18 Feb 1803 — John Lang to Sarah Butler … deed of gift … 10 acres joining John Sumner’s line, during her natural life, and 2 cows, sow and pigs, pot, feather bed and furniture, puter bason, dish, 2 plates and 2 spoons …
This is the first deed that mentions my ancestor Thomas Collins (1769-1849) and it’s worth looking into for several reasons. One: it identifies a general area where Thomas Collins might have been living in 1803. Recall that Thomas Collins does appear in the 1800 US Federal Census for Gates County, head of a household of eight, with six free white females under age 16. The key figure in this deed is John Lang, as he is giving the land to Sarah Butler. Where was this land located?
16 May 1795 — William Saunders to John Lang … 65 pds … 221 acres on N side of Cypress Swamp, along line of marked trees to branch and up swamp …
So where was Cypress Swamp in Gates County? Believe it or not, it’s still a geographical feature, and it is located just east of Eure in Hall Township.
So the first definite location we have for Thomas Collins is in Hall Township in Gates County.
Research into the Langs and Ransomes shows that both were land, and slave, owning families. But what of this Sarah Butler who gets 10 acres? Who is she? And why is John Lang deeding land to a woman? There are no Butlers in the 1800 US Federal Census in Gates County. And there are none in the 1810 US Federal Census in Gates County. It is not until 1820 that Martha Butler appears as head of a household of 10 “other free” in Gates. It is from this Butler family that the modern day Chowanoke Butler family descends.
Paul Heinegg links this family to another Martha Butler in Bertie County who flourished some 50 years earlier. Maybe. I do suppose that in the deed, James Ransome appeared as a witness on behalf of John Lang, and Thomas Collins was Sarah Butler’s witness. This is based alone on economic class. John Lang and James Ransome were in a different league from Sarah Butler and Thomas Collins. Thomas Collins, remember, owned no land. Even his son, Thomas R. Collins, born three years later in 1806, proclaimed himself illiterate on the 1880 Census. But what was their relationship, Thomas Collins and Sarah Butler? Was he her common-law husband or son? Or just a neighbor? I wish I knew.