Court Records  

New Bern District Court Abstracts involving DOBBS Co. Residents

Interesting Court Cases from Eastern NC

Here are some court records I found. They might not be interesting to anyone but me, so I added a note saying why I thought they were interesting Sue Guptill

Craven County

[Note: this is all one sentence! The content is pretty sad, and so is the grammer!] The jurors for the state upon their oath present that Nicy Goslin otherwise called Nicy Merrick of the County of Craven on the twenty eighth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen in the County of Craven and state of North Carolina was delivered of a female child which by the laws of the state of North Carolina was a Bastard which said female bastard child was then and there born alive: and that the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do further say that the said Nicy Goslin otherwise called Nicy Merrick not having the fear of God before her eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, after being delivered of her said female bastard child; to wit on the said twenty eighth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, with force and arms in the County of Craven and state of North Carolina aforesaid in and upon her said female bastard child in the peace of God and the state then and there being, feloniously, willfully and of her malice aforethought did make an assault; and that she the said Nicy Goslin otherwise called Nicy Merrick both her hands about the neck and throat of her said female bastard child then and there feloniously, willfully and of her malice aforethought did fix and fasten and that she the said Nicy Goslin otherwise called Nicy Merrick with both her hands so as last aforesaid fixed and fastened about the neck and throat of her said female bastard child the neck and throat of her said female bastard child then and there did violently squeeze and press of which squeezing and pressing of the neck and throat of her said female bastard child with both the hands of the said Nicy Goslin otherwise called Nicy Merrick her said female bastard child then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloniously, wilfully and of her malice aforethought did kill and murder against the peace and dignity of the state. Craven County Bastardy bonds, 102.2, folder 1817-1819.

Craven Co. Court Records
CR.028.301.19, p. 265
It being made to appear by the affidavits of John S. West, Wm. McClure, Henry Tillman, William Henry, James Whitfield, George Lane and William Blackledge that John Holloway junr. of the county of Craven had the misfortune to have a part of his right ear bit off in a riot which took place at the election at Coxes Ferry in the year 1797&endash;the court therefore, to prevent the character of said Holloway from being rendered suspicious on account tereof, have ordered the same to made a record.

[We certainly wouldn't want to be suspicious of someone who's had his right ear bitten off, would we?].

Craven Co. Court Records
CR.028.301.18, p. 39
It being represented to this court that Col. Benjamin Williams has a negro infected with the smallpox ordered that the commissioners of the town of Newbern be empowered to remove said Negroe, or any other person enfected with said disorder to some remote and convenient place in order to prevent the spreading of said disorder.

[Note: I forgot to note the date of this, but it would have been before disease transmission was fully understood. All the same, this was a good way to prevent the spread of smallpox].

Craven Co. Court Records
C.R.028.301.18 p. 320
On hearing the petition of Alexander Howard and wife, setting forth that they have a mulatto boy slave named John, alias John Stanly, who has from his infancy faithfully and meritoriously served the said Alexander and his wife and praying that they may have license of the Court to reward the faithfull and meritorious services of said boy by emancipating & setting him free&endash;Ordered that they have license accordingly, reserving, however the rights of all persons, except the petitioners, their heirs, assigns & all claiming under them by conveyance from this day.

[The main reason I copied this is that John C. Stanly became a very prominent man in New Bern. Although he was a former slave, he eventually was a pretty substantial slave owner himself, although he also freed quite a few of his slaves. He was called "Barber Jack," and was widely considered to be the son of John Wright Stanly].

Craven Co. Court Records
C.R.028.301.17 p. 3 8 Mar 1790
Ordered that Ned Lewis a base born Mulatto boy aged five years in January last be bound apprentice to John Cuyler to learn to be a Physican.

[Talk about starting a career early!]

Craven Co. Court Records
C.R.028.301.16 p. 237, 12 June 1789
Whereas Stephen Tinker did import into the this state a certain negro woman named Senah alias Tenah and Phillis her daughter & Ceasar her son and her children, and sold them to Willm Shepard as slaves, which negroes have been by this court heretofore considered as entitiled to their freedom and accordingly so adjudged. Whereupon it is ordered that the said Stephen Tinker enter into bond with two good & sufficient securities in the sum of £500 Sterling money payable to the governor & commander in chief & his successors for the use of the state, with condition that he shall and do within one year from this time if the sd Negroes choose transport and land (dangers of the seas & life only excepted) such negroes sold by him as slaves as aforesaid in the state of Connecticut from whence he brought them , and shall produce an authentic certificate of his performance thereof to this court. The said Stephen Tinker there upon offered John Daly & William M. Herritage esquires for his securities and they being approved of entered into bond with the said Stephen Tinker accordingly ordered that the clerk file the said bond.

[This was apparently a big issue of the time. Craven County was supposed to be more "friendly" to free black residents than some counties, which is not to say that they had equal rights with whites. Craven County passed a local ordinance forbidding the transport of indentured black and mulatto residents out of the county without court permission to prevent an unscrupulous person from taking them away and selling them as slaves].

Craven Co. court minutes
Jan term, 1763
Charge of Burglury (sic) against a Negro Fellow named Bob the property of Mrs Margarett Vail: The Court having Examined Simon a Negroe fellow as an Evidence agt: the said Bob Declared that he and Bob did Break Open this Present Month John Greens Store and that Bob Did take out of the Store Two Pockett Books with Papers and he took some Ribbonds and a Penknife And the Court not Judging the Evidence Sufficient to take the life of the Prisoner gave their Verdict and Judgment that the said Bob be whipt three different days Vizt: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday and Receive Fifty Lashes Each time well laid on & the sd. Simon being Arraigned Ordered that the sd. Simon the property of Joseph Ridgway in Pennsylvania be Whipt on the saime days and time that Bob is and Receive the same Number of lashes well laid on also have Both his ears nailed to the Whipping Post and have them Cut off and afterwards to Remain in Goal Untill he is sent to Philadelphia and all fees paid. In Witness whereof the said Justices and Freeholders have hereunto set their hands the day…

Craven Co. Court Minutes
May 1754
Entry that says:
I ______ Do believe that that there is is not any Transbstantation in the Sacrement of the Lords Supper or int he Element of Bread and Wine at or After the Consecration thereof By any Person Whatsoever. E. Lagardere, John Clitherall J Heylyn, John? Williams, Joseph Leech, Jas. Jones, Hardy _______, James Jones, J.Heylyn, Joseph Leech, j. Heyly_, Peter Conway, Peter Conway. Transcribed.

Craven Court Minutes
September 1740
The following Decenting protestants appeard (viz) John Brooks, John James, Robt. Spring, Nichs. Purefoy, & Thomas Fulcher came into Court & took the oaths of Alegiance Supremacy ? (blank) and subscribed the Test the thirty nine articles of Religion being distinctly read to them the follg. of which they disented from towit/ the 36th and the latter aprt of the 27th.

[Earlier references referred to these people as First day Baptists, Baptists and Ana Baptists].

[These last 2 are evidence that there was not freedom of religion at the time. The first was an oath that all magistrates had to take, which meant "I am not now, nor ever have been a Roman Catholic." The last one means it's better not to be a Baptist either!]


New Bern District Court notes Abstracted by Francis R. Hodges

New Bern District Court notes Abstracted by Francis R Hodges Dobbs County1788-1790 -   Graves Bright appears to have been quite a hellion. He was often summoned to appear in court on charges of assault, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of others, including Groves Sharp and Stephen Shepard. Among those he was accused of assaulting were Jesse Skeen, James How Hutchins, and Joseph and Richard Tilghman (the latter assault occurring in Kinston). I suspect these incidents had to do wth the strong disagreement between fedralists and anti-federalists over the ratification of the US Constitution. (Remember how the ballot box was seized in Kinston by the losing federalists in 1788, before the results could be determined?) I suspect Graves was a federalist, as the Brights were apparently allied with Caswell. These findings are consistent with the reference in the NBDSC Estate Papers (see Steve Bradley's book) which records Graves's involvement in a fight at Rainbow Creek in 1794, when he was sheriff of Glasgow. Wonder if his death in 1803 was the result of violence? He would only have been in his thirties at the time.

I found the now well-known case of Sarah Herring Wiggins murdering her mulatto infant. (I sent a copy of this to Grimwood for "Herring Highlights" a year or so ago, but never received a response). Sarah was probably a first cousin of Graves Bright (her mother was Mary Bright Herring).

March, 1782- Case of Thomas Vause, accused of murdering Hardy Powell (quotation marks and punctuation marks added for clarity):

Vause swore "that he was at Mr. Oates the evening of the murder and then went to Mary. Young's two miles distant where he stayed late, then went to Thomas Barfield's where he stayed til morning."

Frederick Baker deposed that tracks were found at Powell's which were similar to Vause's, as "Vause's walk is rather uncommon on account of the lameness of one of his legs and walks with the toes rather more inclined inwards than the other."

John Silleven testified that he was present as ". . . he and Powell had been washing their feet by the fire in the house and as Hardy was siting (sic) by the fire Hardy was shot willfully by somebody and that he then raised up and went to the bed, fell on it, and was dead in two or three minutes."

William Falkner deposed ". . . that as he and Thomas Vause were riding towards Kingston on the day that Hardy Powell was to be tried by a Court Martial, Vause said to the deponent 'If Hardy Powell is not turned into the Continental Service, where is he to live?' The deponent answered ''At his own place, where should he?' Vause sayed if he would give him bond and security not to settle nearer than one hundred mles from him, he might do so, but if he stayed on his old place, he would kill him."

Others suummoned in this case were William Hooker, J. P.; John Bright; Joseph Bruton; Shadrick Campble; Martin Caswell, Jr.; Hannaritta Vause; James Glasgow; Matthew Moseley; John Hartsfield

Here's another interesting (to say the least!) deposition:

1785 - Dobbs County -

William Ormond, J. P., claimed he saw James Holland ". . .on or about the twentieth day of May last past. . .in the detestable act of buggering a mare in the woods in the said county near the line of Craven County. . ." (More details follow!)

NOTE: Holland apparently owed Gov. Caswell 200 lbs. He later agreed to pay, and. the case appears never to have been brought to court. Quite a way to put the pressure on a debtor! Is this blackmail, or what?

February 17, 1782 -

Dobbs William Williams and David George were accused of assaulting James Hobbs. Hobbs was accompanied at the time by Catherine Butler, wife of William Butler of Dobbs, and she was assaulted as well. She had a daughter who married George Turnage of Craven.

September 5, 1781 -

Dobbs Rachel Ann Loftin swore before C. Markland that on 15 August, William Ferrel "did commit a rape on her body." (NOTE: Wonder if this is the same William Ferrel whose 1823 will is posted on the Lenoir Arhives Site?)

John Stancill of Dobbs accused of assaulting George Turnage of Craven. He ". . . did then and there cocke and present a loaded gun at his breast and threatened to kill him and kept him in great fear and dread some time."

1770 - Dobbs

Thomas Blake and John Curlee, felons, were pursued into a swamp, where Blake shot James Lindsay. Simon Bright, Jr. was sheriff.

  March, 1794

Anne Kennedy, formerly of Lenoir County, N. C., and now of South Carolina deposed that John Hill was dead.  

March, 1791 -

The State vs. Groves Sharp, Major Hardy(ee?), Walter Kennedy. and Gray Westbrook (NOTE: I found a ticket summoning the accused to court. Not sure of the charge. Walter Kennedy was probably a brother-in-law of Major Hardee).

Other incidents (I took less detailed information--think these are around 1790-1800)

John Shepard murdered by Martin Gardner Shepard.

Depositions taken in the home of Martha Jones Shepard.

Robert Argoe - murdered

There is a good bit of information on the murder of Jesse Farmer by William Aldridge, including the size and nature of the wound inflicted in the groin with a knife. Aldridge was found gjuilty and hanged in 1794.

Interesting information which caught my eye from other counties: Apparently, countefeiting became a problem in New Bern around the time of the American Revolution. One con artist had a real racket going. He would get involved in a game of whist, lose his bet, then pay his losses with a large counterfeit bill. His change, of course, was in real money. In this case, it was likely easy to be a cheerful loser!)

Craven County 21 August, 1780, Craven County -

Edward Boucher Hodges summoned to court for "taking into his possesssion, and refusing to deliver, a mare, which had been impressed into the Continental Service." (NOTE: Wish I could tie this Edward Hodges to my Dobbs County family. He was indicted for misprision of treason and later left the area).

Carteret County  Carteret County. 22 February, 1779 -

Nancy Walker of Beaufort swore that ". . . on the night of the 21st of February a certain Molatto named Peter Smith late belonging to the 'Spitfire' made a violent assault on the house of said Nancy by breaking open the door. . . and then and there by force ravished and carnally had knowledge of her body. . ." A similar deposition says that Nancy was a spinster.