Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Search for Adam Biles Part II: Rowan

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I recently posted concerning a man who had died in Stanly County, North Carolina in 1872 by the name of Adam Biles. I had been contacted by someone, a descendant of his, who was up against a brickwall, and had found him in my family tree. At the time, I had very little information on Adam, so I tried to find more, to help this descendant out.

Adam's story was atypical, and not what a searcher would expect to find, and his descendant was also a little confused about how he ended up in my family tree. The truth of it all ties into the history of America itself, which is not cut and dried, and which, after you dig into it awhile, you discover is a little more complicated and ensnarled than one might imagine.

Adam Biles came in to my family tree by way of his marriage to Matilda Shankle. Adam Biles, you see, was born a slave and was a slave of the Biles family who were founders of the town of New London.

The first mention I find of him in Stanly County was in the will of Thomas Biles Sr. (Stanly County Sr, as in Rowan County, this Thomas Biles becomes Thomas Biles Jr, as his father, John Thomas Biles, was also known as Thomas. Adam was willed to Tabitha Marbury Biles by her husband Thomas. She lived but a few years longer than Thomas and at that time, Adam passed to their oldest son, Isaac Biles and his wife Martha Moss Biles and eventually, Adam was freed by the Emancipation Proclaimation. He began farming on his own and legally married his wife, whom he had been in a committed relationship with for quite some time, and had fathered a large family with her. When Adam passed away, and his own estate was settled, his wife Matilda was named in the probate records along with daughter Eliza and her husband, Jacob Underwood, daughter Wincy and her husband, John Bell, daughter Adaline, who was not yet married, sons Whitson and George Biles and daughter Rachel, and her husband George W. Bell.

Seems simple, but it wasn't. While Adam was a slave, his wife and children were not. Matilda Shankle was a free woman of color, and was of mixed race, being described as a "very light mulatto".  Being free, her children with Adam were also born free, as they took the status of their mother. I personally have members of a "triracial isolate group" in my own family tree, or persons from remnant East Coast Virginia and Carolinas Indigenous Groups, or as they were known back then, "Indians", who had intermarried with the other ethnicities around them until they became biologically tri-racial. Some of these members of my family, descendants of one of my direct ancestors siblings, had moved to Cabarrus County, as did certain of Matilda and Adam's children, and there intermarried with the Biles/Shankle family, and that is how Adam Biles ended up in my family tree.

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I had gone as far as I could with the search for Adam Biles in Stanly County. Being formed in  1841, just a few years before Thomas Biles passed away, there was not much to go on. Knowing that the Biles family originated in Rowan, that was the next place to look.

Stanly was part of Montgomery before it became Stanly, but there was not much there to see, and no mention of Adam in any land records, which sometimes also held slave transactions.

Related image Historical map collection, Rowan County

But I had to still look first at Thomas Biles.

Name:Thomas Beles
[Thomas Biles] 
[Thomas Biles, Jr.] 
Home in 1840 (City, County, State):West Pee Dee River, Montgomery, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14:1
Free White Persons - Males - 40 thru 49:1
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 14:3
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 19:1
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 39:1
Free Colored Persons - Males - Under 10:1
Free Colored Persons - Females - Under 10:2
Free Colored Persons - Females - 24 thru 35:1
Persons Employed in Agriculture:4
Free White Persons - Under 20:5
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49:2
Total Free White Persons:7
Total Free Colored Persons:4
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves:11

The last census Thomas Biles appeared in was the 1840 census of Montgomery County, NC, which was one year before Montgomery was split by the PeeDee River and the western part became Stanly.

There were 7 free white people in his household and 4 free colored persons, one being a female between 24 and 35, two little girls under 10 and one male under 10. These were very concievably Matilda Shankle, and three of her children.

Name:Thomas Biles
Home in 1830 (City, County, State):West Side Pee Dee River, Montgomery, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - 15 thru 19:1
Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 29:1
Free White Persons - Males - 70 thru 79:1
Free White Persons - Females - 60 thru 69:1
Slaves - Males - Under 10:3
Slaves - Males - 10 thru 23:2
Slaves - Males - 24 thru 35:1
Slaves - Males - 55 thru 99:1
Slaves - Females - 10 thru 23:1
Slaves - Females - 24 thru 35:1
Slaves - Females - 36 thru 54:1
Free White Persons - Under 20:1
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49:1
Total Free White Persons:4
Total Slaves:10
Total - All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored):14

Ten years earlier in 1830, he had 10 slaves. I've not seen anything that gives an estimate of Adam's birth. His oldest daughter was born in 1830. His wife was born around 1816. He was probably a few years older. In 1844, he was the third most vauluable of the Biles slaves, meaning, he was probably still in his prime, or skilled, but not the best, so perhaps in the later years of his prime, not his twenties, but perhaps 35 to 40, so I am going to estimate his year of birth as probably being about 1805 to 1810. He might have been one of the males aged 10 to 23 in 1830, or the one 24 to 35. Living until 1872, I would not place him any older than that.

Name:Thomas Biles
Home in 1800 (City, County, State):Montgomery, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 10:3
Free White Persons - Males -10 thru 15:3
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 25:2
Free White Persons - Males - 45 and over:1
Free White Persons - Females - Under 10:3
Free White Persons - Females - 26 thru 44:1
Number of Slaves:1
Number of Household Members Under 16:9
Number of Household Members Over 25:2
Number of Household Members:14

In 1810, he had 5 slaves and in 1800, he had only 1. In 1790, he was still in Rowan County.  So, it appears Adam was either born in Stanly County, or purchased after Thomas Biles arrived here, or perhaps he came from one of the other Biles family members in Rowan County.

There are a few dots that connect.

Name:Sherfsey Biles
Age in 1870:42
Birth Year:abt 1828
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:75
Home in 1870:Harris, Stanly North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Cannot Read:Y
Cannot Write:Y
Disability Condition:Y
Male Citizen over 21:Y
Inferred Spouse:Hager Biles
Household Members:
Sherfsey Biles42
Hager Biles45

The above is a couple from the 1870 census of Stanly County. The transcribers really messed up that first name, because looking at the actual document, it clearly say "Sharper", with  a little dip on the end of the "R" at the end. Someone's fancy handwriting. Sharper is an unusual name and I can verify that it is Sharper because there is a deed in Stanly County, Book 11  Page 547, where a Sharper Biles has taken a mortgage from a company called "Ivy and Biles". Knowing one of Thomas Biles daughters married Benjamin Ivy, I can only assume this was a family business. Like Adam Biles, several of the former Biles slaves mortgaged a tract of land through Biles and Ivy after emancipation, and farmed their own land, though mortgaged.

I'd seen the name Sharper one other place while digging up in Rowan County.

In August of 1784, The will of Thomas Biles Sr, or  John Thomas Biles, the father of the Stanly County Thoma Biles Sr., was proved by one Thomas Frohock. Elizabeth, Charles and Thomas Biles qualified as executors. So there was an association with some Frohocks.

Will book D Page 163, Rowan County, NC  18 Sept. 1781, Probated in 1784. Thomas Biles, Wheelwright, wife Elizabeth to have home plantation which then goes to son John.  Son Joseph to have tract on Dials Creek. Sons Daniel and Thomas to have tract on North side of Dials Creek. Sons Thomas and Charles to share meadowland. Sons Jonathan and John to have remainder of two surveys. Daughters Deborah Biles, Dosey Biles, and Ann Biles mentioned. Executors, wife Elizabeth and sons Charles and Thomas. Witnesses, Thomas Frohock and Joshua Storie.

Related image
Historic Map of Rowan County, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. 

The above map shows the location of Frohock's Mill. Two years after the will of Thomas Biles (Rowan Sr) was probated (Note: Thomas Biles Jr of Rowan becomes Thomas Biles Sr of Stanly), is the will of John Frohock in Will Book C Page 224 dated 10 Sept. 1786.

"Brother William to have the tract where he now lives called Carter Place, my home tract called Drakes Place where I now have a negro quarter, the tract on Haw River I bought from Edward Hughes, all my lands in the forks of the Yadkin with grist and saw mills, a 400 acre tract on the north side of the Tarr River and 200 acres called Pattersons Place, 550 acres on Wolf Pitt Crrek and a lot in Halifax near the Court House"  - This guy owned property all over the map - "and negros Tom, Bengy, Annokee, her daughter Bett, Vilett, Tomey, Rose, Nell, Anny, Bob, Bett (Hunter), Luke that I bought of Magoune, Patt, Venus, Cato, Roger and Jude. Brother Thomas to have a tract on Grants Creek bought from  Colo. Alexander McCulloh with grist and Saw mills, a tract adj.  the town land of Salisbury called Hayes Place, my house in Salisbury and lots in town and a tract on the south side of Tarr River where my uncle Robert Parker formerly lived, also a tract on Taylors Creek and a tract on Betey's Creek known as Mulberry Great Low Grounds, and a tract on Second Creek bought from George Magoune and a tract bought from James Andrews on Second Creek and my right to Morby's Place and a tract up the Yadkin bought from Francis Locke and Negros Sharper, Jesse, Mary Ann, Bett, Bill, Sharper Jr., Jacob, Absolom, George, Dick, Sarah, File, Polly, Luke, Abram, Peg, Samuel Jr, Davey, Dinah, Frank, Peter, Sall, and Old Sam. The rest of the land in Virginia, Carolina and elsewhere to be sold and divided between my two brothers. The negro, Absolom, a waiting man, to be schooled one year and given his freedom. Aunt, Mary McManus, to have $200. Alexander McCullough's daughter, Miss Mary, to have $200. Mr. Hamilton to have $10 annually. Executors, my two brothers. Witnesses: John Mitchell, Max Chambers, Elizabeth Mitchell. 

The above note is a receipt stating 'Recieved Salisbury January 24,1864" - the END and I mean near the END of the Civil War - "from Thomas Biles ESQ" (This would be Thomas Biles III or known in Stanly County as Thomas Jr.) - $2950- and also fifty dollars and cash and his own slave Jim in exchange for two slaves, Sharper and Hagar. The right and title of the said slaves are guaranteed and likewise warrant them sound".

Then, Sharper and Hagar Biles show up in the 1870 census of Stanly County, NC.

Then there is the Deed, Book 11 Page 547:

"Sharper Biles to Biles and Ivey"  

Sharper Biles of Stanly County, NC owed $20 to this partnership, Biles and Ivy, who held a note against him dated October 29th of 1877.  In turn he mortgaged "one red & white spotted cow and calf, one red & white spotted steer & one red & white spotted ox, age 7". 

Sharper signed with his mark and the document was witnessed by W M Ivy.

So, it looks like Sharper Biles may have lived in Rowan County and could have been the Sharper Jr. mentioned in the will of Mr. Frohock, a very wealthy individual who owned land all over the state, and in Virginia, as well as in Rowan County.

In Deed Book 18 Page 921 In Rowan  County, Thomas Biles (Whether Jr. or Sr, however, John Thomas, the Rowan Sr., is deceased, so I am assuming this to be Thomas the Second, a Jr in Rowan and Sr. in Stanly.) lets John Turner have 141 acres on the south side of Second Creek neighboring the properties of Gill, James Kincaid, Hulin and Dent for $220. It was witnessed by Thomas H. Dent and Stephen Biles (a brother of Thomas) and was proved in Feb. of 1804. It was notated that this deed was part of a tract from Alexander Frohock (brother to John Frohock, Esquire) to Thomas Biles.

The very next deed, Book 18 Page 922 Thomas Biles of Montgomery County (recall that Stanly was part of Montgomery at this time.) to George Monrow (sp), 200 acres next to John Howard, Beard, Mashick Pinkston on Laurel Branch for 250 pounds.  It was witnessed by Daniel Biles.

There was no Adam listed in the papers of John Frohock, but who did have an Adam?

In the will of ond Thomas Munroe (a relation of the above George Munroe perhaps?) , dated June 22 1805, he left to his wife Amelia, his plantation on the Yadkin River and negros Jack, Sunday, Peter, Phimia, Lenah, and Phebe. He left to his daughter Rebecca Reagen Munroe, a plantation and mill on Sandy Creek and negros, Rachel, Sal, Delia, Hannah, Bett, Adam, and Nat. Executors were his friend Charles F. Bagge and his wife, Amelia. Witnesses were W. Chambers, Naptaly Durham and Jere Durham.

So, we found an Adam in Rowan County, but was our Adam even born in 1805? And I can't find any transactions of Thomas Biles purchasing a slave named Adam.

There were several other transactions involving Thomas Biles buying slaves, or hiring bound children. The below document is a contract between one Harriett Austin and Thomas Biles, dated February 5, 1867, wherein she hired out her son, Allen, to Thomas Biles in exchange for "2 winter sutes, (suits), two sumer sutes, 2 par shoos, (pair of shoes), 1 hat," among other item, including "20 dollars in currency".  Harriett is named as a 'freed woman' in the document. She requires Thomas Biles to treat her son humanely and to correct him when needed. She also requests Thomas Biles to take her son William, "to give him his borde + three sets of close for his laber until the 25 of December".  She also requests that William be treated humanely and kind and to be corrected as needed.

And I did find another document mentioning Adam, but it was after Thomas and Tabitha Biles had passed and involved their son, Isaac.

This document provided for the dividing of the slaves of Thomas Biles II (Sr. in Stanly, Jr. in Rowan), fairly for the children of Francis and William Biles, sons of Thomas whom had predeceased him, leaving heirs. Archibald C. Smith, Johnathan Bell and Arthur F. Atkins had been called upon to evaluate the slaves left to the widow, Tabitha Biles. It states, "whereas Adam, one of the negroes has been valued by the said commissioners at the sum of $550". Isaac Biles settled in cash with his nieces and nephews over the value of Adam, and another man, Jack. 

While I found transactions naming slaves between Thomas Biles and Benjamin New, Francis Locke (this name appears in both Rowan and Stanly County documents, maybe not the same man, but most likely related as Francis Locke was an influential and historical figure here in those days), and Truxton Kirk, no one named Adam appears. He may have even originated with the Marbury family, as slaves are mentioned, but not by name, and came through the family of Tabitha Marbury Biles. 

In ending, I do not know if Adam Biles was born into the household of Thomas Biles, or if he was purchased from another slave holder, perhaps in Rowan County. I can only place him in the household of Thomas Biles. 

While genealogy for anyone this far back can be frustrating for anyone, and trying to find documentation that just may no longer exist, it's particualarly difficult for anyone with African American roots. Sometimes, this is as far as it can ever go. 

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