Month: May 2017

Josephine Artis Sherrod.

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Josephine Artis Sherrod (1887-1988).

Josephine Artis Sherrod, a sister of Columbus E. Artis and June S. Artis, was matriarch of a tight-knit family centered on two blocks of East Viola Street described within the family as Sherrod Village.

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In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County:  Adam Artice, 68, a widowed farmer,  with children Louetta, 18, Robert, 16, Columbus, 14, Josephfene, 13, Jun S., 10, Lillie B., 9, Henry B., 6, Annie, 3, Walter, 26, and William Artis, 24. [Josephine’s mother was Amanda Aldridge Artis, who died in 1899.]

On 16 April 1907, Solomon Sherard, 28, son of Dempsey and Harriett Sherard, married Josephine Artis, 20, daughter of Adam and Amanda Artis at A.T. Artis’ in Nahunta township, Wayne County. J.H.W. Sherard of Pikeville, J.B. Best of Saulston, and Louis Sherard of Pikeville were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Solomon Sherard with wife Josephene and children Allena and Jarva, plus cousin Walter Smith.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Elm City Road, farmer Solomon Sherrod, 41; wife Josephine, 32; and children Alena, 11, Jarvis, 10; Doretta, 8; Dock, 6; B. Minnie, 4; and Solomon, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Harpers Road, farmer Soloman Sheard, 50; wife Josephine, 42; and children Javis, 20, Doretta, 18, Linton O., 16, Minnie B., 13, Solomon, 11, Flora, 3, Bulah, 3, and Elmore, 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 802 Viola Street, Solomon Shearard, 60; wife Josephine, 52; and children Flora, 15, Beulah, 13, Elmer, 11, and Solomon, 21; plus “son’s wife” Mildred, 18, and grandson Ernest E., 8 months.

Solomon Shearard died 6 February 1948. Per his death certificate, he resided at 802 East Viola Street; was married to Josephine Shearard; and was born 21 October 1878 in Wayne County, to Dempsy Shearard and Harriett Hill, both of Wayne County.  Informant was Josephine Shearard, 802 East Viola.

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 Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1988.

Photographs by Winstead of Wilson.

These five photographs were taken at Francis M. Winstead’s studio in Wilson, most likely in the early 1890s. They are part of a trove of cartes de visite of African-Americans assembled by S.J. Reidhead, who graciously shared them with me. The images appear to have been part of one family’s collection, but I have been able to identify only a few of the subjects.

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On the reverse: “Compliments of Rev & Mrs L.J. Melton to Mr & Mrs G.T. Foster.” These are likely two of the Melton children.

  • Leavy J. Melton — Presbyterian minister Leavy J. Melton arrived in Wilson about 1891 and remained for seven years. In the 1900 census of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: minister L.J. Melton, 36; wife Rebeca, 29; and children Marion, 6, Hally, 4, Onna Bell, 2, and Robert J., 1.
  • Rebecca Canty Melton
  • Grant T. Foster — Grant T. Foster, 22, married Alice M. Daniel, 22, in Oxford, Granville County, North Carolina, on 19 May 1886. The couple apparently moved to Wilson within the next few years, and Alice Foster is likely the Mrs. who received the photo. On 11 June 1900, presumably after Alice’s death, Grant T. Foster, 27, of Oxford, North Carolina, married Maggie Ransom, 27, of Wilson, daughter of Annie Horne, in Emporia, Virginia.

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Based on his photo in A.B. Caldwell’s History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (see link above), I am fairly sure this depicts a young Rev. Melton.

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Are these African-American children? The children of a white friend of the Meltons in Wilson? The former seems more likely.

Killed in sawmill.

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Fayetteville Observer, 26 October 1921.

Probably, in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Moyetown Road, tenant farmer Elijah Ward, 34; his wife Florance, 26; farm laborer Hillery Wootten, 26, servant; farm laborer Robert Speight, 35, servant; his brother James Ward, 19, and sister Sarah Ward, 16.

“Standing by your old ni**er, are you?”

b Woodard 1 31 1908

News & Observer (Raleigh), 31 January 1908.

This nasty bit of “news” is a sample of the gratuitous racism that permeated Josephus DanielsNews & Observer in the Jim Crow era. Daniels had grown up in and gotten his journalistic start in Wilson and undoubtedly knew all the involved parties well.

Benjamin Woodard, a notorious folk doctor in Wilson County, had been arrested on unclear charges (probably involving bootlegging liquor) and hauled into federal court in Raleigh. Several notable white Wilsonians showed up to serve as counsel and character witnesses, including brothers and law partners Frederick A. Woodard (a former United States Congressman) and Sidney A. Woodard (a state congressman). The Woodards were described as Ben Woodard’s former owners, though F.A. had been a child and S.A. an infant at war’s end. Ben’s owner, then, had been their father, Dr. Stephen Woodard of Black Creek, Wilson County. F.A. requested a nolle prosequi (“nol. pros.”), which is odd, as this is generally a motion made by a prosecutor who wishes to drop charges. The District Attorney here politely indicated his unwillingness to make such a request, but the judge cheerfully entered it anyway. Thus Dr. Ben benefitted from ties forged in slavery and earned an insulting article in the state’s newspaper of record.

312 Finch Street.

The twenty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “1941; 1 ½ stories; Benjamin Harris house; brick-veneered Tudor Revival dwelling built by Harris for his home; Harris was a brick mason; fine example of this style in district.”

This home has been continuously occupied by the family since its construction. For more about Benjamin A. Harris Sr., see here.

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2017.

Nettie Elizabeth Horne Barnes.

Nettie E. Barnes

Nettie Elizabeth Horne Barnes.

Nettie Elizabeth Barnes, 104, of Wilson County, died Monday, May 15, 2017. Funeral services will be held noon Saturday at St. James Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. A wake will be held 11 a.m.-noon Saturday, prior to the funeral at St. James Christian Church. A public viewing will be 3-6 p.m. at Stevens Funeral Home. Mrs. Barnes is survived by six sons, Levi Barnes Jr. of East Orange, New Jersey, Willie Earl Barnes of Hillside, New Jersey, David Barnes of Walstonburg, Lawrence Barnes of Hampton, Virginia, William Barnes of Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando Barnes of Lanham, Maryland; one adopted son, Carson Fields of Wilson; two daughters, Mary Woodard of Bowie, Maryland and Evelyn Shirl Clegg of Raleigh. Arrangements are by Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

Wilson Times, 17 May 2017.

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In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on an improved dirt road, Levi Barnes, 20; wife Elizabeth, 18; and daughter Nora, 1; plus Levi’s brothers Jessie, 22, and Joe H. Barnes, 21, and relative Arnold Barnes, 18.

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Levi Barnes, 30; wife Elizabeth, 27; and children Nora Mae, 11, Vernistine, 9, Levi Jr., 7, Eula Sue, 5, James M., 3, and Willie E., 1; plus brother-in-law Wesley Beaman, 32, and sister Ethelene, 28.

He was successful in every business he started.


Herbert Woodard Sr., age 100.

Herbert Woodard Sr., 100, of 1735 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, died peacefully on Saturday, June 21, 2008, at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Greenville. Herbert, son of the late James and Nancy Woodard, was born July 4, 1907, in Wilson County. Herbert was reared in Wilson County, where he attended the public schools. Though he never went beyond the 4th grade, what he lacked in education, he gained in common sense and wisdom. In the 100 years he lived, “Herb,” as he was affectionately called by friends, saw a lot of changes in this nation — from the rise of the age of television to the possibility of a black man becoming the president of these United States. He started working at the age of 13 to provide financial stability, not only for his family, but for others as well. Always self-employed, this magnate’s business ventures were successful whether selling coal and fish or by hauling water to men working at the now defunct Hackney Wagon Company. He cleaned septic tanks by day and ran a “Night Club” at night. He was the only black man to own and operate a motel in Wilson. It can be truthfully said that he was successful in every business he started. In celebration of Herbert’s 100th birthday, Mayor Bruce Rose presented him the key to the City of Wilson. Surviving to cherish fond memories are his wife, Mrs. Georgia Battle Woodard, of the home; two daughters, Georgie W. Hobbs of Hillside, N.J. and Annie Miller Woodard of Wilson; three sons, Ralph Woodard of Yonkers, N.Y., Herbert Woodard Jr., and David Woodard, both of Wilson; 13 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and other relatives and friends. Funeral services for Mr. Woodard will be conducted Friday, June 27, 2008, at 1 p.m. at St. Rose Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, 605 S. Douglas St., Wilson. Bishop M.W. Johnson will officiate. Burial will follow in the Rest Haven Cemetery. The family will receive visitors and friends at a wake on Thursday, June 26, 2008, from 7-8 p.m. at the Hamilton Funeral Chapel, 726 S. Tarboro St., Wilson, and at other times at the residence.

Wilson Times, 25 June 2008.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nancy Woodard, 33, widow, and children Lizzie, 14, Mamie, 11, Hubbard [Herbert], 4, and David, 2. [In fact, Nancy Woodard was divorced.]

On 13 February 1924, Herbert Woodard, 21, son of London and Nancy Woodard, married Mary Jones, 18, daughter of Tom and Mary Jones. Dock Barnes [husband of Herbert’s half-sister Lizzie Woodard Barnes] applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister John A. Barnes performed the ceremony at the bride’s home. Witnesses were Walter Barnes, Roosevelt Lipscomb, and David Downey.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Herbert Woodard, 32, self-employed manager of filling station restaurant; wife Lucille, 28; and lodger Jimmy Long, 24, tire repairer at filling station.

In 1940, Herbert Woodard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. His card noted that he was self-employed:

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Woodard’s original filling station-cum-grocery store, built in 1935.

Jesse “Buster” Forte Jr. in front of a later version of the business.

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Woodard’s Motel, at left, and the Herbert Woodard home today. At the time of construction, they were at the far outskirts of east Wilson where Nash Street became Highway 264. Image courtesy Google Maps.

On 9 February 2008, just months before his death, The Wilson Daily Times printed a full-page story on Herbert Woodard in its Life/Feature section. His story is told largely in his own words and those of his children, and all the photos above, except the last, were reprinted from that article.

Bell hops at the Hotel Cherry.

In 1991, front desk clerk turned newspaper man Roy G. Taylor (1918-1995) self-published a memoir of his years working in Wilson. Though tinged with the casual racism of the time, My City, My Home offers fascinating glimpses of Wilson in the World War II era.

“Anyway, [hotel owner J.T. Barnes] had a suite on the mezzanine floor, 221 and 223. And Jesse Knight was his personal servant and also a bell hop. Lessie, Jesse’s wife, had worked for the Barnes family.” p. 9

“The roster of bell hops at the Cherry in the 1940s included Jesse Knight, whom I mentioned earlier; Ruel Bullock; Henry Potter, Robert Haskins, Clarence Holly, Fred Artis, Peacock (the only name he was called by), Louis Hines and “Rent” Gay, Uncle Charlie’s son. Uncle Charlie was old and had a stiff leg and he went around with a feather mop, dusting off things, and he loved whisky better than most men love women.

“… Henry was a large man and rather lazy acting. When he wasn’t busy he would sit in the lobby in a rather slouchy position, but jumped up hurriedly when the bell sounded. And he was the best one about going for the mail. But I’d have to say Henry was the ‘densest’ one of the crowd.

“Ruel was of light skin, and a rather handsome man. He was a family man and had 10 children. He worked during the day, as did Henry.

“Robert was dark-skinned and a rather tall, large man and he was a little more serious than most of the men. Robert worked mostly the day shift also but would work at night if it became necessary.

“Clarence was a night man. And talk about sly! He was something else. Of course, all the boys were sly, although all of them were always courteous to the desk people and all were ready to do whatever was asked of them. I never remember any of the bell hops being disrespectfuil while I was there.

“Fred Artis was a tall, thin man and he could swing from day to night duty. And Fred is still around. He is employed by the Arts Council of Wilson.

“Peacock always worked nights. He was the head night man. Peacock was nice too, and he looked after the guests. But he was a sly one too.

“Louis was a tall, well-built man that had a lot of charisma. ‘Rent’ was also thin and tall and very neat in appearance and as I recall, he worked mostly at night also.” pp. 29-30

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  • Jesse Knight — Jessie Knight was an Edgecombe County native. When he registered for the World War II draft, he listed his employer as J.T. Barnes.

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  • Lessie Knight — Lessie Locus Knight.
  • Ruel Bullock — Ruel Bulluck was an Edgecombe County native. He married Louise Missouri Jones, daughter of Charles T. and Gertrude Johnson Jones, on 10 December 1930 in Wilson. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35, a hotel bellboy; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.

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  • Henry Potter — John Henry Potter was a native of Aurora, Beaufort County. In the 1925 city directory, Henry Potter, bellman, is listed at 719 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1210 Atlanta [Atlantic] Street, hotel bellboy John Potter, 40; wife Ruth, 28; and daughter Ruth, 9 months.
  • Robert Haskins — Robert Douglas Haskins was the son of Robert and Gertrude Haskins. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Clarence Holly — Clarence Virgo Holley was a Bertie County native. He registered for the World War II in 1940 in Wilson. Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.

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  • Fred Artis — Probably Fred Artis Jr., who was the son of Fred and Mattie Lewis Artis.
  • “Peacock” — Levi Harry Peacock was the son of Levi H. and Hannah Polk Peacock. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick Street, hotel bellboy Levi Peacock, 30; wife Elouise, 28, a public school teacher; children Jewel D., 4, and Thomas L., 14; and mother-in-law Etta Reaves, 50, post office maid.

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  • Louis Hines — Probably Louis Hines Jr. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba Street, Eva Hines, 50, household servant; son Charlie, 21, yard boy; and daughter Henrietta, 13, shared a household with Louis Hines Jr., 21, whiskey storage loader; wife Dolly M., 19, tobacco stemmer; and daughter Martha L., 6 months.
  • “Rent” Gay — Edgar Reynold Gay was the son of Charles B. and Ella Tate Gay.

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[Sidenote: perhaps someone can clarify what “sly” meant in the usage of the day? — LYH]

Early undertakers.

C.H. Darden & Sons is credited as the first African-American undertaking establishment in Wilson. In the first quarter of the 20th century, however, a few others managed to establish a toehold in the funeral business, which was rapidly professionalizing. During this era, most African-Americans in the county still turned to family members or hardware stores to bury their dead, but in town trained undertakers increasingly vied for business.

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In the 1908 Wilson city directory, C.H. Darden & Son is the sole black funeral business listed. This early start laid a foundation for their dominance of the trade for decades.

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In the 1915 Wilson city directory, Darden was joined by Columbus E. Artis, who was described as an undertaker, though it’s not clear for whom he worked or if he owned his own business at that time.

This 1918 death certificate for Joshua Barnes lists A. Batts as undertaker:

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In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1000 Nash Street, undertaker Amos Batts, 48; wife Jennie, 38, and children Eddie, 16, Joseph, 9, Olive, 6, and Josephean, 4.

Three years later, the death certificate of Stephen Simms lists Batts Brothers & Artis as undertakers. Presumably, Amos Batts was one of the Batts brothers who joined forces with C.E. Artis for a short stretch. I have not been able to identify the other Batts brother.

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Rivalries between the young businesses sometimes took terrible turns.

The 1925 Wilson city directory carries entries for ARTIS & FLANAGAN (C E Artis, W E Flanagan) funeral directors 563 E Nash — phone 1183 and DARDEN C H & SONS (C H, C L & A N), funeral directors 608-610 E Nash — phone 60. (Walter E. Flanagan lived in Greenville, North Carolina.) Gussie Mae Blackman‘s burial was handled by Artis & Flanagan:

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The Darden sons were Camillus L. Darden and Arthur N. Darden. They and their father dominated the black funeral business in Wilson in this decade, and began making inroads into townships outside the town.

Amos Batts was still in Wilson in 1925, but was listed in the directory without an occupation (other than lodge officer.)  Nonetheless, Batts Brothers continued to handle burials, as shown on Sarah Batts‘ January 1925 death certificate.

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In the 1928 city directory, Batts is again listed as an undertaker.

C.E. Artis was in business by himself by 1928. In addition to his work in Wilson, he performed considerable services in neighboring Wayne County, especially in and around Eureka, where he was born.

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Darden and Artis were the leading black undertaking establishments in Wilson through the middle of the century, when they were joined by Edwards Funeral Home and a branch of the Goldsboro-based Hamilton Funeral Home.