Last update:Monday, 21-Sep-2009 17:45:10 MDT

BERTIE COUNTY COURT RECORDS

Bertie County was established from Chowan Precinct as a Precinct of Albermarle County in 1722.

Legal Age

Legal Age varies according to the date of court records.
THE SOURCE, Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny, Ancestry Publishing Co., Salt
Lake City, Utah, 1984. 

Legal age to:

Witness documents, testify in court, choose a guardian, serve as an
apprentice, show land to processioners, be punished for a crime, sign
contracts, act as an executor, bequeath personal property, or marry:
14-male 12-female

Be taxed or muster into militia: 16-males only

Take possession of land holdings: 16 "In possession of" on tax rolls
signifies that the person is at least 16 years old.
Practice trade: 18
Release of guardian: 21-male  18-female
Own land: 21  some states allowed females to own land at 18
Devise land by will, plead or sue in court, be naturalized, fill public
office, serve on jury or vote: 21

Bills of Sales

These recorded sales of slaves, livestock, and other personal property. In many instances they are omitted in the "cross index" to deeds.

Original Volumes A-W (Archives)


Court Records

Early Lawyers of Bertie County

Clerks of County Courts, both Inferior and Superior, usually maintained 4 principal dockets: (uniform Call Numbers have been assigned at the Archives)

Court of Ordinary- Inferior Court Superior Court

Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (1722-1868)

This is the basic Court of the County. During the week that court was going on, there was much activity in Windsor as its citizens came to conduct their business, serve as jurors and attend the various court sessions.

The name of these records change with the names of the Courts. You need to be aware of the various titles of the Legal Books when you are looking for them.

"Precinct Court" were the original Courts and used this name until 1738 when the name was changed to "County Courts". They were also known as Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. (They met "quarterly" and you'll see the reference "March Term". The business was recorded in a Minute Book (sometimes called Minute Dockets.)     Additional Resources

Justices of the Peace presided over this court. These Justices were usually men owning property and leaders of the community. They were appointed by the Governor who took the advice of the legislators. Any 3 justices made up a quorum to conduct business.

In 1760 these included: John Campbell, John Dawson, Cullen Pollock, Edward Rasor, Lillington Lockhard, Humphry Nichols, David Standley and William Gray.

The Court Records are usually not indexed, but provide genealogical gems for the persistent researcher! This court was abolished in 1868 with the reorganization of counties after the Civil War.

Bertie County, NC County Court Minutes  Haun, Weynette Parks. How to Order
Vol.1   1724-1739
Vol. 2   1740-1743, 1758-1762
Vol. 3   1762-1771
Vol. 4   1772-1780
Vol. 5   1781-1787
Vol. 6   1788-1792
Ms. Haun has meticulously transcribed these old handwritten records. But don't expect to scan her work. To comprehend the record you need to read each word. All the minutes are very abbreviated. There is a date index in the front of each volume as dates are not easily recognized in the text itself.

2nd Tues Feb 1740
309
Instrument of writing from Judith Davidson to John Davidson relinquishing her 
right of admin on ye estate of Wm Davidson dec'd, her late husband. proved by oath 
of Wm. Ruffin, a subscribing evidence.

*The underlined # has been assigned by Ms. Haun and is used in the index in the back, and is also used in the front listing of dates. This list of dates is a quick way to find out the actual date of the proceedings, as the date itself is buried within the document and difficult to locate.

Court of Ordinary- Inferior Court
Microfilm of Court Records 1744-1769 are available in A&H, in Chapel Hill Southern Collection, Historic Hope Plantation (Windsor).

Records 1690-1722 are in the old Albemarle County records.

Original Records Located in Archives - Raleigh

Minutes, 1724-1868; 21 volumes, 1 pamphlet
Appearance Dockets, 1838-1861, 1866-1868; 2 volumes
Costs Docket, 1760-1763; 1 pamphlet
Execution Dockets, 1748-1868; 16 volumes
Crown Dockets, 1748-1775; 2 volumes
State Dockets, 1778-1868; 5 volumes
Trial, Appearance and Reference Dockets, 1725-1797; 11 volumes
Trial, and Apperance Dockets, 1798-1868; 8 volumes
Clerk's Account Book, 1755-1761; 1 volume
Clerk's Receipt Book, 1824-1828; 1 volume

Microfilm in Archives
County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions

LDS Microfilm in Family History Centers
Inferior Court


Superior Court

The "Higher Courts" heard all types of civil, criminal and equity cases. The Superior Court required greater legal knowledge as the cases it handled were more complex. From 1682-1694 this was the Court of Albemarle County.(These records From 1738-1754 there were three Circuit Courts. 1754-1760 it was called Supreme Courts of Justice and from 1760 District Superior Courts. In 1806-1868 a division of responsibility created County Superior Courts and County Courts of Equity

Equity cases involve two parties whose claims (rights) conflict. The Equity suit seeks to compel an individual's action, i.e. divorces, foreclosures of liens, trusts, partitions, etc.
The civil case seeks monetary damages for injuries for himself, his property or reputation, etc.

Superior Court
Original Records Located in Archives - Raleigh

Minutes, 1807-1915; 11 volumes, 1 manuscript box
Equity Execution Dockets, 1824-1835; 1 volume
Equity Trial Dockets, 1808, 1818, 1820-1833; 2 volumes
Execution Dockets, 1808-1868; 3 volumes, 1 manuscript box
State Dockets, 1817-1868; 2 volumes
Criminal Issues Dockets, 1871-1900; 1 Fibredex box
Trial and Appearance Dockets, 1807-1871; 5 volumes
Civil Issues Dockets, 1870-1900; 1 Fibredex box
Miscellaneous Dockets, 1814-1875; 1 manuscript box
Civil Action papers, 1737-1905; 28 Fibredex boxes
Criminal Action papers, 1734-1868; 6 Fibredex boxes

Microfilm in Archives
Superior Court

Judge Hilliard

Under-40 Judge Makes “Imposing Appearance”
250th Anniversary Edition of Bertie Ledger - Sept 1972. Used with permission of Harry Thompson

The Superior Court of Bertie County held in our county-town Windsor, is now in session, having convened on the third Monday of November 1874. Judge Hilliard presiding. The preliminaries of the court having been dispatched and the Grand Jury impaneled and qualified. His Honor Judge Hilliard addressed them, in the discharge of their duties as the Grand Inquest for the county.

We have seldom heard a more clear, able and lucid exposition of the offences against the criminal laws of the state. The charge was one, which would have done credit to the very best and ablest Judges who have presided in our courts for many years.

Judge Hilliard presents quite an imposing appearance upon the Bench. He is a gentleman of fine personal appearance and we would suppose he was considerably under forty years of age.

The Judge proceeded at once to the trial of the state dockets and made considerable progress the first day of court, a thing quite unusual in our courts. We predict for the new Judge, a very favorable impression upon our people, for the promptness, patience and ability with which he discharges his Judicial duties.

Joseph Martin Esq., the new Solicitor is in attendance upon the court. Mr. Martin having been Solicitor before his election to that office, in this district, is therefore fully acquainted with the duties of his office. He seems to be a prompts, able and efficient officer.

The following members of the bar – Messrs. H. A. Gillam, Capt. Octavious Coke of Edenton; J. L. Mitchell of Winton; Maj. L. C. Latham, John A. Moore, Plymouth; Judge J. W. Albertson of Hertford; resident lawyers, P. H. Winston, S. B. Spruill, D. C. Winston, D. E. Tayloe, D. Worthington and Joseph B. Cherry. There are about sixty five indictments on the state dockets--no case of capital felony. (Excerpted from The Albemarle Times - Windsor Weekly, Nov 20, 1874)


1937 Survey of Records indicated the following were in the Windsor Courthouse.Some Loose Papers may have been lost, but most of the material was safely transferred to the Archives.

"All records are in Clerk's vault, first floor of courthouse; in Treasurer's office; and in storage room in coal house back of courthouse. In Clerk's vault unless otherwise indicated."

LDS Microfilm in Family History Centers
Superior Court


Examples from County Courts - Published in Wynette Haun's Books

INVENTORY:"An inventory of the Estate of David Henderson was exhibited and proved by the oath of George Henderson one of the Exrs. Ordd. to be recorded." (May Court 1736)

MILLS:"Read again this day the petition of John Davison for a Grist Water Mill at the mouth of MacCrays Branch and the said Macrary not appearing the said pet'n is granted as prayed for and ordered that a warrant issue to the Surveyor General or Deputy to lay out one acre of land out of Robert Macrary's land in the most convenient place for that purpose and ordered that William Ruffin, Thos. Charles Stevens, William Cotton, and Sam'l Cotton to appraise the said land and that a return therof be made to the next Court.(May Court 1736)

DEED:A deed of sale from Robert Lanier to William spikes was proved. Jurat Thos. Jarnagan 40 pounds pd. *This might have been a Slave (May Court 1736)

APPRENTICE:August 1763. John James, orphan of Easter James, aged about 7 years. Bound to John Moor. Cordwainer. Signers: Cullen Pollock, John ?: Witness: John Johnston

A child who was orphaned, abandoned, or whose parents were unable to provide for the care, was bound as an apprentice. The agreement specified the time period, but it was usually until the child reached 21. The "master" provided food, clothing, housing and trained him in a trade.

Many Apprentice records are in the State Archives arranged by years. Some material is in bound volumes and those may be indexed by either apprentices' or masters' names.

Tracing your Slave Ancestor - A Study

Contributed by: Cathy Farris 

As I have been sorting thru the different files I have gathered on my 
BRYAN(T) line, I have had in my possession all along, but didn't see this 
until I made an outline of my ancestor...is the whereabouts of Milly. By 
working on the various surnames related to my BRYAN(T)s, I was able to see 
where Milly has been...and if I had a few more records, I'll bet I could 
find out more about Milly and her children...maybe even her parents.

This doesn't happen all the time, but I thought it worth posting...who 
knows, maybe someone is looking for  this Milly. I also thought this was 
one of the best research lessons I have followed up on.

Maybe this group would like to make a research project here, by using 
the  books and records you have right there beside your desk. We know she 
was in Bertie and then Randolph. Maybe someone out there would like to 
try...as a research project... to find the rest of the story on Milly WIGGINS
===============================================


The  story of the WIGGIN family bounded out to different people thru two 
county court systems.

This outline was on Aaron ELLIS dec'd 1769, 2nd husband to 
Catherine____BRYANT ELLIS dec'd 1779. I tried to search all records to put 
his activities in chron order for study purposes...mostly for trying to 
figure out how Aaron met Catherine widow of William BRYAN dec'd 1744 
Bertie. They are the parents of Michael BRYAN dec'd 1794 Bertie.

The records below show his association with Milly WIGGINS born about 1757. 
There are 2 Milly 'WIGGINS, mother and daughter.

"Bertie Co Court Minutes, book III" Haun

1763 29 Nov  Negro boy named Jacob aged 7, bound to Aaron ELLIS, Cordwainer.
  Signers: Thomas PUGH, Aaron x ELLIS.
wit: John JOHNSTON

1763 29 Nov  Negro girl named Amelia aged 5. bound to Aaron ELLIS, Spining, 
Nitting and Sewing.
Signers: Thom PUGH, Aaron x ELLIS. no wit

COMMENT: Maybe Amelia is Milly?  cathy in the record below it states as of 
1775 Milly is 18 years old. I believe this to be the Milly bound to 
Catherine MARSH daughter of Catherine___BRYAN ELLIS.

1763 29 Nov Negro boy named Arthur age 2 bound to Aaron ELLIS, Cooper. Signers:
  Thomas PUGH, Aaron ELLIS,
wit: John JOHNSTON


1769    Ordered William WIGGINS 5 year orphan of Sarah WIGGINS be bound to 
Josiah GODDEN (GARDNER?) until 21 to learn trade of cooper.

1771  969  Court ordered that Jacob WEGGINS the mulato bastard of Mille a 
mulattoe free wench
         be bound to Catherine ELLIS age abt 14 til he arrives at age 21.
                      Court ordered that Mille a mulatoe the bastard of 
Mille a mulatoe free wench age abt 13
          be bound to Catherine ELLIS til she arrive at age 21
                       Court ordered that Arthur the mulatoe bastard of 
Mille a mulatoe free wench age abt 11 be bound   an apprentice to Catherine 
ELLIS

NOTE: 8 years have passed since the court ordered these same children to 
Aaron ELLIS, Jude would be 18 by now. Jude is mentioned in the will of 
Catherine ELLIS in 1779.

Book IV
1772    Orderd Allin WIGGINs age 6 bastard child of JUDAH WIGGINS be bound 
apprentice to George         WILLIAMs.
         Ordered Sarah WIGGINS age 10 bastard mulatoe child of JUDAH 
WIGGINS be bound to George  WILLIAMS
         Ordered that Anthony WIGGINS age 8 son of Sarah WIGGINS be bound 
as apprentice to Luke  RABY to learn trade of planter.
         Ordered Edward WIGGINS age 7 son of Sarah WIGGINS be bound appt to 
Luke RAYBE to learn trade    of planter.
1774    Ordered Jemina WIGGINS age 8 bastard mulatto child of Sarah WIGGINS 
bound appt to John  SKINNER.
         Order Mary Betth age 10 mulatto child of Sarah WIGGINS be bound 
appt to John SKINNER.



"Bertie County Court Minutes Book Book IV",  Haun:
1775    Motion of Edward WIGGINS to have order for court to bind his 
children to John SKINNER quashed, the court being convinced of SKINNERS ill 
and deceitful behavior in procuring said order do hereby order and command 
that said former order be quashed and entirely revoked.

1775    Ordered Jesse WIGGINs age 8, Luke WIGGINS 6, be bound apprt to John 
GARDNER to learn trade of shoemaker and Letters WIGGINS age 5, Pegg WIGGINS 
3 be bound to John GARDNER to spin, orphans of ____WIGGINS.

Below is a court order for Milly WIGGINS to Catherine MARSH daughter of 
William BRYANT and Catherine _____BRYANT ELLIS:

from "Edgecombe Co NC Abst of Court Min". 1744--46, 1757-94 by Marvin K. 
DORMAN Jr.
  1968, Salt Lake 975.646p2d

1775  Wed 19 July Milly WIGGINS 18 years old, daughter of Sarah WIGGINS, 
bound to Edmund MARSH and his wife Catherine.
NOTE: Milly WIGGINS a free wench, as we see from the entry below Catherine 
ELLIS owned Milly and then passed her on to Edmund MARSH her son in law. 
There were several children by  Sarah WIGGENS that were mentioned in Bertie 
court records being bound out to familiar names. Since Catherine ELLIS 
mentioned Judah in her will...from the 1763 entry below it would seem that 
JUDE is sister to Millie WIGGINS...not her mother.


from Bertie Court....
1763    On motion of Thomas JONES att at law in behalf of Aaron ELLIS an 
order of court to have a negro boy Matthew 14˝, Jacob 7, girl JUDE 10, 
Mille 5, Arthur 2, until age 21, to learn the following, Matthew - cooper, 
Jacob - cordwainer, Arthur - cooper.

daughter Catherine BRYAN married Edmund MARSH, they moved from Bertie to 
Randolph Co NC. An abstract of his will can be found in Grimes for Guilford 
Co. NC, however, I have a written copy from Randolph Co NC. 1779...cathy


NOTE: Another find on Milly comes from the "Randolph Co., NC Genealogical 
Journal"- Summer 2000 page 16:

         Capias   28 July 1794 issued by Robert REDING, JP, on testimony of 
Darias RAMAGE that "one Milly WIGGEN a Negro Woman is a free person that 
there is four of her Children in the possession of Charles STEWARD one with 
Uriah MARSH and one in  the care of William ARMSTED, Esqur. and held as 
slaves. These persons to come forward and answer the charge that these 
children are of right free persons.


NOTE: Capias---A writ issued from the magistrate to a constable, ordering 
him to find an individual, most often the accused, based on a complaint. 
Once found, the accused person is forced to post a recognizance, thereby 
agreeing to answer the charge at an upcoming term of court. Usually, the 
defendant is not physically detained for matters arising before the lower 
court. The names of witnesses are frequently recorded on  the reverse of 
capias writs and are included in  the abstract after the symbol, "w/."

I do not have the rest of this story. If one is interested...Maybe starting 
with the 1800 census to see if Milly WIGGINS is entered in Randolph Co. NC. 
Also, check the name Edward WIGGINS mentioned above. He must be father of 
some,  of the WIGGINS children and maybe he is listed on another record. 
The name WIGGINS can be found in Bertie. I wonder if Edward took on the 
name of his previous owner?  Cthy
BASTARDY BONDS
Bonds had to be posted for the care of a "child born out of wedlock" to protect the county from having to provide for its care. The woman was asked to declare the name of the father, and if she did this man was issued a warrant to pay the bond. If she didn't name the father, her own father or another friend might have to post the bond for her.
1739-1880 are originals in the NC Archives 2 fiberdex boxes(incomplete as many were lost)
1875-77 are microfilmed in the NC Archives
"North Carolina Bastardy Bonds" by Betty J & Edwin A. Camin (1990) covers bonds in 10 counties of North Carolina from 1739 to 1879
Mother
Date
3 Bondsmen
(I've been told that usually the 1st Bondsman is often the father...)
 Sample Bonds

JUSTICES: Mr. William Kinchin and Mr. Rowland Williams qualifyed themselves as members of this Court and took their Places upon the Bench accordingly. (May term 1736)

SHERIFFS: May 1792
Ordered that Solomon Cherry be appointed Sheriff of this County for the present year.

TAXES:The County Courts annually set the Tax rate. At first Taxes were on numbers of people; later this was based on acreage or value of land. The captains of the militia in each district (that's the early divisions of the county) would call a "Muster Day" for the first day of April annually. Each male head of household had to bring their list of taxables, i.e. specific acreage, all the counties they owned land in, number of white "polls" (males over 16 and taxable slaves.) Taxes were collected by the Sheriff. JURY SELECTION:" The following persons were drawn to serve as Grand Jurors during the sitting of this term.

Luke Collins	Edward Griffin
William Rascoe	Jesse Garrett
Christian Reed	Thomas Sutton
Amos Turner		Moses Purvis
Allen Purvis		Henry Harrell
Jas Leggett		William Morriss
Jas Gardner		Christopher Harrell
Jury Lists were compiled from Tax Lists and Voter Registration Lists. The Legislature of 1893 and 1905 required the Clerks of Superior Court to keep records of the jurors. These can be found in Bound Volumes usually called "Record of Jurors". They are arranged alphabetically with the date of service.

ASSAULT: "Whereas Saml Cotton Constable hath this day made complaint to this Court that James Barnes, of this prect, on Monday last resisted him with force and arms in executing a warrent from John Edwards, Gent. one of the Majsty Justices for this Prect. concerning a Negro clamed by James Thompson in the possess of ye sd James Barnes and that he resqued the sd Negro from him and beat and abused him in ye Exn of his Office ordered that the Marshall do forthwith take the sd James Barnes in custody and bring him before this court tomorrow by twelve of the clock and that the Marsl summon sufficient assistance in apprehending the sd barnes to answer the sd complaint."


Reform of 1868

The Constitution of North Carolina was rewritten in 1868 to provide a more democratic county government. The "old" Court of Pleas and Quarters was dissolved and its judicial duties divided between the Justices of Peace and the Superior Court. The Administrative duties were to be handled by 5 men elected by the county voters, i.e. election of sheriff, coroner, etc.

The counties were divided into township which each elected Boards to assess property for taxes and care for roads, etc. The support for this democratic system was in the blacks who only a few years earlier had been slaves as well as those whites in NC who had remained loyal to the Union. Those who had actively participated in the "rebellion" were not able to vote, but they formed the Conservative Party to work against the reforms.

In 1875, political power had changed and modifications were made so that the Board members would be appointed by the Justices....not by votes. In 1895, the voting rights were again restored.

Additional County Court Resources

MICROFILM RECORDS:
[NOTE: duplicate reels of microfilms may be purchased from NC Archives:
Duplicate Microfilm Rates:
Diazo (non-silver) duplicate film, per reel: $10.00 (16mm.); $12.00 (35mm.)
Silver duplicate film, per reel: $15.00 (16mm.); $18.00 (35mm.)
For details, and to ensure current prices, click here to check the info on the NC Archives website!

From: "Guide to Research Materials in the NC State Archives: County Records" (published 1997 by
NC Archives & History) -- this book may be purchased through NC Archives (cost $15 in 1998)

Winslow, Raymond A. "The County Court". North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal (Vol 10: 1984: 70-79, 134-143.
    Excellent down to earth article which really makes the Court and Justices comes alive!

Welcome to the North Carolina Encyclopedia. The first section "Early Beginnings" is exellent background information.

County Records in the Archives

Descriptive cards report precisely what records exist in the Archives for each county (for example: Bertie County, Apprentice Bonds, 1750-1889). These descriptive cards are in a catalog in the Search Room. Researchers are expected to use this catalog to determine the call number necessary to locate the records wanted for research. Call slips to records are available at the card catalog.

North Carolina Genealogical Reference. Wallace R. Draughton, 1966
    Individual County Sections indicate locations of Records.

North Carolina Research Genealogy and Local History. Helen Leary and Maurice R. Stirewalt, 1980. Chapter on County Courts by Raymond Winslow,Jr.

DUHAIME'S LAW DICTIONARY Lloyd Duhaime's site is helpful when you get stuck on unknown terms!

Dictionary of Law 1893

How to Order Bertie Co. Court Minutes

Vol.1   1724-1739   $20.00
Vol. 2   1740-1743, 1758-1762  $20.00
Vol. 3   1762-1771   $20.00
Vol. 4   1772-1780   $20.00
Vol. 5   1781-1787   $22.50
Vol. 6   1788-1792   $22.50
North Carolina residents and Libraries add 6% Sales Tax.
Add Postage $2.00 1st book; .50 each additional book North Carolina: Research at Home
Attn: Weynette Parks Haun, Publish
243 Argonne Dr
Durham NC 27704-1423

Sample Bastardy Bonds

Reel CR. 010.30005 containing Bertie County Court Minutes 1818-1832
disclosed the details of this bond.
Perhaps the court minutes are the place to look for details on these
matters.

"date______, 1829
State vs ____ ______

__________ & ______, &__________ acknowledge themselves indebted to the
State of North Carolina in the form of $200.00 viz, The said ____ ____
$100.00 and the said ___ _____ & ____ ____ $50.00 each to be levied of
their goods and chattels, land & testaments respectively but to be
(void?) on (education?) that the said ____ ____ make his personal
appearance at our next county court on the _____,_______ next to answer
a charge for bastrdy and not default without leave first had obtained.

Date___ Term 1829
____ _____ entered into bond with ___ ___ & ____ ___ securities for the
maintenance of a a bastard child begotten on the body of ____ ____.

===================Earlier times = "pounds" ==========================
STATE of NORTH-CAROLINA

Know all Men by these Presents, that 
We----------------------------------------------------
are held and firmly bound unto the Justices of the Court of Pleas and 
Quarter- Sessions of Bertie County, in the sum of Two Hundred Pounds, to the 
which payment well and truly made, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors 
and Administrators, jointly and severally firmly by these presents.  Sealed 
with our seals, and dated this---------------day of ------------------18-----.

The condition of the above obligation is such, That whereas the above bounden 
--------------------------------hath begotten a Bastard Child on the body of 
-------------------------single woman:  Now in case the 
said------------------------------shall well and truly keep the County of 
Bertie harmless from the maintenance of the said child, and shall pay to the 
said --------(name of mother of child)--------such sum or sums as the Court 
of Pleas and Quarter-Sessions, held for Bertie County, may allow for the 
maintenance of the said child as the same shall become due, then this 
obligation to be void, else to remain in full force and virtue.

Signed, sealed and acknowledged 
in the presence of                                   
---------------------------------------(Seal)

                                                             
---------------------------------------(Seal)

                                                             
---------------------------------------(Seal)




Some Lawyers of Bertie County

The Chronicler of the Bertie County Historical Association, Volume XI October , 1962 No. 2 (Used with permission of Mr. Harry Thompson)

by J. A. Pritchett

David Stone is perhaps one of the most oldest, if not the oldest, of lawyers in Bertie County. There were a number of the contemporary period, but David Stone probably is the best known of the early lawyers. He was born in Bertie County on the 17th of February, 1770, at Hope, which is about five miles West of Windsor, on what was then known as the Old Halifax Road, and is now the Windsor-Lewiston Road. His elementary education was as good as could be secured in this country and after his academic studies were finished, he entered Princeton College and was a distinguished scholar there. He finished at Princeton in 1788. He was a scholar of General William R. Davie at Halifax and from him evidently gained a great deal of information which was to help him later in life. In 1790 he received a license to practice law and soon ranked high as a lawyer. He entered the political arena at an early age, in fact at age 21 he was elected as a member of the House of Commons. He served three successive terms there. He served as Judge of the Superior Court from 1795 to 1798. In 1799 he was elected to Congress, and in 1801 was a member of the United States Senate. He served as the United States Senator until 1806, when he was elected Judge of the Supreme Court, which position he resigned in 1808 and became Governor of the State. In 1813 he was elected U. S. Senator again for six years. He was twice married and one of his daughters was Mrs. Harriett Biddle, who lived at Rosefield here in Windsor, N.C. during her last days. By his second marriage, he left no children. He died in 1818 at the age of 48.

I would place perhaps second among the early lawyers, the brilliant William W. Cherry. He too, entered politics and was a member of the House of Commons from Bertie County. He also served as a member of the Senate and in 1845 he was nominated as a member of Congress and had death not intervened while he was attending Court at Jackson in Northampton County, in May 1845, he would have no doubt established a record equal to that of David Stone. Those who were engaged in practice with W. W. Cherry could not but wonder at the admirable manner in which he managed his cases, knowing as they did that the time which he ought to have been spent in preparation was passed at the card table, around the intoxicating bowl. The story is told of him that is oft repeated now, that he opened an important cause by making a very able argument on the wrong side, but being made aware of his mistake just as he was about to close, he immediately with admirable presence of mind, commenced a reply for his own client, by saying that the argument which he had just made was what he supposed would be urged by his opponent and he would proceed to answer it and expose his fallacy. It is told, however, that his first argument was so masterful that he was unable to successfully overcome it and persuade the jury, in behalf of his client.

Another lawyer who became prominent was James Allen. History records that his parents died when he was young and that one, Thomas Turner, of Windsor, observing him and noting his brightness and remarkable head, became interested and persuaded him to go to school at his expense. He was very proficient in school and it is said that he walked to Washington City during the administration of General Jackson to solicit an appointment at West Point and having a letter to Governor Branch, who was then Secretary of the Navy, in the cabinet of General Jackson. Governor Branch introduced him to the President, who looked at him and asked him a few questions and upon faith of his pluck in walking to Washington, and doubtless his intellectual head, appointed him a cadet at large. He went to West Point where he took the very highest stand, being in the class with General Lee of the Confederate service, graduating equal first with Henry Clay. After graduating, he remained in the army for a few years as there appeared no prospect from law practice in the immediate future. He soon returned to Windsor and it is said that no lawyer was more convincing to a jury and his speeches showed a powerful mind. He ranked with Colonel David Outlaw, Cherry and Paine as speakers.

There were two lawyers bearing the Outlaw name in Windsor, one Colonel David Outlaw, who was born about 1865 and succeeded by a few years the birth of his kinsman, George Outlaw. Both of them were lawyers of distinction and both served in the Legislative Halls, George Outlaw was the first moderator of the Chowan Baptist Association and history records him as having a long career of service as a lawyer. One can look at the deeds and conveyances now recorded in Bertie County Public Registry, and see that both of them were very active in matters dealing with real estate. It would take a long time to give much detail about each of the many great lawyers that Bertie County has furnished.

I am going to refer briefly to several of them whom I have personally known that were not actively engaged in practice in Bertie or adjoining areas, but who nevertheless contributed a great deal to the illustrious county in which we live. The one outstanding in my mind is the late E. S. Askew, who had license to practice law, but I understand never engaged in the legal practice. Another was C. B. Sessoms of Colerain, who practiced for a short while. Another was J. M. Gatling, who practiced for a short while and then went to Washington, where he served as Secretary of the Senate, and in various capacities in Washington until his death a few years ago. Alex Outlaw was another who did very little practice and left here and went to Pasquotank County.

The legal profession in Bertie County is greatly indebted to the Winston family. Patrick Henry Winston, who was a native of Franklin County, but resided in Bertie County a greater part of his life, represented Bertie County in the Legislature in 1850 and 1854. Subsequently, he was selected to the Council of the State and by that body chosen president, a position which involved great responsibility at the time. He was chosen a member of the Constitutional Convention from Franklin in 1865. He had gone back to Franklin County during the period of the Civil War.

Judge Francis D. Winston was practicing at the Bertie County Bar when I came to Windsor and I shall always remember many of the fine stories that he told. He served as Clerk, Judge Superior Court, U. S District Attorney, Lieutenant Governor and later on Judge of the County Court. Duncan Cameron Winston, a relative also practiced in Windsor.

There are many other able lawyers who have lived in Bertie County and whose names are now familiar to all of us.



Bertie County Page last updated: Monday, 21-Sep-2009 17:45:10 MDT


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