Elias Bryan was the brother of my 6th great-grandfather, Needham Bryan. I found a transcription of his lengthy will online a while ago. Recently, I dug up the original will at Family Search and polished up the transcription.
The will is interesting in that Elias provided unusually generously to his daughters. He also stipulates that many of the people that he enslaved be allowed to choose which child they go with when those children reach the age of twenty-one. This “special consideration” makes me wonder what Elias thought of some of his children.
A little Googling revealed that the “Nasworthy Mials” plantation was in fact purchased from a man named Nasworthy Mials. The tract was located at the intersection of Indian Branch and Swift Creek in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, placing it just across the branch from Elias’ Bryan relatives in Martin County, and very near his niece, Nancy Ann Bryan and her husband Miles Bembry, my 5th great-grandparents.
Edgecombe County Will Book E
In the name of God Amen, I, Elias Bryan of the County of Edgecomb and state of North Carolina, being weak in body, but of sound mind and memory, thanks be to God for the same, but calling to mind the certainty of the approach of death, sooner or later, Do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament in manners and form following
Item : I commit my soul to God in hope of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord and my body to the earth to be interred in a Christian like manner.
Item: I give and bequeath to my beloved son Henry Bryan the lands which I purchased of Benjamin Philips, Joseph House, Isaac House and Robert Rose Senr. lying on the south side of Swift Creek to him, his heirs and assigns forever together with all the stock of cattle, sheep and the one half of the hogs which shall be fattened the coming season, the next hogs, and the Ballance of the crop belonging to said premises.
I also give him one feather bed and furniture, one sorrel mare and mule colt and bay colt known by the name of Tom Jones.
I furthermore give and Bequeath to my son Henry Bryan the following Negroes (namely) Little Peter, Dinah, Allen, Big Peter, Julia, Milly, Little Chany and Davis. But for Big Peter, Julia, Milly, Little Chany and Dorris to remain on my Nasworthy Mials Plantation, untill January, one thousand eight Hundred and twenty four for the Benefit of my Estate.
Item: I give and Bequeath to my Daughter Elizabeth B. Pitman my land and premises on the south side of Swift Creek, known by the name of Nasworthy Mials Plantation, to her heirs and assigns forever, to receive the same on her arrival to the age of twenty one years.
It is my will and desire that at the time my Daughter Elizabeth receives the above named Nasworthy Mials Plantation, she also receive two cows and calves, two sows and pigs and twenty barrels of corn on said premises.
I further give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth B. Pitman seven Negroes (namely) Davy, Riner, Penny, Jack, Maria, Lucy, Harriett. But for Davy to remain on my lands untill January one thousand eight hundred and twenty four for the Benefit of my estate.
Item: I give and Bequeath to my Beloved Son Robert Bryan my land and premises on the north side of White Oak Swamp known by the name of the Harris Plantation, to him and his heirs & assigns forever to receive the same the January ensuing his arrival to lawful age.
Item: I give and Bequeath to my beloved son Elias Bryan the lands and plantation whereon I now live including the lands I purchased of Matthew Kinchen, John Wiggins and Thomas Wiggins Junr. containing eight hundred and eighty nine acres more or less–together with one hundred acres, more or less, lying on the south side of White Oak Swamp known by the name of the John Mials Place, and one Hundred and fifty acres more or less of Piney Woods land adjoining the said John Mials Place, which I purchased of John Exum, to him and his heirs and assigns forever to have possession thereof, the January ensuing his arrival to lawful age (except as hereafter reserved).
Item: I give and Bequeath to my Beloved daughter Mary H. Bryan seven Negroes (Namely, Sall, Tilly, Clarrisa, Anthony, Edie, Lunsford and John, to her, her heirs and assigns forever. But to remain on my lands until my son Elias arrives to the age of twenty one years or she marries.
Item: I lend my Beloved wife Rose Bryan two Negroes Willis and A______ during her life then to be divided between my son Elias and daughter Mary, and should the said Negroes or either of them die, it is my wish she have another of equal value, or should they or either of them become afflicted so that they can’t support their mistress, then and in that case she may return it or them into my Estate and have others of equal value which she may do so often as a division takes place (as herein after directed) if she chooses.
I also lend her two head of choice horses, she may return at each division, and take the same number as above named of others, if she chooses.
And as much of my land on which I now live as will be sufficient for her support to be laid off to her by three freeholders indifferently chosen by herself and my Executor hereafter named.
I furthermore lend her my large iron Kettle during her life and after her death to my son Elias.
Item: It is my will and desire that my two faithful men servants Jim and Bill remain on my lands until the death of my wife for the use and Benefit of my wife and two youngest children and at her death, the said Jim and Bill be permitted to choose to which of my children they will belong and the one so chosen, by said Negroes, from among my children to have said Negroes upon condition that they pay to my Executors within Twelve months from the day of said choice, two thirds of the value of said Negroes and the money arriving therefrom, be equally divided among my two youngest children.
Furthermore, my wish and desire is that my old faithful woman slave Chany be permitted to choose to which of my children she will spend her days with and the child she chooses have her accordingly.
Item: It is my Will and desire that my Executors hereafter named, sell, either publicly or privately such and so much of my stock and other parts of my perishable estate, not already devised in this will, as they shall think necessary from time to time to raise Money to pay any Debts and supply the wants of my family while kept together as hereafter directed in this Will.
Item: It is my will and desire that the remaining part of my Negroes, stock, plantation utensils, and Household and kitchen furniture, be kept together on my lands for the purpose of supporting and educating my three youngest Children their Mother and family until the January ensuing my son Robert’s arrival to lawful age, at which time it is my will that my Negroes not heretofore named in this Will be divided into three parts and the livestock into four parts, and that my son Robert receive one part of each and as much Corn and pork as may deemed necessary for the support of himself and the Negroes which may be allotted to him, for one year, to be allotted by the Commissioners who divides the Negroes and stock and one feather bed and furniture–to him his heirs and assigns forever.
Item: It is my will and desire that the balance of my Negroes and stock be kept together on my lands undivided, for the purpose of Educating and supporting my two youngest Children, their mother and family until my son Elias arrives to the age of twenty one years or the January ensuing his arrival to the age of twenty one years, at which time it is my wish that an equal division takes place between my Son Elias and Daughter Mary in the Negroes and also an equal division between his mother, himself and sister Mary, in the stock.
I also give him one feather bed and furniture, together with as much corn and pork as may be deemed necessary for the support of himself and the Negroes which may be allotted to him for one year to be allotted by the Commissioners who divide the Negroes and stock, to him his heirs and assigns forever.
Item: It is further my Will and desire that the ballance of my Stock be kept together until my Daughter Mary arrives to the age of twenty one years or marries at which time an equal division in the stock take place between her Mother and herself.
Item: It is my Will and desire that my Executors be not obliged to render to Court an inventory of the stock, plantation utensils and furniture left in joint stock, for the support of my youngest Children, their mother and my family. But only to account for the expense and annual income of the same, and to make a division of the same as in this will directed.
Item: It is my will and desire that my children and their estates may be and remain under the care of my Executors until they arrive to the age of twenty one years.
Furthermore it is my Will and desire that my Executors be charged with with full power to act and they are hereby authorised to collect my debts and sale publicly or privately, any of my property, real or personal, not already bequeathed in this my last Will and Testament for the purpose of paying my debts and the balance, if any, to be accounted for and divided among my three young children and I nominate and ordain my worthy Friend Dempsey Bryan & my beloved Son Henry Bryan, the whole and sole Executors to this my last Will & Testament.
In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seal this the 25th day of July in the year of our Lord 1821.
Elias Bryan (seal)
Signed, sealed and published in the presence of us,
Joseph Philips and Thomas Wiggins
Proved November court 1821