Month: January 2016

Johnston County’s Boyette slave dwelling.

No slave dwellings are known to remain standing in Wilson County. However, just south of the line down in Johnston County, there is this:


Boyette slave dwelling now.

The Boyette slave dwelling was built at an indeterminate time in the early 1800s by George Boyette or his son Larkin G. Boyette, who jointly reported eight slaves in the 1850 census. As described in a nomination form submitted to the National Register of Historic Places, the house is a “small, one room log dwelling built of hewn and pit sawn planks held together by full dovetail notches and dowels” with a “stick and mud chimney set at the western gable end.” Once exceedingly common in the antebellum eastern North Carolina landscape, the highly flammable wooden chimneys were generally replaced with stone or brick structures in all but the poorest dwellings — including slave houses. The shelter provided for enslaved people in Wilson County would have been very similar.


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And circa 1979.

Please click the link to the nomination form for details on the construction of this unique remnant of African-American history.

Framing Bill Grimes.

Here is a fuller — and more lurid — account of the Bill Grimes incident:


Wilmington Morning Star, 1 September 1868.

As set out in Lowcountry Digital History Initiative’s on-line educator resource material, on November 10, 1868, in an article entitled “Spirit of the Southern Democracy,” the Cincinnati Daily Gazette ran an unattributed excerpt from a letter :

“A gentleman writing from Edgecombe county, North Carolina, to a friend in Philadelphia, on the 28th ult., says: ‘Cases are frequently reported to me of physicians refusing to attend the sick, because their relatives were Republicans, or expressed their intention to vote for Grant and Colfax. One man came into my office and told me that his little boy died on Monday for want of medical aid. No physician in the part of the country where he lived would attend the boy, because he was a Radical; one store keeper kept him from eight o’clock in the morning until two o’clock in the afternoon, and would not sell him any thing, because he persistently said he would vote for Grant. One man asked me to send for a Northern physician, because the faculty of the country would not attend his wife, and she was at the point of death. Did I tell you about the affair in Wilson county, a few weeks ago? The authorities, all rebels, and equal to Ku-Klux, arrested a colored man named Grimes, on the charge of burning a barn, but Grimes proved himself to any reasonable and unprejudiced mind perfectly innocent. But he is the leader of the Union League, and they wanted to rake him up, as he had made a severe speech against them and in favor of the Radicals the day before. A delegation of colored men came for me twenty miles. I went.

“‘I asked for a hearing for Grimes in my presence. It was not granted. I offered to bail him. This offer was rejected. A rebel drew his revolver on me in the court house, behind my back. Some one more prudent stopped his shooting. I left, telling them I would have Grimes out, and the next morning they released him to prevent my having the gratification of doing it, so I was told. Grimes wouldn’t promise them to vote for Seymour and Blair, but the next day he raised a company and went to the Raleigh Convention.'”


The gentleman from Edgecombe County was not identified.

Who comprised the delegation of colored men?

Former New York governor Horace Seymour was the Democratic nominee for President in 1868. He lost to Ulysses S. Grant. Francis P. Blair of Missouri, Seymour’s vice-presidential candidate, gained notoriety for stump speeches in which he cast pro-Reconstruction Republicans as a “a semi-barbarous race of blacks who are worshipers of fetishes and poligamists” and wanted to “subject the white women to their unbridled lust.”

The “Raleigh Convention” was the state nominating convention.

Booker T. Washington’s Southern tour comes to town.

Between 1908 and 1912, Booker T. Washington embarked upon a series of “educational pilgrimages” across several Southern states. In the fall of 1910, Washington and a phalanx of businessmen and A.M.E. Zion clergymen set off on an arc across North Carolina, making speeches and setting examples in Charlotte, Concord, Salisbury, High Point, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Reidsville, Durham, Wilson, Rocky Mount, New Bern, and Wilmington.

On October 21, Wilson’s local newspaper announced Washington’s impending lecture in the auditorium of the colored graded school.


Wilson Daily Times, 21 October 1910.

The response to the announcement of Washington’s tour was positive, but not without fine points made. The Times cited an opinion piece by the Greensboro press, noting approvingly that “foremost living negro” or not, white men should not be put to the task of receiving him into their cities. There were “plenty of public spirited colored people available for that.”


Wilson Daily Times, 1 November 1910.

Along those lines, the Times assured white Wilsonians that “special arrangements” had been made for them as “a great many seem to want to hear” Washington.


Wilson Daily Times, 1 November 1910.

On a practical note, black veterinarian Elijah L. Reid, recently returned from a residency of sorts at Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, seized the occasion to take out a large ad in the paper touting an endorsement by the Wizard himself.

WDT_11_1_1910_BTW_on_EL_Reid (1)

Wilson Daily Times, 1 November 1910.

A commemorative poster and ticket from the event are here. By all accounts, the Wilson stop was a great success. Washington rubbed elbows with Sam Vick and other local heavy-hitters, including all three of the town’s black doctors and several of its most accomplished building tradesmen. The visit happily coincided with the ground-breaking for a new First Baptist church, and Washington laid its cornerstone. The next day, as Washington’s special Pullman car rolled out of town, Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a pleasant piece emphasizing the gaiety of the occasion.

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News & Observer (Raleigh NC), 2 November 1910.

In its next publication, the Times — with a gracious nod to “ex Congressman F.A. Woodard” — also commented favorably upon the evening’s events and published excerpts from Washington’s speech.


Wilson Daily Times, 4 November 1910.

The photo below was apparently taken early in the day before the main event. The instantly recognizable Booker T. Washington is seated center, surrounded by his all-star retinue of traveling companions and Wilson’s African-American luminaries. Below the image, more about these men. (Wilson residents, as usual, are in bold text.)


“Education Tour of Dr. Booker T. Washington, Home of Samuel H. Vick, November 1, 1910.”

  1. Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856-1915), educator and race leader.
  2. John Henry Merrick (1859-1916), insurance executive. Founder, North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company, Durham NC.
  3. George Wylie Clinton (1859-1921), A.M.E. Zion bishop. Native of Lancaster County SC. Resided in Salisbury NC. Coordinator of Washington’s North Carolina tour.
  4. Charles W. Greene (1849-1926), educator. Head of Poultry Division, Tuskegee Institute.
  5. Robert Baxter McRary (1860-1946), Masonic Grand Master. Native of Lexington NC.
  6. George W. Powell, insurance executive. Carolina Insurance Company, Durham NC.
  7. Short William Barnes (1860-1943), carpenter.
  8. Unknown
  9. Hardy Tate (1854-1938), brickmason.
  10. Henry Lawrence McCrorey (1863-1951), educator. President of Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University), Charlotte NC.
  11. James Benson Dudley (1859-1925), educator. Native of Wilmington NC, president of Agricultural & Mechanical College (now N.C. A&T), Greensboro NC, from 1896-1925.
  12. Silas Abraham Peeler (1864-1948), Methodist minister and educator . President of Bennett College from 1905-1913. Cleveland County NC native.
  13. Samuel Hynes Vick (1863-1945), educator, postmaster, political and business leader. Born in Nash County, preeminent East Wilson resident.
  14. Richard W. Thompson (1865-1920), journalist. Thompson News Service.
  15. Calvin Scott Brown (1859-1936), educator. Native of Salisbury NC. Founder of Chowan Academy in Hertford County NC.
  16. Nathan Hunt (1873-1933), secretary and stenographer. Assistant to Booker T. Washington.
  17. James Elmer Dellinger (1862-1920), physician and educator. Native of Lincoln County NC, active in Republican politics and taught chemistry at A&M in Greensboro.
  18. George Clinton Clement (1871-1935), A.M.E. Zion bishop.
  19. John T. Sanders (1860-?), attorney and banker. Charlotte NC.
  20. [Unknown] Winstead. Possibly Braswell R. Winstead (1860-1926), educator and barber.
  21. William Sidney Pittman Jr. (1875-1958), architect. Booker T. Washington’s son-in-law.
  22. John Henry Washington (1852-1924). Washington’s half-brother. Business agent and farm manager at Tuskegee Institute.
  23. James Edward Shepard (1875-1947), educator. Founder of National Religious Training School (now North Carolina Central University).
  24. Emmett Jay Scott (1873-1957), educator and publicist. Personal assistant and adviser to Washington. Later active in Woodrow Wilson administration and a war correspondent during World War I.
  25. William Henry Lewis (1868-1949). Harvard Law School graduate. Assistant United States District Attorney for Massachusetts. Appointed Assistant United States Attorney General in 1911.
  26. William Arthur Mitchner (1882-1941), physician. Native of Johnston County NC, practiced in Wilson.
  27. Horace D. Slatter (?-1918), journalist. Native of Hopkinsville KY. Publicist for Tuskegee Institute and later newspaper correspondent.
  28. Unknown
  29. D.A. Winslow, stenographer. Durham NC.
  30. George F. King, journalist. Greenville NC.
  31. Camillus L. Darden (1884-1926), businessman.
  32. Charles Clinton Spaulding (1874-1952), insurance executive. Manager and later president of North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company.
  33. John Andrew Kenney (1874-1950), physician. Albemarle County VA native. School physician at Tuskegee, hospital director and chief surgeon.
  34. Walter Scott Hines (1879-1941), barber and real estate developer.
  35. Unknown
  36. Charles Henry Moore (1853-1952), educator and business leader. Wilmington native. Helped establish A&M College. National organizer for National Negro Business League. Regional director for Rosenwald Fund.
  37. Frank Settle Hargrave (1874-1942), physician. Founder of Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home and its medical director from 1913 to 1923. President of the National Medical Association, 1914-15. Native of Lexington NC.
  38. Matthew Stanley Gilliam (1885-1932), physician. Native of Granville County NC, practiced in Wilson.
  39. Frank Jenkins.
  40. William Hines (1885-1981), barber and real estate developer.
  41. Oliver Nestus Freeman (1882-1955), stonemason.

The photo that ran several days later in the New York Age seems to show only the Visiting V.I.P. contingent.


New York Age, 10 November 1910.

For a brief description of Washington’s Wilson visit embedded in a detailed account of his entire North Carolina tour, see David H. Jackson’s Booker T. Washington and the Struggle Against White Supremacy (2008).

Many thanks to Representative G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who provided the numbered photograph and a key listing the names of the men depicted. That key was the basis of the expanded list above.

She commenced giving me some slack jaw.

Agent of Freedmans Bureau

Dr Sir

A few days ago a negro Woman refused to obey an order I gave her about cooking some Tomatoes. I ordered her again. She very violently refused to obey. The land lady was absent at the time. After a lapse of two hours She returned I told that I intended to give her a good whipping if she did not Cook them. The negro was standing out a few feet from the door and commenced giving me some “slack jaw” where upon I gave her a good beating by kicks and knocks.

Being a stranger to you and to your mode of proceeding and learning that you had jurisdiction in this County I address you this letter, becoming informer against myself and holding myself amenable to your order whenever called upon or to the civil authorities I care not which. So there is but one to whom I must answer for the offense if I have committed any.

It is my opinion that you had better come up as you can by Enquiry find many who condemn the act, Justify the negro and blame me for the Course I pursued. While I have never been raised to take a taunt from a white man and can certainly never become so loyal as to take it from a negro, while I honest profess to be as loyal as any Extremist in this Country I was an Original Cessession. I have been whipped in a Contest of Arms, after the surrender of Genl Lee I accepted the situation as it was. I took an oath of allegiance to the United States Government by that I have abided. You will please write me if you wish me to appear at Goldsboro and if you wish any reference you can apply to J.J. Baker, C.A.W. Barham, Dr. Wm. H. Thompson, Dr. J.W. Davis of Goldsboro & J.J. Lutts Esqr. of this place.  Let me hear  from you soon.              Very respectfully, R.G. Barham M.D.


Virginia-born physician R.G. [Roscoe G.] Barham was 25 years old when the 1860 census of the town of Wilson. He died about 1880.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database on-line],

Gaston and The Elevator.

Elm City Elevator 2 28 1902 Gaston bicycle stolen

Elm City Elevator, 28 February 1902.

Elm City Elevator 3 21 1902 GA Gaston barber ad

Elm City Elevator, 21 March 1902.

Three weeks apart, the short-lived Elm City Elevator ran two short pieces featuring George A. Gaston. One is straightforward and factual. The second, purportedly authored by Gaston himself, is condescending and replete with stereotypes.

In the 1880 census of Town of Toisnot, Wilson County: George Gaston, 23, barber, is listed by himself.

In the 1900 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Pender Street, barber and plasterer George W. Gaston, 44, wife Cilla, 44, a cook; and children Rosco, 18, bricklayer; John, 16, common laborer; Georgia, 15, cook; Addar, 12, nurse; Nina, 11, nurse; Mancy, 6; Lacy, 6; Augustas, 6; Boston, 1; and Dewey, 6 months.

In the 1910 census of Town of Elm City, Wilson County: on Wilson Street, barber George Gaston, 55, wife Priscilla, 53; and children Roscoe, 28, barber; John, 26, barber; Georgie, 25; Ada, 23, teacher; Nina, 21; Mancie, 17; Augustus, 16; Flossy, 16; Boisy, 14; Dewey, 9; and Lee J. Gaston, 7.

In the 1920 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: widowed farmer George Gaston, 69, and children [and grandchildren] Ada, 33, Nina, 31, August, 27, George J., 6, Lucile, 2, and Ernest, 9 months. (Also, in Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Garfield Perkins, 36; wife Laura, 36; children Ethel, 15, and G. William, 12; and boarder P. Ada Gaston, 34, a teacher.

In the 1930 census of Elm City town, Toisnot township, next door to Dewey Gaston, 30, barber, and family, barbershop proprietor George Gaston, 72, and daughter Ada, a teacher, 43.

A contract to throw out marl.

C Bone re Jourdin Artis

Black creek NC May the 20 1867

Bureau of Refugees Freedmen

Dear, sir your dispatch just come to hand last night after dark, the post master sais it never reached hear until saturday last. Jourdin Artis took a contract of digin 26,000 bushels of marl sometime last summer & comenced but did not threw out half the quantity he engage to throw out & become in debt & quit the Job & has now called on me for asettement yet neither I have not Sean him since about that time I should of gone to your office to day but I am so very busy in my farm. I am wating to hear from you & do as you advise.           Yrs Verry, Respectfully.  Calvin Bone


Forty year-old white farmer Calvin Bone headed a household in the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County. (He also appeared in the slave schedule as the owner of one black woman, aged 36.) There were two Jordan Artises listed in censuses of communities near Black Creek in 1860: (1) in the census of Buck Swamp township, Wayne County, 30 year-old Jordan Artis is listed in the household of his parents Vinson and Clarky Artis, (2) in the census of Saulston township, Wayne County, 27 year-old Jordan Artis in the household of his mother Olive Artis.

“Marl” is a loose or crumbling earthy deposit (as of sand, silt, or clay) that contains a substantial amount of calcium carbonate, i.e. lime. It was commonly used a fertilizer.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Assistant Commissioner Records 1862-1870,

Beautifully located, high and healthy.


The Colored American, 28 December 1901.

Whitesboro, New Jersey, was founded about 1901 by the Equitable Industrial Association, whose prominent black American investors included poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, educator Booker T. Washington, Wilson educator and businessman Samuel H. Vick, and George Henry White, the leading investor and the town’s namesake. White, an attorney, had moved to Philadelphia after serving as the last black Republican congressman representing North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. His realty company, advertised above, sold the land on which Whitesboro was developed to E.I.A. White and his fellow entrepreneurs wanted to create a self-reliant community for blacks, free from the discrimination they faced the southern states. Shares in the planned community were sold to African Americans from North and South Carolina and Virginia.

Whitesboro history adapted from “Whitesboro, New Jersey,”