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#52Ancestors – At the Library – Emsley Phillips Lassiter in the Lawrence Carter Papers

Carthage Public Library-Aug 2013
Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Margo Lee Williams, 2013

In 2013, I was researching the story of my 4th great uncle, Emsley Phillips Lassiter, born free around 1811, he was the oldest of the children of my 4th great grandparents, Miles Lassiter and Healy Phillips Lassiter, from Randolph County, North Carolina. Emsley had moved with the Quaker migration of the 1830s to Indiana. I had gone to Indiana to visit the community to which he moved, called the Beech Community, near Carthage Indiana. With the help of friend and distant relative, Nancy Barry Kline, and Carthage library board member, Claire Mercer, I was able to do research at the Henry Henley Public Library in Carthage, Indiana, even though the library was technically closed for the afternoon. This library was very important to my research because it is the home of the original, but unpublished, collection called the Lawrence Carter Papers.

Emsley Phillips Lassiter in the Lawrence Carter Papers

Lawrence Carter home - Carthage, Indiana - Aug 2013
Lawrence Carter Home, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Margo Lee Williams, 2013.

Lawrence Carter was born in 1905 and descended from a Beech Community family. Carter wrote several notebooks about its history, especially the families of Beech Community.[1] He devoted a small section to my 4th great uncle, Emsley,[2] in which he first quoted Thomas Newby (who had published information on those whom he called the “colored pioneers” of Carthage[3]), reiterating that Emsley traveled with Henry Newby (Thomas’s father) in 1832, and that Emsley lived with and worked for Newby in those early years in Indiana. However, that cannot be completely corroborated. Henry Newby is listed in the 1840 census, but there were no people of color counted as living in his household.[4] Since Emsley married Elizabeth Winburn on 03 Apr 1845,[5] in Rush County, they should have been listed in the 1850 census, but they were not. They could not be accounted for as living in her father’s, (Tommy Winburn) household either.[6]  Even a page-by-page search did not yield their whereabouts. Searches of other counties, even other states, have yielded nothing.  However, Carter mentioned that at one point “Em” lived in the “old Baptist Church House,” which may explain it. A census taker, who was not from the immediate community would not likely think there was anyone living in a church. That may explain 1850, but it did not answer the question of where he was in 1840. His whereabouts in the 1840 and 1850 censuses was even more puzzling based on his real estate purchases during the same time period.[7]

Margo Williams under Henry Henley portrait at Carthage Public Library-3 Aug 2013
The Author in front of Henry Henley Portrait, Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Again, like Newby before him,[8] Carter also claimed that another Beech resident, Farley Lassiter, was a cousin of Emsley’s. This author had never heard of a Farley (also known as Farlow) before. Inquiry of various Lassiter family members in the Lassiter Mill community in Randolph County revealed no one there had heard of Farley either.

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library-4 Aug 2013
The Author at the Front Desk, Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

In the 1840 Rush County census it was noted that there were two Lassiter (“Laston/Laster”) families of color: one was “Farlow,”[9] the other was “Patient” (“Patience”).[10] Farlow’s household only had one adult male and one adult female, presumably he and his wife, Martha (Bass). Patient’s household listed two possible adult males: one in the 10-23 age category; the other in the 24-35 age category. Judging from later census records, one of those adults was most likely Seth Lassiter, born about 1814-1815,[11] which hovers around the crossover age of 23-24. Emsley, on the other hand, would be firmly in the 24-35 age category based on the birth year of 1811, which was most consistent over time, making him 29 in 1840.

This also seemed to eliminate the possibility that he was living at his father in-law Thomas Winburn’s home. Winburn’s household showed no males in that age category.[12] Thus, the most likely explanation was that Emsley was living in the Patient/Patience Lassiter (Laston/Laster) household.

Because of the way the 1840 census is recorded, generally listing families alphabetically, it is often difficult to determine who is neighbor to whom. However, Farlow/Farley is listed on page 42, with John Roberts and Willis Roberts (both families of color originally from Northampton County, North Carolina), while Patient/Patience is listed only one full page away from Henry Newby. She is on pages 409-410, and he is on pages 411-412.  It should be noted that although Patient/Patience and Farlow/Farley have been determined to have come from Randolph County, the exact nature of their kinship bonds to Emsley has not been determined.[13]

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library Aug 2013
The Author Reviewing Pages from Lawrence Carter’s Notebooks. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Carter’s essay on Emsley mentions several other pieces of information. According to Carter, Emsley had a sister named “Penn,” presumably short for “Penina,” a name which he and Elizabeth gave to one of their daughters.[14] However, since all the children of Miles and Healy (Phillips) Lassiter have been identified through Randolph County, North Carolina records as well as private, Lassiter family, records, this is unlikely.[15] On the other hand, his wife, Elizabeth, did have a sister named Penina. This is most likely the “Penn” to whom Carter was referring.[16]

Carter also claimed Emsley moved to Grant County and died there. The above census review indicates otherwise. However, he did move to Grant County. According to historian Stephen Vincent, in his book, Southern Seed, Northern Soil, he moved there about 1865.[17] It is not clear why he moved to Grant County. Although there was a Weaver community there and his daughter, Mary Anna, later married a Weaver,[18] he was not living in the Weaver community. He was living in Fairmount, near Henry Winslow, from North Carolina, and probably a member of the large Quaker Winslow family that migrated to Indiana about the same time as Henry Newby. As noted above, however, Emsley returned to Rush County by 1880. Again, in contrast to what Carter wrote, Emsley died in Indianapolis, on 10 March 1892.[19] Exactly when he moved to Indianapolis is not known, but sometime in the late 1880s, since he does not appear in available city directories before that time.

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library-rev-2 Aug 2013
The Author at the Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Emsley’s widow, Elizabeth, was found living with daughter, Cristena Laster Overman,[20] in Center (Marion), Grant County, in 1900.[21] Elizabeth died there on 21 April 1908. She is buried at Estates of Serenity, Marion, Grant County.[22]



[1] Moore, W. L. (Processor) (2012). Lawrence B. Carter Notebooks, N.D. In Manuscript and Visual Collections Department, William Henry Smith Memorial Library. Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved from:

[2] Carter, L. (n.d.). “Emsley Lassiter,” in original unpublished notebooks at the Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana (Copies provided by Nancy Barry Kline).

[3] Newby, T. T. (1916). Colored Pioneers: Emsley Lassiter. Reminiscences of Thomas T. Newby (Carthage, Indiana). Retrieved from:

[4] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 209; Image: 425; Family History Library Film: 0007729, Henry Newby, head. Retrieved from:

[5] Rush County, Indiana. General Index to Marriages, 1822-1907, FHLM #1630369 Items 3-4, and Marriage Records v. 6-8: 152, 1843-1861; Emsley Lassiter and Elizabeth Winburn. Family History Library Microfilm #001630189. See also: Ensley Lassiter, “Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959,” Retrieved from:

[6] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432-170, Page: 537B; Image: 336. Family Number: 728, Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from

[7] Williams, M. L. (2014). The Emsley Lassiter Family of Randolph County, North Carolina and Rush County, Indiana. Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, 32, 59-78.

[8] Newby, T. T. (1916). Colored Pioneers: Farlow Lassiter. Reminiscences of Thomas T. Newby. Retrieved from:

[9] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 214; Image: 435; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Farlow Laston, head. Retrieved from

[10] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 208; Image: 423; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Patient Laston, head. Retrieved from

[11] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432_170, Page: 550B; Image: 362, Family Number: 916; Seth Lassiter, head. Retrieved from

[12] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93, Page: 211; Image: 429; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from

[13] Williams, M. L. (2014). The Emsley Lassiter Family of Randolph County, North Carolina and Rush County, Indiana. Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, 32, 59-78.

[14] 1870 US Census, Fairmount, Grant, Indiana;  NARA Roll: M593_317; Page: 41B; Image: 86; Family History Library Film: 545816;  Emsly Lasters, head. Retrieved from:

[15] Williams, M. L. (2011). Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), An Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home (Palm Coast, FL & Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing, Inc.) pp.103-130.

[16] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432-170; Page: 537B; Image: 336; Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from:

[17] Vincent, S. A. (1999). Southern Seed, Northern Soil: African-American Farm Communities in the Midwest, 1765-1900 (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press), p. 200, n14.

[18] Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941 [database on-line] Grant County, Marriage Records Volume II Book 7:199.  James Weaver and Mary Lassiter. Retrieved from:

[19] Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920 [database on-line]. Name: Enssly [sic] Laster. Retrieved from:

[20] Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 [Database on-line]. Cristena Laster and Joseph Overman, 29 April 1881, Rush County. Retrieved from:

[21] 1900 US Federal Census Place: Center, Grant, Indiana; Joseph Overman, head; Elizabeth Lester [sic], mother-in-law. NARA Roll: 373; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 0030; FHL microfilm: 1240373. Retrieved from:

[22] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current [Database on-line]. Elizabeth Laster, 21 April 1908, Estates of Serenity, Marion, Indiana. Find A Grave. Retrieved from:


6 thoughts on “#52Ancestors – At the Library – Emsley Phillips Lassiter in the Lawrence Carter Papers

  1. Nice to see you blogging again, Margo! Sounds like an interesting research trip. We always hope to find answers and sometimes just find more questions, huh?

    1. So true! Thanks!

      1. It was fun to see the pictures of you at work on your research, too!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your well-written, well-researched, and well-cited post!

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