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Historical Reminiscences

[From: New Bern Weekly Journal, January 17, 1905]
Historical Sketches by Colonel John D. Whitford.

Let us finish the sentence now, a part of which being omitted in the printing in the last sketch where reference is made to Donum Mumford as a loud talker, though not pert. It was written “You know there are people that speak their words, if not far from one’s ear, as if a mile away, and others believe

Respect is won by grave pretence,
And silence surer even than sense.”

Hannah Mumford the wife of Donum, was much lighter in color than himself and a number of years his junior in age. She was the nurse of Wm. Gaston, when his father was butchered by the Tories on the 20th day of August, 1781, was with Gaston that day in the house on the ground where the Journal office is now located, as previously mentioned. We expect again to refer to Dr. Gaston’s death in connection with the Haslin-Carthy-Washington Mansion which occurred there after being wounded in a boat on Trent River while attempting to escape to go back to Mumford.

New Bern, Nov 27, 1832.
The undersigned having been requested to examine the state of Christ Church in this town since the completion of the essential repairs to be perfectly secure from the most remote danger and that its condition is such as to warrant the presence of the greatest possible assemblage.

In explanation of the sub-joined certificate it is well to state that owing to some imperfection, either in the plan or execution of the church the roof arched there began gradually to flatten and thrust the side walls out. The roof was taken off, the walls drawn in with iron rods and a new roof substituted of a different construction. The rods of iron were afterwards covered with wood resting at the ends on corbels and making quite a handsome ceiling.

It was not only a high compliment to a colored man, but would have been to any white man to be allowed to act with the four white men of the highest standing in the town as mechanics as well as citizens. They were indeed men of “stern stuff” and the very kind no longer [lawyer?] would have ever selected for a case in which he was interested unless the innocence was clear, very clear of his client.

Mr. W.B. Flanner assistant in the Register of Deeds office of Craven County and his sisters at New Bern are the grandchildren of B. Flanner.

Mr. S.M. Brinson is the great grandson of Joshua Mitchell, whose ancestor came to this country bearing the name of Mitchell in the time of De Graffenreid.

Mr. John Lane is the son of Hardy B. Lane and so well represents him at this time. F. Sparrow has no male lineal descendants we think at New Bern now. He was a Christian gentleman of influence.

We have been thus particular in alluding to these gentlemen not only because they deserve all that is said of them and more as it was wished our colored citizens would look back to the days of slavery and learn when the behavior was properly respected and treated by influential white people and what occurred in New Bern was not an exception generally in North Carolina.

Donum Mumford contracted to pull down the First Episcopal Church when the new one was constructed, fell from it, and broke his thigh. Then superstition arose as to the punishment for the act, and the real or supposed dangerous condition of the roof and walls of the new church with some increase. Hence the thorough examination and report of the five men competent and efficient carpenters and brick masons as to its secure condition.

One or two cases of slaver should not be forgotten. There were two negroes, Jacob McClures at New Bern, father and son. The former a slave and the latter free born having a free mother all black. It will be recollected, Judge Wm. Gaston was twice married, his second wife being a daughter of Dr. and General Wm. McClure of Craven, as he was both. After the death of himself and daughter, Mrs. Gaston, the estate being divided including the negroes, old Jacob was purchased by his son. This was about 1820. The master in the passing of time became dissatisfied with the conduct of his slave, he stated for his impudence and laziness sold him as follows to a man direct from Long Island, N.Y., where was his home and until this hour some people of the name reside. He was the first regular negro speculator at New Bern. Copied from the New Bern Spectator.

“Highest cash prices will be paid for young negroes of both sexes from 10 to 26 years of age. JOHN GILDER SLEEVE”
New Bern, 2nd Nov 1832.

Young negroes were preferred by our Northern speculators but those of other ages were not refused at fair prices.—Thus old Jacob McClure was taken in.

The New York “Gilder” as he was familiarly called by his associates after wearing the New Bern market down went to Alabama, leaving his soil intended for his brothers and sisters, standing on the banks of the Trent River at the foot of the street below Mr. J.S. Manix residence which was originally John Gilder Sleeves, the Long Island speculator who first came to New Bern for that purpose alone and did pursue his business enthusiastically and industriously while there a number of years.


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