Crandall, Rosetta (née Perry)

Ca. 1825 - After 1900

Rosetta Crandall (née Perry) was born into slavery about the year 1825 on Rosedale Plantation in Beaufort County, North Carolina. Following a period of courtship, Rosetta and Ephraim were married by the consent of both of their enslavers, per custom, in 1844. As Rosetta was a house "servant," indicating a higher status among those enslaved on the plantation, the ceremony was conducted inside the main house at Rosedale (per an affidavit by R. W. Wharton). A free Black minister, Abram Allen, officiated the wedding, and a large supper was provided to the wedding party by the couple’s enslavers.

The newlyweds moved into a “double house” with Millie Perry, another woman enslaved by David Perry, who served as a nurse to both the white and enslaved children. Together, Ephraim and Rosetta had four children: Cicero, born August 23, 1845; Bettie, born September 14, 1847; Simon, born August 19, 1852; and King, born September 25, 1855. About the time King was born, Kit Crandall sold Ephraim to “speculators,” or slave traders, who then sold him to Edward (Edmon) Moore, of Jamesville, North Carolina.

Upon arrival in Jamesville, Ephraim was very quickly married off to Dolley Powers, a woman then held in slavery by George Moore Burras. Little is known about the ceremony, which transpired on or about October 30, 1855, and it’s unclear if Ephraim willingly entered into this relationship or was forced to. We do know that Burras himself presided over the ceremony and that other people then enslaved by Burras were in attendance. Ephraim and Dolley had three children (of six) that were still living in July 1869: Mozella, born August 15, 1855; Lewis, born October 23, 1856; and Isabella, born October 9, 1860. Katy Wilson and Charity Powers, two women also enslaved by Burras, “rendered the assistance usual” at each of the births.

During the entirety of his marriage to Dolley, Ephraim continued to visit Rosetta and his children by her about every two weeks. Life continued this way, with Ephraim splitting his time between the two families, until about the spring of 1863 when, during the course of one of these trips home to Rosedale, he told Rosetta of his plans to go to New Bern to enlist in the United States Army. It obviously pained the then forty-year-old man to leave them, telling his wife before he departed to “do the best I could & take care of his children.”

On June 16, Ephraim was formally enlisted into the Army and was assigned to Company B of the 1st North Carolina Colored Volunteers, later redesignated as the 35th United States Colored Troops. He had been outfitted as a soldier and was receiving basic training when he contracted small pox and became seriously ill. When the rest of the 35th departed to join Federal forces down in South Carolina in July, Ephraim was left behind in New Bern to recuperate. Recovery, however, did not come, and Ephraim died on January 11, 1864, with his eldest son Cicero by his side. His death made two women widows.

Rosetta never remarried and was in poor health by the time she filed for a widow’s pension in the 1890s. At the close of the war, she remained on the Rosedale Plantation and worked for its new manager, Col. Rufus Watson Wharton, David Perry’s son-in-law and a veteran of the 67th North Carolina (Confederate). For at least the first decade of the post-slavery south, she served as Mary Perry Wharton’s personal servant. Sometime between 1874 and 1876, Rosetta suffered an epileptic fit and fell into a fire, resulting in the loss of sight in her left eye, the loss of use of her left arm, and the severe disfigurement of her face.

The development of rheumatism along with her severe burn injuries prevented her from securing work and providing for herself, a point she and others who came to her defense made clear to the pension office in her claim. “I have worked very hard in my life,” Rosetta stated in one of the forms, “trying to rais (sic) my children.” She had no property to her name, except for a few pieces of furniture, and though her son King also lived on the plantation, he had his own large family to care for and couldn’t provide for his mother’s needs. In an attempt to earn her keep, she did odd jobs for Mary Wharton.

Despite her destitution, the pension office denied her claim outright, determining that Dolley was Ephraim’s legitimate widow. Nevertheless, Rosetta persisted, submitting numerous affidavits from the likes of Rufus and Mary Wharton, one of Mary’s sisters, and several fellow former slaves. All attested to the fact that Ephraim split his time between the households and cared for each family as a father and husband would. Rosetta pointed out in no uncertain terms that their separation was not voluntary: “You see from evidence on file we both was slaves & did not desert each other. My husband was sold to Edmond Moore[. H]e did not go there on his own free act & deed.” In a later form, she reiterated the same, adding “My husband was sold away from me…could I or he help that[?]”

The argument fell on deaf ears as the pension office rejected Rosetta’s claim again in 1897, and that’s where the file ends. The last record in which she appears is the 1900 census, which finds her living with her son King and his family outside of Washington, North Carolina, perhaps still at Rosedale. Her date of death and burial location are, as of right now, unknown.