This Real Estate and Personal Property tax document mentions “poll tax” for “Negro” J.A. Bebee, but it is signed W.T. Beebe in Beaufort County, North Carolina (in Washington “township”). Note that both the signed first and last names are different than the name printed on the front of the document, suggesting that the printed name on page one is a clerical error. This is historically very interesting because J.A. Beebe bought his freedom for $2300 and made a name for himself in Beaufort, North Carolina first as a pastor and then Bishop, establishing many CME churches around the country…
J.A. Beebe died in 1903, 19 years before this tax document was signed by W.T. Beebe, who was born in 1878. That would make William Thomas Beebe 44 years old when this document was signed. He would die in 1937.
Here are all the pages of the W.T. Beebe’s Real Estate and Personal Property tax document…
J.A. Beebe’s daughter, Josephine Beebe, wrote a brief version of her father’s fascinating story, which includes anecdotes about his slavemaster (note how affectionately the slavemaster is remembered “(she) did not believe in slavery…she was however given a number of slaves)…
The Bishop’s Story
of Joseph Alvin Beebe by daughter, Josephine Beebe.
Joseph Alvin Beebe was born June, 25, 1832, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His parents belonged to Miss Melinda Beebe, a devout Methodist, who did not believe in slavery. After her father’s death, she was however given a number of slaves and a farm. Among the slaves were Joseph’s parents. His mother, Betty, was given her freedom because she was the mother of so many children. However, Betty, remained on the farm and took care of Miss Beebe’s children, her home, garden, cotton patch, and farm animals.
When Betty’s sixteenth child was born, Miss Melinda went to Betty’s cabin and said, “That is going to be a great child”. She had read the Bible Story of Moses, an adopted slave child, who became a great leader. She also remembered that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was the sixteenth child born in his family. Therefore, she took this child (at age one) into her home to raise him. She named him Joseph Alvin Beebe. She also took his oldest sister to be his nurse. Miss Melinda called Joseph, “My Joe”, and had him to sleep in her bed for many years, then on a cot in her room until he was in his teens.
Miss Melinda taught Joseph to read the Bible and other literature. He joined her church at age eight. She would not let him work on the farm, or go with other slaves. At the age of seventeen he joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was licensed to preach at age nineteen. Miss Melinda had him to train in the shoemaker’s trade, and she set him up in that business. His business was very successful. Soon he had nine helpers. All of them were free and among them was Mr. Bookrum, the father of a fine daughter.
In 1856 Joseph A. Beebe married Miss Cornella Bookrum. This made Miss Melinda very happy as the Bookrum family had always been free. (Mr. Bookrum, half Indian and his wife half English). Joseph and Cornella were blessed with ten children. One boy and one girl died in infancy. The other eight lived to adulthood to marry and have children of their own. In the early 1990’s all of Joseph and Cornella’s children had passed except, Elizabeth Beebe Owens (Detroit, Michigan).
Joseph A. Beebe as a minister, pastored his first church in his home town several years and carried on his shoe business at the same time. Miss Melinda had arranged for him to go North taking his wife with him so he could be free, but Miss Melinda dropped dead before that plan could be realized. All of her property and slaves were sold. However, Joseph’s business was a success, so he bought his freedom for $2,300. He was always an independent soul. When his wife became an invalid, he took care of her and also managed to buy two houses during those long, lean years.
Joseph was sent to several cities to preach, including Edenton, NC. When he reached Washington his friend, Rev. W. H. Miles, had organized the AME Zion church and was
gathering some slaves and former slaves who had some land awarded to them to form a Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. With the help of the white Methodist Episcopal Church South, Beebe organized the first Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in the state of North Carolina at the same spot where Beebe Memorial now stands. Joseph Beebe served as Pastor, Presiding Elder and organizer for two years. Then he was elected Bishop and served as bishop for thirty years and Senior Bishop eleven years until he passed. He was called “The Beloved Leader”. He served people, white as well as colored, paid doctor bills and buried the poor of both races. He took in his home at different times, twenty-seven other people’s children, cared for them and educated them in the same school as his own.
He established many “First” CME Churches in states around the country, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Jersey to name a few. He even bought our fine church at the foot of the Capitol in Washington, DC. He established the Haygood Seminary in Arkansas and had two daughters to teach at that school (Josephine and Elizabeth).
During a three-year illness of Bishop Hosey’s illness, and when Bishop Lane was run over by a team of horses and was confined to bed for six months, Bishop Beebe carried on the work of the entire Church which was too much for one person. His health failed. He held up until the CME General Conference in 1902. There he saw his friend, C. H. Philips, elected Bishop. And there Joseph preached his last sermon. The subject: “As St. Paul said to Timothy,‘Preach the Work in Season and Out’”. His sermon to the ministers was “Preach the Word in Season and Out—Preach the Word”.
Bishop Joseph A. Beebe passed at his home, June 6, 1903, leaving a rich spiritual legacy to the host of people who loved and followed him.
Note: I submitted a photo of the signature to two cursive writing discussion groups, without saying anything else–submitting literally only the signature. Both groups, based on entry strokes and exits, had more votes that the first letter is W and the second letter is T.