One prominent Piney Woods surname is James. According to William James Barber in “Disciple Assemblies of Eastern North Carolina” Bethany Press, 1966:
Several families bore the same name but were not always of the same family. For instance, there are two lines of Pierce’s (or Pearce’s, according to the various spelling), and three lines of James’ (formerly sometimes spelled and pronouncedJeams)in the community. In the the case of the latter, one line of James originally lived in “The Islands.” Reference to them is found in the Bertie County records as early as 1810. Also listed for the year 1810 in Martin County under “all other free persons ” (i.e., except whites and free Negroes) except non-tax paying Indians” is David James, his family of six and Pattey James with her family of four. This group of James claimed Indian ancestry. They probably took their name (and its pronounciation) from the town of Jamesville, formerly “Jamestown,” (North Carolina) and then pronounced “Jeamston.”
The second set of James came to the community via Hertford County (Ahoskie and vicinity). Sometime during the mid-19th century, one Heywood James came to Free Union from Hertford County and married into the Free Union Community family. His people claimed to be descendants of some of the early manumitted Negroes of the Jamestown (Virginia) colony. There is partial basis in the claim inasmuch as there was one David James, a free mulattto boy, liviing in Norfolk County, Virginia, as early as 1727. This county took up at the times what is now Norfolk, Suffolk, and Southampton Counties and included the territories now around Jamestown. Southampton County adjoins Northampton County, NC, which in turn joins Hertford County (which adjoins Bertie County, which adjoins Martin County). Thus, it is both possible and probable that the tradition is true. Heywood james had two sons, Heywood, Jr., and James. Heywood, Jr., married a Free Union girl and his descendants still live in the community. James (Jimmy) James firs moved to Tyrell County, North Carolina, and then to Norfolk, VA.
Nizer James, the father of William Anthony James, belonged to the first set of James…. According to accounts handed down by Henry James, eldest son of W.A. James, Nizer . James acted as an espionage agent for the Federal troops during the Civil War. The Federals occupied Martin County and the Confederate Washington County. Nizer James was captured by the Confederates as he was entering Washington County near his home at Warren Neck and he was hung by them. After the war, his widow married Hector Moore, former personal servant of Clayton Moore, the pre-Civil War Government Commissioner. The children of Nizer James were so incensed over their mother marrying a former bondsman that some of the children resulting from the union also resented the supposed stigmag attached to their father’s name and they refused to use the name Moore but went by the name James instead. Thus, a third set of Jameses came into existence in the history of the community. It must be said here, that Moore proved a good provider and this unreasonable exhibit of prejudice was uncalled for, but that it generally true of all prejudice.