In a recent post to the mailing list I mentioned the transcription of a contract executed in 1866-7 by the Freedmen’s Bureau in North Carolina between David Poythress and several freed persons of color to work as laborers on the plantation he was renting from a W.N. Edwards.
We already knew from census records that David was located in the Smith Creek district of Warren County (Manson area) and that in the settlement of his estate a sum of $125 was paid to M.J. (Marmaduke James) Hawkins – Hawkins Plantation. This was in the mid-1870s.
M.J. Hawkins is confirmed as living near Manson in the 1870 census. MJ. Hawkin’s father was Dr. William J, Hawkins (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=41451836). His grandparents were John Hawkins and Jane (nee Boyd) Hawkins. Jane was the daughter of Alexander Boyd of Mecklenburg, VA. Hang on to this tidbit – comes in handy a few paragraphs down;).
The Hawkins family were large land owners and prominent in other respects for generations — family papers are in the archives of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Below is a link to the preservation of one of the old family homes near Manson – probably known to David and Sally Poythress and their children.
After seeing the mention of W.N. Edwards as the owner of the plantation David Poythress was renting in 1866 I starting looking to see who Edwards might be. I very quickly learned that he was Weldon N. Edwards.
Weldon Edwards’ plantation (Poplar Mount) is the area where David is shown residing in the census records – just north and a bit west of Manson – likely spanning both sides of I-85 today. There is a Poplar Mount Road where the remains of a small private Edwards cemetery still identifiable in a small grove of trees not from the road unmarked, unfenced on private property.
See: http://cemeterycensus.com/nc/warr/cem080.htm This link includes a Google map link to the exact location.
The link below confirms the ties between the Edwards and Hawkins families. On this site is a photo of Mr. Edwards with his wife’s great nephew on his lap — Marmaduke Hawkins. This establishes that Edwards and Hawkins families were intermarried. W.N. Edwards died in 1873 at an advanced age, so it is possible that the property David Poythress was renting from W.N. Edwards was inherited by M.J. Hawkins. If proven, then it seems likely that David was still living on the same property he was renting in 1866 when he passed away in 1876.
The family and business papers of both the Edwards and the Hawkins families are in archives; (Edwards mostly at Duke; Hawkins mostly at UNC. These papers might contain information helpful to our study of David Poythress and his role as an overseer and farmer.
It is historically significant that Mr. Weldon N. Edwards was politically influential in North Carolina in the first half of the 19th century and that he was experimenting with new crops and farming techniques
Here are some helpful links about his life and political career:
Before Elaine Poythress Criddle alerted me to the Freedmen’s contract recently transcribed I had been going over the census records to learn more about who might have been close neighbors of David Poythress when he was in Mecklenburg County. We know he worked as an overseer based on census records and a published family history of his neighbor, Charles Baskerville. This preliminary work leads me to believe that David Poythress lived in or near a plantation community situated on the old Boydton-Petersburg Plank Road called Lombardy Grove (south of South Hill). — right next door to Charles Baskerville. (The Library of Virginia has survey notes about Lombardy Hill and even a few photographs of remaining structures taken in the 1930s).
This neighbor, Charles Baskerville, was a young but wealthy merchant in his own right and grandson of a prominent Mecklenburg plantation owner, William Baskerville (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=103608277).
Charles moved to Mississippi in the early 1850s where he was quite successful as a planter and cotton merchant. I don’t know when David moved down to Warren County, NC. but my theory is that in the 1850 census he was working as Baskerville’s overseer. Although, we see him purchasing 321 acres from Hartwell Arnold in Mecklenburg on Nov. 4th, 1852. I have yet to see a record confirming a subsequent sale of this property or other disposition. We know David was in Warren County, NC before the 1860 census. Nor have I tried to find the location of this 321 acre property.
Digging a little deeper into the Baskerville family I found William Baskerville as a partner with merchant Alexander Boyd (Boydton is named after him). This may matter because when Alexander Boyd went back to Scotland for several years he turned over his business to a Joseph Speed to run. This could be important if he (Speed) connects in any way to David’s first wife, Mary Speed Dortch — not sure yet.
What I think is important since it may tie together David’s network is that Alexander Boyd’s daughter, Jane, married John Hawkins of Warren Co., NC. (Recall the tidbit above);). This is the Hawkins family we see connecting to David Poythress and W.N. Edwards. It seems clear that Boyd, Baskerville’s partner, had a family relationship with the Hawkins and thus the Edwards families. Did this influence or facilitate David’s move to North Carolina?
I’d welcome hearing from others more familiar with these family lines and the region. I need to get all this documented into a working study of the relationships and look further to see if there might be links that could lead to other Poythress.
Obviously, these orbiting connections don’t add anything to the family tree yet, but it might eventually help us get a better sense of the relationships David had with the most prominent families in the region, perhaps even why he seemed so well connected, and eventually lead to the discovery of allied family ties that crack open new insights about his parentage. Maybe;).
By the way, I think we may see David’s own signature on the Freedmen contract — no X and the signature is distinct from the scribe who wrote the contract. If so, then he might have had the benefit of some formal education.
As far as I know, there is no oral history from James Speed Poythress or other of his children about the life and times of this David Poythress.