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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35 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.

  2. i’m an Avery descendant and i was getting into some of history and found your post, this helps a lot so thanks for taking interest in this. i plan on sharing this with my mom and dad.

    1. I’m so glad! We’ve been working so hard on getting a first draft of our book done that I haven’t added anything here for quite a while, but we’re going to be looking for more information in the family papers when we have time, and will add it.

    2. I’m Amelia Avery and I pretty sure that my roots lead here as well. My great grand father was James Avery ( common name but he was from Morganton its on his WWII draft card he living in Lake Charles,LA .

  3. This is important work that you have done. I am also a descendant of Waightstill Avery and to know that there are others who care about the wrongs of the past, makes me proud. I am only recently diving into the Avery line and am fascinated by it. Your work here can be very helpful to so many who lost so much.
    I would love to discuss your research with you and I hope to hear from you.

      1. Thank you for this! My research has me related to Big Luie and Romeo…their daughter Vinnie….I am an Avery descendent

  4. Hi!
    My name is Johnsie Brevard Cleveland.
    I was told my that my family was first owned by the Avery Family then sold to the Brevard Family.
    Do you have any documentation concerning business dealing with the Brevard Family in Lincoln County North Carolina?
    We keep Avery in our name
    Thank you so much for your reply.

    1. Hi Johnsie – I don’t have any at hand, but when I go back to NC to do research in the family papers (in the Southern Historical collection at UNC Chapel Hill), I’ll keep my eyes open for them and let you know.

  5. hello
    my name is Ricard Mcpherson from Va Bch . very interested in your research hopeing you may help . my family was also avery in Morganton N C but not related to the Waightstill Avery clan .there names were Peter T born around 1824 and Sophia perry Avery they had about 12 children the oldest being william will. my line came from one of the youngest cam or cameron Avery. please if anything came up in your research ….please let me know 757 237 5993 thank you

    1. I, too, am a descendant of Peter T. Avery (1819-1897) and Sophia A. Perry (1836-1910) – my 2nd great-grandparents. This research on the Avery family’s enslaved is impressive. I hope to follow the work that’s being done more closely now that I’m found this site.

      1. mrs. janet spencer if you would please , im trying to find out more info on peter and sophia ,like peters siblings or sophia , where are they burried ,photographs . my line comes from cam or cameron avery born est. 1883 died 1950 he is my 2nd gen. grandfather , also out of all my years of research on my fathers side darrel b mcpherson and my moms side patsy ann avery i do not have photos of cam ,peter ,or sophia if you can help please call me at 757 237 5993 my name is richard b mcpherson at 416 opal ave virginia beach va 23462 email

      2. I’m so glad it’s useful to you. I’ve found a few more names of people enslaved by the Avery family and other associated families and will add them when I can.

  6. Hi!

    I would like to Thank You for all the work that you have done. I know that it is hard work. I am part of the African-American Erwin side and I find your work fascinating. I am still trying to confirm which Plantation my family was enslaved in. Hopefully, I am close. I believe that they were either in Belvidere or Quaker Meadows, possibly both.

    Thank You again,


    1. Your thanks mean so much to me. When I have a bit of extra time I’ll look into any information I have about the Erwins, and if I find anything I’ll let you know. There are a lot of Erwin papers at the Southern Historical collection at UNC Chapel Hill. If you live in NC it would be worth taking a look. In the George Phifer Erwin papers there are deeds for slaves and you might find your ancestors there. Good luck!

  7. I am so glad I stumbled upon your articles! I am researching my family line and know that there is the surname of Avery for my family but my line is actually a Chambers but the rest of his siblings were Avery’s from a Wilson Avery and Jemima. I was looking for info on Chambers families in the area to see if I could find where the Chambers comes from as the rest of the family would all become Avery’s except my Great great great grand who was the Chambers.

    1. Hi Ashley,
      The Chambers family are Scotch-Irish and all descend from Henry Chambers (b.1708, Antrim, Northern Ireland – d.1782, Iredell County, NC), an immigrant from Northern Ireland. In his will, Henry Chambers left a few enslaved people to his children. Among the enslaved were London, Bob, and Neela. My great-great grandfather, Isaac Thomas Avery (b. 1785-d.1864), had a daughter named Justina Harriet Avery (b.1833 – d.1902) who married into the Chambers family. Her husband was Pinkney Brown Chambers (b.1821, Iredell County – d.1905, Charlotte, NC).

      Her sister, Mary Ann “Martha” Avery, married his cousin, Joseph Franklin Chambers (b.1812, Iredell County – d.1877, Morganton, NC). He ran a hotel and they had 25 enslaved people. Joseph’s brother, Maxwell Chambers, became a very wealthy man. In his 1854 will he mentions some of the enslaved. Here’s the exerpt:

      “Being desirous to emancipate some of my slaves during the ensuing spring and having concluded to send them to the State of Ohio, I hereby request and direct my executors in case of my death before effecting it, to liberate and release from slavery or involuntary servitude my woman Adeline and all her children, Marget and all her children and Garrison her husband, also Edwin, Isliam, Hugh and Chesly, brother of Adeline and Marget, and to furnish them with a complete and plentiful outfit of good clothing and a full supply of provisions for the journey (say three or four weeks) also to hire a sober steady person with a wagon and team to take them comfortably to their place of destination, and furnish all those over twelve years old with sixty dollars each, and those under that age with forty dollars each in such money as will be current in Ohio, the childrens money to be given to their parents, all those means to be furnished out of my estate. ”

      I’ll see if I can dig up more information, and any names of people enslaved by the Chambers family.

      All best,

      1. P.S. By the way, there was a law in North Carolina at the time that, once an enslaved person was freed, he or she could only remain in the state for six months. That’s why Maxwell is arranging for the people he’s emancipating to go elsewhere. Here is more from Maxwell Chambers’ will regarding enslaved people.
        “#35. I leave to my dear sister Rebecca M. Caldwell the use and services of my excellent man Scissio as a carriage driver, waiting man and gardener, but not a farm hand, as long as she may desire his service, and at her death or previously if she should not desire him he shall have the offer of his freedom, to go to a free state or Liberia and my executors in case he accepts the offer shall furnish him with the necessary papers and comfortable clothing and one hundred dollars in money that will be current where he may desire to go, I also request my sister to permit him to visit his family near Davidson College and his mother in Charlotte occasionally should he decline his freedom then he shall be at liberty to select a master to purchase him at a reasonable price.

        #36. If I should make no other disposition of the remainder of my slaves not hereinbefore provided for, they shall all have the offer of their freedom to go to a free state or Liberia, giving them the same outfit in money, clothing, transportation of as Adeline and her party is to have, to be supplied from my estate giving to my good servant Sucky one hundred dollars, should they or any of them decline their freedom, after say six months notice from my executors then it is my wish and desire that they may select their masters to purchase them at a fair and reasonable price, and as much in family as practical and my executors may effect the sale privately, and it is my direction that any crop I may have arranged or commission in my plantation shall be made and gathered before the Negroes is disposed of. “

  8. As I read over the past post I agree, this is truly wonderful. Thank you for your time and dedication. Although I haven’t come across any Avery’s in my line, I do have Erwins. The tip you gave Taneca to look at Chapel Hill in the George Erwin papers I will put on my to do list.

    I’m research William Jenkins (1837-1900) he married Mary Jane Connelly (1839-1935). I found him in the 1880 (Icard), 1900 (Durham) census and maybe the Civil War. I’m still trying to verify if this is him. I found several land transactions. The first one dating 1872 in Burke County.

    Mary Jane is the daughter of Susan Connelly. In Mary Jane’s son’s obit it states she was an ex-slave. I’m trying to trace the slave holders for Susan and Mary Jane. I found a slave census (1860) that Susan might be on. The owner is an E.L Connelly. Not sure if this male or female. Have you come across William Jenkins, Mary Jane Connelly or Susan Connelly? Susan also had a daughter named Anne. I heard that the master went between 2 sisters and between them had 22 children. I can’t recall if it was Susan and her sister (unknown) or Mary Jane and Anne. Any guidance is appreciated. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to attend the NCGS Conference in November or just go to Burke County for a week and do some more research.

    Thanks in advance.

  9. I so glad you put this out and will like any other you have,you just gave me info on Robert love my gggrandfather,I also have a Jessie Thomas that family says tie into Cherokee on William holland,thank you so much love our heritage that’s truly spoken my dna has me tied to love and Thomas family

  10. My great aunt was owned by Abraham Avery. Her name was Julia Heilig as she married Emphraim Heilig. Julia was later given to a Lutheran minister Samuel Rothrock. If its possible, do you have any information re: Abraham, Samuel, and Paul Heilig, who was the owner of Emphraim. Thanks.

  11. I’m a descendant of the Avery family. My 4th great grandfather was Andy Avery (born 1825) and his mother was Viney Avery (born 1805). Do you have any information on Viney Avery?

  12. I am a descendant of Albert Chambers. He was my great great grandfather who was a deacon and one of the founding members of Chambers Chapel in Glen Alpine, NC.

  13. Thank you so much for that info! I’m just now seeing this but it helped with a bit of thr story for my family. I can see in that list that an Albert was bequeathed to daughter Mary who became a Chambers. My great great grandfather was named Albert Avery Chambers. He was a Chambers and the only one of his line to have that name while the rest were Averys and their lines continued as Averys.
    What’s interesting is that Alberts father was Wilson Avery and he was listed for a bit on the California census in Yuba California, I’m assuming as a miner with the person who enslaved him.
    Anyway, thank you for this information, it has been a huge help in my research. If you see anything else, would love to know anymore info you come across. THANK YOU!!!

  14. Im trying to find any details on an Avery Slave that may have had a son in 1899 or 1900 the son was named James Avery. The slave may have relocated to Louisiana. I dont have a date of birth for him but he list Morganton NC on his WWII draft card as his place of birth

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