Dula, Corpening, Harshaw, Erwin, Harper, Kent and Bell! Who are You?


Mother and Daughter Above. R. Harriett Harshaw Dula and Daughter Emma Dula Ervin (Shade)

The Dula Story is one that intrigued me from the very first time I heard of them. There is a small town outside of Charlotte NC right down from Hickory, NC. This town is called Lenoir and it's a town that was started by the Harper Family.


When I first found the North Carolina connection, I was confused. I knew absolutely nothing about my paternal grandmother or her mother. As I cross matched the DNA with other cousins and found the connection, I found that Mariah Swafford was born Mariah Erwin (Earrin). The misspelled name made me have to think a few times what it meant. Soon, all the pieces fell together. I found that Mariah had married a man named Sandy Whitener in August of 1866. It stated her as a person born FREE. Most at that time in the city who got married, would state they were the former slave of the "Slave Owner's Name" mentioned.


This made the search even more interesting. I found Tony Erwin and his wife on the 1840 Census as free people of color. I also found Sophia Shade listed as free. So, this started to get interesting as some of my DNA cousins were related to her and others to Tilly Caldwell. Finally, it clicked. Toney was having an affair on his wife with Sophia. It is proven later down the road by the children she had with him out of wedlock while he was married to his wife Tilly. Tilly dies and he marries his lover, Sophia Shade. She is the mother of London Shade, my great grandma's half brother,


I started reading the local newspapers and London's name kept coming up. They called him a fine man and upstanding man. He was also listed in a few fights that took place at social events. In one specific fight, he was taking up for his brother in law (son of Alfred Dula and Harriett Dula). London's 1st cousin a Caldwell uses a straight razor on his own brother who standing up for London,


London married into a very interesting family. There story will follow as how I pieced it together. So, family this is from records and not from oral history. So, if I get something wrong, don't yell at me.

James Alfred Dula (Slave Owner) and Unofficial Husband to Harriett Harshaw (Slave). Father of 8 of her 10 Children.


This story truly moved me. I laughed and I cried. I actually purchased the book from Distant Relative Leslie Dula McKesson who wrote the book on the family history. I donated the book the Family Search Library upon my completion of it's review. It will now be available for those family members many generations later, guarded by the church.


Well here is my short story of the life and times of Harriett Harshaw (daughter of Jacob Harshaw Slave Owner and Unknown Slave). The story as the oral history from family and the book. James Alfred Dula was the son of Thomas Bentley Dula and Elizabeth Hulme. He was the 3rd son born born of their union. He married the daughter of a wealthy settler, Elizabeth Corpening. They had about 9 kids before Elizabeth died in 1846. Prior to her death, he purchased her help in the home. A Slave by the name of Harriett Harshaw (sometimes found in records as Corpening). Two years after Elizabeth died, Alfred struck up a relationship with Harriett. They had a son. The neighbors and town folk were beside themselves. He actually listed his son Solomon by Harriett on the certificate of birth. They had 2 additional children after 1865 and the Reconstruction. He provided and educated his Black and White family. There is some type of a relationship between these 2 people and we may never know how deep it went. I have heard from family and by reading the book, "Black and White" by my 3rd Cousin Leslie Dula McKesson.

Who were the Shade's and Erwin's or Ervin's?

Not until I started tracing my roots did I find that my paternal great grandmother was an Erwin as I said earlier in my blog posts. I decided it was time to trace their road to freedom and find out HOW Toney Erwin (Shade) became a free man in 1840. First in my research was to find out about who the Shade's were and WHY they were free? After a long search, I found Tony's dad, Isaac. When I found Isaac, he was 9 years old and a slave. He was willed to John McKamey Erwin. His parents were given to his brother and his sister and her kids to another family member. After further studying the family, I found that Sarah Erwin was the daughter of John McKamey Erwin. Her maiden name was Alexander like her pre-reconstruction OWNER Sophia Erwin-Alexander. This gave me a paternal 3rd Great Grandfather. However, we may never know more.



View of Lenoir from Hibriten Mountain

Morganton, North Carolina

There was never a slave market in Morganton, however, William Walton, Jr., a merchant living in Charleston until 1808, sent slaves that had recently arrived from Africa to his Burke County plantation along the Johns River. There they were taught to speak English and to farm using American methods, then they were sold to plantation owners. After 1850, an agent, Z. D. Lancaster, made his headquarters here.


Because of its prominence as a "court town," two of the state's largest institutions, Broughton Hospital for the mentally ill and the NC School for the Deaf, were located in the city in the late nineteenth century. Today, it is also home to Western Carolina Center, a research and hospital facility for the mentally retarded, as well as home to correctional facilities for male youth and adults.


A fire destroyed many of the wooden commercial structures in downtown Morganton in 1893. Within a few years, the mercantile and retail stores were rebuilt and, except for some façade improvements, remain much the same in appearance even today.


Morganton can best be described by the word "progressive." It was one of the first municipalities in the state to provide its own electric system. Public education began in the early 1900s; classes met in the town hall and at the First United Methodist Church.


Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Waldenses from the Cottian Alps of Italy settled in nearby Valdese. Valdese, is the second largest town in the county. It was founded in 1893 by the Waldensian pioneers who escaped generations of religious persecution in the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy to settle here. Valdese (derived from the Italian word Valdesi, which means "Waldensian") was incorporated in 1920. The story of the is unique in the history of North Carolina. A European ambiance is still evident in the downtown. Alba Waldensian Hosiery and Waldensian Bakeries rank as two of the largest industries in the county.

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