|The Wilder - Richardson - Shambley
An Great Effort to Present Information about these families descended
from the enslaved negroes of a Lewiston Plantation
A Typical Cotton Plantation in the Lewiston Community of Greene County , Alabama
Several Wilder, Richardson, and Shambley descendants in the cities of Eutaw, Aliceville, Carrollton, Benevola, Tuscaloosa, Buhl, Birmingham,
Bessemer, Alabama and other cities and states such as Marshalltown, Iowa, Cumberland & Lynch, Kentucky, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, New
York, Atlanta, Memphis, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are the descendants of Native American, and African ancestral lines.
The first enslaved negro that took the Richardson name was Merritt , who was born in Johnston County, Nouth Carolina in 1795. Based on extensive
genealogy research, it is believed that his mother is an enslaved woman named Rachel, who was born (circa 1763). Rachel was first owned by a
farmer named Henry W. Hayles of Johnston County, North Carolina. It is possible that she was born in Westmoreland County, North Carolina, which is
where the family was residing prior to 1775. Henry Hayles's parents, John Hayles & Margaret (Bagnall) first resided in Chowan County, North
Carolina. By 1728, they migrated to the Westmoreland County, which was confirmed by the 1728 Westmoreland Early Census Record. They started
their family in Westmoreland County, which consisted to four known sons, John Jr, Henry W., Silas, & Chapman. By the early 1770's, John and
Margaret's sons were young adults with dreams and aspirations of their own. It was believed that around this time that a young enslaved girl named
Rachel came in the possession of Henry W. Hayles, who was a bachelor at the time. By 1775, the entire Hayles family migrated to Johnston County,
North Carolina to make a new start.
Little is known about Rachel, especially her ethnic background. However by the Early 1784 - 1787 Census Record of Johnston County, North Carolina
lists a young negro (above 12 - 50) with two children (under 12 - above 50), owned by Henry W. Hayles. The census doesn't list anything specific than
age. In 1788, a deed was discovered that indicates Henry W. Hayles selling three negroes to John Hinnant (1760 - 1829) for an undisclosed amount.
The deeds specifically mentions a woman named Rachel and her two sons, Benjamin and Peter. Unfortunately, John Hinnant is not listed on the
1790 census. He was an Irish Planter, who was the son of John Hinnant (1731 - 1782)? and Mary Cobb (1735 - 1783). At the time of his purchase,
he was still a bachelor. He maintained almost 300 acres of land that was once owned by his late grandfather, John Hinnant (1700 - 1768), that he
eventually inherited. Since he didn't own many slaves, he might have maintained his land along with Rachel. More men were brought from Africa as
slaves than women. But some plantation owners preferred women as the harder workers. The ‘great gang’ or first gang of slaves was made up of the
strongest workers. Sometimes women outnumbered men in the great gang.
They did all the heavy fieldwork, such as digging and cutting cane. It is not certain if the couple owned any other negroes beside the three they just
purchased. However, it's believed that Rachel continued to birth more children with an unknown man. In 1795, she gave birth to a son named Merritt .
By 1796, he became courting Mary Miles Hocutt, the daughter of William Brown Hocutt and Saphira Elizabeth Griffin. The difference between the
Hocutts and his, is that they were not a slave owning family like his. After their short courtship, the young couple married in 1797 in Johnston County,
North Carolina. By 1800, the Hinnants were not found on the census record, which was concluded that they were either residing with another family
and or the census taker simply missed them. John and Mary were the parents of one child named John Jr.(1798). Like majority of the men of the
county, John became a farmer. With the several acres of land, he needed more slaves to work the land. Sadly in 1804, he purchased a 12year old
enslaved negro girl named Rachel from Aden Powell. Shortly after, his younger brother, William, died and John inherited a slave couple named
Willis and Airy. By the year 1810, the Hinnants owned 8 negros, but they are unnamed. It was presumed that Merritt , a 15year old boy was in
As young Merritt matured into a young man, he became a field hand. The position of a field hand is the most common occupation for a slave.
Approximately 75% of all slaves were field hands. Of all field hands, slightly more than half were men. On the hierarchy of the plantation, field hands
made up the lowest tier in terms of favorable work and power on the plantation. When he was in his early 20's, he was hired out to Col. Hillary Wilder's
plantation in Johnston County where he met a young woman. To this day, her name is unkonwn, but in 1825, she gave birth to a son named Richard.
In 1829, Jonathan Hinnant died and his 15 enslaved negroes (Area, Tabitha, Candal, Dilsey, Edith, Emsley, Jenath, Merritt, Milly,
Rachel, Scott, Tempy, Will, Willis, & Zilly) were distributed between his children. Dilsey, who was the daughter of Willis and Airy, was willed
to John's son, Josiah. In 1830, his son, Josiah died and Col. Wilder purchased his slave Dilsey. That same year, Josiah's brother sold two of his
enslaved negroes, Merritt and Zilly, whom eventually became in the possession of Col. Wilder.
In 1830, Merritt fathered another son named Alexander, who was born on the Wilder Plantation. When Merritt and Dilsey were brought to the same
plantation in Wake County, they became closely and intimately acquainted. It is believed that by 1830, the young couple became an enslaved man and
wife. Still, it is believed that he had other children. One possibly named Mariah (1830). By the year 1847, she was mother of 10 children;
(Richard (1831), (twins) Addison & Amy (1834), Barney (1836), Winnie (1838), Toney (1844), Mary (1846), Augustine
(1847), Allen (1849)
The same year her baby Allen was born, Col Wilder died, leaving his extremely large estate to his wife and descendants. He did his best to group
families together, but some children were separated from their children. Successfully, Dilsey and her children were all grouped together and sent to
the Lewiston Community of Greene County, Alabama. It is being disputed whether Merritt was sold along with them. According to the Colonel's will,
Merritt was not grouped with his wife and children. He was advanced his oldest daughter Elizabeth Hinton and his worth was $625. It's not certain if
the transaction went through, because when the widow Wilder died in 1857, Merritt was in her possession. He was then willed to her daughter, Mary
Wilder Hinton of the Lewiston Community of Greene County, Alabama. After he arrived, it was believed that the two sisters traded slaves, which is how
he became the Richardson property by 1861. The Richardson estate had to file for bankruptcy and among the 25 enslaved negros listed as assets,
Merritt was the second oldest slave on the list.
Esther Wilder Richardson's 300 acre cotton plantation sat in the Lewiston Community. The property adjoined her sister, Mary Wilder Hinton, and a few
of Mary's in laws, whose farms were larger than hers. To the east of her plantation was the Eatman, Henderson, Hughes, Morrow family and the
prominent farmer, Lewis Shambley, who was from South Carolina. To the west of her farm was Archibald Gilmore. While the couple was separated,
Dilsey remained Esther's personal and dedicated servant. In 1853, Esther became ill and based on oral history, Dilsey became her nurse. She died
the following year, leaving William, a widower and five children. Sadly in 1857, the Wilder family sustained two tragedies. William died first and the
children's grandmother, Esther Wilder died in North Carolina. Since her daughter had preceded her in death, she willed five slaves to her
grandchildren. Among the negros was Merritt, who was finally reunited with his family. Outside of the demands of her young masters and mistress,
Merritt and Dilsey spent majority of her time surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
In 1865 when the negros were emancipated, together the couple were the parents of 13 children, while Merritt was the father of at least 7 more
children and a few grandchildren together. Merritt emerged as a celebrated public personality in his own right, as he occupied a much more prominent
and interaction in the lives of the slaves around him. As a descendant of both Merritt, he will always be recognized as "The Father of Lewiston".
Merritt and his wife's presence on the Richardson - Hinton Plantation was a break from the traditional role of the being a couple, parents, and friends.
Their enduring legacy did not stem from them just from being a Black couple, but they subordinated their formidable intelligence and skill for their sole
Alexander Lee Barrett
The 3rd Grandson of Merritt Hinnant Wilder Richardson