Author Archives: Francesca

PC2124: Slave Deed of Gift of Sam

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Front side of deed of gift of Sam, age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to his daughter, Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847.

[This blog post was written by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Collections Archivist, of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Private Collections (PCs) are an important source for researchers seeking not only genealogical information, but also important context for understanding family, social, and economic history. Likewise, PCs are an especially valuable resource for those tracing slave ancestry and a sense of the broader historical context and personal details. In honor of Black History Month, February 2017, this post shines a light on rich aspects of the life of Samuel (Sam) Ritter (ca. 1822-1892). Such focus places Samuel in a position of respect far above the offensive fact that he was born into slavery and given as a man of 25 to a girl of 12, the eldest daughter of the slave master.

Realities conveyed in bare facts, such as the foregoing, can bring pain and offend our humanity and sense of human dignity. Difficult as it is to view papers documenting unsavory facts, we must continue to seek and to make available all that offer clues, especially in the difficult challenge of slave ancestry. Such is true of the donation in 2016 to Private Collections of a single item titled: “Slave Deed of Gift of Sam, Age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847.” PC.2124.

In the course of a recent day’s work, I set out to discover and document the usual background facts expected in the writing of a finding aid. Additionally, I wanted to make meaningful sense of this unusually troubling deed of gift and to provide some basis for investigations by future researchers. The bare facts of this 1847 deed of gift were especially provocative, and I was vexed enough to raise the obvious questions, and a few more. For starters, I wanted to know: Did Sam survive ownership by young Jane? If she married during the next decade or so, did Sam become part of her husband’s estate, and what was his name and locale? Did Sam escape to the North? Or if he survived in North Carolina past the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, what surname did he assume? Where did he live? Did he ever reach position of dignity as a head of a household? Did he have a vocation, and a family of his own? And finally, who were Sam’s parents and siblings?

Though a seasoned archivist and historian, I admit to being somewhat daunted thinking of the span of time and the proverbial brick walls that I might hit in researching Sam from the year 1847 to the year 1870—when black individuals and families were first named on the U.S. Federal Census. There was the realistic possibility of no clear answers to any of my questions. Still, I proceeded to build into my finding aid’s biographical and historical note a basic chronological framework. With many other projects awaiting attention, I strove to find as much factual information as I could find in a reasonable length of time. Yet even the essential clue of finding Jane’s future married name in the North Carolina Marriage Bonds and the Marriage Index was denied. Consequently, I resorted to a wide assortment of Internet searches. The end result was a mix of unproven clues about the Ritter family, scattered about the Internet, and facts derived from the standard sources, mainly census records. I offer the following as an approach that others might consider when seeking to trace and to highlight the life of a particular individual.

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Excerpt from deed of gift identifying a “negro man Slave named Sam aged about twenty five years.”

In this case, it was necessary to begin with the first-named slave owner conveying the “gift” of Sam’s person. Research revealed him to be John Richardson Ritter (ca. 1793–1860), a son of John (ca. 1760–1828) and Elizabeth H. Richardson Ritter (ca. 1760–1842). The younger John was married around 1813 to Mary Kennedy (1802–1865 or before), Moore County. The couple is shown on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Census residing with three sons and five daughters, with birth dates ranging from around 1829 to 1850.

An essential character in my query was the said Jane Ritter, born in 1835, and the oldest daughter of the Ritter couple. As stated, she was 12 years of age when her father deeded to her the “gift” of “ownership” of Sam, age 25, born around 1822. The 1850 U.S. Federal Census slave schedule does not list Jane Ritter as a slave owner, but shows that her father, John R. Ritter, claimed two females, ages 30 and 12, mulatto; and eight males, with three of the four children therein described as mulatto. The two adult males included one listed as 35, and the

other as 30 years of age. The latter man was probably Sam, named in the 1847 deed of gift. It should be noted that John R. Ritter is not listed as a slave owner in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census slave schedules. That was probably the year of his death, and it is uncertain what happened to the ten slaves, ascribed to him in 1850.

Jane Ritter, also known as Dicie Jane (1835–1891), was still living in her parents’ household during the census enumeration of 1860. Family reports, lacking documentation, indicate that Jane Ritter was married in late 1861 to Nelson J. Hunsucker (1833–1875). The 1870 census does verify that Nelson Hunsucker was recorded by the census taker as a farmer, with a full household. Family named include Hunsucker’s wife, Dicie Jane, his mother, four young Hunsucker children, plus a boy of 10, possibly a relative, and one Samuel Ritter, black, age 22, with an approximate birth year of 1848. The Hunsucker household and farm were located in Ritters Township, Moore County. These welcomed pieces of information, made me suspect that the young Samuel Ritter (SRJr) might well be the son of the elder Samuel Ritter (SRSr)

It is more than coincidental that on the 1870 census another Samuel Ritter, black, is listed as a farmer in Ritters Township, and located in fairly close proximity to the Hunsucker farm. If the age this older Samuel Ritter gave to the census taker is correct, his birth year was around 1819. This is within three years and remarkably close to the projected birth year of the slave, Sam (described as age 25 in the said Ritter family deed of gift of 1847). Signs surely point to the high probability that Samuel and Sam were indeed the same, and I will hereafter designate him as SRSr.

There are several other pieces of additional interest in the 1870 census record. First, the household of SRSr includes Elisabeth/Elizabeth, age 28, a mulatto, and six children, ranging in ages from ten years to infancy. Secondly, there is additional information in the census form’s “Personal estate” category, column 9. The enumerator entered 100 (dollars) for SRSr’s personal property (defined generally as including all bonds, stocks, mortgages, notes, livestock, plate, jewels, or furniture). The practice was to leave the column blank if the valuation was less than $100.

This category of “Personal estate” was, in fact, left blank for the neighboring Hunsucker family, and some of the other white families in the area. Additionally, it is assumed that the elder Samuel Ritter had title to the land that he farmed, and was not in the category of sharecropper that described so many men during the 19th and on into the 20th century. Finally, Elisabeth Ritter was entered on the form as being able to read, though not write. Samuel Ritter, on the other hand, like so many of that era, could neither read nor write.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census also suggests a possibly cooperative relationship between the white Hunsucker family and the two black Samuel Ritters (SRSr and SRJr) and their families. By 1880 Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker is now a widow and listed as a farmer/head of household. The older SRSr, now 60 years old, is again registered as a farmer, and his name has the actual designation of “Senior.” Notably, there is only one residence separating his farm from that of the Hunsucker farm. The young Samuel Ritter (SRJr) who previously lived with the Hunsucker family, is now married, and listed as a farmer, with several young children. Significantly, he and his family are residing in a residence adjacent to the senior Samuel Ritter, most certainly his father, SRSr. Furthermore, SRSr lives in the second residence down, and SRJr lives in the third residence down from the Hunsucker homestead.

Following these families gives rises to even more unanswered questions, and surely the

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Excerpt from reverse side of deed of gift, with title and partial court endorsement.

loss of the 1890 U.S. Federal Census compounds the problem. Since SRSr does not appear on the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, we can assume that he died sometime between the 1880 and 1900 enumerations. One unproven family record on the Internet indicates that he died in 1892. If true, then SRSr lived well past the average life expectancy for men of that era. We know with fair amount of certainty that Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker died in 1891 because of the existence of her gravestone at the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery, close to Ritters Township, in the town of Carthage.

Overall, discovering several positive connections to SRSr and his family has indeed been gratifying. Though I did not answer all questions, the results exceeded what I could reasonably anticipate when I first initiated my inquiries. For other researchers who have a family and/or a historical interest in SRSr and family, further in-depth research can take myriads of other directions. Thanks to the starting point presented through a single 1847 deed of gift, we have a better understanding of SRSr’s life and the legacy that he represents. We can never know the exact and undoubtedly complex nature of the relationships between the white Ritter family/Hunsucker family and the black Ritter family. It is certain, however, that their lives intersected in significant ways. It can probably be safely surmised that the relationship between Dicey Jane Ritter Hunsucker (d. ca. 1891) and Sam Ritter (d. ca. 1892), was at least cooperative on some levels and peaceful enough so that they could live almost side-by-side on their farms until the end of their days.

See also in honor of Black History Month, February 2017, a blog post written by Elizabeth Crowder, about the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection. PC.2130.

Collection Overview:

PC. 2124. Slave Deed of Gift, of Sam, age 25, Moore County, from John R. Ritter to his daughter, Jane Ritter, 18 December 1847. This document was proven and duly registered in the January court session of 1848, by the oath of Benjamin P. Person. 1 item.

 

McCormick, Green, and Shaw Private Collection

[This blog post was written by Elizabeth Crowder with the Private Collections of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Under the supervision of Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina, I have arranged and described the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection (PC.2130). This work was made possible through generous funding bequeathed to the North Carolina Genealogical Society by the estate of the late Frances Holloway Wynne.

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Bill of sale for Daniel McCormick’s purchase of Nelly McCormick, Sarah (mother), and Sally (daughter). [1828]

Private collections can be a valuable source of information for researchers tracing slave ancestry. In honor of Black History Month, this post examines the life of Nelly McCormick (born ca. 1799) as revealed in the contents of the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection. The earliest reference to Nelly McCormick is found in the collection’s “Miscellaneous” series. An 1821 bill of sale indicates that Archibald Smith sold his current and future interest in Nelly and her offspring to a James Campbell. Nelly is identified as the daughter of Sarah. She is also referred to as the property of John Smith, Archibald’s father. Nelly passed to John Smith’s wife, Catherine (perhaps Archibald’s stepmother—he never refers to her as his mother), for Catherine’s lifetime. All the parties involved were likely residents of Cumberland County, NC. Though no record of John Smith’s death and/or estate has been found, the 1830 federal census lists a Catharine Smith as a resident of Cumberland County and the owner of three slaves.

According to the McCormick papers in PC.2130, Nelly was sold to Daniel McCormick of Cumberland County in April 1828. McCormick purchased her, her mother Sarah, and her daughter Sally from John E. Smith, likely a son of the John Smith mentioned above. Sarah’s age is given as “between sixty and seventy years,” making her birth year between 1758 and 1768. Nelly’s age is given as “about twenty-three years,” making her birth year approximately 1805. Sally is identified as six months old, meaning that she was born in late 1827.

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John Smith’s 1864 letter demanding Nelly, Sally, and Rachel from Daniel McCormick.

After 1828, no details of Nelly McCormick’s life emerge for more than thirty years. But in 1864, John E. Smith’s son demanded Nelly, Sally, and Rachel (presumably another daughter of Nelly’s) back from Daniel McCormick. Whatever the result of the lawsuit Smith threatened, Nelly remained tied to the McCormick family. The ledgers of John McCormick, Daniel McCormick’s son, contain an 1866 account for Nelly McCormick, who either purchased food items from him or received pay for her labor in those same items.

While Nelly’s life cannot be traced beyond 1866, census and marriage records may provide insight into the lives of one of her children and two of her grandchildren. The 1880 federal census lists a twenty-year-old Nelly McCormick as a servant and farmhand in the household of John McCormick and his wife, Grissella. A Cumberland County marriage license dated June 3 of that same year records the union of Robert Allen and twenty-six-year-old Sarah McCormick, daughter of Sally McCormick and Porter Williams. The aforementioned Nelly and Sarah McCormick may well have been sisters. Both of them could have been the daughters of Sally McCormick, Nelly’s daughter born around 1827.

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Nelly McCormick’s 1866 purchases recorded in John McCormick’s account book.

For additional slave records in the McCormick, Green, and Shaw Collection, see PC.2130.1, folder 2; PC.2130.4, folder 4; and PC.2130.5, folder 5. The accounts, bills of sale, and wills therein identify many slaves’ names and owners. A search of census, marriage, birth, and death records may well provide insight into their lives after emancipation and the Civil War.

Troop Returns Digital Collection Complete

[This blog post comes from Olivia Carlisle, Digitization Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Troop Returns Digital Collection is now complete via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War North Carolina Continental Line. Records dated after the Revolutionary War primarily deal with the county and state militia troops.

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“Return of the North Carolina Brigade of Foot commanded by Brigadier General Hogun.” Troop Returns. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina.

Unique Items included in the latest upload:

  • The commission of William Darlet as 1st Lieutenant of the 1st Regiment of the North Carolina militia in 1815
  • Documents include Militia Regulations from 1808
  • An accounting of militia troops in the United States versus the state/territory

For more information on how the Troop Returns are organized and what may be included please see the first blog post on the collection, or consult the digital collection landing page. To view the items in the collection in a list format, please see the Troop Returns finding aid.

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

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Women’s Equality Day Proclamation, 2012

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of July our theme is elections.

I can’t believe we are at the end of July and this will be our last blog post with the theme of elections. Last week, Olivia posted about the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. It comes full circle with a proclamation from the Governor. Each year, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th because of the passing of 19th amendment. In 2012, Governor Beverly Perdue produced a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day. Please visit NCPedia for more information about the Women’s Suffrage movement in North Carolina.

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

Women looking out over mountains. Swain County, North Carolina

Women looking out over mountains. (Swain County, N.C.)

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in the hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. This month our theme will be vacations.

Is anyone else getting excited about the Fourth of July holiday? I am so thrilled to spend vacation with family and friends. One of my favorite places to visit in North Carolina is the mountains. We are very fortunate to live so close to various mountains ranges across the west coast of good ole N.C.

Women Picking Galax (Banner Elk, N.C.)

Women Picking Galax (Banner Elk, N.C.)

A great collection that highlights the mountains is the Travel and Tourism Photos Collection. The collection contains 1130 images from the North Carolina Conservation and Development Department, Travel and Tourism Division Photo Files. This collection was a joint project with the State Archives of North Carolina and the State Library of North Carolina.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

 

 

Treasures of Carolina Exhibit Extended

The Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives exhibit will be extended to July 31, 2016.

A selection of the state’s historic documents will be exhibited in Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives of North Carolina at the Museum of History, October 24, 2015–June 19, 2016. Documents from the Archives vault, unique letters, historic photographs, public records, and other media will illuminate the myriad of ways in which the holdings of the State Archives document the workings of our government, provide evidence of civil liberties, and preserve the history and culture of North Carolina. This exhibit is sponsored by the Friends of the Archives and runs through July 31, 2016. Additional funding was provided by the N.C. Bar Association Foundation, the Raleigh Times, and Wells Fargo.

These following items will be on view for a limited time:

  • Famous Signatures – on view February 15 through June 14, 2016. Exhibit visitors will see letters or documents signed by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and Buckminster Fuller.
  • North Carolina’s official copy of the Bill of Rights – on view  June 15 through 19, 2016. This document was stolen from the State Capitol by a Union soldier following the Civil War. In an FBI sting operation, it was recovered in 2003.
  • 19th & 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – on view June 20, 2016, through July 31, 2016. North Carolina’s official copy of the 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote and 26th Amendment gives U. S. citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote.

Valentine’s Day Weekend

Looking for an entertaining activity over the Valentine’s Day weekend. We recommend visiting the Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives exhibit at the Museum of History. For a limited time only, the 1663 Carolina Charter is only on display until Sunday, February 14, 2016.

1663 Carolina Charter

1663 Carolina Charter

Prefer to stay in during this cold February weekend? Check out these previous “Love in the Archives” blog posts from 2012.
Love in the Archives
Love on the Dark Side