First-generation freedom, pt. 3.

The third in a series of annotated abstracts of Wilson County death certificates of African-Americans born before 1870, the cusp of slavery and freedom. The records are a trove of information about otherwise obscure family relationships among enslaved and free people of color and shed light on intra- and interstate migration patterns in the decades after Emancipation.

Atkinson, Archie. Born 1849, Wilson County. Died 1 December 1931, Spring Hill township. Chronic endocarditis. Father, Rite Atkinson, Wilson County. Farmer. Widower of Martha Atkinson. Buried Atkinson cemetery. Informant, James Williamson. [In the 1880 census of Wilson, Arch Atkinson, 24, wife Martha, 16, and niece Flora F., 13.]

Atkinson, Chas. Born 1865, Gardners township. Died 23 October 1915, Gardners township. Tuberculosis of lungs. Father, Harry Atkinson, Wilson County. Mother, Sophia Bridgers, Wilson County. Married. Farmer. Buried at home. Informant, H.R. Forbes, Macclesfield. [Charles Atkinson, 23, son of Harry and Sophia Atkinson, married Rosella Suggs, 21, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Calvin and Nancy Suggs, on 27 August 1891 in Gardners township.]

Atkinson, Frances. Born about 1856, North Carolina. Died 23 September 1916, Spring Hill township. Paralysis due to cerebral hemorrhage. Father, Thomas Shaw. Mother, Katie Shaw. Married. Buried Barnes graveyard. Informant, S.T. Atkinson, Kenly. [In the 1870 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Shaw, 26, wife Katy, 37, and children Frances, 16, Eliza, 14, Fox, 12, David, 11, Martha, 4, and Mary Shaw, 2. On 8 August 1872, Nathan Atkinson married Frances Shaw in Wilson County.]

Atkinson, Jane. Born 1849, Wilson County. Died 3 February 1929, Black Creek township. Cerebral hemorrhage. Father, Benjamin Newsome, Wilson County. Mother, Pennie Newsome, Wilson County. Farmer. Widow of John Atkinson. Buried, Farrell cemetery. Informant, James Gray Atkinson, Black Creek. [On 3 April 1869, James Atkinson, son of James and Rillie Atkinson, married Jane Newsome, daughter of Ben and Etney Newsome, in District 3, Wilson County.]

Atkinson, John. Born 1863, Harnett County. Died 15 May 1931, Elm City. Emphysema following influenza and pneumonia. Father, Hays Atkinson. Mother, Annie Atkinson, Harnett County. Married. Watchman, ACL Railroad crossing. Buried Elm City. Informant, Priscilla Atkinson, Elm City.

Atkinson, Martha May. Born 1866, Spring Hill township. Died 1 November 1931, Spring Hill township. Acute indigestion. Father, Thomas Shaw. Mother, Katie Shaw. Husband, Archibald Atkinson. Buried at homeplace. Informant, James Atkinson, Lucama. [See Frances Atkinson, above. On 29 February 1880, Arch Atkinson, 22, married Martha Shaw, 19, at Caty Shaw’s. Witnesses were Amos Hinnant, Willis Taylor and Frank Adams.]

Atkinson, Parry. Born 1845, Pitt County. Died 26 July 1928, Wilson Colored Hospital, Wilson. Gangrene of foot. Father, Edmond Gorham, Pitt County. Mother, Harriett Gorham, Pitt County. Widower of Smithie Atkinson. Common laborer. Buried Marshboro cemetery, Pitt County. Informant, John Atkinson. [Resident of Farmville, Pitt County.]

Atkinson, Susan. Born 15 March 1854, North Carolina. Died 3 June 1919, Spring Hill township. “Acute dilitation of heart.” Father, Isaac Barnes, North Carolina. Mother, Abbie Barnes, North Carolina. Widow. Informant, Tom Atkinson, Kenly.

Austin, Ephriam. Born 1853, Warren County. Died 18 October 1918, Wilson. Apoplexy. Father, James Austin. Railroad worker, ACL. Resided 702 Railroad Street, Wilson. Wife Alice Austin. Buried Norlina, North Carolina. Informant, James Austin, Wilson.

Avery, Henry. Born 1857, Wake County. Died 30 October 1926, Wilson. “Hypertrophied prostate with retention of urine, several months duration.” Mother, Mima Smith, Wake County. Farmer. Wife, Lula Avery. Buried, Jones Hill cemetery. Informant, Lula Avery.

Aycock, Louisa. Born 1860, Edgecombe County. Died 18 March 1935, Wilson. Father, Ned Proctor, Edgecombe County. Mother, Celia Williford, Edgecombe County. Widow of David Aycock. Resided 411 Jones Street, Wilson. Informant, Lena Rodgers, Rocky Mount.

Ayers, Council. Born December 1830. Died 1 December 1915, Spring Hill township. Father, Sampson Ayers. Farmer. Widower. Buried Boyette, North Carolina. Informant, William Ayers, Lucama. [In the 1850 census of District 3, Johnston County: Council, 11, and Henry Ayers, 9, in the household of merchant James Paulk. On 30 April 1866, Council Ayers married Mary Carroll in Johnston County. In the 1870 census of Beulah township, Johnston County: Council Ares, 52, wife Mary, 33, and William Smith, 3.]

Ayers, Zilpha. Born April 1863, Wilson County. Died 18 February 1917, Spring Hill township. Mother, Laney Dew, Wilson County. Married. Buried Hinnant graveyard. Informant, William Ayers, Lucama. [In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Simon Dew, 55, wife Lithy, 48, children Laney, 27, Peter, 23, Lucy, 23, Deannah, 21, Isaih, 20, Hilliard, 18, Hester, 16, Aarch, 14, Liscy, 12, Patience, 10, Sarah, 8, and Simon, 6, and grandchildren Zilpha, 13, Roxie A., 3, and William, 1.]


  1. Do you think there is any chance this is the same Mary Ayers, wife of Council, but the cemetery website is listing her birth date as her death date, by chance? Or maybe it’s just another Council Ayers who married a Mary …

    Ayers, Mary (b. 23 Dec 1913 – d. Unknown)
    Wife of Council Ayers
    435 SAINT DELIGHT FREE WILL BAPTIST CHURCH [African-American] [029-L]
    Location – Spring Hill Twp. at the end of a 0.25 mile long dirt road which goes east off of Hwy 581, about 0.2 mile south of US 301.

    Coordinates: 35d 36m 45.7s N; 78d 05m 02.5s W Click here for Online Maps

    Poorly maintained; enclosed by posts with chains.
    275 graves (152 with readable stone or marker).

    Recorders: Gerald Lamm/Joan L. Howell May 27 1993

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