Smiths and Wyatts

I THINK I HAVE COME CLOSER to making a connection between the Smith family of Gates County and the one across the river in Hertford County, the family of James Smith that appears in the 1790 US Federal Census that is the progenitor of the modern Meherrin nation.

It is my belief, that I descend from the Smith family. This is because my ancestor Anna Russell was the sister of James Russell and Charles Russell, who married Polly and Mourning Smith, respectively. And in the 1791 estate file of George Russell, her father, three individuals named Smith appear — Arthur, Thomas, and Ann Smith. I believe Ann Smith was actually George Russell’s common law wife and the mother of his children. Their son, James, was named administrator of his father’s estate. Later, “Ann Russell” deeds land to her son, Charles Russell. And in future records, Smiths continue to appear alongside Russells. They are kin.

On that 1791 estate file for George Russell, there are some other interesting characters named. These include Hardy Cross, James Bethey, Mary Russell, Robert Napier, Benjamin Odom, James Goodman, Dempsey Odom, Arthur Smith, John Hamilton, Richard Oysten {Austin}, Thomas Smith, and Ann Smith. A few names are more difficult to read. These are Thomas Vann {Van?}, William Wyatt {Wyote?}, Thomas Ellen {Ellens?}, and John Simmons {Klemons?}.

Now, let’s look at the will of James Smith of Hertford County, grandfather of Sally Matilda Smith, the matriarch of the modern-day Meherrin nation. Quoting Paul Heinegg’s research here. “He died in July 1830 according to a deposition made in Hertford County court that same month by his executor, Pleasant Jordan. He named James Smith’s heirs: Andrew, Obed, and Jacob Smith and Mary Wiat.”

There is further information —

iv. Mary Wyatt. She may have been the wife of Nathan Wyatt, born 1794-1806, head of a Hertford County household of 4 “free colored” in 1830. He was probably the son of Orrin Wiott, head of a Hertford County household of 16 “free colored” in 1820 [NC:182] and 9 in 1830. Orrin Wiott was one of the “Sundry persons of Colour of Hertford County” who petitioned the General Assembly in November- December 1822 to repeal the act which declared slaves to be competent witnesses against free African Americans [NCGSJ XI:252]. The family probably originated in Prince William County, Virginia, where Ann Wyatt, a “mulatto,” was bound apprentice on 9 February 1779 [Historic Humphries, Dettingen Parish Vestry, 82].

It’s noteworthy to me that the “William Wyote” on the 1791 estate file of George Russell wrote his name in a similar way to the Orrin Wiott of Hertford County. Orrin may have been a son or brother of the William Wyote from Gates County. In the 1820 US Federal Census for Hertford County, “Arvin Wyatt” is listed right beside James Smith.This James Smith was the father of Jacob Smith, and grandfather of Sally Smith (1844-1904), from whom many modern day Meherrin Indians claim descent.

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