c1840
Caroline is born. Caroline was likely enslaved by the Smith family from the moment of her birth.

February 9, 1850
James M. Smith’s will, written February 9, 1850, is the first mention we have found relating to Caroline, a child he enslaved.

Last Will and Testament, James M. Smith, February 9, 1850

“I give and bequeath to my daughter Sarah L McDowell all the property heretofore placed in her possession + a negro girl Caroline (child of Arsela)…”

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament

February 9, 1850

However, James M. Smith also enslaved another young girl named Caroline, daughter of Lidia, who he willed to his wife, Polly.

Also I give and bequeath to my said wife Polly during her natural life the following negro slaves, viz. Bob, (the tanner) and his wife, Lidia and her children….

…and the girl Caroline, (Lidia’s daughter), and her increase together with a good wagon and four horses and mules and harness…

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament

February 9, 1850

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

It is possible that Caroline is the 9-year-old female reported as being enslaved by James M. Smith in the 1850 Census, which was recorded on October 9, 1850.

While we search for more information on Caroline – including a photo – we can start to understand a little about the uncertainty of her young life through this amendment James M. Smith added to his will on January 7, 1854.

Codicil to the Last Will and Testament, James M. Smith, January 7, 1854

“I further direct that the girl Caroline in which said will be given to my daughter Sarah L. McDowell, be given to my daughter Jane Cordelia, and in her stead I give to the said Sarah L. a negro woman Rebecca and her child Charlotte which I purchased of William W. McDowell and placed in her possession, and further will and direct that the said girl Caroline together with the Piano Forte in my house…”

James M. Smith, Codicil to the Last Will and Testament

January 7, 1854

With James M. Smith’s death on May 18, 1856, Caroline became enslaved by James’ daughter, Jane Cordelia. At 19, Jane was only a few years older than Caroline. Because she was unmarried when her father died, one of Jane’s uncles, Montraville Patton, was assigned to be her guardian. It is likely that Caroline traveled with Jane to live at the Patton home until Jane could be married the following year.

On April 15, 1857, Jane Cordelia Smith married George Thomas Spears, 29, a business partner of her uncle/guardian, Montraville Patton. George, then, became owner of all Jane’s property — including Caroline. It is likely that Caroline moved with Jane to George’s home in Asheville.

1860 US Census (Slave Schedules)
Buncombe County, North Carolina

On August 16, 1860, W.B. Baird, the census taker in Buncombe County, records George Spears enslaving 16 people. It is likely that Caroline is recorded in these slave schedules as an 18-year-old black female.

April 1864
Caroline marries Mathew Cope.

April 1865
George Thomas Spears and Jane Cordelia Smith build a house at 53 Orange Street in Asheville. It is likely that Caroline is no longer enslaved by the time the couple moves to this residence.

Edgefield Advertiser, April 19, 1865

April 23, 1865
The Union Army of General George Stoneman rode into Asheville on April 23, 1865. Brigadier General Alvan Gillem led 2,700 troops and hundreds of now-free African Americans along Main Street (now Biltmore Avenue). Many of these same people followed the troops out of town three days later. Fannie Patton remembered, “Well, they have passed quietly through–2,100 men and numberless negroes, horses and mules which they have stolen…a great many negroes have left town with the yankees–crowds of men, women, and children just gathered up a bundle of clothes and went with them.”

 

Caroline and Mat stay in Asheville.

August 31, 1866
“Slave marriages before the Civil War had been duly celebrated by civil or religious authorities or simply by ‘living together’. In 1866, the General Assembly passed ‘An Act concerning Negroes and Person of Color or of Mixed Blood’. ‘Those persons whose cohabitation was thus ratified into a state of marriage were required to appear before the Clerk of the County Court or a justice of the peace to acknowledge the fact. These acknowledgements were to be recorded in books and regarded as proof that a marriage existed’.”

Patricia Reese Dockery in Early Buncombe County, North Carolina African American marriage records, 1814-1868

Cohabitation Records, Buncombe County Register of Deeds

Mathew Cope and Caroline Spears register as a married couple at Buncombe County’s Register of Deeds as required by law. They report that they were married in April 1864. According to the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, which has made these records available online for Buncombe County, cohabitation records were “created to identify and legitimize marriages and children born to those in slavery.”

1870 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

June 4, 1870
Caroline, 27, and Mat, 30, live alone in Asheville. He works as a tanner. She is “keeping house.” Neither can read or write. For many formerly enslaved people, it was almost impossible to know their date of birth. In 1870, Caroline reported her birth year as c1843.

1880 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

June 8, 1880
Caroline, 36, and Mat, 40, live alone in Asheville. It is likely that they do not have children. He works as a tanner. She is “keeping house.” Neither can read or write. Caroline reports her birth year as c1846.

1880 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

June 9, 1880
Caroline Cope, 35, is the daughter of Robert and Liddie Haynes. [Robert is listed on the previous page – not shown here – and is listed as a “farmer.”] 

While this could be a different person, it is likely that this the same Caroline Cope. She has been counted twice. Perhaps she is helping care for her parents.

Two of her sisters are also staying at the home – July Morehead, 40, and Elizabeth Haynes, 30. 

1880 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Haynes is also listed twice in the 1880 Buncombe County Census. She is working as a cook in the C.M McLoud household. [She is still listed as working in the McLoud household in the 1883-1884 Asheville City Directory.] It is possible there are two Lizzie Haynes, but it is more likely that they are the same person. In 1880, Lizzie’s two children, George (12) and Catherine (8), live with their grandparents, Robert and Lydia.

1870 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

Robert and Lydia Haynes are also listed in the 1870 census, though their ages are very similar to what they were reported as a decade previously.

1870 – Robert is 67; Lydia is 68, George is 3
1880 – Robert is  67; Liddie is 69; George is 12

Buncombe County, NC, Cohabitation Records

Note: James M. Smith purchased a “boy” named “Bob” from the estate of Michael Israel for $760 during the Buncombe County Court Session in January 1821.

Finding Caroline listed as the daughter of Robert and Lydia is an exciting find, which validates that Caroline Spears Cope is very likely the same Caroline that was enslaved by James M. Smith for the following reasons:

1) We find a cohabitation record for Robert Smith and Lydia Unknown. This was recorded on August 31, 1866. The couple had been married for 49 years on that date. It is likely that Robert was enslaved by someone with the surname “Smith” and then changed his name soon after.

2) In James M. Smith’s will he writes: 

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850,
Page 1

Also I give and bequeath to my said wife Polly during her natural life the following negro slaves, viz. Bob, (the tanner) and his wife, Lidia and her children….

…and the girl Caroline, (Lidia’s daughter), and her increase together with a good wagon and four horses and mules and harness…

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament

February 9, 1850

This would mean, then, that it is possible that two women named Caroline ended up being enslaved by the Spears family – Caroline, Arsela’s daughter, who was specifically willed from Smith to Spears, and Caroline, Lidia’s daughter, who was originally willed to Smith’s wife, Polly. However, Polly died before James, so he changed his will on January 7, 1854 and directed that:

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, January 7, 1850,
Page 1 and 2

…whereas my beloved wife for whom I had made provision in my said will has departed this life, I direct that the property in said will real and person given to her for life be divided at my decease as it was contemplated to be at her death, and that property given to her absolutely be disposed of as the other (i.e.) the negroes be divided amongst them equally….

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament

January 7, 1854

Asheville City Directory, 1883-1884

The 1883-1884 Asheville City Directory shows Mat working at Bearden, Rankin & Co’s tanyard and residing on Patton Avenue. Caroline is working as a “washerwoman” (as was the Caroline Cope listed as living with the Haynes in 1880) and residing on North Main Street. 

Asheville Citizen, April 21, 1887

We see here that Robert Haines is also living on North Main Street.

In 1883, Mathew Cope “(colored)” purchased one acre of land on Patton Avenue from the Buxtons for $140.

In 1885, Mat and Caroline Cope sell the same Patton Avenue tract to the Beardens, who Mat will later buy property from on Beaumont Street.

Then in 1888, Mat Cope and “Anna Cope his wife” purchase property on Beaumont Street in Asheville.

What happened to Caroline?

Did she pass away? Did they divorce?

Did they just get her name wrong on the deed?

Maybe this is a different Mathew Cope?

Asheville City Directory, 1887

Mat and Caroline Cope are not listed in the 1887 Asheville City Directory.

However, there is a Caroline Haynes living on Beaumont Street.  And a Robert and Mrs. Haynes living on Hill Street.

Asheville City Directory, 1890

The 1890 City Directory show Caroline and Mat residing at 58 Poplar Street. Mat is working as a laborer – likely at the tannery.

Asheville Citizen, Oct. 20, 1890

Asheville City Directory, 1896 – 1897
Asheville City Directory, 1896 – 1897

In 1896, Matt Cope is working as a laborer and has moved to 9 Mountain Street. This is also where Mat and Caroline are living in the 1900 Census (below). However, Caroline is not included in the 1896 City Directory under the surname Cope or Haynes.

However, Caroline’s sister, Lizzie, and Lizzie’s children, George and Catherine, are found living at 29 Poplar Street in Asheville. 

George is now working as a butler for the same family Lizzie was cooking for in 1883.

Catherine is a teacher at Catholic Hill School. In 1895, she taught “1st C and D grades” with 24 students. 

Asheville Citizen, May 4, 1895

Asheville Citizen-Times, January 26, 1969

“With the increase in the black population the need for additional facilities was apparent and in 1891 a school bond election was held and approval was given for Asheville’s first combined elementary and high scool for Negroes.”

“The school board purchased a strip of land on Catholic Avenue and a three-story building called Catholic Hill School was constructed.”

1900 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

June 5, 1900
Caroline, 60, and Mat, 69, host two lodgers in the home they own on Mountain Street in Asheville. Mat chops wood for a living – possibly at a tannery. Neither can read or write. Caroline reports her birth as being in January 1840.

1900 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

Caroline’s niece, Catherine Haynes (born Aug. 1868), married James W. Bryan (born Feb. 1865) in 1897.

By 1900, the couple have two children – Julius (born Oct. 1898) and Mainie (born May 1900). Lizzie lives with them (born Jan. 1853) at 29 Poplar Street.

James is a physican.

Asheville City Directories, 1899-1901 & 1900-1901

Asheville Daily Citizen, January 3, 1901

In the Asheville City Directories from 1899 – 1907, Mat Cope is still listed as living at 9 Mountain Street.

Caroline is not found under either Cope or Haynes.

Asheville City Directory, 1902-1903

Asheville City Directory, 1904-1905

However, Caroline’s sister, Lizzie, continues to live on Poplar Street.

October 27, 1907
Mat dies at “age 65” of “supposed to be old age.” He is marked as “married;” however, there is no space to mark “widowed.”

We have not yet uncovered any other records related to Caroline.

1910 US Census, Buncombe County, NC

Though Lizzie’s daughter, Catherine, passed away in 1901, her son – Julius, now 11, continues to live with James W. and his new wife, Leonora. Francis, 15, is likely her daughter from her first marriage.

Julius’ younger sister, Mainie, who would have been around 10, is not in the household.

In 1918, Julius Bryan registered for the selective service. He was working as a janitor and waiter in Pennsylvania. 

1920 US Census, Edgecombe County, NC

In 1920, James and Leonora have moved to Rocky Mount, in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Julius, 21, and Frances, 25, still live with the couple.

On March 13, 1922, Lizzie Haynes – the daughter of Robert and Lydia (and Julius’ grandmother) – passed away in Asheville. She was born on March 18, 1851, and is likely one of the enslaved children referred to in James M. Smith’s 1854 codicil.

George Jr. died in 1943 at about 78 years old.

He was listed as “single.”