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Historical Reminiscences

[From: New Bern Weekly Journal, January 24, 1905]
Historical Sketches by Colonel John D. Whitford

Another instance in mind and the subject for the present will be dropped, though not exhausted on the ownership of slaves by negroes.

Rose Pettipher, the original name was Pettyford, Pettipher’s on the north side of the Neuse river some or miles above New Bern deriving its name from one of her sons, Israel, who owned it and resided there until his death some years ago.

Well Rosa, a free born woman bought her husband, a slave, belonging to William Gaskins owner of the place known so well at New Bern as Gaskins mill at the head of Mill Creek. He was father of the late Thomas H. Gaskins who died since the Civil War.

He had a store on part of the wharf property which is now the Blades. From the suspicion of his sale by his master to the New York negro speculator, the latter having thrown his anointed northern flag, to deal in “human flesh,” about that date, to the breeze at New Bern.

Dick Gaskins, as known then and as then expressed, “lit out in the woods for a long tarry.” No real cause for the suspicion of his sale as his master would have almost as soon sold one of his children as one of his negroes, yet, it had its effect on all interested and as time moved on and on until years not a few had elapsed through the advice of the writer’s father, he was afterwards executor to Gaskins will.

Richard still out in the woods, was sold to Rose Pettipher his wife and immediately thereafter came in sight to stay till death them did part. But Richard made his boys hustle, had several, and to the highest bidder would hire them out for the year, exactly as if they had been slaves.

Just before Frank, one of the sons, died, then an old man, twin brother of Israel and so much resembling him the writer could never tell one from another until very close observation. He called on the writer, he had been attending one of the last New Bern fairs, and during the conversation was laughing about how the old man, his father, would hire him at a Mr. Caton for the year. But he made good men and women of his children that might otherwise have been worthless idlers or in the penitentiary.

Old Madam Rose was sufficiently smart to keep the old man tied with a stronger cord than that binding two hearts together, ordinarily in matrimonial bonds no emancipation for Richard. The legal right held by her to the end to dispose or hold at pleasure with a death grip.

How about such a law to hold over some whites as well as blacks; looking to the prosperity and contentment of the families would it not keep no small number down within the bounds of good behavior, even in this so called enlightened day of high teas; too of hatless heads on the street in imitation of the Indian sisters roaming over the same ground two hundred years ago or more; and go as they please whim now striking the fair ones generally.

As one of the first settlers gave the difference between the “young women of the forest and of the city, the former not so taken with the giggle and the bewitchery that predominates with the latter though with equal contortion in the dance as they can endure it as long.”

De Graffenreid brought to New Bern with him two negro men slaves, and one of them was killed with Lawson at Hancocktown, Fort Run. The Indians called the name Hancock for Col. William Hancock. They too had slaves made of Indians for crime or those captured in war. Those taken at Fort Barnwell, Coerntha, Indian name, were carried to South Carolina with Col. Barnwell and made slaves to hold or sell by the Indians with him. Hawks adds, there were then white slaves too, made also for crime or who had stipulated when brought to this country to serve such for a term of years, and were made to do it too.

The negroes were as ready to own slaves as the whites when their means would allow it and they seemed to feel no more compunction about the act than did the New York speculator “trading in human flesh” or did the New England people when converting West India molasses into rum then swapping it off for negroes in Africa and bringing them to this country, selling, for a time all they could, not profitably employed at home, to the Southern people. It mattered not who bought if the price was paid.

Their goods was purchased as Hawks says, in Africa, with rum from the New England Coast which had first been carried there in molasses from the West Indies or with beads, or stolen out and out were the negroes, by whom, not southern men and brought to this country in chains from their homes in Africa.


The readers of these sketches will please note the following corrections of the last article:--JDW.

Gaston was thrice married. Hannah Mumford was a number of years the senior not junior of her husband though survived him. The writer knew her personally quite well. Mr. S.M. Brinson’s ancestor that first came to this country called himself Mitchell the t in the name was added afterwards. It was T. not F. Sparrow.

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