Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lost and Found: Grandpa Tom is Found!

In 1871, my great-great-grandfather John (Jack) Bass stated that his father’s name was Tom Bowdin, which was recorded on his 1871 Freedman’s Bank application that was filled out at the Vicksburg, Mississippi field office. After learning his name, I have been searching for my long lost Grandpa Tom. What happened to him?  Since Jack opted to not take his surname, I speculated that Grandpa Tom was probably left back in North Carolina when Jack, his siblings, and their mother Beady Bass were transported to Jackson, Mississippi.  I also speculated that Grandpa Tom was likely enslaved by a neighbor to the family who ‘owned’ Jack and his mother. Upon learning about Grandpa Tom way back in 2001, I searched the censuses and had found two men named Thomas Bowden in North Carolina who were old enough to be Jack’s father.  One lived in Bertie County, and the other one lived in Richmond County. Which one was my Grandpa Tom?

Well, my discovery at the State Archives of North Carolina recently, told in my blog post “The Ancestors Spoke: Another Longtime Brick Wall Crumbles!”, pinpointed Northampton County as where Jack, his mother, and siblings had come from. Grandma Beady had been enslaved by Council Bass of that county up until his death in 1830.  Council Bass wrote in his will, “I convey all of my land on the south side of the road leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square including my dwelling house with the following Negroes that is to say, Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto Bryant Randolph in trust for the benefit of my daughter Elizabeth Bass during her life and after her death I give . . .” 

In 1830, at the time he wrote his will, Council Bass had three married daughters who eventually left North Carolina with their husbands. Approximately 19 years later, his daughter Elizabeth Bass, who had married her second cousin Jesse Bass Jr. of Nash County and migrated to Hinds County, Mississippi, summoned a lawyer in 1849 to go to Northampton County, N.C. to retrieve her “legacy”.  Therefore, for almost 20 years, Grandma Beady was hired out to Council Bass’ neighbor, the Randolphs. During her time on the Randolph farm was when she gave birth to Jack around 1845 and more children. (Note: the 1830 census was used to determine that the Bass and Randolph families lived near each other.)

Well, Bryant Randolph died eight years later around 1838. His widow Martha Jones Randolph was listed as the head of household in the 1840 census, Northampton County.  Lo and behold, listed two names above her name was a man named Lemuel Bowden. He owned 26 slaves in 1840. This serves as evidence that the Bowdens and Randolphs were neighbors.  If only the censuses had reported the names of the slaves who were counted, this would have helped our research tremendously. Nonetheless, I have little doubt that Grandpa Tom was on Lemuel Bowden’s farm, especially since Lemuel was the only Bowden in Northampton County.  To add, Martha Randolph was reported with 21 slaves in 1840. 

1840 census, Lemuel Bowden and Martha Randolph, Northampton County, N.C.

By 1850, Lemuel Bowden’s slave-holdings had increased to 37 slaves. Perhaps one of the adult males who were between 30 – 42 years old was Grandpa Tom. Lemuel Bowden’s oldest male slave in 1850 was reported as being 42 years old.  Whichever one was Grandpa Tom in 1850, this time frame when this census was taken was likely rough for him emotionally. Grandma Beady and her children, including his young son Jack, had recently been taken away to Mississippi.  He likely had little hope of ever seeing them again.  Thankfully, Jack remembered his name to report it on his 1871 Freedman’s Bank application. 

1850 Slave Schedule, Lemuel Bowden, Northampton County, N.C. (first page)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate Lemuel Bowden in the 1860 census and slave schedule for Northampton County.  I searched for one of his neighbors, Matthias Bryant, in the 1860 slave schedule to see if I find him.  I didn’t find Lemuel, but I found this notation: Thos. I. Shoullars, hired from L. Bowden’s Estate. Apparently, a 15-year-old male from Lemuel Bowden's estate was hired out to Thomas Shoullars.  Therefore, it appears that Lemuel Bowden had died sometime in the 1850s, before the 1860 census was taken. Future research will be to locate Lemuel Bowden’s court records.

Notation “hired from L. Bowden’s Estate” found in this 1860 slave schedule, Northampton County

As mentioned earlier, I had found two men named Thomas Bowden after slavery; one in Bertie County and the other one in Richmond County.  The first Thomas Bowden lived in the Roxodel Township of Bertie County in 1870.  I checked a map and found that Roxobel was right across the county line in Bertie County and not far from the area where the Basses, Bowdens, and Randolphs resided in Northampton County. Council Bass’ 1830 will had helped me to determine that his farm was located on a road “leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square”.  On the map below, the first red arrow marks a spot between Bryantown and Rich Square. The second red arrow marks the town of Roxobel. Therefore, due to the close proximity, I am claiming Thomas Bowden of Bertie County as likely being my long, lost great-great-great-grandfather!

The red arrows point to the areas where the Basses, Bowdens, and Randolphs lived in Northampton County and where Grandpa Tom Bowden was found with his new family in 1870 in Bertie County, North Carolina

After Grandma Beady, Jack, and the rest of her children were taken away to Mississippi around 1849, Grandpa Tom went on with his life the best way he knew how. Like so many other enslaved husbands and fathers, he suffered the pain of losing his first family and never seeing them again. However, he was able to remarry a woman named Hasty, with whom he had more children. His children included John Thomas Sr., Junius, Jane, Nicholas, Cherry (Charity), Thomas Jr., and Collins Bowden, born from 1850 to 1866. Hasty Bowden died at an old age on May 7, 1918 in an asylum in Goldsboro, North Carolina. She was committed there in January 1895 (Source).

1870 census, Thomas Bowden & Family, Bertie County, North Carolina
(Note: Junius was not in the household in 1870 but was found in the 1880 census.)