Kinchen Liles was my 5th great-grandfather. He died in 1813 in Wake County, North Carolina. The paper trail on his probate shows one way in which enslaved people were used as an income stream for slaveholders.
Kinchen was around 47 when he died, apparently unexpectedly, as he left no will. Kinchen left behind a wife, Penelope Strickland Liles, and six children: Martha “Patsy” Liles, Wrightman Liles, Gideon Liles, Mary “Polly” Liles, Celinda “Lincy” Liles (my ancestor), and Callie Liles. Five of the six children were minors at the time.
(The following information is from “Wake County, North Carolina will, inventories and settlements of estates” at Family Search. Individual citations and more document images can be found on my public Ancestry tree.)
Kinchen’s estate inventory, taken 24 May 1813 in Wake County, lists two slaves: “one negro man Toby,” and “one negro boy Joe.” An estate sale was held in November of that same year. However, “Old Toby” and Joe were not sold, as was the usual practice. Instead, the “Widow Earp” purchased their services through January of 1815 for around $22.00.
Thomas Price, who was named guardian to Kinchen Liles children (it was common for a male relative to assume this role after a father’s death), then submitted seven more reports to the court through February of 1818. The first report includes the hire of both Toby and Joe to Mark Cole. The next six do not include Toby: presumably he died or became too old to work.
Joe continued to work for other men. John Lee, John Mitchell, and Charles King are all mentioned in the records. Joe may have had a particular project-based skill that put him in demand for “hiring out.” Perhaps he was a carpenter or blacksmith. His wages were specifically dedicated to pay for the Liles “orphans” expenses, including schooling.
Joe’s last job was for Charles King, through January of 1819. In February of 1819, Thomas Price reported that Joe had been sold for $999, with Price taking $49.95 as a sales commission.
Later records show that the profits from the sale were divided between Wrightman, Celinda, Callie and Gideon Liles. It’s unclear why Martha and Mary were left out of the equation, but that may simply be an omission in the record.
I was not able to locate the bill of sale, but it seems likely that Charles King, his most recent employer, might have purchased him. Looking briefly at wills left by various Charles Kings in the area, a Charles King of nearby Halifax County in 1826 did indeed bequeath a “negro man named Joe” to his wife during her lifetime and to his son Drew upon her death.
In 1830, Drew King’s census entry shows a male slave aged 24-35, which would be consistent with Joe being a teenage boy in 1813. So, although Joe is a very common name, it seems possible that this is the same Joe originally held by Kinchen Liles.