One of our subscribers, John, send me some family information about Alfred Wilkins. As it turns out, this family is quite interesting. These first few paragraphs were provided in the exchange.
A manuscript entitled “Walking Upright: The Coharie People of Sampson County” (North Carolina), submitted by Dr. David Wilkins (Karonhiawakon) in 1980 to the Division of Archives & History, Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh, N.C., details his research into the history of the eastern North Carolinian Native American peoples. According to this manuscript, the Wilkins name has been associated with the Indian people of eastern North Carolina for more than two hundred years. The areas of their final settlement are in the Robeson and Sampson County sections of our state.
As late as 1900 there were people in the records of Robeson County by the name of Wilkins who were continuing to refer to themselves as Indian, some of them using the word Croatan to describe themselves in their legal records. An examination of the early marriage records and the first death certificates in Robeson County reveals that the Wilkins family intermarried almost exclusively with other known Indian families up to that time.
And of course, there are our family traditions. All of the older members of our family have heard Alfred Wilkins referred to as “the Old Indian.” That nick-name has stuck with Alfred all of these years after his death, and about 1975 our cousin had it inscribed on a stone for the family graveyard. It also got him a front page article in the History Section of The Smithfield Herald on July 29, 1977.
The newspaper story quoted Bud Wilkins who “recalled that Alfred Wilkins “acted like an Indian.” He was fleet-footed, and once in the woods could not be located unless he wanted to be. He didn’t think much of roads built by the white settlers, and when he went to Smithfield for supplies he would send a wagon around the road, go through the woods on foot, and beat the wagon there.” This story must have been told to Bud Wilkins many times when he was a child, since Alfred Wilkins died before he was born, but Bud Wilkins did say that he remembered Alfred’s son, Henry W. Wilkins.
The last record of Alfred is in the 1880 census of Johnston County, when he was a resident of Selma Township. At that time Alfred’s daughter Sally Wilkins and her two children, Georganna and Thomas, were living with Alfred and and his wife, Willie.
Willie Wilkins lived until 17 March 1917, when her death was recorded in Johnston County. According to her death certificate she is buried in the “family cemetery” near Princeton, so she must have been buried next to Alfred. He is believed to be buried in the Wilkins Family Cemetery, known to the family as the Brown’s Creek Cemetery, also called Brown’s Ridge Cemetery, the burial place of many of his descendants. However, the original grave-markers would have been made of wood, and have long since disappeared. The new stone, which reads “Alfred Wilkins, the Old Indian,” marks his traditional burial site. The cemetery is located just outside of Princeton, N.C., and about 12 miles east of Smithfield, N.C., on State Road 2523, now known as Baker’s Chapel Road (Route 1), Princeton, N.C.
You can read more about this family here:
What wasn’t mentioned above is told in the family-published book, “Hemphill Reunion, The Family of Alfred Wilkins of Johnston Co., NC” by Beverly Capps Williamson published in 1992.
In that book, Beverly gives us some additional details. The old family story tells us the following:
“The first Wilkins to come to America was named John Wilkins. He came into America near Norfolk, VA when he was about 12 or 14 as an indentured servant. He made his way to Edenton, NC where he was apprenticed to a master ship-builder and carpenter. When he was 21, he was a free man. His master gave him a mule and $100 when he left. He went on his way, met and married an Indian lady and together they had 22 children. This John Wilkins was the father of Alfred Wilkins.”
Another story is more specific and says that John Wilkins married a woman in the Robeson County area, then moved to Cheraw, SC, where Alfred was born. We know from the census that Alfred Wilkins was in Robeson County in 1830 and was married with children.
She goes on to say that there is no direct evidence that John Wilkins wife was an Indian, but there is indirect evidence. Specifically in the 1840 Robeson County census, Theophilus Wilkins and his family were listed as Free Persons of Color. In later years, they were listed as white. Assuming that Theophilus was related to, maybe a brother of Alfred, this would indicate that if the “of color” heritage did not come from John Wilkins, who reportedly immigrated from Scotland, then it had to come from his wife.
From my Native Names Project, I have several Native references to Wilkins, as follows:
Wilkins family numerous in NC after 1721 and found heavily in Granville, NC in 1784. In Bladen Co. tax lists in 1768 and 69. James Wilkins b c 1745 granted 400 ac land in Halifax Co., NC in 1783 which was sold June 11, 1788. James Wilkins in Sampson Co., NC in 1784 and William in Bladen in 1784. James of Robeson Co., NC entered 150 ac s of Jacobs swamp and was head of a family with 6 “other free” individuals in 1800 and 4 in 1810. He sold land to Solomon Locklear in 1808. Possible children were Matthew b c 1765, Nancy b c 1770, John b c 1776 who moved to Halifax Co. NC, David b before 1776 moved to Halifax, Priscilla in Halifax by 1810. Matthew listed as head of family with 7 “other free” in Robeson in 1800 census. Sold land to Elijah Hammonds in 1801. In 1850 Robeson Co. census, most Wilkins are white and some are from Johnson Co. Hardy Wilkins, 30 was the only mulatto Wilkins and was b in Robeson Co.. Self identified Indian in 1900 census and on Indian census schedule. Death records in 1919 show Indian in several locations.
Implosion, the Secret History of the Origins of the Lumbee Indians by Morris Britt
Listed among the Nansemond in 1907:
Molly Wilkins, husband white
American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan. – Mar., 1907), pp. 129-152
1869 Cherokee Nation West Census
|Dist||#||Name2||Womn||Male Childrn||Fem Childrn||Notes|
Note – White citizens of the US.
WWI Draft Registration Cards – 1917-1918 – registered as Indian
In Robeson Co., NC
Sion Horn Wilkins b 1876
Walter Steel Wilkins b 1878
William Berry Wilkins b 1881
Luther Wilkins b 1884
Martin Wilkins b 1888 NC
Robert F. Wilkins b 1892 NC
William Governor Wilkins b 1899
John Andrew Wilkins b 1900