Alfred Wilkins, The Old Indian

Alfred Wilkins

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:–C-Williamson/GENE2-0001.html

And 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

The Powhatan Confederacy, Past and Present James Mooney

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
Co 380 Green Wilkins 1 4 See Note

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

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Cherokee, Coharie, Croatan (Later Lumbee), Lumbee, Nansemond, Powhatan. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Alfred Wilkins, The Old Indian

  1. susi c Pentico says:

    Have they been DNA tested? This may explain some of the confusion in my Scott line.. Halifax Co.. etc.

    Is anyone alive to be tested?


    • Scott Sewell says:

      scotts the main surname in my dominicker community in NW florida, we been legaly colored under jim crow, always claiming inidan. some of us now tested. usually 1-5 % native, 5-10% african, rest euro. my book on amazon “the indians of north florida” documents our communities legal and social history. DNA work is changing everything anmd rippin apart whats left of us…my website has a lot of info on it too. thnks for talking about the wilkins, a known family to us too

      • Matt says:

        Hey Scott, William Bland married Martha Thompson at the start of the Dominicker group in Holmes county fl. This couple were 2nd great grandparents of my wife. Very interesting group and we have a few old photos with names of her family members on them. Bland, Curry, Hall, Simmons and Godin to name a few families.

      • Scott Sewell says:

        Matt have u guys read our book” the indians of north florida”? Its on amazon. Its a legal and social history of our dominicker people during jim crow segregation 1850 to 1950s…we have an annual conference in blountstown every march…

      • Matt says:

        Hi Scott, I am getting your book and so looking forward to it. My wife’s 3rd great was Epsey Scott. Scott granddaughter was Martha Curry married John Bland . We really are looking forward to your book . We know a good bit about the Dominicker group but looking for all that is out there.

      • Scott Sewell says:

        Our people have a conference each spring in blountstown. I hope yall come. Please send me ur email and ill add yall to the contact list for the dominicker council. Our ceremonial grounds is in escambia county at dale scotts place near atmore…

    • Christopher Wilkins says:

      my last name is wilkins

  2. beth says:

    Luther, Sion and Walter Wilkins I have pictures of them posted to my Facebook page. My husband’s grandfather is Luther. A few Wilkins left in Robeson County still.

    • jmack3 says:

      Alfred Wilkins is my 3rd Great Grandfather. I would love to see those pictures on your FaceBook.

      • jmack3 says:

        I forgot to same my cousin Beverly Capps Williamson used to have family reunions for the Wilkins family. She might know if someone has been DNA tested.

      • deep says:

        He is my grandmother’s grandfather

      • William Tony Wilkins says:

        He is also my third great grandfather. It was him then Henry. Then buck and then my grandfather Leon my dad then me. Now my son and grandson

  3. says:

    Hello Roberta; Don’t know if you remember me. I’m part of the Speaks Family. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. LOL. My question to you is, My husband passed away about 6 months ago and I know his mother was half Cherokee. His grandmother was full Cherokee but I can’t find any last name. How would I go about finding these things out. That is if it’s at all possible. I’m at a stand still with it. Thanks so much. Margaret Speaks Waters

    • Too bad he passed before he could be tested. Does he have any living siblings? If his grandmother was on his mother’s side, then his siblings would carry her mitochondrial DNA. They would also carry some percentage of Native ancestry. Also, just doing the genealogy would be helpful. If she was full Cherokee, then her family would be on the tribal rolls.

      • Margaret (Speaks) Waters says:

        His oldest sister is still alive! Would that help? They wouldn’t talk about that side of the family which leaves me hanging. I know his grandfathers name that married his grandmother but can’t find much out if anything about her. Thank you,
        Margaret Speaks Waters

      • I need to know if the grandmother in question was on your husband’s mother or father’s side. If she was on the mother’s side, then yet, the sister could test for the mitochondrial DNA and I would also test her for autosomal DNA. If the grandmother is from the father’s side, then test the sibling only for autosomal DNA because she would not carry the paternal grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA.

  4. Scott Sewell says:

    Reblogged this on Moonlit Prairie and commented:
    another of the hundreds of eastern siouan diaspora families, this “invisible nation” has struggled for social footing thats secure for 3 century, as i documented in my book “The Indians of North Florida” on amazon…

  5. scottie wilkins says:

    I am a Wilkins descendent i always knew that i was of a special mix of people. I was juz wondering what i have to do to get the dna test results to further find my direct descedent.

  6. Richard Colbert says:

    The first Wilkins to arrive in American was from Accomack/Northampton Co, VA. In 1637 John Wilkins received a patent for 500 acres. He had come over in the “Mary Gould” in 1618. There the Wilkins family married into the Hunt/Bibby families (which were of mixed blood). From there the Wilkins moved to different locations including Dinwiddie Co, VA, Bertie/Halifax Co, NC, and Ross and Logan counties, Ohio.

  7. Nicole says:

    I’m Choctaw & come from a Wilkins line. The oldest Wilkins I have is “Dennis Wilkins” bon abt. 1825 probably Mississippi area & relocated to Indian Territory. Dennis “Wilkens” (as shown on some court papers) was sent to prison in Detroit Michigan in 1885. Have no other records of him after being sent to Michigan. There are several Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Wilkins.

    • Richard Colbert says:

      The Wilkins were neighbors of my 7th GG Christopher Calvert of Accomack Co, VA. He was transported there in 1636. My family has gone by the names Calvert, Colvard, and Colbert plus several other variants over the past 380 years. My 5th GG Joseph Calvert/Colbert was the father of James Colbert of the Chickasaw Nations. My 4th GG Thomas was James’ brother. Both were born on Plumtree Island in NC. Abraham Colson, a registered Chickasaw trader for the British, was Joseph Calvert/Colbert’s partner. Abraham’s brother, Joseph Colson, lived on Plumtree Island and bought land there the same day Joseph Colbert did. 20 Mar 1720/21. Joseph Colbert died ca. 1737.

      The Colson family also lived in Accomack Co, VA.

      The Wilkins family of Accomack/Northampton Co, VA was related to the Stockley/Stokely family. So am I.
      My 4th GG Thomas of Plumtree island named one of his sons John Stokely Colvard.

      The first Wilkins to move to Accomack Co was John Wilkins. He arrived aboard the Mary Gould in 1618. He received 500 acre patent in 1637. This was on King’s Creek and near town of Cheriton. Accomack Co changed names to Northampton Co in 1642 and then several years later Northampton Co was split in two and became Accomack Co and Northampton Co.

      Have you taken Family Finders test from Family Tree DNA? It locates distant cousins (up to 5th generation). I have used FF to find many of my relatives. FF offers coupons on internet. Without coupons it is $99 but they also have discounts in April and May immediately before and after the National Genealogical Society Convention convenes in May.


  8. Daniel T Wilkins says:

    I am Daniel T Wilkins. I was born and raised in Monmouth county New Jersey. Do any one know if any of Alfred’s off spring migrated to New Jersey. I am tracing family heritage to pass on to my children and grand children. I would like to make a connection.

  9. Have traced my father’s bloodline to north Carolina and Virginia to find out he native American looking for help. Last name Wilkins .

  10. Richard Allen Colbert says:

    The Wilkins family is mentioned in Paul Heinegg’s “Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia,” 1992. I believe he has expanded on his book several times since the edition I have was written.

    My family (Calvert, Colvard, Colbert) moved to what is now Halifax Co, NC in 1720 and later Bute (Franklin/Warren) Co, NC in 1768. Family Tree DNA Family Finders autosomal kit indicates I am related to Wilkins family and other connected families; i.e., Richardson, Cooper, Hawkins, Bass, etc.

    Records in Halifax Co, NC show they were listed as “other free.” In Ross and Logon counties, Ohio, they were listed as Black, Mulatto and Poor Persons.

    The Wilkinson family of Halifax and Northampton counties, NC is possibly an offshoot of the Wilkins family.

  11. AG says:

    Hello family,
    My maternal grandmother, who raised me, was a Wilkins. Her family lived in Robeson County, NC. Father was John Thomas ‘Johnnie’ WILKINS and was born on May 10, 1873, in Johnston, North Carolina. I remember attending many family reunions. Thank you all for sharing.

  12. Shelby Wilkins/Koster says:

    Hello my maiden name is Wilkins and through I have traced my Wilkins name back to Thomas Wilkins whom married Esther Frances Hunt Biby. Through reading in these comments a commenter states that Hunt/Biby are of mixed blood. How do I figure out more information on this and if I am connected?

    Thank you!

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