I believe that when our ancestors want to be found, they will lead the way. That has happened so many times in my search for their stories. I could find very little on the parents of Patience Perkins over the years that I searched. I found Rose, Patience’s mother, in Newport from about 1900 until 1911, and then she disappeared. Patience’s father was also hiding. I knew he was from North Carolina, and that was it. A few years ago, I searched again for records on Rose, and found her death certificate! Woohoo! From the information on the certificate, I verified where she was born; found out her maiden name, her husband’s name, and the daughter that she lived with the last few years of her life. She was ready to be found! From that information, I was able to find both the Perkins and Grimes families in North Carolina, and began to learn their stories.
Slavery is part of the history of most African-Americans. However, actually finding those connections, and looking at the slave schedules and knowing that this is probably the family I am looking for is sobering and disturbing. The Perkins and Grimes families are from Pactolus in Pitt County, and Little Washington in Beaufort County, North Carolina. Pitt County was once a part of Beaufort County, and the two towns are close to each other. Before the Civil War, this was a rural area with large plantations, and tobacco, cotton and the distilling of turpentine the big industries. Slaves outnumbered white people in the 1860 census, and there were very few free people of color. This was the lives of the Perkins and Grimes families, working long hours on large plantations.
The father of Patience Perkins DeBoise was David Perkins, who was born about 1861 in North Carolina, probably near Pactolus where his family was found in subsequent censuses. His parents were William and Lisena (Jordan) Perkins. In 1870 David was living with his parents, brothers and sisters in Pactolus. In 1880 David was a farm hand working on a farm in Washington County, which is adjacent to Beaufort County. David married Rosetta (Rose) Grimes on March 20, 1884 in Beaufort County.
David, as well as his wife, Rose, were likely born in slave families during the last years of slavery. Following emancipation, many former slaves continued working on the plantations, as well as farming their own (often rented) homesteads. Most of David’s and Rose’s family stayed in the Pactolus and Little Washington area. David and Rose were living in North Carolina as late as 1894 when their daughter Martha was born. David and Rose wanted a different life and headed North, probably with friends or relatives from the area. No additional information has been found on David after 1894.
Rosetta, also known as Rose, was born about 1860 in Washington, more commonly referred to as Little Washington, North Carolina. It was hard to find her exact year of birth because she either didn’t know, or didn’t want anyone else to know how old she was! She first married in 1876, and the handwritten ledger where her age was listed could be read as 18 or 13. In 1880 she was listed as 20 years, which is more consistent with later records. She lists her age as 22 when she married her second husband, David Perkins, in 1884, which would have her birth year as 1862. The 1900 census has her year of birth as 1865, and the 1910 census as 1866. Her death certificate indicates she was born in 1868. She was either a lot younger at her first marriage, or wanted people to think she was younger than what she actually was! Rose was the daughter of Adolphus and Patience Grimes.
Rose married Randall Eborn on December 15, 1876 in Pitt County, North Carolina. Randall was born about 1857 in Pitt County, the son of Amelia Eborn. The 1880 census listed three daughters of Randall. I am uncertain if the first daughter is the child of Rose, who would have been very young when she was born, and all census records indicate that Rose only had four children. Allace, born in 1874 is the oldest daughter listed in 1880. I have found no other records on her, and have not included her as a child of Rose and Randall. This marriage did not last and both remarried. Randall died April 26, 1918 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was a janitor at the state college at the time of his death, and was married to Amanda (unknown).
Rose, as a young widow, was living in Newport, Rhode Island as early as 1900. The Perkins family moved sometime between 1894, when the youngest daughter was born, and 1900. It must have taken courage to leave what was familiar and move North. I do not know if she moved before her husband died, or if he died after their move. While in Newport, she needed to support her children, three of whom were young and living with her.
Rose worked out of her home as a laundress, and she took in boarders. She also worked as a cook. She was living in Newport as late as 1911, and moved in with her daughter Lulu in Everett, Middlesex County, Massachusetts before her death on November 25, 1913. She was 53 years old when she died from acute myocarditis, an inflammatory disease of the heart muscle, with bronchitis as a contributing cause. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston.
Rose had two children with her husband Randal Eborn. Both were born in North Carolina.
1. Sulevan “Lulu” Levina was born September 20, 1878 in Pitt County. She married Benjamin Jordan about 1908 and lived much of her life in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts. She was living with two of her sons in Newport in 1930. She had at least six children.
2. Helen was born July 12, 1881. She married James Henry Suggs December 23, 1897 in Beaufort County, North Carolina. By 1920 she had separated from her husband. She was 51 years old when she died April 24, 1934 in Newport. She worked as a cleaner for a steamship company, and a cook. She had five children. Three sons were well known as boxers – James Murray (Chick), Oscar Lee (Soldier) , and Louis. Chick was the most well-known of the three. He was frequently promoted as being the World’s Colored Bantam Champion, but lost the only title shot he received during his boxing career. Louis Suggs was the 1937 New England Golden Gloves middleweight champion. As an amateur, Oscar lost in the final of the 1937 New England Golden Gloves. Articles on their boxing success are found in newspaper articles as well as books on the history of African-Americans in Newport. Their cousins, Frank DeBoise’s sons, would go and watch them box. Helen and James’s first son was born in North Carolina in 1899. The family was living in Newport by 1903 when their second son was born.
Chick Suggs Oscar Suggs
Rose had two additional children with her husband David Perkins. Both were born in North Carolina.
1. Patience was born June 2, 1885 and was discussed in a previous post.
2. Martha was born in September 1894. In 1910 she was 16 years old and working as a $2 girl for a private family. This might have been the name for a nanny or babysitter. No additional information has been found on her. Her sister Patience’s obituary in 1923 stated that she had two sisters surviving. Those two sisters would have been Helen and Lulu.
William Perkins, the father of David and grandfather of Patience, was born about 1821 in Pitt County, North Carolina and was probably a slave of Churchill Perkins (William Perkins, his wife, and children all match in age with the sex and ages listed on the slave schedule for Churchill. They do not match any of the other slaveholders in the area.) Churchill was a prominent and prosperous planter and businessman in Pactolus. In 1832 Churchill was appointed U.S. Postmaster of Pactolus. The 1860 slave schedules listed Churchill as having 132 slaves with 16 slave houses on his property, one of the largest slaveholders in the area.
In 1870 William was living in Pactolus Township in Pitt County, and was managing a farm. In 1880, he was still farming and was listed as maimed, crippled or bedridden. He died before 1900.
William’s wife, Lisena “Lizzy” Ina Jordan, was born in February 1832. We do not know if she and William were ever formally married, but their first child was born in 1852. By 1900, Lisena was a widow living with her daughter Mary and her husband and family in Pactolus. She was working as a housekeeper and had 16 children, six of whom were living in 1900. Lisena probably died before 1910 since she is not listed in the 1910 census.
Lisena Jordan’s family was probably slaves of Valentine Jordan, another prosperous planter in Pitt County, and the father-in-law of Churchill Perkins. Valentine’s daughter, Margaret, received one-quarter of his estate, including slaves, when he died in 1852, adding to the Perkins family wealth.
Known children of William and Lisena, who are all born in Pitt County, follow.
1. Fanny was born in 1852. On February 25, 1871 she married Riley Dem Ward. She and Riley had at least two children, Bettie and Zack. Fanny died before 1894, when Dem remarried.
2. Sallie was born November 1854 and lived her life in Pactolus. She was 17 when she married Sanda (Sandy) Wilson on December 24, 1871. Sandy was a tenant farmer. Sallie and Sandy had 13 children. She died at age 68 on April 18, 1923 from heart disease. Her husband preceded her in death.
3. Lilla was born in 1856.
4. David was born about 1861 and was discussed earlier.
5. Slade was born May 11, 1859. He married Patsy Moore on December 15, 1881, and they had 11 children. He worked his entire life as a farmer, renting his farm. By 1930 he had retired and was living with his son. He died January 19, 1944 in Greenville, North Carolina.
6. Martha was born around 1863. She married Samson Little on March 15, 1883. By 1910 they had moved from Pactolus to Greenville. She and her husband were farmers, working on a farm they rented. Martha also worked as a domestic. She was 74 years old when she died on September 24, 1937 from old age. Martha and Samson had five children by 1900, only one of which survived. Her husband preceded her in death.
7. Noah was born about 1864.
8. Joseph was born around 1866.
9. John was born about 1867.
10. William Ann was born about 1873.
11. Peter was born about 1875.
12. Emm P was born about 1878.
13. Mary was born December 6, 1879. She married Noah Golette in 1891. They had at least three children, one of whom was living in 1900. She died on November 2, 1954 in Farmville at the age of 74. She worked as a domestic.
No additional information has been found on Adolphus and Patience Grimes. However, they were probably slaves of the Grimes family. Bryan Grimes, Sr. (1793-1860) lived in Pitt County. He gave land to his two sons William (1823-1884) and Bryan Jr. (1828-1880). The brothers became very prosperous slave holders, cotton growers, and real estate holders, primarily in Pitt and Beaufort counties. Bryan Jr. lived on the Grimes Plantation in Grimesland. This plantation is restored and open to visitors, and pictures can be viewed on the web at http://grimesland.org/the-grimes-plantation.
The Grimes Family Papers, 1713-1947, are held at the Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Information on the content can be found at http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/03357/. Included in the papers are account books, discussion of slavery, and other information that might give more clues on our family. There are a lot of people of color with the surname of Grimes living in the area following the Civil War, which makes tracking our Grimes family more difficult.
Another interesting resource on life during slavery is the Federal Writers Progress WPA (Works Progress Administration) Slave Narratives found at https://www.loc.gov/collections/slave-narratives-from-the-federal-writers-project-1936-to-1938/about-this-collection/. Written during the depression, this is both an audio collection and transcription of interviews with former slaves.
The next blog will begin looking at the ancestors of Ruth Andrews.
Happy tree climbing!