for the amendment, with only 374 against ; an inconceivable 
political possibility with as many negro votes as were in the county. 
Yet it was accomplished — by what political means of strategy? At 
Rocky Mount on the Edgecombe side, "No. 12 Township gave Ay- 
cock 562 votes and 44 for Adams. Aycock received a total vote of 
3,768, while Adams received only 385. One negro in the county 
who was witnessing the election returns exclaimed when he came 
out of the building that he had never heard one man's name 
called so many times as Aycock's was called on the night of 
the 2d. 

The entire State and county ticket was elected by a large 
majority, while Edgecombe missed being the banner county by 
about sixty votes. Taking into consideration the large number 
of Republicans and Populists who had dominated the county, it 
won a victory that exceeded any other in the State. Dr. R. H. 
Speight succeeded W. L. Person in the Senate and E. L. Dought- 
ridge and B. F. Shelton succeeded H. A. Gilliam and S. L. Hart 
in the House of Representatives. 

The election for national officers in Ifovember, 1900, was of 
little interest. The negro was out of politics, while Honorable 
F. M. Simmons was running best in the county for Congress. 
Little or no organization was made since the principal issue was 
determined in August. Moreover, Donnell Gilliam had resigned 
the chairmanship in September, leaving D. B. Betts, a young 
Democrat, as his successor. Mr. Gilliam had been a prominent 
figure in politics, and received his just political reward by being 
elected to the State Senate in 1902 and 1904, serving two terms. 

The official returns for the county in the November election 
were as follows: Bryan, 3,009; McKinley, 1,635; Kitchen, 3,028; 

Politics 1880—1900 325 

Martin^ 1^621; Simmons^ 1,676; and Oarr, 328. Bocky Mount 
townships gave Simmons 316 and Oarr 35. With the election of 
November being over and Simmons elected, it eliminated the negro 
from politics in Edgecombe. George H. White, the present incum- 
bent of the United States Congress from the Second District, took 
himself to another locality, where he was looked upon with more 

The county, since 1900, has been solidly Democratic, with no 
attempt being made on the part of the negroes to exercise what 
right they had left under the constitutional amendment of August, 
1900. A fact which in all probability merits commendation for 
them, because in no section of the State and the South is the 
racial feeling more harmonious. This could not be truthfully 
said if conditions had remained as they were prior to 1900. 

One sad incident occurred during the campaign of this year — 
the death of Ex-Governor Elias Oarr. He died July 22, 1900, 
just a few days previous to the election in August. He was a 
modest, unassuming, typical southern gentleman with a host of 
friends. He was a man of positive convictions and of clean 
character. He had filled with ability and fidelity the trust placed 
in his hands by the people and devoted himself to the welfare of 
the citizens of the State. 



It is a credit to Edgecombe that through the intelligent culti- 
vation and development of its lands it acquired great reputation 
and became known far and wide as the banner section of Xorth 
Carolina. The traveler in this and other states, when speaking 
of Edgecombe, centers his remarks around agriculture. There 
are reasons for this merited reputation. 

Edgecombe County comprises about 515 square miles, 306,756 
acres, valued in 1896 at $1,464,396, but worth ten times as much 
in 1919. It has a population of nearly 40,000, seventy per cent 
of whom depend on agriculture. It has a climate similar to that 
of Southern France; topographically it is mostly level, with 
occasional slight elevations, and a healthy and well developed 
people. The temperature averages fifty-eight degrees in the 
spring, seventy-seven in summer, sixty-two in autumn, forty-five in 
winter, and has an average of sixty-one degrees. The soil is 
greatly diversified, ranging from the piney woods land to the rich 
and black swamp land bordering the creeks and rivers, being of 
the type of iN'orf oik sandy loam. Tar Biver is the largest stream, 
and rises in the western part of Granville County. 

From an account written as early as 1811, it was stated that 
the best river land produced Indian corn, peas, wheat, oats, rye, 
sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cotton, and flax in abundance. The 
best light land also produced the same varieties of crops, but in 
less quantity. The valuation of lands today varies similar to that 
in the very earliest period. 

The early settlers cultivated the virgin lands with much credit, 
and produced a variety of commodities that supplied the needs of 
the people. In fact, the early records show that production was 
so bountiful that a surplus was left, which was exported. The 
principal products that were exported to foreign markets were 
naval stores. England placed a bounty on this product and en- 
couraged the colonists to make extensive preparation for the pro- 
duction of these commodities. The piney woods and the long leaf 
pine in particular were the source of a staple product. In spite 
of the fact that the pine afforded one of the most striking marks 


f^a^rit* CO. 


Agbiculture, Industries and Internal Improvements 327 

of a sterile soil; it received great consideration at the hands of 
the pioneer settlers; especially was this true when they were 
located near the Tar River^ a navigable steam. 

A writer from the county in 1810 declared that the pine yielded 
to the settlers more profit than the best lands would do by farm- 
ing. Experienced men who had worked the trees before^ made 
from 100 to 120 barrels of turpentine in a year, including the 
making of the barrels to hold the product. Moreover^ the expense 
of transportation was extremely small, since the English vessels 
usually came up Tar River. Old trees, which had been lying 
on the ground long enough to lose their sap, yielded a supply of 
tar. This industry met with great success, and, as the account 
goes, ^'emigrants from Virginia and the northeastern counties of 
the State settled on the barren lands and converted the pine into 
meat, bread, and money.'' 

It seems also that the land of Edgecombe in the early days 
yielded good crops of wheat — one of the primary essentials of life, 
and is capable of growing good crops at this time. The annual 
exports by farmers prior to 1800 averaged 150 bushels of wheat, 
1,375 barrels of naval stores, 418,900 pounds of live pork, 15,600 
of beef, 190 head of sheq), 20,000 pounds of bacon, and 177 bar- 
rels of com. In addition Tarboro was continuously supplied 
from the county with meats of all kinds, poultry, eggs, honey, 
fruits, melons, roots, and dairy products. Many of the house- 
keepers owned their own farms near town, and grew their own 
supplies. The abundance of vegetables and a good increase from 
surplus products constituted a source of income. It was quite 
appropriate for one of the early ministers to say: ^The people 
have mpre trade than religion, more wealth than grace.'' Even 
the merchants who had emigrated to Tarboro as paupers soon 
grew prosperous. 

The fact that a source of wealth existed in the production of 
naval stores, kept the farming industry from progressing as 
rapidly as it would have under ordinary circumstances. In 1810 
agriculture was still very crude, lands were cheap and plenty. 
Farmers were^ therefore, enticed from one place to another in- 
stead of locating permanently and giving close attention to the 
development of their land. Incidents have been giv^i in which 
settlers sold their plantation and moved nearer to the frontier to 

338 HisTOBY OF Edoeoombb County 

reach virgin lands. In spite of this fact, the yield produced was 
evidence that the people were not indifferent to nor ignorant of 
farming. The usual method employed was the cultivation of 
large areas; until the exhaustion of the soil, and to then seek 
fresh lands. No lands were ever reclaimed, nor a diversity of 
crops resorted to in order to put back into the land its lost strength. 
Manuring, therefore, was never used. The earliest writer of 
this period — 1800 — states that a man and a horse could easily 
cultivate 60,000 com hills and plow 6,000 a day. The best land, 
when not continuously cultivated, produced from ten to twelve and 
one-half bushels per 1,000 com hills, in addition to peas and 
fodder. The success, however, depended on judicious plowing. 
The farmer's best judgment was necessary to enable him to deter- 
mine how far to abandon this loose mode of culture for the pur- 
pose of manuring, as it was not well understood. The fear of more 
or less failure prevented many from undertaking it. There were, 
however, some small attempts. 

Cattle raising in the pre-Revolutionary days was a natural 
outgrowth of conditions in the county. Very little attention was 
given to it, as the cattle thrived and multiplied by sustenance 
from natural grasses in the village common and swamp lands. 
An abundance of grain was produced, and much pork was fed 
and sold to foreign markets, being carried principally to Suffolk 
and Norfolk, Virginia. Much loss was caused by neglect to prop- 
erly feed the cattle; shucks and com tops being insufficient to 
maintain them during the winter months. During the winter 
they were allowed to eat from the fields and to clear the land of 
the stalks and vegetation, which should have gone back to the 
soil as a means to restore fertility. In the spring they were again 
turned loose in the woods and swamps, and by early fall became 
good beeves. Before being placed on the market or carried to the 
•cities, they were turned in the field with peas and grass to put 
them in better shape. 

The people, therefore, had no improved and scientific method 
of farming or cattle raising. While there were only a few in the 
county who attempted to raise clover, it was given a triaL Those 
who attempted this culture did not succeed well in feeding it, as 
they did not understand its tendency to salivate. Foreign grass 
also met with failure, due to the fact that native grasses were 


AoRicuLTUBBy Industbiss AND Intbbnal Impboybmbnts 329 

more luxuriant and choked out the foreign grass before it could 
seed. Moreover, the swamps were so flat that draining was im- 
practicable and heavy rains after planting were liable to drown 
the crops. 

While the raising of cattle was neglected, the matter of horse 
breeding received careful attention, as horses were used for sport. 
As early as 1805 some of the best and fastest racing horses on 
the continent were bred in this county. H. Cotton, an energetic 
and social sporting leader of the county at this time, was zealous 
of improving the breed and imported several of the best horses 
obtainable. The fact, however, that oxen and mules answered the 
purpose of the farmers better and were more easily maintained, 
offered scant encouragement for high bred animals, and this 
project was soon abandoned. Mules were used in adjacent coun- 
ties to pull wagons, but strange to say Edgecombe was without 
wagons. The principal means of conveyance was the long shaft 
cart, similar to the carrylog cart of today and the forerunner of 
the dump cart, which until recently was used extensively in the 

The raising of hogs was perhaps the most profitable and most 
widely known of any phase of farming. Pork was a more certain 
money product and naturally led to closer attention and greater 
production. Efforts were made later to improve swine so that 
their meat would command a good price. The farmers, however, 
depended upon the natural grass and wood range for the hog in 
summer. This generally succeeded in giving good growth. The 
woods abounded in oak, pine, and beech trees, the chinquapin, 
ground whortleberry, and moss from trees. This method, how- 
ever, made little improvement for the settler in the early 
eighteenth century. It was less expense and less trouble, while 
all that was produced was that much made. The fact that pork 
commanded immediate cash when carried to a Virginia market, 
and was more easily transported by those in remote sections of 
the county, stimulated its greatest production. The farmers liv- 
ing in the vicinity of Tosniot and Contentnea depended upon 
pork and cattle for their entire money crop. 

Tobacco which was one of the earliest crops produced in the 
county, is of vital interest even when compared with the recent 

330 EEisTOBT OF Edoscoicbe County 

boom it has received. The stimuhiB for its production had its 
origin in 1750. And not unlike today the profit in its cultiva- 
tion was its chief stimulus. The old dtory of Sir Walter Raleigh's 
introduction of tobacco in the European courts needs no rehearsal 
The appreciation of tobacco in England created a demand which 
at that time fell upon the southern colonies to supply. One of the 
first things the early settlers did, therefore, was to realize big 
money from planting tobacco. In 1760, the same year Tarboro 
was laid out, the town commissioners met and ordered a site be- 
tween Tar River and Hendrick's Creek laid off for the building of 
a warehouse for tobacco storage. 

In 1764 the production had increased to such an extent that it 
became necessary to provide some means of storage until the Eng- 
lish ships could come up Tar River from Bath. The laws of the 
province were shaped to make storage compulsory and a sys- 
tematic procedure was soon devised. A warehouse was built on 
Mr. Howell's land, convenient to Tarboro. The Assembly of the 
Province also designated by law certain individuals to inspect the 
tobacco in order to prevent inferior grades being sold as prime 
products. The inspectors were paid by the Government, and in 
a sense became agents for the merchants of the mother country. 

In 1766 still another warehouse was erected at Tarboro, both 
for storage purposes and as a convenient place for inspection 
and ship landing. A law providing for the storage and inspec- 
tion of tobacco expired that year, having been passed tentatively. 
Its efficiency was established and its usefulness conclusively 
proved. A new law was immediately enacted to continue the in- 
spection and to give more time for this purpose. The time of 
inspection at Tarboro was increased and the salaries of inspectors 
was placed at forty pounds. 

The matter of receiving tobacco, grading the same and ship- 
ping from the county proved a successful and profitable business. 
Farmers made money, men with capital made money by buying 
up quantities for storage, until in 1784, a landing place was con- 
structed on Tar River consisting of a structure in the nature of 
a wharf. The American Government during the Revolutionary 
War received tons of tobacco for sale, while the product acted in 
many instances as deferred money. Tickets were issued on tobacco 


stored in warehouses, and these tickets were used as a means of 
exchange in the place of actual specie. 

Agents were appointed during the period from 1784 and 1789 
to conduct sales of tobacco stored in the various warehouses in 
the southern counties. J. Haywood writes from Edgecombe 
County in 1787 that he was preparing to hold a sale of tobacco, 
since Bobert Stewart, the general purchasing agent, had arrived 
at Washington. After the sale delivery was made at Washington, 
the tobacco being sent down Tar River in flat boats, where it was 
placed in coastwise and foreign ships for transportation. 

Immediately after the Bevolution the culture of tobacco de- 
clined, due to the withdrawal of the English bounty and the loss 
of England as a market. Cotton then became the principal money 
crop and has had a continual and improved growth. It was due 
to the price of cotton, although raised in limited quantities, be- 
cause of the slow and crude methods of growing and preparation 
for market, that land increased greatly in value after the Eevolu- 
tion. In 1815 Edgecombe land was valued at $1,926,572.00, and 
slaves were valued at $1,435,450.00, making an average of $43.00 
per acre for land and $229.68 for each slave. Three years later, 
however, land for some cause had a rapid decline. 

From 1820 to 1860 Edgecombe made great progress, while the 
statistics showed the county as the banner county of the State. 
Formerly nothing good was expected of the land, since the swamps 
were r^arded as too flat to be drained and the forests as pine 
barrens. The county had capable men, but they were not classed 
as farmers. 

There were two factors which produced the remarkable growth 
and activity in agriculture — agricultural organizations, and com- 
posting and marling. While organization did much good, the ad- 
vance and success were due to the development and adoption of 
the system of thorough tillage, supplemented by compost. The 
word compost means a mixture, the practice of composting being 
of ancient origin. Evidently rediscovered in Edgecombe, for 
doubtlessly the farmers were not advertent to its use in England, 
as the early settlers never used it, but well knowing its strength 
and virtue, heed the advice of the wisest of poets : 

"And what is to come; 

And do not spread the compost on the weeds. 
To make them ranker." 

332 HisTOBT OF Edosooicbs County 

The compost was the one thing that while assuring the growth 
of good crops, year by year, steadily increased the fertility of the 
soil. The compost was made of soil, preferably that well filled 
with decaying vegetation, stable manure, cotton seed and marl, 
spread in thin layers, and built up to a height of two to four feet, 
of a conical or oblong shape. 

This practice laid the basis of the remarkable advance in farm- 
ing, and when Peruvian guano was introduced and a liberal ap- 
plication of it made per acre, in addition to composting, wonderful 
progress was made and such fine results obtained, that in 1861 
Edgecombe was the banner agricultural county in the State. 
During this time, by general repute, foremost in this great work 
were two brothers, Bobert R. and John L. Bridgers, lawyers by 
profession, farmers by nature. The largest yield of cotton on a 
considerable area, 500 acres, was a crop grown about 1858 by 
Robert R. Bridgers on his Straban plantation, the yield being 512 
bales. H. L. Staton, in the fifties, by the intelligent use of com- 
post and marl (he had the most advanced form or apparatus for 
lifting the marl), the marl lying unusually deep, developed, what 
when he purchased it, was a most unpromising tract of land, into 
a farm of fine productivity, and the impress that he put upon it 
remains today, a striking example of the fine capacity of the Edge- 
combe farmers between 1850 and 1861. Sometime early in the 
nineteenth century an agricultural society was organized for the 
purpose of stimulating an interest in agriculture. The organiza- 
tion had an effective and useful existence for about ten years, 
during which time subjects pertaining to farming were discussed 
and modem methods of industry were introduced. 

In 1850 the society was reorganized and highly commended by 
the Norfolk Daily News. The Agricultural Society celebrated its 
first anniversary in 1851 by the delivery of an address by John L. 
Bridgers, who by his industry, perseverance, and talents was 
among the foremost in this work. Edmond Ruffin, of Virginia, 
also took an active part in this work for several years. 

Under the guidance of this society, composed of the best farmers 
of the county, great good resulted in this section of the State. In 
a few years Edgecombe and Tarboro began a bright career and 
enjoyed prosperity and contentment. James Philips, an able 
chemist, was the first to introduce scientific methods of farming 

AoBicuLTUBBy Industbibs AND Intebnal Impbovembnts 333 

in the county. In 1852 he delivered an address before the Agri- 
cultural Society, which was later published in the Farmers Jour- 
naL In his address Dr. Philips gave an exposition of analytical 
chemistry as applied to farming. His ideas were later adopted 
with much profit. 

Edgecombe also profited by the assistance of Professor Emmons, 
State (Geologist, who made frequent addresses before the Agri- 
cultural Society. In cooperation with the late Gtevemors H. T. 
Clark and Elias Carr, and R. B. Bridgers, and John L. Bridgers, 
the use of marl was made known. These men began the use of 
marl about the year 1845. Commercial fertilizers were then 
practically unknown. 

In 1852 Professor Emmons made a chemical analysis of marl 
in Edgecombe on Beaver Dam Creek, White Acre, Shilo Marl 
beds, the yellow marl at Bells Bridge and at the farm of D. W. 
Bullock. From the examination the various ingredients were de- 
termined and recommendations for use were made. For ten 
years following the first examination no class of material was 
more frequently analyzed in the chemist's laboratory. It soon be- 
came apparent that no practice was found of greater value to 
agriculture than the use of marl in growing crops, especiaUy 

The use of marl became common in the county and production 
became greater in 1858 by the invention of a digger by Thomas 
F. Christman, of Salem, N. CA Mr. Christman was at that time 
a resident of Wilson, N. C. He had realized the necessity of 
some machinery to produce greater quantities. The implement 
was constructed, accordingly, for the purpose of raising marl from 
its bed or stratum, and resembled the derrick now used for heavy 
lifting. The machine worked well and did all that Christman 
claimed. The machine was successfully operated in Wilson 
County by Bobert Bynum. The machine had a capacity of 1,500 
bushels of marl an hour with eight laborers. A trial of the marl 
digger was also made on Swift Creek in the neighborhood of 

^The pimctieal um of such » mftehine wm lint pointed oat bj Dr. John B. 
Mereer, of Edgecombe Coanty. The ide* wm suggeeted to Mr. Christmui, who per- 
feeted the pUn. 

334 BLisTORT OF Edgecombe County 

Messrs. Gtorham, Whitehead, Powell, Braswell, and Cherry. 
More than eighty farmers were present from various sections of 
the county. 

Under the auspices of the Agricultural Society, marling was 
urged with good results. In 1845 the amount of cotton produced 
in the county was 1,500 bales, while in 1850 by the use of marling 
the county produced 6,000 bales, an astonishing increase in five 
years. All the crops improved in the same ratio. The farmers 
also resorted to every available means of improving their lands. 
They gave attention to liming, to land plaster, and to composts of 
every description. This method of agricultural interest was so 
noticeable that a traveler through Edgecombe in 1850 wrote that 
pile after pile of manure had been carted in the fields, and cov- 
ered with dirt to check evaporation until the proper time to plant 
the spring crops. A great change had come over this industry by 
the use of books — agricultural books — while Edward Ruffin, H. T. 
Clark, Elias Carr, R. R. and John L. Bridgers, Jesse Mercer, and 
others have the honor of producing a remarkable successful era 
in the history of agriculture in the county. 

The effective use of marl and the growth of agriculture at- 
tracted much attention in the State. In 1853 a delegation of 
farmers, consisting of Messrs. Whitehead, Bryan, and Briggs, 
came from Southampton, Virginia, to inspect the new methods 
of farming. These gentlemen were shown over Panola,^ the ex- 
perimental farm, belonging to Messrs. !N'orfleet and Dancy. They 
also saw the experiments made at the farm of Baker Staton. 
Visits were made in the Town Creek region, stopping at the vari- 
ous large farms. 

Edgecombe prided itself on its agricultural display, and visitors 
came, saw, and profited. Some comparative figures are necessary 
to show the increased production. In 1850 the county produced 
2,445,000 pounds of cotton, 715,665 bushels of com, 37,280 bushels 
of oats, and 14,295 bushels of wheat. Land formerly quite poor, 
but under the use of marl produced in 1852, 1,200 pounds of seed 
cotton to the acre, and one farmer in Town Creek section aver- 

^PanoU U an IndUn name meaning cotton. Hie farm waa pnrohaaed from 
Mr. John S. Dancy by Theophilna Parker for $14,000.00 for an experimental taxm. 



AosiouLTUBS, Industries and Intebnal Impbovembnts 335 

aged over a bale of 400 pounds to the acre. This was due to 
<K>mpost and use of marl. 

The advancement made showed conclusively that it was profit- 
able to read and study conditions. Below is a comparative state- 
ment of D. W. Bullock's improvement in three years, using the 
same number of hands and the same acreage. In 1849 Mr. Bul- 
lock produced 60 bales of cotton, employing 18 to 20 hands, mostly 
women and children. In 1850 he raised 61 bales of cotton, while 
in 1851 he produced 98 bales, almost doubling his production in 
three years. This instance is typical of almost every farmer who 
began the study and use of modem methods. Experiments were 
begun about 1853 with Peruvian guano and subsoiling, which 
proved very effective. 

During the course of the war between the states agriculture de- 
clined, due to attention being given to military affairs. The 
farmers, however, upon returning to their homes, began to repair 
waste places. They met with serious setbacks, due to low prices 
of every commodity and with a fluctuation of currency. Pork 
sold for six cents a pound, and other commodities at similar 
prices. Men were badly in debt; radical rule was oppressive, and 
the farmers were unable to raise money to finance crops or to pay 
mortgages upon their lands.^ Many farmers lost their farms on 
a mere $300.00 mortgage. Some of these farms have recently 
sold for $40,000.00. 

In addition the labor problem became alarming, due to the 
fact that the negro had received his freedom and appeared disin- 
clined to work for his former master. Moreover, many were leav- 
ing the county in a state of unrest and apparent dicontent. The 
action of the Federal Government in freeing the negro made 
labor very unsettled, deadened industry, and caused agriculture 
for a time to decline. !N'egroes refused to work for $15.00 per 
month and rations under a manager. They expressed desire, 
however, to farm on shares when they could do so without an over- 
seer. On the other hand, they preferred to work for wages with- 
out a manager, than on shares with one. Up to January 1, 
1867, only two farmers in the county had secured help for the 

^ Tha patsAffe of the lien Uw in 1866 ehmnged Edgecombe from »n exporter to mi 

836 EEiSTORT OF Edobcombs County 

year. The general idea prevailed among the negroes that some- 
thing would soon happen in their behalf. 

Moreover, n^;ro labor became unsatisfactory because of the 
lack of dependence to be placed in it. It was not unusual to make 
a contract and then break it, or else have it revised by the Freed- 
man's Bureau. iN'egroes would invariably break labor contracts 
and liked better to ^Vork around/' as they termed it, than to 
work steady. 

The labor condition, however, proved useful in that it caused 
many white people to begin working their own lands. It made the 
white farmer work, read, and think. There had never been 
greater activity on the part of the land owner than that which 
followed the war. The Agricultural Society had almost ceased 
to exist and did not have a reawakening until about 1869. 

In spite of these difficulties Edgecombe, in 1869, produced 
18,000 bales of cotton, and a good crop of com and wheat. The 
system of underground drainage by tiles for the flat land was 
adopted to some extent about this time, instead of ditching. 
Thoroughness of culture and neatness around the farmhouses and 
outbuildings showed growing interest. 

The county possessed men of faith and ability to restore agri- 
culture again on a sound basis. Many of these men — ^B. K 
Bridgers, John L. Bridgers, Jesse Mercer, A. J. Gotten, Elisha 
Cromwell, and others — owned many acres, and were men of 
capacity. Elisha Cromwell was the first successful planter of 
cotton in the county. He began with a few acres. He was bom 
in 1823 at the home of his father, Elisha Cromwell, who then 
lived in Edgecombe, having been one of the early settlers in the 
county. He farmed on a large scale, owning a hospital for the 
care of his many slaves. He sent Dink Hammond's ^ father, 
Wiley, to Richmond to learn the blacksmith's trade and established 
his own blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, tin shop on his planta- 
tion. Mr. Cromwell was consulted by many of the farmers as to 
the method of cotton culture. He also began the two-crop-a-year 
system by which one piece of land would be planted in cotton or 
com in the spring and harvested in time to be planted in oats, 
peas, or some soil building crop. In this manner a diversified 
crop was commenced, allowing the land to r^^ain its fertility. 

^A blftckimith in Tarboro today. 

AosicuLTUBEy Inbustbus and Intsbnal Impboybkbnts 337 

The county, beginning with 1867, began to revive, and the pro- 
duction of cotton for this year was 15,000 bales. The county, 
while it had considerable labor to leave, received many laborers 
from Naah and Halifax counties, thereby causing farm operation 
to increase. In addition inducements were offered immigrants 
to make the county their home. In July, 1869, Tarboro received 
twenty-eight Swiss immigrants who had been induced by a Mr. 
Atkinson to come to Edgecombe. These men were soon placed on 
the farms of Messrs. John Staton, John W. Pippin, William 
Pippin, and Mrs. Foxhall. They did good work, and offered a 
more reliable source of farm labor than the emancipated negro. 

In 1869 the Agricultural Society began to emerge from the 
effects of the war. It began to publish a monthly magazine at 
Tarboro known as the Reconstructed Farmer. James R. Thig- 
pen and John S. Dancy were its editors and proprietors. The pur- 
pose of the magazine was to discuss matters pertaining to farm- 
ing and farm life. Among some of the subjects presented to the 
people were ditching and manuring, growing hogs, how to destroy 
the tobacco fly, tobacco culture, cultivation of cotton, and straw- 
berry culture. 

Agricultural interests were also aroused in the holding of 
fairs, which exhibited displays of farm products. The year 1868 
marked the beginning of Edgecombe fairs, which, except for a few 
intermittent years, have been held in the county ever since. Tar- 
boro, since about 1800, had been noted for its racing. In 1837 
Tarboro had organized what was known as the "Tarboro Jockey 
Club,'' and had more than thirty-eight articles of regulation 
specifying the various official starters and defining the procedure 
of the course of races. There had been a few men in almost 
every decade of the county's history who possessed the sporting 
spirit, and racing was more or less practiced for these 180 years. 

The first fair, consisting of an agricultural display, racing, and 
other features necessary for a successful fair, was held near 
McEendree Church, near Cokey's Swamp, in 1873. In 1875 
Dr. A. B. Xobles, an enterprising farmer, supported the fair and 
managed to keep the annual exhibits at this place. The fair, 
however, was soon transferred to Bocky Mount. The interest soon 
died and the fair went out of existence, to be revived in Tarboro 
about 1881. At Tarboro the fair lived about three years, when 


Dr. Pittman began to rapport the movement by giving financial 
aid and eetabliBhing the premium idea for the best exhibit. The 
fair made money for a few years^ and at last ceased to exist. 

Tobacco^ which had suffered a setback for several years^ again 
came to the front about 1868. It had several years' prosperity, 
warehouses were erected, and places for storage constructed. 
About 1880, however, the large farmers on Tar Biver lost interest 
and preferred to plant cotton, which had increased in price. 
Tobacco culture was again revived about 1890, when cotton de- 
clined in price, and Tarboro soon possessed one of the best tobacco 
markets in Eastern North Carolina. Large prize warehouses 
were erected. R. O. Jeffreys came from Virginia and conducted 
a large warehouse for several years. The growth of tobacco was 
again discouraged about 1895, but was again revived in 1917. 

The fluctuation of the growth of tobacco was caused by two rea- 
sons: soil conditions and labor, and the change in prices. More- 
over, in all successful enterprises there must be a coming together 
or a harmonious cooperation in order to be successful For a suc- 
cessful tobacco market the merchants, the farmers, and the tobacco 
buyers must meet and make provision for the storage of the to- 
bacco and keeping active the tobacco interest. Such has not been 
the history of the tobacco market at Tarboro. 

Cotton, which had been a staple product of the county for 
many years, had its worst reverse immediately after 1865. Much 
of the cotton produced just before and during the war had been 
destroyed by Federal troops and by the Confederate Gk>vemment 
in order to prevent the North's securing same. At the termination 
of the war, therefore^ there was great scarcity. The fact, how- 
ever, that the United States Government placed a heavy tax upon 
cotton discouraged many planters. The Government tax was 
three cents per pound, causing a bale of cotton weighing 500 
pounds to cost the farmer $15.00. It is obvious that the southern 
farmer was robbed to enrich the North. 

After 1880, however, conditions became more normal and cot- 
ton reached a safe basis for production. Land conditions im- 
proved and cotton was produced in great quantities. A. B. Nobles 
produced 71,505 pounds of seed cotton, or sixty-five bales on fifty- 

AosiouLTUSB^ Inbustbus and Internal Impbovements 339 

two acres in 1882. He accomplished tliis by composting and 
manuring. Other farmers produced cotton and other crops in 

About this time new agricultural societies were organized. 
Among them were the Farmer's Institute, with Elias Carr as 
president and Frank Powell, secretary, and the Gridiron Olub, 
which discussed issues relative to the duties and rights of land 
owners, comparative conditions of the people, the farmer's margin 
of profit, things that effect the farmer, and other vital subjects. 
The late Judge Howard, R. H. Speight, B. B. Howell, W. P. 
Mercer, 'S. J. Mayo, J. J. Pittman, and others were active in the 
work. The Grange movement also supported this phase of farm 
endeavor, and W. R. Williams, grand master of the States Grange, 
and H. B. Battle appeared frequently in Edgecombe and advocated 
stock raising. Application of chemistry to agriculture took deeper 
hold, and a movement was made by W. R Cox to have the county 
commissioners appoint students to attend the Agricultural Col- 
lie at Raleigh, who should pledge themselves to return to the 
county and engage in farming. 

The Farmers Institute began to teach farming subjects, such 
as truck farming, tobacco and tobacco curing, proper forage crops 
and methods of curing, and the best methods of preparing land. 
Cotton culture and market conditions were also taught, and the 
idea of stock raising advanced. Tarboro also organized a Pro- 
gressive Association, with L. L. Staton as president, to take an 
interest in town and county matters. A building known as the 
Farmers' Institute Building was used for meetings and consulta- 

It was due to the various organizations that stock raising re- 
vived in 1887. For agriculture and stock raising the climatic 
advantages and the facilities in Edgecombe are unequaled. Gama 
grass as early as 1830 was used by William Foxhall. The valuable 
quality of this grass was developed, and was eagerly sought and 
transplanted in many places in the county. Along the Tar River 
and water courses the grass was cultivated with success. The 
farmers soon began to discover this fact, and began to raise cattle 
for a financial profit. In 1887 Judge Howard purchased a number 
of oows and began raising stock at the old Hall Farm. J. W. 
Jones also put in a large stock farm at his place six miles from 

840 HiSTOET OF Edgbcombe County 

Tarboro. The Shilo Stock Farm also bought fifty-seven cows of 
pure stock, while T. H. Gatlin and James Ruffin began the stock 
business on the Wimberlj place. 

In 1889 L. L. Staton began to raise pure bred horses at the 
Shilo Farm. These horses were exhibited at fairs at Tarboro 
and Fayetteville. He raised colts two and three years old that 
won nine-tenths of the races during the season of 1889 and 1890. 
The idea grew until most all farmers were raising stock, while 
race horses in the county became no longer a luxury. The in- 
dustry grew until a Live Stock Association was formed in De- 
cember, 1890, with L. L. Staton as temporary president, A. L. 
Hussey, secretary, and George Howard, Jr., as treasurer. In 
recent years George Holderness and Ben Shelton have succeeded 
in perfecting the stock industry and have become large shippers of 
cattle. The Live Stock Association was enlarged upon and Stock 
Feeders' Association survived the early organization. Animals 
and animal diseases were studied from a commercial viewpoint. 
Hogs and their diseases were given attention, until the county 
ranks among the first in the stock business. Considerable atten- 
tion was given to the production of grasses and clover. Alfalfa, 
to a large extent, was cultivated and forage was produced in 

The development of stock raising was the logical outcoitie of the 
labor conditions and intellectual growth among the farmers. 
Economic stress from 1886 to 1905 brought heavy pressure to 
bear upon the farmers. Labor agents were everywhere in the 
county, causing the farm help to leave. Attempts were made to 
prevent this both by a law which laid a heavy tax on agents, and 
by importation of the Portuguese negro. W. A. Hart, John 
Shackleford, and W. D. Pender tried the imported negro labor, 
but it proved unccessfuL The negro did not understand farm 
work. The stringent law against labor agents proved more 

From a general survey of farming industry in the last fifty 
years the conditions indicate that more thought and energy were 
devoted to the work. Agricultural test farms have been introduced 
and knowledge gained by experiments has been disseminated 
among the agricultural class. Seed selections improved, better 
modes of cultivation and fertilization have come. Where only 




one-half and one bale of cotton had formerly been produced to 
the acre^ one and two bales were raised. Ideal farms and farm 
living supplanted the crude idea of agriculture. Improvement 
of fields^ houses, and stock pens were noticeable throughout the 
county. Men who had moved to Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana 
returned to their native county, and paid handsome prices for 
the land that had sold for a mere pittance sixty years ago. Mod- 
em machinery answered the needs of production and the people 
proved ready to adopt new ideas. The new cotton gin was per- 
haps the greatest asset in increasing production. Where the 
county made 6,000 bales of cotton prior to the introduction of 
the new gin it increased to about 30,000 bales in more recent 
times. It is interesting to note that the county in 1881 had 51,880 
acres in cotton and produced 26,250 bales. 

Considerable attention has been devoted to the industry of 
farming. The county, however, although chiefly agricultural, 
has made rapid progress in other industries. The beginning of 
manufacturing dates with the arrival of the early settlers. The 
lack of manufacturing on a commercial scale led the settlers to 
make their own cloth, shoes, and hats. In 1800 the county had 
923 looms and spinning wheels, and made 250,000 yards of cloth 
annually. In addition there were three hatters' shops, two 
coopers' shops and numerous carriage and joiner shops. As early 
as 1787 a snuff factory was erected in Tarboro. The factory 
must have been a small enterprise, and all the work was done by 
hand and in a slow manner. There were also numerous grist 
mills in the colonial days. The Tarboro commissioners in 1789 
granted permission for a grist mill to be erected on Hendrick 
Creek. There are signs of old grist mills to be seen today. The 
Peter Hines Grist Mill, built in 1772, is visible today, in that an 
old millstone is still there. On Hendricks Creek several old logs, 
posts, and an old millstone indicate the former existence of a grist 
mill. On Buck Swamp, at the old plantation of Newit Pittman, 
Moses Horn built a mill in 1774. Will Barnes built his mill in 
1775 on Stoney Creek, while the old Isaac Sessum mill was erected 
in 1775 on Fishing Creek. 

In the colonial period something like the guild system of Eng- 
land existed in the county. All blacksmiths and carpenters 
served their trade, being apprenticed to some expert mechanic. 


Th« TarionB wood built houses in the countj were constructed on 
this plan. Ahnoet eyery crossroad had a blacksmith and car- 
penter shop. 

There were also in 1610, 159 distilleries, making 39,000 gallons 
of peach and apple brandy each year; 439 tanneries, using 1,964 
hides annually; 31 blacksmith shops; 4 hatters' shops; 3 carriage 
shops, and 29 cotton machines. The county was covered almost 
with saw machines, some run by horses, hand, and water. Several 
comHshelling machines wel*e operated successfully and profitably 
in the county as early as 1800. Wheat fans were not infrequent, 
and were operated at a rental cost of $1.00 per day. 

It may also prove interesting to know that some gold mining 
was done in the county at a very early date. On Cokey Swamp, 
near the farms of Dancy and Griffin, signs were discovered in 1794 
of a large pit and tools, where ore had been taken out of the 
ground. A. I. D. Sturdivant, who rented this farm in 1794, dis- 
covered the signs through a slave, and went to the place in the 
swamp. Here he found a mattock and some other mining in- 
struments and dug only a short time before finding some clean 
pieces of gold. The ore was in large lumps of different sizes, 
some of yellow and others of white colors and very heavy. The 
vein appeared not more than three feet in diameter, and was sur^ 
rounded by rotten wood, indicating a shaft. Ore was found 
inside the bark of the rotten logs. In 1834 Mr. Sturdivant moved 
to Tennessee and gave the information to the late Judge Howard's 
father. It was afterward discovered that the negro, owned by 
a Mr. Williams in the county, who was killed at Kings Mountain 
during the Revolution, was working with a man believed to have 
been a British deserter, and who had been employed by Mr. Wil- 
liams to get out the ore. The Englishman seems to have been a 
miner named Jackson, who worked in a shop and made large 
quantities of money and dug ore on the bank of Tar Biver. It 
was carried about three miles to a shop, where there was a small 
furnace to reduce the ore. Jackson absconded and took all the 
money with him, leaving the tools in the mine. Some cred^ioe 
was given the story, and tools were found in a decayed condition 
in 1834. 

One of the early pioneers in commerce in Edgecombe was one 
Mr. Watson. He was one of the largest merchants of New Eng- 


land, and began businees with John Brown, founder of Brown 
IJniTersity. Mr. Watson began prospecting in Eastern North 
Carolina in 1777, and at the age of nineteen was handling sums 
for investment amounting to $50,000.00. He visited Edgecombe 
in 1777, prospecting and reporting conditions favorable according 
to the times and conditions. 

As early as 1805 Edgecombe felt a new awakening for manu- 
facturing, which began on a small basis. It is clear that in that 
year a varnish factory was ered;ed in the county. In 1811 a deed 
was recorded in Tarboro courthouse signifying that in addition 
to many other merchandises, sixty-five barrek of varnish were 
shipped to Baltimore in care of Oaptain Davidson. Moreover, 
twenty-six barrels of varnish and thirty barrels of rosin were 
shipped to Town Creek. At the same time the tools and instru- 
ments of a turpentine distillery with a capacity of twenty barrels 
a day, and all tools of a lampblack factory, and twenty barrels of 
lampblack were sold at a sale at Tarboro. Jonas Bell became the 
owner by purchase, and it is reasonable to believe that the tur- 
pentine distillery, varnish factory, and lampblack factory were 
continued in operation. 

In 1847 Tarboro had a considerable boom from the turpentine 
industry. Four years prior to this time not more than 1,000 
barrels annually were produced in Edgecombe. In 1847 one 
large distillery was in operation, producing more than 300 barrels 
daily, while the quantity of turpentine timber soon made possible 
the erection of more distilleries. 

In 1833 the study of the cotton industry resulted in the inven- 
tion of a machine to separate the kemals from the lint of the 
hulls, which absorbed the oil and prevented a complete extraction. 
The machine was invented by Lancelot Johnson, then a resident 
of Edgecombe County. The oil extracted was used in lamps and 
served the purpose of kerosene oil. The result of this invention 
was the erection of machines at Tarboro and other localities in 
the county. A great revival occurred in the production of cotton 
and cotton manufacture. 

About this time agricultural works were erected in Tarboro, 
where the Edgecombe Iron Works now stands. Mr. Hines, of 
Wilson, N. C, first began the enterprise and later the late Judge 
Howard's father supported the project as a partner. The struc- 

344 HiSTOBT OF Edoioombs County 

ture at first was made of wood and when Mr. Howard became a 
partner a large brick building was erected. The plant made 
plows, castings, and repaired agricultural machinery of all 

Early in 1828 a movement began to organize the Edgecombe 
Manufacturing Company. Joel Battle became the nominal presi- 
dent. Registration books were opened by the county commission- 
ers in March, 1829, for the subscription of stock. Several hun- 
dred dollars were secured. Through public subscription and pri- 
vate capital enough was furnished to erect one of the greatest 
enterprises ever undertaken in this part of the State. The plant 
was located at the Big Falls of Tar River, where an abundant 
water power made possible the use of a large quantity of ma- 
chinery. A stone structure about seventy-six feet long by thirty 
feet wide with four floors was erected. The mill at first had 2,000 
spindles, with a large wooden building annexed for the accommo- 
dation either for spinning or weaving. Attached to the factory 
was also a large grist and saw mill, two store houses, a large dwell- 
ing and other necessary buildings. The mill was bought in 1829 
by a joint stock company. 

This was one of the early factories of its kind to be established 
in the South. The erection was almost immediately after the 
inventions for cotton pressing. On September 1, 1827, Lewis 
Laysaid, a minister, invented a machine to press 300 to 380 pounds 
of cotton into two breadths of forty-two inches, the bagging being 
four feet six inches long. The work was accomplished with con- 
siderable ease and in a short time. The press was worked by a 
lever acting on a fulcrum driving the headpiece, which pressed the 
cotton into the bale. It appeared that the press was accepted in 
the county about 1828. Many mechanics in the county examined 
the invention and pronounced it good. 

There is some dispute over the erection of another factory at 
the Falls of Tar River. It has been stated that the factory was 
projected by Henry A. Donalson, and that the comer stone was 
laid in 1816. The building was constructed in 1817, under the 
immediate direction of Mr. Donelson, and under the proprietorship 
of Joel Battle, Benjamin D. Battle, Henry A. Donelson, and 
Peter Evans. The factory was operated, as is now known, by Joel 
Battle until 1848, when it passed into the hands of James S. and 


William S. Battle, who refitted it with new machinerj. In 1868 
William S. Battle became sole proprietor. In 1863 Federal 
cavalry burned the factory and grist mill. Mr. Battle, with a 
true spirit of enterprise, commenced to rebuild in 1866, and com- 
pleted in 1867, a splendid brick building on the old site. The 
new building was also of four stories, the basement was used for 
looms, the first story for carding, the second for spinning, and 
the third for reels in which the ''dressing" was also provided. 
The factory, as it was rebuilt, contained thirty-eight looms, 1,600 
spindles and all necessary adjuncts. In full operation it had the 
capacity of using 700 pounds of raw cotton per day, and the 
looms turned out about 1,200 yards of shirting and 500 pounds 
of cotton yam. Fifty operators were daily employed. 

One of the possible means for aiding agriculture and business 
in Edgecombe was the establishment of a bank. The exact date 
of the first bank is not known, but in all probability it was before 
1815. It is to be inferred that one did not exist in 1811, since 
Jeremiah Battle in writing of Edgecombe at this time does not 
mention the operation of any bank in the county. On the other 
hand, there was in the county a large bank vault as early as 1818. 
Bennett Barrow, who must have been the owner, sold to Weeks C. 
Hadley a certain lot, one of the original lots, No. 80, in the Howell 
tract, with all the improvements on said lot, ''except a large vault 
to the bank," which he had recently sold the E. C. Guion and 
Company. This vault was evidently not the one located in the old 
brick bank building on Trade Street. This vault was probably 
the property of some private citizen who operated a bank in the 
county for several years. The Tarboro Southerner makes men* 
tion of Peter P. Lawrence being the cashier of the Bank of Tar- 
boro for thirty-four years. This was in 1853, thus placing Mr. 
Lawrence's activities as early as 1809.^ It is probable that when 
the branch of the State bank was located in Tarboro about 1830 
the private bank ceased to exist, and that Mr. Lawrence became 
cashier of this bank. R. B. Bridgers was for several years the 
president of the State bank; at one time James Weddell was 
president. In 1834 a report was current that Tarboro was to have 
a new bank, and the official returns to the town conmiissioners 
showed the bank had $60,200.00 from subscriptions. It could not 

^Aoeepttng this theory the operating of » bank would beyin earlier than this, for 
Mr. Hadlj proceeded Mr. Lawrence as cashier. 

846 HisTOBT OF Edgboombb Cotthtt 

hftTe beeiiy however, that Tarboro had two banks^ giiice in 1830 
the official report showed one '^State Branch Bank," and in 1850 
it still had only one. 

In 1865 the Bank of Tarboro showed a thriying business, and 
had a credit of $57,048.00. Its resources in 1856 was $16,380.00, 
with its resources and business increasing annually. In spite of 
the service that a bank was supposed and did give, the State bank 
had always been unpopular in Edgecombe. The Republicans and 
the people gwierally fought it for four years. When T. BL Hall, 
of Edgecombe, announced himsdf as a candidate for Congress in 
1889 it drew a notice from the Bepublicans, who shouted, ^o 
arms. Republicans, to arms. The war is begun. We have at 
length the great pleasure of displaying the broad Republican 
banner, inscribed with the name of that stem and consistent 
Democrat, Dr. Thomas H. HalL" 

The whole issue was that Dr. Hall, a Democrat, had turned 
Republican to beat the bank law. The Democrats were weak, 
and it was strongly desired to keep the Federalists, who were for a 
National Bank, from controlling the (Jovemment, whereas the 
Republicans were strong for a national treasury. However, 
under the leadership of Iforth Carolina politicians, the State 
Bank gained rapidly in the popular mind, and in 1880 a branch 
bank was established at Tarboro. This bank was eventually fol- 
lowed by the Pamlico Bank in 1875. The late Oeorge Howard 
was its first president and John S. Dancy its first vice-president. 
The late Fred Philips succeeded Mr. Howard as president, while 
H. L. Staton, the third president remained in this office for sev- 
eral years. Matthew Weddell was the first cashier of this bank, 
and remained as such for some time. Theophilus P. Cheshire was 
for many years the cashier. 

In 1858 the mechanical interest aroused considerable attention 
among the wide-awake people of the county. The movement 
began under the energy and direction of F. L. Bond, a prominent 
merchant at Tarboro. In 1858 he erected the first and only 
furniture factory in Edgecombe. His business was a pronounced 
success, and he was jocularly known as the 'Tumiture Cham- 
pion.'' He conducted a business similar to wholesalers, packing 
and shipping furniture to all parts of this and adjoining counties. 
It was his desire to give Edgecombe a reputation for manuf actur- 

Agbicultubb, Inbustbixs and Intbbnal Impboyembntb 847 

ing. About 1854 Mr. Bond introduced steam into his factory. 
He went North in the fall of 1854 and secured a large stock of 
materials, and was successful in enlarging his plant with new 
equipment and with steam power. The furniture he made was 
of fine quality, and there is, at this time, many pieces of it in 
the county. 

Soon after the war manufacturing in the county received an 
impetus toward further development. In 1670 there were in the 
county a number of mills, valued as follows : Thirteen steam mills, 
four water mills, employing 235 laborers, had a capital of 
$139,225.00, paid $43,696.00 in wages, used $145,934.00 worth of 
raw materials and turned out products valued at $267,762.00. In 
addition there were three carriage and wagon shops, one large 
cotton factory, five flour mills, and seven saw mills. These indus- 
tries employed 173 laborers, paid $30,156.00 in annual wages, 
used $116,712.00 in raw materials, and turned out $220,727.00 
finished products, and had an investment of $107,170.00. 

About 1870 an organization know as the Progressive Associa- 
tion was formed by John L. Bridgers and others. This organ- 
ization at its formation advocated reforms and suggested im- 
portant movements for the growth of the county^s industries. It 
b^;an the movement for the erection of the Tarboro Cotton Mills, 
which were established in 1888. O. C. Farrer was president and 
a Mr. Allen superintendent. The mill, for several months, proved 
a failure, due to inefficient and untrained labor. Friction was not 
infrequent between officials and employees, and Mr. Allen, a very 
capable and efficient man, became the victim of jealousy on the 
part of the employees. He lost his position in four months, being 
succeeded by A. M. Failey. The mill was enlarged after a few 
years of operation, a new factory being built adjacent to the old 
one. May 1, 1899, both mills closed a contract for new machinery 
for $95,000.00, making an entire new equipment. The operation 
of the mills, beginning with 1910, was more or less irregular, and 
the property decreased in valuation. In recent years the mills 
passed into the hands of W. A. Hart, and have had a continuous 
and profitable operation. An argument for mills to increase the 
price of cotton was inaugurated. The Progressive Association, 
under the wise leadership of Tarboro citizens, advocated the erec- 
tion of cotton mills to manufacture the cotton produced in the 


county in order that better prices might prevail. In 1899 cotton 
sold for five or six cents. Since the tobacco invasion of the 
nineties the cotton crops had fallen to 20,000 bales, and was 
worth only $600,000.00. As a manufactured product the cotton 
was worth $2,400,000.00 a profit for manufacturing of $1,800,- 
000.00 on a $600,000.00 crop. This made a bale of cotton, which 
brought $30.00 as an unfinished product, bring about $120.00 
when made in cloth and yarn. 

This situation was discussed by the leading citizens. The pur- 
pose was to solicit subscriptions to form a stock company with 
a capital of $1 50,000 JW) for the construction of the Fountain 
Cotton Mill, in 1899. W. E. Fountain, for several years active 
in Edgecombe affairs, realized the advantage of buying the cotton 
in the county or buying elsewhere if need be. As a result of this 
purpose a new mill, employing many operatives, began the manu- 
facture of cotton products in 1900. 

In the meantime, John L. Bridgers, Jr., who was active in the 
county's promotion, became chairman of an organization to secure 
a peanut factory for Tarboro in 1899. The county was becoming 
a peanut producer and was in need of a home market. An effort 
was carried on by Mr. Bridgers, W. E. Fountain, and others, 
showing the benefit the farmers would derive from the operation 
of a home plant. 

About this time also John Shackleford began the erection of 
the River View Knitting Mills. It had about one-tenth the 
capital of the Tarboro Cotton Mills and employed about as many 
operatives. In 1890 the capacity of this mill was increased fifty 
per cent and became a great asset in the industrial life of Edge- 
combe. After several years of successful, prosperous operation 
the mill was destroyed by fire. 

The Tarboro Board of Trade, organized in June, 1895, was a 
useful factor in its efforts to aid agriculture and to develop the 
county. W. E. Fountain was president and F. S. Royster vice- 
president, Henry Morris second vice-president, C. W. Jeffries 
secretary, John L. Shackleford, T. H. (Jatlin, Greorge Howard, Jr., 
L. L. Staton, S. S. N*ash, J. M. Barbee, R. H. Parker, J. R 
Pender, E. V. Zoeller, directors. This organization promoted all 

Agbiculturb, Industribs and Internal Improvements 349 

industries, and sent men through the eastern counties of the State 
to advertise Tarboro's tobacco market and manufacturing estab- 

Probably at no time since the war did Tarboro have such 
inducements as were presented during this period. The merchants 
were doing splendid business, having purchased goods to the 
amount of $400,000.00 for six months ending 1891. This was 
unprecedented in the town's history, and indicated that trade was 
increasing. Men embarked in greater mercantile undertakings 
and increased the capital invested in existing firms. Scarcely a 
house could be rented, especially a business house. Capitalists 
were investing in real estate and buildings. Tarboro and Rocky 
Mount began to make improvements in town and city adminis- 
tration and conveniences. The State Legislature authorized an 
issue of bonds for water, sewerage, and lights in 1899. A board 
of public works was erected in Tarboro, consisting of George 
Howard, D. Litchenstein, Fred Philips, A. M. Failey, W. E. 
Fountain, J. H. Baker, and R. H. Gatlin. Under the board's 
direction and after the bond issues of $40,000.00, T. H. Gatlin 
and E. P. Meridith, of Winston, began the survey of the town 
preliminary to the installation of water mains and sewers. Rocky 
Mount the same year began its work on improvements, having 
voted a bond issue of $49,000.00. More than nine and one-half 
miles of piping was laid. 

Movements were inaugurated for the erection of public build- 
ings and in the course of ten years, from 1886 to 1895, the county 
erected a county home of credability, a splendid courthouse, en- 
larged the jail, and constructed a city hall. The city hall built 
in 1886 was unfortunately subjected to quite a squabble, which 
resulted in its site being twice paid for by the town. 

Under the continuous and profitable development of agricul- 
ture the small neighboring towns began to grow. Conetoe, under 
the wise investment of capital by Claude Wilson and N, B. Daw- 
son, b^an to erect in 1899 a $10,000.00 plant to make truck 
packages and to gin cotton. Conetoe was at the time in the center 
of the trucking belt. Cotton gins of the modem pattern were 
erected in various parts of the county in Tarboro, Battleboro, 
Whitakers, and Rocky Mount. 

350 HiSTOBT OF Edgecombe County 

In the meantime at Rocky Mounts on the Edgecombe side, the 
Atlantic Coast line Railroad Company erected very extensive 
shops. ^ Maccelesfield, Pinetops, and other villages soon began to 
take on the appearance of thriving centers. Banks were estab- 
lished at various places, giving impetus to industries and farming. 

F. S. Royster, an adopted son of Edgecombe, erected the first 
factory for the manufacture of fertilizer in Tarboro, and from 
this beginning has become one of the leaders of that industry in 
the South. In 1900 there were more than five oil and fertilizer 
mills in the county. 

Parallel with the growth of the industries in the county was 
that of the development of internal improvements. In the very 
early days the county was generally at a disadvantage for the 
want of good roads, railroads, and waterways. The means of 
conveyance was by stage and wagon trails. The condition was 
more or less improved by the Colonial Assembly, which passed 
acts relating to Edgecombe for the improvement of dirt roads. 
Bridges were also built by acta of legislation. Stages were used as 
a means of passenger transportation, and for carrying mail. As 
late as 1850 stages were run from Tarboro to Petersburg, Ya., 
leaving the former place every Tuesday and Friday, and arriving 
at the latter place on Thursday and Saturday. A mail stage was 
also operated twice a week between Tarboro and Newbem. Mails 
were carried by a four-horse stage running from Petersburg to 
Enfield, to Tarboro and Rocky Mount three times a week, and 
intersecting the !N'orfolk and Fayetteville mail route, where mails 
were exchanged. In this manner mails were also forwarded to 
Washington City by way of Petersburg and Richmond. Passen- 
gers passed one night at Halifax, two nights at Petersburg, and 
on the third boarded a steamboat at Fredericksburg for Wash- 
ington. The fare in those days was $17.00 one way. Stages 
were also operated between Raleigh and Tarboro, and Ifashville. 
It was over these routes that the cotton and other products of 
Edgecombe found their way on wagons to markets in Virginia. 
More than 3,000 bales of cotton passed through Tarboro each year 
for Norfolk and Petersburg. In 1830 the "Virginia Transport 
Company was organized and ran wagon trains through the eastern 

^DoubtleMlj the high standing of Edgecombe and its proeperous and growing 
agriculture had much to do with the selection of this location. 


AGBicuLTUSBy Industbibs AND Intbbnal Impboyembnts 351 

counties. This company also operated two steamboats — the 
Petersburg of 142 tons and the North Carolina of seventy tons — 
upon Tar Biver. When the water was low, flats were used to 
carry the cotton to Washington, N. C, for reloading on the 

The operation of these stages connected the county with the 
outside world, but progress was slow. Road conditions were soon 
improved by the making of plank roads. David Barlow was the 
first overseer of improved roads. The stage making regular trips 
from Williamston connecting with the boat line at Plymouth 
was the first to be improved within Edgecombe. If one wished to 
go from Baltimore to Tarboro, the journey was made to Wil- 
liamston by stage and from there to Plymouth, where a boat was 
operated to Edenton. The stage then carried the passenger to 
Elizabeth City. And there the passenger took a boat for Nor- 
folk and thence to Baltimore. 

The plank road building began about 1800 and this method 
was used for improvanent as late as 1850. The use of plank 
roads was in evidence until recent times. In 1853 stock was sub- 
scribed for what was then known as the Tarboro and Bocky 
Mount plank road. The amount subscribed for building during 
this year was $20,000.00. In 1852 H. T. Clark advocated in the 
State Senate the building of a plank road from Tarboro to James- 
ville, and succeeded in obtaining an appropriation for this pur- 
pose. In 1854 road building and better roads was well under way 
in Edgecombe and adjoining counties. Boads from Tarboro to 
Wilmington, Bocky Mount, Enfield, and Wilson were laid off 
and supported by taxation. A writer in 1846 gave credit to the 
county for being out of debt and keeping roads and bridges in 
good repair. 

In recent years the county advanced a step for making better 
roads and bridge building. More than $140,000.00 in bonds were 
issued to construct better roads and bridges. The county, as a 
result of this movement, have more than forty concrete bridges 
and many miles of good roads which reflects credit upon the 
progress made in the county. 

Water transi>ortation has for many years been of great im- 
portance to the county and its industries. In the colonial period 
English vessels came up the Tar Biver to trade with the early 

352 BEiSTOsY OF Edobcombb County 

settlers, took their tobaoco and naval stores, and brought them 
the necessaries of life. The Colonial Legislature appropriated 
various sums of money to keep the channels open for safe naviga- 
tion. Almost every other year the river was cleared from falling 
trees and other obstructions. In 1796 an act was passed to dean 
and improve the river from Tarboro to the mouth of Fishing 
Creek for better navigation. In the course of four years Mshing 
Creek was opened by act of law, and this tributary of the Tar 
ofiFered, to some extent, advantages for transportation. 

The Tar River Navigation Company was organized about 1810. 
Many books and papers of this company were destroyed, and it is 
impossible to state with any degree of accuracy the details of the 
company's operation. Many of the subscribers of stock refused 
to pay the installments, which involved the organization in sev- 
eral law suits. The afiFair was not settled until in 1825. 

In the mea itime operations were commenced on the river with 
the $25,000.00 appropriation made by the State and funds ob- 
tained from the few private stockholders. The president and 
the directors contracted for the erection of a lock below Green- 
ville, but before its completion, the contractor abandoned the 
work. Prior to 1835 there had been no general meeting of the 
stockholders, nor had the company given any evidence that would 
show its continued existence. 

It is a singular fact that Tarboro was the farthest interior 
point of usual navigation in ITorth Carolina. Various boats, from 
flat boats to large steamers, have operated on Tar Kiver and 
Fishing Creek. The first permanent boat, however, was the 
Amaidas. This vessel had comfortable cabins, tastily finished 
and furnished. It also had a large promenade deck and conven- 
ience to make the traveler feel at home. It entered Tar River for 
the first time October 27, 1849, towing four flat boats laden with 
merchandise for Tarboro merchants. Prior to this time goods 
were carried to Greenville by boat and wagoned from there to 
Tarboro. The State appropriated $25,000.00 in 1846 to com- 
plete the improvement of the river for large boats. 

In 1848 the Tar River Steamboat Company was reorganized, 
and was composed entirely of citizens of Edgecombe. A boat 


was purohcMed to operate between Tarbora and WaahiBglon. 
Soon afterwards a boat named Edgecombe was operated between 
these points. 

In 1869 navigation was resumed hj Captain Hattan^ of the 
Coiion Plami. This boat, iMwever^ was smaU and insufficient 
It remained for Captain A. P. Hnrt to introdnoe a new and larger 
boat^ which was snecessfnlly opetated bj Captain Stjron. Cap- 
tain A. W. Stjr<m, in charge of the Edgeeombe, nudntained a 
satisfactory schedule between Tarboro and Washington. He of- 
fered the shippers a fairer freight rate, and reeeived a good 
patronage and soon built more boats. In the course of three years 
the OreenviUe, Tnkrboro, and Edgeeambe were operating on Tar 
Biver. In the fall of 1882 Captain Styron did not reoeiTe the 
usual amount of freight on account of the railroad rates and the 
decline of businaas. He was, ther^ore, compelled to discontinue 
the Tarboro. In 1880 the Edgec&mbe was sold for $3,500.00 to 
TS. L. Fulford and Skinner Hoskins, who, for a time, operated 
the boat as before. The Edgecombe cost $6,000.00, was a screw 
propeller, with an engine of thirty horsepower. Captain Mayo 
was the operator from 1877 to 1880. The schedule connected 
with the Clyde Line at Washington for all water routes to Vir- 
ginia. The boat had a capacity for 225 bales of cotton and sixty 

In 1887 Captain A. W. Styron placed on the river a new boat 
called the Beta, plying between Tarboro and Washington. This 
yessei was a freighter of sixty tons and drew eight inches of water. 
It was built to nayigate shallow water, had a flat bottom, and 
capable of transporting heayy merchandise. In more recent times 
boat transportation has been successfully conducted by the Tar 
Riyer Company in connection with the Tar Biyer Oil Company, 
of Shilo and Tarboro. Two boats, Tarboro and Shilo, are now 
employed for freight and passengw service. In 1899 the boat 
Tarboro began making trips up Fishing Creek, carrying freight 
and fertilizer. 

The history of railroads in Edgecombe is of sufficient impor- 
tance and constitutes a volume of material which would make 
a chapter itself. Only a mention of the important facts, how- 
ever, can be stated in the short space allotted for this subject. 


354 History of Eogboombb Oountt 

Although there was considerable talk, and mention is made of 
the Tarboro and Hamilton Railroad in 1831, of the Tarboro and 
Enfield Kailroad of 1852, and the Tarboro and Rocky Mount of 
1852, the first railroad having its origin in the county dates from 
1859. The Tarboro and Enfield Railroad was incorporated in 
1852 and the Williamston and Tarboro road in 1853. 

In 1859 the directors of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad 
Company were determined upon building a branch road from the 
main line at Rocky Mount to Tarboro. The purpose was to meet 
competition and the close rates of the steamboat lines. A survey 
was made early in 1859 and the cost was estimated at $124,718.29. 
The plan was approved by the stockholders and the books were 
open for subscriptions of the stock of the branch line. Subscrip- 
tions, however, were slow. The result was the stockholders on 
November 8, 1860, started a plan to stimulate the purchasing of 
stock. This entitled those who bought stock and paid for same 
in full by November, 1861, to be admitted as full stockholders in 
the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. Moreover, their dividends 
would date from 1860. 

In this manner sufficient subscriptions were obtained to begin 
work in 1860. Toward the end of this year the road was com- 
pleted from Rocky Mount to Tar River. Bridge building delayed 
further construction for sometime, but the road was finally ex- 
tended across the river. The road paid well. The first two months 
this track received a net income of $1,239.46. The gross income 
was $1,605.09 less $365.73 operating expenses. This road proved 
an important asset during the war of 1861-65. The building of 
this branch railroad was due to the untiring efforts of Robert R. 
Bridgers, who afterward became president of the Wilmington 
and Weldon Railroad Company and the founder of the Atlantic 
Coast Line Railroad Company, and for many years its president, 
being president at the time of his death. 

In 1862 the continuation of this road toward Washington was 
made and in that year an act was passed incorporating the Wa^- 
ington and Tarboro Railroad. This was built and consolidated 
with the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company. The branch 
road from Rocky Mount to Tarboro was extended in 1869. At 
this time the extension of stock was made $3,000,000.00. The 
points of Jamesville, Plymouth, and Edenton were touched by 

AoBiouLTXTBE; Industbdes AND Intebnal Impbovements 355 

this extension. This division was later known as the Williamston 
and Tarboro Bailroad, and was merged in with the Seaboard and 
Raleigh in 1881. B. B. Bridgers was president and John Norfleet 
director for several years. The branch from Bocky Mount to 
TarborOy which was carried to Norfolk, was later known as the 
Atlantic and North CaroUna Bailroad. 

There resulted, as was the usual custom, much controversy over 
the Seaboard and Baleigh Bailroad. In March, 1882, the citizens 
of Sparta Township met at Sparta, and the chairman, Elias Carr, 
appointed a committee to express the opinions of the citizens on 
the railroad project. The point was made that a line for the road 
running through Edgecombe by way of Wilson and Baleigh— 
the route proposed by J. B. Thigpen — ^was a better route than by 
way of Tarboro. The conmiittee also showed that it would be ten 
miles shorter and would not be subject to competition by the 
Wilmington and Weldon road. Moreover, according to the points 
made by the committee, it would be less expensive and by crossing 
Tar Biver eight or ten miles below Tarboro it would be in a better 
position to compete for freight on the river than it would at 

There was probably some grounds for this argument, since 
Sparta at this time was thickly settled, there being in the vicinity 
an inexhaustible supply of marl that could be transported, and in 
addition the railroad would be in a position to command all the 
trade of Pitt County, with a population of nearly 20,000. The 
county of Wilson, which handled more cotton than Tarboro, 
would also be touched, with the addition of Greene, Wayne, Nash, 
and Franklin counties. The conclusion reached, therefore, by the 
conunittee was that if a line was necessary for Tarboro it could 
be accommodated by a branch line. 

In the meantime the chief engineer, 0. L. McAlpine, came to 
Tarboro and informed the people that he was sent to build the 
road from Tarboro to Williamston, and that his instructions had 
not been changed. On March 30, 1882, H. J. Bogers, vice-presi- 
dent, wrote the Tarboro SoiUhemer, the road would run from 
Williamston to Tarboro and would be completed by the middle of 

The citizens of Sparta learned of the statement and raised 
$3,500.00 on subscription and promised as much more as an in- 

356 HiBTOBT OF Edoboombx Couhty 

dneenient for the road to paae through that seetioii. It was to the 
interest of the town of Tarboro to haye the raihroad hoilt^ aa it 
wonld giye another outlet 

The county had since 1837 heefn disappointed in not having a 
railroad. For this reason at times rerj little effort was mani- 
fested in promoting railroad interest. The Seaboard and Raleigh 
road was hindered because of the lack of the interest in sufficient 
subscriptions. When the time came to extend this road to Jamee- 
ville and on to Ralei^, Edgecombe was supposed to subscribe 
$800,000.00. When the subscriptions opened, however, onlj 
$3,000.00 or $4,000.00 had been given. The people excused 
themselves on the ground that they had given the former subscrip- 
tions for this and other roads $13,000.00 more than its share, and 
had received no road. They wanted the assurance of a road, and 
when the boats on Tar River began to unload iron for the track 
in 1882 all doubt was cast aside and Edgecombe and its merchants 
gave liberally. 

The earliest projected railroad in the county was the Tarboro 
and Hamilton. In 1832 at the time that the railroad mania seized 
the county a law was passed to incorporate this road. The bill 
was introduced in the House of Oommons by Mr. Pittman. On 
January 13, 1833, the citizens of Tarboro in meeting with John 
R. Lloyd as chairman, thanked Mordecai Flemming, representa- 
tive from Surry County, and Lewis P. Thompson, representative 
from Bertie County, for defending bill for Edgecombe. The 
Tarboro people were anxious to secure the road, but the plans fell 
through. Edgecombe had been well represented on the Board of 
Internal Improvements. James S. Battle was one of the four 
directors appointed by the State to direct and recommend internal 

The surveying b^an in 1837 by L. S. Pender, who was em- 
ployed by Frank Hitch. The plan was to run the road to Goose 
Nest and into Martin County for about three miles. The road 
was designed as a narrow-gauged road for hauling logs. Soon 
after the work began the people of Kill Quick raised $6,000.00 by 
subscription and induced them to come their way. Consequently, 

^ In 1876 the fever for railroads v»8 to *eato, appHcaUon wm made to the 
State Legislature for a charter for Tarboro Street Railway Company. Hie plan 
failed to materiahae. 

AoBiouLTUBS, LfDUSTsns AND Intebnal Impboyiments 857 

tke Hamilton Hitch ronte was postponed. The fact also that 
there were projects of building a road from Suffolk to Tarboro 
discouraged the original plan. Also a line from Whitakers to 
Hamilton was discussed and planned. 

The road from Tarboro to Hamilton was laid and financed by 
Whitby and Dixon, commission merchants of Baltimore. The 
original inyestment was $60,000.00. The road operated for some 
time when Dixon died. The Baltimore Trust Company was ap- 
pointed to settle his estate. The president of this company was 
also a stock owner in the Atlantic Coast Line Bailroad, and he 
informed Hitch to pull his road up. Mr. Hitch gave the impres- 
sion he would not, but would sell for $60,000.00.^ Mr. Hitch ap- 
pealed to the people of Edgecombe for assistance and .requested 
them to subscribe $10,000.00 worth of stock in order that the road 
might continue. The people failed to respond. 

The most recent and, from all indications, the most successful 
railroad undertaken in Edgecombe and, it may be justly added, 
in North Carolina is the East Carolina Railway. Henry Clark 
Bridgers represented and worked out the practical idea which 
dominated his uncle, R. R. Bridgers, president of the Wihnington 
and Weldon Railroad in 1867. The first attempt at this undertak- 
ing was to construct a tram road for logging purposes. The pur- 
pose grew and developed under the individual management of 
H. C. Bridgers, president,^ until in 1899 a passenger service was 
established between Tarboro and Macclesfield. The agricultural 
transportation was heavy, and towns were located along the line 
and began to grow. Pinetops, Macclesfield, and others between 
Tarboro and Hookerton in a distance of forty miles, have made 
this a most profitable asset to the industries of the county. 
Scarcely a town on this road is not growing, while ahnost every 
industry shows the mark of Mr. Bridgers' energy and business 
ability. Tarboro became the terminus. 

Before the end of 1899 eleven miles of track were laid to Pine- 
tops, and in the following year extensions were gradually made 
until the line reached Hookerton, Greene County, N. C. The line 
established a shop at Tarboro, and has valuable rolling stock and 

^Mr. Bridgers was only 17 years of age when this enterprise was undertaken; 
this is the greatest individnal effort ever undertaken in the county. 

868 HisTOBY OF Edgxcombs Coijntt 

equipment. The fact that the feat of laying this road was accom- 
plished places H. 0. Bridgers foremost among the business men 
of the State and certainly in Edgecombe County. 

Railroads, steamships, and all means of transportation is the 
life of industry. From the facilities the county has developed 
and grown to a place among the first in the State. It has enjoyed 
prosperity and has entered into an era of further progress and 
development that is full of a mighty promise. 



Two unfortunate circumstances influenced the rise and develop- 
ment of education. The desire to learn, especially in the early days, 
was overshadowed by economic interests. Moreover, there was 
a lack of qualified teachers. The fact also that the people were 
more concerned about personal comfort and providing shelter 
for themselves in the colonial days left very little time and op- 
portunity for constructing houses of learning and furthering 
education. Education, as it existed in the early eighteenth cen- 
tury, was enjoyed by the few, and the bulk of settlers in Edge- 
combe were men without education and social advantages. Many, 
as has been stated, were of the indenture and servant class from 
England, and were without the elementary rudiments of book 
knowledge. Those of the more fortunate class were the men 
taught at home, and were more deeply engaged in accumulating 
material goods than in difiFusing learning among the less fortunate 

Prior to the Bevolution Edgecombe County possessed indi- 
viduals with considerable talent and with a fair degree of learn- 
ing. As far as literary merit is concerned, however, the county 
and the State, with a few possible exceptions, was sadly deficient. 
Among the early settlers Elisha Battle, Henry Irwin, William 
Williams, Dr. John Leigh, Lawrence Toole, and a few others 
were considered men of ability and education during their time. 
Such men held responsible positions that required a knowledge of 
writing, reading, and arithmetic. 

Possibly the most learned man of this period was Thomas 
HalL^ He possessed remarkable natural talent, and was familiar 
with the Latin classics. He also had a good grammatical educa- 
tion. He represented the county in the State convention after 
the Bevolution, and was a lawyer of no little ability. His talent 
as a lawyer, however, was overshadowed somewhat by his poetical 
inclination. He was practically led away from the practice of 
law by his studies and ])oetical efforts. He was a man of ready 

^ Not Dr. T. H. HftU, who wm of a later period and much more widely known. 


360 HisTOBY OF Edoboombs County 

wit and biting satire. This quality was noticed in all his writings. 
At the time of his greatest power he was the only professional 
man in Edgecombe who was a native of the county. 

It was customary for the instruction of the youth to be con- 
ducted by clergymen and men of pious inclinations. This was 
due to the fact that this class of men were devoted to a profession 
that set them apart from the remunerative endeavors in the com- 
marcial field. The cause of the insufficiency of compensation for 
edmcaiional work today is perhaps a survival of the old idea that 
the finer sciences and endeavors are to be rendered without pe- 
cuniary remuneration. The first parish clergyman, Beveiend 
ICr. Moir^ wma perhaps awaro of the indifference of the people^ 
and not receiving any support from them he was not interested 
in establishing a schooL About 1741, however, a small school of 
minor importance was established in the county. If any existed 
l^or to this date no records exist which relate the fact. A few 
years later Atill another school was erected. These two schools 
were in active op^*ation until 1770. These were subscription 
schools, namely, all those attendii^ paid for instruction. This 
naturally worked hardships on the children of poor parents, who 
were, on account of necessity, unable to pay the required fee- 
Even the more wealthy parents failed to send their children out- 
side the county for a college education until the establishment of 
the University in 1790. 

After the Revolution more interest was shown in education, 
while the people realized its lack. A private school, known as 
the '^Tarborough Academy,'^ was established in Tarboro in 1793. 
Very little Ls known of ihe school except the date of its erection 
and its location. Tarboro at the time was a small village, but 
large enough to support a private school by charging a small 
tuition. In 1799 various societies were organized for public and 
civic interest. Under the auspices of these organizations Uie 
first library was founded in 1800. The movement lasted only a 
few years and the library was sadly neglected. The books were 
scattered and interest subsided. Several efforts were made to 
secure more libraries^ but without success until a society called the 
Agricultural Society was organized in 1810. This society appro- 
priated funds to revive the library. This organization was com- 

Education S61 

poeed of about diirtj public spirited men who made private 
donations to secure books and to create interest in agriculture 
and art. 

The real movement for better education began in 1806. Yet 
with the new interest created the progress was very slow and barely 
kept pace with the population. A year afterwards a general in- 
terest for education prevailed, and a free school movement began. 
By the latter part of 1807 the people had subscribed more than 
$300.00. The poor children, however, received little benefit be- 
cause the free school was abandoned before it became an institu- 
tion. In the course of five years, however, the county succeeded 
in establishing seventeen schools, which were operated on a sub- 
scription basis. About 400 scholars were in attendance and were 
taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. The success of these 
schools was described by Jeremiah Battle as very poor on account 
of the lack of qualified teachers. 

The improvement resulting from the schools is noticeable from 
the advancement made both in the religious, and educational 
awakening. Elnowledge was more general, learning and morality 
was stimulated, and the foundation was laid for the production 
of a better society. About 1812 nearly 110 newspapers were taken 
in the oounty, interest in the State University was manifested, 
and, according to the county^s population today, very little im- 
provement can be mentioned. Many possessed a desire and ob- 
tained a more liberal education than formerly. It was estimated 
that about two-thirds of the people could read, one-half of the 
males could write, and about one-third of the females could write 
their names. 

It was characteristic of thi^ period, as well as of today, that 
the girls displayed considerably more ambition for knowledge of 
books. With the erection of schools in various parts of the county 
a better diffusion of knowledge became apparent, with the girls 
leading both in attendance and work. The account gives the girls 
commendation for a desire to write and acquire a more important 

During the revival of learning societies were formed and estab- 
lished, thus enabling the people to obtain the use of books for 
those desirous for intellectual improvement. It proved effective 

1 Edgecombe in 1810 by Jeremiah Battle. 

362 HiSTOBY OF Edoeoombb County 

both in learning and morals, but in Edgecombe's cbaracteriBtio 
manner, new enterprises that promised utility, advancement and 
sociability, when the novelty wears off, are neglected and discarded. 

The requirements for a collegiate education could not be met 
by the county's system of schools. The logical result of this fact 
led to the movement for academies. The boys, prior to 1815, were 
sent to academies in the adjacent counties. The schools at Westry- 
ville in "Saah County and Vine Hill in Halifax County had the 
reputation for being good and also had efficient teachers. Several 
scholars from Edgecombe were accordingly pupils. The more 
progressive people realized, however, the expense of sending the 
boys away from home for a preparatory education and attempted 
to erect Mount Prospect Academy in 1810. The movement was 
delayed by the lack of cooperation and financial support. 

The State of ITorth Carolina had attempted to foster a system 
of academies in 1803, and passed a bill to establish a uniform 
and general system of education in every county by funds to 
be obtained for the construction of buildings to be known as 
Academies of Sciences. The curriculum included the studies of 
English, writing, arithmetic, mercantile bookkeeping, geometry, 
trigonometry, surveying, navigation, geography, philosophy, and 
the laws of IN'orth Carolina, the last the most valuable instruction 
no doubt to be taught. The teaching of French was also pro- 
posed as a useful and ornamental accomplishment. The citizens 
of Edgecombe, however, refused to take advantage of the State 
incorporation, due to the fact that the bill made no provision 
for any certain revenue for the erection and maintenance of the 

The movement for academies continued, however, and, sup- 
ported by the town of Tarboro, it proved successful In July, 
1813, Thomas Guion, James Southerland, S. D. Cotton, Joseph 
Bell, and Theo Parker, town commissioners, issued a notice for 
bids on the erection of a building to be known as the Tarboro 
Academy.^ The dimensions of the building was to be sixty feet 
in length by twenty-four feet in width and two stories high. The 

^The old Tarboro Academy of 1798 probably was abandoned about 1800. 

Education 868 

structure was made entirely of wood. The construction required 
about one year and school opened on the second Monday in Janu- 
ary, 1816.1 

Tarboro Academy was fortunate in receiving the services of 
Robert Hall, a graduate of the University at Chapel Hill, and 
a former teacher in the Raleigh Academy. Mr. Hall was a man 
well qualified for the much needed work in the Tarboro schooL 
His scholastic studies at the University was highly commendable. 
He opened the school for the teaching of reading, writing, arith- 
metic, English grammar, geography and the study of globes. For 
these subjects a tuition of $16.00 was charged. In addition the 
teaching of Latin and Greek languages and the difiFerent branches 
of mathematics were taught, with a charge of $22.00 tuition fee. 
The tuition included heating in the school room, while an 
extra charge of a reasonable rate was made for students out of 

The physical equipment of Tarboro's first academy was evi- 
dently very crude. Blackboards were just being employed in the 
larger schools in Europe, and the United States had adopted 
their use only in the best schools in the cities. The modern school 
desks and equipment were practically unknown until after 1820. 
The furniture used, therefore, must have been the old long bench 
and crudely constructed tables for writing purposes. 

The academy in 1824 made a change in its principal and also 
added the teaching of the French language. A Mr. Griswold, 
who succeeded Mr. Hall, had resigned and was succeeded by Mr. 
Eugene Faman. Mr. Faman was a native of Ireland, and a 
teacher of considerable repute. The trustees of the academy an- 
nounced that Mr. Faman was eminently qualified to teach all 
branches of education. Mr. Faman was widely known as a 
classical scholar and a student of good literature. He was also a 
complete master of the dead languages, and also Spanish, French, 
and English. As a linguist, he was without a superior in North 
Carolina. The school term had also been changed to begin in 
September instead of January, as formerly. 

The following year an assistant was appointed to help Mr. 
Faman, and the academy admitted girls for instruction. It be- 

^An interwUng law tnlt wm beard in 1826 to prerent erection of a mill dam 
on Hendriek's Creek, near tliis academy. It is 8p<Aen of here at a public academy. 

864 History of EoaBOOMBE County 

came known as the Tarboro Male and Female Academy. 
Anna Maria Bagsdale^^ a lady of high intellectual qualities^ took 
charge of the female department. 

Und^r the management of Mr. Farnan and Miss Ba^^dale, 
with the assistance of Robert Joyner, secretary of the academy, 
the school grew into one of the largest in the State. The oppor- 
tunity for a higher education and the preparation for a college 
course was of much value. Students came from adjoining coun- 
ties to attend the school^ while the average attendance ranged from 
sixty to eighty students. 

In 1825 Mr. Farnan resigned and was succeeded by Moses 
Hamilton. The female department had a remarkable increase, 
and an assistant was employed to teach under Miss Bagsdale. 
The courses of study were enlarged to include chemistry, astron- 
omy, natural philosophy, rhetoric and history. Those who de- 
sired were also given instruction in plain and ornamental needle 
work, painting, and music. Suitable arrangements were made to 
board students at $7.00 per month. 

In December, 1827, the trustees of the Tarboro Academy 
made request for a gentleman to superintend the male depart- 
ment for the ensuing year because of the resignation of Mr. Ham- 
ilton« On February 1, 1828, James I. Sanford, a graduate from 
Hamilton College, New York, took charge. The classical course 
of studies was preparatory for the University of North Carolina. 
The academical year was also divided into two sessions, including 
five months each, a vacation of two months being given at the end 
of the first session* Tuition for the session was charged according 
to the course pursued. The rate for Latin and Greek languages, 
natural and moral philosophy, history, astronomy and mathe- 
matics was $15.00, while arithmetic, English, reading, writing, 
and spelling was $12.00. The charges for instruction in elementary 
education was only $10.00. Miss Anna Philips, daughter of 
Reverend John Philips, was said, by an intelligent contemporary^ 
to have had Christian grace and intellectual qualifications and 
taught school in this academy for several years. 

In the meantime under the increased demands for education 
of a secondary character, more academies were established. In 
1820 Mount Prospect was erected by Exum Lewis on his planta- 

^MiM Basadale had been teeching in Tarboiv Aeademy tiiro jtmn priw to 1626. 

Edtjoation 365 

tion about seyen miles from Tarboro. This was a mixed sehool of 
importanee. The early teodiers were James 0. Cary, Qeorge 
Pendleton, both of Virginia, Philip Wiley, an Episcopal minister, 
Eugene Casey, of Ireland, Alexander Bellamy, of Florida, and 
Frederick Philips, grandfather of the late Judge Philips. 

In 1827 at a meeting of the General Assembly, Mr. Sharpe, of 
Edgecombe, introduced a bill to establish "New Hope Academy. 
In the same year Sparta Academy was established by W. A. 
Walker at his residence about seven miles from Tarboro. This 
academy was in the yicinity of Sparta and made an ideal location 
because of its proximity to Pitt and what is now Wilson County. 
Mr. Walker's school was also conducted for two terms annually 
of five months each. For instruction in Latin, Greek, and the 
subordinate branches he charged $14.00. Studies in geography, 
English grammar, history and composition cost $8.00, while the 
course in spelling, reading, and writing was $6.00. This school 
was more on the order of a boarding school^ an announcement 
stating that boarding, washing, and mending could be done for 
$25.00. In addition to the accommodation of Mr. Walker's resi- 
dence a small house was constructed and board was obtained in 
private f amiUes for those preferring such board. 

In 1827 the Columbia Academy was established and incorpo- 
rated on the lands of Joseph John Pippin. Asa Jones, Allen 
Jones, Frederick Jones, Kenneth Hyman, Kenneth C. Staton, 
Bythel Staton, and Joseph John Pippin were the incorporators 
and founders. Columbia Academy grew to be one of the largest 
schools in the State and turned out men who afterwards achieved 
notable success. 

At the same time several men in Edgecombe County who were 
interested in education — James S. Battle, Henry Blount, Amos 
J. Battle, Nicholas J. Brake, Isaac Hibbard, Jr., Isaac Sessum, 
Dr. John H. Brake, Jesse Brake, and others — established a male 
and female academy in what is now known as Nashville. This 
school was incorporated in 1827, and was, at the time, an impor- 
tant school. 

In the period from 1820 to 1860 academies in Edgecombe 
County were indeed numerous. Many enjoyed a long existence, 
while some were of short duration. In 1827 a bill was passed to 
incorporate Bocky Mount Academy. In 1829 a private school 

366 History op Edgbcombs County 

was conducted at Cedar Hill by Mary and E. Jenkins. This was 
on the Strabane plantation. The tuition was $6.00 per session 
for spelling^ reading, and arithmetic. Additional charges of 
$2.00 was made for studies in grammar, geography, and needle 

Two years later subscriptions were made to start a school at 
Hickory Grove, and the Hickory Grove Academy, about four 
miles from Tarboro, began its first session on July 26, 1830. 
This school offered the regular courses then being taught at other 
schools of similar nature. This school was incorporated in 
January, 1831. 

In 1828 the Quanky Academy was established by Kice B. 
Pierce, James Bishop, and John Pumel as trustees. A Mr. 
Weller was the first teacher, and he taught regular courses of 
study and introduced the new system known as the Hamiltonian 
system of the French language. This academy was operated on 
the basis of subscriptions, and resembled a stock company. 
Another school was opened near the residences of Dempsey Bryan, 
William Speight, and others in February, 1830. Joseph J. Bell 
taught here for several sessions and offered the elementary 
branches of an English education. A tuition of $8.00 per session 
of six months was charged. Still another subscription school was 
started in 1830 by Frederick Philips. This school was scheduled 
to run five calendar months with a tuition charge of $6.00 and 
board at $4.00 per month. The first practical course in surveying 
was taught at this schooL 

In 1834 Elder Mark Bennett, a Baptist preacher of ability, 
started a school known as Town Creek Academy, and taught here 
several years. Mr. Cofield King, a successful merchant, attended 
Mr. Bennett's school and proved an apt scholar. During this 
same year the Masonic Fraternity of Tarboro opened a school 
for the instruction of male and female students. This school was 
conducted under the direction of Lemuel Whitehead, and was 
supervised by a Masonic school committee, of which Lewis Bar 
was chairman. All the rudiments of a common school were taught 
— writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, and the 
Latin classics. 

It is well to remember that in the early nineteenth century 
children were given an education by means of private funds and 

Education 367 

occasionally bj societies. Hence the support of Masonry in edu- 
cational projects. This principle is one of the chief objects of 
the Masons. Frequent occurrences are found where the Masonic 
Fraternity prior to 1844 paid notes and tuition for students in 
private schools. In January, 1849, the Tarboro Lodge paid 
$10.50 to Reverend T. R. Owen and wife, who conducted a private 
school, for Caroline BelPs tuition. 

As late as 1850 the Tarboro Academy was under the control 
of the Masonic Order. A letter written by Henry T. Clark, sec- 
retary of the Board of Trustees, relates that the Tarboro Academy 
was jointly owned by the trustees and the Masons. It was equally 
incumbent upon both to look after the interest of the school. In 
event repairs were needed for the school or any act necessitating 
an expenditure, a committee of Masons was appointed to act with 
the trustees. 

In the meantime the old Tarboro Academy had changed hands, 
and the male department passed under the immediate care of 
Reverend John Wamock, a graduate of Glasgow University. 
The rates of tuition remained the same as in 1827. 

In 1835 Miss Jones announced the opening of a new school for 
girls in the house formerly occupied by Dr. Horn in Statonsburg. 
The school was known as a female institute, but small boys were 
also received. Spelling and reading was $6.00 per session; writ- 
ing, arithmetic, grammar, and needle work with the above were 
$8.00; geography, rhetoric, logic, history, and astronomy included 
in other studies cost $10.00, while drawing, painting, and French 
were $12.00 extra. Young ladies were accommodated with board 
by Mrs. Jones on moderate terms. 

During the same year the Misses Jenkins opened a female school 
at Grangeville for the reception of young ladies. A large and 
commodious house was provided for boarding the students at a 
charge of $13.00 per month. Fine lace work and tambour were 
taught as part of the course at a tuition fee of $12.00 per quarter. 

Another private school was established in Tarboro in 1843 
by Eliza A. Lawrence. This school, as was the case with many 
others, made no attempt at teaching higher subjects. Only a 
tuition fee of $6.00 was charged, and spelling, reading, and writ- 
ing were the principle subjects taught. The subjects of arithmetic, 
geography, grammar, and history at a fee of $8.00 were taught, 

368 HisTOBY OF Edgecombe Ck)UNTY 

bat not with success when compared with the Tarboro Academy. 

In 1847 an educational meeting was held in Tarboro for all the 
private schools in the coimty. A conference was held in the Tar- 
boro Male Academy after the regular session's examinations had 
been held. At this time the examination of subjects in different 
branches of education was held, to determine the proper modes of 
instruction. A concert was given the conference by the Female 
Academy/ and the progress made by them was clearly seen. The 
report of this conference disclosed the fact that Edgecombe pri- 
vate schools were in a. flourishing condition. Comparison was 
made with other counties, and although Edgecombe had been 
slow to receive the idea of education, more scholars and better 
schools appeared in the county than elsewhere. 

The following is a summ^bry of the incorporated schools from 
1793 to 1860: Tarboro Academy, chartered 1793, and again in 
1813, and in 1840; Hopewell Academy, chartered in 1823, and 
rechartered in 1840; Friendship Academy, 1823; Town CtqA 
Academy, 1824; Harmony Orove Academy, 1824; Pleasant Grove 
Academy, 1825; New Hope Academy, 1826, and rechartered 1842; 
Columbia, 1827; Hickory Grove, 1830; Conetoe Academy, 1835; 
Toisnot, 1846 ; and Mount Prospect Academy, in 1820. 

Tarboro Academy kept operating with more or less efficiency, 
with occasional interruptions. George S. Philips, the son of 
Severend John Philips, who was prominent in reorganizing the 
Episcopal Church in Edgecombe, was principal in 1819. He was 
not successful, however, as a disciplinarian. In 1844 Josiah H. 
Brooks took charge and the academy flourished for several years. 
Robert H. Winboume, a prominent physician of Chowan County, 
and a graduate of the University in 1847, was also one of its 
principals. Frank S. Wilkinson, likewise a graduate of the Uni- 
versity took charge in 1859 and conducted the academy in a very 
efficient manner until it was destroyed by fire in 1885. Mr. 
Wilkinson then established a private school of his own. Judged 
by the success of his students in life, no teacher in Edgecombe 
was more competent. 

There was a very good reason for the spontaneous growth of 
schools in Edgecombe prior to 1860. Especially will this fact 

^ReT. Thomas R. Owen, a Missionary Baptist preacher, was principal of the 
academy for sereral years, while his wife conducted the femi^ academy. 

fipuGATioir 860 

appear, when it ia noticed how few that were erected in the 
eountj after 1860. The ehief reason for the riae of the academy 
was the strong opposition to free schools. Free aebooU were to be 
supp(Nrted by taxation, and to this most eitizens objected. On 
the other hand, education was a neoessity. The more thoughtful 
realized the fact and established private schools in order that 
their children might receive the advantages of an education at 
personal and individual e^qpenae. It is to be regretted that the 
leaders of the coimty were indifferent about public education, 
and that isolation from the other sections made the indifference 

In 1824 Edgecombe made an appeal for free schools. A (dr- 
cular letter was addressed to the editors of the Raleigh Register, 
in which a plea was made for the general diffusion of knowledge. 
The wealthy were characterized as displaying little or no interest 
in educating the less favored classes. The cause of this fact was 
no doubt attributable to the ezist^ice of private schools, and the 
men with means asked themselves, '^^y should we educate 
another man's children V Moreover, many in the county who pos- 
sessed means were doubtless without children, and as a consequence 
showed a reluctance to pay taxes for general education. 

As a means of affording better education, Edgecombe citizens 
suggested an appropriation of some of the public lands, or the 
levy of a small tax, which would equalize the burden and injure no 
one to any appreciable extent. The State Legislature was urged 
to make a beginning toward an educational movement, and a 
meeting was held in Tarboro to petition the Legislature, to effe<^ 
this purpose. 

In 182<9 a more organized attempt for common schools began. 
The Legislature of !N'orth Carolina aj^inted five men from 
Edgecombe to cooperate with a like number from each of the 
other counties in the State to investigate and report on the internal 
improvements, and to submit its report to the Legislature at its 
meeting in 1830. The committee of Edgecombe met at the court- 
house the first Thursday in January, 1829, with James R. Lloyd 
as chairaaan. The improvements thought to be necessary were 
good roads, to facilitate transportation, and the establishment of 
free sdiools. Immediately after this meeting the Tarboro Free 
Press received and {printed a pamphlet outlining a plan for a 

370 HisTOBY OF Edgscombb County 

common school system that was at the time used in Greece, and 
which had been adopted by the city schools of New York in May, 
1829. The county could not have hoped to have had a better 
school than those patterned after the Greeks. Theirs was the 
most liberal of all educations, and their system later proved very 
beneficial in Edgecombe County. 

It is not to be supposed, however, that the common school idea 
was adopted without opposition or that all that was needed was 
to say the word and it was done. Indeed, at the meeting at Tar- 
boro many were opposed to internal improvements of any kind. 
Politics were based, more or less, upon the attitude toward in- 
ternal improvements, and unfortunately education then, as now, 
was involved in politics. Much depended, therefore, upon how 
far the support of education would give to sustain the popularity 
of the representative in the Legislature. 

At the time of the agitation Beding Pittman was representa- 
tive from Edgecombe. He was nominated by reason of his oppo- 
sition to all internal improvements thus avoiding an increase of 
taxation — a very popular attitude with the average citizen. Mr. 
Pittman, however, did not have an opportunity at this time to de- 
clare his attitude upon the educational bill to be introduced in 
the Legislature. 

In the meantime all manner of methods to establish conmion 
schools were resisted. Committees were appointed who proposed 
systems of general education, lotteries were devised to raise school 
funds, a literary fund law was recommended, and even Sunday 
schools were suggested to teach the youths of the State. All these 
proposals, and recommendations, however, fell by the wayside. 
In these various attempts Mr. Joyner, secretary of the Tarboro 
Academy, and Louis D. Wilson took an important part. Mr. 
Wilson was a member of the State Senate at the time and credit 
must be given for his enlightened attitude toward educational 

In 1831 when the educational questions had been laid before 
the people for consideration, much more interest was manifested 
because of economic conditions. People who were deprived of the 
advantages of an education were leaving jNTorth Carolina, and 
some few were from Edgecombe, to settle in other states which 
had good schools. The movement toward a better education im- 

Education 371 

mediately commenced. Influential men devoted their time and 
talent to lecturing and writing about education, its uses, and 
advantages. The movement, therefore, instead of being opposed 
generally as in 1829, received popular endorsement. Only a few 
men were decided in their opposition. 

The movement became so general and popular that politicians 
began to revise the attitude entertained prior to 1830. Beding 
Pittman, at the time a candidate for reelection to the Legislature, 
renounced his opposition to free schools. He denied making any 
statement which gave evidence of his having spoken against edu- 
cation. Charles Wilkinson, a man interested in education, made 
the charges against Mr. Pittman during the election, and had 
witnesses who were present at the time Mr. Pittman made the 
statement to take oath before a Justice of the Peace that the fol- 
lowing was correct : 

^^r. Pittman came to my house about the time the meeting 
was held in Tarborough respecting free schools. He stated that one 
objection he had against them was, that the poor class of people 
were the class that did commit the most depredations or misde- 
meanors, and an education would make them more dangerous 
than they would be without it." The above named conversation 
took place in the presence of Levi Wilkinson, Bobert Long, and 
Charles Wilkinson, the assistant of Mr. Pittman. 

Mr. Pittman failed to receive, many supporters, among whom 
were the illiterate classes. Bobert Long, who was unable to read 
and write, swore before William Savage, a Justice of the Peace, 
in July, 1831, that the reason that he never voted for Mr. Pitt- 
man was because of his open statements about not educating the 
poor. After Mr. Pittman's failure to be reelected he said: ^Tn 
justice to Mr. Wilkinson, I will say that he is generally believed 
to be a man of truth, and I believe that he thinks that I used the 
language above stated." 

Fortunately Edgecombe possessed men of strong minds and abil- 
ity who favored the movement, and who used their influence to 
secure State aid. Among these men was Isaac ITorfleet, for many 
years a Justice of the Peace in the county, and a man who was 
appointed to codify the laws of North Carolina in 1815. Louis D. 
Wilson also became an advocate of education, and later showed 
his interest in the poor by leaving them by will a large sum of 


money. Dr. Thomas T. HftU was abo a d^ampion of ^(hicatkm, 
and exerted his inilnenoe toward a ra^id culmiaation of the move- 
ment. As die years passed men with inflnenoe and Tifion caught 
the spirit, and when R. R. Bridgers and others reached the period 
of action, much weight was thrown into the movement for atoire 
enligfatenm^t and less evil. 

In 1838-9, when the popular approval made its demand, the 
Assembly considered means to establish public schools. H. G. 
Spruill offered a resolution and a plan which suggested Uie divi- 
sion of each county into school districts, and holding an eleotion in 
each district on the question of school or no school. It is not 
necessary to go into the provisions stipulated in the bOL The 
plan was introduced in the Senate, and as a result of the educa- 
tional campaign in the Assembly the bill passed on January 7, 
1839. The law submitting the question of schools or no schools 
was submitted to the voters in Edgecombe in Aisgnst, 1839. In 
the bill was a provision whereby a tax was to be levied to pay 
one-half of the teacher's salary, which was $240.00 per y^ir. The 
law also carried a provision for the district refusing to establi^ 
schools to vote on the question every year until schools were 

The results of the election in Edgecombe, according to the 
Raleigh Register and the Tarboro Free Press, were all but prom- 
ising. The law failed flatly without any reason worthy of com- 
ment. The return of the votes showed that the wealthy and pros- 
perous county of Edgecombe polled only 165 votes for free schools, 
and 1,075 against them. Robert Bryan and William S. Baker 
were members of the House, and Louis D. Wilson, member of the 
Senate. These men, in spite of the sentiment prevailing against 
education, had erupported the bill in the Assembly. They voted 
and advocated the division of the counties into school districts, 
the appointment of school conmiittecs by the county commission- 
ers, and the election of a county superintendent. Their memory 
should ever survive, though they failed in a worthy cause. 

Edgecombe voted against free schools for several years and 
withstood the common jests until the system was practically 
thrust upon her. The Tarboro Southerner, in commenting oh 
the law establishing common schools, gave apologetic remaa^ for 
Edgecombe's position. People in the counties which had adopted 

Edugathut 373 

free sehoolsy it waa stated, oeold not understand the true reason 
for the ooonty's opposition. The pecuniary bait, it was cbumed, 
though small, was too alluring. ^'Reason had not her sovereigBty 
respected, and the well established fact that a loose, inferior sys- 
tem of discipline and instruction was injurious rather than bene- 
ficial, something to be avoided rather than be purchased." The 
writer attempted to prove that Edgecomb^ ^^ this as well as all 
her other principles^" was correct. 

It was true that the b^inning of the common school system 
was defective and that few benefits of the system at the first was 
far from commensurate with the expense. However, the wisdom 
of the few faithful advocates was not ineffectual, for after the 
movement was well established under competent men the system 
of education proved advantageous even in Edgecombe. This fact 
became evident when the system was forced on the county, it 
considered well the question of how to make the educational plan 
efficient. It needed only the support of those who were opposed, 
for it was only a failure when not supported, and a success when 
the citizens got behind the movement. 

In less than ten years after the county was divided into dis- 
tricts and had school committees appointed, forty-three common 
schools with an average of thirty pupils were established in 
Edgecombe. In 1850 the county received $3,200.00 from the 
public school fund to support the movement. In 1852 D. Barlow, 
chairman of the Board of Superintendents of Common Schools, 
reported forty-two school districts, with thirty-nine having schools 
which were conducted for four and one-half months. The num- 
ber of male children between five and twenty-one was 1,671; 
females between the same ages, 1,474. Out of this number 714 
males and 429 females received instructions in the common schools. 
The entire amount expended for the support of schools for the 
term was $3,467.67, while the educational board had a balance on 
hand of $4,254.60 in cash and bonds. This sum was appropriated 
for the support of schools for the following twelve months. 

Were the common schools a failure, or did they prove inefficient? 
In the light of facts the answer is obvious. If 1,143 children 
could receive schooling for four and one-half months at a cost of 

374 HisTOBT OF Edoxcombs County 

$3,467.67, or about $3.04 for each child, e^en though the school- 
ing be of the most meager kind, the system proved a success and 
a lasting good. 

The people who formerly opposed the common schools, although 
reluctant in giving praise soon, gave unstinted support. In 1852 
the county was entitled to an apportionment of $1,100.00. By 
an act passed by Legislature the county was empowered to raise 
by taxation one-third of this amount. Edgecombe had many chil- 
dren to educate, and by her industry and frugality had acquired 
sufficient means for this purpose, and by contributing such 
amounts, as they would have otherwise had to pay to the private 
schools, to common schools, they benefited their own children and 
at the same expense and under their own supervision conferred 
on the indigent a charity valuable and worthy. 

The people soon realized the necessity of endorsing public 
schools, and the heretofore wavering editor of the Tarboro 
Southerner made an appeal for the leading men to consider the 
matter, to adopt a course that would lead to success and place the 
common schools in a position that would be an honor both to the 
understanding and sentiment of Edgecombe. In Edgecombe's 
characteristic manner when once an undertaking was started 
and success was achieved, the county must go further, and at- 
tempts were made to place the free schools far in advance of 
those of other counties, and to have others to emulate her example. 
The county aspired to become one that could show to the world 
that progress was no single purpose, no penurious effort based on 
selfishness, but a principle more lofty and ennobling for the im- 
provement of man, the promotion of happiness, and the advance- 
ment of a common cause. 

At the February term of the Edgecombe County court in 1853 
it was ordered that at the approaching August election a vote 
should be taken to ascertain the sentiment of the people as to 
the propriety of levying a tax to increase the common school fund. 
This was a very important matter and one which had been negli- 
gently delayed. This question touched the vitality of schools — 
a question which constituted a portion of the very foundation of 
county institutions — and had received so little attention. An 
appeal was made for Edgecombe to speak out, and for Town 

Education 375 

Creek, Fishing Creek, and Conetoe, which were very passive at 
the time, to come forward and declare their sentiments. The ap- 
peal depicting the attitude of free suffrage is worthy of record : 

"Surely/* says the writer, "the citizens of Edgecombe are un- 
mindful of the revolutionary character of our social system. 
Surely they forget that today's prosperity is no surer against to- 
morrow's evils in that our laws, our institutions, our occupations, 
all conspire to render uncertain, aye, impossible, permanent 
family prosperity in that the political, intellectual, and moneyed 
leaders of the present generation, may leave their progeny the 
hewers of wood and drawers of water for the next. If not, let 
us work while it is yet day. Let them all do something while 
they have power. Politically we can do man no positive good, 
except by the development of his inherent powers and energies, 
and in this way, by education we can in the days of our affluence, 
at a cost we will hardly feel, confer benefits lasting as life. Shall 
we then prove so contracted in our selfishness, so near sighted in 
our policy as not to think and act a little for those that are to come 
after us? Are we unwilling to bear slight burdens now while we 
are able, for their lasting benefit in the days of their want? Or 
are we so foolishly vain as to think our descendants above the 
ills of chance or the influence of misfortune?" 

The records may be searched in vain for stronger language or 
a more logical point of argument for free education. The writer 
is unknown, but his anonymous memory should live in Edge- 
combe. Most unbelievers, after all, needed some one to think as 
they thought and then to change their manner of thinking. This 
was accomplished by good logic, as was shown in the election of 
August, 1853. A remarkable progress was achieved and more 
than $2,000.00 was subscribed in addition to the amount pro- 
vided by the law. Many improvements were made which encour- 
aged the spirit of progress which pervaded the people. ITew 
buildings were erected and the old ones improved. Public in- 
telligence was greatly advanced, and the pride of the towns and 
county was naturally affected. Indirectly the wealth and the 
prosperity of the citizens were increased. Many who had faltered 
for years now came forward and assisted, while Edgecombe real- 
ized the satisfaction of having redeemed itself. 

37ft HisTOBT OP Edobcoicbe County 

The inoreaded interest in looal sehook was commented upon by 
ooeaflional travelers in the county, and that the erection of school 
houses and the stimulation of education was the cause of Tar- 
boro's spontaneous growth. In 1850 Tarboro had a population 
of 306, while in 1860 it had a population of 1,048, thus more than 
tripling its population in ten years. Tarboro was referred to as 
being a place of refinement, its inhabitants literary, while the 
father was a classical scholar, and the mother wise in the estimate 
of her contemporaries. The children were skilled in all branches 
of education, and that the high eminence to which the people 
directed their minds in 1852 was reached in 1856, and that the 
people stood first in refinement as well as first in industry. The 
period from 1853 to 1860 is known in Edgecombe annals as the 
reformation. Oorrespondents from I^orfolk, Ya., and Raleigh, 
N. O., during this period make frequent references to the unusual 
growth of increasing interest in internal improvements. 

The common school system went into existence in North Caro- 
lina in 1840, but remained inactive in Edgecombe until 1854. In 
1850 the free schools here took on the spirit of improvement which 
made them among the first in the State in 1860. Harmon Ward 
became chairman of the County Board of Education, and reported 
a balance of cash on hand of $8,263.44. Acting in conjunction 
with Mr. Ward was David S. Keid, ex officio president of the 
literary board. This worked valuable advantages to the illit- 
erates in the county. In 1850 there were 1,935 whites — 654 male, 
and 1,281 female — who could not read or write, while out of 
ninety-eight free negroes not one knew one letter from another. 
The attendance at the various schools for this year were 1,467 
whites, or 678 males and 589 females. No instruction was offered 
free negroes. 

Dr. Wiley, Superintendent of Public Education, reported the 
Edgecombe schools increasing in efficiency and usefulness, and 
that progress was accelerated every year. Heoommendation was 
made for additional funds to enlarge the system and to increase 
the teachers' pay in 1854. 

In the meantime, the chairman of the school board of Edgecombe 
called attention to the fact that the Ass^nbly of 1854 had created 
the new county of Wilson, and did not provide for tiie 0(Mnmon 
school system in the new county. It was also stated that the 


Education 377 

oonntj of Wilson did not believe itself to have the power under 
the general law to organize the school machinery in Wilson 
Connty, and for this reason no school board was appointed. Edge- 
combe accordingly was placed in an embarrassing position, since 
the schools existing in the new connty were of Edgecombe's ap- 
pointment, and it did not know where the responsibility rested. 
Dr. Wiley advised the authorities in Edgecombe to suspend action 
until the opinion of the president and directors of the literary 
fund could be secured. Edgecombe was subsequently requested to 
continue schools in Wilson for the year and give the legislation 
time to establish a uniform law for all new counties erected at 
that time. 

In 1858 the county had twenty-five fair schools with twenty- 
two licensed teachers. For the support of these schools the sum of 
$6,462.39 was reported. Of this amount $3,168.20 was expended 
during the year, leaving a balance of $3,294.19 on hand. Of the 
original amount the State paid $1,202.16. The salary of teachers 
beginning this year began to steadily advance. Two new school 
houses were built, while a more systematic and financial policy 
was adopted. 

During the war of 1861-65 the progress of education was more 
or less interrupted. In 1860 the public schools showed their 
highest development. The per capita expenditure was $1.25 on 
the number of children taught. This money was in part furnished 
from the interest on the permanent fund and in part paid by 
county taxation. 

The results of the war swept away temporarily the principle 
of taxation, and left the school system more or less demoralized. 
There were one or two very good schools in Tarboro in 1867 
which were well supported by the town and neighborhoood. A 
school for colored children was also established in the town, which 
was largely attended, and one also on a plantation a short dis- 
tance from Tarboro, numbering some ninety pupils. Both of the 
colored schools were under the auspices of northern charitable 
institutions and were in a flourishing condition. 

At the time, however, when the local laws were suspended by 
the Federal Government, the increase of the State debt was un- 
precedented, the funds of the county were expended for current 
expenses, while the fund for the poor left by General Wilson 

378 History of Edoboombb Covntt 

went into the operating expense fund and was exhausted under 
the reconstruction regime. Much mismangement prevailed, and 
public officers were careless in handling the county funds. Edu- 
cation was the principle sufferer from the state of affairs. Prao- 
ticallj no fund was available for common schools. An attempt 
was made to replenish the State school funds hj selling swamp 
lands, but ahnost as fast as the money was obtained it was absorbed 
by the increase in the official's salaries. The colored children 
became the object of charity and received northern money for 
education, while the funds for white children were promiscuously 
applied for selfish ends by white and negro Republican politicians. 
The Tarboro Collegiate Institute, erected before the war, had 
almost disappeared. This school was one of the best and largest 
in the eastern counties. Miss Whitehurst was principal, and 
Miss A. M. Farrar, elocutionist, and Misses Mary and Kettie 
Ewell, musical teachers. The exercises of 1865 were the last 
held by this school until about 1870. Bocky Mount Classical 
High School, established at the close of the war, continued in 
spite of the hardships it endured. This school was ably con- 
ducted by Eeverend D. T. Fowles, a graduate of the State Uni- 
versity in 1849. Its average attendance was from twenty-five to 
forty scholars. Its purpose was to fit boys for business and to give 
them a good English education. 

In 1870 the free schools were again placed on a growing basis. 
The race problem relative to education was also decided about 
this time. The first free school for white children in the county 
after the war was built this year in front of the house in which 
H. D. Teel then lived.^ It opened in the following spring for 
instruction. In 1878 interest in education was greatly stimulated. 
The law relating to the public schools and the appropriation of 
State funds proved very beneficial and the people of Edgecombe 
responded to the movement. The following year there were 
twenty-eight white schools in the county and forty-four colored. 
Emphasis was placed in giving the colored race an education and 
to the credit of the whites, the matter was fully considered and 
supported. A large school for the negro was erected at Prince- 
ville, another at Battleboro, a third school at Whitakers, and 
others at other places in the county. C. M. Epps, a negro teacher, 

^In Town Oommon. 


Education ' 379 

received support from the white people and accomplished good 
until he was debarred from the negro schools by the negroes them- 
selves^ who declared he was a Democrat. During the fusion era 
he was persecuted by his race. He later left Edgecombe County, 
and was appointed assistant superintendent of the colored ITormal 
School at Plymouth. 

In 1881 a permanent organization was effected having for its 
object the establishment and incorporation of a school at Tar- 
boro and to be known as the ^'Edgecombe High School.'^ T. H. 
Gktlin was elected president, Qeorge Howard, vice-president, and 
"N. M. Lawrence, secretary and treasurer. Thirteen of the leading 
citizens were elected trustees. Beverend J. D. Arnold was made 
principal. This school was modemly equipped with 'National 
Desks," and a music department was established with good instru- 
ments. The rates of board and tuition were reasonable, and 
within reach of the middle class. 

In 1882 noticeable progress was made in education. J. D. 
Jenkins, County Superintendent of Public Instruction, reported 
an examination for sixty-one teachers, of which number only six 
were white males, sixteen were white females; thirty-two were 
colored males, and seven colored females. The number of 
public schools was seventy-four, thirty-three white and forty-one 
colored. The number of pupils enrolled were 3,576, 817 of these 
being white, and 2,759 colored. The average attendance for the 
whites was 464, and 1,504 for the colored. The county was 
divided into five school districts for the whites and an equal num- 
ber for the colored. The whites had twenty-three schoolhouses 
and the colored thirty-three. The average salary per month of 
the white teacher was $27.13, of the colored, $23.55. The con- 
trast between the number enrolled and the number of children in 
the county is noticeable. There were 2,392 white children, and 
5,687 colored. About one-third of the whites were enrolled, while 
nearly one-half of the colored children attended school. The 
difference, however, was more apparent than real, since many 
white children attended private schools. 

In 1882 the movement for the first graded school in Edgecombe 
was suggested. One school was proposed for the whites and one 
for the colored. The graded school was the proposed remedy for 
the defects in the existing system of common schools. Four 

380 HisTOBT OF Edqboombb County 

months in the year was more than the average time in which free 
schools were open, the money to run them being insufficient. The 
school conamittees were also forced to employ inferior teachers 
because of the lack of funds. This principle had brought free 
schools in more or less disrepute^ and for this reason the attend- 
ance was very small. There was a small chance of the Legislature 
increasing taxes because the State waa burdened with debt and 
was suffering from inefficiency. Even should this be done, the 
prejudice against free schools would not be eliminated for several 
years. For this reason the graded school was considered a remedy. 

Tarboro at the beginning was opposed to voting for graded 
schools. The anti-school element pointed out, as one reason for 
objection, the fact that an educated negro had forged a note on his 
employer. They used the illustration that the chief end of man 
is happiness, and that a dog with a full belly was happy, therefore 
let man become like a dog. All manner of excuses were presented. 
CSontentions were made that the graded schools would build up the 
town at the expense of the county, and therefore, both town and 
county would suffer. Moreover, it was claimed that graded schools 
would be of benefit to small children only and little help to those 
that were advanced. Taxes imposed were also too much for those 
in the opposition. The negroes even claimed that not enough 
money was given to them. A few whites also took the stand that 
those who were careful and solicitous about the moral and social 
training of their children were imwilling to have them come in 
contact with children whose training had been neglected. This 
ground afterwards proved erroneous, because the graded system 
strengthened the character and nature of the average child. It 
annihilated caste and autocracy among children. The rich and 
poor sat side by side in the same class under the same instruction, 
while the weak remained week, and the strong grew stronger. 
Intelligence, honesty, and integrity were the t.-^sts then as now by 
which all were tried and by which all fell or stood. The poor 
were elevated in the graded school system, the more fortunate 
were taught that the only distinctions of any value were those 
of intellectual and moral worth. 

The county commissioners ordered an election on May 7, 1883, 
to determine whether the people of N"o. 1 Township wanted or 
did not want graded schools. The rate of taxation as a m^ethod 


bt lowing the expense of the schook wm placed at thitiy-ihree 
and oii64hird cents on the $100.00 worth of property and twenty 
eents on ihe pole. The tax was to be levied if a majority of the 
qualified Toters Toted for the schools. 

When the election came off it was shown^ however, that r.lthougfa 
the school question was defeated, the property owners were de- 
cidedly in favor of schools. Only a few of them voted against it. 
Raoe prejudice defeated the bill. Aaron Bridgers, nc^gro repre- 
sentative from Edgecombe, introduced a bill in the Honse of 
Representatives authorizing the establishing of two sch*x^ls fcHr 
No. 1 Township— one for whites and one for colored. The ma- 
jority of the white pet^le expressed themselves as being in favor 
of the education of the ignorant, but not at the cost^ experiment 
whidi the passage of the bill would enforce. As the matter stood, 
the white people of No. 1 Township paid for school purposes 
$3,000, while the colored paid $1,000. It would be unjust, it was 
argued, to tax the whites more and to give the negroes the same 
amount or more for education as the bill proposed. The whites 
wanted a graded school and to that end hoped that Bridgers would 
amend his bill to conform to a just method of taxation, wberdiy the 
school would be supported by a poll tax rather than by property 

The colored people, however, -were obdurate, and if they oould 
not get what they desired, determined to prevent the whites from 
attaining their program. When the school bill was defeated it 
was reported that a man from Massachusetts, residing at the lime 
in Tarboro, said to one of the colored citizens, ^TTou liave cut 
your own throats." 'HiV^ell," replied the negro, "the white folks 
are busted." The votes for schools were 205, while 517 were 
polled against the graded schools. The bill introduced in the 
Legislature, however, with amendments was passed. The voters 
in the county voted again upon the levying ol taxes not to exceed 
on€-third of one cent on property and one dollar on the poll. 

In the meantime graded schools in Rocky Mount were erected 
and in a flourishing condition. The people were wide awake and 
gave the community as much of the benefits of education as their 
means afforded. In 1883 the school had 260 children it attend- 
ance and received forty additions before the session was over.^ 
^—^■^■^^— * 

^ Bocky Mount school collapsed in 1887 for lack of funds. At that time Bocky 
If cant High School was erected under Prof Wilcox. 

382 HisTOEY OF Edoecombid County 

The same year the school at Battleboro was improved under Dr. 
W. H. Whitehead, W. D. Stokes, and J. R. Stewart. Additional 
funds were raised, boundaries for new districts were laid and 
school discipline was greatly improved, (leorge Howard, N. M. 
Lawrence, C. J. Austin, J. B. Oofield, T. H. Gatlin, E. C. Farrar, 
and K. C. Brown constituted a board of trustees for the whites, 
and John C. Dancy, H. C. Cherry, Victor E. Howard, Benjamin 
Norfleet, Edward Zoella, Henry S. Spragins, and W. H. Knight 
for the colored. A building was erected on Hendrick's Creek for 
the white children and one in Princeville for the colored. In 
about eight years the white school was moved on the west side of 
the town common and an addition was added to accommodate the 
increase of pupils. 

In 1887 the school fund was insufScient for the support of the 
schools and a law was passed to tax all liquors, as required by the 
county commissioners, to supply the insufficiency. At this time 
there were 800 children in attendance at Tarboro, and abnost 
8,000 in the county. In 1888 the average per capita expenditure 
was only $1.19, less than in 1860. In addition to having nine cents 
less on the child, the county labored under the disadvantage of 
two races to instruct in separate schools. The separation of the 
races was a necessity, but more expensive. 

In 1891 the county commissioners ordered an election on the 
question of an additional tax for the maintenance of the public 
schools. A letter was received by W. S. Clark from Baleigh in- 
forming the people that the tax was voted and the school shown 
that permanent assistance from the Peabody Fund could be ob- 
tained.^ The school election was held in July with poor pros- 
pects for success. However, when the day was over the rally 
proved effective. Princeville alone seemed passive and at six 
o'clock only fifty-one votes had been made, and eighteen more 
were needed to make a majority. When these people heard of the 
precincts being carried, enthusiasm caught them, and in less than 
an hour twenty-two more votes were cast. The following is the 

vote polled and roistered: 

Registered Oast 

Precinct No. 1 215 122 

Precinct No. 2 283 145 

Precinct No. 3 137 73 

^Amount was $1,541.22. 


Education 383 

In 1888 the school committee, by a vote of two to one, elected 
W. P. Mapson principal of the colored free school in No. 1 
Township, notwithstanding die fact that a petition from parents 
and others representing over 240 children that he be not appointed. 
Mapson, however, made a good leader in spite of his rancorous 
nature. The negro schools grew to be efficient and did much 
good. These schools were well organized in 1899. A teachers' 
organization was established under the leadership of John B. 
Barlow, president, and George H. Porter, secretary, and Mrs. 
C. M. Eppes, treasurer. 

In 1883 the beginning of improvements in the teaching staff 
was made by county commissioners. F. S. Wilkinson was au- 
thorized as County Superintendent of Public Instruction to hold 
a teachers' institute for both white and colored. The one for 
whites opened Monday, July 3, 1888, with only two in attendance. 
The work of this organization increased, however, and the Board 
of Education appropriated $100 annually out of the school fund 
for its maintenance. Prof. Logan D. Howell, of Tarboro, as- 
sisted by Edwin A. Alderman took considerable interest in hold- 
ing teachers' institutes. The system of schools in the county, 
however, suffered from 1897 to 1899. Mr. Wilkinson, who had 
labored to build up the schools and its teachers, was turned out 
of the superintendency when the fusion party came into power. 
B. M. Davis succeeded him, and afterwards became a man of 
recognized worth and competency. 

Under Mr. Davis the county schools adopted medical inspection 
for all white schools. The county appropriated $10.00 for each 
school, and inspection was carried out in connection with a 'health 
day program." All physical defects discovered, together with data 
of names and places were kept by the State Board of Health in 
Baleigh in order to keep a record until proper attention could be 

Within recent years a movement of school consolidation and 
compulsory aducation has made remarkable progress. The theory 
of consolidation is based on the idea for better schools. This 
could only be accomplished by eliminating two or three small 
schools and erecting a large school in their place. The same num- 
ber of teachers were employed with the same expense as formerly. 
The chief objection to this idea was the inconvenience for children 


irlio mi^ be located several miles from the sohooL This objeetion 
was met by the introduction of eonveyances for carrying childxeti 
Hving long distances. 

The chief problem existing in Edgecombe resulting from com- 
Xmlsory education was the factory situation. One-fourth of the 
children in the county lived in the manufacturing districts. This 
fact alone hastened compulsory education. When the law went 
into effect die city schools were heartily taxied to enforce the letter 
and spirit of the kw. The school board, however, managed the 
situation effectively and with credibility. Modem and well 
equipped school buildings have been erected in various parts of the 
county. Almost every district has a large building, and many 
have State High Schools and receive State aid. The school at 
Leggetts is one of the few schools in the State which furnish trans- 
portation for its pupils to and from tibeir homes. 

In 1910 high schools were located at Macclesfield under H. C. 
Miller; Tarboro, under H. M. Davis; Whitak^rs, imder J. J. 
Singletary. The school at Whitakers was operated by Edgecombe 
and N&ah counties. In 1910 Edgecombe turned over the school 
to NblsHi and established a high school at Battlesboro. Farm life 
courses were introduced into nearly all the rural high schools. 
These courses proved effective from the beginning, and were 
greatly encouraged by supporters of county schools. 

The spirit of education is well demonstrated in the county by 
its support for all movements to enlighten the people. The moon- 
light school received support when it was inaugurated about 1916. 
Paul Jones proved a leading spirit in Ihe elimination of illiteracy. 
About five moonlight schools were established in Edge(K)mbe. 
The county also established canning clubs and doniestic depart- 
ments in its system of education. Oanning demonstrations were 
successfully given in the county and modem devices for keeping 
vegetables and fruits were introduced. 

Among the additional improvements was the estabHshment of 
libraries in the various schools. Oonetoe schools establidied a nice 
library with a goodly number of volumes worth $100.00. In 1908 
the county, according to the school law, was entitled to six original 
Ubraries and six supplemental libraries from each biennial appro- 
priation of $7,500.00. By 1909 most all townships had libraries. 
The High School at Macclesfield added several books to its original 


Education 385 

Kbrary, including an unabridged dictionary with holder. The 
grounds were also improved and cultivated as a school garden. A 
betterment association was organized with sixty members. The 
private schools in the county were less affected and much freer 
from controversy than the common schools. During the throes 
of reconstruction the private schools experienced growth and pros- 
perity. Oakland Female Seminary at Logsboro ^ was erected 
during this period. Miss Covinna Whitaker was principal for 
several years. In 1869 a movement began to revive the Tarboro 
Female Academy^ which had been abandoned. The county at this 
time was sending approximately $25,000.00 away each year for 
the education of its daughters. As a result of educational propa- 
ganda the Tarboro Female Academy was established. Prof. D. G. 
Gilespie was principal in 1890. Benjamin F. Havens also taught 
here. Mr. Havens was one of the best prepared teachers in Edge- 
combe. He studied two years in Germany after finishing his edu- 
cation in this country. In 1899 he received a recommendation 
from Prof. Martin Erause, the noted teacher of Leipsic. He had 
charge of the music department, and was assisted by Mrs. Harry 

In 1891 several new schools were established, while some had 
been abandoned. This year marked the decline of the private 
schools, since the common and graded schools had proved a suc- 
cess. The following is a table of private schools in 1891, 1899, 


No. En- 
Name Location Principal rolled 


Wilkinson's Institute • . . Tarboro Mrs. A. W. Hughes. . . 65 

Miss Bullock's School ...Rocky Mount ...Miss M. E. Bullock... 104 

Miss Barren's School Near Elm City. . . Miss Mattle Barren. . 33 

Tarboro Female Academy. Tarboro D. G. Gilespie 70 

Battlesboro Male and Fe- 
male Institute Battlesboro W. S. Wilkinson 74 

J. F. Howard School Conetoe Miss Rosa Gregory ... 49 

Tarboro Male Academy. . • Tarboro F. S. Wilkinson 39 

Perry's Academy Tarboro Rev. J. W. Perry 

(Epis.) 109 

> Logiboro it now known m Leggettc 


886 HisTOBY OF Edgbcombb County 

No. En- 
Name Location Principal rolled 


Eagles Academy Crisp J. F. Webb 60 

Hill Academy Hill W. A. Bridgers 30 

Heartease Academy Heartease Miss Mary Beatty 24 

University School Rocky Mount 125 

Whi takers Academy Whitakers Rev. A. J. Moore 35 

Tarboro Female Academy. Tarboro Prof. Dock Brown .... 36 

Tarboro Male Academy. . . Tarboro F. T. Wilkinson 36 


Grace School Lawrence Mrs. M. H. Hicks, 

South Atlantic Academy. . Crisp F. J. Webb , 

Tarboro Male Academy. . .Tarboro F. S. Wilkinson. 




Among the most interesting, and also influential, forces in the 
history of Edgecombe is that of its churches. The chief means of 
social intercourse was through the gathering of Christian congre- 
gations. Due to the scarcity of books and libraries in the isolation 
of the county from the outside world, religious ideas became the 
principal subject for intellectual development. The earliest of 
denominations of which we have record was that of the Baptists. 

It was not until about 1714 that the Baptists were known in 
this section, although, according to Morgan Edwards, there were 
individual Baptists in the colony of ITorth Carolina as early as 
1695. Those first settling in Edgecombe County for several years 
were General Baptists. Many writers have assumed that the 
ITorth Carolina Baptists were immigrants direct from Virginia, 
but recent investigation also indicates that the Baptist forefathers 
found their way from New England as well. Many of the General 
Baptists settling in the county were of those who had at one time 
belonged to, but had become dissatisfied with, the Established 
Church. They withdrew and 'began to seek after something more 
in accord with their idea of the doctrine of the "New Testament. 
They also carried many quaint and crude ideas concerning church 
government and theological subjects; but in their humble and 
sincere manner they established themselves in bodies, worshiping 
Gk>d according to the dictates of their own consciences. 

This group of Baptists were Arminian in their view toward the 
relation of man's will to that of God. The old records show much 
carelessness in receiving members in their churches. Burkitt and 
Reed, in their "History of the Kehukee Association," said : "Their 
custom was to baptize all persons who were willing, whether they 
had had an experience of grace or not, so in consequence of this 
practice they had many members and several ministers in their 
churches who were baptized before they were converted." It was 
doubtless this practice that opened a way for a division of opinion, 
and permitted a more rigid conception to arise in their ecclesi- 
astical affairs, which caused so much confusion prior to 1752. 


388 History of Edoecombb County 

The first church that existed within Edgecombe Connty was 
organized by one William Sojourner^ who is said to have been a 
most excellent man and a pious, useful minister. Very little is 
known of his early Ufe. He removed with many of his friends 
from Berkeley, Virginia, in 1745, and settled on Eehukee Creek, 
near Halifax County.^ In this same year he established Eehukee 
Church, which has had a thriving existence to the present day. 
Sojourner and his followers were "GJeneral Baptists," and main- 
tained a strict adherence to principles of baptism by immersion, 
and the various churches which sprang up under the ministration 
of these pious people claimed that one 'particular faith," 

There was a small number of Baptists at this time in the county 
who held different views from those of the (General Baptists. This 
element also grew out of the Church of England. These had 
foimd it against their conception to conform to its polity and 
doctrine, and withdrew. Because they were Calvanistic in their 
views of theology — claiming that the atonement of Christ was 
particular in its application to God's elect — they received the name 
"Particular Baptists." 

Thus there were two divisions among the Baptists from the 
beginning. The General Baptists, who were in a majority and 
baptized without requiring an experience of grace; and the "Par- 
ticulars," who claimed that a person should not be baptized with- 
out an experience of divine power, and that God's people were an 
"elect" or "chosen" people. The latter view was supported by the 
activities of Jonathan Thomas, a nonconformist preacher of 
Edgecombe County, who preached vehemently against the mode of 
baptism practiced by the Pedo Baptists.^ Jonathan Thomas, his 
father, and John, his brother, were all preaching in the county 
when Joseph Parker organized the second Baptist Church of the 
colony in Meherrin, near Murfreesboro, 1729. Jonathan Thomas, 
Lemuel Burkett, Jeremiah Dargon, and others traveled from 
county to county, preaching in homes, public places, in the forest, 
under bush-arbors, wherever the people could be gathered. The 
Calvanistic faith owes much to these earnest preachers for its 
present existence in the county. Thus, while the GJeneral Bap- 
tists were locating new places for preaching the gospel under the 

^ Halifax was created in 1758. 

'These people advocated and practiced infant baptiim. 

Baptists 389 

leadership of Elders Paul Palmer and Joseph Parker^ two famous 
preachers from London, the Particulars, under the leadership of 
a few faithful men, were also doing a service essential to the 
preservation of their faith, now held so preciously by the "Old 
School Baptists." For many years these two factions of the Bap- 
tists waged doctrinal controversy with intense bitterness. Like 
the Jews and Samaritans of olden times, they had no dealings with 
each other. 

Neither group of churches was organized for cooperation in 
church work. Every congr^ation was left to work out its own 
destiny. The elders, as tradition holds, were not accustomed to 
meet in an association or convention, but met in a yearly meeting, 
where matters of consequence were determined. This was the 
condition of the churches when, in 1755, the Philadelphia Associa- 
tion of Pennsylvania sent Vanhorn and Miller, two ministers of 
that association, to travel in the southern colonies and to preach 
the gospel at the various churches. The Philadelphia Association 
at this time belonged to the Particular order. Mr. Gkino,^ 
another minister from the Philadelphia Association, had preceded 
Vanhorn and Miller on a preaching tour in Edgecombe County, 
visiting the believers of the Particular faith. He, on his return 
to Philadelphia, reported the unsatisfactory condition of these 
people to the association, who appointed Miller and Yanhom for 
the purpose of bringing over the (General Baptists to the Particular 

The reception of Mr. Gano and others by these people is very 
interesting. On his arrival, Mr. Gano requested an interview with 
the Baptist ministers of the county. The request was refused. 
At the same time a meeting was appointed among the ministers 
to consult what to do. Mr. Gano, hearing of this meeting, went, 
attended it, and addressed the people in words to this effect: ^T. 
have desired a visit from you, which, as a brother and a stranger, 
I had a right to expect, but as you have refused, I give up my 
claim and am come to pay you a visit." With that he ascended 
into the pulpit and read for his text the following words : "Jesus 
I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" He preached from 
this passage of Scripture with such effect that he made many 

^Ifr. Oano wm a detcend*nt of a French Hugaenot refugee of 1688. He was 
bom in Hopewell, Hunterdon Oounty, New Jersey, July 22, 1727. 

390 History of Edgbcombs County 

afraid of him, and others were ashamed of their indifFerence. 
Many were convinced of errors touching upon faith and conver- 
sion, and submitted themselves for examination. One minister 
went to be examined as to his doctrines, and intimated to the 
people before going that he should return triumphant. Mr. Gkuio 
gave him a hearing, and then turned to his companion and said, 
''I profess, brother, this will not do; this man has the one thing 
needful to seek." Upon this statement, the person examined 
hastened home, and, upon being asked how he succeeded, replied : 
"The Lord have mercy upon you, for this northern minister has 
put a mene teckel upon me." 

When Vanhorn and Miller arrived, many in the county still en- 
tertained doubts and many more of the (General Church seemed to 
be afraid of them, as they were styled by most people, "New 
Lights." However, some of the churches received them. The 
preaching and conversation of these two men had power and 
proved a blessing to the people. Through their instrumentality 
several were awakened, many of the members of the churches were 
convinced of their error and were instructed in the doctrine of 
the Particular faith. Thus in the progress of time and through 
the efforts of these two ministers the difference between the two 
divisions was gradually removed, and the Particulars to a great 
degree absorbed the Generals. As a compromise the name Regular 
Baptists was given the two "sects." There were still a few indi- 
vidual members who believed and baptised as before. Some of 
the churches were organized anew and established upon the prin- 
ciples of predestination. The churches thus newly organized 
adopted the Baptist faith published in London in 1689, contain- 
ing thirty-two articles defying Arminianism, upon which the 
Philadelphia and the Charleston Associations were founded. To 
make the organization effective, these churches drew up a church 
covenant, in which they solemnly agreed to endeavor to maintain 
the discipline of the church. The covenant was as follows: 

"For as much as Almighty Gk>d, by his Grace, has been pleased 
to call us (whose names are underneath subscribed) out of dark- 
ness into His marvelous light, and all of us have been regularly 
baptised upon a profession of our faith in Christ Jesus, and have 
given ourselves to the Lord, and to one another in a gospel way, 
to be governed and guided by a proper discipline agreeable to the 

Baptists 391 

word of GJod: We do, therefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus 
and by His assistance covenant and agree to keep up the discipline 
of the church we are members of, in the most brotherly affection 
toward each other, while we endeavor punctually to observe the 
following rules, viz : first. In brotherly love to pray for each other, 
to watch over one another and if need be in the most tender and 
affectionate way reprove one another. We also agree with Gh>d's 
assistance to pray in our families, attend our church meetings, 
observe the Lord's day to keep it Holy, and not absent ourselves 
from the conmiunion of the Lord's Supper without a lawful ex- 
cuse ; to be ready to communicate to the defraying of the church 
expenses, and for the support of the ministry; not irregularly to 
depart from the fellowship of the church, nor remove to distant 
churches without a regular dismission. These things we do 
covenant and agree to observe and keep sacred in the name and by 
the assistance of the Holy Trinity." 

This covenant of the Kehukee Baptist Association was the first 
form of discipUne or written instruction that appears among the 
Baptists in Edgecombe County. It was signed by the ministers 
of Edgecombe and Halifax counties, the principal ones being 
Jonathan Thomas, John Thomas, John Moore, John Burgess, 
William Burgess, Charley Daniel, William Wallace, John Me- 
glarre, James Abington, Thomas Pope, and Henry Abbott. 

This reformation among and union of the churches in the 
county may be very easily attributed to the two faithful preachers, 
Yanhom and Miller, who labored here more than a year. They 
returned North and left the work under the jurisdiction of the 
native ministers, some of whom had been converted under their 
preaching. Many others caught their spirit and imitated their 
examples, and carried on the unfinished labors with a laudable 
zeal, so that before 1765 practically all the ministers had em- 
braced the Particular principles.^ 

Tradition tells that Elder Palmer died before the reformation 
took place; and Elder Joseph Parker, so far as can be ascertained, 
was never convinced of his errors or turned away from them. All 

^The prindples which thate men adToeated were OalTanistie. The hl^ier larmi 
of OalTaniim were brought from the Philadelphia AaaooSation by IfUler and Van 

392 History of Edgboombb Oounty 

the other ministers at this time belonging to the (General Order 
were brought over to embrace the Calvanistic doctrine except 
Elders Winfield and William Parker. 

These reformed churches^ although only four in number, entered 
into an association compact in 1765, and first conyened at Kehukee 
Church. The principal ministers representing the churches in 
Edgecombe were Elders Jonathan Thomas and John Thomas. 
Elder Jonathan Thomas died a few years after the association 
was organized. He was the son of John Thomas, likewise of 
Edgecombe County. He had a brother by the name of John who 
also became a preacher of the Baptist denomination, as was their 
father. Jonathan at first was received into this church and 
baptized by a minister of the "Free Will" order.^ But sometime 
afterwards he embraced the Calvanistic doctrine and became one 
of the most prominent preachers of the Begular Baptist Society. 
He was ordained December, 1758. Being a man of talents, very 
affable in his address and a very able orator, he was received and 
revered by all men of character with whom he was acquainted. 
He retained the general esteem of all the churches in his county, 
and wherever he visited once he was heartily welcomed the second 
time. He was very orthodox in his belief and had a peculiar 
faculty, as indicated in his writings, in reconciling apparent con- 
tradictions in the Scriptures. 

A few years after the union of the Generals and Particulars 
into the Regular Baptist Society, and the establishment of the 
association on its original plan, a new order of Baptists, called 
"N"ew Lights" or "Separates," made their appearance in the county. 
This division first arose in ^ew England. Some pious ministers 
and individuals were converted in a revival held by Qeorge Whit- 
field and left the Presbyterian Church on account of its formality. 
The Presbyterians were, they claimed, too extravagant in their 
apparel, and would admit no one to the ministry except men of 
classical education. They complained also that many of the min- 
isters appeared to be unconverted. They also rejected certain 
doctrines of the Presbyterian Church. Since they claimed to have 

^The Free Will Baptist wm * distinct doiomination, and derired its name from 
the free will of man to accept or reject salration. At this time this sect had no per- 
manent organisation in the coanty. A few members came from Virginia to Edge- 
combe aboat 1792. 

Baptists 393 

a new conception of the true church, they were given the name 
New Lights by their former friends. Many of these people were 
baptized in "New England, and the faith was brought first to 
Edgecombe County by Shurbal Steams. Steams had been con- 
verted, and immediately feeling the call to preach came to Berk- 
ley, Virginia. Here he met his brother-in-law, Daniel Marshall, 
and labored there for some time with him in the ministry. ITot 
having met with warm fellowship and success, and hearing of the 
great spiritual disturbance in North Carolina, Steams set out 
for this colony. Elders Steams and Marshall tarried for some 
time in Edgecombe County before establishing themselves firmly 
at Sandy Creek, in the Piedmont section. Many people in the 
Regular Churches were converted to this belief. As this branch 
of the church progressed among the people, "many became alarmed 
and stood in doubt, saying, 'What means this?'" The churches 
were gathering crowds and many were connecting themselves with 
this new movement. 

The Separates soon formed a distinct organization, causing 
much division among the churches. The B^ulars, conscious of 
their strength, became anxious to receive fellowship and conmiune 
with the Separates as brothers in the common cause. Prior to this 
time and as late as 1775 — although many Regular Baptists be- 
lieved in the Calvanistic doctrine — ^they had been accustomed to 
receive members without an experience of grace and to baptize 
those who were willing before conversion. For this reason the 
Separates refused to commune with the New light churches. The 
church at Sandy Run set up a ban of communion against their 
churches and members. Word of this was received by way of 
Sussex, Virginia, and the churches in the vicinity of Edgecombe 
also did the same. Petitio;^ was made by the Regulars for a con- 
ference to be held in Norfolk, Virginia, upon the matter, and the 
R^ular Baptists sent Elder Jonathan Thomas to effect a union 
if possible. The Separates likewise sent delegates to meet the 
representatives of the Regulars and to cooperate with them to 
that end. 

When Elder Thomas arrived he was told why the Separates 
would not commune with the Regulars. They claimed that the 
Regulars were not strict enough in demanding experiences of 
grace when persons made application to them for baptism. They 

394 History of Edokcombb County 

also claimed that some of the R^ulars did not believe that faith 
in CSirist was essential to qualify a person as a candidate for 

By this conference nothing was accomplished; in fact, the 
matter was made worse. On the first Sunday in October, 1776, 
all the churches, both Separates and Begulars, met at the Falls of 
Tar River at John Moore's Meeting House, and were informed of 
the procedure that the other churches had adopted. A great dis- 
sension arose among the Begular churches respecting the pro- 
priety of such proceedings. 

The Separates maintained that faith in Christ was essential to 
qualify a person for baptism, hence those who were baptized be- 
fore they believed were not baptized agreeable to Scripture; con- 
sequently, those whose baptism was not valid remained unbaptised 
members. The Separates remained steadfast in their noncom- 
munion with such churches that had members who had been bap- 
tized without conversion. On the other hand, the B^ulars claimed 
priority in the association, while the party which favored the 
Separates insisted on being the true genuine church, as they had 
never departed from the original plan on which the churches 
were first founded. After much desultory conversation the 
churches divided, and those churches which had begun the 
reformation held a conference in the meeting house, while the 
other party convened in the woods the first day, and the second 
day removed to a private house. It was with clear consciences 
that the Separate Baptists placed a ban of communion with the 
Regulars. Many of the Regulars had been recruited by those 
who were careless in baptizing. The Separates, therefore, thought 
that they ought to withdraw from the body of men who were, to 
them, acting contrary to the Scriptures. 

The principal churches in the county in opposition to the 
Regular Baptists at the time when the division took place, were 
the churches at Toisnot, the Edgecombe Church, near Tarboro, 
under John Tanner, and Fishing Creek Church. The Church 
at Falls of Tar River was divided — Colonel Horn, who was a 
member of that church, was prominent at the time of the conten- 
tion, and had a very warm debate with Thomas Daniel, a member 

Baptists 395 

of the Begular party. Colonel Horn insisted on the propriety of 
the Separate procedure, and justified their putting a ban of com- 
munion against the Regulars. 

Very little work was accomplished at this session of the Bap- 
tists, and the association ended to meet a year later at Sussex, 
Virginia. Scores of delegates from the churches in Edgecombe 
attended this session, the agitation being intense. In the conven- 
tion most all the churches, especially the one under Elder John 
Tanner, had been Separates. 

This religious rancor continued without abatement until May, 
1782. It was during this time that the mother church of the divi- 
sion (Falls Church) was received back in full fellowship with 
the B^ular faith. This opened the way for the other churches, 
and a year later the church which had been under the care of 
John Tanner, at that time under the care of Joshua Barnes, was 
received. In 1789 the church at Toisnot, under the care of Reuben 
Hayes, came back. The returning of these churches gave the de- 
ciding sentiment and after mature consideration of the division it 
was deemed expedient for the two bodies to be again united. The 
names Regular and Separate were buried in oblivion, and the 
church was known by the name of the United Baptists. For some 
cause — ^not easy to explain — the new name was lost sight of at 
once, and the old one — Regular — prevailed until another division 
took place in 1829. 

Thus the Baptist churches had a long continuous conflict, 
severe in form and painful in effect, before reaching a state of 
tranquility and quietness. It was the most numerous, powerful, 
and wealthiest denomination of Christians in the county. For 
these reasons strife was all the more intense, since the Baptists 
made many enemies, especially among other sects. When internal 
conflicts ceased, new problems from without arose. Religious 
prejudice and social problems confronted their progress. 

The Baptists had many reproaches cast upon them because of 
their lack of intellectual tone. It was reported by Mr. Wood- 
mason, a taxgatherer for the Church of England, that a Presby- 
terian would sooner marry ten of his children to members of the 
English Church than one to a Baptist. This social difference 
cauped a deep rivalry between the Presbyterians and Baptists for 
many years. 

396 History of Edoboombid County 

Various charges were also made against these prosperous people 
by the ministers and agents of England. Beyerend Mr. Taylor, 
of the Church of England, called tiiem in 1772 a body of ^TDis- 
senters." He says also in a letter to the Secretary of Great 
Britain the same year that many called them in reproach '^ Ana- 
baptists/' some *^New Lights." He spoke of having talked with 
some of their preachers, and said they were "surprisingly ignorant 
and pretended to illumination and assurances." He called them 
so "obstinate and wilfully ignorant themselves, and that they 
taught their fellows to be so, too, and that they would hearken to 
no reason whatever, but followed their own absurd notions." The 
Baptists grew, notwithstanding opposition. The democratic 
church government appealed to the popular mind. Mr. Wood- 
mason in his account of ITorth Carolina, in 1766,^ tells of the sect 
or party abounding in great numbers in Edgecombe County, "like 
monsters in Africa, sending out emissaries, a party called New 
Lights or the Gifted Brethren, pretending to inspiration." 

The staunch controversy between the dissenters and the Estab- 
lished Church brought good results to the Baptists. Force of 
circumstances brought them into action, causing them to investi- 
gate for themselves. They became more independent and reliable, 
and began to build houses of worship ; while the ministers became 
active in public affairs. 

In addition to discrimination in law and taxes,^ which was 
directed by the Colonial Government, there was a more personal 
and individual persecution more commonly prompted by envy or 
hatred for the "hard doctrine," as it was sometimes called. One 
peculiar example of this stands out prominently in Baptist his- 
tory. The party involved was a pastor in Edgecombe County, 
Elder John Tanner. A certain woman of Windsor in Bertie 
County, whose name was Dawson, became converted and thought 
it her duty to be baptized. She desired to join the church under 
the care of Elder Dargan. Her husband was greatly opposed to 
it, and threatened that if any man baptized his wife he would 
shoot him; noonrAir\g}Y J^^^"" J!^g^ /^/^^ftrn^^or 'fo^fl ff^f^ffjd^ 
able time. At length Elder Tanner visited Elder Dargan's meet- 

^ Colonial Records, Vol. VIII. 

'DisMnting preachera had to pay taxes, while English clergTmen were exempt 
The dissenters were also forhidden to marry people. 

Baptists 397 

ing and Mrs. Dawson applied to the church for baptism, express- 
ing again her desire to fulfill her duty. She related her experi- 
ence and was received, and since Elder I>argan was an infirm 
man, he requested, as was his usual custom, the visiting minister 
to administer the ordinance in his stead. Whether Elder Tanner 
was apprised of Dawson's threat is not known. At any rate he 
baptized Mrs. Dawson. In June following, in 1777, Elder Tanner 
was expected to preach at Sandy Run Meeting House, and Daw- 
son, hearing of the appointment, came up from Windsor to BToy- 
fleet's Ferry on Boanoke River and lay in wait near the bank of 
the river. When Elder Tanner, who was in company with Elder 
Dargan, came up the bank from the ferry landing, Dawson shot 
him with a large horseman's pistol, wounding him. In this con- 
dition Elder Tanner was carried to the house of Elisha Williams, 
near Scotland Neck, where he lay for some weeks. Dawson was 
frightened, and, fearing Tanner would die, sent a doctor to attend 
him regularly. After Tanner recovered he never attempted to 
sue for any damage for the injury, but regarded the matter as a 
persecution for Christ's sake. 

For three years after 1779 no session of the Baptists had been 
held in the county, but in six months after Comwallis surrendered 
at Yorktown and the land was free from the British yoke, in May, 
1782, the churches convened in association. Rules of decorum 
and a system of church government was adopted. It was the first 
gathering of the churches to express themselves as a unified body 
with an organized purpose. Many expressed themselves unfavor- 
ably as to the education of ministers as essential to the qualifica- 
tion of a gospel preacher. "It is," said the moderator of the asso- 
ciation for 1783, "a good thing in its place and forms no objection 
to the character and qualification of a minister. But Ood calls a 
man to the knowledge of Christ in the pardon of sin without 
human learning or with it. (Jod is not dependent on human 
education. If he needs an educated man, he calls him." Many 
historians claim this an unfortunate or weak issue with the Bap- 
tists, and that it caused the uneducated ministry to retard the 
progress of the Baptist churches in the early nineteenth century, 
and finally led the Kehukee Association to take a stand against 
the Sunday School and Missionary Society in 1829. This is a 
question of no small consequence and has been debated much. 

398 History of Edobcombb County 

Immediately after the Bevolution the Baptist churches through- 
out l^orth Carolina extended their influence. Most numerous 
among these were the Baptists who were then exceptionally strong 
in Edgecombe County. Men from Edgecombe began to migrate, 
diffusing the gospel in other sections. A good illustration of this 
was in 1789. In this year Elias Fort and wife, Sarah, with his 
sons, William, Josiah, and Sugg Fort, emigrated from Edgecombe 
County, seeking home in the then unsettled far West.* 

The emigrant company, when they reached Knoxville, employed 
General Andrew Jackson to guard and protect them from the 
Indians across the Cumberland Mountains and as far as NashyiUe. 
Elias Fort and his family passed Nashville and finally settled 
on the waters of Red River, near the mouth of Sulphur Fork 
Creek, where the village of Port Royal now stands. They entered 
large tracts of land which descended from father to son to the 
present time. A lasting friendship sprang up between the Fort 
family and Andrew Jackson, and later in 1796 William Fort and 
(General Jackson met as members of the 'Tirst Constitutional 
Convention of Tennessee." The friendship was so endeared that 
William Fort made his will, naming General Andrew Jackson as 
his executor. 

Elias Fort was one of the chartered members of the E^ehukee 
Baptist Association. He, with William Horn and Elisha Battle, 
were delegates from the church at Tar River. 

Prior to the close of the Revolutionary War only four churches 
were organized in the county; Kehukee Church in 1742, Falls 
Tar River in 1757, Toisnot in 1766, and Fishing Creek 1777. 
Falls Church stands unimpaired today on the north side of Tar 
River, a short distance from the falls. This church is one of the 
oldest and one of those to first form the Kehukee Association. It 
was organized by Elders C. Daniel and John Moore, and mem- 
bers that came with William Sojuorner from Virginia in 1742. 
Whether the church was constituted as the free-will or regular 
Baptist order, is not known. Elder John Moore was pastor for 
many years, while it was in the Regular faith. He was the pastor 
when Nash County was formed from Edgecombe, taking this 
worthy church and its traditions from the mother county. In 

^JoiUh and William carried their families irith them. Sugg Fort married in 
Tenneaaee and was for a number of years, until his death, a Baptist preacher. 

Baptists 399 

November^ 1777, the church at Fishing Creek was organized. 
Meady Bozeman, an ardent friend and active minister of the 
Baptist Society, gave a parcel of land for the erection of the 

These churches thrived under the leadership of strong and 
pious men like John Moore, Daniel Boss, Emanuel Skinner, Elias 
Fort at Tar River Church, John Thomas, Aaron Tyson, William 
Bond, Ephraim Daniel, and John Stamper at Toisnot, and William 
Burgess, Benjamin Durkins, and Thomas Joyner at Eehukee. 
Many additions were reported added to the church at every asso- 
ciation, an^ a mutual fellowship was prevailed among all. 

In 1777, the year Fishing Creek Church was organized, the 
celebrated articles on marriage were submitted to the church by 
Elders John Moore, John Stampers, John Thomas, and ITathan 
Mayo, a layman at Tar Biver. These were the first articles that 
were drawn up under the religious institution. 

If a person intended to marry, the fact was properly published 
for several Sundays in public congregations in the county by the 
minister who was to perform the ceremony. The notice was pub- 
lished by a clerk of a Regular Baptist Church, where one or both 
parties resided. When the persons came for marriage, the min- 
ister asked if they were free and clear from all other preengage- 
ments. They were then instructed in the great purpose of the 
institution of marriage, and were also informed as to their duty 
to Gk>d and to each other. 

The real ceremony began when the above preliminaries were 
over. The man was asked if, in the presence of God and the 
congr^ation, he would take the woman to be his wedded wife, 
'Ho live together after (Jod's ordinance in the Holy State of mar- 
riage, to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health, in pros- 
perity and adversity, and forsaking all others, keep only unto her 
so long as both should live." The man answered, "I will." The 
same questions were asked the woman, who likewise answered in 
the affirmative. The minister, then joining the hands of the 
parties together, continued: **These whom God hath joined to- 
gether let no man put asunder." The couple were then pronounced 
man and wife ''in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 

This is, as far as the record shows, the only form of ritual used 
in marriage ceremonies. It is similar in many respects to the mode 

400 History of Edosoombb County 

used by the Primitive Baptists today. The churches enjoyed har- 
monious fellowship for the next ten years. The beginning of the 
nineteenth century^ however, brought new problems. The greatest 
rvival recorded swept over the county, lasting for over a decade. 
Churches sprang up in almost every locality, giving a lasting 
impetus to religious fervor. Conetoe church, formerly a branch of 
the church at Flat Swamp, was founded in 1803 about eight miles 
southeast of Tarboro. After remaining as a branch for some- 
time it petitioned for the privilege to be constituted, which 
was done on Saturday before the fourth Sunday in July, 1903, 
by Elders Joseph Riggs, Jonathan Cherry and Joshua Barnes. 
At that time the church gave Thomas Boss, one of her mem- 
bers, a call to take the pastoral care, which for some reason 
he did not then accept; but on the Saturday before the fourth 
Sunday in September following he was ordained by Elders, 
Cherry, and Luke Ward, and received pastoral care of the 
church, in which he officiated imtil his removal to Tennessee. 
After Elder Boss's removal the church was without a permanent 
pastor, but was served by the neighboring ministers until 1820. 
Elder Dupree then served until 1845. In the course of time Elder 
John H. I>aniel, one of her members, acted as pastor for several 
years. His mind becoming feeble long before he died, Elder 
William A. Boss accepted the pastoral care in February, 1856, 
and Elder David House took charge in September, 1873, and serv- 
ing for many years. 

The church has always been small. In 1810 it had only forty- 
five members, and today it has only about twenty. It has, however, 
been a church of deep piety, and has given more men to the min- 
istry, according to number, than any other church in the county. 
Elder Daniel, a member, was baptised in December, 1829, ordained 
deacon in July, 1831, licensed to exercise his gifts in October, 
1833. A query was submitted to the conference by this church in 
March, 1854, and answered, which may be worth noticing. 

'^Es it right or not right for a gospel minister to attend and 
preach funeral services over the dead? Answer: We believe it 
an institution of man, and therefore not right." The church had 
for many years a good leader and a simple hearted exhorter in 
the person of William Thigpen, who died June 2, 1885. He was 
an active member of the society, progressive in his age, but never 

Baptists 401 

aspired to the ministry. He was baptised in September, 1828, 
chosen deacon in February, 1829, and served as clerk nearly all the 
period of his membership. 

Elder John Page was another early follower of the church at 
Conetoe. He embraced religion under the preaching of Elder 
Jonathan Thomas, and became a member of a branch of his 
church. He was ordained pastor of the church at Flat Swamp, 
which was derived from Toisnot and became a constituted body. 
Elder Page died October, 1796, leaving a record of a faithful and 
true member. 

In the same year (1803) Cross Beads Church, one of the 
strongest churches in the county, was formed. Part of the mem- 
bers of the church were formerly members of the churches at 
Flat Swamp and Conetoe. Elder Joseph Biggs and Jonathan 
Cherry, acting together the Saturday before the second Sunday 
in July, organized the scattered members. On the same day 
Elder Cherry was called to take the pastoral care of the church. 
He continued in charge until his death in 1818. After Elder 
Cherry's death, Elder William Hyman was called to the church, 
and continued in charge until his death on October 31, 1861. The 
church then was served for a number of years by Elder John H. 
Daniel, of Conetoe, then by Elder Daniel House, of Flat Swamp. 

In November, 1870, R. H. Harris, a deacon of this church, was 
licensed to exercise his gifts. In April, 1875, he was set apart for 
ordination, and on the second Sunday in May, 1875, he was or- 
dained to the administration of the gospel ordinances by Elders 
John Stamper and David House. He was then chosen pastor 
and served the church in that capacity until his death in May, 
1889. It was this church under the leadership of Elder William 
Hyman, who was pastor for thirty years, that conducted such a 
heated contest against the missionary spirit. Elder Hyman was 
a man remarkable for integrity and candor, and in a plain simple 
style he showed in a well-written article the difference be- 
tween the Old and New Baptists. 

Cross Beads Church has been the gathering place for several 
associations since its foundation. Perhaps the largest ever held 
in the county was held in 1873. The number of persons present 
on this occasion was supposed to be, at the least calculation, 10,000, 
and some good judges estimated it at 13,000. 

402 History of Edgecombe County 

Swift Creek and Prospect Churches were erected in 1804 and 
applied for recognition in order that the members might worship 
as an organized body. 

In 1805 the Baptist Meeting House at Lawrence's was organ- 
ized. This church was formerly a branch of the church at 
Kehukee. Until 1805 Kehukee and Lawrence Meeting Houses 
were both represented together in the association. In 1804 a com- 
mittee to inquire into its standing was appointed, and it was 
found to have been constituted a church for many years. The 
church at this time was under the pastoral care of Elder Joshua 
Lawrence, an eminent young member noted for his gifts and zeal. 
He was ordained by Elders Burkitt and Read at Fishing Creek, 
now Lawrence Meeting House, which he had accepted, becoming 
the successor of Elder Gilbert. This church is named after Elder 
Lawrence. It first had ninety members, but by dismission to new 
churches, deaths, removals, and dismissals, the church had been 
greatly reduced in number. Elder Lawrence, following the spirit 
of the great revival, succeeded in baptizing as many as twenty- 
two at one time, and in two years over one hundred were added 
to the church. The church for a long time was called New or 
Cotton Meeting House, but later it became Lawrence, the name it 
bears to the present time. 

In 1849 Elder Blount Cooper became pastor, the church enjoy- 
ing several periods of spiritual awakening under his ministry. 
After his death in 1852 Elder John Stamper was called and served 
until May, 1872. In October, 1873, Elder William F. Bell was 
called and he served until May, 1877. Elder James S. Woodard, 
of Wilson, N. C, accepted the post. After his retirement in 
1882 Elder R. H. Harris served a short time till his death in 
1889. This early church furnished many men for the ministry. 
One of her members, William T. Slater, after having been licensed 
several years to exercise his gifts, was ordained to the ministry 
in 1885. Still another member, William Henris, for several years 
has been licensed to exercise his gifts in the ministry. 

Richard Harrison, for a long time a member of this church, 
showed his tender affection before he died by willing to it $500, 
the interest on which was to be paid to the pastor yearly. The 

Baptists 403 

church is still thriving, having approximately seventy members, 
and being served by various ministers traveling through the 

Toward the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century 
Williams Meeting House was also organized. It started with 
thirty-five members and was originally called Prospect Chapel, 
but in 1811 it was thought best to remove it to another location, 
and it was moved to John Williams' farm, he giving the land for 
its location. This church was constituted on Thursday before the 
fourth Sunday in August, 1804, by Elders Mark Bennett and 
Philemon Bennett, with members who were dismissed from Fish- 
ing Creek. The church called Elder Philemon Bennett to serve 
as pastor, which he accepted until the year 1820. Under his min- 
istry the church experienced growth, and in 1811 a revival took 
place in the church, resulting in about 110 baptisms. There were 
two members of the church who have exercised their ministerial 
gifts in public, John George and James EUeanor, but the church 
offered little encouragement, although the former particularly was 
very remarkable for a pious and exemplary life. 

After Elder Philemon Bennett failed to serve the church, 
Elder Mark H. Bennett was called as pastor. He served till 
1843. After this time the church was visited by Elders R. D. 
Hart, J. H. Daniel, and J. W. Stamper. There was no regular 
pastor till September, 1876, when Elder Jordan W. Johnson was 
chosen to that office. This church has had three of her members 
ordained to the ministry, Willie Pittman, Blount Bryan, and 
Jordan W. Johnson. 

Thus there was a spontaneous rise of churches and much con- 
cern for religion. The great spirit of religion moved the people 
with tremendous power, resulting in real constructive work for 
church organizations. The ministers all seemed alive in the 
work of the church. The first appearance of the great manifesta- 
tion was discovered in great numbers of people attending the 
meetings. It was observed also that the congregations were more 
solemn and serious than usual. The work increased, many were 
converted, sometimes twelve, fourteen, eighteen, twenty, and 
twenty-four at several times in one day; twenty-two and twenty- 

404 History of Edoecombb County 

four were baptized several times in one day at Toisnot and Cone- 
toe. Some churches in the revival mentioned received nearly 
two hundred members. 

The meetings were also conducted by a very different method 
than today. One of the most marked differences between the 
revival of the nineteenth century and the twentith in the Baptist 
Church is that of shaking hands while singing^ and giving the 
people an invitation to come up to the altar (or better known as 
the mourner's bench) to be prayed for. The singing in the early 
days was used as a means to further the ministerial work. At 
the close of the sermon ministers would usually tell the congrega- 
tion that if there were any persons who thought themselves lost 
and condemned under guilt of their sins, that if they would come 
near the altar and kneel down they would pray for them, during 
which time the minister would sing. 

These various churches still retained their Calvanistic govern- 
ment as mentioned in the Scriptures, up to 1810, and were with- 
out any form of general organization. But it must be remem- 
bered that this was a time of organization, and renewed religious 
life, such as new churches springing up and men congregating, with 
the common impulse toward union which came from the formation 
of a national government, led to organization in 1814. This was 
an assembly of all the churches in the county as an advisory 
body. Business was discussed and affairs of the church were de- 
termined in general. It was a time when organization or system 
of some sort was most needed. There were at this time and 
afterwards vigorous proselyting efforts by the TJniversalists in the 
county. Conflicts were encountered and overcome by the church 
organization. A challenge for a joint discussion was made by one 
of the Universalist preachers after 1814, when the organization 
was made, to elder Joshua Lawrence, pastor in Edgecombe, a 
Baptist of great talent and force of character. All of these 
tendencies proved to the various churches that separated in gov- 
ernment, they must ultimately succumb to the more ordered 

This plan of church government was the outcome of union 
meetings. They were adopted just before the missionary agitation 
in 1803, and consisted of a union of a few churches which met 
together at stated times to confer about matters relating to peace. 

Baptists 405 

and general fellowship among the sister churches. Their sessions 
lasted about three days. Every fifth Sunday was the accustomed 
time for the meeting to be held, including the previous Friday and 
Saturday. These sessions were not fettered with any business 
transactions, such being disposed of at the individual church con- 
ferences. These union meetings were not permanent organiza- 
tions, and were subject to change, so as to suit the conveniences 
of the churches. Frequently they would be dispensed with for 
a while and then renewed. No particular form or constitution 
was deemed necessary, many churches using creeds, preambles, 
and a short form of by-laws, suitable to the members of the differ- 
ent churches. For general information one of the creeds is given 

"We believe that God, before the foundation of the world, for a pur- 
pose of his own glory, did elect a certain number of men and angels 
to eternal life, and that this election is particular, eternal, and un- 
conditional on the Creator's part 

"We believe that when God made man at first he was perfect, holy, 
and upright, able to keep the law, liable to fall; and that he stood as 
a central head or representative of all his natural ofTspring, and that 
they were to be partakers of the benefits of his obedience, or exposed 
to the misery which sprang from his disobedience. 

"We believe that Adam fell from this state of moral rectitude, and 
that he involved himself and all his natural ofTspring in a state of 
death, and for that original transgression, we are both filthy and 
guilty in the sight of a holy God. 

"We believe it is utterly out of the power of men as fallen creatures 
to keep the law of God perfectly, repent of their sins truly, or believe 
in Christ; except they be drawn by the Holy Spirit 

"We believe that in God's own appointed time and way (by means 
which he has ordained) the elect shall be called, justified, pardoned, 
and sanctified, and that it is impossible that they can utterly refuse 
the call, but shall be made willing by Divine Grace to receive of offers 
of mercy. 

"That justification in the sight of God is the only imputed of Jesus 
Christ received and applied by faith alone. 

"That in like manner God's elect shall not only be called and 
justified, but that they shall be converted, bom again and changed by 
the effectual working of God's Holy Spirit. 

"That such as are converted and called by grace, shall persevere in 
holiness, and never fall absolutely away. 

"That baptism and the Lord's Supper are gospel ordinances, both 
belonging to the converted and true believer, and that persons who 

406 History of Edoeoombb County 

were sprinkled or dipped whilst in unbelief were not regularly baptised 
according to God's word; and that they ought to be baptized after they 
are savingly converted in the faith of Christ. 

"That every church is independent in matters of discipline, and that 
associations, councils, and conferences of several ministers or churches 
are not to impose on the churches the keeping and holding of any 
principle or practice, contrary to the church's Judgment. 

"That there is a resurrection of the dead, both of the Just and 
unjust, and a general Judgment 

"That the punishment of the wicked is everlasting and the Joy of 
the righteous is eternal. 

"That no minister has a right to the administration of the ordinance 
only such as are regularly called and come under inspiration of hands 
by the presbjrtery." 

It is noticeable that the keynote through the entire articles is 
that of individual freedom and liberty. No right of the church 
or its membership is to be infringed upon. Perhaps the reason 
for this grew out of the early conflicts with civil authority. The 
Baptists, of all people, desired freedom of speech and conscience, 
and for this reason every church was a distinct government of its 
own. This idea of freedom was no doubt in the minds of the 
framers of these articles. 

Officers were accordingly elected as the organization improved 
itself, the principal ones being the ministers and deacons. The 
church at first had ruling elders, but it soon became evident that 
there were no ruling elders mentioned in the Scriptures distinct 
from teachers, who are called elders; therefore, the practice of 
having ruling elders distinct from ministers was laid aside. 

The manner of receiving members is interesting, and is fol- 
lowed in a similar manner today. In Edgecombe County the cus- 
tomary way for receiving members into church fellowship was 
for the person who desired admission into the church to attend 
the church conference, and when the conference sat to come and 
signify his intention to the ministers or some of the members. 
The church then received the experience as related by the candi- 
date, setting forth how the Lord awakened him and brought him 
to a sense of his lost state by nature; and how he had seen the 
helplessness of his own work to save himself. 

If any doubt remained, the minister or any of the members 
present, asked such questions as were necessary relative to admis- 

Baptists 407 

sion. The questions being answered, the minister usually asked 
the church respecting the life and conversation of the applicant. 
And if there was general approval, the minister and members 
gave him the right hand of fellowship. 

A time was then appointed for his baptism, and being assembled 
at some convenient water, after singing and praying, the minister 
took the candidate by the hand and led him into the water, hold- 
ing the hands of the person to be baptized in one of his and in the 
other holding to a handkerchief tied fast around his head, sub- 
merged the candidate, expressing these or similar words: ^^In the 
name of our Lord Jesus Church, and by the authority of our office, 
I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of 
the Holy Ghost." 

After the ceremony was performed, they both coming up out of 
the water, the congregation joined in singing: 

"Do we not know that solemn word, 
That we are burled with the Lord; 
Baptlz'd into his death and then 
Put of the body of our sin," etc. 

At the water the newly baptized person was met by the members 
of the church, and generally saluted thus: 

"You are welcome to the cross, brother." 

The great revival that swept over the county; the rise of new 
churches, and the forming of many compacts and creeds proved 
a most prosperous time for the Baptists. But along with this 
wave of religion came new dangers heretofore unreckoned. The 
movement, as all movements must, reached a climax. This made 
progress difficult until a new dispensation came about 1829. The 
church had become lukewarm. 

The greatest of all movements in Baptist history arose over the 
question of organization and certain tenets following the period 
of expansion. The movement first began in the union meetings 
in the county about 1800. Here in the apparent quietness of the 
small meeting houses from 1800 to 1829 the problem of missions 
disturbed many hearts — and created an agitation which the county 
has not gotten over to the present day. 

408 History of Edgecombb County 

Elder Martin Ross, a very able minister, favoring the mis- 
sionary spirit in 1803, introduced a query at the association: 
''Is not the Kehukee Association, with all her numerous and re- 
spectable friends, called upon in Providence in some way to step 
forward in support of that missionary spirit which the Great 
Grod is so wonderfully reviving among the different denomina- 
tions of good men in various parts of the world?" The query 
astounded many loyal Baptists and followers of the old traditions. 
Some men favored and some stood opposed to the measure. There 
was never any absolute acquiescence given as to merits of the 
query. A weak and indifferent assent was given to the movement 
by a majority for awhile, but no heartiness ever obtained. 

Those who held to the older doctrines objected so strenuously 
that they gradually withdrew from the councils that were held. 
The nucleus around which the movement centered was the church 
at Tarboro. There had been Baptists in considerable numbers in 
Tarboro prior to 1819, the year in which the Baptist Church was 
built, but they had had no regular meeting house. The town 
contained only one church, called Public Meeting House, at the 
time the Baptist Church was built, and it afforded a place for 
meeting for all denominations. The Baptists met here for several 
years, hearing preaching by visiting ministers. Frequently there 
were conflicts with the services held by the Episcopalians, and 
then the Baptists would meet in the old academy in the town or 
in a carpenter's shop belonging to Mc Williams. 

On February 6, 1819, amid the great confusion and strife, a 
conference was held in Tarboro and a church was constituted by 
a few people which was destined to stir the moral center of the 
county. Six persons, Samuel Smith, Eli Porter, Peter P. Law- 
rence, Mamie Joyner, Navey Blake, and Ann Lawrence, were dis- 
missed from their respective churches at Conetoe and Cross Boads 
to form this church imder the leadership of Elders Joshua Law- 
rence, Martin Ross, Thomas Billings, and Thomas Meredith. 

An attempt had been made a few years before 1819 by Elder 
Nathan Gilbert to form a church, but he failed by reason of not 
procuring the consent of two or three members to leave the 
churches to which they belonged. 

Elder Joshua Lawrence frequently visited the town of Tar- 
boro and preached. About two years before the constitution of this 

Baptists 409 

church, he had been heard to say that he was powerfully impressed 
with this passage of Scriptures : '^The Lord is able of these stones 
to raise up children unto Abraham." He renewed his ministerial 
exertions and commenced preaching here monthly, and shortly 
afterward the church was formed. Elder Lawrence consented to 
preach for the small congregation, and later became one of the 
strongest defenders of the church. 

Li a few years by letters of dismissal from other churches and 
by baptism, the church increased greatly in numbers. Under the 
forceful presentation of the truth as he saw it, Mr. Lawrence, 
after he began preaching in the regular church in 1826 or 1827, 
had serious threats made against his life for his opposition to the 
missionary cause. He was warned by several messages in the 
course of one week not to come to town the succeeding Saturday 
to fill his appointment, as his life would be in danger. 

Elder Lawrence ignored the warning and preached in the 
church, speaking his mind freely, using the text parallel to that 
the Master used when persecuted in Gallilee: "When they perse- 
cute you in one city, flee you into another, and Paul and Barnabas 
shook off the dust from their feet and departed." Mr. Lawrence 
then left the church for six or eight months, to the regret of many 
of his followers. 

After Mr. Lawrence's departure the church called Elder P. W. 
Dowd, of Raleigh, who had been a frequent representative to the 
Kehukee Association from the Raleigh Association, to preach for 
the congregation. Mr. Dowd at once favored the missionary cause. 
The bitterness at the Tarboro Church became especially strong 
and those who held to the older forms objected so strenuously that 
they gradually withdrew, calling themselves Primitive Baptists; 
while the others, a more numerous group, were called Missionary 
Baptists. Several of the male members in the church advocated 
missions and "Tract Societies." This spirit on the part of many 
caused individual withdraws from the church. Mr. Eli Porter, a 
deacon and clerk of the church conference, because of his prejudice 
against Sunday schools and mission societies, requested in June, 
1829, just before the church actually split, his church letter.^ 

^The Kehukee Association voted to discard all sects or pastors advocating the 
missionary cause and soliciting aid for tract societies. 

410 History of Edoegombb County 

Later, in 1830, the church voted the adoption of the rules of the 
Kehukee Association, and Mr. Porter came back to the church 
as a regular member. 

The real climax in the movement came on October 7, 1829. At 
this time a conference met at Tarboro Meeting House, and on 
motion of Cofield King and Griffin, Elder Dowd was voted a dis- 
missal from the pastoral care of the church. Joshua Lawrence 
was recalled by the church to take up the work where he had left 
it before the controversy began. The missionary spirit, in the 
meantime, was growing more zealous. Elder Dowd was consid- 
ered a martyr for the cause he represented, and his followers 
became more bitter in their expressions. Several of the churches 
in the county followed the Tarboro Church and passed resolutions 
barring intercourse with all non-Primitive Baptists. No preacher 
that came to any of Edgecombe's churches seeking money for 
missions or society work was admitted to the pulpit of any "Reg- 
ular Baptist Church." In order to oflFset the resolutions of the 
Primitive Baptists the Missionary Baptists issued a circular let- 
ter in 1826 which was referred to the churches in the county. 
The following year the Regular Baptists replied and condemned 
all missionary societies, Bible societies, theological seminaries, 
and practices resorted to for their support. This same year wit- 
nessed many divisions in the church. Many parties were formed 
and many unpleasant occurrences took place. The advocates of 
the new movement, thinking themselves strong enough, met in 
the new meeting house, which had just been completed before the 
division, and took possession imder the leadership of Mr. Dowd. 
The members who were opposed to their measures were excluded. 
The members adhering to the old doctrine had, in the meantime, 
assembled at the old meeting house, and acting for the church 
called on those who had acted disorderly and expelled them ^ 
from the privileges of the church. 

Joshua Lawrence became the champion for the old Baptist 
cause. He was born September 10, 1778, on the farm he after- 
wards called Corn Neck, now known as the Edwards Place. As 
was the case of many other of our strongest characters, his youth- 

^J. H. Hattmus, R. L. Long. Henry John«on« Martha Lawrence, PrancU Outlaw, 
Mary B. Dancy, Martha Ann Alston, Harriet Hadley, Mary B. McCotton, Mary E. 
Norman, and teveral others were ex-c<»nmanicated in the Norember meeting prerioos 
to this time. 

Baptists 411 

ful days were spent in sowing wild oats. He gave no promise 
of that great service he rendered, of that tremendous influence 
which he afterwards achieved. His education consisted mainly of 
the training which he received at home. Mr. Lawrence did not 
even take advantage of this small opportunity. No one saw in 
him the successful farmer, vigorous and energetic preacher, leader 
of moral and religious thought, witty writer, organizer of the 
"Compact," and aggressive leader of a denomination of Christians 
that he came to be from 1800 to 1845. 

Before his vices had matured into habits he was converted to 
the Baptist faith and was baptized at Falls of Tar River. At the 
age of twenty-three he began to impart to others in a ministerial 
capacity the doctrine which had brought light to him. For more 
than forty years he was conceded to be the ablest local exponent 
of the N^ew Testament teachings. He proclaimed, without respect 
to persons, the doctrine of justification by faith, both from the 
pulpit and from the press. 

At the beginning of his ministry there broke out a great revival 
in the church at Falls of Tar River, where he was pastor. More 
than a hundred persons were baptized, among whom were some 
of the most prominent and influential citizens of the county. 
Mr. Lawrence became conscious of his deficiencies, and realized 
that in addition to his experience of grace, an education was 
essential in the work he had chosen. He began to apply himseK 
assiduously to his improvement, and to interpret his own experi- 
ences more clearly. He, however, never acquired a thorough ed- 
ucation, but he became deeply versed in the Scriptures and church 
history. In this respect he was fortunate. His knowledge of both 
history and Scripture enabled him to meet many skilled oppo- 
nents with credibility. 

Mr. Lawrence had just reached maturity when the great move- 
ment among the Baptists was at its highest. He was a delegate 
from his church at the time Martin Ross brought up the matter 
of foreign missions for discussion and consideration. It is sup- 
posed that Mr. Lawrence at first gave his support to the move- 
ment, but in the changes of 1821 he began to sympathize with the 
old doctrine and began his vigorous defense of its cause. He was 
perhaps the first man in North Carolina who took a decided 
stand against the missionary spirit. Mr. Lawrence's objection 

412 History of Edqsoombb Cottnty 

was really confined to the method by which the advocates of mis- 
sions sought to carry out their plans. He was not so bitter against 
the work of foreign missions^ as he was against the societies that 
sprang up in order to promote the interests of the missionary 
order the support of the clergy^ educating the ministry — ^all which 
tended to prevent Mr. Lawrence's approval of the movement. 

By 1826 his mind was matured and he became the recognized 
leader of the opposition. To him the new doctrine was being 
advocated by the will of designing men. To check the progress 
he presented ^^A declaration of the Reformed Baptists of I^orth 
Carolina" to the association. Under this caption it was deferred 
for a year. There is no record as to the actual facts of this move 
of Mr. Lawrence's. Elder Mark Bennett, who was also a dele- 
gate to the association, said no definite action was ever taken; 
but we have a strong speech made by Mr. Lawrence defending his 
plans and denouncing, with strong words, what he termed ^^specu- 
lating with the gospel," and the religious societies of the day. 

Mr. Lawrence became greatly wrought up over the division in the 
church. His heart and mind were set in motion to find some way 
to restore peace and union suitable to his faction. Had the mis- 
sionary advocates adopted his thoughts and ideas incorporated in 
the declaration presented to the association at Shewarkey, it 
would have averted the great calamity which fell upon this body. 
The declaration took the position that the only way to obtain 
peace was to return to the customs which had been practiced 
throughout the history of the church. It recommended a closing 
of all old Baptist pulpits against the ministers of the missionary 
churches. Before this document, however, could reach the asso- 
ciation and the public, it was modified by William Clark, who 
thought it too harsh in tone. Mr. Lawrence rebuked Mr. Clark 
for the alteration, and claimed that its effectiveness was impaired. 

When the actual clash came between Elder Lawrence and Elder 
Dowd over the possession of the church property in Tarboro, the 
former used no violent means over his opponent. The missionary 
element, having a more numerous body, claimed the meeting house 
as their property. Acting upon this assumption, Mr. Dowd took 
the key to the church house; whereupon Mr. Lawrence was re- 
ported to have said, ''Well and good, you may have the key, but 
I shall keep the books." With these words he picked up the 

Baptists 413 

church records, leaving Elder Dowd in possession of the church. 
The majority of the members, feeling that they would not have 
privileges as church members unless they had their records, fol- 
lowed Mr. Lawrence. The faction that he represented had both 
the records and the members, consequently having Trained the 
majority of the church membership, he reasserted his claim to 
the church property. 

The late Judge Gleorge Howard, of Tarboro, who was a boy in 
his father's printing shop during the time of the church division, 
was asked, just before his death, by a prominent Baptist preacher, 
what he thought of Mr. Lawrence and his maneuver. Mr. How- 
ard replied : ^'I used to think he was the greatest man of his day. 
When a boy I heard Elder Lawrence compare the diflSculties of 
the church to a sheep down in the mire with two men struggling 
to get him out, but to no avail. The men failing to secure the 
sheep, decided to pull the fleece from his body. This illustration 
Mr. Lawrence applied to the missionaries, who after failing to 
secure the church property, decided to fleece her of the member- 

After this episode Mr. Lawrence realized that all attempts at 
reconciliation were futile, and he brought into action his won- 
derful mental qualities against the new movement. Among the 
believers and supporters of missions he was dreaded, and the 
opponents of missions looked upon him as the only defender of 
ancient customs. He was well-drilled in the tactics of warfare, 
and his unusual powers were at their greatest eflSciency only 
when in actual encounter. He was a skilled opponent everywhere, 
in politics and in the church. He has left a permanent literature, 
both secular and religious, in North Carolina that will forever 
have its influence upon those who read it. One cannot but be 
conscious as one reads Mr. Lawrence's writing of a vigorous in- 
tellect and a propensity for sound reasoning. 

The first essay published by Mr. Lawrence in the defense of the 
Baptists was American Telescope, written in 1825, immediately 
after the missionary movement began. Mr. Lawrence was a great 
typifier. He employed certain words for a subject and then used 
the subject for a symbol, or to typify his discourse. Through the 
Telescope he looks far into the future and predicts the conse- 
quences of missionary and other societies in the United States. 

414 History of Edoecombb County 

The discussion has a historical basis — the motives that prompted 
a missionary movement for the Indians. The primary object, 
Mr. Lawrence points out, was that of obtaining money for the 
realization of the missionary movement. He also ^owed that the 
disciples were not hirelings, that they did not receive salaries for 
their work in the mission fields, and that such a policy was eon- 
fined to the Church of Bome. 

This essay created dissension among the missionary Baptists 
and no less than nine different articles were written in reply to 
the "American Telescope." Mr. Lawrence replied to the various 
articles on November 2, 1827, in another essay entitled the "Clod- 
hopper." Six years later the "Clodhopper" was enlarged, when an 
application was made to the State Legislature for a charter for 
Wake Forest College. Joshua Lawrence's power reached its greatest 
efficiency just at that time. The demand for a charter of a church 
institution roused him to immediate action. A firm and faithful 
believer in the separation of church and state, he stated his politi- 
cal views with the same import as he did his religious views. He 
had his pamphlet presented to every member of the (Jeneral As- 
sembly. This, however, did not bear influence sufficient to prevent 
the charter. Following the declaration of Mr. Lawrence the 
churches in the county drew up resolutions against the State 
incorporating a church institution. 

Ihiring this same year Mr. Lawrence published his best works 
on religion from a Calvanistic viewpoint. This production was 
called a Basket of Fragments, and contained many selections on 
religious life for the instruction of young people. 

A year later, in 1834, he published in the Primitive Baptist ^ 
an article called "Teeth to Teeth, or Tom Thumb Tugging with 
the Wolves for the Sheep Skin." In this essay Mr. Lawrence 
symbolized the old school Baptists as sheep in the midst of the 
missionaries and being gradually devoured by them. It is most 
pathetic as well as satirical in its exposition. "Go your way," 
quotes Mr. Lawrence, *T)ehold I send you forth as lambs among 
wolves." He depicts the scene of salaried preachers as *Svolf 
preachers clothed in sheep skins and pretending to be in a gospel 
church." It was his expressed purpose in this article to dig teeth 
to teeth by Scripture for the sheep skin which the Missionaries 

^ A Baptist organ published hj George Howard, of Tarboro. 

Baptists 416 

had assumed in order to devour the sheep in this "garb." To 
make his thought effective six kinds of ministers of the gospel — 
self-made ministers^ men-made ministers, devil-made ministers, a 
Christian that makes himself a minister, a gentleman preacher, 
and God's minister — were described. Each division was taken up 
in order and portrayed as Mr. Lawrence saw it according to 
Scripture. The book is a broad survey of socalled hypocracies 
in the church and the various methods employed by the ministers 
to deceive the people under them. 

During the year 1826 a missionary preacher ventured to stay 
all night with Mr. Lawrence without knowing who his host was. 
Mr. Lawrence treated him with courtesy, and surprised his guest 
the next morning by telling him who he was. Living up to the 
reputation which had been given him, Mr. Lawrence asked if he 
had any abolition papers upon his person. His guest, with equal 
candor, positively denied having any such literature, and showed 
Mr. Lawrence many tracts and other papers. Mr. Lawrence ad- 
vised his guest that if he did possess any abolition papers he had 
better bum them lest he got into "Jack's House" in passing South. 

In 1840 several missionary preachers were traveling in Edge- 
combe in behalf of missions and Mr. Lawrence desired to know of 
their whereabouts. He wrote to the Primitive Baptist accord- 
ingly, "If any of you know what has become of these tourists for 
money you will do me the favor to communicate it to me, for these 
men have passed me in their routes without calling on me. I 
want to give them an invitation. My barns have not been empty 
in forty years. Their horses can be fed when hungry and 
fatigued; they themselves shall be heartily welcome to the best 
the pot affords with additional supplies. I wish them and others 
of like stamp not to think me an enemy because they may differ 
with me in opinion whether religious or political, for that man 
is a fool who thinks every man must see out of his neighbor's 
eyes or be compelled to think as he thinks. Yet I would have it 
understood that I would as soon believe Judas was a minister of 
God when a devil from the beginning, as to believe that a mis- 
sionary hireling is a gospel minister of Christ, for with all of my 
four eyes for my life I cannot see the difference between selling 
the Master for thirty pieces of silver and selling the Master's 
gospel for the highest price." 

416 HisTOET OF Edgecombe County 

Occasionally an ardent supporter of the missionary cause 
would venture a reply to Mr. Lawrence's bitter words of de- 
nunciation. The same year of Mr. Lawrence's inquiry for the 
traveling ministers in the county an article appeared stating that 
if Old Lawrence was dead they could come among the Baptists 
in the county with their steam religion and have a good revival. 

Following this slight encounter with the missionary preachers 
in 1840, Mr. Lawrence published in the Primitive Baptist a 
satirical article entitled "Froggery." "No other piece of satire 
against modem monopolies and the incorporation of religious in- 
stitutions has ever appeared in print in this State. Mr. Lawrence 
makes use of a frog as a symbol of the church and dissects it in 
order to show how the church may be rid of the evils of the mis- 
sionaries. Smooth in diction, convincing and accurate in argu- 
ment, the essay cannot but impress the ability and force of the 

In 1841 Elder Lawrence was offered ten thousand dollars for 
his literary productions in order that they might be publidied 
for circulation. Men dogged him for days at the time for the 
exclusive privil^e of publishing his works for personal profit. 
But in his peculiar way he refused, with the statement that he was 
devoting his talent and life to the cause of his church and faith 
and not pecuniary gain. 

In politics Mr. Lawrence was a Democrat and was as earnest 
in his denunciation of political corruption as he was of the new 
religious movement. His literary skill and free opinion involved 
him in many political controversies. He displayed unusual 
energy and generally met his opponent worthily. The sentiment 
against the bank question in 1841 was championed by Joshua 
Lawrence in Eastern Carolina. His greatest political document, 
the ''Mechanic," published 1841, was an exposition on this question 
and brought conmient from the best intellect of the time. The 
Portsmouth Old Dominion,^ edited by F. Fiske, gave the follow- 
ing approbatory notice of several articles written by Mr. Law- 
rence against the bank in that year. It says in part: ''Reverend 
Joshua Lawrence, a gentleman, a Baptist preacher of considerable 
celebrity, who resides in Edgecombe County, has recently pub- 

^ The Old Dominion was at the time one of the leading newspapers ci tha 
South and published at Portsmouth, Va. 

Baptists 417 

lished his views upon the evil effects of our present wicked and 
corrupt banking system, in the Tarboro Free Press. Like the 
Reverend John Leiand, Beverend President Wayland, Beverend 
Professor Sears and other brilliant lights of the Baptist Church, 
he is the undeviating force of all chartered monopolies, the firm 
friend of equality and the rights of man." 

For several years after the division among the Baptists and the 
erection of churches by the missionary party, the strife and con- 
tention became very bitter. Each party denounced the other in 
not very gentle and affectionate terms. The missionaries treated 
the old school Baptists with a great deal of contempt on account 
of the smallness of their number. They claimed that they would 
soon become extinct, that their creed was old-fashioned, and that 
they lacked education and were deficient in culture and refine- 
ment. They proclaimed in conversation and through the press 
that the old party would soon be entirely out of the way and 
would give them no further trouble. Various names of reproach 
were applied to them by the missionaries, such as *^ardshells," 
"Straight Jackets," "Ignoramuses," "Lawrenceons," "Orbornites," 
and "Anti-Omians." The Primitive Baptists retaliated by nick- 
naming the new school Baptists as "Money grabbers," "Dis- 
turbers of the Lamb," "Dowerdites," "Imbibbers," "Money- 
loving," "Money-beggers," "Mesmerizers," "Passion-exciters," 
"Do-and-live Baptists." In order to make the warfare more 
effective the old school element organized a paper in 1835 ^ to 
promote their cause in a forceful way. The paper was edited by 
Mark Bennett, published by G^eorge Howard, of Tarboro. The 
original purpose of the paper was to defend the Old School United 
Baptists from the aspersions by persons professing their own 
faith because they did not engage in the new organizations that 
arose. The paper was not inimical to masonry — as was reported 
and believed by many several years ago — temperance, the distribu- 
tion of the Bible, and other religious literature ; but it did condemn 
the new methods of religion and the new idea of securing money 
for religious propaganda. 

The two divisions became distinct institutions and had a church 
government separate from each other. The time of reaction had 
come after many months of turmoil and affliction. The cycle 

^PrimiHv9 BaptiH, 

418 History of Edoecombb County 

began anew, with both divisions feeling oppressed and persecuted. 
Misfortune and confusion, however, strengthened their resolves 
and plans; it gave them patience to bear the inevitable and the 
spirit of reasoning to judge their individual weaknesses. Each 
division became more unified in its doctrine than the collective 
body was before the separation. 

The missionary element, as soon as the split was effected, or- 
ganized a church under the pastoral care of Elder Dowd. Mr. 
Dowd was highly qualified to assume the leadership of this new 
organization. In 1823 he began his ministry. He had missionary 
principles from the beginning, and in 1833, when he moved to 
Madison County, Tennessee, he joined the Big Black Church — 
there being no Missionary Church — on condition that he be per- 
mitted to contribute to home and foreign missions. 

In 1829 Mr. Dowd and his followers occupied the meeting 
house on the comer of the block now occupied by the ice factory 
in Tarboro. The leaders of the church caught the spirit that was 
awakening and moving the new world. It was a time for organ- 
ization, and on February 10, 1829, Edgecombe sent representa- 
tives to the Missionary Baptist State Convention at Greenville 
to assist in organizing the North Carolina Missionary Baptist 
Benevolent Society. Mr. Dowd was elected president and Henry 
Austin, of Tarboro, treasurer. Many members from the Tarboro 
Church were also elected on the board of directors. The purpose 
of the society was to raise funds and to appropriate them to the 
support of traveling ministers conducting evangelistic campaigns 
within North Carolina. Mr. Dowd himself was elected one of 
the missionaries. 

The new church in Edgecombe sent a large delegation to the 
convention held at Rives's Chapel, Chatham County, in 1832. 
Amos J. Battle, the great grandson of Elisha Battle and a brother 
of late Judge W. H. Battle, accompanied Treasurer Austin from 
the Tarboro Church. Mr. Battle was a prominent leader of the 
Missionary Baptists in the State. His conversion came while he 
was traveling on a horse through Georgia to one of his plantations 
in Florida. He had stopped at a wayside country church to rest 
and the day being the appointed time for services he went in to 
hear the sermon. It was then that he felt the call to the ministry 
and on his return from Florida he received the ordinance of 

BAPnaTs 419 

baptism at the same church and from the same pastor that he 
received the first impression. He entered the ministry in a short 
time, laboring zealously for the faith he believed. Mr. Battle was 
very wealthy and supported the missionary movement with very 
liberal gifts. Before his death he gave two handsome brick resi- 
dences to Wake Forest College and a beautiful brick church to 
the Missionary Baptist Congregation in Raleigh. 

At the convention Battle and Austin labored zealously for the 
missionary cause. Through their instrumentality the board of 
missions was enlarged and plans for more and better churches 
were made. It was at this convention that Edgecombe's repre- 
sentatives also pleaded for special attention in the organization 
and discipline of Sunday schools. On his return home Mr. 
Battle, assisted by Elder Dowd, began an earnest campaign for 
the missionary cause. This year, 1833 and 1834, is the landmark 
for the Missionary Baptist movement. John Culpepper, in his 
seventieth year, visited the county and preached several sermons 
in a revival meeting. James Thomas, the celebrated minister, 
traveled for days and weeks in the little villages throughout the 
county holding meetings in various houses. 

The object of these meetings was two-fold. There was an 
earnest desire to raise means for the spread of the gospel, and to 
offer a strong opposition to slavery which had a stronghold among 
the people of the county at that time. On May 16, 1834, this 
series of meetings culminated in a great evangelistic campaign. 

The principal leaders of the movement were Mr. and Mrs. 
Way. They were assisted by a Dr. BoUes, Reverend Luther Rice, 
Reverend William Hill Jordan, Amos J. Battle, James Thomas, 
and two natives of Burmah. The crowd congregated at the church 
about eleven o'clock, and service was introduced by Dr. Bolles. 
Mr. Way then addressed the people upon the cause of missions 
and its relation to the teachings of Christ. To support his view 
he introduced the two Burmans — two of whom were in the congre- 
gation — as an evidence that the missionary labor had not been 
in vain. The Burmans were requested to stand up and were 
interrogated as to their conversion. Not being able to talk Eng- 
lish, their words were interpreted to the congregation by Mr. Way. 
During the meantime the women were instructed relative to the 

420 History of Edobcombb County 

women's conditions among the heathen, at Mr. Heniy Austin's^ 
by Mrs. Way. 

This campaign receiyed much celebrity and became the cause 
of much controversy. An account of the meeting was written by 
a friend of the Missionary Baptists in the Tarhoro Free Press. 
The next day. May 23, 1834, there appeared an article signed 
"Philanthropist" in reply. It was the purpose of this article to 
confute the awful conditions depicted in the Burman Empire. 
"Philanthropist" showed that Burmah was one of the finest coun- 
tries for rice, cotton, sugar, cane, and all tropical fruits. The 
inhabitants had mines of gold, silver, rubies, sapphires, and other 
precious stones, and yet, quotes the writer, they are without the 
great truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This evangelistic meeting also resulted in a bitter controversy 
by the introduction of the slave question. The matter of slavery 
became the all-absorbing issue, with the various divisions of the 
churches in the county. The missionaries were termed bigots 
and compared with the fanatics of the ilforth, who, in their 
bigotry, were in favor of immediate abolition. The opposition to 
the missionaries also took on a racial and political controversy, 
which was reflected in an editorial of the Tarboro Free Press, 
May 30, 1834. Mr. Howard, the editor, discussed the promiscuous 
mingling with the Burmans, who on account of their dark com- 
plexion, he considered them members of the African race. The 
fact that the white missionaries introduced these Burmans in the 
Tarboro society caused the opponents of the missionaries to raise 
a bar of social intercourse with them. The action of the whites 
was interpreted as that of being in favor of the emancipation of 

The danger of engaging in political controversy became very 
obvious. The missionaries immediately offered an explanation to 
the previous statements that had been made in the convention, 
modifying to a considerable degree the various charges made by 
them against the rights of slavery and political freedom. The 
Reverend Mr. Battle wrote Mr. Howard from Nashville, N. C, 
in reply to his editorial. He pointed out that the editor misunder- 
stood the meaning of the missionary meeting held in Tarboro. 
He moreover informed the citizens of Edgecombe that the thought 
of exciting the slaves to rebellion or revolt was never mentioned 

Baptists 421 

in the entire meeting. In spite of the fact that Mr. Battle pub- 
lished his explanation^ the ire existing in the minds of the people 
was never eliminated. The impression made upon the people at 
the meeting and the editorial in the Tarboro paper was too pro- 
found to be so easily eradicated. The one idea that the mis- 
sionaries who favored foreign missions were using this as a pre- 
text to accomplish their designs of interfering with servitude in 
the county remained until the war between the states. 

Notwithstanding the opposition, the missionary cause began to 
take more permanent steps in church work. A movement which 
proved very helpful to the missionaries was the erection of 
churches in the largest towns, and especially in Tarboro. Prior 
to 1850 there was only one church in the entire county. Ohurches 
were established after this date at Hobgood, Bocky Mount, Tois- 
not, Wilson, and after the Civil War in almost all the other towns 
and villages by the State Missionary Board. More recently 
places of worship have been established at Conetoe and Mildred. 
The Primitive Baptist denounced the central organized board for 
church organization as a human institution. Many among the 
missionaries who were somewhat weak in their faith felt the 
charge of the Primitive Baptists against the board, and withdrew 
from its work. However, by much effort on the part of those who 
believed in the validity of church organization the sentiment turned 
in the missionary favor, and the State Board of Missions began 
anew its active work in the county. 

One of the most important problems the new church had to 
contend with was that of its colored members. It was during 
Elder P. D. Gold's pastorate as a missionary that the question of 
colored membership came up. For awhile there was a tendency 
for separate church organizations for the blacks. This tendency, 
however, was overruled by a majority, and the negro worshiped 
with the whites until he obtained his political freedom in 1865. 
Shortly after 1869, a lot, No. 163, was rented from the town of 
Tarboro for $1.00 per annum to erect a negro Missionary Baptist 
Church. This church stood in a square between Congress Street, 
Water Street, Cedar Street, and Hendrix Street. It is in use now. 

For several years the church had the same laws, rules and r^u- 
lations that the white church had. A dissatisfaction, however, to 
this system arose in May, 1883. Ella Fetter, wife of Dock Fetter, 

422 History of Edobcombb County 

professed religion and was favorably received by the churcli by 
a majority of votes. As she was about to be baptized one of the 
deacons objected because of her character. The pastor, Qeorge 
iN'orwood; refused to consider the objection^ claiming it came too 
late. The deacon then claimed that if the majority of the deacons 
objected the rite could not be legally performed. On the evening 
of the ceremony of baptism the church door was locked by the 
deacons, and feeling reached fever heat. Epithets and slang were 
generously used. One member even struck another on the nose, 
but claimed that she was only shouting and was not angry. 

The pastor and his followers contended that the pastor was 
the supposed head of the church, and that his word was law, that 
the temporal management was his duty and not that of the 
deacons. He and his supporters, moreover, advocated a different 
form of church government than the whites, and asserted that if 
one hundred members would give ten dollars each he would build 
another church and separate from the present organization. The 
deacons, however, prevailed and preferred charges of schism in 
the church and disturbing the peace by violating the church law 
against the pastor. 

Thus it was that the desire for baptizing an imf avorable can- 
didate paved the way for a new church government for the negroes. 
Although iN'orwood and his followers were unsuccessful at the time 
in securing an independent church building, they did secure an 
individual pastor, board of deacons, and church officers. After the 
termination of this confusion in 1888, excluding minor and trivial 
strife, the churches have had a peaceful existence to the present 

The white churches increased both in numbers and influence 
very rapidly. In 1872 the church at Tarboro called T. R. Owen 
as its pastor and witnessed a revival during his administration. 
This is, as far as the records show, the first revival held in that 
church. Mr. Owen, however, was no strong believer in revivals, 
and it is reported by some of the oldest members in Tarboro that 
when the Beverend George Green came to conduct the meeting he 
left town. The revival was not a successful one, for only one 
addition, Willie Battle, was added to the church. 

Mr. Owen served the church for about three years, and after him 
the church was supplied by Reverend Mr. Garter, who lived in 


Baptists 423 

Wilson and preached in two other churches in addition to the one 
at Tarboro. It was during Mr. Carter's pastorate that the church 
held one of the largest revivals ever held in the town. Many 
additions were made and a profound awakening stirred the en- 
tire community. A new church was built following this revival 
to better aid in the work already begun. 

A noted movement in Missionary Baptist history in Tarboro 
occurred when Dr. J. B. Huffman took charge of the church in 
1880.1 Dr. Huffman was a man of high character. In 1881 he 
was moved to Raleigh, and was made editor of the Biblicai Re- 
corder, a Baptist publication. Before this he had made a good 
impression as a speaker and writer. He and Mr. Owen, having 
been of the Presbyterian faith, did not favor revivals. Dr. Huff- 
man remained in Raleigh through the dark years of the late war, 
gathering experiences that proved beneficial in organizing churches 
in his later life. In 1878 he was called to take charge of the 
Scotland "Neck Church, which at that time was closely related to 
the church at Tarboro. These two churches experienced a feeling 
of fellowship and assisted each other in time of spiritual depres- 
sion and material opposition. 

Realizing the powers of Dr. Huffman, the church at Tarboro, 
in the fall of 1891, offered him the pastorate of that church. Dr. 
Huffman, feeling that his labors would be more fruitful at Tar- 
boro, accepted. The Missionary congregation at this time was 
very small. The church was struggling under a debt of $6,000 
on their new church house.^ Dr. Huffman had succeeded Rev- 
erend J. W. Hundley, who had, with the assistance of his congre- 
gation, built a new church on Main Street. Mr. Hundley left 
before the church was completed. O. C. Farrar, one of the leading 
members, had built the church with the original purpose to present 
to the congregation the debt on the day of its dedication. Mr. 
Farrar, however, died suddenly, and his worthy purpose was not 

^Mr. Carter was succeeded by Jsmee M. Macmansry. No events of importftnce 
occurred during his stay, and he gave way to Bey. J. A. Leslie, who remained two 
years, preaching the tenets of the faith with power and i)er8uasion. Mr. Huffman 
succeeded him. 

*Tbe old church which stood on Hendrix Street was sold to the colored PrimitiTO 
Baptist for $200. This church was the one formerly used by the United Baptists 
before the division in 1882. At the time of the dirision the Missionaries reeeiTod St 
and worshiped here until 1888, when it was burned. It was rebuilt by the Mis- 
sionaries and used by them when Elder P. D. Gold was pastor. 

424 History of Edoeoombb County 

accomplislied. The churcli was advertised for sale when Dr. 
Huffman arrived. He set about immediately to pay off the church 
debt and met with hearty support from C. A. Austin. With Mr. 
Austin's aid and with much sacrifice on the part of the individual 
members, a large part of the sum was raised in the spring of 
1894. After accomplishing his work at Tarboro Dr. Huffman 
sought a new field. 

Reverend W. M. Savage succeeded Dr. Huffman and the church 
enjoyed his ministry for four years. Many additions were made, 
and the spiritual growth of the church increased during his stay. 
In 1898 he was succeeded by Beverend Braxton Craig. 

The Primitive Baptist Church began a new career after the 
division in 1832. It seemed, however, that harmony and brotherly 
affection was not to be enjoyed for any length of time. Parallel 
and contemporary with the mission split was the anti-Masonic 
movement among the Primitive or Begular Baptists. When the 
resolutions were passed in 1830 against missions nonfellowship 
was also declared against those joining the Masonic fraternity. 
As early as 1826 much dissension existed between the Baptists 
and the members of the Masonic order. The controversy was re- 
newed when many of the Baptists joined the fraternity, and it 
was not infrequent that the ministers themselves belong to that 
institution.^ The friction became so acute that James S. Battle, 
John W. Mayo, and others were appointed as a committee by the 
church to draw resolutions against members of the Baptist Church 
joining the Masons or visiting their lodges. 

In the meanwhile several of the Baptists were denied the privi- 
leges of the church for not renouncing Masonry and other secret 
organizations. In May, 1855, Thomas O'Berry, who was after- 
wards a preacher, was tried before the church conference for 
joining the Know-Nothing Society. Mr. O'Berry answered the 
charges made against him in person, and stated that he was sorry 
that he joined the society, and that he had been foolish in so doing. 
The church forgave him, but at his confession he stated also that 

^ Elder Robert T. D«niel joined the order and while a member preached a 
reason's (James Overstreet) funeral. Mr. Daniel in joininir the Maaona incurred the 
censure of manj of his Baptist brothers. He attempted to justify his action hj 
preaching a Masonic sermon in which he gare an ezplanatitm of the Masonic em- 
blem contrasted with the figures in the Scriptures. He spoke of the Masons as 
secretly and silently drying up the tears of the helpless widows and orphans, and 
causing them to light up a smile in their aspect of woe. 


Baptists 425 

he had yisited the Masonic fraternity. Charges were then pre- 
ferred against him for belonging to that order. Mr. O'Berry re- 
fused to say that he was sorry and that he would withdraw from 
the organization. The church accordingly expelled him for vio- 
lating the church regulation. Some years later Mr. CKBerry 
recanted and was readmitted into the Baptist Church. The oppo- 
sition against Masonry and other secret organizations continued 
in spite of the efforts of many to prevent it, and the law of the 
church to this day prohibits fellowship with any one who joins 
such an order. 

The Primitive Baptist Church at Tarboro enjoyed good feeling 
among its membership for several years. Many pious and able 
preachers were raised up^ licensed to preach, and sent out among 
the various congregations from this church.^ Elder Lawrence 
remained as pastor here until 1843. After his death the church 
was badly in need of a pastor to administer to the needs of the 
increasing congr^^tion. The desire of the church fell upon Elder 
Blount Cooper, who was then a member of Conetoe Church. The 
church witnessed several revivals during his administration, and 
one of the greatest upheavals of religion, awakening the entire 
community, was held one year prior to his death. The church now 
in Tarboro was built during Mr. Cooperfe pastorate. 

The church at Tarboro had a most fortunate location, being 
on the direct route to Williamston, Washington, and the lower 
counties which were at this time thickly settled by the Baptists. 
Elder Robert C. Leachmon, a refugee from Virginia, preached a 
great deal for this church during the war between the states 
with ability and satisfaction to the members. Elder I. N. Van- 
meter, of Illinois, also visited Tarboro and preached several times 
in 1874. 

With acceptance of the pastorate by Elder P. D. (Jold,^ of 
Wilson, in September, 1878, the church began a most useful career. 
No church in the county enjoyed more peace and affection than 
the church at Tarboro during Mr. (Jold's pastorate here. With his 
serene and judicious mind he adjusted the affairs of the church 

^Jftmea EUenor, Thomas O'Beny, and others were first licensed in the church 
at Tarboro. 

* Elder Gold was a descendant frcmi a sturdy, intellectual race. His grandfather, 
Danid Oold, serred in the Legislature of North Carolina. Elder Oold recelred a 
liberal education, taught school, and studied law for a while in North Carolina. 

426 HiSTOBY OF Edoboombb CoTTirrY 

to the satisfaction of the congregation. He remained as active 
pastor until a few years ago. He was succeeded by Elder E. C. 
Stone,^ an Englishman, who came to Tarboro from Wilmington 
in search of this denomination about 1910. Mr. Stone attended 
the church services for several meetings before he made himself 
known to the congr^;ation. He was welcomed by his friends and 
was later ordained to the ministry by Elder Qold. He was then 
chosen as assistant pastor, and has filled that office to the present 

The churches in Edgecombe have been the nucleus of the Bap- 
tist faith in Eastern North Carolina. They have also received the 
greatest edification from those principles which they held and be- 
lieved. It is because of this reason that they have also had the 
greatest controversies, the fiercest conflicts, and the most severe 
criticism of any denomination in the county. 

During the struggle between the North and South brotherly 
intercourse existed between the northern Baptists and the southern 
wing. The Federal army had all the territory north of Maryland, 
and the Confederate army all south of Maryland. Communica- 
tion of every kind was entirely cut off. The northern feeling and 
sympathies, however, with the trifling exception, were with their 
southern brethren. Several of the northern ministers broke 
through the military lines and attended the yearly meetings and 
associations in the county. Many others also came to preach to 
the people in this eastern section. Their affection for the Baptist 
also manifested itself by their eagerness and devotion for reunit- 
ing after the cessation of hostilities. 

The conclusion of the Civil War brought many problems for 
the South to solve. One of these was that of the religious freedom 
of the negro. During the conflict a large number of negroes as- 
sembled in Washington City. Among this body were a few who 
were inclined toward the old school Baptist doctrine. This ele- 
ment assembled and held religious services from house to house.^ 
Elder King, a member of the old school Baptist Association, 

^Mr. Stone placed his church letter with the Tarboro church Deoember 1, 1910, 
from the Particular Baptitt church at Zion Mill Street, Wantaga Berks, Ensland. 

*The membert of the colored meetings were from the white churches, and were 
considered at the time in good standing. They had enioyed feUowship with the 
white churches, but were never allowed a part in the church government. Moreover, 
they were not permitted to have a ministry of their own liking. 

BAPnsTB 427 

visited the Edgecombe negroes and assisted them in organizing 
a ohurch. He was accompanied by Elder J. C. Sidebulton. A 
church was accordingly organized and called Beulah Old School 
Predestinarian Baptist. Elder John Bell was chosen pastor. 

In July, 1869, the Baptist Association met in Tarboro, and the 
question discussed. The argument both for and against erecting 
distinct negro churches became very warm. A resolution was in- 
troduced and was accepted that the white membership, as before, 
should control the church discipline and government. This meant 
that the negro, although he possessed political freedom, was to be 
restricted in his religious liberty. It soon became evident that 
this did not meet the approval of the negroes. They grew restless 
as their desire increased for a separate church organization. Sev- 
eral of the white members were anxious to grant letters of dis- 
mission to the colored members in order that they might join some 
other church or organize themselves into a distinct church of the 
same faith. On the other hand, the majority disapproved of 
this plan. 

Between 1870 and 1876 the agitation in the churches reached its 
climax. It became evident that something definite must be done 
in order to remove the restlessness of the negro members. In 
1873 the association met at Cross Boads Church, where the ques- 
tion was again called up for discussion. Elder Bennett Pitt, a 
strong leader of the church, exerted his influence against the 
negroes, and the church voted against the measure. 

It is probable that the negroes would have rebelled at this time 
had it not been for some of their white friends and a church regu- 
lation which prohibited a member, who was dismissed, from join- 
ing any other church without the consent of the congr^ation. 
Moreover, many of the members of the white churches were of 
different views. The smallest element, led by Bennett Pitt, still 
claimed that the negroes were incapable of church government. 
Many also thought the negroes did not desire an independent 
church. Elder P. D. (Jold, in 1877, in commenting on this ques- 
tion, said : *T. do not believe the colored members wish to separate 
from the whites, and that brethren in general did not yet feel 
that the colored brethren were prepared to maintain gospel order 
and hence they could not dismiss them in gospel fellowship." 

428 History of Edoeoombs County 

Bennett Burgess and Abram Wooten^ two negro members from 
the county, visited the church at Washington, D. 0., and asked 
for assistance and advice in getting their release from the churches 
in Edgecombe. When they arrived in Washington, they were 
questioned as to their church doctrine and standing in the old 
School Baptist order. They were then advised that since their 
church and those in Edgecombe County were of the same faith 
and order, it would be improper to receive them as members un- 
less they were legally dismissed from the church in Edgecombe. 
Burgess and Wooten returned to the county, after assuring the 
church in Washington that they would use all proper means to 
obtain their letters with permission to join any church of the same 
faith and order. 

Abram Wooten soon found a white member of the Baptist 
Church who was in sympathy with the plan of the negro organ- 
ization, and told Wooten if he would petition for a church letter of 
dismission to join any other church of the same faith and order he 
would recommend his dismissal. Accordingly in 1877 Abram ap- 
plied for his church letter. It was granted. Elder P. D. Gold 
said that the letter Abram carried to Washington City was in 
regular form and that he was dismissed with the privilege to join 
any other church of the same faith and order. Mr. Gtold said 
also that it was understood among the members at Autry's Creek 
that Abram originally intended to join a church convenient to 
where he lived. 

In the meantime, the white Baptists set about to counteract the 
dismissal of Wooten. In the year 1878 Wooten was ordained in 
Washington as an elder, and the opposition in Edgecombe was so 
great that the churches declared nonintercourse with the Balti- 
more Association in order to prevent communing with Wooten and 
his followers. 

Wooten returned to Edgecombe following his ordination, in- 
vested with new power and fixed purposes. La September, 1879, 
he erected a church of his own liking. His membership was taken 
from the white churches. As many as seven negro members ap- 
plied to the church at Tarboro for their church letters to join 
Wooten's congregation.^ The church at Tarboro at first refused 

>^Th6 flnt members to apply for dismission were Oinds Dsneey, Penney Suggs. 
Rosa Pender, Violet Staton, Elisabeth Lawrence, Bachd Bullard, and Virginia 

Baptists 429 

to grant the letters, but later consented. During the November 
meeting several more applications for letters were made for dis- 
missal in order to follow Wooten in his church effort. 

In 1878 Elder John Bell from Washington visited Edgecombe 
and preached to the colored people. In the fall of the same year 
Bell and Wooten constituted a church in Pitt County, called the 
Radecue^ Baptist Church. When Wooten was asked by the 
writer why the name Radecue was used, he answered, ''It signified 
that God's people were few in number." The white Baptists in 
the county soon realized the futility of further opposition. An 
unhappy circumstance occurred among the negro members, how- 
ever, that substantiated what many of the white members had 
previously said, namely, that the colored members were not 
capable of self-government. Bennett Burgess, who had returned 
to the county from Washington with Wooten and who had been 
so anxious for a negro church, suddenly took a decided stand 
against it and spoke of the negro church as only a scheme to draw 
all the colored members away from the white churches. Burgess 
began a movement in opposition and established a church at 
Poplar Swamp near Williamson. The fight began in earnest. 
The two leaders. Burgess and Wooten, began the conflict, the two 
divisions of the colored members following doing all they could 
to get themselves together in a church capacity, and Burgess 
doing all he could to prevent them from accomplishing their 

The controversy became more complicated by the entrance of 
a third party in the fight. Among those who followed Wooten 
from the white churches was Ranee Loyd. He had been ordained 
by Wooten, and for a time supported him in the ministry. But 
they soon disagreed over the finances of the church. Loyd with- 
drew from the Wooten element, after being persuaded by several 
of his sympathizers to set himself up and become independent 
like Wooten. Loyd, however, returned to the white Baptist, and 
became pastor of the colored Primitive ^ Baptist Church. The 
colored members of the white churches were given the right of a 
church organization, with Loyd as their pastor. They could not. 

^Tbe negro Baptist AtsoeifttSon derived its name from this church. 
*Thit ii the same church that belonged to the Missionaries and was purchased 
from them in 1888. 

430 HisTOEY OF Edobcombb County 

however, relate Christian experiences or receive new members 
unless two or more white members were present. 

In 1890 the negro church in Princeville was built. A church 
monument with the image of Wooten carved on it was erected 
to the memory of the Badecue Baptist Church in Princeville. 
The members that constituted this church came from Autry's 
Creek, Sparta, Tyron's Meeting House, and Tarboro white 
churches. In 1910 another division was fomenting in the Radecue 
Baptist movement. For some cause, not known, Nathan Johnson, 
another foUower of Wooten, disagreed with him and left the 
Badecue Baptist, carrying with him Few-in-Number Church near 
Wiggins Cross Boads. Johnson was also put in charge of Living 
Hope Church on Autry's Creek and Bethlehem Church near 
Lancaster. In order to retaliate, the Badecue Baptist Association 
withdrew fellowship from Nathan Johnson, and treated him and 
his followers like the Primitive Baptists had treated Abram 
Wooten and his sympahizers in 1877. 

After all the disturbances, agitations, and disagreements over 
the negro problem it yet remained unsolved. The white churches 
in the county still had a large percentage of negro members. The 
matter of practicing communion with them and the colored 
churches after the recognition and the establishment of separate 
negro church organizations caused further division in the white 
Primitive Baptist membership. In 1876 Mr. Taylor, a Baptist 
preacher living near Coakey Swamp, about twelve miles from 
Tarboro, started the movement which ultimately ended in a new 
denomination. Mr. Taylor refused to commime with the negroes, 
declaring that he did not believe the negroes had a soul, hence he 
could not commune against his conscience. To remain in the 
church meant for Mr. Taylor to go contrary to his feeling and to 
leave the church meant another distinct organization. However, 
in the fall of 1876 Mr. Taylor accepted the latter alternative and 
withdrew to establish the Taylorite movement. A large shelter, 
twenty-five feet wide and fifty feet long, built up with weather 
boarding and pine boughs to protect from the rain and sun, was 
erected on Taylor's Hill, near NoUe/s Cross Roads. This event- 
ful spot, noted for its many fervent religious gatherings, was 
nicknamed 'bunker's Hill." It drew its name from the many 
religious skirmishes which took place there. 

Baptists 431 

The church prospered and Mr. Taylor established more than 
a score of churches in Edgecombe, Nash, Halif ax, and Pitt coun- 
ties, but a church that has no organization cannot survive, and as 
far as it is now known no real church government remains as a 
result of the Taylor movement. There are many, however, who 
live in these counties who retain and believe the doctrine advo- 
cated by Mr. Taylor. 


The Episcopal Chvbch 

In the early part of the eighteenth century there existed in 
London, England, a society known as "The Society for the Propa- 
gation of the Gk)spel in Foreign Parts." The society was organ- 
ized in 1675, but being ine£Scient was revised by Dr. Bray, of the 
Church of England, and a charter for propagating the gospel in 
foreign parts was granted by King William III in 1701. The 
duty of this society was to keep in touch with the colonial settlers 
and to maintain the orthodox clergymen in the British possessions. 
In order to do this an annual stipend of fifty pounds sterling was 
pledged by the society to pay the missionaries whom they elected 
to come abroad. The Crown also gave a bounty of twenty pounds, 
while the colonists were supposed to contribute a part of the 
clergymen's salary. 

As a result of the efforts of this society the first established 
and organized branch of the Christian Church in Edgecombe 
County was formed. 

After the transfer of the colony to the Crown, the precinct of 
Edgecombe was incorporated. Provision was made for a parish 
with authority to raise money by a poll tax not to exceed five 
shillings in currency, the purpose of which was to maintain the 
poor and to pay ministers. A parish court was erected to look 
after the social affairs of the people. In this court the day 
laborer, mechanic, and blacksmith were disciplined from time to 
time. The constable of the village was also local officer, collected 
taxes and looked after the poor. The church wardens were kept 
under bond by the precinct committee as custodians of the vestry 
funds. In 1741 the laws of North Carolina record a law relating 
to those who had refused to pay taxes in Edgecombe parish be- 
cause of the uncertainty of its boundaries. This proves that some 
movement for church organization had commenced before or 
during this year. 

In 1741, under an enactment by Governor Gabriel Johnston, 
Edgecombe County was authorized to establish a parish by the 
name of Edgecombe. At the same time a general church act was 
passed authorizing a poll tax, which in practice was found to be 



Tnft Episcopal Church 433 

very burdensome. Efforts were made to secure another law, 
which indicates that it was looked upon with disfavor even by the 
churchmen. No other law was passed, and Reverend Mr. Moir, 
who was assigned to the parish, expressed himself as follows: 
'^Nothing was done for the encouragement of an established min- 
istry." The sher