Tag Archives: Granville County North Carolina

Joseph Cooke Crews Sr. — Obit

The following is a faithful transcription of a newspaper clipping noting the death of Joseph C. Crews. A handwritten source note, in the hand of Mary Hall Benn Wyche, indicates that this notice appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer, on Tuesday, April 13, 1948.

 

Joseph Cooke Crews and his wife, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Currin.

Joseph Cooke Crews and his wife, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Currin.

Joseph C. Crews

Oxford. __ Joseph Cooke Crews, 65, Standard Oil Company employee for 35 years, died in Durham hospital Sunday night. He had been a patient there for a week. The funeral will be held from Shady Grove Methodist church at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, conducted by his pastor, the Rev. J. L. Smith, assisted by the Rev. M. L. Banister of Oxford Baptist Church. Interment will be in Elmwood cemetery. Surviving are his wife, the former Mary Currin; a daughter, Jean, of the home; two sons, J. C. Jr., and Lindsey Crews of Henderson and two sisters, Mrs. J. T. Benn of Weldon and Mrs. Fannie Crews of Richmond, Va.


Fannie Evelyn Johnston — Obit

TRANSCRIPTION OF A TYPED TRANSCRIPTION, RECORDED BY MARY HALL BENN WYCHE, FROM A NEWSPAPER NOTICE OF THE DEATH OF FANNIE EVELYN CREWS, WHICH (it is to be assumed) ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE OXFORD PUBLIC LEDGE, OXFORD, NORTH CAROLINA. THE ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPTION IS UNDATED.

 

LeRoy Lafayette Crews and Fannie Evelyn Johnston Crews. Fannie died at 31 years old.

LeRoy Lafayette Crews and Fannie Evelyn Johnston Crews. Fannie died at 31 years old.

CREWS. __ Mrs. Fannie E. Crews (nee) Johnston, was born November the 12th 1857. She was married to L. L. Crews December the 19th 1877. She died July 1st 1886, leaving a husband and four children to mourn their loss. She was converted and joined the Methodist Church while young and lived in the enjoyment of religion to the end of life. Her health had not been good for five years, and frequently she was brought almost to death’s door, then she would improve. While to her friends she seemed to enjoy health at times, she realized that she could not long remain in this world. When last taken, the physicians did not think her seriously ill, but after all that skill and kindness could do she grew worse and in a few days passed away. Her sufferings were intense and she was conscious that the time of her departure was at hand. Previous to her last illness, she said, “I know in whom I have trusted.” Leaning upon Jesus she passed through “the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil”. Her funeral was preached at her home by the writer from Matt 25-21, and a long procession followed her remains to the family burying ground.

It was painful to sister Crews to leave her husband and little children, but she was submissive to the divine will, she was not conscious in the last hours, but we need no testimony in the dying hour to tell us where the Christian goes.

To her family and friends she is not lost, but gone before. May they have grace to follow on to the city of God

— E. Coltrane.

 

 

[Handwritten below the typed note, in the hand of Mary Hall Benn Wyche, is the following citation information.]

This is a copy of newspaper notice of death and funeral of Mrs. Fannie E. Crews. Presume this was (Oxford Public Ledger, Oxford N.C.)


Caroline Frances Crews Smith – Obits and Recollections

THE FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF AN OBITUARY NOTICE FOR CAROLINE CREWS SMITH, THE ORIGINAL CLIPPING BEING FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF MARY HALL BENN WYCHE. THE CLIPPING IS UNDATED. IT CAN BE INFERRED FROM THE TEXT THAT THIS ORIGINAL APPEARED IN THE OXFORD PUBLIC LEDGER, OXFORD, NORTH CAROLINA.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TRANSCRIPTION REFLECTS ALL THE UNIQUE PHRASING OF THE ERA, AS WELL AS TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS, MISSING OR INCORRECT PUNCTUATION, ETC. IT IS A VERBATIM, UNEDITED TRANSCRIPTION FROM THE ORIGINAL.

[Caroline Crews Smith was the daughter of James A. Crews and Martha Hunt, sister of Leroy Lafayette Crews. She married John Smith. She was born August 10, 1848 in Granville County, NC, and passed away February 9, 1931 in the same place.]

——————–

Obituary

Mrs. Caroline Smith

“So live that when thy summons comes
To join the innumerable caravan
Which moves to that mysterious realm
Where each shall take his chamber
In the silent halls of death;
Thou go not, like the quarry slave, at night
Scourged to his dungeon;
But, sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,
Approach thy grave, like one who wraps the drapery
Of his couch about him
And lies down to pleasant dreams.”

Thus did Mrs. Caroline Smith live and thus did she slip away from us to be forever with her God whom she loved and served for eighty-two years.

Truly, as her pastor said, a giant oak in God’s earthly forest has fallen – But it was so deeply rooted in love, its leaves lent shade to so many weary souls and that tree shed such fragrance to the discouraged and broken-hearted that the memory of it will linger with us long and that to bless. Discouragement and impossibility were two words that Grand Ma Smith scratched from her vocabulary – Her very expression was a smile and a challenge to be “Up and doing, with a heart for any fall.

“Still achieving, still pursuing. Learn to labor and to wait.” We shall remember her, not so much for her many words, as for the numberless little deeds of kindness that her life was literally crowded with. She seemed to realize that her time was drawing short, for each day before she took her bed, was crowded more and more with loving kindnesses and tender ministrations.

Rich and poor, high and low, white and black visited her during her last illness; looked fondly upon her sweet face, breathed a prayer for her recovery and begged that they might so something for her. It was merely reflexaction, for had she not been the busiest soul in Oxford looking after the welfare of her friends and acquaintances.

She was almost a life long member of the Methodist Church and she supported her church too; and stood back of her minister in every good work. She leaves to mourn her loss one daughter, Mrs. J.E. Jackson of Sanford, Fla.; and two sons, E.L. and L.F. Smith of Oxford; several grand children and two great grand children.

The smile on Grand Ma’s face, cold in death, seemed to portray –

“Sunset and evening star and one clear call for me.
And may there be no mourning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam.
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bells and after that the dark,
And may there be no sadness of farewells
When I embark.
For though from out our bourne of time and place.
The flood may bear me far.
I hope to see my Pilot face to face,
When I have crossed the bar.”

A.L.C.

——–

[THE FOLLOWING MEMORIAL APPEARED JUST BELOW AND ADJACENT TO THE OBITUARY.]

In Memoriam

It is with deep sorry that the Granville Grays Chapter of the daughters of the Confederacy, records the death of Mrs. Caroline Crews Smith, an honorary member, who passed into Paradise on February ninth at the home of her son, E. L. Smith. She had been a member of the Chapter for years and loved “the Cause” for which it stood.

Her warm-hearted character and sweet modesty showed itself in her loyalty in every work undertaken by the Chapter. She knew the horrors of war and the greater hardships of reconstruction. Her patriotism never failed in war or peace and she ever kept sacred the memory of the dead, extending sympathy and help to the living.

Born of an old and prominent family, reared amid surroundings of affluence and ease, her girlhood environment suggested the setting which we associate with the antebellum life of the Old South. She lived to be eighty-two but old age never came neigh her, to the day of her last illness she was alive to her finger tips and crowned with many flowers, she passed into the beyond to hear her Master’s welcome plaudit, “Well Done.”

Piety and consecration to her church and her Master, best illustrated in human kindness and charity to her loved ones and neighbors, were her chief characteristics and her cheerful, unselfish, happy personality radiated sunshine, warming her many friends who loved her dearly.

And now that our Heavenly Father in His infinite wisdom and love has called to Himself in glory our beloved member, be it resolved:

First. That we as members of the Granville Grays Chapter, Daughters of the Confederacy, express our sorrow in the loss of so sweet and and gentle a member and will ever cherish with grateful remembrance her unselfish inspiration and help.

Second. That the loving sympathy of the Chapter be extended to her bereaved family.

Third. That a copy of these Resolutions be sent her family, the Public Ledger and a copy be spread upon the records of the Chapter.

Respectfully submitted,

Jeannette E. Biggs,

Elizabeth Floyd,

Mrs. E. G. Moss

Committee.

 

———–

THE FOLLOWING TRANSCRIPTION IS FROM A CLIPPING OF A DEATH NOTICE FOR CAROLINE CREWS SMITH. THE CLIPPING IS A FRAGMENT, UNDATED, AND THE PAPER IN WHICH IT APPEARED IS UNIDENTIFIED.

Death Lays Claim To Mrs. Caroline Smith

Deceased Was 82 Years Old and Was Taken Sick With Pneumonia Several Days Ago

Death claimed the life of Mrs Caroline Smith yesterday afternoon shortly before 5:00 o’clock at the home of her son, E. L. Smith, on Gilliam street. She was in the 82nd year of her life.

Mrs. Smith was the oldest living member of the Oxford Methodist church. She was a devout Christian and she was known in the community for the many kind deeds of her life. Her real love and work in the Kingdom was the Missionary Society of which she was always active.

Funeral services will be conducted this afternoon at 3:00 o’clock from the Oxford Methodist church with services conducted by her pastor, Rev. E. J. Rees, assisted by Rev. Reuben Meredith of St. Stephens Episcopal church; Rev. B. W. Lacy, of the Oxford Presbyterian church; Rev. B. D. Critcher, of the Oxford Methodist Circuit and Rev. W. D. Poe, of Hester and Enon churches. Interment will be in Elmwood cemetery.

The deceased is survived by the following brothers: A. A. Crews of Oxford and L. L. Crews of Selma [“Selma” is a typo. It should read “Thelma”] and three children: E. L. Smith and L. F. Smith, of Oxford and Mrs. J. E. Jackson, of Sanford, Fla.

Following are the active pallbearers: F. F. Lyon, Sam Averette, O. B. Breedlove, S. R. Abernathy, C. W. Bryan, J. M. Baird, J. H. L. Myers and Will Landis.

Honorary pallbearers: Dick Crews, I. H. Davis, F. B. Blalock, C. B. Keller, Dr. S. J. Finch, C. G. Powell, J. S. Bradsher, Sr., John Floyd Ernest Jones, Gibbons Renn, G. W. Regan, William Medford, W. T. Yancy, J. E. Davis, W. P. Stradley, Earnest Dean, D. K. Taylor, Pete Bullock, C. G. Credle, W. B. Crews, Jim Dean, J. M. Blalock, A. W. Graham, W. H. Jeffries…

[The remainder of the article is missing.]

—————

THE FOLLOWING IS A FAITHFUL TRANSCRIPTION OF A NEWSPAPER CLIPPING FRAGMENT, WHICH PRESUMABLY APPEARED IN THE OXFORD PUBLIC LEDGER. THE CLIPPING IS NUMBERED “VOLUME 16, NUMBER 33”, OTHERWISE UNDATED.

A Tribute To A Good And Useful Life

(Composed and read by Mrs. J. Y. Crews at Shady Grove Church on Mars. Caroline Smith’s eighty-first birthday.)

It is indeed delightful to have with us on these sacred grounds today, one of the most consecrated, most beloved members of Shady Grove Church: none other than Grand Ma Smith!

She is so active, so interested in life, we find it hard to realize that tomorrow, the 10th of August, 1929, will mark her eighty-first birthday: she has been a member of this Church for the past 66 years: and such an enviable record her life has been, for she has fully measured up to the standard of the good woman referred to in the….

(The remainder of the article is missing.)


Death of James A. Crews — From a transcript by John W. Hays

Source: Frances B. Hays Collection, “Obituaries V”, page 66. Richard H. Thornton Library, Oxford, North Carolina
The following is a complete, unedited transcription from a handwritten manuscript appearing in the volume described above. The manuscript is undated, but it is presumed that it was written shortly after the death of James A. Crews, which occurred on August 10th, 1892. The handwriting was very difficult to decipher, and where I have been unable to puzzle a word, I have indicated it as (illegible). Where a specific word or phrase can be presumed, I have included it in parenthesis with a question mark (?) to indicate a guess.

Transcription provided by Constance Hall Jones, Raleigh, North Carolina. April 22, 2015.

 

Death of James A. Crews

From a transcript by John W. Hays.

Died at his house in Granville county on Wednesday the 10th of August, 1892, James A. Crews, in the 80th year of his age.

He was the oldest son of the late James Crews and Sallie (Earl) Crews of Granville County. His father, who died in 1875, at the advanced age of 90 years, belonged to a family who were the pioneers of Methodism in Granville, and was the principal founder of Salem Church on what is now the Oxford circuit. He left a large number of descendants reaching to the third and fourth generation, and nearly all have remained true to the teaching of their fathers.

James A. Crews was born May 15, 1813, and was married August 11, 1834, to Martha A. Hunt of (illegible) county. Of their marriage eleven children were born, nine of whom survive. His wife preceded him to the grave on the 6th of January, 1892.

Brother Crews had inherited a vigorous constitution and was remembered for his energy both of body and mind. He had a successful farm and by industry and economy had accumulated a good estate. For some years before his death his unusually robust health began to decline. He became a great sufferer from rheumatism, which emphasized with other disorders, terminated his life.

He was motivated to Christ and joined the Methodist church in early youth, and throughout his life was an earnest and (illegible) Christian. He was a man of decided convictions and of determined character. He loved the Truth and hated all that was false. He was a close student of the Bible and was deeply imbued with its teachings. He (illegible) (it?,if?) as an impregnable rock and the (illegible) of all excellence. He carried his religion with his daily life and made it his governing principle in all his business transactions. It comforted him in time of trouble, soothed his sorrow and was a constant source of sacred joy. It was the theme of much of his conversation and the joy that it offered to him he seemed ever anxious to impart to others. With an unfaltering faith in the efficacy of prayer and with a heart full of tender devotions, there was nothing that offered him so much happiness or awakened all his power to so full a (ae?, as?) living but to be at work in the service of a great religious revival. On such occasions he would often manifest a (spiritual?, penitential?) power in exhaustion and prayer that would reach the most callous heart. As approached the end of life he seemed to lose his hold upon all things earthly. He had arranged his business affairs with calmness and deliberation, and then placed them behind him, and was looking steadfastly forward to another life when he would meet the loved ones who had gone before and realize his brightest hopes in the presence of his Redeemer.

The land of Beulah and the (delectable?) mountains were constantly in view, and when he came to pass the work given his faith failed not. He whom he had trusted in health was still his (illegible) and support.

The grave has closed where his mortal remains. He leaves to his children his example of life without reproach; that of an honest man, a good citizen, a kind neighbor, a fearless and faithful soldier of Christ. His spirit has entered into that nest (rest?) prepared for the people of God.

His funeral was preached on the 11th inst. By his pastor, the Rev. John H. Hall, in the presence of a large (collection?, consensus?) of relatives and friends and his body laid to rest in the cemetery near his home.

 

 


Sally Parham, aka “Black Mammy” Slave Narrative

The following article appeared about 1935 in the short-lived, progressive newspaper “State’s Progress”, which was published in Durham, North Carolina in the 1930’s. The subject of the interview was Sally Parham, who was born before the Civil War on Asa Parham’s plantation , near Tabbs Creek, just east of Oxford, North Carolina. Asa Parham was my cousin, the relation coming through the Crews line down to my own. The existence of this slave narrative first came to my attention through “North Carolina: The Subtle Politics of Slavery Before and After the Civil War” at BC Brooks: A Writer’s Hiding Place.

‘Black Mammy’ Tells Graphic Story of Slavery

By Charlotte Story Perkinson

"Black Mammy" Tells Graphic Story of Salvery, Asa Parham, Granville County, NC

Article that appeared in “State’s Progress” newspaper about 1933 – Image courtesy of bcbrooks.blogspot.com

Dr. John Spencer Bassett has said; “The lives of the American slaves were without annals, and to a large extent without conscious purpose. To get the story of their existence there is no other way than to follow the tracks they have made in history of another people.”

But an effort to obtain a true picture of the period by talking directly to the actors in the drama themselves, as I have done at every opportunity, is fraught with difficulties, one of which is that the memory at 90 and over is apt to be much impaired, and another that even 75 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, there is still a great tendency among these old darkies to say only those things pleasant to the ear of the descendants of former slave owners. This hesitancy in revealing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, probably comes from incentives of fear of fear and loyalty combined. Usually these old slave brag about the wealth and social prestige of their masters, and try to keep alive something of the glamorous, but not altogether true picture of old plantation life. Only two out of many I have interviewed have revealed anything of the ugly or the evil in the setting.

Even so, it was not without advantage to the negro to have come to America as a slave, according to Booker T. Washington, who says; “It was the negro’s task to learn from experience by his contact with most advanced types of experience in the history of man.” That he has performed and is still performing that task well cannot be denied.

Is 102 Years Old
“Black Mammy”, so called for generations by all who know her, is by far the most interesting survivor of the old order I have yet talked with.

She is 102 years old, and says that she knows this to be her age, because she was born the same year as so and so of her master’s children, whose births are recorded in the family Bible. All of the children referred to are dead years ago.

Her name is Sally Parham, and she belonged to Asa Parham, who owned a large plantation five miles from Oxford on the Oxford-Henderson road in Granville county. She has served five generations of the family, and now, totally blind, is being cared for by a great grand-daughter of her master, Mrs. Elizabeth Dorsey Walters, whose mother was Cynthia Parham, daughter of Gaston and granddaughter of Asa Parham.

Aunt Sally not only related not only the more or less familiar story of having a good master, how and when she got religion, her memories of the Civil War and the part she played during that period, but she gave a most revealing description of the slave speculator, of how crime was punished, of the “pattyrollers”, and of many other subjects not often touched upon. Truly she seems like a character taken from the pages of history unwritten, because almost everybody she knew and who form a part of her story are long since dead, she would often rather pathetically exclaim, “O Lord, I live in de grave yard now.”

Always Same Plantation
This old woman lived her entire life on the same plantation until 1928, when the land was again divided, with the exception of a short time following her master’s death.

Then she became the property of Nan Parham, who married a Bobbitt, and went to the Bobbitt home to live. Here, she says, she was so homesick that she ran back home, and to satisfy her, it was finally agreed among the heirs to let her remain at the old place and cook for the five bachelor sons, they agreeing to pay her wages to the “Legatees” as she expressed it.

“Black Mammy’s” earliest memories take her back to the time when she first went to the big house to be trained as a house servant. When her mother came after her, she says she refused to return to the slave quarters, and was dragged down the front steps, “My head counted those steps, and I’ll never forget them,” she said.

Sometimes, when she was still a child, she told me, her white mistress sent her to school with the white children. She was given a note to the teacher with instructions to let her have some books. One was a “Blue Back Speller” from the pages of which she spelled several words for me from memory, syllable by syllable. She also repeated the alphabet and said she was proud of her education and wished she had not dropped it so soon.

“Black Mammy” was only married once. But of course marriage in slavery days was hardly more than an agreement to live together, and the institution of slavery was conducive to polygamy, inasmuch as the more children a slave woman had the more value she was to her master. Aunt Sally’s ideals in this regard were quite high, however, and patterned after those of the white folks. Her husband was Harry, a slave belonging to Albert Parham, and living on the adjoining plantation. If she had any children, they as well as her husband are all gone, while she lives on way past her age and generation, reenacting in her imagination the scenes of a by-gone day.

Meeting Houses For Slaves
Aunt Sally says that while the assembling together of the slaves was carefully guarded against, fearing an uprising, the Parham brothers, whose plantations joined and who owned a large number of negroes, built a meeting house where their slaves could hold prayer meetings and other religious services. This house was across the creek from her master’s place, and when slaves went to it, a colored overseer was usually sent along with them.

One night Black Mammy wanted to go to a prayer meeting and her father raised objections. There was a scene and chastisement. It was then and there she says she got religion, right at the foot of a walnut tree in her Mammy’s back yard. “No one dar’ but me and Gawd!” She joined the white folks church, called “Tab’s Creek” and was baptized in Cheatham’s Pond, along with about 20 others, which included members of both races, she told me.

One means employed for keeping the slaves from congregating together and possibly plotting mischief was the institution of the patrol, the “pattyrollers”, the slaves called them. The patrol consisted of five white men or thereabouts, appointed by the local unit of government, whose business it was to see that slaves were on their own mater’s plantations after sun-down.

Had To Have Pass
If a slave went courting or to a candy stew or to a prayer meeting or on an errand for his master or mistress, it was necessary for him to have with him a note or pass saying who he was and where he was going. Slaves caught away from home without permission were given a whipping and sent home. They feared and hated the “pattyrollers” intensely and they used to sing a song about them which went like this;

“Run, nigger, run de pattyroll catch you,
Run, nigger, run fo, it’s almost day!
Massa was kind an’ Missus was true,
But if you don’t min’ de pattyroll catch you!”

It appears that the patrol was not much respected by the slave owners either.

The old slave laughed as she related how some slave and white boys used to play pranks on the “pattyrollers”. She said one night they stretched ropes across the lane leading to the negro quarters and then hid and waited for the gallop of the night patrol. Soon they heard each horse fall with a heavy thud, one after another as the rope tripped them. Needless to add there were no boys of either color visible when once the riders and horses set out again upon their spying errand.

Without doubt the most despicable feature of the institution of slavery, and the thing which aroused the abolitionist the most, was the slave trader, or slave driver, or “speculator”, an abominable species of humanity who trafficked in black flesh, who sold and bought men, and women and children for profit.

The slaves hated to see the speculator wagon drive up. The wagon was covered with canvas and drawn by several mules. Into it were herded much as sheep or dogs might be, often as many as 17 unwashed and half-clad negroes.

One particularly pathetic scene has fixed itself upon the memory of “Black Mammy’s” memory. It was of seeing her husband’s brother standing by a tree and begging his master to sell him. His wife and children had already been loaded into the trader’s wagon.

“Massa, please sell me too. I’ll never do you no mo’ good, please sell me,” the miserable darky begged.

“I don’t want to sell you, Tom.” The master replied, kindly. “I like you. You’re a good servant.”

But the speculator kept offering more and more money for him, until finally the master relented and let the poor wretch join his wife and children in the slave wagon, only to be separated again, no doubt, perhaps at the next plantation.

“Why was the wife sold?” I wanted to know.

“Cause she had Injun blood in her,” was the reply. One can imagine that genuine negro blood would better serve the purposes of slavery than mixed blood, negroes being more docile and more trustworthy than Indians. The blackest skin brought the highest price, “Black Mammy” said. Negroes and Indians did not get along well together.

The old slave women related two extremely interesting and dramatic incidents illustrating how crime was punished when she was young.

One was the story of Martha and Joe, two slaves who murdered their master by scalding him with boiling coffee, and who were made examples of by hanging in the courthouse square. All the negroes from far and near were forced to witness the scene.

To See Hanging
“I was piled into a wagon with many other black folks,” said “Black Mammy”. “I was scared almost to death and kept up such a yelling and screaming that my master finally said, ‘Put the little fool out.’”

“My mother went on just the same,” she continued, “and said she couldn’t sleep any more afterwards until she got religion.” Times without number she heard her mother, and others, describe the pathetic scene.

The hanging took place at Harrisburg Creek, where the courthouse used to be located.

Martha, a young black woman, sat upon her coffin with a rope around her neck. At her breast, being fed, was a little black baby, born while she was in jail awaiting execution. A few minutes before the time set for her death, as is almost invariably the case with negroes under great emotional stress, she broke into song;

“I’s travellin’ to de grave my Lawd,
To lay dis body down.
Sister, you’d better watch and pray,
I’m huntin’ for Jesus night and day.”

As she finished the verse, someone in the crowd hollered out, “You ought to athought a that ‘fore you scalded your moster.”

The poor creature begged for time to sing one more verse, and continued her song. Then hurriedly handing her baby over to a black woman standing by, she sang on until the suddenly taughtened rope choked out the sound.

Martha and Joe were kitchen servants. They felt that their master was cruel to them, which of course in no way justified their act. Their mistress was dead. One day while they were busy in the kitchen preparing a meal and their master lay asleep in an adjoining room, snoring loudly with his mouth wide open, they conceived the idea of scalding him by pouring boiling coffee down his throat. This they did, and he was so badly burned that he soon died.

It seems that when a slave killed a white man he was dealt with in short order, and made an example of. But when the state took the life of a slave, it had to make restitution to his owner, in the same way that a corporation nowadays has to pay damages for injury to property, perhaps for running over a horse or a cow. Slaves were property then, in exactly the same way that a horse was.

On account of having to pay the master for his value in dollars, a slave who committed a crime against another negro was not often punished by death. Neither was he always cast into prison, for by so doing, the master would still be damaged in that he would be deprived of his labor. Consequently many and devious ways were prescribed for punishment, some very cruel. The law often set so many lashes for this and that crime. But there were punishments far more devilish and barbarous than whipping. Take, for instance, the story “Black Mammy” related for how a black youth was punished for killing his father.

There was a party in progress on a certain plantation. Fat lightwood knots and handmade candles augmented the light from open fires. Considerable drinking was going on, and a negro named Jack went to get another piece of lightwood from his father’s supply. The old man evidently thought it was time for the party to break up, so told his son not to get any more, and stood in his path in an attempt to keep the young man from doing so. In a fit of drunken fury, the son kicked his father in the stomach and killed him instantly.

Branded in Palms
The young negro was punished by being taken to a nearby blacksmith shop and tied to a stake. Then he was forced to hold out one hand while a red hot iron was applied to his palm long enough for him to repeat three times slowly and distinctly – “The Lord save the state – The Lord save the state – The Lord save the state.” Then he had to hold out the other palm and again repeat the words as before three more times. Of course he tried at first to say the words as fast as he could, but for so doing he was stopped and made to begin over and repeat them slowly after his tormentor, who applied the branding iron. This man could not use his hands for a year, “Black Mammy” said. And in order to prevent his own brothers from killing him, his owner sold him to get him out of the way.

Aunt Sally told me about the first train which came through the section, and described the first cook stove she ever saw. She said this stove was used in Oxford’s first hotel and was so big it looked to her like a wagon. The old negro attributes her blindness to weakening her eyes by cooking in the smoke over a fireplace for so long. She did not become totally blind, however, until two years ago following an attack of influenza.

Of her experiences during the War Between the States, she says that she and her husband took care of the place while her young masters went to war, that she carried their money on her person, and hid it about at different places at different times. She said they buried the meat and valuable in ditches, and laughs at how many times she fooled the Yankees. One time she said she put the molasses in front of the liquor jugs. She says she outwitted them many times and managed to keep her master’s money and guns and other valuable away from the invaders until their return from the conflict. For her loyalty during those trying times and always she has been rewarded by being cared for by her white folks ever since.

Never Forgets Manners
This quaint old figure in her white cap and black and white dress, even though living in the same house with her mistress, is in no way presumptuous and never forgets her manners. They are those of old slavery time, when the finest points of etiquette were observed by the white people, and whose manners were imitated by the house servants generally. Even in her blindness, “Black Mammy” is able to do many things for herself. Her mistress has to lead her from one room to another and give her medicine, in the nature of a heart stimulant.

Even now the old woman feels it within her province and a part of her duty to the old family, to admonish and advise her young mistress, when occasion demands, and most of all to tell her “‘bout the way her family did and lived befor’ de war.”

She referred to the intermixture of the races as the greatest curse of slavery. While she said the practice of a slave owner keeping a negro mistress, who bore him mulatto children, was not universal, it was not unusual, and was the cause of a great deal of misery and unhappiness for both races concerned.

“Black Mammy” ended her talk by saying; “It’s de truth, de Gawd’s truth. I’d be afraid to tell lies ‘cause I spec to go up yonder ‘fore long now.”

END

[Eds Notes: A search for records on Sally Parham of Granville County, North Carolina tuned up a death certificate dated February 18, 1937. She died at the County Home in Granville County, of Pneumonia complicated by cardio arrhythmia. On the form, in the box labeled “age” is handwritten 105. In the box with the cause of death notes, the number 107 is written large and encircled. In the box for birthdate, there is only a handwritten X. In the box requesting her husband’s name, on the word “widowed” is written. Her race is listed as “colored”. The burial place is difficult to decipher, but upon careful study and comparing the letter forms with other known words written on this document, I have determined that it reads “Antioch Church”. This would be Antioch Baptist Church in Granville County, NC. Her grave is apparently unmarked. Her father is listed as “Andrew Parham”. Her mother is listed as “Nancy Revis”, both of Granville County. Note that the “Reavis” (note spelling variation) family of Granville was intermarried with many of the prominent Granville families, including the Parham’s, the Hunt’s, the Kittrell’s, and the Cheatham’s. This person declared in this death certificate is undoubtedly the “Aunt Sally” or “Black Mammy” described in the article above. See a scan of this document immediately below.]

Sallie Parham Death Certificate 02-18-1937

Death certificate of Sallie Parham, who was born a slave on Asa Parham’s plantation in Granville County, North Carolina, and died at the age of about 106 in the County Home in nearby Oxford.


1850 Census – Slave Schedule – Benjamin Franklin Crews

United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850 > North Carolina > Granville > Image 103 and 104 of 129

Schedule 2. – Slave Inhabitants in Ragland District in the County of Granville, State of North Carolina, enumerated by me, on the 19th day of August, 1850. (Signed) Tro (illegible) E. A. Jones, Ass’t Marshal.

Page 103 and 104 – Columns on Right Side of Page

Line #38 – Property Owner: Benjamin F. Crews      

No. of Slaves      Age        Sex         Color    

1                              22           F              Black

1                              21           F              Black

1                              16           F              Black

1                              6              M            Black

1                              1              F              Black

1                              6              F              Black

1                              1              M            Black

1                              12           M            Black

——–
8


1850 Census – Slave Schedule – Tar River Plantation

United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850 > North Carolina > Granville > Image 18 of 129

Schedule 2. – Slave Inhabitants in Ragland District in the County of Granville, State of North Carolina, enumerated by me, on the 19th day of August, 1850. (Signed) Tro (illegible) E. A. Jones, Ass’t Marshal.

Page 18 – Columns on Left Side of Page

Line #1 – Property Owner:   James Crews
No. of Slaves            Age     Sex      Color 

1                                       37        M        Black

1                                       36        M        Black

1                                       28        M        Black

1                                       30        M        Black

1                                       28        M        Black

1                                       20        M        Black

1                                       11        M        Black

1                                        7          M        Mulatto

1                                        4          M        Mulatto

1                                        1          M        Mulatto    <— Isham Crews?

1                                      70        F          Black

1                                      30        F          Black

1                                      27        F          Black

1                                      25        F          Black

1                                      24        F          Black

1                                      14        F          Black

1                                      11        F          Black

1                                       8          F          Black

1                                       6          F          Black

1                                       4          F          Black

1                                       1          F          Black

1                                       5          F          Black

1                                       4          F          Black

1                                       2          F          Black

——–

24


Slave Account; Isham Crews, Born into Bondage and Transferred to the Property of James A. Crews

This is a transcription of an article that first appeared in a Louisburg, North Carolina newspaper article, June 25, 1943.

Slave Account – Isham Crews, born into slavery; the property of either the Hunts or the Wrights in Franklin County, was transferred to Tar River Plantation and the control of “Mist’ Jimmie Crews” about 1845.

Aging Slave Portrait

A man born into slavery, somewhere in the South.

Washington could use a man like Isham Crews, 96 year-old ex-slave who’s living through his fourth American war.

The aged Franklin County Negro speaks cautiously, sometimes pausing a second in the middle of a sentence, but he goes directly to the point.

“Trouble with these times,” he says, “is that some people need to be made to work.”

Isham could tell the occupied countries a thing or two about hiding valuables, food, and livestock. He vividly remembers when ‘de Yankee’s’ came through North Carolina.

He was born in Franklin County, a Wright, and taken to Granville County at the age of six weeks. His mother’s young mistress, Martha Wright, married “Mist’ Jimmy Crews” and thereby Isham, whose mother and other Negroes were given the young bride by her father, became a Crews.

[Ed Note: James A. “Jimmy” Crews wife was actually Martha Hunt, from Person County, North Carolina. They were married on August 11, 1834. Isham would have been 109 years-old when he gave this interview, if he actually came to the farm with his mothers’ “young mistress” – which isn’t entirely out of the question.]

He was sixteen when Sherman’s army came through the state. His master’s wheat was hidden in a large hollow column on the porch, the silver and gold placed in a large iron pot and buried, and the mules hidden in a swamp bottom.*

[Ed. Note: If Isham came to farm at six weeks old in 1834, then he would have been about 31 years old when Sherman’s army came and camped on the farm in the spring of 1865. What is much more likely is that Isham came to the farm with a bride of one of James A. Crews’ children – though none of those women were “Wright’s” by maiden name, and the dates don’t jibe – or arrived another way entirely (recall that he was just six weeks old when he was transferred.) If he was sixteen when Sherman came, this would place his date of birth about 1849, which would have made him about sixteen or seventeen when Sherman marched though, and about 96 years old when he gave the interview. He reported his age at the time as 96 years old.]

Before the army came through, groups of men “came and sneaked aroun’, bought food from us and gave us silver money to tell where the master hid his things.” Isham said.

They took the money, but never told anything, except one man who told where the mules were hidden, Isham added. Then, chuckling, he recalled “that money won’t no good.”

He still has one of the pieces of money, a Spanish coin minted in 1737.

The Yankee’s took all of his master’s mules except one blind one, Isham said, and pulled up everything that was growing. They raided the corn crib and confiscated all the chickens, cows, and pigs.

Some of the slaves went freely with the Yankees, he said, while others stayed on with their masters. Isham stayed.

Negroes were sent to the “bressel” (breast) works, built to keep the Yankees from “stealin’” the white children, and in many instances Negroes were hidden in underground passage ways and fed for months by their masters to “keep the Yankees from gittin’ them.”

Isham said that “in the old days” the slaves had houses built in rows back of the master’s house. Every woman had to spin three pounds of cotton each night, except Saturday night, at which time all the children’s clothes were washed. Each child had two long shirts for summer and two for winter, but had no shoes (no 18 stamps, possibly). Only the grown-ups had shoes – the men’s had wooden soles, the women’s all leather.

The men, of course, worked in the fields.

No baths were ever given or heads combed, only among the “favorite” children, Isham recalled. The children were fed 12 at a time out of a trough dug out of a tree trunk. “Mushroom” shells (apparently mussel) were used by each child to eat peas and beans with and each child had a gourd dipper to drink from. The food was mostly pot-liquor, corn bread, peas, turnip salad and meat skins.

The slaves couldn’t go from one plantation to another without a “furlough” because the patteroes” would punish them. The “patteroes”, Isham explained, were poor white people hired by the plantation owners apparently as guards or patrols. The slaves and patteroes seemed to have a healthy dislike for each other, because Isham smilingly recalled that the Negroes would string grape vines across the road to trip the patteroes’ mules.

His master treated the slaves pretty well, Isham said, and never whipped them much – because his wife wouldn’t let him. He never sold any of them, either. In fact, he couldn’t, as they were owned by his wife.

Isham said that the flat woodland in Granville County had never been hunted, so when he was 14 he begged permission of his master to allow him to go hunting. Permission granted, Isham set out, taking his master’s young son, Edgar, with him. (Ed. Note: Edgar Crews was the son of David Goodman Crews and his wife, Louisa Flemming Crews. They married in 1866 and Edgar was born in 1867, when Isham would have been about seventeen. If Edgar was old enough to ride along (perhaps four years old), this would have put Isham at 21 years old.) Despite having to carry Edgar seated astraddle his neck, Isham returned to the plantation with two ‘possums.

After that, his master gave him two dogs and allowed him to go hunting regularly – the master apparently agreeing with those who think ‘possum and sweet potatoes can’t be beat.

Isham, who’s pretty spry for a young lad of 96, spends most of his time sitting in the shade these hot days. He doesn’t have much to say about this new war – the real fight was in the 1860’s as far as he’s concerned.

But times are worse now, he says. He still thinks there are too many people who “need to be made to work”.

—————————–

[Ed Notes:
1. Many of the dates and names associated with this account do not add up, and I have made notes in content where I find factual conflict. That said, I feel strongly that the gist of his account is quite true, as I have heard similar recollections passed down through generational family lore. Where this occurs, I have noted the text with a “*”.
2. My source for this account is: “Granville County Heritage, North Carolina, Vol. I”, pp. 164 – 165. ©2002, Granville County Heritage Book Committee & County Heritage, Inc., located at the Richard H. Thornton Library, Oxford, North Carolina.
3. This account first appeared in the Louisburg newspaper, June 25, 1943, and may have appeared simultaneously on the same date in the Raleigh, News and Observer; although I have been unable to verify this. My belief is based upon a reference to this slave account in a biography of James A. Crews and his Wife Martha Ann Hunt Crews that appears in “Granville County Heritage”, on page 165.]

UPDATE 12/10/2013:

My cousin, Dan (who is a far better researcher than me!) read my blog post and then came up with a death certificate for one Isham Crews, of Franklin County, N.C. This document clarifies a lot of the details that didn’t quite synch in the original article. So let’s set the record straight in regards to Isham Crews age and how/when he came to Tar River Plantation.

Isham Crews was born on July 22, 1847. He was not yet born when Martha Hunt married Jimmie Crews in 1834. It’s likely that Isham’s mother, Jennie Hunt, belonged to Martha’s father, David Hunt, and was transferred to Martha shortly before Isham was born. Isham would have been eighteen years old when Sherman’s Army marched through Granville County and camped out on the plantation. He would have been almost ninety-six years old when he gave this interview in 1943. Isham Crews died on August 30, 1950, at the age of 103 years old.

Isham Crews Death Cerificate

Death certificate of Isham Crews, 103 years old at his passing.


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