My Sumrells: What I know, or, at least, thought I knew

Dewitt Sumrell/Sumberlin was probably born in about 1820 in Lenoir County, North Carolina (Source: North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930, James Henry Sumrell). He married a woman named Matilda (Source: North Carolina, Marriages, 1759-1979, James Sumlin and Margaret Stilley) sometime around 1845. These dates are estimates based on the birth date of James, given as March 1846 on this record and the average marriage age of 20. This is, of course, assuming a) that Dewitt and Matilda didn’t anticipate their marriage, b) that James was their oldest child, and, c) a lack of indenture, which would push the average marriage age to 30. James, himself, was born, as per the record, in Lenoir County.

On June 10, 1848, another son was born to Dewitt and Matilda, Joseph Franklin Sumrell, or Frank, as he was called (Source: North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930, Frank Sumrell). His death record simply states that he was born in North Carolina, as was Matilda.

There is no Dewitt or Matilda Sumrell, Summerlin, or any other spelling thereof, listed in Lenoir County in either the 1840 or 1850 censuses. Of course, in 1840, that only means neither was head of a household. Nor are a James, Joseph, or Frank Sumrell listed in 1850. In 1860, the household of William Sumerell, aged 25, lists a James, aged 17, and Frank aged 11. That would give them birth dates of 1843 and 1849 respectively. Close enough.  But I don’t know for sure if these are my James and Frank.


James, at least, comes more into focus in 1870. At that time, he was living in Craven County in the household of Freeman Stilley. On September 1, 1870, he married Freeman’s stepdaughter, Margaret Ann. Her mother Mary Toler, was indicted for “fornication and adultery” along with Wiley Daw in October of 1849. Since Margaret was born in December 1848, I would guess she was a product thereof. James’ age is given as 25. This census presents us with another puzzle. Who was Sarah Summurlin, aged 6? Was she James’ daughter, or his sister? If daughter, who was her mother?


Where is Frank in 1870, you ask? Well, there is a Franklin Sumrell, aged 20, living in the household of Peter Sumrell in Lenoir County that might be him, but I really can’t be sure.  Peter Phillips Sumrell was the son of Washington Thomas Sumrell and Nancy Phillips.  Washington was William’s brother, Nancy Argent’s sister.  Interestingly, Peter named one of his sons James Franklin.  He was born February 3, 1872.

On, April 26,1873, Frank married Margaret Ann Dixon in newly created Pamlico County. We find both brothers living in Pamlico County in 1880. James is living in Township 3,


and Joseph in Township 1 next door to his in-laws.


James’s own in-laws are only a few houses away from Joseph (1880 Pamlico Co., North Carolina Federal Census, 161B).

By 1900 James and his family had moved to the Richland Township area of Beaufort County, around the town of Aurora. Frank (1900) remained in Pamlico, still in Township 1.  You can see Grandpa Willie B. in this one.  And in 1910, James is in South Creek Township, Beaufort County, while Franklin‘s still in Pamlico County, Township 1.

James died March 4, 1916 of “acute congestion of lungs”, Frank March 18,1918 of pneumonia. Look at his birth date on the record. See how February 27, 1918 is crossed out. This is the death date given on his tombstone. Wonder what that’s about?  Frank had been living in Alliance, Township 3, Pamlico County when he died, James in Aurora, Richland Township, Beaufort County.

Okay, got all of that straight?  I thought I did, too, but, then, I found this guy:  Frank Summeral.

That’s right.  Just to add to the general confusion and bafflement, there was another Frank Summeral living, and ironically enough, dying, in Alliance in March of 1918. This one was born February 24, 1848 (though, frankly, it looks more like February 34), to Charles and Mary Meeks Summeral in Pamlico County. Charles was born in Pamlico County, Mary in Beaufort County. Note that the informant is Will Summeral. His son, maybe? Now I’m confused. Who were these people?

Pamlico County did not exist until 1872 when it was carved from eastern Craven and extreme southeastern Beaufort.  Just so you know, I’ve been able to find no one with any spelling of the name in either county before 1870 when James appears in the household of Freeman Stilley except Thomas Summerlain, Sr. and two sons on the 1755 Beaufort County List of Taxables, page 25.  This is, probably, the same Thomas Sumrell, Sr. listed in 1762 and 1763 in Pitt County.  Thomas Jr. and Edward are, most likely, the “two sons.”  Incidentally, I’ve also found no Meeks’ in Beaufort County, either.  Plenty of Meekins’, but no Meeks.

I’m still fairly sure that Joseph Franklin was my ancestor if for no other reason than the 1900 census listing of his son, Willie B.  I know that my grandfather was Alton Bonner Sumrell, I remember him, and that his father was William Bradford Sumrell because that’s what it says on Grandpa Bonner’s birth record.  Willie B’s parents are given as Frank Sumrell and Margaret Dixon, his wife as Alice Dixon.  My mama has told me about Miss Alice.  Unless both Franks married a Margaret Dixon and both Will’s married an Alice Dixon, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the correct line.  But…

What are the odds that two Frank Sumrells with sons named William lived in the same tiny little town at the same time and NOT be related in some way? It begs the question, or twenty, doesn’t it? And I can’t help but notice that our Frank named his oldest son Charles.

So, I repeat, who were these people?  Anyone got a clue about this Charles Sumrell who married a Mary Meeks or Meekins and had a son named Frank?


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