The History of Julia Heilig
Julia Heilig was born Julia Ann Heilig between 1853-1854 in Rockwell, North Carolina, part of the western piedmont area. She lived nearly half her life in Rowan County, NC. Later, along with her family, she settled in McDowell County, W.Va. where she spent her final days.
Those Early Years, 1854 – 1865
Born to Ephraim Heilig and Eliza Ann Rothrock, slaves at the time, she was the eldest known child born out of at least nine children. Her known brothers and sisters were Harriet G. (born 1857), Ellen J. (born 1858), Victor T. (born 1860), Calvin D. (born 1861), George H. (born 1864), James (born 1868), Susan (born 1869), and Setta (born 1872). Together, there were 4 boys and 5 girls.
Julia’s parents were both slaves living in the same county, but owned by separate owners. In Rowan County, around the time of Julia’s birth, the slave population ranged between 25% to 50% of the total population. Her father, Ephraim, was a slave of Paul Heilig, a local farmer, public servant, and a would-be Confederate soldier. He was of German descent and the third generation of his family living in Rowan County at that time. Julia’s mother, Eliza Ann, was a slave of Rev. Samuel Rothrock, a prominent Lutheran minister widely known throughout much of Rowan County. Also of German ancestry, he moved to Rowan County shortly after being ordained a minister in 1834.
Julia’s parents are believed to have lived on separate residences since they belonged to separate slave owners. Consequently, Ephraim and Eliza had a “broad marriage,” a marriage between slaves that had to travel across farms to see each other. Rev. Samuel Rothrock had lived in his new home built in 1860 in the Rockwell vicinity. Paul Heilig lived south of Salisbury, the county seat of Rowan County. Consequently, it’s not currently known where she resided during her infant and childhood years. However, similarly to Julia and her parents, most of her brothers and sisters were born into bondage.
Freedom, 1865 – 1872
Shortly after the Civil War, Julia’s family had resettled themselves for a new life. Julia was at least 10 years old when her family was released from slavery. A year after the Civil War, the North Carolina General Assembly passed “An Act Concerning Negroes and Persons of Color or Mixed Blood.” It stated that “those person who wished to register their pre-emancipation marriage’s were required to appear before the clerk of the county court or a justice of the peace to acknowledge their marital status.” After 14 years of a “broad marriage,” on April 25th, Ephraim and Eliza registered their union.
A few years following the end of the Civil War, her parents eventually settled in a small township called Gold Hill, at that time a mining area that was rich in gold deposits.
A New Union, 1872 – 1877
In the years to follow, Julia at age 18, married William W. Shadd mid-summer of 1872 on Monday, July 21st in Salisbury, North Carolina. William Shadd, like most of his family, switched their surname constantly between Shadd and Heilig since the end of the Civil War. However, William eventually settled on using Heilig as his last name.
Over the next 25 years Julia would give birth to Mary (born Apr 1875), Sidney E. M. A. (born Aug 1877), Beulah (born Dec 1879), Missie Lee (born Sep 1883), Effie (born Dec 1886), Bessie (born May 1890), James A. (born May 1892), and Jennis (born Aug 1894). Eventually, Julia would have 12 children in total. However, some of their names have remained unknown. Julia would live to see 3 – 4 of her children die in their youth.
Times Of Change, 1877 – 1902
A few years after her marriage, Julia’s mother became very ill well into January of 1877. By late February, she died and was buried Tuesday afternoon on February 26 at a local colored graveyard.
By 1880, Julia and her husband stayed with his father’s family while she cared for their children and William worked as a farmer. By the late 1890’s, her children began leaving home to start their own lives. In the presence of friends and family at Julia’s home, Mary Heilig and David Roseman were united in marriage by Rev. Kelly, a Baptist minister, on December 3, 1896.
Sometime prior to 1900, Julia and her family again moved. Moving onto the 50 acres of land her father acquired 10 years earlier, Julia, along side her brothers and sisters, began residing on Ephraim’s land. A year later her father had passed away. Ephraim died without a will requiring the county court to appoint an administrator over his estate, settle his debts, and divide his property equally among his living heirs. Julia inherited 7 1/3 acres of land and her siblings inherited the remainder. Julia and her family mutually shared two smaller plots with her brothers and sisters.
A Different Life, 1902 – 1928
A couple of years later Julia and her family moved once again. By 1902, William and Julia decided to migrate up to southern West Virginia. Settling in the northeastern portion of McDowell County in the Brown Creek area, William worked as a railroad laborer while she continued to care for their children.
At last settled, Julia and her husband spent the remainder of their lives in southern West Virginia. Beginning in early May of 1926, Julia began seeing a doctor because of heart problems. After two years, she passed away at age 73.
In the spring of 1928, Julia Ann Heilig died on April 21 on an early Saturday morning in Kimball. She was buried the following Monday in Kimball, W.Va.