List of people/families enslaved by the Avery family of Morganton, NC

This is where the unmarked graves of enslaved Africans/Americans are. I hope to add a marker in this area.
This is where the unmarked graves of enslaved Africans/Americans are. I hope to add a marker in this area.

This is a listing of poeple enslaved* by the Avery-family. I’ve divided them into family groupings. I hope it will help their descendants in their searches for their family history. I’ve also added a brief history of the Avery family to help put these enslaved Africans and Americans in a wider historical context and timeline.

*A note on the terms I’m using. Race and racial slavery are such painful and difficult issues in our collective history that I am trying to do my small part by reexamining even the terms used to discuss it. The words we use reflect our beliefs; using different words can undermine those beliefs. So, for instance, rather than calling the people on this list “slaves,” they are “the enslaved” – which describes what was done to them but does not define them by it. And it places culpability squarely where it belongs – on those people like my ancestors who engaged in the enslavement of other human beings.

I also use the term “racial slavery” for slavery as it was practiced in the U.S.  Slavery, of course, has been practiced, and practiced in different ways, throughout human history. The Cherokee took those defeated in battle as slaves, but then often eventually adopted them into the family with full familial rights. Slavery as practiced by whites in the U.S. was an institutionalized system of degrading, devaluing, and using people of African descent. Our economy was built on it and an entire field of pseudo-science was created to justify it (e.g. different races were believed to be different species).


The Avery family of Swan Ponds, Burke County, NC

Waightstill Avery, who founded the Swan Ponds plantation (I don’t say he “built” it because, of course, it was built by enslaved people), was born in 1741 in Groton, Connecticut. He was educated at Princeton University. In 1778, in New Bern, NC (on the east coast) he married a young wealthy widow, Leah Probart Franks. After a few years in eastern N.C., Waightstill and Leah moved to Burke County, N.C. in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in western N.C. Swan Ponds plantation, just outside Morganton, was established. They had four children – Polly Mira Avery, Elizabeth Avery, Isaac Thomas Avery, and Selina Louise Avery. Leah and Waightstill lived at Swan Ponds until their respective deaths. Waightstill Avery died in 1821 and Leah died in 1832.


Their son, Isaac Thomas Avery (1785-1864), inherited the plantation and some portion of the enslaved population. In 1815 he married Harriet Eloise Erwin (1795-1858). The Erwins were a wealthy local family. They owned a plantation called Belvidere and, presumably, some of those enslaved by the Erwins went with Harriet to Swan Ponds. They had ten children (that survived into adulthood): William Waightstill Avery, Isaac Erwin Avery, Mary Martha Avery, Justina Harriet Avery, Alphonso Calhoun Avery, Laura Myra Avery, Willoughby Francis Avery. Three of their sons – William Waightstill Avery, Clark Moulton Avery, Isaac Erwin Avery – died in the Civil War, fighting on the wrong side of history. Their father died in 1864 after hearing of the deaths of William and Clark.


After emancipation, many of those who had been enslaved (having few options) stayed in the area. There are still many Avery descendants, both black and white, in the area around Morganton.


The people the Avery family enslaved (and who died before emancipation) are buried in unmarked graves near the small Avery family cemetery. I hope to raise enough money to put a permanent marker of some kind near or on the place where these enslave people lie, and on it all their names.


Slave cabins were on this ridge along the tree line.
Swan Ponds in 1900, more or less as it would have been during the time of slavery.
Swan Ponds in 1900, more or less as it would have been during the time of slavery.

Enslaved family groups on the Avery plantation

Tina [from Franck family, with Leah]

Son Lenoir, b. 1766



Daughter Ester, b. 1766

Son Jon b. 1769

child Benna, b. 14 May 1772

 Balaam, b. 11 April 1774

Jim, b. 10 April 1776

Pete born 3rd Nov. 1778

Diana born 13th Dec. 1780

Adam born 25 Dec. 1783

Sarah born Dec. 1785


Children Lilph & Rose b. 15 April 1770



Son Ben, b. march 1788



Son Owen



Son Perry


Manual (Emanual?)

Two sons


Mary (purchased Sept 6, 1814)

son Jim, b. April 1816



Daughter Chassey, b. August 1816


Romeo & Big Luie have 9 children at home Dec. 1815

  1. Mara       7. Eliza or Liz
  2. Pat          8. Dashee
  3. Jacob      9. Mimee
  4. Nan
  5. Vinee
  6. Jos. (or Joseph, and possibly given to Harriet Avery Chambers in Isaac Thomas Avery’s will)


Eliza [possibly daughter of Romeo & Big Louie becayse she named a son Romeo?]

Twins, Jacob & Mary, b. 12 Sept. 1829, d. Sept. 1840 from fever

Daughter Luann, b. 18 Aug. 1841

[same as Eliza?]


Twins, Romeo & Sully



July hath 8 children 1815

  1. Hampton
  2. Dick
  3. Henry
  4. Peter
  5. Chenee
  6. George
  7. Sally
  8. Ginny

Monday hath 7 children living at home 1815

  1. Stephen
  2. Luie M.
  3. Will
  4. Anthony
  5. Emperor
  6. Sue
  7. Jack


Diana hath 6 children living at home 1815

  1. Ab (Abraham, Abner, or Absalom?)
  2. Li
  3. Isam
  4. Balam
  5. Celia
  6. Cinthia

[Same Diana? Son Cyrus, b. 10 Jan. 1838 “bought by Forney and paid.”]?


Bet hath two children (could be Betty or Elizabeth)

  1. Abe  (Abraham?)
  2. Rose


Felix hath 3 children

  1. Tina
  2. Lip
  3. Primus

And one grandchild

  1. Sam



son Jim



Daughter Chiney



Twins, Two smart healthy daughters, b. Sept. 1818




Son Moses



Son Billy “being a Mulatto” b. 2 Jan. 1805


 15 August 1837



Boy child b. 28 March 1838



Child (no name) b. 8 April 1838, d. 4 weeks old



Boy child died soon after birth



Boy Child b. 24 August 1838, d. same day


16 April 1829


Child Robert Ad___ b. 14 May 1829



Son b. August 1829, d. 4 days after birth



Daughter Polly, b. 19 Nov. 1841



Linda and Abnus

Daughter Hulda, b. 20 Sept. 1854


Caty & Alfred

Daughter Milly, b. Swan Ponds in January

Son Anthony, b. 22 Oct. 1854



Son Balaam, b. 22 Oct. 1852, d. 1852


Jenny (& Cathe?)

Son Willoughby Francis, b. 18 March 1855 (the fact that her son is named Willoughby Francis could indicate that the child was fathered by Willoughby Francis Avery)

(mentioned in Willoughby Francis Avery’s will in 1876)




Daughter Jane

Daughter Lovina, b. Nov. 17 1856

Son Ephraim, b. January 26, 1861, d. Dec. 4, 1862


March 25th 1855


Daughter, Mineva (Minerva?)

two boys, b. Dec. 15th 1860 died soon after the birth


Mary Esther

Son John Carson, b. June 24, 1855? (The Carsons were also a well-to-do local family who had many enslaved Africans/Americans. This boy could have been fathered by one of them.)

[same woman?]


Daughter Mary, b. March 10th 1862


Margaret (owner Isaac Erwin Avery)

Son Clingman August 2, 1855?

daughter Lititia, b. Dec. 6, 1862

[same Margaret as Isaac T. Avery’s Margaret?)


Cinthy (Abbi’s daughter) [same Abb as Abb Boy Child b. 24 August 1838, d. same day?]

Son Elisha, b. August 26 , 1855?



Daughter Matilda, b. December 20 1850


19th February 1857


Daughter Lila



Son Samuel, b. 10th March 1857 at Swan Ponds

[same as below?]


Son Capt. James Wilson, b. August 4th 1861, d. 26 April 1862

[same as above]?

Cecelia (in Yancey, NC)

Daughter Ann, b. December 1856



Twin sons b. 16th May 1857, William & The other died in October 1857



Daughter Missy, b. August 14


Margaret (owner Isaac Thomas Avery)

child named ___ , b. Nov. 23 (1855?) died at 5 months old

Daughter Elvira, b. October 12, 1860


Cindy was delivered of two boys, b. Dec. 15th 1860 died soon after the birth


Julia & Homer’s

Son Romeo, b. January 6, 1861




Thine had at the Crab Orchard (in Plumtree, NC) in Mitchel

Daughter Louisa, b. About the 20th of August


Mary  (Thines’ daughter)

Son Logan, b. 30 September 1861



bore three children on Jan 19, 1862 – two sons and one girl Rachel. Of the boys, one died in May & one in August



Daughter Sally, b. February 20, 1862


Surak (Sarah?)

Son Will Phifer, b. Sept. 11th 1862

(The Phifers were also a local white family. The use of the Phifer name could indicate that one of the Phifer men had fathered the child.)



Daughter called —— , b. & died October 24, 1862



Roxanna & Lige (Elijah)

(There are many stories about an enslaved man named Elijah or Lige, which I’ll post soon. He was – through the Avery family’s telling of the stories – the prototypical “faithful slave” of Southern myth. Obviously his own version of events would be different and fascinating! If anyone descended from Lige reads this, I’d love to hear from you.)

daughter Anna


Cecilia & Alfred’s

Daughter Delphy, b. in Mitchell [Crab Orchard in Plumtree?] in 1862

(Alfred possibly given to Clark Moulton Avery in I.T. Avery’s will, though Clark was dead by then.)



son called ________, b. July 26th 1864




From Isaac Thomas Avery’s will

(Isaac Thomas Avery, b. 1785, d. December 1864)


Bequeathed to W.W. Avery:


Poiter +


Daughter Delia

Son Balaam

Son Julius

Daughter Mary

Son William


Bequeathed to Harriet J. Chambers:

Jo or Joseph


Son Hardy

Son Nelson

? M___

daughter Minny


Bequeathed to Mary. M. Chambers:




Son William

Son Turner?

Son Stephen

Son Harris

Daughter Mariah

Unnamed baby






Bequeathed to Clark M. Avery:


A couple

Loress (or Louu) and Alfred


Elvira (died before 1865)

Daughter Linda

Son Joe

Daughter Emma

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8 thoughts on “List of people/families enslaved by the Avery family of Morganton, NC”

    1. Thanks Laurent. The more I historical work I do the more I understand that history, as it is lived and experienced day to day, is hidden away in the minute details.

    1. Yes. It’s become very important to me to erect, someday, a marker with all their names on it near where they are buried – to inscribe publicly their names, their presence, on the place they lived, worked, suffered, and made lives for themselves in spite of that suffering.

    1. I wish wish wish there were more personal information about those enslaved by my family. But even the little bits here and there in the documents are tantalizing. And, yes, it’s heartbreaking. But there are descendants of these people that I’ve found. They have large and thriving families, and it’s been very meaningful to me to pass this information about their roots on to them.

  1. Very nice that records were kept of the slaves. Not many families have such records. I am fortunate enough to know the names of the enslaved of two of my four grand parents. Father’s enslaved relatives were: Rison and Fears. I know the name of the Fears slaves. Mother’s enslaved relatives were: Ferguson and Mast. I know the name of the Mast slaves. The Mast slaves were from Valle Crusis, N. C. Valle Crusis is north of Morgantown. Would love to communicate more about the area of Morgantown. There just may be a connection between the enslaved there and Valle Crusis. Would like to communicate more with you. BTW, have you heard of a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) to detect unmarked graves. I have information if you would like to know more about it. Looking forward to hearing from you. Please respond to my email address as soon as you have time.

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