The Adversities of Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury Bishop 1689-1755

Stump Sound at North Topsail Beach

There had been storms off the Atlantic Ocean all her life but the one of 1752 was severe, a sustained 75 miles per hour tropical cyclone that also would reshape the community. Elizabeth, as matriarch, watched as Sarah her daughter-in-law shushed the children Moses 12, Comfort 10, and George 6. Sarah’s husband James Sidbury, and Elizabeth’s oldest son had died 4 years ago from ?? Elizabeth had witnessed James’s will dated that December 1, 1748 when he made his X. Woodman, her youngest son, her husband’s namesake had lovingly been James’ executor making sure Sarah was looked after, with her 1/4 inheritance and protecting the children’s equal interest of 3/4 when they reached the age of 21. Woodman had made sure Sarah and his nephews and niece had been fed, clothed and sheltered on the 400 acre farm at the mouth of Bearly’s Creek on Stump Sound. The two woman would now have to rely on relatives and friends., their men folk had all perished.

Elizabeth stood on the edge of a fresh grave, her grief showing in her silently shaking shoulders as tears coursed down her face. She’d buried her first husband, Woodman Stockley Sidbury back in 1714, then given birth to this boy child she was now putting the first handful of dirt into the grave on. Woodman Jr. was only 38, cut down in his prime. For Elizabeth the year of 1752 was an ending and a beginning because as Woodman Jr. died his son, her grandson, named Stockley L Sidbury, was born, my 4th great grandfather. If Stockley was there possibly in the arms of a slave, there were 3 generations of Sidbury’s at Stump Sound that day.

A practical and very pregnant widow, Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury had married George Bishop on September 12, 1713. She given birth to Woodman Stockley Sidbury early in 1714 and named him after her first husband. Elizabeth had given her two sons, James and Woodman a wonderful father figure and extended family, until this second husband had also died in 1722. The blended family became George’s children, Elizabeth 1699-1750, George Bishop Jr. 1710-1744, Elizabeth’s children, James Sidbury 1712-1748, Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. 1714-1752 and then George and Elizabeth had Margaret Elizabeth Bishop 1716-1765. The newest grand baby, born in the great storm, Stockley would not have this option; Stockley was now an orphan.

This major storm mangled the coast line. Trees uprooted were lying in a confusion blocking and making any passage very difficult. Crops, timber and livestock were strewn or blown into the Onslow Bay. Onslow County with its barrier islands, was struck that September 1752, then blew the county seat right off the map. All the records were destroyed at the courthouse from this violent storm. The courthouse contained their deeds, tax documents and wills. No one could prove land ownership, collect taxes or probate the deceased persons’ wills. The county’s business came to a standstill.

Adversity, Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury Bishop was familiar with the term being in a state of serious continued misfortune. Tobacco was to the key to their prosperity for the farmers living around the Chesapeake Bay. The best places to grow tobacco was along rivers, so the crop could be easily loaded onto the trade ships. Now all the wharfs and bridges were ruined and every house had roofs and chimneys torn, with the contents within a soggy mess from the rains that followed the mighty wind. In the town, the doors had been burst open as the tides rose ten feet with the wreck of boats, masts, timber, barrels and merchandise floating through the street.

In colonial America, when the head of a household died, the court appointed guardians. When Stockley Sidbury reached the age of 21 he inherited his father’s estate, Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. 1664-1713. Until he reached the age of majority Stoakley Sidberry, aged 12, orphan son of Woodman Sidbury, dec’d, on 6 June 1764, chose as guardian James Howard, who gave a 100 pound bond with Stoakley Bishop (his step brother) and Bishop Dudley (his step cousin, son of Elizabeth Bishop) sureties.

Notes: instead of Stockley name was spelled Stoakley and Sidbury was Sidberry; interesting the wording says Stockley chose his guardian.

A manuscript was written by Michael A. Stroscio, Ph.D. called Some Onslow Families 1976 additions 1997 which was a delightful find. Onslow County was formed in 1734 from part of New Hanover County. Onslow County’s first capital, Johnston was destroyed by a hurricane in 1752. As a result many of the early records are lost forever. The name was spelled Sidbury, Sadberry, Sudbury and has been associated with New Hanover County. George Bishop Jr left a will in 1743 listing Stoakley Bishop, James Sidbury and Woodman Stoakley Sidbury as his brothers. Bettie Dudley was George Bishop’s sister and that his father were Elizabeth (step-mother) and George Bishop Sr.. Listed as cousins are Bishop Dudley, Ester Dudley, Comfort Sidbury and Moses Sidbury.

The will of Nathaniel Averitt of Onslow County, dated 1 Dec. 1755 with no probate states, “Whereas Elizabeth, my late wife, formerly wife of George Bishop, dec’d, late of New Hanover County, mutually agreed to live apart… had her share of my estate, but I give her 1 shilling.” So, did my 6th great grandmother actually marry 3x? Appears so!

I know that the Stockley L. Sidbury’s prospered before the civil war. I found William B. Sidbury, my 3rd great uncle on the 1860 Census of New Hanover County, age 70, farmer, 10,000 acres, living with Amos Atkinson and wife Vashti Sidbury, and children. Another, Richard Sidbury, age 30, farmer, 15,000 acres, Scott Hill.

I have been very frustrated not knowing who my 5th great grandfather Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. 1714-1752 married. However, if the records were lost in the hurricane of 1752 this gives me an explanation and I may never know.

My Great Grandmother Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury Bishop passed away sometime after 1755. I like to think of her quietly resting with the ocean breezes whispering over her, overlooking the Stump Sound, with no more adversity. She lived 76 years.

From my extra notes:

The only female descendant of Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury Bishop was Elizabeth (Bettie) Bishop married Christopher Dudley, found in George Jr. Bishop’s will of 1743, her brother. Christopher became a prominent and wealthy citizen. Their son Bishop Dudley, guardian to Stockley L Sidbury, sold his manor plantation, containing 1000 acres. Bishop’s son Christopher born 1763 had a son born in 1789 elected Governor of North Carolina in 1836. Great Grandmother Elizabeth was the great great grandmother of Edward Bishop Dudley the 28th Governor of North Carolina.

From the New Hanover Court Minutes

9 Sep 1741 – Petit Jurors: Woodman Stoakley Sidbury, James Sidbury (Elizabeth’s sons named in court)

6 Jun 1764 Stockley Sidberry, orphan son of Woodman Sidbury. This Stokeley Sidbury 1752-1815 (my 4th great grandfather) Sr. left a will in New Hanover County probated Apr 15, 1815 which lists wife, Aggy, children Judith Costin (my 3th grreat grandmother), Stokely Sidbury, William Sidbury, Woodman S. Sidbury and Aggy; grandson, Samuel Atkinson (my 2rd great grandfather).

Close by were the cousins of Uncle James Sidbury, brother to Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. He married Sarah Drew and they had three children: Moses, 1740-1791, Comfort 1742- and George 1745-1791. When Uncle James died in 1748 these children were 8, 6, and 3. When James Sidbury died at the age of 36 his mother Elizabeth Bishop was alive and attested to his will. He named his loving brother Woodman his executor. He left his wife Sarah 1/4 of his estate and the children named Moses, Comfort and George, to equally share 3/4 when obtained the age of 21, 400 acres found at the mouth of Bearbly Creek on Humpy Sound. James signed his name with an X, while Elizabeth his mother wrote her name. Six years later Sarah died and left children Moses 16, Comfort 14 and George 11.

6th Great grandmother was a three time widow. She must have felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of the grandchildren and the loss of her first born son, James. Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. her youngest son would marry an unknown woman (some say her name was Judith Costin unconfirmed in any record I can find) and in the year that their only son, Stockley L. Sidbury was born in 1752, his father, her son, Woodman Stockley Sidbury Jr. died at age 38!

When Stockley Sidbury, when he arrives at age 21, he would inherit his father’s, Woodman Sidbury’s estate and guardians were James Howard, Stockly Bishop, and Bishop Dudley. James Howard fought during the Revolutionary War, according to his Findagrave. I am sure he influenced Stockley L. Sidbury Sr. in his views living in New Hanover County, North Carolina on a farm at Stump Sound.

What was life like in 1750-1770? Everyone was susceptible to diseases such as cholera, typhus and typhoid. Living conditions were still very primitive and harsh. During this time women could be expected to bear between five and ten live children and anticipate a dozen pregnancies. Bodies wore out. There was high mortality infant rates. Elizabeth Stockley Sidbury Bishop Averitt must have been a strong, healthy woman. She lived 76 years, outliving Woodman who died at age 50, George Bishop died age 50, her son James at 36 and Woodman at 38, and the Nathaniel Averitt whose will was made December 4, 1755, naming her as George Bishop’s wife.

And then I found the record in the New Hanover Slave Deed Book. Listing Elizabeth as Nathaniel’s wife deeding slaves to Stoakley Bishop in 1752. That’s what life was like!

In 1712 there were 800 slaves, in 1730, 6000 and by 1767 41,000 enslaved in North Carolina. In 1739 the slaves of South Carolina revolted and North Carolina passed laws protecting the rights of slave owners, making it so slaves couldn’t carry guns. Even if Elizabeth would have liked to free her slaves, manumission was illegal in the south, leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Let me imagine avoiding the terrible toll on lives and country during the Civil War if only the politicians in charge of North Carolina and in the south had not been plantation owners, owning 80% of the slaves. Imagine if secessionists had accepted payment to give mass manumissions and all the slaves were freed. I would certainly write history differently and my 6th great grandmother’s story differently.

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