North Carolina Freedman to the Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner

South Side of Trent River Near
New bern N.C.  James City  feby the 9 1867

Dear genl   I have seted my self down this Eving to write you a few lines stating to you the affairs of the Freed man in this settlement   genl her in this place is a grate del of Suffring a mong the freed men and Widdow Woman & children   Sir we as Freed men do not Exspect the goverment to do any thing more for us then it have don   dear genl this hold camp is Sturd up at this time and her you will see a grate reson for it   we have under stood that this Beaurow was susstade by the goverment for the Freed man and a grate meny of my people have been vary industras and have gon to work Cleard a good posion of this land and at this tim her is rumors that the land is all a bout to be turned over to the owners a Jian and if this is so what shall the Poor people do   at this time the supt of the camps have prohibed and for bid any one to till the land   the grand question is if the goverment have agznated the land and have mad a forbidance for the Freed man in this settle ment wy shoud we as Freed men not till this land   Ginl we have come to you as an obeden son would come unto his Father for healp in time of Need   I was informed by one of the capts a few days a go when Ever we as Freed men saw things that we believed was contrary to the goverment my informasion was to apply to ginl Howard or chiefe of the Freed mans Burow and he would do what Ever was wright   dear ginl we wish to asatain from you what have the goverment pervied for us in this settlement   is the land turned over to the owners or not   I mean the land that the goverment pervided for the Freed man her in the Bounds of New bern and can we ten the land or not   we can not mak an honis living working the Reabels Land lik thy wish for us to do for that have bein trid more time then once   for the last past yeare a grat meny of my people whent and hierd thm selvs to the White man and work all the year and was turned off with out any thing   my people the grates part of them is willing to work and thy do work   We ar not willing to go and work the land for the Rebs as we did in former days and do in Every Shape like thy say and if we do not aggree in every thing lik the rebs say thy will be come displeased withe us and turn us out doors so we ar not satisfid to live with them as we hav lived and we can not aggree   so as we ar freed men we do not lik to be compell to do What we do not lik so we have come togather and formed our selves in Association compacity and have Drew this resolution to write to you thinking that you ginl would have the thing difuerlanty a range as we look up to you in a grate meny sences as the children of isral did when thy wire compell to look up to Mosses   genl the grate question is we want to know if we can ten the land that the goverment holds as we have been a doing   now here it is Nearly corn plaintaing time and the land is all laying idol when we might be cultivating the land   we do not be leve that the goverment is willing to in dulge any able bodied man in his lasness   we have Clard a grat part of the land and wish for some arrang ment to be mad for us that we can in ter tain ours Selvs and children   we can not stay in the World and sor port our selvs any more then any outher people   this we alredy know that you ar a War of   w wish to know if this track of land that the goverment holds her on the south sid of Trent River is turned over to the owner or not or is it likly to be   thy Freed men all have become vaery interrested a bout thes things and come to the conclution to seek to try to find out for them selvs and thy have chousen me to write to you for them be cause thy look upon you as thy grate provieder   ginl we wish to asatian from you is the land ware we now rezids is it turn back or is it likly to be this year and can we ten the land   the supt of this camp have Just returned home from Raleigh N.C. and he says that he have recieved orders not to suffer this lan to be tened so we throught it to be wise to State the subgect to you

Rev. B. B. Spicer

[In the margin] you will please write and let us know   Direct to Rev B. B. Spicer New bern N.C.

[Endorsement] Bureau of R.F. and A.L.  Office Asst. Supt.  Trent River Settlement N.C. February 25. 1867.  Respectfully returned to Lieut. Col. S. Moore Supt. Eastern Dist. N.C. with the information that I have not leased out the land in Trent River Settlement as I have been informed on several occasions that the land was about to be turned over to the owners, and was not certain that I could lease the land with safety to the interests of the Freedmen.  I have written for instructions as to the disposition of this land but have received no answer   A. W. McKillip 2nd Lieut. V.R.C. Asst. Supt. Brvt. Capt. U.S.V.

[Endorsement] Bureau Refugees Freedmen & A.L  Office Supt East Dist  New Berne [N.C.] Feby 26–1867   Respectfully returned to Col J. F. Chur A.A.A.G. attention invited to endorsement of Bvt Capt A W. Mc Killip Asst Supt of Trent Settlement.

Would also state that a petition for the restoration of this land was forwarded by the Heirs through this office Feby 12th 1867 to the Asst Comr.  Stephen Moore Lt Col VRC & Supt

[Endorsement] BUREAU OF R.F., and A.L., HEADQUARTERS ASST. COMMISSIONER, NORTH CAROLINA, Raleigh, N.C., Feby 28 1867.  Respectfully returned to Maj. Genl O. O. Howard Comr

The lands now occupied by the Government and called Trent River Settlement, have been applied for by the owners on several occasions–  It is the present intention to restore the whole or part of this property, and the Agent of the Bureau at that place has been instructed not to lease any of the land in question–

The freedmen residing there were notified last fall that they must find other homes when spring opened, and many have complied   The expense of maintaining the settlement does not justify its continuance   J. V. Bomford, Col. 8th US Infty Actg Asst Com

Rev. B. B. Spicer to Genl Howard or cheif of the Freed mans Burow, 9 Feb. 1867, S-238, Letters Received, series 88, Land Division, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Earlier endorsements had referred Spicer's letter through Freedmen's Bureau channels, ultimately reaching Lieutenant McKillip. On March 12, the officer in charge of the bureau's land division informed Spicer that “it is the intention of the Bureau to restore the whole or a part of the property known as the ‘Trent River Settlement’” and “the agent of the Bureau at that place has been instructed not to lease any of the land in question.” He also repeated Colonel Bomford's assertions that the bureau could not justify the expense of continuing the settlement and that its residents had been told in the fall of 1866 “that they must find other homes when Spring arrived.” (Wm Fowler to Rev. B. B. Spiler, 12 Mar. 1867, vol. 27, p. 360, Letters Sent, series 84, Land Division, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) Three months later, however, the land was still under government control, and at least one bureau official envisioned a less abrupt dispossession of the resident freedpeople. In a report of June 19, 1867, the bureau's inspector for North Carolina recommended that the land be restored “on condition that the occupants be allowed to remain upon payment of small rent for the ground occupied, until they can provide themselves with more permanent and better homes.” According to the inspector, the settlement comprised 525 buildings on 180 acres of land. (1st Lt. Rob't. Avery to Bv't Lt. Col. J. F. Chur, 19 June 1867, A-37 1867, Letters Received, series 2452, NC Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 357–59.