Minutes of the Freedmen’s Convention of 1866.

In October 1866, more than 100 representatives of North Carolina’s Equal Rights Leagues gathered in Raleigh for a convention. Some, like future United States Congressman James E. O’Hara of Wayne County, had been born free. Most, however, were little more than a year into emancipation.

The convention’s minutes show that Wilson County sent Ensley Hinnant and Thomas Farmer to the conference.

At the October 4 afternoon session, Thomas Farmer of Wilson spoke up to say that “the people has suffered greatly from injustice, but things begin to wear a bright future.”


  • Ensley Hinnant

Ems Hinnant and Kate Reil registered their 11-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace in 1866.

In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Emizel Hinnant, 30, and Harriet, 19, Tamer, 11, Henderson, 13, Mary, 7, Dennis, 8, and Joseph, 1.

On 29 February 1870, Jeff Powell, son of Calvin and Penny Powell, married Carolin Hinnant, daughter of Emsly and Ally Hinnant, at Zilla Locus‘ in Wilson County.

On 20 February 1895, Gray Hinnant, 42, of Oldfields township, son of Martha Williamson, married Tama Hinnant, 35, of Oldfields township, daughter M. and Alley Hinnant, both deceased, at the residence of Thamar Hinnant.

Henderson Hinnant died 7 August 1934 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 49 years old; was born Wilson County to Enzly Hinnant and Carolina Hinnant; was married to Margaret Hinnant; and lived on Route 3, Kenly.

  • Thomas Farmer

Two adult African-American men named Thomas Farmer appear in the 1870 census. It is not clear which, if either, was the conventioneer.

  • Equal Rights League

Just last week, the incomparable David Cecelski blogged about the unveiling of a state historical marker commemorating the Equal Justice League branch in the Edgecombe County’s Red Hill community in 1866. Cecelski spoke at the ceremony and, in the complete absence of information about Wilson County’s chapter, his words help us understand Hinnant and Farmer’s revolutionary work. To those who made the day possible, Cecelski said, “Through all your efforts, you remind us, at a time when we need reminding, of a time and a place when people who had next to nothing, who were only months out of slavery, and who were surrounded by a thousand perils, found the courage, faith, and determination to fight for a better world for their children and for us all.”

The obituary of Lavinia M.P. Johnson, hotel maid.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1949.


In the  1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pierce David (c; Livinia) deliverymn h 317 Hackney

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pierce Livinia (c) maid Briggs Hotel h 317 Hackney

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on North Hackney, Levenia Pierce, 36, hotel maid; Sandra Pierce, 19, farm laborer; and Clara Pierce, 1; Cesar Williams, 20, hotel bellboy; Darthy L. Williams, 16; and Boyed L. Williams, 7 months; Estelle Butler, 30, private cook; and John Kitchen, 30, barber.

Louvenia Pierce Johnson died 22 November 1949 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1896 in Edgecombe County, N.C., t0 unknown parents; lived at 317 Hackney Street; and was married. Clyde Cooper was informant.

The estate of Isaac Farmer (1863).

Isaac Farmer was born about 1794 and died in 1863 in what is now Wilson County. His estate file reveals that he owned at least two African-Americans — Ben and Titus.

On i5 December 1863, a sale account notes two hires, Ben for the full following year and Titus for one month to widow Theresa Farmer. At ten cents, Titus must have been exceptionally elderly or otherwise infirm.

An account made a year later does not list Titus; he may have died.

On 26 January 1864, administrator J.T. Dew’s summary of Farmer’s rather meager estate ended with “one Negro Man Ben.”


I have not found Ben Farmer in freedom.

Estate File of Isaac Farmer (1863), 

Rodgers promoted to corporal.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1943.


In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Green Street, Coney Rodgers, 24, guano plant laborer; wife Clyde, 24; and children Earnest Lee, 6, Mosses, 4, Levay, 2, and Nina, 2 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Connie Rodgers, 33, widower, sewer project laborer, and children Ernest, 16, Moses, 13, Janey L., 12, Nina R., 9, and Queenella, 6; and Penny Bynum, 30.

In 1942, Ernest Lee Rogers registered for the World War II draft in Wilson, Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 18 December 1923 in Wilson; his contact was Mary Rogers, 612 Atlantic Street; and he worked for a government program in Goldsboro. He signed his card “Earnest Lee Rodgers.”

Family ties, no. 8: James Daniel brought up some corn one time.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the eighth in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

When Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. married Sarah Henderson in Wayne County in 1895, his children ranged in age from newborn to 14 years old. When Jesse and Sarah Jacobs moved 40 miles north to Wilson circa 1905, the youngest children, Doctor and Annie Bell, came with them, and even the eldest, James Daniel Jacobs, settled briefly in the Elba Street house.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1908).

“Jeem Daniel. Jeem Daniel Jacobs. He and Roxie lived down in Clinton down there, and he come to Wilson when they got married, before they had a family. I remember that. They talked about me coming to visit, but he used to come up to bring tobacco. I remember, ‘Why in the world he had to come all the way to Wilson – ‘

James D. and Roxie Simmons on their Sampson County farm, circa 1950.

“I just do remember him, by him – lots of times they would come by the house, see Papa, wanted to know how he was doing, and whatever. They didn’t stay no time, had to get back and see what time they was gon sell tobacco. So, I don’t know whatever became of him. Now, Mamie [Henderson Holt, her sister] went down when Jeem Daniel got married. He married Roxie, a girl named Roxie, and they was still down there in Clinton, wherever, somewhere down … Anyway, I know it wasn’t Mount Olive, and so Mama, when she got pregnant, Roxie got pregnant, then Jeem Daniel wanted Mamie to come down there and stay with his wife. He said, ‘I’ll pay for her to look after her, stay with her in the house,’ ‘cause he was working down in the field and needed someone to look after her. So Mamie went down there to stay. Didn’t stay, but I never did go down there. I never did see ‘em, after that, except Jeem Daniel brought up some corn one time to see Papa ‘cause he was sick.”  


In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jacobs James D lab h 106 Elba

In the 1910 census of Brogden township, Wayne County, N.C.: John Brewington, 27; wife Hattie, 25; children Lillie, 3, and Kirby, 1; and boarder James D. Jacobs, 30, farmer.

On 22 November 1916, James D. Jacobs, 35, married Roxie Simmons, 25, in Sampson County, N.C.

In 1918, James Daniel Jacobs registered for the World War I draft in Clinton, Sampson County. Per his registration card, he was born 2 February 1881; worked as a farmer; and his nearest relative was Roxie Jacobs.

ln the 1920 census of South Clinton township, Sampson County: farmer Jimmie Simmons, 43; mother Pennie, 77, widow; brother-in-law James D. Jacobs, 37; sister Roxie, 33; and nephews Jessie W., 2, and Chacie, 1 month.

In the 1940 census of South Clinton township, Sampson County: farmer James D. Jacobs, 58; wife Roxie, 55; children Chasie, 20, Redick, 17, Macy, 16, Rillie, 14, Lifton, 10, and Jessie, 22; and granddaughter Glacinie, 2.

In the 1950 census of South Clinton township, Sampson County: farmer James D. Jacob, 68; wife Roxie, 64; son Jessie W., 33, widower; granddaughter Glacenia, 12; son Lifton, 20, and daughter-in-law Mary E., 18.

James Daniel Jacobs died 6 April 1952 in Fayetteville, Cumberland County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 February 1883 in Sampson County to Jesse Jacobs and Sallie Bridges; lived near Clinton, Sampson County; was married; and was a tenant farmer.

Photo courtesy of Carla Carter Jacobs.

The estate of Theophilus Bass (1857).

At October Term 1857, Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions ordered the division of a group of eight enslaved people belonging to the estate of Theophilus Bass — Charles, Mary, Easter, Warren, Eliza, Martin, Sarah, and Howell.

As we saw here, Bass had inherited Charles, Mary and Easter (Esther) from his uncle James A. Barnes after the death of Barnes’ widow Sarah Daniel Barnes. Warren, Eliza, Martin, and possibly Sarah were Easter’s children. Their father Howell was also owned by James A. Barnes, but passed to McKinley Darden, and the Howell listed above may have been Howell and Easter’s child.

A ninth enslaved person, Mason, was ordered sold at public auction in Wilson County.

Sarah, valued at $250, was allotted to Winnefred Bass.


We traced Charles, Mary, and Easter forward here.

  • Warren

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Howard Darden, 47, farm laborer; wife Esther, 38; and children Warren, 20, Eliza, 18, Martin, 17, Toby, 12, and Crawford, 1.

Warren Darden, 24, married Louisa Dew, 18, on 1 May 1873 in Wilson, before witnesses Amos Dew and Raiford Dew.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Warren Darden, 30, wife Louisa, 25, children Warren, 3, and an unnamed infant, and farmhand Wilie Lee, 14.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Warren Darden, 50; wife Lou, 45; and children Warren Jr., 23, Mary L., 18, Lizzie, 12, Sallie, 6, and Minnie, 2.

Minnie Darden died 7 May 1925 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 August 1898 in Wilson County to Warren Darden and Louisa Darden. Grant Farmer was informant.

Sallie Farmer Eddie died 9 December 1945 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 March 1891 in Wilson County to Warren Darden and Louisa Dew; was married to John Eddie; and was buried in Newsom Cemetery near Lucama, N.C. George W. Dew was informant.

  • Eliza

On 29 December 1892, Henry Dortch, 52, of Wilson, son of Isaac Thorne and Bedie Artis, married Eliza Darden, 42, at Crawford Darden‘s in Wilson County. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed, and Frank Woodard, Warren Darden, and Isom Sutton witnessed the ceremony.

  • Martin

On 22 December 1871, Martin Darden, son of Howell Darden and Esther Jordan, married Jane Dew, daughter of Haywood and Jane Dew, at H. Dew’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Martin Darden, 27; wife 25; and daughters Esther, 5, Ellen, 5, and Nellie, 3.

On 25 December 1888, Lawrence Mitchell, 21, of Crossroads township, Wilson County, son of Primus Mitchell, married Ester Darden, 18, of Crossroads township, daughter of Martin and Jane Darden, at Primus Mitchell’s.

In the 1900 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County: farmer Martin Darden, 48; Jane, 50; and children Tinsey, 17, Howard, 14, Jineva, 11, and Silvey, 9.

In the 1910 census of Glissons township, Duplin County, N.C.: farmer Martin Darden, 58; wife Jane, 59; and daughter Silva, 18.

On 27 January 1915, Clint Smith, 28, of Duplin County, son of Dudly and Priscilla Smith, married Silva Darden, 23, of Duplin County, daughter of Martin and Jane Darden, at Martin Darden’s in Glissons township.

Easter Mitchell died 16 November 1918 in Crossroads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, she was 40 years old; was born in Wilson County to Martin Darden and an unknown mother; and was buried in Ricks graveyard.

In the 1920 census of Glissons township, Duplin County, N.C.: farm laborer Martin Darden, 68, and Jane, 69.

Martin Darden died 22 December 1926 in Kenansville township, Duplin County. Per his death certificate, he was 74 years old; was married to Jane Darden; was born in Wilson County to Howard and Easter Darden; and worked as a farmer and blacksmith. Howard Darden of Fremont was informant.

Janie Darden died 21 February 1936 in Kenansville, Duplin County. Per her death certificate, she was 72 years old; was born in Wilson County; was the widow of Martin Darden; and did farm and housework. Clint Smith was informant.

  • Sarah
  • Howell
  • Mason

On 12 May 1866, Mason Bass and Kate Edmundson registered their four-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Mason Bass, 32; wife Katy, 33; children Spicy, 7, Bettie, 6, Riley, 1, and Nathaniel, 2 months; Mary, 53, Eliza, 28, and Sarah Bass, 16; and Ruffin Barnes, 18.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Mason Bass, 43; wife Kate, 45; and children Isicy, 17, Bettie, 16, Amanuel, 2, and Mattie, 10 months.

In the 1900 census of Coahoma County, Mississippi: North Carolina-born Mason Bass, 63; wife Katie, 65; children Emanuel, 22, and Amelia, 18; and granddaughter Conelus, 1. Next door: Olie Henry, 45; wife Spicie, 37; and their children Amie, 14, William, 5, and Nathan, 3.

Estate File of Theophilus Bass (1857), Edgecombe County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org

Christmas toy drive at the Round House.

Help brighten a child’s Christmas!

Get your whole giveback on on December 16. Haul some brush in the AM with Lane Street Project, then drop off toys at Freeman Round House that afternoon!

Freeman Round House is accepting new, unwrapped toys for distribution to children by Wilson County Department of Social Services. Please bring items to the museum Saturday, 16 December 2023, between 3:30 and 5:30 P.M.

Thank you!

Lane Street Project: Season 4 is coming!

Season 4 starts in a little more than two weeks.

Just a reminder that we’re asking community groups to “sponsor” clean-up dates. No money required — just a commitment to showing up with some folks and some cutting tools and maybe some coffee! We’ll meet you there! Many thanks to Scarborough House Resort for signing up first!

The William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard house.

Wilson Times, 10 January 1950.

We have studied the cluster of plantations owned by the Woodard family near White Oak Swamp here, as well as the disposition of enslaved people held by William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard. The photos above and below depict the Woodards’ house, built in 1832.

Though the house seems to have been in fine form in the early 1980s, when the second photograph was taken, it has since been demolished.

Lower photo courtesy of Woodard Family Rural Historic District nomination form.