Nancy Midgette Spruill

(Tyrrell County)

Featured Character – The Home Front

Nancy Midgette Spruill

Nancy M. Spruill

Courtesy of the Museum of the Albemarle

Born on March 13, 1813, Benjamin Spruill married Nancy Midgette in 1835.  Upon his father’s death, Benjamin Spruill inherited a large plantation on the Little Alligator River in Tyrrell County. The 1850 Census lists Benjamin Spruill as the owner of thirty-four slaves, and the operator of a shingle factory that produced 350,000 cypress shingles in a single year.  By 1860, Spruill owned 58 slaves and grew 11,500 bushels of corn on his plantation.  Although the Spruills left no record of their feelings on secession, Benjamin Spruill belonged to the Whig Party, which tended to hold Unionist views.  However, his kinsman Eli Spruill voted for secession at the state convention in 1861 that took North Carolina out of the Union.  Neither Benjamin Spruill or his two oldest sons served in the Confederate Army, a further indication of their probable Unionist feelings.  Unlike with the Pettigrews, the end of slavery only marginally affected the Spruills’ lively hoods.  The 1870 Census appraised Benjamin Spruill’s assets at $1,110, although it also listed him as owner and operator of a sawmill worth $900 and a grist mill that produced over $5,000 in cornmeal.  By 1873, the Spruills felt secure enough to buy the neighboring Free & Easy Plantation from the financially-distressed Pettigrew family.  Unfortunately, the era of good feelings did not last beyond the deaths of Benjamin Spruill in 1880 and his wife’s a year later.  After a period of bitter disagreement over Benjamin Spruill’s will, the Supreme Court of North Carolina ultimately divided the estate among the surviving heirs.