Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Devil and Franie Jane

Portions of the story of Franie Jane Deaton Brewer Denson have me agasp. I really don't
 know what to do with them besides present them.

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 I asked myself, was I really reading what I was reading? Could I be reading it wrong? So some of it I will just drop here and let the reader decide what they are reading.

Franey Jane Deaton was the daughter of Mary Deaton, a single woman from Little River Township in Montgomery County. I discovered later that the area was known as "Black Ankle".


According to the book, "The Story of Black Ankle, North Carolina and People Around About", by Ruby Odom Perkins,

"The people in this part of the country were nearly all related or "close a kin' as they said. If they became angry with each other, stole from each otherr, or even killed, they wanted to settle the trouble by themselves. Seldom would one tell on the other." 

She decribes a insular community, barracaded in their own subculture by kinship and the bogs of the Little River, where one small church, Big Oak, served the community, but the community, on a whole, served themselves. They didn't like outsiders and outsiders learned to not like them.

"Outsiders were rocked if they started into that part of the country. Occasionally someone was found dead and the murderer would never be found. So Black Ankle's reputation grew."


Into this community in 1845 or about, was born a little girl named Franey Jane.



Name:Wm Deaton
Age:55
Birth Year:abt 1805
Gender:Male
Birth Place:North Carolina
Home in 1860:Diffies, Montgomery, North Carolina
Dwelling Number:327
Family Number:327
Occupation:Farmer
Real Estate Value:2000
Personal Estate Value:850
Household Members:
NameAge
Wm Deaton55
Nancy Deaton60
Polly Deaton35
Jane Deaton15
Margaret Deaton12
Sydny Deaton10
Betsy Deaton8
Rena Deaton2


In the 1860 census of 'Diffies', Montgomery County, we find the Homestead of William Deaton and his wife, Nancy Allen Deaton. Also in the home is his daughter, Mary "Polly" Deaton, a single woman and her children; Jane 15, Margaret 12, Sydney 10, Betsy 8, and Rena 2, all girls and all fatherless.

The 15 year old was Franie Jane Deaton. A look at the entire page shows an area of family and connected persons. The couple of Aaron Brewer and his wife Margaret was Franie's aunt and sister of Polly Deaton, Margaret Deaton Brewer and her husband, Aaron.





Also on this page is Dorcas Brewer, at home with her parents Micajah and wife. I've touched on her in previous posts. Shortly after this census was taken, Franie Jane moved to the home nearby of her Aunt Margaret and Uncle Aaron, or was removed. She was unofficially adopted by the couple. A jump 10 years into the future will show possibly why.





Nancy Allen Deaton has died, and in 1866, William Deaton remarried to Elizabeth Lassiter. Most of his children surround him, still. A few houses down from William Deaton's home we find his daughter, Margaret Deaton Brewer, and J Deaton, with daughter Emily. This is Franie Jane and her oldest daughter, Mary Emily Denson. As it is a little hard to read, I will list the households:

61  Asa Maner family
62 William Deaton, 65
      Elizabeth 65
      Jerry 14
      Owen Nash?
63 Mima Smith 35 and family
64 Catherine Manes or Maner 40 and family
65 Margaret Brewer 50 (not quite0
     Deaton J 22 (Franie Jane)
     Emily 2
66 Jacob Lassiter 25 and family
67 Mary Deaton (Franey's mother)
     Bettie 20
     Louisa 16
     Leatty 12
68 Joseph Deaton 45
     Dorcas 33 and family.


What had made Franey Jane a blacksheep of the family?




In the Winter Session of the court of Pleas and Quarters of Montgomery County, North Carolina, Eli Ward, on of the Justices of the Peace for the county declared that it had been brought to his attention that " Frany Brewer a single woman of said county is with child which child when it shall be born will a bastard and may become chargable".  He meant that Franey was unmarried and that her child could be a ward or financial disability to the county. He ordered that the sheriff bring her in on the next term of court, which he did. The following document is to follow. I'm going to just drop it here and let the reader decide for themselves what it is saying. It involves the young woman, Franey Jane Deaton/Brewer and William Deaton, her grandfather. 





Mary Emily Deaton/Denson was born on October 25, 1868.

Name:Francy Deaton
Gender:Female
Marriage Date:3 Oct 1872
Marriage Place:Montgomery, North Carolina, USA
Spouse:Edmund Denson
Spouse Gender:Male
Event Type:Marriage

Franie Jane Deaton/Brewer would marry in 1872 to Edmund Denson, a man himself born out of wedlock to Sarah Denson, a white woman and Thomas McLeod, a black man. 

Franie Jane is seen in her early records, both census and in court as a white woman. If someone in court was not white, it was noted with a "col" for colored. If they were not white on a census, they were given a b for black of m or mu for mulatto. After her marriage to Edmund Denson, Franie is called "mulatto", as was her daughter Emily. Emily is also noted as white in 1870.

In "The Stor of Black Ankle North Carolina and People Around About." by Ruby Odom Perkins, Ms Perkins notes that:

"Several of the women were tried in court for living with negro men, but they just said  the men were working for them and usually they were found not guilty. .......the Indian men seemed to have left that part of the country and many of the Indian girls married  into white families. If the resulting children resembled white parents, they were called white and if any were  like their Indian ancestors, they were called Negros.....In court the dark men were called "clay banks" and in the census they were classified as 'other than white', and of course , to the uneducated people of this section ,all dark folks were called Negroes."

Shades of Gray...



Shades of Gray-Edmund Denson





In this post, I just want to take a closer look at the individual named Edmund Denson. Who was Edmund and where did he come from? At first, that was all that I knew.



I came across Ed Denson during my research of the Smith family. He had always lived near the Smith family in earlier censuses, and he had lived with the single daughters of Joseph Smith,as a hired hand in another. During that time, he had became the lover of one of them, Terry, and together they had a daughter, Sally. All of that seems very ordinary, however, for the time and place, it was not.

Then I made the online acquantance of a lady in Virginia. We share a very small segment of dna, so small, it could be, should be, impossible or nearly, to figure out our connection. But I believe we have. She's a descendant of Edmond Denson and Terry Smith. I have several genetic connections to descendants of Terry's father, Joseph. Both Joseph's family of Smiths and the family of my ancestor, James O Mauldin, had followed the path of Chatham to Moore to Montgomery Counties in North Carolina. James O. Mauldin was the husband of my mystery ancestor, Mary Smith Mauldin. It is my belief that these two families may be connected.

The story of Edmond Denson is not just a story of one 19th century man in the Southern piedmont. It's the story of an entire designation of people somewhat left out of the history books. It's the story of circumstances that have led to many a face like these as the fad of genetic testing has taken off in the US of Mongrelia. It's the story of our times and those times and what people need to hear. Americans are one soup made of many. One people.



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Edmond Denson was a free person of color in the years before emancipation. There were several families and individuals in that category in old Montgomery and Stanly Counties in the first half of the 19th century. They were not rare, and neither were they common. Some were families with a long history of freedom that had came down from Virginia. Others began with just one individual. Some had been slaves, or their forebears had, who had been freed. Others were born free and were of mixed race. Some were Native Americans, members of remnant tribes, that had been decimated, but had not disappeared entirely in other cultures. Some were of other ethnicities entirely, they were just darker than the average settler, and were Mediteranean or Arabic, or other. The census takers had 3 choices to maek on individuals, white, black or Mulatto. Eveyone who didn't fall into the first two categories became the latter.

Edmund Denson was an actual mulatto. He was born to a free white woman - Sarah Denson. His father was a black man- Thomas McLeod. As Thomas doesn't appear until after emancipation, it can naturally be assumed that he was a slave. There were  several McLeods in Moore County who owned slaves in the 1850 and 1860 schedules. I believe Thomas might have been the Tom mentioned in the will of on John McLeod, however.

I anticipate the arrival of several documents from archives before I can really start piecing together the Denson family. They appear to be the perfect example of a family tripping over themselves to make sense of something they don't understand, even to the point of creating memorials to an individuals who didn't exist. But that's later.



Edmund Denson was born in Moore County, North Carolina, in the heart of the Scottish sandhills settlement. He's found there first, in the 1850 census, working for the Morrison family, along with Neil McCaskill, who may have been the friend that led him into neighboring Montgomery, where he would spend the remainder of his life. 



Name:Edmund Denson
Gender:Male
Race:Mulatto
Age:18
Birth Year:abt 1832
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1850:Moore, North Carolina, USA
Occupation:Farmer
Industry:Agriculture
Line Number:6
Dwelling Number:1027
Family Number:1027
Household Members:
NameAge
Alexander Morrison83
Nancy Morrison74
Elizabeth Morrison27
Allen Morrison25
Neill McCaskell16
Edmund Denson18



Edmund in labeled a mulatto here, which was a person of mixed ancestry, which indeed he was. Everyone else in the household was white. He's given a birthyear of 1832 here, making him 18, but that would change. 



Name:Edmund Dinson
Age:28
Birth Year:abt 1832
Gender:Male
Race:Mulatto
Birth Place:North Carolina
Home in 1860:Brutons, Montgomery, North Carolina
Post Office:Macedonia
Dwelling Number:215
Family Number:215
Occupation:Hireling
Cannot Read, Write:Y
Household Members:
NameAge
Angus Murchison26
Nancy Murchison24
Alexander Murchison2/12
Edmund Dinson28





By 1860, he has relocated to Montgomery County and is now working as a hireling for a young farmer named Angus Muchinson. They are living in the township of Brutons, with the closest Post Office being Macedonia. He still has a birth year of 1832, and is 28 years old.




By 1870, Edmund Denson had met the Smiths.


Name:Ed Denson
Age in 1870:26
Birth Year:abt 1844
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:90
Home in 1870:Hill, Montgomery, North Carolina
Race:Black
Gender:Male
Post Office:Aumans Hill
Occupation:Laborer On Farm
Cannot Read:Y
Cannot Write:Y
Male Citizen over 21:Y
Household Members:
NameAge
Martha Smith35
Terry Smith36
William Smith18
Ed Denson26


Terry and Martha Smith were the single daughters of Joseph and Martha McCaskill Smith. Their paretns had passed away sometime between 1860 and 1870 and the daughters had remained in the old homestead. They lived near Auman's Hill, in Hill Township, which is described as the Northeastern section of the County.  A transcripton error is made in the age of William Smith here. There was no dash, he was only 8 here, being born in 1852. William was the son of Martha Smith. Ed Denson was a hired helper for the sisters. This census has him younger than he was on the last, which is incorrect. He was probably more around 37 or 38.  Edmond must have developed a closer relationship with Terry Smith during this time than that of hired hand.




The relationship between Edmond and Terry did not last long, in fact, in legal terms, it became combative. But Edmond would decide it was time to settle down. He settled down with a girl with a most unfortunate story, Franie Jane Deaton.

In the above marriage license, Edmond Denson names his parent as Thomas McLeod, living, and Sarah Denson, deceased. Franey names her father as unknown, and her mother as Mary Deaton. 

Thomas McLeod was indeed still living in 1872, as he appears in the 1870 and 1880 census records of Moore County. This suggests that Edmund kept in touch with his father in some manner, to know he was still alive. 

Name:Thomas Mc Leod
Age in 1870:60
Birth Year:abt 1810
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:346
Home in 1870:Sloans, Moore, North Carolina
Race:Black
Gender:Male
Post Office:Jonesboro
Occupation:Farmer
Cannot Read:Y
Cannot Write:Y
Male Citizen over 21:Y
Personal Estate Value:200
Real Estate Value:300
Household Members:
NameAge
David Mc Leod18
Thomas Mc Leod60
Jane Mc Leod50
Lucy Mc Leod22
Lydia Mc Leod 
Ned Mc Leod15
Francis Mc Leod13
Jellin Mc Leod11
John Mc Leod9
Flora Mc Leod7
Thomas Mc Leod5



Post-Offices of Moore County in 1898

Jonesboro, 18 ms s e Carthage, S H Buchanan, pop 1,500




His mother was deceased, and correctly, is not seen after the 1850 census.


Name:Sarah Denson
Gender:Female
Age:46
Birth Year:abt 1804
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1850:Moore, North Carolina, USA
Cannot Read, Write:Y
Line Number:1
Dwelling Number:1130
Family Number:1130
Household Members:
NameAge
Sarah Denson46
Francy Denson24
Rebecca Denson16
David Denson14
William Denson8
Kearny Denson3
Duncan Denson3
Spinks Denson0


She first appears as a Head of Household in the 1840 census of Moore County. Her mother, Sarah Myrick Denson, died in 1842 and had divorced her father, Bennett (asa Benjamin) Denson in 1816.





Name:Margaret Brewer
Age:60
Birth Date:Abt 1820
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Hill, Montgomery, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:73
Race:White
Gender:Female
Relation to Head of House:Aunt
Marital status:Widowed
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:At Home
Cannot Read:Yes
Cannot Write:Yes
Neighbors:
Household Members:
NameAge
Edmond Denson48
Franie J. Denson37
Mary E. Denson11
Nancy C. Denson5
Fannie E. Denson3
Lucy E. Denson3/12
Margaret Brewer60


In 1880,  Edmund and Franie are living with her Aunt, Margaret Deaton Brewer. Margaret was the widow of Aaron Brewer and remained childless. Franie was also living with her Aunt Margaret in 1870, with her toddler, Emily. If you will notice, Mary E. Denson, above, is 11. This is Emily. In the 1880 census, Margaret Deaton Brewer is white. Edmond, Franie and the children are all listed mulattos. However, in the 1870 census, when she is living with her aunt, and in the 1860 census, when she is living with her grandparents, mother and siblings, Franie is white. I have no reason to believe Franie was anything but completely white, and was counted as mulatto, simply from her marriage to Edmund. In fact, her mother Mary is just a few houses up from the Densons, living with another of her daughters, Sidney Deaton Lassiter. 



Name:Mary Deaton
Age:60
Birth Date:Abt 1820
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Hill, Montgomery, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:69
Race:White
Gender:Female
Relation to Head of House:Mother-in-law
Marital status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:At Home
Cannot Write:Yes
Neighbors:
Household Members:
NameAge
Jacob Lassiter37
Sitny Lassiter27
Millard F. Lassiter10
Daniel D. Lassiter9
James T. Lassiter7
Duncan Lassiter5
Mary Deaton60



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I found a Bastardy Bond for Franie Jane in the Montgomery County Court Records for the year of Emily's birth. In this bond, she was shown as "Franey Brewer". It took a search for Franey Brewer to figure out that Franey Jane Deaton and Franey Jane Brewer was the samer person. It appears she was adopted by her Aunt Margaret and Aaron Brewer. And there were possibly sinister reasons behind that. But that's for another day. Some of the names of the neighbors sounded familiar, that's when I realized that the families were from an area of Montgomery County near the Moore County line, called "Black Ankle".  Wikipedia states that Black Ankle is an unincorporated community in the Northeastern corner of Montgomery County. It's only half a mile south of the Randolph County line and 3 miles west of the Moore County line. 

There are several stories of how the community got it's name, but the jist of about all of them was that the people there were known for having dirty ankles, whether from working in the mines there, or working with tar and turpentine, among other, more nefarious reasons. 

There's a Fort there, a former race track, several defunct gold mines and an ecologically unique bog, in Little River Township. 


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Closer to Biscoe, was Terry Smith, one of the Smith sisters, daughters of Joseph and Martha Smith, with whom Edmund was living in 1870. Terry and Edmund had had an affair, that resulted in the birth of Edmund's daughter, Sarah, or Sallie. 


Name:Sallie Smith
Age:8
Birth Date:Abt 1872
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Hill, Montgomery, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:13
Race:Mulatto
Gender:Female
Relation to Head of House:Daughter
Marital status:Single
Mother's name:Terry Smith
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Cannot Read:Yes
Cannot Write:Yes
Neighbors:
Household Members:
NameAge
Terry Smith35
Sallie Smith8



Oddly, Sallie was born the year that Edmund married Franie. Terry Smith was a white woman, her daughter was designated mulatto, like Edmund. 





Terry would not make it to 1900. It is unknown when she died or where she is buried. Her daughter, Sarah, would not marry, but would give birth to 4 children.






Name:Sarah E Smith
Age in 1910:40
Birth Year:abt 1870
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1910:Biscoe, Montgomery, North Carolina
Race:Mulatto
Gender:Female
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Native Tongue:English
Occupation:Farmer
Industry:Home Farm
Employer, Employee or Other:Own Account
Home Owned or Rented:Rent
Farm or House:Farm
Able to Read:No
Able to Write:No
Number of Children Born:4
Number of Children Living:2
Neighbors:
Household Members:
NameAge
Sarah E Smith40
Betsy A Smith10
Eliza J Smith8




Sadly, in the 1910 census, it would show that 2 of her 4 children had died. Her daughter, Betsy Ann Smith, would marry in 1913 at the excruciatingly young age of 14, to Price Ingram Butler. Sarah S. Smith signed in as a witness.



Name:Sallie Smith
Gender:Female
Race:Black
Age:44y 6m 16d
Marital status:Single
Occupation:Housekeeper
Birth Date:26 Apr 1870
Birth Place:Montgomery County, North Carolina
Residence Date:12 Nov 1914
Residence Place:Biscoe, Montgomery, North Carolina
Death Date:12 Nov 1914
Death Place:Biscoe, Montgomery, North Carolina
Burial Date:13 Nov 1914
Burial Place:Montgomery County, North Carolina
Cemetery:C.B. M Leods Cemetery


Sallie died the next year of a Uremic Coma at the young age of 44. Her death certificate said she was buried at C. B. McLeods Cemetery in Biscoe.




McLeod Cemetery



It seems rather ironic since her father was a McLeod. The cemetery is beside the road going north out of Biscoe, just before Tarry Church Road. The close street names reflect the familes in the old census records who lived in the area. But Sallie has descendants. Her daughter Betsie lived until 1968 and died in Scotland County.

Franie Deaton Denson didn't make it to 1900, either, but her husband and Sallie's father, Edmund Denson did. He had moved to Randolph County, so probably died there, between 1900 and 1910.


Name:Edmund Denson
Age:70
Birth Date:May 1830
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1900:Richland, Randolph, North Carolina
Sheet Number:6
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:106
Family Number:107
Race:Black
Gender:Male
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Widowed
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:Farm Laborer
Months Not Employed:1
Can Read:No
Can Write:No
Can Speak English:Yes
House Owned or Rented:R
Farm or House:H
Neighbors:
Household Members:
NameAge
Edmund Denson70
Ellen Denson21
Bernie Denson4


Edmund and Franie had 4 children, including Mary Emily Denson, whom I am not altogether sure was his.


A) Mary Emily Denson b Oct 25, 1868. Married Aaron Siller.
B) Nancy C "Nannie" Denson b 1875. Married George W. McCain.
C) Fannie E. Denson b 1877. Married Thomas Leach.
D) Lucy Ellen Denson b 1800. Married John Wesley McRae and James Handy.

My microscopic look into this family  and its origins has not concluded. I'm awaiting documents from archives and have taken a trip to Moore County. Moore is a burned county and many records prior to 1889 were burned, so there's not a massive amount of information there.

Also, the story of Franey's family has a tale of its own to tell. Until then...