Family names were not generally used for slaves. About 1817 Paymus was born to Isaac and Treasy. It is not known when, why or whether Paymus or his father took the name Nutt after the Civil War.
Records show Paymus (spelled Persimus) as a slave of the Thomas Sydnor family from at least 1838-1864. He was baptized at Coan Baptist on September 21, 1838. His wife Dianah, also a slave of the Sydnors, was baptized at Coan on May 13, 1838. In 1852 Paymus, Dianah and 3 children-- Cary, Henrietta, and Octavus-- were owned by Thomas S. Sydnor and living on the Hill Valley Plantation near Heathsville. On Sydnor’s death that year his wife Sarah became owner of the slaves and it is believed Sydnor’s son A.J. bought Henrietta.
They lived during a period when thousands of Virginia slaves were being sold to cotton planters in the Deep South and members of slave families were often separated.
When Mrs. Sydnor died in 1857 some of the slaves were sold at auction. Paymus, Dianah and their 6 children, (which now included Arthur, Fannie, and Cora) were divided between 3 of the Sydnor children. Paymus was now owned by R.D. B. Sydnor, a young man only a year older than Paymus’s son Cary. (A confederate navy Lieutenant, R.D.B. was killed in battle during the Civil War.) Dianah, Fannie, and Cora went to A.J. Sydnor. Cary and Arthur were inherited by Eudora Sydnor Hall. Octavus became the property of R.D.B. Sydnor.
Both Paymus and Cary were carpenters. Cary was working by the age of 12. Dianah was a mid-wife and got paid when she delivered a baby.
Freedom was Rough and Tough
After the Civil War, one of Paymus Nutt’s first actions was obtaining a Northumberland county license to perform marriages. The first wedding was for Moses Cockrell and Frances Hudnall in 1866. He performed at least 154 weddings during his life. Also in 1866, he was one of the founders of First Baptist Church which began by meeting at the home of Alexander Day.
In 1867 Shiloh Baptist called him to serve as Interim Pastor and ordained him while they sent a young man, Levi Reese Ball, to seminary to prepare to be pastor. That took ten years because there was no education at any level during slavery. Rev. Nutt led in building Shiloh’s first house of worship during that time.
Shortly after his ordination he was also called to pastor Zion Baptist in Lottsburg. Starting with 103 members, he led in building their first church, and was their pastor for 25 years before retiring because he had become disabled.
Census records show that he and Dianah were together at least 40 years. After her death he married the widow Harriet Armstrong. After Harriet’s death, the widow Mariah Kenner Williams chose to care for him in his old age. They were married in 1895 when he was 78 years old. Reverend Nutt died about 1899.
What Kind of Man Was He?
A Family Man.
Reverend Nutt was a family man who believed in marriage until “death do us part.” The number of weddings he performed far exceeded other ministers of his day. His own marriages attest to a commitment to life-long watch care for your companion. His support of his children is shown as he was there to help found Lively Hope Church in 1880 where his son Cary became the first pastor.
A Hard Worker.
He was pastor of two churches, worked as a carpenter, and tended his own farm—all at the same time. Census records list a horse or mule, 2 cows, 5 pigs, and chickens on the farm.
A Business Man.
In 1869 he bought 35 acres and paid off the mortgage in two years. At two congregations he led in building their first churches.
A Model Citizen.
While thousands of former slaves were wandering Virginia destitute without jobs, homes or food, Rev. Nutt acquired 63 acres of land by 1888, built a home, and owned farm animals.
At Shiloh he maintained cordial relations with the church the ex-slaves had left to form their own church. The pastor of Fairfields Baptist was his overseer for ten years. Shiloh built their first building on land owned by Fairfields Baptist before they bought the land--amazing achievements in a county racked with bitterness over the destruction of the Civil War.
A Champion of Morality.
The Northern Neck News of April 16, 1886 reported that he was a fund raiser for legislative efforts to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the County. Early minutes at Zion record the dismissal of members for adultery and violating the Sabbath.
A Religious Man True to His African Roots.
Neighbors of Zion recorded the fact that services and prayer meetings went on all night and sometimes for days with foot-stomping music that could be heard all over the neighborhood.
A Watchman for God.
He made sure the church was kept as a sacred space, refusing to allow political rallies in the building at Zion.
A Patient Organizer.
It is said that it took three years of meetings to organize a Baptist Association. The Northern Neck Baptist Association remains a great encouragement to the churches of the area.
A Master Carpenter.
His two–story home, probably built with the help of his son Cary, is still standing in excellent condition after more than 100 years.
A Recognized Community Leader.
During Reconstruction the military supervisor of the county named him as one of the men who could be trusted to hold political office and help distribute humanitarian aid.
Rev. Paymus Nutt served during very troubled times. During slavery--Virginia passed a law in 1832 against allowing Black folk to preach or listen to Black preachers. Can you imagine your pastor being whipped 39 times and sent to jail for preaching a Sunday sermon? It was also against the law to teach a slave to read and write. Public education for any race did not begin in Virginia until 1870. Many of the first officers of local churches signed their name with an “X” even in the 1880s as did Rev. Nutt and his wife on a deed late in life. Whether he was ever able to read or write is not known, but the lack of education for Virginians was widespread, making his achievements even more remarkable.
When freedom came--Virginia was under martial law. Many homes, farms and factories had been destroyed, and many lives lost by the war. Folks were still angry after the peace agreement—angry enough to threaten to kill the teachers from the North and burn Holley school in Lottsburg. Although they (even the postmaster) could not read or write themselves, they would not let their children go to a “colored” school.
Freedom included a long, world-wide economic depression, lynchings, lack of schools, mob violence, oppressive legislation, and increasing debt for black farmers as only one fourth owned the land they tilled.
Rev. Paymus Nutt’s greatness cannot be measured simply by the four churches and the Association which remain today. He stands much taller and stronger against the time in which he lived. He led not only his own family, but congregations through incredibly rough times.
Note: The above information contained on this page was written by Rev. Gayl Fowler in March 2016. It has been gleaned from official records of Northumberland County—deeds, estate records, marriage register, death register, church records, and the U. S. Census. Several historians have helped with the fact finding over a period of five years. A detailed, documented edition of his life story will be published in the 2016 Bulletin of the Northumberland County Historical Society.
Paymus Nutt and his wife Dianah were blessed with three sons and three daughters. Below is a brief history of their children and the legacy that followed.
On February 20, 1868 Lott Carey Nutt took Emily Hudnall for his wife. She was the daughter of William Hudnall and Charlotte Haynie. They had one daughter name Anna born in 1869. But sadly on June 15, 1871 Emily was called home to be with God. He later married Josephine Gordon. U.S Census and Family Search.org indicate that they had six children. Paulina, Columbus, Nathaniel, Estelle, Dianna, and Angeline. Unfortunately, only one marriage record was found for Lott's children. On April 27, 1913 Diana married Griffin Dobyns. Carey had a spiritual calling on his life and in 1886 he became the first pastor of Lively Hope Baptist Church. He served there for 22 years. He passed away in August 2, 1914 at the age of 72.
In 1868 on November 12th Henrietta Nutt married Henry Pope, the son of Henderson Pope and Jane Martin. He is the grandson of Alexander Pope, one of the founding members of First Baptist Church. Their children were Lucy, Auther, Catheron, Diana, Henderson, Fanny, Rebecca, and Pearmus. It is clear they were a close and loving family because most of their children are named after parents and siblings.
On January 9, 1871 Octavius Nutt married Maria Wiggins, the daughter of James Wiggins and Edy Sherman, and they began a family but little information is available on this union. They welcomed daughter Emma on July 17, 1871 and daughter Laura in 1872. But on October 15, 1879 they laid 7-year-old Laura to rest. No other records were found.
On December 19, 1872 Fannie Nutt married Phillip Parker. His parents were Thornton Parker and Merina Dangerfield. Fannie and Phillip were blessed with three children Carey, Augusta and Henrietta. Unfortunately at the age of 29 Fannie passed away on May 25, 1884. The 1910 U.S. Census shows that Augusta had married Daniel Hunt and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Their children are Sarah a teacher, Daniel Jr., who works in the furniture industry, Richard and Edward. Augusta and Daniel own their own home. Also her brother Carey, his wife Etta and their dad Phillip Parker are all living under one roof. I think Fannie would have been smiling down from heaven to see most of her family living together.
Their daughter Cora was born in 1957 but only lived to be18-years-old. She died on July 10, 1875. It appears she never married nor had children.
Arthur married the love of his life Emaline Leland on September 30, 1875. Her parents were Samuel Leland and Mahala Miller. Arthur served as a deacon at Zion Church. This union was blessed with five daughters Deella, Muchle, Kate, Henrietta, and Annie and four sons Samuel, John, Eugene, and Charles. As for the daughters there is only a marriage record for Annie. She married James Conaway and had two sons named David and Manthoid. They remained in the Lottsburg area. The 1910 census shows three generations living together – Annie, her husband James, their two sons and her father Arthur. Draft registration cards for World War I and II were found for all four of Arthur's sons. Records show that Samuel married Ellen Scott and they had five children and he was a driver for the city of Orange, New Jersey. Their children are Hellen, Della, Mattie, Florence and Elbert. Eugene is married and works for the Penn Rail Road. Samuel and John lived in New Jersey and Eugene lived in New York. Arthur and Emaline's youngest son Charlie had two children, Junious Porter and Catherine Maith. Junious was well known and respected in Callao. He passed away in 1989. Catherine celebrated her 101st birthday on April 9, 2016. She still attends Lively Hope Baptist Church on a regular bases. The generations to follow Arthur have served in the military, are educators, nurses, police officers, government employees and entrepreneurs. They have lived abroad in places such as Paris, Costa Rica and Bahrain. They've traveled to places their ancestors may have never imagined.
Now looking down from heaven I can only imagine Paymus and Dianah's hearts are filled with pride and joy. Thanking God for his grace, mercy and many blessings received by their family.
The information written in the above section of this page was written by Twyla Newton, descendant of Rev. Paymus Nutt and member of the Northumberland County Historical Society. The information was obtained through church, court and census records. Sources used include Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.