Many, Many Updates

November 30, 2020 Off By Mira Pickus

Hello! I haven’t posted in a while, but that is not for lack of progress. I’ve got lots to catch everyone up on.

To begin, two weeks ago I was on a call with several local history experts. Organized by Mr. Tom Magnuson of the “Trading Path Association” (knowledgable particularly about old maps and roads), the call included Mr. Mark Chilton, the Register of Deeds for Orange country, David Southern, former Duke University Press editor, and Dan Richter, professor of Soil and Forest Ecology at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment.

I learned so much from this meeting. Mr. Chilton provided me further context about the history of the Occaneechi and their possible connections with Nat Turner’s Rebellion. He also has some documentation that he can share with me that may help me to trace descendants of the enslaved peoples that worked on the Couch land — including an old Couch will, and a typed up version of the 1866 Cohabitation records which would have been some of the first documentation of formerly enslaved peoples.

Dan Richter has studied the Couch land that is now the Duke farm for quite some time. Through his research and interest in that land, he may have a lead for a contact of an individual descendant from the enslaved people who worked the Couch land.

I’m very grateful for all of the wisdom and connections passed onto me in this call. Mr. Magnuson also put me in touch with Judd Edeburn — former resource manager for Duke Forest — whom I spoke with last week as well as Nicolette Cagle of the Nicholas School of the Environment who has done extensive genealogical work with the Couch family. I was also pointed to several more resources — books and maps — that I must check out including the “Cummings Map” and others. This call gave me some new leads on people to contact as well as some further written resources — both primary and secondary — to consult.

A few days after this call, I spoke with Mr. Greg Bell from the Eno River Association. He was to point me to even more people with whom I could possibly interview for the piece. He suggested I speak, if I can, with Jane Sands who grew up on very near the Eno quarry. Mr. Bell also said I should see if I could speak with Judge Beverly Scarlett of Orange County whose family has lived near the Eno for generations. And he also suggested that I talk with Mr. Walter Farabault of Hillsborough.

So from these two calls — I have many more leads to finding people to interview and speak with. Next steps from these calls are to follow up with people. I need to see if Greg Bell and Dave Cook can introduce me to some of their contacts and see if those individuals would be interested in speaking with me. I will also be in contact with Ms. Cagle about Couch genealogy and Mr. Chilton and Mr. Richter about possible leads for individuals descendant from the enslaved peoples who worked the Couch lands.

I’m so excited! I’m making headway on finding some Couch descendants and descendants of the enslaved people who lived on the Couch land to speak with. Meanwhile, I’m in touch with members of the Occaneechi (more about that in my next post) and some new people have popped up in my conversation with Mr. Bell. Out of all these threads — a few of them will work out! More coming soon!

Also, one final thank you to everyone who has spoken with me. I really appreciate your time and expertise!