AUTHOR: Dr. Juanita Patience Moss (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
(Click on photos below to enlarge.)
Thomas D. Lawrence Jr., born enslaved in Edenton, North Carolina, circa 1836 and dying there in 1929, was the son of Thomas D. Lawrence Sr. and his wife Hester. All three are on the 1870 census, the first time Blacks were counted by name. They must have been so proud. Thomas and Hester’s younger son Crowder is listed on the 1870 census, also, albeit residing in Pennsylvania under a different surname.
The mystery concerning the difference in the brothers’ surnames was solved after their respective descendants discovered each other via 23andMe DNA tests. I am Crowder’s great-granddaughter and Joseph Lawrence Jr. is Thomas’ great-great grandson. Until our discovery in 2018, neither family had known about the existence of the other. How excited we were to share our mutual genealogy! For years both Joseph and I had been collecting family records with none being identical; for we each possessed information the other did not have. Subsequently, after hours of meticulous comparing and combining, we were able to add another generation that dates back to the 1700s.
After absconding from slavery when the Yankees penetrated North Carolina, the two young brothers had joined the Union Army under the surname “Patience.” They enlisted in different regiments, never to see each other again. Not until 154 years later would curious descendants discover each other.
According to his pension records, the Civil War veteran Thomas Patience returned home to Edenton in 1867 and remained there until his death. Why, then, had he been listed only once on a census? Exactly where is he buried since his death certificate records only the county without mention of a cemetery?
On the other hand, there seemed to have been no mystery about Crowder Patience. He was buried with a military funeral in 1930 at the West Pittston Cemetery in West Pittston, Pa. There a Union tombstone, G.A.R. stanchion and an American flag mark his grave. The respected resident of northeastern Pennsylvania had a secret, however, and he had not shared it with his descendants. It was one he did not reveal even when he was interviewed for a newspaper article published in 1928. It is a secret I discovered and revealed in my book, Deeply Rooted in North Carolina.
After our successful collaboration, Joseph Lawrence Jr. and I desired to honor both soldiers where they had been born. So, we travelled to North Carolina to request that the Town Council place a joint monument in Edenton. On January 28, 2020, one was placed in the African American Cemetery, also called the Providence Burial Ground, located on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. A formal unveiling of the monument was planned for April 4, 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, though, the event had to be postponed.
On the front cover of my book, Deeply Rooted in North Carolina, artist Joel Ulmer of Washington, D.C., has depicted eighteen-year-old Crowder on the left. Crowder enlisted in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry regiment when it was garrisoned at Plymouth, North Carolina on April 4, 1864. On the right, the artist has depicted Thomas, who was a member of the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry, one of the four segregated regiments allowed to keep their state’s designation prior to the organization of the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). Thomas enlisted on May 13, 1864 when he was about twenty-four years old. This book is filled with the military documentation that led to solving a mystery about two Black North Carolinian contrabands whose memories are now being honored by a monument in the town where they were born.