On a Tuesday morning in March three springs before her death, Happy Stone sat with H. H. Davis and Robert Mannas and dictated the terms of what should happen to her farm and estate upon her death. On 8 April 1853 Kerenhappuch departed this world, and at the 1853 June court her last will and testament was proven and recorded in Franklin County (NC) Probate Records, Book IV, pages 330-331.
In the name of God. amen. I Happy Stone of the State of North Carolina and County of Franklin considering the uncertainty of my earthly existence, but being of sound mind and memory, do make, publish and declare this to be my last will and Testament in manner and form following. To wit-
Item 1. It is my will and desire that this body of mine be decently interred and that all of my just debts be paid after my death.
Item 2. It is my will and desire that after my death that all the property of every description that I may possess at the time of my death be sold and equally dived (sic) as follows, (To wit) I give one sixth part after paying all expenses to my son William Stone. One sixth part I give to my son McCullar Stone, one sixth part I give to my son Washington Stone, one sixth part I give to my son Elias Stone, One sixth part I give to my daughter Mary Ann Howell, one sixth part i give to my grandson John Axum (?) Jenkins–but should he die before he arrives of age of twenty one, it is my will that the part left to him be equally divided between William, McCullar, Washing (sic), and Elias Stone and Mary Ann Howell and their Heirs.
Lastly I nominate and appoint my son William Stone my sole Executor to this my last Will and Testament. In testimony of which I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 19th March A.D. 1850.
signed, seal, and acknowledged Happy HER MARK X Stone
H. H. Davis, Robert Mannas
Because she had already sold her land to my 2x great-grandparents, Anderson and Julia Strickland, what remained were debts settled with the proceeds from the sale of her tools, furniture, livestock, foodstuffs, crops already planted, and two human beings, Nancy and Crofford*.
My 4x great-grandmother, Kerenhappuch “Happy” Stone watched the sun rise from her home on Cypress Creek, Franklin County, North Carolina. Today, as I wait for the sun to peek from behind Storm Fred’s cloud cover, I wonder if Happy dreaded heavy rains like the ones the National Weather Service is predicting for my region. Would storms flatten corn and wheat patches? Would gullies fill and create streams meandering through cypress groves, causing havoc for boars and sows and piglets in their woodlots? Would Cypress Creek overflow as it headed toward the Tar River?
Happy worked her widow’s dower after her husband, Merritt’s death in 1823. Not alone, mind you. Her son, and my 3x great-grandfather, William G Stone, worked the adjoining 200 acres on the west side of Cypress Creek. Grandkids William, Catherine, Mary, and Julia–my 2x great-grandmother–were companions and helpers, no doubt. Hired white farmers like Jenkins Brazel and George Davis, and enslaved farmers like Nancy and Crawford watered horses, took cows out and brought them back in at night, slaughtered hogs, hoed rows of corn and potatoes, harvested the wheat, mended fences and roofs and chimneys.
In 1845 that village of people grew to include Happy’s granddaughter. Julia and Anderson Strickland purchased 144 acres, including the 95 acre widow’s dower, just a year after being married. I suppose the couple built their own homestead and began housekeeping shortly after the January sale, farming and child-raising as generations before them had.
Deed from William B. Williams to Anderson Strickland 1-29-1845
This indenture made the 29 day of January in the year of our Lord 1845 between William B. Williams of the County of Nash of the first part and Anderson Strickland of the County of Wake of the second part both of the State of North Carolina. Witnesseth that the said William B. Williams bargained, and by these presents doth grant bargain sell and deliver to the said Anderson Strickland his heirs and assigns for ever a certain tract of land situate lying and being in the land of Bennet Gay, Washington Harris, and William T Minga containing one hundred and forty- four acres more or less all within the bounds above described with all and every appurtenances there unto belonging or in any wise appertaining. Subject nevertheless to the life time right of Happy Stone dower right it being about ninety five Acres and I do hereby covenant to and with the said A. Strickland that I have before the execution of this deed full right absolute and lawful authority to sell the said land and premises and agree hereby to warrant forever defend the right and title of the same to him the said A. Strickland his heirs and assigns forever in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.
Signed and sealed and delivered William B. Wms (sic) seal In the presence of Wm. T. Minga and Louis P. Dunn
State of North Carolina
Franklin County–I, Young Patterson, clerk of the Court of please and Quarter sessions for the county aforesaid certify that the Execution of the within Deed is this day duly proven before me at my office by the oath of William T. Mingo a subscribing witness thereto therefore let it be Registered this the 12th day of September 1854. ~~Y. patterson CCC
The foregoing Deed is truly registered this 12th day of September A. D. 1854 ~~D. Young P. R.
During the mid-nineteenth century North Carolina was the global supplier of naval stores. The “Turpentine State” lay in the long-leaf pine belt–a region of dry sandy clay subsoil that ran from North Carolina, south to Florida, and as far west as southern Alabama and Mississippi.
The sap of turpentine orchards was harvested and distilled into spirits of turpentine and rosin; pine trunks were burned in earthen kilns to produce tar. These naval stores rendered ship hulls watertight and preserved hemp rigging. Camphene, a mixture of turpentine and alcohol, was a widely used illuminant until the development of Pennsylvania kerosene in 1860. By the late 1850s, naval stores were the South’s 3rd largest global export crop, exceeded only by cotton and tobacco.
My 2x-great-granduncle, William Gray Strickland, owned several tracts of land in the pine belt, and put one 760 acre parcel up for sale in 1855. Its proximity to the North Carolina Railroad, which ran from the Neuse River town of Goldsboro through Raleigh, the state capital, and ultimately inland to Charlotte, was a major selling point, as was its piney woods, portions of which he had “boxed and attended to for one year.”
The land lay 12 miles north of Raleigh and the previous year, Gray Strickland had sent enslaved turpentine hands to tend portions of the piney forest. They would have cut a hole or box near the base of trees 8-15 inches wide and 3-4 inches deep, with a highly skilled boxer cutting up to 75-80 boxes a day from November until March. As the sap began to rise–peaking in July and August–“dippers” had harvested the resin from the bottom of each box and stored it in barrels shipped by river or rail to distilleries.
Turpentine operations were distant from the main Strickland lands; the isolation of the orchards made for hard, solitary work in insufferably hot conditions. And perhaps that distance created an opportunity for one enslaved man to seek freedom.
Dennis was about 21 years old, a sturdy five foot three, 150 pound man who sought freedom in December of 1853. As James G. Williams, Dennis found work in pine belt counties to the south and east of Strickland’s Wake County plantations, relocating as necessary from river towns to turpentine orchards. For almost two years the young man labored as a ditcher, a striker, a turpentine hand, a maker of barrels. Making his way as a free man.
Then in late August of 1855, Gray Strickland began to track Dennis in earnest, running an advertisement in several Raleigh papers, including the Spirit of the Age, The Semi-Weekly Standard and The Weekly Standard.
The enslaver offered a reward worth $3000 in today’s currency to any North Carolinian who could catch and confine Dennis, and he offered to cover expenses of the collaborator who delivered the young man to Gray.
I couldn’t find an earlier advertisement for Dennis, which makes me wonder about the timing of this reward offer. Was Gray Strickland needing a strong, highly skilled worker?
Or did he need to capture this young man to prove to Dennis, to the rest of the black community enslaved on Strickland land, and to the larger community that he had the money and the power to catch, confine, and control.
In this “status update” Gray Strickland tells people to cease the hunt for a fugitive, and indicates what he thinks should happen to any enslaved person who seeks freedom. Unwritten is the warning otherwise transmitted to any enslaved person thinking of seeking asylum among abolitionists or creating freedom with new identities: “You will be caught. You will be punished. You will be separated from everything you know. I have that power.”
Outland, Robert B. “Slavery, Work, and the Geography of the North Carolina Naval Stores Industry, 1835-1860.” The Journal of Southern History 62, no. 1 (1996): 27-56. Accessed June 18, 2021. doi:10.2307/2211205.
Advertisement by Gray Strickland, The Spirit of the Age,Raleigh, North Carolina17 Oct 1855, Wed • Page 4; digitally accessed on Newspapers.com. Transcription below.
Since Dennis has been a runaway, I have heard of his being in Johnston county as a turpentine hand and ditcher; I have heard of his being about Averasboro’ as a maker of turpentine barrels and striker in a blacksmith shop; perhaps in Fayetteville [a prominent town on Cape Fear River] or its vicinity, and about Goldsboro'[a Neuse River town]. I cannot say whether these representations are true, but I have no doubt he is in Johnston, Harnett, Cumberland or some of the adjacent counties [all part of the turpentine belt], working about as a free man. I learn he passed in some places by the name of “John G. Williams;” he doubtless has other names by which he has passed during his long absence.
I will give the above reward for the apprehension and confinement of my Negro Man DENNIS, if taken in this State, or $200 if taken out of the State. Said Dennis has now been run-away about twenty months, viz: since December, 1853. He is slightly bow-legged, toes turning out a little, rather round shouldered and stoops slightly in walking; has a scar on one of his thighs caused by a snag, of dark complexion, 5 feet 3 or 4 inches high, aged about 21 years, and weighing when he left about 150 pounds.
I will give the above Reward of $100 for his apprehension and confinement in this State, or $200 if taken out of the State, so that I get him again. If delivered to me in Raleigh, I will pay all additional expenses beside the above Reward. Letters concerning said Runaway, to be addressed to me at Raleigh.
I played around with this Gutenberg Block editor in hopes of sharing genealogy basics in a more visually appealing, less overwhelming format.
‘Cause, let’s face it, when you’re trying to engage with kin that lie somewhere out there beneath your family tree’s shade, the typical checklists of names and dates of birth, death, marriage, and the (seemingly endless) enumeration of siblings and kids can be so tedious that a mind wanders and, before you know it, perusing leads to closing the tab rather than clicking a contact button.
What if the data was shared in a more graphic form? Can the Gutenblock editor help me create a family diagram?
My grandfather Strickland was an orphan who inherited the Mecklenburg County (VA) farm from the three, single Dodson siblings who adopted him. Their sister, married to a Sayles, was my grandmother Strickland’s mother. When my dad narrated our hikes around Oakview with stories of his childhood, I only saw my Virginia roots so deeply embedded in that rich red soil, worked by generations of Dodsons, the people they enslaved and the people they hired to sharecrop.
But my last set of posts about Ira Sayles and George Parker got me to thinking about where little boy George Strickland played until his parents died of the flu in 1897. Let’s dip into his family tree.
In my mind I’m going to Carolina
George Ricks “Ricky” Strickland
Born in Franklin County NC; Died in Richmond VA
George Ricks “Ricky”
Sydney Nicholas Strickland
Born and died in Franklin County NC
married in 1879
Virginia Elizabeth Coppedge
Born and died in Franklin County NC
Anderson Perry Strickland
Born in Wake County NC; Died in Petersburg VA
Married in 1843
Julia M. Stone
Born and died in Franklin County NC
William B. Coppedge
Born and died in Franklin County NC
Married in 1857
Laura Ann May
Born and died in Franklin County NC
Look at all those North Carolina folks! I could keep going back, tracking down the Stallings and Bowdens, the Dents and the Boons of Franklin, Nash, and Wake County. But four blocks of vital statistics hit me as a just enough information to whet someone’s curiosity.
My original idea was to end with a diagram, with connections, branches, shoots. And though this attempt is far more basic, I feel satisfied. My goal was to discover another way to share basic data, and I think I stumbled on a satisfying format. Only time will tell if such posts promote more reader engagement. For now…I’d say family historians have a friend in the WordPress editor.
George Parker died of grip at his home near Alfred, May 28, 1902. He was born in bondage near Murfreesboro, N. C. Slavery kept few records and the date is not known, but at his death he was probably not far from the allotted age of man. He was sold once. In 1863, along with others, he escaped from the small plantation and came to the union camp. A little later he was brought north by Prof. Sayles. The first money of his own was two pennies given him by a little boy. He worked for a number of different people, including Chandler Green, Valencia C. Baker, Amos Burdick and others. He was accounten (sic) an excellent hand. He became widely known and respected. He attended school several terms and, although it was hard for him to learn, he was deeply interested in education. He had an ambition for which he carefully saved his money until nineteen years ago when it was realized, and he bought the farm which was his late home. On May 10, 1885, he was married to Ellen Van Dosen Simons, who survives him.
He was converted in younger years. He loved to go to church, and attended regularly until failing health made the trip too hard. He had many friends. They say of him that he was perfectly honest, his morals were above reproach, his heart tender and appreciative. He did not understand being born again, but it was his purpose to serve his God and live right. In at least one of the homes where he worked he was counted one of the family, and when speaking of the young ladies of the family he would call them ” our girls.” Only kind words are spoken of him, and the feeling of many would be expressed in the words of one man who said: “Well, George and I have been friends ever since he came to this country.”
There was one occasion when he was always present, if possible, and that was Memorial Day. Probably this was the first time he has missed for many years. It was peculiarly appropriate that his funeral was held in the same place the next day, and that the same patriotic decorations were in place. Surely it was as he would have had it be. Under the flag whose stars and stripes thrilled his heart when he saw it floating over the Union camp–under that flag the last tribute of love and respect was paid to his memory.
Funeral service were conducted in the First Alfred Church Sabbath afternoon, May 31. A brief sermon was preached by James Dawes, the black missionary who has been attending the University. A short life sketch and tribute was presented by Pastor Randolph. A large and sympathetic audience was present. Interment in Alfred Rural Cemetery.
Published in The Alfred Sun (New York) on June 4, 1902.
died of grip: died of complications from influenza
the allotted age of man: George appeared in the 1865 New York State census with stated age of 22. He could have been between 55-60 years of age when he died.
came to the union camp: George was part of a group of refugees who arrived in Camp Suffolk’s contraband camp, Uniontown, in early 1863. [see post His Future Was Not Yet Written]
he was brought north by Prof. Sayles:Professor Ira Sayles was a well known educator of Allegany County.
he attended school: George attended the Preparatory Program at Alfred Academy, 1869-1870.
he bought the farm: the farm lay on the outskirts of Alfred, New York
he married: George married the widow Ellen Simons, and helped raise her son, William.
he was converted: George became a member of the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church, adherents of which keep the sabbath on Saturday. Alfred Academy and Alfred University were affiliated with the Seventh Day Baptist denomination.
Post photo of Alfred, New York countryside by Kay Strickland, 2013.