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Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestor Challenge #2 Sarah McCall Wood(s) Pate

For my second challenge, I’m sticking with my Pate Family. My maternal great-grandmother Sarah McCall Pate was born around 1872 to Classie Green and Mike Wood(s).  Her parents weren’t married which was probably because her father was Irish and a well known storekeeper in the Goldsboro area. But sometime after Sarah was born, her mother married a McCall. 

The Green family was from Pitt County, North Carolina but Sarah and her brothers were raised in Greene and Wayne counties.  In 1880, 8 year old Sarah and her brothers, Alexander, John and David, are living with their mother in the Nahunta section of Wayne County, North Carolina.  Their mother, Classie was described as a cook but there is no husband listed.


John Pate was Sarah’s second husband; all that is known about her first husband is that a child, Roscoe was born from that union.  On Sarah’s marriage license to John Pate, her last name isn’t McCall or Woods. In fact, her last name is illegible because it appears to be “Best” or “Burt.” Discovering her last name and her first husband may never happen but we do know that Sarah’s family lived in Greene County which records were destroyed in the late 1890s and this is the period where Sarah married and had her son.

Surprisingly on the 1900 Census, Sarah and John Pate are living in Nahunta and their neighbors are two Becton brothers one of which was my paternal great-grandfather Will Becton. 

We don’t have any pictures of Sarah and her daughter, my grandmother, Classie Pate Fuller aka “Mafull,” was about 8 years old when her mother died, so Mafull could not provide us with a lot of stories about Sarah. 

This is a picture that we have of Mafull as a young pre-teen girl. Photo courtesy of Mary Becton; all rights reserved.

There’s not much documentation on Sarah but there are a few stories about her, such as when she was born her father wanted to raise her by himself; however, her mother Classie said no and that’s when Classie and Mike’s relationship ended. I’ve never heard of stories where single, white men took their black babies and raised them as their own.

Sarah was described as a short, fat, very light skin woman who pressed her hair with an iron.  I don’t know if Sarah had green or hazel color eyes like my grandmother but Mafull once said, “my mother was short and fat and I’m going to be short and fat.” Poor Mafull, she just didn’t want to stop eating. LOL!

For many years, my mom had one item belonging to Sarah, a piece of hair.  We kept that piece of hair until the 1990s and for some reason, it was thrown out.  Ironically, my mom kept 3 family members hair: Sarah, Mafull and LaVonchia (my oldest sister) and all three pieces of hair resembled: straight and auburn that curled liked an “S”.  I don’t know why the hair was kept.

I’ve never found Sarah’s death certificate but Mafull said that Sarah was sick and she once ask Mafull to empty the slop bucket.  The slop bucket was full of blood.  Sarah died soon after this incident. It’s possible that Sarah died of ovarian cancer; she was buried at the Fremont Cemetery in Wayne County, North Carolina.  Sarah was 37 years old. 

Her descendants included Roscoe who married 3 times but never became a father. Roscoe  lived to be 78 years old.  Johnnie died at 44; he and his wife had 5 children.  Moses Eddie who married twice and had 6 children, lived to be 90 years old.  Her only daughter, Classie Pate Fuller who died in 1969, had one child, Mary Verneace Becton. I have many questions regarding Sarah but my immediate goal is to find out who was her first husband; where did she grow up; why did she marry John Pate, a man who was old enough to be her father; and what cause her death. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Search of John Pate

Welcome to my Inaugural Blog!

In Amy Johnson Crow’s recent blog, she challenged other researchers to write or blog about an ancestor each week for 52 weeks. The Challenge is  called 52 Ancestors. I’ll accept that challenge but it might turn out to be an ancestor per month or bi-weekly but I’ll do my best because I certainly have 52 ancestors who have a story tell.

 First up for me is John Pate, my great-grandfather.

My journey started with researching John Pate, my maternal great-grandfather. My mom’s first cousin, Clara Pate McClain, told her that John Pate was from India, not Africa. I told mom, “you guys are confused,” but the more they talked about John who died before either one was born, the more I became fascinated. So that’s how my quest began, at the foot of my elders trying to make sense out of the stories that have been passed down to me. You see my mom, Mary Verneace Fuller Artis Becton, raised me in the old fashion way, “children are seen and not heard and sometimes not seen.” So I listened while she and her family and friends talked about the old days.
According to the 1870 census, John Pate was born in 1843 in North Carolina. Hmmm, don’t sound like India too me. He was 27 years old living in the Nahunta section of Wayne County, North Carolina with his first wife Vinnie/Viny Pate who was 25 years old, their 5 year old son Daniel, 2 year old Rufus and their 8 month old baby named John.

 1870 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 169B; Image: 342; Family History Library Film: 552664.

Ten years later, John and his family are living in the Bull Head section of Green County, North Carolina. John is listed as 40 years old not 37 and his occupation is a farmer.  Viney is 39 years old, Daniel is 15, Rufus is 13, John is 10, Robert is 5, Wyatt is 3, and Lou (probably Liza) is 8 months old.  There is another person listed with the family, Caldoia who is 8 years old but there is no description of her relationship with the family. I've never heard of Caldoia, perhaps she was a relative or neighbor's child who was visiting the family.

1880 Census Place: Bull Head, Greene, North Carolina; Roll: 965; Family History Film: 1254965; Pages: 2D; Enumeration District: 062; Image: 0258.

By 1895, Viney is deceased and on April 2, 1895 John Pate marries Sarah Burt (perhaps Best) in Wayne County, North Carolina.  On their marriage license, John is listed as a 51 year old colored man (not Indian) who was the son of Dave Smith and Hannah Best. His new wife, Sarah is listed as a 26 year old colored female whose father was named Mike Wood. Her mother’s name is not provided.

On the 1900 census, 54 year old John and 29 year old Sarah are living in the Nahunta section of Wayne County, NC. The children listed are 15 year old Smithy, 13 year old Hannah, 10 year old Oscar, 3 year old John (This John or Johnnie was cousin Clara’s father.) and 10 month old Moses. Everyone in the house is listed as being born in North Carolina, not India.  John and Sarah stated that they were married for 5 years and Sarah was the mother of 3 children with 2 living.  This is confusing because Sarah is the mother of the three youngest children. On this particular census everyone provides their birth month and year. John was born in 1846 and Sarah born in 1870. The son listed as Oscar on this census has always been called him Roscoe. The two older girls were Viney’s daughters. This is the last census that John and Sarah appear on because they are both dead by 1903 and 1909 respectively. John and Sarah had one more child who was born in 1901, Classie Virginia Pate; she was my grandmother.

1900 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 1223; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1241223.

Unfortunately, North Carolina did not record birth and deaths until 1913 and therefore, vital information is lost. But I like this census for many reasons: first, it provides the birth years; second, it stated that John had a middle name that began with the letter “P”; next, the census tells you how many children a female has had and how many of those children are alive. You also find out how many times the adults have been married.

Besides family history, we don’t have much information on John P. Pate. He wasn’t a soldier, he didn’t own land and unfortunately, he lived in Greene County, NC whose courthouse burned down in the late 1800s; therefore, I could not find a cohabitation record for John and Vinnie.  Family history said that John’s family name was Bhess and that he came from a village in India. Well his mother’s name is listed on his marriage license to Sarah as “Hannah Best,” so that’s where the “Bhess” name came from.  Oral history also said that John was a house slave, perhaps he was but what we do know is that John’s sons by Viney: John (the first son named John), Robert and Wyatt left NC before 1901 and never returned. No one knows what became of them, although family history said that they moved out West and returned for their father’s funeral in 1903.

My quest is to find out John P. Pate’s ethnicity. Was he half Native American, full Native American or half white? I also want to know where did his folks come from. I know that John is buried in the Union Grove cemetery located in Eureka, North Carolina. I also want to know what became of his sons, John, Robert and Wyatt? Did they have children?

What’s my plan for this blog? To share stories that I find and ancestors that I meet. I also plan on using this blog as a sounding board for my research analysis.

Happy Hunting!

"United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate, North Carolina, United States; citing p. , family 210, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 000552664.

"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate, Bull Head, Greene, North Carolina, United States; citing sheet 2D, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0965

"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate in household of John P Pate, Nahunta Township (part of) Eureka town, Wayne, North Carolina, United States; citing sheet , family 38, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241223.