Northeast North Carolina Family History – a local Black History Month Slave story…
By Irene Hampton
You may be familiar with the story of Moses Grandy, a Camden slave who published “Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy; Late a Slave in the United States of America in 1843”. In updating my internet websites in January I ran across one from Currituck that I was unaware of. The entire book can be found on the Documenting the American South website with this link (https:///docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/ferebee/ferebee.html). The Reverend London R. Ferebee published his book about his life and ministry in 1882 when he was 33 years old. He begins with a little background explaining that his father was a blacksmith by trade and an Elder of the A. M. E. Zion Church by the name of Abel M. Ferebee. At the age of twenty-three or four his father married a slave named Chloe who was owned by Mrs. Oley Whitehurst of Currituck. Abel and Chloe were the parents of ten children – seven boys and three girls. Chloe died in May of 1859 and after seven years as a widower his father remarried. When he died, he was in charge of three churches: Moses’ Temple and Mary Holly Grove in Pasquotank and Fork Bridge in Perquimans.
L. R. Ferebee refers to his mother as a “spirited woman” which caused her to be sold. “That morning he sold her to a speculator, Halstead, of Camden county, he, (Halstead) not knowing at the time it was my father’s wife until after he had bought her. He then left her and rode thirty-one miles to see my father who was then working at Col. W. F. Martin’s ship yard, Elizabeth City, N. C., and was hiring his time from his master, Dr. E. D. Ferebee, to see what arrangement he could make about buying her or getting his master to do so.
The plan was fixed between himself and master, so he bought her from the speculator by paying ($1,100.00,) eleven hundred dollars. The next day, as near as I can remember, moved her and myself and two more of the children with her, where I remained until I was large enough to render service. I was then taken from her, and saw her twice from that time unto her death. According to my age the readers will see that I was quite young. I was born at a place called the Big Ditch, on Coin Jock shore, near the Sound, Currituck county, N. C., the 18th day of August, 1849. After leaving my mother, I had a rough life. Many hardships I had to undergo, as all young slave children had to suffer. I went by water with my master a good deal until I learned to man the vessel pretty well; even at night I could steer by the compass, or by any star. My master would point out to me, before he went to his bunk, and I’ve heard him tell gentlemen in my presence he could lie down as well satisfied with me at the helm as any one of the crew. My aptness gained his affections, and I received favors of him, and he would not allow me to be cruelly treated, and at last I felt satisfied when with him. His name was Edwin T. Cowles, his assigned initials was Capt. E. T. Cowles.”
When the Union Army took over northeastern North Carolina early in the Civil War, his father, Abel Ferebee removed his family to New Bern and then to Roanoke Island where a Freeman’s Colony was created. London attended school there and did well which caused anger in another student. “He then, with envy, sought to slay me, and at his first opportunity stabbed me on the 5th day of July, 1865. In the night, about 9 o’clock, he came up behind me and committed the vicious deed. The instrument used was a dirk. He was strong enough to throw it through my left shoulder blade, and came very near touching my heart, so that I was compelled to lie at home during the months of July, August and September. In October I was able to enter school again. The schools all flourished until the latter part of 1866. When, after it was understood by both races, learned and unlearned, that freedom was established, the people then began to scatter to the different parts of North Carolina and many of the teachers went back North. My father moved back to Elizabeth City, N. C., on the 20th day of April,. 1867.” “…I managed to keep in the normal schools until I could master an English education partially, and demanded a first grade certificate front any county examiner, but having an eye and heart on the study of law, I contracted, by the consent of my father, with Judge C. C. Pool, of the First Judicial District, to live with him, for the purpose of taking lessons in Latin, law, &c. I had free access to all the books of his library and also in his law office. It was from him I got the most of my business training. It was rich, good, and came so freely from him I never felt like I wearied him in all classes of law he taught me. He then went to work and got a free school for me, the first I ever taught drawing pay from the State; he also managed that I got first-class pay.” “…. I married in March, 1872, at South Stills, Camden county, where I was then teaching, to a young lady of Gates county, N. C., by the name of Lucinda Smith, her residence being near Sunsbury.”
He goes on to discuss his attempts in politics and in becoming an A.M E. preacher and his disappointment that Joseph Price – born in Elizabeth City didn’t support him. Check out this UNC website!