SUBMITTED BY: Sarah Foster (edited by Cheri Todd Molter)
Editor’s Notes: According to the information shared during T. Pat Matthew’s interview with John C. Becton [his name was misspelled “Bectom” on that record], Mr. Becton was born on October 7, 1862, near Fayetteville in Cumberland County, North Carolina. (A small photo of Mr. Becton is at right.) He was the son of Simon and Harriet Becton, and he had six siblings: Ed, Kato (also spelled Cato in some records), Willie, Lucy, Anne, and Alice. One of his sisters, either Lucy or Anne, died of smallpox. The sister who died was not Alice: Records of her as an adult were found.
John Becton married Julia Fleming on Dec. 20, 1883 in Wake County. John’s parents were both still alive at that time, according to that marriage certificate. On Jan. 11, 1912, John married Polly Baker.
The attached interview took place on June 1, 1937 when Becton was seventy-four years old. At that time, he was living in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. Becton died on Oct. 28, 1937 and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Raleigh.
You can read the interview by clicking on the link here: Interview with John C Becton
Notes regarding some of the people named during the interview:
Harriet Becton, John Becton’s mother: Harriet was said to have been enslaved by the “McNeills of Cumberland County” and to have been “given to” different family members as time went by. The 1850 Slave Schedule for Cumberland County verifies that Mary Holmes McNeil [also spelled McNeill in a couple of records] enslaved one black woman who was the correct age to have been Harriet. Further research revealed that “Mary Holmes McNeil,” a widow in 1850, had married Alexander McNeil on August 7, 1833, and the couple had had several children before Alexander’s death, one of whom was named Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” McNeil. Lizzie and “Ezekial King” were married on Nov. 2, 1853. Based on the information shared during the interview, that would be when Harriet was “given to Lizzie.” There was no “McFadden” in the middle as far as I can tell. I had thought that maybe Mary Holmes McNeil remarried, so the name would’ve been passed down through storytelling but was incorrectly attributed to an extra generation; however, according to the 1900 U.S. Census, Mary Holmes McNeil was still a McNeil in 1900 when she lived with her grandson, George King, in Cumberland County, so that was not the case.
“Wheeler’s Calvary” [sic]: “Wheeler” refers to Lt. General Joseph Wheeler who was twenty-four years old when he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a Colonel on Sept. 4, 1861. By November 30, 1864, Wheeler’s command was composed of the following divisions: Brigadier General W. W. Allen’s Division, comprised of the brigades of Colonels C. C. Crews and James Hagen; Brigadier General W. Y. C. Humes’ Division, comprised of General Thomas Harrison’s and Colonel Ashby’s brigades; and Brigadier General Alfred Iverson’s Division, which was composed of the brigades of Brigadier General S. W. Ferguson and Joseph H. Lewis. On February 28, 1865, Wheeler was promoted to Lieutenant General. (Hall, General Officers of the Confederate States of America)
During his interview, Becton described how Wheeler’s cavalry ransacked the place where he lived (probably referring to Ezekial King’s property) as they looked for supplies and valuables to take with them. The Yankees were not far behind them and even “shot a bomb shell” that “hit near and [was] buried in the ground” near Becton (pg. 96).
“Marster Ezekial King”: According to the 1870 U.S. Census, Ezekial King was a fifty-year-old blind man who lived at Flea Hill in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He and his wife, Lizzie (also recorded as Sarah), had at least five children.