My Blog List

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 42: Charles Becton

This is another post for the 52 Ancestor Challenge which was put out by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small. This is my first post dedicated to my Becton Ancestors.

Charles Becton 1823 - 10/4/1889

My paternal great-great-grandfather, Charles Becton was born around 1823.  I don't know a lot about Charles except for what I've found on paper. Sadly, noone alive recalls anyone talking about him and yet, Charles accomplished a lot as a former slave.  Like a lot of my of ancestors, I have more questions than answers regarding Charles.  First, I still do not know which white Becton owned Charles. Likewise, I don't know if Charles had any brothers, sisters or who his parents were.  I also don't know where he was born. When Charles died on October 4th, 1889, he had 57 acres of land. I can't help but wonder how this former slave gain his wealth.

In 1870, 51 year old Charles, a former slave, lived with his family in the small township of Nahunta in Wayne County, North Carolina. He was described as a "black farm laborer" who could not read or write but had personal property valuing at $200. The other members in Charles house was his 33 year old wife, Hannah; his sons: 18 year old Charles Jr., 16 year old Moses, 12 year old Willy, 9 year old Zanger; his daughters: 15 year old Rachel and 14 year old Pennie. Also residing in the home was a man named Laban Ruffin. Mr. Ruffin was described as a "black 60 year old dicher" who had $100 worth of real estate.

1870 Census for Charles Becton and Family

History has society thinking that former slaves such as Charles, Hannah and Mr. Ruffin were sharecroppers or beggers who lived off of peoples charity. Charles and his family were one of those exceptions to the rule.  As I review this census, plenty of questions come to mind.  For instance, Charles is 18 years older than Hannah. Had he been previously married? If so, what became of Charles' first wife? Was she sold away during slavery? Did they have children? If Hannah is Charles Jr's mother then she had him around 15 years old.  Indeed a 33 year old man and 15 year old girl having a baby together back in the 1850s was probably not strange.  Besides the age differences, I also wondered how Charles got $200.  It's 1870; 4 years after freedom and my Charles was described as "black" not mulatto so it might be safe to say that he wasn't half black or a child of his former slaveowner.  But where did the $200 come from? $200 in 1870 currently equals $3,631.60 today and $100 that Laban Ruffin owned would be $1,815.80.

And who is Laban Ruffin? Why was he living with the family? Was he related to Charles or Hannah? Since I don't know Hannah's maiden name, maybe Laban's her brother.  I checked the North Carolina death records for Laban but he didn't live to be 103 years old and that would had been his age in 1913.  (It was 1913 when North Carolina began recording birth and death records.)  If Laban fathered any children, I did not find any reference to his name in the North Carolina death certificates.

On the 1880 census, Charles is 57 years old and not 61 while Hannah is 48, not 43.  Leave it to the census takers and their excellent math skills.  Charles and Hannah's adult children, Willie, Rachel and Zanger are still living at home and Rachel's children: Mary, Bob and Mollie are also staying in the home.

1880 Census for Charles Becton and Family

This census provides each person's birth year and if that is true, then Charles is only 9 years older than Hannah.  Laban was still living with the family and this to me, means he is someone special to the family. But I don't know how special.  I may never know.

I reviewed Charles and Hannah's' children death certificates. His son Zanger's death certificate stated that Charles and Hannah were both born in Greene County, North Carolina and Hannah's maiden name was listed as Ruffin. On William's death certificate, Charles and Hannah Ruffin were listed as being born in Wayne County, North Carolina. Charles Jr. died in 1880 before death certificates were recorded.  Rachel's death certificate state that her parents were born in Wayne county and her mother's maiden name was Ruffin. Unfortunately, I have not found Pennie and Moses death certificates. Something else interesting was that Zanger was buried at the Becton Cemetery in Wayne County. I would like to know where this cemetery is located because perhaps, Charles and Hannah are also buried there.

Charles Becton died in 1889. He left all his belongings to his family including 57 acres of land and $500 worth of personal property. According to the Inflation Calculator, $500 in 1889 would equal to $12,770.42 today; that's not "chump change," well done Charles! Amongst the papers in Charles estate was a document where the probate court listed his wife and his children: Moses, Rachel, Willie, Peny and Zanger as reciepients of his estate. But the Court also listed James, John and Eddie Becton as reciepients. I do not know who these men are. Could they be his brothers or his nephews? These men must be special for Charles to include them in his Will.

See Will at  NC. Wayne County Courthouse. Will Book 1. pp. 484-485.

On the 1900 census, Hannah is living with her son William and his family in Wayne County. Also living with William is his nephew, Charlie Becton who is 13 years old. I believe this is Charles Jr.'s son.  In fact, by 1910 Hannah is living with the same Charlie and his family, unfortunately, Hannah and Charlie III all seem to disappear after 1910.

1900 Census for William Becton and Family

If anyone who reads this post can answer any of my questions, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for stopping by.

1870 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 159A.
1880 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 986; Page: 655B; Enumeration District: 301.
1900 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 1223; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0107.


  1. Great story. In as much trouble I have locating my ancestors it's so much more difficult in locating ancestors as slaves. It seems so difficult. I'm not sure even how to make those connections to family but you sure have done a great job. I look forward to more stories

    1. Thanks Jeanne. It's a good thing that I love mysteries and detective work.Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Loved your story. I have brick walls but your brick walls are even harder to cross over. Great job.

    1. Yes my brick walls has my screaming sometimes. Lol.

  3. Hi Minnie,

    Great post and research about your ancestor Charles Becton.

    I just looked at the Becton Estate records and saw that there is one for your Charles Becton which list his Estate Inventory.

    If it is ok with you, I would be happy to post a link to your page on our Family History Society of ENC Facebook page to reach more people.

    Also, in researching Slave ancestry, I have found the Estate records to sometimes be more helpful than the actual Wills because if they passed away without a Will, there was usually still an Estate filed. Here is a link that shows all the Becton Estate files that have been indexed so far in North Carolina.

    All The Best,


  4. Thanks David. Yes you can post a link to my page. Thanks again.


    1. Beautiful Article. I know you and I are related somehow. I'm not sure my relation to Charles Becton. But I do know that my Father Ned Hugh whitley, My grandparents Clyde Hannah Becton Whitley and Mack daniel whitley also great grandparents Ned becton & Christchana Becton and other relatives are buried at the Becton memorial Cemetery

    2. Thanks Najla. Yes we are related. I know a Mack Daniel Whitley who lives in Maryland. He is a descendant of Rachel Becton who was Charles Becton's daughter. Have you ever been to the Becton family reunion in Turkey and Magnolia, NC?