Snaps, no. 86: the William and Zilphia Woodard family.

Seated, William “Bill” Woodard and Zilphia May Adams Woodard. Standing, Eva Woodard, Wesley Woodard, Elvin Woodard and Lena Woodard, who were among their children.


William Woodard was the son of Elvin Woodard and grandson of London Woodard, the famous preacher and founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Elvin Woodard, 47; wife Deber, 48; and children William, 21, Sylvia, 18, and Amanda, 16.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer William Woodard, 35; wife Zilpha, 27; and children Elvin, 8, James, 5, and Minnie, 2.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer William Woodard, 52; wife Zelpha, 44; children James, 22, sawmill laborer, Minnia, 20, Wesley, 17, Eaver, 14, Lenar, 11; and boarders Irvin Eatman, 18, and Art Edwards, 20.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer William Woodard, 64; wife Zilfa, 60; children Eva, 23, and Lena, 20; and grandchildren Bettie Williams, 6, and Arthur Woodard, 3 months. Next door: Westley Woodard, 27; wife Easter, 30; stepson Richard Poole, 10; mother-in-law Gracie Poole, 40; and sister-in-law Minnie Poole, 11.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: William Woodard, 70; wife Zilfie, 75; and daughter Lena Barnes, 27.

James Woodard died 1 May 1927 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 51 years old; was born in Wilson County to William Woodard and Zilphia Moye; was married to Mary Woodard; and was a tenant farmer for Bunyan Boyette

Zilphia Woodard died 22 April 1934 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was 85 years old; worked in farming until two days before her death; was born in Wilson County to David Moye and Harriett Daniel; and was a widow. Minnie Williams was informant.

Elvin Woodard died 30 March 1941 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 February 1879 in Wilson County to William Woodard and Zilphia Moore; was a laborer; was the widower of Frances Woodard; and was buried in Ellis cemetery. Westley Woodard was informant.

Minnie Williams died 21 May 1941 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in Wilson County in 1887 to William Woodard and Zelphia Adams; was a widow; and had been engaged in farming. Mamie Melton was informant.

Eva Thorne died 7 May 1948 in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 October 1894 in Wilson County to William Woodard and Zilpha Adams; was a farmer; and was married to Bill Thorne. Informant was Gladys Hoskins.

 Thanks to LeRoy Barnes for sharing this family photo.

The death of Annie Cole.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1913.

Mental illness was often criminalized in the early twentieth century and, Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum notwithstanding, treatment options were few.


In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house servant Annie Cole, 25, and lodger Lue Merritt, 30, odd jobs laborer, shared a household.

Distribution of the slave population of the U.S. South.

In about 1861, the United States Coastal Survey issued a map showing the distribution of enslaved people throughout the South. As Susan Schulten noted in a 9 December 2010 piece called “Visualizing Slavery,” “[t]hough many Americans knew that dependence on slave labor varied throughout the South, these maps uniquely captured the complexity of the institution and struck a chord with a public hungry for information about the rebellion.”

Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United States Compiled from the Census of 1860 — Sold for the Benefit of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the U. S. Army.

A close-up of eastern North Carolina shows that Wilson County, with a population 37% enslaved, lay at the western edge of the state’s heaviest band of slave-holding counties.

Lane Street Project: Juneteenth.

This headstone may mark the burial of someone who lived and died in slavery. It stands in a small cemetery in western Wilson County known to have been established for enslaved people and situated adjacent to the cemetery of the slaveowning family.

Though every large slaveholding farm probably had one, I know the exact location of only one cemetery in Wilson County established prior to the Civil War to hold the remains of enslaved people. (Please speak up if you can lead me to more.) Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick Cemeteries were not so-called slave cemeteries, but many men and women buried within them were born enslaved.

I call the names of those we know:

Dave Barnes (1861-1913)

Della Hines Barnes (1858-1935)

Smith Bennett (1852-1920)

Mark H. Cotton (ca.1840-1934)

Lucy Hill Dawson (1860-1917)

Rev. Henry W. Farrior (1859-1937)

Prince Mincey (1841-1902)

Rev. John H. Scott (1857-1940)

Hardy Tate (1853-1938)

Rachel Barnes Taylor (1863-1927)

Daniel Vick (ca.1840-1908)

Fannie Blount Vick (ca.1842-1890s)

Samuel H. Vick (1861-1946)


Pfc. Simms’ remains returned.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 June 1948.

Five years after his death in India, Herbert Lee Simms‘ body was returned to Wilson for burial.


In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Marcella [Marcellus] Simms, 30; wife Tempie, 30; and children Annie M., 7, Herbert L., 5, and Guthra [Gertrude] M., 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: cotton oil company truck driver Marcellaus Simms, 40; wife Tempie, 41; and children Annie Mae, 17, Herbert Lee, 15, Gertrude, 12, Doris O., 9, Robert L., 7, Roland, 4, and Willie Jr., 7 months.

Herbert Lee Simms registered for the World War I draft in 1941. Per his registration card, he was born 12 March 1923 in Wilson County; lived at Route 4, Box 39, Wilson; his contact was mother Tempie Simms; and he was unemployed.

The application for Herbert L. Simms’ military headstone.

Usher in Juneteenth with Black Wide-Awake and Zella Palmer!

I find myself with an unexpected day off, so what better way to kick off the real holiday than chopping it up with Zella Palmer about family, Black history, and Wide-Awake Wilson?

Zella is chair and director of Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture and renowned for her innovative work to preserve African-American food culture. Find out what she and I have in common — besides everything Black — this afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern in our Instagram Live conversation @maisonzella!


For fifty or so years after the Civil War, Wilson’s African-American community celebrated Emancipation Day on January 1. The day marked the issuance in 1863 of the Emancipation Proclamation and was decidedly symbolic, as that executive order could not be enforced on behalf of most of North Carolina’s enslaved. Instead, they were freed, as a practical matter, only after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

In Texas, freedom did not arrive until June 19 of that year, when a Union Army commander read General Order No. 3 upon arrival in Galveston. African-American Texans have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866, and, after slowly gaining traction across the country over the last few decades, the holiday is now widely observed. (This very day, in fact, it’s on the verge of becoming a national holiday, which feels performative, if not downright gaslight-y, given where this country is on any and every substantive thing around Black history.)

Juneteenth is a new celebration in Wilson, but it picks up where an old one left off, and I love to see it. Starting June 18, The Spot, an after-school youth center in what was once the New Grabneck neighborhood, is presenting Walk In Their Shoes — “this project will reimagine our existing walking trail into an immersive storytelling experience. Students and families can attend during open walking times and use technology to hear real stories from real people in our community. Around the trail art installments created by SPOT students will give a visual insight to the story and bring it to life.”

On June 26, Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge No. 42 — chartered in Wilson in 1881 — is throwing a party in the iconic 500 block of East Nash Street featuring food, music, art, and dollops of history throughout. (Can you identify the five titans of East Wilson depicted at the top of their flyer?)

Charlie Battle, “horse shoeing a specialty.”

Wilson Daily Times, 8 May 1896.

Charles Battle was a well-known blacksmith in late 19th century Wilson. 

The 1897 Sanborn fire insurance map shows two blacksmith shops near Frank Daniels’ Cotton Gin. The one at left, most nearly opposite the gin, is likely Battle’s shop.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.