Month: January 2019

Suffer the little children: death by accident.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

  • On 13 January 1914, Prince Albert Barnes, 14, of Wilson, son of Arren and Margaret Barnes, died of a “blow upon head & fracture of the skull, accidental.” He worked as a laborer.
  • On 2 February 1915, Herman Carroll, 6, son of A.J. and Marchaline Pierce Carroll, died when a falling tree fractured his skull “from ear to ear.”
  • On 10 March 1915, John Hines, 8, of Toisnot township, son of John Hines, was killed by a runaway mule. His feet were caught in the stirrups, and he was dragged head down for half a mile. He was buried in Elm City Colored Cemetery.
  • On 22 April 1917, Lonnie Hilliard, 3, died after his ankle was fractured in an automobile accident.
  • On 2 May 1918, Elma Taylor, 5, of Taylors township, daughter of Alice Taylor and Haywood Johnson, fell in a well and drowned. Her family buried her.
  • On 9 August 1921, Fredie Williams, 15, of Wilson township, son of Richard and Mary Williams, drowned. He was buried in “Barnes grave yd.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1921.

  • On 24 October 1921, Robert Speight, 17, in Wilson township, son of James Adkinson and Mamie Hill, was “killed at sawmill by some sort of machinery striking him on the head accidentally.”
  • On 6 March 1922, Novella McClain, 8, of Wilson, daughter of Charley and Mary Ella McClain, died from a blow to the head, over her right eye, by an automobile.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • On 11 December 1923, Lily Mae Reid Jones, 17, of Wilson, was “accidentally killed by train.” She was a factory laborer and a widow.
  • On 23 December 1923, Rosa Lee Jones, 5, of Saratoga township, daughter of Garfield and Bessie Parker Jones, died after she was “accidentally run over by car automobile.”
  • On 15 May 1925, Massey L. Murchinson, 10, of Elm City, son of A.A. and Annie Townsend Murchinson, drowned by accident.
  • On 6 April 1926, Eddie B. Bass, 5, of Wilson township, son of James and Geneva Clifton Bass, was “accidentally killed while playing in a tree [fell] and broke his neck; instant death.”

205 North Vick Street.

The ninety-ninth 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 building is: “ca. 1945; 2 stories; gable-front house with bungalow type porch posts; aluminum-sided.”

Edgar H. Diggs Jr. died 21 December 1925 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 5 days old; was born to Edgar H. Diggs of Wayne County and Mary Grant of Statesville, N.C., and resided at 205 North Vick. He was buried in Diggs cemetery, Wayne County.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Diggs Edgar H (c; Mary) barber W S Hines h 205 N Vick

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 205 Vick, valued at $2000, Edgar Diggs, 49, barber at Hines Barber; wife Mary, 39, teacher in Stantonsburg; and children Edgar, 13, Mary, 9, and Preston, 11.

Edgar Grant Diggs registered for the World War II draft in 1945. Per his registration card, he was born 14 January 1927 in Wilson; his contact was Mary Diggs, 205 North Vick; and he was a student.

Preston Walter Diggs registered for the World War II draft in 1946. Per his registration card, he was born 27 September 1928 in Wilson; his contact was Mary Diggs, 205 North Vick; and he was a student at Mary Potter School, Oxford, North Carolina.

Edgar H. Diggs died 17 November 1970 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 August 1890 to Sula (last name unknown); was married to Mary Estella Grant; resided at 205 North Vick; and was a barber.

Mary Diggs died 22 February 1974 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 March 1900 to unknown parents; was a widow; resided at 205 North Vick; and was a retired teacher. Walter Preston Diggs of Washington, D.C., was informant.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

 

Another history of London Woodard and his church.

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Rocky Mount Telegram, 29 January 1960.

The take-away:

  • London’s Primitive Baptist is possibly the oldest African-American church in Wilson County.
  • London Woodard was born in 1808. In 1827, James Bullock Woodard purchased him for $500 from the estate of Julan Woodard.
  • In 1828, London Woodard was baptized at Toisnot Primitive Baptist.
  • In 1866, he sought permission to preach among his people.
  • In 1870, he was “dismissed” from Toisnot so that he could pastor the church he founded. He died lass than a month later.
  • London Church appears to have become disorganized after Woodard’s death, but in 1895, Toisnot P.B. dismissed several “colored brethren and sisters” who wanted to reestablish worship at London’s. The same year Union (now Upper Town Creek) P.B. released Haywood Pender, George Braswell, Dublin Barnes, and couple Charles and Rebeckah Barnes for the same purpose.
  • London Woodard married Pennie Lassiter, born free about 1810 and possessed of considerable property, including 29 acres purchased from James B. Woodard in 1859. [Penelope Lassiter was his second wife. His first, Venus, was enslaved.]
  • London and Pennie Woodard’s children were Priscilla (1846), Theresa (1848), Hardy (1850), Haywood (1852), William (1854), and Penina (1858). “Another child was probably named Elba, born in 1844; she was working for the John Batts family in 1860.” [London and Venus Woodard had nine children; Elba was not among either set.]
  • Many “old-time colored Christians” remained members of the churches they attended during slavery. Their children and grandchildren, however, gradually formed separate congregations.

——

  • Haywood Pender — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Haywood Pender, 50, farmer; wife Feraby, 45; children Mollie, 39, and Ann, 8; and grandchildren Gold, 5, Nancy, 3, and Willie, 16. Haywood Pender died 15 July 1942 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 October 1852 in Wilson County to Abram Sharp and Sookie Pender; was a farmer; was a widower; and was buried in Piney Grove cemetery, Elm City.
  • Dublin Barnes — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Doublin Barnes, 25; wife Eliza, 21; daughter Sattena, 2; and Jane Thomas, 12, farmhand.
  • Charles and Rebecca Barnes — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57; and children John, 26, William, 23, Annie, 17, Tom, 18, and Corah, 12.
  • George Braswell

Suffer the little children: death by violence.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

——

Though it appears that there was relatively little intentional homicide, death by gunshot was a dispiritingly common occurrence:

  • On 16 March 1910, Mary Lillie Loyd, 10, of Wilson, daughter of Bettie Loyd, died “from gunshot wound, accidentally fired.”
  • On 23 October 1911, Ida L. Speights, 7, of Wilson, daughter of J.C and Rebecca Robinson Speight, died of a “gun shot accidentally by Fred Davis carelessly handling gun among children.” (In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, Jake Speights, 45, laborer; wife Rebecca, 30; and children Eva, 14, Lennie, 12, Joseph, 10, Ida, 5, Bessie, 3, and Addie, 1.)

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1911.

  • On 28 January 1913, Floyd Anderson, 6, of Toisnot township, son of Charlie Anderson, “was accidentally shot by his brother a boy 8 years old.” (In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Township #12, Edgecombe County: Charlie Anderson, 24, and wife Viola, 20, both farm laborers, and sons Thomas, 4, and Floyd, 3.)
  • On 24 March 1914, James Scott Johnson, 8, of Elm City, son of James and Lola Batten [Battle] Johnson, died of an “accidental gunshot wound, self-inflicted.” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: James Johnson, 35, drayman for wholesale grocery; wife Lola, 34, washerwoman; and children Laurenzell, 6, and James S., 4.)
  • On 5 July 1914, Clinton Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Wilson, son of William and Zilfie Dew Ayers, died of a “gunshot wound, accidental.” A second death certificate, for Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Spring Hill, gives the cause of death as “gunshot wound in knee, death from shock after operation, accident.” (In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Red Hill Road, William T. Ayres, 54; wife Zilphia, 45; and children David J., 15, Lillie, 11, Albert, 9, Walter, 7, Solomon, 4, and Clinton S., 1.)
  • On 2 January 1917, Minnie Barnhill, 11, of Wilson, daughter of Marcellus and Mary Barnhill, died from a “rifle bullet through brain by another person, accidental.”
  • On 31 January 1917, Eugenia Abram, 11, of Toisnot township, daughter of Tom and Sallie Bunn Abram, died from a “hemorrhage from gun shot wound (accidental).” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Tom Abram, 25, sawmill laborer; wife Sallie, 22; and daughters Genie, 4, Mary, 2, and Savannah, 1.)
  • On 18 November 1918, Simon Moore, 13, of Saratoga township, son of Marcellus and Lissie Rountree Moore, was “accidentally killed by gunshot wound.” (In the 1910 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: Marcelas Moore, 26; wife Lissie, 24; and sons Simon, 4, and Henry, 2.)
  • On 22 July 1919, Lewis Henry Williams, 15, of Toisnot township, son of Czaar and Annie Williams, died of “accidental gun shot in abdomen.”
  • On 24 March 1920, Mary Brown, 16, of Wilson, daughter of Willie and Mary Brown, died of a “stab wound above left nipple, homicide.”
  • On 20 May 1920, David Jackson Moore, 4, of Wilson, son of Andrew Moore and Minnie Mercer Moore, died of “gunshot of head, accident.”
  • On 8 July 1921, Ira Owens, of Wilson, son of Mack and Mary Gardens Owens, died as a result of “punishment received while at work on county road.” [In other words, Owens was beaten or otherwise abused to death while serving on a road crew, a sentence imposed by a county court.]

Studio shots, no. 101: George Rufus Atkinson.

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George Rufus Atkinson (1917-1968).

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 40; wife Ada, 35; and children Sylvester, 15, Henry, 10, Mark, 9, Joanna, 7, Bettie, 5, R. George, 3, and Frank, 1.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 52; wife Ada, 45; and children Slyster, 25, Henry, 20, Mark, 18, Joanna, 16, Bettie, 15, George, 13, Frank, 11, Fannie, 10, Ophelia, 7, and Willie, 4, and nephew John H., 21.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: widow Ada Atkinson, 55; children Betty, 25, George, 23, Frank, 21, Della, 21, Ophelia, 16, Willie, 14, and Geraldene, 9; grandchildren Cleo Atkinson, 9, Curtis Edwards, 8, and Thomas, 4, Minnie, 3, and Grey Atkinson, 2.

In 1940, George Rufus Adkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1917 in Wilson; his contact was mother Ada Rebecca Adkinson; he resided on Route 2, Macclesfield, Edgecombe County; and he worked for Grady Skinner, Macclesfield.

On 31 December 1945, George Atkinson, 29, single, of Wilson, born in Wilson County, son of Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle, married Laura Hines McCray, 24, widowed, of Wilson, born in Edgecombe County, daughter of David Hines and Maggie Station, in Emporia, Virginia.

George Rufus Atkinson died 24 November 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 November 1917 to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Laura Atkinson; and had worked as a laborer.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user jlegrandejr_1.

Where we worked, 1922 — N & O.

City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the thirteenth in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.

  • Nance, Fred, watchman, 904 Mercer
  • Neal, Austin N., barber 219 South Goldsboro, 1214 Wainwright Avenue
  • Neal, Bryant, sign painter, 107 South Railroad
  • Neal, Easley, barber, 915 Mercer
  • Neal, Joshua, porter, 915 Mercer
  • Nelson, Cora, domestic, 110 North Pettigrew
  • Nelson, Winnie, tobacco worker, 110 North Pettigrew
  • Newsome, Ada, domestic, 610 Railroad
  • Newsome, Emma, hair dresser, 900 Atlanta
  • Newsome, Larry H., tobacco worker, 900 Atlanta
  • Newsome, Nancy, domestic, 410 East Jones
  • Newsome, Oliver, laborer, 610 Railroad
  • Newsome, William, carpenter, 900 Atlanta
  • Nicholson, James, porter, 215 Vick
  • No. 1 Pressing Club, 515 East Nash, Preston Smith proprietor
  • Noble, Wiley, laborer, 631 Wiggins
  • Norfleet, James, laborer, 517 Stemmery
  • Norfleet, Josephine, cook, 707 East Green
  • Norfleet, Leroy, baker Gilmer’s Inc., 120 Pender
  • Norwood, Aleck, tobacco worker, 606 Wiggins
  • Norwood, Cecilia, teacher, 205 Pender
  • Norwood, Christine, teacher, 205 Pender
  • Norwood, Fred, tobacco worker, 606 Wiggins
  • Norwood, Gladys, domestic, 400 Whitley
  • Norwood, Hazel, teacher, 205 Pender
  • Norwood, Lula, domestic, 606 Wiggins
  • Norwood, Mary, domestic, 205 Pender
  • Norwood, Minnie, tobacco worker, 400 Whitley
  • Norwood, Richard, tobacco worker, 205 Pender
  • Oaklawn Cemetery, Cemetery Road near Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road
  • Oates, Charles, helper, 119 Ashe
  • Oates, Henry, tobacco worker, Banks near Goldsboro
  • Obey, James, factory hand, 215 East Spruce
  • O’Neill, Nobel, tobacco worker, 208 Manchester