Bill of Sale, Lucy (12 years old), March 12, 1827, from William Hunter to James M. Smith, Buncombe Co. Register of Deeds

Know all men by these presents that I William Hunter [sp?][illegible] of the county of Buncombe and the State of No Carolina for and in consideration of one hundred + seventy four Dollars + twenty eight cents current money to me in hand paid by James M Smith, merchant, of the aforesaid County + State the receipt of which I do hereby acknowledge have Bargained Sold and delivered and by these presents bargain sell and deliver unto the said James M Smith a certain Negroe Girl aged Twelve years named Lucy to have and to hold the said bargained negroe unto the said James M Smith his Executors administrators and assigns forever And I the said Wm Hunting [sp?] Lin [sp?] for my self and my Executor and Administrators shall and will warrant and forever defend against all persons by these presents the said bargained Negro Girl unto James M Smith his Executors Administrators and assigns proved never the less that if I [illegible]

[new page – 327] administrators or assigns or any [illegible] other do an shall well and truely pay as cause to be paid unto the Said James M Smith his Executors administrators or assigns the sum of one hundred and seventy four dollars and twenty eights cents on or before the fifteenth day of January 1829 with lawfull interest there on from and after the present date for the redemption of the said bargained Negro Girl then the Bill of Sale to be void else to remain in ful force In county where of I have hereunto let my hand and seal this 12th day of March one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven.

William Hunley [sp?]

On March 12, 1927, 12-year-old Lucy was sold for $174.28 to James M. Smith. The name of the man who sold her is likely William Hunter, who is listed in the 1830 Census in Buncombe County as being between 60 and 70 years old and living with his similarly aged wife and three children. Though it appears that in the deed of sale, William Hunter retained the right to repurchase Lucy if he repaid the money to James M. Smith by January 15, 1829, it also appears that this did not happen, as in 1830, William Hunter does not enslave any people.

Image: Buncombe County Census in 1830 showing William Hunter’s household.

From these records, we can guess that Lucy might have been born in Buncombe County and might have been born enslaved by the Hunter family. We do know that she was likely born c1815.

As a 12-year-old, in 1827, Lucy likely moved to one of the dwellings James M. Smith kept for the people he enslaved in downtown Asheville.

Image: Buncombe County Census in 1820 showing James M. Smith’s household.

In 1820, James M. Smith enslaved 5 males and 4 females.

By 1830, James M. Smith enslaved 39 people, 26 men and 13 women – 11 of whom were between 10 and 25 years of age. However, the deed for Lucy is the only deed in Buncombe County showing James M. Smith purchasing a person prior to 1830. How did he acquire an additional 29 people?

Some of the younger people were likely born to a mother enslaved by the Smiths between 1820 and 1830. Other people may have been purchased from other counties or states. Still others might have been exchanged among friends or family without the need for an official deed. 

It is likely that one of the 11 women Smith enslaved in 1830 in the 10-25 age range was Lucy.

Image: Buncombe County Census in 1830 showing James M. Smith’s household.

Image: Buncombe County Census in 1840 showing James M. Smith’s household.

By 1840, James M. Smith enslaved at least 70 people, including at least 19 women who would have been around Lucy’s age.

The 1850 Census began counted enslaved people on the Slave Schedules. Here, James M. Smith enslaved 44 people. However, A. Teague, his agent, enslaved an additional 22 people, including a 35 woman, who might possibly be Lucy. However, census data is notoriously bad at accurately recording the ages of enslaved people.

Smith’s children also enslaved dozens of people.

Image: Buncombe County Census, Slave Schedules, in 1850 showing the number of people James M. Smith enslaved.

The next mention we see of someone named Lucy is “Lucy Ann” in James M. Smith’s will, written in February 1850.

“Also I give and bequeath to them the said Valentine [Ripley], Wm W [McDowell] + John P [Smith] the following negroes viz, Miles (sp?) + Charles (sons of George) Alfred, Swan (sp?), Lucy Ann + Tom (the miller) also a horse bridle and saddle worth one hundred dollars, two beds worth fifty dollars (to be taken from those on hand in my house) a bureau worth eighteen and five thousand dollars in case, in trust…”

Image: James M. Smith’s Will, February 9, 1850 

Because of the way the will is written, it is difficult to know if Lucy Ann is related to any of the enslaved people listed here. Because her age is not listed, it is also difficult to know whether she could be the “Lucy” purchased by James M. Smith in 1827.

Image: James M. Smith’s Will, codicil, January 7, 1854

“And whereas the boy Bob and the girl Tilda in my said will given to my son John P Smith have since died I will to him in their stead the boy Mose purchased at the widow Alexander’s sale, Lucy and Harry,…”

Four years later, a codicil to Smith’s will is only a little clearer. Here, Lucy is now willed to John P. Smith. Because Lucy Ann had already been willed to John P. Smith in the original will, it is likely that Lucy and Lucy Ann are two different people.

The next mention we find of the women makes this clear.

Image: Asheville News, August 26, 1858

Image: People sold by the estate of John P. Smith, August 27, 1858

In 1856, James M. Smith died. His son, John P. Smith, died the following year without leaving a will. Without a will, all John’s proptery, including the people that John had inherited from his father, was to be sold at auction on the steps of the Buncombe County Court House in Asheville.

On August 27, 1858, 18-year-old Lucy Ann and her two children were sold to J.A. Patton for $1,400.00. It is likely that this Lucy Ann is the same woman who was bequeathed to John P. Smith and others in James M. Smith’s 1850 will. It is possible that Lucy’s two children were very young – not only due to her age – but because they were not accounted for in Smith’s 1850 will.

Fifty-eight-year-old “Old” Lucy was sold to John’s brother Jesse S. Smith for $11.00. Though Lucy’s age – 58 – places her as being born c1800, it is still possible that she could have been the same 12-year-old girl, born c1815, purchased by James M. Smith back in 1827 as enslaved people’s ages were very often unknown. It is also possible that Lucy’s age was inflated so that John’s brother could purchase her at a reduced rate. However, there is also potential that she was referred to as “old” Lucy to differentiate her from another woman named Lucy.

There are four Lucys who register as married in the 1866 Buncombe County Cohabitation Records.

To see if any of these women are either of the Lucys we are looking for, we need to dig further.


Image: 1870 US Census, Morganton Township, Burke County

In 1870, in neighboring Burke County, Lucy A. Avery, 35, lives with her son, Joseph, 12, and daughter Ella, 5.

Image: 1880 US Census, Morganton Township, Burke County

In 1880, in neighboring Burke County, Lucy Ann Avery, 39, lives with her son, Joseph, 20, and daughter Ella, 14, and Becky, 3. Her husband is Harry (or Harvey), a 53-year-old farmer. Lucy Ann keeps house. Joseph and Ella work on the farm.

In 1900, in neighboring Burke County, Lucy Ann Avery lives with her daughter, Rebecca Fling (likely “Becky” from the 1880 Census). Lucy Ann works as a laundress.

She was born in January 1840. She has had five children, only two are still living. She has been married for 41 years, placing her marriage date c1859. (Lucy and Jason Avery, who registered in the cohabitation records, report their marriage date as 1861. However, this is still close enough for consideration. We do know that Lucy Ann had two children by August 1858; however, even if the date of her marriage is correct there are a number of reasons why she may have had two children before she married Jason.)

She is the right age to be the same Lucy Ann enslaved by the Smiths. More research is needed to determine if they are the same person.

Image: 1900 US Census, Morganton Township, Burke County

Image: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/94301664/_

Lucy Ann Erwin Avery, on findagrave.com, is identified as being:

Daughter of Hamilton “Hamp” Erwin and Mira or Myra Erwin, born on Belvedere Plantation. Mrs. Avery worked as a nurse / midwife. She was married to Harvey Avery. (Information from death certificate which noted burial in Morganton on 29 July 1917)

– If this is correct, then she is likely not the Lucy Ann we are looking for.