An October 29, 1777 Estate Sale

Did you know that the State Archives in Raleigh is the repository of the original copies of some estate sale records dating back to the 1700s when Cabarrus County was part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina? These fascinating records for persons known to have lived in the area that later became Cabarrus County are also accessible on microfilm in the local history room at the main branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library in Concord, NC.

John Morrison’s Estate Sale

My great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Morrison, died in 1777 in old Mecklenburg County. A native of Campbeltown, Scotland, he lived his last thirteen years in the vicinity of the present-day Cabarrus-Mecklenburg County line. His estate papers provide a record not only of his possessions but also the names of many local people. I’m very proud to say that he was a farmer.

Robert Harris, Jr. served as clerk at John’s estate sale on October 29, 1777 – exactly 240 years ago today. Mr. Harris made note of every item sold, who bought it, and how many pounds, pence, or shillings they paid.

Buyers

The buyers were James Moore, Joseph Robb, Evan Shelby, Isaac Sellers, John Robinet, John Murphy, Francis Miller, William Driskill, James Alexander, James McCall, John and James McGinty, Joseph Bigger, Hugh Kimmons, Archibald McCurdy, John Springs, John Carothers, Joseph Calbreath, Alexander Allen, Benjamin and Robert Cochran, Steven Pritchet, Peter Borris, Robert Harris, James Stafford, John Ross, Alexander Finley, James Finney, Hector McClain, Samuel Montgomery, William Wylie, and John Finley.

Most of the surnames listed above are no longer found in our community because many families moved west in the 1790s and early 1800s. Some of the buyers lived in the area that remained in Mecklenburg County after the formation of Cabarrus in 1792, so some of the names are probably from the Mint Hill area.

Summary of Items Sold at Estate Sale

Items sold at the estate sale included eight horses; 19 sheep; 25 head of cattle; 17 hogs and a parcel of pigs; three hives of bees; 17 geese and ganders; 25 pounds of wool; a parcel of books; a great coat; two straight coats and jackets; one pair of blue britches; a pair of old buckskin britches; and a fur hat.

Also, four saddles; five bells and collars; five other collars; six bridles; two sets of horse gears; an “M” branding iron; three augurs; a drawing knife; nailing and stone hammers; a broadax; three weeding hoes; two maulrings; a wedge; a clivish; a sprouting hoe; a mattock; two falling axes; three spinning wheels; two horse trees and hangings; a cutting knife and stone; a sythe and cradle; four sickles; a flax brake; a pair of wool cards; and a pair of cotton cards.

Also, barrels for flour, rice, beef, and salt; a tapper vessel; two cedar churns; oak and walnut chests; two smoothing irons; a looking glass; one whiskey keg; and various other tools, household items, and pieces of furniture.

Other items included 6.5 pounds of iron and 14.5 pounds of steel. Steel as we know it today had not yet been developed. In 1777, steel was the name for sharpening rods used to sharpen knives and other cutting edges.

Half a wagon?

The most puzzling record in John Morrison’s estate papers is that John Springs bought half a wagon and half the wagon implements. Since no one bought the other half, it has been speculated that Mr. Springs knew that John’s wife, Mary, needed the use of the wagon but also needed the proceeds from the sale of the wagon and implements. After all, Mary was a widow with seven children still at home and a baby on the way. Perhaps Mr. Springs made a verbal agreement to let Mary Morrison keep the wagon even though he paid half the value of the wagon at the estate sale.

Another possibility is that John Morrison had bought the wagon and implements from John Springs but had only paid half the bill at the time of his death. Mr. Springs, instead of saddling Mary Morrison with the additional debt of the unpaid balance chose to simply buy back that half of the wagon and implements. When Mary Morrison died in 1781, there is no mention of a wagon in her will or her estate sale.

Lots of ammunition!

Other intriguing items sold at John Morrison’s estate sale were the 17 pounds of gun powder and 55.5 pounds of lead. That’s more gun powder and lead than a farmer needed. So why did John Morrison have so much of both?

John wrote his will on August 30, 1777. By September 3, he was dead. It is speculated that he was stockpiling munitions for the patriots’ cause in the American Revolution and that he was shot by Tories, but we will never know the real story.

My sources

The sources I relied on for writing this blog post are as follows:  John Morrison’s Mecklenburg County estate papers on file at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, NC; What Did They Mean By That? – A Dictionary of Historical Terms for Genealogists, by Paul Drake, 1994; and Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison, 1996.

Red
The Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison

I regret that Marie and I did not know about the existence of John and Mary Morrison’s estate papers when we compiled and published Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River in 1996.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

No Place for Preacher’s Son?

Today’s blog post is an edited local history newspaper column I wrote for the August 23, 2006 edition of Harrisburg Horizons newspaper, Harrisburg, North Carolina. Appearing in the newspaper as “Pioneer Mills:  No Place for a Preacher’s Son,” it paints a picture of the Rocky River and Pioneer Mills communities in Cabarrus County in the 1870s.

Manse wasn’t ready!

The Rev. Joseph B. Mack came from Charleston, South Carolina in 1871 to be the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. When he and his family arrived, the manse the congregation was building for his family to live in was not completed.

Church members Robert Harvey Morrison and his wife, the former Mary Ann Stuart, moved their family into a tenant house and gave the new minister’s family their home in the Pioneer Mills community. This was no small sacrifice because the manse was not completed until 1873! The Morrisons’s two youngest children, an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son were still in the household, and Mr. and Mrs. Morrison were in their 50s.

Robert Harvey Morrison House
Robert Harvey Morrison Home, built circa 1846. (Photograph taken by Janet Morrison, May 3, 2008.)

The Robert Harvey Morrison home was built as early as 1846 when he inherited the land from his father. The house and its numerous out-buildings have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.

In case you’re wondering

Robert Harvey Morrison was a relative of mine but not a direct ancestor. In the 1800s my part of the family didn’t live in grand houses like the one pictured. Gold was never found on the property my part of the family owned. There was a gold mine on the land that Robert Harvey Morrison inherited from his father.

Pioneer Mills was a gold-mining boom town in the early- to mid-19th century. It was apparently still a rip-roarin’ place in 1871.

Dr. William Mack’s memories in 1912

A special homecoming was held at the church on August 12, 1912. Rev. Mack’s son, Dr. William Mack, was unable to attend. He sent his regrets from New York and put some of his childhood memories on paper. Fortunately for us, his letter to homecoming master of ceremonies Mr. Morrison Caldwell was printed in the Concord newspapers the following week.

Dr. Mack wrote, “My first Rocky River recollection is of getting off the train at Harris Depot [now, Harrisburg, NC] and going in the dark to the home of Uncle Solomon Harris.” I don’t believe Dr. Mack was related to Mr. Harris. This was probably a term of endearment and respect.

He continued, “There we met Ed and ‘Little Jim’ (to distinguish him from ‘Big Jim,’ the son of Mr. McKamie Harris.) Uncle Solomon had the biggest fire-place I ever saw; it seemed as big as a barn door.

“Shortly afterwards we went to Pioneer Mills….  There… was the old Gold mine, Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shoemaker shop…. While there I decided to become either a merchant or shoemaker, for Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shop kindled young ambitions; better to ‘keep store’ or ‘mend shoes,’ than as a preacher’s son to be moving around from place to place.

“But Pioneer Mills was ‘no place for a preacher’s son.’ Soon we moved again; this time to the brand new brick parsonage, close by the church. We used to go to church in a big closed carriage drawn by two mules; now, every Sunday, we walked to church, going down a steep hill, across a branch, and through the grove to the famous old house of worship.”

Dr. Mack’s letter also read, “Those were happy years; happy in springtime with its apple blossoms, song birds, morning-glories and Tish McKinley’s Sassafras tea; happy in the summertime, with its blackberries and plums, its bob-whites in the wheat fields, its lightning and thunder storms, its bare-footed boys and girls, and its bitter quinine to keep off third-day chills; happy in the autumn time, with its white fields of unpicked cotton and its beautiful trees with leaves of myriad hues; and happy in the wintertime, with its snows, its big hickory back-logs, its boys in boots red-topped and toes brass-tipped, its red-cheeked girls in wraps and ‘choke rags,’ and its Christmas Holidays and turkeys.”

Dr. Mack’s colorful memories paint an idyllic picture of life in Township One in Cabarrus County in the early 1870s. I hope the children growing up here in the 21st century will have equally-as-fond memories of this place.

My sources

My sources for this blog post were the following:  The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr, 1954; The Concord Daily Tribune, August 16, 1912; The Concord Times, August 19, 1912; http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/CA0498.pdf (photocopy of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Robert Harvey Morrison Farm and Pioneer Mills Gold Mine); and Descendants of James & Jennet Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison.

Until my next blog post

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I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

 

1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment

On the 20th day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “T.” Most people don’t enjoy reading about taxes, but today I am blogging about the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment. I can safely say that there is only one Cabarrus County in the United States, and it is located in the southern piedmont of North Carolina.

What’s so special about it?

Cabarrus County is one of the few North Carolina counties for which the 1863 Tax Assessment records exist.

It is sobering to read the pages of the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment. It is a list of every slave owner in Cabarrus County, North Carolina at that time, along with the name, age, physical condition, and monetary value of each of their slaves. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to read this tax document through African American eyes.

I was pleased to find these records in 2003 when I was compiling a list of the 1,000+ slaves and free persons of color who were members of or were baptized at Rocky River Presbyterian Church between Concord and Harrisburg in Cabarrus County prior to 1870. I was able to supplement the church’s records with these tax records for my privately printed-on-demand booklet, “Slaves and Free Blacks Known to be Associated with Rocky River Presbyterian Church Prior to 1870.”

The following is a slightly edited version of one of my local history newspaper columns published in 2006 in Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. The name of my column was, “Did You Know?” The original version of the article can be found on my website at http://janetmorrisonbooks.com/1863%20tax.html.

Did You Know?

Did you know that Cabarrus County is one of the few counties in North Carolina for which the 1863 Tax Assessment records exist? It wasn’t until I inquired in Charlotte and at the State Archives in Raleigh that I learned that no such records survived for Mecklenburg County.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask.

The Congress of the Confederate States of America passed Statute 177 on August 19, 1861, which authorized the levying of a tax to help finance the Southern states’ government and military during the American Civil War. A tax rate of fifty cents per $100 valuation was established.

Taxable property included “real estate, slaves, merchandise, stocks, securities, money, and other property.” Subsequent legislation expanded the list in April, 1863, to include agricultural products, many occupations and trades, some businesses, and income.

The Cabarrus County Board of Assessors met at the courthouse in Concord on April 9, 1863. The Board increased the values of thirteen pieces of property in District (now Township) One and then recorded the names of all taxpayers by district.

The 1863 Cabarrus Tax Assessment records list each property owner in alphabetical order by district. The districts of 1863 essentially coincide with today’s townships. There are columns for number of acres of land owned, value per acre, and total value. The river or creek on which the land lay is also indicated.

In 1863, real estate in what is now Township One (the township in which Rocky River Presbyterian Church is located) ranged in value from $6 to $400 per acre. Most land was valued in the $6 to $20 per acre range. One of the exceptions was the half acre of land owned by Howie and Johnston, mercantile business partners in Harrisburg. Although their store closed in 1858, the property was valued at $200 in 1863.

It is interesting to read about the old land values and to think how things have changed, but the most intriguing part of the 1863 Tax Assessment records for me is the list of slaves. Under each slave holder is a list of their slaves by name. The age of each slave is given, along with their value. In cases of physical or mental disability, the type of disability is listed.

Pattern in slaves’ monetary value

There is a definite pattern in how the slaves were valued. Male children were generally valued at the rate of $100 for each year of their age, while female children were valued at $50 less. Slaves less than one year old were valued at $100. Young adult female slaves were typically valued at around $1,400, while young adult male slaves were valued around $1,600. The value of a slave in his or her late 30s began to decrease.

Two slaves listed as being blacksmiths were valued at $1,800 each, which was the highest value of any slaves in Township One.

It is sobering to read the names of the slaves and to see a monetary value placed on them. As an amateur genealogist and historian, I see tremendous value in the records.

Sources I used

1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment List on microfilm at the Lore Local History Room, Cabarrus County Public Library, Concord, North Carolina

The Confederacy:  A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America, by Henry Putney Beers, 1968.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (After reading one-third of Bittersweet, by Colleen McCullough, I decided I wasn’t interested enough in the story to finish the book. I’m reading The Mother’s Promise, by Sally Hepworth.)

If you are a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

5 things I learned about Social Media this weekend

If you follow my blog, bless you! If you follow my blog, you know that, among other things, I share my rocky journey into the world of social media. If you’re in the same boat, I hope you have found some information in my blog that was new and helpful to you.

Today’s post deviates from my plan to share a piece of my history writing. On Friday, I plan to post an article I wrote in 2007 about an 1897 head-on collision between two trains in Harrisburg, NC. Today I share my thoughts about five areas of social media that have come to my attention over the weekend.

Contact form on my blog

I was so proud on Friday that I’d figured out how to insert a comment form within the body of my blog. So far, that form has been a total flop. No one used it. If it was used, it didn’t work. I won’t try that again unless or until I learn how to benefit from it.

Quora

I mentioned Quora.com in my blog post on January 27, 2017, 3 Things to Try on Social Media in January , http://wp.me/pL80d-tt) and I’ve played around some with it some. Over the weekend, I found a 6-minute February 10, 2017 podcast offered for free on http://mschool.growtheverywhere.libsynpro.com/how-to-attract-9000-visitors-a-month-from-quora-ep-194 that/which gave several suggestions for those of us who are still trying to figure out how to best utilize Quora – or, more specifically, trying to determine if it is even a good tool for us or not. My problem is that I’m far removed from my college studies of political science to address most of the questions that come up in that area and I don’t feel qualified to answer questions about writing until I’ve gotten my first novel published. Bottom line:  I’m leaving my options open with Quora as I continue to find my niche.

Pinterest

On Saturday afternoon I finally got serious about trying to figure out where historical fiction fans hang out on social media. Finding https://www.statista.com/statistics/246183/share-of-us-internet-users-who-use-pinterest-by-age-group/ was helpful in a round-a-bout way since it presents the statistics for Pinterest users in 2016. Here’s the age breakdown:

36% 18-29 years old

34% 30-49 years old

28% 50-64 years old

16% 65 or older

I can’t afford full access to statista.com, but this bit of free information was helpful. These stats are not specific to fans of historical fiction, but I enjoy using Pinterest and it is beneficial to know what age people use it the most. It’s a piece of the puzzle.

I learned from Pinterest Analytics that I average having 13,440 views per month, but only 174 of them were engaged in my content. My most popular pin in the last 30 days was Chimney Tops Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, three of my most popular pins were from my Great Smoky Mountains board. I originally set up that board (and the Blue Ridge Mountains board) to help draw attention to my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. If this book sounds interesting to you, you can purchase in paperback or for Kindle on amazon.com.

I read another WordPress.com blogger’s post pertaining to historical fiction writers. https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/ gave a good suggestion:  Find a trending topic or article related to the time period you are writing about and post it. I have a board on Pinterest, “Novel in Progress:  The Spanish Coin,” in which I pin photos and information pertinent to 1771 in the Waxhaws area in present-day Lancaster County, SC, as well as the Rocky River Presbyterian Church community in present-day Cabarrus County, NC (part of Mecklenburg County in 1771), and Salisbury, NC. These are the three geographic locations in my novel. I have 69 pins and 24 followers on that board as of February 20, 2017. I need to attract more people to that Pinterest board. I invite you to visit me on Pinterest by clicking on the Pinterest icon in my blog’s sidebar. Pin this blog post to one of your Pinterest boards by clicking on the Pinterest icon below.

Reading Medieval historical fiction author K.M. Guerin’s July 18, 2016 Time-Worn Pages blog post, https://kmguerin.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/social-media-for-historical-fiction-writers-part-4-facebook/http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-get-more-pinterest-followers/ tipped me off to the fact that I was giving my blog readers a way to pin my posts to their Pinterest boards or share a link to my blog posts to their Facebook pages, but I did not provide a way for them to connect with me on social media. The proverbial lightbulb finally came on, folks!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I am not technologically savvy. What I’ve learned, I’ve had to dig up myself. I suppose that’s the best way to learn something new, but it surely is tedious. I read the above link to socialmediaexaminer.com on February 18, 2017 and worked until I figured out how to add “Follow me on Social Media” buttons in my blog’s sidebar. You wouldn’t believe what a sense of accomplishment that gave me!

LinkedIn and Instagram

I also picked up some ideas from reading a February 29, 2016 blog post by Jessica Lawlor on The Write Site. (https://thewritelife.com/quick-social-media-tips-for-writers-part-2) You can follow Jessica Lawlor on Twitter @jesslaw.) My takeaways:  (1) Republish some of my blog posts on LinkedIn; and (2) Instagram is a platform where I can build my brand and community, and I should refer to the link to my website or blog as found in my profile (i.e., using the words “Link in profile” somewhere in my post) because LinkedIn only allows accounts to display one link. I haven’t given up on LinkedIn, and I haven’t tried Instagram.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

What I read in January

My last blog post was about some of the books I read during the last quarter of 2015, and I promised my next post would be about my reading so far this year. Actually, this post will just cover four books I read in January.

After enjoying Allen Eskens’ debut novel, The Life We Bury, in 2014, I looked forward to his second book. I read The Guise of Another in January. It had more violence than I thought necessary, but perhaps I was just still in the Christmas spirit. It was an intriguing story and a page turner like his first book. I hope he keeps writing novels.

Somehow I failed to read David Ignatius’ The Director, when it was released last May. I remedied that oversight in January. I’m a big David Ignatius fan, and The Director did not disappoint.

Michael Eury is the author of several local history books here in Cabarrus County, NC. His latest rendering, Legendary Locals of Cabarrus County is a delightful collection of the life stories of Cabarrus Countians who have made a lasting mark on the southern piedmont of NC. Michael asked me to make recommendations for the people from Harrisburg that he should include in the book. I was thrilled to have a hand in that. The book turned out great!

My name finally rose to the top of the public library’s waitlist for Janet Evanovich’s Tricky Twenty-Two. Fans of Ms. Evanovich eagerly await the next installment of this chronologically-numbered Stephanie Plum series every fall. I try to get on the waitlist at the library as soon as her annual release is on order. When I need a laugh out loud book to read, give me Stephanie Plum!

As a writer, I want people to support their local independent bookstore. As a writer, I also want people to support their local public library system. No matter how you choose to get your books, just get them!

Happy reading! (Now, I need to get back to The Guilty, by David Baldacci!)

2014 was an exciting writing year for me

Most people take December 31 or January 1 to reflect on the last year. Leave it to me to wait a few days. I can procrastinate with the best of them! Looking back on 2014, I realize what an exciting writing year it was for me.

I celebrated the following firsts: (1) My first book, a vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was published on August 25 by Arcadia Publishing; (2) My first author event was held at the public library in Harrisburg, North Carolina, on September 11; and (3) My first book launch was held on September 21.

In the last three months of 2014, I had additional author events at public libraries in Cabarrus and Haywood Counties, North Carolina.

Two whirlwind trips to the mountains of North Carolina in December to promote my book, to thank bookstore owners for selling my book, and to introduce my book to other bookstore and gift shop owners were my first forays into commercial book promotion.

In my spare time, I have done a bit of research in preparation for submitting an author proposal to Arcadia Publishing for a Piedmont North Carolina vintage postcard book in 2015, but most of my time has been spent promoting the Blue Ridge Mountains book. That book is my primary focus. I have two author events scheduled in April and May. With the holidays behind me, it is time to turn my attention to lining up additional author events this spring and summer.

Last week I took time to write a 1,899-word piece to enter in the Southern California Genealogical Society’s 2014 GENEii Nonfiction Writing Contest. I’ll talk more about that and my subject matter in another blog post this month. The winner will be announced on May 1, 2015.

Sometimes I don’t think I get much accomplished. It’s gratifying to take a few minutes on December 31, January 1, or even January 4 to remember what I did in the last year. Will I be as productive in 2015? Stay tuned!