BLADENBORO — In 1733, the Edenton Council, when considering a proposal to recognize the Bladen Precinct separately from New Hanover, rejected the suggestion, saying in the area there were “not over three freeholders, Nathaniel Moore, Thomas Jones, and Richard Singletary, and not over 30 families …”
When Bladen Precinct was recognized in 1734, in addition to the Moores, Bladen was inhabited by Eleazar Allen, John Porter, Edward Mosely, John Baptista Ashe, Samuel and John Swann, John Davis, John Grange, Edward Hyrne, Thomas Jones, Edward Smith, and Mosely Vail.
Around 1740, Quakers from Pennsylvania moved to the Carver’s Creek area in the Bladen Precinct and began monthly meetings, establishing the first homogeneous community. Although a large contingent of the settlers relocated and began a sizable community still in existence in Guilford and Randolph counties, some of the families that remained in Bladen are ancestors to Bladen County families of Jones, McAden, Seames/Sims, Brown, Shaw, McCoulskey, Raynor, Baldwin, Granger, and Lewis.
Around the same time, Scots from the Isle of Jura in Argyll County were suffering religious persecution and seeking relief. Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston persuaded Highlanders they might find respite in North Carolina. A group of 350 Scotsmen arrived in 1739, followed by another contingent in 1767. Yet more Scots from the Isle of Jura fled persecution and arrived in what was by that time Bladen County, in 1804. These immigrants were the forefathers of today’s Clarks, Sinclairs, McBrides, Livingstons, Johnsons, Campbells, McDougalds, Russes, and McGregors.
In 1763, Bladen County, which included at this time portions of present-day Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, and Robeson counties, had a population of around 5,000. The next census was conducted in 1790 and, by then, Robeson and Cumberland counties had been carved out of Bladen County. Despite being about half the size it was during the 1763 census, the population had grown to 5,206. Included in the census were 1,667 free white males of all ages, 1,863 white females, and 1,676 slaves.
All of the information above, along with much more, can be found in the Genealogy Museum in the Bladenboro Historical Society Building. The museum is staffed with volunteers, including Bladenboro resident Henry Singletary.
“Where you came from and who your relatives are is just something that I can’t imagine not being important to somebody,” he commented. “It’s part of history, and what’s more important than your own history?”
In the museum are around 200 binders full of stories, names, marriage and death certificates, military records, accolades, photos, coats of arms, and just interesting details about the people who have made up Bladen County since the 1700s.
“When come out here, you can visit your grandma in a sense, and we might be able to tell you something about your family,” said Singletary.
In addition to all the information, the museum also includes relics such as old cameras and phonographs, handmade cotton quilts, cooking equipment, and a 100-year-old crib.
“Everybody has something interesting about them — finding it is the fun part,” Singletary remarked. “Some people might claim they don’t care about their ancestors, but they might find out they’re connected to somebody they’re really interested in.”
Called the “workroom” of the Historical Society, the museum is home to two computers that can be used to access online information for visitors, or they can browse through one of the many binders of written information (including information on approximately 16,000 Hesters) or they can just pick Singletary’s brain.
The museum also welcomes donations — of any kind.
“You might have already done all the research yourself, and if you bring it to us, we’ll add it to our database,” explained Singletary. “You might find a picture in your barn that you don’t care anything about, because it was your mama’s second cousin, but somebody would kill for that picture. Bring it to us. As long as you know who or what it is, and it’s not unidentified, we want it.”
“That’s the thing,” he added. “Everybody’s family is important.”
The Genealogy Museum is open on Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 p.m. or other times by appointment. For more information, visit bladenborohistoricalsociety.org/ or call 910-863-4707. The museum is located at 818 S. Main Street, Bladenboro, NC 28320.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.