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Seventh Generation

108. NATHANIEL PRICE THOMAS84,88,90,91,93,94,95 was born on 24 August 1798 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.55,92,94 He died on 18 May 1851 at the age of 52 in Caswell County, North Carolina.55,92

Pittsylvania Co VA Accounts Current, Book 4
p.105 Asa Thomas, Guardian of Nathanael P. Thomas
4 Nov 1805 Pd John Epperson half his attendance as Witness vs. John Walters [Nathaniel's uncle John Walters left an inheritance to Nathaniel & his brother William. They apparently had to eventually sue the estate. John Epperson was their stepfather.]
29 Nov 1806 Pd Drury McDaniel for 7 1/2 months schooling at $5 per year
31 Jan 1807 Pd John Epperson as per receipt
25 Apr 1807 Pd John Epperson for board
27 Jun 1807 Pd John Epperson for making 2 pr overalls
25 Dec 1806 Rec'd half the hire of Patience's children to John Epperson
25 Apr 1807 Rec'd part of Abrams hire for 1806
Rec'd 1/2 half the rent of land to John Freeman & Jonas Fishnick for last year
Reported 19 Oct 1807 and examined by Lawson H. Carter, Jere Terry. Rec. 20 Oct 1807

1820 Census, Pittsylvania Co VA, p.61. Wm Thomas. Two males 16-26. William was 24; Nathaniel 22. Neither had married.

Marriage License issued 16 Apr 1821; surety was Joel Dodson; married by Rev. William Blair. Arch. Walters, father, gave permission.

1830 Census, Pittsylvania Co VA, Nat. P. Thomas, next door to Wm P. Thomas. 2m under 5 [Philip & Archibald], 1m 5-10 [Wm A], 1m 30-40 [Nathaniel]; 2f 15-20, 1f 20-30, 1f 30-40 [Rebecca] None of the daughters of Nathaniel & Rebecca were born prior to 1830. The extra ladies in the household are unknown, possibly sisters of Rebecca.

Sometime before 1850 Nathaniel Thomas moved from Danville VA to Caswell Co NC. I found the marriage of daughter Virginia to Robert C. Holderness in Calhoun Co AR in 1854. Some of the older siblings were already in Arkansas before 1850, probably after the death of their father the younger children moved to Arkansas.

In 1840, Nathaniel seemed to have moved to Caswell Co NC where his family was enumerated, but he was still maintaining his plantation in Virginia.
1840 Census. Pittsylvania Co, VA. The Nathaniel P. Thomas plantation is listed immediately under the entry for his brother William P. Thomas. No people were counted except for one free person of color, a male, age 35-55, possibly the overseer, but there were 21 slaves, ten employed in agriculture. The total reflects the 21 slaves, plus the free man of color. William had 29 slaves and 10 people in his household, of which 12 were employed in agriculture.
1840 Census. Caswell Co, NC.
Nat P. Thomas: 1m under 5 [Price], 1m 5-10 [Archibald], 1m 10-15 [Phillip], 1m 15-20 [William], 1m 40-50 [Nathaniel]
2f under 5 [Virginia & Rebecca], 1f 5-10 [Frances], 1f 40-50 [Rebecca]
There seem to have been 23 slaves counted - perhaps one or two were living with the family in Caswell, the remainder on the plantation - the schedule is ambiguous, the marks not lining up well with the previous page. Ten were employed in agriculture.

1850 Census, a Nathaniel Thomas is in the Caswell Co NC Census, but no spouse is listed. Rebecca no doubt already deceased. Children named were Price, Virginia, Rebecca, and Junius age 8. Rebecca and Junius born in Caswell Co. Also living with Nathaniel was William J. (could be Powell but in parenthesis, he may also be a Thomas) age 26, farmer from Virginia and Susan, age 28. This is neither his son William, nor his nephew, but could be a cousin. There are Powells living a couple of households away so perhaps William & Susan are boarding with the Thomases.
The slave schedule for 1850 indicates Nathaniel had a total of 36 slaves. The last four listed were Mulatto and the only Mulattos listed: a 23 year old female, a 5 year old female, a three year old male, and a one year old male. Many of the slaves appear to be grouped as mother with children. I believe these four to have been Lucy and her children Mary Jane, James, and Newton.

Caswell Co Deeds
DB DD, p.155 12 Oct 1836. Thomas Y. Pass to Nathaniel P. Thomas both of Pittsylvania Co VA for $225 paid to Pass and $150 pd to heirs of James Gillespy dec'd due to lien, 60 A in Caswell & Pittsylvania, being part of mansion tract of sd Gillespy and devised by him to his son Giddel Gillaspy on little br adj Bennett and not to include house adj Wm Shackleford, E. Ponsonby. Wit: Jordon Ray, J. B. Hill, Wm Lyon
DB EE, p.233-5 29 Dec 1838 Eleanor Crowder, wife of Robert A. Crowder, who inherited from her father Christopher Robertson, one undivided half of land conveyed in a previous deed of Palmer to Robertson, to Nathaniel P. Thomas, for $1,333.33, she & her husband relinquish all rights to said land. Wit: H. M. Crowder, N.M. Palmer. Eleanor Crowder was examined at home as she could not travel. 3. Jan 1839.
DB EE, p.235-6 2 Jan 1839 Edward H. Robertson to Nathaniel P. Thomas for $5, 500 A on Dan River. Affirms deeds made by Nathaniel J. Palmer trustee for Robert A. Crowder & Edward H. Robertson as he owned 1/2 of land. Wit: William Hooper.
DB EE, p.259 1 Jul 1839 Archer Walters to daughter Rebecca Thomas, wife of Nathaniel P. Thomas, for love & Affection and $1, negro Mary with all her children now possessed by them and to be an extra donation not considered in distribution of estate. Wit: N. J. Palmer
DB EE, p.441-2 1 Apr 1840 Romulus M. Sauders of Raleigh NC to Nathaniel P. Thomas for $136, 66 A near Rattlesnake Cr adj Carter Powell, Mrs. Yancey, said Thomas. Wit: Geo. W. Haywood.
DB EE, p.478-9 5 May 1840 Samuel Hinton to Nathaniel P. Thomas for $630, 75 A and 10 A on Little Crk of Dan R adj the old mill, Yancey. Wit: A. G. Walters, William Slade

Will of N. P. Thomas, recorded in Caswell Will Book 2, p.565 Jul 7, 1851. Dated 18 Apr 1850. He bequeathed 500 acres, the Crowder tract [see Caswell Deed Book EE, p.233-236] adj Mrs. Ann Yancey, to youngest son Junius F. If Junius died without heirs, this tract to be equally divided among daughters Virginia E. and Rebecca W. and sons Archibald and Price. His former residence of 410 acres and the adj Harper tract of 100 acres on Cane Creek in Pittsylvania Co VA bequeathed to sons Archbald W. and Price N. to be equally divided. The Atkinson tract on Cane Creek in Pittsylvania, 300 acres adj William Lyon and R. B. Cunningham to be sold and the proceeds used to settle the estate. The Mill tract in Caswell, 85 acres on Pauper Creek adj land of Carter Powell [Caswell DB EE, p.,78] and the Saunders tract of 66 acres [Caswell DB EE, p.441] also to sold and the proceeds to be placed at interest, investing a portion in purchasing a suitable home for my Mulatto woman Lucy and children, purchased of the Trustees of Robert A. Crowder. Interest on the sum to appreciate towards their support. My Mulatto woman Lucy I bequeath to my friend Nathaniel P. Palmer together with her children Mary Jane, James and Newton and any other children she may have that he will provide for them a suitable home until they are able to support themselves. In the event of death of Palmer....held by my friend William Bryant of Pittsylvania Co VA. Said woman and children not to be removed from Caswell without her own free will and consent. Sons William A. and Philip H. Thomas have already received their full share. Slaves to son Archibald, daughter Frances Ann Richmond, Price N. Thomas [not yet 21], daughters Virginia and Rebecca, son Junius. Sum of $1000 each to Virginia and Rebecca for education and support. Slaves devised to Junius, Virginia & Rebecca shall be kept and worked on the home tract for their support until lawful age or marriage and the place to be their home if they desire. Slaves in possession of brother William P. Thomas and wife Arabella of Pettsylvania, 15 or 16 are to be held as Arabella sees best for $1600 bond against my lands. Any slaves or their increase remaining to be transferred to their children. Anything remain to be equally divided among dau France, Virginia & Rebecca and sons Archibald, Price and Junius. Executor: Nathaniel P. Palmer; he is to receive $1000 for his administration. Signed: N. P. Thomas. Witness: W. R. Hill, Jno H. Lacy, G. W. Johnson

Codicil 4 Feb 1851: Slaves have been given to Frances Ann Richmond and husband. Witness: William Lyon, William Bryant, Presley Slayton

Codicil 3 May 1851: 300 acres purchased of Mrs. Lucy M. Walker of Milton, bequeathed to Virginia and Rebecca and also the Gillaspie tract of 60 acres. Mahogany sideboard to Virginia and mahogany bureau to Rebecca. The legacies of $1000 are hereby revoked. The tract purchased and a Court Sale, 40 acres, to be sold. Nathaniel Palmer to be guardian to my children who are under age. If the State of North Carolina present any obstacles to fulfillment of the trust Mulatto woman Lucy and her children, I my Executor to remove them to such state, territory or country as he may select and think best. It being my will and desire that she shall not be continued in slavery. Witness: Presley Slayton, Nicholas B. Hammer, William Lyon.

Caswell Co Will Books
Book Q 1852
p.621 List of negroes sold of estate of Nathaniel P. Thomas sold at Verser Plantation to Henry Powell. List of negroes taken off forcibly by Wm P. Thomas to his Virginia residence - court case pending in Pittsylvania Co VA. Kitchen furniture left with woman Lucy. List of bonds and debts due estate. By Nathaniel J. Palmer, exec.
p.623 Inventory & sales of estate of Nathaniel P. Thomas dec'd sold 27 Sep 1851. Rent of plantation (homeplace) to Charles Hendrick; rent of Cane Creek plantation to Arch Thomas; Roper tract of land near Milton sold to Benj. Hines; mill and Saunders tract devised to woman Lucy sold to Gideon Turner for $1300. Land unsold at Verser & Gillespie tracts devised to Virginia J. & Rebecca W. Thomas; home tract to Junius Thomas; former residence with Harper tract adj land in Pittsylvania Co VA to Arch W. & Price N. Thomas.

By the 1860 census, Nathaniel J. Palmer, executor of Nathaniel Thomas appears to have himself died - his widow and some of his children are in the Caswell Co census. I checked the list of slaves for Nathaniel Palmer in 1850 and his widow Lavinia in 1860 and the number was thirteen for both years. In 1850 Nathaniel Palmer had one mulatto slave age 20, but none in 1860.

I also checked the slaves schedules for Nathaniel Thomas's brother William P. for 1850 to 1860 and his total also remained constant at sixteen. He had no mulatto slaves, nor did Archibald W. Thomas, son of Nathaniel, who was the one son that remained in Virginia.

I did find partial solution to the question of what happened to Lucy and her children:

Supreme Court of North Carolina.
June Term, 1854.

*1 Emancipation, followed by immediate removal from the State, is not forbidden by our laws. But where it is provided in a will, that certain slaves shall have their own time, and may work or not, as they see proper, having the care and protection of a nominal master, and a fund for their support and maintainance, such a state of qualified slavery is regarded by the Court as unlawful, and the bequests void.

CAUSE removed from the Court of Equity of Caswell county, at the Spring Term, 1854.

Nathiniel P. Thomas, among other things, devised and bequeathed as follows:

"My mill tract of land, situate in Caswell county, containing eighty-five acres, on the waters of Pumpkin Creek, adjoining the lands of Carter Powell, and others, and the Crowder tract of land, containing about sixty-six acres, adjoining the same. I do hereby devise to my executor, to be sold on a liberal credit, and the proceeds of the said sale to be placed at interest, after investing a portion of the same in purchasing a suitable home for my mulatto woman, Lucy, and children, purchased of the trustees of Robert A. Crowder; the interest in the said two tracts to be appropriated towards their support, and until the amount of said sale becomes due, I direct my executor to appropriate a sufficient amount out of the proceeds of my estate generally, for their maintainance and support.

3rd. My mulatto woman, Lucy, as aforesaid, I do hereby devise and bequeath, to Nathaniel J. Palmer, together with her children, Mary Jane, James and Newton, and any other children that she may have, in trust and confidence, nevertheless, that he will provide for them a suitable home, as aforesaid, and for her support, and that of her children, until they are able to support themselves, out of the proceeds of the real estate aforesaid. And in the event of the death of the said Nathaniel J. Palmer, the said woman, and children are to be held by my friend, William Bryant, of Pittsylvania county, Virginia, as trustee aforesaid, and in the event of his death, they are to be held by such trustee as he may select, and the County Court of Caswell approve and appoint, it being understood that the said woman and children are not to be removed from the county of Caswell, without her free will and consent, and a copy of this will recorded in the clerk's office of the county, to which she may remove."

In a codicil to this will the testator provides as follows: "In the event that the laws of North Carolina, or the policy of the same, as construed by the Supreme Court, shall present any obstacle to the fulfillment of the trust mentioned in the foregoing will in relation to my mulatto woman, Lucy, and her children, I do hereby authorise and direct my executor, to send them to such State, territory or country as she may select, and he maythink best, and I do hereby charge my estate with a sum sufficient to provide for their removal to such State, territory, and country, and for their comfortable settlement there; it being my will and desire, that she shall not be continued in slavery."

*2 The woman Lucy, being advised that the policy of the laws of the State forbade her remaining in the State, and obtaining any of the advantages proposed in this will or codicil removed with her children to the State of Ohio, where they are now domiciled, and are, by the laws of that State, free persons.

The plaintiffs (the woman Lucy and her children) in their bill, allege that by their own exertions, and by the partial aid of Mr. Palmer, the executor, they were enabled to get to Ohio, but that they have not been provided with a home or settlement as the will directs, and that they are in want, and destitution, and that the children being small, the mother is unable to support herself and them, without the assistance of the fund provided in the will. They insist that the codicil of the will, above recited, made good and valid, the provision made for them in the will, and that they are entitled to the proceeds of the sale of the two tracts of land, which amounts to some $1,500; but besides this, they are entitled to the expenses of their removal, and to a comfortable settlement out of the estate of the testator. And accordingly such is the prayer of the bill as well as for general relief.

The answer of the executor, Palmer, objects to the construction insisted on by the plaintiffs, but says that he is advised, that there is nothing in the codicil to validate, and set up the deficient and illegal devises in the body of the will, so that the plaintiffs are not entitled to any thing but the expenses of their removal, and a comfortable settlement in the land to which they have gone; that he has already advanced funds to them to assist in removing them to Ohio, and that as soon as the condition of the estate will allow, he intends to provide for a comfortable settlement of them in Ohio. But he submits to the advice and direction of this Court in the premises.

The cause was set for hearing on bill answer, and exhibit, and sent to this Court by consent.

West Headnotes

Slaves 22
Emancipation by will, followed by immediate removal from the state, is not forbidden by law. But a provision in a will by which slaves are to remain in the state under the care and protection of a nominal master, who is directed to provide a house for them to live in and apply the interest of a certain fund for their support, so as to let them have the control of their own time, is void.
Morehead for plaintiffs.
Norwood for defendants.


Emancipation is not forbidden by our laws; but a negro, who is set free, is required forthwith to leave the State; for it is against public policy to have the number of free negroes increased, or to allow negroes to remain among us in a qualified state of slavery.

The latter is, if any thing, the worse evil of the two. Free negroes constitute a distinct class; and the poor creatures seldom prosper so well as to become objects of envy. Whereas, slaves, who have the care and protection of a master, have houses provided for them, and a fund set apart for their support and maintenance, so that they can have the control of their own time, and may work or not, as they see proper, necessarily become objects of envy to those who continue to look upon them as fellow slaves. So that nothing can be more calculated to make our slaves discontented; accordingly such a state of things is expressly forbidden by statute. It follows that the provision in the will by which Lucy and her children were to remain in this State under the care and protection of one, who was to act nominally as master, but was to provide a house for them to live in, and apply the interest of a certain fund for their support and maintenance, so as to let them have the control of their own time, is void. Fortunately for the complainants, the testator became aware of this in time to make provision by a codicil for their emancipation and removal to another country, and "for their comfortable settlement there."

*3 The complainants insist, that the codicil has the further effect of making valid the provision that is made for them in the will, and that they are now entitled as well to the provision which the testator intended to make for them by the will, as that which he did make for them by the codicil. In other words, that besides having the expenses of their removal and comfortable settlement in another country paid out of the estate of the testator, they are entitled to the fund produced by the sale of the two tracts of land. We do not think so.

The provision made by the codicil is intended as a substitute for that made by the will--"in the event," that the latter cannot be carried into effect. The intention is clearly this: If the negroes can be kept in this State, they are to be provided for as directed by the will. If they cannot remain here and be so provided for; then, they are to be provided for as directed by the codicil. There is not the slightest intimation that the two modes of providing for them are in any degree, or to any extent, to be cumulative.

Decree accordingly.

1 Jones Eq. 249, 54 N.C. 249, 1854 WL 1434 (N.C.)

I did find the North Carolina Statute passed by the General Assembly at the 1833/4 Session. There was provision for the freeing of slaves by last will & testament, but the express condition of emancipation was that he or she would "leave the state within ninety days from the granting thereof and never will return within the state".
A Law passed by the General Assembly, 1860/1 Session, stated that no Slave "shall hereafter be emancipated by last will and testament, or deed, or other instrument".

There was another lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Robert Holderness and wife and others v. Lavinia J. Palmer, Executrix. June Term, 1858. Cause removed from the Court of Equity of Caswell Co. The estate of Nathaniel P. Thomas had proved to be greatly more in debt than anticipated by him. Palmer had to sell property disposed of by the will - he chose to sell lands rather than slaves. He sold the home tract, as well as the land devised to Virginia and Rebecca. The slaves were then rented out, several of whom died before they were delivered up to the legatees. Some of the children died from scarlet fever or teething and some of the slaves died in Virginia in possession of William Thomas where they had been taken by force. Palmer was by now himself deceased. The judge ruled that Palmer had acted in good faith by making the decision to sell the land instead of the slaves - if he had sold the slaves they would have been removed from the home tract which would also have been against the wishes of the testator. Palmer would have received no personal benefit from any sale. The slaves were still in North Carolina, many under the direction of the overseer, William Bryant. They had not been mistreated and the illnesses that caused their deaths could just as easily happened regardless of where they were. Palmer also could not be responsible for those slaves forcibly removed by William Thomas. Therefore it was decided Palmer's estate could not be held responsible for the value of the deceased slaves.

Description of the petition to the Court of Equity, Caswell Co, which includes the names of all the slaves, and the relationships between many, of them belonging to Nathaniel P Thomas, may be found online at the Digital Library of American Slavery
Another version of the outcome is posted on the Caswell County Historical Association at the following blog:

NATHANIEL PRICE THOMAS and REBECCA E. WALTERS were married on 19 April 1821 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.12,46,56 REBECCA E. WALTERS96, daughter of ARCHIBALD "Archer" WALTERS and CATHERINE "Catey" STAMPS, was born on 16 August 1799.92 She died before 1850 at the age of 51 in Caswell County, North Carolina.94

Caswell Co NC Deeds:
DB EE, p.259-60 1 Jul 1839. Archer Walters to daughter Rebecca Thomas wife of Nathaniel P. Thomas, for love and afrfection & $1, negro Mary with all her children now possessed by them and to be an extra donation not considered in distribution of estate. Wit: N. J. Palmer.

Not in 1850 Census. Probably died in NC as the two younger children are listed as born in Caswell Co.

NATHANIEL PRICE THOMAS and REBECCA E. WALTERS had the following children:



William A. THOMAS.



Phillip Henry THOMAS.



Archibald W. THOMAS.



Frances Ann THOMAS.



Price Nathaniel THOMAS.






Rebecca W. THOMAS was born in 1838 in Caswell County, North Carolina.94 She died before 1857 at the age of 19.

Found in the estate file of Nathaniel P. Thomas as found on
Virginia E. Thomas's Petition to sell real restate. Decree Spring Term 1857
Virginia E. Thomas has intermarried with Robert C. Holderness since the sale of lands set forth in the petition, who come to be made party to the petition in right of his wife.
It further appears to the court, that the petitioner Rebeccah W. Thomas has died under age since the sale of the lands set forth, and that by the death of the said Rebeccah, the whole estate passed over to Virginia E. Holderness, by the Will of the testator, their father Nathaniel P. Thomas, who thereby became entitled to received the whole of the proceeds of the sale.
Further appears that Robert C. Holderness and wife Virginia E. Holderness, formerly Virginia E. Thomas, have by deed duly conveyed all right, title and interest, to William H. Holderness.
Decreed by the Court, that the master pay over to William H. Holderness whatever terms of money are remaining in his hands from the sale of real estate and that the receipt of the said William H. Holderness by a sufficient discharge for the same.



Junius F. THOMAS.