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. [Part one here; part two here]:
There is a large number of outstanding Negro families in the community that carry considerable prestige. One who makes a study here will of necessity come into contact with the families of Edward Johnson and Sam Thomas, southeast of Elm City, the late J.H. Davis, near Town Creek, John Green and Frank Colson, near Pridgin’s Corner, Walter Storage of Elm City, and probably a few others.The personalities and activities of these families are everywhere evident in the life of the community.
Edward Johnson, who heads the Johnson family, was for a long time prominent in the affairs of the community. At one time he was a stockholder in the now defunct Negro bank of Wilson, in which he represented his section of the county. When the bank was declared insolvent, he was said to have lost heavily in it. At any rate, whether this is true or not, when his home was damaged severely by fire some years later, he was so hard pressed for money that he was unable to repair it, and was forced to spend many of his later years living in a remodeled tobacco pack house on his farm. In time he finally abandoned this and ceased living in the section altogether.
His two sons have been a real credit to the family. Both have acquired property, have become prominent in church, civic and school affairs, have reared fine families, and have sent sons and daughters to college. They are members of the Wilson chapter of the American Legion, and are regular cooperators in demonstrations sponsored by the State Extension Service. One of these sons married the neighborhood school teacher, who subsequently retired to their farm, on which they have one of the better homes of the community. From these facts, this particular Johnson boy takes on an added degree of prestige.
Now this former school-teacher-wife takes a very active part in her neighborhood Home Demonstration Club, where her education easily makes her the outstanding woman. She has been secretary and president of the club, local representative to the State Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs, and has held a number of other important offices. Her position in the Home Demonstration set-up of the county is frequently the cause of jealousies in different groups.
On the other side of this neighborhood, about four or five miles from the Johnsons, lives the family of John Green. John is content to let his ambitious wife Betty represent the family; and this she does adequately. No one ever hears anything about him; but she is active in everything. She is an excellent worker, but she talks too much. Her ambition for a high place in the Home Demonstration Club organization often brings her into sharp competition with Mrs. Johnson. Although she is unable to overcome the education and other influence of Mrs.Johnson, the constant state of rivalry between them at times can be seen to be detrimental to some of the work of the organization. Each woman tries to have the meetings of the club held on “her side” of the neighborhood, and at “her time” or to have women from her side of the neighborhood placed on committees, or in other prominent places int he program of the organization.
Elen Storage, wife of Walter Storage, also completely overshadows her husband. Her activities are centered chiefly in the church, the Parent Teacher Association, the Sunday School and Missionary Circle. She can be definitely depended upon to visit the sick, and minister to their needs. For many years she was president of the local Parent Teacher Association, and as a leader, she hardly has a peer in the community.
The family of the late J.H. Davis, an older settler, is no longer of much influence in the community. This is a case where the total value of the family was inherent in the person of its head. He died about seven years ago, and by this time, practically all the property which he had accumulated has slipped away from the heirs; so tyhere is little left except the family name, and tyhe memory of what “old J.H.” himself used to do. When one passes through the community, the natives will point out the house and tell the story of “old J.H.” farmer, landowner, bank stickholder, fraternal man, Christian, gentleman!
Frank Colson, a preacher, who lives in the community, is also a landholder of considerable scope, because of being a preacher. While he does not have a church at which he ministers, he takes considerable prestige because of the prefession which he represents. His activities include participation in the program of the State Extension Service, civic and school work, and politics on a small scale.
These families, and probably a few others which have not been given consideration here, constitute some of the main ones of this community. Regardless of how they may appear from this brief account, they are the ones that have to be taken into account when there is something to be done in the community. Their personal skirmishes do not prevent them from being important in executing many worthwhile projects of lasting benefit in this community.
[It appears that the names Spellman used in this account were aliases.]