Friday, March 25, 2011

Correction on a 1861 law I posted about before

Hi all! This past week I was contacted by a student who is doing research on free blacks who petitioned to become slaves in the late 1850s and early 1860s. I wanted to let you know I made an error on something that was actually never a law. I had stated in an earlier post that there was a law passed in 1861 that allowed free blacks to petition the court to become slaves and choose their masters. When I was a graduate student, I was taking a legal history course back in 2004, which is when I did all the research. At the time, I did not know all the details about how a bill became law in North Carolina, but after I was contacted by the student, I wanted to refresh my memory about this supposed law and with my better understanding of the legislative process as well as contacts at the legislative library onf North Carolina, I discovered this was never a law in the first place. Let me tell you about about this Senate Bill No. 8, 1860-1861.

First off, there were many free blacks in North Carolina who petitioned to become slaves during the late 1850s and early 1860s. It appears there was some sort of law regarding this, due to the wording of the petitions I have copies of at home, but I have not found one. As Dr. Franklin says in his book Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860, the courts were not always following the wishes of those who petitioned to becomes slaves. In 1860, a "Mr. Humphrey" of Onslow County introduced a bill - Senate Bill 8, Session 1860-'61 - that would have allowed and guaranteed that free blacks could petition the courts to enter slavery and choose their own master. I read this bill online at UNC-CH Docsouth website ( I also read the Senate Journal 1860-1861 at the State Library of North Carolina, which states that "Mr. Humphrey" read a bill concerning "free negroes" which was passed. Back in 2004, I thought this meant that the bill has passed and became law. Turns out I was wrong. I found out from my contact at the legislative library that the bill, which Dr. Franklin referred to as the "Humphrey Bill", died in the senate after the first reading and passage. In order to become law, a bill must be read and passed 3 times in both the house and senate, but the Humphrey Bill was only read and passed once and there is no evidence that it was ever read again. Also, if the bill had passed, it would have appeared in the Public Laws of North Carolina for the year it passed, but I cannot find any reference to the bill becoming law.

By the way, the State Library of North Carolina is working on digitizing and making the Public Laws of North Carolina available online. This is a continual work in progress and currently only those laws of the late 1850s-early 1870s are online.

Hopefully soon I will be transcribing and putting online 2 petitions I have found back in 2004 for a Jenette Wright and John Phillips from Guilford County in 1861. They both petitioned the court to become slaves and both petitions were granted.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Tale of 2 Edmunds (Pettiford)

I get asked a lot about Edmund Pettiford in Guilford County who his parents were by researchers that
are trying to tie him into George Pettiford, the Revolutionary War Vet in order to join DAR. I am
sorry to inform you that there were actually 2 Edmund's and that the Edmund from Guilford County is
likely not directly descended from George.

First, let's look at the facts about Edmund Pettiford from Guilford County and died in Grant Co., IN:

1795 - born August 8th (source: obituary)
1816 - married Sarah Carter December 13th in Chatham County (Source: Marriage Bond)
1820 - I have not found him in the census - yet
1830 - Wake County, NC census Little River Township, pg. 473 line 16
1840 - Guilford County, NC census page 229
1850 - Guilford County, NC census, Southern Division with wife Sarah, p. 272a
1860 - Grant County, IN census, Liberty township, p. 309

Now, let's look at the Edmund in Granville County records:
1800 - born (Source: age 50 in 1850 census)
1820 - I have not found him in the census
1830 - I have not found him in the census
1832 - married Rebecca Johnson March 19th Granville County, George Anderson bondsman
(source: marriage bond)
1840 - Granville County, NC census pg. 149
1850 - Granville County, NC census, Oxford District, dwelling/family 53, pg. 103a
1860 - I have not definitely identified him yet, but there is an Ed Pettiford age 60 in
Cedar Creek, Granville County, NC, dwelling/family 1199, pg. 304b

As you can see, there are two separate Edmunds.

Now, let's take a look at George who served in the Revolutionary War:
1757 - Paul Heinegg estimates his birth year as this
1771 - inherited a bed from George Anderson (Oh! wait, wasn't a George Anderson bondsman for
Edmund Pettiford's marriage to Rebecca Johnson?)
1785 - Tax list for Granville County
1786 - State census for Granville County, NC
1790 - Granville County, NC census
1800 - Granville County, NC census, Hillsborough District
1810 - cannot find him in the census yet
1820 - Granville County, NC census
1830 - Granville County, NC census; North Regiment, pg. 19
1837 - married to Tabitha Johnson May 1st, Granville County, **Edmund Pettiford as bondsman

So let's look at this. The question here is which Edmund was the bondsman? This is where it starts
to get interesting and starts to fall in place, but it is also important to note that at this point
it is speculation, an educated guess if you will, as there is not been any definite proof to show
either way. The first piece to fall into place is the marriage of George and Edmund - Edmund
married a Rebecca Johnson in 1832 and now George married a Tabitha Johnson in 1837. Let's continue
with the time line for George:

1840 - Granville County, NC census pg. 149 (**note: he is living near and listed on the same
page as Edmund)
1850 - Granville County, NC census, Oxford District dwelling/family 52 page 103a (**note: Now he is
living next to Edmund)
1860 - I cannot find him in the census and he may have died by now (**note - the Ed Pettiford I
found in Granville County is sharing his household with a Tabby Pettiford - this is interesting.
Unfortunately the 1860 census does not list relationships so they may be husband and wife or they
may be widowed in laws sharing a house)

Although it is possible that the Edmund in Guilford County could have come to Granville to be the
bondsman of George's wedding and then returned, it is more likely that it was Edmund of Granville
County. Another piece to fall into place - the 1830 census. Edmund of Granville County was not
found, but in the 1850 census he is listed as 50 years old. In the 1840 census, he is listed as
being between age 34-55 and was likely about 40 years old. In the 1830 census, he is not found, but
looking at the ages from 1850 and 1840, he is probably about 30 years old and single (as his
marriage to Rebecca was 2 years later). George just happens to have a man between the ages of
24-36, so it is possible that a 30 year old bachelor Edmund was living with his father George, but
again, this is just speculation.