Axie Beasley Howcott (1838-1927)


Information about Axie’s early life is limited, both because pre-Civil War censuses did not record the names of individuals who were held in slavery and also because various court house fires have thinned out the surviving records for Washington county, North Carolina.

There is conflicting evidence as to where Axie was born. Her death certificate gives her place of birth as Plymouth. However, the death certificate of her daughter Aggie states that Axie was born in West Tennessee. Census records conflict as to whether Axie was born in Tennessee or North Carolina. [1]

The earliest record found that mentions Axie is in the register of Grace Episcopal church, Plymouth, which records her baptism along with her sister Mary on 20 July 1851.  Axie’s date of birth was recorded as February 1838 and Mary’s as February 1840. Their parents were Ned and Polly. [2] The baptisms were included in the part of the register assigned to “colored infants” and the “surname” column in the register was completed for both of them as “servant of J B Beasley”, their sponsor being Mrs Mary Beasley. [3] One of the other two children baptised on that day was Silvy, who had been born 5 November 1848 and was also a “servant of J B Beasley” sponsored by Mrs Mary Beasley. Silvy’s parents were Joe and Polly, so it may well be that Silvy was Axie’s half-sister.

Axie’s son Benjamin had born about 1850. No contemporary record has been found of his birth or the identity of his biological father.

On 18 March 1854, Axy “servant of J B Beasley of Plymouth” married William “servant of C Howcott” at Grace church. William may have been the same person as “Bill” who appears in a list compiled on 14 May 1845 of slaves in the estate of Charles R Howcott. When on 3 July 1833 the slaves that had been held by Sarah P Knox were divided between her children Louisa Matilda and Andrew, one called Bill was assigned to Louisa Matilda, who afterwards married Charles R Howcott. [4] Louisa Matilda died before her husband, so it is likely that he had inherited the person in the 1833 list. However, Bill in the 1833 list was probably significantly older than Axie as that list does not indicate that he was still a child at that time.

The death certificate of Axie’s daughter Aggie states that her father was born in Dare county.

The register of Grace Church gives these details of William and Axie’s children:





17 January 1854

19 August 1855


3 April 1859

When John was baptised, Axie was described as servant of Mrs M Beasley (who by then was the widow of J B Beasley).

No record has been found of Axie and her family during the Civil War period, when there was extensive fighting in and around Plymouth and most of the buildings in the town were destroyed.

In the 1870 census of Plymouth township, Axie is recorded as “Axy Haket”, her age being given as 31 and her occupation as “keeping house”. William does not appear in the household and has not been located elsewhere in that census, so he may have died by then. The 1870 census did not record the relationship between members of a household but all others present with Axie had the same surname and either definitely or probably were her children: 



















On 17 December 1878, Axie Howcott was described as aged 42 when she married Jordan Norman at her home in Plymouth township. [5] Two years later, Axie and Jordan were living in Plymouth township, along with her daughters Aggie and Polly and four of his children, who ranged in age from 4 to 14. Jordan was working as a shingle hand and Axie kept home. In 1830, the North Carolina General Assembly had passed a law prohibiting anyone from teaching a slave to read or write [6], so it is not surprising that Axie, Jordan and Aggie were all recorded as unable to read and write. However, that was not the case with 15-year old Polly, who had attended school during the previous year.

Almost all records of the 1890 census of the USA have been destroyed, so there is a 20-year gap after 1880 in the census records of Axie’s family. In 1900, she and Jordan were living at Pinetown, Beaufort county, NC, where they were servants of Surry Parker, who was engaged in the logging business. [7] Norman worked as a teamster and Axie did laundry. Their names were immediately followed by Isaac Norman (born September 1885), who was described as a drayman and also worked for Surry Parker. Jordan’s date of birth was given as March 1832 and Axie’s as March 1844. The latter date does not accord with other records and would have been provided to the enumerator by the employer, as Jordan and Axie were registered as part of Surry Parker’s household.

In the 1900 census, Axie was recorded as having given birth to 13 children, seven of whom were still living, the ones identified so far being: 



Birth or Baptism





About 1850

Martha Mann, 1873





Mack William Lee, 1878





Mary Jane Garrett, 1880




About 1860





About 1864

George Hardy, 1887


W. (female)


About 1867






James Preston Weaver







The 1910 census of Pinetown includes Axie Norman as a widow aged 75, living in a rented house in Back Street. Six of her children were still living at that stage. Axie reported that she was still working as a laundress and had been born in Tennessee but that both her parents were born in North Carolina. The other members of the household were: 


Relationship to Axie


Marital status

Years married

Children born (living)

Isaac Norman






Aggie Lee





19 (5)

Lafayette Lee






Axie Lee

Great grand daughter





On 1 January 1920, Axie was living at Rail Road Street, Plymouth in the household of Preston Weaver; she was described as his aunt although she was, in fact, his mother-in-law. The other members of the family were his wife Helen and daughter and son-in-law, Mabel and Mike King.

Photographs of Axie (about 1913 or 1921) with younger family members

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: D:\My Webs\howcutt site\Axie + Joseph 1913ish.jpg

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: D:\My Webs\howcutt site\Axie + Susan + Evelyn 1913ish.jpg

“Mrs Axie Harman” died at Plymouth at 6.30 pm on 2 May 1927 of a cerebral haemorrhage and paralysis. Her residence at the time was 320 Adams Street, though the certificate does not specify an address at which she died. The informant was Mrs Helen Weaver of Plymouth. Axie was buried at Plymouth on 4 May 1927, the undertaker being Slade & Towe.  

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: D:\My Webs\howcutt site\320 Adams Street Plymouth- SMALL.JPG

320 Adams Street, Plymouth


[1]    Axie’s birthplace is recorded as follows in the various censuses: 




North Carolina


North Carolina






North Carolina

        Axie’s death certificate says that her father was Edward Beasley and that he was born at “Tenmall, Tennessee” – it is likely that this means “Ten Mile”, which is an unincorporated area in northern Meigs and south-eastern Roane counties, about 160 miles east of Nashville. In all the censuses where Axie’s father’s birthplace is recorded, it is shown as North Carolina. One possibility is that Ten Mile was Axie’s own birthplace. It may be significant that in 1910, which was the only census when Axie herself was the head of household, her state of birth was given as Tennessee.

[2]    In some other records the father is described as Edward Beasley.

[3]    John Baptist Beasley (1796-1855) was born in Bertie county and had been a state senator in the NC assembly from Tyrell Co. 1821-1831 and in 1835. At the time of the 1850 census, he was a grocer living in Plymouth township with real estate worth $10,000 and held a total of 14 slaves. Mary Alexander was his second wife. J B Beasley was a cousin of Charles R Howcott of Chowan county and was appointed executor of his will when Charles died in 1845.

[4]    "North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), Chowan County > K > Knox, Sarah P (1833) > image 12 of 324; State Archives, Raleigh.

[5]    Washington county marriage licence register.

[6]    “A History of African Americans in North Carolina” by Jeffrey J Crow, Paul E Scott and Flora J Hatley, (Raleigh NC, 1997).

[7]    Surry Parker (1866-1942) established Pinetown in 1893. He was a noted designer and builder of steam logging machinery.

[8]    The death certificate of Mrs Helen H Weaver, who died at Plymouth on 7 November 1964, says that she was born at Plymouth 22 March 1880 and gives her parents as William Howcutt and Axie Beasley. However, Axie married Jordan Norman in 1878. The 1900 census of Plymouth township gives Helen’s birth month as April 1874 and states that she had been married for three years and had two children, Birtha (born September 1897) and William L (born December 1898). This would be consistent with Helen’s father being William if he lived at least until 1873.