Maria Howcott of Chowan county


On 15 June 1895, 64-year-old Miles Howcott applied in Washington county North Carolina for a licence to marry his second wife Roxana Hassell. [1] When making the application Miles stated that his father was Henry Bartee and his mother Mariah Howcott. The application described both of Miles’ parents as coloured and stated that both were dead.

Greenhall Road junction with New Road

The only slaveholders in North Carolina with the Howcott surname during in the 19th century were Nathaniel & Sarah Howcott of Chowan county and their descendants, so it is in records relating to these people that information relating to Maria has been researched. [2] A number of references have been found to Maria as being held by various members of the Howcott family between 1820 and 1845. Although it is not certain, it is likely that the references all relate to the same individual.

“Murier” was one of three slaves whom Nathaniel Howcott left to his wife Sarah when he signed his will on 13 May 1820. Sarah made her will on 15 March 1823, leaving four slaves, including a “girl” called Maria to her sons Nathaniel and John B Howcott, both of whom were then minors. Sarah Howcott died on 23 August 1827. [3]

The accounts that the orphans’ guardians submitted of the management of their assets vary in detail. For instance, in some years the credits for hiring out slaves were expressed as a single figure for all the slaves during that period, but in other years each slave hired out was identified along with a specific figure. Sometimes, the names of slaves appear in connection with payments made from the estate but these records may also be incomplete.

The slaves left by Sarah to her sons John and Charles were divided between them in a document dated 18 March 1828. [4] In this, Maria was again described as a “girl” and, along with three “men” was allocated to John B Howcott. Her valuation was given as $250, the same figure being shown for Daniel and Wallace but lower than the $350 ascribed to Daniel. For the year 1828, the payments received for hiring “Girl Maria” amounted to $19.75. [5] By that stage, Maria had reached child-bearing age, as on 7 February 1829, $2 was paid to Mrs Young for “Attendance on Maria when lying in”. [6] As Miles was born about 1830, he may have been the child born on that occasion. There appear to be no later references to Maria in the guardians’ accounts.

In the 1830s, John B Howcott moved south to Canton, Mississippi. He sold at least one of his slaves to his brother Charles R Howcott, who paid him $450 on 7 May 1835 for Wallace. [7] It is likely that John B also sold Maria and Miles to Charles at around the same time. In any event, Maria and Miles were listed, one after another, in the schedule of the slaves who were held by Charles R Howcott at the time of his death in 1845. [8]

No subsequent record of Maria has been found. She does not appear in the 1870 census, which is the first enumeration in which individuals who had been held in slavery were recorded by name, so it is likely that she had died or perhaps changed her surname through marriage before then.


[1]    North Carolina, county marriages, 1762-1979 – Miles Howcott & Roxana Hassell

[2]    The Howcott plantation was at Greenhall Road, probably around the present-day junction with New Road, about five miles north of Edenton.

[3]    From a newspaper account included in “Abstract of Vital Records from Raleigh NC newspapers 1820-1829”, compiled by Lois Smithers Neal (Spartenburg, SC, 1980).

[4]    North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979 – Nathaniel Howcott (image 7 of 120)

[5]    North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979 – Nathaniel Howcott (image 75 of 120)

[6]    North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979 – Nathaniel Howcott (image 74 of 120)

[7]    From a bill of sale in Chowan county deeds, book W, page 329.

[8]    North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979 – Charles R Howcott (image 9 of 40)