William Phillip Waters and Zylphia Thompson:
A Working Biographical Sketch


© 2018, Alex Colvin


Last update: January 20, 2020

Parentage and First Generation Heirs:


Prior to being considered criminals because of their marriage, neither William nor Zylphia were especially unruly citizens. Both were from fairly large rural families situated in adjacent Wilkes and Ashe Counties, North Carolina, respectively. Born at home c. 1797, to John Phillip Waters (1770-1830,) and Elizabeth Collum (c. 1776 - c. 1813,)  William was the eldest of five siblings, which included his only sister, Louisa Waters (1807-1881). William was likely born on his family’s fifty-acre homestead on Mulberry Creek, a branch of the Yadkin River, land his father purchased through a land grant a year earlier in 1796.[1] In 1797, Wilkes county itself was barely 20 years old, having been carved from Surry County in 1777. And the same year his father bought his fifty acres, the county seat of Wilkesboro was established, a settlement so tiny and remote it would take more than a century for its population to reach 900 souls.[2]  Yet, the entire county, which encompassed some 800 square miles, contained, by 1800, more than 7, 200 inhabitants, nearly 800 of whom, some 11%, were enslaved. The Walters, however, were not among that population; they were among the fewer than seventy  “free non-white” residents living in the county.[3]


As for William’s father, John,  he was reportedly a French Huguenot, a pejorative given to French Protestants fleeing religious persecution. That claim is provided in a hagiography of William’s younger brother, Wilburn Waters,  a work which boosted his fame as a fearless bear hunter.[4]  This claim, however, does not comport with what is known of either the French Huguenot diaspora in America or of its colonies in North Carolina at the time period given. The majority of those who fled to American did so in the  late 17th century and colonized mostly in Virginia; those who thereafter migrated to North Carolina in the early years of the 18th century, settled largely in Beaufort County where they helped establish the settlement of Bath, in 1704. By 1707,  Huguenots were also settling  near New Bern in Craven County along the Trent and Neuse rivers.[5]  John, as noted earlier,  was born ca.1770, more than half a century after these events took place, and was, very likely, born on North Carolina soil, if not in Wilkes county itself. John Waters’ occupation is not given, and there is little in the record describing him; William’s mother is somewhat less of a mystery, likely being of Native American descent, although to what degree or from what tribe is unclear. What is clear is that William himself was born of a mixed-race parentage. Just as William would eventually face the state’s wrath for his marriage to Zylphia, his father and mother, in 1809, when William was a lad of twelve years, were themselves indicted and severely fined for a similar offence.


According to the official government report commissioned by the House of Representatives for the nation’s second census, in 1800, there were over 470,000 slaves in North Carolina in addition to the more than 133,000 souls enumerated as “all other free persons except Ind[ians]” at the time John and Elizabeth Collum were co-habitating as a married couple.[6] The Wilkes County, North Carolina,  the 1800 Population Schedule shows John was among that aggregate. [7] In Wilkes county alone, according to the same census data, there were some 790 slaves while John was enumerated among the sixty-four residents considered part of a free non-white tax-paying population.[8] Wilkes was home to the  third largest slave population and the largest population of free non-white residents (excluding Native Americans) within a six-county census district.[9]  Most of those counties were sparsely populated, with an estimated six to eighteen inhabitants per square mile, according to available cartographic data.[10] 


Perhaps it was during his parent’s trial that William learned that he and his siblings were born out of wedlock. His father, in his petition to the North Carolina legislature seeking relief of the punishing £25 pounds with which he and Elizabeth had each been burdened, explained:          


“that about forteen [sic] years ago your petitioner did take into his house a Certain Elisabeth Culms [sic] a woman of colour, and by the strict attention of the said Elisabeth, to our petitioners concerns he became attached to the said Elisabeth in such a manner that, your petitioner did Intend to make her his lawfull [sic] wife, but being informed that such a connection would be Illegal it was from time to time defered [sic] to the present day.”[11]


It was sometime in the early eighteen-teens, shortly after the birth of his youngest son, Wilburn Waters, (1812-1879) that John removed to Chester County, South Carolina with some of his younger children, while abandoning two of his sons to  Wilkes County Commission Chair, William Lenoir. In the Wilber Waters biography, the reason given for the relocation was his father’s inconsolable grief at the death of Elizabeth c. 1813. Whatever the true reason, the records show John placed both Wilburn and Wesley with Lenoir, who rapidly bound Wilburn out  to Wilkes County attorney,  Francis "Frank" Vanoy.[12]  Wilburn’s elder brother,  Wesley Wilkes Waters, (c. 1799-1834,) was indentured, “to the age of twenty-one,”  during the same court proceeding to a Jacob W. Grady, to become a farming apprentice. He was a fourteen year old “colored boy” according to court records.[13] William would have been about sixteen at the time of this separation from his father and brothers. However, William Lenoir was no stranger to John Waters. In 1801, John bought one of Lenoir’s Wilkesboro town lots for $75.00 which encompassed about a quarter-acre.[14]  Yet, a few short years later, John lost it to what was likely a Sherriff’s auction in 1807 for back taxes. Lenoir  re-purchased the lot. This was just two years before  John and Elizabeth would be indicted on the charge of “adultery and fornication.”[15]


As to the remaining three children, John’s modern day descendants believe he took two of them – Louisa and Wallace, (who would have been approximately eight and four respectively,) with him to Chester County, South Carolina. Christian Eckman, the most critical researcher among them and a direct descendant of John Waters has spent years compiling a rich cache of primary records as well as visiting archives and important landmarks in his ancestral history. A careful analysis of the 1820 population schedule for the John Waters household in Chester County, South Carolina confirms Eckman’s belief.  In that census, we find Wallace as well as his elder brother, Wesley Wilkes Walter, born. ca. 1799, who would have been about twenty-one and of marriageable age. Three females are also enumerated; two, in their teens, and another who is likely John’s new wife. Later census gives her first name as “Nancy.”  The two teenage girls are likely Louisa Waters and Wesley’s new wife, Martha “Mattie” Kees.[16] There are several documents which support the claims regarding the household composition.  For example, later census enumerating the households of Wesley’s first three children show they were each born in South Carolina, beginning with Mary Elizabeth Waters, who was born in 1821. His fourth child, John W. Waters, however, was born in 1829 in Wilkes County – an event which not only coincided with Wesley’s land grant purchase there but serves as a clear indication of where he planned to settle his family.[17] Moreover, it should come as no surprise that Wesley took a young bride; the very concept  of “childhood” -- the idea that prepubescence conferred special treatment that warranted nurturing and protection -- was only beginning to culturally germinate with the slow emergence of a middle class in urban centers. The rich scholarship available on the topic confirms this. One recent example,  which has been well received by critics in the literature,  is Nicholas Syrett's, “American Child Bride."[18] In addition, later census show the couple’s different ages making Martha’s age at marriage a simple matter of deduction. Interestingly, using county-level personal property tax records, Wesley can be traced to an earlier period residing in Grayson County, Virginia, (Ashe’s county’s adjacent neighbor,) where, in 1817 and 1818,  he was living with his older brother,  William. What prompted Wesley to relocate to Grayson – which required he abandon his apprenticeship -- is difficult  to say. However, in those records both he and William are is listed as “F Mulatto” meaning a free mulatto.[19]


William’s whereabouts in 1820 are not well established. However, his  appearance on the  Grayson County  tax records indicated he was considered a head of house and likely deciding his own affairs as best he could.


Zylphia Thompson, (c. 1819 – 1889) could boast an even larger family than William’s  The eldest child of John Thompson ( c. 1798-1880) a white male, and Mary “Polly” Blevins (c. 1799-1884,) Zylphia was also the eldest of her ten siblings. Her childhood and teenage years, however,  were not nearly as turbulent. Not originally from Ashe County, her father purchased 100 acres there on the Cornelius branch of Big Horse Creek in 1834 and received his patent in 1840.[20] Geographically,  Ashe County, which had been annexed from Wilkes county in 1799,  was proportionally smaller than Wilkes for obvious reasons. It was the state’s most northwesterly frontier bordering both Tennessee and Virginia simultaneously. Its population at the century’s turn consisted of just over 2,700 souls, with a non-white population of 140, eighty-five of whom were enslaved. The remaining fifty-five, like the Thompsons, were considered “free.” [21] Occupation data is unavailable directly from these early census, but later compilations shows that in 1840, the majority of Ashe’s population – slightly more than 2,100 residents -- were employed in agriculture; it is therefore fair to assume John Thompson was a farmer and that his 100 acres were put to use in agrarian pursuits.[22] Similar data also shows the enslaved residents in Ashe in 1840 also represented some 23% of the same population.[23]


William’s Legal Troubles Begin


Two years after John Thompson paid the government land office in Raleigh in 1834 for his acreage in Ashe, William Waters got his first serious taste of early 19th century persecution of free men of color in Ashe county. Still, the late fall of 1836 must have been something of a relief for Waters; that November the county surveyor was finally able to plat the 100 acres he’d bought  the previous month. It was situated along the headwaters of “Big Pine” on what was then known as Liberty Knob, situated near Brush Creek. It was nestled in the Blue Ridge, but literally a few miles east of the Tennessee-North Carolina border.[24] But that summer, in June, Waters had been  arrested and  charged with Insurrection with negros.[25]


Although none of the depositions from the several affiants who testified for both the defense and prosecution have survived, the original indictment has, along with the clerk’s pre and post-trial notations on it. The accusation arose from the state’s star witness, a traveling Baptist minister, Drury Senter, who told the Ashe county Justice of the Peace, Enoch Baldwin, on June 6th, 1836, he had,  “just reason to believe that William P. Waters,  a Colored man [had] been guilty of trying to raise an insurrection with the Negroes.”[26]  William was ordered arrested and held. Four days later, he was transported to Jefferson County where he appeared before Superior Court justices there for his trial. In the 1830s, even the suspicion of insurrection – especially by a negro -- was a capital offense, punishable by jailing, severe beatings, lynching, or death by whatever means was most expeditious to the courts or the militia – many of whom had been called out -- a consequence of the Nat Turner uprising of 1831 in Virginia,  a horror still  fresh in living memory. Fifty-five white people had been slaughtered, some gruesomely so.


Moreover, the extremism that beset many North Carolina counties to protect whites against slave revolts in 1831 resulted in numerous cruel killings of slaves as heightened paranoia reigned unchecked.[27]  Virginia was just next door to Ashe; it was a border county. And the punishment for insurrection whether by slave or free negro was death – without benefit of clergy.[28] Yet, oddly, in William’s case, although he was found guilty of the charge, the judge was not evidently terribly convinced of the hysterics of  Senter’s claim.  However, whether William walked from the courthouse or was conveyed to debtor’s jail, is unknown; the records only tell us is he was fined court cost of $1.20.[29] What caused the judge’s leniency is somewhat of a mystery. Not so mysterious are the extant North Carolina statues which oppressed slaves and free peoples of color very similarly. In fact, through most of the Antebellum period (1820-1860, ) North Carolina slaves laws almost routinely included the words “free people of color” in titles clearly intending the acts to apply to groups. Like slaves, for example, neither could  free people of color own guns, engage in gambling, buy liquor, vote, nor marry, (in the case of the non-enslaved people of color, they could not marry whites.)   Nevertheless, Waters’ living descendants believe it was Waters status as a preacher and teacher which saved him. However, this seems dubious. In the monograph noted earlier, Wilburn Waters told his biographer that at age seventeen he’d run away from his Master to live in the mountains near his brother, William,  who was teaching in a school in “Whiteoak Grove in Wilkes county.”[30] While it’s probably true William was teaching, it’s instructive to note that the same statutes which made insurrection by any negro free or not a crime punishable by death, also made preaching by any negro illegal and punishable by thirty-nine “lashes well laid on.” [31]  And while the death penalty for insurrection was a consequence of an 1802 revision to the criminal statues, the law forbidding preaching was an 1831 revision – a direct consequence of the Nat Turner hysteria that had gripped the state. It would not be Water’s last time in front of a judge. 


Little is known about Senter aside from the genealogical data collected by his modern-day descendants, and made available on  their public database.[32]  Nevertheless, from that compilation one learns that Rev. Senter was a itinerate minister, [AC1] having been ordained in Virginia in June of 1818 where he spread the gospel within the jurisdictional bounds of what was the “Washington Association” until  1823.[33] Then he left and was traveling in Ashe county where he preached among the churches within the Mountain Association.[34] This is likely how he came into contact with Waters.[35]  Yet it seems his penchant for exaggerations were not confined to legal dramatics. It was also during his ministry in 1837 while in Ashe that he drew the reprimanding attention of  the Baptist church periodical, The Biblical Recorder. What they reported were his misrepresentation of facts which  involved a severe internal Mountain Association squabble. His version of events had apparently  antagonizing one part of the aggrieved parties, causing them to lock the other out from a newly-acquired Meeting House; their outrage burned across two pages of two separate issues of the Recorder. [36] Senter continued his ministry in the county until 1840 when he returned to Virginia.



Land, Marriage, and First Born


The fact that William acquired his patent for his 100 acres on Liberty Knob, speaks to William’s desire to settle down and raise a family. We can also be fairly certain that it was in the early 1840s that William and Zylphia began cohabitating extralegally as husband and wife. No marriage license has suvived for the couple;  he was awarded his patent fairly quickly. The survey for the acreage having been done by the county surveyor in 1835, and the patent awarded the following year.[37] It is difficult to know what William paid for his land, but it is known that surveyor and clerks fees varied by the number of acres being claimed. It was also a matter of legal custom that, generally, a year’s grace period was provided between executing the survey and the state’s granting of the patent and recordation, which allowed any counter claimants to come forth and execute a dispute in cases of overlap or already claimed land. None apparently did in William’s case.


The first of William’s eleven children was Mary Waters, born June 28,  1841, presumably at the Waters homestead on Liberty Knob. Mary would go on to marry Isham Blevins, (1837-1918,)  in 1866 in Washington County, Tennessee.[38] It was an interesting choice given that Mary’s maternal grandmother was Mary “Polly” Blevins, (c. 1799-1884). A preliminary search in land and probate records found no familial connections between the couple although, interestingly enough, there does appear several generations of Blevins kith and kin dating to the colonial period settled in both Ashe county and Grayson county, Virginia. Additional research may shed light on  whether some Blevins-Waters relations or familial alliance heretofore unknown may have enticed William and Wesley to leave Ashe county for Grayson, where, as previously noted, they are found in a decade’s worth that county’s tax rolls.


Four years before marrying Mary, however,  Isham enrolled in  Capt. “Aras B.  Cox’s Partisan Rangers North Carolina Volunteers,” on May 3, 1862, at Gap Civil township, Alleghany County,  for a period of three years.[39]  He was wounded in battle in 1864, and was later captured in Kingston, on March, 11, 1865,  by Union soldiers and was a POW at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland until his release on May  fifteenth two months later. The couple were parents to eight known children.



“Adultery and Fornication”


Just as 1836 had been bittersweet for William, 1841 would be bittersweet for the couple. In addition to being new parents that June,  that October was the year William found himself viciously libeled by an Isaac Tinsley which would trigger he and Zylphia’s indictment on the charge of “fornication and adultery.”  Unfortunately, nothing of the case files have survived, but we can get a sense of the case from the 25th volume of the state’s series of North Carolina Supreme Court reports published in 1915.  


It began October 1st when Tinsley, as the star witness for the prosecution in the case,  gave testimony that William was a negro and the grandson of negros. The trial very likely took place at the Superior Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, located in Jefferson County, which like all such superior courts in North Carolina at the time, served as a kind of all-in-one judicial arm in matters  civic, administrative,  and some criminal cases. This besmirching of  William’s reputation, however, did not go unchallenged. At some point after his trial, he  published the following:


Notice. A man called Isaac Tinsley on the first day of this month in a suit wherein the State was plaintiff and myself and wife were defendants, swear [sic] a willful lie and I can prove it. 15 October, 1841.



William and Zylphia were found guilty of the crime charged in the indictment, and while we can never be certain of their punishment; we can be certain of what North Carolina statues prescribed: such marriages were illegal and void.[40] Interestingly, Williams told the court he and Zylphia had been “married” which would seem to imply a ceremony and perhaps a certificate, but no such document has survived. However, Williams seemed far less concerned with his marriage being voided than the bases upon which the court reached its decision: that of Tinsley’s testimony, along with that of other witnesses for the prosecution. Tinsley told the court he knew William was a negro because he knew his maternal grandparents and described them as “coal black negroes.” and that, in fact, William was the product of another mixed-race marriage. This was, for William the outrage, because he told the court he was not descended from negros but was “Portuguese,” and as such any law against marrying a white woman should not apply to him.[41] It was an ineffective defense against a blatantly racist law. William’s attorney, about which nothing is known aside from his name --  “Boyden” – motioned for a retrial and was denied.  


William appealed the guilty verdict to Raleigh before the three Supreme Court justices there. Per curium, the justices agreed, the lower court had not erred. But this consensus was not just between three ordinary supreme jurists, but headed by the nation’s most pro-slavery and revered legal mind during the antebellum, Thomas Ruffin. It was Ruffin who,  in fact,  delivered the court’s landmark opinion in State v. Mann (1829,) and helped codify a master’s absolute authority over his slaves – including his right to murder them.[42]  This was the jurist who instructed North Carolinians in 1828, “The power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect.”  If  Walters had expect anything resembling fair and equal justice from someone who could conceive such warped logic, he was sadly mistaken. [43]




To Be Continued….


[1]           “John P. Waters,”  North Carolina Land Grant, Surveyor’s return and plat, H. Pousau, Wilkes County Surveyor, December 3, 1796, file No. 1380, Loose Papers, North Carolina State Archives.

[2]           John Crouch, “Historical Sketches of Wilkes County,” 1902, J. Crouch. https://www.newrivernotes.com/topical_books_1902_northcarolina_historicalsketches_wilkes_county.htm

[3]           Figures used are derived from datasets extracted from IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System, hereinafter, NHGIS, created by Steven Manson, Jonathan Schroeder, David Van Riper, and Steven Ruggles, University of Minnesota. http://doi.org/10.18128/D050.V13.0  A broader exploration of slavery in Wilkes County is found in Larry J. Griffin, “Slavery in Wilkes County, North Carolina,”  History Press, 2017.

[4]           Coale, Charles, “Life and Adventure of Wilburn Waters: The Famous Hunter and Trapper of White Top Mountain,” G.W. Gary and Company, 1878, 25.

[5]           The Huguenot Society of North Carolina, “Dates in Huguenot History,” National Huguenot Society webpage, http://www.huguenot.netnation.com/states/nc/dates.htm In the Coale biography John Waters purportedly emigrated to America in the “early part” of 1800. However, census records make it clear that that in 1800 he was already living in Wilkes county, having acquired land there four years earlier, as already noted.

[6]           “Enumeration of Persons in the Several Districts of the United States.” in Return of the Whole Number of Persons Within The Several Districts of the United States, 1800, U.S. House of Representatives.

[7]           John P. Waters household, 1800 U.S. Population Schedule, Wilkes County, N. Carolina, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, Texas, hereinafter CLCGR,

[8]           “Schedule of the Whole Number of Persons in the District of North Carolina,” in Return of the Whole Number of Persons Within The Several Districts of the United States, 1800, U.S. House of Representatives.

[9]           Ibid. The name of the census district which included Wilkes County, has not been preserved among original records, although the county-level census data remains intact. The report also included enumerations from the cities and towns which were designated as county seats at the time.

[10]          “Distribution in 1800,” in Population of the United States, excluding Indians not taxed: 1790 to 1820, plate 3, U.S. Census Office, 1898. David Rumsey Map Collection.

[11]          John P. Waters petition to North Carolina General Assembly, December 18, 1809,   University of North Carolina at Greensboro Special Collections. See also petition No. 11280905, Race & Slavery Petitions Project, at Library of American Slavery website, https://library.uncg.edu/slavery/petitions/details.aspx?pid=789  For the Bill of Indictment see: John P. Waters, “Bill of Indictment, ” Wilkes County Superior Court, March term, 1809, Wilkes County Criminal Action Papers, Clerk’s loose papers, North Carolina State Archives. (NCSA) See also, Elizabeth Collum “Bond, ” August 27, 1809, Wilkes County Criminal Action Papers, Clerk’s loose papers, NCSA 

[12]          “Wellborn Cullom to Francis Vanoy…Indenture,” May 4, 1813, Wilkes County, North Carolina Wills, (1812-1821) Vol. 3 pp. 63. (image 37 of 133,)  www.familysearch,org  website. Why Wilbern’s name was spelled as, “Wellborn Collum,” in the indenture is unknown. One rather dramatic account of the transaction is described by his biography on p. 26.

[13]          “Wilkes Cullom to Jacob W. Grady…Indenture,” May 4, 1813, Wilkes County, North Carolina Wills, (1812-1821) Vol. 3, p. 62. (image 36 of 133,)  www.familysearch,org .  According to the indenture, Wesley would be provided a “horse and saddle” at the end of his apprenticeship and Grady was not permitted to move from the county while Wesley’s master.

[14]          Digitized original, “William Lenoir to John P. Waters Lot # 26”, land deed, November 7, 1801, Wilkes County, Christian Eckman files.

[15]          Bill of indictment, John P. Waters, March term, 1809, Wilkes County Criminal Action Papers, (1807-1809,) Clerk’s Loose Papers, North Carolina State Archives.

[16]          Digitized original,  John Waters Household, 1820 U.S. population schedule, Chester County, South Carolina, www.ancestry.com.

[17]           Digitized original, Surveyor warrant,  North Carolina Land Office, September 1, 1829, “…for Wesley Waters…in Wilkes County…fifty areas.” North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960 database, www.ancestry.com

[18]          Nicholas Syrett, “American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States,”  University of N. Carolina Press, 2017.

[19]          Digitized originals, 1817, 1818, Personal Property tax lists, Grayson County, Virginia, Christian Eckman files. Why William Waters and his younger brother, Wesley,  were in Grayson is unknown.

[20]          Digitized original, John Thompson, “100 acres on Cornelius Branch of Big Horse Creek,”  December 4, 1840, patent book 146, p 400, NCLGID http://www.nclandgrants.com/grant/?mars=

[21]          NHGIS, University of Minnesota. http://doi.org/10.18128/D050.V13.0

[22]          Ibid.

[23]          Ibid.

[24]          The names on modern US Geological Survey (USGS) maps are Pine Mountain Branch and Brush Fork. A digitized USGS map was consulted using coordinates 36.4159561 -81.6984447 in the  Geographical Information Names System (GNIS).

[25]          Digitized original,  Bill of Indictment, William P. Waters, June 6, 1836, “Ashe County Criminal Action Papers, Box 1, Folder 1836-1837, North Carolina State Archives.

[26]          Ibid.

[27]          Morris, Charles Edward. "Panic and Reprisal: Reaction in North Carolina to the Nat Turner Insurrection, 1831." The North Carolina Historical Review 62, no. 1 (1985): 29-52.

[28]          Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color

Revised code--No. 105, (hereafter Revised Code) Chapt. 618, Sec. 1-5, p. 5, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Academic Affairs library, at Documenting the American South website, https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/slavesfree/slavesfree.html  January 20, 2019

[29]          To 21st eyes this seems a paltry amount. In 1836 it was not. See: Samuel H. Williamson, "Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to Present,” at Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," database, https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppowerus/

[30]          Coale, Charles, “Life and Adventure of Wilburn Waters: The Famous Hunter and Trapper of White Top Mountain,” G.W. Gary and Company, 1878, 32-3.

[31]          Revised Code, (1831) Chapt.4 sec. 1, p. 5.

[32]          Reverend Drury Senter entry,  http://horwitzfam.org  January 20, 2019


[34]          The “Mountain Association”, according to Baptist historical accounts,  comprised churches in Burke, Wilks, Surry, and Ashe, and taken originally in 1799 from a larger jurisdiction called Yadkin. See David Benedict, “ Mountain Association” in History of the Baptists in North Carolina, vol 5 p 1189, University of North Carolina, Documenting the American South website, https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr05-0361  January 20, 2019

[35]          “Associations” in the Baptist lexicon are confederations of churches of the same denomination within a church-designated geographic region. They differ from political boundaries, and can overlap several counties.

[36]          “Misrepresentations Exposed,”  November 29, 1837, The Biblical Recorder, pp 2-3, www.newspapers.com  See also: R.H. T, “For the Recorder” (letter to the editor,) October 25, 1837, p 2-3.

[37]          Digitized original, William  P. Waters Land Grant Patent Book entry, December 27, 1836, BK 13, p. 364, North Carolina State Archives.

[38]          Digitized original, Isham Blevins to Mary Waters, April 19,  1866, Johnson County, Tennessee, Johnson County Tennessee Marriage Registers 1857-1867, p 19, Tennessee State Library.

[39]          Data concerning Isham’s wartime experience is based on a review of the twenty-one digitized original Index Record Cards (IRCs) held with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). They are the transcribed summations of original muster rolls and other records of a soldier’s experience during  the Civil War period. IRCs  were created  by War Department clerks, (Washington, D.C.) in the late 19th century in order to determine who was eligible for a pension. As primary source records they are invaluable in the details they offer of a veteran’s wartime experience. According to a clerk’s note on the second IRC in the series, “This Company was successively designated as Captain Cox's Company, Partisan Rangers, North Carolina Volunteers; Company G, 59th Regiment North Carolina

Infantry (State Troops), and Company I, 61st  Regiment North Carolina Infantry (State Troops).”

[40]           “An Act prohibiting Marriages between free persons of color and white persons,“ in Laws of the State of North Carolina Passed by the General Assembly 1838-39,” Chap. 24 p 33,

[41]          One plausible explanation why Waters claimed a Portuguese heritage to the court was proffered by Roberta J. Estes who, in her pioneering genetic work on the Melungeons of Tennessee noted that,  owing to harsh extant  slave laws during the antebellum which prohibited negros and mulattos from participating in many civic norms in the slave south, many individuals who were likely Melungeons typically claimed a Portuguese ancestry believing they could bypass many of the imposed social  injunctions. See Roberta J. Estes, et al, “Melungeons, A Multi-Ethnic Population,” Journal of Genetic Genealogy, Fall 2011,  Vol 7 http://jogg.info/pages/72/index.html

[42]          Eric Muller, et al, “His pro-slavery rhetoric was extreme. And his portrait dominates our top NC courtroom,” October 25, 2018, Raleigh News & Observer website. https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article220326985.html

[43] State v. Mann, 13 N.C. 263 (1829).

 [AC1]Minister in the Ashe County who had formed a confederation of churches in 1853 which called itself the Senter Baptist Association . In 1829, however, he was an elder in a new Ashe County church which called itself, Baptist Church of Christ at Senter Meeting House, located on Nathan’s Creek.   Little more than a decade later and along the same waterway, Zylphia Waters, along with her father, John Thompson and son, would established the Union Baptist Church which flourishes still.


Did Senter have slaves? Where were he and William living in 1836?

See Blevins family in connection with Sentor’s churches. Zylphia’s mother was Mary “Polly” Blevins (1799-1884)