Applewhite Richardson: Unusual Name Passed Down for Generations

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is UNUSUAL NAME.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


In a tree filled with common English names, one stands out — my 5x great-grandfather Applewhite Richardson.

Applewhite Richardson was born before 1756,¹ possibly in North Carolina to parents Thomas Richardson and Amy Applewhite.²  It appears he was named for his mother’s maiden name, Applewhite or Applewhaite — an English surname from the Old Norse words apaldr (“apple tree”) and þveit (“meadow”).³

Like many of my distant ancestors, I only know of Applewhite through the records he left behind.  He lived in very interesting times, coming of age in the days before the American Revolution.  I have found no evidence he served in a military capacity, but the Daughters of the American Revolution does recognize Applewhite as a patriot for his civil service as a Grand Juror in Johnston County, North Carolina, in 1782.⁴  This service was Applewhite’s first of many appearances in Johnston County’s court minutes.  He appears frequently as a juror from 1782 through 1802.⁵

The court minutes also capture other important transactions for Applewhite, including the execution of an apprentice bond for three children of color.  An excerpt of the court minutes from November 25, 1806:

“Ordered that Queen Morgan a Child of Color of Vine Morgan be bound apprentice to Applewhite Richardson until She arrives to the age of Eighteen Years, She being five years old on the 19th day of February last, to be taught the business of Spining [sic] & whereupon Indentures were executed And at the Same time Said Richardson Came into Court & entered into bond in the Sum of Two Hundred & fifty pounds Current Money, with Thomas ONiel & Freeman Killingsworth Jun. his Securities, to Produce Said Child to this Court, hereafter if required agreeably to Law.”

“Ordered that Joe Morgan a Child of Color of Vine Morgan be bound apprentice to Applewhite Richardson until He arrives to the age of Twenty One Years, he being four years old on the 18th day of February last, to be taught the business of farming & whereupon Indentures were Executed, And at the Same time Said Richardson Came into Court & entered into bond in the Sum of Two Hundred & fifty pounds Current Money, with Thomas ONiel & Freeman Killingsworth Jun. his Securities, to Produce Said Child to this Court, hereafter if required agreeably to Law.”

“Ordered that Miley Morgan a Child of Color of Vine Morgan be bound apprentice to Applewhite Richardson until She arrives to the age of Eighteen Years, She being two years old on the Sixth day of August last, to be taught the business of Spining [sic] & whereupon Indentures were executed And at the Same time Said Richardson Came into Court & entered into bond in the Sum of Two Hundred & fifty pounds Current Money, with Thomas ONiel & Freeman Killingsworth Jun. his Securities, to Produce Said Child to this Court hereafter, if required agreeably to Law.”⁶

To my modern eyes, it appeared Applewhite was buying three young black children, and I wondered how exactly this arrangement differed from slavery, if at all.  I have other ancestors who owned slaves, but seeing these children named — and around the age of my own youngest child — made me want to understand their circumstances.  A blog series on the history of apprenticeships from the State Library of North Carolina’s Government and Heritage Library answered my questions.

Orphans, children born out of wedlock, and free black children whose families could not care for them were often “bound out” to an apprentice master who cared for them and taught them a trade in exchange for their service through a certain age (usually 18 or 21 years of age).⁷  This arrangement was sometimes voluntary and a way for poor families to obtain education and skills for their children; other times it was compulsory and a form of social welfare.⁸  At the time of this apprenticeship, several laws protected children.  After 1733, laws prevented apprentice masters from forcing free blacks to serve past the age of maturity (21 years old).⁹  Applewhite would also have been required to teach the children to read and write per a 1755 law.¹⁰

However, Applewhite died just a few years later.  Johnston County court minutes from November 27, 1809, state Nancy Richardson, wife of Applewhite Richardson, relinquished her rights as administrator of her deceased husband’s estate, and sons Bryan and Jonathan Richardson were appointed administrators instead.¹¹  This probate action places Applewhite’s date of death before November 27, 1809.

It is from Applewhite’s probate records and Nancy’s 1815 will abstract that I’m able to construct an accurate listing of their family.  Applewhite and Nancy had 11 children (not listed in any order):¹²

  • Barsheba Richardson, who married Thomas O’Neal
  • Sally Richardson, who married Warren O’Neal
  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Richardson, who married James O’Neal
  • Olive Richardson, who married John Chamblee
  • Suzanna Richardson, who married Unknown Bunn
  • Cynthia Richardson, who married Unknown Hocut
  • Nancy Richardson
  • Applewhite “A.W” Richardson
  • Jonathan Richardson
  • Bryan Richardson
  • Samuel Richardson (from whom I descend)

Applewhite Richardson’s name has lived on through the generations.  Applewhite’s son Applewhite — known most frequently in records as “A.W.” — named one of his own sons Applewhite.¹³  This Applewhite served in the 24th North Carolina Infantry during the Civil War.¹⁴ Other collateral lines of Richardsons who migrated with my family through Sumter County, Alabama, and Freestone County, Texas, honored Applewhite by giving their children this unusual name, preserving the memory of this family patriarch for generations.


¹ Approximate date of birth calculated from 1800 census.
1800 U.S. Census, Johnston County, North Carolina, population schedule, no page number, line 16, Applewhite Richardson; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7590/4440860_00711/320471 : accessed 20 Jan 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M32, roll 31.

² Only derivative evidence has been found for Applewhite’s parents:
“Family Data Collection – Births,” database, Edmund West, compiler, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5769&h=3753828&ssrc=pt&tid=49495569&pid=28204298420&usePUB=true : accessed 20 Jan 2019), entry for “Applewhite Richardson.”

³ Patrick Hanks, Dictionary of American Family Names (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

⁴ “Genealogical Research System Ancestor Search,” database, Daughters of the American Revolution, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (http://services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search_adb/default.cfm : accessed 19 Jan 2019), entry for Applewhite Richardson.”

⁵ Weynette Parks Haun, Johnston County North Carolina County Court Minutes, 18 vols. (Durham, North Carolina: Johnston County North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1975), vol. 3-8.

⁶ Weynette Parks Haun, Johnston County North Carolina County Court Minutes. (Durham, North Carolina: Johnston County North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1975), vol. 7:76-77.

⁷ State Library of North Carolina, Government and Heritage Library Blog (https://statelibrarync.org/news/2013/01/the-history-of-apprenticeships-in-north-carolina-part-1/ : accessed 19 Jan 2019), “The History of Apprenticeships in North Carolina, Part 1.”

⁸ State Library of North Carolina, Government and Heritage Library Blog (https://statelibrarync.org/news/2013/02/the-history-of-apprenticeships-in-north-carolina-part-2/ : accessed 19 Jan 2019), “The History of Apprenticeships in North Carolina, Part 2.”

Ibid.

¹⁰ Ibid.

¹¹ Johnston County, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, not numbered, Applewhite Richardson (1810), February 1810; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9061/007661560_00752/2626743 : accessed 20 Jan 2019).

¹² Johnston County, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, not numbered, Applewhite Richardson (1810), February 1810; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9061/007661560_00752/2626743 : accessed 20 Jan 2019).
Elizabeth E. Ross, Johnston County North Carolina Will Abstracts, 1746-1870 (Clayton, North Carolina: self-published, 1991), 90, citing will abstract of Nancy Richardson.

¹³ 1860 U.S. census, Johnston County, North Carolina, population schedule, Neuse River, p. 69 (penned), dwelling 545, family 526, Applewhite Richardson in household of A.W. Richardson; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4237508_00357 : accessed 21 Jan 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M643, roll 903.

¹⁴ Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of North Carolina,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 21 Jan 2019), “Applewhite Richardson,” NA catalog identifier 586957; citing Record Group 109, Roll 310; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865.

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