Still sorting through my notes from the DAR library. I had found a an odd fact in a book called “Edgecombe County Kinfolks:”
DB 16-315 Maria Bembry was daughter of John Wiggins, July 25 1814
Well, some Googling led to this deed abstract:
Edge. Co. Db 16, page 315, date of deed July 1814, date recorded Feb Ct. 1819, John Wiggins, Edge. Co. for love and affection for my daughter Maria (Barnby) of Edge. Co. four Negroes ( ), Dinah, Hasty and Richard.
I had never seen this before, because “Barnby” was not one of the approximately 57 misspellings of Bembry I had in my records!
I am not sure where I got the information that John Bembry was married to a “Marsha” Wiggins. It is probably one of those many errors that has been replicated infinitely on ancestry.com. I did always think it was a pretty modern name for a person born around 1800, though. So, I’m going to go with “Maria” from now on, a much more common name at the time. She and John married around 1814, based on their childrens’ birth dates, so this deed is probably her dowry.
The second interesting thing about this deed is that four slaves are named. And two of them, Dinah and Richard, correspond to the Dinah and “Dick” named in Miles Bembry‘s 1832 conveyance, in which he gave them to the children of John Bembry. That seems like a pretty big coincidence to me.
So, how about this theory: Dinah and Richard were originally Wiggins slaves, and probably members of the same family–husband and wife or brother and sister. When John and Maria went to Florida sometime in the late 1820s, they were not able to take their slaves, for some reason. Perhaps they meant to come back and get them later. Dinah and Richard and the others named were left with Miles Bembry in North Carolina.
Then, shortly after John had murdered Littleton Bryan in 1831 and either been hung or run off to New Orleans, Miles “returned” the slaves by assigning them to John’s children–but with the stipulation that they were to be kept together until all John’s children had reached adulthood, a period of about 11 years.
You would think that after John was gone, Maria would sell off Dinah, Richard and the others for the money. Even if Miles wanted to make sure his grandchildren got their inheritance instead of Maria, considering the slaves were living hundreds of miles from the grandchildren, it would have been much easier to sell the slaves and bequeath the cash to them in a will.
Maybe Maria, who probably grew up with Dinah, Richard and the others (and may even have been related to them) was the reason this didn’t happen.
Note: this Richard is not the same “mulatto” Richard Bembry who is found living next to John Bembry, Thomas Bembry’s son, in 1870. That Richard was born about 1820, well after the 1814 deed. But, especially given the Bembry’s apparent tendency to keep slaves in the family, I think it is very likely that he is related to the first Richard. He may have been Dinah’s son and not mentioned when she was sold in 1841 because he was no longer living with them.