My Mind Is Back In Hyde County Folks!

I am back in Hyde County folks. No, not physically but in my mind in terms of researching my family tree. For those of you who are new to the blog, my Whitney family line came from Hyde County, NC.  I am very  thankful for the helpful nods I have been given along the way while studying my ancestors. I had on the message board for Hyde County an inquiry about additional information regarding my 3rd great grandparents, Thomas Whitney and Margaret Merritt (Merrick) Whitney. A very helpful Kay M. Sheppard told me about two publications that could help me with my research. Both provided details about the land called the "Donnell Farm," where I believe my ancestors worked and eventually I believe were laid to rest at.

The first publication is called "Hyde County,(NC) Land Divisions in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" by  Richard B. Lupton. This book has tons of information regarding the different land divisions in the county as well as background information about Donnell farm that I found very intriguing. Here's a passage from this book that discusses John Donnell, the owner of Donnell farm.

The largest and most prominent of these landowners and masters was an absentee land baron from New Bern.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, Judge John Donnell controlled 13,206 acres, mostly in central Hyde, owned 220 slaves, 10 of whom were mulattoes, suggesting a sexual bond among the slaves, whites and/or Native Americans.  The Judge never resided in Hyde County, but his footprints and the slaves' legacy remain imprinted in the coal black soil on the south of Lake Mattemuskeet. 

Things that make you go hmmm, right? Well this is an important finding. My family's oral history was that my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Whitney was of Portuguese descent and both he and his son Samuel, my 2nd great grandfather, spoke fluent Portuguese.  I had traced a Samuel Whitney to the 1830 and 1840 censues who was a free person of color who I have theorized was the father of Thomas Whitney. What if Samuel Whitney found on the 1830 and 1840 censuses was not from the Azores as my family had been told? Perhaps an earlier Whitney ancestor was the one who came from there. Or perhaps the oral history is wrong all together. 

I went back over some information that I had found back on the WRG (Whitney Family Group) website sometime ago. On that site they have noted that the earliest know Whitney that they could find information about in Hyde County was a man named Isaac Whitney who was found listed as a witness on a land deed from 1767. This could very well have been the spouse of a Sarah Whitney who is found in Hyde county on the 1790 census. 

Information Courtesy of

Sarah Whitney had 23 slaves. More than likely it would seem that one of those slaves was probably the Samuel Whitney who is a free person of color by 1830 in New Bern. There are no other white Whitneys found after the death of Sarah in Hyde County. The two males listed on the 1790 census may have been sons or may not have been. They apparently were not in the picture as of the 1797. Sarah Whitney died some point that year and her estate's distribution was handled by a Benjamin Russell. Also mentioned in the Hyde North Carolina Minutes for Sarah's estate are a Samuel Jasper, Henry Clark, and Ben Foreman. It would seem that more than likely Sarah's slaves and other assets would have gone to these individuals and or perhaps other Hyde county residents. 

The other publication that I purchased recently was the Spring 1982 edition of "High Tides", the Hyde County Historical and Genealogical Society's Semi-Annual Journal. This issue of the journal contains a drawing of what the Donnell farm looked like back 1891. There's also mention of Civil War letters primarily from Henry Jones, the overseer of the farm. Tons of great information in here. I have to finish going through this journal and then follow up with some research on the people mentioned in the court minutes for Sarah Whitney's estate.

I do find it interesting that there are only African American Whitneys found in Hyde County Censuses since the time of Sarah Whitney. Anyway, I have to stop here because the kids are tugging me off the computer. LOL. Time to play Wii.  :)


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