Elm City’s Negro community, pt. 1.

Cecil Lloyd Spellman was a professor of rural education at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1947, he published “Elm City, A Negro Community in Action,” a monograph intended to employ sociology to “interpret the Negro in his actual day to day activities and interrelationships with members of his own and other races.” This is an excerpt.

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In searching the records, one finds no mention of early Negroes in this area, however, by contacting some of the older living residents, the following information dealing with pioneer Negro residents has been obtained.** All the following people are now dead unless the fact is otherwise indicated.

J.H. Bellamy and his wife Cherry were among the first Negroes to move into the Sharpsburg vicinity. Bellamy was a preacher and a teacher. He did some good work in the general section in both these capacities. Together these two acquired a small tract of farm land. This was held up in his preaching and teaching as an example of what Negroes generally should do in order to succeed in life.

Sam Rice, a minister, was another of the early settlers in this area. No mention was made of the fact that he had a wife. He also bought farm land.

Thomas Dawes came early to this section and bought farm land. Dawes was an ex-slave. He came into the section from South Carolina. We are told that Thomas and his twin sister, Sarah (Bunn) were sold as slaves when they were about twelve years hold. It is not clear whether they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, or achieved their freedom in some other manner.

Henry Bunn and his wife Sarah (sister of Thomas Dawes) came into the section from South Carolina. Sarah was an ex-slave. She and her twin brother Thomas Dawes were sold into slavery when they were about twelve years old. Sarah became a midwife, and was in constant demand for her service by both white and colored people during the late years of her life.

Dawson Armstrong was a very conspicuous early character of the area. He was known as the root doctor. Many fancy tales are told about him and his roots and herbs. He was well liked and no doubt his root medicine did some good because of the confidence which so many of the people had in him. Of course, there were always fanciful tales about some of his doings as he moved about in field and forest in search of the right roots, herbs and barks for the concoctions which he brewed.

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In the 1900 census of Sharpsburg township, Edgecombe County: farmer James H. Bellamy, 42, wife Cherrie, 34, and children Clara, 18, Jacob, 8, Cora, 6, and Rena, 1.

Dawson Armstrong died 24 May 1911 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was at least 45 years old, was born in Wilson County to Abram and Priscilla Barnes Armstrong, was single, and engaged in general labor. Mattie Bryant was informant.

**This is odd. African-Americans came to the Toisnot area with the earliest white settlers pushing down from southern Virginia. They were the pioneers, not people who moved in after the Civil War. Spellman named black county extension agent C.W. Foster as his source.

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