RANAWAY FROM THE SUBSCRIBER, last February, Willie, a bright mulatto about 30 years old, about five feet, six inches high, wore when he ran away long platted hair; by trade a cooper, has a wife in the Georgetown district, (S.C.); has a down look when spoken to, he is supposed to be now lurking about Wm. or Jonathan Ellis’ near Stantonsburg where he has relatives. The negro belongs to Miss Cynthia A. Ellis. All persons black or white are hereby forewarned under penalty of law, not to harbor said negro. ROB’T. BYNUM, Ag’t.
On the Freedmen’s Bureau “court day” in Wilson County:
Colonel Eliphalet Whittlesey, the Freedmen’s Bureau’s first assistant commissioner for North Carolina, appended to his Congressional testimony an unattributed article from the 3 February 1866 edition of the New York Tribune, in which the writer chronicled his train voyage through the South. Found in The Reports of the Committees of the House of Representatives, Made During the First Session Thirty-Ninth, 1865-’66.
Page 14, Wilson, North Carolina, Sanborn map, 1908.
The intersection of East Nash, Pender Street and Stantonsburg Road. (Jane Street down there is now Ashe.) First Baptist’s church was two years away, but an early version of the Saint John A.M.E. Zion building was in place. The Darden Funeral Home building had a bicycle shop and general repair shop on the first floor, the undertaking business on the second, and lodge quarters on the third. In 1908, the main commercial strip of black Wilson — the 500 block of East Nash — was still primarily residential, but the map does show several general stores (540, 552, 565), a barbershop (528), two cobblers (525 and 526), a drugstore (538), and the Hotel Union (532-534) in place. An adjoining map (page 8), which depicts Nash Street from the railroad east, shows at 500-502, a general store; 504, barber; 508, tailor; 514, pool room; 516, bike shop and fishmonger; and 518, meat market.
The 1908 edition of Hill’s Wilson city directory identifies the block’s shopkeepers and business owners. (African-Americans are indicated by an *):
In the 1910 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: farmer Vandorne Hinnant, 48, wife Betsy J., 47, and children Ezekiel, 22, Billie, 19, Willie, 13, Oscar, 12, Luther, 10, Regest W., 9, Roland, 8, Ralon, 6, Ollion, 4, and Roy E., 2.
In the 1920 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: farmer Van H. Hinnant, 59, wife Mary, 45, and children Wyatt, 20, Rowland, 17, Ollie, 14, Juniper, 12, and Roy E., 8. Next door, son Ezekiel Hinnant, 32, his wife Annie L., 24, and children Bessie, 3, and Irene, 1 and a half.
On 15 December 1921, Wyatt Hinnant, 21, son of Vando and Jane Hinnant, married Mattie Austin, 18, daughter of Lazarus and Annie Austin, in Johnston County.
Van Dorn Hinnant, son of Joe and Rhoda Hinnant, died 28 January 1924 in Spring Hill township. He was 62 years old.
WILSON, N.C., Feb. 3 — Sidney Ingram of this city, was nabbed by Federal Agents Friday after writing protest letters to the Presidents of the Norfolk, Southern and Seaboard Airline railways over Jim Crow treatment while traveling.
He told operatives he bought a ticket from Wilson to Bailey, was told to get on Greenville train, then put off mile from Wilson station. His letters signed “David Ingram.” Not threatening but asked aid in getting “just calls” from railroad. Ingram was released after investigation.
Two years later, Sidney Ingram was counted in the 1940 census among the “inmates” housed at the notorious Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum for Negroes.
1940 census, Fork township, Wayne County, North Carolina.
He spent the remainder of his life institutionalized and died at the state hospital in 1954. His death certificate notes that he was a New Jersey native, that he was married, that his usual residence was Wilson County, and that he had been at the asylum for 15 years, three months and 16 days. He died of bladder cancer and “insanity,” and his body was sent “to Chapel Hill to be used by Anatomical Board.”
Thus passed one of Wilson’s earliest civil rights activists.
If you are interested in the world of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum, please read Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner’s Unspeakable, the story of Junius Wilson (1908-2001), a deaf African-American man who spent 76 years there, including six in the criminal ward, though he had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge.
This surprising entry appears in the 1896 edition of Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. It is by far the earliest reference to an African-American lawyer in the town of Wilson. In an article in the 27 June 1894 of the Wilson Mirror concerning a meeting of the county’s Republicans to elect delegates to the Second Congressional District Convention. John Renfrow chaired the meeting, W.H. Vick was elected secretary pro tem, B.R. Winstead was elected chairman, and S.A. Smith, secretary. Delegates were Winstead and Gray Newsome.
The same year that the city directory named Smith as a lawyer, the Wilson Times announced his selection as principal of the Colored Graded School, replacing his political ally Winstead.
Wilson Times, 29 May 1896.
A year later, on 27 May 1897, the widowed Mary Jane Bass Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Saint John A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway.
Smith also edited the first, and perhaps only, African-American newspaper published in Wilson, the Blade. One known edition, from 20 November 1897, survives. Under “Church Directory,” Smith is named as a superintendent of Saint John A.M.E. Zion.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: iron foundry worker Samuel Smith, 28, his wife Anna, 19, and brother Simeon, 23, school teacher.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Simeon A. Smith, born 1849; his wife Minnie E., born 1865, also a teacher; and their son [sic] Georgie, 3, all natives of North Carolina. The family was listed in close proximity to Wyatt Studaway, John Gaston, and Sandy Henderson, and probably lived on Manchester Street. They left Wilson soon after.
In the 1910 census of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County: at 518 Seventh Street, Simeon A. Smith, 49, wife Minnie E., 45, and daughter Georgie V. Smith, 13. Simeon was described as a professor at a graded school, and Minnie as teacher.
Minnie E. Smith died 16 September 1933 in Winston-Salem at the age of 56. Her occupation was school teacher, and she was described as a widow. The birthplaces of her parents, Will and Amie Joyner, is described only as “N.C.,” but the surname suggests Wilson County. Daughter Georgie V. Reid was informant.
I have not found Simeon Smith in early censuses, university records, marriage records or death records.
John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger’s Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation includes a detailed discussion of “negro dogs” and their widespread use in the antebellum South. The chapter begins: “One of the most widespread methods of tracking runaways was to use highly trained so-called ‘negro dogs.’ Frederick Law Olmsted observed that no particular breed was used in the hunt — bloodhounds, foxhounds, bulldogs, Scotch staghounds, curs — but slave hunters and planters had a method of training each breed to be effective. The dogs were locked and ‘never allowed to see a negro except while training to catch him.’ They were given the scent of a black man or woman’s show or article of clothing and taught to follow the scent. Slaves were sent out as trainees, and when the dogs treed them, they were given meat as a reward. ‘Afterwards they learn to follow any particular negro by scent.'”
J.W. Hamlet and Jacob D. Farmer had illustrious company. President Zachary Taylor was a renowned importer of bloodhounds from the Caribbean, fearsome dogs who would tear a man to pieces if not constrained. John William Hamlet, born about 1823, was a Virginia native. He appears in the 1850 census of Edgecombe County as a poor farmer owning little or nothing, but the next decade saw his fortunes soar. Negro-hunting was good business. Hamlet is listed in the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County, as the owner of $4500 in real property and $4800 in personal property (primarily, one can assume, in the form of slaves and dogs.) Curiously, his occupation is not listed. Nor is that of his business partner, Jacob D. Farmer, who enjoyed a similar rise in circumstances from a penniless laborer in 1850 to the owner of sizeable real and personal estates in 1860.
Though the census enumerator may have been exercising discretion, Hamlet was notorious for his derring-do as a slave tracker. In October 1859, a local newspaper published a spine-tingling account of his standoff with three cornered runaways in neighboring Nash County. If the report is be believed literally, only Hamlet emerged from this do-or-die fray unbloodied.
Tarborough Southerner, 15 October 1859.
Others were less enchanted by Hamlet’s exploits. On 6 June 1860, Honorable Charles H. Van Wyck of New York delivered his “Despotism of Slavery” speech on the House floor. In his spirited response to Southerners’ defense of slavery as a human and elevating institution, Van Wyck called “a few facts” to their attention, including the burning slaves at the stake, the branding of slaves, and the common practice of splitting families on the auction block. If slavery is so “godlike and divine,” he thundered, why do slaves run away? Why the need for ads like this one?:
“Catch him! catch him! But how can you catch him, unless you have along the well-trained pack of negro dogs owned by J. W. Hamlet. This pack consists of five blood-hounds and two catch-dogs, which are very sagacious, and which, once on the trail, will be very apt to start the game.
“The subscriber having prepared himself, with considerable trouble and expense, for this line of business, is ready at any time to undertake the capture of fugitive slaves, in this or any of the adjoining counties or States.
“His rates will be found reasonable; and he is confident that his past success will justify others in employing him. Among many other names which could be given, if necessary, he begs leave to refer to the following: B. H. Bordon, Esq., Wilson; Junius Daniel, Esq., Halifax; R. D. Atkinson, Esq., Smithfield; John Lemon and James Winfield, Esq., of Nash. — J.W. Hamlet, Wilson, North Carolina.”
After a series of such speeches in 1860, on February 22, 1861, three men attempted to assassinate Van Wyck near the Capital building. The Congressman fought off the attack, surviving only because a book and congressional records tucked into the breast pocket of his coat blocked the blade of a Bowie knife. His assailants fled and were never identified.
Van Wyck’s speech reported in 29 Cong. Globe Appx. 434-439, 36th Cong., 1st Sess. Image from Franklin and Schweninger, Runaway Slaves.
Asa “Acey” Locus (1860-1858) was the son of Martin and Eliza Brantley Locus. Kenyon “Kennie” Eatman was the brother of Acey’s wife Annie. Their parents were WilmouthEatman and Hackney High. The Eatman family and Locus families lived in western Wilson County in Old Fields and Taylor townships.
I have been unable to identify the Harrises or Jude Strickland.