Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thomas Jethro Brown Tobacco Warehouse

The following is from Cameron, J. D. A Sketch of the Tobacco Interests in North Carolina. Oxford (NC): W. A. Davis & Co., 1881.

Brown's Warehouse

In 1872, Mr. T. J. Brown was encouraged by the increasing cultivation of tobacco in this section to venture upon the enterprise of opening a warehouse in Winston, which he did in an old barn of small size, 30x40 feet. The sales were advertised to take place daily, but supplies were irregular and small, and sale days were few and far between. There was then only one plug factory in the place, whose yearly output was not more than twenty thousand pounds. The culture in the surrounding country was small, conducted in primitive methods, without the use of artificial fertilizers, and curing was effected by the air or the sun or by wood fires. The introduction of coal curing, and more recently of flues, has completely revolutionized the whole system, the result of which is the abundant production of fine yellow tobacco, as well as a very superior article of dark grades. The increase of production compelled an increase of accommodations, and Brown's warehouse is now a building 70x200, with full skylight and abundant convenience within and without. The sales take place daily during the season. The house is known under the name of T. J. Brown & Co., and is formed by Messrs. T. J. Brown, W. B. Carter and J. R. Pearce. Mr. R. D. Mosely is auctioneer and Mr. P. A. Wilson bookkeeper.

Mr. Brown reports that the condition of the growing crop is very superior, and greatly increased in quantity. Many new men have gone into the business this year, and older planters have enlarged their operations. In characterizing peculiarities, he describes the tobacco of Stokes County as remarkably rich and waxy. He estimates the sales of Winston for the current year at seven millions of pounds, of which home manufacturers take about one-half; the remainder is bought on orders for Canada, the Western cities, Baltimore, etc., some large houses in the latter city, such as Gail & Ax, obtaining a large proportion of their stock here.

Mr. Brown adds that when he embarked in business in 1872 there were no banks in Winston, and no facilities whatever to aid a struggling enterprise. All this is now changed, there being ample bank accommodations, and also the convenient addition of a revenue office. The growth of the town in size and in business is more marked within the past five years than at any previous period.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Civil War Salt: Caswell County, North Carolina

Civil War Salt

During the Civil War salt became a scarce commodity. It was used to preserve meat, and no substitute was readily available. By early 1863 the price of salt in North Carolina had jumped from $12 to $100 for a two-bushel sack. Residents depended upon small private saltworks and state-run saltworks on North Carolina's coast, including a large operation at Wilmington.

It took two bushels, about 110 pounds, of salt to cure 1,000 pounds of pork, and 1.25 bushels to cure 500 pounds of beef. And salt was useful in myriad other ways, from tanning leather to fixing the dyes in military uniforms and feeding livestock.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Old Man Not Outfoxed by Children

Old Man Not Outfoxed by Children

In the 1820s Joel Cannon lived and farmed in Caswell County, North Carolina. While not an extremely wealthy man, he was of some means and owned five slaves. In 1829 by written deed he conveyed to trustees (Elijah Cannon and James Cannon) for the "sole and separate" use of his daughter Annie Cannon Powell a female slave named Peggy and her two slave children, John and Milly. Annie was to be the beneficiary of the trust during her life, with the remainder going to her children upon her death. Annie had married Thomas B. Powell in 1820.

At some point the trustees named in the deed left North Carolina, and in 1848 Dr. Allen Gunn was by order of the Caswell County Court of Equity appointed trustee. In that capacity for many years he received the proceeds from hiring out the slaves, with only a small portion ever paid to Annie Cannon Powell. By the mid-1850s this amount had grown to around $1500.

Annie died in 1855 without a will, and Samuel M. Cobb became administrator of her estate. He was a son-in-law of Annie, having married her daughter Matilda J. Powell.

In his role as administrator, Samuel M. Cobb (with the other sons-in-law of Annie Cannon Powell) sought legal advice with respect to their rights to the accrued funds in the hands of trustee Dr. Allen Gunn. Counsel advised that the "profits and hires" of the slaves that had been held in trust for the benefit of Annie Cannon Powell during her lifetime now went, not to the husband of Annie Cannon Powell, but to the administrator of her estate for the benefit of her children. The lawyer advised, just to be cautious and to make it easier to proceed against the trustee, to have Samuel M. Cobb formally waive his rights. To accomplish this following document was drafted:

"Whereas, Joel Cannon, late of Caswell county, conveyed by a deed of settlement, on 29th day of December, 1829, to Elijah Cannon and James Cannon, trustees, a negro woman by the name of Peggy, and her children, Milly and John, to hold to the exclusive and sole use of Annie Powell during her life-time, and after her death said slaves, with their increase, to be divided between her children; and whereas, Elijah Cannon and James Cannon left the State of North Carolina, and settled in some distant State, whereby it became necessary to appoint other trustee or trustees, and Doctor Allen Gunn having been appointed, who has had control of said slaves for many years, and the said Annie having died in the month of July last, and being willing to carry out to the full extent the wishes of my late father-in-law, Joel Cannon, in his provision for his daughter and her children: Now, therefore, this indenture witnesseth, that for and in consideration of one dollar to me in hand paid, . . . I have bargained and sold, delivered, transferred, made over and assigned, and by these presents do bargain, sell, deliver, transfer, make over and assign, to Samuel Cobb and his wife Matilda, Jeremiah Rice and his wife Mary Anne, Andrew J. Cobb and his wife Jemima, and Josiah Powell, all the right, title and interest which I have, or may have, in the slaves Peggy, Milly and John."

Then follows a conveyance of the "profits, hires or issues of the said slaves, which accrued in the life-time of his wife."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Highway Robbery?

Highway Robbery?

Matthew Brooks lived in Caswell County, North Carolina. He was a farmer and grew tobacco. On June 19, 1857, he hauled a portion of his prior year's crop (or a portion of his early current-year crop) to Milton, North Carolina, and sold it. His load was on a wagon pulled by two horses. With cash in hand he made several purchases in Milton and drove out of Milton late in the day, intending to camp at a crossroads about three miles distant.

On his way to the intended campsite Brooks stopped to water his team. While watering his horses at just about dark a negro came over the bridge from Milton and asked which road Brooks intended to travel. Brooks provided the information, and the negro moved along the indicated road. Brooks soon overtook the negro with whom he had spoken while watering his horses and they traveled a while together, sometimes in conversation. The negro was afoot and Brooks sitting in and driving his wagon.

"Privileged Negroes" -- Disputed Will of Nathaniel Lea

"Privileged Negroes" -- Disputed Will of Nathaniel Lea

Nathaniel Lea was born around 1793, in Caswell County, North Carolina, a son of John (Canebrake) Lea (1766-1839) and Hannah Slade Lea (1767-1850). He never married, died in 1855, and through a will written earlier that year left his property to certain relatives (including siblings, nieces, and nephews). As he came from a large family, siblings, nieces, and nephews were plentiful.

Sister Rebecca Slade Lea married Royal George Williamson and lived at "Melrose."

Sister Delilah S. Lea married Jeremiah Graves and lived at "Dongola" in Yanceyville.

Sister Elizabeth Lea married Calvin Graves and lived in the Brown-Graves-Yarbrough in Locust Hill.

Brother Thomas L. Lea married Ann Blount Wright, and resided at "Leahurst" which still stands across from the New Hope Methodist Church in Caswell County.

Brother Sidney S. Lea married Fannie Elizabeth Torian and inherited the home place from his father.

Sister Mary Lea married George Willson who owned the Red House Tavern in Semora. Oddly, their daughter, Mary Lea Willson, became the second wife of Calvin Graves after the death of her aunt Elizabeth Lea Graves.

A brother, John G. Lea, apparently never married.

Nathaniel Lea had been advanced substantial property by his father, John (Canebrake) Lea, before the father died in 1839. He also participated in the residue of John (Canebrake) Lea's estate, receiving a one-eighth share according to his father's will, in which he was named as one of the executors. And, when assets of his father's estate were sold as part of the estate's administration, Nathaniel Lea was, with many others, a purchaser. Thus, Nathaniel Lea died a very wealthy man.

During his life he had a special relationship with a family of eight slaves. They may have been his "house" slaves as he owned others. They were treated almost as "free," being given special privileges and even money. They became the center of a legal dispute that went to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Cartway Dispute Near Leasburg, Caswell County, North Carolina

Cartway Dispute Near Leasburg

In the 1840s, James Lea and his wife Susan lived in Leasburg, Caswell County, North Carolina. The village of Leasburg is very near the dividing line between Caswell County and Person County, the latter having been formed from Caswell in 1792. Like some other Leasburg residents, the Leas owned property in Person County. A parcel (described as a plantation) owned by James and Susan Lea was about a mile and one-half from Leasburg as the crow flies. Through this Person County parcel ran Cobb's Creek, and the Leas owned and operated a public mill there using the waters of Cobb's Creek as a source of power. The mill building itself was about two miles from Leasburg.

For many years the Leas had gained access to the mill by using a cart and wagon trail that ran across Person County land owned by John Johnson. However, John Johnson eventually objected to the use of his land as an access way to the Lea's mill (and plantation) and blocked entrance to his property. This caused the Leas to travel a circuitous route to the mill, described by them as: taking "the Roxboro Road into Person County about a half mile, and then along the Goshen Road in Person County about three miles, and then a crossroad to the mill about a mile, making in all four and one-half miles." And, it was even farther to the main part of the plantation. Some of this route was over "bad" ground.

The Lea's believed Johnson's blocking the old cartway was contrary to law and sued in County Court asking that a formal cartway be established along the path that crossed the land of John Johnson, thus greatly reducing the distance to their mill and plantation. The Leas argued that establishing a formal cartway would not only be convenient for them, but also would make it more convenient for residents of Leasburg to reach the mill (presumably as customers). There was legal precedent for establishing a cartway, which was between a private path and a public road. However, the Caswell County court denied the cartway request and dismissed the case. The Leas appealed to the Caswell County Superior Court, which reversed the lower County Court and ordered the establishment of a cartway across the land of John Johnson. Mr. Johnson was not pleased with this turn of events, and appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Will of the Three Fuller Sisters

In 1911, John Lewis Warren (1859-1934) and his son William Harvey Warren (1887-1933) were operating a store in Hightowers, Caswell County, North Carolina. One day that year, three elderly sisters who lived nearby came into the store with their last will and testament. The sisters asked the two men to witness the will and to keep it in their safe. This the men did.

The three sisters were Sarah M. Fuller Burton (1839-1924), Elizabeth A. (Bettie) Fuller Barnwell (1840-1923), and Lenora Fuller (1843-1920), being daughters of William Fuller and Nancy Russell Fuller.

After the death of the last sister in 1924, the executrix named in the will, Mrs. J. B. Riggs (formerly Mrs. J. B. Thomas) presented the sisters' will for probate to the Caswell County Superior Court. The three sisters had inherited with others certain Caswell County lands from John Thomas. The sisters owned this land as tenants in common with other legal heirs of the deceased John Thomas. In their will, the sisters left their rights in the land to their nieces and a nephew. This did not sit well with the other tenants in common, who challenged the will, claiming that, among other things, the will was not executed according to law -- specifically that not all of the three sisters were present when the witnesses actually signed the will.

The matter went to trial in the Caswell County Superior Court, with the jury upholding the validity of the will. Those challenging the will appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

In 1925, the Supreme Court of North Carolina (189 N.C. 509), relying upon the testimony given at trial by the two witnesses to the will (John Lewis Warren and his son William Harvey Warren) upheld the jury's verdict that the will was valid.