Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1959.
Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1959.
Wilson Daily Times, 5 November 1938.
In the 1880 census of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia: at 518 West Broad, laborer Green Lovett, 28; wife Julia, 30; and children Almus, 5, Mary, 3, and Floyd, 1.
In the 1900 census of Chesapeake District, Elizabeth County, Virginia: at Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Almus A. Lovett, 25, student, born in Georgia.
Third-Year Trade School Students, Catalogue of Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Virginia 1902-1903.
Lovette appears in Savannah city directories between 1904 and 1913 at various addresses and working as blacksmith, post office carrier, and driver. [Which begs the question of which years he taught in Greensboro.]
On 6 July 1908, Almus A. Lovett and Letitia H. Jones, both 33, were married in Savannah, Georgia.
Almus Ashton Lovette registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he resided at 415 Stantonsburg Street; was born 8 April 1876; worked as a horseshoer for G.T. Purvis, 212 Tarboro Street; and his nearest relative was Letitia H. Lovette.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Almus Lovett, 42, blacksmith in shop, and wife Letitia, 43, seamstress.
In the 1930 Wilson city directory: Lovett Almus A (c) (Letitia H) horseshoer Stallings & Riley h 301 N. Vick.
Almus Ashton Lovett died 5 November 1938 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 April 1877 in Sylvania, Georgia to Green Lovett; resided at 301 North Vick Street; was married to Letitia Lovett; and worked as a blacksmith at a repair ship. Letitia Lovett was informant.
On 2 February 1941, Letitia H. Lovett, 57, daughter of Frank and Sarah Jones, married Edwin D. Fisher, 47, son of Edwin W. and Nannie D. Fisher, at Lovett’s home. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the service in the presence of Milton W. Fisher, Mrs. Almina Fisher, Mrs. Rosa E. McCullers, and Mrs. Eva L. Brown.
Letitia Lovette Fisher died 1 November 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 January 1876 in Georgia to Franklin Jones and an unknown mother; had worked as a teacher and seamstress; resided at 301 North Vick; and was married to Edwin D. Fisher, who served as informant.
Patrick M. Valentine’s The Rise of a Southern Town: Wilson, North Carolina, 1849-1920 is an invaluable history of the city’s first seventy years. In a chapter devoted to the blossoming of Wilson’s tobacco market in the 1890s, Valentine details a gun battle in the street between banker and cotton man Alpheus Branch and new tobacco man Calvin Barnes. Nine years later, Barnes was murdered as he rode home in a wagon with his grandsons. Valentine describes the alleged killer, Jonathan [sic] J. Jefferson, as Barnes’ “black overseer” and notes the even-handedness of the law toward Jefferson, whose initial conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court on an evidentiary point and who was later found not guilty.
The decision in State v. Jefferson, 125 N.C. 712 (1899), made no mention of Jefferson’s race. This raised my antennae. Contemporary news accounts also failed to mention that Jefferson was black, though they did describe concerns that he would be lynched. Instead, reports explicitly describe him as “a white renter of Captain Barnes’,” having a “white face,” “pale,” and “slightly pale, but no different from the many other spectators.”
Here is what happened around sunset on 28 December 1899. First, the setting: “This road is known as the New Road and comes into Wilson from Barefoot’s Mill and enters the city at the old circus grounds. About a quarter of a mile from the city limits is a small stream — Hominy Swamp — and just beyond this is a steep hill descending to the swamp. The steepness of this hill has necessitated its being cut down so that the road is in a cut, the banks on each side rising about eight feet. At the left side of the road at this hill the woods comes up to a small bluff overlooking the road. About half way down the hill in this woods a fence corners and runs at right angles with the road and parallel with the swamp for nearly half a mile, when it turns to the right and running almost due South, makes the line between the lands of A. Nadal and Mrs. Sid Clark. Where the fence corners near the hill on the New Road was the place selected by the perpetrator of this most dastardly crime.”
“Captain” Calvin Barnes and two grandsons had spent the day at his farm. As their horse-drawn buggy descended the hill towards Wilson, Barnes was shot in the back. The crack of the gunshot and the children’s screams attracted Ned Bunch, “a negro man close at hand,” who grabbed the reins of the runaway horse, climbed into the buggy, and drove Barnes to his home on Nash Street. Drs. Needham B. Herring and Nathan Anderson soon arrived, but Barnes died about 2:30 the next morning. Before he passed, Barnes told his friends that he had recently had words with John J. Jefferson, who managed one of his farms. Jefferson gave an alibi, but was quickly arrested and brought before a coroner’s inquest, which returned a charge against him. Fearing a lynching, the sheriff secretly moved Jefferson to Lucama, where he was put aboard a train for safekeeping in Raleigh.
The Raleigh Post carried a salacious confession that appeared in the Wilson News the very same day – on the very same page – that the News reported Barnes’ murder. “Jefferson is a tall, sparsely built man. He has a grizzley brownish beard that conceals his white face. His eyes are positively wicked.” “I shot at him,” the paper quoted, “They swore this thing on me, and I reckon I killed him.” Jefferson went on to detail a litany of grievances against Barnes, including failure to buy supplies, interference with his hands (i.e. farmworkers), and attempting to make Jefferson work his daughter in tobacco. The night before the murder, Jefferson asked Barnes if he had brought some cloth to make dresses for Jefferson’s daughters. Barnes had not and Jefferson threatened to kill him.
Jefferson was tried and convicted in late October, and his execution by hanging was set for November 16. He appealed the verdict on the basis that one of the State’s contentions had been that Barnes had made a dying declaration that Jefferson shot him. The State Supreme Court ruled that “[s]tatements of deceased, made shortly before his death, that he had quarreled with the prisoner in the morning, and that after sunset somebody shot him, and that he saw a man running out of the bushes, but could not recognize him, as it was too dark to recognize him, and to have prisoner arrested, are inadmissible as dying declarations.” “At most, the evidence was but the opinion of the deceased that the prisoner shot him….” (Further, the indictment was flawed.)
On 22 June 1900, Jefferson was retried and, to the shock and outrage of local citizenry, acquitted of Barnes’ murder.
Narrative abstracted from articles in the Durham Sun, 30 August 1899; Wilson News, 31 August and 26 October 1899; Wilson Daily Times, 1 September 1899; News & Observer (Raleigh), 23 June 1900, as well as the text of the Supreme Court decision.
Wilson Advance, 29 June 1893.
State of North Carolina, Wilson County }
Be it remembered that on the 22nd day of April 1872 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz J.W. Crowell, John L. Baley, Elijah Williams, M.G. Trubuthan, J.W. Fryar, W.D. Farmer, B.J. Cogins. R.S. Wells. Jas. W. Taylor, Henry Dixon, W.H. Cobb, William A. Farmer by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at Farmer Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Joseph Perry, col and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follow that is to say that the deceased came to his death by accidental drowning. /s/ J.W Crowell, Foreman, L. Baley, W.A. Farmer, Wm. D, Farmer, Henry Dixon Jnr., Elijah Williams, B.J. Coggins, M.G. Trevathan, W.H. Cobb, J.W. Friar, R.S. Wells, J.W. Taylor.
James G. Cobb being duly sworned says that on Sunday April 21 1872 himself, Ralph Faison & Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair together with Joseph Perry Deceased were at Mill Pond of W.D. Farmer in County of Wilson state of North Carolina & Proposing to go in Washing or bathing. There upon said Cobb & Ralph Faison proceeded to swim a distance of seventy five yds or thereabout & parties consisting of the other witnesses Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair & Jos Perry deceased were left on & near the shore, upon being called by Bynum Arrington he the said Cobb looked back & saw Joseph Perry deceased appearantly struggling & sinking under twice after he the said Cobb saw him. Further stating that aid Perry threatened to swim as far as any of the party & that he saw no person or persons interfere with deceased in any way by which he could have been encouraged to go beyond his depth in water. The other witnesses above being duly sworn testified to the facts as above and all agree in the matter that Joe Perry was alone & no person interfered with him while in the water. /s/ James (X) G. Cobb, Ralph (X) Faison, Bynum (X) Arrington, Crisp (X) McNair.
Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
Cora Farmer at Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium, circa 1950.
“Me and Cora Farmer worked over at the Sanatorium together. She was the cause of me going over there to get the job. ‘Cause I was living there on Queen Street right from her house, and I seen her going over there with that white dress on all the time. So she seemed to be very friendly, and her daughter, and her husband. And their boys. And so I went over there.” — Hattie Henderson Ricks
Cora Lee Rountree Farmer (1900-1990) was the daughter of Jack and Lucille Bergeron Rountree.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm Jack Roundtree, 53; wife Lucy, 35; and children Junius, 15, Delzel, 12, Cora Lee, 10, John H., 7, Jessie, 6, Mable, 4, and Gallie May, 1.
On 24 December 1917, Paul Farmer, 29, of Wilson, son of Jno. Wash Farmer and Edmonia Farmer, married Cora Rountree, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Jack and Lucile Rountree. G.W. Barnes applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion paster B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Annie Jackson, G.W. Barnes and Jack Rountree.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57; wife Lucile, 47; son Julius, 24, daughter-in-law Lida, 23, sons John Henry, 17, and Jesse, 16, daughters Mabel, 14, and Ola May, 10, and married daughter Cora Farmer, 19. [Her husband Paul was working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1201 Queen Street, fertilizer plant laborer Paul Farmer, 44; wife Cora, 30; and children Pauline, 4, Fredrick, 2, and John W., 1, and lodger Nancy Wilson, 17.
Cora Rountree Farmer died 4 February 1990 in Wilson.
Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photo from personal collection of Hattie H. Ricks, now in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.
This photograph of Mary Edwards Leach (1910-1992), probably taken in the 1940s, is stamped “Baker’s Pictures. 520 E. Nash Street, Wilson, N.C.” and thus reveals the location of this shot and these. Leach was the daughter of Stephen and Charity Bullock Edwards of Wilson and Greene Counties.
The location of the studio on East Nash suggests that Baker was African-American, but no one by that name — black or white — is listed in Wilson in Stephen E. Massingill’s Photographers of North Carolina: The First Century, 1842-1941.
[Update: see John H. Baker.]
Photograph in the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks, now in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.
This photograph of Janie Louise Washington (1906-??) is found in the collection of the late Hattie Henderson Ricks, her childhood friend. It was likely taken in the early 1920s.
On 20 August 1937, Camillus and Norma Duncan Darden boarded the S.S. Cuba at Havana, Cuba, for a one-day return to the United States arriving in Tampa, Florida, on the 21st. The Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company operated the Cuba.
U.S. Citizen Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Tampa, Florida, digitized at Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
New York Age, 11 June 1908.
Rev. Richard Alburtus Morrisey got his start in the A.M.E. Zion church ministry in Wilson in 1887.