Miles Howcott (about 1830-1905)


Miles Howcott was a soldier and farmer. He is an ancestor of a large proportion of the present-day Howcotts in America. Miles and his son William Henry were politically active during the decades after the end of the American Civil War.


The available records do not entirely agree about the date of Miles Howcott’s birth but indicate that it took place around 1830 [1]. The 1880 census states that both of Miles’ parents were born in North Carolina. When on 15 June 1895 he applied for a licence to marry his second wife, Miles stated that his parents were Henry Bartee and Mariah Howcott, both coloured and by that time dead [2].


Sources differ about Miles’ place of birth. The army descriptive book compiled in 1863 records Miles’ birthplace as Duplin, which is a county about 120 southwest of Chowan county. The death certificate for William Henry Howcott says that both he and his father were born in Roper, NC. It has been established that Henry Bartee (c.1807-1874) lived in Chowan and Perquimans county and that in 1845, Miles was living in Chowan county, where he appears in a list of 18 slaves held in the estate of Charles R Howcott, who had died on 13 April of that year [3]. It is therefore probable that the reference to Duplin was a mistake and that Miles was born in Chowan.


The will of Charles R Howcott [4] did not refer to Miles by name but, by implication, bequeathed him to Charles R’s two sons Charles H and Clinton.


In 1849, Miles married Adeline Walker. The 1880 census records that Adeline and both her parents were born in North Carolina. Many marriages of slaves that took place before the end of the Civil War were not formally registered until afterwards. The register of acknowledgements of Freedmen’s marriages in Washington county includes that of Miles Howcott and Adeline Walker, which was recorded on 11 August 1866. Miles and Adeline were the parents of these known children:


  • John C Howcott (born about 1850)
  • William Henry Howcott (1855-1932)


At the time of the 1850 census, Charles H and Clinton Howcott were living at Plymouth with their guardian, Joseph C Norcom (1797-1866). The slave schedules for Washington and Chowan counties do not record any slaveholders with Howcott or a similar surname in that year and they do not usually contain the names of the slaves themselves. It is likely that Miles was included in one of two lists of slaves who were held by Joseph C Norcom in Washington county; one list refers to 13 people and the other to 6. It is feasible that the reason for there being two lists for the same person is that one was of slaves whom he was managing in his role as guardian of the Howcott children.


Charles H was the only brother to survive to adulthood, as Clinton Howcott died in 1852. The 1860 census records “Charles A Hocott” (i.e. Charles H Howcott) as living with his wife and daughter at Plymouth. He held 22 slaves with two slave houses. Charles was described as "living on income", which suggests that at least some of the slaves were being hired out.


North Carolina was the last of the 11 states to secede from the United States and did not do so until 20 May 1861. The United States occupied the area around the Albemarle Sound early in 1862 and, apart from a brief period in December 1862, remained in control of Plymouth until April 1864. President Lincoln abolished slavery in North Carolina and the other states that were then in rebellion with effect from 1 January 1863, so it was presumably around that date that Miles obtained his freedom.


On 8 July 1863, he enrolled in company H, 2nd regiment, North Carolina colored infantry (later called 36th regiment, US Colored Infantry). Miles enlisted for a term of 3 years’ service [5]. The company description book states that Miles was a farmer, 5ft 71/2 inches tall with dark complexion, dark eyes and black hair.


Records of Miles’ military service spell his surname as “Hookett” and include the following incidents:


  • 25 January 1864       mustered at Norfolk, Virginia
  • 1 February 1864       suffering from rheumatism at Portsmouth, Virginia
  • March & April 1865    at near Petersburg, Virginia
  • May & June 1865      at White’s Ranch, Texas
  • 1 July 1866              promoted from private to sergeant
  • 8 July 1866              discharged at Brazos Santiago, Texas


Further details of the history of Miles’ regiment can be found online. [6]


Miles is one of the 209,145 soldiers who are commemorated on the African American Civil War Memorial at Washington DC, where his name is written as “Miles Hooket” on the panel for his regiment (see below).



Plymouth was badly damaged during heavy fighting that took place from 17 to 20 April 1864 and resulted in the town falling to the Confederates. Despite the devastation, from the time of his discharge from the Army until January 1868, Miles lived in the town of Plymouth, after which he continued to reside in Washington county [7]. The reason for Miles’ departure from the town in 1868 was, no doubt, that he had taken a lease for 10 years ending on 1 January 1878 of uncleared land, his landlord being Redding W Peacock [8]. The plot had an area of approximately 10 acres, which Miles undertook to clear and put into a good state of cultivation at the rate of at least one acre a year. For the first five years, he did not have to pay any rent and for the remaining five years the rent was set at one third of the whole general crop grown on the cleared land. This land lay on the west side of Kendrick Creek, which runs north from Roper to Swan Bay. The deed is accompanied by a plat map that shows the dimensions and distinctive shape of Miles’ land. However, the precise location of the land is uncertain.


It was not long after his return to Plymouth that Miles became involved in local politics. The 3 August 1867 issue of “The tri-weekly Standard”, a newspaper published at Raleigh, includes a notice announcing the formation of a Union Republican Club at Plymouth. Miles Howcott was a member of the Executive Committee of the Club.


The first census in which former slaves were identified by name was taken in 1870. The schedule for Lees Mill township includes the following household:







M Hacket





Adaline Hacket





J C Hacket





William Hacket






Miles, Adeline and John were recorded at that time as not being able to read or write. For Miles, that was still the case on 8 February 1879, when he made his mark to confirm agreement with J M Reid to secure an advance by which Reid provided Miles with a mule named Mike and supplies of up to $85 to enable him to cultivate his crop for the year 1879. In exchange, Miles granted Reid a lien on “Two five hundred bales of cotton” that he would raise on Wood Lawn Farm, adjoining the lands of James Freeman, W Ambrose and others. The debt was to be repaid by 1 December or Reid could exercise powers of sale. On 8 July of the same year Miles sold the same mule to Reid for $42.50. [9]


The 1880 census of Plymouth township records Miles Howcott as a farmer aged 50 and Adeline as being aged 45 (an age that does not accord with the one noted ten years earlier). The previous household on the census list was that of their son John with his family and the household before that was of their son William with his family, so they presumably all lived near to each other.


Most records of the 1890 census do not survive. However, a special enumeration was taken in June of that year of civil war veterans who had served in the Union Army. These records escaped destruction and include Miles Howcott at Plymouth township.


On 23 March 1888, Miles had been granted a military pension of $4 per month because of rheumatism resulting from the effect of exposure in February 1864. This pension was increased to $6 from 8 April 1891 and to $8 from 6 February 1895, by which time he was also suffering from resultant disease of the heart. During the 1890s, Miles also reported partial deafness and failing eyesight. Although these ailments were not all accepted as reasons to increase his pension, by the time of his death it amounted to $12 per month.


Adeline Howcott died on 9 March 1895 in Washington county [7]. Miles’ second marriage was to Roxanna Hassell, who was 44 years old. The ceremony was conducted by C M Billip, minister of the Colored Missionary Baptist Church, and took place on 16 June 1895 at the home of the bride.


Records conflict as to whether Roxanna Howcott passed away in 1902 or 1904. [10] However, it is clear that Miles believed Roxanna was still alive in 1904, as he placed an advertisement dated 14 March in the “Roanoke Beacon” to give her notice that he had started an action in the Superior Court of Washington county for a divorce and that a hearing was to be held on the third Monday in April 1904. In view of the evidence from Mary Allen in 1905, it is feasible that Roxanna had moved away to New York and was already dead by the time the divorce proceedings commenced.


Miles’ third marriage was to Mary Allen. The ceremony took place “at home” and was conducted by Rev M Linyear, an AME Zion minister, on 20 April 1905. Mary was considerably younger than Miles, having been born at Plymouth on 22 December 1851. This union was short-lived, as Miles died at Plymouth on 17 May 1905; he was buried on the following day [11].


On 30 January 1922, Mary Allen Howcott applied for a widow’s pension because of Miles’ military service.


Mary (Allen) Howcott died at Plymouth on 4 October 1930. The death certificate gives her usual residence as “8 E Water”.


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This is written in a pension application dated 29 July 1902. It is the only document on Miles’ pension file with a signature that seems to have been written by Miles Howcott himself.


On 4 August 1898, Miles stated that William Henry Howcott was his only child still living. Details of the families of Miles and Adeline’s two known children appear below.



John C Howcott (about 1850-    )


Like his father, John C Howcott was farming at Wood Lawn Farm in 1879, when he entered into an agreement on 20 May by which he would receive up to $27 worth of supplies from L H Hornthal and L Hornthal. This was to be repaid by 1 November, failing which the lenders could take and sell John’s crops and personal property including four hogs, one barrow and all of his household and kitchen furniture. John made his mark to confirm the deal. [12]


The 1880 census of Plymouth includes John C Howcott, a farmer, living with his wife Ellen (aged 29) and children Charles E (aged 8), Henry (aged 6), Miles F (aged 3) and Daniel A (aged 4 months). At the time, John was suffering from gout.


The known children in John and Ellen’s family are:






Charles E

About 1872






Rebecca Jennett, 1899


About 1874



Miles F

About 1877



Daniel A

About 1879



James Walter



Rosa B Brown, 1905


John’s widow was Ellen Howcott of Plymouth township (aged 44) who married Henry C Gregory of Chowan county at Plymouth on 17 January 1897. In 1900, Henry and Ellen were living at West Church Street, Edenton, along with her son, who was recorded as “James Hogart”. The 1900 census says that Ellen had bourn a total of three children and that they were all still living. However, this is not consistent with the list of six children listed above.


At the time of the 1910 census, Ellen and Henry were living at Church Street, Edenton.


On 4 April 1919, Ellen died at Edenton of apoplexy and was buried at Vine Oak cemetery on the following day.


In the 1920 census, Henry Gregory was living with his stepson James Howcott and his family at Carteret Street, Edenton.



William Henry Howcott (1855-1932)


Macedonia AMEZ church

William Henry Howcott was born on 12 June 1855 [13]. He married Catherine McRae. [14] The marriage licence records of Washington county state that Benjamin J Bonner, minister of the Gospel of Zion’s Church, at Macedonia AME church, Lees Mill, performed the marriage on 10 February 1876. The couple were described as Henry Howcott aged 21 and Catherene McRae aged 20.


The 1880 census records William Henry as a farmer, living with Catherine and their children (Annie, William and Frank) in Plymouth township. William Henry and Catherine’s oldest son does not seem to have survived for long as there is no record of him after 1880 and his brother, born in 1885, was named “William Henry”.


No records from the 1890 census survive to record William Henry and his family.


The 23 September 1898 issue of “Roanoke Beacon” reported that the Republican and Populist County Convention, which had been held at Pleasant Grove three days earlier, nominated “W H Howcutt” as a County Commissioner. The report described him as an “old line Republican”. Evidently his election campaign in 1898 was successful, as the 13 January 1899 issue of the same newspaper reported that on 2 January the Board of Commissioners for Washington County had allowed various claims, including the sum of $2.27 to “W H Howcutt” for “one day as County Commissioner plus mileage”.


The Republican Party and Populist (or People’s) Party were separate organisations that co-operated to secure control of the North Carolina state legislature in 1894 and hold it in 1896. The Democrats recovered control in 1898 on a platform of white supremacy and retained power in 1900. In that year, the North Carolina constitution was amended to require voters to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax. These restrictions severely reduced the number of black voters in the state and so ended any opportunity for William Henry to achieve elected office again.


At the time of the 1900 census, William Henry and Catherine’s children were living in two households in Plymouth township. They are numbered 323 and 303 in order of visitation:


Household 323






(see below)

Howcott Henry


June 1855




Howcott Catherene


Dec 1857




Howcott Laurence


June 1881




Howcott Mary F


Jan 1883




Howcott William H


Jan 1885




Howcott Deller A


Sept 1894






Household 303






(see below)

Hawcat Annia M


May 1870




Hawcat Nellia


Jan 1888




Hawcat Pritchard


May 1890




Hawcat Etha


May 1892




Hawcat Sarah


May 1894




Hawcat Boy


Nov 1896





The details recorded in these returns contain a number of inaccuracies. These errors are:

(A) Catherine is recorded as having been married to “Henry W Howcott” for 24 years and having had 8 children (4 still living). However, a total of 12 children of the family have been identified.

(B) According to her death certificate, Della A Howcott Purkett was born on 6 September 1887.

(C) Annie Mariah Howcott was born at Plymouth on 23 May 1876 (Washington county Index of Delayed Births). She was the older sister, not the mother, of the five children who were living with her in 1900.     

(D) Nellia” was Nona.

(E)  Etha” was Ethel.

(F)  “Boy” was presumably Herman.


On 14 July 1909, William Henry was appointed administrator of the estate of Pritchard T Howcott [15]. The records do not specify their family relationship but it is clear from the accompanying records that Pritchard was William Henry’s son. William Henry listed Pritchard’s heirs as Annie M Downing, F L Howcott, L J Howcott, Mary F Downing, W H Howcott, Della A Puckett, Nona Howcott, Ethel Howcott, Sarah Howcott & Herman J Howcott. This provides a useful roll call of the brothers and sisters who were still living at that time.     


In his role as administrator of Pritchard’s estate, William Henry sued Harry Walcott and Hugh M Kerr, who were receivers of Norfolk and Southern Railway Company. The only records in the estate papers of this case are a list of questions that were issued by Washington County Superior Court in January 1910 which state that the claim was that Pritchard had been killed by the defendant’s negligence. Further details of the claim and its outcome may be available in the relevant Superior Court records.


This table gives an overview of William Henry and Catherine’s 12 children:




Alive 1909



Annie Mariah




Louis Downing, 1901


About 1878




Frank Leith




Fleetie Lenora Downing, 1899

Lawrence J




Eva, c1903

Mary Florence




William Downing, 1905

William H





Della A




William Purkett, 1906






Pritchard T









Mathew Brooks, 1912





Frank Hines, 1916

Herman J

About 1898





Catherine died between the 1900 census and the next one, which was held in May 1910 and listed her husband as a widower residing in Lees Mill township. William Henry’s occupation then was given as “school” – he taught at the schoolhouse that stood immediately to the east of the Macedonia church building. Five of his children were living with him at the time - “Henry” (i.e. William H), Nona, Ethel, Sarah and Herman.


The General Index to Real Estate Conveyances for Washington county provides 101 references to W H Howcott during the period 1902-1924. In all but three of these, he was the grantor rather than grantee, 80 of the agreements taking the form of a deed.


By the 1930 census, William Henry was living at NC Highway 90, Lees Mill in the household of his daughter and son-in-law, Annie & Louis Downing.


William Henry Howcott died of influenza and pneumonia at Lees Mill township on 30 January 1932. The certificate gives his occupation as a school teacher and his residence as Macedonia [16]. He is commemorated by a tombstone at Macedonia cemetery, where he was buried on 2 February 1932.


Close to his grave stand monuments to his daughter Mary Florence Downing (1884-1980) and her daughter Maude Downing (1914-2011).


A long concrete strip, bearing the word “Howcott” covers William Henry’s grave and also several adjacent plots that lack individual markers. The names “Lawrence” and “Herman” appear on the western edge of this concrete and probably refer to two of his sons.





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William Henry Howcott (1855-1932)

enry Henry


Frank Leith Howcott (1879-1933)





Much of the information about Miles comes from the files about his military service and the pension applications that he and his widow submitted in later years. These are held by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington DC. It is necessary to register and sign in before getting access to some of the records at FamilySearch – there is no charge for this.


[1]   Records that give an age for Miles are as follows:





Birthdate range



Army descriptive book

8 July 1863


9 July 1828

8 July 1829


1 June 1870


2 June 1829

1 June 1830


1 June 1880


2 June 1829

1 June 1830

Washington county marriage register

15 June 1895


16 June 1830

15 June 1831

Miles’ declaration for invalid pension

29 July 1902


30 July 1829

29 June 1830

Washington county marriage register

20 April 1905


21 April 1830

20 April 1831


[2]    Marriage licences for Washington county, 1894-1902, vol 3-4 :


[3]    The list is image 9 in a file relating to the administration of Charles R Howcott’s estate that can be seen at:


[4]    A transcript of the will of Charles R Howcott can be seen at:


[5]    On 29 June 1902, Miles stated he had been enrolled at New Bern, North Carolina but his military record says that Miles was enlisted at Plymouth by Captain Jones.


[6]    The Forgotten Sons: North Carolina in the Union Army – Part III From Contraband into Soldiers.


[7]    As stated by Miles on 4 August 1898.


[8]    Washington county courthouse: Deed book N, pages 483-484.


[9]    Washington county NC real estate conveyances. Book R, pages 347-8 & 351.


[10]  On 31 July 1922, Samuel Wiggins (aged 80) and W H Howcott (aged 67) testified that Roxanna Hassell, Miles Howcott’s second wife, died in May 1902. On 25 January 1923, other witnesses testified that Roxanna had died in or about 1904. When Mary Allen Howcott applied on 1 July 1905 to receive the pension accruing until Miles’ death, she said that Roxanna had died in January 1904 at New York.


[11]  Evidence in the pension application by Mary Allen Howcott.


[12]  Washington county NC real estate conveyances. Book R, pages 560-1.


[13]  Miles confirmed his son’s date of birth in a statement that he made on 4 August 1898.


[14]  When Catherine married, her surname was given as McRae (her step-father’s name) but other records have it as Davis (her father’s name).




[16]  Date of death from William Henry’s death certificate. However, the death certificate inaccurately says that he was aged 65 years 7 months 18 days and gave his birth year as 1866. The certificate identifies Miles as his father.