The following is quoted from my father's book: A Branch Of The Sturgill Family, Volume I Decendants of Francis Sturgill Sr. & Rebecca Hash. Barring transcription errors, the wording, punctuation, and spelling are his - THS
The early tax records shaow that James Sturgill owned six slaves at the time of his death in 1803. They were apparently inherited by his son Francis Sr who died in 1807. After the death of Francis these slaves remained as a part of his estate and served different members of his family as required. In 1819 Jane Sturgill and her husband William Jones sold their claim to the slaves to her brothers Francis Jr and James jointly. In 1838 all the other heirs also sold their claims to the two brothers.
For some now forgotten reason James had some difficulty with one of the slaves and while Francis was away on a horse trading trip James had what he thought to be a good offer for this slave and sold him. When Francis returned he was furious with his brother James and vowed to get the slave back. It is family tradition that he spent most of the summer tracing the slave through several sales before he found him in Louisana and bought him back. The brothers were reconciled after James had refunded to Francis what he had paid for the slave and it was agreed that the slaves would be divided between them to prevent any future argument about them. As they could not agree on how the division should be made they solved the problem by letting the slaves themselves make the decision.
As the morality of slave ownership had become a question in the churches of the time the Sturgill brothers decided to free their slaves. As the slaves could not be legally freed or own property in North Carolina at that time brothers refused to pay any more property tax on them and gave each of them some land to use as their own so they were effectively freed any were paid for any further labor they did for the Sturgill family. All of the older slaves lived out their lives on the land they had been given to use. Those that belonged to James were buried in the old South Fork Baptist church cemetery and those who had belonged to Francis Jr. were buried in the Zion Hill cemetery.
The last of the slaves who had belonged to James was an old man who was born about 1800 and died about 1895. Old Jack lived in a small cabin on the south fork of New River on the five acres which had been given to him to use during his lifetime. When he became so old he was unable to take care of himself my grandfathers sisters pre pared all his meals and carried them to him, my grandfather and his brother Daniel kept him supplied with firewood and anything else he needed. One morning when the girls toook his breakfast to him they found him dead on his knees beside his bed. When my great grandfather and old Jack's former owner died in 1855 Jack insisted that he alone dig his grave. When old Jack died my grandfather alone dug his grave and returned the honor. The small tract of land lying between two small streams is still called the "Jack bottom".
The next story about colored Sturgills is a bit different and has a very unusual sequel. When my grandfather, James David Sturgill, was born in 1855 his other had been ill for several months and was unable to nurse him. I do not know the nature of the illness but it apparently had some affect on the unborn baby as he could not tolerate cow or goat milk and appeared to be doomed to a short life. Near the same time one of the freed slaves named Lucy had given birth to a baby boy who she had named Sam. Lucy was probably a sister of Jack mention above. Lucy said that she could nurse both boys which she did for two years before my grandfather could take solid food. She must have given him a good start because he grew to be 6'4" and attained a weight of about 240 pounds in his prime.
Records of the old South Fork church show that Lucy became a member in 1847 and in 1867, after the civil war, she asked for a letter certifying her membership as she was leaving the area to go live with some of her family. Her request was granted and she left the mountains of Alleghany County North Carolina never to return.
In 1910 when my father, David Bruce Sturgill, was in his last year at the old A & M college in Raleigh NC, where he was studying civil engineering, he and three other students were assigned a project to survey a theoretical railroad down the Pee Dee river. After many hours of chopping brush and driving stakes along the river they came upon a small clearing with a small house in the middle of it. Dad told the others that he was going to that house to see if he could get a drink of cool water. The others said they were sure that negroes lived there and they would just drink the water in their canteens. Dad said he did not care what color they were if their water was cool so he started walking toward the house.
When he opened the gate and started up the path toward the house he saw an old colored woman sitting in a rocking chair on the porch. As he neared the house she called out to him, "stop right where you is!" Dad stopped and replied, "I just want a cool drink of water if you have it."
The old woman answered, "yes we have cool water and you can have all of it you want but just stand still for a minute so I can look at yoy, I think you is some of my people." After a moment she continued, "come a little closer so I can get a better look at you."
Dad, having already decided that she was probably a bit senile or somewhat short of a dozen, said to her, "No I don't think I am any of your people but I am thirsty."
She replied, "Yes, you is some of my people; you look like them; you ack like them, you walk like them and you talk like them. Your name is Sturgill ain't it?"
Dad was dumbfounded by her remark and he replied, "Yes my name is Sturgill but how did you know that?"
"Cause that is my name too. I is Lucy Sturgill. Whose boy is you, Dave's or Dan's?"
"My father's name is Dave Sturgill, did you know him?" Dad asked.
"I ought to know him, I nussed him when he was a baby," she replied.
Dad knew the story of how his fathers life had been saved by an ex-slave woman who had nursed him when he was a baby but he could not believe that woman could still be living so he asked her how old she was.
She replied, "I don't rightly know how old I is but I must be nigh on to a hundred." Then she called out a younger woman who was in the house and said to her, "Go and kill the biggest and fattest chicken you can catch, some of my folks has come to see me and I am going to cook him a chicken dinner."
When Dad explained to her that he was working and that three other people were waiting for him down by the road, shre told him to go and get them and she would cook enough chicken for all of them.
After Dad explained to his colleagues what he had just discovered, they were as astounded as he had been. Then when he told them about the invitation to a chicken dinner, one of them replied, "I didn't want to drink their water, but I'm sure not going to say no to a chicken dinner."
Needless to say there was no more surveying done that afternoon. They soon learned that old Lucy was far from senility and spent the afternoon fascinated by the many stories she told them about her life in the mountains and in the period following the civil war. She also told them about the family she had raised after she left the mountains.
Dad could hardly wait for the school term to end so he could go home and tell his father about old Lucy. When he did get home and told the story his father did not believe him at first but after the stories were told he soon decided that they were true and became very excited himself.
Grandfather immediately saddled his best horse and started the two hundred mile trip to the Pee Dee river to find old Lucy. He found her without difficulty and visited with her for two weeks. He tried to persuade her to come back to the maountains with him and let him take care of her but she refused to return, she said that she had too much family of her own to leave them. Then grandfather went to a local bank and set up a small trust fund to take care of her needs and to insure a proper burial and a tombstone. It is not known whether or not the stone was erected at her grave.
During WWII, when I was living in College Park MD, we went to North Carolina for a vacation. My father had recently obtained the books of the old South Fork Baptist church and we were going through them in search of bits of family history when we came across the references to the ex-slave Lucy- it was then that Dad told me the story of Lucy for the first time. After a search of the church records and the few public records found we decided that Lucy must have been born 1800-05 and have been near 110 when Dad found her living in southeastern NC. No one in the family ever heard of her again after my grandfathers visit so it is not known how long she lived.
Now for the sequel to the preceeding story. About 1950, when I was still living in Maryland, one of my co-workers in the Bell Telephone Co. was a good friend who shared with me a common love of deer hunting. His father owned a large farm near Elkton MD where deere were then plentiful and I was invited to go hunting with him. After we reached his fathers farm and unloaded our hunting gear this friend asked me if I was still working on a family history. To my affirmative reply he said, "Then let's take a short trip, I know someone I would like for you to meet."
A copuple of miles down the road we stopped before a neat bungalow with a white picket fence around it. Instead of getting out of the auto, my friend blew the horn. A moment later the biggest and blackest man I ever saw came out of the house. My friend had a reputation as a practical joker and I had suspected something was up but not what it turned out to be. The black man recognized my friend immediately and threw up his hand in greeting as he called him by name. When he reached the auto he asked, "What can I do for you Johnny?"
My friend replied, "Not a thing Sam, I have someone with me I would like for you to meet, Sam Sturgill meet Dave Sturgill."
Sam's face lit up like the sun coming out from behind a dark cloud as he answered, "Now ain't that something, I'm sure glad to meet you because you are the first white Sturgill I ever met. This calls for a celebbration so comeon in the house and have something to drink."
I don't think my friend and planned to get out of the auto but i did not give him a chance to refuse the invitation as I got out quickly as I could and he had no choice but to follow. After we were seated around the kitchen table with a cold drink I asked Sam what he knew about his family. He said that all he knew was that he was named after his grandfather who had lived near the coast of NC and that he had been brought to Maryland when he was a very small child.
Sam then asked me what I knew about the Sturgill family and I told him the story of Lucy. I told him how his great grandmother had nursed his grandfather on one side and my grandfather on the other side at the same time. As I told him about Lucy, Sam just kept shaking his head and repeating, "now ain't that something."
Sam Sturgill was an employee of the State Road comission and was apparently a well respected man in his neighborhood. I never saw him again but when the first preliminary history of the Sturgill family was printed I sent him a copy as he had requested.
As we drove back to his father's farm my friend just kept repeating, "Now ain't that something." For once one of his practical jokes had backfired and given me one of the most unusual and pleasant afternoons I ever spent in genealogical research.
--David Andrew Sturgill