Sunday, December 18, 2016

James City,  The Methodical Destruction of An Affluent Black Town in the 1800’s
   By Ella Shines Goldsmith

James City, ca 1910, Photograph by Bayard Wootten. North Carolina Collection, University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

James City located in Craven County, North Carolina, was a flourishing african american city in  the 1900’s.  It was founded immediately after the civil war in mid to late 1800’s during reconstruction.  James City was predominately a city of freed slaves that fled to this area in 1865.   In 1862 Union forces captured this area along the North Carolina coast.  Now this area had numerous freed slaves that had crossed Union lines to safety.  The Union Army formed a settlement along the Trent River, originally called the Trent River Settlement. This land had been confiscated from a former Confederate colonel, Peter G. Evans. By 1865 nearly 3000 black lived in the settlement of 800 homes, renamed James City, after it’s founder, Horace James, superintendent of Negro affairs and agent for the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands.

The residents began an established community with the aide of missionaries and The New England Freedmen's Aide Society started to  build churches, establish businesses, schools, hospitals, and began to farm the lands.  Many local residents deposited their funds into the newly formed  local branch of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. Soon after the war ended, James City had become an independent community, no longer dependent on government aide.  James City residents selected as one of it’s delegates Joseph Green to represent them at  their state convention to appeal for male suffrage and homestead rights.  James City was truly an independent black town possessing all the qualities of a thriving community.

The Methodical destruction began in 1867 when the federal government restored the land to it’s former owners, through a federal decision by the Supreme Court.   The former owners were Mary and James A Bryan.  The black residents of James City were forced to either leave the city, or pay rent to owners or work as sharecroppers on their once previously own land.   Heavy rains and droughts made conditions even worse for the former black tenants.  Now these farmers had to contend with profiting from only one third of the proceeds from their harvest which they had previously profited one hundred percent.  Two thirds of their profits went to the new white landowners and as a result, many of the residents became impoverished.   This was the beginning of the end of a previously thriving, established black community, James City.

Towards the end of the 1800’s the black population of James City had declined to 1100.  In
1880 James City workers began a strike to  protest low wages and unfair prices.  The James City black residents were tenacious and together raised a total of $2000 and offered to buy back the land from the new owners, Mary and James Bryan but the owners refused to sell. And the years following the Bryan family embarked on many campaigns in order to  collect rent and evict the black residents from James City. This is what is called  by modern day African Americans as “gentrification”.  Gentrification can be explained as “when white affluent people buy an area and raise the property value or the rent to its tenants, thereby forcing them to move out and relocate, allowing the whites to take over and become the new landowners”.   This could possibly be the first recorded history of gentrification in American History.

Many black families in James City, protested that they had never paid rent and other residents wanted compensation for improvements they had made to their houses,or homes they had built and land they had cleared and made suitable for farming.  James Bryan refused to negotiate with these farmers and in 1892 the decision was brought before the North Carolina Supreme Court.  The court, unsurprisingly, decided in favor of the Bryans and many black residents lost their homes to the new landlords. Essentially, James City residents were living on “borrowed land” they thought they had owned.  Slowly the tenants began to move out and bought property in newby towns such as Graysville, Meadowsville, Brownsville and Leesville.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1900s, James City, lost many of it’s residents to industrial areas during World War I.  There were approximately only about 700 black residents who remained in James City and who owned and rented property there. These people possessed a strong sense of heritage and the  African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which was formed in 1821 and was a place that provided the residents with personal and religious freedom.  One influential leader was Bishop James Walker Hood (1831-1918)  of North Carolina. He  created and fostered many AME churches in North Carolina.  


The Freedmen's Bureau, formerly known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, was created by congress on March 3, 1865 was formed in order to assist the newly freed slaves obtain aid for their immediate needs such as medical care, food and shelter. This aid, instituted by Abraham Lincoln, was to last for one entire year. This bureau also assisted the newly freed slaves a manner in which to purchase land that had been abandoned by the Confederacy.  However, Congress later determined that no ex-confederate land would be given to the freedmen as a result of President Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation in 1865 which seemed to take back what had been previously given to the freed slaves by the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau.  

During the end of the war, many white slaveholders left their lands and slaves and relocated to the deep south and never returned to reclaim their land, these lands were bought by the freed slaves.  This allowed for hundreds of thousands of freed slaves to own land for the first time.  Many of these former white slaveholders left North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, some with their slaves in tow, and bought land in the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. There they were able to continue “life as usual”, thereby creating laws that were oppressive in nature to the newly freed slaves in which they were forced to work or be placed in jail. The newly freed slaves had no alternative but to work for few wages to none as sharecroppers on the slave owner’s lands. Many freed slaves became tenant farmers on reclaimed lands of North Carolina and Virginia and the deep south from encouragement from the Freedmen’s Bureau.

1.Joe A. Mobley, James City: A Black Community in North Carolina, 1863-1900 (1981).
2.  Karin Lorene Zipf, "Promises of Opportunity: The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company in  New Bern, North Carolina" (M.A. thesis, University of Georgia, 1994).
5.  David G. Hackett, "The Prince Hall Masons and the African American Church: The Labors of Grand Master and Bishop James Walker Hood, 1831–1918." Church history 69#4 (2000): 770-802. Online
6. Claude F. Oubre, Forty Acres and a Mule: The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Land Ownership (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978) - See more at:

7. The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), pp. 178-191, 256-257, 408-409;

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The History of the African American Shines Family and Relationship to Pres.Thomas Jefferson

The History of the African American Shines Family and Relationship to  Pres.Thomas Jefferson by Ella Shines Goldsmith

Thomas Jefferson

The African American Shines Family is related to President Thomas Jefferson, 
not through the lineage of Sallie Hemmings but marriage.

Genealogist have documented connections of the Shine family to Thomas Jefferson.  It is well documented that a  great  granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, Maria Jefferson Eppes, married Dr William Francis Shine (b.1832). Her grandmother was Maria “Polly” Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter.
Maria Jefferson Eppes *3

The connection to Thomas Jefferson is as follows; Daniel Shine was born in 1690 in Ireland, He came to New Bern North Carolina in 1710. He married Elizabeth Green, Daniel Shine and Elizabeth Green’s first son John ( b. 11/25/1725) had a son named Francis Stringer Shine (b. 1760). He had a son named Richard Alexander (b.1810) that moved to Florida and became a prosperous brick maker. His son, Dr William Francis Shine ( b.1835 -1910) was an important doctor during the civil war, and is buried at Monticello-Thomas Jefferson’s Home. He married Maria Jefferson Eppes in 1868 in St Augustine, FL. Her parents were Francis Eppes and Susan Ware. Her grandmother was Maria  “Polly” Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter.    Maria Polly Jefferson married her first half  cousin, John Wayles Eppes, whose mother, Elizabeth Wayles Eppes was a half sister of her mother.  John Eppes served in the US Congress representing Virginia, for a time during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, and he stayed with his father -in-law at the White House during that time. Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801.  Polly Eppes died in 1804. While Jefferson was still president.   from website:

The African American Shine(s) is related to many famous people in history, don't fret about the relationship or the "s" added to the last name.  The letter to the last name was added sometime in early  1800's.  It was added and dropped along the genealogy trail.  However, It has been proven that the African American Shines' are direct descendants of Thomas Jefferson who signed the original Declaration of Independence and later became a US President.   Another famous Shine in American History is Major Daniel Shines born 1690 in Dublin, Ireland and settled in North Carolina,  married to Elizabeth Green  and was one of the first Shines to settle in America in 1700's with his other two brothers James and John. *1    Other famous Shines' includes Francis Stinger Shine, John Franck Shine, Major George Farragut, who married Sarah E. Shine born 1765,  Major George Farragut came to America in 1776 and served in the Revolutionary War, His son, Admiral David  Glasgow Farragut served in the War between the States. *2

Black Civil War Confederate Soldiers- Andrew and Silas Chandler


Civil War Slaves in Mississippi

Many African American slaves were instrumental in building american plantation homes and railways and community buildings that were occupied by their white slave owners.  The intermingling and mixing of slave and master brought about the mixture of the white Shine Family and the black Shine Family just as it happened in many other interracial 
 families throughout  American history.  My particular ancestor,  John Edward Shines, was born in 1857 in South Butler County, Alabama to James W. Shines Jr born 1820 and his wife Elizabeth Jane Stallings, he was on of their five sons and it is believed that he was shunned from the family because he took up household with a mulatto slave woman named Matilda Weatherley, who was the author's great grandmother.  It is documented in the 1880 US Federal Census that he was living with his sister Susan Shine Brooks and James Brooks her husband, who eventually settled in Texas.

It is believed  that while traveling to Texas via Mississippi, John Edward Shines met his wife Matilda in Attala County, Misissippi where she was born and decided to settle there as a farmer. It was said that John fell in love with a slave woman
and because marriage to a slave was prohibited during that time, he decided to live with
 her and raise their children together.  This could account for the reason he was shunned by
his family and no mention is made of him in other ancestral family trees on 
  John and Matilda had 9 children, 8 survived and one of which was Isidore Shines, who was the paternal grandfather of the author. 
Isidore was born in Attala County, MS in 1888 and was married to an Irish  mulatto woman named Elee Flanagan, also born in 1888 in Attala County, Mississippi.    The letter "s" was added to last name somewhere between the 1860 and 1870 US Federal Census of Shine(s) family lineage. It is believed as John Edward Shines and his wife married they kept the S on the end of their names to distinguish themselves from the "white" side of the family but that reason is not confirmed.  Nevertheless, there is a direct connection to this John Edward Shine and the other Shine family members in history.  Isidore Shines had a son named John William Shines born 1915 in Attala County, Mississippi as well who is the author's father.  
 Hillary Robert Shines, a brother of John Edward Shines served in the Civil War as a private in the Confederate Army, 33rd Alabama Infantry, Co C. (see website;  Although Hillary was a white man and not a slave, It is known that many  slaves accompanied their masters in battle, it is unknown if this was willingly or coerced
Photo, John Edward Shines

The  history of the Shine(s) family is known to have originated in Dublin, Ireland, relocated to America in  early 1700's, settling in Georgia, Massachusetts, Viginia, North Carolina and Florida, then migrating to Alabama, Mississippi and Texas after the Civil War.  Many Shines'participated in The Civil War, World War I and II and Vietnam.  

Photos of WWII Soldiers colorful marching * 4

   Regardless of the reasons, The Shine(s) have been shown to be pioneers of The United States of American and should be recognized as such by all americans Black or White.  

by Ella Shines Goldsmith


1.   Shine, J. W  (1917) , History of the Shines Family in Europe and America. Sault St Marie, Michigan, Genealogy Collection. State Library of North Carolina

2Biographical History of North Carolina from Colonial Times to Present, By Samuel A. Ashe, Vol. III, published 1906) [weblog] Retrieved from blog,

3. Maria Jefferson Eppes - retrieved from  Eppington Foundation,  The People of Eppington
4. Andrew and Silas Chandler - Former Slaves of Andrew Martin Chandler, 44th Mississippi Infantrty (Company F).  retrieved from National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and

Sunday, September 20, 2015

                 A Hidden Treasure in Vicksburg, Mississippi by Ella Shines Goldsmith

Read the story of how my Aunt Margaret Martin Dennis and Rev. H.D. Dennis
transformed an old country store into a work of vernacular folk art that has been
photographed, and immortalized in book, magazines, newspapers and even a
documentary by Zach Godshall.   Find the link to the detailed blog by clicking the link